IF you Abide…


Hand Holding Finger (2)God’s greatest conditional promise: “IF you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” ~ John 15:7-8,NKJV

This verse starts with a two letter word – “if.” If is a conjunction that ties one thing to another. In this verse, “if” is in conjunction with the verb “abide.” To abide is a choice “to remain, to continue, to stay constantly connected, to dwell on with expectation and patience.”

As we abide – as we remain connected to our Creator – something supernatural happens: the desires of our hearts change. It is in His dwelling place that our deepest thoughts and desires are revealed. As we grow in our relationship with Him, our worldly worldview perspective begins to dissipate. It is replaced with the mindset of our Heavenly Father.

Things that were hidden become illuminated by His Light. We receive clarity in the things He desires for us. We not only receive wisdom from above, but discernment – an understanding of what is right in His eyes. We hear His voice in the stillness of abiding. He speaks and we answer. He calls and we follow. He reveals and we trust. We abide and He gives us the desires of our hearts.

Our desires are no longer contaminated with impurities. They have been replaced with the longing to be more like HIM…to live a life in step with our Master.

It is when we connect the “if” with the “abide” that it all begins to make perfect sense. It is then that we find our sweet, secret dwelling place with our Papa God. It is then – and only then – that we can rest and trust. No matter the force of the storms that rage on the outside, they cannot penetrate the sanctuary of our soul…our resting place with Him. It is there that I rest in perfect peace. Being still…..

“Papa God, give us eyes to see! Give us courage to remain connected to Your heavenly guiding hand! Give us patience to stay the course no matter how strong the storms may rage. Quicken Your Spirit within us and let your sanctuary be a fortress so strong that nothing this world throws at us can penetrate or shake us loose from your mighty grip.  Protect us from the unnecessary and disrupt us when we slumber.  Your will be done, in and through us…In JESUS’ name”.

In HIS STRONG LOVE,

Rose

Jesus is COMING…Look BUSY!


Boy working    I saw a bumper sticker earlier this week that read: JESUS IS COMING…LOOK BUSY!

So I began to think about the importance of being busy about my Father’s work. My natural tendency is to be busy—about something…anything. Sometimes my busyness is the thing that “easily entangles” me [Hebrews 12.1]. Others’ natural tendency may be to “veg out,” feeling grateful to know we are neither required nor capable of “earning” our way into heaven. Many find themselves resting on that assurance.

Back in the 70s there was a popular mantra in the air that went something like this: “Be a human being, not a human doing.” It had a catchy ring to it, and I think it caught on for many reasons, one being that it offered a valid excuse for checking out of mainstream society.

It was around the time of the “make love, not war” love-cry in the air. It was a time when iridescent posters glowed in the black light of weed-smoke-filled head shops, serenaded by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead. Back then I enjoyed strolling the streets in Old Town, Chicago, with the scent of incense in the air, basking in the afterglow of love and peace.

“Far out, man.”

And there’s some truth to the mantra of being rather than doing. It’s easy to get so caught up in the frenzy of doing that we lose the art of being.

But it’s not an either/or kind of thing. It’s both/and…both being and doing.

We are designed to be human beings doing the things we were created to do… “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” [Ephesians 2.10]. It amazes me that God has invited us to participate in his kingdom plan. We sometimes call it being “the hands and feet of Jesus.” So much of what God wants to do about the needs of his people happens through his people.

And there are times when God will accomplish what he wants accomplished without involving us at all. It’s easy to lose our place in the plan—exaggerating our importance– acting as if we believe we’re more vital in the grand scheme of things than we actually are. So our Creator also reminds us to “Be still, and know that I am God!” [Psalm 46.10]. One version puts it this way… “Cease striving…” [NASB]. In other words, God reminds us “I’ve got this. Step back from all your activities, cease the frenzied pace, and rest in My sufficiency.”

We serve most effectively when we’re resting in the sufficiency of God. Our soul is most deeply satisfied when “in all our ways we acknowledge him” [Proverbs 3.6] as the source of all we are. We are nourished as we live in alignment with his calling and purpose in our lives, just as Jesus said, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work” [John 4.34].

