Thursday, December 19, 2013

the storm and the cloud

It’s time for the weekly installment of being uncomfortable, brought to you by Bill Johnson, author of “Face to Face with God.”  Chapter 4 is titled “His Manifest Presence” and is all about God revealing Himself.  He says that “God’s face is revealed in outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” God’s face. He talked in the chapter about how Moses quite literally saw the face of God. Are you uncomfortable yet? Wait, there’s more.   “But not all can recognize God’s face in the outpouring of His spirit. When the rain of the Spirit comes, most people fixate on the effects of the storm and miss the One revealed in the cloud. The extreme joy, the weeping, the shaking and trembling, the visions and dreams, the healing… are all revelations of His face. Some people love these manifestations, and some people reject them. But the sobering thing to realize is that our response to the move of the Spirit is not a response to manifestations. Rather, it is a response to the face of God. To reject the move of the Spirit of God is to reject the face of God.”
            Okay, let’s back up. First let me make a disclaimer that I am not a theologian and am not representing the views of the Presbyterian church.  And I don’t agree with his generalization that each of these instances is the face of God.  We can’t know that either way. However.  Let us not be so quick to dismiss a manifestation of God because it makes us uncomfortable or we disagree with it. What if we are the ones who are wrong, and we are attributing the manifestation of God to something else? What would we be missing?
            Healing happens. Period. My dad has been healed of long-term clinical depression and high blood pressure.  My dad, who happily took medications for years for these issues. You have to listen to his sermon about it, because he tells the story best. I know we have all heard stories of healing and it so easy to dismiss as some medical anomaly or even doubt the authenticity.  But, sometimes, and certainly in my dad’s case, this is a manifestation of God, and we choose how we respond.
            And yet here we are in the Advent season, anticipating the birthday of our Savior.  God manifested Himself as a baby. Let us celebrate this manifestation as we should, and seek Him outside the manger as well.
Beth Kropf


Friday, December 13, 2013

an uncomfortable journey

Today I’m visiting again “Face to Face with God” by Bill Johnson (what a great Christmas present!). This guy is unconventional and I think, as my dad has said in referring to himself, has the spiritual gift of making people uncomfortable. This is a long quote, but it is important to not misunderstand him:
“The essential doctrines of the church- the Virgin Birth, the divinity and humanity of Jesus, the Atonement, and the like- qualify as issues we should fight for. That being said, I will purposefully bring speakers into our church that I know disagree with theologically if they are people of great anointing and integrity. It makes people nervous. But that’s not necessarily a bad think. Insecurity is wrong security exposed.”
            He goes on to talk about how godly relationships are correctly beginning to trump denomination and doctrine. Doctrine without God’s love and Spirit is dead. That’s easy to believe when we think we are right. Then he says “In order to gain a heart that longs to know God, we must sacrifice our need to be right, to understand or explain things. We have to trust Him enough to let Him shatter our boxes of understanding and lead us into deeper realms of truth.”
            This does not sound comfortable. I would much rather think about the excitement my daughter will experience at Christmas. But I want this. I don’t want to hold onto a belief if it is wrong. I have seen the devastating consequences of doctrine being placed before an individual. Jesus didn't do this, as Chesney shared about how he treated the woman at the well. I don’t want to let fear keep me from seeking truth. What might be in store for us if we are brave enough to take this journey?
Beth Kropf


Friday, December 6, 2013

Wonderful Counselor

Advent: Wonderful Counselor          

I so enjoyed getting to hear Chesney speak on Sunday. I love our focus on the names of Jesus, as names really are important. The name counselor may not be the first name to come to mind when we think about Jesus, but it is so good to be reminded of this role. We should treasure the wise people in our lives, and yet Jesus gives perfect wisdom, and people sometimes do not.
I have a friend who has been given very unwise advice by people close to her, from people who should be protecting her. Over the years I have gotten to see her grow and strengthen in her faith.  She has learned that Jesus is a wonderful Counselor, the most true Counselor. She responds to people advising her with Scripture and a calm spirit. She is no longer swayed away from the correct path. She has conviction that she is doing the right thing, even though there are undesirable consequences.
I pray God gives all of us the wisdom to seek His counsel first. Let us begin our celebration of this baby that changed the world.

