Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Days 12/16 - 150 Day Challenge

Psalm 12
It is our tongue that get us into trouble most often, is it not? We speak without thinking. We talk trash about our neighbor. We angrily rail against our adversaries. There are so many ways that our tongues can trap is in wrong behavior.
Remember that old saying 'Sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me? That statement is absolutely wrong. Proverbs 15:4 tells us that kind words heal and that deceitful words really hurt, and it is true. Words can wound us so much more than physical wounds because they last longer. We never know when something we say will stick with the recipient of our words long after the fact.
I am reminded of an incident that happened when my 11 year old was in 2nd grade. One of his friends called him fat. Now, mind you, my son is not overweight in the slightest. He has always been in the 25th-50th percentile in weight and height for his age. That didn't matter, he still thought he was fat. He came home very concerned about his weight. This one comment caused him much anguish over the course of a couple of years. He still brings it up periodically even though I have reassured him over and over that he is the exact right weight that he should be. It saddens me that one mean comment by child can cause so much pain to another.
It is the same in our adult lives. We are still wounded by hurtful words that others fling at us. It may not stick with us quite as long as it did when we were children, but unkind words still sting. It behooves us all to do two things. Number one: guard our own mouths and number two: mentally combat the hurtful words of others with the truth.
Watching what we say to me is the easy part (most of the time). It means requiring ourselves to think before we speak. To all of our speech we should apply the fruit of the spirit litmus test. If the words are not loving, joyful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle or self-controlled then we really shouldn't say them. Now, I realize that sometimes that is easier said than done, but we should strive towards that as a goal nonetheless.
When we encounter cutting words from some else, we have to immediately ask ourselves 'is that a true statement?'. If it is, then perhaps we have some changing to do in our own lives to bring our character in line with the ideal. If it isn't a true statement then we need to replace it with a true and positive statement about ourselves. This will help combat any negative self talk that goes on inside our heads so that we don't start to believe lies about ourselves.
Satan loves for us to put each other down with words. He also enjoys us feeling down about ourselves. It is a great victory for him to have us at each others throats. We have to fight against that urge. In order to do that, as Christians we have to rely on our Lord to give us refuge and comfort.
Whenever we feel the urge to wound, we have to remember that everyone is His creation and loved by Him. Whenever we say unkind things to someone else, it is as if we are saying it to Him. We also must be mindful of our own value in God's eyes. We were made for his purpose (Philippians 2:12-14) and we can't fulfill that purpose if we are arguing amongst ourselves all the time.

Psalm 13
This Psalm really spoke to me today. For many years I have felt God calling me to do something in the way of ministry. Growing up I always felt that God had a special plan for me, but I never knew what it was. Plus I always felt like Gideon in that I didn't feel worthy of God's call, so mostly I tamped it down lest anyone think I was trying to be boastful.
Then one day I stumbled upon the unlikely ministry of Internet blogging. I began to write things about my relationship with my Savior and much to my dismay, people read it. Not only did they read it, but they were touched by it. This was both exhilarating and humbling at the same time. I appreciated the responsibility I had in my representation of God and his love for people. I made sure that I was prayerful in my writing. I wanted to be a help, not a hindrance. I adopted the practice of praying, from Psalm 19:4 that my words and meditations would be pleasing to God before I sat down to write. Many is the time that God told me not to write something I was planning on writing and turned it into something totally different.
I do have a point that pertains to this Psalm, I promise. :)
As time wore on I realized that along with the people who were touched by my words, there was another group who were opposed to them. This caused me great pain, because the adversaries were not always non-Christians, but yet some of my fellow Christians. It was hard for me to imagine that my own 'brothers' and 'sisters' were so against me. I spent many hours in anguished prayer trying to sort out this puzzling development. I continued to get the same message from God : Press on.
I certainly don't believe I have unlocked any secrets of scripture or anything like that; there are no secrets in the scriptures. They are all there for any of us to read and prayerfully consider. I also don't think I am beyond being taught by others. Whenever I encounter someone who is opposed to what I am doing/saying, I pray that if there is any truth to their admonishment, that I would be able to see it and correct it. If I am told to correct something I said or did, then I do it. It is not always easy to suck it up and admit fault, but I try to do as I am called to do.
Here's the point I promised to make:
There have been many times I felt just as the Psalmist felt in this passage. I felt that those who were against me were rejoicing in times when I had to humble myself and admit I was wrong. I wrestled with my thoughts and cried out to God to just make them leave me alone. I admit at times I felt He was hiding His face from me.
It was then that I realized it was me who was hiding from Him. He was asking me to fully trust in Him - to fix my intentions on His unfailing love. As long as I followed what He was calling me to do and earnestly sought His approval in my life, I would be okay.
Of course, that doesn't mean everything will be smooth sailing. I will still encounter opposition. I can't please everyone or satisfy all, but I don't answer to people. As long as God knows my heart, that is what matters to me.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

