Sunday, November 29, 2009

1 Kings 19:1-21 Elijah: Man of God

This was the most recent assignment from my Old Testament course. Part One deals with a summation based on literary devices. Part Two deals with interpretive issues or problems with the narrative. Part three discusses timeless theological or applicational principles of the passage. The passage I chose was 1 Kings 19:1-21.

(Use of any part of this critique requires proper citation.)
Part One
The narrative of 1 Kings 19:1-21 begins with Ahab, the wicked seventh king of Israel, telling his Baal-worshiping wife, Jezebel, what Elijah had done. Elijah had summoned the prophets of Baal and Asherah to meet him on Mount Carmel. In short, he proved that God was the true god, and he had the prophets of Baal killed. In consideration of the literary device of comparison and contrast, this passage has interesting similarities and differences from the first account of Elijah’s flee from danger in 1 Kings 17:1-24. In the first narrative under consideration, when Jezebel learned of what Ahab attributed to Elijah alone, she threatened to have his life within 24 hours, and the prophet of God who had bravely won a decided victory fell into fear and ran for his life into the wilderness. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah had been directed by God to flee to the Cherith Brook. Here, God sent a raven to provide meat and bread for Elijah during a severe drought in the land. When the drought had dried up the brook, God told Elijah to go to a Gentile widow in Zarephath and there, he provided for the woman. After she was provided for in a miraculous way, she declared that Elijah was a man of God.

In 1 Kings 19, Jezebel’s threat caused Elijah to flee in fear. This prophet of the true God “was caught up in the backwash of a great victory.” (Swindoll, p. 114) He “arose and ran for his life” (vs 3) “The Lord’s response to his servant is one of grace. He twice sent a messenger of his own to provide Elijah with food and drink, for the prophet was physically exhausted. Sustained by the meal, he traveled South once more for 40 whole days until he came to Mt. Horeb.” (Elijah, Bradshaw) For these forty days and nights, he ate nothing as he traveled to the mountain where he hid in the cave. There God directed him in a still, small voice to go and anoint Hazael as king over Syria, Jehu as king over Israel, and Elisha as his replacement as prophet. He also comforted Elijah by telling him that there were still as many as 7,000 loyalists in Israel who had not bowed to Baal. In this, God revealed to Elijah that he did not have to battle the opposition of Jezebel and her idol worshiping entourage alone. Those whom God told him to anoint along with the 7,000 faithful in Israel would work together to defeat the enemy and return Israel to the God of their fathers. The narrative ends with Elijah putting his mantle on Elisha, and Elisha provides for him and becomes his servant and friend, understanding that Elijah is a man of God.

Even more striking than the comparison and contrast of the two flights of Elijah is the intertextuality the narrative about Elijah in 1 Kings 19 has with Moses. In both instances, Israel had succumbed to the worship of idols. (Exo 32, 1 Kings 18:20-24) Both Moses and Elijah fled into the wilderness in fear of their lives. (Exo 2:15, 1 Kings 19:3) Moses fasted for forty days on Mount Horeb as did Elijah as he traveled to the mountain. (Exo 24:18, 1 Kings 19:8) Robert I. Bradshaw compares Exodus 33:22 and 1 Kings 19: 9, stating that Elijah hid in the same cave where Moses stood. (Elijah, Bradshaw) “Moses and Elijah are the only two Hebrew prophets to have a theophony,” or a manifested presence of God. Moses meets with God after Israel sinned with the Golden Calf, and he pleads with God to spare Israel. Elijah complains to God that Israel had once again forsaken the covenant and did not plead with God but expected the people to change. (Messengers of God: a Theological and Psychological Perspective, Reiss) Perhaps the most pointed aspect is the contrast of God speaking to Moses in thunder, earthquake and smoke, and although Elijah saw thunder, earthquake and fire, God spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice from the very same mountain. (Exo 19:16-18, 1Kings 19:11-12, Branson, Edlin, and Green, p. 187)

The writer of the book of Kings, according to Bradshaw, considered Elijah a particularly significant prophet to focus their attention on because, " He was the key to the downfall of Jezebel, both by his direct actions (1 Kings 19:1) and by his anointing of others (by the command of Yahweh) for specific tasks (19:15-17, 19-21; 2 Kings 8:7-15). By the time that the chain of events that he had set in motion had been completed, Jezebel and her children were dead and Baal worship had been eradicated from Israel.” (9:14-10:28 Elijah, Bradshaw)

Part Two
In sharp contrast to his previous faith-filled boldness in the face of opposition, Elijah ran in terror from the death threats of the idol-worshiping queen of Israel. He had recently seen the power and victory of God over the prophets of Baal, and yet, fear overwhelmed him to the point where he lay down under a broom tree and “this mighty man of prayer - mighty enough to make the rain and the dew stop for three and a half years, and then mighty enough to make it start again at his prayer - now he prayed that he might die..” (1 Kings 19-God Encourages Discourages Elijah, Guzik) What could have brought on such a memory lapse? In Elijah’s weakened state, the God of mercy twice sent His angels to provide for Elijah in his despair in the wilderness. Even when God came to Elijah to ask him why he was hiding in the cave at the mountain, he could only respond, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” (1Kings 19:10-14) It appears that Elijah was questioning God why he was under such attack when he had been a faithful, zealous servant.
The problem may have begun with the fact that God did not direct Elijah to set up the contest between the prophets of Baal and Asherah and himself. Although God was faithful to give Elijah the victory, it is a question whether or not God’s divine will, or Elijah’s over-zealous stand as the prophet of God was the basis for the show-down. Elijah had originally summoned the prophets of Baal as well as of Asherah, but according to the Scripture, only the prophets of Baal took on Elijah’s challenge. Therefore, the prophets of Asherah survived the slaying to which the prophets of Baal fell. It could be, as Moshe Reiss suggests, that Elijah feared the retribution of Jezebel through her prophets. (Messengers of God: A Theological and Psychological Perspective of Elijah, Reiss)

Another problem could be seen in that before running or even while he was running in fear, Elijah again did not seek God’s direction or assistance. It certainly was not for a lack of experience with God’s direction that Elijah neglected to seek His counsel. According to J. Hampton Keathley, III, it wasn’t merely that Elijah ran or hid in the wilderness. It was that he did so “without God’s direction and without God as his primary shelter.” (The Crisis of Elijah, Keathley)

In his self proclaimed zealousness, it seems that Elijah was willing to go out on a thin limb for the sake of the Lord. Although this is a noble characteristic in itself, to move in his own power and strength left him vulnerable to the threats of a woman who served a false god. Psalm 44:21 says that God knows the secrets of the heart. Elijah may have made faulty decisions but he made them with a heart to serve and prove God, and to turn God’s people back to Yahweh. Because of this, God gave him the victory, provided for him, and showed His faithfulness and protection.
Even in a state of prolonged fear in the wilderness and in the cave at Mount Horeb, God came to Elijah and gave him clear directions that would give Elijah courage and turn even this circumstance to victory over Ahab, Jezebel, and problem of the nation of Israel serving the false gods Jezebel had introduced to the nation.

Part Three
There are several lasting theological applications to be gained from this passage of Scripture. Elijah is referred to 29 times in the New Testament, therefore, it behooves us to glean important truths from his experiences.
It would certainly be easy to judge Elijah on his failure of faith as he ran from the threats of the wicked Jezebel. How could he turn on his own experiences with the Lord and flee in fear into the wilderness and then hide in a cave? However, Elijah is a man with human characteristics and is not “immune to doubt and fear, yet he receives miraculous answers to prayer.” (Bradshaw) It appears that Elijah mistook his personal ideas to solve the spiritual issue of Israel’s idolatry for God’s will and way to deal with it. Too often, we can make choices to “run ahead of God.” Quoting from a local pastor, “It’s easier to catch up than to clean up.” Taking our own initiatives without direction from God may be well meaning, but may cause us to bear the consequences that come with moving ahead of the perfect will of God. We might see what we would consider an out-of-control circumstance with passion for the Lord, but we must be careful not to confuse our passionate desire or righteous indignation with God’s will. However, God is merciful, and promises that His mercies are “new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:23) He is a God of second chances, giving us plenty of opportunities to succeed in His name. God wasn’t finished with Elijah when he brought the competition to the prophets of Baal or when he ran from Jezebel and her death threats, and God isn’t finished with us regardless of the turns we may take. As he directed Elijah to a final victory over the enemies of God and Israel, He will direct us into victory over every area of our lives.

God showed Himself faithful to Elijah although initially, he neither felt His presence, nor called on God on his own. Elijah had not experienced the kind of victory he expected after the defeat of the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. The ten tribes of Israel did not turn away from idol worship, and Ahab and Jezebel did not forsake their false gods and turn to the one true God. The result of this victory was the prophet of God feeling despondent and in fear for his life. But God knew what Elijah could not yet know. In 1Kings 19:15-18, God revealed to Elijah the 7,000 faithful followers of Yahweh, and those who God had chosen to lead His people. Together, those who remained in God’s camp would finally triumph over the enemies of God and Israel.

