Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Trust Me.

I've always struggled with the concept of discernment. How do you truly 100% know God's speaking to you and its not your mind...OR your heart for that matter. I've seen hearing from God abused by people who are not trying to be munipulative, but genuinely believe what they are hearing is from God. And how do we as a body discern who is hearing from God and who isn't? My dad always told me take things and put them on a shelf...and if they ring true, great, and if not, fine...there's no harm done.

In other words pray and test things you're hearing from God or others are hearing from God.

I'd like to think God will not lead you astray and I've very often in the past really felt led to do something and felt it was confirmed afterwards as right. But what about when you and a friend are on two opposite ends of a situation and therefore see it completely differently? Whose right? Are we making assumptions we feel good about and therefore attributing that to God...and yet because we don't have the entire picture we can't see that they may be mislead? Is it impossible to admit mistakes even when we felt at peace about what we'd felt we were hearing?

I guess I'm frustrated because sometimes I feel untrusted. I feel like it is important to hear someone out and not assume you know what their intentions are before you make a judgement. What harm is there in knowing the intentions and then praying about them to make sure they ring true? Is it possible that if you don't do this, you're being unfair? I sometimes want to say "Don't you trust me?" Trust that if I say something is important enough to bring up, that I've put a great deal of prayer into it and tried to make sure there was no self motivation in it? Isn't is possible that I'd only risk something as important as ones trust and respect for me if I knew it was crucial...and had agonized over it?

I feel like, intent of heart and the desire to seek God is the point I'm trying to make. If I prove to be selfish again and again and miss the mark...clearly I have room to grow and should be questioned. But also I very much value my friends, fellow Christians, and other people's respect...that they would at least trust me enough to know my heart was in the right place. If they respected me that much, they'd be willing to listen / hear me out / hear what I feel like God's telling me. Then from there they could test it, pray about it, and choose to question it and disagree...or to confirm it. Either way they'd know my heart was all good intentions.

I'm sorry if this came out as a bit of a vent...I'm just really trying to stay in God's will. And I hope others can see that.

But regardless of if people can see it or not...I will always look to God for discernment and direction. I hope people will be able to see where my heart is. In Him.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Fellowship So Deep

I feel I'll be blogging a bit more frequently because I seem to constantly have something on my mind as of late. I bounce back and forth between hard questions I'm working through in my mind, and the simplicity of having a real relationship with Christ and others. My last post was about one of the hard of the challenges...This one is about the relationships and the encouragement I'm finding.

I've been struggling with the concept of sacrifice lately. As mentioned in earlier writings, I'd already settled the importance of giving things to God. I remember that being in God's will means that I have to deny myself daily. I am choosing to not hold onto anything. To fight selfishness. To give everything one hundred percent to my Father and find peace in that. If anything is getting in the way of my relationship with Him, I am trying to crucify it.

Resentment. Bitterness. Being angry at God.

These things are unfair. They are so self-centered and self-absorbed. I've chosen to sacrifice any urges towards these feelings to God. My very hurt, my lonliness, my desires, my anger...anything. Those very emotions can be sacrifices. I can sacrifice the urge to feel any of those things. I can choose not to.

It's funny. I know that is a hard concept to understand. Emotions seem like something you just feel, and can't help. And in many ways you cannot help how you feel. But I do believe if we choose to give something over to God we can actively fight those urges, and sacrifice them to God, we'll find a peace in letting go. Holding onto our pain, our resentment's so tempting. It's so easy. It is ridiculously hard to let go. But if you truly want to...ask Him and He'll show you how.

This is about our relationship with God. Focusing on our circumstances...dwelling on the unfairness of things we don't quite understand, all these things inhibit closeness with our Father. They consume our minds and hearts so that there is not a whole lot of room left for God. But he wants us to rely on him alone. To find peace and contentment in Him alone. And he will help us there!

Lately I've been trying to put this into practice.

I've found that it is so easy to dwell on things that I don't understand, that don't seem fair to me. I know that God must have a plan, but because I can't see the big picture I am fighting emotional turmoils. By truly letting go and giving things to God...I am promising to put thoughts like these out of my mind. Not to just trust him through it...but to truly give it over to him and not worry about it.

In practice...easier said than done. But so possible.

