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What Love Looks Like

July 14, 2016

handsI was driving to a missions conference, alone at last!  Alone with my thoughts and no interruptions.  Often it is when I am driving and “uninterruptible” that I ask God questions and He speaks to my heart and begins a transformative journey. On my drive I was pondering the violence in our culture, really it’s world-wide.  “What would You say to us, Lord?”  Interestingly, God reminded me of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty written by a Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This quote comes from her sonnet, New Colossus, which she wrote for a fundraiser auction to raise money for the pedestal upon which the Statue of Liberty now sits.

This poet surely captured a piece of the heart of God when it comes to the kinds of people He beckons to His feast.  In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said:  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

The prophet Isaiah also said: Is. 55:1“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”

As I pondered the immensity of God’s love for us I saw a vision.  There was a person (male or female, I couldn’t tell) laying in a pool of black, stinking, muck.  S/he was covered from head to toe in black “yuck”, and was unrecognizable because of the filth.  I saw the two hand reach down from above toward this person and I thought: “YES! Lord, you are going to pull them out of this mess and clean them up!”  However, that’s not what happened.  The hands took the hands of the person, arms embraced them, and the hands caressed them and loved them IN the yuck.  The presence of God accompanied this person IN the mess and appeared to make no effort to change them.

I heard the Holy Spirit say: “I love you IN your anger, racism, violence, religion, and egoism.  I join you in it.  I walk with you through ALL your human experience, because I love you so much.  I am passionate about you!  I won’t be without you! So, bring me all the parts of you that you hate.  I can handle it.  I want to walk with you in this journey.”

Jesus, didn’t just enter into humanity once for our salvation.  He is continually entering into our egoistic systems and redeeming us.  All too often we mistake God’s presence with His “blanket endorsement” of our beliefs, actions, and systems.  We misunderstand His love and His redemptive nature.  We think that because God is with us we MUST be the ones with the “right” doctrine, behavior, what-have-you.  We think that we must be “right” to be accepted when in reality we are accepted because He is right.

One final thought from Romans 8

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Firsts and Lasts

August 1, 2014

Today is the first day of August and the last day of the traditional work week. It is the first day of the month and the last month of summer vacation. There are probably more “firsts and lasts” associated with today – whether they revolve around “me” or not. Life is full of “firsts” and “lasts”. The Bible is also full of them and speaks of Jesus being the “first and the last”, the “alpha and the omega”, and the “beginning and the end”.
As a believer how I derive meaning from these little “coincidences” may seem trivial, but in reality it points to a deeper revelation of how I truly see God, myself, and reality. For instance, if I say that because this is a day of “firsts and lasts” that today is somehow more significant than any other day and that things are both beginning and ending in my life because of it then I believe that God, myself, and spiritual reality is subject to the Roman Calendar. I am no different than those who follow the horoscopes; really, I am superstitious at worst and just plain silly/childish at best. If I say that today is like any other day and this fun little coincidence of numbers and events has no meaning (my life is not effected by them) then I am believing that the cycles God put into place on earth for His purpose are ineffective in my life. This makes me sound agnostic or plain rebellious…right? So, what are my options? How should I respond to the cycles and seasons…the little coincidences in my life?
First I must realize that life and the process the Holy Spirit is leading me through is not a simple thing that can be wrapped up, summed up, or explained in a cliché. I must also realize that my journey is not on a “calendar” schedule. Days, months, seasons, years, and even hours were given to mankind as a gift from God to allow us this space to be reconciled to Him and reunited with the Eternal One. So, aside from a teaching tool, August 1, 2014 means nothing to God in terms of the spiritual reality – God lives in the realm of no time or space.
Secondly, God did not institute the Roman calendar, but that doesn’t mean Aug. 1, 2014 has no meaning to me. What I must realize is that whatever meaning it has, this date has it because I GIVE it meaning, not because of some superstitious or super spiritual God-given decree. What’s the difference, you ask? Well, if I give it meaning I cannot impose that meaning on another person. If God gives it meaning then the meaning can pertain to all people.
Finally, mankind was created in God’s image and as such we are creative beings. According to Hebrews we can create the world around us (our reality, our meaning) with the words of our mouth. James tells us that we can have what we ask when our motives are not simply to “consume on our own lust”. Both the “superstitious” point of view and the “agnostic” one from the beginning of the article are based on my belief of “who is in control”. Neither one puts God on the throne! The superstitious conclusion not only limits the meaning to numbers created by men but also denies the biblical principle of seasons by attributing the concept of first and last into only one day or (if liberally interpreted) one month. The agnostic conclusion alienates God from using the “coincidences” in life as part of our developmental journey toward oneness with Him.
So, how should one interpret these little “coincidences”? Ro. 8:28 tells us that all “things” work together for good for those who love God and all called to purpose (the word “his” is actually not there). I can here only speak to my own “working together” as for the significance of Aug. 1, 2014. If, by chance, your journey is at a similar place then the same may apply to you. Here is what my heart perceives according to my stage of the journey:
Life for us mortals seems to go in cycles. These cycles or seasons so often have a transitional beginning and end as we move from one to another. In our interactive lives with each other we often are not given the same transitional “grace” as are found in nature (ei summer to fall, fall to winter, winter to spring). We are held to time and schedule constraints that make the majority of our lives structured, rigid, and less “organic” than the life of biblical days. It can be so difficult to conceive of not having the limits of time and space. In fact, to many the idea of “no time constraints” and “no program/schedule” is frightening. Time, schedules, programs, and the like help us feel like we are in control when in reality we are very far from it. Today’s date and all its coincidences remind me that we are constantly in a transition of firsts and lasts, beginnings and endings, starts and finishes. I can walk through them all knowing that my trust is in the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the Beginning and the End. When I abide in Him I experience all that was and all that will be because He contains it all. Today God is calling me to be like Him: I Am. Today I am. I am present. I exist in the “now”: this moment, this breath, this relationship, and this life. I live in the “now”, like the sparrows, not worrying or giving thought to tomorrow.