God presence followed Elijah in his wilderness and solitary experiences. Hebrews 13:5tells us that God will never leave us nor forsake us. God knows the end from the beginning, and sees the big picture that we are not yet able to see. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. We must continue to diligently seek Him in all things, especially those things that are beyond our understanding. It pleases God when we can trust Him in every situation and circumstance, remembering what He has done in the past, but more importantly, remembering who He is.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” As we win the victory over circumstances through Jesus Christ, we are given tools to minister hope to those who are undergoing similar trials. Our triumphs become the hope and subsequent triumph for those to whom God gives us the opportunity to minister.

The narrative of Elijah’s response to a serious death threat and God’s mercy, concern, and care for him through his experiences contain pertinent life lessons that Christians are able to apply. God is faithful to His children despite their missteps, faithlessness, or wanderings. This was proven in Elijah’s life, and is proven in the lives of believers today. When we are able to learn and apply these lessons, we become ministers of hope, healing, and triumph to those who are in the midst of battle.

Bradshaw, Robert I. “Elijah.”; available from www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_elijah.html.

Branson, Robert D, Edlin, Jim, Green, Tim M. Discovering the Old Testament: Story and Faith. Kansas City, KS: Beacon Hill Press, 2003.

Guzik, David. “1 Kings 19-God Encourages Discouraged Elijah.”; available from www.enduringword.com/commentaries/1119.htm. 2004.

Keathley III, J. Hampton. “The Crisis of Elijah.”; available from http://bible.org/seriespage/crisis-elijah-1-kings-19I-14.

Reiss, Moshe. “Messengers of God: A Theological and Psychological Perspective.”; available from www.moshereiss.org/messenger/07_elijah.html.

Swindoll, Charles R, A Man of Heroism and Humility. Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 2000.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Yankees Win! The Yankees Win!

I am a long time New Yorker, and a die-hard Yankee fan. I support the team when they win, and when they lose--a rare, true fan. I learned it from my mom, who has been a Yankee fan for as long as I can remember, and my two daughters are die-hard Yankee fans after us. My oldest daughter is expecting our first grandchild in December, and I’ve already bought him a Yankee onesie, a Yankee sweat-suit, and a teeny, little Rodriguez tee shirt!

The good news is that the Yankees just paraded down the Canyon of Champions in New York City. I watched it on TV, and part of me wished I was there, but a bigger part is glad I wasn’t-the crowd being three million strong. Many people kept their kids out of school to travel hours to get to the parade. Everyone wants to celebrate the Yankees 27th World Series. The energy of the crowd in the city is tangible, even from the TV. The crowd stayed long to see the Yankees receive the key to the city from the mayor. What a great day!

During the series, most of my friends and family were glued to their TV’s, and either talking on the phone, texting one another, IM’ing, or changing their facebook status’s according to the way the games were going. The Philly’s were going down, every New Yorker knew it! Still, the tension and stress my younger daughter and I felt during the games was thick! Every game was a nail-biter, and when it came to the last out of game six, I don’t think we remembered to breathe!

I don’t think our heavenly Father minds all the fun. I firmly believe the Lord is a Yankee fan! But beside all the fun, it makes me wonder. As people of God, if we took all that tension and stress that we felt during the games against the competition, and pointed it toward the enemy of our souls, what kind of damage would we do to the kingdom of darkness? If we were persuaded that it was as important to win souls as it was to win the series from the Phillies, how many more would spend eternity with the Lord?

How is it that we pull for our favorite team with all the energy we can muster, and yet, are complacent and lazy about team Jesus, and gaining the win for His side? We stayed up later than we should until each game was over, but complain if a church service goes a little too long for our liking. And heaven forbid we have to travel to get to church, but some people traveled across two state lines to get to games. Some even went to the stadium in the Bronx where they could watch the away games on the big screen. It was a matter of being together to route for and fight for the win.

I’m just saying, and I’m speaking to myself as well as I am you. I’m beside myself that the Yankees won the World Series, I really am. But winning just one soul for the Kingdom of God makes this championship dull in comparison. Baseball is one of those temporal things that will be as hay and stubble. Our conquests for the Kingdom of God are eternal. We need to route for and fight for the win with everything we have.
Just think about it for a minute. Maybe dedicate this week during your quiet time to asking the Father how you can use all that wonderful, sports-loving energy toward the plans and purposes God has for you.

“Ballgame over! The Yankees win!” Kingdom building is just beginning! We all win!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Instead of a Show


Last Saturday, my friend, Shari and I painted my daughter, Nicole's room spring green. It's a pretty light green that's just a tad brighter than we thought it would be. Still, it's pretty and happy like Nicole.

For the past several days, Nicole has played Jon Foreman's solo album while we've driven or worked on getting her room back together. It's deep, spiritually keen, and really beautiful both lyrically and musically.

We were working on her room tonight and watching as the frequent lightening danced in rhythm to the music. We laughed and talked about how God was listening and enjoying Jon Foreman's music with us! Then the song, "Instead of a Show" began to play...I wasn't paying too much attention, but suddenly, the lyrics struck me. Written and performed by Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, (now I understand why she's such a Switchfoot stalker! These guys are really gifted!) this song powerfully speaks to religion vs. the reality of the Gospel.

Listen, you can talk faith all you want, but if there's no reaching out to the hopeless and hurting, faith without works is DEAD...faith without love is showy, pretentious, SELFISH. Bible faith reaches beyond self and selfish acquisition to bring Jesus to the lost and dying world regardless of personal cost. Like Peter and most of the disciples, the furtherance of the Gospel was and is the priority. The disciples willingly gave their lives for it. Are we or should we be any different?

Let's make it a point in our lives to do what Jesus commissioned His disciples to do...to GO, preach, teach, heal, do the greater things so that the Kingdom of God will be increased, and the Father would be glorified upon the earth!

Lyrics to Instead Of A Show :
I hate all your show and pretense
The hypocrisy of your praise
The hypocrisy of your festivals
I hate all your show

Away with your noisy worship
Away with your noisy hymns
I plug my ears when you're singing 'em
I hate all your show

Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show

Your eyes are closed when you're praying
You sing right along with the band
You shine up your shoes for services
There's blood on your hands

You turn your back on the homeless
And the ones that don't fit in your plan
Quit playing religion games
There's blood on your hands

Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show
I hate all your show

Let's argue this out
If your sins are blood red
Let's argue this out
You'll be one of the clouds
Let's argue this out
Quit fooling around

Give love to the ones who can't love at all
Give hope to the ones who got no hope at all
Stand up for the ones who can't stand at all, all
I hate all your show
I hate all your show

Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show
I hate all your show

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Night Approaches


Blogging has been put on the back burner as school and work have overtaken my life. But lately, the burning has been in my spirit...a fire shut up in my bones. This was written on another sleepless night as I pondered the fate of this fallen world...it poured out from the depths and I pray that it ministers life to those who are perishing.

Night Approaches
6-9-09

Wheels of lightening carry the Lord God upon His chariot of Thunder.
He rattles the heavens as He searches the souls of men -
Seeking from among them those whom He considers faithful.

Who among you will be faithful to the God who creates or destroys at His command?
And yet, in His very presence, the people eat, drink and are merry,
Living their lives and saying, “But there is no God!”
Fools who wait upon nothing, buying and selling at every whim,
As though this is the foundation of their salvation and
They risk their children’s souls upon it.

You fill your pleasures daily in futile and vain attempts to fill your empty hearts
Your pockets are lined with greed and self-intent while the poor go hungry
And the widow’s needs are unmet.

Who will stand in the wrath to come-or who will hear the coming of the Lord?
He who speaks the truth without wavering-
Who does not sit idle wondering when another will fill the needs upon the earth.

For surely as He rattles the heavens, He will rattle men’s hearts with fear
On that great and terrible day when the trumpet overtakes the air
And the multitudes of the earth fall to their knees
Declaring the glory of the Lord.

Who will be able to stand in His presence?
On that day, the earth will tremble and the hearts of the ones
Who were thought to be mighty will be humbled and shaken?

And there you stand in the darkness, proclaiming, “Look, it is day!”
And you bring the young ones with you
Who, like city tourists, look up into the night
And yet agree with you in their unknowing.

They use the Master’s Plan to line their bird’s cages
Or sit like a forgotten trophy upon the shelf that
No more reminds them of the victories in the midst of battle
Or triumph over the enemies they now gratefully serve.

How long will you chose to be feeble-minded?
Filling yourselves with tales of deception
Spoken by false teachers whose words are like honey?
You lick your lips to drink their poison
Until you fall down dead from it
Or you stumble in a drunken stupor from the liquor
Of lies and compromise.

Fools that you are! Where is the wisdom you know saved you
From the pit or how is it that you have yet to get understanding?
You puff yourselves up with knowledge that bears no fruit
While the world suffers from your lack.

