Monday, August 29, 2016

Whole30 - Day 1 (Underestimating Yourself)

So, I think most people have heard of this new "not-a-diet-it's-a-lifestyle" diet called the Whole30. If you haven't heard of it, in a nutshell it's 30 days of:
  • No Dairy (no cream in your coffee, no part-skim mozzarella sticks to chow down on)
  • No Sugar (even honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, etc.)
  • No Wheat/Grains (No RICE!!!!)
  • No Alcohol (not even the small amount contained in vanilla extract) 
Today is my first day of this diet/lifestyle, and I'm not alone! My mom is here visiting for three weeks, and she's doing it with me. 

So during these 30 days, I figured I'd resurrect my blog and try to write it in conjunction with a new devotional, and my following of the Huffington Post's Whole 30 Survival Tips

This might not work every time, but magically, the first day of the devotional and the first tip are like perfectly matched up: 

Don't underestimate yourself. 

I've actually never thought much of the word "underestimate." It's just a word. Just part of vocabulary. I think people use a lot of words not knowing the depth of meaning that comes with it. Underestimation is 100% a perception issue. We see something as smaller and less valuable than it actually is. When we underestimate something, we look at the object of our estimation fractionally thinking we're seeing the whole. 

But what about when the object of your underestimation How does that happen? 

Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” 
- Exodus 3:10-12

Situation: The centuries long enslavement of the Israelites will be brought to an end through the obedience and leadership of Moses

The way Moses sees it: I'm not the guy for this job. I'm simply NOT the guy

The way God sees it: I'm the guy for this job. Literally I AM the guy.

In this conversation, Moses is focused on himself and God is focused on Himself. One person has no idea what he's capable of, the other knows exactly what He's capable of.

God even offers Moses a sign: when it's all over, you'll worship Me at this mountain.

So Moses is like (major paraphrase): ...ummm no, Lord. I need signs before I do this!

And so God does that, Moses is able to turn his staff into a snake and able to make his hand leprous and then not-leprous again. After that Moses, armed now with powers, says:

"Lord, You have equipped me well! I will go, free your people in the power and strength of the Lord!"

Just kidding! He totally didn't say that at all. He actually said:

“Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue...Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.”  
- Exodus 4:10-13 (excerpts)

I think I never noticed how hilarious that underlined point was. Moses was so focused on himself and his own shortcomings that it made it almost impossible for him  to believe God. It didn't matter that God, Himself, appearing in a burning bush is speaking to Moses. Moses felt like that didn't change ANYTHING. He was still the same guy. And that guy was not the guy for the job.

Moses, like most of us, even after an encounter with God, even after being empowered by God view ourselves as "just me." No matter what happens, I think of myself as "just me." But from the moment Moses walked up at the bush...something changed. And the moment you believed in Jesus Christ...something changed.

Both you and Moses went from "just me" to "Certainly I will be with you." And from every moment after that, every time you thought "but I'm just me" you were underestimating yourself AND underestimating the God who swore to be with you.

Let's be clear: this diet sounds hard, but I know it doesn't rise to the level of "Let My People Go" so let's forget about the Whole30. I can TOTALLY give up sugar, dairy, grains and alcohol for 30 days.

But what about the rest of my life? Am I ready to let go of "I'm just me" and start believing what God says about me?

What is it that you think you're not good enough to be? What is it that you're not good enough to do? What is it that you think you're not strong enough to stop doing?

Believe me...No believe're underestimating yourself.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Japan...Take it Back

Last day of fun - 5/17/16

So, if you are someone who knows me personally, you know that I am currently on vacation in Japan! I've been posting photos on Facebook of me and my friend eating ramen and sushi, of me going to beautiful gardens and strolling along lovely rivers. Fantastic! However, nearly all of that is my attempt to salvage what has turned into a nightmare of a trip. Four days in, my friend caught the flu. Then I caught some version of what she had, and we've been trying to power through ever since. As I lay in bed crying this morning, I thought: I want to "take it back."

And I truly do. I wish I could take this trip back. Like it never happened. But, tragically, there are so very few things you can take back in this life. I can think of only a couple (but there are probably more):

my ongoing situation
  • If you accidentally say something hurtful to a small child (too small to know better), as soon as they start to wrinkle up their face to can hug them close, tell them you didn't mean it and buy them some ice cream. And it's over. It's like it never happened
  • When I was post-operation for my aneurysm, they told me about stroke risks and how that if you came to the hospital as you were having a stroke, or if you had a stroke at the hospital and they caught it in enough time, they could "take it back." Like it never happened. Which I thought was super amazing! Modern medicine. 
Even though I only have these two measly examples, I feel like most things that can be taken back, have to be taken back rather quickly. You have to fix it in the moment or it's too late. The damage is done. 

Except in one cosmically divine case. 

Lately--though my blog has lain fallow for a few months--I've been toying with this idea of "what is the best thing about Jesus?" And so far, I have two things, but this is the first: 

Jesus performed the ultimate take-back. 

