Monday, July 13, 2015

Five Things that Revolutionized My Walk with the Lord


While I was raised with a belief in Jesus and baptized "into" a Baptist congregation as a teen, I didn't come to really know the Lord until my mid twenties.  And when I made that commitment, I made it whole-heartedly.  Everything that the modern American church says you're to be if you're a "good Christian"?  I was that.  I taught Sunday School, VBS, and LTC; my kids were in youth group and Sunday School; we never missed a service unless I was deathly ill; I set aside a significant portion of my income to give to the congregation weekly; and I most definitely held to the doctrines of my particular group of Christians...  I was a poster child for serious American Christianity.

Today, things are different.

I have no doubt that some of my friends who knew me back in the day question my faith today.  I'm not a fan of any extracurricular "church activities" - particularly if they are entertainment focused - and so we generally don't participate in any; I don't believe the bulk of my giving money should go to a local congregation to be used to keep up a building and programs; I loathe the idea of church buildings; I don't buy into the modern church structure and hierarchy; and I question all "church doctrines."

And I've never been closer to God in my life - or been more obedient to His Word.

Since I came to the Lord in 1992, I've been passionate about following Him - and I never questioned what I was taught that God wanted - I just did it.  I definitely felt like a "good Christian" - as far as any of us frail, prone-to-sin, humans can.

But, it's hard to be very "close" to anyone you've never seen - someone with whom you have a pretty abstract relationship and, while I was a "good Christian," I still longed to be closer to the Lord.

Because I so wish someone had shared this with me in my twenties, I thought I'd write about how the Lord took me from an "arm's-length" relationship and drew me nearer than I ever thought I'd get this side of Heaven...and how He draws me still nearer as I continue to come close to Him in these ways.

Five Things That Completely Renovated My Walk with God

1. My Husband and I Took a Leap of Faith.  When our 4th child was about a year old, my husband and I were discussing whether or not we should "try" for another child.  Our 4th was more than 11 years younger than the 3rd, and it made sense to me that he not be, essentially, an only child.  During this conversation, the hypocrisy of our "planning" a family that was supposedly "surrendered" to the Lord hit us in the face.  While we realized that planning our family size was, in effect, choosing to withhold that area of our lives from the Lord, it still took us a few days to actually let go of that control and offer it up to the Lord.  We have experienced blessing after blessing ever since.

Don't get hung up on the family planning issue; that's not the point.  The point is that my husband and I decided to turn something over to the Lord that, frankly, frightened us.  We decided to trust God with the consequences and walk in faith in this area.  That is the point.

It's easy to say we trust God - like it's easy to say I trust my husband's sharpshooting skills.  Sticking the target on the top of my head, however, not only causes me to really question what I mean by "trust," but it would also prove my trust - to him as much as to myself.

Notice that in the "Roll Call of Faith" found in Hebrews 11, these "men of old gained approval" by their faith - and that faith was always faith in was never merely mental assent:

"By faith Abel...offered.  By faith Noah...prepared an ark.  By faith Abraham....obeyed.  By faith Moses...refused...left Egypt...kept the Passover.

Faith acts - it acts in crazy ways that fly in the face of the wisdom of the culture.  And when we began to act on our faith - particularly in ways that were unpopular among the Christian people in our circle - the blessings were incredible.

So, it's not surprising that, while we challenged our faith, we also...

2.  Stepped Up our Obedience.  Once we committed to surrendering all to the Lord, it became apparent that we could no longer withhold anything from Him.  We determined that whatever command we saw in the New Testament Scriptures we would do.  We also determined that we would follow New Testament examples for church life and Christian living.

So....headcovering followed.  And changes to how we handled our giving money.  We wrestled with the format of the modern American church.  It was (and still is) an exciting time...and a challenging time.  All of a sudden we found ourselves making decisions - Biblical decisions - that were not always in line with those of people we had long respected in the church.  It was definitely a test of our commitment to the Word.


Since we were stepping out in faith and radically obeying God's Word, it probably isn't surprising that we began to read it differently.

