His Word is Alive

Before I have any memories, I am told that my great-grandmother, Zettie Boyer, taught me the 23rd Psalm. I would recite it proudly for her, my parents and grandparents while we were at home. But, Grandma Zettie’s great plan was for my little almost 3 yr old feet to stand up on that second step in our sweet little country church and deliver the 23rd Psalm to our entire congregation on a Sunday morning. Now that my little boy is almost 3, I can completely relate to what she must have felt when I refused. Isn’t it just like a 2-3 year old not to perform when you most want them to?!

My mom says this went on until I was 4, and sweet Grandma Zettie had to settle for the fact that I was not quite ready for public ministry just yet. I feel like somehow right now I may be stepping into a calling that woman prayed into my life. I don’t know what her prayers are, the ones stored in golden bowls in Heaven (Revelation 5:8), someday I will though, and I just wonder.

I am typing through vision blurred by tears at even the thought of how God’s Word was on my lips from before I have any memory. And tears at the thought that this woman poured into my life a respect and a desire to speak the words of the Lord, and very likely prayed for my ministry someday. Overwhelming. Jesus, praise be to Your Name.

And let that be such a testimony and an encouragement to you, if you are a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent or have any influence in a child’s life (we will discuss Isaiah 55:11 momentarily). His Word never returns void, press-on in your prayers for the next generation, you never know what kind of immense harvest is to come long after you plant those seeds!

2 Timothy 3:16-17 MSG

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

I had never read that verse in The Message translation until this morning.  Don’t you just want to be put-together and shaped-up for the tasks God has for us?  We want to be prepared!  And His Word is what prepares us.  It is for our benefit, for showing us what is true, it exposes our rebellion, it corrects our mistakes, God trains us to live His way by His Word!

I have been pulled from defeat, been broken of horrific pride, been released from numerous stays in prisons of hurt and unforgiveness, and had my face lifted by Nail-scarred Hands in the midst of the most life-constricting sadness and loss –> by His Words.

They are not just words on a page to me.

They are living, active and powerful enough to bring victory over…and over…and over again. I have never felt more loved than when I study the God of this Book. I’ve never felt more strength, more wisdom, more confidence, more pure happiness and joy, more conviction or more understanding than when I crack open this Book. Nothing brings Life to my bones the way God’s Word does. And it’s because HE is breathing these words out, and as my teacher, Beth Moore says, “I intend to inhale them.”

Hebrews 4:12 AMP

For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.

Oh God, give us a love & hunger for Your Word! We greatly need truth in a world reeling and tangled in its own web of lies…the more we know His Word, the freer we become from deception and darkness.

John 8:31-32 NLT

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I picked out 18 of my favorite verses from one of the most precious discourses on the wonder of God’s Word:

Psalm 119

18 Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.

37 Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word

40 I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness.

45 I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.

72 Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.

74 May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your word.

92 If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery.

103 How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey.

104 Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life.

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

111 Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight.

125 Give discernment to me, your servant; then I will understand your laws.

130 The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.

143 As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.

147 I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words.

160 The very essence of your words is truth; all your just regulations will stand forever.

162 I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure.

172 Let my tongue sing about your word, for all your commands are right.

Which one of those jumped off the page to you?  Was there one of those verses you read twice?  Write it down.  Memorize it.  Do not think for a second that was not the Holy Spirit speaking to you…it was!  Rejoice and be glad that He is alive and He is active, my friend!

In 4 days I am stepping out in obedience in teaching God’s Word in a public setting. I will not be reciting Psalm 23, but just for old-time’s sake, read these words with me…

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

he refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I don’t know who or where you are right now in the path of life, but I do know this: God has something to say to you through His Word. He deeply cares that His Words are on your lips and in your heart. He speaks to us however He wants to, and what I know to be true is that when you look for Him in the Scriptures, you cannot help but end up face to face with the Living God. And when you end up face to face with the Living God, things start to happen in your life. There is no more exhilaratingly wild ride on the earth, than a living active relationship with the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ our Lord. Get to know Him better, walk with Him, talk with Him, pray and open this Book with confident expectation to be changed into His likeness.

Isaiah 55:10-13

10 “The rain and snow come down from the heaven and stay on the ground to water the earth.  They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.

11 It is the same with my word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

12 You will live in joy and peace.  The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!

13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.  Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.  These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”

In the ESV, the second half of verse 11 is translated:

…it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Sweet friend, you are the thing for which He sent His Word. Your family is the thing for which He sent His Word. Whatever your position, whatever your dilemma, whatever your circumstance or age or status or situation…He sent His Word that we may be healed and made whole by the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 107:20  

He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.

Any and every moment you spend meditating, reading, pondering, praying, studying, or memorizing the Word of the Lord is time that will produce a harvest of righteousness for His Name’s sake. It WILL bear fruit! Oh sister, He is so worthy of our time and attention, and He is worth it!

*Photo Credit:  http://amolife.com/image/kids/pretty-little-girl-portraits.html

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My Go-To Prayer, No Matter What (a Study of Colossians 1:9-14)

I want to share with you my absolute go-to prayer when someone is hurting, weary, grieving, disappointed, confused, if they are tired, weak, depressed, dry or defeated. This is also my go-to prayer for people on the top of the mountain, in victory, a heart full of praise, for people who are rejoicing and seeing God’s hand at work, or in a season of ease and tangible blessing.  I believe, that no matter what situation or circumstance, this prayer is one God is pleased to answer – it is His will because you can pray it according to His Word!

Isn’t it just like God to make His Word applicable to us at any stage in life. Not every scripture speaks to every season, but this particular prayer Paul prayed for the Colossians, I believe, is one that does!   Colossians 1:9-14

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people, who live in the light. 13 For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

There are 10 points I want us to consider as we look at this life-giving, go-to prayer for any season or situation of life:

  • Do Not Stop Praying (v. 9)

Keep on asking! That’s what Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 7:7-8.  Even when you feel like giving up on something or on someone, persevere in prayer!

  • Complete knowledge of His Will (v. 9)

What a great, great request this is! Romans 12:2 tells us that by the renewing of our minds we can learn His will, which is good, pleasing, and perfect. God is pleased to answer this prayer, because in effect you are praying for a mind to be renewed so that this person can know the will of God. Something I have said for so many years is that I do not believe our God is in the business of keeping us in confusion – He is pleased when we want to know His best plan…but will we persist in prayer and His Word long enough to have our minds transformed so that we can learn what His will is?  We can pray boldly to have complete knowledge of His will!

  • Spiritual Wisdom & Understanding (v. 9)

Here is another amazing thing to pray! To have spiritual wisdom is so awesome, listen to this!  The Greek word for wisdom is “Sophia” and it means this (according to Strong’s Lexicon):

  1. the varied knowledge of things human and divine, acquired by acuteness (sharpness of mind) and experience

  2. science and learning

  3. interpreting dreams and always giving the sagest advice

  4. intelligence evidenced in discovering the meaning of mysterious numbers or visions

  5. skill in the management of affairs

  6. devout and proper prudence in dealing with those who are not Christ followers, skill and discretion in imparting Christian truth

  7. the knowledge and practice of the requisites for Godly and upright living

That almost overwhelms me, does it you? Can you check off a couple things on that list of 7 that you or someone you’re praying for needs? I love God’s Word, it is so encompassing we have no idea until we get in and study it what kind of access we have in prayer – things unimaginable! Did you know by asking for this kind of spiritual wisdom you are praying that someone will have the ability to share the Good News more effectively? Or that they will have skill in the managing of affairs? In science and learning?   That they will acquire knowledge as if they have had the experience? Amazing. Start praying for some “Sophia” wisdom for your loved ones and friends – we need it, Lord! And we haven’t even touched “understanding” yet…so here goes:

Understanding, Greek “Synesis” – it suggests quickness of apprehension, the penetrating consideration which precedes action, understanding, reflective thought.

I don’t know about you, but I know that I think we all need some quickness of apprehension and certainly could use penetrating consideration which precedes our actions. If we are to represent Jesus well on this Earth, then we certainly need this kind of understanding!

  • Lives that always honor & please the Lord, producing every kind of good fruit. (v. 10)

My mind immediately goes to John 15:8 right here. “When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father.”

The word “honor” here is interpreted in other translations, “a life worthy.”  The NIV says, “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work…”  We can be assured that if we live lives that honor and please and are worthy of the Lord, the evidence will be good fruit, and that proves that we are His true disciples.

  • Growth, as you learn to know God better & better (v. 10)

Several other translations render this statement, “increasing or growing in the knowledge of God.” You have probably heard many times that in the Christian life there is no stand-still, you are either growing or shrinking back in your faith, either moving forward or backwards. I know what I want to do, and I know what I want for the people I am praying for as well! If we want to know God better and better and grow in the knowledge of Him, His Word is the best place to start. That is why He gave it to us!

