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“Let us then, with confidence, draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need!” Hebrews 4:16

The first question of the night is “How would you define the concept of grace to a 6-year old?” It was fun to hear everyone’s stories… from a an extra slice of cake to new bicycle, the general sense captured the essence of grace being a “gift” and truly a gift that we don’t really deserve.

Rain of Grace I actually think everyone “understands” the concept of grace… the challenge is receiving grace. The Lord gave me an image of “receiving grace” as walking outside when it’s raining, lifting up my head and opening my mouth to allow all that rain to pour all over me and inside of me. Totally wet! But, instead, so many of us tend to wear raincoats! It was interesting to me that before I shared this word picture, Robin shared a similar expression of God’s grace as He calmed her spirit one night with the sound of the rain on her window.

When we discussed the “faith builder” story in the workbook, we all agreed that it was the minister’s authentic confession to his wife that opened the door to grace. Humility and honesty are keys to that door. It was then possible for God to really begin to move and to bring both the man and wife together in the next steps to clearing his conscience. Although the risks were high, God was faithful and protected both the minister and his family. I think that protection came from a truly “contrite heart.”

Because I find that word pictures are really powerful in class, we read Ephesians 2:1-9 with an emphasis on verses 4 & 5, “…But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…” I wanted to know what it might look like to be alive in Christ… but before we went there… we talked about being dead in Christ… or perhaps, not so dramatic, but asleep. I believe many are merely asleep: disconnected, unfeeling, self-contained, not active, immovable, in their own dream world, uncommunicative, detached… and the list goes on. I shared further about the idea of a slumbering spirit… a concept I have investigated even more thoroughly through the Elijah House ministry. And the opposite? … to be alive in Christ is to be connected, feeling fully, outward focused, responsive, sensitive to others, open, communicative, willing to bond with others! All available to us through the power of grace!

Remember, justice is “getting what you deserve” while mercy is being “released from the punishment that you do deserve” and finally, grace is receiving mercy PLUS an extra blessing that you don’t deserve. On this holy day of Good Friday, how can we not realized that His sacrifice was the Great Grace.
And it is mercy and grace that open the doors to the very throne room of God, our Father!

We talked a lot about the question, “how can God’s grace help us overcome temptation and deal with sin?” How do we get that “power” to resist temptation… to resist sin? Some felt it was that direct indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Is that different than an outpouring of God’s grace? For me, I am leaning to a “new” way… at least new for me… and that is approaching the Throne with open arms and open heart, seeking only His Grace to fill me… that I might love the Lord with “heart, soul, and mind” … for here, there is no room for temptations to germinate. I think I have always thought of Grace as coming “after the sin”… coming hand in hand with forgiveness (and this is true), but I believe I am learning in this study that Grace is also “pro-active” and can be a hedge against sin.

Throne of Grace Lastly, we talked about Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” I encourage all of us to really investigate the fullness of what it means to “approach the throne” … this is a VERB! How do we do that? Let us not be locked in a “box” into thinking that there is only one way… we can pray, sing, dance, laugh! We can be in nature, in a closet, in church, or in the kitchen. We can approach alone, with a friend or in a group. And, as scripture says, when we approach, there is where we fill FIND grace… waiting for us. Oh, that’s so powerful!

Our last activity before praying in small groups was to share openly, one by one, an area where we specifically need God’s grace. That was such a tender time and I thank each one of the seekers who were willing to be transparent! Please, dear ones, remember, His Grace is Sufficient for You!

Happy Easter! Remember, no class next week. Take time to review the previous chapters as well as moving on to the next lesson. And… to those who have been absent… there is plenty of grace. You are warmly welcome to return to class. 🙂

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Once again an excellent discussion this week as we examined the core role of repentance in the “personal revival” process. Clearly, we all agreed that “change,” because it’s so difficult in all areas, is equally difficult in the area of repentance. Despite the fact that we know change is necessary for growth, we often choose the status quo (even, in some cases, if that norm is painful or sinful).

Repentance is a “change of mind” that results in a change of behavior! Without this change, without repentance, we will miss our chance to get closer to God.

Why do we find it so hard to look inside? Why do we, instead, tend to shift the blame for our feelings and circumstances to others? Because it’s easier! It’s so easy to “look at the speck in another’s eye” and miss the plank in our own. It’s so easy to say, “you made me feel…” This blame shifting goes all the way back to Adam & Eve.

Sometimes we forget the power of only one person changing. DeMoss tells a story of about Oradea, Romania back in the 70’s that was changed because of a “revived” pastor whose love for God sparked the revival of his church that sparked a revival in his community that sparked a revival in that nation. Didn’t Jesus do the same? We should never discount the power of the “one” … we should never discount how important it might be in God’s plan for us, as individuals, to respond to God’s call to revival. That call is happening now… today.

