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Jesus is always with you

I’m not necessarily going to start posting often on the blog, but we had such a good meeting last night that I was compelled to share what we talked about.  That way, the people who couldn’t be there last night will get to share with us, as well as anybody else who is curious.

April started the “formal” section of our meeting (I’ll pause so you can laugh hysterically), with an excerpt from Paul Ellis’s blog:

Several years ago I was so overwhelmed by a problem that I sat down in a funk and began to indulge in self-pity. Self-pity is huge sin. It’s far more serious than some of the sins we warn teenagers about. Self-pity is the sin of unbelief in the goodness of God. It is saying, “God, I don’t believe you can handle this situation.” Never give into self-pity because it will sink your boat faster than the Titanic.

But on that dark day I gave into it. I began to feel sorry for my pathetic self. What did Jesus do in response to my sin? Did he stand before me like Nathan pointing the accusing finger? Did he warn me like Elijah of the imminent fire of heaven? Of course not! Jesus is not like that at all.

I remember it clear as day. I was sitting there in my little funk with my head in my hands and suddenly, in my mind, I could see Jesus sitting on the chair beside me in the exact same posture as me. Like me he had his head in his hands and he looked worried. As long as I live I’ll never forget what he said:

“You’re right Paul, this is a big problem. I don’t know what I’m going to do about it.”

Then he threw back his head and laughed and laughed at the absurdity of such a thought. Instantly, I was set free.

Do you see what he did there?

He took my problem in his massive hands and laughed at it. He showed me the utter ridiculousness of the lie that I had bought into. How foolish to think that Jesus hasn’t got this! By seeing Christ I was set free from the lie that had held me captive. I began laughing so hard I nearly fell off my chair.

When Jesus brought me back on course he employed neither guilt nor condemnation, just laughter and joy (Is 12:3).

After this, April shared a video illustrating this idea that Jesus is always with you.  You may think it’s a little cheesy, and it is, but it’s also is a great illustration of the love and ubiquitous nature of Jesus.

Bonnie (that’s me) then read a couple of short parables from Matthew 13.

44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

I have been taught this parable many times over the years.  I’ve always been told that we are the “man” and the “merchant” in these parables.  And indeed, 75% of the commentaries I’ve looked at agree with this interpretation.  They say that we must give up everything to gain the treasure, which they say is Jesus.  Not until I was listening to a message by Bertie Brits* did I realize that we are not the “man” or the “merchant.”

We are the treasure.  We are the pearl.

Arthur W. Pink explains many reasons why this is actually the right interpretation.  Jesus is the one who seeks.  Jesus is the one who gave up everything.  We are the treasure that was hidden until we could be purchased.  The church is his pearl of great value.

Then we talked a little more about the main point Bertie’s message: the expectations we can have of Jesus.  The part of the message that spoke most to me was when Bertie started talking about math.  When we believe in Jesus and still view ourselves as unforgiven or as sinners, it’s like we’re saying:

Sinner me + Jesus and my belief in him = Sinner me

This is like saying 1+2=1.  It’s bad math.  Not to mention that logically, this would make Jesus equal zero.  Do we really believe that Jesus made no difference?  The same can be applied to healing (We are operating under the assumption that Jesus took our sins and our sicknesses upon him at the cross.  We can discuss that another time.)

Sick me + Jesus and my belief in him = Sick me

Once again, we’re making Jesus equal zero.  Just a little food for thought.

We talked about a lot more than this, but these are the highlights.  It was a great meeting!

 

*This was not actually the point of Bertie’s message.  It was something he mentioned in passing, as if it should be obvious.  But it totally blew my mind!

So that’s what procrastination is

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to put this on the blog or not. This is very personal and might be boring for anyone other than me and those who love and know me best. But maybe it will be helpful for someone.

When I was in the 2nd grade, my teacher asked me to go deliver a note to another teacher in a different hallway. It was a simple task and one I was certainly competent to complete. I remember walking through the school with this note in my hand and a heavy knot in my stomach. I was terrified. It’s hard to put words to my fear. Maybe I was afraid that I would go to the wrong classroom. Maybe I was afraid that I misheard my teacher and had gotten my task all wrong. Either way, I was terrified about doing something simple. This is my first memory of the nameless, paralyzing fear.

A few weeks ago, I noticed the weather was great; it was time to plant the herb seeds in the planter that I got for Christmas. I’ve never really grown anything before. A week later, I still hadn’t planted the seeds. A week after that, I was sitting outside with my husband with the seeds in my hand and a paralyzing feeling in my gut. Why was it so difficult to plant these seeds?! I eventually did plant the seeds, but with much hesitation and timidity.

