Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Enduring Gospel

My good friend and brother in Christ, Michael Millier, commented on the last post, and he brought up a subject I am fond of: the true Gospel, particularly as it relates to the Tanakh (the Old Testament) and the saints who lived before Jesus came.

Michael, his wife Deborah, and their children currently serve the Lord in the Philippines; they lived in Israel for several years before moving to Manila. (Michael, feel free to fill in anything I've left out.)

Check out Michael's short but stellar essay about the gospel:

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? Do we even know?

Have you ever wondered what the Gospel really is? When we mention the Gospel, many think it is something that began with the Apostolic Scriptures, i.e., the so-called New Testament. But the Gospel message did not appear for the first time in Matthew, nor even in the Apostolic Writings. God "preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham" (Gal. 3:8). The generation in the wilderness "had the Gospel preached to them just as we have" (Heb. 4:2). Clearly Moses, David and all the people of faith in the Tanakh (i.e., the so-called Old Testament) possessed faith unto salvation. Thus, the Gospel message must be something older than we think.

What then is the Gospel? When we search all four gospels, we never find that Yeshua (i.e., Jesus' Hebrew name) preached a sermon presenting the Four Spiritual Laws, nor did He ever lead anyone in the 'sinner's prayer.' He never shared a tract with a single person. He never asked, "Do you know for sure that you would go to heaven if you died?" He never told anyone, "You need to have Me in your heart." If these cliches were not the message taught by Yeshua and His disciples, what was the message?

His message was the Gospel: "Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" (Mat. 4:17; cf. Mat. 3:2 where John the baptizer said precisely the same thing). Or put another way, Yeshua proclaimed, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mar. 1:15). What exactly does that mean, though? It means: Turn your life back from sin because God's rule and reign have already begun through His Messiah!

That's the Good News!

It means that the King has come, as prophesied in the Tanakh. It means that even though Yeshua died and was buried, He rose from the dead and therefore will return to complete His earthly mission as Messianic Ruler (1 Cor. 15:ff). It means that we must therefore submit to the authority of this G-d-installed King (Psa. 2). Now! (Act. 17:30, 31) And the way to do that is to respond to G-d's kindness and turn away from sin, modeling our lives from that point on after Yeshua's.

Salvation truly comes by G-d's grace bestowed upon people to help them to repent; multiplied upon those who respond to that grace and actually *do* repent. But let us be clear: a Gospel message that neglects to state the need for repentance is no Gospel message at all!

Yeshua was preaching repentance. His Gospel was not a sales pitch for people to feel better about themselves. We cannot say that His message was therefore devoid of grace; just the opposite. But neither was it an easy sell. Nevertheless, the message had a "pay-off." Yeshua's Gospel required a *radical* life change, however, in order for a person to "collect" anything lasting from the G-d of grace.

It required turning away from sin.

And folks, how do we know what sin is? We know via the Torah (i.e., what is commonly called the Law). In case we did not know from the rest of the Bible, G-d has graciously and clearly defined sin for us in the Apostolic Scriptures. Sin is quite simply any transgression of the Torah (1 Joh. 3:4). This definition was restated so that we could know what sin is, so that people could repent of it.

More likely than not, if our Master were preaching His Gospel in much of the Christian world today, He would quickly be disregarded as a legalist. He would probably be called a Judaizer. I am certain that He would be told by someone to let go of 'the old ways of the Law' and learn to walk in the 'new way of the Spirit.'

We as followers of Yeshua should be passionate about restoring the whole message of the Gospel to the Body of Messiah. We each must strive to assist both Jewish and non-Jewish believers to return to the feet of the Master for a fresh encounter with the One they have confessed as Lord. It's time to take off our gentile-centric theological goggles, stop pitting Law against Grace, and to deal honestly with the real Messiah and His real message-the man from Nazareth who rebuked sin, hypocrisy and pretense while encouraging true repentance and obedience to the commandments of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (link)

Some of my older posts address aspects of this topic:

Fruit in Keeping with Repentance
Credited as Righteousness
The Kindness and the Severity
To Believe Is to Obey

Michael's comment brought a couple of scriptures to mind:

Psalm 19:8
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes.