Psalm 14
In this Psalm we see that the Psalmist was incredulous that anyone would not believe in God. This is a common thought among Christians. What seems obvious to Christians is much more ambiguous to non-believers.
It can be hard not to get frustated with others when they don't believe as we do. Conversing with them can feel like we are beating our heads against a brick wall while talking in circles. I does little to convince them to come to our way of understanding.
That is why I gave up proselytizing years ago - no one was listening. I was never much of an evangelist anyway, it is not my gift, but I did accompany my mother on her evangelism calls as a child. I saw how futile that tactic was as door after door was either not answered or we were 'politely' told they weren't interested. I vowed then to find a better way. I felt conflicted for many years though because weren't we supposed to 'go out into all the world and preach the gospel'? Surely not doing that was a sin.
Then it dawned on me that there are many ways to 'preach the gospel' and that God did not expect us to simply stand on a street corner and exhort or knock on doors to recruit. I learned that he has uniquely gifted each one of us and with that gift we are to follow his lead and spread the gospel, which means Good News, by the way, to others.
I found that I had a talent for writing, so I was convicted to use that gift as an not only an offering to God, but also as a tool to show others the good news of Jesus. In other areas of my life, I try to let the love of God shine through my service to others. This has been a fairly effective way of spreading the gospel, I think.
I am not looking for notches on my belt. I don't expect anyone I come in contact with to convert to Christianity. I don't make friends with people simply to convert them. That is not my mission. I choose my friends because they are wonderful, caring, honest, trustworthy, smart, etc. not for any other reason. My mission is simply that when I am around they would feel the love of my God.
So, while I can understand the frustration of the Psalmist that everyone around him seems to be a Godless heathen, I wonder why it bothers him so much?

Psalm 15
In today's Psalm, the person whom David is describing sounds like Jesus. Who else can say his walk is blameless? No one but Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we all strive for that perfection that Jesus embodied, but we can never achieve it.
Of course, knowing that we can't acheive perfection does not give us license to simply do as we will and continue in our old sin patterns. Romans 6 clearly states that even though the grace and mercy of Christ is always extended to us, this is no reason for us to continue to give up trying to be like Christ.
This is undoubtedly a very daunting task. To speak the truth in love, to say no slanderous words against another, to keep our promises even when it hurts, to give of our money (and ourselves) freely to those in need. These are just some of the characteristics of Jesus and even to be true to these few attributes is hard for us. But try we must.
There is a lot for us to strive for in those verses. Perhaps concentrating on one thing for today will help us to focus more clearly on God's intentions for us. Let's focus today on speaking the truth in love.
This is a sometimes misunderstood responsibility. In Ephesians 6, Paul admonishes the people in Ephesus to speak the truth in love to one another. We must remember that Paul is writing to a congregations of believers, so whatever he is telling them is meant as a directive on how to treat those within the body of believers. We can't augment that to mean we, as believers should treat non-believers the same as we treat those within our own faith community.
Does this mean we aren't supposed to speak the truth of God the way we see it? Certainly not. It simply means that we are obligated to one another to speak up when we see a fellow Christian in an activity that contradicts scripture.
Here is the tricky part, though, there are so many divisions among Christians, different sects and denominations, that it is hard to dissect what the truth really is when it comes to the small details of our faith. The list is endless of the points that can be quibbled about when it comes to Christianity.
There is however one truth that is absolute in the Christian faith - a belief in Jesus as our Savior, that he was both God and human at the same time, that he came to us as a servant to fulfill a mission in his death and resurrection. On this point we cannot quibble. To us he was not simply a good man, nor only a prophet. He was (and is) or Lord and Savior. It is the one thing, when all the other squabbles fall away that fastens us all together.
So, when we hear a brother or sister who declares themselves a Christian but does not believe in Jesus in this way, we must speak the truth to them in love. That is what we are required to do and that is what Romans 6:14 means. It means that those who are no longer babies in the faith, take the newer Christians under their wing and make sure that this truth is not overlooked.
I admit that I am rather progressive in my biblical interpretation, but on this fact I do not waver. I don't assault others with my beliefs; it is their right and privilege as a person with free will to choose as they see fit to worship. But for those who are under the umbrella of Christianity, I will speak the truth of our faith to them. By the blood of Jesus we are made whole because he is our Emmanuel - our 'God with us' - nothing less.

