The Upside Down Kingdom Pt. 2

Snuggling up in a fuzzy, fleece blanket on a cold, wintry day in front of a crackling fire is one of my happy places. Give me some instrumental worship and a cup of hot tea, and I’m off into heavenly realms somewhere. As a woman, I love the concept of someone covering me with love and protection like that blanket. Sometimes though, I struggle to feel protected even when the blanket is offered by one I know loves me, and occasionally, I may still think the one bringing the blanket is coming to smother me with it.

In my last blog, “The Upside Down Kingdom, Part One”, my goal was to show you that the Kingdom of God is perhaps set up a little differently than what most think of. Position does not equal spiritual authority, as it does in a worldly system. We established that an attitude of honor is always appropriate, and honor by definition is to be highly valued. It was also established that spiritual authority is given to those who humble themselves the most, and serve others well in love.

There is a belief system that has been a part of the religious system for a very long time. Honestly, I think it’s been present since the fall in the garden; the temptation for us to look to other things or people to take the place of the true God.

The basic belief system is this: “I need someone else to be my go between with God. I need a human’s protection. I need a human’s covering. I need someone to represent me to God.” In many cases, what we are really saying is this, “God, you’re not good enough. Give me someone to rule over me.”

When God called Israel out of Egypt, to the mountain to worship Him, He wanted a family. He wanted a priesthood. He wanted to be married to each one of them. He wanted a friendship with each one of them like He had with Moses. As they stood at the foot of the mountain and saw the awesomeness of God, they said, “Nope, we are good! We will listen to whatever you tell Moses, but please don’t make us come to you ourselves. We want a go-between.” I believe it broke God’s heart to be rejected, but He allowed Moses to be that man.

Afterwards, when the people decided they didn’t care for Moses’s leadership so much, they rebelliously came against God’s friend. It wasn’t just because of the position that Moses held as to why God punished those who came against him. Moses humbly walked with God as His best friend. They had been invited to have the same relationship with God, but refused it, and then came against God’s best friend with rebellion and pride in their hearts. I believe this is primarily why they were punished.

 

Later, in the time of the judges ruling Israel, the people came to a place where they wanted a king to rule over them as the other countries had. Samuel, the prophet, told them God wanted to be their one and only King, but again, the people wanted a man to represent them to God. Samuel warned them of the consequences, but they begged for a human king anyway. They wanted protection, covering, leadership. Instead of looking to the one and only King of Kings and Lord of Lords, they decided He wasn’t good enough for them. They wanted flesh and blood they could see, hear, and touch. This was repeated over and over again through out the Bible.

Even when Jesus came on the scene, the Messiah they were looking for was one who would overthrow the Roman government and be supreme ruler. When they realized that Jesus wasn’t making His move to the human throne, they went from one day hailing Him as king, to three days later hurling curses of “Crucify Him!”

 

If you look at the teachings of Jesus, I don’t ever see where the kingdom He described had a man as go-between. In fact, the religious leadership of his day who had positions of authority over the people, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were the only “groups” Jesus really ever went after. His words against them were well, let’s just say some strong medicine, for He called them, “white-washed tombs”, “Sons of Satan”, etc… He saw what was in their hearts, and He called them out on it. If it were wrong for Him to say something against a religious leader, then He would have been sinning against Himself. Can you envision Jesus going up to many “church leadership” today? What would He see in their hearts?

In addition, in the Hebrew culture, the “Rabbi” who was the teacher in the synagogue, would read from the Torah, and then begin a discussion on the passage by asking questions that were answered by the people. The exchanges back and forth were highly relational, highly engaging. It was not what we think of today in modern churches of “the man of God” up on the stage giving his message.  The Rabbis were teachers there to discuss, engage, and exchange their knowledge of Torah back and forth with their pupils.

Jesus most certainly honored the governmental leadership of His day. In fact, it made the Jews furious with Him, because He told them if someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other cheek. If they take your cloak, give him your shirt. It was the Roman soldiers of his day, that would demand such things. So, he most likely was implying that if a Roman soldier takes your cloak, give him your shirt. Even so, He wasn’t saying look to the Romans to protect you, to cover you. He was saying love those who don’t deserve it. Give to those who don’t deserve it. This is true love.

The disciples many times thought through the worldly lens of leadership, because they fought over who would be the greatest in His kingdom. Two of them, even sent their mom, to ask Jesus if they could sit next to Him on thrones. Jesus, however, taught His disciples to lead a different way. If they wanted to be great in the kingdom they must become like a little child, humble themselves, and serve others.

Jesus’s very purpose in giving His life was so that Papa could get His kids back. When He died the temple curtain tore in two, to show that we all have access into the Holy of Holies, as priest. We are now His family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. He wants an intimate, bridal relationship with all His kids.

In the Jewish marriage ceremony, the bride was invited to meet her groom under the “chuppa” or a canopy.  It was here under this beautiful covering of the groom’s love that they exchanged their vows with one another.  This “chuppa” represents how we come under His canopy of protection, love, intimacy, and provision in a bridal relationship, because He is the only “Bridegroom”. We are His bride.  Can you imagine a bride demanding another’s covering other than her groom’s?  That would be adulterous.

 

In the early church, they lived by this model. The power of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them all, as they were in unity. It wasn’t just poured on the “spiritual leader of the group”. The power and authority were poured out on all of them. The more they walked in friendship with God, in humility and servanthood, the more power and authority followed them.

 

Yes, there were elders, and yes, there was a council, but it was only to serve the needs of the body and to keep the gospel message pure. The council of Nicaea, where we get the church’s Nicaean Creed, was one such group. When the Holy Roman Catholic Church came into play, the church became modeled after a governmental structure, like Rome. At that point, you had a Caesar or a King, and you had the Pope. There were many fights over which position was more powerful throughout the ages, Pope or the King.  I believe this is where the idea of the pastor being the Head of Church came from. In Colossians 1:18 and Ephesians 4:15, the Bible says Jesus is the only Head of the Church.

It was this same tendency that led to the idea that the common people needed a leader to represent them to God. That’s why the church leadership didn’t want the common people to be able to read the Bible. When the printing press became accessible, and the first Bible was printed, it changed the world, being the forerunner to the Great Reformation. Now, the common people could read the Bible for themselves, and were given the opportunity to have their own relationship with God outside of the walls of their parish.

This mindset is really tricky, because it comes in sneaky forms and keeps resurfacing in different terminology. When I was a kid, in a traditional Protestant church, questioning authority meant you were being rebellious and the devil would get you. The rules lists was long. Pick your list of rules from denomination to denomination.

Growing up, dancing, going to movies, and speaking in tongues would gain you a place in hell. After my mom remarried, we began going to a Pentecostal church where now if you didn’t speak in tongues, you were less than. At the Pentecostal College I attended, the rules changed by the year. One year, it was if our ankles weren’t covered, we were leading our brothers in Christ into sexual temptation. Another year, it was you are damned if you go to the movies, but they put cable in all the dorm rooms. What????

This doesn’t even take into account that as a child, I experienced the worst of the religious system has to offer in the form of extreme abuse. In that world, my father, who was a pastor, taught that if I didn’t fully submit to what the “authority” was telling me, I would suffer immense physical, mental, and emotional torture. A fear gospel deeply embedded in my heart. Some may think that’s the exception, but it is a story I’ve heard retold from many others.

Back in the 80’s, when I was new to Pentecostal churches, it looked like the “Shepherding movement”. Many pastors felt it was there duty to shepherd their flock, which in and of itself is a good thing, but it led to this same deception that the sheep where not able to be lead properly without their wise leadership. Many became obsessed with their “flock”, and became the sole answer for their “sheep”. If their sheep saw something in the shepherd’s leadership that was a flaw and tried to bring that to the light, or if they wanted to leave to go to another “flock”, then it went very badly for the “sheep”, usually ending in excommunication.

