Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Personal Confession

I have a personal confession to make. What, you might ask? Turn with me, please, to the dictionary for the definition of "confession."

con·fes·sion- n.
1- The act or process of confessing.
2- Something confessed, especially disclosure of one's sins to a priest for absolution.
3- A written or oral statement acknowledging guilt, made by one who has been accused or charged with an offense.
4- An avowal of belief in the doctrines of a particular faith; a creed.
5- A church or group of worshipers adhering to a specific creed.

The specific meaning in my thoughts tonight is summarized in definition number four, "An avowal of belief in the doctrines of a particular faith; a creed."

For several months I have had a desire to write a personal Confession. The Scripture is full of commands, blessings, direction and hope. I would like to physically record on paper what the Bible says and therefore what I will believe. Many groups of Christians (see this link) have outlined their doctrine in confession form. They are deep, powerful, convicting and full of truth. Still, there is a level of learning that is not reached when I read another author's work. I like to dig in for myself as well.

It would be easy to simply write a list of what Jaclyn thinks. Yet, I want to take this idea of writing a personal Confession a step farther. Belief is not centered on personal preference but on God Himself. Belief is not something I pick up when I am in need and lay aside when I am done. Belief is a life-style. Belief is everything. And belief affects everything.

What I believe about God, Jesus, the Bible, the origin of the world, humanity, sin and salvation will define the very core of my existence. What I believe will govern what I choose to say. What I believe will determine what I wear. What I believe will explain my motives, passions, dreams, desires and goals. What I believe tells you the movies, music and entertainment I will enjoy. What I believe changes everything.

The topics I will explore are as follows (NOT an exhaustive list... for I am sure to remember more!) :
- God
- Jesus
- Holy Spirit
- Bible
- Prayer
- Miracles
- Creation
- Grace
- Predestination
- Heaven
- Hell
- Angels and Demons
- Movies
- Music
- Books
- Money
- Marriage
- Men/ Husbands/ Fathers
- Women/Wives/ Mothers
- Family
- Children
- Birth Control
- Alcohol
- Abortion
- Homosexuality
- Government
- The Church
- Worship

It looks terribly daunting and overwhelming. I am not sure how long it will take me. I will try to share the outcome with you in bits and pieces. For now, I thought it might just spawn some personal introspection of your own.

What DO you believe? Why? Is it based on personal preference (what you like and don't like)? Is it based on Scripture? Can you turn to the exact passages and correctly handle the Word of Truth? Are you afraid to study for fear you might need to change?

Sunglasses are used only when you need them. Contacts, on the other hand, allow you to see life as it truly is. Contacts go where you go. Contacts are needed all the time. Contacts enhance vision. Join me in taking off the sunglasses of common Christianity and inserting the contacts of Biblical Christ-likeness.

Monday, January 30, 2006

No man can boast...

There are a million writing ideas coursing though my mind. One day soon you will check this blog and find a whole book of posts to read. Today is not that day. At this moment I am in awe of God's grace. Read these words with me:

By Grace Through Faith- Ephesians 2:1-10
"1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

"For by grace you have been saved through faith."
Tonight those words strike my soul with such force that I could weep. How grateful I am that God would give me grace! His grace that loves, grace that accepts and grace that cannot leave me the way I am is more than marvelous. No words can describe Grace the person of God and grace the act of redemption toward humanity.

"And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
I truly do not have words to express the thoughts of my heart. My only desire is that I would grasp the truth of this verse and live my life in such a way that would reflect the power of having NOTHING to boast about. As humans we love to boast about anything and everything. We do so without knowing it.

"But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14

What hope and encouragement...

" 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:3-8

Jaclyn and Ben

Friday, January 20, 2006

Simply from the heart...

As the holiday season drifts more into the past and the new year forges ahead, I take time reflect. I remember the year that has passed. I ponder what the new year will bring. I have been taking time to evaluate my spiritual growth, my weaknesses and seek God for direction.

Last year was a unique one for me. Unique because, obviously, I had never lived 2005 before and unique because I will never live it again. Unique in the sense that I faced joys and trials which had never come my way. Unique. Difficult. Joyful. Painful. Exhilarating!