James 1:25
But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Don't Miss This

Jenn and Rachel are having a discussion/dual exposition of 1 Corinthians 13 that I wouldn't want to miss, so I wanted to let you know about it, too.

Sometimes I think we're all in danger of getting desensitized to 1 Cor 13, in a similar way to John 3:16. It's a passage that's read at nearly every wedding I attend! But I actually don't think we can ever examine it too often. Like Rachel, I know when I read that definition of "love" that I have miles left to go before I am living it out.

1 Cor 13:8-13
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

True Fellowship

My father, Fred, left a great comment last night regarding my Update:

"I hope you and Ryan can find a church with 'Life Groups' or small groups that study God's Word and share life together. God meant for us to be in a community as his servants--teaching his word and meeting the needs of others."

My father and mother attend a church that incorporates Life Groups, or cell groups, as a basic building block of its programs. Dad teaches a cell group of 40 people! I am really proud of all the hard work he does. He pores over books and faithfully attends elder meetings several times a week. I've watched him grow tremendously over the past several years, and it's exciting and joyous.

Of course Dad and Mom want us to be regularly attending a church. And I agree with what he says here: I'd love to be a part of a regularly meeting group that studies the Bible and shares life. And I'm not saying we won't be.

I am just not sure it's going to be in the context of 'church' as it's usually thought of in modern America.

And it's that point I'd like to explore a little more here: what is true fellowship?

I think many of us are used to thinking of fellowship in terms of time spent together physically. We eat meals and have get-togethers to "fellowship" in the modern church. While there's nothing wrong with that, and I am not saying it's a misuse of the term, I don't think that fellowship is just about physically being together. It is the sharing of a common belief, a goal, a faith--the sharing of obedient love for Christ--that forges fellowship.

1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

How do we have fellowship with one another? By walking in the light. Fellowship is a partnership, a sharing, that has its basis in truth and agreement, not just physical proximity. It's how we fellowship with one another every day over the Internet. I can't hold your hand or hug you, but our fellowship is real, because of our love for Christ and our unity in Him.

I am not writing this so that people will think they don't need to go to church! I am simply suggesting that a traditional church isn't the only place true fellowship can be found--and, in fact, it can be a bit hard to find true fellowship in traditional church. Not impossible, just difficult. There are so many heresies (prosperity, easy believism), so many movements (Purpose-Driven, Emergent), so much extrabiblical, diabolical nonsense (the laughing revival). It's tough to sort through it all.

I am frustrated in writing this, because I know that some will see it as an attack on churches. It's not. I know that God will provide fellowship for us in some form. He has at every turn in our lives. But there have been times that fellowship, for us, has looked different than (modern) tradition would have it. It's looked, at different times, like two people meeting for coffee; two families meeting to talk and pray, with children milling around; a phone call from Africa; a couple feasting on a taped sermon, taking notes and stopping to talk. And, yes, for a whole year we attended an American church with a building! (Insert wink.)

None of those, by themselves, constitute a New Testament-based church with elders and teaching and the full range of gifts. I would love that. I hope God leads us to a fellowship where the elders seek to closely follow Biblical guidelines, where the Bible isn't twisted, and where we are called to serve.

But just because I am not currently a part of a regularly meeting group doesn't mean the Lord isn't doing His will, day by day, in and through me. It doesn't mean I am not serving the Lord and those He's called me to right now.

And, for what it's worth, I doubt we'll be at this place for long (without a regular meeting). God knows what He is doing, and I'll be watching for it.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Human Heart

I hope you don't mind, Jenn, that I am responding to some of your posts here. I just had too much to say to try to leave it in the comments.

Jenn and I met through Rachel. You can read Jenn's first entry here to learn more about why she started her blog. Jenn isn't a Christian, but she's exploring it, and she feels like the Lord is beginning to really show her some things.

