On No One’s Coat tails…

“I see a generational line of pastors and teachers in your family line. I feel a sense of culmination to this point in history, that you are facing a giant, a battle, which has been ordained that you should fight ….” She’d never met me before, had no idea who I am, and yet the words Charity spoke were solid, right on.  How could she know there are pastors and preachers in my mother’s mother’s  family line, including my great-Uncle, and many before him?

Even with this heritage,though, I know that I know that I  know that I can’t call myself Christian because any of my ancestors were.Christianity is not an ethnicity, not an inheritance passed down by your parents. Sitting for decades in  church doesn’tmake you Christian any more than sitting weekly in the garage makes you a car or  wading in the ocean till you’re pruny makes you a tuna! Christianity, being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, not just a lip-service pew sitter, comes down to one thing and one thing only: a personal choice to acknowledge that 1)yes, I am a sinner,  2)yes, sin (even one) separates me from relationship with a Holy God, 3) no, I can’t  possibly DO anything to merit  God’s grace 4) Jesus made  the ONe and ONLY fully adequate, fully covering, fully atoning sacrifice of his own life on the cross to pay the  Blood price for my forgiveness required by my sins and 5) I have to REPENT AND CHOOSE and daily choose  to live in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice  for me,  receiving God’s unmerited grace, favor, unfathomable mercy, forgiveness and matchless love.

MY SINS – CHRIST’S DEATH ON THE CROSS. What an almost unimaginably priceless, inconceivably costly gift, freely given by Jesus! And all I have to do is agree with God  that I’m a sinner in desperate need of His grace to receive it  and walk forever, here and in Eternity, in joyful fellowship and relationship with My Righteous Father God Almighty! No, that doesn’ t give me license to keep on willfully sinning. What a slap in the face to Jesus that would  be, to think I could presume upon his boundless,  pure  mercy and live in a way that dishonors, trivializes,  and disgraces God’s costly  gift to me! I receive his unmerited grace, mercy, forgiveness  and love, and out of reverential gratitude and eternal thanks, I choose  to live to please, honor, serve and worship God Almighty, helped daily by God’s Holy Spirit present with me.Do I blow  it sometimes? Yes, and then I’m right back on my knees confessing, repenting, and staying in relationship with God as his chosen daughter. Yes, God chose every single one of us before the foundations of the Earth, that we should come to know his boundless love and live in fellowship with HIM. And yes, God “recklessly” gave us the freedom to accept His Gift or go our own  way, trusting in our own goodness, which God’s Word says is like filthy rags, instead of in the freely given Righteous Blood of Jesus ALONE.

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long. Who do YOU choose  to worship, choose, revere,love,  follow, and trust?  Today I quote an entire chapter. These aren’t just my thoughts, but  thoughts straight from God’s Holy Spirit, yes through a human being, but not humanly reasoned out! We’d think  “religion” is enough. God knows how inadequate anything  but the Blood of Jesus truly is (my bold):

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’[a]

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
    after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds.”[b]

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
    I will remember no more.”[c]

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

A Call to Persevere in Faith

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”[e] 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”[f]

38 And,

“But my righteous[g] one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”[h]

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Hebrews 10 NIV
Who in their  right mind would refuse boundless  love and grace,  freely given, despite their failures, rebellion and weaknesses?
10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep.  John 10: 10-15 NIV
NO  “But’s…” about it: not Great Uncle Cyrus,  not great-great-grandpa whoever, no building, no just  words creed, no mindlessly recited prayers, nothing and NO ONE and NO WAY but Jesus, now and forever, PRICELESS LOVE, amen!

I Stand Amazed in the Presence ……

princeofpeace13IMG_2258IMG_2261

It was simple. It was clear. It was filled with welcoming, acceptance, warmth and unity: people literally from all over the world meeting together in a park to celebrate the Resurrection and our oneness in the love and family of Christ. So it was no problem for me to invite passers-by to join us. Soon the chairs were  taken, and  folks sat on the stone wall around the meeting area, singing, listening to the singing, and listening to God’s clear invitation into the transformation of new life in Christ. I was  blessed,and I do mean blessed, to be able to talk to some of the people watching and passing by who didn’t know ”us” or why we were there.

One young woman from Asia chatted with me and I shared that we aren’t about religion, about forms anyways and traditions, as much as about the ONE who unites us all, traditional, Charismatic, high liturgy, non-denominational: Jesus, in relationship  with him, receiving God’s boundless love  through Christ. She said she sensed that,sensed a peace and love in me (which is Christ, not me!)  and knew this meeting must be about love. With plenty of food, why shouldn’t I/we invite people just walking by to come sit and eat with us and welcome them into the love we know and feel and walk in: not just  feel-good “limerence” love, but TRANSFORMATIONAL passionate, powerful love strong enough to change us from “world/leaf-eating simply existing caterpillars” into the new creation, significance and God’s purpose filled, Jesus-Holy Spirit-indwelling “butterfly” sons and daughters of God we were created to be?

This is one short post, but I don’t have to expound at length on the truth that Jesus WAS there with us,  yes in and through each ordinary people other, undeniably loving and extending  his hand and hope and value. I do truly pray these people will come again  on Sunday nights where the group  meets in Brian and Jessica’s house, just to sing and fellowship, and feel welcomed. nothing high  falutin’ , just the love of God in Jesus Christ.

10 He (Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1: 10-14 N

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 Living Bible

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4: 10-11 NIV

What more do we need?

The women in this music video aren’t religious fanatics: they’re the ransomed, the redeemed,the sinners saved by grace, transformed to significance, purpose, and passion to see others find this same incalculable love, by unconditional  love through the  righteous Blood of Jesus and the unending love of  our Creator Almighty Father God!

Family, friends, please sing this at my “graduation party”!

The only “…BUT…” to pray today is BUT GOD ALMIGHTY AND JESUS LOVE ME, this I know, ENOUGH TO SUFFER, DIE AND RISE TO LIFE FOR ME!

Here He Goes Again …

 

 

Waiting for the shore, and Amy, my “Dog and the log” of blogging lore.

Here goes God again, giving me a ”kiss” on my forehead. Truly, nothing can separate me/you/us from HIS love. In this post I start with God’s Word, which is TRUTH:

 

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 31-19 NLT

It started insignificantly enough, a phone call from a banker – connected by another banker at the grocery store where I, for whatever reason, chose to go two days ago to deposit a check in the small branch office there – about meeting to talk about the investment we want to make. (I just perhaps annoyingly wrote a sentence almost as long as one of the Apostle Paul’s!) I could hardly hear him over the noise of the carwash where I was waiting for my car. After all the cleaning and vacuuming, I called him back from my clean car, and God overflowed in our conversation! Dot-to-dot again! Get out your pencil and follow this:

1) He’s Christian, genuinely, not just a practicer of religious ritual once a week. 2) We both have two sons. 3) His parents were on staff of a large church in Los Angeles, and you’d know the name if I dropped it. 4) The founder of that church previously founded a solid church in Phoenix in the 80’s. 5) The solid church in Phoenix birthed a daughter church in Mesa. 6) That daughter church was the church I became a member of in 2001. 7) His mother has been active in women’s ministry for decades. 8) I have been, too, though not at her national level. 9) His mother has wanted to write a book for a long time. 10) I’ve written books with others, and one myself. 11) She lived for a time in Boston. 12) I lived in Massachusetts for four years and often visited Boston. 14) Part of her ministry is to abused women. 15) Unspoken commonality. 16) His parents now live in Prescott, Arizona. 17) He is passing my phone number along to his mother.

