25 January 2016

Let Him Save

"The Lord God has become my divine Helper!
He leans into my heart and lays his hands upon me!
Lord, I will offer myself freely, 
and everything I am I give to you.
I will worship and praise your name, O Lord,
for it is precious to me.
Through you I’m saved—rescued from every trouble.
I’ve seen with my eyes the defeat of my enemies.
I’ve triumphed over them all!"

~Psalm 54:4,6-7 The Passion Translation

The Lord IS my strength. I stand firm in Him, because there is no other place that can satisfy the divine longing for Him. His love heals and makes courageous, and even if I spent every moment of my life in perfect service, I could never repay what Jesus has done, because He poured His love out over me and lifted me from my misery before I was fit to offer Him anything. 

And so, it becomes a playful, joyous thing to serve Him. I joke that I've paid Him back, even just a little, making headway on my beautiful debt to Him, and He chuckles and says, "Oh yeah?" and pours dump truck loads of blessing out over me.

And He will do the same for you. His sacrifice is complete, the price is paid. Won't you accept it, receive it into your heart, and become an heir with Him?

24 January 2016

Walking in the Storm

“So Moses left the city and Pharaoh, and stretched forth his hands to the Lord; and the thunder and hail ceased, and rain was no longer poured upon the earth.” ~Exodus 9:33 AMP

Um. Moses left where he had been talking to Pharaoh, and then left the city. I have a feeling Pharaoh wasn't hanging out on the outskirts of the city, but was in his palace, well within the boundaries of where the astonishingly destructive hailing thunderstorm raged.

And Moses left the city.

I don't know if Moses had a covered vehicle, but even if he did, this storm broke every tree in the field (Ex 9:25). Talk about faith. Moses wasn't hurt by the storm, even though it raged all around him, killing and destroying. His trust in Yeshua far outweighed what his eyes might have told him.

Can I say that I have faith like that? That if there was a judgement poured out in my region and God said, "Go, I have a message for you to speak to the County Commissioner", would I quail at walking out into the storm?

Father in Heaven, I glorify Your name. I trust You, I love You. I praise Your wisdom and love that gave me Jesus and saved my soul, and I love looking for Your hand in all things. Guide me today, Father, and help me find a way to remember, moment by moment, to exist in You, to walk in fellowship with You and Jesus through Holy Spirit, and to trust and carry out Your instructions. I pray discernment for those struggling to hear You; a clarity of understanding that unlocks the ability to recognize Your voice in all of its innumerable forms. Thank You for speaking to Your children, for constantly pursuing us, and for doing all You can to save us, every moment. Bless my family, Lord, and all believers. Let us find You around every corner in our lives, in Jesus' name, amen.

20 January 2016

A New Thing

"See, I do a new thing; it is now springing up.Surely, you are aware of it:I am making roads through the desert,streams in the wasteland."(Gileadi Translation)~Isaiah 43:19
Our flesh is so eager to learn something and "get it down" so we don't have to think about it anymore. We don't think about walking, or breathing, or so many other things we do. (I don't have to think about typing, for example. I think the words, and they (usually) just appear on the screen.) But with spiritual things, God is always--always--doing a new thing.

There is always more desert, more wasteland, for the Spirit of God to move into, restoring and redeeming, whether in individual souls, in organizations, in groups, in systems, in markets, in creation. Jesus redeemed it ALL, and our work as believers is to follow Him in all things, and to bring His redemption into places where the Kingdom of God is not yet established. All of creation has been redeemed. It now must be reclaimed as we carry living water to quench the parched people and places.

Father God, keep me in your love, keep me in your wonder and newness of spirit so I will never grow weary of doing a new thing. Let the things of the spirit always be my focus, so my flesh will not have power to shout louder than you speak into my heart, than your love soaks into my bones, than my heart responds to your sweet calling. Let living water spring up continually in my heart, flowing out into everything around me. Let me rely on your spirit, and let me trust you always to blow me where you need, where you will. Let my trust rest in you, and not in what my eyes see, not in my own version of your plan or purposes or methods. Let me follow as a trusting child, resting fully in your ability, your power, your awesome will and way. In Jesus' name, amen.

