Be Gentle!

Friends came to visit the other day with four children, and I found myself saying “be gentle” a lot around Raphael and my instruments.  Most kids don’t ask to play my piano, they just begin banging away. What they don’t know, and likely wouldn’t care, is that my piano is an heirloom. It was custom hand carved in Ontario in 1901, has been fully restored and holds significant value to me because of who gave it to me.

This led to pondering what is really important as far as breakable things, so the next morning I looked up verses that deal with gentleness.  The first one was Philippians 4:4

Let you gentleness be evident to all, the Lord is near.

In our individualistic expressionistic culture, gentleness is not something we hear about often, but it is something that sets a person remarkably apart.

The Bible tells us a gentle answer turns away wrath.  It is not human tendency to respond to wrath or anger with a gentle answer. David told me of an incident where he was taking significant verbal abuse from some one who had come to work for him.  Rather than returning heated words, he responded, asking;

“What is your name?”

Taken aback, the other stopped and asked; “What?”

“What is your name?”  David repeated.

In the midst of the angry tirade, David firmly extended dignity, offering a relationship to work from, rather than simply fighting around a problem and the situation resolved peaceably.

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure and peace loving, it is always gentle…    (James 4:17)

As I thought about gentleness, Jesus showed me a picture through my heirloom piano of how He feels about His children.  Each is custom created and holds significant value to Him – far more value than the rarest instrument and He desires gentleness to mark my dealings with each one.

The broken vessels always seem to have the sharpest edges and must be handled the most gently.  I have come to realize it is the same with people.  I never cease to be amazed at the gentleness with which Jesus interacts with the broken, outcast and lost, flying in the face of culture’s disregard for those outside the circle.

If we are listening when interacting with people, we would hear Jesus say – “please be gentle – that person holds significant value to me.” He is near, waiting to pour gentle grace into my every encounter others if I will see with His eyes.

To be undergirded with gentleness does not mean to be walked on or to turn a blind eye to wrong, rather, it is an undercurrent, directed by wisdom and strength that sees beneath the surface of the masks we wear and says; “I see you, and I care about the person beneath the mask”

We are to be gentle when gentleness does not come naturally.  To be part of mending the brokenness we all carry in a way that reflects accurately, the One who cares the most.

 

 

Check Your Undergarments

You know that sinking feeling when you are dressing for a big day and upon opening your drawer, you realize you have no clean underwear?  I would far rather be stuck wearing dirty underwear than be caught in a mistruth or doing something that casts a shadow on the name of my Jesus.

So where are you taking this?  You may ask.  I have been thinking about the gritty day to day stuff that is the foundation of who I am.  My motives, my attitudes, my thought patterns. The Bible talks a fair bit about character as clothing and the importance of dressing right for life.  It determines how people see us, and how we navigate life.  How we act when everyone or no one is watching and the attitude in which we do even “all the right stuff.”

The definition of righteousness is:

Acting in accord with divine or moral law :  free from guilt or sin.

The thing is, I can’t be righteous on my own.  Its not about being “good enough” or even doing “all the right stuff.”  Its about identifying with and abiding in Jesus moment by moment, day by day.  Jesus made me righteous, and then I must live out my life in that righteousness.

Job, the one God tells Satan is blameless says this:

Everything I did was honest. Righteousness covered me like a robe, and I wore justice like a turban. (Job 29:14)

Isaiah prophesies about the Messiah – our role model saying:

He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment. (Isaiah 11:5)

I am learning that doing what is considered the “good Christian things” is empty and gets me nowhere if I don’t have the undergarments of truth and and the robes of righteousness as a foundation.

The catch is that I can’t don these crucial garments without abiding in the One who supplies them.  Jesus is the Truth and only in Him am I found righteous.  It doesn’t matter what others think or say, it only matters what He thinks and what He says.  I can only know what He thinks and says through knowing the Word of God and intimacy with Jesus through His Spirit.  Without a belt, one may well find themselves with their pants around their ankles, and without underwear… well you follow my drift.

People of integrity can be hard to find, and yet, it is the foundation of any healthy relationship.  It is also the basis we build our witness on.  Everything I do should be done fully clothed and with my underwear on whether it be a business deal, an interaction with a stranger, words I speak to my family or words spoken under my breath.

