The Fast Lane

Cars, semis, pick-up trucks, and motorcycles zipped around us in a game of Russian roulette. At least that’s how Atlanta traffic feels to me. Yet, to our far left, the cars glided with ease at great velocity, speeding out of sight unhindered by the weaving, honking, frustrated drivers around us.

“What’s that lane?” our new driver in the family Sarah, inquired.

“The Palmetto Pass Lane,” her father said. “You pay a fee that gives you permission to travel down that lane.”

As my husband spoke the words, another voice echoed in my head, “Daughter, all my children travel in different lanes as well.”

“What?” I thought. “Aren’t we all on the same playing field. You don’t have favorites, and we aren’t supposed to work for our salvation.”

The voice was quiet for a minute, and then continued. “Some are willing to pay a price to be in the fast lane with me. “ I waited for an explanation, but none came, until my quiet time the next day.

I can’t really take credit for the following conversation, because I feel these words were coming straight from His heart to mine. I will write on this more later, on hearing God, but for me my quiet time normally consists of journaling the thoughts that I believe are coming from the Holy Spirit. I’d much rather listen to what I feel He has to say, than voicing my stuff to Him. I am a fallible vessel, as we all are, so, I’m not writing this as a “Thus saith the Lord.” I will put it in the form of a letter though, from the heart of Father God to His child.

Dear child,

Sometimes I want you to travel in a special, fast lane. There is a price or cost to it. Not all are willing to pay that price. And I never force that on anyone.

Being in the fast lane, does cost something. Intimacy cost something. It’s not a works based effort. It’s a love based effort. It’s not the servant slaving for the master to earn a piece of bread. It’s the son drawing closer to His Father and wanting to steward his inheritance well.   A lazy, loafing son, though still a son, will not receive the same privileges as the obedient, diligent, faithful, loving son. There is a cost to intimacy.

To have intimacy with me, you must be willing to lay down your comfort, and come away with me. Sometimes it will cost you sleep to wait on me and seek my face. This is different than seeking my hand. I’m longing for children who all they want is Me. This is a joy, not a work. You aren’t doing this as a religious act or duty, checking it off your list every day. This is a hunger and thirst for Me that can’t be filled anywhere else, but in my presence.

You aren’t coming and seeking me, because you have to, but because you want to.

For those willing to pay the price of intimacy, by laying down their time, their comfort, their agendas, their lives, there is a great reward awaiting them. I do elevate those who have come after me in the secret place, who are content sitting at my feet and learning from me.

The early church went through great suffering, as many still are going through today. They were martyred for their faith, not their works. They didn’t love their lives unto death. They were willing to give up what they couldn’t keep to buy what they could never lose.

I didn’t steal, kill, or destroy their lives. That is always the work of the enemy. I always come to give you life, light, healing. I am not an evil God demanding you sacrifice all you have to earn something from me. I am good. Evil spirits demand sacrifices. That’s not me.

I’ve always longed for friendships, intimacy and relationship with my children.   When I say, “Are you willing to give up everything and follow me? It’s not a works based question. It’s a heart-based question. Is there anything in your life more important or valuable than me?

The rich, young ruler held onto the things that he possessed here. He only saw what I was asking him to give up. The request was not works based. It was about his heart position.

He had already “worked” as perfectly as he knew how, every commandment checked off his list twice. He was an obedient servant, but he had not entered son-ship. The things he owned, owned him.

He stood before me blind, yet didn’t know it. He was so blind, he could not discern that the greatest treasure stood face to face with him. I knew what was in his heart. His riches had his heart. That’s where his security, sense of well-being, and social status came from. He was a slave to his wallet. If he had only seen the greatest treasure in front of him, he would have been eternally rich in me, lacking no good thing.

This is what it means to pick up your cross and follow me, even to die daily. It’s not about what you do right or wrong or check off your list, but about your heart position, about being a son/daughter, who is in an intimate relationship with His father, living out of that position, delegating My kingdom from heavenly realms to earth.

This is why when the early church laid down their lives in martyrdom, they did so in victory, in joy, in love. It wasn’t some duty. They, joyful from intimacy, saw the treasure before them, ME, was far greater than their temporary, decaying life here. Martyrdom wasn’t the goal, but if it was asked of them, they gladly endured it, for the joy set before them.

I am a good, good father, giving good gifts to my children, and my goodness follows after you for generations. Come, come away with me. Seek the greatest treasure.

With Love, Papa

As I sat on the screened-in porch, with the early morning ray of sun bursting through the limbs of the ancient oak tree, I pondered the things He had just said. Often, I roll over in bed and go back to sleep, when He calls my name at 5:00 am (for the third time on my vacation), but when I stumble out of bed anyway, I find Him. I find Him waiting for me, speaking His truth to my heart. There has never been a time that the price has not been far worth it.

Sometimes, it has cost my dignity, like when He whispers go speak to a stranger, and even more, to pray for them. I have never want to go do that. I don’t want attention drawn to me, but when I have obeyed Him, even when I thought, “This is crazy. What will other people think?” There has always been an encounter with the living God waiting for me that brought reward to me, and also a blessing for someone else. Most of the time, the reward is simply more of Him. But honestly, what reward could ever be better.   Maybe one day it will cost the ultimate, my very life. I pray that if that day comes, I will joyfully lay it down, for the lover of my soul, not out of duty, but out of loving intimacy. Isn’t He worth it all?

Crowns

“Hold onto what you have so that no one will take away your crown,” (Rev 3:11) If you have been taught to live in sin-consciousness, I just stirred up guilt and fear of loss. How does that agree with a God whose perfect love casts out fear?

Instead of life and peace that Jesus came to infuse in us, you may have been taught to believe in a God who is just waiting for you to mess up…again, so that he can take from you, punish you, distance himself from you. That sounds to me like someone who steals your hope, kills your dreams, punishes with sickness and will destroy you if you don’t get it together. That is not the Good Father I have come to know, but is the exact description of the work of our enemy that Jesus described in John 10:10.

Many children of God are being fed a vomitous “gospel” of mixture. Because of this unholy blend they often come away fearful and condemned when they are seeking God in His word. How can this be? This is not the Good News that Jesus came to reveal.

Crowns have to do with reward. Reward for faith. We know that our God likes to bestow rewards upon his children. What good parent doesn’t?

“But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 AMP

Simple. He rewards those who believe He exists and show an interest in getting to know Him better. He is much easier to please than we are.

12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 ESV

We do work for the Father and with the Father. Remember that Jesus only did what He saw the Father do and said what He heard the Father say. Sometimes we get a little ahead of ourselves and do things that we think need to be done or how we think we should do it. We forget to talk to the Father about it.

However noble the things we do without the Father may seem, they will burn up like wood, hay and straw. They stem from our flesh, from our little orphan hearts still trying to earn our place. Those things come out of our place of insecurity and trying to earn what already belongs to us. What is left over after the fire that is the gold, silver and precious stones; those things will be our reward, our crowns. So when Jesus said, “Hold onto what you have so that no one will take away your crown,” I believe He meant, hold onto the truth of your identity in Christ, your identity as a son of the most high God and all He has made yours, the truth of what has been done for you, and whose you are now. If I know whose I am I will not act from insecurity and I will not lose my crowns.

Look at 1 Corinthians 3:15. “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss.” No crowns.  “Though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” The person who worked hard but without the Father’s initiative and plan will still be saved, but have no gold, silver or precious stones for their crown to be formed. They will have worked without benefit.

I don’t know about you, but I want my crowns. Jesus paid the full price so that I could fulfill my destiny and attain the crowns. It will be our privilege, like the 24 elders of Revelation, to throw every crown we receive back at the feet of Jesus. For believers, there is no punishment. There are only rewards to be won or lost.

In this life we may have to live with the natural consequences of poor choices, but we do not move out of the Father’s love. The Day of Judgement for us (believers) will only determine how much reward we receive so that we may continue to honor the Father.

The things that will earn us crowns are often much simpler than we make up in our minds. What if a golden crown awaits you because you spontaneously hugged someone in line at the grocery store when Papa gave you a moment of HIs love for them? What if you just speaking words of life by calling out the gold He allowed you to see in one of His kids resulted in a precious stone placed in your crown?  I think that is as complicated as “take care of my sheep.” Wait to be gently inspired by God to move, then do it! His way is so much fun! His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

His inspirations are generally not things that require planning, skill, a title or a credential. They only require time spent to develop friendship with Papa. They require conversations with Him, getting to know His heart and asking Him to help you see people the way He sees them (prayer). Lastly, they require the muscles built by practice of instant obedience. Not obedience because of fear, but obedience because you are in love.

Remember, practice means you have done it many times and not been perfect at it, but you’re getting better. Papa is ok with your imperfection. He cheers you on your journey toward more of Him. As you grow in your trust, He will inspire some more difficult assignments, bigger leaps of faith, but by then they won’t feel like they are bigger.

Well doesn’t God correct us? Yes, because our Father is a good father. Even His correction is pleasurable!  He is a perfect Father, His intent is never to control nor to instill fear. Instead, He helps us to see it from His perspective. He corrects us as mature children who He is teaching to reign with Him.

It is critical that we come into agreement with God about our identity in Christ Jesus. It is crucial that we unshakably know whose we are and what is mine because of that fact. That we have been made sons and daughters, co-heirs with Jesus, that our words carry authority; life and death are in our tongues.   That a kind word from us can prophesy the course of a life.  We need to agree so that in the glow of this amazingly Good News we become those who bring life and peace.

Producing crowns is a by-product of resting in the finished work of Jesus.  Quite literally it is the same thing as abiding in the vine and thereby producing fruit without effort. Out of the love you receive from Him while resting in His arms, you fall more deeply in love with Him.  When he gently prompts a desire of His heart, it has become your desire too.  You begin to see the way He sees and feel the way He feels towards yourself and others.  (Sounds kind of like, “love your neighbor as yourself.”) He puts things in your heart to do, then gives you a crown for doing it.  Simple.  He is really looking for any excuse to bless and honor you, because He is in love!

Rest in Him.  Enjoy talking to him, hearing from Him, learning His good thoughts and intentions toward you and then do whatever He tells you to do, and only what He tells you to do.  This is a lifestyle of rest that produces crowns.  Trust in the finished work of Jesus for you.

