Confessions of an Overthinker

I’m a serious over-thinker….

It can be a problem sometimes because I’ll take a situation, slice it into a thousand different pieces, and then analyze each slice until I know how I think/feel about the subject.

This is not conducive to moments when a decision just has to be made. 

We should all be able to give an answer for what we believe–that’s biblical btw–but over-analysis paralysis keeps us from being useful to anyone.

You know the old saying “He/She is too heavenly minded to be any earthly good”? 

This is what happens when someone falls victim to over-analysis paralysis.

 

This is why I love to read and study all of the older creeds and catechisms. It lays out what’s important to know and even gives you verses to review. 

Seems simple enough, right?

I know there are folks who don’t like all of that “older” “more traditional” church documents, but I’m not really sure why not.

A quick Google search will tell you the history of the creeds–Apostles, Nicene, Heidelberg, Athanasian–and each one was written to combat heresy and false doctrines from infiltrating the church.

The Westminster Catechism (both the original and shorter version) were written as a way to teach children and new converts the basic beliefs of Christianity. 

Good Bible doctrine and basic hermeneutics are necessary (no matter what all the hip, “relevant” people tell you).

Studying these ancient truths isn’t about learning a lot of $5 words and becoming a Bible scholar who can’t even carry on a normal conversation.

It’s about having a good, solid foundation of what and why you believe what you do.

And it keeps you from going absolutely batty from overthinking things. (Or maybe it’s just me that struggles in this area…)

 

The Journey of Transformation

 

Check out these pictures: 

netherlands and belgium

PARAISÓPOLIS

The picture on the left shows the border between the Netherlands and Belgium. The picture on the right shows the divide between a rich neighborhood and a poor neighborhood in Brazil. 

Not much of a difference is there?

It got me to thinking about how fast the transformation happens in our Christian lives. The moment someone decides to follow Jesus, the change is instant:  

  • Orphan to son or daughter
  • Darkness to light
  • Unrighteous to Righteous
  • Hell to Heaven

The change is instant, but walking it out takes time. This is the reason so many of us stay stuck in a rut. 

How do I go from living in the  Netherlands to living in Belgium?

How do I go from living in the slums to living in the richest side of town?

Talk about information overload! 

The answer to me is quite clear: One step at a time.

Most of us didn’t hear about Jesus one minute and decide to follow Him the next. We made a decision after a lot of talking to our Christian friends and reading the Bible to see if there was any truth to our friends claims. 

Here’s a pet peeve of mine:

Don’t walk your friends and family through the whole process of coming to know Jesus and then ditch them on the side of the road saying, “Well, have fun figuring out this new life!” 

When I think of discipleship now, I think of going for the longest hike of my life. Sure, I can go by myself, but having a buddy will make it so much easier to navigate and so much more enjoyable as well.

The reason community is essential to the Christian life is because renewing our minds to catch up with the radical change that took place in our spirits cannot be done alone. 

 

 

Closer to the Light

How many times have we talked about how Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted? 

Probably enough times that you’re sick of hearing about it….

But it’s true. One of Jesus’ primary purposes in coming to earth was to mend broken hearts. 

I bet you and I could each fill a notebook with the names of friends and families who fall into the brokenhearted category.

In my dream the other night a young homeless girl just needed to be comforted. The weight of the world was crushing her and she found herself all alone. 

Do you know where she was?

At the school library! (See, libraries and librarians are awesome!) 

The librarian knew something was off with the girl and reached out to her. When she did, the girl started to sob. The messy, uncontrollable kind of sobbing that comes from knowing you’re finally safe, someone will help you.

And that’s all the librarian said as she wiped away the girl’s tears: “It’s going to be okay. You’re safe now.”

How many times a day do I pass up an opportunity to comfort someone?

If Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, that means it’s my job to help the brokenhearted. 

This is where following Jesus gets real…

It’s also why the Lord gave me this dream. He only shows me stuff that paints a clear picture of where I’m headed in life. 

Friend, my heart is changing.

I think I finally understand why Jesus said lights aren’t meant to be hidden. 

Following Jesus will always take you straight into the darkest places, places where most people are afraid to go.

You will find the brokenhearted, the poor, the sick, and the oppressed in these dark places. 

Picture a light in the distance getting closer and closer to where you are. Bringing hope and light to the darkness is why Jesus came in the first place.

 

 

 

 

Shifting my perspective

I can’t imagine receiving manna from heaven and complaining.

