Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Unwinding with 'Dance'

Last year at this time I was on a mission trip to New Orleans to help with recovery from the Hurricane Katrina. That's right, five years after the flooding, there are still families without homes and churches trying to rebuild. I can't imagine the many more years of suffering these poor people will have to endure in the wake of the BP debacle we are witnessing unfold day after day on the news.

One of the families that went on our mission trip told me how much they enjoy a program called "So You Think You Can Dance," which I had never even considered watching. Since then, I've tuned in each season, finding that I do enjoy it quite a bit.

Tonight, the program was my release from a pretty busy day and this ballet dancer brought an extra measure of joy in his ability to adapt to the "hip hop" genre. What incredible talent he has to be able to move from ballet to hip hop so quickly and perform on par with the veteran "Twitch."
Here is a link to his story:

Here is tonight's dance routine in HD:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One Anothers

I'm fairly aware of several of the "one another" passages in the New Testament, including this one:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13
Ray Ortlund, at Christ is Deeper Still, posts a list of "one anothers" that he could not find in scripture:
Humble one another, scrutinize one another, pressure one another, embarrass one another, corner one another, interrupt one another, defeat one another, disapprove of one another, run one another’s lives, confess one another’s sins, intensify one another’s sufferings, point out one another’s failings . . . .

In a soft environment, where we settle for a false peace with present evils, we turn on one another. In a realistic environment, where we are suffering to advance the gospel, our thoughts turn to how we can stick up for one another.
Read his post here>>>

Monday, June 28, 2010

Holiness as God's Agenda

“Jesus shows us God’s agenda for change. God isn’t interested in making us religious. Think of Jesus, who was hated by religious people. God isn’t interested in making us spiritual if by spiritual we mean detached. Jesus was God getting involved with us. God isn’t interested in making us self-absorbed: Jesus was self-giving personified. God isn’t interested in serenity: Jesus was passionate for God, angry at sin, weeping for the city. The word holy means ‘set apart’ or ‘consecrated.’ For Jesus, holiness meant being set apart from, or different from, our sinful ways. It didn’t mean being set apart from the world, but being consecrated to God in the world. He was God’s glory in and for the world.” - Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway, 2010), 13.

And such were some of you

My pastor is preaching through the book of 1 Corinthians and yesterday, he exposited 1 Cor. 6:1-11. In addition, we read passages from 2 Chron. and Matt. 18. Something stood out to me that I had not noticed before in the 1 Cor. 6 passage: when Paul calls the sin of having lawsuits against one another an "utter defeat" and then goes on to tie such greed, cheating, and theft to drunkenness, homosexuality and adultery.

Typically, when I think of the "and such were some of you" passage, the sins I associate with that phrase don't include having grievances against my brothers and sisters in the church. But that is exactly what Paul is talking about here. Granted, he is also transitioning to speak more about sexual immorality in the next passage, but the fact that he is tying this back to the greviences passage was a new understanding and brings the whole priority of the peacemaking process to a new level.

1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Poodle vs. Sheepdog?

I'm a dog person. And in the past 20 years, I've had two really different dogs, at two separate times, one named Maximilian (Max, for short) and the other Bridgette.

My first dog was an adorable Shetland Sheepdog that I thought was amazing. Smart and cute, but when I had company over, he used to exhibit the strangest behavior. If anyone would leave the room to say go to the bathroom, he would leave the party area and follow them to the bathroom, where he would plant himself until the guest was finished in order to make sure that he or she rejoined the pack. He really reminded me of the parable of the sheep that we read at church today in Matthew 18:

12 "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

My Shelty was a lot like the Bible's picture of a shepherd with his sheep in this way. He would not relax or let down his guard until my guest rejoined the rest of the group. He was more concerned about the well-being of the lost one, that straying sheep, than being part of the fun and games happening in another part of the house. But alas, the poor boy is no longer with us. He was replaced by a very different breed.
My miniature poodle Bridgette, who also has a superior intellect for a canine creature, is quite different from Max in that she is uber-loyal to her master. Now, the Shelty was in fact quite loyal, but my poodle is borderline insane loyal. She won't even eat or drink when I'm away. To test the seriousness her allegiance, I once gave her a bowl full of her favorite treats and chews, and then went to the grocery store. When I returned, she had not touched a single one of her liver snacks, raw hides, chicken bits, etc.. That's how much she loves me, her master. She can't even eat when I'm gone. 
Now, when I have people over, she is the total opposite of my former Shelty. She stays glued to my side or at my feet and has to be involved with every activity, whether watching a movie or having a discussion, she needs to be taking it all in -- from my lap, at my feet or in my arms. My room mate calls her "Velcro dog." 
This might be kind of a stretch, but as I reflected on the personalities of these two buddies of mine, I couldn't help but think just a little about the story of Mary and Martha:
Jesus at the Home of Martha and Mary
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Mary wanted to sit at Jesus's feet and was fully devoted to Him - to listening to and learning from Him, while he was present. Martha lovingly wanted to serve and work for Jesus and expected Mary to help her. Much has been written and pontificated about Jesus's rebuke of Martha by telling her that Mary has chosen better,  that only one thing is needed, and that it will not be taken away from her, etc..

My take-away is that while Christians should develop a balance of both Mary and Martha styles, we cannot begin to be Martha-like without first spending deep devotional time basking at the feet of Jesus, being built up by listening to His teaching, through meditating on the Word, and partaking of the sacraments in His Body. Only once we have received His truth and love, can we effectively go about His Martha work of herding the lost and giving of ourselves for fellow believers.

That's kind of where thinking about poodles and sheepdogs led me. Weird, huh??

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Slavery and forgiveness

Since I live within walking distance of the local University, I have the tremendous opportunity to serve as a "Homestay Mom" for international students. My current homestay student is from China and she has returned home for a few weeks, during the semester downtime.

Before she left, she asked if we could watch the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha." The movie features several prominent Chinese actresses, even though it is based on a Japanese cultural phenomenon. So, I decided to invite a friend from church along with my other room mate and make a regular gathering out of it, where we might bring the gospel to bear on some of the key themes.

Disclaimer: Although the movie is rated PG-13, it really is pretty morally offensive, so I would NOT RECOMMEND this movie to anyone young and impressionable. Essentially, a geisha is nothing more than a glorified prostitute. And while the film really highlights the dark and disturbing undersides of this past cultural practice, my major concern was that it seemed to also play into the many Hollywood stereotypes that portray women as primarily objects of lust.

The key redemptive themes that we focused on in our discussion after the movie were the ideas of slavery and forgiveness. The main character is a seven-year-old orphan sold into slavery with the intent that she will eventually go into prostitution until she can pay back her keep to the house mother where she is being raised as a slave.

It is a sincerely heart-wrenching tale, with dozens of relationships that are marked primarily by master-and-servant type roles. The woman who runs the prostitution home keeps all of the inhabitants in bondage to her whims and will, until one of them can earn enough money to buy the property and take it over. Since she sees Sayuri as a threat, rather than her best bet for the future of the home, she treats her exceptionally badly as a slave. The male protagonist owes his life to another businessman, dating back to when the two were young men and served together in war. All of his decisions in the movie are filtered through the other man's priorities.

What stood out the most in our conversation is how the characters, in addition to being in materialistic slavery to one another, also held deep seated grudges against one another, waiting for the day when they would exact vengence on the one who had wronged them. Several of the characters even harbored their bitterness secretly for decades, until they could "pay the other person back" (even though everyone else had completely forgotten about the origin of the offense.)

The only real brightspots in this movie (other than the visually stunning cinematography) occurred when the two lead characters were faced with their own moments of truth, and in both cases, they chose to forgive and to actually bless the others who had harmed them deeply.
  • "The Chairman" does not reject Sayuri for a major indescretion on her part, he forgives her and makes her his 'half wife.' Any other benefactor would have cast her away into a life of destitution for what happened (mostly because of their own wounded pride).
  • When Sayuri is made proprietor of the home, rather than enslaving or throwing out her "mother" who had treated her so maliciously and kept her as a slave, Sayuri allows her to continue to keep everything she has and to be the "mother."
So, while there were semi-redemptive ideas happening here, they were all seriously overshadowed by the fact that the characters were motivated by prostitution and possessions.