Paul, the apostle of grace, at the end of his race said in 2 Timothy 4:8, Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. That sounds pretty secure to me.

That chapter begins, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead,” if anyone knows the value of Jesus’ finished work for you and for me, it is Jesus himself. He is the one who will judge us on the Day of Judgment. Do we believe He will not find his own work sufficient?

Chosen

Our identity as the Chosen of God is what allows us to partake of the abundant life Jesus paid for us to have.  Because it is critical that we grasp the fullness of our identity in Christ as God’s Chosen, it is the constant place of enemy warfare against us.

To know how securely you are swaddled in the Love of God is no small thing.  It is what the whole structure of our armor in Ephesians 6 is designed to protect.   Every time we waver from this security, we fall for the same old enemy trick that fooled Eve and Adam.

As I was reading in Revelation this morning, I came across several verses that helped me to see why so many of the people my husband and I see for ministry are in such inner turmoil. These are men and women who love God, but who have sat under teaching that says that the Father and your place in His family are only as trustworthy as the last thing you did for Him.

These children of God have their hearts set on the Lord.  Most of their waking thoughts are about God and how to please Him, but they have been taught that His love is tentative and they must be veerrry careful as they walk the tightrope of family relationship with Father God.  In the world we would call that family dysfunctional, yet it gets passed off in churches as the way our Father functions toward us.

These beloved sons and daughters are tortured in their minds and in their hearts.  They veer back and forth between just giving up this impossible mission and working ever harder to please this God who, they have been taught, is resentful and resistant to their advances.

If I know the heart of my Father toward me, then I don’t get sidelined by doubt when I read a verse like this: “To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:26) If I am insecure in His love, in think: “Well what if I am not victorious…?”  “Does that mean I might not be victorious?”  No! Let’s put our armor back on.

God speaks what is not yet as if it is.  If you don’t yet see full evidence of the victory you have in Jesus, agree with Him and with His Word, declare that you ARE victorious in Christ Jesus.  He will bring it about.  Your job is to trust in His faithfulness.

13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”[a] He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. (Romans 4:13-17, emphasis mine.)

Jesus fulfilled the law.  Sometimes I think we forget that God is an eternal being.  He created time and is not bound by it.  His promises and His covenant did not begin and will not end with the time-blip of my lifespan. For instance, when Jesus died for my sins, did he only die for the ones I committed until I got saved, approximately 2000 years after his work?  Or is it too much that my whole lifespan is covered by His promises and covenant.

According to Romans 5:1-11 (below in bullet points), Jesus’ finished work and His covenant-enforcing blood paid the FULL price so that:

  • We are made right in God’s sight by faith
  • We have peace with God because of Jesus’ finished work
  • Because of faith, we have undeserved privilege

If my privilege is undeserved, what can I now do to make it better or to mess it up?

  • We confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory

Note that Paul did not say, nervously and while preparing for disappointment…

  • When we were utterly helpless Christ came and died for us.

We didn’t earn it and couldn’t help ourselves then.  Why are we trying now that the work is finished?

  • God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

I think that we have heard that verse so often, that we have discounted its power!  The Passion Translation says it this way: ‘But Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly!’   That’s a little better.  It also makes very clear that we ARE NOT sinners, not lost and ungodly anymore!

  • We have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Jesus
  • Our friendship with God was restored by the death of His son while we were still His enemies.  While we were still raising our fists to him in rebellion,
  • We are saved by the resurrection life of His Son

There is no going back for Jesus.  He will not die again, He will not take back His finished work or the covenant it fulfilled.  If we do not accept the FULLNESS of our salvation, (Psalm 91), if we believe that Jesus work is not complete and I can still do something to cause the Father to love me more or love me less, then I “trample the Son of God underfoot,” because I have treated as an unholy thing the blood covenant that sanctified me and I have insulted the Spirit of grace.” (Hebrews 10:29)

That is another scripture that is taken to a place of fear of losing our salvation when in fact that very fear is the crux of the verse.  “If I keep on sinning after I have received knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left.”  My lack of faith in the finished work of Jesus is the sin here.  The high priest has sat down, no more work to do.  The veil is torn and the way to the Holy one, the Father, is open to us because we are accepted under the blood.  We are righteous by faith. We are justified once and for all.

It is rebellion to reject this love-gift and exchange it for your way instead.  It is sin to look for a way that is more complete than the blood of Jesus.   Accepting the fullness of your salvation and your place in the family of God, joyfully declaring the truth of what the finished work has done for you, agreeing with God about His over-the-top love for you, living the Abundant Life He came to give you is how you show your thankfulness.

22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. (Colossians 1:22-23)

We are Holy in His sight.  We are without blemish.  We are free from accusation.  We are to set our feet unshakably, unwaveringly in the land of hope that is held out to us in the Good News of the Gospel.

We are free from the accusations of the Accuser and we don’t have to agree with him.  In fact, our agreement is the only thing that gives them authority to use power against us! And we can take it back even more powerfully by agreeing with our Father about how He sees us instead!  Those are the only choices.  Don’t be deceived to think your opinion is somewhere in the middle.  If you are not agreeing with your Father, you are agreeing with the devil and giving him your authority to use against you by your words.

The enemy is so fearful that we will live in peace and joy with God and man. He dreads that we will know fully who we are in Christ.  He fears that out of the abundant life we live, we will be life-givers.

A month ago I was at a prayer meeting and the Glory of the Lord came into the house.  I felt the Presence of the Lord behind me, I saw myself  as I worshiped with my arms spread out, having foot-tall flames all over my body.  I heard the Lord say of us, “My burning ones.”  As He said this, I felt the enemy cowering in the corner in utter fear that we should know how we are known in Heaven and how we are seen in the spirit.

Agree once and for all with your perfect, loving and all-powerful Father that the blood of Jesus was the full payment for all the sins of your life.  Then exist in AMAZEMENT and in WONDER of what this perfect sacrifice has done for you.  Be SHAKEN by the love of God for you, the bigness and all-encompassing nature of His love FOR you.

Be ASTOUNDED that He knows you perfectly, in detail, and can’t wait to encourage you forward in your journey with Him. Delight in His delight of you and sin will cease to be a problem.  When you are in love, it is easy to agree with your beloved.  On the rare occasion that you miss it, tell your Papa that you are sorry, repent (change your mind to agree with Him again), accept His forgiveness and step forward on the adventure with Him once again.

He CHOSE YOU from before the foundation of the world.  He CHOSE to put His love squarely on you.  He chose for His sinless Son to suffer in your place so that you could sit with Him in heavenly places and see your life from His perspective.  His view is much better.  Take you place among the Chosen.

The Funhouse

As a child, I went to the county fair with my uncle. The rides spun around with screaming teenagers, while children held tightly to their parent’s hand with one and a cone filled with sticky cotton candy with the other. Whiffs of roasted peanuts, funnel cakes, and saw dust filled the air.

Fun houses perplexed me. I think I’ve only been through one once, because it terrified me.   The fun house effect, illusions, smoke screens, mazes, glass tunnel that spun around, floor that was at an angle, and mirrors that make your head the size of a watermelon, and your feet the size of peas freaked me out.   I stumbled out of if it feeling confused, befuddled, deceived.

Why in the world do people like that ride? Yet the line was always long with people anxiously waiting to get turned upside down, having their senses deceived into an alternate reality. I guess it was a way of escape from this one. But for me funhouses were never fun.

I was raised as a good little, Baptist pastor’s kid, so the Word of God was real to me. I heard it preached every Sunday, and it filled many conversations. Yet, because my father was an abuser and much of the doctrine twisted, my view of God was at best skewed, and the Word of God, in many instances was used as a tool to condemn and control, rather than bring life and light. Because of being raised in this environment, anything deceptive makes my stomach turn. I really hate feeling deceived, lied to. I have a need for explanation, to know what’s behind the curtain in Oz.

Please hear me say, I am not sitting in a place of judgment on any one doctrine or ministry for that matter. I simply see some danger ahead, if we don’t slow down and discern what we are being led into. It’s out of love and compassion that I share this not judgment, nor do I have all the answers. If it rocks your boat, please know I wasn’t specifically targeting you, but I do hope this will at least help us to stop and pray, seeking out God and His Word.

Let’s see what the Word of God says about some things first.

  Later, when they arrived at the Mount of Olives, his disciples came privately to where he was sitting and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what supernatural sign should we expect to signal your coming[a] and the completion of this age?”[b]

Jesus answered, “At that time deception will run rampant. So beware that you are not fooled! For many will appear on the scene claiming my authority or saying about themselves, ‘I am God’s Anointed,’ and they will lead many astray. Matthew 24:3-5, The Passion Translation (TPT)

14 So then, we may no longer be children, tossed [like ships] to and fro between chance gusts of teaching and wavering with every changing wind of doctrine, [the prey of] the cunning and cleverness of unscrupulous men, [gamblers engaged] in every shifting form of trickery in inventing errors to mislead.

15 Rather, let our lives lovingly [d]express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Ephesians 4:14 – 15 Amplified

I’m not claiming to be Bible scholar, and those who know me, also know that I often experience things in God that are out of the box, sometimes way of the box, and by that I mainly mean when I experience the glorious presence of God my senses get very engaged in that. I’m what some call a feeler. I can walk in a room, and know if it’s filled with God’s presence, or the presence of evil, or even a false religion.

For example, when we were looking at houses to buy several years ago, our realtor opened the door to a cute home, but before we even stepped over the threshold, I knew it was owned by Hindus. Sure enough, as we walked through the home, there was much evidence it was. My very stable footed husband helps keep me grounded, but sometimes he has a difficult job. LOL!

Obviously, from scripture as it grows closer to the end of time, there will be stronger and stronger deception. That’s pretty clear. So, how can we allow God the freedom to take us to new places in Him, and yet not fall into deception?

Well, this is in no way conclusive, but these are some of my guidelines.

  • Does it line up with scripture in context?

You can use the Bible to say pretty much anything you want it to, if you take scripture out of context. This is how false doctrines develop.

In the 60’s and 70’s, Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Moonies Cult, taught college students to hate their father and mother, leave their families, and come follow him based on the scripture that Jesus taught, “Leave your father and mother.  Come follow me.”  And many did.   Scripture taken out of context can be used to deceive and manipulate.