We have ridiculous access to the Word of God in America, so much so that I believe it has caused us to lose our hunger for God as the Body of Christ.  Much like the Isrealites begged Moses for meat, and when the quail came after a while they were way tired of it.  It no longer meant what it used to mean to them.  Lord, forgive us from the sinful belief that we know You as well as we need to, forgive us for not reverencing and hungering for Your Word as we should as our daily bread – and Father give us an insatiable hunger to know You better and better by knowing Your Word!

  • Be strengthened with ALL His glorious power (v. 11)

When I was first teaching “Jesus Loves Me” to my little boy, I kept having an issue with teaching him to say “they are weak”, then the Lord showed me that worldly thinking had slipped into my mind. I was thinking that I did not want my boy speaking weakness over himself. But as the next line so beautifully goes with it, “but HE is strong!”  If we can understand that our strength comes from His glorious power, and denounce the world’s lie that we have to muster up our own strength, we will get it right! I have wasted so much time in my life by trying to rely on my own strength, which always fails. Jesus does not fail! His power is unending and has no limitation. I want my baby boy growing up to be free to own his weakness that he might cling to the glorious power of God which will make him strong!   We all need that, Amen?!

Just quick note on the Greek here, which I find totally fascinating…the Greek for strengthened is “dynamoo.”  If you look at “dynamo’s” root-word you find the word “dynamis.”  Dynamis is the word Paul used for power in this same verse!  Let me explain further –  God is telling us through Paul that our strength comes from His power…and with the Greek words Paul used, he gave the readers a literal word picture.  Just as the word, dynamoo comes from the word dynamis…our strength comes from God’s Power.  Sign me up!

  • ALL the endurance & patience you need (v. 11)

Of all the things I think we need under trial, these two things are paramount. Let’s let the Word of the Lord speak to our hearts, here are some definitions so that we can better understand endurance and patience:

Endurance (Greek – Hypomone): in the New Testament the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and reverence for God (piety) by even the greatest trials and sufferings; steadfast waiting for; a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance (Vines Expositor’s Dictionary)

Patience (Greek – Makrothymia): patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs (Strong’s Lexicon)

We are faced daily with trials and sufferings of many kinds. Our trials seem almost trivial if we compare our lives to those people who live in third-world countries or hostile nations like Syria or Iran. But, you know what I know about our God? He sees what breaks our hearts just like He sees what breaks our brothers’ and sisters’ hearts in much harsher environments by comparison.  Comparison kills us whether we are elevating ourselves above someone else or burying ourselves below them.  God is sovereign, and we are all in equal need of His love and power in our lives, no matter who we are or where we live.  Maybe you have a harsh environment where you live, or you know someone who really has tremendous hardship or sufferings right now.  We are not to discount those things – our God sees us and He knows what we need.  And the Holy Spirit is our Comforter no matter where or who we are, as long as we are in Christ.

You and I also need a special measure of endurance and patience, because we live in the U.S. where we are inundated by the “instant-ness” of life. We can DVR our TV so that we do not even have to patiently endure 3 minutes of commercials anymore!  You can buy a book and instantly read it on your phone or tablet within seconds.  We really need the Lord to teach us endurance and patience, I do not know anyone who does not struggle with these two things.

When we face roadblocks or something seems to be taking too long, according to our own understanding, our first inclination is to bust out of whatever it is, to get out from under the pressure we may feel – we want relief!  We desperately need endurance and patience if we are going to represent Jesus well in the world, after all – what better example do we have than He Himself patiently enduring waiting 30 years to even begin His ministry, then three years of teaching amongst hostile religious leaders, and then on top of all that – patiently enduring the Cross.

The Greek root-word for endurance is “Hypomeno” which is to remain, to tarry behind; i.e. abide, not recede or flee. To persevere: under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ; to endure, bear ill treatments bravely and calmly.

What a beautiful thing to pray for someone!  Instead of praying that God will change their (our) circumstances and release them (us) from pain or trial or difficulty – what if we began praying that they (we) would be so strengthened by all His glorious power, and be so full of the endurance and patience we need – that they (we) would not recede or flee but persevere in misfortune and trials and hold fast to their (our) faith in Jesus; that they (we) would bear ill treatments bravely and calmly and refuse the temptation to avenge wrongs against them (us).  Oh that’s so good, Lord!

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured.  That is the true mark of a champion, I love the NLT uses that word to describe our Savior!

  • Be Filled with Joy (v. 11)

The coolest thing about joy is that it is not dependent upon circumstances. It means, according the Strong’s Lexicon: rejoice exceedingly, to be well, thrive.

I want those I pray for to rejoice exceedingly and to be well and to thrive!  That’s a prayer I can get down with, how about you?  It reminds me of James 1:2-4

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Did you notice these same words and concepts here?  Troubles can lead to Joy -> Faith gets Tested -> Endurance has a chance to Grow -> when our endurance is fully developed = we are complete, lacking nothing.  Amen.

  • Always thanking the Father (v. 12a)

I could write an entire post, and probably will at some point, on this word. Thanks/thanking/thanksgiving – it is the Greek “Eucharisteo” and it changed my life several years ago after I listened to the audio version of Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.”  I have listened to it 3 more times since then, and each time I have a greater understanding of what it means to give God thanks in everything.

I want to be the kind of daughter that is always thanking my Father.

Jesus was the kind of Son that was always thanking The Father. Check this out!

Eucharisteo:

to be grateful,

to feel thankful,

to give thanks

Could there be a more encompassing definition than this?   Be.  Feel.  Give.

Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, asks the Lord that we’d ALWAYS be thanking the Father.  What the definition gets at, is that we can (even when we do not “feel” thankful), give thanks. And when we give thanks, we begin to feel thanks, and that creates a state of “being” thankful in our hearts. If we can push through the lack of feeling into obedience of what God asks of us, inevitably our feelings will come around.  God is a God powerful enough to change our “want to” our “feelings” and our “state of being.” All we need to do is humble ourselves, and be obedient to what He is saying to us right now.  This day our daily bread.

One step at a time, patiently enduring and relying on His glorious power as our strength, all the while we are growing in our knowledge of Him and discovering through the transformative power of His Word what His will is, and our lives begin to bear fruit and thereby honor the greatness of His Name.  And finally, to the crux of it all in verse 14…the truth of the Good News!

  • The truth is that He enables us to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people who live in the light, He rescued us out of the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son – Who purchased our freedom & forgave our sins.     (v. 12b-14)

The next verses in Colossians 1:15-20 go on to describe the incomparable greatness and power and superiority of Jesus Christ our Lord. No matter who we are praying for, saved, not saved, struggling or succeeding – we all need Jesus. We all need Him equally as bad as the next person. The Good News is that He Himself came down and rescued us out of the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, by means of Christ’s blood on the cross – He purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. THIS is what enables us to live the life He died and rose again to give us!

A life of prayer & unhindered communication with God – complete knowledge of His will – experiencing wisdom and understanding we could not have apart from Him – lives that honor and please the Lord – lives that bear every kind of good fruit – growing through knowing God better and better – being strengthened with all His glorious power – more endurance – more patience – being filled with joy – always thanking the Father – knowing, receiving, and walking in the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ. That is life and life to the full, if you ask me!

I want to leave you with just the coolest, most refreshing take on these words from The Message translation ->

Colossians 1:9-14 The Message (MSG)

9-12 Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to His will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making Him proud of you as you work hard in His orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that He has for us.

13-14 God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son He loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

Goodness Gracious, can I get an AMEN!?!?!  That’s my prayer for you today, and I pray that you, too, can pray with more boldness when you understand these words God inspired in the letter Paul wrote to the Believers in Colosse.

The Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of this kind of life, and He is so so so worth it!

Let 2015 Be the Year you Have because You Ask

When I started this blog in March 2014, I really felt the Lord impress on my heart that I was only to write what He was teaching me, nothing more nothing less.  Not compelled to meet any deadline or any quota, but to listen to what the Spirit was saying and to respond by writing it.  I have felt like He was teaching me so much in November and December that I could not boil it all down to 1 subject.  Then there were days that I felt so dry that nothing was coming, even when I read His word or attempted to journal.  I love how we go through seasons with the Lord, and in each one, though some are hard and some are sweet…He never changes.  He is always good.

Speaking of His goodness, for the past 5 years the Lord has done something really astounding for me on or around January 1st. He has either given me a specific scripture or a word for the upcoming year. Last year was John 4:23 and teaching me to become a true worshipper. Throughout the entire year I was able to hold on to that word, and view my circumstances through the lens of Him lovingly leading me to worship Him in spirit and in truth as John 4:23 says.  On January 1st of 2013, I woke up with the words to a Kari Jobe song ringing in my head over and over and over, “Nothing is impossible with You” followed by the words, “With You all things are possible.”  And that was my Word for 2013.  2012 had to do with radical giving, etc…you probably get the idea.  And His Word for 2015 I received yesterday – “Do not let 2015 be the year where you do not have because you do not ask.”  In other words, I feel Him pressing in on my prayer life, pressing in for intimacy that I’ve never had before, pressing in to spark something in my spirit that He really did mean what He said in James 4 and Matthew 7 about asking Him.

