31 March 2015

If the word seems dry . . .

God is so funny, and awesome, and aware of me. And so patient.

Yesterday, I began reading the book of Romans. Just however many chapters each morning as fit into my devotional time. As I read this morning, I fully admit I was distracted . . . by children, the rooster crowing outside, facebook (I know, I know), and more. I started the day by researching some historical context surrounding Jesus cleansing the temple, and then tried to get into Romans. I read chapter four, which seemed pretty dry. (Hint: when the Word seems dry to me, it means I'm soooo not filled with the Holy Spirit. It's not the scripture that's dry, it's me!) As I waited for the Romans five page to load, I was thinking along these lines:
I wonder why I'm even supposed to be doing this . . . this is really dry stuff . . . what does all this explanation about not needing circumcision have to do with me? . . . yeah, yeah, yeah, Paul, I know: I don't need circumcision to have access to God . . . should I really be slogging through this? . . . why am I reading this anyway . . . 
Then I started to read the first verse:
"Therefore, since we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith . . ."
And these thoughts flashed through my mind:
Man, I'm really not feeling close to God this morning . . . yeah, Paul, I know: more stuff about how faith is independent of circumcision. Got it . . . I'm doing something wrong . . . I shouldn't have done that other study first this morning . . . I'm not getting this whole "getting up early and spending time with God thing" right . . . why can't I get this right? . . . I'm just going to have to try again tomorrow morning . . . but I'm not looking forward to an entire day, isolated from Him like this . . .
But I read on, and these words shone into my mind like the dawn:
. . . let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and to enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). 
Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God's favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God. ~Romans 5:1-2 AMP
And then I realized the last set of thoughts that went flashing through my head were temptations, the enemy trying to discourage me from getting into the Word, luring me into the old, still-too-familiar resigned acceptance of isolation from God, and that it was the goodness and mercy of God, coming like the dawn, that overcame those temptations because He loves me, and I was (blunderingly, so imperfectly) trying to do what He asked of me. And He planted verse two on my screen this morning, like a friendly elbow in the ribs, for me to read so I could, by faith, have access to Him.

Not because of my works.

Because of His love.

My study, up to that point, was pretty worthless. {facepalm} I surely wasn't getting anywhere by my own merits. I definitely needed a nudge, a reminder, that it's not my strength that reaps a harvest from the Word. It's His Spirit, poured out upon me in His good pleasure, if I will but be a vessel for it.

And I chuckled, because I felt God chuckling good-naturedly as He saw the realization come over me, and knew my thoughts and my heart. Knew how I would respond {facepalming}, knows that I far prefer to laugh over hard things than cry, and rejoices in who I am, who He made me to be, in everything about me. My quirks amuse Him as much as they do me, my flaws tie me to Him in beautiful symbiosis. He's just so good . . . He knows me so well . . . and He has planned out carefully everything that I truly need. And He speaks my love language fluently. ;o)

Lord, thank You for Your endless patience, Your endless love, Your persistent mercy, Your relentless grace, and for the numberless chances You offer me, as I walk in full acceptance of the price you paid and the reality of Who You Are. Thank You for Your friendship, Your company, and Your affability. So much. You amaze me, Jesus. And make me so happy! :o)

30 March 2015

What will I choose as my Truth?

3 What if some did not believe and were without faith? Does their lack of faith and their faithlessness nullify and make ineffective and void the faithfulness of God and His fidelity [to His Word]?4 By no means! Let God be found true though every human being is false and a liar, as it is written, That You may be justified and shown to be upright in what You say, and prevail when You are judged [by sinful men].  ~Romans 3:3-4
It's up to me to choose.

While I walk here, through this life, I can choose what I will believe is true. It doesn't change what is actually true, but it definitely changes the way I see everything around me, the way I think about things, and pretty much every choice I make.

Will I decide the view behind me is what is true, allowing my past to determine my future?

Will I cling to the word of God, refusing to believe anything other than what He has said?

How will I respond to times when, for whatever reason, something doesn't turn out the way that I thought the Word said it would? What then?

Lord, thank You so much for Your Word--both written and spoken, logos and rhema. Thank you for confirming my faith in You over and over, even though getting to the point where I actually had true faith took me so very, very long. Thank You for Jesus Christ, all He had given me so generously, and the solid foundation His words provide. And thank You for a brilliant new day, in which to glorify Your name. Lead my family and I, Lord, as we face whatever trouble lies before us, and bless us with powerful faith to bring about miracles and wonders, so Your name might be further glorified, in Jesus' name, amen.

