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?

Grace Like Breakfast

Do you remember coming into the kitchen as a child, hungry and looking for breakfast? If you had a positive growing up experience like I did, you never went away still hungry. Mom or Dad would have made sure there was ample supply for whatever hunger needs the family might have.

This morning as light began to shine through the curtains after a night of not a lot of sleep, I began thinking of the throne room of grace and how much I needed grace for the day ahead.

Through the Old and New Testament we are told we can expect suffering and difficult things in life, but we are promised that Jesus will never leave or forsake us and that the grace of God is enough to bring us through any situation victoriously.

Sometimes I’m too busy thinking of how I want the situation to change to think of coming into the throne room of grace for what I need to overcome in my circumstance.

[Jesus] understands our weakness, for He faced the same testings we do, yet He did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of grace where we will receive His mercy and find grace to help us when we are in need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Grace.  Mercy. Wisdom.  These are all readily available for us as children of God.  Like a child, coming for breakfast, we don’t have to wonder if we will go away empty from the throne of grace and our Heavenly Father.

I am learning grace is not something I should ever walk without. When I am frustrated, grace gives perspective.  When I am worried, it ushers in the presence of peace.  When I am weary, grace enables me to finish well.

We are saved by grace, and we can only finish well by grace.  Perhaps as children of God, we have not fully realized or received the power available to us in the grace of God.

For the sin of Adam caused death to rule over many. 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)

“All who receive it.”  I need to remember to come to the throne, to extend my hands, and receive grace more often and with bold expectancy when I wake up and through my day.  Those things that continually trip me up, are vanquished when grace is added.

What do you require grace for today?  This week? How often do you ask for the grace to do well what is before you?  If you are like me – not often enough.

I echo Paul in my prayer for you as you enter the throne room this week:

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

The Trees By The River

There are four places I know of in the Bible that mention trees by the river.  Reading them together, they paint a powerful picture of our lives when we are rooted in Christ.  Come with me to the river if you will.

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord
 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
 They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the riverbank.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”  (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

Ezekiel 47 tells of the river flowing from the temple of God that brings life everywhere it touches – even desolate places come to life when the river touches them.  On both sides of the river are trees never failing to bear fruit, with leaves that are always green.

Revelation 22 contains one of the most beautiful passages in scripture.  It describes the river flowing from the throne of God with trees on both banks. The leaves are for the healing of the nations and the fruit never ceases.

In each of these passages, it is the river from which the trees draw their strength and life giving capacity.  And it is from God Himself that the river flows.

Jesus tells His followers:

“Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!  Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him).  (John 7:37-39)

No Christian sets out to be a fruitless,  half hearted Christian but I suspect each of us at different times find ourselves feeling like our leaves are brown, and the fruit, all but dried up.  So we work at our calling a little harder, and try to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, desiring joy, but feeling stressed and stretched thin.  (Maybe its just me…)

I am reminded with each of these pictures that I need to follow the river.  If the river flows from the very presence of God, that is where I need to be.  In the presence of Jesus.  Where my roots are nourished, where the fruit and the leaves of my life develop and my soul is renewed.  If I am not continually in the presence of the Lamb of God, immersed in His river, I will not have the fellowship with the Holy Spirit that bears fruit.

Some kinds of trees remember drought and pass along the DNA to dig deep roots to all their seedlings.  We too should be passing along knowledge to sink down deep roots into the river to everyone we disciple, while not forgetting ourselves.

May you be continually reminded to seek God’s presence and drink deeply from His river of life this week!

Trust On Reserve

It happened.  One way or another, the baby always comes. Raphael Geoffrey announced his arrival in our lives with a wail before he was even fully born.
I have been told babies teach you a lot about the character of God, and already I am impacted by the way a completely unaware baby can provide such profound windows into spiritual truth.

Unti I held little Raphael, I don’t know if anyone has trusted me so implicitly.

One of the things I have been challenged on lately is my trust level.  Perhaps it is because our season of suffering is so fresh in my mind, perhaps it is human propensity, but I am realizing there are places in the fabric of my soul that are “on reserve.”

Just in case.  Just in case I have to take care of myself if Jesus doesn’t come through. In case He leaves me stranded when I take a step faith or leaves a need unprovided for.  There is a level of rest a baby enters into – often with a parent – where they completely relax.  Little arms and legs hang completely limp, small head, still unable to hold itself, resting in your hand.  Utterly unconcerned with the troubles of the world or the worries of the day; just content to study your face and rest in your arms.

This is the picture I now have when I feel Jesus asking me if I trust Him.  It is easy for me to say “Of course I trust you” and still have a part of me on reserve.  I suppose this is something that must be cultivated throughout our lives.