I remember the example that a suicidal person let the Bible fall open and randomly pointed to the scripture, “And Judas hanged himself.” Stunned, he did it again, his finger landing on the verse, “Go and do likewise.”   Now, that’s a sad example, I know, but that’s how many people treat the Word of God.

If there is no context, anyone can a pull out of a verse to say what they want to say. Going back to the original Hebrew also helps with context. Our western worldview often skews our view of scripture as well. There are times I let my Bible randomly fall open, and it really ministers to me, but I still need to read around the scripture to see what the context of the verse is in.

  • What’s the fruit?

Is the teaching and the person teaching it producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control – the fruit of the Spirit? Always check the fruit. Good trees always produce good fruit.

If the message seems right, and there truly may be truth in the message that you can glean from, but the messenger has stinky fruit, then I probably won’t submit myself to that person’s teaching for long.

Is the person who is teaching willing to be confronted or do they cut off people who disagree with them, sometimes hiding behind the “Don’t touch the man of God” mantra? If a man or woman is shepherding people, meaning a flock of people are following them, they should exemplify the Good Shepherd’s heart and character, that would be the character of Jesus. If they don’t welcome conversation and questions, run.

  • Does what they teach in any way nullify what Jesus did on the cross in His redemptive work for us? In other words, does our salvation depend on our works or on His?

There are several poplar teachers being widely listened to that point to our “suffering” or “works” to make us righteous. We need to be really careful here, because our salvation comes through Jesus and what He has done, not through our works or putting down our flesh through suffering. To accept this deception, is to put Christianity on the level of every other religion.

Christianity is the only religion not based on what man can do, but on the grace of God through what Jesus has done to reconcile us to the Father.  It is a priceless gift freely given to us, because God wants His family back. He wants to reconcile us to Himself. This is the heart of the “Good News”, and this will never change.

2 Peter 2 [Full Chapter] TPT (2:1-3 TPT?)

Warning about False Teachers ] In the past there arose false prophets among God’s people, just as there will continue to be false teachers who will secretly infiltrate in your midst to divide you, bringing with them their destructive heresies. They will even deny the Master, who paid the price for them, bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow immoral lifestyles. Because of these corrupt false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. They are only out for themselves, ready to exploit you for their own gain through their cunning arguments. Their condemnation has been a long time coming. But their destruction does not slumber or sit idly by, for it is sure to come. …

  • Is it divisive?

Does it promote the Kingdom of God or is it promoting a man’s kingdom? On this one, often I think this is just immaturity, and not necessarily deception, though the line is kind of hard to draw on some of this.

One church thinks they have got the corner on the kingdom, like they are in the “know”, and everyone else is, well, “not”. All I will say here is be careful when placing judgment on someone whose walk has been different than yours. I know I’m sounding like I’m contradicting myself based on what I’ve already said, but hang in there with me just for a minute more.

Jesus is coming for all His bride, He loves us all. He will pour His Spirit out on anyone who is willing.   He really loves to do that with children and outcasts, in fact. He likes stumping the wise and gives grace to the humble.

I used to think, “God is going to pour out His move at MY church, and that’s where it will begin.” But I was wrong. It is not about any one local body. It’s about THE BODY, THE BRIDE, THE CHURCH, and what He longs do to and through us.

The other thing that I’ve seen that is divisive is judging others experiences as invalid because it doesn’t fit in your box. Now again, if it violates the Word in context or what Jesus did on the cross, proceed with caution.

For example, God, for whatever reason, has chosen to take me on an inner healing journey with Him, meaning He has shown me memories of my past that were toxic, and then He has rewritten them with His love, truth, etc. It is basically rewriting your identity in Jesus Christ from the deepest parts of your being.

The Word says out of your inmost being will flow rivers of living water. If the well is polluted, contaminated water will flow, but when it has been cleaned out, the water is pure and delicious to drink.

There are many different types of inner healing ministry that I believe are valid, and sometimes people are instantly delivered from bondages. I’m not the healer. He is.   But when someone says that inner healing is demonic, that God doesn’t heal like that, in my opinion, this is also a level of deception because it is limiting God in the way He can minister to people and because it demonizes those who have received healing in a different way.

I have known people that I personally have been praying for that unprompted by me or anyone else, were taken by God to the source of pain in their heart, or in other words, the memory, and then God showed them where He was, and the truth of who He really was in the pain for them. It brought great healing and release to the person.

It’s immature and hurtful to not validate such an experience of a precious child of God. It causes division, when there’s no need for it. Love brings unity. Again, be a fruit inspector. If it’s the work of Jesus, it will bring life, peace, joy, and love.

  • Lastly, we MUST, MUST have a relationship with the Truth-giver, the Holy Spirit.

Ultimately, He is the one who leads us into all truth. Our eyes must be fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. If we fix our eyes on any man, we will stumble and fall, but if we fix our eyes on Jesus, trusting His Holy Spirit to guide us, He promises us that He will lead us into all truth. It’s a trust walk with Him. The only way we will truly make it through this life is in walking in close communion and relationship with Him.

Our God is an amazingly diverse, creative healer, redeemer, and lover of our hearts. Let’s never put Him in a box, but allow Him to set us free however He chooses to. May we fix our eyes on Him in a close relationship with Him, stewarding His Word well, so we aren’t caught up in a web of deception, lost in a funhouse that turns out to be not so much fun. Let’s not miss all that He has in store for us in this hour.

 

The Luxury of Time

The little brown donkey in the above photo is my family’s donkey, Henry.  It makes me smile just looking at him.  Henry is a sweet boy.  We had lived in the country for a few years before we found Henry at an auction house and brought him home.  By then we had become familiar with Horses, Cows and Goats, but not Donkeys. Donkeys are different. Donkeys are said to be stubborn, but I think they’re really just very smart, have a good memory, are very discerning and VERY opinionated.

Some time before Henry became a part of our family, a strange and ridiculously frustrating thing started to happen to me.  We had not yet become totally dependent on our phones for daily functions, so the digital alarm clock in our bedroom was on my husband’s side of the bed.  It seemed like at least once per night I would wake up and look to see what time it was and for one reason or another I could not see the clock.  Either a glass of water, or a box of tissues would block it, or the angle was wrong or the brightness was suddenly set too dimly for me to see it.

Sometimes, before bed, I would make sure the clock was turned just right and that nothing blocked my view.  But still, in the middle of the night, my view would be blocked.  If this happened once or twice, OK, no biggie.  But this happened every night for weeks, then months then…being quick, I started to realize that maybe God was talking to me.  I was not allowed to see the time for a purpose.  But what?

One reason I would look to the clock was because I would wake up from a dream and want to know what time it was.  At that time I had started learning how to hear from God in my dreams and sometimes the time you awake from a dream is further communication from God.  At that point in our relationship I was getting accustomed to Him making seemingly little things significant for me.

So about the time this slow dawning was happening for me, I broke my watch while working outside.   The leather strap, which I had already replaced broke and the pin was lost so I couldn’t wear it.  No problem, I had about 4 more, they just weren’t really ranch wear, but I brought out a second one.  It got wet or sweaty or something and it stopped too. Really?!

A little before this time, life had changed drastically for me.  I had been homeschooling my daughter and now we had a teacher for her.   That freed up many hours of my week.  At the same time, I had been teaching a women’s bible study, which also required hours of preparation and now the Lord had told me to stop that too.  We had sold our house and acreage, so there was much less outdoor work required of me.  I was just maintaining the livestock we still had until closing.

Then came the day we were loading up the horses to take to my brother’s acreage–at this point the alarm clock was still evading my every glance and I had broken 3 more watches in one way or another and was down to my last one.  (Can we say slow learner?) 

The horses, being good boys, loaded up eagerly.  We dropped them off, then we came back for our little goats.  Check.  Then there was just Henry who, though very friendly, chose that day to have one of his introverted moments.  He had evaded us when the horses had happily loaded up for the move.  Now we had to get him loaded into the trailer and we would be done with the livestock part of the move.  Now you have to understand that the first time Henry got in my trailer, I took him directly to the veterinarian to be gelded (neutered).  This may have left him some painful memories.  Maybe even a hint of resentment?

During this time, with my greatly changed schedule, I had started to wonder why the Lord had pulled me out of teaching (which I loved), and even my work at home (which I loved).  I felt somewhat useless.  So much of what had become my identity was in transition.  All the while He was speaking to me about time, but I wasn’t listening.

I was suddenly free to see friends without a purpose aside from wanting to see them.  The Lord brought me people in need who I made time to help.  During this period He was speaking to me very clearly about the privilege of making time for people.  The absolute honor of moving in Kingdom time, instead of calendar time.

He showed me how he stopped for a woman in need, right in the middle of a seemingly critical mission for a person of influence. (See Mark 5:21-43)  Jesus never let anyone or anything rush Him.  After all, there is no time in the Kingdom of Heaven.  I mean it literally was a life and death situation, but he didn’t rush.  But I wasn’t seeing how this applied to my life.

He was helping me notice what it was like to schedule a lunch, or coffee with almost anyone.  Every one needed at least 1 week’s notice for coffee, and if you wanted to do lunch, a full month was needed to find a free space for an hour or more.  This has become the norm in our day, but He was also showing me our new cultural need, (even for Christians), to demonstrate our busyness.  That we need busyness to help us feel important.  We want to appear needed or vital in our lives.  So as I got comfortable with not needing to impress people with my busy schedule it became fun for me to say, “When would you like to do it?  I’m open.”

As I learned to patiently schedule time with friends, I began to feel the luxury of time I had been given.  The Father was telling me, “I want you to stop looking at your watch and your calendar and love the people I put in front of you, WHEN I put them in front of you.  I have given you the privilege to love them for me.  Enjoy them!”  Do you feel his smile?  I did.

Pretty soon I began to receive phone calls from friends and acquaintances who were having trouble in their marriage, or feeling lonely, or feeling confused about their lives, or depressed, or who were struggling financially or whatever.  I would make myself available to sit and listen and help however I could.   Now, I had these same kinds of meetings when my schedule was very full.  But then I did not have the same sense of urgency to help them as Jesus clearly did.  I would look for a free spot in my calendar instead of  looking in my heart at their need.

Sometimes, offering my time simply meant that I would listen and pray with them.  It is amazing how much listening to them while listening to the Father at the same time, gives opportunity to speak words of life. Even a short meeting could change things for them in a positive way.   I began to feel useful again.  He showed me the importance of honoring people with my time, freely given.

