LIVIN’ THE DREAM….!

duck s in golden morning

LIVIN’ THE DREAM…!

I was talking to my husband about someone we both love, going over her spiritual growth and the long list of things that have come against her.  Believe me…the list is very, very long and the hits have kept coming.

It isn’t like suddenly relief has come and all is well and now she has the good sense to seek the life God wants for her because He has “straightened it all out”. Many of her dreams have been shattered, right along with her heart. The journey has been …long. New and scary things have recently forced their way into her already more-than-challenging place in space.

I described her spiritual growth…her responses to God and out of those responses, her life-giving investment in others. As I rehearsed it all, this heartfelt truth just came spilling out of my mouth…

“And you know…because she has been willing to seek God throughout all of this…she is livin’ the dream. I mean seriously…she is truly…livin’ the dream!”

I meant what I said with everything in me.  She is doing so many things to touch the lives of others in ways she absolutely, irrevocably would not have done, had the meant-for-devastation events not occurred.  Her life is exciting and full and painful and beautiful all at once.  She is more alive than she ever would have been without all that has happened.

This is what God continuously tries to get us to see and yet we so often believe the lie. Believing the lie turns us into self-protective, narcissistic, inward people who destroy our own purpose and then wonder why we are empty, lonely and hurting.  Who is the father of all lies? The one who roams about, looking  to devour you and me. How do our lives end up being devoured? By believing THE lie.

How do we find our purpose and the life that is beyond what we think or imagine or plan on our own? By believing this truth:

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.” Psalm 62:1

Seek Him…ask Him for the strength you need…ask Him to allow you to see Him as He sees you and help you to correct your ways! Ask Him to let you see others as He sees them! Ask Him to show you where you have agendas you don’t realize you have!

Because of His strength in you…you will ultimately stop fighting inwardly for your own way…your rights…ever agonizing that you can’t control situation after situation.  You can stop trying to micromanage life…yours and everyone else’s. Because you faithfully pray and begin taking on the disciplines of seeing things as God spells them out in His word…you will know with certainty that He is in control. You will see the senselessness of wearing yourself out fighting continuous battles that aren’t yours and therefore, you cannot win! You are punching the air and wearing yourself out in the process!

Hear me: You will not necessarily have things turn out the way you wanted or dreamed! But they will turn out the way He knows is life-giving for your heart, your mind and your sense of purpose. Your life will glorify His name. Why? Because others will gravitate to that mysterious thing that you seem to have! Part of your purpose will be helping them to let go and find that rest and sense of purpose.

That…is how you too…can be livin’ the dream!  It is the only dream worth having…it is custom-made for you by the One who loves you most…and best!

1 Peter 5:6-10 (ESV)
6  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
7  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
8  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
9  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
10  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)
14  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
15  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
16  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
17  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
21  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

 

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God is Pursuing Your Prodigal…and You!

Blue Crane Large maybe

You probably have someone you love who is living in a world all his own…a fantasy world of sorts because he believes the lie of the enemy. Maybe the lie affects one area of his life…maybe the lies have gotten so big that he can barely find any truth anymore.

It is tempting to feel that he can never find his way, because he is so steeped in his faulty thinking that he truly believes he is living out his best life.

When we think of our loved one that way, we are taking God out of the scenario.  We do that by saying, “Well…he/she has choice.”  True, but only a half truth.  Why do we remember and recite “choice” more than we remember and recite the story of the prodigal?  Why do we remember and recite “choice” more than we remember how Jesus pursued his first disciples?  They were just going about the daily!  They weren’t trying to “find God”. They weren’t looking to repent of their own selfish ways.  They were just bringing in the bacon, like other fishermen in their village.

Well, you say…they weren’t living in terrible sin…they hadn’t rejected family and God and everything else worthy and good.  True, but Jesus pursued them!

Let’s think of Paul. Is your loved one worse than Paul? He tortured and killed Christians…sought them out!  He was a Hitler in his time, wasn’t he?  Don’t you think he lied and manipulated in order to murder believers?  He lived in his own self-righteous world.  He wasn’t pursuing Jesus!  Jesus pursued him!

Don’t forget the prodigal.  Could anyone get any worse?  He rebelled and insisted that he deserved his father’s money…now!  You think that was one conversation?  I doubt it.  It only makes sense that he was wreaking havoc in order to get his own way.  When he finally wore his dad down…he left and lived in the worst kind of extravagant sin that one could live.  He was happy…doing all he had dreamed of doing. Had his dad been able to peek, I am certain he would have felt his son would have no reason or desire to come home.

He “had choice” and was busy making his own choices.

But…God.

God stood back and let him make those choices.  He let his choices bring about consequences.  He wanted to live the high life. He wanted to be out from under his family and any control (wisdom?) they might offer. He wanted to do life his own way.

He had choice. He chose. His choices destroyed his inheritance and his relationship with the father and mother who truly loved him. It all looked very permanent.

But…God.