I want to dive into those passages and some others on prayer in the coming weeks here on Living Amplified, but today I want to share an experience I have had with God.  I want to testify of His Goodness.  And first, I want to ask you – where are you in your prayer life?  Are you dry?  Are you lacking something?  Well, you are certainly not alone!

Prayer seems elusive to me at times. I get in ruts of praying certain things, and asking Him for much, much less than He is able to do. At the same time, I feel strongly that I have the freedom to ask Him anything, and confident that He is good and nothing is impossible with Him – and yet I know I hold back sometimes. Maybe it is because I’m afraid He’ll say no, maybe it’s because I don’t want to admit my need in a certain area, and maybe it is because I have never seen what I am asking for (especially in the realm of massive culture-changing revival).  Lord, help to to believe even if I do not see!  But, often I know it is because I get lazy. Like this spirit of laziness comes over me and I begin to believe the lie that I am just staying silent on an issue because “He knows anyway.” And He does know. And He still wants me to engage in prayer.

It astounds me that Jesus is interceding and so is the Spirit, and what really drives my heart is that I want to know Him well enough that I can come praying what He is praying. But, to pray believing and to pray in His will is to know Him through His Word and through experience. It takes time to develop that kind of closeness with the Lord, and there is no better time than now to press in to Him!

Good. Night. This is so huge!!!

If you and I do not open our mouths and talk things out with Him, or write them out in a prayer journal (or the note section on your phone if necessary) – I am convinced that we will miss His clarity and vision and answers in many ways. He is a personal God. There is so much we need to receive and so much that He wants to give!  He see us, and He hears us, and He knows us…

Why, then, are we content to stay silent with Him?

And believe me – I know there are times to be silent in His presence so that we can hear Him speak to our hearts…but too often I know we stay silent for the wrong reasons.

Prayer is our submission to Him, it’s our admission that we are in such desperate need of Him to come through for us.  It’s a meeting with Him constantly throughout the day – constantly seeking – constantly asking – constantly worshiping – constantly trusting and communing – constantly desiring to be aware of His presence no matter how we feel – no matter what our circumstances.

Matthew 7:7-9 is Jesus talking directly to us about prayer:

Effective Prayer

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

I have been reading a new book on prayer by Timothy Keller. I first heard about it on John Piper’s blog www.DesiringGod.org.  I love so many quotes from this book already. It is called Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.  The truth of his words echoed in my ears because it juxtaposed what God was calling me to do last year (worship Him) and this year (ask Him):

“Seasons of dryness can return for a variety of causes. We don’t spend a discrete amount of time in dryness until we break through permanently into joy and feeling. Instead, the vivid reorientation of mind, and the overall sense of God on the heart, comes more frequently and sometimes in startling ways—interspersed with times of struggle and even absence. Nevertheless, the pursuit of God in prayer eventually bears fruit, because God seeks for us to worship him (John 4:23) and because prayer is so infinitely rich and wondrous.”

Excerpt From: Timothy Keller. “Prayer.”

You might need to read that again.  I’ve read it no less than 20 times in the past couple days and I keep mining gems out of that collaboration of words.

On New Year’s Eve, my best friend, Julia and I experienced a vivid reorientation of mind, an impressive sense of God in our hearts, and the infinite richness and wonderous-ness of prayer. With her permission, I want to give testimony to God’s infinite goodness and kindness, one of those good gifts that only our Heavenly Father could have orchestrated and accomplished.

For Jules, 2014 was painful and terrible in many ways, yet contained some of the greatest miracles and victories she has ever experienced.  2013 ended with great strife in her marriage, and 2014 began with her husband demanding a divorce that she did not want, which was eventually finalized against her will. We prayed, we sought God for that miracle of healing and restoration, we wept, we questioned, we counseled, we prayed more and I watched my best friend walk through perhaps one of the most painful seasons of her life trusting Jesus. Not only did she trust Him, but really truly depended on Him for the strength to draw her next breath. And I saw her pain and I felt it. I am convinced the reason I felt it so much is because I went to battle for her in prayer. It was the hardest and most precious thing I have ever been privileged to do for someone. Through it all, the Lord was teaching me what it meant to truly become a prayer warrior for another sister in Christ. And He as literally astounded us with His faithfulness to answer prayer. He did not restore her marriage or change that man’s heart, but He healed her and changed her, and He changed me, too. And we will not forget what He has done!

Such an interesting thing began to happen in her relationship with the Lord when her healing had become a reality. When it was no longer a miracle to get through a day without crying, when she no longer depended on Jesus to lift her head enough to look at her computer screen at work, when she did not have to eat/sleep/breath scripture just to keep from completely falling apart…then everything seemed dry.  Have you ever experienced something like that?  When you go through such a shocking and tragic loss, depending on Jesus for everything is a necessity. When He comes through, you begin to heal, it transitions from necessity to choice. I think that is actually the much more difficult thing. I remember telling her once that she had to be the 1 leper out of the 10 that returns to give thanks. And that’s what I have witnessed her doing, praise Jesus!  But, it has not been without struggle against the dryness. And, just as Pastor Keller’s book was quoted above…seasons of dryness really do finally break through into joy and feeling again.

She was actually supposed to be here celebrating New Year’s with us this weekend. There is currently a record-breaking ice storm between here and where she lives. So, we prayed and we sought wisdom as to whether she should brave the icy conditions.  Even when she tried to get out in the ice and come against our better judgment, the Holy Spirit gave her such incredible conviction she had to turn around and go back home! My attempts to buy her a plane ticket were thwarted by flight cancellations.  And as God would have perfectly timed it…she is stuck in New Mexico. Alone.

So, I did what any best friend would do…I pouted.  Ha! I was seriously walking through the store with my husband yesterday, and silently contending with the Lord as to “why He would make her be by herself instead of with all of us who love and miss her so much.”  Well, little did I know, He was going to tell me why he kept her in New Mexico a few hours later.  And so quickly I forgot – He loves her more than any of us could!

Fast-forward to last evening, New Year’s Eve. I told my husband that since we were not going anywhere, I really wanted time to take a long, kid-free, hot Epsom-salt bath to soothe my aching muscles from starting a new workout program earlier this week…and because of the awesome guy he is, it actually happened! (Those of you who have ever had small children know what a miracle that is in itself)!  So, with all my quietness I was praying, and specifically I was praying for Julia. I was just bolding approaching the throne on her behalf as I have so many times over the past year. And, suddenly I got the strongest word from the Lord concerning her. One of those instant downloads from On High where I knew I better record or write it down ASAP so that I would not forget it.

I called right away to tell her what the Lord laid on my heart that He wanted to say to her. I had to leave it on her voicemail. My heart was beating 100mph it seemed, and therefore I spoke 100mph so I could say everything without getting cut-off. She called me back in tears and praising Jesus and telling me that it was the exact thing she had been needing and wanting from Him. I had no idea, but some of the secret things she had told the Lord, He confirmed them through what He told me. I was just as overwhelmed and amazed as she was! She was crying and laughing when she told me she was totally content if that is why she had to stay home alone so that I could have been by myself away from the crowd in prayer and hearing a word from Him that perhaps will set the course for her life in 2015.  I do not want to say that He sent the storm to keep her home, but He might have.  I do not know how to fully explicate it, but we were closer together right then on the phone discussing God’s faithfulness, praying together though 7 hours apart, than we could have been if she were right here in my living room.

I cannot describe the gratitude I feel that God is that big. He is that personal.  Our best plans for New Year’s Eve paled in comparison to what He had a mind to do in us and for us.

He knew what she needed to hear because she had been coming to Him in prayer and being honest with Him, even in the drought of her heart.

He knew that I needed to be still and to listen, and to pray and experience exactly what He desires to be my reality for 2015…boldly approaching the throne of grace to receive what He has to give.

But, you see, it’s not merely about me and Jesus, or Jules and Jesus, or you and Jesus. He is too big for that. The word He gave me about not letting 2015 be a year where I do not have because I do not ask – it has to do with being His representative in the Earth.

We really can experience God in such a profound way that we are forever changed, and so often He accomplishes that in response to us being alone with Him in prayer, listening and pursuing His heart.  Matthew 6:6 is where Jesus says, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”  He takes what He teaches us in private, and moves us into the context of the people He places around us.  He means for us to be in community. He means to use our lives to impact those around us with the power of His presence, with the glory of His goodness, with the kindness of His mercy…and He prepares us for all of that in the secret place.

I love this next quote from Pastor Keller’s book:

“The traditional forms of prayer—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication—are concrete practices as well as profound experiences. We must know the awe of praising his glory, the intimacy of finding his grace, and the struggle of asking his help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of his presence. Prayer, then, is both awe and intimacy, struggle and reality.”

