Ditch the Fruitloops!

I had a dream that shook me up pretty good.  In my dream I was in a warehouse full of people.  We were all hungry.

As I watched, people filed past a big cart with cardboard boxes of breakfast cereal.  Many commented on the many choices;  Fruitloops, Captain Crunch, Honey Nut Cheerios.  Some were even eating the boxes.

I know breakfast cereal is on the top of the empty nutrient, sabotage your body, foods, still, I stood dutifully in line, waiting for my turn at the cart.  I even found myself a little excited to choose my sugary mix.

But something in me rebelled;  I left the line, and began to explore.  To my surprise, there was an opaque movable wall where it looked solid.  I pushed it aside and walked behind it.

What I saw astonished me!  There was an exquisite table set with dishes of all kinds, emitting tantalizing aromas.  As I looked closer, I saw name tags and felt a hand on my shoulder.

Turning, I saw my Jesus.  Grabbing my hand, He said; “Come!  Your place is set, and I have made your favourite dishes!”

Sure enough – there was my name, nestled among seafood dishes, beautiful salads, peppercorn steak, sautéed mushrooms and more!  About to sit down, I realized there were name tags for many of the people I had seen back at the cereal cart.

I rushed back around the portable wall, and grabbing people by the hand, tried to pull them away from Captain Crunch to the banquet.  It seemed impossible – no one wanted to leave the cereal cart, even though a feast without equal awaited them.

Crestfallen, I ventured back beyond the wall and sat down next to Jesus.  “Why wouldn’t they come, Jesus?”  I asked a bit frustrated.

“They haven’t tasted my banquet.”  Jesus responded.  “All they know is from consuming the world’s food.  If you come often and eat your fill with me, you will begin to carry the aroma of my goodness,  drawing people to my table.”

The dream ended, delight and frustration entwined in my heart.

In Isaiah 55:1-5, Jesus says;

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; you who have no money, come buy and eat!   …Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy?  Listen to me and eat what is good!  and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.  Give ear and come to me, that your soul may live!  

Looking at my life, I see times I consume the world’s empty breakfast cereal instead of the deeply satisfying fare of the Master’s Table.  Movies that seed unholy thoughts and words, jokes at other’s expense, things pursued from wrongful motives.

If I am more concerned with nourishing my physical body with good food than feeding my soul with nourishing fare, I am eternally impoverished indeed!

I want to boldly enter His courts with thanksgiving, and partake of the food Jesus gives that leads to eternal life for me and those around me!

Have you eaten yet today?  What table are you eating from?

A Bad use of”I Can’t”

The crippled man at the pool of Bethesda didn’t have the personal development books we have to tell him the words “I can’t” should be kicked out of his vocabulary.

I suspect there are always better words to use than “I can’t,” but especially when Jesus is talking to you, these are perhaps not the best two words to pull out.

This man had been by the pool for 38 years! That’s enough time to become disheartened waiting for your miracle. I can identify with him in some ways.  Waiting for my chance to jump in the pool – to receive what I have been longing for for so long.  Growing weary and discouraged with the obstacles that hit like unending waves on the beach.

“Would you like to get well?”  Jesus asks our man.  Rather than answering the question, he begins to tell Jesus why he can’t.

I see myself in this crippled man.  “Jesus, I can’t because…”

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength! 

Not only did our crippled friend not know self help lingo – he apparently didn’t know who Jesus was either.

I have often thought; Jesus delights in calling us to impossible things so He can enter our situation and show His kindness, power, and glory when we are not enough. But the feeling of not being enough can be a discouraging, frustrating one if Jesus is not in the picture!

The world is pretty good at telling us what we can and cannot do and past experience can dictate our perception of possibility, but what if Jesus Himself is the only boundary of possibility.

Some things are obviously God’s will, but when God gives you an invitation that is impossible – just like our pal at the pool – perhaps it would be better to look up into His eyes, and say instead:

“How can I?”

Jesus offered the healing power, but He still expected the man to get up, pick up his mat and walk.    Walking was something he hadn’t done in presumably 38 years!  That takes some faith.  Sometimes the first step is the hardest!

With faith the size of a mustard seed, you can take the first step, and then the second and then reach down and pick up your mat.

Jesus didn’t turn away from the invalid when he responded badly – He looked past to the little bit of faith and told him to get up!

It is human to doubt at times and to respond wrongly – I have found myself there many times – but don’t stay there!  Instead, look up at Jesus and say:

“How can we?”  and stand up.

What is your pool of Bethesda?  Has Jesus been inviting you to stand up on legs accustomed to sitting?  What is your response?

 

Springs in Baca

Baca is a word I am familiar with.  It means weeping.  The valley of Baca is found in Psalm 84.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, Almighty.  My soul longs, and even faints to enter the courts of the Lord.  With my whole body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.