3.  We Read God's Word as it was Intended.  A life long student, I had been reading God's Word as a textbook more than anything else.  As I began to read God's Word as He intended it, His book became so much clearer - deeper and more meaningful - than I realized was possible.  It went from a good, but dead, book - to a life changing letter from the One who loves me more than any other.

The Old Testament contains books of history, poetry, law, and prophecy.  The New Testament contains the Gospels which are biographies of Jesus' life.  It also contains one book of history (Acts) and one of prophecy (Revelation).  All the rest are letters to individuals or congregations.  I think I experienced the greatest growth in my relationship with God when I began to read letters as they were intended.  When did you ever read a letter from a loved one a few paragraphs at a time - pausing for a day even in the middle of a thought?  Yet, that is precisely what many devotions do...and nearly all theologians parse Scripture without any respect for the book itself - and how it was intended to be used.  When I took God's Word for what it is (inspired encouragement and advice from faithful brethren who went before) the Bible completely changed for me - and it changed me, as God's Word should.


Perhaps the hardest thing of all - something that my husband and I still struggle with - was tearing off the filters of man-made doctrine to see God's Word as it was intended.  For instance, what we saw in Scripture about headcovering was not what we had been taught all of our Christian lives and, yet, there it was in black and white.  Unfortunately, many of those we had worshiped with thought we were crazy for coming to this conclusion.  Some even thought less of us for not accepting the approved doctrine on the subject.   It became clear that this was where we would choose to please God, or to please man.


In the end, we realized that what we needed to do:

4.  We Laid Our Worship on the Altar.  As the conflict between what we were seeing in Scripture and the practices and doctrines we had been taught grew, we knew we had to do something to resolve the tension.  So, we put it all on the altar: our doctrines, our beliefs, our preferences, our prejudices, our acts of service, our way of worship.  Everything.


This is was the point where we essentially jumped ship from the American Church as we had known it.  Based on what we read in the New Testament, instead of "serving" in Sunday School and VBS, we began to serve our brethren in Christ - here and abroad.  Instead of giving to our local congregation for the electric bill and new curriculum, we cut our giving there and began giving to orphans and widows around the world.  We stopped elevating the beliefs of modern "church leaders" and became attuned to God's Spirit and followed Him instead.  We threw off the spiritual shackles of the modern church's fetish with human-ordained "clergy" and hierarchy and embraced our place among the royal priesthood.


5. I Dug Deeper.  The writings of the earliest Christians - recorded in Scripture and outside of Scripture after the apostles died - definitely impacted my walk with the Lord in a crazy-beautiful way.  I was struck by how the earliest Christians held nothing dear except the Lord and His people.  I was amazed to realize that, unlike American Christians today, they expected Christ's return any moment - and lived accordingly.  I saw that they considered it an honor to be counted worthy to die for Christ - as opposed to our modern, soft, version of American Christianity.  Modern preachers and scholars cannot possibly understand Christianity better than the first Christians and, yet, we find ourselves following the wisdom of men who lived centuries after Jesus, rather than those who walked with Him - or those that were taught by those who walked with Him.


Instead of just believing the wildly-varying doctrines of theologians, I embraced God's Word as it was written (unless there was good reason not to)...which just happens to coincide with what the earliest Christians believed.

It has been crazy to me to realize how far the modern church has fallen from what the apostles instituted - not just in doctrines and practices, but in relationship with Him.  I think that we are most often not taught how to draw near to God because our church leaders don't have that experience themselves.  And I don't even think they realize it.  How beautiful for the Cowboy and I to begin to experience it - and be able to pass the information on to our children.

What about you?  What has worked for you in drawing nearer to the Lord?

