Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A New Heart Understanding

The Christmas season is definitely upon us and as we celebrate with all of the lights and fancy decorations and gifts and packages, many people will reflect on the Christ Child.  The One whose birth is recognized on December 25th.  We see nativity scenes regularly and there are singing Christmas trees and carolers and concerts.  Many children participate in Christmas programs at churches and schools all over the country.  When the telling of the birth of Jesus Christ is done in whatever form it is a prime time for His invitation to us to believe and receive Him as redeemer.  He is called the Prince of Peace, and Emmanuel which means "God with us."  The story goes on further through His life of ministry and then His sacrificial death, burial and resurrection.  He then ascended into heaven and the 3rd "person" of the Trinity was given to us on earth in a new way.  Fantastic!  Where is this going?
After the message of Jesus is preached or brought before a group of people, the invitation is often stated, "If anyone would like to invite Jesus into their heart, the altar is open."  Of course that is not the exact wording used every time by every minister of the Gospel, but the part that gets me is, "Jesus into ... heart."  I'm not saying that anyone using this terminology is wrong, but where is that in the Bible?  We laugh at young ones who've just been taught about this when they ask how Jesus got into their hearts, but really is that such a silly question?  I don't think so.  After working as an ICU nurse with cardiologists, I've gotten to know a little bit about hearts and that analogy, if taken literally, is just nonsense!
I don't know where that phrase came from and I'm not going to look it up.  Wikipedia is not my source of revelation.  At this point, I'm not even going to say that the origin of the phrase is important.  As I was doing devotions with my children this morning, Holy Spirit gave me a new look at this phrase.  Interestingly I never said this phrase, but reading John 3:1-21 made me contemplative.  As Nicodemus asked Jesus if he was to climb into his mother's womb to be "born again," I began to contemplate the terms we use to become, "saved."
First of all, the heart is a muscle.  It is a unique muscle with its own kind of tissue, cardiac muscle.  The cells are different from any other muscle type in the body.  It's function is to pump life to the body in the form of oxygen (working with the lungs) and pump death from the body in the form of carbon dioxide.  Because of its design, no other muscle in the body can complete that function.  Well, that is amazing!  So if I ask Jesus to come into my heart, I'm asking for life to come in and death to leave?  That is one way to look at it.  The Bible says that no one can come to the Father except through the Son.  There is no sacrament, human or anything that can replace Jesus.  John 14:6 Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
The part that really intrigued me the most this morning, though, was not the physical heart.  It was the heart shape as one would cut out and give to someone on Valentine's Day.  In this case, a heart is a symbol for love.  So in other words, maybe we could be asking Jesus to, "Come into my love."  Woah!  Now that stirs up so much new perspective for me.  The first and greatest command is to, “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”  Mark 12:30 NLT.  So if I were to have Jesus come into my love, I’m inviting Him in so that I can love Him with all of my being.  I’ve heard of Jesus calling us to come into His love, but us inviting Him to come into our love is mind-blowing.  It is a big thing to do.
My son shared something that he heard on the radio from Doctor Greg Laurie.  I can’t give more reference than that because I don’t know when it was and this might not be the premise he was teaching on either.  From Revelation 3:20 Jesus said, “ I stand at the door and knock.”  Well if we let him in to our living room and then leave him there alone while we have dinner in the other room, we are letting him in to our dwelling, but not into our love.  He wants to come in and dine with us and have a relationship with us.  He wants to come into our love.  When we go to the store, if we leave Him in our living room, we are not bringing His light with us either.  Now think of this… when we add His love to our love, it is magnified and if I have Him in my love, my actions and attitude changes toward everything.
Some people might think it strange if they, “ask Jesus into their love,” and don’t feel anything.  Yes, there is such a thing as love at first sight, but not everyone experiences that.  In the “good ole days” sometimes a marriage was for convenience or arranged by someone.  The Janette Oke book, Love Comes Softly, has a great example of that.  Love grows as a relationship is built.  There are many people who become born again who feel God’s love so strongly that upon their decision, they do feel love toward Jesus.  Others (I would classify myself here) have followed Christ since childhood and do not recognize that love right away.  Still others just don’t feel anything.  I told my kids this morning that I loved them from the moment I knew they were growing inside of me, but the more time I spend with them the more I love them.  It is the same as we develop a relationship with Christ Jesus.  The more we worship, the more we read the Bible or Word of God, the more we pray, the more love we feel toward God.
I John 1:9 says, “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  John 14 21 says, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me.  And because they love me, my Father will love them.  And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”  So in order to obey His commands, I need to know them.  To know them I need to read them and meditate on them.  Knowing Him is loving Him and loving Him is knowing Him.
I’ve asked Jesus to be my Savior and I’ve asked Him, “into my heart.”  I’ve confessed with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead as Romans 10:9 instructs.  Today, I want Jesus to come into my love.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Matthew 3:1-5  1 In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2 “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
3 The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’” 4 John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. 5 People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John.

