Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Who vs How

I’m reading and enjoying Ed Dickerson’s book, “Grounds for Belief.” He writes about some of his coffee shop style meetings with young adults and how they share their faith. Early in the book, Ed makes it clear there is a difference between faith/belief in God and religion. He calls faith in God the “Who” and religion is simply the “how.”

When it comes to a worship service, the Bible has little to say about the how and a whole lot more about the Who. While it is true that “how” can give us structure and so forth to help us function better in order to reach more folks about the wonderful “Who” we serve, our faith loses something when it becomes primarily about the how.

One of the things my husband would love to change about the church worship service is what he calls the “pontifical entrance.” He explains that the Bible doesn’t record anywhere that Paul told all the people to sit down and then wait for him to go behind the door and then march in the room in a very solemn like manner to indicate church was now about to begin. Reverence, yes of course we need reverence. Just read a few stories about people that got a tiny glimpse of God and fell flat on their faces. He is awesome! But if we get hung up on church can’t start because it takes three men to have the pontifical entrance and one is gone on vacation – we are more worried about the how instead of the Who.

I think of it this way: our little family of five – we’re in this together. We often say we live and die as a family. So we have chore charts, menus and schedules to keep track of what needs to be taken out of the freezer and put in the oven and who needs to be where at what time. But that’s not our family. Those things help our family function, but it’s not our family. They make getting through life each day easier, balancing everyone’s schedules and dietary needs – but the people are the family. When the chore chart, menu planner or weekly schedule become more important than time for a tickle or reading a story together – our focus is off.

If God intrigues you, but religion turns you off – you might want to consider worshiping with a group of folks that focus on Who instead of how. It could make all the difference.

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Too Busy

I came across this quote from Pastor R.A. Torrey recently.

We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions, much machinery but few results.

The first sentence makes such an impact. Too busy to pray=too busy to have power. The truth is that we can get “too busy” with a lot of “good things.” Even if it is considered a “good thing,” such as helping a neighbor or volunteering at a soup kitchen; it becomes a problem if it keeps you from the most important thing of praying and spending time alone with God. Where do you think you get that power to help and volunteer?

We get so wrapped up in busyness and wonder why we don’t feel connected anymore, even when we are doing good things. We fail to realize – we aren’t connected anymore. Don’t get too busy.

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Praying for the Wrong Thing

“Please pray I don’t get kicked out of my house.” When we hear a request like this, our first response is to do exactly that. We may even implore God to soften the cruel heart of the person that wants to evict such a kind soul. Later on, we learn that the person asking for prayer was being kicked out for a reason – a very good reason. Were we praying for the wrong thing?

It is not always our place to know all of the circumstances around a particular request for prayer, but God makes it very plain that praying for others is a duty we should embrace wholeheartedly. How do we know we are praying for the right thing? What if we pray for money, like they asked for, and it gets used to harm that person or others?

I’m trying a new (to me) practice in my prayer life. As a pastor’s wife, I get a lot of prayer requests. When you break it down to the bare essentials – a request for prayer means something isn’t right and the person is wanting help. So when I’m unfamiliar with a person or their situation and not sure if I’m praying for the right thing or not, I pray for what they truly need – for God to act in their lives. God knows what they really need. Perhaps getting kicked out of the house will wake them up to changes that need to be made. In the end, it could be the best answer to prayer they’ve ever had.

Some might say, oh that’s nothing but a cop out, a generic prayer. Really? What is wrong with asking for someone to be covered by the righteousness of Christ, paid for by His own blood, and allowing the Holy Spirit to move and act in their life – and praying for that person by name? Taking it a step further and saying this is what they are asking for, but God, You know what they need most and I’m asking that You meet their truest needs. Generic?

Any prayer can become generic, flippant or so casual the angels must wonder why we even bother. I’m happy to pray for people, by name. But if I don’t know the full situation (and I don’t necessarily need to know) and there isn’t someone I trust who does know the whole situation and vouches for them; I pray for that person by name that God would make Himself known in their life in the way they need most.

Prayer is a spiritual discipline, not a magic vending machine.

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Your Drawing

I went through a focusing leaders program a few years back and loved it! Having to take a step back and put my life on a timeline, recording incidents that impacted me (both good and bad) and seeing how God led in my life through it all was a real eye opener.

