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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I lied

Yeah, I lied. Last night I said I was finished with the Crazy Love book, but this morning I woke up still meditating on some of the stuff in the last chapter that I decided to share. These are a few of my favorite quotes with a wee bit of commentary from me. Then I really am done with this book. First person to ask gets to borrow it :)

"We often have "aha!" moments but don't act; in fact, we're famous for it in the church." I laughed out loud at this one. He so nailed me with this. I have tons of great intentions but somehow not so much follow through. It's not "getting it" until you are doing it!!!!

"Is this the most loving way to do life? Am I loving my neighbor and my God by living where I live, by driving what I drive, by talking how I talk? I urge you to consider and actually live as though each person you come into contact with is Christ." UMMM....ooops......I don't really see the people I come into contact with in this way. Even though scripture clearly teaches the principle that whatever we do for those in need we do for Christ.

"We say things like, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Then we live and plan like we don't believe God even exists. We try to set our lives up so everything will be fine even if God doesn't come through." I'm growing in this area....but I do still tend to want to have a plan B just in case God doesn't show up.

"Christians are like manure: spread them out and they help everything grow better, but keep them in on big pile and they stink horribly." OHHHH! HAAAAA! Do any names come to your mind??????? Are you growing stuff or stinking horribly? I didn't really like that thought!

"Most of us use, "I'm waiting for God to reveal His calling on my life" as a means of avoiding action. Did you hear God calling you to sit in front of the television yesterday? Or exercise this morning? We are quick to rationalize our entertainment and priorities yet are slow to commit to serving God." I'd never really thought about it this way before. I always thought waiting on God was - well- godly. But I could definitely be putting into more practice some of the explicit ministry commands in scripture. Such as loving my neighbor, caring for the poor, ministering to those in need, etc.

"Our view of the Holy Spirit is too small. The Holy Spirit is the one who changes the church, but we have to remember that the Holy Spirit lives in us. It is individual people living Spirit-filled lives that will change the church." We often pray for God to change churches. But the Holy Spirit lives in people. You and Me. We are the ones who have to be changed before the church will change. One believer at a time.

"The world needs Christians who won't tolerate the complacency of their own lives." Yeah...and it needs to begin with me.

I am excited about the changes ahead for the church. I am reading lots of authors who are advocating living scripture. Literally. These men are leading believers to practice genuine faith. I can't wait to see what God is going to do as we begin to seek Him in this way. When pew sitting is no longer enough for any of us. When we become hungry to change the world. When we are desperate for intimacy with Christ. When we love like Jesus commanded us to love. Hopefully the world will never be the same again. Praying that I will begin listening, obeying, and living Christ. Today.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Crazy Love, the end

I know some of you were wondering if I would ever finish this book, Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I had great intentions of reading a couple of chapters a week and reviewing them in some sort of organized manner. But then life got really busy, and I didn't. This blog is long and rambles some, but hang in there. I'll close with my favorite quote from the book. Remember that yesterday I warned you that this was an uncomfortable chapter.

Until recently I thought I had a pretty decent grasp on what a Christian looks like, talks like, acts like, smells like....after all, I've been in church since 9 months before I was born. I've even been in the ministry my entire life. But gradually over the last five years as I read the Bible all the way through for the first time (yes, I'm slow...leave me alone), I began to see so many new things about following Christ. And then in the last year or so, God has just taken everything that I thought I knew, tossed it out, and pretty much started over again.

Crazy Love is one of the books that I've read this year that really challenged me about the reality of my faith. Is my faith something I proclaim or is it something that I live? Do I read the Bible for knowledge or do I read the Bible as an instruction manual? Do I really take God seriously when He gives instructions for life or do I think that some verses just don't really apply to me - especially living here in America? Are there verses that I've skimmed without even attempting to apply?

Chapter 8 - "profile of the obsessed" is the chapter that even if you do not plan to purchase the book, you should run by Lifeway, grab a copy and speed read this chapter and evaluate yourself. I was really uncomfortable with all this stuff. And prior to the read, I would've said that I was obsessed with God.

I was especially challenged about money and the poor. Jesus talked a whole lot about the poor and taking care of the poor and oppressed. He talked a whole lot about financial responsibility and good stewardship. Now, before I prayed this through, I thought I was in pretty good shape here. I tithe regularly - which money goes to the church - which in turn is funneled into appropriate people-helping channels. I even occasionally - a least a couple of times a year - do some special missions projects to help the poor. I gave up my dream home and downsized to an older home for financial reasons. I drive reasonable vehicles, and most of the time spend within my means. But then I prayed and kind of wish that I hadn't. I feel really convicted about how much of my budget I spend on me and how little I spend on others. I began to feel pretty convicted about how much stuff I own, and how much time it takes me to manage it all - time that could be better spent in ministry maybe? I feel pretty convicted about how often I swipe my credit card to buy things that I want but can't really afford. Then, I felt even more convicted about not having relationships with any genuinely poor people. NONE!!!!!