All the while that His dad was praying, watching and waiting…God was working.  His dad didn’t see the work…but I believe he had faith and hope.  Otherwise…why would he have watched for his son and recognized him from far off.  He would have long since given up and stopped watching/hoping.

Our God is greater than the enemy who feeds the lies to us and to those we love. The  truth is, He is at work in them, as long as we are praying.  While praying, we must allow God to work out our own broken, destructive, faithless places. Why would God bring our loved one back to us only to have us destroy the work He has done in them through our own (possibly hidden) version of control and unforgiveness? Thankfully, his dad had a very different heart than his brother!

God is at work in those you love…and yes…in you. Remember, you too have choice. Are your choices helping to make the way for your prodigal to return?

His timing is perfect. His work is perfect.

Yes…your loved one does still…“have choice”!

1 John 4:4 (KJV)
4 …greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

James 1:2-8 (NIV)
2  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
3  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
4  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
5  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
6  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
7  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;
8  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

 

 

 

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Oceans of Peace…We Have Choices to Make…

ocean bridge sunset

This was in the August 27, 2018 Journey magazine: “I love the beach, and one of my all-time favorite beach experiences happens every afternoon when most folks have left for the day. I sit at the edge of the water and stare at the evening ocean. The whitecaps crash toward the shore, stirring up sand and shells, washing away any sandcastles left behind. I’m reminded of God’s power and might as I gaze at the water…”

There is nothing more powerful, beautiful, and mind/spirit-altering than the creation of God. The ocean is such a picture of God’s power. The sounds, the movement, the salt air, the sunsets and sunrises. There is an inner quiet that those powerful waves bring right along with the powerful sounds.

I have quoted it before and have told you that I pray these verses for my family, but in Ephesians 1:17-21 we read about how we have in us the power that raised Jesus from the dead. I always, think… “That is a lot of power!”  The next thought that has to follow is… “Am I experiencing that kind of power? Where is it? Where is it in the lives of the believers I know?”

In some ways, the ocean is very much like the Power in us. We ask God for peace and in His own unique way, He gives it to us. We sense it, we feel it, we bask in it.  The waves of His peace wash away the tension…the false dread we have in our minds (and the knots in our stomachs). We experience His peace for…five minutes…an hour…till the next blow comes or until we tie ourselves up in knots again with our own fear and dread.

His power in us is so much greater than washing away our dread and bringing in momentary peace.  It is so much broader. He promises wisdom when we ask. He promises peace when we trust. The list is long.

But we have choices to make. We can grasp that peace and hold on tight by choosing prayer, thoughts of His promises in His word. We can choose to lose our peace five minutes later…an hour later…by thinking our own thoughts right along with whatever the enemy is whispering in our ear.  Of course we know that it is second nature to reverse the tide and bring the muck and mire right back into our minds.  It is the flesh…not the Spirit that causes our fear and dread to return. We choose whether to go back to our fear and dread or…whatever robs us of our peace.

It is a choice and it is work! There are times when I have to go back to God a hundred times a day. I have found, though…that the spaces between my pleas for peace are greater as I return to Him. You will find the same! The waves of His power do their work.  The old stuff is washed away. The refreshment washes back in. It is absolutely worth the work!  As we make good spiritual choices, we grow…we change…our faith gets stronger…our peace is more readily achievable. Our peace-muscles are buff!

The power of His resurrection is…truly…in us.

We have choices to make…

James 1:2-8 (NIV)
2  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
3  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
4  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
5  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
6  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
7  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;
8  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

 

Ephesians 1:17-20 (NIV)
17  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
18  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
19  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,
20  which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

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For Whoever Loses His Life for Me Will Find it!… (Things in shambles?)

Broken House

When we feel stretched to the maximum and put upon…like the life we dreamed about is in shambles, here is an unlikely key: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever loses his life for me will find it” Matthew 16:24- 25

And boy do we know that is true!

Giving of ourselves is the ONLY way to find a life. (Our life…)

The enemy does his best to make the opposite seem true!!

Remember, God has a strategic plan for you and me. Sadly…the enemy does too. He isn’t random…he is strategic. He knows how to discourage us in order to slow us down and even defeat us for as long as we believe his lies.

But Ephesians says we have in us the same power that raised Christ from the dead! That… is a lot of power!

Our job is to seek God and learn/understand/obey what that means in each of our individual lives!

In doing so, we might lose the “me-life” that we thought we wanted or deserved, but the gain…oh the gain makes us realize that our way can gladly be counted as worthless…no loss at all.

His way…His life recalculates our vision, our purpose and  our lives. The life that He custom designs for each of us is truly living.  The Holy Spirit just reminded me of these words from a very old song. It is only one line and yet it describes the life our God intends for us to live through Jesus…hardships and all: “Joy unspeakable and full of glory and the half has never yet been told!”

“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever loses his life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24- 25

Ephesians 1:18-20 (NIV)
18  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
19  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,
20  which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

Philippians 3:8 (ESV)
8  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

 

 

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BUT IF NOT…Will You Hold On?

dragon fly orange w sparkles

Daniel 3:13-18 (ESV)
13  Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king.
14  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?
15  Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.
17  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
18  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

“But if not…” Is this the attitude of our heart? Is this how we hold on?

