Defending our faith

Yesterday I was enjoying a book and the late summer sunshine on campus when two girls approached me. The conversation went like this….

“Hi! We have a Bible study here on campus and we were going around asking people to see what they know about the Bible. Do you believe the Bible is true?”

“Yes, I do!” In my life, the Bible is 100% truth, infallible, and the guide for living our lives and a way in which God speaks to us. The Holy Spirit brings the God-inspired words to life.

“What if we told you that in the Bible it says….”

For an hour we went through the Bible together (it was the New International Version; I asked) and these girls tried to convince me of things not accepted by mainstream Protestant doctrine by using Scripture out of context. I asked them if they had looked up certain things in the Greek or Hebrew, and they told me that “Well, no, but it’s pretty much the exact same thing in English.” While I agree that we have some amazing translations of the Bible in English, in order to get the absolute entire picture, we need to cross-reference these verses with the original languages in which they were written. Even comparing other English translations can shed light onto tough passages of Scripture.

I’m by no means a Bible expert. However, just in the past few years, I really started studying more and learning how to debate (thanks Petr and Gabi for your Christ-centered debate group!!). By God’s grace, I stumped these girls on the issues they were trying to convince me of. They were like robots; they had many verses highlighted with Post-It strips indicating where to go next if the person being interviewed posed a certain question.

My purpose for writing this is not to nit-pick every issue we talked about, nor is it to bash other people or denominations. It’s to illustrate how important it is for us to know what we believe, why we believe it, and where to find it in the Bible.

If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. Even a Christian who attends church and reads the Bible can be swayed by tactics such as these. Do you know where you stand on issues such as creation? Sin? Salvation? Heaven? Hell? The divinity of Jesus? The oneness of the Trinity?

Debating these issues can get heated and sometimes offensive, but I thank God for the grace He gave me and I hope these girls could see what I was showing them out of love. Above all, this is what is important:

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you

to give the reason for the hope that you have.

But do this with gentleness and respect..” I Peter 3:15

and

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed,

but of those who believe and are saved.” Hebrews 10:39

>Our insecurities, magnified

>

I was thinking about this since I read a blog similar to it at Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, and since we had a rough morning at worship practice before church this morning.
Our insecurities don’t just disappear when we begin to get involved in ministry. In fact, our shortcomings can be magnified. That’s what the enemy wants.. for us to feel guilty, bitter, remorseful, and become so ineffective for the Kingdom. Who cares if we actually fall away from church… if we are lukewarm, we might as well have fallen away in my opinion.
My biggest strengths in ministry, and in life for that matter, are also my biggest weaknesses. I’ve been a musician for almost twenty years of my life. Piano lessons, guitar lessons, band, choir, worship bands.. you name it. I love being in a band, and having the freedom to go crazy on the keys. I love worship with all of my heart, and it’s brought me to my knees sometimes.
However, along with my passion, comes my critical side. Even on Sundays when I’m just out in the congregation worshipping, I listen to every little thing and quirk in the sound mix or whatever and it almost prevents me from taking hold of those awesome moments in God’s presence. Like I said, it’s what the enemy wants.
He wants me to become so critical and have such a condescending attitude that I will be rendered ineffective. Sure, I’ll play and sing with grace and feel something during worship.. but I’ll only be giving 5%.
So, I admit, I had a poor attitude this morning. Why can’t they play that right? Why can’t everyone be on time? Why why why.. blah blah blah. And guess what? I had my own humbling experience when I forgot what song we were playing after communion and Patrick had to tell me what it was. Embarrassing, yes. Without grace and precision, yes.
As I sat there at the keyboard staring at the keys in utter embarrassment (because you know, I never make mistakes.. ha!) I started to feel this bitter and self-deprecating attitude come over me. Then I realized that I’ve been through much more embarrassing things. I was not about to let the biggest joy of my life (besides being married, of course) be stolen from me in that moment!
Who cares what anyone else thinks? I made a mistake. I’m quite entitled, since I’m human. It’s inevitable. But it’s done, over with, and I have some worship to do.
In the past I would have let that one moment of confusion let me down for the rest of the morning. I still had another service to play through, and heck if I was going to waste it.
Part of maturity is recognizing and admitting to our shortcomings. Another part is realizing how detrimental living out our shortcomings can be to the Church. If I were to sit there and not engage in worship because of one little mistake that people won’t even remember in half an hour (we hope!), then I’m allowing myself to become rendered ineffective as a leader for that moment.
Of course, this little life lesson went right along with what Pastor Rick was preaching about… relating to people.
Hebrews 2:17-18: For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Jesus had to be made human in order to be relevant. How would it be if Jesus came in all His deserved glory, ruling over the earth with a spotless white silk robe and golden scepter? What if He were sitting on a throne, with thousands of servants obeying His every command? Because He’s God, He could have done that.
But He didn’t. He worked manual labor as a carpenter for almost twenty years before even beginning His ministry. He dealt with all temptations that we have, and was successful in overcoming them.
Sometimes we have to go through our manual labor for a long time before we’re ready to totally, 100%, embrace our calling. It’s hard at the time, but there is a great reward for our patience and diligence. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (I Pet. 5:6) 
Be prayerful and diligent in whatever ministry you are a part of… be faithful to the needs of that ministry and pray for its members as well. The Lord uses all things for good… maybe not good in our eyes. We deal with all our insecurities for a reason. I love what A.W. Tozer said,
All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time. And all His acts are as pure as they are wise, and as good as they are wise and pure. Not only could His acts not be better done: a better way to do them could not be imagined.”

