Fixing our eyes on Jesus

Yesterday’s post brought to mind Hebrews 12:1-2:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The NIV translates the phrase “looking to Jesus” as “fixing our eyes on Jesus.”

Much like a dancer chooses a fixed point to anchor to while doing spins, we need our eyes fixed on Jesus to keep our focus. And that leads me to this song that we often sing in church.

When my heart is weary
When my soul is weak
When it seems I can’t traverse the trail before me
I survey the glory
Of your agony
And I find the will to fight for what’s before me
‘Cause you ran the race enduring for your glory

 

This part of the series, everyday adventures. <— Click to read all the posts in the series so far.

everyday adventures

 

Day 16: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

candle flameYou are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 5:1-20

 Part of the Crushing your Kingdoms series.

crushing your kingdoms

Exciting news (why I haven’t been writing lately)

I love, love, love, love, love my church.

No, it’s not perfect; neither am I. Yes, there probably are hypocrites; I’m probably one of them in some area. It’s definitely filled with people who have sinned and who have recognized God’s grace on them to rescue them from the damnation due all of us for rebelling against a holy God. It’s filled with broken people who are healing. It’s filled with grace (karis).

Easter was a powerful time of gathering in worship in Karis Church. On our last song of the day, the instruments fell silent and everyone’s voices were raised singing victoriously, In Christ Alone. I was so taken by the sound of all our voices that I stopped singing and recorded the audio from my phone. Here, with photos taken by Shalonda Farrow that day, is what I heard:

(I’m sorry, I can’t figure out why this won’t play on smartphones. If you have tips, I’d love to hear them. The video is posted on youtube.)

Our young church is growing. It’s exciting to watch it grow. And we’re feeling the growing pains right now in a huge way.

SOMEONE GAVE US A BUILDING.

A church in town is closing its doors and they decided, rather than selling what was left, to give their building to our young church. Incredible.

It’s not a new building and it’s not ideally laid out for today’s congregation. The lobby is small and cramped; there’s no space to check in children for Karis Kids or gather over a cup of coffee. It needs to be updated with sound and media equipment for showing song lyrics and scripture passages on-screen.

Demo galsAnd so, our mostly 20-somethings congregation is seeking to raise $50,000 to ready the facility to be a Gathering Place. We’ve already started construction and have made the auditorium larger by knocking out a few closets and small classrooms. Our pastor recently outlined the full vision on his blog. It. is. exciting!

So, this is partly why I’ve been so vacant from my blog. There’s exciting stuff going on and I’m in the thick of it. I’ve been helping with some of the organizational, behind-the-scenes stuff. I got to take some pictures last weekend of the first demolition day. There’s some fun pictures of that on our church’s Facebook page. Did I mention how exciting this is?

Would you pray with me for God to provide the money we need?

Would you pray for the work that needs to be done in such a short period of time?

Would you pray for God to bless the ministry of Karis Church as we seek to share the gospel of Christ with our community, across our state and the world?

I’ve Been Preapproved

To be preapproved means this: We love from our approval, not for our approval. We love without expecting anything in return. – Jennifer Dukes Lee

PreapprovedI just finished reading Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee. The subtitle on the cover sums it up so well, “Letting go of your need for approval and seeing yourself through God’s eyes.”

So often today, we have blinded ourselves to who we really are. We strive and work to be accepted by parents, peers, bosses, and sometimes even strangers.  That longing for approval creates idols that replace God.

Love Idol reminds us that we don’t have to prove ourselves – we can’t, even. Much like a credit card offer, we have been preapproved by Christ. We are already accepted and loved. The book is a journey to help us gain freedom from the bondage of people pleasing, perfectionism, and approval seeking.

I wanted to really dig into Love Idol, but I didn’t quite get caught up in it as I’d hoped. Jennifer is a gifted writer, but that gift sometimes got in the way. At times, the description of the surroundings of a conversation were so brilliantly written, that I stumbled out of the story to focus on the scenario she just created, that I missed the reason the story was included and had to re-read the passage.

Despite that, I still would encourage people to read the book, but to do so with discernment (as we should with anything, really). I have a friend in mind who I think will enjoy the book and I look forward to passing it on.

Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book released early, so it’s available now at multiple online retailers. You can also join the Love Idol Movement on Facebook.

Day 30: Rest in Your Mess

Photo credit: Jennifer @ http://www.jenbh.blogspot.com/

I’m a mess.

I stay up too late at night so I’m groggy and cranky when the alarm goes off – IF I hear the alarm go off. I run late – EVERY.WHERE. I lost a lot of weight, got new clothes, then gained the weight back and now nothing fits right. I put off emptying the dishwasher until the sink is full of dishes. “Luckily?,” I have a cat who can’t get it through her thick skull that she’s not allowed on the kitchen counters, so I have to keep the counters clean or she’d be licking anything left on the counter. I nag and complain and am rude to my husband when I think he should be home helping me clean. I get sidetracked by Facebook or Pinterest or blog reading instead of doing something constructive. I procrastinate. I’m jealous. I get angry. I covet my neighbor’s…well, everything.

