Monday, March 28, 2011

I Will Hide Your Word...Your Truth...In My Heart

I’ve been on an unexpected hiatus from blogging recently. Not for lack of wanting … but God has had me “working out my salvation” (a la Philippians 2) in some of the most precious experiences. Some so precious I am reluctant to share, but share I will ~ in a few days.

Until then I want to share with you some of the themes God has speaking to my heart and in so doing I’ll also be sharing some other resources that have inspired me along the way.

You might want to grab a cuppa something and maybe your own journal as you take this journey with me. I would love to hear what inspired you as you went along the way.

Theme #1 Retain the Standard

I have been thinking a lot lately about the allergy our culture has to truth. Not just telling the truth, but believing truth, affirming truth and standing up for truth. Of course I am talking about the truth of the Scriptures. It seems everywhere we turn I see people compromising the truth of the word for political correctness, or social justice, or simply their own version of truth.

My husband Howie and I have been leading an inductive study in 2 Timothy. Of course Paul, nearing the end of his life, is telling his protégé Timothy to stand firm and maintain the integrity of the gospel. As we began this study this message cropped up (as it often does) in many places ~ other Bible studies, messages being preached on the radio, and on other blogs that I follow.

One of the sweetest articles I read was from Ann Voskamp’s slightly old blog post: Returning to Your First Love Bible Memorization: Make a Commitment Booklet


Some of my best go-to verses were memorized as a new believer when hiding God’s word in my heart (Psalm 119:11) was a daily transforming of my mind and a soaking in of the truth I so desperately needed to know.

Lately, I’ve been working on the Scripture Memory challenge with one of my  siestas over at the LPMBlog. What a fun way to get into the word and have accountability to get some memorization done! It would be fun to meet up with these sweet ladies at the Siesta Scripture Memorization Team gathering in Houston when it’s all over, but even if that doesn’t happen, I’ll have 24 verses forever imprinted on my heart. 

            Siesta Book 1Siesta Book 2

One of the most powerful reminders came when we were looking up cross-references for our 2 Timothy lesson. We went to 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, a verse that came to me early in my Christian walk and at a time when I sensed God beginning to call me as a leader and a teacher of His word. Being directed to this reference reaffirmed my calling to accurately handle God’s word (2 Tim 2:15) as a trustworthy steward. In fact I often drink my first morning coffee from this mug:

Trustworthy steward

Then to top it all off one of our pastors preached a really great sermon on this very topic part of our Moving Mountains series challenging our most cherished heresies in the church. This week’s sermon was based on the events at Mt. Sinai in Genesis 20, the handing down of the Ten Commandments and challenged us to consider whether or not our worldview allows that God’s word, in fact God Himself, is the source of truth.

I love it when God shows off this way! Giving His message through more than one person at a time. What a great God…a great, creative, truth-speaking God.

Here are few verses on Truth you might enjoy -

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us But to Your name give glory Because of Your lovingkindness because of Your truth.” Psalm 115:1

“Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
In the sight of God and man.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.”                       Proverbs 3:3-6

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”           John 14:6

“I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." 1 Timothy 3:15

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Mmmm. That’s right friends, dwell on truth!



All Verses: New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Oh ye of Little Faith!

For the second time in two months I looked down at the bracelet on my wrist – a birthday gift from one of my dearest friends and Bible study sisters – only to realize that the charm was missing. The first time this happened I had just come out of Bible study and on the way to my car prayed “Lord, please let me see it if it dropped on the ground somewhere!”

Amazingly as I opened my car door, the charm was on the floorboard in front of the driver’s seat. It was missing it’s clasp, but there nonetheless. Oh glory! How I praised Jesus for keeping it safe. And about two weeks ago I finally remembered to get some clasps from the craft store to fix it.

Today I spent most of the day at a Women’s Leadership Conference, then went to dinner with another friend and ministry partner to go over our notes. From conference to restaurant to my car … and on the way home I realized once again that my charm was missing.

To say that my heart sank would be a gross understatement. Although I love the bracelet, I love the lady who gave it to me more and to look down at my wrist and have that reminder of her has been so sweet. So to realize it wasn’t there was heartbreaking. Again I prayed, “Lord, I know it’s a lot to ask …”

But the thought that ran through my head this time was that my missing charm represents the season I am walking through with the Lord.

You see, the charm looks something like this:

Faith charm 

The missing charm is a metaphor for the lack of faith that I’ve had in certain areas of my life. Namely some food issues I’m having. Using food for comfort instead of relying on God.