Did you catch all that? What part of this is “simply a banking coincidence,” and what would the odds be that this IS just coincidence? Boy, Holy Spirit, the pneuma of God, Ruach Elohim, keeps “blowing up my raft” as I float on still storm-tossed seas. I do pray I’m passing the final shoal and nearing the calm shore, BUT glory to God that He’s keeping me a float!

The song goes, ”Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise,” so I’m hereby keeping my part of the promise! Blessed be the name of the LORD!

No, I have no clear clue what this will yet be about, but God is in it, so I’m in! Jesus gets to steer this canoe still, and boy, I had no idea I was prophesying over my life when I spoke that analogy in a women’s ministry meeting (at that daughter church) and yes, often teachers have to learn in real life lessons what they teach others! Okay, God, I DO believe it: YOU are my pilot, my stern (as in rear) paddler, the one directing this raft’s passage. Help me ship my paddle and rest as YOU steer – and You know what a challenge that is to me when my mind goes a mile a minute and I think I know where I’m headed (but I can’t see around the bend as YOU DO!).

So true confession today, like many of you, I have a hard time emotionally letting God have HIS way in my life even though intellectually I know His will for me is good, regardless of the waves and winds and floating logs (and floating things – I won’t use the slang term – my kids found in the waters lapping a beach in Asia) the enemy stirs up in my circumstances. I guess if I’m that much of a target for the enemy, it MUST mean I’m doing something right for Jesus and His Kingdom! I quote Jim Dennison of the Dennison Forum on that hard question of why God allows us freedom to choose and why He allows us to choose evil if we desire: “But I do know that he redeems all he allows and that he is love. The less we understand our Father’s ways, the more we need to trust his heart.”

Dear brothers and sisters,  when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

Believers who are  poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.

12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. James 1: 2-16 NLT

And mixing my metaphors, the words of Jesus about managing trouble:

20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Matthew 13: 20-23 NLT

 

May it be so, LORD Jesus, that this storm I’m still in scatters seed as far as Your wind of the Holy Spirit can take it, and may it land on good soil to produce good fruit, Kingdom purposes in lives who come to know YOUR endless love for them!

 

A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord, whew, in my own life I’m in the middle of ______________________ BUT You promise you will never leave me or forsake me, so I’m asking You to show me Your love and heart in a tangible way today, and I know You don’t begrudge me asking to see Your Goodness in my life! In fact, I’m trusting that my asking pleases You! In Jesus’ name, amen, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening _______________________________

 

 

 

The Everyday, Anytime Guide to Christian Leadership

LEADERSHIP. What is the essence of true, biblical leadership?

“Walt Kallestad talks about leadership in the sense of influence, asserting that such virtues as love, grace, and an affirming spirit are more powerful tools than authority and command.”  (Review on Amazon.com)

Robert Schuller calls it “A fresh perspective from an outstanding leader!” Lyle Schaller says, “For those who agree that leadership is the key to the future, this is the book they should read and heed.” And Bill Hybels adds, “This book will make a significant contribution to leaders who practice its principles.” Discover how to become a more effective leader by following Kallestad’s ten principles of Christian leadership. The book’s concise, motivational message, easy- to-read format, and entertaining cartoons get to the heart of what Christian leadership is all about. (augsburgfortress.org)51qv2ripldl-_sx322_bo1204203200_              Holy cow, can it really be 24 years since Walt, my pastor,  asked me to help him write this book? It was the first of five I was  blessed beyond words to work on with him, and literally the answer to a prayer I’d prayed one morning as I dropped my younger son off at the bus for Kindergarten,”Lord, you know I want to write, but I have no way to get into publishing. I’m nobody. Show me a way to use what you put in me!” Two weeks later, sitting in Walt’s  office getting the next quarter’s sermon titles to pass out to the Message Research Team, Walt paused and said, “You and I think a lot alike. You’ve never wanted to write, have you?”

This post is not to pat myself on the back, no way, no how.  Rather, it’s about God’s perspective on leadership. One thing I’ve always believed is that leadership means being a servant of others, not a lord or boss over others, not a controller of others, not top person on the totem pole, but a servant of those you work with, and yes, where the buck frequently stops. As such, it’s a role or responsibility demanding integrity, good judgment, and teamwork ethic regarding others as equally important and essential to accomplishing the group goal.

I’ve never sought to be  the leader of anything, but sometimes  I’ve  been voted in or  asked to lead, which was the case with the Message Research Team. The coordinator had moved, and the pastors needed someone to get the message topics and hand them out to the other  volunteers on the team; thus  I became coordinator of the team by being asked, not by seeking out acclaim. I saw myself pretty much as a funnel, not a “commander,” and that suited me just fine.

Walt created  acronym for the word “LEADERSHIP” with one chapter filling out each thought:

Love Unconditionally

Envision the Future Exceptionally

Affirm Continuously

Discipline with Determination (as in be  disciplined, not mete out discipline)

Energize Others Enthusiastically

Risk Boldly

Serve Selflessly

Hope  Relentlessly

Imagine Immeasurably

Pray Persistently

Nowhere in the book  did Walt suggest cracking the whip, making sure  everybody knew YOU were the boss, seeking your own way and will and imposing it on others, or expecting to be continually affirmed and validated unquestioningly by everyone else. The model we as Christians ought to take – without question – for leadership is our Lord Jesus. Jesus made his authority over blindness, deafness, lameness, leprosy, winds, waves, and even death VERY clear, and he was King of Kings before he came to Earth, while he was here, and is today and always, and yet he told his disciples:

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,  even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20: 25-27 ESV

Yes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 ESV

And “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:8

And yet as Paul wrote to the  Philippians:

“In his very nature he was God. Jesus was equal with God. But Jesus didn’t take advantage of that fact. Instead, he made himself nothing. He did this by taking on the nature of a servant. He was made just like human beings. He appeared as a man. He was humble and obeyed God completely. He did this even though it led to his death. Even worse, he died on a cross!”  Philipians 2: 5-8 NIRV

Again, Jesus modeled a life of loving, sacrificial service to show us what true leadership is.

Matthew 23:11
The greatest among you shall be your servant.

Mark 9:35
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all.”

The well-known Psalm that even non-Christians have probably heard and know the first lines by heart gives a word picture of true leadership: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me  in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff comfort me.  You prepare.a table before me in the presence of my enemies.You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

A shepherd is a leader, but he leads in order to protect and help his sheep grow in health, safely, free from danger and lack of what they need. When threat comes from lions or bears, the shepherd risks his own life for his sheep – he doesn’t consider his sheep expendable and use his sheep as a shield to protect his own life!

That doesn’t seem to leave much room for,”Hey, listen up! I’m the boss, and you’ll respect me just because I’m the boss and do as I say, because you are here for ME” in Christian leadership. Honestly, does anyone, whether in Christian work or secular work, enjoy working for someone who has an attitude of entitlement? I’ve experienced that, and I’m guessing you have too, and it doesn’t make getting up for work every morning a delightful, positive, hopeful prospect.

