Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Today I plan on attending the Memorial Day parade in Holliston, MA; a little town not too far from Boston. We'll probably park the car at St. Mary's, arriving early enough to get a shady seat on the bench in front of Fisk's Variety Store. My wife's family and friends will be there. (MORE on this story)

It's a yearly tradition much like Christmas or Easter. It's a time when our family plans to be with others, to have a feast, and make some memories.

Memorial Day is not a Christian celebration - and like Christmas and Easter, it has for the most part, become something that it's not. HERE is the history of Memorial Day.

Yesterday a fellow at work was talking about being a kid in Brooklyn and going to the parade. They had tanks and other military equipment which you could go and climb on after the parade. Wow! Me, I am small town sort of guy - we had a couple of old Ford's and a few WWI vets.

It's hard not to be grateful when we are face-to-face with a WW II vet. It's hard not to be proud of those that are home from a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan. I admit, I am lost for feelings as I remember the lives of those that dies in battle,

Today is a day in which we are to remember those that gave thier life so that the US could be what it is today. In many ways it is not a spiritual day - except when we think about the founding of the US as the only other country in the world that was set apart for the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob except for Israel. Hmm...

Unfortunately war will be a way of life.until the last generation. In all it's violence, destruction and death, it seems to be the only force left in which nations can shape themselves. There is no more undiscovered land - it's all taken. I wonder what world events will cause the 10 (horns) kingdoms described in Revelation? What if the EU is the first?

In between root beer, hamburgers and lemonade, I am remembering those that have died in service to our country - wondering how many of them will be in Heaven?

I think about my dad who served in 2 wars and received 2 Purple Hearts. He was a disabled vet most of his life. I am thinking about the fear and violence on the battlefield - something out of Saving Private Ryan - soldiers giving the ultimate sacrifice.

I am thinking about the sacrifice of Jesus who took my place on the cross.

I am thinking of millions of small flags placed on the graves of those the lost their lives so that you and I could be free to worship Jesus.

I am thinking that freedom isn't free.

I am praying for our troops.

I am praying for God to have mercy on the US.

I am thinking about the return of Jesus.

How about you, what are you thinking about today?

May God Bless America - Happy Memorial Day

(Photos Life Magazine unless otherwise noted)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Because You first loved me...

It's been a jammed packed week, so I'm late on a lot of my reading. As a matter of fact, I just finished reading the post this week of my fellow Kingdom Bloggers. Wow! What a diverse and talented group they are, and a real blessing to me personally.

You may be getting a bit tired of hearing me say that, but it doesn't make it any less true. I've never met David, Joyce, Dave or Tracy in person, but I know God has placed them in my life to shore me up, reinforce me, during those moments of doubt. Oh yes, those moments do come. More often than I care to admit. But it's not just my fellow Kingdom Bloggers. Many times a comment or email made by a reader will come at just the right moment. A moment when God is reminding me I do this for Him...not me.

For those of you who blog, you understand the commitment to pen new muses on a regular basis. For those of you who read, the commitment is no less real. We write and we read to find and enjoy fellowship with other Believers. We also write and we read to to be in one accord. Do we all agree on every point of Christian theology? Yes, I chuckled at that absurd question too, but what we do believe in is a God that loves us so much, He provided a way for us to return to Him after we messed up a great thing.

That's where I believe my doubt has changed through the years. While there was a time I arrogantly questioned God's wonderful plan of salvation because it was based on faith, today my doubt will often come from the overwhelming gift of His grace. How can I possibly deserve such a gift? Well...we all know I'm not worthy of His grace, and that's what makes the gift the greatest ever given or to be given. It's hard to imagine that much love.

I can't think of a better way to end the week than 4 minutes and 50 seconds thinking about that gift...have a blessed holiday weekend with God all over it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Help me overcome my unbelief

Can a real Believer, a born again follower of Christ, have doubts?


I know I sure do.

I also know that I love God. I'm grateful beyond anything words can ever express that He gave me the faith to believe in Him, that I have a relationship with the creator of the universe, that He cares for me, and that He has good plans for my life.

The late Michael Spencer who wrote at the Internet Monk site, once said something about doubt that I appreciate and that's really stuck with me:

"I deeply disagree with those who say we should not speak of faith until we have answers. It shouldn’t take a lot of consideration to understand the answer may be “there’s no answer for this question.” If I have to go beyond that, I’m going at the expense of my integrity. Nothing good comes of that.”

For me, if my faith isn't genuine, then it's worthless. For me to have genuine faith I must be honest. If I'm honest I have to admit that there are some things in the Bible that don't make sense to me, or that I don't really like, that all the explanations for why bad things happen to good people still leave me feeling sad and disconsolate; and this is not even mentioning the fact that, like Joyce wrote about on Tuesday, sometimes I have trouble believing God because of my own fear.

Recently I attended a Catholic Mass for the first time. I was moved by the beauty and symbolism throughout the service and captivated by the references to the mystery of our faith. I like that phrase because I really believe that there are many things concerning God that are just too much for me to understand. I'm reminded of the Bible passage found in Isaiah 55:8-9 (KJV):

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

When it's all said and done, I don't think a God who I could totally understand would be very valuable. I'm grateful that God's ways are higher and better than mine, that He's got the big picture and is working things for the best outcome.

I'm also grateful that, when I want to follow after God and find myself doubting, that I can always reach out to Him in honesty and ask Him, just like the father did in Mark 9:20-25,to help me overcome my unbelief.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jesus Can't Get Here Soon Enough

Blind Girl Raped
Grandpa Rapes 2 year old Grand daughter
Woman Flogged For Not Wearing Socks
Mom Mircowaves Baby
Two Headed Baby Dies
Iowa City Man Kills Family
Rwanda Orphans
Human Trafficking

I don't doubt the existence of God, just like I don't doubt the existence of evil. I don't doubt that God loves and compassionate, just like I don't doubt that mankind is wicked and perverse. It is still difficult for me to comprehend the horror and tragedy of the articles listed above. Perhaps it is because of stories like the ones listed above are why I don't venture much into the news except for sports and politics. Reading these sorts of stories slaps me in the face with the realization of how superficial and self centered I can be.

