Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Prayer: Love One Another

On Sunday, Mike shared that the Bible is a difficult book to understand, especially if we try to understand it alone. This is because the Bible is a living book, that is meant to be interpreted and read by a community of believers. We began to put this into practice at our Bible Study last night. We focused on what it means to really love God and love others. We discussed the following verse:

“Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40

In this verse, Jesus states that the most important command is to love God with all your heart soul and mind. The second greatest command is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” However, in John, Jesus stated, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

At our Bible study, we discussed the way that these two commands were the same. Each command instructs us that it is of the utmost importance to God that we love others. We discussed what it means to really love. We also discussed what is different about the verses. In Matthew, we are instructed to love others as we love ourselves, but in John we are instructed to love others as Jesus loved us.

A few things became clear to me in this study of these verses. First, God is the source and essence of love. (“God is love." I John 4:8). If we are to love as God loved us (with an unconditional love), we must know God and be filled with his love. Although many people that do not love God may be able to love others with an “earthly” love, we can only love others with an unconditional love if that love comes from God. Second, God knows our hearts and knows how much we love him and love others. However, the only way OTHERS will know how much we love God is through our actions in loving others. Thus, Jesus instructed us to love others to so that others would see that we love God by our actions.

The challenge this week is to think of one person that you can show God’s love.
Remember, you can also read the prayer email update at http://bethleann.blogspot.com/

Also, as an outreach, the Refinery will be collecting eyeglasses to donate to the Lion’s Club. Please bring your glasses to church and we will deliver them!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Laser Vision (LASIK)

As many of you know, I had LASIK yesterday. My surgery was at 2:15. I spend the majority of Friday morning wishing that the surgery had already passed. I tend to be very nervous and worry, but I simply tried not to think a lot about the risks. I had read extensively about the procedure and knew what I was getting into.

We showed up at WFUBMC at 2:15. The nurse gave me a "mild sedative". We were then taken back to the room where they would perform the surgery. I sat on the table and put my hair up in a net. I was not allowed to wear any makeup for the 2 days before surgery and the day of surgery. I also washed my face 2 times a day with antibacterial soap. No make up was tough!

I sat on the table and Mike held my hand. I laid down and I saw a machine with some flashing red and green lights above me. The doctor talked throughout the procedure. First, he put drops in to numb my eye. Then he put numbing medicine around my eyelids. He then taped my eyelid up so that my eye was taped open. He then took something to "mark" on my eye. I did not feel anything. He then put a device over my eye and told me I would feel some suction and that I should stare at the lights above me. The instrument was a microkeratome,a nd it was used to create thin, circular flap in my cornea. I felt some pressure, but no pain. My vision gradually went black. When he took the suction off, they put water in my eye. At that point, I could sort of see the red and green lights above me but they looked hazy, as if I was looking through vaseline. He told me that all was going well. The surgeon then folded the flap back (mike said it looked like a thin filmy substance) and he told me to stare at the lights. I stared into the laser and they had to pulse for about 30 seconds. He said the laser would track my pupil. I smelled a slight smell like burning hair. The laser stopped and he washed my eye. He then folded the flap back and smoothed it out. He did the procedure on the right eye first then the left.

The entire procedure took very little time. When I walked out, my vision was very blurry. I sat in the car with my eyes closed, and each time I opened my eyes, my vision had improved some. My vision was still hazy but for the first time since fourth grade I could read some road signs. When I got home, I went to bed. Mike woke me up at 8 pm to take my medicine and for the first time ever I could see the alarm clock! I was so excited.

Saturday I went back in for a check up. I found out my vision was 10/25 and it may continue to get better. Before the surgery, I could not see the eye chart - I could only see a white blob on the wall. My eyes are still a little dry, but so far so good!

Thursday, February 22, 2007


The season of Lent is upon us. We had a beautiful Ash Wednesday Service last night. Mike shared this scripture:

Ephesians 4:28 (New International Version): He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

I loved Mike’s take on the season of Lent. According to the verse and Mike’s challenge, it is not enough to simply give something up. If you give something up, it leaves an empty space. Thus, we were challenged to fill the space that is left by what we give up by taking on something positive. We each wrote down what we are giving up and what we are taking on.

