Monday, July 25, 2011

What goes up must come down

My boys love cartoons.  And I admit I am fond of them also.  Always have been.  Although my sons enjoy new stuff, their favorites remain the Bugs Bunny/ Wile E Coyote/Tom and Jerry era.  As an adult watching them you realize the same old gags are being used over and over.  My favorite: the infamous running off a cliff and not falling until you realize you have run off a cliff.  They just hang there, moving their legs slower and slower.  Then looking down; cut to shot of the bottom of a ravine.  Then they look into the audience and if you are Wile E Coyote hold up a "HELP"sign before plummeting down at incredible speed. Last shot is a small poof of cloud to know the character has landed. Fade to black.  Character is fine in the next scene, and right back at it. Classic.  But this got me thinking...why can't life really be like that?  Why can't we be free of the implications of natural Laws until we have knowledge of them?   Furthermore, why can't we be free of the implications of Spiritual Laws until we have knowledge of them?  More specifically, healing.

I am aware this is a highly controversial issue among Believers.  The most common questions: Does God heal? When does God heal? Who does He heal?  And perhaps the most important, How does He heal?  This last question is the one I want to focus on.

I do not pretend to be a theologian, I will leave that to greater minds.  But what I am interested in is helping people.  And in order to help people, I must come to an understanding myself.  I also do not claim to have all the answers.  I only know what I have studied, witnessed and learned in my own experiences and through the teachings of others. Although this is a highly complex subject, I hope I can lay it out in the simplest terms. 

Please stay with me as I digress.
Scripture is laid into 2 main Covenants that God had/has with mankind. The First Covenant was "The Law" (referring to the Ten Commandments and the ministry of Moses).  This Covenant was based on fear of retribution for sinning against the Law.  And even though God's mercy and long-suffering showed itself strong throughout this Covenant, it was highly based on fear.  Then Jesus.  Beautiful Jesus ushered us into a new and MUCH better Covenant with God the Father. This Second Covenant is based on Jesus.  His life, death and resurrection.  Based on love.  Which is an infinitely better motivator than fear.

In the First Covenant God told His people through disobedience of the Law they would bring a curse upon themselves.  "But it shall come about, if you do not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statues with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you."  Deuteronomy 28:15  These curses include (but not limited to) boils, tumors, scab and the itch, madness, and blindness.  It is a long and frighting list.  But the fact remains, these curses came upon God's people.   But wait...DO NOT despair!  We haven't brought Jesus into this yet....

Jesus brings us into the Second Covenant with The Father.  And not only does Jesus ensure that we receive the blessings written in Deuteronomy 28 (oh, yes...GREAT blessings) through our faith in Him, but we are no longer under the curses.  "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us- for it is written, 'CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE.'" Galatians 3:13

God can never go back on His Word.  In scripture it says that the very fabric of existence would crumble if He were to do so.  Instead He perfectly, lovingly and (might I add) brilliantly finds a way through it.  He does not take away the curses, just gives us a Way out of them.  Jesus.

Whew...still with me? I don't mean to be wordy, I just needed a base to start with so I can take you where I want to... the question of: How does God heal?

I believe our world is made up of natural Laws.  Such as gravity.  And in the same respect, Spiritual Laws.  I am not referring to The 10 Commandments, but to laws on how faith works.  And how healing works.  I believe these laws are fulfilled in a dangerous, deceitful, and mysterious place.  Our hearts.  
This is clear in the parable of the sower and the different types of soil Jesus teaches on in Mark 4.  And although healing is something Jesus has made a way for us to receive.  It is up to us to receive it.  And how do we receive, how do we pray for others to receive?  By allowing our hearts to be "good soil" so that when "seeds" of belief for healing are planted, they take root and grow.

And let me make one thing very clear, so that you cannot be deceived.  I do not under any circumstance feel that we should be condemned when we don't see healing manifest, in our own bodies or in those we pray for.  We are, all of us, harvesting different and varying maturity on the "crops" of our hearts.  This is a process.  This takes time.  For some it takes little time, others it may take years.
So, I think you maybe wondering where the cartoon fit into all of this.  Here we go.  It is unfortunate that natural Laws have power over us even if we are ignorant to them.  If a baby who has never learned about gravity falls off of a chair, she still falls.  Its not like a cartoon.  And if a person has a tumor, and does not know of the power and authority through Jesus Christ they received when they were born again, they can still die.  I wish that ignorance was a "get out of sickness free card."  But that is not how our world works. That is not how faith works.  

