Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dispensational, Party of One!

I don't love using big words. I enjoy taking concepts and words and trying to bring them down to the normal people world because well, I'm a normal person. Big words in the Christian world are almost as scary to me as big science words (and we'll talk one day about how many times I took Bio 101 in college). Propitiation, imputation, justification, sanctification, dispensation - all of these words are big and have bigger meanings. But we need to know them and to understand them if we are going to be growing Christians. Our Christian faith must be built on a foundation of Christ and the work he did for us on the cross. We can never sway from that. We can never tire of that. But in order to grow we need to know what big words mean and how they affect us.

This growing is not sexy. I don't use that word flippantly. It's not easy or pretty. It doesn't seem to get us anywhere in this feel good world we live in. It's like the vocabulary section of English class. We all hated it but it enhanced our knowledge of what we were learning, reading, and experiencing. My generations (I'm stuck in the middle of GenXers and Millennials) are not known for knowing meat in Scripture. If we grew up in church we've been somewhat tainted by either our loose Pentecostal ways or our strict fundamental ways. We want something balanced yet our balance looks lopsided if we truly step back and take a look-see.

My generations want to drink wine but have a hard time distinguishing where the drunk line is. We want to have deep spiritual conversations but we don't know the difference between covenant and dispensational theology. We want to better the world but can't find the balance of helping people physically and helping people spiritually. What we want is to make a difference. And for most of us, all we really know is that it doesn't look like what some of generations before us tried to accomplish.

Working away from Christian nonprofit for a time has its advantages. Instead of choosing a side of the evangelical line or square or pocket, you can kind of slide around and get people's perspective. You aren't standing there with a spotlight that says, "I am old-school! A Dispensationalist!" But now that I'm back and I work at a place with the word "Israel" in the title, I have to speak out. I have to draw my line in the sand. I have to ask myself, "Is this what I truly believe?" Because well, if it's not then I need reexamine my job situation. So I have. I did. And I came back believing and standing behind a faint line that was in the sand from the time before I left.

A Dispensatioinalist. When I was in Bible school in Upstate NY in the early 2000s, we had an entire class dedicated to this word. I was very confused. When I typed the word "Dispensationalism" in Microsoft Word, it came up with a red misspelled line underneath. What was this course that Word didn't even recognize as a bona fide word? So I did what any pastor's kid would do, I called my dad. I asked him what this word meant. How I've gone 23 years without ever remembering it being spoken. Should I be skeptical? We talked for a bit on what it meant and I came to the conclusion I was a dispenationalist, even if I didn't realize it. So what on earth is this word? What does it mean? And why in the world would a Bible college think it was important enough to have an entire course on it?

Renald Showers defines Dispensational Theology as, "a system of theology which attempts to develop the Bible's philosophy of history on the basis of the sovereign rule of God. It represents the whole of Scripture and history as being covered by several dispensations of God's rule." In normal people talk it basically means that when you take a look at the big picture in Biblical history through today, there have been different patterns in how God dealt with his people and accomplished his will. Okay. That is easy enough. I'm not reading on CNN this week how a group of people are destroying city's because God is commanding them to walk around a city wall and make some crazy noise and everything inside those city walls die. But he commanded that from his people at a point in time.

Today, dispensationalist aren't cool. They aren't hip. I'll talk more on that another time. But for now, after being away for so long, I am seeing the importance of living with the knowledge of big words and their meaning. For it gives me a deeper understanding of God. It allows me to dive deep into the deep end of Scripture and not shy away. For God's greatness is in the deep end. And he is a good God; He won't allow us to drown.

And even if I feel like I'm the only one that showed up to the reformed table as a dispensationalist, I'll yell out loudly, "Dispensational, party of one!" And I won't fight with others about it. I'll show my view and not hold to terms or symantics. I'll only hold to the cross and the rest, well it's just secondary. But that secondary things help make the cross that much sweeter. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Love and War

I've never actually been to war. I played one game of paintball in college and found a corner to hide until the game was over. Nobody would want me in a battle with them, trust me. But life can sometimes feel like war. As Christians God tells us put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6). Paul talks about us being in battle often. And there are two times in my life that I feel like I have been through something so intense and life changing that I will never be the same, like war.

