Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rise and Shine

Looking out over the sea of faces in your church, do you ever wonder who among you are revivalists, revolutionaries, countercultural rebels? I would imagine that most attending service are there to be fed, to be inspired, to be cared for, to fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ - or they are simply one of the thousands who simply goes to church to chalk one more Sunday up to God forgetting He lives outside the building as well. So as you look at familiar faces and strangers alike, your curiosity over the condition of their lives and hearts makes you wonder if they are making a difference - in their home, in the church, in the world. Are we among world-changers? Are we in the presence of godly warriors? We know every church has its "Creasters" (those who come faithfully on Christmas and Easter), those who have been guilted into coming, those who have a habit of coming to hear but not do (myself included), but what about the others? The ones God could probably count as His highly favored - the ones who are serving God in ways seen and unseen? Oh, to be highly favored of God! To be among those helping to change the world! To be the salt and light of the earth!

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? ... You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.1

The Christian’s task is to be the salt of society, preserving, reconciling, adding taste, giving meaning where there is no meaning, giving hope where there is no hope. It is about the quality of life. It is interesting that when the early Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire, the Christian Apologists pleaded for tolerance saying that society continued to exist because of Christians. What they were saying was that Christians upheld the good values in life, they worked for reconciliation and peace, and they prayed for the empire and its well being.
To be the salt of society means that we are deeply concerned with its well being. We preserve cultural values and moral principles and make a contribution to the development of cultural and social life. We add taste and flavor to the common life. Because there are Christians in a city or in a village, its people should be able to praise God for the harmony and fellowship, joy and happiness which Christians bring to the common life.

Wow, that is quite a statement! If there is a Christian around, there should be evidence of harmony, joy and other positive elements that so improve the quality of life that people will want to praise God! Do you think those around us feel that? It almost makes me laugh typing that as it's hard to describe my own life like that at times, never mind the poor souls living next to me. Seems like a tall order to fill! But we are encouraged when we realize we don't need to fill any orders as Christ is the one who fills us. It is Him whom we reflect. Both salt and light themselves are colorless or invisible. Is that how we are to become in order to make a difference in the world?

It seems to point to one thing: if you want to do any good in the world you will have to be willing to disappear! Everyone complains about politicians who only do things in order to be seen and to scoop up votes. But the complaint is valid against anyone at all, not only politicians! “I am the light of the world,” he said; but also “You are the light of the world”. “Let your light shine before others, so that seeing your good works they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.” That is the nature of light: to make others shine. It is the nature of God, John says.3

I certainly don't feel as if I have the answers on how to become a world-changer. I guess my point would be that in and of ourselves, it is impossible to have an impact on the world because it is God and only God who creates and changes worlds - individually and astronomically. Only God in us brings about His kingdom on earth as long as we are willing to simply be used. How countercultural is that?

Let me know your thoughts,

1 Matthew 5:13-16
2 From http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1528
3 From http://www.goodnews.ie/jacobswellheer.htm

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Spirit of Excellence

A spirit of revival has started to grow among us – have you sensed it? It starts with the dissatisfaction of something in our lives - the lack of intimacy in our marriage, the way we’ve been parenting lately, the lack of involvement in our church, the resolutions we’ve made and already broken this year, etc. Whatever it is, we feel the desire to do something, to change something, but we’re not quite sure what. After all, our lives aren’t that bad – our children are cute as buttons, our homes are a bit cluttered but cozy, our husbands are good men (and handsome). Why would we be discontented? God has blessed us abundantly - we should feel grateful, not dissatisfied in any way, right? But there can be no change without some sense of dissatisfaction. The Holy Spirit prompts us at times to change, whether it be ourselves or a situation. It is a calling to maturity in Christ. Feeling these feelings and thinking these thoughts may be good and necessary, but if we don’t go further in the process, they are just feelings and just thoughts and no transformation can come from it.