To Judge or Not to Judge…That is the Question

July 8, 2014

To Judge or Not to Judge…That is the Question

2 Peter 1:2-4 2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (KJV)
One of the reasons for our Bible School and our Gathering times is to deal with the “nitty-gritty”, “down-to-earth”, and “where-the-rubber-meets-the-road” issues of both life and ministry. Everything we need to live out and fulfill our lives and ministries in a “godly” way is found in our relationship with our Maker, and the Bible contains the necessary guide posts to help us along “The Way”. Where Bible School focuses more on ministry and the Gathering focuses more on living/walking out our Faith. The twain often meet and similar questions are brought up. The following is one of those “life and godliness” questions that bears closer scrutiny: Judgment…
Consider the following two verses:
1 Cor 2:15-16 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (KJV)
and
Matt 7:1-5 1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (KJV)
How can we obey the words of Jesus to “Judge not….” and reconcile it with 1 Cor. which states that the “spiritually mature” judge “all things”. In Matthew the one who judges is a “hypocrite” but in 1 Cor. the one who judges is “spiritually mature”. What?!
Let’s see if a little “word study” may bring some light to these apparently contradictory verses…
The first “Judgeth” in 1 Cor. (as in all things) is Strong’s # G3303 it is a positive word and means to assert or affirm. It is not a negative as in pointing out a fault. Also note that “he that is spiritual” in context deals with maturity and one who has developed Christ-likeness. This “positive” is placed in front of Strong’s G350 which roughly means to examine or scrutinize. So, clearly there is a lack of “judgment” in the sense of “right and wrong” and more of discernment as to the true nature of things. Next, is the “All Things” – this is Strong’s G3956 and, although it can include people, its primary function here is “wholeness”. In other words…”(In contrast to the immature) He who is spiritual sees the whole picture and discerns the heart of the matter (inferred, not just the surface our outward appearance of things). The spiritual person looks for wholeness! The spiritual person is not looking for “what is lacking”. To put it in terms more commonly familiar: the spiritual person sees the “Christ” in “all things”. Those who are spiritual have an eye for finding the seeds of Christ-likeness in the larger picture. He/She is not caught up in little details, but sees each part as relating to a greater whole.
Now for part 2 of this verse: “yet he himself is judged of no man”. This “judged” is simply Strong’s G350 without the positive prefix. Additionally the phrase “no man” is Strong’s G3762 and, like the word for “all”, it means “nothing” – it can include people, but is more all-encompassing. The phraseology does not suggest that others will not judge such a one but that the “spiritual” does not live from a place of judgment neither is he/she affected by it. This (judge not/not judged) word is more in-line with Jesus’ command in Matt. 7 “Judge not lest you be judged”. The “spiritual” is simply unaffected by negative opinions/people/circumstances. He/She lives from above and has closed eyes to the deceptions of the good/evil, right/wrong religious system. The “spiritual” are in essence “curse-proof”. How? Because they do not partake of, deal with, or dish out “judgment/curses”. Matt. 7:2 confirms this: “for with what measure you judge…”
As believers we are called to be “Kingdom of Light” revealers. When we engage in negative judgment we reveal the Kingdom of Darkness and conceal the Kingdom of Light by drawing attention away from the “Likeness of God” in our brethren, to their fallen nature. Even as spiritual leaders we must be weary of this tactic of the Ego to call attention to self and enter again into works. As both believers and ministers of the glorious light of salvation we must make our focus, motivation, and intention the constant revelation of reflection and likeness of Christ both in ourselves and in others.

