whether or not Your lips move

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three things to talk about January 31, 2010

Filed under: discipleship,faith,grace,relationship with God,salvation — Ash @ 1:34 am

I wrote this blog more than a year ago and just ran across it among my “draft” posts. What do you think? Please be kind… these were/are honest struggles… not a “church-trashing, Christian-bashing” session.

Bear with me on this… I’m really processing through some questions and thoughts right now. Things I’ve been thinking about and mulling over for a long time, and things that have recently been stirred again.

1. No one in the New Testament ever prayed a “sinner’s prayer”.

Is the “sinner’s prayer” a tradition of man?

“Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men. … You revoke God’s word by your tradition” (Mark 7:8,13a, HCSB).

So… is the “sinner’s prayer” a religious tool to try to show God our sincerity? Did we come up with it some time in the past so we could “systematize” repentance and keep track of who is on which side? Was the “sinner’s prayer” a 20th-century human device meant to help institutions keep track of converts at huge gatherings? Do we (Christians) have people (sinners) pray it so we can feel like we have a “for sure” mark next to their names on our “Project Convert” list and not have to worry about them anymore? I don’t mean to sound so cynical… I don’t like sounding cynical…

Can we safely say that repentance (changing one’s direction in life) is an ongoing process that takes place as one grows as a disciple of Jesus? Or does it have to be a one-time, cut-and-dry, clearly-marked-on-the-calendar event?

Is it just easier to have a prayer to pray rather than encourage a longer contemplation of the costs of being a disciple of Christ?

27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
28 “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?
29 “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him,
30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
(Luke 14:27-30, NASB)

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
25 “For whoever wishes to save his life [Or soul ] will lose it; but whoever loses his life [Or soul ] for My sake will find it.
26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
(Matthew 16:24-26, NASB)

2. Instead, baptism seems to be the way New Testament believers identified themselves as Christ-followers.

I don’t believe that Jesus taught baptism secures salvation for a person. It seems to me that He was more concerned with discipleship and that we believe Him (really trust Him and take Him at His word, not just “believe in” Him) and follow Him in fruitful relationship:

11 “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.
12 “Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.
13 “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they [Lit who believe ] believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
14 “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
15 “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance [Or steadfastness].
(Luke 8:11-15, NASB)

From what I can tell, once Jesus had returned to heaven, people conversed with Jesus’ disciples and lived around them day-to-day, and decided to follow Christ because of the disciples’ words and actions (they were known by their love for one another). Those who believed were then baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as Jesus commanded. Again, can we safely say that repentance (changing one’s direction in life) is an ongoing process that takes place as one grows as a disciple of Jesus? Or does it have to be a one-time, cut-and-dry, clearly-marked-on-the-calendar event?

Jesus never taught easy believism. Whether he was telling the rich young ruler to sell all and follow him or telling a miracle-hungry crowd near Capernaum that to do the work of God was, yes, to believe on him (John 6:28-29), he called people to abandon their own agenda and trust him radically. Radical trust calls for both belief and action.

I suggest that we tend to confuse the beginning of the faith journey with its entirety. Yes, believe in Jesus—that’s the first step. Yes, invite Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior. Then, empowered by God’s grace, embark on the journey of discipleship, in which you seek to love God with every fiber of your being, to love your neighbor as yourself, to live out God’s moral will, and to follow Jesus where he leads you, whatever the cost.

If Jesus is to be believed, inheriting eternal life involves a comprehensive divine assessment at every step along our journey, not just at its inception. [emphasis added]

Mediocrity and hypocrisy characterize the lives of many avowed Christians, at least in part because of our default answer to the salvation question. Anyone can, and most Americans do, “believe” in Jesus rather than some alternative savior. Anyone can, and many Americans sometimes do, say a prayer asking Jesus to save them. But not many embark on a life fully devoted to the love of God, the love of neighbor, the moral practice of God’s will, and radical, costly discipleship.

