As long as I live there will be something worth fighting for, worth writing for, and worth dying for.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

One Truth

God enjoys using teachable moments in our lives. If we are willing to be taught, I believe we can find lessons in the most bizarre, frustrating or joyful circumstance. A medical record screw up at a hospital, for instance.

As we sat in an ICU room watching over my brother, my mother and I were greeted by many different doctors. Each had a different story, a different prognosis, a different opinion and a different procedure. After doctor number 4, we were confused. When doctor number 5 marched in the room, we objected, so she went and called in doctor number 6 who marched in, insisted he was right and all other doctors were wrong and that he was now the man in charge. We got angry.

It made me realize the importance of the truth and the failures of the human mind. Regardless of the fact that all of Justin's information was in the chart, every doctor had a different opinion of how the information was interpretted. Some said he was fine. Others thought he still needed more tests. We sat there, confused.

Then came doctors 7 and 8. Doctor 8 was the best. He looked at Justin and said, "Let me tell you what your chart is telling me and you tell me if it is true." He was searching for truth. He found it. We found our answer, and we were discharged.

The whole ordeal reminded me of situations many Christians find themselves in. They will derive their theology from devotional books or songs instead of going to the Word. So, when an issue arises and opinions conflict, we are caught in a crossfire of opinions and untruths. Well, this singer said this. This author says that. We live confused with a graying theology. Our absolutes begin to blur, and mix because of the catchy jingle playing on the radio. If it sounds so good in a song, could it be wrong? Sure! Because we are human.

Forget the singer; Forget the author. Tell me what the Word says is truth, because that is truth. Take the words of the singer, the author... take them to the Lord and say, "God, this is what people are telling me about You. Tell me if it is truth."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Laying Aside all weights

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us...

Hebrews 12:1

Can a ministry be a weight?

That is the question raised in my head during a phone conversation with an old friend. We discussed recent happenings in my life regarding certain ministries and discussed the next step in regards to those ministries.

The idea sprung up in my mind... can something considered good be a weight as we run this race? Based on the structure of that verse, the 'weight' isn't sin... so it must be something else. Something I hold on to that saps my time and energy and makes it difficult for me to run the race effectively.

A ministry could fall in that category.

Now, not every ministry is a weight. Sometimes our race is actually a ministry. However, we can spread ourselves too thin, forget to exercise the freedom to say 'no' and find ourselves weighed down.

Clothes are necessary for the athlete to wear, but he only wears the clothing necessary. You will not see an Olympic sprinter dressed in a snow suit and a parka. It is not practical. On the same side, you will not see an Alaskan sled racer dressed in a speedo. Different races require different skill sets, talents and even ministries. To try and don the outfit of a skiier while I dash the 200 hurdles would result in utter failure of my race. I will find myself exhausted and useless until that extra baggage is shed.

So, while a particular ministry or life choice may be fine for Suzy, it may not be what God desires for Joe. Following God means that Joe needs to decline that ministry. It also means that Suzy should not feel offended when that ministry is declined. Joe is not running her race. He is running his race.

We each have our own races to run. The finish line is universal: the glory of God, but our roads to that point will vary in appearance as much as we do. There should not be pressure to adopt all the ministries of the church. Focus. Set your eyes. Evaluate your course. Don your attire. Lay aside what you do not need and run.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Insights into the King

It is such a beautiful thing to me when I can see that the Holy Spirit is trying to teach me something. I know we should always be learning but when I can see a theme and a specific topic it just rejoices my soul. My God loves me enough to want to teach me. To train me. He hasn't given up on me.

I have begun a Bible Study by Elizabeth George. It is regarding Mary and nurturing a heart of humility. It has been an amazing study. This morning, it covered the passage in Luke 2, discussing the taxation decree which caused Mary and Joseph to end up in Bethlehem. The fact was brought up that Caeser, an unGodly ruler, was used of God to accomplish God's will. God is literally in control.

