31 Days: Niche Convictions

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I have an obsession with grace.

I sin all the time, but God still forgives me. Everyday. Because grace. I don’t understand everything about God. But that’s ok. Because grace. I have a bad attitude. I believe some wrong things. I act when I should not. But grace. And the list goes on and on.

Grace is what I always come back to and want to share with others. And, because of the grace I so urgently want to show and receive, I lean towards peacemaking. I believe that, because grace extends to cover our beliefs, we can extend grace to our fellow believers beliefs. Grace and finding the middle ground are simply where I see God’s glory most in this world. It’s my niche.

I think each of us has a niche conviction that God has indelibly marked into our soul for a purpose. So we yell it out to the world, like, “isn’t this amazing?” because it also becomes so important and life-changing for us.

And it is amazing.

But I think sometimes in our enthusiasm we forget that someone else might be irrevocably impacted by some other characteristic of Himself. And though that person’s conviction might fly in the face of yours, God might be using that just as he uses yours.

Often it is hard for me to extend grace to someone who (in my eyes) is being legalistic (and therefore ignoring the gray areas in life I value so highly as a grace-lover and a peacemaker). But then I think about how, as the body of Christ, we are meant to work together in our differences not in our identicalness. God might be leading us through each other. So I am forced to wonder if their legalism might actually just be a balance for my grace obsession. And maybe I’m supposed to set my initial response aside and remind myself of the importance of the other person’s niche. Because “Do we keep on sinning so that grace may abound all the more? By no means!” comes ringing in my head as soon as grace gets out too much the focus.

Discord among Christians is running rampant (and loud) these days. I think we too quickly forget that even in all our differences (and conflicting doctrine, even) we represent one God and we are each a piece of one body. One church. We are not a body of eyes, or ears, or hands.

Our differences are good and God-ordained. Because who can know exactly the right balance for perfect beliefs about God, the church, the world, everyday issues, and everything? Conflicts of opinion in the church might draw us closer to His purpose, point out our own naivety as Christians, and center us on His infiniteness instead of our own small store of knowledge. Might a well-timed nudge from a fellow christian throw our lives – and our theology – into a more productive spin? Alone we might be out of balance but together we have the ability to present a bigger picture of who God is. Because, in spite of us attacking each other and drawing lines when the only lines should be the Cross, God is using our differences to refine our faith.

Each day this month I’m going to choose a person or a group (from history or the present) with a niche conviction and briefly share about them, their niche, and how that might tell a story of a God bigger than our opinions. My definition of what I’ll be doing is loose, as you can tell, but the impetus behind it is the conviction that God is bigger than we think. Looking at the faith of others is a way to find out how small we may have made him out to be and how big he actually is. Our sounding board is the Bible, but beyond that how can we know?

This month is just the beginning of an exploration of an infinite God.

Welcome.
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I’ll post the links to subsequent days here as they are written.

Day 1: is this post!
Day 2: Martin Luther
Day 3: Sor Juana Inès de la Cruz
Day 4: Brother Lawrence
Day 5: Mother Teresa
Day 6: Jonathan Edwards
Day 7: Revangelical, Lance Ford, a book review
Day 8: Elisabeth Elliot
Day 9: Christine Caine
Day 10: Church and Liturgy
Day 11: Eric Liddell and John Piper
Day 12: Larry Osborne and Pharisees
Day 13: Sarah Young: Jesus Calling
Day 14: Rick Warren
Day 15: Watchman Nee
Day 16: Mark Driscoll
Day 17: Phillis Wheatley
Day 18: Larry Crabb on Community
Day 19: Martin Luther King Jr.
Day 20: Mark Driscoll Revisited. Because grace.
Day 21: William Cameron Townsend
Day 22: Colliding with Destiny, Sarah Jakes, book review
Day 23:
Day 24:
Day 25:
Day 26:
Day 27:
Day 28:
Day 29:
Day 30:
Day 31:

I am trying to make my list fairly diverse. I’d love to entertain suggestions, if you have someone in mind.