A little farther down is the outcome of dwelling in the house of God:

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord.  Who have set their minds on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  

Jerusalem was the place God’s presence dwelled.  To go to the temple and worship was to approach the very presence of God.  Today, thanks to Jesus, God’s presence no longer rests only in Jerusalem, but setting our hearts on pilgrimage to know and worship God is still the way to His presence.

When they walk through the valley of Baca it will become a place of refreshing springs.  The autumn rains will clothe it in blessings.  They will continue to grow stronger and each of them will appear before God in Zion. 

Those who press continually into the presence of God have this incredible promise:  even the darkest places of our lives will become a place of springs as we dwell in the courts of the King and trust Him to redeem what seemed at the time to contain only sorrow. As we pass successfully through, we become stronger and stronger until the day we appear in Zion.

Growing strong in Christ often happens best in times of adversity, yet we always have the choice of which direction we will set our pilgrimage through hard places.  Toward God’s presence or down the road of bitterness, away from Him.  It is not easy, but it is critical we trust God to do not what we think is good now, but what He knows is eternally best.

Sometimes I think ‘God – just one easy year would be so nice!’  Yet as Job says – “He knows the way that I take, and when I am tested, I will shine forth like gold!”   The important thing is not the landscape I travel through, rather it is the direction of my pilgrimage.  It is the continual unrelenting desire to be in the presence of Jesus!

Do I love being in the presence of God?  Does my soul long – even faint for the courts of my Saviour?  Have I been practising entering the gates of God with thanksgiving and praise?  What direction is my pilgrimage today?

Yellow Jackets in the Soul

We had an ugly problem in the form of small yellow and black insects with stingers! The little pests made a nest by the entrance of the house and set up shop.

I’m not a fan of wasps at the best of times, but when they are between me and the door, I have even less desire to interact with them!

First I tried making wasp traps. They had no appreciation for my home made booby traps. My beloved then went and bought wasp killing spray and of course looked on the internet for the best solution. The best solution YouTube had to offer only made the wasps mad and they rebuilt the nests with greater fervour.

Finally, after a bad sting and a few close calls we decided we were not up to the task and called the wasp man. It was his 8th job of the day, and swooping in with his special suit and organic wasp remover, he dug out a nest the size of a football!

As an extra favour, he left behind two wasps traps that have captured dozens more wasps and the problem was effectively dealt with!  When we swallowed our pride and cheapness, it took half an hour for the expert to deal with the problem.

Sometimes I find yellow jackets in my soul.  Perhaps not the kind that buzz around making one nervous, but ones that rise up under stress or weariness and sabotage my thoughts, sometimes coming out my mouth too!

James talks about the words of our mouth being like small sparks that set the whole forrest on fire.  But the Bible also makes it clear that we must partner with the Holy Spirit  to deal with our soul wasps.  On our own, we cannot bridle our tongue and speak only with wisdom and grace.  It takes the help of the master “Bug Killer” to get rid of the nest!

How often do we try  in our own strength to patch over relationships, to say the right things to our spouse,  our kids, our neighbours who start their lawn mower at 6:00 am on a Saturday?  The truth is, a lot of the time, if we allow things to fester, we’re just making the wasps mad, not dealing with them effectively.

Sometimes divine surgery is needed to take out the Yellow Jacket nests in our souls.  Taking time out to ask Jesus and the Holy Spirit to partner with us to help bring our soul back to the state the Father desires for us to be whole and pure is important!

Then hanging up the wasp trap on our mind to catch and destroy the thoughts and words that lead to contention is important!

What thought patterns or words do you use that are like Yellow Jackets by your door?  Are you ready to call in the “Wasp Boss” to help deal with the nest?

 

Enter His Gates With Thanksgiving!

Last week we talked about changing our perspective on time with Jesus – the Lover of our Soul – from one of obligation to one of delight. Today, I want to talk about one of our greatest tools to make that perspective change.

Psalm 100:4 says:

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name!”

There are countless Psalms telling us to come before God with thanksgiving, and the act of praising God to enter His presence can be found all through the Old Testament, and the New.

Did you know in Israel, there were people officially designated to write songs of thanksgiving and lead the people in singing them?  God drove home over and over that to come into His presence with thanksgiving and praise was to engage in fellowship with the Most High.

When King Jehosephat faced an impossible army, he commissioned men to sing songs of thanksgiving to God at the HEAD of the army, leading to a stunning victory by God’s power.

God initiated a fellowship offering His people were to bring Him that was a thanksgiving sacrifice.  Fellowship comes through thanksgiving and obedience.

Jesus looked up to heaven with thanksgiving before He multiplied the bread and fed the thousands of hungry people.

