Tuesday, July 31, 2012

House of Windsor

There are several coffee shops here in Windsor, but last Sunday I think I went to the cutest one!

It's like an old-fashioned soda fountain and ice cream place. They also serve smoothies, shakes, malts, hot dogs, and sandwiches. I loved the little red striped stools they had!

I got a Butter Pecan Latte. It was yummy! :-)

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Very Large Frog

This guy was hopping across the road in front of the car, and we were so struck by it that we stopped in the middle of the road to see it and pick it up. Usually frogs aren't too slimy, but he was!

I definitely have never held a frog this big before. I don't think I've even seen one, say in a zoo or aquarium. 

Melissa's kiss didn't turn it into a prince... but if it had, he would have been a giant! :-) 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sleep vs. Prayer (part 5)

Sunday morning...ahh, what a beautiful breakthrough I experienced.

I did sleep in two hours after my alarm rang, so that was initially a failure, but after that, things started looking up.

I went out on a walk and picked a new route. I was on a sidewalk that went by a lovely little stream, and I was enjoying the ducks and other little birds that punctuated the silence with their cries. Eventually, I came upon two massive trees. Someone's imagination had obviously taken wing with these trees before, because there were bits of rotten wood nailed to the side higher up, indicating that a tree house must have been here at one point. All the wood from the tree house was now rotting on the ground, having long since fallen down, but the trees still stood, grand and imposing, begging me by their very presence and largeness to try to climb them.

"I want to climb up there," I thought. "I want to go up and sit in those giant branches and be all alone, away from view. I want to pray from up there." In the first place, it's just really cool to sit in a tree, and in the second place, it would be a hidden, secluded spot. 

The lowest branch was far above my head out of reach, and the various implements that were nailed to the tree were even higher. The girth of the tree was too large to try scaling it, and the bark didn't afford good enough finger and toe holds to try to just make it straight up the surface. But aha! There was a branch that drooped down almost to the ground, and I could begin at the end of it and work my way up. 

I clambered up through the branches, enduring being poked and scratched and exerting a good deal of effort to attain a comfortable spot that was about as high up as I could get. I sat where the arrow is pointing in the picture below.

There was still a good deal of tree above me, but I was content with where I was. I looked around. No one who happened to walk by would notice me here. I was comfortable. I had attained my position.

But about 20 minutes later, I realized I still wasn't praying. I was looking around at the view, thinking about the tree, having a number of noisy random thoughts, and feebly attempting a prayer here and there. So I got down from the tree.

I walked off, thinking about what I had done. Why did I think being in a tree would help me to pray? It was like I was looking, seeking, hunting for the perfect place, a hidden place, where I could be all alone and experience God's presence and talk unimpeded with Him.

Then it dawned on me: That place was the Holy of Holies, not a tree or a special room or a walking route or a cozy hiding place. I needed to pray from the position of God's own temple. "How do I get into the Holy of Holies?" I asked myself? As if in answer, a song started playing in my head:

Come into the Holy of Holies
Enter by the blood of the Lamb.

Ah! It was by Jesus's blood! I knew that!

I excitedly recognized that I already had Jesus's blood applied to my life, so I had everything I needed to enter the Holy of Holies. I recognized that I was in Christ--and those who are in Christ are "seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." So my spirit had access to the Holy of Holies! Here all this time I was trying to enter in the flesh. But my spirit was what had to pray to God--and it could get there.

From there my prayer just took off. I prayed from the position of one of God's adopted children, allowed to call Him "Abba Father," and having "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" (Heb. 10:19). Suddenly prayer was possible. God wasn't remote like I had felt Him to be--I was able to "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:22). All these verses started clicking into place in my mind, and I felt so free, so accepted, and so enabled by God. It was a beautiful and glorious rest of the walk, as I delighted in being in His presence.

Praise God for His wonderful work!

To Be Continued...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sleep vs. Prayer (part 4)

After Friday's events, I was tenuously clinging to the truth but not quite walking in it. It was like I knew it was there but couldn't see it. I couldn't comprehend it or enter into the freedom that it would bring me.

Saturday night, we watched The Hiding Place (the story of Corrie Ten Boom and her family). As I watched the struggles of the women doing hard labor in the Ravensbruck concentration camp, I suddenly experienced a flash of indignation.

I have been duped! I have been tricked into thinking that I was tired! Here I am, sitting here well fed and just a little bit sleepy, and I take that as a valid excuse not to pray!

I was horrified at the wimpy, pathetic way I had fainted so easily at a little bit of exertion. I had no strength, no strength at all, if a little bit of prayer was enough to send me instantly comatose! Here I was--nothing in my body hurt, I had plenty of natural force for, say, moving a sofa by myself in order to vacuum under it, and yet the tiniest little obstacle was enough to make me collapse.

I was pretty speechless after the movie was over. I went to the Keswick center and prayed until midnight. I enjoyed a little more freedom than usual in prayer, and I thanked God for it.

To Be Continued...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sleep vs. Prayer (part 3)

This afternoon I experienced another episode in the struggle. We were asked to spend two hours in the afternoon praying for several specific requests, from 1:30 to 3:30. I was alone in my room and I started out sitting on the floor, praying aloud to keep my mind focused. My recent track record of failure in prayer loomed large in my mind, but I said to myself, "There is victory in Christ, and I must find it."

I assumed as good an attitude as I could muster and forged on ahead, determined to be undaunted. But sure enough, an overwhelming lethargy and sleepiness came over me, and I laid down on the floor.

"Sit back up," the Lord commanded me.

And wonder of wonders, I obeyed. This, in itself, was huge for me, because ordinarily I would have persisted in indulging the whims of my flesh. But I knew it was only a matter of minutes before I fell asleep if I  didn't get up. Even though all I wanted to do was go to sleep, I trusted God to give me the power to obey and continue to pray.

I began to pray again. It felt like a Herculean effort, very contrived, very forced, and definitely not prayer with power. How I wanted to enter in to the presence of God and be enabled to pray!

The overwhelming sleepiness didn't go away, and in a few minutes, I lay back down on the floor.

"Sit back up," the Lord commanded me again.

Shockingly enough, I obeyed again. That felt like a massive victory. I had gone against my own will twice in a row! Whoa.

But as I tried to pray, it was still empty, dull, and dead. I felt too exhausted to do anything. I lay back down on the floor.

This time I said to the Lord, "I give up. I'm going to sleep now." I did. I was asleep in an instant and slept soundly and deeply for two hours.

Then I got up, miserable with myself.

We had family groups later that night, and one of the girls was sharing how she had been discovering that when we pray, it's not her that prays, but Jesus in her who enables her to pray. She was saying how it was so easy to do it this way, because all you have to do is to surrender to Him and trust Him to do it.

When she was finished sharing, I started to cry as I said, "I just wish I could say that I knew how to live that out. I have been so frustrated with prayer." I described some of my recent struggles. Everyone was very kind and supportive and offered helpful suggestions, but it was Rachel (one of our group leaders) who got me back on track. She exhorted me to not fix my gaze on my inability, but on His ability. She said I ought to thank Him for the two spiritual victories I had experienced. And she said many other things that I can't remember now, but I knew it was all the truth. I listened to her, feeling like I was drowning struggling to grasp at the rope, not quite sure that I had grasped it, but quite sure that what she was offering was the rope.

