A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Personal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Personal. Show all posts

July 7, 2022

"Let Go or Be Dragged"

I am the most at peace and confident when I am writing. I am able to shut out the world and just receive the thoughts and words that result in something that I hope is worthy of consideration by my fellow inhabitants on this earth. I guess it's that part of me that is made in the image of God; the part that delights in creating the written word. I have shared before about the time a word from the Lord was spoken to me by a man I met only once. He told me the Lord wanted me "to be the pen, and not the blank piece of paper". He shared that God had made me to be a writer, and He wants me use my gift simply to please my Creator, and with no other reward in mind.

So, I have written an unpublished fiction book, an anthology about America under a pen name, a book on the Kingdom of God, and written this blog for 11 years. Now, I am happy [and humbled] to be involved with another anthology titled "Let God or Be Dragged", which includes stories by 13 authors relating how they experienced freedom in their lives from negativity and trauma. I daresay that everyone walking this planet has faced some form of these trials in their life. In the book, I relate a time in my early adulthood when poor choices resulted in a traumatic period of feeling like I was alone with no way to climb out of the hole I had dug for myself. I had to make a choice whether to let go, or be dragged deeper into that well of defeat. For me, Jesus was the answer. And that has had me thinking of the many examples we have in the Bible of men and women who faced that same dejected spirit; who found themselves downcast, disheartened and miserable. They, too, had a decision to make -- cry out to God or stay mired in the situation they found themselves in; whether by their own poor choices or other extenuating circumstances.

Four people come to mind: Job, Joseph, Moses, and Peter. First, let's take a look at the life of Job. He was a man who had it all ... wealth, a beautiful family, standing in the community. Then Satan asked God to allow him to test Job's faith. And he lost it all ... the money and livestock he had accumulated; a storm took his children; disease ravaged his body; and his wife begged him to denounce God. Talk about negativity and trauma! Everyone told him he should reject God and just die! Job could have let himself be dragged into the depths of despair and humiliation, but he decided to let go of all the bad advice and trust in God to deliver him. For thousands of years, the world has known the story of Job's faithfulness.

The next story we take a look at is about Joseph, the youngest and favored son of the patriarch Jacob. In his youthful enthusiasm, Joseph shares with his brothers a dream that he has where God shows that he will have great power and influence to help Israel in a time of significant trouble. But his brothers mistake his enthusiasm for pride, and they react in anger and jealousy, selling Joseph into slavery. This turn of events certainly qualifies as a time of negativity and trauma! But Joseph doesn't give into all the ways that the Enemy tries to divert his purpose. He never gives into the despair or the doubt that his long-ago dream was a mistake. He doesn't let himself be dragged into giving up, but continues to remain steadfast in who God made him to be, and rises to be Pharaoh's right-hand man, delivering Egypt out of a famine and saving his brothers and the families of Israel from starvation. 

Moses is our next hero. His life covered the whole spectrum of negativity and trauma! Born to a poor Hebrew family, he is saved from a death warrant issued by Pharaoh against all Hebrew male babies. He then becomes an adopted son of Pharaoh, himself, only to lose all that power and position when He kills a man and is forced to flee to a life of exile and what he must have felt was failure. Did God really have a calling on his life? He tried every excuse in the book to convince himself [and God] that he was not fit for the job. But it was in that identity of disappointment and inadequacy that Moses came to know the face of Almighty God and surrendered to the sovereignty and majesty of YHWH. It took him a long time, but he was finally able to let go and step into the destiny God had reserved for him, and him alone. He would no longer let himself be dragged along by a spirit of insignificance. He found a way to climb out of the pit and scale the mountain!

Finally, I want to consider the disciple and Apostle, Peter. His story is one of great highs and disparaging lows. It may seem that he was plucked out of obscurity to become the leader of Jesus's disciples; that he was just a simple fisherman who won the lottery ticket of faith. But remember, Jesus has known the purpose for which we are created since the foundations of the world. Peter was very specifically chosen by Jesus. He knew all about the negative situations Peter would face, and was intimately familiar with the trauma Peter would witness and experience. But Peter was created and born to lead the early Church and he would not be dragged away from that divine assignment! He would learn to let go of condemnation and harassment by religious and political leaders. He would learn to let go of ego and pride as he embraced Jesus's mission for the Father. And he would learn to let go of self-condemnation and doubt for denying the Christ. He could have let himself get dragged along by the negativity of hopelessness after Jesus's crucifixion, but by the grace of God, he let go ... and became a spiritual force to introduce the Kingdom of God into a lost world. These men are just a few of the examples throughout the Bible that stand as witness to the power of God in our lives. 

  So, I would like to invite you to read this modern anthology of people who are overcomers.  My part of this little book points to Jesus as my strength to "Let Go or Be Dragged". Every story in this powerhouse of a book is unique to the individual author, and I think you will find inspiration, motivation, and courage in every narrative that is shared. It's not only the heroes of the Bible who overcome. We each have a story to tell, and I pray you let Jesus be the author of yours!

Here is the link to the e-book, Let Go or Be Dragged: https://amzn.to/3IAA8pz  

Ecclesiastes 3:6   A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;


August 6, 2020

Encouragement To "Wait On The Lord" In This Season

     Today, I am writing as much for myself as I am for you. Our nation is experiencing and living in unprecedented times. We are all struggling to understand what is happening. And I will tell you that I know what it feels like to have the spirit of fear come calling in the early morning hours. I know how difficult it can be to not become distracted by the voice of the Enemy as we watch our country disintegrate before our eyes. And I know that everything in this world is telling us our futures are in jeopardy. But if I could offer you one piece of advice today, it is this: Stop and focus on the One who is our Deliverer, our Shield, and our Stronghold. And this isn't just a nonchalant piece of advice. I'm going to tell you exactly why this should be our course of action.
     Twelve years ago, when God sent someone to prophesy to me that I was to write for Him, this same emissary from Heaven gave me a Scripture that I was told was to be my guiding principle in life. The verse was a familiar one, it was Isaiah 40:31, but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not grow faint.
     This verse has been a Godsend for me whenever I have felt weary and my faith was weak. I have relied upon it in times of lack and in times of plenty; in times of fear and in times of trust; in times of doubt and in times of certainty. I haven't weathered the unpredictability of the ups and downs of the economy during the last 25 years, or the riskiness of being married to a self-employed professional artist, without relying on the Word as my underpinning. Mark and I have been in a covenant with the Lord throughout our marriage. The Lord clearly promised me, "I will remain faithful to You; be faithful to Me". So, I have leaned on Isaiah 40:31 many times during my adult life -- even before I became a Christian and didn't even know this Scripture existed, I lived it.  He has renewed my strength more times than I can count. And I am relying on Him to continue to fortify me in the days to come.
     But I want to share with you something else about this chapter in Isaiah. I want you to read the entirety of Chapter 40 and I think you will discover that it magnifies your faith and establishes why we need to commit to "wait" for the Lord. The historical context of Isaiah Chapter 40 is that it is written to the Jews who have reached the end of their captivity in Babylon and are facing their return to Jerusalem. The prophet offers comfort for God's chosen people, telling them that their debt of sin is paid for, and they will receive a double portion of God's blessings -- twice as much as the number of their sins. He prophecies that one (John the Baptist) will be coming, crying out in the wilderness, making way for the Lord, whose glory and majesty and splendor will be revealed for all of humanity to see.
     We are told that the Word of God stands strong forever, even though we as people, who are as frail as grass and lovely as flowers, will wither and fade away. But God's Word endures. Then comes the strongest portion of the Chapter which reminds us of God's greatness. Isaiah reminds us that God is a victorious warrior and He triumphs with His awesome power. We must not lose sight of the truth that He is bringing His reward and the spoils of victory to those He calls His people. And in the midst of His Might, we are reminded of His gentle care of the weak and the young.
     But there is a section of this chapter that especially speaks to my spirit and I think we all need to commit to heart ... Isaiah speaks of God's Superiority. After all, who measured the waters of the sea in the hollow of His hand? Who used the width of His hand to mark off the heavens? Who knows the exact weight of all the dust of the earth? Who fully understands the Holy Spirit, or who could even think about counseling Him? Who is there who thinks they are wise enough to impart knowledge to Him, or teach Him the ways of Justice? He IS all knowledge and justice!
     And here is the sobering fact that Isaiah is speaking across the centuries directly to us -- The Lord regards the nations as nothing more than a drop in the bucket or dust on a scale. "The nations are nothing in His eyes; He regards them as absolutely nothing". That statement by the prophet is followed by a warning that the idols we have made are also nothing in comparison to God. Our 21st Century idols of national prosperity, power, personal wealth, property, and influence are just as damning as the idols of gold, silver, and wood that were crafted in the 4th Century B.C.
     The prophet then reminds the haughty that God is the Creator of everything! He sits higher than the rulers of the earth, and he will reduce the rulers and the elite to nothing when He blows on them and they wither away, carried off like straw in the stormy wind. Then the Holy One challenges us to find anything or anyone who is His equal. No one can be compared to the One who created every shining star and formed every glowing galaxy -- and placed them in their exact positions; counted them and numbered them, giving them all names!
     God then He summons those who belong to Him -- from Judah and Israel to all who are called by His Name -- and I want you to hear what He is saying to us: "Why would you ever complain about Me? Why would you say that I am not paying attention to your situation, or that I have lost all interest in what happens to you? Don't you know who I am? Have you not been listening to Me? I am the one and only everlasting God! I am the Creator of all you can see or imagine! I never get weary or tired; My knowledge is unlimited; and there is nothing that I can't figure out. I strengthen those who are weary and give power to the powerless. I know you're tired and exhausted from all that you're facing. But even the youth get tired and grow faint; and those in the prime of their life will stumble and fall."
     And then comes the verse that has given me my spiritual bearings, verse 31: those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Let me present this in another interpretation: "Those who wait for My grace (My power within you to do what you cannot do on your own) will experience My divine strength. You will rise up on soaring wings and fly like eagles. You will run your race without growing weary, and walk through life without giving up".
     I know [in my spirit] that I am going to need that grace and divine strength like I've never needed it before. The worries and concerns I've had in my past will pale compared to what the Enemy and his Anti-Christ spirit want to bring to this nation and the world. But none of those things will matter as He restores and renews and strengthens us. And I want the devil and his hordes to know that I am not done running my race! And I am not giving up on this life! I have much more written on my scroll in Heaven that I am to do for the Lord. I am declaring that I will be faithful to my Lord, and He will be faithful to me, just as He has promised. Furthermore, I am in Him, and He is in me. My body is my Lord's Temple. Nothing in the outside world has any worth to me. So if the world as I know it fades away, I will still find refuge within the sanctuary that is Him.
     So, I want to encourage you. I want you to know that I am no different than any of you. We will all have our moments of weakness. I think we are all aware that our lives and our nation will be facing some difficult times. But never doubt who the Lord is, or that He is not aware of what you're experiencing. Remind yourself of all that He has done for you in the past, and that He is the same God today. And when our Enemy sends those spirits of doubt or fear, recite Isaiah 40 out loud and remind them of who you belong to! Remind them that you've still got a race to run and win! And remind them that God's glory and power will be evident in your life as you never give up!

2 Corinthians 4:8-10     Though we experience every kind of pressure, we’re not crushed. At times we don’t know what to do, but quitting is not an option. We are persecuted by others, but God has not forsaken us. We may be knocked down, but not out. We continually share in the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the resurrection life of Jesus will be revealed through our humanity.

December 27, 2017

Being The Presence Of God

    I want to relate an experience that my husband and I had a couple of days before Christmas.  Although I posted a quick synopsis on Facebook, there is more depth to the story than I was able to express on that platform.  It is a stark reminder to me of how I need to be more focused on being the presence of God to another person.
     As millions of Americans did, Mark and I had to get out in the Christmas rush to buy household essentials, and I needed to return a rug I had bought on an impulse. Big mistake, I thought at the time.  I waited in the Return line at Walmart for over 30 minutes, my frustration beginning to mirror the poor woman trying to figure out how to send money orders around the world. But I kept myself in check, clinging to thoughts of the peace of this season. Finally, I was up next. I finished my return, we scrambled to find the other items we came for, got in another line to purchase them and were happy to be exiting the store.
     As we approached the exit, there was a woman ahead of me, obviously in pain, and moving very slowly. Although we were ready to get out of the rush, I got a clear prompting from the Holy Spirit ... "You are not going to walk past this woman."  Mark and I waited for her to clear the final door, and once in the parking lot, I approached her and asked if she was having trouble walking because of knee pain.  She told us that her right knee was swollen because she'd recently had that hip replaced. She was supposed to have the left hip replaced, too, but Hurricane Harvey caused a delay, and now she is displaced, waiting for her house to be repaired so she can move back in.  I asked her if we could pray for her knee pain, and she was enthusiastic in her approval, "Yes! I would love that!"
     I laid hands on her knee, prayed and asked if the pain was gone.  She said it was better, and we said, "Then, let's go after it again!" We continued to pray, laying hands on her, and releasing the power of the Holy Spirit against the spirit of pain in her knee.  We looked up and tears were running down her face.  Mark asked her why she was crying, and if those were tears of pain or joy.  She said, "Who are you people?"  We said, "Just followers of Jesus, doing what He has asked us to do, and what we are called to do".  She replied, "I have felt so distant from God for too long.  And He has sent me several people this week to remind me that He is still present in my life".  And the tears began flowing even more steadily.
     Mark asked her why she felt God was so far away, and she replied that she was the one who had pulled away.  So we held her hands and prayed that her relationship with Jesus would be restored and she would know how much He loves her and desires to rekindle the fire that once invaded her heart.  We asked her if she had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and she said she had; that she had received the gift of tongues, but had lost it. We asked if she wanted it back, and she said, "Oh, God, yes!" So Mark prayed over her, calling for more of the Holy Spirit, and she prayed along with us, but nothing happened.  We reassured her that if she wanted it, all she had to do was keep on asking for it.  It is the Father's desire to restore her to fullness.  She said, "I know this, y'all! I know this!  My daddy was a Pentecostal preacher and I should know this!"
     We asked what happened to her that she had abandoned her faith.  She struggled for an answer, finally saying that things had just happened in her life.  We asked who she needed to forgive, and the answer finally came out ... herself.  So we led her in a prayer asking Jesus to help her forgive herself, as He has forgiven her.  By this time, I became aware of the strange looks we were receiving ... two white people hugging and praying and laying hands on an infirmed black woman ... and none of us cared!  Our Sister in Christ, Tracy, was walking in less pain, smiling through her tears, and declaring to anyone who cared to listen, "This is what we are supposed to be doing! We are all the same! We are all God's children and we are supposed to care about each other!"  We walked her to her car, blessing her and reminding her that Jesus will never leave her.  It was such a blessed reminder that Jesus will give us unending opportunities to represent Him, if we will be present in our spirits.
     I tell you this story, not to point out mine and Mark's actions.  It's not about us!  Remember, I just wanted to get out of that store, and there is another detail to the story... I had noticed Tracy as we rushed around trying to grab our two small items after my long wait in the Return line. But I was so self-absorbed with my own needs and getting out of there as fast as I could, that I had walked past her. Then here she was in front of me as we were exiting the store. I am telling you this because I am ashamed that I wasn't listening to the Holy Spirit when I first saw her, and I am praising the Father for giving me another chance to walk in the identity that I am seeking. I now see that my wait in the Return line was by His design -- otherwise our paths would never have crossed at the end.
     Again, this is not about the work that we did that day, although I know that it ultimately pleased the Father. But, rather, it is a serious inspection of myself as to why the presence of the Holy Spirit is not continuously expressed in my actions, every single minute of every day.  I want to be a person that the Holy Spirit "rests upon", as He did Jesus throughout His time on earth. 
     I know the Spirit lives in me; my body is His Temple, and I am confident that I have been born again. But I have to honestly look at myself and ask, "Can I say that the Holy Spirit rests on me?"  To me it is as Bill Johnson explains, "The Holy Spirit is IN me for my sake, but He rests UPON me for the sake of another".  That means that I should be having an impact upon others because of His presence upon me, and I should be effecting the world around me. Does it happen occasionally? Yes! And I know when it does that it is not me who is affecting a person's spirit, but the Holy Spirit leading me "on paths of righteousness for His Name's sake".
     During this season of my walk with the Lord that's where I'm at -- I want more than anything else to facilitate an encounter with God for another human being; to be the vessel or pipeline, if you will, through which God reaches out and touches a human heart. But I am also very aware that my heart must be always open towards the Holy Spirit in order for that encounter to flow through me. And my experience at Walmart, two days before Christmas, shows me that I still have work to do. I want to be constantly engaged with the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus was.
     John the Baptist, when testifying to the validity of Jesus as the Son of God, says in John 1:32, I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him [Jesus]. It means that for the rest of His earthly life, Jesus continued to position Himself to effect others, as the Holy Spirit directed Him. For me, it means I must direct my heart ever more towards God, so that I will be aware of every possible occasion or circumstance in which someone might encounter God through me.  I do not write this as a matter of self-deprecation, because I know I am a Daughter of the King.  Rather, I write it as a testament to my self-awareness, and to encourage others to walk with me as we seek to become more like Jesus. So, Father, I pray for more encounters like the one you blessed me and Mark with, and I pray that You will come to entrust me with more opportunities as I learn to recognize Your presence and share You and the Holy Spirit with others.  I want to cooperate with You more; fully representing You and what You are doing in the world. I ask all this so that my life may exalt my Lord and Savior. Amen!

Titus 3:5    He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,  

November 1, 2017

An Invitation To Our Military Veterans

     Although Veteran's Day is still more than a week away, it is never too early to be focusing on honoring our nation's Military veterans.  Also, I have a very unique opportunity this coming weekend to serve as Assistant Spiritual Director for a Christian retreat for retired female military veterans.  I will be serving as a part of a team under the auspices of an organization called Christian Warriors Retreat. And I want to call attention to the need for our military to accept an invitation from Jesus to lay their burdens down.
     CWR is the brainchild of Nick "Doc" Lowry, the son of a career Navy man and a Vietnam era Marine grandfather. Not surprisingly, Doc grew up with a passion for the military and became a Marine corpsman. He was deployed to Iraq in 2003, and to Fallujah in 2004 during Operation Phantom Fury.  Like many military veterans, Doc came home with a lack of trust and the inability to relate to civilian life, which resulted in bouts of alcoholism.  It cost him two marriages; he couldn't keep a job, and his diagnosis of PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Disorder) left him feeling he had no hope.
     Long story short, Doc reunited with his best friend in high school, Nikki, who introduced him to Jesus, they married, and in 2008, he gave his life to Christ.  He has rededicated his life to helping other vets heal through a personal relationship with Jesus. That's where the Christian Warriors Retreat comes in.
     Through the 4-day retreat experience and discipleship, CWR initiates and sustains three levels of success for veterans:  They will understand their value in Christ; they will heal and improve vital relationships; and most importantly, they will find God's mission for which they were created.
     What an important mission for our veterans!  As the proud daughter of a WWII Navy veteran, my dad never discussed his experiences as a tailgunner over the Pacific.  But after having the honor of being on the Board of Directors of the Chris Kyle Memorial Foundation, and serving wounded warriors and their families at the Fisher Houses at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, I have seen the devastation to the flesh and spirits of our military veterans.
Doc Lowry
     Doc Lowry also knows firsthand the sacrifice made by his Veteran community.  And he is doing something about starting the healing process by working with Jesus.  But, the average civilian is unaware of some of the startling statistics that surround the veterans.  Let me share just a few of them with you:  Every 65 minutes, a military veteran commits suicide; 22 military veterans commit suicide every day; 31 of these suicides were veterans aged 49 and younger; Every month nearly 1,000 veterans attempt to take their own lives; That's more than one attempt every half hour; About 7-8% of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives; The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is 10% -- this is higher than the national rate of 7.3%; More than 2 million American children have coped with a parent going to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; As many as one half million of those children may have become clinically depressed; The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that 25% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans showed signs of substance abuse disorder; The divorce rate among military couples has increased 42 percent throughout the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
      Heard enough facts? Can you see the devil's tactics of "steal, kill, and destroy"? War should not be the natural state of man, if we are made in God's image.  So you can see where all this damage to our veterans is coming from, right?  They may have come home from some battlefield on earth, but there is a spiritual battle going on for their souls.  (I have written several articles on the spiritual war our veterans face, but this one seems particularly fitting considering my subject today).
     With Veteran's Day in another week and a half, I just wanted to put a spotlight on this organization who is trying to help our veterans by focusing on the healing powers of Jesus in their lives.  What a breath of fresh air from government-sponsored programs that do nothing about healing the inner wounds of our servicemen and women.  Only Jesus can do that! And I am anxious to see the new movie, Thank You For Your Service, in which the director, Jason Hall, likens it to a "spiritual sequel to American Sniper", saying, "[It's about] the return home of the warrior -- it's about home coming. It's about the return to self. And the warriors blessed with all the masculine gifts of heroism. And then the warrior has to turn inside. It's finding a way back into the light and that's what this movie is about".  Of course, we and Doc Lowry know how imperative it is that our warriors find their way into the Light of Jesus.  Through His Light they will be restored to a new life in Him. 
     And I am excited about being a part of the very first Female Veterans Retreat.  I think that oftentimes they are overlooked and no one is seeing to their healing.  But I am blessed to be a part of an amazing group of women leaders who will be ministering to these female veterans as they are restored and renewed through our support, and the unconditional love of Jesus.  So, I ask for your prayers beginning tomorrow and through Sunday, when we will see the results of this retreat.  Our goal is to let them meet Jesus and receive His forgiveness, His love, and the cleansing power of His Blood.  They may be arriving as spiritually wounded female veterans, but they will be leaving as healed and renewed Daughters of the King! 
     Give me a couple of days after returning home on Sunday to process all that Jesus will have done in the lives of these remarkable women, and then I will write about the experience. Also, if you make any comments, I won't be responding to them until Sunday night, but I will post them and give you my follow-up comments. I just want to leave you with this ... The very thought of how Jesus will revive the spirits of these women, heal their broken hearts, and redeem their souls fills me with such joy and anticipation!  Praise Him, all who love Him!

This Veteran's Day, let us renew our commitment to our veterans and pledge our efforts to begin a spiritual revival within their ranks.  Please check out www.christianwarriorsretreat and support this important effort to bring spiritual healing to the veterans of our nation. Consider sponsoring a veteran to attend the next retreat. Thank you!  
John 8:12    Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”       

October 26, 2017

Down, But Not Out

     Isn't it funny how you can go from almost a supernatural high in your ministry one day, to feeling like you must have misheard God's calling you to it?  And as difficult as it is for me to say that I have a "ministry" -- because that sounds like such a religious term -- the fact is that a ministry is the spiritual work or service of any Christian.  In fact, we should all have ministries if we call ourselves Christians; we should all be doing work for the Kingdom and serving the Lord.
     And when we know [that we know] that we know what we are called to, we experience the joy of seeing the fruit of our work, in both Believers and non-Believers.  But it is the Enemy's job to kill, steal, or destroy that joy, and to instill the joy-robbers of disappointment, discouragement, and dissatisfaction.  All it takes is that one conversation or incident to quell your enthusiasm, and you begin to question if this is where God wants you.
     But you don't have to have a ministry to run up against the three D's.  You can be a teacher, an evangelist, or even a Christian seeking a reliable church to attend.  Eventually we all face frustration. And when we do, we need only look to the Apostle Paul and Jesus for our examples of how to deal with it.  First Paul ... He wasn't shy about writing of his discouragement.  Church leadership and other Christians disappointed him quite often with their lack of commitment, lack of support, and lack of visible results or fruit, especially considering all the time he had invested in them.
      I can tell you, personally, that I would much rather minister to an unchurched person than someone who considers themselves "faithful".  With the unchurched, you can bypass the Christian "face" that is put on to show the world, and minister to the real and undisguised soul and spirit that will actually receive an honest evaluation and is eager to meet Jesus in the process.  In fact, I've been having some interesting discussions with a good friend who accepted direction through our ministry, and is now on fire to find a church that has the same passion as she does about doing Kingdom work and making disciples; sharing all that Jesus has done in her life.  But guess what?  Each church that she approaches seems to be hiding behind a well-crafted mission statement, that when examined and questioned, reveals entrapments of "religion".  To say that my friend is disappointed, discouraged, and dissatisfied is heartbreakingly accurate.
     But none of this is new. Paul warned his protégé Timothy that ministry is hard and discouraging, but we are never to give up on the calling of the Lord.  As he says in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a Spirit of fear [cowardice, timidity] but of power and love and self-control.  In other words, in the face of discouragement or disappointment, we need to re-focus on God's call on our lives.  We need to recognize that the Enemy would love to capitalize on our disappointment and shut our ministry down.   That's when we square our shoulders, see our true identity as a royal priest, and shout into the spirit realm, I WILL NOT QUIT!
     I think it is so important for those who are called to unique ministries outside the church walls to make a commitment to Christ. We must declare that we are taking the "I'm done" option off the table, and that even when we get discouraged, are tired, or scared, and even uncertain about what the next step is, that we will just move forward out of obedience, and if need be, walk out our calling tired, scared and uncertain. That's the kind of commitment that Paul exhibited in 2 Timothy 1:11-12: “For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher. Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do.  But I am not ashamed, because I know the One in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that He is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.”
     And speaking of those uncertainties that go hand-in-hand with being discouraged, Jesus offers us the perfect remedy.  When He was tempted in the wilderness, before His ministry even began, He countered the temptations (which were actually demonic attacks) with the Word.  I always urge those to whom I minister to recognize the lies they are hearing in their heads whenever discouragement or disappointment threatens to halt their spiritual maturity and/or progress.  I tell them to speak out loud, "I reject the lie __________, and I declare the truth of the Word which says ______________ (usually the opposite of whatever the lie is)".  For instance, "I reject the lie that I am worthless and will never amount to anything, and I declare the truth of my Father's Word which says I am fearfully and wonderfully made; and I am  precious in His eyes, and honored, and loved".
     Sometimes the stress and demands of our ministries can become overwhelming.  It is in those seasons, that we must remember to approach our ministry the same way Jesus did His ... one day at a time, one breath at a time.  Jesus rested in the knowledge that His Father would give Him strength and guidance for each challenge confronting Him. We must rest in that knowledge, too.
     So, if like me, you have the occasional failure in ministry, or your agenda is not met, or your hopes and plans come crashing down, take on the mindset of Jesus.  He knew He was always working out of God's eternal purpose, and that there was not enough power in hell to thwart God's master plan.  If you are walking in an anointed calling, then take those times in stride.  It is just a bump in the road.
     And we must never forget the power of prayer and alone time with God.  Even Jesus removed Himself from the crowds when the pressure became too much or He needed time to hear His Father above all the noise.  It's okay to retire from the scene for a moment or two to get back into balance to complete the work God has entrusted to us.  Nothing is more important than that.
     Finally, on those days or in those seasons, when it seems as if our ministry is bearing no fruit, or we don't even recognize those we have been discipling, then we must remember God's faithfulness. He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Your ministry might look messy today, or on the verge of collapse, but you can be confident that God will have the final say.  We can entrust our ministry to Him for safekeeping because He is the one who called it into being.  We just have to walk it out until the end and never look back and never give up.
     I decided to write this post to encourage you if you are feeling defeated or discouraged. I know how it feels, and it's a fiery dart of the Enemy to get you to step down from your calling.  But don't you do it! It may feel like you have lost a battle or two, but you haven't lost the war.  And that war has already been won.  You are on the winning side, and you still have much fruit to bring into the harvest.  Lift your head high!  You are an ambassador of the King of the Universe and you have an important assignment to carry out.  You may be down, but you are never out when your King fights by your side. And now get ready for the increase in your ministry and harvest!

1 Corinthians 15:58    "Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain".  



September 5, 2017

What I've Learned From This Hurricane

     This has been an event like none other that I have experienced.  I have shared the physical description of what it is like when a Category 4 hits the little Texas coastal town of Rockport. I have showed a couple of pictures and tried to describe the emotional impact it has when you see lives disrupted so violently.
     Now I want to share the spiritual side of it and some of the struggles I've had.  I've heard beautiful expressions of love and support -- and I've heard some of the most hate-filled rants about how we Texans deserved it because of our political leanings and/or the refusal of our Senators or Congressmen to support some government funding or another ... and now we want the government to come in and rescue us. How can a person be so cold-hearted and callous?  I guess the devil roams the earth looking for ears that will listen to his evil whispers.
     And speaking of the devil, after making several trips with donated supplies, I would return home physically and mentally tired from witnessing the burdens and hardships placed upon these people of modest means. The prospect of dealing with insurance companies, low-interest government loans, and the logistics of all those houses that need to be repaired is mind-shattering.  But what if you don't live on the beach side of town, or in one of the middle class neighborhoods, where the houses are built more sturdy and repairs are feasible?  What if you live on the poorer side of town, and perhaps don't even own your small home? What happens if the owners decide not to rebuild, or you are unable to afford your current mortgage plus the government loan needed to make your home habitable?
     Those were the thoughts that would wake me up in the middle of the night, and I felt like I was carrying the weight of all those people who are living in such fear and anxiety.  I recognized that the devil was trying to capture my mind with his negative whispers, and I was struggling to keep my mind focused on the promises of God.  One night I woke up around 3:30 with such dread and despair that I felt like I was buried under blankets of it.  The Enemy kept trying to convince me that this situation was insurmountable; it was too big of a fight.  That some of these families would never be able to overcome the obstacles before them.  I felt defeated.
     Then he tried to add another layer of disquiet to my mind.  There has been a subtle judgment placed upon the Kingdom work we have been called to do in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  People in the damaged community don't quite know how to take us when they ask what Church we are affiliated with, and we tell them we aren't with any Church.  It's almost as if there is an air of suspicion that surrounds us because we don't possess the legitimacy that a Church group would have, coming in to offer relief.
     Then there are some Church people that also look at us with skeptical hearts, and I'm not sure why.  Do they feel safer participating within the comfortable domain of their Church connections? Or perhaps, are they not comfortable enough in their identities to know that they are to be the image of Christ to everyone they meet, and they don't need to depend on the Church interrelation to be effective ambassadors of the Kingdom of God? Isn't there room for us to work side by side in meeting the needs of the poor and afflicted?
      As I laid there, tormented by thoughts of both the overwhelming ruin before us, and the frustration of being judged for our lack of Church affiliation, I felt spiritually oppressed.  But I knew what was happening and I knew it was simply Satan's way of trying to destroy any hope or faith I had that we were making any difference in advancing the Kingdom in the midst of this catastrophe.  But I stopped and made sure that, in the spirit, my helmet of salvation was securely placed over my mind. Then I told myself, Be still, and know that I am God.  Let me repeat that.  Be still ... Be still ... and KNOW that I am God.
     And it all came into perspective.  The promises of God are true, and I declared that all of His promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for His glory (2 Corinthians 1:20).  He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us, so those people who believe in Him will not have to go through this rebuilding process alone.  And God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for them.  So whatever designs the devil has for using this hurricane to cause evil in the lives of these people, it will eventually become good as they rely on their faith and each other.  There is a purpose to each and every life and this hurricane event is a chance for each person to discover the reason they are on this earth.
     And I think that is why I am beginning to sense a difference in the atmosphere of Rockport.  The streets are beginning to be cleared of debris. Tree branches and limbs are being collected into piles. The Relief Center sponsored by New Beginnings Ministries is feeling like it's getting its sea legs, and the pervasive smell of panic is being replaced with an atmosphere of ordered chaos.  And I don't say that cynically.  There will be chaos for some time to come in Rockport, TX -- until power is fully restored; street lights are working properly; the debris is collected and removed -- but order is now being established to the day, and there is a direction in their lives.  An outsider might not see it, but if you are looking with spiritual eyes, you can discern the small and subtle change, and it smells and feels like victory... and we who love Him, know there is victory in the Lord.
     So, ultimately, what I've learned is this -- there is no catastrophe big enough to defeat God's people. I know that this life is full of trials, tribulations, and tragedies. And I can expect the devil to tempt me to doubt God's presence in the midst of them.  But if I can get still, and look for Him, I will find Him ... every time!  This won't be the last time the Enemy sends a fiery dart to test my mind.  And it won't be the last time my lack of Church partnership will be scrutinized and judged.  But none of that will deter me from walking my particular [and singular] path in the footsteps of my Savior. We have been called to be servants, and that can sometimes seem a lonely and disparaging road.  But it's not about us... it's about those we serve, and pleasing God. And there is nothing the devil can do to stop my resolve to do both.

1 John 3:17-18   "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth".


August 24, 2017

Waiting On The Lord: My Personal Struggle

      I have never shied away from sharing my walk with the Lord... whether it be my successes or failures.  And I write because there may be others of you who are experiencing the same discontentment with the pace of your journey. So today I share where I'm at along my personal path.  I am in a season of what I would describe as "teetering on a precipice"; of feeling that God has so much more for me to do, but He isn't revealing it to me, and I'm not sure why.  He's not answering my questions, and my requests for more of the Holy Spirit seem to be falling on deaf ears.  Yet, I know that I am not afraid to walk in bold obedience, or to go where He sends me. I don't think He is displeased with my work for His Kingdom, but why does our conversation seem to be lagging?
     Then, interestingly, I stumbled across this poem by Carmela Patterson, titled, Teetering On The Edge. It sums up what I've been feeling...
We stand on a precipice and teeter on the edge
O Lord, help us not to slip and fall;
Let satan not draw between us a wedge ~
Speak loudly that we may hear your Call. 
Lord, we are so weak and growing very weary
We stumble, fall, drag ourselves hour upon hour
Our eyes are swollen shut, tired and teary;
O lift our crosses with your almighty power. 
We can't live up to our own expectations
Let alone try to live up to Yours;
Help us to revel again in jubilation,
Help us fight off satan's lures. 
Our bodies, minds, hearts, souls and spirit
Suffer under the weight of the cross we carry;
Your humble submission, may we mirror it,
Permit your guiding hand not to tarry. 
It becomes clear to us that we are to blame
For the position in which we find ourselves;
In soulful petition we call upon Your Name,
Lord, forgive us and hold us to Thyself. 
Thank you, Lord, for the blessings you bring ~
Thank you for removing sin's sting ~
In gratitude and Praise to you we sing ~
You are our Lord! You are our King!
In Heaven and earth Praises ring ~
In Adoration we all sing!
You are Lord and King! ! ! 
     There it is --- the fear that satan is driving a wedge between me and God; keeping me separated from His voice by some invisible barrier.  Have I lived up to your expectations, Father, when you called me to Your service?  Is this to be the limit of how much You can use me?  Because I want to run the race with everything my flesh and soul and spirit have to offer! What is it that I am meant to do for You?
     This past weekend, I had the privilege of learning the origin and meaning of my father's surname and my mother's maiden name.  From my father's side my last name was Ellison, meaning "son of Ellis", with Ellis being from the Greek name "Elias", or the Hebrew name "Eliyahu" meaning "Jehovah is God".  Essentially, my family name comes to mean, "son of God".  From my mother's side, I am descended from the last name Palmer.  The surname Palmer was originally derived from the Old French word palmer, which was taken from the Latin word palmifer meaning palm bearer. In this case the original bearer of the surname was a pilgrim who carried palm branches back from the Holy Land. I was astounded that I carried such a strong legacy related to the Scriptures! So, naturally, I am left wondering if I am living up to those identities.
     But the weekend also afforded me the opportunity to speak to a man with great spiritual insight [after observing a training session on some higher spiritual mechanics that Mark and I are just tuning into).  This man spoke prophetic words to me as if he could see into my heart.  He said, "You are almost there! It's like there is a thin membrane between you and the Throne Room, and your face is making multiple imprints, like you are trying to break through saran wrap.  You're asking so many questions, and not waiting for God to bring you an answer before you are on to your next question.  Relax! Quit thinking so much! Rest! You will get your answers -- and your breakthrough -- in His timing!"
     And just like Carmela's poem says ... I am to blame for the position I find myself in.  I'm too impatient and want to run ahead of where God wants to take me.  About eight years ago, another man gave me a message that I was to write for God, and then he told me he had a Scripture that I should hold close to my heart.  It is Isaiah 40:31:  But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired. Obviously, I have not buried that verse deep enough into my heart.
     Lord, help me to walk before I run, so that I do not become weary for the long road before me.  Help me to understand and expect that You will bring new strength and new power to me -- when You are ready to give it to me ... and when I am ready to receive it. And, Jesus, if there is more for me to do, I will gladly accept it.  But if I am thinking too highly of myself, then humble me so that I might be content with whatever assignment You give me. I do not think my work is done, but I am willing to wait for You to show me if that is true or not.  Until then, I will praise You for where You've taken me so far, and what You have shown me of Your awesome Kingdom.  I will continue to write of Your Goodness and persist in my obedience to Your call on my life. But I have to tell you that I will never stop seeking You, nor knocking on that door to Your throne room. I may not bear the righteous fruit of my family names, but I will remain a servant of my Lord through eternity, ready to do the good works You have prepared for me. In gratitude and praise, I thank You!