Psalm 16
This Psalm has long been my favorite Psalm. I believe it embodies the spirit of our lives as Christians. It speaks of the greatness of God as our refuge. It praises Him for giving us good counsel. It gives us hope that we will always be with Him.
Many is the time I have come to this passage for solace when I felt like things in my life were hopeless. The promises in it's words really resonate with me.
I first found this Psalm close to 20 years ago. I had, at that time, renewed my faith, after having been away for several years. I never really lost my faith, I guess you could say I put it on hold for a while. I was still a believer, but not much of a follower. Lucky for me, even while I was not following, God continued to protect me. I can see that now, even though I could not at the time.
There are a number of incidents I can point to in retrospect where God truly saved me from the grave. Why He did that for me, I am not sure, except that the words of Philippians 1:4-6 rang true in my life. God wasn't finished with me.
When I found Psalm 16, I felt it had been written especially for me. I had been very quilt ridden for my years of living away from my Lord. Then I read this passage and felt instantly at peace. I knew that, as the Psalm said, "The boundary lines had fallen for me in pleasant places." Hallelujah! What else could anyone want in life?
From then on, I have gone back to these words many times. I have dreamed of my 'eternal pleasures at His right hand' even while I understand that I have work to do here in this life. Somewhere along the line I adopted the mantra 'Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet'. There will be many times when set-backs happen and I don't seem to be moving forward, I still have things to accomplish and plans to carry out.

©KDV 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Church Casts Out Evil Homosexual Spirit

I was at the gym today and happened to catch this report about a church in Connecticut that attempted to drive the 'evil spirit' of homosexuality out of a teenager in attendance at one of their church services (watch the video at the end). I was agog at the video to say the least, and was eager to hear what the Pastor of the church had to say about the situation when she was interviewed later in the segment.

Day 11 -150 Day Challenge

Psalm 11
So what are we, as Christian believers to do when people are tearing at us from all directions?
We have all had times in our lives when everything and everyone seem to want to bring us down. There is an action in human behavior called leveling wherein to feel better about our lives we do one of two things - bring others down to our level or elevate ourselves to theirs. Too often we go the route of bringing others down to our level instead of finding ways to make our own lives better.
God does not enjoy watching his children argue and fight with malicious intent. He examines the intentions behind all of our actions. Sometimes we have to argue, since there are things worth fighting for. It is the intention behind the arguing that God is looking at. Are we arguing to fight oppression, bigotry, poverty, biblical ideology? Those are all important and seemingly righteous activities, but not all who fight for these things are doing so with pure intentions. Only God knows the actual intentions of a person's heart. He is the one who should appraise it.
Yes, in our faith we believe that there will come a time when judgments will be made - when everyone will have to give an account of their actions. Even though God already knows our hearts, he will assess them again at that time. It is not for us to say how and when this judgment will take place. There is no way of knowing the mind of God and trying to figure it out in human terms will always leave us frustrated and with unanswered questions.
Better we should just concentrate on ourselves and try to enhance them as we can. Taking refuge in our God and direction from Him is a good place to start. For us, as Christians, it is really the only place to start.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 10 -150 Day Challenge

Psalm 10
Today's Psalm to me is about the inconsistencies in life. Why do 'bad' people thrive while 'good' people suffer. This is one thing that is really hard to comprehend. It never makes sense why God would allow this to happen. The thing is God allows a lot of things that he does not ordain.
There are often accolades and prizes to be won in this world for unscrupulous behavior. God has given us all freedom. choices, options - better know as Free Will. We are free to make our own choices and at times the wrong choices seem to work for us. Take a big example like Bernie Madoff - he made a lot of money and received huge praise from a number of people until the whole house of cards he had built came crashing down around him. This kind of success is fleeting at best, as are most successes that we have here in this world.
As Christians, we know that this world is not our home. We are only here for a short span of time compared to the time we will spend in heaven. So, we shouldn't count on worldly accomplishments to sustain us, we should have our hearts fixed on the abundance of heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).
This doesn't mean our actions here don't matter, it just means that we have to put things into perspective. God has given us a desire to live here in this life even though we understand that this is not our permanent home. That is yet another concept that is hard for me to grasp. Why make us in a way that we strive so hard to be happy here on earth, all the while knowing that true happiness can never be achieved?
It is my belief that the reason is fairly simple - to show others His love. That is ultimately the only 'good' thing I can do here. It doesn't matter how much wealth I accumulate, or how many awards I win. It only matters how many people I showed the love of God to.
That is my prayer.
© KDV 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

150 Day Challenge - Days 7-9

Psalm 7 Day 7
You have done this to yourself. What goes around comes around. You made your bed, now lie in it. Those phrases are no doubt familiar to us all. We know that when we mess up, we have to be ready to reap the consequences of our ill-conceived actions.
Being a Christian does not exempt us from doing the wrong thing sometimes. We all have fallen short in our attempt at being righteous (Romans 3:22-24). Even though we have been justified (absolved) of our wrongdoing through Jesus death, that does not mean we no longer have to suffer the consequences of the misstep.
It is just like when our children misbehave. When we catch them being naughty, they may genuinely be sorry for what they did, but we still discipline them. It will help them remember not to do the same thing again the next time if they suffer through a day without their beloved video game than if we had just let it go once they became remorseful. So it is in our lives with God. He still disciplines his children just as we do with our own.
Most likely the discipline comes in the form of natural consequences. For instance if we are rude to people who serve us, the people behind the counter are not likely to go out of their way to accommodate us. The consequence can even be further reaching in that the next time we find ourselves in a position to serve, we may be faced with rude patrons. It is that negative reinforcement that keeps us from being rude the next time we are tempted to be short with someone in service.
This is just a small example of how all of our lives are intertwined. It gives a representation of how what we do affects others and in turn affects us. That is why it behooves us all to live by the Golden Rule. It just makes good sense.