To Be Continued.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sleep vs. Prayer (part 2)

In many ways, my sleep was compromised over the next few weeks. I would get up at 3:30 in the morning some days, go to bed at midnight other days, and in general I just got much less sleep than normal.

I'm a really good sleeper. If I let myself sleep as much as my body wants to sleep, I'll sleep 9 hours every night, and I'll wake up refreshed, energetic, and ready for the day. Anything less than that, and I'm dragging myself out of bed. (However, I can find it in myself to drag myself out of bed for something like a job or a trip.)

I'm skipping over some more minor sleep-vs-prayer instances here, but on Monday (July 23), Mr. Ludy read us an email from a missionary woman in Mexico who had just lost her husband to a heart attack. We cried and prayed and gave to her, but that night, I was especially pressed to pray for her. She had asked for 24-hour prayer for a few weeks, just to get through the initial shock of the loss, and I don't know of any place other that Ellerslie where that is actually organized to happen.

Monday night I went into the Keswick center to pray. I didn't know for how long, but I was just making myself available to God.

Again, just like before, sleep overtook me and my mind went blank and my prayer was incoherent. I knew I wasn't praying out of faith. I was merely mumbling meaningless phrases, some of which were nonsensical because I would start saying something and then enter into a dream and keep talking about whatever I was dreaming. Then I would partially wake up and realize the absurdity of whatever I just said, and I would sigh and try again, only to repeat the scenario.

One of the emphases here regarding prayer is that you cannot pray. Only the Spirit of God working through you can actually pray. We focus on the cross of Christ, on death to self, and on God's grace. Though I am unable, God is able, and His power is able to work through me.

However, I am like a baby when it comes to actually walking in this. I take a step or two, fall flat on my face, and then struggle to remember how I did those two steps. I don't have skill and practice yet when it comes to this surrendered life of dependence on Christ's strength.

I knew that in order to pray, I needed to be walking in the Spirit, but I couldn't remember how to walk in the Spirit. I knew that if my prayers weren't working, it must boil down to lack of faith, but I couldn't see where my lack of faith was or how to correct it. I knew that I must die to the flesh and consider myself alive to God, but I couldn't figure out how to DO that (even though I had done it on certain occasions).

So my prayers for Rachel Moore (the widow in Mexico) were much like my prayers the other time. I was barely able to keep myself awake despite gritted-teeth determination, and although I was awake, and saying some things to God, I wasn't really praying.

I wanted to really love her, to feel what she was feeling and share her burden. I knew that she probably couldn't sleep that night, and we were probably both awake, separated by miles, but connected in God's kingdom. But I wasn't able to be much use to her since I was such a mess myself. So around midnight or 1, I returned to bed.

To Be Continued.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sleep vs. Prayer

The Lord has been pinpointing sleep lately and breaking me of it.

On Sunday the 15th, Carmen and I went into the Keswick center to pray. As long as we were together, it was fine and fervent, but after about 45 minutes, she had to go, because she's off campus. We agreed to pray individually and continue on all night if possible.

I approached it with a passionate and hungry attitude. "I want to spend every last drop of my strength!" I said to myself. "I want to pray until I literally cannot move a muscle for exhaustion." I was stirred up with love for the needs I was praying for, and I wanted to join with them in their sufferings in this small measure.

Notwithstanding my eagerness, once I was alone, I found it very difficult to pray with passion any more, or indeed, to pray at all. I began by energetically pacing back and forth on the floor of the Keswick Center, but after about half an hour, I sat down with my back to the wall and snuggled up in my down blanket. My prayers were coming out in halting, unfocused phrases, and I was speaking slower and slower, in a semi-incoherent, sleepy voice.

Before long, I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I stirred feebly to try to arouse myself, but there was no spirit of burning-hearted, passionate prayer behind my efforts, only a fading determination to hold out. Periodically I'm sure I must have dozed off, only to awaken and murmur some more thoughts to the Lord. This lasted until midnight.

At about midnight, I got frustrated. "If this is all that's going to happen, I give up," I thought. "I'm here to pray, but I'm not praying. If I can't get into the spirit of prayer, then what am I doing here?" I gathered up my blanket and my water bottle, put on my flip flops, and headed toward the door.

The Lord's whisper stopped me in my tracks. "Watch with me," He breathed into my ear. It was an invitation more than a command.

I turned around. I set my water bottle and blanket back down and tried again to pray.

Still nothing came. I felt alone, devoid of energy, and unable to pray. My mind was blank, and try as I might, I could not get it engaged in the business of prayer.

My frustration poured itself out as I said, "Lord, I need your help to pray. I'm here to pray, not to merely stay awake for nothing--aren't I?" Suddenly I had a horrible fear that that was all I was going to get to do. I was just going to sit there for nothing, vainly struggling to stay awake for no reason.

I started to cry. Hot, petulant tears coursed down my cheeks as I said, "Lord, all I want to do is go to sleep." I was whining, "I just want to go to sleep. I'm so tired. Ahhhhh please! I just want to go to sleep." I sounded like an annoying 5-year-old throwing a fit. Here I am, almost 30 years old, never having given up my sleep for a baby or for college studies or for any of the normal reasons that people pull all-nighters (though I did drive almost all through the night once, and I stayed up the entire night before my cousin's wedding, sewing my bridesmaid's dress), and I was whining like a spoiled child. I heard myself and it was disgusting.

I pulled myself together and accepted the lack of sleep. I waited. I still couldn't pray. I had no thoughts, no energy, no inspiration. I just waited, awake. (I might have dozed off, too.)

Finally, at 2:30, I felt like I heard a declaration. "It is broken." I went gratefully to bed.

To Be Continued

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Proverbs 22:29

"Seest thou a man diligent in his business? 
he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men."

Do you see anything special about this picture? 

How about this one?

"Uh... it's just a little narrow stream," you might be thinking.

Yes, but it's no ordinary stream. This is an irrigation ditch, built in the late 1800s by a man named Benjamin Harrison Eaton. This ditch is 4 miles long, and it brought irrigation to his land, which was right here where I walk every day.

Can you imagine building a 4-mile-long ditch?

Consider the diligence that would take. It takes me an hour just to walk the distance of 4 miles. How long would it take to dig this out? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? I have no idea. Somehow, Mr. Eaton was able to construct this ditch while also farming during the summer and teaching school during the winter. How do you do something like that? Just farming alone is a full-time occupation. He had 25,000 acres of land! How in the world could one guy farm all that, let alone find time to dig a ditch in his spare time?

Ditch digging is hot, sweaty, demeaning work. Not many people like to do it. We classify "ditch digger" as the epitome of lowly work, akin to slave labor.

But Eaton didn't see it like that. He had a vision. He saw the benefit to his land from the irrigation that he was preparing. He looked down the road and saw what a great reward he would reap from the investment of his time and effort. So he approached the task with diligence and accomplished it.

