Friday, September 27, 2013

The prophet that makes me laugh and learn

I would love to have met Elijah in person.  He was a tough go-getter, fearless to face down a bloodthirsty queen and her pack of Baal worshipping priests.  That story of fire from heaven is one of my favorites.  But Elijah had his weaknesses, just like the rest of us.

After the fiery standoff with the Baal worshippers, he was riding on an emotional high.  He had been a part of two amazing miracles (fire from heaven and rain after a famine), a slaughter of the prophets of Baal, and a victory for God under his belt, all in just one day.  But Jezebel the queen acted just as arrogant and hell-bent on killing Elijah.  So he ran miles away and hid in a cave and wanted to die.  What??

After all that amazing power manifested by God through Elijah’s faith, how could one woman turn him into such a weakling?  Emotionalism – that’ll do it every time.  Ride high on your emotions, and you can count on being tossed into the dirt face-down soon enough.  Elijah had forgotten that his trust was in God, not in his ability to convince Jezebel to back down or repent.

I love what came after that.  The Bible says that God told him to come out to the edge of the cave and stand in the Lord’s presence:

“At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Suddenly, a voice came to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”  (1 Kings 19:11-13.

We all want to see the spectacular, the amazing, the stupendous earthshaking experience and say, “Wow, look at what God is showing me!”  But God wasn’t interested in talking to Elijah through any of that.  It was that soft whisper; that still small voice that asked, “Hey Elijah, what are you doing here?” It makes me laugh every time I read it!

Elijah went on to give God a slightly exaggerated sob story about how he was the only one left who loved him, and as always, God was so gracious and wise.  He didn’t pity him, and He didn’t rebuke him, just gave him a mission to go and anoint a new king and prophet and to know that there are thousands of others who still do love Him.  “Now go!” He said.

So the solution to Elijah’s depression and self-pity was:

Stop being emotional
Stop worrying about convincing people to listen to you
Calm your self-centered feelings so you can hear His voice
Get up and DO what you know He wants

The moral of the story?  God speaks to us all the time.  ALL the time.  Yet we have the dullest, deafest ears to hear him because we are so attracted to special effects.  Whatever exciting shiny thing appears before our eyes, we want to stare at it.  Whatever gripping emotion settles into our hearts, we want to dwell on it – even if it’s destructive.  And of course the devil is more than happy to dress up all his temptations like a Hollywood set, with lots and of fancy emotions and imagery.  Meanwhile God says, “Go, do what you know I want, and that’s when you’ll see my power.”

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Unstoppable: the Christian movie meant to answer life's tough questions

Advertised as a movie that “answers some of life’s most difficult questions about suffering and explores the victory of the Gospel throughout history,” we couldn’t help but be curious to see Kirk Cameron’s “Unstoppable” production that aired live simultaneously in 700 movie theaters around the US on Tuesday night. In his trailer, Cameron stated that he had traveled across the country, and had gone through an emotional and spiritual “meat grinder” searching for answers.

Dave and I both grew up in traditional protestant churches and are more than familiar with the reasoning Christians offer of why good people suffer.  I asked questions like this so many times in my own life…why can’t I be healed, what’s wrong with my faith, are you punishing me God, don’t you even care, why does life have to hurt so bad? I asked and asked and sought for answers, and the ones my Christian friends and counselors came up with were vague and philosophical. I had to conclude that nobody knew the answer, that I was supposed to hold on to God for dear life, and when I died and went to heaven, it would all make sense.  God was still good, God still loved me, God was still in control, even when depression and fear were swallowing me into a bottomless pit.  I was wrong to demand or expect anything from the perfect all-knowing God who chose to leave me hanging by a thread, because somehow it was all good for me.  That was the best anyone could offer me then – and that was all the “Unstoppable” movie had to offer as well.

Since the live showing at 7pm was sold out earlier in the day, we found a cinema in a neighboring town that would air it again at 9:45, so we planned for a late night.  The late showing wasn’t packed out, but a good number of good Christian Texans filed in and patiently waited as the movie technician tried to figure out how to fast forward the recording to the beginning of the show.  His ineptness was funny and exasperating as the audience started to shout, “No, no, more, more!” and “Stop! No further back! No! Keep going!”  It finally got under way half an hour late, and we were already tired.

