Tag Archives: bible

A Closer Walk: A Heart Overhaul

In his book, The Surprising Grace of Disappointment: Finding Hope When God Seems To Fail Us, John Koessler writes,

“The construction of the spiritual life requires as much tearing down as building up.”

disappointmentI was beginning to see that, because one truth I was definitely starting to grasp… I needed to step back, and take a fresh look at many of the scriptures I loved.

When a scripture would come to mind that seemed to contradict my circumstances, I would think, “I don’t know what that means anymore…” My beliefs and my reality had a serious credibility gap.

Since I know that it is impossible for God to lie, then the only other possibility, was that my understanding of what I was reading was somehow faulty. If there is nothing false in God (and I staunchly believe there isn’t) then that meant my beliefs about what the Bible actually teaches, desperately needed an overhaul.

(It was a place to begin and just facing that truth took some of the pressure off.)

Okay, so if I am the problem, then I need to ask God to show me where the errors in my thinking are, right? Obviously, my circumstances were in direct contradiction to what I had believed God promised; especially about His care and protection. I had thought that what I HAD BELIEVED was the unmoving, unshakable Truth…

So, if it wasn’t, what was?

Can I interject something here?

There is a short prayer one of my Senior intercessors taught me while I was serving on a church staff. It can really help in times like these. She said, “If you’ve hit a wall with God, just pray: ‘God, show me my heart as You see it.’ and He will.”

until light returnsSimple. Direct. It gets right down to business. I love that.

Not a very fancy prayer, but it was an honest start, and I had a small mustard seed of hope that God would hear my heart, and be faithful to eventually answer…

Eventually? I barely had time to say “…Amen.” before He gently began to reveal, the first of many errors in my understanding about who He was, and more importantly, about what His ultimate agenda was for me specifically, and His Kingdom as a whole.

Recent events had more than accomplished the “tearing down” of my erroneous beliefs. Now it was God’s turn, and so, He met me where I was, and patiently began the task of renewing my mind, rebuilding my faith, and reviving my broken heart… real Love does that.

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IN… NOT FROM

You don’t think of yourself this way, do you? As Loved and protected? You believe that because I have allowed you to walk through so many disasters these past few years, that you are out in the storms of life, wind and rain whipping and tearing at you, and you are alone, yes?

siftedIt is true that I have allowed the enemy to “sift you.” What good are all the lessons you’ve been taught, if they don’t stand up against the assaults of the enemy? Would I build a rugged sailing ship and then keep her in the harbor? Would I never test her hull? Her rigging? Does that make sense to you?

(Of course it doesn’t.)

tell your storyListen My child. Plant this Truth deep in your heart. You are my sheltered olive tree… but you are sheltered in the storms of life~not from them. To understand this will eliminate a great deal of confusion from your mind, and it will give you a place to “set yourself” the next time a gale blows up.

How childish My church has become regarding the suffering of this world! This is a real war you’re in and real suffering goes with it—but I have not abandoned you. Quite the contrary! Not once have I left your side.

(Though there were times I stayed silent.)

heart overhaulYour storms will make you SweetHeart… and through each one, I’ll be right here.

I will shelter and protect, “in and through” and you shall come out…

Strengthened!

Stable!

Settled!

a closer walk

 

But I am like a sheltered olive tree protected by the Lord himself…” Psalm 52:8

 

A Closer Walk: Good News Daughter

father and daughterI am a daughter who loved her dad.

But here’s the thing.

My Father was not good at expressing his feelings or the things that really mattered to him, and that deeply affected our relationship, and how we related to one another.

Unfortunately, for both of us, because my dad had a dysfunctional relationship with his parents, there wasn’t anything in the emotional file drawer when it came to giving or expressing the unconditional acceptance and love I needed.

My grand-father, who was also emotionally remote, barely noticed his younger son while he was growing up. Now, add an abusive mother to this dysfunctional equation, who had been raised by an alcoholic father, who had been abusive to her, and you have the sum total of my father’s own broken and bruised childhood.

Poor dad, he tried, but he just didn’t “get girls” who needed to be affirmed as well as taught.

my poor dad

How was this guy who had been tasked with the entire job of rearing a couple of daughters (who were an enigma to him) supposed to cope? How was he supposed to communicate a kind of love and affirmation he himself had not received?

