Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Plea in Regards to Politics

Recently, I've stopped becoming angry about politics when I read about them...I just become sad.

Dear brothers & sisters in Christ who are following political goings-on,

Insulting the other side (even in a clever, concise catchphrase) does not solve problems (or convince the other side of their wrongness). Pointing out the unbiblicalness of the other side by spewing hate yourself does not have you reflecting Christ's love.

If you disagree with the government and its decisions, pray instead of complaining.

If you disagree with what others say using the Bible, read it yourself. Seriously, cover-to-cover. All 66 books. All 1189 chapters. Then do it over & over again. See if you are doing what the Word says. Remember, you won't be the Judge of who gets into Heaven or get to question others about their conduct, but rather, you will be judged and you will answer for your conduct. See what God wants to do in your life. Then pray for them.

If you have an enemy, pray from them instead of demonizing them.

Seek out ways to incorporate mercy and compassion in your lives. Live out the Word.

Above all, love one another. Pray for one another. Encourage on another.

If we live this out, politics will change. The world will change.

Sincerely,
your sister in Christ, Liz of the Niche

Monday, December 16, 2013

Who Says Real Life Can't Have A Reset Button?

I make an effort to send my hubby off to work and receive him home from work with a positive word in his ear. I make an effort for the first and last sentences out of my mouth to be positive each day. Sometimes, reality doesn't match my ideal.

A while back, my hubby came home and my mouth started spewing criticisms. Everything I said seemed negative, complaining-y, or critical. I finally asked my hubby to retreat to his man-cave to escape from my claws.

I sat down at my computer, frustrated that my intentions didn't make it to reality and how childish I acted right when my hubby came home from work. I wanted to redo his return, but life isn't a video game. It doesn't have a reset button. Then it hit me...I could make a reset button.

I knocked on the man-cave door. I asked my hubby to come with me and put on his shoes. I put his lunch box back into his hands and sent him outside to come home again. When he came around the corner 15 seconds later, I greeted him with a smile and a kiss. When he asked me how my day was, I put a positive spin on all aspects of it.

Yes, my hubby had a poor reception when he came home the first time. No, we don't ignore our problems and repaint the world falsely. Yes, we pretended to reset his homecoming and we made an effort to be more positive. Yes, it made our evening backtrack and then get off on the right foot.

Who says real  life can't have a reset button? It's up to you and your spouse!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Life Lessons from Cross-Stitching

I learned a lot of life lessons from my cross-stitching.
1) Only the person who has the cross-stitch pattern knows the full design.
2) When viewed from the under-side, the pattern is a mess: knotted, loose threads, not the little "x" patterns which dominate the front.
3. Mistakes happen.
4. When the above mentioned mistakes happen, sometimes they're caught early enough to go back & undo the stitches to fix the mistakes. Other times the entire pattern will shift around a mistake.
5. Cross-stitching takes lots of patience. Lots.
6. What I think should happen and what the pattern calls for are two separate things. I think in terms of what is quickest and easiest, but the pattern calls for difficult things that play out in the long run.
7. When the piece is finished, it's nice, but after everything is outlined, it's stunning.
8. The pattern can fall short of the piece's beauty because everything is coded. After a while, the person cross-stitching will automatically know the code, but the finished product is colorful & not in a code.
9. The pattern sometimes calls for things the cross-stitcher doesn't understand (like why do I need to mix and match threads), but the end result is worth it.
10. When others see the finished piece, they won't notice the little mistakes made along the way, but the beauty of the cross-stitch and the time, effort, & skill that went into making it.

I connect cross-stitching to my faith.
*I don't always see the Master's pattern & sometimes I only see the back of the cross-stitch, where I notice the mistakes & mess, but can't see how it works into the greater beauty of the piece.
*Mistakes made can very rarely be entirely undone, but that's no reason to throw away the partial cross-stitch. Mistakes in life will happen, but life will keep going on. It is inevitable that every person will stumble and fall in the mud, the question is will I admit it, get up, & dust myself off? Or will I wallow in the mud in self-pity? I can't change the past, but I have hope in my future.
*I don't understand or know God's plan for my life. I try to go day-by-day leaning on & trusting in Him. I don't always understand why I'm going through a certain situation, however I can take refuge in the fact that I'm not going through that situation alone & God can turn any situation I go through into something for His glory. I sometimes think in terms of what's easiest, but in being a Christ-follower, I am committed to following Him, even when the road isn't easy.
*Like the difference between a finished cross-stitch & an *outlined* finished cross-stitch, a person's life can be good & nice, but when that same life is outlined in Jesus, it becomes spectacular.
*Sometimes I am painfully aware of my faults and failures, but forget that what is so obvious to me, sometimes appears in a more subtle way to passerby's.

A verse from Colossians (3: 23) seems applicable here: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Whatever I do. Whether that is walking to class, reading my Bible, studying, or even cross-stitching.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lovingkindness in the Bible

Have you ever wondered why your Bible put loving with kindness without a space (i.e. lovingkindness)? I often wondered if it was a typo or if the space/hyphen was left out.

