Of Eagles’ Wings and High Walls

They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Those who wait for the Lord.  What does it mean to wait for the Lord?  Have you ever run ahead of God?  Maybe you were too impatient to let Him work out His plan, so you took matters in your own hand, and you ended up with a mess.   If you did, how did it work out?

Waiting on God means that we apply Psalm 34:5, Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.  It is trusting God to direct your steps, praying to Him and waiting for an answer before you act.  It is also daily coming to God to ask His opinion on your day, not just going in your own energy and strength.

Shall renew their strength.  Paul said in Colossians 1 that his goal was to teach and admonish everyone with all wisdom so that everyone would be mature in Christ.  In verse 29 he gives away a little secret, “struggling with all of His energy, which works so powerfully within me.”  This meant that Paul had to put a lot of time and his own energy into reaching others for Jesus, but He did it with Jesus’ strength and energy.

That is a big secret.  The only way we can live the Christian life successfully is to let God live it through us via the Holy Spirit.  Usually we don’t figure this out until we come to the end of ourselves, like through some sort of disabling injury or disease, or loss of a job or some situation where we are in over our heads.

Save yourself a lot of trouble and figure it out now! Philippians 4:13 reads I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, not I can do all things because I have so much strength. Come to God daily and ask for Him to give you His strength and wisdom for the day. Don’t rest in your own strength, wisdom and resources. They will quickly fail. If they don’t, you’re just full of your own pride, and that’s another issue.

They shall mount up with wings like eagles. The Holy Spirit is a part of the trinity.  He is God’s personality and His job is to teach, convict, and guide us.  His job is also to empower us, according to Acts 1:8, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses… The Holy Spirit gives us the power not to sin, the power to set our mind on Heavenly things and not on ourselves, and He gives us the power to mount up with wings of eagles.

They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Many days when I’m already worn out and I just got out of bed, I find myself praying these verses.   Psalm 18:29 says, For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. Claim God’s strength to equip you to do what He has called you to do.  It’s funny that on those days when I’m driving to work with no energy and I’m calling out for it, when I’m driving home on those same roads, I’ll think: “I made it!”  I’ll marvel that God did it, not that I did it.  He’s that kind of a God.

receive His strength.jpgI pray that God would give you His energy and strength.  I pray that God would give you His power, wisdom, creativity and equipping for the day.  May you mount up with wings like eagles and may you run and not grow weary. In Jesus name today may you leap over a high wall.

 

 


In His grip—God’s righteous and powerful right hand

Is41.10.jpg

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

I remember years ago when I was in graduate school for Counseling. I had a professor who was quite difficult. She was prone to zeroing in on a student and then ripping him or her to shreds, seemingly out of the blue. It was my night, and rip she did. It was nearing the end of my program, and there had been many obstacles to my finishing. They seemed to be spiritual obstacles, and I was trying to march through them valiantly.

But this rip fest shook me. I got home and I fell apart. I cried out to God and I said something to the effect of, “God, I have to know you’re there. Give me something.” And this is the verse He gave me, this exact verse. He spoke it loud and strong to me. It meant everything to me. In that moment I knew He would get me through that battle and whatever battle stood ahead of finishing. And He did.

Fast forward almost thirty years later. I was praying with a woman in jail who had just been sentenced to 25 years in prison. What she had done warranted it. When she had come into the county jail, she was a mess. But she was leaving a new creation. Jesus had gotten a hold of her.

We had read and claimed this verse before she went to her sentencing and now we read it again before she went to prison. Does she still have a ways to go? Yes. But Jesus goes with her.  This verse has been a mainstay so many times!

Can you remember a time when you were truly fearful?  Where what faced you was way more than you could handle? To be dismayed means to be horrified, unnerved, filled with fear and distress and being at a loss at how to deal with something.   This promise is like Superman coming in for a rescue, but Superman isn’t real.   God is.  And that’s great news. God takes a hold of you with His righteous right hand.

Get this: The creator of the universe promises to subdue our fears, to strengthen us and to uphold us with His righteous right hand.  He was promising this to Israel collectively, but 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us, All the promises of God find their ‘yes’ in Jesus.  That means God’s character and promises were fulfilled in Jesus for all of us.

What about God’s righteous right hand?  Exodus 15:6 reads, Your right hand, O Lord is glorious in power, Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.  And Exodus 15:12 goes on to say, You stretched out Your right hand; the earth swallowed them.    And check out Deuteronomy 33:2: The Lord came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; He shone forth from Mount Paran; He came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at His right hand.  