I had a few strong days where I did not think about the things outside of my control that were hard. Then last night I found myself very discouraged. Praying, talking about it, nothing really helped, I was just low as the reality of things sunk in. It all seemed so unfair. And I had those emotions to deal with. The were surpressed to an extent but lingered well into today. I know that God knows my strength...and has trusted me with a sacrifice he knows I can handle and I will come out even stronger for having endured. And He is there reminding me. When He sees that I am trying hard He is there pushing me.

God is timely.

As I sat in Koinonia tonight there was a battle in my mind. I was struggling. Battling the urge to be upset or angry. Pushing it back...over and over. Again. Again. I feel like God sees and acknowledges that kind of effort. He knows how hard I am trying. He gave me just what I needed at that moment. A friend came up to me and asked me to pray with them. And even though I had talked to people the night before and been praying all day...this specific friend happened to be exactly what I needed right then.

Encouragment and prayer were given. And also I regained perspective as I prayed for him in return. I remembered my role in being an encouragement for him. I realized how important encouragement is. I reminded him his value in Christ. And because of that I remembered mine. And shortly there after a song came on entitled Fellowship So Deep. It said

We can feel his love among us; We can sing redemptions song
We can hear the Spirit call us to a place where we belong
For His joy is in our laughter and His comfort in our grief
Let His love here ever after be the language that we speak

Let us sing of our Redeemer and of His love that made us free
And know this gift is ours forever, a fellowship so deep

It was a timely reminder of my relationship with Him. It's a gift. It's not obligation. We choose to have it, and anyone can. It is vital. It is where we find true joy and comfort. And if we choose it, it is ours forever.

That relationship is far more valuable than anything I may desire. And it is a true source of joy and peace. It is difficult to be willing to focus on God and not myself. And it is not always easy to be willing to let go of everything in exchange for that depth of relationship with Him. At times this relationship feels hard...Because if I truly desire that depth with Him I have to be willing to make sacrifices. Sacrifice things that inhibit it. And though that may be difficult...the relationship with him should be an easy one. Comfortable. Peaceful.

It's funny how hard it is to choose peace when it's all you really want. But in many ways it is a choice. The only true peace comes from God.

I should probably be grateful...thankful...excited that God thinks enough of me to know I can handle trials. I know by making the choice to rely on Him I'm growing as a person and in relationship with Him. I'll come out of all of this strengthened and blessed.

By trusting Him for that outcome I'm choosing some temporary pain. (I'm accepting the challenge.) I could easily choose to be selfish and focus on myself and how unfair God is. But I suppose He knew that I'd choose the right thing no matter how hard...and because of that choice...the end result will be amazing.

:-) Choose joy and peace. No matter how hard it is. Value your relationship with Christ. Sacrifice self-centeredness to Him and just trust Him in faith. He will see your efforts and help you along the way, but attitude is so important. Choose Him.

-Noelle <3

Friday, January 16, 2009

Whose afraid of the Post Modern???

(This is very long, and all other the place. Not incredibly scholarly. But it's just some random thoughts on my mind today, greatly due to a lecture by Dr. Case. I haven't really hashed them all out yet so don't take this as my final word haha, it's just questions really.)

In past eras, brilliant minds could spend their whole lives developing ideas and picking apart theories. Now it’s hard to keep up as technology and philosophies change rapidly. And it’s scary isn’t it? Everything you produce, buy, write about, etc will be outdated in a matter of months. Traditional conservative Christians see these fast changes (especially in thought) as absolutely detrimental, new, and against everything they stand for. The big scary word that gets dropped often is “post-modernism.” Oh the evils the word implies.

It seems to me that Christians especially, but much of western culture in general, have a tendency towards “bumper sticker” critiques. Christians are notorious for taking things out of context and boycotting. I’m going to admit right here and now that I find this embarrassing.

I know that with so many disciplines…history, philosophy, politics, music, cultural phenomenon…it is nearly impossible to keep up. You almost have to pick one or two and focus on them because there is too much to know. Unlike earlier generations, we live in a world where we are building upon accumulative knowledge. We take for granted hundreds of years of learning that is our foundation for expanse.

But Americans especially are very individualistic and rarely want to put the energy into gaining a whole picture. Evangelicals can be even worse sometimes because they view knowledge and questioning, new ideas, other opinions as threatening.

Post modernism is not new.