Sometimes it's a good thing to remember that the Bible was originally written in Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek. We are reading a translation and as such, sometimes studying the original Hebrew or Greek word is very beneficial.

Well, I wondered that and I checked it out. The Old Testament word for Lovingkindness is Strong's Number H2617. This word has also been translated as mercy, kindness, goodness, kindly, merciful, favour, good, goodliness, pity, reproach, and wicked thing. It's definition may mean goodness, kindness, faithfulness, or it may mean a reproach or shame.

This word especially comes up in the Psalms a lot. It shows up 6 times in different books of the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea), but 23 times it occurs in the Psalms.

Lovingkindness is a characteristic of God. He is full of goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and love, so much the word can't be separated.


Now you know a little bit more about lovingkindness!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A God Who Meets Us Where We Are

In John 21, a beautiful picture unfolds.

This event took place after the crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus has already appeared twice to his disciples.

In John 21:14, 15, and 16, Jesus asks Peter 3 times "Do you love me?" English cannot capture the beauty of this event.

1st time question: Do you "agapaō" agape me? (Strong's number G25)
1st time response: Yes, Lord, I "phileō" phileo you. (Strong's number G5368)

2nd time question: Do you "agapaō" agape me? (Strong's number G25)
2nd time response: Yes, Lord, I "phileō" phileo you. (Strong's number G5368)

3rd time question: Do you "phileō" phileo me? (Strong's number G5368)
3rd time response: Yes, Lord, I "phileō" phileo you. (Strong's number G5368).

Two times, Jesus asked, "Do you love me unconditionally?"
Two times, Peter answered, "Yes, Lord, I love you like a brother."
The third time, Jesus asked, "Do you love me like a brother?"
The third time, Peter answered, "Yes, Lord, I love you like a brother."

Prior to this conversation, Peter had fallen asleep while Jesus prayed, ran off when Jesus got arrested, and denied Jesus 3 times. Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead.

Peter knew his love wasn't unconditional, so he was honest. Jesus didn't rake Peter over the coals for not loving Him unconditionally, but He met Peter where he was.

God meets us where we are. We don't have to meet certain standards before we can follow Him. We just need to allow Him to meet us where we are.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Love of Sabbath, A Love of Rest

Can you name all 10 commandments? Check yourself here.

Sadly, the (4th) commandment concerning the Sabbath is often ignored or rationalized away. I, for one, hold a love of the Sabbath.

What is the Sabbath? In short, the Sabbath is a day of rest. People (including servants) and animals are to rest one day each week.

What is the Bible Basis for the Sabbath? (both in the Old Testament "OT" & New Testament "NT")
OT-Strong's Number H7676 and Strong's Number H7677
NT-Strong's Number G4521
If you are interested, you can follow the links to explore the laws, instances, and descriptions of the Sabbath.

It should be noted that it's important to make sure we keep spirit of law. Jewish tradition dictate that the Sabbath *must* be broken in order to save a life (you can read more about it here and here.)
Jesus noted that it's lawful to do good on the Sabbath.

In Chariots of Fire, the runner (Eric Liddell) refused to participate in a running heat when it was on a Sunday & would have broken his Sabbath.

What it looks like in our lives
There is one day each week where you don't have to go into your workplace. You don't have to clean the house. Naps are allowed. Reading and resting are encouraged. Check out this blog for ideas on good activities. The "whatevers" of the Bible are a good guideline for Sabbath activities. Ask yourself: is this activity true? Noble? Right? Pure? Lovely? Admirable? Excellent? Praiseworthy? If yes, then do it!! (see Phil. 4:8)

It's important to rethink how you Rethink "can't do...." as "don't have to do..." It's not "I can't do those dishes piling up in the sink." It's "Today's my Sabbath. I don't have to do the dishes piling up in the sink."

Keeping a Sabbath has an added benefit. You only have to make it six days before you can rest. Gone are the days of saying, "I don't get another day off until Thanksgiving" for you have a day to rest once a week.

I celebrate the Sabbath by drinking delicious tea, reading happy books, sleeping in, doing crafts I couldn't justify relaxing with during the week (until those crafts become work), and spending time with God.

Do you keep a Sabbath? How do you celebrate the Sabbath?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Missionary's Prayer

Many times, we wear masks in church. Inwardly hurting, outwardly smiling, Not admitting our seasons in the desert, our days without prayer or Bible Study. Sometimes condemning and snubbing those who admit their struggles.

But we do struggle. All of us. Whether from the sin of pride or pornography. Whether from the sin of alcoholism or arrogance. Whether from the sin of serving gods or speaking gossip.

My emotions I feel range high and low. This is my prayer, poured out to God, to sort out what I am feeling. This is a raw, unfiltered prayer, showing my hurts, doubts, and confusion as I work out my faith & my emotions. May this be a help to you.

