Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Eyes and Ears

I don't have a lot to say about this week's reading from Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis and Beth Clark. I encourage you to check out my friends' posts over at Connecting to Impact.

When watching over a little girl dying from malaria, Katie wrestles with the poverty and disease right before her while remembering the luxury and comfort she left behind in the United States. Katie writes, "My heart began to break over and over for the other children around the world who had no one to protect them, no one to speak up for them, no one to sit up with them at night and control their fevers. Who would hold them? Who would sing to them?" (pg 70)

Dare I be so bold to say that Katie is wrong? God makes it clear in His Word that He is the ultimate advocate for the poor, the hopeless, and the forgotten. And as Katie herself admits in this chapter, it was He who put her right in that place for His purpose.

When I read this chapter, my mind went right to the story of Hagar from Genesis. Long story short, God promised a child to Abraham and Sarah but didn't say when. Impatient, Abraham lays with his servant, Hagar and she bears him a son, Ishmael. Fearing for her life she flees. We pick up the story in verse 7 from Genesis 16:

The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”

The angel of the LORD also said to her:

“You are now with child
and you will have a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the LORD has heard of your misery.
He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers.”

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. (Genesis 16:7-15)

Two important Hebrew words in this story. One, the name of Hagar's newborn son, Ishmael means "God hears" and El Roi, for whom she named the well after, means "The God who sees". Hagar was all alone and afraid. She was rejected, who would advocate for her? The God who sees, that's who. Later when she goes her own way, leaving Abraham and Sarah, she wanders the desert expecting to starve and die. Again, the God who hears intervenes.

No need on this earth is unknown to the Lord of Hosts. And we are put exactly where we are for His specific purpose. Pray and ask the God who sees and He who hears, to open your eyes and ears to the needs around you that you, and you alone, can meet.

This blog is part of a book club reading Kisses from Katie. Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter are leading the discussion. Head over to their blogs for more.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Far Would You Go?

If you call someone and ask them to meet you at 5:00 AM to pray, they are likely to think you're crazy. If you call the same person and ask them to meet you at the gym, that would be normal. If you were to move across the country to plant a church in a city you've never been, your family would probably raise their eyebrows. But if you made the same decision, but instead in order to go to college or for a job, most would be joyful for your decision.

The standard of how far is far enough moves depending on what we're talking about. In the current economic climate, uprooting your family for a job isn't unreasonable. But to uproot your family and serve in the Third World would seem strange. If you ask a stranger in the grocery store parking lot about their new car, it's not at all awkward. But stop that same person in the parking lot and ask them about Jesus and expect a cold response. It might be ok to your friends if you tell them you can't stay out as late Saturday night because you have church that morning. Unless the big game is on early and you'd miss it for church.

So how far would you go to follow Jesus?

The name Aron Ralston may not be familiar, but I'm sure you've heard his story. He is the hiker and climber whose arm got stuck behind a rock and had to cut it off in order to survive. He is the subject of the movie 127 Hours. Before the book and the movie, I saw his story on the Today Show. My eyes could have fallen out of my head they were open so wide as I heard his story of survival. In a nutshell: he went hiking, didn't tell anyone where he was going, and while working through a crevice a boulder dislodged and rolled over his arm trapping him. After five days, delirious and out of water, he amputated his arm with a dull knife from his multi-tool. Let me say that again so it can sink in, he cut off his arm with a dull knife.

As dramatic as that sounds, the simple fact of the matter is if he hadn't, he would not have survived. As if that weren't enough, he then had to repel down a 65 foot rock face, and hike 8 miles back to his truck. All while dehydrated and bleeding to death. He mentioned in one interview, "I had amputated my arm within minutes of when they had found the truck. If I hadn't chopped off my arm they would have found me but I would have been dead. It would have been days later. Had I chopped off my arm earlier, then the helicopter wouldn't have been there and I would have bled to death." Impeccable timing, or something more divine?

The first reaction to that story is to put yourself in his shoes and ask yourself if you could have done the same thing. It is hard to imagine myself, stuck like that in the same spot, breaking my arm in order to get through the bone and having to sever nerves in order to pull myself away. In fact, even typing this, I shudder. But how far would you go to survive?