Have you been to the throne room yet today? Have you checked your undergarments lately?

 

But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)

Rejoice in Free Will!

I have been saying Philippians 4:4-8 to myself the last while and have had a second wave of a long coming revelation.

We are given free will to choose.  Anything.  I am thinking of joy in particular today.  Like choosing what I eat gradually changes how I feel and look, choosing the thoughts and emotions I entertain gradually changes my thought patterns and how I view life itself. In fact, brain specialist Dr. Caroline Leaf teaches that what we choose with our will (mind) actually changes the brain itself, which in turn changes our DNA making our body either impermeable to disease, or susceptible to it.

Rejoice in the Lord always again I say, Rejoice!  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.  

Scripture doesn’t let us off the Rejoicing hook when things look grim or when we are having a terrible, no good, rotten, I’m going to move to Australia kind of day.  It simply says ALWAYS REJOICE.

In fact, when Israel faced huge obstacles that seemed insurmountable, they were called to worship and praise God before He acted on their behalf.  Nothing has changed in 2000 and some years.  We are still called to rejoice – especially when that is the last thing we feel like doing.

Yesterday, tired and not feeling great, I struggled to accomplish the simplest of tasks with a teething, gassy baby.  Small problems, I know, but I decided to put my will to work for me rather than just giving into the frustration and impatience that welled up.

I began praising Jesus for the things He has blessed me with and His goodness and faithfulness to us.  I declared my thankfulness and told myself I was choosing to rejoice, and slowly, the tide of frustration was overtaken by the sweet waves of thankfulness.

In Psalm 42:5, David instructs his soul to hope in God and praise Him for His help.

Psalm 35:9 says: “And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; It shall rejoice in His salvation.”  

The will to choose is a gift God gave us as His children that brings fulfillment when we use our will to obey and glorify Him.  It is only then we are free to engage in the abundant life Jesus told us He died for.

With the empowering grace of Christ, nothing is unchangeable.  Depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, addiction and every other thing that robs us of the joy of the Lord bows before the will that chooses differently.  One. Day. At. A Time.

Like stepping back and critically assessing  a painting I am working on, I can asses and replace harmful emotions seeking to command my soul, and choose what brings life.  Its not something I can do on my own – as always, I need the Holy Spirit to show me what is good and choose what it true!

May you choose to rejoice today in whatever situation you find yourself.

 

A Word To The Wise

I was praying for a friend, asking God to give him a spirit of wisdom and revelation, and began thinking about what wisdom and revelation look like. Looking up the many verses about wisdom, I became convinced it is something I need more of in my life.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Ephesians 1:17)

There is a reason God rewarded Solomon so lavishly when he asked for wisdom rather than riches or power.  God told the new king that not only would He grant his request, but He would add to it as well.

“Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chron 1:10)

From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom. (1 Kings 4:34)

Wisdom is not the same as being smart; true wisdom from above looks like this:

But the wisdom from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds. It is wholehearted, straightforward and sincere.  And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness. (James 3:17)

True wisdom gave Solomon a platform to influence nations. True wisdom builds healthy, beautiful relationships with God and others.  True wisdom paves a straight path to deeper relationship with Jesus, bringing a hunger to be in His presence.

Love wisdom like a sweetheart; make her a beloved member of your family. (Prov 7:4)

Wisdom creates families that thrive and build eternal legacy together, while reflecting the glory and light of Jesus.

Wisdom from Heaven gives understanding to make the hours we are given as productive and fulfilled as God designed them to be.

“I, Wisdom, will make the hours of your day more profitable and the years of your life more fruitful.” (Proverbs 9:11)

With all the fruit of wisdom, I had to ask myself; ‘how do I attain more of it?’

If any of you needs wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously  without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt for the one who doubts is like a wave tossed by the sea. (James 1:5-6)

If you want better insight and discernment, and search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure, then wisdom will be given you and knowledge of God himself; you will soon learn the importance of reverence for the Lord and of trusting him. (Prov 2:3-5)

It seems as I seek Jesus and the heart of the Father, I acquire the wisdom of Heaven.  As I listen to the Holy Spirit who is the Teacher, Counsellor, and Helper, He rubs off on me, empowering me to grow in wisdom.

