Category Archives: Faith

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.


White Spaces

You shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know.  Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Have you ever noticed that God isn’t in a hurry?  If I were to create or work out a story of mankind, I don’t think I would include 400 year gaps of time, like where the Israelites stayed in Egypt between Joseph’s death and Moses’ exodus.  Nor would I have another 400 year time of silence where no prophet spoke between Malachi and John the Baptist.  The wilderness wanderings of Moses and the children of Israel might get shortened to maybe five years, and Jesus would have gotten to Bethany before Lazarus before he died, not after.

But I’m not God, and as Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, our ways are not His ways and they are as white spacefar apart as the Heavens are above the earth.  He works slowly and deliberately for a reason.  Deuteronomy 8 lets us know it is a part of our growth process: to humble us, to let us know what is lacking in our character, to get us to learn to keep God’s commandments, and to cause us to hunger for God and God alone.

In JD Greear’s book Jesus Continued (Zondervan 2014), our women’s Sunday School class is on the chapter of “When You Can’t Feel God.”  He calls the gaps of time that you experience silence from God “white space.”  It’s the space in the Bible between one part of the story to the next.  It’s the space between the call of God and the fulfillment of the dream.  It’s also the white space of singleness; the white space of sickness; the white space of finishing out a prison sentence; the white space of unfulfilled promises and unmet expectations.

A Biblical example would be the time between when David was anointed king and the time he actually took over as king.  There were a few years in-between, and quite a bit of drama.  It’s easy to lose hope in the interim and doubt yourself or doubt God.

This white space time can be terribly confusing and the hardest part of life to endure.  Greear’s encouragement is not to waste the white space.  It reminds me of the story of Gracia Burnham.  Gracia and her husband Martin were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rebels while on an anniversary trip in the Philippines in 2001.  They were in captivity for over a year.  On an episode of “Locked Up Abroad” Gracia told of this harrowing time.  The interviewer asked if it had changed her in any way.  She stopped and said something to this effect: “It has made me kinder and more forgiving.  I hope it has changed me.  Otherwise I have wasted 375 days in the jungle.”  I don’t want to waste my jungles either.

It was while I was reading Jesus Continued the first time through in the summer of 2015 that God showed me the meaning behind a big white space in my life.  Up to that point it was terribly confusing and just a dangling question mark for me.  I had felt a yearning or a “call” of God for missions when I was in college.  I certainly had a heart for ministry, if not missions.  I went to this big missions convention at the University of Illinois at Urbana twice with 20,000 other students.  Whatever capacity God would lead me to, I knew I needed to finish college, get some experience and Bible training, and then go.

Once I finished my second year of graduate school with a Bible degree I thought, “this is finally it.”  I had pursued different missions boards and landed on one to apply for a three year stint overseas.  I was accepted and went to their candidate school in Wheaton, Illinois.  In the middle of this three week missionary and pre-missionary gathering, the green light shifted to a flashing red light with no advanced notice.

Part of it had to do with the leadership.  They really didn’t communicate with me as they said they would and any time line that they set up where they said they would talk, they didn’t.  I waited patiently at first, less patiently as time went on and as the weeks and then months went on from there, until  I gave up.  My attempts to figure things out weren’t met with solid answers and I went into an emotional spin for at least three months, if not longer.

As I tried to get a word from God, He was putting things on my heart about returning to my home state of Wisconsin, to a small town, working in a church full time, in the denomination I last was a part of in through college.  I was living in South Carolina, on Hilton Head Island, and from there God moved me to the south shore of Lake Superior, in the middle of the winter–a very brutal winter.  But it was with an old friend from college who was a pastor of a smaller church who needed a youth director.

That was over thirty years ago.  I went from working in that church for five years, to feeling led to working in a school setting, which I have been doing full time for 26 years.  The “call to missions” that has continued to ring in my heart has been that white space, with a few other details surrounding it.  In the middle of most of that time, I was single and wondering what God was up to.

While reading the chapter in Jesus Continued, God helped me connect the dots, in an act of grace.  Check out this passage in Ezekiel 3:5-9: For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel–not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand.  Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you.  But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to Me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.  Behold I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads.  Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead.  Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.

It was like He spoke it straight into my heart.  This was the great “ah hah” for me, the answer to my white space.  I was fulfilling my call to missions by being right where I am.  God didn’t send me to a people with a foreign speech and a hard language.  If He did, they would have listened to me.  Instead, He sent me to my own people in my own home state.  And they aren’t willing to listen because they have a stubborn and rebellious heart.  I can vouch for that.  It has been a time of much spiritual warfare and little fruit, many hard hearts and little response.  In response to this, God has given me a face as hard as their faces and a forehead like flint.  I can take what they dish out, and more.

Why the white space and the difficult assignment?  Just as Deuteronomy 8 says: to humble me, and to show me what is in my heart so that I know I need God and I dare not trust in myself.  It is also that I might learn to obey God and to hunger for Him as my true daily bread over and above anything else.

May God fill in the blanks on your white spaces and may you learn the same lessons of humble dependence.  

 

 


Am I ‘mentally ill’?

John 10-27 My Sheep Hear My Voice green

I told you, and you do not believe.  The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness about Me, but you do not believe because you are not part of My flock.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  John 10:25-27

I don’t know if you have followed the flap in the media this week regarding the comments made on the ABC show “The View” about Vice President Mike Pence.  Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman said that the most dangerous person, the one that we should really be afraid of, is the Vice President.    She said that he not only talks to Jesus, but Pence also says things because he believes that Jesus talks to him and tells him to say them.

Joy Behar then said, “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus.  It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you…that’s called mental illness.”  John 10 makes it pretty clear that there is a division between those who will hear Jesus’ voice and those who won’t.  Those who don’t are not a part of His flock.  The group of Jews around Jesus had been arguing with Him and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  He answered, “I told you, and you do not believe.  You don’t believe because you aren’t a part of My flock.”

In John 15:18-23 Jesus went on to warn His followers that ‘the world’ was going to hate them.  They hated Him, they were going to hate them.  The same thing applies to us.  The same spirit of the world is here today.  It drives the media, politics, and just about everything around us.  And it hates Jesus and it hates followers of Jesus.

And for sure, if we start talking about hearing Jesus talking to us, they aren’t going to get it.  Not even most believers get it.  I’m not even I understand His voice most days.  The voice of Jesus is one of the most wonderful, most precious and most confusing things in my Christian life.  If I were to start my sentences with things like, “Jesus told me to give you this money,” or “Jesus told me to quit my job, so I’m quitting,” the words ‘mentally ill’ would soon trail behind me as well.

I like what JD Greear writes in his book, Jesus Continued: “Such experiences (like God throwing us a curveball, or God moving in our spirit is not on the time table we thought it was) should teach us to hold our perception of what the Holy Spirit is ‘telling us’ loosely,” on pg. 166.  I can sense that God is telling me something, or leading me to make certain decisions, or pressing something on my heart.  All of these have happened to me in varying degrees of intensity.

There are times when I know from the Holy Spirit pressing inside of me that I need to say with boldness that it wasn’t just a coincidence that I knew to give somebody something specific, or to call at the right time, etc. but that God led me to do it.  To tell that to a nonChristian at work takes a risk.  And there are times when I know that God is speaking that I can’t deny that it could be Him and I need to act on it.

I am i the middle of sensing that God is moving me through His Holy Spirit to uproot me from my current full time job to a possible ministry position.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  It is not just a debate for “The View” between scoffers or those who genuinely can’t understand this talk about hearing from God.  It is about my husband and I listening to God and obeying Him.

In Hebrews 11 it says that Abraham left without knowing where he was going.  I’d like it to be a little more clear than that.  I am trusting Psalm 32:8-9 that promises (and warns), I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.  Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.  

And no, I am not mentally ill.  I am one of Jesus’ sheep.

 


Exchanging the lies in our life for God’s truth

divine-exchange-by-amy-pape

For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  Romans 1:21, 25

 

A couple of posts ago I mentioned Jeff Vanderstelt’s videos on Gospel Fluency.  In his third video he talks about the more fluent we get as believers in speaking the gospel to one another and to ourselves, the more it overflows to others and into more areas of our lives.  It’s about taking our thoughts captive and applying the truths of the gospel to every area of our lives.

When we worship the wrong thing in our own life, we’re just like unbelievers.  We exchange truth for a lie and we pay the price.  We are all idolators in certain areas.  We worship the wrong things until somehow, some way it gets revealed and then we get it straightened out and repent of it. Then we bring it to Jesus to show us a different way to deal with it.

For example, let’s say someone starts grumbling about their boss.  That’s the example that Jeff used in his teaching.  If we jump on the bandwagon and talk about a time our boss was a jerk too, we’re reflecting the same wrong belief–that our hope is in the wrong person to find our fulfillment and accolades.

So instead of agreeing and saying, “That’s right, your boss sounds like an ego maniac,” you could instead say graciously, “You know, she’s not meant to be your all in all, God is.” Supposing this person is a Christian, we can go on to point to how in Colossians 3 we’re told to work for the Lord and not for man and what that looks like.  If they’re not a Christian, perhaps you could say something about how since you’ve become a Christian, God has shifted your perspective to what really matters and where you get your affirmation from.

His next example really hit home.  It was about taking a look at a time (or times) when we revert to a false view of God, believing that He has done things that aren’t really true, then believing things about ourselves that aren’t really true and acting out of those false beliefs.  For example we may get anxious in certain situations because we believe we have to be in control.  This might be driven by a false belief that God has lost control and abandoned us, or that He is absent, impotent or unloving.

Turning this around involves giving myself the Gospel, if I’m the one that holds to this false belief, or to another person that is struggling with anxiety, control issues, or other related problems.  Part of this has to do with looking at Scriptures that show that God is loving, powerful, present, etc.  Another part would be pointing at times in my own life or in the other person’s life when God has shown Himself to be loving, trustworthy, present and powerful.

You would think that once we hear and experience these truths once that we would get it.  But no, we need to hear the truths of the Gospel over and over in all different ways spoken into those areas where we doubt and fear and relapse.  And we need to speak them to each other.  I need to repent in my heart from the false truths that have caused me to be an idolater, exchanging the truth of God for a lie.  I need to exchange the lies for truth, claim the truths of Scripture and write my name on them like on the bottom of a check.  And I need to graciously help others do the same.

It’s funny.  I think I have it all figured out.  And then I get around people who drive me nuts and I start muttering and becoming less kind and gracious than someone who knows Jesus should be.  Or when other weaknesses come popping up like prairie dogs, then it’s time to go back to what lies I’m believing about myself or about God and start over again.  Or if I sit and listen to someone whose weaknesses poke out quickly as well, then I can help them sort through the same process.

Let us not become futile in our thinking and let our foolish hearts be darkened, exchanging the truth of God for a lie.  Instead, let us exchange those devious lies for the truth of God and be changed by them.  Let us speak the good news of Jesus to ourselves and to others so that He sinks deep down into the crevices of our hearts and lives.

 

*Image by Amy Pape


A Tangled Path, or a Straight One?

tangled path

straight path

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6                                                      

To trust God is to believe in His reliability, truth, ability or strength. It means that you rely, depend, bank, or count on, and be sure of all that God is and what He promises.  Many times when there is some big rescue or feat, the newscasters will talk about “the indomitable human spirit” that made the people overcome.  When we put our trust in ourselves and our strength individually or collectively, we are missing the real source of our strength.  If we name the name of Jesus, the source of our strength is to be God and God alone.

In Genesis 11 we find the account of the Tower of Babel.  Everyone gathered together with the same language and said, Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, found in verse 4.  When God saw what they were doing He said, This is only the beginning of what they will do.  And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. God stepped in and confused their language and scattered them to the faces of the earth.

That is what happens when we decide to build or do anything in rebellion of the King of the Universe.  Sometimes we don’t plan to do things without God in rebellion, it’s just because we’re used to figuring things out on our own, counting on our own wisdom and desires.  But God calls us to consult and trust Him, not others and not ourselves.  To trust Him with all of our hearts means that we don’t have a backup plan.  God is our only plan.  And He will take care of the details of our obedience.

There is a promise in these two verses: God will make our paths straight.  Have you ever tried to accomplish something or get somewhere in life, but you keep getting twisted around?  Your dream or your desired goal might always end up just beyond your grasp. You take one step forward and end up three steps back.  Sometimes you don’t go backwards, you just go sideways.  Or you stall out.  Your route isn’t a straight line, but a tangled path.  If this is you, ask yourself this question: Are you acknowledging God in all your ways?  Are you doing things His way or your way?  

When you do things God’s way, things have a way of working out.  And your path will be straight, not a mess.  Step by step in the right direction leads to a habit and a routine and then a lifestyle of obeying God, trusting Him, and  consulting with Him before you make choices.  You can’t beat it.


I Must Get To the Sanctuary of God

pray.jpgBut when I thought how to understand this it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went to the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.  Psalm 73:16-17

Asaph wrote this Psalm.  He was David’s music director and was a priest and he set David’s words to music.  The context for today’s verses is that Asaph was getting twisted around by seeing the arrogant and wicked prospering while the righteous struggled.  He was bitter about it and it messed up his relationship with God.  In verse 22 Asaph recounted that when he was bitter he was like a beast, brutish and ignorant.  In other words, when you hold bitterness against God in your heart, you can’t hear from God, just like an animal.  You can’t be led.  It blocks off your relationship with God.

O God, I can get so bitter, cutting off the channel between us.  I can get bitter at others, which is just as bad.  I can mutter about others, and it’s really me that’s in the wrong place.  Like the King and Country song, “Oh, oh God, Forgive us (ME)…”  Show me where I harbor bitterness.

Another significant thing about what Asaph testifies is that he knew enough to keep his bitterness to himself.   In verse 15 he testifies, “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.”  If he had told others about what he had against God, he would have betrayed them by telling them something about God that wasn’t true.  How often do we vent to others, only later realizing that it wasn’t God who was in the wrong, but us?

God, keep a zipper on my lips.  If I speak against You or others I am really betraying the generation of Your children.  I am telling things about You that aren’t true.  I am a stumbling block.  

Asaph stayed in this funk until he went to the sanctuary of God.  In those days, they had to go to the Temple to meet with God because that was where His Spirit dwelt.  Praise God that His Spirit now dwells inside of us and we can meet with God anywhere, anytime!  It wasn’t until Asaph went before God that his attitude was adjusted.  It was in praying to God and seeking His face that Asaph realized that it wasn’t God that was off.  It was his view of what success is and his view of how God works.

Oh how my soul longs to get in quiet communion with You this week.  This is where I hear from You.  Clear out my schedule and keep distractions far away from me.  May I meet with You and see what you have to say about what’s been going on.  I so need You.

Then Asaph stopped being bitter and he started hearing from God again.  And he was able to write the beautiful words of praise found in verses 23-28.  Asaph realized that those who are far from God perish, but those who love and fear God will be rewarded in the end.  He also realized that it is better to be near God and to make Him his refuge than to have money.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; You hold my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory.  Whom have I in Heaven but You?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Psalm 73 23-26

When you are bent out of shape about life’s unfairness, don’t vent it out–go to God.  It is in our prayer closet that we get a proper perspective.  Don’t hold on to your bitterness, it only shuts off your connection with God.  Pray it out and listen to what God has to say.  Get close to God’s heart.  The nearness of God is our good.

*Image from Auntie Em’s Guide to Life


Come to Jesus, all you who are weary and are heavy laden

Jesus- the invitation

 

This was my jail study this last week, with seven women.  This is Jesus.  Really, to know Him is to love Him.  Some have heard this in different shapes and forms, but need to hear it again and again until it sinks in.  Others haven’t heard it before.  One gal was getting sentenced this last week to a possible 20 years (she got 25).  Jesus changed her in front of our eyes over these last three years of her being in and out, especially in the last six months.  God still works miracles, the biggest being in changing lives!

 John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that He sent His only son, Jesus, that whoever would believe Him will not perish but have everlasting life.  God loves us and Jesus gave His life for us so that we won’t have to spend eternity in Hell because of our sin.

John 11:5 and Luke 19:5.  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus…Jesus looked up at the tree and said, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down for I must stay at your house today.’  Jesus knows us by name, and He loves us.  He doesn’t just love the world generically, but specifically.  He knows us by name, even the number of hairs on our head.  Psalm 139:4 says that before a word is on our tongues He knows it completely.

John 8:1-8.  That’s the account of the woman caught in adultery.  When Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin be the one to throw the first stone,” and they left oldest to youngest, she looked up and saw just Jesus.  He asked, “Where are the ones who condemn you?  Who’s left?”  “No one,” was her response.  “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  Jesus doesn’t condemn them when they come to Him; He wants them to be set free from their bondages.

  •  One gal was caught up in an interesting thought about how Jesus was a part of       making the law, but yet let her break the law.  Jesus really was the fulfillment of the law.   He was the law.  He was loving, kind, merciful and just, which was what the law was really aimed at.  The Pharisees kept the law, but weren’t any of those things.  So they really didn’t keep the law.  Maybe that’s why Jesus kept healing on the Sabbath, to poke holes in their broken system.  In Romans 8:3-4 it says that God sent Jesus to do what the law couldn’t do in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.  Bottom line: Meet Jesus, look into His loving eyes and turn from your sin.

John 4.  The woman at the well.  Here’s the outcast of the outcasts at the well at noon.  And Jesus talks with her, asking for water and telling her about living water so she wouldn’t have to thirst anymore.  “I want that water!”  “Okay, go get your husband.”  “I don’t have one.”  “I know.  You’ve had five, and the guy you’re with now isn’t one of them.”  Jesus knows our backstory and He still likes us.  He knows what it is that we’re trying to fill the hole in our heart with.  Everyone has a hole in their heart that God put there so we would long for Him.  It has to filled with Him, otherwise it’s still a hole that needs to be filled.  Some people try to fill it with guys, others with drugs, others with shopping, others with food…

  • The other interesting discussion...What are you trying to fill your hole with?  Why don’t you fill it with Jesus?  We all have holes.  Andy Warhol is the guy that said “Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame.”  That’s why people will go on ‘American Idol’ even when they’re really bad, or do whatever do get noticed.  There’s a verse in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that says ‘that God has set eternity in our hearts.’  The Oscar Meyer Wiener song illustrates it: “Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener, everyone would be in love with me…”  Why would it matter for everyone would be in love with them?  Because God put that hole there for it to be filled by Him.

Final verses: Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

 


Come Boldly

boldly go.jpg“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 

 

I had a God moment this week.  A gal from jail wrote asking that I come to court to support her as she appeared before the judge.  Let’s call this woman “Jane.”  Another Bible study chaplain friend and prayer warrior also came.   Jane was asking something rather audacious of the courts.  She was asking for something she didn’t deserve.  She has been in and out of jail and prison most of her adult life because of drugs.  Her last charge could have put her back into prison for three and a half years.   Jane wasn’t supposed to appear until mid December and got her court date moved up, plus she was asking for something opposite of what the judge and lawyers were recommending.

She has sat over four months in the county jail most recently.  She’s studied the Bible each time she’s been in, come to Bible studies I’ve led for over 16 years.  In and out.  But Jane says she is broken, finished, done with meth.  She wants Jesus and wants a different life.  I hear desperation and maybe hope.  She applied for Teen Challenge (David Wilkerson’s faith based powerful rehab program) on her own, and I mean on her own.  Her Native American background makes most of what she attempts to do apart from her culture on her own.  Here it is a culture riddled with drugs and death.

Back to court.  The District Attorney and her public defender that looked like he just got out of high school bantered sacrilegiously previous to the beginning of the proceedings.  I think they must not care about the cases as individuals, but must have to distance themselves somehow.  As the hearing finally begins, the judge  reviews her case and tells of how this looks hopeless as she reviews the years of drug and battery charges, the years of incarceration.  We sit and pray silently.  It stretches out much longer than we would like–just get to the punch line.

Finally, yes!  She allows Jane to go Teen Challenge for at least six months.  Actually it is a 13 month program and its recidivism rate in the first year is like 20% (vs. a 70% National average).  In my 17 years of jail ministry, I have not seen an inmate actually follow through on pursuing going there and a judge actually placing someone into this program.  Hallelujah!  God sees and He hears and He is working in Jane’s life to bring about a miracle.

Jane was released to leave for Teen Challenge that same day.  She motioned for my friend and I to wait downstairs and we nodded that we would.  We waited with her mom and one of her sons, and a couple of others.  When she got down in her street clothes, she first came to give her mom a hug and mom pulled her close and said in a low, stern voice “if you stay at my house, you cannot bring your Bibles with you.”  It was the voice of the enemy so quickly in her face and ours.

We stood around the corner, respectfully waiting to give her a hug and quickly pray with her.  I told her I would mail her Bibles to her, but she must have her Bibles with her at Teen Challenge.  She said, “Oh no, I’ll put them in the garage.  She never goes there.”  God is able.

I must come boldly to the throne of grace–boldly and audaciously to ask and keep asking God to do big things just as Jane did this week.  He is not an overworked judge, He is one who is one waiting to dispense mercy and grace for me.  For Jane.  For all of us.


I Must Get to Jesus

This was my jail Bible study last week.  I’ve been thinking about it since then, about how it was really more for me than for them maybe.  I went in with a friend.  We usually go up with two of us.  I led.  My friend used to be in federal prison for like eight years.  Jesus got a hold of her in a big way there and she has such a soft heart for people.  She has yet to really tell her testimony.  I can’t wait until she does.  It will be powerful.

We  had three different groups of women, so I led this three different times.  Some women can’t get along with each other, and all together the little room we meet in would be too full.  I like the intimate nature of groups of three and four because we can really interact.  It’s a county jail and most of the women are Native American.  We chatted for awhile.  I’ve been going in leading studies on Sunday nights for over 17 years now, and some have been in and out of jail almost that long.

My thread was about people who wanted to get to Jesus so bad they were willing to do almost anything to do it.  The first was from Luke 5:18-20.  That’s where the four guys lower the paralytic guy down through the roof because the house was too crowded to get to Jesus.  In verse 20 it says, “And when He saw their faith He said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  It never really struck me before Jesus saw their faith.  And maybe the four guys were changed that day too.  Or maybe they encountered Jesus before.  But they were desperate enough for their buddy to get healed that they sawed a hole through a roof.  That’s audacity and desperacy.

The next scenario we looked at was Luke 7:36-50, the woman who washed Jesus feet with her hair, tears and ointment.  She busted into a dinner party of Pharisees and was willing to cut through put down’s and maybe getting tossed out so she could do something they would never do.  In washing His feet with her tears, she got to His heart and He got to hers.  Jesus turned to her and said that He knew she loved Him much and that though her sins were many, she was forgiven much.  The Pharisees didn’t get that.  But they weren’t willing to get to Jesus like she was either.  Are you?  Am I?

Image result for touch the hem of his garmentThe third person we looked at was a another desperate woman.  She’s told about in Luke 8:42-48.  Do you notice none of these people get names?  This one is “the bleeding woman.”  She had ‘an issue of blood’ for 12 years.  If you want to get a room full of women going, read that story.  She thought, ‘if I could just touch the hem of His garment.’  And she did and ‘boom!’ she was healed.  She had to push through a big crowd to get to Jesus.

What do you have to push through to get to Jesus?  I have push through a busy schedule, other people’s demands, through stupid distractions, through crowds, traffic, tiredness, laziness and all kinds of things just to get to Him.  There are times when I find myself saying inside “I just have to sit with Jesus.”  Sometimes I want to scream it.  Other times my soul whispers it.

To the women in jail, I encourage them to get radical to get to Jesus.  They will do whatever it takes to get to a party or to get a hit of drugs, or to get a boyfriend.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:29-30 that if your right eye or right hand causes you to sin to cut it off.  That’s radical!  We have to be radical to get away from sin and we have to be radical to get to Jesus.  Unconventional, desperate, audacious.  We have to saw holes in roof tops, break into dinner parties and push through crowds.

Do whatever it takes, but get to Jesus and hold on tight.


In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge

col 2-3.jpgThat’s what Colossians 2:3 says.  Have you ever really thought about that verse?  It’s come to my mind quite a bit lately, like when I’m really stumped.   What I think it means is that when we need wisdom and knowledge we can turn to the treasure chest of wisdom and knowledge–Jesus.

The more we delve into Him, the more wisdom and knowledge we find.  Colossians 2 as a whole talks about things that I’m not sure we really know what they mean.  I memorized the book of Colossians years ago and I review it occasionally on the way to work.  This week I’ve been on verses like the one above, as well as verse 9-10: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”  Teach me O God.

I’m am Elementary Principal by trade.  Quite often I face things more complicated than I prefer.  I don’t know if I’m looking to coast now that I’m in my late fifties, but things have gotten so much more complicated with broken down families, law suit hungry people and mental illness that’s maybe demonic affliction but disguised by diagnosis’s if all sorts.

This last week had some of those days where I really needed the treasure chest of Jesus’ wisdom and knowledge.   I guess I can’t really go into much detail, but I can say that as I tried to deal with a very disturbing situation, Colossians 2:3 was on my mind.  I bought some time by walking down the hall to get coffee and I walked and prayed that God would show me the answers I was looking for, because in Christ we have all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge—claiming that verse.

Slowly all parties involved worked through the situation, first with the boy and the school counselor, then his dad.  In the middle of that next night I felt God give me more insight into the boy’s psyche and how to approach the consequences and follow up.  My answers from God weren’t lightning bolts but I got through the day with about ten other side issues swirling simultaneously and can say  that this week was a “win.”