Now how do we make the leap from this true story to our pursuit of Jesus? Again I ask, how far would you go to survive? Jesus relates in a parable, "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:44-46)

The man sold all he had with joy because he knew what he was getting was worth so much more. The life and death implication may not be obvious, so let me add, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.'"(Matthew 16:24-25, emphasis added)

Following Jesus is a matter of life and death. So if you are trapped in your sin, how far would you go? To further drive the point, "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." (Matthew 5:30, emphasis added)

So one last time, how far would you go?

This post continues my series blogging through the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I encourage you to follow along by clicking on the Not A Fan label to the right. And I urge you to pick up a copy of this book for yourself.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Devil Made Me Do it

A few days ago my son told me how he made a decision at school not based on simple right or wrong but whether or not I would get mad at him. Even more, he said he thought Satan would have made me mad at him.

First I wanted to encourage him not to be afraid of me getting mad at him and had a deeper talk about right and wrong. But I wanted to dig deeper on what he meant by saying Satan would make me mad at him. Amazingly he recalled a conversation we had months ago when he asked me if Satan was real. I think this was around Halloween and he was afraid to go to bed. So I described how Satan wasn't some monster that would come to us in the night to harm us, but instead he gets in our hearts to trick us into making bad decisions. He dropped it then and peacefully went to sleep, so I was surprised to hear this come up now.

Satan is a tricky subject to tackle, especially for a seven year old. Even believing adults struggle with the notion of a fallen angel running around causing us to do bad. On one extreme some will blame everything on Satan, from catching a cold or a series of red lights that makes one late for work to serious sin and addiction. The other extreme considers Satan "an idea" that represents all that is evil. Of course the truth is somewhere in between. But to someone not as devout in their faith, either notion makes Satan sound more like the boogeyman than the real spiritual force he is.

It is with this latter attitude that the media has approached Presidential candidate Rick Santorum's  comments from 2008 where he stated that Satan had his "sights on" America. To the infamous Main Stream Media, someone who believes in Satan is as foolish and naive as someone who believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

But according to this MSNBC news piece, a 2007 Gallup poll and a Harris poll in 2009 show that most Americans (7 in 10 and 60%, respectively) believe the devil is real. Yet a 2009 Barna survey of self-identified Christians (versus the broad swath of Americans in the other studies) shows that 59% either agree or somewhat agree with the description of Satan as an idea or symbol of evil versus an actual living being.

While on the surface, it looks like these polls are contradictory, the devil is in the details. In the first two, people we asked simply if they "believed in the Devil" where Barna gets more specific. In that context, Barna found that 92% of those polled believe in some notion of the Devil.

Of course none of this data is relevant in choosing whether Santorum should be the president. Yet it highlights the diversity in the nuances of our faith. There is no broad-brush "Christian" in America that can be painted into a single corner politically no matter how much the media may try.

But I digress. I'm interested in you; what do you believe about Satan? Is he real or symbolic?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Annoyances or Blessings?

A couple of Fridays ago my daughter had to get six stitches in her chin. According to her teachers, she fell from some playground equipment. According to her, she was running with her eyes closed. Knowing her personality, I can believe both.

I had the day off, but had dialed in to a meeting. About half-way in, the phone rang and I didn't recognize the number of her school. A couple of minutes later, my wife called. And called. And called. About the third time I figured I better answer the phone.

Slightly annoyed by the interruption, I answered. After hearing what had happened I responded with the usual husband-speak, "uh huh, oh ok, uh huh..." and told her that my meeting was almost done and I'd head over after. (In my defense, at this point, the school was saying the standard, "oh, don't worry we put a band-aid on it and some ice. She's not crying..."

Another couple of minutes pass and the phone rings again. "Sheesh, can't I get a break?" I thought to myself. My wife tells me that they think she might need stitches. "Oh, ok. I'll sign off and head right over."

Still annoyed I head over to the school (my wife beat me there) pick my daughter up and take her to the doctor. I remained totally into myself up to the point the nurse removed her bandage to reveal the depth of the wound. Then all my attention was squarely on my precious daughter.

Parenting sucks. I say that just because I'm selfish. I like my own time. I like to pick my own movies. I like to have my own spot on the bed that I won't be crowded out from at four in the morning. And I like my days off. But I love my children.

I think of the blessing of having a job that provides insurance so that my daughter could get her stitches. I am blessed that I have days off for times such as this. I am blessed with a wife who is less selfish than I am to keep me on my toes and help me feel compassion towards my children. I am blessed that my daughter was even in school in the first place where she could eventually hurt herself.

