Caught Between Truth: The Central Paradoxes of Christian Faith.

       I am reading the above titled book by Barry L Callen for my Theology class.  I am only in the middle of the second chapter and am blown away by how much depth is brought to light.  It begins in the preface with pointing out the dangers that the church today is in.  The church, at least here in the West is struggling to find its prophetic voice and is on the verge of paralysis by trying to cater to a post-modern, drive through style way of Christianity. It seems today, that, while acknowledging the importance of being relevant, there is a great mystery, coupled with our Bibles, full of paradoxes that many do not want to easily accept.  It is the age-old problem, or tug of war between faith and reason, between mystery and science.  The one thing I have been reminded of over and over again is that paradox and mystery have to be accepted as a part of our Christian faith.  There are always going to be unanswered and misunderstood truths about God for the very reason that God is a mystery.  Paradoxical? Absolutely.  The quicker we are to accept the truth of mystery in our faith, the better off we are going to be, because we will finally be able to give faith a chance to be faith itself.  Faith is always in order and humility is always required.  So many times people want a simple “yes or no” answer, but the truth lines in “yes and no”.  It is both, and it is a large part faith and the mysteries of God that our human minds cannot fully grasp.  We need to have knowledge, to think on God, to seek to understand who he is, but we must accept that we will never fully grasp some of the deeper truths our minds desperately seek and long to have answers to. Callen states that in the pursuit of knowledge and truth we often lack the authentic transformation that God longs to do within in each one of us (my paraphrase).  This is so true, and one of my on-going rants that I have harbored on my other blog  many a time.  Nothing has broken my heart more than seeing the lack of transformation in the lives of a Christian.  It’s the same as the old cliché’s “actions speak louder than words”, or “people don’t care about how much you know until they see how much you care”.  Being transformed from the inside out by a living and relational God is what the world wants to see.  (I digress, but it’s an essential point).  The Bible is full of paradoxes, and Christians, in seeking to understand and be transformed by the truth have got to come to terms with this.  We can all sit here till next week and argue the Bible, but we need to take a step back and look at the larger story that God is trying to engage us in, only then will transformation happen. Let me just leave you with a few quotes to chew on:

“There is no alternative.  Ambiguity, paradox, and mystery and inevitable for those seriously pursuing wisdom in a distinctly Christian context”

“When Christians simplify the theological content of their faith to that which they fully understand and control, they are living more in their own reality than in God’s.”

“The Christian task is not to provide easy answers to every perplexing question; it is to make us ever more aware of a gracious and wonderful mystery, the mystery of God. Rather than an object of our knowledge, God should be the cause of our wonder (Ps. 8:1).”

“Christians today must be able and willing to orchestrate the paradoxes of human experience and divine revelation into a full gospel that really is the truth.”

“The call to Christian believers is to embrace “ignorance”, realizing that the human‘s lot of not knowing anything for sure enables the knowing of everything by faith.  Here, in the great humility lies wisdom.  The ultimate in life is not a math problem to be solved.  It is standing in awe, unsure,  yet very sure, thinking of words like” amazing grace”, pondering in unknowing and still rejoicing in the fullness of catching a glimpse of God who is known in Jesus Christ.”

“Interpretation of the Bible is often a delicate and disputed business.  A little humility is a good thing.”

“Loyalty to tradition means not primarily the acceptance of formulae or customs from past generations, but rather the ever-new, personal, and direct experience of the Holy Spirit in the present, here and now.” (Bishop Kallistos).  Thus, the Christian life, beyond being a set pattern of believing, is to be a way of life and a way of prayer.

My Story of God Moving me on…

Below is a letter that I wrote to my Prayer Team, Senior Pastor and other ministry leaders at my church as I have sought to follow and surrender to God and his will for  my life.  May it encourage you as you walk in surrender an obedience as well. 

