Real Life Relationships

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Life does not consist of the abundance of possessions; the accomplishment of great and mighty deeds; or the attainment of victory, success, and recognition. Rather, life consists of the quality of one’s relationships. And this is “life” that you might “know” the Father, and in knowing Him, that you would make Him known (John 17:3). By this shall all men “know,” by your love for one another (John 13:35) .

I wrote those words in the back of my Bible almost thirty years ago. Those words, spoken to my heart by the Holy Spirit, mean much more now than they did when I first heard them. They remind me that God longs for real life relationships. He longs for us to know Him intimately, He longs to express His love to others through us, and He longs for the world to see His love manifested in the church, so they too will come into real life relationships.

We live in a culture that values performance and achievement, and, for many, the acquisition of material wealth is the primary indicator of success. Because of this cultural plumb line, many people spend countless hours in driven pursuit of that which ultimately leaves them empty and lonely. So busy doing, they have little time to cultivate intimate relationships – with God or others.   This pursuit creates a false identity and many feel like they must hide behind their achievements and busy lifestyles to appear acceptable to others. Unfortunately, this keeps people from regularly experiencing the reality of God’s unconditional love and unqualified acceptance.

God calls us to come to Him in truth. In other words, He wants to bring us into His reality – the reality that He loves us for who we are, not what we do for Him or others. He wants us to know that in spite of our weaknesses and failures, He enjoys us and longs to talk to us, encourage us, and love us. He wants us to understand that our true identities are rooted in receiving His love for us and returning our love to Him. We discover this as we spend time in prayer and listen for His affirmations.   Likewise, God desires for us to experience genuine relationships with others. Like prayer, genuine relationships take time to cultivate.   God calls us to be real with Him and with one another.

Not only is God the creator of life, He is life itself. Life expresses of the nature and character o the creator. When we come to Him in prayer as we really are, not hiding behind our achievements and acquisitions, or hiding in shame because of the lack thereof, we discover His acceptance—simply because we are his children. We discover the wonder of His abundant life and the overflow of his expressive affection. In turn, that real life produces an abiding and vibrant relationship that bears fruit as it expresses itself in relationship to those around us. As we are restored to the Father’s heart, His heart flows through us to draw others in to the reality of that same restoration.

God calls all of us into real life relationships. What if we evaluated our lives by the quality of our relationships and not by the abundance of our achievements or the quantity of our possessions? Take some time to talk to the Father about your relationships. Ask Him to show you what quality relationships look like. Pray for the courage to seek out real life relationships so that the world will see real love and come into a life-giving relationship with the Father also.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. . .

The Nation Needs Your Prayers

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“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

More than ever, we must pray for our nation.

Every May since 1988, the first Thursday of the month is designated as the National Day of Prayer. The significance of this day reminds us that the formation and foundation of our nation rests upon the footing of prayer, and the damaged foundations of our nation must be repaired through repentance and prayer. Ever since its formation, our leaders have called upon the citizens of America to pray for our nation and our leaders. The Continental Congress issued the first national call to prayer in 1775; they asked colonists to pray that God would grant wisdom for the formation of our new nation.

In 1787 delegates from the thirteen colonies gathered in Philadelphia to write a covenant that would bring them together as one nation under God. In response to the bitter debate that took place, Benjamin Franklin called upon his fellow statesman to remember their God:

At the beginning of our War for Independence, we had daily prayers in this room for divine protection. Our prayers were heard, and they were graciously answered. Have we now forgotten this powerful Friend?

He urged the delegation to begin each session with payer. This call to prayer marked a turning point in the convention and the delegates agreed to three days of prayer and fasting to seek God’s guidance as they wrote the new constitution of the United States of America.

In 1863 President Lincoln called for a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer.” In 1952 President Truman signed a joint resolution of Congress, declaring an annual National Day of Prayer. In 1988, President Reagan called Americans to remember our history:

Let us, young and old, join together, as did the First Continental Congress in their first step- humble, heartfelt prayer. Let us do so for the Love of God and His great goodness, in search of His guidance, and the grace of repentance, in seeking His blessings, His peace, and the resting of His kind and holy hands on ourselves, our Nation, and our friends in the defense of freedom.

In 2002 George W. Bush likewise emphasized the importance of prayer for America:

Since America’s founding, prayer has reassured us that the hand of God is guiding the affairs of this nation. We have never asserted a special claim on His favor, yet we’ve always believed in God’s presence in our lives.