A short biography from the Colorado State Archives website reveals that Eaton had more than his fair share of trouble and hardship. His wife died in childbirth just one year after they were married. He was unsuccessful in an attempt to find gold. He roamed over the west and fought in the Civil War. But none of these things daunted him.

So we find him in 1866, buying this farm and digging this ditch. At the time, it probably seemed to him like no one but him would ever care or remember.

But Proverbs tells us that kind of diligence will not go unrewarded.

Is it any coincidence that 18 years later, he became the governor of the state of Colorado? In 1884, he was elected, and he served until 1887. This many years later, we still remember his accomplishments. A sign is posted by his ditch, commemorating his efforts. His stained glass portrait decorates the state's capitol dome. Northern Colorado gratefully acknowledges their thriving sugar beet industry to his irrigation contributions. And one humble blogger is inspired by the diligence that his life displayed.

May our lives be a striking illustration, inspiring others to levels of service beyond their previous levels of expectation. May the grace of God in our lives enable us to live the impossible life with diligence, dedication, and givenness, for the glory of God. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Epic Ellerslie Games

If you want to know what the Epic Ellerslie Games are, you'll just have to come to Ellerslie!

Oh, there are actually two videos up that you can watch if you're curious: http://www.ellerslie.com/Inside_Student_Life.html

So Saturday I had a great time, got exceedingly sunburnt, and laughed so much my ribs were sore the next day! 

The first thing I did (Friday night and Saturday morning) was to write on the backs of probably 20 shirts for different girls. It was fun!  

My shirt

My team was the black team. We came in last place. The yellow team came in first place. 

The large group picture. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

You can't trust your feelings

We were talking about foreign money the other day at the table. One of the girls here is from New Zealand, and she was talking about how much she hates pennies.

"In New Zealand, we have 1- and 2-dollar coins, so you can have a wallet full of change and it can be over twenty dollars," she said. "But here, my wallet is full and it's like...60 cents!"

We all commiserated with her and I mentioned my experience using British pounds for the first time. They, too, have 1- and 2-pound coins, and I remember paying for something with 3 coins, which would have been 6 pounds, which was equivalent to about $12 in American money. Because our largest coin is the quarter, I felt like I was only spending about 75 cents, and then I wondered why all my money disappeared so quickly. 

One of the other girls quipped, "It just shows you can't trust your feelings." 

I was like, "Yeah." 

How often do we go by our feelings? How often do we act as if our feelings correspond to reality, when they don't? 

Regarding Spiritual things, we are some of the worst offenders.

"I don't feel like God loves me," we say.  
"I feel like this behavior (sin) is okay for me." 
"I don't feel like anything good can come out of this situation." 
"I feel like if I trust God with this [business, relationship, addiction, area of obedience, etc.], it won't work out."  
"I don't feel like forgiving."  
"I feel like I'm too busy to dedicate 3 or 4 hours a day to prayer."  
"I don't feel like it's responsible to trust God to work out the little nitty gritty details of my life. Doesn't He leave those things up to me?"  
"I feel like true victory over is unattainable in the Christian life."

If our feelings do not correspond with the Word of God, then they are just as bogus as my feelings that I was spending 75 cents, when in actuality, I was spending $12.

Align your thinking with the Word of God, and let your choices be dictated by His character, His promises, His faithfulness, His truth, and the reliability of His word. Disregard your feelings about the matter. They don't have any say. They don't have any bearing on your obedience.

You can't trust your feelings, but you can trust the reliability of the Word of God.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A year's worth of growth in a week?

Okay, maybe not quite a year, but I have been astounded at how fast we are learning and growing here, and it motivated me to make some calculations which help to explain what's going on in our lives.

Imparted Truth
Most people have about a 30-minute message once a week on Sunday mornings. Here, our sessions are  generally 2 hours long. Therefore, each session is worth about a month of growth. We have at least 10 sessions a week, so that's like 10 months of growth every week, and on top of that we have our reading assignments and writing projects, which add to our learning. 

A little over a week ago, God asked me to pray 3 hours each day. Before coming to Ellerslie, my average prayer life was more like 5 minutes a day. So in 3 hours, I get about 36 days of prayer done in one day. In a week, that's worth 252 days of 5-minute-a-day prayers, or a little over 8 months.

No wonder we're growing fast!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Phyllis, Hayley, and Ultimate Truth (conclusion)

Way back at the beginning of this article, I mentioned the common quote,

"What's true for me is not true for you." 

I said that this phrase was insufficient to glibly explain our differences away, and I mentioned that we are missing a key piece of information when we accept this saying. I also stated that in so doing, we keep ourselves in the dark and rob ourselves of the truly intellectually-satisfying experience of seeing all the puzzle pieces fitting together.

So what is that one key piece of information I was talking about?

It can be stated this way: The question we ought to be asking is not "Is it true for me or for them?" but rather,  "Whose version of "truth" actually matches up with reality?" There is an eternal, unchanging, perfect reality, which we call TRUTH. 

Although we have borrowed the word "truth" for use in the saying, "What's true for me is not true for you," the word does not mean the same thing as the eternal, unchanging Truth that is perfect. (In order to differentiate between the terms for this article, I will capitalize "Truth" when I mean the eternal, unchanging, perfect reality, and I will use lowercase "truth" when I refer to the current, popular use.) 

When we say, "What's true for me is not true for you," what we are really saying is, "My inner reality meter doesn't match your inner reality meter." Right. It's obvious that they don't match. The problem is, we have been duped into leaving it there, as if things were at an impasse, as if Truth was divided and one person had one piece and another person had another piece. What we should be saying is, "I don't really care if my inner reality meter matches yours or not--what I'm concerned about is, which one is closer to the way things really are?"  

Remember Phyllis and Hayley

You saw that Phyllis's inner reality meter was different from Hayley's inner reality meter. But you also saw quite clearly that one person was much closer to the Truth than the other. 

There is a way things really are. The closer we get to the way things really are (the Truth), the more accurate our inner reality meter will be. The more things will make sense to us. The less confusing things will be.

I don't doubt that all of my readers were able to recognize that Hayley's story matched with reality, while Phyllis's didn't. Details like the fact that Phyllis's mother had died more than 20 years earlier made it impossible for Phyllis's experience to be real. Did Phyllis have an experience? Yes. But her experience was nothing more than a vivid dream, while Hayley's experience was waking reality.

In the debate about religion or any other topic, it's evident that people have differing views. It's evident that all of us are varying distances from the Truth. But how is it that we stop at the non-solution "what's true for me is not true for you" as if we were at an impasse, instead of looking for the perfect, absolute reality called Truth, and then matching everything up with it to see which one comes the closest? 

People say this absolute reality called Truth doesn't exist. 

It does exist. 

And before we deteriorate into a "Does not! Does too! Does not! Does too!" shouting match, Phyllis and Hayley can illustrate this for us as well. 

Phyllis thought that they were outside in the middle of the day; Hayley thought that they were in bed in the middle of the night.