Christians associate post modernism with being counter cultural and rejecting truth. “Truth” is such a hot button word with Christians. Everyone seems to think that in postmodernity there is complete rejection of truth. Also we seem to think truth is completely accessible and anyone who thinks differently is outside of the truth. And be cause of this post modern thought is scary.

Let me clarify a few things then I’ll get to the point.

Post modernism is not a school of thought. It’s just what we call a cultural shift that we noticed and are trying to understand.

Second of all. It’s not new. It is more or less hyper-modern. The whole modern age has been defined by throwing out dogmatism and authoritarianism. It’s the great “Awakening,” the Englightenment, Romanticism, the idea of progress that is so very engrained into our minds and culture. It is continually moving…

Also what I mean by “bumper sticker” critiques: This expression is used by James K. A. Smith in a book entitled Who’s afraid of Postmodernism? I don’t know how I feel about the entire book just yet, but I like this point.

(Sidebar: I'm not saying I expect everyone to have read everything. I'm just saying, what's wrong with saying "I don't know?" about something you haven't read up on. You can then choose to read up on it...or just admit youre not that interested and don't have the right to a solid opinion on it (rather than taking someone elses word for what it says.))

Do you see the problem? We rarely take the time to question and truly get the whole picture.

If we choose to be afraid of post modern ideas and throw them all out…we miss the possible benefits AND we do not intelligently really understand the big picture.

Postmodernism is not a rejection of truth. If you took time to read books by post-modern theorists it would be impossible to come to this conclusion. In fact this is a common misconception among Christians. It’s not fair to take someone else’s word as gospel on anything. It’s not smart. I find that Christian leaders are more concerned with warnings then they are with encouraging full understanding of an issue.

Post modernism at the core is the recognition of limits. And I fail to see why this is so bad. It is not a rejection of truth. It is acknowledgement of the limits of human understanding of the truth. It is not saying truth doesn’t matter but it is dealing with some issues I would like to see dealt with among Christians.

We need to acknowledge out limits.

We do not have to say there is no reality. But we should admit that our perspectives are always shaped by our situatedness. Your knowing is always limited to some degree. It’s limited by things like your class, your race, your place in the world, the time period you live in, your religion, etc. Those things predispositions should be considered. Our place in life will alter and influence our realities and opinions.

In Christian apologetics you find that truth claims have to be made differently varying from culture to culture. Because cultures are all different, and have different ways of viewing reality. It doesn’t discredit truth. But it does change how you understand it and how you go about imparting it.

Diversity in belief is not new. Doctrinal differences are not terrible. For over 500 years now, protestant Christians have been divided by doctrinal differences. At some point why can’t we say “I don’t know” or live with the differences? They simply divide the body of Christ. It’s not about ever stopping the seeking of truth, or saying it is relativistic. It’s about whether or not it is important to divide over things that are not critical, do not have easy answers, and may never have a consensus.

We can’t stop discussion. Instead we should be willing to dicuss, to disagree, and to gain knowledge. If we are truly being intelligent in our pursuit we shouldn’t be afraid of different ideas than our own. We should learn about them and sift out the value in them.

Of course there will be truth and falsehood in every view. It would be a little egotistical to assume you have everything right and no room to grow. Even amongst postmodern theorists, or among the romantics, there will be silliness and truth and variations of opinion.

My problem is that conservatism refuses to recognize limits. And therefore there is no willingless to dialogue.

And how do you handle “otherness” ?

If you cannot convert someone to think the way you do…then what?

Do you accuse them of heresy?

Do you legislate things to make their life harder?

What do you do when you cannot agree, with those people??

These are just questions.

I just want to encourage everyone to be openminded and intelligent in their pursuit of truth. It has nothing to do with bending to culture or being relativistic. But if you are going to discuss things with people…be smart about it! Actually do the research from every angle. Don’t take anyone else’s word as gospel. Acknowledge that there are biases. Be willing to stretch yourself.

In the end we are called to love others. We are also encouraged to find humility. Don’t be too proud to disagree with others and be okay with that. Love them anyway. Recognize that you may have things wrong that they have right, and vice versa. Be at least willing to actually hear what they have to say. Question your beliefs. There is nothing wrong with questioning. If you have faith. You have nothing to fear in understanding other opinions outside your own.

Don’t be afraid of different opinions. And don’t accept “bumper sticker” critiques.