In our discussion, we focused on slavery and forgiveness as two sides of what was happening. We discussed how uncommon it is to see forgiveness practiced not only in this movie, but also in our day and age. Then we talked about how Christ has forgiven us for every wrong that we have done, no matter how bad. Not only things that we've done against other people, which can be really, really horrible, but also the wrongs that we have committed against a holy and loving God, who created us and every good thing that we have.  Because Christ has forgiven us completely, we actually have the freedom to walk away from horribly abusive lifestyles like prostitution. And because we Christians have received such awesome mercy, we now joyfully offer forgiveness to others who have done wrong to us (most of the time.)

We acknowledge that some non-Christians do have a sense of forgiveness, which is great, but it's not based on the ultimate undeserved forgiveness of God that we have experienced in Christ. So, they are not truly free. We also recognized that it is true that some Christians don't practice forgiveness either as they should. But when we don't forgive, we are actually enslaving ourselves by rejecting that which in fact makes us free.

Then I realized how much I need to continue to internalize the message of forgiveness myself. Unforgiveness for a Christian is self bondage. As difficult and painful asthe process of true forgiveness can seem, the trade-off is being set free from dark, disturbing and empty oppression. And so, I press on...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Scary to me

"Hosting people over for dinner makes me more anxious, worried and fearful than being a substitute teacher does," said I to my sister-in-law (who has family over all the time for dinners). It's true. I'd rather wake up at 5:00 a.m. and wait for the phone to ring or check the computer to see if there are any schools in need of my services than do the hostess thing. But I do try sometimes. It's one of those things that afterwards I feel like I need a month off. When I have a traumatic subbing day, I usually rebound in a couple of days. Go figure.

The silliness of coveting

My laptop is more than two years old, and I've been noticing that when I have like nine applications running and 15 websites open, it won't play movies or YouTube videos very smoothly. (hmmm.. can we say unrealistic expectations anyone?)

So, last week when I was shopping at a major electronics store for refrigerators (mine was making milk shakes out of perfectly good Eddy's Double Fudge ice cream, even though it was running 24/7 and turned down to the lowest setting!), I peeked over at the laptop section. Fatal error.  We all have our weaknesses, and apparently, computers are my own personal blue screen of death.

There it was. The perfect multimedia, entertainment laptop that literally has every single feature that I could imagine needing -- okay, wanting -- in a mobile computer. And it was almost 1/2 off the regular price. Oh my! I was so excited. For days after my fridge was delivered, all I could think about was this new laptop. I kept checking the store's webpage to make sure they still had it in stock and was checking every internet review I could find, which were all 5.0! In every way, I kept confirming to myself over and over: Go, buy it, buy it, buy it!

Then I realized a few major problems with my plan.

First, with the amount of money that I've been making over the past year, even though I could pay cash for this amazing, beautiful, funtastic piece of machinery, I knew I really should not spend this money, especially at this time.

Secondly, and most importantly, my desire to possess it had become a ruling lust -- an idol! (Although, I'm sure that merely having that knowledge would not have stopped me from buying it, because I could easily justify my desire.)

Finally, and most embarrassingly, too, I might add, the more I researched the reviews and checked out the comparisons of my dreamboat laptop, the more I realized that I was completely nuts. The laptop that I currently have is its predescessor and has almost everything to offer that the dream machine has, with the a few minor exceptions and the biggie of a separate ATI graphics card.
It was the realization that I already owned what I was craving that convicted me so strongly of the silliness of my coveteousness. I stand convicted (and about $700 richer). Plus, there's a couple of great lessons on being content and having realistic expectations in there as well. Keepin' it real and happily letting it go!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Eavesdropping on 7 yr olds

One seven-year-old boy: When I'm at school, I always get into fights. I don't know why I do it, 'cause I really don't mean to get into fights. I don't really want to always be fighting, but no matter how hard I try, I always seem to end up getting in trouble for punching and kicking people.