With the hope we have in Jesus and eternity with the Father, death is not the worst outcome to sickness.  However, in the realm, or through the "crop" of our Hearts we can see the supernatural manifest. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth

We just returned from a family vacation to California.  It was really nice just going where ever we wanted, eating when ever we wanted...just doing things on a whim.

Part of our vacation was Disneyland, and I admit I was just as excited as the boys.  It has been many years since Josh and I visited California, and we had never been to Disneyland.

Well, sometimes living with myself is a bit exhausting...  I wish I would not over analyze every little thought or emotion that floats into my head.  But I couldn't take a break from it, even on vacation.

All I could see was the castle being smaller than I thought.  I saw chipping paint, and squeaky rides.  This so called "Happiest Place on Earth" was just a farce, a distraction from life.  I understand there is nothing wrong with some fun and frivolity, but there is no fulfillment to be had.  You can meet all your favorite characters, buy t-shirts and Mickey ears; but you will leave just as empty as when you came.  And your wallet will be emptier as well.  :)

Now please don't misunderstand me: I am not down on Disney.  I enjoy their movies, and I loved watching our boys get so excited when they rode their favorite ride, and I even sucommed to the Disney "magic" from time to time.   All I am saying is that there is only One place to find true fulfillment.  Everything else is a momentary distraction (positive or negative).

My last thought on this: We stayed late for "World of Color" at California Adventure Park the night before we left.  It is a light and water show, that is pretty spectacular.  But all I could think of as the crowd cheered was that God was the one who invented light and color.  And as I clapped, I was clapping for His magnificence, His splendor, His beauty.  He, the only One in which I have found purpose and true Love.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nothing to Fear but Fear itself

 About 7 years ago I took a pottery class at the Nashville Art House.  It was so much fun getting my hands in that clay, and just letting myself be creative.  I made several clay "boxes" and was trying to think of a theme for them.  So I thought to myself: If God could talk to me through this clay, what would He say?

The first one said "Dream BIG" the other simply said "LOVE"  and the third said, "Why do you fear failure?"
 The third was my favorite.  Mainly because this is a concept that I have dealt with every since I can remember.

I have an early memory of sitting in my mother's car while she ran an errand, crying my eyes out because I was convinced I would never pass the 4th grade, it was just too hard.  Even though I had no problems getting through the 3rd grade, I was just so afraid.  I have an even earlier memory (around the age of 5) of wanting so desperately to play soccer.  My mother signed me up for a community team, and when we arrived I sat in her lap crying, asking to go home.  I was afraid that I wouldn't be any good.  And if I didn't try, I wouldn't fail.  Right?

So what do we fear exactly?  We fear failure.  Rejection. 

As I grew into a teenager, I also grew quite a rebellious streak.  It was as if I was so rebellious, I was even going to rebel against myself.  Although fear was still on the forefront of my mind as I would venture into new things, if I felt fear, I would push myself right into whatever I was afraid of.  This of course wasn't the best idea, especially in my teenage years.

When I experienced the Grace Message for the first time 4 years ago my fear went through another transformation...

All of a sudden it wasn't about me anymore.  My failures were no longer the issue.  I could completely, utterly, and spectacularly fail and it didn't matter.  Because Jesus didn't.  In fact when I embraced that I could not please God through my own accomplishments, it freed me to be beautifully loved in a way I didn't think possible.  And amazingly it was that Love that enabled me to fail less.  I still fail.  Oh yes, and it is sometimes pretty ridiculous.  But after those failures I can get right back up, instead of living in shame, guilt, and condemnation; waiting for the moment "I" did enough to "feel" close to God again.  The separation I thought was there through my actions is gone.   And it allows me to run to the Arms of Love.

Fear is still there.  Sometimes trying to pull me back.  But I will not be ruled by it. 
" is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me..."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bent but not broken

I don't believe there is a "right" way to grieve.  For each person there is a time they need to heal.  I really like what my friend Joyce said, "Time doesn't heal.  Only God can heal."  But what will you do with that "time"?