29 March 2015

Who can ever be against us?

Romans 8 (Really, the whole chapter, but I'm just quoting verse 31. ;) )

"What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is FOR us, who can ever be against us?" (NLT)
That verse, and this song, have been playing tag in my head since last night:

I stand before You now
The greatness of your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of you
King of Heaven, in humility, I bow

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the Love that made a way

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the promises you made
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the Love that made a way

~Bethel Music - You Make Me Brave

I just want to keep walking where God leads, no matter how crazy my old self might think it sounds. My faith is growing, day by day, into something I can walk on, no matter what might lie beneath it: enemy territory, raging water, or clear blue sky. Jesus gives me direction, tells me where to place each step to do His work, and the fears that would have constrained and defeated me before have no power now. Scripture is a precious treasure to me, keeping me grounded, and opening up so much more beauty before me every time I crack open the book.

Father God, how I love Your work and Your instruction. You are a Good Father, such a Good God. I rejoice in learning more of You, in the answers You send to my prayers, and in the riches continually poured out for me in Christ. Keep me in Your paths, show me Your ways, and I can't wait to see what You lead me into next, Lord. With all my love, I pray, rejoicing, in Jesus' name, amen.

He Makes Me Brave

I stand before You now
The greatness of your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of you
King of Heaven, in humility, I bow

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the Love that made a way

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the promises you made
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the Love that made a way
~Bethel Music - You Make Me Brave

Lord of Heaven's Armies, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, my Living God, You make me brave . . . and I can't thank You enough. In Jesus' name, amen!


28 March 2015

We Should Bless One Another Freely

Whatever house you enter, first say, Peace be to this household! [Freedom from all the distresses that result from sin be with this family]. And if anyone [worthy] of peace and blessedness is there, the peace and blessedness you wish shall come upon him; but if not, it shall come back to you. And stay on in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. ~Luke 10:5-7 AMP
 Lately my focus has been on the "how to" of Luke ten; the four things Christ told the seventy to do in order to prepare people to meet Him. This first part of the instructions, though, really stood out to me this morning. Jesus told the seventy to bless those in "whatever house" they entered. Not whatever house seemed like it was worthy, or whichever members of the household seemed to be willing to receive. He then explained that those worthy of receiving the blessing would receive it, and those who weren't, wouldn't.

When we bless, it's not up to us to decide who we should bless and who we shouldn't. Jesus said to offer blessing to every house they entered, and those who are able to receive it, will. Those who are not able, won't feel a thing. I feel like the same thing is true with all kinds of blessing--not just saying "God bless you", but in all of the miracles that follow them that believe, including healing.

Lord, teach me better how to bless those around me, both in word and in deed, for I want to be a blessing to those I love best, and to all the world. Give me the words to say, the things to do, and lead me more surely in the ways I should go. In Jesus' name, amen.

Let's talk about prayer.

Here's what I've learned, over the last couple of years:

1) Language does NOT matter. All that matters is what's in your heart . . . and even then, we worship a big, strong, mighty God. He can take whatever it is that we're struggling over, and hear it all. He has big shoulders, and will listen to, will hear, anything we need to unload on Him. After what He went through to win the victory for us, I can guarantee that nothing we throw at Him in our extremity will do damage to His love for us--no matter how rough the language might be we choose to express it. All He cares about is that we're COMING to Him.

2) Stand on the Word. You'll see me, in my prayers offered here, that I declare things I know to be true about God's nature and character, as well as things that He has promised.

"This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him." (1 John 5:14-15)

When God says something, He means it. Linear time has no hold on Him, and so His words, His decrees, are continually before Him, and exist throughout eternity as part of the truth and beauty of His existence, part of the great I AM. When we pray in agreement with what He has said in scripture about our situation, we pray in agreement with His will, His desires. That doesn't guarantee that our hearts are in alignment such that we can immediately receive that for which we pray, but I can guarantee you that if you keep on praying, you will receive what you need, and He will reveal more to you.