Because I was now plugged into the source, instead of my calendar there were times I could anticipate the days when He would send me someone.  He would whisper to me in the morning and I would be expecting a call.  I am His friend and He includes me in His plans.

He began to show me that my identity is in Him, not in the things I do, or where I live or how I live.  My worth is in His opinion of me, which is always good.  Neither can I find my identity in other people’s appreciation, which can be quite fickle.  He said, “You may never see them again. They probably won’t become your best friend, or someone you spend much time with at all.  But that’s ok because it’s not about you.

But now, I was getting ready to move!  Packing up a largish house, yard and livestock for a temporary move into storage until the long term move was made. Weeks of preparation.  Getting rid of lots of things that had taken up attic space over the years, packing, readying the property we were heading to for livestock, and more packing …and more packing.  What a pain in the neck!  Imagine if the deal didn’t close?

donkeyNow for Henry! Henry had been alone in the pasture for a few days now.  The day came when the closing date was just 3 days away.  The buyer was touring the house one last time with our realtor.  While they were doing that, my friend Margaret and I had put Lil’ Henry in a stall and backed the trailer up as close as we could get it.  We thought, surely we could get him in with a little coaxing.  (I so wish I had this on video!)   We scratched his ears, his chin and tummy and then tempted him into the trailer with food.  No go.  We tried pulling, then pushing, then a rope behind his butt, then a rope through the trailer bars and behind his butt.   Each time we got just up to the step, he would sit down.  Or step in and then, just before we could make progress, he would suddenly throw it in reverse!  All 600 pounds of him!  Margaret and I kept to our feet, but just barely.  Grrr!

Ok, now I meant business.  I called my husband.  Now I was feeling the pressure of time. My whole year of learning about Kingdom time didn’t seem to apply in that moment.  We only had 3 days left and no better ideas.  We brought back one of the horses and put him into the trailer hoping this would encourage Henry to join him.  We thought this would do it for sure.

Well, the 3 of us were huffing and puffing and sliding around, right about the time our realtor (a horseman) and the buyer came out to the barn.  The realtor volunteered himself and he and my husband locked arms behind Henry and pushed as I pulled and Margaret cheered as Henry moved forward right up to the trailer and…sat down again!  By now the buyer was saying that she would be happy for him to stay.  But I couldn’t consider leaving him with strangers.  He’s family.  I was determined that he would go with us.

On our last attempt to wrestle DEAR Henry, somehow, my last watch crystal knocked into the side of the trailer!  Just like that, the donkey spoke.  Well, not really, but it became clear to me in the moment, that EVERYTHING must be taken to God and put on Kingdom time.  I…FINALLY… prayed for wisdom.  I had an idea and called Bob, our horseshoer and friend, and told him the predicament.  I called on my community.  Bob made time for me and my troubles and suddenly I was on the receiving end of Kingdom time.

In a little while old Bob had a brilliant idea and just like that, Henry was in the trailer and on his way to our temporary home!

This time-less season lasted for me for about 3 years after the day the donkey spoke. I was finally permitted to have my watches repaired recently and I have begun wearing them again.  In today’s world I am considered Old School to check my watch instead of my phone.  We have phones for that!  I have a phone.  It has my photos, music, email and, of course, my calendar on it.  I use it often, but wearing my watch reminds me to set down the phone now and then and look at people.  Often I only see the top of their heads as they peer down at their own phone.  But my eyes are open to see what my friend Jesus might want to show me.  What is really going on in the room? To whom I need to pay attention?

In our modern world, MY whole world can seem to be contained in my phone.  It is easy to feel like you’re are living an effective life if you can just keep up with everything that pops up on it.  Take a lesson from a donkey.  Take a look and a listen to the people in your life who are the ones who really make your life a life.  Learn to live in the luxury of time for others.  Stop looking at your phone and your calendar and love the people Jesus puts in front of you, WHEN He puts them in front of you.  He has given you the privilege to love them for Him.  Enjoy them!”

 

 

What’s the Rub

“Angry voices harden hearts.  Gracious voices disarm them.  May we be known for our kindness to people, but fierce in the battle with evil.”   -Beth Grant

How do I stand up for what I feel is right with grace?  How can we listen to others who disagree with us, love them well, and not push them away?

I love people being at peace with one another.  I hate confrontation.  I love unity.  I love being around people that carry “grace” and “mercy” well.  But sometimes when you really love someone, you must be willing to confront.  Sometimes love is a scalpel that may wound to heal.

“I have a dream I have to tell you,” I said to a best friend.  My friend had been struggling with alcohol and anger issues for years.  It was destroying her family and relationships.  I had argued with God on giving her this dream for days, but wasn’t winning.  I knew it could cost us our friendship.

“The dream is this,” I said, as I searched her face.  “I saw a criminal trying to get in your house to destroy your family.  You went to the front door and welcomed him in.”  Her eyes grew wide, but I continued.  “Then, I saw a bucket of vipers in your bedroom.  You kept taking your arm and sticking it in the bucket.  As you pulled it out, strike marks from the bites were all up and down your arms.”  I couldn’t tell if she was getting angry at me or not, as her face grew red.  “But then you grabbed your daughter’s arm and thrust it in the bucket with you.”  Her eyes filled with tears as she turned her face from me.

Sometimes, speaking up hurts.  Sometimes, it can cost you.  Sometimes, it can save a friend and a family.

Terms like “be a person of peace” and “forgive and forget”, they sound right, biblical even; however, the way I’ve seen them applied makes me question things.

So, let’s take the first statement.  “be a person of peace”.  God tells us to seek peace and pursue it, and I truly want to be a person who carries and releases shalom, which has a ton of meaning attached to it, my favorite definition being “Nothing missing. Nothing broken.”

Yet, the interpretation of that statement that I’ve understood is be a person who doesn’t rock the boat.  Sometimes the boat needs to be rocked.  Jesus is shalom, yet He rocks my boat all the time.   So, as much as I love getting along with people, there are times when it is appropriate to take a stand.

Does the Bible teach us to forgive and never mention the offense again?   “Forgive and forget.”  “Take it to God, and He will take care of it, but if you bring it up again you are in sin.”  He is the great judge, and we do release things to Him, but it does not mean we don’t mention things again, or hold people accountable for their actions.

Recently, a friend of mine mentioned the example of forgiving that Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place demonstrated.  Truly, Corrie exemplified forgiving in the worst of situations, from the middle of a Nazi concentration camp.  Yet, she wrote the book detailing the story of her and her sister’s imprisonment.  Though she walked in forgiveness, she didn’t forget the story, but instead proclaimed it to the world.

On one side, the world is filled with angry voices venting their opinions about each other.  It so easy to point out faults and issues in others, even demonizing them, which just adds to the problem instead of being part of the solution.  Being easily offended is not good, but it’s really a symptom of a wounded heart.

On the other side, if we go to the extreme of silencing people, because they disagree with our viewpoint by calling it gossip and/or slander, we are also heading for trouble.  We have a world inundated with gossip and slander. I get it.  God hates it.  It’s hurtful and damaging.  This is what gossip and slander are meant to do.  Tear down people.  Make others look bad.  It has evil intent.  It is unverifiable information that is used against someone.   Hurting people hurt people.

But if we call voicing concern, telling our story, or disagreeing with someone gossip and/or slander, we can find ourselves fertilizing a field where abuse can flourish.

So what is offense?   Offense is defined as “a breach of a law, an illegal act; an annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standard or principles.

Does God get offended at sin?  Did Jesus get offended at sin?  There’s a lot of scripture I could bring out here, about how God looks at offense.  He certainly doesn’t ignore it.  Jesus told Peter, one of His closest followers, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are in My way (an offense and a hindrance and a snare to Me.)”  Matt. 16:23 AMP  So, sometimes it is appropriate to call offense out.

Let me give a couple of many examples of how I’ve seen this twisted against people.   I have a friend, who will remain unnamed, who brought a concern of a potential for abuse to the elder board of her church.  Her concern was legitimate, but even if it wasn’t, you would think an elder board would allow her to have a voice, would check things out, would love her well regardless of whether she was accurate in the claims or not.  Instead, they ostracized her, accused her of slander, and excommunicated her.

Another example of someone I know that approached a minister who had a family member who had fallen into some sin.  They were seeking the truth from the source, as they should have with the intent to help. When they asked about it in a private setting with just the pastor, the same thing happened to them.  They were convicted of being the problem, not submitting, of gossiping and slander, and told to leave.

This type of abuse of power happens over and over again, regardless of denomination or non-denomination.

Does the Bible in general just skip over sin, or offenses?

The Bible I read has some pretty colorful stories in it.  I don’t ever see God’s word hiding offenses, but actually listing them, talking about them.  Take David for example.  He is forever known as a man after God’s own heart, and also an adulterous murderer. In fact, the punishment for his offenses was quite severe.   It doesn’t take much reading to see that God doesn’t hide offenses, but He tells the whole story.

Jesus, Himself, is love personified.  He had many people who did offensive things to Him.  Did He just brush it off for the sake of unity?  He is the Prince of Peace, and yet He often stirred the religious pot, wherever He went.  He called out sin, accused the Pharisees of being a brood of vipers, sons of Satan, white washed tombs, etc..  He didn’t shrink back from having a voice for justice.  Yet, He was filled with grace.

In fact, I don’t think “unity” as we see it, was His goal at all, because He said His followers would have to leave father, mother, sister, brother to come after Him.  He said He was bringing a sword that would sometimes separate.

Unity is not created by the absence of disagreement.  Unity is not conformity.  Unity is created in an atmosphere of value, empathy, listening and caring about another human being, trying to see things from their point of view, and allowing them to have a voice.  Unity is created in an atmosphere of being understood, at least in trying to understand someone else’s point of view.  It’s an atmosphere of mutual respect and love.  This brings unity between people.

I actually have people in my inner circle that I don’t see eye to eye with on everything.  I don’t always like it, because some of those people are a high challenge to me.  But I need them.  I probably need them in my life more than the ones who tend to agree with me on everything. Why?  Because I trust that their heart towards me is for my good, and as a result I can hear what they have to say even if it hurts.  If I only allow people in who speak what I want to hear, then I’m setting myself up for a big fall.