Jesus went to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil according to the Gospel of Matthew.  He fasted for 40 days and nights prior to his temptation.  He became empty of fleshly provision.  He was physically alone, he had no “creature comforts,” not even food.  Another interesting part about Jesus in the wilderness is that He was led there by the Spirit. 
Hosea 2:14 says, “But then I will win her back once again.  I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.”  Another translation for desert is wilderness.  Noticing that verse 14 is not the beginning of the story especially when it starts with, “But then.”  First the sinful one was stripped of fleshly provision and all of the filth that she clung to.  Then He would allure her to the wilderness.  Lead her to the wilderness.    This unfaithful one did not have anything to cling to in that setting but the one who drew her there in the first place. 
What is the significance of the wilderness?  I believe the wilderness in these 2 settings is a place of abandon.  It is a place of allowing nothing to interfere with communion between the one doing the alluring and the allured.  When John the Baptist was in the wilderness, it could be said that he lived a simple life.  He did not have worries of clothes and food and family.  He ate locusts and wild honey.  He cried out to prepare the way of the Lord.  Is it a similar type of abandon that John had reached when he began to cry out.  Could he have been a voice crying out in the city with gold rings and braided hair and fine linens?  The question is rhetorical as I don’t have the answers.
Consider this of your personal walk with the Lord and the things He has called you to.  As I worship, as I intercede, I must come to the end of myself and press in to Him.  As Jesus was fleshly empty, He was prepared to overcome temptation.  As the bride in Hosea was stripped of everything and in a wilderness place, she was restored and trouble was turned to hope.  John the Baptist called out from that place, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”  I believe God is ready to release a breakthrough, but it will come from that place of wilderness - that place of abandonment within His Bride. 
I may not quote this properly, but the way I heard an evangelist recently was that we need intercessors.  She said that there are many who just want to be on the worship teams, but not many craving to be intercessors.  I would have to agree with that statement in this, I am now an intercessor, but it was not always that way.  I desired to be a musician and became a worshipper.  Through the connection with God that I found in my worship, I cannot help but be an intercessor.  I crave the connection, but it doesn’t always come in a musical form.  There are sometimes when all of that is stripped away and all I have is a heart’s longing to connect with I AM.  The Spirit of God groans within me.  It is from that intimate place of wilderness where the breakthrough comes.
Sometimes, the whole idea of wilderness or desert sounds intimidating or like gall.  I would rather not endure the stripping away of fleshly provision.  Fasting for 40 days seems insane.  Having my shame exposed to the community seems unbearable.  Even still, whatever it may look like, I want to be in that place of undistracted devotion.  I want to be in that place of crying out.  I don’t want to walk away downcast like the rich young ruler who just heard that he must give his possessions to the poor to be saved.
Come, Lord, Jesus!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Well-Maintained Garden