As I read through my Bible, I started this morning in Numbers 1. I have never actually read Numbers. Being a math teacher, you think I would love the book. However, long lists of names and numbers never really interested me. My mistake. The first chapter of Numbers shows us that the nation of Israel was composed of hundreds of thousands of people. Can you imagine the chaos? Yet, God requires order. He gives them rules and instructions. He even tells them where they are to live and who can touch this and who can't touch that. God is a God of order.

I then read a couple chapters in Psalms. The title of the one was "God is ruler." I sat there staring at that title for a few moments. That is when it hit me: "God is trying to teach me something." So, I dove into the Psalms and read through the passage as it praised God for His sovereign and powerful control over all creation. He reigns!!

On to Proverbs chapter 21. Verse 1 "The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will." My entire devotion could have stopped there. It became very apparent to me that God was trying to remind me of exactly who is in charge here. He is in charge.

Then, on to the last chapter of the Gospel of John. Here, Jesus appears to His disciples while they are out by the sea. They have spent a worthless night fishing and are headed in for the morning when He calls out to them and tells them where to fish and they catch fish. This is also the chapter where we find the infamous, "Peter, do you love me" dialogue between Jesus and Peter. I love the closing words to the book of John. "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen."

Wooohooo!! What a great God we serve!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Talk to my Lawyer

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah

I should know better than to get excited about days that start really good. I was in such a good mood this morning. Even with a half voice, I couldn't have had a more merry heart. I was handing out demerits left and right. One of my students even asked if I was cranky because I had sure been yelling alot. I told her no. I had just finally come to a peace with the position God gave me there at the school. I had finally come to see it as a gift.

One should note that major testing always comes after major victory. Today was fine... it really was, right up until I had 30 minutes left to survive... then it was not fine anymore. I now know what famous people must feel like when their name is slapped up in lies on a tabloid cover. "Shelly is marrying Caleb!!" Shelly looks down at her ring and over at her husband Todd... "I am?" My little tabloid had nothing to do with marriage but something just as sacred to me.

My passion for ministry was apparently misinterpretted by certain people and then, after going through the line of he said she said, it came back to other certain people who then informed me of some pretty bogus allegations that I was being accused of starting. Say what?!?

Heartbroken would be the poorest understatement at the moment. I was devastated. More than that, I was hurt, violated, broken, misunderstood. How do you defend something you are totally oblivious to? It is like asking a kindergartner to solve calculus. He might be able to scribble some numbers on a paper, but he cannot answer the question. He is incapable. When incapable, it is best to remain silent... modern-day justice has equated silence with guilt. So, it would seem, there are two options: lie or be guilty.

Ever been misunderstood?

This was not the first instance for me. As long as there are people, people will be misunderstood. People will be people. You can never speak 100% clearly to 100% of the people 100% of the time. It just doesn't work that way.

The Scriptures are full of a long line of people who were misunderstood. Joseph's honesty was mistaken for pride(in telling his brothers of his dreams), his integrity was mistaken for lust (in running from Potiphar's wife). Even Jesus was misunderstood! I am finishing up the book of John as I read through the Bible in a year, and even this morning was reading the account of Jesus before Caiaphas and Annas. How misunderstood. Love was misunderstood for something worthy of death. Love was misunderstood for blasphemy. Yet, Jesus loved.

That is, admittedly, the part I need to work on the most. Today, as a I sat across for my accuser, I felt violated. I felt helpless, confused, blindsided and lost. I did not have an answer for the two tabloid covers being waved in my face. What hurt even more was not that I was being accused. I have been accused of things before. I can stand up to accusations. What hurt most was what I was being accused of, who wrote the story and the people who bought it. Suddenly, my entire world had disappeared. Everyone whom I thought would say, "Oh no, Jessica wouldn't do that" had bought the story. Everyone who could defend me had either added to it or listened to it. That hurt the most.

I had the potential for a pretty long hit list and I was struggling. I wanted to get up and ream out the person with me and the two other culprits who had shared the story. I wanted justice.