A recent lesson about Zaccheus in a Bible study of mine goes like this:
For most of us, we will readily admit that we need to spend more time with the Lord. We need to pray more. We need to be living more simply that others may simply live. There are lots of things we should or could do. We will even discuss our faults and failings among a gathering of friends. We can get warm fuzzy feelings in sharing our shortcomings. But this is not really a cry for help. I am not disparaging that in any way, it is just that that is all window dressing unless or until we are willing to take the next step, as Zaccheus does, and publicly commit ourselves to live a changed life! To walk down the aisle – in front of everyone – and make a commitment and follow through. I know this. There is a huge difference and a thick wall of resistance between talking about Jesus and admitting our need and surrender.

Denial is concealed behind walls of resistance, walls erected by success, status, acceptance, comfort and laziness. We are willing to talk about the need to change in a setting with friends, even joke about it. We reinforce our present state with thoughts that things will work out. We build a moat of excuses. But knowing who we should be is not the same as becoming or being that person. It is not easy to say publicly: “I am lost. I need help.” It is even more remarkable to say: “This will be the evidence of my surrendering my life to Christ.”

Jesus acknowledges the genuineness of Zaccheus’ transformed life, not because of the change in his words, but the change in his life.1

Transformation comes from a change in action, not only in thoughts but deed. The ironic thing is our commitment to change and be and do comes only from surrendering to Christ. Only through His power can we be shaped into the being He wants us to become and acting out the actions He wants us to carry out. I believe this spirit of revival is calling us to lead lives of excellence - to be women of excellence to our children, to our husbands, to our friends and to those around us we may not know.

Many have no example of what excellence looks like. You were created to live a life that displays a higher standard. My Spirit in you, combined with your desire to be the best and do the best, has the amazing ability to inspire others to break free from mediocrity. Together, we will encourage them to step into an abundant life of blessings and generous giving. Come to Me every day, and let me lift you to a level of excellence that is only possible in the supernatural realm. I don’t want you to wear yourself out by trying to empower yourself. Remember I am ready and able to equip you with the power and passion to achieve an excellent life.

Love, Your Generous King2

For many, the New Year is usually a time of reflection and resolve. What things in your life do you wish were different? What about yourself do you wish was changed? What commitments have you made and not delivered on? And when was the last time you surrendered yourself to God, praying for Him to empower you to change what needs to be changed? Allow Him to do what He does best – making you excellent.


1 Lesson written by Duff Dietrich (former senior pastor of my church)
2 From His Princess: Love Letters from Your King by Sheri Rose Shepherd

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Love, Your King

Dear Kajijis,
I have been trying to decide whether to continue the topic of “Simplicity” or if it’s time to start on a new subject. If you have any ideas at all, please forward them to me – I would love your help! For today I’ll just be including an excerpt from a little book called His Princess: Love Letters from Your King.

Come to Me, My precious, when you feel out of control and overextended. I want to take you to a place where you can be still and reflect on your life. I did not call you to be everything to everyone. You have placed that demand on yourself. Even My son, Jesus, needed to walk away from the demands of the crowd and find comfort alone with Me. Let’s write out what really matters most to you, so we can draw some boundaries to preserve your peace of mind and purpose for living. Even I drew the boundaries around the mighty ocean. It’s good to take control of your valuable time and realize it’s all right to say no. That one word will deliver you from a life of pressure to a place of amazing control and peace.

Your King who knows your boundaries1

Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe.
Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.
~Proverbs 4:26-27

This Friday we’ll be meeting at Shawna’s house and discussing something a little bit more personal than our discussions over the past few weeks. Our questions for this week are, “How do you manage your monthly cycle and fertility planning? What products have you used (such as OTC meds, homeopathic remedies, family planning charts/software, etc.) that you’ve found helpful and could recommend?”2 Please RSVP to let me know whether we’ll see you on Friday.

