Monthly Archives: July 2011

Week 18: Greater Things (God of this City)

Chris Tomlin – God of this City

You’re the God of this city
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You are… 

You’re the Light in the darknes
You’re the Hope to the hopeless
You’re the Peace to the restless
You are…

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God 

For greater things are yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
For greater things are yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

I recently heard the Twin Cities version of God of this City by BlueTree where they swap of the words this city for the Twin Cities …awesome stuff. To top it all off, that song tied in well with our service this past Sunday…the first one the Vine has led since we all came here.

Our pastor spoke about Christmas…in the middle of July, none the less…and tied the Christmas story into why Jesus came and why God sent us here, to Minneapolis.

Have you heard the story about this song? Blue Tree – Story Behind the Song

You’re the God of this city
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You are…

He truly is.

You’re the Light in the darkness
You’re the Hope to the hopeless
You’re the Peace to the restless
You are…

There is so much darkness, hopelessness and restlessness in this city. I see it every day; in taking the bus to and from work, at the office and over the phones, in walking downtown and in uptown, and through the stories of those who are serving in our communities. Rest assured. God is the Light that will the lead the way. God is the Hope for tomorrow and a better, brighter future, spent with Him. God is the Peace that seeps into our very being, allowing us to press on. He is.

There is no one like our God

Who can measure up to the greatness of our God? Who is like Him? No one.

For greater things are yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city

God has a good and perfect plan for this city. He has a good and perfect plan for each one of us and that plan matches up with His will for all. We must have faith Him for what He is about to do here will go beyond what any mere man can comprehend. There is no one like our God.

 

Week 17: Surrender

My life has been in a constant state of surrender. It comes and goes, but the process is always there. More often than not, I find myself asking why I hold onto the things of my life and this trivial world so hard and refuse to let go. Call it what you will, but I believe my issue lies within the fact that I’m a control freak. If I don’t have control of something, I fear that I just may lose my ever loving mind.

I go crazy when things don’t go according to plan, surprises intimidate me (although I do like them on occasion), and I hate being sick. You can’t control anything when you’re under the weather.

Anyone else feel the same way? I’m sure you do. We all do.

Scripture is full of references to surrender. God has a will for His kingdom. He knows everything about each one of us. He knows the number of hairs on all of our heads and not a single one falls without his approval. He is not surprised (personally, I think He’s rather amused by our feeble attempts to unknowingly catch Him off guard—think of being a parent with a toddler). He knows every detail about each day of my life before it has even happened. He knew exactly when I would choose to follow Him and He knows the intricate details of my life in all of my tomorrows.

In choosing to follow Christ, my job is to seek Him and in doing so, conform my life to His so that I can become more and more like Him. It means that I need to learn how to love others in spite of myself and primarily, love God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. In other words, love Him with all that I am. This process is not instantaneous. It takes time and it is not without error or fault on my part. But, God is faithful to complete it. That is His promise. Hallelujah!

I recall believing in God at the young age of 4 and the majority of my childhood, adolescence and teen years were full of searching, surrender and more searching. It wasn’t until college, at the age of 18, that I decided that life without God wasn’t worth it and chose to follow Him instead. At the time, I wasn’t okay with not knowing what my future held, but I trusted Him enough to go along for the ride.

I’ve since learned that I have NO control over my life. He does. Only He. Surrender means to submit my will to the will of God. To conform my life to His. To love when I don’t feel like loving. To be kind, gentle and patient when I’m at my wits end, cranky and have little or no idea what is going on. In other words, to surrender means to set aside self and make choices consistent with what the Bible says Jesus would do.

I’m not perfect, nor are my life or my actions anywhere near where they should be. But I have faith that He who began a great work in me will see it through to the day I leave this world behind.

Week 16: My Job: God’s Mission Field

In June of 2004, I was introduced to the idea of viewing any job I held my own personal mission field. It was summer break and I was in Wildwood, New Jersey, 1500 miles from home. I had given my summer to God, was currently on summer project (through Campus Crusade for Christ), and had just started my first day at Kmart – the first job I had ever had outside of working for my dad on the dairy farm.

During our brief meetings with our counselors back on “base,” we were told that when we landed our jobs, we would be building relationships with the people we work with and would be serving as lights in a dark work environment by being who God created us to be individually. I remember thinking to myself that this was much easier for me to handle personally than the sidewalk evangelism that we had been doing the month prior to getting jobs. Walking up to complete strangers and asking them questions about God scared the living daylights out me. I was terrified. Being relational came easy for me; feeling as if I was shoving my beliefs down someone else’s throat did not.

Now, don’t get me wrong. In the years since that summer, I’ve come to understand and know the purpose of street evangelism and that there is a time and a place for it. Relational evangelism is still easy for me. I’ve had co-workers ask why I live the way I do and the answers are there, every time, by the grace of God (and thanks to His Holy Spirit). After all, God calls us to be a light in the darkness.

I currently work in the human resources department for Wells Fargo, in a special division within that department called Employee Assistance Consulting. It’s a great benefit for a company to have something internal where their employees can go to talk about work and personal concerns if they need it. I remember wishing my last job had that benefit as there were a number of times I wish I had someone who got it that I could talk to. Venting to a friend or your mother just doesn’t have the same feel to it.