"...but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." 
Genesis 2:17

This was what God told Adam and Eve in the garden. And you know what? They ate of that tree. And they died. And we've been dying ever since. Person after person. Generation after generation. And, we convinced ourselves that it was...natural. That death is just what happens. 

But then 4,000 years later Jesus came along, went to the cross, died...but didn't stay dead! He did this as proof that He had beaten death for all of us. The curse that Adam and Eve brought to mankind? Jesus took it back. 

Jesus said it best when He was talking to Martha: 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
 - John 11:25-26

I love that. You will live, even though you die? Sounds like..."like it never happened." 

But Paul said it second best when he said: 

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55-56

The sting and power of death? Jesus takes it back. 4,000 years later. Which is true, but not true. 

All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. 
- Revelation 13:8

God takes things back before they even happen. I like to believe this scripture, though written to the New Testament church, applied to Adam and Eve: 

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man*; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 
- 1 Corinthians 10:13

From the beginning, a way of escape was made. Death? Just something to be endured. Nothing final about it, because Jesus takes it back. 

*Okay, maybe this part didn't apply. They were the first the temptation couldn't have been common. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

From the Dead: What's Your Story?

Despite the fact that Christians are supposed to share their faith all the time, I've really only shared my faith a handful of times with people. It all began when I was 12 years old. I shared the gospel with a shy and quiet girl at my junior high. At that time, I was super young in faith, and I doubt I shared a ton of the actual gospel message...I shared something else.

Later in life, as I became an adult, I became better at sharing "the good news." By this I mean that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh (John 1:1-14), a sinless and perfect man who died a criminal's death in the place of all the actual criminals in the world. He was dead for three days, and then under His own power (John 10:18) resurrected from the dead as the first person to resurrect and live forever. He was the example of what God plans to do for all who put their trust and faith in Jesus...

I would tell them that...mixed in with something else.

The gospel alone is exceedingly powerful. However, strangely, that is not purely how faith is shared. Which brings me to the last person who is raised from the dead:


Who? Exactly. The story of Eutychus is a weird freak accident mixed in with a ton of other stories in a book of the bible called "Acts."

The book of Acts is written by Luke (who also wrote the gospel Luke). I had forgotten, but someone reminded me, that Luke wrote the book of Acts to a specific person: Theophilus.

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. - Acts 1:1-2

But guess what? He wrote the gospel of Luke to Theophilus as well!

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,  just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. - Luke 1:1-4

So, Luke writes two books of the Bible that, when I think about, truly exemplify the way people typically share their faith.

  1. We first hit you with the gospel of Jesus Christ
  2. Then we bombard you with stories about how we have seen the Holy Spirit at work in both our own lives and the lives of others.
We will tell you of everything we witnessed that confirmed to us that the Jesus of the Bible was real. Do you think we just heard this story about the 1) life, 2) death and 3) resurrection of some guy who claimed to love us and that was it? No! ...We gathered some experiential evidence. We saw things. We felt things. We did things ourselves that we know were beyond our power. And we knew: umm...this is real!

And we share that evidence. We all have our own "Acts" that we share with people. One of Luke's stories was about a young man named Eutychus:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted. 
- Acts 20:7-12

Let me tell you what the morale of this story is not
  • Don't preach too long
  • Don't fall asleep in church
Even though I don't enjoy an overlong service...that's not what this about. Even though it's sort of embarrassing to sleep in's hardly a death sentence. What this is about is Luke saying: 

"Look at what God did Theophilus!"** 

In John's gospel, he states that he didn't write everything down. But what he did write down...he wrote so that you (the reader) would believe that Jesus is the Christ (John 20:30-31). Luke is no different. Luke was an eyewitness to this event. And since he was a medical doctor, he knew what he was talking about when he said: "he was dead." But the power of God in Paul... The Holy Spirit in Paul... The working of Jesus, from that gospel I told you about earlier, gave life where there was death!
"Look at what God did Theophilus!"

And then Paul went right back upstairs, ate, and resumed his preaching until the break of dawn.  

Note: Paul only planned to preach until midnight. And what you'd think would be a "let's call it" moment, actually sparked an even greater fire in the hearts of Paul and his congregants. They'd all seen it--the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit and they stayed in that room until daybreak. 

Luke is telling all of this to he too could become a believer. And by believing have life in Jesus' name. 

**Don't we all envision Luke the Evangelist as Ryan Gosling? No? It's just me? Fine then...

Friday, February 19, 2016

From the Dead: Tabitha

People generally have a hard time believing in miracles. A miracle is an event that simply can't be explained by natural or scientific laws. Miracles breaks the laws. Miracles spit in the face of laws.  

