Archive | May, 2013

The Most Excellent Way

25 May

If you’ve had prior occasion to visit the blog, you know that God seems to be driving home the need for me to love people exactly where they are at in life.  Despite the circumstances they place themselves in.  Despite the poor decisions they may make.  And perhaps most importantly, despite my desire to just give up on them.  I think there is somewhat of this current to love others running through the Church right now.  I fully concede that I might have “pregnant woman” syndrome –when you’re pregnant you see other pregnant women everywhere—but it seems that many of the things I read or hear of late center around reaching out in love.  I think it’s great.  I think the world needs to be loved with an unchanging, unconditional, secure, steady love.  What a contrast to the fleeting, up-and-down love roller coaster so many who live apart from Christ are trapped on.  I so support every believer who is following Christ to live out loud in love …first in their Jerusalem, then Judea, Samaria, and then unto the ends of the earth.

 But you will receive power when

the Holy Spirit has come upon you,

and you will be my witnesses in

Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria,

and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 1:8 (ESV)

I pray God’s blessing all over those Christ followers who, filled with the Spirit, display the love of the Savior in their communities, their state governments, their country and the nations around the world.  Indeed, wherever God has placed us as stewards of the Firstborn’s inheritance, let us be faithful.   Let us walk boldly in His Name and love beyond ourselves. We want those who are wandering lost, feeling isolated, and even the ones who don’t know they need His grace, to see a difference and feel welcomed by His love. But I have to wonder how that happens if we are engaged in subtly tearing one another apart.  How can we reach out to love those who have chosen another path if we can’t even love those who are walking the trail with us?  And, I fully confess, that I have kicked dust in the faces of the saints traveling by my side on far too many occasions.

I read a blog this morning encouraging believers to consider practicing the spiritual disciplines.  The author didn’t profess to be an expert on the subject.  He just presented some things worth challenging our minds and hearts with.  I scrolled down to the comments fully expecting to see believers encouraging one another to examine their hearts on the subject.  What I found instead was sniping at the author over ONE quote that had been included in the piece.  Further down in the comments, the author explained that since posting he had removed the quote because of the uproar.  He was defensive about the thing and I probably would’ve reacted the same way.  I might’ve thought to myself “Really, all of that and this is what you’re choosing to focus on? ”  I wonder if the pastors and teachers in our midst often feel that way—“Really?”.  And I wonder more, how often that kind of critical spirit has flowed from MY heart and straight out of MY mouth.

At the beginning of every Bible study, I encourage the ladies who are participating to be Bereans and search the Scriptures for themselves to be certain the teaching is sound.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character

than those in Thessalonica,

for they received the message with great eagerness

and examined the Scriptures every day

to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:11 (NIV)

But might it be that a worthwhile commitment to confirm the unifying Truth of Christ Jesus can become distorted and slide too quickly into divisive, self-exalting legalism?  Don’t misunderstand, we must be on guard against false teaching.  The Bible couldn’t be more clear about that subject.  We must be alert and we must man the watchtower.  However, from my perspective there is a huge difference between willful deception and a poor choice of words.  So might it be that as the Church is experiencing a renewed desire to reach out and love on God’s most prized creation, that we are forgetting to show gentleness and love to one another?  A house divided against itself simply will not stand and oh, don’t you know that it must make the enemies of the Cross absolutely giddy to watch the Bride devour herself.

We often hear 1 Corinthians 13 read at wedding ceremonies. Truth is, it wasn’t written in the context of temporal marriage, but it was written so the Bride, the Body of Christ, would know what love looked like to the Bridegroom. Under Divine inspiration, Paul calls it “the most excellent way” and goes on to provide the ultimate description of the love the Body is called to lavish on one another.

If I can speak in the tongues of men and even of angels but have not love, that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion—the kind that is inspired by God’s love for and in me—then I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And if I have prophetic powers, the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose, and I understand all the secret truths and mysteries, and possess all knowledge and if I have sufficient faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, God’s love in me, I am nothing, a useless nobody.

Even if I dole out all that I have to the poor in providing food and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory but have not love, God’s love in me, I gain nothing.

Love endures long, is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy; it is not boastful or vainglorious and it does not display itself haughtily.

It is not conceited, arrogant, or inflated with pride; it is not rude, unmannerly, nor does it act unbecomingly.  Love, God’s love in me, does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking, it is not touchy, or fretful or resentful.  It takes no account of the evil done to it nor does it pay attention to a suffered wrong.

It does not rejoice in injustice and unrighteousness but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, it is ever ready to believe the best of every person; its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything without weakening.

Love never fails, never fades out, becomes obsolete or comes to an end.  As for prophecy, it will be fulfilled and pass away.  As for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease and as for knowledge, it will pass away, it will lose its value and be superseded by truth.

For our knowledge is fragmentary, incomplete and imperfect and our prophecy, our teaching, is incomplete and imperfect.

But when the complete and perfect total comes the incomplete and the imperfect will vanish away, become antiquated, void and superseded.

When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child and I reasoned like a child; now that I have grown I am done with childish ways and have set them aside.

