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Attempting to obey God and follow Jesus Christ our Lord

Posts tagged “spirituality

God in a Box

One challenge we face is to get God out of the “box,” by which we mean our preconceived restrictions concerning what He can and can’t do. However, the idea of “God in a box” did not originate with us, but with God Himself!

How could a king woo and win a peasant girl’s heart? If he showed up in his limousine, accompanied by his body guards and told the woman that he wanted her for his wife. She would go. After all, he is the king, and what the king wants, the king gets.

Would she love him? Ah, there’s the dilemma. How would the king ever know she was with him by choice, not by obligation?

If, instead, he dressed the part of a peasant, he could let her get to know him. He could court her without any reticence on her part. By the time she knew he was a king, he would be certain of her love for him. They could live “happily ever after.” It would take humility on his part, and patience as well. The result, if he was successful, would be well worth the effort.

We have a God who took this approach.

Israel’s time to leave Egypt had come, but by then the relationship between God and man had become strained. There were so many gods, malevolent in nature. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob seemed no different.

At Sinai, God, the King of kings, called the people near. He was loud; all lightning flashes and thunder. Fire and smoke covered the top of the mountain. Understandably, the people stood afar off and told Moses, “Yyyooou ggo speak to Him. Wwee’ll wwwait here!” (Exodus 20:19)

On the mountain, God told Moses, in essence, “I love every one of you. I want to be with you. If they won’t come to me, then built me a tent – I’ll camp with you.” He humbled Himself, desiring to be more approachable. He “tamed” Himself…put Himself in a “box.”

Work commenced, and soon God was happily situated in their midst. All were invited to drop by for a visit (Exodus 33:7). Instead, whenever Moses went to the tabernacle, the people stood at their tents’ door and watched.

For forty years God led them round and round in the wilderness. He stayed with them, no matter how they treated Him.

In time, the Israelites were situated in the land God promised them. Because they were no longer wandering, a permanent “box” was built for Him – the temple. There He lived for hundreds of years.

This wasn’t close enough for the King, though, so one day He moved into a much smaller “tent” – a human tent. They called Him “Jesus.” It was a perfect disguise. Many loved Him, talked to Him, and touched Him. He was free to interact with them – almost like in the Garden of Eden.

Then came the day of the great unveiling. In John 14:9, Jesus tells His followers, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Tada!

And yet, being close to us in this way had its restrictions. He could only be in one place at a time. It was not quite satisfactory. Jesus left His earthly tent behind…

…and sent His Spirit…

…to live in our tents with us! (1 Corinthians 6:19)

***

I will dwell in them

And walk among them

I will be their God,

And they shall be My people.

(2 Corinthians 6:16)

***

And they shall call His name Immanuel,

Which is translated

God with us.

(Matthew 1:23)

God created us because He loves us. Love cannot be forced, though. How patiently and humbly He pursues us, His heart on His sleeve. He longs for us to know Him intimately, and to love Him deeply.

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In Your Wildest Dreams

Night after night I lay in bed, tears coursing silently down my cheeks. Deep pain burned through my heart, which no longer held a steady beat.

Kathump, kathump, kathump…

Silence…

…when your heart does not beat for several seconds

…is very loud.

I wonder if it’s going to….

tat, tat, tat, tat, tat

Yes it is; I guess this isn’t the end.

It had been a very long and trying month, which came to a most unexpected end.

My mother lay in the morgue, awaiting cremation.

During our ordeal with her heart surgery, followed by complications, the Lord had been closer than I’d ever experienced Him. The Christian radio station I played in my car seemed to have been cued into our  situation, for every time I left for the hospital or to return home, the DJ would say something like, “If you’re struggling today, stay tuned. (Pastor’s name) has a message of reassurance and comfort for you.”

Or songs like “Praise You in this Storm” would be playing. I never felt so “buffered” in all my life.

The vision my (“unsaved”) father had the night she had to be taken back to the hospital was the Lord’s way of forewarning us that she would be going Home.

He was wide awake, praying for her (something he didn’t do), and saw my mom standing in a white robe. A large angel came behind her and enfolded her in his wings until all that could be seen was her head.

“Tam, I felt so comforted when I saw that,” he told me later.

I’m glad you feel comforted, I thought. I know what that means.

My dad’s vision was the first of many, many amazing things that happened during that month. I could fill this entire post with them.

But that is not my focus today! Back to my nightly grief sessions…

After weeks of aching, and nightly anxiety attacks (the goofy heartbeat thing), I told the Lord,

“I can’t do this anymore. To stay in the reality that she is gone hurts so bad. Abba, can we decorate my home in heaven?”

(Earlier in the year I’d talked to the Lord about heaven:

“Lord, the idea of sitting on a cloud in a white nightie, strumming a harp for ages to come; or laying at Your feet in worship for years and years…um…I’m sorry, but that sounds incredibly boring. You know me, I can’t sit idle for very long. I love to be making something new, or learning new things, or going to see new places. I guess I lack the ‘worship gene.’ You’re going to have to put that desire in me and do away with my curious, creative self, ’cause if You don’t, I’m going to be a miserable failure in heaven.”

Not long after that, Steve Berger from Grace Chapel in Lieper’s Fort, TN lost his son in a car accident. Suddenly interested in what heaven might be like, he began to study the topic – then preach it from the pulpit. I highly recommend his sermons. These weekly messages were God’s response to my earlier conversation with Him!)

That night, I began by imagining what Mom was doing at that moment. She’d been there for a while. Was she still standing at the entrance, mouth agape at the splendor? In awe of the majesty of God? Was she skipping and dancing and getting reacquainted with my youngest brother who only lived for three days? With the many children she’d lost through miscarriage?

(She had nine miscarriages before me; I was the first to be born live…that makes me a 10. Eat your heart out, Bo Derrik!)

My thoughts turned to my “room” in heaven.

“Lord, I hate to vacuum. Could I have moss instead of carpet…maybe a little creek running through the living room? I love the sound of babbling brooks.

“Plasterboard walls aren’t much fun. They have to be cleaned. How about if You make the walls out of vines – ooh! – with beautiful flowers that change colors from time to time?

(I was on a roll…)

“Windows…hey! We won’t need glass windows because bugs won’t bug us, and there will be no burglars to burgle. I can have openings and fresh air all the time.

“If the rocks would have cried out in praise, that must mean they have that capability – and everything in the universe resonates…emits sound. Awesome! Would You line my yard with trees and bushes that can play the songs I have in my heart for You, but lack the skill to write on paper so others can play along? We could have nightly jam sessions and sing new songs every day!”

My thoughts turned to the concept of forever:

You’ll hear me ask from time to time, “What do you think you’ll be doing a million (billion) years from today?” I don’t know what that might be, but I know this…It’s going to be AMAZING!

Do you ever wonder what you’re being trained for while here on earth? Death isn’t “Game Over,” it’s the doorway into real life. In 2 Corinthians 5, we read that this mortality (what we consider to be real living) will be swallowed up by life! Now, that’s good news!!

****

“Who wants to go to Epcot Center?” I cheerfully asked two of my sons one morning.

Barely looking up from their schoolwork, one replied, “Uh, no thanks.”

The other said, “Not me.”

“What is Epcot Center?” I asked, a bit confused.

“I dunno. Sounds like a business complex…one of your ‘fun-filled’ field trips for homeschool. No thanks, Mom.”

They had no idea what they were turning down.

They’d never heard of the place, and so hadn’t given it a second thought.

Isn’t this what we can be like when we think of heaven? Having never thought much about it – or worse – believing the lie that it’s the isolation of being perched on a cloud, nighties and harps, singing forever, it’s no wonder we aren’t anxious to get there. (This, by the way, is a more accurate description of hell – isolation, monotony, hopelessness…forever.)

1 Corinthians 2:9 reads, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” When I read this verse, I hear, “Honey, use your wildest imagination…it will be fun for now, but won’t even come close to all I have waiting for you here!

I become thoroughly Homesick when I imagine what lies ahead (however inaccurate I may be) …

…in my wildest dreams!

***********

(Don’t miss the companion post. You can find it here: Now That’ll Wreck Your Day.)

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Is Your Skirt Flapping in the Breeze?

The battle was fierce, and I was losing ground.

Correction, I had no “ground” anymore, and was getting my butt royally kicked by the enemy!

The fight, to the outsider, seems to be a silly one. I hesitate to reveal it for that reason. However, it’s not over and I’ve discovered that the best way to fight is in the light of confession, not the darkness of my mind, so here goes!