It continues to pop up today in the name of “spiritual covering”. The idea is that if I don’t have a local church’s “covering” or “my pastor’s blessing”, I am now out from under cover, in rebellion, and I’ll have a large ringed target with bull’s eye in the middle on my back for the enemy to shoot me down. In my opinion, this is a manipulative fear tactic, which has nothing to do with the fear of the Lord.

In addition to submitting my life to my husband, I have several mothers and fathers in the faith who I go to for spiritual counsel. All of these walk in a high level of love and submission to others, but not all of them have a traditional, local church leadership that they are “covered by”. I’ve watched their lives of service, and have seen them operating in great spiritual authority and power from the Lord. Why? Because they serve, love, and submit themselves mutually to the other believers. They aren’t rebellious, because Papa has led them to do “church” outside of the traditional church walls.

I’m not saying that I don’t submit myself to my leadership, whether in government, business, or church. But submitting, looks like honor. Honor means I listen and value what you have to say. Some examples would be obeying the laws of the land or not stealing from my employer, because I do my work as unto the Lord, not to a man.

In the body of Christ though, submission is always two ways. Honor is both ways. There is no where in scripture where I see a separation between the leadership and the congregation in the body of Christ. We mutually should pray for one another and cover each other in love, for love covers a multitude of sins. It’s a family, with our arms locked walking in unity together. There is leadership, of course, but the leadership is to bring direction.

In a sense, my husband should represent the covering of Jesus, because the husband in the relationship of family is supposed to represent how Jesus loves, covers, and cares for the bride. In fact, I love it when my husband represents Jesus well, and I love to submitting to his leadership. There are times that he makes mistakes, and is human. That doesn’t negate me honoring him, but I may have to share some truth in love. We are in covenant with each other. He doesn’t kick me out if I mess up, and I don’t up leave when he is less than Jesus. We work this thing out together, mutually, in a covenant relationship. Many times in the church, sadly, it’s not that way.

I love the pastors at our church, but they, like us all, are fallible humans. They can’t be my go-between between me and God. If they are, they become my mini-god. I love them. I honor them. I love it when they love and honor me. I love it when they care for me. But they were not meant to be my covering, or my protection. God alone is that. We were meant to be a family. When I put the leadership in that position in my heart, I believe, that it is idolatry.

In Psalms 91, the psalmist is talking about running to the covering and protection of the God of the universe alone, and it is God who covers us with His feathers, under His wings. He is my High Tower. I run to Him! The promise is if I dwell in His shelter, in the secret place of the most High, that I’ll be under His care, and His protection. It’s is from abiding in Him, where we receive that promise.

The body of Jesus Christ is a bride, a family, and a priesthood. We mutually cover one another in love. We serve each other, giving our lives for the sake of another’s well-being. The ones who align themselves with the heart of the Father, loving and giving their lives like Jesus did, will operate in the highest authority and power.

I think Romans 12 says it best, because it speaks to how we should live as the body of Christ. If we will do this chapter well, everything else will follow.

Romans 12 NAB

Sacrifice of Body and Mind. 1 I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. 2Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Many Parts in One Body. 3 For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned. 4 For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, 5so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; 7if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; 8if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Mutual Love. 9Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. 11Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.19Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”20Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” 21Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

The Upside Down Kingdom -Pt 1

The kings and men of authority in this world rule oppressively over their subjects, claiming that they do it for the good of the people. They are obsessed with how others see them. But this is not your calling. You will lead by a different model. The greatest among you will live as one called to serve others without honor. The greatest honor and authority is reserved for the one who has a servant heart. The leaders who are served are the most important in your eyes, but in the kingdom, it is the servants who lead. Am I not here with you as one who serves you? Luke 22:25-27 TPT

Sleepily, I rubbed my eyes and with blurry vision glanced over at the clock. 3:00 AM again. I sighed. In my mind, I heard the faint whisper, “Luke 22:25”. Reluctantly, I fumble for my phone, tap the screen, and begin scrolling through my apps to find my Bible icon to search for the reference I’ve just heard, while trying not to wake my sleeping husband.

Born into a pastor’s home, I have grown up in church my whole life. Sometimes that’s been a positive thing, and sometimes not. Through the years, I’ve seen many leadership models, programs, and church structures come and go. Friends have questioned me again and again as to why I’ve stayed in the organized, corporate church for I’ve had every reason to walk away. In truth, I have, but “Papa” loves people. He loves His body, and He compels me to stay. I used to be afraid of being outside a local body, because I was raised in a fear-gospel that was far from being good news, but now I don’t stay out of fear. I stay, because I love Him, and I love people. It is family to me.

My paradigms about “organized church” have been shifting though. His kingdom is an upside down one. My three o’clock revelation was one such moment.

Cultural systems typically fall into a pyramid-like structure. Many people at the bottom that support the few or the one at the top. The top is commonly somehow “elite”, “set apart”, and in many cases “untouchable”. Think “Pharoah”.

People also tend to want to put leaders on pedestals. Throughout all of history, this is the model that government, business, and even most of the time, “church”, has fallen under. Many times we look to the “man of God” to solve our problems, to be our “priest” between God and us. It’s more comfortable to send someone else to go on our behalf to the mountain of God than to go ourselves, because it doesn’t require much of us. Unfortunately, this fosters a welfare mentality, even in the church.

Every structure will have some resemblance to the pyramid model. We function best in a social environments with leaders. Cultural systems through out all history have some form of leadership. Even when the system was nomadic, there would be a clan or family head. The family unit is God’s idea, with the father at the head, then the mother beside him, and the children around them. Even God’s kingdom, is just that, it is a kingdom. He is the “King of Kings”. It’s not a democracy. It’s not a republic. It’s a monarchy.

There are aspects of the Kingdom of God though, that I think we should try looking at a little differently. Perhaps flipping that pyramid upside down would help us to have a better understanding.

The Jews in Jesus’s day were under the thumb of Caesar, a self proclaimed “god”. Generations before, the Jews had sought “a King” to rule over them, instead of choosing into the God of the universe being a King and them being “royal priests unto Him”. When Messiah appeared on the scene, they were looking for a dictatorship. They wanted a King, like King David, to come and rescue them from all their enemies. When Jesus came as a servant, they just had no way of wrap their minds around that concept. A servant King made no sense to them.

On a weekend excursion, my family found ourselves peering up at the most amazing tree I’ve think I’ve ever seen, the Angel Oak, the icon of Charleston. As I pondered it’s massive trunk, and hundreds of branches that reached out mangling in all directions, pushing outward, and upward like octopus arms weaving in and out, up and down grasping for sunlight, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. “This is like a family structure.”

I pondered what I felt He was saying. The trunk of the tree is at the bottom, supporting the branches with life giving flow. It serves the rest of the tree, by supporting it with it’s deep, deep root system, sucking life from the soil and stabilizing the massive body of the tree that rises above it. It’s the lowest to the ground, the most massive part of the tree, but not more important than the rest, though it is vital to the tree’s survival. It holds up the rest of the tree, so that the tree can flourish.

Jesus came to serve, to lay down His life for His children, so that He could win us back. The leadership model He leaves us with is very different than what we would expect. According to the verse from Luke holding a title in the church doesn’t equal authority in the kingdom of God.

We are to honor those whom God places in authority, absolutely. In fact, the word tells us to honor each other, to and love each other regardless of title, especially in the family of God. Honestly, we don’t really have a good grid for honor in our culture. Honor means I put extreme value on a person or thing. I treat it as precious.