Recommended Resources:
Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up by David Bercot
Will the Theologians Please Sit Down by David Bercot
Common Sense by David Bercot
Crazy Love by Francis Chan
Forgotten God by Francis Chan
Radical Restoration by F. LaGard Smith
Making Room by Christine Pohl

Recommended with some reservation:
Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch
Reimagining Church by Frank Viola
Pagan Christianity by Viola & Barna


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Why I'm Not Outraged by SCOTUS' Same Sex Marriage Ruling


Unless you've been living under a rock, of course you know that the Supreme Court of this once-great country ruled that all states must recognize "same sex marriage."

And the response has been loud on both sides.

Since I am a Christian I am, of course, dismayed that this country has, to a large degree, embraced "same sex marriage," but I'm certainly not surprised by the ruling.

I'm not even outraged.

See, sisters, this battle wasn't lost in a courtroom last week.  This battle was lost decades ago in Christian homes across the nation.

It was lost in front of television screens and in movie theaters when we accepted ungodly behavior in the name of entertainment.

It was lost in ballot boxes, on editorial pages, and in the news.  When we chose ungodly men and women to lead this country, what direction did we think the national would travel?  When we refused to confront the media who calls evil good and good evil, didn't we realize how they would sway the country?

It was lost in classrooms, from kindergarten to graduate school, where we not only sent our children, but directed them to learn from ungodly men and women teaching curriculum that flouts God and His Word.

It was lost in our family discussions and in our church buildings when we turned a blind eye to sexual immorality and the corruption of marriage many years ago.

The battle was lost decades ago because we forgot how to blush - and eventually we no longer cared.

We have forgotten that the same God who calls homosexual intercourse sin also says the same about premarital sex (Galatians 5:19-21) and unscriptural remarriage (Matthew 5:32). The same God who defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, also defined it to be so for life (Matthew 19:8).

Even more than that, this same God who says that sexual immorality is a sin says the same about lying (Revelation 21:8) and jealousy (Galatians 5 again).  This God who we have looked to to define marriage gives us other definitions too.  According to Him, greed is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), and selfishness is the path to death (Luke 9:24).

To be outraged about the SCOTUS ruling is like being shocked when your doctor diagnoses you with cancer after a life spent smoking and eating garbage food.  This ruling is merely a confirmation of what Christians should have seen all along:  We are a nation morally adrift - a nation who has, for many years, eschewed God's Word - and for the most part, Christians have rolled with it.

However, all is not lost. There are things we can do to turn this nation around - but dire situations call for drastic action.  To change the culture in which we live, we will have to do crazy things.  Bold things.  Radical things.

We'll need to start actually living like Christians.

We'll need to read our Bibles - and obey what we find in them.  (Why is it that we expect unbelievers to obey God's commands when His own people don't?)

We'll need to honor all of God's Word - even the parts we don't like, or that we have ignored for decades.

We'll need to address sin in our families and in our churches.

We'll need to sacrifice our comfort to follow Christ.  (Back in the day that was called "denying yourself, picking up your cross, and following Jesus".)

We'll need to elect Godly men and women.  Even if it hurts our pocketbooks.

We'll need to turn off the television more, and visit the box office less when what is seen there does not honor God.

We'll need to stop sacrificing our children on the altar of the government school system.

It starts with us:
Not too infrequently I see the latter part of the following Scripture offered as a comforting response to the sin around us.  Notice, however, who has to change for the land to be healed: it's not "them"; it's "us."
[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear them from heaven, and will forgiven their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

It's time to stop talking like we're outraged about the sin around us, and start living like Christians.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

If You're Missing the Great Testimony of the Josh Duggar Scandal, You're Missing the Gospel


I joked to a friend the other day that the Josh Duggar scandal nearly brought me out of bloggy retirement.

I guess I was wrong on that one.

One thing I don't think I'm wrong about, though, is the beautiful testimony of the Josh Duggar scandal.

That's right; beautiful.

What Mr. Duggar did was certainly awful.  I don't think that anyone, even Josh himself, has said that he wasn't in the wrong.  He was absolutely wrong.

Like every other human being of a level of accountability has been.

Gospel Truth
You know one of the craziest testimonies in the Bible from my perspective?  How in the world could the adulterous, murdering, David be called a man after God's own heart?  You can't get a whole lot more off track than David was in his dealings with Bathsheba and, yet, of this vile sinner who had already known the beauty of God's grace, God says, "I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart."