More than ever, Americans must hear and understand the urgent cry of God’s heart for His purposes to be re-affirmed and re-established in our faltering nation. As intercessors we understand that God can do this through the prayers of His people. More than ever, we need to pray for our nation, our leaders, our court system, our economic system, our military, our schools, our churches, and our families. Let us arise in obedience to II Chronicles 7:14:

If my people, who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn form their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Let us pray for our nation, not just on the first Thursday of the month, but let us persevere day by day until we see the knowledge and the glory of God cover our nation and the world as the waters cover the seas (Isaiah 11:9).

Important Note:

Please pray specifically for the current Supreme Court Case on federalizing gay marriage. The court heard and will rule soon on the arguments in Obergefell vs. Hodges. This is one of the most significant and historic cases and has huge implications for Christians’ religious liberties and practices in the future.

To understand the impact of this ruling on the family read Dr. Dobson’s article: http://www.wnd.com/2015/05/dobson-fall-of-western-civilization-at-hand/

The One Whom God Seeks

We know that God wants us to seek Him, but what does it mean to be the kind of person God seeks?

globe and magnifying glass

The One Whom God Seeks

God is not silent on the subject of seeking Him. Seeking does not begin with us; it begins with God. God initiates His relationships with humans. God gives us the desire to know Him. He places in us the desire to seek Him. He draws us, invites us, and woos us into His presence. He simply waits for us to respond, to say “yes” to His advances. Throughout the Bible, God invites, commands, and pleads with His people to seek Him. There are wonderful promises associated with seeking God. He promises to be found; He promises to reveal Himself, and He promises to bless those who wholeheartedly seek Him. We know that God wants us to seek Him, but what does it mean to be the kind of person God seeks?

The Bible tells us that God seeks three kinds of people. He seeks the lost (Ezekiel 34:15, Luke 19:10), He seeks intercessors (Ezekiel 22:30), and He seeks worshipers (I Samuel 13:14, John 4:23). Therefore, as we consider what it means to seek God, let us also consider what it means to be the kind of people God seeks. He sought us when we were lost, and He will continue to seek us as we respond and say “yes” to His invitation to become worshipers and intercessors.

God seeks the lost (Luke 19:10)

Jesus said He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and told many parables to illustrate His point. As His disciples, we are called to participate with Him in that seeking process. One way we do this is to pray for those who don’t know Him yet personally. Ask the Lord to open their eyes and remove the veil from their hearts to believe. Ask Him to send laborers into the harvest fields. Ask Him to give you opportunities to share your faith with the unbelievers in your circle of influence.

God seeks worshipers (John 4:23)

The Bible tells us that God seeks those who worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23). Worship is a vital part of prayer. Prayer involves the pursuit of an intimate relationship with God and worship then springs forth as a natural response to that intimacy; through prayer and worship we actively embrace of God’s revelation of Himself to our human hearts. Although worship may be fulfilling, exciting, and enjoyable, it also involves a deliberate act of self-denial. Worship must be Christ-centered; we must focus on and acknowledge the supreme worth and wonder of God. True worship proceeds from God Himself as He reveals Himself to us. It takes a revelation of God to worship God. Only The Holy Spirit within us truly knows the Father and the Son, and He reveals God to us. In worship we yield to the Holy Spirit within us, who teaches us to say “yes” to Him and the revelation of who God to us. We do not worship to curry God’s favor or acceptance; rather, worship enables us to receive the favor and acceptance God freely bestows. He waits on high to show His people His passionate love for them; when we worship Him, we are empowered to receive all that He longs to give. Worship produces intimacy, which produces the life of God within us as He reveals Himself to us, in us, and through us. Let us ask the Lord to teach us to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

God seeks intercessors (Ezekiel 22: 30).

As we worship, we touch God’s heart. In turn, He reveals His longings, His plans, and His purposes to us. We then respond and allow His heart to flow through us on behalf of others. I once heard a prominent speaker say, “God’s heart always flows through the harvest.” When we love God, we also learn to love the lost, and our prayers of intercession will flow from a heart of connectedness with Him. If we will draw near to Him, if we will quiet our hearts, if we will listen, then we will discover that “He is not silent, and He is not whispering”* (Scott and Christine Dente). When we become intercessors, we become partners with God. We identify with Him and begin to care about what He cares about. We want to see His kingdom come on earth as in heaven, and we become vessels through whom God can release the purposes of His kingdom.   He calls us to worship, He calls us to intercede, and He calls the lost. Let us become the kind of people who seek God so that we can become the kind of people that God Himself seeks.

*Lyrics from “He is not Silent” (Out of the Grey, 1991, Scott and Christine Dente)

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What Does God Remember?

