July 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
By Sasha Katz
I’ve been thinking about what my church means to me. In the believer’s life, meeting together in the presence of God matters. The happenings that take place, together, in His house, form our faith, cleanse and wash us. We are encouraged in the place called church. Whether love and good deeds are poured out on to you in His house or whether you are drawn to act yourself, this is the place where we are genuinely motivated to do God’s work. This is the ideal description of church and truly defines, for me, my church experience.
If I could add to the definition of church, I would include the word refuge. I think about my dad dying and how impossible it initially felt to grieve in the midst of my regular schedule. For weeks, there were only two places I could cry – – as I lay in bed at night or during Pastor Clay’s worship on Sunday morning. Only two places. I needed the church to be my grieving place and it was there for me.
I also think about the early days of my marriage and the downright spiritual attack I was beat up under by some of our extended family. If you’ve ever felt you may not be able to fully hold on to yourself, that was me. At my worst times, I sat in church holding onto my arms debating with myself if I could keep soundness of mind. Time after time, He built me up in His house. His strength empowered me to grow up in Him. It is occurring to me right now that if I hadn’t chosen Him as my pillar of strength at that time, I would not be the woman I am now.
Another time in my life, I did not want to give up my dream to be a stay at home mom. Through a turn of events, God allowed for me to be a full time working mom. There was only one place that I was able to entrust the daily care of my kids – – that is my church. I remember feeling like the church was an umbrella that I could remain safely under while the storms and showers of life come down.
I hope you catch my sentiment for the church. I hope you catch the meaning for me and, I desperately hope for all of us, that we can hitch our lives upon a Rock. But, because we are human, God’s wonderfully perfect institutions, including the church, suffer sometimes. Mostly, or only, because of us. What has prompted me to think about what my church means to me comes by means of a self check. Just a few months ago, our pastor resigned as a result of multiple affairs and numerous acts of sexual immorality (via pornography). As the dust settles, there currently exists for me a sadness. The subtle sadness is kind of like an envelope wrapped around a letter that holds really good news. You’d like to open and throw away that envelope once and for all, so you can go on sharing the good news . . . but that darn envelope.
The upside of my self check is that I am glad to know that my love for my church was not wrapped around my former pastor. It wasn’t wrapped around the popularity of his person or sermons. God made Himself self-evident through the pulpit. I am thankful that God is God. I don’t feel lost under the loss because of that.
Self check yourself. Wherever you meet with other believers under the umbrella of God, check your heart. Why do you love His house? Is it because your faith is built? Are you washed by the word? Are you encouraged to love and do good deeds? What is your definition of church? We are all prompted in times of change to check our self, but I think it’s better to check ourselves in the normal course of life. What human heart could not use a check anyway?
July 12, 2014 § Leave a comment
By Sasha Katz
I don’t know what your sins are. I don’t know what you regret or what mistakes you have made. I don’t know who you have pretended to be. I don’t know what mirrors you have avoided in your life. I don’t know what truths you’ve trampled for your own self-interest. Only you do.
It is the condition of your own heart that enables you to know what lines you’ve crossed. It’s your knowledge and understanding of what is good and evil that allows you to acknowledge your transgressions. Truth is not easily found if the heart is clouded by grey. The truth of your own sin is not evident without a certain amount of light revealing the motivations of the pulsing flesh inside you. The weight of your mistakes, transgressions and sin doesn’t fully come down until the light beams in.
The magnificent thing about God’s light is that when He reveals sin, His light doesn’t magnify the transgression. He amplifies Himself. The sight of Him calls you to turn away from the sin. It’s His kindness and love that leads us to repentance. I think that’s why we can believe that, once repentant, He separates our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. It’s by no works of our own, but Himself.
I know that you know what your sins are. Your regrets and mistakes. What you have pretended to be. The self reflection you have avoided. The self interest you have promoted. I know that you know because I also know the depths of my own heart spattered with transgressions and mistakes. The upside of our reciprocal imperfection is that it can become a baseline for our friendship.
