Three Little Words to Change Everything

10 08 2015

I’ll bet you’re expecting to read something like, “I love you,” right?

Those will improve life, no doubt, but they’re not today’s topic.

We have a Book that is crammed full of promises. Some are conditional, some are not:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper.”

“If you focus on whatever is good, pure, right, just, lovely, virtuous, and of good report you will have peace that passes understanding.”

“Seek God’s kingdom above all else and He will provide your needs.”

What if we, say, actually believed the promises we’ve been given? What if we acted as if they are true.

Maybe you’re saying, “Duh, I get that.” For me, though, there was a day when the reality of this truth broke through and illuminated my life like never before.

“I can put my full weight on the Bible.”

What does that have to do with three little words, you ask?

Let me give them to you first:

Jesus is Lord.

There they are….all eleven letters.

Oh, the depths of the riches of those three little words, though. If Jesus is Lord, then:

That means He’s the boss of me (as my kids used to say).

His plans for me are for good and not for evil – to give me a future and a hope…no matter what my circumstances may look like.

Everything I “own” is actually His – to be used whenever, wherever, and however He wants.

Which means:

When my car breaks down – it’s His car. I point out the problem and ask Him how He’s going to get it fixed.

When I’m having health issues, I know there’s a purpose in it and ask Him for guidance.

When I lose my job, I ask Him what He wants me to do next.

When I have needs (not wants – although sometimes He surprises us with those as well!), I look to Him for provision.

I’m not reduced to begging. Instead I can thank Him for taking care of me.

Prayer requests turn into praise meetings when I know that what I am seeking is in accordance with His stated will.

If Jesus is Lord, I can relax and quit trying to run the world. It is in His capable hands. I seek His direction…and then go where He sends me.

Hmm. A timely message for me! So much in life is upside down at the moment. Some of the matters I understand – many I do not.

Nevertheless, because Jesus is Lord, I can rest today, and know that He is in charge.

Yes, these three little words change everything:

Jesus is Lord!

 

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The Danger of Vows

5 08 2015

What kid could resist Jesus? His pictures always showed Him kind and loving; so gentle and welcoming – especially if the male faces around them are angry and mean most of the time; their actions rough and unkind.

The Sunday School class I attended as a child used big songbooks with beautiful pictures. My two favorites were “Fairest Lord Jesus” and “How Great Thou Art.” I fell in love with Jesus because of those two books!

As a child, though, we moved countless times to several towns and three states. Church wasn’t a high priority, and we attended only on Christmas and Easter most years.

The ‘face’ of Jesus that I’d come to love when I was little began to be replaced with the one I saw every day, everywhere we moved…because he moved with us. Back then families didn’t split up. You went to a new location where ‘things were going to be better.’ When you’re taking the ‘problem’ with you, that just doesn’t happen.

Like kids do, I assumed that God was like my ‘dad.’ Distrust of His love for me took root.

After all, if He was supposedly in charge, why wasn’t He doing something about the way we were treated by this man? And, without spiritual leadership – people who could explain free will and the other factors involved, I was left to figure out how it all worked on my own.

Few eight-year-olds are equipped to do this well.

By the time I was ten, I’d decided that the God-Who-Was-In-Charge either didn’t care about me, or was too weak to help. If life was going to get better, then I needed to take over.

Vows made in times of distress are dangerous.

“When I grow up, I will live in one place.”

“When I have a family, my kids will have a happy childhood with loving parents.”

“I will never let a man treat me the way my step-dad treats my mom.”

These little seeds are planted, but lay dormant for many years.

It isn’t until we become adults that these vows begin to interfere with life.

If we closely examine our vows, we discover that many factors were beyond our control.

For instance, where we will live is not dependent solely upon us. Unless we were able to purchase a house right out of high school, moves would happen. Apartments, more apartments, rent this house and that, until we bought a home and settled down.

When it came to parenting, I was only one voice of many in my kids’ lives. Since five out of seven were boys, I had less of a voice than any male. The simple truth is that it takes a man to raise a man. While this is not a popular belief, it is true nonetheless.

I had no control over how my kids’ dads would treat them…whether he would be loving or bring happiness to our home.

As for men…well, I can’t control how they choose to treat me. I can only control my response.

Here is where the vow becomes a problem:

I’d set boundaries around what my life would look like. Because none of them were dependent solely upon me, they were unsustainable.

Take my first vow: I will live in one place.

Hubby says, “I want to move to (this town, or that house).”

That’s a problem. I swore I would never move when I grew up. Now I have to decide which vow will be broken – the one about not moving, or the one about my kids having a happy family.

If I refuse to move, but dad has a job in another town and must go, then that means a split in our family – and there goes the loving home.