Luke 14:12-14, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers, or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." BOOM!!!! talk about conviction - IT HAS NEVER - EVER OCCURRED TO ME TO TAKE THIS VERSE LITERALLY!!!! So I began to contemplate who I could invite to such a dinner party and realized NOBODY - I Don't know anybody who really fits into this verse.

Like most Americans, I surround myself with people of comfortable means. People with good health. People who return favors and who love me in return. Good people. Nice people. And not that I should not spend time with any of these people - but something is wrong that I do not have any way of literally living out Jesus' commands about caring for the poor.

There was so much more in this chapter - stuff about service with a good attitude, humility in the face of various forms of pride, being consumed with safety at the expense of being used by God, and developing an intimate walk with Christ. Definitely worth taking 30 minutes and reading. Or just read the big print about characteristics of an obsessed person (10 minutes)!

Chapter 9 is a series of case studies about people who lived lives characterized by their Crazy Love for God. And the final chapter is simply a wrap-up of the entire book.

This book was not what I expected at all. I expected a warm fuzzy book about loving God and learning how to worship Him. Instead I feel like I just got the band-aid ripped off a large oozing wound. This was a painful read for me as I entered into it open and willing for God to change me. I feel a little overwhelmed by how far I have left to go and stunned by how far off the mark my Christian walk was for so very long. It's like getting lost in the woods at sundown and trying to find your way back to the highway.

Now, don't misunderstand me here. This was also one of the best books I've read in a very long time. I am excited about the journey that Crazy Love has inspired in my heart. A journey to find the Christianity that Jesus invented instead of the Christianity that I learned in the American Church. To sort through all the stuff that I "know" to see what is real and what needs to be left behind.

Here's a quote from chapter 8 that just absolutely sums this all up for me. Especially in light of heading out on a mission trip on Wednesday. "Jesus is asking you to love as you would want to be loved if it were your child who was blind from drinking contaminated water; to love the way you would want to be loved if you were the homeless woman sitting outside the cafe; to love as though it were your family living in the shack slapped together from cardboard and scrap metal."

Picturing that? Your child in desperate need? And how would you want somebody to love them. Praying for us all to learn to love like Jesus.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Monday Morning Update

Is it Monday again already? Christmas has come and gone. One week of Christmas break is already over and I haven't done any of the projects that I had intended to take care of over the break.

So for what has become the traditional Monday Morning Update - I really am excited to begin seeing several families start to grow some roots with the Crossroads. It's neat to see people catching the vision and wanting to be a part of the family. In my limited wisdom, I wish that we were growing a little faster. But in God's infinite wisdom we seem to be growing deeper. Of course 3 baptisms, a few more professions of faith, one guy licensed to the ministry, and several families starting to get plugged in are not exactly poor results for a church that is not quite yet 6 months old.

Speaking of licensing to the ministry. I was really sad to say goodbye to my good friend and church planting intern, Brad, today. He was such a strong reminder of God's timely provision for our church. However, it is awesome to see people pursuing God with all that they are and chasing after their dreams. Even when their dreams take them on a new journey. Brad will be attending seminary in Waco and preparing for a lead role in ministry.

Shawn's sermon series about the real Jesus has been so incredible. It is amazing as his wife to see God take him and use him to speak such truth. He has always been a gifted speaker, but it seems that maybe now God is going even beyond Shawn's own ability to discern truth and to communicate it effectively. God seems to be doing some supernatural stuff in my husband's life. I am excited to see him being surrendered to God and to see just how God is using him.

Loved the worship set this week. (do I sound like a broken record?) Seems like I always say that. I did, however, really miss two of our guitar guys this week who were unavailable to play with us. We are praying for some more musicians so that we can cover for each other when we have to be out. Yet, God's spirit is not bound up in how many guitar players we have or whether the keyboard player is hitting all the right notes to be able to move in a service. God moves among people who are hungry for his presence and so we are very blessed every week to experience amazing worship.

This afternoon we loaded 638 blankets and tons of stuffed animals to prepare for The Crossroad's first mission trip to Mexico. We will be leaving Wednesday. We will be going door to door handing out blankets and gospels of John as we lay groundwork for a church plant that is being started. How incredible is it that a baby church is already going to help out another church!

Today I was eating buttermilk pie and visiting with a family that's been with us since the very beginning. We were talking about how exciting it is to be in church planting. Very low pressure, but very focused energy on making our lives count. I just don't think I could ever go back to just sitting in a pew ever again. I love the active, passionate, hands on, hard work of planting. I was made for this mission.

Just a confession: Way back in the day when we were doing 40 days of purpose at Hagerman, God began to speak to me about getting ready physically for a mission that he had in store for me. I giggled and dismissed Him. (Always a bad idea, by the way) Today I remembered what He said as I was helping to move the countless heavy boxes of blankets. It may be time to schedule some workouts into my busy schedule.

Warning - I have just about finished Crazy Love by Francis Chan. This last bit of the book really nailed me hard and challenged me about my ideas of Christianity. Tomorrow I'm planning to share that - so if you don't like the heavy, convicting blogs you have been warned.