Psalm 8 Day 8
Sometimes I am questioned about my zeal with environmental issues. My husband wonders why we need to pay 3.00 for a dozen eggs from cruelty free grain fed chickens when the conventional ones are less than half that. I am asked why it is important to buy credits in wind energy when the electricity we now use is working well enough.
My answers are simple - I need to be a good guardian of the earth, its plants and animals because God has given me this responsibility. It is my belief that God gave humans authority over the earth because he expected us to be smart enough to take care of it, not so that we could simply do with it whatever we wanted.
Our lives have grown so convenient and every one of those conveniences takes its toll on our environment. Pollution in every area has become staggering. Even in these lean economic times we are still a throw away society. Gone are the days when our grandparents mended a pair of socks so they could be wore again. How many of us would do that? So much easier just to buy a new pair, they are just a couple of dollars a pair after all. If, however, we actually look at the true cost of a pair of socks, from the environmental impact of cotton farming to the sweat shop labor to the over packaging of the final product, we might think twice about simply tossing a pair.
This is what it means to be a good steward of what we were so freely given by our creator - to take care of the land and animals that are in our charge. In order to do this we have to be thoughtful about our purchases and lifestyle. We have to think bigger than just ourselves because what we do impacts more than just ourselves. The world is our oyster, so let's not trample them to death just because we are hungry for more.

Psalm 9 Day 9
This was a difficult Psalm today. When I read these passages, I always try to find something to take away with me - something I can relate to. This Psalm, however seemed to be very personal to David. It was obviously written at a time when his enemies were circling about him like vultures. He spent a great deal of time in this position, so it stands to reason that a number of his Psalms would deal with this situation. It makes it hard for me to read these scriptures and really relate to them because I undoubtedly will never encounter the same type of suffering that befell David. I can learn from it though.
Through all of David's tumultuous life, he relied on God to save him from his enemies. Sometimes David's enemies where from the outside and sometimes from within his own tortured soul, but regardless of its origin, he leaned on God to help him deal with his suffering. It makes me wonder, though, did he deserve to suffer because of his disobedience to God? Was he being punished?
In the world their will always be those who have a lot and those who have little. Does this fact mean that those who have little have somehow brought disfavor onto themselves? In 21st Century America a lot of people feel that this is the case. The poor are scorned as lazy, deep beats and moochers. I have heard it said so many times - Everyone should just be responsible for oneself, get a job and be a contributing member of society, if they are unable to, then they just made bad choices, therefore deserve to languish in their poverty.
This thought process just doesn't square with scripture to me, however. In this passage the poor are mentioned twice (verses 9 and 18). In those verses it says that God listens to them and that they should never lose hope. Giving to the poor is mentioned several times in the New Testament also. Jesus told his followers to give freely to the poor, never expecting repayment (Luke 14:12-14). It is then, he continues, that they will receive blessings.
So, how does giving to the poor tie in with this Psalm where David is seeking refuge from his descending enemies? I think it illustrates that no matter what our problems are, that just like David, we as believers can call on our God for redemptive power. Often we will find the power manifests itself in the form of helping others. When we are at our lowest and we help someone who is really down on their luck, it lifts our spirits and causes us to understand the true power of God resides in all of us, in the form of love and charity.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 6 150 Day Challenge

Psalm 6
In this Psalm, David's pain in almost palpable to me. He seems to be in deep distress. How often I have been in that same place - a place where regret for my actions weighed so heavy on my heart that it was difficult to breath much less get past it.
What a joy to know that God is always there to show me mercy. If it weren't for his mercy and grace I would have died of guilt a long, long time ago. I have felt that deep ache in my bones that David describes and it is only through my Father that I am able to move on and forgive myself as He has forgiven me.
Thankfully I have a God who holds nothing against me. The love of God keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). This is the kind of love we are supposed to model in our own lives. It is truly hard to do sometimes, but try we must. How can we expect mercy and grace to be extended to us if we are not willing to extend it to others?
I know that there are things that I have done in my life that some would think are unforgivable, but in my God's eyes no one is beyond redemption. So, I have to feel the same way about other people. Perhaps they have caused me such grievous pain that I feel it is just beyond forgiving them for. I have to remember that God has already forgiven me for things that in the worlds eyes are unforgivable, so I have to look at my neighbor through the eyes of God and forgive them too.
There will always be times when I fail, but I am grateful for a God who picks me up, dusts me off and sets me back on my path. This is what I am also called to do for others. I have to see that others will make mistakes, but that doesn't mean they are evil people, but yet fallible, just like me. When I take the time to notice the humanity in everyone, it is much easier to forgive my 'enemies' as God forgives me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

