Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Minds and Hearts

Something has been happening to me lately. I think it's the beginning of transformation. Not physically (though I hope that can change soon), but mentally and spiritually.

Paul told the Romans, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:1) [I don't know why, but I always remember this verse in NKJ translation. I can't say it any other way!]

I have always had trouble understanding transformation. How does it happen? What part do you have in it?

I think it's finally gotten through my thick skull - at least, one part of it, I think. The key, it seems to me, is found not in Romans but elsewhere, in verses like these:

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. ~Luke 6:45

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. ~Philippians 4:8

In the Greek, the word translated "overflow" is perisseuma - which can mean the abundance in which one delights.

This year, I have made some changes in my daily life. For one, I don't have cable tv any more. It was initially a financial decision, but the longer I'm without it, the less I miss it. While I still have movies and sometimes watch something online, I've spent far more time thinking about "things above." Between my own bible study and listening to men and women who teach the Word, I have found quite a bit of time to sit at God's feet, despite all the business of life.

I wouldn't say that I always make the time, or that I always do what I should. But I can sense a transformation. It's transforming what I care about. My priorities have shifted dramatically this year. It's transforming what I think about. It's (very slowly) transforming my speech.

God's Word is so faithful. If we delight in His word, He will bring transformation. His word does not return back void.

So I think I'm beginning to get it. We think on things that are true, noble, praiseworthy, admirable, excellent, things of God. And out of that, out of that abundance in which we delight, will come that which will please the Lord.

What is it that you delight in? What is it that you take in "in abundance," so that it's left over at the end of the day? What is the overflow that's in your heart?

Oh, Father, lead us to you that the overflow of our hearts would speak only of you!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Fellowship. An idea that has been on my mind a lot this week.

Thousands of us around the world are still praying for Joanne because the swelling in her brain is at a dangerous and critical level. We are praying God moves miraculously in her body that we might glorify Him alone in this.

My fiancee and I are starting to look for a church home so that we have a place to serve once we're married and I move down here. This week was our second church in two weeks. The pastor at today's church taught on Acts 2:41-47. The early church devoted themselves "to the apostle's teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer."

The word "fellowship" is the Greek word Koinonia, which, according to the New Testament Greek Lexicon, means:

Koinonia: fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse

1. the share which one has in anything, participation
2. intercourse, fellowship, intimacy
3. the right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship (in fulfilling the apostolic office)
4. a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship

I love that the original word implies intimacy - when we fellowship, we should be intimate with each other, with our Lord. It is an act that only occurs within community, and there should be mutual giving and benefits.

The pastor today reminded us that we typically think of fellowship as a horizontal relationship - something that occurs between Christians, but that it cannot be separated from our vertical relationship with Christ. The relationship with Christ - the study of the apostle's doctrine - is what creates the human relationships.

That hit home, because all too often I have lamented the quality of "fellowship," feeling it was little more than superficial socialization. But it doesn't have to be - not if we root our fellowship in Christ. If He is the reason for our meeting, the reason for our speaking, the reason for our rejoicing and boasting to each other, we attain true fellowship.

I have been experiencing fellowship in new ways lately - with my fiancee, on the LPM online community, at my current home church, and hopefully soon at a church down here where my fiancee lives. I'm reminded that fellowship isn't supposed to be about what "they" can do for "me," but how "we" can glorify God and support each other together.

May God bless our koinonia and show us how to serve Him through our relationships.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Even if...

"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." ~Daniel 3: 16-18

This week, I (and thousands of others) have been praying for a godly woman named Joanne. She is a wife, a mother of two daughters, a woman's ministry leader, author, and more. She only 38 years old, and her daughter found her seizing and unresponsive. She had a massive stroke, and despite immediate treatment, surgery, and additional surgery to remove part of her skull to allow room for her brain's swelling, she is in critical condition still today. She has not woken up yet, and just this hour her husband has reported that she has a fever and her heart rate and bp are not where they should be.

Thousands of us around the world have been keeping up a prayer vigil for this dear one. Praying for total healing, for protection, for her daughters' emotional well-being, for her husband's strength and comfort, for her friends and family who are devastated this week.

God alone knows if she will make it through this. HE alone knows what her physical condition will be tonight, tomorrow, a week from now, a year from now, 10 years from now. We are praying fervently for her healing. We are claiming His promises that He will heal, that the prayers of godly men bring healing to the sick.

But my mind today keeps drifting back to Daniel. When the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, was about to throw these three Hebrews into the furnace for refusing to worship the idol he set up, their answer was this: Our God can save us. But even if He doesn't, we still will serve Him.

Even if.

God can heal. He does heal. We beg Him to heal. But even if He doesn't, we will still worship Him, serve Him, love Him.

I beg you, Lord, to bring healing and restoration to Joanne and her family. And teach all of to live according to your ways even if...

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. ~Psalm 37:1-8

Delight yourself in the Lord. Delight in God.

This verse surrounded me, enveloped me, consumed me a year and a half ago. It was a Sunday morning and I had missed church due to a major migraine. I decided to spend my time in bible study even though it was very difficult to stay upright with the pain. I hit this verse and stopped completely.

What does it mean to delight yourself in God? And what does it mean that He'll give you the desires of your heart?

The Hebrew word for "delight" here is `anag. It has a variety of possible meanings according to The KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon (Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon):
1. to be soft, be delicate, be dainty
2. to be delicate
3. to be of dainty habit, be pampered
4. to be happy about, take exquisite delight
5. to make merry over, make sport of

It's as if God is saying - "pamper yourself with me, make yourself merry because of me, experience total delight and joy in me, beloved!" Most of the times this word is used in the Old Testament, it is a verb - delight yourself in the Lord God. But sometimes it implies delicateness, softness, even tenderness.