So, when I get offended, I do take it to God first, and then if it is sin, I am required by the Word to take it to the person who did the offense.  If they won’t listen to you, then you take another person, and then if they still don’t listen, then you take others in leadership.  The goal is to restore the person who has done wrong.  But if they still don’t listen, then the church body is not to have anything to do with them.

Many times, instead of following these steps, when the one who was offended tries to bring it to the light, whether is was valid or not, it is often times the one voicing the concern that is getting the boot.  Especially if the offender is in leadership, what often happens is the offender rejects the person, and then accuses them of slander and gossip.  It ends up being the person who was offended that is pushed out and excommunicated, while the offender is left unchallenged.    That then creates an environment of fear, that “Oh, I don’t want to be accused of gossip or slander, so even though something doesn’t feel quite right, I just won’t say anything.”  This leaves the door open for abuse to happen.

If we want to be trusted and create unity, then we have to be willing to be questioned.  We need to love well, giving others a voice, even when the voice may challenge us.  This is not attacking unity.  This is promoting unity if it is handled with love, honesty, and humility.  Unity is built on trust.  Trust is built by loving others well.

I can’t tell you where the line is in someone’s heart on if they are truly seeking truth, justice, or if they have ill intent to harm.  It is God’s place to judge someone’s heart.  But it hurts me to see people pushed away and labeled who are trying to do things in a Godly way, and protect and help others.

If we could just listen, admit our own failures, and seek reconciliation with one another, maybe our love for one another would make the true Lord Jesus known to the world.  The world has enough hatred, back-biting, and slander.  Let’s show them something different.  Let’s show them what loving each other well should look like.  We are His example after all.

 

 

 

 

Letting Go

Last evening, I led a painting class (a new ministry tool the Lord has placed in my hands), at which we were creating ocean scenes.  As my brush blended the hues of blues and white to create the cresting waves, my mind floated back to a summer three years ago. 

Early one morning, I stood on the edge of sand, with my toes tickled by the foam created by waves lapping my feet.  I wiggled my feet down into the cool, course sand, as I watched the blazing orange sun peek above the horizon, burning away the morning mist.  In my palm, I held several small, smooth, black stones.  Each had been named on the walk with Jesus a few minutes prior. 

Fear of abandonment, a lie that I would hurt my family, forgiveness of a friend who had betrayed me, etc. was represented.  For every thing that was still weighing me down like bricks in my backpack or holding me back like a bungee cord, I had carefully placed a stone in my pocket. 

As I confessed those things to my heavenly Father, I heard “Let them go.  Throw them into the sea of my love.”  So, as each slipped and released from my fingertips, they splashed, then sunk deep into the ocean. 

At first, I was afraid the crashing waves would wash them back to shore.  But quickly I heard, “No, my love they are forever gone, washed away in my great love.”  At that exact moment, sea gulls swooped over my head and flew toward the horizon.  “Now, fly, daughter, fly!” 

Letting go of things is probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life, and from the discussion last night, I think it’s hard for many.  For some, it may be letting go of someone who’s wounded you or abused your child.  For others, a wayward child running from home, or still for some, a loved one whose untimely death leaves unasked questions and senseless heart ache.     

Looking back on my own childhood, we were constantly on the move, rarely staying in one location more than six months.  My parents never owned a home, but always went from a cheap rental home, to run down parsonage, as my father was a “pastor” who kept getting kicked out of congregations.   So, as I grew older, I would long for friendships, family, but as soon as I would make one, we would be leaving again.  Perpetually, I was always the new kid on the block or school.   I learned to make friends quickly and hold onto to whatever I could, because it wouldn’t last long. 

Even in the natural, after my parent’s divorced, my mom had taken all our things (favorite toys, dolls, anything she couldn’t just grab) and stored them into a shed in the back yard of our rental.  She had no other place to put them.  The plan was to return as soon as she could to retrieve them.  As we walked up to the shed that day, a large steel padlock had been placed on the metal door.  Taking my sleeve, I wiped a place clean on the cracked window pane, peered in, and wept, for I knew the little precious things I did have were gone forever.

As an adult, I still struggle to attach to things or people, and then when finally brave enough to do so, fear them being taken from me, or having to let them go.  Letting friends into my heart has been a fearful and dangerous thing, because in the past, I’m just waiting for the ball to drop and them to leave me.  Now, I know I’ve had much healing in this area, and truth has replaced many of those lies, but those gut reactions are so hard to completely break free of.  It’s hard to let go, especially when it is a sudden death, like many of my friends are now facing, or a person you love intentionally or not, walking away.

In my early twenties, I had to face the sudden death of my closest friend.   

With every ounce of faith in me, I believed without a doubt, she would be healed of cancer.  So, when I sat in her basement a few hours before she saw Jesus’s face, I just wanted to grasp her and not let her go.  Letting go of her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I still miss her twenty something years later.  I can still see her smile and hear her laugh.  One day I’ll be reunited with her, but until then letting go, saying goodbyes still stinks.  Maybe we were meant to be together forever. 

Even this past year, God has been digging at this place again, with a friendship I had let into my heart to a level I didn’t know that I had been capable of before.  I’ve had sisters, and I love them, but growing up in an abusive home took its toll on our relationship at times.  Because of those wounds, this heart of mine was highly trained in putting up some hefty barriers of protection; barriers with my husband, friendships, children, family, even God.  But this young lady squeezed passed them into my heart, and after doing so, felt God tell her to back off and keep distance.  

I don’t regret it.  She pulled me into a new level of agape love, friendship, and finally connection that I should’ve been able to have all along.  No matter what happens, I will always be grateful for her.    Another friend, not knowing the situation, looked at me recently and said, “The Lord wants you to know, you have learned how to love, but to love, also means you will hurt sometimes.” 

Now, to me it has felt like heartache, disappointment, and rejection: like a knife digging into my heart.  It’s so strange though, because I feel like Yahweh is using it to heal places in me that I didn’t know I needed, nor how to get to.  Blindly, I have to trust Him, releasing to Him the things I love most. 

To some, this may make God sound harsh.  It has felt harsh to me, and I’ve had quite a few heated conversations with my Heavenly Father over it.  So many times, I just want to hold on for dear life to friends, family, the past seasons, etc..  It seems mean to take away things that you love, or to ask you to release the people you love, but I know God never, ever does anything out of meanness.  He always, always acts in love on our behalf, always seeing a bigger picture. 

If I am clutching on to something, like I still tend to do sometimes, because I’m so afraid of losing it or that relationship, then maybe that’s not really love anyway.  Maybe it has the potential then to draw me away from my loving Father’s arms.  God does want us to learn to love, to be able to properly attach to people and to Him, but He wants us to do that from a place of wholeness, not a place of needing that thing or person to fill a hole in our heart.  That can go wrong very quickly, but when our heart is whole in Him, then our relationships with people will be a reflection of our loving relationship with Him. 

If we are filling a place in our heart with someone or something else, then I’ve committed idolatry against God, and that never goes well for us, because He knows that His love is the only thing that can truly fill and make whole our hearts.  This is a hard lesson to learn, especially from a girl who has had so many, many holes to fill. 

Last time I blogged, it was on forgiving others, and even in that there is a letting go of our right to be right, a releasing of the person into the hands of a loving God, and trusting Him to do what’s best with the situation.  It really all goes back to trust doesn’t it. 

Can I, will I trust my heavenly Father?  Does He really have my good in mind? 

From what I have experienced of Him, I choose to trust that He is a good, good Father, and He does have my best interest at heart.  My name is written on the palm of His great hand, and He will not forsake me.  So, sometimes many times a day, I place my family, my friendships, the past seasons, unforgiveness, anger, fear, lies into His hands.  I bring them to the cross of Jesus, and I let them go.  Sometimes, it is over and over again. 

This is not brushing it under the carpet, or stuffing pain in my heart.  Pulling myself up by my bootstraps is tiring, and putting on my big girl panties many times just gives me a wedgie.  I’m not saying walk in childishness or immaturity.  There is a time we need to step up into maturity, and this is the process of that.  Just trying to force my emotions into a “behave” yourself place, generally is a damaging thing to do. 

I acknowledge, “Father, this stinks.  This hurts.  I don’t even know when it will stop hurting, but I let this go into your hands.  I release this person, this season, this hurt, etc. into your hands, because I know you love me and know what’s best for this season in my life.”   I let them go, I let things go, and I choose to trust the Father with my heart, with my life, with my friends, and family. 

Trusting Him can be a hard thing to do, but as I am free falling into His arms of love, I find that maybe I can fly into new places of freedom.

Keys of Authority

Today’s Blog is shared from Christian Harvest International, Greg & Rebecca Greenwood.  As I read it, I felt strongly that it had to be shared as it is a word for the body and what we are experiencing at this time:

Then I will set on his shoulder the key of the house of David; when he opens no one will shut, when he shuts no one will open. —Isaiah 22:22 AMP

We have weapons to invade realms! However, you might be pondering if contending against principalities is an off-limits activity for the church. What does Jesus tell us about our position of authority? As stated before, He has not left us to battle alone. He has given each of us keys. He has given each of us the authority to bind and loose. In Matthew 16:13-17, we have the historic core confession of the Body of Christ. It is Simon Peter’s proclamation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Now when Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they answered, Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, But who do you [yourselves] say that I am? Simon Peter replied, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Then Jesus answered him, Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) are you, Simon Bar-Jonah. For flesh and blood [men] have not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven (Matthew 16:13-17 AMPC).

Jesus then made a paradigm-shifting proclamation of His own to Simon Peter: “And I tell you, you are Peter [Greek, Petros—a large piece of rock], and on this rock [Greek, petra—a huge rock like Gibraltar] I will build My church…” (Matt. 16:18 AMPC). Simon Peter, the first to make this Kingdom declaration, was the first to receive the promise that God would use him like a substantial piece of rock to build upon. Jesus stated that joining Peter would be other believers who would also proclaim this truth and represent the Kingdom of God. Together this Body would make up a great rock, like Gibraltar—petra. And on this rock, He would build His Church, which I am now going to term Ekklesia.

What Is the Meaning of Ekklesia?

The translation for the word Church in the above Scripture does not portray what Jesus was powerfully stating. The literal meaning is “called-out ones” or “assembly.” The word is used 114 times in the New Testament, and in 90 of these references a local church assembly is in view. However, in this first use of Ekklesia, it seems likely that Jesus had a more significant and larger picture in mind. He was building a worldwide Body of believers composed of all who make the same confession of faith.

