Thursday, May 29, 2014

How Moses Answered Oprah's Question

Photo credit: Huffington Post

The Hunger for Meaning

Recently the Huffington Post ran an article titled, “Searching for Meaning at the Top of Oprah Winfrey’s World.” According to the article, the Oprah Winfrey Network received low ratings when it began in 2011. But when the network added a segment called “Super Soul Sunday” which explores questions of “spirituality, happiness, awareness and fulfillment,” viewership skyrocketed. The segment is now the crowned jewel of OWN and Oprah’s favorite gig.

Explaining the reason for the show’s success, president of OWN Sheri Salata says, “There is a hunger for meaning. There is a hunger for something that speaks to you directly about yourself, and your life, and for illumination.” And it seems that the response to “Super Soul Sunday” is a reflection of this hunger.

It’s a Universal Question

I totally agree -- there is a hunger for meaning inherent in all of us. It’s that faint but persistent voice in the back of our minds that asks, “What’s my purpose? Is there more to my life than what I’m living?”

So what’s the answer? Where do we go to find our meaning?

The Answer: Turning Aside
 I wonder -- did Bible characters have the same gnawing questions about meaning and purpose that we do? If so, then those of Moses must have certainly been answered that momentous day he encountered God in the burning bush:
 “…the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush…Moses thought, ‘I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.’” (Ex. 3:2,3) 
 That phrase “turn aside” is an important one. Moses could have just kept on walking in order to maintain the comfortable status quo of his life. But he decided to break from routine and answer the Lord’s invitation to draw closer.
 When he did, God blew Moses’s socks off. The Lord spoke from the midst of the fire and said,
Moses, Moses!...I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God      of Jacob…I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt…So I have come down to rescue   them from the hand of the Egyptians…So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt. (Ex. 3:4, 6, 8, 10)
Just imagine -- Moses had been living the quiet existence of a shepherd for the last forty years. I’m sure a comfortable predictability had settled over his life. But now God was calling Moses to a different life, an adventurous life. A life where seas part and manna falls from heaven, where God speaks from burning mountaintops and water gushes from rocks. A life where Moses himself would be the leader of an entire race of people.
 And all because Moses chose to “turn aside” and respond to God’s invitation to draw close to Him.
In the same way, the Lord invites each of us to turn aside and draw near to the fire of His holy presence. As we do, He begins to unfold His adventurous plan for our lives. We may be surprised at the things He has in mind for us (writing a blog, for example!), but to be sure, they will answer the hunger for meaning that gnaws at our souls. He has created each one of us for a purpose, and He awaits the moment that we turn to Him and let Him unlock the treasures that lay dormant in our hearts.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The 500-year Pattern of Reformation and Why it Matters to Us

Last week I mentioned an event in church history called the Great Schism. I’ll tell you more about it in a second, but first I want to show you how it’s part of an important historical pattern that has great relevance to us today.

Every 500 years, something very interesting happens: the church goes through a reformation. By reformation, I mean it literally "re-forms" into something new. The gospel itself is left untouched, but everything else that is called “church” is turned upside down. The church experiences such a major shift that it redefines the way it relates to the world.

Let me give you a quick tour…

1517: The Protestant Reformation
Martin Luther
(photo credit:

Picture a man standing in front of the big wooden door of a university building, red-faced with holy indignation, nailing up a list of complaints against the Catholic Church. You guessed it – he’s Martin Luther. His 95 Theses was the catalyst for the most recent 500-year shift, the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s conviction that mankind is saved not by works but by grace through faith sent shockwaves throughout the Christian world. Today we call ourselves Methodist, or Presbyterian, or Baptist, all because of the Protestant Reformation.

(photo credit:

1054: The Great Schism
Go back five hundred years and we find another reformation. This is the one that happened at the Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul (back then the city was called Constantinople). Up to that point, there had been one unified church. But in 1054, due to cultural differences, theological disagreements, and some big egos, the church split, forming Roman Catholicism in the West and Eastern Orthodox in the East. As a result, Christianity started spreading East into Russia, evangelizing that part of the world for the first time.

500 (ish) A.D.: The Monastic Movement
Ruin of Early Irish Monastery
(Photo credit:

Go back 500 years more and you will find yet another reformation. This was the establishment of monasteries. Faithful monks like St. Patrick took the gospel all over Europe and established monasteries wherever they went. These monasteries soon became hubs of the Christian faith. In the first century, at the time of Christ and the early church, Christianity had been Roman – but after 500 years, it was reborn as European.