We experience deep satisfaction as we participate with God in his kingdom plan. We discover peace that boggles human understanding when we rest in his sufficiency…remembering that “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” [Philippians 1.6].

We are human beings doing life with God…both when we are resting in him, and when we are busy about the work of his kingdom in our day-to-day lives.

Jesus is coming. Be found doing life with him…and fulfilling your role as a member of his body.

.

Passion, Preaching…and Kidney Stones


Crying girlIt’s challenging to describe an over-the-top experience you’ve had to a person who hasn’t witnessed it for themselves. As Mark Twain once said, “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

My friend Stephen Manley is an evangelist, with a passion for what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross that is difficult to adequately describe. His delivery of the the Word of God is one of those things you have to experience in order to fully appreciate.

The intensity with which Manley preaches is intense. It’s like the intensity a person experiences when they pass a kidney stone [I told you it’s hard to adequately describe some things]. Sounds bad but it’s not; it’s just intense. Some things in life are power-packed, and we never forget the intensity of the moment.

When I had my first stone-passing experience, the excruciating pain in that moment assaulted my brain. Nothing but my pain mattered. Within seconds after the initial attack, I was doubled over by the searing intensity of the pain. It felt as if the white-hot blade of a jagged-edged knife had been plunged into my gut. I was digging a hole in the backyard when it struck. I staggered my way back into the house and into the living room, where Rose was reading a book. The look on her face probably mirrored the look on my face as she blurted out, “You’re white!”

Even in the midst of the pain that was making me crazy, I was a little amused by her comment. Rose is Mexican, and she has beautifully dark skin that was passed along to her by her ancestors. Her grandfather was Yaqui Indian, and his skin was the color of burnished bronze. I’m white. My family heritage is English. I was white when I met her, and I’m certain I’ll be white the day I die (which I thought might be that day). She later explained that her comment about me being white was made in reference to the blood having drained from my face.

But this is about the intensity of the moment, not the cultural distinctions between my wife and me. There are no words to express the pain to someone who has not passed a stone. Those who have had their own personal experience need no description. It easy to know who’s had the experience by the unmistakable cringe at the mention of a kidney stone. My mom has “passed” five kids and one kidney stone. She said she’d rather pass the kids.

Manley has this same kind of intensity, only without the excruciating pain. Nothing else matters when he’s preaching other than the Word of God. The message—to have an intimately personal relationship with Jesus—penetrates the deepest longing of our soul. Once again, you can tell who has experienced this intensity by listening in on the conversations following Manley’s preaching. Some folks just want an ice cream cone or a slice of pie and some coffee. Others are still reeling from the invitation to experience passionate intimacy with Jesus.

[Excerpt from Holy Libido]

http://smile.amazon.com/Holy-Libido-Roderick-Smith/dp/1632320037/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1409595651&sr=1-1&keywords=holy+libido

Clearing the Stream


Stream “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1.9

What does “strong and courageous” look like? What is the picture that pops into your brain? Is it a person that keeps silent, holds their chin up and moves about their day pretending that no one can see behind the pasted-on smile and half-hearted laughter?

Has someone hurt you recently? Has something happened that caused your inner world to crash? There is no denying that betrayal hurts. We get that kicked-in-the-gut kind of feeling that hurts like the worse symptoms of the stomach flu. So now who do we turn to? Who can we trust?

I don’t think Papa God wants us to “fake it till we make.” I believe there is a time and a place to process all the pain that we feel when we’ve been hurt or damaged. But it is important to keep moving…go beyond the processing.  If we are serious about wanting our soul…that “stream of life” to be in unison with the ONE who created it…to be clean and pure, free flowing and free, then we must continue tending the stream.

I recently had to go back to recreate a scenario that has to be examined by others in order for a decision to be made. It was an arduous process; one that took me back to a time that was incredibly disconcerting. As I uncovered the past and dug under the “rocks,” so to speak, I felt the ugliness resurface of what once was. It wasn’t just the ugliness of the circumstances, or the ramifications that are being realized even now, but also the ugliness of the emotions that I remember all too well that once again caused my gut to wrench.