There are times though that I’ve seen more spiritual authority operating in an unnoticed mama of babies who tirelessly serves her family or a forgotten elderly man who has spent countless hours on his knees in prayer, than in some church leadership. Why?

God doesn’t look at things the same way man does. He looks at the heart of the person, the way that person served others, laying down their lives for those around them. He gives authority to those who walk in humility, honor, love, who serve well, and forgive well. Authority doesn’t always look like a title or a position.

The offices of pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet, and apostle were meant to serve the body until we all become mature enough to step into a priestly role in unity. And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ. These grace ministries will function until we all attain oneness into the faith, until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God, and finally we become one into a perfect man with the full dimensions of spiritual maturity and fully developed into the abundance of Christ. Ephesians 4:12–13 TPT

Have you ever read what a true apostle looked like? These are Paul’s word describing the office of apostle:  It seems to me that God has appointed us apostle to be at the end of the line. We are like those on display at the end of the procession, as doomed gladiators soon to be killed. We have become theatrical spectacle to all creation, both to people and to angels. We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ! We are frail; you are powerful. You are celebrated; we are humiliated. If you could see us now, you’d find that we are hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, brutally treated, and with no roof over our heads. We work hard, toiling with our own hands. When people abuse and insult us, we respond with a blessing, and when severally persecuted, we endure it with patience. When we are slandered incessantly, we always answer gently, ready to reconcile. Even now, in the world’s opinion, we are nothing but filth and the lowest scum. 1 Corinthians 4: 9-13 TPT In other words, I don’t think most of us would run for the office of “apostle”, if that’s what we thought it would be like.

Even the prophet, Samuel, when examining the sons of Jesse, thought surely he’d hit the jack pot with this fine line of robust young men, but God said no to them all. They summoned the ruddy, runt of the pack, the simple shepherd boy in from the field, and God said, “Yes. That’s my man.” He also proceeded to tell Samuel that He doesn’t look at man’s outward appearance like we do, but He looks at the heart. Most of the time, the girls of the family were the shepherds in Jewish culture, so David actually worked a lowly position in the eyes of his family. Some believe he was given the job, because he was a half-brother. Whatever the reason, he was not the favored son of his father by any means. But he was God’s favorite.

So, elders in the early church, what was their function? Well, initially, they were called to distribute money, food, etc. to help the poor, the elderly, the widows and children. Jesus said that undefiled religion is this, that you care for the orphans and the widows. Their function was to care for the body.

In 1 Corinthians 12 TPT, Paul talks about the parts of the body of Christ. He says, In fact, the weaker our parts, the more vital and essential they are. The parts we think are less honorable, we treat with greater respect. And the body parts that need to be covered in public we treat with propriety and clothe them… God has mingled the body parts together, giving greater honor to the ‘lesser’ members who lacked it. There is no hierarchy here. No line between the church leadership and the congregation.

He continues to talk about the spiritual gifts and offices, but at the end says that He will now show us a more excellent way.  In 1 Corinthians 13, he talks about that way. It’s the way of love. For all our prophecy, words of knowledge, titles, spiritual giftings, and positions will amount to nothing if we don’t have love. Agape love. In fact, many will stand before the King and have done many “good works”, but the “Righteous Judge” will say, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”

Leadership is valuable and needed, but maybe our view of the body needs to shift a bit. Spiritual authority is given to those who serve others the best with the right heart. If we will be like our blessed Savior, walking in the kind of love He did, we will be great in His kingdom. That matters to me far more than any title or position. We will be like the tree planted by the streams of living water, stable, full of life and vitality with deep roots and supporting many branches, helping others receive from the life giving Son, and bearing much fruit for the kingdom!

Heaven’s Heartbeat

Blessed Christmas to you and yours!

In the video below,  Heaven’s Heartbeat, Mercedes Lambey of Kabod International has summed up the gospel from the perspective of Christmas. Mercedes has graciously allowed me to share with you.

I am blessed to have entwined my heart with the mother/daughter team, Lisa Gotz & Mercedez Lambey of Kabod International. These precious women and their families have been missionaries to the nation of Belize for 14 years and see the gospel changing many lives, including their own, everyday.  Take a listen to Heaven’s Heartbeat:

In a nation deemed, “The Fatherless Nation”, Kabod is introducing many of the Father’s precious children to His loving embrace. Click to GIVE to the ministry of Kabod International; restoring a nation to the heart of their true Father.

Follow Kabod International on Instagram too.

Many blessings to you and yours in 2019!  Thank you for following http://www.WholeHeartedWomen.org!

 

One Quiet Night…

Caked in bloody fluid, innocent flesh wiggled it’s way out of the constricting canal. Calloused, leathery fingers gently, but firmly grasped the matted, black hair and twisted the head back and forth to aid his arrival. With lungs bursting full of fluid, the newborn fearfully gasped to fill his chest with his first breath. Fear. For the first time, fear had overwhelmed the tiny form, a completely foreign feeling.

Wails of a baby’s first cry filled the square, adobe-like walls, as anxious bystanders peered over the worn mother’s limp shoulders to a get a glimpse at the newborn now being held high in his father’s burly hands. “My first born, son!” cried the father, but “the knowing” convicted his heart as he declared the words.

“He looks like his mother.” whispered an aunt to her daughter peeking through the narrow doorway that lead to the rooms upstairs, where the relatives crammed into the one guest room of the family abode. Overcrowded conditions had forced the young couple into the quarters were the animals were kept.

“How can you be sure who the father is?” jabbed a cousin from behind a pulled, tattered curtain. The new mother’s cheeks burned red. A lamb bleated for milk dripping from the nearby nipple of the ewe. The infant’s eyes blinked open at his mother’s sigh of embarrassment, but all he could see was blurry shadows. A land filled with shadows. He had known no shadows before now.

The father placed the screaming baby in the gentle arms of his mother. Blood smeared across her cheek, as she kissed his forehead. Born in blood. Skin to skin.

The warmth calmed the baby’s cries, as the father grabbed his freshly sharpened dagger tucked tightly in the worn leather belt that hung from his hip. He quickly grabbed the umbilical in his hand and sliced the life flowing connection between mother and son. Though not painful, the boy knew He was now separated from everything He had known before.

A new, gnawing sensation overcame him. Hunger. Again, a foreign feeling. Tears filled his clear, brown eyes, as he began to whimper and then nuzzle, his perfect lips sucking her skin searching for nourishment. The mother quickly pulled him to her engorged breast, as the tingling sensation of milk flowing surged. Quickly, the suckling soothed his tummy’s growl with the life–sustaining gold, as richness dripped from the corners of his mouth. Contentment spread over his tiny frame, while a sense of wonder filled his mother.

A warm, wet cloth enveloped the baby’s limbs one by one, leaving a clean coolness on his skin. Then strips of muslin were wound around and around with his arms and legs tucked up against his body, constricting and confining his movements. “How can the one who created the universe be confined in flesh?” thought the mother.

“What’s his name?” came the gruff voice of an uncle from across the room.

“Jesus. His name is Jesus.” Joseph simply stated.

The uncle shook his head in disgust. “Couldn’t even give him a family name? Maybe the rumors are true. But why didn’t he just put her away quietly?” he thought to himself.

The baby knowing the condemning thoughts, glanced in the direction of the Uncle. Sadness rose. “What is this feeling, Abba? Abba? Am I all alone now? Do you hear me?” he thought.

A still voice from within whispered, “I’m right here, my son. Yes, you will now know sadness. You will be known as a man of grief. You will feel this often.” Again, a tear appeared in the corner of his eye, while two rams with manure caked bellies butted each other in the corner.

