Monday, July 30, 2012

Book of the Week: Counterfeit Gods

Want to read along with me?

"What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give."

"A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought."

"If I have that, then I'll feel my life has meaning, then I'll know I have value, then I'll feel significant and secure."

"If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol."

And that's only the introduction!

What in my life is more important to me than God?

What is bringing meaning to my life other than God?
My social calendar?

Where do I seek "identity" from somewhere other than God?
My job?
My relationships?
Where I live?
What I wear?

If you're prepared to let God answer those questions, then join me in reading this book!

Please LORD reveal what in my heart displeases You and what You would like to renew.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mary of Magdala

{A Blog Post I Wrote in Israel}

We visited a “bonus” site today. One that was recently excavated, a town called Migdal or what we would refer to as Magdala. The archeologists are finding that this was no small town as once presumed. It is quite possibly much larger than it seems, with lots of history waiting to be uncovered.

But it wasn’t the site that the LORD used to teach me a lesson today.

It was the person in the bible who came from this town, Mary of Magdala or whom we would call . . . Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene is mentioned in all 4 gospels and is the most consistent person present with Christ. There are no stories shared in the gospels about Mary Magdalene other than the fact that Jesus cast out 7 demons from her. She is so insignificant that her lineage isn’t even given, just the town from which she comes from, Magdala.

She was a nobody. She was a demon possessed women who was healed by Jesus and remained close to him ever since. She was obscure, in the background, with very little of a story.

This nobody would soon become the first witness, the first believer, and the first one to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. She was the one who went to the tomb early in the morning, grieving the loss of her LORD. She was the one who would recognize Jesus and run with all of her joy and excitement to share that “He is risen” with Peter, John, and the rest of the disciples.

Mary Magdalene, this nobody, followed closely to the LORD, served Him, and proclaimed him. That is her story in the bible. She was not a great bible teacher full of knowledge like Paul, or a prophet who would tell of the future like Isaiah, or a mighty queen like Esther. She was simple, plain, in the background. She was a woman of gratitude, of devotion, and of faith.

Mary of Magdala should’ve been an outcast because of her demon possession. Instead Jesus casts out the demons to welcome her in. She should’ve been considered a nobody but because of her devotion to the LORD, she is somebody.

Mary Magdalene’s life was spent doing 3 things . . .

Following Jesus.
Serving Jesus.
Proclaiming Jesus.

She is famous for her gratitude, her devotion, her faith, and her love for the LORD.

Today in Magdala, the lesson is much more than archeology. This God we serve is the kind of God who would choose a nobody, out of a village in Israel, heal her, restore her, and lavish his love and grace upon her. Our God looks beyond our reputation to call us to Himself to make us sons and daughters of the King. He gives us a new reputation, and new heritage, a new life. And our response should be just like Mary Magdalene’s, one of devotion, one of gratitude, and of love. Let our response to God’s gift of salvation be just like hers, that our lives would be defined by:

Following Jesus.
Serving Jesus.
Proclaiming Jesus.
Let us live like Mary of Magdala in devotion to our LORD and our Redeemer . . . Jesus.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Secret Pharisees: Pretending or Performing?

We all know the language. We all talk about how we "can't earn God's love" and he saved us through grace. We say it, we know it, but if we search deep down in our hearts, do we really believe it?

As the book "Gospel Centered-Life" would say: we're all secretly pretending or performing.

We're pretending that we're not really as bad as we seem.
Or we're performing to try and seem better than we really are.

And neither of these are for the LORD . . . they're for others.

Why are Christians in a constant game of compare and contrast?

Because we’re secretly all Pharisees. We've all added on our own "laws" to what makes a good Christian, or a better Christian. We're all a lot like the disciples who argued with each other about "who is the greatest (Luke 9:46)". Secretly, we're all too worried about what others think and not consumed by who God is and what He's done.

