Thursday, November 19, 2009

Home is Heaven

Over at Bloom, a lady started a discussion on our focus on Heaven.

In a nutshell, she was wondering why we were being exhorted in Crazy Love, and in other studies she is currently doing to keep our focus on Heaven and be obsessed with it. It made her feel a little uncomfortable that so much focus was on Heaven, and not on works down here.

An excerpt of her discussion

"I don’t see myself preparing for a final day. Instead it’s about living here and now, working for heaven here on earth. Yes, I look forward to seeing Jesus in heaven but while I’m waiting, there are things I can be doing to work towards heaven on earth. As in: “Thy Kingdom come, 
thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven...

I’ve been studying about the prophets and their prophecies about the coming of Christ and what the Gospels write about those prophecies. The first century Israelites (and their forefathers) were longing for a king to change the world. Prophets who wrote about a coming savior were passing on a message from God. The prophets were responding to the yearning of the people for a hope; for a new kind of kingdom with a ruler that brought peace and justice to the world. Jesus was and is that savior. But I see him as coming to change this world not heaven. It makes me uncomfortable to have so much focus be on heaven.”

I thought I might post my own comment back to her here, and see what you all think? What are your views on Heaven?

Good thought provoking question!

I think, that earth is not our Home. We *should* want to go Home. The sole aim and purpose of Jesus coming was to reconcile us to God, so that we can spend eternity with Him. If Christ hadn't come, we'd be doomed to hell, and life here on earth would be pointless.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." We hope for heaven :) We are certain of the existence of God and His Kingdom. Verses 14-16 of Hebrew say "People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."

If all we did was only for this world, the one that will surely pass away, (Matthew 24:35) then I would think that God made an error. Since we know He cannot, we must presume that there is a reward waiting for us in heaven for all we do. (Matthew 5:12, Luke 6:23)

We are here to influence as many people for the Kingdom as we possibly can. God wants everyone there! Jesus taught A LOT about Heaven; what was in store for us there, who could and couldn't go, what would and wouldn't get you there. The goal of our lives is Heaven. It's our reward. It's to spend all of eternity loving on God, praising and worshiping him... basking in His presence. We are also told, that what we do here on earth will count to what we get in Heaven. So it all works together beautifully :)

We're running a race. We're told to do it faithfully, with all our strength and "for the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:24, Philippians 3:14)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tis the Season...

... for give aways, it seems.

And I totally want this one.

Oh how I want this. Aren't I nice to let you in on the secret?
Ok, so I get an extra entry for it... sue me ;)
But not only that, one lucky person will get a swag of goodies (including a voucher for a 6lb turkey!) which MPT has listed on his site.
You might want to go over there and leave your own entries :)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Thanks and a Reward... kind of.

Thankyou all for your lovely comments about my chapter review :) I was so nervous! And, of course, after it had been up most of the day, I remembered something I really wanted to put in and had forgotten it. Isn't that just the way?

I sort of have a reward for you.

It's completely selfish though, because I hope it helps me. ;)

Centsational Girl has one of the most awesome DIY blogs out there in cyberspace. I el-oh-vee-ee it. And guess what?! She's giving away...


A ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR gift voucher to Lisa Leonard!


I adore Lisa's designs. I've wanted one for ages. Particularly the "Fly Free" one... when I first saw it, I caught my breath... it works beautifully for a prophesy I was given once. It would be such a sweet reminder.

But I think, if I win, I'll use the voucher for something for my mother... I've been trying to work out a way to get her 4 kids, 2 sons in law and nearly 8 grandchildren onto one pendant. So I emailed Lisa to ask a question... and she wrote back the sweetest email :) She assured me it wasn't a dumb question, but unfortunately, what I had asked for wasn't possible after all. But she did give me some lovely ideas to use instead. I'm thinking she needs to come up with a "Grandmother" range.

What do you think?

So, anyway... this is just ONE of my entries :)

That's right, Centsational Girl is giving you FOUR chances of wining this awesome prize.


Why are you still here?!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Crazy Love Chapter 8: Profiles of the Obsessed

I've been graciously (and daringly) been asked by Jess and Angie to be this weeks Guest Blogger for The Bloom Book-club .

