..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

It's Easy to Hear God

Did you know that it's easy to hear God? I'll bet that surprised you since you might not think so. I've encouraged my home group to write down a few things they have been seeking God about but with the expectation and the proclamation that it's easy to hear God and that they will obey when they hear.
A few weeks ago I was praying at the altar at church and God showed me that He clearly speaks to me but that I then take what He says and kind of put it through a test, passing it back and forth between "yes, I think its God" and "no, I'm not sure." I then run it through some kind of spiritual counterfeit machine and then i wait to see how i feel about it! All so that I can be sure I'm "hearing God" and not the voice of my own soul or the voice of the enemy. You could say its me trying to be careful and it is but it really ends up being kind of an insult to God and my relationship with Him.
What if you did that with your closest friends? What if they said something to you and you said, "Be right back, I've got to figure out if its really you saying this. " For the most part we know what our closest friends would say in any given situation, so why don't we feel confident in trusting that we can hear God? Do we know Him that well? If not, His Word is calling to be read and known! "His sheep hear His Voice, the voice of another they will not hearken to!"
Are we trusting the part of us that is flesh and wants its own way more than the part of us that loves God and is born of His Spirit and wants to hear God, indeed lives on every word that God speaks?
What if our daily proclamation was "I easily hear and confidently obey what God speaks to me!" I dare you to try this. You see, what happens is that we get so bogged down into questioning the hearing that we do not end up doing much at all. You would soon find out that if the enemy of our soul knows that you are going to act on what God says then he will no longer be able to use this stalling tactic on you.
Do you think Jesus had a hard time knowing the will of God? He said, "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing" (John 5:19)... It was easy because it was his first and only priority! Any hindrance was pushed out of the way. He HAD to hear what His Father was saying.
Will you occasionally get it wrong because of your humanity? It is a possibility, but a self-correcting one. Isaiah writes, "If you go the wrong way—to the right or to the left—you will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the right way. ·You should go this way" (Isaiah 30:21). And the thing is one thing has changed to make it even easier since Isaiah's day: now that Voice is within you if you are a believer! Obviously, the voice of God never tells you to do anything contrary to the Word of God. God is not going to tell us to hurt someone, to hurt ourselves, to go against His commandments, to act against the nature of who God is, etc.
When we live to do the will of God, we will know very quickly when we have gone off the path because the Holy Spirit, in our spirit, will warn us. "Danger! Will Robinson, Danger!" God wants us to tighten up our ability to not only hear God but to obey Him in this hour. Please start to walk in the place where you expect to hear God easily "for as many are led by the Spirit of God are the sons and daughters of God" (Romans 8:14) and "all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory" (2 Corinthians 1:20).
God is speaking clearly today, have a listen! and then obey!
P.S. I hear God saying that someone will read this and think they are so far away from hearing God. OK, so, no matter where you are at, how far away you feel from being able to hear God's voice, if you will ask Him, you will know the next simple step you must take. That is all you need. Take that step, and the next one will be given to you. Step by step, we can walk out of the darkness into light.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Nurturing Your Circle of Influence as Spiritual Parents and Grandparents

In our older years we can have much to give as spiritual parents or grandparents in the faith.  Perhaps we have a bit more time as we retire, or perhaps our priorities in using our time change.  The thing we can offer our circle of influence, especially those younger than us, is the wisdom learned from hard won lessons, but, more importantly, the loving presence that only comes with being able to nurture others with the same nurture that God has loved and nurtured you with.

There is a role of nurture and influence that no one can take from us in our older years if we remain faithful to God. There is a substantial dearth in the church for seasoned mothers and father in the faith who model the characteristics of Jesus. Or perhaps they are just a sleeping army! You can step forward and help fill that vacuum!  

Paul writes, "though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have become your father through the gospel" (1 Cor 4:15). Paul recognizes that many people can teach you things about Jesus, but not that many can protect, watch over, and make you feel the safety that a Father’s love gives.  We get that sense of how to father (and mother) from having been fathered by God throughout our lives. 

