29 January 2015

Eternal is His Name

 Let's talk about "Eternal Life".
For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore—Eternal punishment is God’s punishment. Endless punishment is God’s punishment. ~D&C 19:10-12
Reading this passage recently, it struck me that the words "endless" and "eternal" as names of God applied to other terms in scripture, as well; and it occurred to me to wonder what "Eternal Life" might mean when looked at in that light.

God is eternal. What He is, He is also called. Just as we call Robin Hood "archer", God is called eternal & endless. It's His nature, His identity, a descriptive term of what He IS. So "eternal life" isn't just life that lasts for all time, as I thought for much of my life. Scripture says time has a beginning and an end:
And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered. ~Moses 1:8
Moses saw "the ends thereof". I think he saw the timeline of the world much like we see a piece of string, laid out straight. You can call one end of the string the beginning, and the other the end, but when you're looking down on it you can also refer to those two things as "the ends", because they are where the string's definite boundaries. If you were to pick up the string to tie a knot, you would talk about "the ends". We mortals talk about the "beginning" of time, because we move only in one direction through it; so the world, to us, has a beginning and an end. But to Moses, comprehending the entirety of creation in a moment, as God sees it, it made sense to say "the ends thereof".

So one quality of Eternal Life is that it is life outside of time, with power over it, or the ablility to move both forward and backward through it, as one can walk both up- and downstream in a creek. Eternal Life is not bounded by time, nor does time determine its flow.

Eternal Life is joyous, productive, active, glorious--just as God is joyous, productive, active, and glorious. Eternal Life is living the way God lives, taking part in the work He works, being one with Him in mind and heart. We talk about having an "outdoor life", or a "farming life". Those activities are our lives, for the time we engage in them. Not bounded by time, what God does IS His life, without beginning or end, or without the constraints of time.

God's way of living is focused on something that I personally rejoice in every day:
"For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." ~Moses 1:39
God's work and glory--His existence, His activity, His joy--is in guiding and empowering individuals to join Him in His life: eternal life.

I don't know about you, but one of the deepest joys in my life is to be an instrument in bringing souls to know Jesus Christ, Who is the only way to The Father. Words fail me when I think of what that means, of the incredible blessing that pours down upon me from heaven when I see someone whom I love, someone God has sent into my life, come more fully into fellowship with Jesus, walk more closely in His love, and live a life more and more like His.

And the best part is I'm only scratching the surface here; truly, the mystery of Godliness is great. Praise God!

God, You are so amazing to me. Thank You for revealing this little piece of who You Are, for blessing me so generously every day, and even more so every moment of the day that I remember to turn my heart and mind to You. Thank You for all I'm learning, for the leaps and bounds in my faith, and for the increasing knowledge that You are eternal, and all that entails. I love how much I can trust You, God. I love how sure I can be in You, and how sweetly liberating and deeply empowering it is to be able to say, like Elijah, that You ARE the one and only Living God, and I look forward to each day as I learn to walk more fully in Your will, coming more fully into the new life You have given me as I receive more and more insights into Your character, Your life, Your being. Thank You, God, for the renewing of my mind, and the transformation that it brings! And please, help me to live as I see You live, and love as I see You love, so others might know You better, too. in Jesus' name. Amen.

And the Word Was God

"In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. He was present originally with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men." ~John 1:1-4
"31 And behold, the glory of the Lord was upon Moses, so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face. And the Lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.

32 And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.

33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.

35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them." ~Moses 1
I love this recounting of the creation story in John, and I love the context that the first chapter of Moses, in the Pearl of Great Price, gives to the Creation account. When Moses was talking with God the Father, face to face, God tells Moses plainly that it's only this earth, the one to which Moses belongs, that He will show to Moses. Like Aslan says to Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:
“Child" said the Voice, "I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.” 
 These passages give those with LDS scriptural context important insight into the nature and character of God, both the Father and the Son.

