Just Be Still for Christ’s Sake

As December looms, all brightly lit on the horizon and the madness of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the forgotten Remembrance day ceremony fades into memory, crazy simply accelerates for many people.

My beloved and I try to be intentional with where we spend time and energy. I suppose it is a habit formed of necessity when sojourning in the camp of the deathly ill. It is easy to become a slave to the agenda book until the agenda book is completely usurped by merely staying alive. But there are blessings to be found there too.

The last several years, Christmas has been a quiet affair full of wonder, the peace of reflection and a few carefully chosen meaningful activities. Travel was not a question, frequent outings, social events and “extras” not an option, and we came to look forward to quiet evenings by the Christmas tree, drinking tea by the fire thinking, talking, and reading together.

But perhaps the biggest blessing of stillness is space to allow Christmas to be what it is intended to be:

Suspended time and space to allow the soft wonder of the divine visitation.  To let the eternal plan for peace on earth and the favour of God bestowed on mankind by the sacrifice of the Trinity to sink in. The gentle communion between the God who cares deeply, and the creation that need Him desperately.

Time for children’s questions and meaningful reflection. Space for sharing moments together, enjoying the fellowship of family and close friends. And perhaps the most difficult to enter, but the most rewarding to partake of; stillness in the presence of the King who was a babe.

Somehow “Silent Night, Holy Night” has become “Hectic Night, Stressful Night” and the memory of a manger becomes the allure of last minute mall trips and Christmas parties.

It is so like our world to capitalize on something full of meaning, and try to exchange meaning for consuming.  It is the human propensity to take what is meant to honour another to gratify ourselves.

As Advent begins I am again challenged by what choices we will make this Christmas season.  How will we honour the King of Kings on His birthday?  How will we make it about the One who gave up everything to give us everything that means anything?  What will we choose to put our energy and time into now that I am stronger?

This year, we decided to do a few small things:  Invite some lonely people over, put up a small Christmas tree, look at what we can give to honour Jesus and His Kingdom for His birthday, and spend time in worship, prayer, and fellowship.  To say no a lot, and take time to appreciate the unimaginable repurcussions of that one blessed night!

What can you not do this Advent season to initiate time and space for stillness and wonder?  How can you and your family bring honour and meaning to the birthday of the One to whom we owe everything?

The Hope of Glory

Jim Elliot said; “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

His life along with his death, spurred thousands into the harvest field.  Some in their communities, some to the far reaches of the globe.

The missing glory of today’s church, I believe, can only be found in one place – an ever deepening relationship and submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ, growing in His authority and power.  Many claim Christ as Saviour, few follow Him as Lord.

Paul’s ultimate goal was to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. (Phil 3:10)

I have been guilty of remaining at the cross, rather than receiving its atonement and pushing on to the garden where resurrection power and glory raised Jesus from the dead.  It is in pressing past being crucified with Christ to becoming one with the resurrected King of Kings that the glory of God is made manifest in my life.

…And since we are adopted at God’s own children, we are His heirs.  In fact, together with Christ, we are heirs of God’s glory! But if we are to share in His glory, we must also share His suffering. (Romans 8:17)

Suffering, although not the only way, is perhaps the most effective way of driving us through death to Jesus and His resurrection power that brings life and light.  As we become filled more and more with the light of Jesus, we allow more of His glory to be made manifest in us.

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that far outweighs them and will last forever! 

The more we become surrendered to and like Jesus, the more glory shines from our lives, and the power of God is at work to do the will of heaven which is to bring light, life, and healing to the world.

I am beginning to believe we tack onto God, things that were never His will, and attribute to Him outcomes the enemy brought about and we bowed powerlessly under because of a lack of resurrection power at work in us.

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)

Humans have a propensity to become accustomed to a status quo never intended to be the fullness of our experience.  The more I discover the love and power of Jesus, the more I am convinced we are living far below the measure of glory God intended for us to live in.  In the end, it is all about Jesus; His death, but also His power that enables us to live in glory.

Are we seeking after things we cannot keep, or things we cannot lose?  Are we manifesting not only the forgiveness of sins, but the power of Jesus to transform and the glory of God in the redemption of lives?

If the Glory Returns…

Paul says something radical in 2 Corinthians 3.  Paul has a lot of radical ideas, but modern day religion tends to de-radicalize and make them fit our comfortable doctrine of today.

The old way led to death, though it began with such glory the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face because it shone with the glory of God.  Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now the Holy Spirit is giving life?…  How much more glorious is the new way which makes us right with God!  The first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way! 

