Monday, August 29, 2011

Faith That Stops the Sun

"Of course every believer in Jesus has a measure of faith - it's the prerequisite of salvation. But after that, if we're honest, we think of faith primarily in terms of spiritual thought or comfortable feeling. We hope it's enough to get us into heaven when we die. But in the meantime, it's barely enough to keep us praying, giving, and going to the eleven o'clock service." These words come from Steven Furtick's book Sun Stand Still. A book written to activate audacious faith, to inspire believers to ask God for the impossible, and in the process, to reconnect believers with their God-sized purpose and potential. Don't be thrown off by the last part. The book is not about living your best life now, but instead about unleashing the greatness and potential that already exists in us because of the unlimited greatness of God that is in us.

I first heard Steven Furtick at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. I think what appealed to me most about his preaching style was how relevant he was, yet totally solid (again, if you want to check out divinely inspired, relevant sermons, check out Elevation Church). So I borrowed this book from my dad's vast library (thanks dad!) and started reading.

This book is based on a prayer in Joshua 10 that affected time and space (only God can do that!). Since the book is about believing God for the impossible, the foundation of its message is faith. You can't please God without it (Hebrews 11:6). You can't be saved apart from it (Ephesians 2:8). But way too many Christians have a distorted view of it. "If you're not daring to believe God for the impossible, you're sleeping through some of the best parts of your Christian life" (Steven Furtick). Ouch, that hurts me a little. I do not want to sleep through any part of my life, let alone the best parts.

Ok are you inspired yet? No? Well, keep reading anyway!

Hebrews 11 is known as the Hall of Fame of Faith. Here the author is calling believers of every generation to faithful endurance by use of testimonies from the lives of ancient saints. The author is challenging the audience to live lives of faith, according to the pattern of great heroes of faith. Now these great heroes were not just thinking about their faith, but instead were so inspired that they acted on their faith. These heroes were visionaries, not just daydreamers. What's the difference? The difference between a visionary and a daydreamer is the audacity and faith to actually act and get started. Faith believes it before it sees it and then acts - because faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26). Amen.

There's a story told of two farmers who prayed to God for rain, but only one went out to prepare his field to receive it. Now which farmer had more faith? (BTW this is not rhetorical, but um no comments on the answer...It's meant to be reflective :))

Monday, August 22, 2011

More Than Just Acts 2

Acts 2:42-47 is a celebrated (and rightly so) picture of what fellowship and community should look like amongst believers. But check out Paul's letter to the Ephesians too. I think Ephesians 4 complements Acts 2 really well, therefore making both passages all the more applicable to the growing Christian church.

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Ephesians 4:11-16.

No other New Testament passage describes the church in action quite like Ephesians 4. Christianity is a faith that is God-directed, Christ-defined, and others-oriented. Christians are part of one body (or in another way, are part of each other) and therefore are to receive, think about, serve, love, build up, submit to, and encourage one another. Christianity is relational because God is relational. Our faith offers a strong basis for positive interactions with other human beings, simply because we share the distinction of being persons created in God's image. But relations among Christians have a much broader and firmer foundation. We share an identity in Christ.

Sadly, people in society today place such a low value on being truly connected, and those in the church are not much better. Why so sad? Because there are so many blessings that flow from being connected to the body of Christ! And who doesn't want to be blessed right?

You can't fully grow into everything God wants you to be unless you are connected to a local church or community. There's a great quote on Steven Furtick's blog on this very topic. "You must follow Jesus for yourself, but you can't follow him by yourself." (Side note: if you want more biblical encouragement or relevant sermons check out Elevation Church). I remember how it felt trying to function as a Christian in isolation. There was such a disconnect between my faith and my lifestyle and I hated myself for it. I didn't actually connect to a local church until my family moved to Michigan from Massachusetts when I was a senior in high school. It was then that I got involved in a small group (small groups definitely make a large church seem so much smaller), used my gifts in music to serve on the worship team, and started to build a solid Christian community of friends.  In the years since then, I've made it a point to be engaged in a local church or Christian community wherever I am. And I am totally receiving all the countless blessings as a result everyday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On Love #1

I am certain that this will not be my only post on the subject of love, hence the #1. Love is an ever present topic and thought that probably runs through any person's mind and is (or should be) experienced multiple times a day. I feel deeply for the person that does not get to experience any kind of love on a daily basis. But what is love? ("Baby don't hurt me.") It's such a hard concept to even try to explain as a Christian, because love experienced through Christ is so opposite to the world's view of love.