Is it any wonder that broken people raise broken people?

I believe it is impossible for someone to draw water from an empty well, so this crippling brokenness gets passed on from one generation to the next.

That is, unless we get a whole NEW SELF, and with it, a true image of who we are meant to be!

royal inheritanceGod calls Believers “more than conquerors” and if we have a relationship with His Son, then we have a royal inheritance. We have Kingdom privileges that are to make overcoming “the norm” of our everyday lives.

Yet, most of us live our daily lives way below our privileges and Kingdom authority, and let me tell you, that was definitely me!

And I desperately wanted things to CHANGE.

I wanted more hope, more love, more joy—more you name it! I had been doing, doing, doing, for years by attending church, singing songs, signing up for classes, seminars, retreats, etc. etc. All my doing on the outside looked great. But on the inside, where we all have to live 24-7, I was a wreck!

broken insideI wanted the abundant life Jesus promised.

I wanted to make a difference in this world.

I was tired of talking about it or dreaming about it—I wanted to actually do it!

Do you remember the Bible story of Gideon and how he lived fearfully quaking in his boots down in a wine pit stomping out grapes? Then suddenly an angel shows up with an assignment saying, “Mighty soldier, the Lord is with you!”

Mighty?

Hiding out in a hole in the ground?

Yes, we are MIGHTY, because God sees us as we will be.

broken womanEach day I would look at my mess, shake my head in disgust, mumbling and complaining in my heart, while doing a mental inventory in my head of all my failures and impossibilities—all the “why’s” God could never use an unholy wreck like me.

Then, this Abba-God shows up speaking to me again, redirecting my focus, because to Him?

All my ashes and misery were completely beside the point!

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ISN’T IT GOOD NEWS?

Stop, right there.

“O, Crier of Good News…” that’s you!

Nevermind your arguments. I’ve heard them all. (And more than once.) Not today. No excuses. No reasonings. No fears. No! Let’s just sit down together and for once quietly discuss this.

fearful broken womanFirst, I know your fears—every one.

Why discuss those again?

And all your good reasons for “Why you can’t.”  I know those too—all your so-called failures and weaknesses? Yes, we’ve talked about those.

Or, should I say, you talked while I listened. Good thing patience is a fruit of My Spirit.

Today, I want to talk and I want you to listen.

Come, let’s reason together.

You are making this way too complicated.

When there’s good news with your friends or with yourself, don’t you share it?

Even on The News good news is GOOD news!

You are just the “teller” Sweetheart—just The Crier.

your broken piecesDo you worry so much over what others will say when you share your other stories?

And, let’s talk about our stories; the things I’ve done for you; the ways you have changed.

Hasn’t your life changed since I’ve become a part of it?

Isn’t that Good News?

Crier of Good NewsSo I tell you, you are My Crier of Good News. That is who you are! Any other definition is making it way too complicated.

Don’t be afraid.

It’s Me.

It ‘s you.

I like our story!

a closer walk

 

“O, Crier of Good News, …shout from the mountain tops!Shout louder—don’t be afraid!”

Isaiah 40:9

A Closer Walk: Sometimes You Need A Real Friend

We have all encountered Job’s “friends.” You know, those would-be comforters with their Biblical counsel that cuts like a knife.

But sometimes you need a real friend, like it or not.

faithful friend

I’m not talking about the, “Hey, how the heck are you?” kind of friend you see once in a blue moon. No, I’m talking about the kind of friend who will always be there, no matter what.

That kind of friend is very rare.

They walk in—when the world walks out.

Best Friends

So, there I was.

Life had ground to a complete halt.

Because of my daily blinding headaches I can’t work, I can’t drive, I can’t read or write, or even watch TV.

Now, it’s just God and me, and all the time in the world to chat.

Problem was, I didn’t want to talk. Not in those early days!

So, God did the speaking and I did the listening. What else could I do? I could barely walk across a room! Besides, have you ever tried to walk out on Omnipresence?

just a closer walk(Not likely!)

So, God begins to speak.

He starts by reminding me of others who had gone through a pretty rough time.

Guys in the Bible like Joseph, and Job, and Jeremiah.

I love the book of Jeremiah!

Jeremiah knew just what it was like to have his life fall apart, and yet he still wrote in the book of Lamentations,

Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends… Great is his faithfulness: his lovingkindness begins afresh each day. (3: 21-23)God was about to teach me this truth.