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Also a disclaimer: At this point in my life, I am not a theologian or a historian. So my ideas are more than open for discussion. Though I will do my best to research as well as possible within the scope of the project.

I am excited.

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What’s your niche?

Are you interested in this idea?
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If you’re new here, I’m also on Facebook and Twitter if you want to follow with me there. :)

Thanks for reading. I hope you find these ideas inspiring and challenging!

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P.S — I promise this is the longest post in the series. I’m aiming for brief the rest of the month! :)

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(( Find the rest of the 31 Dayers here: http://write31days.com ))

Joel Osteen {25/31 Niches}

“God wants you to ask Him for big things.”

- Joel Osteen, It’s Your Time

For this assignment I read the first third and skimmed the last third of Joel Osteen’s book: It’s Your Time. (Yes, I skipped the middle, you caught me!)

The quote at the top is my favorite. We tend to limit God by not even asking for things or not believing He could do them if He wanted to. It’s an interesting thing to think about.

Here are the quotes I pulled:

“Zechariah 9:12 says that we should be prisoners of hope. It’s easy to give up. It’s easy to get discouraged. But God wants us to be so full of hope, so full of expectancy, that we just can’t help believing for the best.”

“David said in Psalm 27:13: “What would have become of me had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness…” No matter what comes your way, let this take root. You have to believe you will see God’s goodness again. You must believe you will see God turn it around. Be-lieve you will see God open up new doors. There’s something about a person filled with hope.”

“The Scripture tells us that before we ever showed up on planet Earth, God knew us. We’re not accidents. Your parents didn’t just randomly meet and decide to have a child. God had a purpose for you before your parents or grandparents even knew each other. You have the right gifts, the right talent, the right personality, the right height. You have the courage, the strength, the ability you need. But just as with the physical, some spiritual genes lie dormant, waiting to be activated. Every one of us has potential waiting to be released.”

“God has us in the palm of His hand. He has everything you need. And even if He doesn’t have it, He can create it. He can cause a spider to spin a web and keep you out of trouble. He can cause one smooth stone to hit a giant and bring him down. God is in complete control.”

- Joel Osteen, It’s Your Time

It looks to me like Joel’s niche is hope. And couldn’t we, as a church, use more hope for good to come?

What do you think we can learn from prosperity teaching? Do you think it could help us to balance out another side or draw us to a softer side of God?

Maybe we each know different pieces of who God is and some of us missed the hope piece in favor of the reality piece.

I’m not saying I agree with prosperity teaching (honestly I winced the whole time I was reading), but I do think it’s good to see what it might teach us about God that one of his children sees him this way.

What do you think?

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The Bible People {Niche 24/31}

Feeling a little stuck so I’m sticking close to what I know.

Some random questions for today:

What if Balaam didn’t believe it when his donkey talked?

What if Esther followed the rules?

What if Stephan fought back?

What if Ruth didn’t listen to her mother-in-law’s advice?

What if Joseph rejected the socially unacceptable (seemingly used, broken, promiscuous) Mary for a person whose public appearance was better?

What if Joshua decided marching around walls wouldn’t do anything besides look ridiculous?

What if Jesus ignored Zacchaeus in the tree and the samaritan woman at the well?

What if Mary worked and Martha listened?

What if Job cursed God and died as his friends and wife advised?

What if we all avoided discomfort and disagreement in favor of a God small enough to control and define?

What if we all stepped away from that moment of God calling us into a unique relationship with Him in favor of what we are familiar with?

May we have the faith to follow a God who lives outside our sense of what is possible and controls the mouths of donkeys for his purposes.

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Who would you add the list?