It is because of the evil in the world is why I most look forward to the return of Jesus.

For He has set a day for judging the world with justice by the Man He has appointed, and He proved to everyone Who this is by raising Him from the dead.
Acts 17.31

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm From Missouri - Show ME

I think I’d like to just say ditto to David’s blog yesterday and move on. So much of what he said pertains to me as well. While I didn’t fail English and I have at times fancied myself to be a writer, I too doubted when I hear over and over and over again, you need to write a book. I don’t know if doubt is the right word to describe my feelings it is more that I think I am just giving into my own fantasy and wishes. Yet, how could all these people who know little about me say the same thing?

I also thought of Thomas as soon as I heard the topic for this week. Doubting Thomas – I preached on him just a few weeks ago. I agree, Thomas had a lot more faith than I do too.

As I looked at the passage where we proclaim Thomas a doubter, I saw something rather different than I had seen before. We focus so much on Thomas and his doubt that we forget about the other people in this story. Like Thomas, they had been with Jesus. They saw all the miracles Jesus did. But what were they doing?
Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, "Peace to you." Then he showed them his hands and side.
Locked inside…

That doesn’t really sound like men and women of faith and power to me. It is clear. They were scared. I think terrified might be a better word. Their Teacher, the one they had banked their lives and livelihood on had just been murdered.

Notice that Jesus showed them his hand and side. He spoke Peace to them. Many of us are doubters like the disciples. We hid behind closed doors never admitting our fear or doubts. We’d prefer to look like people of faith and power – we make good confessions and say hallelujah and amen! But in reality, we are locked behind this fa├žade of superficial faith. We know all the right words.

I’ve been a lot like that at times. I’ve prayed for people with some pretty serious illnesses and situations. I pray for them that they will be healed, or their finances restored, etc. Yet, when it comes to me, my needs, my problems, my issues, I seriously doubt. Not that I doubt what God can do, I just doubt He’d do it for me. I lock myself up inside and hide just like the disciples.

All the disciples had doubts – fear and doubt go together like peas in a pod. They have this symbiotic relationship and feed on each other.

Thomas on the other hand was not behind the locked door. I wonder what he was doing? Do you ever read the scriptures and wonder such questions? I do. Had he returned to his former life? Was he the one who had the most courage to go shop for the trembling disciples? I don’t know. But he wasn’t locked up behind a door.  It seems he wasn’t as bound up in fear.

I guess Thomas was a Missourian – Missouri is the show me state. Their motto: I’m from Missouri and you gotta show me. I’ve lived in Missouri. I’m a bit like that myself. You want real. You want to know for yourself. You want to experience it yourself.

Eight days later when Thomas was with them, it doesn’t say the door was locked. Seems that encounter with the Holy Spirit took away the fear. It’s much easier to not doubt once you’ve had an encounter for yourself.
Thomas was honest about his doubts. The only way to have your doubts resolved is to be honest. To stop hiding behind the closed doors of fear. I think Thomas was a realist. He wanted to know that this was real. He wanted to know it for himself. He said SHOW ME.

Sometimes, our doubts are just the opportunity Jesus is waiting for to show you just how real He is.

What are you doubting? If you’re hiding behind a door of fear, don't be surprised if Jesus pops in your life and says PEACE. If you’re like Thomas and you want to be sure it’s real. Say so… 

My God is real, how about yours?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Beyond Faith and Doubt - My God is Real

I was reading about doubting Thomas the other day. Over the years, he has been the poster child for doubt in the church. Whenever any preacher, pastor or priest talks about faith, many talk about doubt, and invariably Thomas's name comes up.

This week the brethren are going to write about doubt. Every Christian has a crises of faith from time-to-time.

There are lots of times when, in my walk as a Christian, I have doubted. I would often take comfort in the fact that Thomas was a doubter - and that I am blessed if I don't have to see proof. Amazingly, last week I was reading and writing about Thomas. I thought I would share the part about Thomas here on Kingdom Bloggers. I wrote the following over on a  Fire & Grace blog.

"Trust me, if you were Thomas, you’d have much more faith than the average American Christian. You may remember the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead.

John 11:16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." 17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.

We all know how the story ends. Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus. Of course Thomas was there when the Gaterenenian Demoniac was set free, the storm was calmed, the water was turned to wine, and he was one of the guys watching bread and fish multiply before his very eyes as he distributed it on the hillside to 5,000 men and their families!"

When I view Thomas from that perspective, I believe I am much more of a doubter than he was.

As a Christian, when I talk about doubt, I noticed my doubts have changed over the decades. In the early days I was concerned about Jesus the man/God. Later on, I struggled with the supernatural - healing, tongues, demons, prophecy, words of knowledge, miracles - it was all unfamiliar to me. And because of that I doubted the Bible in other areas, though I seemed pretty secure in my salvation. The truth was, I did not know how to hear God's voice - it was unfamiliar. As I have said before, I thought it was some random act when God spoke to me about something.

Finally, I learned to have 2-way relationship with Jesus. I learned how to pray, to listen, to flow with the things that I was sensing. It took years because I had a lot of Bible, but no real mentoring. Many men tried to make excuses for the parts of the Bible that were unfamiliar to them. I thank God that I just abandon myself to Him, that I read many books about miracles and other supernatural things that my God did for others - hmmm... was it possible that He would allow me to be a part of that too?

