Raw and Real

24 08 2015

To know that we’re loved by God with the same love as His love for Jesus is amazing; heartwarming; unless…

…you’ve been abused most of your life…

…and you believe that God punished Jesus in your place;

that all Christ endured was God’s ‘heart’ for you.

He hated you that much.

Aren’t you so thankful that Jesus took the hit for you?

Don’t you want to become one of God’s children too?

Strong words?

Yes. I cringe as I type, for this is completely untrue.

Yet, I see that this is the ‘gospel’ most of us believe; is the reason why some Christians protest abortion clinics and homosexuality and other behaviors to which God is opposed by screaming curses and spewing hateful labels at those who participate.

‘Without Jesus’, they deserve wrath…ours, apparently.

In the loving name of Jesus, amen, of course.

(This is NOT my approval of their ungodly acts – just a comment about our ungodly treatment of them.)

I had many questions for God last year. Ones to which I needed answers if I was to continue in the faith. It was really messy, so I ‘unplugged’ from WordPress to spare you.

Utterly fed up with abuse of any sort, I was ready to ‘dump God’ as the worst abuser of them all.

Hell sounded pretty good: sure, it’s hot, dark, worms never die…but you are alone. At least I wouldn’t be mistreated by others anymore.

Jeremiah 29:13 reads, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

It was the ‘all my heart’ bit that got me into trouble.

Yes, His Spirit was dwelling in me, but it was ‘Standing Room Only.’ There was a crowd of ‘witnesses’ hanging out in there as well. People from my past whose words ‘dwelt richly in me’ – words I believed with all my heart:

Stupid, worthless, fat, ugly, lazy, ridiculous, good-for-nothing, inadequate, unwanted, unlovable, and many that I won’t type so as to not offend you. Their voices were so loud that I could barely hear the Spirit speak.

(Through the process of forgiving, most of them have been evicted this year. I’m doing much better. Hearing the Lord much better, too. 😉 )

If you tell a person who’s been abused that the cross was God taking out His wrath for us – on His beloved Son – they’re not going to want to ‘join your club.’

Just sayin’.

After all, children, believe that parents love. Everyone knows that.

The abused child assumes that this is what love does: Dad’s angry about an infraction of his laws. Mom interferes, deflecting Dad’s anger and receives what was about to be unleashed on him or her.

Which sounds a lot like what God’s love ‘did’ to Jesus…

…the innocent suffering wrath that was meant for us.

(Yes, this is what the mind of an abused person does with the ‘Good News.’)

Is this what we really believe about God?

More importantly, is it even true?

Have I rattled your cage? If this is the god you believe in, I sincerely hope so.

We will seek Him – and find Him – when we search for Him with all our heart.

*****

My next post will be a re-blog by Mel Wilde. It turns out, I’m not the only one on this quest. Being further along on the journey, he is better able to articulate what God has also been revealing to him. It was exciting to discover that what God was showing me, He is also revealing to others, and independent of others. Mel is one of many, I’ve learned!

For a more thorough, scholarly treatment of this subject, I highly recommend Healing the Gospel by Derek Flood.





Faith-Full

11 08 2015

Although the dictionary defines faith as confident trust, the world defines it as a nebulous belief in “something out there” – whether it’s God, or Buddha, or aliens…whatever.

But the Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Why is this? As I read through James, I realized that many of the things that are commanded in the book cannot be done if I do not implicitly trust God.

When trials come, I will not shout, “Hurrah! God’s going to do mighty things, and I’m going to get to see Him at work.”

I will credit chance or luck for the good things that come my way.

Anger will come easily when others infringe on my rights. As a result, I will do some really ugly things – rampant wickedness, the Bible calls it – in an effort to maintain my position.

Every effort will be made to hoard all that I have. After all, It’s mine…get a job!

Without real trust in God, I will fall into the world’s belief that only those who have status, riches, or renown have value; and that I will only be a “somebody” by rubbing shoulders with them, or by becoming one of them. Heaven forbid I should be identified with the “wrong crowd.”

Consequently, I will scratch and claw my way to the top, stepping on others along the way. I will be unable to encourage or support others in my field, lest they gain an advantage and surpass me on the ladder of success.

Trust enables me to rest in the knowledge that God will avenge my adversaries on my behalf. Without trust, my belief is that I must seek revenge.

Unless I trust God, forgiveness is impossible.

These are just a few of the topics covered in the book of James. As you can see, without faith, we will fail in our attempts to do more and try harder.

Thus, our focus when we travel through James must be on learning to trust God. We must be able to rely on Him completely, or fail utterly.

This begs the question:

How do I learn to trust God?

The only way I know is by experience others’ and my own, and from my memories. This is what the Bible is all about: stories of people’s experiences with Him.

Paul said, “Forgetting the past, I press on toward the mark of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians) Time and again I’ve heard people use this verse to say, “You need to forget everything that happened to you, and everything you used to do. That’s not important anymore. It’s only today that matters.”

To a certain extent, they are right. If we live in the past with unresolved anger, resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness, we will be short-circuited and unable to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What Paul was stating is that he did not allow his past to define him. Yes, he used to be a Pharisee, harshly judging people. He had been transformed by the Lord’s hand.