UPDATE:  It may be a few days before I post again, due to Hurricane Harvey. We are in the crosshairs of this hurricane, and we have boarded up, and expecting lots of winds and torrential rain, and possible loss of power for several days.  We are praying for the blood of Jesus to cover us, our animals, and our property.  Your prayers are appreciated!

Psalm 62:5    "For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him".


June 5, 2017

He Makes Me Lie Down....

     I can no longer ignore the signs that I have to make some changes... and it is has been difficult to decide exactly where those changes need to be made.  The long and short of it is that my health has begun to suffer from the stress of trying to meet all the obligations I feel that I must do to be effective in my service to the Lord. Please... I am not complaining!  It is a blessing to be given the opportunity to reach people for the Kingdom of God, and I can think of no higher calling upon my life.
     But I am being forced to admit that between writing this blog, the increasing demands for deliverance, the discipling/Bible studies with individuals, our Home Church, and being involved with a committed group of Believers who are dedicated to living out the Great Commission in ALL of its aspects (and changing our community).... that something's gotta give.
     I have fought a growing sense of being stretched too thin ... and was successful for awhile.  My first assignment from the Lord was this blog, and I have enjoyed hearing from Jesus and the Holy Spirit and then sharing the journey they are taking me on.  Then God brought our Deliverance Ministry to me and Mark, and there is nothing that feeds my spirit more than to see people receive freedom from the Enemy's bondage.  And that has led to continued discipling throughout each week of those who have been blessedly set free.
     Our Home Church only meets once a month, but these people are so precious to me. When I see how far we have come together in renewing our minds; and the progress that individuals have made in determining their own theology -- and then acting on it -- both Mark and I are inspired to continue growing with this amazing group of people.  The time spent on preparation [and in fellowship] fills my spirit with hope and joy.
     And now God has called us to a new endeavor; to actually live out the Great Commission: beginning with healing the sick, as Jesus repeatedly modeled for us and commanded us to do in Matthew 28 and Mark 16.  This involves an in-depth weekly study and association with a small core group who seek to be true disciples of our Lord, in the hopes that we can change our community, and then spread the Gospel Message of the Kingdom in ever-widening spheres.
      But I can no longer disregard that all this work for the Lord is taking its toll.  And needless to say, there is a considerable amount of guilt that comes with a decision of what to curtail, and to what extent I must reduce an activity.  And it should go without saying that my time spent meeting the needs of my husband is a priority, along with wanting to help him with his business.  But how do you say "No", to the Lord?  But then my wise husband pointed out that I am always trying to meet some timeframe or deadline, and I need to ask the Lord what to do.  That's when I came across the following Scripture: (Mark 6:31) He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while”—for there were many [people who were continually] coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.  (That describes my life more than I want to admit).
     I instantly felt a burden being released ... it's okay to step back and admit that you can't do it all; that you need a period of rest so that you can still do your best and enjoy it. It doesn't mean you are failing Him.  Even Jesus needed to dial it back once in awhile so He didn't burn Himself out. If we pay close attention to the Scriptures, we can see Him going to the wilderness or up on a mountain for some quiet time with the Father and some time away from the turmoil of His life.
     So, it's okay to admit that, at the moment, I feel pulled in too many directions and my spirit is feeling undernourished.  It does the Kingdom no good if my strength is diminished, or I'm too busy to hear God's still, quiet voice.  And lately, I've been feeling too much like Martha, who was worried and upset about meeting her obligations, that she didn't take the time [like her sister, Mary] to rest at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He had to say to her.
     I realize that I have been missing those glimpses of Jesus that I used to have [and make time for].  My spirit is hungry to regain those intimate moments of rest with Him.  So I have to intentionally make the time, and like I said ... something's gotta give.  This blog was the first stepping stone in my walk with Jesus, and it is not time to leave this path. BUT, I believe it is time to re-allocate some of the deadlines associated with it to another of the tasks He has assigned to me.  I will still maintain and write for this blog, but it may only be once or twice a week -- or whenever the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear.  I simply need to remove the stress that comes with meeting self-determined deadlines.
     And, maybe, Jesus is trying to tell me that I've said enough about Deliverance, Discipling, Healing, and advancing the Kingdom... and now I need to put my time and effort into DOING IT.  Then again, wouldn't it make the devil extremely happy if I just shut up about it all?  I don't think Jesus wants that, either.  So, for now, I am going to let Him be my True Shepherd... I'm going to let Him make me lie down in green pastures, lead me beside still waters, and restore my soul.
     I know He still has things He will want me to share with you as I continue my life's journey with Him. But I will let Him name the deadline and follow His lead.  I hope you will continue to check in on this blog, and I hope you will be both surprised and pleased when I have something new to say.  Thank you for remaining loyal, for understanding, and for taking this blessed pilgrimage with me.  We aren't done, and this relationship isn't over, by far -- when Jesus reveals something new about Himself, or the Holy Spirit whispers a message from Heaven, you'll be the first to know.  God bless you, and I remain in His Power and Love!

Matthew 11:28    "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest". 

May 31, 2017

How Thirsty Are You?

     I guess this could be considered a continuation of yesterday's post; a follow-up question to all who are earnestly seeking God, Are you thirsty for Him, and do you hunger for Him? And how much of Him do you want? I can only answer for myself, and my response is that I want all of Him that I can get!
     But what does that look like, and do I even have a clue of what He's offering?  Have my thoughts and ideas of my Father in Heaven been so colored by the traditions of men, that I have a limited view of Him?  To be sure, it is difficult for men to fully know God.  In fact, Jesus made it clear in Matthew 11:27 that no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son [deliberately] wills [or chooses] to reveal Him. That should make more than a few of us nervous!  Will I ever get to really know God, and how do I make sure Jesus decides to reveal Him to me?
     Most of us have enough of a Church experience to be familiar with all the ways that we've been taught to seek and know God ... prayer; true repentance from our hearts; praise and worship; assembling together so that He can be demonstrated in the Body of Christ.  But in this age of explosive communication, we find other opportunities being encouraged.  There are multitudes of pastors, theologians, Christian authors, and self-declared prophets who are willing to tell you how to gain a more intimate knowledge of God through their online teachings, websites, podcasts, books, DVDs, and yes, even blogs.
     I am not saying that there isn't good, Biblical exegesis (critical explanation or interpretation of Scripture) coming from these sources. But Jesus expounds upon His statement in Matthew 11, by thanking the Father for having "hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children".  And He further says to "Come to Me... learn from Me".
     I have never proclaimed to have the answers, and I hope it is well understood that I am expressing my own thoughts and my own journey. But I am here, today, to share that I am exceedingly thirsty for God, the Father; for Jesus; and for the Holy Spirit! I am unsatisfied with the measure I have of them, and I want more!  I want what the Believers in Acts had, and it makes me sad to say this, but I haven't been able to find that in the 30 years since I asked Him into my heart. And until the past few years or so, I didn't even know I was missing anything!
     But I believe that Jesus is now deliberately choosing to reveal the Father to me, although in no way do I have a complete picture of the fullness of His nature and character.  I am beginning to see and experience glimpses of Him; and it is making me thirst for more!  And as I read Jesus's words, I know that my journey is just beginning ... Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (Matthew 5:6) .... Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink (John 7:37) .... And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price [that is free] (Revelation 22:17).