In this post Jenn responds to my post about our friendship with God:

I read an entry in this lady's blog today (a friend of Rachel's that I eye every now and then) that touched me very much. It was about the realization of God's love and him wanting to be friends with us. I left a comment (a very humble, non-confrontational one) that wasn't saved due to some error. I felt I had to share it in general so I decided to rewrite it on this post.

Jenn relates a spiritual turning point that has occurred in her life (emphasis mine):

I don't always hear what is to be said, there's almost thirty years of experience yelling at me behind the lines. It is very hard for me, because there is always a constant nagging in the back of my head. Well, I've been a long time friend to God's greatest obstacle, and I fear it will be a while before THAT guy stops whispering in my ear. Sometimes I feel possessed with all the things I sometimes feel like doing. Things that I hate, that I would hate myself for saying or doing. I will say this, I am much better at putting that evil behind me! When I just shush all the voices and scream in my head, "NO! God, what do I do! Please help me! I can't think straight!" He listens and gets right to it. Thank God! It sucks being a crazy person, but I feel forgiven, always and that is a blessing.

Today was a sort of turning point for me. A lifetime of succombing to the selfish, cruel ways of mankind changed. I won't go into my day so much except to say I handled a situation quite differently than I would normally have. I used prayer and faith to lead my way and it prevailed!

I sometimes feel that I am being too stubborn with my search. I have far too much doubt and feel pride way too often. I spent a very valuable era of my life devoted to psychology and philosophy, then totally unaware that my studies would lead me to where I am today. So much time was given to trying to understand human nature and the study of knowledge when all along all I really wanted was to have spiritual wisdom! Not that some of that "knowledge" isn't very helpful at times...We are only human.

As I read her entry, I realized how alike we are. I also struggle with stubbornness, pride, and rebellion. That tainted human blood beats in our hearts, and until we are finally made perfect and dwell with God, we will struggle. I am excited to see that Jenn is beginning to see the answers. Every solution has its genesis in crying out to God, in admitting our own fallibility, our weakness, our despair.

Romans 7:15-25
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Jesus delivers us from our sin, from ourselves, from the power of the devil. When we are set free, it is by HIS blood. When we resist the devil, it's by God's power, granted to us by His mercy, His love for us. He shows His friendship over and over, first by the sacrifice of His only Son, and then in our daily lives, when He responds to our cries of desperation or our expressions of love. He responds. And that's what is mindblowing, and what Jenn is experiencing. He doesn't wait for all our ducks to be in a row before He begins showing us His love and His mercy.

There's a mystery there, but it's a beautiful one: the process of recognizing our state before God; seeing our sinful state and our vast shortcomings; and knowing that we know that we know He is there, He is good, He cares, and He is doing something about the stains on our clothes. He's wiping the tears from our eyes.

Jenn, I am really excited about what God's doing in your life. There's a lot to learn--for all of us--but your realizations and your responses are on target.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about your journey as it unfolds, and, perhaps, walking a mile or two together.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Update, by Request

Amy the Humble graciously asked me for an update on how everything's been going since the move. I have a really bad habit of assuming that people somehow are wired into my consciousness and just know everything that's been happening and how I feel about it. Yeah...weird. I also always assume that someone driving me home for the first time somehow just knows where my house is. Anyway.

I can't remember what I've already told you, so forgive me if I repeat myself!

We're finally settled in Athens, GA. Ryan and I both don't have ANY DESIRE to move ANYWHERE for a long, long time, unless the Lord wills it. The only place I'd like to move is into a home! Right now, though, we're renting a place (almost twice as large as our CA apartment, ahem) near downtown. It would be the perfect location if there were a grocery store in walking distance, as that's currently the only reason we have to start up our car. Both of our jobs, as well as entertainment and dining, are a short walk downtown or to North Campus.

We haven't found a "church home," and I don't know what's going to happen on that front. We do have some Christian friends around here, so we're not totally fellowship-less.

