Church leadership- 2016 version

Two years ago I was incredibly frustrated at how church elders were selected, and who was selected.  Nothing personal about the selection committee, nor of the candidates.  It was not a personal issue.  It was a matter of discernment, of obedience to God’s plan for his church, and for how he has deemed leaders are selected.  It is a humbling thought that most of us are not leadership…. and more humbling is that the choice of who is prepared, seasoned, honed and ready to obey God in a leadership role often does not see it that way.

This frustration sent me back to deep study, to discern what God calls leaders, what they look like, how they are developed, and how they are recognized.  Big surprise – the method and the process were nothing like earthly ways.  In the Bible it was the known leaders gathering in prayer, asking for discernment, while reviewing the lives of possible candidates.  I found a wonderful recap of the concept of elder published by John Piper.

<Click here to read the article>

While it seems that some sort of selection group gathered, and names were raised for elder, did they lay them before God and ask for clarity? Two years ago one of the elder candidates was on the surface wonderfully skilled at teaching and a holder of an undergrad degree from a christian college, but if you watched that life, how they handle their own self, their family, their work?.There were a lot of alarms raised.  Perhaps i was closer to the situation, having known them for a decade, and having watched them struggle with their marriage, and life issues.  My objections were met with response that I was wrong, or my thinking was flawed. (Yes, that is always possible, but on this one i know what i was watching for 10  plus years. )  And while my heart was heavy to see the end result, i was not surprised that within 6-8 months he crashed hard and burned to a crisp under the weight of the elder-ship.

I never wanted to say “I told you so” but i certainly could!  And as a result we went 2 years without that office filled.  The role of elder was shouldered by less people, and growing demands.

God has framework and ways of living documented to us for reasons.  He is far more wise than any committee or group of humans will ever be.  And it seems that the role of elder is one of great weight of responsibility – one must know God’s word, be qualified, and humble, willing to help people through difficult things with strength, wisdom and character.

This year the choices were interesting.  There is a clear pattern of who influenced the decisions, which raises a great concern for the overall health of the church.  I hope i am wrong, but alarms are raised again for one of the men chosen.  It seems that was yet another choice of the “committee” to overlook or pay no attention to the documented qualifications of the office, ensuring they match with the character and history of the person.  But I open my hands, throw them to the sky and say “Lord, this is your church.  You are building it, not me.  You choose to bless us with wise and strong leadership, or withhold this and give us weakened leaders… yet it is you that is in charge, not a committee, or a person.  Have your way, take this burden from me, and show me how to pray for them.”

And that brings me to the article i wrote two years ago…. still valid, still practical, and still critical for body health:

The committee has met, the votes are tallied, and now a new leader (elder/deacon) has been decided upon.  Were the decisions unanimous?  Were there lingering wonder about their fit for the work?  What are we required to do?

1. Pray – pray daily that the Lord will have his hand upon the man:

  • Protection – from the attacks of the enemy
  • Wisdom to make correct decisions
  • Strength for the work

2. Encourage – when possible try to encourage them

3. Watch – watch as the leader steps up…. will they bring a humble heart, yielded to God, or will we see misuse of power?  Watch and pray

In the crucible of position character will reflect the truth about the person… whether they a re established, rooted and grounded, and able to lead.  Or not.  We are obligated to pray for our leaders, asking God to reign over all, sovereign, holy and with all wisdom.

“Lord, we bring our leaders to you.  May you always watch over and protect them.  May you grant them your wisdom, your spirit of leading, and always a teachable spirit.  May they lead well, with strength and power of your spirit, direction from your word.  May you give deep insight into the building of your kingdom, and use these leaders for your glory. Amen”

To this i have a few things to add to my prayer:

“Lord, First I ask that you will grow up these men that our congregation call elders…. give them strength in your word, soundness of character, protection from the arrows of the enemy and yielded teachable spirits toward you.  and Second, I pray for any intentions, engineering, personal gain, or other reasoning that may have come to mind in this decision- may you break down all that is not of you, and may you teach our church how to live by your word in powerful obedience.  May your power rest in strength on our leaders…. make them strong, discerning, capable and wise.  May you break down any weapon the enemy brings to try to weaken or destroy us.  And for the future practice of selecting elders, may you begin raising up men who love you, know you, already have withstood seasons of trial, and remain focused on you.  Only you can raise leaders, only you can build your church so that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  Have your way.”  Amen

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Are you growing concerned?

Are you becoming more aware of the news?  From financial issues, and suffering of those around us, to the world events – horrific news, startling, and possibly very overwhelming.