{Keep in mind, this is not a stable, healthy family to begin with. In a godly family, one where Christ is central, this would all work out. I get that.}

Or:

Hubby is abusive (no man will treat me…). If I take the kids out of this mess, I now bump up against the other two vows: I will not move, my kids will have loving parents – plural. What to do?

The bottom line is this: the vows I made boxed me in. No matter which decision I made to maintain one, others would be broken.

Before you judge me as an idiot, you need to know that I didn’t consciously remember the vows I made. My line of reasoning didn’t look like what you just read. At the time, I had great confusion as to the ‘right’ thing to do. I could see no way out of the messes I got myself into. I did the best I could, without ever understanding the underlying issues…my vows.

Consequently, I’ve made decisions that made no sense to anyone – including myself. As a result, I saw myself as a huge failure, and thus deserving of whatever kind of treatment I received from the world at large, and from the family members whom I’d failed.

But God loves me and wants me free. Over the course of the last year, He’s revealed countless vows that I made when I was young so I could dismiss them. Bit by bit, I’ve relinquished control to Him – the only One who can work all things for my good.

I’ve had to forgive myself for making the vows, and let myself off the hook for how things panned out. I take responsibility for those areas which were truly dependent upon me, and leave the rest on the table.

There is a lightness to my heart these days. Much of what I presumed to be my failure turned out to belong to someone else. They can have it!

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37

*****

Next time we’ll discuss agreements – the ugly twin to vows.





Root – Shoot – Fruit

26 05 2015

My rose bush produced the loveliest pineapples this year. Last year, it bore oranges.

Without much thought, you immediately knew that those statements were false. Why? Because what you plant is what you get.

A rose bush will only produce roses. (Unless you’re a genetic engineer who tinkers with this stuff. 🙂 )

This is also true concerning spiritual matters. The fruit we produce is determined by our root…our source of life.

Going back to the two trees from which Adam and Eve could choose, Life or the Knowledge of Good and Evil, I want to explore the fruit each tree bears.

Let’s begin with Evil:

The fruit on this branch of the Tree of Knowledge is guilt and shame. Our behavior gnaws at our conscience. Fear that we will be discovered develops. Unchecked, the conscience will become seared, and eventually we are no longer aware of shame at our core. It is possible that this will continue to spiral into deeper and darker behavior.

Think: Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler, or Saddam Hussein.

Ugh! That’s definitely not us. Let’s move on to Good:

The fruit on the “good” branch of the Tree of Knowledge should be much better. Love, joy, peace, and all that.

Surprise! 

The fruit that is produced by our “good” behavior is this:

Self-satisfaction – “I am so good.”

Condemnation – “What they did was bad. They should behave better.”

Judgment – “What they are doing is evil. They should be punished.”

Comparison – “At least I don’t do ______ (fill in the blank) like those people.

Criticism – my group is the only one who has Christianity right. They need to behave like we do.

Vigilance – ever watchful of self and others to determine who is good and who is evil.

Social club mentality – carefully screen every person to determine whether they are “good enough” to be in our club. Avoid obvious sinners, lest they make us look “bad” in the eyes of other Christians.

Self-effort – strive to do the “right” thing, avoid the “evil” thing regarding actions and words.

Religion – a checklist by which we prove ourselves to be “good.”  (Went to church – Check. Spent my obligatory time reading my Bible – Check. Spent 15 minutes in prayer – Check. Did a good deed when I didn’t want to – Check… You get the idea.)

Opinionated – due to endless mental effort, I have the answer to every problem. “You’re doing it wrong. Do it my way and all will be well.” When it comes to doctrine and theology, I will fight to the death for my view. I’ve studied my Bible for years and know the (little ‘t’) truth.

 

Of course, if we failed to meet our criteria of what a “good” Christian does, then we feel “bad” and avoid “eye contact” with God, certain that He is displeased with us, certain that punishment is coming.

You can see that love, joy, peace, etc. are nowhere to be found on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

As I stated in my previous post,

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

The end result of eating from this tree is death.

Here’s our dilemma:

Whenever we choose to ‘live’ by the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, we are the judge of what is good…and what is evil.

The determining factor is self.

How does it make me feel? How does it affect me?

In this, we become our own god. Our life is small, for we are the center of our universe. Everyone else exists for our own good pleasure…and they must please us, or risk being judged as “bad” and then rejected.

Sadly, most Christians I know (myself included) live this way.

Is it any wonder that the world isn’t beating down our doors to “get” what we have?? 