Cradled against the smooth skin of his mother, he drew a deep breath of air mingled with the musty scent of dirt, hay, lanolin, dung, and a pot of stew brewing upstairs. His eye lids grew heavy. He blinked to stay awake, but finally he gave in to sleep. While rocking and singing a soothing Hebrew lullaby sung throughout generations, his body went limp in his mother’s embrace. His breathing slowed and deepened.

Her voice trailed off, “numi numi k’tanati, numi numi nim!”(sleep, sleep, my little one, sleep, sleep) The aunt shushed those remaining in the room sending them upstairs and off to bed.

The mother and father stared at the child resting in her arms. “How can this be?” she thought. “The Holy, I Am, asleep in my arms?” She turned her face towards her young, betrothed husband. “How can this be?”

A gentle knock came to the door. “Who could it be this late in the evening?” said Joseph. The thought of a cruel Roman soldier demanding a loaf of bread flew through his mind. Seething, his heart beat quickened and sweat beaded across his tanned forehead. He moved quickly to avert the intruders, before they woke the baby.

Reluctantly, the beaming face of a young shepherdess appeared in the darkened doorway. Light shone from her eyes as fire from within danced. Several other shepherdess crowded in behind her, pushing to see in.

“We’ve come to see the baby.” the leader of the small band breathlessly declared.

“The baby? How did you know?” Joseph stood motionless for a moment. “Well. Come in. Come in. Of course, you can see the baby.”

A tale of a host of angels appearing in the sky announcing the birth of Messiah tumbled from their trembling lips all at once. “We left our sheep in the field, and ran to where the new star showed us.”

“The new star?” questioned Joseph. He ran outside to see for himself this miracle. With his head cocked backward, a glorious light shone above the Bethlehem home streaming beams of light like a beacon down to earth.

As the young girl cautiously approached Mary, the baby stirred. “Come. Come and see Messiah.”

Jesus awoke staring into the face of a child not many years older than he. The young girl smiled, touching his cheek softly. “A baby. Messiah comes as a baby.” She turned to Mary. “The angel said, ‘Fear not. For I bring you tidings of great joy.’” She turned back to look into the gentle eyes. “Messiah.” With a hand on her heart, she stepped back for the others to see.

Great joy and compassion filled the heart of the baby, as he watched each shepherdess stare in wonder. “For these, Abba? I’ve come for these?”

“Yes, my son, for the least of these. They are ready to receive you.” came the whisper inside again.

“Abba, will all receive me as these precious ones?”

“No, my son, many will reject you. You will rejected by many in Israel. But not all.”

The door closed behind the young girls as they rushed into the night to tell others of the wonders they had just witnessed. As the story was retold to many unexpecting bystanders, the story of angels appearing to lowly shepherds many wondered what could this miracle mean.

“Joseph, we need a place for Jesus to sleep.” Mary meekly reminded her husband.

“Of course, my dove. Of course.” He quickly looked around the room to see what he could use. The only thing suitable was a feed trough for the animals. He sighed. “Why couldn’t Messiah have been born in a palace or to rich people? He is the King.” Joseph shook his head in dismay.

“I am not fit to be the father of Messiah.” This time Joseph spoke to the ceiling.

“What is this feeling, Abba?” thought Jesus.

“That is the feeling of guilt and condemnation. Our enemy’s finest weapons. Many will use that against you. One day you will bear all their guilt, my son.”

Jesus let out a small whimper at the thought. Mary checked his cloths. “Time to change him. I’ll take care of Jesus, my husband. You prepare his bed.”

The leg of the feed trough was loose, so Joseph being a good carpenter always carried a nail and hammer in his cloak pocket. Resourcefully, he pulled out his tools and hammered the nail into the wooden plank holding up the trough. Bang! His hammer missed the mark smashing his thumb.

“Ouch!” He flung his injured finger back, then thrust it in his mouth sucking on it. Silently, he whispered curses under his breath. I can not even get the manger fixed right!”

The sound of the hammer hitting the nail and thrusting through the wood alarmed Jesus. As his father cursed in pain, a sharp sensation jabbed through the baby’s own wrist. An image of the nail being thrust through his tender flesh flashed across his mind. He wailed, as his mama patted dry his behind and wrapped him tightly in clean cloths again.

“Abba, is it true? Is that what I’ve come to do?”

“Son, you’ve come to lay down your life, so that they can be free. I love them, my son, it is the only way.”

A lamb bleated, Jesus turned to look to see where the noise had come from. “Like a little, innocent lamb, Abba?”

“Like a little, innocent lamb, my son. You will become the sacrifice that takes away the sins of all mankind.”

Joseph finished his work, lay fresh hay in the trough, gently took Jesus from Mary, laid him in the manger. The baby drifted off to sleep again, as the sheep settled around him. Joseph wrapped his arms around his exhausted wife. As she leaned back into his embrace, she too found sleep, while Joseph watchfully guarded the precious treasure that was entrusted to his care. 

For He (the servant of God) grew up before Him like a tender shoot (plant), and like a root out of dry ground; He has no stately form or majestic splendor that we should look at Him, nor (handsome) appearance that would be attracted to Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrow and pain and acquainted with grief; And like One from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him. But (in fact) He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows and pains; Yet we ignorantly assumed that He was stricken, Struck down by God and degraded and humiliated by Him. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our wickedness (our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing); The punishment (required) for our well-being fell on Him, And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed.” Is. 53:2-5

One Quiet Night

Caked in bloody fluid, innocent flesh wiggled it’s way out of the constricting canal. Calloused, leathery fingers gently, but firmly grasped the matted, black hair and twisted the head back and forth to aid his arrival. With lungs bursting full of fluid, the newborn fearfully gasped to fill his chest with his first breath. Fear. For the first time, fear had overwhelmed the tiny form, a completely foreign feeling.

Wails of a baby’s first cry filled the square, adobe-like walls, as anxious bystanders peered over the worn mother’s limp shoulders to a get a glimpse at the newborn now being held high in his father’s burly hands. “My first born, son!” cried the father, but “the knowing” convicted his heart as he declared the words.

“He looks like his mother.” whispered an aunt to her daughter peeking through the narrow doorway that lead to the rooms upstairs, where the relatives crammed into the one guest room of the family abode. Overcrowded conditions had forced the young couple into the quarters were the animals were kept.

“How can you be sure who the father is?” jabbed a cousin from behind a pulled, tattered curtain. The new mother’s cheeks burned red. A lamb bleated for milk dripping from the nearby nipple of the ewe. The infant’s eyes blinked open at his mother’s sigh of embarrassment, but all he could see was blurry shadows. A land filled with shadows. He had known no shadows before now.

The father placed the screaming baby in the gentle arms of his mother. Blood smeared across her cheek, as she kissed his forehead. Born in blood. Skin to skin.

The warmth calmed the baby’s cries, as the father grabbed his freshly sharpened dagger tucked tightly in the worn leather belt that hung from his hip. He quickly grabbed the umbilical in his hand and sliced the life flowing connection between mother and son. Though not painful, the boy knew He was now separated from everything He had known before.

A new, gnawing sensation overcame him. Hunger. Again, a foreign feeling. Tears filled his clear, brown eyes, as he began to whimper and then nuzzle, his perfect lips sucking her skin searching for nourishment. The mother quickly pulled him to her engorged breast, as the tingling sensation of milk flowing surged. Quickly, the suckling soothed his tummy’s growl with the life–sustaining gold, as richness dripped from the corners of his mouth. Contentment spread over his tiny frame, while a sense of wonder filled his mother.