There are many moments I have thought to myself: "This has the potential to destroy me."  I could stay in this grief forever.  I could ponder, cry, let my imagination run wild with what could have been.  All that we have done, accomplished, all that the Lord has brought us through could all be for not.  Just to stay in this pain.

There is guilt for wanting to stay in that pain.  There is guilt for desiring to move on.  

And although my heart is broken, I am only bent.  There is a Love that will sustain me.  It is the only Love that possibly could in moments like these.  It doesn't often rain in this area, but it rained all yesterday morning.  I couldn't help but think that Heaven was crying with me.  

But I cannot stay here.  Not forever.  I will allow myself what time I need.  And I may have a good cry about this from time to time for many years to come.  But I cannot stay here.  There are 2 wonderful, precious lives that God has entrusted Josh and I with.  Two boys that will know how loved they are.  

There are too many wonderful things to do, too many people to tell about how amazing (and sustaining) my Jesus is.  To see lives change under the power of the Holy Spirit. And I will have so many stories to tell our sweet child when I see her someday.

My flesh and my heart my fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:26


Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Colorado Adventure Continues

From the experiences, good and bad, over the last 22 months my head is buzzing.  I am not sure if it was the rest I just received from our recent trip to Nashville, or the seemingly sudden changes that are always taking place, but I feel like I can't nail down a thought.  I just have too many of them to focus on one. Please bear with me as I try to convey my heart.  If you are uninterested in entering the deep (and sometimes ridiculous) recesses of my mind, please stop here.  No hard feelings.  :)

Well, its over.  Sometimes I can hardly believe its over.  Our 2 year experience at Charis Bible College came to a close the 3rd week of May.  As one of our professors said the first few weeks of school, "Bible college is the perfect place to inspire and frustrate."  And he was right.  Our feelings swung from one extreme to the other many times depending on our circumstances, disagreement of theology, courses being taught, the list goes on and on.  But one thing is certain: we wouldn't trade this experience for anything.  We know this was God's Will for our lives.  And there is no feeling that compares to that.

So, for the future?  You maybe wondering.  Well, so are we.  :)  We had every intention of moving back to Nashville.  In fact, we were beginning to make plans.  I cancelled the garbage pick up, Josh had informed his company, I had even begun to THINK about organizing the garage (although this never actually happened).  But then a nagging thought.  A slight lack of peace.  A remembrance from the Holy Spirit of a conversation Josh and I had many months ago.  We knew that the next season after school was not to strike out on our own, but to come under someone.  To be mentored by someone that has been in ministry alot longer than we have.  And because of some relationships in Nashville which were moving in different directions, we knew it wasn't there. 

So where now?  Several months ago, God orchestrated a connection with Dan & Penny Funkhouser.  They pastor Heartbeat Ministries International, a church started several years ago by the couple.  Dan also teaches several courses in 2nd and 3rd year at CBC.  They are awesome, and the things they have seen God do through them are amazing.  We knew in our hearts, and it was confirmed by a POWERFUL Word: this is what God had for the next season. 

What this EXACTLY means, or how long this season will be, we just don't know.  I can make plans, but whats the use?  God's plans are always better (and usually more uncomfortable) than mine.  We didn't exactly know what we were getting into when we moved here, but God is forever faithful, forever loving and guiding us.  We still have church planting in our hearts.  Europe.  But I trust in His timing. 

Ministry can look like a million different things.  We are waiting and watching as God reveals to us what our ministry will look like.  But this season is still training, preparation for what is to come. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I saw a man today.

I saw a man today.  He was in his 40's, blue shirt, jeans, white ball cap, and sneakers that were untied.   He had a makeshift cane, his back was bent and he was having a hard time walking.  He was making his way down the sidewalk, I was stopped at a stop sign.  My heart was moved with compassion as I looked at him, I couldn't help but be moved with tears.  All I could see is how he was meant to be. Tall, straight back, and walking with long, strong strides.  I thought about Jesus.  Perfect Jesus. How he would feel as he looked upon broken, hurting people and saw them in the spirit, as they were meant to be. 

