Have We Been Plundered?

9 05 2015

The deception that took place in the Garden of Eden continues in full force. It probably affects you more than you realize. I was shocked to discover how often it has invaded my life.

Think about it: In the garden were two trees with unusual qualities. One produced life, the other knowledge of good and evil. The unusual quality is that the fruit was visible. Adam and Eve could see it with their eyes, touch it, pick it, bring it to their mouths, and consume it.

Perhaps it wasn’t that the trees had unusual qualities, but that there was something about this couple themselves. They had a way of seeing something that we no longer have.

Can you see life, or good, or evil? I can’t.

Until they chose to pick and consume the fruit of the forbidden tree, their source for life was God. They exchanged this for their own knowledge.

No longer would God’s perspective be what defined life for them; instead, their knowledge, their experiences, their understanding was how they would function.

Recently, I’ve discovered that this is how I live life as well.

I am not alone in this state of deception.

I have my “quiet time,” pray, attend church, and do good on a consistent basis.

It’s not until life falls apart that I begin to press in to the Lord for help.

The rest of the time, “I’ve got this!”

After all, I’ve read my Bible. I know what I’m supposed to “look” like in any given situation. Don’t need help with that. I’ve got it under control.

Or do I??

Let’s consider the Trees again.

One gives life – aliveness.

The other offers knowledge. Of evil for sure…but also of good.

Could this be what is meant by the Lord when He said, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”?

Evil and good come from the same root. That root is self.

Adam and Eve ‘unplugged’ from the source of life, and became their own source.

No amount of good can ever bring aliveness.

Many people do a great deal of good – and yet feel completely dead inside.

We’ve got to get this. It changes everything!

Fill in the blank:

“For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does _____________________ comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” John 3:20-21

How did you complete the sentence?

Good?

Righteousness?

Um, no.

Truth.

The opposite of evil, from God’s perspective, is not good. It is truth.

The problem with doing the “good” thing is that we decide what is good, and what is evil. Further, due to life experiences (which we decoded as best we could based on our knowledge), we look at circumstances and people through a skewed lens. Thus, our perspective may cause things to look like a reflection in a house of mirrors…misshapen and distorted…and we do not even realize it!

After all, it’s all we know.

Sadly, I’ve lived all my life in this way. Every situation got filtered through prior experiences, and through my great knowledge of life. When I lacked information with which to decipher what was before me, I turned to books for more knowledge.

In nearly every situation, I did the best good I knew to do. As a child of God, I wanted to please Him by being “good.”

My motive was not the problem; it was from which source I derived my perspective of things that got me into trouble.

What I called “good” –

produced death.

At this time, the Lord is unraveling a massive knot in our family. Years ago things surfaced that were devastating in nature. I handled it as best I knew how by trying hard to do the ‘good’ thing. Be nice. Never say “sh*t” – even when my mouth was full of it.

Consequently, many more people were hurt…and for much longer than necessary. For years – until last week – my family lay in ruins. Praise the Lord, rebuilding has begun.

Not once when the mess began did I ask the Lord to talk to me about the situation.

In the absence of His voice, the enemy was happy to ‘explain.’ He spoke, and I made agreement after agreement with him, which built countless strongholds in me.

I know, because the Lord’s been busy tearing them down this year.

…All because I was doing the best good I knew to do.

Sadly, the church very often teaches us this way of living. It goes something like this:

“You’ve been living on the Evil branch long enough. It is time for you to come over to the Good branch so your life looks better.”

“Do more, try harder to be better.”

This is what religion offers. Jesus wasn’t a big fan of religious folks, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Didn’t Jesus say, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks?”

Why do we never bother to look at the root system of the things we are doing so as to determine their source?

Listen again to the words of Jesus from John 10:

“The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might {do more, and try harder to be better}.”

NO!

“I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.”

He must be our source. Any fruit we produce if we are plugged into our own knowledge will lead to death – both the works that are evil…and the ones we deem ‘good’.

If we are doing our best to get through this life by being ‘good,’ then we are being plundered. Plug into the True Vine, ask Him to give His perspective of whatever is before you, and discover aliveness as you allow His life to flow through you.

God alone is good!





Voices in My Head

23 04 2015

“Who said that?”

How can we tell when we are hearing from God, and when the source of what we heard is from elsewhere?

Although He speaks to me, to explain how I knew that it was my Father was not as simple as I thought. I tried several times, but my explanation fell woefully short. In the end, I was less convinced than was my audience!

At long last, I get it!

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17

If we’re not careful, we can read this: “and hearing by Scripture alone.” God is without limits – and this includes the ways in which He chooses to speak.

(This first bit is nothing new. The second part, though, is what is new and helpful to me.)

Now, the most common way (to me, anyhow), is through His Word. A verse jumps off the page at me. I may not fully understand what is being communicated at that moment, but I know it has significance. It resonates within my heart.

This was my experience in 2014. Isaiah 43:19 (Behold I am doing a new thing…) came across my radar dozens of times, beginning in January.

What He meant, and what I thought He meant were two very different things…but that’s another story!

The “Verse of the Day” from the You Version Bible on January 1 of this year was – you guessed it! Isaiah 43:19. I get a do-over! Woohoo!

The point is this: He let me know through Scripture that He was on the move in my life. By highlighting that verse over and over, He was being very emphatic. No “Truly, truly I say to you…” for me. Based on the number of times I came across this verse, I think He might have been talking “good and loud” – maybe even shouting – so I would hear Him!

Another way God speaks is through others. This is one of my least favorites, for it takes great discernment. Is what they said in line with what God reveals about Himself in Scripture, and with who He says I am? Is it consistent with the Word?

These should be written down and prayed over, not accepted at face value – no matter how godly the person who gave the “word” seems to be. I’ve gotten myself into messes countless times because I trusted the person, thus their counsel – but did not bother to seek God concerning what was said.

Leaving God out of the loop is never a good idea!

Another common way He communicates to me is through nature. I have a windowsill full of heart-shaped rocks. Hummingbirds come close enough that I could reach out and touch them. These are like little kisses on my cheek and remind me that I am dearly loved.

There are many other ways in which He communicates, as well. You probably know them better than I.

The question becomes,

“How do we know for sure that God is the source?”

In the past, I’ve been unable to state this part – even when I’ve been absolutely positive that it was my Father who spoke.

I finally got a handle on this in a way that I can share.

First, when I think I’ve heard from the Lord I must consider:

Does this increase my faith? After all, faith comes by hearing. If I am less confident in the Lord, then He is not speaking.

Next, does it stir up the Fruit of the Spirit? Do I have more of any of them?

  • More love?
  • More joy?
  • More peace?
  • More patience? (This one is a big tip-off for me!)
  • More kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness?
  • More self-control? (Another cue that helps me)

For instance, God once spoke to me through a movie I was watching. He pointed out the main character and stated that this is what He was going to do in a rather unsavory person whom I knew.

His word to me immediately increased my faith. It changed how I treated this person, and gave me a great deal of patience with them. When their behavior was crazy, I now had the ability to bite my tongue and keep loving them.

That was several years ago, and we are seeing the fruit of God’s work in this person. On my own, I’d never have believed it to be possible. His word gave me faith to believe.

Finally, does the “word” release me? Does it bring freedom?

This isn’t the sort of “release” that says, “Go ahead and leave your marriage, quit your job, or (basically) run away.” It doesn’t instantly end a trial or make life all better.

It is the sort of release that frees me to persevere without the baggage of fear, anxiety, worry. I am released from the belief that it’s all up to me.

When I’ve heard from the Lord, I feel settled in my heart. The chains that previous bound me concerning the matter fall away.

If I think I’ve heard from Abba, but do not have an increase in faith, the fruit of the Spirit, or a sense of freedom, then I know it was not His voice!

That’s my 833 words on the subject!

Do you have other methods by which you determine “Who said that?” Do tell. <3





Which Tree Will You Choose?

22 04 2015

In the Garden were two trees: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

A few years ago, the word knowledge caught my attention. It would seem that prior to eating its forbidden fruit, good and evil existed – Adam and Eve were simply unaware of it. Since the devil was around, this was certainly true. Interesting.

In a way, it seems like these two trees are now resident within us. (Work with me here. This is all new to me, and I’m not likely to put it down as clearly as I’d like! A little grace while I work it all out, okay? :) )

The Tree of the Knowledge is like our old nature. The Tree of Life is like the Spirit that now indwells us.

We are free to choose our source.

When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, everything changed. God was no longer the lens through which they saw things. They became like God, all right. Thereafter, they decided for themselves what was good and what was evil.

As do we.

How do we determine what’s good and what’s evil, though? It depends upon how it makes us feel:

If it makes me happy, and I feel content or satisfied, then it is good.

If it makes me angry, hurt, afraid, or upset in any way, then it is evil.

We pass everything through the filter of our knowledge, our understanding, and our perspective – then label it “good” or “evil” accordingly.

Where this can really get us into trouble (experience speaking here), is when we are faced with a massive test.

Last year, I came up against the granddaddy of all trials. As we are all prone to do, I ran to the Tree of Knowledge to figure out how to handle the thing. I ran through my database, where I’d stored all my vows and agreements:

“No one will ever do … to me again.”