So today I say; “Well Holy Spirit, lets build it together!”

 

 

 

 

Where Have all the Babies Gone?

I burst out laughing as my weary mind takes in the shocked look on Raphael’s little face, elicited by my shocked exclamation as he pees straight into my now cold tea.

Having a baby is like nothing I have ever done. The praying, anticipating, speaking life over this little person I will assist into the world, speaking Jesus’ destiny and calling over their life.  It is painful, messy, wonderful and often puts me far out of familiar.

There is a trend in my generation. We are not having babies. Its uncomfortable, sometimes downright painful, and really, who has time for a baby? They encompass much of your time, and resources, and there is no guarantee they won’t end up resenting you at some point and walking away.

“We have ambitions and plans that just don’t allow for kids” I hear my people say.  The focus of my generation is not on growing strong, young men and women with character who will change the world, it is on our lives and sometimes simply staying afloat is all we can worry about.

There is a mirror of culture in the church. We are not having babies. I mean born again babies. The birth that determines eternity. And I wonder why?

We can say its because things like 3000 people being added to our number like in Acts 2 don’t happen today. But in the hungry places of the world where the Spirit of God is welcomed it does.

We can say its because our culture is hardened against the gospel and not open to God. But every culture and generation has eternity in their hearts and brokenness that cries out for the Healer.

We can say its because there is not as much need in North America and we are a “Christian nation.” But we’re not a Christian nation, Vancouver is considered unreached and hurting people are everywhere.

Although we don’t say it so forthright, I wonder if we have the same excuses as my generation. We are occupied, crafting our lives, living with our own unhealed wounds and worries and don’t have the capacity to add the great commission to our already overflowing plates.

I wonder if our focus has gotten onto “doing the things” and “going to the places” that we forget about THE LOST.

There is nothing in life like participating in the eternal birth of a soul. Partnering with the Holy Spirit to love, speak life over and anticipate the birth of some one God invites us to walk with is the most fulfilling gift I have ever been given.  And I want to do it again. And again.

Like having kids, it can be painful, messy and time consuming.  It requires me to leave my safe life and enter the world of another, constantly obeying the Holy Spirit and loving radically.  But after all, that is what Jesus did for me.  Bore the messy, the painful, stepping into my world to love me before I was lovable.

So I am asking for God to bring people who need to be reborn and give me the grace to do the messy, wonderful work of loving them well.

 

Who Gave You Permission?

As a true blood Canadian, I have a propensity to apologize and worry whether I might be offending or putting some one out.  While this is not inherently bad, the last number of years, Jesus has been relentlessly working to take away the fear of man that stops me from wanting to stand out in obedience to Him.  This flies in the face of my tendency to back down when I sense disapproval from others, making me pretty uncomfortable at times. I am sorry to say, I have not always stood my ground.

Galatians 1:1 says:

I was not appointed by any group of people of any human authority, but by Jesus Christ Himself and God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead. 

Then, a few paragraphs farther:

Obviously I am not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. (1:10)

Then:

But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by His marvelous grace.  Then it pleased Him to reveal His Son to me so I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. (1:15)

It is easy to be caught up in the world’s code of established borders and fences around what is perceived as “normal” and “acceptable.”  And while some of us like to venture close to the fence like a wannabe maverick, testing the electric wire, what we don’t know is the grass on the other side can make us truly alive.

I wonder if we realize that like Paul, we are chosen and called for specific tasks God dreamed for us long before we were born.  Inside the world’s invisible fence of permissions, this calling is impossible. Like the fearful cow, afraid of the electric fence, many  never make it to the abundant, fully alive life Jesus planned for us.

Jesus wants so desperately for us to understand that He is the ultimate permission granter; the only one who can qualify and equip us for the tasks He has given us.

If we are waiting for people’s approval, we will never have His.

There is value in hermeneutics, but it can also be our excuse not to step into what we heard Jesus calling us to in the dark solitude of the night watch.

Faith takes the calling into the daylight where others offer challenges and reasonable “outs” and remains steadfast and confident that Jesus will see us through till the end.

Grace is not just what gets us saved – it is the power to finish well day by day.  Divine calling does not make life easy, it makes it significant.