Above all, be open and love others.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It may be a slow and painful process...

So don't run away.

Because God's will for our lives is not always the easy road. In fact it's probably almost always a trying path. It's hard to understand in the moment why it has to be that way. But I can hardly think of an example where trials weren't crucial to growth or someone lived without any sorrows ever touching their lives. These things are important. Not because God doesn't love us or wants us to suffer. They're important because they help us understand him and his love for us.

I'm trying to balance two concepts that hold equal ground in my mind.

The first is God's love for us. It's HUGE. God says that he will give us the desires of our hearts. He wants to give us joy and peace in him. He loves us as his children. If you know anything about parental love you know how passionate that love can be...and God's is even bigger. I know God has plans for me and wants me to be happy. I know that God isn't trying to cause me pain. I know that whatever is in store for me, he took my own desires into mind. Some of my desires may even be God given.

But then there's this other concept. My life is not my own. I owe it to Him. All of it. He bought it at a price. Even if that meant giving up something I thought would make me happy, or even if it meant giving up my life...that shouldn't matter. Because I owe him that much and more. It would be selfish of me to give anything less that what he desired for my life.

So how do I balance my desires and His desires?

I've been reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot.

(First of all I love that we spell our names the same.)

I've been tearing through it, because the theme is just that: putting God's desires over your own.

Ir's encouraging because it's challenging. She talks about this girl who thinks God is going to give her a rich man to marry. She asks the girl 'What if God wants you to marry a poor man?" and the girl insists that God wouldn't do that because he loves her and that's not what she wants. "But what if this poor man wants a beautiful woman and God promised her to him?" Did she want God's choices or her own? She claimed she wanted Gods but this is how it came out:

Jane: "I've prayed for His will and I've prayed for a rich, handsome husband, and that's what I'm going to get, because Jesus loves me and Jesus wants me t be happy."

Elisabeth: "So if you don't get him, will that prove God doesn't love you?

Jane: "Doesn't he want me to be happy???"

Elisabeth writes: The problem starts when we make up our own minds what will give us happiness then decide, if we don't get exactly that, that God doesn't love us. We slither into a slough of God-hates-me-self-pity.

So in reality this isn't something I fear. The point is that we should not be so convinced that our own desires are right that we miss God or blame him when we don't get what we want.

But I take encouragment when from her whole story.

When she first met her husband Jim Elliot, she knew immediately he was the kind of man she wanted to marry. And she found she had strong desires in her heart. "I was wishing that my wishes were what God wished, and if my wishes were not what God wished, I wished that I could wish that my wishes would go away, but the wishes were still there."

That's kind of where I find myself. I have some very strong desires in my heart. And I'm hoping that they're also Gods. And if not I'm not hoping to change his mind, but I am hoping that these desires go away. But they aren't going away...

So does that mean it's me? Or is it God?

It doesn't matter. If I am tuned into Him then I will find peace and trust him.

"....Have no anxiety. but in everything make your requests known to God...." - Philippians 4:6

I remember that it's okay to talk to God and tell him my true feelings. He's not offended by me having them. He knows them anyway, and he can also see my desire to find his desires even at the risk that they are not my own.

"I will teach you, and guide you in the way you should go.
I will keep you under my eye.
Do not behave like horse or mule, unreasoning creatures, whose course must be checked with bit and bridle.
Many are the torments of the ungodly;
but unfailing love enfolds him who trusts in the Lord.
Rejoice in the Lord and be glad..."

It's an attitude. I refuse to be stubborn. If God tells me to follow him somewhere unexpected...then off I'll go. I trust him to guide my way. I don't fear my own desires. If they are wrong I know I'll accept that because I put my trust in God. And I also know that it is possible they aren't just me. And it's okay for me to think that, because I won't let it blind me.

It seems like everything good, comes at a cost. And maybe that's just because we appreciate it more after all the sweat and tears. So I am very going to expect easy.

After reading all this stuff about giving up my desires for Gods I was finding myself discouraged. But then I read this:

"A settled commitment to the Lord Christ and a longed-for commitment to Jim Elliot seemed to be in conflict. Discipleship usually brings us into the necessity of choice between duty and desire. They are not always mutually exclusive, however. When are hearts are set on obedience, we can be sure of the needed wisdom to tell the difference between a conflict and a harmony. It may be a slow and painful process." - Passion and Purity

I haven't gotten much farther than this point but I already know that her and her husband Jim spend years apart communicating mostly through letters, only to end up together and married in the end. But she had to give him up awhile...or at least put him off to make sure her heart was following Gods desires and not her own.

