Because we’re family

The Kingdom of God is an upside down Kingdom from beginning to end.

And I struggle as a young person to wrap my head around these upside down commands because nothing about our world is about putting others first.

The worlds says, “Me first!” and the Kingdom says, “Me last!” 

Check out Romans 12:10 in these 3 translations:

NLT: Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

ERV: Love each other in a way that makes you feel close like brothers and sisters. And give each other more honor than you give yourself.

MSG: Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

We are to love everyone like they are our brothers and sisters. This makes sense when you think about it because there are only two types of people in the world: Those who are already our family in Christ and those we want to see become our family in Christ.

My favorite verse is 2 Corinthians 5:16. 

 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!

Evangelism is not about us versus them. Outreach is not about being a bully and forcing Jesus down someone’s throat.

I can’t get away from these thoughts…

I am not sharing the gospel to get ahead.

I am not seeking a platform to build “my ministry.”

 Evangelism has absolutely NOTHING to do with my advancement and absolutely EVERYTHING to do with showing someone else the path to redemption. 

The path of humility is all about taking jealousy and the need to get ahead off the table.

We’re on this journey together.

We’re growing together.

We’re serving together.

You’re not more important than me and I’m not more important than you because we’re family. 

 

 

 

Identity and DNA

Do you know who you are? 

It’s easy to let yourself be identified by your job, motherhood, sickness, personality type, hobby–I could keep going. 

As Christians, however, our identity is Christ Himself. We are saved by His grace, guided by His Word, and commissioned to tell the world all about it. 

This is who we are. 

Like we talked about a few weeks ago, Jesus is not asking us to drop our brains and our personalities at the door. 

Christians are not bland, boring people. 

Christians are a diverse, beautiful family united and compelled by our devotion to Jesus Christ. 

The Boiler Room discussed 4 fundamental questions this evening that really walk you through what the Christian life is all about. 

  1. Who is God?
  2. What did He do for us?
  3. Who are we? 
  4. What do we do?

These questions–and their answers–are the essence of the gospel message. 

Our identity as individual believers, as the body of Christ, is rooted in the finished work of Jesus. 

It is then lived out in actions that are clearly seen by others. 

Jesus told the disciples in John 17 that the world would know us by our love. 

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:14 that the love of Christ compels us to share the gospel. 

If Christ is our identity and greatest motivator, then love–His self-sacrificing love–is our DNA. 

And with that kind of DNA it puts the actions of our everyday lives in perspective. 

A Redeemed Mind

I found some old history papers from college. Lots of memories came back! 

The rush of reaching the page requirements and thinking of the most academic way of saying something without sounding too boring.

What I remembered most is how much I enjoyed writing those papers. Every paper was an adventure–and I never minded the research, either. 

All of that reading and digging…

I was stretched in many ways during college, ways that I often miss now that I’ve graduated.

Of course, Rhema presents it’s own challenges. My spirit man is getting a real workout! The coolest thing is seeing how my time in a more “academic” setting is helping me now that I’m in Bible school.

The mind and the spirit are powerful when used together. 

Many don’t see it this way, but it’s true. It reminds me of a quote by R.C. Sproul:

An unlearned Christian is no match for a learned skeptic. 

Christians must be able to accurately discuss what they believe with others.

Notice that I didn’t say defend because I don’t believe it’s our job to defend the Scriptures. They have stood the test of time and can defend themselves. 

For the most part, people aren’t attacking the Bible–they just want you to explain it to them.

Most Christians, however, are quite terrible at engaging in conversations about their beliefs. They don’t know the scriptures, are not well read, and are downright mean in their approach to healthy discussions about faith. 

You can be a learned Christian and not:

  • Carry around a large family Bible
  • Talk in esoteric terms
  • Go to Bible school or seminary

 

Christians need to know that they don’t have to check their brains at the door when they accept Christ. 

No, no! Your redeemed mind is a valuable asset in the Kingdom of God.

 

A standard of grace

The line between business and customer, ministry and church member, can get blurry pretty fast. 

You can NEVER forget that numbers, statistics–the bottom line–represents a person.

Whenever I get frustrated, this is what comes back to me. 

You’re talking about a person, Audra, take a chill pill! 

Whatever problem I face (real or perceived) can be traced back to a real life person. A person with their own personality, flaws, interests, hurts, hopes, and dreams. 

He or she also has a list of problems….

A little grace can go a long, long way. And here’s another thing to consider: 

Most of the problems I face can be traced right back to me. Did I mention that I am not good at giving grace to myself?

About that….

Don’t forget about extending a little grace towards yourself. We all make mistakes. It happens. 

Let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with having a bottom line, a set standard to aim for.

Just be sure that the standard you set doesn’t become more important than the people you serve and live/work with. 

I’m finding that having grace as my standard is the best way to go. It keeps everything in perspective.

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. 

 

 

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.