My husband and i have been a part of the prayer team of our church, and so we find ourselves filtering things through soft and purposeful conversation with God.  Painful bodies, fearful moms, unemployment, disobedient children, struggling marriages, and on and on.   Our needs as people are very great, and our dependence is growing greater and greater on God himself to provide and meet the needs.

But i must tell you that while i know our needs are important they seem to pale in comparison to our brothers and sisters around the world who are giving their lives for their faith in Jesus.

As I stand to sing worship choruses these past Sundays I realize how privileged we are to gather publicly, to give voice to our hearts cry of worshiping our great God without fear of imprisonment, beatings, death.  So as i close my eyes, and lift my heart and my voice to God I find myself lifting those believers around the world to Jesus, and ask for his presence in their lives.

Remembering Al and Eileen – We have friends who are Pakistani nationals, and have lived around the world. They are believers in Jesus.  And these last 10 years their government has not permitted them to leave their nation.  They are surrounded by 99.5% of their fellow citizens who believe in radical Islam, or tribal factions.  They have a life that is constantly one word or one action from death.  Al told us the last time he was visiting in the states that we need to pray for the believers in Pakistan like this:

  • Lord grant them wisdom to know your word, your heart, your spirit
  • Lord grant them favor with their neighbors that those who do not know Jesus might see his love extended through your people in that place.
  • Lord give opportunities to love, help and share your word with those who do not know
  • Strength, courage, boldness, fearlessness, God’s favor.

As the news continues to churn out photos and video of Christians being executed for believing in Jesus I can;t just stand in church and sing a worship chorus.  I am compelled to cry out for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted.  And i am compelled to cry out against the acts of injustice, shocking violence, of global bullying on a massive scale.

The rising tide of hatred and hostility of Christians is joined by the growing antisemitism that is playing out in the world.  Many are saying these are times much like that of pre-WWII, where people were being fed propaganda, believing ideology that was filled with venemous hatred, doctrines of demons.

America is not the same nation it was 5 years, 10 years, 20 years ago.  The news media is whipping up a hostility toward Christianity, our government is embracing poor judgement, and the leadership of our nation is growing sketchy.  Being a Christian is becoming a dangerous decision, with frequent news of charges pressed, court cases, etc for simplly living out our faith.

The winds of change are blowing.  Are we there in prayer, standing firmly asking our Great God and King to meet us, change our hearts, accept our repentance, and heal our land?

I am growing concerned – not of God, because i know he holds everything in his great care, but i am growing concerned that fellow believers seem to have little sensitivity to the great need to pray, to seek God with everything in our souls, and to ask for the needs of our fellow believers that are hurting.

“Father, forgive us for our self focus.  Forgive us for not praying for our rulers, our government, or leaders.  And forgive us for letting your word slide from our lives.  We repent today, and ask you to fill our  hearts and minds with your spirit, your word, your strength.  And we bring our brothers and sisters who are being fiercely persecuted to you.  Please be their strength, glorify yourself in your people, strengthen and embolden your church to stand in the presence of evil, and know your plan is to bring many to salvation.  

We pray for those who are the persecutors… may they come to know they are persecuting your people, and that you know every thought and act.  May you show yourself to them in dreams, visions, and manifest fear in their very souls.  We ask for their salvation, we cry to you to turn your enemies to repentent believers.  In everything may we sense your spirit, your provision, your protection and your love.  And may the world sense this too.  Amen”

Wisdom, Speech, and unity

A story rests on my spirit today which i must share.  It is something that I have seen play out so many times.  It is a sad tale, a cautionary tale that is all too real in this day and age.  Here it is:

There once was a small group of people, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, who gathered with great joy, celebrating their mutual faith, strengthening and encouraging each other.  The trust was strong, the love was sincere.  Faith was growing, and transparency was the norm.  It was a close group of people, unified by the presence of Jesus.  His spirit had freedom to move in and through each of these people.  It was noticeable to those who visited from outside the group.  There was a deep hunger to grow, or at least it seemed that there was a core of people growing and seeking answers from God.

There were many stories of grace, and of miracles.  Healing of body, mind and soul was a daily occurrence, and the group was hungry to see what each day would bring because God’s Spirit was there and moving in power.  Certainly the enemy would not like this.

One day one of the people began to wag their tongue, stretch the truth, manipulate information to benefit their own self.  Nobody knew the pain, the sin or the scars that would rise to the surface in that moment because there was a deep trust among this group.  Transparency meant there were sometimes hard things shared, but always based on truth, honesty, with the heart to grow and see healing.  But that day the trust that ran deep began to erode.  And as people began to hear these words they believed them.  That is the nature of a trusting group of believers.

And the tongue wagging began to erode friendships, introduce rumor and speculation, and disturb the delicate and rare harmony and unity of this small group of believers.  One by one, the formerly united people began to wonder, sensing a coldness when they gathered to worship their lord.  And his words were still a clear invitation to love, trust and obey, but the living examples that surrounded them no longer shared that same mission.  Friendly smiles were met with suspicion, and few words were exchanged because of an uncertainty of what is true, honest or sincere.

Deep friendships became uncomfortable.  Common faith became cold.  Hearts became guarded, defensive, questioning of each other.  And God’s spirit was not able to freely move and breath in the group.

One voice was all it took to break down the unity. One word spoken to bring question, to bring challenge, to mock, or to question the respectability of another believer broke down that delicate trust.

Some of the group continued on as though nothing was wrong, yet others were deeply changed, sadly they could no longer live together in a harmony that was shattered by the careless words of another.

I tell you this story because it is played out throughout our nation, and it is breaking down what God wants to build up.  It is His Church, and he will ultimately build it as he wishes.  But small and seemingly harmless words can be like a spark of a match in a dry forest… it sets everything in its path on fire, destroying the beauty, and protection that we need as the church.

So what can be done?  How can this be avoided, limited, or removed from a community of believers?

1. The health of the community is directly related to the spiritual health of each believer – we must be responsibility for our own walk, our own growth, our own communication.  That means that each day we must seek the lord, spend quiet time to hear his voice and know his wishes for our life.

2. We must be the filter for problems – AS we begin to hear the rumblings of tongue wagging we must respond correctly – giving no room for that type of communication.  Defusing when possible, or taking it to an elder if our efforts to stop it dont work.  Some thoughts about defusing dangerous communication include the following:

  • Direct the person with harmful communication to speak with only the person involved… if they have something bad to say about another they should discuss this directly with that person.
  • Filter everything through the word of god.  Is each word I convey going to be true, edifying, strengthening, grace filled, encouraging?  If not, pray for wisdom and God’s leading on sharing it.
  • When a situation is beyond your ability to stop, bring it to the attention of leadership – that is a ministry leader, pastor, elder.  Ask they to go with you to speak with that person.

3. Don;t ruminate on the negativity that has been spoken.  Instead, like a prisoner of war, take it to Jesus.  Confess the struggle with the information and ask for this to be healed.  Leave it there with him.

4. Practice Grace.  Understand we all struggle, and allow a measure of understanding for others.  Each of us are on this journey to heaven, and we all have shortcomings, struggles, challenges.  A little bit of grace covers a multitude.

5.  Pray for our church leaders to be strong, wise, and responsive.  When the leaders are sensing and following strongly after the Lord these stories are less likely to take root and flourish .

6.  Churches should be extremely discerning on how the leadership is chosen… wrapped in deep prayer, and following strong after the leading of God based fully and explicitly upon the Word of God, elders should be chosen to meet the criteria layed out in the word.

 

So you read this and said, “Hmm, that does not describe my congregation” – to that I say Great!  Pray.   Pray hard daily for your leaders.  Pray daily for discernment, and for God’s Spirit to keep the unity and bind the work of the enemy in and through your congregation.

And perhaps you say “Wow, that sounds all too familiar… i am there.  I honestly dont like going to church any more because of this situation.”  To you I say steady on – pray and ask God for his wisdom.   Remain willing to be open and transparent, but use discernment. If someone has sinned against you go to them, and call it out.  If they dont receive your words and repent then go to a leader and together go with the leader to that person and confront them.  If they still are unresponsive, allow the leadership to take over the dealing with  that individual.  If leadership is not responsive that might raise another alarm flag… and perhaps you might wish to seek the Lord for wisdom on what to do.

The mission of living for Jesus is challenging, yet when we as a community are unified the life we live is made easier knowing we do not walk alone.  Sin can destroy everything in its path, and that also means it can disable people from the goal and purpose of their call by God.  Lets ask for wisdom from God that we can see the power and fire of God flood through our church, that we can see the hope and healing that Jesus wants us to know.

Prayer:  Jesus, the church is your work.  You have said that it is built by you and that the gates of hell shall not prevail.  But i confess that there are times when the church looks like it is being ripped apart by pride, lust and greed, and that the deadly sin of the tongue set about a fire that is from hell itself.  We hunger for unity in your spirit.  We hunger for strength in the leaders you ordain for us, and we hunger for a safety and transparency that allows us to seek you, grow in grace, and find our healing in you, and in community.  May you be glorified in our lives as we seek you, hunger for you and yield our very core to your authority.  Silence the tongues of sin, break the strongholds the enemy wants to set up, and remove the snares of deception, confusion and fear.  May we see your church rise in power, reaching our broken world with the power of your salvation.  Amen.