I read this and realize I have not been taught not to expect  much when it comes to God’s glory – even in church.

I have to ask – why we don’t see the tangible evidence of God with us like in the early church or other places around the world?

In September, I wrote about Ezekiel’s account of God’s glory leaving the temple.

Because of Israel’s sin and double minded worship, God’s glory departed God’s people.   Ezekiel prophesied the glory would return and with the death and resurrection of Jesus, glory was imparted through resurrection power and the Holy Spirit to individuals and the collective church.

If sin and idolatry cause the glory to depart, I wonder if in our corporate church structure and entitled unconsecrated living, we have lost the understanding of what it means to live in the glory and awe of Jesus.

Where the glory is, healing  and reconciliation happen. Lives transform when the glory is present, revelation and miracles occur in the glory cloud of Jesus.  People see the wonder of salvation and are set free from bondage and sin when the glory presides.

Glory comes when the name of Jesus is lifted up and the alters of our idols are torn down and hearts truly consecrated to Christ.  When the enemy is put in his rightful place and God is put in His in our lives.

Where are the Ezekiels of our day, calling us to Jesus for the healing of our souls?   The willingness of God’s people to allow the glory to fill our lives and purify our hearts is the precursor to the healing of families, communities, and nations.  Yet we look to the world’s cure’s and remedies to salve our wounds and give a sense of hope and security where there is none.

There is something missing in the church: the fullness of the glory of the Living Saviour, Jesus Christ. I am becoming convinced until we remove our idols and are filled with Light, we, like Israel will be ineffective in the mission we were given.

Are you hungry for the glory of God to fill your life and affect everyone around you?.  As God reveals the alters in our souls, may our prayer become that everywhere we go, the glory of God leaves people transformed in His wake!

 

Unhealthy Appetites

Last Saturday, as I prepared to teach a health seminar, I was struck by a verse in Isaiah that encapsulated much of what I spoke of.

Why do you spend your money on food that does not give you strength?  Why pay for food that does you no good?  Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.  You will enjoy the finest foods.  Come to me with your ears wide open.  Listen and you will find life. (Isaiah 55:2-3)

As I spoke of “foods” that destroy your body and immune system, I realized that it should come as no surprise our food system has been so compromised.  When an army wants to cripple the enemy, they take out the supply lines.  Cut off the food supply to make the opponent weak, sick, and unable to fight.

Here in the richest part of the world, live the highest number of obese yet malnourished people.  Suddenly I saw the brilliant trickery of our enemy.  If he can keep us lacking energy, weak, sick, and terrified of the cancer epidemic, he can often keep us from the destiny God created us for.

Our food supply is chock full of poison and artificial food.  In fact, the food on most store shelves has very little nutritional value in it – even when slapped with a “health food” label.  Take sugar for example: an addictive substance in most everything – even a small amount suppresses your natural immune system for up to two hours.

Preservatives, synthetic vitamins and minerals our bodies can’t use, dyes, rancid unhealthy vegetable oils, and processed food that cause massive free radical damage in the body are just a start to the list.  This naturally leads to diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases etc, yet billions of dollars go to managing disease, not eradicating the cause.

Everything in the physical is a mirror of the spiritual, and the two interact for us children of God.  Just as many people have no idea the difference between good food and garbage, many of us don’t see the soul food we consume that is empty and creates spiritual free radicals that wear down our souls.

Similarly, in the spiritual realm, we Christians are often more concerned with managing the ‘diseases’ than we are eradicating the roots.  The thing is, it begins with our appetite. Building a healthy appetite is perhaps the best ways to keep both body and soul healthy, and God’s Word tells us how to do that.  Seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness.  Seek Jesus first.

What do I hunger for?  Empty pleasure and entertainment?   Deep meaningful conversations that encourage?  The Word of God and His presence? Good clean nutrient dense foods?  Sugary, processed “food”?  When my soul is clean and healthy, the unhealthy appetites of the flesh lose their hold and the Spirit’s fruit begins to grow.  When my body is healthy, I have energy to pursue God’s call in a higher capacity.

Dear friends, I pray that you would prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospers.  (3 John 1:2)

Are your supply lines compromised?  What decisions are you making that feed the appetites God calls us to develop on a daily basis?

 

Soul Weary From the Way

I am often struck by images of Jesus, strewn liberally through the Old Testament. In one instance, Jesus shows up after the Israelites grumble against God when “their souls became weary because of the way.” In fact, they even rejected the bread from heaven God gave to sustain them. As a result, fiery serpents killed many until God lifted up the bronze serpent. When they gazed on it, they were healed in soul and body, and shortly after, God led them in conquering the Promised Land.  In the New Testament, Jesus equates Himself with the serpent that brought healing.