Ironically, my Made to Crave book came this morning just before I left for the leadership conference. And that’s a whole other story … That book was lost in transit for almost a week before making it to my house. It seems like every time I turn around God is reminding me that He is the only one I can depend on.

And then just when I realize I’m in the middle of a divine object lesson, God does something totally amazing … as I cleaned out my goodie bag from the conference ~ I found my charm!! I don’t know if that was God’s subtle reminder that I do have faith, small as it is, or if it was a gift for listening to His voice about how small is my faith.

Either way, I think my faith increased a little today.

In Matthew 17:19 Jesus’ disciples ask Him why they could not drive out a particular demon. He replied in verse 20, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”

Read Mark 10:26 & 27 and Hebrews 11:6. What do these verses say about our relationship to faith and what is possible in our lives?

I’m pretty sure that dealing with my food issues isn’t going to be easy, near impossible by my estimation. Good thing God is able to do abundantly far more than I think or ask. Oh me of little faith …

Monday, March 7, 2011

Preach the Gospel at all times…Use Your Words

I have never been a fan of the oft quoted St. Francis of Assisi adage “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” Aside from the fact that it can promote a works-based theology (which is a blog post for a another day…) I think that it implies that talking about our faith is unnecessary except in the direst of circumstances.

This makes me think of my friends who have young children and are often heard telling them in times where communication is failing, during tantrums or crying spells – “Use your words.” Once this mother knows what is at the root of her child’s problem she can communicate loving words and actions to help that child through a troubling time.

It’s been my experience that women need to hear from other women the ways in which their lives are being transformed by the gospel. That very word gospel – euaggelos in the Greek – carries the idea of preaching, telling, speaking.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as I am scheduled to speak to a unique group of women this coming weekend. I only have 20 minutes to share at their chapel service and I want to make the most of it. The message that keeps running through my mind is “Your Word” – give them the Word. I wish I knew how to do that in only 20 minutes!

Ironically I woke up this morning with a reminder from a favorite blogger, author and speaker, Lysa Ter Keurst, that the scholarship process for the She Speaks Conference has begun. I wish the conference were tomorrow because I feel like I could use a little help right now.

This amazing conference helps women who have been gifted to share the gospel through speaking, writing and leading. Through workshops and training they empower women in their calling to step out with the message God has laid on their hearts.

I have been wanting to go to this conference for years, and this year is no different. Well, it might be a little different because now is the time that God seems to be opening more doors for me to speak. I would love to win a scholarship to this conference. Not just because money is tight and I could use the help, but because Feeding His Sheep has been on my heart for so long. (I’m linking my inaugural blog post for those of you who don’t know my story.)

Along with the reminder from Lysa this morning, I also received an email from my dear friend and pastor’s wife with a thought for the day from Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest” The topic ~ yup … Feeding Sheep! I don’t know if I’ve ever had a time that God has repeated a message so clearly to me in so many arenas in my life at one time. How I long to spend time with other women who feel so clearly called. Maybe this is the year I get to go to She Speaks!

But lest you think this is ‘All About Me’ I would ask you ladies … where do you feel called to speak or lead? How has God asked you to “preach the good news?” Jesus asked Peter “Do you love Me? Feed My sheep.” Some translations read ‘Tend My sheep.’ In these translations we see the deeper understanding of the word – a sense of total or well-rounded care for the sheep – not just feeding their bellies but pasturing them well. Can you imagine Peter tending the sheep without ever speaking to them? Neither can I.

So let’s go feed some sheep. Speak the gospel ladies, and by all means, use your words!

Blessings, Tina

Thursday, March 3, 2011

… in the Integrity of My Heart

Psalm 34 has been speaking to my heart …

            1      I will bless the LORD at all times;
                     His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
            2      My soul will make its boast in the LORD;
                     The humble will hear it and rejoice.
            3      O magnify the LORD with me,
                     And let us exalt His name together. (1)

All this contemplation of the impact social media has on ministry has my heart longing for the simplicity of the message of Jesus. I’m a little surprised that even today my thoughts and feelings are swirling within me, thinking about some of the words and images I’d seen during my research.

In my quest to find value in the use of social media for ministry purposes, I was alarmed by some of the material I came across. Not so much from anonymous sources or people unknown to me, but from individuals who not only attend our church, but are in some form of leadership.

I dare not post specific examples, but let me just say it pains me to see women who lead other women posting sexually charged content and innuendo on their Facebook pages. Or posts intended to direct us to Christ scream “Look what great things I do for Him!” and even as I write this knowing I am sometimes guilty of similar offenses – being too much ‘friends with the world’ and blurring the line between confidence and pride to name a few – I wonder at posting this at all.