Coming Full-Circle:  It Always Comes Back To Surrender and Obedience. As I listened to Pastor Jamie’s sermon this past Sunday, once again I heard those familiar words of Surrender; words that have carried me through, grown me, and shaped me in the last 6 years of sitting under Pastor Jim’s teachings.  I have learned, as Chad has sung so many times to embrace surrender, running to God in many different seasons.  I have been blessed to share with so many, all the miracles that God has bestowed on me, through good times and in bad.  It has been a blessing beyond words to be such an integrated part of this church and this prayer team.  Now, as I continue to walk in obedience and surrender, God is leading me on another adventure.  It’s taken close to a year to hear and make sure that I understood what was being asked of me.  At times I felt as though I was being tossed back and forth, not too sure where God wanted me to end up.  And the more I sought to understand, the more I would cry out in surrender, telling him that I just wanted his will and not mine over and over.  As I prayed and sought his voice, it would become clearer, to the point of unmistakable clarity that I could not ignore any longer.  I had to make a decision.  Even though God was using me in many ways here at Open Door, and could continue to do so, he wanted to increase my faith, he wanted to do some new things in and through me, he wanted me to experience him in new ways, and he was asking me if I would surrender, trust and obey.  So, very much like Peter, who got out of the boat, out of his comfort zone into the unknown waters to have a life-changing experience with Jesus on the water ( Matt.14:22-33), I too have been ask to step out in faith, trusting and remembering all that he has done and brought me through thus far.  For all the times that my heart felt torn and indecisive, his voice would remain and the peace of knowing that I was walking in his will finally would come. John Ortberg writes in his book “If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have To Get Out of the Boat”,  that growth always takes faith, and faith takes risk, and risk is always scary! This too is what surrender is all about.  When we choose his will and his ways instead of ours, when our hearts become fully abandoned to him and all we want is what he wants for us, we give God room to move. Whether you are the 11 disciples in the boat watching what is going on, or a church member watching others move out of a pew, God is always wanting to do more with us.  What have you done with those sermon’s that convicted you?  What do you do with that inner nudge that never seems to go away?  I believe God puts those in all of us.  We are created for such great purposes.  We are saved and set apart for good works.  It is the thrill of a lifetime to be used of God!!!  Is scary, heck ya! But I know who’s driving my life, and that is all that matters.  Are there tons of unknowns? Yes, tons, but that’s part of the adventure!  I guess I have gotten to a point with God to say, “Lord, if you lead me to it, I have to trust and believe that you are going to lead me through it” I have to believe new relationships will come, I have to trust that all the small details and concerns of a single mom will be handled divinely.  He hasn’t failed me yet, and I know he’s not going to.  So, it is with bitter-sweet joy, excitement, and a good dose of Holy fear that I am being called out of Church of the Open Door and into the Church of the Nazarene.  I will be heading out to Wooster Church of the Nazarene at least two times a week for now for Mid-week and Sunday services.  I have been attending there on and off for the last 10 months, and God has met me in some really powerful ways that it was so clear without a shadow of a doubt that I am to be a part of this new congregation.  My hope and prayer is that I will be able to move down there so I can be more involved in the church; so I would ask your continued prayers for me and Olivia that God will keep us safe as we travel, and that relationships will begin with others at the church.  Here is the link, so you can see where I will be and pray for me as I journey on.  I look forward to sharing with you more as God moves in my life. As a member of Open Door and the Prayer Team, I have been blessed beyond words.  I have learned so much and experienced prayer on such new depths.  I have grown with all of you and I am so grateful that God has placed me in your lives for this season to learn so much from you.  Know that I will continue to pray for you as a team, and the body of Church of the Open Door, its Pastors and ministries, as well as fasting with you on the first Wed. of the month.  I look forward to keeping up with you and hearing of how God is moving in your lives and at Open Door.  I have learned so much and grown so much, it seems so hard to sum it up in words that always fall short of what is in my heart; but if I could encourage you out of the depths of my soul it would be this:  Live surrendered.  Learn to surrender in the everyday moments of life; it will help when the storms come.  It will grow you closer to God in ways you never imagined, and when God calls you out of the boat in your life circumstances, you will be ready to risk it all for Jesus.  Live in Holy fear of him.  Never lose your reverence for who he is; he is Holy, and Powerful, as well as loving and full of mercy and grace.  Strive to live in humility; it will keep your pride in check.  I have had to learn to pray often for humility, especially when God wants to use me.  Live in obedience to him.  He is good, and he knows the plans and purposes for all of our lives.  I have had to learn to trust him in that; looking back at all he has brought me through, knowing that the circumstances are life-lessons he wants me to learn from.  Seek comfort and direction in his Word, ask him to lead you and speak to you, and teach you as you seek him there.  Your relationship with him comes first above all else; above family and life demands.  Love him with total abandonment and watch him grow you in leaps and bounds and use you in mighty ways.  Give him your whole heart, because he gave his whole life for you!    Love each other and live united as a team and church body, this bring a huge smile on his face, just think, those of you who have kids, the great joy it brings you when everyone gets along and lives in harmony.  This too is God’s desire for his church.  My prayer and my hope is that as I continue to walk in surrender and obedience I would shine for Jesus; that people would see that he is so worth the risk of a life lived surrendered.  That too, is my prayer for each one of you, that you would live in such abandonment to God for all that he has done, that surrendering would be an out flowing of your heart to his.  I want to thank all of you for your prayers and support that have gotten me to this point, I am so grateful for all of you.  I want to also thank Pastor Jim, who has been somewhat of a spiritual mentor to me these last several years and whom I have the utmost respect for, I dare say he probably is my hero, next to Jesus.  When I see Pastor Jim, I see a life surrendered and it is that lifestyle of surrender that I have learned to seek and desire for myself and everyone at Church of the Open Door.  Let me close in prayer, as the page is getting shorter  J Father God, I am so grateful that you have placed me here at C.O.D. for this season.  I pray that all would truly desire a life lived for you alone.  I pray as I and others live lives of surrender and obedience that you be glorified and that others would desire to follow you in the same way.  Continue to rise up your people at Open Door, grow them in the mission and vision and help them live and serve as Jesus did.  We love you, and thank you for all you have done in our lives and we are so excited to see what you will continue to do as we live surrendered for you alone.  In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen!!                                         Love, your sister in Christ, Robin Richards

