Forgot to grow your faith?

Where is your faith in the fourth hour? Have you left it alone – like a plant unwatered – and your faith is dead or dying?

Life changes the minute you realize all the random ups and downs of your every day are intentionally designed around you… Continue reading Forgot to grow your faith?

“I’m going away to college” (and not going away from my faith)

When friends and peers around us have so much impact on the direction of our day and life, how do we go off into a totally brand new social scene and keep what’s most important to us? (Our faith.)

First of all, you have been called, chosen, and set apart. Bought at price and designed with a special unique purpose in mind that only you can fulfill. Do not forget that. You are like special ops for God, sent out deciphering His daily mission for you. [read and repeat until you actually believe this.]

Regardless of your time in church, your family’s faith or the myriad of Bible study groups you have or have not been to by now, it doesn’t matter. God has already equipped you for the purpose He has for you, and this ‘away’ time is part of His big plan and design to bring along your next steps of faith as a believer. Keep on following Him! Don’t start acting like He’s not there anymore; live believing He has planned such great things for this phase of your life, you certainly can’t miss out on hearing what He has up His sleeve. Now is the time to lean in!

“But I’m all alone and there are no Christian groups here to meet with and find good friends.” You are not alone. Christ said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The vanishing of Christian entities around you should not diminish your faith, in fact it should drive your to your knees to find out more about this faith you have and how to build it on a daily basis with God’s help. This is not the first or last time you will feel this way. This is the time, however, that you must decide…”when all Christian influence around me fails…what am I really made of?” You decide right now with every day of your life, what your faith actually means to you. Recognize that this is one of Satan’s most common strategies to distract and deceive you from walking with God; recognize it and start to formulate and build a strategy against it.

Create a “go-to” plan for whenever you feel this way so you have already determined (like young Daniel) what you will do in this kind of crisis. It may go something like this: “When I feel lonely, alone or completely devoid of support in my faith I will…” and insert your battle ready plan. While God reveals to you what that looks like for you, here is some advice:

3 Pieces of Advice

#1. Hold out and be super picky about who your “friends” are.

Do not resort to ‘just okay’ or bad for you friends just because you haven’t met a Christian yet. You are lowering your standards for whom you allow to speak into your life out of desperation and “need to belong.” You belong to Jesus. Please do not do this; take this need and concern to Him in prayer. He already knows it and wants you to grow by asking Him to fulfill it. So refuse those early offers that may seem tempting in a desert of “no one to hang out with” and continue walking forward in faith with Jesus only. You will see God do something simply amazing and you will treasure and hold that friend dear longer than you will know. Stay valuable and rise above. The cream always rises to the top and God will send relief your way as soon as you submit it to Him. Trust me.

#2. Start the kind of Bible study or Christian group you want to be in.

“But there’s no groups here for me to attend to grow.” Start one. You may be the only Jesus that campus will ever see or know. You may be sent to a school overrun by the enemy; a dark place where sin abounds. You willingness and light will shine brighter than ever and bring all He has called to Him through you. Even if you don’t know what to say, do or study. Just speak of your Christian meeting or Bible study confidently in faith knowing that God has already provided for it. Your figurative ‘ram’ is already caught in the bushes. So yes, I mean YOU. You start one. It will keep your walk accountable and blast open those doors of having a good reason to speak of the hope that lives in you, and other more weak, shy or timid Christians will come forth inspired by your strength. Yes, you may feel like the solo American sniper, so rise to the occasion, and see what God can do.

#3. Meet with your Commander every day in prayer over this mission.

You are on mission. And your task is to carry the light. You need to begin praying every day for yourself: the real, tangible things that you need. Things that hurt; things you want to see happen. Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to pray for every lost orphan in the world. Start close to home. Start with you. Get hooked on the reality of prayer by asking God clearly and repeatedly every day for  your needs in life. He wants to hear you ask and He even more wants to give them! This will begin a good habit for you and allow you to see prayer answered more readily than ceasing war in the middle east. Once you and God are on daily talking terms He’s going to reveal a whole lot more to you. I won’t need to tell you when to break out the prayer journal to gather needs and requests of others, you will be a field warrior battling on your knees for your fellow troops in this fight between light and darkness.