Not everyone is so blessed. Katie Davis relates in Kisses from Katie how she begins to adopt some of the children around her. These children are lucky if they can go to school. Lucky to have homes made of clay with tin roofs. Lucky if someone will attend to them in the hospital. I say lucky, not blessed, because the blessings come later. Katie is a blessing meeting their needs to allow them to attend school. She is a blessing to open up her home to others when theirs is washed away by rain. She is a blessing to pay for medical care so that a nurse will actually pay attention to the crying little girl on a cot. She is a blessing to allow herself to be called "mommy" by children who do not have one. Or I should say, didn't have one before. And Katie accepts all of this lovingly, with joy and thanksgiving seeing what God is doing in her life.

Maybe the bad attitudes, frustrations and selfishness didn't make it past the editor's desk and are left on the cutting room floor, to mix metaphors. But as I read this book, I believe she is sincere. Yes, this is hard, she admits that. But she doesn't care. And that convicts me because it puts parenting in perspective. Her perspective, not mine.

"Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him." (Psalm 127:3 NLT)

This blog is part of a book club reading Kisses from Katie. Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter are leading the discussion. Head over to their blogs for more.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

You're an All Star

So far blogging through Kyle Idelman's book Not a Fan, I've drawn spiritual lessons from Tim Tebow, John Wall, and Josh Hamilton. At some point I plan on writing about Jeremy Lin, Rulon Gardner, Billy Beane and others if the opportunity presents itself. It's nice to look at these superstars and draw encouragement and inspiration from their lives or their play on the field/court/mat. But these athletes represent the cream of the crop, the top percent of athletic skill. Let's face it, it is unlikely you or I will ever play in the Super Bowl or run in the Olympics. These athletes are in exclusive company.

Just how exclusive? According to the NCAA only 0.03% of high school boys who play basketball go on to play professionally, 0.02% of women. Football is slightly better with 0.09% of high school players making the pros. If you are living vicariously through your children and dream of them making the big time, your best bet is to steer them towards baseball where 0.5% of high school players go on to play in the pros. (But note that last number does not mean the Major Leagues; baseball has an expansive minor league system where most players never see a pitch above single A).

What is even more exclusive than being the pros is being an All Star. Headlines were made last week noting that Blake Griffin is not in the NBA slam dunk competition and that Jeremy Lin isn't in the three-point shootout. There are omissions to the All Star team every year in every sport that leave fans scratching their heads.

But imagine you or I making the All Star team. How out of place would we be? The college hoops team I root for shot 1-10 the last nine minutes of their game last weekend. They lost the lead against their arch-rivals the first and only time with three minutes left and never recovered. A fan might call that a choke. Now picture that team suiting up for the All Star game, practicing jump shots for the three-pointer competition. Yet even those players are better than most of us watching the game from our Lay-Z-Boy.

Another exclusive crowd were the young men in Jesus' day who were selected to learn under a Rabbi. It was an honor and source of familial pride. A Rabbi didn't pick just anyone. It was the equivalent of being chosen to suit up in the NFL. But that's not how Jesus operated. He hand-picked the rejected. In fact, instead of waiting for others to ask to follow him he went out and asked fishermen, tax collectors and political rebels to follow him. And when he taught to the crowds he was explicit in his invitation "if anyone would follow me..."

Kyle uses the example of Matthew the tax collector in chapter 8 to emphasize Jesus' open invitation. The application for you and me is that we have a better chance of being chosen to follow Jesus than to be a professional athlete. Based on the numbers above, that doesn't say much. But Jesus' invitation to follow him is all-inclusive.

The word sin is used in archery to describe when one misses the target. Me, I've missed the target a lot. I've bricked the wide open jumper, whiffed at the [slow pitch softball] pitch, dropped the pass. I'm not going to make any All Star team. But Jesus invites me to play for him anyway. Let that sink in. Jesus actually wants me to be on his team. Ever been picked last on the playground wondering whether you'll get to play at all? Jesus picks you first. Ever miss the crucial play and hang your head in embarrassment? Jesus just selected you to be an All Star.