But as I spoke with my dear friend today, I realized that feeding sheep means helping to keep their food source clean. Making sure they aren’t chewing brambles and thorns with their tender grass, and leading them to cool streams of water when they would rather lay down and sleep or are too scared to find their way alone.

My friend encouraged me to speak up. And I know that’s a right thing. So as I read Psalm 34 I thought “That’s right. Bless the Lord at all times…boast in the Lord.” I guess the conclusion I’ve come to is this: I feel at peace about using Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to ‘boast in the Lord.’ As a equipping member of the body of Christ, I have a responsibility to reach others with the Word, and these outlets help me walk in my Ephesians 2:10 work. The bottom line for me is this: whatever medium I use, I must use it with integrity, I must keep my message pure and in line with the Scriptures, and I must always seek to point others to Christ first and always. I choose to use social media to magnify the Lord and exalt His name. What others do with their resources is up to them … I don’t have to friend, follow or retweet any ungodly thing. I can also keep in mind these verses from Psalm 101:

                    I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.
                I will set no worthless thing before my eyes…

       My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may  dwell with me;
      He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me.

For consideration from Psalm 101:

    • It is often easy in the privacy of our own homes to live differently than we live in front of our church family. What are three ways you can walk in the integrity (this word is also often also translated ‘blamelessness’) of your heart at home?
    • What does the psalmist mean when he says ‘My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land …’ Who might these people be in your life? Can you think of any people who walk in the blameless way (with integrity) that minister to your heart? Take a moment to ask God to reveal to you who that might be and thank Him for them. Then consider giving them a call, or dropping them a note to tell them how much they mean to you. You won’t be sorry you did!

Praising God for all of you!

Blessings, Tina

(1) New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ps 34:1–3). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

(2) New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ps 101:2–6). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

All A-Twitter Again

Part 2 in a two part series.

So a couple of days after my original post, I’m ready to take up the topic of the value of social media in ministry. Because of the Rob Bell controversy I have spent a lot of time the past few days checking out the blogosphere. With all of the commentary out there, some of it pretty harsh speaking out against Bell’s theology, most of it seems to focus on the role that social media played in how quickly things got out of control.

What I am most impressed with is the integrity of the actual bloggers who were reluctant to rush to judgment against Bell. In retrospect the firestorm seems to have been fueled by those who commented on blog posts, twittered their own commentary, and forwarded the information by linking posts and tweets.

When I ran my blog piece about Facebook, hoping to follow up with this piece on Twitter, I had no idea that I would be handed a real-life object lesson in the process. Social media outlets do disseminate information and invite commentary at a high rate of speed.

On the one hand that can be a useful tool in ministry. It can help promote events, increase communication between leaders, and keep larger congregations abreast of important information. Heaven knows that in our busy society we need all the help we can get.

But as we saw in Bell’s case it can also cause a lot of grief and heartache in the body of Christ, not the least of which was a heated debate on the doctrine of hell. Part of the blame for that may lie in the practices used to promote Bell’s book. But I think a large part of the responsibility lies with us, the Body of Christ. We have become accustomed to using social media in other contexts of our life.

We twitter our daily lives on a regular basis ~ we tell people what movie we just saw while we’re having our ice cream afterward, or where we’re vacationing with the family while we’re on the road … complete with candids from the back seat, or we post the cute shoes we just saw at Macy’s and wonder aloud if they’re worth busting the budget over.

Then almost as soon as we send these messages into cyberspace ~ we get a response! “Saw that last night … soooo good! Eat a bite of Cherry Garcia for me!” “Been there! Ohmygosh! Little Johnny puked all over the backseat on the way home. Bleh! Car smelled bad for days. Won't eat pizza anymore. =(“ “Cutest. Shoes. Ever. Buy them in every color!”

And before you know it 30 of our closest friends (or at least our 5 besties and 6 each of their closest friends) have weighed in on all three topics and we’ve been retweeted 18 times because the shoes really are cute, and it’s hilarious that our best friend said puked … really because she could have said vomited but was only allowed 140 characters. And then we reply “Ewww! That’s why I don’t let the kids eat for 6 hours before a car ride. Not worth the hassle.” In return, “So smart. Wish I had your natural instincts.”

And in that moment we realize that we have a little something special that garnered that much respect and social stimulation and we’re hooked. Fast forward to Bell on Hell and we’re already so accustomed to dashing off a comment or tweet that it’s second nature and eventually someone comes up with “What sort of God sends infants to an eternal hell?” (actual blog comment) Which totally misconstrues arguments on either side of the debate.

