Monthly Archives: October 2009

Our Sin as an Offering

I think we can be sincere in our desire for the things of the Lord and still desire other things more. (No Other Gods, Minter, page 111)

The last day of our Bible Study this week highlighted the story of Abraham and Isaac.  In summary, Abraham was married to Sarah for many, many years and they had no children.  Finally, in their old age, God gave them a child, Isaac.  He was an answer to years and years and years of prayer.

In his book, The Pursuit of God, A.Z. Tozer discusses the story of Abraham and Issac:

Abraham was old when Isaac was born, old enough to have been his grandfather.  And the child became at once the delight and idol of his heart.  From the moment he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in his arms, he was an eager love slave of his son….

The baby represented everything sacred to his father’s heart:  the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the years and the long messianic dream.  As he watched him grow from babyhood to young manhood the heart of the old man was knit closer and closer with the life of his son until the relationship bordered upon the perilous. (Tozer, p. 24)

In Genesis 22, God asks the unthinkable.  He asks Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God.  Why?  Because God wanted to know that Abraham would be willing to do anything He asked?

I can only imagine what those next three days were like.  Abraham had prayed for years and years and years for something so precious, God answered that prayer and now God wanted him to give it up?  Think of the torment that he went through as Isaac asked him, “Where is the lamb for our sacrifice?”

We have to believe that where God wants to take us will be better than what we’re clinging to, even if we can’t imagine it. (No Other Gods, Minter, page 107)

There is so much that I can’t imagine yet in my life.  I can see today and today’s challenges, but I can’t imagine how a year from now I will be different, or where God will take me.  But this story has an interesting perspective.  God was not asking Abraham to sacrifice his son as an offering.  God was asking Abraham to give up his sin as an offering.  It was the sin that had developed in his relationship with Isaac that God wanted Abraham to offer up to Him.

In my struggle to be what God wants me to be I’ve always seen my sins and my sinful nature as a barrier.  Something that I needed to purge from my life, not as an offering I could give up to God.  Offerings are things that are clean and pure.  But in offering up my sins — “the other things I desire more” — I am making room for God to fill me with more of Him.  I am asking God to fill me with more of Him.

Will God ever make the request of us that he made of Abraham?  I believe he does everyday.  It may not be giving up a child, but it may be giving something up that has gotten in the way of our relationship with Him. And it may be something we’ve prayed really hard for over many, many years.  It may be something we crave or long for when it is gone.

But it is the things that we hold dearest that make the most beautiful offerings, for in giving them to God, he can open one more door that will lead us to the person He wants us to be.

___________________________________

The scary thing is that God asked me to lay them down before I knew whether or not I could live without them.  Some of them he graciously gave back, but others he did not.  In all cases, it was both for my good and His glory. (No Other Gods, Minter, p.116)

Quote Note:  The quotes attributed to Kelly Minter are in italics.  They can be found in the No Other Gods (Living Room Series) Bible Study Book.  Which can be found at http://www.kellyminter.com/
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Protected: November 2009 Update from Florida

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The Blessings of Friendship

Tonight was a special night that I got to watch from afar.  But thanks to the power of video streaming, Frisco, Texas and Parkland, Florida don’t seem quite so far away.

I’ve had the privilege of living in several different places in my life.  Raised in Southeast Texas, my college years in central Texas, my 20s were spent in Washington DC, my 30s back in Texas and as I enter my (early) 40s, I find myself in South Florida.  With each and every move, I have felt that God has taken me there for a purpose and with each move, God has put people in my life that I have grown to cherish.  Friends who have helped shape me into who I am.

For some reason, this move has been one where letting go of friendships seems tougher than in the past.  Maybe these friendships were deeper, or maybe I’m just getting older.  Maybe as I see close friends and mentors from my early years aging (even passing away), I’m cherishing the time I have with those who have become so special to me.