Since infancy, I have loved music. It’s what inspires, encourages, and comforts me. I am never more alive than when singing with our worship team as we exalt our Lord on Sundays.

As a young child, play often involved music. My bed became a jeep, the records being played on my phonograph the score for the “musical” in which I was the star. Elvis and The Monkeys were often co-stars in my mini-productions!

My mom had an apparatus for hanging freshly-ironed clothes. It became my microphone stand. I would push one handle of my jump rope onto its top, and use the other handle as my microphone. We had one of the big console TVs that also had a radio in the top on one side, and a phonograph on the other. The record player became my “band” and I would sing along with Chubby Checkers, the Beatles, and a host of others.

In fifth grade, I joined the school choir. The songs I recall from that year were “Both Sides Now” and “Obla Dee Obla Dah.” We learned parts, and I loved it!

In sixth grade, my mom bought me a clarinet so I could join the school band. I quickly removed it from the case, assembled it, and in no time was playing songs on it (before my first lesson!).

By eighth grade I was “first chair first clarinet.” I had conquered the instrument and eager to learn something new.

My brother received a guitar for Christmas, but really had no interest in learning to play. My seventh grade teacher played guitar for a weekly sing-along, so I asked if he would teach me. He kindly gave me one of the lyric packets we sang from, along with chord diagrams. Within six months I could play them all.

On and on it went. By the end of High School, I was playing clarinet, guitar, piano, saxophone, French horn, trumpet, baritone, drums, glockenspiel, and flute. I took private singing lessons as well, and sang with the school choir and the small choral group called “Der Menga Singers.” I’d also written several songs.

Did I mention that I love music? I “knew” it was what God created me to do.

However, very few saw this in me.

My parents were tolerant of my musical pursuits. They had purchased my clarinet, and we later acquired a piano (free). Any of the other instruments I learned to play I got myself, and paid for my voice lessons too.

Mostly they would tell me to quit playing around and do something useful with my life. To follow my dreams was a colossal waste of time and effort, and I was sure to end up living in a cardboard box, they assured me. I had to produce something that people actually needed if I was going to have value to society.

My dad was especially critical of my musical talent. (This is a long story, and one I’ll save for another day.) Suffice it to say that at every opportunity, he tore me down, and ripped my musical heart to shreds in the process.

By the time I was twenty, I began to see the “truth” of their counsel. Add to that one preacher’s well-meant, but theologically inaccurate message about killing the thing we loved the most to prove our love to God. (You can read the story on my blog: I Offered the Wrong Sacrifice) I quit playing instruments, quit singing, and quit writing songs.

Thirty plus years later, I was recording a CD for my nurse friends in Nicaragua. Between takes, I would break down and cry, sure that something “bad” was going to happen if I continued. This went on for three weeks.

During the recording of my last song, I began crying out to the Lord, asking Him for help. What came next took me by surprise.

In a stern voice I “heard” Him say, “Get up!” 

“What?” I asked, stunned.

“I said, ‘Get up!’ I have given you Armor to wear. Do you have it on?”

“Yes, Sir.” I rattled off the various pieces so He’d know that I had them.

“Okay, you have all the components. Then what are you doing hunkered down on the ground?”

“Lord, despite your armor, I’m getting my butt kicked by the enemy. I don’t understand.”

At that moment, a mental picture showed on the screen of my mind. There I was in all my armor, on my knees with my face to the ground…

…my skirt flapping in the breeze…

…with the enemy behind me, kicking for all he was worth!

“I didn’t give you armor for that part of your anatomy. Stand up!”

A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. When I saw this one, the problem became instantly clear.

Standing to my feet, my shield before me, I raised the Sword of the Spirit…the Word of God…and fought this enemy in the power of God’s might.

He fled. What else could he do?

Like me, are you engaged in a battle? Have you put on the armor God provided for our protection? Having done so, are you standing firm…

…or is your skirt flapping in the breeze?

Want more on the importance of our armor? Don’t miss Lions Eat Christians? What?

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I Am Invincible

Until the Lord calls me home, I am invincible. No one, and nothing can take me out before it’s time for me to leave this rock!

More often than not, the person to whom I make the above statement comes back with something like, “Oh, yeah? Well, don’t step in front of a train to see if it’s true.”

Duh! Do I look that stupid? Why do people always want to “rain on our parade?” Who knows?

Think this through with me.

There is much freedom to be obtained through this truth.

We know that every day of our life has been written down – recorded before there was even one of them (Psalm 139). God knows exactly when we are going to die, and how. We won’t suddenly appear in heaven, only to have the Lord exclaim, “What are you doing here? I wasn’t expecting you for many years!”

There is a day appointed to us for our death; and nothing can hasten that day – not cancer, not an accident, not murder…NOTHING!

This means that until that time arrives, I am invincible.

So are you!

Understanding this gives me courage to go places and do things I might otherwise avoid for fear of putting myself in danger.

For instance, I’ve gone on mission trips to foreign countries where “bad things” could happen – even death. The enemy runs rampant in many third-world countries. Weird things happen and it can get really freaky.

Jesus gave us power over all the power of the enemy, though. (Luke 10:19) He also gave us armor (Ephesians 6). If we get our butts kicked by the enemy, it’s our own fault!

Knowing that I’m indestructible gives me the guts to go into homeless camps and walk city streets at night, reaching out to people.

After all, if it’s my night to die I’m going to be killed in a car accident, taken out by some disease, stabbed to death by some maniac…or drop dead of a heart attack in the security of my home.

Whatever the means, I’m dead! It was my time.

Until then – yep! Invincible.

If we are forewarned of imminent death, we can plead with God for more time (I’m sure He doesn’t get this!). He may be gracious and grant our request. There is a case of this very thing recorded for us in 2 Kings. Let’s see what happens when we live beyond the time God has allotted us:

We discover, in 2 Kings 18, that Hezekiah began to reign in Judah when he was 25 years old. He was a great king, and did what was right in the sight of the Lord like David (a very high complement). He tore down all their high places, and destroyed their idols…including the bronze serpent of Moses’ day. We’re told that the Lord was with him; and he prospered wherever he went.

Hezz was a good and godly man; a man of great faith. (2 Kings 19:20).

When he was about 39 years old, though, he became very ill. Isaiah told him to set his house in order, for he would die from his illness. (2 Kings 20)

Hezekiah begged the Lord to let him live, using all the things we say: “Look how I’ve served You. Do You remember how faithful I’ve been to You?” In other words, he told the Lord, “How could You take my life? You owe me.”

God relented, and granted Hezekiah another 15 years. He knew it would come to pass, for God made the day longer to prove His word to ol’ Hezz.

Then we find out what happens when God does things our way:

Having gotten his way with God, no doubt Hezz was feeling his oats, as the saying goes, so when the “good ol’ boys” of Babylon showed up, he gave them a grand tour of all his treasures. You can bet they took copious notes!

They went home and reported all they’d seen, greed set in, and the plan to overthrow Israel was born. Isaiah came to tell Hezekiah that captivity for Israel

In addition, he sired Manasseh during these 15 years (Manny was only 12 when he became king – next chapter).

Manasseh was one of the most evil, vile king to ever reign in Judah, leading the nation back into idolatry – even set up idols in the Temple of the Lord, and shed much innocent blood.

(In 2 Chronicles 33, I’m happy to report that Manasseh came to his senses after being led into captivity with a hook in his nose – OUCH! – repented, and set things right in Jerusalem before his death).

My point is this, though: If this is what lays beyond the appointed time God has for me, no thank you. I don’t want to outlive my usefulness her on planet earth. If I’m only going to do evil if my life is extended beyond God’s plan for me, then I’d rather he take me out!

I believe this story was placed here to show us that God knows when it’s time for us to go Home.

Until then, however, no matter what comes our way, there is a plan and a purpose for our existence. No one can cut our lives short; no illness either.

We are invincible!

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The Day I Died

I have a grave – and a tombstone. It was a long, slow, painful death; but I finally laid down and died!

The process began with a counseling session with my pastor’s wife, Barbara. She is a sweet, compassionate and gracious woman. She’s also very courageous, wading into the mire of people’s lives dressed in the Armor of God and armed with the Sword of the Spirit.

I would tell her about some mistreatment or other that I was experiencing. She would commiserate with me for a few minutes, but then with pursed lips, she would slightly shake her head and say those words I hated to hear,

“What do you think the Lord is trying to teach you in this?”

It was like having a needle “scritch” across a record!

“No, you don’t understand. This is what they did, this is how they are treating me.” I felt hopeless, confused, like I was sinking.

“Tami, is God in control?”

“Yes.”