When John saw Jesus, he fell at His feet as though dead.  But He laid His right hand on me, saying ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last,’ as Revelation 1:17 reports.  Jesus strengthened John with His right hand.

Throughout the book of Revelation Jesus uses His right hand, like in Rev. 5:1, in the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.  It seems to symbolize strength, sovereignty and authority.

When you are in over your head, call on God, reminding yourself and God that you are His child and that He has promised to strengthen you, to help you and take a hold of you with His righteous, strong and ruling right hand.  Write this verse out and post it everywhere, quote it to yourself and tell Satan to get lost. You can take this promise to the bank.


Self Forgetfulness

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 2:3-5

I find myself thinking back on this article quite a bit, so I dug it out.  It is even more fitting now than even six years ago, since our ‘selfie culture’ has advanced all the more.  This short article was in the February 25, 2012 issue of the World magazine with the title of “Me, Myself and I.”  Here is what it said:

“The way a person writes can reveal his psychological state.  That’s according to research by University of Texas professor James Pennebaker.”  He wrote about a computer program that counts and categorizes words.  He analyzed over 400,000 different pieces of writing from college essays, texts, transcripts from press conferences, and chat room conversations.

Pennebaker writes: “when we analyzed poems by writers who committed suicide versus poems by those who didn’t, we though we’d find more dark and negative content words in the suicides’ poetry.  We didn’t–but we did discover significant differences in the frequency of words like ‘I.'”

He went on to conclude that “pronouns tell us where people focus their attention.  If someone uses the pronoun ‘I,’ it’s a sign of self-focus.  Say someone asks ‘What’s the weather outside?’ You could answer ‘It’s hot’ or ‘I think it’s hot.’  The ‘I think’ may seem insignificant, but it’s quite meaningful  It shows you’re more focused on yourself.”  His findings were that suicidal people focused on themselves to a fault.

Now, think about either conversations that you have with others, or that others have with you.  Who talks about themselves the most, or does things to point the attention and focus back to themselves–you or the other person?

I am struck increasingly  about our lack of people skills, or social skills, even in the body of Christ.  People don’t know how to carry on a conversation about simple life things and go back and forth to get to some point of connection, let alone to get to spiritual conversations that either encourage, spur on, or to do anything else.  People ramble and not say anything much, they interrupt or get side tracked with their attention, they talk about themselves, or they just don’t go out of their way to initiate a conversation with someone else.  Others use “humor” to keep people at a distance or to keep the focus on themselves, making barriers that they might not even intend just because they want to be liked or known as being funny.

Simply asking people about their family, their job, where they are from, leads to being able to ask deeper questions about what God is doing and has done in their lives, and other significant things.  It takes servanthood to be the listener, the encourager, and the one not at the center of the conversation.

I lead a women’s Sunday School class, which has a varying number of participants, up to almost twenty at times.  It is interesting to me those who are just waiting to jump in and pull the attention to themselves, their week, their rabbit trail.  Many times it has nothing to do with the topic at hand.  I try to allow time to share, to attend to how people’s weeks were, to pray…But then we move ahead.  Some would never move off of self.  It’s that way in any group I’ve ever been in.

How to get my eyes off of me?  Timothy Keller’s book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is wonderful.  He says something to the effect of: As we grow in Christ, we don’t think less of ourselves.  We just think of ourselves less.

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One of my favorite hymns is “May the Mind of Christ my Savior,” by Kate B. Wilkinson.  One of the stanzas is:

“May the love of Jesus fill me, as the water fills the sea.  Him exalting, self abasing–this is victory!”

 


Is that a shovel in your hand?

For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13

holes shovelsOne of my favorite kids’ movies is the movie “Holes” from the book by Louis Sachar.  The kids at the juvenile detention camp, “Camp Green Lake” have to dig holes in the desert day in and day out.  The warden  is in search of a generations old treasure and the teens are the forced labor.  The song that plays as they dig has the line of “Keep digging those holes, diggin’.”

As we hew cisterns for ourselves that are broken and can hold no water, that song might has well be playing in the background.  “But wait a minute,” you cry, “I’m a Jesus lover.  I have not forsaken Him, nor have I dug my own well that can hold no water.”  Really?

