Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Human vs. Heavenly (Revival is Coming)

I had one of those moments this past week, when I "heard" with my heart that my thinking just wasn't right.  It was during a conversation and I felt in my gut, when faced with the truth of how God operates, the words of Jesus from Mark 8:33,

For your thinking is from a human perspective, not from God's perspective!

I read those words this morning and immediately the situation, thought and feeling came back to me.  It was like Jesus' rebuke of Peter was actually Him rebuking me.  We were on vacation in Gulf Shores, AL, on a jet ski-tubing-dolphin safari trip.  The guy driving the boat I was on (also owner of the company) was wearing a shirt that said, "My church is the Flor-abama, Worship on the Water."

When I asked him about it, he told me an incredible story about how the Body of Christ in that area are being exactly that: in a Jesus-friend-of-sinners kind of way.  This church started as a child-care ministry for women who work in strip clubs.  Really?  How many of us think out of the box like that?

But this group of hands and feet starting taking care of the children of these ladies, ladies who had no other recourse except to take the kids with them to the club - which you can imagine did not please the club owner (and was probably illegal).  But they had no other choice until this group stepped in.  As a result, the nightclub ladies saw Christ's love and a lot of them got saved.  This simple act of service cut into them, freeing them from the grip of Satan by the power of Divine Love.  Lives changed (dramatically), and the ministry developed.

Radical Grace multiplies quickly, let me tell you.

Now, they hold church under the beer tents at a bar called the Flor-Abama on Sunday mornings and all manner of folks come to worship God on the beach.  Do I think He cares if you come hungover or maybe still drunk?  Nope, not as long as the Spirit is praised and the Truth is preached.  I also think when you are in that kind of atmosphere, you are going to see, very fast, there is a better way - the way of Christ.  This church is doing amazing things - revival level kind of transformation in this area, for hundreds and hundreds of folks.  You can learn more about it on the website: here.

But that wasn't my heart-check.  That came later, after he finished telling me the story of the church.  I told him how our waitress from the previous night mentioned there was a proposal to raise the drinking age in Alabama to 25 or 26.  (This was after accidentally bringing one of my older kids an alcoholic drink.  Whoops!)

My new friend and brother in Christ - Adrian - immediately praised God and said how wonderful that would be.

His praise was my gut check.

You see, I'd been thinking that could and would never happen. Dave and I even talked about it, how the beer and alcohol lobby would probably stop at nothing to prevent a law like that from passing.  There is just too much money in it, it was impossible.  I had been thinking the way the world thinks - so as Adrian poured out his hope for a new future, other words of Jesus came to me,

If I can?  Everything is possible for one who believes. (Mark 9:23)

Ouch.  

I thanked God because, right then and there, on a boat in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, the Holy Spirit reminded me He is the One who makes things happen.  Not man, not a powerful alcohol lobby, not government, not wishes or dreams.  It is He who holds the influence and power to achieve the means and ends that fit His designs and bring Him glory.  As Proverbs 21:1 says, The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases.

If the Lord desires for the drinking age to be raised, to make that area a more family-driven place, to remove some evil influence and break bondage over the youth who go there only to party - well, it's going to happen!  It doesn't mean it will be all clean, but with more accountability and authority given to law makers and law enforcers, it could change the physical, emotional and spiritual landscape of that area.

There are so many times in my day that I need that head/heart/gut check.  There are too many situations when I automatically think a situation is impossible.  I'm hoping you fall into that mental cul-de-sac so I'm not alone.  The world thinks that purity and holiness, responsible living, and the abundant life without reservation or fear is impossible in this day, age and culture.  

But it isn't.  We just need to stop thinking we can understand, come up with the solution and put it into practice.  We just need Jesus to make it happen in us. 

Everything is possible for him who believes.  So often, we let the world tell us what will happen, so much so that God, in His grace, let's it.  He lets us have free will, to do and say and think things, even if they are wrong.  That is the beauty of being the pinnacle of His creation.  Yet it remains, The Lord's plans and purposes cannot be thwarted by our thinking (or doing for that matter).  

What God says is going to happen, in a word, will.

I think it is best that we in the church, myself especially, give up relying on our own....whatever.  We should get on board with that and start seeking His mind in each situation we face, no matter how big or small.  That's when we will witness, like the Flor-abama church, maximum blessing.  We will be living as surrendered, God-fearing (and loving) people, full of grace, hope, truth and love.  What a sight that will be when it happens en mass!

Thank you Lord for the heart-check.  Thank you for the faith of Adrian and his hope for a renewed future for his community.  And keep reminding me Who You Are, so I can live in that truth and grace.

Lord, come quickly and bring about Your purposes on earth as they are done in Heaven!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Principle of Being a Princess (or It's All About Love Really)

We watch a lot of Disney movies.  In a house of three girls, I'm sure that's a shocking revelation.  We used to be all princesses, all the time, but Sophia grew out of it.  Actually, I think post-treatment, when her struggle became synonymous with her love of princesses, she got self-conscious.