A blank page.
An empty mind.
What do I even feel?
Why do I feel this way?
Are my expectations too high?
Are my rests too brief?
Am I not meant to be here?
Am I under spiritual attack?
Should I even teach?
What should I be?
Why do I have an identity crisis?
Am I useful?
Am I helpful?
God, I'm serving You; why do I feel this way?
What do I do when I have these feelings?
Is this a season of testing?
Must I be refined?
I want to be joyful, peaceful, and near You.
Why do I feel empty and blank?
I can't trust my emotions-rolling from HIGH to low and back.
Same day, same hour, I'm on the mountain and in the valley.
Too fickle to follow, these emotions.
Are You teaching me to be still?
Are You teaching me the cost of following You?
Are You teaching me to have a faith deeper than emotions?
Are You teaching me to hear Your voice by silencing the dross?
I will follow You, even if my feelings are absent.
I will follow You, even if I don't feel like it.
I will follow You, even if I need to leave my favorite things.
I will follow You, because nothing, no one else is worth following.
When I need parented and raised, You are my Father.
When I need peace, You are my Prince.
When I need comfort, You are my Comforter.
Father, Son, Holy Spirit, You are my lifewaters.
You are the source.
Thank You for listening.
I feel better.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

He Who Doesn't Work, Should Not Eat

Sadly, I hear a great many Christians cite Paul's rule to the Thessalonian Church (“The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”) as proper justification to not help the poor.

Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
There is grave danger in quoting only one verse of the Bible as our philosophy for _____. At minimum, we should look at the verse in context. For example, 2 Thessalonians 3:10 is in the subheading of chapter 3 of verses 6-14. Looking at the rest of the paragraph will help me better understand Paul's message.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-14 verse by verse:
6. Paul (and Silas and Timothy) commanded believers to keep away from idle and disruptive believers who don't live out Paul & company's teachings.
7. They should follow Paul & company's example of non-idleness/laziness.
8. Paul & company did not eat food without paying for it. They worked hard so they wouldn't be a burden to the church.
9. They worked so hard (even though they were entitled to help from the church) so that the church would imitate them.
10. Paul & company gave the church this rule during their stay with the church: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
11. Paul & company heard about the idle, disruptive, un-busy yet busybody believers.
12. Paul & company urges these people (in verse 11) to settle down & earn their food.  
13. The church is urged to not be weary of doing good.
14. The church should pay attention to those who don't obey Paul & company and not associate with them. 

This passage appears to be instructions written to the church (to believers). Lazy people in the church were the ones told "those unwilling to work won't eat". Maybe Paul was thinking of the common meals shared by the early church? He also said "We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies."

What about Jesus' perspective? Did He have something to say on this topic? 
Yes, He did have some thoughts.
In the Sermon on the Mount and in Luke 6, Jesus said to 1) not resist an evil person. 2) turn the other cheek. 3) give extra things to the one suing you. 4) travel further with one forcing you to travel with them. 5) "
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."

I can imagine objections to these instructions & have preemptively formed responses: 
 
Objection 1: But we'll be taken advantage of!! 
Response 1: Mostly likely. In the internet, there's a collection of memes of "Things Jesus Never Said." Jesus didn't say to determine which people asking you for help were deserving of your help. He said give to the one that asks you. If I get scammed and suckered into giving away stuff when I obey God's word, I don't think that I will be foolish in God's eyes (in the eyes of the world & maybe even the church, I probably will look foolish). But maybe God will use that encounter to reach out to the scammer.

Objection 2: But I don't have extra food to give!!
Response 2: Is there some part of your budget that you can trim down? Entertainment? Eating out? What about food purchases? Are there unhealthy things you can cut out? Maybe you can cut back on the meats?

Objection 3: But I don't have extra stuff to give to anyone who asks!!
Response 3: The early church had a solution for this crisis: sell your stuff to give to those in need. 

Objection 4: But that's uncomfortable!!
Response 4: I really wanted to just ask "So??" but that might be a little rude. However, if I place my comforts above the needs of those around me, I don't feel like I'm representing Christ well.

If you read through your Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments describe God's great heart for the poor, the widowed, the orphaned, and the foreigner. Written into the Old Testament laws are provisions for these peoples, the marginals, the least of these. God cares about these people...so why doesn't His church? Why don't His people care for those God cares for? 

If one of these verse from 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14 is to be your motto, may I humbly recommend verse 13 "And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good."

Monday, December 9, 2013

So Many Causes, So Many Directions

My money is limited, but my passions are not.

When there are so many good things out there, so many projects in the kingdom, what can I do when I can't support them all? (The answer is NOT to avoid doing anything).

What are some of my causes I love and support?

The International Justice Mission...Fight for Justice. Raise awareness, raise money, raise support to end modern day slavery. (It still exists and it's still horrible).


The Living Water International...Work for Water. 783 million people in the world (1 in 9 people) do not have access to clean water. Will I sacrifice my tea, my coffee, my soda to give money to build them wells?

The Advent Conspiracy...Conspire during Advent. Will I change my Christmas from consumeristic to Christ-tastic?