I am reading a challenging book by Brad Bigney called, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel With Hidden Idols (P&R Publishing).  In it he talks about how we can give our hearts and our affections, our first love, over to something else.  That thing becomes our driving force to what we do.  Then we become idolaters.

I often read through the Old Testament and wonder how they could have altars to Baal or Asherah poles in their back yards or high hills and not connect the dots.  Like someone should have said: “Wake up!  How did we fall so far?  Get rid of these idols!”  Yet when someone looks back on our culture, they might see the things that we’ve allowed and  there will be certain idols that will be so clear to them that aren’t clear to us.

If we move away from the Bible, from Jesus, from what Romans 1:21 describes as essential: knowing God, honoring Him as God and giving thanks to Him–then we engage in the ‘Great Exchange.’  The ‘Great Exchange’ of Romans 1 is exchanging the truth of God for a lie, worshiping the created things instead of God the creator, exchanging  natural pleasures for unnatural ones.  Turn on the television or the computer and you see it and hear it.  Again, that’s not us!  Or is it?

I don’t have a shovel in my hands.   Or do I?  When the Israelites fashioned the golden calf at Mt. Sinai, again, I judge.  How could they?  God had just parted the Red Sea.  Do they have amnesia?  God was too slow–Moses was up on that mountain too long.  How often do I turn to something I can control, instead of waiting on God, even though it serves me poorly?  It’s a broken cistern, an idol, sin, rebellion–whatever you want to call it.  I’ve got a shovel in my hand and gold dust on my clothes.

My broken cisterns cost me.  They might be more predictable than God is, and they might keep me in the driver’s seat, but they cannot hold water.  They don’t deliver.  I might have pride if I succeeded in some plan, but there is fear lurking around the next corner about ‘what happens if I blow it next time?’ Or if I don’t get what I want and can’t conjure it up, there are things like depression and defeat to contend with.

I’m pretty good at spotting other people’s golden calves.  I can see them running around with their kids to all kinds of sporting events, or their preoccupation with keeping up with cultural norms.  I’m not so good at spotting my own.  Even if I am, I’m not so good at calling them what they are.    When I first set out in my 20’s after college, I was determined not to own any more things than what I could fit in my car.  I thought people who were tied down to mortgages, jobs and responsibilities were “sell out’s.”  It kept them from being all-in for the Kingdom.

Well, now I’m one of those sell out’s.  I stand on the edge of breaking away from it, contemplating an early retirement to go back to my radical lifestyle of my 20’s.  I didn’t know how God was going to provide then, but I knew He was.  I was ‘about my Father’s business,’ and I loved it.  Now I have much more to give up, but so much more to gain.  Is my job and  my position my broken cistern?  Is money my golden calf?  Is the control that the good salary offers, the self sufficiency, the power, and the me-time, standing in the way?

Brad Bigney:  “When you’re craving something other than God, even something good, God takes it very seriously.  In that moment, He’s coming after you.  He’s coming after you for His glory and your own good, because life for us is better without idols.  Life for us is better when we’re delighting in the gospel and living Christ as our highest treasure.  Life for us is better when we’re focused on God and free from idols.” p. 26

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  Psalm 139: 23-24


A Gospel Ambition

I endeavor to bring the Gentiles to obedience of the faith, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God…so that I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and this I make it my ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ has already been named.  Romans 15:18-20

That was Paul’s gospel ambition, to go where ‘no man has gone before’ to preach about hands upJesus.  He had dreams and he was fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit.  A Gospel Ambition.  That sounds so lofty, reserved for heavy hitters like Paul, or pastors and missionaries.

Maybe the rest of us get ‘life ambitions.’  Now we call them ‘bucket lists,’ after the Morgan Freeman movie.  It doesn’t have to be spiritual, at least that’s what we think.  So our bucket lists include things like: seeing the Grand Canyon, or running a half marathon, or getting on Jeopardy (that’s mine).

**But does God put spiritual bucket lists on our hearts?  Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “We are HIs workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  The NIV words it “that God has prepared in advance for us to do.”  He’s given us a mission just like He gave Paul.  It might not be as sweeping and far reaching as his, but my point is that God gives us all a ‘Gospel ambition’ a life purpose, and He burns it on our hearts.