In the 13 years I worked as a substitute teacher, often the first question children in classes asked me was, “Are you a nice sub or a mean sub?”  I replied that it depended upon them, but of course my true attitude was that I was there to serve those children, follow the lesson plans of the absent teacher as closely as I could (if I even could find plans to follow) and give the children a positive day of real learning, attending to their needs, answering their questions, helping them with difficulties, and hopefully  adding some fun to help install in them a love of learning. Yes, I was the”boss” of the classroom that day,  but that meant I was there to serve  those students, not myself. I heard about subs who would come into the classroom, tell the students, “read this, do that,” put their feet up on the desk and read the newspaper, and act miffed when a student asked a question.

Even, especially, in families, dictatorial expectations and attitudes of entitlement have no place. Yes, the military is an exception, where people’s lives depend on executing orders from above without discussion, but our families and our  relationships and churches and even our workplaces aren’t meant to be regiments, but teams led, or more appropriately shepherded,  by servant-hearted, Jesus-modeling leaders who truly know and follow Jesus’ words:

” You call Me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, because I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example so that you should do as I have done for you.…” John 13:13-15

The full text of Paul’s admonition and encouragement to the Philippians shows that servant-hearted leadership is not without value in God’s sight:

Don’t do anything only to get ahead. Don’t do it because you are proud. Instead, be humble. Value others more than yourselves. None of you should look out just for your own good. Each of you should also look out for the good of others.

As you deal with one another, you should think and act as Jesus did.

In his very nature he was God.
Jesus was equal with God. But Jesus didn’t take advantage of that fact.
Instead, he made himself nothing.
He did this by taking on the nature of a servant.
He was made just like human beings.
He appeared as a man.
He was humble and obeyed God completely.
He did this even though it led to his death.
Even worse, he died on a cross!
So God lifted him up to the highest place.
God gave him the name that is above every name.
When the name of Jesus is spoken, everyone will kneel down to worship him.
Everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will kneel down to worship him.  Philippians 2: 3-10  Berean Study Bible

I hope, then, I’ve been on track in seeing any leadership position I’ve been “elevated to”  as actually lowering myself to serve the people who were doing the job  with me, counting on me to keep people informed, picking up the slack when someone couldn’t fulfill their role.

Honestly, I’ve always preferred to be just a team member,and I’m VERY glad to see myself as  simply a team member and collaborator, that is, co-labor-ator , in God’sKingdom work  that he calls  each of us to join our leader and head,Jesus,in pursuing on Earth so His Kingdom CAN come, and His will BE done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  I do remember learning The Great Commission in my college fellowship Campus Crusade days, and I’ve never regarded it as”optional”  or “not my job” for me as a Holy Spirit-filled for a reason follower of Jesus:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

Yes, you matter, no matter what your gifting or calling, and yes, in some way, then, you are a leader. to the person who needs to see Jesus in you.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27 ESV

I think both Jesu sand Paul would add, “Now live like a LEADER and the servant of all.”

No, I don’t get any royalties from the book,so I can freely encourage you to buy a copy and let me know if any part of it speaks to you. It  was Walt’s idea and vision, me filling in details, and enormously cognizant, yea verily fearful with reverential fear and a bit of “What was I thinking?” stark terror, of my responsibility to Christ as I was writing. All I  can say these many years later is thank you, Walt, for trusting me, thank you to the guy who moved us to Community Church of Joy, and thank you, Jesus, for hearing and answering my prayer and entrusting me with a bit of your work to do. (Please hear my prayers for him, too)

 

A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord, sometimesI’ve wanted to be a leader,sometimes I’vewished peoplewould see my capabilities, BUT I know you know how you made me,who you made me,and what  purposes you mademefor.So GodAlmighty, loving Father, please show me  where I fit in the Body of Christ  and give me the courage to walk out your purposes for me with  the same attitude Jesus had: that of a gladly serving servant. Give me an attitude adjustment if  and where I need it, and I know when you do, it  will be out of  your Father love for me. Holy Spirit, I’m listening ___________________________________________________ In Jesus’ name, amen!

Why should I love _____ if they don’t love me?

This question came up in one of the first Divorce Care classes I attended at my church. Ironically, the church name included the words ” of Grace,” and the first thought that came into my mind after I heard that question as I sat in a room filled with broken-hearted Christians was another question, “Why shouldn’t I love, when God could ask that same question of all of us, yet loves us all even when we didn’t and don’t love him?”

Here I go again, writing on the only thing worth writing about: the relentless,  implausible, passionate, selfless, giving love of God, dramatically and emphatically and irrefutably shown by Jesus – Y’shua,Isa, or whatever you call him in your language – living out God’s  love, dying on the Cross for each one of us out of God’s love, and rising again in the eternal life he offers us out of God’s love. If I sound like a broken record, I don’t care. All I truly care about is helping others see, understand,  apprehend and grab onto that love waiting abundantly for them to receive.

As I walked this morning, the email I received from Truth For Life would not let go or let up in my spirit, heart and mind. Here it is, words of Charles H. Spurgeon following words of John the Beloved and Jesus, that clearly express my reasons for writing anything, reasons for acting practically out of Christ’s love for people who couldn’t possibly give me anything in return, my reason for being:

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:17-21 NIV

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.    Matthew 5: 43-48 NIV

Why should I love someone who doesn’t love me? If the words above aren’t enough to answer that question for you, I hope Charles Spurgeon’s may make the answer even clearer:

Passion to Save Souls

Truth For Life

DAILY DEVOTIONAL DECEMBER 7, 2016

I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
1 Corinthians 9:22

“Paul’s great object was not merely to instruct and to improve, but to save. Anything short of this would have disappointed him; he desired to see men renewed in heart, forgiven, sanctified, in fact saved. Have our Christian efforts been aimed at anything below this great objective? Then let us correct our ways, for what good will it be at the last great day to have taught and moralized men if they appear before God unsaved? If through life we have sought inferior objects and forgotten that men needed to be saved, then we will be held accountable.

Paul knew the ruin of man’s natural state and did not try to educate him, but to save him; he saw men sinking to hell and did not talk of refining them, but of saving from the wrath to come. To accomplish their salvation, he gave himself up with untiring zeal to spreading the Gospel, to warning and beseeching men to be reconciled to God. His prayers were persistent and his labors incessant. His consuming passion, his ambition, his calling was to save souls. He became a servant to all men, working for them, feeling a woe within him if he did not preach the Gospel. He laid aside his preferences to prevent prejudice; he submitted his will in things indifferent, and if men would just receive the Gospel, he raised no questions about forms or ceremonies. The Gospel was the one all-important business with him. If he might save some, he would be content. This was the crown for which he extended himself, the sole and sufficient reward of all his labors and self-denials.

Dear reader, have you and I lived to win souls to this extent? Are we possessed with the same all-absorbing desire? If not, why not? Jesus died for sinners. Can we not live for them? Where is our tenderness? Where is our love for Christ, if we do not seek His honor in the salvation of men? Lord Jesus, saturate us through and through with an undying zeal for the souls of men.”

  • Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2003, Good News Publishers and used by Truth For Life with written permission.
When people look at me curiously whenever I affirm that I love one who yes, did hurtful things to me out of that person’s own wounding and sometimes admittedly I let it happen, enabled unknowingly out of my ignorance, all I can say is Jesus loves me unconditionally, or rather I receive his unconditional love when I do the one condition God requires: repent for the sins I know I’ve committed and then receive out of gratitude the gift of forgiveness Jesus’ death and resurrection give me. How can I live out of less than the way my Lord and  Master and the Lover of my soul lived and died and gave his all for me?
I’m not Jesus, and I can’t be the Holy Spirit to anybody, and sometimes the wisest love is tough love that lets natural consequences bring the loved one to repent and seek God. But I can pray for those who don’t love me, who don’t know Jesus, and in fact must live sacrificially, reverentially, gratefully, compassionately, forgivingly, lovingly if I presume to call myself  by the name  of Jesus, Christian.
A”…BUT…” to pray: Oh, Father God, Lord Jesus, I admit its hard for me to love _____________________________________________ and sometimes I’d rather ask for “justice,” but justice is your business, not mine. My one call is to live like Jesus so that other people can see you are real, true, and alive in me, so Lord Jesus, when I have a hard time loving _________________, please help me to ______________________
______________________________ and give me wisdom to know how to show that,  and when and how to employ “tough love”, not bitterness, so that my love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that I may be able to discern what is good and best. And always, Lord, help me to sense, know, believe YOUR love FOR me, so I can act out of a heart filled with YOU. In Jesus’ name, Holy Spirit, I’m listening ______________________________________________img_1267

Frank Sinatra and Monopoly, Part 1: “I did it my way…”

Praise-God-christianity-30399917-450-227

If you’re as far over the hill as people might think I am, you vividly remember and can sing along with the passionate strains of Frank Sinatra in what we then saw as a profound statement of personal validation (remember, this was 1969 and the full bloom of Flower Power, the Feminist Movement, anti-war protests, “ban the bra,” and other  anti-establishment movements). Decades and lots of water under the bridge later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall but facing even greater threats in our world, I now see this as a proud statement of self-interest, self-promotion,  standing on top of anyone who gets in your way, and what could be the theme song of the expanding membership of the Narcissists ‘R” Us Club. For the fun of it – and these aren’t all the verses of the song – count how many times you see the words “I” and “my” in the verses below:

“Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
“Oh no, oh no not me,
I did it my way”.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!

Yes, it was my way.”

Songwriters: DUPRI, JERMAINE/SEAL, MANUEL LONNIE/RAYMOND, USHER
My Way lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, S U I S A, COOPERATIVE SOC. OF MUSIC AUTHORS & PUBLISHERS
How many “I’s”? Nine. How many “my’s”? Four; “me” shows up too, (him)self, “all that,” (the British version would add “and a bag of chips…”) and going back to sophomore literature class, what would you say the author’s thesis statement might be? ___________________________________
Just for comparison.  Lets’ look  at the writings of some other authors, and write after each passage what you think the writer’s thesis statement might be:

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:3-8 NIV  Paul (formerly known as Saul of Tarsus) _______________________
A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.
Proverbs 29: 23 King Solomon __________________________________
A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor…Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you …Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter to mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.   
 James 4: 6, 9-10 NIV James the Apostle_______________________________
They are blessed who are ·humble [meek; gentle],
    for ·the whole earth will be theirs [they shall inherit the earth;Ps. 37:11].
They are blessed who hunger and thirst after ·justice[righteousness],
    for they will be ·satisfied [filled].
They are blessed who show mercy to others,
    for ·God will show mercy to them [they will be shown mercy;the passive verb implies God as subject].
Matthew 5: 5-7 EXB  Jesus of Nazareth, (also known  as Redeemer, Son of God, Lord of Lords) _____________________________________
IF  My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV God Almighty (also known as Adonai, Everlasting God, Creator)
_____________________________________________
Hmmm…. Comparison?
And a BIG caution here to myself to avoid this easy-to-slip-into trap: I can’t ever think I can be proud of my humility, because then my humility is really thinly disguised pride. A better theme song for me to sing is the one that goes:
“Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the cross of Christ, my God. All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.”
It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God: our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. 31 Therefore,as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31 NIV 
…but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:24 NIV
Sigh, what a fine line I/we need to walk, remembering Whose we are first and Who gave us that position, knowing that nothing I’ve/we’ve ever done can make me/us righteous before a Holy, Pure, Righteous God. I freely admit here that I’ve fallen into the trap of “Maybe I can help you, God ….” My motives going in were right, but some of the dumb things I’ve done certainly did nothing to advance “YOUR Kingdom come, YOUR will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”  I don’t adhere to those who lash their own backs to show repentance, because to me, that’s just more making it about ME, about what I can do to atone for myself.  I’m simply saying that God forgives when we truly repent, wipes the slate clean, and gives us chance after chance to let Him be God and us simply reflect Him. THAT is our business, not “I did it my way,” but “I did it HIS way.”

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:19-24 ESV

Oh, ouch, that means lifting my paddle out of the water and letting Jesus steer the canoe, because He knows the better way to go. A complete stranger, Don,  gave me a powerful word from God several years ago that included these words:

                                                 I’m trying to bless you; you have to let me!

Stumble and fumble a paddle furiously as I’m often tempted, I get along much better when I sit down, shut up, hold on and LET GOD.  The song I’d like played at my funeral is this one by Robin Mark, one of my favorite Christian singers, with the caveat that it’s the way I WANT to live my life,  not the way I unfailingly did, and I pray Holy Spirit always leads me to and in God’s way, even if I trip and stumble and pull hard on His hand in the wrong direction. Count the number of you’s and your’s, you’ve and you’re’s  in the lyrics:

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I’ve done
For love’s rewards
Will stand the test of time

Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
Finding purest gold in miry clay
Turning sinners into saints

I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and ever after
For you’ve showed me Heaven’s  my true home
When it’s all been said and done
You’re my life when life is gone.

If I could re-write Sinatra’s song,

For what is a (wo)man, what has (s)he got?
If not Jesus, then (s)he has naught.
To say the things (s)he truly feels;
And lift God’s praise as one who kneels.
The record shows Christ took the blows –
I’ll do it HIS way!

No “BUT’s” about it, Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.  And may I say, when all is said and done, in a humble way, I hope I did it HIS way.

“You Will Hear a Voice Behind You…”

img_0563

Ethan and I in Nanning – we made it!

Sometimes, sometimes God’s Word rings true right in the middle of real life. It’s always true, of course; I just don’t see it in action up close and personal every day, but at Christmas in 2014, God certainly proved his Word – and his Love – very true to me.

I flew my younger son Ethan with me to China to spend Christmas with my older son, daughter-in-law and the two grandchildren. Ethan had never been to China before and I thought it would be a fun way for him to see where his brother has worked for the last ten years. I’d taken four trips over there by myself, and yes, on the last two I had run into several snags in airports, but God had orchestrated help for me. Ethan was going to get to see God in action, and I was going to get a powerful reminder!

We flew into Beijing to catch an in-country flight to another city, arriving on a large. full plane early in the morning. We had about 90 minutes between planes, which I thought was adequate time to transfer, that is, until saw the line at the customs station in the Beijing airport. Ahead of us in line were roughly 200 people! It would take a small eternity to clear customs, and at 6:30 in the morning ….

A woman pushing a cleaning cart came up behind us as we were eyeballing the roadblock of people in front of us, and seeing our confustion, suggested in her limited English that we go through the diplomatic line over to the right. Could we do that? I decided it was worth a try, so, clock ticking,  we walked over to the  diplomatic line. A family was in front of us, and the father was methodically handing over eight passports to the agent. Sloooowwwwly the agent looked through them and stamped them, and sloooowwwly handed them back. At last we were next, and there was no problem evidently with us going through that line, even though we weren’t diplomats, when I showed the agent our departure time.

We sped off to the inter-terminal train, hoping to quickly go from Terminal B to Terminal D. The train zipped along to Terminal C, people exited, doors closed, and then the train zipped right past Terminal D to Terminal E! Whaaat???!! We had no choice but to exit the train, and ahead of us was yet another checkpoint. Beginning to feel flustered and anxiety creeping up in me, we began walking toward the checkpoint when a voice in perfect English behind us inquired, “Are you going to Nanning?”

I turned to find a young Chinese woman walking toward us, smiling. “Yes, we are,” I replied, amazed that of all the cities she could have named, she named the one we were going to. She walked withs through TWO checkpoints: the one into the terminal and the one on the other side of a stairway to catch the train going back toward Terminal B. She was a Mandarin instructor at a university in Texas and just happened to be from Nanning!

That wasn’t the end of our trials in departing the airport, and I will spare you the cliff-hanging terror of the accident when a bottle of taco seasoning my son was carrying as a Christmas gift flew out of one of his shoes as the FOURTH security team looked through his backpack, shattering and spilling spices all over the floor. (Frankly, this has been the story of my life for the past seven years!) Suffice it to say they held the gate open just long enough – and I’m talking ready to roll the jetway back – for Ethan to run to it and all of us board the connecting flight. Whew!

As we plopped down in our seats on the plane, a verse from Isaiah ran and leaped on the jetway of my consciousness: “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”” Isaiah 30:21-22 NIV

Praise God, praise God, from whom all blessings flow …. I absolutely knew God had directed two people, perhaps women who didn’t even know him, to help us make our connection that morning.  Four years earlier I’d faced a similar dilemma when I arrived at another airport in China, this time on my way back home,. I needed to catch the bus to the ferry that would take me to the Hong Kong airport, but what met me in the parking lot was a sea of vans whose only signage was in Mandarin. Behind me was a voice on that morning, too, asking me if I needed to find the bus to the Hong Kong airport ferry, and who should God have sent that morning but a pilot for Air China!

If you look back to my posts in 2013, you’ll find one that’s titled “God of my steps and mis-steps.” Boy, have I taken some mis-steps since then, out of sheer grief that sometimes rose like a tsunami to drown me. I would much rather tell you that I’ve trusted God serenely with my whole heart, but in all honesty, and because I’m sure someone else who’s goofed, staggered, and fumbled their way  through grief or PTSD needs to hear this, GOD has remained completely faithful to me despite my staggering!

Some days I still do, finding it hard to believe even now that a person I trusted completely would prove utterly untrustworthy, BUT God is trustworthy in spite of my wavering trust in him.

I quote Charles Haddon Spurgeon from a sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, July 23, 1882:

I invite you to notice first of all THE POSITION OF THE WANDERER to whom this special blessing comes. How does God find men when he declares that they shall hear a word behind them? First, he finds them with their backs turned to him. This is clear enough, if you remember that the word is to be heard “behind” them. The sinner has gone away from God, and God calls after him from behind. He has turned his back upon his true Friend, his best Friend, his only capable Friend, but that Friend does not therefore change his temper and resent the insult; nay, he is provoked to a love more pleading and persuasive than ever, and calls to him to come into the right way. After having transgressed wilfully and wickedly, the rebel now distinctly turns his back on God and truth; according to the Lord’s complaint, “they have turned unto me the back, and not the face.” He turns his back on the law, on the gospel, on mercy, on eternal life. He turns his back on the adoption of the great Father, on pardon bought with the blood of Jesus, on regeneration which can alone be wrought by the Holy Spirit: he turns his back upon holiness, happiness, and heaven. He turns away from sunlight, and wanders down into deeper and yet deeper night, striving to get away from God and holy influences. Yet the Lord follows him, and with a voice of touching love and tender compassion he calls to him, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” The word of warning, instruction, and entreaty follows the wanderer, and with ever-increasing pathos beseeches him to turn and live. Again and again the wise, earnest, personal voice assails his ear, as if love resolved that he should not perish if wooing could win him to life. The wanderer seeks not God, but his God seeks him. Man turns from the God of love, but the love of God turns not away from him. What matchless grace is this, that God should thus call after sinners when they openly renounce his rule, and flee from his mercy.  http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1672.php

This reminds me of one of my favorite songs, both in English and Chinese: “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not; Thy compassions they fail not. As Thous hast been, Thou forever will be.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I wonder how much different my life might have been, how many potholes and how much quicksand I might have avoided if I could have done just that: trusted in the Lord with ALL my heart? Oh, people advised me to, but the problem is, nobody tells you HOW to do that, and the people telling you TO do that have very likely never gone through gut-wrenching tragedy to give you some helpful advice. Well, I have gone through it, and I’m still alive, and God is still showering his goodness on me despite all the (probably, definitely) needless angst and craziness  in my life since 2009. THAT is the message I have for you, dear someone who feels like a flop and failure for not being able to pull yourself up all by yourself and nobly trust in the Lord with ALL of your heart:  “Yet the Lord follows him (YOU), and with a voice of touching love and tender compassion he calls to him (YOU), “This is the way, walk ye in it.” The word of warning, instruction, and entreaty follows the wanderer, and with ever-increasing pathos beseeches him(YOU) to turn and live. Again and again the wise, earnest, personal voice assails his (YOUR)ear, as if love resolved that he (YOU) should not perish if wooing could win him (YOU) to life.”

As the trite saying of the 1970’s went, God ain’t finished with YOU yet! I don’t know what you’re going through. Some light is shining in my life at the end of a very long, dark tunnel, and I’m deciding maybe God wanted good for me all along! That’s who God is: goodness, love, mercy, kindness, power, provision, grace.

BUT God is also HOLY, Righteous, a Refiner’s Fire, PURE, and we do ourselves a mischief if you and I don’t remember that God is not to be trifled with in terms of the way we live our lives when we know better from God’s Word. So here is the rest of the passage from Isaiah 30:

Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. 24 The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. Isaiah 30:22-24 NIV

Pretty graphic warning, isn’t it? I am/you are to regard everything we cherish, value, fear or reverence above God Almighty as unclean, unholy, un-holdable, untouchable, not to be done, thought, said, valued, or worshiped.

You are radiant with light,
    more majestic than mountains rich with game.
The valiant lie plundered,
    they sleep their last sleep;
not one of the warriors
    can lift his hands.
At your rebuke, God of Jacob,
    both horse and chariot lie still.

It is you alone who are to be feared.
    Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment,
    and the land feared and was quiet—
when you, God, rose up to judge,
    to save all the afflicted of the land.
Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,
    and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.

Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them;
    let all the neighboring lands
    bring gifts to the One to be feared.
He breaks the spirit of rulers;
    he is feared by the kings of the earth. Psalm 76: 5-12 NIV

In our “God is our buddy” culture that I see all too often in the church in America, we need to remember that the voice we hear behind us speaking in mercy is also a voice of PURE Holiness from the ONE who has a right to judge every useless thought, word, attitude and action, and let us, sisters and brothers, live our lives wisely and care-full-ly in REVERENCE and Holy Awe, too, of the incredibly just and righteous God we dare to call Father.