“I will never…again.”

“I’m unlovable. This is all I deserve anyway.”

My source for what to do with all the pain and turmoil was my own history. From my perspective, this was clearly EVIL.

If my heavenly Father truly loved me, He would have protected me.

Checking my database again, I came to the conclusion:

God is not good…

…at least, not to me.

Even He thinks I am worthless or He would have kept me safe.

Because my source for deciding good and evil was my limited knowledge and understanding – and a very warped lens as to what a father is like, I was nearly taken out.

I had expectations of what God should have done.

When He didn’t act according to my understanding, I was hurt and disappointed.

My own database was insufficient, so I consumed volumes of others’ thoughts and conclusions on the matter. I picked from their trees and put it on my own. For eight months, I sifted through tons of information in search of relief.

A Tree of Knowledge is like a lone redwood tree planted in the sand. 

A redwood has very shallow roots that must be intertwined with other trees if it is to stand during a storm. Alone, and in shifting sand, it doesn’t have a chance!

All the while, there stood the Tree of Life, solid as a Rock:

Abide in Me.

Ask Me.

Trust Me.

This last year would have looked very different had I chosen to eat from the Tree of Life, instead of the Tree of (my own) Knowledge. I didn’t know that I could go to the Lord and ask Him to give me His perspective on the matter at hand. I didn’t realize that He wanted to change how I viewed Him, and how I thought about what was going on.

If you hear nothing else, get this:

Our Lord is the only  reliable source for every moment of every day. Ask Him often to give you His mind concerning everyday life. You will be surprised at what He shows and/or tells you! There’s the added bonus of His peace that goes far beyond our comprehension. ;)

This, of course, brings to mind one of my favorite verses:

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. ~Proverbs 3:5,6

I’m in a new season now. My source for daily life (and not just when I get into a jam!) is the Tree of Life. I am learning to:

Cast down arguments and every high thing

that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,

bringing every thought into captivity

to the obedience of Christ.

~2 Corinthians 10:5~

All the junk that grows on the Tree of Knowledge, based on our human perception and understanding, is an argument and an high thing that exalts itself against our knowledge of God, and the only source for accurate knowledge of Him…is the Tree of Life.

Choose Life!

***

This is woefully inadequate – a topic that would take many chapters to flesh out. I hope you get the gist of what I shared. <3

***

I’m thankful to Bob Hamp at Gateway Church in Texas for opening my eyes to what I was doing. His foundational classes are worth their weight in gold. You can find them here: http://gatewaypeople.com/ministries/freedom/events/foundational-classes





Prodigal Surprise

9 01 2015

“Familiarity breeds contempt,” as it is said. While I didn’t have contempt for the prodigal’s story, I was so familiar with it that there seemed to be nothing new to glean from this parable.

How wrong I was!

Luke 15 finds Jesus drawing tax collectors and sinners, while Pharisees and scribes looked on and complained.

He begins to tell them stories – three, in fact:

The lost sheep

The lost coin

The prodigal son

All three have one thing in common: something was lost.

In the first two, however, a search ensues. They leave what is safe in the fold and in the house, and go in search of what is lost.

(This is where our story gets interesting!)

Is this true?

Sure enough, the ‘prodigal’ is out there somewhere, living it up, spending all he has.

Who goes in search of him?

No one.

Broken and broke, he returns home, prepared to spend the rest of his life as a ‘hired hand’ to his father and brother.

The father runs out to meet him when he sees his son from a long way off…

…but he hadn’t gone in search of the prodigal.

There is great rejoicing – as in the other two stories. He’s given the best robe (probably his father’s), a ring, and sandals. A party is thrown and everyone invited. They kill the fatted calf for this shindig.

It’s a big deal!

Hey, wait! Wasn’t the father’s inheritance split between his two sons (Luke 15:12)?

So, whose robe, ring, and sandals was the younger son wearing?

The older son’s. They were eating his cow, too! (See verse 31) When he found out, he was turned inside out with anger.

Now the search ensues.

“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore the father came out and pleaded with him.” (verse 28)

Father went in search…not of the “bad” son, but of the “good” one.

If this family is to survive, the older son has some work to do.

It has to begin with his own heart.

He will need to take stock of his attitude of self-righteousness, realize that his motives in doing all he had were not pure – at least the younger son was honest about his feelings – and to see his own sin in all this.

He would rather point to his brother’s sin and carry on about what this ‘bum’ deserves. He actually owes a debt of gratitude…

…little brother made him look pretty good!

But out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…and there isn’t a shred of grace, mercy, or love in his words.