Gardening and Jesus are 2 of my favorite topics and I’m glad to share my heart on both.
The Shack, by William P. Young, is a book that some call controversial.  I know that the Christian bookstore where I use to live refused to sell it and gave lectures to anyone who asked about it.  No matter the feelings about the book, I will say that I was deeply moved by the book and there is a particularly interesting few passages that I would like to share with you.  I won’t share any “spoilers,” so if you haven’t read it and plan to, I don’t think I will ruin the book for you.  If you’ve read the book, I’m sure you’ll recognize this portion as well.  If you don't plan to read the book, I hope you at least glean from these portions what God desires for you to glean.
p. 128 the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs.  “Mack concentrated instead on staying to the walkway.  As he rounded the trees, he saw for the first time a magnificent garden and orchard somehow contained within a plot of land hardly larger than an acre.  For whatever reason, Mack had expected a perfectly manicured and ordered English garden.  This was not that!
It was chaos in color.  His eyes tried unsuccessfully to find some order in this blatant disregard for certainty.  Dazzling sprays of flowers were blasted through patches of randomly planted vegetables and herbs, vegetation the likes of which Mack had never seen.  It was confusing, stunning, and incredibly beautiful.
p. 133 3rd paragraph.  “… Sarayu thrust a hand shovel at Mack, picking up the rake.  ‘To prepare this ground we must dig up the roots of all the wonderful growth that was here.  It is hard work, but well worth it.  If the roots are not here, then they cannot do what comes naturally and harm the seed we will plant.’”
p. 138 3rd and 4th paragraph.  “…Mackenzie … this garden is your soul.  This mess is you!  Together you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart.  And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process.  To you it seems like a mess, but to me, I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive – a perfect fractal. … He looked again at their garden – his garden – and it really was a mess, but incredible and wonderful at the same time.”
Keep these thoughts in mind as I continue. 
Another book that is “controversial” in some Christian circles is Song of Solomon or Song of Songs.  My translation of the title … ”The Best Song Ever.”  Regardless of what people think of this book, it is still included in the whole of the Word.  There are many parts of the Bible that are less fun to read like Numbers, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel.  Just because a part of the Bible is “boring” or difficult to understand, it is not irrelevant.  God gave us the whole thing, so we need all of it.
There are several thoughts on the book of Songs.
1.       Literal – between a man (possibly King Solomon) and his beloved.
2.       Figurative – between God and Israel
3.       Figurative – between Christ and the church.
There may be more, but for tonight, I’m using the 3rd thought pattern. 
Consider these texts as if they were from Jesus to us, His bride, the church.  He is completely enamored and delighted in us.  It is His divine romance.  When reading Song of Songs, which actually can be done in about 15 minutes, one can see a tapestry of love woven in the words between Bride and Bridegroom.  Here are a few phrases from the groom to his beloved one.
Song 4:12  “You are a garden locked up, my sister, by bride, you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.”  
She replies in vs 15-16, 
“You are a garden fountain, a well of flowing water streaming from Lebanon.  Awake north wind, and come south wind!  Blow on my garden that its fragrance my spread abroad.  Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.”
The garden is mentioned again in 5:1, 6:2 and 8:13.  No matter how we interpret these scriptures, we belong to Him.  You find references throughout scripture about we being “His people,” and He is “our God.”  Since we’ve been talking about gardens tonight, I’m bringing us to this place to give a different perspective on our relationship with Him.
A “Locked Garden,” to me is one that can only be enjoyed by the owner of the key.  When I go into my garden, I am filled with pleasure knowing that the place I’m visiting is my own special place.  Mine is a vegetable garden, some may have a flower garden, some may have a rock garden, but I know that my garden is a special place.  If I had my own locked garden, my family may never find me.  I would be there every time I could get away.  It would be a place I longed to be even when I couldn’t get to it.
Jesus is all present and all-knowing God so He can get into the garden as He wants, but He also is tender and patient and often waits for an invitation before He accesses the garden of me.  I invite Him, but limit what I offer Him access to.
If the idea of being a locked garden unto the Lord seems a stretch to you, try this one out. 
I Cor 3:5-9  5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.  9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.
That has a hint of “garden” in it, doesn’t it?  Then Paul goes on to say:
I Cor 3:16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
It seems to me that being a temple of the Holy Spirit is easier to grasp.  Maybe that is because it’s been taught to me since childhood.
I first shared about the garden of Mack from The Shack – a wonderful mess.  God enjoys the garden of me no matter if it is chaos or if it is beautiful.  I think He deserves more than my chaos.
When we view ourselves as a temple or a garden we may rather be a garden because the temple must be a holy place.  It must be sacred, undefiled.  A garden has weeds and bugs and wildflowers and fruit/veggies and fragrance and … the point is though, we are both.  We are His holy temple and His own garden.  We were made both for His pleasure and for His dwelling.
We need to be kept up and ready for the wedding day.  As a bride, we get our nails done, we shave our legs – and not just below the knees.  We whiten our teeth, we shop for the beautiful attire of a beautiful bride.  Should we do less for our heavenly bridegroom?  Not in the physical, obviously, but in Spirit?
I’m celebrating 16 years with my groom tomorrow.  I still put on make-up and get fancy for him because I love him.  I don’t want to come before him as an unkempt garden.  I want him to enjoy his time with me – alone!
As a gardener, how do I prevent an unkempt garden?  I tend it EVERY DAY!
1.       I water it at least every day
2.       I fertilize it
3.       I pull weeds
4.       I prune plants
5.       I harvest fruit when it is ripe.
The whole point of my vegetable garden is fruit (veggies).  The crops in my garden are evidence of the time I spend in it.
The fruit of my life is the evidence of the time I spend with my Bridegroom tending the garden of me.  Yes, He loves it even when it is chaos like Mack’s, but I want to give him more.  I want the evidence of more.   The fruit of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
How do these fruits develop and grow?
1.       Water at least every day.  – Read the Word at least every day
2.       Fertilize – Find deeper revelation of the Word.  Study it, ask for His revelation, find someone to teach you.  Surround yourself with those who will help you grow!
3.       Pull weeds – get rid of sin.  Ask Him to search you and show you.  Get rid of hidden sin that is robbing your fruit’s nourishment.
4.       Prune – this takes help.  Thin out the things that take your attention.  My tomato vines were ripening golf-ball sized fruit.  I pruned the vines that even had fruit on them.  I hate doing that!  Guess what?  The next fruit was baseball-sized before it ripened.  Not everything is bad, but not everything is beneficial.  I Cor 10:23 “ I have a right to do anything,” you say, - but not everything is beneficial.  “I have a right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive.”
5.       Harvest the fruit when it is ripe.  It is not good to just have fruit, it must be used for its intended purpose.  Otherwise the fruit will ROT on the vine and the vine will STOP producing fruit.  Do you expect to hear someone say, “I have patience, but I’ve waited long enough!”  Put fruit to its purposeful use.
II Corinthians 6:16-7:1  16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:
“I will live in them
and walk among them.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. 17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD.
Don’t touch their filthy things,
and I will welcome you. 18 And I will be your Father,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the LORD Almighty.”
1 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
I hope the next time you are in a garden or even eating fresh fruits or veggies, you will remember what you are to Him – a place to delight and a place to dwell.  He will help you become a beautifully maintained garden that produces wonderfully the fruit of His Spirit.  The best part is that you get to enjoy Him enjoying you.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I am Your garden

