Who Told You?

I’ve blogged on this subject before in different ways, but as faithfully as I add cream and sugar to my coffee every morning, the principles of what I am writing about, I add to my life almost daily, and I wanted to share them with you.

Life is 5% about what happens to you, and 95% about how you interpret what happened to you. (I just made up that statistic). Out of how you interpret the events of your life flow your actions. Your responses to life flow out of what you believe to be true about your circumstances, and what you believe to be true about the resources you have to overcome them.

Life happens. Daily. Events, story lines, tragedies, triumphs, and blank stares happen to us on a regular basis, and we are quickly swept up in the narratives. Without time to process or think through everything, we move ahead, or backwards in our lives in familiar directions for the sake of ease, and when we find ourselves stuck, or in a rut, or unable to move forward, this is where these three principles began to ask me questions.

In Genesis chapter 3:1-11 we read the story of the first sin. Adam and Eve, (who had every right to think to themselves, “We are the only ones here, what does it matter what we do? It’s not like we are hurting anyone.”) disobeyed God and ate from the tree he told them not to eat from. Up until this moment, their narratives of life were interpreted through the lens of a good God who spoke with them daily, walked with them, and taught them everything they needed to know. Their “Resource” for life was unlimited, so no challenge was to great, and no questions nagged as doubts, until the introduction of another “voice”–Satan himself.

The introduction of the voice of Satan now created a new line of thinking…doubts. Lots of them. That doubt led to action–the sin. That sin led to another voice–theirs, but not the voice they communicated with God with before that was full of trust, expectancy, and delight, but a new voice that looked at their nakedness, their insufficiencies, their guilt, and clothed them with shame. And so they hid.

Have you ever been there? Hiding?

You are no longer answering the phone calls, replying to the texts, showing up to events you are invited to, making excuses as to why you can’t “get together” with people, spending more time in bed and solitude than usual?

This is where the first question of God to Adam and Eve comes to rouse me. “Where are you?”

Stop and allow God to ask this question of you right now. “Where are you?” Are you hiding? Are you making excuses? Are you hedging, fudging, hinting but not communicating? Are you disconnecting? Are you reaching for an addiction to numb yourself?

When you have finally answered that question with, “I am hiding”, the second question comes to unravel the secret.  “Who told you?”

God asks Adam and Eve “Who told you you were naked?”

You see, discerning the voices that drive our decisions is critical if we are going to come out of our hiding and into fellowship. “Who told you?” becomes the litmus test for truth, and gives us the ability to evaluate the voices and their validity in our lives. Even if the voice we are listening to has been in our head for years, (childhood memories, parents, school friends/foes, siblings), we still need to pull the narratives out into the light, and with them in full sight answer God’s question.

Once I have answered that question, I ask one final question of my narrative and situation, “Is this something God would say to me?” And if the answer is “no”, then I need to go to God to get His narrative. I go to scripture.

When I say I apply these principles almost daily, I am not exaggerating. It is something I have to make a part of my life to keep me moving in the direction of God’s goodness. It’s the means by which I access his reservoire of help and resource and hope for my life. It’s how I retrain my soul to hear His voice above all other voices, and make courageous decisions with His help. Faith comes by “hearing” His voice, and through the Word of God we “hear”. (Romans 10:17) Then faith is walked out by trusting that voice, and depending entirely upon His resources to take each step.

If you are in need of tools and life principles to help move you from a place of being stuck, I would like to offer these three questions to get you started. Make it a daily practice and begin to learn how to differentiate the “voices” in your head. What they tell you will determine your outlook, and your outlook will determine your actions.

