Sunday, 10 May 2015

Validity Of Context

   Often you hear people caution against taking verses out of context. Their cautions are valid, but what if by limiting ourselves to surrounding verse and chapter context we end up missing things? What if we miss incredible truth and life in the Bible if we aren't pulling verses and phrases and even half sentences out of the Bible? What if we are trying to put the Scriptures in a box, albeit in a box made of Scripture? What if we had a better standard than just context? Or what if context included the whole Bible, not just the verse and chapter? 

Many scholars and Christians warn that you will be prone to misinterpret verses if you take them out of context, and they warn that you can make the Bible say anything you want to if you take verses out of context. Both of which I entirely agree with. You can misinterpret verses if you take them out of context. And you can make the Bible say anything you want it to say if you take verses out of context. But what if we are missing a wealth of Scriptural life by refusing to look at verses outside of the immediate verse/chapter context? What if we are limiting Scripture and refusing to let it come alive in ways it is meant to come alive in?

So what is the validity of context? Is the context argument valid? I believe that context is important. But what then constitutes context? And what then constitutes taking a verse out of context? 

When I first started putting verse on my pictures I was so careful to not take verses out of context. I often would use longer passages to avoid the risk of not giving enough context. I was concerned about accidentally making Scripture to say something it didn't say, by taking a verse out of proper context. As I have gotten older the Scriptures have become alive to me like never before. Without realizing it I threw such caution to the wind. What I cared about was accurately portraying God's heart and bringing to light verses that often get overlooked. I started pulling out half verses and phrases and even parts of sentences to highlight parts that came alive for me. I was eager to share what made my heart come alive.

I have seen such power and life come from seemingly taken out of context verses lately that it has begun to make me wonder. After much thought and contemplation of context (and the validity of it in properly interpreting Bible verses/passages) I had an interesting thought. What if the context argument was indeed valid, but rather what we were deeming context to be was off? Context is typically defined as the text directly surrounding a verse that tell the events/circumstances in which a verse was written.* But what if deeming only the directly surrounding verses a passage's context was putting the Scriptures in a box? What if it was only a piece of the story? What if we didn't limit our interpretation to verses in their direct passage context, but rather in light of the Scriptures as a whole?   

I think if we broadened our view to not just the few surrounding verses, but to the whole Bible we will have a much better standard. For me, the standard I use in my artwork is whether or not it lines up with the rest of Scripture. The Bible does not contradict itself, so obviously if we have a contradiction then we're the ones in error. But if it lines up with the rest of Scripture and can be supported by other passages than you probably didn't pull anything out of context. 

   2 Timothy 2:15 in the NKJV says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." In the ESV it says, "Rightly handling the word of truth." I think we need to know our Bibles well enough and be saturated in Scripture enough that we can go beyond verse chapter context and use the Bible in it's entirety for our context. We need to be students of the Scriptures and students of the Holy Spirit. The word is living and active, and we need to be asking Holy Spirit to bring it to life for us. The Bible is a living document and we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. The life and truth contained in the Scriptures is beyond imagination, and is worth seeking out.




*It can also refer to the historical context a passage was written during, however for the sake of brevity I am only referencing and dealing textual context in this post. 
       







Friday, 10 April 2015

Holding On To Hope

Holding on to hope these last few years has been hard. My family has had a lot of sickness (Half of the 7 members of my immediate family have had major health crises) and it doesn't seem to end. It's hard. It's really, really, really hard. I can't begin to describe to you the pain. I can't count the long nights spent crying myself to sleep, praying my heart out, only to wake up to still no change. And to have those nights turn into weeks, and those weeks turn into months, and those months slowly became years...

   Holding onto hope that it will get better, that healing will come, was (and is) hard. In all honesty if it were just up to me I would have lost all hope long ago. But it isn't just up to me. It's not just up to me because God promises to never leave me or forsake me. He never gave up and He never gives up hope. He never gave up on me, so why should I give up on Him healing? I know He is there, and I know He cares. I don't know why He hasn't totally healed my family already. I don't know. But I know He can and I know one day He will.

   I don't have all the answers. But I know God is love, and He is in control. And love doesn't let suffering occur without a purpose. Love doesn't forsake. Love doesn't abandon us. Love doesn't leave. Love doesn't give up. Love holds on. And if God is love and God is in control, which I know He is, than it will be ok. Today might not have been ok, but tomorrow will be. And if tomorrow isn't the next day will be. And if that day isn't that one after that will be. Eventually it's gonna be ok. I can't always see it, but God is good, His love endures forever.