A warm, wet cloth enveloped the baby’s limbs one by one, leaving a clean coolness on his skin. Then strips of muslin were wound around and around with his arms and legs tucked up against his body, constricting and confining his movements. “How can the one who created the universe be confined in flesh?” thought the mother.

“What’s his name?” came the gruff voice of an uncle from across the room.  “Jesus. His name is Jesus.” Joseph simply stated.

The uncle shook his head in disgust. “Couldn’t even give him a family name? Maybe the rumors are true. But why didn’t he just put her away quietly?” he thought to himself.

The baby knowing the condemning thoughts, glanced in the direction of the Uncle. Sadness rose. “What is this feeling, Abba? Abba? Am I all alone now? Do you hear me?” he thought.

A still voice from within whispered, “I’m right here, my son. Yes, you will now know sadness. You will be known as a man of grief. You will feel this often.” Again, a tear appeared in the corner of his eye, while two rams with manure caked bellies butted each other in the corner.

Cradled against the smooth skin of his mother, he drew a deep breath of air mingled with the musty scent of dirt, hay, lanolin, dung, and a pot of stew brewing upstairs. His eye lids grew heavy. He blinked to stay awake, but finally he gave in to sleep. While rocking and singing a soothing Hebrew lullaby sung throughout generations, his body went limp in his mother’s embrace. His breathing slowed and deepened.

Her voice trailed off, “numi numi k’tanati, numi numi nim!” (sleep, sleep, my little one, sleep, sleep, sleep!). The aunt shushed those remaining in the room sending upstairs and off to bed.

The mother and father stared at the child resting in her arms. “How can this be?” she thought. “The Holy, Great I Am, asleep in my arms?” She turned her face towards her young, betrothed husband. “How can this be?she thought. “The Holy, Great I Am, asleep in my arms?” She turned her face towards her young, betrothed husband. “How can this be?” she whispered.

A gentle knock came to the door. “Who could it be this late in the evening?” said Joseph.  The thought of a cruel Roman soldier demanding a loaf of bread flew through his mind. Seething, his heart beat quickened and sweat beaded across his tanned forehead. He moved quickly to avert the intruders, before they woke the baby.

Reluctantly, the beaming face of a young shepherdess appeared in the darkened doorway. Light shone from her eyes as fire from within danced. Several other shepherdess crowded in behind her, pushing to see in.

“We’ve come to see the baby.” the leader of the small band breathless declared.

“The baby? How did you know/?” Joseph stood motionless for a moment. “Well. Come in. Come in. Of course, you can see the baby.”

A tale of a host of angels appearing in the sky announcing the birth of Messiah tumbled from their trembling lips all at once. “We left our sheep in the field, and ran to where the new star showed us.”

“The new star?” questioned Joseph. He ran outside to see for himself this miracle. With his head cocked backward, a glorious light shone above the Bethlehem home streaming beams of light like a beacon down to earth.

As the young girl cautiously approached Mary, the baby stirred. “Come. Come and see Messiah.”

He awoke staring into the face of a child not many years older than he. The young girl smiled, touching his cheek softly. “A baby. Messiah comes as a baby.” She turned to Mary. “The angel said, ‘Fear not. For I bring you tidings of great joy.’” She turned back to look into the gentle eyes. “Messiah.”  With a hand on her heart, she stepped back for the others to see.

Great joy and compassion filled the heart of the baby, as he watched each shepherdess stare in wonder. “For these, Abba? I’ve come for these?”

“Yes, my son, for the least of these. They are ready to receive you.” came the whisper inside again.

“Abba, will all receive me as these precious ones?”

“No, my son, many will reject you. You will rejected by many in Israel. But not all.”

The door closed behind the young girls as they rushed into the night to tell others of the wonders they had just witnessed. As the story was retold to many unexpecting bystanders, the story of angels appearing to lowly shepherds, many wondered what could this miracle mean.

“Joseph, we need a place for Jesus to sleep.” Mary meekly reminded her husband.

“Of course, my dove. Of course.” He quickly looked around the room to see what he could use. The only thing suitable was a feeding trough for the animals. He sighed. “Why couldn’t Messiah have been born in a palace or to rich people? He is the King.” Joseph shook his head in dismay.

I am not fit to be the father of Messiah.” This time Joseph spoke to the ceiling.

“What is this feeling, Abba?” thought Jesus.

That is the feeling of guilt and condemnation. Our enemy’s finest weapons. Many will use that against you. One day you will bear all their guilt, my son.”

Jesus let out a small whimper at the thought. Mary checked his cloths. “Time to change him. I’ll take care of Jesus, my husband. You prepare his bed.”

The leg of the feeding trough was loose, so Joseph being a good carpenter always carried a nail and hammer in his cloak pocket. Resourcefully, he pulled out his tools and hammered the nail into the wooden plank holding up the trough. Bang! His hammer missed the mark smashing his thumb.

“Ouch!” He flung his injured finger back, then thrust it in his mouth sucking on it. Silently, he whispered curses under his breath. “I can not even get the manger fixed right!”

The sound of the hammer hitting the nail and thrusting through the splintered wood alarmed Jesus. As his father cursed in pain, a sharp sensation jabbed through the baby’s own wrist. An image of the nail being thrust through his tender flesh flashed across his mind. He wailed, as his mama patted dry his behind and wrapped him tightly in clean cloths again.

“Abba, is it true? Is that what I’ve come to do?”

Son, you’ve come to lay down your life, so that they can be free. I love them, my son, it is the only way.”

A lamb bleated beside him.. Jesus turned to look to see where the noise had come from. “Like a little, innocent lamb, Abba?”

“Like a little, innocent lamb, my son. You will become the sacrifice that takes away the sins of all mankind.”

Joseph finished his work, lay fresh hay in the trough, gently took Jesus from Mary, and laid him in the manger.  The baby drifted off to sleep again, as the sheep settled around him. Joseph wrapped his arms around his exhausted wife.  As she leaned back into his embrace, she too found sleep, while Joseph watchfully guarded the precious treasure that was entrusted to his care.

“For He (the servant of God) grew up before Him like a tender shoot (plant), and like a root out of dry ground; He has no stately form or majestic splendor that we should look at Him, nor (handsome) appearance that would be attracted to Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrow and pain and acquainted with grief; And like One from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him. But (in fact) He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows and pains; Yet we ignorantly assumed that He was stricken, Struck down by God and degraded and humiliated by Him. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our wickedness (our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing); The punishment (required) for our well-being fell on Him, And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed.” Is. 53:2-5

Fingers, Toes, Lips…

Have you ever fallen in love and become so passionately in love with the object of your desire that you want to mingle all of you with all of them? This is the essence of sexual attraction right? When we fall in love we desire to be one with our beloved. We want to connect fingers, toes, lips and every part in between to our counterpart in such a way that the line between us and them disappears. That is the consummation of intimacy.

Recently, not for the first time I heard Bethel’s Bill Johnson talk about the often quoted phrase people use when they want to say that they need to be more Christlike and less fleshly as they work for the Lord. They paraphrase John the Baptist as they say, ‘More of you Lord and less of me.’

Bill has a funny comeback to that phrase because he feels it is a misunderstanding of how God sees us. He says he imagines God hearing us say that and saying in response, “I don’t want less of you. I had less of you before I made you and I didn’t like it.”

This morning as I heard Bill say that, I had a realization that God is in search of greater intimacy between us and Him. To say that in love making I want less of me and more of my husband would be just weird. It would leave him ultimately alone and without the object of his passion. Not to be weird, but the same is true of our intimacy with God. To say more of you and less of me removes the “me” part of the relationship of intimacy that God is after.