A “…BUT…” to move: Today, God, show me how you’ve been there for me before. Remind me of the times you broke into my life with your love and guidance, even when I wasn’t looking for you: _____________________________________________________. And show me, please, yes even this: show me YOUR HOLINESS so I have the proper respect and awe of you, Olam El, Everlasting God Almighty ___________________________  In Jesus’ name, amen, and Holy Spirit, please, speak to me know in a way I can hear and understand. Correct me where you long to and need to, and lead me in YOUR righteousness to make YOUR way plain before my face __________________________

There Is Only One

 

img_1348My dad made me this silver cross inset with my birthstone – for a reason!

I still vividly remember the day I was checking out at the grocery store and the checker asked me about the cross necklace I was wearing, “Is that just jewelry, or are you really a Christian?”  His piercing questions has stayed with me for nearly four decades, because it’s the question that eventually comes to each of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus: is it just a name we wear, or do we really give the authority and purpose of our life over to the purposes of Jesus, the One Lord and Savior, and God’s Kingdom. If people don’t ask us that question here, God certainly will one day.

I’ve been a daughter, sister, student, wife, mother, teacher, speaker, writer, call center answerer, reservations agent, bank receptionist, Cub Scout Den Leader, and playground argument-controller, but in all these things, the One Thing that is true about me is that I call Jesus, Y’shua, both the Savior and Lord of my life.Whether I’m praying with that checker who asked me his question about my necklace to see if I would actually pray with him,  or mediating the ongoing arguments between Isaac and Sheila on the playground, or speaking to women in classes at church (where it’s easy), or finding recycled junk for Cub Scout crafts, or at the Zoo showing visiting kids from schools how amazingly interwoven and inter-dependent and precisely fit for their niches the world’s creatures are, or encouraging a learning-disabled boy in his conquest of fractions, or tucking my sons into bed at night, or holding my tongue when my husband tries to pick a fight and loving him anyway, the over-arching question to me every minute of every day is, “Is that just a facade you wear, or is Jesus truly Lord of your life, ALL of your life?”

That is, in truth, the one question that will eventually matter to each one of us. I’ve long believed that, if Jesus isn’t everything to me, then he’s nothing at all to me. All of history, all of life comes down to what I/we believe and accept as vital in our own lives  about the Cross of Calvary and the One who was nailed to it to pay for the sins of all mankind.

Who is Jesus?

 “For he (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Jesus),  in whom we have redemption,the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[a] your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” Colossians 1:13-23 NIV

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “So what?” you ask. ” What does that matter?”

“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)  “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By him we also have access by faith into this grace in which we now stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2) “There is no no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

Why does that matter? Why does Jesus matter? I’ve never flat-out stated this in any of my posts before, but there is a literal Hell- existence apart from, without the Presence of God, which will be pure torment –  and there is a literal Heaven – eternally forever vibrantly alive in the glorious, joyfully loving Presence of God. You WILL be in one existence or the other after your body dies, because God made the spirit within you to live forever. You have only two possible destinations, and there is only ONE WAY to be united in love with God forever: through the freely given blood of Jesus poured out paying the penalty for your sin (which “earns” you Hell) on the Cross. So I ask you:

1) Are you a sinner, incapable in and of yourself to be so totally holy and pure and sinless at all times that you DESERVE on your own merits to have a living relationship with the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Transcendent, Immutable, Holy, Pure, Righteous and Just and Merciful Creator of all things?  I KNOW I’m not, and I answered that question Jesus put to me on February 20, 1972: “You know I died for the world, but do you know I died for YOU?” In the decades since I’ve seen even more clearly and potently why I needed and need everyday a Savior whose purity and righteousness and mercy covers every dumb, stupid, selfish,thoughtless or angry thing I have ever or will ever do, think, or  say. THAT alone, Jesus’ Blood on the cross and His resurrection from the grave is THE ONLY WAY to a living, vibrant, everlasting relationship with God Almighty forever, adopted as His child, back in the relationship He intended all of mankind to have with Him when He created life. (and no, the pronoun “he” doesn’t bother me a bit or sound sexist at all, ladies. My earthly father was a “he”  and I have no trouble believing that God created both he-s and she-s out of the totality of His nature)

2) Can you get over yourself enough to accept and gladly cling to the ONE perfect substitutionary sacrifice to cover ALL of your sins? Can you deal with the fact that there is nothing you can do,  absolutely nothing, to “make” yourself acceptable to a purely Holy God? That is SO hard for us “You can do it – pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get it done” Americans, and I’d venture to guess, for every person on the planet who would LIKE to be acceptable completely to God on her or his own merits.

3) Can you believe that yes, God loves you passionately even in your imperfections and sin, loves you enough to offer Himself through Jesus as the ONE open door into relationship and fellowship with Him? Can you humble yourself and swallow your pride enough to gladly receive a freely given gift you couldn’t possible afford to “buy” for yourself?

4) If you responded “yes” to questions 1-3, can you accept that living in relationship with God through Jesus changes, must change if you truly mean to be God’s child, the way you relate to people  and possessions and position in life?

Someone dear to me said to me, “Jesus dying on the cross never meant to me what it means to you, and  I knew it would come back one day to ‘bite me.'” If Jesus is nothing and no one more than merely a historical figure, then that statement might make sense. Everyone agrees that Plato, Socrates, Julius Caesar, and Thomas Edison actually lived, and Plato, and Socrates wrote some interesting philosophy, Julius Caesar left  journals of his conquests, and we can read notes of Edison’s experiments with electricity, which did make a profound change in our daily lives.  But if you only believe that jesus existed as an historical figure and said some things worth considering, then you have no idea who Jesus was and is.

Neither Plato, Socrates, Caesar nor Edison have the power and the authority to  bring you into a genuine, living, joyfully connected in love and life-transforming relationship with the Author and Creator of the universe. Jesus dying on the cross is the One most singularly meaningful, vital, pivotal point of human history, and if it means only something in theory or a fact of history of little personal importance to you, then I wonder if it means anything at all to you, or more pointedly, if Jesus means nothing to you. If you went forward at an altar call at a church or crusade because intellectually it sounded like a good thing to do, something like buying flood insurance if you live near a river, then you entirely missed the most vital, crucial question of your life: do you know that, on your own merits, you can never be “a pretty good person” enough to genuinely know, encounter, be in relationship with THE perfectly holy Good who intentionally made you out of elements common to all matter but with an eternal spirit waiting to know Him as the Father who loves and longs for you?

Peter explained to Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Caesarea who was a God-seeking man, “Jesus…commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:42-44 NIV

And  Paul proclaimed, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4: 12 NIV

What does “saved” mean? It means entering into an eternal relationship with Everlasting God, the verdict on all the dumb, thoughtless, hurtful, selfish, cruel, mindless things you’ve ever done that do keep you apart from the perfectly sinless God rendered “NOT guilty” only, solely, completely because the sinless Jesus paid the penalty for ALL of the sin of ALL mankind, if only we individually recognize our desperate, yes desperate, need and personal inadequacy and receive that astounding free gift of love. Only one God, only one Jesus, his exact representation in a human body, only ONE WAY to relationship with God through Jesus.

Every message I’ve ever spoken, every post and book I’ve ever written, every conversation with someone (strangers included) that culminated in a prayer, every turkey sandwich I’ve taken to the homeless, every child I’ve helped to master fractions or spelling, every preschooler I’ve hugged, every hello and thanks and calling a clerk by name, everything I’ve done somehow reflects, positively  or negatively,  my relationship to Jesus and how I answer the question of his importance to me. Oh, for sure some days I’ve blown it, and blown it big-time; that’s precisely why I NEED Jesus. But my aim, my goal, my fervent hope is that I can be a vessel through whom God can move in love, validation, hope, occasionally confrontation in love,  acceptance, encouragement, and God’s truth lifted, lived, and illuminated in Jesus. Amen,  amen to the One Thing that matters.