I saw clearly that I was never the spectator type. My motto was live life to the fullest isn’t enough – give me more! I also saw that music was a big part of my life from a very young age. Dramatic and impactful presentations were also there, plain to see. At one point, the program asked me to draw my response to all I had learned. It was quite simple, really, although I could only draw in stick figures.

My drawing consisted of a back view of myself, head back, lost in musical praise to God with no worries about what others thought of me. It just didn’t matter.

The good things on my timeline – absolute blessings from God. The challenges, moments of His grace to carry me through some of the most painful experiences of my life. Out of that pain, God brought passion and a mission. Why shouldn’t I praise Him?

If you could take a step back and look at your life, score it into chapters and cite the lessons learned in each phase of your life – what would be the impact? In the end of seeing where you have been and where you are going – what would your drawing look like? Don’t be afraid to be who God created you to be. Live your drawing!

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Stand Up?

A fellow pastor spoke with us about concern he had for our boys. Evidently he heard the appeal at the end of a special week of prayer emphasis at school and didn’t see my boys stand up. Perhaps we should talk to them about it. Hmmm.

First of all, we’ve never encouraged our kids to stand up for an appeal just because it was there. Don’t lie to God. If it’s not in your heart don’t try to look like everyone else so you can pass some sort of people are so judgmental test. Only stand up if you feel God is leading you to do so.

The truth of the matter, I have actually applauded my oldest son for NOT standing up. That’s right. A whole bunch of kids in his class at church, years ago, decided it was time to get baptized. So the pastor called all of them down front, and Michael was the only one who didn’t go, because he hadn’t made that decision yet. So I did what any caring parent should. I told Michael how proud I was of him for not feeling like he had to go down there just because everyone else did. When he did come to that decision, it was amazing. It was in God’s timing and when Michael was ready, not because he felt he had to follow the crowd.

God wants your heart, 100% of the time. An emotional appeal that gets you to make a half hearted commitment – that’s just not what God is looking for. Can He use it? Sure He can, He’s God after all. You can make a somewhat commitment and He can lead you the rest of the way, but it might take longer. Why not just make a full decision for God – when you are ready? Is there any pressure? Well, the way things look, the world can’t put up with too much of the craziness going on, so you might want to think about getting ready a little faster. Just sayin.

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In the Same Category

Do you know anybody that seems to be energized by fear? They don’t know what to do unless they are afraid of something. Most of us know at least one person like this. But I ran across an interesting verse in the Bible about fear, found in the book of Revelation.

In Revelation 21:8, God is giving a message here, that certain people won’t be able to overcome in the end. It is a warning for us to let Christ change our hearts, thoughts and actions so we have His strength to overcome. Not surprisingly, murderers and idolaters are on the list as well as the sexually immoral, liars and unbelievers. So what is the first thing listed? The fearful. Whoa! Are you saying that those full of fear won’t experience eternity with our Awesome God? Nope, I’m not saying it, God is. In His eyes, being full of fear is in the same category as murderers, liars and unbelievers.

Why is this? If we are constantly fearful, we’ve made fear our god. Of course God has something to say about this – He doesn’t want us to have any other gods. He alone wants to be God in our lives. Are you strangled by fear? Search God’s word for His many promises that say we have nothing to fear with God on our side. We can’t overcome being fearful on our own. We have to let God help us overcome. He is our victory and strength!

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The Approach

Imagine if you will a courtroom where the judge decides before even laying eyes on the defendant or plaintiff that the defendant is guilty. He then has to make sure all the evidence presented in the case supports that and he doesn’t allow any evidence proving innocence to be shown. Is this justice? Is this the right approach?

Unfortunately, many who study the Bible do so in a manner like the judge in my parable. We already have ideas about what the “truth” should be and instead of looking up each and every reference to that particular subject – we only select the verses that prove our point or can be misrepresented somehow to do so.

What is your approach? I will admit, I’ve been on both sides of the coin at times, but I have greater peace and satisfaction in “truths” I discover when all of the evidence is seen and carefully examined. Pray as you study God’s Word. Pray for wisdom and the right approach.

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#46

It is hard for me to read Psalm 46. When I was a disc jockey at a Christian radio station in college, I often played a song that had been inspired by this verse. Later at another radio station, I often heard a song in a completely different style focusing on a different part of this psalm. So every time I start to read it, I start singing the songs in my mind when I get to those verses. Talk about whiplash!