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Memoires of His Presence

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Nine months ago, I stood in the room of 150 international, evangelism students in Orlando, Florida gathered to hear the Word of God and to join together in worship. In one of the sessions we began singing “I Exalt Thee”. Tears ran down my face like they did when I was nine years old standing in the front row of the church I grew up in as “Living Sound”, a ministry of Don Moen and Terry Law, led our congregation in worship with the same song. I felt the faithfulness of God who has carried me all of these years as I stood singing. My mind began to wander back…

All of these years…

I gave my heart to Jesus when I was five years old. My children’s pastor held a special crusade for kids and preached to us about eternity. About heaven, hell, God, Satan, the blood of Jesus and the forgiveness of our sin. I knew then that I wanted to spend eternity with God and that in order for me to do that, I needed to accept His Son Jesus, and have Him come into my heart and be the Lord of my Life. I was five. I went forward to receive Jesus in my heart, and I never looked back.

I can’t remember a day that I did not love the Lord. I can’t remember a day as a child when I wondered if He really loved me. I blogged before about my home life as a young girl, so you have got to know that life was not lovely for me or my family. I cried out to God at the altars of our church (which were the carpeted stairs leading up to the platform) when they would open them up for prayer. I prayed alot as a kid. The smell of carpet became the familiar place I would return to again and again as a child, and throughout my lifetime. I felt God meet me at those altars, and assure me of His love and hope for me. The presence of God became so precious to me even then. He saw me, He heard me, He answered me.

I was nine when “John Jacobs and the Power Team” came to my church to perform stunts of human strength, and preach the gospel. In the midst of muscular men breaking bricks with their heads, and blowing up hot water bottles until they burst, they spoke about the grace and forgiveness of God, and about the Holy Spirit whom God sent to empower us and baptize us with a fiery zeal to accomplish God’s purposes.

It was a Thursday night, and the promise was, after the “Power Team” concluded their presentations, anyone who wanted to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit could gather in the room behind the sanctuary, and John Jacobs would pray with us to receive what God had given in Acts chapter 2 of the Bible. I was quick to join the group that formed in that room.

John read to us out of the Book of Acts, how the disciples were gathered together in a room waiting for the Promised Holy Spirit that Jesus told them about who would “endue them with power from on high”. How there was a sound “as of a mighty rushing wind that filled the house where they were seated, and flaming tongues of fire descended on each one, and they were baptized in the Holy Ghost and began speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4). He told us, like Peter said, in Acts 2:39 “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

No one layed hands on me. I wasn’t sprinkled with anything, or given a list of requirements. This baptism was a gift from God, just like salvation is a gift, and all I needed to do was receive it. We lifted our hands in prayer and asked the Lord to baptize us with His Holy Spirit, and we began to worship. “Halleluia! Halleluia! Halleluia!” And soon my “Halleluia’s” became words I did not recognize, as I wept again in a strong presence of the Lord as the Holy Spirit baptized me and spoke through me in an unknown tongue. I was nine years old.

I knew what it was like to feel like I was in the presence of God as a child, but this Baptism in the Holy Spirit let me know what it felt like to have God’s presence inside of me. It was glorious! The scripture came alive that the “Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.”(Romans 8:26) I understood what it meant to have the Holy Spirit praying through me. Suddenly my prayer life took on a new dimension. When I didn’t know what to pray for, I would ask the Holy Spirit to pray through me and I would lift my voice in the language God gave me that night in the room behind the sanctuary where I gathered with other believers to receive that Baptism. It was a baptism that has marked my life. I understood that God lived in me. I began to see that God moves through me, and that God has committed Himself to me for the rest of my life–into life everlasting. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

I have been growing in this relationship with the Lord all of my life. I am 43 now. I know Who lives in me. I know What I carry. I know the Power at work within me, and the authority I have to bring God’s presence into any room. That is my honor, and that is His Glory. I will live to make Him known.

As we lifted our voices singing “I Exalt Thee” in that room in Orlando, Florida, I stood in God’s presence once again, and thanked Him for the heritage of faith He built in me, and for the joy and pleasure of serving Him with my whole life. I can’t think of anything sweeter on earth than His Presence, and I want to introduce you to Him too.