“Then, while He did not cause this to happen, He allowed it. If He allowed it, there must be something in it for you to learn, don’t you think?”

Ugh! I hated those conversations. In the end, I would see the truth of what she was saying and have to agree that there was indeed something in me that needed to be changed.

Another phrase she often stated was this:

“But it’s not about you; it’s about Jesus.”

This always came on the heels of a confession that I had not received validation from people for whatever it was I thought I was called to do: teach, write, sing, etc.

For instance, I wanted to sing a solo with our worship team. After all, I have a great heart for worship…it’s what I live for. No one else saw my “potential,” though. As a result, I was passed over time and again. That really hurt. I wanted to hear that I was right, they were wrong…then I wanted her to “fix” the problem.

“Is worship about you? Will Jesus be glorified – or will you? What are you really after here?” She asked these questions warmly, her eyes probed the depths of my own.

Barb is great at getting to the heart of the issue. The Lord has given her an incredible gift of discernment and tons of wisdom to go with it.

I finally had to be honest with myself and admit that I wanted to use worship to gain approval and acceptance from others. Ouch! That smarted.

Once I saw my true motive, she would encourage me to talk to Jesus about what was uncovered, give me a chance to repent, and ask the Lord to give me a pure heart.

We went through this process countless times, and about numerous topics.

“We have to learn to die to ourselves. That’s what the Lord is after. Until we are dead to our sin, we cannot be alive in Christ. Life does not revolve around us. We don’t want to promote ourselves. After all, who can we save? If at the end of life, these people know how wonderful we are, but don’t know Jesus, what will happen to them?”

She has a great way of putting things into perspective.

Dead. Hmm. Mentally, I just couldn’t get there…

…so I went into my back yard…

and dug a grave.

Not a big one, but one big enough and deep enough

to bury a photo of myself.

Then I made a tombstone and set it on top.

Now I have a grave. I can mentally see myself as “dead.”

This is not a move I recommend for the faint-hearted.

Jesus was obviously pleased with my desire to live fully for Him, for after that I began to be passed over, ignored, and overlooked almost daily.

It hurt – but then, dying hurts.

Then glorious things began to come my way. He began to use me in prominent ways. He could because my goal was no longer to promote me, but to make His name known.

Sometimes my stinky old flesh rises up from the grave. I can tell when the “old me” is up running around, though. People are repelled. I’m obnoxiously obvious by the rotted stench of my pride.

The process is repeated: confess, repent, revisit the grave, ask for help to make my life about Jesus and not about me.

Being dead has its benefits:

I don’t have to take things personally anymore – it’s not about me.

I can serve without caring if anyone notices – it’s not about me.

I can tell others how much Jesus means to me – He gets the glory

I don’t have to “do more” or “try harder” – what can a dead person do to improve themselves?

Approval comes from the Lord alone. He is the One I seek to please.  (Galatians 1:10 – Do I now persuade men? Or do I seek to please men, or God? For if I still pleased men, I could not be a bondservant of Christ.”)

FREEDOM! The freedom to become the person Jesus created me to be.

The day I “died” was the best day of my life!

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No Absolutes? Are You Absolutely Sure?

How do we determine what is “good,” and what is “evil?” Personally, I tend to consider those things which are pleasant to me, make me feel good, or add to my pile of possessions as “good.” Conversely, I consider those things which hurt, cause me grief, or deplete my store of stuff as “evil.” It’s pretty subjective, when I look at it in this light.

It works for me.

When I am deciding what is good and evil, that makes me the judge. That makes me god.

What happens though, when what I judge to be good or evil clashes with what my neighbor judges to be good or evil? I like T-Birds. You own one and I don’t. I decide that I want to have a T-Bird, so I take yours. Are you going to see it from my point of view and agree that it is good for me to have your car and let me drive off with it? I don’t think so.

We’ve arrived at the place in history where many people believe they are entitled to their own “reality.” They will say, “What’s true for you is not what’s true for me, and what’s true for me may not be what’s true for you.” They believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth.

Really?

Let’s carry that out to its logical conclusion:

If I’m entitled to my own reality, then in my mind, you should not exist. Prepare to die because I’m going to shoot you.

“You can’t do that?”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s wrong.”

“Who says?”

“I do.”

“Well, that’s your reality. My reality is that you should be dead.”

Without a standard by which everyone agrees to abide, we’re in for some serious trouble. Watch tonight’s news and you’ll see what I mean.

If only one person on the planet decided they were going to live according to their own reality, it would be a problem for the few around him or her. Unfortunately, we have an increasing percent of the population who are beginning to adopt this kind of thinking. As a result we see a sharp rise in murder, rape, war, slavery, theft, abuse of every sort.

On what grounds can anyone be convicted of a crime if there are no absolutes?

Is that what we really want?

Long ago, we were given a Book that contains absolutes. We call them the Ten Commandments. How different our world would be if everyone actually lived by them.

…Just sayin’ !

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Fearful Flight

Both doors into the house locked, a suitcase hastily thrown onto the couch, I raced down the hall to gather clothes while I struggled to gather my thoughts. My heart pounded. If I was caught, the scene would get ugly in a hurry.

What lay before us, I had no clue. All I knew was that we had to get somewhere safe.

My children were with my mom, who waited for my call. She originally said that she wanted no part of this operation. “He will hurt us, Tami,” she’d stated, eyes wide with fear.

“Fine. Then you need to know that this morning your grandchildren and I will be on the highway. We will hitchhike if we have to. Mom, we have to get out of here! They are expecting us at the Women’s Refuge at 10 a.m.”

The guilt did the trick, and she relented.

Fighting back tears, nearly overwhelmed, I ran to the boys’ room, yanked open the dresser, and began grabbing clothes. I took the armload and hurried to the living room and dumped them into the awaiting luggage.

Next was the girls’ room. I searched for a stuffed toy for each of them as well. They would need all the comfort they could get.

Back in the living room, I turned, ready to get some things for myself when

- for the first time in my life

- I heard the Lord speak.

“Go get your Bible; the one your mother bought you for Christmas.”

You’ve got to be kidding. I’ve got to get out of here!

I started down the hall when, in my mind, heard the voice again, “Go get your Bible – your One Year Bible.”

I don’t have time for this. Besides, I don’t even know where it is.

“It’s in the girls’ closet, up on the shelf, in the bottom box. Go get it!!”

His voice was insistent – not the, “Hey, this might be a good idea,” sort, but rather the “NOW!” tone a parent uses with a child who’s had it.

I charged back to the girls’ room, opened the closet and took down the boxes. I opened the bottom one as I had been told. There, right on top, was the Bible I was supposed to bring with us.

Wow! This is weird.

On my way down the hall, I heard, “Open it. Read it.”

I stopped, and opened the book up to that date’s reading. Here is what I read:

“The Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says, ‘I am the Lord your God, who punishes you for your own good and leads you along the paths that you should follow.

Oh, that you had listened to My laws! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river, and great waves of righteousness…there would have been no need for your destruction.

Yet even now, be free from your captivity! Leave Babylon, singing as you go; shout to the ends of the earth that the Lord has redeemed his servants.’ “

I crumpled to a heap and sobbed. After a few minutes, I calmly got up, finished packing, and called for my mom to pick me up.

[The above passage is from Isaiah 48 (supposedly "useless" because it is written to the Jews - and in the Old Testament, according to my childhood pastors), and from The Living Bible - a "heretic's" version. The Lord didn't seem to care about either of these issues! In later years, this recollection put to rest the "Battle of the Versions" for me. If God is okay with the Living Bible, who am I to question Him?]

For the next several months, that little Bible became like my diary, only written in advance. Each morning, what I read gave me a heads-up for the day. I was amazed at how specific and relevant the Scriptures were. After all, the scenery may have changed, but God does not. His ways are consistent throughout all the ages.

That was the beginning of “hearing” God, both through my thoughts and through His Word. These are His two favorite ways of communicating with me.

How does He speak to you? I’d love to hear your stories!

Our God is an awesome God. To Him be all glory, honor, and praise.

{Note:  if you are in an abusive relationship, you need to know that this is not God’s will for your life. In fact, the “law of the land” states that abuse is illegal. By staying, you are in violation of the law – as much as the abuser, for you aid and abet their lawless deeds. Seek the Lord’s guidance. He will deliver you!