Kyle offers the challenge to those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus rather than just fans: are we as inclusive as Jesus? Or do we consciously pick our teams based on appearance? Our church, our demographic, our neighborhood, our ministry... how inclusive are you? Don't get me wrong, there is fine print here. Following every invitation from Jesus is the call "you must..." But do we close the door on people's faces before ever getting to that point?

The next time you stumble on the playing field of life remember that Jesus wants you on his team. And that neighbor, coworker, friend that is even a worse player than you? Jesus wants him and her on his team too.

This post continues my series blogging through the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I encourage you to follow along by clicking on the Not A Fan label to the right. And I urge you to pick up a copy of this book for yourself.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

You Can't Turn a Parked Car

Chapter 4 of Katie Davis' personal memoir, Kisses from Katie, sees Katie beginning to see the plan God has for her unfolding before her. She went to serve short term, teach in a kindergarten, share a little Jesus along the way. But soon she finds herself buying a large house (by Ugandan standards, not our own) from which to run her still undefined non-profit.

Katie describes this experience simply by saying, "I have learned that something happens when one makes herself available to God. He starts moving in ways no one could imagine." (pg 43)

A friend has a saying, you can't turn a parked car. In other words, God can't move you if you're standing still. Proverbs 16:9 reads, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." This assumes you're already walking.

Books like Crazy Love, Radical, Hole in Your Gospel, and now Kisses from Katie challenge my status quo. My heart is moved to do something. But I need to get up and start moving. Of course, it doesn't have to mean moving to Uganda like Katie. It might not mean moving at all. Sometimes it means saying yes to opportunity. But it might also mean saying no. It's up to God to determine the steps.

Not long ago, I thought I knew where I was stepping, but God changed my course. Now I don't know where I'm going, but I see God working around me. It doesn't make sense. It's not what I would plan. And I have absolutely no idea where I'm going.

Katie Davis first went to Uganda in 2007. This book took four years to write. I imagine it took that long to be able to look back and see what God had done and to appreciate what he was doing. I figure in my own life I will look back and see this "season" in my life completely differently than I see it now. Maybe. I don't know. But what I do know, God is directing the steps and my car is moving.

This blog is part of a book club reading Kisses from Katie. Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter are leading the discussion. Head over to their blogs for more.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Once upon a time I was pretty fast. I was part of a championship-caliber relay team and could hold my own in the individual races as well. Before you become too impressed by my athleticism, know that this was in high school. One of the things, besides raw speed, that set our relay team apart was our almost scientific approach to handoffs. You see, in high school most handoffs between runners happen as the next runner is almost standing still. In the cases where the teams practice their timing so that the next runner can just take off, most runners still look over their shoulders slowing them down.

But we had our timing down... mostly. I ran the third leg of our 4x100 team. I would watch for the second runner to hit a mark and I'd take off full speed. After three steps I'd blindly put my hand back and the second runner would be right there to pass off the baton. I would then be responsible for playing catch-up to the fourth runner, AKA the anchor leg as he would take off and extend his hand back towards mine.

My sophomore year our team consisted of myself, two juniors and a senior. We won more often than we lost and we frequently flirted with the school record. So we all knew if we wanted the record and win state, it had to be that year. In fact we did beat the record. More than once. But those never counted because we were often disqualified.

The reason so many runners at that level wait for the handoff or look backwards to make sure they cleanly exchange the baton is because there is a short length of track in which the handoff must take place. If it doesn't, you're DQ'ed. And it's not that easy when you're running roughly 20 miles per hour. You also have to stay in your lane. Two consecutive steps on or over the line would also result in a disqualification. And when two of the four legs of the relay happened on curves, this happened more often than not.

If you were DQ'ed, you wouldn't know until the race was over. So you could run at a breakneck pace through the finish (or handoff), raise your arms in victory, and find out later that none of it counted.

Ultimately, we didnt win state (we took second) and we never did beat the record.

Chapter seven of Kyle Idleman's book, Not a Fan, "the relationship defined" calls our attention to Matthew 7:13-14 which warns,

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Back to my earlier illustration, narrow is the lane on the racetrack, and short is the exchange so many are disqualified. Worse, they don't know until the race is over.

There is no worse feeling than completing a race to only find out later it didn't count. In the spiritual race of which Paul frequently alludes, disqualification has eternal consequence.