Please know I use the term "blogger" very loosely.

How's everyone doing so far with the book? I'm loving it, but at the same time, I explain it to those I'm talking to that it's an uncomfortable read. It certainly isn't the type of book I would turn to if I was going for a bubble bath and wanted to switch of and not think. It was the type of book that I shoved into the hands of my pastor and said "You need to read this!"

Then realised what I said and had to back pedal.

Love you honey (I found this here after I quickly ducked out of the room. I'm totally leaving it in.)

*happy sigh* He's a sweetie.

I promise I'm going to try very hard not to use any Aussie-isms in this post... but please forgive me if a few slip in there :)

But let's get into the juicy, shall we? And it is a meaty chapter, for me at least. "They've given me the hardest one," I whined to Adam. "He's already explained pretty much everything... what can I add to it? How do I discuss something that is already out there so simply?"

So I started and then got stuck. And got all stressed out. So I jumped on Bloom Chat and picked the minds of The Night Crew without them really being aware. So girls, if you see things you've said here, this is your credit ;) And I heart you.

I'm going to start by saying that there was no way I was going to be able to cover everything contained in this chapter. So, if I have missed a segment you particularly wanted to be discussed, please hop on over to the Ning site and start a discussion in the forums. Don't be shy or embarrassed! We'd love to hear what you have to say and we honestly look forward to talking with you. I am in no way a bible scholar, and most of the women over there aren't either. All of the women I have encountered over there are lovely and approachable and have a wealth of wisdom and insight. And don't be intimidated by the chat! It goes pretty fast, but you'll get used to it. :) Just jump in and say hi. It's not intimidating. We talk about food and messy houses, hopes, fears and boobs. Seriously. We are so normal.

And, quite obviously, super spiritual.

So... grab your coffee, tea or wine any other caffeinated beverage of choice, because you'll need it. I've waffled rather. It's what happens when there is no word limit. I'm at home with kids all day. I need to use up my quota of adult words.

What I think is the crux of the chapter is that the obsessed are givers. Givers of love, lives, time and resources. They give joyfully, unreservedly and often unrequitedly. Those who are obsessed are willing to do whatever He asks, whenever He asks. I don't think this chapter was written to make you feel like you should be doing doing doing, and if you aren't then you FAIL, or you don't love Jesus. I admit I felt that way at first. But what I think what we need to ask ourselves is "are we surrendered to God?" Are we prepared to say "Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening."? (1 Samuel 3:10)

(There’s a thought... are you the Lord’s servant? Do you do His bidding?)

Please keep in mind through this chapter that just because you haven't sold your house and live in your car and give most of your pay check away, does not mean you are less of a Christian than those who have been called to do so, or feel that they should.

Profile of the Obsessed
Francis gave us the definition of Obsessed right at the beginning...

"To have the mind excessively occupied with a single emotion or topic." (Emphasis mine)

Welcome to conviction, Jen. I hope you enjoy your stay.

It's going to be a long chapter. I can tell.

I'll say it right now... I'm not obsessed with Jesus. Not even nearly. But I'd dearly, dearly love to be.

I don't know about you, but there are a million other things that take up my thoughts pretty much most of the time. My thoughts are not obsessively focused on Christ and His Word. Most of the time I'm focused on how many loads of laundry it will take to make it look like I've done something significant today, or where in the world Bethany has lost her glasses again, or what I'm going to cook for dinner or or or...

I like that Chan reminds us of the joy and peace that God bestows upon us when we adore Jesus, follow His Word and are faithful. It helps me to re focus, turn my eyes onto Jesus and try again tomorrow.

So let's look at the profiles of the Obsessed.

Obsessive Givers of Love
We all know the golden rule. It's been around since... forever.

When reading that passage from Luke 6, I thought I would research verse 35 a little bit. I looked up what words for, "love" "enemy" and "hate" were used. I asked the questions of whether enemy was for a non believer or a brother or sister "in" Christ who was just a big meanie. Did we just have to be friendly, or show unconditional love?

I'll be honest and own up that I was looking for a cop out.