I knew these feelings would come

Well, this Sunday started my first regular set of Sunday’s at my new church.  I enjoyed the Sunday School class and the discussion on the 6th chapter of the book of John.  The service was good, and yet, I had that uneasy feeling when everyone started greeting each other, feeling a little insecure, yet knowing things are going to just have to take time.  I think it’s like this everywhere, in jobs, in families, in churches, it’s sometimes hard to be the new person.  You get a bit self conscious and wonder if everyone is looking at you, but then I find myself worshipping in total abandonment and know that is a  huge part of how I connect with God.  It was interesting in the Sunday school class when we discussed back in Matthew 16:7, about John The Baptist, where Jesus asked the people what did you come here to see…?  The thought was raised what do we come to church for?  What do we come to see?  Do we seek entertainment?  Do we seek fellowship or warm fuzzies?  I am sure there are many reasons we all come to church.  Now, I was once again faced with what was mine?  Never mind that fact that I drive an hour to go to this church, so to me this question is quite important indeed!!  I felt God called me here after several things took place over a long period of time. I felt that as a student in seminary, being a part of this denomination and church would help me to one day be able to fulfill the call that God has placed on my life, even if I don’t know what that all is supposed to look like, God does.  So as I went online today and listened to my previous pastor unveil new and exciting plans for his church, I had to trust and believe once again all the things that God has led me through to get me to this point.  I  remember too, how my former pastor said that I’d have feelings of questioning myself if I made the right decision, which I know I did, I just didn’t think it was going to hit me so soon, but God did, and perhaps it’s good that it did, before I had too much time go by to make me question even more.   It all  left me feeling a bit surreal; after all, I just returned home from my nieces high school graduation, and as the class was talked to and encouraged in their new life ahead, I sat there thinking on my new week  of seminary starting tomorrow, and how excited I was for all God is going to teach me this semester.  Then I got a message on facebook on how I was missed at my former church by a friend, then comes that grand sermon of the plans my former church is  unpacking.  Yes, I knew this was going to happen.  I may of not know the details, but I had mentally prepared myself for such a time as this.  I know that there will always be changes where ever I go, and as I told my friend on facebook, I have to trust and believe that I am walking in obedience.  Is it scary and uncertain?  Yes, but change always is.  I have to keep looking back at all that God has done to get me to this point and continue to trust that it’s all going to be O.K.  I don’t know what that looks like, but all I know is that today has enough worries for itself, and I will not get ahead of Jesus.  So, today was mixed with an array of emotions, some exciting, some uncertain, some scary, some sad, and some happy.  I guess it’s been somewhat of an emotional day, and isn’t that the beauty of humanity, that God has wired us with such detail! As I prepare now to drift into a sweet sleep, I know that tomorrow will come and God will have much for me to do to keep me busy and focused on him, reminding me that it’s all gonna be O.K. as I trust and obey.

My thoughts on The Book of Ecclesiastes

Last night as I opened my Bible God led me to the Book of Ecclesiastes.  God dropped me right at 12:13 which reads ”
13 “ All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man.” AMP. Bible.
 
I keep dwelling on the amplified part which kept moving in my spirit: the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man.”
 