 

The Weeping

All I know is that I am to run to Mercy and take as many people as I can with me.

I was only 12 or 13 years old when the couple that I regularly babysat for were called to the mission field. He was a night stocker of groceries at the local grocery chain and slept during the days, and she worked at a local bank during daytime business hours.

They lived in a modest house in my hometown, and both worked hard to make ends meet and build their new life as a now family of four. I never asked them about their “American Dreams”, but perhaps that doesn’t matter, because I instead saw what happens to a person when God gives them a dream. They weep.

Their “Call” came through an introduction to a foreign nation to a foreign people by a missionary. This missionary shared his heart. He shared his love for his people. And my friends, Steve and Andrea were gripped to the core with a knowing that those people in Thailand, were to be “their” people and they were to sell all they had and move to Thailand.

I don’t know if I’d ever seen a grown man cry like Steve cried. His 6 foot, 6 inch frame would shake and tears would fall as the love for the people God had just put on their hearts began to grow and enlarge their capacity. His wife Andrea also was so overcome by the pulling of her heart to this nation they had never lived in, and people they did not yet fully know, and she would cry as one waiting to be reuinited with her family.

They began to ask, “How long do we need to continue to remain in America when God had clearly moved our hearts to Thailand?” They cried out for Thailand in their prayers. They spent their meal times fasting and praying for this thing that God had called them to. And in doing all of this, I watched them change before my eyes.

When they sold their home and temporarily moved in to an old farm house in a remote part of the area they discovered that it was infested with insects due to its long tenure without tenants. This home gave them more opportunity to save more money towards their mission goal, and as Andrea would smash spiders in the house, and chase off garter snakes, she would say, “I’m training for Thailand!”

The “Call” of God on a person’s life begins to change them. His desires become the gloves that the hands of the one “called” fit into. His heartbeat is the One that they hear when they lay their head down on the pillow at night. His longing for His people becomes the ache and the tears that run down the faces of those who have said, “Yes, I will go.” And suddenly their everyday life seems to lose focus, and the opportunity to share in the harvest of what God is doing begins to take shape as the only life worth living.

I am in that ache.

I weep more often. I find myself wishing for more time in prayer. I feel His call on my life, and it stirs in me like nothing else can.

My whole life has revolved around ministry since I was a small child. I love the Lord. I love being in His service. I love His church (with all her messes), and I love His servants whom I have had the privilege of joining the yoke with in many countries, states, and cities. And yet…

God spoke to me last Spring and told me to clear my calendar in order to learn some things He wanted to teach me. Not fully knowing what was in store, I answered “yes”, to some events that God used to shift my heart and renew my purpose. I wrote about them in earlier blogs.

I attended “Azusa Now” in Los Angeles, California in April and joined with over 65k people in prayer and intercession for our nation. A month later, I attended Reinhard Bonnke’s School of Evangelism, and have been weeping ever since. If you’ve forgotten about how good the news is that the Gospel brings, listen to Reinhard Bonnke preach on the “Jesus and the Adulterous Woman“, and like Paul Manwaring says, “You will fall in love with the Gospel all over again.”

God is renewing His call to me to the harvest fields. To the unsaved who need to know Him, who need to hear Him and who need Mercy and Grace to meet them right where they are. So right now I am in the season of weeping as the “Call” of God becomes formed in me. As I wait for my mission to match my commission, I weep, and pray, and fast.

If you find that my eyes puddle with tears more than they used to, all I can say is “God is forming me, and breaking my heart with the things that break His.” All I know is I am to run to mercy and take as many people as I can with me.

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Conviction vs. Condemnation

The voices are distinguishable if you ask this question: “Which of these voices is offering me hope?”

img_0633When the voices in your head tell you that you can never change, that you will always be “this way”, and that it is not worth trying to change, you are under the influence of condemnation. Condemnation offers no hope, only escapes. But the escapes it offers you you will need to seek rehab to later get free from, because the escapes are not actually a free pass from your pain or trouble, but rather an open prison door inviting you in, until the door slams shut. If you are an addict, you are likely talked to often by the voice of condemnation.