And, if you know someone who’s in an abusive relationship, please don’t ridicule them or treat them with disdain. Without being in a situation like this, there is no way to describe the fear and worthlessness that person feels. Putting them down won’t help. On average it takes seven times before a woman leaves and stays gone. We were no exception, and were reunited within a few months. Thankfully, the Lord completely and gloriously delivered us from this nightmare a little over a year later.}

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Bewitched

No self-respecting Christian would consider casting spells. After all, this is a practice that is prohibited in the Bible. But are we guilty of this without realizing our error?

What is a spell, anyway? In its simplest form, a spell is the selection of words or phrases spoken with the intent of getting our desired outcome. Sometimes actions and implements are used in conjunction with words. The expected result is that the one casting the spell will achieve their will in the matter before them.

Here’s where prayer gets interesting.

In the past, I have used rote prayers in an effort to “move” God and get what I want, whether it is forgiveness for myself or a change in someone I know. There are “key” phrases I believed needed to be incorporated – and if I used them, the result was supposedly “guaranteed.”

The “Lord’s Prayer” is one I used in such a fashion. Night after night I would chant these words to show God how serious I was about wanting to be His child. I have to say “chant” because there was no thoughtful consideration, really, of what I was saying. I’d heard that this prayer was “known” to put a person in God’s favor.

Another important “key” is that of praying in King James English. Somehow, doing so makes the prayer “holier” and more likely to be heard, or so I believed.

I would never touch an “eye of newt,” or spider webs; nor do I have access to dragon blood. The thought of using such things is distasteful, to say the least.

On the other hand, I have been known to perform certain rituals in an effort to “move heaven” and get what I was asking for. If my ritual was interrupted, I became angry. The whole thing was blown, and I would have to try again later when I was certain of being left alone to complete my rites.

The day the Lord showed me that all of my efforts were designed to manipulate Him,

and were no better than casting spells, I was horrified.

I had to rethink my prayer time and practices.

Going through the Lord’s Prayer, I began to see the words in a new light.

Our Father, which art in heaven - He is no man, and He is not like my earthly father

Hallowed be Thy name - You are holy God and worthy of honor and praise, I am neither holy nor God.

Thy kingdom come - The desire of my heart should be the restoration of all things to His original design – man walking with God

Thy will be done - You know best how to achieve the most blessed outcome for the most people. My goal is to make my life better.

On earth as it is in heaven - His will benefits all, making earth more like heaven. My will benefits me, and can bring hell to those who stand in my way.

Give us this day our daily bread - a reminder that there is nothing I have that did not first come from His generous hand

Forgive us our trespasses - How many times today did I “step on the grass” of activities, words, or thoughts of I know are outside God’s stated will, defiantly ignoring the sign that said “Stay Off?”

As we forgive those who trespass against us - Ooh! Do I really want to be forgiven in the same manner as I forgive those who have crossed my boundaries?

Lead us not into temptation - I can find enough on my own. Have I matured enough that I would be able to stand in the face of temptation? Please help me be strong.

But deliver us from the evil one - I have an enemy. His desire is to rob and steal and destroy. Help me remember this every day in every circumstance. Give me discernment to see when he is at work and wisdom to stand firm when his arrows are aimed against me.

For Thine is the kingdom - You are King of kings, Lord of Lords, and everything belongs to You. I am only a small piece of Your grand Story – certainly not the leading lady!

The power - You are in control at all times. You have placed this power, through Your Holy Spirit, in each of Your children to do Your good will. Let me never misuse this gift, but never let me refrain from calling on Your power when the situation warrants my involvement.

And the glory - You are the only one it is safe to worship and honor. People twist applause into pride and become corrupted. Nothing created can be fully trusted. All will fail; only You can be praised without being altered by the glory.

Forever and ever - What will I be doing a million years from today, Lord? Whatever that may be, amazing will be part of the package. I’ll have only begun to know You then. “Forever and ever” makes me Homesick. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

*********

This prayer is not a chant, an incantation;

it is an opportunity to magnify the Lord – see Him as big as He truly is.

When I pray like this, it corrects my concept of how “big and important” I am in my own little realm. In light of Who He is, my ego is diminished and I am humbled to be chosen as His child. In reality, my life is the inch between my birth and death – which connects with everyone else’s inch on the timeline of history. That puts things in perspective in a hurry!

Don’t misunderstand, I am not opposed to kneeling, or lit candles, or other acts of worship. These are more like setting a mood for an intimate dinner, though; and not to manipulate the One I love. In fact, sometimes I use a prayer shawl. The fabric against my cheeks is like having the Father place my face in His hands and say, “Look into My eyes.” It keeps me focused; but that’s as far as it goes. God doesn’t say, “Oh, look! She has on her shawl. I have to listen and grant her wishes now. That really inspires me to give her what she wants.” Or, “Uh oh! She said, “In Jesus’ name.” Now I have to do what she asked.”

My point is this: Why do I choose the words I speak to Him?

Are they carefully chosen to supposedly “back the Lord into a corner” so He has no choice but to perform that for which I’m asking? Or am I pouring out my heart to a trusted Father and Friend, knowing that His answer will be what’s best for all concerned?

Why do I carry out my rituals? Is my intent to invoke God’s favor and get what I want? Or is my desire to make my time with Him special?

If my motives are anything but love, (1 Corinthians 13:1-4), then I may well be in danger of attempting to bewitch Almighty God.

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Dirty Undies

Mama said, “Put on clean underwear. You wouldn’t want to be in an accident and have dirty ones on, would you?” Sorry, Mom, but I’m old enough to know that in an accident, the undies are the first things to go!

But I don’t want to talk about boxers, briefs, panties or thongs today, but rather to discuss mental “undies.”

Some mornings I get up feeling like 150 pounds of sin on a Popsicle stick. My mind is filled with the things I’ve done to hurt others and myself. Scenes of my yesterdays stream across the screen of my mind.

I was so foolish. What was I thinking? How could I have done such horrible things?

Days like this, I don’t bother to put on any other “clothes,” but run around with my “dirty undies” hanging out for all to see, and stinking to high heaven. If those I encounter don’t notice my attire, I will draw their attention to what I’m wearing:

“There was a time in my life when I would drink until I blacked out. During the blackout I would…” and other cruddy information about myself that they didn’t know.

(Appropriate shock and horror flashes on the face of my audience. Ah, good. They see my dirty undies.)

On other days, I put on “garments” to cover my “grunge” – things like a happy face, effervescence, helpfulness, kindness. Underneath these things, I am aware of the filth I’m wearing, but cover it up with vesture that will be more appealing to others. When I’ve dressed like this I try not to move much – the rustling of my “outer” wear causes little whiffs of the stench beneath to be released.

But God…

(Don’t you love those words – you know the story is only going to get better from here!)

Well, okay, this time it’s Jesus who has something to say on the matter:

You’ve been in my dresser again, haven’t you?

“What’s that, Lord?”

You’ve been in my dresser again. I see that you are wearing My clothes. Don’t you remember? I gave you a beautiful new robe of My righteousness to wear.

I feel silly, embarrassed even. How could I have forgotten? Jesus is the “Clothes horse” for my sin. He bore all my guilt and shame on the cross. Every bit of it hung on Him when He gave His life for me.

In exchange, He gave me His righteousness. He sees me as “holy, blameless, and above reproach.”

I don’t have to wear my old, dirty underwear ever again! In my robe of His righteousness, I am the fragrance of Christ to God. I’m free to live and move and have my being in Him. Move along, nothing foul to smell here!

“If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new is come.”

How about you? From whose “dresser” did you choose today’s outfit?

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Loving Well

“No one has seen God at any time.” This statement was plopped into the middle of 1 John 4, where we are exhorted to love one another. It seemed to be out of place, which begged the question:

“Now, why is that statement here?”

As I meditated on these verses, it became clear that we are to love God, Jesus, and one another. God is not visible to us. Jesus is no longer visible to us, having ascended into heaven long before any of us were alive. One of the purposes for Jesus to come as a man was to give us a clear picture of God. In John 14:9 we read:

“He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

Jesus ascended to the Father, and we were each given His Holy Spirit to live in us. One of the reasons we remain on earth after our salvation is so that we can be, as Jesus was, an example of the Father to the world. We are meant to be His hands, His feet, and His mouth. We are to be functioning as His body to everyone around us.

This truth convicts me as I consider how often I pick and choose who “deserves” my love, and who does not. He loves them all. If I am His body, then who am I to judge the worthiness of another?

If Christians understood their role as His ambassadors, we would be drawing people to our Lord instead of repelling them.

Have we become just so much noise as we champion for our rights

and try to get the world to validate our beliefs?