I didn't get it.

The word for love used is agape. Agape was a word that was created especially to define the love Christians had for each other as opposed to the others; eros (passionate), philia(friendship) and storge (parental/family relational). Agape pretty much means that no matter what the person does to us, we won't let ourselves want anything other than the highest good for them, and that we will go out of our way to be good and kind to them. It's also noted in this instance of implying a perpetual abiding rule of action. Not just forcing a smile whenever we happen to run into them up at Target. All. The. Time. For realz NICE.

The word for enemy, echthros, is a personal one, not, say, a governmental one. The definition of a personal enemy is, basically, anyone who wishes you harm, or opposes your interests, or feels hatred towards you.

The word used for hate is miseo. It means to pursue with hatred or detest. The person who miseo's you makes it pretty well known. They do it doggedly.

I don't know about you, but I personally don't have anyone who hates me that much. At least, not that I know about. But I have had people who have hurt me terribly and very deeply, people I considered close friends. Needless to say, now they aren't my most favourite people. In fact, I've gone out of my way to avoid them. Oh, you know, I forgave them... through clenched teeth (ie. not really) but I'm certainly not going to invite them round for coffee.

Which is where Chan got me. He asked "Are you willing to do good to these people? To reach out to them?" (Pg 131)

Uh, that would be a NO.

I don't retaliate much. (Unless you're my husband or my kids. Then I will. Loudly; and more often than not, colourfully. I'm not proud of it; it's just a sad fact. God and me... we're workin' on it.) I'm a hider. An avoider. You hurt me and I'll pretty much stay out of your way. Oh, I'll snipe about you with my husband later, but I won't confront you. I’ll put on The Face when I can’t duck away before you notice me, and I’ll pretend nothing ever happened... but that’s not what Jesus is asking for here. What Jesus challenges us to do in these cases is to actively think and act nicely towards these people. To walk up to the person who caused you the most pain and bless them.

I heard once that you should pray for your enemies that which you wish for yourself. I think I can do that. It's a start at least. Coffee is still a little too hard at the moment, but I can pray that they are blessed in all areas of their lives, and that God's hand will be upon them. I can pray that the Lord fill me with His love for them... and one can only presume the rest will follow.

Obsessive Givers of Lives
As a worship leader, I can remember one Sunday urging the congregation to really mean the words they were singing... not just read them off the screen, but sing them intentionally. I was convicted right there that I myself can get so used to singing a song, what with rehearsals and practice and then typing them all up etc etc... that I too can just rattle them off without thinking about what I'm saying. So, right there on the platform, I promised God that I would always make the effort to mean the words I was singing to Him.

The first song I sang after that silent conversation was "Hosanna" by Brooke Fraser. (LOVE her)

It brought me to my knees.

"Break my heart for what breaks Yours

Everything I am for Your Kingdoms cause


Did you know that God takes you at your word?

And I can tell you, it changes your perspective. When you ask to receive God's heart, don't be surprised or put out when He gives it to you.

Since that day, my heart has been broken time and time again for the orphan, the unborn/aborted and the trafficked. I can only imagine how He is going to use this in my life. There have been a few windows of opportunity that we are excited to see emerging... but for the most part, we are just here waiting on God's timing, and just being willing and open to His call.

Are we willing to give God everything we are? Not just our will, our mind and our heart... but our body and our very lives? Not just in the way of "Ok, God... I'll do whatever You call me to do" but... are you willing to give your life life?

I'm pretty wrapped up in my kids and my husband. They sort of define me in a way at the moment. I'm certainly known in our church as the one with all the kids. Or Troy's mum. Or whichever child they happen to be talking about at that present time. Am I really willing to give them over to God to use to bring Him Glory?

When Francis was talking about being obsessed with safety, I immediately thought of this video. It cracks me up...

Of course, I know where it comes from (Job 1:10) which makes it even funnier, because it's Satan talking.

All joking aside, I've prayed that prayer. Many times. In many different situations. I think the reason I'm frightened to pray the suggested alternative is that I really kinda don't like pain. And I'm sort of attached to my kids and my husband. They grow on you after a while, y'know? And the first thing I can think of when being bold enough to pray that prayer is horrible things. The prayer that Francis challenges us to pray is right up there with prayers for patience and forgiveness...