Song of Solomon 4:12 You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride, a secluded spring, a hidden fountain.  
The Song of Solomon is a love poem written years and years ago.  There is much debate on the meaning of the text and who wrote it and who it is written to.  Many Christians avoid it because of its sensual themes, but there is so much in there that is rich.  Yes, I just pulled this verse from the text and I hope not to take it out of context as I write.  I think if you read the whole passage you will see that lover speaks to lover and it is almost like a dance.  The lyrics are woven in and out from one to another and sometimes I see it as almost a waltz, but more intimate.
The words that really pop out to me are "You are my ... garden."  As I go into my garden, I am given a new depth of what those words connote.  Whether a flower garden, and herb garden, or a vegetable garden, there is a certain pride that one takes when entering their own garden.  A private garden would be even deeper than that.  My own secret place where only I can visit is almost unthinkable.  Well the lover has said that to his beloved.  She is a garden that only he gets to enjoy.
The romance part seems obvious to me and I like to dwell on it and get dreamy-eyed, but today in my own garden, I had an experience worth sharing.  Weeds.  No matter when I go out to my garden, I see weeds and sometimes I work to take care of them and other times, I just water the garden and walk away.  Some days I take my garden hoe and scrape up the weeds between the rows and make the garden look better.  I enjoy walking between the rows of vegetables and pick off a few spinach leaves and nibble on them while I work.
Today, I worked on the weeds in detail as I do every week or so.  After hoeing and making the rows look pretty, I found that it wasn't enough.  There were weeds right up against many a plant that bore fruit.  (Well, actually veggies)
As I removed the weeds I thought about how from a distance, my garden already looked pretty good.  Unless you actually stepped foot into the garden and bent down to harvest something, you may not know that I didn't do a thorough job with my weeding.  You may not now that some of the smaller plants could easily be choked out and roots of other undesirable plants were taking the precious food and drink of the choice fruit.  Even after a good weeding, I still didn't get all of the roots.  In a day or two those yucky things could grow up and continue choking things up if I don't get all of the roots.
In a spiritual application, I can see these levels of "weeding" in my own life.  There are times when I let my guard down and it is pretty plain to see that I really need to get rid of some junk.  I can honestly say that I regularly take care of the surface weeds as soon as I recognize them. This is like hoeing between the rows.  From a distance I look like a Christian and act like a Christian.  I hope that when I meet someone at the grocery store, they can see that I am a good person and maybe even sense the love of Jesus, as someone walking by my garden could from a distance think that I have a nice garden.
The next level is the weeding near the vegetables.  Some of those weeds are easy to spot especially the grass that is shooting up taller than the plants that I desire.  I would consider that like my attitude.  People can see that and sometimes it is near the areas of my life where the Spiritual Fruit is evident.  I show outward signs of displeasure with something and ungodliness is quite evident in me.  I weed these from my garden frequently, but not as often as I run the hoe between the rows.
The last level is the deep.  The places where I can easily hide the weeds.  Today when I moved the spinach and lettuce leaves, I was amazed at how many little tiny weeds were growing beneath them.  I do this thorough weeding the least often because it is very time consuming and tedious.  To my children, who don't notice detail, I really have nothing to worry about once the other 2 levels of weeds are removed.  Well, just because they aren't visible to everyone doesn't mean they are not present.  The worst part about those weeds is that they suck the life out of the plants they surround.  They rob the nutrition and water from the soil that was intended for the fruit.  If I let these little weeds take root in my soul, they will take away from my fruit.
The point of the garden is to bear fruit and the point of my life in Christ is to bear fruit.  I am His garden.  I don't want hidden sin to ruin the fruit in my life.  Even though it is painful and tedious work, I must cleanse myself regularly by seeking His help to rid myself of that which destroys fruit.  No matter if you believe that His grace will cover little sins or if you believe that you must repent each time you sin very quickly, we all must seek to bear fruit.  If we don't care one way or another, then what is the point of living a Christian life?  What is the point of Salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ?

John 15:4-5 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. 5“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Preaching to the Choir