As I think of patterns of thanksgiving throughout the Bible, I wonder what would happen if I began entering His courts with thanksgiving daily?

Before bringing our requests, before telling God how desperately we need a miracle, before bringing our loved ones who are suffering, we simply entered His gates with thanksgiving.  Simply focused on Jesus.

What if we came in thanksgiving fellowship rather than an attitude of asking only?  What if the difference is entering God’s presence as a royal daughter or son, rather than a beggar seeking a boon from the king?

What if thanksgiving paves the way for fellowship with God and victory over our circumstances?  What if praising the One who is worthy changes us in powerful ways, instilling faith that God will indeed lead us in victory with great joy!?

What circumstances do you face today? Have you spent time in thanksgiving and praise as you bring them to God?  When you enter the courts, what gift do you bring to the King?  The gift He has asked for is our thanksgiving that leads to fellowship.  As always, God is relational in His dealings with us!

My prayer for you and for me both, is that we build highways of thanksgiving and praise straight through the gates of our King.  I am asking for a new song of praise to the King of Kings to fill your heart and mine today as you read this!

 

Discipline or Delight?

Have you ever opened your Bible, read the passage for the day, closed your Bible, and felt as if you went away with no change from your time in the Word?

I too have had seasons where my devotional life has been dry, seeming to give little power or influence to my day; where had you asked me in the evening what I read, I would have to tell you; ‘I don’t remember!’

I am discovering how I approach my time with Jesus makes an instrumental difference to how much I receive and how it affects my day!

When I began dating my Beloved, I thought of him often, wrote him letters, made him cookies and looked forward to being together with great anticipation.  Time with him was relished and savoured.

After we were married, I grew in my understanding of his love languages.  Quality time is important to David.  Just working together through the day is different than taking time aside to do something special.  It builds our relationship in a different way.

Jesus is the most delightful person to be around and He never leaves us.  He encompasses and loves in every love language fluently, but I believe quality time is important to Jesus as well.  Jesus loves doing life together, but setting aside time to give and receive builds the relationship on a different level.

If I saw time with David as an obligation rather than a delight, our experience of time together would be shaped by that reality.  In the same way, our time with Jesus and His Word is shaped by our perception of Him and our relationship!

Song of Solomon says; “Come away with me, my Beloved.”  Jesus is always inviting us to come away with Him and deepen the friendship, growing in our understanding of His beauty, power, majesty, and love.  If we are to be rooted and established in love, that takes greater understanding of God’ love for us, and that comes from time spent together!

I wonder if calling time with Jesus a spiritual discipline is incongruent with how God sees the relationship.  Perhaps it is time we focus on the delight that is there for those who press in with anticipation of being with the most amazing person in all eternity?

I hope next time you approach your time with Jesus you see it as a chance to build the most empowering and fulfilling relationship you will ever invest in!

My heart gets lighter when I know David is on his way home from work.  I want my anticipation for time with Jesus to exceed even that of my Beloved. I am changing the way I see my time together with my Saviour and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, to the highlight of my day and a chance to know Him better.

Do you see time with Jesus as a delight?  How can you use your particular love languages to bless Jesus in your time together?

What’s Your Hurry?

Are you in process?  If you say no, I would wonder at your humanity.  I am discovering that God mostly leads us in process, rather than from event to event.

When undertaking adeptness at something, we enter into a process.  I have found a lot of things to come naturally;  it has been a bit of a shock to realize the truly valuable things in life are accomplished and learned in process, not simply picked up.

Take Moses for example.  He received his vision very early in life, and began striving to walk it out in his own way.  God obviously knew the rash young Moses was not ready for the vision he held so passionately.

So out to the desert goes Moses as God allows adverse circumstances to drive him seemingly light years away from the calling God had put on his heart.

I once heard someone say; ‘when you get a prophesy, get ready to be enrolled in God’s education and development program.’  Sometimes it may even look like you are going in the opposite direction to what God clearly showed you in the vision.  Don’t be discouraged – learn steadfast faithfulness.

Before we were married, my Beloved and I strongly felt God’s call to overseas mission work.  We knew with certainty God had brought us together with His call in mind.

Then on our honeymoon, I got Lyme Disease.  The next 5 years were spent struggling to stay alive and regain health.  It seemed God turned us around, knocked us on our back and set us in the opposite direction.  The process has been neither easy nor predictable, yet like Moses, we had much to learn and a great deal of development to undergo to become trustworthy and able to carry the vision together.

Looking back now, I see the pieces of that long and circuitous route were instrumental in healing wounds we didn’t realize we carried and teaching us to walk more fully in God’s power.  God knows had we made it to the mission field first, we likely would not have lasted long, despite what we thought at the time.

Process is not an excuse to stay where we are, but rather the means God uses to set us up for success in our calling!