First, that not only can we see Jesus face to face and be redeemed from the fall while in this life, but that we can speak with the Father face to face, as well.

Second, that Jesus Christ is God--held the title and fulfilled that role--for this earth, among other creations. He created it, as the Word of the Father. He came to live in the brotherhood of mankind, walking in flesh, but He never called us his brothers and sisters. He calls us friends, as in John 15:15, and sons and daughters . . . but never siblings. He came and conquered so He could call us heirs, and give us all He has. That's the role of a father, of one who bequeaths to His posterity.

Jesus Christ IS the very Father of this earth, and of us all, for He created us. It is up to us whether or not we will accept His spiritual Fatherhood, and receive the gift of eternal life--life in and through Him, His type of life, for "eternal" is His name--that He offers so we may become His sons and daughters, spiritually begotten into newness of life and fellowship with His Spirit, Himself, and His Father.

28 January 2015

The Two Criminals

"One of the criminals who was suspended kept up a railing at Him, saying, Are You not the Christ the Messiah? Rescue Yourself and us from death! But the other one reproved him, saying, Do you not even fear God, seeing you yourself are under the same sentence of condemnation and suffering the same penalty? And we indeed suffer it justly, receiving the due reward of our actions; but this Man has done nothing out of the way nothing strange or eccentric or perverse or unreasonable. Then he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come in Your kingly glory! And He answered him, Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." ~Luke 23:39-43
The two criminals hung upon crosses with Jesus show, so starkly, how we can each respond to hard stuff in our lives. One railed and ranted against God, angry and accusatory. The other one had a heart soft enough to recognize the justice of the situation, and to turn toward God.

How will I respond to junk in my life? When my kids don't listen? When my husband forgets something? When I'm inconvenienced? Is my heart hardened to where I rant and rail? Or do I turn to my God and plead with Him, instead?

Lord, thank You. For doing what You did. For living as You lived. For teaching as You taught. Thank You for giving everything, so I could claim a connection to Heaven, and You can be with me. You are worthy, You are faithful, You never weary or grow faint in pursuing a relationship with me, with all of Your children. You will never fail, Your words never cease. You always seek after the lost, give strength to the powerless and power to the weak. And I praise You, God. I praise You for all that You are, and all that You have done. I want to remember these things, always, and to turn to you in praise whenever things get tough/annoying/frustrating/whatever. Life happens. I'm so glad that You have conquered all, and that I can lay claim upon Your sacrifice, because You offer it freely to anyone who turns to You. Thank You. So much. In Jesus' name, amen.

26 January 2015

All Authority

"One day as Jesus was instructing the people in the temple [porches] and preaching the good news the Gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came up with the elders (members of the Sanhedrin) And said to Him, Tell us by what sort of authority You are doing these things? Or who is it who gave You this authority? He replied to them, I will also ask you a question. Now answer Me: Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men?" ~Luke 20:1-4 AMP

Jesus, in answering His religious leadership in this way, accomplished two things. First, He made a brilliant political move, shutting their mouths. They were caught between a rock and a hard place, and they knew it. 

Second, to those with ears to hear, He made absolutely clear that permission from men is not required in order to do the work Father in Heaven has given someone. It is the call of God that we must answer. Not men. 

Father in Heaven, I'm in awe of You. And I stand wholly amazed and in awe at the reality of Your Son. You are Righteous, and to Him ALL authority truly has been given. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and to God be given all glory and honor! Thank You, God, for all if it. For everything. This world. My life. All of it. Your children truly are "fearfully and wonderfully made", and more and more now I can't help but be joyful because I know in Whom I trust, and I know Who You Are . . . and I know Jesus: the King of all Creation, the reason I sing. God I lift Your name high, and pray my praise and prayers and faith are pleasing in Your sight. In Jesus' sweet name, amen. 

22 January 2015

He's a GOOD God, Who Gives

 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" ~Matthew 7:7-11

Do we believe this? Really & truly believe this, like we believe in gravity, or in the solidity of the floor beneath our feet?