He is a faithful friend even when you don’t want Him to be.

Each morning He would show up dispelling my darkness with His Light and whispering His encouragement into my stubborn ears.

It may sound crazy, but in a way?

I resented His coming.

life is broken

Wasn’t it too late?

What earthly good would talking do now? My life was a mess with everything broken. (I mean, really broken!) I didn’t want to do damage assessment. I wanted things back the way they were!

God on the other hand, wanted me front and center—up close and real personal.

I didn’t know it yet, but He was there to bring the answer to a long forgotten prayer.

We were definitely face-to-face…

heart to heart with God

But heart-to-heart?

Not really.

So He asked me a question…

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ONE WAY

How do you think My children see Me?

Take some time. Really think about it.

What does the scripture say?

Jesus said to His friend Philip, “…if you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father.” You can always “see Me” by looking at My Son.

Now, look at the verse for today.

When I see you how do I see you?

When you see Me how do you see Me?

face to face with God

So often, My child, you try to see Me looking through yourself.

You wonder why your views of Me are clouded or distorted?

But, how could they be otherwise?

To see Me you must see Jesus. And to see you? The way I do? You must also see Jesus.

It is by your faith in My written word that you have been made right in My sight!

Where does your peace with Me (and with yourself) come from?

Yes, yes, being found right in My sight.

And, whenever I look at you, how do I see you?

Through My Son’s death and resurrection!

How often My children sing of “blood-bought and blood-washed,” but how few really SEE it!

walking with JesusI no longer see the darkness of sin when I look at you.

And you will never see Me for who I AM based on what you see in yourself.

There is only One Way, One Door, One Life. His name is: JESUS.

Now, do you see?

a closer walk“So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have a real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.” Romans 5:1

 

 

A Closer Walk: A Storm That Terrifies

Have you ever been in a severe storm?

Man, I have. It was driving back from the airport in Wichita to Hutchinson, Kansas to stay with friends.

It was my first time in a “tornado watch.”

We left the airport under sunny skies but soon after a storm began to brew. It looked like we were driving into the wrath of God with pitch black skies in the middle of the afternoon. Lightning was hitting the ground all around us and the peals of thunder were so loud I thought the sky was splitting in two!

A storm unleashing its fury can be terrifying.

But what about spiritual storms?

They can be just as terrifying.

motoring through lifeWe can be motoring through life with our destination firmly fixed in our minds and “Wham!” we can find ourselves unexpectedly hurled into a cyclone of  emotional devastation wondering, “Where is God?”

That’s how I remember January 1999. My life turning upside down and inside out with all of my nice neat expectations shattered and in broken pieces all about me—caught in my own Hurricane Andrew.

Remember Andrew? Not only did Andrew erase everything in his path as he swept through central Florida, the tornadoes that spun off the main storm created all kinds of chaos and collateral damage.

That’s what I want to talk about.

Storms that catch us off guard. Storms that flatten and confuse us. Storms that test everything we believe and then leave us asking questions like, “Will I survive this? How will I survive this? Do I even want to survive this? What will I believe afterward even if I do make it through this?

What will survival look like?

I want to take you on my journey through a personal hurricane.

I want you to meet a God who walks in when the rest of the world walks out and marvel at a Savior who treads on the top of our storms.

I hope you will also hear a Holy Voice whisper, with a Voice so quiet that sometimes He must shut out everything else in our lives, so that only His Still Small Voice can be heard.

Okay, so here is where my story begins.

It’s January in the Central Valley of California. The weather is cold, foggy and miserable, which is normal for our winters.

I love my busy life. I have a job I love with people who are depending on me every day. I am tired most of the time but who isn’t in these stress-filled days we live in? When I’m feeling exhausted (which is most of the time) I chug another diet cola, get a new caffeine fix, and motor-on.

Flu is everywhere. It’s the season for flu. So I don’t think it strange when I wake up one morning feeling like I’ve come down with a “bug.” It’s a pain, but a minor inconvenience, not a devastating catastrophe. I curl up on my couch under my favorite quilt and resolve to endure a week of misery. But you know how flu is. As the day wears on I begin to feel worse until it feels like everything in my stomach is about to hurl, so I run for a bathroom. That’s the last thing I remember until I wake up on my bathroom floor lying in a pool of my own blood.