I have decided to give up sweets, sodas, sweet tea, etc. I chose this not only because this will be a true sacrifice, but also because like many people, I tend to turn to sweets and crave sweets when I am stressed and to help me with an emotional need. I have decided to take on encouraging acts for others. When I crave sweets, I plan to focus on something outside of myself – I plan to write an email to encourage a friend, send a note to someone that is lonely, or do something nice to brighten someone’s day. I hope that by taking the focus off of myself, I will be able to be more Christ like.

On another note, I have been working out regularly at the gym. I get up at 5:30 am 4 mornings a week to work out for an hour. I lift weights 2 days a week and do aerobic activity 4 days a week. When I have time I still do Yoga. I have not lost weight, instead I have gained. However, I can tell that I have toned up and my cloths fit better. If nothing else, I am much less stressed and at least I feel healthier!

I am having laser vision surgery tomorrow. I am nervous, but at the same time I am so excited. I have worn glasses since fourth grade. My vision is so bad that I cannot see anything on the eye chart – I only see a white blob. I also have astigmatism. For about the past year I have not been able to wear contacts. I am excited about the freedom that I will have from glasses.

Monday, February 19, 2007


This week, I read a challenging article from Christianity Today. The article was about caring enough to confront those that we love. Basically, the article focused on the fact that as Christians, it is much easier to be cheerleaders than correction officers. However, the article stressed that, “if we truly love people, we want what’s best for them – and sometimes that best requires confrontation and discipline.” (Caring Enough to Confront, www.christiantiytoday.com).

Matthew 18:15-17 states:

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

The Bible is clear that when another believer is in a pattern of sinful behavior, we as believers, are to lovingly confront the believer in private. I want to emphasize that this does not mean that we need to be the sin police and point out every single sin that we observe in our fellow believers. However, when we witness a fellow believer in a pattern of sin, it is our obligation to hold them accountable.

This is a very difficult thing to do. For this reason, we should consider the following. First, are we motivated by the right reasons? We should only confront another believer that we feel is in a pattern of sinful behavior if we are doing it out of love for the believer (we should not do it out because we are hurt, or angry, or because we want to make ourselves feel better). Second, we need to pray! We need to ask God for guidance and wisdom. Third, we need to look to the Bible. (see Timothy 3:16-17 – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness …”). As the article states, “Christians have different opinions on matters ranging from drinking to managing money; it’s not our place to impose our viewpoints on others. When it comes to scriptural principles, however, we have grounds for confrontation.” (Caring Enough to Confront, www.christiantiytoday.com)

As I shared this Sunday, one of the most important gifts that we can give believers and unbelievers alike is a glimpse of unconditional love. Unconditional love, however, does not mean that we turn our head to every bad and self destructive behavior. Sometimes unconditional love means loving someone enough to risk making them angry in order to point out God’s truth for their lives.

Remember, you can also read the prayer email update at http://bethleann.blogspot.com/

Also, as an outreach, the Refinery will be collecting eyeglasses to donate to the Lion’s Club. Please bring your glasses to church and we will deliver them!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Prayer Week 5: Practicing the Presence of God

When Mike approached me about leading the prayer ministry, I felt very ill equipped. Of course I pray, but I also knew that I was not the prayer warrior that I envision the leader of a prayer ministry to be. In fact, I sometimes struggle with prayer. I struggle because I don’t always know what to say, or how to ask for what I need. I also struggle because sometimes when I sit down to pray, I get distracted and lose track of my prayers. Another struggle that I sometimes have is what I should pray for – for example, I struggle with the will of God – can my prayers and requests really change the will of God? Do my prayers matter? Is God listening?

During Christmas of 2003, one of my dearest friends gave me a book, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. I read the book a few years ago, but when I saw the book on my shelf again, I felt drawn to it. When I read this book now, it is as if it was written just for me. The book is a collection of letters and interviews with Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence served his brothers by working in a kitchen – a task to which he naturally had a great aversion (maybe this is why the book speaks to me – I also hate the kitchen!) However, Brother Lawrence is not at all like me. Despite working in the kitchen, which he naturally did not like, Brother Lawrence accustomed himself “to do everything [in the kitchen] for the love of God, and with prayer, upon all occasions.” (page 20). I quickly learned that Brother Lawrence viewed even the most menial task as a way to praise God and worship him. In an interview, he stated that we should give ourselves up to God, and “seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of his will, whether He lead us by suffering or by consolation, for all would be equal to a soul truly resigned.” (page 16)

When asked how he found himself in constant communion with God, he responded that he tried to do all “for the love of God, seeking Him only, and nothing else, not even His gifts.” (page 17). He stated, “we ought to act with God in the greatest simplicity, speaking to Him frankly and plainly, and imploring His assistance in our affairs, just as they happen.” (page 19). Brother Lawrence stated that finding himself in the constant presence of God was not easy at first, but he accomplished this by having “no other care at first but faithfully to reject every other thought, that he might perform all his actions for the love of God.”