(David P. Gushee, “Jesus and the Sinner’s Prayer,” Christianity Today online, March 2007)

If we believe “inheriting eternal life involves a comprehensive divine assessment at every step along our journey,” does this mean we believe we can “lose” our salvation? Or, more importantly: within the context of relationship, is “eternal security of salvation” even an issue? (As in, would a father tell his beloved daughter she was disowned if she came home after being in another state for a long time?) I’d venture to say no.

3. God didn’t make up religion. People did.

Doing something for or giving something to a deity in order to get something/avoid something is religious. If you want rain, you do this for that god. If you are grateful to the god, you give this much. If you want the god to not be angry, you give this much. You never know how much is enough, however.

God (the One True God, YHWH) made the move to us first and doesn’t work that way. He asks us to completely trust Him within relationship. This is not religious. The implications of the relationship—forgiveness, love, peace, eternal life, the filling of the Spirit, the way we live as a result—are not religious. If the implications of the relationship become a means to an end, it is religion, not relationship. If doing or not doing/having/being something (or the ANXIETY of doing or not doing/having/being something) becomes a focal point, that is religion, not relationship.

Do you think that is accurate?

Am I just thinking too hard?

 

Are all men liars? January 29, 2010

Filed under: healthy relationships series,sex — Ash @ 11:45 am
Tags: ,

Once when I was in college, as a joke at an open mic night I read Psalm 116:11, “I said in my haste, ‘All men are liars'” to prove that even the Bible said so. All the girls had a pretty good laugh at that one. The guys, not so much.

I just ran across a fascinating article from USA Today. An internet survey of 1200 guys revealed some interesting things about guys ages 15-22. (I would be interested to see the same questions asked of older guys!)

Cool:

  • 45% said they were virgins. (Way to go, guys!!!)
  • 78% agreed there was “way too much pressure” from society to have sex.
  • 53% said they had had a conversation with a parent about preventing pregnancy.
  • 66% said they could be happy in a serious relationship that didn’t include sex.

Yikes:

  • 45% said they were virgins.
  • 53% said they had had a conversation with a parent about preventing pregnancy. 
  • 60% said they had lied about something related to sex.
  • 30% lied about how far they have gone.
  • 24% lied about their number of sexual partners.
  • 23% claimed not to be a virgin when they were.
  • 57% of sexually active respondents said they had had unprotected sex.
  • 51% said having sex before marriage was acceptable in their family. 
  • 53% of guys said having lots of hookups makes them popular, but 71% said it makes girls less popular.

So basically, ladies, you can’t always trust what a guy is telling you about his sex life right of the bat.  One of the survey respondents implied that some guys will tell you whatever they think it is that you want to hear to make you feel special. And how about that double standard concerning hookups??

I know none of this is coming as a surprise to you. But what can we do?

Instead of bashing them and assuming men are all alike, let’s find some ways to send a message to them loud and clear: It’s not OK to lie about your sex life, guys. You don’t have to lie to a girl for her to like you. If you’ve got some mistakes in your past and really think she could be “the one,” tell her about them. If you are inexperienced and you think she needs to know, be honest about it. Contrary to what VH1 wants you to believe, virginity really is cool. Also: you shouldn’t have to lie to one another in order to be “the man.” If those guys are really your friends and worth being around, they will support you in living a life that honors God, yourself, and women–your future wife and daughters especially. 

Ladies, this means you’re going to have to treat yourselves the way you want to be treated–and don’t settle for less. Be smart and ask good questions of the guys you date. Have high and reasonable expectations. Be careful about the way you present yourself–not just in the way you dress, but in the way you act and talk, too. I’ve always heard it said that people can tell a lot about who you truly are by what makes you laugh and what makes you cry. Be aware of the message you are sending guys as you interact with them. Be careful about how much “flirting” you do, including “innocent touches” and hugs. Truth is, girls, when it comes to guys you have WAY more power than you may think you do, and that is something to be wielded with much caution and respect. You’ve got to be diligent in this area because men are extremely fragile when it comes to their sexuality. You can emasculate a guy with one sentence. You can make him fall in love with you with a single glance. I have seen this over and over, girls. I was completely clueless on this front for many years and left quite a trail of broken hearts. Don’t do the same! 

