Midday Connection

A safe place to process your story.

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

Guest blog: Loneliness, beauty, and my search for meaning

It was my pleasure to recently join Melinda Schmidt on Bring to Mind.  We talked about the subject of beauty and how it relates to God and life.  An example of this is my struggle with loneliness.  While I was recently married, I have spoken often to my church and others about my struggles with loneliness through years of singleness (not that those two always go together, they just seem to for me). There is a palatable ache within that can wash over you like waves of despair. I could analyze it. I could philosophize about it. I could even teach on it. But I could not overcome it. Then I began to look at the pain from the perspective of beauty and to consider why I felt the way I did. I came to discover that loneliness was not an enemy but a friend. It is a painful reminder that I was not made for myself. I was made for Him, and the pain is God’s way of saying, “Here I am!”

When I feel lonely, I am feeling theology inside. All the pleasures, desires, and loves in this world will not take that pain away. We desperately want someone to love us perfectly. But when we wake up to the fact that no relationship can fully satisfy, we realize that we are lonely for God. When we feel that pain of loneliness, we instinctively try to fill that void with created reflections of God. These are mere shadows. Physical beauty is a shadow. Food is a shadow. The security of money is a shadow. Health is a shadow. Family is a shadow. We long for a relationship with someone greater than us, and we settle for cheap substitutes—race-car drivers and football players and movie stars admired from afar. But the real desirability is found in Christ. God made every created beauty in this world as an expression of Christ’s beauty and the beauty of the Father’s love for the Son. All beauty is a breadcrumb path that can and should lead us to Him.

Steve DeWittSteve DeWitt has served as senior pastor of Bethel Church in Crown Point, Indiana for 12 years. Steve’s passions include expository preaching, the doctrines of grace, helping the church engage its culture, and the beauty of God. To learn more about Steve, please visit his website.

Midday blog: The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Recently I was reading through the book of Luke. If you haven’t read Luke recently, I highly recommend it. It is full of statements that will catch your attention and challenge your commitment to Christ.

As I was reading I came to the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector. It’s a familiar parable, one that I’ve heard referenced many times. Yet this time I saw it in a new light. Often we focus on what is said by the two characters, but this time as I read, I heard one of them say something different. The tax collector repeated the words of the Pharisee, just inverted. The tax collector thanked God that he was not like the Pharisee.

Now I know that’s not actually in the text, but it seems to be something that I hear more often these days. We thank God that we are not like a certain religious group, or the people who attend that church. Yet it is that action that is being condemned by Jesus in his telling of the parable. It’s cause for examination of our own hearts as to what it is we are saying. And if we find ourselves echoing the prayer of the Pharisee then instead let us go back to the original call of the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Josh Klos is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute with a degree in Radio Communications, he has served as the engineer for Midday Connection since 2010. He is also a part of the volunteer College & 20’s group staff at his church and enjoys spending time outside, as well as at libraries, bookstores and various coffee shops. He’s busy these days with graduate school, where he studying communication and culture.

To learn more about Josh and read his blog, please visit his website.

Guest blog: How far is too far?

“How far is too far?” I’ve been asked this question by college students more times than I can remember. “We know that premarital sex is wrong…but how do we know where to draw the line?”

Theology helps us answer questions that the Bible may not directly address in twenty-first century terms. It also helps us to put contemporary questions into a biblical framework so that we may live more faithfully in the present. One example is in the area of our sexuality. While the Scripture certainly presents us with “do’s” and “don’ts” on this subject, it seems we often start with the wrong questions. We pose the question only in terms of a moral code (or, even more reductionistically, simply in terms of the consequences) without addressing the deeper theology that underlies such practice. We address the “What should I do/not do?” instead of the “Why should I do/ not do it?”

Young people in the church know the answer to the first question: “Don’t have sex before marriage.” They may even be able to cite chapter-verse on the subject. Yet they rarely view their sexuality through God’s eyes. They have a deficient theology of their bodies that disconnects the physical from the spiritual, which makes them easy prey for worldly messages like “it’s just sex.” They often have a deficient theology of marriage. And they aren’t exactly sure what they should be pursuing in place of this unrestrained freedom of physical expression that the world tells them is their “right.” In the moment of temptation, prohibitions only go so far (think Eve!).