It’s obvious that in attempting to think through my own feelings on the use of social media in ministry I am having to wade through a lot of use and misuse of these vehicles. I’m also having to do a lot of soul searching to come to any concrete conclusions. If I were to just listen to the professional bloggers and tweeters, of course I’d make the most of every opportunity.

But you know me better than that … I always take it back to Scripture. Although Jesus doesn’t specifically address what we know as social media, we read in His word that we are not to be “conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of (our) minds” Romans 12:2. And that we ought to “Let (our) speech always be with grace …” Colossians 4:6

Is it just me, or does it always come back to personal responsibility? Whatever we choose to do with social media we, as the church, have tremendous responsibility to make sure that we are not only choosing our words carefully but that we are examining our hearts and motives before we blog, tweet, retweet, comment, or reply. A little prayer before we hit send might help a lot. Let me leave you with one last thought from Scripture, then give up a little prayer and consider how you might respond:

         but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.
         For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness—
         nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.
         But we proved to be gentle among you*

Blessings, Tina

* New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (1 Th 2:4–7). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

All A-Twitter

Part 1 in a 2 part series …

I have to preface this post with a confession. I did not experience the whole @realrobbell backlash in real time. But after my post about Facebook the other day I really had been thinking that I should comment on the more sophisticated and dignified social media outlet ~ Twitter.

I’d say I’m a little late. Apparently there was nothing sophisticated or dignified in many of the criticisms or responses to such surrounding news of the release of Mars Hill Church Pastor Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: : A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived due out March 29.

In a nutshell, some of the promotional material was by design provocative and controversial ~ meant to create a little drama. Anyone who has seen Bell’s popular Nooma video series knows that Bell is nothing if not dramatic. I don’t think this was any surprise.

The surprise was that not a few critics have come out swinging hard and low at Bell’s seemingly universalist tendencies. And when these criticisms went flying through cyberspace with meteoric speed, the backlash took on a life of its own.

Now its important to note that while I’m not a Rob Bell fan, having heard him speak in person a few years ago several hours after he and other pastors met with the Dalai Lama in Seattle, I found the criticism of his book on the internet to be less than edifying to the body of Christ at large.

I don’t need John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, or Denny Burk to sound the alarm that Rob Bell has universalist tendencies. I mean, he met with the Dalai Lama … and I heard him speak not a few hours afterward. I know he has some serious red flags to his teaching. I can make that assessment for myself. I also recognize that not everyone who reads Bell’s books will recognize the error or truth contained therein and that someone needs to help differentiate between them. But that is a discussion for another day.

What I’m interested in is the whole “faster than the speed of sound” tearing down of an otherwise Christ-focused individual. In retrospect it seems the tweets were flying at an alarming rate. Each person chiming in with their opinion, well-informed or not. All of these tweets and re-tweets fanned the flames of a firestorm that could potentially make or break a person’s life and ministry. And to what end? I’m sure Bell will be selling as many or more books as anticipated.

It doesn’t seem as though his reputation is hurt all that much except maybe in more conservative circles of Christianity. But what I do see is that more than one well-know Christian speaker or author has come across as sounding unyielding and well … just plain mean – translate: un-Christ-like.

Those of you who know me know that one of my life goals is to uphold the integrity of Scripture and to help people understand how to discover truth for themselves. I would also say that I hope to encourage believers to live in an understanding way, allowing for differences in maturity and growth in Christ, for levels of understanding that are on a continuum at different rates, and for grace and patience toward the ones who struggle and need help from time to time.

I haven’t always been this way. Heaven help me, I have been quick to rush to judgment in the past. What I think of all this is that as Christians we need to be responsible with social media. We need to put careful thought into our reproof, rebuke and correction. That’s right, I believe there is a time and place to speak out against error. But a 140 character tweet often does not accomplish the righteousness of God ~ to paraphrase James 1:20.

If I think about yesterday’s post I have to admit, it could be any of us who put ourselves in the public arena who makes a statement leaning toward error. I hope that if the day comes that I need correction in my assertions about the gospel that my brothers and sisters in Christ will lovingly try to restore me. And lest Rob Bell perpetuate a lie by denouncing hell as a very real and fearsome place, I hope his friends do the same for him.

If you want to know what God’s word says about hell, read the very words of Jesus Himself, the One who has the power to cast down. Matthew 5:22-30, Luke 12:1-10, and ironically James 3:6.

Tweetly deet,