Lord, we’ve been eating manna FOREVER! Can we have some lunch meat, please? And send down a jar of mayo while you’re at it…this bread is so dry! 

Okay, so I’m paraphrasing the children of Israel, but you see the point. 

My thoughts go to impoverished countries where they literally eat the same thing every day and are thankful. Variety is not important to them; having food at all, no matter if it is the same thing, is what’s important.

A little bit of perspective goes a long way in our consumerist society.

Last night I ate a dinner that was entirely provided–minus the butter and onions–by friends who blessed me with fresh eggs, cheese, bread, and herbs.

Wow. Talk about being spoiled…

Each bite was a sweet reminder that God’s given me some great friends and friends who are generous at that.

It also reminded me of our brothers and sisters around the world who don’t have access to food as readily as I do. Some of those brothers and sisters live in my backyard.

They are the chronically homeless.

They are the families who live paycheck to paycheck.

They are recovering drug addicts.

They are down on their luck war veterans.

They are the disabled who just need some help.

I am hanging out with my neighbors each Thursday and my perspective changes as I see what true struggle looks like.

My friend, you and I are blessed.

And it’s not about having all the coolest toys or the latest and greatest clothes. It’s not even about making the most money. 

My perspective on what it means to be blessed is changing.

 

 

Living out the story

Aren’t cliff hangers the worse? 

To be Continued…

No one wants to see this at the end of a TV episode. And don’t even get me started on movies with 50,000 parts. Or book series where the next book isn’t coming out for another 18 months. 

Just tell me what happened!

Thankfully, the Bible tells us the whole story of Jesus. 

This is also why I’m trying to take it easy on the apostles as I read through the gospel. They didn’t have the full story like I do.

Come on, Peter! 

Thomas, what’s your problem?!?

James and John, did you seriously just ask Jesus to give you the best seats in the house? 

Here’s how I look at it: When I start doing everything Jesus asks me to do–without running my mouth first–I can pick on the apostles. 

By tracing the the faithfulness of God throughout His story, I am learning how to trust Him when I don’t have the full story (which is a lot).

Marvin Yoder, my teacher for Bible Interpretation, taught us about the Principle of Application today. I loved Mr. Yoder’s thoughts on seeing ourselves doing the works of Jesus and the early church. 

As Christians, the Bible is the final authority in our lives. However, if I never apply it to my daily life, it’s still just a story.

If Jesus healed, so can I.

If Peter could stand before a crowd and know exactly what to say by the Holy Spirit, so can I.

If Paul and Silas can sing praises in jail after being beaten for their faith, so can I.

 I’ve reached the point in my faith where I’m convinced that not taking the Bible to heart, that not living out the scriptures as practical, do-able truths is the number one reason the world sees the gospel as powerless. 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of an Easily Excitable Person

The idea of “So the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) is completely wrecking my thinking.  

As I read back through yesterday’s post, I realized that I need to apologize.

My goal was not to be a cynic but to draw some attention to the fact that Christians are called, compelled, motivated–and all the other synonyms–by the love of Christ to share the gospel. 

Let’s take this a step further: If Christians are to be like Jesus, that means John 1:14 is talking about us. When my friend Pastor Gwen preached on the subject (I blogged about that a few weeks ago) her words reminded me of the restlessness in my heart.

My faith needs action because it’s actually a bit ADD when it comes to just sitting still.

Once again, this is all I’m talking about these days (Lord, please let me still have a few friends who read my posts!)

Before I came to Rhema, I was already antsy when I read the Word and saw these truths. Then I came to Rhema.

Most days I feel like a volcano that is dangerously close to blowing up.

KA-BOOM!!!!!

How can you sit under Bible teaching 3 hours a day and not get fired up? Lord, please…I need some Ritalin–better yet I need to start serving!

So I have found several places to serve both within Rhema Bible Church and within another organization. 

The reason for my apology is because I am a bit of a zealot when excited. It’s just the extrovert in me, I guess, but this is me:

Ms. Excited-About-What’s-Happening-You-Should-Be-Too.

I will try to be less of a nut, okay?

Please know, though, that my heart is not to be a cynic. If you feel like I am being too critical, please let me know. 

 

 

Escape from Bubble Land

Okay, I want to talk about something that might or might not get me in trouble….? 

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ (those who are not Christians, this is actually a really good time for  you to let me know what you think) we are all overthinking the “in the world, but not of the world” scripture.

Let’s take a minute to look at what Jesus actually said: 

15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world (NLT).