Either they were one place or another. There is an answer. Saying there is no absolute reality called Truth would be like visiting the bedroom to arbitrate in the middle of this saga and saying, "You both disagree, and that is proof that there is no right answer. Both of your stories are true." Hello! You're standing in the bedroom! You're looking at two women under the covers, with the clock in sight that tells you it's the middle of the night. There is a gravestone that you can visit--that everyone can visit--showing Phyllis's mother's date of death. There is a physician's diagnosis that explains why Phyllis is having trouble calibrating her inner reality meter with the facts. For you to say, "Both of your stories are true" would be to willfully suppress the Truth.

Knowing the Truth brings freedom, makes things make sense, and clears out the darkness so that we can
regain the truly intellectually-satisfying experience of seeing all the puzzle pieces fitting together. If Phyllis were able to suddenly align her thinking with the Truth (which often happens when you wake up from a dream), all her distress would have evaporated, and she and Hayley would have been able to go peacefully back to sleep. On the other hand, Hayley could not align her thinking with Phyllis's (even though she could commiserate with Phyllis), for nothing she could do could bring Phyllis's mama back from the dead or permit her to enter into Phyllis's dream.

It has been my hope to fix your mind on this topic in order to convince you of the fact that there is such a thing as Ultimate Truth and that you will benefit by aligning your life to it. Alter your own inner reality meter, wherever necessary, to conform to the Truth. Find this truth in the Word of God, and accept Jesus as the Word reveals Him to you.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Phyllis, Hayley, and Ultimate Truth (part 5)

This illustration was merely one example of many to show us how the Bible updates and corrects our idea of reality. What we can glean about the world through our senses, education, investigation, or study, is invariably incomplete. The Creator of the universe knows more than you do, and you ought to be thankful that He has been kind enough and merciful enough to grant divine revelation concerning the most important realities of life, things that could not have been otherwise discovered. 

Aligning our Thinking with the Bible

The Bible doesn't talk much about astronomy, neuroscience, physics, or mathematics. Where it touches on these subjects, it is accurate (further reading on that here and here), but it doesn't make it a point to reveal to man the intricacies of these and many other subjects. We can figure these things out for ourselves, and God has placed many rewarding pursuits within the reach of man. There is still so much to discover in these and many other fields, and it gives a chance for humankind to have useful and interesting occupation exploring these frontiers. But where God saw that no man or woman would ever discover certain important truths, He provided divine revelation in the form of a book, His love letter to us, the Bible. It behooves us to study it in order to know what it si that God has revealed, and then to align our thinking with its teaching, for only then can we have an inner reality meter that is accurate.

This is by no means an easy process. Many of the teachings of the Bible are in direct opposition to the way we naturally think. You must lay down your life in order to find it, be the servant in order to be the greatest, be the last in order to be the first, give away your goods in order to gain true treasure, and be weak in order to be strong. How can we align our thinking with such a topsy-turvy-seeming system? How can we just discard our own ideas, which seem to make way more sense, in favor of ideas that seem to be the opposite of what is true?

The Bible itself admits this difficulty, but it reveals to us that the problem is with OUR fallen minds, which are incapable of naturally grasping the high and lofty truths about God.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isa. 55:8-9)

It is not a question of blindly replacing our thoughts with God's thoughts, neither is it a statement of impossibility, as if the difference between God's thoughts and out thoughts were insurmountably great. Rather, as we read the Bible, study it, meditate on its truths, and absorb its teachings, we gradually begin to see things from God's perspective. We learn the truth. More and more, as we internalize the Word of God, all those things that initially seemed to make no sense become clear and natural, and we consider them to be superior to the old standards of truth that our darkened mind held. We see clearly for the first time in our lives, because the Bible contains the power of divine revelation.

To see things as God says they are is to see them as they really are. And the more you know how things really are, the more you can answer any question and handle any objection.

Of course, the Bible is not merely a book full of truths, but rather, its primary purpose is to reveal a person, Jesus Christ, who IS the truth personified. God makes us a glorious offer: the Spirit of His Son can literally live in our bodies, in order to live out, in us, the type of life we could never perfectly live. No amount of head knowledge about the Bible can replace this. We receive this life by faith according to the promises of God's word.   

The Christian who has the living God dwelling within him will do many things and act in many ways that baffle the world. The more the Christian conforms to the Christ-life within him, the more his life will demonstrate spiritual realities. Anyone who knows only physical and natural (not spiritual) reality, will be stumped by the things that he sees and hears the Christian doing. 

Who can explain a martyr going cheerfully to his or her death, singing, with perfect peace, smiling? 

Who can explain why one would preach the gospel to mocking crowds who only seek to scorn and oppose the message? Why not just shut up and enjoy the gospel privately and preserve one's own peace and tranquility? 

Who can explain why a young person with great prospects (such as William Borden) would leave it all behind, shun the comforts of family and wealth, and go to die in a heathen land? 

Who can explain why a wealthy heir (like C.T. Studd) would give away all his money and voluntarily trust God for all his provision?

Who can explain why a man like Youcef Nadarkhani will face the death sentence rather than recant?

We offer up our explanations for these aberrations. "They believed in it--their faith was just that strong." "They were just crazy." "They were bold, intrepid, independent-minded souls who wanted to do what no one else had done." 

But none of our explanations can fully satisfy. They are like my ideas for why the guys in Inception were behaving strangely. I was suggesting explanations to myself, but none of them turned out to be quite right. I had to temporarily adopt the movie's version of reality in order to make sense of the plot.

The unbeliever must adjust his inner reality meter in the face of these Christian behaviors, for the astonishing fact is that these people were acting perfectly consistently with the unseen spiritual realities that are no less real for being unseen.

"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." 1 Corinthians 4:18

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:20

Christian behavior makes perfect sense in the light of the Biblical revelation of spiritual realities. Those of us who have our inner reality meter calibrated to the Bible's teaching can understand this behavior, and we would behave exactly the same way if we were faced with a similar situation. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Phyllis, Hayley, and Ultimate Truth (part 4)

Here’s an illustration of the way God reveals certain spiritual truths to us that we could not have figured out on our own. 

Job's Perplexing Case of Suffering

The book of Job tells the story of how Job lost all his possessions and all his children in one day. However, he did not curse God. Then he lost his health. Still, he did not curse God. Job’s friends came to comfort him, and they spent about 35 chapters arguing about whether Job did anything wrong to cause this suffering to come upon him. It went something like this.

Job’s friends: “Job, this has come to pass in your life because you have done something wront.”

Job: “No, I’m innocent.”

Friends: “You must have done something wrong, or this wouldn’t have happened to you.”

Job: “No, I’m really innocent.”

Friends: “We know that good happens to the righteous, and evil happens to the wicked. Why don’t you take the shortcut to relief and just repent?”

Job: “I can’t repent of something I haven’t done. I’m innocent.”

Friends: “Even though it may initially look like the wicked are getting away with their deeds, it always catches up to them in the end. Come on, confess what you did. If you repent, God will surely forgive you.”

Job: “You’re wrong to accuse me like this. What miserable comforters you are. I didn’t do anything to do this. I wish I was never born.”