So, are all men liars? Maybe, maybe not. But let’s do what we can to help change the direction our world is going. Start a movement!

 

Mentoring: Practical Ideas for Getting Started January 27, 2010

Filed under: mentoring,relationship with God — Ash @ 3:42 pm
Tags: ,

Mentoring doesn’t have to be a big, scary time commitment or even just going through a Bible study (though obviously there is nothing wrong with time commitments and Bible studies!). Mentoring is life on life. Think about how Jesus mentored: He spent several years in close contact, took opportunity of “teachable moments,” accepted people’s flaws while also challenging them, and most of all, loved. I know Jesus is our example and model and He was perfect. But thankfully ANYONE can mentor. You were made to invest yourself in others. You can do it!

Things to remember:

  • Be real, open, honest, authentic, transparent, and genuine in your interactions.
  • Don’t be overwhelmed with the number of people who need a mentor. Pray, watch, and ask just one younger person to hang out now and then (ideas below).
  • Pay attention to your heart. If a young person’s situation or life story really tugs at you or you have a shared experience or interest, this may be the Holy Spirit telling you that he/she is the one to approach.
  • Whenever possible, try to see each other face-to-face within your natural settings. Be open to and utilize other forms of communication but try to actually spend time together.
  • It might take some time for you to reach a level of relationship in which the younger person feels comfortable to share his/her struggles. Others may start sharing from the very beginning. Be flexible and seek the Holy Spirit’s leading.
  • Know when it’s time to refer someone for professional help.
  • You will have to accept the fact that you might be rejected. Please, please don’t give up. God has certain individuals who need YOU to invest in them.
  • Be loving. Love, love, and love some more.

 

Ideas for those 65 and up

  • Find a church in the area that seems to be geared mainly toward young people and attend frequently. They need your presence there more than they might realize.
  • Recent surveys are showing that the younger generations (those under 30 specifically) are very open to your generation’s genuine involvement in their lives.
  • If there are things about technology that you have questions about, ask a young person. Chances are he/she will be more than happy to spend time with you to show you how to use something.
  • Have a young person over for dinner. Nothing beats a home-cooked meal.
  • Share your stories. You’ve lived through things younger people have only read about in history books. Give them your thoughts and memories on these events and how they affected your life.
  • Share your hobbies and offer to teach young people how to do them. The younger generations are also extremely open to learning things like how to change the oil in a car, how to make clothes, and so on.
  • Some young people will seem resistant to communication on the phone and will want to communicate via email, Facebook, or text. Try not to take it personally; what they are really looking for is time face-to-face.
  • Do one activity or go one place that is out of the norm for you, but is familiar for the young person. Then do something together that is out of his/her norm.
  • Send a handwritten note or card. Young people hardly ever get these.
  • Pray together.

 

Ideas for those 50-64

  • Find a church in your area that seems to be attracting mostly younger people (if yours isn’t already). Look for needs among young parents, for instance, and offer to help.
  • Talk about music. Seriously. Recent surveys have found that you probably have more similar musical tastes with the younger generations than you might have thought.
  • Recent surveys are showing that the younger generations (those under 30 specifically) are very open to your generation’s genuine involvement in their lives.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your life stories. Young people want to hear them—especially the ones that might not always be “neat and tidy.” Share your mistakes and how you learned from them.
  • Share your hobbies and offer to teach young people how to do them. The younger generations are also extremely open to learning things like how to cook, how to change the oil in a car, and so on.
  • Nothing beats a good cup of coffee, so offer to have a younger person over to your home or to meet up at a coffee shop.
  • Some young people will seem resistant to communication on the phone and will want to communicate via email, Facebook, or text. Try not to take it personally; what they are really looking for is time face-to-face.
  • Do one activity or go one place that is out of the norm for you, but is familiar for the young person. Then do something together that is out of his/her norm.
  • Do some service projects together.
  • Pray together.