But what intrigued me was a word I didn’t know – A song for Alamoth. Who is Alamoth? So I looked it up and it is in reference to virgins/a women’s chorus. This Psalm was originally prepared for an all women’s chorus!

We often forget that these words written long ago were actually songs. You’ll see several Psalms that say, “Set to The Lilies.” Evidently that was a popular tune back in the day. The message is clear – people have been praising God in music for centuries. No reason to stop now!

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Choking on the Word

Last weekend I learned this little gem from Pastor Carlos Craig, one of our speakers at the retreat for ministry wives. If you get done reading a chapter or passage of the Bible and think, what did I just read? Chances are you have let the cares of the world choke out the Word.

Jesus talked about this in Matthew 13:22.

And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Perhaps our time would be better spent turning all of our worries, concerns and anxieties over to God, so we don’t choke on His Word.

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Silent Skits

The kids in our church are really shy for some reason. So most of us on the church campout were thrilled to see three of the shiest ones putting on a skit for the evening worship program. There was some music playing in the background, but the skit itself was in silence.

It was cute to watch one kid walk up to, inspect and eventually sit down in a chair clearly and brightly labeled “Sin.” He then squirmed and pretended that he was stuck in sin. My youngest son then came by with a Bible to help, but the kid stuck in sin refused.

Three more people came by, all of which the victim reached out to for help, but none of them could do it. The Karate man couldn’t. The witch doctor/magician couldn’t and the body builder couldn’t do it. Finally the boy with the Bible came back around again and this time the kid stuck in sin decided he was ready to try the Bible and get out!

It was a simple skit, but the lesson is huge. There are many things we look to in life to solve all of our problems, but when it comes to the entangling morass of sin, the Bible and the God it reveals are the only answer.

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Drift Vs. Discipline

Just to set the record straight – discipline is training, not punishment. A well disciplined soldier is a well trained soldier. A well disciplined child is a well trained child. So when I think about Drift vs. Discipline, I’m thinking about when we get out of training and just kind of drift along. It is failing to follow through on what we know will help us achieve our goals and just sort of hope it happens naturally. Are we messed up in our thinking or what?

There are four spiritual disciplines that share a unique relationship: fellowship, study, prayer and solitude. Fellowship and solitude each enhance study and prayer, but they are opposite of each other. These are also four of the first targets of drift. We tend to drift out of fellowship with like believers, drift out of that quiet time each day with God. We know we should study and pray, but we choose to drift along because the schedule is tight today. Eventually, due to the lack of discipline or training, we become out of shape. We become spiritually out of shape.

There is a saying that faith walks out when fatigue walks in. Drift can happen quickly during times of ill health, stressful situations, financial crisis and so forth. Things that wear you down and wear you out – fatigue – can wear down your faith; unless of course you are well disciplined. Even if the crisis causes you to miss a few days of Bible study and prayer, your training will eventually draw you back to what has given you strength.

So what’s the answer for drift? Discipline! Be well trained during the times when things are going well. Get your mind and body used to times of fellowship. study, prayer and solitude when there is no temptation to follow the lure of the drift. When things go wrong – and they will – you will return to what you know and the strength you receive from that training.

It is football season and I love watching those long passes. The quarterback sees his best shot and throws. The receiver is still running, not even looking at the QB and just at the right time, he turns around to make eye contact and catch the ball. Think that happens by accident? It’s called training. It’s called discipline. That play has been rehearsed so many times that it comes naturally to the receiver to turn around and catch the ball at the right time. The ball doesn’t accidentally drift into his hands. He’s been trained to catch it.

The spiritual disciplines are there for your training and development, because a continuing relationship with the God of the universe doesn’t happen by accident. Don’t get me wrong. Let me say it loud and proud right here – Jesus did it all and there is nothing we can do. It is all Jesus, reaching out to us and starting that relationship with us. It is all Him. But once that relationship is started, He wants you to grow and develop and follow Him. That happens with discipline, with training as you choose to stay in that relationship that Jesus has initiated.

Ready for training?