     It is so obvious to me that I am not satisfied; that my spirit is showing me that the gifts the Bible tells me are available to me are not only real, but they can be mine if I will just "Come to Him and drink from His well of living water".  And I think that means I must come to Him as a child; without the inhibitions and rules and barriers that have constructed a wall between me and Him. I think it means that I don't have to settle for the little shivers down my spine which give me affirmation that I am in sync with the Holy Spirit, but that it's okay to want and expect to be actually filled with the Holy Spirit until my thirst is quenched and I become "a well of water springing up to eternal life" (John 4:14) and "from my innermost being will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38) .  
     Just picture what that looks like ... every cell in your body pumping the living water that flows from a heart seeking and thirsting for God -- and that water overflowing in your life, to be shared with other Believers and to provide water for the Lost of the world, who are dying from their thirst. 
     I have to admit that it's a little scary to ask for the fullness of God, because to experience the immensity of His power and love will be something my flesh cannot contain. But it's even scarier for my soul and spirit to stop desiring and reaching for it. Only He can quench this thirst through an encounter with Him! And I am not content to remain unfilled; to stay where it is comfortable and safe; nor to remain quiet.  I am ready to pursue my God with the boldness that my maturity brings, and with the anticipation and innocence of a trusting child. How long it will take, I cannot say.  But I do know this: I will not hold back in my pursuit of Him, and I am willing to receive all that He has for me. I will not be satisfied until my thirst is quenched and I have met Him at the well!

Psalm 63:1   "O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water".

December 21, 2016

We Need More Godly Men

     This is going to be a very personal post.  Thirty years ago today, I married the man God had planned for me.  I had just about given up that there could be such a man, having learned from my mistakes in other relationships that I would not settle for less than I deserved.  I will admit that I didn't truly know my Lord at that time in my life. I mean, I knew He was real, and I had internalized all the basic Church knowledge of Him; but I didn't know Him as my Savior.  But He was knocking on the door of my heart, and I was on the verge of answering His call on my life.
     Nearly simultaneously, my future husband entered my life.  A genuine friendship would be established before any thoughts of romance or marriage surfaced.  By that time, I was seeking God, and I instinctively knew that this young man was going to be a good and Godly man.  His faith was rock solid, and we both wanted a deeper and committed relationship with God. We may have been taking baby steps, but we were on our way!
     We had a lovely, small wedding, in a friend's home before their fireplace. We both knew we wanted to be married in the eyes of God, but since we didn't belong to a church, we weren't sure how to make that happen.  After several disappointing phone calls to various churches whose pastors refused to marry us because we weren't regular members of any church, I remembered a new church being pastored by a young minister I had liked in college.  That church would receive us and we soon became members, following the traditional path of Believers -- church every Sunday, joining a Sunday School class, and emerging ourselves in the social life of the congregation.
     But that's when God got ahold of us and began to show us that "traditional" and "conventional" was not the path He had planned for us.  And that's when He began transforming my husband from an exemplary man into a Godly man.  Let me try to explain what that looked like...
     I can remember deciding that the one real way to get to know who my God is, was to read His Word.  I began a diligent study of the Bible and wondered why, when my husband grew up in the Church more than I did, that he didn't have a hunger to read and study the Bible, too.  I asked him that question once, and although he couldn't really give me an answer, it wasn't long before I noticed him beginning his own study, and in a manner that told me he was sincere. Although initially following our own individual paths, we soon began pursuing our Lord diligently, conscientiously, and together. And that's when my husband began his journey as a Godly man.
     He took the lead and assumed his Biblical role as head of our home. He began challenging his own belief system, and where it was incompatible with the Bible, he wasn't afraid to dig in to try and discover God's will in the matter, rather than man's interpretation.  He was not passive in questioning church doctrine, nor was he too prideful or stubborn. Through "iron sharpening iron", he was open to changing his opinion; all he wanted was God's Truth.
     And, of course, a Godly man is not afraid to speak out. It is my husband's sincere belief that to be silent in covering up sin, is a sin in itself. And when the Holy Spirit began convicting us that our beloved church of 20 years was compromising in their duties as God's instrument on earth, he was courageous in speaking up and demanding accountability. He was beginning to live out his fear of God, rather than fearing his reputation among men.
     As anyone who has stood up to centuries of Church Doctrine knows, it can be a lonely position. But my husband has stood strong in defense of God's Word and has not backed down when attacked, criticized, challenged, or ostracized. A Godly man knows that his path may be a solitary one; yet he is willing to undergo abuse for the sake of the Truth -- even from fellow Believers.
     But perhaps one of the things I admire and respect most about this man who has shared my life for 30 years is that he has made it his goal to live a truly righteous and humble life. He has battled those things in his spirit and soul that he knows separates him from his God. He is diligent in his confession and repentance of those sins, and views his service to others for the Kingdom of God as his priority in life.  The business of earning a living, and meeting the obligations of his life here on earth will be taken care of by the God whom He seeks first. I must admit that he often shames me how easily he puts his trust and confidence in God.
     These are the main characteristics of a Godly man, but a life lived fully in service to our God manifests itself in all areas of our existence.  A Godly man is aware of what he lets into his mind; he is careful to avoid stimuli that lead to sin.  Instead he seeks to discipline his mind, in an earnest desire to possess the mind of Christ.  A Godly man knows that you can never have a Christian mind without reading the Scriptures regularly, because you cannot be influenced by that which you do not know.
     Relationships in a Godly man's life are lived according to Biblical instruction; as a husband, he loves his wife as God loves His church; as a father, he does not provoke his children to anger, but brings them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
     A Godly man has integrity; nearly a lost concept in today's world of selfish manipulation and compromise.  But a man's character, conscience, and deep intimacy with God are hallmarks of a man who has the courage to keep his word and stand up for his convictions.
     A Godly man recognizes that the vocation he has chosen is an opportunity to glorify his God. I am proud to say that my husband's creativeness and talent speak volumes of the discipline and honor he bestows on each painting he creates.  He has always said that it is his job to get up each morning and paint the best he can, and the Lord will take care of providing everything else.
     I know there are some who will say that a Godly man is a man who enjoys good standing in a Church; a man who gives of his time, talent and treasure for the Lord. But I don't see where the Bible instructs a man to be in a church building every Sunday as part of his commission for Christ. My husband lives by the Scripture that says where two or more are gathered, the Lord is there -- and he never forsakes the assembling together with other Christians to study, worship, and build relationship with his Savior. Every day is an opportunity to meet with the Lord, every open door is an opportunity to fellowship with Believers and nonbelievers alike; all for the sake of telling others of the glorious salvation through Christ!
     Those are the characteristics of a Godly man ... and I'm more than blessed to see them in the person of the man I married 30 years ago today. He has given me his love, support, and encouragement.  He has made me laugh when I wanted to express anger; and his pure and humble love of my Lord and Savior has made me cry.  His honesty has given me the precious gift of trusting him; his strength has made me feel secure; and his compassion for others has allowed me to see his pure heart.   We have grown a lot in the last 30 years -- from two individuals who barely knew the Lord to a couple who has grown, as one, into a new creation. I know we are not unique or better than the millions of other couples the Lord has brought together unto His service. I just know how incredibly blessed we are, and I do not take it for granted. But I am excited to begin the 31st year together with this incredible man who has taught me the meaning of unselfish devotion and never-ending love.  Happy Anniversary, to the best husband God could have given me! And thank you, Father God, for the blessing of this divine union of spirits and flesh!

Song of Songs 5:16    This is my beloved. This is my friend...

June 24, 2016

How Do We Love Our Enemies?

