“Not Just Believing”

  
This morning my mind is fixed upon a verse that I never paid attention before. It is John 12:42-43.

The story revolved around Jesus’ ministry on earth before He died at the cross, and despite of many signs and wonders He did, some people still had difficulty to believe that He is the Son of God. 

John 12
42 Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:
 43 For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

It intrigues my mind somehow, that eventhough this people did believe in Jesus yet they did not confess their faith because of fear/shame, and God counted them as seeking/loving man more than Him, and this does not please Him. 

Then I learn to simply stop at the point of “believing” doesn’t make our journey as Christian/Christ-followers complete. There is still more down the road. What does make us stop at this point and not going further to confess our faith to others? Is it fear, shame, peer-pressure, indifference? 
I believe we are not meant to become a “continuous talking machine” regarding our faith either. 

The bible also says, “For everything there is a season… A time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Eccl 3:7). 

But if the reason for us to be buried in silence for our faith because we value man above God, this certainly not glorifying and pleasing Him. 
It is a “hard-reminder”, but I’m glad I find these verses today “by accident”. Very often we fix our mind upon what we see in front of us (man), rather than the unseen (God), hence our life direction can be easily steered by man’s opinion. 

Let’s break out freely from this, and give Holy Spirit the control of our lives. 

#crunchynatsjournal (connect through Instagram)

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Returning to Our First Love with Jesus – How?

first love never dies

Since first of July I’m doing a guided bible study especially for women using Judy Rossi‘s book “Enhancing Your Marriage“. This November I and my husband will celebrate our third wedding anniversary (yeyy) and although ‘three’ may sound not many yet, but during the years I’ve learnt a lot to laying down a strong foundation for our future marriage ahead (if it doesn’t start from now I’m afraid it’d be too late by then!). I’ve learnt a lot from my parents’ wrongs in their marriage and promising myself not to repeat the same, but you know what, promising ourselves not to repeat the mistake without the help and conviction and heart change from the Holy Spirit IS difficult! How many of you have actually promised the same and only to find out that you actually have done exactly the same mistake later on? Scary isn’t it… Indonesian calls it as ‘licking our own saliva’ 😛

God’s been teaching me to be proactive in handling issues and challenges in marriage and not to just leave problems unresolved (although I did have some issues lingered on for a while until I embarked on this bible study journey and have my mind changed by God!). In fact, being tired having to argue over and over about same issue was what motivated me to commit my time to this bible study. I ordered the book out of ‘desperation’ haha.. then soon forgot that I ordered it (especially when it arrived for too long, usually would only take a week for delivery time, yet this had taken like almost more than a month!). You know what’s wrong? I put wrong delivery address! Oh well technically it was the correct address but I entered ‘Indonesia’ as the country instead of ‘Australia’ lol.. yeah, the cost of ordering a book out of desperation lol..

Butttt.. one day during my 40-days fasting and praying that I started in mid of June the book suddenly arrived!! Exactly on the first of July! haha,, Now that I’ve been blessed a lot by the study I know a lot that it must be God sending the book just at the right time (if I received it earlier when my heart was still prideful and my goal was to ‘win’ over my husband I guess I wouldn’t give my wholehearted heart studying the subjects as my heart wasn’t in receptive state).

Oh friends, I have desires to share these many stories and testimonies I benefit from the study, let’s start from this week’s subject “Returning to First Love” (although it almost reaches to the end of the study). I very much realize one underlying truth about this study, it shows me that my relationship with God affects my relationship with my husband. The way I treat God will be the same as I treat my husband, knowing God better will bring me to know my husband better too. There’s so much to learn about my marriage relationship with my husband that will reveal me even more the deep connection of my relationship with God!