Excerpt From: Keller, Timothy. “Prayer.” Penguin Group, USA, 2014-11-04. iBooks.

Sweet sibling in Christ, I don’t know where this blog post finds you today, but I pray that you will experience the Lord in a refreshing way this year – by intimacy in prayer in the aloneness with Him. Press through days that are dry and difficult, where you feel like He is not there and when it seems He does not see you. He is & He does. Press in to His Word, let Him write His truth on your heart. Press in to His goodness and allow Him to astound you with what He is doing in, around, and through you. May you have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that seeks Him and His will on the Earth.  Press on in this walk with Jesus, know the reality of His presence…He is worthy and He is so very worth it!

Isaiah 43:18-19, 20b NLT

18 “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.

19 For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland…

20b Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.

What do I really want from God? (My prayer today)

Father,

To be easily orchestrated by You,

To seek your face,

To ponder the things of God,

To marvel and to wonder at Your ways,

To see You move,

To hear Your voice,

To know Your Word,

To receive my assignments with joy,

To go where You send,

To stay beneath the shadow of Your wing,

To love You more today than I did yesterday,

To grow in my faith,

To surrender my entire life to You,

To represent You well,

To tell of Your goodness and Your mercy and Your love,

Oh God, to hear You say, “Well done, good & faithful servant!” as I enter eternity,

That my heart would continually give thanks to You,                                                           God my Father, through Jesus the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen!

When We Cannot Understand Why, This is the Answer…

So, I have to tell y’all a story.  Strawberries are one of my 2 year-old’s favorite snacks. Yesterday I had cut the “green stuff” off the top of 3 ripe, dark-red, juicy organic strawberries for him…but he was not having it. He had seen 1 big strawberry in the package that I had left behind (on purpose, mind you). And, I mean, his little strong-willed self was not about to settle for 3 little strawberries when he could have the big one!!!

What he could NOT see was that the big one he had his heart (or taste buds rather) set upon, was NOT ripe, it was still green at the top for goodness sake.  As his momma, I knew that big strawberry was definitely not going to be sweet, juicy nor enjoyable.  It would positively be hard to chew and sour, and if I know my boy – which I do – he was going to end up biting into it, then spitting it out and hand it straight to me!  So, in an effort to avoid all of that mess, and from a loving place, I simply chose to give him 3 of the smaller strawberries and leave the big one to ripen a bit more for him to enjoy another day. I had his very best in mind. But all his eyes could see is what I did not give him.

Are you catching what I’m throwing out there?  I did.

As I stood there watching him…assuming I was holding out on him, as if I was being mean and stingy with him…God started to reveal things in my own heart.  In reality, nothing could have been further from the truth! As a mom, it was so frustrating because he would not listen to my reasoning, he refused to hear my heart behind why I chose 3 beautiful strawberries instead of the 1 on which he had his mind fixed.  I knew what he did not know!

When is the last time that you saw something “better” in your own eyes that God did not give you?

Even though we know it in our minds, perhaps maybe our hearts are not really getting it – that our God sees what we do not and cannot see.  And the underlying, significant question is:

Do we really, truly, somewhere deep-down (in the secret places of our own heart), do we have a mistrust for our God?

Do we trust in what we can see with our own eyes?

OR

Do we trust the Creator of the Universe, The One Who condescended to Earth as a man, took upon Himself all of our shame and guilt and sin, died in our place, rose from the grave to give us eternal victory, and ever lives to intercede for us?!

God is not holding out on us, no matter how much that seems to be the case.  He is good. His ways are right and His Word is true. Trust Him today.  He is the only One who will not change, He is the only One Who is exactly Who He says He is.  He is the only One Who can see what is coming our way, He knows what is in our best interest, and this is critical for you and I to understand – He cares.

Last week, a precious woman who has been unable to conceive a child for years came in to my office. Numerous tests, numerous treatments, countless hours of wondering and asking and never understanding why God would not say yes. Just that morning she and her husband had been told by their fertility specialist that a “less than 7% chance existed” even if they tried a different (very expensive) procedure to get pregnant. She wept because she also found out that a family member who already has 4 children, just got pregnant with her 5th.  This is the magnitude of things that are overwhelming the lives of so many people around us.

I was overcome with emotion for her, I could hear the raw state of her spirit, and I knelt beside her and told her with every bit of confidence I have, “Tell Him, tell God what you are feeling, tell Him how bad you are hurting and how you do not understand it, and do not let an offense with Him take hold in your heart. Do not stuff down those emotions in order to put on the “good Christian” front, as if we cannot cry out to Him or be honest with Him.  He is not fragile!  He loves you and He sees you.”

And boy do I believe that!  I do.  And if you, my sister, are in a situation that is of that intensity in your own life, I want to tell you the same thing I told her!

It is so dangerous for a believer to fear or fail to bare her soul to the One Who created it.

It is in Jesus Christ alone we find our healing.

Have you asked Him for a miracle you have not yet received?

  • A disease or injury to be healed?
  • A marriage to be restored?
  • A job to be found?
  • A child to be conceived?
  • A situation to be changed?
  • A single person longing to be married?
  • A broken heart over a sudden loss?
  • A financial struggle that seems to repeat itself?
  • A prodigal child to come back to Jesus?

And yet, somehow in His sovereign way of knowing what we do not know and seeing what we do not see, through His loving and caring and kind hands, our God has chosen a different answer right now.

God chooses our strawberries wisely and from a place of love.

It’s Who He Is. (1 John 4:8)

There is no other way He operates. He does not change. (James 1:17)

He does not withhold what is good for those of us who love Him. (Psalm 84:11)

He is the giver of all good things. (James 1:17)

His heart is kind. (Romans 4:2)

If you are struggling today, take heart. (John 16:33)

My attempt to give my boy the best strawberries I had to offer is rubbish compared to what our Heavenly Father offers us.  My very best could not even scratch the surface of the vastness of the glory of The Lord’s favor and affection toward His children.

Listen to what Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew 7:7-11:

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 

You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!  So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.

There is great victory to be had in persisting in what you are asking God to do. Persist in prayer to find the ways He is revealing Himself.  Persist in knowing Who He Is on the deepest level.  And the result is that you begin to trust this:  He knows what you do not know and He sees what you do not see.  Knowing Him intimately allows you to tap into what the Holy Spirit is saying (Rev. 3:22), and agree with what Jesus is at the right hand of our Father interceding for us (Romans 8:34).

I wonder if we would be willing to remain faithful in our own frustration or dissatisfaction, knowing that because God is Who He says He Is…we shall doubtless receive His grace and blessing in the hardship. And we shall doubtless live in victory regardless of our circumstance.  And we shall doubtless help another sojourner on their road of faith as well.

My precious patient who was falling apart the last time I saw her, today informed me that she has been able to minister to a friend who had a miscarriage and is struggling to understand God’s reasons for not giving her this child.  His ways are immensely, vastly beyond what we can see.

Sweet sister, when we do not understand why, the answer is Who. Jesus Christ is worthy of our lives being poured out for Him, and He is worth it whatever your lot!  Trust Him today.  And if you do not have enough faith to trust, tell Him so.  All you need to do is ask.  He is a Father who loves to give good gifts (and the best strawberries) to His children.

A Promise from God when Parenting is Difficult

I’ve been reading Psalm 18 lately.  I love so much of what it says, but the fact that it starts in verse 1 with this:  I love you, Lord;
    You are my strength.

Well, we’ve definitely needed strength at our house lately.  We have a 2.5 year old son.  If you have ever had a 2.5 year old, chances are that I need not say more.  And I won’t.  Just that we’ve need some wisdom up in here as to how to discipline our child.  Not according to another person’s method, but according to how God created our baby boy to think and relate and operate in the world.  I realize that the things God put in him, and how his personality is today, are what will make him effective in this world for the Cross of Christ.  And that is why we are here and that is why God gave him to us.

So, I’m praying and thinking about all this and asking Jesus for all kinds of peace and wisdom and patience for my husband and I as we face each day.  On Sunday, when I got to church I flipped to Psalm 18 again, and these verses leapt off the page as they often do when the Holy Spirit highlights them for you.

Psalm 18:34-36

34 He trains my hands for battle;
    he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
35 You have given me your shield of victory.
    Your right hand supports me;
    your help has made me great.
36 You have made a wide path for my feet
    to keep them from slipping.

HE TRAINS MY HANDS FOR BATTLE.  (v. 34a)

That’s exactly what I’ve been feeling.  We’re in a battle, not necessarily with our child (although there are moments) but we are in a battle with our own flesh, and the world, and the enemy of our souls, too.  Godly parenting is not easy.  And the Accuser would much rather we take the easy route and give-up & give-in because then we no longer receive the training we need for future battles.

HE STRENGTHENS MY ARM TO DRAW A BRONZE BOW.  (v.34b)

When I think of a bow, automatically I start thinking about arrows.  So, immediately, by the power of God my mind went to this scripture:

Psalm 127:3-4

3 Children are a gift from the Lord;
    they are a reward from him.
4 Children born to a young man
    are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.