The invitation, first of God, and then to one another, is the true gift of friendship – – where the acknowledgement of our baseline of imperfection – – grows us to be real and genuine. Where you can with Christ, in confidence, lay down your life for your friends. That is the place where what I know about me and you what know about you collide in holy way. It’s the type of friendship that supersedes what I have done and helps me be who I was made to be. That is vow of real friendship. That is God’s invitation and I pray that you and I, dressed in all of our imperfections, take it.
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. Psalm 32:1-2
. . . God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance . . . Romans 2:4
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8.
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
Thanks to Walking on Sunshine for her Sunday Scripture that was my inspiration today.
June 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
I remember years ago asking my dad what his favorite verse was. He was approaching his birthday and I wanted to do something crafty for him. The craft really doesn’t matter at all because it didn’t come out that good. I think I tried to embroider the verse on a pillow with a beads. But, I remember what his favorite verse was at that time in his life. He will never leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
At the time of his birthday (I think it was 54 or 56), I had not even taken in the idea that my dad would only have a few birthdays left. He was already sick with cancer at that time, but idea of him getting sick enough to die and God allowing that did become part of my mind’s possibilities. I have been thinking about my dad a lot the last month. Probably because I was his father’s day gift many moons ago. My birth, his death and Father’s Day loom around in my mind in the month of June.
This month, I have been telling my kids some of my thoughts and remembrances so their memories have my dad in them. I think about what life would be like if he was still here. I text my brother who senses his loss almost daily even years later. But not for one minute, not for one second do I question God’s calling on my dad’s life or God’s choice to end his earthly time line at 59 years old. This is the faith that my dad’s walk to heaven has brought me to.
In my dad’s time of weakness where God was allowing him to feel pain. Allowing him to know the brevity of life. Allowing him to realize life was going to end differently than his expectations. Eventually allowing him to wrap up his affairs, say goodbye. Allowing him to prepare to see God face to face. All of that time, my dad said that God showed him that He will never leave me or forsake me. My dad walked home to the Lord like the warrior He was in his life time and like the humble man God taught him to be in his life time. It is in our utmost weakness that God sews in His great love, great strength and His true to the end promise that He will never leave you or forsake you.
Thank you to Jennifer Dukes Lee for sharing her Ten Life-Changing Truths to Believe Today.
June 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
There is so much grief running through our souls these days. Although it is sometimes individual and personal to our lives and circumstances, grief is also collective. In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown finds in her research that “the past decade has been traumatic for so many people that it’s made changes in our culture.” To name a few, she reminds us of 9/11, multiple wars, recession, unemployment, catastrophic natural disasters, increase in random violence and school shootings. Brown explains that “we’ve survived and are surviving events that have torn at our sense of safety with such force that we’ve experienced them as trauma even if we weren’t directly involved.” When I read and thought about her research and conclusions, I felt it. It’s a fine-lined, but burdensome grief, that comes and goes, but shapes and impacts our person, impacts our soul.
Like personal pain or grief, you usually don’t see collective grief coming. You pick it up on the morning news, it gets passed to you over phone conversations. And then it stays with you as you think about trauma in relation to your own life. The pain catches you as you consciously drop off your kids to school, where we all have learned that there could be a shooting. The heavy catches you when you watch a family come out of an underground shelter to see that their home was shredded by a tornado. I worry about steady income. I worry about violence. Collective grief becomes pretty personal.
I came across Isaiah 53 this week where the prophet is describing Jesus to us. “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Isaiah 53:3. I have thought so much about all the good Jesus did in His life. Healing and saving and making new. But you can only heal someone who is broken. You can only save someone who is lost and make new what is worn out. I think about the great need of people that Jesus encountered. I think about all the stories, trauma and pain He took in through His encounters. And, since He is God and at that time, man too, it is hard for me to imagine how His soul knew the real truth of a person’s pain and hurting (multiplied by humanity) . . . and He went on without breaking.
