Is That You?

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The sudden slapping sound of metal on metal made by the tumblers in the door lock broke the empty silence and her eyes opened.

Covered by blankets and the heavy darkness her breathing goes shallow to listen more intently. Her mind sorts through scenarios, and then if only to satisfy her anxious internal voice and quiet her fears she calls out in a voice just loud enough to be heard…

Is that you?

Practically every married couples lived out this scenario or some version of it and at times our relationship with the Heavenly Father is also this way. We’ve been together a long time,during which His Holy Spirit has been a counselor and guide. We’ve walked together,He’s carried me, I’ve walked away, He’s been faithful. You’d think we’d be more discerning of His “moving” by now but somehow at times we still find ourselves feeling like the woman under the blanket. Seeking confirmation of what we think we know, anxious and fearful of the unknown, and that can be dangerous because many times we only see what we want to. Our spiritual eyes can easily become accustomed to an environment of darkness!

I know that there are definitely times when I find myself asking…

Is that You?

I find biblical context for my confusion In Luke’s Gospel chapter 7:19-23.

What John was experiencing was definitely not what he or any of the other apostles had expected to occur. At this point John was perhaps facing death, so I can understand how difficult it must’ve been for him to trust who he thought Jesus was.

I don’t make very many life or death choices but given what was at stake here I can totally understand how he might’ve wondered if he’d been mistaken somehow.

He needed to ask Christ in as direct a way as possible exactly who He was. He chose to send two of his friends to ask Jesus because he was imprisoned. Can you imagine that? Telling your friends and most likely people who you’ve taught about Jesus to go and ask Jesus this most basic question! As awkward as that prospect must’ve seemed to him, I believe his biggest challenge was to first face his own fears.

Fear of being wrong, of not seeing things as they really were and of exposing his own humanity to his friends. He had to first understand that thinking you know something is the greatest obstacle to learning anything!

That’s certainly a mindset I can relate to.

Recently I’ve had occasion to reevaluate some of my own beliefs. Take abortion for example…I just don’t think that denying that choice to a woman is very much of an expression of love which is what Christian people are called to do and be in this world. I understand that it’s about the unborn child but it’s still the woman’s real estate that it has to be conveyed through…

Our Father hates all sin, as should we, but He gave Adam a choice because
without it…

It’s not love…it’s just the law!

and while God’s word certainly carries that authority He’s too much of a loving Father to treat us like programmable robots, no, He gave Adam a choice!

What I’m saying is “Who are we to insert our authority over the lives and choices of another when God Himself who is love, chose to do otherwise”

Do I hate abortion? YES! but standing outside an abortion clinic harassing people who’re already going through perhaps one of the most difficult times of their life doesn’t seem all that loving to me…

We’re not called to be anyone’s judge or to be argumentative like an attorney…we’re just supposed to be witnesses of the difference His love has made in our lives! To be ever-ready to give an answer when asked about the source of our hope!
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I see the people outside the clinic with the huge and unspeakably gruesome pictures of aborted babies on display. I look into their accusing self righteous faces as I walk by and then stop for a moment and ask…

Is that You?

I know it’s me…

Listening to the lyrics of a song recently I was struck by their accurate reflection of my own life!

I want to know what became of the changes, we waited for love to bring. Were they only the fitful dreams of some greater awakening?

Jackson Browne “The Pretender”

I’ll admit that sometimes I feel that way. I’m certainly not as committed to living my life for the Lord as some are! And I do feel somewhat frustrated and discouraged over the status of my own spiritual life! It’s been quite a challenge to me that’s with me to this day! At some point, who knows when…I’d like to find my own state of grace where I can truly accept the full measure of forgiveness that Jesus was crucified to secure for me!

Take this guy for example…

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I met him one day while I was taking a break from driving. He told me drives this bus up and down the west coast doing his ministry which he claimed was based on Seventh Day Adventist teachings…
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He told me that Christ had established his true church in 1866 which had me wondering what the second chapter of Acts was all about!