150 Day Cahllenge - Day 5

Psalm 5
Do you ever get that feeling that the walls are closing in on you? Like the flames are licking up on your heels no matter how hard you try to run from them? That is the feeling I get from the author of this Psalm. He goes to bed feeling heavy and wakes up feeling heavy instead of refreshed, yet he is hopeful that the Lord will listen to his groans and painful prayers.
This got me to thinking about hope. There is an old hymn that, in part says 'My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness'. As Christians we do build our hope on nothing less than Jesus blood and his righteousness. Nothing less will fill the void that can be filled with Jesus.
Without hope what do we really have? Fear, anxiety, worry - none of those emotions will produce a positive outcome. Who among us has added even a minute to our lives by worrying? (Matthew 6:27) No truer words have ever been spoken. It is impossible to solve a problem by worrying it to death.
Hope does not disappoint. Let me repeat that. Hope. Does. Not. Disappoint. That is so important for us to remember because we can get so caught up in our suffering that we forget that it is through the suffering that we are gifted with perseverance and it is via that character producing perseverance that our hope springs. (Romans 5:1-5)
Although it seems that at times we are being attacked from all sides, we should not see that as an oppression. We should count it a joy that we are able to be strengthened by our pain.
I don't know about you, but at times, I wish that I could be a little less refined and feel the fire licking at my heals a little less often. But suffer, I must. I have to fix my eyes on God though, because surely God has great plans for those whose suffering is great. The enemy doesn't bother tormenting those who pose no threat.
So, If we find ourselves in these situations where the walls are closing in, we should remind ourselves that 'to those whom much is given, much is expected'. (JFK) If we trust God and place our hope in Him, he will show us where to go from here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

150 Day Cahllenge - Day 4

Psalm 4
How often do we get angry when other people put us down? I know it is an anger trigger for me. I read somewhere (I wish I remembered where) that anger is really just a mask for other emotions like fear, hurt, anxiety, embarrassment, etc. This does makes sense to me, especially when it comes to other people slandering our name and character. It hurts. That hurt then turns to anger as we want to get back at the one who hurt us.
As Christians we are called to love our enemies instead of giving way to anger and retaliating. This is not an easy task. It is yet another thing that I am unable to do on my own. I have to call on the strength of my God in order that I do not fall into sin and reach back and hurt someone else as they have hurt me. Do I succeed in withholding my wrath 100% of the time? Not even close, but I press on.
We are also called as followers of Christ to present ourselves as living sacrifices to our God. Daily we have to renew this sacrifice so that we can remember who we are living for. This helps me when I encounter someone who says a hurtful word against me. I remind myself that I represent God in all that I do and say, so if I react unkindly to that person, I am not exemplifying God.
It helps me to bear in mind that those who say mean things to me are often only doing it because of their own pain. They have been hurt by others and have not yet learned how to deal with their distress, so they pass their hurt on to me. It is up to me to stop the cycle and turn it around.
This is something that we can all learn - how to turn suffering into blessing. Instead of reacting in a negative way to the hurtful words, we have to see the wounded soul from which the comment came. This helps us to get beyond ourselves and minister to the other person. Often a kind word or two is all it takes to disarm someone. Then they see that we are not really the enemy they thought we were to begin with.
The trick is to remember to do this in the midst of a stressful situation. That is often times easier said than done. This is where we come back to committing ourselves daily (or hourly) as living sacrifices to our Lord. When we do that, then we aren't drawing from our own strength and understanding, but yet from God's strength and understanding. It is the only way that I can react positively to a negative.
© KDV 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 3 - 150 Day Challenge

Psalm 3
In this particular Psalm, David is fleeing from physical enemies and is trusting God to rescue him. It occurred to me while I was reading the passage, that it is from more than physical enemies that God can save us if we trust him to.
There are so many things that are considered to be enemies in our lives, things that seem to be closing in on us and are ready to destroy not only our faith, but also our very lives. One such enemy is grief. It can bog us down so much that we become lost in it, so overwhelming it can be.
Recently I had a friend who lost her husband to sudden and unexpected death. Then this past weekend an acquaintance lost a son in a tragic accident. I cannot imagine how these people are able to cope. How do they even function? It seems to me that even putting one foot in front of the other would be a daunting task. Going on with normal life would feel like a useless and futile mission. I am amazed at the strength that they have to go on.
I have never experienced such a loss in my life and I pray I will not, but if I do, I will have to find a way to cope. For me this would mean reliance on my faith. It would mean drawing deeply from a well that to me, as a Christian is bottomless. No matter how deep the pain and suffering, the well of strength is even deeper. The mercy and grace of my God is more powerful than the grief and sadness. It is hard to imagine that, but I have to believe that it is true.
I believe that God's mercy would allow me to go to sleep and night and wake up the next day - just to go on when all seems hopeless. Because as long as I have faith, there is no hopelessness.
I wanted to add a song to this journal but I can't find a video of it on You-tube. If you follow this link it will take you to John Waller's website, where you can hear the song Faith is Living it is number 3 on the music player there. While you are there take a listen to all the songs. You will surely be blessed by them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

150 Day Challenge - Day 2

Psalm 2

Admittedly for me this Psalm was much harder to get into than the one from yesterday. I am undaunted, however, as I press on in this challenge. It is, after all, a challenge that is meant to stretch my mind and my heart, so this is a good thing.