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Colliding with Destiny by Sarah Jakes {Book Review and 22/31 Niches}

“God wastes nothing, so use what He has given you as fuel for your soul’s journey.”
– Sarah Jakes, Colliding With Destiny: Finding Hope in the Legacy of Ruth

Sarah Jakes writes about her life and that of Ruth with a wisdom and passion for restoration to God’s good intentions. Though her encouragement taken without a balancing dose of Biblical knowledge could be construed as prosperity teaching, I think her book is carefully constructed to encourage those who have lived a hard life and might be doubting God’s goodness just a little.

She uses the life of Ruth as a jumping off point to weave a story of grace, care, and hope in the mystery of God’s providence for us. Jakes writes from scripture and from her heart about the love of God and her passionate conviction that His will is will be good for us. Following might be hard. Stepping out might be hard. But God has every piece figured out to write an amazing story. In Colliding with Destiny you’ll find hope and wisdom for the struggle as you approach your daily life.

Designed as a 30 day devotional, I would recommend this book for anyone who has a strong handle on theology and the Bible (or can spot the prosperity gospel and understand there is a balance somewhere in the middle), but is also in good need of encouragement and hope which is to be had by the heartload in these pages.

Here are a few quotes!

Enjoy:

“Ruth’s commitment to walk with God is the only reason she was on course to collide with destiny. Collisions hurt. They cause injuries and create pain, but the insurance that comes with God reminds us that everything that was damaged can be restored and replaced. Whether God is just making a few minor repairs in your life or totaling out your dreams so you can experience His will, don’t shy away from the pain of collision.”

“It’s important we take a moment to at least at listen to those who are trying to help us. You don’t have to follow their advice or agree with everything they say, but make the decision to let other trusted individuals challenge your thought process. If we are not challenged, we cannot learn.”

“But every now and then, you must trust someone with the vulnerable side of you. Remove the cape, take off the mask, and allow yourself to be human again. Yes, you can keep moving. But you know a part of you is no longer strong enough to hold everything together. It’s time to admit you need covering.”

A prayer: “Please teach me the balanced dance of grace and mercy. May I provide a flicker of hope in a person’s darkest hour. I pray You give me the perfect wisdom to speak to the heart of the matter. And may I be as gentle with others as You have been with me. Amen”

[Seems like the heart of who this was written for: ]
Prayer: “God, I know you have placed so much inside of me. Please help me to see that there is life after my pain. I want to believe that I can still give You a return on Your investment. I just need the strength to move past this moment so I can live again. Amen.”

“When I find myself worrying about another area if my life in limbo, I try to remember that whatever the outcome is, I’ll be okay. I’m still learning each day, but each time I reflect on past worries I realized I survived. Our worry insults God. Our faith insists on our patience, a compliment to our Creator’s sovereignty.”

“Yes, you may feel as though your life is a story unto itself, but ultimately it’s just one piece in the puzzle of history, one corner in the majestic mural of eternity that God is creating.”

- Sarah Jakes, Colliding With Destiny: Finding Hope in the Legacy of Ruth

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And I really loved this question that was at the end of a chapter:

“If your story ends before the healing, what will the world know about you?”

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(((I recieved a copy of this book from Bethany House Blogger Program in exchange for my honest review.)))

William Cameron Townsend {21/31 Niches}

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(1896-1982) (source)

“The task of getting the Gospel in an adequate way to every ethnic person is tremedous. There is but one solution. I’m sure that it isn’t man, money, surveys, not talk. They all have their place, but if the basis of all of it isn’t fervent, believing prayer, they are in vain. And prayer should not only be the basis but it should permeate and vitalize the whole work.”
– William Cameron Townsend (source)

William Cameron Townsend founded Wycliffe Bible Translators. He believed that every person should have access to the Bible in the language they knew best.