Knowing God

July 1, 2013

Knowing God
Ever have someone tell you that the Bible is God’s love letter to you, if you want to get to know Him “read the Word”? Then you look at the Book, with all it’s “books” and chapters and unfamiliar culture and think – “it’s too hard! I can never know God!”? If you are honest, you will confess that the Bible is not “easy reading”. To truly read and understand you must prayerfully study and use the tools of good biblical hermeneutics, cultural context, and language barriers…which most non-seminary people do not have. So, how did the early Christians do it? Just a short read in the book of Acts should reveal that they “knew God”. How does a busy working (or even stay-at-home) mom with small children find the time, let alone the energy, to “study” and know God.
I have good news for you: You cannot study to know God! You can study to know more about Him. Study to know more about how the Kingdom operates. Study to know more about how to relate to one another. But to know Him you must love Him, and to love Him you must experience Him. To experience Him you must perceive Him. “O taste and see that the Lord [our God] is good! Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who trusts and takes refuge in Him. (Psalms 34:8 AMP)”
If we compare our growing knowledge and perception of God to that of a developing child we know that the first “sense” that a newborn gets of his mother involves touch and taste directly involved with meeting basic needs: food, warmth, shelter, love, etc. This is how we come to El Shaddai (the many breasted one, the all sufficient one). We come as an infant: needy. Our fussing, rooting, and hunger for His essence all give Him such joy and pleasure. The interaction of needing and receiving from His abundance bonds us and makes us one with Him.
At first we know Him in the simplest of terms: “God is love…”
1 John 4:8 “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (ASV)”

Religion has tried to teach us that God loves us but we must (fill in the blank) in order to please Him, earn His blessings, etc. I encourage you to read the following passage only replace the word “charity” with “God” – meditate on the words and develop a picture of God based on His “love” quality:

1 Cor 13:4 “Love (God) is patient, love (God) is kind and is not jealous; love (God) does not brag and is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly; it (He) does not seek its (His) own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love (God) never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. (NASB)”

After spending some time meditating on the “love quality of God”, go back and study the words’ meaning. What is “patient”, “kind”, “jealous”, etc. All these give us insight into His character…but wait, you still have not tasted and seen. Now you must root for, look for, and hunger for these qualities being manifest in your life. You must “experience” His patience, kindness, etc. Look for them in your life, not just in your past experience but today, in this moment, can you find His love, patience, kindness, etc.?
I encourage you today, look for Him – not in a religious/pious sense, but as a child …
Psalms 42:1 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. (NLT)”

Great Expectations

February 25, 2013

Great Expectations

In pondering all things “relationship” whether it’s a spouse, friends, children, coworkers, or even God everyone has expectations and pre-conceived ideas about who should do what, what “certain people” should or should not do or how they should or should not behave. Most of the time the expectations are assumed, and are never truly communicated, although they may be hinted at from time to time. The person with the expectations feels that they are reasonable, logical, and common-sense “items” and is usually shocked and appalled when the other party fails to measure up.
In a marriage these expectations can cause tension, disappointment, arguments and even be devastating “deal-breakers”. One blessing in our marriage is that we came into the relationship with only one expectation: life-long commitment to one another. In the very few times that my husband and I have experienced conflict it has come because of taking on the expectations of others without communicating with one another. Let me be clear: no one’s expectations belong in your marriage. Your marriage belongs to the two of you, and whatever you work out between you is no one else’s business – no one’s.
Let me give an example. Early in our marriage my husband and I realized that I was better equipped to handle the family budget. We would sit down and decide what needed to happen in order for our financial obligations to be met and I would be the one responsible to keep us on track. Our current church setting, and even the way my parent’s relationship went seemed to indicate that my “controlling the check book” was a lack of submission on my part and usurping my husband’s authority.
So, being good little church goers, I handed over the whole thing to my husband without discussing why and if we believed the arrangement would work for us. The result was stressful for both of us. Dave had to take the lead in an area of his weakness, and I was constantly stressed out about finances! We made similar “decision-making” mistakes before I realized that being a “help meet” did not mean I was a silent partner. A relationship of equality and mutual submission has been our agreement for the past 14 years (it only took us 2 years to figure it out). When making major decisions we have always done so only if we are both in total agreement. It can be a bit slower this way, but the harmony that we experience is worth it!
Early on I learned how to identify my expectations, weigh their importance, and communicate them or lay them aside. As I have been thinking about expectations, I realize that the longer I’ve been married the fewer “expectations” I have of my husband and other people in my life. I have learned to let people do what they can do. Be who they are. Be involved as much or as little as they desire in my life. Anything I receive emotionally or relationally is a gift. No one “owes” me anything.
Although I do challenge people’s thinking and try to encourage beneficial behavior I do not “expect” others to “toe the line” just because I believe it is right or best. Some may think this is the “coward’s way out” or that I lack the gumption to “stand up for myself”. That’s fine, because I do not expect others to understand or even chose to behave or live as I do. Am I always perfect in this – NO.
Sometimes my “inner Pharisee” comes out and I too point the accusing finger at others exposing their “bad behavior” and faults. Yes that “religious”, legalistic, pharisaical part of sin-nature careens out of control sometimes. Even the most “nonjudgmental” person falls into this kind of self-righteous pattern from time to time. This leads me to the hardest of all expectations to dethrone:
Self-Expectations
I have not met anyone who does not have self-expectations, and who has not disappointed themselves. Most will beat themselves up at least on occasion whether because of something they said, did, did not say, or did not do that either reflected on them poorly or hurt someone else. Giving ourselves permission to “mess up” and still “get up” and grow and learn is one of the hardest lessons on the road to maturity and humility.