If you follow these simple pieces of advice, God will see, hear and come to your rescue. In His own perfect time and way. You will keep yourself from being stained by the world (avoiding aligning with the peer pressure of those who do not revere Him); you will put works to your faith to keep it alive (faith without works is dead), and  you will use the solitude and silence to grow your most powerful times alone with the Almighty. A bed-rock lesson of faith that  you will thrive off of every day the rest of your life. You will see the power of the resurrection flow through your prayers and your efforts will begin to move mountains. God will reveal to the “Supernatural Super-Hero”  you become when you let His strength flow through you where you are.

Dinah: the young girl

Welcome back to our 2nd installment of Dinah’s story from Genesis 34. Go back and “Meet Dinah” if you have not caught her backstory.

Let’s understand a little more about where Dinah was in her stage of life. Genesis 34:1 says she went out to meet “young women.” After she is seen and taken by Shechem, the Bible refers to her as a “young girl.” Perhaps the young reference is only to age, perhaps it is to her innocence in not having known a man, or perhaps it references an age prior to being of “marriageable” age. Regardless, it is clear Dinah is in the early young girl stages of her life, and this incident of rape unfortunately became her legacy in terms of the scriptures. (We do not learn more about most of the end of her life story.)

Our innocence can keep us unaware of the evil around us.

As learn about this man Shechem, we saw his family origin and history. Let’s look closer at his decisions and intentions with Dinah. He did act on impulse, taking what he wanted when he wanted it. He is not a man who practices discipline or patience, or withholds anything good from himself that his eye sees.

Immediate gratification is rarely a good thing.

This is a dangerous habit for any of us. To give in and yield any time we “want” breeds immediate gratification and impulse decisions. God clearly instructs us to take our “minds captive to Jesus Christ” and to “be patient,” “not gratifying the lusts of the flesh.” It’s reasonable to say that Shechem had been in the habit of acting on quick impulse decisions.

Genesis 34:3 says “he became infatuated with Dinah.” Whether that was good news for Dinah or not, she still found herself in a situation in which she had no choice or control. Should the young girl think, “Well, who cares that this man took and raped me, at least he loves me now.” What did this young girl have to compare this experience to? What meaningful experience could she draw from for wisdom and guidance in this new forced relationship?

We remember again, Dinah is not said to have any sisters, and her mother and aunt fought over her father regularly. Dinah found herself presented with a relationship she did not ask for. Does this sound familiar? Dinah’s mother Leah’s wedding story rings with similar tone.

Sexual ambush: from Leah’s deception to Dinah’s assault.

Jacob, Dinah’s father, had seen and fallen in love with Rachel (Dinah’s aunt, Leah’s little sister). After working 7 years for Rachel’s hand in marriage, Jacob was tricked and woke up the morning after his wedding to discover he had been with Leah. We are told more clearly Jacob’s side of the story, so one must wonder what is gong through Leah’s head the whole time.

Leah, the older less attractive sister, had to be married first. As she is sent covered into Jacob’s tent on his wedding night, did she take responsibility in taking advantage of him? Did she think she could earn and hold his love by secretly seducing him and pretending to be someone else? Leah may have had her own reasons, along with her father, and culture’s tradition of eldest married first, but you can’t help but see the snare Leah set for Jacob in this act of sexual trickery. What then went through Leah’s mind when she discovered her own daughter was taken and forced into the marriage plans of Shechem.

One-sided consent: “Give me this husband / wife.”

Genesis 34:4 says, “Get me this girl as a wife,” Shechem told his father Hamor. (Did Leah once say, ‘Get me this man as my husband’?) Shechem had the cart before the horse this time however, having already taken Dinah and forced himself on her. The Bible indicates from rape, he became infatuated, then loved the young girl, spoke tenderly to her and ultimately demanded his request to marry her as his wife.

Before we leave this young girl today, can we assume her circumstances were more tolerable because he loved her? Was she lost in the midst of shattered innocence, confusion, broken trust and ability to survive? What were Dinah’s options now – resist? rebel? run? Or would she have better survival odds if she relaxed, retreated and remained?

Survival during sexual assault: what tools do you have left?

Would she continue to cause the man to rape her forcibly, or could she maintain some dignity and control by bargaining with her conscience and walk the fine line of toleration and cooperation? After resigning to her circumstances, what in her behavior allowed him to speak tenderly to her? (vs 3)

The same tender speaking man a verse later speaks firmly to Hamor – a son telling his father what to do – “get me this girl.” Shechem has demanded his father arrange all of the cultural permissions to publicly declare Dinah as his own. And so the dads are left to speak about this arrangement.