3) Praise. Tell God how good He is, praise Him lavishly for all He does for us, confess His beautiful Name, glorify Him in prayer, lift Him up high as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise" (Psalms 100:4)

4) Declare. Declare Him your God, your Savior, whatever role you need Him most to play. When He says He wants to heal, believe it and declare healing. If you're not quite sure the Holy Spirit has told you to pray for healing, you can stand on the Word of God, and have faith in His own declarations that He is waiting, ready, to heal us:

"O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
 Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.
 Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name." (3 Nephi 9:13-15)

Promises of healing are rife in scripture: D&C 112:13, 3 Ne 18:32, John 3:17, 3 Nephi 17:7, and more. He isn't called Jehovah Rapha without cause. Jesus Christ IS healing. That's His desire--to save, heal, and restore us in all things.

What things have you learned about prayer that have revolutionized the way you interact with the Living God?

27 March 2015

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. ~Matthew 10:34-39
I came across this passage this morning, and something completely new stood out to me: the list of relationships Jesus mentions does not include the one between husband and wife.

I love that.

Father God, thank You for love and companionship. Thank You for Vern, and my children. Thank You for the blessings You pour out on us through Your Spirit, and for the beauty in life. I'm just thankful for all of it this lovely morning. In Jesus' name, amen.

26 March 2015

Seeking and Saving that Which Was Lost

In Matthew, the risen Lord gives His disciples the Great Commission:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" ~Matt 28:19 ESV
In Luke, He says:
 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. ~Luke 19:10 ESV
So much more was lost, in the Fall, than just innocence. The Fall affected everything, including the marketplace, education, and government. We lost the spontaneous production of the earth, which gave rise to scarcity in the marketplace. We lost the physical presence of God, as He no longer came to walk with and teach His children as He had formerly in the afternoons with Adam and Eve, changing education. And we lost the peaceful harmony in the garden, leading to the rise of governance other than God's, and corruption in rulers (among many other things).

What can we do about that?

Jesus had some really encouraging things to say about the abilities of those who accept Him:
And I tell you, you are Peter [Greek, Petros—a large piece of rock], and on this rock [Greek, petra—a huge rock like Gibraltar] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it [or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it] ~Matthew 16:18 AMP
 He also declared mankind's power over the devil, in the Garden:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel.
And lastly, one of my favorites:
 I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, if anyone steadfastly believes in Me, he will himself be able to do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father. ~John 14:12 AMP
The Lord wants us to know that we have the ability, the power, through Him, to overcome evil. If we did not, this life wouldn't be a test. It would be a trap. It's our choice, whether to take what He has given us and increase it, or to hide it, subjecting ourselves to the enemy of our souls and living the enslaved life the demonic forces desire for us. And this authority isn't just for the Twelve in Jesus' day, or those that carry the burden of leadership today. It is for anyone, as recorded in John 14:12. Our churches should not be fortified compounds for the comfort and fellowship of the faithful. They should be for the equipping of the saints to empower them to go out and LIVE their faith every day, in their spheres of influence, carrying the presence and love of God to such a degree that those around them can't help but receive blessing and peace and comfort.

We are to take the Kingdom of God to the places still held under the enemy's dominion, the gates in the fortified strongholds he has set up, and provide a vector for God to liberate the captive, speaking His words, doing His works. Jesus assures us that the gates of hell will not prevail, if we are built upon the bedrock of the personal revelation of Jesus Christ and walk in the guidance He will give those that seek Him.

How do we really know when we have succeeded?

When we see systemic poverty eliminated, one life at a time, both because individuals change the way they look at that with which God has blessed them:
And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." ~Luke 18:21-22 NASB
Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much." ~Luke 19:8 NASB
 and because of the change in the way we operate in business, stepping out of the roles that the Lord abhors:
Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against the false swearers, and against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and who turn aside the temporary resident from his right and fear not Me, says the Lord of hosts. ~Malachi 3:5 AMP

15 March 2015

God IS Good, and He will draw us to Him

Journal entry of 25 August 2014

So, I've been saying all day today that I'm going to write this. So, I'm writing it. (Happy, God? . . . Good. lol)

Last night, I attended the first night of the Kingdom Culture event at Hidden Valley Worship Center. HVWC is the laboratory where the Lord taught me who He truly is . . . the things I've read so far in the first four Lectures on Faith are all familiar to me because of what I've heard preached in this place. This is the church where I received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, when a visiting pastor laid hands on me, prayed over me (including putting into words some things I was experiencing at that very time that I hadn't yet been able to put into words) and then said, "Be filled!" This church has been the place where I can come before the Lord and pray and worship without thought for what anyone will think, where I have been prayed over and healed, where I have been snatched from severe depression through the prayer of three incredible prayer warrior women. I've had experience after experience that has shown me that they operate in the Holy Spirit, according to the mind and will of God.