Kyle Idleman suggests we slow down and make sure we are in the right lane. Good advice, but how do we know for sure? Kyle emphasizes our genuine relationship wit Jesus, fast-forwarding to verse 23 where Jesus says what we all hope to never hear, "away from me evil doer, I never knew you." But he skips over the fine print in verse 21, "Not everyone will... enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven."

It is tempting to turn our spiritual walk into running as fast as we can. We need to slow down. Check our lane and ask the honest, hard question, "am I doing God's will?" If not, it doesn't matter how fast we run or in what place we finish. Once we cross the finish line we will find out we were disqualified. And then, it will be too late.

This post continues my series blogging through the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I encourage you to follow along by clicking on the Not A Fan label to the right. And I urge you to pick up a copy of this book for yourself.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Truth in Advertising

In the aftermath of James MacDonald's recent Elephant Room, the focus has been on T. D. Jakes and whether he affirmed the Trinity rejecting his Oneness background, about whether Mark Driscoll pushed him hard enough, and that no one challenged him on the Prosperity Gospel. There were other sessions, or "conversations" however that are worth following up on that had nothing to do with the latest Internet-driven evangelical celebrity fracas.
One in particular caught my eye. "With a Little Help From My Friends" The session is described as follows:

Is there a future for denominations? Will networks simply replace them, or will they reinvent themselves? What can denominations offer that networks of churches cannot? Describe the health of world missions and missionaries as you see them serving around the globe. Is the model of sending missionaries through a mission agency still effective? Or is church planting through healthy churches the way to go? Is there a lack of accountability plaguing most missionaries? How can that be changed? How does para-church help or hinder the local church in world missions?

Of course there hasn't been any controversy over this topic, so other than some random quotes I picked up on Twitter, I haven't heard anything more about it. And that's a shame, because this is a very relevant topic for our churches today.

Attendance in traditional denominations has been on the steady decline for a number of years (decades in some cases). Church planting networks, like Acts 29, are all the rage as are missional networks like Verge. In the meantime, American Christianity (TM) continues to follow the trends of megachurches, where a church is known more by the books the pastor sells than the doctrine they actually teach.

But is this anything new? In the 60s/70s the fear was campus ministries and other parachurch organizations were going to replace denominational churches. The campus ministry movement didn't replace denominations, but instead forced them to evolve.

I'm personally interested in this topic as my own church, sprung out of a traditional denomination transformed by the campus ministry movement, recently shed its denominational structure in place of a "co-op" where churches maintain their autonomy, but there is coordination with respect to conferences, publications, and world missions. Sounds a lot like a network, doesn't it? But is that the right model?

When I first came across Acts 29 I was intrigued by what they were doing. But it took a lot of digging to find out anything specific about their doctrine. At best I found out it was started by Driscoll, which led me to Mars Hill to dig into what they believe. Yet another case of a megachurch being known more for its pastor than its doctrine.

Consider the standard online "statement of faith" pulled from a local church:
  • The Bible came into existence through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and is God's complete revelation to man. It is inerrant and has supreme authority in all matters of Faith and conduct.
  • There is one living and true God, eternally existing in three Persons, The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit. These three are identical in nature, equal in power and glory, have precisely the same attributes and perfections, yet execute distinct but harmonious offices in the work of providence and redemption. Deuteronomy 6:4; 2 Corinthians 12:14
  • God, the Father, is an infinite personal Spirit, perfect in holiness, justice, wisdom, power, and love. We believe that He hears and answers prayers and that He saves all who come to Him through Jesus Christ.
  • The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God who became man without ceasing to be God. He accomplished our redemption through His death on the cross, and our redemption is made certain through His bodily resurrection from the dead.
  • The Holy Spirit came from the Father and the Son and convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The Holy Spirit indwells every Christian, seals them until the day of redemption, and is our present Helper, Teacher, and Guide.
  • Man was created in the image and likeness of God but through sin became alienated from God, acquired a sin nature, and came under the judicial sentence of death.
  • Salvation is the gift of God offered to man by grace and received by faith in Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord. Genuine faith will manifest itself in works pleasing to God.
But does that tell you anything? Would it describe your church? Chances are, it would describe any traditional church. Yet it doesn't tell me whether they are Charismatic or cessationist, follow Calvin or Zwingli, are Reformed or Restoration.