For now, I am looking into a mirror that gives but a dimmed, blurred reflection of reality, as in a riddle or an enigma, but then  . . . . . . .  1 Corinthians 13 (AMP)

You are going to have to go to your Bible to read the rest because this is as far as I have memorized –for now.  See, if this thick headed woman has learned nothing else in her pursuit of Life outside the Tomb, she has learned that without a doubt, left to her own devices she is a critical, sharp-tongued woman with a desire to puff herself up by making others feel less than.  The only hope I have of living the lovelife, of imitating God, is to have a total heart transformation.  Only His truth will change me.  I must treasure what He treasures and see His children from His perspective.  I have to be filled heart, soul and mind with Him so that what flows from my mouth is love.  It cannot be simply what I know, it has to become who I am. . . LOVE . . . because it is who He Is.  And it must flow first to the warriors who fight the good fight and run the race beside me –those whose faces I know and cherish and those I will not meet this side of Glory.

The world doesn’t need to see another fractured family living out a dysfunctional existence.  They need to see a family acting like their Dad and following His example. They need to see us doing life together, honoring our commitment to one another, and loving each other despite our glaring imperfections.  I have to believe that when we love each other the way He loves us, when we live and love the “most excellent way,” it’s going to draw some attention.  Attention that will give us the opportunity to explain why we love the way we do.

Sisters, let’s be gracious today to the family we share eternal blood with.  Let’s be committed to believing the best of them.  Let’s give the same grace and understanding to the Body as we do to those who have not yet answered the call of Grace.  Let’s live the “most excellent way” so the world can see the most Excellent One.

You are When You are and . . .It is Good!

20 May

Not only are you where you are by His Divine Hand, you are also when you are by His appointment.  Think about that.  The One who always has been, is today, and will be forever has chosen this place and this time for you to shine like a star in the universe.  You didn’t end up here by chance and your appointed days were always intended to be specific to this dispensation of time.  I don’t know about you but I find that to be comforting, motivating, and scary all at once. There’s just something so absolutely huge in considering that the One who proclaimed His creation to be very good felt that this point in history would be better if I were here.  Ponder it for a moment.  The Creator of the universe heart-picked you for the right here and the right now– not because He needed you, but because He WANTED you.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth, and HE DETERMINED THE TIMES SET FOR THEM AND THE EXACT PLACES WHERE THEY SHOULD LIVE.  

Acts 17:24-26 (NIV 1984)

See!  Straight from the mouth of God.  He put you here and He put you now.  The Omniscient God who decided when and where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would set their feet on planet earth made that same decision concerning you.  And Sister, I’m declaring to you today based on the authority of His Word that you are every bit as precious to Him as those men were.  I know this to be true because your God does not play favorites.  He did specific works—huge works, good works— through those imperfect men and He desires to do the same through you.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in the advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV 1984)

Now you may be throwing arguments at me in your head at this moment that explain to me why, in all of creation, in the entirety of the world timeline, you are the one exception.  You are the one God cannot possibly want to do specific, huge, good things through.  After all, God raised them up to be men of renown, known as heirs of the promise and the blessed recipients of an unbelievable inheritance.  He even allowed them to participate in building a nation.  Without a doubt, these things are true.  God had big things set aside for those guys.

But an argument always has two sides.  So what I’m going to ask you to do is to read through those Acts 17 and Ephesians 2 verses set side by side from the Amplified Bible*.

26 And He made from one [common origin, one source, one blood] all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined [their] allotted periods of time and the fixed boundaries of their habitation (their settlements, lands, and abodes).  10 For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship),  recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

Acts 17:26 and Ephesians 2:10

With that fresh in your mind, let your heart travel to your work place.  Let it drink in the family that visits your home, strangers you welcome with a smile, and the faces of your dearest friends.  Now stare into the eyes of your children, linger there and soak them in—woman of God, this is your nation.   You are an heiress, fashioned for this very purpose and filled with the Spirit of God, to point those entrusted to you toward the Promised Land.  Yes, Beloved, the boundary lines have fallen for you in a pleasant place and a pleasant time.  Surely, you have a beautiful inheritance.

Sister, you have been anointed and appointed by God to do things –specific things, huge things, good things!  Don’t doubt for a moment that you are here and you are now for a reason.  . . And it is good.

Acts_17-26

*The Amplified Bible utilizes multiple English word equivalents to each key Hebrew and Greek word clarify and amplify meanings that may otherwise have been concealed by the traditional translation method.

A Day in the Caboose!

14 May

We’ve looked at some pretty heavy stuff the last couple posts and, to be truthful life itself has been quite heavy since the last writing, so what I really feel the desire to do today is just roll around in His goodness.  Some days you just have to pull a little closer to Glory and ride there for a bit.  What say we leave the temporal worries and anxieties, the hurts and the can’t-do-a-thing-abouts sitting on the curb for this day and ease out into the freedom lane with the Spirit?