First Corinthians 13 addresses this very issue. We read,” Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

I can speak eloquently, succinctly, accurately, and with great knowledge and wisdom. If I do this without a heart of love, though, I am just another loud person who is demanding to be heard. To the world, I am nothing. I have nothing to offer, and they would prefer that I sit down and shut up.

The truth is that people won’t care how much I know until they know how much I care.

If my sole concern is that of obtaining their validation for what I believe, then I will fail to fulfill my assignment to love them with God’s love.

Their opinions of my beliefs do not alter the truth of the One in whom I believe. It is a challenge to remember that my battle is not with flesh-and-blood people; it is with principalities and powers. The person with whom I am speaking has been blinded and needs my prayer, not my disdain. Lord, help me remember this.

If it weren’t for Jesus, I would not have had a very clear picture of what God was like. Can others say of me, “If it weren’t for you, I would never have known what Jesus is like?”

Lord, help me to be love to others. Make me as accurate an example of You as is possible while I remain on earth.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

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Do You Want This?

Jesus asked the strangest question to the man who’d had an infirmity for 38 years. The answer seemed like a no-brainer, yet Jesus asked anyway. It was this:

“Do you want to be made well?”

Seriously, Jesus? The guy’s been coming to this “clinic” every day, hoping that today will be different; that the odds will be in his favor and he will be healed. Why on earth wouldn’t he want to be made well?

After I thought about the question for a while, and wondered why Jesus would ask the man to state the obvious, it suddenly became clear that the answer is not as straightforward as one might suppose.

Consider this: for 38 years, this man was released from responsibility. He was unable to carry on a normal life, and had a good reason why. After all, he was infirm. Others had to financially support him. He got attention and pity from those around him.

We are not told the exact nature of his illness, which is good. If we knew what ailed him, we might assume that this is true only for people with his particular problem. Instead it’s left open-ended, giving it greater application. (God is so smart – I am continually amazed!)

This is not as foolish a question as we might think, though. Here are some examples:

Physical Healing:

One day we had a gathering of people at our home. During the course of the day, one of the people in attendance dislocated his hip. He was in excruciating pain. It was not a new injury, but rather something that happened as a result of an ongoing problem.

Also in attendance were two well-meaning students of the “all power has been given to us” persuasion. You could sense them telegraphing to one another, Here’s our chance! I shuddered at what was coming next.

Why?

They did not ask the question Jesus asked.

I knew this particular person, and knew that while he lived in continual pain and would like to be rid of it, he also liked his current lifestyle – no job, no responsibilities, lots of drugs to make him feel better – and an excuse to abuse alcohol to help him “cope.” His honest answer to the question would have been, “No.”

Armed with the authority of Jesus, the two went to this fellow, asked if they could pray for him, then took him by his arms and yanked him to his feet – commanding him to stand “in Jesus’ name.” (I’ve been healed several times from various injuries and illness, by the way. I believe – and have experienced – physical healing. That is not my point!)

He cried out in pain and wilted back to the floor. The two would-be “healers” retired to another room, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.

You didn’t ask the question.

It’s important to know the answer.

Mental Freedom:

This was a very good lesson to me. At the time I was asking Jesus for inner healing.

I began to question the Lord as to why He had refused to act on my request. His response was very candid, “You don’t really want Me to heal this for you.”

“Are you kidding, Lord? Of course I want to be made well.”

He began to show me the things that would be affected if I allowed Him to heal me:

The migraines I suffered from would disappear (That would be good!) - along with the “right” to shut myself away from everyone while I recovered. Oh! Hmm.

I would no longer have an excuse for my bad behavior.

I would have to take responsibility for my actions.

I would not have others’ tender care, attention, and pity for my sorry state.

Oh!

Relief from Tormentors:

He went on to show me why he hadn’t answered  my request to “straighten out” certain of my family members either, and showed me that I secretly enjoyed the “perks” of their bad behavior:

I had a good excuse for my depression and rage. Look what they are doing to me!

I had a “right” – no the responsibility - to expose their bad behavior to others - Please pray for so-and-so. This is what they are doing (lots of unnecessary details given). I was horrified when I discovered that God calls this “gossip”…and hates it. (While I know there is nothing wrong with a prayer partner – the whole world is not my prayer partner!)

I got pity and compassion from others – a lot of attention. Oh, you poor thing. I don’t know how you are able to stand all you go through. You’re such a godly woman. God must keep you so close to His heart for you to be able to bear up under this their ill treatment of you. You’re amazing.

By comparison, they made me look good!

It wasn’t difficult for people to see me as the saint! The other person’s sin was hanging out there where everyone could see it. Mine was not so obvious. I could control my tongue in public. No one was privy to the criticism, judgment, and condemnation I heaped on my “tormentors.” My manipulative skills were so finely honed that few were aware they were being coerced into doing what I wanted. My requests for “prayer” seemed so sincere.

The Lord said, “If I ‘fixed’ them, your own bad behavior would stick out like a sore thumb. Others would see that your family members are only a tiny bit of the problem. The greater issue is your own sinfulness. You have a divided heart. Part of you wants to be released from what hurts, the other part likes having the ‘right’ to sin.”

Well! That was certainly more information than I’d bargained for!

But He was right.

At that point, I had to ask myself some questions. Did I really want healing for myself and for my family? Was I willing to change – to take responsibility for my own life? To become a victor instead of a victim?

Things got bad enough, and my coping mechanisms ceased to be effective. The choice was simple: change or die.

But…God made it clear that to take my own life was not an option. “There is a time appointed for you to come home. I will bring you when that day arrives; you will not get here a moment before. Now, what kind of shape you’ll be in until then…well, I’ll leave that up to you.” (Visions of sitting in a wheelchair with spittle running down my chin came to mind. Oh! I’d never considered that a suicide attempt might fail.) That door closed permanently, never to become an option again!

I counted the cost involved. I would have to give up the “perks.” Could I do this? I realized that no matter what, I had to change. I knew that the Lord had a great deal of work to do in me; and I surrendered my heart to Him.

I’m so glad I did, for that day I became His workmanship. The Greek word is “poema.” Since most of us are word crafters, we can appreciate what that means…every word carefully selected to express what He wants to say to others through our lives. Mmm. Beautiful!

It was a process, and not without accompanying agony, I won’t lie.

But the healing Jesus continues to bring, although painful for the moment, is being completed. He cut me to the quick in some areas – but it’s also the last time I felt misery in the broken places. Some horrible memories were revisited, the anguish intense – and then extinguished forever.

Jesus began to transform me…long before He began work on my “problem” people.

It turns out that they were not the problem. I was.

What about you? Do you really want to be made well? For some it is instantaneous; for others (like me) it is a process that takes time. Few of us arrived at the state we’re currently in overnight. Thought patterns will have to change, relationships will change. Life will never be the same. Peacelovejoy, these can be yours to enjoy…the real deal, nothing out of a bottle of any kind!

With all your heart do you want to be made well?

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Delight Me!

My husband and I were on our way down to the beach  in Crescent City. On a whim I asked, “Abba, would you delight me today?” It seemed like a very audacious request from the God who has given me so much already – but there it was.

I was not prepared for how He would answer my request.

We love this beach. It’s the best place ever for finding seashells…and not just clams or mussels. My favorites are the tiny little ones – only 1/4″ or so in length. I settled myself at the edge of the driftwood and began to collect them.

Soon a woman came along. I like to share my finds and show others where the best spots are, so I stood up and approached her. We soon began talking about what we do, and discovered that we were both authors. More conversation revealed that we were both followers of Jesus, which begged the question, “Where do you  fellowship?” When I mentioned my home church, she asked if I knew her brother – an elder there. Of course I did.

Putting two and two together, I discovered that I not only knew her brother, but that her sister had been the photographer at our wedding. Further, this woman and I had been in band together in high school back in the 70s.

We had a great time talking, and made plans to have dinner together that evening.

Wow! That was so cool, Lord, I thought to myself. I was certainly delighted with this chance meeting.

But there was more to come.

Sitting back on the beach, I talked with Jesus and thanked Him for the many songs He’d given me over the years. I decided to give Him a little concert – sing them back to Him while I continued to gather my little treasures. Soon the sound of music, backed by sea gulls and pounding waves, filled the air.

Two women sat off at a distance, also collecting shells. Bit by bit they moved closer – until they were almost on top of me. Having filled my little jar, I stood to locate my husband so I could join him. When I did, the younger of the two said, “I’m sorry if we’re invading your space. I heard Jesus in your songs, and wanted to hear them better.”

“Gee, thanks for the complement! No problem. I wasn’t leaving because of you. I’ve gathered all I want, and was going to go find my hubby,” I replied.