Church is a subject I usually don't like to talk about with Christians, because most of them won't understand where I am coming from. Ryan and I are very disillusioned with institutional churches (Churchianity, I call it)--with the buildings, programs, parachurch entities, and most importantly, teachings that we don't see reflected anywhere in the Bible's pages. We have talked about starting a Bible study and having a home group/homechurch. I don't know what is going to happen.

To clarify: we aren't looking for the "perfect" fellowship. Just a group with whom we can help make disciples and where we can serve without feeling like we're compromising most of our beliefs.

I love my job here. I have a wonderful corner office to myself where I can see the students walking to class and look at the gargantuan North Campus oaks and maples. The team I work with is truly top-notch; I respect them and look forward to coming to work.

Spiritually, I've got to be honest with you--it's been a really tough, dry, numb season for me. It's my own fault, as I was telling Rachel the other day. I've been really slack on Bible study and prayer, and boyohboy, nothing will make you drier than the Sahara faster than that.

I've been realizing (again) how amazing His love is. That I am deserving of NOTHING; that I never did deserve anything, and yet He loved and loves me! What an ingrate I am! I've been doing my own thing, ignoring duty and relationship; hurting, but not willing to bandage the wound.

I've cried out to Him and feel His Spirit working in me, but I can't give you a sunny, false update that glosses over my pain, my foibles, and my need for God. The honest truth is that I am a woman in need of the Living God. Every day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

And Now for Something Completely Different

I want to talk about cereal. Right now.

Peter Bogert, this one's for you.

Have you guys tried Kashi Organic Promise Autumn Wheat? OH MY GOODNESS IT IS SO GOOD. Please try it AT ONCE. They even carry it at my local Wal-Mart and Kroger (that's Ralphs for you West Coasters), so it's widely available.

It's shredded wheat with a tiny bit of sugar in the middle. I mean TINY (7g/cup), so Choosing Home Ladies, even you might approve?

Believe me: this is coming from someone who hated Shredded Wheat with a white-hot passion.

Instructions for eating Autumn Wheat (I am not kidding, and this is where you get to see how idiosyncratic I get):

1. Put 1 cup of cereal in a bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, pour your milk.
3. Scoop little wheat bundles up one at a time and dunk in milk, then partake.

Keeps 'em crispy. Nothing worse than SOGGY CEREAL.

Tell me about your favorite cereal, if you are so inclined. I want descriptions! I want passion for whole wheat! I want love for flakes!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Pearls Respond to Blog Reviews

Kind of.

I just saw at Spunky's blog that Michael and Debi Pearl recently responded to bloggers' criticism of their ministry--particularly Debi's newest book, Created to Be His Help Meet.

For those who may not know, I participated in a series of mini-reviews of the book that you can find on my sidebar. I was not, however, the woman who wrote this letter to Debi:

My friends and I been reading "Created To [sic] Be His Help Meet." We have been greatly blessed by this book. In response to our "mini-reviews" of the book, there has been a rash of ladies who have quite vehemently suggested that it promotes a husband's abusing of his wife, even suggesting that Mr. Pearl has been abusing you, Mrs. Pearl. We are outraged.

My question to you, Mr. and Mrs. Pearl, is this: What would be the best manner of handling the misinformation being spread about "Created To Be His Help Meet" and the mischaracterization of your personal lives? It is difficult to sit back and watch hundreds of malicious messages.

A friend

Debi responds,

Dear Friends,
Please be advised: I am not abused or mistreated, nor do I advocate that any woman should be abused or mistreated. I am treated like a queen, and my book is a study on how to cause your husband to want to treat you like a queen. Judging from the thousands of letters we have received, the book has been VERY successful in causing women everywhere to be revered by their husbands. But since we have heard from several people who are truly concerned about the nonsense being spread in “blogville”, we have asked, Kathy Slayman, (her call name on blogsville is NGJorderslady) a long-time friend (she watched our children grow up and also sees Mike and me on a daily basis) to blog for us each day. So, if you want to know any piece of personal stuff about the lady who wrote Created to be His Help Meet or the man who inspired the book, go to: Then blog back to the bloggers in blogsville, and prayerfully explain to them that what they say is NONSENSE and that you know because you have the scoop from someone in the know.