You study and yet do not believe.
You divide the Word among yourselves-
Taking only what soothes and discarding reproof or correction that brings life.

You are like a tree refusing the pruning knife
Or wheat that holds onto its chaff.
You are like a garden whose weeds overtake the vine
And when the gardener returns to it, he sees the unfruitful vine
And cuts it down with the weeds
Destroying it together because it refused to be separated.

How long can I deny the fire shut up within me?
Men have convinced me to douse it with their muddied waters
And yet it has burned on until I can no longer turn away.
I can no longer be among those who convince themselves
That the muddied waters bring life
Like the Dead Sea, they hoard for themselves priceless treasures
Which are useless in the pool of their selfish desires.
Although they are filled, there is never enough to restore life.

Exhort one another in the light of the day-
While the sun still rises and sets in its course.
For a day is coming and approaching in increasing measure
When it shall rise no more and only His lightening will fill and shake the skies.

Hesitate no more and see that your souls
and the souls of your neighbor find salvation.
For night approaches and the sun will refuse to rise
And the light of the moon will grow dim.
Then will His lightening break through the darkness
And His thunder crash through the heavens
Declaring His glory to all the earth-
Declaring His might and His power.

And still the sons of men deny Him and turn to their own devices-
Like spoiled children seeking nothing but their own
When their end is everlasting darkness
And their children with them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A New Lease on Life

It has been a long time since my last actual blog. It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything clear to blog about. Many things have transpired, many inspirational, many situational. Most have occupied my time and have prevented me from sitting and jotting down whatever thoughts or inspirations I may have had.

In particular, my new job has had me wondering and vacillating whether or not I am in the right place. But right places don’t always FEEL right, and if they did, we wouldn’t have to walk by faith. And to belabor the point, without faith, we know it’s impossible to please God, and this job forces me to please Him by a constant reliance, by faith, in who He is and where He put me and where He is leading.

And in the process of where I’ve been and the path I’ve been on during the past few months, I’ve learned some things, and I’ve taken on a new lease on my life.

Probably the most important thing I’ve learned, and it will be a thread in most of what follows, is as Oswald Chambers puts it, “I have learnt that I am me, that I can do the things that, as one might put it, me can do, but I cannot do the things that me would like to do.” Therefore, I am the only one accountable for me and for what I do. I must walk the walk that I believe God is leading me on. If I walk otherwise for any reason, I am a hindrance to the Kingdom of God as the plan and purpose God has for my life is deterred by my error or disobedience.

Therefore, no one should be able to talk me out of or dissuade me from the vision God has placed in my heart. If someone vehemently disagrees or adamantly attempts to discourage the desires of my heart, then we have come to a crossroads and a decision must be made regarding the furtherance or dissolving of our relationship. A good, godly connection will encourage and cultivate a gift, talent, or vision in a friend. Apart from this, the health of the relationship must be brought into question.

I cannot be accountable for the opinions of others. If where I am going, another cannot go, I must continue onward toward the goal of the vision, and leave my friend behind. To hinder the call of God on my life because another refuses to walk beside becomes my accountability entirely. To leave a friend is a painful thing. But the path toward a God-given vision is often too narrow to walk with another, and in order to reach that goal, one must endure times of solitude and loneliness. This is a good thing because it is in these times and places we fully realize that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother-One who never leaves nor forsakes those who love Him. The Father loves these places in our lives. We must shed all things frivolous and rely only on Him. It is here where His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses, and only here where we will fully realize His plan for us, and here where He can hone the vision in our hearts until it looks like His vision for us.

I can’t be accountable for the behavior or choices of others. I don’t know or understand what’s in someone else’s heart, where they’ve been, where they are, or why they do what they do. I must suppose that the intentions of my brothers and sisters are good, regardless of my opinions or feelings. Only God knows the hearts of men, and until proven otherwise, I must see only the positive in others.

If I desire the respect of my brothers and sisters and the courtesy from them to stand with me as I follow my dreams, visions and goals, then I must also give them the same courtesy. I may not understand the direction someone else chooses to follow, but it is not for me to understand. As long as their heart and direction is to follow the Lord, then I can and must be an encouragement to my friend.

Because the Lord has given me the heart of a cultivator, it is my deepest desire to see others grow into and function in God’s plan and purpose for their lives. I believe that other than sharing the Gospel with the lost, encouraging, promoting, and cultivating gifts in the body of Christ is the single most important thing we can do to see the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven. Think about it! If each of us nurtured, grew and harvested the actual God-given plan prepared for ourselves and one another, the earth would truly be filled with God’s glory, and many would see and know that God is the Lord!

I must move forward, past my own past, past the naysayers, past the spirit of laziness, procrastination, and fear, past all hindrances and deterrents, and fight for what’s in my heart. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord!” Zech. 4:6 Through the Greater One who dwells in me, I can do all things!

Living the life of faith is a daily battle. But the battle is the Lord’s! I’ll keep my eyes on Him and I will see His deliverance. I will run the race to win the prize and see His Kingdom come in my life, and through my life. I can no longer sit and simply promote the vision of others while my own dreams and visions lie dormant and die within me. If I do, again, I am the one accountable, at fault, and guilty of disobedience. One day, I will stand before the Lord to account directly for what I’ve done with what He’s given me to do. No excuses will accepted on that day!

Time is too short and there isn’t a moment to waste. It is time for each of us to put our hands to the plow—the harvest is white and will not wait! And for each of us, our accountability to do what’s been given is not to men, but to GOD.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Phil. 3:13-15

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Christ's Passion for You -- Part One


Rick Renner has written one of my favorite daily devotionals called "Sparkling Gems from the Greek." Over the next few days, I would like to share with you part of the powerful account of Jesus' passion, from trial, to tragedy, to triumph. However, with eight days left until our celebration of Christ's resurrection, we'll take it from the torturous scourging forward. I encourage you to follow daily. The posts themselves may seem long as I take them straight from the book, but they will give you great insight into the amazing passion Jesus has for you. You won't be the same when you more fully realize what Jesus was willing to endure on your behalf.

Warning-some of the contents are of these posts will be extremely graphic.

SCOURGED

...And when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. Matt. 27:26

"What was it like for a prisoner to be scourged in New Testament times? From what materials was a scourge made? How did it feel when the straps of a scourge whipped across a person's back and body? What effects did a scourging have on the human body?

"Matthew 27:26 tells us that Pilate 'had scourged Jesus' before he delivered Him to be crucified, so we need to understand what it meant to be 'scourged. The word 'scourged' is the Greek word phragello, and it was one of the most horrific words used in the ancient world because of the terrible images that immediately came to mind when a person heard this word. Le me tell you a little about the process of scourging and what it did to the human body. I believe this explanation is important so you can understand more completely what Jesus endured before He was taken to be crucified.

"When a decision was made to scourge an individual, the victim was first stripped completely naked so his entire flesh would be open and uncovered to the beating action of the torturer's whip. Then the victim was bound to a two-foot high scourging post. His hands were tied over his head to a metal ring, and his wrists were securely shackled to the metal ring to restrain his body from movement. When in this locked position, the victim couldn't wiggle or move, trying to avoid or dodge the lashes that were being laid across his back.

"Romans were professionals at scourging; they took special delight in the fact that they were the 'best' at punishing a victim with this brutal act. Once the victim was harnessed to the post and stretched over it, the Roman soldier began to put him through unimaginable torture. One writer notes that the mere anticipation of the first blow caused the victim's body to grow rigid, the muscles to knot in his stomach, the color to drain from his cheeks, and his lips to draw tight against his teeth as he waited for the first sadistic blow that would begin the tearing open of his body.

"The scourge itself consisted of a short, wooden handle with several 18-24 inch long straps of leather protruding from it. The ends of these pieces of leather were equipped with sharp, rugged pieced of metal, wire, glass, and jagged fragments of bone. This was considered to be one of the most feared and deadly weapons of the Roman world. It was so ghastly that the mere threat of scourging could calm a crowd or bend the will of the strongest rebel. Not even the most hardened criminal wanted to be submitted to the vicious beating of a Roman scourge.

"Most often, two torturers were utilized to carry out this punishment, simultaneously lashing the victim from both sides. As these dual whips struck the victim, the leather straps with their jagged, sharp, cutting objects descended and extended over this entire back. Each piece of metal, wire, bone or glass cut deeply through the victim's skin and into his flesh, shredding his muscles and sinews.

"Every time the whip pounded across the victim, those straps of leather curled tortuously around his torso, biting painfully and deeply into the skin of his abdomen and upper chest. As each stroke lacerated the sufferer, he tried to thrash about but was unable to move because his wrists were held so firmly to the metal ring above his head. Helpless to escape the whip, he would scream for mercy that this anguish might come to an end.

"Every time the torturers struck a victim, the straps of leather attached to the wooden handle would cause multiple lashes as the pieces of metal, glass, wire and bone sank into the flesh and then raked across the victim's body. Then the torturer would jerk back, pulling hard in order to tear whole pieced of human flesh from the body. The victim's back, buttocks, back of the legs, stomach, upper chest, and face would soon be disfigured by the slashing blows of the whip.

"Historical records describe a victim's back as being so mutilated after a Roman scourging that his spine would actually be exposed. Others recorded how the bowels of a victim would actually spill out through the open wounds created by the whip. The Early Church historian Eusebius wrote, 'The veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.

"The Roman torturer would so aggressively strike the victim that he wouldn't even take the time to untangle the bloody, flesh-filled straps as he lashed the whip across the victim's mangled body over and over again. If the scourging wasn't stopped, the slicing of the whip would eventually flay the victim's flesh off his body.

"With so many blood vessels sliced open by the whip, the victim would begin to experience profuse loss of blood and bodily fluids. The heart would pump harder and harder, struggling to get blood to the parts of the body that were profusely bleeding. But it was like pumping water through an open water hydrant; there was nothing left to stop the blood from pouring through the victim's open wounds.

"This loss of blood caused the victim's blood pressure to drop drastically. Because of the massive loss of bodily fluids, he would experience excruciating thirst, often fainting from the pain and eventually going into shock. Frequently the victim's heartbeat would become so irregular that he would go into cardiac arrest.

"This was a Roman scourging.

"According to Jewish law in Deuteronomy 25:3, the Jews were permitted to give forty lashes to a victim, but because the fortieth lash usually proved fatal, the number of lashes given was reduced to thirty-nine, as Paul noted in 2Corinthians 11:24. But the Romans had NO LIMIT to the number of lashes they could give a victim, and the scourging Jesus experienced was at the hands of the Romans, not Jews. Therefore, it is entirely possible that when the torturer pulled out his scourge to beat Jesus, he may have laid more than forty lashes across His body. In fact, this is even probable in light of the explosive outrage the Jews felt for Jesus and the terrible mocking He had already suffered at the hands of Roman soldiers.

"So when the Bible tells us that Jesus was scourged, we now know exactly what type of beating that Jesus received that night. What toll did the cruel Roman whip exact on Jesus' body? The New Testament doesn't tell us exactly what Jesus looked like after He was scourged, but Isaiah 52:14 says, 'As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.'

"If we take this scripture literally for what it says, we can conclude that Jesus' physical body was marred nearly beyond recognition. As appalling as this sounds, it was only the overture to what was to follow. Matthew 27:26 continues to tell us, 'and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.' This scourging was only the preparation for Jesus' crucifixion!

"Every time I think about the scourging Jesus received that day, I think of the promise of God to us in Isaiah 53:5. This verse says, 'But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed." In this verse, God declares that the price for our healing would be paid by those stripes that were laid across Jesus' back.

"In 1Peter 2:24, the apostle Peter quoted Isaish 53:5. He told his readers, '...by whose stripes we are healed.' The word 'stripes' used in this verse is molopsi, which describes a full-body bruise. It refers to a "terrible lashing that draws blood and that produces discoloration and swelling of the entire body. When Peter wrote this verse, he wasn't speaking by revelation but by memory, for he vividly remembered what happened to Jesus that night and what His physical appearance looked like after His scourging.

"After graphically reminding us of the beating, bleeding, and bruising that Jesus endured, Peter jubilantly declared that it was by these same stripes that we are 'healed.' The word 'healed' is the Greed word iaomai--a word that clearly refers to physical healing, as it is a word borrowed from the medical term to describe the 'physical healing or curing of the human body.'

"For those who think this promise refers to spiritual healing only, the Greek word emphatically speaks of the healing of a physical condition. This is a real promise of bodily healing that belongs to all who have been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ!

"Jesus' broken body was the payment God demanded to guarantee our physical healing! Just as Jesus willfully took our sins and died on the cross in our place, He also willfully took our sicknesses and pains on Himself when they tied Him to the scourging post and laid those lashes across His body. that horrific scourging paid for our healing!

"If you need healing in your body, you have every right to go to God and ask for healing to come flooding into your system. It's time for you to dig in your heels and hold fast to the promise of God's Word, releasing your faith for the healing that belongs to you."

Monday, March 30, 2009

My Aha Moment

For those of you who have followed or know me personally, you know that the past few months have been quite challenging. And in the midst of difficult circumstances, I imagine that few of us understand or can grasp the long term ramifications of the trials that befall us. And yet, we serve a God of the big picture. He sees the end from the beginning and declares, "It is good!"

It's three and a half months from the passing of the eye of the storm. I've been doing all I can to make sense of the debris that was left from the destruction of what I knew to be true for my life. Piles of wood, hay and stubble lay everywhere, and all I was left with were memories.
(1 Corinthians 3:11-13)

During the past week, I've re-consecrated my life to the Lord. I've been determined to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-6) It's so easy during the dark times to allow your mind to take over, have it's fleshy way, and wallow in anguish, pain, frustration, hurt, offense, resentment and bitterness. I know that I know that there is absolutely, positively no good fruit born of these feelings. In fact, they are utterly destructive.

And I'm not going to tell you its easy to get these emotions under control because it's downright hard work. But ultimately, if they are not taken captive, they will take over. They will cause depression and despair that will kill, rob and destroy every good thing that God has planned for our lives, and we just don't have time to wallow here!!! Jesus came to bring us abundant life, and I believe with all my heart that this means He desires to see the plans He created us for come to fruition in our lives. Yes, I'm talking about those dreams again! The desires of your heart that you may have put up on a high shelf because you feel that you will never attain them.

I believe that "life more abundantly" has little to do with the procurement of material stuff. I believe that it is working toward and living out what our goals, dreams, hopes, and visions are as they line up with the plan and purpose God has for us. Think about it. John 10:10 says that the thief (the enemy of our souls) comes to steal, kill, and destroy. What does he want to steal? Our hope, dreams, and visions. What does he want to kill? You and me! What does he want to destroy? Anything that has to do with building the Kingdom of God. The more of US he can take out, the more successful he is in keeping the Kingdom of God from going forward.

And Jesus came to give life, and that more abundantly. What more abundance can I have but to know that what I'm doing is building the Kingdom of my Lord? Is there anything more joyous than knowing my life has purpose and that He will say to me one day, "Well done, my beloved?"

In Acts 3:1-8 Peter declared to the lame man at the Beautiful Gate, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” If Peter had possessed and had given the lame man silver and gold, it would NOT have changed his circumstances. Peter gave the man what God had given him in abundance, and of how much more worth was that?! The man's life was forever changed, and he praised God for it!
When we receive that abundant life, friends, it ain't for us! It is for the benefit of someone else! When we think of it that way, how selfish of us NOT to live this kind of abundant life!

Well, I just have to encourage you today. So let me continue with my own testimony. As some of you know, I've just begun a job working with a very abused population of adolescent girls. The training that we had was top of the line. It has completely changed my thinking about sexually exploited youth, and my new co-workers would totally agree with me. If you have the opportunity, check out http://www.gems-girls.org/ . The woman who began GEMS was our trainer. If you can, watch the documentary about the program called, "Very Young Girls." It'll rock your world and get your head out of the sand! But I digress...

As we were in this intensive training, God reminded me of something. Several years ago, I attended a Women of Faith Conference. During the conference, a woman came forward and presented a ministry to hurting teenagers. Several teenagers then gave their testimonies of having been runaways, sexually exploited, drug or alcohol abusers and/or estranged from their families. Because of this ministry, they had been totally transformed and gave their lives to Christ. I was so moved that I prayed repeatedly that weekend, "Lord, is this what you want me to do? Because if it is, I'll do it!" I even came home and told my family about it.

As I was suddenly reminded about this prayer during the training, it was the ultimate AHA moment of my life thus far! Here I was, several years later training for a job that was with troubled adolescents! A coincidence? I sincerely think NOT! But I couldn't remember the name of that ministry. After googling and several phone calls, I finally found it--House of Hope. http://www.nationalhouseofhope.org/ I then made phone calls and sent emails, and to make a long story short, I will be attending a training in October for those who are interested in starting a House of Hope! I've also just registered to begin my Master's in Counseling at Liberty University so that I will be well equipped for this adventure!

Perspective (hind-sight) really is 20/20. Had I not been laid off, had I not gone through what I did in ministry, I would have never had the job that I do now. It is because I am on this path that the Lord brought to my remembrance the prayer I prayed the weekend I was first introduced to House of Hope.

The rebuilding of my life continues. I have a new hope, a new perspective and vision. Clarity is overtaking the cloudiness that has covered my world. I am determined to find balance and peace with where I've been, and forge ahead into what lies before me. I know that all things ARE working together for good, and my Father has ordered my steps, so all I need to do is walk where He guides. And wherever that is, "It is good!"