My anniversary date with Jesus is 30 April, marked by my water baptism done on the same date in 2005, so next year it’ll be our 9th anniversary (yeyyy!). I didn’t know Him in personal back then so I guess it’s fair for me to celebrate our anniversary ‘formally’ from year 2005 😛 Nine may still sound not many yet (not like others who have walked with God for more than decades!) yet I know I have a great God who will continue to reveal more of Him and awe me with all the ‘newness’ about Him along my future ways 🙂

I have to admit along the years as “busyness” came (turning point was when I had a boyfriend who now is my husband, then marriage, then motherhood) my focus on Him often got distracted and I started to treat our relationship ‘more casual’. Knowing better of the scriptures over the years made me became less interested in studying the word of God in Bible everyday. Treating prayer as ‘the air that I breathe’ had actually resulted in ‘casual prayers’ in which I prayed wherever and whenever I wanted, without commitment to set aside intimate quite time to engage myself in deeper conversation with God. Moreover, I also experienced lost of purpose in ministering God in church particularly with the given hectic schedule (while I was in Indonesia). I didn’t think of other reason to sing or lead the worship other than fulfilling the schedule.

It may be the same with marriage relationship. It doesn’t mean that the husband/wife have abandoned their spouse, they may still fulfill each responsibilities toward one another yet they have lost something very important in their relationship: their first love! Just how much dangerous this kind of relationship?

Revelations 2:2-3 (to the Ephesians church)  *don’t skip reading these verses even though you’ve read them before*

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate the wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for My name, and have not grown weary”

Sounds they had done things right?

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” – Revelations 2:4-5

I also have read these verses many times before and I know that I shouldn’t neglect my first love for God, but how about if I have? What should I do?

The verses give us three things we have to do: 1. “Consider how far you have fallen”

“Consider” meaning kindly remember how far you have abandoned your first love toward God. I did this in the earlier paragraphs. Things that at that time I still thought was ‘okay’ (at least I still read, pray and serve God), yet where was actually the true essence in doing all of those things? Here I want to share my conviction, how I personally feel that merely reading God’s words (from broadcast devotional message in smartphone, ‘Facebook devotional’, your friends’ godly messages in Twitter etc) compared with really studying them brings very much difference to myself in terms of the depth of my understanding of God’s heart and receiving heart changing revelations. Not until I do this marriage bible study that my eyes be opened that truly God rewards me so much more compared with when I merely read someone’s devotional or randomly read bible verses (they do have blessed me in some ways, but later I figure out they are still lack of the ‘depth’ my spiritual heart really needs). I’m not speaking in terms of physical reward, but I get to know more about God by studying thoroughly and understanding correctly the context of the spoken God’s words in Bible and to apply them correctly in my life rather than judging too soon merely by reading two verses broadcasted from your friend (for example).

I was ashamed to confess that there was time when as a Christian I did not read and study the Bible everyday. Instead of treating Bible as my ‘must read’ book, I substituted it with other Christian books.

John 1:1 and 4-5 say,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”

Neglecting to read God’s words in Bible is rejecting God Himself!

So, first part, do your ‘confession’ before God and to people you are accountable for, of how far you have fallen. Than moving on to step 2. Repent

Ask God’s forgiveness and commit to turn your way from the wrongs. The sooner we confess and repent, the sooner God will restore our first-love zeal for Him before mediocrity and boredom rule your heart instead and by then the relationship has turned ‘sour’ and ‘very casual’ and it’d be more difficult to recover the love (although not impossible).

3. Do the things you did at first

Don’t stop at asking God’s forgiveness, commit to bring in the change, choose to change. I used to play worship songs at my own room and worshipping God and dancing to God shamelessly, now I bring it back again after it was missing for quite some time. It’s also good for Aimee to see her mom dancing joyfully for God not only in church but also in private time. I write my diary diligently again as I have an unique way of sharing deep conversation with God (https://crunchynat.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/six-months-after/), what things that you enjoyed when you first fell in love with Jesus but now have been forsaken due to circumstances and other things? Do that again 🙂

Well, I almost reach to the end of this sharing. This writing is far way from ‘a religious piece’, it is simply my sharing from my experience. It’s not easy to return to our first love with God especially after we think we have fallen too deep into our ‘wordly routine’. Laziness, boredom, busyness may overweight our will to return. At least that’s what I experienced. Yet it’s never too late with God, He has the power to transform your heart and re-ignite the love as long as you commit to make the first move.