What are some of the results of not repenting… of not responding to God’s call for repentance? (Review what God said to the churches in Revelation 2:5, 16, 21-22; 3:3, 19.) Based on these scriptures, we might experience the removal of our lampstands (His light within and the ability to see in a dark place), God would fight us in whatever we tried to do, God would allow us to experience a “bed of suffering,” God would allow our children (our offspring) to die, He would allow the thief to come in the night to “steal our stuff” (whatever we think of as valuable), and even worse, we would be unable to hear God’s knock… we would be deaf to God’s call. This is not a pleasant list to contemplate.

But, the reason I wanted us to discuss and investigate all these negatives is that we need to understand the power of the converse. If we do repent, what can expect? Our lives would be full of light, joy, children, success, safety, and a vibrant relationship with the Lord. That’s something worth getting excited about!

And in the church, can we envision how different it would be if there was true repentance (authentic repentance!) amongst the people?

  • harmony
  • changed behaviors
  • family unity
  • tithing
  • no gossip
  • no cliques
  • healings
  • presence of the Holy Spirit
  • more fellowship
  • more love
  • more reaching out to those in need
  • more reaching out to those who don’t know the Lord

The group threw out this list … what does it say about our churches? This is a list of what is missing today?

The last key I want to be sure we hold onto … we must remember that repentance, like sin, begins in the mind. As long as our minds are dwelling on other things, there will be no room, no opportunity for us to respond to God.

How do we train the mind? Practice! We must daily choose another way. We must daily choose to turn the other way. Remember, what is your commitment level (on a scale of 1-10) to have authentic repentance? If it’s anything less than a 10… what will it take for you to get to a 10? Only you can shift your mind. God is calling … God has given us free will.

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” Deuteronomy 30:19

Prayer needs: Nancy, Eileen, Patty, Bob, Tanya, Rebecca, Jan, Frank, Paige.

This week’s session was a very special one. Was it because it was about Honesty? I don’t know… but there was much more honesty coming from around the table. I was so appreciative of all the people willing to share from the heart on this night.

It started out really strong as participants discussed those lessons, scriptures, or ideas that have touched their hearts the most so far. Each person had a different take on it and that was very interesting. Several people found the humility study touched deeply. For me, it has been from the very beginning, the scripture from Hosea, “… break up your fallow ground for it is time to seek the Lord…” This sense of timing is what keeps resonating in me. There’s a reason for this study now!

I then asked people to just “brainstorm” the ways that we can be dishonest with people. It was an illuminating list: blatant lies; pretending to be something or like something that you do not; telling someone your forgive them when you don’t; covering up true feelings with agner; avoidance; overcommitment; blame shifting; coloring a story; white lies; taking credit for something that someone else did; being 2-faced; not keeping a promise; judging others. A follow-up question also had a long list as we threw out areas of our lives where we try to hide, like our mistakes; private moments; coveting; insecurities; sexual sin; indultgence (in eating or consumerism); bad habits in general; covering real feelings; heart inadequacies; disappointment; finances; addictions; family strife; regret to name a few.

Why do we hide? That was a question we gnawed on for quite awhile. There is no easy answer to that question, but definitely, we felt that shame was one piece of it as well as fear of rejection… or fear in general. If we find ourselves readily “judging” others, we are afraid of that judgment coming back at us. People are afraid of “loss of face.”

In the end, to break through these fears and barriers, it’s important to believe and understand that showing our frailities actually lets people in because they recognize their own frailities in you. The barriers we raise to protect our sins come across in a lot of different ways… but in general, we are inaccessible.

What we hope to do instead is to practice transparency … honesty! As we move toward that, we will see change. We will see for ourselves that good relationships can develop, that those relationships will be authentic, that trust is built, a weight is lifted, that we no longer carry so much baggage (because by telling or revealing our sin, we are unburdened and the weight of that sin is distributed to a trusting heart). Once we start this process of unburdening and being more transparent, it can become a “good” habit.

It’s important to trust that God will protect us when we do “open up” or share honestly about ourselves. Unfortunatley, we all have stories of putting our true selves out there and having someone stomp all over our hearts.

There is a story I did not share in class that I am reminded of right now. This story was shared by John Sandford from the Elijah House which he heard from a teacher. Apparently, there was a young boy who came to school but he always held his hands behind his back. No matter what was going on, he never showed his hands. The teacher feared that they were disfigured in some way. It was only after some patient weeks of working with the boy that she learned that his abusive father slapped his hands hard for any and every infraction. The boys’ hands became a symbol for all of his mistakes and misdeeds and he couldn’t bear to have them out. It took many many weeks before he was able to do things in class with his hands.

How we respond to the sin of others is just as important as how we respond to the sin in ourselves. The key is forgiveness, of course. As God is always ready to forgive, so must we. It is in forgiveness that we can find freedom … that we can give freedom.