Friends: “If you would just turn away from the evil that you’re obviously hiding, things might start looking up for you.
Job: “I wouldn’t treat you like this if I was in your place. I haven’t done anything wrong, and I wish I could bring my case before God and file a complaint.

They just go around and around in circles and don’t get anywhere until God enters the conversation.

Notice why they were stuck: Both Job and his friends had an incomplete picture of reality. They had lived long enough to see that God’s pattern was to bless the righteous and to punish the wicked. As far as they knew, God's nature was unchanging, so this principle held absolutely. Then they encountered Job and something didn’t match up. Something didn’t make sense. However, instead of looking to see if this strange bit of incoming data about Job could possibly be a sign that they needed to alter their own idea about reality, they just assumed that their inner reality meter was right and that Job must have sinned, and that he must be lying about it to cover it up. They were missing a key piece of data. They needed to update their inner reality meter with a puzzle piece that would make the situation make sense. And this key piece of information was something they probably could not have figured out without divine intervention. Fortunately, God came through for them and told them what it was.

The key was God’s glory. God was getting glory in the heavenly realms by Job’s faithfulness. God was boasting to Satan, in effect, “I have a servant down there who loves me so completely that he will continue to trust me, even when bad things happen to him.” Satan doubted the possibility of this, but God vindicated Himself, for Job’s response was, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” God got glory. All the angelic and demonic powers probably took a collective gasp at Job’s words. “God, how did you do that?” they probably all wondered.

When the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, he essentially said, “Where were you and who are you and how much glory do you have compared to mine? Deck yourself with your glory and see if you compare to me.” Job, on seeing this vision of God’s glory, had no more thought of lodging a complaint, and responded, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

God was using Job's experience to expand on and correct Job's and his friends' inner reality meters. They were right to a certain extent, because it's true that in general, God blesses the righteous and curses the wicked. (We see that ultimately, this pattern held true in Job's life, because at the end of the story, he gets everything back double.) But they were unaware of another factor that could trump this order of things. That factor was God's glory. If God was getting glory, things on earth might seem to be going all haywire for a season. This would look random and senseless from earth's perspective, because no one saw the scene that took place in God's throne room. Without divine revelation, we couldn't know that was happening. How could we know, without being told, that we as humans could be held up as a spectacle on display for all the witnesses of heaven and hell?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Phyllis, Hayley, and Ultimate Truth (part 3)

Now, let’s go back to the first question. Remember how you innately knew that Hayley’s version was “right” and Phyllis’s version was “wrong”?

What do I mean by “right” and “wrong”?

As pertains to this discussion, as I am using the terms for this article, “Right” is what corresponds to that perfect reality, while “wrong” is what doesn’t match up or is far from the absolutes of perfect reality.

Let’s relate this discussion back to Christianity. I would submit to you that the Christian faith is the one that matches up with the perfect, absolute reality that we are all, consciously or unconsciously, trying to achieve for our inner meters. God Himself is perfect, and He Himself is the epitome of that absolute, perfect reality. His Word is equally perfect as an expression of His nature. It is inviolable and cannot be broken. God cannot lie, and therefore, His Word is the truth.

You may be reacting to this statement, or you may agree with me, but hear me out.

The Christian worldview, the Biblical system, is the one out of all the other systems, worldviews, or religions, that corresponds to perfect reality. I realize that saying that is like throwing down a gauntlet, just begging for somebody to take up the debate and say, “What about this?” or “What about that?” But I will go even farther and state that whenever things about God or the Bible don’t make sense to us, the problem is not in Christianity, but in our own perceptions (or individual Christians) being faulty. True Biblical Christianity is there to correct our inner reality meter, not the other way around. The Bible is incoming data that causes you to have to alter your reality. There is no other option to how we interact with the Bible. We don’t get to discard the Bible’s teaching in our minds and say, “God doesn’t know what He’s talking about.” We don’t have the luxury of altering the Bible’s teachings to match with our version of reality. We don’t come to the Bible and say, “No, it’s actually this way.” Nor do we have the privilege of holding the Bible in limbo while we look for an alternate explanation. No. We treat the Bible as the definitive Word of God, that cannot be broken or err in any point.

Why do we have such an extreme and limiting view of the Bible? Do we treat it this way because it’s a rule? Not necessarily, though some have made blanket statements to this effect that sound like rules. Rather, it is because we have recognized that the Bible is the pure and infallible expression of the perfect, ultimate reality that all of us are trying to achieve and live by. It’s only for our own benefit that we live by the Bible, because life simply makes more sense when we know the difference between right and wrong. Things are less confusing for us when we have an accurate inner reality meter with which to check incoming data. It’s for own convenience that we align our thinking with the truth of the Word of God. Whenever our thinking departs from the truth of Scripture, we are wrong and stand to be corrected, and we also stand to find certain things very confusing, to the point where we may simply have to give up and say, “Well, I simply don’t understand that.”

It is no coincidence that the ultimate, perfect reality about the world matches exactly with the truth of Scripture: They both have the same author! God is the creator. He designed the world, wrote the laws by which it operates, and then took the initiative to reveal Himself to His creatures in His Word. What a privilege we have, for there are certain things that we would have been unable to discern about the way things work without explicit instruction.

God’s ways are higher than our ways, and there are unseen spiritual realities that we would never have guessed without someone telling us. The reason for this is that we are fundamentally broken. At the fall, man’s spirit died, and he thereby lost the possibility of perceiving spiritual realities. Spiritual things are no less real because we do not perceive them (in fact, I would argue that spiritual realities are far more real and true and unalterable and eternal than our world of physical matter.)

The Christian has regained the Spirit, for the Spirit of God dwells in him and gives him new life. The Christian who reads the Bible, becomes immersed in it, and drinks in and accepts its truth gets closer and closer to the eternal realities of God’s perfect truth. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Phyllis, Hayley, and Ultimate Truth (part 2)

Your Own Interpretation

I won't have to guess what was going through your mind while you were reading the story, because in a certain sense, everyone's mind works the same way. While you were reading the story from Phyllis's perspective, you were thinking, "Something is amiss here. What is going on? Why is Hayley behaving so strangely?"

Then, when you read the story from Hayley's perspective, you suddenly understood. "Oh," you probably thought. "That's why they said what they did and acted that way." It made sense. You innately knew that Hayley's version was "right" and Phyllis's version was "wrong."

Which leads to two questions:

1) What do I mean by "right" and "wrong"?


2) How did you know that?

We will address the second question first.

How did you know that? What was it that told you that Hayley's version of the story made more sense? You don't know why you know, but you just know. Something clicked. Even though I'm posting this article on a public blog available for viewing on the entire internet, I am confident that every single one of my readers will have experienced this.

The Inner Reality Meter

I would suggest you knew because there is something innate within you that, consciously or unconsciously, seeks to match things up with reality. When things match with what we already know about the world, they make sense. When things don't match up with what we know about the world, they don't make sense, and at this point, our mind starts seeking for an explanation. Sometimes we land on a reason that didn't appear obvious at the beginning, but on further reflection, it occurs to us. Other times, we are unable to think of a reason, but still can learn the reason through education. Other times, we just give up, because we can't come up with a reason. Whatever the case, a satisfactory explanation must match up with what we know (in other words, it must match up with reality), or we will be unsatisfied.