One of the reasons we get so down on ourselves is because we have this false belief that we are somehow better than others who make the same mistakes and commit the same “sins”. 1 Cor. 10:13 in the New Living Translation says: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” It’s hard on the ego to come to terms with the fact that our relationship with God is solely dependent upon His faithfulness. We say we believe this, but then when we fail or other people fall short of our expectation we lay on “the law” and want to exact punishment.
It is because of this sin-born desire to self-justify that we must carefully evaluate the expectations we have of others and put upon ourselves. What are we “requiring” of one another, and do we really have the right to “require” anything at all? What does God “require” of us? And, just because God requires it of us, does that give us the right to require it of others? If we are expecting others to live by “God’s rules” are we not taking the place of God? How can we expect others to abide by “His rules” when we are breaking them as well? It’s something to ponder now, isn’t it?

It Takes Two

January 6, 2013

It Takes Two
Remember the old song 1988 hip hop song by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock “It Takes Two”? Well, that’s one version. I believe the original was done in the 1960s. You remember: “It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it out-a-sight.” I have been contemplating over the past month the implications of “two”: no, not the number and numerology aspects of “two”, but how we are surrounded by “twos”. For example, we have two ears and two eyes. What happens if one of the two stops working?
I knew a pastor who had one glass eye. The circumstances of what happened to his other eye elude me, but I do remember that his depth perception was greatly hindered. He’d learned to compensate for it for the most part but he would never play baseball, and was very awkward even when successful at catching a ball. The idea of him driving still scares me! What is my point? Well, even though both our eyes are…well…eyes, they see whatever we are looking at from a different perspective. Our eyes “united” gaze gives us a clearer view of whatever it is we are seeing. Not only do we “see” the object more clearly, we are also more accurately able to discern where it is in relation to ourselves and other “things”.
Our ears work in a similar manner. This has become all too real to me over the past few days. Due to a middle ear and sinus infection, my left eardrum ruptures and I have temporarily lost some of the hearing in that ear until the drum repairs itself. In essence, my right ear in “down for maintenance” LOL! One of the side effects of this condition is that I am having trouble discerning whether the sound I am hearing is coming from the basement, upstairs, or the room next to me. My children think this is hilarious. Because I know my hearing is “off” I’ve learned to rely on others to tell me where the sound is coming from. In simple terms the two pinnae (plural of pinna) of a person’s left and right ears work together to determine if a sound is coming from the right or left. A sound that’s coming from the right reaches the right eardrum sooner than the left. It also sounds slightly louder in the right ear. The brain compares the input from both ears and uses this to decide which side the sound came from.
Similarly we have two hands (arms) and feet (legs) for the purpose of balance and stability.
As believers, ministers, and seekers of God this is important to us because we need to make sure we are not relying on only one “eye” or “ear”. If we have only the perspective of one input our perceptions will be off guiding us in the wrong direction.
Consider: 1 Cor 12:14-18
14 the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. (KJV)

Now, the point of this previous scripture is that we are many, different, yet together we make one whole. Just as we cannot say we don’t need our hand because it experiences wind differently than our eye that the hand is “wrong” or not in “unity” with the rest of the Body…even so, we cannot say we do not need another believer simply because he or she experiences, manifests, or is otherwise different from our own “reality”. We cannot say they are not “one of us” or are not “in unity” with us. Rather it is our privilege to have multiple perspectives and from them derive a more refined view of our surroundings and our location in those surroundings.

Why do I mention this? Because as a Body of Christ we have despised and marginalized one another based on our differing experiences and interpretations of the Bible, God, and our world. This has to stop! It is ridiculous for me to think that my eye would have the same perspective and experience as my ear. When, in fact, one eye has a different perspective than the one sitting next to it. No two members experience the same experiences the same way, and that is how we were designed to function. Even God (who is one, in perfect unity) is “multifaceted” (1 Pet. 4:10), has many Names and expression so that we might perceive and experience Him more fully.