One was when I went to Bible school in Upstate New York.  It was cleverly coined the "West Point" of Christians schools. It was two years of intense learning of the Bible. We had hard rules we had to follow. We had hard places we had to live out what we learned. It was intense and I'm really having a hard time putting into words what it was like. It's just that, you had to be there to know. And I can meet people who went to the school and we can start telling our stories and we just know what we're talking about. We know the life and what it did to us. We didn't even have to be there at the same time. We will never be the same and we come out of the one or two years we were there and we laugh and say, "How did we get through that? Were we really that crazy?"

The second time is now. Living up here in the city. Living this intense urban life. No one really understands it outside of those here or who have been here. Again trying to put it into words what our life is like right now is almost impossible. You just have to know.  You have to experience it. And having a community in the city is priceless. People that have come from all over the world to make it and experience the same things you are. People who have been changed by God and seek to love others. We get together every week like family and bond quickly because we are all we have here. Light in darkness. Yet we love those in the darkness. We want to love them to Life. It really doesn't matter how long people have been here. We all get it.

And a transient atmosphere comes with the territory. God equips, teaches, changes and then moves many people on. We've come to expect it. But it's still hard. It still hurts. It still sucks. Today we said "see ya later" to the Love family. They are moving back to Alabama and we know this is what God wants. We are excited to see what happens. We're excited to see God use them in major ways down south. But I have to remember that they need prayer. They are transitioning back into suburban life but they aren't the same people. They have experienced and have seen such a huge God in a Godless place. And to explain it to someone who doesn't know, is hard. So we will pray as we miss them. We will pray as we all get used to the new normal. We will pray as our hearts heal.

And as we sit around one day telling our war stories, we'll talk about the time that we lived a life eating dinner at 9:30PM and working 12 hour days like it was nothing. We'll tell stories about how God saved the unsaveable.  How he changed the unchangeable. How he used the unusable.  And how we got to be a part of it.  We will laugh and talk about how we can't believe we lived through it. And we'll say to each other "How did we get through that? Were we really that crazy?"

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Art of Being Good

I love rules. There is something inside of this second child that, although I like being a free spirit and have a strong will, I do enjoy a good set of rules. In school when the teacher would give us rubrics for a class, I loved reading it over and checking my work against it. If the teacher gave me points off, I expected it to be because I did something contrary to the rubrics. And because of all of this, I have decided that I would have made an amazing Israelite. I obviously could never have been a Pharisee or other form of leader, being that I'm a girl and all but I could've raised one or been married to one. I would have rocked as an Israelite.

I'm reading 1 and 2 Samuel again. I am so drawn to those books. Something about Israel not being satisfied with God being their King and wanting to be like other nations and have a physical king and God actually giving them what they desired, all to show them that it wasn't what they needed. Something about God choosing Saul, a handsome nobody to rule over Israel, again giving them what they thought they wanted. Saul tried to be a good king but the pressure of people and the love they had for David was so consuming it killed him. Something about David being this little ruddy boy that was such a powerful lover of and warrior for God. That he desired to please God and not men, enough to kill the man that helped Saul die. Enough to kill the men that killed Saul's son, although they thought they were doing good by protecting their king.

But I'm getting close to those words in chapter 11, "In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle..." That little sign that David wasn't where he was supposed to be. He should have been out killing people. He should have been out doing what he was made to do but instead, he stayed back. And we know what happens. The looking, the taking of what isn't his, covering his sin by murder, a baby taken as a consequence and then blindness to what he had done. We know how Nathan confronted him and God allowed the gravity of his sin, not to Bathsheba, not to his wives, not to Uriah, not to Israel but to God to be seen and felt. "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight," Ps. 51:4.

David was so good. He was a good Israelite. He believed God and followed him. You see it over and over again in 1 and 2 Samuel. He goes up against the giant as a young kid. You see him spare Saul's life twice. Yet, he is also capable of murder. Of adultery. Perhaps even of rape.