I think God actually wants ALL of me and ALL of Him to co-mingle. He made me and you uniquely different from one another. When I give all of me and work together with Him in unity of Spirit, the result is unique. It cannot be reproduced by His union with anyone else. If I give of my true self and give ALL that I have to the work He sets before me, THEN He is satisfied and pleased at our union. He gets to enjoy the unique “me” He created me to be.

Similarly it has become a bit of a thorn in my side to hear fellow believers say, “Use me Lord” or, “I just want the Lord to use me…” Again if I apply this phrase to my relationship with my husband, it gets kind of weird in a hurry. I don’t think the Lord wants to “use” us. In this analogy of intimacy, that would be likening us to a prostitute, not a bride. I think the Lord loves to partner with us in our work for Him and with Him. He comes along side, He goes before us and behind us. He sets us up for success, and when we obey He calls it our win!

On the contrary, when I say less of me and all of You, I am waiting on God to fulfill both parts of the relationship and consummation is not possible.

If in human covenant the Lord designed us to desire oneness with the object of our love, is it too much to think that His love for us means that He desires to have His forehead to my forehead, His nose to my nose, His fingers to my fingers, His toes to my toes?

All of me and All of You Lord!

Precious Words

Have you ever looked out of an airplane window and marveled at how small the people, cars and buildings are down there. In fact, it doesn’t take long to get high enough that you can’t make out the people at all, even though you are still well within the atmosphere of the earth. When I was young, on one of my first flights, I quickly took this revelation of my smallness and expanded on it to think, how small I am from the perspective of space, just outside our atmosphere, and then from the perspective of God who is far beyond the outer reaches of space.

When you get a few minutes, about 8 minutes actually, check out this video, Our God Is Indescribable by Louie Giglio. Louie takes this little revelation and makes it visual for us.

Dame Julian of Norwich was a 14th century saint whom Catholics would call a mystic, but us Charismatics would call prophetic. Simply put, she was a woman who was in constant conversation with God. During one of her many “shewings” the Lord showed her all of Creation…ALL of Creation, contained in something the size of a hazelnut. Here is a quote from her writing entitled, “All Shall Be Well,”

“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.”

— Julian of Norwich

In the book she goes on to describe how God holds this little hazelnut, ALL of Creation, in His pocket and cares for it, because He loves it.

Over the years since I first read the book that came from her journals, I have marveled at the fact that God loves us. That He has relationship with us, conversation with us, that He knows the full content of our thoughts, emotions, history, future, the number of hairs on each of our heads.

Recently, as I sat in a lovely shaft of light coming in the window of our home, I saw the many little particles of dust that I could only see because the light was shining on them as they drifted by. It occurred to me that God’s relationship to us humans could be likened, quite literally, to me having an intimate, lifelong relationship to each particle of dust in my house.

If I knew the deepest thoughts, longings of heart, questions of the soul, desires, loves, wounds, pleasures, memories, dreams, favorite relationships, every relationship, every word, every thought, every breath and which would be its last, the number of days of its life on earth, every detail of the life of this speck of dust. If I cared deeply about all of that, so much so that I would lay down my own life for that speck of dust to live and be free. If I communicated in every possible way to the speck of dust and told it how I see it through my eyes of love and if I spoke life and a future to it and I did this with every speck of dust in the universe of my house and then did ALL so that each speck could live with me forever in intimate relationship, this would be a little bit like what God has done for us, each of us, the dust He formed and then breathed His life into.

In this light, consider that the God of the Universe, the Maker of all that is, the Lord of Heavens Armies, I AM, speaks to me and to you. That He cares enough to speak life to us, to prophesy our lives and tell us of the good plans He has for us so that we have hope.

Consider that this same God gives us commands, assignments, and requests. I find that first amazing, but then too, somewhat daunting. This BIG God trusts me with the other specks of dust whom He loves and cares for too. This BIG God has called out a destiny for my speck of a life and He desires to see that destiny fulfilled…AND, He gives me a CHOICE about whether or not I obey Him! That might be the most amazing thing of all!

Recently I talked with a friend who was struggling with the bigness of the words that God had spoken to her. It just seemed too much for her to believe she could work that out in her lifetime. Actually, SHE can’t. It is often the case that the word of the Lord to us brings up in our minds (and too often out of our mouths,) the negative self-talk that we see Gideon display in Judges 6. But the truth is if we are not agreeing with God and partnering with Him toward the words He has said are for us, then we are partnering with the enemy instead against our own destiny. In that moment, it is our role to help our friends see themselves through the Father’s eyes and agree with who He says they are. My friend is a mighty warrior like Gideon. Her life doesn’t currently fulfill all of what God sees, so she was struggling, but I’m pretty sure, and now so is she, that He is probably right. 😄 We are practicing together to speak the truth and hold each other accountable to our true identity in Christ.

Most of us at times care deeply for the opinion of some of the other specks of dust in our lives, and yet, we often receive a word from God and either deny it or forget it just as quickly.

Until a few years ago, I had only learned how to give a prophetic word; how to hear from God and translate it into a word of edification, encouragement, or guidance for someone else. However I had not been taught what to do with those same kinds of words when they were given to me. If we assume that they are initiated by the Holy Spirit, then they are God-generated and therefore valuable. Shouldn’t we steward these words and cherish every word to us much-loved specks from the lips of our glorious God?

What would it look like if I truly believed that the destiny and plans that God has spoken forth for my life would come to pass? What would it look like if His words to me are precious? If I know and believe that God is not a man so He doesn’t lie, nor a son of man so He doesn’t change His mind,” (Numbers 23:19) what steps would I take toward the truth of His word? How would my prayer life change? Would I be constantly inquiring of the Lord for the next step, and then the next one? Would I stop worrying about whether or not it seemed right to anyone else in my life. Would I stop worrying, and instead, in times when the dream looks like it is on its last legs, proclaim from my mouth what God has said instead?

In the vastness of God’s plan, His design of all that is, He has a dream in His heart for my life and your life, because He loves us and He loves those He will touch through us. If we’re listening, He shares His dream with me and with you. In that moment of receiving His precious words, His dream for my life, my own words fail me. But when my voice returns, the most important thing I can say is, “Yes Papa, I agree with you. I don’t know how to get there, but I trust you.”

The Wilted Rose

Aimlessly, I wove in and out of the rows of rose bushes in one of the grandest gardens in our country, the Biltmore Gardens. A dear friend, who breathes flowers, trees, and anything green, had tagged along, as I had invited her to join my family on our afternoon excursion knowing how much it would bring her joy. My hopes had been that the roses would still be in full bloom, but they had begun their seasonal dying off process. Instead of vibrant pinks, yellows, reds, and fiery oranges, fading colors with browning edges and wilting petals surrounded us.

My heart sank with sadness and disappointment at the changing of the season, the dying off of the old to make way for something new. I couldn’t see beyond the present decaying process, but my friend on the other hand almost skipped through the garden enjoying the beauty that still lingered and anticipating the new life on the horizon.

My eyes brimmed with tears that rolled hot down my cheeks. “What’s wrong?” my friend sensitively inquired.  “It’s my grandma. I keep thinking of her as I’m walking among these roses. I thought they’d still be in full bloom, but they, like my grandma, are at the end of their life.” I paused and took a deep breath of the lingering fragrance. “I’m also disappointed you didn’t get to see them in their glory.”

I looked away to hide the embarrassment of my flowing tears and red, swollen eyes. My friend swung her arm around my shoulder, comforting me with all the right words about why seasons must change, and how this has to happen for there to be new growth, new life. The seed must fall to the ground and die for new things to spring forth.

