Sunday, June 28, 2015

2015: Year of Prayer, Week 24-25

For it is God's will and intention that by doing right (your good and honest lives) should silence (muzzle, gag) the ignorant charges and ill-informed criticisms of foolish persons. (1 Peter 2:15, AMP)

This morning, I started on Psalm 34:8  (Taste and see the Lord is good!)  But in weeks like the last couple, it gets real easy - too easy - to move from a position of grace to a position of anger (righteous, justified or otherwise).  I ended up in 1 Peter 2 because the Apostle references Psalm 34:8, as he is instructing Christian believers (I tend to think they were probably Messianic Jews; his words apply to us Gentiles too.)  He is helping them understand how to act in a time when their faith was a liability in the eyes of the world.

These last 10 days make me think our faith looks like a liability to some now too.

Between the shooting at Emanuel AME church in Charleston 10 days ago, or the ruling by the Supreme Court on Friday morning making same-sex marriage legal nationwide, it seems more than ever as Christians, we need to not only KNOW the right way to act to please God and draw others to Him......but do it. 

(Of course that means we will apply that to life differently, so grace and love must be the rule in every situation...especially in the family of faith.) 

One of my very good friends got a word from the Lord about 2015: RAPID.  Now is the time, there is probably not many more moments to waste if you are on the fence about making Jesus front and center in your life.  I'm not a harbinger of doom, but based on some of the commentary I've seen on social media....in the United States being a Christian may start doing us more harm than good.

But there is lies the challenge and what Peter was saying.  Jesus is either a stumbling block or a stepping stone (1 Peter 2:8).  He is either going to trip you up or raise you up.  He will either cause you to fall on your face or He will turn His face upon you (Num 6:24). 

In the case of Dylann Roof killing 9 brothers and sisters in Christ during a prayer meeting on 6/17/15, Christ was obviously a stumbling block.  But for those believers left behind, He was a stepping stone to lift them up to show what is possible with Christ.  Last Sunday, our pastor preached the quintessential message on this and in it, showed the video where Roof was confronted by several of the victim's family members...and they forgave him.  The clincher was the last lady to speak.  She was actually there, a witness to his crime....and she only spoke forgiveness.  Here is that video:



What is impossible with man is possible with God.  Forgiving the man who you watched murder 9 of your church family members less than 48 hours afterwards is impossible, short of the indwelling and overflowing of the Holy Spirit.

To the other major event this week, I'm not going to say much about same-sex marriage, other than I don't agree with it.  I have prayed and sought the mind of the Lord repeatedly on this issue and my heart is never changed.  However, I don't have to agree with a lifestyle to love someone.  In that same vein, as children of God, we don't have to be on the same side politically to worship Christ together.  The Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives trumps every human institution and affiliation.

Our cultural system accepting and even promoting the LGBT way doesn't shake me.  What causes me concern is when it starts to affect our ability to freely live our faith.  That's where this is going, in case you didn't realize it.  Christians who support gay marriage will eventually feel the squeeze on their faith, just as those of us who don't agree with the ruling. 

My prayers (and the prayers of others) for the last 2 weeks (even longer really) have been for the Body of Christ.  We have got to put aside our doctrinal, denominational, political and self-serving issues and come together.  Revival is here and if anything gets in the way of you loving a brother or sister in Christ, it is time to sweep that leaven out of the house.  

Peter's words in his nearly-2000 year old letter are so critical to us now.  We must conduct ourselves properly, not according to our own understanding.  We must lean even more heavily into who the Lord has revealed Himself to be.  We must love the brotherhood - the Christian family - taking pains to make sure we don't give unbelievers any more ammunition not to come to Christ.  We have tasted and seen the Lord is good.  We KNOW HE IS.  It is time to demonstrate that to the world so they, too, will see He is good.

I know this doesn't sound much like a record of my prayer journey but it is.  This is a post for me.  This is me pouring out my heart to God.  This is me going vertical.  This is what is on my mind.  I am not perfect, nor will I ever be on this Earth (praise God, I will be in heaven!).  It is convicting to look back on my day yesterday and see how many times I failed to reflect His heart especially when emotions and hot-bed issues are involved.

So, I repent.  I ask for forgiveness.  I ask the Lord to create a right spirit in me, not one of my own making, but right in His eyes.  I don't want to be known for anything other than my faith.  It speaks the loudest, through the actions of my life and my character. 

It is a challenging business being a Christian.  I pray for me.  I pray for you.  I pray for all of us.  We are heading into perilous waters.  But I know the One who walked on the waves.  And so did Peter, which is why he could tell us how to live, even as he was walking it out too (pun intended). 