But I find encouragement in this fact. Yes. I need to put God's desires actively above my own. And that could mean letting go of my desires. Sure. I'll be ready and prepared for that and make sure that I'm not just set on something. Rather I'll be growing and praying and seeking God's will for my life. I'm ready for that and I don't doubt I'll find peace with the outcome.

However, I don't think God wants me to have an attitude of martyrdom. I don't think He wants me to assume everything I desire is bad. Just because I desire it, doesn't make its God's will. But just because I desire it doesn't automatically mean it's wrong and selfish either. The point is to test it. Find out if it conflicts with God's desires or if it is in harmony with His desires for you.

I find myself encouraged and optimistic remembering that my desires at least CAN BE in harmony with Gods. If I remain open to his will and find those desires unchanged...that may be okay. Because being in God's will isn't about sacrifice alone, but also joy and fulfillment of his will and plan. And if I'm in tune with him, I'll find joy and peace in whatever His will is. Desire the same things.


I am encouraged. I am optimistic. Things are difficult right now because my desires are not readily avaliable...right within my grasp. But it's good to know that those desires are not necessarily wrong. But rather submitting them to God is a painful process. It could end in something unexpected, or it could be delayed gratitification.

I insist upon being ready for EITHER. Not giving up on one or the other.

Don't give up.

God's will could be something different than your desires.
God's will might be exactly what you desire.

Both are okay. Don't let go of either.

In the meantime realize that you have to submit those desires to him and wait. It's a painful process. You don't really truly know the outcome. But find joy and optimism in knowing if you submit them to him, you'll be happy with the outcome.


Monday, January 5, 2009

I’m not ready for this
I’m not ready yet
I’m not ready
For this ending
But it’s not over yet

I’ve been fighting against myself
And I’ve torn myself to pieces
I hear You calling,
God, I hear You calling
“Stand up, stand up And spend yourself for Jesus”

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Buy The Truth

Preface: I saw Cool Hand Luke last night. I have lots of opinions on the music and the band...but bottom line...great guys. Love them. Mark has a heart for God like I've never seen matched. His lyrics have always reflected a really thoughtful relationship with Christ. Every show he spends a great deal of time just talking and challenging and I'm always left deep in thought about something. He as well as the other band My Epic, gave me a lot of things to think about that I want to comment on here. But for the time being I'll comment on the new album The Sleeping House which I purchased last night and have been listening through today. Again, a lot I could say about the direction of the music. But this album even more than others, each song is rooted in an idea and verses that Mark had been sorting through and they are fantastic and thought provoking. He played this one last night and I read through the lyrics today...and I just can't help but share them. They are powerful to me.

"Buy The Truth" - Cool Hand Luke

If I had a dime for every dollar I’ve wasted trying to be happy
I could retire because I would be miserably wealthy
Then I’d have the time to see that I’d thrown out my life like the paper
And maybe the time by God’s grace to start it all over and

Buy the Truth
Though it costs all you have (Proverbs 4:7)
Buy the truth
Don’t ever sell it out
What good is a tool in the hand of a fool if you don’t buy wisdom?
(Proverbs 17:16)

If I sold You out, I could make enough money to live for a while
Walk in the room and important people would smile
Hold my head proud, and know I had made the best business decision
Wave at the crowds who give me their money like it was religion

Buy the Truth
Though it costs all you have
Buy the truth
Don’t ever sell it out
What good is a tool in the hand of a fool if you don’t buy wisdom?

Please, don’t make yourself at home
Please, don’t make yourself at home
Please, don’t make yourself at home
Please, don’t make yourself at home
The Land of opportunity
And superficiality
Syncretized theology
A compromised reality

God, touch our eyes
Expose the lies
That waste our lives
And block the light
A future hope (Proverbs 24:14)
That we’ll wake up
And see the Truth for what’s it’s worth

Buy the Truth
Though it costs all you have
Buy the truth
Don’t ever sell it out
What good is a tool in the hand of a fool if you don’t buy wisdom?