>On a new journey

>The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind. Graduations and parties that follow, first grade shenanigans at the zoo, and cleaning on steroids. I’ve been home for only a couple of nights in the past few weeks at a decent time. For me, that’s before 6PM. I love my evenings at home, cooking dinner for one and sewing or reading.

As you can see, I’ve also been blogging quite a bit (Check out the “Why I’m Alive” tabs above). It feels so redemptive to get my testimony out there; God has done great things! I am slowly but surely learning how to live a life of gladness and thankfulness. I’m learning that God wants us to have an “inexpressible and glorious joy“. Our God is a God who redeems and restores! Sharing my testimony has been so freeing; I wish I could describe the feeling with more eloquence.

Even as my husband and I continue on this journey together, I know God has great things in store for us. We are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

These last few weeks will be busy. I can’t believe next week is June already! We have been waiting for June 2011 for two years now. I will be running a 5K, going to see Hillsong with my bestie, and spending more time with friends and family.

As Aaron’s return approaches, I find myself calm and collected. No, really. I’m serious. If you ask me if I get nervous or have butterflies before I see him, I would reply with an emphatic “Yes!” as I wait with anticipation at the airport. But this time is different and new. For the past two years, we’ve known that we would only be together for a short period before going back to our geographical bachelor and bachelorette statuses. Now, we are moving in the same direction, at the same time, together.

I find myself not worried. I still have a list of things that need to be done, but overall I am not anxious. As things like small group, worship band, piano lessons, and long Saturday morning runs with Gabi are coming to a close, I wait with excited anticipation for what lies ahead.

>Being sifted as wheat

>It’s not a fun process. It’s not easy, not painless. But it’s totally necessary. Just like Peter, we must be “sifted like wheat” in order to solidify our oneness with the Father.

The Lord doesn’t let us go through hard times to punish us, as many have been taught. He loves us, and just like a parent loves a child, He loves us with a tough love sometimes. Fortunately, His love is absolutely perfect and drives out all fear (1 John 4).

I have been convicted of unbelief in the last several months. When we don’t believe that God can do what He says He can do, we are calling Him a liar and attesting to our arrogance that we can actually do it without Him.

Truth is, we can do nothing apart from Him (John 15:5).

How am I being sifted? By having to be totally reliant on the Lord for my strength, joy, comfort, and peace. No human can provide all those things in perfection to me. No one can provide enough physical comfort, least of all my husband who is over 6,000 miles away. There is nothing else I can do but cast all my cares upon him (Ps. 55:22, 1 Pet. 5:7).

I feel like I am like Peter right now, telling the Lord that yes! I will never deny You! But then I deny Him every time I don’t believe that He can do “the thang” (Beth Moore speak). Just like the Lord predicts Peter’s denial, He knows that I will fail in my weakness time and time again. My perfectionism will do nothing to save me, only the grace of God that is sufficient in our weakness (1 Cor. 12:9). That verse goes on to say, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Man, it’s a good thing I don’t and can’t do it on my own. Why in the world would I want my power, whatever that is, instead of Christ’s power?

I need to seek Him, to call out. “Call to me and I will tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know” (Jer. 33:3). I looked up “call” in my Hebrew dictionary and it gave synonyms such as, “cry, invite, mention, read, say, properly address by name”. It seems like a simple command, but sometimes it can be complicated to put all else aside and truly call out with fervor and humility.

In Isaiah, God asks why we spend our money and labor on things that do not satisfy (55:2). Why do we? We are filling a void. It’s much easier to be passive about life and fill our lives with things that do not satisfy than take the initiative to shut out all others and focus just on the Lord in our prayer/study time. It’s much easier to let life happen.

That verse goes on to say, “Listen carefully to Me and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” He will provide for all our needs according to His riches. HIS riches, not the world’s!

I guess this is a jumble of all the thoughts going through my mind this evening. I love it when Scripture comes together in a seamless way, and I love how I am reminded of verses throughout the Bible, Old and New Testament. I can’t always remember exactly where they are, but I know they’re there.

There is no doubt that this is a time of sifting, just like with Peter. There is obviously something great that the Lord has planned for me and my husband, and it will go beyond anything I could ever imagine for myself. Whatever it is, I knew it would take preparation and maturity.

There is pain in the offering, but it’s an offering. I’m not hiding my difficulty or emotions, or hoarding whatever strength I can claim as my own.

It’s all laid at the foot of the cross, exactly where it should be. In the end, I will know what it is to call out to God, to listen, to live by His precepts, and to truly find His strength in my weakness.