But many people feel shattered by believing in miracles. It's too illogical and dumb. Thomas Jefferson had to slice and dice his bible in order to arrive at a faith he was comfortable with. And likewise now, some of us just toss out the pieces we can't muster up the faith to believe. Which is rough...when faith is really all that commends one to God: 

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. - Hebrews 11:6

Don't let this be your Bible
Many of us want to rest on moral goodness. We like the old "I've tried to be a good person...I've loved people...never killed anyone" argument. Which is good! Thank God you didn't commit crimes... But, in all seriousness, God does ask for moral goodness in the Bible. Yet, it always falls short. My moral goodness is always mixed in with moral badness, and then I'm somewhere creating my own view of righteousness. One that is based on a series of weights and measures. Something that is very subjective. But, God has been very objective regarding the power of faith: 
  • For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith." - Romans 1: 17
  • Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for "the righteous man shall live by faith" - Galatians 3:11
  • But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him. - Hebrews 10:38 
I could find more scriptures that drive the point home. Faith > Moral Goodness. 

But does that mean we have to believe in the miracles? I see how you might think it's too much for Jesus to feed thousands of people with a sack lunch. I see how you might think it's too much for Jesus to walk on water. To heal the sick. To raise the dead.

However...the whole basis of Christianity is that a guy died a criminal's death for our sins, was dead for three days, rose from the dead, talked to His friends and then ascended in a cloud. A CLOUD!

...if you can believe that happened, you should technically be able to believe anything! But we believe that and almost nothing else. 

You know what though? If you believe that, it's enough. It really is. It's enough for you to be counted with the righteous. But it's not enough for you to experience the full power of Christ in your life. Which leads me to the raising of Tabitha. 

Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, “Do not delay in coming to us.” So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
Acts 9:36-42

Tabitha or...Rapunzel?
There are a lot of things at play in these verses. I could talk about how great a disciple Tabitha was. She appeared to be a servant to the widows. Widows are your most vulnerable, dependent, and helpless members of society...and Tabitha was their go-to. But that's not what this is about. It's about what people did when she died. 

They washed her body and laid her in an upper room. And then called Peter. 

They believed in something! They believed the gospel, yes, but they also believed in the power that Jesus left behind for His people! And, I'm guilty of not believing in the power that remains. Sometimes I act like all the power ascended in the cloud, and like I'm a powerless person waiting on the return of my savior. I AM waiting for His return. But He hasn't left me powerless for the wait. 

The people who washed Tabitha's body knew this. 

And Peter knew it too. I can't even imagine what it was like to be him in that moment. He'd never done this before. But I believe that he believed in the power that Christ had left in the earth. And so he knelt down by her bed, and he prayed to the God of power and then he turned to her, and (I believe) said with power and conviction: "Tabitha, arise."

Oh to be a fly on the wall in that room. I bet Peter's gaze was like steel! I bet it was so hardcore. He wasn't powerless. He believed in the miracles that spiral out like a ripple effect from the miracle resurrection of Christ. That one event is still making waves. It still has power. We're not in a waiting room. Peter wasn't in a waiting room. 

He had power. We have power. Now, I'm not saying to go strolling through cemeteries testing theories...but Peter walked in that room and did something he had never done before! We have no idea what new and amazing thing we're capable of. 

Might be a miracle. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

From the Dead: That's so Random!

Remember when the word "random" was all the rage? I won't an aging millennial, I still use it, but not so much as I did "back in the day" (circa...when I was young).  In those days any unexpected event, any unwelcome guy at the club, and anything that was even slightly peculiar or worthy of dismissal was "random." 

Peculiar - strange, odd, or unusual
Dismissal - the act of treating something as unworthy of consideration; rejection

Please note, the colloquial use of "random" has nothing to do with its traditional usage. When I say "random" I'm talking about slang. 

In any case, nothing in the Bible should be viewed as "random" (given 2 Timothy 3:16), but I'll admit that when I got to the next resurrection, my initial thought was:


The next resurrection involves the death of Jesus. When Jesus died, something seemingly super random happened: seemingly random people got out of their graves.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. - Matthew 27:50-53

I've wrestled with this for weeks. This wrestling combined with the year-end close (I'm an accountant), the holidays, and an unhealthy dose of sheer laziness is the reason why I haven't blogged in so long. I was going to skip it! Like, this event...didn't matter.

But this morning, as I was drying my hair I had a thought that I believe is the thought:

His death gives life.

Period. Jesus' death gives life. It gives life to people who have died in the past. It gives life to people who are dying as I type these words. And it will give life to people dying 100 years from now.

But there is something in this scripture that reinforces my above-mentioned thought:  When Jesus died, the tombs were opened. When He died...the tombs OPENED! But it wasn't until 3 days later that these people resurrected. They resurrected with Christ!

But the moment He died, death's hold was broken! The gig was up! It's like Death was aware of its defeat. The door opened, they just had to wait 3 days to walk out.


Well, I think that door never closed. That door is open right now. Even though we die...we are never "shut up" in death. The stone stays rolled away! We're just waiting to walk out. Those people rose and appeared to people in Jerusalem. And at some point, maybe even soon thereafter, they died again. And someone probably rolled a stone back over their graves. Yet, no man can close a door that God has opened! And I believe those saints came out of their graves to prove that. That Christ's death gives life. And His resurrection secured that life would be eternal at His second coming.

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. - Romans 5:18

There's not much more I can say about those three verses, except that they aren't random. They're important. Life came that day...and it never left.