I thought wow, FULL, ORIGINAL PURPOSE OF HIS CREATION, THE ROOT OF CHARACTER, THE FOUNDATION OF ALL HAPPINESS, THE ADJUSTMENT OF ALL INHARMONIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES AND CONDITIONS. WOW!  DO YOU HEAR THAT?   That just blows me away.  The root, the foundation, his original purposes!  Talk about the core fundamentals of the faith!!! I ended up reading the whole book this morning and seeing verse 13 showed up in different places throughout the text, and as I read the introduction, I know it is the underlying theme of the book to fear and revere God.  It made me think of all the different blog posts that I have complied; I can’t remember them all, but I have a pretty good guess that they too hold this underlying theme in the majority of them, even through my frustrations and the working out of my own salvation.  I’d just like to encourage you to read the book of Ecclesiastes this week if you can.  It penetrated so deep within me yesterday and today; half the book in my AMP Bible is underlined 🙂  I’ll just leave you with the intro from the Amp, well a few lines.  The purpose of this book is to investigate life as a whole and to teach that in the final analysis life is meaningless without proper respect and reverence for God.  In the end faith teaches him that God has ordered all things according to his own purposes, and that man’s role is to accept these, including his own limitations, and God’s appointments. Man therefore should be patient and enjoy life as God gives it.  Reverence and respect for God and a genuine devotion in serving God are essential in making life worthwhile.  I guess this is where I am on the journey.  I get this and now it’s just oozing out of me.  My hearts desire is to live and worship the King, to bring him Glory in all my life, as I learn to love, fear and revere him.  It’s such an awesome adventure, and as much as I have learned to love and accept people where they are on their journey, my heart cry for them is to taste and see the fullness of God in their own lives.  I am praying to God to continue to give me wisdom and guide my every step as I know he will.  May you be blessed and encouraged as you read this passage and let God speak deeply and clearly to you.  In Grace and Peace, Robin

My Call to Seminary and a Life Vocation of Ministry

As I was clearing off piles of mess from my kitchen table, I pick up my entrace exam for seminary and began to re-read it.  It helped to remind me how far I have come, and to see the continued path that God is laying out for me.  It’s so exciting to be on this adventure, and I thought I’d share it with you all today.  May it bless you and encourage you to walk in surrender and obedience in every area of your life.  Like I said the other day, it’s so awesome to be used of God and it’s so exciting to see what he’s going to do next.  Come and join the adventure!  It’s so worth it!

     Throughout my spiritual pilgrimage, one Bible verse has been at the core of every season of my life.  It is this verse that has grown me into the surrendered, obedient woman of God that I am today; and it has been a constant reminder in every thing that the Lord leads me to do; no matter how big or small.  God continually reminds me, “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10  It is this verse that allows me to trust and obey God in every area of my life, and to desire Christ-likeness to flow out of every part of me for the glory of God.  It is through this act of obedience that I am applying to seminary.  It is through the surrender and stillness that I will be at peace during this application process;  “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Phil. 1:6  So it is here, that I invite you to learn of my walk with Jesus and how he has formed my faith up to this point to live the adventure of becoming more like Christ as I take every step in faith and obedience to the will of The Father in my life.  May you be blessed and renewed in your faith as I share mine. 

      My spiritual walk with Christ began as a young child who was raised in the Catholic faith.  Early on, I knew that there was always more of God that I was trying to tap into; a relationship with Him; but the ritualistic traditions of the Catholic Church, along with its stricked catechism and doctrines seemed to keep me far from finding him.  I continually strived for more of him by becoming involved in a few different Catholic youth movements, where I not only was a participant, but where I began to serve in different areas of their yearly retreats.  It is here also, that I received my first Bible, and desired to know more of Gods word; but since the Catholic Church does not teach on the use of personal Bible study for communion with God, I was once again feeling as though I had to fend for my self when it came to my faith.    The time during my youth and into my early 20’s was very rebellious and filled with worldly cares, but God never left my side, and would continually nudge me to come back to him.  He finally led me to a local Christian outreach ministry, getting my attention through the music and worship style; and it was through this group of people God would work his miracle of salvation in my life.  It was here that the Bible finally became real to me.  Being along side other believers, I grew in my faith, learned and began to use my spiritual gifts, and truly embraced the community of people and pastors that I was growing along side of, and where I eventually got plugged into the church that I have been attending ever since; Church of the Open Door in Elyria, OH.  As I became an active member of the church, God would allow me one more hard fall away from his will, to bring me into true surrender and to finally experience the awesome presence of God in my life.  Today, my walk with God is filled to overflow with his presence, his peace, and my continued commitment to surrender and obedience to His will.  He is not just my savoir or my closest friend, but he is the very life blood and breath that keeps me alive in every way, and whose spirit keeps me humble and seeking to become a mirror image of the likeness in Christ in everything that I do. 

     From an early age; as noted above, I have always had a persistent desire to serve in some capacity in Christian ministry.  As I have grown in my walk, the spirit has continually burned a deep desire within me to do more of The Lord’s work here on earth; and  I have learned and understood ministry to be “simply loving, serving and healing people in the name of Jesus” (Jim Mindling; Senior Pastor of Church of the Open Door).  Put another way, we are blessed by God to be a blessing to others.  Our task is to be the most radiant image bearers for Christ that we can possible be, and to be his hands and feet, and go where he sends us.  As God continually calls us, he strengthens us and forms us into Christ-likeness; empowering us with His Spirit so that we can be sent out to serve and be holy representatives for the glory of God, sharing the good news of the gospel with the lost, meetings the needs of the less fortunate and building up the kingdom of God here on this earth.  In John 15:5 Jesus reminds us that apart from him and the work of the Holy Spirit in us we can do nothing.  It is this constant renew of our selves through abiding and remaining in Him that we live surrendered and accomplish His will in this world.     

