Thursday, August 18, 2011

Signs ~

I used to ask for a sign to believe in
But He never gave me a reason to ever doubt Him
(Jason Upton)

The other day I woke up with these two lines rolling through my mind, and I started to think about the song they stem from.  One of my favorites, definitely. 

The song, Give Me One Reason To Doubt, was written by Jason Upton, and without a doubt, the point of the rest of the lyrics address humanity’s tendency to second guess the authority of Jesus Christ as Messiah and King.  That, however, is not the direction I’m going with this, so I’m going to just take those two lines and explore something that has been on my heart for awhile.

Why is it that we play the role of Gideon with the fleece?  I’ve done it more times than I care to recall, but the thing is, I’m not sure why.  Is it because I doubt God’s direction in my life?  Do I need Him to prove something to me? 

There is a struggle that engages us all.  It’s a fight that encroaches upon all of us, and if everyone were honest, we’d all admit that sometimes the battle is easier than others.  It is the war we wage with the flesh.  That carnal nasty side of us that the enemy so often tries to use in order to drag us from away from our relationship with the Lord.  It’s ugly.  Sometimes it’s REALLY ugly. 

Now, I could go into great detail (many have - pages and pages, book upon book, thesis upon thesis) about the weapons our great Father has given us in order to help in with our individual struggle with the crucifixion of the flesh.  I, however, want to bring out something entirely different.  I preface it by disclaiming that, my purpose is merely to raise some questions and get some people – myself included – thinking about our intent.

I remember part of a message that my Pastor gave while I was in the final stages of my schooling in Pensacola.  I don’t remember the whole thing.  Actually, I don’t remember much of anything else.  You see, I’m a visual person and once I get struck with a mental image, I am completely distracted.  Anyway, he said – in my own words summarizing – If God tells me to do something, my only response should be to snap my heels, say ‘yes, Sir’, and carry out orders.  I resound, YES!

But how many times have I questioned?  I don’t know.  In my heart, though, I can’t say it’s out of disobedience, disrespect, or self preservation.  Not always, anyway, and I repent for the times it has been.  Most of the time, though, I don’t knee-jerk into action.  At first, this really REALLY bothered me.  Why don’t I jump and ask questions later?  Why don’t I take what He gives me and run wild with it? 

What I now write could very well provoke an onslaught of criticism, but, from my heart, it is sincere.

I don’t believe it’s out of disobedience that I wait – sometimes asking for a sign.  It’s because I have so many times impulsively jumped before I had full and clear direction.  I knew where I was headed, and I plowed ahead.  Sometimes I ask for a sign so that I can confirm in my heart that I’m following the specific direction of the Lord.  It’s out of a desire against disobedience. 

A younger me would have pushed and pushed without fear or restraint, but the older me waits and makes sure I have a clear path, unwavering peace, and a spirit of willing obedience.  I long to please the Lord!  I hunger to fill Him with joy.  And I have had to repent more times than I can number for the times I moved ahead without seeking Him more thoroughly first. 

Let me add this, however.  I know firsthand, the closer I am in my relationship with the Lord, the more I know His heart.  And the more I know His heart, the more I easily identify His voice from the millions of others that cloud my earthy head.  And the more easily I identify His voice, the less I have to question when I hear it. 

So, it may be that needing to ask for a sign is
A)    An expression of desired obedience, but also,
B)    A sign in and of itself that I need to pursue more, draw closer in, and engage. 

Just some food for thought…..

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Do you ever feel like you're desperately craving meaning?  Purpose?

I do.  I feel that way right now. 

I look at my life and for some reason it feels empty.  I know it's not.  I mean, I have this great investment that I'm making in my children, my husband, and my church.  But could it be more?  Could I do more?  How many times have my children been talking to the back of my head because my face has been planted toward this monitor that's in front of me now. 

(Disclaimer made - they're all sleeping right now, so I'm not neglecting anyone to bear my soul).

This was such a huge revelation to me today.  I had to work from home today, and it's great that I can do that when I must, but it has kept my attention very focussed.  Just a little while ago, Evan was having a war with his castles and knights, and he kept trying to tell me about what good guys were left, and what the bad guys did.  Here I sat, monitor in front of my eyes, answering him without looking at him.  All at once I was heartbroken!  Really heartbroken!  I was multi-tasking my son. 

It was like it hit me all at once.  One big ugly second had me understanding exactly what I was doing, thinking about how often I do it, and being completely ashamed.  I stopped.  I turned and focussed as he told me that Obi-Wan had beat up Darth Maul and Batman died when he tried to tear down the castle.  His blue eyes danced as he obviously 'ate up' the attention.  Why don't I do that so much more often?