And in this process, almost on a daily basis, I had to self-examine. I had to ask myself, “What is the motive of my heart?”  It’s easy to get caught on the emotional roller coaster of the “old memories” and allow them to take you down the road that leads to the pit of disgust and self-pity. The challenge is not only to remember clearly what happened. The bigger challenge is to remember the healing that happened since then and embrace the positive rather than the negative.

I had to ask God to allow me to see the individuals involved through His lenses and not my own. And yet… I had to lay out the truth in a way that may cause some discomfort, not just for me, but for others. I have found that discomfort is sometimes necessary. It gets us moving. It gets us out of the well-worn ruts of complacency and allows us to see the boulders and debris in our own “stream.” We need discomfort in order to keep moving…in order to learn from our past and make better and wiser decisions.

“The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.” ~ Proverbs 18.10

“He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” ~ Psalm 91.4

“Papa God, help me – help us – to see the debris in our stream in a way that will cause us to look at others with compassion and understanding. Help us to lay down anything that would get in the way of Your work in our lives. Pour mercy and grace into our day, and let us demonstrate Your mercy and grace to others throughout our day. Let it be You that takes the lead. In Jesus name – Amen.”

In His Strong Love,

Rose

God’s Story has a Villain


Eve in the GardenLike every great story, God’s story has a villain. The villain in God’s story is Satan. From the very beginning, Satan has had a sole diabolical purpose—to entice us to live our lives outside of God’s plan. Here’s a little background on how this rogue entered the picture.

God the Sculptor was busy at work creating a stunning figure of clay—perfect in every intricate detail. It was a breathtaking masterpiece, more beautiful than the mind can conceive and too stunning to express with words. When the Sculptor completed his work of art, he rested.

While he was resting, his archenemy slithered onto the scene. I imagine he was somewhere nearby as God was forming his masterpiece in the garden. As he watched, he schemed in his rancorous brain how to destroy the splendor of the Sculptor’s creation.

Some of us have wondered why God allowed this to happen. Why did he allow his newly formed works of art—beings of pure innocence—to be subjected to the wiles of one so evilly wise? We wonder if they possessed an understanding of right and wrong since they had not yet eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And if not, how could they possibly have made the right choice? Even if they did understand the concept of right and wrong, they certainly did not have knowledge of the consequences of choosing to disobey. They were like kids in a candy store with only one forbidden piece of candy. “You can have anything in the store, except that!”

We all live with the enticement of forbidden fruit, and we go for it. And we do have knowledge of good and evil, and we know there will be consequences for our sinful choices.

It was no surprise that Satan successfully deceived Eve since he was the master of deception – the Father of Lies – and she was an innocent babe. I don’t believe the fall of humankind was one of Satan’s most challenging accomplishments.

God allowed the deception and the consequential abduction of humanity. But why? The world we live in is all about God’s demonstration of grace, and evil is the variable that makes grace necessary. There can be no rescue without a hostage. There is no need for grace apart from the separation of humankind from God by spiritual death caused by sin. And it is evident throughout Scripture that God is all about redemption, and redemption is all about grace.

Excerpt from Holy Libido: Craving Passionate Life in God…available at http://www.redemption-press.com and http://www.amazon.com

The group study version, Holy Libido: Spurring One Another On, Coming Soon!

 

Who is this Man Jesus?


get-attachmentTHE WORD: Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” ~John 14:6-7

During this past Spring Semester at CCU, I took a Worldview class that awakened my mind to a stunning reality. I’ve always known there are many religions, philosophies, and ideologies in the world. However, what was most revealing to me in this class was the realization that even within the Church, a worldview called “pluralism” exists.

For many Christians, the Biblical worldview is too strict (and restrictive), too absolute, and too exclusive. They would rather live life believing that God is good, kind and fair, along with a brush stroke of faith that everyone is on their own path that will eventually lead to heaven. It is a form of “coexistence” that is a mockery of what the Bible teaches.

