Thursday, January 24, 2013

Morning Routine

This morning, after snoozing my alarm, I was lying there thinking about how my day would begin if I had actually turned the alarm off when I intended to snooze it.  Would David’s alarm give me enough time to get everything done?  If not, what would I give up for the sake of getting to school on time?  My shower?  Professional clothes?  Putting on make-up and/or combing my hair?  Eating breakfast?  My quiet time?  (Thinking about my house these days, “quiet” time is used loosely at  I thought about how it would be socially unacceptable for me to leave the house without showering (and rightfully so)!  As for my clothes … hopefully I laid something out the night before, so I don’t have to think and fret.  Hair and make-up aren’t a must, but still … I would feel self-conscious all day if I didn’t at least look at myself in the mirror.  Breakfast … my body is conditioned to eat breakfast every day, so whether I ate it at home or at school, breakfast will be had!  As much as I hated to admit it to myself, when I’m rushed in the morning, the first thing to go is my quiet time.

I started thinking about how skimping on my quiet would affect my day every bit – if not more than – any of the other parts of my morning routine.  So I dragged my sleepy self out of bed and got going, so that I could see what God’s Word has to say specifically … and how I sensed the Holy Spirit applying it to me today.  This is what I found.

Hair and Make-up:  1 Peter 3:3-4, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.  You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. (NLT)
My family and students could probably tell you that, when I miss (or skip) my quiet time, there isn’t much gentle or quiet about my spirit.  And I sooooo want to be precious in God’s sight!

Clothing:  Colossians 3:12-14, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
What if – instead of (or in addition to) deliberately choosing my clothes for the day – I would be deliberate about clothing myself with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love?

Shower:  Ephesians 5:25-26, “… Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.
Every time I skip my quiet time, it’s like skipping my morning shower.  No matter how dressed up I get, I just never feel clean.  When I don’t spend time in God’s Word, I’m not giving Christ the time to wash me with His Word.  I know that His work on the cross is finished, but I want to give myself that time each day, so I feel clean.  Verse 27 goes on to say that this washing is so that we can be presented to Christ Himself without a spot or wrinkle or blemish.  When I leave the house – having woken up late or on time or early – I have to remember each and every day that it is not my family or friends, colleagues or students to whom I am presenting myself.  It is Christ.

Breakfast … I’m starved!  John 4:31-32, 34, “Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’  But Jesus replied, ‘I have a kind of food you know nothing about.’  Did someone bring him food while we were gone?’ the disciples asked each other….  Then Jesus explained: ‘My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing His work.’”
At home or on the go, my body has no energy without fuel; likewise, neither do our spirits.  Just as Jesus was energized by doing the will of God … if we are going to live out our true identity in Christ – members of His body (Eph 5:29-30) … sealed by His Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13) (… just the 2 we’ve talked about in Sunday school) – we must draw our energy from God by following His will and direction in our daily lives.

As you check yourself in the mirror today (maybe when you’re washing your hands for the 100th time), think about your spiritual clothing.  Has your commitment to mercy, kindness, love, etc. faded like the lip gloss you’re touching up … or the tie you’re straightening?  Have you picked up some dirt?  Are you hungry?

Now what? … I think you know.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"For This Reason a Man Shall Leave His Father..." (Eph 5:28-32)

Who are we in Christ?  (The common thread that is tying our lessons together.)  We are MEMBERS OF HIS BODY.  God reveals this through Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (Eph 5:29-30).  Instead of thinking about being Christ’s arm or ear or pancreas (Chad); when we stepped back to see the context of Eph 5:29-30, we saw that it is set in the midst of a teaching about marriage relationships (vs. 28-32 … or even further Eph 5:21-6:4).  Paul is actually using our experience with human marriage relationships to help us understand the spiritual marriage relationship between Christ and the church.

In studying this, I found it so interesting that Paul (in vs. 31) quoted Adam (from Gen 2:24):
Eph 5:31, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
Gen 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall become united and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Both Therefore and For this reason are phrases that naturally call us back to see what prompted their inclusion.  In Gen 2:23 the joining came from the fact that God had formed Woman (not recorded as Eve until Gen 3:20) by taking a rib out of Adam’s side while he slept.  She was “bone of [his] bones and flesh of [his] flesh” (Gen 2:21-23).  Naturally speaking, neither one would be complete unless the rib was joined back to Adam’s body and Adam’s body joined back to the rib.

The same is true for Christ and the church.  Again, Paul uses our knowledge of the natural (husband and wife) in order to help us understand the spiritual (Christ and the church).  Just like Adam said that a man would leave his father and mother to join his wife, Christ left His Father in heaven for His bride the church.  We will not be complete until we are joined back to Him as part of His body.