Bow and arrow.  And this is what I heard the Lord tell me in my spirit…

We are all 3 in training.  Training is never easy.  My husband and I are being strengthened to draw a bronze bow, as we are training up our child in the way he should go.  If we don’t go through the hard training, our arm will not be strong to pull this bow, last I checked bronze is quite stiff.  But the whole entire point of pulling any kind of bow is the arrow being launched.  And our boy is a gift from the Lord, he is His reward to us, he is like an arrow in our hands.

I don’t know about you, but we want an arrow coming out of our bow that is effective in life, we want our arrow to have a heart for the things of God, to love God’s Word, and to take up his cross and follow Jesus wherever He leads him.  Our arrow is the most important thing that God has EVER entrusted to us!

And back to Psalm 18:35-36, God tells us the results of the training and the strengthening:

You have given me Your shield of victory.

Your right hand supports me;

Your help has made me great.

You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping.

What a good God we serve!  A creative and thoughtful and wonderful and mighty and smart and Holy God!  This is exactly the reassurance that I needed.  I needed to know that The Lord is with us, even though I knew it in my head.  Sometimes when our human mind is at such a loss for answers and in such desperate need for endurance and patience in a situation…we need the Holy Spirit to highlight something so unmistakably that we cannot miss it.

And He does that.  And He uses many avenues, but His Word is paramount.  If I had not been searching Him in the scriptures, I would not have received this and I would not feel the strength I do today to continue on in the training for the battle.  Our God is promising us that if we will continue in the training, He will strengthen us to pull this bronze bow.  It is not easy, it takes endurance and patience to gain the strength needed to launch this little precious and awesome arrow.  God will give us victory, His right hand will support us, it is by His help that we can be great at what we are doing, and it is the path He makes for us that keeps us from slipping.

Lord, we want to be on Your path, not another’s!  We want to be faithful to the assignment that You give us.  We want to be great parents, and we can only be that if You are the One we are training under.  You know our children, it is You who knitted them together, and we want to hear from You everyday, and especially on difficult days how to walk this parenting thing out.  And we need discernment from on High as to picking which battle we will engage.  I ask You, in Jesus Name, that every mom or dad reading this would be supernaturally filled with wisdom, patience, and endurance.  We need You, Jesus!  And, Lord, that the Peace of Christ would rule in our hearts, and the Peace of Christ rule in the hearts of our children.

This prayer of Paul’s in Colossians 1:11-12b comes to mind, I pray this for all of us:

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father

I am filled with joy today.  Not because my child is easy to handle today, in fact, he is still asleep right now.  But because I know God is with us.  I know that if we ask Him for anything according to His will, that He will give it to us.  And I know that our God loves our little arrow more than we do.   Bless you today as you walk this thing out…He is worthy & He is worth it, Love Y’all!

Part 3 Upstream Swimming: Compelled to live like Jesus here in the world


We are wrapping up our study on the concept of swimming upstream today with the most important concept of all…being compelled to live like Jesus here in the world.  We’ve looked at Daniel’s journey in the OT and Paul’s words in the New, now we are turning to the pages of scripture where specifically our Savior Himself teaches us how to live in this world.  I am praying that as you read these words you feel the strength of the Lord filtering down through every cell of your being.  He means for us to live victoriously, conforming to Himself, and He tells us how.  And just to re-cap the baseline concepts we began with in Part 1

Swimming Upstream: To opt for a difficult course of action when a simpler or safer alternative is available

Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.

Non-conformist: a person whose behavior or views do not conform to prevailing ideas or practices.

It is counter-cultural and it takes a non-conformist mindset to obey Jesus’s commands to love your enemies,

and pray for those who persecute you,

to sit at the table with people whose sins are hanging out there for all to see,

to forgive someone seventy times seven.

We are all in equal need of Jesus, it’s just that some of us hide our need better than others.

Jesus never stood holding the stone. He went to the one in need and extending His hand of healing and forgiveness, He commanded in love that the life of sin be left behind. He did not accuse, He never used shame or guilt against someone, He loved and He gave them confidence that He would do the enabling.

The only reason that any of us overcome anything in our lives is because of His grace.

I want to be the kind of person that gives the magnitude of grace that I have been given. I want to have my security so cemented into my Savior that I can emotionally afford for people to have a bad day with me. Does that make sense?

I want for people to be able to act up, act wrong, act tired, act annoyed, act angry, you fill-in-the-blank with whatever behaviors get under your skin. How ever people behave around me, I want it NOT to send me into a sin of my own. <please note that we need extreme discernment to know if we are trying to be a person’s savior rather than pointing them to the ONLY Savior, and we also need extreme wisdom to know if we are in an unhealthy relationship that our God is telling us to flee for our lives, what I’m talking about here is a God-ordained place where He has specifically asked us to engage and love>

Because my security is found in Jesus, I can pray for that person, serve that person, love that person without expecting them to perform a certain way that I might deem them worthy.

Selah (pause and calmly think of that)!,”  as the Psalmist says.

Jesus deemed me worthy for Him to suffer and die on a cross. He died a criminal’s death while I was still a sinner. When He was on the cross, you and I were on His mind. And do you know what He decided? We were worth it to Him.

I wish I could tell you how many faces are popping into my mind of people that I have dismissed because I deemed them unworthy of my time or effort or love. Forgive me, Jesus. Help me see people like You do.

The pattern of the world says that there are throw-away people and throw-away unborn lives.

The prevailing mindset is that you scratch someone’s back only if they scratch yours.

The cultural norm is that you find people who think like you and look like you and do not disagree with you and do things the way you like them done and love those people because they love you back.

The simpler option in life is to go with the flow of the masses, who are walking the self-serving wide-open broad path that leads to destruction.

But none of this matches up with how Jesus taught us to operate.

Let’s look at 4 scriptures in particular, that I believe can open our eyes again to what God really wants from us…the upstream living that is true Christianity. I pray you’ll take the time to let these truths sink in, fight the temptation to read with familiarity. Let His Holy Word pierce your heart as you read like it pierces mine as I did.

Matthew 22:36-37

36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’

38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

When Jesus says that there are 2 commandments that stand above the rest, I think we ought to take note. How many times have we heard these truths? I would venture to say quite a few depending on how long you have been following Jesus. But, do His words hit us with the magnitude that they should? Do we feel His heart when we read them so strongly that it compels us to action?

John 13:34

34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

He has loved us well, are we then loving others to that same degree? He came not to be served but to serve…do you and I come to serve or to be served?

Matthew 5:43-48

43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.

44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.

47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.

48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

I can tell you that these scriptures provide me with the clearest look into my own heart. I know that I am guilty of playing favorites. It is easy to love people who are lovable, and Jesus says that is no credit to us.

But what about the ones who are difficult to love? Do you have anyone in your family who is like that? How about a co-worker? A teenager who is acting, well, like a teenager.   The supervisor who is hateful and rude. Or your toddler who decided he will pitch a fit in the middle of Wal-Mart? A husband who is being difficult to get along with, a sibling with whom you disagree, the lady from church who talks too much and who you really do not have time to stand and listen…Do we only love those who love us well or are we willing to love when it’s difficult?

Do we love when it makes us die to self?

Mmmmm.  CON. VICTING.

In verse 47, Jesus Himself says that we are no different than anyone else if we are kind only to people we consider friends. The entire point of swimming upstream is that we are not like everyone else! We choose to live like Jesus and not like the rest.

1 John 4:16-17

16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Lord Jesus, we want to live like You here in this world…

Does it occur to us to hit our knees asking God’s mercy on our politicians who are making decisions of corruption and evil?

Do we grieve over the lost souls in ISIS who are persecuting our Brothers & Sisters across the world?  Are we asking God to meet them in the night with visions and dreams and for radical conversions to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

Are we asking the Creator of Heaven and Earth to reveal Himself to the scientist in the laboratory using stem cells from aborted babies who are used as throw-away lives in the name of ‘good’ science?

I believe that we all have areas in our life where it’s become very, very easy and comfortable to settle in to our yachts of luxury riding downstream without any effort. That’s what the enemy loves, doesn’t he? If he can convince us that we aren’t really hurting anyone else by floating idly downstream with all the masses that must mean that everything is okay.

You and me, let’s get out of the boat and start swimming upstream to a life that is pleasing to our Savior. It’s a process. It takes time to create endurance and strength. If our muscles of self-denial and radical-obedience are weak, then it will take practice to build them up. No, upstream swimming is not for the weak, it’s for the weak who have been made strong. And, Sister, that’s us. Jesus means for us to believe Him and to trust Him and to take Him up on His offer for the abundant life. I’m in…are you? See you upstream!