I pray you are never content to live an “ordinary” life inside the fences of society.  In the way you work, play, suffer, rejoice and live, may your life exuberantly shout “Permission granted; fully living with purpose!”

Do you feel qualified for the things God is calling you to? What causes you to hesitate at the fence lines?

 

 

Go Ahead and Brag!

I love talking about my David.  I didn’t realize he was so intelligent, proficient at almost everything, and incredibly capable before I married him.  I am so thankful for his depth of character and speak well of him every chance I get.

But there is some one I love bragging about even more than my beloved.  In fact, I talk about Him and the ways He has influenced and transformed my life whenever I have opportunity.

The other day I encountered a neighbour I hadn’t seen for some time.  She was surprised to see little Raphael, knowing I had been in a wheelchair, trying not to die.  I told her howJesus had taken the Lyme Disease away, and that Raphael was a miracle gift we never expected to receive.

There is no end to the things I can boast about Jesus for in my life:  His goodness and kindness in the midst of suffering.  His faithful provision to care for our needs.  His peace when the world is shifting in uncertainty.  His voice, speaking into our circumstances of His intentions and plans for us, when they were humanly impossible.

When I boast about myself, it is a vain attempt to establish a firmer identity.  When I boast about Jesus, it anchors my identity in the One who sustains and fulfills true identity.

I used to think sharing my faith was intimidating; that I had to know the right words to convince some one they should believe.

But as I get to know Jesus better, I realize, all I have to do is share what He is doing in my life in a genuine way as He gives me opportunity.  I am not responsible for “making some one believe.” that is the Holy Spirit’s job.  But out of my love and affection for Jesus, stories of His faithfulness in my life naturally come out, providing seeds for the God’s Spirit to breath on.  

But let the one who boastsboast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:24)

Not only is this, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:11)

Its hard to offend people with a story and if they are hungry, the conversation will go farther.  I love sharing the truth about who Jesus is for them too, but it often begins with sharing an experience of Jesus or a question about their life.

When we boast in the goodness of God, it puts a picture of Jesus in people’s minds they don’t get from secular media or society.  Few people know that God actually desires a relationship with them and that He is a good Father who delights to guide and bless His kids!  This is something worth knowing and worth boasting about.

What has God done in your life that is worth boasting about?  How are you getting to know Jesus better so His resurrection power is evident in your life?

The Green Monster

I have come across the topic of jealousy multiple times the last while and have been meditating on Bible passages that speak of it. The Old Testament talks often of the jealousy of God for His people’s devotion. On the other hand, in the New Testament Paul makes it clear that jealousy and discord have no place in the life of a believer or in the church.

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? (1 Cor 3:3)

So many times I hear believers say “I’m only human.”  While I understand the connotation, I am beginning to believe, like Paul, that it is wrong to live with this philosophy when we have the God of the universe, living inside us, wanting to empower and sanctify us to live differently.

Jealousy can rip apart a church or a family and separate the best of friends, making it one of the go to strategies of the enemy.

But jealousy doesn’t just hurt the person on the receiving end, it is often most destructive to the one who entertains it.

From what I understand from scripture, the only righteous jealousy is toward the relationship between Jesus and us, His bride.  He is jealous for us, and we are to be jealous of a pure relationship with Him.

Never toward another person.

Ever.

Funny how when I am praying about something with some one else, the Spirit of God often points that same thing out in my own life.

I confess, at times I allow insecurity to breed frustration and resentment when some one else succeeds in an area I have worked hard in and feel called to, but have seen little fruit.

Let’s call it like it is.  If I am not celebrating fully from my heart, the success of another, I allow jealousy to incubate.

Jesus sets an example of what it looks like to be so secure in His identity and affection in the Father, that He desires His followers to surpass Him, knowing it will bring glory to the Father.

The only righteous jealousy causes rejoicing when some one comes alive in Jesus, and their gifts and calling are realized, bringing glory to God for what He has given them.  Paul shows this in regards to the church he planted in Corinth:

For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. (2 Cor 11:12)

I think the opposite spirit of jealousy is unselfish loyalty and unity that empowers.  It is a beautiful thing when a group of people live this out.  It is an impossible thing without walking in the empowering love and grace of Jesus.