And if you have been through the eye of the storm, if your dreams and hopes seemed to have been dashed by circumstances or nay-sayers (there are plenty of those for your penny, believe me!) and if you get nothing else from this post, let me encourage you that you make this your own today:

Philippians 3:12-14
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No Rollover Minutes by Keylon Levine


This "musing" is written by my friend Keylon Levine. Keylon is a man who does whatever he does with abandon. When he was in the world, he played hard and lived hard. Now that he has come into the Kingdom of God, he serves God uncompromisingly. Letting no one despise his youth, Key is clear about his desire to live the life of a disciple. He seeks to always dig deeper into the truths in the Word, and is truly carefree about how he is perceived by men. I love the passion with which Keylon lives his life, and he shares it well in his writings which you can find on his shared blogsite, http://wordabovewater.com/.

No Rollover Minutes

In this cell phone obsessed world that we live in, we should all be familiar with the concept of rollover minutes. If not, let me explain: In signing up for a cell phone plan, one gets allotted a certain amount of minutes that can be used every month. If for whatever reason one doesn’t use up all of their minutes in a particular month, then the unused minutes get carried over into the following month. Cingular actually now has a series of hilarious commercials in which a family is bickering about the fact that the sons’ are using their new rollover minutes while wasting their old ones. Even though the minutes are old they’re still perfectly usable, but the sons continue throw them in the garbage simply because their old. Meanwhile, the mother is constantly fishing the old minutes out of the garbage and rebuking her sons for not appreciating them.

Sadly enough, we as Christians, live our lives like our cell phone plans. We live our lives like we have rollover minutes. We have such a propensity to just go through the motions; wake up, go to work, come home and go to sleep without anything really being accomplished. An outsider looking in would think that we were saving up our minutes to be truly productive for the following month. It seems like we walk through this life not understanding that every minute of every day is a minute that needs to be used productively.

Now to be clear, there is certainly a difference between being productive and being busy. Those who are simply going through the motions could most definitely make the case that they are busy. But the question is not, "Are you busy?" The question is, "Are you being productive?"
One of the greatest lies that the devil would get us to believe is that busyness equals productivity. Let me give you Webster’s definition of the word busy: "foolishly or intrusively active." So let me just set the record straight: if we’re not being responsibly active about the Master’s work, then we’re not being productive.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost our sense of urgency in the body of Christ, and it’s evident in our lack of productivity. We are living in the last days, and Christ is waiting for us to have Him truly manifested amongst us, but manifestation won’t come unless we’re living lives that are indicative of us expecting the return of our Master. Jesus put it like this, “So you too must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: if a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”(Matthew 24: 42-44). So it is clear that we need to stop watching life pass us by and start a life that is watching for Him.

I just had a conversation with a friend of mine, and he said something that nearly broke my heart. He said, “I could just kill two weeks, no problem.” In others words, he could waste his minutes without even thinking about it. Comments like this leave me with such anger at the devil; righteous anger, of course. He’s getting God’s people to continually remain paralyzed by their sense of comfort and familiarity. The potential that my friend has to live a powerful life for God is tremendous, and the only thing that is stopping him is the fact that he would have to get out of his comfort zone. And, the worst part about it is that he has acknowledged the fact that he’s not happy in this comfort zone, but the paralysis that has overcome him has left him too numb to make any real steps; he’s paralyzed from the spirit down.

This life plan that God has given us comes with no rollover minutes. The minutes that God has given us need to be used with purpose and productivity; not with frivol and waste; we don’t get any of them back. When we gave our lives to Christ our life plans with rollover minutes expired. The expired rollover minutes, however, were replaced with the non-expiring Kingdom minutes. And if we read the fine print, there is a promise that is attached to these Kingdom minutes: “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate the people as the Shepard separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.'"(Matthew 25: 31-33). Let us be sure to revive our sense of urgency so that we are not to be separated with the goats.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Are You a Mucky, Muddy Hand Grabber?

When you think about "attending church," what is it that comes to your mind? What happens at your once or twice weekly meetings, and what changes are wrought in your life on a continual basis as a result? (wrought-produced or shaped by beating with a hammer, as iron or silver articles.) How is your walk with God affected? And perhaps the most important question, is God permitted to attend, or does the business of church effectively leave Him standing at the door hoping to be invited in?

If our gatherings were met with the hardcore Word of God the way Jesus and His disciples taught, and we were continuously challenged to raise our standards to live a God-centered life; if we were without the entertainment factors and the cutsie aberrations we expect from the pulpit, would we still go? (I encourage you to read the book of Acts, and study how the Word was preached with power and anointing, and how the disciples walked upon the earth and what fruit was born of it. Thousands came to the Lord even though there were no studies done, no careful planning and practicing of the how to's of keeping people satisfied, no cushions on the carefully arranged seats, you get my drift...)

If, at each meeting, instead of being an audience waiting to be so entertained by feel good music and charismatic speakers, each one of us was made to step out of our comfort zones to actually participate in the plan and the purpose God had for us, enlarge our tents, and be what God created us to be, would we attend with fervor and expectancy?

What if when we came together, instead of feeling good about ourselves and what we could GET from the hand of God, we were convicted about how we should GIVE, and we were taught to live the principles of true Kingdom building outside the four walls of the church and into the harvest fields around us, would we want to participate?

And to camp here for a moment, the kind of giving I'm talking about transcends the tithe and participating in doings within and around the church building. I'm talking about getting our hands dirty, about sacrificing beyond what may be comfortable. The GOING into all the world that Jesus commanded those who were His disciples to do...

I have this picture in my head...my feet are stuck in the miry clay, and there are many stuck with me. I cannot get myself out, and I can't help anyone else out, although their burdens weigh heavier on my heart than my own. And Jesus comes, grabs my mucky, muddy hands, lifts me out, and sets my feet on a solid rock. I am safe and set free! Instead of gloating about being on the rock, I reach out and grab the mucky and muddy hands of those who are still stuck, and am used of God to help lift them out so that they too can stand on the Solid Rock. This is the sacrificing I'm talking about. Getting beyond ourselves and reaching out, really reaching out and giving out of the blessings we've been given, no matter how difficult or even frightening it may seem.

Did you know that we are ALL called to be missionaries? Mucky, muddy hand grabbers? Right beneath your feet, wherever you go, you are a minister of reconciliation! (2 Corinthians 5:17-19) It's your reasonable service to minister the love, mercy and grace of the Savior to those around you every day! I digress, but not so much...

If instead of coming together and engaging in social pleasantries and chit chat, gossip, backbiting and covert plotting against one another, we met with purpose to join our hearts together in true fellowship, where we would uplift and encourage each other in the Word, foster, nurture, and cultivate the gifts in each other, and made plans to GO and do the greater things Jesus said we would do in His name, how many of us would still be faithful to the meetings?

It's time for the "church" to come out of it's sleepy, comfortable state. The time of lukewarm, feel good, gimme glee club church services are over. Wake up, oh sleeper! The time is short! (1Cor. 7:29-31) Put a sword in one hand and a shovel in the other, and begin to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. (Nehemiah 3:17-18) We only have a few moments left to sow in tears and reap in joy, for the harvest is white NOW. The greatest gift we can give the greatest Giver is to win a soul for His Kingdom. Remember, we are His hands and feet on the earth, not so much to be used by Him as to be useful to Him. It's time to return to the kind of living the disciples lived...going forth in the Spirit's power, unafraid, unashamed, and uncompromisingly proclaiming the truth until He comes...THIS is church!

Matthew 9:36-38 (New King James Version)
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Acts 2:46-47
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Live Your Dreams!


I'd been seeking out a long lost friend from high school for some time now. I'd looked for him online, in local phone books where he used to live, and found nothing. The last time I saw him, it didn't go so well. We didn't have a fight or anything like that, it just didn't go so well. I don't remember ever seeing him after that, but we did talk and write letters, and I kept those because I really did treasure our friendship.

Well, last night, I was able to contact the family of his son, who I never met. He was born after our "incident," but I remember my friend telling me about him and telling me his name. I spoke with my friend's daughter-in-law on the phone, and she graciously told me many things about my friend, including the fact that he had passed away a number of years ago. If only I had found him 10 years ago...

I have to tell you that somehow, I knew that he was gone. Somewhere on the inside, I'd been forewarned. And although the news made me sad, I wasn't surprised. The sad fact is that I will never have an opportunity on this side of heaven to reconnect with my friend. The good news is that I have made a connection with him through his son, and there is something very sweet about that.

And now to a different story, (hang in there with me for a minute!) For many years, I've been saying, "If only..." about playing the piano. If only my parents fostered the gifts in their children...If only I had taken lessons 25 years ago...If only this, if only that. Well, the Lord blessed me with a beautiful grand piano. It was built in the 1920's, still has its original ivory keys and is a beaut! My "if only" days were over. Time to take lessons! And so, for the past few months, I've been taking piano lessons, and learning to take my first baby steps! It's time consuming, takes discipline, and I'm so glad I'm not sitting at the piano bench repeating my "If only" mantra! I don't expect to be a concert pianist anytime soon, but I do expect to be able to play, at least at a novice level!