 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. ~James 1:5

How many of us truly believe this? How many of us actually trust God to not come down on us for asking too much, or asking the wrong thing, or approaching too near the throne of grace?

God doesn't rebuke earnest inquiry, just as we flawed mortals don't come down hard on our little children's questions. We are all as infants before the Lord. 

But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. ~James 1:6-8

Trust Him. It's so easy to do. Letting go of what you held on to, that object in which you placed your trust and faith, isn't usually much fun, but once you have, there's nothing holding you back from flying as high as His breath will carry you. 

God of Heaven, show forth Your love for Your people. Teach them that they can love You without fear, that they can trust You without restraint. Let the walls come crumbling down, God, to build bridges across the gulfs that divide. Let our hearts be open and receptive to Your love, and open our eyes to witness Your faithful care for us, in Jesus' treasured name, amen. 

20 January 2015

Faith Must Be Proven

"Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience."
(James 1:2-3 AMP)

I do so love the book of James. :-)

It takes testing to know what we're made of, where our weaknesses lie. 

If we never were exposed to conditions that ask more of us than we can (or want) to give, we would never have the chance to recognize we need God . . . and we wouldn't have much chance to know His power, His love. We love Him when He finds us in our distress, and saves us from ourselves. 

God, this journey hasn't been all fun & games. You know that far better than I. And yet, with each wave of pain, of difficulty, of loss, You show up. You come and find me, and like my midwife's praise during my first homebirth, You show me You are pleased with me. Her simple & kind "Good girl" during the hardest moments gave me such strength . . . and the love You pour into me in my distress is a thousand-fold. Thank You, Father, for Your reassuring love. You have my love, always. In Jesus' name, amen.

14 January 2015

Jesus Is The Word of God

And other seed [of the same kind] fell into good (well-adapted) soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing, and yielded up to thirty times as much, and sixty times as much, and even a hundred times as much as had been sown. 
And He said, He who has ears to hear, let him be hearing [and let him [a]consider, and comprehend].  
1The sower sows the Word. 
20 And those sown on the good (well-adapted) soil are the ones who hear the Word and receive and accept and welcome it and bear fruit—some thirty times as much as was sown, some sixty times as much, and some [even] a hundred times as much. (~Mark 4)
The seed that grows and produces fruit was welcomed, received and accepted. And, as Jesus says in verse 14, the seed is the Word. How well am I accepting, receiving and welcoming the Word into my life?

Just before I began this 21 days of prayer and fasting this year, I was pondering on how to be more filled with the Holy Spirit, how to receive Christ more into my life, how to have a stronger connection with Him. As I fell asleep one night, I heard Him say in the Spirit, so clearly: 
"Fill yourself with the Word. For I AM the Word."
Since January 4th, when I began filling myself with the Word more and more each day as part of this fast, I have been amazed at what the Lord has done in my life, as well as in my heart and mind. There have been a couple of days where my study hasn't been all that great in the morning, or it hasn't happened until late that night . . . and those days God used for instruction, to prove the contrary, so I might understand more fully just how vital it is to be in the Word of God. If we are not filling ourselves with His Word, we cannot bear fruit.

In reading this parable this morning, the Law of the Harvest came to my mind: we reap what we sow. So, if we are sowing the Word into our hearts, receiving and welcoming and accepting it, then we can receive yet more of the Word--Jesus Christ--many times over . . . 30, 60, or even 100 times. We can know Him better, speak His words, see things from His perspective, encourage, love, bless, and strengthen others, and so much more. We can be filled with Jesus. :o)

Father God, I love Your Word. I love the records we have that teach us about You, and about how You operate, Who You Are, and that bring the Holy Spirit, making my mind one with Yours more and more. Keep on filling me, God. Please. Keep on making me into a new creation, so I can pour Your love out into my children, my husband, my friends and family. Use me in prayer, to intercede for others. Gently point out what I have yet to abandon, what I have yet to look forward to, and what I have now to do. I thank You for the blessings you keep dumping out by the truckload upon my head, and for the peace and joy and goodness that follows me whenever I turn to You. You are such a Good God, perfect and just and merciful, faithful and so loving. I rejoice in loving You, in honoring You, and most of all, I rejoice gladly in trusting You. In Jesus' name, amen!