"We have all constructed certain rules or laws that we live by, believing that if we keep them, we are more “right” before God. It is then only a small step before we start judging other people based on their performance regarding these rules or laws." (Gospel Centered Life)

You may be thinking . . . no, not me. I don’t have secret laws I live by. I am in Christ, I know I’m saved by grace! But search deep down, and think . . . do you compare yourself to others? Do you feel “proud” when you’ve studied the bible 5 days in a row and your friend hasn’t even opened the Word once this week? Are you a better Christian because you love and serve the poor daily, not just once in awhile? Are you more spiritual because you don't watch that tv show or read those books? Are you more “holy” because you have a consistent prayer time unlike your brother who “prays in his car on his way to work”. What a heathen. (*These are all examples from other people’s lives, not ever stuff I’ve thought in my own.)

But if you're honest and willing to examine your own heart, do you seek "righteousness" somewhere other than the cross?

JOB RIGHTEOUSNESS: I’m a hard worker, so God will reward me.
FAMILY RIGHTEOUSNESS: Because I “do things right” as a parent, I’m more
godly than parents who can’t control their kids.
THEOLOGICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: I have good theology. God prefers me over those who have bad theology.
INTELLECTUAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: I am better read, more articulate, and more culturally savvy than others, which obviously makes me superior.
SCHEDULE RIGHTEOUSNESS: I am self-disciplined and rigorous in my time management, which makes me more mature than others.
FLEXIBILITY RIGHTEOUSNESS: In a world that’s busy, I’m flexible and relaxed. I always make time for others. Shame on those who don’t!
MERCY RIGHTEOUSNESS: I care about the poor and disadvantaged the way everyone else should.
LEGALISTIC RIGHTEOUSNESS: I don’t drink, smoke, or chew, or date girls who do. Too many Christians just aren’t concerned about holiness these days.
FINANCIAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: I manage money wisely and stay out of debt. I’m not like those materialistic Christians who can’t control their spending.
POLITICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: If you really love God, you’ll vote for my candidate.
TOLERANCE RIGHTEOUSNESS: I am open-minded and charitable toward those who don’t agree with me. In fact, I’m a lot like Jesus that way!"

(Gospel Centered Life by World Harvest Mission, Lesson 2)

Honestly, until I came across this list in the book, I probably would have said "no" too. I have realized that I too have constructed laws in which I compare myself to others.

And I hate it.

This is a battle. Daily. To be consumed with Christ and His goodness, not me and my own. Or worse, me and my brothers and sisters. This is no way to live. And it's certainly no way to live as Christians who have been bought with a price and freed form this kind of life!

Are you willing to fight against pretending and performing? Comparing and contrasting?

Are you willing to be consumed with Christ and gaze on his goodness rather than consumed with self and comparison to others?

"Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:2-3)

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Defines You?

Jacob was a liar.
Moses was a murderer.
Rahab was a prostitute.
David was an adulterer.
Paul was persecutor.
Matthew was greedy.
Mary Magdalene was demon-posessed.
The Woman at the well was promiscuous.

God takes messed up, sinful, broken people . . .
Makes them new . . .
And uses them for His Kingdom.

Know what their reputation reads now?

Same as yours. Same as mine.

In Christ, our past does not define us.
His does.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

He IS our Fulfillment

{My Journey Through the Sermon on the Mount}

v.17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
This section presents the heart of Jesus’ message, for it demonstrates His relationship to the Law of God. Jesus was not presenting a rival system to the Law of Moses and the words of the Prophets, but a true fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets—in contrast with the Pharisees’ traditions. “The Law and the Prophets” refer to the entire Old Testament.

a : to put into effect : EXECUTE
b : to meet the requirements of (a business order)
c : to bring to an end
d : to measure up to : SATISFY

v.18 "For truly, I say to you, . . .
I tell you the truth is literally, “Surely (or Verily, KJV) I say to you.” “Surely” renders the word “Amen” (Gr. amēn, transliterated from the Heb. ’āman, “to be firm, true”). This expression, “I tell you the truth,” points to a solemn declaration that the hearers should note. It occurs 31 times in Matthew alone.