I’m laying there trying to figure out how bad I’m hurt. What happened and why does my face feel like I’ve been kicked by a mule?

I holler for help so a family member can call 911. Minutes later paramedics are putting me in the back of an ambulance and I am on my way to an emergency room at a local hospital.

a storm that terrifiesAfter three days of running tests my doctors come to my room to share their results. Starched white coats with grim faces and official looking clipboards begin to paint me a picture black and bleak.

They tell me of the health issues they believe I am facing.

Their findings were all based on erroneous information but that will only come into the light—later.

My doctors get it all wrong but in the meanwhile…

Me? I’m doing my best to listen and not freak out!

I try to listen hard to what these men are saying, but their “conclusions” don’t fit with the facts that I’m remembering and the evidence on my face.

In addition I am missing the most important thing I need. I don’t have the “inner peace” I depend upon when making life-altering decisions.

These doctors are telling me I need to begin a drug therapy program immediately, but when I ask them about side effects, they freely admit these drugs will cause great harm if they are the “wrong” stuff.

So I tell my doctors, “I have to pray about this.”

They just stare back at me in stunned silence. These men are used to being obeyed without question. They do not take it well when I tell them, “No, I will pray first—then we will talk about what to do.”

They argue with me but I stand my ground. They threaten dire consequences but I stand my ground. They storm out in anger but I am still holding on to my ground!

I want to talk to God FIRST.

In the middle of my storm I reach for the Gideon Bible next to the bed, trying my best not to panic.

Praying  a desperate prayer I say, “God I am in DEEP trouble. I don’t know what to believe. You HAVE to show me what to do—and I mean RIGHT NOW!”

I don’t usually talk to God like that, but when you’re caught in a TERRIFYING storm flowery prayers are the last thing on your mind!

After I prayed I opened the Bible to Isaiah 51 and this is what I read,

a closer walk“I, even I, am He who comforts you… so what right have you to fear mere mortal men, who wither like the grass and disappear? And yet you have no fear of God, your Maker? ~ You have forgotten Him, the One who spread the stars throughout the skies and made the earth. Will you be in constant dread of men’s oppression, and fear their anger all day long? Soon, soon you slaves shall be released; dungeon, starvation, and death ARE NOT YOUR FATE.” [Isaiah 51:12-14 TLB]

I closed the Bible and said, “Okay God, that’s good enough for me.”

 

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What Roads To Take?

what roads to take

Isaiah 42:16 The Message (MSG)

10-16 Sing to God a brand-new song,
    sing his praises all over the world!
Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,
    with all the far-flung islands joining in.
Let the desert and its camps raise a tune,
    calling the Kedar nomads to join in.
Let the villagers in Sela round up a choir
    and perform from the tops of the mountains.
Make God’s glory resound;
    echo his praises from coast to coast.
God steps out like he means business.
    You can see he’s primed for action.
He shouts, announcing his arrival;
    he takes charge and his enemies fall into line:

“I’ve been quiet long enough.
    I’ve held back, biting my tongue.
But now I’m letting loose, letting go,
    like a woman who’s having a baby—
Stripping the hills bare,
    withering the wildflowers,
Drying up the rivers,
    turning lakes into mudflats.
But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way,
    who can’t see where they’re going.
I’ll be a personal guide to them,
    directing them through unknown country.
I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take,
    make sure they don’t fall into the ditch.
These are the things I’ll be doing for them—
    sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.”

Making Bible “Family Time” Simple

This new devotional by Tony and Jonathan Evans, KINGDOM FAMILY DEVOTIONAL, turns what often seems like a daunting task into a simple, consistent, and fun routine!

It simplifies family devotions.

We’re all busy these days, kids included! Carving out a consistent time to come together as a family over God’s word sounds simple, but very often isn’t.

The KINGDOM FAMILY DEVOTIONAL helps tackle that problem with family devotions that are short, clearly Biblical, and do-able.

There was a lot for me to like about this little book but here are the five things that were at the top of my list:

  • First, it picks a one-word topic and stays there for five days.
  • Good thinking! For five days the family can come together learning the serious stuff but weekends are for family fun!
  • I liked the way it came up with ways for the entire family to participate. Not always an easy task!
  • I liked that it is for all 52 weeks of the year. That builds consistency, and for me—that’s the real challenge.
  • I liked that it began with the topics of LOVE and then RESPECT. To my mind, they go hand in hand and are desperately wanting in many of today’s contemporary families.

So, summing up:

  • This book is clearly Biblical in it’s teaching.
  • It is a devotional that brings the focus of our family time around a single word for an entire work-week using the Bible as a life reference.
  • It encourages our family with fun ways to participate together and apply what we’ve learned.
  • And, it gives parents a simple to follow Biblical road map for their families for an entire year.

Easy, consistent, focused and fun—what could be better!

My sincere thanks to Focus on the Family Resources and Tyndale House Publishers for sending me this complimentary copy and asking me for my review.

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The Gift

Some things matter in this life.

Many things don’t.

Figuring out what does, and doesn’t, makes all the difference in how you finish.

Many of us have had a rough start.

We don’t have any control over that.

But it’s how you finish that will tell your real story.

How will you finish?

We each must decide for ourselves.

What matters; what we choose to care about, that will tell our final story.

Where we invest ourselves?

That will be our legacy.

I have seen people choose wisely and I have seen people choose foolishly. But, mostly? I have seen people choose much less than they could have had.

And that is the saddest part.

The closer you get to the finish line it’s not the what of life, or the where, but the Who in your life, that begins gathering great importance. If you don’t get The Who figured out, and by that I mean, your relationship with Jesus Christ? Trust me; the rest doesn’t amount to a worthless hill of beans.

The Bible asks all of us,

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
—Mark 8:36 NIV

This life is as uncertain as shifting sand in a hurricane.

Eternity?

That’s a very long time, to get it all wrong, living in the FOREVER of mistaken and dismal choices.

This world only gives you one certainty.

God gives to each person the right to choose where they will spend eternity.

No one makes this choice for you.

Only you get to make this decision.

The Bible says, you brought nothing into this world, and you will carry nothing out with you.

I have seen that for myself. Seen people leave as naked and as empty-handed as they arrived. We leave with only what we have sent ahead.

God holds out to you,

  • THE GIFT—of His grace through His Son’s shed blood on a cross for your brokenness and sin.
  • He offers you Heaven and an eternity of joy and purpose with Him.

You can’t have Heaven any other way.

And your choice?

Your choice will stand for all eternity.

Choose wisely caterpillar.

Reach out and take His Gift for you.

 

 

 

 

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Designer Dungeons

027aa9fa73140da2048987f35b3e8b8cJeremiah is a great friend of mine. We have spent many days together talking about God and our dungeon experiences.

He comforts me. He sent me notes of encouragement from so many centuries before, yet his frustrations, are as current as yesterday’s battles.

Yes, he is a great friend of mine.

While he pours out his frustrations in Lamentations chapter three, I listen, and I nod “yes” in all the appropriate places.

A good friend does that.

His dungeon is quite different from mine. His—designed for him—mine designed for me.  And the God who sees and hears, and knows everything, knows just what we need to get us from anger and frustration, to hope and trust. Jeremiah’s is tailor-made for him. Mine is tailor-made for me.

Your dungeon? Yes, it is tailor-made for you and of God’s knowing and choosing.

I know, you think yours is the worst. Jeremiah thought his was. I think mine is. But no, each one, each captivity is designed specifically for the one it encloses; designed to bring us to the end of ourselves and face-to-face with God.

It is love that closes us in.

Oh, I know. I didn’t think so at first. Jeremiah didn’t either, but after the caterpillar begins to adjust:

⦁ to the tight space
⦁ to the dark place

After he has:

⦁ made his case
⦁ and surrendered his race

He searches:

⦁ for God’s face
⦁ and finds God’s grace

And he discovers his custom cocoon? His designer dungeon? Though snug in spots, fits him like a glove.

And remember little caterpillar. Though tight and dark your cocoon may be—it is the place where wings are formed!

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; He has made my chain heavy.                Lamentations 3:7 NKJV

A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Father, when life seems to close in around us; when the darkness of despair threatens to suffocate all that desires Your will above all else, then Father, then come to our aid! Remind us in the very tight places, that You love us with an everlasting love, and nothing can shake that. Remind us that this is the very place Your wisdom has chosen for us; our cocoon to transform us; to form wings of destiny for Your plan and purpose.
Oh Abba… help us, when we forget.