12 January 2015

Where Are You Looking?

"22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" ~Matt 6 KJV

It says "eye", not "eyes". I think it's talking about the third eye, the spiritual eye. Modern medicine calls it the Pineal gland. It's the very centermost structure in the brain, and is the seat of our imagination. Containing rods & cones, the same structure that detect contrast & color in the retina, it is where we visualize things, where we "see" what we read in books. The cross section of the Pineal gland is identical in structure to the common stylized "eye" included in many Egyptian hieroglyphs. 

That eye one truly does fill with light or darkness, depending on what we fill our minds with, what our minds dwell on, and what we receive into it and create with it. 

Father, I love Your Word. I love filling my mind with scripture, meditating on it, writing about it, praying over it. And I love most of all what happens when I do those things...the singleness of mind that comes more and more often, and the radical jump I feel in my connection to You. I hear Your Spirit speak so much more clearly. I see what You want to reveal so much more easily. I feel the subtle nudges and checks in the Holy Spirit so much more easily. Thank You. And thank You for this incredible blessing of scripture that is such a powerful vehicle for drawing closer to You. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen. 

Babes in Arms, We Are

31 Then Jesus said to them, You will all be offended and stumble and fall away because of Me this night [distrusting and deserting Me], for it is written, I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.
32 But after I am raised up [to life again], I will go ahead of you to Galilee.
33 Peter declared to Him, Though they all are offended and stumble and fall away because of You [and distrust and desert You], I will never do so.
34 Jesus said to him, Solemnly I declare to you, this very night, before a single rooster crows, you will deny and disown Me three times.
35 Peter said to Him, Even if I must die with You, I will not deny or disown You! And all the disciples said the same thing.
 
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and exclaimed, He has uttered blasphemy! What need have we of further evidence? You have now heard His blasphemy.
66 What do you think now? They answered, He deserves to be put to death.
67 Then they spat in His face and struck Him with their fists; and some slapped Him in the face,
68 Saying, Prophesy to us, You Christ (the Messiah)! Who was it that struck You?
69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and one maid came up to him and said, You were also with Jesus the Galilean!
70 But he denied it falsely before them all, saying, I do not know what you mean.
71 And when he had gone out to the porch, another maid saw him, and she said to the bystanders, This fellow was with Jesus the Nazarene!
72 And again he denied it and disowned Him with an oath, saying, I do not know the Man!
73 After a little while, the bystanders came up and said to Peter, You certainly are one of them too, for even your accent betrays you.
74 Then Peter began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, I do not even know the Man! And at that moment a rooster crowed.
75 And Peter remembered Jesus’ words, when He had said, Before a single rooster crows, you will deny and disown Me three times. And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matt 26, AMP)
Reading Matthew 26 this morning, Peter's experience really stood out to me. Peter was so loyal, so solid. His heart was passionate and fiery, so devoted to Yeshua. He knew who He was, and declared with all he had that he would never betray Him.

And then, he did.

How many times have I done the same thing? Thought I was (insert just about any good moral quality here), only to be put into a place of testing, and discover that "as to my own strength, I am nothing"?

Too many to count.