My final thought as I drove is my life goal to discover how to unlock all the power inside my spirit and release it into the world.  To lay hands on the sick and see them healed. To see broken backs become straight. To see legs come into alignment. I wished I was a better vessel.  But quickly reminded myself, it is not about me.  All I can be is a willing earthen vessel. To God be the glory.  I will see the sick recover by my hands through the power of Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Speaking in Tongues. For the Ninny or the Intellectual?

Ah, yes.  My first real controversial blog.  My husband will be proud.  Though I am not trying to be.  It saddens me that this has become such a taboo topic within churches.  I understand this is scary to some people, not understanding the purpose of "tongues".  My desire is this would help those seeking, and encourage those that have already received.

I would like to say that I am not trying to talk anyone into receiving the gift of speaking in tongues.  I believe it is a powerful gift, but like salvation does not have to be received. I would never deny you my friendship, or think you are going to hell if you do not operate in this gift. But I do think you are missing out on something meant for all believers. I would also like to emphasize that this is a multi-functional gift, with many aspects for different situations, which I will describe shortly. 

Below, I will simply go to scriptures, that you may or may not have already read. I will try to answer the main questions surrounding the gift of tongues, and hit the main important points. I truly hope you will study on your own, with an open heart, to seek Truth.

1) The baptism of the Holy Spirit  is a separate experience to being born again.
Acts 19:2-6
"He said to them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' And they said to him, 'No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.' And he said, 'Into what then were you baptized?' And they said, 'Into John's baptism.' Paul said, 'John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
"And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying."

2) The baptism of the Holy Spirit is for EVERY born again believer.

This is after Jesus had breathed on them and they became born again.[John 20:22]
This is Jesus speaking in Acts 1:4-5
"Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, 'Which' He said, 'you heard of from Me; for John baptized you with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'"

Acts 2:4
"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance."

2b) But that gift was only for the Apostles...oh really?

Acts 11:15
"And ask I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning.  And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John, baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'" Peter speaking to the Gentiles, remembering Acts 1!!!

3) The Lord wants to baptize you with His Holy Spirit. 
Luke 11:9-13
"So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened."

Lets pause right here for a DOES NOT say seek and seek and seek...knock and keep knocking. No!  It only says seek and you will find.  God is not looking for you to prove how much you want the gift of tongues.  God WANTS to give it to you! So, we only need to ask one time in faith, and believe we received without begging or pleading.Okay, lets continue in these verses.

 "Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"

It is almost like Jesus knew the Baptism of the Holy Spirit would make people fearful.  He was trying to reassure that God will ALWAYS give good gifts to His children. And this is one of them.

Just a side note: Don't get frustrated if you don't speak in tongues right away, or you can only utter a few syllables.  It took me a few weeks to flow naturally in my prayer language.  And just because you don't speak in tongues right away, it doesn't mean you didn't get baptised in the Holy Spirit.  Give yourself some time, don't get condemned!

3b) Why should I want to speak in tongues????

Have you ever wanted to talk to God?  Have you ever wanted to know that He was hearing your prayers and your prayers were powerful?  Have you ever wanted to pray for something or someone but didn't have the words?  God invented this fool-proof (in my case- idiot proof) way to communicate in the Spirit.  We know that God is Spirit [John 4:24], and we also know that when we are born again we become a new and perfect creature in Spirit [2 Corin 5:17].  Why wouldn't He give us a perfect language to communicate Spirit (ours) to Spirit (His)?

Just a few verses to back up the reasons this gift is awesome:
Acts 1:8
"but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you"

1 Corinthians 14:2 "For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries."

1 Corinthians 14:14 "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful."

So, to address the multi functions of the gift of tongues:  This gift absolutely can be used for an earthly language.  For example, if God wants to minister to someone through me who only speaks French (and I don't speak French) this is a gift God can speak another earthly language through.

 Also, someone can have a "Tongue" that is for the whole congregation of people surrounding them.  This "Tongue" needs an interpretation, so those who have heard can understand.  Sometimes the one giving the "Tongue" also has the interpretation, sometimes the interpretation comes through another believer. 