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Unashamed

I’ve been accused of many things in my life, but I must admit, one of my favorites is being called a newlywed – after being married for 16 years! Karl and I don’t have all the answers, not by any means, but we’ve been greatly blessed and we are so thankful! But it wasn’t always easy and sometimes there was a lot of tears and misunderstandings along the way.

By the time we reached our 16th anniversary, we truly felt like newlyweds again, because of some amazing changes in our relationship. Those changes had to do with the various connections in our lives. We are a lot more related to the things around us than we like to admit. We had a few things that we considered to be non-negotiable. One of those was attending church together as a family. My husband wasn’t pastoring at the time, and the church we had as our home base was sucking the life out of me. The people weren’t bad. The people weren’t mean, but it wasn’t a good fit for me and my needs (and our family’s as well). I had to take a stand. I felt my salvation was at stake.

It was a difficult step, to tell my husband that the kids and I would visit another church and he could get a ride to go to the same one we’d attended for years (we only had one car), since it was the closest one. That was his wake up call. The family needed to stay together. Once this change was made, amazing things began to happen. I came alive. In so many areas in my life, I came alive. I started writing again, something I had always loved to do. Karl could see a difference in how I interacted with him and the children. His favorite benefit, however, was the fact that I was also coming alive in our marriage.

As the family soaked up the love, healing and nurturing that our new church family freely gave (it was a good fit for us and them), we in turn were more than willing to do our part and help in whatever way we could. The entire family came alive and my husband was finally able to reach a place where he could take that terrifying step of saying yes. You see, God had been after him to be a pastor for years, but it wasn’t until the entire family came alive that he was in a position to surrender to that task.

So many things changed for our family, when we committed to making one change that was desperately needed. With that one change, I began writing again. I interacted with my children in a much healthier way. I became a better lover to my husband. Karl was able to see that taking the time to help his wife who had been with three children all day long and desperately needed some adult conversation, had amazing results. Agreeing to God’s plan for his life is a step that might not have happened were it not for this one change.

So when friends accused us of being newlyweds, I smiled. When coworkers complimented me on the way I treated my husband respectfully instead of picking him apart like many of the girls at work did; I was grateful they could see the blessings of a thriving and happy marriage. It led Karl and I to joining the Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage team and also helped us to launch a facebook page together – Unashamed Marriage.

You have many connections in your life. Take the time to make sure they are healthy ones. You have great potential – live up to it!

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Making it Practical

If I were to try to share many of the blessings of my few days away for pastoral family retreat, I would probably start gushing like Old Faithful. Wow. Had a chance to connect with a ministerial leader one on one about spiritual retreats. This is one of my favorite, though unfortunately not often practiced, of the spiritual disciplines. He also shared with me a getting started on spiritual retreat kit, so I have no excuse. Is there time? There is never enough time, but I will make time for what I truly value.

In the midst of all of these great presentations that focused heavily on family – pastors take care of your families – came a very practical application. Pastor Rigacci was assigned the task of speaking about making improvements. We could all relate to his charming story of how he and his wife never argued when they were dating, but somehow after they were married, they found many things to have strong discussions about.

What none of us were prepared for was his very practical demonstration. Pastor Rigacci shared very personally about how one of the arguments that keeps resurfacing in their home centers around his moustache. He keeps it neat and trimmed. His wife wants it gone. I quickly gave Mrs. Rigacci my condolences. I do not like kissing facial hair. I want to kiss my husband’s lips. I appreciate him keeping his face clean shaven, but the truth is – he wants the kisses! I’m not sure what Mrs. Rigacci’s reasons were for wanting her husband to be clean shaven, but I was on her side.

I was too slow with my iPhone to get Mrs. Rigacci’s jaw dropping stare as she watched her husband, from his position of being on the platform in front of all of his peers, reach under the pulpit he was speaking from and pull out a razor and a small towel. She was soon on her feet clamoring for a position in the center aisle with all of the other smart phone cameras to catch the historic moment. When he was clean shaven, she practically jumped onto the platform and planted two big kisses on him.

It was a simple thing, but it was demonstrated to us all that sometimes the most loving thing we can do is make an improvement that will please our spouse. Did this practical demonstration have any impact? On the way home from the retreat, my husband asked me what was his “moustache.” I had to think about it and I told him what it was and he has promised to do something about it. I think he’s hoping to be rewarded with kisses as well. That can definitely be arranged.

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