The worship portion of their services has always been super powerful in my life. From the very first service I attended, coming up on three years now, I have been filled with the Holy Ghost over and over as I've worshipped with them, in music, prayer and shouting praise. (Psalm 100)

Just over a week ago, I mentioned to some friends online I was feeling heavy-hearted. Well, you could definitely call it that. I had been brought down to absolute desperation, feeling so overwhelmed and powerless, so distant from my Lord. The love of my husband couldn't pull me out of it. During two of the days at the end of week before last, I cried out in desperation over and over, "Jesus, where is Your comfort? Where is the comfort You said You would send? Jesus . . . please . . . "

And I heard no answer.

Nothing.

So I held on, because that's all I could do . . . just hold on through the incredible darkness of that time. Too many little people depend on me for me to do anything else. I KNEW Jesus heard me. I had so much evidence, such an overwhelming preponderance of experience that He hears me. Always. I just didn't know why I was feeling the way I was, why the depression had come back with such a vicious vengeance, and why He wasn't banishing it when I cried out for relief, why I couldn't hear His answer.

A week ago yesterday (which was two Sundays ago), I went to the morning service at HVWC. It was the first time I had seen any of that part of my church family in more than two months, between my own LDS leadership calling me in, family visiting, our trip to Utah and further south for Denver's talks, etc., and oh, how I had missed the strengthening, the invigoration, the refreshing in the spirit I receive when I'm able to go and worship there. I got there late, missing every last bit of worship. But the sermon was like it was designed wholly for me--even down to one point where Pastor Chris really got his preach on, leaving his notes, preaching according to the spirit for a few minutes, detailing exactly what I had been struggling with over the last few days, what had been running through my mind as recently as the early morning hours that very day as I struggled and journaled and wept.

After the service was over, I said hello to a couple of people, chatted for a minute, gathered my things up, and as I made my way down the aisle, I stopped to say hello to Sharlene, who has been such a blessing and good friend to me. Then Naomi walked over and said hello. We were joined by Donna, and as we stood there, Naomi looked at me and said,

"Would you like to pray with us for our county?"

I said, "Sure."

Then the four of us, Naomi on my right, Donna across from me, and Sharlene on my left, began to pray.

Naomi led, praying first. Then Sharlene. Then Donna. I knew I was there to add my faith and agreement to what they said, but wasn't moved to pray at all. It was beautiful prayer, and I felt so grateful to be part of it. When Donna finished, there was a pause, and then Naomi began praying again. For me. Totally unexpected. As Naomi began her prayer, she said "God, I just pray protection over Annalea," and I felt incredible heat on the crown of my head, as if a high-wattage heat lamp had been turned onto me, as though Jesus came and laid His hands on my head, the strength of His presence radiating steadily down throughout me as the praying continued.

Naomi reached out and put her hand on my right shoulder, continuing to pray. She declared peace and healing and strength, and so many other things. The Holy Spirit grew and grew, and the love of Christ filled me and overflowed. I began to tremble, first my throat, then my hands, then my legs, as Naomi continued to pray healing and restoration over things that I had been struggling with, things she had absolutely no way of knowing anything about. (I hadn't seen or talked to her in two months--nor with with Sharlene and Donna.) Sharlene reached out and put her hand on my left shoulder, praying next. She prayed over different aspects of my struggle, releasing in my heart healing and forgiveness and so much more that the Spirit placed on her heart to pray for me. And the love of the Lord grew and grew within me and my own gratitude grew exponentially. My bff LeAnne came up behind me and put both hands on my back. Donna reached out and put her hand on the top of my bowed head as she then prayed in turn, again, praying words that she had no way of knowing I needed, but that addressed yet more aspects of my struggle, and that ushered in yet more of the healing and comfort for which I had cried out in the depth of my despair.

The desire to fall to my knees, and then upon my face, was nearly overwhelming. I was kept standing only because I was circled about by these women, whose hands supported and steadied me. I was so full . . . and I was healed. The darkness, gone. I was once again filled with the presence of my Jesus, and I knew that He answered my cries as soon as He could; that for whatever reason, my body and spirit had been weakened to the point where I couldn't receive on my own what He needed to give me, and so He gathered these women together to do the work I needed mortals to do, to bridge the gap I was too weak to cross, to be His hands and His mouth for me. And I broke down completely, sobbing at the incomprehensible mercy and grace and love that Jesus extends to us . . . that He extends to me. That He would save me, who am so miserably error-prone. Who would let my own devotions slide, amongst the busyness and demands of life, to the point where the enemy could isolate me, and, like a circling lion, prepare to devour me. I had been encircled about with the chains of hell--of separation from God--and I was set free, covered instead in His loving presence.