I remember one day I was I read this passage.

1 John 1:2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

The apostle John wanted to testify in writing what He had seen. What do you suppose John thought at this moment? Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."

I had received a prophetic word about writing - "you will write, write, write." Little did the one giving the word know I had failed English and/or reading 9 out of 12 grades - writing - heck spelling wasn't even a strong point.

One day I was sitting at my PC and I heard the voice of the Lord tell me to write about the wedding in Cana. I read the passage and I felt an amazing anointing and I simply understood it as a picture of salvation. And so I wrote about it. A few days later I began to write about things God did through me and others that I knew - shared about prayer, power, and anything else that God would give me during my morning devotions. I searched God out at every conference and meeting that I could find - and I began to see God work in powerful ways.

In fact I have seen so many things that God has unquestionably done, that I must tell the stories. 400 or so are within the this blog and Fire & Grace. But there were over 500 daily emails that I sent out as well. I love to give God glory, and to testify to the things that He has done in my life. I write about these things because, for so many years, I was simply told to have faith, pray for faith, operate in faith, but I doubted.

Testimonies are a good way of building your faith, and the faith of others. It is how I have overcome doubt. It is important to tell others what God has done, that is one of the ways we overcome the Devil!

Revelation 12:11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.

When I do not doubt, I can see the dry or desert times for what they are. I can ask for wisdom and knowledge, or I can ask God to heal or change a situation. It is because of what He has done on the cross, His great love for me (and you) and because I dared to believe even the wildest of biblical claims.

My God is real, how about yours?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Be quite and let Me do the talking...

I've recounted a number of incidents on Kingdom Bloggers where I know God was near my personal testimony, during my daily commute, and even when I lived in Hawaii. Both of my last two post were also examples of my being aware God was present.

Isn't that really the point though? God is always near even if we don't acknowledge His presence.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NIV)
16Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

I heard a wonderful sermon preached on this passage a few weeks back that oddly reminded me of an anecdote I read in college years ago:

A pointed fable is told about a young lion and a cougar. Both thirsty, the animals arrived at their usual water hole at the same time. They immediately began to argue about who should satisfy their thirst first. The argument became heated, and each decided he would rather die than give up the privilege of being first to quench his thirst. As they stubbornly confronted each other, their emotions turned to rage. Their cruel attacks on each other were suddenly interrupted. They both looked up. Circling overhead was a flock of vultures waiting for the loser to fall. Quietly, the two beasts turned and walked away. The thought of being devoured was all they needed to end their quarrel.

As Christians, we know God is always near because His word tells us, yet we lose sight of His presence as we become wrapped up and overtaken by narcissistic thoughts and actions. But God is still with us...we are often still His temple. All living creatures need water to survive,
and Christ is the Living Water (John 7:37-38) necessary for our eternal survival. The world circles overhead waiting to swoop down and devour our being if we neglect the Living Water by not talking to Him, spending time in His word, focusing on others with love and not rage in our hearts, and following His commandments. We are temples of God reborn and set in motion to do all things for His Kingdom.

He makes it so easy if we can just remember He is always near.

I had a completely different post written out for today that became garbled on a thumb drive beyond recovery...or did it? That's one of the greatest things about God always being near...He always has something to say if I just shut up and let Him do the talking.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I'm No Dare Devil

I’ve gone through lots of struggles in my life. That is an understatement. If you want to know more, check out my own blog. I am writing about my early life. I am writing about God's faithfulness. My theme song has been Through It All.

I’ve written on this blog before about God never leaving me or forsaking me. You can read it here.  The fact that God doesn’t leave us is one of those things that you can usually agree with in your head, but your heart often wonders.

A number of years ago I was after God with full force. I wanted to swim in the river of God – in fact, I had dived headfirst right in. I wanted it all. I didn’t want to miss a thing. I am a life-long Pentecostal. I had read about Azusa Street and other revivals. I was sure this was my turn to experience these wondrous things. I wasn’t going to miss it.

A friend and I would go to the church every day during lunch to pray. We’d let ourselves in, turn on some worship music and storm heaven for revival. We began to see it. Then the bottom fell out. Death, calamity, betrayal, accusations, and a host of other things devastated my life to the point I could barely function. Where I was leading the charge for revival, now I could barely drag myself to church. When I did, I would often wander to the back of the church and sit on the floor. If my church family didn’t love me so much, they probably would have asked me to leave.

It was definitely one of the times I wondered where God was – this “Jesus and Me” stuff wasn’t working. I was sure I had been forsaken.  

One day I was talking to my pastor. I said remember that poster that you’ve seen. The one where the rope has a knot at the end and the cat is holding on for dear life.  

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. 

I said,
I have no knot and I’m not hanging on any more.
His answer was astoundingly profound and something I’ll never forget. He agreed. I had stopped hanging on. He said.
Joyce you are in a freefall. It’s scary. You don’t know whether you’re going to hit the ground and die. Nevertheless, Jesus is there, and He’s going to catch you.

Sometimes, we can’t hold on. Sometimes our own strength just is not enough. Sometimes our world ends. Instead of diving in the river of God swimming and splashing in blessing, we just dive into an abyss and think we’ll die.

Jesus caught me. Have you ever been a free-fall? How did Jesus catch you?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Less Is More

Less of Dave means more of Jesus.  When I admit to Jesus and myself that I am in a spot that I can't fight through, Jesus shows up. By laying down my pride, I have overcome my greatest weakness, my ego.
When Jesus shows up, there are attitudes, sins, misconceptions that I have to lay down.  These weaknesses of mine simply cannot exist in His presence.

Now, during these times of humility and honesty, I don't really feel His presence.  But, I know my Savior has come through for me.  Because only with Jesus less is more.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2  Corinthians 12.9

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sometimes I sense God's Presence...Sometimes I don't

There have been many times throughout my life when God was near, when I experienced His very presence.

Some of those times have been big events where God miraculously healed people, or times when life circumstances had brought me into a terrible event but I could feel God's presence and the knowledge that I was not alone, or moments when we were singing together during church and it was as if the palpable presence of God was with us. But many of the times when God was near were in the ordinary, in daily life, when nothing super exciting was going on, when I was just seeking His presence and He chose to bless me; like on this ordinary day....

Warmth, comfort, I don't want to move an inch-wait, what's that sound? Ugh-it's the alarm clock! I so do not like to get up in the morning. Why don't I just go ahead and hit the snooze button, the clock says too early anyway.

Oh gee, now I can't sleep. Plus I'm remembering why I set the clock a bit early. I wanted to give myself some extra time 'cuz it's been awful lately at work. Geeze, just thinking about all the pressure and all the misunderstandings makes me feel sick to my stomach, makes me want to get right back into this bed.

Oh God, I need You, I can't make it without You.

OK, maybe I'll feel better if I just drag myself into a hot shower.

Yep, nothing like the hot water of a shower to make me feel more awake and alive. That combined with the caffeine in a diet coke with lots of slices of limes in it - it just doesn't get much better than that. As I go out the kitchen door onto our deck, I find myself thinking about how I love this house, love our back deck so secluded and up among the trees. I'm grateful that I can come out here and be alone. Take this time here with my Bible, reading glasses, and God - I need this time, I'm desperate for it.

I feel depleted, like I've got nothing to offer. But God has sure blessed me. I begin thanking Him. Thanking Him for my health, my beautiful home in the mountains, my husband who loves me, my healthy sons, and even though my job is wretched right now I thank Him that I have a job and that all our financial needs are met, we've never gone without our needs being met. Most of all I thank Him for the forgiveness that is mine through Jesus.

Thinking about Jesus and all He's done for me just makes me start to sing. Song after song of praise pours from my lips. I'm grateful that it's no one but God and me out here because I know I'm most likely off key; I'm grateful that it doesn't matter.

After awhile I am silent. Silent before God. Aware of His greatness. Aware of His presence. A deep peace permeates my being. I feel like I do after a long winter, when it first starts getting warm and I get to go outside and sit in the sun, all I want to do is sit there drinking in its warmth. That's how it is right now, all I want is to bask in the presence of God...

Sometimes during my morning times with God it's like this, His presence warms me like hot water in the bathtub and I just can't get enough. Other times, if I'm honest, I don't feel anything.

Years ago I would have told you that if I feel His presence or not, I have a daily time with Him out of obedience. Today it's not like that. Today I tell you that I spend that time daily in thanksgiving, praise, prayer, silence and reading the Bible and reflecting - not because I'm devout or obedient - but because I'm needy. Because I'm desperate for God. When I was 17 years old, I thought I knew so much. But in the more than 3 decades since then, I've watched myself fail, I've learned enough to know how much I don't know, I've experienced the grace and mercy of God repeatedly, and I've come to know that I'm nothing without God. I spend time in His presence because I've experienced the fact that there is a battle going on , and I need to change the way I think, that I need to help myself think on things that are true and positive.

For me the bottom line is that I'm grateful for and enjoy when I get to feel the presence of God, but choose to keep seeking after Him even when I do not feel His presence.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Source of Ignition

James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

I love this verse, but I confess, it really didn't mean much to me for many years after I got saved. I remember the flood of love when I confessed God with my lips. I remember how wonderful I thought God was when everything was going my way. I really didn't know how to get close to God. And worse, I thought it was some sort of random chance for God's presence to manifest itself.

This week your Kingdom Bloggers are going to write about a time when God was near.

After many years as a Christian, I began to read a lot about revival. Some of the manifestations of God seemed a little scary, but also amazing. I have many memories about God's presence in prayer meetings, Sunday services and on some retreats that I went to. I happen to love communion, and quiet altars - especially the ornate ones showered in sunshine filtered by stained glass, or lit by a single candle. I really did desire to be close to God.

I remember something called the Agape feast on a Cursillo retreat I went on - and the presence there was just without words. That was amazing!

Certainly God has been near in times of trouble as well. One morning I was on the way home from an early morning prayer meeting. It was about 7:30 am and I was driving down Route 28 from Chatham to my home in Dennis, MA It had started to rain - but I was pumped from a great prayer time. My spirit was groaning syllables that even I didn't know what they meant - but I was connecting with God!

Just past Harwich Center, I took my foot of the gas to slow for the s-curve a few minutes from my house. As I came to the middle of the "s", the truck started to slide (honest, I wasn't going fast, maybe 30) . I turned into the skid when I felt a darkness surround me. As I am spinning out; in the midst of a 360, I shout "Oh God!" And it was like a hand just grabbed my truck and put it going the right way. I let the clutch out and continued as if nothing had happened. That is the kind of presence we need in our lives!

I some times meditate on how Adam might have walked with God in the cool of the day - now that's a lifestyle I could grow accustom to! I read Watchman Nee's, The Release of the Spirit. It was a lot about intimacy with God, and that is what I wanted. I wanted the lover of Song of Songs to chase after me!

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence was a personal revelation at the time. It was so simple to look for God as Tracy describe last week. But I wanted more. I wanted God to visit me, or send and angel like He did for Mary or Paul. I wanted to get caught up in the Third Heaven and be in the Throne Room. I wanted God, whatever the cost, whatever it took.

I was at a conference with prophetic minister named John Paul Jackson,. I mention his name, because of the prayer that he said for me, and no other reason. He is a vessel of God, and not different than you and I. Here is what he prayed when I went to the altar that evening. "Lord I pray that your presence would follow this man all the days of his life. The when he turns left that You would be there, and when he turns right, You would be there too. I pray that your presence would surround him wherever he goes. In Jesus' name" I remember standing there just shaking in the presence of God it was so strong. I might have stood for 10 or more minutes just enjoying my Lord.

You might be thinking, 10 minutes is not the rest of this guy's life - and you're right.What did happen, is that when ever I even think of God; even for moment, His presence comes in like flood. I can be anywhere - in bed, driving, at work, and even in the courtroom a few times. I love His presence, and God has answered John Paul's prayer.

Even the faintest thought of God ignites His presence.

Luke 3:16 (The Message) But John intervened: "I'm baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I'm a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He's going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives.

Friday, May 14, 2010

He is here, you can touch Him...You will never be the same.

God spends a lot of time just on me...good thing He's omnipotent.

Often with the best of intentions in mind, I get pulled into a path of behavior that isn't...well...very Christ-like. Just a few weeks back, I wrote about ongoing dialogue with a number of different people about God, most of whom didn't actually believe He even exist. God was convicting me about my mannerism with a passage from Timothy. Well it seems that correcting took a little longer to sink in than it should have...that's a shame on me.

My exchanges didn't take a kinder, gentler turn after that post. Instead, another exchange on
Abundant Living (sorry Tracy) actually became pointed and sarcastic, and that's completely my fault too. I often pray for God to guide and direct my life in His will...but praying and listening are obviously two different things.

A hymn came to my heart during the several days that covered the exchange, and I couldn't shake it for the life of me...

He is here, Hallelujah, He is here, Amen
He is here, Holy Holy, I will bless His name again
He is here, listen closely
Hear Him calling out your name
He is here, you can touch Him
You will never be the same

Now, we haven't sang that hymn where I go to church in probably two years or more, but I requested we do it the next Sunday to our Praise Team leader, and he immediately responded with an emphatic yes. I was left to wonder where this was going...

While playing the song this past Sunday (which was the last song we did), I finally got it. Worshipping in complete humility is something I should do each and every Sunday, but I should also live my life each day in that same humility...because He is here...with me...always.

Paul, in one of his greatest speeches, tells the Greeks of Athens in Acts 17:24-28

24"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

I finally got it Sunday. Not that it had to happen during worship and could happen anywhere at anytime. I finally realized that God is here. Always. I should conduct my life in all aspects in complete submission and humility...because I am a light for Him. Jesus doesn't need me to win His battles. We know the ending to the story of this world. Jesus wants me to show love for my neighbor, because in doing so, I show His love.

Please Father, forgive me for not listening...and thank you for always being here with me. Amen.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hey, did I miss it?

Have you ever shared an experience, or participated in an event with someone, and when you both talked about it later found out that her perception of it was some what different than yours? I think we all have. I've found that sometimes I fail to notice things.

Sometimes I fail to notice God.

I can remember more than 10 years ago participating in a Bible study where the phrase "God sightings" was used. The idea was to be more aware of, to notice, God working. I don't know about you, but sometimes, for me, it's just easy to get caught up in the business of life. To be really candid, sometimes it's easy for me to perseverate on some problem that's really bugging me, and to fail to see the good things happening around me.

Every since that Bible study, that phrase, that concept of God sightings, has been somewhere lurking in my thoughts. I've frequently prayed that God would help me not to miss Him in each and every day.

I can remember a super tough job I had from 2000 - 2003 where I was an assistant administrator for a large adolescent inpatient and outpatient program. My boss was an incredible leader AND incredibly demanding; the hours were long, the tasks frequently seemed beyond my ability. But every day I looked for ways God was at hand. I could see Him sometimes give me ways to do things when I asked him for wisdom because I didn't have a clue how to proceed, but there was something that had to be accomplished. I can remember watching God change the hard hearts of some of my employees that had ghetto backgrounds and had initially acted disrespectful and even threatening toward me, to where they would come to me to pray for them (hey, even if they weren't sure about God, maybe he was real and perhaps I had an "in" with Him). I could enjoy those little blessings; like a rose someone placed on my desk, the rare occasions when someone said thank you, when the sun was shining in the sky and I could see it and feel it's warmth when I took a break outside or when I drove over to the outpatient program, when I watched a teen from a horrendous background begin to realize that he was a person of value.

I can remember my then-husband leaving me the year I turned 40, to go off with a beautiful young woman who was turning 30. I can remember almost falling into that think-about-nothing-but-this-painful-awful-life-changing-scary-thing-going-on mentality. Instead of falling into that mentality, the Holy Spirit gave me the idea and power, to choose every morning right when I woke up to think through all the God sightings from the previous day that I could recall and to spend time thanking Him for His goodness in my life. You know what? Those daily lists were rather long. God had my job, out of the blue, offer me $24,000 more per year to move to work for them at a site about an hour from the town where myself & sons and estranged husband & girlfriend were living. The town we moved to was closer to the ocean and God blessed both my sons and myself incredibly during the years we lived there. That town we moved to was a somewhat difficult place to find housing, and I didn't know anyone living there, so I just prayed and opened up a phone book for that area and turned to rental listings in the yellow pages. God blessed us with being able to rent a clean, tidy, affordable, house in a neighborhood that I later found was one of the best in the area (even though myself plus 5 other couples all tried to rent that house and I was in the middle of becoming single and finding out about all kinds of weird debts that the boys' dad had acquired). God brought me other single mom friends who were just so much fun. God brought a couple of older, godly, men into my sons' lives to be positive male role models for them and invest into their lives. I could just go on and on listing all the ways God worked in my life and blessed me during that time. Perhaps the most precious was His own sweet presence, His peace and calm that He caused to permeate my heart and life.