In this Psalm we see a foretelling of the trouble that will befall Jesus when he comes. People will rise up against him, mock him, and eventually kill him. Only, the joke will be on the mockers, since in the end Jesus will prevail - God will never abandon the one he sent for a purpose.

The same can be said for us in our lives as Christians. God will never allow us to be conquered by our enemies. In the end, we are called to a purpose and if we are in tune with what we are asked to do, as Jesus was in his life, we will prevail.

It is easy to get discouraged when others try to tamp us down. I know that I get disheartened in my life when it seems that I am questioned at every turn as to my commitment to my faith. It is hard to go up against other people and stand firm in my faith. I sometimes question myself, which, I believe, is a good thing. We should always question ourselves and our motives and make sure they are pure.

One of the ways I test myself is by weighing my words and actions against the fruit of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5:22-23, they are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If what I am doing conflicts with one of these attributes, then I am not in line with God's will and I need to check myself.

The one I probably have the most trouble with is patience. I can be very impatient at times (big shocker, right?). I want people to understand where I am coming from, so when faced with a conflict, I will feel very anxious when the other person doesn't seem to grasp what I am saying. This leads to frustration and ultimately, if I allow it, to some unkind words. Next thing I know, I can be displaying the opposite of every one of the fruit of the Spirit.

I know that I am not able to display enough self control on my own to represent God in the way that he wants me to, so my reliance needs to stay focused fully on him. This leads me directly back to the last verse of Psalm 2, which says "O blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) are all those who seek refuge and put their trust in Him!".

I find it so wonderful and comforting that whenever I encounter a problem, the answer is right there in front of my eyes. So, when I am attacked for my beliefs, I will seek refuse in my God. I will put my trust in him, knowing that He knows the solution, even if I don't. Then I wait for him. This is where I exercise that atrophied patience muscle of mine. It is not always easy, but it is always worth the effort, just to be still and wait.

© KDV 2009

150 Day Challenge

I love a challenge. I am pretty non-competitive though, so I don't like a competitive, see who is better at ___ kind of challenge, I do, however, love a challenge that involves personal growth. So, when my Pastor challenged the congregation to read a Psalm a day for the next 150 days I thought - that would be a wonderfully edifying thing to do. I took the challenge. I have probably read every Psalm in the bible at one time or another, but have never read them in order and have never written about what I learned from my readings before. I decided that would be the perfect addition to his challenge. So, here I am. I read Psalm 1 today.

I read the chapter in the NIV, which is my default translation. Throughout these readings I will be looking the scriptures up in different translations to help me to better understand the words and the meaning of the scripture.

Psalm 1

I want to be a woman who delights, finds her joy and is content in the laws of her Lord. This scripture illustrates that I will be blessed when I do that, but with the distractions of life, it is hard to meditate on His word day and night. I get busy with chores and kids and life that I forget to stop and thank the Lord for life itself.

This is why in my life scripture memorization is so important. I may not always remember where the scripture is located, or yet remember all the words in the right order, but knowing a line or two from a favorite, comforting scripture can help in moments of crisis thought out the day. The trick is remembering to recall those words to mind instead of allowing the stress to overwhelm me. One of my favorites is John 16:33, I tell you these things so that you may have peaces. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I (Jesus) have overcome the world. Repeating this verse aids me in redirecting my mind to the peace I find in Jesus.

It is also essential that I not allow those who are detractors to interfere with my worship. These detractors can come from all over the place. Anyone, whether godly or not can interfere with my relationship with God. It is up to me to keep my focus no matter who is around me. As Christians, we all know that Satan is very cunning and can use seemingly good people to distract us. That is why we have to be so careful whose counsel we take. I test things with scripture and see how it adds up. If the counsel I have received doesn't gel properly with the word of God, then perhaps I should not take that advice. Admittedly this is hard to do. It takes a lot of discernment and sometimes it means going against the flow, but it has to be done.

I love the simile in this passage. How wonderful to be like a tree (me) planted by the water (God) and as the tree draws nourishment from the water it grows and becomes strong enough to hold fruit. If the tree were to try to grow fruit before it was mature, the branches would be too flimsy to hold up the fruit. The whole tree would sag and break under its own weight. The tree has to wait until just the right time, and when it is ready, it starts to blossom and then those blossoms become beautiful, rich fruit that can nourish others and perhaps the seeds can be replanted and a new tree will start from there.