Hunger for heaven

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, – Philippians 3:20

As this sin scarred earth grows older, and each of us grow in our faith it seems like we are differentiated from the world in greater and greater ways.  Like a citizen of a foreign country visiting Cleveland it is noticable they are not from around here.  They may not speak the language, or understand the culture.  They may have no clue about how our government, or politics work, the sports we watch, the arts we enjoy, the food we eat.

We, the believers of Jesus, live on the earth among a world that wants to run to pleasure, selfish gain, idols and self centered lives.  How we live, practice our business, and  raise our families should look different because we are different.  We are just passing through. This is boot camp to strengthen us and build our faith up.

We know we are here for just a time… and one day we will be either called home to heaven, or we will see Jesus return to take us home.  We are called to watch and pray, wait for the redemption of our souls.  This day will come.  Until then we are ambassadors of the most high, and we must demonstrate in our life, our speech, and our choices that our citizenship is in heaven.  With the power of our great God we can to that!

 

its in god’s hands

prayerair

Life is unpredictable, people even more unpredictable.  The truth is that our lives are in God’s hand, yielding us to watch and pray, trust and remain faithful  to God’s word.

Note to Readers:  If you attend my church and are reading this post, thanks.  I some times write in generalities based on what i notice happening in the kingdom.  Sometimes I draw from current events, and at other times it is from experiences of my past.  My writing is intended to be a way of working out my faith… and should it help others, praise God.

I love to work on building friendships.  I only have a half dozen people that i can trust with my absolute life… let alone the deep things of life that I wrestle with.  I think its probably very biblical to know a lot of people, but surround myself with people i would call friends, and still fewer people that I would deem mentors, and mentees.  Jesus showed us that he had 12 disciples, yet only 3 or 4 very close disciples.

almost 3 decades ago i had the privilege of developing a friendship based on faith.  It was one of my first “christian friendships”.  We felt like we knew each other for a life time.  We shared the common belief in Jesus, and we shared that heart for evangelism, and for taking the gospel to the world.  We were both quite young in our faith when we jumped into ministry, feet first.  We ran hard for the work, knowing very little, but trusting God for all of it.   And there was a deep bond because God was developing in both of us the character and gifts he wanted used.

Ministry was flourishing… it was right, good, and we were seeing people come to know Jesus and it was fruit that remained.  But slowly, ever so slowly we felt a tugging in different directions, and a pulling of our hearts in different philosophy of ministry.  We both still loved Jesus, but something entered into our relationship that was changing us, breaking us apart.

God clearly moved us from our comfort in suburbia to an inner city ministry work that required the skills we had honed in those ministry start ups we were leaving behind.  Those years of building were able to be handed off to capable hands, trustworthy believers who would continue the work.  That work continues to this day, viable, vibrant and still preaching the gospel with the power of God’s spirit.  It is in God’s hands.

And over those  twenty some years we worked in the inner city God privileged us to be a part of mighty things.  In our work with youth we had a small core group of kids who had a deep hunger for truth, and for salvation.  We still hear great things about each of them.  Most have grown up well, become wonderful adult human beings that love Jesus, and have centered their lives on their faith.  Yes, they are in God’s hands.

And i think many of the youth group members of our group from the 90s were impacted by one simple yet traumatic event – One of the beautiful young girls (Diana) was a quiet spirited girl that never missed our jr high club meetings.  One Sunday evening we gathered, and we asked the kids what questions they have.  Diana quietly asked “What does Jesus look like?  Does the bible say very much about it?”  We looked at each other – shall we go for the Isaiah passage that he was of no reputation?  Or Revelation chapter 1?  That passage of Revelation 1 was the choice… and we read it to the group – Hair white as wool, feet glowing like brass in a fire, eyes… the image is both one of fear, and of awe.  And i remember saying that one day we shall see him as he is… we will bow down before his holiness, and he will speak to us.  I had no idea that night Diana would get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and fall on her little brother’s small toy, and suffer irreversible brain injury that would put her in a coma, and she would go home to meet Jesus.  Every one of the kids told us they felt moved by the thought that she was now seeing Jesus as he is, in heaven.  It became so real to each of us, and so important to share our hope with others because there might come a day when this life ends.  Diana was and is in god’s hands, as are those kids of the 90s who are adults today.

In our years of visiting the nursing homes we met so many good people who were aging, and their bodies were becoming unkind to the life they have known.  Some of the residents were sad, or even deeply depressed from their changing quality of life, or the death of a spouse, the loss of some portion of their body, or their mind.  We met so many people who ministered to us far more than i think we did to them.  One of the residents that impacted us so greatly was a man named Guy – sad, angry, lonely and feeling quite betrayed by life, he was not easy to speak with, but when he finally realized we cared, and wanted to visit his heart began to soften.  One day he called and asked Steve and I to come visit him.  We arrived and it was after dinner, late for the resident that turn in by 6-6:30.  But there was Guy, waiting, excited, eagerly scanning the horizon for us.  Guy wanted to know how to be a christian… 78 years old, having gone to church, lived an honest and hard working life, but had never given opportunity to yield his heart to Jesus.  Guy died 3 months later, knowing where he was headed, knowing he was forgiven, washed and clean, a child of the King.  Yes, all those years Guy was in God’s hands, and he is now in God’s presence.

Over the years we have known so many people who have walked this path of faith.  Some continue, others have turned back, given up, wandered away, or were lured away by the lust of the eye, lust of the flesh or the pride of life.  But they remain in God’s hands.

My point is simple.  WE choose to yield our lives to God, surrender our plans to him, and live for him each and every day.  As we touch others we can pray for them, we can encourage them, and we can pray and give them back to God’s hands.  We have no control over whether they choose to follow God or not.  We can only trust that God holds them in his hands.

Some of those we have known and we have  trusted to God’s hands flourish, shine for the Lord, and carry the message of hope to the world.  They are pastors, or missionaries, or lay leaders, worship leaders, chaplains, or just people of faith living in the work world.  Others choose to embrace power, privilege, selfish pleasure, personal gain or any of the other deceitful sinful things this world can pull us into… and they have crashed and burned.  Their life is a shipwreck, their ministry gone because they would not yield to the prompting of God’s spirit, or were unwilling to be teachable, or would not heed the warnings and admonition of leadership… or they were leadership and had given in to pride, or the flesh, or power. Sin has overtaken the ground of their soul and faith, while present, is tucked aside, forced out of the way for the idolatry  that has consumed them.  Yet, they are also in the hands of God.

The warning is to each of us – Guard your heart for out of it flow the issues of life.  Guard your heart, and give yourself to the hands of God.  For God is more than able to see you through, and help you finish well.

 

Unsettled Prayer

There are some times I am unsettled, and the words just don’t flow back to God on what set me on edge.  It is times like this that I sit quietly before the Lord, bible open, heart yielded and silent, waiting for his wisdom.  It’s a decision to wait until the answer comes, not wishing to yield to my own thoughts but rather have clarity that is God’s wisdom.

Recently I attended an event that should have been super encouraging, but instead God allowed me to see the deep underbelly of insecurity, of fear, and of the way human limitations stifle the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.

The presence of the  spirit of God was there, yet restrained, stifled by the many words of flowery speech, of laying out theological treaties before men, rather than honest hearts cry to God almighty.  And there were times that evening when the spirit was asking us to wait in silence, yet the room was  buzzing with words, with sounds, with anything but silent yielding.

My unsettled spirit found no calm, no ability to just sit and wait for word from Jesus.  Instead I found myself listening to words that were being voiced.  My thoughts turned to my own sense of judgement, of criticism.  Just because I need to sit in silence to wait before God does not mean this is true of others around me, right?  Why do I want to be so critical, to judge those who share every theological treatise verbally as though they are educating God on such things.

Still very unsettled I headed home to ask God to sort this out.  On the drive home the guy we pick up for church asked “whats with all those flowery words spoken tonight?”  Huh,I asked him’ what do you mean? ‘  He went on to explain that Christianity, and faith in general is a new thing to him, and he was not sure he would ever get some of those expressions, or details that were so eloquent and sophisticated.  He expressed his concern that Christianity was so odd and different to him.  He asked if it was necessary to speak like that to God.

Everything in me took a deep breath.   There is no way he could have known my thoughts, my unsettled spirit, and my heart on the matter, right? This was simple and pure questions of someone who is new at the faith.  If I can be honest  with him I would tell him of my thoughts, my wrestling.

I wrestled with how to respond to his questions.  It’s a delicate place – not trying to judge those who wax eloquent and flourish their theology in sweeping strides of verse, yet not undermining the simplicity of prayer as conversation.  But in my heart I also struggle too, knowing that conversation with the God I know is simple, easy, honest, and straight forward.

(Deep breath) I responded to our passanger:  Well, Prayer is simply a conversation with God.  It can look different depending on the situation  But it should be honest, reverent, and sincere.  Its just like speaking with a friend.  So all the flowery language is not necessary, really.

“Well, then, why do some people do this? Why do they have to tell us everything they know when they are talking to God.  If I were God I would be frustrated with that.  Getting to the point is so important.”

(Silently I was praying those wild prayers like “Lord, help me now to find the right words, and the right things to say.  I don’t want to deter faith, or undermine what you are doing in others. I need you now!!!”)

Our passenger continued with a ton of questions.  He seemed genuine in his search for faith, and his analytical review of what he sees.  He doesn’t always understand what he sees, or hears. He is searching for truth, and wants to process everything and find neat and clean answers.

(another deep breath, and here goes) Well, there is a passage in the gospel of Luke that gives us a glimpse into the world of two different men who came to pray.  I think it might help to understand that we each come to God with different thoughts, from different places.

Luke 18:9-14New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Both men came to the temple to pray for vastly different reasons.  The Pharisee came to judge others, and justify his own life based on his perception of righteousness.  But the publican came humbled, yielded, broken and desperate for God’s mercy.

Prayer is no different today as it was then.  People come with different reasons.  Some come with an understanding that they are right before God because they are comparing themselves to others.  And they justify their belief with much word, loud speech, and a display of the contents of their theology for the world to hear.  Others come to God wanting only to know they are able to run to the refuge of a loving God who will accept them and forgive them.  No judging either action, but if we filter what we see through the passage in Luke we learn that God will judge this… and those who puff themselves up with a lot of words will be humbled, and those who are humbled will be exhaulted by God.  So its probably better to be humble, and not make long flowery speeches.

Yes, there are times when declaring the attributes of God is good… when giving voice to the truth of his promises move us to deeper faith.  And yes there are times when we can be silent before God.  Its often not what is said, but what lies under the words in the motives of our heart.  Only God knows the heart of a man.

Our passenger thanked me for the clarification.  I think he was relieved to know that he does not have to find himself waxing eloquent, or speaking the entire survey of theology when he talks to God.   Even though his questions were somewhat answered, I was still a bit unsettled.

When I got home I was eager to just get apart, find some quiet space and The word that the Lord was giving me in the still quietness last night is to be still, and not look at my brothers and sisters, but like the publican, to come to God simply, yielding this hot mess to his mighty hand.  Its not for me to determine what is going on in the hearts and minds of those around me.

“Lord, in your presence I rejoice that you accept this sinner, and call me to your salvation.  Take from me the propensity to judge others, to filter what i hear and see through my human logic.  And lord help me to never cause others to stumble.  I thank you that you have called us to live for you, to humbly present ourselves to your authority, and i thank you that you will sort out the details of the human experience.  Help me to always remember that judgement is your work, acceptance and mercy is mine.  May you build your church.  And may you teach us how to glorify you.”

What do you tell yourself about YOU?

princesswheely

In the quiet and privacy of your own space how would you describe yourself?

As young children we begin to shape our world and our view of ourselves by the words others speak of us.  We begin that crazy process of comparing ourselves to see how we fit in with others.  It always seems that we focus on negative aspects of our differences, rather than thanking God for the differences.  It is true of me.  Is it true of you?

As young children we don’t begin to speak harshly to ourselves, but as we grow  we can become so very critical of ourselves, and tell ourselves things we would never voice out loud to others. Hurtful things, judgmental things… words that do not breathe life, and hope and healing.

But God tells us that we are made in his image, wonderfully and fearfully designed, we are chosen, holy, blessed, made to reflect his Glory, made to shine.

“Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don’t compare yourself with others.” Galatians 6:4 (CEV)

Not only in the work you do, but how you look, dress, act, think.  Comparison is a slow drain of life, and a limiting of your capacity.  It is the enemy of our soul that delights when we choose look around, and try to measure up to others.  He knows this will disable us.  He knows we will draw defeating thoughts, and we will allow toxic thoughts to shut us down.    And the bible is clear that out of what is in our heart our mouth speaks, and our feet follow.

We can be like horses, putting on blinders so we cannot look to the right or left.  But that is not possible or practical.,

So what is the answer?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Phillipians 4:8

Weigh the thoughts you have against this passage and you will begin to see that the enemy works in opposition to the ways of God.