Let my heart reflect Yours, Oh, Lord.  Help me.  Help us, Your People. Help our nation and our world.  Let us become more aware of Your Presence.  Let us experience....let us taste and see and live for...the glory of Your Goodness.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

#PrayforCharleston

I was at a prayer meeting last night.  When I read about what happened in Charleston, a chill went down my spine.  It was happening at the same time 12 of us were praying in the Upper Room at Chapelwood.

I'm not a harbinger of doom, as I don't believe in putting that out there.  I don't know if these are "the birth pangs" before the tribulation or just a terrible, random, act of a man possessed by something evil - himself or otherwise.

But as my friend Cherri and I prayed together and she told me about her connection to the church in Charleston (where she lived for 4 years) - it hit me: what is going on in our church, city and nation is going to continue to meet resistance and it might escalate.  The Revival that is taking place - and has been building for some years - will not go unchallenged.

My heart aches for this church and the families who lost loved ones in such a grisly manner.  My heart aches because they were my family too.  We are blood relations because we shared the Blood of Christ (a mystery of our faith).  Yet, I rejoice in the fact they are home now.  They are now safe, wrapped in white robes and crowned with righteousness.  It is another, difficult mystery of our faith - to be so sad, yet able to not be in despair when we look (any type of) death in the face.  Because I share the same faith and hope they did, there is no longer a sting to death, even if it hurts very much.

I don't know how Body of Christ in Charleston will come back from this but I predict it will be spectacular.  Everything I'm hearing coming out by the public officials and speakers is centered on rebuilding in love.  They will know we are Christians by our love - even especially our love for our enemies.  In the coming weeks, months and years, I pray the Lord will take this event and make it so people will focus on the truth of the Gospel, what they have in common, not what they don't.  Forgiveness makes a way where nothing else will, so I ask the Lord to guide that city and His Church down the narrow road, the more excellent way so His glory will be shown through His people in ridiculously miraculous ways.

I pray for that young man.  I pray he is caught and I also pray for mercy.  He will face the consequences of his actions because the Lord has instituted authority on this earth and there is music to be faced.  But I pray for the Lord to help him, for his soul to be saved and his life to be one of transformation.  I pray those affected by his violence will forgive him.  I pray those heaping coals will drive him to his face before Holy God and he will find salvation and peace.

I also pray this will embolden Christians everywhere across the nation to stand up IN LOVE.  I pray this will galvanize the Body of Christ to preach, teach, baptize, heal, exorcise and serve just as Jesus did.  I pray we will see the need to take our calling, our mission seriously and GET TO IT.  Time is of the essence, whether Jesus comes back in our lifetime or not.

There are no easy answers here.  I do not claim to have any.

But I know the weapons of our warfare.  They are: 
  • love
  • truth
  • joy
  • hope
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • gentleness
  • faithfulness
  • self-control
  • mercy
  • graciousness
  • life-giving speech
  • forgiveness
  • trust
  • prayer
  • praise
  • worship
  • service
  • giving
  • witness
  • testimony
We need everybody.  We have room for everybody.  Everyone is called and will be equipped for their part in what the Lord is doing right now.

Pray for Charleston.  Pray for the Body of Christ.  Pray for your neighbor.  Pray.  Hosanna in the Highest - MARANATHA, COME QUICKLY LORD!

Write this to Smyrna, to the Angel of the church. The Beginning and Ending, the First and Final One, the Once Dead and Then Come Alive, speaks:  
I can see your pain and poverty—constant pain, dire poverty—but I also see your wealth. And I hear the lie in the claims of those who pretend to be good Jews, who in fact belong to Satan’s crowd. Fear nothing in the things you’re about to suffer—but stay on guard! Fear nothing! The Devil is about to throw you in jail for a time of testing—ten days. It won’t last forever.  Don’t quit, even if it costs you your life. Stay there believing. I have a Life-Crown sized and ready for you. Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches. Christ-conquerors are safe from Devil-death. (Revelation 2:8-11, MSG)
God appeared to Solomon that very night and said,  
I accept your prayer; yes, I have chosen this place as a temple for sacrifice, a house of worship. If I ever shut off the supply of rain from the skies or order the locusts to eat the crops or send a plague on my people, and my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health. From now on I’m alert day and night to the prayers offered at this place. Believe me, I’ve chosen and sanctified this Temple that you have built: My Name is stamped on it forever; my eyes are on it and my heart in it always. (2 Chron 7:12-16, MSG)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 23