That means we don’t have to look hard to find it.  We know what it is.  And God gives us the Holy Spirit to give us the power and the boldness to carry it out.  That’s what Acts 1:8; 4:31 and Colossians 1:27-29 say.  It wasn’t just for guys back then, it’s for us too.  Jesus lives in us and gives us His power, energy and boldness.

I occasionally get dreams that I know have spiritual significance.  I had  one this week.  I knew that there was something to the people and events in the dream, so I sought out a friend that is a pretty good interpreter and encourager.  One thing he has taught me is that if I have a dream about somebody else, I need to tell that dream to the person because God has a message for them.  God has been speaking to me about several things since that dream, including not letting me back pedal from my Gospel ambition.

In my dream I was walking a co-worker’s father home.  It was a snowy evening, and I was walking him home on a trail to his daughter and son-in-law’s cabin.  They had the fire going and they welcomed him in.  The father and I didn’t talk, nor did the couple invite me in.  My concern was that he got ‘home’ safely and I was successful.  I have never had a personal connection with this father until about three weeks ago when I rode with him and several others to a sporting event.  He is almost 80, so no spring chicken.

As I turned to head back down the snowy trail, the sun was going down almost completely and I saw that I had a head lamp.  My co-worker, who is not a Christian, called out, “Don’t you love those head lamps?  I have one every where I go.”  But within a few steps it dimmed.  I looked down the path and about 30 yards ahead there were four or five bears in my path.  I saw them, they didn’t see me.  My head flashlight went out completely and I laid down on the ground and back pedaled up hill and woke up.

The father that I walked home is not a Christian.  One of his daughters is, and I felt led to call her and ask about his spiritual state.  The night before my dream they had just had a family meeting to say that her mother had breast cancer and they were talking about where their burial plots were.  He is a skeptic and a debater.  She said, “I won’t be in that grave long.”  He said, “I’ll be in that hole for a long time.”  He needs Jesus.

As she told me this, the Michael W. Smith song played strongly in my head, “I’ll Lead You Home.”  Some of the words: “It won’t be long before your sun goes down, just leave it to Me, I’ll lead you home;  A troubled mind and a doubter’s heart; You wonder how you ever got this far; Leave it to Me, I’ll lead you home.  Hear Me calling, Hear Me calling…”

I had just watched the movie, “A Case for Christ.”  It’s about Lee Strobel, the big skeptic who tried to disprove Christianity and ended up becoming a Christian in the process.  The father was a lawyer and reads a lot.  I ordered the book and am going to give it to the Christian daughter to give to him this next week when they get back from a trip.  We’ll see where it leads from there.

The bears in the path are/could be resistance, nay sayers, overbearing people who would cause me to back pedal and to not be bold–hence, my light for the Lord dims and goes out.  It doesn’t shine and doesn’t do it’s work.  That so hits the nail on the head.  It is so easy to back pedal and avoid confrontation.  It took boldness just to call the Christian daughter out of the blue and tell her that I had this dream and to ask her about her dad.

When I read these verses about the Holy Spirit being the one who gives us the boldness, as well as the  ambition to be used by God in the first place, it gives me the confidence that God will do a work in this father’s heart before He dies.  He will lead Jim home.  I just get to walk with him down the path.

 

 


A pretty good Easter message

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce all ungodliness…and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in our present lives.  When the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared He saved us…by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.  Titus 2:11-12; 3:4-5

When Jesus showed up, that’s when His grace came.  That’s what gave us the ability to “Just say no” as the old anti-drug slogan said.  It’s His grace that trains us to be better people.  Coupled with the Holy Spirit, we can change from being selfish jerks to something much better than that.

Well then, why did I launch off on the Sirius XM customer service person on the phone because of their hidden charges fee that I found on my bank statement the other day?  Aren’t I supposed to be better than that?  I hung up, shaking my head at myself.  Who was that on the phone?

I was just reading these verses: “Fools show their annoyance at once,” Proverbs 12:16.  And “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools,” angrywomanfrom Ecclesiastes 7:9.  I don’t need to let things like hidden taxes set me off and I roll out the welcome mat to anger.  Forgive me God.  I’m sorry phone person.

I am not going to let anger take up residence in my heart.  God’s grace is at work in me, training me away from a life of being irritated easily, being grumpy, prone to resentment, self pity or moodiness.  That’s not who I am.  Romans 5:20-21 says that where sin increases, that where grace abounds all the more. As sin reigns in death, grace might also reign through righteousness leading to eternal life.