John 15 is full of information about what it means to abide in Christ – the Bread of Life (read that: “Fruit from the Tree of Life):

  • Fruitfulness (love, joy, peace, etc.) – Why do we interpret fruit only as “a big ministry” or “lots of converts”…productivity??
  • Consistent answered prayer – because we have intimacy with Him and He tells us what He is doing…thus showing us how to pray.
  • Confidence that we are loved – no need to hide, fearful of punishment.
  • Full of joy – the burden of controlling the world, getting people to behave better, is lifted from our shoulders!
  • Able to hear His voice, and so know what to do/say/understand in any given situation. We ask Him to explain what’s going on, instead of allowing the enemy to fill in the blanks.
  • Filled with the Spirit – ever present to teach, guide, give insight, and flow through us to reach those around us.

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  ~ John 7:38

When we are set free from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and partake from the Tree of Life, true transformation begins. We see others in a new light…and love those we previously judged to be unworthy of our good company. 😉

Further, when we can drop all the self-imposed”duties” required to run the world, we enjoy a lightness that cannot be described. All the mental energy consumed when we were absorbed with how to fix everyone around us left us drained. We come to life when we let the mental gyrations go!

Do not miss that the Tree of Life is all about relationship – with the Lord, and with others.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, on the other hand, mostly destroys relationships – with the Lord (we’re sure we haven’t measured up, and so hide from Him), and also with those who don’t meet our standards.

What I am sharing with you does not originate with me. Consequently, I wish to give credit where credit is due. Since the beginning of April, I have been listening to Bob Hamp’s Foundational Class series. Just five videos – available online at no cost. No signing up, or signing in.

For this “try harder to do better” woman, the message contained within these videos has forever transformed me. (He also wrote a book, Think Differently, Live Differently.)

People are beginning to ask about the changes they see. How cool is that???

Funny, folks didn’t want to know where they could get some of my critical, judgmental, opinionated, argumentative behaviors and attitudes. Seems the world already has enough of those characteristics.

“You shall know them by their fruit.”

By what fruit are you “known?”

***Keep in mind that what I write is “what I did with what I heard” from the Lord through Mr. Hamp’s messages, and not exact quotes from the videos or his book, unless so noted.***





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!





Truth = Free…If…

5 08 2014

I’ve been getting a massive dose of “reality check” lately…and discovered that while Denial may be a place to vacation for a day or two, it’s not somewhere to take up residency.

And I did this.

For far too long.

Lately, the Lord has been peeling my hands off my eyes and revealing things that I need to see.

Sad, painful, ugly truth.

However, seeing truth is not enough.

It’s what I choose to do with this truth that will set me free –

– or leave me in bondage.

Often, the mere task of deciding what to make for dinner has been so overwhelming that I have a meltdown. Simple meal preparation feels like more than I can handle.

That’s pathetic.

These are days of sorting out unhealthy behavior, taking in the whole counsel of God, being brave, and standing firm. 

There comes a time when we must say, “Enough!”

I feel like a field that’s being thoroughly plowed at the moment. Things previously unseen are being brought to light.

This is good news, for after the plowing comes the planting – then growth – then a harvest.

God is good at what He does, so I am in good hands.

When one has walked in denial, though (as I have all my life), learning to face the truth – and then bravely doing what needs to be done is hard. It is scary.

Thankfully, the Lord let me know that I can trade in my headless collar for an Anchor!

I’ve learned the lesson of an unmanageable life. A life beyond my control – circumstances beyond my control.

Having done so, I no longer need my rhinestone circlet to hang on my wall as a reminder.

Instead, I’m  in the market for an anchor… which is kinda’ funny, because I got rid of the Asian decorative stuff in my house and have been replacing it with ocean-ish stuff. (I love yard sales!)

In 2005, I realized that I had four main Scriptures to which I would cling in times of adversity:

Jeremiah 29:11 – His plans for me are for good, and not evil, this will end gloriously!

2 Cor. 4: 19 – in light of eternity, this is momentary…and will end gloriously!

Deut. 33:27 – God is my refuge, underneath me at all times are His arms, ready to catch me if I fall.

Romans 8:28 – This is all being worked together for my good – and will end gloriously!

Now I have new ones:

Isaiah 42:9:

“Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”

Isaiah 35:3-6

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.

Being transformed, I’ve discovered, means having what I believe and how I think adjusted to what is true…about the Lord, about me, and about life in general: a renewed mind.

Sometimes the paradigm shift this brings alters the course of life by a few degrees. At other times, it’s more like a 90-degree adjustment. These days it’s more like a 180! The greater the shift, the more stressful it can be due to opposition from others.

So I ask for your prayers: that I will continue to allow the Lord to transform me and not harden my heart; that I will stand firm and be brave; and that I will walk in a manner that is worthy of the Lord.

Thanks for “listening.”





A Heart on Lockdown

29 07 2014

I’ve discovered that my home reflects the condition of my heart. When my home is tidy and well organized, so is my heart.