My issues with this particular variety of religion are numerous but in a nutshell, well…it’s a religion! A man made set of rules that when followed entitle you to go to heaven. Based on the belief that Christians are still under the law instead of the “new and better covenant” spoke of in Hebrews 8:6.

Is that You?

If what your looking for is a perfect representation of God the Father in Christians or the institutions they establish you’ll never find it! If you think otherwise I believe that’s an indication of how you see yourself, Perfect!

I know I’ve found it to be true in my own circumstances…

Can you see the problem?

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We’re all created in Gods image but our sin shattered it into shards and fragments that show a perverse reflection. There are times when man does reflect enough of Him,or is able to die to his self to such an extent that what we see seems like perfection…

We call that “art”

In the ninth verse, thirty eighth chapter of Marks gospel,John brings to Jesus’ attention certain other practitioners they’d observed who were engaged in a deliverance ministry of sorts. The idea being to get His approval to “forbade” them from it. My sense is that based on His reply Jesus wisely observes that “if our policy is to shut down everyone who doesn’t have it all together who’ll be left?” And tells John to basically leave them alone!

None of us have got it all right…

No need to ask, “Is that you”!

We are the woman,

we’re also the bride.

We are the pretenders,

prevented by pride.

From seeing the truth,

Through our fractured eyes.

We fear what could save us,

And instead cling to lies!

Learning To Dance

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It’s said that “you can never go home again” but what I thinks meant by that is that you can’t go back in time. And while that’s certainly true, at the same time it can seem impossible to move out of your past and into the present, let alone into your future! Despite all of that, earlier this year I did make a move! I moved my family from south-central to a new place in south-west Missouri,back to my hometown!

Not only my hometown,but to the very neighborhood I grew up in…

Even though I consider myself to be a sentimental person who as such is well acquainted with the “slings and arrows”which so often accompany it I’ll admit to being caught off guard by my subsequent reactions. It took a while for me to sort out why on a certain level I seemed angry about how so many things I remembered had changed! Like I was caught in the throes of some childlike egocentric fit over not having been “consulted”.

I didn’t say that the feelings were “right” only that I was having them!

Another thing I wasn’t really prepared for was the onslaught of questions that living in such close proximity to my past would move to the front burner of my mind or the rough terrain I’d have to traverse to find the difficult answers they demanded! Questions like…

“What the heck happened to my education?”

or

Just exactly where and how did my life “Jump the shark” so to speak…

 I want to make it really clear that this isn’t just some sort of pity party I decided to throw for myself nor am I attempting to fix blame on God or anyone else. Some of the events of my life have been rather unfortunate and apart from my aforementioned personal search for answers my intent or purpose in writing about them here is to encourage others who’ve had or will have similar experiences.Understanding our own issues of the past can be the key to moving beyond them into a better future! I can hardly express how important it is for me to be able to look back on my life and instead of feeling despair regarding certain aspects of it, to feel hopeful. Hopeful not only because I survived it but because I somehow found the courage to go on and the faith to believe there was something better waiting for me somewhere. lastly,to express my thankfulness to my Father in heaven who did then,and does now hold me in the palm of His loving hand!

I’d like to start with this video clip which was probably taken in the summer of 1971 when I was 10yrs old. As I watched it I remember being taken aback at how happy I appear to be! This video was taken by my father during one of the most difficult periods of my life,within a few months after my parents’ divorce.

The surrealistic background music provides a fitting contrast to the seemingly carefree display caught on the clip. It truly is a reality vacuum! Not only had my family recently changed in a not so good way, I’d also been the victim of significant sexual abuse on several occasions by people close to me. I’d recently become involved with a local church and had accepted Christ as my Savior, been baptized,and then when I stopped coming…forgotten.

I watched helplessly as my father who I worshiped became increasingly distant and more invested in his new life and family and less in me. I found out what it was to be hungry and to not have sufficient clothing that fit properly. And so at my lowest point,to then have my mother on whom I had become quite emotionally dependent begin spending a great deal of time away from me further compounded my feelings of insignificance. I was still just a bit too young to roam the streets after dark like my older brother…so I spent a lot of time at home alone.