The text that blew me away today though, is found after Jezebel’s threat to kill Elijah.

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life.  He went alone into the wilderness, and prayed that he might die. ” I have had enough Lord, take my life for I am no better than my ancestors who are dead.” (1 Kings 19)

An angel woke him twice with bread and water, telling him to eat or the journey would be too much for him.  After eating the bread and water from heaven, Elijah was strengthened enough for a 40 day, and night journey to the mountain of God.

There was much  cause for weariness of soul for Elijah!  He prayed for a two year drought that devastated his people.  Then, upon his request, God brought rain, and Elijah, in the strength of the Spirit, outran a team of horses.  Without so much as a good night’s sleep, he entered a showdown between him and God and a wicked king with hundreds of false prophets.  To top it off, after this incredible show of power, the evil queen tells him he’s as good as dead.

So Elijah, weary and despairing, runs into the wilderness, begging to die.  It is easy to think – “Dude!  After that display of power, you want to die?  What’s wrong with you?”

But I think we each experience similar things when our souls, like the Israelites and Elijah become weary because of the way.

In John 6, Jesus says He is the living bread that came down from heaven.  In John 4:10, Jesus promises to give living water to those who come to Him.

When the soul is weary, often our first tendency is to turn away from the One who heals and nourishes the soul.  Like Elijah, we require bread and water from heaven or the journey God sets before us will be too much.  When tempted to turn away from the Mountain of God in defeat and depression, instead, rest and eat of the Living Bread and Water from Heaven to make the journey.

Come to me, you who are weary with heavy burdens… and you will find rest for your souls.  (Matt 11:28)

What circumstances have you experienced that made you weary of soul?  Have you been tempted to turn aside from God’s calling because your soul is not strong enough to endure?  Perhaps its time to see the bread and wine of Communion in a different light.  Not just the forgiveness of sins, but partaking of Jesus for the healing and strengthening of the soul to do what God invites of us.

 

The Weakness of Trump

I am saddened by the barrage of slander and negativity in the wake of the election. The night of the 8th, my beloved and I prayed again for the candidates and bound deception and manipulation, knowing God is on the throne and confident Trump would take the presidency.

Sojourning through the valley of death, God granted us uncommon awareness of some of the dark rooms containing the history of corruption in both the White House, and the systems that control it. Trump, despite his often volatile approach, has seen some of these rooms and has vowed to clean them out.  It touches all sectors of life from our food supply, health and wellness of our people, destruction of our environment, hijacking of education and the financial implications of a reckless,  irresponsible approach to money.  The shepherds have been consuming the flock they lead.

I don’t excuse some of Donald’s words, actions and attitudes and he, like everyone, will be held accountable for every word and deed.  But he is in an unprecedented position to bring desperately needed change to a nation awash with dark secrets and hidden agendas and in the past weeks, he has shown a new propensity toward graciousness and humility.  In the word of God it is clear that for a nation to live in His favour, justice, mercy and humility must lead. These have fled as greed, manipulation, bribery and personal gain have overtaken a desire to serve and protect the people.

When we pray for change, we must be willing to allow God to dictate how change will come.  When it begins, like Nehemiah, we must be ready to undertake our part in the work of it.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27)

Many consider Trump foolish, weak, and unwise but God is proficient at changing and using this type of person to bring to light what He desires to do.   We would do well to pray for Mr. Trump for conviction of pride and disregard for others.  For the humility to ask for wise counsel, and to lead with discernment, and integrity, and character.  Yet if we don’t look inward, we fail in our own calling to be the hands and feet of Jesus as policies shift and people react in fear and uncertainty, some even lashing out in violence.

In a body, often better known for hypocrisy, and condemnation of those outside her walls than for goodness, we too have repenting to do.    It is imperative we pray for our leaders, it is equally important we become the church Jesus calls us to, reaching out to neighbours who are grieving the results and afraid of repercussions, and respect and work alongside those who don’t agree with us to care for the disenfranchised and needy.

Just as God used “ungodly” King Darius and King Cyrus as agents of justice and liberation, He can use a man flawed, but largely un-owned by corrupt systems to bring about His will for a country He loves.  Our job is to pray and be obedient to our own calling!

The Great Responsibility!

Once on a missions trip, my Mom broke her back while building a house.  Coming back home to a ranch that needed tending, kids to feed, cows to milk and a horse training business of my own, I jumped into what needed to be done without really thinking about it.

Paul too, had a sense of responsibility to his Saviour! In fact, he teaches that the great commission is for all who decide to follow Jesus.  Not just pastors.  Not just evangelists.  Not just the bold and fearless.

Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others…For God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.  And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.  So we are Christ’s ambassadors; we speak for Christ when we plead; “Come back to Christ!”

Paul tells us he ceased evaluating others from a human point of view, now seeing them as God does.

If God no longer counts people’s sins against them, who are we to do so when we interact with the lost? 

This by no means negates the need for repentance and submission to Jesus as Lord, but because of the death and resurrection of Christ, the way is made open for all who will come, in the state they are presently in.

As I read this passage, I asked myself:  do I feel responsible to share the message of reconciliation with whomever God brings across my path?  Do I see the lost, the violent, the self centred, the ignorant, the angry as Jesus Himself sees them; with nothing but their own decision between them and salvation?

Paul says it is with the Holy Spirit leading him, always in love that he ministers with patience, kindness, understanding and truth.

As I look objectively, I find my lack of love sometimes disqualifies people who are hurtful or difficult from my sense of responsibility as an ambassador of the life-saving message of reconciliation.  Human tendency overruns the work of the Spirit.

But here is Paul’s secret;  in his relentless quest to introduce people to Jesus, his first goal is to become LIKE Jesus in holiness and love.

I undertook the burden of caring for my Mom and taking on her tasks, not simply out of duty, but out of a deep love and respect for her.  The times I was able to pause, sit and talk with her were precious.  It is no different in our calling from our Master.

If we undertake the role of ambassador simply out of duty, we will become the very people who are hard to love and be around.  Self righteous, ignorant, and narrow minded in religion.  It is only when we love more deeply and draw closer to Jesus that we can become ambassadors of Love, not duty.

Should I Boycott Halloween?

I have long been conflicted over this holiday of witches, ghouls, pumpkins and fairies. Growing up we gave out boxes of raisins and cassette tapes (I know – that dates me) of Bible stories. My parents figured we didn’t need to be out collecting teeth rot, and somehow it seemed to redeem the night – at least for our family.

In college we collected food for the food bank, figuring that would at least be doing some one some good. The last few years, having little energy, we shut the blinds and enjoyed a quiet night.

Yesterday the news was awash with knifings, shootings and violence. It hit awfully close to home. Two of the victims were teenage girls in our town, simply going to school. People are asking why is all this senseless violence taking place at the same time.

I know why. When Satan is worshipped, his calling cards shows up in spades. The same can be seen on nights when covens and Satanic groups concentrate their curses, spells and worship of Satan.

It is also noted when believers come together to worship and  intercede for a city, crime rates plummet.

If we could pull back the curtain and gaze into the realm of angels and demons (I know, I’m leaving the comfort zone of most North American Christians, but frankly – I don’t care), we would see a battle for our cities that we are losing right now. Why are we losing? Because we aren’t fighting.

Our churches host cute little pumpkin parties that give out poison (yes, sugar is poison) while neglecting what would actually make a difference on that night – worship and prayer. Maybe because we don’t know how to pray with authority in the Spirit like Jesus told us to.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, powers, the world forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the full armour of God so you will be able to resist in the evil day, having done everything to stand firm. Ephesians 6:12)

Do we not care? Do we not know that we can turn the tide of violence and demonic influence on our city?  What if it was my daughter – would I begin to fight?  Do we have no investment in the communities in which we live? Are we so apathetic and weak that we can’t even stand together and forbid the enemy to take ground – even for one night?  I too am guilty.

This is the day the Lord has made. Satan can make no days. He can illegitimately claim them, but they are not his. My heart is hurting for the families who lost daughters, sons, loved ones, and yes, it is senseless, but damn it, it is preventable if Christians would follow Jesus and take authority over the darkness like He told us to.

So you ask:  “Should I boycott Halloween?”

No! Abdication is not the answer!  Don’t boycott Halloween, engage it.  Ask the Holy Spirit how to pray to take back a night the enemy has stolen.  Worship and lift high the name above all names that pierces the darkness with Light.  Command the Host of Heaven to tear down strongholds and fill the streets with the light and glory of Jesus Christ who conquered death!

Please, don’t boycott Halloween – Overthrow its ruler, standing with other believers who are willing to stand for their cities, exalting the true Ruler of Life!  When the worship of Jesus exceeds the worship of Satan, Halloween and its ruler will lose their power.