And then lastly, there is your own personal prayer language.  This has many names, but its only function is to build YOU up, to edify you. [1 Corin 14:4] And why do you need to do this?  For those many moments in life you are sad, frustrated, tired, or in need of encouragement.  When you start praying in the Spirit you get refreshment, encouragement, revelation of a situation you have been stressing over, or a scripture you don't understand.

Your own personal prayer language is not going to help anyone else.  I would much rather lay hands and heal someone, or get a prophesy for someone I am praying for.  But many times we need to build up ourselves in God before we are ever able to help someone else.

So, to return to the first question I posed: Is Speaking in Tongues for Ninnies or Intellectuals?  My answer is that it is for anyone to wants it.  For the Ninnies, the Intellectuals, and everyone in between.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Altars and Leaving... "The Bubble"

The end of our 2nd year at Charis Bible College is quickly approaching.  We are on the horizon of something new. Something exciting.  But also something unfamiliar- a new, nameless adventure.  And along with thoughts of all the wonderful things God is going to do through us, there are moments of questioning...pangs of fear.

There is a 3rd year at CBC, and there are even talks of starting a 4th year program.  We really sought God on if He wanted us to continue on to the 3rd year.  We wanted to perhaps do our 3rd year over seas- in England or Ireland.  However, over the last several weeks we know that is not what we are called to (at least not for the next season). I saw a good friend at church last Sunday, and as we were talking, he said something that started my wheels turning...

He believes he is going to continue going to Charis and do the 3rd year.  But to truly understand our conversation you must be told about...."The Bubble".
{This is some super inside information people!}

"The Bubble": what the students refer to the positive, uplifting environment of being in bible college.  Many people forget about the "outside" world and all the ministry to be done when they are attending school and constantly being "fed" by all the teaching.

When 2nd year students are about to graduate, there is usually apprehension about leaving "The Bubble".  

Now, back to my friend.  As we were talking about "The Bubble" he brought up this verse.
This is in Matthew 17.  Jesus has just asked Peter who He was, and Peter reveals that He is The Christ. 

Starting in verse 1: "Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

Really, truly, I love Peter.  He was so real, so foolish, and yet such faith.  He was so enjoying what he was witnessing, he just wanted to stay there.  He wanted to bask in the glory all around him. Can you blame him?!?!

But instead of indulging Peter's request, after coming down from the mountain, Jesus rebuked a demon-possessed boy and healed him.

Do I believe that going to 3rd year at Charis Bible College is wrong or evil?  NO!  Of course not!  You should always follow the lead of the Holy Spirit above all things.  My only concern is the desire to stay because it is easier.  Safer.

In some ways I don't want to leave.  In other ways, I can't wait to go.  But I cannot stay here and build "altars" to Charis Bible College, or to Andrew Wommack.  Or to any other teacher or minister.  I must follow Jesus and heal the sick and hurting through his mighty and perfect leading.  No offense to Andrew, but if it is a choice between him and Jesus...I choose Jesus.  :)

I want to hear your thoughts~ what sort of "altars" do people build?  Feeling and thinking that it is the "right" thing to do, but missing the point entirely?

*Thank you to Joe for being my muse in this blog...your heart is a beautiful thing to behold.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Knight and Shining Armor

All of our lives we are inundated with fairytales.  Sometimes there's singing, sometimes they are dark and scary; but there is ALWAYS a Hero and a Damsel in Distress.  Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella; all contain young, defenseless females and a Prince to sweep them off their feet.  A man to fix all their problems, including (but not limited to) a super-mean Step Mother, a poison apple, and death by spinning wheel. 
Lessons to be extracted from these stories: Women should be beautiful, graceful, and fragile. Men should be strong, wealthy and brave.

Although I have always been independent, the ideas from these stories still seeped into my subconscious.  However; there are some genuine truths, such as, every woman wants to be desired, cherished, and taken care of by her husband.  For men, they want to be needed, respected and appreciated by their wives.  In the modern world, men do not ride into battle, and the women do not reside in a tower waiting to be rescued. Anyhow, we are still trying to find something from each other.Waiting for the one to complete the other.  Think about all the love songs and poems written by men about or to women.  Or the endless ways women try to get attention from men. 

