Saturday, January 29, 2011

Week #4 Acts 4:10-12 "Jesus Saves, Jesus Heals"

"Know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is "the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone." Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Healed....a word that I love. It conjures up so many wonderful God-images in my mind. I'm not necessarily talking about physical ailments and infirmities, although God is able to heal our physical wounds and sicknesses. Yes, I believe that. Even in the face of heart-breaking diseases, I can still say that God can heal.

But the truth also remains that God does not always "cure" a physical ailment. But, He does heal. He just doesn't always heal in a way (or the "condition") that we expect.

In this passage, Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin to defend themselves. What horrible, sinful act had they committed? They healed a man paralyzed from birth.

But the religious powers-that-be demanded an explanation, "by what power or what name do you do this?" After all, what Peter and John had done caused quite an uproar in town. People were praising God for what they saw, and the healed man was "walking and leaping and praising God" for what He had done for him.

No, the Pharisees didn't want to know the name of Jesus so they, too, could worship Him. They wanted to hear Jesus' name so they could try to discredit Him.

But I noticed Peter and John's explanation. First, they declared the name of Jesus Christ. Second, they proclaimed His healing. Then they preached His salvation, saying that it "is found in no one else."

I want healing. On the surface, I want healing from all the aches and pains my middle-aged body suffers. I also want healing from the bouts of depression I experience. But, if I dig deeply into my inner-most being, what I really want is healing from my alone-ness, my sinfulness and my shame.

Will becoming a Christian heal these things? Not always instantly, and not necessarily in the way we imagine He might.

Look at the "ailments" in my heart of hearts: alone-ness, sinfulness and shame. Guess who took care of that on the cross? And guess who has the power to heal all that...and more?

As for the depression, I can trust Him for that, too. It'll take work, and trust, and more work. But together Jesus and I (and my wonderful Christian counselor) can walk through the valley of the shadow of depression. Healing will happen gradually, in stages and in His time. And I am expecting wonderful things to arise from that process of pain and healing.

I know there is power in the name of Jesus. There is healing in the name of Jesus. But there is salvation in the name of Jesus. Even though most in our society have also rejected the stone that the builders rejected, I cannot.

I shouldn't be afraid to declare His salvation, because I've already testified to His power and healing in my life, both from physical ailments and ailments of my heart and spirit. After all, healing is a nice touchy-feely thing to declare.

But, I should not be ashamed of Jesus' salvation. He has both saved me and healed me. Others may roll their eyes and patronize me saying, "Well, Jesus is fine if it works for you, it just doesn't work for me."

Re-read verse 12: "...for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." I am not ashamed to say this: Jesus does work for me. He works for you. He works for everyone, because, there is no other name by which we can be saved. Or healed.

That, I believe, is the truth.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Week #3 1 John 5:21 "The Battle for Our Hearts and Minds"

"Dear children, keep yourselves from idols."

I pondered this week how God would have me apply this verse to my own life? At the outset, this seems like a slam-dunk of a verse to understand. It's pretty straightforward: stay away from idols.

1 John was written as a reaction to a religion/philosophy that was prevalent in John's day: gnosticism. The particular false god he is referring to here is the gnostic worldview and, more specifically, their erroneous view of Christ and man.

We may not have gnostic philosophers bombarding our society or invading our churches in America, but we are bombarded with world views that do not honor or acknowledge God. I see this warning, to stay away from idols, as an encouragement to me in my personal quest to find balance in my life between the world of popular culture and the pursuit of personal holiness. Allow me to explain.

As I have been taught to always look at the greater context of any bible verse, I peeked at 1 John 4 and 5, and observed what that had to say. First, it talks about how we believers need to "test the spirits" of the messages we receive in our lives. Are they from the Spirit of truth or the spirit of lies? This tells me that discerning between the two is not being judgmental. It is being wise.

It also talks about how the true test of a believer is love. Do we love God and love one another? It is, after all, God who loved us first, so how can we not make love our aim? God is telling us to live our lives with graciousness, kindness, forgiveness and patience. No fire and brimstone personalities needed.

And then, it talks about how our faith in Christ means eternal life and understanding of the true God, despite what the world will try to tell us.

When we know in our hearts and minds that we have eternal life and that Jesus is the One True God, the battle for our hearts and minds has already been won. I don't have to either "sell out" to the world and adopt their values and attitudes, or "hide out" from the world, keep company with only other believers and totally ignore all influences of our "secular" culture and art. I can face the world, and all it's godless messages, and have peace in my heart. For 1 John 4:4 tells us that "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world."

So, I will have peace in my heart as I stay away from idols, or false gods. I will know that I am not being anti-social or unbalanced when I abstain from watching or listening to certain celebrities or movies (and yes, even some theatrical productions). And on those occasions I am forced to look an idol in the face, I can call upon my LORD, who is greater than any idol in the world.

So, I can be IN the world without being OF the world. Yes, that's what that old saying means....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Week #2 Luke 5:27-28 "Following Jesus"

"After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed Him."

When people think of scripture memorization, they usually don't think of a verse like this. This isn't one of those Promise Verses or Blessing Verses. You know, the ones that state one of God's promises or blessings to those who follow Him.

The above verses, from the Gospel of Luke, does indeed contain the words "follow me," but there doesn't appear to be a specific promise or blessing attached to it. Not exactly your stereotypical Sunday School memory verse.

But, there are at least three things contained in these verses that encourage me, re-assure me and yes, hint at God's promises and blessings.