We humans love to defend ourselves. But how do you defend yourself when you have no proof? No evidence? When it is your feeble word against the words of others, how do you stand up for yourself in that time?

You don't.

That is the answer I learned today as I tried to move on with my life. Confrontation and pain read on my face. It is inevitable. My eyes turn a bloodshot red and my cheeks turn red and it is just a mess. It is a broadcast to the world, "Hey! Look at me! I am having issues!" But praise the Lord I can have those 'issues' in the presence of Godly women.

A coworker saw me and offered to pray with me (do I have great coworkers or what?). She grabbed my hand and we knelt to pray. In her prayer she identified with the hurt I was feeling. I can only imagine the untrue allegations that have been lobbed at her, as a pastor's wife. She continued with her prayer by saying something I will probably never forget:
"God, be her defense. So many times we want to defend ourselves but we can't. You are our defense. Come to her defense."


In writing for Beggar's Daughter, I have been covering the topic of justice. Even at my desk today, just minutes before this altercation, I was writing out verses about the justice of God. God is our Judge, but He is also our defense. Not only does He judge us when we have done wrong; He represents us when wrong has been done. Mind-blowing concept right there.

Leaving it in His capable hands leaves me free to love. No, it isn't easy. It probably should be easier. I should probably take the attack and roll with it and move on. Admittedly, I am still working on that. But, as I prayed today I realized I cannot walk away from this, this is my ministry. This is my home. I cannot climb it... I don't even know where to start. So, what I must do, is press on in faith, knowing God will move it, in His time.

When all else fails, He still remains. When blind accusations fly, He is my fortress, my shield, my Deliverer. So, when faced with something of this nature, I have learned a new approach (one I hope I don't have to try soon): silence. Let the tabloids fly. Let the rumors roll. I need not answer for the deeds of others. I need no argument at all. He is my defense. Talk to my Lawyer.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Of Little Faith

A group of young ladies and I were discussing the faith of Peter. Everyone always knocks the faith of Peter. That Peter! He had such a weak faith. He was such a loser. He took his eyes off Jesus and sank right in front of Him! Peter had such a poor faith.

My question to the populace is, "What about the other disciples?" How often do you hear the chickens of the sea derided for the fact that they never even thought about walking on the water. Oh the irony of it all if their boat had flipped.

The ladies I was talking with asked if Peter had failed. Some others asked to be more specific as to what task he failed.

Peter had faith. That was not an issue. Contrary to popular teaching Peter did have faith. He jumped out of that boat and started cruising across the water. When's the last time you were caught on a little fishing boat in the middle of a storm and decided to try strolling across the waves? That step alone took alot of faith.

Peter failed when he tried to do it on his own.

When Peter stepped out of the boat, he asked Jesus. He was talking, communicating with Jesus. Jesus told him, "Go for it!" So, he did. He got out of the boat. Everything is dandy until he stops focusing on Jesus and starts realizing what exactly he is doing. He freaks out.

Hebrews says that Jesus is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. He tells us to step out onto the water and then sustains us as we walk across it. Faith isn't a one time thing. That is the lesson Peter learned. Christ is to be our Finisher. Peter drowned when he became his own finisher. We will too.

Friday morning I was praying about my future book. Progress has been occurring at a mind-blowing pace. It is enough to make me dizzy. As I prayed the thought crossed my mind, "Pray for a publisher." I thought, "I haven't even finished writing. I will pray for the publisher once I am finished. It is foolish to pray for that now." So I did not. I said Amen and never asked to find a publisher.

This morning, I was humbled by my own lack of faith. Yesterday, I found a publisher, by going to a birthday party of all things. The birthday party of a one year old provided me with a publisher who accepts unsolicited manuscripts with content like unto mine. The whole thing didn't really hit until this morning as I prayed.

I was reminded of that thought I had on Friday and wept. Oh, how weak is my faith, but how great is my God who provided even when I didn't have enough faith to pray for it. His authorship makes us His children, but what blessings we could receive as Christians if we let Jesus be the Finisher of that faith!