Yesterday evening, a week later, I worshipped in that same sanctuary. I was having a wonderful worship experience, full of so much joy and rejoicing. Then they began to sing "I'm a Lover of Your Presence," and LeAnne (who was on the worship team) began to sing. (If you can, go start that playing while you read the rest of this.)

"Let this be a sacrifice
let me dedicate my life
to worship You

Let this be a sacrifice
let me dedicate my life
to worship You"

Suddenly something broke open in my chest, and I started to sob. The song went on:

"I'm a lover of Your presence
I'm a lover of Your presence
I'm a lover of Your presence"

The feelings of gratitude, humility, of utter helplessness in the face of my situation, and then being snatched from it by the Lord's own good pleasure came rushing back, and I could finally fall to my knees for that, and pray. And the song continued:

"A passion's stirring deep inside,
You're all that really satisfies;
we worship You"

"We're lovers of Your presence
We're lovers of Your presence
We're lovers of Your presence
And it's all we want to be,
it's all we want to be"

And then kneeling wasn't enough. The enormity of what Jesus had done for me, of the price He paid to gain the victory He had won, the sweetness of fruit of it in my life, a sweetness above all that is sweet, sent me to my face, once again crying out, but this time in love and praise and utter amazement at the extravagant riches of His love poured out for me.

"I was made for love,
I was made for love,
I was made for loving You
I know that I was made for love,
I was made for love,
and I was made for
Loving You"

I don't think I've ever been more vulnerable, or more safe, than I was in those minutes, as I sobbed out my gratitude and my love for Yeshua, my Jesus, my Beloved God. It wasn't a performance, a demonstration for anyone to see. I wasn't doing anything that isn't well-known in that place during worship. That sanctuary truly IS a sanctuary, where the Holy Spirit directs all things.

Today, I now know just a little of what Denver feels like when he says, "I'd really rather NOT be doing this." I'd never consider sharing something like this in a forum as public as this. One-on-one, when prompted, no problem. But this honestly makes me (the written word over-sharer) a little antsy. I'm sharing these things with the desire in my heart that it will touch someone, and open a heart to be touched by the Living God more than ever before. The things that happen in the scriptures when the presence of an omnipotent God collides with mortal flesh are accurate. It's not an overly dramatic culture, or a different cultural expression of spiritual experiences. The Lamanites weren't a more sensitive genetic strain, prone to to fainting spells.

When God shows up, people fall down.

They pass out.

They speak in tongues and prophesy.

Injuries--physical and spiritual--are healed.

People fall to their knees, or upon their faces, and rise up new creatures.

Our bodies are marvelous instruments. When we use them in our worship, it allows the Lord to reach us in ways He simply cannot if we're sitting passively, just listening, or singing half-heartedly, or singing to anyone else besides Him. Our bodies are not only megaphones for the Holy Ghost, but they amplify our own ability to express ourselves before Jesus and reach out for Him.

God bless you all, as He has blessed me, a stubborn and prideful, lazy and foolish girl.

14 March 2015

The Key to Greater Faith

Like the early apostles of Christ, I long for greater faith.
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." ~Luke 17:5 HCSB
 In study a while back, I came across this verse: 
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. ~Romans 10:17 NIV
The Amplified bible often includes the phrase "firmly relying trust" when the word "faith" appears. I love that, in opening my heart and mind to what God has to say to me, through scripture, through the God-given words of those I love and trust, and most importantly through my own connection with the Divine, my faith . . . my firmly relying trust in God . . . grows.

Time to seek more of the Word. I'm so glad it's delicious to my soul. :o)



12 March 2015

He Makes a Way

And [Jonah] said to them, Take me up and cast me into the sea; so shall the sea become calm for you, for I know that it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you. Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship to the land, but they could not, for the sea became more and more violent against them. Therefore they cried to the Lord, We beseech You, O Lord, we beseech You, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You. So they took up Jonah and cast him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men [reverently and worshipfully] feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. Now the Lord had prepared and appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:12-17 AMP)
Jonah was a man on the run. He ran from God, straight into the consequences of his actions, endangering others as well as himself. And yet . . . God showed us how merciful and wise He is.

When we run from God, we usually end up smack in the middle of a storm of our own making; sometimes raging so violently it seems the only outcome, the only possible solution, is to succumb to the storm.

And yet, our God is merciful. Our God is kind. He LOVES us so incomprehensibly. He knew we might get ourselves caught in just such a predicament, and just as Jonah was swallowed by a "great fish", Yahweh has an escape route planned for us, if we surrender ourselves, and our plans, to Him.

Now, don't get me wrong. Jonah's whole experience with the great fish could very well have been frightening, and strange, and smelly and uncomfortable. But it wasn't the end!

It was the beginning.

Father God, how I praise You this morning, for You make a way before me, even when I get so caught up in my own version of what I'm supposed do that I seem to ruin everything. But You make the way for me to escape! :-) Thank You for loving me, God. Thank You for saving me over and over again. Thank You for Your Mercy and Grace, that is not only new every morning, but never runs out and never gives up on me. I love you, God of mine. In Jesus' name, Amen.

11 March 2015

Victory in the Battle

"That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]." ~2 Tim 1:6 
Paul is reminding Timothy that it takes effort and care to continue in the Holy Spirit. And it's a beautiful, and powerful, reminder for me.

Sunday night, I could hardly sleep, I was SO excited for what God had showed me, on Sunday, He would do in my life, if I partnered with Him. I got up early, spent time with Him in the word, had tons of energy (despite a short and restless night--I hadn't slept like that since Christmas Eve as a kid!), and had a beautiful day of deep freedom. I had so much energy that I stayed up way too late, and then Tuesday didn't go so well, because I gave into my flesh and didn't get up to spend time with God in the quiet of the morning. {facepalm} There were still plenty of miracles, and He gave me a chance to serve that I cherish, but I recognized that the pattern of my day matched more closely the way things had been for most of my life. I didn't stir things up very well at all, didn't take the time to orient my day to Jesus when things were quiet, and while I was given a beautiful opportunity to bless and serve, my prayers lacked the power they needed, and that felt really lame. {facepalm}

This morning, when my alarm went off in the dark (thanks, daylight savings--I have always really disliked getting up in the dark), and my tonsils felt like sandpaper golf balls, and my sinuses felt like they were on fire, and I really didn't want to get out of bed, I remembered the testimony AmberDawn shared on facebook a little while back about a pastor who had the Asiatic Flu, and yet he knew that God had given him victory. He chose to walk out the will of God that day, feeling sick enough to literally die . . . but he had the word of God to him that victory was in the pulpit. So he filled his pulpit. In the morning service, he felt complete relief while he was in that pulpit. For the rest of the day, he battled fear in his bed, feeling ready to die, and hearing the enemy tell him he actually would die if he got out of bed. But he arose, and filled the pulpit for the evening service . . . and THAT was when he claimed victory. He walked away from that service completely healed.

I'm claiming victory . . . even when it seems like I'm failing, because there is a battle going on. Battles will come. But they will not determine what I think, or what I expect, or how early I get up in the morning. ;-) (I'm not giving up the ground I've just reclaimed!)

Lord Jesus, I TRUST YOU. I trust You to bear me up, to heal my body, to clothe me in Your righteousness, that my sin is covered by Your blood, and that You will walk with me. I have known, since You saved me, that I am Yours . . . but the knowledge You gave me Sunday that You truly are mine is what fills me with trust and a beautiful certainty. That I can claim You, call upon You, and my entreaty is music to Your ears. That I have a right, by the gift You have given me, to call on Your name. I can approach the throne of grace boldly, and I can do impossible things, because You are my IMPOSSIBLE God. :-) Thank You, Lord, for faith to walk on. Thank You, Lord, for understanding . . . for what You show me . . . for the ways You continue patiently working with me. Thank You for using me to bless . . . I am always filled with awe and wonder at the way You work in Your children's lives . . . and Lord, thank You so much for showing me that it's not just me that can miss out if I give into my flesh and stay in bed. You needed me this morning, as did someone I love so very much. Thank You for using me in Your work, already today. I glorify Your name, for You are Beautiful, Your Name is Highest, and I revel in You! Amen.

09 March 2015

ANDD Inagural Podcast: Giving Tree Medical Missions

Saturday, I made a very green attempt at an interview. After significant technical difficulty, and then losing the first ten minutes of intro and backstory, I managed to get a recording. (We have a nice setup for recording interviews, as Vern has done several software interviews in the past. But due to some miscommunication, I didn't have access to the equipment. Next time.) I really appreciate Paul & Brent's patience and grace as I picked my way through creating my first podcast, recorded via cell phone. Most important: it's intelligible and has great info on this particular cause.

Time is of the essence with the Giving Tree project, and so I'm going to post it, counting on my listeners' understanding that this is about content. Maybe someday I'll add an opening and closing jingle. Or maybe not. Those usually annoy me. ;o)

Without further ado, I'd like to present to you Dr. Paul Benson and Brent Hansen. I've known Brent for a while now; he is a good man and good friend. These two have a shared love of the Philippines, both having served 2-year church missions there. Brent also has family ties, as his wife hails from the Philippines. During their missions they saw first-hand the desperate level of poverty, the real needs there, and joined forces a while back to help bring economic support to the Philippines. This brand new endeavor, Giving Tree Medical Missions (link to come) exists to provide medical care and support to those who need it most, and is an extension of a budding new charity, Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree campaign, hosted over at Tilt, has the awesome goal of raising $1,000,000 in just foruteen days. The approach is to ask folks to take just one minute, donate one dollar, and tag ten friends. Like a phone tree, this requires just a little from each of us, and allows us to make a tremendous difference. As of this posting, the campaign is just over $26,000. It has to reach $100,000 in order to "tilt" (or fund), so if you'd like to help, you can go to the Giving Tree tilt page to make your donation and tag your friends.

If you want to do more, you can put in a bit more effort and make personal contacts until you've found ten people willing to contribute. I've watched this effort skyrocket over the last few days, and am going to keep on trying to do what I can.


Journey Forth!

25 As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, Jehu said to the guards and to the officers, Go in and slay them; let none escape. And they smote them with the sword; and the guards or runners [before the king] and the officers threw their bodies out and went into the inner dwelling of the house of Baal.
26 They brought out the pillars or obelisks of the house of Baal and burned them.
27 They broke down the pillars of Baal and the house of Baal, and made it [forever unclean] a privy to this day.
28 Thus Jehu rooted Baal out of Israel.
29 But Jehu did not give up the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin, that is, the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.
30 And the Lord said to Jehu, Because you have executed well what is right in My eyes and have done to the house of Ahab as I willed, your sons to the fourth generation shall sit on Israel’s throne. [Fulfilled in II Kings 15:12.]
31 But Jehu paid no attention to walking in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not quit the sins with which Jeroboam made Israel to sin.
32 [So] in those days the Lord began to cut off parts of Israel.  ~2 Kings 10:25-32 AMP
Jehu, in a blaze of Old Testament fervor, carried out the Lord's word to Elijah, that all of Ahab's house would be destroyed.  He slew grandsons, friends, any who were connected to that house. Then he went and utterly ruined the house of Baal. For this exacting obedience, the Lord had a word for Jehu, in verse 30: the promise that Jehu's sons would be kings of Israel to the fourth generation.

But Jehu stopped short . . . while he pursued with zeal other words God had given, eradicating Ahab's house and ruining Baal's, he didn't give up what was apparently his "favorite" bit of idolatry. I can see him justifying, reasoning that the Golden Calf was worshipped by his fathers in the wilderness while Moses was on the mountain, and that surely something that old had to be good. Or I can see him thinking it was such a small thing, and he had done so much, that surely it was enough to please the Lord.

I'm standing on the edge of something marvelous and beautiful, new and glorious; a faith-filled walk with my God I have only dreamed of.

I'm not going to stop short.

God has opened the way before me, and I am stepping into it.

