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

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

Our Audacious God


burning bush (2)In order to triumph over the beguiling charm of the Enemy, our attention needs to be laser-focused on our Creator. We need to know that God has stacked the deck of life in our favor.

And we need to open our minds to grasp a bit of the audacity of God.

Moses had an encounter with God that disrupted his life—in an epic way. You can read the fascinating story found in the third chapter of Exodus. God attracted Moses’ attention by an angelic apparition in the form of a bush in the desert. Moses was looking after a herd of sheep when he caught sight of the strange phenomenon. The bush captured Moses’ attention because it burned without being consumed. Where I live in New Mexico, we have tumbleweeds everywhere. I occasionally entertain myself by lighting them on fire. Poof—and they’re gone!

But there was no “poof” to God’s bush. As Moses ventured toward the bush to get a closer look, a voice told him to take off his sandals. Unbeknownst to Moses, he had entered a holy place in the desert.

That’s when Moses encountered the audacity of God.

And that’s when Moses got his assignment to lead God’s people out of Egyptian captivity. Naturally, he wanted to gain a better understanding of who was commissioning him to undertake such an epic task, so Moses asked who he should say sent him. The answer: “I AM WHO I AM.” There was no need for further explanation.

The essence of our Creator is beyond what we can comprehend with our limited one hundred billion neurons, give or take a few. Our brains possess enormous power to conceive and believe, but only to the extent of our innate potential, and we do not have the potential to fully understand or explain God.

Human logic is incapable of explaining divine truth.

It seems reasonable to assume the Creator will always be superior to the created. We are allowed to understand some things about him, but not everything. Fortunately, we are allowed to know everything about him we need to know. And again, his knowledge infinitely supersedes our own, so whatever he reveals to us is enough. Actually, it’s perfect.

Our Creator defies human explanation. He said so himself (remember, we’re talking about an audacious God): “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts’” ~Isaiah 55:8–9 NASB

(Excerpt from Holy Libido http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Libido-ebook/dp/B00DL7NXM6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379680524&sr=8-1&keywords=holy+libido<a href=

Runnin’ Naked…and Lovin’ It!


Running Silhouette“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

So here’s the question: Knowing the Bible “exposes” our innermost thoughts and desires, do we feel comforted…or condemned? Do we think of the revealing Word of God as a good and beneficial thing, or as a frightening thing?

It seems to me that the answer depends on our level of trust in the goodness of God. The more we trust him, the more safe we feel in our “nakedness” before him. Otherwise, we feel violated by God’s “intrusion” into our secret thoughts and desires.

I’m beginning to welcome the search light of God in my life. Knowing that he is for me and not against me makes all the difference. Although in the past I typically imagined God exposing the “bad” things lurking deep within my soul, it has occurred to me there are a few good things within me that God is exposing. For instance, one of the things he is exposing is my deep and enduring desire to be the man he designed me to be, and to be a husband and father and grandpa that will honor him.

He is exposing my willingness to learn to trust him more fully.  He is revealing my confidence that he is the One who will complete the work he has begun within me. Today, my greatest challenge is to live in humble submission to the things he reveals to me…as I live in his Word.

Sometimes when we’re reading the Bible, we simply quit reading too soon. Immediately after we read about God using his Word as a sword to slice and dice our innermost thoughts and desires, we read this:

“This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” ~ Hebrews 4.15-16

May we invite—and welcome—God’s loving revelation that brings healing into our lives and relationships, and peace that boggles our minds.

Flowing with the Tide of Truth


Water TideWe are often reminded that the current of popular opinion about what is important in life flows against the tide of truth. The following is a great illustration.

I will live life according to these beliefs

God does not exist

It is foolish to think

That there is an all-knowing God with a cosmic plan

That an all-knowing God brings purpose to the pain and suffering in the world

Is a comforting thought however

It

Is only wishful thinking

People can do what they wish without eternal consequences

The idea that

I’m deserving of hell

Because of sin

Is a lie meant to make me a slave to those in power

“The more you have the happier you will be”

Our existence has no grand meaning or purpose

In a world with no God

There is freedom to be who we want to be

But with God

Life is an endless cycle of guilt and shame

Without God

Everything is fine

It is ridiculous to think

I am lost and in need of saving

Now, lest your heart be swamped in despair, read it again, this time from bottom to top, beginning with, “I am lost and in need of saving…”

by Deo Volente Media

‘SINtense!