. . . until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."
Jesus’ fulfillment would extend to the smallest Hebrew letter, the “jot” (lit., yôd), and even to the smallest stroke of a Hebrew letter, the “tittle.” In English a jot would correspond to the dot above the letter “i” (and look like an apostrophe), and a tittle would be seen in the difference between a “P” and an “R”. The small angled line that completes the “R” is like a tittle. These things are important because letters make up words and even a slight change in a letter might change the meaning of a word.

Jesus said He would fulfill the Law by obeying it perfectly and would fulfill the prophets’ predictions of the Messiah and His kingdom. But the responsibility of the people was made clear. The righteousness they were currently seeking—that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law—was insufficient for entrance into the kingdom Jesus was offering. The righteousness He demanded was not merely external; it was a true inner righteousness based on faith in God’s Word.

*Thank you Logos for the information above.

Have you, like me, thought that the Old Testament, was well OLD and that Jesus is NEW?? It’s texts like these that remind me, Jesus was not “new”. He is not Plan B. He is not a different way, a better way . . . He IS the way.

Jesus is fulfillment.
All that was taught in the Old Testament points to Him. He doesn’t abolish, he fulfills. Like the missing pieces to the puzzle, he fits it ALL together to see the big picture.

While in Israel, they encouraged us on the last day to rip out the page in our bible that says “Old Testament”. We were taught to see Christ throughout all of the pages in our bible, not just the “new”.

He IS the fulfillment of our OLD Testament and He IS our hope in the NEW!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grafted In

This morning I’m thinking of wild olive trees, what it means to be grafted in, and Israel.

This is a picture of us taken on the Mount of Olives. If you look closely behind us, you’ll see an Olive Tree. For me, probably the most symbolic thing I can find to represent my faith.

Once a Wild Olive Tree (Gentile), who has now been grafted in to a Cultivated Olive Tree (Israel), to share in the Nourishing Root (Christ) and be shaped and formed by the Cultivator (Father God).

This chapter is why I named my blog “Wild Olive”. Because of a program we completed called Residency at our church, I began to understand Romans 11. I began to understand the difference between the church and Israel. I began to understand that we are a part of a much bigger story, a much bigger God, with a much bigger plan than we can ever imagine!

God choose to graft us into His kingdom to make His chosen people, Israel, jealous.

Friends the only reason we get to eat the crumbs from the Master’s table is because Israel rejects them.

After walking the land of Israel, I love and understand this chapter even more!

Our only response to salvation should be gratitude! We are not worthy, we did not come to faith in Christ because we born in America, grew up in church, or went to camp and “believed”. We came to faith in Christ because God gave us the gift of grafting us in!

Our faith in Christ, His plan of redemption for us the gentiles, is for so.much.more. It is beyond coming to church and participating in bible study, to hear good music, to feel good about ourselves . . . it’s to work out God’s cosmic plan for His people!

God is not done with Israel. There has come a partial hardening because of their rejection of the Cornerstone, but he is not done with them yet . . . not “until the fullness of the Gentiles comes” (Romans 11:25). He will not rest until all who are going to repent will be saved! Until then we as the “Gentiles” get to receive the greatest blessing of all. We get to be grafted into the Kingdom, invited to dine at the Master’s Table, and live a life of worship in response to this gift of knowing the One True God!

Perhaps reading through Romans 11 will help you see it too! Grateful to be grafted in . . . asking the LORD to help me remember, and not forget (Deut 8), all that He has taught me and now shown me of what it means to be a Wild Olive Tree.

Romans 11:1-10 God & His People Israel
5 “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.”

Romans 11:11-24 Gentiles are Grafted In
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.