I love this story of Peter's, because I know what comes next:
19 Then on that same first day of the week, when it was evening, though the disciples were behind closed doors for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace to you!
20 So saying, He showed them His hands and His side. And when the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy (delight, exultation, ecstasy, rapture).
21 Then Jesus said to them again, Peace to you! [Just] as the Father has sent Me forth, so I am sending you.
22 And having said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit! (John 20 AMP)
I think I'm finally beginning to fully grasp just what grace is. How much like infants we are, and how deeply forgiving and patient the Lord is with us, as if we are still learning to focus our eyes and reach out to grasp a toy. We all go through a spiritual form of the cephalocaudal development that babies do. And I rejoice that my Lord and my God sees me that way, instead of as a harsh taskmaster that punishes severely when I miss the mark, or drop the toy.

Father, thank You for Your mercy and grace. Thank You for Your divine and perfect patience. For Your long-suffering and Your faithfulness. I know that what You speak, You do. Lord, pour out Your love into the hearts of those that are suffering, who don't yet know Your heart. Teach them Who You Are, and how You see them. Heal their hearts, draw them all to You, and let Your Kingdom be built and strengthened in hearts everywhere, so Your children can be filled with joy! In Jesus' beloved name, amen.

10 January 2015

My reading this morning was Matthew 23-24, and I had a really hard time choosing a passage to journal about, because I love these chapters SO much, and could talk about nearly every verse at length. I might just have to study these for several days, and see what Yeshua has waiting for me in them.
Then Jesus said to the multitudes and to His disciples, The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat [of authority]. So observe and practice all they tell you; but do not do what they do, for they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy loads, hard to bear, and place them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not lift a finger to help bear them. They do all their works to be seen of men; for they make wide their phylacteries (small cases enclosing certain Scripture passages, worn during prayer on the left arm and forehead) and make long their fringes [worn by all male Israelites, according to the command]. And they take pleasure in and [thus] love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, And to be greeted with honor in the marketplaces and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi (teacher), for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone [in the church] on earth father, for you have one Father, Who is in heaven. And you must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matthew 23:1-11 AMP) 
Jesus gave these instructions, not out of dislike or disdain for the Pharisees, but out of love for those who would follow Him. He set out the guidelines necessary for keeping men’s hearts soft, for allowing all an equal privilege to grow and serve and gain a connection to heaven, and to warn against the all-too attractive pattern of elevating mortals one above another.

When I read this passage this morning, my very fleshly first response was to think of those who followed this same pattern the Pharisees did, who took pride in their office, who usurped power God never gave them, by virtue of it. But then, Holy Spirit (thank God!) whispered to my heart that they are all just people . . . people with earnest intentions and weaknesses of the flesh common to man, who wanted to do what was right, but due to their flesh or the traditions of their fathers or ignorance of the Word or all of the above, fell prey to the very things Yeshua warns against. And I thought how unfair it is to leaders to elevate them in this way, no matter the arena, whether church or government or community or business. To idolize someone is destructive not only to the one doing the idolizing, but to the one idolized. Idolizing puts tremendous pressure on its object . . . they have no room to make mistakes, no opportunity to confess, are denied the flexibility of repentance and growth that comes from walking as the Word says a Christian should walk. That’s so, so unfair. So unjust!

Father, show me, in my heart, where I might harbor idolization for people or things or ideas. Shed Your Spirit upon Your people in abundance, that they can know You better, and love one another without reserve. Teach the Body better how to walk as equals together, esteeming all as brothers and sisters, honoring and loving one another without reserve because we are YOURS, not because one is called “elder”, “pastor”, "pope", or whatever. Let us love and care for one another as if we are ALL pastors—let us all have that same dedication to the Word, to prayer, to worship, to carry that same weight of love for one another. We are one, in You, Lord. Let us open our hearts more and more to You, let us pray more and more to You, and Father God open our eyes to the prophetic, seeing things as You see them, and opening our mouths to speak that perspective into life in our circumstance.