A few days later, I was in my internship class. There were just five of us interns with our professor discussing all the things that were going to be due soon. Although everyone was stressed, I noticed that my stress seemed out of proportion with everyone else’s. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t think clearly. My thoughts were racing. I was panicked and yet, I couldn’t seem to bring myself to do the work that I needed to do for this class. I kept putting it off.

Normally, I would just beat myself up for being lazy and an extreme procrastinator. I would try and try to motivate myself to change and feel like a lazy failure. But this time something clicked. I realized that maybe what I was going through was not normal. Maybe it’s not normal to have a low level of fear all the time. Maybe it’s not normal to have paralyzing fear every time I have to do anything.

It all came together in my head. For as long as I can remember, it has been very difficult for me to do something. I mean anything. Simple things (like delivering a note to a teacher), complex things or even things I enjoy. So many things connected. I could see so many opportunities I’ve missed out on because of fear. So many times I have put things off over and over because of fear.

I could see that I have tried on my own to overcome the fear without even knowing what I was doing. I would volunteer myself to do scary things like sing the National Anthem in front of thousands of people. I guess I subconsciously hoped that forcing myself to do scary things would take away the fear. Obviously, it didn’t work. It was overwhelming realizing how much this had permeated my whole life. I knew then that I was done.

The next week, we had our Wednesday night meeting. As we sat around the living room, I opened up my heart. I shared with everyone about this fear, about how it has dominated my life, about how I could finally see it for what it was and how I wanted to be done with it then and there. Everyone listened graciously while I blabbered on. We discussed and analyzed it briefly but I think we all knew that this foe was beyond any of us. So, we prayed. The verse kept coming to mind, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind.” So, we prayed for the spirit of fear to be gone and for the Holy Spirit to fill it’s place. As we were praying, I “heard” God say that He not only wanted me to be free of this fear, He wanted me to be fearless. Brave.

The next day, I went to work and actually kinda forgot about the prayer. Then, at the end of the day, I suddenly realized I had been working smoothly all day. I had made phone calls and emails. I had tackled tasks that I had no idea how to do and had to work through. These were things that I would normally put off or never do and then suffer the consequences. Here I was, healed, free.

It has been two weeks since that prayer and I keep being re-amazed. A couple of times, I have felt that fear start to creep back in. I just say in my head, “No, I’m healed. I’m free and I don’t have a spirit of fear” and the fear is gone completely.

This reminds me of a story I read once of a little girl who was eight or nine and started playing softball. She was having trouble hitting the ball and the coach kept saying, “Keep your eye on the ball!” Finally, exasperated, the little girl said, “Which ball!?!” It was quickly discovered that the little girl had double vision. She had had it her whole life so she never knew that it wasn’t normal. That’s how I felt with this fear. I lived my whole life so far never realizing that my experiences weren’t normal.

I thank God for showing me the truth! And for setting me free! Jesus said that He came to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.* That’s what He has done for me! I don’t think I ever been so grateful to God. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!**

(Regarding the title: A few days after the being healed, I was going to do some paperwork. It wasn’t due immediately and I didn’t want to do it; I just wanted to play on the internet instead of working. As I was reading random internet articles, I realized that I felt very different than ever before. I was experiencing true procrastination for the first time. I wasn’t putting something off because I couldn’t seem to get my mind and body unstuck from fear. I was putting something off because I consciously decided that I wanted to. What a wonderful difference!)

*Luke 4:18

** 2 Corinthians 3:17

Healing Power II – God & the General

God is good. We live in a broken world, a world of our own making. It is full of evil sickness and disease that we loosed. But God is good.  He offers us hope where there is hopelessness.  He makes good out of our bad. He brings love to the loveless and the unlovely. He heals our sickness and disease.  God is good!

Look at the first passage, 2 Kings 5.1-19.  Sunday night at home church we spoke a lot of healing; physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Monday morning during my quiet time God gave me two passages of scripture. In the first one, God speaks directly about healing. There are some incredible truths in this passage.

It is a story of a man named Naaman.  Naaman is not just some guy.  He is the commander/general of the army of the king of Syria. While the King declared war, Naaman was the one who went to Israel and conquered every city.  He was a hero to the Syrians but a villain to the people of Israel, God’s people. Catch that last part: a villain, evil, and hated by God’s people.  Yet, God put this man’s name in His book as a testimony to the power of God, His forgiveness, His desire to heal. Naaman, his name in Hebrew meaning ‘pleasantness’, was afflicted with an incurable disease called leprosy.  He was beloved by his country, his soldiers, and his king but could not be very close to any of them or he would give them his very communicable disease.