In other words, when I sin, God pours out His grace so that righteousness triumphs instead of sin.  When Jesus came, He brought goodness and kindness with Him.  He brought grace and mercy with Him.  He’s pouring it on on me so I can pour it out on others.

That’s a pretty good Easter message.  Grace is what showed up when Jesus came and the the training away from ungodliness was made possible because He rose from the dead.

*Image from Google images

 


The Power of the Cross

the cross.pngFor Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:17-18

Oh how we try to rely on everything but the simple message of the cross to get by and to get ahead in life!  We rely on eloquent wisdom, fancy words, glitzy images, good looks, muscle, craftiness, slick tricks, sometimes manipulation…anything but the simple message of the cross.  It’s a fitting Easter thought–the cross.  I need to return to it again and again.

In reading through Isaiah 53, and back through the corresponding Gospel passages, I am struck with the basic message:

  • Jesus was sinless.  Pilate said he found no fault in Jesus (Luke 23:4).   Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  In other words, Jesus never sinned.  That’s why He was able to be the sacrifice for our sins.
  • The sinless one took our sins.  Back to Isaiah 53:4-5,  we find that Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.  That’s the good news of Easter.  Jesus paid the price for sin so we don’t have to pay it, if we allow Him to.
  • Jesus gave up His life willing for us. Sin brings death and demands that a price be paid.  We’ve all sinned, and we all deserve death.   Isaiah 53:6 says, All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  Jesus said in John 10:18 No one takes (my life) from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  Jesus willingly gave up His life to pay the price for our sin.
  • This is where true love and peace are found.  Romans 5:8 proclaims, But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  And 1 John 4:10: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the wrath satisfier (my word) for our sins.  And Romans 5:1 so marvelously declares, Since we have justified by faith, we have peace with God.  There is no other way to find peace deep down inside than to get this straight.

This is the message of the cross.  1 Corinthians 1 goes on to say that God entrusted the foolish, the weak, the low and despised to carry this message to shame the strong, the wise and the mighty so that none might boast in the presence of God.  God picked me, and for that I am eternally grateful.  And I get to tell others this simple, yet powerful message, not with eloquent words of wisdom lest I empty the cross of its power.

Jesus, use me.

*Image by ‘Faithlife Sermons’


Daylight Savings Time

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.  Ephesians 5:15-18

I’ve been thinking about these verses a lot since Daylight Savings Time hit a couple of a-clock-character-running-concept-for-running-out-of-time-or-work-C7G3W1.jpgweeks ago.  Ironically, I’ve been too busy running from one demand to the next to even be able to process anything.  That’s how crazy this time crunch thing is.  And then we get an hour ‘taken away from us’ every Spring.  I was thinking maybe we should change our clocks on Friday afternoons at 2 instead of Saturdays at midnight, and then we would think of it as a bonus: “Hey, I can’t wait–this Friday is our free hour!”  That is instead of us grumbling about losing an hour for a month.

But my time issue is bigger than losing an hour, just like it is for most of us.  I’m a big football fan, specifically a Green Bay Packer fan.  I lived through the years when Brett Favre went through his years of “I’m retiring,” and then he’d cry his eyes out, and then he wasn’t retiring and on the saga would go.  I realized why he had such a fight with it all, especially the older I get…once he hangs up his cleats, all he’s got is game film.  No more last minute heroics, no more chances at the Super Bowl, or being the league MVP…just game film.

CT Studd said, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”  Our game film is different.  I’m well aware of that as I spend most of my time and energy working, then coming home and squeezing in what I can with the little time and energy I have left.  I think about the Ephesians 5 verses and CT Studd’s quote a lot and want to cry like Brett Favre too.  When I get to Heaven, what I did here on earth is my game film.

It seems the days are getting more and more evil and people need Jesus more.  I’m getting older here and my days are getting shorter.  The psalmist said, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” in Psalm 90:12; Psalm 31:15 “My times are in Your hands,”   and finally Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in His time.  Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

In other words, God has made us be ‘clock checkers.’  He has made us long for eternity and to make our lives count for something.  Maybe that’s why Brett cried when he talked about retiring and why I don’t like bustling around.  I want my life to be about more than just going to work to pay bills and to get enough sleep to go back the next day and to do it all again.