First of all, who is the choir?  Generally when someone says, "I know I'm preaching to the choir," they are speaking to a group of people who are assumed to be the faithful or loyal to the cause.  The choir is often the group of people who comes in early to rehearse and hears all the cues and knows what will be spoken and get a "behind the scenes" look of things.  Do those things in themselves qualify one as holy?  Do they make one guiltless and sinless?  Who is the choir?  The choir is me in many instances, and I'm sure most people can put themselves in the category of "choir" in many circumstances.
There are times when we think being in the choir is a ticket to exemption from a message or a point.  One might think, "certainly this is for someone else."  Often when a minister or speaker is sharing his/her heart and pouring out a message that was given to them by Holy Spirit, they ask of the listeners to search themselves.  I experienced that this morning in our church service.  My initial thought was, "I think I'm good in that area."  He asked for a response from the congregation and very few outwardly responded.  He asked that even if you don't have this conviction, please respond so that those who respond don't feel alone.  Still, very little response.  God put a message on this man's heart and he shared it with the passion that God put there.  Was he just preaching to the choir?
While I don't presume to know the hearts of man, I doubt that there were only a small percentage who should have responded.  Why are we so immovable?  Why are we so apathetic?  The Spirit is moving and we must respond and remove ourselves from an "exempt" status to a "vulnerable" status.  Our mindsets must move from, "It's not me!" to "Lord, search me and show me."
Here's an example direct from the "choir."  As a team of worshipers, we were required to file music at the end of each encounter.  Different people would do it, but there were only 6 of us.  Somehow, the music was not in alphabetical order every time.  All of us are intelligent women.  All of us know how to file music, but somehow, it wasn't always done correctly and all of us complained.  The interesting part is that none of us were the one who filed incorrectly.  Apparently at least one of us made a mistake now and again.  I suspect that each of us made a mistake, but none were willing to admit it.  (If you are one of the 6 reading this, please know that it is not accusation, but observations from my perspective.  I love you guys and if the alphabetizing is perfect now that I'm gone, I guess I was the only culprit.)
Apply this to the choir.  Obviously when God gives a message to one of His messengers, it is for all those who have an ear to hear.  Often when I have delivered a message to a congregation or to a small group, God meant it for me first, but wouldn't have burdened me with it further if it were not meant to be shared.  I don't want to have an apathetic heart.  I don't want to be unmoved when God speaks.  I don't expect that every person should outwardly respond to every altar call or every challenge from a pulpit.  I do expect that even the elect, the choir, the elders, the congregation, the leadership whatever name you give to it must first examine themselves and respond as God would have them respond.
Perhaps I have it all wrong.  Perhaps I am the only one who immediately thinks of someone else when I hear a challenging message.  Perhaps each person responded in their heart even though the Pastor implored us to move forward in response.  That is not my place to judge and I hope I am not being judgmental.  I just noticed my own apathy and non-response when I should have responded.  The reward for response was His freedom!  I couldn't ask for much more than that.
God has given us an opportunity to hear His message.  He has sent an invitation, "Come."  Just as when we each receive an invitation to a party or celebration.  The same invitation is given to each invitee, the host doesn't beg for each guest to come.  In fact in a parable Jesus told, the "choir" or "choice guests" all had excuses why they couldn't attend the wedding and their invitations were given to those on the street.  I just don't want to miss my invitation again.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Philippians 4:12-13 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
These past few months have been an adjustment for our family.  We moved and found a  new church family and began homeschooling.  As my husband said the other day, "we are happier as a family than we've ever been."  That is true we are being united into a family unit unlike we've ever experienced.  There are those few hitches, though.
While we've lived on 1 income for 2 years now, I've learned a lot about budgeting and living without the excess.  There was a lot of excess that I threw away or gave away to prepare for our move too.  Wow, I can't believe how much stuff I've collected through the years.  We were essentially debt free before our move and now we have a few moving expenses and a few bills that couldn't be covered because of  the move.  Well we have a house to sell to take care of those things.  The problem is that the house needs to sell for us to gain the benefits of its sale. We also need to sell a car to pay last years taxes and buy some other things.
Our single income is better than it had ever been and we now have health insurance.  I don't notice the insurance as much because I've learned to live through illness instead of seeking a doctor and God has blessed us with no serious illnesses since a few weeks before I resigned from my job.  I am so grateful for that!  We always have food for the table and it is relatively good food.  We always have enough to pay for all of our bills and have never over in our bank account since we've lived here.  We bought a house in our new location.  We own dependable vehicles.  We get great hand-me down clothes from various places so we are well clothed as well.  God has provided for us!
Lately I've found myself grumbling a lot about the things I don't have.  My steam mop broke, my weed eater broke, my large crock pot broke, our house hasn't sold.  We have to pay a lump sum in taxes while many others get large refunds.  I was comparing what I have and what I do and what I owe with that of other people.  I was griping because our house hasn't sold.  I was complaining because God told us to move here and so our house should have sold right away and our car should sell so we can pay our other bills.  Complaining, complaining, complaining.
The NIV says in Philippians 4:12 "... I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation."  I know this secret, it is Christ!  On Wednesday evening, our Pastor shared and I can't remember his point, but I can at least paraphrase his statement that really hit me hard.  He used the example of a mother working hard to prepare a meal and everyone gets to the table and complains about what has been gifted to them.  Those complaints are just like saying that what has been prepared for them is not good enough.  So as I had been pondering the Philippians verse for several weeks now, Pastor's words struck me in the heart.  When I grumble so much about what I don't have, I'm in a sense telling God that what He has provided is not good enough.  I may say we're as happy as ever and inside I'm griping and whining and discontented.  I've had to backtrack and apologize to God because His provision is more than enough.
When we can't go to the swimming pool every day, we will be together using our imaginations and creativity to enjoy the family that God gave us.  When I don't have extra money from the sale of our house and the lesser payments we need to make each month, I need to live a more disciplined life.  I am not as wasteful of the provisions He has given to us.  I am not as wasteful of the time He has given to me because I have to be more deliberate with my planning.
In the last 2 days of reflections, I'm learning to thank God for His provisions for me and my family.  I am learning not to complain in my heart about the things that we cannot afford right now.  I will strive to control my conversations when someone asks if our house has sold and guard my heart from anger, bitterness and discontent.  Many mothers cannot stay home and enjoy their children in the way that I get to enjoy mine.  This joy that I have is not always laughing and feeling on top of the world, but it is an inner fountain that is irreplaceable.
God is good!  He is Good!  His provision is more than enough!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

