What’s In a Story

What if a parable of Jesus is more than it appears? What if it’s more than just a story with a lesson for the hearers? Could it be that what we often see as a lesson taught through story goes much deeper and perhaps has layers of meaning beyond what we may initially see? Can we connect the dots and find deeper richer meanings; a back story, if you will?

My husband and I heard a missionary speak recently on the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 21:33-44. Here a landowner planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it. He then built a winepress in it and built a tower. Finally, he rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. As the parable continues, the landowner sends representatives when harvest time arrives to retrieve his produce from those he entrusted his land to in his absence.

First, the owner sent three of his servants to retrieve the fruit; one was beaten, one killed and the third stoned. Again he sent his servants, but this time, he sent a larger group; the results were the same. Finally, he decided to send his son, thinking that surely they will be respectful of him! No, the growers also killed him because if he was out of the picture; his inheritance would be theirs for the taking! The parable ends with the question: What will the owner do with the vine-growers?

Those who were listening purposed that the landlord would have a terrible end for those greedy, wicked people and find new growers who would be responsible for that which was entrusted to them.

Can we consider who and what these each of these might represent?

The Vinedresser – God

The wall he built – His protection set in place, perhaps.

A dug-in winepress – tools needed for success.

A watchtower – again, protection and a tool required for success;
Also, providing a means of watching and communicating issues and threats
outside the wall.

Vine growers – those whom He entrusted with the work of His
land or kingdom.

God provided, protected and gave every tool needed for those He entrusted to be successful. Everything necessary for success was in place at their fingertips and handed over to their care. They were entrusted with all that He had as He set out on a journey.

What are some of the unanswered questions? Were the men the owner hired unreliable from the start? Were they reliable at first, growing weary as time passed? Did the success go to their head and they become greedy for more than He promised to provide for their service? Perhaps, they became deceived; thinking they somehow were owed ownership of the land or His absence (the perception: out of sight, out of mind) made Him no longer a responsible an owner and perhaps an undeserving one. Whatever their reason, when the time came to fulfill their agreement and settle up with the proprietor, these vine-growers renigged on their contract. They had no respect for Him, His ownership and authority, nor for the authority which He had delegated first to His representatives and then to His Son and heir.

Jesus’ reply to those whom He was teaching was this:

“Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.” Matthew 21:42-46

This was a direct message to the Pharisees of Jesus time. There also seems to be such a richness to this parable; I can help to wonder if there is so much more… Could there also be layers of meaning that go deeper and reach farther than we may have ever considered? Is it possible that it also refers to the institution of the new covenant of grace (the “church” age) that would soon be ushered in by Jesus sacrificial death, His burial, and resurrection and His command to make disciples of ALL nations? Or of the prophecies to be fulfilled in the future before Christ return? Could there be something for us in our very day lives that Jesus is trying to express? Are we greedy, wicked vine-growers? Are we beating, stoning, and killing figuratively; or are we loving and faithful like Jesus? Are we producing fruit?

Honestly, you may or may not agree; but the more I read this parable, the more questions it provokes. I am convinced that there truly are layers and meanings beyond the surface of what we read in this parable and perhaps in all of Jesus parables. I think I’ll be sitting on this one for a while.

Heavenly Father, Your Word promises if any lack wisdom to ask and it will be given lavishly without finding fault. James 1:5 Help us, Your sons and daughters seek You and Your wisdom so that we can have the understanding and rightly divide Your Word. You have gone before us, prepared the way, set protection in place, made provision for our needs, given us the tools so we may be successful, and entrusted us with Your kingdom. In fact, You have given us the incredible gift of Your Spirit dwelling inside of us to teach, comfort, guide and help us! May we accept the gifts, bring forth fruit and gratefully, willingly and gracefully offer it right back to You where it belongs! To You be the honor and glory forever! In the powerful and amazing name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Grace and Peace to you this day!

Enemy Invasion-A Fresh Perspective

The Garden of Eden was a peaceful place. Everything was there that the first couple needed to survive and thrive. Adam (man) had been given dominion over the earth and the animals. He had named them all–the only thing lacking was a suitable helper for Adam. When God noticed this, He formed a woman from man’s rib for his suitable helper. By the end of the Sixth day, everything had been set into place for a successful first family. On the seventh day, God rested; instituting a day of rest for mankind.

Enter the Enemy

“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

There is always something coming along to shake up the status quo! In chapter 3 of Genesis the enemy enters. He comes in slyly and stirs up some trouble. “Did God really say?” How was this even possible? Why would such a creature even exist and what possessed him to question the Creator? What did he hope to accomplish?

Only God Himself has all the answers to the questions we could possibly ask about this intrusion into the peaceful garden. Chapter 3 brings out all kinds of questions and the more you ask, the more that seem to come to mind. Here are some of my observations about his entrance and tactics:

  • The enemy is cunning – definition: artful subtlety and deceptive; exhibiting ingenuity, delicately pleasing, pretty or cute; adeptness in execution or performance. thefreedictionary.com
  • The enemy was a wild animal
  • The enemy used words to inquire and incite – Did God really say…

Results:

  1. Self-doubt – Eve: Did I hear God correctly?
  2. Questioned her understanding – you surely will not die but will be like God.
  3. Called God’s goodness into question – implying that God’s holding out on you.
  4. Usurps the peaceful balance that was found in the garden.
  5. Insights fear – fear of missing out; fear of being less than; fear of God’s reaction/rejection
  6. Stirs up blame and defensiveness.
  7. Causes strife and disruption of unity.

First, the serpent called into question God’s Words by cunningly asking “did God really say…?”. This was most likely designed to call into question either God’s precise words or Eve’s understanding or lack of understanding of God’s words establishing doubt in her mind. (Most battles are fought first in the mind.)  Eve repeated back to him what God had said to them.

Next, the serpent directly contradicted the result associated with eating the fruit. Maybe knowingly or not that the direct results would not be death but regardless; the end result would be sin which would ultimately result in death. Then the serpent spoke truth – the fruit consumed would make them aware of the knowledge of good and evil; what he did not tell her was that once aware, you are now responsible for consequences of your behavior on a whole other level. If you know good and do not do it; it is a sin. If you know it is evil, and yet you do it; you are also guilty of sin.

Results of sin:

Guilt

Shame

Consequences

Broken Relationships with God

Broken Relationships with man

The enemy of God always seeks to bring into question God’s provision, His protection, and His goodness. He goes after our mind subtlely, trying to bring everything we think we know and understand about God into question. Our mind is the enemy’s primary target, and that is why we are told many times in Proverbs to seek wisdom and get understanding. His goal is to destroy our relationship with our Creator and Father by disrupting our faith in God’s goodness, His protection, His provision, God’s faithfulness and anything else that we place our confidence in where God is concerned. His desire to steal our faith, turn it to doubt and incite fear; to tear down love and stir up division and hate; to destroy any peace and unity in our lives; encourage blame and finger pointing rather that finding common ground and working together toward common goals and finding unity.

Best News Ever

Jesus Christ defeated the enemy of our souls more than 2000 years ago on the hills of Jerusalem. His blood and His resurrection have given us the victory and the power to overcome every single attempt that the enemy throws our way!

In Christ, we have everything we need for life and godliness!

Lord, I pray that you will grant each of us wisdom and understanding that we need as we travel through life. May Your peace that passes understanding surround Your children and Your grace – which is sufficient surround us and be our companion. May we never lose sight of the wonder of Who You Are – for You are the Great I AM. No enemy can stand up to You, and You are always with Your kids. Your Word says You never leave us and You never forsake us. You have gone before us, and You walk beside us. Even when our paths take us to places and situations we do not understand, and we do not like, You are more than able to take those situations and over time use them to produce good in our lives. They may not feel good right now, but somehow You have a plan to redeem those things just as You did with Job troubles and with Christ’s persecution and death. Teach us to trust in Your goodness even when we can not see it with our own eyes. In the mighty and steadfast name of Jesus Christ! Amen

Grace and Peace be with you!

A Fresh Look

I’m not sure how it came to be, but a few days ago I began a new journey. What will this journey teach me? Where will it lead and what discoveries are waiting along the way, I am not sure but trust that it will be an exciting one.

Let’s start from the beginning… my first journey with Jesus began as a small girl between 4 1/2 and five years old. It hasn’t been without some desert experiences, mountain top times and some peaceful oasis experiences. Perhaps, in the end, those desert times are the ones that have truly shaped me. For a while now, I have been noticing a recurring behavior. I can’t explain why other than it has caught my attention and for some reason, it has arrested my focus, and I am seeing it grow larger and more pervasive in the fellowship of believers.

For at least the last twelve years I have been studying on the topic of Who we are In Christ and often encourage others to look at what God’s Word says about who we are. This study is a wonderful and freeing pursuit, and it will change you forever in many ways. As you begin to unfold the mystery of Jesus, what He has done for our freedom, forgiveness, and restoration to our heavenly Father, He begins to unfold who we are In Him as we give our lives to Him.

The current trend is making declarations about who we are in Christ. Let me be clear–I’m not against this. I am all for learning who we are as believers in Christ! My concern is that we keep the proper perspective in our pursuit of who we truly are. Clearly, the Word of God says we are dearly loved children of the Most High God; our Creator. It also tells us we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ and many other wonderful statements about who we are In Him. These are biblical truths and a great blessing, but we have to remember to keep context in mind and know the Word we are standing on and believing. So here I am again on a new journey; it’s never dull. Here I am seeking afresh to see who He is – yes, who He is. Why? I want to see with fresh eyes who He says we are in light of who the Great I Am is. It’s a heart check if you will. You see, as I have observed and listened to wonderful declarations of who we are In Christ I have noticed there is a fine line between having confidence in who we are and arrogance and that is a line I want to be careful never to cross. I never want to lose the humility to which He call us.

“Mankind, He has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you:
to act justly,
to have faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8 (CSB)

Humility is found in scripture between ten and seventeen times depending on the translation. Humble is located between 82 and 84 times. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (CSB)

Jesus is an excellent example of humility in the Bible:
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 (NASB)
Jesus laid aside His standing to do the will of the Father, not once defending Himself because He fully understood Who He was and what His purpose was.

Another example was Moses. Moses was described as humble, a meek man yet God commissioned him to lead approximately 2 million people from Egyptian captivity and toward the promised land. It was Moses who God revealed Himself as “I AM Who I AM” in Exodus.

“Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what should I tell them?”
God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.” Exodus 3:13-15 (CSB)

From beginning to end, Scripture is filled with conditional promises, blessings, and even curses. There are many If…then statements all throughout the pages. We must be careful to seek to understand what they are saying to us.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:1-7 (NKJV)

Lord God, please teach us more about Who You are and who we are in Jesus Christ and humbly walk with you fulfilling the purpose that You have for each of us during our lives just as Jesus, Moses and so many others have done whether the task is great of subtle. May we love justice, be ever faithful and walk humbly with our God until our faith becomes sight in Your very presence! In the mighty and incomparable Name of Jesus, Amen!

May Grace and Peace be yours!

Could Someone Please Turn up the Lights?

The America in which I grew up is M.I.A.! Yep, Missing In Action. This country is unrecognizable on so many fronts. By all reports, it seems divided right down the middle. The truth is it is not. Many of us were not happy with either of the final choices that we had to pick from for president. However, we now have a new President! Believers, it is our job to pray for those in authority according to scripture! It is not our job to judge, complain or fear. It is our responsibility to pray for him and our country without regard for our feelings!

To the Women marching on Washington: You claim to speak for women everywhere. I hate to bear you this news, but much that was said represents only a portion of women in this country. Scare tactics, vulgarity, threats and parading your female parts on your heads with your face peeking out doesn’t speak for me; nor many other ladies I know. How appropriate I must say were the cat hats because that is just what some of your representative’s behavior was; “catty.” Oh, how different was the March for life just one week later! Your threats indicate you are bullies disregarding the opinions of women who disagree with your ideology. You do not represent me, and just because I don’t agree with many of your talking points does not make me any less of a woman or any less an advocate for females. I was brought up with manners, modesty and to act like a lady, as were many women all across this country. You, I repeat, do not speak for all women!

To those attacking the New President’s son: I DO NOT care who you do or do not like or support politically. Nor do I care how scared or threatened you feel about the incoming President! Making vicious attacks, accusations or judgments about a ten-year-old young man is absolutely NEVER ok!! It is especially heinous when coming from a supposed adult!! That is the epitome of a bully, and IT IS EVIL!

Without support, this kind of rhetoric could easily do much damage to a ten-year-old, and you are responsible whether your acknowledge it or not for the damage that ensues. Imagine if this young man or anyone you treated so poorly were to act in desperation because of your actions!!

To American Voters everywhere: Have you ever wondered why there has never been such unrest and violent rioting as we have seen since this election? Did you see Republicans act like this after President Obama entered office? President Bush? How about after President Clinton entered office? This process happens every four years and when have your ever seen this kind of out of control behavior in the civilized world? Violent riots are increasing! Everyone is looking out only for their causes without regard to the rights of the other side, and in the process innocent people and businesses get caught in the cross-fire, suffering loss! It is wrong and senseless!! People are stepping on others rights to assert their own. That, my friends, is called oppression- forcing your thought and ideas on others. America is referred to as the land of the free for a reason. All people are entitled to be free unless they break the law. People’s belief is not legislated, at least not yet in this country; though many are pushing us that direction by the thought police. What possesses people to act out in such destructive, violent ways? Why is it acceptable for them to revert to barbaric behavior? Why do others choose more productive ways to deal with loss, disappointment, and fear?

I have news for you; the world is watching. The nation once admired for being a kind; generous, Christian nation is now on display around the world. Where the world is concerned, the media stories are America. No wonder they see Americans as selfish, self-promoting, spoiled, childish, and entitled people. The nation once admired for being a kind; generous, freedom-loving country is now on display around the world, and the picture is ugly and dark. A moderately small number of loud voices are speaking out and claiming to speak for us all. Maybe I am deceived, but I believe that there are many others of you out there that are just as horrified as I am with what they are seeing. We are at a crossroads, and if we continue traveling in this direction, we just may not be happy with the outcome. The question is, “What can or will we do about it?” How long will we sit by and keep quiet allowing those who think differently be the only ones heard? What can you and I do? Can someone please just turn up the lights?? Can we roll this darkness back or call on Someone who can?

President Trump has said that under his leadership, America will become great again. Even with the best of intentions, one person cannot achieve this. Even with the cooperation of every staff member, Congressman, Senator, and Judge, it would be difficult at best. The answer is we the people. Let’s face it, darkness and division are plaguing our people. We spend more time on the few things that divide us than those that unite us. Instead of finding common ground, people insist on their own selfish ways. Each man does what is ‘right’ in his/her own heart. Moral absolutes have often been cast aside and caution in many cases thrown to the wind.

America’s greatness has come from being united. Separate states governing themselves united in one country, under one flag. America’s greatness came from freedom. Freedom of religion, protecting us from a forced national religion. In other words, we can practice whatever religion we choose or none at all; we are free. Freedom of protection which includes our speech, the right to defend ourselves and bear arms. Let’s face it; it also includes freedom of journalism which is a very HOT topic these days! That includes their right to report the story first despite having accurate and truthful facts. They are free to do this, though it isn’t a very smart choice of behavior. I like most others would much prefer an accurate and unbiased report over lots of speculation that later has to be repaired, retracted or corrected. Frankly, it causes chaos and fear that is very unnecessary. Can WE PLEASE just turn up the lights?

Father God, Please forgive us for letting our voices grow softer. Please forgive us for becoming more and more silent; letting our lights dim. Change and revival begin in Your House, oh Lord; with the individuals who love You seeking to be their best self by seeking You, following Your statutes. Help us to be the people You created us to be. To be bold and unashamed of our inheritance or our destiny! Teach us to be brave, bold and stand firm for the things that are deep in our heart; fearing not to be different and stand up for what is good and what is true!

Your Word says:                                                                                                                                       “Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him: I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a temple of sacrifice. 13 If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on My people, 14 and if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. 15 My eyes will now be open and My ears attentive to prayer from this place. 16 And I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My name may be there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there at all times. 17 As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, doing everything I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and ordinances, 18 I will establish your royal throne, as I promised your father David: You will never fail to have a man ruling in Israel.19 However, if you turn away and abandon My statutes and My commands that I have set before you and if you go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from the soil that I gave them, and this temple that I have sanctified for My name I will banish from My presence; I will make it an object of scorn and ridicule among all the peoples. 21 As for this temple, which was exalted, everyone who passes by will be appalled and will say: Why did the Lord do this to this land and this temple? 22 Then they will say: Because they abandoned the Lord God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They clung to other gods and worshiped and served them. Because of this, He brought all this ruin on them.” 2 Chronicles 7

Please Lord, help us to realize there is much more here than just a prayer for forgiveness and healing in our land. There is a warning to keep false gods out of our lives, including the god of selfishness. So what are the false gods that plague us today? Please give us eyes to see what they are. Perhaps political correctness is one, or materialism, obsession with technology, televisions, hobbies, sports, fear. Is it possible self can become a major god in our life? How about education? Have we become so smart that true wisdom is lacking? Please give us the wisdom to humble ourselves, repent and seek Your face, learn and grow and allow our lights to shine brightly. Please help us to find True North and get back on the right road and may Your children turn up their lights all around this land and live peacefully! In Jesus Mighty Name, Amen.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,                                                                         and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”                                                                          2 Corinthians 13:14

Releasing the Old; Embracing the New

It’s now December 31st, and for the most part, the hustle and bustle of the Christmas celebration are winding down. Our Savior’s birth celebrated, presents given, presents received and opened, the glitz and wrappings of another year have found their way to their respective places whether that is in a drawer, a closet, returned, or in storage for next year, the recycle bin or for curbside pick up. For many it has been a time of sadness, remembering those no longer with us or losses that we have struggled with this year. Others felt alone and far from their loved ones whether because of their career; or serving their country across the world; or because they did not have resources to travel to their family or loved ones. Some have had the best year ever. Others celebrate a new birth or new life in their homes. Many experienced the angst of wanting to bless their loved ones with just the right gift, and some the pressure of not having the means to do it or do it in the manner they would like.

It is my hope and prayer that even amongst the myriad of feelings we often find ourselves experiencing; the pressures that we experience during this time of year that you have been able to find glimpses of joy. My wish is that glimmers of unconditional love have shown themselves; moments of grace have peeked out around the corner and taken your breath away! Christmas and life, in general, is much more than quick photo ops and sound bites! We often miss out when we get caught up in the rush and the pressures.

Except for leftover expenses, bills, and a few leftovers, the rich and tasty treats that we only allow ourselves this time of year, have been consumed. Now we move onto thinking about a brand new year with all the potential it may hold. Lord God help us to frame 2017 just that way! Give us the courage to look realistically at 2016; the good and the bad; the victories and the regrets. Help us to have the proper perspective about how our year as gone. Show us how to have the grace to celebrate every victory; gracefully repair what needs fixing and let go of what we can not change. May we have the boldness to look back realistically at the year, see it as it was, evaluate the changes we need to make and with great courage step into the adventure the New Year will bring. Help us have the wisdom to take time, to slow down and enjoy some simple small pleasures; such as a walk in nature, watching children play; making that phone call we have talked about but neglected; praying a moment for that person that just keep popping into our mind; maybe even sending a note to them. Teach us to simplify our life so we can enjoy it more; enjoy others more. Perhaps it just really boils down to perspective. Help us to develop proper perspective in our lives. Help us to see the things that are the most important; the things that at the end of the day or the end of our days will matter the most. Our relationship to You; our loved ones and those we come in contact with. May love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness be gifts that we often give, for they are far more valuable that anything we can purchase and the truth is that withholding them tends to hurt us far more than anyone else.

Father God, is it possible that there is a focus You have for this new season? Perhaps a word or a scripture verse that we need to ponder or focus on for the upcoming year? Suppose You are saying to us as in Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of (perceive) it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert…”. May we be wise and alert enough to sense what You want to do in and through our lives in these days to come. Whether it is focusing on You at a new and deeper level, establishing deeper relationships, reaching out to those who are hurting, changing career or ministry paths… whatever You have for us, may we be willing to embrace it with open and willing hearts in the upcoming year! May we seek wisdom and understanding in all we do and allow You to establish our footsteps as we enter boldly into everything You have for us in 2017.

Why Do I Love God’s Word?

Today as I looked at “You Have A Memory” on Facebook, a post from two years ago popped up on my screen. I had totally forgotten about the experience or that I had written about it. I have to say that it still holds true and even more so today. I hope it will be an encouragement to someone as I sense the Heavenly Father prompting me to share it once again!

June 2, 2014
Kevin said I should post this; it’s long but here goes…

What an interesting question that was posed today in the current Bible study I am doing! Why do you love God’s Word? It was followed by this proposal…consider a friend or acquaintance asked you this question because they did not understand your love for the Bible and you were too taken off guard to respond at the time. Now, you sit down to write a note or letter to explain. How would you explain? So here goes let’s give it a try…

Dear Friend,

I was taken aback a bit by your question today and needed a little time to process your inquiry because many emotions rose up within me at that moment. Too many to put into words immediately. God’s Word is life and health to me! Without it, I would not be the person I am… I probably would not be alive and certainly would not even resemble the person you know. His Word has been the source of strength to carry on in the darkest of days, when sorrow, grief, and loss were so very overwhelming that easily I could have crawled into a dark hole, given up and disappeared. It has brought comfort and peace in the most frightening of times; it has been my source of encouragement when all seemed lost, when I felt utterly alone; it has been a well of hope springing up in the driest of deserts; a balm to heal my heart when it has been wounded or too heartsick to even move. His Word has been freedom to a soul held captive by her circumstances, and it has flooded joy into a heart teaching me that joy is available even in the times where happiness is elusive and circumstances are challenging. When I have been wise, it has offered me the keys to navigate through every passage on this journey of life. When I have been foolish, He has drawn me back to it to shine light lovingly on the areas that could have been better navigated and teach me better ways for the future. Yes, it is life; strength; comfort; peace; encouragement; healing; freedom; joy; direction; and instruction. God’s Word also displays my Father’s character, shows the greatness of His love, and tells me who I am In Christ. In Him, we are called a friend; son or daughter; beloved; accepted; redeemed; justified; set apart; precious; blameless; chosen; and kings and priests…just to name a few. It contains everything needed to live a victorious life and to avoid the pitfalls life tends to throw our way. It is a precious gift and a much-needed tool for my life. Dear friend, I hope this at least in part answers your question and thank you! for challenging me with this question. It is beneficial to be challenged; to be able to put words to such profound emotions and beliefs and to bring to remembrance why we hold something or someone so dear and precious. It keeps it fresh to us and
prevents us from taking it for granted!
Grace and peace to you my friend!

Is Our World a Reflection of Who We Are?

 

The more I read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the other Old Testament prophets; the more I have to wonder if the modern day church is just repeating the same patterns and faux pas of the Hebrew people.  Many question how Jesus ended up being rejected by His people when they were scholars of the Torah. With prophecies of the Messiah’s coming all throughout their scriptures, many puzzle today asking HOW did they miss the time of His appearing?  However, we must be very careful in our judgemental questions…

Why? I would submit to you that those of us in the church today would do well to examine ourselves before questioning or pointing fingers at those who have gone before us. We would also do well to examine ourselves before blaming the world we live in, the government or anyone else for the current state of affairs in our communities or our country. It would also behoove us to examine how controversial laws have come to be passed rather than complaining.  How is it that we now have to be concerned about explaining to our small children or grandchildren why a child or an adult person of the opposite sex is allowed in their bathrooms?  1 Peter 4 may give us a hint…

  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.  If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:12-19 HCSB

Is it possible that portions of the church over the last 30-50 years have spent more time judging those outside it walls rather than focusing on rightly judging ourselves by scripture?  Could it be some of us have been trying to hold the unbelievers accountable to God’s standard and preaching their doom rather that focusing on the great commandment to love God whole-heartedly and then loving our neighbors as our self-perpetuating His love to our neighbors no matter their beliefs in order that some may be won by seeing His love through us?  Then again, have we been living up the very things we say we believe??

First Peter 4:17 clearly states that Judgement will begin in the house of the Lord; the household of God.  If you’ll permit me another question, has there ever been a time in history where the church blended so well into the culture?  The rates of divorce, broken families, abortions, affairs are almost as high in the church as they are outside the church, and yet many of us walk around like we have it all together and have the answers. This should not be so.  If I were an outsider, the first thing I’d ask is, “if you have all the answers (and we do in God’s Word), why are you struggling, unhappy, discontent, complaining, or fill in the blank with what fits? Better yet, why are you judging me and criticizing me; I thought God is love and teaches His followers to love. Are we studying to show ourself approved, 2 Timothy 2:25; correctly teaching the truth? Are we speaking the truth in love? Ephesians 4:15  Would God say about us what He said to His people in Isaiah 56?

“His watchmen are blind,
All of them know nothing.
All of them are mute dogs unable to bark,
Dreamers lying down, who love to slumber;
And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied.
And they are shepherds who have no understanding;
They have all turned to their own way,
Each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.
“Come,” they say, “let us get wine, and let us drink heavily of strong drink;
And tomorrow will be like today, only more so.
” Isaiah 56:10-12 NASB

Are we each going our way; doing what seems right in our own eyes/minds?  (Judges 17:6;  Proverbs 21:2; Judges 21:25)  Are we going down the same old path and circling the same ineffective cycles that are found all throughout the Old Testament. Could the words the prophets of old spoke be totally relevant to us today?  As I have spent much time in their writings over the last year, I believe their words are completely applicable today. Something is not working, at least not working well. Wisdom dictates that if that is the case, we need to change what we are doing.  Will we follow the Word of God and first examine ourselves?

““Cry loudly, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet,
And declare to My people their transgression
And to the house of Jacob their sins. “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.
‘Why have we fasted and You do not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers.
“Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.
You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
“Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?

“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?                                                                                          

“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
“And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.” Isaiah 58:1-12 NASB

Will we step out in faith, take the time, and have the courage to examine ourselves regularly?  Are those of us who call ourselves believers or followers of Jesus Christ following His example? How do we know? People either loved Jesus or hated Him. Typically people loved Him, but the religious/pious hated Him and saw Him as a threat. It will be no different for us, are we up to the task??

May His Grace and Peace reign moment by moment in your life!

Knowledge, Wisdom, & Understanding

“Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth. “Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; Love her, and she will watch over you. “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:5-7 (NASB)

While praying this morning, thinking back over all that happened this last week, I found myself weighing the events. I find that my heart is very grateful; yes, even for those difficult and painful moments! That is when Proverbs 4 came to mind…

We live in a culture in America where education is valued highly, and most parents strongly encourage early learning and higher education. We also live in an era where information is easily accessible; at the touch of our fingertips, we can educate ourselves on almost any topic we desire. It was inconceivable just twenty-five years ago the speed at which our world would change and that we would be able to use the internet to research any topic that we desired; becoming well trained on that subject.

The question is, whether we are speaking of education or in our knowledge of Scripture, are we making the most of the knowledge that we have acquired? Are we in our quest for knowledge also seeking wisdom? Wisdom is needed to apply knowledge, especially if we desire to be most effective in its application. Even so, notice the verse doesn’t stop there. We are also encouraged to get understanding. Here I would ask: Understanding of what?
1. Understand what you have learned
2. Understand the application of what you have learned
3. Applying what you have learned in a wise and appropriate way
4. Ability to explain or teach it to others in a way that makes sense to
them

Consider this, sometimes when conversations flow something will be said that will stir up a disagreement or perhaps something has been said that is misunderstood, and offense is triggered. Sometimes offense is triggered because harsh attitudes or bluntness. Other times it is unknowingly triggered. Perhaps we did not convey our thoughts or hearts wisely. Then again, we could have been using wisdom in our conversation but failed to include understanding; explaining ourselves well. They may be distracted or struggling because of a personal issue or pain in their lives. Lastly, if we spoke with wisdom when conveying our thoughts, and we sought to bring understanding to the person to whom we were speaking; did we speak to them with an understanding of who they are?; their personality type?; and the things with which they may be dealing? Did we consider them? Did we just throw something at them or did we engage with them first?

Wisdom is invaluable in life. Whether you are working with your child, your teen, your spouse, coworker or boss; wisdom is a key asset that we are wise to pray to receive. James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Prayer for understanding, often neglected, is also essential. Wisdom is defined as the application of experience, knowledge, and sound judgment. That is pretty powerful in itself! Now imagine adding understanding as an element. Understanding as a noun implies comprehension, insight and if you will, the archaic meaning good judgment. What we sometimes miss in the fray is that understanding is also an adjective meaning sympathetically aware of other’s feelings; to be tolerant, forgiving.

What a gift it would be if we chose to apply our experience and knowledge with sound judgment and full comprehension; all the while being sympathetically aware of the feelings of those we are interacting with from a heart of tolerance and forgiveness. Sure, it isn’t easy to set aside strong opinions and attitudes. It takes strength to push of feelings to the side for a while but what would happen if we asked gentle questions of others rather than having harsh confrontations, prompting them to truly think about the issues at hand? I believe in most situations; it would initiate constructive conversations and provide a safe place for people to work out issues that may have previously seemed beyond resolution. It would certainly go a long way in bridging gaps in communication and avoid some of the frustrations of communication between differing personality types.

Lord, please teach us in all our getting, whether it is friends, knowledge, things, land or wealth; teach us foremost to seek wisdom and understanding (both the noun and the adjective)! Please show us the value of the adjective understanding (being sympathetically aware of other’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving.) If that means we have to take the temperature in our environment and observe (think before we speak), please help us develop this in our lives. May we walk in love, hope, mercy, grace; be seasoned with grace and take the beauty of Your grace with us wherever we go! In the name of Yeshua, Name above all names. Amen

Challenged to be Bold

How bold are the prayers we pray?  In  Christ, do we truly pray with the realization that the creator of the universe calls us sons and daughters?  I just finished watching a video clip  by Lisa Bevere. Speaking at the Love Life Women’s Conference, she said: “The world needs you to pray scary prayers instead of scared prayers!” Another quote was: “If you are not praying the kind of prayers that scare you; believe me, they are not scaring the enemy!” That is challenging just by itself.  Then I laid down my Bible and it opened to Isaiah 45 and my eyes were drawn to this passage…

 “Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, and righteousness spring up with it.  I, the Lord, have created it.  “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth!” Isaiah 45: 8 & 9 NASB

 Now that is a powerful prayer!! 

 This passage is talking about a King named Cyrus who is appointed by God to set His people free from exile and return them home to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple so they could worship God freely as free people once again. Verses 1-8 were a commission by God to Cyrus rather than a prayer. However, if you have been even somewhat keeping up on the political scene or even have just perused the social media scene for a few minutes; I am betting you have seen some of the craziness! If you ventured to watch one of the many debates, I know you’ve personally witnessed it yourself.  The debate last night was a very loose interpritation of the rules of debate at best. Three people competing to all talk at once, over and over again. There were times I just wished the moderator would speak up or the sound tech would cut the microphones to stop the chaos. Alas, this is the nature of political debates today.

    The people across all races and all belief systems in this country are worried about the course things have taken or will take over the next years. What will we be leaving behind for our children and grandchildren to clean up with the great debt this country owes? How can we bring back balanced spending and get rid of debt? Is our military strong enough to protect us? What about the economy? Borders? Will the Constitution and it’s amendments including the 1st and 2nd be upheld? The questions just keep coming and many Americans whether or not they will admit it range from concerned to flat out scared of the course that seems to be played out before us. People want answers. They want to choose the right leader.

     Maybe it is time; perhaps past time, for believers all across this country to lay down our concerns, fears and questions down at the feet of our Creator and begin to pray bold prayers.  Our God hears His kids when they cry out!  We can vote; we can speak out about injustices, freedoms, rights; we can educate people; we can be an informed and educated person; all these are important! But it is He Who: “removes and establishes kings and rulers.”  Not sure or unconvinced? Do your remember the ‘hanging chads’ and the declaration that Bush would not have a second term? Or the declaration that the little known candidate Obama would not get enough votes?? 