One thing before I reallyyyy end this sharing haha.. don’t get mistaken the ‘first love’ with ‘feelings’. Crying in tears of admiration in the presence of God feels awesome, but that is not the primary goal of returning to first love with God. Similarly with marriage, as years go by the affection between the spouses rely much more on the deeper heart emotional connection rather than the ‘butterflies in stomach’ feelings. Simply enjoy the intimate time in the presence of God and have fun returning to your first love with God 😉

fail

“Disappointment With God”

Taken from Philip Yancey “Disappointment with God”

Have you ever been disappointed with God? It’s hard to admit, I know. It seems somehow wrong. Yet after I wrote the book, Disappointment with God, a little over a year ago, I started getting letters, all kinds of letters from all kinds of people. Each of them told me in a different way, “I’ve been disappointed with God.” It’s a common experience, almost universal, among Christians. Many of them went on to tell me their stories. Some became disappointed with God because of a tragedy. The most common one was the loss of a child. At such a moment of pain they turn to God and say, “Why? Why would a loving Father allow something like this to happen to me?” Other people wrote and said, “There is no one specific thing on which I can pin down my feeling of disappointment, but the relationship I have with God sometimes seems very close and personal and other times He seems far away.”

There is a bumper sticker I have sometimes seen in church parking lots. It says, “If you feel far from God, guess who moved?” Some of these people said to me it seemed like God moved. Disappointment with God. If you have ever felt that, I start with an encouraging word. The word is you’re not alone. Not only have other Christians felt that same experience, but many of the people who wrote the Bible have experienced disappointment with God as well.

A lot of us turn to the Book of Psalm when we want comfort. If you really read those Psalms carefully, by my estimate about a third of them are written by disappointed people. They will call God to task. They will say, “I thought we had a deal, God. Why are these bad things happening? I followed your will and yet I am surrounded by enemies. My life is caving in. It’s not fair.” They look around them and say, “This world is not fair. Wicked people seem to be prospering while righteous people like me are suffering. It’s not so easy. Explain yourself, God.” About a third of the Psalms have something of that tone.

It is not just in the Psalms. There are other books like Jeremiah and Habakkuk in which disappointment with God is a major theme. There is one book in the Bible, however, where it is right at the center. That book is the Book of Job. Bible scholars say that Job may be the first book written in the Bible, the oldest book. I find it interesting that when God set down the word He wanted us to know about Him, He began with one of the hardest questions of all.

It’s not always big things that cause us to questions things like, “Is life unfair?” I find that often for me it is the petty things – when my car won’t get started. Maybe you have ten pounds you’ve been trying to lose for two years and you can never keep them off. For me as a writer, the most discouraging thing is when I work all day, or a couple of days, on an article and then through some computer foul up, I lose it and have to start all over. It’s at moments like this that I start thinking life is unfair.

When I got to the portion of Disappointment with God that dealt with the Book of Job, I decided to look around me and find the person I knew who was most like Job. I found such a person. He was a righteous man in the same sense that Job was righteous. He was a good man. He had been trained as a psychotherapist, but he gave up a lucrative practice and started to work in the inner-city among poor people. Yet after he did that, his life started to fall apart as well. The first thing that happened was that his wife came down with a case of breast cancer. She started taking chemotherapy treatments and that affected his whole family. She was always tired and often felt sick. Douglas, the man’s name, had to pick up a lot of work around the house. The spot of cancer spread and appeared on her lungs. Her life was seriously threatened and a new series of treatment started.