Students are initially frustrated when I don’t offer a definitive answer to their question. They want me to just tell them where the ‘line’ is. Why? So they can come as close as possible to it without crossing over into “sin.” It’s not that there aren’t lines, of course, but the avoidance of sin and the pursuit of holiness go far deeper than such ‘lines.’ I want them to build a theology from Scripture to answer these practical questions—a theology that forms them and cultivates an internal obedience rooted in loyal love for God and sacrificial love for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Helping them answer the question “Why is this such a big deal to God?” tends to resolve many of their secondary questions. Here are some starting points:

  • What does God have to say about my body? Does my body matter to God? How do my physical choices impact my spiritual relationship with God, and what does it mean that I am “united with Christ”?
  • How does my identity in Christ supersede my sexual identity? (See Christopher Yuan’s book Out of a Far Country)
  • What does God have to say about my “rights”? What about my “rights” in relationship to others? Am I “defrauding” (1 Thess. 4:6) a brother or sister in Christ by selfishly taking something that does not yet belong to me?
  • What does it mean to be “holy” in my sexuality—that is, set apart from sin and the world and set apart to the Lord as his very own possession, as the spotless bride of Christ?
  • What is a biblical theology of marriage? What is the purpose of sex as it relates to marriage? Here’s a clue: It’s not ultimately about us…it’s about God.
  • How are my physical practices forming me to think about the nature of sex and the purpose of marriage? And how are they forming me/us as a future husband or wife? (see Lauren Winner’s book Real Sex)

You can hear a conversation with Laurie Norris on the podcast Bring to Mind.

Laurie NorrisLaurie Norris presently serves as Special Instructor of Pastoral Studies at Moody Bible Institute. She earned her ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary in New Testament and Systematic Theology, and her PhD in Biblical Theology-New Testament from Wheaton College. Laurie grew up in the beautiful Northwest and currently resides with her husband in the suburbs of Chicago. In her spare time she enjoys nature, long walks, coffee shops, and rich conversation. She is passionate about ministry to college students through teaching, mentoring, and spiritual formation, as well as intersecting biblical-theological studies with the life and mission of the church.

Midday blog: Looking at Unpleasant Things

The Medium lost the delighted smile she had worn till then. “Oh, why must you make me look at unpleasant things when there are so many delightful ones to see?”
Again Mrs Which’s voice reverberated through the cave. “Therre willl nno llonggerr bee sso manyy pplleasanntt thinggss too llookk att iff rressponssible ppeoplle ddo nnott ddoo ssomethingg abboutt thee unnppleassanntt oness.”
– Madeline L’Engle

I somehow missed reading A Wrinkle in Time as a child, so I’m starting off my 2013 by reading it. I was struck by the quote above – especially with Martin Luther King, Jr. day taking place in January. Dr. King has been such an inspiring figure to me. He dared to look at the unpleasant things – straight on. His work toward Civil Rights inspires me to confront injustice straight on – to not just look away from the unpleasant. No, he wasn’t a perfect man. I’m not a perfect woman – yet I know that God can use me in spite of my failings. Thank God for that!

There are times when I feel weak and overwhelmed and I want to look away from unlovely things – the painful, big issues in the world. Will I have the courage to see the mess and do what God has enabled me to do?

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. –Martin Luther King Jr

Lori NeffLori is the senior producer of Midday Connection and editor/contributor for Daily Seeds: From Women Who Walk in Faith and Tending the Soul (Moody Publishers). She grew up in a small town in Ohio, spending more time outside in nature than inside. Lori is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. Her interests include art, humanitarian aid efforts, cooking, gardening, coffee, thinking, learning and spending time with her husband, John (and their three fiesty cats). For more information and her blog please visit Lori’s website.

Listener blog: Redeemed

Redeemed how I love to proclaim it!

Redeemed by the blood of The Lamb;

Redeemed through His infinite mercy,

His child and forever I am.  (!!!!!)

Redeemed, redeemed,

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;

Redeemed, redeemed,

His child and forever I am.    (!!!!)

blue jewelry

A couple of years ago at a ladies luncheon I met a gal who makes jewelry out of broken liquor bottles. She had moved to a bad area in her town, and there were broken bottles everywhere.  She had worked in textiles, and thought
Alcohol caused a lot of grief in my life, and it amazes me how my Heavenly Father, Papa, can take the things that seem useless, even harmful, and turn them into something beautiful!  He takes my broken life, dreams, hopes, and turns them into things of beauty.  Like the special order pieces, He has a plan and is working it, even when I can’t see.  I did not see my friend Jackie make the jewelry, but I trusted that what I wanted she would produce!she would try something new.  ‘Viola!!  The teardrop piece was the first I purchased, the cobalt blue I special ordered.