Let’s just stop there for now. I could go on, but we all get the point – I’m a mess.

You’re a mess, too. I don’t mean to sound rude, but you know it’s true. Even if you don’t let anyone see it, you know it.

We are all messes. That should actually be comforting. Because God meets us in our mess – we don’t have to clean up our act before He wants us or before He will accept us. Romans 5:6-8 says:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Weak = messes. Sinners = messes.

We don’t have to hide our messes from one another in community, though, pretending we are already perfect. God is perfecting us as we grow closer to Him, but we’ll never be absolutely perfect this side of eternity. Pretending to be so is really only adding to the mess.

Be willing to show your mess to your friends. Be real about your mess in community. It only creates more opportunity for grace to abound (Romans 5-6) or, as Mary DeMuth put it, it’s where grace will find a home.

Rest in your mess because God shows His love for you in your mess. Then grow in grace, releasing more and more of your mess into His hands, allowing Him to work in you. My prayer for you from Philippians 1:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Can you believe it’s Day 30 of the series on Rest?

31Days_Rest_thumb

Day 5: Sabbath Rest

Sabbath

I had the amazing opportunity to go to Israel in 1996 with my Mom and, like, 998 other people – we were part of a 1,000 voice choir singing in various historic places around Jerusalem as part of the 3000 anniversary of Jerusalem being named the capital of Israel by King David. NBD. Okay, it was awesome.

One of the minor details that stuck with me was the bank of elevators in our hotel. It was a huge hotel with four towers of rooms, and I think I remember 8 elevators in the main wing. But one elevator was labeled a Shabbat elevator, with a note that indicated it would stop at every floor during Shabbat. Shabbat is the Hebrew word for Sabbath.

What this meant is that during the hours of Sabbath, the elevator would automatically stop for each floor, so that an Orthodox Jew observing Shabbat would not have to push a button, which could be considered work (or the using of electricity could create a tiny spark which is the equivalent of kindling a fire or the electricity could close a circuit as equal to building something), which is not allowed during Shabbat.

Now, I don’t say all this to go into debate about whether or not an elevator should be used. But one reason the elevator stuck in my mind is because the Jewish people remember the command. They observe Sabbath – a ceasing of work, a remembering, a resting.

I was really excited to find out that Aarik Danielsen will be preaching this Sunday on the Sabbath, not the verse from the 10 Commandments, but later on, Exodus 31:12-18.

12 And the Lord said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

Now I want to be honest and say that when I first planned out this series on rest, I did not even think about the Sabbath. But this passage clearly indicates a day of solemn rest that is holy to the Lord.

I know Aarik has put hours of study into preparing for Sunday’s sermon, part of our Set Free series in Karis Church, so I’m not even going to go further with this post. I just wanted you to start thinking about the Sabbath and rest, as I did when I heard about the sermon. I’ll have a follow-up post where I share some things I learned and link to the audio from the sermon.

Praying you have a restful Sunday.
Blessings.

31Days_Rest_thumb ←Click to find links to each day in the series.

I’m one of 1500+ blogs participating in the Nester’s 31 Day Blog Challenge.

Mouth closed; ears open.

*Sigh*

Last night, I started a post about developing laryngitis during a recent cold and discovering that so often when I thought I had something to say, I had to close my mouth and listen instead. In the end, I didn’t always need to chip in my two cents.

Do you hear the crickets chirping? Or was that a pin dropping?

Apparently, I didn’t hit save (though, I’m certain I did), because opening that draft tonight, all but the first two sentences were missing. A page of silence.

The book of James tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. So often – too often – I am slow to listen, quick to speak and in a gosh-darned hurry to get angry. (more…)

How I saw God in the snow

Snowfall

It’s snowing this morning. Finishing my granola, I sat and watched the snow fly about. It was several minutes before I realized I was still sitting there on the futon, empty bowl in hand, gazing out the window. I’m not sure what I was thinking about or what specifically I was looking at, but I had a smile on my face. I enjoy snow.

To a child, snow is magical. Here in Missouri some school children practice a snow ritual of wearing pajamas inside out and backwards along with putting a spoon under their pillows to “make it snow.” Sort of a snow dance, if you will. I grew up in Michigan where there was no need for a snow dance. We got plenty of it every year. Of course, snow didn’t guarantee a day off from school either, except for the one year we had a new principal from Florida. His first year we had a lot of snow days!

I love the smell in the air right before snow starts. (more…)

Looking for splotches

Splotches.

As defined by me, a splotch is a glimpse of grandeur where you least expect to find one. A breathtaking mountain vista seen from the middle of a city; deer in the woods as you bike down a path; the moon, full and glowing when you round a bend; a friendly face in a sea of strangers.

A peek at the hand of God. (more…)

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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