As we grow, there is a  depth that enters the relationship as we learn obedience, responding to Jesus, no longer as infants, but in maturity.  But that same picture of trust should still be there.  I ponder the dichotomy of faith that takes responsibility and walks in radical obedience, but is still completely dependant on Jesus for every provision, for peace, and for His power to bring about His will in our obedience.

We spend great effort and time teaching children to grow up and be independent adults in the natural world.  Raphael will not stay an infant for long.  But in the Kingdom, Jesus takes time and great effort to help us become like children; completely dependant on Him, trusting Him in every circumstance.

Recovery for me from Raphael’s birth has not been easy. Being on bed rest without the strength to fully care for my baby has driven me back to giving every moment to Jesus, trusting He loves Raphael and will provide everything that is needed.  So in my mind, I think of Raphael; splayed out, completely at rest in his Dad’s hands and in my heart I choose to do the same.

I pray today you know the rest that comes from completely entrusting your soul, body and spirit to the One who loves you endlessly!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding… Pro 3:5

The Centre of Everything

Sometimes our world rocks, or turns right upside down and we find ourselves mulling questions over and over like; “Why did God let this happen? Does God actually care? Why can’t I see God’s hand in this?” without seeming to receive any answers.

Lately I have met a number of people who walked away from God, and the church because of unanswered questions. My heart aches for their pain, and the missing element that allowed their hearts to turn away from the Source of Life.

I have wrestled those unanswered questions too.  Struggled with what seemed an impervious and aloof lack of response from a God who seems far away and silent in the asking.

But what if we are revolving our understanding of life around the wrong questions?  The moment I question the character of God, I have lost a bearing that is critical to the very existence of faith, and peace moves out of reach.  When things happen causing me to doubt God’s goodness and kind intentions toward me, rather than entertaining the why question, my first response must be to firmly establish what the Word says about the character of God.

Looking back, the enemy’s first strategy (and it worked, I might add), was to question the character of God.  The Creator, the friend who walked with them in the garden.  The One who provided for Adam’s greatest need with Eve.  The perfect gift giver.

“Did God really say…?  He knows when you eat of the fruit, you will be wise like Him.”

Seeds of doubt or accusation toward God are so easily planted in the fertile soil of unanswered questions.  This is the critical point of the road.

It is for these times I believe Jesus reserves His deepest peace and assurance.  The question of His character has been unequivocally answered both in His word and through history, proving His peace that passes understanding takes the believer much farther than a simply answers to the why.

I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for He speaks peace to His faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways.  Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, so our land will be filled with His glory.  Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed. (Psalm 87:8-11)

The choice to rest in the goodness of Jesus; relinquishing the need to understand in order to embrace the right Jesus has given to access peace, turns the tide and shows the world a different way.   It orders our inner world and rather than flinging irrelevant questions upward, the gifts of heaven are able to come down into our circumstances.  It is only then we have the still and quiet spirit to see the love and power of God at work on our behalf.

What verses or memories do you return to when God is not easily seen in your circumstances?  May you embrace a still and quiet spirit to receive what Jesus has for you today!

Please Check You Passport

When planning to spend time in another country, a few things are recommended for a successful sojourn. One is a passport. You cannot travel these days without one.  I would also highly encourage studying the culture so you can behave appropriately.

We Christians can become too comfortable living in a kingdom from which our citizenship has been revoked. Its called earth, and sometimes its easy to forget we no longer carry citizenship here.   If you are born again into the family of Christ, your passport reads Kingdom of Heaven.  Although we remain in the realm of the physical world, there is the constant tension of being called to live in the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father.  He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people who live in the light.  For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness, and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. (Colossians 1:12-14).

Perhaps the magnitude of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross is often lost because it is so beyond understanding, and yet it is also beautifully simple and it turns everything upside down.  Things that are natural in our old kingdom become completely inappropriate in the new.

We have been given an inheritance and citizenship to a Kingdom with unlimited resources. He has enabled.  Past tense.  Done deal.  We are enabled to live in the reality of the Kingdom, our job is to learn the customs and laws of that Kingdom to live appropriately.

I remember stepping out of the airport in New Delhi.  A completely different world assailed every sensory preceptor, at once overpowering and intriguing.  The colour, the noise, the language was all so foreign, and I learned quickly that you must think and behave differently in India.  While there, I soaked up as much as I could, but it would take years to master the subtle nuances and unspoken rules that guide away from offence and misunderstanding.

The Kingdom of Heaven is no different – we can maintain a Kingdom citizenship without ever learning her laws, ethics and ways of thinking and in the process, turn people away from what they perceive to be Jesus.

As I look at Jesus’ time on earth, I am struck by the way He lived; ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven wherever He went.  Approaching the cross, He knew that in the greatest clash of Kingdoms, He was securing citizenship for all who would join in His resurrection, enabling this new culture to be established on earth.

As we approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I want to keep firmly in mind the citizenship I hold, and its cost.  I want to soak up Kingdom culture and its ways of thinking so that I too can bring the Kingdom to earth.

This Easter may you be encouraged to spend time learning from the King of our Kingdom and experience the wholeness He brings for its citizens!

 

The Missing Gifts

Imagine you retrieve your car from the mechanic, and he tells you; “There were some parts; I didn’t understand how they went together, so I just threw them out.”  How would you feel about driving your car?

All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part.

First are apostles,

Second prophets,

Third teachers,

Then those who do miracles,

Those who have the gift of healing,

Those who can help others,

Those who have the gift of leadership,

Those who speak in unknown languages…

Let Love be your highest goal, but also eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit; especially prophesy. (1 Cor 14:1)

I have been thinking about discipleship and spiritual gifts. What if fear and a lack of intentional, relational discipleship has contributed to the rarity of many gifts Paul seems to think should be commonplace.

If the timeless Word of God tells us to pursue all the gifts of the Spirit, why are we leery of some of them?  Every gift can be misused but it seems, to operate without certain gifts would be like driving your car around without the parts you don’t understand.

Ideally, a disciple learns from a master in a hands on environment. Following generations can take the craft farther as they build on knowledge they received from another’s effort and mistakes.

Where are the healers in the church?  People who lay hands on the sick and they are healed?  Where are the prophets who see things from heaven and relay them to earth or speak words of knowledge for the good of the Body?  Where are the miracle workers who perform signs and wonders that bring the outside world to Jesus? What about the gift of tongues, allowing people to communicate in other languages? Discernment of spirits?

Are we driving down the highway with missing engine parts, rendering our vehicle less effective? What if we discovered how the Maker designed them to work and began putting them back in the engine…?

Fear can keep a Body from moving into new territory, but perfect love casts out fear, making room for mistakes and the messiness of growth.  What would  happen in our community if, rather than being bound by tradition and denominational norms, we focused on knowing Jesus, and intentionally built a culture where the gospel is lived out in power, not missing any of the gifts given by God for the building of His church? (1 Thess 1:5)

They [the Gentiles] were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. (Romans 15:19)

We are not called to focus on the gifts, but on Jesus, pursuing radical love until our lives resemble His.  I am writing this to myself. There are too many times I have been unwilling to take risks of faith and obedience and by default, I have settled for a gospel that is incomplete.

What is your experience with spiritual gifts?  Do you know someone you can learn from? Someone you can disciple?

Catch the Foxes

Growing up, we hunted a lot of gophers.  I suppose some people would be upset that we  killed harmless little animals, and the truth is, one little gopher doesn’t do a lot of damage. But in the  environment of a pasture, the hundreds of gophers that proliferate unchecked will eat a pasture down to nothing.

As I read Song of Songs 2:15, I couldn’t help thinking of this principle in my own life.

Catch all the foxes, those little foxes , before they ruin our vineyard, for the grapevines are blossoming! 

Song of Songs is a love letter, but the truth in this verse applies to any relationship, or even our spiritual lives.

When something produces fruit, there will always be things that come to eat it.  It might be attitudes, perhaps distractions that keep us from connecting with Jesus and each other in a healthy, meaningful way.  It may be something stymying the development of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

I desire to walk in intimacy with my husband, my close friends, and most importantly with Jesus.  I know the fruit when these relationships grow is profound, and something I want.  But so often I leave the foxes in the vineyard of my life unchecked until they have already stolen a good deal of fruit.

When a fox raids the hen house, the loss of chickens/eggs incites immediate action, yet I am often much slower to act when it comes to catching foxes in the unseen realm that devastate the fruit of abundant life Jesus calls me to.

For me habits and patterns are a big fox.  Attitudes and perspectives are two more I need to watch to safeguard the fruit in my spiritual life and relationships. Taking time for discernment and good questions is critical to even see the foxes that so easily hide in the often crowded vineyard of life.

The Holy Spirit proves extremely committed to helping see and catch the foxes; without His help, they are elusive and hard to grasp!

1 Peter tells us the enemy prowls like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  I have found this to be true, but sometimes both the enemy and our own weakness come in the form of little “harmless” foxes that weasel away the fruit right before our eyes.

Time can be an ally or a relentless slave driver and I am learning why.  You cannot return time to its former place, rather, we are instructed to redeem the time because the days are evil.  (Ephesians 5:16)

The time to catch foxes is when the fruit is still in the blossom stage.  If we wait until later in the season, the best of the fruit will be lost, and we are caught on the defensive, trying to save what is left.

What are the foxes in your life that keep you from the productivity Jesus has called you to?  In this lent season, may the Holy Spirit show you the best way to catch them now!

Food for the road. Feast for the soul.