Oh, Papa, thank you that you give folks like Jackie the talent to make beauty out of rubbish, so we can have a picture of what you are doing in us!!!  Thank You, that you will continue to work on us until you send Jesus for us.  Love you, Papa!! amen

rita beedyRita Beedy is a wife, mother, grandmother, and a rural mail carrier.

Midday blog: Racial Reconciliation Matters

2013 is an historic year. Not only does it mark the inauguration of another American President, but it marks the anniversary of several important events in American history. Events during two tumultuous periods in our history, the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement.

January 1 marked the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. April 16 marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. July 1 – 3 marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. And August 28 marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. Marking anniversaries usually means we have something to celebrate, and I believe we do. I also believe we have farther to go and more that we could be celebrating.

Our nation’s first African American President will soon be inaugurated for a second term. Whether or not you agree with his policies and positions, it is significant for a nation that was built on slavery to have elected an African American to its highest public office. And yet inequities still abound. There are only six Black CEO’s of Fortune 500 Companies, accounting for 1.2 percent of all Fortune 500 CEO’s. Moving away from the world of good paychecks and nice neighborhoods, when a streetlight goes out in urban America, especially a part of urban America where violence occurs with frequency, good luck getting the streetlight fixed. In suburban America, if the same problem occurs, the light will be fixed within days, not months. This is one relatively small issue that is symptomatic of greater issues.

As Christ followers, we need to lead the way in having conversations that help, not hinder, the healing of the racial divide in our country. I want to point you back to Midday Connection on January 8 to hear an enlightening conversation with two African American women about Racial Reconciliation. We will continue the talking with them and take the topic deeper on February 5.  And on Thursday, January 17, we will dig into the New Testament book of Mark with Bible teacher Michael Card when we’ll talk about the worth and dignity of the individual. I hope you can join us as we try to be healing agents when we have these gospel focused conversations.

Anita LustreaAnita Lustrea is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and has worked for Moody Radio since 1984. She is a sought-after conference and retreat speaker and loves to connect with Midday Connection listeners face-to-face. Anita lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Mike, and her son, John. To learn more about Anita, her speaking schedule and her blog, please visit her website.

Listener Blog: Footy Pajamas

There are two kinds of people with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD): those who make lists and those who think they don’t have to. Me? I’m a list-maker convert. And a calendar keeper. And a smart phone alarm setter. Of course, I didn’t start out this way. God has a way of making us face our limits. Countless missed appointments with penalty fees and mixed-up schedules were mine. My final day of reckoning came when I sent my three young children to school in their pajamas on Pajama Day only to learn with a phone call from the school secretary that it wasn’t.

It was time to admit I had a problem and it wasn’t just organization. It was the illusion that I could be God. My whole life as a parent was devoted to giving my children a pain-free existence complete with sidewalk chalked driveways, bugcatching adventures and Bandaids for every occasion. But on this day, I finally realized I couldn’t keep my kids from pain. Sometimes, I am even the cause of it.

By trying so hard to be the end-all of my children’s world, I was offering them the lie that I would never let them down. Looking at the tears in my daughter’s eyes that morning in the school office as she stood looking up at me in her footy pajamas, I knew it was time to admit that there is no one who can offer them a pain-free ride. But we can trust God to heal us and get us through life’s hard knocks.

It’s a lesson I still keep having to learn. God isn’t a rabbit’s foot ensuring that, as Christians, we lead pain-free lives. So like Luke, writing God stories to Theophilus, we tell our God stories about footy pajamas that cannot be told without admitting that we have needs and confessing that we have problems.

It’s scary to come out of hiding, to admit we aren’t more than we seem. But then that’s how we know beyond any doubt that God is God, and we are not.

kelli raKelli Anderson lives with her husband of 22 years, three teens and one large goldendoodle in the far western suburbs of Chicago in St. Charles, Illinois. Kelli has a degree from Grinnell College in English, is a freelance writer for several magazines including “Leadership Journal”, a blogger and an author of her first recently published book,  Divine Duct Tape, ( a devotional for women) and is a co-director a special needs ministry at First Baptist Church of Geneva. Although she often writes to inform her readers about everything from lifestyle issues to parenting survival 101, she loves writing most about how God reveals Himself to us through the mess that is often the norm of our lives. To learn more, please visit her blog: www.kellira.com

Midday blog: More rules or more wisdom?