The year two-thousand-five began with a journey of a lifetime for myself and my brother, Ben. Seven days into the new year we boarded a plane destined for Tanzania, Africa. We met new believers that spoke Swahili, experienced scorching Equator temperatures, ate boiled goat prepared by tribesmen and traveled a wild safari. Those experiences are nothing compared to the transforming journey that was happening in my soul. For the first time in my spiritual journey, I was faced with a staggering question: Did I believe God? Did I believe God for who He Is, what He can do and what He wanted to do with me? I had already been facing these questions for six months or more, yet my time in Africa caused a collision of reality and theology.

I can honestly say I will never be the same again. Not necessarily in relation to the mission trip itself, but because of the work God had been doing and completed in my heart while in Africa. I was pushed to a new level of faith in the God I had been raised to know. Yes, I was a Christian. I had known and loved Him my "whole" life. I read His Word. I memorized it. I went to church every time the doors were open. My dad was a pastor. Yet, He was becoming incredibly more intimate, powerful and miraculous to me than He had ever seemed before. In a way it scared me. At the same time I was... am... overjoyed.

In Prince Caspian, fourth book in the series of The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan beckons to Lucy during the night:

"Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan," sobbed Lucy. "At last"

The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face.

"Welcome, child," he said.

"Aslan," said Lucy, "you're bigger."

"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.

"Not because you are?"

"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."

"Every year you grow, you will find me bigger." God is that "Me" C.S. Lewis was referring to in the form of Aslan. God does not change. He does not increase; He does not decrease. He Is. Yet, as I mature and know more OF Him, He appears bigger to me. As my soul is faced with more opportunites to see God as He is the larger it can become if I choose to believe Him!

The last year has been just that for me. Through many trials and joys God has given me the chance to be stretched and to know Him more fully. He has become bigger in my mind. He continues to grow. As my heart and mind are able to comprehend more, I pray that God would allow me to see more... and more... and MORE! At least the most a human can know on earth without being killed by the glory of God!

Which reminds me of The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. I read this book for the first time a few months ago. What a life changing picture of God's glory it has been for me. If you have not read the book I HIGHLY suggest you read it- soon!

The intense writing and stunning analogy gripped my imagination from the first paragraph. Lewis descibes a man boarding a bus bound for the High Country. He encounters a myrid of people along the journey, each with their own worldview and philosophy. The atheist. The agnostic. The stagnant believer. The uncaring. The controlling. The proud. They each walk into the High Country. They each see the High Country through the eyes they had on earth. I will not say too much, so I do not give the whole thing away...but...

Why do you think Moses was allowed to only see the trail of God's glory? Why did Isaiah cry, "WOE IS ME!" in the presence of God? Why does Lewis decribe the grass in heaven as sharp and rain like bullets? What happens when Heaven and Hell collide? Sins and a Savior unite? Humanity and Glory walk into the same room?

Humanity falls to pieces. I fall to pieces. God is ultimate reality. Everything else is but a Ghost. The more I know God the more real I become. The more I know God the more capacity my soul can hold TO know God. Think of a balloon. When a ballon is new it takes the blower more energy to fill the balloon with air. Each time the balloon expands and is deflated, the more air it can hold the next time it is filled.

The Great Divorce, although pure hypothesis, causes me to ponder deep aspects of heaven, God's glory and my spiritual responsibility. If my heart is set on knowing and loving Christ, earth becomes, in a sense, part of heaven. If I seek after worldly pleasures and self-satisfaction, earth becomes, in a sense, part of hell. My greatest struggles, sins, fears and weaknesses, if surrendered to God to use and transform, can become strengths for the glory of God. There is so much more to say about this book, but I will leave that for another post!