Romans 11:25-32 A Partial Hardening & Mystery of Israel’s Salvation
25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

Romans 11:33-36 Our Response to His Plan: Worship!
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

(*This was talken at Qum'ran, on top of a mountain that looks out into the Judean Wilderness-similar place to where Jesus was tempted. We were to write a "Rock of Rememberance" a prayer, a life verse, etc. This was what I wrote on my rock. A prayer of thanksgiving for being grafted in.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Living According to the Promise

Yesterday we heard that HE IS the PROMISE at church. Before Genesis 1:1 was ever written, God had you mind. Before Genesis 1:1 was ever written, He had the cross in mind. I know that you can’t truly understand John 3:16 until you understand Genesis 3:15. From Genesis to Revelation, the plan was always Jesus . . . Christ and Christ crucified.

God knew from the beginning that we would choose our own way, our own understanding, our own desires over His path, His law, and His plan.

And nothing has changed since Adam & Eve’s time.

I see the Promise in Garden. But you know what else I see in Genesis 3? I see my life, my struggle, my sin in Genesis 3:16 . . .

“To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. 
Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.

When my husband and I first got married, I thought it was going to be the fairy tale, romantic comedy, lovey dovey type marriage. Unfortunately, my husband had been living over a year in a different city far removed from church, community, and Jesus. Though he led me to the LORD, when we were finally married and living in the same town, he was far from the LORD.

He went to church because I wanted to. When church was over, he had no desire to talk about the message. During the week he’d come home to watch tv and never open his bible, never pray, not even want to talk about the things of God.

So in all of my efforts to lead our family, I decided to start reading my bible in front of him, so he would look to me as an example. I decided to leave sermons in the DVD player, scriptures on 3x5 cards around the house about how important it is to pray or study God’s word. I was going to lead by example and nag him or guilt-trip him to the House of the LORD!!

Friends, you can only imagine how this turned out, right? Not good. He told me “I know what you’re trying to do” and I acted aloof. I knew what I was trying to do too. And until I read Genesis 3:16, I didn’t realize I was walking in sin, according to the curse that came after the Promise, just as much as he was. My husband was being Adam: passive/apathetic and I was being Eve: usurping authority/desiring to rule over him.

The LORD was quick to rebuke me, and I confessed and repented. I stopped trying to lead, trying to nag, and it was one of the hardest years of my life. It was when I learned what it meant to be my husband’s helper, not leader, and when I learned to pray.

The good news is . . . God answers prayer! My husband now leads me, seeks after God, loves His word, serves in the church, and abides in Christ. However, none of this was because of my own effort. I had to realize my Eve-like behavior, repent, and walk in the Spirit.

I can’t even tell you how many women I meet with who share this exact same struggle and pain in their own marriages.
Husbands who won’t lead; husbands who don’t want to go to church; husbands who don’t delight in the LORD. And women who are trying everything to get them to love God.

And every single time I’m taken back to the garden. I’m reminded of the curse put on Eve . . . we will desire (to rule over) our husbands, and he shall rule over us.

Ladies, can I encourage you? Repent and be saved! If we look down deep enough we can all too often relate to Eve. Let us release our desire for control and surrender it to God. Let us stop nagging our husbands and begin praying for them instead. Let us stop trying to drag them out of our home TO church and instead BE the church IN our homes. . . serving our husbands, loving and respecting, and being evangelistic through our actions.

There is so much pain in marriages. Many of you who want to give up, walk out, and quit. We are believing the lie from the garden that Eve believed; our way is better than God’s way. We are walking according to the curse, not the promise. Let’s forsake our hopelessness for hope, trade our nagging for prayer, and our discouragement in our circumstance for delight in God. Let the Promised One empower you with His Holy Spirit to satisfy you and empower you to walk in a manner worth of the calling (Ephesians 4:2) to be his helper and not his enemy.

Let’s live according to the Promise in Genesis 3, not according to the curse.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)