We all hunger for eternity because that is what God created us for.  Dallas Willard said in his book The Divine Conspiracy that that’s why everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame–because we are made to matter for eternity.  God put a hole in our hearts that only He can fill, and He put eternity in our hearts with this time clock in it that says that we want our lives to matter not just now, but for generations to come.

So we don’t want to waste time, to lose time, or to throw it away.  That’s why we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  It is through His guidance and direction that I will know which turn to take, to know what is a waste of time, and to know when it is time to retire.          It is the Holy Spirit who will give me the power to turn away from foolish things and toward the things of God, away from selfish and materialistic pursuits that will amount to nothing in the end, and toward eternal things.

Teach me, O God, to number my days.  Give me a heart of wisdom that I may walk more by faith, less by sight.  Fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I will crave the eternal more than things that won’t last and don’t matter in the end.  Use me even in the busy days.  Give me more than fifteen minutes of fame with You forever.

 


Whatever it Takes

count it as loss

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  Philippians 3:7-8

I’m back to the white spaces again.  We talked about this in our women’s Sunday school class.  One younger woman seemed particularly bothered by why God would leave questions unanswered for long gaps of time, or why in my case, He would seem to lead overseas and then head me in a total opposite direction and not tell me why for so long.

Three years ago I would have jumped on that question and argued with God on her side and yelled, “Yeah, WHY GOD?”  I’m so much more mature now 🙂  Not really.  It’s just that He’s tipped His hand a little more since then.  And I’m thankful.  Thirty years ago I did think that God was calling me to be an overseas missionary and instead I’ve been stationed instead just south of Lake Superior in Wisconsin.  I’ve not been labeled as a missionary, and for parts of the time I’ve not had many friends, a healthy church to attend, or have I been overjoyed to be posted here.  I’ve tried to relocate, only to feel pulled back by the hand of God.  Rats.

I do know that God had me learn things in the 80’s that I needed to know for life in this spiritually tough area:

  1.  I learned that the Bible really is the power of God for salvation.  I had been a part of several camps and youth ministries where I was able to lead hundreds of people to the Lord, or to be a part of God’s process.  I learned that if I taught with a Bible in my hand, things would happen.  I saw hearts changed radically and visibly.  I needed to know that so when I got to this area, two different places in NWest Wisconsin, where the spiritual climate was drastically colder and harder, I wouldn’t give up.  I learned not to resort to emotionalism, manipulation, or slick tricks to get numbers.  Today, I still teach with the Bible in my hand, trusting that God will do His work.  The visible results aren’t there like they used to be, but it’s still true.
  2. I  learned that the Holy Spirit is real and is alive.  I had been taught in my youth that all of the work of the Holy Spirit ended with the apostles.  God did some amazing things to show me this was not the case.  He wanted me to have the Holy Spirit as my close friend and power to stand and to keep standing.  It’s a good thing, because there have many spiritual warfare battles and I have learned in the trenches how to chase demons away.  I even had a graduate professor astral project into my bedroom a couple of times when I lived alone in the woods.  But that’s a story for another day.
  3. I learned that God still had purging and refining to do in me.  I had claimed a song as a life song in the 80’s, “Whatever it Takes.”  Some of the lyrics are:                       There’s a voice calling me from an old rugged tree, saying ‘Christian, draw closer to Me.  Leave this world far behind, there are new heights to climb; and in Me a new life you will find’…For whatever it takes to draw closer to You Lord, that’s what I’ll be willing to do.  I’ll trade sunshine for rain, comfort for rain–that’s what I’ll be willing to do.  For whatever it takes, for my will to break, that’s what I’ll be willing to do.  When you say, ‘Whatever it takes’ to God, then you better mean it.  You’re giving God the license to purify, purge and sanctify.  I needed and still need junk hosed out of me.  The time here has done that, and it hasn’t been fun.  Some of the time just about killed me.  But it has been good (kind of like a root canal).
  4. I learned that God is writing a story in me, in all of us, that He wants to use.  A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a third grader in my principal’s office.  She and another girl had gone on a stealing spree, going through classmates’ lockers that they thought would have cool things to take.  The biggest problem was that they took and lost a girl’s retainer, worth hundreds of dollars.  And they seemed unfazed by it.  Something in me snapped, and I said to the one in my office that day a speech something like this, What do you want in your life?  Do you want to be in jail like your mom?  I know she just got out.  I know that wasn’t fun for you or her.  I know where you live.  Not really–I don’t know where your house is.  What I mean is, I grew up like you did.  I lived your life.  We didn’t have plumbing half of the time.  Our lawn mower didn’t work most of the time so the grass was over our waist and I slunk down in the bus seat because I was ashamed for my classmates to see it.  And my clothes were all hand me down’s because I had two older sisters.  Then our house burnt down and so we got the whole neighborhoods’ hand me down’s, so my clothes were really bad then.  I could have stolen things because I thought I was a victim.  But I did something instead.  When I was in third grade, your age, I read every book in my school.  It might have been a little smaller school than this, but the point is that I used my brain.  And that’s what got me out.  Find something that you’re good at and run with it.  Make something out of your life!  She sat there frozen, just staring at me.  My words probably went over her head, but they didn’t go over mine.  Maybe she helped me find a little more of my voice that day.  God has written my story and He wants me to tell it.
  5. God isn’t finished with me yet.  Caleb was 85 when he went to Joshua (in Joshua 14:10-12) and said, “I am 85 and I am just as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me…so now give me this mountain!”  Caleb still had dreams and plans until the end, and that’s a great role model.  I’ll never arrive until I get to see Jesus.