And a third story...(just work with me here!) I've had lots of jobs, and have had lots of disappointing experiences. In the past five or so years, I've come to a stark realization why. I'm not the kind of person who can sit behind a computer doing someone else's business. I desperately need to know that what I'm doing makes an actual difference in someone else's life. "If only I knew then what I know now!" but I didn't. And maybe I had to become a stronger, more mature person before I was able to help someone else without climbing into their struggles. And now that I know, I've been given the ultimate opportunity to do just that. My new job will be an incredible challenge to what I believe I'm called to do in life. I will be working with adolescent young ladies whose lives have been virtually devastated by circumstances that you and I could not imagine living through. And if I am called to this, if this is my gift and my anointing, then I will go with God's power, wisdom, understanding, and strength, and lives will be changed because of Him! I'm excited, nervous, scared, and anticipating finding out more about who I am in Christ through this opportunity to serve Him, AND GET PAID FOR IT! :)

So my question to you is, what are YOUR "If only's?" What dreams and visions have you let go of? Have you searched for ways to see them come to pass, but in the waiting, you feel like they've died? Have you mourned their loss before they were even dead? Stop mourning! Didn't God said He would give you the desires of your heart?

Please heed my counsel on this! Don't spend 25 years saying, "If only..." If you need to, dig in, fast and pray and seek His will concerning those things that just don't go away inside your heart.
Remember, your steps are ordered by Him, and if the time isn't just yet, you are probably being prepared for your ultimate goal. But if there is something you can do to get prepared, don't just wait and pray about it, do it! Go to school! (I plan to start my master's in the fall!) Find a job that fulfills your dreams. Volunteer at a place that gives you a good taste of where your heart is, take lessons in something you've wanted to do. Don't just sit on your haunches, but show God you are serious! Pursue those dreams and visions with a fervor. And if you begin and find it's not what you expected, don't get discouraged and don't stress it! Change it! You've just taken a step closer to your true calling by eliminating one thing that didn't work. That's how Edison invented the light bulb! After thousands of failed ideas, he said, "I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." (CAVEAT: Don't just give up because it's hard...change it only if it's really not working...)

I believe with all my heart that each of us has been given gifts and talents that God is waiting for us to discover and walk into. And that's where we will find the kind of fulfillment in our lives that we've been hoping for. What's your "bent?" What would you do if you could do anything in the world? What do you love? What do other people tell you that you are good at? What do you regret not having done with your life?

Don't give up on those dreams. I don't care if you are 17 or 75. If you are breathing, it's not too late! Another wonderful bit of Edison wisdom, "Many of life's failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." You can't imagine how close you are!

Discover, hunt, chase your dreams and visions with everything you've got. Don't let ANYONE discourage you from your heart's desire. Go for it with both hands, and watch God lead and guide you right into the plan and the purpose He has had for you since before you were born!

Hebrews 6:10-12 (New King James Version)
For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

PS. If you've had a dream come to life, please leave a comment and let's encourage one another!

Friday, March 6, 2009

I'd Rather be Alone


I have to admit it, I like being alone. I like not having to interact with other humans. Since being laid off from my job three months ago, I’ve spent much, I daresay, most of my time alone. Some of the interactions I have had during this time have only worked to reinforce my feelings. I really do like being alone. Being alone means that I can avoid the hurt, rejection, altercations and confrontations that seem to be part and parcel of human interaction. And I have to tell you, I’m not good at any of those things, nor getting over them when they do inevitably occur. In fact, I dread having to deal with the negative things. I detest misunderstandings, and even more, I loathe deliberate injustice, cruelty and unkindness. I have no tools in my belt to deal them, and I end up in a destructive whirlwind of emotions that I can’t seem to take captive and make obedient. At least, not for too long a time.

Alone is safe. It is comfortable. Responsibility and expectation are what I make them, and there’s no one looking over my shoulder, judging, criticizing, or being offended by what I do or don’t do. Safe. Safe is nice. So nice, that I can see how a person can become a veritable recluse. Alone in a bubble of a world. And outside the bubble can be so disconcerting that fear can take over, making a person believe that there is nothing worse than having to face the dangers of being with other humans. It can become paralyzing.

Not to worry, it hasn’t gotten THAT bad for me. Not yet. And thankfully, beginning next week, I will be entrenched in a new position, and with that, I will have to face all the fears that come with being with many strangers who will need to learn to work together in a very intimate setting under circumstances that may be stressful and difficult. But I’m more than willing to walk right into this new experience, and count it to be the next assignment that God has for me on this life’s journey.

Still, I do like being alone. I like not being in the potential line of fire that comes with being with other people. I really like avoiding hurt, rejection, altercations, and confrontations. But in avoiding those things, I inadvertently avoid other things as well…among them, fellowship, growth, love and the ability to touch others in ways that may change their worlds for the better. And honestly, I love that more than I love to be alone.

God puts people in our path that sharpen us, encourage us, exhort and uplift us. They are the people who stay firmly planted by our sides when the wind of adversity blows our worlds apart. They are the friends that stick closer than a brother. They are easy to talk to, to share laughter and tears with, they don’t get offended easily, and they don’t mind telling the truth IN LOVE. They are a joy and a gift that God brings into our lives. Proverbs 12:26 tells us that we should, “choose our friends carefully.” Not everyone can be a friend to everyone, and not everyone can be a friend. Webster’s dictionary calls a friend, “A person you know well and regard with affection and trust.” Affection and TRUST. I can trust my friends, and put away my fears that I might get hurt. But I am learning to choose them carefully. To step into relationships one foot at a time. I'd rather proceed cautiously than realize later that I threw that caution to the wind and have the wind blow the bitter failure of the relationship back into my face. I believe it behooves all of us to use godly wisdom when establishing relationships with others. And with that, understand that relationships with humans come and go like seasons. It’s okay for a season to end and another to begin. It’s natural, and even healthy and a necessary part of growth.
Those with whom we can have that true God-ordained fellowship are rare and precious. I’m blessed to have several amazing brothers and sisters in the Lord that I can genuinely call FRIEND. One thing is certain. Only Jesus will ever get the honor of being my best friend. He is the only one who will never leave nor forsake me, knows my heart, and will always have my best at heart. He has proven Himself over and over again as the one who deserves the title of Best Friend in my life.

We really cannot grow as men and women of God if we draw into ourselves. Helen Keller stated, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Sometimes, being with others is like, oh, carrying our cross and sharing the fellowship of His suffering! Sometimes, no matter how cautiously we may proceed with people, we may find ourselves in a position of pain, mistrust or misunderstanding. Hey listen. If Jesus went through it, we will too. It’s not fun or pretty, but keeping Him in mind, we can always forgive and love, and move on if necessary. These are opportunities to learn and grow, and be better people for each circumstance we live through. It is by our trials and forging into the victory that we are able to understand with compassion what someone else is enduring and thereby intercede for them and minister to them.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Isn’t this the truth of the Gospel? To be instant in season and out, ready to show forth the Father’s love to someone in need? And if I must suffer trials, pain, rejection, and the rest in order to be of use to my Father that His Kingdom may be glorified by one whom He may be able to love through me, then so be it.

So Lord, fall like fire, soak like rain. Burn away the chaff, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me that there might be something useful in me for Your glory. Teach me your ways, show me your paths, and help me to learn my lessons without so much grumbling, complaining and whining. Help me to get to that place where I learn my lessons well, that I might be rewarded with the tools of the trade that help me to build Your Kingdom so that You might be glorified! Thank You that Your perfect love casts out all the fears that tempt me to retreat from the hard things. Thank you for Your courage and strength to move forward into the next assignment with the confidence I have in YOU!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Simple Adjustment

Recently, my cousin Jessica sent me an email that makes my life just a little easier with a very practical and simple adjustment. I dare say that this amazing little revelation will affect most of you as well! Are you ready for this? You who are ever in the kitchen and have used either aluminum foil or plastic wrap know or have experienced this: you pull the product from the roll, and the whole roll falls out of the box and you have to put the roll back into the box and start again because the product has become twisted, tangled and torn. It's one of those annoyances we put up with over and over because we never really considered that there was much we could do about it. Well, go now and get your box from the kitchen drawer. Go ahead, I'll wait. (Really, go get it...)

Okay, now look at one of the ends of the box. You see the perforated area? Stick your thumb into it. It forces a tab into the end of the roll. Now do it on the other side of the box as well. Now the roll has been secured in the box, and it shouldn't fall out anymore! OMG! Who knew? Surely my mother didn't, did yours?

When I read the email from Jessica, I had a cheap, store brand of aluminum foil, and it too had the tabs. Such a simple thing! And yet it makes the kind of difference that just takes an edge off daily living...like a good, sharp knife that cuts when you need it to, or a can opener that smoothly and easily opens the can, or a friend that gives a word of encouragement when you need it, or a God who loves you despite yourself...