     As a member of Church of the Open Door, I have consistently strived to serve and use my spiritual gifts of servant-hood in every way that I can.  I have attended and led Bible studies, participated in the Evangelism Explosion program, been involved in life groups over the years, and currently involved in the church’s prayer team and Women’s Advisory Board; as well as facilitating an online forum for single moms, volunteering when needed, and as the Spirit leads me to do so in different needs of the church and the local community  I understand that our changed lives in Christ, and our desire to do ministry must push through the brick and mortar walls of a physical building and overflow into our homes, community, nation and world.  This is no small task to move a congregation from the comfort of their pews, but it must be done if we are going to truly minister for the cause of Christ. 

     My motivation for preparing for ministry has and always will be to obey God and live out His will for my life.  The strength that I find to continue the call that God has placed on my life and in my heart is consistently renewed daily through prayer, time spend in His word and worshipping him in adoration through music and living a life that is pleasing to him in every way. When I think of obedience and a life of servant-hood toward God many scriptures come to mind.  1 Peter 9 states that “ But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you would declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.  Being chosen, belonging to God, to declare his praises is what living out the glory of God in our world is all about.  It is this call that we all have, but again, as we find in scripture that “many are called but few are chosen” Mathew 22:14.  It is this call to sanctification of holiness that few truly grasp and proceed on in true Christ-likeness.  For those of us who do hear obey and are chosen; a new life, and a new adventure in Christ begins.  It does not take away the hardships that we face in a fallen world, but it empowers us with the Holy Spirit that we are more than conquerors for the cause of Christ in this world. 

     So with all of this being said, I hope that you will see that my hearts desire is to be used by God and to bring glory to his name here on earth.  I expect my preparation in seminary to not only be challenging but completely life changing, and I look forward to being able to represent your seminary in this world with the call God has placed on my heart.  Thank you for your consideration in my attendance to your seminary, and I prayerfully hope that I will soon be a part of your call to Christ’s’ obedience as well.

My Call to Seminary and a Life Vocation of Ministry

I posted this on my seminary blog today, and figured I’d re-post it here too, since this is my main (busiest) blog. 

As I was clearing off piles of mess from my kitchen table, I pick up my entrace exam for seminary and began to re-read it.  It helped to remind me how far I have come, and to see the continued path that God is laying out for me.  It’s so exciting to be on this adventure, and I thought I’d share it with you all today.  May it bless you and encourage you to walk in surrender and obedience in every area of your life.  Like I said the other day, it’s so awesome to be used of God and it’s so exciting to see what he’s going to do next.  Come and join the adventure!  It’s so worth it!

     Throughout my spiritual pilgrimage, one Bible verse has been at the core of every season of my life.  It is this verse that has grown me into the surrendered, obedient woman of God that I am today; and it has been a constant reminder in every thing that the Lord leads me to do; no matter how big or small.  God continually reminds me, “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10  It is this verse that allows me to trust and obey God in every area of my life, and to desire Christ-likeness to flow out of every part of me for the glory of God.  It is through this act of obedience that I am applying to seminary.  It is through the surrender and stillness that I will be at peace during this application process;  “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Phil. 1:6  So it is here, that I invite you to learn of my walk with Jesus and how he has formed my faith up to this point to live the adventure of becoming more like Christ as I take every step in faith and obedience to the will of The Father in my life.  May you be blessed and renewed in your faith as I share mine. 

      My spiritual walk with Christ began as a young child who was raised in the Catholic faith.  Early on, I knew that there was always more of God that I was trying to tap into; a relationship with Him; but the ritualistic traditions of the Catholic Church, along with its stricked catechism and doctrines seemed to keep me far from finding him.  I continually strived for more of him by becoming involved in a few different Catholic youth movements, where I not only was a participant, but where I began to serve in different areas of their yearly retreats.  It is here also, that I received my first Bible, and desired to know more of Gods word; but since the Catholic Church does not teach on the use of personal Bible study for communion with God, I was once again feeling as though I had to fend for my self when it came to my faith.    The time during my youth and into my early 20’s was very rebellious and filled with worldly cares, but God never left my side, and would continually nudge me to come back to him.  He finally led me to a local Christian outreach ministry, getting my attention through the music and worship style; and it was through this group of people God would work his miracle of salvation in my life.  It was here that the Bible finally became real to me.  Being along side other believers, I grew in my faith, learned and began to use my spiritual gifts, and truly embraced the community of people and pastors that I was growing along side of, and where I eventually got plugged into the church that I have been attending ever since; Church of the Open Door in Elyria, OH.  As I became an active member of the church, God would allow me one more hard fall away from his will, to bring me into true surrender and to finally experience the awesome presence of God in my life.  Today, my walk with God is filled to overflow with his presence, his peace, and my continued commitment to surrender and obedience to His will.  He is not just my savoir or my closest friend, but he is the very life blood and breath that keeps me alive in every way, and whose spirit keeps me humble and seeking to become a mirror image of the likeness in Christ in everything that I do. 