Father, Your people have so much potential! I feel it all around me when the Body gathers. It IS a force to be reckoned with . . . but we don’t quite know how, or we don’t quite trust ourselves enough, to step out into the unknown and let You have Your way. Father God, speak to our hearts the solid assurance, the sweet assurance, that You are ever with us. It is our eyes and hearts and ears that need to learn better to detect Your presence. Our city NEEDS this potential that is brewing amongst us. Our families NEED this joy that is about to be unleashed. This land NEEDS the refreshing in the Holy Spirit that is coming. I keep seeing floodwaters—a flood of the Holy Spirit that rushes in and overwhelms everything in its path. But instead of a destructive force, it gives LIFE, it gives LIBERTY, it gives CLEANSING and RENEWAL. Lord, quiet our hearts, remind us to cast fear out from among us, so we can welcome this flood with open arms and know that if You send waters to cover the earth, You will give us gills. You will equip us with whatever we need—indeed, You already HAVE—to not just survive, but to THRIVE in the circumstances ahead. I don’t know how to describe the weight of glory, the promise of joy, the brilliant shining of what You have planned . . . but I can hardly wait. (If I wasn’t so exquisitely aware of my own weaknesses and failings, I wouldn’t have any patience at all! lol)

Father, show Your people Your heart, yet again. Show us Your patience, Your plans. Open the hearts and minds of those that love you, and draw them to You, God, and let them see. Let all of us see! Let us feel. Let us KNOW You, better and better every moment. Unleash the beauty in each one of us, and let us flood the earth with YOU. In Jesus’ name, so be it! Amen!!!

08 January 2015

And the Blind Cried Out . . .

"And as they were going out of Jericho, a great throng accompanied Him. And behold, two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, Lord, have pity and mercy on us, You Son of David! The crowds reproved them and told them to keep still; but they cried out all the more, Lord, have pity and mercy on us, You Son of David! And Jesus stopped and called them, and asked, What do you want Me to do for you? They answered Him, Lord, we want our eyes to be opened! And Jesus, in pity, touched their eyes; and instantly they received their sight and followed Him." ~Matthew 20:30-34 AMP

As I read this, it really struck me how the two blind men "cried out" to the Lord. They believed--had a firm and unwavering reliance--that He could restore their sight. So they cried aloud, above the noise of the "great throng". And when those in the crowd told them to shut up, they only raised their voices to be heard above the reproof. What would that take? For a couple of vociferous Jews, maybe not too much. But what about me? Do I have the faith to cry out aloud to my God for the miracles I need, despite the efforts of others to the contrary? Do I really trust that God will be my provider? Do I really trust that He will hear and answer me in the generous love that is so fully expressed on nearly ever page of scripture?

Yes, I believe He will. And so I will cry out, I will petition Him, I will even seek Him as insistently as the woman in the parable of the unjust judge wearied the judge until he relented and gave her justice. I will seek Him until I, too, hear His voice sounding in my own ears, saying "What do you want Me to do for you?" . . .

Last night, just as I was falling asleep, I pondered on this very thing, this work of receiving the Lord's voice, and His actual presence. He is no respecter of persons, and so if He has ever appeared to anyone else (which He has), then I have the same chance as those others did who saw and talked with Him. I wondered, "How, Lord? How is it done?" And the answer came, softly, but with clarity and solidity: "Fill yourself with the Word . . . for Jesus is the Word."

As we dive into scripture, filling ourselves with God's Word, we allow Him to teach us. We can open our minds to renewal through His Word and the Holy Spirit. We expose our minds and hearts to truth, and the Holy Ghost testifies of that truth, and bit by bit the light in us grows until it is as noon day.