Who is Jesus to you? How do you answer that one question? How will you live out your answer if it truly changes everything for you?

everlasting love_t_nv_2

A “…BUT…” to pray (even if you’ve prayed this before): Almighty God, loving

Father, I see how truly impossible it is for me to ever be “good enough” or do enough to earn or merit making my own way into relationship with you, but you created me for that kind of relationship. I see that something is very wrong, out of order with your original design for me even if I’ve “followed the rules” for the most part and even if I’m a “pretty good person.” Even if all that is true of me, I’m not without sin, flaw, beyond angry remarks or hurtful thoughts, like when I _______________________________. BUT when I come to you through Jesus’ death on the cross, you don’t see me through my sin; you see me through Jesus’ love, so God, right now I’m saying ______________________________________________________________ , accepting the gift of Jesus not as my “flood insurance” but as the one who loves me incredibly enough to die for me, the only one who could do this, now not just my salvation but the Lord and King and rightful guide of my life, and I say a glad thank you, God, thank you, Jesus, thank you that you _________________________ so now I know I can ____________________________! In Jesus’ name, hallelujah, and Holy Spirit, speak to me now and be alive within me forever ___________________________________________.

Rise Up,O Men Of God

 

Okay, I’ve been resisting saying this, but as I had to speak up for the Homicide Survivors to say the things that the culture feels they had to be too “nice” and keep within themselves, bearing their injustice in their own hearts, now I feel the same urgency to say this. Rise up, oh MEN OF GOD! Speak to your brothers! We, your sisters, can’t say what you can say to the men falling to porn, adultery, addictions, weak silence as they lose their children to drugs and cultural compromise, BUT YOU CAN. (And sisters, this goes for you also. Please speak  to your sisters, too!)

My grandfathers weren’t men of God, at least my mom’s wasn’t till God got hold of him, BUT my grandmothers were both strong women of God who took upon themselves the spiritual training of their children, so my mother and my father were both people who loved Jesus and gave their hearts and service to His kingdom even as they went about their daily tasks. I had to be that for my own sons, and Praise God they are both men of integrity before God, compassion for others, loving Jesus, honoring God’s Word in their lives and conduct and relationships. I raised them to respect their father, and they still honor him as their father.

Go to any church and you see 70% women and maybe 30% men in congregations. Go to any intercessory prayer meeting and you see 95% women and 5% men, even if the meeting is at night when men are off work. RISE UP, O MEN OF GOD! You were and can be strong and brave and courageous and giving your life for our nation and freedom. Won’t you be the same man of courage to confront your brother who’s sinning for the sake of his eternal destiny? Are you afraid he won’t like you anymore?? You might hurt his feelings? Is that how you faced the Communists in Vietnam and in Korea, the destroyers of freedom in Afghanistan and Kuwait, how you law enforcement men face criminals on our streets? Did you stay home and keep quiet and not risk doing anything because they might not like you anymore?

Samuel confronted King Saul, Elijah confronted Ahab, David confronted Goliath, Moses confronted Pharaoh, Nathan the prophet confronted King David out of REVERENCE AND RESPECT FOR GOD ABOVE LOVE FROM MAN. Good grief, Esther had to confront the king to save the Jews in Babylon from Haman’s gallows. Where was the Samuel to confront my Saul, the Elijah to confront and rebuke my Ahab and his Jezebels, the Nathan the Prophet to confront my David, the Moses to stand before that blinded to God Pharaoh? Did his godly friends not want to hurt his feelings or risk his anger? MEN Of GOD, we women can encourage and support you, but we girls can’t BE you and we don’t want to have to be and shouldn’t have to be in your families or with your brothers. Rise up in your courage, because some of us girls have had to exercise more of it than you have exhibited.

Please don’t hear what I’m NOT saying. No way do I disregard “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” Matthew 5:7  or “Judge not lest you be judged “ Matthew 7:1 or “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father  will not forgive you.” Matthew 6:14-15  But nowhere does Jesus say, “Just let your brother or sister keep on sinning so you aren’t perceived as judgmental,” or “Tolerate sin, that others will tolerate sin in you.” I sing the Casting Crowns song, “ A plank-eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided. Jesus, friend of sinners, open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers. Let our hearts be led by mercy. Help us reach with open hearts and open doors. Jesus friend of sinners,  break our hearts for what breaks yours.”

https://youtu.be/ipewEtvWl_3c

I’m NOT talking about throwing stones in self-righteousness, but speaking the truth in love. But truly, people  blindly going to hell, deceived and deluded by cultural compromise against and watering down God’s Word  breaks Jesus’ heart. Nowhere does Jesus say, “Just let your brother keep on sinning so you aren’t perceived as judgmental,” or “Tolerate sin, that others will tolerate sin in you.”

On the contrary, Jesus does say, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18: 15-18 Does that  sound like “Blessed are the tolerant who let a sister or brother keep on in sin”?

You may not like me for saying this, but it’s true. Don’t leave the work of conviction, confrontation, loving rebuke to your brothers to us girls. We’ve shouldered the spiritual welfare of our children and families and even our husbands alone too often. It’s NOT unmanly to read a Bible story to your children, sing Jesus Loves Me with them, pray with them. My Word, it’s the MOST MANLY THING YOU CAN DO to be the spiritual head of your home and serve your wife and children and stand up as a godly courageous truly caring brother to your brothers at work or in the church as Jesus modeled for us all, you guys included, the humble, brave  “speak the truth in love” servant heart of the King of Kings. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Well, what would’ve happened if Samuel didn’t shoulder his responsibility to God before Saul, Moses had worried what Pharaoh would think of him, Elijah hadn’t risked his life to speak into Ahab, David hadn’t spoken up with nothing but his sling and his stones and his God backing him up to Goliath, Esther had been the “submissive don’t make waves wife” and kept quiet about Haman’s  plans, Nathan hadn’t found the responsibility before God to speak later into King David, for crying out loud, Jesus hadn’t confronted the Pharisees and Sanhedrin and Rome and the kingdom of darkness? Where would you be, where would we all be?

YES, YOU ARE YOUR BROTHER’S KEEPER! Semper Fidelis, guys (and girls), and tell your brothers to get their focus onto being faithful to God and to their families, not on internet porn and iffy movies and off-color jokes and idolizing money and position, and the flirty smiles of women at work and cultural compromise from people of loose, ungodly values. MAN UP WITH YOUR GOD! (girls, pick a pronoun) There, I said it, and now you guys who are my Facebook friends may unfriend me, but I have to answer to and please Almighty God before I please you, and truthfully, what I’m saying, I’m saying in real man-honoring love, respect and admiration for who God created you all and each to be. I have to lean on my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus and manly, mighty Holy Spirit now to speak into ”him” the true convicting love and honoring confrontation “he” needs to hear yet to save his soul. God Almighty, I ask you now, for the last seven years, do what his “friends” were too afraid of his reaction to do, because “he’s” on his happy way to hell.