Lastly, we worked on some word pictures for “walking in the light” (based on I John 1:5-9). What does it look like to walk in the light? We had several images…

Light from within

Some saw the light ahead of them on a path…

Walking in the Light 1

some saw the light from above shining on them
Walking in the Light 3

some saw the heavens full of light…
walking in the Light 4

and some just saw the path barely illuminated…

walking in the light 2

and as for me… well, it was a combination of the light from within and the light from without. To “walk in the light” according to the group means to be exposed, to experience total truth, to be clean, to be pure and white, to be illuminated both externally and internally.

And then, it occurred to me… that’s what I really want. I want to be blazin’ with light. I want to be a vessel of God’s light… a lampstand on the hill. Touch us all this week Lord that we might blaze with your glory!

Light of Christ.

Although our second class was delayed by a week due to my illness, we had a full house last Thursday and tackled Lesson 2 on Humility. The key scripture for this lesson is from Luke 4:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This was a difficult lesson for me … I guess because I had to face, head on, some of my own prideful issues… but also because I am concerned that a misunderstanding of true humility can lead to “doormat” mentality or a type of false humility. DeMoss says it plainly on page one of the lesson: “…bibilical humility [is] recognizing oneself as a sinner before the holy God…” So I want to be sure we keep our focus on this… it is our humility before God which is our primary concern here… the rest will come in good time.

We had several lively discussions using the workbook questions as a springboard. In particular, we jumped right in with the question, “Why do you think humility–toward God and toward others–is vital for revival. This is foundational to the lesson. Unless we recognize the important of humility, it is very difficult to move closer to God. We talked about some of the difficulties of “putting on humility.”

“What does that look like?” is one of my favorite questions as I think many Christians become enamored by cliches or familiar biblical passages without realling thinking about the tanglible outcome.

For me, the essence of humility remains in the realm of prayer and confession. We “put on” humility by our actions… actions towards God (prayer & confession) and toward each other (through service). We take the time to raise other people up … as a reflection of how we raise up God. It is the way of love. What is best for this other person right now? What does this person need? What do I have that might help this person? What can I say that might help this person feel better? How can I show this person how important he/she is to God… to me? It’s an outward expression of an inner point of view grounded in God.

If the opposite of humility is pride, then we have to learn to recognize pride in our lives. Some suggestions from the group as to how we might discover our pridefulness, might to ask ourselves a simple question or two: What is really going on here? Why are things going the way they are? As we ask God these questions, we allow Him (give him permission) to answer and as a result we will begin to see ourselves and our situations more clearly. In that clarity, we are humbled before God.

Don’t confuse humility with humiliating… they are two separate ideas. Although it is true that a humiliating experience (usually painful in some way) will humble a person, that is not the only way or God’s normal way of bringing us to humility. Try looking up humiliating in a thesaurus. Does that sound like the way God works? I don’t believe you can clothe yourself in a “humiliating way” … humiliating is something that is done to you… while humility is something you can choose to do and practice.

Before we leave this topic, we should also speak a bit about pride, the converse of humility. It is often pride that hinders our growth. And unfortunately, it is pride that can lead us into that humiliating situation…. that is ultimately humbling. As Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace.” God basically hates pride (I sometimes think He finds it ludicrous, actually). [Proverbs 8:13] It is often pride that keeps us unteachable and unwilling to change. Pride can creep into our lives … and can start in the smallest of ways… “We’ve always done it this way!” “I’m not going to …. ” “Don’t tell me how to … ” “I’ve been a Christian twenty years, I know…” “These young people are so …” It becomes all about “me.” Listen to yourself … are you becoming the frog in the pot? Frog in the pot

We also discussed the idea of worry and anxiety being an expression of pride. This was new to some of us and quite revealing because the essence of these expressions are a manifestation of our lack of trust in God. We literally create a vivid negative image of what could/might happen and dwell on it. This is such an unproductive and numbing way to use our emotional energy.

God in all his glory… high and lifted upAnd lastly, another thing that makes the whole humility piece more difficult for folks in western cultures like the U.S. is that we have never had a “king” in our recent history. There is no “cultural resonance” of relationship to a King. There is some awe and wonder toward some politicians and celebrities, but it still doesn’t come close to a true King. It may be one of the reasons the Catholics and other Orthodox faiths embraced the grandiosity and splendour, as a way of demonstrating the magnificence of a holy God, but along the way, they lost some of the intimacy and relationship with Him. On the other hand, the Protestants and more recent contemporary expressions of God have put such focus on relationship and intimacy, that they have lost the grandeur.

“Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth…” Psalm 8:1 (NASB)

In the end, the word picture that came to mind was “washing” or “pouring water over ourselves” – you see, putting on humility is

    not

like a clothes image of adding jackets or coats or anything else on top … no, we must be “naked” before the Lord and allow Him to pour the water over us … Baptism of Humilitywater of the word… living water. Experiencing humility in this way is cleansing. As the final prayer in this lesson says, pray for a “baptism of humility.” Give our Lord permission to dunk you completely into the waters of life. In this case… sprinkling will not do. 🙂