First of all, this story (imagine that, a 2-sentence story) is about Levi, the tax collector. Tax collectors in the Roman Empire were famous for extorting much more money than was due, in order to line their own pockets. They were greedy and self-serving. In other words, not a whole lot different than the rest of us sinners, if we were to be truly honest with ourselves.

What an encouragement to me, the chief sinner of Tacoma, WA, that Jesus Himself calls not the saintly, but the sinner to follow Him. It means His salvation, His blessings and the privilege of serving Him include me. I am not disqualified, regardless of my past and my present.

Second, I noticed that Levi was in the midst of his "evil-doing," when Jesus gave him "the call." He was sitting at his tax booth, not praying at Sunday morning service or volunteering at a social service project. He was doing his day-to-day activity, which included doing his daily work, and sinning.

See? Jesus can meet me right here, right now. In the midst of my daily grind, and my sinning, He can and will meet me right where I am. No need to change into my Sunday Best or put on that holy behavior to make myself acceptable. Jesus wants me. The real me. Not my idealized self.

And finally, Levi left everything and followed Jesus. I pondered whether this meant that I needed to leave behind my life, my work and the things I hold dear in order to "legitimately" follow Him.

I immediately recalled Luke 3:12-13. John the Baptist was asked by repentant tax collectors what they should do in order to be baptized. Instead of telling them to stop being tax collectors, he told them to "collect no more than the amount prescribed for (them)." Tax collection was, after all, a necessary job in society. In other words, keep your job, but do it in a way that glorifies God.

What this tells me is this: Some times, we are Levi. Levi had a special calling on his life, to be one of the 12 apostles. When God calls you to a specific ministry or place, we need to drop everything, if need be, and follow Him.

Other times, our call to discipleship means we should stay where we are, but to do our work in a way that glorifies Him. We don't all need to be in "full-time ministry" or on the mission field. We can be followers of Christ at the supermarket, at the office and yes, while blogging and doing theatre.

I like that. No, not because it "works for me" and makes me feel good. I like it because it is truth.

Praise God for His word.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Week #1 Isaiah 26:9 "My Heavenly and My Earthly Father"

"My soul yearns for You in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for You. When Your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness."

What a marvelous verse from the prophet Isaiah. Yes, I have memorized this, and have pondered and prayed about it this week. I have expected that God will teach me something valuable through it. Expectancy is, I believe, one of the keys to hearing what God has to teach us. I *expect* Him to teach me. Not just *hope* He will.

I read the first two phrases in this verse this week, and I totally got that. "My soul yearns for spirit longs for You." Yes, God is my heavenly Father, so this little girl (me) longs to be with her Daddy.

Then there's the second half of the verse. "When Your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the earth learn righteousness."

Yes, I get that as well. God's judgment is righteous, and we mere mortals should shiver and quake at the coming of the Eternal Judge.

What I pondered all week is the juxtaposition of the two ideas. We yearn and long for God, and (or perhaps, "therefore") we learn righteousness by His judgments. This puzzled me at first. Does this suggest that we believers yearn and long for God's judgment? Yikes!

I then recalled my earthly father. He was a man of few words, but when he disapproved of our actions, we knew it. All it took was a glance or a short phrase....and my siblings and I understood that we had done wrong.

But, he taught us his values: hard work, respectful behavior, sacrifice for the people and things that are worthwhile, and not to bring shame to the family. These were good things. And I understood the value in being a part of our little family. I yearned and longed to be a part of my family. I never saw this so clearly as after I moved away from my home state of Washington and lived alone in California...away from my family.

I realized the worth of my father's values and principles. Especially after becoming a Mom myself, I saw the value of the discipline and "judgments" of my father. It made me a part of my family, and of our shared values and love.

So it is with God. His children yearn for His Fatherhood, and to be His children. So, His judgments make us a part of His family. If God had just left us alone to "do our own thing" throughout history, we wouldn't really be members of the family of God. We'd be illegitimate children, running wild and without love and discipline. Not even spoiled, more like "neglected."

Do I look forward to God's judgments? Not really. But I really do long for my Heavenly Father. The whole package. Not just the touchy-feely parts that some in the church love to "market" to the public.

I want to be His little girl. I want Him to be my Daddy. And I know it will all end well. Because my Daddy loves me that much.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year and a New Goal

2010 was an extraordinary year. I set a goal to see 52 theatrical productions, and ended up watching a whopping 68 shows. All those shows are still chronicled in the preceding entries 1-70.

Now it is a new year, a new decade. Time to begin another challenge, a new resolution.

Yes, my support of Seattle/Tacoma theatre continues, but 2011 will be the year I memorize more Scripture and, hopefully, discern what God would have me learn through them.

The beauty of theatre is evident when an actor takes the words on the page and brings them to life. The tragedy of theatre is that its beauty is short-lived. It is not eternal. After the typical 4-weekend run is over, only the memories remain from the show. And, even that lives for only a brief while.

But, Isaiah 40:8 tells us: "The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the LORD endures forever."

In the year 2011, I choose to live with eternity in my heart and mind. I will set my eyes upon Jesus Christ. I choose to meditate on His Word and to hide it in my heart.

And theatre? I will be there as well. But not primarily as an audience member. My other resolution for 2011 is to be ON stage more. I learned a lot from my year in the audience. This year I will implement what I learned. You will be able to read all about it in my other blog, "All My Life's A Stage."

As for God's Word in my life? Stay tuned. The best is yet to come. To God be the Glory.