We know that people don’t just need truth, they need to feel our compassion, they need someone to bind up the scrapes, someone to cry with and run to when the way seems lost and hopeless.  They need a strong figure that they can watch when it feels like they are drowning: one that stands head and shoulders above the storm and are themselves, watching and being Fathered by God.  They need someone whose gives them the reassurance of a loving gaze when they feel lost or incapable. These love subtleties we simply do not have when we are younger.

 Do you remember Radar O’Reilly, the company clerk from MASH? He knew exactly what was needed by some kind of “intuitive” radar. That kind of radar takes awhile to grow in us.

So you can see how rare and how precious being a spiritual father and mother is.  This does not
come in our youth--it blossoms, if it is going to blossom, in later decades.  You can be an outstanding example, a brother, a sister, but you can not be a father or mother, even a grandparent in the faith, until at least a few grey hairs show!

Jesus said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” (Luke 13:18,19).  Be a place that is safe enough for “birds” to decide that it is a wonderful place to raise their young! Be a place where people can come in out of the world and stand under your branches and be sheltered. Be like a tree, firmly planted, that stays in its place for decade upon decade, giving shade in the summer and steadfast beauty in all seasons.

I can remember being a very young believer who felt she knew virtually nothing about God. An older couple, who lived near me, who had been Christians for decades upon decades, would give me a ride to church. I was thrilled because I saw the value of being mentored by someone who had been a believer for a long while and hoped they would mentor me. Unfortunately, these dear people had not been taught and encouraged to do that and thus my young heart went without their nurture.  

So I am encouraging you, decades later, to be that person to the younger people God will bring to you. Notice people. Ask about them, Check in on them. Be a safe place for them. Listen to their fears, encourage their dreams. Bring soup to them when they are sick. Rejoice with them when they win!  Tell them, humbly,  how you pray but more importantly why you pray. Be real. Be transparent. Tell them that our Father in always there and will always be there and you know that for sure. Lots of people are falling through the cracks, lots of young people have absolutely no knowledge of God and no one to show them the way. Watch over the flock of God in such a way that others feel the Father’s love flowing through your bespectacled eyes, and your wrinkled hands.

God will love it. So will you.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Waiting for Resurrection

Our life with God is in the process of growing: there is a tension between the now and the “not yet.” While the plan for who He meant us to be was in the mind and heart of God before we were conceived, the living out of that destiny takes place, here on earth, through a process of time and trust.

 On this day, Holy Saturday as the liturgical church calls it, Jesus is in a place of utter waiting and trust on God to resurrect Him. As a man He did not have the power to resurrect Himself, He had to wait for His Father. So likewise, we cannot bring life to ourselves but must surrender to God, knowing that His love for us will not forget us, will not abandon us, will not hurt us, but will bring us to a higher life than we have known. This is not a hopeful truism, but a living truth!

 Jesus understands waiting in trust for God to bring life and resurrection. He understands the vulnerability of waiting in hope, and trusting in faith. Today we can all say that there is something within us that is giving place, perhaps in fits and starts, to who we are yet to become. The sons and daughters of God are being revealed. The life of God is welling up within us ready to bud forth new things that will glorify and reflect God’s nature in us.

 Ponder happily that this day signifies that we are moving from the valley of the shadow of death to our rightful place beneath the shadow of His wings! So let us surrender ourselves into the hands of our Father. Though we be in an “in-between” place, a place of almost there but not yet, we know that “He who has begun a good work in us will continue to carry it through to completion in Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6) Look to your Father and to your Saviour!

Resurrection awaits!


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Stepping it Up a Notch at 60

 “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:12-14) 

While we are eternal beings in an ultimately real sense, we are also mortals while on this earth. The Psalmist tells us to “number our days” that we might gain perspective of how short earthly life is compared to eternity, and how imperative it is that our earthly sojourn count much for the eternal kingdom of God.

 A couple of us at Women of the Word are turning 60 this year! With that comes a soberness of heart that causes us to turn to the Lord, and implore Him to use us as He wills. There can be nothing held back from Him in this hour. As our bodies age, our spirit can burn every more brightly because we identify with our Lord and understand His purposes and ways in an even greater way. The desire and pursuits of earlier decades give way to increasingly wholehearted and unreserved abandon to our God and His passionate work to win all peoples to Himself.

 There are some things that can not be completely done when we are young because we do not yet have the experience. Maturity in God happens over the course of decades-- line upon line of faithful walking with God, day in and day out, through the many storms of life. While youth has energy, the seasoned have come to know that of themselves, they can do nothing and their self-trust has given way to trust in God alone, or at least a deeper understanding of that. There are no shortcuts to some things. Knowing where you end, and where God begins is a great wisdom.

 Paul writes, “Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. 4 And endurance develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character produces joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. While we were yet in weakness [powerless to help ourselves], at the fitting time Christ died for us in our ungodly condition Romans 5:3-6 Amplified).

By the time we turn 60, our character is soberingly starting to show itself for what it is. Now is our wake-up call to be awake, and surrendered, and fit for the Master’s use. For if not now, when? If we have not taken the claims of Jesus upon our life seriously, we had best get down on our knees. And if we have, there are always deeper, more wonderful depths to plumb.

I feel that I am only getting to the starting line and I have endeavored to run the race with sobriety for these many decades! God views our life from the finish point. He stands at our finish line and beckons us to run well, run with abandon, run with character, run with grace. So let us do that, with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. There is no time to lose, and no time like the present to press into God.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Truth in Another Direction

Day to day, week to week, month to month or even year to year, our beliefs can remain fixed in a certain ways.  We "believe" things because that is what we were raised with, what we feel life has taught us, or that is what our family or church has taught us.  We form our lives around those beliefs but I can guarantee you that they are incomplete, and being incomplete, they distort and limit.

I hate to tell  you this, but your beliefs about God are currently constrained by what you think you know. What you know may be true, but it is incomplete or your experience of it is incomplete. Paul writes, "we see through a glass darkly" 1 Cor 13:12.  When Jesus spoke with and taught people you will notice that He was always telling parables that would interrupt old patterns of thinking so that His Truth could find a way in. He knew that He had to overcome the layers, and to be so bold, the lies, of what people had been taught about God.  Let me tell you a secret: Jesus is still doing that with you right now!

For all the truth that you have, there is truth to be found in the opposite direction.  If you dwell in the truth, the good and beautiful truth that God is love, then one day God will take you into the fields were He hates (Proverbs 16:6-9) and makes war (Ex 15:3) (Matthew 21:12-17) all with good reason.  There are untold facets of God that we will miss if we live in the shallows.  We tend to settle into those places, into those beliefs, into those verses, that we are comfortable with: but God loves us enough to hate that!  He wants to show us that He is the I AM. That He is beyond our categories and our current thoughts  about Him.  In the Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis writes this:

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”  

Do feel both alarmed and comforted when one day, perhaps  this day,  you hear roaring coming from the back of your wardrobe. It is God coming to take you into truth in a seemingly opposite direction.  It is God coming to show you the fullness of who He is.  He is not safe, but He is good.  Prepare for take-off.>

Monday, January 01, 2018

Thoughts as the Old Passes into the New

It has been an interesting year.  Somewhere along the line  I felt like I have fallen through the back of my wardrobe into a landscape much wilder than Narnia. The prophet Isaiah, had a year like that, only I imagine it was even more intense, "In the year King Uzziah died, he writes, I saw the Lord high and lifted up and  His train filled the temple." (Isaiah 6:1) .  His look at God spun him around and threw him to the floor. There was nothing much left of him but his eyes and his ears.

A seraphim approaches him and puts a burning coal on his lips, and while this purges him, it makes him aware that his speech does not do God justice. And all that he hears spoken around him and by him falls far short of the glory of God. His own lips are not prepared to be in the Presence of God.  And yet, he sees God and God sees him and his response is to want to speak purely of God and for God.