Our unity, then, cannot be based on our agreement and identical beliefs or perspectives. Our unity must be based on some deeper, more lasting/enduring connection. There must be a stronger bond than the fleeting views that we hold. What does the Word say about this bond?

Eph 4:1-6 1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (KJV)

My prayer for the Body of Christ in 2013 is that we all begin to walk out the previous six verses. I pray that we lay down our need to be “right”, our need to “win others over to our way of seeing things”, our need to “fix our brothers and sisters” and that we would with all lowliness, meekness, and with longsuffering forbear one another in love endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I pray that we would truly believe that there really is only one body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all (even doctrine), through all, and in us all!
1 Thess 5:23-24 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. (KJV)
God is faithful, friends! He will preserve us…all of us, by the power of His Grace.

Unfurl Your Sails

December 28, 2012

Unfurl Your Sails!

Heb. 10:35-39

Draw back the Hebrew word for draw back is the picture of furled sails. Not lowered because of a storm, but tied down and put away so as to avoid being “driven by the wind”. It is the Greek word: hupostello and means shrinkage (timidity), i.e. (by implication) apostasy: -draw back. it comes from two words : hupo and stello. The prefix “hupo” is suggestive of stealth. Meaning literally to withhold under (out of sight), to cower or shrink, to conceal (reserve), to set fast (stall) to repress (abstain from associating with) to avoid, withdraw self.

What are we “withholding” from the Lord? From His Body? In what area are we refusing to allow the wind of the Spirit to blow us in a direction we “know not”?

In Verse 33 the writer reminds the Hebrews how they joyfully endured ridicule and loss of personal possessions knowing that their heavenly reward was worth so much more. Verse 35 reminds them (after all this time) not to cast off their confidence “which hath great recompence of reward”. The passage of time (vs 36) is for the purpose of producing patience and after we have done the will of God, because we are patient (do not grow weary in well doing…we shall reap if we faint not Gal. 6:9), we will receive the promise.

How do we loose out on the promise? Vs 38 says: “the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”

Here’s your confession and your battle cry: “but we are not of those who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” The word translated “unto” means continually. It does not refer to “falling back to…in the direction of…” but a habit of continually furling your sails (resulting in “perdition”).

The word “faith” in verse 38 and the word “believe” in verse 39 are the same word. They both mean: persuation, credence, moral conviction, assurance, belief, faith…That word “saving” is not sozo it is peripoiesis and it means to “possess”. When we walk by faith, unfurling our sails (to the “unknowns” of God), we possess our souls and the wind of the spirit directs our lives into life. When we do not walk by faith our sails are furled and our souls lead us to perdition. Perdition means ruin, loss, destruction, waste, die…

When we refuse to allow ourselves to fall into the “control trap”, but instead unfurl our sails and let the wind of the spirit blow us (walk of faith: know not whence it comes or where it goes Jn 3:8) then we will possess our souls, give God pleasure and not perish.

The same word (draw back) appears in Gal. 2:12 when certain came from James and Peter withdrew and separated (meaning to sever) from eating with (relationship) the gentiles for fear of the Jews. We must not furl our sales when it comes to relationships, not allow ourselves to compromise the truth based on the “fear of man”. Notice that they didn’t “draw back” from just one or two people, but excluded a whole group based on fear and a false sense of holiness. This is also a “control and pride issue”, we want others to think well of us instead of obeying God, humbling ourselves and allowing Him to exalt or further humble us in the eyes of man. Whenever we act differently than who we are in order to gain perceived acceptance, we furl our sails and “He finds no pleasure in us”. It is also possible that Peter and those who went with him fell into the “law and works” trap and ceased to live in the “grace through faith” walk. Saul in the old testament had this problem too:

In 1 Sam. 13:12 Saul is answering Samuel why he offered sacrifices instead of waiting for Saul the word “forced” is also that Hebrew picture: to furl ones’ sails. Saul took matters into his own hands instead of standing firm in the faith (that Samuel – the one anointed for that job – though he tarried would not be late). When we try to do the “portion of another” instead of waiting for God to bring (or raise up) the right person for the job we “furl our sails” and take control. Our lack of trust in the God in one another is one way that we “furl our sails” and prohibit the driving of the wind of the spirit.

Also Acts 20:20, 27 Paul withheld no good thing from them, but freely and openly relayed all that God had given for them. Like Paul we must not withhold showing, teaching, and demonstrating all publicly and house to house even if we think the “hearers” are unreceptive or will misuse the “message”. We are not the ones in “control”! Unfurl your sales and let the Spirit take the lead!