Equal Exchange...Buy Fair Trade foods. Will I pay more for goods ethically produced?

Project Heifer...Buy a Cow for Christmas. Will I give up presents to give means of nutrition and support to others?

10,000 Villages...Buy Handcraft Fair Trade Goods. Will I buy gifts that are Fair Trade (artisans receive a living wage to produce them)?

Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF)...Support Missionary Pilots.Will I further God's work through pilots?

To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA)...Support those with depression and mental illness. Will I stand in support of those with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-injury, and more?

Support a Missionary. Like us!! (just kidding, only slightly) Will I give to missionaries doing God's work around the world?

What if I shopped fair trade foods year-round (Equal Exchange)? I may need to cut back on luxury items in the stores, but it should be possible.
What if I bought presents from Project Heifer, 10,000 Villages, and MAF each fall & winter? I'm going to buy presents anyway.
What if each Advent, I joined in the Conspiracy? 
What if I helped raise awareness for and participated events for in TWLOHA (around November 13 or February 14 each year I believe)
What if I saved my loose change to loosen chains (IJM) and saved my money for building wells instead of buying soda (Living Water International)?
What if I supported missionaries with my prayers, words of encouragement, and money?

What if, it is possible to support godly ministries with my passion, my words, my money? Will I make that sacrifice?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Some Days, I'm a Super(human)

Some days, I'm a Super. A Superhuman that is.
I conquer to do lists.
I'm overly-productive.
I can do anything that I need to do without draining my energy.
I have it all together: my marriage, my home, classes, my job, everything.

Some days, I'm a mere mortal.
I get some things done.
I'm a little productive.
I can do necessary things with a drain in my energy level.
I am doing well in all parts of my life.

Some days, I'm a living zombie.
I don't get anything done.
I don't have anything productive to show for my day.
There is no energy to do anything.
I am alive and that is my (low-energy) cause for celebration.

I go through all three states of being each year, each month, each week, sometimes each day.

I thrive.
I live.
I survive.

I'm grateful for resting the day after a day as a Super.
I'm grateful for being alive when I'm a mere mortal.
I'm grateful everyday is not one where I am a living zombie.

We go through these states of being throughout our lives. It's okay to have living zombie days. They aren't fun, but sometimes they happen.

It's not important how epic I am in a day, but rather who I am in Christ, because my identity in Him is secure.

Some days I'm a Super.
Some days I'm a mere mortal.
Some days I'm a living zombie.
All days (since I placed my identity in Christ), I am His. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Advent Conspiracy

Tis the season...of consumerism.
Tis the season...of stress.
Tis the season...of debt.
The season of Advent is not about consumerism, stress, or debt, but that's how we live it.
The season of Advent is about anticipation, hope, and expectation, but these get pushed to the side in the hustle & bustle of Christmas.

Is this the way life is? Yes.
Is this the way life has to be? No.


Enter the Advent Conspiracy.

Here's a video explaining what it is all about & promoting an organization that gives water to those without access to clean water.



The Advent Conspiracy
            There are 4 parts to the Advent conspiracy: 1) worship fully, 2) spend less, 3) give more, and 4) love all. 5 pastors in 2006 started this event.
1) Worship fully: Advent is a time to prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas. It is a time to praise God and give Him our attention. This point is number one because it is the most important. Our attitude towards Jesus & God will influence our Christmas. Jesus should be the most important person. Sometimes other activities push Him from the spotlight during Advent & Christmas.
2) Spend less: It is possible to still buy gifts, but we should buy less gifts without importance. Many times (at least in the US), we receive gifts from each person in our immediate family and a gift exchange with our extended family. It is possible to receive 6-15 gifts (or more) during Christmas, but many times, we don't remember our gifts after a month, a year, or more. This Christmas, we should spend less on unimportant gifts. We should spend money on a very special gift. In the US, the people spend $450 billion each year on gifts (many times with a credit card). It's too much. The people at Advent Conspiracy think that it's possible to give clean water to all the world for $20 billion in a year.
 3) Give more: But point number 2 told me to spend less & number 3 tells me to give more? Seriously? We should give more of our time to others. We should focus on quality time. We could give more money (from our gift categories) to organizations like Living Water International or the International Justice Mission. 783 million people in the world do not have clean water. (That's one person in nine). 2 billion people in the last 20 years have received clean water, so there's hope!!
4) Love all: Jesus loved us and loves us. We should give this love to others. When we spend less on gifts, there is more money to help others. We could give things to people that need them.

So, this Advent, conspire.
Conspire to worship Jesus fully, not bow to the idol of consumerism.
Conspire to spend less, after all, is Christmas your birthday?
Conspire to give more quality time & gifts to help others (like fighting slavery & building wells).
Conspire to love all, including those Jesus called the least of these.
Will you join the conspiracy?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jesus: The One Prophesied

Not only did Jesus live, breathe, die, and rise again, but He did so fulfilling Old Testament prophecies about Himself.