The other seven-year-old boy: Yep. My mom says that's sin. She reminds me every day.

The first seven-year-old boy: But what should I do?

The other seven-year-old boy: Look at Jesus. That's why He died.

The first seven-year-old boy: But I can't SEE Him!!

The other seven-year-old boy: He's in the Bible and at our church. That's probably how come our parents go there all the time.

Both burst out laughing. I giggle, too. Busted!

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Clothes

As the LORD has providentially provided for all of my daily needs during the past year, He continues to amaze me with His faithfulness. This period has been emotionally hard and financially sparse, yet I have not suffered or sacrificed as I expected. Probably, the most emotionally difficult times have been either from fear and anxiety over what I thought might happen (things that have never materialized, PLT!) or over past wrongs that still haunt me. Handling the past wrongs is something I'll deal with in a different post. Today, I'm thinking about God's provision and how it links to larger truth from His Word.

When I first started working part-time at large major retailer last August, I was pretty excited because I've always enjoyed retail, even though I knew the pay was basically minimum wage. During the orientation, I learned we would have a dress code -- we could only wear black, white, or khakis -- so I went to the local Good Will and Salvation Army and found 5 or 6 tops that would fit the bill for about 2.99 ea.!

Last month, the dress code restriction was removed and as a "thank you" to all who participated in this regional test case, we were all given $100 to purchase appropriate business casual clothing. Again, PTL! I used the certificates during a huge sale and the extra "Power Hours" pricing, and ended up with 10 very nice and stylish shirts and a pair of dress slacks. Woowhoo! I've gotten so many compliments on these clothes, and I've been so blessed, because before I worked at this store, none of this stuff would have been considered my "style" at all. I considered myself more of a polo, button-up, pull-over kind of gal, but these clothes are frilly with pretty purple and pink patterns. Basically, stuff that I would have never even thought to try-on before I worked here.

With these new clothes and style changes, I even feel a little more new, too.

Larger Application
My sister-in-law, neice and I have been asking ourselves (and each other) about our radical life changes: What is God communicating to us through His Word about our present circumstances? So, I've been thinking about how I can learn things from God's Word as He continues to be so faithful in my life.

As it turns out God's Word has a lot to say about "New Clothes." Buckle up!

Gen 3:7 "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." Often, our own works, done by our won efforts and motives, are really just trying to make ourselves presentable to God. But when I do this, I wonder if God just thinks I look silly. Like Adam and Eve trying to fix themselves with fig leaves. The clothing of this world is like getting clothes from Good Will -- a physical blessing in the world's sight and a temporary reprieve, but inadequate for eternity or intimacy with God.

Gen. 3:21 "The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them." God provides the only adequate covering by which we may be in covenant with Him -- and it required sacrifice, bloodshed.

Gal. 3:26-27 "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." Considering the costliness of His gift of being clothed with Christ to us: the sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the cross, we realize that we could not purchase it for ourselves. It is a free gift (that cost God dearly).

Luk. 24:49 "I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." When we are clothed with Christ as believers, we are also clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit to be transformed and to do God's will.

1 Cor. 15:53-55 "For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
55"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"

When Christ returns, we will be resurrected with imperishable bodies and death, sin, pain and sorrow will be finally, ultimately, and eternally defeated!

2 Cor. 5:2 "Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord."

We long for our heavenly home! Death and sin will be swallowed up! If we are in Christ, We are guaranteed to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, which He is preparing for us now! We are confident! We live by faith! We have a precious and real hope - and a downpayment: The Holy Spirit! Wow!!