In our society people believe they are born good but then through society or circumstances or family they are made evil. This is why we are shocked by bombings and school shootings. How could someone do this? Who influenced them to do these terrible things? It's in our churches too. We forget Romans. We forget that Paul said that "just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sin." Romans 5:12. We forget he said, "No one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God." Romans 3:10-11.

It's easy to see the evil in the mean people. It's harder to see it in the good. Especially when it's you. I had a friend who is suffering because of something someone else did. She had nothing to do with it yet she is living the consequences. In her anger she yelled, "I did everything the right way!" "I didn't do this to me they did this to me." In her hot tears she quenched her fist and cried. Why would God allow this to happen to her? Why would God seem to punish her for doing right? She is a great rule follower. Yet, she is suffering. And as I was discussing this with my Maker, who is oh so sweet, He reminded me of something.

We all have sinned. We are all evil. We are all not worthy of any good. As much rule following as I have done. As much as she has done, we fall short. I was reminded of a time in youth group when our youth minister asked what we would say to God if he asked us why he should let us into heaven. And I remember thinking, because I don't drink or cuss or have sex with anyone. I'm a good servant for Jesus. I was serious. I was a great rule follower. But then our youth minister said, "If your answer was anything other than 'Because of what Jesus did for me' then you're living for the wrong thing." And I scoffed at him. I scoffed just like a good Pharisee would. Yes, Jesus dying was a great thing but I also did great things. And there in my depraved, dead heart I did not understand. I did not seek God. I was not righteous.

And how thankful I am that less than ten years later, I was pursued by One who chose to open my eyes. I was bought with a price that I could never repay and placed blameless before my Maker. To be able to have a relationship with Him. And read books like 1 and 2 Samuel and be in utter amazement of His patience and His goodness and His complete self-control to not zap His chosen people because of their stupidity. And then to be reminded that I deserve the same, no matter how good I am at following rules. No matter how much satisfaction I have in being "good"; Jesus is the only thing that makes me good.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Much of my difficulty in this transition has been shocking. There has been so much that has taken me by surprise. I have analyzed why this might be. Last week I went down to South Jersey for a retirement party of a former coworker and many people were saying that I was living their dream. I laughed because I AM LIVING MY DREAM! Yet, the reality of this dream is not as pretty as it was in my mind. I walked into this move thinking it was going to be fun. But that's not reality. We are doing what God wanted us to do. Why did I think it was going to be easy and pretty and dreamy?  For too long I've walked my Christian life scared of doing ALL God wanted. I've said, "Yes Lord! Yes! Send me! (Except could you make it easy and oh, please be gentle and oh, I'd like to take some things with me and oh, let's not be all weird cause then we'll be 'those people' - K? Thanks.)"  

But for only the second time in my life I've been willing to let go of it all. Everything. Honestly, I suppose God has been very merciful because He has done most of it for me. Stripping us of everything and everyone.  And as I have come to this place, our pastor tells about us about 40 days prayer our church is going to do together.  He preached on Joel 2:12-32. Verse 12 and 13 say, "'Yet even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.' Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster."

I've been thinking a lot lately about when I first became a Christian. In April of 1999, I became a child of God. I really didn't know what I was getting myself into.  I just knew I did not have a relationship with God and I wanted one. I knew that in order for that to be possible, Jesus died for me and I could do nothing on my own but accept that sweet, sweet gift.  I was the whore wiping Jesus' feet with my tears. But now, I feel like I've morphed into the Pharisee trying to gain God's approval with my awesomeness.  It's not something I set out to do, but walking through life trying to make everything easy, it just happens. It's a side effect of an easy life. 

I am excited about our 40 days of returning. He's brought us to that point through these hard months.  I'm expecting great things. And I'm not hoping it will be easy, for the first time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Just Breathe

Okay, I'm doing it.  I'm sitting down in silence and I'm writing. This is a big deal for me. I'm walking through something that I've never experienced in my life. A change so huge and uncalled for in my humble "I know better than God" opinion. So buckle up. I have no idea what's gonna come out.

We've moved.  We're settled in.  Many things have happened. Many changes.  Sandy and her Superstorm came to visit and so did my parents. (But not at the same time.) We have left our life in South Jersey and here we are - looking at NYC from our apartment.  It's what I've always said I wanted. Waking up to the view. Going to sleep to the twinkling lights of Midtown Manhattan.  Isn't this every city girl's dream? 