     Today I need to get a little personal ... in the sense that I need to discuss an issue that I know is troubling many of my fellow Christians.  I know this because I have received a heartfelt email from a reader whom I know is sincere in her faith.  And I know that I need to try to write about this because it is something each of us needs to come to terms with in our own spirits and hearts -- and that includes me!
     I believe I can write about this without betraying her confidence because it was an email that millions of Christians across America could have written.  In short, this reader wrote to ask me for suggestions on how she can walk out her faith and learn to love the unsaved Muslims in our country.  Now, I want each of you to be honest ... haven't you at one time or another struggled with what you know are unChrist-like emotions?  We wouldn't be human if we didn't battle feelings of anger towards the radical Muslims who are filled with so much hate for our nation and way of life that their goal is to take innocent lives in some perverted sense of obedience to what we know is a false god and evil ideology.
     And I believe we would be unwise if we didn't acknowledge the Islamic doctrine of Taqiyya (taqiya, taqiyah, taqiyyah), which is a form of Islamic deception. The Quran (16:106 and 3:28) allows Muslims to lie in order to protect themselves or to protect the Muslim community.   And I think we would be foolish to not feel disappointment in our government's lackluster efforts to defend us, and their denial that there is anything to worry about.  Furthermore, I suspect that many of us are confused over how -- as law-abiding citizens concerned about our rights -- we have become a threat (in our own country) to the liberty of refugees and foreigners!  Finally, if you are like me, you are perhaps worried over how easily our youth are tempted to adopt the false religions of the world.  My husband and I encountered a young employee at Home Depot, and as he often does, my husband asked the young man about his tattoos (he is always interested to know why they have chosen the symbols they have).  This young man had a tattoo which he said "symbolizes the moon god because that culture interests me".  All I could think was, "Father, forgive him for he knows not what he does".
     So all that addresses our human emotions and thoughts.  But what about our spiritual struggle with these issues?  If we are to be honest and faithful Christians, then we know that we are to "love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us".  Jesus made that very clear in Matthew 5:44.  I will be the first one to admit that this seems like an impossible commandment ... and one that our ultimate Enemy, satan, will use against us in order to convict us of a powerless and faithless life.  Loving an enemy that hates my faith and wants to kill and destroy me and my family is a difficult thing to do, but anything less does not follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  Remember that He willingly laid down his life and asked His Father to forgive those who killed Him.  And He did not hate them.
     I can hear the disagreements now ... Jesus would not want us to bow to political correctness, or not defend our families or faith.  The Bible tells us that we "must hold firm to the trustworthy Word as taught, so that we may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."  But loving our enemies?  What does that look like in the wake of events like Orlando?
     Perhaps we can start by determining what it does not look like.  Yes, Jesus tells us to love them unconditionally -- no matter what they do to us -- but it doesn't mean that we agree with what they do, or make excuses for it.  My reader commented on how difficult it was becoming to see Muslims begin to dominate in our culture, and to see unvetted refugees streaming into the country in the wake of atrocities that have been committed in their home nations.  She knows it is God's desire that none should perish, but in the face of what appears to be unreconcilable differences, and blatant and obvious hatred towards us, she is finding it difficult to imitate Christ.
     I'm afraid that I have no quick fix or easy solution.  For myself, I have decided to try to discern what God has told us throughout the Bible when it comes to living among people who are enemies.  God never changes, and what He commanded His people to do in the Old and New Testaments, remains the standard by which we should live our lives.
     First of all, as I told the reader, God did not ask His people to accommodate new religions or politically correct viewpoints.  In fact, He commanded them to resist compromising with corrupt nations; to never adopt false religions or gods; and to keep His statues forever.  Of course, one of those statues is to pray for, and to love our enemies.  As evidenced by the growing number of jihadist murders in our country, the enemy is no longer at the gate, but firmly embedded within our culture, with more likely inserted among the thousands of refugees admitted to our shores.  So how do we live our faith and be imitators of Jesus?
     I can tell you that I can't do it through my human will.  I have to pray in my spirit, bowing down before the throne of God in heaven, and asking Him to protect our nation from this enemy -- that the scales be removed from their eyes, and that they meet Jesus.  That is what I do in the spiritual realm.  In this physical realm, we do everything we can to stop the invasion against our laws and our culture. And when given the opportunity, you meet their hate with the love of Jesus.  Like Jesus, we do not return their hate with malice.  Jesus held no grudges; He never added insult or injury to those who injured Him; He was kind in the face of vitriol, criticism and anger; He was forgiving of those who hated Him; and He never counseled revenge.
     I know that this attitude and these reactions seem contrary to everything our minds and emotions tell us.  But remember, we are not to act according to our flesh, but in agreement with our spirit, which is seated in the heavenly realm with Christ.  Hence, through our gift of salvation, we are to show the unsaved what it is like to be in relationship with Jesus Christ ... as difficult as that might be in the face of murderous hatred.  And each time we show love to our enemies, it is one more strike of the Sword of the Spirit in the spiritual realm.
     I am in no way intending for this to sound as if it is simple and everyone should be able to do it easily.  We are no longer viewing a long-distance enemy, but one who is literally in our backyard.  But we need to see this as the spiritual battle it is.  Fighting the enemy with human effort will never completely banish him.  The physical battle we see today is an extension of centuries of the same physical war.  In order to defeat the enemy, we must do it spiritually, and with Divine help.
     Jesus never asks us to do something He did not do as a man, Himself.  As simple as it appears, He gave us a good example of how to follow Him.  It is expressed in Luke 6:27:  Do good to those who hate you.  Doing good to those who hate us displays [to them] the love of God. And maybe, maybe, if we show them the love of God, they will experience something they have never experienced before, and will want more of it. That is what I am hearing from a young friend who is part of a missionary team of college-aged Americans who are on a summer trip to the heart of Europe and the refugee camps to share the good news of Jesus Christ and His love.
     She has shared such amazing testimonies among the people she has met; people from Germany, Romania, Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Syria, India, UK, France, Algeria, Bulgaria, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Cameroon, Rwanda, New Zealand, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Indonesia, Tunisia, Afghanistan, and the Congo.  She believes that God is touching the lives of Muslim refugees, the rest of Europe, and in turn the rest of the world.
     Keep in mind that Europe has suffered horrific jihadist attacks in the last year.  Yet she tells of one of her teammates who was sharing the gospel with a Muslim refugee, and the man kept saying "don't stop, please keep going, I need to hear this."  And there are many more stories like this one among the Muslim populations of the world.  And to quote a sermon I read on the website, Redeeming God, "[In order to stop] the cycle of hate and the cycle of revenge, the cycle of retaliation [must] stop with us. You can be angry at a person for what they do, and yet still love them. Jesus was upset at the people of Jerusalem for how they abused and murdered the prophets, and yet He still shed loving tears over the city. Jesus, as always, is our best example for how to live out such principles."
     If you still find yourself unable to do this, and the devil has gripped your heart in a vise of bitterness, hostile thoughts, and hateful emotions, then speak into the spiritual realm and declare the Word of God.  Find all the verses in Scripture where Jesus tells us that love conquers hate and proclaim to spirits [who actually hear you] that you belong to Him and you will not give in to satan's temptation to hate.
     There will be those who will be unable to go beyond their human capabilities.  And working in the spiritual realm with the Holy Spirit is a learned skill.  But you have to try in order to be able to do it; and you have to do it to become confident in your power and authority [in Jesus and the Holy Spirit] in order to conquer the spirit of hate that comes from the Evil One.  As I've said repeatedly ... it's not easy.  That is evident by the history of war through the ages.  But it should also be evident that humans cannot replace hate with love by their own volition.  We must appeal to Jesus and fight this battle in the spiritual realm as well as the physical.  After all, that is exactly how Jesus did it!

Luke 6:27-28       "But I say to you who hear [Me and pay attention to My words]: Love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies, [make it a practice to] do good to those who hate you, bless and show kindness to those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."