Douglas had to deal with that new situation. In the middle of his pain and in the middle of the suffering of their family, they were involved in a serious traffic accident. They weren’t doing anything wrong; they were driving down a road. A drunken driver crossed the median, and smashed into their car head on. Douglas’s twelve-year-old daughter went through the windshield and was badly lacerated in the face. His wife was also hurt. The worst injuries were to Douglas himself. Douglas hit his head on the dashboard. First, he had trouble with his vision. One of his eyes wouldn’t cooperate and he saw double. He couldn’t even walk down a set of stairs without stumbling. The worst thing to him was that he could no longer read. Douglas loved to read. I knew Douglas. I knew his story.

 

 

When I started to write about the Book of Job, I decided to interview Douglas. I called him up and scheduled an appointment. We met for breakfast. He told me some of the story. We sat and chatted for a while. After breakfast had been served I said, “Well, Douglas, I’m writing a book about disappointment with God. I thought of all the people I know you have the right to be disappointed with God, you’re right at the top of the list. Tell me, what would you say to people who are disappointed with God?” Douglas thought for a minute and stroked his beard. Finally he looked at me and said, “You know, Philip, I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed with God.” This was a great shock to me. I was amazed. I had specifically chosen Douglas because I thought of all the people I knew, he was the one most likely to be disappointed, even angry at God, because of the unfairness he had seen.

I asked, “How can this be?”

He said to me, “You know, Philip, I learned a long time ago and especially through this accident not to confuse God with life. Is life unfair? You bet. My life has been unfair. What has happened to my wife, what has happened to my daughter, what has happened to me, it’s unfair. But I think God feels exactly the same way. I think He is grieved and hurt by what that drunk driver did as much as I am. Don’t confuse God with life.” He said, “As I read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, I notice that those people were able to separate the physical reality of their lives from the spiritual reality of their relationship with God.”

As we sat there together, we went through some of those people. We turned to a passage, for example, in Ezekiel where God tells about three of His very favorite people: Daniel, Noah and Job. Think about those three people. One of them spent the night with a bunch of lions; one of them lived through a huge flood that killed thousands of people and then, of course, there’s Job, the greatest example of unfairness in the Bible. Yet when God looks at those people, He says these are three of my favorites.

All three of them—Daniel, Noah, Job—and many others—Abraham, David, who wrote some of the Psalms—learned to have a relationship with God that didn’t depend on how healthy they were and how well their lives were going.

A Jewish theologian named Abraham Heschel once said of the Book of Job, “Job gained a faith that could never be shaken because he got it out of having been shaken.” That’s the kind of faith that these people seemed to have.

We sat there together going through so many of these stories from the Bible. Suddenly Douglas glanced down at his watch and said, “I’ve got to go. I’ll leave you with one last thought and that’s this. If you are ever tempted to confuse God with life, go back and read the story of Jesus, the story of God on Earth. Ask yourself how Jesus would have answered the question, is life unfair.” Just before he left Douglas said, “For me, the cross of Christ demolished for all time the idea that life is supposed to be fair.”

I took Douglas’ challenge. I went home and read the Gospels and I asked myself how Jesus would respond to that question, is life unfair? When Jesus was with a poor person or a sick person, He never said, “Well, that’s your lot in life. You have got to accept it.” He changed it. He healed that person.

When Jesus had a friend who died, He responded much like we do. He cried. He grieved. When Jesus faced pain and possible death, He was afraid, as you or I would be.

The guest last week on this program was Henri Nouwen. He tells a moving story from the country of Paraguay. It is about a doctor who cared very much for the poor people in his little village. He would often treat them free of charge. But others—the authorities, the police, the government in the village—didn’t like him. They didn’t like his politics. They thought he was stirring up foment among the poor people. He was too popular for them to take on, so instead they kidnaped his son. They took his son, arrested him, put him in a jail and tortured him. They tortured him too much and the son died.