Yet, here I am in my paint stained yoga pants, tank top and hoodie. My hair hasn't been colored since well, the week of my birthday (that's August people. AUGUST).  I haven't left our apartment complex since Sunday morning and I'm not planning on leaving again until next Sunday unless something comes up.  There are good moments in all of this. Like my reading today to in 1 John 3.  That God loves his children SO MUCH he doesn't let them continue in sin. Oh how he loves us. Although I'm terribly ashamed to admit that I have doubted this in the last few months. Me.  This strong Bible educated woman of God, has doubted the love of her God. It's quite embarrassing to admit. I've honestly never questioned the foundational attributes of my maker in the fourteen years that I've been his child.  Not when Martin almost died. Not when Martin was recovering slowly. Not when we were in dark places financially.  Not when babies didn't come. And I have no idea why he's allowed this to be the time that I doubt. I have not gone boldly before the thrown lately. It's been more a slow shuffle. Like a child when they are being forced to apologize to someone.  There's feeling of embarrassment and shame. And this is contrary to the Gospel. Jesus bore this shame for me. Yet I like to take it back and wear it. Like picking old clothes out of the garbage when I have a new wardrobe ready and available to me.

Yet, I've really been worshiping the God of circumstance. This God is very fickle but I could visibly see him.  He gave me a job at a place that I loved.  It had its flaws but things were looking up and changing. This God also gave me a great house that was full of things. We were stuck in the house financially but hey, if you have to be stuck, it might as well have been there. He gave us a church in our neighborhood that we adored.  The God of circumstances also gave my husband a job that paid well. Nothing was perfect but in those circumstances, we were doing okay. We were slowly pursuing the adoption of a sibling group from Africa. We wanted that house full. And we bowed to the God of circumstance and said thank you for all you've given us. It isn't perfect but it's a full life.

Then God, the real God - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph. The God who loved me so much he called me into his family because he wanted to - not by anything I did, decided to take me away from my idols. And they were good things.  Good but not him.  And he moved us away from all of that.  No more job. No more money. No more friends. No more car. No more babies coming from Africa. How could a good God DO THIS TO ME? Doesn't he love me?  Doesn't he care?  Doesn't he. . .

And as he is stripping me of the garbage clothes I'm wearing, the layers I've built up, the safety around me - he has whispered to me that he does love me (strips me of our home).  He does care (takes me from my good job doing good things). He wants what's best for me (stops our adoption). He simply wants me to follow him (moves me away from my community and friends).  And all that is left is an exposed soul. But what he sees  - it is beautiful. And perfect. And good. But not because I am those things. But because Jesus is and I'm his child and he has accepted me.

So in this hurting time, I am trying to be thankful and I'm trying to worship the one true God, not the god of circumstance. For that god is fraud. He is a fake. He is full of good things but empty inside.

Instead I need to get to know again and more deeply:

El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
El Elyon (The Most High God)
Adonai (Lord, Master)
Yahweh (Lord Jehovah)
Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)
Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)
Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)
El Olam (The Everlasting God)
Elohim (God)
Qanna (Jealous)
Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)
Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)
Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Moving? Moving.

So, it looks like we're moving. Martin's job is transferring us way up north. Up north to North Jersey. That's right, Newark, NJ. Two hours from our sweet little home here in South Jersey. For those of you who don't know, New Jersey has two very different states. South Jersey is quieter, prettier, more rural and awesome. North Jersey is loud, crowded, more expensive and awesome. Did you catch that? I think they're both awesome. I really do. I have come to love this state and it's stinky "Armpit of America" nickname.

When Martin took this job, we knew we would have to transfer if he wanted to move up in the company. We simply didn't realize our first transfer would be only 2 hours away. We have both gone through MANY emotions during this decision. We have prayed and sought much wisdom. I sure wish our choices were black and white, but they rarely are. If he doesn't take the job then he doesn't have a job. If he takes the job then we have to move. We went from deciding to sell our house and losing a TON of money on it to deciding to rent it out and rent up there. We are completely open to other options, whatever they may be, but as of now we have decided that we need to move forward in the way it seems God is moving us.