We began to talk, and soon discovered that we were from the same town, and also sisters in Christ. Twice in one day – that’s awesome!

Double delight, I thought with a smile.

As we were talking, I looked at the ground by my feet and spotted a most unusual barnacle. It looked like it had been formed around a golf ball – and then the ball extracted from the center of the cluster.

Share it with her, I heard in my head, so I reached out to show her my find.

I dropped it into her open palm. Her reaction was completely unexpected. She looked at it, then with her hand quaking, she moved it back to me – then toward herself – then back toward me again.

What on earth? I thought.

After a few minutes, she quietly said, “This means something.

“You see, earlier this year my brother was fishing with two friends over by the lighthouse. A sneaker wave swept all three of them off the rocks. It took them 45 minutes to recover my brother’s body because it was caught on the barnacles underwater. I think God is letting me know that he is okay – there with him. Thank you so much for this gift.”

Triple delight!

The request to be delighted by the Lord rarely goes unfulfilled. I never know what to expect. There are many more stories like this one to tell.

Try it sometime!!

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

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Religion versus Relationship – Don’t Miss the Point (Part 2)

First Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

I don’t know it all, and don’t want others to think I do. Walking with the Lord is a learning curve. The longer I walk with Him, the more He adjusts my thinking to line up with His.

I am grateful for His patience with me.

A few years ago I read a book by Donald Miller entitled, “Searching for God Knows What.” It was an excellent read, and although I didn’t agree with some of what he had to say, he pointed out something so obvious that I’ve missed it all along.

It has to do with “Values Clarification.” Remember when the problem was presented: There are 7 people, and a lifeboat that will only seat 5? Our job was to decide who to kill. The butcher, baker, candlestick maker. You know; who was the least valuable, and therefore should be left out.

How sad that everyone I know (including myself) lives with this sort of mentality.

I see everyone is a threat.

I can’t encourage them, because it might cost me my seat in the lifeboat. (This is a very small nutshell to try to explain the concept – sorry if it isn’t making sense.) It’s why I seek for things to criticize in those whom I perceive as “better,” and find smug self-importance when I meet someone who is obviously “inferior.” Go to the nearest school and watch the kindergartners. This kind of thinking begins very young.

I’ve realized that God designed us so that someone outside ourselves would define us. It was meant to be God, Himself. This was broken at the fall. So now we take our identities to others and ask them to tell us that we’re OK. The problem is that they have the same lifeboat mentality, and perceive us as a threat as well. (This is really over-simplified. Work with me here!). As a result, they are not very willing to affirm us. Believe me, I’ve lived a lifetime of being told what a waste of space I was. I’ve experienced this. Their voices were so loud that it was hard to hear the gentle whisper of God as He told me of His great love for me.

Even the disciples struggled with this as they argued about who would be the greatest.

Jesus tried to tell them that there is no hierarchy in heaven. There’s the Trinity…and then there’s us. That’s it. No “haves” and “have nots.”

Since this was brought to my attention, I’ve been horrified at how quickly – and often – I evaluate others, comparing them to me (I always come out on top, you know!). My Bible calls this sin, and it grieves me to know how entangled I am in this belief. It is my continued, fervent prayer that God will work this out of me.

In the meantime, it has seriously changed my attitude about a lot of things. I can let go of the need to defend myself, knowing that we are all a work in progress, and God is still changing our hearts. There is more freedom in this than I ever thought possible. I don’t have to try to work myself to the top. As a result, I have been able to reach out to others in love, helping them to achieve their goals as we all strive to reach a lost and dying world for Christ.

The ministry of Jesus was spent seeking broken humanity and making them whole. He disregarded our conventions of who’s in and who’s not, and loved them, touched them, healed them. That’s my goal.

I want to leave the fragrance of Jesus wherever I go.

This reply was given in response to a comment I received on a blog I posted in 2009.  I could have taken it one of two ways: as a sharp criticism to which I would have to defend myself to the death; or as an opportunity to allow God to help me clarify my thinking.

This is a brand new way (to me) of looking at people, one I like much better than the old, critical one. Therefore I chose to see it as an opportunity for growth, instead of as a threat. We are, after all, part of the same Body. It didn’t seem right that he would be shooting himself in the foot on purpose! …pulling out a splinter, maybe!

Maybe we could adopt this approach when we disagree with a brother or sister in Christ, instead of shredding them to bits. A lot gets lost in the translation when we’re dealing with the written word – no body language, no intonation. It’s easy to get “misheard.” Could we ask for clarification before we read between the lines?

Let’s live love and not just hold it as a nice theory.

The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon You, and give you peace.

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Religion vs. Relationship – Don’t Miss the Point (Part 1)

My personal history is similar to that of the Pharisees. I was so busy with my religious checklists (keeping the law) that I missed the Savior. I did not have a relationship with Him, but I was certainly religious about Him.

For instance, the Lord’s Prayer was my checklist for “conversations” with God (a monologue rather than a dialogue, the way I did it.) Prayer time was when I presented Him with my “to do” list. On top of that, I was very critical and judgmental of those who did not take their religion seriously.

Like the Pharisees, I had missed the point.

I missed the most important list of all, probably because it’s so short. We find it in Matthew 22:36-40. Jesus states that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. The second greatest is to love our neighbor as ourselves. I had all the appearance of a good Christian, but I lacked love…and love happens in relationship.

Something I discovered is that I couldn’t “work up” love for others – especially certain groups of people who broke the Scriptural laws I tried to live by. To me, they were the enemy, standing in the way of what I thought ought to happen.

I’ve watched “them” dismantle the country I love one brick at a time. I tried to show them the error of their ways using Scripture, but my loveless words were a blaring trumpet and crashing cymbals in their ears. Not one of them saw a need to change “parties” and follow my rules.

I despised them for their ignorance.

Over the past several years, though, God has been drawing me into a relationship with Him. He’s been inviting me to get to know Him, not just know about Him. The closer I come to Him, the more things change in me – and not because of my own efforts to be good. The changes come naturally.

As I hear His heart for the lost, compassion for their blindness begins to grow. As I become more aware of His presence, I don’t want to do things that would displease Him. By spending time with Him and hearing Him speak to me, I learn that He is not angry with me but loves me with an everlasting love – that He is pleased with me.

To realize that I am secure in His love has allowed me to grow in grace and love for others. I don’t need to prove – or believe – myself better or more deserving of heaven than another person (a lie I believed most of my life. Which of us “deserves” anything from God?).

I don’t see Christianity as a competition anymore.

This kind of growth did not come from all the check-lists, bullet points, and “10-steps to Christian maturity” programs that I’ve followed for over 40 years. It’s new to me, and very noticeable to others, and began when I left off being merely “religious” and began to pursue a relationship with the Lord.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34 We have to know His love before we can truly love others.

I can know all the rules in the Bible and live by them, yet not know the Author of the Book.

Then I will have truly missed the point!

I will learn from Him best through His Word, as the Spirit prompts me to surrender the unholy parts of my heart to Him. The sinful areas are revealed as I study His Word.

This is not a call to dump the Bible and “feel the love.” To dismiss our Bibles is to silence the Lord’s most powerful way of communicating with us.

Does this make sense?

It is my heart’s desire to call people away from empty, vain “religiosity” and to an intimate relationship with our Lord.

Don’t miss the point!

Don’t miss Part 2 on Wednesday!

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Psst – There’s No Lifeboat!

There isn’t a lifeboat. Yet, we live as if one exists. Every day we compare ourselves to those around us trying to determine which one is better – them or us. Who deserves a seat on the boat? Who does not?

For instance, as a writer it’s easy to fall into the trap of reading other author’s pieces and then pick them apart (a sure sign that I’m feeling threatened by their skill). Or of rejoicing that I’m obviously a much better writer. (Phew! I’m safe)

Everything is fine when I believe that I have more to offer than someone else in a given situation. The minute it’s apparent that I’m lacking in one area or another compared to that person, I immediately begin to look for a flaw or shortcoming in him or her so I can feel secure again.

I call this “Lifeboat Theology.”

Each person is ranked by social standing, popularity, appearance, etc. No “ladies and children first” thinking here. The “important” people are given a seat first, then those who are rich or famous, then the “beautiful” people. The average working Joe and the bum off the street don’t stand a chance.

What a blessed day it was when I realized that there is no lifeboat in God’s kingdom.

The ground at the foot of the cross is level,

and there’s room for everyone

regardless of who we are or what we’ve done.

(Check out Galatians 1:28)

When I finally understood this, everything changed.