You're probably asking what does that have to do with the question above regarding denominations and networks? Personally, I think denominations are stuck in traditions- doctrinally and culturally, and are destined to die unless major changes occur. But... at least you know what you're going to get. When I drive by a First Baptist Church, I know what that is. When I drive by a church called Spring of Life Church, I have no earthly idea.

But is the only value in a denomination truth in advertising? What do you think?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Power to Change the World

Imagine you're God for a moment. (Maybe that's easier for some of you than for others) Imagine all the hurt, all the suffering you see among the eight billion people inhabiting your creation. Imagine hearing all of their prayers, all of their cries, and all of their curses. Imagine having all the power to eliminate pain and anguish while appearing to do nothing about it.

If you've seen the movie Bruce Almighty, you can get a hint of this overwhelming responsibility. If you're following along in the book, Kisses from Katie, you can get that sense seeing the Third World through the eyes of Katie Davis as she adjusts to her life in Uganda.

It would be tempting in her shoes to try and fix everything. The poverty. The orphans. The lack of education. The disease, especially HIV. Given her First World resources living in the Third World she could have the power to do it. But it would be too overwhelming to fix everything. So instead, Katie chooses simply to love. You can see the seeds being planted for her future family here. She recognizes that she can't fix every problem and help every child, but she can teach and love as many children as come to her. Education leads to a better life. Love leads to a sense of family. Together those two "small" ingredients have the power to change that country.

Does God sit idly by as His creation suffers? Some would argue so. Of course, his creation is designed with some built-in rules regarding free-will, but surely He could do something, right? No, he doesn't snap his fingers to eradicate all disease. But he does move in the hearts of people like Katie, or like you and me reading about her story, to give or to serve.

It is important to keep that perspective in mind when reading this book, and I pray Katie holds this perspective as she continues in her ministry. She, or you, or I, is not alone. God moves in the hearts of the rich and the poor. Some give up everything they have to move to the other side of the world. Others build successful business that they use to fund efforts that help faces they may never see. God moves in hearts to serve in the Third World as well as to serve in the urban ghetto. God moves in hearts to adopt starving children from Africa as well as to adopt fatherless African American children. When God is moving in the hearts of his people, there is no limit- geographic, economic, political, or racial- that cannot be overcome.

No, God is not idle. And Katie is not alone.

This blog is part of a book club reading Kisses from Katie. Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter are leading the discussion. Head over to their blogs for more.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

By the Power of the Holy Spirit

I almost cried when I heard the news. I don't know him, and this wasn't a case of celebrity worship where I would be so moved. But I was near tears because I knew exactly how he was feeling and what he was going through. My heart sank as I feared for what may happen next.

"I feel like I was fine not to have anybody," Josh Hamilton, baseball superstar and recovering addict, told a local radio station three weeks before he fell off the wagon. Then after a night out that I know lasted longer than the hours ticked off the clock he told reporters, "Understand, I'm going to do everything I can and take all the steps necessary..."

The problem with what he said, and my fear for him (which began when I read his book, Beyond Belief), is that there's a lot of "I" in his apology. Although that's just a public statement, God only knows what exactly he prays for or what he shares with others to be held accountable. But I know through my own recovery and ongoing support through a recovery ministry, that "I" get in the way of true healing.

One encouraging quote out of all this mess, "I cannot take a break from my recovery. My recovery is Christ." So he has that going for him. His faith is no secret to those who have followed his story. He is an encouraging speaker, frequently appearing for youth groups, churches, and especially recovery groups. In his book, he speaks of how he came to know Christ so he is no stranger to the Holy Spirit. Yes, the past few years he has been sober much more than he has not, but I wonder how much he is relying on the power of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis to help him with his recovery versus relying on himself.

Chapter six of Kyle Idleman's book, Not a Fan, "self empowered or spirit filled?" focuses on the Holy Spirit. He's right in that the subject makes many a Christian uncomfortable. He describes the third member of the Trinity like Cousin Eddie that no one knows exactly what to do with. He's the drunk uncle (but it's only nine in the morning!) that no one understands. And if it wasn't for my own experience in recovery, I would have responded the same way.