Here's an illustration of an instance where I went through this process. The first time I watched the movie Inception, I was confused at the beginning of the film. There is a scene where some guys are in a room, interrogating a man. They hear the noise of a great tumult outside. One of the guys looks out a window and sees a mob of angry people surging toward the house. He calmly turns back to the other guys and says something like, "They're coming...for us." The guys all nod calmly and carry on with their business as if nothing is going to happen. The angry crowd gets closer and closer.

As I watched this scene, I thought to myself, "This doesn't make sense. Why are these guys so calmly disregarding their impending doom?" Then my mind started clicking through possible scenarios.

Maybe the house is impregnable.
Maybe the people are not really after them, but someone or something else.
Maybe they've got an escape plan.
Maybe they're planning strategically to get captured--or killed.

But as the scene unfolded, none of these possibilities made sense, either. The house was definitely not impregnable, the mob was really after them, they didn't escape, but got engulfed in the ensuing chaos, and their intention was not to get captured or killed.

I was still confused! However, I couldn't figure it out, so I just had to wait for the movie to fit the pieces all together for me. Fortunately, it did, in a very creative and intellectually stimulating way, which made the movie an enjoyable experience to watch. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen the movie, but basically what they did was to involve a lot of fantasy and create an alternate reality that operated on a different set of (relatively plausible) rules.

My point is, we all have in our heads a fixed, rather inflexible notion of "what is real" and we constantly, almost unconsciously, match new incoming data against our inner notion of reality. When incoming data matches reality, things make sense to us. When they don't match, we choose one of the following options.

  1. We discard the incoming data as inaccurate or useless
  2. We alter the incoming data to match with reality
  3. We hold the incoming data in limbo as we search for or wait for additional information that will make it make sense
  4. We adjust our concept of reality to match with the data.
For instance, suppose you go over to someone's house for dinner. You meet Mr. & Mrs. Jones and their three children. Later, you're talking to a mutual friend who mentions in passing that the Joneses have two children. This bit of incoming data doesn't match up with reality, because you just went over to their house and saw their three children. So you might go through one or more of the following reactions. 
  1. Discard your friend's comment in your mind and say to yourself, "She doesn't know what she's talking about."
  2. Alter the incoming data to match with reality. Tell your friend, "No, actually, they have three children."
  3. Hold the incoming data in limbo and look for an explanation. Maybe all of those weren't really their children. Could one have been a neighbor or a friend or a niece or nephew? Or maybe my friend hasn't heard that Mrs. Jones recently had a baby. Or maybe she has only ever met two of their children and assumed that that was all. Or maybe one is adopted and she means that they only have two biological children. As you look for answers, the explanation may emerge.
  4. In rare cases, new information may cause you to have to alter your reality. Suppose it turns out that one of those children was a relative visiting the Joneses for a week. Then you would have to update your reality to correspond to the fuller picture. 
As you can see, our idea of reality may not be perfect, and in rare cases, new information can cause us to have to alter what we thought was real and true into an improved version. Every person is in this process, and all of us seek to get as perfect an understanding of reality as possible. 

Exceptions to this only occur when there are certain things we don't want to be true, and therefore suppress from our inner "reality files." We may do this for experiences that are distasteful, traumatic, or painful. This act of supression does not make the traumatic or distasteful circumstance untrue, but rather causes us to have to go through additional explaining processes with our incoming data. It may also help us to forget what is painful. While this may be a great comfort, it does not alter the truth. 

All of these facts point to the following conclusions: 
  • We all have a "reality meter," a standard by which we unconsciously check new information to see if it matches up. 
  • Our inner meter is not perfect. Inaccuracies in our reality meter can be corrected by incoming data. 
  • Barring purposeful suppression of certain facts, we all have a drive for our inner meter to be as accurate as possible--a true reflection of the reality of the world. 
Our drive to constantly improve the accuracy of our inner reality meter points to the existence of a perfect standard of reality. There is a way that things really are. There is an absolute standard to which all our inner reality meters are trying to conform. The closer we get there, the more things make sense and the less confusion we experience. 

Remember the vague puzzlement you experienced when you read Phyllis's version of the story? That's the kind of confusion that comes with being far from the absolute, perfect standard of reality. Remember how everything clicked into place when you read Hayley's version? That's the feeling of being close to the absolute, perfect standard of reality. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Phyllis, Hayley, and ultimate truth (part 1)

A study in what this story illustrates about the nature of ultimate truth

All of us can see the story from Phyllis's side and from Hayley's side. We all can understand where each is coming from, and we can commiserate with the plight of each.

"What's true for me is not true for you."

All of us have probably heard this saying at one time or another, and at first glance, it looks like this story illustrates a confirmation of this statement. What was true for Phyllis was not true for Hayley. What was true for Hayley was not true for Phyllis. Neither one could enter into the other's reality.

This can represent all kinds of debates, but perhaps most frequently it is used to apply to religion. Belief in the Bible, faith in Christ, awareness of spiritual realities, and the afterlife are seen by many people as "true for Christians" and accepted and respected as such, but that is as far as it goes. "That's just not true for me," people say with a shrug. The non-Christian is not able to enter the Christian's reality.

Similarly, Christians observe the Buddhist, the Muslim, the Hindu, or the witch doctor and say to themselves, "How can they believe that? It doesn't make any sense." The Christian is unable to enter the non-Christian's reality.

Therefore, it has become very popular to account for these differences by passing over the matter with a shrug. "What's true for them is not true for me," we say, and leave it at that.

Insufficient Explanation

I am here to argue that it's not good enough to explain away our differences so glibly. We are missing a key piece of information when we accept the saying, "What's true for me isn't true for you," and in so doing, we keep ourselves in the dark and rob ourselves of the truly intellectually-satisfying experience of seeing all the puzzle pieces fitting together.

I would also argue that this story holds some hidden principles that we can use to unlock other analogous situations. It shows us that we all have certain, innate, built-in structures in our thought patterns that enable us to identify reality and distinguish truth from error.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hayley's quandary

A true story

It was the middle of the night, and Hayley was staying with her elderly neighbor, Phyllis, who had Alzheimer's and needed 24/7 care.

Suddenly, Phyllis began talking in her sleep. "She's going down there," Phyllis said. Hayley kept quiet, hoping that Phyllis would go back to sleep. Her vivid dreams were almost impossible to wake her up from and snap her back to reality.

"Why's she going down there?" Phyllis continued. There was a short silence. Hayley was almost asleep again.

"She just fell!" Phyllis exclaimed.

"Mmmmmm..." Hayley murmured.

"She just fell!" Phyllis repeated, urgently.

"Who?" Hayley asked.

"Mama," Phyllis said.

Hayley hoped Phyllis would go back to sleep, but she knew from experience that these dreams usually went on and on. Telling her it was a dream did no good, so Hayley thought maybe if she feigned sleep it would help. But Phyllis kept on.

"She needs help," Phyllis said.