Yet, how much do we really know about the prophecies about Jesus?
-the virgin will give birth
-a voice in the wilderness will prepare the way
-the cornerstone will be rejected
-He'll be despised & rejected
-He won't have beauty to attract people to Him
-His clothes would be gambled for

Phew. That took some mental gymnastics to think of that list...without knowing exactly where in the Old and New Testaments to look (without looking myself). Yet there are hundreds of prophecies about Jesus.

This site (351 Prophecies Fulfilled in Jesus Christ) is probably my favorite. It lists the Old Testament (O.T.) prophecy scripture reference, a summary of the prophecy, and the New Testament (N.T.) scripture location of fulfillment.

This site (Biblical Prophecy Resource Center: Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus) is more of an article, but it has several charts that state the O.T. prophecy, O.T. prophecy location, and N.T. fulfillment.

This site (Messianic Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus Christ) states a prophecy summary and then shows the O.T. and N.T. scripture locations and verses. It takes time to explain what a prophecy is and why prophecies are reliable. 

This site (Messianic Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus Christ) is alright, but many words are in old English. It has a nice chart summarizing prophecies about Jesus, with O.T. and N.T. locations.

Don't take my word for it. Take time to read the N.T. (especially the gospels) and pay special attention to O.T. references made. Keep track of which ones are prophecies concerning the Messiah. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Examining Christ the King Sunday

The last Sunday in the church year is Christ the King Sunday.

The Book of Common Prayer describes it as a time to remember that our first, foremost, primary, and main allegiance is to Christ. Nation, tribe, family, political party, etc. take second place every time.

This is a relatively young holiday in the church year because it wasn't established until 1925, partially in reaction to the rising violence & racism in the world.

Sometimes our lines of allegiance get tangled. Sometimes our priorities get misplaced.

Yet, God trumps my political party. He cannot be limited and contained to only one political party. If I said the Democratic or Republican party was the only appropriate party for Christians, I'd be wrong.

Yet, God trumps my nation. He transcends borders & lines on a map. My nation is not the only location of the church.

Yet, God trumps my family. I hope that my family will support & encourage me in my faith, but if not, God wins.

A yearly reminder that my loyalty & obedience to God is more important than anything else: my family, my job, my country, my political party.

Thanks be to God for this reminder.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Living as a Christian in Terms of Submission

What does the Bible say about believers (Christians) living in a non-Christian (pagan) society?
A quick flip-through of the New Testament reveals 5 direct passages about Christian living/life/instruction for Christian households/etc. (Ephesians 4:1-6:9, and Galatians 5:13-26, and Colossians 3:1-25, and 1 Peter 2:11-3:7, and 1 Peter 4:1-11). These passages should make a good basis for Christians anywhere and everywhere.

What are some highlights of instructions on Christian living?

Serve each other humbly in love. Have the fruit of the spirit. Be gentle. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. Put off old self. Don't sin in anger. Work, not steal. Avoid unwholesome talk. Speak what builds others up. Be kind and compassionate and forgiving. Do not use obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking. Submit to one another. Children obey parents. Wives submit to husbands. Husbands love wives. Parents don't exasperate children. Submit to authority. Show respect to everyone. Honor rulers. Don't get beauty from outward adornment. Offer hospitality without grumbling.

Woah. Hold up. Submit to authorities? This cannot apply to me. Doesn't God know that I am living in a pagan/non-Christian society??? Surely He is not instructing ME to submit to my governing authorities; they're doing all sorts of anti-Christian things!!

I think the Biblical commandment of submitting (even to authority) is still valid. Why do I think the Biblical guideline of submitting to authorities is still valid? I found several passages in the Bible that support this notion.


1. Jesus knew how pagans use (mis-use) authority. (See Matt 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45, and Luke 22:25-27)

2. Jesus has ALL authority given to Him. Christ is above all authority. (See Matt 28:18 and Colossians 2:10, respectively)

3. The ungodly reject authority. God knows how to rescue to godly & punish the unrighteous (especially those who despise authority). (See Jude 1:8 and 2 Peter 2:4-10, respectively)

Since we don't want to be ungodly, how are we instructed to do interact with the authorities?

A) We are instructed to not only submit to authorities, but also to give respect and honor if we owe that. (See Romans 13:1-7)
B) We are instructed to pray for those in authority. (See 1 Tim. 2:1-3)
C) We are instructed to have confidence in and submit to leaders. (See Heb. 13:17)
D) We are instructed to submit ourselves to human authorities & give them honor.  (See 1 Peter 2:12-17)
E) We are to be subject to & obedient to authorities, and to slander no one. (Titus 3:1-2).

Yes, if there is a question of obeying God or obeying man, the apostles set the precedent to choose God over man. So we aren't to break a law of God at the order of the men, but with the exception of man ordering us to break God's law, we are to submit to and even respect authority.

Isn't it interesting that Christians are instructed to obey authority (to be obedient)? To submit to them? To pray for them? To have confidence (trust) in? To give respect and honor? We aren't to slander anyone (including those in authorities).