19 January 2016

Occupation must follow Redemption

Jesus entered the temple area and forcibly threw out all the merchants from their stalls. He rebuked them, saying, "The scriptures declare, 'My Father's house is to be filled with prayer--a house of prayer, not a cave of bandits!'" From then on Jesus continued teaching in the temple area, but all the while, the high priests, the experts of the law, and the prominent men of the city kept trying to find a way to accuse Jesus, for they wanted him dead. They could find no reason to accuse him, for he was a hero to the people and the crowds were awestruck by every word he spoke. ~Luke 19:45-46

Jesus stayed in the cleansed temple, teaching. He came to the temple, conquered and occupied it in open defiance of the social and religious forces in Jerusalem.

This is a powerful example of what happens in the spirit, within us. We cannot cleanse our hearts and then leave them empty (Matt 12:44) and yet expect to have lasting change. We also can't invite Jesus in to clean house for us, expecting to maintain the change He effected in our own strength. We have to welcome Him into our hearts, allow His presence to cleanse us down to the very bottom of our souls, nothing held back, and then always welcome Him, fellowshipping and communing with Him, allowing Him to teach us so we can be changed forever, transformed into the image of God (Romans 12:2). (Man, I love it when passages I journal about build on and relate to other passages I've learned. Makes me all kinds of giddy. lol) It's not enough to reject the false, the things that work against God in us. We MUST seek Jesus, who is the Truth, and let Him fill us, constantly.

Jesus, thank You for filling me, for teaching me, for fellowshipping and communing with me. I praise You for the miraculous work of redemption You completed, the price paid in full, and look forward to enriching and deepening my relationship with You forevermore. Keep on peeling back the onion layers, keep on teaching me who You are, how You see things, and how to love more and more. Give me patience with myself, Lord, and open my eyes to recognize where you're setting me free in each area of my life. Thank You for using me in Your work, in whatever ways You see fit, and please, oh please, guide me in who You would have me be, and how You would have me be, each day, each hour, each moment. In Your dear name, Amen.

18 January 2016

On the Necessity of Fearing God More Than Man

“He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves and were confident that they were righteous [that they were upright and in right standing with God] and scorned and made nothing of all the rest of men: Two men went up into the temple [enclosure] to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”  ~Luke 18:9-10 AMP

As I read the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, I noticed an additional reason the Publican went home justified: he wasn't paying attention to what anyone else was doing. It was just him, standing before his God, pleading his own case. He wasn't comparing; but even more importantly, he wasn't worried what anyone else thought about who he was, what he was doing, or what he looked like as he did it. He went before the Lord, repenting and worshipping as his own soul required in that moment.

I don't know if men are taught to worry as much about what others think of their appearance, but I do know that Western culture teaches girls, from a very early age, to self-objectify: to primarily consider themselves in the light of what others think of their appearance, actions, etc. It's all about viewing oneself from the outside looking in, considering oneself "objectively", with the end goal of pleasing (or not incurring the censure or derision) of others. God gave me powerful victory over self-objectification three years ago . . . but it began to creep back in over the last week until it was the primary mental portion of everything I did. And along with that came the old fears from decades of broken modesty teachings and burdens that weren't mine to bear: trying to figure out how to sit properly so my body doesn't look any chubbier than necessary, grappling with the idea that I SHOULD be chubby so strangers will think of me more as a person and less as something to look at (or try to not look at), trying to ignore the thoughts and taunts that, empowered by my fears, the enemy blitzed me with almost constantly, and all the while trying to fight the "good fight" against all of this on my own. When my mind is occupied with all of that baggage, it's impossible to truly focus on Jesus, to be aware of His connection to me, His presence within me, to walk in that relationship. Or be fully present in any interaction or relationship). And yet, that very awareness of Jesus' presence is the key to being free of all of it.

Man, talk about having to crucify my own flesh daily. I just didn't realize that I would have to re-crucify old issues, years later. Looking back to last week, I can see when I gave the enemy a huge leg up: I chickened out one day at the gym when three out of the four treadmills were occupied by men. I took one look at the open treadmill, sandwiched between two guys, and quailed. Completely. I got my stuff from the locker room and went home. I didn't place my trust, my faith, my confidence in my God. I worried more about what someone else would think than what God had told me He needed me to do to further my partnership with Him. And it slowly got worse from there on out. The self-objectification expanded to include conversations, worship, and all kinds of things. I feared people more than God. (And, if I'm going to be fully honest, fearing men more than women.) I'm so beyond-words grateful that during worship yesterday I finally was able to hear that I was back to operating in fear. It was only minutes before we sang No Longer Slaves, and breakthrough began again for me as I sang "I'm no longer a slave to fear . . . "

Now, to walk it out . . . fully in gratitude for this new reminder to turn to Jesus, to tune into a deeper awareness of Him within me, and to walk constantly in fellowship with Him.