Two weeks ago, the seed finally fell. My heart broke, as I threw a single, red rose on my grandma’s coffin awaiting her burial in the freshly dug earth. Even when death was expected, necessary, and even in some sense a relief because she is no longer in pain and with Jesus instead; still it has left a hole in my heart.

I’ve been met with many comments of well meaning friends. Some have offered comfort, and some have added salt in the wound. In our American culture, we simply don’t handle the topic well at all. Most want to ignore the idea of death altogether, as if we will live eternally here. Our spirits do live eternally either in heaven or hell, but our bodies will die, until Jesus makes that right.

Others just want you to move on with it, saying: “What’s done is done.” “She’s in a better place.” “You should be happy for her!” Only a few weep and mourn with you, as Jesus would. Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”Jesus didn’t say don’t mourn.In fact, He put value on it, and gives us hope on the other side of it, “you will be comforted.” In Jewish culture, they even had professional mourners who would come to add to the affect.

Even though it was never God’s original intent that anything or anyone die, He uses it to birth beautiful things, and somehow, He values the mourning process, because He calls us blessed when we have to walk through it.

Faithfully, Papa places people in our lives that we need at the right times. My grandmother was one of those special people. From the time she first cuddled me in her arms, I knew she loved me and was safe in her embrace. As I grew up, it was her house I longed to be at for it was a haven from the life of traumatic chaos I had at home.

Obviously she had her own woundedness to work through, as she had been raised in some extremely abusive environments herself. Many times, she told me stories of her and her half sister hiding under their front porch when her drunken stepmother would come home from the local bar. They were afraid of what she might do to them. She also shared heart warming stories of kind nurses who taught her how to make a bed with hospital corners, as she spent two years in hospitals recovering from a broken arm that left her crippled for the rest of her life.

As I’ve contemplated her influence in my life, I’ve realized that most of the things I now love, came from her in some way. My love for prayer, writing, painting, and even my professional choice of teaching came from summers I’d spent with her talking, dreaming, and creating on her back porch on the side of a mountain. If it weren’t for her intercession over my life, and the safe, loving environment she offered me, I know I’d not be here. She was the first on my mother’s side to accept Christ and thus change the course of generations.

Legacy. She left a legacy with her life of faithful love. Few came to her funeral, an unsung hero, but she did not go unnoticed in the courts of heaven.

Once, I asked Papa about eternity, and He told me that trying to understand eternity was like trying to look at the world through a knothole in a wooden fence. We simply can’t understand all the why’s of life, joy, love, sorrow, suffering, eternity. And yet He takes my hand, inviting me to trust Him to make something beautiful of my sometimes-muddled life.  He makes beauty out of this ball of clay.

I wince at the pain of loving, but loving is better than the alternative. Feeling better than numbness. I’ve lived in the numbness for decades, but this time, in this season, I feel. And Jesus sits with me in the waves of emotion that seem to overwhelm me in the moment. This time, I’m not afraid of being sucked under, but I sit with Him in it, like a child with her daddy sitting on the edge of the sandy beach with the waves washing over us.

I look in His eyes of compassion, and I hear Him say, “One day, dear one, you will understand. One day, you will see fully. For now, sit with me here, for blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted.” I see a glimmer of delight and joy in His eyes, as He says the words. In it, I don’t understand all His purposes or ways, but here with Him I’ll sit, til it’s time to go play in the waves with Him again.

My mom handed me a plain envelope today with my name scribbled on the outside. My grandma had left me a poem written by her. I leave it with you.

I’ve traveled paths you’ve yet to walk

Learned lessons old and new

And now this wisdom of my life

I’m blessed to leave with you.

Let kindness spread like sunshine

Embrace those who are sad

Respect their dignity; give them joy

And leave them feeling glad.

Forgive those who might hurt you

And though you have your pride

Listen closely to their viewpoint

Try to see the other side.

Walk softly when you’re angry

Try not to take offense

Invoke your sense of humor

Laughter’s power is immense!

Express what you are feeling

Your beliefs you should uphold

Don’t shy away from what is right

Be courageous and be bold

Keep hope right in your pocket

It will guide you day by day

Take it out when it is needed

When it’s near, you’ll find a way

Remember friends and family

Of which you are a precious part

Love deeply and love truly

Give freely from your heart

The world is far from perfect

There’s conflict and there’s strife

But you still can make a difference

By how you live your life.

And so I’m very blessed to know

The wonders you will do

Because you are my granddaughter

And I believe in you.

By Mae Elizabeth Tatum

 

Taking It By Force

Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose fishermen for the majority of his first disciples? Not exactly the most respected, refined, educated group of guys to represent His Kingdom. Then there’s the fragrance! Hmmm?

Today as I was doing some manual labor, the Lord dropped some revelation on me:

Fisherman were tradesman. A fisherman learned his trade by working alongside his Dad or someone who didn’t just tell him about fishing, but showed him how to fish on the job! They were natural hands-on learners.

In our circles, many run to Prophetic conferences and Healing Conferences and Kingdom conferences, and they gain lots of knowledge, but we are not seeing the world turned upside down. I know there are some out there doing the works of Jesus, but compared to the number going to conferences, a meager few.

So, here’s the thing. Jesus had the disciples watch only for so long. Then he sent them out, without him, to DO the works of the Kingdom! This Kingdom lifestyle, it’s hands-on!

No doubt they too were nervous. They weren’t sure they could do what Jesus did so easily. But they stepped up and applied their knowledge and transformed it into experience.

When the 70 were sent out for the first time, they “returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!” Luke 10:17 NIV. They were surprised! They didn’t know if the stuff would “work.” But they went out and gave it a try.

After He sent them out the first time, they worked right alongside him. Sometimes without great success. Even that was a learning experience. (See Mark 9:17-29) Our modern culture likes to have methods. Winging it is worrisome. But when you realize it is not the least bit about you or your performance, it is entirely liberating!

Doing the work of the Kingdom is not about your expertise or your certificate that says you know how to do it. It is about the Holy Spirit demonstrating through you, an earthen vessel, HIS power and love and you demonstrating your faith that He will be there for you. It is about Holy Spirit demonstrating what the finished work of Jesus Christ bought for us; the fullness of salvation.

Here’s the thing, sisters and brothers. If we are given this amazing authority and commanded to go and do everything we have seen Jesus do and we bury it, who can complain that the hospitals are full, our friends and family are suffering from all the works of the enemy and the world is getting worse and worse. It’s on us.

I propose that instead of going to one more conference, you first put to work what you have already received. If you have a Bible and read it, you have enough to get started.

In the ‘Parable of the Talents’ in Luke 19;:11-27 more is given to the one who does something with what they are already given. The one who buried it lost even the little he started with. Jesus has already given us access to the ‘talents’ we are supposed to steward and make multiply. He has given us His authority to heal, to deliver, to cleanse, to raise the dead.

If you want to heal cancer, start praying for someone who has cancer. The worst thing to happen if they are not healed is that they still have cancer. But if, instead, you bury your ‘talent’ and won’t even start there, out of fear that the Lord will punish your imperfection, you won’t ever have something to give him back. That did not end well for the servant in the Parable of the Talents.

The story of Peter and the boys fishing all night is an excellent example of expertise not affecting the outcome. Peter, a professional, earning fisherman is thought to have been a business owner with many boats. This same Peter had been fishing all night, using all his knowledge and experience and yet had caught nothing. Then Jesus came and told him to throw the net on the right side of the boat.

I’m sure Peter was thinking, “Oh! Why didn’t I think of that!? The right side? Brilliant! Thanks Jesus!” By that point he had probably thrown the net from every possible side with no catch. None of his known methods had worked… until, led by the Spirit (who led Jesus), he was astoundingly successful!