Part 2 Upstream Swimming: It’s for the weak who have been made strong

Slide1Welcome back! As we pick up from part 1, where we talked about Daniel’s decision to live a faithful life in the face of a very unfaithful culture…I wonder what thoughts have come to your own mind about the decisions we make to conform or not to conform? Let’s revisit the 3 words/phrases that we began with last time:

Swimming Upstream: To opt for a difficult course of action when a simpler or safer alternative is available

Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.

Non-conformist: a person whose behavior or views do not conform to prevailing ideas or practices.

Daniel’s faithfulness and trust ushered in an “on earth as it is in Heaven” event. Only God could have done that. And I KNOW that He can do that level of miraculous intervention with us, too! God ordained that you and I would live in such a time as this. We are not living in this age by some random chance. We were sent here to make a difference in our culture. I do not believe we are to just stand back with stones in our hands with clenched fists of malice and bitterness that the world is acting like the world, nor are we to ignore the world around us.

I feel so convicted by the Holy Spirit. My heart needs to be broken over sin and the desperate need of those without Jesus. I have Him and I am still in desperate need of Him every second of every single day!   It seems like as the Church in America, we’re collectively just holding on till Jesus gets here, and praying He’ll come just rescue us from all this mess. I hear Believers make comments often about how bad things are and how it’s so scary to raise children in this day and age. While I understand the sentiment, I respectfully disagree.

Yes, I disagree, even though I have been rocked to my core about reports of Israel being bombed repeatedly, by Believers suffering grave persecution in the Middle East, mothers watching their children die brutal deaths at the hands of radical muslim terrorists, church members risking life and limb to meet underground with only a single torn-out page of the Bible to memorize and study, and the list of atrocities goes on and on of reasons why it is a brave decision to be a Follower of Jesus Christ in the world today.

I was reading this last night in Ephesians 3, listen to what Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus as they grieved over hearing about his own persecution. (Please see 2 Corinthians 11:23-30 for a list of some of the things Paul endured which he references in this passage).  And Paul was only subject to these persecutions BECAUSE he was not conforming to the accepted ways, right? Everything he did was in direct opposition to the religious and political power holders of his day.

Ephesians 3:12 Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. 13 So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored.

Could it be that we should take heart because of the trials our Christian brothers and sisters face around the globe? What if we felt honored because across the world our brothers and sisters are suffering for the very same thing we have freedom to express in America? My faith gets fired-up when I hear of those people who are staring in the face of death. Those who have had the option to take a sword to the neck or denounce their Savior, and chose to believe Jesus! Are you kidding me??? Praise God! Paul says to live is Christ and to die is gain. I am honored to call them my fellow soldier in the Faith. It makes our hearts hurt and we shed tears, but we do not grieve their hurts like ones without hope, do we?

There could soon come a day in America where we face the same dangers for following Jesus.

Upstream swimming is difficult. We have been called to a warrior life. But, have we forgotten?

We are more than conquerors,

Romans 8:35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[Ps. 44:22]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

We fight battles in heavenly realms and not flesh and blood,

Ephesians 6:10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

In this world Jesus told us there will be trouble,

And are we so comfortable and obsessed with staying comfortable that we’re surprised about all this?

See, what we’re forgetting is that He overcame the world. He won!

John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

What if you and I would begin to operate from the FACT that we are fighting from a place of secured victory and not fighting for victory. Overwhelming victory is ours.  (note: In Romans 8:37 Paul said  *IS* ours, not “will be” or “may someday be if you are really good or really lucky, etc.”  IS. CURRENTLY.  OURS.)

Did you catch that? We are fighting from a place of Victory. It’s already finished! It is already ours. He did the overcoming and it was enough! But, we get caught in this trap and believing the enemy’s lie that we are fighting for victory which unavoidably leaves us with the chance of being defeated. No. Read His words again and again. He meant for us to live the abundant life of victory and for the things we struggle with to make us abound in His strength instead of crying about our own weakness and giving in and swimming downstream. We have been given power from On High, the question is: Do we live in power? Do our lives overflow with the fruit of the Spirit? Because Jesus ascended so that The Helper could come!

I think this is what Paul meant when he talked about boasting about our weakness because that is what magnifies God’s strength in us. He was dealing with a messenger from Satan sent to keep him humble. Sometimes in our own difficulties we feel like that, don’t we? Like the devil himself is attacking, and in many cases he is! Because if the accuser can get our focus onto our pain, our hurt, our busy-ness, our insecurities, our troubles, our responsibilities, our losses, etc…then he has convinced us we have no chance to live out the things Jesus told us in those scriptures we just read!

2 Corinthians 12:8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Upstream swimming is not for the weak. It’s for the weak who have been made strong.

Hebrews 11:34b Their weakness was turned to strength.

In Hebrews 11, I counted twenty-one people or people groups who are commended for their great faith and every single one of them swam upstream. They did things differently. Their lives looked different from the rest of their generation. And that is what made them uniquely fit to be listed in Hebrews 11. Not that they deserved commendation, but that God’s power on them was so evident that He could use them as examples to us.

You & I are faced daily with decisions to go the way of the world or to take the narrow path. And we can take pleasure in those choices! We have the right to exude love. And joy. And peace. And patience. And kindness. And goodness. And faithfulness. And gentleness. And self-control throughout the process of choosing the narrow path.

I posed the question in Part 1 of this post, in what areas of life is God asking you to swim upstream? I had promised to share what mine are here in Part 2.

I want possibly as much as anything to be useful to my Savior, my mentor once prayed that we would be easily-orchestrated by the Lord. And I’ve heard Beth Moore say, “We cannot do 1,000 things to the glory of God, but we can do a few.” We need to know what our few is…Amen?!

I know that I am called by God to teach God’s Word. Mostly that means that I love to study and learn and listen. I really do dearly love a commentary and the lexical aids like y’all have heard me share on here before. Right now, that means blogging about the things that God is teaching me. What that means in the future, The Lord knows. And as a wife who helps her husband in his work, a mom of a toddler, a business-owner, a doctor, and a wearer of many other hats just like you…that means I have to be diligent in my use of time if I want to be alone with Jesus. I swim upstream.

On my mission-field of my chiropractic practice, God has called me to another upstream swim. I am fighting the good fight for parents to know their rights and their options in the world of vaccinations, food, and true healthcare (as opposed to the sick-care model that is currently being called health-care in America). I am resolutely in favor of people doing their research and consulting the Heavenly Father to find out what they need to know to make informed, right decisions in regard to their body, mind and spirit. In other words, I do not believe that people should blindly follow what big medicine or big pharma or big government says or even regulates.

The Only One Who deserves that kind of faith is Jesus Christ. He is the One Whom I will follow without asking any questions (Lord, help me live that out!), because He, my friends is trustworthy. The three entities I just listed cannot be trusted. I assure you. My entire calling in this area is to share information with those who are wanting it and desiring to know their options. My calling is not to change minds or promote my opinion. For our family, for many many solidly-founded reasons (scientific, biblical, ethical and common sensical (that is my own word, by the way)), we do not and would not allow a vaccine in any of our bodies. And that alone, my friends, puts us into a non-conformist category of which I am happy to be a part.

It has become my joy to swim upstream, and I know that God is pressing in other areas of my life, too.  The beautiful thing is that trusting Jesus is worth it.  It’s worth dying to self and world in order to live the fullest life He has for you.  I continually pray for a hearing ear because I want to be tuned-in to what the Spirit is saying to me at any moment of the day, don’t you?  I’ll pray that for y’all as well.  Hearing ears for everyone who wants them, yes Lord!

In Part 3, we’ll discuss the ways Jesus asked us in His own words to swim upstream, how we are to love, and what should compel us to conform to His will and not the world’s!

How does the concept of feeling honored and taking heart when we hear of Christian persecution around the world hit you?

What areas do you believe the Lord has given you a grace for more power to live FROM a place of victory instead of feeling like you have to constantly fight FOR victory?

PART 1 Upstream Swimming: To Conform or Not to Conform

upstreamSeveral months ago I typed in the note section of my phone about how God calls us to go against the grain, to swim upstream. You know how sometimes God just gives you a word, like He wants us to ponder certain things at times. This was one of them…I jotted down this list:


  • Why I swim upstream

Swimming Upstream: To opt for a difficult course of action when a simpler or safer alternative is available

  • Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.

  • Non-conformist

Non-conformist: a person whose behavior or views do not conform to prevailing ideas or practices.


 

Today my writing is birthed out of a truth that has not changed since the beginning. God is good. God is right. He is love. God is creative and powerful and merciful and holy and true and worthy and wise and every single thing that you and I need is in Him.

And yet knowing Who God Is, having tasted and seen that the Lord is good over and over and over again, this question beckons an answer:

Would we rather still conform to the pattern of this world and to the prevailing ideas?

I wish you had time to sit and ponder that question like I just did after I typed that question mark.

I remember distinctly having the thought years ago that if my life doesn’t really look all that different than most, then I’m very likely swimming downstream with all the masses. I think that’s maybe when I started this journey of doing things differently. And doing things differently doesn’t just happen…your ‘do’ follows your ‘belief’, which makes perfect sense knowing that we are only transformed by the renewing of our minds. Does God’s Word just amaze you, or what? His ways are so right and He is so brilliant!