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy Holidays to the Christians in America

Alternate Title: Live in Peace, A Biblical Command.

With Thanksgiving officially over, the creeping in of the Christmas season no longer has to be as "secretive" as it was prior to the Thanksgiving mark.

Already, Christmas items are in stores, Christmas music is everywhere, Christmas trees & lights are going up, and Christmas-themed posts are on facebook.

The sad thing is, I read a lot of facebook posts along the lines of "If someone wishes me 'Happy Holidays!' I will reply 'Merry Christmas!' because I believe in keeping Christ in Christmas. Repost this if you agree."

My indirect confrontation of these types of posts is the following "open letter." (My direct response is typically to rant about the post to my husband and then to hide the post in question from my wall, for in my facebook, I am like a queen with the power of banishment of all things political & argumentative.)

Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

Someone wishing you 'Happy Holidays' is not an attack on Christmas. It is recognizing that we live in a multicultural world.

As I pass you in the streets or hand you my debit card (in the case of cashiers, but hopefully not thieves), I don't know if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa (and Kwanzaa again because I found two good summary articles), or Eid (al adha), so I wish you a happy celebration of your choice (by the way, Hanukkah & Eid al adha are lunar-based holidays, so they may or may not be around December 25th, they sort of float around).

'Happy Holidays!' is not an attack on your faith if you translate it as "I'm not sure what your religion is, but I hope you have a good celebration." Or you could just translate it as "Merry Christmas." That's what do when strangers wish me 'Happy Holidays!'

When I see your facebook post like the generic example above, I see you throwing down the gauntlet & balling up your fists waiting for the first attack on your faith. I recommend the movie Christmas with a Capital C for a good perspective check.

I have 5 groups of verses that I recommend that you read.
Romans 12:17-21
2 Corinthians 13:11
1 Thessalonians 5:12-24
1 Timothy 2:1-4
Hebrews 12:14-15

If you don't have the time or desire to read ALL those verses (there's 25 verses, Liz!!!), here is my summary:

Romans 12:17-21...Don't repay evil for evil. Do what is right in others' eyes. "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Don't take revenge. Overcome evil with good.

2 Corinthians 13:11...Rejoice. Work for full restoration (not quite sure what that means). Encourage each other. Have unity. *Live in peace.*

1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 (sorry, I liked the surrounding verses a little *too* much)...Acknowledge your hard workers & highly regard them. *Live in peace with each other.* Warn the idle & disruptive. Encourage the disheartened. Help the weak. *Be patient with everyone.* *Don't pay back wrong for wrong.* Try to do what's good for each other & others. Always rejoice, continually pray, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will.

1 Timothy 2:1-4...Petition God on behalf of, pray for, intercede for, & give thanks for all people, including those in authority, so we can live peaceful, quiet, godly, and holy lives. This is good & pleases God (who wants everyone to be saved).


Hebrews 12:14-15...Do all you can to live in peace with everyone...and to be holy. Make sure that no one falls short of God's grace. Make sure there's not bitter root growing up to cause trouble.


To summarize the summary:

Live in peace.
Pray for <insert all people>. Pray for those in leadership, including President Obama. Pray for those of different religions. Pray for those who consider themselves Christians but spewing hate with their words & actions. Pray for those believers on the other side of the political spectrum than you.
Be patient with everyone
Don't repay wrong for wrong or evil for evil.
Don't allow the bitter root of "the only proper holiday greeting in December is 'Merry Christmas!'" to grow & cause trouble.

Instead,
CELEBRATE the birth of Jesus!
ANTICIPATE His return!!
REJOICE that salvation has come in the form of Jesus.

So, dear brothers & sisters,
Happy holidays. The happy holy-day for us is Christmas, so Merry Christmas.

your sister-in-Christ,

Liz of the Niche

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lectionary and Liturgy

This church year (Advent 2013-right before Advent 2014), I will be doing daily readings from the Lectionary Year A and the (liturgical) Book of Common Prayer as my devotionals. You may be asking what is the lectionary and what is a liturgical book?

Liturgy: "a form of public worship; ritual"

Not to be confused with Litany: "a liturgical form of prayer consisting of a series of invocations/supplications with responses that are the same for a number in succession."

Lectionary: "a book containing reading appointed to be read at divine services."
Example: Here and there

Definitions taken from Dictionary.com Copyright © 2013 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.

I have already waxed poetically (in my opinion) on the liturgical year in the sub-section "Following the Church Year" if you want more information on it.

The Lectionary is a 3 year cycle through the Bible. Each week's lectionary has selections from the Old Testament, Psalms, Epistles, and Gospel. Acts replaces the Old Testament reading during the Easter season.  Like the liturgical year, the lectionary begins with the start of Advent (so the current year is 2013-2014). This is currently Year A.