God, thank You. Thank You for teaching me. Thank You for leading me. Thank You for the incredible mercy and grace that you offer to all of us, always. Because of the fall of Adam, all mankind are lost, and no matter how hard we might work to change that, we cannot merit anything of ourselves. We cannot think that Your role is to help us a little, here and there, as we press forward, enduring like good Christian soldiers. Salvation is not about putting a bandaid on a few little scrapes here and there . . . it is SALVATION. It is being snatched from the jaws of death by an All-powerful, All-able God Who has triumphed over all things. The fall wasn't just like going on vacation--you chance your locale, but remain basically the same. The fall fundamentally changed all creation, such that it was no longer naturally a home for the glory of God. Mankind FELL, and became sinful. Not just prone to a few little mistakes, if we try really hard to be good, but fundamentally flawed and unacceptable to You unless we surrender ourselves to You and You make us new through the baptism of fire and the actual receipt of the Holy Ghost that awakens the inner man and changes ALL things within us. God, I praise You for sending Yeshua to be the Lamb of God, to triumph in breaking the bonds of sin and death that we labor under, and that crying out to Him actually works. Lord, shine Your light ever more upon the earth. Show more and more people the way to life and salvation: the Lord Jesus Christ. Be merciful to those who are blinded by the attractiveness and smooth words of men in positions of power. Teach those who love You the truth, and let us feel You more and more in our lives, God. Give us strength to follow through with the changes for good we make, as we seek to be transformed through Your Spirit into Your likeness. And open all things to our understanding, so we may receive more of Your glory and pour it forth abundantly into the earth, in Jesus' name, amen.

07 January 2015

And when they approached the multitude, a man came up to Him, kneeling before Him and saying, Lord, do pity and have mercy on my son, for he has epilepsy (is moonstruck) and he suffers terribly; for frequently he falls into the fire and many times into the water. And I brought him to Your disciples, and they were not able to cure him.  
And Jesus answered, O you unbelieving (warped, wayward, rebellious) and thoroughly perverse generation! How long am I to remain with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to Me.  
And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. 
Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked privately, Why could we not drive it out? 
He said to them, Because of the littleness of your faith [that is, your lack of firmly relying trust]. For truly I say to you, if you have faith [that is living] like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to yonder place, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. ~Matthew 17:14-20 AMP
The amplifications of the words unbelieving and faith really jumped out at me, this morning. I've been kind of ruminating on them all day. Unbelief isn't a simple case of not believing something true . . . it's believing in something untrue, some kind of strange version, or mirror opposite, to the truth. Unbelief is following a false tradition, a lie. In order to harbor unbelief in your heart, one's thinking about the topic over which one harbors unbelief must be warped, wayward, or rebellious. That's why unbelief is so hard to make a dent in: it masquerades as faith, and convinces its adherents that they are truly righteous.

Contrast this with faith: a "firmly relying trust". Can I firmly rely upon something false, wayward, or rebellious? Maybe so . . . but it will warp everything else I believe in, because reliance upon something weak (warped things are weakened) requires altering many other things as well. It breeds fear, because the inherent weakness and instability of leaning upon a weak reed is something that the heart and spirit know, even if the mind does not see. And I will rue my false allegiance in the end, when I finally see how that thing in which I trusted has no power to save. If I have a firmly relying trust in something, I don't fear being overcome in that area. I don't worry about being deceived. I don't fret. (Unless I'm actually playing a guitar. ;o)) There is solid resolve, and an easiness of mind and heart, that underlies whatever might come my way, because I have a firm reliance on my God, Who is not only actually Omnipotent, but He never fails me. (I've failed Him too many times to count . . . but He comes through every time I do as He asks. Every time. No make-up work. No spiritual usury. When I turn to Him, He is there, suddenly, in an instant.)

In family study tonight we read in Luke 13 where Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven as both a single mustard seed that grows into a tree where birds find haven, and a little yeast that a woman uses to leaven her whole batch of bread. Faith is something that has power. It is a living thing, like a seed, or yeast, that, when fed and given the right conditions, blooms and expands and changes everything around it. The mustard seed grew into a "tree", where birds could nest and roost. It also would have provided shade for small creatures, and been a place where insects could hide. It would help conserve the soil and shade it such that it might dry out less quickly. Yeast changes the entire character of loaves of bread, from nearly inedible bricks to something wonderful and lovely and comforting to eat.  Abraham did tell his three visitors that he would fetch them three morsels of bread to comfort their hearts. (Gen 18:5 KJV) In both cases, the conditions must be right: the mustard seed must have moisture in the earth and sunshine in the sky to grow and thrive (mustard is a vigorous plant, not needing especially fertile soil); and the yeast must have dough that isn't too salty, or too dry, or too cold, any of which will stunt or kill the yeast. But when the right conditions are provided, watch out. ;o) Amazing things are just around the corner.