 

Ideas for those 30-49

  • Talk about music. Thanks to trends like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, those younger than you may totally dig the bands you grew up with.
  • Seek out newlyweds, new parents, or any other young persons who are in some sort of transition period. Find out what their practical needs are and meet them.
  • Find common interests and have a blast hanging out together. This can be anything from riding roller coasters to crocheting to shooting at the range to walking around the mall.
  • Talk about what your life was like growing up. Share stories and don’t leave out your mistakes; younger people will be very open to learning from your mistakes.
  • Spend time with each other’s families if you can. Let the younger person see how you interact with your family on a day-to-day basis and take opportunities to include him/her in your normal schedule. For instance, invite him/her to ride with you while you take your kids to gymnastics or swim lessons.
  • Do some service projects together.
  • Pray together.

 

Younger generations: Add to the conversation! What are some things you would like to do with a mentor at first?

Older generations: Help us out! What are some things that have worked (or not worked) for you as you seek to mentor?

 

in the meantime, not alone January 12, 2010

I just had to share this with you!!! 

I just finished listening to one of my favorite Bible teachers. She pointed out something that really spoke to my heart. Check out the following verse:

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you … Blessed are all who wait for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18)

The words “longs” and “wait” are both translated from the same Hebrew word. 

Think of something you are waiting for… something you keep praying about, something you keep asking Him for… You’re longing to see this thing happen. 

God is, too. 

He knows what He has up His sleeve. He knows the plan inside and out. He knows all the exciting twists and turns. He knows just how this thing is going to play out. It hasn’t escaped His notice. He’s working it out. He’s making all the preparations. Every time you trust Him it makes Him even more excited for the coming moment–the moment when all will be revealed, all will come together, all will make sense, all will be just as it is supposed to be.

God is longing and waiting for just the right time. He’s waiting right alongside you. You’re not alone in this “meantime.” 

 

what a girl wants January 8, 2010

Several years ago, I spent several months doing some hard praying, thinking, and soul-searching. I had finally escaped a six-year, off-and-on relationship and had decided that I’d rather be alone the rest of my life than with the wrong person. I was beginning to conclude that I should never settle for less than God’s best in any area of my life. I was starting to trust that God really had my best interests at heart and wasn’t holding out on me.

During this process, I began a list. Oh, the dreaded list. Some of you are cringing right now and about to close your browser window. I ask you to hang with me for a minute here.

Many girls’ lists are made up of things like “tall, dark, and handsome” or “drives a convertible.” There’s nothing really wrong with those things, but I want to challenge you girls to look at “the list” a little differently.

I’m kind of laughing at myself right now because it is going to sound like I’m telling you what to do, and that is just silly. But I seriously have seen this work in my own life and in other girls’ lives, too. Guys, you might get a little ticked off at me and think I’m telling all these girls to be insanely unreasonable. I ask you to spend some quiet time searching your own soul, and see if maybe you want to be the type of person I am going to describe.

I need to be clear, girls: there is no perfect guy. I know you’ve heard it a thousand times, but you really need to let that sink in. No matter how many of these qualities he has, he will eventually do or say something that hurts you. He’s human. He needs grace just like you do. Keep in mind that the things I’m about to list may look different than you thought they would. They may come in a package you didn’t think was “your type.”

You know from my other posts in this series that I don’t support unhealthy levels of intimacy (physical, emotional, or otherwise) early in a relationship. So many of the character qualities in the list below SHOULD be demonstrated in a guy BEFORE you get into a relationship with him. These things will be evidenced in his other relationships as you get to know him in a group setting.