Dr. Klaus Issler of Talbot Seminary says that the framework for childhood development is rules, while the framework for becoming an adult is wisdom and becoming like Jesus.

I wonder how many of us are tempted to remain in childhood, hanging on to rules that sound like:

I should (fill in the blank)
I should be (fill in the blank)
I should go and (fill in the blank)
The Pastor told me it’s true so I have to (fill in the blank)
My husband said I must (fill in the blank)
My mother/mother-in-law expects me to (fill in the blank) and I must please her or else (fill in the blank)

You might have heard the saying, “Think for yourself, the teacher might be wrong.”  It takes courage to counter an authority figure in life. We might feel we don’t know as much, or we don’t possess an earned title, or we may not have the paycheck that says we are worthy of knowing anything.  We might even feel it would be a sin to question such a person. Fearing their potential wrath, we just keep quiet and keep following their rules.

How do we grow into adulthood, becoming people of wisdom rather than unthinkingly taking on the rule-of-life of others?

Enter Jesus, known as the Teacher. Reading about Him in the Gospels will keep us busy for a very long time as we discover His rule-of-life and learn His wisdom.  Matthew 11:25-30 and Luke 10:21 describe an adult learner as childlike not childish: trusting, openhearted, and believing.   Jesus actually thanked God for hiding truth from Jewish society’s “wise and clever,” those who wished to keep the spiritual community enmeshed in childish rules. (He was actually describing the religious leaders of that era.)

The reward of those said who said  “no” to keeping rules and “yes” to following the Teacher was the privilege of a warm relationship with Him (“Let Me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart….” Matthew 11:29), release from sin (Galatians 5: 24,25), the promise of correction when needed (Revelation 3:19) and the fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23).

May God help us to keep on reaching for adulthood!

Melinda SchmidtMelinda Schmidt is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and holds a Broadcasting/Bible degree from Calvary Bible College. She has served with Moody Radio since 1980 in various hosting capacities. Married with two young adult children, Melinda lives outside Chicago, loves reading, developing her creative interests and hopes to be a life-long learner. To learn more about Melinda, her speaking schedule and her blog please visit her website.

Guest blog: The Heartbeat of Bible Reading Revival

When I became the President of Scripture Union in 1997, I began speaking about the need for “Bible reading revival,” beginning with the church.  I had no idea if such a thing was possible, or what role Scripture Union might play.  All I knew was God had put that vision in my heart.

At the same time, I became concerned to help my own children, all of whom were followers of Jesus, develop a love for God’s Word.  So in my own devotions I started a list of Bible passages I wanted to read and discuss with them.  Gradually the list grew and I got the idea to make it 100 passages, 50 Old Testament and 50 New Testament, and named it The Essential 100 (E100®). Over the years I wrote a book called The Essential Bible Guide and developed a church program called the E100 Challenge, based on that original list.

Since then, it has been thrilling to see how God has used E100® to get people of all ages excited about reading the Bible.  To date, over 1,500,000 have completed the E100®.   Plus, the E100 Challenge has been translated into 15 languages and has been launched as a nationwide church program in 20 countries.

But for me, the most thrilling thing is that God used the idea of a father, who simply wanted to share God’s Word with his own kids, to get people all around the world reading the Bible.  That’s why I dedicated the book to our three children—Anna, Matthew and Stephanie.  It was my way of saying, “This is what I’ve learned from reading the Bible and praying each morning throughout my life, and it’s what I want to share with you as you go out on your own.”

When I started working on my list of Bible readings that morning in my devotions, I wasn’t thinking about a global E100 Challenge.  I just wanted to show the people around me how to meet God every day in his Word.  That’s the heartbeat of Bible reading revival, and that’s what Scripture Union is all about. 

(For more information on the E100 Planner, visit their website.)

Whitney T. KuniholmWhitney T. Kuniholm is the President of Scripture Union USA (www.ScriptureUnion.org) and author of several books including The Essential Bible Guide and The Essential Jesus.  He has his own blog (www.EssentialBibleBlog.com) and speaks at churches and Christian conferences.

Post Navigation