Friday, August 1, 2014

Walking Away or Walking Toward?

Found on Pinterest

Today, the stars aligned and The Cowboy was able to slip away from work at the same time our oldest boy could watch the kids - which happened to be at the same time I realized that I really needed a few minutes alone with my husband.  

Just like every day for the past few weeks, I was overwhelmed with God's goodness - and the consequences of that goodness.

It hit me, over my Turkey Bacon Avocado sandwich, that I needed more than a few minutes alone with my husband to properly handle all of the goodness (sometimes it comes in disguise too, you know) that the Lord was sending our way.

I keep thinking I'm going to blog about all of the wonderful, busy, crazy, awesome things God is doing in our lives right now - but when I have the time, I don't have the words.

Today some of the words spilled out at lunch:

There is so much going on right now - so much God is doing in our lives that I need to focus on, I think I need to let go of the blog.

The Cowboy thinks I should ratchet back my blogging time rather than quitting altogether.  

I don't know.  I'll take time to breathe deep, snuggle in close to the Lord's side, and pray, pray, pray...

The Cowboy and I have prayed for years that the Lord would use us - really use us.  We've wondered if this is really all the Lord would have for us to do: live normal lives and share Jesus where we're planted.

I think so.  I think the answer might be "yes, this is 'all' there is."  I want to believe that He wants me to minister to the poor in a foreign field, but maybe He really wants me to learn and grow while I weed corn and raise babies.  I want to believe that we're to give it all up and move to a third world country and pour out Jesus on those who don't know Him.  Maybe I really am supposed to vacuum my dining room more often, and pour more tea for those God is using differently than He is using us.

I don't know what God is doing, but I know that lately The Cowboy and I have been praying earnestly (and together) that He would order our days.  That He would bring people into our lives and use us to pour His love out on them.  That He would be the director of our days and nights.

And our crazy God took those request seriously.

I realize that we have prayed these prayers in the past, but it was as if we held on tightly to the reins - to make sure that God didn't get too crazy - to make sure we didn't find ourselves on a runaway.  Finally, we let go of the reins, grabbed on to God and said, "alright; we're in - just help us stay aboard, Lord!"

Every day I am slacked jawed as I see God at work all around us - and in us.  I think, when we began to pray earnestly a couple of weeks ago He must have thought, "well, finally!  I've been waiting for this!

And it seems to me that to continue to spend the time on my blog that I do is taking away from the work He has blessed us with.  

Every "yes" means saying "no" somewhere else.

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe I'm not being called to let go of the blog.  For now, though, this passage comes to mind:

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5)

 So, while I don't know my future, much less the future of this blog, for now I'm going to let go and throw myself into the work God has called us to.

May God bless you, my friend - and may none of us shrink back from the work the Lord has for us on this earth!

(As a completely unrelated aside, the amazing Mussers need your prayers.)


Sunday, July 27, 2014

What God Has Joined Together: Changing How We Think About Adoption


I hear it not infrequently.  And it always makes me cringe.

The latest version went like this:
God is molding a baby in another mother's womb to be the perfect fit for our family.

I don't know whether to cry or to scream.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Just Call Me Kish {On Being a Grandmother After God's Own Heart}

Monday morning I was blessed beyond words when my first grandchild was born.  I have been trying to decide what my grandson would call me ever since I knew of his impending arrival.  

Everyone is grandma (so confusing), and I loathe "granny."  I wanted something easy for him to say that would distinguish me from his other grandmother (and great grandmothers).  Since I am part Wasco (Indian), it seemed to me that the Wasco word for grandmother was perfect.  I am officially "Kish"!

Sam: the world's cutest grandson.

Monday, July 21, 2014

See You at the Finish Line!


24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9)

When I left Facebook, a young God-lover who was serving the Lord in Mexico on a summer mission trip bid me farewell:

See you at the finish line!

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