If his heart isn’t too hard, once he faces its ugliness, the tough work of forgiving must begin if they are to live ‘happily ever after.’

Further, the older brother must come to terms with the fact that his sibling’s acting out will cost him.

It’s already cost him a robe, ring, shoes, and a big party. These all came out of his pocket.

Beyond that, little bro came home flat broke. He spent everything he had on “riotous” living. He’s already had his fun; now he’s come home completely spent.

All he offers is his broken, penitent heart. It’s all he has left.

He will need to be supported, for everything now belongs to the eldest. They will have to learn to work together. That’s a lot to ask of the older brother.

This will only be possible through forgiveness.

Then, and only then, can the big brother walk in freedom from bitterness, anger, and resentment.

The choice is his.

The sad truth is that when we are related to a ‘prodigal’ son, their sin will cost us – things that can seldom be tallied on a spreadsheet: embarrassment, humiliation, dignity, self-respect, and lost years.

Getting to forgiveness is a process, and will take time.

The cost of refusing to forgive is far greater, though. We will become bitter, resentful old people whom everyone avoids…lonely. We cut ourselves off, not only from others, but from our Father Himself.

That never goes well.

What is being asked of us will twist our minds every which way. It’s not fair! This is not my fault!

Forgiveness feels just plain wrong!!!

Why should our younger brother get off ‘scott-free’ – while we foot the bill for their actions?

And yet, is this not what our Big Brother did for us? Can we not pass on the grace which we so freely received?

We must, especially when we consider how much more we have to lose by hanging on to unforgiveness.

Do we really want to pay the high price of bitterness because of another’s sin against us?

I certainly don’t…but I haven’t “arrived” yet!

I want to, though. Lord, teach me to walk in the freedom of forgiveness.

As you can see, the prodigal’s story contained some surprises for me. Hopefully it did for you as well.

Whooee! This year is certainly starting off with a bang!!





Life-Giving Grace

8 01 2015

“Hello, my name is (Name Your Failure Here).”

Ever felt that way? Believed it deep down? This is how I secretly ‘defined’ myself for years.

There’s good news for us:

Grace is radical!

I don’t think we even begin to comprehend the freedom we have because of this marvelous characteristic of God.

This shackle-cutting truth escaped my understanding, for sure. Thus, most of my life, I’ve lived from a position of “because of my failures, I am unlovable” and worked hard to earn Father’s love.

However, grace is not something we earn. It is a gift, freely given by God. (Ephesians 2:8-9). In fact, the very faith by which we believe in Jesus is a gift, and not something we “worked up” in order to become His.

Where my ignorance nearly became my undoing is in the area of failure.

Sometimes these were unexpected outcomes. I never saw it coming. For these I can believe there is grace.

However, sometimes the failure came as a result of premeditated sin. I chose to do the wrong thing. The end result was failure on many levels.

God didn’t “owe” me grace for my eyes-wide-open sin. I messed up. There were consequences, and I just had to buck up and get through life as best I could.

Is this the kind of life Jesus died to give me??

Reality check: When Jesus died, all my sins were yet future. Even those I have yet to commit. (Yes, because I am still breathing, I will continue to sin…even if it is confined to my thoughts. Um, so will you!) See Romans 5:8.

NO!!

He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

While we were yet sinners!

What I discovered this last year is that I have been tolerating much in the name of “consequences” for my premeditated sin. There was no grace for this, in my mind. I did it. I deserved what I got as a result of my choices.

What did I do, then, with one of my cornerstone verses: I know the plans I have for you…plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope?

I had it figured out that, because of my poor choices, I would just have to “gut this out” for the rest of my life. My ‘hopeful future’ would now have to wait for heaven…and I longed for death so I could get there.

With enough effort on my part, once I arrived I wouldn’t be stuck as a shoe-shine girl on the corner of Celestial Avenue and Heavenly Way.

Underneath all of my “understanding” was seething hatred of a God who could be so harsh as to leave me where I was with a “Tut-tut! You should have chosen more wisely.”

I believed that God was withholding His promises from me because of my own stupidity.

I would tell you that God is good – but didn’t believe it for myself.  My private opinion of His character was that He was cruel and unloving.

How could He tell call Himself my loving Father – and yet demand that I live my life as a victim as a ‘consequence’?

I believed that due to my failures I was no longer worthy of anyone’s love. “This is your new normal. Deal with it.”

I believed that all I could expect from Him was ‘just enough’ to make it through life.

This, my friends, is what happens when we seek man’s concepts about God, grace, love, and all the rest – instead of asking God Himself. We can, and should, seek godly counsel; but don’t stop there. Take their words to the Lord and ask Him to reveal what is true and what is not (Acts 17:11).