This is a Jewish story of parting the Red Sea that I really love:
Behind them was an army bristling for war. Before them was an ocean, deep and impassable. They could neither advance nor retreat. They were ambushed. What could they do? 
Moses tried an age-old tactic: he cried out to God. But God rebuked him: “Why do you cry to me? Tell the Children of Israel to journey forth.” 
Journey forth, but how? There was an ocean before them! God never addressed this question, and Moses never asked it. God said to journey forth, and journey they did. That was the entire point. Don’t ask questions. Don’t raise doubts. If God issues a command, He will provide the means to see it through. 
Yet the Children of Israel hesitated. They were prepared to plow into the ocean, but they needed to be led. A leader appeared in the person of Nachshon, son of Aminadav, tribal prince of Judah. Leading his tribal column, Nachshon strode into the sea. Wading through the rising tide, the waters first reached his waist, then his chest and shoulders.
At the very last moment, as the waters reached his nostrils, the Red Sea parted and the Children of Israel followed him into the sea.
How's that for radical obedience? God said, "Go forward!", as the Israelites stood trapped between the sea and mountains. This was deep water, folks. And Israelites were notorious for knowing absolutely nothing about water. I've heard there was a saying, similar to our American proverb, "When pigs fly", that meant, "When a Jew builds a ship". Nachshon led his column straight into something that, culturally, they were wholly unprepared for. Laden for their journey with all the things the Lord had them take out of Egypt, who knows if they could even swim?

And yet, they strode into the sea in radical obedience to what Yahweh had said:
"Journey forth." 
Yes, Lord.

08 March 2015

God So Loved The World


For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." ~John 3:16-17 ESV
God wanted us to be His. He loves us so incredibly, so overwhelmingly, so completely, He couldn't bear to deny any of us the chance to come unto to Him.

And so, He gave us Jesus. Jesus loved us just as much, just as totally, as His Father. He had the same desire, the same heart, and the same mind. He too wanted us to be His, with all of His being.

But there was only one way for Him to have the right to claim us as His own.

He had to become ours.

Give Himself, to us. Without reservation. Without caveat. Without holding anything back.

And He did it.

He is.

Ours.

Oh, what a God we have, that belongs to each one of us! What wonder, what mystery, that God calls us unto Himself . . . that it is only our willingness to come unto Him that determines whether we do or not. None of us can EVER be perfect enough. We're mortal. Limited. We'll always have messes, we'll always carry the sin and death of the world in us, so long as we rely on our own strength.

The only question to answer is, "Do I really trust God when He says He wants me, right now?" Finding Jesus is the ultimate Come As You Are Party.  He already paid the price, already has said, "Come unto Me".
"Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."*
So what are you waiting for?

Do you trust Him?

Can you trust Him?

*Matthew 11:28

01 March 2015

Need Grace? Here's your recipe.

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. ~1 Cor 9:6-8 NKJV
These verses leapt out at me, today. In reading it, the Holy Spirit whispered to me that everything we do and everything we say is either giving or taking. It is either self-focused or Christ-focused. (Even if someone doesn't know Jesus, all selflessness is His.)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. ~Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV
Every complaint, every little grumpy sigh, is self-focused. It's about our discomfort, our inconvenience. When faced with any obstacle, whether a bump in the road or the entire Selkirk Range, the choice we make about how we respond either blesses or steals from those around us.

If we choose to cheerfully give to those around us through kindness, longsuffering, gentleness and self-control, then the cause & effect relationship in 1st Corinthians comes into play: God blesses the cheerful giver with abounding grace. With an abundance of His unmerited favor.

Malachi 3:10 only further reinforces this with an outright promise from the Lord:
"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it."
I love knowing that all scripture agrees. That Malachi 3:10 and 1 Corinthians 9:6-8 are complimentary, because they come from the same God. If the Israelites gave grudgingly in response to that injunction, I don't believe grudging obedience would've brought down overflowing blessing. God isn't in the business of behavior modification. He's in the business of changing hearts and minds, of transforming us into His image.

So if you feel you're running short on grace . . . if you feel you're lacking in your connection to heaven . . . if you feel you're lacking in anything in your life, give. Give your time. Give your attention. Give kindness. Give patience. Give gentleness. Give laughter and good humor. Give joy. Give good manners and courtesy. It will transform your world, and God will pour out His grace upon you. That empowering, transformative influence that makes you more than you could ever be on your own. That connection to heaven that changes everything.

You have to give.

You have to choose to be willing to bless, to extend grace to those around you.



Father in Heaven, thank You so much for this insight, today. I've long loved these verses, how they give a powerful key to unlock blessings at Your hand. But I never realized this was speaking of the way we interact with one another. Lord, show me where I fall short. Show me where I don't speak blessing, where I am selfish in my speech and behavior. And lead me out of it, God. Teach me Your way to approach all things, teach me Your perspective, Your patience, Your forgiveness. Teach me to bless those around me more and more. I love You, God. Thank You SO MUCH for all you do for me and mine. In Jesus' glorious name, amen.