2 Tim. 3:1-5

1 You may as well know this too, Timothy, that in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian.
2 For people will love only themselves and their money; they will be proud and boastful, sneering at God, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful to them, and thoroughly bad.
3 They will be hardheaded and never give in to others; they will be constant liars and troublemakers and will think nothing of immorality. They will be rough and cruel, and sneer at those who try to be good.
4 They will betray their friends; they will be hotheaded, puffed up with pride, and prefer good times to worshiping God.
5 They will go to church, yes, but they won’t really believe anything they hear. Don’t be taken in by people like that.

2 Tim 3:1-5 (TLB)

What is the “power”?

Romans 1:16;

The true “power of godliness” is found in salvation: by grace through faith (that’s why vs 5 of 2 Tim 3 is so vital to today’s “church goer”). The power of God unto salvation goes to those who “believe”. Return to Heb. – are we drawing back to perdition or believing to the “saving” of our souls? Salvation comes by grace. Here are some grace verses that will tell you how “saved” your soul is…

Eph. 2:8;

Grace is for obedience Rom. 1:5 How is your obedience level? Are you obeing the Word? Or just when you feel like it?

Grace is for standing Rom 5:2 How is your perseverance? Do you quit/give up easily?

Grace brings humility Rom. 12:3 How’s your pride? Can you not “tolerate” someone who doesn’t meet your standards? Are you critical and always picking others and their performance apart? Do you feel you have “rights” that aren’t being afforded to you? How do you react when someone who is supposed to “submit” to you doesn’t?

CHECK YOURSELF! Have you “fallen from grace”? Did you fall back into works? How to know? When you don’t get it you get upset because you feel you’ve “earned it”. Or when you do get it you brag on your “works” and don’t give God ALL the glory.

How are you drawing back and resisting the leading of the Spirit in your life? Your ministry? Your family? Your relationships? What has He asked of you? Are you still doing it?