Such is my life. I have to be in tuned with God, draw on his wisdom and power until the right time, then I am able to produce the fruit I am called to produce. It is my God who has already decided what kind of fruit I will produce. If I try to change that which God has already set in place, I will surely fail. I need to wait 'til the right time too, so that I am ready. That is the hard part. Often I want to barrel in and do my own thing - tell everyone I know about God and what he has done for me, and about the truth I find in him. God has different ideas, however. He know when it is time to reveal himself through me. Not only that, he always knows a better way to do it than I could ever do on my own. So, I wait.

I find comfort in knowing that my God is watching over me - that he knows my most anxious thoughts, but still he loves me, strengthens me and best of all, uses me.

© KDV 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why I Believe the Religious Right is Wrong

Oh, boy, here we go again. I know that is what some of my fellow Christians think when they see my blog/journal posts. I truly mean no disrespect. I just call it as I see it. I write about the truth as it is revealed to me. I do not think that I am the only true Christian in the world. Nor do I think that I know any secrets about God or claim to know the full mind of God (not even close). I am humbly aware that any wisdom that I have is only the tiniest tip end of the iceberg of God.

That being said, when I see my fellow Christians doing the opposite of what the bible teaches us to do, which is to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13) and to preach the good news (Mark 16:15), I feel called to speak up. Those who believe that they are the God's Chosen, are not only repelling non-Christians, but also turning Christians against their own religion with their zealous behavior. In my heart I cannot believe that this is what God wants from his children.

In Colossian 2 Paul warns about this very phenomenon I see happening today. He warns the people there about Heretics and Gnostics. These were people who were preaching that they knew the real truths about Christianity. They were the Fundamentalists and the Religious Right of their day. They felt they had cornered the market on exactly what God meant to say in the biblical texts. Anyone who did not follow them were surely destined to an eternity separated from God.

Paul tells the people there that they should not be deceived by this. There is only one Truth about Christianity and it is no secret - Christ. That is it. Plain. Simple. Pure.

In verse 16 and 17, he says Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. That sounds pretty clear to me. Our reality is found it Christ - not in the deeds, the laws and the judgment of others that is sure to find them wanting.

People are turned off by Christians who think they know it all (ie - know the mind of God). Some have said that it matters not what people think, we must tell the truth, since the bible says those outside the faith won't like us anyway. I think this is a total cop-out and justification for sanctimonious behavior. When Jesus said that those who are persecuted because of him are blessed (Matthew 5:10-11), he was not giving his followers immunity to act as accusatory judges of all humankind in his name.

We should care when people are turned off by our brand of Christianity. If what we are doing is turning people away from the words of God and from faith in him, then we need to examine our approach. It just makes common sense. No one wants to listen to the harassment and condemnation of a group of people who feel superior to those around them. That is why Jesus spoke so strongly to the Pharisees and Paul warned the people in Colossae against this kind of behavior.

So what makes us, in the year 2009, think that we know so much? Why do the Religious Right feel that they are so...right about everything? God cannot be neatly contained into a human brain sized package. Isaiah 5:9 is pretty clear that God's ways and thoughts are so far above ours that we will never even hope to know all there is to know about him.

This is what provokes me to irritation about fundamentalists and the Religious Right. It is not their beliefs themselves that I feel are wrong. The surely have a right to believe as literally and as fundamentally as they wish to about any biblical interpretations. I take no issue with that. It is the insistence that there is only one right way to interpret the bible that I have a problem with.

I don't believe anyone has a right to dictate to another what to believe. Every word of the bible is there for each of us to read. When we accept Jesus we are each given the gift of the Holy Spirit. That Spirit resides in us and is there as our conscience and our guide. The Spirit helps us by interceding on our behalf when we don't know what to do (Romans 5:26-27). It is not our jobs as Christians to assess the heart and/or salvation of anyone other than ourselves.

Standing up for what you believe in? Sure. Condemning others because they don't share your beliefs? Not so much.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Uncompromising Christianity

There are a lot of things that I am. Wife, mom, friend, sister, daughter, but the most important thing that I am is Christian. I am an uncompromising Christian. I think that sometimes there may be some doubt about my faith from fellow Christians, because I have a number of (very good) friends who are not Christian. This may leave people with the impression that I am wishy-washy or lukewarm in my faith. I am not.

Those who are close to me know this. Be they Christian or not, they understand that I believe in God as Sovereign and Jesus as my Savior. I never hedge in that assertion. Friends who are not Christian (I believe) respect my faith, as I respect theirs. I do not try to change their minds or argue my points with them. That doesn't mean I am lukewarm or compromising my beliefs. It just means that I respect that they believe differently than I.

I am not sure why my faith is questioned by my fellow Christians, nor do I know why I feel the need to explain or defend myself. My God knows my heart and he knows that it seeks after him. Yes, I falter in my deeds sometimes, as everyone does, but my faith has never wavered.

As much as I believe in God, I also believe in Satan and the powers of evil that he represents. Anything that is growing in God, he seeks to destroy it. We don't need to be destroyed by Satan's attacks though. 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 tells us that even though we are pressed in on all sides we are not broken because we know Jesus.

