Fiona in January

Fiona in January

Monday, June 27, 2011

Who Is This Jesus?

I had mentioned a few posts ago that our church is doing a message series called "These Things We Believe" focusing on the pillars of the Christian faith, explaining the Apostle's Creed and really digging deep into the foundation of our faith...why we believe what we do.

It has been a great series to dig into, a really strong reminder of what I hold dear as a follower of Christ. As someone who was privileged to be raised in the church and by parents who are strong believers, I have a solid background in the foundation of our faith...however, in the craziness of life, when tragedy strikes and when life doesn't make sense, it has become easier and easier to "forget" I am not only a Christian...but a true child of the Creator of the universe, and that comes with an all-access pass to Him. Focusing on the foundations of my faith has been a much-needed reminder of who I am, who God is and why I believe what I do.

This week's message was given by our senior pastor, Brian, and he dug into exactly who Jesus is. This is a huge issue, not just for Christians, but for people of all religions across the world. Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, Bhuddists, and so many others have a perspective of exactly who Jesus is.

Brian's first point of order was to talk about four major heresies about the person of Jesus Christ that became popular centuries and centuries ago. He made the point that he wasn't just giving us a history lesson in old heretical beliefs that challenged the Christian faith for the heck of it - that these major heresies are reflected in religions all over the world.

#1 - Adoptionism: This belief about Jesus is that he was just a man. A man who was very spiritual and became spiritual enough that God "made him a son" through his baptism.

#2 - Nestorianism: This belief focuses on Jesus being half God and half man, almost seen as a somewhat unstable figure with a multiple personality disorder.

#3 - Arianism: This heresy about the person of Jesus states that God created Jesus himself, then Jesus created the universe. This would give Jesus the status as a step-down from God, a demi-god rather than God.

#4 - Docetism: This is the concept that Jesus/God vacated heaven to come down to earth, put on an "earth suit", the image of a human being, but he wasn't human at all - he just appeared that way.

So all of this begs the question: who is this Jesus? Who do I believe He is? For answers, I turn to the one and only authority I know and need. God's Word. What does the Bible say about who Jesus is? John 1:14 lays it all out for me.

In the beginning was The Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

That says it all. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. I don't understand that. Who could? But, Pastor Brian made a fantastic point about that. If I had to understand everything about God in order to place my faith in Him, my God would be as small as my understanding. I don't know about you, but I don't want a God I can fit into a box...I want the awe-inspiring Creator of the universe. I don't have to understanding everything about Him, I couldn't with this finite little brain of mine. All I have to do is know and trust that God is good, God loves me and always has my best interest as His goal.

Every other world religion can be summed up in two letters...D-O. Do good works, pray, read the religious books, go to church...and when you die, cross your fingers and HOPE you've somehow done enough "good" to outweigh the "bad" on the eternal scales. The difference with believing in Jesus Christ is that it is DONE. There is nothing you have to do other than believe in Him. Any good you do in your life, any prayer and Bible reading comes out of a desire to know God better...not a desperate need to try to earn your place in heaven when you die. The price for that has already been paid. If there was any other way to heaven, then Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is a joke and His blood was wasted suffering.

Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man, He came to earth, suffered and died to pay the ultimate price for our sins so we can have a chance to have a relationship with Him and be secure in our eternal destiny in heaven when we die. The whole point of Jesus being fully God AND fully human is that he relates to the pain of humanity. He can literally understand our pain and suffering because he experienced it. One of the best Bible passages that describes this truth is Hebrews 4:14-16

Since we have a great High Priest (someone to intercede on our behalf to God) who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

If you want to check out the entire message (and I highly encourage you to do that!), click on the video below. If you don't have a church you attend regularly, check us out and please - I welcome your comments and questions on the blog, so hook me up with your feedback!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Do You Care?

As I dug into the second chapter of this book, I was really drawn in by the chapter's title "Lord, Don't You Care?" This chapter centered around the passage of the Mary/Martha story in Luke 10:40 - Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

We've all felt the loneliness, frustration, left-out-ness and resentment Martha experienced - doing all that work for others when no one seems to notice or care. Life isn't "fair", but that's exactly what we want it to be when we're feeling underwhelmed and under-appreciated. We want the recognition and appreciation we feel we deserve. Constantly feeding that need to work and work and work some more is what can truly contribute to a physical and/or emotional burnout. This applies to daily work, friendships, charity work, ministry positions, etc.