I don’t remember when I quit singing that song, but I do know what God did take me at my word.  He has made me more like Him, not to be mean, but to make me useful and to lovingly make me who He made me for my good and for His glory.  And He’s not done yet.


Fear is a Liar

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  2 Corinthians 10:3-4

Praying at all times the Spirit… Ephesians 6:18

I had a blip of a dream this week with an old friend and myself in it.  We were at a women’s conference of some sorts.  We went up together to go talk to the speaker at a front bench.  I was initially struck that my friend looked a lot like the speaker, with both having the same blonde hair and the same purple top on.  My friend was crying.

As I went up with her, this large snake, which I thought was an anaconda, came quickly up and crawled up her right leg up to her waist, doubled around and came down again.  Remembering this is a dream, I had a hatchet in my hand and I reached over and hacked its head off.  That was the end of my dream.  I wake up and it’s time to go to work.

A Christian friend is into dreams and dream interpretations.  I have learned enough from him to know that I needed to contact my friend as soon as possible and talk to her about the dream.  She lives over 2000 miles away and I haven’t talked to her for over six months.  I figured I would have a chance at the end of the day, which I did for about 30 minutes between things, long enough to spill the dream and begin to see what was up.

Interestingly enough, it had been on her heart to put on a women’s conference to introduce her many contacts in the business world to Jesus.  She had come from quite a life of drugs and alcohol and was radically saved, and desires to tell them about Jesus.  She has been hesitant because she hasn’t known about whether or not to bring in a speaker from somewhere or what.

This is when it hit me that the speaker in my dream that looked a lot like her was her.  I was able to say with confidence that I was bringing her to herself and that I cut the head off of the snake.  It’s kind of like the credit card commercial where you’re talking to yourself on the other end of the phone and the tag line is, “We treat you like you treat you.”  The snake seemed to be the thing that was keeping her from moving ahead.  I saw it as fear–maybe a fear of vulnerability, one of rejection.  Who wouldn’t have that fear?  I kept telling her, “I cut the head off, so do it!”

All week I have been thinking about the snake.  I called my dream friend and got his take on it.  He said, “The snake is a ‘big fat lie.'”  It was a big fat snake, a lie is anything we believe that keeps us from getting to where we need to go.  Isn’t that the way Satan works?  It can be fear, it can be just the words, “You’re not good enough,” “You’re not smart enough,” “They’ll laugh you out of the place…”

The other thing I can’t get out of my mind: “I’ve got a hatchet!”  That increases my prayer confidence.  Somehow, some way, God used me in the spiritual realms to be a part of hacking the head off of the snake for my friend.  It really didn’t happen until I spoke it to her to say, “Don’t let fear stop you from putting on that conference.  Do it.  God has put it in your heart.  Your story is powerful and God has done it.  Other women will relate to it and will come to Jesus because of it.”

I want to break things with hatchets, swords, daggers, lances and anything else I can.  God, teach me how to pray to be more effective in the spiritual realm to do so.  Use me to hack snake heads off in my own life, in other peoples’ lives and do things that need to get done to see chains broken off and people set free.

Check out Zach Williams with his “Fear is a Liar” song.  It’s kind of like the big fat snake.  Name it and cut off its head!