And as you are reading through this list (and add your own things based on  your personality and God’s leading), you need to evaluate yourself on each point and ask yourself how YOU are doing in becoming the person God wants you to be. It isn’t unreasonable to look for a man who is compatible with you and who has these character traits. It IS unreasonable to think you should be with him while not taking the time to prepare yourself for a man like this.

Okay. Without further adieu.

THE LIST

  • A spiritual leader. He loves God; he is someone you can look up to and learn from spiritually; has strong convictions based on God’s Word. He takes God seriously and challenges you and others to love God more each day. He prays about everything and obeys God’s direction. He forgives and extends grace whenever possible.
  • A servant leader. He loves others in practical ways; he seeks to be more selfless in his actions; he takes initiative; he is generous. He has a positive attitude.
  • A worshiper. He wants to give God his best in every situation; he lives out what he says he believes; wants to give God a good name. He wants others to know and love Jesus the way he does.
  • A hard worker. He has a good work ethic; he is a hard worker but not a workaholic; honest with finances and responsible with money. He has goals for his career and life.
  • Has integrity. He keeps his commitments and does what he says he will do; he treats all women (and men) with respect; he is real and authentic; he is honest. He is not on a search for power and he does not manipulate people.
  • Level-headed. He can handle a crisis; he knows how to argue without fighting; he is able to responsibly handle an emotionally-charged situation; he speaks the truth in love.
  • Humble and flexible. Things don’t always have to be his way; he doesn’t flee at the first sign of trouble. He can admit when he’s wrong and isn’t afraid to ask for forgiveness. He works to make things right and will try to resolve conflicts.
  • Has good friends. He is committed to a local body of Christ followers; he has meaningful relationships with other men; has accountability in his life. Those closest to him will encourage him to be the man God wants him to be.
  • Passionate. He has healthy ambition and direction; he has a vision for the future; he is confident in who he is and his gifts. He is fun to be around and you share many common interests.
  • Communicates well. He listens well and can interact with people who are not like him; he takes care with his words. He isn’t always complaining and he isn’t a bully!
  • Family-oriented. He can interact well with children; he is a team player; he is a “coach” rather than a “dictator;” not afraid to take the lead. He can see the gifts in others and encourage them to use them. If he already has children, he maintains an appropriate relationship with their mother (based on the circumstances) and you are ready to be a stepmom.
  • Sexually pure. He respects women as daughters of God and sisters in Christ; he does not attempt to interact physically with women inappropriately; if he has been sexually active in the past, he is currently demonstrating his commitment to saving sex for marriage. He has healthy boundaries in his relationships with girls. It has to be said–he won’t ask you for or expect sexual contact of any kind. He’s not a player!
  • Emotionally whole. He is mature and steady; he shows progress and commitment to overcoming significant weaknesses in his life; he knows who he is in Christ; he can handle his anger appropriately. He does not have an active addiction to drugs, alcohol, porn, etc. but is self-controlled.
  • Affectionate. He expresses his affection appropriately; he understands what his “love language” is and seeks to know others’ love languages; he is not afraid of intimacy and is willing to invest himself in a relationship. In a committed relationship, he cherishes the woman as a gift from God and is willing to sacrifice for her.
  • Has appropriate family relationships. He respects his mother but she doesn’t control his life; if he does not have a healthy family he seeks to interact with them appropriately and with grace. (Ideally, if you come from a divorced family, it is a blessing to be with a guy whose parents are still married.)
  • Looks good. You’re attracted to him; he sees his body as God’s temple; has good hygiene; he takes care of himself physically and seeks to be in good health. He does not, however, place inappropriate emphasis on his physical appearance.
  • You have compatible weaknesses. In the areas you are weak, he is strong. In the areas he is weak, you are strong. It is important to have a lot in common, but weaknesses are not one of those things.

