Category Archives: Spiritual & physical Health

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.

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?

 

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.

 

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?

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!

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!

Stay Hungry!

Have you ever had a season where you felt like your desire for God’s Word was dry and the time spent in it, largely unproductive?  I have.

When Jesus told His disciples He would be killed and then rise again three days later, the gospels tell us that:

They didn’t understand any of this; the significance was hidden and they failed to grasp what He was talking about.  

Just before this, Jesus had told them:

You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven, but others are not.  To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given and they will have an abundance of knowledge, but those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. (Matt 13:11)

We too live in the tension of mystery to be sought out and uncovered and a lack of understanding that can only be removed by the Spirit of God.

The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I become aware of His increasing gift of revelation to the hungry.  The more we consume the Word of God under the guidance of the Spirit, the deeper the revelation of Kingdom secrets uncovered, the more we hunger for the deeper things of God.

Matthew says:

Keep on asking and you’ll receive what you ask for, keep on seeking and you’ll find.  To everyone who knocks the door will be open. (Matt 7:7)

Jesus promises the Spirit He sends will teach His followers and remind them of His words.  To uncover the treasure we seek requires a perseverance in asking; even when it seems there is nothing new to understand.

When there is no water at a certain water table level, one must drill down deeper to find the life-giving fluid they seek.  It is when we give up and stop digging that our thirst becomes life threatening, and eventually one doesn’t even feel the thirst that is sapping vitality and life.

There is no condemnation for dry seasons or for lack of understanding, but there is great loss when we feel satiated and stop pursuing the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven and the King who invites us to uncover them.

Jesus told His followers that He was the bread of life and the living water; unless they drank of His blood and ate of His flesh, they had no part in Him.

In contrast to physical hunger, in constantly coming back to Jesus and His word for our nourishment a greater hunger develops and more is given.  The less I hunger, the more I need the nourishment of the Body and Word of my Saviour!

Are you in a season of banqueting?  Pray God gives more and more hunger to take it all in!

Are you in a season of dryness where it seems the Living Word has gone stagnant? Pray for hunger, asking the Holy Spirit to show you how to dig down to a deeper water table to find life!

To Touch a Leper

The weight of isolation is easily born when chosen, but when forced upon you like the rent garments of a leper, desolation eats at your soul like a relentless pack of jackals, hounding a carcass.

It was five years ago I fearfully exposed my flesh to the priest. Five years ago he declared the curse of “leprosy” over me, gingerly handing me the leper’s clapper, as he backed away.

“You must never approach another person.” He spoke emphatically, his face twisted in an odd mixture of fear and pity “You must call out unclean; not allow anyone to touch you. Ever.  You can never dwell in the community as long as you are afflicted”

The deformity progressed, until my hands bent like claws and walking was impossible without the cane I fashioned from an olive branch.  My soul, parched as Gehenna followed in my body’s wake.

Until Jesus.  The day He walked into my life, I knew for the first time what it means to be fully known.  Fully loved. Not as I once was or perhaps could be, but for who I am in this moment, clad in rags, soul shrunken in pain.  At His touch, the shackles of isolation fell away, and the warmth of love, so unconditional it wraps around the gnarliest places in the inner man, flooded my life.  I knew regardless of what happened or did not happen in my body, my soul would never be held in the grip of lonely desolation again.

I can only surmise what the Samaritan leper in Luke 17 felt as he encountered the healing power and transformative love of Jesus. As  grace flooded the deep desire of the soul to be fully known and fully loved only Jesus can assuage.  In some it’s a wild kind of loneliness that calls out “unclean”, pushing away all who would come close. In others, it erects a mask of perfection and togetherness only Jesus can shatter and rebuild into a masterpiece of peaceful imperfection.

As I walk deeper in relationship with Jesus through victories as well as dark watches of the night, He fills the deepest part of that longing and empty feeling of being unknown with an assurance of matching intensity that I am accepted.  Perfectly loved as I am where I am.  Completely qualified and lacking in no good thing simply because I am His.

And as this realization sinks in, and I receive Perfect Love, the fear of  the leper leaves in its wake a confident love that sees the broken as they were created to be, but loves them deeply as they are. I too, can touch the leper and tell them they are known and loved and bring them to Jesus.

One of the 10, when he saw he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting “Praise God!”  He fell at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done. (Luke 17:15-16)

I pray today you know the intimate touch of Jesus that says you are fully known and fully loved as you are but calls you to grow into what you were created to be!

 

Out of the Classroom, Into the Streets

Has it ever struck you, how little of what you learned in High School you remember?  For most, the information once regurgitated has largely been lost.  I am learning God has a very different teaching philosophy than we were trained by in school.  He is the greatest teacher, and He always knows how we will best learn what He wants to teach us!  It seems 99% of the time, He uses hands on learning styles.

When He is teaching us to have more faith, we can expect situations to arise that stretch our faith to the utmost.  When teaching about authority, He kindly provides opportunities for the Holy Spirit to teach with practical application! When provision… well you get the idea.

We joke about not asking for more patience because God will give us things that test and require patience, but I am learning it is not just with patience He inserts application to the lesson.

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, He Himself will be with you to teach you.  You will see your teacher with your own eyes.  You will hear Him say behind you, “this is the way you should go,” whether you turn to the right or the left. (Isaiah 20-21)

Not all learning is gruelling and difficult – yes, it is in the hard times we seem to send down the deepest roots, but I have also seen God delight in having fun together; enjoying the reward of the lesson learned, teaching us as a Father does His child.

There is a method used in Traditional Chinese Medicine training where a student watches the teacher operate once, then the student performs the operation under the eye of the instructor, next the student teaches some one else to operate and the cycle continues. I can only imagine the pressure of knowing the next operation, you will be holding the scalpel, and yet, in my experience, that is often How God teaches us.

If you know God is working on a particular area, don’t be surprised, but rejoice as the circumstances come – God is providing rich ground for seeds to germinate and take hold in our souls.  If God is teaching you something, expect Him to hold out the scalpel to you and guide you through it, and then share what you are learning with some one else so they too can learn and be blessed!

What is God teaching you right now?  How has He been guiding you through it and who can you share what you are learning with?

Share it with us in the comments below if you are willing!  😀