“But if not…” Is this the way we pray?

Do you pray that God will do something important, even life-altering and then are you willing to say… “BUT IF NOT…”

IF NOT…I will trust His hand…

IF NOT…I will worship Him…

IF NOT…I will not insist on knowing why/demand that God explain himself…

And…

THO HE DID NOT…I will choose not to deny His mighty love for me and mine…I will CHOOSE faith…

THO I HAVE NOTHING LEFT…I will choose to rely on Him for strength, perseverance, endurance…

THO THE FIRE IS UNBEARABLY HOT & LONG…I will choose to ask for and wait with hope that only He can give…

THO MY JOY IS GONE…I will choose to ask Him to restore my joy…

We have choices to make!

 

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God Didn’t Call You to Run Someone Else’s Race…

little girl on skooter

“God didn’t call me to run someone else’s race. He called me to run the race that He laid out before me.” (Journey Magazine).

This is YOUR race…YOURS!…assigned to you! Let (allow) God to perfect you continually and use you constantly. Let Him strengthen you each moment…ever remembering that He wouldn’t have given it to you unless He first cut you out and prepared…(continuously prepares) you for your painful, beautiful, generation-changing role!

He knew the mistakes you would make, the sins you would commit, the blind-spots/walls you would have. Think about those words. Blind spots/walls. You yourself cannot see them to even know they need to be destroyed.  They keep.coming.up.  Then there are the walls/blind spots of those you love or can hardly stand anymore. The ones you are forced to deal with every day, if not in person, in your head. But…

This is YOUR Race…YOURS!

God-given. God-infused. God-sustained.

He cries every tear with you and walks every moment with you…every painful step…every mile. He laughs along side you…I mean really laughs with you!

You will sense Him…know Him, only if…IF…you will choose to hear, press forward in His strength, wisdom, power and yes…even moments of joy, grace and hope that only He can give!

Jump out of this race to another? What will you do to THIS assignment…this generational-changing mission?  This life mission, given to you by God, is not just for the other one(s) in your life. It is for you. Perfecting you. Weaving in you the character that God desires so that your joy will be fuller. So that your peace, your understanding/contentment will be greater in all things.

This…is not just the role in which you are “stuck”.

You aren’t “stuck”. You have been given the gift of this…THIS assignment.

Take the assignment!  No! I mean really…TAKE IT. With everything in you, live it out. Live it out in the way you would for someone who gave His life for you…because He did. Live it out as though your very existence depended on it…because it does.  Live it out as though you knew it could give your children what they need to weed out the chains that bind them…

Because…it can!

Deuteronomy 30:6 (NIV)
6  The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)
26  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Zephaniah 3:17 17 The LORD your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take reat delight in you. He will quiet you with His love.

 

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Functional Leprosy…The Disease of Our Day…?

Don and I Camera BLURRY

Functional Leprosy…The Disease of Our Day…

In Priscilla Shirer’s video, “Discerning the Voice of God” (Updated Version) she says something like this:

Did you know that leprosy can be hidden in a person’s body for years before it shows up on the outside as the disfiguring disease it really is? The one who has the disease can get really good at hiding it for all of the years it takes to manifest itself. In effect, they become a functioning leper…working alongside others…with their terrible secret hidden.

In our society of Facebook’s faux friendships, perfect marriages and perfect lives… we have become experts at being “functional lepers”. We are hurting on the inside but portraying something very different in our perfectly-lit selfies.

If you are in a Bible study group, the beauty of the group is supposed to be authenticity. The beauty of the body of Christ is supposed to be authenticity.

I hope that your Bible study group or church friendships are more than what Priscilla has described. If you do not have a friend or a group of friends with whom you can be authentic, perhaps you need to be the ground breaker. If your current friends are not up for that kind of authenticity, maybe you need to add some new friendships.

There is no need to be a burden to everyone else, of course. But you should have a core friendship or group of friends with whom you can be real and who can be real with you.

Go to God with your heartaches, of course. Seek comfort from Him. But He has given us the gift of fellowship in the body of believers and that is not just in-and-out Sunday service or the social events we attend.

It seems to me that Jesus was very much a one-on-one person. He had a core group of believers he could talk to and who would listen and glean from what He had to say. Yes, He spoke to the masses and had time to himself. But a good chunk of his life was spent walking and talking with His close friends. Not idle chatter, but talking of the things that mattered, often working through things that were deeply troubling.  It was, of course, impossible to be functional lepers with Jesus right nearby.

We are to be more like Jesus. Maybe part of our job is to help make it impossible for those we care about to be functional lepers! Perhaps we should be intentional in praying for the wisdom and courage to be more open and more authentic. In doing so, surely we will encourage those in our sphere to be more authentic, as well.

I think that, through this kind of friendship, Jesus knew that functional leprosy would be healed!

Galatians 6 1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.

4-5 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.

7-8 Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

9-10 So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.

 

 

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