Silently, Hayley begged, "Please, please, please, let's just go back to sleep." She had to work the next day, and sometimes these dreams could go for an hour before she could get Phyllis to calm down and go back to sleep. It looked like it was going to be one of those nights.

"It's getting dark," Phyllis continued. "She's hurt. She's half in that stream. She'll die if she stays there all night."

"Mmmmmm..." Hayley groaned, hoping to hint that it was the middle of the night and time to be asleep.

"I guess she'll die then," Phyllis said in a melodramatic voice. She sniffed and sounded like she was choking back a sob. "Well, she won't feel anything after she's gone." Hayley knew that what Phyllis was seeing was real to her. A wave of compassion washed over her, a deep sadness at witnessing the mental trauma that the Alzheimer's created for Phyllis.

A minute later she felt Phyllis gently prodding her. "Won't you run down there and help mama?" she begged.

What should she say? A number of possibilities rose in her mind, and she rejected them all. "Your mama died before I was born"? No, too callous. "You're just dreaming"? No, she had been around in circles arguing that one in the past. You simply could not convince Phyllis once she got into this state. "Your mama is fine"? No, that would sound incomprehensible to Phyllis. Finally she came up with what would sound as compassionate as possible. "I would if I could," she said.

"Well, I'm old," Phyllis retorted. "I can't run down there. But you're young. Why don't you just go down there and help her?"

Hayley leaned over and switched on the bedside lamp, hoping that the sight of the bedroom would help Phyllis to wake up. It usually didn't work, but she thought it wouldn't hurt for Phyllis to see the sincerity in her face as she answered.

"I really would if I could," she said. "But I can't." She added to herself, "I can't get into your dream." She knew as soon as she said it that it sounded nonsensical to Phyllis. But what else could she say?

Phyllis still wasn't giving up. "You could just run down there and help her," she coaxed.

"This is getting nowhere," Hayley realized. She decided to just tell Phyllis the truth.

"Phyllis, your mama's fine," she said as convincingly as she could. "She's in a safe place [heaven, Hayley thought to herself], and she's happy, and nothing is the matter with her."

Hayley could see that this speech didn't get anywhere, and she tried her best to console Phyllis, but to no avail.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Phyllis's calamity

A true story

Phyllis and Hayley were sitting outside together at the patio table, looking at a stream that meandered gently through the meadow. Phyllis was watching her mother picking her way gingerly toward the stream. Her mother was old and not very strong, and Phyllis worried lest she hurt herself. "She's going down there," Phyllis mentioned to Hayley, by word of warning. Hayley didn't answer.

Phyllis herself was old--84 years old, in fact--and she couldn't run to her mother's aid if anything happened. Hayley, though, was young. But Hayley wasn't even looking in the right direction.

"Why's she going down there?" Phyllis said, hoping to draw Hayley's attention to her mama. Phyllis looked over at Hayley and saw that her eyes were closed.

Trying to repress a feeling of annoyance at Hayley's callousness, Phyllis turned to look again at her mama, and was just in time to see her feet slip on the steep embankment. She fell heavily, striking her head on a rock, and she slid the rest of the way down the creek bank, landing with her leg twisted under her in an awkward position and part of her body in the water.

"She just fell!" Phyllis exclaimed.

"Mmmmm..." Hayley murmured.

"She just fell!" Phyllis repeated, with increasing urgency.

"Who?" Hayley asked.

"Mama," Phyllis replied.

Hayley made no answer. Her eyes were still closed. She almost looked like she was asleep. How could she sleep in a moment like this? How could she not be aware of what was going on? Didn't she care?

"She needs help," Phyllis hinted.

Hayley made no answer. Was she purposely ignoring the situation?

"It's getting dark," Phyllis said, a note of agony in her voice. "She's hurt. She's half in that stream. She'll die if she stays there all night."

"Mmmmm." Hayley murmured.

Phyllis felt a wave of hopelessness pass over her. "I guess she'll die then. Well, she won't feel anything after she's gone." A lump rose up in her throat. How she loved her mama! She couldn't just sit there looking on, doing nothing. She prodded Hayley.

"Won't you run down there and help mama?" she begged.

Hayley finally opened her eyes. Maybe now she would do something. But she looked at Phyllis with sad eyes and shook her head slowly. "I would if I could," she said.

"Well, I'm old. I can't run down there,"  Phyllis said. "But you're young. Why don't you just go down there and help her?"

Hayley looked Phyllis in the eye. "I really would if I could," she said. "But I can't."

Phyllis was extremely polite, and she always tried to think the best of people. But she had to work hard to conceal her contempt. Her heart sank for her mama, who still struggled feebly at the streambed. Who knwe how long it would be before someone else came along? By then it might be too late. How awful it was to be helpless to do anything about it. But Hayley could--if she only would. Phyllis tried again. She couldn't bear to lose her mama. How she loved her!

"You could just run down there and help her," she coaxed.

Hayley opened her eyes again. "Phyllis, your mama's fine," she said reassuringly. "She's in a safe place, and she's happy, and nothing is the matter with her."

This speech was incomprehensible to Phyllis. Her mama--"fine?" Hardly. "Safe and happy?" Not even close. But obviously Hayley wasn't going to be any help. Phyllis turned away, struggling to hold back tears. Hayley tried to comfort her, but to no avail.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Today I got up to the front of the chapel in our testimony time and said, "I'm so excited, I can't contain myself from telling you this: Today is the best day of my life, because it is the first day I am truly living by grace and wholly dependent on God."

Dependence on Jesus every moment--conscious dependence, looking to him for exactly what to do and say. This is a revolutionary way of life, one that I often wanted to try to accomplish in my own strength, but failed to do. But it's not me who does it (or does anything). It's HIM. And discovering how to live this way is literally blowing my mind.

One test, Mr. Ludy said, of whether you really have died to self or not, is if God asks you for some sacrifice and you are able to give it instantly without hesitation or putting up a fight.

Last night I was saying to the Lord, "God, this is so amazing, and this Christian life is so worth living, I will give up anything or make any sacrifice for you in order to move closer to you in it."

"Okay," He said. "How about 3 hours of prayer a day?"

You would think I would have gulped. I would have expected to half faint at the idea of doing something that drastic. But I instantly accepted. I got up at 3:10 this morning and prayed, and I haven't even felt tired today, which is HIGHLY unusual, because almost every day, I've taken a nap at lunch time because I was so tired, and today I didn't even get that, and I was completely alert and engaged.

He really does provide EVERYTHING you need in order to fulfill his commands. He gives you the spiritual resources and the physical resources.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012


We had a message on Grace this morning.

I don't know about you, but I have always been fuzzy on the meaning of grace. I have heard the pat definitions ("unmerited favor" etc.), but I have never been able to articulate what exactly GRACE is. What is this thing that is so important that Paul begins almost every epistle with "Grace and peace to you"? What does it DO for me, and how does it WORK, and why is it useful for my life?