I am not convinced, based on what Jesus said, that we are called to live in Bubble Land. It’s just….not even biblical, okay? There’s no other way to say it. 

Many Bible teachers hammer home that in order to not be contaminated by evil influences Christians must stay away from non-believers.

Any time I hear this kind of teaching my thoughts go to: 

Wow. What about Jesus and the disciples and the early Christians who hung out with all kinds of people? 

Seriously. You can’t read the New Testament and reach the conclusion that it was the nonbelievers’ fault for a Christian’s poor behavior.

If anything, Paul (and the others) chastised the Christians for their weak faith, for not following the teachings of the Bible. It was his or her own choice!

This is why having a home base–be it a friend, your family, or a small group–is key. You can’t live a missional lifestyle and not be accountable to someone. 

Choosing to not share the gospel because you want to live in a bubble is not okay.

 

 

 

 

When I say Amen

Prayer is simply talking with God. 

There are no formulas, no secret codes, no tip-toeing around because you’re afraid of God’s lightening bolts.

We’ve talked about the subject before (click here) but recently a thought struck me, which will not leave me alone. 

Go to biblegateway.com and type in prayer. 61 New Testament references pop up!

When I scrolled through the list, here’s what I learned: 

  • Jesus prayed A TON and taught on prayer A TON during His earthly ministry.
  • The early church prayed A TON together and anyone who ended up on their prayer list got prayed for daily.
  • Miraculous things happen when Christians pray.

Obviously, most Christians can’t spend all of their time in their prayer closets. (For all of my non-churchey friends, a prayer closet is not an actual closet, but wherever a Christian talks privately with God.)

And even though the early church gathered a lot in prayer, all of them had everyday lives, too.

This is where my persistent thought comes in. 

I know that praying is simply talking to God and I know that the Bible shows us the how, when, and why of prayer; which is why Christians need to always be in a spirit of prayer.

So why do I say “Amen” every time I pray? I’m supposed to be praying continually…

If I’m talking with God all day long, why not just start the morning with, “Good morning, Father!” and then chat with him all day, ending with “Amen” after our nightly bedtime chat?

It is possible that I am really overthinking this whole thing. 

I just know that being in a spirit or attitude of constant conversation with God means that my every thought, my every action comes out of a healthy relationship.

However, I realized the other day that I tend to treat God as my sidekick when really my life belongs to Him. He’s not along for a ride with me–it’s actually vice versa! 

When I say “Amen” at night–which means “so be it”–I want it to reflect how my every thought and action that day contributed to our growing relationship.

 

 

 

 

Getting rid of locusts

It’s easy to get sucked into time wasting activities. 

For example, I have to be careful to not let YouTube videos suck me into spending hours doing nothing productive.The struggle is real…

Paul told the Christians at Ephesus to [Be]careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Matthew Henry’s commentary on verse 17 says:

Good Christians must be good husbands of their time, and take care to improve it to the best of purposes, by watching against temptations, by doing good while it is in the power of their hands, and by filling it up with proper employment.

Joel 2:25 is a verse Christians love to quote:

The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost
    to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts,
the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts.”

I’ve seen grown people cry over this verse…

And it’s truly an awesome verse because God is merciful when we completely miss it.

Most of us, like the children of Israel, waste our time on things that eat up our fields and take away opportunities.

My encouragement to us all is to not wait until the locusts, i.e the time wasters, strip our fields before we start getting serious about managing our time. 

If you see a locust, squash it!

Ask the Lord to help you stay on track. 

This is not about legalism, either.

Don’t get busy doing a bunch of stuff out of obligation, thinking that religious activity is like a can of locust repellent.

When I talk about asking the Lord for help, I mean to ask Him to open your eyes to the people who could benefit from you making the most of every opportunity.

 

 

 

Couch potato faith

Can faith really be faith if it has no expression? 

James 2:14-16 is the most quoted passage on the subject:

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing,16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about putting actions to your faith:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

Years ago, I went to a church that adopted “Faith is a verb–live it!” as a reminder to the people that faith requires action. 

IMG_1563Putting feet to your faith means that your feet might get muddy. You might actually have to sacrifice something to walk it out.

The more I read about the early church–the church fathers and martyrs–I am convicted of my own selfishness. 

Am I really ready to give up everything?

What am I still holding back?

Do I talk about what I believe more than I demonstrate what I believe?

I’m just gonna stop here because there’s not much more I can say except that a read through the New Testament doesn’t leave any room for argument. 

Couch potato faith is not allowed.