I can remember as recently as yesterday, being tempted to give into discouragement when driving my 15 yr old son to school and listening to him give a teen age rant about how terrible I am (recently I imposed some consequences on his older brother). But looking out the window and seeing those gorgeous clouds God had placed right there, hovering over the mountain tops, delighting my eyes. Thinking about how my husband John and I had just prayed over a situation the night before and then watched God almost immediately bring about the answer to our prayers. Finding that I much preferred looking for God, His blessings and His power working in my life, than to give in to feelings of being hurt, sad, and overwhelmed.

What about you, do you look for God every day? Has taking the time to see how He's blessing and working in your life changed things for you? How?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Obstacle Course

Early in my Faith, I thought God was a harsh dude that was waiting to hammer me for my sins, as well as, for all of  my mistakes.  Sorta like a drill instructor.  After all, I had just enrolled in God's Army and He was gonna break me down so He could build me back up. And of course, because this was the angry, ready to smite, make people wander 40 years in a desert God, I just knew God was gonna spend alotta time breaking me down.

There were times I really felt like God wasn't just testing me, He was tormenting me, taunting me, waiting for me to mess up.  It was like I was running an obstacle course and He was barking all sorts of commands at me.  He also would also change to the course at any given moment.  Or He would throw more obstacles at me, just to see how much I could endure.

After a few years of yelling and cussing at God and telling God I wasn't gonna play His game anymore, I eventually saw God for who He is. I saw God as the Dad who loves all His kids and wants them to overcome the trials of life.

Thank God, He rescued me from my limited view of Him.

Looking back, I can see how He removed hazards, filled in pits and even rescued me from the times I got off His course. I also can see how He widened the path, (Psalm 18.36) and how even had me by the hand (Psalm 37.24).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Run for your life, they are chasing you!

My first thought when I knew what we were going to write about this week was oh good, something "easy." Then I thought again. I'm a walking encyclopedia of old hymns and gospel songs. Thinking about Jesus and me triggered a song. The chorus goes like this:
Now it is Jesus and me for each tomorrow,
For every heartache and every sorrow;
I know that I can depend upon my new found friend,
And so to the end it's Jesus and me.
That led to a medley of songs including What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Seems we always think of Jesus being with us through some dark time. Sometimes it takes a long time to find him in the dark.
Being a preacher, I thought about a sermon I recently preached on Psalm 23. It's hard to preach on those passages we know the best. Everyone thinks they know all about it. I got a little long winded on the front end of the sermon so I didn't get to say as much about the last verse, the one about goodness and mercy. I wanted to really drive home that the correct understanding of the Hebrew is that it isn't that they follow you, it is that they chase after you. What an image, goodness and mercy chasing you!

Goodness and mercy, that sounds like Jesus. Sounds like it isn't just that we follow Jesus. He chases after us. In other words, He never abandons us. Regardless of what's happening in life, goodness and mercy are still chasing us.

I have lots of stories about Jesus showing up. I've told about Jesus showing up by miraculously sending someone to my door to provide food for us. I have a lot of stories like that one. The one that came to mind for today is long. I can't tell it in its entirety here.

You can read more details about the beginning of it here. I am like countless other people who have suffered under the hands of a pedophile. We read a lot about it now. When I was a child, it was kept secret.

For most of my life, I was unaware of the effects this had on my life. Like with any devastation that needs healing, first you have to have a diagnosis. As God miraculously began the healing process I got to the place where I wanted to know just where Jesus was when I was 8 years old.

I've never been much of a blame God type of person. However, I wondered. Where was Jesus? Countless people through the ages have asked the same question. Just where is this Jesus when everything falls apart, when death comes, when people misuse you, etc. The reasons we might ask where Jesus is are as many as the people who have ever walked the face of the earth.

I had heard that some women I knew, who like me, had been abused had asked the same question. They said they had an answer. They said they wouldn't tell it because each person had to hear an answer for themselves. Nonetheless, they also said that after they had their answer they told each other. They had heard the same thing.

I asked the question. I asked Jesus, where were you when I was 8? I waited for my answer. I finally got one. Jesus said He was there. He said I was standing in that doorway with you. I was weeping for you. I was interceding for your life and the healing I am now bringing to you. I was there. I saw it.

I know this raises all sorts of theological questions. We could go on forever asking why didn't He stop it. I don't know that answer. I do know that Jesus was there. I know He was there feeling the deepness of my pain. I also found out it was the same answer He gave those other women too. Jesus is always there. Goodness and mercy chased after me from that day forward. Eventually healing would come as I stopped long enough to let them overtake me.

Shortly after that, while receiving communion I thought about Jesus taking away the sins of the world. I though about my own sin, but that day I also thought about the sin of my abuser. His sin, not mine, had left deep wounds and scars. Jesus died for the wounds and scars that my abusers sins had left on me. Jesus died for your sins but also for the effects of someone else's sin on your life. That's pretty awesome.

I wanted to tell you about Jesus exploding in my life on some majestic hillside. I really wanted to tell you some happy story. But this is a happy story. Life is very hard. Life sucks much of the time. Injustice flourishes. Knowing that Jesus is always there, that His goodness and mercy are chasing after us is wonderful news. It is good news. It is the gospel.

Monday, May 10, 2010

There is a God, How Much Proof Do You Need?

The first couple of times that I was confronted with the "god" question, I stood my ground pretty well. I was educated, logical, rational and as a teenager, I was at the pinnacle of my intelligence. Isn't it wonderful how much more God knows than I do?

This week the faithful are going to write about a simple story the includes at least two characters, them and Jesus.

I really wasn't much of a challenge for God, I just had never experienced Him. Once I did, however; I have never doubted. I have learned more about God, and what He does, about His character, and about His ways, but I have never been able to answer the question, does God exist?" and not answer it with a yes.