I hadn't seen the allegations that some bloggers must have made. Honestly, I stepped back a little from the conversation. I read some of the negative reviews and agreed with some of their points; I never mind an opposing but rational opinion (the majority of dissenting bloggers fell into that category). Some commenters and reviewers, however, seemed so vituperative and dramatic, and quite honestly I was left speechless. Did we read the same book?

I do think the letter to Mrs. Pearl was a little dramatic, but then again, I haven't seen the comments the sister was writing about. It is certainly ridiculously uncalled-for to suggest that Debi is abused! Who here has been a fly on her wall? Pray tell!

I know my reviews were glowing. I can accept that they may have glossed over some difficulties in the text. Some reviewers were really concerned about the advice Debi gives, and while I can understand where some of them are coming from, the book as a whole is hardly a danger to women. I understand that there are situations where a woman should leave...I understand more than any of you may know. But that doesn't render her book less valuable to me. There are also situations where a woman should stay. Would I have advised Sunny to stay with Ahmed? Er, no. But it is POSSIBLE that God would have asked HER to stay and made her aware of His will. As blasphemous as that seems to our culture, I can't rule it out. I just know He didn't ask me to stay when I was Sunny.

I still look at the Big Divide here as somewhat of a misunderstanding between author and audience. Debi is, in my mind, one of those big-hearted, wise, loving women who present everything they say as 'this is the truth' or 'this is what you should do, sweetie.' I still contend that although we should think for ourselves and weigh everything by God's Word, we would be missing out if we chunked baby and bathwater. There are so many good things she has to say in that book--and I love her 'tough love' tone. She's a little sassy, very opinionated...but very experienced and very sincere.

What book would I not change something in? Should everyone shut up and stop writing because I may not agree with them? Why are the Pearls so demonized by some in Christendom?

I wish it hadn't polarized Christian women so much. I hate that. I hope we can understand where the other is coming from...I've tried. I know we won't agree.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Please remind me...

...the next time I try to give blood that it will render me powerless for the remainder of the day. Seriously. I can't think straight, walking up stairs is a massive undertaking, and I am MISSPELLING THINGS. Something is WRONG.

I should have gotten more of those "Be Nice to Me, I Gave Blood Today" stickers from the Red Cross chick.

Hey, I just noticed that their sticker has a comma splice! Okay, so not all is lost.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

An Often-Asked Question

Miss O'Hara does an excellent job of bringing up something I hear fairly often (though not stated in such a balanced and thoughtful way as Miss O'Hara did, frankly): how should we interact with people who don't know Jesus? Specifically, how do we convey the Gospel? Should we communicate it with our lives or with Scriptures?

Miss O'Hara quoted John 8:42-47, with an emphasis on verse 47:

John 8:42-47
Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

She then comments,

In a nutshell, Jesus is saying they don't believe Him or even hear Him because they are of the devil, and not of God. You can't be in-between, now - either you belong to God or you don't. It's your choice, so if you don't choose God, you've chosen the devil.

This made me wonder about the wisdom of using the Bible - which is God's Word - in witnessing to people. Ever notice that non-Christians just do not like to hear stuff from the Bible? And it's a violent reaction, to boot, similar to the one you get when you say, oh, abortion is murder and should be illegal.

Considering that along with Jesus' words (I recommend reading the whole chapter...poor Jesus, going in circles with those pesty guys!) - could Jesus also be saying that just throwing Bible verses at folks isn't the best way to get the message across?....I'm not saying not to use the Bible (I'm not sure I'm saying anything - I'm just pondering things!). Not at all. You and I are, more likely than not, hardly ashamed of the Gospel at all! I am curious, however, as to whether or not quoting directly from the Bible is the way to go, at least right at first. (Emphasis Kristen's)

Here's my take. It's more nuanced than it might seem at first.