Needless to say, these passages have challenged me. This book has clearly pointed out the reasons I have problems with prayer. First, I make prayer too complicated. I worry about the proper way to ask for things, and I am concerned with praying the “churchy” way. However, as Brother Lawrence stated, we should simply “act with God in the greatest simplicity, speaking to Him frankly and plainly.” Prayer is not complicated. It is simply a conversation with God.

I was most challenged by the motives behind Brother Lawrence’s prayers. I often ponder whether I can change the will of God with my prayers. However, this is a moot point. Prayer for Brother Lawrence was not about changing his circumstances. Prayer was also not about seeking his gifts. How many of us can say that? The majority of my prayers tend to be asking God to change this situation or that situation in my life. I also spend a lot of time asking God for his gifts.

However, Brother Lawrence’s prayers do not focus on his outward circumstances at all. When Brother Lawrence prayed, he prayed to be closer to God, he prayed to “perform all his actions for the love of God.” This is a hard pill to swallow. Most of us would rather beg God to change our lives and fix our circumstances. Then we become discouraged, angry and bitter when God does not “answer” our prayers. However, the point of prayer is to draw us closer to God – closer to a complete and constant communion with God. Through prayer, our relationship with God should develop to the point that our prayers are simply prayers for God’s will – because our will will become God’s will.

This is hard – I know it is hard for me because I am selfish. It is scary and hard to ask to be more like God, and it is terrifying to seek only to live life for the love of God. However, in the book, it is clear that Brother Lawrence was at peace and content in the presence of God.

If we truly seek peace, and if we want our prayers to be answered, we have to start by having frank and honest discussions with God. Most importantly, we have to begin to take the focus off of our external circumstances, and we have to begin to pray for our inner souls. We have to seek to live a life by which we perform all of our actions for the love of God.

The challenge this week is to pray to do everything in our lives (even the tasks that we hate) for the love of God, and with prayer, upon all occasions.

Remember, you can also read the prayer email update at http://bethleann.blogspot.com/

Also, as an outreach, the Refinery will be collecting eyeglasses to donate to the Lion’s Club. Please bring your glasses to church and we will deliver them!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Prayer Week 4: Church

Dave shared his story with us this week. Dave made 2 statements that stood out to me. First, he stated that salvation did not take his pain away, but it gave him a foundation and someone to turn to other than himself. I think this statement is so profound because people often think that salvation will solve all of their problems. While salvation does not mean that you have an easy life with no burdens, salvation does give you a foundation to build your life upon, and it gives you a Savior to turn to no matter what the circumstances.

Dave also stressed the importance of having a Christian mentor to help him after he was saved. I think that the church is often so busy trying to make sure that people “get saved” that they often forget that salvation and a walk with Christ is a journey, not a destination. I point these statements out to you so that you can remember that while evangelism is important, discipleship is also crucial.

Dave’s talk also tied in well with the message which was about the role the church is to play in “fishing”. In the message, the point was made that often church tends to be a barrier to fishing instead of acting as a partner.

One of the main points of the message was that the church needs to work to create an environment so that it can be in a partnership with believers that are attempting to be “fishers of men”. Matthew 18:19-20 states:

Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.

According to this scripture, when we gather together as a group of believers, and we are truly together to further God’s plan, not our own agenda, God will be present. As the message stated, churches should be a place that lives out the “come and see principle”. Basically, our church should be so irresistible, that if we just ask someone to come, they will be drawn to our church because they will know that God is in our church.
We each need to prayerfully consider the following:

1. Is our church a place that is so irresistible that people are drawn to it because they feel the presence of God when they are there?
2. If our church is not, what can you do to make our church that irresistible place? Do you need to set aside your own agenda and come to church committed to God’s greater purpose? Do you have a spiritual gift that you are not using that could further a ministry? Do you know of a person that needs a spiritual mentor that you can help?

This week, ask God to show you how you can make our church an irresistible place.
Remember, you can also read the prayer email update at http://bethleann.blogspot.com/

Also, as an outreach, the Refinery will be collecting eye glasses to donate to the Lion’s Club. Please bring your glasses to church and we will deliver them