… As for Paul (as we continue to follow his missionary journeys in Tentmakers), we are witnessing through Scripture his statement in 2 Corinthians 11:2:  “For I am zealous for you with a godly eagerness and divine jealousy, for I have betrothed you to one Husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

As we studied Acts 15:35-40 last week (alongside Eph 5:29-30), we will continue this week into Acts 16 as well as looking at another aspect of our identity in Christ.  But until then ... Now What?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Members of His Body (Eph 5:29-30, Acts 15:22-34)

This Sunday in our Tentmakers class, I asked why it is important for us to know who we are in Christ.  If you were there, then you know that, in the moments after the question was asked, we could have heard crickets chirping – if that is I played nature soundtracks during class … which I don’t.  I posed the question in the first place because – in starting a new year … and thinking about the direction God has led (is leading) this ministry – I wanted to thank Him for Who He is and also for Who I am in Him, but (embarrassingly for Sunday School leader and Christian blogger) I had a hard time remembering all of what the Bible tells me about who I am in Christ.  So this past Sunday we continued following Paul down his ministry journey … only this week we looked through a new lens.  And just like a new pair of glasses, this new lens can help us clarify what we’re seeing and learning, especially when things seem fuzzy from our own eyes.
So where are we down the path of Paul’s ministry journey?  Well, we traveled with Paul as well as with Barnabas, Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but an early church apostle who happened to bear the same name), and Silas back to Antioch of Syria with the letter from the early church leaders both in their hands and on their lips.  Judas and Silas were sent by the church at Jerusalem to read the letter explaining their position regarding the issue causing so much unrest in the Gentile church at Antioch.  Do you remember what that issue was?  If not, look back at Acts 15:1-2…  Even if you do remember, go there anyway; we’ll be looking at some nearby verses soon enough.
The issue?  Was circumcision really a requirement for salvation as some men from the church in Jerusalem were teaching?  Acts 15:30 tells us that the congregation was assembled to hear the reading of the letter, and I’m sure each one was anxiously waiting to hear the answer to the question of circumcision.  Interestingly, when you read the letter recorded in verses 24-29, circumcision isn’t mentioned specifically; rather it is implied as an unnecessary burden (Acts 15:28) that the church leaders refused to place on the body of Christ.
And there’s our lens for today’s lesson.  Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:29-30 that “… no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body.” (Amplified).  Placing an unnecessary burden placed on one member of the body ultimately causes all parts to suffer (1 Cor 12:26).  What happens when you run on a sore foot?  You change your stride to help with pain, and then your knee starts hurting because it has had to change what it does to help the foot.  And then the hip because of the knee and so on.  Instead of additionally burdening the body of Christ with Jewish traditions – showing hatred and contempt for their Gentile brothers – they followed Christ’s example of nourishing and protecting and cherishing the members of His body by (1) sending trusted representatives, Judas and Silas, to minister to the needs of that congregation and (2) identifying what was really important to keep the church at Antioch heading in the right direction.
I’ll leave you with two questions for you to consider today:
(1) Who is/has been part of your life … a person you know that God Himself sent as His trusted representative to minister to your needs?  If you don’t have faces popping into your head, ask God to bring them to mind.  You are a part of the body of His Son.  He cares for you!
(2) What practices/traditions is God revealing to you as unnecessary burdens that you are attempting to carry?  Remember that we are to stay in step with the Holy Spirit – not running ahead or falling behind.  Unnecessary burdens will only slow us down.  (Oooh, look up Hebrews 12:1 … one of my favorites!)
You are a member of the body of Christ!  Now what are you going to do with that?
… I guess that’s three questions.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Now What?

In case you noticed the name change from Tents to Temple to Now What?  no, you’re not on the wrong blog.  I decided to change the name because … well, Tents to Temple never felt very authentic to me and, also, because I want the year 2013 to be about more than gathering information and acquiring knowledge.  I want God to give me the opportunity to apply each and every lesson He teaches me … and I want the same for you.  As James said in his epistle, “But be doers of the Word, and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves” (James 1:22, Amplified).  In my words, after each and every lesson (formal or informal), I need to ask myself, “Now what, Lori?  Now that you know this, what are you going to do with it?

Our current line of study finds us between Paul’s first and second missionary journeys.  In class, we have looked at the meeting of the Jerusalem council, concerning the circumcision of the Gentiles (both in Acts 15:1-21 and Galatians 2).  Let’s meet up together again in Acts 15 and read verses 22-29.  I think we can all find some things in these verses with which to identify!

First off, verse 24 jumps out at me:  “As we have heard that some persons from our number have disturbed you with their teaching … although we gave them no express orders or instructions.”  Those words convey to me a mixture of feelings that the brethren in Jerusalem may have been feeling:  maybe a mixture of irritation (anger even) toward those teachers but more so a profound sadness at the state they had left this congregation in.  I’m sure we can all think of a time when we were misrepresented maybe in something little or something big.  What lessons are there to be learned from situations like this?

One lesson we see in Scripture that the apostles learned and were able to apply right away was the need for clear and direct communication.  Their letter, recorded in verses 23-29, was sent in three ways.  First, it was written down (giving the elders control over word choice).  Second and third, it was delivered by the hands of their own trusted representatives (Judas and Silas, vs. 27) as well as with people the recipients knew personally and trusted (Barnabas and Paul, vs. 25).

The second verse that jumps out at me is verse 28:  “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”  How often is it that something seems good to both you and the Holy Spirit, that is?  Those are the easy times whether or not they come often.  What about those times when something seems good to one or the other but not both?  Who wins more often than not?  Is your obedience to the Holy Spirit immediate or reluctant or absent?  If you’re like me, you wish that the true answer and the right answer were closer together than they are.  So now what?  Today.  This week.  This year.  Will you make a decision to do what seems good to the Holy Spirit or to myself?  Will I?  If you don’t have a strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life, will you make getting to know Him a priority … until His will becomes your own?  The ball’s in your court. 

Now What?