     From an early age; as noted above, I have always had a persistent desire to serve in some capacity in Christian ministry.  As I have grown in my walk, the spirit has continually burned a deep desire within me to do more of The Lord’s work here on earth; and  I have learned and understood ministry to be “simply loving, serving and healing people in the name of Jesus” (Jim Mindling; Senior Pastor of Church of the Open Door).  Put another way, we are blessed by God to be a blessing to others.  Our task is to be the most radiant image bearers for Christ that we can possible be, and to be his hands and feet, and go where he sends us.  As God continually calls us, he strengthens us and forms us into Christ-likeness; empowering us with His Spirit so that we can be sent out to serve and be holy representatives for the glory of God, sharing the good news of the gospel with the lost, meetings the needs of the less fortunate and building up the kingdom of God here on this earth.  In John 15:5 Jesus reminds us that apart from him and the work of the Holy Spirit in us we can do nothing.  It is this constant renew of our selves through abiding and remaining in Him that we live surrendered and accomplish His will in this world.     

     As a member of Church of the Open Door, I have consistently strived to serve and use my spiritual gifts of servant-hood in every way that I can.  I have attended and led Bible studies, participated in the Evangelism Explosion program, been involved in life groups over the years, and currently involved in the church’s prayer team and Women’s Advisory Board; as well as facilitating an online forum for single moms, volunteering when needed, and as the Spirit leads me to do so in different needs of the church and the local community  I understand that our changed lives in Christ, and our desire to do ministry must push through the brick and mortar walls of a physical building and overflow into our homes, community, nation and world.  This is no small task to move a congregation from the comfort of their pews, but it must be done if we are going to truly minister for the cause of Christ. 

     My motivation for preparing for ministry has and always will be to obey God and live out His will for my life.  The strength that I find to continue the call that God has placed on my life and in my heart is consistently renewed daily through prayer, time spend in His word and worshipping him in adoration through music and living a life that is pleasing to him in every way. When I think of obedience and a life of servant-hood toward God many scriptures come to mind.  1 Peter 9 states that “ But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you would declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.  Being chosen, belonging to God, to declare his praises is what living out the glory of God in our world is all about.  It is this call that we all have, but again, as we find in scripture that “many are called but few are chosen” Mathew 22:14.  It is this call to sanctification of holiness that few truly grasp and proceed on in true Christ-likeness.  For those of us who do hear obey and are chosen; a new life, and a new adventure in Christ begins.  It does not take away the hardships that we face in a fallen world, but it empowers us with the Holy Spirit that we are more than conquerors for the cause of Christ in this world. 

     So with all of this being said, I hope that you will see that my hearts desire is to be used by God and to bring glory to his name here on earth.  I expect my preparation in seminary to not only be challenging but completely life changing, and I look forward to being able to represent your seminary in this world with the call God has placed on my heart.  Thank you for your consideration in my attendance to your seminary, and I prayerfully hope that I will soon be a part of your call to Christ’s’ obedience as well.

Do You Love Me? Then Feed My Sheep.