I remember when Josh and I were dating... his friends would come up to me and ask, "What have you done to Josh?  He is so happy!  He has completely changed since he met you."  I didn't understand what they meant.  The only Josh I had ever met was happy.  And completely captivated with me.  Of course I didn't realize that Josh was looking to me for all of his fulfillment until after we were married, and I don't think Josh did either.  But when he recognized that I could never be everything he needed me to be, that I was human, he became angry. 

Every story needs a Knight In Shining Armor. Some of us are trying to be the Knight for someone, others are waiting for him to show up.  But what if he already came?  What if he didn't look much like a knight, and he didn't wear armor?  Would you recognize him?  What if he were so human, so humble that you missed it?  What if you were/are the Damsel in Distress?  And a man came to save you from all that wanted to destroy you?  And what if that happened 2,000 years ago? 

We are referred to many times in scripture (male and female) as a bride.

"And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife." Revelation 21:9

And our Hero?  He was born in an animal's food trough, never owned land, or established wealth.  He was not dashing, debonair or charming.  But he has undoubtedly swept me off my feet.  He will never leave me.  He will never break my heart.  And he has fulfilled, and given freely, ALL promises that mankind could possibly desire: immortality, peace, blessing, hope, freedom, and forgiveness.

When our Prince returns...

"...the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and [his] hairs [were] white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes [were] as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance [was] as the sun shineth in his strength." Revelation 1:13-16

Now what I call shining armor.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Down with the Pharisees

Poor Pharisees, what a bad wrap they have had throughout the Bible.  Jesus was kind and loving to all those horrendous sinners that deserved hell, but to the pharisees he called names and rebuked.  Why?  Because they thought they were righteous unto themselves.  And what does righteousness mean?

First, lets define what a pharisee is: "a sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person." [ouch!]

Now, the dictionary says righteousness as a noun is: "the quality or state of being righteous."

as an adjective: "characterized by, proceeding from, or in accordance with accepted standards of morality, justice, or uprightness; virtuous"

However, a good biblical definition of righteousness is: Right standing with God.   

When I first heard the gospel of unconditional love and grace I couldn't believe it.  It was too good to be true!  It took a year for it to really penetrate my heart (and bad theology) and take root.  And when it did- it completely set me free.  I expected everyone I encountered to be equally excited about this revelation, especially my Christian friends.  But that was not the case.  And this is what I have learned through my experience:

There are people, for various reasons, who are naturally disciplined.  I don't just mean from the "big sins" I am talking about everyday things.  They refrain from sugar, cigarettes, junk food and other "naughty" behaviors.   They instead eat only things that are good for their body, run and train for marathons, and have incredible will power.  These behaviors are not evil or against God- of course not!!!  Physical accomplishments are to be commended and encouraged.  But let us remember they are only physical (of this world).  Spiritual "accomplishments" is another matter. 

Many times these same people are able to have incredible will power in "God's rules" as well.  They don't cuss, talk about people behind their backs, or {I will let you fill in the blank}.  This also goes along with their good deeds.  They serve endlessly at their church, always get to church on time, and read their bible on a regular basis.  Again, these are NOT bad things- just bare with me...

These Will Power People, may except God's grace to an extent.  They may not make others feel bad for their lack of good deeds, or think they are justified apart from Jesus, but they feel "close to God" when they are doing good deeds.  And when the occasion comes when they do mess up, they feel an inner need for penance before they can feel "close to God" again.  So when they hear about unconditional grace, they are offended for many reasons.  Not only does this lower the apparent value of their will power, but they feel this will lead others that are not as disciplined as themselves to fall into "greezy grace".  Although I believe we are made for good works (or deeds)

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
Ephesians 2:10

These good works are not unto righteousness.  Good works are a fruit of a relationship, not a prerequisite for a relationship.

Perhaps this is why I was so set free from the message of unconditional love and grace.  I am a mess.  I always have been.  And as much as I would try, I would still eat too much ice cream, exercise too little and cuss too much.  And when it was explained to me that it is all about Jesus and not about me.  Well, praise God!!!  Because while I got everything wrong, Jesus got it all right.  And with being free from guilt and shame, and understanding the love God has for me- I am free to be who He created me to be.  And instead of willing myself to obey God's laws, my desire (fueled by love) is not to sin.  In short, I obey God's laws on accident more than I ever did on purpose.