The Shelter of the Most High

December 25, 2012

The Shelter of the Most High
Psalms 91:1-8 (KJV)
In the wake of the increasing acts of violence and dangerous situations happening in the United States, and especially as a response to our recent school shootings I decided to begin blogging on the subject of divine protection. Growing up on the mission field has given me some experiences and ample opportunity to practice walking in this area of faith. To go along with my insights and experience-sharing I will select a passage of Scripture with each blog to use as a foundation and spring-board. I hope that you will feel free to ask questions and share whatever you find useful with as many as possible.
I also want to emphasize that in no way is any of this “sharing” meant to condemn those who did not experience “protection from harm”, or to place blame on anyone for not “using their faith” in this area. On the contrary, my desire is to provide a resource for individuals and parents to shore up their faith in the area of divine protection. We live in an evil day, but Isaiah 61 promises us that we can arise and shine because our light (our Lord and Savior) has come and the glory of the Lord has indeed risen upon us. Our light will grow brighter as the world and the people enslaved therein falls into gross darkness.
The stories I will share are not in chronological order, and the principals/topics are not arranged in any particular order. Consider this like a round-table, campfire setting. Join me as I tell my story, share what I’ve gleaned, and join the discussion – He who promised…is faithful (Heb. 10:23)!
The Story:
I had always wanted a horse, and for my 13th birthday my parents had bought me one! Castaño was not much of a horse, but I was so petite my father wanted to make sure I didn’t have too much horse to handle. For a while I rode bare back (we hadn’t gotten a saddle yet) and the horse’s bridle was made of rope…no bit (and really none was needed, he was such a gentle horse). I hadn’t owned my horse for long when I decided to venture off our property and go for a ride down one of the dirt roads in our rural area.
Thinking back to that day I remember feeling a little uneasy as I steered the horse toward the unfamiliar path. I wrote it off as me being over cautious and being stubborn turned him toward the path. I didn’t get far, though. Castaño, a normally obedient and docile horse, became belligerent and refused to go where I directed him. Much like Balaam, I tried digging in my heals and even tapped him with the end of the reigns…to no avail. Suddenly Castaño turned toward home and took off running at full gallop. That horse did not stop until I was delivered to the front door!
Later that evening my parents tortured me with the local news. My dad used to sporadically make me watch a program, read a book, or engage in some other activity that I was not interested in. Being very prophetic, I’ve found all those times were shortly followed by me needing that information or skill – it was maddening, but I learned young not to question it. On this particular night the news was covering a rape/homicide that happened earlier in the day…on that very path I was trying to take, a young girl was raped and murdered! I will not deal with the “Why her and not me?” question and the other “Why wouldn’t a just God protect the other girl as well…?” Those are not for this blog.
This blog is about the lesson(s) I learned from this experience:
1) It is because of His faithfulness that we enjoy safety.
2) Parents can “cover” their children with a cloud and fire.
3) We often ignore God unintentionally.
Consider the following Scripture:
Ps. 91:1-8 (KJV)
1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Let’s look at this Scripture one verse at a time:
He that dwells in the secret place of the most High…
I find it interesting that preceding all the promises of protection this verse address a specific group of people: “Secret Place Dwellers”. So, what is the secret place? The sages say that Moses wrote Ps 91 as he dwelt in the secret place (insert Hebrew) of the Most High, in the “midst of the dark cloud (Ex. 24:18), a place of sacred and holy concealment. The thick clouds are a “hiding place” for him (Job. 22:14). Notice that the one who “abides” in the secret of the Most High dwells in an ascended place of rest – being lifted up above the surrounding madness of this fallen world of flux and shadows. The Hebrew word means to lodge or to sleep (abide), connecting it with death and resurrection. By dwelling in the death and resurrection of Jesus, God will shield you with His Presence and make evil powerless before you. The Hebrew word “Most High” is Elyon which comes from the root word meaning “to ascend”.
Through the blood of the spotless lamb we have access to the “ascended places” the very throne room of the Father, King is available to us. We have but to tune our hearts and open our spiritual eyes to His overwhelming presence in us, through us, and all around us (Eph. 4:6).
The key to this Divine protection is our “dwelling” (lodge or sit down) in a place of “Divine Presence Awareness”. That secret place, is an ascended state (Col. 3:1-3) which results in “abiding” under the shadow of the almighty (El Shaddai). The word “abide” is also interesting. It means to rest or sleep and is connected by some Hebrew scholars to death and resurrection.
Since God hides himself in this world (Isa. 45:15), we must humbly seek His face to enter into the place of His holy concealment in all things. God is Elyon – High above – but He dwells “with the lowly and the broken of heart” (Isa. 57:15). Therefore the LORD our God is called Shaddai – our Sustainer, Provider, Refuge, and Home. Just as we can be surrounded by the “shadow of dealth”, so we can be surrounded by the “shadow of Shaddai”. Like a powerful eagle brooding over her chicks, so Shaddai covers you with wings of protection (Ps. 91:4).
To put it in more 21st Century terms – He is our force-field, and cloak of invisibility.
When you “abide” in the secret of Elyon – the Ascended One – you are concealed by the dark clouds of His Glory, and the Presence of Shaddai overshadows you…The LORD will save you from the ensnaring trap and from the devastating pestilence (Ps. 91:3). By abiding in the truth (faithfulness) that God’s Presence pervades all things at all times – you become a “stranger” with the LORD in this world, a “sojourner” (1 Pet. 1:1).
What does this have to do with Divine protection? EVERYTHING! If we are to walk as Elijah did, as Daniel did, and Paul did then we must develop an awareness of our hidden state in Him. We must engage our faith, trust, and confidence is His Divine force-field about us. We must tune our ears and open our eyes, for He is ever speaking, ever revealing, and ever present. We must rend from our hearts, minds, and belief systems that we are EVER alone. That we go somewhere He is not. That we are EVER hidden from His sight.
I am (and from a child have been) often aware of this “invisible to the naked eye” bubble of God surrounding me, within me, and flowing through me. As such, fear is a very rare occurrence for me. In our next blog we will discuss the nature of peace and it pertains to Divine protection.

God was not “kicked out of schools”

December 15, 2012

I have spent much time over the past day pondering the atrocity committed at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut.  As many of you, I have shed tears and uttered prayers for those who both suffered losses of friends and family members as well as for those children who witnessed the violent murder of their fellow classmates and trusted teachers.  I know that the grief and sadness I feel is but a mere fraction of what my brothers and sisters in Connecticut are experiencing.  I am also grieved, ashamed, and disappointed with my fellow believers (some of whom are leaders) responses; but I am also encouraged by the others who have held prayer vigils, extended condolences, and spoken words of comfort and compassion. 

I know I will not be popular for this stance, but if popularity is what I sought I would certainly not be where I am, doing what I do.  In this blog I will address one of the most prevalent answers many of my fellow believers are offering as to why God “allowed” this (and other) tragedy to happen to such innocents and those who dedicate their lives to their education.  For the sake of saving time I will paste a link with the reasoning I’ve seen referenced to and argued on FaceBook not just after this tragedy but many times before:

 

http://www.comprehensivechristian.com/National-TV-Billy-Grahams-daughter.asp

 

In short, the stance is “What do you expect when you kicked God out of the schools, government, parenting, etc.?”  The stand is that God is a gentleman and He has humbly bowed out of our schools as we have asked; therefore, He was not “there” to stop this tragedy.  Not only is this statement biblically unsound, it is also hateful and vindictive.  Dear, fellow, beloved believers: in the Name of all that it Holy, STOP IT!