Whereas in the past I felt threatened by anyone younger, more talented, more gifted, or more accomplished, now I understand that each person has a unique role to fill in this world. I cannot take someone else’s position and they can’t take mine.

Each person has been specifically outfitted to fulfill his or her calling.

Knowing that my “place” is secure, I can extend a hand to those around me. I am free to encourage, support, inspire, and even equip them so they can do what they were created to do, without the fear of being bumped off the boat and left to drown.

Even better, the Bible states that God doesn’t call many who are wise, mighty or noble, but chooses the foolish, the weak, and the base.

Why?

So that no one can boast about how great he is, how he’s a “self-made” man in the presence of God (1 Cor 1:26-29).

I guess you know which category that puts me in. Yep, I’m the weak ninny who messes up all the time!

God’s view is very different than ours.

Jesus said that we will know truth, and the truth will set us free. That certainly holds true for me in this instance. I’ve given away my life vest, and now look around for folks whom I can help fulfill their own calling – without the fear of losing mine.

Even when things come up and I appear to have been displaced by someone “better,” I can relax. Displacement is merely a re-direct from the Father. A new way is opening for me with adventures I’ve never dreamed of.

Yeah, life is definitely more peaceful, now that I’ve dropped my “Lifeboat Theology!”

Originally published 4/13/13 on Lessons by Heart

Stand Guard!

You and I live in a war zone every day of our lives. The fight is for our minds. Whoever controls our mind, controls our life. It is for this reason that we are told in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take every thought captive. We’re also told in Romans 12:2 to be transformed. How does that happen?

By the renewing of our minds.

What does it mean to “renew our mind,” though? Well, it’s a fancy way of saying

“Change what you believe and what you think about.”

Before I even wake up in the morning, all sorts of negative thoughts begin to crop up. I know because when I am awakened, they’re already in full swing…usually aimed toward my husband.

Did I go to bed angry with him? No.

Has he done anything in those early moments to tick me off? No.

Yet, there they are.

If I’m not careful, I can bite his head off before he’s had a chance to say, “Good morning.” That’s just wrong.

During the day I have to watch my thoughts as well. In a heartbeat, I can be off down one memory lane or other and mentally “duking it out” with someone I haven’t seen in years.

A couple of years ago, we went to the ocean. There’s a beach in Crescent City that we like to visit. It’s loaded with shells. I’d been sitting on the sand, picking up tiny shells for about an hour when I sensed the Lord ask me what I’d been thinking about.

His question caught me off guard.

I was surprised to realize how I’d spent my time.

I reviewed all the people that had been on my mind – this one with their problems, that one who’d said something hurtful. In all, I realized that I’d spent a lot of time mulling over dozens of folks. I said as much to Jesus.

“Hmm. How are you feeling? Are you rested and joyful?” He asked.

“To be honest with You, I’m tired and want to take a nap!”

He pointed out that it takes a lot of mental energy to allow my mind to wander aimlessly in this way.

He was right.

Too often I expend excessive amounts of energy on thoughts that are not helpful.

After all, once I get someone else’s problems “all figured out” – what’s changed?

Not a blessed thing. It wasn’t my issue to sort out in the first place. I don’t have all the information necessary to straighten out a situation in the second place. (Not to mention the fact that he or she wasn’t even there to hear my brilliant solutions!)

What a worthless use of my time – and my mind.

It drags down a cheery disposition; robs me of peace and joy as well.

Philippians 4:7.8 gives a list of things to focus on – whatever is good, pure, right, just, lovely, virtuous, etc. When I turn my mind from what’s wrong with the world to one of these topics, my countenance changes. I feel light, free, and enjoy life again.

This works, I’ve learned from experience. As soon as I switch from thinking negative thoughts to thinking about Jesus and the blessings I have been given, the storm clouds of gloom, depression, and anger lift and the sun shines brightly all around.

Yes, we are in a battle – and it’s a war for our minds. We have an enemy whose desire is to rob, steal, and destroy our lives. He will, if we let him.

Jesus gave the authority we need to take charge in Luke 10:19 – the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions (and He’s not talking about reptiles and bugs here!), and over all the power of the enemy.

He’s given us the armor,

He’s given us the authority.

He’s won the victory,

and given us the honor of reclaiming territory.

We must guard our minds!


Shadowland – An Amazing Journey

The shadows lengthen, the sun is obscured by the cliffs on either side of the path. The air is heavy, our breathing labored. I’ve been in this place before. I recognize the terrain, the sights and smells. I hear the rustle of Death’s robe as he follows at a distance. His breath quickens as he draws near in anticipation of his next victim.

We have entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

How I despise this part of life’s journey.

And yet, there is much to be seen and learned in this place if those attending the sojourner pay attention. For it is also a place of comfort, of hope, and the nearness of Jesus for those who have entrusted themselves to His care.

This will be a short trip this time, I think. My dear friend – more like a father to me than my own ever was – has bone cancer. He’s fading quickly.

Thoughts of the loss of another beloved one in this place scratch at my raw emotions like a claw. It was just eight years, one month and six days ago that my mother’s journey through this valley ended.

At the same time, sweet memories of the last trip lay play like wispy mist while we walk. We talk of those times, my friend and I. We remember dreams of an angel enfolding Mom in his wings, of watching her play with “baby angels” while she was recovering from her surgery. The outline of a Lion in the picture at the end of her bed (Aslan standing guard!).

I tell him of her decision to discontinue the medication she was on – it wasn’t working; her conversation with the doctor,

“Yes, I am ready to die.”

We talk about how I watched her make the last knot in her “needlework,” poke the needle into the pincushion, and smooth out her last bit of work during drug-induced sleep; the opening of her sightless eyes minutes before she left us – the gift of a final farewell to her family….and the feather that fell from a bird-less sky the afternoon she left us.

It was a painful time, a fretful time, and yet a time of great hope.

It seems that we’re very nearly on the same path once again. I’ve seen that stump before, and that gnarled tree over there, too.

This all sounds so somber and heavy, to tell it in this way. In some ways it is. Thankfully, the separation won’t be forever, though.

For my friend, it is an adventure. “Wow! I’ve never died before. I wonder what it will be like? This is exciting!” was his joyous response when he was given the news. Only someone who knows where they are going can react like that.

And he knows! With barely a backward glance at those of us who will remain on earth, he’s ready – eager to be reunited with his wife. They’ve been separated for two long years.

(She’s been keeping my mom company – I’ll bet the two of them have made quilts for each of our homes from the finest fabrics heaven has to offer, and painting pictures to grace our walls.)

We’ve talked for many hours about what lies beyond the gossamer-thin veil that separates this world from the next. We’ve spun some exciting stories about things we hope to do and see. The most amazing activity we long for is our first face-to-face visit with Jesus Himself. Oh, what will that be like? we wonder.

Our favorite topic is: What will we be doing a million years from today? We will certainly be doing something! The Bible says we will be like Jesus when we see Him. That’s AWESOME!

Did you ever read in the Bible about the stuff that Jesus did after He rose from the dead?

He ate and drank. He could be touched. He was reunited with those He loved.

He flew! Right up into the atmosphere without a jet pack or oxygen tank.

My personal favorite is:

POOF! Now you see Him inside a locked room.

POOF! Now you don’t!

I’m gonna have fun with that one for about the first hundred years.

Expect me!

Yeah, I hate this valley, but it isn’t so bad when I remember that separation will only be for a little while. We will see one another again. Because we know Jesus, we will never see Death, but pass from life to life.

The Bible describes it as

“Mortality being swallowed up by life.”

Now, that’s good news!

Thank You, Jesus, that You have not left us without hope. I will dearly miss my friend, but I’m so thankful that I will not “lose” him. I’ll know right where to find him, and that’s with You.

Thank You for Your comfort and support as we walk through this valley. I’m so glad that it’s only the “shadow” of Death, for Death cannot touch those who belong to You.

I’m glad that we will live forever with You – and never have to deal with death, sickness, sorrow, guilt, shame, or evil forever after. Now that is good news indeed!

Originally published 4/12/13 on Lessons by Heart

Grace – An Object Lesson

Meet "Grace" - my 12-string guitar.

One Monday morning, while talking with Jesus, I blurted out, “Okay, I’m not going to beat around the bush anymore. May I have a twelve-string guitar?”

When I’d checked at Bernie’s Guitar earlier in the year I told the owner that I wasn’t a professional, and didn’t ever expect to be. I wanted a guitar that sounded good but wasn’t very expensive. He recommended a Sammick he had on sale for less than $300. I told my husband, Wendel about it on Wednesday, and he suggested that I check to see if it was still available.

