Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Introducing “Experience the Impossible” by Bill Johnson

The next book I’m reading was recommended by my dad. It’s a great book that is written like a devotional, with very short chapters. Chapter 6 talks about how some people value the Bible more that the Holy Spirit. Johnson is very careful to state that he of course values the Bible, as we all should. However, he opens the chapter this way: “It is hard to have the same fruit as the early Church when we value a book they did not have more than the Holy Spirit they did have” (p. 31).
            The disciples did not have the comfort or guidance of the New Testament as we have it. They had to rely on the Holy Spirit to figure things out.  We are so fortunate to have both, and yet I see how easy it is to rely on our interpretation of the Scripture and ignore the nudging of the Holy Spirit that might be asking us to do something that will make us uncomfortable.
            The Holy Spirit will never ask us to do something that is contrary to an accurate understanding of Scripture. But what about the times we understand Scripture incorrectly? Are we clinging to our own beliefs so firmly we’re leaving no room for the Holy Spirit to correct us? Examples in our society abound of Christians behaving in a way that is clearly contrary to the Holy Spirit and a correct interpretation of Scripture. Let’s navigate our lives with all of the treasures we have: Spirit and Scripture.
 Beth Kropf


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent, Tom Petty, and gluten

One of my favorite Tom Petty songs is “The Waiting Is The Hardest Part.”  He is so right! Like many others, the concept of Advent is fairly new to me. I love the focus on the anticipation of such a wonderful gift. It is especially meaningful to me this year as I am pregnant. I feel this baby kicking and see my belly expand and I can’t wait to meet her (but stay in there and finish growing, little girl).
            Advent is about hope and waiting. Waiting is so, so hard. It is hard to endure pregnancy and wait for my little one to develop.  I loved Caz’s calling on Sunday to learn how to be good at waiting.  We have to wait daily for small things and hard things, like for a child to choose shoes when we are late. We have to wait for big things, like answers to prayers. There is so much we must wait until heaven to experience. I personally won’t be able to have gluten until I get to heaven. Others have to wait to have whole bodies and reunite with dear ones. How do we get better at waiting? How do we learn to have more patience for others and for God?
            What are we missing by not learning to wait, and by giving up hope?  I am sure I am not the only one who has given up hope that God will answer certain prayers. I wonder how He feels about that. Join me in trying to navigate the territory of patience, and hope. Jesus is real. He is coming back, and He is worth waiting for.

Beth Kropf


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Final Thoughts on "Hearing God"

The epilogue of “Hearing God” by Dallas Willard may echo much of the book, but it has really stuck with me and I feel his ideas are worth repeating. When thinking about hearing God and how to interpret silence, it really helps to think about where we are. How often do we want to hear from God because we have trouble trusting Him and want to know that everything will be okay? What would we do if God did speak to us? Have we put ourselves in the best position to listen to God? What if he asked us to do something really hard? Willard says “God wants to be wanted, to be wanted enough that we are ready, predisposed, to find him present with us. And if, by contrast, we are ready and set to find ways of explaining away his gentle overtures, he will rarely respond with fire from heaven.” (283)
            Not hearing from God is hard. And yet if we stop listening entirely, if we stop expecting to hear from Him, I think He generally stops speaking. He respects a closed door.
Join me in doing my best to trust that silence has a purpose. That one day all of our questions will be answered. That if we seek Him, we will find Him and have the unmatched beauty of His words.
beth kropf


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

what waits for us

I was struck by Caz’s message Sunday about what God promises us. Isaiah 65 talks about a world without untimely death, and where our families our settled. That hits home for me as so many of the people closest to me do not live near me. Caz asked a question at the end about how we would live if we thought about our future. I was kind of hoping he would answer it for us.     
            I don’t know all of the implications of that, but I think I would be much more patient in suffering, and much less selfish in my relationships with others. Relationships are eternal, job stress is not. It is really hard to keep the big picture in mind when we don’t know how our story ends.  I’m sure you have learned by now, dear reader, that I do not offer nice little solutions. I would love for us all to explore and share what that passage in Isaiah means to us.
            But I do think it’s important to hold on to our faith: God has promised a wonderful future for His children. Let us never be so overcome with the present world that we lose sight of that. Let us live in thankfulness and grace.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

letting go of measurements

Well, I’m in Chapter 7 of “Hearing God” and have come across a concept that might make you feel better, and might not. However, I think the idea is powerful and necessary. Williard talks about how many people feel the need to read through the Bible in the year or read the Bible on a regimented schedule. These things are of course not bad, and I think all believers should read through the Bible at least once.
            However, Williard says: “If you do this [read the Bible in a year] you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it. But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God? It is a proven fact that many who read the Bible in this way, as if they were taking medicine or exercising on a schedule, do not advance spiritually. It is better in one year to have ten good verses transferred into the substance of our lives than to have every word of the Bible flash before our eyes” (Williard. p. 212).
            It is easier to fit Scripture in when we focus on something measurable: reading a chapter of the Bible or a couple of pages of a devotional.  What if we instead tried to drink in one verse and meditate on it until we actually changed?  Williard recommends not reading large passages of Scripture at once, and beginning with familiar passages.  He discusses the passage I John 4:18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” We’ve all heard this verse. But I don’t know anyone who is never afraid.
            Join me in focusing on one verse and dwelling on it until we have not only memorized it, but can live it. If you'd like, share what verse or verses you have chosen. Let’s see what God does. 
Beth Kropf


Sunday, August 31, 2014

when window cleaning isn't enough: ch. 7 of "Hearing God"

I have been reading through “Hearing God” by Dallas Willard. He has gone through the different ways that God speaks to people, and focuses on how incredibly ordinary the people that God spoke to in the Bible were. They doubted, they were not sure it was God speaking. They didn’t always like what God said. God does not speak only to saints. However.  In Chapter 7, he revisits the core of why God speaks to some and not others (or, rather, why some people hear him and others do not)
            Willard is talking about the process of Christ cleansing us from our sin: “Christ through his word removes the old routines in the heart and mind- the old routines of thought…and in their place he puts something else: his thoughts, his attitudes, his beliefs….We now have the character to which listening for God’s voice is natural” (p.200).
            Maybe I am the only one to be struck by this. I was hoping that hearing God was just a matter of cleaning the windows a little, and finding a quiet spot somehow. But it is not just the windows that are dirty. The inside of the house- of ourselves- needs to be gutted and remodeled to be more like Christ.
            It is fruitless to try so hard to strain our ears to hear words when we do not follow the words God has already given us through the Bible. Of course, God speaks to whoever He wants to. But let us not have the audacity to assume there is some kind of shortcut to hearing God. That we don’t have to go through the hard work of letting God change our thoughts, our attitudes, our actions for the very self-seeking satisfaction of hearing God. Let us instead bravely do what we are called to do, and let God change us.
            There is no time to waste.  The situation in Ferguson has been too heavy on my heart for me to even write about (see the link to Jennie Allen’s post on the LiveOak Facebook page). There are countless other examples of how badly the world needs us to be more like Christ. Choose whatever breaks your heart the most, and ask God how you need to change.  If you are bold enough, let me know how it goes!
Beth Kropf