I don't really know what's going on.  I just know that my life feels like it's a bit empty.  There's a change I need to make.  A few steps I need to take, and I'm not exactly sure of what they need to be yet.  I just....

.... I just.... I want my life to be significant.  Not because I want to make a name for myself, but because I have this burning need to invest in people.  It's so difficult to explain.  I look over my time, and how I spend my time, and I wonder how much of it is self-serving.... and how much of it is Kingdom serving. 

I have a gut feeling about where this is headed, but I don't want to put the cart before the horse.  I'm going to wait on God, keep on pursuing, and pray.  Pray about the path, the turns, the shifts, and certainly pray about what this is inside of me that is starting to whisper about the winds of change...

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I didn't actually remember that today was the national day of prayer until I was headed to my office for the day.  I thought it funny.

In my quiet time this morning, I was reading about the importance of being connected to God.  Not just knowing about Him.  We know that.  I know it.  Still, sometimes I find that it's so much easier for me to talk about Him, write about Him, read about Him, than it is to pray. 

Worship and pursuit is just that.  It eliminates the 'about' factor, and plunges us to the 'engage' factor. 

Still, in all the time I spend in musical worship, I fight to spend time in simple prayer.  Why does that have to be so hard?  For believers, I think it works like this....

Prayer is hard to forget but difficult to remember.

We all know how important it is, but at the end of the day, so many of us take our left over, just before we doze, time - label it as prayer - and slip into unconciousness. 

Here's another factor - Job's friends spent chapter after chapter advising, analyzing, and discussing his situation.  None of them prayed for him.  What's up with that?  It was after Job's engagement with God that his life began to recover from it's devastation.  Isaiah keenly points out that there is no justice because  there is no prayer.... 

I read that this morning.  I'd read it before, but it struck me today in a new way. 

Our family has been going through a hard time.  It involves a lot that I won't go into here, save this comment - I have felt like we have been under an onslaught of attack and there has been very little reprieve for quite some time.  This morning, I woke up at 5am with a tugging on my heart that I needed to pray.  I've been sick, so it was a struggle to encourage myself out of the bed.  When I finally sat down on the couch in my usual quiet time spot, I realized that I distant... weak.... and honestly powerless.  Almost immediately I began to remind myself of the importance of prayer.  The power of prayer.  The need of prayer. 

And then I felt my mind justifying my lazy attitude about it.....WHAT!?  I could hear my own words (spoken to my children countless times) "Your focus needs more focus."

There is no justice because there is no prayer.
I read it again and again. 

And then I heard that today is the national day of prayer.