Don't Forget

 “The memories we create with God are eternal.   These are the memories God will rehearse when we see Him face to face.

How do you want to be remembered? Do you have old friends who want to continually remind you of the foolish mistakes and youthful blunders of your past? Perhaps you have relatives who like to rehearse the embarrassing moments of your life at every family function. Usually these rehearsals are meant to be no more than harmless, good-natured banter. Hopefully, such reminders help keep us humble and mindful of the grace God gives us to become new creatures in Christ. Sometimes, however, such reminders bring back painful memories we would rather forget.

The most important question about memories follows: what does God remember about you? Have you considered that the all-seeing, all-knowing, ever-present God of the universe does not remember your sin? When you repent of your sins, when you confess and turn back to God, the Bible tells us “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Additionally, it tells us, “as far as east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). Furthermore, once you repent, God chooses to forget your sin: “I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).

Therefore, when you know God forgives and forgets your sin, you can draw near to Him with great confidence and the assurance of His gracious acceptance and approval. When you draw near to God, if the Holy Spirit reminds you of something painful or sinful in your past, obey His prompt and confess any sin so that He can cleanse and heal you of it. He wants you to be free from guilt and shame, and you can be sure the Father will never bring up the embarrassing moments of your past at the next family gathering.

So what does God remember? God remembers those who draw near to Him. Do you realize God remembers all your prayers? Even when you’ve forgotten, He has not. God remembers those who sit at His feet and listen intently to Him – like Mary of Bethany. He remembers those who pour out the oil of their devotion and sacrifice their time, affections, energy and resources for Him – like Mary of Bethany.   In fact, we see in the Bible that the Lord was so moved by Mary of Bethany’s devotion to Him, that He said: “wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall also be spoken of in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13).

The Father is equally sentimental about our devotion as well. Richard Foster says this:

It is easy for us to think that God is so majestic and so highly exalted that our adoration makes no difference to Him. Our God is not made of stone. His heart is the most sensitive and tender of all. No act goes unnoticed, no matter how insignificant or small. A cup of cold water is enough to put tears in the eyes of God. God celebrates our feeble expressions of gratitude.

When we pursue a relationship with God, we create memories of His faithfulness, His goodness, His presence, His power, and His affection in our lives. Likewise, we create memories in God’s heart as well of our faithfulness and devotion to Him. He sees and remembers every movement of our hearts toward Him. The memories we create with God are eternal.   These are the memories God will rehearse when we see Him face to face. These are the memories He will bring up when we are all gathered at His table.

How do you want to be remembered?

Richard Foster (1992). Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. Nashville, TN: HarperOne.

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Treasures of Darkness: Hope in Suffering

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Discovering the Treasures of Darkness

“When faced with the reality of one’s own weakness and utter inability to change the situation, the promise of God’s strength, perfected in weakness, becomes more poignant: no longer a slogan but a life line, no longer an option but an utter necessity.”

At some point, all of us will face sorrow and suffering; we will all see dark days and go through dark valleys that will challenge our deepest beliefs and change our perspectives about what is true, and real, and important.  I began a journey eight years ago through the valley of the shadow of a chronic condition, which manifests in daily fatigue, dizziness, and light-headedness; these symptoms sometimes develop into severe migraines and vertigo.  I recognize that there are many who suffer with conditions much worse than mine and make no claim to plumbing the depths and widths of suffering.  But, because of my own struggles with pain, I have been on a journey to understand pain and suffering and have discovered that treasures exist in the darkness.*

Along my journey, I have met many others who suffer with chronic debilitating conditions or suffer because of circumstances beyond their own control.  People who suffer with chronic illness and or extended times of suffering often become isolated and lonely. Others often do not understand because such conditions are usually unseen and invisible to the casual observer, and those with chronic conditions don’t like to burden people again and again with the details of their struggles. So, they often suffer silently. Friends and family offer words of comfort, prayers for healing, and scriptures of encouragement, which offer temporary and needed relief. But day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, when physical (or mental, or emotional) healing does not come, what happens? Weariness can set in, hope can wane, faith can waver; doubt, confusion, and accusation become hauntingly familiar voices, and the heart becomes heavy with questions no one can answer. The shadows loom and linger, the road becomes dark and steep, and the silent lack of response echoes loudly through the deepest regions of the heart and evoke the cry “God, why have you forsaken me?”

As humans, we wrestle with the reality of suffering; we question the goodness of God because we cannot comprehend the eternal benefits of suffering. The sinful nature of humans keeps us from truly realizing and recognizing the depths and destruction of sin and its results; therefore, we don’t realize that we all deserve far worse than our merciful God allows because of His great love for us. The sinful nature of humans also limits our perception of the infinite goodness and mercy of God and His ability and promise to redeem even the darkest of situations and circumstances for our ultimate, eternal good and His greater glory. We simply cannot fully comprehend these truths this side of eternity, so suffering seems senseless to us.