I HAVE LOVED YOU WITH AN EVERLASTING LOVE.  Before time began, I knew you.  For years you swam around in a sea of meaninglessness, searching for Love, hoping for hope.  All that time I was pursuing you, aching to embrace you in My compassionate arms.
     When the time was right, I revealed Myself to you.  I lifted you out of that sea of despair and set you down on a firm foundation.  Sometimes you felt naked - exposed to the revealing Light of My Presence.  I wrapped an ermine robe around you: My robe of righteousness.  I sang you a Love song, whose beginning and end are veiled in eternity.  I infused meaning into your mind and harmony into your heart.  Join me in singing My song.  Together we will draw others our of darkness into My marvelous Light. (Scripture: Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 61:10, 1 Peter 2:9)
This is the Jesus Calling entry for today.  I laid down before the Lord, asking Him to clear my head, my heart, renew a right spirit in me.  I have a big day ahead and it has been a big week - of good, but challenging things.  It has been both beauty and pain, but the beauty has (always) won out.
Before I opened my devotional, I simply asked for Holy Spirit to speak: on any subject; with nothing off limits.  That can be a pretty dangerous prayer, or at least my secret fear of condemnation told me so (because I am a sinful saint).  But there was no rebuke.  There was no reproof. In prayer this morning there was no correction, conviction or anything else.  It was something even more powerful:  Love.
This June 14th entry is my story, my testimony.  As far back as I can remember, I searched for purpose, value and meaning, although I couldn't articulate that until much later in life.  A few weeks back a friend spoke to this longing, letting me know the Lord was with me even when I was that little girl in the yellow dress.  She told me to go look for a picture of myself in a yellow dress and I found it in one of my Mom's photo albums.  The year was 1981, I think, and it would be my 6th birthday party.  At that point, we were living in Indiana or Kentucky.  (Yes, I used to wear glasses and have really short bangs! Stupid 80s.)
Either way, the Lord spoke through my friend to tell me - even then - He was with me.  Now, this morning, as I surrendered, He'd already prepared this Word for me: I was with you even before the foundation of the world.  It isn't enough for Him to just let me know He was with me at 6.  No, He was with me before.  Before....Before anything.  I can let go of those private dark places, inviting His marvelous Light in because He is safe, I am secure in Him.  I am Chosen.  I am Wanted.  I am Beautiful.  I am Treasured.  It's unbelievable I have been all of those things before I ever took a breath!

Love is the most humbling force in all the universe.
That's this week: how hiding keeps us from all the Lord has for us: in our hearts, minds, spirits, relationships and circumstances.  Opening the door to let His light shine on those dark places is the best thing we can do.  We have to acknowledge and recognize, and then live in the ultimate truth of our faith: He is first and foremost a God of kindness and forgiveness, full of mercy and abounding in steadfast love - rather than this strict taskmaster, waiting to condemn us.
We only condemn ourselves.  We only punish ourselves when we don't choose Him.  He is not willing that ANY man, woman or child should perish.  All the bad things that happen are not His doing.  This is a fallen, jacked up world and there is a thief whose whole goal in life is to steal, kill and destroy God's creation.  He is especially violent towards the ones who choose Christ and seek to make His Kingdom a reality on earth.  
Knowing that reality is (more than) half the battle.  The 2nd half is remembering Who and Whose we are.  Today is about that remembering, which for me happened after spending the first 29 years of my life choosing myself over Jesus.  But He had His moment.  One day, He turned my eyes and heart to Him and He has never given me up.  How could I go back?  With the revelation of this kind of Love for me, I could never go back (permanently) to my old ways.  Holy Spirit has me and He is never letting me go.  He reminds me of that all the time. 
He is the Just Judge and there will come a time when we all have to answer for what we've done.  We know it, deep down - Christian or not.  There are many other paths to choose, many other ways to go, but Christianity is the only one whose foundational stone isn't us, it is Love.
Christianity is not complicated but it's hard.  It's hard because we don't want to give up our own understanding of things.  We don't want to stay in the lines God sets - although He sets those boundaries up for our benefit.  I know!  I struggle all the time with this!  That's when reminders like this come up.  That's how I know Scripture is real, how God still speaks.  The proof of this is in the evidence of my life.  My life song is not a dreary, hopeless dirge.
My life, as imperfect as it is, is a song of praise.  It is a Love song Jesus and I are singing together.  It is a melody He mixes and blends with others that drowns out the call of darkness.  I am a Bride, waiting for Her groom.  I am no longer an orphan, a widow, a forgotten one.
And I don't want you to be either.  He has loved us all with an everlasting love.  He is drawing each of us further and further into His strong, warm, comforting arms; wrapping us in the bear hug of His chesed - His loving-kindness.  
He is singing - can you hear the song?   He wants to sing to you - your very own song.  Listen for it today.