Did You Hear That?

Its way too early, but I wake up, my heart rate elevated, ears straining for the sound that summoned me from slumber. There it is, the squeal of a sleepy but hungry 5 month old. I sit up, ascertain it is indeed my baby while waiting for the room to settle, scuff on my slippers, and go in to the precious little one who awaits my response.

There are at least four babies in our neighbourhood, and sometimes though open windows, it is difficult to tell if the crying one is mine.

Our ears are tunable. We select over time what grabs our attention, and what passes unnoticed.  The two people closest to me are David and Raphael, and my ears are particularly sensitive to their voices.  I trust David’s observations in my life because he has proven his discernment many times over. I listen intently for Raphael because he depends so entirely on me for his existence.

But there is One whose voice I value and listen for above any human voice. One who loves and desires my attention more than my husband or 5 month old.  On this Voice, I am dependant for my very life.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!  But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.  They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” (John 10)

Many voices make it into the sheep fold of our lives and try to lead us.  Not all of them are God, although some may masquerade as God.   Sometimes even a trusted friend or shepherd/leader will bear a message that does not come from The Shepherd, and it is the voice of the Holy Spirit, speaking to my spirit that must discern whether the two line up.

I have been that sheep; thinking I am hearing Jesus, I turn to go a direction He did not call from. As I grow, I know more intimately His voice, and His ways.  I am learning that to follow the voice of reason in my mind when it contradicts my Shepherd, gets me into a reasonable amount of trouble.

The Shepherd would never put His sheep in a position that would compromise their ultimate wellbeing.  Even when we find ourselves, precariously perched on perilous ledges of our own choosing, He is faithful and kind to lead us back to the fold.

What do you do to grow more attune to the voice of God in your life? Does trusting yourself over Jesus keep you from following sometimes?  What is Jesus saying to you today?

Are You Stuck in a Box?

I listened to a sermon the other day where the pastor railed against a whole segment of the church whose theology was different than his, and  it brought me back to studying differing views in theology class.  First there was the tight collared Calvinist view, next the loose robed Arminianist  standpoint, from there, complimentarian to egalitarian, cessationist or charismatic and it went on.  When invited to respond, I walked to the front and drew boxes with each view.   Then I took the marker and wrote God encircling them all.

It seems we humans can’t help but do whatever it takes to quantify and understand everything.

This isn’t all bad; we have technology and much knowledge of our world because of this propensity, but when it comes to God, I wonder if this habit often serves to divide us and restrict our view of God to something we can wrap our mind around?  I wonder if we let God be as big as He is, if our boxes would give way to greater awe, wonder and worship of the only One who is worthy of it.  I’m not saying seeking right theology isn’t important – it is. But as soon as we think we have God and all His ways figured out, we are worshipping a different god.

When Job and his friends were confronted by God, rather than answering Job’s questions (he had some good reasons to question I would say), God proved definitively that He was far bigger and wiser than Job could ever conceive of.

In Psalm 139:6, David too realizes that while God knew him intimately, understanding God was not something his mind could accomplish.

Isaiah the prophet:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

We can explain how a baby develops, but the mystery and miracle of life has never been explained by science and yet, somehow, babies keep being born.  I don’t understand how God calls and saves people, but I know He does, and I am called to participate. The Creator of life is beyond our boxes and labels.

I believe where there is ambiguity in scripture, God desires we  depend on Him for the answers we need, and trust His divine wisdom for the ones we don’t.  I also believe when secondary things divide us as the family of God, the primary things like worshipping God in unity and loving and serving people until they encounter the Person of Jesus, fall by the wayside. (You know, the first and second commandments).

That is an unimaginable tragedy.  The world doesn’t need more Calvinism nor does it need more Arminianism. (I am sorry if you hang your hat on one or the other)  The world needs us to stop condemning each other. The world desperately needs Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God to break into every corner through the love and obedience of His Body -us.