How appropriate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I don’t understand why we have this idea that grace is nothing more than a simple giant eraser that merely wipes away all of our mistakes, short-comings, and sin.  It’s convenient.  But, in my view, misinterpreted. 
Does grace clean us up?  Absolutely.  Check out Ezekiel 16 for a great depiction of that. 
Is grace a point of conversion, marking the transition of a person from darkness to light?  Yep.  Acts 15:11.
But what about the vast number of scriptures that demonstrate this principle:
Grace is the strength of God given to us in order to live holy.
I’ve done a little search, and by no means do I intend to make myself out to be a celebrated expert on this topic.  But I’ve found passage after passage that clearly points to the fact that we are given grace so that we can live holy, pursuing God in relationship.  Our actions will then reflect that grace within us. 
Here are some great examples:
Luke 2:40
The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.  
(this is obviously talking about Jesus – who never needed the grace of God to remove or erase His sin or failure.  Being human, how did He do it?  The grace of God was upon Him)
Acts 4:33
And  with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 
(The application of grace in this context obviously points to the fact that the abundant grace that was upon them is what empowered them to give testimony of Jesus with great power.)
Acts 6:8
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great  wonders and signs among the people. 
(This is pretty self explanatory – it was grace and power that allowed Stephen to perform great things.  In context and solitarily, ‘grace’ cannot be referred to in this passage as the single application of the removal of sin.  It empowered Stephen.  A great example of the fact that grace NOT ONLY cleanses from sin, but empowers us to live holy – pursuing God and His plan for our lives).
Acts 13:43
Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing  proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. 
(The ‘continuing’ in the grace of God doesn’t imply that they are expected to continue in sin, applying grace for erasure.  On the contrary.  Scripture is clear that once we are cleansed from sin, we are expected to never go back to it.  Why go back to death when we have been made alive in Christ.  It is grace that empowers us to continue in the grace of God)
Moving on to the Epistles –
Romans 1:5
through whom we have received grace and  apostleship to bring about the  obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake,
(“grace and apostleship” – if you know what an apostle is, you know that apostleship doesn’t come from the ability to continually erase sin.  Who were the Apostles?  What did their lives look like?  How many died for their faith in Christ?  Were they glorified men who enjoyed the finest things in life or did they sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel?  We know the answer to that.  Obviously, according to this passage, the reception of grace is what empowered them to bring out the obedience of faith!  GORGEOUS!)
Romans 6:15
What then?  Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!
(No commentary needed here.  Plain as can be.)
Romans 12:6
Since we have gifts that  differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
(So – track with me – each person is unique.  God created all of us to serve a specific purpose in His Kingdom.  Remember the scripture about the body of Christ?  Not everyone can be a hand.  Not everyone can be an eye.  We all have our own purpose.  And the gifts we are empowered with differ according to the grace given us.  If grace was merely an application of the removal of sin, how would it differ between all of us?  How would you apply this passage?  How would each of us exercise it differently from another?  After all, isn’t all sin, sin?  Think about it – we are given grace (according to the above) which empowers us (with the gifts/tools we need) in order to accomplish God’s purpose in our lives. )
1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 
(Clearly the grace of God that was with Paul empowered Him to labor more… )
2 Corinthians 1:12
For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.
(I love this!!!  It was through the grace of God that they conducted themselves in the world.  POWERFUL!  Grace empowered them to live as witnesses of Jesus in the midst of an unbelieving world.  Do we not live in an unbelieving world?)
2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;
(And again – no commentary necessary here.  We obviously are expected to live defined by every good deed.  We’re given abundant grace for THAT purpose.)
Alright, this post is getting very long, so I’m not going to belabor this point.  It is enough to say – God expects us to live holy.  An act of grace removes sin from our lives, purging the foul grime out of our soul.  But it is not a one-time-deal.  We know that.  The confusion comes into play when we apply what it means to live by grace.  Does it mean continual removal of sin?  Sure – we all sin.  We all have fallen.  Nobody is perfect.  BUT as Children of God are we expected to live our lives defined by habitual sin, and habitual acts of repentance and erasure?  By no means! 

If the grace of God is within you, know this: you are empowered to live holy.  So do it.  Imitate Christ.  Live Christ-like.  God has given you the awesome tool that enables you to do great things for Him.  Grace will set you on a high place, and grace will keep you there.  You don’t have to fall.  You don’t have to sin.  We all should be striving toward holiness, and it’s grace that empowers us to get closer and closer every day. 
Further than that – grace within you can accomplish great things!  And giving yourself to sin – using grace only to wipe it away is one of the most heart-breaking things I can think of. 
Pursue God.  Live holy.  God will empower you to do it, but you have to do your part.  In Jesus words – Go and sin no more. 


Let me start by noting that I’m not a widely respected scholar in the Theology of the various attributes of mercy.  I don’t have memorized all of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek terms that refer to the subject of mercy, nor do I boast the ability to comprehend the full depth of its ramifications on the life of the believer. 
I simply share what I know… and I’m confident that others know more… and others know less… but all of us do well to keep the principles of God’s grace and mercy in the front of our minds.  After all, it’s by God’s mercy and grace that we’re given the opportunity to breathe, and eat, and live, and read, and study… you get the idea. 
On to the principles of mercy.
In its purest form, mercy is being free from the punishment we deserve.  It is favor when we deserve shame.  It is freedom when we deserve prison.  One of my favorite passages about mercy is Isaiah 55, and it clearly displays the gorgeous result of mercy to those who are attached to the father.