When I watch this video…

I wonder what in the world I had to dance about!

And then it hit me…

I was playing the best cards I had in front of the one person I loved the most in the whole world! And despite everything wrong that had happened in my life up to that point in that moment,I chose to dance!

To block out everything else and focus on the only thing I felt had the potential to save me…

His love!

In my mind I was just doing what I’d always done…performing!

But what I was really doing was sort of the ultimate act of defiance.

I was in effect saying to the circumstances of my life,

You have not defeated me, you’ve thrown just about everything you could at me.

And guess what? I’m still dancing!

Isaiah 54:17

 No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

It still inspires me…But what happened after that? You’d think that someone with that sort of “sand” would probably go far in life. I think what happened to me, and what happens to a lot of other people too is that we eventually become convinced that there’s nothing in this life worth dancing (or smiling) for!

When the subject of my education comes up what happened is no surprise considering I’d been a dedicated addict for almost six years at the age of 17. What I struggle to understand is why my school counselors and administrative staff chose to ignore what was happening. I attended a vocational course in the mornings which I was bused to and from daily and then spent the afternoons in various classes. As that last semester of my junior year came to a close I believe I was simply overwhelmed by the assignments which were due. Not knowing quite how to handle that I chose to simply skip the last eight days of afternoon classes…and so I flunked the eleventh grade!

I understand that I wasn’t the only “problem child” they were dealing with but I wonder could they of made a phone call to my parents? Aren’t there policies in place concerning this type of infraction? One last thing,anyone that reads this who attended my high school or any high school in the seventies for that matter knows what it was like as far as drug use on campus is concerned,and so, after they failed as an institution to provide a safe and secure environment for students to learn in and I become a victim of that I’m appalled that they could then decide that the thing to do is throw me out!

This took place during a time when my mother was going through another divorce from her second husband and we ended up moving from an upper class home in an exclusive neighborhood into a small two bedroom apartment. I did enroll the next year at a different school and lasted maybe a month before my principal at vocational school suggested that what would be best for me would be to quit school and get a GED. I did get a GED, and that was basically the end of my formal education although in truth I believe I learned precious little from formal schooling past the age of about 12.

One of the most common, if not the most common things you’ll hear Christian ministers say is “God has a plan for your life” and of course I believe that! I also believe that our enemy has a plan for us too…I’m convinced that on the day I made that walk down the isle and knelt down at an altar to accept Christ as my Lord and Savor there was a celebration in heaven! I also believe there was an emergency board meeting in hell! That meeting’s purpose was to put the kibosh on the plans my heavenly Father had for me and subvert the role I was designed to play in ushering in His kingdom.My sense is that there must of been no small amount of surprise and disappointment expressed by the attendee’s that their earlier efforts on my behalf had had so little present effect on me.

Knowing that my souls redemption was a done deal at this point, their only remaining option was to try and stop me from doing what I had the God given potential to do and be in Gods Kingdom by whatever means available to them! I mentioned at the beginning the feelings I’d been having and what I thought they were related to. However at this point I’d have to say that they’re actually directed at the forces of darkness which have for many years stolen so much from me in this life. Who’ve worked diligently behind the scenes orchestrating circumstances and events in my life to do towards me what’s prescribed in the mission statement below…

John 10:10

 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Obviously there’s a disconnect between those two premises…

Genesis 50:20

 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

These are all life verses to me…

They give me hope,encouragement and peace in the midst of my storms!

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

King David danced before the Lord. Out of joy that the Ark of The Covenant had at last been returned to Jerusalem. David had to go through quite a painful learning process as he endeavored to lay down his will and surrender completely to God. In my life I’ve been challenged by similar lessons,it seems as though I too was following the example of the Philistines! Learning to trust that God truly does know what He’s doing allows me to be able to sit, (or dance) so that He can stand for me! The answers to our problems are still the same for us today as they were for David then! All of us have a God sized hole which can only be filled by drawing closer to Him! By staying focused on The Father, through our Lord who is Love,which is the answer,instead of on our world and it’s problems! If we can do that, we can also experience the continual joy of being in the Lords presence!