Ok, so here’s the interesting thing: if reformation happens every 500 years, then we are due for the next shift. The Protestant Reformation was almost EXACTLY 500 years ago!

So was Newsweek correct when in 2009 they proclaimed on their cover, “The End of Christian America?” Or could it be that God is up to something behind the scenes, preparing His people to turn the page of history and usher in the church of the next five hundred years?

If this is true, then it is cause for great hope and excitement. We may be on the cusp of a major move of God.

Will you join me in praying for the next reformation?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Postcard from Athens

I am writing this while lounging beside the beautiful turquoise water of the Aegean Sea in Greece, where Rob and I are wrapping up a week-long vacation to Istanbul and Athens. What a week! It has been full of breathtaking views, exotic cultures, and rich history.

Istanbul is a city of contrasts. Straddling the Bosphorus River with Europe on one side and Asia on the other, it is truly the crossroads of the world. In this land of East-meets-West, tourists from cruise ships walk the streets alongside women wearing burkas. Menus offer both fine French wine and strong Turkish coffee. The haunting sound of the Muslim call to prayer wafts down from a thousand minarets and mingles with "Call Me Maybe" playing on the taxi's radio.

Amazing Istanbul

I was especially excited to visit the Hagia Sofia church while in Istanbul. One of the most important churches in Christendom, the Hagia Sofia was the site of the reformation of 1054 (known as the Great Schism), which I write about in my book. It was so cool to see it in person after just reading about it  for so long!

Interior of the Hagia Sofia: over the centuries it has served as
both a church and mosque - here you can see a mural of the
Madonna and Christ child next to Arabic words of praise to Allah

But, the highlight of the trip - at least spiritually speaking - was definitely when we got to Athens and visited Mars Hill. Also known as the Areopagus, Mars Hill was the site of Acts 17, where Paul preached to the Athenians:

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. (Acts 17:22, 23 NIV)

Paul stood on this very site and proclaimed the gospel to the leading philosophers of the day. Acts 17 says that many "sneered" at him, but others believed and understood that the "Unknown God" they had been searching for was Jesus Christ. In fact, one of those who believed that day was Dionysos, who would go on to become the patron saint of Greece!

I'm standing on Mars Hill with the Acropolis behind me

Being here on Mars Hill made Scripture come alive, and know I will never read about Paul the same way. I can picture him, standing here on Mars Hill, preaching to the people of Athens. Acts 17 just went from black and white to technicolor.

Acts 17, Paul's sermon, in Greek!

We return home tomorrow, and I will be bringing experiences home with me in my heart that I know  will forever affect the way I read the Bible and see the world.

Friday, May 2, 2014

God's Ways Are Good to the Last Drop

 My morning coffee & everything
that goes into making it
Raise your hand…any big coffee drinkers out there? I am. One reason is that my husband makes really good coffee. Another reason is that I am not, repeat NOT, a morning person and I need my coffee to wake up. I can't help it - it's genetic. I come from a long line of non-morning, coffee drinking people. To give you an idea, legend has it that my dad wouldn’t eat Rice Krispies for breakfast when he was a young man because they made too much noise. Sadly, I can relate.

Suffice it to say, coffee is a very important part of my day. When I take that first sip, I usually make that “Ahhhhh” sound and think to myself, now this is GOOD.  

Interestingly, Author Max Lucado made an analogy likening that good cup of coffee to God’s work in our lives:
 “When you sip on a cup of coffee and say, ‘This is good,’ what are you saying? The plastic bag that contains the beans is good? The beans themselves are good? Hot water is good? A coffee filter is good? No, none of these. Good happens when the ingredients work together: the bag opened, the beans ground into powder, the water heated to the right temperature. It is the collective cooperation of the elements that creates good.”  (Read his whole article here.)
In the same way, Lucado says, God takes all the circumstances of life - the mundane and humdrum, even the negative and the bitter - and uses them as raw materials to create something good. In fact, God promises this very thing to us in the Bible:

“All things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

We would never call sickness “good.” Or joblessness. Or loneliness. But we can trust that in the midst of pain and difficulty, God is busy working behind the scenes, turning it all around for our benefit and His glory. It may not happen tomorrow, or next week, or even next year, but God PROMISES that when the process is complete, the result will be worth it. Maybe getting passed over for one job now is keeping the door open for the perfect job later on. Maybe a bad breakup today will result in finding Mr. Right tomorrow. Or maybe His work is more internal – maybe He’s developing inner strength, greater faith, or a powerful testimony. The possibilities are endless as to how God intends to forge our present difficulties into something wonderful.

How is God working in your life today to create something good?