“Townsend’s life was as diverse as the programs he advanced and the organizations he founded. For instance, he insisted that members of SIL should be ready to serve others scientifically, materially, and spiritually. From early in his career Townsend was personally committed to each of these three areas of involvement. It is not sufficient, he argued, that a person should be interested in serving people unless he has that scientific preparation which will make his contribution relevant and effective. Service based on a foundation of scientific investigation, he held, is more likely to have a permanent impact than service motivated by high ideals but without a thorough understanding of the people being served.” (source)

So science, mission methodology, and prayer.
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Have you heard of Wycliffe?
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Mark Driscoll: Revisited. Because Grace. {20/31 Niches}

“You aren’t what’s been done to you but what Jesus has done for you. You aren’t what you do but what Jesus has done. What you do doesn’t determine who you are. Rather, who you are in Christ determines what you do.”

- Mark Driscoll, Who Do You Think You Are? Finding Your True Identity in Christ.

So, you guys. This weekend, while talking about my series with my husband, I realized I missed the point of the whole series a little when writing about Mark Driscoll. I don’t want to only vilify a fellow Christian. I jumped on the badwagon (<—typo that is a little too accurate..so it must stay) instead of using my voice to fuel peace and grace and mercy. And I'm sorry about that. Because this series is all about grace so I'm here to try again.

As it turns out, I've not read any of his writing…which I didn't realize until I thought about it yesterday…i've only read the angry words attacking him and quoting him on past sins, harsh words, misogyny, and anything else under the sun. It's bad form to criticize someone secondhand..that’s about when it becomes gossip. Ahem.

So I went to the library and I'm reading his most recent book: Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ. I'm 50 pages in now and have yet to disagree with him. Not what I assumed. Somehow in all the criticisms they failed to mention the fact that this guy knows his Bible. I’m sure I’ll find something I don’t agree with him on before I finish the book, but I think better of him now.

Here are a few quotes thus far that resonated with me:

“You were created by God, are on the earth to image and glorify God, and when you die, if you are in Christ, you will be with God forever, imaging and glorifying him perfectly in a sinless state.”

Concerning the calvinist doctrine of total depravity:
“While it’s true that sin has affected the totality of our persons, including our minds, wills, and emotions, we fail to say all that the Bible does regarding our identity when we llace undue focus on iur depravity as fallen sinners and ignored our dignity as created image bearers and our new identity as redeemed Christian saints, while a non-Christian is totally depraved, a Christian is in Christ. Practically, focusing on just the sin aspect of our identity leads to despairing, navel-gazing Christians obsessed with their sin.”

“The Word of God is not a club for beating Christians until they emotionally bleed as repayment for their sin.”

“For the Christian, there is a vital difference between having sin and being sin. “

- Mark Driscoll, Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ.

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We need to work on creating lines between what is actually criticism or accountability and what is really just gossip. We all mess up. Some in bigger and bolder and more visible and debateably “worse” ways than others, but God is still working through us and teaching us how to be more like Him. It’s way too easy to gang up on leaders when they fall off the pedestals we made and platforms they built. It’s all too easy to miss what God might be doing through someone else because of our own assumptions about the person’s motives, character, or salvation.

If we can think of fellow Christians’ actions as a more nuanced combination of good and bad, we can stop painting with the sweeping generalizations of “good” and “bad”. As the Church, instead of attacking and condemning and disowning, maybe we should be considering our reactions in the light of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Maybe we need to be a soft place to land after a hard fall from favor.

Do you think God is big enough for that?
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Martin Luther King Jr {19/31 Niches}

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1929-1968

“We’ve been in the mountain of war. We’ve been in the mountain of violence. We’ve been in the mountain of hatred long enough. It is necessary to move on now, but only by moving out of this mountain can we move to the promised land of justice and brotherhood and the Kingdom of God. It all boils down to the fact that we must never allow ourselves to become satisfied with unattained goals. We must always maintain a kind of divine discontent.”

- Martin Luther King Jr, Sermon at Temple Israel of Hollywood in June 1965 (Source)

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.”
Martin Luther King Jr., ‘Strength to Love,’ 1963

“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: – ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”
Martin Luther King Jr., Speech at Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1963

“Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force… If we assume that life is worth living, if we assume that mankind has the right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war.”
Martin Luther King Jr., The Christmas Sermon On Peace in on Dec 24, 1967
Source

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