To me,that’s what “learning to dance” means…

The Sacrifice of Praise

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In our society, if we don’t abide by the law, chances are at some point we could find ourselves answering to a higher authority. And then there are the laws of physics, far more absolute and impartial, but even they are subject to a “higher law”. Here’s an example…an airplane is much heavier than air and therefore according to the law of gravity it cannot fly. But when the law of thrust and air flow are introduced into the equation guess what? It flies! Because of the over-riding principles of a “higher law” which has dominion over it,what was impossible becomes possible.

The other day I was talking with a friend and I mentioned how glad I was to be “On this side of the cross”. I’d been reading some of the old testament books and was overwhelmed by all the sacrifices they seem to be constantly making. His reply to me was “We still make sacrifices,the primary difference being that everything we do now to honor God has to do with our hearts and not our hands!”

And he was right!

Mankind is still under the law,the wages of sin is still death! And of course the great news is that Christ’s death on the cross paid our sin debt freeing us from that penalty! Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law on our behalf and gave “Whosoever Believes” the opportunity to come under a new covenant based on higher precepts,or commandments. Ones that can’t be satisfied by anything less than the sacrifice of our own most precious possession…

Our Love!

Jesus told the Apostles this…

John 14:12

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

Healing people,feeding thousands with practically nothing,raising the dead,turning water into wine, these are just a few of the things Jesus did! How is it possible for us to do these things which are impossible based on the laws we understand? By understanding a higher law!

1 Peter 2:24

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

Didn’t Christ die to redeem us from the curse of sin,sickness and death? If that’s true,and I believe it is, then the manifestation of what Jesus said then is possible in the here and now! More than that, it’s a foregone conclusion…ye were healed! The victory has been won! We simply must, by faith, acknowledge this truth and the power of the higher law Jesus the Christ died to make available to us!

We’re called to proclaim His Kingdom!

Luke 10:8-9

 And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

Matthew 4:23

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

The kingdom Jesus spoke of is a place where there is no sin. No sickness,pain or death. It’s a restoration of The Father Gods creation to it’s original condition as it was when He pronounced it “Very Good”. Not crippled,or sick, or afflicted in any way

Genesis 1:31

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

The gospel is “Very Good News” and I believe that the stronger our grasp is on the reality of the higher law which rules there, the less power the laws of this present, perceived kingdom can have over us! We simply subscribe to a higher truth,Gods truth! We choose to operate in it! Choosing to believe what He says about every aspect of not only our lives but the lives of others and the world as a whole…in short,by our adoption into His kingdom we adopt a whole new belief system that transforms everything about our lives! As a result, we’re empowered to speak to the deception’s of Satan’s kingdom and command them to flee!

Healings, deliverance’s, manifested blessings of all kinds!

Wouldn’t you like to see that?

I believe it’s possible,in truth,I think it’s required!

But first, would you give it up for God?

Whatever it is that you love most…

Just like Abraham did with Issac.

Except Gods not asking for your son,

He wants YOU!

To perform a sacrifice of praise, to put your pride on the altar…

And then stand back!

1 Peter 2:5

 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Everyone’s A Winner!

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Did you buy a ticket in the recent mega-millions lottery? I heard that the odds of winning were somewhere in the neighborhood of being struck by lightning four times and surviving…It’s interesting that given those odds anyone would still participate! Apparently even the remotest possibility of us being a winner has a powerful draw on us. The siren song of the carnival barker seeks out such a hope in each of us. Playing on our vulnerabilities,our insecurities, boldly declaring that…

Everyone’s a winner!

But who are the real winners in life?