  • Does what i am thinking, hearing, sensing have truth to it?  If it does, take heed, but if it does not, cast it aside.
  • Is what i am thinking Noble?  That is to say, does it have or show fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals?  
  • Is it right?  We all have hardwired into our soul an insight into what is right and what is wrong.  And as believers the holy spirit is there to gently clarify this for us too.  Is the action, thought or behavior correct?  is it moral?  or does it break down morality and ethics in some way?  If it breaks down anything, cast it aside.
  • Is it pure? Like being right, pure indicates untaited by the pollution of the world, of corrupt thoughts, or of worldly ways.  Are your thoughts wholesome?  I think we have all encountered someone who speaks to get attention, but everything they say has a smarmy undertone, sexual inuendo,  or quiet disbelief.  Are your thoughts, actions and ways pure?  Not motivated by some hidden adjenda?
  • Is it lovely?  Does it bring up beauty, hopefulness, encouragement?
  • Is it admirable?  Does how you act, think, live make others want to have your life, or follow in your example?  I think of a friend going through cancer who shows such strength, and deep faith in God during this time.  If i am to compare, i want to have that kind of faith that will withstand the hurricane of cancer.
  • Is it excellent?  That implies thoughts and actions that are the best…. highest quality, and there is no better you can go.
  • Is it praiseworthy?  Do others want to give praise to god for you, because of your actions, thoughts, or choices in life?

So what if you went down the list and had things that don;t measure up?  What do you do with them?

1. Pray, confess them to God

2. Ask God to give you a different way of looking at it, thinking about it, or acting.

3. Change what you are exposed to.  I find when i watch too much TV i grow very critical of myself, and of all the shortcomings of us versus TV.  it is irrational, but i think we can all say that from early age peer pressure, and the idea of keeping up with the jones has been in operation.  I am asking God to break that pattern, but for me it means turning off the TV.It could be people, places or things that take you in wrong directions.

4. Allow God to flood your soul with his word.  Spend regular time with God daily.

5. Fill your heart and mind with God’s Word – Memorize a verse a week, or a passage a month.  Hiding the word of god in your soul will store up good things to think on, like deep cool water on thirsty days.

6. Listen to edifying things – whether music, tv, movies, or people, make a conscious choice to only allow good things into your soul.

7. Share encouraging things with others.  Reach out even when it is uncomfortable, and give what you have to others… often your kind words will be the only ones someone hears that day.

So I ask you today, how do you describe yourself?  Are you the daughter or son of a king, blessed, called, chosen, royal priesthood, bought with a precious price, treasures of grace, loved by the best?  I hope you realize this today.

What on earth?

War is real.  Yes, in Afghanistan there is still a war going on, but i am talking about right here and right now.

In this Christian life the more we yield to God, surrender our lives, yield the future, the present, or any area of this existance we need to know the enemy is right there.  He is a master of determining how to discourage, thwart, disable or destroy believers.  Yes, right here and right now he is probably telling you “ah, that might be exagerated”.  He is a liar.  He is defeated, and he knows his time is short, so he is going to strive to do as much damage as he can before the end comes.

So what can believers do to arm ourselves?

1. Read, Learn, Study and Grow in the knowledge of God’s word

2. Reflect always on the character of God – kind, loving, healer, redeemer, life giver, salvation, beginning and the end, the bright and morning star, the lamb, the good shepherd…. the list can go on  and on…. every name or title of Jesus is another aspect of how he cares and looks after his own.

3. Call every thought that opposes God out, and take it prisoner to Jesus Christ.  Thoughts are the place it all starts.  If it is not encouraging, edifying, or redeeming then it is in opposition to God – dont let it sink in, give it over to Jesus.

4. Speak scripture to each other.

5. By the authority of Jesus call out the lie, tell it to flee.

6. Find other believers to pray with, and be accountable to .

In military situations there are always a few people sent out together… buddy up… find other like minded believers to walk through this life together with.  Establish a trustworthiness, that you can share your heart without fear, and that you have each other’s heart and back in prayer before the father.

Until we get to heaven we will face battles, and the war can grow very palpable.  it is only when we share the fight together we can see Jesus defeat the enemy, and build his church.  We need each other – we need to be reminded daily we are not alone in this fight.

Unresolved toxin

 

 

chem

I have to tell you that one of the worst subjects i ever took was Chemistry.  I have always been fascinated by the sciences, and there was a love/hate of Chemistry.   It was not in my mindset to fully understand the complexity of this science. Thank God there are people skilled at it.

But one lesson i did remember clearly was that you just don;t assume that a clear liquid is harmless water.  There are many highly dangerous substances that look like water, have the same viscosity of water, and when put in a beaker next to that of water look absolutely indistinguishable.  The test is in how the substance reacts to various other things.  In the example the second beaker was not water, but a very toxic acid that would inflict severe and life threatening injuries to any surface it came in contact with apart from the laboratory glass it was held in.

Toxins like strong acids wear down, break down, and destroy what comes in contact with it.  Scarey stuff!  Again, another reason i probably ran the other way when it came to the hard sciences.

But this lesson was not taught to me in a science class.  It was an old preacher when i was a young believer.  He spoke of being a believer, and how important it was to live like life has changed since you found Jesus.  And knowing that our life before Christ was filled with plenty of areas that needed healing.  We enter this world in sin, and some of the first things kids express are selfish sinfulness.  Our little sin nature grows into a big sin nature with little assistance.  Small amounts of toxins grow into major sources of toxin.  We are all there.