      1"Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
         And you who have
no money come, buy and eat
         Come, buy
wine and milk
Without money and without cost.
      2"Why do you spend money for what is
not bread,
         And your wages for what does not satisfy?
         Listen carefully to Me, and
eat what is good,
delight yourself in abundance.
Incline your ear and come to Me
         Listen, that you may
         And I will make
an everlasting covenant with you,
         According to the
faithful mercies shown to David.
      4"Behold, I have made
him a witness to the peoples,
leader and commander for the peoples.
      5"Behold, you will call a
nation you do not know,
         And a nation which knows you not will
run to you,
         Because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel;
         For He has
glorified you."
Seek the LORD while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
         And the unrighteous man his
         And let him
return to the LORD,
         And He will have
compassion on him,
         And to our God,
         For He will
abundantly pardon.
      8"For My thoughts are not
your thoughts,
         Nor are
your ways My ways," declares the LORD.
as the heavens are higher than the earth,
         So are My ways higher than your ways
         And My thoughts than your thoughts.
      10"For as the
rain and the snow come down from heaven,
         And do not return there without watering the earth
         And making it bear and sprout,
         And furnishing
seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
      11So will My
word be which goes forth from My mouth;
         It will
not return to Me empty,
accomplishing what I desire,
         And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
      12"For you will go out with
         And be led forth with
mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
         And all the
trees of the field will clap their hands.
      13"Instead of the
thorn bush the cypress will come up,
         And instead of the
nettle the myrtle will come up,
         And it will be a
memorial to the LORD,
         For an everlasting
sign which will not be cut off."
The question begs – to whom does this apply?
The answer is in the passage itself: “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
Mercy is an abundant, free, fantastic gift for those who are willing to lay down the things that hold them back from a deeply engaged relationship with the Lord.  Mercy is real.  It’s powerful.  And it’s for all who choose to accept it.  It’s not for those who only want the benefits of God without a commitment to God.  He clearly states that it is the result of a ‘covenant’… so, by nature, it is therefore a commitment from both sides that is required. 
What commitment have we made to God?  Have we offered flippant empty promises that are nothing more than bargains to get our own way?  Do we expect God to move Heaven and Earth on our behalf while we barely inconvenience ourselves for Him? 
To me, the greatest demonstration of mercy in this passage is – “Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.”  It’s the same as Revelation 4 where John sees a door that is standing open and hears the voice saying “Come up here.”  The invitation of our great God to engage in relationship is the absolute greatest act of mercy He could show.  We are privileged to seek Him because He will be found!  He wants to engage with us!  We who boast of our own wisdom while we quote that His ways are higher than our own… We who focus on such temporary meaningless priorities….  We who find it so easy to pursue selfish agendas…. We who understand so little….  He wants to show us things.  He wants to teach us.  He wants to reveal His great mysteries to us if we’ll just pursue…
What mercy.  Not only are we saved from an eternity of suffering – but we are extended the hand of fellowship.
What mercy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Grace...and Mercy~

Everyone could use a little grace in their lives. 

And for some reason, we all have our own opinions about what grace actually is.  It surprises me.  Most of us think of it like a band-aid that takes away our faults, failures, and shortcomings.  Just apply ‘grace’ and watch the sins you’re responsible for vanish like a cat scratch with some Neosporin. 

I’m sorry.  Does that sound critical?  I don’t mean it to.

I guess what frustrates me is the idea that the wages of conscious sin – you know, the choices people make when they know they are wrong, but are so determined to do it anyway – mean nothing.  So many people believe that just a few verses of Amazing Grace, a few minutes dwelling on how stupid those choices were, and a few minutes apologizing (knowing that it’s entirely possible that they would do the same thing again), will cause their rebellion to vanish into the portals of history, never to be heard of again.  In my life, I’ve been guilty of exactly that. 

But is that really what grace is?  A band-aid?  Neosporin? 

Now, before anyone emails me with a long list of Scriptures quoting the removal of sin, please understand that I know.  I know that grace is nothing we deserve.  And I know that God loves to remove our sin.  I know that, as children of God, we don't have to wallow in self-pity, subjecting our physical bodies to sacrificial practices that abuse ourselves in penance.  And quite frankly, this is not a post about the act of repentance and the point of salvation. 

I will say this, as a side note, that I think the American Church (and I suspect many other countries, as well) would do well to recognize the impact of conscious sin, and would definitely benefit by a greater understanding of the selfishness that triggers it.  Sin is a deadly thing, and is not to be handled with trite flippancy.  It's not a list of 'don'ts', but rather, in it's simplest form, is independence from God.

But that's for another day, another time.

GRACE is not MERCY.  And MERCY is not GRACE.  They are not interchangeable terms that cover our failures and wrong choices. 

Yes, both are free.  Yes, both belong us as gifts through the favor of God.  Yes, both are applicable in our lives in terms of the effects of sin, cleansing of sin, and living lives defined by holiness.  But their applications to the Child of God are both necessary in their unique characteristics.  GRACE is not MERCY.  And MERCY is not GRACE.

In the next few posts I’m going to explore the truths God shares with us about these two powerful, foundational principles.  For now, I leave you with the words of one of my favorite songs through the years….