Of course if you pray those prayers, something's going to happen to actually give you the chance to exercise those things.

I avoid those prayers like the plague.

The idea of praying that prayer Francis offered scares me... what if God decides to test me by taking one of The Multitude? What if we're in an accident and I, you know... get hurt? Or worse... bleed? An obsessed person, as the little synopsis thingie stated, “cares more about God's Kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being sheltered from pain or distress.” (Pg 133)


Obsessive Givers of Time
After reading this chapter, I said to myself "I’m not doing enough. I don’t' help out at a soup kitchen. I'm not on the cleaning roster at church. I'd rather shove peas up my nose than help out in the crèche or Kids Church. I'm obviously not Obsessed with Jesus, because I just do the worship and music and stuff."

And then I sulked and felt bad and drank too much Coke.

But one of the girls on chat mentioned that sometimes, we forget that as mothers our time is usually taken up with giving our time to our family, and often it's the things we do day in day out 24/7, 365 days a year that, even though we kind of don't notice it any more (and neither do our husbands most of the time *grin*), they are the things that we are obsessively giving. We give to others, not ourselves, when we are obsessed. I know I'm certainly not cleaning up the same mess I mopped up yesterday (and the day before and the day before that) for my own self amusement.

Call me strange.

I am in no way saying that we should leave all the serving up to those dear single people or those whose children have grown. But while obsessed people are givers of their time, I doubt strongly that the Lord wants us to spread ourselves too thin... remember He often tells us to just be still. As always, take the time to listen to the Lord. But also remember... when He tells you to go... go.

But what do you have at hand that you can do? Not everything needs to take you away from your family (or your other commitments if you are single... see... I remember you too!) Are you able to open your home to take in someone who needs a place to crash for a night or six? Are you able to cook a meal for someone who’s just had a baby? Are you in a position to swing ten minutes out of your way to carpool with someone who can’t afford to fill their own car with fuel? What about caring for a single mother’s child/ren while she’s at work so she doesn’t have to pay for child care? Can you sit and listen to that girlfriend who's having boy problems again and actually listen and respond with care and deliberation, not just going "uh huh... yuh... yep... I know.... uh huh..."

It doesn’t even have to be things like that which take up large chunks of time... can you carve out 5 minutes in your week to sit down and write a note or a card to encourage someone on team at your church, or a congregation member who looked a little strung out last Sunday? Can you find 20 minutes when the baby is asleep or instead of watching the show you watch religiously to make a phone call to the lonely elderly lady who’s family live in another state? If you’re mowing your lawn... and your neighbour jokes for the hundredth time “want to do mine when you’re done?”... how ‘bout, instead of the half grimace smile and polite barely-a-laugh, answering joyfully “Sure!” (Or send your hubby to do it... nothing wrong with delegating *wink*)

Not everything is grandiose, but everything measures for something in Eternity. And you may probably never know exactly how much those few moments of your surrendered time might mean to those you bestow it upon.

Just take care not to measure your deeds, or keep a list... like, “today I did such and such and yesterday I did this, that and the other. Look Self! (and God) I'm Serving!” If we’re measuring, then we’ve missed the point. Also, remind yourself that measuring is different from being careful to make sure our primary priorities, such as our spouse or our kids, are not being abandoned.

Obsessive Givers of Resources
Do you give sacrificially?

I remember how our church put on a little public bbq thing for ANZAC day. There were games, face painting and balloon sculptures. It was all free, and that was indulged in readily and heartily.
The interesting thing was the free food.
We gave away drinks, sausages, cookies and bananas. (We have a banana farmer in our congregation.) We literally had to force them into people’s hands. They weren't used to being given something like that with nothing being asked for in return.

Where I live, we are experiencing the worst housing crisis of any city in Australia, and perhaps the western world. People are living in tents because there is just nowhere else for them to go.

And the rainy season is just about here.

I'm not talking about a couple of sprinkles and a few puddles or a big rain ... Monsoon. Pretty much every day.

For four months.