10 minutes

So what can I say in 10 minutes unrehearsed?
I probably can say a lot, so lets go!
I have been in a state of awe regarding the crucifixion and resurrection and Passover realities. I've read and studied the Word this week, but nothing really has penetrated as much as knowing that my Savior chose to give up His life in a brutal excruciating way so that I may have life.
I was talking with my Mother-in-law yesterday and this revelation is what guides our actions. We ask Him to increase our revelation and He does.  When He increases our revelation we are now responsible to do something with that.  Do we reject it?  Do we chew on it?  Do we try to prove/disprove it?  Do we test it?  Do we quickly accept it?  Do we search it out?  How do we deal with revelation?  If we choose to do nothing, we have done something which is closest to rejecting it.
Each time I read the Word, it is new revelation to me.  Yes, even John 3:16.  Our pastor preached on John 3:16 Resurrection Sunday.  After hearing it over and over again in my lifetime, it still makes a difference to me and I can still actively listen to a message where that is the only scripture shared.  What do I do with this Word?
Sometimes I read to just get my time in and a lot of that time, the reading doesn't penetrate me. Sometimes, I read too much at a time to actually let it penetrate me.  I really need to take a portion of scripture and stop when I am being ministered to by it and chew on it more.  I don't think reading the Bible in a year is wrong and actually it is one of my goals, but I need to do more than just read it.  I need to let it read me.  I need to let it penetrate my heart.  I need to consume it!  So my new personal challenge is to take the Word.  Read my daily segments that will get me the whole book in a year AND I'm going to start with at least 2 days a week, meditate on more than what I've read or what is in a devotional guide and search Him out.
There is my 10 minutes and a challenge for myself.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Crucifixion

Often I find that others say what I feel better than I can say it. This 6 1/2 minute video really says a lot.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

His Blood

These are Holy days.  We remember Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross, His burial and resurrection.  The purpose was for my salvation and he bore my sins upon Himself.  Let me not forget this sacrifice. As I walk through these next few days, as well as all of my days, may I do all things and remember You.  May the work of my hands be as unto You in every way.  I don't want to take your sacrifice lightly.

Help us to hear Your words as we partake the Seder tomorrow.  Bring revelation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Off and On

Tonight at our Bible Study, the Lord gave me a visual from part of what we discussed.  I've heard similar analogies, but this really made me think and He gave me a bigger picture on my way home.  Colossians 3 is a great chapter to learn how to become set apart as one of His children.  In this chapter it tells us what to take off.
Colossians 3:5-9 NLT So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world.8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.
It also tells us what to put on.
Colossians 3: 10,12-14 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
The visual is here.  I have a decorative glass bowl on my table with those flattened glass decorative marbles in it and also a candle.  If I remove the candle (light) from the bowl, the marbles fill in its hole.  When I try to replace the candle and scoop away the marbles, I can't quite get all of those marbles out from the bottom of the bowl and I just scoop and scoop to no avail.  The bowl wants to be filled and the marbles seek to do that job.  The only way I can put the candle in the center of the bowl is to empty it completely of the marbles and then put the candle in.  If I want to put the marbles back, I can then do it around the candle.
I am not a scientist, so I may be off a bit on this, but as far as I'm aware anything that is emptied must be filled again with something even if it is air.  Its like when you go to the beach and dig a hole near the water, the hole is always filling up with water.  If those marbles in my bowl are the things listed to get rid of: evil desires, sexual impurities, lust, etc.; and I don't completely get rid of them, I will not have room for the things I'm supposed to fill up with: mercy, kindness, gentleness, and so on.  The light is never in the center or won't fit when there are a couple of marbles under it.
A few more lessons from my candle and marbles in the bowl.
If you think of the bowl as me, the candle as the Light of Jesus, and the marbles as good things...
There are many good things in our lives that are not counted in the list of what to get rid of.  We just need to make sure that the foundation of the Light is exactly where it needs to be.  In the center of our lives.  I can wear jewelry and make-up and decorate my house with nice things, but when those things get in the way of the Light and take His place in the center of me, I need to get rid of them.
If you think of the marbles in my bowl...
The original marbles in my bowl were a light purple.  I bought them in a set and they looked really nice.  Eventually, I've found other marbles from different locations that are teal or clear or peach and different shapes.  Since I don't have another place to put them, I've just added them to this dish.  My pure purple display has become impure and tainted.  Just one extra marble of a different style can change the display, even a clear marble can change this whole look and make it impure.  So keeping just one of the sins listed in Colossians 3, can make me impure. Once I get rid of all of the different colored marbles, which we can call sin, and refill my bowl first by putting the Light in the center of it, and surround that light with all the things, purple marbles, that go with it like humility, patience and forgiveness, I can then be living a holy life.  Pure purple around the light.
There's a lot here to digest, but I don't want to just want to make analogies with the Word, I want my life to be transformed by it.  Father, help me to examine my life and daily put off the old nature and put on the new.  Renew me and refresh me.  Help me continually fill my life with the good things that You desire so there will be no room for the things You hate.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