I first met Kathy not long after I moved back to Texas in September of 2000.  Ironically, she was the Mayor of the City that I lived in at the time.  We connected when our mutual passion of public service intersected.  I was passionate about affordable housing and she was passionate about making sure that people who worked in Frisco could also afford to live there.  We worked hard on the cause and we became great friends in the process.

Kathy, like my other close friends in our small circle of girlfriends, became my inspiration to make a difference in the world.  While she would never say this to me, her life and her actions have shouted it out loud.

“I am not here in this world merely to exist.  I am here to make a difference where I live using the gifts and talents that God has given me!”

Anything less would have been unacceptable to Kathy.  And through her life, her actions and her love, she held all of us to that standard.

But Kathy and other friends like her have also helped me understand the blessings that a life of service can bring.  The rewards of knowing that at the end of the day, I may walk out of the office, close the door and leave a big stack of unresolved paperwork behind, but at the end of the day, what I do makes a difference in the lives of others.

As I think back over my life, in every phase and in every city I have lived in, God has blessed me with a friend like Kathy who has shown me, taught me and held me accountable to be what He wants me to be in this world.  Some of them I have been blessed to stay close with regardless of our distance and with some of them I have lost touch.

But all of them will always hold a very special place in my heart.

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Patient Trust

I had a friend ask me once:  “Why would you want to write about all of your life experiences on a blog that anyone could read?”  I think its because it is so exciting to see the work God is doing in my life that I want to share it.  Its also really neat to look back on my posts of the last few months to see how far He has taken me.  A couple of things came across my radar screen this week that meant a lot in my journey.

My daily devotional in my e-mail box comes from the Church of the Saviour in Washington DC.  I’ve always admired their work from a distance and their daily e-mail comes from http://www.inwardoutward.org/

Patient Trust

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
 We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.

Your ideas mature gradually–let them grow,
 Let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,
 as though you could be today what time 
will make of you tomorrow.

 Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,
 and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

Source: unknown

I love that last phrase ..”accept the anxiety..”  Its amazing how emotional shifts and events in my life, just make me want to give up because I feel like I am getting nowhere.  I have very little patience for waiting on the work that God is (slowly) perfecting in me.

The second blip on my radar screen that meant a lot to me this week was the new song from Kutless.  “What Faith Can Do.”  This one is getting a lot of play time on my iPod during my morning walks.  The YouTube link is below.

Next week my Character Makeover topic is Perseverance.  I can’t wait to see what that one holds!

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Contentment

In my Character Makeover book, this week’s study was focused on Contentment.  As I started this week, I was wondering how much I really needed to focus on this character trait and by the end of this week, I figured it out… a lot.

Some quotes from my book this week:

We spend more but have less; we buy more but enjoy it less; we have more conveniences, yet less time; more leisure and less fun; we have more knowledge but less judgment; we have more gadgets, but less satisfaction; more medicine, yet less wellness.  We spend too recklessly; laugh too little; drive too fast; get angry too quickly; stay up too late; get too tired; read too little; watch TV too much; pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values; we talk too much, love too little and lie too often.  We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait; we have more parties, but less fun; more acquaintances, but fewer friends.  These are times of fancier houses, but broken homes; higher incomes, but lower morals.  We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to our life, not life to our years.  — The Paradox of our Age by:  Bob Moorehead in Words Aptly Spoken

To experience happiness, we must train ourselves to live in this moment, to savor it for what it is, not running ahead in anticipation of some future date nor lagging behind in the paralysis of the past.  – Luci Swindoll

These last few months have been a stripping away of a lot of things for me.  As I was reading back over some journal entries from the last few months, it has been a time of letting go of my past and moving on to the future work that God has for me here.  It has not been an easy time and I imagine it will be a work that God needs to continue for some time to come.  But in order to live in the present, I know I need to let go of my past.  In Texas, I was blessed with many wonderful friends and a great job that helped shape and make me who I am today, but now I must let go of them and move forward.  Easier said than done.