I guess I can't blame her, it is on the back of the t-shirts bearing her Team name.

Anyway.....back to the present tense.  Princesses are making a come back.  Why?  Well, Little Bit of course.  Not that we really truly left them behind; we own a copy of all of the Disney princess movies, except for Princess and the Frog.  (Not sure why we don't have that one.)  But the early princess movies are shorter - which makes them ideal for little bitties, like Ella Grace, to watch.

Ok, she doesn't really watch them yet.  She dances to the opening and closing music, then wanders off to do her thing: make the house as messy as she possibly can, at her short stature.  Occasionally, she will wander back in, sit on one of her sister's laps for a minute, then go back to her mess-making business.

Yesterday morning, I put on Sleeping Beauty.  I tell you what, that is a princess life I can get behind.  Beauty, can sing, pretty clever ("I am sixteen after all!") AND you get to sleep for a hundred years.  In case you didn't know, I love to sleep.  Since having children and growing older, however, I don't sleep as much or as well as I used to.  I still love it.  It's my besetting sin.  Truly.

After Sleeping (which-I-wish-I-was), I put on Cinderella.  Most days, I feel more like this lady; lots of cleaning and other menial servitude, but I do get a whole lot more thanks, even if I get less fairy godmother action.

During the mini-princess-film-fest, something struck me.  What these gals are singing about, what they want more than anything in the world, is to be loved.  They want to be rescued, sure, but more than that, they want to be found and to be known.  They want to be valued above all else - to feel worthy and worth the effort.  They want true love.

Before you say, "Well, duh!," let it sink in.  As I sat there, on Sunday morning before church, it hit me: that's why I'm in the relationships I am in (including a relationship with Christ).  Love is why I got married and had kids.  It is also why I get mad or isolate myself from people in my house sometimes - because when the situation starts to feel "unloving," I might leave the room or lash out.  Strike first to save myself any real pain.  (That's a big crock, by the way.  Strike first doesn't work for governments or for stay-at-home-Moms.)

And now, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella?  Those ladies are showing me what it means to be vulnerable - hearts on the outside of the chests.  They are singing, dancing, not even remotely afraid they will never find love.  In fact, they are so irritating sure they will be loved, they sing and dance with birds of prey and rodents.

I find myself wanting to be that be vulnerable but I want it without all the strings attached.  Without all the heartache that does comes from being loved by another human.  Because it does come with heartache. Humans don't do anything perfectly for an extended period of time.  I can't even make the same meal, the same way twice.  (Ask Dave, he will confirm.)

At the root of all hesitation, at the bottom of all of us, is fear.  We are afraid to fully let go because we are afraid of the imperfections.  This applies to human relationships, but I know it creeps into my relationship with the Lord.  I find myself often having to remember the Lord doesn't think or act like I do.  He doesn't respond to me the way others will.  When I come to Him, what I get is purity and truth, not watered down affection.  

Jesus loves like He is not scared.

In Scripture we see Jesus loving, getting hurt (to the point of agonizing death), knowing it is better this way.  The Father, too, loves us so much, He sent His Son to be rejected, watching Him pay the ultimate price, still knowing it was better this way.  Then, after all that, The Holy Spirit came to live in and with us, knowing we would grieve Him to no end, but still knowing it is better this way.

This is true, pure love.  The Apostle John, in his first letter to the early churches, describes what this pure, true love does,

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. (1 John 4:18, HCSB)

It's humbling to read that verse.  It's humbling to know those animated girls with their tiny feet and angelic voices have something I don't have: the ability to receive perfect love.  I have not reached perfection in love because I still have fear I'm going to get hurt if I love.  I'd really like to love like I'm not scared.

So, I go back to square one: I rest in the Lord.  I meet with the King and I read His Word.  I look for what He had to say about my imperfections.  And I dwell on the fact that His perfection trumps everything else.  His love has already come to completion and it takes very little, if any, effort of my own, to tap into that power.  Indeed, some days all I have to do (or have time for) is to say the name of Jesus.

That name bears the standard of true love.  That name is the One that saves.  That name removes fear.  That name gives me the power to be all He called me to be, before the beginning of the world.  That name marks me as royalty - as His princess and bride.

The principle of being a princess is receiving love from the King.  Lord, make me more able to do that, more able to receive Your truth, Your Love, Your Goodness - without hesitation or reservation.  I want to love You, myself and others like I'm not scared.

And in Your love, I won't be scared anymore and I can love like You do.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Factors of Faith

(Warning: I listened to a lecture on the gift of Exhortation yesterday, so I'm about to get my exhortation on....)