He Speaks My Language

If God is all-knowing, and He is, then He knows every language, every dialect, and every culture in the world.  He is also loving and desiring of intimacy.  He would never speak to me in Chinese and expect me to communicate with Him because I don't know Chinese.  He doesn't speak to me in Spanish either.  I know some Spanish and can find my way to a taco and a bathroom, but I'm not fluent in the language and God wants me to communicate with Him.  Communication, by the way, is a process of sending AND receiving understandable messages.  I cannot see His hands or His face, so I don't get His body language.   He wants me to communicate with Him.
One of the ways He speaks is through the written word.  Very few people around the globe can fluently translate that Word in its original form.  He has enabled scholars to translate His words into a language I can understand.  I don't want to debate which translation is better or worse because each translation of the Word of God loses its potency as there are words in each language that are richest in their native tongue and will not translate directly.  I am still grateful that there are many translations of God's Word available to me in the English language so that I may know God more and more by reading His messages to me.  In fact, I have several digital and printed translations of the Bible so that I can more easily understand what is written down for me to read.  I love to hear the scriptures read aloud too, especially the book of Isaiah.
Another way that God communicates to me is through music and He knows the many styles of music that I like to hear and gives me what I need through a melody often times.  I believe that others hear from God through music that I don't like.  God wants to be intimate with me and He shows me love through my language and not even my mother's.
He also speaks to me through others who love Him.  I don't always hear Him through their rehearsed messages or recitations, but through unrehearsed loving acts and words.  Jesus told His disciples not to worry about what they were to say to the people because His words would be in their mouths by the power of Holy Spirit.  That's crazy!  If I want to share the gospel with someone, I often think I must be prepared with a proper message.  Well, I get that message by studying His Word and putting it in my heart that it would be on my lips when Holy Spirit brings it back to my memory.  I once planned a whole conversation and in the end, I didn't speak a word of it to my friend.  I spoke words of love that even surprised me.  He responded to those words and I really don't think He would have responded to my original message.
Sometimes I don't hear the message that God is sending to me because I've already judged the speaker and am thinking of other things as they speak.  He speaks my language and He is patiently sending an obedient one to deliver it and yet, I shut my ears because I think I've already got the answer or I know more than the speaker or .... well I come up with many excuses.
God often speaks to me through the way I speak to my children.  He is a Father you know.  "If you do that, you'll get hurt!" or "Why can't you obey me the first time I ask you to do something!"  I've actually stopped in the midst of scolding my kids and think, "Oh that's what You've been trying to tell me!"  I've learned so much about God in the 9+ years that I've been a mother.  God is slower to anger than I am, but He still becomes angry and disciplines the ones He loves.
God also speaks to my heart in His still, small voice.  I remember a simple one when I heard, "You need to carry that [box] with 2 hands."  I still thought I'd get more done faster if I carried one box in each hand and the box that I knew He spoke of ripped at the handle and spilled its contents of tiny pieces of trash all over the carpet.  It took me longer to clean up the huge mess than it would of if I had heeded His voice.  He doesn't always just speak huge revelation about international crises, He wants to guide our steps.  He wants us to turn right when He says to do so, often to avoid turmoil.  He wants us to help the poor man trying to balance his large bag of groceries and broken bicycle when He says to do so.
Don't expect Him to speak to your heart in King James English because you don't speak that way.  He may bring a verse to your mind in the King James text, because He knows you'll understand that, but when He speaks intimately to you with direction other than passages like those, He will speak your language.  I've not heard Him tell me, "Speak thou to thine pastor about such things as these."  He said, "Respond to what Pastor ______ just said with these words... ."  I have spoken on behalf of God and inserted rehearsed lines from growing up in charismatic churches.  "The Lord would say to you."  or "Thus says the Lord."  It's not wrong, but if I let Him put each word in my mouth, it would surely be in the language that the receiver of the message would understand.  His desire is to relate with us.
I believe that God still speaks today.  I've even had Him speak to me through people whom I would consider evil.  He used a donkey to speak to Balaam, so why wouldn't he use any means necessary to get through to me.  I don't want it to take a donkey to get through to me.  It's not fun to hear things in that way.  Lord, open my ears to hear Your voice!  I want to know You more!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I am His Bride

The idea that I am betrothed to Messiah is so complex.  It is beyond what I can comprehend and yet I believe it with all my heart.  The New Covenant makes provision for me and I am so blessed.  There are so many examples in the Word about His wooing us back unto Himself.  The parable of the lost sheep, the book of Hosea, Isaiah 62 (Hephzibah), Song of Songs.  I am my Beloved's and He is mine!  Now I watch and wait like the 10 virgins.  Will I be foolish or will I constantly be in a state of readiness?