“Jesus, please give me such a burning love for you that I passionately work to see others succeed in their calling, and celebrate when you are glorified in the lives of others! May I live a life that empowers and points steadfastly to your majesty and goodness.”

Mind the Gap

On our trips to Central Asia, we spent a fair bit of time in China.  For the 2008 Olympics, the airport was completely revamped, and a more sophisticated train system put in.  As the car doors opened, I heard a kind, but heavily accented voice say; “Mine the gap.”

I wondered why you would want to “mine the gap” and thought perhaps it was something you had to be Chinese to understand.

I laughed when later I found out it was fashioned after England’s train system and the kind voice was really saying “Mind the gap” to let you know to watch your step as you departed the train.

As I was reading this morning, I began thinking of the in between times of life when you are on your way from here to there, but not yet here nor there. The in between.

It can be easier to stay the course when in the thick of things than when in transition and not fully engaged.  Sometimes I am good at donning the armour of God and standing firm while in the throes of battle, but am tripped up when I relax my guard in the meantime.   

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can endure it.  (1 Corinthians 10:12-14)

When I find myself in the in-between places of life both translations are helpful.  I do well to remind myself to “mind the gap”, being vigilant to keep my armour on and my relationship with the Holy Spirit strong.  I also do well to “mine the gap” as it is times when the natural propensity is to “go easy on ourselves” that God often wants to prepare me for what is coming next.  If I take a spiritual nap, I miss the important preparation and strategic rest God invites me into,  opening myself up to the subtle attacks of the enemy.

Busyness is not synonymous with productivity.

Inactivity is not synonymous with resting.

Like the one day you decide to lounge around in your grubby old pyjamas that your mayor comes to call, the enemy knows the right doors and moments to knock when your guard is down.

Stay alert! Watch out for your enemy the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

The in-between times are some of the most valuable times, but also some of the most difficult times to do well.  My prayer is that we would hear the Holy Spirit whisper “Mind the gap, dear one, and mine the gap!”

What season are you in right now?  Is your armour firmly in place? How is your relationship with the Holy Spirit right now?

Bread or Stones

Good friends stopped by to visit the other day.  You know, the kind of visit you wish would go on a bit longer.  The kind that lifts and stimulates your soul and cause you to linger over some of the deeper thoughts and beliefs that shape the day to day.

We shared some of the experiences of ministry and life, not glossing over the struggle, nor failing to dwell on the goodness of God in their midst.

I shared our vision to support those on the front lines of missions and ministry through intercession, teaching believers to walk in victory against spiritual opposition.  We shared the grief of seeing friends come home physically and spiritually broken and overcome from the mission field.  The question arose; “but what if God, in His sovereignty, isn’t as concerned with what we see as failure and defeat by the enemy, and desires to use these crushing experiences for His purposes?”

I pondered for a moment the years of learning through Lyme Disease, and pushed back a little.

What if there is a difference between being physically strong and learning to walk day by day in spiritual victory?

r  Perhaps He may allow physical suffering to be prolonged to teach us spiritual strength to overcome and walk in victory despite the circumstances.

Having been initiated into parenthood, I begin to understand the desire to see our children be well, but even more, the deep yearning to know they are growing in character, wisdom and strength of the soul.   As the perfect Father, I believe God desires His children to flourish and learn to overcome as they grow in the authority of Christ even more than I.

You parents – if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone?…So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him. (Matthew 7:9)

Paul too, seems to expect trials and suffering in the flesh, focusing rather on the growth of the spiritual man so that the enemy could not triumph in his life.

Laying on my back for weeks after Raphael’s birth, healing, I thought of this a great deal.  Pain and incapacity were once constant companions and their return was not so welcome.

After our friends left, I had an epiphany: the more times I overcome through Christ in my circumstances, the easier victory becomes, the faster peace prevails, and the less I struggle in my soul. But it is on the battlefield strength grows. And so, rather than fearing the struggle, I will diligently search for His grace and good gifts as I grow in strength to overcome greater and greater opposition.

Why do you believe God allows His children to suffer?  Have you seen His gifts on the battlefields of your life?  What does overcoming look like for you?

Food for the road. Feast for the soul.