Yes, he used to arrange to have people killed for following Jesus. He doesn’t continue to murder.

These are things he used to do, but now he was a new creation in Christ. The old was gone, the new had come.

On the other hand, God told the Israelites countless times to “Remember when I brought you out of Egypt. Remember when I parted the Red Sea. Remember when I took out your enemies…

“Remember.”

It would seem that our memory concerning God’s work in our lives is a big deal to God. Why is that? Well, this is where “theory meets reality” and experiences happen.

The same is true in our history. When I look back and remember times when I needed a home and God provided, I experienced Him as my Provider.

When I had to go to court because of an abusive husband, I experienced God as my Defender.

When I was in the hospital, dying from a bone marrow disease and God healed me, I experienced Him as my Healer.

When I was committing adultery and God continued to pursue me, I experienced Him as compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy and faithfulness.

It is in remembering that I discover that I’ve had many chances to experience the truth of Who God really is.

Today when my faith is weak, I have only to look back and remember all that God has done for me. Recounting the ways that He has been faithful, helps me to be Faith-Full!





By Faith, Gerbil…

11 06 2015

When our three-year-old granddaughter showed up on Friday with her swimsuit and goggles in her arms, I knew one thing for sure:

There was a pool in her future!

She had been asking Grandpa for one, suggesting that he take his truck so she could get the box home. This went on for a couple of weeks.

On Friday, she changed her tactics. Instead of asking to go to the store, our little Gerbil (affectionately so nicknamed for how she sounds when she speaks – too cute!), told Grandpa that she would take him to the sale. Now, who can resist a sale!

She returned home with her parents later that night, undaunted by the fact that her ‘prayer’ was still unanswered.

We marveled at her faith, her persistence – and her calm assurance that she would receive that for which she asked. No temper tantrums, no whining; just patient waiting.

Impressive for a three-year-old!

You know what happened next:

We went shopping on Saturday for a wading pool!

At the same time, I’d been asking Abba for a writing table; a dedicated place for my laptop where I could be with my hubby while I work. Like Gerbil, I was patiently waiting.

That same Saturday, Wendel said, “Hey. Why don’t we go find a writing table for you.”

Out of the blue, just like that.

“You know,” he said, “we could learn a lot from Gerbil. Instead of taking the car, let’s take my truck. That way, when we find your table we can bring it home with us.”

Following Gerbil’s lead, he took a step of faith.

(Or would it be called a “drive” of faith?)

We went to a consignment shop and looked at every table. They didn’t have what I was looking for.

I finally decided that I could ‘make do’ with one of them if we took the shelf off the top. We were looking it over to see how difficult it would be when the owner of the store came to see what we were doing.

After we explained, she said, “Did you see the drop-leaf table over there?”

Over where? We’d looked at every piece of furniture.

Or so we thought.

Sure enough, hidden in plain sight, was exactly what I was looking for.

It’s amazing what we can learn from a three-year-old!

It was fun to watch my Father reward the kind of ‘faith that asks with expectancy’ for both my granddaughter and my husband.

While this lesson “in the natural” was great – we all got what we wanted – it will no doubt encourage faith in weightier, “spiritual” matters as well.

Assurance of the thing for which we’ve asked is important

– especially when we know that what we’ve asked is in God’s will.

There was a matter for which I prayed with expectancy for years. As time wore on, however, my prayers became rote – I prayed less often, and more because I “ought” to, than because I anticipated the fulfillment of my request.

This is a dangerous state of mind. Doing so can cause us to miss out on the gift when it comes.

Like Zechariah, it can seem like too little, too late. We’ve lived with the stigma of barrenness for so long that it’s become familiar; comfortable.

Instead of gratitude, bitterness erupts.

That was my situation this year. Even though God spoke (Behold I am doing a new thing…Isaiah 43:19), and there was no denying the ever-enlarging abdomen of the forthcoming birth of the answer to my long-forgotten prayers, my response was less than gracious.

I’d resigned myself to the status quo. It became a ‘badge of honor,’ and for some absurd reason, didn’t want to give it up!

Much of the year was spent unraveling the multitude of lies I came to believe when God tarried (by my standards 😉 ) in moving on my request. Even though my request was being fulfilled, in my bitterness I nearly ‘aborted’ His gift, then considered putting it up for adoption. I came to believe that I didn’t want it anymore.

I was angry! At my age?? Really? Why couldn’t You have done this when I was young enough to fully enjoy it??

(No, I am not pregnant!)

You understand what I am saying? Sometimes the thing for which we ask seems like it would have been better ‘delivered’ when we were younger, more agile, and had more time to enjoy the benefits of the fulfillment…careers, relationships, etc.

I love that even when we’ve given up, God is faithful to do that which He has promised.

All that to say this:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. ~Habakkuk 2:3

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. ~Romans 8:25

When we patiently wait with anticipation – especially when everything tells us that it’s hopeless – our names are added to Hebrews 11:

By faith, (your name here!)…





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. ❤





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!