The last year I have come to love the book of Isaiah. The Israelites were in such bondage and Isaiah, although judging them, offers incredible hope to God's chosen people. God extends amazing grace, mercy and compassion, while issuing the judgement that the sins deserve. Over and over God says, you are my witnesses. You are the people I have chosen to proclaim to the world that I am God! The following verse is one of my favorites and my theme verse from the last few years:

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed,nor shall there be any after me." ~Isaiah 43:10

That I may know and believe Him and understand that He is God! This is the purpose of my life. I am not on earth to serve God. I am not on earth to get married or have children. I am on earth to know God, believe Him and understand that He is God. EVERYTHING good and pleasing and honorable and God-glorifying will flow from a passionate, vibrant relationship with God!!!

I love reading My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Every day I am challenged with my perspective, knowledge of Scripture and relationship with God. On January 18 a section reads, "Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him. It is easier to serve than to be drunk to the dregs. The one aim of the call of God is the satisfaction of God, not a call to do something for Him. We are not sent to battle for God, but to be used by God in His battlings. Are we being more devoted to service than to Jesus Christ?"

Am I more devoted to service than to Christ Himself?

January 2nd is one that causes my knees to weaken and my heart to melt. It convicts me and comforts me every time I read it:

"He went out, not knowing whither he went." Hebrews 11:8

Have you been "out" in this way? If so, there is no logical statement possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question - "What do you expect to do?" You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually revise your attitude towards God and see if it is a going out of everything, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in perpetual wonder - you do not know what God is going to do next. Each morning you wake it is to be a "going out," building in confidence on God. "Take no thought for your life, . . . nor yet for your body" - take no thought for the things for which you did take thought before you went out."

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. (I LOVE that!) God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is. (Thank You, God!) Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to Him until you are not surprised an atom at anything He does? (Can you imagine have such an intimate relationship with God that nothing He does surprises you?!?!)

Suppose God is the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him - what an impertinence worry is! Let the attitude of the life be a continual "going out" in dependence upon God, and your life will have an ineffable charm about it which is a satisfaction to Jesus. You have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God."

I love that last line. "You have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God. Oh, how many times our convictions, as good as they are, get in the way of our relationship with God Himself!

"7 But whatever gain I had,
I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the
surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things
and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own
that comes from the law,
but that which comes through faith in Christ,
the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
10 that I may know him
and the power of his resurrection,
and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
11 that by any means possible I may attain
the resurrection from the dead."
Philippians 3:7-10

I was tagged... Fabulous Fours!

Vince tagged me with this...

Four jobs you have had in your life:
1. Office Assistant, American Family Insurance
2. Doing the dishes, Home
3. Be a big sister, Family
4. Dental Assistant, Romania

Four movies you would watch over and over:
1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
2. Anne of Green Gables Series
3. Pride and Prejudice (starring Colin Firth)
4. Man From Snowy River and Return to Snowy River

Four places you have lived:
1. Cheyenne, Wyoming
2. Plattesmouth, Nebraska
3. Aurora, Colorado
4. Moshi, Tanzania, Africa

Four TV shows you love to watch: (I do not watch much TV... but I will never tire of these classics!!!)
1. I Love Lucy
2. Eight is Enough
3. The Brady Bunch
4. Sesame Street

Four places you have been on vacation:
1. Mt. Rushmore
2. Yellowstone
3. Romania
4. Tanzania

Four websites I visit daily: (ALMOST daily...)
1. Spanish Morning
2. Narnia Web
3. Worship Driven Missions
4. Other Blogs listed to the right!

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Oranges
2. Cheese
3. Carrots
4. Muffins

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. In God's presence- literally- HEAVEN!
2. With the believers I met in Africa
3. With the believers I met in Romania
4. With Dawn!

I'll tag Dawn... if she wants to do it!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Blogging Brother Ben

My brother, Ben, has recently joined the wonderful world of blogging. He took over our mission trip information website and made it his own. He also started a second blog with pointed posts about a Reformation the church so desperately needs.

PLEASE check them out. I am SURE you will be challenged as well as blessed!