Joanna Weaver outlined 5 Unrealistic Expectations that can contribute to burnout in her second chapter:

#1 - There shouldn't be limits to what I can do
#2 - I have the capacity to help everyone
#3 - I am the only person available to help
#4 - I must never make a mistake
#5 - I have the ability to change another person

Exodus 18:17-18 echoes this sentiment, "What you are doing is not good...You will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone."

Satan has always used the same tactics to get our eyes off God an onto our circumstances instead. Distraction, discouragement and doubt - those are the steps we can easily fall into as we get overwhelmed and put unrealistic expectations on ourselves instead of focusing on God in our day-to-day lives.

Satan always begins with distraction. Martha's pursuits were hardly trivial. Her preparations were important and could even be considered as ministry. However, her "ministry" and expectations overwhelmed her and it alienated her. Rather than doing things "unto the Lord", she settled for just getting things done. That's when the weight of discouragement can set in.

I don't know about you, but when I'm distracted, discouragement is just around the corner. It breaks down our perspective and defenses, telling us we are useless, hopeless and abandoned. Elijah's story in I Kings 18 is a great example of this. He wallowed so far down into self-pity that he begged God to let him die. And it all began with discouragement.

One thing that I find so hard to remember sometimes is that when I am distracted, discouraged, tired and overwhelmed - there is no better place to go than to my Heavenly Father. Instead, I often choose to hid in a session of self-pity...which never really seems to help.

One of the Bible verses I've always clung to (and some days need to be reminded of!) is Deuteronomy 31:8 - The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.

The answer to Martha's questions, "Lord, don't you care?" is simple. He will always answer us, He will always care, even though it may not come in the way we expect. All we have to do is take those worries, those hurts to Him instead of holding them close and letting them turn to fear and doubt in our own heads.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Having a "Mary" Heart in a "Martha" World

I have just begun a new personal Bible study. I finished up my study going through this book and was really looking for just the right "next" book to read as part of my daily quiet time with God. I wasn't really inspired by much I was finding until I came across this book packed in a box. I have no idea where I got it - maybe from my sister Kate - but it practically leaped out of the box and smacked me in the face.

God knows me pretty well - I need obvious direction, subtle is not my style!

I started going through this book last week and it seems to be exactly what I need to be reading these days. I've been struggling with prioritizing daily time with God, which is something I've been trying to work on since our church did the "Free Growth" series...but I've gotten distracted and discouraged these past few months with us moving, juggling jobs and transportation, etc. I've allowed life to take over instead of proactively setting aside time each day to spend in God's Word and in prayer. I know that I'm suffering because of it, I feel less focused and much more easily overwhelmed than I do when I know I'm fully anchored through daily communication with Him.

Hence the book almost smacking me in the face!

The book is called "Having A Mary Heart in A Martha World". Those of you unfamiliar with this Mary and Martha story can find it in the Bible - Luke 10:48-42.

It is my goal to regularly blog about what I am learning through this study and I hope that some of what I learn can encourage you too. The very first chapter in this book is really an introduction into the short story of Mary and Martha (two sisters) when Jesus and his disciples unexpectedly come to visit their home.

Luke 10:42 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her."

Just a little background - the basic story is that when Jesus and his disciples came to visit, Martha was busy about the house making preparations for them. Cooking, cleaning, etc. Mary chose to sat at Jesus' feet and listen to Him teach. Martha became frustrated with her sister and the fact that she wasn't helping with the preparations and Jesus used it as an opportunity to teach us how we can prioritize spending time with our God in a busy world.

This first chapter of the book focused on the fact that whether you tend to be a bit driven, like Martha, or more contemplative, like Mary, God is calling you to intimacy with Him through Jesus Christ. The only requirement for a deeper friendship with God is showing up with a heart open and ready to receive.

The world we live in clamors, "Do more! Be all you can be!" But our heavenly Father whispers, "Be still and know that I am God." He isn't as much looking for busy workers as He is for children - to be a son or daughter of God means to know Him first, prioritize a relationship with Him first, then everything else will fall into place. Putting work before worship truly putting the "cart before the horse". When we first spend time in His presence, God gives us the power and strength we need to serve Him and go about the challenges each day brings us whether at work or at home.