Has God given you a vision?  Do you feel He has set you in the opposite direction as your call?  If you know you are walking in obedience, perhaps God is setting you up for success to carry the vision in reality.  Don’t be discouraged, press in for what God wants to give you now.

Write my vision plainly on tablets, so a runner can carry the correct message to others.  This vision is for a future time.  It describes the end and it will be fulfilled.  If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.  It will not be delayed.   (Habakkuk 2:2-3)

Is Peace Your Ruler?

The world is a chaotic place these days, and often it is reflected in our minds and hearts.  We pray for peace but in practice, but in a world at odds, do we make room for peace?

Genesis 49:10 promises that the sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff until Shiloh comes.  Shiloh has two meanings: peace and tranquility, and “the one to whom it belongs.”

In essence this passage prophesies that when Jesus comes, peace will come with Him, and He is the one to whom the ruler’s staff rightfully belongs.

When Jesus came, angels sang of peace on earth, and good will toward mankind.  It must have seemed incongruent with the Roman tyranny playing out around them.  When Jesus was on trial before Pilot, He said His kingdom was not of this earth, yet to His disciples, He said we are to pray for God’s Kingdom to come here, with the same authority and reality as in heaven.

Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, and in Isaiah 60:17, it says Peace will lead the people of God, and Righteousness will rule them.

The world around you may be raging, but inside, who is ruling your inner man?  Is it the Prince of Peace?

So often I find myself taken out of a place of peace by circumstance, or fear of what might happen if I don’t perform.  Sometimes, I allow thought patterns and situations to propel me down a path that leads away from peace and tranquility.   Yet regardless of circumstance, there is a covenant of peace that God made with His people:

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.  (Isaiah 54:10)

So my question to Jesus was this:  how do I built a mindset of peace regardless of circumstance?  I very much want to live from a place of peace in my mind and spirit in a world characterized by chaos.

The answer I heard was simple.  Give control to the Prince of Peace, and His peace will control your life.

The outworking of it is not so easy, I find.  Simple, yes, easy, no.  Like foxes in the vineyard, it takes constant vigilance to catch the thoughts that steal peace. It takes intention to surrender things to Jesus.  Over.  And.  Over.  But I have noticed that peace grows when surrender and trust are cultivated in the fertile soil of the mind.  The future – trust.  The past – surrender. Today – release it to the Prince of Peace in exchange for more of His peace!

Those who work for peace are called blessed and people know they are the children of God.  Are you known for your peace?  Would you like to be?

Who Did You Just Agree With?

When I was little, my brother and I found a stack of old CD’s hidden in the bushes.  Excited, we brought them home.  To our disappointment, Dad took one look at the covers and lit the burn barrel.  Those CD’s never did play in our house, they were destroyed immediately.

We have a powerful ally and a deadly weapon housed in our mind.  It can destroy us or build us.

With every thought we entertain, we make an agreement – with heaven or with hell. With every access point created by every thought, we invite the environment of heaven or the environment of hell to establish strongholds in our minds and lives.

For example; despair. When the enemy inserts the despair CD, we can let it play, making an agreement to allow his environment, or we can eject it and put in the CD of praise and thanksgiving that leads to life, health, and freedom!

There are numerous directives in the Bible to fix our minds on things of Heaven, to renew our minds and to receive the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ is always full of joy, hope, vision, purpose, soundness, and thanksgiving. Are we conscious of what environment our minds are building at any given moment?

Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know Gods good, pleasing and perfect will for you.  Romans 12: 2 (NLT) 

We make agreements with everything we allow or entertain in our minds, for good or for evil.  What are you taking in for entertainment?  You are making agreements with what your eyes and mind take in.  What thought patterns are established?  Worldly patterns, or heaven’s patterns?

These days, when I find something unholy running relentlessly through my mind, I am learning that to keep in the enemy’s CD is to agree with his kingdom.  This is the last thing I want to do.  I want to become a new person by changing my thought patterns to align with those of Heaven!

Pride, entitlement, discouragement, anger, frustration, superiority, insecurity, accusation, fear, anxiousness – I’ve had them all, and each one, when allowed to remain establishes an agreement with the god of this age – the serpent – Satan.

The opposite is also true!  We can align our lives with heaven by cultivating patterns of praise, humility,  thanksgiving, hope, peace, graciousness and patience.

As we agree with heaven’s patterns and culture, we become free of the entangling and binding thought patterns of the world and its rulers.  Our minds become places of peace and order, where the Holy Spirit feels welcome and at home, and the will of God becomes clear, trading vision for aimlessness.

Have you ever considered that your thoughts could be agreements with opposing kingdoms depending on their origin and nature?  Which CD’s is the Holy Spirit pointing out that He wants to burn and replace?