08 December 2016

The First Law of Heaven

Matthew 22, NIV:


34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”


37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 


Growing up, I always heard the phrase "Obedience is the first law of heaven". And yet, Jesus himself makes it absolutely clear what the first and greatest commandment is: LOVE. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them that all things s should be done on earth as they are done in heaven. His entire life was an illustration of heaven brought to earth. That's what the law was for: to try to corral a stubborn and prideful people to live as close to a heavenly life on earth as was possible for them.


This morning I especially love this answer to the Pharisees because it is Jesus calling all of us higher. God IS love. We are called to be god-like in all of our interactions, to all people. Obedience to God naturally flows from the reciprocal love we have with God. But obedience is not the first law of heaven. Never has been, never will be, for the word of Jesus Christ is eternal and complete.


Father God, thank you so much for the word. Thank you for the Word made flesh who came and dwelt among us, who truly showed us who you are and who you long for us to become, in you. Bless us all, Papa, to feel that love powerfully and fully, and let every human heart be open to allow blessing flow, always. In Jesus' name, amen.

13 November 2016

Loving IS Living in the Light.

“If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates a fellow believer is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.” ~1 John‬ ‭2:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬
How loving am I to other believers? Even (and especially!) those who cherish doctrines distinct from what I personally believe? Whether it's gifts of the spirit, eschatology, or other tenets or precepts, do I draw lines and insist on agreement, or do I relentlessly choose for the love of God pour through me without restraint?

Father God, show me the places in my own heart where I need to let go of judgement. Show me how to evict it, and the path to move forward, walking in forgiveness toward all flesh. I thank you for the consistent support you provide for me directly and through the body of Christ, for the community I belong to both in heaven and on earth. Thank you for your eagerness to connect with me, and make yourself known. Pull all the stops out, Father, and show me how to move through this life motivated and empowered by your love, walking more and more in alignment with your will and heart for each and all. No fear, no condemnation, no reserve against what you ask me to do. Bless this world, bless my community, bless my church communities, bless my family, and bless me, in Jesus' name, amen.

12 November 2016

It's time to make some NOISE!

“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” ~Psalms‬ ‭95:1-2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
I love how the psalmist talks about really making NOISE.

This God of ours is not a staid old stoic, requiring silent reverence. (Although reverence can also be silent.) The reality of our God's nature draws boisterous praise from the psalmist. Why not from us?

Papa God, let your people be released to make as much noise over your goodness and the victory of Jesus as they do at the winning touchdown in a championship football game. Let us use our voices to declare the joy of your reality, changing things around us forever. In Jesus' name, amen!

God Works with Us

"And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen." ~Mark 16:20 KJV
Folks. Even the King James Version, translated to ensure uninterrupted fealty to King James and the Church of England, teaches that God partners with his people to accomplish his work!

Let's step up to the invitation Jesus offers, literally calling to us every moment of every day, longing to work intimately with us in the harvest of souls that he's desperate to bring into his garners.

Papa God, show us all how to come "farther up and farther in" to the riches of your grace that you are pleading with us to accept so we can be transformed, and we can transform the world more and more into the image of God. Lead us in this miraculous work, teach us how to open our hearts to you more and more so our hearts can be more and more open to those around us. Thank you for the incredible, amazing way that our relationship with others so mirrors our relationship with you, empowering us in ways we could never have imagined. I rejoice in you always, and can't even begin to put into words how amazed and wonder-filled I am at the thought of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and everything that it means to me. Thank you, Papa! Thank you!!!! In Jesus' lovely and precious name, amen.

29 October 2016

On Waiting

“Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.”

Hebrews 6:15 NLT


wait on less commonly  wait upon

  • 1
    a
      :  to attend as a servant
    b  :  to supply the wants of :  serve
  • 2
    :
      to make a formal call on
  • 3
    :
      to wait for

(From http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wait)


Waiting on the Lord is not a passive thing. Abraham didn't sit in his house all those years, wondering when God would get with the program. Yes, waiting on the Lord often involves not doing something; but it ALWAYS involves being actively engaged in a godly life, seeking out the will of God and doing it.


And so, today I'm asking myself: how can I better wait upon the Lord as I look forward to his promises being fulfilled in my life?


Father, thank you for the illuminating power of study--for the way digging into the meanings of words empowers my understanding and my life. Help me hear you more clearly, obey you more faithfully, and praise you with more joy and rejoicing every day. Thank you for filing my life with such blessing, and reach me to own my heart and mind more and more to your goodness and your love, in Jesus' name. Amen.

25 October 2016

Always, Never, and ALL

S: “Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will NEVER reject them.”

~John 6:35, 37 NLT


O: Jesus has promised that he will not only provide for our needs when we come to him, but that he will NEVER reject those who come to him.


NEVER.


And who are those the Father has given to Jesus? 


“God has put ALL things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over ALL things for the benefit of the church.”

~Ephesians 1:22 NLT


A: I believe the Father gave Jesus everything he redeemed. All creation. That includes all flesh. Whether or not we seek Jesus is up to each of us. But we have the word of God that he will not reject us when we do. Not ever.


So if you feel like God has rejected you, KNOW THIS: that is a lie from hell. A lie designed to keep you captive, separated from the God who paid the ultimate price so he COULD accept you ALWAYS, so he could cover your sin and imperfection with mercy and charity, and be close to you as soon as you turn to him with a repentant heart.


God's word is truth.


And one of the most hopeful, encouraging things I've ever realized is that if I don't see God's promises coming true in my life, God is not the problem. It's me. Hallelujah! 


I can't change the word of God, but I CAN change me! I can learn of him and listen to his words, I can change the way I think, change what I believe as I learn more about Jesus, and watch the promises unfold like flowers after a long winter. Because my God does not lie. I can trust him. Always.


Papa God, thank you for being constant and faithful. Thank you for the blood of Jesus that bought me, not to enslave me, as men who buy human lives intend, but in order to set me free. Bless all flesh, Father, and show me how to pray so I can better partner with you in the incredible work you are working to set all flesh free, in my home, my church, my community and my world, in Jesus' name, amen.

12 October 2016

A Time of Exceeding

We are seeds; embryonic versions of what God plans for us to become.

We carry within us seeds. Idea seeds. Emotion seeds. Word seeds. Action seeds.

The work of the seed looks like the destruction of the seed. It IS the destruction of the seed.

The finished work of a seed looks NOTHING like the seed. It smells nothing like the seed. It feels nothing like the seed. It tastes nothing like the seed. The seed is the promise of the finished work. It is only potential.

Just looking at a seed, we can't always know what it is. Or we can THINK we know, because we've seen something very similar before. Or we can think we know a seed is bad because we watched someone else try to plant and raise a good seed without the Master Gardener. But unless we have seen that seed properly planted, nurtured, and then bearing seed from itself, we must hear the word of God that tells us what kind of seed we have discovered, hidden deep in our spirits.

This is a time to listen to the word of God that tells us what these seeds are.

And we have to let go of the seeds. We have to let them be buried, however deep the Master Gardener directs. We have to believe, while we cannot see, that the seed is swelling and breaking open and beginning to unfold. That a tiny tap root is reaching deeper down into the soil than we think is necessary, while we eagerly await the first tiny green bump to push through the surface. And while we wait, we need to keep the planting watered and free of weeds. And once those cotyledons appear, we have to watch over the tiny seedling, and let the loving faith community God has ready for each of us to help guard and provide for the growth of that fragile yet explosively growing new thing within us.