Mat. 25:34-42 "Then the King will say to those on his right, come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world... 35 For when I needed clothes and you clothed me..38 "When did we see you ... needing clothes and clothe you?" 40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

If Jesus Christ really is our Lord and King, if we really are empowered by the Holy Spirit, if we really believe that we have been clothed with Christ, and if we really know that we have been given a downpayment on our heavenly dwelling in the Holy Spirit, how could we not love our neighbors just as God has loved us by helping to provide for their needs as we therefore have opportunity? Afterall, as we build these relationships, we have so much more to offer them than the local Goodwill down the street. For starters, we now have an opportunity to share about the eternal clothing that God offers to those who would trust and believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Definition of Irony

Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild by Mary Kassian just hit #1 on Amazon in the "Feminist" category today. She contrasts the woman of Proverbs 31 with the woman of Proverbs 7, warning girls/women of the many dangerous feminist premises that have become engrained in our culture. Definitely ironic!

I haven't read the entire book yet, but the parts I've browsed are great. She also hosts a very useful Facebook page that I've enjoyed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Catching up: June 2010 Roundup

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of distractions from blogging, an inadvertent vacation, you might say. I've kept up with reading my favorite RSS feeds for the most part but haven't posted anything here in quite some time. Last night, as I tried to pull together a new post, I decided to redesign the page. Hope it is more appealing...

Now, here's a roundup of some of the posts and links that I've enjoyed recently:

Friday, June 4, 2010

Vigilante Grace

Tim Challies linked to an article by Irish Calvinist on a real-life example of THE OPPOSITE of Vigilante Justice straight from the world of baseball. As fans clamored for "justice," Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga help us see how Contrition, Mercy & Forgiveness play out on the Baseball Field
Erik makes three key observations (see his original post where each bullet is fully developed.)
"First, the clamoring for perfection from imperfect people... We see a billboard sized announcement and reminder of human imperfection and our distaste for it.

Second, the contrite apology... A good, humble apology is good and refreshing for our culture.

Third, the mercy... Our culture is not used to this."

A summary of his conclusion:
These are good themes of imperfection, justice, contrition, and mercy that intersect with in our everyday world. We need to see it more often and teach it to the next generation. Jump over to Erik's article to get the whole story>>>

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Forgiveness Video from Peacemaker Ministry

Since I have struggled a lot lately with forgiveness, and since Mr. Chris Braun's book on Forgiveness is sooo awesome, I'm just going to post this before I've even watched it, trusting that it will be excellent (and convicting too, I'm sure):

Chris Brauns Webinar: Forgiveness Quiz from Peacemaker Ministries on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Four Books, $10 at RHB

Reformed Heritage Books is offering, for a limited time, 4 books for only $10.
The books being offered look great. They are:

Family Worship
Dr. Beeke offers a heartfelt and solemn plea for families to return to Biblical, consistent and passionate family worship. With pastoral insight and care the author provides practical and valuable answers to the practice of family worship and at the same time addresses objections raised against it. In a world of impossible standards and idealism, this book is a helpful and motivating guide to implement or increase the depth of your family devotions.

Contagious Christian Living
When some people smile, they ignite smiles in people around them. They have contagious smiles. If that’s what a contagious smile is, what is contagious Christian living? It is living that is so godly and so consistent that people around them cannot help but be impacted and inspired. In Contagious Christian Living, Joel R. Beeke looks at four people in the Bible to find out how people today can live an influential life in dependence on the Holy Spirit. Here is your invitation to read about, and pray for, the sacrificial submission of Jephthah’s daughter, the Christ-centeredness of Bartimaeus, the contagious blessings of Jacob, and the consistent integrity of Daniel.

The Happiness of Heaven
While belief in heaven is essential to the Christian faith, the fact that pilgrim believers have not yet experienced heaven leaves us with many questions about what it will be like. In The Happiness of Heaven, Maurice Roberts surveys Holy Scripture to tell us what heaven is all about. In his characteristic style, Roberts discusses the biblical data clearly and relevantly, making soul-searching application at every turn. This is not just a book of interesting facts about what heaven is like; it is an appeal to men and women to find their happiness in the eternal comfort of God in Christ.

Walking as He Walked
Every Christian yearns to be more Christlike. This book addresses how we can be more conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) in four of the most difficult areas of the Christian life: cross-bearing, office-bearing, sorrow, and endurance.