When I look at Jesus, the way He operated, the way He thought, the way He related to others, the way He lived, He was the quintessential non-conformist, was He not? He came onto the Earth to completely rearrange and demolish the prevailing ideas and practices. And He did. Only to replace it, and reveal something excessively and exceedingly better. If you have ever read Acts, you know that the people who really followed Jesus lived totally different lives than the traditions in which they were raised. It begs the question…should we? Does our life as Christians resemble the Church that Jesus started or something man has created over the centuries?

If we are going to live a life that does not conform to the pattern of the world, we better start living and believing and choosing in ways that are different from the world around us. Not just different to be different. But different to obey the Father, to follow Jesus, to be lead by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said this in Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT):

The Narrow Gate  13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

I have so been on the broad road at times in my life. Have you? I have lived in seasons where my life looked very, very similar to what you see glorified on commercials and television shows and magazines as “the good life.” In the NIV, it calls the broad road the one that leads to destruction. We all have some scars from living that way. I certainly do.   So I’m telling you, I literally have not one single stone to throw at anyone!

As Believers, I strongly believe that God is asking us to be heartbroken over our culture today, heartbroken over families suffering great loss and poverty in the world. But, are we? Or would we rather stand with stones in hand expecting the world to lead Godly lives when our own look a whole lot like theirs.

Is the way you and I live, the way we operate, the way we think, and relate to others so contagious, so hopeful and pure and right that the lost cannot help but want what we have? That’s why the masses followed Jesus. They wanted what He had.   It was the stubborn religious and politically-minded few that crucified Him, the ones who Jesus’s message opposed. In Romans 11:11, Paul tells us Gentiles to live in a way that would make Jewish non-believers jealous, so that they might claim this amazing gift of hope through salvation in Jesus Christ as their own. And I believe we that can apply that to any lost person, not just those who have Israelite ancestors.

Oh Father, that we would not befriend the ways of the world. But Father, that You indeed would enable us to befriend the lost, just as you did.

There is a difference, you know. We really CAN befriend the lost and NOT befriend the world. Daniel did it in chapter 6.

He was taken into Babylon as a teenager and by the time he was in his 80’s, (having lived in that evil culture for 60-70 years) his fervor for God had not waned, and his heart for those who did wrong was tender. Daniel was persecuted for continuing to pray to the One True God while the edict in the kingdom forbade it. He was thrown into a den of hungry lions to surely die a brutal death. Notice how the king approaches Daniel, and how Daniel responds to this same king who had thrown him into the lion’s den:

19 Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?”  21 Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22 My God sent His angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in His sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” 23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.

Daniel served the king faithfully as God called him to. God ordained that Daniel (along with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) be the ones who would go into that culture and change the minds of the leaders. They were not conformed to the pattern of those evil kingdoms, they did not take the simpler and safer alternatives of giving in to the world. We have amazing accounts of the danger they faced and survived in the fiery furnace and the Lion’s den to prove it. We just recently watched the movie, “God’s Not Dead,” and it makes the very same point, he faced a professor who threatened to ruin his grade and his future if he did not join the masses who said they did not believe in God.

It will often provide us immediate safety to follow the masses, but eventually we will pay a great price if we go along with the world instead of trusting and obeying God.

Look at the 10 Israelites who came back from the Promised Land having seen exactly what Caleb and Joshua saw, but their negative report is what the masses believed and everyone freaked out and wanted to return to slavery rather than trust God’s promise. The result was God saying, in Numbers 14:30

You will not enter and occupy the land I swore to give you. The only exceptions will be Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.

Unbelief produces destruction, they all died in the wilderness.  Faith produces reward, Caleb and Joshua lived to see the Promised Land and partnered with God many more times in victory. I am so thankful for God’s Word, and how He uses these accounts to encourage us to believe Him and love Him, even when no one else does.

Speaking of believing and loving God, let’s go back to Daniel 6. Another powerful thing to note is that Daniel did not hate the king.  The king did not love God, and yet Daniel loved the king. And because of Daniel’s willingness to love and serve the king, because that is what God called him to do, look what happens in Daniel 6:25-27:

25 Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world:

“Peace and prosperity to you!

26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel.

For He is the living God,
 and He will endure forever.
 His kingdom will never be destroyed,
 and His rule will never end.

27 He rescues and saves his people;
 He performs miraculous signs and wonders
 in the heavens and on earth. 
He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”

Daniel’s decision to trust God caused the Name of God to be respected and revered across the world, and it changed the trajectory of the Kingdom in which he lived.

What if Daniel had shrunk back and stopped praying because that is what the law demanded?

What if he had given up when it got hard?

Or what if Daniel had cursed the king?

What if he had tried to organize an uprising in self-defense because he was framed?

What if he harbored bitterness in his heart about the way he was wrongly treated?

Well, praise God, Daniel chose faith. He is listed as one of the prophets whose faith is commended in Hebrews 11:33. He chose not to conform to the ways of the world, he defied the prevailing idea of the day in which he lived, and God showed Himself mighty and the Name of the Lord was made famous in his land in the world because of it.

In Part 2 we’re going to continue this look into swimming upstream!

Until then, I’d love to know…In what way is God asking you to be a non-conformist?  Use the comment section below 🙂 

Consider the Wild Flowers: How God Broke me out of my Striving

consider the wildflowers1

So, I have woken up two mornings in the last seven with the scripture out of Luke 12:27 on my mind, and specifically where Jesus tells us to “Consider the flowers of the field…”

I love blueletterbible.org because you can learn things about the original language and delve deeper into the knowledge of God’s Word, and you don’t need a degree!  That’s what I love to do when The Lord gives me a particular scripture to meditate upon.

Luke 12:27 NIV  Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

The word, “Consider” here means:  to perceive, remark, observe, understand, to consider attentively, fix one’s eyes or mind upon

That word for labor in Greek is quite interesting, too.  See if you can relate.  It means:

to grow weary, tired, exhausted (with toil/manual labor or burdens or grief)

Goodness. I’m not sure I know what to say about that because almost every woman I know has some level of exhaustion or weariness going on in their body or their mind or both. Are you tired?  This whole idea of growing weary and tired and exhausted because of toil, burdens or grief pretty much covers the spectrum in our lives.

I have always loved hard work. I was the kid who amongst all my friends would wake up instead of sleeping in on the weekends and in the summer because (and I quote myself here), “Why would I spend half the day sleeping when I can get things done?” and so is my life. I like to get stuff done, I am by nature an accomplisher.  Don’t get me wrong here, I love having a strong work ethic because so pervasive in our world today is a serious lack of work ethic. But, our 2 year old runs around the house singing the catchy phase from a Gatorade commercial where they sing, “Haaard….work!, work!” And often he will tell my husband and I when he’s playing, referring to himself in the 3rd person, that he’s “working so hard.”  I do love it, and I believe that Jesus Christ was into hard work and strong work ethic.

But, there are 2 things The Savior did that we often miss…

#1 He was about His Father’s business. He was not about His own business and then asking God to bless it. No, He was about the Father’s business.

#2 He pulled away, set Himself apart in the inner room of prayer, and He rested.

Luke 2:49 (AMP)  And He said to them, How is it that you had to look for Me? Did you not see and know that it is necessary [as a duty] for Me to be in My Father’s house and [occupied] about My Father’s business?

Really, truly – what is it that we are occupied by?

I will confess to you that I get occupied by a lot of things that are NOT my Father’s business. And previous to the Fall of 2010, I was WAY busier than I am now and I want to tell to you that I was about my own business. Literally. I’m a business-owner, and my hard work was aimed almost entirely at being a total and utter success. And, looking from the world’s perspective, I was and I was accomplishing good things. I wanted to help more people, and I wanted to spend my time making it possible for others to live healthy lives and teach them how and to be available. I was co-leading a bible study, I had even started to do some speaking engagements at churches and women’s groups teaching the Word of God, and I thought that I really loved people. All the while, I was ignoring my husband, with my laptop securely placed on my lap staring at the screen and typing away every waking moment that I wasn’t actually at my office or outside running.  Hard work.  And it was hard.  It was hard on me and hard on him.

In late September 2010, I remember as clear as day when I was driving into town, and praying out loud as I very often do when I’m driving by myself, I heard the Lord say to me, “Why don’t you just quit striving?” And it marked me forever. It was as clear in my ears as if He were sitting right there with me in the flesh. Have you ever experienced that? If you have, you never forget it.

Immediately I knew what the Lord was asking me to do. He was asking me to leave the business-coaching program that I had been a part of for the past 4 years. Because of my perfectionistic type-A personality and sin pattern, being a part of that group was causing me to be extremely stressed and focused on building my earthly empire. My own sin was the root of my striving.