Moving forward for me must focus more on being thankful for what I have in the here and now: a wonderful family, a great church, and some downtime to reflect on what is important.  This is time of transition that God is using to shape me into who he needs me to be in order to be aligned with His will for my life.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

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Intimacy

I have been so blessed over the last eight weeks or so to have time to read and reflect on a lot of issues that I have not given much time to in recent years.

I’m working on three different books:

  1. Character Makeover, by Katie Brazelton and Shelley Leith (this week I was working on Patience);
  2. No Other Gods – Bible Study, by Kelly Minter (focusing on getting rid of the things that I am putting before God in my life or that get in the way of His will for my life); and
  3. Becoming One, by Joe Beam (how to develop a spiritual “oneness” in our marriage).

I came across this passage this week:

God Himself placed the desire for intimacy within each one of us. He made us with two powerful cravings that permeate or motivate nearly everything we do:
1. Every human craves intimacy with another human.
2. Every human craves intimacy with God.
(Becoming One, page 12)

I guess I had never thought about it in such a powerful way before. I’ve laughed at my girls over the last few weeks as they have thing for hugging and loving on their friends and telling them “I love you!”

And I know that even the preschoolers that I work with become amazingly attached when they feel that you love and care for them.

And all of us can look at the pictures of newly married couples and see the love (and passion) that they have for one another.

All of these forms of loving and caring seem like infant levels of intimacy to me. But at the root of each of them is a human being trying to satisfy that God created craving for intimacy.

This week Craig and I are celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. As I look back on that wedding day 15 years ago, I remember thinking at the time that I could never love someone more than I did that day. But today, the love I had for my husband back then seems infantile compared to the love I have for him 15 years later. (Try telling that to a newly married couple!)

God created us (and our marriages) to be full of both love and intimacy. But Beam goes on to remind us that intimacy with our spouse is secondary to our intimacy with God.

You will never achieve intimacy with your mate to the level God intended if each of you doesn’t also strive for intimacy with Him….If you want the deepest levels of intimacy with each other, you must first each develop a deep level of personal intimacy with God.. (Becoming One, p. 16)

All my life I’ve always known that God must come first in my life, both before my family and before others. But seriously analyzing my life and putting that into practice is an ongoing challenge for me. In our Bible Study, No Other Gods, we have been looking at the things that function as idols in our lives.

In biblical terms, it [an idol] is something other than God that we set our heart on, that motivates us, that masters and rules us or that we trust, fear or serve. (No Other Gods, p.13)

If I think about all of the things that I cherish in my life, I have quite a list that I need to work on if I am going to remove barriers that may be keeping me from “a deep level of personal intimacy with God.” But it is a challenge that Beam encourages us to take on. Our God-created craving for intimacy will not leave us. It is part of who we are. If we do not develop a deep level of intimacy in our relationships the way God intended, then we will continue to seek other people and things to fulfill our desires for intimacy.

For me, that will take patience, courage, commitment and perseverance. I love the words to this song that Kelly wrote:

FIRST IN MY HEART
So this is love, it feels like war
To slay my Gods by the sword
Making room for you to dwell
Here inside of me, unrivaled
Though it costs me everything
Only you will be

First in my heart, first in my mind
And in everything I long for in this life
First in my dreams, first in my eyes
Before every other love that I desire

So settle in and you never mind
These trembling hands, these teary eyes
Cause I never knew it’d hurt so bad
To turn my back upon this golden calf
Let its memory fade away
Till only you remain

First in my heart, first in my mind
And in everything I long for in this life
First in my dreams, first in my eyes
Before every other love that I desire

Take these idols a million miles
From the allegiance of my soul
Fill this hunger with your wonder
Till only you will, only, only, only you will be

First in my heart, first in my mind
And in everything I long for in this life
First in my dreams, first in my eyes
Before every other love that I desire

“First in my Heart.” Words and Music by Kelly Minter. Copyright 2007. http://www.kellyminter.com/

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