Year A, B, or C
Gospel Focus
O.T. semi-continuous
Other
Year A
Matthew
Patriarchs & Exodus
Psalm & Epistles
Year B
Mark
Monarchy
Psalm & Epistles
Year C
Luke
Prophets
Psalm & Epistles

But what about John? John is read throughout the year, particularly during high church seasons such as Christmas, Lent, and Easter. The Old Testament readings are either thematically related to the Gospel or taking the church through a semi-continuous reading of the O.T. focusing on one of the three categories above. Both thematic or semi-continuous readings are offered, but each pastor/church should choose which will be focused on for that year. During the season of Easter, the book of Acts is read instead of the O.T. reading.

Probably not very surprising, but I like the order and connectedness brought by the lectionary.

I'm intrigued by the idea of following the Lectionary. When a message is given at church, the pastor will know what verses to look for a message from. It would prevent a church from ignoring verses they don't like, when all are covered over 3 years. It would bring a certain amount of unity to the church. The whole congregation could be reading the Lectionary during the week and focusing together on the same verses.

At the Messianic-Jewish Shabbot services that I sometimes attend, I really enjoy how they read something from the Torah (first 5 books of the O.T.), writings/prophets, Psalms, and New Testament each week. During the service, only a portion of the assigned reading is read, but then their rabstor (rabbi-pastor) will connect all the readings together to point to one message. It's really cool to see that happen.

I'm also a little wary of following the Lectionary. What about being led by the Spirit? What if the Spirit brings a message that doesn't fit in that week's scripture reading? I think sometimes going "off-road" with the readings would be acceptable.

Have you had any experience with a lectionary? What type of experience have you had? 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

30 Blessings (aka 30 Reasons for Thankfulness)

Like all those people on facebook, I like to reflect in November about the reasons I have to be thankful, but I prefer to show it as one lump sum list instead of each day. You might notice that most of my reasons to be thankful have something to do with our mission trip in Costa Rica.

  1. Our families support our call to missions/ministry and our mission trip.
  2. We have this opportunity for our year-long mission trip.
  3. We have no debt so we can do things like this trip.
  4. We have a plethora of supporters back in the States. (We send over 400 newsletters each month! Who knew that we knew so many people?!?!)
  5. We have a church family here that patiently speaks with us and loves us.
  6. We have internet access and Skype to connect with our family and friends.
  7. I have a husband who is a believer and is missions-minded.
  8. We have a wonderful Spanish teacher here.
  9. We have patient Spanish-speakers to converse with.
  10. We sing (Spanish) songs at our church that we know the English equivalent songs.
  11. We are 75% funded.
  12. We live in an environment of generosity and the sharing of food.
  13. We see beautiful sunsets almost daily.
  14. Our parents are letting us use their homes as storage units.
  15. Our apartment and home is furnished, so we didn't need to buy or bring lots of heavy stuff here.
  16. I get more exercise here, because we walk most places...or take the bus & then walk.
  17. I get to eat homemade flour tortillas with cinnamon sugar of deliciousness.
  18. We get to eat more healthy foods since fruits & veggies are super cheap.
  19. Tea. How I love you.
  20. We don't have food allergies.
  21. We don't have major illnesses.
  22. We receive our salvation through God's grace and Christ's sacrifice, not by our works.
  23. I have a kindle.
  24. I have friends who support, encourage, and bring laughs.
  25. I'm thankful for the color blue.
  26. We have good relationships with our in-laws.
  27. We get a weekly Sabbath rest
  28. We have Bible(s) in English
  29. We have enough food to eat each day.
  30. We can openly practice our faith.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Doing 'Be Still'

Sometimes I focus too much on what I need to do for God instead of focusing on who He is.

Lord, what do I need to do today?

-Be still and know that I am God.

Lord, don't You mean to read my Bible everyday?

-Be still and know that I am God.

Lord, don't You mean to pray & to fast?

-Be still and know that I am God.

Lord, don't You mean to witness & to evangelize?

-Be still and know that I am God.

Lord, don't You mean to tell me what to do?

-Be still and know that I am God.

But Lord, that's not an action; it's a state of being. You want me to do nothing except be & realize who You are as my God?

-Be still and know that I am God.

Lord, I need to be still? I need to silence the to-do lists, the goals, the pressing demands, the worries, the fears, the technology, & the noise in order to be? I need to to silence all other things and focus on You, on Your God-ness, on who You are?

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10


Bible study, prayer, fasting, witnessing, evangelizing, and other actions of Christians are important, but God isn't impressed by how much you do. First & foremost spend time with Him. We are saved by grace, not by works. Our actions should be rooted in our love for God, not in our to do list.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Water for the World

There is a wonderful organization (Living Water International) that is dedicated to bringing clean drinking water to the 783 million people who don't have access to it in our world today. That's 1 in every 9 people.

But what can we do?
I can't fly to another country.
I can't build a well.
I can't make a difference.

I'm not too sure about the first two points, but everyone can make a difference.

What can I do?

I can take the10 Days Challenge and commit to only drinking water for 10 days! Sweet!! I'll save lots of money! My bank account will love that. Umm...not quite. Step two is to donate the money you would have spent on other drinks to an organization like Living Water International so they can help others.