Here’s a direct quote from my prayer journal on September 25, 2010 where was apparently compelled to make a list of the things on which I spent my time (we were in the middle of Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s bible study called “Seeking Him” which I suppose prompted me to ask this question of myself and therefore come up with this honest answer:

“I spend my time: (and here I listed 15+ things that were grossly self-centered and worldly, you can fill in the blank with your own list), and on and on and on and on. It’s relentless this schedule I’ve made of my life because it doesn’t quit. There’s always more to be done and more to plan and more to think about and more to strive for. But, Lord, all of that chokes out You. And I would ‘say’ that You are my purpose for living, You are my joy, You are my passion, You are my life. And when I read that list I just made, I know it’s true, it’s more about me than it is about you. My thoughts, my dreams, my plans, my opinions, my knowledge, my tastes, my perceptions, my feelings. What do those amount to? Filthy rags, dirty garments. All of what I consider in my humanity to be ‘so good’ is trash & rubble before my King. Most of it is chaff that will be instantly consumed by the Holy Fire of your perfect and righteous judgment. And rightly so, Lord, because You are I AM…”

Internally it was the most awful existence of self-centered living and striving to make my name great, all the while on the outside I was kind and loving and helpful and concerned and loved Jesus, and loved His Word. Duplicity at it’s finest…double-minded in all I was doing. To quote from my prayer journal again, this time from about a month later (this was after God broke me out of my striving once & for all) it reads, “Father, I confess to You my duplicity, my walking down 2 paths, straddling the fence of the Word & the world…” And I was, and He was not going to let me keep straddling the fence.

You see, The Lord was not done asking me questions. Within about a week from asking me if I would quit striving (He gave me a few days to realize that I WAS striving, and that was the reason I was so worn-out). By the way, for a wellness doctor to feel worn-out and it not be fixed by a run or a green smoothie, IT IS GOD GETTING ONE HARD-HEADED DAUGHTER’S ATTENTION, and I’m so glad He did.

So, one morning I was on my way to meet some of my sweet sisters from our Tuesday night bible study in my office parking lot, because we were car-pooling to the True Woman 2010 Conference in Ft. Worth.  And I had no clue that God was about to show me His Glory in a way that would CHANGE MY LIFE FOREVER. So, I was driving the 20 minutes it took to go 7 miles on that winding little road we call Fallcreek Hwy, and I heard the Father again as if it were out loud, asking me, “Will you put it on the altar?” And I knew exactly what He was talking about again.

He meant my practice as a whole. All the things I was spending my time on. He meant the business I had worked so hard to build and pressed so hard to maintain for the past 4.5 years, he meant the very thing that I staked my livelihood upon, He meant the thing that had become an idol in my life, He was asking for me to place Clearview Chiropractic Life Center on the altar, and trust it to Him.  If He provided a ram great, if He didn’t, I would have to sacrifice it all and allow it to die.  I’m not sure how I can explain what a BIG deal this was to me, and my Father knew it was.

Later that night and the next day I had an encounter with God (much like what Isaiah did) except I didn’t actually see His train or smoke fill the temple but I definitely perceived it, and my oh my did I come undone and realize I was ruined.  As Mary Kassian talked about the pervasive cult of feminism that had entered our world in the 60’s and 70’s, and how my generation (even those of us in the church) had been so engrossed in a culture where it was accepted and even expected from young women to live exactly as I was living (self-promoting, self-endulging, self-centered, self-seeking, self-everything because after all, we don’t need men to do anything for us, we can accomplish our way into feeling worthy…) – that we no longer even saw our lives for what they were. We were all little frogs in our own little boiling pots never knowing we were in the waters of self-destruction.

I want y’all to know that I staunchly THOUGHT I disagreed with the idea of feminism. True story: my best friend & I watched Disney’s Mulan when we were about 16 years old and we were utterly disgusted with the girl-power message. I didn’t hyphenate my name when I got married, I have brothers whom I adore and I got along with all the guys in college.  I didn’t hate men and I absolutely wanted them to open the door for me. But, I had a wrong belief about my own self.  I thought too often about myself and thought too highly of myself. And I was in that boiling pot fixing to destroy my life, until Jesus rescued me. He rescued me before I ruined my marriage, and He rescued me before I defamed His great Name, and before we had a child. He broke me free and rescued me.

Praise.  His.  Name.

And I’m about to tell you that I have never, ever, ever wept like I did that night when the Holy Spirit, through Mary Kassian, challenged us to repent. I was overcome by His goodness and His grace, but before that, I was overcome by repentance. I laid on the floor of that prayer room inside the convention center and wept until my eyes were swelled and my abs were sore. And when I walked out, I was free.

I was like a heroin addict that put it down and never used again. Oh I’ve been tempted no doubt, even as recently as last month, but when you have been a captive as I was to self and worldly thinking, and your Savior has broken your chains, you do not soon forget the magnitude of it. I know what those chains feel like and the Holy Spirit makes me sensitive to hearing those shackles clankin’ if they even come near.

He asked me to quit striving and lay it on the alter, and so I did.

I quit advertising. I quit the coaching program I was in that continually pushed my type-A perfectionistic-bent self to accomplish more. I put my laptop down at home and had conversations with my husband. I quit analyzing and statistically obsessing over my practice. I quit striving.

And you know what? I started loving.

I would have told you that I loved Jesus, and my husband more than anything previous to that encounter with God. And that I loved my family and my friends and my patients. But, until I laid that burden on the altar, I couldn’t love anyone fully. So much of my life, my thoughts, my energy was tangled up in that thing, that thing of making my own name great, that it was strangling my relationships that mean the most to me.

And I started loving the people God sent into my practice for help and healing. I didn’t need or want anything from them anymore because I was being filled by God’s sufficient grace and love and abundant power. I no longer took on the guilt of someone who didn’t want to get well. I was free to love and serve and give because my emotional and intellectual wellness was found in my Savior, no longer in how other people responded to my will. It was the beginning of death to self.

I quit trying to make all the decisions in our house. I let my husband lead.

The scary thing is that all the time I was striving for things related to my own business, I would have told you that I was about my Father’s business.

Have you ever done that? Been so blinded by the enemy’s twisting that even good gifts from the Father, and callings He puts on our life somehow become the idol you are committed to instead of Him?

The child(ren) you prayed for?

The husband you couldn’t rest until you had?

The bible study you were determined to lead?

The choir you felt lead to join?

The business that you felt called in to?

The volunteer opportunities?

Y’all ,the thing we give most our mind and energy to is the thing we worship.

Get this, there is another place where we are told to “Consider” is in Hebrews 3 (it’s the same exact word as we saw in Luke to consider the wildflowers).   Oh, I know this will bless you as much as it did me!

Hebrews 3:1-6 And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about(same Greek word for ‘consider’) this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest. For He was faithful to God, who appointed Him, just as Moses served faithfully when he was entrusted with God’s entirehouse. But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise than the house itself. For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God. Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.

Are our lives an illustration of the truths God wants to reveal to the world?

We should all want to be and even strive to be faithful servants in God’s house! But, did you catch v. 3? The Person Who builds the house deserves more praise than the house itself.  And v. 4, the One Who builds everything is God.

It does not matter, my friend, what good thing you are striving to do or accomplish, even if it is a noble and worthy cause…if the created thing is getting more praise/time/attention/love/thoughts, etc. than the CREATOR, something is amiss. Repent. You will be blessed. I am and I was when God revealed my duplicity.

We do not have time on this earth to waste it wearing ourselves out being about our own business, or even about the Father’s business in our own way & our own will. We must be about His business, in His way, according to His will – and to be about His business is to be about Him, and the way to be about Him is to be in the inner room of  prayer & about His Word…

The fact that God’s Word is alive and active is all the truth we need to take the next step with Jesus. It is through His Word that He will reveal places in our life where we are straddling the fence of the Word and the world.

Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

If there is any question as to whether what you’re toiling at is God’s business or your own, go to His Word and go to Him honestly in prayer. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposed mine. There is no lie from the enemy that can keep us blinded when we are continually exposing ourselves to the Light of the World. He will break us free, our chains will fall off if we keep exposing ourselves to the Truth.

Studying the Bible is the most mind-stimulating and heart-changing activity on the planet. According to the authority of the scriptures, and by the powerful Living Word, God communicates to us exactly what things we can assuredly be blessed by fixing our eyes & mind upon. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. It is His utter kindness that leads us to repentance. No greater gift has He given than His life laid down that we might repent and be made free.

Bless you today, my brother and my sister. Let God access the areas that you think you have or need to have under control. Let Him show you what’s really wearing you out, physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally. Be unshackled by His Word and by His Spirit, in Jesus Name from your striving.

Consider the wildflowers, for they are decked out in more splendor that the greatest and wisest of kings, and they don’t toil and stress and work themselves to exhaustion. Consider Jesus, the Author & Perfecter of our faith, Who pulled away from the busy-ness and entered the inner room of prayer with the Father regularly, and He rested.