Condemnation reviews your history. All of your mistakes and shortcomings are paraded before you. Every negative word spoken against you or by you becomes the narrative that will now loop in your head like a seige. And if your history isn’t enough, condemnation will drum up your family history. “Remember Uncle Ralph was an addict and mentally unstable. Your dad was a workaholic and your sister ran away at 13 years old….” Condemnation spins its web of futility until you feel that you are destined to be trapped in a mind and body that wars against you and you will never break free.

What then is conviction like?

Conviction is the voice of the Holy Spirit that shines a light on the wrong that we are stumbling in. His voice sounds like hope. It sees us in our trouble and points us to the remedy. “Forgive that person. Turn off that website. Walk away from that argument. Call someone to pray for you. Follow through on your promises. I will help you.”

The voice of conviction never points out a wrong without offering a hope that things can change. It says, “Yes, I see you are drinking again trying to drown your pain, but I have a better solution for you and it includes me walking with you through your pain to the other side. I can redeem all of your lost years and your broken promises. I can give you a new heart, and work all things together for good.”

Conviction does not bring up past wrongs, especially if you have already been forgiven of those. God says He throws our sins into the “Sea of Forgetfulness” when we ask Him for forgiveness. The record is blotted out, and He does not see them anymore. So He will not bring them up. Nor does He use your family tree as a weapon against your hope and future, but, instead, strengthens you to become a new branch that bears fruit, that puts down new roots, and has the potential to create brand new orchards that grow strong and fruitful.

The voices are distinguishable if you ask this question: “Which of these voices is offering me hope?”

 

The “We”

Who is responsible for the condition our nation is in? The anger, vitriol, fear, and war-mongering ideas have now saturated every part of our nation’s fiber so that even our neighbors are looking over their shoulders to be sure they are not a target of the ideologies of their angry “friends”. I believe we have reached a tipping point.

Before you begin to tell me of the corrupt governments, greedy political parties, derelict leadership, and eroding values; before you offer as evidence the quotes, sound-bytes and public statements of candidates, agencies, and major corporations, would you do me a favor? Would you pause and consider these words from scripture?

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (Emphasis mine)

Before you unfriend that person on Facebook who has opposite views from yours, and before you accuse others of not “being able to handle the truth”, Would you pause and pray this prayer with Daniel, and with me:

Daniel 9:1-19
In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes[a] (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (Emphasis mine)

Now together, the “we” of this nation, with the stones dropped from our hands, as Jesus writes in the sand of our generation, let’s join the “sinner” at the feet of Jesus. Let’s run to mercy.Three crosses

 

All scripture from the NIV version of the Bible

Thank…

I picked up my cell phone, pushed the home button and said, “Text ‘So and So’.”

Siri responded, “What would you like to say to ‘So and So’?”

I began to articulate my message then paused and waited for Siri to respond.

“Would you like me to send, cancel or edit this text?” Siri asked me.

“Send.” I replied.

“Sending now.” Siri responded.

“Thank yo….” I began to say. Then I stopped myself.

It’s habit for me. A good habit–to be thankful when a task has been performed for me or if I have received assistance from someone. I want to convey my gratitude, and I want it to be received. Often, if I am thanking a person and they do not hear me, I will repeat myself to let them know I am thankful, and that their efforts meant something to me. But what does Siri do with my appreciation?

What about the act of “mindfulness” where we say what we are thankful for and try to appreciate feelings of gratitude? Who is receiving the thanks? siri

If all of life is energy–space+chance+time, and there is no ultimate reality, then my gratitude is an offering to a universe that does not care that I am here, nor did it plan my existence. The act of thankfulness to the universe becomes an empty action devoid of ultimate meaning.  Giving thanks to Siri for sending a text for me amounts to nothing, as there is nothing really meaningful received by Siri or appreciated. Giving thanks is a good practice, but just an empty exercise if there is no recipient.

It seems that we have plenty to be thankful for, but have no one to be thankful to.

One of the beautiful things about humanity is that we are capable of giving and receiving love, thanks, and appreciation. We are wired that way. We excel when we are loved and appreciated, and we deteriorate and languish when we are not loved, or noticed for who we are and the things we do. This is the Image of God stamped into each one of us. It reflects His design and character. When we give and receive love and appreciation, we develop relationships, and out of those relationships flow the most meaningful issues of life.

Thankfulness at its core declares intrinsic value. It is an acknowledgement that the deed performed was understood and recieved as a gift from the one who gave it, thereby stating that the one who gave it has value, and that their gift in some way added value to our lives by our receiving it.

The act of thankfulness is another reason I believe there is a God. The fact that I can recognize the value in another person tells me that people are created with intrinsic value. And if people have intrinsic value, it would have to be because there is a  God who both planned us, loves us,  and cares very much about our existence. He pours out His blessings on purpose, and we in turn “well up” with thankfulness. When we aren’t tossing up words to the space/time continuum, but to a Person–to God, relationship forms. And in a relationship with God we find our deepest meaning and purpose. It is then that we are able to see the beauty and value of those around us He has made in His image, and our gratitude finds a place to both be anchored and freely given.

 

 

God Without a Doubt

I first noticed it in the story of Job. Job is a book of the Bible in the Old Testament that tells us the behind the scenes moments in the life of a man who lived righteously and whose integrity was impeccable, and was the victim of a nefarious plot from Satan himself.

Job 2:2-10

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

6 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Did you see it? Look how God speaks about Job. God describes him to Satan as a blameless and upright man who fears God, shuns evil and maintains his integrity. Not only does God accurately describe the character of Job, He speaks as a God who has no doubts about Job. While Satan is looking for the loophole, for the weakness in Job’s character to bring him down, God has a confidence in Job that no one could shake, not even Satan.

From the life stories of Moses, Gideon, Esther, David, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and the disciples of Jesus comes a recurring theme of a God who has no doubts about the ones He chooses, or whether or not they will succeed in the thing He is calling them to. We hear these people doubting all over the place, sometimes even pretending they have nothing to do with God (Peter for example), and yet God has an unwavering confidence.

I so want to look at each of these people and say “God chose them because of this or that, like their righteousness,” as in Job’s case, but more often I see the reason God chose these people is that He looks for people who will put all of their confidence in His abilities. Because God has unswerving confidence in His own abilities, God chooses people He can transform, who are willling to be positioned in uncomfortable places and lean in to Him with all of their might. These men and women are unstoppable in God’s purposes. And He never doubts them.

There is a lyric to a song that has grabbed my heart these past months called “Mercy“by Amanda Cook, and Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger, and it says this: “Oh Love, Great Love, fear cannot be found in you, and there will never be a day You are uncertain of the ones You choose.” I mulled these lyrics over and over in my head. “there will never be a day You are uncertain of the ones You choose.” These words are true. I see them throughout scripture from the Old Testament to the New.

Jude, a brother of Jesus ends his book in the Bible with this Doxology:

Jude 24-25
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

To Him who is able!! Because of God’s unfailing ability to always do the right thing, because God has committed Himself to you and your eternity when you put your trust in Him, because He is not limited in power, potential, mercy, grace, strength, and vision, and because He loves you, He has no doubts about you, He is able to present you before His glorious presence without fault, and with great joy!!

Have you considered His Credentials? Meditate on a God who has full confidence in His own abilities. Think about how God enjoys sharing His victories with us by inviting us into His plans and purposes. Lean in to His strength, and power. And put your full confidence in this God without a doubt!

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Photo credit: Bethany Morris (c)2016