The movie that claimed to grapple with earth-shaking themes, began with a whimper.  Cameron appeared onscreen and introduced two guys with personalities as exciting as their grey suits.  We discovered we had to endure a long monotone speech by the president of Liberty University, the film’s sponsor and host, on the wonders of his institution. It even looked like some of their student film projects got to be a part of the production, adding to an amateurish feel to the show. I felt like getting up and leaving at that point, but the tickets were too expensive and we had committed to seeing the whole thing.

Next a variety show began with the singer Mandisa, performing in front of 10,000 Liberty U. students who filled up their school stadium.  A Vietnam vet shared a rapid-fire and hard to follow testimony about losing his legs in a landmine and turning to Christ, then a dad of one of the Secret Service agents who died in the Benghazi embassy attack talked about how Psalm 145 comforted him.  Nothing wrong with people saying how God has helped them through tough times, but I felt like I had been tricked into paying $15 to watch a TV church service.  The only piece of the variety show that was truly original was Warren Barfield, the writer of the theme song, “The Time is Now.”  With a simple acoustic guitar, he performed an amazingly good song with a great message, which I have now purchased on iTunes and highly recommend.

When I thought this was all it was going to be, the actual movie finally began.  The tough questions.  The hard-hitting answers. The meat-grinder... (read the full review here)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Elizabeth - mother of a revolutionary

Enjoy our study of Saturday Sept. 14th at SiLC 59 in Houston:)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rebekah - handpicked by God

Rebecca, Rebekah, Rebeca, every version of the Bible has their own spelling, but all are agreed that this girl was unique.  She was an answer to many years of prayer, and she proved herself by her servant's heart and her courage to go where God called.  Much of her life mirrored her mother-in-law Sarah: beautiful and deeply loved by her husband, desired by other men, barren for many years, given the gift of continuing on the blessing of Abraham to the next generation, struggling with two potential heirs, tempted to meddle in God's affairs, used her faith despite her failures until the end.

Enjoy part 1 our most recent Women's Breakfast study from Sept. 7 at SiLC in Houston.  Pass on the link!  Part 2 on clothing, adornment, make-up and even tattoos will be coming next...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Woman of God yet? Take the quiz!

Last Saturday we were supposed to talk about Rebekah, but the quiz that we started with, took up most of our meeting time, so Rebekah will wait till next time, but meanwhile we had a very thought provoking time of looking at our own lives and how much we are integrating what we learn in God's Word into our daily lives.  No one showed me all the results of their quiz, just a few groans and laughs let me know that there are plenty of aspects of our lives that are still a far cry from what God wants us to be.

Enjoy the audio link below and follow along.  The quiz statements that you are supposed to rate yourself with are listed here.  If the statement describes you perfectly, give yourself a 10.  If it doesn't describe you at all, give yourself a 1.  If you are somewhere in-between a "yes that's me" and a "I'm nothing like that" then assign a number to that statement that is closest to where you are at that moment, with 10 being the most like you and 1 being the least.  (Hope that make sense!)  Listen to the audio of last Saturday's Women's Breakfast in Houston and you'll get the picture.

Which character qualities are you developing?   Which ones do you lack?

obedience, purity
modesty, initiative
hospitality, devotion
beauty, trust
gratitude, discipleship
courage, servanthood

1. After a full day of work, my boss asks me to stay and finish a project while everyone else goes home. I quickly pray and choose to do what he asks with all my heart.

2. At family gatherings, when the gossip begins, it’s hard to know how to pull away and not join in.  Sometimes I do without wanting to.

3. I like beautiful things, but I rarely wear jewelry or makeup because I don’t want people to think I’m showing off.

4. I always make sure to offer visitors a delicious snack and something to drink, or if they come at mealtime, they are welcome to join me at the table.

5. When I know a neighbor is not feeling well, I like to find out what I can do to help.

6. When I’m at church or at work - I like to find ways to offer my help without being asked.

7. I’ve been waiting for an answer to prayer for a long time, but I’m beginning wonder if God really wants to answer me at all.

8. When the pastor preaches, I write down what God is teaching me so I can meditate on it to remind myself.

9. I used to wear really tight or revealing clothes but now I only wear them when I’m sure people in church won’t see me.

10. I seem to always be attracted to the same kind of man who doesn’t respect me.

11. When I hear people cursing I just walk out, and if I can’t I pray against that spirit.

12. I’m always trying to find ways to learn more about the Bible both in and out of church.