Daniel on Justin Trudeau

During his time in office, Justin Trudeau has garnered differing opinions, many of them negative.  So far I would do most things differently than he has, but reading Daniel, I am convicted by how little I pray for my country’s leader. Perhaps I can learn something from Daniel on how to respond to our government.

Regardless of beliefs, policies or new bills,  our leaders are humans who God loves and is committed to redeeming should they turn to Him.

Daniel would have read this from the prophet Jeremiah:

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

King Nebuchadnezzer would arguably have won the most vain, violent and unreasonable ruler in his day.  History records some of his conquests, and we know from the Bible that he put people to death who refused to bow and worship the image of himself (I know – talk about conceited eh?)

Yet Daniel worked and prayed diligently for the wellbeing of this king who had dragged him into captivity and God used him mightily in the story of the Hebrew people.

Daniel is relentless in prayer.  Three times a day. Every day. Under his watch, both gentile rulers Nebuchadnezzer and Darius come to recognize Daniel’s God as “God most High.”

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.  This is good and pleases God our Saviour,  who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.  For there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.  He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

We live in a democratic society and I am among the first to encourage people to work for and petition the government for positive change, and thankfully, when we do, we won’t have our heads removed.

But working for change doesn’t excuse me from petitioning the Ultimate Authority on behalf of the one making the policies I see as destructive.  I would argue Divine petition is more effective anyway. What if I begin praying for God’s protection over his mind, and a spirit of wisdom and revelation.  For a heart that turns to Jesus for help and salvation.  For people to come into government who unwaveringly stand for justice and righteousness.

Who knows how the faithful prayers of one person might change the course of a nation’s history or the life of its leader.  If thousands of  people would commit to pray for their government perhaps righteousness and peace would rise up and transform the landscape of a barren country and the heart of the leader.

Daniel did.  The question is; will I?

Pick Your Addiction

Purdue Pharmaceutical company developed and marketed a series of powerful opioids, using false claims, and deceptive and manipulative advertising to sell them to doctors and patients. Today, North Americans use over 80% of the opioids sold worldwide and the opioid crisis has exploded in the last few years.

I cannot believe there is more pain in North America than the rest of the world combined, but I believe it provides a statement to where we are as a culture and the spiritual reality it mirrors.

We were created for addiction.  We are designed to be addicted to our creator.  To long for His presence, to hunger after His voice and His Word.  To desire above all else to walk in His light and depend on His strength and grace.

If we are not exchanging our distress, pain, confusion, disillusion,  weariness, insecurity, you name the condition, with the peace, fullness, and grace of Jesus, we cannot help but turn to something else that not only numbs the pain, but steals the beautiful, intangible things received when dwelling in the throne room of God.

The alternatives the world markets come in countless forms and can be just as addictive, but like an opioid, do not lead to life and healing.

Westerners have an intense dislike for pain and its processes. The thing with opioids is they don’t fix the problem, they only mask the pain and the issue continues unchecked.

John 10:10 is so tantalizing, it is quoted often enough as to be so familiar it fails to truly reach us.

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I came that you may have life and have it more abundantly!” 

Culture has fed us line of BS when it comes to what life abundant looks like, telling us pain is to be avoided at all costs and consumables lead to happiness.

Jesus is not afraid of pain, nor is He unable to give us the grace we need to face difficult circumstances and come out better for the process.

Romans 8:28 says:

God works all things together for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew,  He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. 

Paul continues; we may go through tribulation, distress, persecution, disease – but none of them can separate us from the victorious love and abundant life in Jesus.

It is me turning to other coping mechanisms that separates myself from the Life God gives.

Surrendering to the Father’s gentle hand leads to life abundant – unadulterated by the numbing affects of dependance on something we were not made to depend on.

Purdue’s deceptive marketing netted only blood money;we truly have good news to share with a world in pain, and new life now and eternal treasure in sharing it!

Do you have coping habits that take you from the presence of Jesus?  Do you know some one in pain that you can love extravagantly like Jesus?

 

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?

 

 

Food for the road. Feast for the soul.