Thanks be to God, who knows our hearts, and understands the toxins of sin that have polluted our soul.  His answer is the water of his Word, flushing out and diluting what was once harmful until it is no longer there.

The solution to pollution is dilution – flooding our souls with God’s Word daily, and even moment by moment as it is needed is the only answer.

As we take in God’s word we take in healing, life, and the wisdom for living rightly.  And as God’s word washes out and flushes our soul of the old ways of sin we can begin to see the plan God has for our life… to seek others who need his wisdom, healing, and the relief from the toxins of this life.

Tonight as i write i am thinking of situations where God has called people from very difficult and life threatening places, drawn by the love of God, and the hope of cleansing from sin.  These are heros  of the faith, people who have heard the soft whisper of the Lord through the toxic din of this world.  People who responded to the gentle prompting of God’s Spirit… and they have watched as their life changed… the shackles of addiction, of behaviors, of emotions, or bondage dropped to the floor, freeing them to move closer to Jesus.

And yet I think we can say that we have watched some people begin to respond to God’s gentle calling, but the world crowded in, pride injected big doses of hypnotic distraction, and rather than the shackles falling off, these people became shackle bearers, looking to fit others with leg irons, filtering how they see life not by the word of God, but by the word of their own heart.  Dare i say, their very toxic own heart.

The difference between the two is the presence of toxins.  Harboring toxins, sins that cling and bind to our soul, will ultimately destroy us.  Some toxic sin requires simple prayer to God for release.  And other sins require the help of counseling, faithful sisters and brothers in the Lord praying you through, speaking truth to the situation and accountability.

Just like the two beakers of clear liquid, you have to test people before you assume they are safe to take in.  The freedom seeking yielded christian will always offer supportive encouragement.  They will look for ways to encourage, share their hope, and help people to find the great freedom that the Lord gave them.  While the  surface christian will look good, and try to do good, the toxins unresolved in their heart will leak out.  For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  They will not be able to contain the deep wells of toxin from affecting those around them.

So which beaker are you today?  The refreshing cool beaker of water?  or the highly deadly one of toxic acid, destroying everything it touches?

My prayer is that you are a life giving, spirit filled, yielded, living epistle of God’s saving grace, washed with God’s word, allowing it to fill and dilute every nook and cranny of your soul until you find an overflow calling you to look outward, and encourage others.

And if you find yourself wrestling with wells of unresolved toxin:

1. Spend some quiet time with the lord, turn off the TV, computer, cell phone, etc and open your bible, and pray.

2. Examine your heart.   Ask God to show you how you are, and what needs to be yielded to him.

3. Confess

4. Accept God’s deep and refreshing forgiveness

5. Allow God to begin to fill you with his word.  Take time daily for his word, for worship, and for encouragement from his people

6. Find a believer you  respect and ask them to mentor you.

 

Lord, Thank you that you are the living water, the water that quenches my thirsty soul.  You are the source of life , the healer, the deliverer.  In you is health and life and hope.  Thank you that your very word, breathed by God, speaks life to my soul, washes me of the toxins of sin, and shows me a better way to live.  I thank you for the promise that you will never leave me nor forsake me.  And today I lift up every Christian who has been called to you. May you strengthen them that they grow strong, warriors for you, oaks of righteousness for their God, a planting of the Lord for his Glory.  Keep them strong. Keep the devil far from them.  And grant through your spirit that the world will hear the good news of Jesus through their life, their witness, their hunger to share you.

And lord, i pray for those who are surface christians.  I ask you to meet them in their place of need, even if they dont realize their need.  Break through the muck and mire of toxicness and flood their souls with your refreshing, life giving water.  Cleanse the toxins, and breathe life to their souls that they too may live rightly, love deeply, and reach many for the Glory of Jesus Christ.

Amen

Glorious Day!

resur

Resurrection Sunday is here.  And we are the most blessed of all humans, to know the truth of the glorious love of our Savior, the willingness to endure the cruelty of humanity, and to lay his life down to pay for our sin. To be willing to lay aside his powers as God Almighty, and inhabit a tent of flesh, to live among us, and to understand our sorrows.

This is a glorious day. The tomb is still empty, and Jesus stands victorious over death and the grave.

Let us relish this day with great joy. Sing a bit louder, love a bit deeper and worship him with a lot more zeal.

Christ is risen, and our debt of sin is paid.
Christ is risen, and death is defeated.
Hallelujah! He is risen indeed.