Once there was a holy place
Evidence of God's embrace
And I can almost see mercy's face
Pressed against the veil
Looking down with longing eyes
Mercy must have realized
That once His blood was sacrificed
Freedom would prevail
And as the sky grew dark
And the earth began to shake
With justice no longer in the way
Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures to the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me
Once there was a broken heart
Way too human from the start
And all the years left it torn apart
Hopeless and afraid
Walls I never meant to build
Left this prisoner unfulfilled
Freedom called but even still
It seemed so far away
I was bound by the chains
From the wages of my sin
Just when I felt like giving in
Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures to the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me

Sometimes I still feel so far
So far from where I really should be
He gently calls to my heart
Just to remind me

Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures to the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me
(Lyrics by Phillips, Craig, and Dean)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Freight Train~

Last night I had a really crazy dream.  There was a tornado, and it was eating up everything.  It wasn't one of those wide ones that just stays on a steady path... it was skinny and wild.  And it was after me. 

Now, normally I would admit that a tornado like that is pretty scary in and of itself - but this one was much more frightening - if that's possible.  It was after me.  It had intent... and motive... it was a wild, violent, deadly, harrowing storm... that was pursuing me.

Everywhere I went - every direction I turned - it pursued, and at one point I thought I discerned a wickedly malicious face in the midst of the wind and debris.  I ran left... it followed... I turned... it turned... I scrambled, and it gained on me. 

I was losing, and I knew it.  There was no way to outrun, outsmart, or survive in general.  Just as I was beginning to feel it's claws at my heels I relinquished my ability to defend myself at all... and then I woke with a start.

My chest was heaving with the breathless fear of terror.  I looked around my room - silence.  I listened to see if there was thunder, or even rain outside, thinking that maybe my mind was just associating external sounds with imaginary imagery.  There was nothing.  I breathed a deap sigh of relief and laid my head back on the pillow and, after seeing 4:30 on the clock next to me, I closed my eyes for just a bit more rest. 

It was a train this time.  And not just any train.  It had a face that seemed to personify evil.  Brow furrowed, wicked smile, and the most evil scream that I'd ever heard.  I looked down and I was standing in the middle of the tracks, and it was racing directly for me - and it wasn't far away.  There was no time to act, no brief instant for an instinctive jump to the side... I saw the face, heard the scream, froze in terror, and it was upon me... when again I woke up, just as it would have engulfed me. 

"What is going on?!" 

What was even more eerie was the fact that the train was one that's on a cartoon my children watch every morning.  Now, lest you think I feed my children's brains with evil stalking trains before they navigate their day, please know - THIS is the train they watch...

So, adding to the idea that something is pursuing me, I now have to reconcile the fact that the 'something' could be an otherwise harmless and even good thing.  WHAT?

Two dreams, and an overwhelming sense of foreboding, started me thinking along the lines of ~ WHY.  Why is something pursuing me?  Why is it that in both dreams I was completely unable to get away?  Why were they both actually pursuing me?

The Bible is clear in it's representation of our enemy.  1 Peter 5:8 says that he's like a roaring lion, seeking to devour.  It's not like he's just out there patiently waiting while I go about my life.  He's not sitting back, watching, awaiting the moment I screw something up on my own.  He's actually seeking...  he's pursuing....  and his goal? - to devour.  Hello, tornado.

And what's up with the train?  Yeah, doesn't the Bible also say that he appears as an angel of light? (2 Corinthians 11:14).  That leads me to evaluate - what is in my life that appears to be beautiful, but is actually deceptively seeking to attract my attention away from the Lord.  Now, before I get a flood of emails about the fact that no one can ever take us out of the hand of God - know this... I know.  But I can't count how many times I have felt the something encroaching upon my engagement to God. 

I mean, really, how many times have you sat down to have a quiet time, and all of a sudden - things go haywire?  Or, building a business has become so time consuming and attention captivating that you struggle just to keep your priorities right?  I have.  I remember that phrase - "The good is always the greatest enemy of the best."

But there is good news -
2 Timothy 4:17 states "But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion's mouth."

In my dreams, I woke just before the moment of despair.  Just before I was completely engulfed - there was a rescue.  Read it again - rescued out of the lion's mouth. 

That means I was in the lion's mouth in the first place.  That enemy knew me, targeted me, pursued me, attacked me, and clamped his wicked razor sharp teeth on to me.  I was hopeless to prevail on my own, and powerless against his ferocity.  UNTIL I WAS RESCUED....

So for today -

Hold on ~ help is on the way...
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