Worship Driven Missions
(Read post titled, "Measuring Cup for Worship")

Worship Reformationaries

Many Blessings!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Christmas in Cheyenne- a little late

My family and extended family in Cheyenne!
Very Front: Quinten;
Front row: Me, my mom Amy, my brother Timothy, Aunt Bonnie, Uncle Mack and Michael
Back Row (zig-zag): Charles (Christina's finace), MacKinzie, Christina (my cousin and mother of the children who are not my siblings!), Grandpa (behind my mom), Grandma (behind grandpa), Victoria (my sister), Ben (my brother), Samuel (my brother) and my dad Tom
Not pictured but present somewhere: Theo

My awesome brothers: Ben and Timothy. Yes, my feet too...smart, Jaclyn, really smart!

Victoria, Mom and MacKinzie while roller skating!

The Scrabble Group: Ben, Aunt Bonnie, Grandma, Mom and Victoria.

Ben pondering his next word, "Can I do transubstantiation?"

Grandson Samuel and Great-Grandson Theo

Football Crowd: Dad, Timothy, Ben and Uncle Mack.

Napping Crowd (on sofa): Grandpa

Last, but certainly not least... a picture of my grandma's famous cookies. As I took this picture, she told me this was less than half, maybe just one-third of the origianal number of cookies she made! Every year she claims she will make less...

Outer Ring: Cinnamon Almond Square Cookies, Chocolate Logs, Double Chocolate Malt Cookies, more Cinnamon Almond Square Cookies, Pink Lemonade Shortbread Cookies, Star Butter Cookies, Sugar Cookies, Fruit Cake Cookies.

Center Bunch: An assortment that I think was: Molasses, Chocolate Chip and Butterscotch Cookies, Peanut Brittle, Almond Brittle and Shortbread Bell Cookies.

Yes, my grandma DOES make the best cookies in the whole wide world!

Monday, January 09, 2006

This picture brings back a flood of memories for me. Our lodging in Babatti was adjacent to the school that housed these children. We met them, toured their school and gave them gifts. The teacher, front center, was so excited to show us the future site for the school, so we walked with them. The children were so eager to touch us and practice their English skills! So we held their hands and ministered to their hearts. The boy on my right was a talker! He spoke English very well and told me all about himself. What a precious, precious time it was!  Posted by Picasa

Some of the Masaai tribal people we visited in the outskirts of Moshi

We drove about 30 minutes outside of Moshi before turing off the main road onto a foot path. I am sure we were a sight to see... a 30 passenger bus, full of white people, driving down a Masaai foot path! We stayed on this foot path for over an hour, through dust storms, brush, around termite mounds and finally arriving at a small village. We were in the middle of African desert land, with no city lights, no electricity, no running water or grocery store for many miles. Yet here we found believers in Jesus Christ! Here we saw their place of worship and shared a soda, of all things, with these tribal people. (Some little boy had to walk a LONG way to get those for us!) We stepped into their stick huts and ate their boiled goat. Some of the children were scared of us... for they had never seen a white face. It was unreal. I looked around and thought, "I cannot believe I am here. God's kingdom is enormous!" Posted by Picasa

Fruits and veggies... good for you! Can you name all the products shown here?  Posted by Picasa

A Tanzanian woman making muffin shaped pancakes to sell. The pan she used was like a combonation of a skillet and muffin cups! It is cooking over a small pot-belly stove.  Posted by Picasa

Ben, Darrah, Jaclyn, Shannon and Mr. Lane (Shannon's dad) walking from our lodging to the restaurant in Babatti. Do you see the men standing by the bus looking at us? Yeah... because we white folk stuck out like a sore thumb in this part of Tanzania. Unlike a city such as Moshi, where white tourists come for safaris, Babatti does not see white skin as often! One pastor told me that we must be careful, for most white people coming to these parts are missionaries and some people there would not like that. God protected us!  Posted by Picasa

One year ago...

Pictured Left to right: Jaclyn, Shannon, Ben (my brother) Darrah and Bethany.