I've been reading through the Gospel of Mark, but this morning, as I was flipping there, my eyes caught words in 1 Peter.  As I began my tangent in chapter 1, I was struck by several ideas.

So, to those in troubles, trials or grief: I write.  I think that covers just about everyone, the degree of suffering notwithstanding.

Peter starts off his letter reminding the reader (us) what they have and Who they get it from: eternal, un-spoilable life in Christ, from God the Father.  Those who haven't yet seen Him, but believe, have an even greater part in the treasure.  He outlines a few things, starting in the middle of chapter 1 to the end, that really lend to linear thinking.

He calls believers in Christ (in any age) to put ourselves to the task - to paraphrase the Apostle James,
Be do-ers of the Word, not just hearers.  Peter is echoing that thought but he quotes the Old Testament, specifically 4 references from Leviticus: Be Holy as the Lord is holy.

Seems like too tall of an order, I would once agree.  But now I'm not trying to BE like Christ (by my own efforts) but rather to let Him BE in me. Starting in verse 22,

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth, so that you have a sincere love for your brothers, love each other deeply, with all your heart.

Equation #1: Hope + Trust (another word for faith) = Knowledge of the Truth

When we know the truth, Jesus said, we will be set free.  Set free to do what?  Rest in Him and do what He says (John 15:14).  Our faith, and the hope we place in that faith, leads to knowing what God really wants.  Which then mean,

Equation #2: Truth (knowing God) + Obedience = Purity

Obedience Defined
So, we trust or have faith in The Truth of God and we obey it.  In that way, Peter says, we will be made pure.  Purity has gotten a rap in our day as meaning the same thing as abstinence.  Probably a left over effect from our Puritan forefathers, who got it from the Pharisees.  Whether it's sex, drugs, rock and roll (or anything else deemed "sinful,") abstinence often seems to means we work really hard not to do "it."  (Whatever it is.)  We make our lives goal to remain pure by not doing something, in our own effort to avoid it at all costs or 'be defiled.'

That's not what purity means.

Abstinence is following the law, but here Peter, echoing Christ, is after much more than what we do or don't do.  He teaches it is not what we don't do, but Who we follow.  Purity is following in Jesus' footsteps, doing what He told us to do.  Sure, Peter goes on to give us a list of things to stop doing, and that is part of it.

We can't be pure if we are still clinging to the habits and thought patterns of our old, unredeemed selves.  But the more we follow Christ, the more we seek to grow in the knowledge of Him and His love, I've found, the less we really want to be like our old "self." We want to get rid of anything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:5).

Which leads to the further development of my spiritual theory,

Equation #3: Purity + Fellowship = Love

Purity, as believing (putting our trust, hope and faith) in Christ and doing what He commands, is not done in a vacuum.  It is absolutely a group effort.  Peter mentions purity in tandem with sharing life with others because he knew that without his brothers and sisters, continuing in trust would be impossible.  Our minds, the enemy and and the world all ask the insidious question, "Are you sure faith in Christ is best?"

And by ourselves, we would eventually be convinced it is not.  But in fellowship, in closeness with other believers, the lies and deceptions can be called off and out.  Full deliverance is achieved when we are constantly reminded that God does what He promises.  We are held up to a higher standard, not of behavior, but of deepening our relationship with God.  Which leads to the ultimate solution,

Faith = Love

Why do these spiritual equations work?  Because they are laid into the foundation of the Cornerstone.  They are based on the finished work of Christ, not on ourselves.  And the point?  To praise God. 

Peter says it in Chapter 2:9, But you are a chosen people, the King's priests, a holy nation, a people for God to possess!  Why?  In order for you to declare the praises of the One who call you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  (CJB, emphasis mine) 

We gather together (fellowship) with minds bent on Christ, in hope, trust, faith, truth, obedience, purity and love; so we can praise the Lord for the mercy He has rained down upon us.  In that gathering, on Sundays, and hopefully all throughout the week through communication with other believers; we are strengthened and equipped by the Holy Spirit to show a hurting world who Jesus really is.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about who Jesus really is.  (I just read some this week and had to laugh out loud at it.)

It is Christ's Body - the Church - being together in worship in Spirit, under truth teaching and in service to others, that we are given the refreshment we need to remember how Peter started his letter.  Together, awash in God's love, we recall what's important:

1. Whose We are (Christ's);
2. The Treasure we have (in Christ).

That's the summary of the Christian faith, friends!  I know how easy it is to forget.  Life is distracting.  My own mental life is distracting, never mind a life filled with activity.

Yet, when we practice our faith together, worshipping and praising God, as Jesus commanded, in full Spirit and Truth, our minds and hearts are purified to line up behind our revived spirits - trusting the Holy Spirit is in charge.  

And expecting God to do, in and through us, all He has promised.

Be encouraged, as I keep saying, because the Lord always keeps His promises!