What better way to increase the Kingdom than to demonstrate it to the afflicted. The guy who was possessed by a legion of demons got set free and became an instant evangelist. We are not simply healing people, we are enlisting them!

When the 70 returned joyfully elated that even the demons submitted to them in Jesus’ name, he told them not to be amazed, because the greater miracle was their salvation. The victory of Jesus’ suffering and death is already accomplished for us. We need to put our hands forcefully to catching the abundance netted for us in the resurrection.

The enemy is advancing on your family and mine. It is a time to grab hold of all that the Kingdom of Heaven offers to us and to the world. Stay focused on how you have seen the Kingdom of Heaven demonstrated (if only in the Bible). Grab hold of it with your two hands and take it by force!

 

 

Editing God

In the beginning, God was edited. The serpent initiated deception in Genesis 3:1 by asking Eve, “Has God said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’”. The serpent twisted what God spoke to Adam, with a little truth and a lot of lie. The original instruction from God was in Genesis 2, “Of every tree of the garden you may eat freely, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it, or you will die.” Eve counters the serpent with an addition to what the instruction had been, “You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, or you will die.” We have been editing God ever since.

What do I mean by editing God? Editing God is making God in our own image. It’s manipulating or changing what the God of heaven says and does, to fit what makes us comfortable. We pick and choose pieces of His character or parts of the Bible that make us feel good enough, a nice pat on the back, but stay away from the parts that convict us.

A few years ago, my husband and I sat side by side in a Sunday morning church service, as our pastor began his sermon on the Holy Spirit. As he began describing the Holy Spirit, he asked us to imagine the Holy Spirit as a friend standing next to him. He raised his arm in the air, as if to put his arm around his imaginary friend, as he said, “I’ve given the Holy Spirit a new name. His name is Buddy.” He went on to describe friendship with “Buddy”, but the more he spoke the more nauseated I became. Honestly, I thought I would vomit, and it was as if in my head I could hear the boom echo over the speaker system, “The Holy Spirit has left the building.” Within months, we were forced to find another church. Our probably well-meaning pastor placed the precious Holy Spirit in his parameters of “Buddy”, his friend, and it felt like the real person of the Trinity took a polite bow and left. Holy Spirit is my best friend, but He is not my buddy, my home boy. He’s not in any way on the same level as me. Like the rest of the Godhead, He is far above me, and I highly respect and honor His presence, not wanting ever to grieve Him.

Yesterday, my daughter came home from public high school relaying to me the brilliance of her English teacher. In class, they are discussing the Scarlet Letter, so her teacher decided to put the answers to her well thought out questions in a statistics format on the their laptops, allowing each student to remain anonymous. Painfully, my daughter came to the realization that she was in the minute minority on every question asked. Basically, she was one of the three in a class of thirty with any moral compass at all. The overwhelming majority cast their votes to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, as long as it felt good to them. Basically, they wanted to be their own God, and saw no direct consequence to that way of thinking. They couldn’t even begin to understand why someone would want to “do what’s right”, because after all there is no right or wrong.

When we edit God, making Him in our own image, we put ourselves in a place where we become our own God. We craft our own sacred poles (idols) bowing down in worship of an image we’ve constructed. Many would say we have no idols today. The truth is anything we depend on to bring us comfort or to take the place of the true God, becomes an idol. We have placed it as a God in our lives or, at least, an edited version of God,

In my own life, my friendships with others has been the place I’ve run to for safety or comfort instead of to God. As He has shifted many of those relationships in the past year, I’ve found myself an emotional mess, wanting to hold onto things I shouldn’t. I love people, and I want to love like He does, deeply, purely. But when I run to them to fill me instead of Papa, I’ve made them into an idol.

One story that the Holy Spirit has reminded me of a lot lately, is the story of Gideon. When God came to him, the first thing he was instructed to do was to take down the altar of Baal and the sacred pole his father had erected to worship false Gods. God spoke to my heart, “If Gideon would have failed to destroy the altar and pole, he would never have fulfilled his destiny; defeating the Midianites.”

God is love. He cares for us and is compassionate beyond anything we can imagine. This is why He’s developed the relationship with me as my Papa. He is my loving father. Out of that love, He is also the great “I Am”, the Highest King, the Potter, my Maker, the Creator of the Universe . He doesn’t ask me for my opinion on how to run things. He puts me in situations often that I don’t like, that make me very uncomfortable. He asks me to trust Him, when nothing makes sense. He demonstrates His power in me when I am completely powerless. He signs me up for classes that I didn’t ask for, and gives me tests that I don’t want to take. He’s the Lord. He’s the boss. I am not.

He does let me partner with Him to do things on the earth that He wants done. I still think that is crazy; that He loves us enough to include us. That’s family. We are His kids, and He wants us to partner with Him to take dominion on the earth. We are Priests in His courts and can come before Him interceding for others, just like Jesus does for us. Even in all of this though, I am coming into agreement with His thoughts, His plans, His intent. He doesn’t consult me, I agree with Him.

He’s not my genie in a bottle, that I just run to when I have a problem, rub the bottle, and poof He answers my request. He does want to be involved in every aspect of my life, so when I misplace my keys for the tenth time today, yes, He wants to help me find them. And often He does, but if that’s where my relationship ends with Him, and I treat Him like a convenience store, I have reduced the Holy of Holies to a lucky rabbit’s foot.

In worship, recently, the Holy Spirit jolted me. I felt like He said, “My children choose masturbation over the real thing.” Well, that honestly kind of shocked me, but I leaned into the voice and asked for understanding. In a marriage, obviously, the most intimate time is sexual intercourse. Many times, lovers chose an imitation to the real thing like masturbation and/or pornography, because it’s something they can control and manipulate, satisfying the flesh without exposing their heart. In the intimacy of the marriage bed, flesh to flesh, heart to heart, we can’t hide. God awakes us to His love. Jealous for our affection, for our naked heart, He will not settle for an imitation instead of the real thing. He is done with His bride running to everyone else for what they should be getting from Him. He is drawing His bride into his intimate love. He’s jealous for us. Nothing can substitute for the real thing.

My friends, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is coming. I believe He is bringing the passionate, relentless, fire of His love, but He is also restoring the fear of the Lord. You can not have one without the other. You don’t get to pick and choose. He is bringing both. And if we get uncomfortable with that, and we try to edit God, fitting Him into our own little box of expectations, He will leave and go elsewhere. He will not be placed in neat little boxes of our own making. If He leaves, we will be left with an empty, meaningless program. That may look good for a while, but in the end will leave us with nothing but a dead, hollow imitation that won’t fulfill us, but will suck life from us.

Graham Cooke says “I started to understand some things about the nature of God – that He is not like any other human being I have ever met. And the reason for that, He is not human. He is divine. He is altogether different. And so I thought for me what that meant was I should never try to make God in my image. I never try to make Him like all the people who have ever disappointed me or betrayed me.”

Yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night with the song, “Tightrope” from the Greatest Showman gently playing in my head.

“Some people long for a life that is simple and planned. Tied with a ribbon. Some people won’t sail the sea, cause they’re safer on land to follow what’s written, but I’d follow you to the great unknown. Off to a world we call our own. Hand in my hand, and we promise to never let go. We’re walking a tightrope. High in the sky we can see the whole world down below. We’re walking a tightrope. Never sure, never know how far we could fall. But it’s all an adventure that comes with a breathtaking view. Walking a tight rope with you.”

He loves us. He’s wooing us to take His hand and let Him lead us on this grand adventure, but we must take Him fully, as He is. Unedited.