Yesterday I was in a situation where I had to show someone love in a difficult way. I had to present my sister with a harsh truth about her life. The kind of earth shaking, identity rocking truth that can really break a person. There was a lot of crying (on her part and mine) because we were both hurt that this had to happen. But that's just it, it had to happen.

I think Hebrews 10:19-39 addresses really well why and how Christians should love. Paul starts with, "Therefore my brothers, since we have a confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus..." Jesus is not ashamed to call all believers his brothers (and sisters), and Paul identifies with his readers by recognizing that they are brothers (and sisters) in Christ, and therefore in the family of God. His objective is to drive home the fact that by Christ's sacrifice (19,20) and priesthood (21), Christians have legit access to the very presence of God.

Based on that open access Paul then makes three appeals (22,23,24). "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith..." Paul wanted the Christians in Jerusalem to actually use their privilege of access and intimacy with God. This approach to God in a personal relationship needed to be done with a "sincere heart." The new covenant in Jesus Christ changes hearts, but a continued loyalty of heart is still required of believers.

Paul's second appeal is, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Because the Jerusalem Christians were in danger of letting go of their faith and hope in Christ, Paul repeatedly warns them to "hold fast" in their confidence and hope until the very end. The reason that Christians can have such a hope is because there is nothing more stable, steadfast, and unchanging than the faithfulness of God to His promises. God is faithful in every promise He makes. Our security and hope is founded on God's faithfulness, and every promise finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Paul's third appeal is in how Christians should interact with each other. "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." The Jerusalem Christians had cared for one another, but Paul now wants them be mindful of the need to spur each other on. To spur literally means to prick, to provoke, to jab, or to needle. So in other words...PAINFUL. Paul wants them to encourage each other about the practicalities of mutual love and good deeds. Instead of the dead works of religion, Paul wants his fellow Christians to engage in "love and good works" among themselves. Christians have a collective responsibility to one another. The isolation and individualism of some Christians today is not compatible at all with the community of Christ illustrated in the Bible.

My sister ultimately thanked me for calling her out. Thinking about her reaction, I on the other hand, am less mature and probably would have stayed mad for days. But she instead was wise, and recognized truth when it was presented in love. I am usually so scared to hold my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ accountable for their sins, for fear of their reactions. But if I love my biological sister enough to present her with painful truth in love, should not my love for all Christians be in the same way?

Monday, August 15, 2011


Following in the typical first blog post tradition, I dare to ask the question "Why?!" Why blog? Why now? Why the name choice? Why do we exist? Ok so the last one's a little deep, maybe that will be a later post.

To be honest, I've always been apprehensive about personal blogs. They seem too much like a public journal, and I've wondered why anyone would think I would be interesting enough in order to voluntarily seek and read what I write.

The reason I started to blog was mainly on a deep conviction (thank you Holy Spirit) to share the lessons and truths I learn and face every day. Let me try to explain. My life is usually a whirlwind of activity filled with school, work, volunteering, some kind of social life and a few unexpected twists and turns. This summer has been a much needed, yet highly uneventful respite from all of that. At first, I spent most of my free time trying to find any way to entertain myself though movies, television, Facebook stalking and Stumbling. It wasn't until this month that I was convicted about how I spent my free time being a reflection of my relationship with Jesus. I had all this time to seek God in my rest and spend time with my Savior, and I was more interested in...well anything and everything else.

Only when I started to spend more time reading my Bible and seeking God in my daily activities did certain revelations make me so excited that I wanted to share them with anyone who would listen. In fact, it happened to me this morning while I was reading Nehemiah and 1 Corinthians. But I'm not the kind of person to just hit up one of my friends in the middle of day and start spilling about the complex ethical issues that face the church today. Texting so many words would wear out my poor thumbs.

So here we are. Adina's Affirmations. You think about the definition of affirmation, and it means an expression of agreement or commitment to something. This blog is an expression of my commitment to seek truth and using it for the purpose of encouragement to all who may read these words. It's also a chance for me to clearly communicate my faith and beliefs without (hopefully) sounding like a blueberry waffle (the words of my church's senior pastor, not mine).

More to come oh so soon. I'll leave you with this,
"If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." -Romans 14:8 (NIV)

Song: "Tis So Sweet" by Jadon Lavik on Roots Run Deep