The Bible is clear: God DOES NOT live in buildings or operate through the governments of this world’s system –

 

Acts 7:48-51 48 However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
49 ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest?
50 Has My hand not made all these things?’
51 “You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you (NKJV).

 Acts 17: 24-29 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.
25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.
26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,
27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;
28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’
29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising (NKJV).

John 18:35-36 35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?
36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence (KJV).

I submit to you that God was not “kicked out” of the schools because He never lived there in the first place.  God was not kicked out of government because He never lived there or operated there either.  Although it is true that there are many Scriptures in the Old Testament where God disciplined the nation of Israel for her ungodliness and idolatry: I fear American believers have the false assumption that America is the New Testament Israel.  My friends, we are not God’s “new chosen nation”.  Because of the cross there is now no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free…but we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3:28-29). God lives and operates through His people both individually and corporately (Matt. 5:13-16).  Verse 12 of Matthew 5 talks about rejoicing when persecuted, that command is followed by explaining that we are salt and light and we are not to “hide our light under a basket” but let it shine!  Christians took “God” (at least His representation) out of schools and government and created baskets to hide under by placing their children in Christian Schools or simply homeschooling them.  We did this because we thought that if we were not allowed to pray or read our Bibles in school that we were not able to be Christians there.  Isn’t that ridiculous!?  If a dog is muzzled and bound so that it cannot bark or wag its tail does it cease to be a dog? NO!  Believers all over the world are witnessing and “shining the light” without toting their Bibles or even making a public prayer…so what happened?

 

We experienced a tiny bit of persecution and ran for the hills!  We are called to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Mk 16:15)…”  My dad used to say that according to this commandment you need special permission to stay!  Time to “man up” and teach our children to be “arrows in the hands of an expert marksman (Ps. 127:4).  Time to actually teach our children how to withstand persecution and be strong, courageous, and confident in their faith (Josh. 1:5-9).  God chose Abraham to be the conduit for the entrance of the salvation plan because He knew Abraham would be faithful to teach his children:

Gen 18:19 19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him (KJV).

Deut 6:4-8 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes (KJV)

This is how I was raised.  My parents did not allow themselves to be so busy that they did not take time to instruct me in the ways of righteousness.  They taught me to use my faith for more than just healing and prosperity.  They taught me how to “dwell in the secret place of the most high and abide under His shadow”.  In my blogs over the next few weeks (or for as long as I am led of the Lord) I will be sharing stories from my childhood of God’s protection – so many times I could have/should have died.  I encourage you to read those stories with your children and to begin to build within them the faith to stand in this evil day.

 

May God bless you.  May the Spirit of the Most High encourage, empower, and strengthen you to do His will.  May the people of God rise up and shine once again…and May His Church become the Brilliant Bride that she was created to be…

 

The Spirit and Bride say…COME!

 

 

 

Life Givers

December 3, 2012

Are you a life-giver?  One of the very first commandments given to human kind was to be fruitful and multiply.  We are designed to bear fruit, produce life, and that life is more than just physical children.  God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth…”  In fact, in Genesis 3:20 woman is given the name “Eve”.  The name Eve comes from the Hebrew name חַוָּה (Chawwah), which was derived from the Hebrew word חוה (chawah) “to breathe” or the related word חיה (chayah) “to live”.  The Amplified Bible places the phrase “life spring” next to her name and before the statement “because she was the mother of all living”.  In Eve we see one of the characteristics of the Holy Spirit being displayed.  In fact, when Jesus is talking to the woman at the well He states that when she encounters the “living waters” they will be like a well “springing up”.  “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life John 4:14 (KJV).”  Indeed she did drink of His living water and the result was a great many coming to believe on Jesus.

Although the account in Genesis can and does pertain to natural children we know through our studies of scripture (including those mentioned previously) that God often uses natural things to demonstrate and communicate spiritual principles (1Cor. 15:46).  Consider the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13.  After Jesus told the parable to the multitudes His disciples inquired about it’s meaning.  They knew that Jesus was teaching farmers about the principles of farming.  They knew how to farm.  He was trying to use a common, everyday occurrence to open their eyes to the spiritual principles of the Gospel.  His explanation starts in verse 18.  In the end, it is clear that what matters to the master is fruit.  In fact, fruit is a major theme throughout the gospels and even in many of the epistles. In John 15:16 Jesus says: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”

So, what does that mean to us the modern day believer and follower of Christ?  How do we use this knowledge to inform and guide our lives?  If we are to make His priorities our own then we must give special attention to fruit and make a purposeful, concerted effort to be a fruitful bride.  We must not only be receivers of seed that bears fruit, but, like Eve; we must be a life-giving force.  We must be the New Testament Eve: the “mother of all that is living”.  Our word, actions, and dispositions must embody this well springing up to everlasting life.