This is a time of exceeding. Do you hear it? Ex-seed-ing. Of going beyond the seeds--the seeds we are so comfortable with. The seeds that comfort us; because it's easier to adore the promise of the seed than create the conditions for that promise to spring to life. The seeds that we treasure, but aren't willing to let go of and plant them. Or the seeds that we hide, afraid of what the planting and care might cost us.


And all the while, God speaks to us:
This, this is an apple seed, round and shining with the promise of fruit to feed nations.
This, this is an orchid seed, so tiny you can hardly see it, but the beauty and fragrance of this flower will draw the lonely into My arms.
This, this is a ministry seed, sharp and black, but that will rise from the earth and bloom in the softest hues to comfort and gladden every heart that sees it.
This, this is a friendship seed to bridge the chasm surrounding a lost and broken soul.
This, this is a love seed that will bind you to Me, forever and always.
This, this is a healing seed that will make the amputee whole again.
This, this is a service seed.
This, this is an apostolic seed.
This, this is a pastoral seed.
This, this is an evangelical seed.
This, this is a teaching seed.
This, this is a charity seed.
This, this is a dunamis seed.
This is a time for seeds to release what they hold, to release the potential and the process that will become a finished work for the glory of God.

(Sparked by a podcast of a sermon by Justin Paul Abraham. Boy, does he challenge me . . . )

08 October 2016

I Trust Him

“Trust in the LORD forever, For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength.”
~Isaiah 26:4 NKJV

A year ago this weekend, I had one of the most powerful revelatory experiences I have ever had. God gave me very clear instruction, and sent me dreams and understanding to equip and direct me.

As I waited for sleep to come last night, I looked back over the year and examined how I had tried, and believed I had failed, to follow that very simple, two-word injunction: "Get strong".

But almost as soon as I turned my thoughts that way, I felt Jesus gently correcting me. Yes, I definitely had not achieved what *I* saw as the primary purpose of those words. I'm not running a 30k tomorrow. I don't weigh sixty pounds less than I did at this time last year. He knows that. But he showed me the many ways I have grown significantly stronger, and I was surprised to see just what a difference there is between last year and now.

A year ago, I stepped out in my own wisdom to retake my physical health. I also stepped out, relying as fully as I knew how on my Lord, to receive and learn whatever he had in store for me. I've learned so much from both experiences, and with great mercy the Lord of Heaven and Earth has drawn and taught and guided me as much as I have been willing to hear and follow. Including instructions for how to begin, in this moment and circumstance in my life, to receive the physical healing and strength he has waiting for me.

Father God, I will trust you, for you truly are my everlasting strength. Thank you for all you have shown me, all you have taught me, and all you offer in the future. Watch over me and my family and loved ones. Let me be the physical manifestation of your love on the earth, the visible evidence of your Word. Show me how to receive your spirit in more depth and consistency, so the outflow of my life will be deeply nourishing, blessing everyone who comes across my path. Thank you for everything, God. I love you so much. In Jesus' name, amen.

04 October 2016

Acceptable to God, or Acceptable to the Flesh?

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 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 12:1-2 NLT


1) Often, what we find acceptable is not what God finds acceptable; and what God finds acceptable is NOT what we have been taught to think of as acceptable. 


2) If we want transformation, we MUST allow God to change the way we think. (Hint: that includes how we define "acceptable"!)


3) If we recognize that what we think of as acceptable (along with all our other thinking) needs be to available for God to redefine, and we are pliable in His hands as He changes our thinking, letting Him transform us, we will KNOW His will for us in our lives. Which includes hearing Him well.


Papa God, I have loved this passage for a long time, and know it almost by heart. But this lesson never occurred to me until today. What an awesome connection, and what a powerful lesson! Thank you for your promises, thank you for your faithfulness, thank you for the way you never, EVER stop working with us, calling to us, teaching and blessing us. Thank you for this key, and for all of the things you have spoken to me lately, in so much love. I love you, Papa. In Jesus' name, amen.


11 September 2016

Some Things Need to Burn

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said to his advisers, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire? ” “Yes, of course, Your Majesty,” they replied to the king. He exclaimed, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.””
Daniel 3:24-25 HCSB

The only thing consumed by the fire were the bonds Nebuchadnezzar's soldiers had used to tie these three men if God. 

Holy Spirit fire is the same way. It utterly consumes everything that binds us, every device of the enemy.

How close to the fire am I willing to go? All the way in? Or just close enough to get nice and comfortably warm? Will I let it consume everything that is not part of God's plan for my life, or will I protect my idols to the point of separating myself from God?

Good morning, Father. Thank you so much for this challenge today. Thank you for the continued opportunity to draw closer and closer to you, to know you better and to love you more. Let your word speak to your people clearly, and draw them more and more into you, in Jesus' name, amen.

25 August 2016

Sincere Imitation

"Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.” ~III John 1:11 NKJV

Imitation. That's where it starts.

So far, today has been a day that requires a tremendous amount of metacognition (thinking about thinking) in order to throw off chains the enemy has been throwing my way. And God has given me another tool in my kit to overcome on days like this: imitation. If what I should do doesn't flow naturally from my heart, I can start with sincere imitation, desiring that flew to recommence.

And once I begin with sincere imitation, the fountain within opens up and I'm free to operate in an overflow of love once again.

Thank you, God, for the word. Thank you for the body. Thank you for an innumerable host of examples to follow, and for the way you so insistently pursue me. You know the desires of my heart, that I will always welcome you in, and I love so much the way you continue to work with me in developing what you know I will need in order to receive the love, blessings and joy you have planned for me in the days and years ahead. I will continue pursuing, continue worshipping, continue praising, continue serving, continue in your love always. In Jesus' name, amen.

24 August 2016

Heal the Sick

“And it shall be, in that day,”
Says the Lord,
“That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’
And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’"

“I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In lovingkindness and mercy;
I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the Lord.

Then I will say to those who were not My people,
‘You are My people!’
And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’”

~Hosea 2:16, 19-20, 23b

Last night my 8yo son was up twice, crying pitifully, with leg cramps. The first time we hydrated and used essential oils, and eventually he was able to walk them off. As I got back into bed, I heard Jesus say "I will be a husband to you", with the distinct impression that by "you" He was speaking to my family as a unit.

The second time he woke, the cramps were in his ankles and feet, and the previous remedies didn't work.

He hobbled over to me from where his dad had been holding him (saying, "Excuse me, I need to go see mom for just a second"--it was one of the sweetest things I've ever heard, him being gentle to his dad even while he was hurting so much), and threw himself into my lap, asking if I would pray. I had healed a headache for him a couple of nights before, and I think he remembered that, and took heart. I remembered what Jesus has just said only a few hours before, and met my son's need right where he was.

It took a couple minutes of praying and checking (i.e. crossing the chicken line, as Art Thomas puts it), but I will never forget the radical change in his voice as the pain disappeared. He went from so sad, so pitiful-sounding, to comforted, confident, and HAPPY as he stood up, said he was going to go try laying in his bed, and blew us a kiss on his way out of our bedroom door.

"Heal the sick", Jesus said.

And I say, "Yes, Lord."

Thank you, God. I know you know the depths of my heart on this one--you are the Father. And I know you know the events in my son's heart, too, being One with the Son. Thank you. Thank you for healing in my home, both physical and spiritual and emotional. I love you so much. In Jesus' name, amen.

22 August 2016

My Faith: Christ alone.

Over the last while my attention has been drawn to my overall approach to faith:

I will accept every truth.
I will utterly reject every untruth.

Just over three years ago, I came to understand that "the truth" wasn't a set of principles and associated tenets in a neatly delineated and clearly posted set of bullet points in the heavens. Truth is a person: Jesus Christ. (John 14:6) That was the key that unlocked the mystery of who Jesus is, and gave me the courage to choose to trust him workout reserve. And the initial result of that trust was the baptism of fire, followed by innumerable experiences since.