For me today, it's good friends that God has brought into my life that are the tabs at the ends of my box! They have kept me from falling out! As much as I've been slipping and sliding around of late, my stability to remain has been directly attributed to the gifts of God in these people He has divinely placed in my life. They live in my community, across the country, and around the world. Their love and their prayera have helped me to keep my attitude adjusted like a chiropractor works out the kinks in the physical body.

Iron sharpens iron, and there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. And it's in times of utter weakness and desperate pain that God sends these dear saints to keep you strong through the battle, and they are those who cover you when you are naked and wounded. When you are too weak to pray anything but, "Jesus!" they faithfully intercede on your behalf until you are victorious. They are truly the tabs at the end of your box.

This is my testimony! I have brothers and sisters whose incredible love has kept me when I had no staying power of my own. Family that behaves like family when lonliness of heart was burning and pervasive. Friends who were not afraid to do whatever it took to see me through.

Ultimately, it is God my Father who is the glory and the lifter of my head. He is my all in all, my portion and my cup, my joy, and my delight. It is Jesus who is my Redeemer, my Savior, my Keeper, my Lord, my friend and the love of my life. It is the Holy Spirit who is my intercessor, my comforter, my standby, my guide and my teacher.

And He sent YOU to be the light of Christ that disperses the darkness in the hearts of others.

Psalm 57:1-3 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me. For my soul trusts in You, and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me...

I'm so thankful He sent YOU...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The KEY to Success

When my children were little, they had the habit, like most children, of deciding they did not like a food put before them based on what it looked like, regardless of the fact that they had never tried it before. So, I instituted something called “The Try-Me Club.” In order to be a member, they had to at least try a small bite of the food in question, and if they really didn’t like it, they didn’t have to eat anymore. It was amazing how many times they would take a bite and find out that they actually liked it! Of course, there were times that noses would wrinkle in disgust as well, but the fact that they tried kept them card-carrying members of the club!

Well, I have a wonderful adult friend who also has a habit of not liking a food based on looks alone. While we were out to dinner with a group of friends, I offered him a membership to the Try-Me Club! And he bit! Literally! We were at an Italian restaurant, and with my goading, he bravely tried a stuffed mussel, scungelli, and veal francese. He took each bite without hesitation, but with grace and a smile! I was so proud of him, so much so that he may not only be a member of the Try-Me Club, I might make him the president! (By the way, he also firmly refused to try anything he’s had before and knew he didn’t like, or felt was too unhealthy.)

And you know I have to find a spiritual twist to this! So, here it is. In this journey that we are on, there are often opportunities put before us of new and different experiences. Most of us don’t like change. It can be disconcerting to leave our comfort zones and venture into the unknown. And yet, it is in these places that I believe we truly find out God’s plan and purpose for our lives. Having experienced stepping into the unknown realms, I’ve discovered that God moves with us, and is not a bully, forcing us to do something we don’t feel ready for. If we don’t move, He will allow us to remain right where we are, but if He is leading, it would be to our detriment to stand still and not follow. As we boldly take steps into those places where He leads us, we learn that we are actually good—even anointed there, and discover the gifts and talents God has placed in us for His glory and the building of His kingdom. (Remember, if you have an anointing, gift or talent, it is not for YOU…it is for someone else!)

Personally, I have left my comfort zones many times, and in doing so have found that I can lead worship, sing solos, produce and direct plays, speak publically, and minister to people in traumatic circumstances. I would have never believed I could do any of those things if I remained where my flesh wanted to stay and where my head told me I should stay!
And sometimes, we might even misstep and go into a venture that He wasn’t exactly directing. As our loving Father, He is still blessed by our boldness to step out in faith and try something new. If the venture does not succeed, the good news is that one more door is closed, and our essential direction becomes clearer. (Forgive the many metaphors!!!)

The KEY to success is this; take a bite today of something you’ve never tasted before. You may discover that you love it, or you may find it is not something you would try again. Either way, you have taken a step closer to the ultimate goal of living the life that God has designed specifically for you!

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Are You Enduring the Fire?

Have you ever felt like you were in the middle of the middle of the fire? Did you feel like it was THE all consuming fire, and you were what was being consumed? The fire I've recently been enduring is slowly turning to burning embers, and I finally feel like I'm coming to the other side. It's been a very HOT two and a half months during one of the coldest winters we've had in years.

In retrospect, I can say that I know that I know that God had a plan and a purpose for every moment of the fire I have endured. He is slowly bringing to light how He is working it out not only for my good, but to fulfill the plan and purpose He has had for me from the foundation of the earth. I also know that He cannot move me fully into that plan and purpose until I have endured the tests and trials of preparation.

Gladly, He says in Isaiah 43:2, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you." And if you remember the three youths thrown into the firey furnace, they were not alone! There was a fourth man in the fire! (I've always thought that is a great name for a song or a book...Fourth Man in the Fire...") When you are enduring the blue of the flame, He's not just watching over you from afar. He is with you in the fire!!!

Remember these three things as you endure the firey trials of this life. Firstly, He will never leave you nor forsake you, but is actually with you. That is His Word to you. And He is as good as His Word. But that's another blog for another day.

Secondly, He will show you, oh man, oh woman, what is good. He will bring you to the other side, and the you that does not reflect Him will be consumed--so that only HE remains.

Third, as you come from the fire, neither being burned nor smelling of smoke, you will then be ready for God to lead you to the place where you can fulfill the plan and purpose He has for you. You will have proved yourself, pure as silver in His sight and worthy of the trial you endured and the mission He has before you.

Many years ago, I came across the following story that sums up the answer to the "WHY, LORD" questions we ask as we are going through. I apologize in advance as I do know not know nor could find the author. I was stunned by the "moral" of the story, and I share it with you so that you can remember the reason the Lord leads us to places that seem so difficult.

"There was a group of women in a Bible study on the book of Malachi. As they were studying chapter three, they came across verse three which says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver...". This verse puzzled the women and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.

That week the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith, the silversmith held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot - then she thought again about the verse, that he sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, how do you know when the silver is fully refined? He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy--when I see my image in it."

What does He see when He looks at you? What does the world see? My heart is that I would be a reflection of His love to anyone who looks, that I might be the mirror that shows the world what Jesus looks like.

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you. And the end product, you'll look more like HIM! That is worth any firey trial!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

No Greater Love

Truly, no greater love has a man than this--that he would lay his life down. Would YOU lay your life down for another? I bought a sandwich for a sad stranger today who was boldly begging for money in a restaurant. He neither seemed appreciative nor said thank you. He actually continued to beg from others as I bought him food.

But I kept thinking about the Word that says, "Give to all who ask..." So, I didn't hesitate. It was better than handing him money that could have gone to perpetuate a habit... And somehow, I feel like angels still rejoiced as a seed of love was planted in a heart that has seen more than its share of difficult times. And what was it to me anyway? It certainly wasn't my life being laid down like my precious Savior gave for me when I was so unworthy.

I've been meditating a great deal lately about the holiness and the love of God. We talk about Him being holy, and I don't know how much we really understand about what that means. If we did, we would walk differently through this life.

And then there is His love. When my daughter was a toddler, just beginning to walk, I followed her around the house, and watched with such delight as she explored her world. As I watched, I said these words out loud, "If you knew how much I love you, you'd be perfect!" And as they fell from my lips, I realized that it was not me speaking to my daughter, but my Father speaking them to me. If I really understood His love, I'd be perfect. Since that day, I've always understood that as I learn more and more about His love, the more perfected I become.

I have also learned that His love is HOLY. It is mighty to save, perfect in all its ways, powerful, glorious, and beyond our infinite understanding. His love casts out fear, quiets us, sacrifices itself for us, has been poured out in our hearts, binds us to Him, brings us mercy, perfects us, and allows us to be considered the Sons of God.

1 John 3 (KJV)
1Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

1 John 3 (Amplified)
1SEE WHAT [an incredible] quality of love the Father has given (shown, bestowed on) us, that we should [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! The reason that the world does not know (recognize, acknowledge) us is that it does not know (recognize, acknowledge) Him.
2Beloved, we are [even here and] now God's children; it is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be [hereafter], but we know that when He comes and is manifested, we shall [as God's children] resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He [really] is.
3And everyone who has this hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless).

What an incredible quality of love. That while we were yet sinners, God considered us worthy to send His only Son to sacrifice His home in heaven, and suffer beyond our wildest imagination in physical and emotional pain so that we could be not only have the opportunity to be reconciled beyond our sinful nature, but to know Him, and even resemble Him! He sees us, those who have received the love of His Son, as pure. He looks beyond our flesh nature and sees the finished product! That which we should be working out with fear and trembling. Who is this God who sees fit to take us from sinners, unworthy to sons and daughters? Who is He that He considers us worthy at all? I will never stop asking that question, and I will never stop thanking and praising Him for this holy love!