The bible says that “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Isaiah 53:4. I can’t tell you that I am speechless, but my heart is silent at the thought of what He carried. “And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5. He has to take our grief for us to be healed. I don’t know exactly how you give pain away to Him. I don’t know why the act of giving grief away is awkward for the human heart. But I see that He suffered to heal us. I see that He has already completed something that feels like a stretch for us. If my heart can’t see, my mind is able to reason that it only makes sense to let go of the grief to the One who has already bore it.
June 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
There is a certain beauty in the creative arts. Something has been created and presented for the eye to see. But it doesn’t stop there. The eye takes into the heart and the heart takes into the soul. What we see has power to move us, change us. That is the power that the author holds when something is created and shared.
The particulars of how we take in what we see is matter of personality and probably age or maturity as well. Some will tell you that after seeing The Book Thief or The Pianist or reading The Lost Wife, or the many other holocaust books and films, thoughts and images of the Holocaust stay with them for days. There is a certain kind of pain and suffering that runs through your mind as a thread or strand right through your daily life. For me, the same thing happens in a negative way if I see images like graphic violence or hardcore sex. It just stays with me until it finally becomes untangled with my positive, healthy thoughts. There is the whole matter of music that splits open when your kids move from Disney movie soundtracks to top 40, pop and rock. One of my kids hears every word of every song and either memorizes them or asks me what they mean (in detail). The other claims he listens to beat only (as part of his argument to listen to ___________________). I’ve got the same problem or choices when I flip through the TV and run into story lines like Modern Family and Love and Hip Hop in Atlanta. I know how my mind takes in art and media and I really want to keep it clean.
Whether in film, dance, music, art, what we see impacts us. Knowing this and accepting that each of us is going to process the impact differently, I have yet another dilemma with the creative arts. Rather than looking at the art or media alone, I have been thinking a lot about the author or creator. The perfect example is one of my favorite films Midnight in Paris. I love the time travel and the themes of love and, finally, personal choice (that seems right to me). Any way, in a conversation with my husband, he reminds me that the author is now divorced and married to his adopted daughter. I don’t know all the details, but this points south on my moral compass. My husband asks, do you not like the movie now? Should you not like the movie now? My answer is, I don’t know.
This conversation stems from my recent decision (husband was on board) to switch one of our daughter’s dance classes as a result of the singer of the song chosen for her recital number. So, let me say, I did not know the song when I made the decision. I only knew the pop singer. And, I knew the pop singer of the other dance numbers in that section of the recital (but no songs as that time). It was about the author, not the product. I could not have been more confident about my decision. It was about the author, not the product.
I am still working on the translation of our of recent family experience. I am still working on the questions that I need to ask before taking in arts and media. I am working from the fact that we’re impacted by what choose to see and hear. I now have added the layer of the artist’s life as well as their creation or product. The artist’s life matters, just like my every day and your every day matters. Please, please, please, I am not talking about legalism and perfection. I am talking about keeping it clean. I want to keep it clean on the author side and the product side. I want to keep it clean on both sides.
I know that there is so much more to say on keeping it clean in the arts and media. We’re all landing on different points on the pendulum as parents and as individuals. But I think the difference between our judgment calls is valid and is good for growth and conversation. I beg to differ sometimes, but I am glad that you do too. I pray that keeping it clean is something we all can agree is good for us and that our personal choices as believers open conversation, and not judgment, among the family of Christ.
The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
2 For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the waters.
3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face. Selah
May 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
Unsure is not uncertain. Have you ever felt that? I am certain about many things. These are the truths that we live by. I am certain about the love story that God has written to me, to humanity. I am certain that my primary privileges in this life are to disciple my kids and love and serve my husband. I am certain that God has given me hands and a mind to work. I am certain that God has given me all the talents and gifts I need to do these things, and, in addition, to be a good friend, to be a good writer and to, genuinely, be an active blessing to my community. I am certain about these things.