Father God, thank You. Thank You for leading me so gently, for teaching me so patiently, and for turning all things to my good as I seek You and worship You. Thank You, Jesus, for Your presence, for the constant wooing of your bride as I learn how to truly abide in You as You abide in me, for Your forgiveness as I stumble into worshipping other things over and over, not realizing what I do. And thank You both for the Holy Spirit, sent to provide the connection that empowers me and sets me free. In Jesus' lovely and loving name, amen.

15 January 2016

Visions of Faith

"It is impossible to please God without risk." 
~Chris Bassett 
@pastorcjb
Several years ago, when I first began truly and earnestly seeking God for myself, the Lord gave me three visions that taught me about faith, a topic I had been studying and praying to understand.

In the first I stood alone, everything I knew well-lit behind me, visible in perfect detail and vibrant color. Before me was absolutely dark. Right at my toes and almost touching my nose right before me was a dense and tangible darkness, hanging curtain-like. If I had reached out before me, my hand and arm would've disappeared into it. I understood that moving forward into that was faith, and at that point assumed I would proceed one careful step at a time, feeling my way, carefully testing the ground before I put weight on the forward foot.

Days passed, and I thought about that vision many times, allowing it to sink into my soul as I continued to listen to my Lord. The second vision came in a quiet moment as I stood in my bedroom one afternoon and began the same, me standing in that place, the well-known and well-lit behind me, the thick darkness before. This time I knew that I stood at the edge of a cliff, the depth and width of the abyss before me completely unknown and utterly unmeasurable. At that moment in the vision, I made a decision: I gathered myself, sprinted two steps with everything I had and with arms open wide threw myself into the black.

And I finally understood.

That is faith.

A few days afterward I had an experience in prayer that answered the choice I had made in the second vision. As I began praying that evening I felt surrounded by evil spirits--distinctly individual intelligences consumed by ill intent who came to threaten and frighten me. Praying for protection, I immediately felt wings--powerful, brilliant and shining--rising from my shoulders as I knelt at my bedside. They stretched and flexed, a perfect set of gloriously white eagle's wings that sheltered and protected me. Then, much to my surprise, God gave me a tail in the spirit just as strong and beautiful as my wings: a long lion's tail that with one swing banished every one of those spirits behind and around me. The tail and wings protected and covered me as I prayed, and I felt such power in the spirit, such blessing.

The first vision showed me where I was at that moment: on the cusp of something new and totally unknown. In the second vision, I made a choice and acted on it. And then Jesus showed me how He responds to those who trust Him so much they refuse to edge timidly into the dark.

13 January 2016

The Leap

Now, believing what I just wrote is taking the leap off of the cliff into the darkness. It's choosing the ultimate vulnerability. It's baring your chest before the omnipotent Almighty, the One who gives and takes away, who creates and destroys, saying:

"Do to me what You will. I trust You".

And I'm telling you, right now: there is not a safer, more sure leap anywhere.

12 January 2016

We Are Paid For

God had a convo with Cain after he murdered Abel in cold blood. He will talk to you. He IS talking to you.

Now.

Even when the angels turn away from us, God is talking. Always. Every breath we take is made possible through Him. He's the reason we can even continue to exist. He's so tuned into you, into everything you do and everything you are, everything you think and feel. He's desperate to hear you speak to Him. He died so you could speak to Him freely. And He's so desperate for you listen to what He's already saying . . . to actually believe that He is, in fact, speaking. He came down here, suffered so many things, lived a life totally and fully submitted to Father God, and then endured one of the most painful forms of torture on the cross before voluntarily relinquishing His life to pay for even the worst of sins, those for which the law decrees death. His love for us is so deep, so complete. It is the love of a mother, whose body has nurtured her baby, endured incredible pain, and then shed water and blood to birth that baby. Jesus' love for us is more powerful than even a mother's overwhelming, driving, utterly consuming love for her newborn. His love is all of that--and so much more.

Jesus went through everything He did for you, as if you were the only thing He ever created. He has already paid the price, remitted in full, for all of your garbage. For all of mine. Utterly done. Totally. We are free to hear Him, to communicate with, to BE with Him, to do so without being struck dead because of the price He already paid without owing even a fraction of a minim of it. He's longing to hear from you, longing for you to accept the gift He has already given.

And when we wander through life, wondering why God isn't speaking to us, it's one of the worst forms of unbelief possible for the human heart. The scriptures are jam-packed with examples of people talking to God and God talking back, filled with the simple and powerful truths behind how to hear God speaking. His words never cease. They surround us, always. What He has spoken "before" (according to our time), rings out strong and clear permeating all of eternity even as I sit here at my keyboard, clattering away. His words endure. Always. They never cease to be true, never cease to belong to the ones He has given them to. If God has spoken something over you, BELIEVE IT. Our God is a God of truth, and will never, ever lie.

Never.

Never means never. Not an exception. Nothing excluded. NEVER.

And the justice of God is that every last one of us should receive the benefits of what Jesus Christ has done for us. It's unjust for a parent to give His child a gift, and then have something prevent His child from receiving that gift. The price is paid, friends. You are purchased with a price: the blood of your God. That blood declared your value to all of Creation, to all the heavenly hosts, and even all the hosts of hell. Jesus descended below all things, and has ascended above all things, and even now declares to anyone and everyone who can hear Him say it: "These are those I've bled for. Behold their value to Me!"

He willingly shed His blood for you, for all of us. The price has been paid--because He ALREADY deemed you infinitely valuable, long before you were born, long before you became mortal and fouled all kinds of stuff up. Redemption is complete. The word, and its final and perfect sacrifice, fulfilled in Him.

He saved you. The work is done. It only remains for you to choose to receive it, then to walk out a believing life in Him. And He's talking to you, always, so, no matter when you choose to tune in and listen for Him, you'll hear Him.

06 January 2016

Confession Heals

 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. ~James 5:16 ESV

One morning early this year, I was in sin. I wasn't doing anything that anyone would call deeply evil, but it was absolutely sin, nonetheless. I was under spiritual oppression, which translated into unhappiness/depression, which I allowed to persuade me to not use my time well: sitting outside of the gym, reading, instead of going in. When I finally decided to stop putting off going into the gym and just go home, it felt good to finally just make a decision and DO something, rather than continue sitting in limbo in the car outside. But as I drove, I only felt worse and worse. I don't think I need to detail the mental chatter--we've all been there. Lots of guilt and worry and fear, all donning different costumes and parading through my mind. The guilt brought desires to exact a penance, which meant that instead of turning around and going to exercise (like I knew I should), I would punish myself by sticking to the decision to go home, adding yet another layer of unhealthy decision to the previous ones.

As I drove, instead of feeling better (because I had made a decision instead of procrastinating further), I felt worse. So much worse. I felt so lonely. And of course I did--my choices that morning had isolated me from the awareness of God within me, and I operated in my own deeply inadequate strength. Finally, I pulled into a parking lot about halfway home and texted Vern. I confessed to him, not to self-flagellate, but as a plea for understanding and to show willingness to submit to wisdom greater than I had in that moment. I knew I wasn't capable of making a good decision in that moment, and I trusted him as a safe harbor during this inner storm. He responded with love, accepted my apology that my choices would complicate his morning (he would have to help out more than usual in the house in addition to working out in his office), and told me he would fully support me going back to get my workout in.

Now, this might seem like a small thing . . . a First World stay-at-home-mom who has an abundance of conveniences and even a few luxuries, freaking out about whether or not she made it to the gym that day. But in reality, it was a completely different situation. I had come before the Lord last October, pleading like I've rarely pled before for Him to show me what He needed me to do in order to give Him freedom to move, to heal, to transform me, my relationships, my home, to do the work He could see needed doing, for me to just get out of His way. Reclaiming my physical strength, my health, was His answer. (Little did I know how many skeletons I'd have to oust from the closets of my soul to do so!) God works with every one of us where we are, using the life we have around us. For me, that's confronting and vanquishing yet more of the ghosts that linger still from the way my "old woman" used to look at everything, facing and rejecting fears that have, until now, simply not been the focus of my thoughts. Reclaiming territory that Jesus fully redeemed when I accepted Him and received a remission of my sins.

I KNOW what I can do when I feel oppressed, depressed. I can turn to my Jesus, spend some quiet time with Him, and He fills me with His love, His spirit. He lifts and empowers me, chasing away the fear as I make myself vulnerable before Him in complete trust. In plain faith. Not doing that is operating in sin, rejecting His sacrifice and the astounding blessing He offers me 24/7.

My experience in confessing to my husband--reaching out to him by telling him what my morning had been like, humbling myself to the point that I could tell him of my lousy time management--was empowering. It set me free. It also let me see the whole situation more clearly, and showed me how much we can be agents of change and healing in one another's lives.

So, when you find yourself stuck, miserable, and wishing you could have done things differently, confess. Confess to someone who loves Jesus, and who will encourage and support you as you turn things around and place each foot where God asks. God is so good, and is waiting eagerly, anxiously, to take your hand and lead you in the path He knows is best (the most love-filled, the most blessed, the most centered in Him) for you.

02 January 2016

Who Will Stand in the Gap?

"So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one." ~Ezekiel 22:30 
"If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In."
~Isaiah 58:10-12
"Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled unto God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." ~2 Corinthians 5:18-21

We have been given the message of reconciliation . . . we know Jesus, and the beauty and power of His love and salvation. What a gift! What a bounty! I can't help but want somehow to pour this out generously into everyone I meet, everyone I talk to, everyone I see.

Father God, I'm beyond-words grateful for the gift of these three passages strung together, and the beautiful concept they teach. Thank You for reaching into my life and continuing to show me things You want to teach me, for offering me yet more living water day by day. Thank You for Jesus, and the fountain that He is within me, springing up unto everlasting life, and thank You most of all for the patience and unending forgiveness that flows from the cross, allowing me to keep on trying, to continue the process of liberation, and to come to know You and Jesus and Holy Spirit better and better day by day and moment by moment. I love You all, and I'm so glad that You know my heart, because words really can't do this justice. Empower Your believers to walk more confidently in the ministry of reconciliation, Father. Show each and every one of us what it looks like to fully accept the commission of the message of reconciliation, and how to walk that out in our lives. I know, for me, that doesn't mean I need to stand on the street corner, shouting "Jesus is the way! The end is near!" (For which I'm so grateful, God; can I just say?) I'm so glad that I am called to minister to those I know, through blessing, through relationship, through prayer and through giving You all glory and honor. Thank You for a doable ministry, for a way of operating in Your Spirit that calls me into the depth of the things I love so much, that calls me to develop in the areas for which You have planted a powerful passion in me, and for the grace that allows Your strength to be perfected in my mortal weakness in all of those areas.

What an amazing day this has been, already. Thank You, God. Thank You so much. In Jesus' name, amen.

Meditative Morning

As daybreak streamed into my room today, I enjoyed a little "vacation" morning. After some extra sleep (I think I'm finally caught up! Hooray!), I took some quiet time in one of my favorite spots to meditate on various things. Typical of this embryonic time of year, I reflected on the recent past, wondering over everything that has happened. And how, like so much in life, the things I never could have antipicated, never would have imagined, have been the sweetest, the most precious, the most incredible, of all.



I thought, too, of the many people I have come to love that, just two or three years ago, I didn't even know. People that have enlarged the circle I call family, that have been instrumental in my walk as a believer, and because of whom my life will never be the same. I don't know how to thank them, although over the next string of days I will try.

I've also felt a shift in the making; a coming transition. There are things I need to turn my attention to in my family and my home; things I'm finally prepared to approach, from releasing possessions I've had packed in boxes for years now to rearranging the storage in my home to new adventures with my children and husband. Contrary to what you might be thinking, this isn't a "good-bye" post. It's really more "hello, again!" I'll be blogging more, and interacting via social media less. More time in scripture, less time reading things online. More time processing and memorizing and meditating on the Word. As a friend's church emphasized to their youth last year: "Read the red, not the thread." Please don't hesitate to leave a comment here, email, text, or FB message me. I'm just not going to stay caught up on my FB and Twitter feeds.

What will this shift look like? I've had a few glimpses in visions, but I don't really know. I do know I'm taking it one step at a time, following where the breath of the Holy Spirit blows me, walking in companionship with my God. I never knew I could be in such close relationship with God, to feel a sweet and powerful presence that smooths the bumps of life and teaches and empowers in every moment that I remember to turn my heart and mind toward heaven. This is salvation: literally being empowered to move through this life filled with love instead of loneliness, grace instead of need, faith instead of fear.

God bless every one of you, whoever you are, and let God's presence permeate every moment of your life, every aspect of your being, every beat of your heart.

Happy 2016, to you all.