   This was supposed to be a post on continuing to pray and hold on to hope even when it's hard. But honestly? It's a lot more like being ok with spending most of your prayer life in tears. Or living in a state of mostly emotionless because you no longer have the energy for emotion and things begin to grow dull after a point. It's getting out of bed everyday and doing what needs to be done. But God is ok with that. It's not a super Christian, walking in insane amounts of hope and faith and ignoring current circumstances. It's choosing to trust in the current reality, and doing what you can to shift it. It's acknowledging that life sucks, but also trusting that God is still good. (Believe me I am way better at the former than the latter though!)

   So how do you hold on to hope? I don't know. You just don't give up. You sing praises to God at the top of your lungs in the middle of the hurricane, and when you can't do that you whisper an "I love you". And when you can't do that you just sit there believing He is good. And when you can't do that you ignore Him for an hour or so and try again.

   You hold onto hope, because God said, "I. Love. You." And that is always, always, always, enough.


    "Love... it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves. Love never fails."
1 Corinthians 13:7-8a



Friday, 3 April 2015

Vision

  A little over a week ago I was laying in bed trying to fall asleep when I saw a vision. I shared it with a few friends, and thought it would be cool to share it here.   

 I saw a Muslim lady walking quickly alongside of a long parked bus
(which was dark grey/navy with a brown stripe running down it). She was emotionless and 8 or 9 months pregnant. Suddenly the view changed and I could see inside her womb. The baby (a boy) was dead and horribly deformed, especially his left leg which was almost completely missing. When I saw this part of the vision I cried out to God in heartbreak for the life of the baby. At once the baby kicked the wall of the womb 3 times (the number of perfection), and it resounded like a deep drum or shaking. Immediately it sent the women went into labor and she delivered her dead and deformed baby. I had expected him to be born alive after having kicked the womb 3 times. When I saw he was still dead and deformed my heart was wrenched and again I cried out to God for the life and health of the baby. At once life began to enter his body and the vision ended. 

   I was exhausted that night and fell asleep almost immediately after having the vision. In the morning God gave me the the verse in Daniel about God being the God in heaven who reveals mysteries and I remembered the vision. I praised God and asked what the vision meant, and this is what I got.

   The dead and deformed baby is the pretense of life in the Muslim cultures. The women is the nations and Muslim peoples themselves. She was cold and emotionless, assuming she carried life within her when there was none. When the baby kicked the womb 3 times in response to travailing prayer (my cry was representing the cry of all the saints and the Spirit for the Muslim people), it was the beginning of new life and hope within her. It was the beginning of a shaking that triggered birth pains within her.

  3 kicks/shakings/drum beats was because 3 is the number of perfection. God’s judgements and shakings are perfect, and those birth pains ultimately bring life. The result of birth pains is a joy so great that the trial and pain is completely overshadowed and forgotten. I believe the joy of the harvest to come from the Muslim world will greatly overshadow the birthing pains of the trials (ISIS, war, persecution etc.) that are now working to bring forth life.     

   Since she was 8 or 9 months pregnant, and the baby kicked 3 times I decided to look up Isaiah 8:3 and 9:3 (no reason for Isaiah in the dream, I just knew that is where I was to look). Isaiah 8:3 is, “Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said to me, 'Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz’.” Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz means, 'quick to the plunder, swift to the spoils'. I think it has something to do with plundering Islam for Christ. We need to be quickly going to the spoils without wasting time. I believe we need to go forth to the Islam world in faith and in confidence for the time of harvest is upon us (The harvest is ready. John 4:35*). Isaiah 9:3 is, “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before You as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” (Emphasis mine). We need to be rejoicing and praising God for the Islam harvest** even now. We need to be devising strategy for dividing the plunder even now. 

   Because of my fairly extensive background (for a 17 year old anyways) in the inner workings of a lot of different churches, the dividing the spoils part really struck me. I have been in a lot of churches that have a heart to see revival and see lives change, and it will start to come but they end up not having an existing infrastructure that can support it. They end up with tons of seekers and baby Christians and a very very small group of strong Christians that become completely overwhelmed with all the need. The growth of the seekers and baby Christians stalwarts because they don’t have anyone discipling/teaching them and the strong Christians burn out from trying to meet all the needs and not being fed themselves. From there one of two things happens. One, the ministry or church completely disintegrates. Or two, you end up with a (often large but not always) ministry that outwardly is growing and very successful, and although there are success stories coming out of it and there are good things happening, for the most part on the inside there is little growth and a lot of burned out leaders. Those leaders either end up in compromise/sin or they push for as long as they can and then one day they up and leave because they were overwhelmed, overloaded and not having their needs met for their personal walk. I have watched this play out so many times in so many churches. It’s heartbreaking and although the desire is good the ability to carry it out well is lacking. I wonder what would happen if we had strategies and infrastructure built ahead of time so we could actually handle the growth when it comes. What if instead of our focus being on how to start revival and how to get seekers in the door, the focus was on how do we partner with God’s heart/what He is doing in a way that we can sustain it. Too often the issue is not starting revival, rather sustaining it.