Daniel’s prayer – Daniel 2: 19- 23  The mystery was then revealed to Daniel in a vision at night, and Daniel praised the God of heaven and declared:  May the name of God be praised forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him.  He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals the deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.  I offer thanks and praise to You, God of my fathers, because You have given me wisdom and power.  And now You have let me know what we asked of You, for You have let us know the king’s mystery.”

 Maybe, just maybe it is time to we make sure our hearts and motives are right and find some great scriptures and pray some very bold scary prayers for our lives, for the lives of those we love, for our country, and even for those who are against us!  Our battle is not with flesh and blood…Ephesians 6:10-13 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.  This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.”  

Brothers and Sisters;                                                                                                                                       May grace, peace and boldness be multiplied to you! 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Are We Building For?

Have you ever noticed there are some very hard sayings in scripture?  They are generally words that we can be tempted to either skip over or  forget about; sometimes intentionally because they challenge or scare us.  Let’s consider Matthew 7: 21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

What does this mean? Clearly, the people in this situation thought they were doing the work of a Christ-follower and expected to be included in those who would enter the Kingdom. Yet Jesus says to them, “I never knew you.” I don’t know about you, but this statement certainly gives me pause!  It brings up many questions in my mind and makes me want to take an up close look at who I am.  What does a true believer look like?  We can go back and take a look at Matthew 5, 6 and 7 for some answers.  Is it enough to just believe in Jesus Christ? After all, James 2:19 says that  even the demons believe that there is one true God and because of that they tremble or shudder.  They certainly won’t be entering the Kingdom of God.   Maybe it just isn’t as simple as some today make it seem.  How many times have I heard it said  “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Are we propagating cheap grace? Fire insurance? and numbers? or are we truly interested in making disciples as Christ instructed? It is certainly worth consideration!

Romans 10:8-9 tells us: “8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART “– that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.…”  How if we have done this, do we go from salvation to depart from me, I never knew you?  Have we come to a place or are we coming to a place in the western world where we teach about salvation and then drop the ball when it comes to scantification?  Do professing Christians look decidedly different in their lifestyle than non-believers?

I want to be careful here to explain. I am not talking about looking different by telling everyone they are going to hell because… 9you can fill in the blank0. Nor am I talking about people who go around telling everyone one what they are doing wrong and why in a judgemental and condescending way. That is not how Jesus worked! Jesus met people where they were along His way and He loved them. Did He tell the woman at the well and others about their life, yes. But He did so in a way that compelled her to go back to her people and tell them about this man who told her all about her life and invited them to know Him. That tells me He was gentle and loving because  judgemental and condescending generally does not produce positive results but anger and resentment.

Another possibility is that we in the western world do not understand the concept of Lord.  Most have never been under an immediate autority other than our parent(s).  We may have been under authority at work where we are ‘paid’ to do as we are told. AS a whole, we are very independent and most often whether right or wrong self-governed people.  Submission to someone else is quite foreign to many of us.  Christianity is all about submission to Christ. Paul said follow me as I follow Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1). Christ is our ultimate example of how we are to live our lives.  His life was lived according to what Father God asked of Him.  The mark of a true believer/follower is to be conformed to the image of Christ. Everyday our life should look a little more like His if we are truly His followers.

Perhaps one explanation of the above scripture is that those Jesus would say this to were attracted to the power and miracles but not to the person of Christ. Maybe they imitated His outward actions but did not imitate His personality or inner behavior. Perhaps they lacked the heart connection that comes from a personal relationship with the Lord and were using Him for what He could do for Him rather than having the heart of one who follows and serves.   Could it be that the pull of the world and love of worldy pleasures were just to great for them to lay down or overcome?  How are we doing personally?  Is the pull of the world greater than our desire to become more like Jesus?  Who do we look like?  The world? Or are we being conformed from glory to glory into the image of Jesus Christ?   Preaching to myself here…

Heavenly Father,  thank you for Your grace and mercy to Your people! Lord, thank you that wisdom is available to each of us if we ask You for it. I pray that you will give us a heart for You and to be Christ’s representative’s on this earth; loving others as He loved us and walking out the Fruit of the Spirit with each step we take. I ask that Your Bride will arise and walk differently in this world, that we will be known for our love each other and for others and that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control will dominate our lives and touch the lives of all who are around us.  May there be unity among the body and may revival breakout beginning with the body of Christ. In the mighty and powerful name of Jesus Christ!

May grace and peace be multiplied through all who believe!