I know Facts are the engine of my Faith and Feelings aren’t always accurate indicators of the spiritual reality, but for this particular moment I’m giving myself permission to get swept up in the Godness of Him and simply enjoy feeling like He is with me. These kinds of days are necessary for me.  I need times when I can indulge my emotions and let myself feel lavished in His love.  Times when I can look past the urgent of this planet and imagine life from a heavenly point of view.   Times when I can entertain what it will feel like to walk in Glory.  In other words, I need days when I can just be the caboose!

I have a wonderful friend who is married to a gentleman with a penchant for her, God’s truth, and a whiteboard. One of his favorite illustrations depicts a train engine marked Facts, followed by a car with Faith written on it, and finally, a caboose with the word Feelings.  The idea of the drawing is that we can’t let our feelings dictate our faith or diagnose our spiritual condition.   It’s right on the mark and I love them for their team teaching efforts to make this knowledge part of my freedom walk because it has given me the tenacity to stand firm in truth many times when I didn’t “feel” like it. But just for today I’m going to hang off the back of the caboose, wave my arms around, and drink in the Sonshine.

Lessons from Kim and Rod

Lessons from Kim and Rod

I’m going to let the wonder-if-I-did-that-right thoughts all slip away and replace it with being thrilled that my obedience brings Him joy.  I’m not going to fret about what will come from the maybe-I-should’ve-said-that-differently moments or let myself be weighed down by the hope-I-didn’t-overstep-my-boundaries-there conversations.   Instead, I’m going to let my heart dance at the idea that the One I have my eyes fixed on never takes His eyes off me.  I’m going to celebrate the notion that the One I find too beautiful for words is enthralled with my beauty.  I’m going to get all caught up in the absolute giddiness I feel when I picture Him as my Mighty Warrior and myself as the chick with a sword at His side.

I could gush on and on, and believe me I’m totally fighting the urge to do so.  It feels so good to have the smile spread across my face and my eyes crinkle for no other reason except I am thinking of Him.  It’s been too long since I have thrown off everything that hinders and just run with the Spirit.  Yesterday in my devotions, I was reading about Hagar who was facing some massive challenges in her life to say the least.  She had been sent away from her home with a young son, some food strapped to her back,  and a canteen of water.  As they wandered in the desert, the water ran out and she was certain her boy was going to die.  I can’t imagine the helplessness and despair she must of felt as she placed Ishmael under that shrub to die.  Imagine how gut-wrenching her sobs must have been as she sat down a distance away from him and just waited for the inevitable.  And then . . . God intervenes.  The One she had called El Roi (the One who Sees) at another well in the desert had never taken His eyes off her.

Abraham got up early the next morning, got some food together and a canteen of water for Hagar, put them on her back and sent her away with the child. She wandered off into the desert of Beersheba. When the water was gone, she left the child under a shrub and went off, fifty yards or so. She said, “I can’t watch my son die.” As she sat, she broke into sobs. . . .

Just then God opened her eyes.

She looked. She saw a well of water.

She went to it and filled her canteen

and gave the boy a long, cool drink.

Genesis 21:19 (The Message)

See the sweetness of Him?  He opened her eyes to see His provision.  He gave her exactly what she needed, right when she needed it, and He gave her eyes to see the blessing.  There is so much more in that passage to look at.  Such significance in the well.  Such parallels between Hagar the slave girl and the Samaritan Woman who felt the unconditional love of Christ in the Gospel of John.  But those are for another day.  Today, we’re just loving being with Him.

Yes Sisters, let’s enjoy our day in the caboose.  But here’s the truth of it.  A day of celebration in the caboose would go nowhere without that engine. No hair would be flying around in the wind of the Spirit.  No cool breeze of freedom would blow across our souls.   There would only be sitting at the depot feeling erratic gusts of air now and then. Only the engine, the absolute TRUTH of who He is and the LOVE He lavishes on us, will get that caboose moving.  And only feelings that match the truth of His character are worth celebrating.

I came to the train station years ago with more baggage than I can describe.  I stood on the platform with all my sin stacked around me.  God met me in my need and said, “I see you child, get on board.”  He’s not left me unattended once.  He has never taken His eyes off me.  And when I have days filled with challenges, and maybe even despair, He opens my eyes and shows me the well of His goodness.  He fills my canteen with the truth of His blessings, invites me to the caboose, and lets me enjoy a long, cool drink.

Girlfriend, He will not be bothered a bit should you choose to hang off the back of the caboose in celebration today. And if you’re just not “feeling” like it, ask Him to open your eyes and show you the well.  The Fact is that our Faith in the One who is the Living Water will never leave us Feeling thirsty!  Oh, how I love that His well will not run dry!

Some Interesting Information:

  • El Roi: wonderful expansion and exploration of the Title — http://www.preceptaustin.org/el_roi_-_god_who_sees.htm
  • The Message:  The goal of The Message is to engage people in the reading process and help them understand what they read. This is not a study Bible, but rather “”a reading Bible.”” The verse numbers, which are not in the original documents, have been left out of the print version to facilitate easy and enjoyable reading. The original books of the Bible were not written in formal language. The Message tries to recapture the Word in the words we use today. http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Message-MSG-Bible/
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