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A “60-minute” reflection (1 Corinthians 7:32-35) and my experience at IHOP, the International House of Prayer, NOT Pancakes

 

 

Monday, July 29, 2019

Today, out of a desire to find a quiet and peaceful space to read, pray, and reflect, I decided to go to the International House of Prayer (IHOP). IHOP is a church model that started in the 1990s, based off of the temple worship in the Old Testament. Their mission comes from Leviticus 6:9, which states: “‘Give Aaron and his sons the following instructions regarding the burnt offering. The burnt offering must be left on top of the altar until the next morning, and the fire on the altar must be kept burning all night.” (New Living Translation)

IHOP has multiple locations. Its headquarters are in Kansas City, Missouri, where it was founded. I visited the house of prayer in New Jersey. Unlike the Kansas City location, which operates 24/7, the NJ location does not–at least, not yet. However, the same motivation applies. People volunteer to lead worship whenever their schedule allows. They have musicians, worship leaders, devotional leaders, intercessors, and people who offer other types of prayer. Anyone can apply as long as their church leadership approves and they are willing to abide by IHOP’s standards of purity, which are pretty much traditional Christian standards of “holiness” and “set-apart-ness.”

I spent a few hours there. My usual devotion schedule involves reading and interacting with a pre-written YouVersion Bible devotional and then just journalling anything that comes to mind. These can be anything from prayers to word studies. Since I had already completed my morning reading, I decided to resume my attempt to read through the Bible in a year. (I don’t know how well I’m doing if I’m in Job and 1 Corinthians at the end of July, though). I read 1 Corinthians 7-14 and focused on 1 Corinthians 7:32, 34-35. Let’s look at it together:

“I want you to be free from the concerns of this life….A woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” –the Apostle Paul, New Living Translation

I’ve always known that I want to serve God, since I was six years old. I suppose if we’re speaking “Christianese,” we could say that I received a call from God to ministry when I was a child, about 18 years ago, but I still haven’t received the professional “call” that happens when someone finally settles into the specific church, missions base, or community that God wants them to serve.

I wanted to be like Anna in the temple, or like David, when he wrote in Psalm 27:4-5 that the one thing he sought from the Lord was to dwell in His house and to “seek Him in His temple.” I wanted to be like an IHOP worship leader. There was something about being in church that I never wanted to leave when I was six. At the time, I think I was associating church with the presence of God. (Now I know that the presence of God is everywhere God’s people are and everywhere He is welcomed).

So, I’ve always wanted to serve God. I’ve always wanted to seek God’s presence. BUT, I’ve also really wanted to be married. Now, considering Paul’s words above, do you see my dilemma?

I’ve had this image in my mind for years–probably since college, maybe even my senior year of high school–of myself and my husband serving God together and raising all 3-5 of our children to seek Him as well. (Yeah…I want a lot of kids. God willing, I hope I can be a good mom). I’ve always admired the couples who lead ministries or do missions together.

What about you? Have you ever planned your family around your call to ministry?

Considering these desires I’ve had since childhood, I wouldn’t want to be in a relationship if it will distract me from my sense of call, which is also my source of joy and fulfillment. If I start dating, and my person of interest doesn’t share my values or my commitment to raising God-fearing children and seeking God together as a family–he ain’t the one.

So, my prayer for myself and any ladies who may come across this blog entry is this:

God, please send us men with whom we can serve You. Men who share our devotion to You and who also prioritize a strong Christian home. We don’t know what You will have us do specifically, where we are called to go, or if we are called to work with a partner. But we pray that You will help us to serve You singlemindedly and wholeheartedly, “with as few distractions as possible.” And for those of us who are not called to marriage, we thank you for the grace to truly give our hearts, bodies, and spirits to your service. Whichever way you would have us serve, we say “Here I am!” Amen. 

God’s heart for you: “Better is One Day” – Trey McLaughlin Cover

How do you envision God?

(Wednesday, July 17, 2019)

I had the opportunity to discuss theology on Tumblr after receiving the above anonymous question: “How do you envision God?” I ended up answering the question at least a month after it was asked; I was going through a lot and didn’t have the energy to devote to answering a theological question. My mother had passed away from cancer, and I was busy moving out of my dorm after graduation and preparing to travel home to plan her funeral. Again, not the best time to sit down and write a theological treatise. However, yesterday, I looked at the lone unanswered question in my inbox–I’m not exactly “tumblr famous”–and the words began to flow. I want to share with you what I wrote in my response. In retrospect, I think I should have included more specific Bible passages, but this was really more stream-of-consciousness.

“Q: How do you envision God?

A: I envision God:

1)non-corporeal: God doesn’t have a physical body. I imagine that God is a great big pillar of bright, shining light that just consumes everything. Takes up all the space.

2) Compassionate and merciful: God reminds me of what a parent, specifically a father, should be to his children. God is loving, caring, and forgiving. Kind of like Cory Asbury’s song “Reckless Love,” God is someone who would pursue the people He loves until they are convinced that they are loved unconditionally and that they are not alone, even if it may look and feel that way. (P.S. look up the song on youtube. I think it will bless you).

3) Just: God values justice. God is the only person/entity who can accomplish perfect justice, even though the world looks like hell right now. God’s justice, especially since Jesus’ Resurrection, is not retributive. God cares about oppressed people. The Bible specifies widows, orphans, and immigrants/foreigners. But I also believe God cares about the lives of anyone who is marginalized and not valued in society.

4) Selfless and loving: I am a preacher, and what my heart always goes back to–the core of my message–is the Gospel. John 3:16 says that God loved the whole world so much that God sacrificed His own son, Jesus Christ, for multiple reasons. It makes no sense for a father to give up the one child that he loves, but God did. There’s so much evil in the world, and God didn’t want to punish everyone anymore, so he made Jesus to embody all of that sin, almost like a scapegoat. Jesus was perfect and sinless, because not only was He God’s Son, but He was filled with God’s Holy Spirit during His life and when He died, He sent us the Holy Spirit to be with us as a comforter and advocate.

(More 4): That sacrifice is one of selfless love. It means that we don’t have to work to earn God’s love and forgiveness. We don’t have to work hard to go to Heaven. We only need to believe in that sacrifice. That Jesus Christ (whose name means “Anointed Savior”) died for our sins and God brought Him back to life after three days. During this time, he defeated all the powers of evil. Even though there is so much evil in the world, Christians believe that because of this victory, it will not last forever. The war has already been won, even though we may engage in little battles through prayer, protests, etc.

I’m sure I strayed from your question a little bit, but theology and the Gospel are things that I am passionate about and will inevitably write an entire essay about, like I just did here. I would encourage you to read the books of Genesis and Exodus in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and the Gospels in the New Testament/50% of the Christian Bible: the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The OT tells you about the history of the Jewish people and God’s covenant with them. The NT tells you the story of Jesus and how he relates to that story. Easy translations to read are the New Living Translation, The Message, and the New International Version.

I also like The Bible Project on Youtube. They have videos about all the books and concepts and stories in the Bible. Ravi Zacharias is a good person to listen to if you want to learn about apologetics. Apologetics is a defense and explanation of Christianity. C.S. Lewis is an author who wrote fictional books with Christian themes. I think the allegories/metaphors in his books might also be useful.”

What I forgot to include:

Tim Keller, The Reason for God

A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy