30 December 2015

Breakthrough Monday

Sunday was, in a word . . . 

Well. 

There's too much to fit it into one word. 

Every so often, and sometimes in batches, I have a Sunday where I learn so many things. So many keys to open doors I've been standing outside of, sometimes knocking, sometimes praying, sometimes singing or weeping. I get instruction from heaven, an extra-awesome bear hug from Jesus, an infilling and refreshing that propels me into the waiting week with joy. Last Sunday was one of those.

But Monday morning. Oh, heavens. Expecting to leap out of bed with joy and energy, it was as if the enemy of my soul had rolled up his sleeves and threw himself into testing my new light and joy. With a vengeance. 

Depression and heaviness. Hands stiff with swelling. Aches and very little energy. I limped along as best I could with a tremendous amount of help from my amazing children. I got them to their grandmother's house to play with their visiting cousin, visited with my mom for a while, and then headed off with my youngest for an appointment. 

For weeks now, if not months, God has been entreating me, so sweetly, to spend time with Him, reminding me with this standing invitation of the sweetness and refreshing that fills my soul when I rest in Him. I had also been moved upon earlier that morning to compile a playlist of certain songs, completed in small moments here and there. And as I drove, listening to that playlist, a song came on that spoke directly into the state of my body, mind and heart, into the hunger I felt for the presence of God within me, and finally opened wide the doorway into the standing invitation of resting in Him.

From that moment, every ailment, all heaviness, fled. And I learned how to find the place God had been beckoning me into . . . a place of safety, comfort and strength that I had only known in the context of corporate worship. I now have a new pearl of great price tucked deep into my soul; a new upwelling of the fountain of Living Water to drink from, to let shower down over me and soak me through and through.

I don't know if I can do justice to this experience . . . but my purpose isn't to give you the completeness of it. My purpose is to shout from the rooftops that our God can be taken at His word, that He can--and will--be found. And you will find Him, over and over, around every corner of your heart.

So talk to Him. Find the quiet space within you where you can shut the door on the mental chatter and simply BE. Then let the Living God, the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, come. Let Him sit with you. Soak in His love. And find rest for your soul.

The Prophetic: Taking Note

Drive-by blogging, today, with a post I made on Facebook:

It's so interesting, when that feeling of the prophetic settles over me and I look around and take note of what God is saying about what I'm seeing, where I am, or who I'm with. Then it's like waiting for Christmas, looking for the fulfilling, the completing, of the knowledge God has spoken into my heart. 😊

20 December 2015

He Teaches Gently

Today, before church at Hidden Valley, I chatted with a friend. He mentioned that his lower back was bothering him, and almost immediately I felt the increasingly familiar urging from the Holy Spirit rising within my heart to put my hand on his shoulder and tell him to be healed. And I didn't do it. The flow of conversation was such that his acceptance of his pain offered me a convenient out . . . and I'm not proud to say that I took it.

I thought about that all through the service, along with a word of knowledge I was given that another friend's back would be totally healed, to the point that the rod placed along her spine would be removed supernaturally. That God would speak, and it would disappear. I didn't tell her that when I first heard it (a few minutes before I felt nudged to heal), and I meditated on that through the length of the service as well. As I kept those things in mind, I felt distinctly that my opportunity to heal that lower back had passed, but that I would get a chance to share that word of knowledge.

At the end of the service the pastor did an altar call, calling up anyone who had a bulging disc. My friend with the lower back pain raised his hand with a grin, and went up front. He had hands laid upon him, and his back was healed.

As I think over those events, and the distinct messages I received about healing today, I can see that with my friend's lower back, I was hearing in the spirit the same thing that the pastor heard at the end of the service: that God was going to heal him. Even though I didn't rise to the occasion and do it, he was still healed. And I had a tremendous learning experience about the validity of God's word, and the fact that my own weaknesses will not frustrate His work within the body of Christ . . . but that I will have plenty of chances to learn in the spirit, to practice, without major calamity.

After the service, I found the second friend, and delivered the word about her back that God had given me. And I can't wait to see it fulfilled . . .

17 December 2015

God With Us

Today I'm thinking about the meaning of the name Emanuel. Our God is called Emanuel. God with us. It's not just that He came and lived here as mortal and died for us. That's not the whole purpose behind this name.

The entirety of the name/title Emmanuel is that our God is WITH us. 

Now. 

This very moment. 

Everything He did was for the purpose of claiming the right to be with us wherever we are. To walk with us through our lives. Even if we ignore Him, even if we discount everything He said. 

He is with us! Every one of us. All. the. time.

His victory gives Him the right to come to us in our sinful and fallen state and BE with us. The Great I AM. With us, always. What more beautiful thing can you imagine? God came and chose to be with us, so imperfect and so flawed, and yet so beloved. No wonder it is His love that perfects us, that redeems us. His perfect love motivated everything He did, and I will forever stand in awe of the miracle that is Jesus Christ.

07 December 2015

Come Unto Jesus

I want to plead with every one of you for a minute. Yesterday, I had a beautiful and power encounter in the spirit during worship at church where I received a commission from Jesus Christ to walk in greater humility and submission to Him, and an anointing of the Holy Spirit to carry that out. 

I can't put into words the importance of entering into worship, of the vocal and demonstrative prayer that is singing before your God, and the incredible blessing, breakthrough, visions and empowerment I've received through worship. It's deeply personal, precious time with my Jesus--in which I have fully accepted Him as MINE, and have learned freedom and deep trust in Him. He has taught me, shown me things, comforted and blessed me in ways I want to give to everyone, friend or stranger. I want you all to know Jesus Christ . . . know Him in the full vulnerability of love that reveals Him to your heart, that makes Him a real and present part of your every moment, that provides power and strength in faith like nothing else.

I recognize that many of you who might read this have a relationship with Him already. That you know Him, that He blesses and loves and communicates with you. If you don't have experience in worshipping, I long to be able to share about this type of communion with Him, this way of meeting with Jesus that is absolutely outside of Mormon experience, and yet is so deeply founded in God's history with His people.

And if you don't yet know Jesus for yourself, or if you believe and yet He seems silent, I invite you to ask Him to reveal Himself to you, that the Living God would make Himself manifest in your heart and your life so you can taste His unbounded love and come to know Him for who He is.

So, please. I'm pleading with every one of you in the name of Jesus . . . press into prayer and ask God to help you understand worship better, to have chances to worship Him, and to become familiar with your own Holy of Holies where you can meet with Him and commune with Him.

Our God is so, so GOOD. He loves us so much. He gave up everything He had in heaven--existence in an overflow of love and power and glory--to constrain Himself within fallen flesh. He walked out His life in this world in total submission to His Father, becoming the Way for us to tread. He descended below all things, and because He did He was raised up to be seated at the right hand of His Father. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and wholly righteous . . . and yet He offers His righteousness as a covering for our mortal weakness, His strength to empower us, His Truth to teach us, so we can be freed from death and hell and once again walk with Him as Adam and Eve did in the garden--as if mankind never left. And His only desire--the whole motivation for all He did--is to share the closest, most intimate of fellowship with us so we can exist in that same overflow of love and peace and glory that He now does.

Come unto Him. Oh, please. In Jesus' name.

25 November 2015

God, Here I Am





S: Isaiah 6:8 (HCSB)
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:
Who should I send?
Who will go for Us?
I said:
Here I am. Send me."
O: This phrase, translated from the Hebrew "hinneh", is used in response to God's voice by Abraham (Gen 22), Jacob (Gen 31 & 46), Moses (Exod 3) Samuel (1 Sam 3), Isaiah (Isa 6) and the prophet Ananias (Acts 9).

A: This is an admittedly backward Life Journal, as this answer to God came to me during worship a few weeks ago, and has come back to my mind many times since. It was Isaiah's words that I remembered first, and his situation that I identify most closely. It's a phrase that has become a key for me, as it's a way to present myself to God, to lay myself before Him exactly as I am, and offer myself for service however He might wish to use me. This phrase has the ability to strip away the fear that still so easily besets me, and literally casts my cares upon my God so I can get out of my own way and do what He asks.

P: Father God, thank You. Thank You for everything. For Your Son, for the unending patience and blessing that is mine because of Jesus, and for the miracle that it is that you can use me, in some way, to help any of Your children. I love you, God, so much, and I just want to live Your way, because that provides for the most happiness for both of us. :o) You know me; You love and bless me; and I thank You so much for this key to getting out of my own way. In Jesus' name, amen.

13 November 2015

Come unto Him. Oh, please.

Oh, my friends. My heart is breaking right now.

I keep seeing people I love, so dearly, that I know Jesus loves so dearly, people with repentant hearts and souls longing for their God, talking about how they hope, one day, they can know they are acceptable to God. I just want to shout from the rooftops: "Jesus LOVES every one of us! All the way! Nothing held back! Right! Now!"

He died for us while the world lay in sin . . . before most of us were even born. The price fully paid, He announced the work of redemption finished on the cross. All of heaven and earth rejoiced, as we read in Enoch's vision. Enoch went from refusing to be comforted to rejoicing with the seraphs, shouting, "Hallelujah, for the Lamb is slain!!!"

Every one of us is FULLY acceptable to God, right this minute. He has not a single reason to reject us. That's the whole point of everything Jesus did, and the meaning of the scripture that says God is storing up his wrath for the day of judgement. Jesus won so we could have this period of grace. Jesus was God . . . He left the place of perfect love and glory and joy to constrain Himself within mortal--Telestial--flesh, to endure all, to suffer the effects of sin and illness until He bled from every pore resisting sin, and then to die one of the most painful deaths devised. 

For you.

It's the price paid for something that declares the buyer's valuation, its worth in the buyer's eyes. And you, my friend, are worth the innocent, priceless blood of God.

By virtue of the cross, Jesus now has the right to come to each of us (right where we are!), and to walk with us through everything. Instead of having to do a bunch of stuff to make sure we're cleansed of sin and worthy of His presence so we won't be struck dead, His blood pays for all the junk we've got, and gives Him the right and power to remit our debt, forgive our sins, and BE with us, right now. Instead of being like the priests who went into the Holy of Holies wearing bells and with a rope tied to his ankle so if the bells stopped and he didn't yank back when the priests outside yanked on the rope, they could haul the body out without going in and being struck dead, too, our God can fill us with His Spirit, can appear to us, and we are not destroyed.

When Jesus died on the cross, not only did the earth shake, but the veil in the temple in Jerusalem was torn from top to bottom. Rent clean in twain. The priests in the holy place were given a view into the Holy of Holies, and they weren't struck dead. But, instead of realizing what had just happened, they quickly closed the veil up again, shutting off the view of heaven Jesus had just freely given them, going back to business as usual. 

Brothers and Sisters, the veil is TORN! There is no longer separation between man and God. We don't have to be "good enough" or "qualify" for His love, or His presence. We only have to WANT Him, to invite Him.

Can we be exalted in our sins? No. But that doesn't mean that we are cut off from Jesus until we're worthy of exaltation. That's the whole reason Jesus did what He did! He redeemed us from the fall . . . that's right now. We don't have to live subject to sin and death, separated from God.

About a year ago, I spent a lot of energy wondering about why Jesus had to die. I had just been taught by the Holy Spirit and scripture that the test of this life is whether we'll desire good or evil. Each man is rewarded according to his works, according to the desires of his heart (D&C 137). And if so, if Alvin Smith could be found on the right hand of God, if those who had never heard of Jesus were saved so long as their hearts longed for righteousness and they did their best based on what they knew, then why did Jesus have to die? Why did He have to go through all of that incredible pain? Why? Why???

As I labored in that heart cry of "Why???", His answer came. So sweetly, so powerfully. 

"So I could be with you."

God misses us. So much. The Fall took us from His presence, where we were designed to dwell, and all God wants is for us to be with Him again. Jesus' victory means so many things . . . but most of all it means He can come to His people. His name, Emmanuel, means God With Us. And in a day of hardcore idolatry and fertility cults, where every other god was a distant deity, demanding all manner of iniquity as worship, silent and utterly unreachable, here was Jesus Christ. He walked with mankind, sacrificing Himself--even God--so He could succor His people, heal them, walk with them, be in fellowship with them.

Please, oh please. Don't think that there is anything--and I mean ANYTHING--keeping you from God other than your own unbelief. The enemy looooves it when we believe his lies, whether it's the one that says Jesus can't come to you right now as you are, or the one that says you're not good enough. (That second one is especially nasty, because it's true--none of us are "good enough"--but it utterly denies the power of Jesus by virtue of His victory.) Jesus is the God of relentless mercy, all-pervading love, and abounding grace. He LONGS to be with you, right here. Now. He LONGS to pour out His Spirit on you as soon as you open your heart to receive it. Rock Waterman's experience of receiving the baptism of fire is a perfect example. He was seeking it, praying for it. But, ultimately, it came down to this. He said, in a comment on this page: "I had the faith. In fact, I felt that it was about time I allowed myself to REALLY receive the Holy Ghost. So just like that, it happened." He was, simply and truly, open to receive. To "allow" himself to "really receive the Holy Ghost". No works. No earning. Just open.

So please . . . I'm begging you with everything that's in me . . . don't deny our Lord the chance to come to you right now. I'm SO flawed, so weak, so fallible. And yet, He is there whenever I turn to Him. Whenever I raise my voice to worship Him. Whenever I open my mind and heart to Him. Every time. Always. So often when I read the accounts of those who have seen Jesus Christ, it's obvious that they didn't earn that visit. They didn't pay for it. He just came, because they believed He could.

Jesus descended below all things. He can come to you where you are.

06 November 2015

Paid in Full Study: Day One Journaling

(I'm starting to study Paid in Full, and thought I'd journal here. So, without further ado, here is Day One's entry: my testimony. Or rather, one facet of it. The more times I'm asked to share my testimony, the more ways I discover to tell the story, and the more I see and understand in my own history. It's fascinating and beautiful.)

About five years ago I began to look at my life and wonder where the joy was. Why, when God promised joy and peace to His followers, I had none. Zero. Zip. Nada. I remember AmberDawn sitting in my kitchen in #33, sharing about a friend struggling through motherhood with depression, and she said: "It's so sad: all of the work and none of the joy". That sentence lodged in my heart, and I began to push against the boundaries of my usual existence, looking for joy. I had never realized joy was an everyday occurrence for mothers, or that my own experience was so different from anyone else's. I knew Jesus' whole purpose was to open the way for us to live in His love, joy, and peace. We were created that we might have joy. Our very nature as children of God is such that joy should be a natural, regular part of our existence. I rejected the idea that I was supposed to grind out my existence, bearing the heavy weight that is a lack of joy, the whole purpose of my life being to endure it well.

So, where was it? Where was my joy???



That quest, which began with a strong desire--no, an insistence--that God make good on His promises, led to a journey of discovery about the nature and character of God and God's love for me that culminated in receiving the baptism of fire. That experience--the complete immersion in the fiery, overwhelming love of God--transformed how I saw everything, recreated my heart, and began a journey of ever-increasing relationship with Jesus that has healed so many broken places in me, began healing broken relationships, and has transformed my daily walk into one filled with hope, joy, and peace as I dive into His word, learn His character and nature through study and prayer and experience with those I love, and as a result I trust God more and more each day.

I want to exhort anyone reading this to seek after the things our God has promised each and every one of us. He gave us commandments so we could exist surrounded by His love (John 15:10-11). When God speaks, the word of God IS. If you insist that God make good on that word, pressing against the boundaries of where you've always existed, God will show you where you need to let Him in, He will teach you, increase your understanding, and open the way for you to walk in the fulfillment of His promises. He is such a good Father, and a patient and forgiving teacher. It wasn't His fault that I was living without joy . . . but instead of turning that back on me and telling me to figure it out, He welcomed my demands and questions, worked with me to begin to show me how to receive what I longed for, and has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.

And I know He's only getting warmed up. :o)

27 October 2015

What the Law Could Not Do, He Did

" 2 For the law of the Spirit of life [fn]in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,
7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,
8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is [fn]alive because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."

(So interesting, to have this be the first passage I read as I'm on the treadmill at my first gym trip in almost 18 months.) 

I realized again as I read this passage that receiving the Holy Spirit is a choice, not something God doles out to those who have reached some special status in His eyes. It's not an all-or-nothing proposition. And we ALL have special status in His eyes. We are His beloved, for whom He gave His own, and only, son.

As we (speaking of those of us coming out of heavily legalistic, works-based traditions) learn more and more about who God is, His Spirit is able to move with more and more power within us. As our faith grows, His power, as expressed in us, grows brighter and brighter until we receive the Holy spirit in its fullness in the baptism of fire.

Father God, I'm so grateful for Your provision for Your children through Christ Jesus. I'm so humbled by Your generosity, and by the unstinting nature of Your mercy and grace. Thank You for continuing to teach me, that every time I look for answers, You have them. And so much more. Thank You for the burden of love and purpose You have given me to carry, for it is light and easy, yoked as I am with Your Son. Keep on pouring Your love out upon all flesh, Father, and let all peoples come to know You through Jesus, the One who constrained Himself in mortal flesh, lived without sin, and suffered so much, so much, so we wouldn't have to if we would only turn and look to Him always. Let my life be a testament to Your relentless love, Your abounding forgiveness, and the limitless empowerment of Your grace. In Jesus' name, amen.

26 October 2015

His Mercy is Powerful

"It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do."

7 When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down.

 8 It happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet.

11 "Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.

14 So she lay at his feet until morning and rose before one could recognize another; and he said, "Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor." ~ Ruth 4, NASB

One of the things that has really stood out to me, in this chapter, is the strong possibility that Naomi didn't intend for Ruth to approach Boaz secretly, or stay through the night. But, for whatever reason, (maybe Ruth was nervous or worried), she waited until Boaz was asleep to approach him, instead of when he was yet awake. Naomi said to go lie down at his feet when he lay down for the night, but Ruth waited. Later verses seem to show that Ruth was saved, in Boaz's eyes, because of her widely-known virtue and her love of her mother-in-law. But, because she had approached Boaz secretly, she had to leave secretly, as well.

This is the mercy of God in action. Even when we do what He asks, imperfectly, He can make a way for His purposes to be fulfilled and His work to go forward.

Father, thank You for Your mercy, for Your grace, and for the way You keep working with Your children in patience and good humor. Thank You for this reassurance, as I feel so much is approaching in my life that You will ask me to do that I'll wish I had several years to prepare for. But I am Yours. Over and above all else, I am Yours. I will lean on Your strength at all times--especially where I am weak!--and follow You as You take this broken vessel and make it useful in Your kingdom. In Jesus' name, amen.

14 October 2015

Be of Good Cheer!

"It is not only wrong to worry, it is real infidelity because it means we do not believe God can look after the little practical details of our lives; it is never anything else that worries us." 

--Oswald Chambers, in Studies in the Sermon on the Mount from The Quotable Oswald Chambers

27 September 2015

What do I mean by "Salvation"?

When I first began hearing Christians use the word "salvation", I wasn't sure what to make of it. I was taught, for over thirty years, that salvation comes after this life. It is something one receives after being tested and tried, and is only certain when the gavel comes down on Judgement Day.
"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." ~2 Nephi 25:23
My understanding of salvation has shifted somewhat, into an understanding that allows for an exponentially higher degree of hope and joy in this life: being saved, during our lives, from sin and death through the merits of Jesus Christ. There are three degrees of salvation:

  1. Salvation from the punishment of sin: hell, the place of eternal separation from God where lucifer and his angels dwell.
  2. Salvation from the effects of sin: pain and suffering, both mental/emotional and physical.
  3. Salvation from the presence of sin: existence in Heaven with God.

The first degree of salvation comes about when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, and begin our walk as believers.

The second degree of salvation is when we progress in our walk to the point that we trust God enough to believe that Jesus truly overcame sin AND death, and we allow Him to heal us. The baptism of fire and the Holy Spirit usually happens sometime during this phase.

The third degree of salvation happens after this life is through, and we are taken back to the God who gave us life.

So do I mean, then, that salvation is finished and all we have to do is receive it, with nothing required of us for the rest of our lives?

No. I'm not preaching a "do nothing gospel". Not by a long shot. Lip service alone will not work in you the transformation necessary for you to be comfortable in the presence of God. And I know this because scripture is abundantly clear on this point:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 
~Matthew 7:21
If you want to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, your life must actively fulfill the will of the Father.

Peter wrote, pertaining to being able to receive the fulfillment of the promises offered by Jesus:
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins
10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
~2 Peter 1:5-11
What I am saying, earnestly, is that when we are truly able to receive the love of Jesus Christ, when we truly trust Him, believing what He said (which is the natural result of actually accepting Him as your Savior), you choose the influence of the Holy Spirit. That bears fruit, as the word proclaims clearly:
 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 
~Galatians 5:22-23
 When you choose Jesus Christ, and begin to walk as a believer, learning of Him and following Him, your life changes. You choose differently, because you believe what Jesus said. You begin to change as God teaches you (Romans 12:2), and He begins to transform you into His own image, the image of God.

The life of a believer, who receives what Jesus offers, the walking out of salvation before God, is a beautiful, powerful, transformative thing. It's not stasis, comfort and flattery. It's challenge, it's being called to deeper and higher levels of discipline and service, and it's learning to receive the comfort Jesus offers as the old life is stripped away to reveal the new creature in Christ Jesus.

If anyone has any questions, please do let me know.

25 September 2015

Receiving the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Spirit

Jesus has, as He proclaimed on the cross, finished His work of salvation. The gift is given. Perfectly. Completely. All that remains is for us to receive it.

I have seen, though, amongst those seeking this spiritual rebirth, an idea that is a major roadblock:
"I understand it comes in due time according to the Lord's timetable." 
God's timetable is as soon as we can possibly receive. It's not about our worthiness, it's about our willingness. If we had to be worthy to receive the baptism of fire, it would simply never happen. We need it BECAUSE we're unworthy. We need it because we are the "old man", and must be born again into newness of life in Christ. This isn't about waiting in line, patiently, until our turn comes to softly ask, if it's not too much of a bother, that God could please give us what He has promised, hoping that He'll not withhold from us. This is about doing what Paul said, and approaching boldly--without fear--the throne of grace.
Inasmuch then as we [believers] have a great High Priest who has [already ascended and] passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith and cling tenaciously to our absolute trust in Him as Savior]. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. 16 Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment]. ~Hebrews 4:14-16 AMP
The invitation is clear: God wants us to come to Him in trust, believing He will not hurt us, believing His experiences give Him a deep and powerful empathy for us, and that we are safe when we are in His presence. He overcame everything through love--everything!!!--so He could fellowship with us and bless us, at any time, and know how to help us in every instance. He's fully committed to our salvation, and through His perfect life and perfect sacrifice has already proven His generosity and astoundingly abundant love. He wants our love, our trust. He wants true relationship with us. He descended below all things, and has ascended above all things. He's been where we are, and will NEVER reject us, NEVER play the part of the stingy and retributive deity. It's not His character, not His heart, not His plan.
"1 Now Jesus was telling the disciples a parable to make the point that at all times they ought to pray and not give up and lose heart, 2 saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and had no respect for man. 3 There was a [desperate] widow in that city and she kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice and legal protection from my adversary.’ 4 For a time he would not; but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow continues to bother me, I will give her justice and legal protection; otherwise by continually coming she [will be an intolerable annoyance and she] will wear me out.’” 6 Then the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says! 7 And will not [our just] God defend and avenge His elect [His chosen ones] who cry out to Him day and night? Will He delay [in providing justice] on their behalf? 8 I tell you that He will defend and avenge them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find [this kind of persistent] faith on the earth?” ~Luke 11:1-8 AMP
The justice of God is that ALL should receive the gift that Jesus has given. If I pay for a gift and offer it to my child, it is unjust that another person should come and interfere with my child's ability or willingness to receive the good thing that I have already made theirs. It is unjust that the traditions of our fathers, the iniquities taught as truth, should keep us from receiving what Jesus is giving to EVERY one of us, all the time, without limit and without restraint: the complete gift of His love.
"5 Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves [of bread]; 6 for a friend of mine who is on a journey has just come to visit me, and I have nothing to serve him’; 7 and from inside he answers, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything just because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence and boldness he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9 “So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!” ~Luke 11:5-13, emphasis mine
This passage in Luke has been SO powerful in my life. And these verses are specifically about receiving the Holy Spirit. We must press into prayer, insistently, open to hear what God says to us. (I know, in my life, that the persistence is for my benefit--it breaks down barriers in my own heart and mind that prevent God from answering my request. The repetition digs deep into my soul, revealing whatever needs relinquishing or correcting.)

In order to have faith that brings down a flood of power from heaven, we have to hear His word and believe it. We need to stand on it. Peter didn't walk on the water: he walked on Jesus' word through the waves. He stood on his faith in God's word to him. It was only when he believed the noisy violence of the storm above the word of God that he sank. That kind of faith starts with studying scripture. That's how we learn to recognize the voice of God. Then, as we learn who God is, and what He is willing to do for us, we can trust that He will do what He said. His word does not return void, but exists in power forever. Even learning one thing, just one element of God's nature, begins this process.
  And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
  And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.  ~Alma 32:33-34
To those feeling discouraged: discouragement is from the enemy of our souls, so don't pay any heed to it. Speak what you know of God, what scripture tells us He is: His goodness, His love, His kindness. Say it out loud, and the temptation to despair evaporates. Resist the devil, and he will flee. (James 4:7) God has said He will send us the comforter. That is fully established fact, both by the evidence of His word, and the testimonies of so many saints. It's our work to be fully willing to give up anything--any thought, any idea, any doctrine--so that we might know Him.

Father in Heaven, I pray You would light a fire for Your word in the hearts of all people. Make them hungry, God, to read and study and learn and meditate on what You have already said. Show them the sweetness of learning Your character and attributes, and how quickly You will fill a cup that has been emptied for You to fill. I know You are faithful; what You have said, You will fulfill. My faith is dormant in that thing, for You have proven it to me over and over again. Thank You so much for Your patience, Your willingness to give at every turn, Your welcoming embrace, and Your total acceptance of each of Your children independent of their works. And in the name of Jesus I silence the voice of fear that contradicts Your word, or that twists it into unbelief. Let Your peace rush in, Your quiet assurance that You mean what You say, and that You will speak to us according to our own language and understanding. You LOVE Your kids! And I praise You, God, that Jesus won, so He can be present with us always, regardless of how "clean" any of us might be. It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that makes us worthy, and I praise You for Your wisdom and great love for us that You were willing to offer Him as the perfect and complete offering for my sin. I praise You that I can stand before You, accepted and welcome, a close and intimate friend whom you welcome at any time day or night, someone with whom You discuss Your plans, someone that You trust and cherish, and someone that You long, earnestly and deeply, would be familiar and comfortable with You. I rejoice in the companionship of Your Spirit, in Your comfort and Your unrelenting desire and willingness to pour Your love out upon me at any time--especially when I'm feeling unworthy, for that's when I need Your comfort most of all! All it takes on my part is a true willingness to receive, an open and simple trust that You give good gifts to Your children. Father God, show me better how to tell all people who You are, and how truly safe You are when it comes to people opening their hearts to You, making themselves truly vulnerable before You. I just want everyone to know You as You are; not as the traditions of their fathers have taught them, but to own, for themselves, the understanding of You that brings forgiveness and grace which is the powerful rebirth through the Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name, amen!

13 September 2015

His Strength is Perfected in Us

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” ~2 Cor 12:9

Where we are strong, we don't need God. Because we can do it ourselves. 

We have to step out into our weaknesses, so we SEE the strength of God enabling us to do what we KNOW we can't do ourselves. We can't fathom all God can do. We can't reason out all of His plans. But we can respond to His call, and step forward into the great unknown--into the places in our hearts that we dare not go alone--and watch His strength, perfected and competed by our need--do what is, to us, both wholly impossible and utterly inconceivable. 

Father, I love the way You teach me. I love the crazy impossibility of Your wisdom and the ways Your power is made perfect in my life. Thank You!!! Do the same for others. Woo them into submitting to Your gracious kindness. Show them that it is not the battle outside that matters; that we're not fighting against anyone! We just have to lay it all down, yielding to You as our King. That is the only battle we fight--against the willfulness of our own flesh. I love You, Lord of Lords and King of Kings. You are my God, and I'll praise You forever! In Jesus' name, Amen. 

09 September 2015

Sin is conquered, man is free.

This was posed by My Utmost For His Highest​ recently:
"The weapons of our warfare are . . . mighty in God for . . . casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God . . . ." --2 Corinthians 10:5 
"It is only when God has transformed our nature that the fight begins. The warfare is not against sin; we can never fight against sin--Jesus Christ conquered that in His redemption of us. The conflict is waged over turning our natural life into a spiritual life. This is never done easily, nor does God intend that it be so. It is accomplished only through a series of moral choices." --Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost for His Highest 
This has been borne out, beautifully, in my life. Pleasing God is not about holy quests or deeds of valor. It is about relinquishing to Jesus every thought we have, every teaching we have learned, to see if it matches with the way He sees things. Pleasing God is walking through your life with Him as your most intimate friend, most trusted confidant and advisor, allowing Him to transform us into the amazing people He created us to become.

Father God, I rejoice daily in the knowledge of Your goodness, Your faithfulness, and the pure and perfect safety I have in You. No matter what happens due to the fallen nature of the world around me, I know that You will never hurt me, never abandon me, and never deny me as much of Your love as I can open my heart to receive. Thank You for pulling down strongholds in my heart and mind, deprogramming triggers that have controlled me for decades, and filling those spaces with the lovely and empowering light and glory of Your Spirit. And thank You, most of all, for allowing Jesus to do the work He did, so all of this could be possible. My amazement will never cease, and I don't know how words could possibly ever express how I feel about the miraculous generosity and kindness of God. In Jesus' name, amen.

02 September 2015

His ways are not our ways.

I've been meditating on how counter-intuitive this God of ours is.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts. 
~Isaiah 55:8-9 
The only way we can express His thoughts and His ways is in impossibly outlandish contradictions, such as:
"These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14).
Who on earth washes things in blood in order to make them white?

Yesterday, as I was in prayer, marveling on the wonder of how He pours out blessing and healing and relationship for those who pursue Him, eager to receive, yet another totally counter-intuitive characteristic of the Living God struck me:

Yahweh's warfare is not killing.

It's HEALING.

When our God goes out to win a conflict in our world, when He empowers His servants to do His work, He does not destroy. He heals. The Todd White video I shared yesterday illustrates that powerfully. So often, in our own wisdom, we look and see God destroying in order to benefit us . . . but that is not His warfare. That is His mercy, poured out toward us as we labor in sin, giving us opportunity to see His goodness and to turn to Him and offer up the praise and thanksgiving He merits. And when we allow Him, by surrendering to His will, in His way, destruction does not follow. He is permitted to SAVE.

That is His nature, His character. It is what He won on the cross, and what He died to win. The right to save, against all odds, against all physical evidence, against all of the cries of justice, if someone simply opens their heart and lets go of everything but Him.

Jesus SAVES.

It's Who He Is, and the very essence of His being.

He IS salvation.

Healing.

Revelation.

Grace.

Joy.

God's warfare is HEALING.

Lord Jesus, show Your people Your goodness! Let us see the Father Heart of our God, and let us trust You more. Let us have faith we can walk on, no matter WHERE You call us to go, or WHAT You call us to do. Let us know Your love, hear Your wisdom, and walk out Your call to each of us, in Your holy name, amen.

01 September 2015

This is the One Thing

This morning, God has been unveiling the meaning of "blessings of the fathers" to me. (Abraham 1:2) And, contrary to what I've believed for most of my life, I'm fully persuaded those blessings are not physical ordinances men can control and dole out as they see fit. Much to the contrary, the blessings of the fathers are what Jesus showed us how to do. It's what Todd White did in the high school classroom he visited.


God's work is to draw us to Him, lifting our burdens, relieving our suffering, showing forth His goodness and the completeness of His work. The blessings of the fathers is the way that those who have an intimate friendship with their Heavenly Father can help close the gap between God and those who don't know Him yet. It is ministry. THAT is what motivated Abraham. Not a desire to lead or rule. The desire to SERVE. And to serve in the way that only God can empower, with works only God can do. Administering the blessings of the fathers has nothing to do with being kingpin. And everything to do with being the least, and the servant, of all. And when your only desire is to serve and bless, God fills you with His power and provisions everything you need to do His work: relieving the suffering of others, casting off the chains Jesus already broke, healing the broken-hearted, causing the blind to see and the lame to walk.

28 August 2015

Jew or Gentile

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.
Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. ~Acts 10:44-48
The context of these verses is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Cornelius, a Centurion, believed. He taught his household. They lived faithfully, and Cornelius took seriously the charge to relieve the suffering of others, to care for the poor. This faithful man was visited by an angel and instructed to send for Simon Peter. Cornelius did so, and as his servants were traveling to ask Peter to come to Cornelius' house, Peter had the vision of the sheet let down from heaven holding all manner of traditionally unclean animals, with God telling him three times to kill and eat. He pondered on this, and as Cornelius' servants were literally at the door, asking for Peter, God revealed the meaning of the vision to him: “Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them” (Acts 10:29b-20).

I love how God orchestrated these events, happening in perfect concert, to open the way for what happens next.

So Peter went with these Gentiles who came calling, and when he reached Cornelius' house, preached the reality of Jesus' life, death, and victory. As he bore witness--personal witness that he had seen Jesus Christ--the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles. The Jews there, in Cornelius' house, had received the ordinances they believed were necessary for God to favor anyone . . . and yet, here were these uncircumcised Gentiles speaking in tongues and praising God. Various translations render the word "magnify" in verse 46 as extolling, exalting, praising, and declaring the greatness of God. And let me tell you: when Holy Spirit falls upon you, that's all you want to do, so great is your awe and wonder at the love and acceptance He pours out without measure.

The Jews had faith in their ordinances.

The Gentiles had no ordinances.

Yet God poured out upon both groups without respect to that difference.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. ~Hebrews 13:8
The gospel is so, so simple: Jesus WON. He will rescue us, and in so doing, win our hearts with the sheer beauty of His love and the wonder of His gift, and then we follow Him forever more, as our lives become a love offering to the One who has given us everything.

We don't need to complicate, pad, or embellish the gospel. We just need to live it, in its simplicity, its no-limits, boundless possibility. Praise God! :o)

He says to us:
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. ~3 Nephi 11:30
And:
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. 
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. 
And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth. ~3 Nephi 11:38-41
And:
And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. ~Luke 22:19-21 

27 August 2015

Be Learning

And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do. 
 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel. ~2 Nephi 31:12-13
"He that is baptized in my name".

The name of Jesus is His nature. His nature is His will. They're all wrapped up together like light, truth, spirit, and matter. If we are baptized in His name, we're baptized according to His will, and according to His nature.

But it's verse thirteen that really sticks out to me, this morning. There's a pattern and promise in that verse:

  1. Follow the Son with full purpose of heart.
  2. Act in no hypocrisy.
  3. Act in no deception.
  4. Act with real intent.
  5. Repent continually.
  6. Be willing to take upon you the name--the will and nature--of Jesus Christ.
  7. Then the Father will send the Holy Spirit to cleanse our souls, and we receive the Holy Ghost. 
  8. Gifts of the Spirit follow.
Numbers seven and eight are the fruit of the first six steps.

If the fruit--the Holy Ghost and gifts of the Holy Spirit--are not present, then it's time to troubleshoot numbers one through six. Because God said if we'll do those first six things, then the promised fruit will follow. Every time.

We don't know what we don't know. Coming out of that not knowing, and into an understanding of where we're erring can be so painful, so discouraging. But the promise of Jesus still stands:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.. ~Matthew 11:28-29 KJV
Joseph Smith said:
 A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge.
 And Paul wrote:
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. ~Romans 12:2 NLT
 We simply must be learning. From Jesus. Whether it's through scripture, or His voice directly, or the ministry of His servants and our fellow-laborers in the vineyard, we must be learning.

Dear Father, refresh our minds to learn from You anew, to seek Your word and Your way of looking at things. Teach us Your wisdom, Your love, how to walk in forgiveness with one another. Show us the difference between pleasing You, and pleasing our flesh---between the peace and joy of the Lord and the fleshly satisfaction exacting justice and earning praise brings. I love You, God. Thank You for the way You have laid everything out so clearly in scripture, and have made the Way so plain and precious. In Jesus' name, amen.

26 August 2015

He WILL


Jesus didn't say, "Ask, and if I feel like it, I'll give", or "Seek, and if I'm in the mood, you'll find".

He spoke in the declarative. This is not about a fickle God, playing favorites. This is a powerful reassurance to those who petition Father God . . . assurance that when they pray, when they seek, when they knock, He responds. And responds with good things. Always.

It's me, with my expectations and limitations, that doesn't see, doesn't recognize, doesn't follow God's leading into the amazing things that He has planned for me. He gives. Good things.

Father God, help me believe You more, open my heart and show me any strongholds, any stakes, any areas where I'm not willing to simply believe what You have said, and trust You. I want to be Yours, to follow what You say, and to live in Your presence. In Jesus' name, amen.

22 August 2015

A Prophecy is not a Pounding

But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men." ~1 Cor 14:3 NKJV

BlueLetterBible's lexicon has this to say about "kai", the Greek word translated as "and" in that verse:

"a primary particle, having a copulative and sometimes also a cumulative force"

The prophetic operates in all three, simultaneously: edification AND exhortation AND comfort. The verse doesn't say "exhortation OR edification OR comfort". If one is lacking, then can it really be prophecy? Even the hardest messages from Old Testament prophets carried God's heart-cry of "Repent, it's not too late!"

Father God, I'm so grateful that Holy Spirit has carried Your word into my heart with the three-fold action of the prophetic. It has utterly revolutionized my life, and all I can do is praise and glorify Your name, live in Your will, and pray I can love my neighbor as You and Jesus first loved me. In Jesus' beautiful name, amen. 

21 August 2015

On Repentance

"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." ~Acts 2:36-38
In answer to the people's heart-stricken cry of "What shall we do?", Peter answers, saying (my paraphrase):

"Change the way you look at and comprehend things (Romans 12:2), begin, and then continue, to let God renew your minds constantly so you can turn toward Him in all things, more and more."

Repentance has gone from a dreaded, guilt-ridden burden to one of the greatest joys of my life. It is a continuous learning from God, resulting in an adjusting of things within myself, and then receiving an increased portion--an increase in bandwidth and spectrum--of the Holy Spirit, which then teaches me more about the heart of God, who God is, what God's will is for me, which then changes the way I see things, beginning the process again. So incredibly different from the way I used to understand and approach repentance: a five-step penance checklist for the bad line items in my otherwise righteous life.

Father God, I'm in awe of You. Every day is an incredible gift, a packet of wonder and beauty and JOY in what You do among Your children. You keep on astounding me as You reveal more of who You are, more of Your character, desires and attributes. And what a delight it is to my soul that I get to exist in a constant process of learning what You reveal (which learning is so lovely, in and of itself!), then adjusting my life to the new understanding, only to learn more of Your kindness, mercy, love and grace! God, let my walk today be saturated with YOU. Let Your reach be extended into the areas of my influence. Make me a sponge, Lord, to be immersed into and soak up Your living water, and then release it generously into the lives around me. Living Your will, more and more, bit by bit each day, is the most precious gift. Let it rain, Father. Open hearts to receive, minds to comprehend, and let souls be saved, in Jesus' name, amen.

20 August 2015

The Violence of Fire

"By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. 
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace. 
And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, QUENCHED THE VIOLENCE OF FIRE, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again." ~Hebrews 11:29-35, NJKV
Quenching fire is just one item in a long, long list of things believers have done by faith.

Our region is on fire.

What are we waiting for?

Father God, I stand in faith--ON my faith in Your word--that the prayer of the righteous, those covered by the blood of Your Son, can and WILL quench the violence of fire. I cannot think of a single reason You, as a loving and compassionate Lord and King, would desire to destroy homes and fields. I declare the fires in our region OUT, in Jesus' name!!! By whatever means you decree, Father. Move Your hand, release rain without lightning, and bring peace and safety again to the mountains and towns, fields and homes of those who live within reach of the flames. ALL things are subject to Your power, and Your will. I will stand, and I will speak into being what Holy Spirit is saying right now: BE STILL, in Jesus' name. AMEN.

Please join me in prayer--wherever you are, whatever you believe.

17 August 2015

Faith Comes by Hearing

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. ~Romans 10:17, NKJV
This is a verse that I've heard quoted many, many times. I've also heard it explained, but I wanted to know, thoroughly, for myself what it means. Lucky you, you get to read my first thorough word study. :o) The following definitions are from the Blue Letter Bible mobile app. (LOVE that one. It runs quickly on my old phone.)

Faith = Greek pistis: conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the New Testament, of a conviction or belief respecting man's relationship with God and divine things.

Hearing = Greek akoe: the sense of hearing; the organ of hearing (ears); the thing heard (instruction--namely oral preaching of the gospel)

Word = Greek rhema: that which is or has been uttered by the living voice, thing spoken, word

So, my understanding of the verse has now become this:
Conviction of the truth of our relationship to God comes by hearing the inspired teaching of what God has spoken to mankind.
Preaching is teaching, directed by the Holy Spirit, and calibrated by the Holy Spirit to teach the things that those listening need most to hear in that moment. This ties directly into 2 Nephi 33:1.
And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. ~2 Nephi 33:1
 Preaching is so vital. And so is being prepared to hear. When the speaker and the hearer are both filled with the Holy Spirit, miracles happen. Minds are renewed (Romans 12:2). Hearts are brought to repentance. Lives are changed. Souls are saved.

Father God, renew my mind and teach me through everything that happens in my life. Let me see Your hand in all things, let me see You moving in everything around me. Teach me how to manifest Your mercy and greatness, your love and grace, to everyone around me. Give me the words, give me the resources, give me whatever You know I need to do the work You have for me to do in my life, in my family, in the body of Christ, and in the earth, in Jesus' name. Amen.

13 August 2015

On Prayer

I am SO beyond words grateful for the ability to praise God. Because, when my soul stretches toward heaven, driven to prayer by things I see in this world, by souls hurting, souls stumbling, souls wrestling with confusion, earnestly doing the best they can, I can fall on my knees and let my heart pour out my knowledge of God's goodness, His kindness, His gentleness, His unfailing love, His faithfulness, His trustworthiness, His thoughtfulness, His desires that are purely for our GOOD, and whatever other things come to mind that I love about this God of ours that came to earth, gave everything, fully submitted, won the victory NONE of us could win for ourselves, and then straightway turned around and gave us every last bit of it if we will but receive it from Him and let Him show us what to do next.

I don't know what to pray, right now. But I know my God. And I can praise Him. I can glorify Him. I can seat Him upon the highest places in my own heart and mind. I can receive the Holy Spirit in my own heart, and let Jesus take the reins from there.

Just lead me, Lord. I'll follow.


The Oil of Joy for Mourning

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, 
because the Lord has anointed meto proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
to proclaim freedom for the captives 
and release from darkness for the prisoners, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor 
and the day of vengeance of our God, 
to comfort all who mourn, 
and provide for those who grieve in Zion— 
to bestow on them a crown of beauty 
instead of ashes,the oil of joy 
instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise 
instead of a spirit of despair. 
They will be called oaks of righteousness, 
a planting of the Lord 
for the display of his splendor.  
~Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV
 This morning when I woke, I got up and began to make my bed. As I did, I suddenly remembered a time in the recent past when I cried out to my God in mourning, wrestling in prayer for something so dear to my heart. The contrast between that moment and this morning's rising stood out starkly in my mind and heart, and I thought, "He truly does give the oil of joy for mourning".

In looking up that passage this morning, the surrounding verses make that phrase even more beautiful. What an amazing and beautiful task Isaiah was given, to write these verses about the One who would come to save, and Who then would send His Spirit to us, tasking us thus:
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 
~2 Corinthians 5:15-21
 These words from Isaiah declare the mission of those who have received the love of God, and are new creatures in Christ . . . and what a work that is! I can't imagine a better work, than, empowered by Christ Jesus through His Holy Spirit, to proclaim good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, release prisoners from darkness, comfort the mourning, to facilitate the receipt of beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, and to utterly abolish despair with praise of the Living God.

Father God, use me, please. Show me Your will, Your desires. Give me Your eyes today, and Your heart, to respond with love. Let me be open in my praise and joyful in my interactions, fearless and gentle, because You love me. I long to see the people of God flourish as a planting of Your own, a beautiful display of Your splendor. You astound me, God, the strength and kindness of Your heart, and the unlimited potential for all who rely upon You. Move in Your people, Father. In Jesus' name, amen.



10 August 2015

Righteousness of the Pharisees

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. ~Matthew 5:20
The Pharisees and scribes got one thing right: they kept the Torah with incredible dedication. They kept the Talmud with equal zeal. The Torah is the written word of God. The Talmud is the collection of the teachings and instructions of their rabbis, added alongside the Torah over the centuries.

But even that wasn't enough, and still isn't enough, to gain entrance into heaven.

On June 28th, as Vern and I sat in a disciplinary council and answered the questions asked of us, an answer we frequently gave was that we followed Jesus Christ, both through scripture and His words directly to us. (Remember--the words of God don't contradict scripture. God doesn't contradict Himself, as He is unchangeable.) The consistent response to our declared fealty to our Lord from several High Council members at different points in the meeting faithfully followed this principle: "Following the prophet (or leaders) is the only thing we need to do to be saved."

Whoever the current president of the LDS Church may be, he is but a man. The instructions of a man will never get you into heaven. The loyal obedience to instructions from man and God wouldn't get the Pharisees into heaven . . . why do we think that a more limited form of that obedience--to the word of men alone--will get us more than the Pharisees? I was taught, in the LDS Church, that if a leader instructed me to do something against my conscience, not only should I do it anyway, but that God would still bless me for it because I was obeying my leaders, "His anointed". So, if I lived obedient to that teaching, I could have a life lived in varying depth of sin (turning away from God and ignoring communications from the Holy Ghost), and yet was told that God would still not only save, but exalt me.

Amulek said to Zeezrom, speaking of Jesus:
And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins. ~Alma 11:37
A life strewn with sin--conscious turning away from what God is asking--will never produce a soul that can be saved.

I've been faced with leaders advising me against my conscience three times over a period twelve years. The first two times, I capitulated.

I learned, from those first two capitulations, that God would most definitely NOT bless me anyway. When presented with the third leader, pressuring me to obey him over scripture and my conscience, I chose differently. Faced with the repercussions I could see would affect myself and my family, and seeing behind me the consequences of the last two times I had done the "right" thing according to the church's teachings, the cost I was asked to bear in obeying my leader was simply too high. I was unwilling to enter into sin--to turn away from Jesus Christ's words in scripture as well as His word to me through the Holy Ghost--in order to please anyone. Not even my leaders.

The first two times, I had the approval of my leaders, but no approval from heaven. This last time, the consequences in my relationship with my ward leadership were heartbreaking. But the peace and blessing from heaven was unmistakable, and filled to overflowing the hurting space left behind by the disapproval of that leadership.

Those first two times, my righteousness was that of the Pharisees and scribes. I was following the rule of the hierarchy above me, but disregarding the rule of Jesus Christ in my own heart and His word in scripture. This last time, the fruit that has been borne out by my choice has shown me there is definitely more to be gained, more promised blessings to be poured out and received, when the voice of God is heeded over all others.

07 August 2015

My will for God's? Deal.

Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. ~James 4:7,8,10
I'm finding I really love a lot of the book of James.  These three verses today really taught me something both beautiful and powerful, illustrated by the following points.

  1. We have power over the devil. This life is a test, not a trap.
  2. God responds when we seek Him. The word doesn't say, "Draw near unto God, and He'll consider drawing near to you". It is a certainty. When we truly draw near to God, He responds by closing all of the distance you'll allow Him to. Every time. If He doesn't seem any closer, double-check Who you believe God is. If you attribute to Him characteristics He doesn't have, you'll be drawing near unto something else.
  3. Submission to God, humbling ourselves before Him, is the path to being lifted up by Him. We cannot lift ourselves, EVER, and still be in right alignment with the One who descended below all things, showing us the true path of leadership.
I want to talk about number three for a bit today. As I was reading this passage and recording some thoughts about it, I wrote that we humble ourselves by giving our will, our personal power, to God as we submit to Him. Because He is perfectly just, we receive again what we have given: His gives us His will, and His power to carry it out.

What a trade!

The devil is not so just nor so honest in his dealings. When we give him our will and power, he uses it to please himself, to wreak havoc, to hurt us, others, and the heart of God, stealing, killing and destroying, leaving us empty and alone.

The sweet peace, the comfort, the joy, that comes when I'm walking in God's will, submitted to His sovereignty, is something I simply won't trade.

Father God, thank You for always continuing to reveal who You are as I search Your word. Thank You for Your teaching, for the body of Christ that sustains when things grow challenging, for those You've given me to love, and to be loved by. Thank You for all we have, and all You will do in our lives. I so look forward to seeing Your work continue to unfold in my life, and the life of my family. In Jesus' name, amen.

05 August 2015

A Book of Mormon, we have got a Book of Mormon . . .

In a recent discussion on facebook about whether or not the Torah is still important today, I offered the following thoughts:

It's important to mark the difference between the law given to Moses on the mountain, and the law Moses recorded that God had given Adam. The law of Moses has been fulfilled. The law given since the time of Adam stands still, as instruction from God.

The Bible has long been ignored or wrested by Mormons, subvehiculated due to the mentions of it having things taken out of it. Modern translations and hermeneutics faithful to the original texts go a LONG way toward repairing the damage done by various translators whose personal or cultural agendas influenced their work. We have online access to the original Greek & Hebrew through great resources like Blue Letter Bible and Bible Gateway. There is no excuse for us to not make a serious study of the very book of scripture that fueled the Restoration (James 1:5, anyone?), which preserves so much of the religious context of the stories in the Book of Mormon, and which was the primary text for the Lectures on Faith. Some denominations in Protestant Christianity are far closer to the things taught by Joseph Smith than what we call Mormonism today. (This has been a several-year study for me, both from written sources and first-hand experience with actual, real live Christians. ;o)

The Bible has an advantage the Book of Mormon does not: the original languages. The closest we can get with the Book of Mormon is Webster's 1828 Dictionary. (That alone is an amazing key to understanding what Joseph Smith was trying to convey in his translation.) But when it comes to the Bible, we have far more in-depth tools. The word "fulfill", as used in Matthew 5:17, is an important example, as in our modern usage, it means to finish something. Fulfilling a contract means you are no longer bound by that contract. But if you do a word study in the Greek, it's used differently: "to cause God's will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God's promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfilment".  Jesus was the fulfillment of the law because He showed us how to live so God's intent, the spirit of the law, could be made manifest (or fulfilled) in our lives. He fulfilled the law in that He lived such that God could bless Him in the way the law was designed to provide. Fulfilling the law is so God the Father can give to us, not because are supposed to give to Him, to satisfy His demands.

The word of God is immutable. The victory of Jesus rent the veil, giving us direct access to heaven. Blood sacrifice was no longer required. The physical anointings of oil were no longer needed to keep priests from being struck dead in the temple. But if we want to touch heaven, if we want to enter into His courts, we must be filled with spiritual oil: the Holy Spirit. The purpose of the laws given since Adam are the same: to lead us to God. Jesus showed us how they are spiritual, and how they should be kept. He didn't abolish them. He allowed His Father to fulfill the promises made in them, in Jesus' life.

Jesus changed the way we see the law; but He did not change the fact that God's words exist independent of time, and never return void, empty, powerless, or ineffectual. God's calendar is a great example. As are His financial laws.

The Bible is made more clear and powerful by the Book of Mormon. Just as the Book of Mormon is expanded and made more clear and powerful by the Bible. They are both the word of God, and therefore we can understand each one in light of the other, because the word of God always agrees with itself. God does not change.

We Mormon-taught all need a great deal of cross-pollination so our assumptions can be challenged, and we can study and seek God's perspective in all things.

03 August 2015

Let Us Praise Him!

"Therefore, by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." ~Hebrews 13:15 NKJV

Our thanks and praise is an offering our God truly loves and delights in.

It has been an interesting process for me, raised in a sub-culture that doesn't do this, to learn to thank and praise God frequently and openly. I sometimes wonder if my praise and gratitude, heard by the more traditional LDS people in my life, sounds irreverent to their ears. As Jesus has methodically dismantled the many barriers I had put up between us, though, I've become truly comfortable with His name, with talking to Him randomly and whenever, with including Him in every moment of my day that I possibly can. Just being conscious of the reality of His presence, always with every one of us, carries such beauty for me. 

You see, He won. He paid the ultimate price that defeated sin and death, so He could have the power, and the right, to be present spiritually with us all the time. It's we who, in our weakness, are unaware of Him. He has been seated on His Father's throne, in heaven, but is spiritually present everywhere, always. Our side of that arrangement, we who have chosen to follow Him, is that we are physically on earth, but are seated, spiritually, with Him in heavenly places. Such a beautiful reciprocity, the Victory of Jesus rending the veil, opening the heavens to us and pouring down fellowship with God and empowerment to do His will, and the ability to praise and thank Him continually.

Father God, I am SO glad for the gift of praise! I am so gloriously thankful for the mechanism of spoken gratitude to You, that draws my heart ever nearer to You. You've said that You are pleased with the confessing of Your hand in all things, and I rejoice that I have the power to do so. Thank You, God. So much. In Jesus' name, amen.

Scripture: necessary for a faithful walk.

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." ~2 Timothy 3:16-17

Without the equipping and completing effect of scripture, those of us who try to follow Jesus Christ cannot be mature or prepared to do everything God needs us to do. We have such an advantage, now, to have such an impressive canon from which to learn. We can learn from the mistakes of those who came before--with access limited only by our own desires.

Please. Fill yourself with the Word of God. Write the scriptures upon your heart, so you can always have them with you. There are few treasures more lovely than a mind and heart full of what God has spoken to His children.

Infinity divided by any number is infinity.

“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order.  Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.” ~Matthew 12:43-45a
In those verses, the evil spirits can get back into their former home because it is *vacant*.

When I fill myself with God--His spirit, His love, His thoughts--evil spirits cannot abide it. When I let that filling out--through praise, worship, prayer, service, or any active form of expression--that effect is powerfully amplified.

I have been subject to devils in the past because I accepted their dominion. I thought I was depressed, or just "feeling blue", or discouraged, or whatever. But I know better now. :) Now, if I can't find a solid reason for why I'm feeling blue, or overwhelmed, or grouchy, I can be sure it's a spiritual attack. I KNOW two things: my God does NOT want me to feel that way, and He has given me power over evil--otherwise this life wouldn't be a test, it would be a cruel trap. So I stand on the word of God, and refuse to be subject to demonic dominion. Sometimes that means I call on the name of Jesus. Sometimes I simply say, in that God-given authority, "I'm NOT doing this." Jesus has taught this to my heart, and I now stand on it. Peter walked, not upon the water, but upon the Word of God: "Come".

We have POWER in these situations. Don't just roll over and submit to it. Jesus already WON, and He fully and completely offers that victory to us, if we will but receive and walk in it.

Father God, I can't tell you how amazed, joyful, happy, and full of love I get when I stop to think about what You have done, and what Jesus did for me . . . for all of us. I just feel like I'm going to burst! (That's why worship is so wonderful to me: I can burst into song, and give tongue to some of the power that rises up in my soul when I think of all that I've been given, all that salvation means to me!) I'm so amazed at how Jesus would have gone through everything that He did, even if I was His only creation. And yet, He sacrificed and submitted and won for each of us as if we truly WERE His only creation. What He did was infinite--applicable to each and every one of us, without limit. His atoning sacrifice never "runs out". We are ALL His favorites, all Your favorites. I love having an infinitely loving God, because when you divide infinity, you get infinity. Endless love, no matter how you try to slice it. Thank You! Love You, God. In Jesus' name, amen!!!