I'm not sure what I've seen this year, but its like having spent a long time climbing to a top of a very tall mountain, a mountain that has to be climbed with trepidation, step by step, and takes all of your attention so that you cannot look around til you reach the summit. And then, the last step, as you stand and look to survey what you have climbed up there for,  is one vast, immense panorama of incredible splendor and beauty and order and wonder as far as the eye can see. Yes, that's where I've been. 

To have a place to stand and see oneself in perspective is an INCREDIBLE gift. One that has blown me away to the degree that I have dared to look. There are things in life that tend to close down our vision of God and ourselves. We end up with a kind of a tunnel vision born of fear. We can only see a small section of the path straight ahead and sometimes that is all we need to see, but there are also times when the blinder's come off and we are allowed to see the whole panorama, all of it at once, for God only knows entirely why, but definitely for a reason connected with one's destiny.

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting the Isle of Man. I don't know who named it that, but on the ground it's beautiful but normal.  It's Man. It's what born of man, and belongs to man, and is of man: just like so much of our experience. There is a mountain peak on the Isle called Snaefell. Its the only place on the island where you can see seven kingdoms just by turning around : England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Mann, the Sea, and Heaven! To see the panorama from the top is to somehow change you, to pull you out of Man and to bring you up to a higher place.

I'm acclimating to the higher place, I'm acclimating to the great expanse of Heaven, to the Kingdom of God unfolding in ways that I could not see a year ago.  I'm acclimating to being mostly only eyes and ears, and having angels touch my lips with coals, and seeing the train of God's glory fill the temple.  If you know what I'm saying, you have been there, and if you don't quite know what I'm saying, I'm not sure I can explain it.

I intend to let whatever is happening have its full work! I intend to stand and breath in the thick smoke of God filling the temple. I intend to let God change me and use me in whatever way He chooses. I intend for 2018 to be an amazing year. Lord, make Your dwelling place in me as I make myself a fit dwelling place for You!  

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Leadership Lessons from Return of the Jedi

I'm going to post a few notes each day about what I learned about leadership from Return of the Jedi. *Spoiler Alert*

 The first one is this: Good leaders, even if they have fallen out of the saddle, and retreated to sort things out, are willing to get back up on their horse and lead when the time is ready.

 The older Luke Skywalker is found hidden away, far from the madd'ing crowd, on an island far from society. Ironically, in real life, the site where they filmed Skywalker's hermitage is Skellig Michael, one of the earliest monastic locations in Ireland. You had to be brave to live there but you went there to get away from the world and focus on God. It was for extreme seekers. You had to know how to dig deep to make it there. Luke Skywalker had long retreated from the public eye. He's tried to forget that he's gifted. He's tormented by his failure. When Rey comes and starts to feel the Force, she stares at him boldly and says, "but I couldn't feel you in it, you've cut yourself off from it, haven't you!?"

Luke knows that being on the razor edge of fighting for good puts you up close to bad, and that you can lose your balance. But he has cut himself off from the Source of his life. He is trying, like the prophet Jonah, to run from his call and bury his gift. Good leaders deal with the mess of sorting this out in their own lives. Sometimes it takes time. Working through the process of failure is what makes them good at leading when they get back up! Good leaders acknowledge that spiritual battle has real dangers and work through it. It makes them more aware of their need for God. Good leaders don't go forward in their own power, they know when to retreat, but they also know when its time to rise back up.

Sometimes they need help, a mentor like Yoda, or a reason to do it, like the young Jedi warrior Rey showing up on his proverbial stone doorstep asking for help. Rey knows she has a gift, but she needs "someone to show me my place in all this." We all need that methinks. We don't care that you've failed, we want you to use what you have to help us because if we have come asking for help we recognize that you still know more than we do--even when you have failed. If your heart is right, you get past the failure, learn from it and become a better warrior, even a mentor. If it's not, you die on the island alone and let the world fall into the hands of the enemy.