I remember going to my first meeting, then as a mentor/discipler for another addict (oblivious to my own need). The meeting opened up with prayer and someone prayed for the Holy Spirit. Huh? I grew up Catholic so I have prayed for Mary, for Saints, and of course for Jesus to walk with me. But to pray for the Holy Spirit? I was afraid we'd step out of that meeting speaking in tongues and with the hair on top of our heads singed. (Not really, but I wasn't sure what was going to happen next)

It wasn't until later when we were discussing a meeting that did not go at all as we planned. "Sometimes we just have to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit work." And it clicked. Honestly, this epiphany transformed my relationship with God. Yes I'd pray to Him for things as if he was the cosmic Santa Claus. And I'd pray "in Jesus' name". But I began to pray for God to move me out of the way and let the Holy Spirit work in my life. I began to relate to the Holy Spirit as a force of motion, which we need to move anywhere in our spiritual life, especially overcoming addiction.

Going back to my subtle reference to the book of the Acts of the Apostles above, I've read several commentaries that suggest this book of the Bible should actually be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. I couldn't agree more. The early church could not have moved without the Counselor guiding them.

Idleman describes in his book how fans of Jesus get burned out because they rely on their own power. I still struggle with this, to be honest. I need to learn to rely on the Holy Spirit in the "non-spiritual" (work, family, as if those things shouldn't be spiritual to begin with) Followers of Jesus know to rely on the Holy Spirit to give them strength. I could go on and on with scripture references to back this up, but I'll save that for another day. Instead, I will simply speak from experience. Simply put, I owe my own sobriety to the Holy Spirit.

Kyle closes the chapter with a list of what friends on Facebook have seen the Holy Spirit do in their lives. If the Holy Spirit is the weird cousin in your spirituality that you just don't know what to do with, consider that the Holy Spirit has enabled others to:
  • finally forgive my dad
  • lose 150 pounds and stop smoking
  • forgive my ex-husband for his infidelity
  • adopt two boys from Ethiopia
  • overcome a drug addiction
  • overcome a gambling addiction
  • overcome a sex addiction
  • overcome a shopping addiction
  • overcome an eating disorder
  • be four years sober
  • raise my special needs child, even as a single mom
  • save my marriage
  • conceive after being told it would never happen
  • return my child home after three years of silence
  • find peace when my husband passed away and I thought my life was over
  • remarry my ex-husband after a long, nasty divorce (pg 98)
I pray for the Holy Spirit to move in Josh Hamilton's life and to empower his sobriety. What do you need the power of the Holy Spirit in your life? Please share so we can pray together.

This post continues my series blogging through the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I encourage you to follow along by clicking on the Not A Fan label to the right. And I urge you to pick up a copy of this book for yourself.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Flashback Friday: Super Perspective

This is a repost from last year, right before the Super Bowl with some updated numbers. I don't mean to be a fun-hater, and I'll be partying just like the rest of you, but it's important to keep things in their proper perspective.

Keep in mind that half of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day.

One 2012 update, from this Fox Sports slideshow
  • 1.25 billion hot wings will be consumed. Those would come from 312.5 million chickens that would feed, that's right, 1.25 billion people.
2011 numbers:
  • A 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl will cost $3,000,000.
  • A ticket on the 50-yard line, lower level, costs almost $16,000
  • 106.5 million people watched the Super Bowl last year on CBS.
  • 8 million pounds of popcorn will be consumed, 28 million pounds of chips, 53.5 million pounds of avocados for guacamole requiring a total of 222,792 football fields worth of farmland to grow.
  • 325.5 million gallons of beer will be drank which would fill 493 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • $3,000,000 would provide hospice care for those dying of HIV/AIDS over four years in Uganda, or vaccinate 3 million children for measles across Africa, or provide mosquito nets, better access to medications, and free HIV/AIDS testing in Rwanda. (That's only three ads right there)
  • 75% of the world makes less than the cost of that football ticket... in ten years. (according to the Global Rich List)
  • Up to 10,000 adult and underage girls are expected to be sex-trafficked to Dallas-Fort Worth [Indianapolis this year]
  • 223,000 acres of corn would feed 25,000 people for a year (according to rough calculations from this site).
  • 325.5 million gallons would give enough potable water to 616 million people for a day, or enough for 1.7 million people for a year. (This is only a dent, though, as 1 billion people are without drinkable water)
"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

It All Comes Down to This

With the Super Bowl this weekend and me blogging through Kyle Idleman's book, Not a Fan, I figured this was as good a time as any to share this video. In honor of the big game, courtesy of the Skit Guys: