29 February 2016

Leaven of the Pharisees

“Now they had [completely] forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And Jesus [repeatedly and expressly] charged and admonished them, saying, Look out; keep on your guard and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod and the Herodians. And they discussed it and reasoned with one another, It is because we have no bread. And being aware [of it], Jesus said to them, Why are you reasoning and saying it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet discern or understand? Are your hearts in [a settled state of] hardness? [Isa. 6:9, 10; Jer. 5:21.] Having eyes, do you not see [with them], and having ears, do you not hear and perceive and understand the sense of what is said? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the 5,000, how many [small hand] baskets full of broken pieces did you take up? They said to Him, Twelve. And [when I broke] the seven loaves for the 4,000, how many [large provision] baskets full of broken pieces did you take up? And they said to Him, Seven. And He kept repeating, Do you not yet understand?”
Mark 8:14-21 AMP

Jesus wasn't talking about not buying yeast from the Pharisees. He was trying to show His disciples that they didn't need to rely on their own strength to provide for themselves. 

The disciples wanted bread. What's their first response? To worry about it. Why else would Jesus ask them to recount how much in leftovers they collected when He fed the 5,000 and the 4,000? He was warning them to not look to the methods of the Pharisees to be their provision. He was warning them to not follow the thought patterns and wisdom of the flesh. God is to be our provider, and Him alone. What that looks like, from moment to moment, varies from person to person. But the journey is the same: to reject what our flesh tells us and choose to operate in the supernatural.

God, I adore You, so much. I'm continually amazed at the extravagant nature of Your love, and of the way You care for me. I'm so deeply grateful for the conversations we've had and look forward to so many more. Keep teaching me, keep leading me, increase my faith and understanding, in Jesus' name, amen.

27 February 2016

My Love Letter from God

Last June, there was a much-talked-about special service at my little church. The visiting pastors were loved for their ability to bring the love of God powerfully into ministry, and help those they ministered to have a beautiful encounter with God's love. I was so excited to go, to learn more about these people and how they seemed to carry the love of God so powerfully.

As that Sunday evening neared to just a few days away, I got a call from one of the leadership team, asking if I would help out by watching the children that night. We have several single mothers in the congregation who needed support in being able to attend the service, so child care was offered. I swallowed hard and paused for a moment, and then said I would do it.

It was a rough day; one in a long string that led up to the disciplinary council that closed a big phase of my life. It was also my 39th birthday. And while it was hard, God is faithful. The children had a great time playing with one another, and my friend LeAnne and I didn't have any serious issues amongst the dozen or so we were watching.

After the service had been going for a while, a little blonde woman I didn't recognize came out of the sanctuary and handed me an unmarked envelope, saying with an accent I couldn't identify, "Here's a love letter from God for ya" before disappearing again through the sanctuary doors.

I looked at the envelope for a minute, and put it in my pocket.

After the service, people streamed from the sanctuary, enthusing about the wonderful service, and how refreshed and renewed they felt. I smiled, honestly glad for them, but feeling a little sad, too, that I hadn't had the chance to go and soak in the love of God with them. Being in the fellowship hall with the children wasn't, on that day for me, an atmosphere conducive to meditating on the presence of God. ;o)

After a bit, I found myself sitting in the hallway with LeAnne, catching up after not seeing each other for a couple of weeks. She asked me what was in my love letter, and I told her I hadn't opened it yet. She chided me, urging me to open it. So I pulled it out, looking at the outside for a moment, wondering if it could possibly speak to my circumstances that day. I knew the visiting pastors had brought a stack of these written beforehand, and that they handed them out randomly. I had heard a few people exclaiming over how perfectly those letters had spoken into what they were struggling with or going through, but I still wondered. In all honesty, I was feeling a little left out, and wondered if it would be a generic "God loves you" message that would fit anyone, at any time. Finally, I lifted the flap and drew out the card. The front had a watercolor of a lovely brick house and flower garden, with a sweet Henry VanDyke quote, but didn't really strike me as anything special. When I opened the card, here's what I read:

My Beloved,
 
I love you for the unique individual that you are; always caring, putting others before yourself, and willing to lend a helping hand. I have a special place in heaven for you! 
Love your heavenly Father :-)

22 February 2016

Relationship Determines God's Response

“And the mixed multitude among them [the rabble who followed Israel from Egypt] began to lust greatly [for familiar and dainty food], and the Israelites wept again and said, Who will give us meat to eat?

And Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, every man at the door of his tent; and the anger of the Lord blazed hotly, and in the eyes of Moses it was evil. And Moses said to the Lord, Why have You dealt ill with Your servants? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You lay the burden of all this people on me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I brought them forth, that You should say to me, Carry them in your bosom, as a nursing father carries the sucking child, to the land which You swore to their fathers [to give them]? Where should I get meat to give to all these people? For they weep before me and say, Give us meat, that we may eat. I am not able to carry all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. And if this is the way You deal with me, kill me, I pray You, at once, and be granting me a favor and let me not see my wretchedness [in the failure of all my efforts]. 

And the Lord said to Moses, Gather for Me seventy men of the elders of Israel whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; and bring them to the Tent of Meeting and let them stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take of the Spirit which is upon you and will put It upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not have to bear it yourself alone. And say to the people, Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt. Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat one day, or two, or five, or ten, or twenty days, But a whole month–until [you are satiated and vomit it up violently and] it comes out at your nostrils and is disgusting to you–because you have rejected and despised the Lord Who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, Why did we come out of Egypt? [Ps. 106:13-15.] 

But Moses said, The people among whom I am are 600,000 footmen [besides all the women and children], and You have said, I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month! Shall flocks and herds be killed to suffice them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be collected to satisfy them? 

The Lord said to Moses, Has the Lord's hand (His ability and power) become short (thwarted and inadequate)? You shall see now whether My word shall come to pass for you or not. [Isa. 50:2.]” ~Numbers 11:4, 10-23 AMP

Moses gave God a couple of pieces of his mind here, first about leading a troupe of millions, and then about their complaints. Moses didn't put on a stiff upper lip and soldier through--he did some ranting, here, and God heard him. And I absolutely love that. Moses was not the reserved, stoic, subordinate leader. He didn't speak obsequiously to his God. He took his complaints to Him, and just as yesterday's post on Psalm 23 talked about, stood before the Lord in true vulnerability, yet in the confidence and strength of his God-given identity, working through his frustrations in a "discussion" with God. (I think Moses was also feeling like he had failed, because the Israelites were so ungrateful; and like many leaders since, he felt a responsibility for the success of those he shepherded.)

It's so interesting, too, how Moses' complaint and the complaints of the Israelites were met so differently by God. Moses' complaints were met with miraculous solutions and no loss of favor in God's sight. In sharp contrast, the Israelite's complaints were met with harsh judgement: a glut of meat for them to make themselves sick on and a deadly plague. Once again, this illustrates that our interactions with God are heart matters: the same kind of words can come out of the mouths of two different people, and God will respond differently based on the posture of the heart that those words came from. Moses pursued real relationship with God, willing to receive, willing to climb the mountain and step into the thunderings and lightnings, most likely believing that even if he died, what God offered was the best of all possible ways. I'm not entirely sure what the Israelites were going for when they complained to God, but it clearly wasn't coming out of or moving toward relationship, because they got a dramatically harsher response.

Father God, thank you for continuing to call me into trusting you more and more. Thank you for Moses' example of hashing things out with you, without any fear. Thank you for your patience, your goodness, your faithfulness, and the powerful yet sweet gentleness of your love for your children. Thank you for new experiences with your presence, your spirit, and your character. And thank you, most of all, for the growing relationship I have with you that is such a delight to me. Thank you for the leading and guiding that keeps on exposing the things I think that are not in right alignment with you, and then offers me correction. Thank you for the space and freedom in which to get stuff wrong, and still have profound relationship with you as you lead me closer to you. Thank you for the safety I have in you, for the vulnerability I can abide in with you. Watch over your children today, God, and sustain us all as we come after you, in Jesus' name, amen.

21 February 2016

Worship as Warfare

“And at the age of fifty years, they shall retire from the warfare of the service and serve no more,” Numbers 8:25 AMP

This translation caught my eye--I had never seen the work of the Levites called warfare before. So I looked up the KJV in my interlinear, and here's what I found:

“And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more:” Numbers 8:25 KJV

"they shall cease" = shuwb (Hebrew), meaning "to return, turn back, bring back, restore"

"waiting" = tsaba' (Hebrew) "that which goes forth, army, war, warfare, host; war, warfare, service, go out to war; service"

I've noticed that the Hebrew text tends to use words whose entire definition gives a richer meaning to the words, much like English poetry uses words in unexpected ways to make an image come to life. So, yes, "service" is one of the listed meanings, but it's military service--not garden-variety servitude.

The work of worship--whether the rather messy kind performed by Levites in the Tabernacle or the highly modern forms found in contemporary worship--is warfare. It is standing up to the enemy of our souls and refusing to do what he would persuade (or coerce) us to do. It is rejecting the fear of "what if I do it wrong?" and stepping out into the unknown every time to see where God will meet us, and what He has in store for us in that moment. It's opening our hearts and minds and souls to the wonder and majesty of our creator and savior, and experiencing Jesus over and over again.

God, this morning I'm so deeply grateful for worship, for the opportunity to hear your word and to obey it, to walk it out with you. Be with me, and with all believers, today. Guide us as we seek you, as we seek your face, and introduce us to yourself in a new and fresh way, to see you as we have never seen you before, and to love you as we have never loved you before. Open our minds to receive, open our hearts to love you anew, God. Break out, break chains, and wash over every believing heart with the fullness of your love, in Jesus' name, amen.

20 February 2016

Called into Vulnerability

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over." Psalm 23:5 NKJV

This verse has been on my mind all day. The sheer brazenness of setting out a banquet while enemies look on is so scandalous, so incredibly powerful. God blesses us, and asks us to step into full vulnerability with Him, even as our enemies stand ready to cut us in pieces.

It's the presence of God that makes us powerful--that keeps our enemies from destroying us. It's the presence of God that feeds and nourishes, sustains and makes strong. God truly does set a table before us, even when our enemies loom large all around, and asks us to sit down with Him and feast. And if we take Him up on that, He will be our rearguard and our defense. He will fill us with His Spirit (anoint our heads with oil), and fill us to overflowing so we become rivers of living water to revive the parched earth all around us.

Jesus, thank you for all you are, all you offer, and all you are willing to do for your children. I love you; and I can't get over how lavishly you respond when I come to you in my perpetual mortal need. You rejoice in giving to your children; you revel in filling our weakness, or neediness, from your unending supply. You are the answer to every problem, the guide through every briar patch and bog in life. You are good, gracious, merciful, kind, loving and true. And I'm just astounded at how you keep on pouring out more, and more, and more. I can be SURE of you, and for that I will love you forever and ever. Thank you, Jesus. So much. So much!!! Amen.

19 February 2016

A Calm Soul in the Storm

Lately, it has been "game-on" in my spiritual life. God has been moving in beautiful and powerful ways, and the enemy is right there to follow up and see if I will really cling to what Jesus has given me, really believe my all-powerful, beloved God more than any fully-believable lie the accuser brings. Life has been a lot of diligence, a tremendous amount of outpouring from Heaven, and a whole lot of opposition.

This morning, Jesus kept giving me phrases from this song. I finally was able to take a few minutes to play it, and let the message soak into my soul. He's telling me, "It's going to be okay. I'm so pleased with you, flaws and all. I've seen how far you've come, and I know where you're going. Let me hold you, guide you, fill you, today. Don't fight it, and don't give up. Walk with me. Together, we've got this. Because I've got you."



16 February 2016

God's Ownership

“And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine: for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.

For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am Jehovah your God.”
Leviticus 25:23, 55 ASV

God reestablishes, in these verses, the fact that he is the true King, and Lord of all the earth. 

When he gives land as an inheritance, that ownership is only modifiable by him. Yes, land can be sold, but not permanently. God only can permanently take away something that he has given. Or, more clearly stated: only we can betray ourselves out of the inheritance God has given us. Israel lost their land due to wickedness. We can lose things God has given us through our own choices. But as soon as we turn back to Jesus, often those gifts are still there, waiting.

Father God, in Jesus' name, help me to see what you have given me, and where I am not walking fully in the blessings you offer. Thank you for your faithfulness, your patience, and your incredible generosity. I'd be lost without you. Love, Annalea.

15 February 2016

Our God looks forward, not back.

S: “Now the Angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said to him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the LORD said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.”” ~Judges 6:11-16 NKJV

O: As I read this, I expected the Lord to answer Gideon's question of "Why?" with a detailed list of Israel's wrongs and how to make them right. But He didn't. He did answer Gideon with clear instructions, but instead of looking into the past to fix things in a penance-based salvation, He offered Gideon an opportunity to correct course in one simple, forward-looking step: choosing to obey the word of the Lord in that moment.

A: I don't need to go over my history in detail, to ferret out things to fix, things to repent of. I'm mortal, and can focus on one thing at a time. And so, when I am focused on Christ, seeking Him, following Him, firmly believing His word and trusting Him, none of that stuff matters. As Todd White often says, "Jesus cancelled my subscription to issues". Yes, sometimes there are things that need to be dealt with--but I've found that Jesus is the one to bring those right in front of my nose, giving me the chance to choose Him. I don't have to be always looking backward and doing penance. And that's what happened with Gideon. Instead of detailing past sins, God gave Gideon the chance to choose faith and diligence before Him.

P: Lord, keep my eye single to You. I only want to look to You, think of You, see You before my face. I want to behold more and more of Your heart, Your perspective, Your ways. I've long been utterly done with believing the enemy's perspective, with allowing his lies to define my reality. Keep unveiling the enemy's tactics so I can grow more and more able to resist him as I submit to you. Keep showing me where I still hold unbelief, and be with me, Papa God; keep me company as I continue to step into the unknown, choosing what You offer even though it often terrifies my flesh and takes tremendous labor to release the pockets of fleshly thinking that still hide so I can exist in the reality You define. I recognize this may very well be a lifelong process, but I willingly throw myself into it wholeheartedly, because the peace and healing and love You offer are the only way I ever want to live. Ever. Thank You for giving me a name to call you--a name that holds deep meaning to me, anchored securely in the Holy of Holies that exists in the very center of everything that I am. Thank you for the words of encouragement and exhortation and comfort I've heard in the last five days. I'm just amazed at the work You continue in my life, and don't know what I'd do without You. Love you so, so much, God. In Jesus' name, amen.

14 February 2016

Hungry?

When you smell an amazing dinner cooking, or eat just *one* little chocolate, your appetite suddenly springs to life. You get hungry, because you smelled, or you tasted.

Are you hungry for God? Let God touch you. Get a little taste of Him. And then let your hunger for more of God's love rise up within you and fuel a stronger and stronger desire for more and more of God.

Get HUNGRY for His presence.

07 February 2016

Christ Alone, Cornerstone

"Christ alone, cornerstone
weak made strong
in the Savior's love

Through the storm
He is Lord
Lord of all"

This song began playing in my mind a few minutes ago, as I thought over the topics that so many I know and love are wrestling with right now. Longing to hear God's voice clearly, seeking His presence, searching for answers, and not finding much success. I've been thinking about how easy it is to hold God hostage over His promises . . . how, when we don't receive what He promised, we find ourselves becoming more and more entrenched in what we've always done, as though that will change our results. If we're not receiving what God promises us, then the fact is--and I offer this softly, gently, with deep kindness and an earnest desire for all to come unto Christ--that it is the mortal in the equation that is in error, blockaded by unbelief. Jesus said that those who believe will receive what they ask for, and will do greater works than he did. If we're not getting answers, if signs and miracles don't follow us, it is not God who is failing to fulfill his word.

We have a God who suffered unspeakably, who lived perfectly, who rose above every obstacle, every temptation . . . who did something utterly unimaginable, completely unattainable, for any one of us to accomplish. And it wasn't easy for him. It simply wasn't. It was hard. So hard. And yet, he did it gladly, forgiving even those who did the worst things to him. He did it so he could forgive us, bless us, heal and save us. The infinite price has been paid, and he is so incredibly eager to pour out the reward of that sacrifice into us. He LONGS to spend time with us. He LONGS to sweep us up into his arms and comfort us. To heal. To encourage. To save.

If you struggle to hear God's voice, if you look around in your life for the promises of God to be fulfilled but receive none, don't give up. Don't lose heart. The answer isn't abandoning God. The answer is in making Jesus the cornerstone of your life. The cornerstone of a foundation determines everything--and I mean EVERYTHING--about the building. If Jesus becomes the chief cornerstone in our lives, it means that every aspect of our lives is in alignment with him, with his will and his word. It means that as we build our lives, we build based on what Jesus Christ has said, what his promises are, and what we learn from his spirit as we search the scriptures and spend time worshipping and praying. And if something isn't in harmony with him--his character, his nature, his desires, his will, his word--we let go of it, refusing it as an unsuitable foundation, and cling to Him.

There is tremendous grace and charity that flows from the victory of Jesus . . . He does not ask us to be perfect all at once, but to follow as he leads, to allow him to show us the things in our lives that are not in agreement with him, and to let them go. He asks us to bare our hearts to him, and let him heal us. And he pleads with us to reject the lies the enemy of our souls tells that steal our joy, kill our hope, and destroy our peace.

Lord Jesus, you are our chief cornerstone. I know you are the standard, the litmus test, the guide and the ultimate foundation of my life. I pray that anyone who reads this will find a new understanding of who you are and of how you want to bless them, that your love can rush in, new and refreshing, into their hearts and lives. Bring your believers together, Lord. Make divine connections and partnerships amongst those who earnestly seek you, and let us learn from one another, no matter what our differences might be. Let us put you first and foremost in all things, and let the love we all have for you be the foundation for these connections that will strengthen, empower, lift and heal all those who love and seek you, In your beautiful and saving name, amen.

We receive comfort so we can give comfort.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
~2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NASB

Affliction is part of this fallen world, part & parcel.That's a fact. Nothing you can do to escape it. That's why Jesus is so vital, His work so beautiful, His atoning sacrifice so miraculous. He suffered so He would know how to comfort us.

The point of our suffering isn't necessarily (or only) to know Jesus better. It's a custom-made opportunity to receive the comfort that goes beyond words from our Lord. And the purpose of receiving that comfort isn't just to make us feel better (although that is a primary focus--our Lord's love for us was the primary motivating factor in His sacrifice: to rescue the ones He loves, to ease their sorrow and pain). Part of the purpose of receiving comfort from God is so we can then impart that comfort to others, in their distress.

The man, beaten and robbed and left for dead on the side of the road wasn't just saved physically by the Good Samaritan. He was given one of the most beautiful gifts a human being could receive: a deep and personal understanding of rescue. I'm pretty sure that man's life was not only changed forever, but the lives of those he knew, those he loved, those he interacted with. Once we truly receive comfort from the Lord, we can become continuous agents of comfort, ourselves, liberally dispensing the balm of Gilead everywhere we go, with every word, every hug, every smile, every little interaction.

Lord of all creation, how much joy I find in you this morning! I love to be filled with your comfort and love, just as the dawning sun gently fills my room. I praise you, Lord, for your comfort; the healing and love and peace and sweetness that you so liberally give to ALL those who approach you willing to receive. Father, open the hearts of the wounded to receive from you. Make a way in the desert for those who profess your name yet haven't tasted of your goodness, your kindness, your continuous comfort. You truly are a fountain of living water within those who are yours, springing up unto everlasting life. And that water is sweet, clear, and refreshes more deeply than any combination of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Thank you, Lord, for this day to spend in worship and service. Thank you for the breath I breathe, the people I love, and the endless opportunities to open wide the floodgates of my heart and allow your love to overflow through me. You are so, so good, Father. Thank you, and amen.

05 February 2016

For Matthew, and all those who seek Jesus.

What is your spiritual posture? What kind of place are you coming from?

It took me months of being prayed for before I began to grasp the idea that because of what Jesus did, the price He has already paid, I can freely receive from God. Our God does not require us to try to reach Him the way the priests of Baal did on the mountain in 1 Kings 18. (Please go read that chapter. It won’t take long.) The early entries in this blog detail the things God taught me in that process.

In Matthew 10:8, Jesus tells His disciples, "freely you have received; therefore freely give".  His disciples received freely. So can we! We are to receive FREELY. 

And in 2 Nephi 26:25, “Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price."

Jesus doesn't say "Do all of this stuff, and then I'll manifest my love to you." Nor does He say, “You have to perform up to this standard before I will feed and care for you.” In the previous verse in 2 Nephi 26 it says: 
"He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth NONE that they shall not partake of his salvation."
The lies of the enemy you are entertaining are stealing your hope, killing your faith, and destroying your joy. (John 10:10) That's not Jesus' m.o. He came to give us LIFE, and that more abundantly. 

And I want you to know, and to never doubt: the enemy is DEFEATED. His lies, the despair and hopelessness and fear that he so liberally dumps on us, only have power when we believe them over what God has said. He told His disciples that they would have tribulation in the world, but in Him—in HIM—they would have peace, and that they should be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). I have thrown off many demonic spiritual/emotional attacks simply by realizing them for what they were: lies from the enemy designed to oppress me. The confidence that Jesus WON, and has subdued the enemy under His feet, combined with a simple thought, has made every one of those attacks utterly disappear. Within ONE second. 

The joyful thought is this: “This is a spiritual attack. I’m not doing this!” 

James 4:7 says, “Be subject therefore unto God; resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Believe what God has said; subject your thinking to His truth. Then you can STAND on that, and literally throw off the yoke of oppression. Proverbs 3:25 says “Be not afraid of sudden fear”.

We receive salvation from this fallen world--the remission of our sins--FIRST. The ONLY requirement for that is a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Which you have in abundance, my friend.  A heart ready to receive anything the Lord wants to give. No stakes. Nothing set in a place of inviolability. Whatever God says, goes. We can be confident in His goodness and His faithfulness, because of what He has said before. Which is why getting into and DEVOURING scripture is so important! 
“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.” ~2 Nephi 33:14
Jesus IS the truth, He IS love, so we have nothing to fear from making ourselves fully vulnerable before Him, nothing to hold back that is worth losing what He offers. It doesn't require long fasting, feats of righteousness or working hard. No striving. Just RECEIVE. Receive through scripture. Receive through the Holy Spirit.

I want you to try something. Begin to come at this from a posture of gratitude for what Jesus has done. No longer droop in your own lack--our personal lack is what Jesus came to save us from! "Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul" (2 Nephi 4:28). There's nothing we could ever do to earn what He did. He was able because, being God as well as man, He received the Holy Spirit without measure. We can't even begin until we receive the Holy Spirit. The wonderful news is that giving us the Holy Spirit is what Jesus is longing to do, so eager to do, what He died to do. And I'm not just talking about the Baptism of Fire. We have many encounters with the love of God (aka the Holy Spirit) before we finally are fully immersed in and fully filled by fire and made new.

Adam and Eve betrayed this earth into the hands of the adversary. Jesus redeemed it. As a Telestial realm, it's under the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We have to receive the ministry of the Holy Spirit before we can receive the personal ministry of Jesus Christ. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to introduce us to the Son, and it’s the Son’s work to introduce us to the Father. We Mormons get all tangled up because we want to jump straight to meeting Jesus when we aren’t yet filled with the Holy Spirit.

Worship music is a tremendous way I’ve been able to receive the Holy Spirit in greater and greater measure. Not just because it opens my heart, but because speaking, singing, shouting aloud in worship is warfare that defeats the enemy of our souls. Spirit-filled Christians have receiving the Holy Spirit DOWN. They’ve so got this one, and we can learn so, so much from them. Our faith tradition has completely lost this aspect of interaction with heaven. It's time we reclaim it.

So, instead of accusing God with “Why won’t you speak to me???”, start speaking aloud the things that are true about God. For example: 
“God, you are Good. You are Love. You are Truth. What You have spoken, I BELIEVE. When You speak to me, I will choose to trust You, even as Moses did before the Red Sea, or before the rock in Horeb. You are faithful, and fulfill ALL of your promises. You take care of those who believe You and seek You. You want to know me, to care for me, to fill me with Your Spirit and Your reassurance. You want to comfort me, to teach me, to lead me, and to be WITH me always. You miss me, You want to help and support me. You are my shelter in the storm. My strong tower, and I will PRAISE Your beautiful name for the rest of my days for all You are!”
You know that incredible feeling you get when you hold a new baby in your family as it's sleeping peacefully in your arms? That’s your physical body registering the presence of God. The feeling you have when you see an aspect of creation in all of it’s beauty. When you treat others with love, when you choose forgiveness over hate. That exhilaration that comes when you finally nail a new gymnastics move. That is the presence of God, His spirit in you. Looking back, I recognize now that the overwhelming love I experienced with the birth of my first child was the very love of God, poured out without measure or restraint. It was so new, so overwhelming. I loved my husband (still do! lol), but that love was based on commitment, on choice. This new love was so overwhelming at times it was almost frightening. This love for my baby simply WAS. Nothing that child could, or can, do will ever change that love. Ever. THAT is the love of God, for us.

God’s love is multi-faceted. It’s full, infinite, and encompasses all aspects of our experience. We cannot truly connect with God purely in an intellectual way. We cannot find Him only in our emotions. Or only in our physical experience. But when those three come together, it’s astounding. He wants to engage us on every level, in every way possible for us. Holding back some part of ourselves from Him (say, because someone has been burned by heartsell, and doesn’t want to believe that our emotions can be part of our relationship with God) only frustrates our search for Him.

Here is a playlist of some of my current worship favorites. Find a quiet place, and let yourself just meditate on the beauty and goodness and loveliness of God. Listen for the sincerity in this music. Listen for God to speak to you. Reject the derision that we were taught for the way Christians worship, and look for what God wants you to hear, to see, to feel, to understand. The scriptures are FULL of examples of worship with lifted hands, lifted voices, with instruments, with drums and unrestrained demonstration. And please, ask ask ask. Voice your questions, so we can all help. If you don’t have people where you are, let us help you. I was prayed for and supported and helped intensively for six months before I received the baptism of fire. And it has taken me another two and a half years to begin to get decent at receiving an infilling of the Holy Spirit on my own, apart from my faith community. 

I haven't received what I have received because I'm special or whatever. It's because God introduced me into a part of the body of Christ that, very much like a Good Samaritan, saw me in the state I was in, where my own people had withdrawn because I was no longer acceptable in their eyes. The Body of Christ took me in, poured wine and oil into my wounds and bound them up, covered my spiritual nakedness with a cloak of charity, fed my spiritual malnutrition generously and without judgement, and loved me with the powerful love of God that they themselves had received freely. What I have, where I'm at, is because of them. I could NEVER have done this alone. Not ever.

Love you, Matthew. Please, please, please: don’t ever believe the lie that you are without help. Even if no one physically near to you can support you, you have so many people that love you without limit, without judgement, without measure.