Paul said it wonderfully in Romans 2:14-15 "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them" NAS

 I also really like The Message version: "When outsiders who have never heard of God's law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God's law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God's yes and no, right and wrong."

The "...something deep within them that echoes God's yes and no..."  that is our spirit, perfect and one with Jesus.  When the law is seperated from us by grace (and guilt, condemnation, and shame along with it) we follow the law on accident.    The Gentiles in Romans were free from the law by ignorance.  But either way, by ignorance or faith; freedom is accessible. 

Don't be decieved; the only thing that makes you lose the desire to relationship with God through Jesus, free of guilt and free of shame. 

Thank you Jesus...for freedom.

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Jesus is my Copilot"

I have seen this saying on many church signs, bumper stickers and maybe even a t-shirt or two.  I do not; however, agree with this doctrine.  In my life, I see it more like this: Jesus is the Pilot, Copilot, and stewardess.  I am the lone passenger fluctuating between many different emotions.  I am sometimes complaining about the length of the flight, sometimes expressing how beautiful the scenery is, sometimes panicking about the turbulence, and other times resting through the smooth sailing.  Jesus is never worried or concerned by anything happening.  And is constantly encouraging and reassuring me.  He also gives me an endless supply of peanuts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The most expensive bowl of soup in existence

I remember the first time I heard a teaching on Jacob and Esau.  It was many years ago, and I couldn't believe that someone would sell their birthright for a bowl of soup!  I will say that there is nothing quite like a perfect bowl of hot soup, with a crusty piece a bread (I can practically taste Panera's french onion soup with extra cheese)...but come on, for your BIRTHRIGHT!?!
The very concept blew my mind.

"When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, "Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished." Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright." Esau said, "Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?" And Jacob said, "First swear to me"; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright." Genesis 25: 29-34

Now in this teaching, it was all about how foolish Esau was and how he was not blessed or favored by God, due largely to this action.  And I judged Esau harshly in my heart.  But funny thing about hearts...they become less judgemental as you experience life.

So what meaning does "birthright" have for us?  When Christ died and arose he became the first among many brothers.  There is a birthright of righteousness, blessing and favor we receive in faith through Jesus.

"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;" Romans 8:29

             When we moved here to Colorado, I expected angels to sing when we crossed the state line.  I expected a ray of sunshine to follow our car as we drove into the city.  We had never obeyed and followed God in such a radical way before.  But that didn't happen.  Not that God wasn't with us EVERY step of the way.  But there was no physical evidence that we were in the middle of God's Will for our lives.   The first 8 months we were here were the most difficult of our lives.  God had told us to to come to Colorado for the first step toward full-time ministry, and we knew He had AMAZING things in store for us.  But when you get bogged down with life:  wondering how you are going to keep the heat on, or where your next meal is coming from you say to yourself, "Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?"   
    I remember those moments so well, where we were standing on the precipice of unbelief.  So tempted to take the (seemingly) easy over the perfect.  And we were tempted to sell the future God had for us (birthright) for some comfort (bowl of soup).  Daydreaming about how wonderful it would feel knowing that a paycheck was coming, job security, or money in the bank.  Then a very soft spot formed in my heart for Esau.  I realized: I am Esau. 

But Jesus has redeemed me from myself, and there is grace that overtakes me to keep me on the path God has laid out.  So, although temptation has been there more than once to take the bowl of soup, we will take hold of the birthright purchased for us.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Return from The Equator

       More specifically, The Dominican Republic.  I have never desired to go on a missions trip (just being brutally honest here) but it is a part of our 2nd year at Charis Bible College.  Josh and I have never been on a missions trip, and were praying and hoping for a trip to Europe, since we have such a heart for that part of the world.  But when it didn't work out, we trusted that God was doing something in our hearts we did not anticipate.

On January 13, 2011, we traded snow covered mountains, for mountains covered in palm trees.  We swapped scarves for sunhats.  And we went from 'ignorance is bliss' to ignorant no more. 