The word and concept of Ekklesia was not new to the disciples. It carried significant cultural emphasis. In this time of history, this word was applied to the popular assembly of Greek citizens who helped to govern a city or district (see Acts 19:32,39,41). Also, the Greek translation of the Old Testament used Ekklesia to describe the congregation of Israel when it was corporately gathered when Moses presented the law for all of Israel to perform and carry out the law as a people and a culture.

In Greek and Roman society, the Ekklesia consisted of ones who functioned in their cities as a senate or legislative governors. They were known as a military task force of the culture they represented to cause things to appear as Greek or Roman. Their function carried with it the ideology to disciple people, cities, and nations. Why do we need to know this to be effective intercessors? To understand our keys of authority to bind and loose, we must realize the history-making message Jesus was relaying at this crucial moment. Allow me to explain further how history, misplaced translations, and words have shaped our effectiveness as the Church and as prayer warriors.

The Greek word kyriakon is the origin of the word church that we use in English. Kyraikon is composed of two words—kyrias, meaning the Lord, and oikas, meaning house or building. Together the meaning is clear—house of God or building. It is a purely religious word that originally meant temple or chapel, a physical location where people gather. It conveys something very different from the original meaning of Ekklesia.

Historically and theologically it is a known fact when the King James Bible was written in 1611 there was considerable argument over how this word Ekklesia would be translated. The Tyndale translation done in 1525 accurately portrayed Ekklesia as a governing body. By 1611 King James was head of the Anglican Church. The favored meaning of the word church under his leadership was that of a building. Therefore, this Greek word kyraikon was chosen as the basis for the English translation. Unfortunately, this word is not even in the Greek New Testament. This helps to give a clear picture why leaders keep explaining to people that church is not the building but rather the people of God who assemble to hear from Him, to be sent out, to pray and to release His Kingdom.

Further adding to the confusion, in AD 313 the emperor Constantine established himself as the head of the church controlled by the state and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. He began a massive building spree across the Roman Empire naming all the buildings after apostles from the Bible—for example, the church of St. Paul. He declared himself the thirteenth apostle and erected statues of the twelve apostles in a massive building in Constantinople and included a larger statue of himself in the building. He banned all house meetings and unofficial gatherings of any kind, and all had to gather in the buildings. Still to this day, all these years later, we think of the church as a building, not a Body of believers who pray and effect change. This in turn causes us to downsize the strategies of the enemy and our role to see victory obtained.

It Is Time for a New Paradigm

We see that immediately following His proclamation, Jesus focused on the position of authority in which the Ekkleisa is to operate:

…and the gates of Hades (death) will not overpower it [by preventing the resurrection of the Christ]. I will give you the keys (authority) of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth will have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth will have [already] been loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:18-19 AMP).

Gates of Hades

I believe Jesus was intentional. I find it interesting that when He initiated this discussion with the disciples, He chose the location of Caesarea Philippi, home to Mount Hermon. It was known as the rock of the gods due to the many shrines that are carved into the face of the mountain. Shrines to Caesar, an open-air shrine to Pan and the court to the fertility goddess, Nemesis. It also houses a large cave called the gate of Hades. It was believed that baal-hermon would enter the world from this cave. Worshipers would congregate and take part in bizarre, blatantly demonic sexual activities as well as rituals involving human and blood sacrifice. Jesus in a strategic move took His disciples to the most degenerate place possible. Clearly, He was making an object lesson.

The Lord of heaven and earth stands before His twelve disciples, and in a prophetic revelation of insight more vivid than the snow-capped glow of Mount Hermon—a place that fed the fears of men and demonically enticed surrender of their souls—Peter becomes the first human to acknowledge Jesus for who He really is. The King of kings and the Lord of lords. The Ancient of Days. Most Holy One. Lord of Hosts. Captain of the armies of God. The promised Messiah. Savior of the World. The Great I Am. Friends, when we get even a small glimpse into the complete kingship of our Savior, we stand at a new gateway or portal for understanding our own purpose. Why? It is now known that Jesus not only possesses all authority, but that He also bestows it. Understanding this truth far better than His disciples, Jesus takes the opportunity in front of His chosen band of disciples to declare out loud that Hades will not prevail. Unity is vital to breakthrough intercession. The size of the band of warriors is not the determining factor. Although, I will strongly emphasize here again that there are no lone rangers in dealing with principalities and territorial spirits. Individuals have been given authority over demons as stated clearly in Mark 16:17, “And these miracle signs will accompany those who believe: They will drive out demons in the power of my name” (TPT). But there needs to be a team or corporate assembly of the Ekklesia to defeat principalities. This can occur with a large governing assembly or even a band of warriors of two or three gathered together. What does matter is knowing God has assigned the battle—a clear revelation of the One who has directed you, a clarity of purpose that is voiced out in agreement among the gathered and convening Ekkelsia when on the land.

By standing at the rock of the gods, Jesus was making a clear and undeniable illustration. As the Church, we are His legislative body of people anointed in His glory to go to the darkest places of the world in order to destroy the schemes of the enemy and establish His Kingdom. One of the strongest demonic assignments and schemes of the enemy is the attempt to talk the church out of being the Ekklesia—the exact people to whom the glory of God has been imparted and distributed for stewarding and impacting the nations. It is not survival mode. It is overcoming and conquering mode. We carry governmental anointing in which our intercession made in partnership with the Lord can heal the past and shape the future.

Testimony of Jordan!

2018 has afforded us with the awesome privilege of developing relationship with Bible College of Wales. This is the college founded by Rees Howells in 1924. We have visited three times this year and are planning a return for next year. The last visit in October, our team experienced God moving in amazing ways. It was a time of soaking, intimacy with the Lord, intercession for Wales and the nations. I was also beyond honored and privileged to receive an invitation to teach an evening course.

It is hard to share all that transpired, but one day was supernatural in a way that only He can orchestrate. We felt the Lord leading us to visit, worship and intercede at Blaenannerch, the chapel where Evan Roberts in an abandoned cry of surrender shouted, “Bend me Lord!”  We experienced the Lord’s presence in a deep way which brought us into a place of revived surrender and desire for awakening. The worship time and intercession for Wales and the nations was transformational.

Following this time, we knew the Lord was directing us to pray for awakening and breakthrough in the land of the mountainous region of Preselau. It is an ancient occult site of druid worship and the location where the stones were removed for Stonehenge. It is scientifically proven that the earth in this region vibrates at a different frequency than any other locations in the world and it produces a rare sound as well as stones called Blue Stones.

We huddled in a circle on the high place, kneeling and laying hands on the land.  We worshipped, prophesied God’s new purpose and amplified sound to bring a harvest into the land following our time of breaking the occult power of Lilith and death. As we completed our time of intercession, I noticed a young man approaching who had been speaking to Roy and Adriane, the pastors who had hosted and driven us to this location. He approached the team. To explain the supernatural orchestration of this encounter, I must explain we were out in the middle of nowhere, in the mountains. Therefore, having someone approach us would not be a normal nor expected.

He asked what we were doing. I explained worshipping and praying to Jesus. I asked him if he knew Jesus. He responded, “I don’t think that I do.” I asked his name and it was Jordan. He explained He heard us shouting and worshipping as we were on assignment. He shared he had been in a car wreck three days prior. His car was totaled, but he walked away unscathed. In order to get home which was over 2 1’2 hours away, he had to buy a new car. Yet, he could not get a peace to leave the area. He had walked a 3-hour trek in the mountains seeking the Lord for direction in his life asking to hear His voice and guidance. His life being spared in what should have been a fatal car crash had gotten his attention. After his walk he sat in the valley directly below the mountain top we were on to worship and pray. He heard us, but he explained it sounded like hundreds of people not just eight. So, he came to see what was occurring. He shared that he knew Roy and Adriane and had visited their church 3 times and was surprised to see them.

Once again, I shared that we were praying and worshipping Jesus and asked if he wanted to know Jesus. Ten minutes later, this young man named Jordan received salvation! We knew this was a prophetic sign. Jordan is symbolic of crossing over into a new season. We know that Jordan’s salvation was a manifestation of a new season of harvest in the land of revival.  He is 24, and a musician. On a mountain known for its unique frequency of sounds a new soul to release a sound of praise and worship entered heaven’s sound.  There were eight of us on the team which means new beginnings. All of this occurred after our time at the church where Evan Roberts had his encounter with the Lord that sparked the revival in Wales. Even typing this I am undone by God’s goodness today!

Heading into 2019 to Fulfill the Call

I pray the above portion of a chapter from my (Becca’s) new book Glory Warfare and Jordan’s testimony blesses you. Greg and I fully believe the Lord is directing our paths in the days ahead to continue to pave the way in our nation and the nations as an Ekklesia anointed prayer army and not only breaking strongholds, but also building and planting for a sustained transformation in the land. Our nation and the nations are calling, and we are responding with a resounding, “Yes!”

As we head into 2019, we are preparing key assignments with our prayer network, SPAN, for our nation and the nations. The Lord has spoken clearly that we are to engage in strategic assignments heading into the 2020 elections. Therefore, we are busy with planning and strategizing meetings already underway as we close out 2018. We will also partner with Aruba, Scotland, Spain, China, Wales, Korea, Africa, Amsterdam and Europe in this coming year to speak and train in prophetic strategies for transformation with key leaders in these nations.

We are so emboldened by all God has allowed us to be a part of in the nations and in ours.  We wanted to send you a small token of our appreciation for your prayers and partnership with us financially as we move forward with all God is showing us.  Thank you.

If you would like to send a gift to the ministry, you can use the enclosed envelope or you can visit our website to give your tax deductible donation, www.christianharvestintl.org/donate.  We are so grateful for all of you who have joined us in seeing souls brought into God’s kingdom.  We pray for His Spirit and love to follow and be with you in 2019 and it will become your breakthrough year!

In His Love,

Greg & Becca

For My Fellow Survivors

For my fellow survivors and overcomers of abuse of many kinds, this blog may be more than you desire to read. So, just up front, it’s OK if at any point you need to put it down. I also don’t write this from the stand point of being a licensed counselor, nor an expert in the field.