Father in Heaven, I want to provide the right conditions for my faith to behave like a mustard seed, well-germinated and taking off like gangbusters. My heart longs to be able to bless the lives of others around me, to pray healing over those who will receive it, and to be an encounter with the love of God for all those I meet. Lord, keep teaching me. Keep nudging me, keep directing me, keep speaking into my heart. I hear You . . . I'm just fallible and mortal and have weaknesses that I'm still learning to abandon to You. You have saved me from my sin, cleansed my vessel and made me into a new creation . . . I'm not giving up, and I'm not giving in, even though I still sometimes fall prey to those weaknesses. Lord, just keep saving me. And save others by using me for Your purposes. I want to serve. I want to be a part of a body of Your believers.  I want to love my husband and children more . . . I want to feel joy in my home, and in my everyday responsibilities. It has been so long, Lord, so long. Come and make us all new, so we might worship You in grace and truth, and Vern and I can bring our children into Your light. In Jesus' name, so be it. Amen.

05 January 2015

Change is the Heart of Repentance

"I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him." ~Romans 12:1-3 AMP

Here, Paul urges the Romans to offer to God the whole of themselves, to learn what He would have them do, to learn everything He has to offer, and in so doing, to allow Him to transform them into His likeness, to understand Him and His way of doing things, His reality. 

This passage has been on my mind for a long time, now. As I've mulled it over, meditating on what Paul says here, the principles of repentance keep coming to mind. There are many more things I've learned from this passage, but repentance is the topic for today.

As you may already know, the Greek word for repentance means a change of mind, a fresh new perspective which results in a change of behavior. This only comes about when we learn. Without learning, repentance cannot happen. Repentance is not just feeling really, really guilty or shameful about something, confessing, apologizing and making restitution. Shame and guilt can be taught into someone, trained into them, and then called forth on demand based on behavior, regardless of a person's understanding of right and wrong. Restitution is often not within the bounds of our mortal power to give. We cannot heal broken hearts. We cannot restore innocence lost. No. Repentance has far more to do with God, and our invitation to Him to work in our lives, than it does with any checklist.

What we want to see, when we seek repentance, is gaining understanding that reveals the truth, showing our behavior in the true light of God's teachings. We need to learn, and in learning, to change our minds. To "renew" the way we see things. Right thinking--thoughts and beliefs in alignment with God and His Truth--increase faith. Not just the trust we have in God, but the actions that must follow in order for faith to save. Learning right thinking changes our minds. And when our minds truly change, our behavior follows. Without change, no real learning has happened. Without change, no repentance has happened.

Change is the heart of repentance.

Father God, I thank You so incredibly much for the blessings in my life. For my faculties, for my education and the understanding You have given me, for my children, my husband, my family, my friends. An "abundance of counselors", indeed. Father, as I start into this next stretch of time, teach me please. Renew my mind continually with Your Knowledge and Your Wisdom. Reveal to me Your perspective in every situation, so I may walk in Your paths. Transform me into someone who can serve You, who can serve those in need and pour Your love out into them. Show me the way to walk through this life of mine, that has been turned upside down and inside out. Show me Your will in all things, Father, and show me how You would have me proceed. You are the One Who has all Wisdom, all Knowledge, all Mercy, Grace and Power, Lord. You are the source of every good thing in my life, and the comfort for every ill. You have sought me out, reclaimed me, and instructed me when I thought I had it all figured out, and I will treasure Your teachings, Your redemption, and Your insistent, persistent Love always. In Yeshua's holy name, Amen.