When it’s a disheveled mess, well…you get the idea. I was going to post a picture of my work space, but it’s too embarrassing.

Every adult in the house has taken major hits over the last few months. In one way or another, each has locked down his or her heart.

It’s safer that way.

Waves  continue to buffet our vessel. While the Lord is in the boat with us, in His wisdom He has chosen to let the storm rage on – although He could silence it with a word.

There must be something we need to learn from this experience. We’ll be debriefed later, no doubt.

Over the sound of the rushing wind, and between crashing waves, I hear Jesus call out:

“Let down your nets for a catch.”

He isn’t crazy, you know, but infinitely wise.

However, we’d already ‘let down our nets,’ each one in his or her own way…

…and were let down in the process.

This was hard enough to take when the seas were calm…

But this feels like a Category Five storm.

“Now? You want us to fish now?”

Each one clutches his net a little tighter to his chest. The idea of being let down once again, and in the midst of this tempest is to risk more than we care to lose.

While cleaning my computer’s desktop this morning. I found the following quote. Seeing it today was a divine appointment, and a warning from my loving Father.

The Risk of Love (C. S, Lewis)

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.

If you want to be sure of keeping your heart intact you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries, avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safely in the casket of your selfishness.

And in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will not change, it will not be broken. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the dangers of love –

-is hell.

Hell. Hmm, now isn’t that interesting?

What I’ve been describing is, for us, a living  hell. 

Whole days pass with little to show for them…a completed jigsaw puzzle, a bit of needlework. New levels attained on stupid iPhone games (Crowd gasps: “Oooh!”) Mostly, I wander aimlessly through the house.

It feels very much like being buried alive.

Are you sure that the Exodus took place on land? It feels like another lap around the lake. I’ve seen this terrain before, in this same boat! Only the faces are different. 😉

I don’t want to do this to myself anymore. The journey back out of this self-imposed grave is painful and laborious. I don’t have to lock away my heart again.

It’s risky; I’ll have to feel the pain instead of being numb. Can I trust the Lord? I did in the past, and He let me down – or so it seems.

(Or perhaps I didn’t see the whole picture?)

But He calls to me. I dare not decline. His plan for me is for good – not evil.

He does not have a dark side.

(I’ve stated this in many of my posts over the last few months – mostly to remind myself that He is pure Light, not a type of “Jekyll and Hyde.”)

A glance down memory lane shows countless times where He has been faithful.

He has  been good; I must trust that He will  be good to me.

Hmm. Looks like it’s time to go fishing.

Ever so slowly, I’m unlocking the door to my heart. It will probably get kicked around like a soccer ball. At least I’ll be feeling something.

I’m saying “NO” to a locked-down heart!





It Involves a Boat

25 07 2014

The year began with a glorious promise from the Lord:

Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them. – Isaiah 42:9

My heart leaped for joy. “This will be a year like no other,” He proclaimed. In joyful anticipation, I stepped into the new season.

I expected a walk in the park

…didn’t hear the water lapping on the shore

…nor the creaking of the boat.

I shoulda’ known a boat would be involved!

The promise was there…

“Let us go to the other side.”

New territory, how exciting! A voyage with Jesus; it doesn’t get any better than this!

When we disembarked, the sky was clear, the water calm. There was smooth sailing ahead…

…or so I thought.

Chatter among the passengers was light and cheerful. Excitement was easily seen in our shining faces and the sparkle in our eyes. No one noticed the gathering clouds.

Jesus lay down and took a nap.

The first flash of lightning silenced the voyagers, and they clapped their hands over their ears as thunder boomed. Joyful faces were replaced with looks of terror.

Not even the fishermen among them had ever witnessed a squall like this one. Waves ten feet high began to toss the little vessel around like a cork, and they were taking on water.

At times like these, two things are easy to forget:

Jesus said we’re going to the other side

and

He is in the boat with us.

…and what’s this? He’s asleep?

Great. We’re on our own!

I began to wonder why Jesus would be sleeping through such a storm.

As a man with a bustling ministry, He was spent and needed to be restored, no doubt.

Ah, but as God, He knew one thing…

…they would arrive at the other side.

It is for this reason that He sits enthroned today.

Whether He’s fully awake –

or seems to be asleep –

He’s got control of the thing!

There’s no pacing, no wringing of the hands while He worries our issues like a bone.

He’s got this!

So, while this year is unlike what I expected – the waves are high threaten to overtake me – I can remember His faithfulness to me in the past, and His promise to make all things new.

Wish I’d have anticipated the boat, instead of a walk down Easy Street. I’d have taken some matters in stride a bit better, I think.

Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side,” 

not:

“to the middle of the lake and drown!”

Sometimes God’s promises involve a boat!