I have been clinging to several verses. I literally say them over and over in my mind and verbally every day. The first is Proverbs 16:9, "The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." The second verse is James 1:5-6 "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting , for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." I don't want to doubt that God is giving us wisdom when we ask him. But it is SO hard when you are getting opinions from everyone around you. I am thankful for those opinions but I have to remember that they are just that, opinions.

I wrote a few weeks ago (months? not sure) about missional living. I truly believe that is what God desires of us and in a way, I see how moving out of our comfortable life will force us to live this way. Now, I'd personally like for him to force us to live missionally by allowing us to stay where we are but I don't always get what I want (gasp). Our pastor preached on Sunday a very disturbing message. I did not like it at all. I mean, AT ALL. It was so stinkin' convicting I could hardly stand up. He was talking about how we in America support and pray for our overseas missionaries and we don't even make relationships and share life and the Gospel with our neighbors. THIS is what God has been working with me and Martin on for years. But Tedd went further (meanie) to say, "WHAT A SHAM!" What a sham that we pray for OTHERS to tell people about our God but we don't do it ourselves. That is what kicked me in the gut.

We're hoping to move into a furnished apartment overlooking NYC. We figured we'd might as well go big or go home. I will look for a job close to the apartment or in NYC. Martin will commute to Newark. If we do this, we'll go down to one car (talk about simplifying our lives). We will need to rent out our house. We're praying (PLEASE pray with us) that God would direct the renters he wants, to us.

So you might be wondering, What about adoption? Because I'm wondering the same thing. Honestly, we don't know. Our homestudy is pretty much finished. (Thank you LORD!) But Ethiopia has slowed down dramatically. So much so, that Martin and I had planned to go through all the countries again and take them before God and see if he leads us to another country. I've explained before that we didn't pick Ethiopia for huge spiritual reasons. We simply knew we wanted to adopt overseas. We knew there was a great need in the country. We only wanted to do paperwork once so we chose to do a sibling group. And honestly the country was a bit cheaper and faster than other countries (which isn't the case at this point).

We ask that you pray with us in this process. We want to first glorify God in all we do. With all that is put before us we want to pray and take out much of the emotions. We know that if we are pursuing God through praying, his Word and seeking wisdom we are doing his will. The rest is simply details. And who knows, something could change and we could stay here. And I'm going to be completely okay with that.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wedding Weekend!

The wedding weekend is over! Friday we headed down to Martin's parents house for a brunch with the Fern side of the family that was in from North Carolina and Ohio. It was nice to catch up with them. We then headed out to Ocean City. The rehearsal was pretty uneventful. Thankfully, everyone was on time and it only took about an hour to go over everything. I was a bit nervous at first because it looked like this for about 15 minutes:

Afterwards we headed to the boardwalk in Ocean City and had dinner at Brown's Restaurant. All of the out of town family was there and we were able to relax and enjoy everyone. We had a great ocean view at our hotel (right?)

After the rehearsal Martin and I had some fun taking pictures on the deck.

(I sure do love him)

Saturday morning we got up and walked the boards (that's shore talk right there folks). We stopped at our favorite coffee shop (okay, the only coffee shop on the boardwalk).

We slowly got ready in our room for the wedding. Before the wedding I ran some errands and Martin headed over to the best man's house to get ready for pictures. Missy and Tim decided to see each other before the wedding ceremony. Martin and I did the same thing. They had a fun "reveal" so that it would still be special and got most of the pictures out of the way. I personally love this approach. It's totally nontraditional but there is more time to enjoy each other during the crazy day. Yes, you miss the reveal as the bride is walking down the isle but there are special parts to both.

The wedding ceremony was simple and perfect. The dinner was yummy and relaxing. The night was just about perfect.

Here is Tim watching Missy walk down the isle. I love this picture because Maureen, Missy's twin sister is the one crying. One is gaining and one is losing. Makes me cry every time I look at it.

The happy couple after being announced as Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Fern.

Tim and Martin. Love this.

Oh, who's that good looking couple? Why us of course!