The next day I stopped by – only to discover that Bernie’s was out of business.

I had my answer, and it was “no.”

Cool.

I was willing to accept that.

On Friday morning at 7 a.m., an old friend of the family, Jerry, called me.

“Hey, Tami, I was wondering – I have a twelve-string guitar. I think you were the last one to play it about ten years ago. Do you want it?”

My initial reaction was to say, “No, that’s okay.” Then I remembered that I’d asked Abba Father for one. Here was the answer to my request, so instead I said, “Jerry, I’d love to have that guitar.” We made arrangements to get together later that day so I could pick it up.

Now, a long time ago I discovered that shopping is the fastest way to become discontent with what I have – so I don’t browse through catalogs or stores  just for the fun of it. I price things when I intend to buy, otherwise I avoid this activity like the plague!

Therefore, when I arrived and Jerry had the guitar laid out on the table, all cleaned, polished, and outfitted with new strings, I had no idea what I’d been given. I’d expected a Yamaha or something like it. I knew Jerry and knew it wouldn’t be a piece of junk, whatever it was. I looked at the name on it and said, “A Martin. Nice.” I was clueless!

He gave me the paperwork for the instrument. It required special care to keep it in good working condition – humidity, constant temperature, all that. My head swam with the instructions I was given. It seemed like a bit of an overkill. It was, after all, just a guitar.

When I got home, I pulled out the paperwork to see what exactly I needed to do. On the first page was the purchase information – date, owner, and –gulp– price!

There are only two things I own that cost more than that guitar – my car and my house.

I was speechless. Tears began to flow, and I went into the kitchen, picked up a washcloth and started cleaning out my cupboard. (It’s a thing I do when I’m overwhelmed and don’t know what else to do.)

I went back to the living room and looked at the guitar again. “Lord, I don’t know what to say. This instrument is more than I need. I don’t play well enough to merit such a guitar – and I certainly don’t deserve it. I’ve done nothing to earn it.  Thank You; but I have to ask ‘Why?’”

He answered with a single word: “Grace.”

Although I knew the definition of grace: undeserved favor, I’d never really comprehended it. This was the best object lesson in the world.

The rest of the day was spent going from cleaning the kitchen like crazy, to looking at that guitar and tearfully expressing my gratitude to my heavenly Father for His generosity, and back to cleaning again!

A couple of days later, I sensed the Lord say, “I’m so glad you like the guitar. Yes, you understand grace in a way you haven’t in the past. However, I’ve given you a far more valuable Gift – also a gift of grace. Do you value this Gift in the same way?”

I was stunned, cut to the quick. Here I was, an emotional wreck over an instrument. I’d never been undone like this when I considered the Gift God gave me in His Son. I certainly got it now!

The death of Jesus was given to open the way for me to have an intimate relationship with God. His resurrection is my sure hope that because He lives, I will too. There is nothing I can do to earn or deserve it. After all, if something was required in exchange, it would no longer be a gift, but a purchase.

The Bible says, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9) There’s no place for a superior attitude toward those who do not believe. Even the very faith by which we believe is His present to us.

Grace! What a beautiful gift.

Originally posted 4/7/13 on Lessons by Heart


Review the Basics

Review the Basics
Let us remember,

the basics of truth;

the foundation of

all we are to do.

Just as good athletes,

review basic skills;

so also in faith,

to go deeper still.

Do not grow weary,

or bored of what’s true;

for all is built on,

what God has shown you.

As long as we have,

our days, may they count;

let His light burn bright,

so lost become found.

Each time we reread,

the truth of His word;

He shines brand new light,

on all that is heard.

The deeper truth’s known,

the stronger we stand;

discerning what’s true,

live life as He’s planned.

(Responding to 2 Peter 1:12-15)

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are unchanging and faithful to what You have promised. Thank You that as we choose to spend time with You – in Your word, in worship, in prayer – You continue to reveal more of Yourself unto us. Forgive us for allowing the weights of the world to make us weary, and help us to hand all our burdens to You, so that we may stand strong in Your truth. May our lives lived in constant pursuit of You, lead those who are looking, to the light of Your truth. Thank You that there is always more to learn, and that You love to further illuminate our understanding of who You are and how deeply You love each of us. All praise to You, our Purpose and Provision. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Action Gives Weight to Words

Action Gives Weight to WordsBe quick to listen,

and be slow to speak;

slow to get angry,

turn to God and seek.

Man’s anger will not,

bring a righteous life;

God does not desire,

such meaningless strife.

Get rid of all filth,

evil that prevails;

humbly trust His word,

His truth never fails.

We must not just listen,

we must also do;

all that He asks us,

we must see it through.

Faith without action,

is not faith at all;

empty words will lead,

to destructive fall.

For when we follow,

God’s word as He asks;

we find true freedom,

our blessing that lasts.

(Responding to James 1:19-25)

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that we are called to be more than just hearers of Your word. Thank You that You ask and equip us to put our faith in action. Forgive us for our empty words and our inactivity, and teach us how to live a life that is continually built on setting our faith into action. Show us what You desire from each of us, and help us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, and persistent in trusting in Your promises. May our lives be led in such a way that our words, Your word, holds weight in the world around us, because we are living out our faith with action. May many come to know You through our active obedience to all that You ask. Let Your light shine bright in each of us. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

A.W. Tozer : Testing the Spirits

Many tender-minded Christians fear to sin against love by daring to inquire into anything that comes wearing the cloak of Christianity and breathing the name of Jesus. They dare not examine the credentials of the latest prophet to hit their town lest they be guilty of rejecting something which may be of God. They timidly remember how the Pharisees refused to accept Christ when He came, and they do not want to be caught in the same snare, so they either reserve judgment or shut their eyes and accept everything without question. This is supposed to indicate a high degree of spirituality. But in sober fact it indicates no such thing. It may indeed be evidence of the absence of the Holy Spirit. Gullibility is not synonymous with spirituality. Faith is not a mental habit leading its possessor to open his mouth and swallow everything that has about it the color of the supernatural. Faith keeps its heart open to whatever is of God, and rejects everything that is not of God, however wonderful it may be. Try the spirits is a command of the Holy Spirit to the Church. We may sin as certainly by approving the spurious as by rejecting the genuine. And the current habit of refusing to take sides is not the way to avoid the question. To appraise things with a heart of love and then to act on the results is an obligation resting upon every Christian in the world. And the more as we see the day approaching.


You Can Make Anything (well almost)

I know people are going to ask why I posted this but I enjoy learning and it is fascinating to see science become useful to ordinary people. Now we no longer have to rely on others to do a lot of things that we would like to do. Think of all the different ways this technology can be used for good. Like anything though it can be used for evil as well. God gives us this wonderful ability, we must use it for His purpose. God bless you and challenge yourself to always consider how He can be presented and how we can use the products that are new to spread His word and to teach our children!


What Did You Give Up When You Accepted Jesus?

Fear, worry, hatred, loneliness, sorrow, obsessions, and death! He took all my burdens on Himself and gave me life, hope, peace, companionship and so much more. I give thanks everyday for the opportunity that He gave and the sacrifice He made. No treasure on earth could possibly compare with the gifts that He has already given me. Thank you Jesus for accepting me as your own, thank you for the sacrifice that you made. 


Prayer Request from Pastor Kerry Mauldin

I just got a call from Julie Norman. She and Ed are good friends in Phoenix. We have ministered together for years, doing Special Touch camps for those with disabilities, and elsewhere… Ed has been a quadraplegic for over 35 years because of an accident when he was 18.
Ed has been thru many tests of life and death especially the past 5 years, but in Sept we ministered together at Arizona Special Touch, his first time to minister in a long time.

Julie shared that Ed got an infection that has gone septic and progressed to where he is now in ICU with blood clots and many challenges….
She called and asked if I could get people to pray! SO PLEASE PRAY!!

Especially that Ed will know so clearly the PRESENCE OF THE LORD. He is not able to communicate, but is very restless….
“In His presence is fullness of joy” and His peace will settle deep inside Ed and he will not be anxious…
Thank you for praying! Many of you know Ed! He so loves the Lord and is such a wonderful Brother and so blessed at sharing God‘s Word!!

Melody and I are home 2 days now from India and Dubai, UAE. We are so thankful and so blessed to look back at God’s grace and the things that were accomplished in the villages, for Gods glory!!

Thank you all for praying and standing with us!! We go back to India, Lord willing, Around Feb. 15.

With so much thanks and prayers,

Kerry and Melody

Mauldin Ministries
PO Box 140402
Broken Arrow, Ok 74014


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