These were Jesus’ words to Peter in John 21:15-17 It’s what he expected of him to show him that his love for Jesus was authentic. Jesus asked him 3 times. Why? I think he wanted to emphasize the importance of what he was asking Peter. I think Jesus wanted to make it crystal clear that this was not going to be an easy task. It’s easy for us to say “Sure Jesus, I can love your people, but then add our own disclaimer to it… (As long as they don’t mess with my comfort and way of doing things). Did you ever notice how smelly sheep are? I’ve been to plenty of county fairs to know that when I go into the sheep barn it is the one that smells the worst. No amount of clean bedding can take away the penetrating smell of sheep; it just lingers there. Have you ever touched a sheep? Their coat is wooly and coarse. People are wooly and coarse. I am learning to love on messy, smelly, coarse feeling sheep. Isn’t that what Jesus did? He didn’t go to the “safe” people in the synagogues and church gatherings; he went out to the messy sheep, the smelly sheep, and the sheep that nobody else wanted to touch. We have that same call. Christ does not call us to comfort, but to death. He calls us to walk in unselfish love, to have eyes, ears and hearts of compassion for one another. Just this morning God pointed out a very blatant truth to me. How often am I willing to “die to self” for the sake of the sheep? I found myself switching up my prayer to the point of praying “Lord, whatever it takes to get them to follow”. That means my ideas don’t need to be the ones chosen and used. This means having faith that God is moving in my prayers even when I can’t see. This week already, at church, I have seen and heard stories of very messy sheep. Sheep I serve along side of. Sheep God has called me to go to and love on and feed with words of encouragement and hope.
This means loving messy people when I don’t feel like it. WHEN I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT! Oh, yeh, he’s up to something. I have found myself more patient with others, I have found myself willing to step out of myself this week and come along side messy people. I have found myself learning to take more time for my daughter. I have found myself biting my tong and praying for wisdom and understanding of another’s point of view. I have found myself saturated in prayer and the word, and I know that is the only way that growth is going to not only happen but be deeply rooted. Jesus, I thank you for helping me to see and feel with people this week. I thank you for the ways in which you are growing me; it is amazing! I thank you that you never leave us or forsake us; and that you continue to mold us into your image. Father I repent of when I fall short and I thank you for your forgiveness. I thank you for everything in my life; the good, and the bad; and yes Lord; I thank you for the smelly sheep. We are all smelly sheep and you love us with such amazing grace. I pray right now for everyone that is reading this and for myself that you would continue to transform us in such amazing ways God that it just blows our little minds. I know you’re up to something God and I can’t wait to see what that looks like. Now may I go today, and be a good steward of everything that you put in front of me and may I lean on you alone for guidance and direction as you lead my every step. With a completely surrendered heart and desire to serve you I ask this all in Jesus Holy name. Amen.

Stop Persecuting the Church

We all know the story of Paul and how as an upright Jew, he followed the law and outlandishly persecuted the church. It’s easy to look at him and pass either a quick judgment of “Paul, how could you do such a thing”, or take a big sigh of relief that he “finally saw the light”. If you read his epistles you will come to find that he is pleading with the different churches to not follow in his former footsteps. He speaks to the Corinthians of not succumbing to the sinful practices that were infiltrating Corinth. He speaks to the Galatians, calling them foolish, and he is amazed how quickly they are going back to their old habits of worldliness, urging them to walk by the Spirit and bear one another’s burdens. He speaks to the Ephesians, praying for God to give them wisdom and a spirit of revelation in the knowledge of him (Ephesians 1:17); and again in Philippians, Colossians, and 1st and 2nd Thessalonians he continues to emphasize a newness in Christ, and as imitators of Christ how we are to live and love not only one another but the world. Have you ever stopped to think why it is that the Church today is in such turmoil? Yes, there are lots of awesome things God is working out through his church, but we have a very long way to go. It starts very simply with us. How we treat each other inside our own church walls speaks volumes. It reveals our hearts. What are we saying when we open our mouths? Are we brining glory to God with our words, or are we smearing his face in the mud. It’s like a smear campaign if you think about it. Whenever we say a hurtful thing about another, about a ministry, about a group of people, we are persecuting the church; and worse yet, we are doing it to those who we come together with every week and claim the name of Christ with. Brother’s and Sister’s let me just say this; none of us arrive, we all fall short, and are only held up by the grace of God that he bestows on each of us every day. I know we are all hurt and broken and need restoration; which is found in Christ Alone. We must constantly re-evaluate our lives and make sure our time with God, to know him more, to hunger for him more, comes first. I’d like to encourage you to take some time and read some if not all, of Paul’s epistles, and when you do, ask God to speak to you, to point things out that you need to know and learn. Seek illumination and transformation from his Word, not just information; Information is useless unless it changes us. Also, pray for your church and the global church daily. Your pastor’s need your prayers, your volunteers and staff does also. We are His body, we are to be a spotless bride; and even though we will never be perfect till we get the other side, there is so much love that we can learn and give to others. Seek out the wisdom that is in The Word; seek holiness and purity of heart; for this is what God desires of each one of us. May that be our prayer today and every day. Father, I ask that you point out and convict each one of us when we persecute your church by the way we live, by the words we speak, by anything that does not please you. Teach us your ways, illuminate your word, and grow us in Christ likeness. Lord, we surrender every area of our live to you today, we ask you to do a transforming work in our hearts; revive our hearts and set us on fire for your purposes. May we be changed, and may that change flow out of us so others will see you for who you are, and not for what we make you so many times. We ask forgiveness, we seek repentance, and a changed heart. Thank you for loving us and never leaving us or forsaking us. We pray all of this in your Holy Name Jesus, Amen.

