Category Archives: God’s Character

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.

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)

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!”

 

 

 

 

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.”

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.

Disappointed?

A few days ago, we experienced the heart wrenching disappointment of when some one you care about and have walked alongside is taken out when they seemed to be gaining victory.  My mind immediately asked Jesus where He was in the situation.  I ache for their pain, and wonder what more we could have done to support them.

It appears the pieces that were coming together have shattered into a million irreconcilable splinters, and the work God was doing, undone in one fell swoop.  I began asking Jesus how to respond.

I realize I cannot save anyone; the pertinent question for me is: ‘where does my faith lie when things fall apart?’  What I do with disappointment determines how I interact with and see God and how I display His faithfulness towards others.

I must remember my vantage point offers such a limited view of of the overall picture God sees in each life and circumstance (including mine).

Looking at the history of God’s people, I realize He is no stranger to sorrow and disappointment at the choices and actions of others.  There is no one who more faithfully walks alongside than God Himself.  Duet 32 says:

The people of Israel belong to the Lord.  He found them in a desert land, He surrounded them and watched over them; He guarded them as the apple of His eye… He nourished them with honey from the rock and olive oil from the stony ground. 

Even so, Israel fell over and over and God continually reached out, offering not only forgiveness in response to repentance, but also restoration and blessing if they turned back to Him.  (Isaiah 55:6-9).

Sometimes the person who falls and causes the grief and disappointment is me.  Even having tasted so often, the faithfulness and provision of God, I have found myself overwhelmed by circumstance, and rather than standing firm on His promises, turned to another source of help or comfort instead.

I can only imagine the sorrow Jesus must have felt knowing Judas, after walking intimately together for three years, would betray Him.  Yet Judas was the only disciple Jesus called “friend” and Jesus did not waver in His mission or His trust in the Father.

I realize I must develop the viewpoint of Jesus when it comes to the disappointments of life.  In the moment when all His disciples deserted Him, leaving Him alone to face the condemnation of Israel and the crucifixion of Rome, Jesus knew God was not finished with this rugged bunch of men.  His faith that God would yet turn them into the builders of the foundation of the Church was immovable and His grace and redeeming power encompassed and empowered them to rise again.

To dwell in disappointment takes the focus off the Redeemer.  There is no fall Jesus can’t raise a person from, and His thoughts and ways are so much higher than mine.

So I will pray for and love my friend, and I will place my trust and hope for their story back where it always belonged.  In Jesus!