When news of the son’s death spread throughout the village, they wanted to hold a huge demonstration march. They wanted to carry his body through the village and demonstrate to the media, to the newspapers, what had gone on. But, the father said, “No, I don’t want to do that. I just want a funeral in the church here in the village. We will show in our own way.”

When people arrived for the funeral, they had a surprise in store. The father had taken the body of the son just as he had found it in the prison cell on a blood-soaked, dirty mattress. Instead of being all dressed up in a nice suit in an expensive coffin, the corpse in that little village was naked, lying on this mattress covered with scars. It was the strongest protest imaginable. What that father did was put the injustices of his village on grotesque display.

Henri Nouwen goes on to ask, “Isn’t that what God did at Calvary? He spread out for the whole world to see the injustice of this world. The cross in one minute showed what kind of world we have—a world of violence, a world of cruelty, a world of injustice, and what kind of God we have, a God of sacrificial love who gives Himself for us.”


Is God unfair? It depends on how closely you relate God and life.
I challenge you not to confuse God with life. The question “Is God unfair?” is very different than the question, “If life unfair?” No one was exempt from tragedy, pain, disappointment. Job wasn’t. The other people in the Old Testament were not. Even God himself, when He came to earth, was not exempt from unfairness, from pain, from tragedy.

The story of the Gospel does not end there. If you want to find some disappointed people, read the stories of the disciples who were around Jesus when He died. They had waited and followed Him for three years. He was the hope of their world, but they were disappointed. When the time came, everyone of them—blustery old Peter, emotional John—left Him. They were afraid for their own lives. Life hadn’t worked out. They were disappointed people. That was Friday, Good Friday, the day that Jesus died. But that is not the end of this story.

The end of the story, of course, is on Sunday when those same people who were cowering in the shadows suddenly came out of hiding. They realized the story ends not with tragedy, but with Good News. When some of those same people, like Peter, sat down and wrote about suffering to suffering people, he had a wholly different tone. You read nothing of the questioning, of the doubts of a Job, or even of some of the Psalms, because Peter saw in person what God had done on Easter Sunday. He took the tragedy, the worst tragedy that could be imagined. He took the unfairness, the worst unfairness that could be imagined.

 

Job in the old Testament was a righteous man who suffered much. Jesus was a perfect man who suffered even more. Yet, God took that unfairness, that tragedy, and made it a great victory, a victory on which our whole faith rests. I believe that when the disciples wrote advice—men like Peter, who wrote to the Christians in Rome and other places, or the disciples who were in jail, or those who were being persecuted or tortured for their faith, like the doctor’s son in Paraguay—they wrote words like, “Rejoice in your suffering.” How can you rejoice in the unfairness that you see going on? If you read First Peter, I think the answer is clear. You can rejoice because Peter saw the darkness of Good Friday, but he also saw the brightness of Good Sunday—Easter Sunday. Peter believed because he had seen, he had felt in himself that the worst that can happen, the grossest unfairness, could be redeemed, could be made new, could be made to live.

Just when God seems most dead, He may be coming back to life. It certainly was so for the disciples. It may be for you. I love a sentence from the German theologian, Jurgen Moltmann. He said this, “God weeps with us so that we may one day laugh with him.” The disciples wept on Good Friday. They laughed on Easter Sunday. I believe, and my faith rests on that same pattern, that what He did on a cosmic scale at Calvary He is doing in a very small and personal scale in my life.

God weeps with us so that we may some day laugh with Him. The disciples wept on Good Friday. They laughed on Easter Sunday. So will we. It’s good to remember that we live out our days on earth, on the in-between day, on Saturday, in the midst of the unfairness, believing in Easter Sunday that is to come.