Monday, March 19, 2012

He Opened Not His Mouth

Through my journey in life, I've been in several struggles in relationships.  It has not been until the most recent years that I've learned to control my tongue.  I guess I could say that I am learning still, but am less inclined to rant about my troubles.  The Lord had me throw away journal pages that reflected certain situations which only stirred up bitterness, but scars from past relationships are still present.  
As I'm sure many have experienced, my poor experience with someone caused a severing of that friendship for a time.  During the whole struggle, the Lord impressed upon me to not speak of it, especially to others with whom this friend spent a lot of time.  During that period, this friend continued to rant openly about me and say hurtful things to me.  During that course of time, several of my friends began to shun me and to this day, my attempts to reconcile with these others are futile.  I have reconciled with the first friend, but the damage has already been done to my reputation.  It has been years since that argument, but when I can't say, "Hello!" to certain friends, it really hurts.
I really wanted to avenge myself and make sure everyone knew my side of the story. While I was not guiltless in the situation, as no one really ever is entirely guiltless, I didn't want to be the bad guy.  When I took it to the Lord, He continued to tell me to be silent.  I was not to share my distress with anyone who befriended this one.
Today, as I browsed Facebook, I saw posts to this friend from another.  These two are still friends with each other while I have been "unfriended" by one.  My messages and requests for friendship have been rejected by this one who I cared deeply for.  I've seen others experience these same rejections, but in face to face meetings and not just Facebook.  Many of the rejected are pastors, servants of the King of Kings.  Why?
Jesus was accepted and worshiped and cheered in His triumphal entry to Jerusalem and then in a blink, the same people shouted, "Crucify Him!"  His broken heart had to be so much bigger because of the many that had rejected Him.  His love is so great for them! So much greater is His love than mine for the ones who reject me.  And even still, He did not open His mouth.
Isaiah 53:7  (NIV)  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
He bore all of the rejection, the physical and emotional abuse.  He bore the sins of man toward others and toward Himself and he FORGAVE it all.  He purchased my salvation with His blood.  With just one word, He could have stopped all of this that came against Him, but for my sake and humanity's sake, He chose silence and ultimately the cross.  
So the next time I suffer emotionally from the slander against me, I must remember Jesus' sacrifice and the multiplied sorrow that He must have felt.  His love is not comprehensible to me, so I cannot comprehend the ache His heart must have felt that day.  I don't believe it is wrong to mourn the loss of a friendship.  In that, consider His suffering and pain as so many are lost or have turned from Him.  
Father, my heart cries out with yours and that of Your Son over those who are lost.  Stir their hearts, O God! Help me to do my part to draw them unto You.  I know that You don't want any to perish!  Give me a heart for the lost!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Take the Dollar

I have heard this particular scripture at least 4 times in the past week and finally today, my 9 year old son says, "You know, like the people that were hired at different times and all made the same amount of money."  God speaks to me through my children often and this time I took notice.  So before I go any further, the passage:
Matthew 20 (The Message)A Story About Workers 
1 "God's kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work.3 "Later, about nine o'clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. 4 He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage.5 They went. 6 At five o'clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, 'Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?7 ' "They said, 'Because no one hired us.' "He told them to go to work in his vineyard.8 "When the day's work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, 'Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.'9 "Those hired at five o'clock came up and were each given a dollar. 10 When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar.11 Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager,12 'These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.'13 "He replied to the one speaking for the rest, 'Friend, I haven't been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn't we? 14 So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. 15 Can't I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?'16 "Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first."
The Lord showed me some time ago through prophetic words from some well-known men and women of God that He is about to bring in a great harvest.  I believe this to be true.  At the time I had been praying for several prodigals that I know as well as many that I've never heard of.  He told me simply that the church is not ready for the return of the prodigal.  Not speaking just about the church I attended, but the church as a whole.  We feel entitled to the titles that we currently have.  We feel that we've served our time faithfully and that we should be rewarded with kingdom promotions and esteem.
I saw a scenario where someone, whom I had watched make bad choices, came back just as I had prayed and then was promoted to a position above me.  Even though it was not a reality, but a vision of sorts, I became immediately offended.  Why should I, who has served faithfully and proven my worth, not become the leader and this one who just returned from the slop heap, be under me?  I deserve to be in charge?  Reading this, one might think that I sound petty, but I dare you to put yourself in that scenario.  Are you any less petty?
I have recently relocated to a new town, a new home and a new church.  In fact, I've only been in this church for about 3 weeks and so I'm asking God, why do I need to hear this lesson about the workers?  I'm one of the most recent hired.
 --- This might sound a bit strange, but the Lord's been dealing with me to type this blog for a few days now and I didn't know where it was going until I started typing.  In fact I knew I was to hold off on the title until it was complete and I am just now finding out why. ---
He doesn't want me to be afraid to take the dollar even though I just started the job and those ahead of me will receive the same wage.  I've been so convicted about my seniority issues that I've held for years and now I am seeing a whole new view to this, "inside, outside, upside-down Kingdom."  I'm so undone right now, I can hardly go on.  How can I "take the dollar" and still be humble?  It's that fine line between confidence and humility.  If one does not take what the Lord gives to them in the name of humility, it is false-humility and disobedience.  Isn't it He who qualified me?  Isn't it He who offered for me to join in His work?
I believe this message is for the prodigals as well.  He is calling you home.  He has a place for you and He intends for you to take it.  Sure, there will be those who are offended by your growth in Him, but Who has called you?  Who has named you?  Where does your fear and trembling lie?  Do you fear God or man?  He is the one pulling you up from the miry clay.  Stand on the Rock!
Now that I have at least a portion of the answer to my question, I have more questions.
No matter where you stand in the line of workers: first, second, fifth or last hired; trust that God is the one who offers the wage/reward and we need to trust that He knows what He is doing.

Take my focus from the wage, to the work, Lord.  Most importantly let my focus be on the One who called me in the first place.  Help me to have confidence in You alone and what You have for me to do.  Help me to do it with all my might and keep my eyes on You!