In the book Seeking and Finding God, by Dave Hunt, the author writes, “A conviction that there is a definite way to heaven (and only one) is not tolerated in this day of professed tolerance, because it insists that all roads don’t lead to the same place, that truth does exist, and that there is a distinction between what is right and what is wrong. Instead of such antiquated convictions, ecumenical broad-mindedness is the new wave for the new millennium. We are expected to set aside the rational necessity of being certain about our eternal destiny in favor of a mindless tolerance that promises only to avoid religious arguments in this life but offers no sensible assurance of the next.” (Hunt, 2007, p. 56-57)

So how do I live a life of congruency with God’s Word in a world where so many ideologies seem to be diluting the truth? The authors of Making Sense of Your World write, “The goal of every person is to discover truth about God, not to be found in error or be self-deceived. The question of truth however is not how we might want things to be, but how things actually are. Truth and sincere faith are an ideal combination.” (Phillips, Brown, & Stonestreet, 2008, p. 178)

As I studied various worldviews, listened to videos and read the discussion threads by my classmates, I recognized that integral to congruency in my life within the body of Christ is holding fast to my stance and not allowing the world’s philosophies or ideologies to water down my personal faith. It is my desire to seek unity and wholeness according to God’s standards – and not be compromised by man’s delusional thinking.

The passage that captures my theological perspective is eloquently written in the book of Ephesians:

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” ~ Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT

One day, we must ALL answer the question, “Who was this man Jesus – to me?” Will we be prepared to face our Creator and say with confidence that we became intimately acquainted with His Son?

For me it is this simple: I will continue to be a student of God’s Holy Word, for it is within the pages of His Book that I will receive all that I need to live a life worthy of His calling. “For the Word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” ~ Hebrews 4:12-13

As we begin our day today, my prayer is that the Spirit of the Most High will move in our hearts and minds in such a way that we will not be intimidated or confused by the world’s views and ideologies. My prayer for you and me is that we hold fast to what we know to be God’s truth…and trust that He has already prepared our path and our purpose.

“Papa God, give us courage to stand firm. Help us to be your hands and feet. Give us a Spirit of gentleness so that as you give us opportunities to share your Truth, we do so with love, grace and compassion. In Jesus’ Name…Amen”.

In His Strong Love,
Rose

Seeing Life Through My “God Lenses”


RainbowsTHE WORD: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea…Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world” ~Psalms 46.1-2,10

I have been through many dry spells during my 55 years of living. I have suffered great loss, have experienced betrayal and have been wrongfully accused. I have been mocked because of my faith in God. My faith has been tested and tried, and every single time, regardless of the outcome, God has never failed me.

To say that I did not allow anger to overwhelm me when the circumstances seemed insurmountable would make me a liar. I have experienced a state of depression so great that I have uttered the words of Job, “May the day of my birth perish…That day, may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine on it.” ~Job 3.3a-4 NIV. Like Job, there have been times in my life that I questioned God; never His sovereignty…it was His silence that I found most deafening.

“Suffering is not always the result of sin, just as prosperity is not always the result of faithfulness. In fact, at times just the opposite appears to be true. Only God understands why things sometimes work this way. Very often God is beyond our comprehension, and that is not easy to accept. What we can accept, however, is that God wants us to remain faithful to Him, just as Job did” (authors, Bickel & Jantz).

Just as it happened for Job, it was in the midst of my deepest, darkest hours that I have raised my voice to the heavens, cried, and repented of my unbelief. My heavenly Father has always answered. Time and again He has breathed life back into my dry bones. In those desperate moments, His sovereignty has been magnified…His undeserved grace…His everlasting love…all freely given for us on Calvary’s Cross.

As I look back, I now try to see my past through my “God’s lenses.” I see clearly that it was in the valleys where Papa God has dealt with me most intimately. He has proven time and again that His mercies are new every morning. As Jeremiah wrote, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’” ~Lamentations 3.22-24.

I have made peace with God. He has restored all that the locust ate in my life [Joel 2:25] and has placed a joy in the center of my heart so great that I cannot contain it. “I lift my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” ~Psalm 121.1-2 NIV.

My prayer for you and me today is that we trust in the ONE who can make all things new. Let go of the worries – let go of the doubt. Let us be grafted into the ONE TRUE VINE, and allow His Spirit to flow freely in unencumbered souls.

May our heavenly Father bless your day! May He fill you with hope and renew your strength. Let this be the day that you turn challenges into opportunities. And in all that we say and do, may our Heavenly Father receive all the glory and praise!

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