Ohhhh, how we have forgotten what the apostles and the true believers have known all through the centuries!   Eric Ludy says this in his book, The Bravehearted Gospel,

"The gospel has been reduced to a message merely about forgiveness while the idea of regeneration and transformation seems almost totally forgotten. Grace has become simply a gigantic hug from God and is no longer the muscle of God brought to earth to aid the weakness of men and to give them strength. Faith has morphed into this bizarre idea of "honest doubt" and has lost its essence of rock-solid unwavering confidence in the ability of God to perform that which He promises. Holiness has transformed into moralistic tyranny for the soul and something to be avoided at all costs. Righteousness has been redefined to mean an unreachable standard of perfection. Purity has become nothing more than a legalistic attempt to stay away from things and thoughts that God knows we won't be able to abstain from anyway. Love has become unconditional acceptance and tolerance of sin."

And here at Ellerslie, we are being taught the triumphant majesty of these truths. They're all right there in the Bible--but yet, we have redefined them to the point where no one can actually live by them any more. I shudder to think of a quote from the youth pastor at a church we formerly attended: "It's possible to be a totally apathetic Christian. You can be saved and on your way to heaven, and yet never bear any fruit." No! We have forgotten what grace is!

I love how Eric put it. Grace is "the muscle of God brought to earth to aid the weakness of men and to give them strength."

God gives me His grace so that I can actually LIVE this impossible life! For the Christian life is literally impossible to live in our human strength. The commands of Christ are too high to ever be carried out. No one can do it--but HE CAN. And by faith, we can look to him and get the strength (grace) that makes it possible for us to obey these impossible commands. "Be holy as I am holy" is impossible on the level of walking on water, yet Christ lived out the perfectly holy life, and He lives in us, and in His strength, we can actually gain the victory over sin.

This is incredible! Every day I feel like saying "Whoaaaa" out loud in our sessions, or like going up to the front to do a couple of leaps for joy that all this stuff in the Bible says is actually... true. (Whaddya know about that?) So at the risk of looking ridiculous, I'll just do a couple of leaps here on my blog, because I'm literally this psyched.

I knew God was going to do great things in my life here at Ellerslie, but I didn't realize they were going to be THIS amazing.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Spiritual Athlete

This morning's message by Mr. Ludy was so amazing, it left me so inspired that I went up to my room and did a couple of little leaps. 

He was talking about fighting against sleep. Basically, he said it was possible to actually resist the claims of tiredness from your body in order to fulfill Jesus's commands. I have never heard anybody say this before--but when we look to Jesus in faith and surrender our bodies to Him, He calls the shots. He is now our master. So tiredness from our body is not something we have to listen to any more. 

I went up to my room after the session to pray and try this out. At lunch time I'm always craving a nap. I had about an hour, and I started praying all pumped up and excited about this. I wanted to really wrestle in prayer for the entire hour. But it didn't quite work out. 

I started praying and ran out of things I could think of in about 5 minutes. It was noon. "God, you're going to have to help me here, because by myself, I'm not going to be able to do this," I said. I had been pacing energetically back and forth in the room, but now an overwhelming desire came over me to just sit down on the floor. I sat on the floor and I got a whole stream of prayer requests that kept me busy for what I was sure must have been about 30 minutes. I looked at my watch. 12:10 pm. Only 10 minutes had passed. 

10 minutes! Oh no! How will I ever survive at this rate? I must make it until at least 12:30! I asked God for his help again but I think I dozed off sitting there on the floor. I woke up and it was 12:20. "I give up," I thought to myself. "I'm getting into my bed." So I climbed up to my bunk and slept until 1:05, when the alarm rang and I had to get up to go to the next session. 

I was so disappointed in myself. Sleep overcame me and I didn't even fight it. If I had, things might have been different. But as it was, it was the first defeat I had experienced since coming here. 

It's amazing how sleep is the area that, for me, is the absolute hardest thing to overcome. The flesh stakes its claim there and will not let go. It will be SUCH a testimony to God's power and the life-changing opportunity that is in Christ if I can truly overcome this monster.

But at least for the first time in my life, I'm told it's possible, by someone who likes sleep at least as much as I do, who had to fight HARD to conquer it, and who actually overcame. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Typical Day at Ellerslie

View of my dorm room. I'll be surprised if you can't guess which bed is mine.
The alarm goes off at 4:30 am. I jump out of bed immediately, which is a sign that I am getting more victory over the claims of sleep, because before, I would have buried my head in the pillow for 5 more minutes. I take a shower and get dressed.

The other side of our dorm room. My chair is in the middle.

Corporate Prayer begins at 5:30. The first few times, we had the most incredible, valuable instruction on prayer that I have ever heard, and that jump started our praying onto a whole new level right from the beginning. Now we just spend the whole time praying.

At 6:15, we are dismissed for personal Bible study and prayer.

The Everett Center, where breakfast is served. We also have internet access here during our free time.

Breakfast is at 7:15, and I always make myself a bowl of oatmeal with granola and a sliced banana. There are lots of other yummy goodies for breakfast, too, like bagels, coffee cake, and cereal. Sometimes we even get donuts.
The Chapel

At 8:15 we have to be in the chapel for Corporate Stillness. This just means being silent before the Lord, waiting on Him, and listening for His voice. We are allowed to pray, read, and journal during this time.

8:40 comes around and someone brings a 20-minute devotional message. All of the devos I have heard have been powerful, convicting, extremely well-prepared, and evidently the outcome of much prayer, because they fall on our hearts with power. A different person brings the devo every day; someone on staff or an intern.

At 9:00 we have Corporate Worship. This is a time of singing our praise to the Lord. Ben Zornes usually leads this on his guitar. He is the best guitar player I have ever seen. Every day he plays half an hour worth of music without any sheet music or chord sheets, or even a list of what songs he's doing. He remembers the order of the songs, all the chords, and all the stylistic variations that he uses for each one, and this allows the music to flow without interruption. He leads the music in a very God-honoring and blessed way. I have often fallen to my knees, unable to continue singing, due to the sheer majesty and glory of God that comes among us during these times. 

Eric and Leslie Ludy
9:32-ish marks the beginning of our first session. Mr. Ludy arrives and teaches it, and it lasts until about 11:30 or 12:00. 

The dining tent
At 11:30 (or whenever the session ends) we eat lunch. The ladies who cook for us always provide a great deal of quality food and tasty variety in the menu. It's yummy, wholesome, and doesn't taste like it came from a package. 

I usually have time to take a 20-minute nap after lunch, which I am very grateful for, because without it, I'm struggling not to fall asleep in the afternoon session. 

Roomies! Me, Oriana, and Moriah
At 1:15 we return to class and have another session that technically lasts until 3:15, but it usually goes over. Sometimes Ben Zornes teaches this session, and occasionally they split the girls and guys and Sandi McConnaughey (our dean of women) teaches.

Sandi and her daughter, Grace
Then we have free time from 3:15 to 5:30. We can make phone calls, get online, go off campus, go to the store, take a walk, or lavish our free time on Jesus!

The food line
At 5:30 we eat dinner. Yum yum yum! 

After dinner, we sometimes have assignments and sometimes have student activities. I usually go to bed by 9:00, tired and happy and blessed by the day.

The Ellerslie Campus