I hope that this has helped you begin to know what God’s best is for your life in the area of relationships. Guys, I know this is a tall order. But you have what it takes. Is there a man you know who fits the description above? Ask him to hang out sometime. See if you can start to learn from him how to be this kind of man.

Girls, he is out there. If God has called you to marriage, it is not unreasonable to be looking for him to be like this. It doesn’t only happen in fairy tales. The hardest part is going to be the waiting. Don’t sell yourself short by settling for less than God’s best.

I wish I could be having this conversation with you over a cup of coffee (or more often in my case, spiced apple cider). Please tell me your stories!

 

cougars January 6, 2010

I had a really interesting discussion at dinner tonight. A friend shared a story about her teenage son who just graduated from high school. Apparently a woman at their church (who has three kids of her own), fully aware of his age, gave him her phone number and told him to call her sometime. And this happened AT church. She even wrote her number on a prayer request card.

Obviously there are so many things going on with this situation that it’s impossible to discuss them all. But in recent years I’ve really been fascinated by this “cougar” trend. It’s been explored in movies, reality shows, and sitcoms. Normally a woman is considered a “cougar” if she is 40 or over and seeking out men at least 8 years younger than she is. “Pumas” are women in their 30s–“cougars in training.”

I like to try to understand people and put myself into their shoes. I know I could easily be just as susceptible to doing something “crazy,” too. I wonder if these women are fulfilling a part of their lives from the past. Maybe they didn’t feel attractive to guys when they were in middle school or high school, and so they are “reliving” that desire with much younger boys. Or maybe they never quite grew out of the way they related with boys at that age. Maybe older women are going for much younger boys these days because of the lack of father roles in their lives. For a long time everybody would say girls look to marry guys that remind them of their dads. I think a lot of women got tired of hearing this because they wanted to be with someone who was anything BUT like their dads. So some end up looking for WAY younger guys so they can “train” them to be what they want them to be, instead of dealing with unresolved emotional issues.

And, our culture seems to think it’s hot for a young guy to be with an older woman. Just look at all the movies that have this theme in them (American Pie series, etc.) and popular songs (“Stacy’s Mom”).

But I don’t think it’s just “older” women who are “cougars” these days. I’m often shocked at the way even young girls are with boys. The girls do all the pursuing. They seem to look for guys who need rescuing. In our society’s efforts to empower women, I really feel like we’ve gone quite a bit too far in this area. I’m looking around and seeing a lot of unhappy girls and women–single and married–who have taken pursuit into their own hands.

Call me old fashioned, but I really believe ladies should back off and give guys a chance to be the ones to pursue. Yeah, that means they have to man up and take initiative and not sit on their rears expecting the world to come to them on a silver platter. But honestly, deep down this is what they want. They want to have to man up. They want to have what it takes to make a woman truly happy (this will take up a whole other blog post). They want to have to fight a little for it. But many of them have no earthly clue.

What say ye, ladies? What can we do to change things around? Or do you think things are okay the way they are? What’s your story and experience?

 

Peripeteia January 5, 2010

Filed under: relationship with God,stuff I've learned,waiting — Ash @ 11:12 pm

I really love listening to people’s stories. It’s so fun to see God’s hand in all the little twists and turns. It seems like it’s the small things that, in hindsight, were the “peripeteia” of people’s lives. Giving bunny ears to someone. A tweet asking where to eat for dinner. A phone call, an email… things that were part of an ordinary day–maybe even part of an ordinary, lousy day. And yet these were the very things that God used to guide him or her along His path.

I wonder if perhaps this is the very reason for our going through difficult times… so that later we will be amazed and in awe of the one small thing that turned everything around. So that we would see later that it was entirely God’s doing and nothing that we orchestrated ourselves; we may have cooperated along the way but ultimately it wasn’t anything we could have cooked up on our own. At least not without totally ruining the whole thing.

One moment can change everything.