We handle quite that array of work and life stressors, from minor to extremes, and I’m talking dark, dark stuff. It’s humbling to know that God has chosen for this job in this particular time of my life to be a light in that darkness. To be compassionate in the midst of suffering. To offer that smile that will brighten a co-workers day.

In the days since my start at the location downtown, I’ve had quite a few interesting conversations and God has been a part of each of those.

Let me ask you. How do you see your job? Do you live to work or work to live? Do you revolve everything in your life around that job or does it revolve around God? Are you using that job to the greater good of His glory and not your own?

Week 15: Yoga – Worship in an Active, Healthy Lifestyle

I recently started taking Yoga classes at LifeTime Fitness in downtown Minneapolis and upon entering my first class, I was questioning what I was about to get myself into. Would they be requiring that I recite all of the mantras I had read about and pay homage to a Hindu god? If so, I would be out the door in no time flat. I belong to Someone else.

But that didn’t happen. The lights had been dimmed, there was soft music playing in the background and the heat had been turned up. I rolled out my new mat, grabbed a towel off the stand and reached for a blanket and a block to help deepen some of the poses that my unpracticed body wouldn’t be able to reach.

The others in the room had started stretching out and lying on the floor. I proceeded to do what had been suggested during a one on one session with the head yoga instructor prior to the class. I sat on the floor, worked the kinks out of my knees and low back and then lay back. I immediately felt my body begin to relax as I focused on my breathing and cleared my mind of everything that I had been dealing with prior to class. Then I felt Him…breathing into my soul and removing the crud that had built up since the last time we truly talked with each breath I released.

Scriptures I had long ago memorized started flowing into my mind and seeping into my heart and I relaxed even further. Then, class began.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

In…  Out…

It was 6:00 a.m. on a Thursday and for the first time that week, I made myself slow down. Breathing this way does wonders for the body and the mind!

Along with 15 other people in that darkened studio, I used that rhythmic breathing technique to lull my muscles and joints into full body stretches and daring positions…positions I didn’t even think I was flexible enough to complete at the “ripe, good old age” of 26. My body became a table. A cow. A cat. An eagle. A warrior. A dancer. A pigeon. A downward facing dog. A cobra. A happy baby. Finally, my favorite pose that comes with the end of each class, a corpse, during which I lay flat out and just relax every ounce of my body, letting it melt into the mat beneath me.

I am also an evangelical Christian – a proud one. Proud of Christ and the way the Bible cuts through all cultures and all times and all hearts. And because of that pride, I decided to do a little digging. Is taking a yoga class a sin?

No. I don’t think so.

I read in Today’s Christian Woman an article by Laurette Willis, who believes yoga is pretty much of the devil. “Yoga’s breathing techniques (pranayama) may seem stress-relieving, yet they can be an open door to psychic influences,” Willis says.

Willis used to be a yoga instructor and she now believes that the practice opened her mind to New Age spirituality and led to her depression and alcoholism. After she converted, she remade herself into a PraiseMoves instructor.

In watching a video clip of this Christian exercise regimen, the moves are the same as are the breathing techniques. They’ve just been revamped with biblical-sounding names and explanations for each pose.

Now, don’t get me wrong. She and those who agree with her have good reasons to feel uneasy about yoga. She converted from the New Age practice to Christianity. I can see why it would be hard to continue taking yoga classes. But that doesn’t mean that all Christians should abstain from it.

To dispel this stereotype on yoga at hand, let me state that yoga has never had a negative influence on me and it doesn’t trigger any harmful religious impulses. In fact, just the opposite is true.  The two hours a week I spend in that studio not only ease the pain in my lower back, make me more flexible, tone my muscles and relax me. They also draw me closer to Christ; through prayer, focus, recitation of scripture; all while flowing from pose to pose and allowing myself to relax and forget about the world for sixty minutes.

After all, God created oxygen, our bodies (and their stretching capabilities) and music, didn’t He?

My natural response to taking a deep breath is the emotionally deep love I have for God (other than relaxing and letting go). Isn’t that what it’s all about? Letting go and letting God? Give me five minutes of yoga and my mind will be focused on Him.

Don’t get me wrong. My enthusiasm for yoga doesn’t mean I’m in denial about its roots in Hinduism. Yoga in the western world isn’t like the yoga practices of the Middle East. Hard-core yogis believe that yoga is more than exercise or a relaxation technique. It’s a religious ritual. And those hard core yogis do not lead classes at mainstream American gyms. No one makes me repeat any mantras. The only utterance in class is Namaste at the end, which, translated, literally means “The soul in me honors the soul in your” or “The image of God in me honors the image of God in you.”

It bothers me that people like Willis demonize a healthful exercise regimen, and engage in fear among evangelicals. I would like to point out a point in scripture where Paul speaks to the people of Corinth about the food served to idols (1 Corinthians 8):

Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.

So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.

However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated. It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do.

But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.

In a sense…yoga is like the meat that was offered to pagan gods. The early believers in Corinth questioned whether they could eat that meat or not. Paul answered them by stating “We all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God.” Food “does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.”

Paul also mentions that there are those who are “are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated.” Willis falls under that category when it comes to yoga.

Paul also points out that we “must be careful that” our “freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.” I wouldn’t do something that would make my fellow sister or brother fall into temptation. But since I currently do not know anyone who struggles with this, I’m content to continue taking yoga.

Breathe in.

Out…

Christ in.

The world out.

Holy Spirit in.

Fear out.

God the Father in.

Everything out.