       We really didn't know exactly what to expect in The D.R., and with that came some apprehension of the unknown.  But when we arrived we were met with a wonderful group of hardworking, Jesus-loving people.  At the center of this group was Tim & Trena Johnson, Evangelists with hearts of gold, and humor that left us rolling with laughter.  Every morning Tim brought a powerful, inspiring and encouraging devotional, and Trena worked endlessly to provide our group of 27 with delicious meals.  Also, in this group was 2 of Tim & Trena's 3 sons, Neal and Darin.  They were both incredibly helpful with set up/tear down of all the equipment that was brought to each outreach.  Trena's parents, "Grandma" & "Grandpa" were also there working on everything from bagging pasta to hand out, to working on the new property just purchased across the street from La Casa Grande ("The Big House" we stayed at).  There were also several locals that have joined their talents and hearts to these Evangelists, Hector (driver, and organizer extraordinaire), Alfonzo (grounds keeper, and was always helping load equipment) and Ambioix (singer- oh, and I am pretty sure I butchered his name).

       The first morning we hit the ground running.  Breakfast at 7:30 and out the door at "8:16" as Tim would say.  We drove about an hour away from La Casa Grande to a small community, very poor, but welcoming people.  There was a truck in the neighborhood when we arrived with loud speakers, they said to the people when they saw us, "The Americans are here.  Your missionaries are here."   And that is when it started. We were missionaries. 

       Every one of our 4 groups had prepared songs, skits, and testimonies to share with the people.  Our group prepared a skit of David and Goliath, where we would pick 3 Dominican children to play David and 2 sheep.  We had no idea we would be doing this skit everyday, sometimes twice a day.  And we certainly had no idea it would be so well received.  Josh was Goliath, and I think he deserves an award for his death scene. :)  Every outreach we would pack up all our props, puppets, generator, instruments, mics, and sound system to put up everywhere from a basketball court to a tin roof church.  We would take turns doing our skits, giving our testimonies, and singing at a moments notice from Tim.  It was a test in being flexible and prepared to let God move through you at any moment.  Tim would give an invitation for those who wanted to receive Christ, and then those that needed a miracle.  Our group layed hands and prayed for many people.  Though we are not exactly sure, somewhere around 50 people accepted Jesus while we were there.  After we prayed and encouraged the people, we had the privilege of handing out food.  The experience that stands out the most to us is the public park we set up at.  We saw the hurting, hard and unchurched melt in the love of Christ through the preaching of The Word.

       Josh and I thought that we would struggle while in The Dominican Republic.  We would have to fight our flesh in our attitude, creature comforts, and frustration in lack of control.  But it was amazing.  We enjoyed it so much!  We saw the powerful function of Evangelism.  That street ministry can be very effective. Even when filled with untrained actors, home-made props, and people that have never spoken in front of a crowd.  God was there. Anointing was there.  Not to make us look good, but to effect the hearts of those that surrounded us.  God wants so desperately to reach the hearts of those who don't know Him.  He can and will use anything and anyone that is willing.  No, what Josh and I are struggling with is being back.  Not that we are not thankful for the US, with its freedoms and prosperity (and I admit- being able to flush toilet paper).  We just see more now what a distraction life can be.  That the pursuit of comfort, money, success can distract.  We have seen more than a glimpse of eternity.  Those things that are eternal: we have seen people take the first step in knowing God. What does it feel like to store up crowns in Heaven to lay at Jesus feet?  And as we feel "reality" trying to suck us back in,  we have a desire to resist.  That what we call "reality" is not real at all.  Is it temporal; falling away from us slowly.  What is eternal is forever.  How can we go back to working a job with deadlines so important to the company, but so unimportant in comparison?  How can we continue going to school with our tests and papers?  We must have reached a new level of Jesus Freakness to feel guilty about going to Bible College!?!?! :)  {Please hear our hearts, we don't think it is evil, or wrong to be successful in business, go to school, or have nice things, we know God directs people to such things.  It is just a perspective change in our own hearts.  We are coming closer to understanding our role in The Kingdom.}  But God, knowing our hearts, was encouraging us (even in The D.R.) to stay the course we are on.  So, we are putting our trust in the Lord.  We are allowing Him to direct our path.  We are trusting that He knows what He is doing, although we sometimes disagree with His method and timing. But one thing is perfectly clear: we are ruined for this.  Our hearts are irrevocably toward ministry, we can never go back... 
And even if we could go back, we wouldn't want to.