1 John 4:7-8 (KJV))
7Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

1 John 4:7-8 (Amplified Bible)
7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is (springs) from God; and he who loves [his fellowmen] is begotten (born) of God and is coming [progressively] to know and understand God [to perceive and recognize and get a better and clearer knowledge of Him].
8He who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love.

And that love that He gives us is "shed abroad in our hearts." It is for us as much as it is for all those He puts in our path--like my friend in the restaurant.

In "My Utmost for His Highest," Oswald Chambers says it this way, "If we try to prove to God how much we love Him, it is a sure sign that we do not love Him. The evidence of our love for Him is the absolute spontaneity of our love, it comes naturally. In looking back, we cannot ell why we did certain things, we did them according to the spontaneous nature of His love in us. The life of God manifests itself in this spontaneous way because the springs of love are in the Holy Ghost." p121.

I have often remarked that I don't like the terminology of God "using" us. I believe that we are used of God when we, as a result of His love, do what we do in reaction to that love. The more we realize how much He loves us, the more often we will do because He first loved us. I don't believe it is ever God's purpose to "use" us. Just that our doings become a natural and spontaneous reaction to His love for us. It is His joy when our response to His love results in furthering His Kingdom.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Penn is Moved by a Christian

Don't we all have those times when the door opens even a little for us to share the Gospel, and we warily and reluctantly walk away from it? Check out this video. Penn (of Penn and Teller) is sharing an experience he had as a man approached him after a show. Penn is actually being sincere, so it seems. A self-proclaimed atheist, it seems he was truly touched by this man.

Usually raunchy and cynical at best, Penn describes his experience and reaction. It's obvious a seed was planted, and I pray that it takes root in this man's heart. Pray with me, won't you?

Watch as Penn shares his own unique wisdom as to why Christians SHOULD and MUST share their faith! It will move you to increase your boldness, ask the Lord for more of those open doors, and pray for words of gold in settings of silver for each person you meet in this life. If we really believe as we say we believe, then we will certainly understand that we need to share much more of the faith and the God we love so very much...Thank you, Mr. Penn...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JHS8adO3hM

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Don't Be Shown up by a Dog!

Yesterday, Luis was on his computer and called me over to see another video of a man dying in the middle of a busy street with many lookers on doing absolutely nothing. It made me stop and wonder what kind of a world are we living in when people choose not to help someone in dire need. This is the second such video I've seen in the past months, and then there was the woman who died in a hospital waiting room with the even the staff looking on and doing nothing.

But this morning, a friend sent me this video. If you are an animal lover, you may find the beginning a bit disturbing. Hang in for the entirety of the piece. It is amazing that one dog risked his life to save another on a busy highway. If not for this brave creature, the other would have never survived his ordeal.

We live in a fast-paced, busy world with our number one idol being "ME." If it doesn't benefit ME, then I don't get involved, no matter what the situation. But how far will our society go to neglect our neighbor? How hard are our hearts when we can walk away from someone who needs our assistance--to SURVIVE?

And yet, we have a Savior who didn't think it too great to leave His holy heaven and come to us in the flesh for the purpose of sacrificing His life that we might inherit the promise of relationship with the Father. That we might live and not die, and have abundant life in Him. And while He was here, didn't He say that a servant is not better than his Master? When He left this planet, He said we would be given the Spirit that we might do greater things than He did. Did He not admonish us that if we help the poor, naked, prisoner, and widowed that we may be helping angels unaware?

It behooves us to be salt and light in this dark and selfish world. We need to understand that we are what God has chosen to use as His hands and feet to show His great love to our own mission field around us. If we cloister ourselves in little "bless me" clubs where all we do is minister to one another, the world can never receive the hope it is desperately crying out for.

Listen, we are all they have. And God has gifted us and provided for us for one reason...that we would go and preach the Gospel, not necessarily with wonderful words of wisdom and eloquence, but being a living epistle that our neighbors can read, draw from, and look to in their times of need.

Let me put it this way. Kudos to this incredible dog who saved his friend. But let's not let a dog show us up! Be someone's hero today. It may just be a hug, a smile, a helping hand, a prayer with someone in distress...I know that my blogs have said this stuff before, but it needs to be said again. Look for ways to bless someone who doesn't expect a blessing today. It is the paint that will color your world and theirs. It is God's hand extended to someone who doesn't yet know Him. Plant a seed. You may not ever get to see the harvest, but you will have begun something that will grow into a mighty oak for someone who may otherwise never have the ability to see Him without you.

And here's that video of the dog hero. Watch it, and commit to being someone else's hero today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofpYRITtLSg

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, 3 to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” Is. 61:1-3

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Chase

The chase is on. Tommy Tenney talks a great deal about God's hide and seek game with us. He doesn't hide so He cannot be found. He hides so He CAN be found, and loves the game like a father playing with his child. He sometimes hides so he can be easily found, and sometimes hides so that the child cannot find him. The child becomes frustrated, gives up, and the father sneaks up behind the child--the child runs, and the father becomes the chaser!

If you feel like He is no where to be found, continue to search Him out! Seek Him while He may be found...His loving pursuit of YOU has been relentless...

The Chase

I follow my Beloved
Into His garden
But I cannot find Him
For He hides Himself with glee

My pursuit is relentless
My desperation heightens
Until I spot Him fleeing
As He looks back at me!

"Come up higher!"
He laughs and prances
He looks at me and dances
And I follow in despair

When suddenly, He sneaks up on me
Now my Beloved is chasing me!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Silly and Childish are We

I was thinking last night, how silly and childish are we...Caught up continuously in our fleshy ways. Whether we keep ourselves preoccupied by busily attempting to please everyone around us, or whether we try, futile as it is, to maintain our man-made position on top of some hierachy we've built. Aren't we vain as we consider only ourselves before others; whether in timidity or by intimidation? Either way, it's still pride...

It's a sad thing that we are pre-occupied with our self-inflicted pomp, protocol, and complexities, forgetting what should be the focal point of our affection. (And in case you've not noticed, the protocol of the world is not the same as the protocol of the presence of the Holy One.) All the things that we have set up to keep "order" negates the need for the Holy Spirit in our midst. In so many ways, we have reinstated our own "Mosaic" Law. And in doing so, we find ourselves like those in the Old Testament who were under that law. Absolutely and completely incapable of keeping it, proving our own faults, sins and weaknesses at every turn. So much attention must be paid in trying to reach the bar that others have set up, that focusing on God is all but forgotten.

It reminds me of when I was teaching middle school. There were those students who were intelligent, but had "learning differences." They were what we call "kinetic." There were movers! They couldn't sit still for anyone or anything! Have you ever known a kid like that, or was it you? In one classroom, I had one student who tapped incessantly on his desk, (and had rather good rhythm, I must say!) Another always had his shoes off and would twirl them with his feet under the desk. And one doodled constantly all over his notes and books. Classrooms don't often make allowances for kinetic kids. They get in trouble for what is seen as goofing off or distracting the class.

But I found out something. If any of these students were made to stop moving, they had to spend so much energy and focus on keeping still, they couldn't focus on what was happening in class. Their grades would fall, and inevitably, they would hate school--hate learning.
But if they were permitted to move, doodle, etc., or at least, given an alternative if their habit could distract the class, you could ask them what was going on in the class, and it may have LOOKED like they weren't paying attention, but they would answer appropriately.

All that to say that when men set the bar so high that others cannot reach it, the focus turns from God and His direction to the bar itself, and those who were led to move in a particular direction are told to stop moving that way, and move THIS way instead. Good intentioned leaders can de-motivate those whose hearts are to work out the plan and purpose and gifts that God gave them. Focus is lost, direction-lost. Dreams and visions are muted and potentially buried.

Wow. All this began tonight when I was driving and looked up to see the clear night sky filled with stars. The moon hung like barely a sliver and above it, a bright planet shone brilliantly. It was stunningly beautiful, and my heart spoke out to my Father, "Oh God, my God, how majestic is your name in all the earth. When I consider the heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that You have made--What am I that you are mindful of me? How is it that You consider me at all? Why is it that what is important to me is important to You?" And with that, I began to consider how silly and childish we are with all the impositions we put on ourselves and others. The vieing for position. The constant working our way up the human pyramids, clawing and scratching our way to the top.

All I want is to chase my Father. To seek Him while He may be found. I want freedom from the requirements, time constraints, and expectations of men. I want out of the religious restrictions on my relationship with God. Even my own. He whom the Son sets free is FREE. Deep is calling, shouting out to deep. The deep in me is crying out, "I need more of You, Lord!" And I know that the deep in Him is whispering to me, "I want more of You, my beloved!"

I want to put away childishness and become completely childlike...with the pure heart of a child whose Father takes by the hand and leads into His glorious presence.

"I'm coming back to the heart of worship,
And it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
'Cause it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus."
Matt Redmon