God Loves Linear Thinkers, Too – Or, You Don’t Have To FEEL For It To Be REAL.

pi-for-dessert

Pi for dessert, anyone?

Two kittens are sitting on a steep roof. Which one  slides off first? The one with the lowest mu…

What do you call a deer without any eyes and no ears in Venice? Deaf in Italy no-eye deer….

The license plate holder I saw and guffawed over on a monstrous Cadillac Armada that read: “F=MA   I win!”

Some of us just can’t help it. We were born with  a strong left hemisphere in our brain,  and jokes like this make our sides ache. Some people have a dominant right hemisphere in their brain and couldn’t care less about mu or force or pi, and some of us have powerful connections across both sides of our brains, which means we can be artistically creatively nerdy weird.

Here’s the scoop on brain hemispheres from  UCMAS Mental Math      ucmas.ca/our-programs/whole-brain-development/left-brain-vs-right-brain

“In general, the left and right hemispheres of our brain process information in different ways. While we have a natural tendency towards one way of thinking, the two sides of our brain work together in our everyday lives. The right brain of the brain focuses on the visual, and processes information in an intuitive and simultaneous way, looking first at the whole picture, then the details. The focus of the left brain is verbal, processing information in an analytical and sequential way, looking first at the pieces then putting them together to get the whole.

Left brain thinking is verbal and analytical. Right brain is non-verbal and intuitive, using pictures rather than words…. Though right-brain or non-verbal thinking is often regarded as more ‘creative’, there is no right or wrong here; it is merely two different ways of thinking. One is not better than the other, just as being right-handed is not ‘superior’ to being left-handed. What is important is to be aware that there are different ways of thinking, and by knowing what your natural preference is, you can pay attention to your less dominant side to improve the same.”

What on earth does this have to do with faith, with Christianity? I hope, fervently, that both Charismatic and non-Charismatic Believers may find something useful and  freeing in the story I share again, here, knowing some of you may not have read my  earlier post ,and sensing  some urgency that someone out there needs to  really get this  personal validation down deep today.

Logically, I begin at the beginning, long before I entered the picture, in roughly AD or CE 30. Jesus has just celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, and  he warns them of perilous times coming for them, but gives them a reason to hope, too:

I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” John 16: 4-15 NIV

And in the  evening of the first day of the next week after Jesus’ resurrection, a day after the Sabbath, immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion on the day before the Sabbath,  he appeared to his disciples:

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20” 19-22 NIV

Luke the physician picks up the narrative in the first chapter of the book of Acts:

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Acts 1: 4-9 NIV

The promised baptism with the Holy Spirit came 50 days after Passover:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon turned and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”  Acts 2: 1-17 NIV

Fast-forward to 1974 AD /CE. I come  on the  scene, admittedly classed as one of the nerds and grouped with the same people throughout school, the “guinea pigs”  who experienced New Math in junior high and thought it was fun. Loving Jesus since I was four years old, truly hearing him and his call to me personally in 1972, I know that Jesus’ followers operated in miracles,signs and wonders recorded throughout  the New Testament, and I’m wondering why  we don’t regularly see these things in America –  at least in the slice of America I worship in – as the first  followers of Christ did. I know, because I’ve heard, that miracles happen around the world, and yes, I want  with all my heart to be a more effective,  God-empowered  Christian, to have the Holy Spirit’s power in me so that whatever I do for the Lord, it will be out of HIS power, not mine, and truly be effective in shelves of other  people and in my own life, too. I don’t want my walk as a Jesus follower to simply exhibit my limited nerdy human abilities.

Doesn’t that sound rational and logical to you?

So here I sit at the Gardipee’s  house as Joan prays for the two of us to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and I’m feeling the biggest nothing in my life. As she finishes praying  and extends her hands to us  for  us to begin praying in tongues, all that comes out of me is something like “Yabba dabba doo.”  Utter silence from my partner. I know that the Flintstones is not a Christian cartoon show, so I left more than little perplexed. Wasn’t I supposed to fall out of my chair, writhe on the floor, foam at the mouth and ecstatically speak in Farsi  or some angelic language?

THIS IS FOR EVERY ONE OF YOU ANALYTICAL LINEAR NON-EMOTIONAL THINKERS OUT THERE:  What I heard from God the next day transformed my life,  rationally, logically, simply, but  powerfully truly. While dusting the dresser and asking God, “What in the world WAS that?” I very clearly heard in my spirit,”Who gives the Holy Spirit?”

“You do,” I replied out loud.

“Why do you want the power of the  Holy Spirit?”

“So I can be truly effective in whatever I do for you in my life. So it will be real,  not fake: really YOU and not me.”

“Don’t you think  I  want you to have that, even more than you do?”

“Yes…..”

“Then why do you think I didn’t give you what you asked me for?”

Holy cow!  Apprehension, comprehension,  gratitude, recognition, more gratitude, logically understandingly pure thanks rose up in me, and my life hasn’t been the same since. Wish I’d thought to share  this  with my very analytical partner, who experienced a  big nothing, too! Who do you think connects all those dots in my life? Makes sure blessing out of the mis-steps I’ve made? Plants even my slipping feet/heart on some very high places lately, despite myself? Latest was two days ago at  the hardware store, connecting me “accidentally” with a sweet Jesus follower as I looked for some help finding a blank faceplate for an electrical outlet, and forty minutes of  wonderful fellowship and prayer and sharing ensued. I did NOT plan, engineer, orchestrate that. I couldn’t have.

Dear analytical, logical, left-brained, not generally emotional, nerdy, wonderful child of God made His through taking Jesus as your Savior, YOU, yes YOU, can be the vessel in which God’s very own Holy Spirit resides and out of which that same Holy Spirit flows in amazing fullness, wonder, power, authority, and even passionate love.

No, you don’t have to suddenly spout  ancient  Hebrew or Atlantean, roll on the floor or do anything worthy of a snake  oil  show to validate  and authenticate that you received God’s Spirit. All you have to do is ask and receive, logically, analytically, rationally,  gratefully, thankfully, believing God will be more faithful and eager to give and  pour his very own Holy Spirit into you than you are to ask for Him (not “it,” but Whom) and sisters, don’t let the choice of pronoun offend you or keep you from asking for God’s  Presence! How petty! God is more than we can imagine, a Fullness beyond  comparison and beyond pronoun, so logically, rationally, get over it.

If you DO suddenly burst into ancient Hebrew or Atlantean or angelic speech or laugh or sing, or dance, or fall on your face rolling in, or leaping up in joy,  that’s fine too. LET GOD BE GOD AND GIVER! Don’t judge your experience,and for Pete’s sake, don’t judge the experience of anyone else. God will give to you and  them and love you/them the way he created you/them to both be and to receive from  himself.

As your read the following from Paul, internalize what you hear the Holy Spirit speaking to YOU:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12: 1-21NIV

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 12: 1-13:12 NIV

Makes sense AND it’s warm and captivating, doesn’t it  and isn’t it? Sigh, lift up your heart and/or expectation, and simply ask God, knowing he WILL give you WHO he’s longed to give you all the time.

 

A”…BUT…”to pray: Okay, God,  I am a linear, ________________  (or I am a creative, emotional, __________) thinker, But I’m trusting you toggle me exactly Who I need from you as I ask  you today, Lord, fill me with YOU! ______________________________ and thanks. Help me to see YOU in me more every  day. How do YOU want  to live through  me? _____________________ In Jesus’ name, thank you!