There are the working homeless; people who have well paying jobs, but have no other choice but to sleep in their car at the beach. I've heard stories of pregnant women in tents, due to give birth any time soon and families of five living in one room in a parents house. One mother has been couch hopping with her two small children for nearly a year, and she’s running out of friends. To add insult to injury, we also have the highest rent and buying costs of any capital city in the country.

But at the same time... I don't know where these people are. I don't know what they need, besides a roof over their heads. I also couldn't tell you where to go to hand out food parcels. Like Francis, I have not intentionally gone to look for those in need.

When Francis told of the reactions of people when he sold his house, so that he could donate the extras to the poor, I chuckled to myself, because I had heard every single one of those... only they were talking about how many children we had.

Lots of people think we are crazy for having (almost) six kids. They are being nice about this pregnancy, more than they were the last one, where some people were downright hateful. Either that or they think we're nuts, and it's better not to disturb the unbalanced.

This really doesn't have much to do with being crazy in your literal interpretation of the bible, but it does example what people will think if you go against the "norm". Or when you don't do the "comfortable" Christianity so many seem to enjoy. Adam and I have a sponsor child in Guatemala, and even in the toughest times, like Jess spoke about on the video last week, it was never an option to not pay for his support. In our family, what we pay to Delmar each month costs the same as a dinner trip to MacDonald’s for all of us. In the greater scheme of things, it's not much. We hope to have at least as many sponsor children as we have biological ones... something that some people look at us strangely for, and question whether it’s a wise or fiscal decision. And whenever we mention that we would like (in about 5 or so years) to adopt a girl or two from a country where the sex slave trade is highest, people throw their hands up in horror and give us up as hopeless.

Putting yourself out there for others makes people uncomfortable. It's not your fault.

It's theirs.

Just run with it, and don't worry what people say. In the end, God isn't going to care about what other people thought at the time. He'll be more concerned with what He thought, and your reaction to that.

Jesus doesn't ask all of us to go off to serve in Africa, or start crisis pregnancy centres, or adopt eleventy-three orphans. For most of us it's just the everyday stuff that almost seems like it doesn't really matter... the child minding, the loving on our husbands and/or family, the prods to watch the way you speak to people or to adjust your attitude to house cleaning... Of course, those last two could just be mine, but you get the idea.

Be surrendered. Be willing. Take joy in serving others.

And Then There’s Our First Love
Not only do the obsessed love others, they love Jesus. Passionately. Since we can’t go up and hug Jesus personally just yet, our adoration plays out in doing what He asks of us. Jesus said in the first part of John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.”

Under the subheading “The Rooted”, Chan writes as a summary, “People who are obsessed with God have an intimate relationship with Him. They are nourished by His Word throughout the day because they know that 40 minutes on a Sunday is not enough to sustain them for a whole week...” (Pg 145)

I vaguely remember Quiet Time. And yet, ridiculously, I wonder sometimes why my relationship with Jesus isn’t all it could or should be. A couple of weeks ago, during the sermon, the preacher said that he remembered a card on their mother’s dressing table mirror that said “Feeling far from God? Guess who moved.” You just can’t expect your relationship with your Heavenly Father to thrive and grow and deepen if you don’t actually deliberately draw aside to spend time with Him. Obsessed people spend as much time with Him as they can, are devoted to Him, and delight in bringing Glory to His name. They want to be like Christ... humble, forgiving, loving, giving, and in constant commune with the Father. They long for heaven, and remember, like Clara, that “You must be ready... It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.” (Luke 12:40a & 43)

I remember when I was first dating Adam that all I wanted to do was be with him. If I could have crawled inside of his skin, I would have. There was nothing I wouldn't do for him, fetch for him, gift him... We spent hours on the phone, we wrote letters and notes to each other and we wagged (skipped) more classes than I think we attended because we just wanted to be together.

When was the last time you (I) felt like that about Jesus? That crazy, all consuming, obsessive love?

Or has your love not waned, exactly, but settled into a comfortable sort of... complacency?
"A person who is obsessed is characterised by a committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing and every other being" (pg 143)

That’s the bar I’m aiming for.