On Preaching

I hope this entry will be helpful for all especially the beginners (like me) in terms of preaching God’s truth in a much more formal setting, say in church (rather than in home fellowship) 🙂

Following paraghraphs were taken from “Preparing to Preach” by Wayne Jackson

God's Words is The Truth

Thorough preparation in preaching involves several crucial elements:

Research (a gathering of the appropriate data);

Meditation (carefully considering the needs of one’s self to the lessons, and then to his audience);

Organization (arrangement into a logically developed, intelligently argued format); and,

Presentation (a delivery that neither distracts from the basic message nor unduly attracts attention to himself).

It is not uncommon to hear an after-sermon quip to this effect: “He was great! But I can’t remember a thing he said—except for that hilarious joke.”

There is so much of the Bible to learn that the preacher can study all of his life and never master it. But blessed indeed is the man of God from whom people want to learn—because he genuinely is a prepared “man of the Book.”

A century ago there was a complimentary saying concerning well-studied preachers: “His sermons smell of kerosene,” which signified that he had spent long nights by the light of the coal oil lamp in preparation. If one may be excused for a certain level of crudeness, it might be said of some sermons today: they just “smell.”

Other useful link: How to Preach with Authority and Sensitivity by Kenton C. Anderson, from which I learn about the following:

“The preacher’s job is to help the listener take hold of the message offered.
There are two primary approaches a preacher could choose. The first is by means of explanation, and the second is by means of experience“.

As we prepare a sermon, the four moves above can be uncovered by asking four questions:

Move 1: What’s the Story? (Experience of the Text)
Even in the Book of Romans, there is always a story. There really were Romans. They lived in Rome. They had lives much like the lives of people today. For example, when I preached from Romans 8:18-25 (Read this sermon at preaching.org/groaning.htm), I noticed the text set up the present “groaning” of the people with the “glory” that would one day be revealed in them. I found it helpful, then, to help my listeners identify with the Roman Christians, who were groaning just like we groan over many of the same things. Identifying the story of the original audience can help the listener see the humanity in the text, creating an experiential encounter with the message that will not easily be shaken off.

This is God's Light

Move 2: What’s the Point? (Explanation of the Text)
The Bible offers truth that can be examined, detailed, ordered, and for the most part, understood. The preacher need not shy away from offering points, well explained and carefully put. This was a key component of my Romans 8 sermon. The problem I had, however, was that the passage was almost too rich. There were many aspects that could have been developed for the profit of the listeners. I decided to focus on the big idea, “We won’t groan forever. ” Focusing my explanation around this simple idea allowed me to help the people understand that pain and suffering is temporary and of little consequence when weighed against the glory that God has made available to us in Christ.

Move 3: What’s the Problem? (Explanation of Today)
The problem with biblical propositions is they are not always easily accepted. The Bible is profoundly countercultural. If a preacher offers biblical truth with integrity, there will be inherent conflict in the engagement with contemporary listener presuppositions. Acknowledging the problem from the perspective of the hearer will be important if we care about listener comprehension and assent. In my Romans sermon, I was able to focus on the innate aversion humans have to suffering. Deferred gratification is not a value today’s listeners hold dear. Acknowledging that reality and struggling with it in the sermon helped my listeners see the credibility of the message and deepened their receptivity to the truth of the text.

Move 4: What’s the Difference? (Experience of Today)
Of course, head knowledge without heart response is hardly worth the effort. Every text intends a response from the listener as they grow in obedience to the God who created them.

In my sermon from Romans 8, my challenge was simple. I was counseling patience. I was concerned to help the listener hold on, despite the discouragement that inevitably comes. My goal, then, was less to educate at this point as it was to inspire. I was looking to instill a measure of hope and confidence in God’s promise. This hope would play itself out in specific responses to the challenges of the listener’s daily life.

These four questions will help us organize our notes into a form that can integrate the concern for text and today, explanation and experience. They can help the preacher speak to a variety of cognitive styles. They can help the preacher help the people hear from God.

And here is just the additional tips How to Preach a Lousy Sermon by Rev. Ken Collins, just follow the link 😉

God bless you all my friends, let’s God light shines upon and through us! 🙂