Quite honestly, for the first thirty-some years of my life I avoided counseling like the plague, and would joke with my college friends, who were psych majors, that the ones going into the field were the ones who needed the most help. That’s no slight on those who are in the profession. I have great respect for counselors, healers, good psychologists, etc.   I just want to be up front in saying that’s not the angle this is written from.

I’m writing because I am the one who needed help, desperately, but I was too scared to reach out for many, many years to get it. I also had many black holes in my childhood memories, and had heard many people say, “If you don’t remember, it is for good reason.” “Don’t look back.”  “The past is in the past and can’t affect you now.” And even use scripture for back up. “Forgetting what is behind, and reaching for the things before me…” Phil. 3:13 But our life is all connected together, whether we like it or not. The things that happened to us as young children or as adults, do change the way we look at things. Sometimes, we just aren’t conscious of it.

Truly, I’m not pushing any particularly type or brand of healing or counseling or methodology. I actually would have loved for Jesus to just come and instantly heal my heart, mind, soul, and spirit all in one fell swoop. I know He has done that for others, and don’t doubt His ability. For whatever reason, this is not my story. Mine is a painstaking journey, that I still walk out from every day, though now the pace of freedom is much faster than it used to be.

So, why am I writing this? I guess for a few reasons, one there are a lot of misconceptions out there, and two, for awareness. Let’s tackle the first one. There are all types of abuse out there. Consider this, that in my state of South Carolina, the last statistic I’ve heard is that one in three women and children have been sexual abused. One in three. That’s of people who have told someone. Do you know how many people I’ve talked to, who have trusted me with parts of their stories who have not told anyone else? Let’s just say it’s a lot.

It’s usually the most put together ones that surprise me the most. The ones always smiling on the outside. (I always tried to put on that face myself.) They have their make-up and clothes just right, but they are hurting, sometimes dying on the inside, because they feel they have to play a part in order to be accepted in our communities, especially church communities.

I’ve sat in front of pastors, pastoral counselors, and/or spiritual leaders who simply had no clue how to deal with a survivor of extreme abuse. As I’ve told parts of my story, I’ve had some close their eyes and look the other way. I’ve been told that I should just read this certain book, or quote this list of scriptures, or that I needed to get out of my old family tree and get a new mindset into my identity in Jesus. Dear Pastors, I’ve tried. Truly, I have. I have read the books. I’ve quoted the scriptures. I didn’t even know what was in my family tree, until Jesus showed me, but I surely never wanted to hang out there. I didn’t even want to know what was there in the first place.

I was terrified of going to counseling, because I didn’t want to know how my mind worked. That’s why I tried for so long to hide myself from me. Even scripture memorization, though helpful, only went surface level, because the wounds inflicted upon me had been mortal wounds meant to fester and ooze, toxifying my mind, soul, body, until the infection almost took me out.

The religious methods given me, though well-intended, never worked for long; the aching pain, though not even conscious, was still there. The lies had been embedded in my soul like shrapnel from an explosion in a million pieces, they just didn’t go away because I willed them too.

Why is it that if someone is in a horrific car accident, they are cared for and understood, but if you have been in a horrific, emotionally traumatic event or lived a childhood of it, people want to look the other way, ignore it, pushing aside the broken hearted one. I didn’t ask for the parents I was given. I didn’t ask for the abuse I was subjected to. Most victims didn’t do anything to provoke their abusers. Children sold into sex trafficking have no voice, no say as to what happens to them. Yet, most survivors will tell you they partly blame themselves. “I should’ve been stronger.” “I should’ve done something to stop it.” I know, I lived with the shame for most of my life. “It was all my fault,” was drilled into my brain. So, I’d get out my scripture list and recite it. Pray, but would only hear “It’s not time yet.” Until it was time to open the wounds and begin the healing.

Let’s take panic attacks for example. Did you know that most of the panic attacks I used to have were not triggered by negative thoughts? So, how do you suppose right thinking corrects it? It was triggered by a color, a scent, a situation, or the way a person walked. It was triggered by countless moments, most of which I had no clue about. I just knew one minute I’d be fine, the next I couldn’t breathe, and thought I was dying. For the most part, I don’t have panic attacks any more, but I remember when I did have them all the time.   At times, I walked through depression, suicidal thoughts and urges, fear, insomnia, etc. I’m not saying this to make you feel sorry for me. I’m saying this to help bring understanding.

So, survivors or overcomers of different kinds of abuse come in different types and levels of pain, but generally many of the lies believed are the same. For some it is like a scrape on the elbow, for others, it may be like their arm has been cut off, and still for some, it may be like they have been ran over by a car, and then the driver put it in reverse and repeated the action multiple times. Many have no memory of the abuse, because their child’s mind simple couldn’t handle it. I call this a gift from God for children, the gift of disassociation. It is a real thing. And most people have some level of disassociation, even if it’s being addicted to their cell phones for the distraction of it. The ADHD labeled child sitting in the classroom who can’t seem to keep his or her attention on anything, I feel is often trying to distract their mind from something painful going on. That’s not in every case of course, but from what I experienced in the classroom as a teacher, it played out that way many times.

Beth Moore said in her book, Get Out of the Pit, that most people will never go through the healing process, because they believe the lies that they will die or go crazy if they face their pain, fear, and/or memories of the abuse. I can attest to this. Those have been two of my greatest giants to slay in the process of healing, and though I’ve been on this journey for more than a decade, they still try to raise their ugly head from time to time. One chapter, God gave me at the beginning of my journey was Ps. 32. In the amplified version, it reads, “I continually unfolded the past until all was told, and He instantly forgave me of my sins.” Clearly, there is value in all of our story to Him.

So, why would someone even want to go through the seemingly painful process of counseling? And what type of counseling do you go to? Many traditional counselors, at least from the ones I know, are more of behavioral modification flavor. And honestly, there are times, that I wish God would’ve have led me down that road first, just so I’d have had more tools in my tool belt to be able to cope with the pain, but that’s not what He did with me. For a long time, I took medication to help curb anxiety attacks, so I don’t judge someone who needs to take that route. For me, I came to a place of no return. I had two small children, and one on the way.   Anxiety attacks were hitting hard every time I went out the door, and I was hardly able to function.

At the right moment, the Lord flung open a door for inner healing ministry, and led me down a path of opening up the memories of what had happened to me, very slowly and steadily peeling back layer after layer of woundedness.   There are many ministries out there who now do this. There is no redeeming value of going to a memory just for the sake of digging up the past. That can be extremely damaging and retraumatizing. For many people, the brain though will begin to throw up pieces of trauma through flashbacks, in an effort to call out for help. For me, though, each time I remembered something, it was led by the Holy Spirit, and then I would see an image of the True Lord Jesus come into the memory with me.   When He did, He would change it for me, bringing peace, truth, love, forgiveness, etc.   He never left me hanging and always brought peace to the piece of the puzzle He would show me. Many times right after I’d leave the session, another issue would arise. It has been an extremely long and painful process for me, but that is because of the depth of abuse I suffered through. Many times, I’ve complained to God about the process, “Why did You lead me that way?”  “Why was it so painful?” Each time, He has reassured me that for me, I needed to know my story, and truly it was through that process I began to understand who He really is and that He is love. He has literally untwisted so many lies about myself, about who He is, and even about the abusers. These lies, vows, and judgements had been deeply branded in my psyche. He is the Truth, and He applied Himself directly to the places where the wounds were. Scriptures resounds now from my inner heart, because now His truth is imbedded there, instead of the lies.

This past year, I’ve been on a different journey with Him, for He has sped things up a lot. Now, He is dealing with whole structures in my heart, instead of little parts and pieces of memories tucked here and there.   He is taking down the full structures, the full strongholds that the enemy had firmly put in place through intentional, methodical abuse, and making me whole in ways I didn’t even know He could. But it is still a process of healing. Many days, I still face the thoughts of I’m not a safe person for others to be around, or the lie that I will suddenly drop over dead. When those things come, I see images of bad things happening, instead of having bad thoughts most of the time, and when I do, I still moment by moment take them to Jesus and ask Him to speak the truth to me about it. He always does, and I go on with my day. Some days, I’m tired, and just want to sleep. Other days, I find moments of joy, excitement over something in the future, or a feeling of being loved. Joy. Excitement.   Love! I actually have times I feel those now!

Some days I feel lonely, that no can relate to the things I’ve had to face. I get irate when people choose to get hung up on petty differences and won’t forgive. I sadden when people’s voices are not heard, ignored, misunderstood.   So many are just crying out for help in the only way they know how, but often times, instead of being validated, valued, and heard, they become liabilities to the religious system, a cog in the smooth functioning machine. Instead of seen as team players or family members, they are now segregated, marginalized, and systematically removed from the team. Too many times, the institutionalized church has a horrible track record of getting rid of the least of these who would challenge or slow down the agenda. Jesus always had time for the broken. In fact, He often changed course, went a different direction, just so that He could touch one person, heal one broken heart, go after one lost sheep, call one prodigal home. He is the healer of the broken hearted after all. Sometimes, that is a heart broken in two, and sometimes it is intentionally shattered into a thousand pieces. Either way, He knows how to heal, love, and bring truth to the those who need it most.

Even though many of my friends can’t really relate to where I’ve had to walk, some try to understand, and for that I am truly grateful.   Many survivors, though, don’t have anyone who can relate, or will try to understand. Many have the church turn their back on them when they hit bottom, and need a hand up. Maybe it’s because it makes the leadership feel insecure, because they don’t know how to help. I don’t know. Many of us do wrong things out of fear. Actually, I’ve had this happen to me when I was at one of my lowest points, and it hurt deeply. Thankfully, though, I had my husband who chose to stay and support me through the worst, because somehow, he loved the wrecked mess I was at the time, and I have had a handful of friends who chose to love me despite all the pain of what I was going through. That gift was and is immeasurable, for it was the gift of being seen and heard for who I really am, fears, failures, and all.

I recall two such friends who trapped me between them in a movie theatre, because the Holy Spirit had told me to watch the movie, The Shack. I thought multiple times I was going to die while watching that movie, but one held my sweaty hand the whole time through it, and the other blocked my escape route, and then wept with me in her truck, afterwards as I sat and processed. Another friend brought me home cooked food and took care of my children when I was too weak to walk to the bathroom unaided, and then when I was ready a few years later, let me meticulously retell the horrors of my story through snot and trembling, simply because I needed to see with my own eyes someone would listen and not turn away; especially, when you are told that you will die, if you ever tell anyone what happened to you.   I didn’t die. And she is still one of my closest friends to this day.

So, for those who have dared to read this, please know, if you relate, you aren’t alone. There are people who understand what you are going through. The enemy is the same. The lies are all similar. The pain is very real. But there really is a healer whose name is Jesus, and He’s really, really good at healing broken hearts, how ever He chooses to do it.

For those, who haven’t had to walk through such extreme pain and really can’t relate, just listen to those hurting around you. Don’t judge their healing journey. Be like Jesus and love the least of these. When you have, you have loved Him. You don’t have to have the answers. Just get them to the True Lord Jesus who does. Maybe it means swapping snot in the cab of a pick-up truck.

I leave you with this story from Luke 10 TPT. We should be known by our love for one another if Jesus lives in us. May this be a positive challenge for all of us to reach out to the one who is hurting and not just walk by on the opposite side of the road.

Loving God, Loving Others

25 Just then a religious scholar stood before Jesus in order to test his doctrines. He posed this question: “Teacher, what requirement must I fulfill if I want to live forever in heaven?”

26 Jesus replied, “What does Moses teach us? What do you read in the Law?”

27 The religious scholar answered, “It states, ‘You must love the Lord God with all your heart, all your passion, all your energy, and your every thought. And you must love your neighbor as well as you love yourself.’”

28 Jesus said, “That is correct. Now go and do exactly that and you will live.”

29 Wanting to justify himself, he questioned Jesus further, saying, “What do you mean by ‘my neighbor’?”

30 Jesus replied, “Listen and I will tell you. There was once a Jewish[k] man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when bandits robbed him along the way. They beat him severely, stripped him naked, and left him half dead.

31 “Soon, a Jewish priest walking down the same road came upon the wounded man. Seeing him from a distance, the priest crossed to the other side of the road and walked right past him, not turning to help him one bit.

32 “Later, a religious man, a Levite,[l] came walking down the same road and likewise crossed to the other side to pass by the wounded man without stopping to help him.

33 “Finally, another man, a Samaritan,[m] came upon the bleeding man and was moved with tender compassion for him. 34 He stooped down and gave him first aid, pouring olive oil on his wounds, disinfecting them with wine, and bandaging them to stop the bleeding. Lifting him up, he placed him on his own donkey and brought him to an inn. Then he took him from his donkey and carried him to a room for the night. 35 The next morning he took his own money from his wallet and gave it to the innkeeper with these words: ‘Take care of him until I come back from my journey. If it costs more than this, I will repay you when I return.’[n] 36 So, now, tell me, which one of the three men who saw the wounded man proved to be the true neighbor?”

37 The religious scholar responded, “The one who demonstrated kindness and mercy.”

 

 

Unexpected Journey

I’ve often heard, “It’s not about the destination, but the journey.” In my younger years, I dreamed of where I would be when I was 40 years old, and now I’m rapidly approaching 50. Like most people, I have put a lot of emphasis on the destination, and obviously, I want to finish well. How many conversations have I had with my girls of “What will you be when you grow up?”  Too many too count, I’m sure.

So far in my life, nothing has really turned out like I expected. Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns. Once, I sat in front of a former pastor, when he asked me, “What’s your purpose in teaching here?” I struggled to answer, because I just taught to have something to do to get me to whatever that grand purpose for my life was. Granted, I felt inspired in the classroom at times, and I loved the kids, but it wasn’t “the dream” I was looking for.

My pastor pulled a piece of paper out of his office desk, placed it on the table, and drew two dots, point A and point B. “To get from point A to point B, you would think you would draw a straight line like this.” Picking up a pen, he made the horizonal line across the paper connecting each point. “But this is the way God takes people.” Continuing to draw, he now penned a long, curvy line creating somewhat of a circular pattern, connecting the two dots. “You think life is going to be a straight line from point A to point B, but that’s not how God does things. He takes you on a journey, that may seem like it will never end, but it is the journey that teaches you what you need to know, to be able to thrive at point B.”

That may have been some of the best advice I’ve gotten, for almost thirty years later, there are things I’m just now beginning to see take place in my life, that I thought would have happened twenty years ago. Without that gem of knowledge, I would not have valued all of the journey, but instead would have been frustrated in how long things were taking or maybe even had become disheartened, believing I would never see point B.

There have been many times I’ve fallen into a hopeless place, wondering when, if ever, point B would come into view. (Whatever point B was anyway?) Thankfully, now, I’m beginning to see my journey through different perspectives, and continuing to learn to value all the experiences along the way.

One such example is my journey with organized church, which has been a huge influence and been part of our lives since birth, considering we’ve always been members of a church somewhere. Three weeks ago, we began a new journey, by stepping out of a church we’ve been involved in for almost three decades. That’s a long time, I know. I don’t ever remember a time in my life of not having a “church home”. It’s really odd for me to even think about, but this new path is challenging me on some belief systems that I’ve had, that I didn’t even realize where there or that they were an issue.

One paradigm shift for me is that I have always been taught I must have the spiritual covering of a local body or else something bad would happen: I would be out from the protective umbrella of God’s ordained authority; therefore, the enemy could wreak havoc on my life.

Please understand that I think it’s great to be involved in a local church, but not for some supernatural spiritual protective umbrella. It’s important to have a place to serve others, love others, have some accountability, and grow in community. And just for those who may wonder, we do have a circle of friends and family to which we have and will continue to be accountable to, so we havent rebelliously or with any bad feelings left “church” to go on out on our own, but we are being led down a different path.

For me, having come from a childhood of twisted, abusive authority in my home and in the church, then through an adulthood of witnessing other types of church abuse, to now walking in a place where we are simply going every day where we feel the Holy Spirit is leading us, it feels like a mixture of freedom and fear. Freedom, because I absolutely love God being my covering as He should be and not being “under” or “beneath” another man as my go between. Fear, because I have a life time of thinking I had to have this perpetual umbrella over me or else.

Over the course of the last two years, my whole paradigm of what “the church” is supposed to look like has been changing. I love being cared for, protected, loved by those in authority over me. I know that local churches have to have structure to keep the ship running, and there is value in that for everyone. According to the Bible in Eph. 4:11-14, pastors, teachers, evangelist, etc. are ministry functions that people operate in with the purpose of bringing the Body into maturity. They are just a different part of the Body meant to build it up, like a heart pumping blood to supply life or the brain sending electrical messages, so that we can think, feel, and move. They aren’t any more valuable, than the one cleaning toilets. In fact, how long would a church last without clean toilets?

A few weeks ago, I sat in a group of believers who had been badly wounded by church leadership. Many had walked away from abusive relationships, and in desperation sought help from their church leaders, only to be either sent back into abuse, and/or if they didn’t obey the authority, were subsequently, rejected from the local church body. I’ve heard this story over and over again, regardless of denomination, and seen it play out in my own life growing up. The amazing thing about this group though was that they weren’t lashing out, but instead were offering forgiveness, hope, and understanding. They were being “the church”, loving God and each other well, but also being brave and voicing issues that need to be addressed.

The church was never supposed to be set up like a governmental system. Yet, so often it is set up in that way, which can lead to problems. We are supposed to be a body, a bride, a family, not a business or an enterprise. We were supposed to have Jesus as our head, not the pastor, though pastors have important roles to play in helping others be cared for, being the hands and feet of Jesus. Yahweh, though is our covering. We hide under His wings, running to Him as our strong tower. From what I understand now, it’s idolatry to look to a man for that. And yet, because this has been so ingrained in me, I find myself nervous, wondering if God is going to be enough. He is of course more than enough!

A couple of weeks ago, we ventured to small congregation in a depressed, rural area. We’ve met the pastor there several times through a mutual friend, and love his huge, welcoming heart for people. An old, dead Presbyterian Church now houses hungry worshippers of Jesus. We were greeted with a hearty hug, which warmed my heart. Everyone took their seats in the worn-down pews. Sunlight streamed through a stained-glass window portraying Jesus as the Good Shepherd to my right. During the worship set, their sound system completely tanked, but those leading the worship never missed a beat leading everyone to sing all the louder their praise. As the pastor began his sermon, he said, “I wasn’t planning on talking about this, but let this be an illustration to you all. We can have the best sound system, lights, building, but one day this will all burn.” He threw his arms out in dramatic gesture. “What matters is the kingdom of God, us, the true church. We are the Church. That’s what matters.” The next day, the Notre Dame Cathedral caught on fire. An image I saw on the internet summed it up, for burnt wreckage lay all around, but the cross stood rising up out of the ashes. Though I know it was an immeasurable loss, the timing caught my attention. Man-made structures of church will burn one day, but Jesus’s redemption bought on the cross with His blood will remain, and how well we have loved Him and others, building His true Kingdom will last.

On Good Friday, we gathered with believers in remembrance of what Jesus paid for us. I was delighted, because every day, normal people got up and shared something that God had showed them about the final words of Jesus. Each person’s presentation was a unique, precious sharing of what the scripture meant to them. It was one the most beautiful experiences I’ve had. Someone organized the event, of course, but there was no governmental, “I’m the head, this is the tiered leadership, and you are the congregation at the bottom.” It was just a room filled with lovers of Jesus who cared for each other and wanted to worship their King.

In contrast, Easter Sunday, we sat in an Episcopal Church with family. As we sang traditional hymns and the orchestra behind us played, the sweet presence of the Lord wove through the air like incense. I imagined what the heavenly temple must be like, celebration like none we’ve ever known, with one day His spotless Bride united fully to Him. It was the presence of Jesus that made the difference. No matter if we worship in a pew, or are in our living room with friends, we are the body of Christ, and HE is present when we yield to Him.

Where will we end up next? I don’t have a clue. Will we ever land in another local church building? I expect we will at some point. But I’m learning more of what it means that we are the “church”. We are the living “temple” where God meets with us. I’m loving the process of discovering what being the “church”, outside of the four walls, looks like.

This journey has only begun for us, but I look forward to unexpected, new experiences, on which I will learn many valuable things about myself; hopefully, ridding myself of old mindsets that have been toxic, and embracing newfound truths more fully. I’m not even sure what the destination looks like. The journey is much different than I expected, but I can trust the One leading me. He is faithful and true.