Verb TenseKnowledge of the tense of a verb can sometimes be critical for accurate interpretation of the Bible. For example, consider the following verse:

“No one who is born of God practices sin, because his (God’s) seed abides in him and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” ~ 1 John 3:9

Look at the verb sin. At first glance, the verse seems to imply that one who is “born of God” can never commit a sin, and yet Scripture teaches us this is not a reality:

1 John 1:8 – “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
2 Chronicles 6:36a – “…for there is no one who does not sin…”
Ecclesiastes 7:20 – “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”
James 3:2 – “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”

When we understand that the verb sin is in the present tense, it becomes clear that John is saying that one who is born of God cannot habitually commit sins as their general pattern of life. The verb “practices” is also present tense and conveys the same thought. All believers commit sins, but not habitually or as their lifestyle. (Note the importance of a Biblical definition of sin, which not only includes intentional disobedience, but also “missing the mark,” and the “sins of omission” – knowing the right thing to do but neglecting/refusing to do it. The “sin” highlighted in 1 John 3.9 is the sin of “omission or commission, in thought and feeling or in speech and action.”)

Application: If our lifestyle is a lifestyle of continual sinning with no desire for holiness: Hebrews 12:14 – “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord,” we must examine whether we are genuinely new creatures in Christ: 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” and born from above: John 3:3 – “Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’” and 2 Corinthians 13:5 – “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?”

Armed with this knowledge, we can understand that a proper understanding of 1 John 3:9 requires a proper understanding of the verb tense.

May the Author enlighten our minds to receive the truth of his Word, and may we walk in the Light and by the power of the Holy Spirit!

(adapted from preceptaustin.org)

Bird-brained Christians


bird in handHave you ever been accused of being a “bird brain”? If so, it probably was not meant to be a compliment. Birds are not known for their intellectual skills. Nevertheless, Jesus tells us we can benefit by observing their ways: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” ~Matthew 6.26

Jesus had just finished teaching the disciples how to pray. We can easily remember the parts of the prayer with the acronym ACTS:
1. Adoration…declaring the “ultimacy” of God over all things.
2. Confession…admitting our frailty.
3. Thanksgiving…living with a sense of gratitude that God in his ultimacy looks after us in our frailty.
4. Supplication…asking for what we need to sustain our life…today.

Which brings us back to the bird illustration. Jesus is referring to the part in the prayer about asking for our daily bread… “Give us today our daily bread.” ~Matthew 6.11

Whether or not we realize it, most of us are hoarders. No, we’re not the hoarders who stack piles of useless trash to the ceiling, leaving only precarious walkways through our stuff. We’re the kind of hoarders who have food in our fridge and freezer, and in our cupboards and pantry. At what point do we become a hoarder? The moment we have more food than we need today. But it only seems reasonable to prepare for tomorrow, doesn’t it?

Seems reasonable to me. But if so, why didn’t Jesus direct our attention toward squirrels? (Possibly he was no more fond of squirrels than I am, but that’s a topic for another time.) As a kid, I liked to watch squirrels bury acorns in the dirt. They knew instinctively they needed to “squirrel” something away for the winter. But Jesus did not tell us we should look to squirrels for life lessons. He pointed to birds.

God designed us to depend on him. One of the most difficult concepts for us to grasp is the “daily bread” part of our dependence on him. We get excited when God provides in a miraculous way. You know, the times he comes through in the “nick of time.” We enjoy telling these stories. After the fact.

But we struggle to believe he’s going to do it again. It’s as if we wonder if God has a limited number of miracles up his celestial sleeve. Our faith is sometimes limited to God’s past provisions, and we strain to trust him for our daily needs…our “today” needs.

Yet, God wants us to live in continual awareness of our utter dependence of him. And we run the risk of forgetting this when we have stuff. While we might consider a full fridge and full pantry a blessing, the “fullness” is a blessing only if we remember that everything we have is because of God’s provision.

But some say, “I’ve worked hard for what I have.” Yet we forget God is the One who gives us breath and strength to work for what we have.

How do we know if we actually believe everything we have is because of God’s gift to us? By the way we respond the next time we have a need—a need that is beyond our own ability.

Some of us would be more comfortable if Jesus had told us to pray for our weekly bread, or better yet, for our monthly bread. Then we could coast along for a while…on our own…in oblivion to our helplessness, apart from God. And whenever we wondered if we had enough stuff, we could meander over to wherever we stash our stuff, and take a quick peek. Then we could relax in our self-sufficient little bubble. But bubbles burst.

Or, we can fix our attention on God, who in his goodness provides everything we need. Daily. And we can get on with learning to relax in him, rather than in our stuff. Like the birds of the air.

*The ACTS acronym is attributed to Dr. Dent, professor at Northern Baptist Seminary.

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