But, unsure, that is a different dimension for me. Walking to your certainties feels unsure. Thinking through what that walk looks like has to happen all of the time. There are a few times a year that the process seems natural. No one can deny that January calls for a recap or relook at where you are going and how. If you have kids, you probably do the same as summer approaches and as the new school year approaches, and a few times in between. In my marriage, I often fall into the trap of recapping only when we are in a valley. As an individual, I think I beat myself up with the recap almost everyday (but that bad habit is being worked on). The crux of this is that the day to day journey that leads you to accomplish what you are certain of is a process.
It would be nice to think or believe that the process of the walk is definite or unquestionable, but it is not. It’s the depth of faith in the certainty that moves you along the walk. I also think that the time and care placed into the decision making along walk is crucial. Sometimes there are clear yeses and sometimes clear nos. Sometimes we are in the grey until the answer is apparent. Sometimes timing matters more than others. It is our choice to place our highest measure of dependence on certain or uncertain truths.
What do we place our highest measure of dependence on? There are factors, and as much as we’d all like to say God is my sole factor, sometimes it is a progression to get to solely God. I think about man, the human factor. Everyone, well intentioned or not, has their opinion. I think about our fears and how they drive us. I think about our internal battles of what we personally want verse what God has planned for us. It is a silent place when we can hear the direction of God unfettered by the human factors. It is a silent place of total peace and the insurgence of joy when we can hear the direction of God.
I am certain of the things I know to be true. I walk unsure sometimes. I don’t like to be unsure, but humanity promises that unsure will be the case sometimes. Unsure is shattered when the voice of God settles the walk with His purpose and plan for, ultimately, His outcome. I hope to be practical enough to dig into the regular practice of wisely planning my steps. I hope to be dependent enough to hear the mighty voice of God take away my unsure and plant in me direction. I hope to have the faith to remain always certain of the things I know to be true. Unsure is not uncertain.
A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure. (AMP)
We make our own plans, but the Lord decides where we will go. (CEV)
People can plan what they want to do, but it is the Lord who guides their steps. (ERV)
We should make plans—counting on God to direct us. (TLB)
We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it. (MSG)
People do their best making plans for their lives, but the Eternal guides each step. (Voice)
May 14, 2014 § 2 Comments
I have a sister who knows in her heart that a mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. She knows that the Love in her comes from her God. The kind of God that Isaiah describes as the One who sits above the circle of the earth, the One who calls out the stars by name at night, the One who does not need counsel, but is Counsel. The One who is never weary or tired. The One whose ways are unsearchable. The One who gives power to the weak and gently leads those with young.
My sister headed to her brother’s wedding with a new born baby, a six year old, her husband, dad and her very sick mom. Although she would not miss her brother’s ceremony for the world, she was really, mostly there, to stand for Christ and His great love. She stepped into a place where there were present many other gods. Ancient gods who like to think they will not be rustled in the generational strongholds they claim as their own. My sister brought with her the power of the Spirit which does not disappoint. She spoke the Word of God – – which is Love – – in her designated platform. The one true God made it into the hearts of the other worshipers. And they were astounded by this kind of Love.
I didn’t know much of my sister’s wedding story until later. I only received a text in reply to my asking how the wedding went. My sister said, it was tough, but God wins. Sometimes words stick with you. God wins sticks with me. I think about how to live with the knowledge that God wins. That means that I can humble myself and wash feet. That means I can reach out to strangers that pass through my life everyday. I can pray for and love on those who are bound and those who are suffering. I can have faith that my marriage will last. I can go out of a limb every day because my God wins. The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man to do me? Hebrews 13:6.
It’s love that compels us to walk out on a limb. We have confidence to do all that God calls us to do because He wins. God, I pray that we remember that our God sits above the circle of the earth. He calls out the stars by name at night. He is wise Counsel. His ways are unsearchable and He never tires or grows weary. He gives power to the weak and gently leads those with young.
Romans 8:5-8: Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
Consider reading Isaiah 40 to be reminded of his greatness.
Consider reading James MacDonald’s Devotional Absolute Authority on May 12, 2014.
Also inspired by Lynn Offerdahl’s bible study on Hebrews 13 on May 14 at the Calvary Chapel Sports Ministry