Looking forward to it,

1 Pages 156-157 from His Princess written by Sheri Rose Shepherd
2 This is a great example of questions forwarded to me by group members – please feel free to submit any questions on any topic you may have. We will discuss just about anything! :-)

Wednesday, January 3, 2007


Dear Kajijis,
I hope your holidays were wonderful and created some great family memories for you and yours. We were especially mindful this year of the reason behind Christmas, and celebrating Jesus’ birthday with cake and fellowship was meaningful and fun for our family. Christmas is now over and the New Year’s celebrations are past as well, however many are still celebrating the season as they look forward to the Day of Epiphany. This is a day I never knew about growing up, much less celebrated. But as I learn about others’ traditions and the meaning behind them, I have started to appreciate the significance of some of these traditions and how they help to draw the mind and heart towards God. The Day of Epiphany (January 6th for most) is one such tradition that many other cultures and religions celebrate. My research into its origins shows it to have a confusing historical definition (and even differing placements on the calendar) as it means different things to different cultures. Many believe that this was the actual day of Jesus’ birth. Others focus on the journey of the Magi to the Christ-child (the Day of the Kings). In whatever way a culture celebrates though, it seems to be a fascinating and celebratory day. (Note: the days leading up to Epiphany are known as the “Twelve Days of Christmas” as there are 12 days between Christmas and the Day of Epiphany.) I’ve included notes from the Christian Resource Institute regarding Epiphany – maybe it will inspire you to continue with your celebrations of Jesus’ first coming:

“Epiphany is the climax of the Christmas Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are usually counted from December 25th until January 5th.

In traditional Christian churches Christmas, as well as Easter, is celebrated as a period of time, a season of the church year, rather than just a day. The Season of Christmas begins with the First Sunday of Advent, marked by expectation and anticipation, and concludes with Epiphany, which looks ahead to the mission of the church to the world in light of the Nativity.

The term epiphany means "to show" or "to make known" or even "to reveal." In Western churches, it remembers the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child, who by so doing "reveal" Jesus to the world as Lord and King. In some Central and South American countries influenced by Catholic tradition, Three Kings’ Day, or the night before, is the time for opening Christmas presents. In some eastern churches, Epiphany or the Theophany commemorates Jesus’ baptism, with the visit of the Magi linked to Christmas. In some churches the day is celebrated as Christmas, with Epiphany/Theophany occurring on January 19th.
As with most aspects of the Christian liturgical calendar, Epiphany has theological significance as a teaching tool in the church. The Wise Men or Magi who brought gifts to the infant Jesus were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as "King" and so were the first to "show" or "reveal" Jesus to a wider world as the incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi, which corresponded to Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32), was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races, and that the work of God in the world would not be limited to only a few.1 The day is now observed as a time of focusing on the mission of the church in reaching others by "showing" Jesus as the Savior of all people. It is also a time of focusing on Christian brotherhood and fellowship, especially in healing the divisions of prejudice and bigotry that we all too often create between God’s children.”2

Whether you celebrate Epiphany or not, I hope we all keep Christ the focus of any and all seasons throughout the year. If a certain religious or cultural tradition aimed at praising and worshiping Christ helps you to think on Him then, by all means, please observe it and celebrate! If you observe your own traditions not recognized by all, please feel free to share it with us. Traditions themselves may not be a requirement of our spiritual growth, but if they help to make us spiritually richer then they are necessary.

We will start meeting again this Friday, January 5th and Erin has offered to host. The question for discussion this week is: What tradition/ritual/practice in your specific church holds a lot of meaning for you? What is it that means so much and why? Be prepared to share the history and a detailed explanation of it for those of us who may be completely new to the idea. We’re hoping to have many of you with different religious backgrounds attending this week so as to make our conversation that much more enriching so please make every effort to attend! Please RSVP to let me know whether we’ll be seeing you or not – thank you!

:-) Crystal

1 italics mine – I loved the reference to the Wise Men as the first Gentiles to worship Christ.
2 From the Christian Resource Institute at
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