When this evil surrounds me, when people are questioning my motive and my faith I do as I the early Christians did in Acts 19:13 and command these seeds of doubt, anxiety, etc. to leave in Jesus name. This is the most powerful weapon I have against the enemy.

In Romans 16:17-20 I am told to not pay attention to those who try to cause division and put obstacles in the way because that is what Satan wants. He wants his followers to be divided by dogma and smooth talk. It is easier for him to conquer once he divides. I refuse to play into his hands let alone be his hands in his war against my God.

I am not of divided mind as some think. My mind is stayed on God. This does not prevent me from being close to and/or friendly with non-Christians. For some it would be too much of a distraction, I grant you that. If it is for another Christian, then by all means, they should avoid it. It has never caused me to compromise.

Like I said, I am not sure why I feel the need to explain this, but I think it is because I do not want there to be a division. I want my fellow Christians to understand that God is so complex that none of us even understand 1% of what there is to know about him. So, for anyone to try to assess another Christian's heart based on some sort of religious dogma is ludicrous and is only going to cause division.

I will not allow Satan and his minions to have that kind of control. The only way to stop him from his onslaught is to command him to leave in Jesus name. I believe that with all my heart.

Once we command him to leave we must bolster our own resolve to stay strong by putting on God's armor. Not so that we can use the word of God as a weapon against each other. We should not use it to wound or destroy each other; that is what causes the division in the first place. It is to be used as a defense against Satan.

I urge every uncompromising Christian to stand together with me as we fight against the devil. He is our enemy - not each other. It doesn't matter about the minutiae of scriptural interpretation, we are all one in Jesus.

© KDV 2009

Ephesians 6:10-18 (New International Version)

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Big Fat Fakers

I have always disliked fakers. Most people do, unfortunately, not everyone even recognizes that they are one. Sometimes it seems natural to act a different way when they are with certain people. They may have a character for friends from PTA. A different on for church friends. And still another for their families. Some may not even realize they are doing this. Some go to great lengths to keep their groups of friends separated so that they can continue the act.

It wasn't until a couple of years ago when I entered into the World Wide Web and its social networks that I realized that fake could be taken to a whole new level. Now, I am no spring chicken, so I have seen my share of people - people who have a show face and a home face. I thought I had seen it all, but nothing prepared me for what I would encounter on the Internet.

It never occurred to me that people would go to such great lengths to hide who they really are. It must be exhausting. If someone is going to expend that much energy to keep up a charade, why not just try to change who they are? Then they wouldn't have to fake it all the time.

A lot of the time I can spot a fake upon my first virtual encounter with them. I have a natural ability to 'feel' these kinds of things. I will often stumble upon someone in a random post and follow the link back to their profile on a social network and my first impression of them is usually accurate. I just get a vibe off of them. That is not to say I am always right or that I have some sort of superiority complex, thinking I can 'read' everyone I run across. It just happens to be one of my abilities.

When at first I get a negative perception of someone, I usually try to ignore it because I want to give people the benefit of a doubt. I push the she's a fake vibes out of my mind and try to think positive. Unfortunately more often than not, I am proved right. It saddens me, but that is the way it usually happens.

People like to put up a false reality about themselves on social. I suppose it makes them feel better to act as though their life is as picture perfect as they wish it were. Then there are those who are so desperate for attention that they create false drama around themselves in order to garner sympathy from others. Either way, it is extremely disheartening to see so much of it going on.

Like I said earlier, it takes a bundle of energy to keep up that kind of facade; energy that would be better put to more positive pursuits. You know, like making your life better, or perhaps spending some time with those less fortunate than yourself. That can put things into perspective right away.

Some people never will look outside themselves, however. They are content to spend your time ducking, weaving and deflecting the attempts of others to get to know the real person inside the persona. What are they so afraid of? They spend their lives only half engaged in reality; missing out on so much of the goodness.

The goodness comes when we open ourselves up and are vulnerable to others. In order to fully engage and enjoy life we have to take those chances. Sometimes we get hurt, but so much more often we find that we aren't so different than everyone else and sharing the pain of our trials helps us all to heal our wounds.

If everyone would do this, then there would be no need for fakes. We all have suffering, fears, foibles and idiosyncrasies. We all screw up sometimes. We do things we aren't proud of. We say things we wish we could take back. Every one of us is fallible. Yes, I believe there are enemies around us that seek to destroy us, but the worst enemy of all lurks deep inside our own souls. It is called pride. It is that pride that keeps us from living the life that we wish we had - the life that we should have. The life that we can have.

© KDV 2009

Proverbs 29:23 (New International Version)

23 A man's pride brings him low,
but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.

Proverbs 21:24 (New International Version)

24 The proud and arrogant man-"Mocker" is his name;
he behaves with overweening pride.

1 John 4:18 (New International Version)

18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

John 16:33 (New International Version)

33"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."