When it comes down to it, part of me is Mary - I want to worship and spend time with Jesus. However, part of me is Martha - there is so much to be done! Life is hectic at every level, so where do we find the time and energy to worship our Lord and serve Him among the demands of being an employee, a wife, a mother, etc.?

It comes down to obedience. There is time to work, but there is also time to worship. It all comes back to adjusting those pesky priorities.

I'm making a commitment to really work on that issue in my own life, and so far I've been keeping that commitment well. It's beginning to make a difference in my own thoughts and prayers and I find myself looking forward to spending time in God's Word and this new book. It doesn't feel like "work" to try to carve out "extra" time to spend with feels more like a privilege and something I must do in order to make it through the eating breakfast or remembering to take a shower (also extremely important!).

Do any of you have any ideas that work for you as you try to prioritize worship in your daily life? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Getting Back to the Basics

There is something to be said about getting back to basics...whether it involves simple and effective cleaning methods or perfecting classic recipes, basic foundational principles are vital.

A few weeks ago our church started a new series focusing on the solid foundational basics of our faith, "These Things We Believe". Having grown up in the church, so many of these principles are familiar, yet all too easy to forget and forget how important they awe-inspiring having a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe is. I'm enjoying being able to delve into the basics of my faith, the history of those who have gone before us and how I can apply these solid principles to my daily life.

In the first sermon of the series, Pastor Brian, gave us an overview that started with The Apostles Creed. I have never attended a church that regularly recited this ancient statement of the Christian faith (written in 140 AD) and was surprised how much it resonated with me.

I believe in God the Father almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell.

On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.


One of the first things our pastor touched on were two points in the Apostle's Creed that could be easily misinterpreted and confused. The first is the mention of "hell" in "he descended into hell". This has caused so many arguments and confusion in the Christian community, many claiming that after Jesus was crucified, He was sent to hell. This is theologically incorrect and also directly contradicts what the Bible says about Christians and what happens when we die.

When the word "hell" is looked at in the original text, the translation means "the grave". Literally, "the place of the dead". It was a term in the original Greek language that was commonly used to describe death, not the "hell" described in the Bible as eternal separation from God.

The other point that gets confused is the term "catholic", leading many Christians to shy away from this early statement of our faith, claiming that they "aren't Catholic". The term "catholic" (note the lowercase "c") means "universal" in the original Greek, not referring to a denomination - as in the Catholic church as we know it now.

After briefly giving us an overview of The Apostle's Creed, Pastor Brian dug into the second part of his message - focusing on why truth matters. One of his points was reflected in one of my favorite scripture verses - Colossians 1:23 Continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.

Truth determines our eternal destiny, will set us free, gives us the ability to serve in ministry...when it comes down to it, what I believe determines how I behave. It becomes a constant balance of making sure that what I do, how I behave and what I think reflects what I say I believe...much easier to say than do some days!

I'm really looking forward to digging into these foundational beliefs as our church works through this new series. If any of you are thinking of checking out our church (Oak Ridge Baptist in Salisbury, MD), this series might be the perfect time - since we're really stacking up the building blocks of our faith.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Very Thankful Moving Day!

Chaos has descended upon our home. Our new home.

Yep - we moved!

There are so many things I am thankful for relating to this entire process:

- The fact that God has provided a new job for Aaron that means that we could afford to move out and get our own place.

- That I have such generous in-laws who not only let us live upstairs in their home, but they helped us move, let us store things in their attic and completely take over their garage!

- That we have a group of amazing friends willing to give up a chunk of time on a holiday weekend to help us haul all of our belongings upstairs into our new apartment in 90+ degree heat and 80%+ humidity.

Our new place is great - it is slightly less chaotic now that we've been working on unpacking and moving furniture awesome mom-in-law came over on moving day, after everyone had finished hauling boxes, and helped me set up our entire kitchen...woohoo!

Right now I'm starting to eyeball our wall space and try to figure out what artwork of ours I want to place where and what colors I want to incorporate - the fun stuff!

But until I have photos of "the fun stuff" ready to post on the blog, here are a few of the chaos!