The LORD - knowing Him, loving Him, accepting His love, understanding who He is and His ways - He should be our delight, our tender joy, our merriness!

How do we delight in Him? For me, delighting in the Lord began with a decision to find out who He says He is. I spent 16 months reading through the Bible and noting everything I learned about Elohim. I knew that I could only delight in Him if I knew Him - just like I can only delight in my fiancee because I spend time with him and know him more and more. It sounds trite, but perhaps it's trite because it's so true - spending time reading scripture, pondering it, studying it, praying about it - it's really the best way to get to know this Awesome God.

And when you do, you find that you can't wait to learn more, because He is so amazing. The mercy, the compassion, the righteousness, the holiness, the power, the love - all of these attributes of God are compelling. They are humbling. And they are uplifting.

I developed an almost ravenous hunger for teaching and scripture. I listened to my pastor's taped sermons as much as I could, I joined a women's bible study, I started really studying for the first time in my adult Christian life. And then a funny thing happened. I had confessed to God that I didn't understand how delighting in Him would lead to Him giving me the desires of my heart, because they were all about my human needs (or so I thought). Companionship, friendship, security, a husband, etc. I didn't get how those would be fulfilled just because I delighted in God.

But I've come to realize over this last year that getting to know God Almighty - El Shaddai - means you cannot stay the same. You cannot come face to face with the Eternal God and not be transformed. You see, the more I have come to know God, the more I delight in Him. And the more I delight in Him, the more the desires of my heart are to please Him, to know Him even better, and to live the life He has planned for me.

I'm here to tell you, my friends, that God's word never goes unfulfilled! He fulfills every single promise. For me, that fulfillment has meant a radical shift in my priorities - and my career - but it is so worth it. God is such an amazing, awe-some God. Jesus Christ is LORD!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Changes, oh the changes

My life has been changing drastically over the last year and a half, and it seems only fitting that this blog does, too. The major changes in my life have been these:

1. My mom and her sister both have breast cancer. Mom has stage iv metastatic breast cancer, and she is doing well right now. Her older sister has (I think) stage II or barely stage III and is undergoing treatment but is doing well so far. Our lives will be forever changed.

2. I'm engaged to be married in June, and cannot wait. I love my fiancee, I love his family, and I am so excited about starting a new role in life as his wife. Even now, in the 3 months since he proposed, I have seen myself long to be his helper. I am just beginning to understand God's purpose in designing marriage and marital roles, and am so excited about helping my fiancee in all parts of life.

3. After my aunt's cancer diagnosis, I finally made the decision to stop the PhD. I informed my committee and the head of my department, as well as my boss at the current university. I think my advisor has disowned me, as he hasn't said one word to me in almost 7 months now. Everyone else was supportive. I truly feel that God is leading me to other paths that don't include finishing the dissertation. He kept shutting those doors and opening my heart to other desires and goals. So while I am teaching this year and have applied for a job at a community college for next year, I will no longer be a PhD candidate. I made it through comps and orals and some research, but I don't see myself ever trying to go back and finish. It just isn't my priority. All I want now is to contribute to our family's financial well-being once we're married and to take care of my soon-to-be husband and (God willing) any kids we'll have.

I'm not sure how well I'll do at keeping this up, since I seem to be bad at writing much these days, but I see this turning into something else. I really feel like I need to be talking more about the amazing God I serve and His love and instruction. So while I'll still talk about life and teaching sometimes, I'm hoping that this can become a place to consider the wonders of God's word. I just pray that God would speak through me and keep me in wisdom and understanding.

So just to start off, I'll share one of my spiritual goals this year. I have slowly been becoming part of a women's ministry called Living Proof Ministries. I've gone through two of the bible studies the ministry has put out, and they are wonderfully grounded in scripture (which makes me love them). This year, beginning January 1st, they put out a call for women to pledge to memorize 24 verses this year - two per month, on the first and 15th of each month. I immediately wanted to take part for the accountability. So here is my first verse of 2011:

"God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind. Does He speak and not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?" ~Numbers 23:19

I was drawn to this verse partly through having read the allegory Hinds Feet on High Places over Christmas break. The Shepherd tells Much-Afraid that He is not a man, that He should lie - He would never lie to her. She responds, "Even if you did lie to me, I would still follow you." Oh, that my heart would respond in such a way - even if you did deceive me, Lord, I can do nothing but follow you. I love you and can only choose you from this point forward!

I also wanted to start my scripture journey this year with a reminder that He is truthful, faithful, and will never deceive us. How can we trust His Word if we think He is like man - lying, deceitful, sinful? One of the first steps in really delving into the Word is acknowledging in faith that God is not a man that He could lie, nor a son of man that He could change His mind. From that starting point, Scripture is a glorious, awesome, and challenging insight into the heart of God.

1. He will not deny what He has promised.
2. He will not change the rules half-way through your life.
3. He will not forsake those who love Him.
4. He will never act in a way that contradicts what He says about Himself in scripture.

Trust in this! Even if you don't trust mankind, if you have been deceived and pained and betrayed, if you have built up so many walls not even a nuclear bomb could penetrate your defenses - know that you can trust God. He is faithful!

Oh, Lord, that we might trust you and what you say in your word, and that 2011 might be the year that we as your children finally allow your Spirit to fully dwell within us and work through us to glorify your name!