Longing to be Made Holy

If you haven’t guessed by now, my love language is worship. Now I realized worship is more than just giving praised through our songs, hence the second part of my blog tag line above “learning to worship with my life.” it’s the way we live out our lives. But I also believe that God inhabits the praises of his people. When I sing praises to God, it draws me into him and I am renewed; I am  being made Holy. Now, I understand some people have issues with piety, but like I said in my post the other day, everything in balance. We must learn to live our lives in balance of Holy adoration and reverent fear of God and letting that inward change flow out of us naturally to serve the world and make disciples. Now this is where it can get tricky for some, and for me. Not only do we live in a me centered culture, but we often go on our feelings of the present moment when we need to be going by the spirit of God who may or may not produce feelings of eagerness, but deeper down, we know we need to go and serve in the name of Christ. It goes the other way too; we can get so caught up in doing good works that we neglect our deeper spiritual needs; remember, we are spiritual beings who need to connect with our spiritual sides. So I guess the question to ask yourself is where are you in this all? And where am I? Are you the kind of person that volunteers for all sorts of things, and then wonders why you are running on fumes? Or are you a person who loves to pray, attend church to get spiritually filled up, quote all sorts of scriptures and give all kind of encouraging words, but rarely step out of yourself to help another? Both sides are needed, and they need to be in balance, so we can represent God with our whole selves, not just part. God wants us to display both, in balance. The question, or better yet prayer, should be “God how you want me to be made Holy through my personal time with you? Or “God how do you want me to be made holy through serving and loving others”? Now I realize it looks like I compartmentalized these two, and I’m not trying to; so maybe a better question to ask is “God, how do you want me to be made holy today?” “Do I need to spend more time with you? “I am trusting that you will draw me to yourself and that I will have that time to spend with you”. Likewise, if you need to learn to get out of yourself a little bit more (which I think we all do), ask God to show you who, when and where he wants you to serve and show the love of Christ to. It may be something as simple as starting a conversation with a stranger, (which he had me do today). I didn’t seek to evangelize, that’s not my gift, but I showed the love of Christ to this person by simply showing a genuine interest and concern for what they were saying. I was just being Christ in that moment, seeking to reflect the son by loving a stranger.; That my friends is one very simple way that we become Holy. Remember when you gave your life to Christ? We often call it having a personal relationship with Jesus. How’s that going for you today? I pray he speak to your heart, and wherever you are on the journey. I pray that we all long for more of God in every area of our lives, that we would be so saturated with the things of God that we would love the world from the inside out. Be blessed and encouraged. Robin

The Importance and Warnings of Tradition

Many of us just got done with the Easter celebration. No doubt some of our churches, depending on your denomination or lack there of hold to certain traditions that they deem important. We do this too in our families; we hold dear to strong rooted traditions of generations past which give us a sense of belonging and connection with another time. These can be a favorite recipe that we’ve grown to love from childhood, or a tradition of decorating the Christmas tree every year in a certain way. Traditions are so deeply rooted in all of us, and they can be good. But like anything held too strong, they can become dangerous and legalistic. There is a balance that we need to learn and understand in it all. When we look at God, he is a God of balance and order (read the creation account in Genesis Ch 1).

In the New Testament Jesus is seen consistently going against the grain of the Jewish traditions of his day; and in doing so, he is calling for a higher standard. He doesn’t come to abolish the law, (the traditions and order), but uses it to point out it’s legalism that we all succumb to. (Read Roman’s chapter 2). Again in Luke 11:37-39, Jesus warns the Pharisees who follow every rule of the outer law, but are unclean and hypocritical on the inside. We have this same problem today. We all have traditions that shape our thinking. What we need to do is to rightly acknowledge them, but then go one step further and learn the teachings of Jesus and how he dealt with people, their attitudes and traditions. As I mentioned, Jesus goes against the grain of the law to bring forth a deeper understanding of the character of God that he wants all his people to learn. It’s a way of love, of compassion, of acceptance. It’s not judging another just because you “see” things differently. God made us all unique and that is the beauty of life. I know I have had my struggles with this time and time again, but God is helping me to see clearer. As a seminary student (a student of The Good Book); I am constantly leaning to pray for humility. I know how easy it is for all of us to get big heads when we think we’ve learned something new. God is constantly reminding me that I am just a small part of his bigger purposes; and for most of us who live in a self-centered society that is a very hard pill to swallow. So I guess I say, traditions are good, but always be aware of how they are shaping you. Do they bring you closer to the thing of God, and his character and attributes? Or do they surface judgmental attitudes and “my way is the right way” type of thinking? May we constantly seek to surrender all of ourselves at the feet of Jesus and may we ask for him to point out and take away things that are not of him. (Psalm 134:23-24). May we live with a desire to truly reflect Jesus with our lives, driven by love, humility and service that is formed from a pure heart that is repentant and desires to do The will of The Father who has sent all of us to “go and make disciples”. I pray this spoke to you today and I pray it helps you to surrender on a new level to God. Be blessed and encouraged, and know that we’re all on this journey together. Robin.