Elizabeth Kropf


Thursday, November 21, 2013

send him running

I’m sure I will return to forgiveness, but I wanted to take a week to talk about this book I’m reading. It’s called “Face to Face with God” by Bill Johnson. I just started the book, and it’s pretty radical. He talks about what it means to serve God truly and completely. He said when Moses was trying to get Pharoah to release his people to worship God, Pharoah tried to compromise by saying, Go, but leave your flocks and herds behind (Exodus 10:24). Flocks and herds were financial resources.  So Pharoah was saying, sure, you can worship God as long as it doesn’t cost anything. Johnson said (I’d provide the page number but it’s on my phone. So, for those of you with a smartphone, 26%.) “Satan knows that if he can keep us attached to his fear-oriented economy, he can still influence our emotions and will and poison our thinking… Such a last-ditch effort on the part of Pharaoh reveals what Satan fears most- families who worship together with reckless abandon, using all their assets for the glory of God. This absolutely terrifies the devil, because nothing will be withheld from this kind of people.”

What could we accomplish if we were not bound by fear? I’m not talking about recklessly emptying bank accounts, but really being willing to serve God in a way that costs us. How much would Satan be quaking in his boots if our church was able to finance a building and become a cornerstone in the community? If we are willing to be completely sold out to God and earnestly seek Him, He will withhold nothing. I don’t want to miss any blessings from God because I was too selfish or too scared. Let’s send Satan running.

Elizabeth Kropf


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

what I learned from Jim and Pam

Am I the only one who feels too tired to deal with conflict? It is so much easier to stay tight-lipped and act like everything is okay.  It can appear more godly to do that.  But it isn’t honest. In Lysa Turkhurst’s book Unglued, she talked about how stuffing feelings is not any healthier than coming “unglued.” (The book is written to women, but I challenge any man to read it and not find some universal truths)
It is not a good idea to bring injuries into the light in every relationship. But we know the difference between the hurts we need to hide and those we should not.  No one spoil the ending to “The Office,” because I’m still watching it. In the last episode I watched Jim and Pam have a huge conflict to deal with.  Jim wants to leave town for his business trip early to avoid fighting. Pam says, “Don’t go.” He says, “you want to fight on Valentine’s day?” She says, “Yes.” She knew the distance would only become greater if they didn't deal with it. We have to have those fights with our spouses, with those closest to us.  
Let’s have some good, clean fights and get the sin that so easily entangles us off of our chest.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

our debts- Forgiveness Pt 2

Forgiveness is so hard when justice is not delivered. We like movies where the bad guys go to jail and the one framed is vindicated.  We want to see mean guys lose the girl. We want everyone who has wronged us and our loved ones to have a very public humiliation. Or maybe it’s just me.
            Once my dad and I were speaking of a sad story of wrongdoing, and I said something about how the person will have to be accountable before God someday. Yes, he said, but so will we. Are we so quick to condemn others and ask for mercy for ourselves? I remember the story in the Bible of the man who begged the king to forgive his debts and then turned around and could not forgive someone who owed him much less money.
            That story always seemed far-fetched to me, and maybe it was meant to be. However, the message is clear: debt is debt. We hope we would never be so hard-hearted as the man in the story.  But if we substitute debt for some other injury- being short-tempered or impatient, for example, the analogy may hit too close to home for our comfort.
If we take a moment to think over everything God has forgiven us for, at such a precious price, it may help us reach beyond our capacity and forgive what we think is unforgivable. What we cannot yet forgive, let us at least bring it to God and be honest about what we are holding onto, since He knows anyway. Let’s strive to be ready to give account for our actions, and let us be defined as ones who forgive. What an awesome way to point to God.