Well-meaning spiritual counselors and advisers spoke Scripture into my situation…but I don’t think they stuck around to see how I processed what they said; what their words looked like after it went through my “God” filters.

I’ll bet they’d have been horrified.

Satan also used Scripture to try to derail Jesus. No doubt he continues this today. Since everything I ‘thought’ I heard turned out to be a lie…and the oldest lie in the Book (God is holding out on you), I know he was an active participant in how I understood what I was told.

Here’s what I know today:

My failure(s) did not create me; therefore, they cannot define me. Only God can tell me who I am…and He calls me “Beloved,” “Delightful,” and “Princess.” I am fully forgiven. {sigh of relief!}

Yesterday, I had to do a “Hard Thing.” (I’m loving Havilah’s study!) On the way back to my car, I sidestepped a large rock. When I glanced at it, I noticed that it was a heart!

(I have a mound of them. They are God’s special communique to me of His love.)

He was letting me know that I’d done well, and that He is proud of the steps I’m taking to walk in victory at last.

His grace is radically sufficient…for even me!

My Father loves me!

My Father loves me!





The God of Second (Third…Hundredth) Chances

6 01 2015

January 1, 2015 began a new year, new beginnings…another chance.

When I opened my Bible app for the Verse of the Day, guess what it was?

Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; do you not perceive it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19.

This is the same verse I received last year!

As I read the words for the umpteenth time, I sensed the Lord’s smile as He let me know that I have a “do-over.” I get another run at this promise. That’s good news!

Last year, I had expectations of what that would look like for me. Those are now gone. I have no preconceived notions of what He has in store…only that He will be faithful to complete the work He has begun.

Life took a crazy turn last year. As I look back at where I was last January, I am amazed at the growth He’s wrought in me – despite my confusion and disappointment. Through all that, the Lord took my faith in Him to a new level.

He used the trials to reveal some very ugly things that I believed to be true of Him, and replaced them with a greater understanding of His infinite love for me.

The training received on making disciples – have no opinion in other’s situations, do not judge, do not advise, only love them – was well-tested. I had ample opportunities to walk out what He’d worked in.

I didn’t do it perfectly {gasp!}.

However, I did much better than ever before.

Progress!

Nothing is resolved yet, but this year I have hope…hope for a brighter future, hope for transformation and restoration.

How I appreciate the fact that the Father loves us where we are, with all our messed up thinking about His character; and that He continues to pursue us in hope that we will finally see Him more accurately.

I said some really mean things to God last year, all borne out of my misunderstanding of what He is really like. My words did not deter Him. He didn’t throw up His hands in exasperation and write me off as a lost cause.

Instead, He continued to tenderly whisper that He loves me, that He understood my confusion but wanted me to know that what I believed was simply not true. He asked me to trust Him with the hard things I’m dealing with, and to believe that He will work all this for my good.

I saw this quote on someone’s blog earlier this week. It resonated with me, and so I share it with you:

“Everything is going to be fine in the end.
If it’s not fine it’s not the end.”

-Oscar Wilde-

And so I begin this year with my hand in my Father’s, trying to match my steps with His, in full confidence that He has this. It will be fun to look back over this year in 2016 and see all He has accomplished in, around, and through me.

To God be the glory! Amen.

How about you? Do you find this the Year of the Great Do-Over? Do tell!

PS If you live in Northern California, the Legacy class (disciple/mentoring) begins soon at The Stirring in Redding. Jim Bailey and his wife Amy are amazing, and very gifted teachers. Don’t miss it!





Satan, You Knocked On The Wrong Door!!

5 01 2015

lessonsbyheart:

This was too good to keep to myself. Enjoy!
\o/

Originally posted on godssceneryandpromises:

1-3-15 Harbor Beach 009 

(By Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke-Official FB Page)

“This is how my parable begins.

Let me call him, John.

John had a double story house, five plus five rooms.

One day, there was a gentle knock on the front door.

When John opened it was the Lord Jesus.

‘Please come in,’ John pleaded,

‘I will give You the best room in my house – it is upstairs.’

Well, Jesus is a gentleman, and said, ‘Thank you’. 

The next morning someone hammered against the front door.

When John opened it, who was there?

The devil.

‘No,’ shouted John, ‘I don’t want you here.’

But the devil said, ‘I’m already in” – and a big fight started.

Satan poured filthy temptation on him, it was horrible.

By the evening,

 John somehow got the victory, and threw the devil out.

Then he said, ‘Wait a minute.’

I gave Jesus the best room in the…

View original 357 more words








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