The Bible does not speak of Dinah’s feelings, desires or wishes in the matter any longer. In fact ever since the moment she is taken, the scriptures speak of her only passively, as things happened *to her. She herself does not appear to take any action or steps or speaking out in the remainder of her story. Her name is never again used as the subject of a sentence; she has become the object of the verb.

Don’t let one evil decision delete your voice from speaking victory over evil.

Dinah used to be a young girl who made decisions and had a voice. She went out to see the young women (vs 1). Sadly our young girl Dinah lost her voice and her place as the subject in God’s story for her after this man took what was not his.

In the end, WE WIN. There is victory over evil!

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Connectivity Lost.

7.4 billion people in the world, but we have never felt more alone. In a world of online connectivity how can we experience so much disconnection? Why must we connect?

Because whether we like it or not, we all want and need the “ABC’s” – acceptance, belonging and community. Continue reading Connectivity Lost.

That’s the book for me

As we settled down to read the Bible, we acknowledged this was a first. Our first time reading the Bible, together, at the same time, in the same place. And just like anything you do for the first time, you figure it out.

Continue reading That’s the book for me

FAST-track to your best life.

Ever heard “You get what you pay for”? That is a reality and it is true for your spiritual life too.

“Jesus, today I would like the spiritual strength of a person who doesn’t talk to you or review your Words for me but really dwells on the attitudes and opinions of those who don’t believe you exist. What kind of Christian walk can I have at that cost?”

Your investments in your spiritual life and walk pay off. Your walk with Jesus, strong or weak, is a direct result of your time and effort. Just like your physical health reflects the time and effort you put in exercising and eating right.

You will never leave where you are until you decide where you would rather be. ~Kurt Parker

Well, we all want the best life we can have. No one argues that. But how we believe we get it is where we differ. Often we think we know what our ‘best life’ is and we believe we can make it happen ourselves.

Why do we think that? We didn’t make us or even one thing in this world. So why would we think we know how to attain the best life here?

The Maker does. The Maker made us. The Maker made everything. The Maker – makes it happen.

Maybe we should get to know Him better.

Read. Pray. Fast. All three, repeated in the Word, are the staples of a believer’s life who wants to know the Maker’s plan. Read the only true Words we have to stand on in this life; pray by talking to Him as you would a Father or friend; Fast: give up elements of this world you hold too close. Show Him you are serious about getting on the fast track to your best life. Invite the Maker to take you “as is” and make you into more than you could ever be on your own.

If it doesn’t mean something to you, it won’t mean anything to God.

Come join “You in the Making” series launching next week with Harborside Christian Church as we kick off fasting and groups and a commitment to receive His Word this year.

Contact a Leader to join a group today.

Sinking. And no one knows it.

“You’ve done a “Class A” job, an Oscar-winning performance of hiding your pain,” says Pastor Kurt yesterday. “Everybody sinks but no one has to drown.”

How long can you keep holding your breath?

The Life-Savior is waiting, “Come,” He says. Follow these 3 specific steps to guarantee your rescue.

Continue reading Sinking. And no one knows it.

Is my phone on? No one is texting me.

What do you do when you feel disconnected?

Suddenly life’s tide has gone out, and you find yourself in an empty space.

No texts in your phone. No friends calling to talk. No plans lined up in your near future. And you wonder why.

Continue reading Is my phone on? No one is texting me.

Prescribed Pain

Pain is never a solution.  But in God’s book it’s a means to an end. You are not what* you’ve done. You are not identified or categorized in life by your pain. You do not have to be that person now or for the rest of your life, and that one thing does not define you or dictate your future. You do.

Continue reading Prescribed Pain

Half the Harlot

Ever get tired of hearing all talk and no action? A friend of yours keeps talking about getting together; keeps saying they want to meet you and catch up. They just keep talking about it. You don’t believe it because it’s not happening.

You don’t believe what people say, you believe what people do.

It’s like crickets. And no one’s moving. Watch Jim Carrey’s reaction to all this talk about ‘fickle times’ in Fun with Dick and Jane.

Do you think God might feel that way? He looks down on a bunch of people who all say they know Him and profess to have faith and believe in Him. But no one is doing anything.

James throws some sarcastic humor at us by basically saying, “Oh great! That’s great. You believe in our One True God. Well that’s just flipping awesome. Continue reading Half the Harlot