Naaman owned a slave girl from Israel, who knew of the Prophet Elisha and his ability to call upon God for healing. Naaman grabbed at the chance and took a letter of introduction to the King of Israel, his soldiers, and a vast reward for the prophet.  When he got to Israel the response was not good.  The king of Israel thought this was some plot to attack and kill him.  But Elisha told the king to send Naaman to him so that, it might be widely known that “there is a true prophet here in Israel.”

Naaman had an expectation that this mighty man of God, larger than life, would come out and wave his arms around, maybe touch the leper, and Naaman would be healed, he would pay the prophet for the healing and return home a hero again.  That is not what happened at all.  When he got to Elisha’s door, a servant came out and told him to wash himself 7 times in the river Jordan. What?!?  What kind of prophet was this?  He did not even come out to meet this famous man.  Naaman was enraged. He was so mad, this fake snake charmer would suggest something so dumb, so unexpected, that Naaman started to leave for home, hope for a healing dashed again.  But his men suggested that he do what the prophet’s servant had said. And Naaman did.  And Naaman for the first time in a very long time was truly clean, healed of his disease by the miracle of God’s mighty power, there in a muddy river in a conquered nation.  Finally, Naaman would be able to be touched!  He could eat with other people!  He could take a wife and have children!  Hope was restored for a normal life.  Peace came into the heart of the invading, hated general.

He tried to pay for the healing but Elisha would have none of it.  It was God alone who healed Naaman and one cannot repay God.  Naaman then does something very interesting.  He takes two boxes of Israeli dirt home with him so he can pray on top of the dirt of God’s land everyday. He also asks for forgiveness for when he has to help the King of Syria worship his gods.  Remember Naaman has NEVER done this.  No one could touch Naaman due to his leprosy.  But he can foresee a time when he will have to enter the Syrian god’s temple and bow down with the king. God’s prophet says something unexpected here: “Go in peace.” It is okay with God’s representative that Naaman go into a foreign god’s temple and bow down, because Naaman’s heart is on the one true God.  No leader of any church today that I am aware of would say such a thing.  It was insightful and brilliant of Elisha. God judges the heart.  Naaman’s heart is right: his hope is on the Lord God.  So Naaman is made right.  Doing his duty for his king is okay, even in the temple of another god.

What a story filled with implications for us.  I will expound on those in my next post.

House2House mini-conference!!!

For our 100th post, I am pleased to announce that the Arkadelphia Simple Church Network will be hosting a House2House mini-conference right here in Arkadelphia!  Saturday, September 3, 2011, we will be meeting at the Wesley Foundation on Henderson’s campus to enjoy the Saturday portion of this year’s House2House conference.

We usually go to the conference, as it has been held in Dallas for several years, but this year, the good people of House2House have decided to share the love with other parts of the country and hold the conference in Jacksonville, FL.  If you can’t afford to fly and it’s too far for you to drive, House2House has set up several mini-conferences site to live-stream the conference to.  We were fortunate enough to be asked to host one this year!  Also, the conference fees can get pretty pricey, but to come to our mini-conference will only cost you $10, which will include a continental breakfast, lunch and dinner.   So come join us at 7:30 am (I know it’s early, but we’re dealing with a time zone change.) for a full day of learning, worship and fellowship!  The conference will probably last until 8:00 pm (or later if you feel like talking).

Here’s that info in table form:

What: House2House mini-conference

When: Saturday, September 3, 2011 7:30 am = 8:00 pm

Where: Wesley Foundation, 316 N 11th St.  Arkadelphia, AR

How much?:  $10 for 3 meals!!!

To register, please contact Janee Campbell at 870-403-4519, or you can email her at royallycrazy@hotmail.com

Fathers’ Day

Happy Fathers’ Day, everyone!  A young lady in our church wrote a blog post especially for today that I would like to share.  I left it exactly as she wrote it, completely from the heart.

Father’s day can be a hard time for young kids and adults. Because some fathers aren’t around for their kids they probably don’t have a need to celebrate father’s day, But they do .I have a cousin who felt left out for years because her older brother has a relationship with his father. This will be her first year to celebrate it, (her mother is getting married) she will have a dad this year to celebrate with. She had a father to celebrate with before and that is her heavenly father he would be happy to fill that place in her heart that was so important and he will do it for anyone who asks. By him being your father you can make a difference on father’s day. You can go out and work for the lord and people about your father, God in heaven. Even if you have an earthly father you can still go out and celebrate with your heavenly I plan to try and do that if at all possible. Thank God for being our father especially the ones who really need one. So this father’s days go out and make a difference, and if your children don’t have a father celebrate father’s day with God!

 

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