My faith and belief is fully centered on learning who Jesus Christ is, coming to know him for myself and know more fully what is in alignment with his character and nature. The resulting winnowing process has been astonishing.

When I first began saying "No, thank you" to untruth in the form of the traditions of men within the LDS Church, I stepped into that winnowing process. And I never dreamt how expansive the scope of that process would be. But I can say this unequivocally: none of the falsehood that I have laid down at the foot of the cross for the sake of thinking and living in harmony with my God has ever left me impoverished. Much to the contrary.

Some of the things I've laid down are things others still hold dear. But for every line item of my version of the truth I've laid down, the riches of the love of God have poured in to fill that space, (Ephesians 3:16-20), resulting in an overflow of beautiful, empowered relationship with God where I once had only intellectual understanding of an abstract concept and an associated tenet.

Joseph Smith taught that original Mormonism embraced all truth. If he was gutsy enough to make that claim, then I'm gutsy enough to take him up on it. Nothing that is part of the nature, character, and teachings of Christ will harm or invalidate any true thing Joseph taught. Anything that contradicts the nature, character and teachings of Jesus Christ isn't worth clinging to, no matter who taught it.

And I PRAISE GOD that we have God's mercy to give us room to experiment, to get things wrong before we get them right, and that there is ample grace available to lift us up and empower us as we wrestle through all of it.

21 August 2016

Never Too Far

For all of those who think God will ever give up on them, or draw a line and say "You've gone too far":

Think, for a moment, about the price Jesus paid for you.

Think, for a moment, about the entire life He lived in perfect submission to His Father, so He could be a spotless sacrifice.

Think, for a moment, about the incredible agony He willingly suffered, and His ignominious death.

ALL OF THAT He did for one reason: to redeem us.

He overcame death and sin. All of it. On an infinite scale. There is no end to the mercy, grace, forgiveness and patience He willingly gives us.

Now, keeping in mind all of that, and the astounding infinitely generous heart that must have motivated Him to go through all of that for you, can you imagine Him being stingy with it? Of being all elitist and meting out salvation on a miserly scale?

The work Jesus did was INFINITE in nature. Yet complete and full. Perfect. And He longs, with everything that's in Him, to wrap you up in the beauty of His complete victory, and save your soul.

Don't wait. There's no earthly or heavenly reason to hesitate. You are safe, you are loved, you are His. Receive the offer He makes, and then walk in relationship, in partnership, with Him as you grow from grace to grace in Him.

16 August 2016

His Great Hands

This. I have been at this point--the point where I understood fully all of my efforts over my entire life were not enough. That they never would be. That I had to choose to trust Jesus Christ to the point of placing everything I was into His hands, fully open to receive whatever He gave back, and to release the rest.

What God gave me in return for my heavy, broken heart is so much better than I ever could have imagined.


Your Great Hands 
I'm lookin' at the broken pieces
Life shattered on this empty floor
I've tried so hard to simply keep it
I know there must be something more

I'm here now to turn it over; complete surrender
Into Your great hands, I will place my trust
When I cannot stand, You will lift me up
Every failure, every fear, every step that led me here
All I am, into Your great hands

This goes against my every instinct
To loosen my grip and let go
But really all that I am risking
Is perfect peace in my soul

Into Your great hands, I will place my trust
When I cannot stand, You will lift me up
Every failure, every fear, every step that led me here, oh
All I am, into Your great hands

These hands that took the nails
These hands, they will not fail
These hands that bear my scars
These hands that hold my heart

Into Your great hands, into Your great hands
Into Your great hands, I will place my trust
When I cannot stand, You will lift me up

Every failure, every fear, every step that led me here
All I am, into Your great hands
Into Your great hands
Into Your great hands
 Our God is GOOD. When I took my life fully into my own hands and gave it to him, he began transforming it into something wonderful and beautiful, something supernaturally-empowered that increasingly baffles mortal wisdom. I love so many things that I was taught and gifted as a result of the faith and traditions of my fathers. And I simply will not trade for anything what I have now: this life of drinking from the firehose of the love of God, this life filled with wonders, healing, and intimate relationship with the God who gave himself for me on that cross. This life that is so full of the fulfilled promises of scripture that I can hardly count them all. I have the promises of God, spoken directly to me, sealed with the evidence he promised would come to those who believe. No words spoken by men can hold a candle to the blazing fire that comes directly from Jesus.

Jesus loves each of us with a love that encompasses and surpasses human love; not only in magnitude, but in scope. He is every bit as enchanted with you as you were with your first crush, every bit as eager to hear your voice and feel your eyes on him, to get you to notice him. He loves you with the undying love of a mother, deep and fierce. He loves you with the loyal and self-sacrificing love of a father, with the innocent and trusting love of a child, with the loyal and joyful love of a best, best friend, the kind of friend with whom you can do no more than exchange a glance and break out into belly laughs that take over and leave you both gasping. And so much more.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus came to give us life, and that MORE abundantly. Jesus came to give. Not to receive. He is not a distant, authoritarian deity that desires slaves. He is a tender bridegroom longing for his bride, a lion roaring terribly against the onslaught of the enemy, a lamb calling to us tenderly. He won the right, on that cross, to be with us always, no matter where our choices take us. And it is up to us whether or not we will turn toward him, ever present right in the middle of our mess, pursue him, and in so doing receive everything he has--everything the Father has.

Come, seek the Jesus of scripture, the Jesus revealed in the New Testament that told his disciples that if they have seen him, they have seen his father. Come discover the radical nature of his love, the love that makes into foolishness the wisdom of men, the love that requires no intermediary, no rites, no authority bestowed by men. Come drink from the fountain of living water and let it spring up within you to flow out in healing waves into the world around you, reclaiming the world that is already fully redeemed with the priceless blood of Jesus freely-given.

15 August 2016

This Morning's Thought

I've only been conscious for a few hours (rolling in from a road trip at 3am will do that to a body), but what keeps running through my mind is this:
"It's true. It's all true. It's NOT too good to be true!!!"
Jesus WON. He LOVES us. And I got to bask, to soak, to feast, to drink deeply of the miraculous consequences of that victory this weekend. And I get to walk in it, speak from it, and positively DUMP all of that awesome into the world around me.

I'm soooooo beyond words excited for what comes next!!!!

























(No, we're not moving to Wyoming. Some of us just spent some time there this weekend. ;o)



11 August 2016

Now I know better

“For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), and His ears are attentive to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who practice evil [to oppose them, to frustrate, and defeat them]. [Ps. 34:12-16.]”
1 Peter 3:12 AMP

I actually have come to love this passage, not because of the way I used to see it, but the way God has revealed it to me.

I used to think this meant that God would actively punish us, that He would refuse to answer "the wicked" when we cried out to Him. But now, I know better. 

Now I know that our God is the one who never turns away, never stops calling out to us, never ceases to work every good thing He possibly can in our lives. When we choose "wickedness", we turn ourselves so we are no longer facing Him. Our ears become dull to His voice, our hearts hard against the softness of His love and persuasion.

Father, thank you for being good. For being consistent, and for being the SAME at all times. Thank you for the multitude of blessings you pour out always, and I pray you would teach me how to open my eyes so I can see more and more. I'm Jesus' name, amen.

07 August 2016

Living Stones

“Come to Him [then, to that] Living Stone which men tried and threw away, but which is chosen [and] precious in God's sight. [Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16.] [Come] and, like living stones, be yourselves built [into] a spiritual house, for a holy (dedicated, consecrated) priesthood, to offer up [those] spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ. For thus it stands in Scripture: Behold, I am laying in Zion a chosen (honored), precious chief Cornerstone, and he who believes in Him [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] shall never be disappointed or put to shame. [Isa. 28:16.] To you then who believe (who adhere to, trust in, and rely on Him) is the preciousness; but for those who disbelieve [it is true], The [very] Stone which the builders rejected has become the main Cornerstone, [Ps. 118:22.] And, A Stone that will cause stumbling and a Rock that will give [men] offense; they stumble because they disobey and disbelieve [God's] Word, as those [who reject Him] were destined (appointed) to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God's] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. [Exod. 19:5, 6.] Once you were not a people [at all], but now you are God's people; once you were unpitied, but now you are pitied and have received mercy. [Hos. 2:23.]”
1 Peter 2:4-10 AMP

When we believe Jesus Christ, we become citizens of His nation, integral components in His community. There is no "going it alone" in Christ Jesus. God's ENTIRE focus is to draw all flesh unto himself. . . which means all who allow themselves to be so drawn will end up in the same place.

He did all he did so he could reclaim community and fellowship with us. He came to show us who his Father truly is, and to draw all of us back into his presence. To heal the  relationship broken by the Fall, restoring the fellowship between God and man that was in the beginning. 

Father God, thank you for loving us so completely, so perfectly. I glorify your name for who you are, for your perfect nature. Thank you for sending Jesus to show us who you are, and how to know you. Thank you for allowing him to come and love us. Fill your people today, God, and let them find you around every corner in their hearts. Reveal your nature to them, God, the perfection of love and truth that is the key which unlocks the reality of you in their lives. Thank you for always being about this work, and for allowing me to see you move in the lives and hearts of others. I praise you for the way you save souls, for the relentless way you so tenderly love, and for the way you partner with those who love you too do this work. Woo your people, Lord. It is so beautiful to me. In Jesus name, amen.

02 August 2016

Prayer of Liberation

Oh, God. Reach those who confess your name. Touch their hearts with the wonder that is in you, with the love that turns fleshly wisdom on its head and makes of us citizens of Heaven. Woo your people, Lord. Show them what you meant when you said you are the Bridegroom and we are the bride. Find every one of us who claims to know you, who claims to carry your name, and make us yours, indeed! To all those who say they carry you in their hearts, go and make your home in them! To all those who say they seek to be filled with your spirit, fill them! Reveal yourself to them, Jesus, and show them who you really and truly are: 

* Yahweh - I AM 
* Yahweh Meqaddishkem - God Is Holy
* Yahweh Nissi - God Is Truth 
* Yahweh Yireh - Gracious Provider
* Yahweh Sabaoth - Watchful Defender 
* Adonai - Loving Master
* Elohim - All-Powerful 
* El Shaddai - All-Sufficient
* El Roi - All-Knowing, Ever-Present Help
* El Elyon - Supreme Sovereign
* El Olam - Unchanging and Eternal

Thank you, Jesus, for who you ARE. Show your people, those who confess your name, who you are. Oh, please. Amen.

31 July 2016

Thieves and Treasure

(Journal entry from November 17, 2013)

Last night, I dreamed a dream.

After enduring a great deal of strangeness at a professional conference of some kind and difficulty with platform stiletto heels that could change from purple to gold (the gold looked so much better with my outfit--the strength of relief over that strange detail is so funny to me), I found myself walking up a short hill onto a lawn, coming upon a group of people witnessing a house break-in. Mostly women and a couple of men, one of which I remember clearly as the homeowner, they seemed excited and curious to see the thieves come out of the house and escape; the feeling was of being in a movie theater on opening night. There was a little fear in the group, kind of like faint background noise. And then, the thieves appeared. They had gone through the semi-rural home, gathering every weapon they could find (which were many). When the group I was in realized how well-armed the thieves were, and their clear intent to kill every one of us brutally before leaving the house they now were stripping of everything they saw valuable to their work, we all looked at one another, desperately checking our pockets and searching our minds for something we could use as a weapon. Anything. Several of the group had concealed carry permits, but not a single one of them was actually armed. Lambs to the slaughter, indeed.

The thieves went in and out of the house (not sure why we didn't/couldn't run away--we were absolutely trapped, even though we stood in the front yard, nearly as close to the paved street as we were to the house), and I watched one of them fill a magazine in a smiling, leisurely way, knowing full well he planned the ammunition he lovingly pressed into place for each of us on the lawn. The thieves even had some of us helping them, although I don't remember how. They kept coming and going, sometimes out of the house, sometimes all inside, so confident were they in our captivity.

Suddenly a pickup appeared, driven by a slender blue-eyed teen, a person unknown to me in my waking hours who, in the dream, I recognized as a relative of some friends of my daughters, the sunlight streaming hazily through the dusty rear window around and over her shortish, wispy blonde hair. She had one of my daughters' friends with her, and they got out and headed our way, excited to catch up with me and my girls (whom I hadn't yet seen in the dream, but they had been right there with me). The thieves were all inside; I didn't know for how long. I rushed up to her and grabbed her upper arms, speaking low and urgent through gritted teeth: "Annie, you've got to get them out of here! RIGHT. NOW. Take the girls, and get the hell out of here!" Shocked and terrified by the knowledge of the thieves' promise in my eyes, she instantly rushed her cousin, my girls, and the few other children who were there into the pickup as relief washed over me at her unquestioning, instant action. The door slammed heavily with that particular, metallic sound of mid-70's steel construction, sheltering the children's fragility. Then blue-white smoke rose from beneath her tires as the baby blue Chevy squealed away.

The innocent were safe.

The smoke rose and wisped away on the Chevy's backdraft. And I turned back to the house, the cedar siding and green shingles sheltering such menace.

I stood there, wondering what on earth we were going to do to save our lives. Those thieves wanted their treasure. They were going to take it. And they were absolutely going to kill all of us to do it. And smile.

Then it hit me. We could give it to them.

Turn their thievery inside out, releasing them from the horrific path to get what they wanted. What they were loading up to take away were things all of us in that group treasured in our hearts as necessary for safety and provision. Things. Stuff. Mostly firearms and ammunition, but other things,

too. The idea of giving them up, even for our lives, would be a hard sell to the fiercely independent group of northern folk. But I knew, knew, that giving--letting go completely--was the answer.

I called out to everyone where we milled slowly about on the lawn, and gathered them around me. I knew we all had to agree--for, despite the horror of it, the thieves were going to kill all of us. We all witnessed their crime. And to set us free it would take agreement from all of us that what they took was freely given by the homeowner. Their theft had to be turned into a gift. A gift without reservation, without grudge, without holding anything back. A carte blanche to take whatever they wanted from the house, and depart in peace.

I stood there, the others gathered and watching, and I opened my mouth to speak . . .

30 July 2016

From Psalm 119

“The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy and loving-kindness; teach me Your statutes. You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your promise. Teach me good judgment, wise and right discernment, and knowledge, for I have believed (trusted, relied on, and clung to) Your commandments.

You are good and kind and do good; teach me Your statutes.

The law from Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. Your hands have made me, cunningly fashioned and established me; give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.

Let, I pray You, Your merciful kindness and steadfast love be for my comfort, according to Your promise to Your servant. Let Your tender mercy and loving-kindness come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight!

Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven [stands firm as the heavens]. [Ps. 89:2; Matt. 24:34, 35; I Pet. 1:25.] Your faithfulness is from generation to generation; You have established the earth, and it stands fast. All [the whole universe] are Your servants; therefore they continue this day according to Your ordinances. [Jer. 33:25.] Unless Your law had been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, [how can I?] for it is by them You have quickened me (granted me life). I am Yours, therefore save me [Your own]; for I have sought (inquired of and for) Your precepts and required them [as my urgent need]. [Ps. 42:1.]

I have seen that everything [human] has its limits and end [no matter how extensive, noble, and excellent]; but Your commandment is exceedingly broad and extends without limits [into eternity]. [Rom. 3:10-19.] Oh, how love I Your law! It is my meditation all the day. [Ps. 1:2.] You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies, for [Your words] are ever before me.

How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! [Ps. 19:10; Prov. 8:11.]

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. [Prov. 6:23.]

Accept, I beseech You, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me Your ordinances. [Hos. 14:2; Heb. 13:15.]

Your testimonies have I taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart. [Deut. 33:4.]

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. [Ps. 32:7; 91:1.]

The entrance and unfolding of Your words give light; their unfolding gives understanding (discernment and comprehension) to the simple.

Establish my steps and direct them by [means of] Your word; let not any iniquity have dominion over me.

Streams of water run down my eyes, because men do not keep Your law [they hear it not, nor receive it, love it, or obey it].

Your word is very pure (tried and well refined); therefore Your servant loves it. I am small (insignificant) and despised, but I do not forget Your precepts. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth. [Ps. 19:9; John 17:17.]

Your righteous testimonies are everlasting and Your decrees are binding to eternity; give me understanding and I shall live [give me discernment and comprehension and I shall not die].

The sum of Your word is truth [the total of the full meaning of all Your individual precepts]; and every one of Your righteous decrees endures forever.

I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great spoil.

My lips shall pour forth praise [with thanksgiving and renewed trust] when You teach me Your statutes. My tongue shall sing [praise for the fulfillment] of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteous.

I have longed for Your salvation, O Lord, and Your law is my delight. Let me live that I may praise You, and let Your decrees help me.”
 
{Selected verses from Psalm 119 AMP}

http://bible.com/8/psa.119.64-66,68,72-73,76-77,89-94,96-98,103,105,108,111,114,130,133,136,140-142,144,160,162,171-172,174-175.amp

28 July 2016

Ask without Fear

Often, when I'm working through doctrinal things, I wonder whether I'm crossing a line, questioning things I shouldn't. And then I think over the last few years, how I questioned the things that I had always thought were unquestionable, things that I had had programmed into me as inviolable and absolutely necessary for salvation.

So far, questioning things in the boldest manner possible had only garnered one--and I mean ONE--response from heaven:


Total, compete, unrestrained, supportive, loving JOY in the courts of Heaven.

So far, every time I have asked questions others think I shouldn't, whether Mormon or Christian, Jesus is so pleased. Every time I wonder and explore ideas and various ways of looking at things, my God sits down with me and is fully supportive as I wrestle through it with Him. 

He IS Emmanuel--God with ME. 

He knows my heart and knows that I ask and wrestle and dialogue with Him and my faith family and His word because I want to know His nature and character and build relationship--build an association--with Him and with Heaven. I ask questions to ferret out any and all broken thinking still left in me. I ask questions to know Him more, and better, so I can walk more like Him as He changes me.

I'm so hungry for the sweet light of Jesus to fill every part of me. I've tasted it, and I can never get enough, never stop desiring to be closer to Him. Not ever. I will seek and knock and ask and press deeper into the infinite that is our God, full of the confidence that I do so as His invited beloved who will be received with every good thing carefully prepared for me.

Don't be afraid to ask. Don't be afraid to approach the throne of grace as boldly as a toddler approaches a parent with a need. Don't be afraid to explore ideas and find out if they're part of Jesus, who IS the truth.

02 July 2016

Acceptance: The Miracle of the Blood of Jesus

I'm perfectly comfortable talking up the space I inhabit, owning the breath I breathe, and choosing each step I take. Those sound like a "well, duh" punch list, but lemme tell ya: I most definitely didn't feel that way before. I always felt like too much, too strong, too passionate, too too TOO everything. And because of that, I was never good enough, because my very nature was not acceptable.

The revelation that Jesus derives TREMENDOUS JOY in my existence, that He paid for all of my mistakes and garbage so He could walk through this life with me in all of the glorious and heart-wrenching mess He ALREADY KNEW I would make, was a revelation of profound love and acceptance beyond my command of language to express.

As far as Jesus is concerned, I am not too much, I am never not enough, and I will praise Him forevermore for that miracle, made true by the power of His precious blood.

Believe Him

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses had one big thing in common: faith. They believed the word of the Lord. Completely. They didn't have the scriptures we do now. But they believed God, heard his voice, and loved him.

Jesus did what he did for one reason, and one reason alone: LOVE.

He loves us! Unimaginably so!

And he wanted to be present with us so desperately that he came, lived, suffered, died, and rose again so he could continue to claim the right to forgive, to comfort, to heal, and to SAVE.

To start, he asks that we believe. Only that we believe. That we believe his word above all else. We don't have to earn his love or presence. We don't have to be worthy of him. He paid the price, with his priceless blood, to make us worthy. To cover our sin with his mercy, to forgive our debt. All so we could receive the feast set before us in the presence of our enemies, so we could sit at his table and be filled and satisfied by our extravagant, generous, lavishly-loving God. It is receiving this untold bounty that changes us, that sets us free and heals us deeply, so we can walk out the work he so desperately needs us to do.

In the Hebrew culture, your actions reveal what you believe. If you say one thing and do another, what you did demonstrated the truth of the matter. It is Greek thought/philosophy that divorces belief from action. (And mind from heart, for that matter.) When Jesus said we only had to believe him, he wasn't talking about lip service. It was a radical invitation to walk by faith--to allow living out his word to transform us into the image of God.

Our God never ceases to amaze me.

24 June 2016

The Mercy and Glory of God

This morning I'm feeling pretty humble. Not because of any effort on my part--but because I fell flat on my face last night in the patience department. Hard. And this morning, when my habits and history demand I beat myself up hard and long, I heard this song:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit who are torn apart
Blessed are the persecuted and the pure in heart
Blessed are the people hungry for another start
For this is the Kingdom
The Kingdom of God"
~Matt Maher, "All the People Said Amen"

This morning, I definitely feel poor in spirit and on the torn up side. Persecuted? By the enemy of my soul, yes. He definitely got some good digs in. Pure in heart? Yes, I claim that, because Jesus lives in my heart, and that's all I want. Even when I wrestle with my flesh, with the weakness and fatigue of my physical body, and lose. He doesn't leave me when I fail. He's there with unchanging faithfulness, sticking closer than a brother, the bridegroom of my soul for better or for worse. I'm amazed, again, by the miracle of His love, the beauty of His will, by the way He does things. This morning I am so hungry for another start--and just as Jesus told His disciples that our Father knows what we need before we even ask, I have seen steady and faithful evidence that my Father has already provided another start for me: in the person and sacrifice of Jesus.

And this brings us to the verse of the day. Let's go fire up Qwerty . . . :oP

“The result of humility is fear of the Lord, along with wealth, honor, and life.” ~Proverbs 22:4 HCSB

Reading this verse after hearing the Matt Maher song this morning is physically tangible comfort to me. I want to fear the Lord more and more every day, giving His word more weight in my heart. I want to give Him primacy in my life, total and complete. And the fact that this place of humility bears the fruit of that longing is a comfort so new and miraculous to me; a steady and solid support to rely on as I reorient and get my feet under me yet again. This is the profoundly beautiful mercy of our God: that our failings put his glory and love on display.

Papa God, I love you. I'm so amazed by you. Thank you for this comfort--this comfort that is so new and so unfailing. Thank you for staying close to me in times like these, for making a way that I can be close to you as I struggle. Thank you, Jesus, for what you have done. I will never cease to be amazed at the love and humility your work required, and the paradigm-exploding truth you hold out to me: that you *are* the Truth of all things. Bless my family, God. Draw us further into you, into who you are, into your way of living and loving. Let us see your way of seeing things, let us understand with your heart and love with your love, in Jesus' name, amen.

19 June 2016

God is my refuge and defense.

"You are my shelter and my shield; I put my hope in Your word." ~Psalm 119:114 HCSB

The Hebrew words in this verse are intriguing. The word shelter also carries the connotation of refuge. And the word for shield specifically refers to a buckler: a round shield, 18" or less in diameter, that's used in hand-to-hand combat. It's pretty lousy against archers, but a real strength against swords and other close-range weaponry.

God truly is our refuge, our hiding place. And when we need protection in our interactions, He provides an agile and effective guard against the blows of the enemy.

Thank you, God, for the sheltering nature of your love and fatherhood. Thank you so much for equipping me with the things I need, and for the continuous process of learning how to use the tools you have given. Thank you for a community that loves me and is willing to be patient as I learn to walk more and more in who you created me to be, in Jesus' name, amen.

Gut Wrenchers: Has it all been a waste?

Has everything I've poured into the church--the time, energy, money and devotion--been a waste?

Looking back over my life at certain points over the last few years, it was easy to hear the enemy of my soul whispering that it was all a waste. To entertain and become mired in disdain and see as worthless the years I sought to serve the Living God through my membership in the LDS church. To give power to the one who only comes to steal, kill and destroy the work of God in me, and to let myself be filled with despair, disappointment and regret.

And yet.

And yet the Holy Spirit would whisper comfort, and Jesus would come alongside and point out the many things I learned in those years that He has promised to use in His work. Even now, I am beginning to see some of those promises fulfilled--character traits and personal discipline that I carry because of my religious upbringing that are necessary strengths for such a time as this, in the place God has planted me.

And as I have moved forward one step at a time, I've found beautiful confirmation and encouragement to forgive myself, both from hearts that carry the love of God, and directly in the written word of God.

"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." ~Maya Angelou

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God." ~Romans 8:28

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” ~Colossians 2:13-14

"Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." ~Hebrews 2:14-15

Don't despair. And don't fear. Our God is big and strong, and He can handle every and any question you might have. He knows how to turn your defeat into victory. And He knows how to comfort and heal you, no matter what might be wrong. He cannot be offended by the earnest in heart, and His treasured joy is to answer us and to comfort us when we are seeking and wrestling and struggling. 

Our God is a good, good father.

18 June 2016

Testimonies of Christ: Kim Simpson

This is a guest post by Kim Simpson. I really appreciate Kim being willing to share her words here. I am continually amazed at the variety and intensely personal characteristics of each person's encounters with Jesus, and I love hearing each soul's unique voice as those experiences are shared. Thank you, Kim, for your voice.
"Beautiful, amazing things have been happening in my life. The Lord has blessed me. As I have sought Him and focused on His will, things have become easier. I hear direction from my Father in Heaven and the Holy Ghost. I have even been blessed to hear the voice of the Savior, Jesus Christ. What a special gift! There are so many things I want to record, but I will start with that one.
One night around the middle of this month, I was praying. I was next to a sleeping Luke in bed. I'd been praying about specific things. In my recollection, I feel a lot of it was asking for direction and confirmation of choices. At the end of that, I paused. My heart yearned for understanding. I asked to learn more about my relationships with both my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. I expressed how I feel close to and known by my Father in Heaven. And how praying to Him and hearing His reminders of His love for me helped me feel close to Him and loved by Him. With my Savior, however, I expressed that I feel love and gratitude and respect for Him. It was just after I expressed this that I heard Jesus Christ's voice for the first time in remembrance. He said, "I know you, Kim." He knows me. Personally. He does hear my prayers, even though I address Father in Heaven. He knows me. I felt so honored and loved that He would let me hear His voice. I hadn't expected an answer right away. I anticipated guidance on where to look to learn more. But in this tender mercy, I was given comfort through a powerful, immediate answer. My Savior's voice was different than my Father in Heaven's. It was lower, younger-sounding and penetrating. There was no mistaking it. I was able to continue my prayer to both of them. I felt in harmony with them. My ghost/spirit became holy as I communed with them. We were as one. It was such an honor. A gift. I felt filled with love and light. Thinking back now, I don't remember many words, but I can still clearly hear His voice."
Today, June 15, 2016, I testify that He is here. Jesus Christ is here. He is real. He is present. I testify that He speaks to me. He teaches me as much as I am ready and willing to receive. And He always does so with love, patience and kindness. He is eager to receive me and each one of us as we receive Him. I testify of His great love for each of you. He knows you. He knows YOU, just as He knows me. And He loves you. He loves you with a more powerful, beautiful love than I think any of us can comprehend. But time and time again, He has shown me that His love for me is not dependent on anything I can do. He loves me. He just loves me. And a few months ago, He told me that He welcomes me anytime "without reproach." That means without "the expression of disapproval or disappointment." He knows me and knows it is meaningful to me to be reminded that He will always meet me with love and eagerness, never disappointment. He will meet you that way too. I absolutely believe that. I hope you believe that too. I love each of you whom these words will reach. May His peace be yours." 
 
My journal entry from October 27, 2014 - The first time I heard my Savior, Jesus Christ's, voice.

15 June 2016

The Struggle Lies in the Waiting

I dreamed once I was barred on my way by a stone wall, thick and high. I looked at it for a moment, and then began to walk back and forth in front of it, waiting on the Lord. As I waited, I sang. I praised God. I was JOYFUL.

Then the earth shook. 

And the wall disintegrated.

The struggle lies in the waiting. The flesh wants to beat itself against the stones, leaving us battered and bloody instead of securely faithful and exultant in the promises we've been given.

God will make a way.

Let's do our waiting in an attitude of worship and praise, and stop blaming God for the gashes and bruises we so needlessly give ourselves when we try to use our own strength to overcome what stands in the way God has called us to walk.

10 June 2016

Confirming the Words of Jesus Christ

Feeling contemplative today. Doing a little looking back, a little looking around, and a lot of looking up.

I've had people--people that love me, people I don't even know, people I do know but who insist on online anonymity--make harsh judgements about who I am and the state of my heart. These are judgements that I once made about people who "left the faith", and so I understand where they're coming from. I had been taught apostasy came only from one root: pride. Pride that led to trusting in the arm of flesh, trusting in your own (or someone else's) wisdom. Pride that cherished and nurtured offense, and therefore separated people from the church community and the "saving ordinances" that were the only hope to get back to Father in Heaven. A simple formula, with a simple solution: get humble and get right with God (meaning that church) so you could be saved. Salvation comes only through the "only true church", and so disagreement with the mainstream was the primary indicator of spiritual peril.

And yet.

Abinadi

Alma

Samuel the Lamanite

Paul

I've been called antichrist, compared to the lying, scheming practicers of priestcraft in the Book of Mormon, accused of amassing a following, of leading others astray, of losing my testimony and abandoning myself to the darkness of my own wisdom, warned I'm heading down a deceived path from which there is no return and that I'm taking my family with me, whose sin and blood will be upon my garments at the great and last day.

But.

I look around me, and I see a life radically transformed.

I look within me, and I see a woman radically healed.

I look around me, and I see a life overflowing with loving community that I had never known before. Community that unleashes the power of heaven into lives that are far from the direct touch of God. Love that protects and guards so a true vulnerability before the throne of grace can be discovered by each heart, and the healing offered by the Lord Jesus Christ flow without restriction.

I look around me, and I see miracles happening. Physical healings that, before, I had only read about in scripture. Emotional healing that counseling says isn't possible. Mental healing that flies in the face of psychology and psychiatry, bringing broken souls into wholeness, utterly removing the need for psychotropic medications.

I look around me, and while I see plenty of hardship and heartache and all kinds of ways that I need to be further renewed and healed and empowered by the grace of God, I see faith operating in revolutionary, transformative power.

I look around me, and I see astonishing beauty worked as I follow the voice of God that I hear on a regular basis.

I look around me, and I see the fulfillment of dreams God has given me, and the gradual unfolding of others that He gave seemingly just so I could stand rejoicing with Him as His goodness and lovingkindness is brought to pass; just so He could share His plans with me, and I could experience alongside Him the joy He feels as He works them out before my eyes in wondrous, perfect, amazing ways I could never had imagined.

I look around me, and I see a home and family beginning to come out of the broken patterns of the past and walk in joy together through this life.

I look around me, and I see face after face God has touched through my prayers in a moment of need--my memory populated by eyes filled with wonder, glistening with the uprush of tears that comes when God shows up in their hearts and they taste the sweetness, the comfort, the hope, of His love.

I look around me, and I see the fulfillment of EVERY promise in scripture that I desperately longed for, but never received, no matter how hard I tried, no matter how "faithful" I was. Blessings pouring down from heaven in rich supply that I never dared hope for before.

The fruit is here. The power of God is here. I'm seeing it everywhere, and learning a little more each day how to let that be powerfully evident in every word, every deed, every interaction.

I have read the words of Jesus Christ, have taken His invitation to test them, to try them, to see if He will keep them. And I can say I KNOW the goodness of God. This is not a "knowing" that comes from logical syllogism based on other things I believe. 

I KNOW. 

Jesus Christ spoke the truth. He IS the Truth. You can believe Him: what He said, what He did, what He promised. The words He spoke, giving us the key to knowing who truly believes Him, can be trusted today. His promises are sure. He is faithful.

I have never been taken through a more humbling, more deeply deconstructing process than I have over the last few years. I have never lost so much, nor gained so much. And while the things I have laid on the altar may seem idolatrous sacrifice to some, all I can do is respond with the words Jesus Christ gave us for moments like these:
“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” ~Mark 16:17-18 (see also Mormon 9:24)
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” ~John 14:12
I am seeing these things fulfilled in my life, and the lives of those around me. I have new kidneys. Depression is banished. God has used my hands to heal injuries, headaches, and more. And I'm not expecting you to take my word for it. This is my testimony. I only hope my testimony works in your life to do what testimony should do: provide you a chance to approach God and say:

"Do it for me, God. Show me the truth of Your words."

I look around me, and I see miracles. Everywhere. When the apostles worked miracles, they were public. With very few exceptions, Jesus' miracles were public. The excuse that miracles are "too sacred" to share, and that we just don't talk about them is a classic playground cover-up for the fact that the healing and creative miracles of Jesus and the apostles are largely the stuff of cultural legend now; the usual case is that someone knows someone who knew someone who experienced a miracle or a healing. Some select few are published in church magazines or on the official website as rarities to be held up as proof that miracles happen, to somehow endow a futile priesthood with power from on high in the face of a dearth of heavenly authority. I was taught to be satisfied with the "miracles" worked through science and the labors of mankind, taught that my expectation should be that God will not heal, will not restore. It would be wonderful, yes. But not to ever actually expect He will. When I began asking where the miracles were, I was quickly hushed and sidelined.
 And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth. ~Mormon 9:25
I look around me, and within me, and I see the words of Jesus Christ confirmed. You can, too.
And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles. And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust. ~Mormon 9:18-20

08 June 2016

To Those Who Rely on His Name

“But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name–[Isa. 56:5.]”
John 1:12 AMP

What does it take to become children of God? Believing, receiving and welcoming Jesus Christ. And even then, perfection in performance is not required:

"Jesus said to him, “If you can believe,[a] all things are possible to him who believes.”

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” ~Mark 9:23-24

This father was willing to lay his heart out on the line so his son could be healed. Willing to say to Jesus, "I don't have this believing thing down very well. But oh, how I want to! Give me faith!" He trusted God to the point of a public confession of his shortcoming, relying on the character of Jesus to cover where he fell short.

What a small price to pay for becoming children of God! Looking at my life, the costs that have followed choosing Christ alone might seem heavy. And yet, with the laying down of each sacrifice, I have been set free. 

Father, you are wonderful. I love being your child--free to approach you as confidently as a little one does a loving parent, safe in the knowledge that you are my safe space, you are my refuge, you are my healer. Though a storm may rage all around me, in you I have perfect peace; I stand in the eye when my gaze is fixed firmly on you. Thank you so much for who you are and the unbounded generosity of your nature. Please show me how to walk more fully in that, and to put your love on display for all the world to see, in Jesus' name, amen.

06 June 2016

True or False: All You Need is Love?

True.

"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." ~1 John 4:8 NKJV
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets'.” ~Matthew 22:36-40 NKJV
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." ~Matthew 6:31-33 NKJV
And all of Matthew 14: John the Baptist is beheaded, and Jesus goes off alone to a deserted place. A multitude followed Him, and he had compassion on them: healing their sick, ministering to them until into the evening. The disciples thought He should send the people away to find their own food. In the preceding chapters Jesus taught powerful lessons about the no-limits mindset of faith. Now that there is a huge, hungry crowd before His disciples, in verse sixteen He simply answers their request to send the people away with these words: “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” The disciples respond with unbelief--with the assertion that they don't have enough food. So Jesus shows them that what they see with their eyes should not limit what they can do, and He feeds the five thousand with what would be a light snack if shared amongst the twelve.
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? {12} “Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” ~Luke 11:9-13 NKJV
We absolutely have needs. Many different kinds. And the greatest, deepest, most vital need of all is oneness with God--to be filled by God and be in God as Jesus set the example for us. When we do that, everything else falls into place as our priorities match up with God's priorities for our lives: our vocation, our responsibilities, caring for physical things, etc. I'm not advocating an ascetic lifestyle, rejecting family and comforts in order to somehow draw closer to God. I'm saying that God already KNOWS everything that we need, and when we make Jesus our Good Shepherd, everything else takes its proper place in our lives. The psalmist wasn't joking around when the 23rd psalm came into being. We still have to be disciplined, we still need to be diligent in the things God has given us (family, work, etc.); all the while with our eyes set on the Lord of Hosts, steadily walking our our lives trained on His true north.

On "Qualifying"

I'm trying to figure out how the word "qualify" doesn't mean "earn". Even in the dictionary, the definition is a specific instance of "earn". 

Qualify:
1: be entitled to a particular benefit or privilege by fulfilling a necessary condition.
     A. become eligible for a competition or its final rounds by reaching a certain standard or defeating a competitor.
     B. be or make property entitled to be classed in a particular way

2. become officially recognized as a practitioner of a particular profession or activity by satisfying the relevant conditions or requirements, typically by undertaking a course of study and passing examinations

And if this word truly is only another way to say "earn", then I don't think it deserves a place in my vocabulary when talking about my relationship to God.

Jesus's atoning sacrifice and victorious resurrection is finished. He has already fully given the gift in the completion of that work. When He won, His victory applied to everyone, everywhere, completely and fully. The only question is whether or not we will let it inform our lives, empower and change us, so we are not damned to walk out or lives in this fallen state, charting our course by the wisdom of the flesh, placing our feet by the light of our own feebly-kindled sparks.

I am a BIG believer in being diligent, in being obedient to God, in expending focused effort to bring my actions into alignment with the truth. The key is that truth isn't principles to apply. Truth is a Person to pursue relatioship with. Truth is His way of seeing the facts that elevates us into new liberty and empowerment. The fruit from that is way way way too sweet to me to live any other way. And the moment I start thinking about my life in terms of what I *do* having the power to determine what God will give, I get tangled up in a mindset that must earn mercy and grace. A mindset that says Jesus won't extend His victory to me unless I shape up. That my behavior determines what God is willing to give to me. But that isn't the case. God has already given the gift, fully and completely. It's now up to me to RECEIVE it. The gift is sitting right there in front of me in His outstretched hands, waiting for me to take God at His word and experience life from within what He has prepared for everyone who loves Him and believes Him.

For all but the last few years, I firmly believed that my behavior determined not only what God would give, but what God COULD give. That He doled out blessings based on my performance. And yet, Jesus has said some pretty wild things about believing Him being the first and most important requirement. I was always quick to append conditions and requirements to His word in those instances . . . and yet that's just what we're NOT supposed to do. We are to understand what He said (praying in His name = praying in accordance with His character and nature, as in Hebrew culture your name IS your nature), and then believe what He said (again, in Hebrew culture, your actions revealed your belief; there was no belief without action).

In order to receive what is offered, we have to believe God, to learn to see things the way He does. That looks like an engraved invitation to crazytown, because Jesus's life was a long string of words and actions that appeared full-on certifiable. People have been institutionalized for less weird stuff over the last couple of centuries. Five thousand hungry people in a desert place? No problem, He says. You feed them, guys. Friends out in a boat on a raging sea? No problem. Just walk across the water to join them. And Peter, you come out for a stroll, too. Unclean woman with an issue of blood touches His clothing? No problem. She's completely healed and restored, and He doesn't spend the week in purification. And so. many. more.

Truth is how God sees the facts. The main work I have before me, as a believer, is to learn to see things the way God sees them. If I believe God, then I align my thinking with His thinking, and my behavior follows naturally, even though it often requires persistent effort. The most powerful tool I have is belief--believing what God says over everything and everyone else. Right belief--right thinking--is a key that opens doors and releases us into powerful freedom.

30 May 2016

What to Do with the Record of the Jews?

Among the sentiments in the LDS remnant movement that have troubled me is the idea that the Book of Mormon teaches that the Bible is so corrupt it can't be trusted, that there is little to no value in it, that we should focus entirely on the Book of Mormon and other things we call "modern scripture".

Following are the verses from a vision Nephi recorded in 1 Nephi 13:21-29 most commonly referred to when this topic comes up.
21 And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?
22 And I said unto him: I know not.
23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.
 24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.
 25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
The record of the Jews didn't go to the Gentiles in any volume until after Christ commissioned His disciples to go and preach the gospel, baptize and disciple all nations. Thus, the "book that proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew" includes the writings that have become the New Testament.
 26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
Some have tried to pin the name of a specific denomination on these verses. I'm of the opinion that it refers to any who follow the flesh as opposed to the Son of God. Just as there is only one conspiracy, headed by the adversary, there is only one "Great and Abominable Church", and it stands in opposition to the Church composed of those who love, follow, and know Jesus Christ.
 27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
This is the fruit of following the flesh. Every time.
 28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
The phrase "gone forth through the hands" indicates translation, as the record came from the twelve apostles in Greek and Aramaic, and could not be received by the Western world at large unless it was translated. The first example of this is the Latin Vulgate Bible. Latin was the ecclesiastical language of the Catholic church, and until roughly 1500AD that was the main way the Bible was disseminated to the world. Check this out (and read that whole page; it's fascinating):
"In the 1490’s another Oxford professor, and the personal physician to King Henry the 7th and 8th, Thomas Linacre, decided to learn Greek. After reading the Gospels in Greek, and comparing it to the Latin Vulgate, he wrote in his diary, “Either this (the original Greek) is not the Gospel… or we are not Christians.” The Latin had become so corrupt that it no longer even preserved the message of the Gospel… yet the Church still threatened to kill anyone who read the scripture in any language other than Latin… though Latin was not an original language of the scriptures."
It seems very likely that this is one of the fulfillments of these verses. The Latin Bible was the dominant (and only legal) Bible for an incredible number of years. Bible translations into other languages were burned, and their translators (mostly) executed for the majority of that time. Now, back to 1 Nephi 13:
 29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them."
Now, add to this historical context (i.e. the issues with the Latin Vulgate) this verse from 2 Nephi 33:
"14 And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day."
Nephi here, in his final farewell, specifically includes the Old and New Testaments in the scripture that we are to respect (give weight to/take seriously/not treat lightly/etc.), for they have the weight to damn us. (The angel just defined the words of the Jews as those that come through Jesus' twelve apostles in 1 Nephi 13:26.) If you count the Book of Mormon as scripture, you cannot explain this verse away. Nephi unequivocally urges us, in the portion of his record which carries the most weight, to respect the record of the Jews and the words of Christ.

So, this leads us to the question: "Just how accurate is the Bible?"

Well, that depends on the translation, as the record that comes from the Jews is "pure" (1 Nephi 13:25). For example: King James gave his translators a list of fourteen criteria for translation. Some of the criteria addressed practical issues of translation and how to resolve differences amongst the committee. But there were also points that constrained the meaning and ensured the KJV would support the Anglican church (especially #3 and #4 in the above link).

There have been a tremendous number of ancient manuscripts discovered that date back to as early as 100AD (or earlier), and the accuracy of the later manuscripts is pretty much unheard of.

There are quite a few translations available now, in print, online, and via various Bible apps. (I prefer Blue Letter Bible's app, and the YouVersion Bible app from bible.com. Studylight.org is also great.) Those resources allow you to read the English in various translations, compare them, and (with the exception of YouVersion) see what the original texts contained, complete with exhaustive cross-referencing and detailed definitions and usage guides. As I've heard said, "If you've got a Bible, read it." But if you want to get into the Bible in the way that it was intended, then you've got to do some digging.

Do your research on the various translations. Each one has a purpose and each organization has a motivation. Some are heavily biased. Some not so much. Some have great Old Testament renditions, but their New Testament translations are heavily skewed by their bias (Holman Christian Standard Bible, for example). It's on us to look into the translations, to perform our due diligence in digging out the meanings of the various Greek and Hebrew words when we find something that the Holy Spirit points out, and above all, to read the Bible through the lens of the Holy Spirit--and none other. (I've had some great moments where I've been reading, God has whispered something to me, and then as I've done the word studies in the original language, really awesome things have been revealed to me. It's one of my favorite things now.)

The Bible has been a powerful tool in the hand of God in bringing me to know Him so much better. This blog is ample evidence of that. The Old Testament put on display for me the incredible power of God and His constant willingness to show up and work astounding miracles for the wayward and stubborn Israelites. He is every bit as eager to show up and work miracles for me! The New Testament brought into powerful reality the overwhelmingly tender and unbounded love of God, uncovering an understanding of how God sees and responds to me that I had never grasped before. Reading the Bible has blasted traditions of my fathers, has made me question and search and study and has borne sweet, sweet fruit of radically increased faith and a far greater ability to live in the reality of what God has said, instead of my own thinking or ideas or paradigms.

And, if this post does nothing else, please: allow God the chance to use the "record of the Jews" to work miracles in your life, too.