I think we should never underestimate the power of the Word of God. By "Word," I am not just referencing the Scriptures, although we know that they are God-breathed and "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16). I mean the logos of God. That's the Greek word that is translated "Word" in the New Testament. It is used of Jesus Christ in the first chapter of John:

John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

It is from this text that I justify saying that the Scriptures are the Word of God, but Jesus is the Word--the logos--too. When we speak under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to an unbeliever, it is the Word of God to them. And in my experience, Scripture is nearly always a part of that talk. Maybe not in our first conversations with them, but eventually.

When I say "under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit," I am not talking about a prophecy or word of knowledge (though I don't have a problem with that). I mean that when we speak to an unbeliever about the Lord, we should be sensitive to what the Lord is doing in that person's life, and what He wants us to do right now.

That is why this question can't be either/or. The question really isn't, "Should we use Scripture when talking to unbelievers?" or "Should we just live our lives and hope they become curious enough to ask?" The question is, What is God doing right now with this person, and what does He want me to do?

I have interacted with non-Christians who really weren't ready for any Scripture right at that moment. They wouldn't have understood it, or it would have made them angry. Sometimes they need to be opened up and healed to some extent first by experiencing the love of God through us. Most often, in my experience, the relationship must come first.


We must, must use Scripture in a Spirit-led way. Nothing has the power to convict someone and bring them to their knees like the words of God Himself! Can we hope to compete with that?

1 Cor 14:24-25
But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"

The context of this verse is spiritual gifts, which I am really not addressing in this post, but it's also talking about the Words of God and the effect of those words on a sinner.

Before I served the Lord, I met a woman named Kimberly who had the courage to share the Words of God with me. She was faithful to share hard truths with me. I could have gotten angry and rejected her, but I was ready to hear what she (and God) were saying. But she combined those hard truths with a passionate love for me--and I will never forget her. I hope to celebrate in Heaven with her.

I would not have listened to her if she hadn't loved me, and simply thumped her Bible.

I would not have listened to her if she just loved me and hadn't a Bible to thump (that is, if there had been no power of God behind her words).

In case all of that hasn't been clearer than mud, I sum up:

1. I think the answer to this question regarding any individual person will be a bit different. God knows where they are and what they need, so ask Him.

2. We should never, never underestimate or disregard the power of the Scriptures. They are the text the Spirit uses to convict the hearts of man about sin and redemption. In our relationships with unbelievers we should always be waiting for the Spirit to speak God's Words to that person through us.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Do What You Did At First

No matter how complicated and cumbersome our flesh tries to make it, this truth remains: it is not impossibly hard to walk with Jesus. The gospel is simple enough that a child can understand it. Yet it is going to take us the rest of our lives and beyond to continue to try to grasp what has been done for us and what we are to do with ourselves.

Isn't it an amazing paradox?

I am a really analytical of those people who, while trying to "break things down," occasionally makes them more complex than they really are. It occurs to me regularly that I need to chill out, take a step (or three) back, and remember that HE IS GOD.

He knows what's happening; I don't.
He knows what to do about it; I don't.
He is able to take my burdens; not only do the burdens break my back, but I usually put them there myself.
He encourages, coaches, convicts; on my own, I drown in guilt and anger.

Over and over He has told me the key to walking with Him, to keeping my fire lit and bright:

'Do the things you did at first.'

Rev 2:2-5
I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.

And what did I do at first? I eagerly read and studied the Scriptures. I kept a journal with notes from my reading. I prayed often and intimately and passionately. Put simply, I read the Word and communicated with God. I remembered him "minute-ly," as my sister Amy says. Moment by moment, I remembered He was there and rejoiced in His presence.

Those things slip away too easily. I've been distracted.

Throughout my life, and particularly since I became a Christian, I have desperately wanted to live an excellent life; I want to rise above mediocrity to love and live with everything the Lord has given me. But excellence requires a sacrifice of at least some normalcy. 'Normal' and 'Extraordinary' can't coexist on many planes.