My guess is that we all know at least one person who based on our own specific criteria we consider to be a winner. There might be a number of factors that cause us to view them as such or perhaps just one thing that proclaims success to us. Untold fortunes have been made by authors, ostensibly trying to help the rest of us to achieve our potential’s and thereby enjoy the benefits of being a member of the coveted “winner” club.

I have my own theories as to what’s most essential, they go something like this. It occurs to me that all winners have one very important thing in common. They all know in the depths of their being that they are loved! The most successful young adults I’ve observed are those who’re able to remain focused on their life goals instead of being distracted by all of the misguided attempts engaged in by those around them to get this most important need met. Who can deny that this fundamental lacking is the source of many (if not all) problems in young peoples lives.

I’ve also noticed that people who have a winning attitude seem to fall into two distinct categories. There are those who believe that based on the merits of who they are see themselves as being quite deserving of the love they’ve received and then those who instead are humbled by the love which has been shown them despite who they are! What’s interesting about that to me are the ramifications of these relationship dynamics. One party,believing themselves to be worthy often operates from a place of insecurity while the other,believing the opposite, draws their esteem based on the unconditional love of another which relieves them of the anxiety and insecurity of living up to expectations.Being a winner by the worlds standards can be a very difficult task for most people. I understand that all too well! But what’s so wonderful to me is that I can be a real winner through my relationship with God The Father through His Son Jesus Christ! Because I know deep in my soul that I am loved! I’m not anxious about where I stand with Him because His love for me isn’t about my worthiness…it’s about His nature,it’s about who He is, Who once you have an encounter with will end your own misguided questing for love a love that grows more real and true with every passing day!

It’s also interesting to me that modern psychology teaches the former,

while Gods word teaches the latter…

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a few unqualified statements.

I believe that everyone wants to be a winner!

I believe that everyone IS loved!

Not based on transient things or superficial qualities,

but for no other reason than for just “showing up”

If only we could all know it…

That everyone IS a winner!

Even You!

 

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Bless This Mess!

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Have you ever seen a tongue in cheek petition like the one on the left displayed in the home of someone you know? Have you ever felt as if those words might be a pretty fair description of your own circumstances?

I know I have!

Sometimes the pace of the work in progress known to me as my spiritual life seems painfully slow or to even be moving in the wrong direction!Named among my numerous transgressions are things such as mean spiritedness or being judgmental and becoming quickly irritated or impatient with people or things I interact with daily. As much as I don’t like those aspects of my personality, what’s far more disturbing to me is my own tolerance,nay comfort with them!

It’s a bit of a mess…

One the most difficult,and yet most important things about being a follower of Christ I’ve struggled with is how a Holy God could love a very un-holy sinner like me…There are exceptions, but for the most part Love as I’ve been able to understand it is about deserving or qualifying for it in some way.In this world we pick winners and losers,we analyze and judge people constantly choosing to love in others the “good” aspects we recognize in ourselves. At it’s core it’s selfish and based on lies fed to us via our own personal self-exhalation express the ego. We rationalize their validity based on societal dogma, which is nicely packaged and fed to us under headings such as self esteem and positive affirmation. The truth is the only real basis for “self” esteem any of us can actually claim is that we’re loved by our omnipotent Heavenly Father!

That’s it!

That’s our “claim to fame”

And it’s much more than enough!

Why?

Because it’s a claim that’s based on something real, real because it’s unthreatenable! It doesn’t change or cease to be for any reason. All of the things we esteem in this world will fade away or can be lost in an instant, but NOT Gods love!

Recently I read a status on FB which said that God works through imperfect people and circumstances to accomplish His purposes. My reply was,

“Is there any other kind?”

Our Father loves each of us Just the way we are…

Warts and all

But He loves us too much to just leave us that way!

His death on the cross was a victory over sin and death that was done on our behalf, that we may have eternal life. I also believe that the power of His shed blood gives Christian’s the opportunity to claim that victory over their own here and now life circumstances

Truly, we’re all a bit of a mess!

How wonderful is it then,that…

 Jesus is the Great Mess-iah!!

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