   I also thought I was supposed to look up Jeremiah 8:3 and 9:3 (although I felt God wanted to emphasize the Isaiah verses more in this particular instance). Both verses really fit with the broken state Islam is in. 8:3 is, “Wherever I banish them, all the survivors of this evil nation will prefer life to death, declares the Lord Almighty.” The Muslim people groups are currently in a state of preferring death (Islam) to life (Jesus). They are banished from Him for their sins, though He has made a way to restore them to Him (through the cross). 9:3 was, “ 'They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge Me,’ declares the Lord.” That pretty much sums up Islam life (living in total deception, not acknowledging God and preferring death to life). 



1 Samuel 30:24 was going through my head while I was contemplating the dividing the plunder verse. “ 'The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.' David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.” I want to start a study on the different passages in the Bible that mention plundering or spoils. I will make sure to write a post if I get anything while doing that.  

 To clarify. Please don’t misunderstand me, I understand ultimately it is Holy Spirit who starts and sustains revival. It isn’t a system or any sort of human planning mechanisms that can do it. But I believe Holy Spirit is orderly and works within order (not that He can't work within chaos, but rather that even when it appears He is working within chaos, the reality is that He has an organized plan and purpose in everything. We just can’t always see it so we perceive it as chaos when in reality it well planned). I am not proposing we throw out Holy Spirit for a system or program, rather that we seek vision for how Holy Spirit orchestrates sustained revival so that we can partner with Him within order, and not just partner in what we perceive as chaos. I did want to clarify my heart on that.    


*John 4:35, "Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest."

**By Islam harvest I mean the currently Muslim people who are going to get saved in these end times. 



Tuesday, 24 March 2015

My Yes For His Heart

   I was first called to go to the Middle East when I was 9 or 10. I had been told of the masses that were living lives of fear and brokenness without ever hearing the Gospel and it wounded my heart. I could not stand the thought of them now knowing my Jesus and I determined to tell them. For years that was a cry of my heart, that God would send me.

   As I got older I started to forget that cry. In junior high my family and I went through some hard circumstances and I really began to wrestle with my faith for the first time (which led to a total transformation of my faith in which God completely reintroduced Himself to me, but that is a story for another time). At the same time I got involved in ministry with kids in a downtown after school program. I got distracted and caught up in my ministry in America and completely forgot about the call to the Middle East.

   Recently God has been tugging on my heart to go to the Middle East again, and I have once again given my yes. I am finishing high school this year and going off to the Fredericksburg House of Prayer (also called The Prayer Furnace) to intern with their Missions And Prayer School (MAPS). It is a 2 year program at their house of prayer, and then there is 3 months in a Middle East House of Prayer. From there I want to be a witness for Christ in a specific country (there is a specific country in the Middle East I was called to, but for safety reasons I won't name it). I am laying my life down to love God in the Middle East. I am laying my dreams and my plans for my future aside to pick up my cross and follow Christ.

   I tell a story of a young girl who heard a crazy call as a kid and said yes, and now as a teenager is acting on that yes in radical ways. The part of the story I don't tell, is I didn't really want to go for a long time. I tell the story of a kid that felt the call to go and said yes, which is true. But deep down I didn't really want to go, and secretly hoped God wouldn't actually end up sending me. I love my American life. I love my kids (I call the kids at the after school program "my kids"). I love my family. I love my city. I love my comfortable lifestyle. I love my dog. I have dreams here in America that if I go to the Middle East I leave behind. The idea of leaving all that behind and moving to minister in a foreign culture with huge difficulties, including crazy hard languages, was terrifying to me.

   So what made the difference? How did I go from saying yes but secretly begging for a no, to completely on fire for the Middle East and desperate to go? Jesus and prayer. Jesus and prayer made the difference. Holy Spirit slowly started working on my heart even while I resisted. I relented enough to start praying 7 times a day for the Muslim people groups and I started asking God to send workers into the harvest. They were (are) short prayers, often 2 or 3 sentences and nothing super spiritual. But somehow in that my heart shifted. Where fear once ruled my faith started to grow and take hold. In this transformation one day I was sitting on our couch and I saw Jesus's face. I physically saw my Lord. He was grieved over the unreached people groups and it broke my heart. I realized I can no longer pray for the Muslim people and pray that God would send workers into the harvest and not first go myself. I realized that if my heart is not breaking for the things that break His heart, than I am not truly in love with Him. I now weep at the thought of my Beloved having died for a people group that does not know Him as their Beloved, and that bow their knee to another. I weep for the Islamic masses that do not know my Beloved, that do not know my Father. The people who live their lives in brokenness, never knowing a God that is good. That is Love. Never knowing the Truth. It's no longer a sacrifice to think about giving up everything to pursue God's heart for the Middle East. I realize the truth in the quote, "There is no shame in lovesickness."* What was once radical or a huge painful sacrifice is nothing. My heart is so shifted that to go and to even give up my life if it comes to that is not a sacrifice.