I have witnessed God doing some of the "big stuff" miracles, healing, cars running without gas, cancer falling off and so many supernatural events that I can't even remember them all. Living in, and by the Spirit, is a way of life. If we can learn to release the new man, it is much easier to walk in godliness, purity and and do what we see the Father doing. When we try to use religious formulas, we can easily end up on dry ground.

In 1989 I took a cross country trip. I had lots of trouble before I got to a place where I could take the time to travel. I had been far from God. I didn't pray, I didn't go to church, but I did know that He was there.I just wasn't connecting - nor was I trying to. In spite of the miracles, and power that I had been a witness to, I left most of it behind.

You might ask yourself why, and the truth is simply this: I wanted to do things my way, and the pursuit of Kingdom goals was just too costly.

I often think of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-13.After all the wonder and power on Mt Carmel (1 Kings 18), he ends up running for his life. It is here that he is in the cave and the Lord is not found in the wind, the fire or the earthquake - and that it how it was for me. I saw the Lord, but I came to know Him in the simple things.

I know him from the love that I receive from my wife and kids. I knew Him as I visited 32 National Parks, as I looked into the eyes of the poor in Brazil, and in the quiet times as I looked out over the ocean, or a valley in the Rockies. I saw him in the reef fish in the Caribbean - yes, that is where I saw the very personality of God. He was the sunset, he was the blowing snow - He was the fragrance of fresh picked flowers, and warmth of sunshine on my face.

One day I stood atop a granite spire in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and I looked up and there I heard His voice. He spoke a very personal promise to me that I have never shared - but those few words have keep me going for many years.

How about you, how much proof do you need? What does God need to do for you to be joyful and prosperous?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Let's learn to walk before we try playing basketball...

I hadn't been going to the church I currently attend very long when I decided to go along on a Monday night visitation. For us, that's where a group of people meet at the church, pray, and then disperse in teams to visit a list of 'needing' people. I use the quotation marks around 'needing' because the definition in this case contains a number of situations depending on the person.

My very first visitation paired me with our pastor and took us to the home of a man I had known most of my life. Pastor Derek prepared me on the short drive by stating this gentleman had never accepted Christ, and his family was concerned because he was getting older. He had also been visiting the church and showed a desire to learn more about Jesus.

Seemed easy enough to me. Go in and visit with someone I knew (I had attended school with his daughters), talk about Jesus, and hope someone walked that Romans road. I was most nervous about the fact I had attended school with his daughters and hoped Pastor Derek talked about the forgiving and redeeming factors of our faith...but that's a different post.

We were warmly welcomed into the man's home, and the discussion was very comforting and ran a gambit of subject matters but nothing requiring too much deep thought. After half an hour or so, Pastor Derek got to the heart of the matter as to why we were in this man's living room on a Monday night. What happened next actually happened so fast, I had to go back and replay it in my head over and over that night to piece the events back together.

I remember Pastor Derek asking this man if he had ever accepted Christ as his savior. At that very moment, the room filled with the unmistakable Spirit of God to the point I literally became overwhelmed. I knew to a degree what was happening in my head, but the experience overall was as if my very soul was being supercharged...and that was a completely new experience for me. I wasn't there for my benefit, it was suppose to be about this man and his eternal salvation. Yet the presence of the Holy Spirit blessed me in a most tremendous way.

Before I knew it, I was shaking this man's hand and hugging his neck. On his knees that very night...he met God...and so did I. Yes, I was already His child, but He helped me fully realize that I would be but a spectator as I spread His word in hopes that others would come to know Him. The glory is all His in every step of the way back Home.

Pastor Derek has on occasion ribbed me a little about that night. He knew what had happened in that living room, felt it many times before I'm sure. We walked out to get back in his truck, and as I looked up the long street of houses, I said something he will never let me forget, 'Look at all those houses, we've got time...let's visit a some more!'

Of course, wandering around on a Monday night knocking on doors uninvited is probably not the best idea, even if you are charged up on the Holy Spirit. I would learn to control my spiritual throttle in time with God's help, allowing me to be more useful in similar situation in the future. While God graciously brought my brother into the fold that night, He was also teaching me what my work for Him is all about. Quite's all about Him.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Save at Dime Savings Bank

I’ve written before about witnessing. I’ve pounded the pavement in Brooklyn NY with the Roman Road. I’ve tallied souls and imagined notches in my salvation belt because of them. I’ve witness on the street corners in days gone by. I’ve looked at street maps as strategies were developed for winning souls. I even carried a bible with a bright red HiBA cover on top of school books to testify that I was a Christian. I’ve worn my salvation beads, WWJD bracelets and all manner of holy junk.

All these righteous activities were to lead up to saying the prayer. You know that prayer. We call it the Sinner’s Prayer.  I may get in trouble with my fellow bloggers, but often this prayer is little more than an exercise in guilt reduction. As if magic words were spoken the guilt of sin disappears, at least temporarily.

One of my earliest recollections of evangelism was a person who showed up at our young people’s meeting. It was never called youth group nor did we have a youth pastor. Friday night was “young people’s” where the same pastor who preached on Sunday, shared the word with the youth. Older folk were welcome and there was no Foosball, ping-pong or pool.

He looked rough by our standards. I am not sure where he came from or why he came. He was not Norwegian either. On Friday, we had a street meeting by the Dime Savings Bank at 5th and 54th in Brooklyn. They even let us use some of their electricity for our “meeting.” Perhaps they thought any kind of saving was good… <grin-okay, I know that was bad.>

As I think of him, I wonder if he had been to that meeting. Or if he were an invited friend of someone. I really don’t recall. Nevertheless, he was there. Right in the midst of clean scrubbed Pentecostal Norwegian youth.  The Holy Spirit convicted him that night, the solution, the prayer.