I can Join With Chick-Fil-A to help those without clean water through Chick-Fil-A plus one. I don't have a Chick-Fil-A nearby, so you may want to research this on your own.

I can Pray for Clean Water. Prayer is powerful.

I can check out suggestions on the Do Something page. I can find something that I can do to help.

I can use less water to shower, to wash dishes, to wash the car. I can teach my children why this is important.

What is the cost?
There are many variables that affect the cost of building a well. Some wells will cost $5,000 while others are higher than $150,000. But clean water should be available to everyone.

So I challenge you, what will you do to help get clean water to the people of the world?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Moving Out of My Comfort Zone

For the past 2 months and the next 10 months, our (my husband and I) home is an apartment in Costa Rica. From time to time we talk about what will happen after our year here.

We have many unknown questions:
Where will we live?
What will we do?
What will our life look like after a yearlong mission trip in Costa Rica?

While discussing this, my husband mentioned how he didn't want to spend the rest of our lives in his hometown and birthplace. On one hand, I can relate. Most of the people in my hometown don't venture far away and live their lives in the county of their birth. He quoted the figure of 50% as the number of people in his hometown who spend their whole lives in their hometown (give or take a few ventures away).

According to the Pew Research Center "...most Americans have moved to a new community at least once in their lives, although a notable number — nearly four-in-ten — have never left the place in which they were born...In the Midwest, nearly half of adult residents say they have spent their entire lives in their hometown." (Cohn, and Morin)

Yet, when I heard that my future may not include staying in my college town, the place of my first two homes as a wife, I was saddened. I had expected to move back to my college town and his hometown after our mission trip and continue my friendships and dreams in that setting. I realized that my college town had become my comfort zone. It was virtually all that I had known as a new wife. I knew where to shop. I knew who to hang out with. I had friends, church, and family nearby. In short, I was comfortable there.

The thought of not returning to the only setting I had known as a married person saddened me. The thought of following a job or an opportunity of God to another city filled me with dread. It was like I expected God to reward my obedience in following Him to another country by Him transplanting me exactly back where I was.

The thing is, I don't even know how my college town would fit me after a year on the mission field. I don't know how we will be changed by our experiences here or how the city would change in a year. Maybe to go back and rebuild a life there would bring pain, heartache, and frustration.

When everything is boiled down, I need to be willing to leave my comfort zone. I need to be open to the option that maybe God won't put us back in the same town with the same friends and the same activities as before. My dreams, my hopes have to die in order for me to see the plans of God. When I fiercely cling to my dreams of the future, I am not open to God's guidance. It's possible that I will sacrifice my dreams on the altar to God, only to have Him give me the same dream. It's possible that I will sacrifice my dreams on the altar to God, only to have Him give me a new dream. But I will not know God's plans until I release my hold on my plans.

God could put us back in the same town after our year in Costa Rica or He may have different plans. If I cling to my plans for my future, would I have really learned anything about faith and trust during my time on the mission field?

Lord, wherever you want us after this year in Costa Rica, let us be open and willing to travel and live where You put us. Give us wisdom in navigating our post-mission field-experience and the desire to be missionaries wherever You place us.

Cohn, D'Vera, and Rich Morin. "Who Moves? Who Stays Put? Where’s Home? ." PewResearch Social & Demographic Trends. PewResearchCenter, 17 Dec 2008. Web. 12 Nov 2013. <http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2008/12/17/who-moves-who-stays-put-wheres-home/>.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Prayer Challenge for the Persecuted Church

As the International Day of Prayer approaches (November 10, 2013), I challenge you to pray. The global church and its persecuted churches can seem like such a big prayer request and so I drew up a list of prayer prompts for your convenience.

-Pray for Liberty in North Korea. (I challenge you to pray faithfully each week, each day until this prayer is a reality)
-Pray for the 50 countries where persecution is the most severe. (I challenge you to pray for a country a day for the rest of the year & for the first 50 days of 2014)
-Pray for the pastors in persecuted countries.
-Pray for the missionaries in persecuted countries.
-Pray for the believers in persecuted countries.
-Pray against the works of the evil one in these countries. Ask for God to bind the hands of satan and protect His children.
-Pray for the persecutors. Pray that they will encounter Jesus and their encounter will leave them changed like Saul-Paul.
-Pray for the persecuted to have courage, strength, and endurance to withstand the persecution and to be Christ to their persecutors.
-Pray for God to move through governments, organizations, and people to protect His people.

Commit to pray. For a day. For a week. For a month. For a year.
Pray with your words. Pray with the words of others.
Pray alone. Pray with your family. Pray with your small group. Pray with your church.
Pray in the morning. Pray in the afternoon. Pray in the evening.
Pray with fasting. Pray with food.
Pray standing. Pray kneeling. Pray prostrate on the ground. Pray sitting. Pray while driving (but don't close your eyes).
Pray silently. Pray aloud. Pray with words. Pray with songs. Pray with groans & tears.

Pray for the persecuted church.