   Some look at me and think I am crazy. Some question whether or not I have any idea what is going on right now in the Middle East (which despite our lack of a tv at home I do have actually an idea what is going on). Some think I am a radical super Christian. Some think I am signing up to be systematically executed. But in reality, I am just a lovesick teenager with a God who is in love with the Middle East. I'm not a super Christian. God's dreams were just bigger than mine, and when I gave Him my yes, He gave me His heart. And that is a trade I will make again a thousand and one times a day for every day of my life.

*Kim Hager, a The Prayer Furnace staff member.



Names of God

Do you have a favorite name for God? God's names are endowed with His character. His character is a reality and His names reflect that. I believe it is important that we in turn reflect on His names, and therefore reflect on His character.     

"Who are we, 
mere breaths that quickly fade, 
that we should be honored
 to know the Name of our God?
And to worship at His feet,
a people of unclean lips. 
Yet even to know Him one day 
as He knows us."    

Today I am reflecting on His name I AM and the character implications of that name. I would challenge each of you to pick a name of God and reflect on it for a day, a week, or even month. Ask God why He chose it as His name and what of Himself is He portraying through it. You will be surprised what He will reveal when you ask Him about His names.





Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Possessing Nothing But Christ

     "Possessing nothing but Christ, yet owning everything."

   What would it be like to possess nothing, in that there was nothing material or of this world we held dear? What if we lived like Paul said and counted it all loss for the sake of Christ? What if we were so unattached to material possessions we could trade them for utter poverty in the eyes of the world and never even notice their absence? What if possessing Christ was all that mattered?  

   If our ultimate goal in life was to possess nothing but Christ, how different would our lives look? What radical lifestyles would we lead if we realized the wealth in possessing nothing but Christ?

   The less we possess of this world (in terms of what we hold on to), the more we can possess of Christ. And to possess Christ is to possess everything. To possess Christ is to be among the wealthiest to ever walk this earth.

   What if our goal in life was to see just how much of Christ we could possess? How well could we reflect Him in life in a broken world? How much of His Spirit could we contain? How much could we surrender to Him? How close could we get to Him in this life? How much can we possess Christ?

"I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine."*
Song of Songs 2:16a

"You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one."*
Hebrews 10:34b

"But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way... as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything."*
 2 Corinthians 6:4 & 10.

*Emphasis mine.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

"Is Passed"

   "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me,
hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."
John 5:24 Authorized King James Version.

   I don't normally read the KJV Bible, but recently have delved into the words of Jesus in the KJV. Words that I've heard so many times, even at times preached wrongly, that they lost their luster to my eyes. But because I am not as familiar with the King James Version and the language is so different, it hits me fresh and in a new light. The bit of difficulty in the language and need to study harder to find the meaning is rewarding to me. One verse in particular utterly captivated my heart... and commandeered my attention.

"But is passed", not "has passed" from death unto life. I've read this verse so many times in the NIV and other modern translations, but it really caught my attention in the King James Version when I read it. The grammar nazi in me wants it to read "has passed" since both "has" and "passed" are past tense. But it reads "is passed", is being present tense, and passed being past tense. We live in a continuous state of having passed from death into life.     

   As I was contemplating the complexities of this reality, this living in a constant state of having passed from death unto life, another line of thought came to mind. What is the only reason I cannot simultaneously be in both Alaska and Kansas? The answer; Time. Time is the only reason I can not be in both places. I can go to and be in Alaska, and I can go to and be in Kansas. The only thing I can not do is be in both places at the same time. If you take time out of the equation it becomes a whole new playing field. There is no time in eternity. Therefore in eternity we are not limited by time nor tenses (past and future come from having time. In eternity there is only the now, the forever present tense. Or, as I like to say, the forever presence tense). Inside of time we are limited by both time and tenses in our ability to experience. We are not limited in our ability to experience in eternity. We are not limited by tenses in eternity. We can experience the fullness of God WITHOUT LIMIT! A limitless experience... for eternity. 

   We live in a state of having passed from death unto life, and one day will be unlimited in our ability to experience Him. We get to experience God completely for all of eternity! Do you know what that means??? Do you have any idea what we get to look forward to??? No wonder Paul said to die is gain! We have life to the full, for one day we will experience Him to the full! And that, my beloved, is worth living for.

  




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