We invited him to go to the ice cream parlor with us. Like the Dunkin Donuts after church that became part of my children’s religious tradition, ours was the ice cream parlor. Later we would meander through the streets of Brooklyn until all the girls were safely escorted home by the boys. Someone offered him a life saver candy on that walk that night. He refused, saying he had already had a lifesaver in church. Boys were we excited. We had just caught fresh fish-we had been fishers of men. He was reeled in for sure.

I know this is laced with a lot of sarcasm. I don’t mean to sound so harsh. I don’t know what was in that guys heart that night. I do know we never saw him again. Maybe later, sometime in his life, he remembered that night and sought the Lord. I just don’t know.

I prayed that prayer at least a dozen times as a child. I was fairly riddled with guilt for all sorts of sinful infractions like playing cards, wearing make-up or looking at a boy. The prayer didn’t work. What worked for me were faithful Sunday School teachers and other adults in my life showing me the love of Christ.

If I have influenced anyone to faith, I would say it that children I taught in Sunday School. I don’t ever remember offering the prayer. I may have because of the pressure of my tradition that we all must “repeat after me.”

I taught them the scripture. I planted seeds in their life. Hopefully, I showed them that they were loved. I picked up children all manner of children and brought them with me to church. I sat on the floor with them playing games – games with a purpose. We sang about going on a trip on the Vacation Bible Ship. We made crafts. We laughed. We cried. We shared life. I told them about Jesus. I prayed for them. I still do.

I’d love to tell you that they are all missionaries or in full time ministry. Unfortunately, few of them seem to be serving the Lord. Maybe what I did with them was no more effective than the repeat after me prayer the guy prayed in young people’s so many years ago. 

What I do know is that God calls us to be faithful. He calls us to ask WWJD? The answer is usually not words or even prayers.  Jesus shared Himself. He gave Himself. If I am to share my faith, I have to die. I have to give myself away. I’m may not be very good at it, but I do know what I am supposed to do. Thankfully each day I get a do-over.

I may have missed the theme this week, but this is what is on my heart.

Lamentations 3:22-24 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Planting a Seed - God at Work

It seems the longer I blog - about 4 years now - the more unbelievers I come into contact with. In the old days, believers could hide out in a Christian ghetto called the church. Unless the atheists, the witches, the satanists and the agnostics came to us, we rarely had contact with those that did not believe in Jesus.

The Internet has changed all that. This blog is pretty easy to find, yet I am sure most folks don't bother with a Christian blog unless they A) find it interesting, or B) have something negative to say.

Although me and the KB gang are no theologians, some of us still like a lively religious debate - and a couple of us don't mind letting you know what we think about politics either. Check out Tony C Today or Fire and Grace to get a taste of the real us.

This week the faithful are going to write about a time when we were actually able to influence someone who was a nonbeliever to move towards a decision for Christ.

In 2001 I was doing a young adults meeting - basically 13 to 33 was the age range. Most of the kids had been in church for a good part of their lives, but they were not connecting with God. Let's just say most of them were engaging in behavior that was not Christian. The little group of about 10 began to grow. The power of God was very evident at that meetings.We originally met on Saturday nights, but as God began to move; as He got a hold of these kids, things began to happen and we started meeting on other nights.

We had a little revival meeting going on - some times six days a week! The kids looked forward to showing up after work, and after school. I was very happy to have them teach each other, lay hands on them for healing and encouragement, and prophesy. I have written about this group of young Christians before. HERE

After a few months of regular meetings, the group started to invite friends from school. The folks that let me use their family room for meetings were also foster parents. One Friday I showed up at the house and  had a rather urgent sense about starting the meeting. Our usual was to get pizza and fellowship before we got started. I cranked up the worship CDs and the kids started to dribble in from other rooms in the house.

After a few songs, the hosts introduced us to a foster girl who was 16-years-old. She was going to be spending a few days and then going back to her regular home. She came in and sat on one of the couches. I had the kids go around the room and introduce themselves. I thought I heard the Holy Spirit say, tonight is the night of salvation. I decided that most folks don't believe in God because they think He is a far away mythical being with no real substance. I decided to have the kids tell her why they thought God was real.

They were powerful testimonies. They talked about miracles, healing, sin, repentance and deliverance. We weren't half way around the circle and I looked across and said, "Did you want to receive Jesus like these guys?"

"Yes." she said through the tears of repentance.

I did some dumb little sinner's prayer and she followed along. I know that she had already accepted Jesus in her heart, I just wanted her to know what that was all about. She sobbed for a long time and a couple of the girls comforted her.

After a while I asked her if we could pray for her. "Yes." she said. A bunch of us laid hands on her and she radically filled with the Holy Spirit - it was something out of the book of Acts!

I wish that we had, had a way to follow up, but she left with a Bible and bunch of phone numbers for churches in her area.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Prayer to the King

Hoping, waiting for God to hear my prayers
Giving to God each day my cares
What is there to do but wait?
When each day I seem unable to control my fate
Here Am I Lord, your servant in distress
Trying to pick up the pieces of this mess

What am I to do but wait on His wing?
When all is falling apart, His praises I still sing
All is lost and all is gained
Heart is still beating yet pained
What is this life for whom am I living?
For each pain His grace is giving

Feeling overwhelmed and so stressed
Knowing I am sheltered and blessed
This is how life goes sometimes
Created spotless life begrimes
Bruised but not broken
For me He has spoken

He holds me dear in His heart
No struggle in life can keep us apart
I know He holds my hand as I walk
Hears my prayers before I can talk
Holds me in His highest esteem
Cleanses me spotless restores my gleam

He keeps me through the struggles in life
Finds the joy that keeps me through the strife
Praise to a Savior, Praise to the King
In struggles and pain His praises I will still sing


Guest blogger - Bethany Lighari