This picture was taken in Moshi, Tanzania, Africa. One year ago today the five of us were walking African soil on the adventure of a lifetime! I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this trip changed us forever. Many people say that after having been on a mission trip, yet I have seen the fruit of the change in my life being more drastic than any trip thus far. We all stepped out into a new level of faith in God and grew in awe of His power! We did not go for the thrill of Africa. We did not go to say we had another experience. We did not go to become famous, rich or popular. We went with a heart for people and a passion for God. The ripple effects of our presence in Africa has lasted, by God's power, far longer than our hands and feet were there. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Holiday Happenings

The hustle and bustle of the holidays has ended. We are trying to settle back into our normal routine. The seven-thirty family breakfast this morning was at seven-forty. Not too bad. Monday we had breakfast at ten-thirty.

Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve was wonderful. We drove up to LaPorte for a beautiful community worship service at my church. Since it was half way to Cheyenne, my grandparents came down for the service and dinner. We set up a festive meal in the youth Sunday school room for our family, equipped with candles provided by Amy. (She thought our Christmas Eve table looked a little bare...) We arrived home that evening at ten-thirty.

Christmas Day
We awoke Christmas morning around seven-thirty. My eighteen year old brother, Ben, was the biggest kid of us all, waking the household up with, "It's Christmas, get up! It's Christmas, sleepy heads!"

We opened gifts, ate our traditional cinnamon roll breakfast and relaxed. We had an early dinner feast prepared by Mom. We played with our new games, tried on new clothes and watched dad's new comedy DVD. We did a Christmas worship celebration.

It was a wonderful day. I love my family so much. The reality of Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection was heavy on my heart this year. Having a day set aside to celebrate and focus on God becoming man is a wonderful thing to me. I cannot explain it!

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day
This New Year's Eve and Day was different for us. We usually travel to Cheyenne and spend New Year's with my grandparents. This year they went to Nebraska to visit my grandma's brother who has a short time to live.

We were going to have a family over. They were not able to come. We spent New Year's Eve and New Year's Day as a family. It was a little sad, since we are used to grand festivities, but it was also relaxing as well. My mom told me that she cannot remember the last time it was just our family home for New Year's; we figured that it was probably close to 15 years!

We have one more holiday celebration. The celebration of the coming of the wisemen. Our family has a Christmas tree advent banner devotion. December 1-25 we do a devotional and attach a felt ornament to the felt tree. On Epiphany we remove the ornaments one by one, discussing what each was for and reading the key verse. We sing! We dance! We pray!

Then the holiday happenings are over... for this year. I love celebrating. I love making things special. I love tradition and sentiments. I love celebrating with a purpose.

I think God does too. Have you read Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy lately? Our God loves to celebrate! He gives everything a deep significance, from sacrifices to feasts. Goodness, God set up the Jewish calendar to include week long parties!

What is the joy and pleasure in Christmas without Christ? Why celebrate a new year without the One Who is Hope for all that the future holds? It is no wonder that the holidays envoke a sense of lonliness in those who do not know Christ.

Yet, even Christians lose sight of the meaning of Christmas and the joy of a new year! We get pulled into gifts, parties, wrapping, money, getting, giving, music, snow, trees, decorations, snowmen and eggnog that we forget the true meaning.

Oh, we read the story. We talk about how Jesus came to earth as a baby. We know the story so well that we get familiar with the routine. Angel came to Mary. Mary is a virgin. Mary's going to have a baby. Joseph has a dream. Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem. No room in the inn. Mary has Jesus in a cave. Shephards come. Wisemen come... Can you hear the records of Christmas playing in your head?

Have we lost sight of the joy? Have we lost sight of redemption? Have we made Christ common? Do we realized the paradox of God becoming man? MAJESTY Itself becoming humanity. Creator of Heaven and Earth lying in a feeding trough for animals. All-knowing, self-sustaining, unexplainable, infinite, holy, righteous, compassionate, gracious GOD... became a man.

The Birth of Jesus Christ

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son
and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger,
because there was no place for them in the inn."
Luke 2:1-7
The Majesty and Humility of Jesus Christ
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a
thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form,
He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted Him
and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11
That is the meaning of Christmas. Oh, let us not forget! Let us treasure Christ not Christmas. Let us celebrate with all we have- with joy, with purpose and with passion! Christ did not come to give Christmas as an end in itself. He came to give us Hope. He came to glorify God!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!