We can fathom this: it is not until faced with sickness that we recognize how desperately we need the Great Physician; it is not until faced with darkness that we recognize how desperately we need the Light of the World; it is not until faced with our own helplessness and utter inability to save ourselves that we recognize how desperately we need a Savior. When faced with the reality of one’s own weakness and utter inability to change the situation, the promise of God’s strength being perfected in weakness becomes more poignant: no longer a slogan but a life line, no longer an option but an utter necessity.

Because of my own battles, I have come to understand and have greater compassion and empathy for those who struggle with chronic illnesses. Because of my struggles, I am less likely to cite pat answers and offer simple solutions. I am more likely to listen without judging, offer my shoulder to lean on, and cry with others than I did before. I am less focused on finding the answer to the problem and more interested in knowing the One who is the answer to all problems.

I now appreciate that there would be no shadows without the light. When the dark becomes the darkest, the light becomes more precious. I have discovered from my own journey on the steep, shadowed paths that treasures exist in the darkness, and I realize now that God will sometimes allow us to stumble into some dark places to reveal the richness of His healing and redeeming presence therein. He promises He will never ever leave or forsake us; He promises He will be with us through the fire and through the storm. If we never experience the storms, we will not experience His peace in the midst of the storm, and we cannot walk on the water with Him. If we never walk through the fire, we will not experience the fellowship of His presence in the furnace of affliction. If we never suffer, we will not know the joy of entering into His suffering, and we will not know the reality of His abiding presence even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. And if and when we cry out, “God, why have you forsaken me?” He will answer with His very own presence. This is the treasure of darkness: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the darkness tells me so.

* For an excellent resource on the theology of suffering, I recommend Randy Alcorn’s book:  If God is Good. 

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Silence, Please!

Santa Claus Holding Finger to Mouth

Years ago as a young mother, it occurred to me: “Whoever wrote ‘Silent Night’ didn’t have babies in the house.” Now, as I ponder those words, I guess that whoever wrote “Silent Night” obviously had some quiet time to reflect on those calm moments long ago in Bethlehem. Although  a beloved Christmas carol, “Silent Night” doesn’t reflect the typical, American, holiday season experience.

Every year I make a promise to myself to slow down and enjoy the process. In spite of my good intentions, I find myself caught up in the stress of noisy activity and endless rounds of shopping. Amid the clamor, I frequently ask others “what do you want for Christmas?”

This year, I hope someone answers, “I’d like a little silence, please.”

As I began to reflect on this holiday season, I thought about the many Christmas traditions and what they mean. In particular, I thought about the significance of gift giving as a reflection of the generous heart of our Heavenly Father and about the most precious gift He gave-His son, Jesus. It occurred to me to ask Him, “What do you want for Christmas?” Can you guess His answer? “I’d like a little silence, please.”

Silence seems an unknown concept in our modern culture, with the advent of portable electronic equipment, 24-hour cable networks, and constant social media feeds. Constant visual and auditory stimulation seem normal to most people today. Yet in times past, people practiced silence as a spiritual discipline. The Bible tells us: “in quietness and trust” lead to strength and that righteousness leads to “quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 30:15, 32:17). The Good Shepherd promises to lead us by quiet waters and restore our souls in the process (Psalm 23:2, 3). David waited in silence for God and found confidence, strength, and hope (Psalm 62:1, 2, 5). Solomon said “wise words heard in quietness are better than foolish clamor” (Ecclesiastes 9:17). Silence even occurs in Heaven (Revelation 8:1).

When we draw near to the Lord and quiet our hearts in silence, we often hear His voice most clearly. Silence can be a powerful form of prayer since prayer means we not only talk to the Father, but we listen as well. As we quiet ourselves in His presence and meditate on His word as we pray, the Lord provides needed refreshment, and He imparts His supernatural life and gives us needed direction and guidance. Silence creates an atmosphere of expectancy as we wait patiently on Him.

As Christmas approaches this year, let us also practice the spiritual discipline of silence. Take time every day to draw near in silence to the Father to receive the strength, confidence, restoration, hope and wisdom He so freely desires to give you. One of my favorite Christmas carols is “0 Little Town of Bethlehem” because the words so beautifully express that concept:

How silently, how silently,

the wondrous gift is given,

so God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.

No ear may hear his coming,

but in this world of sin,

where meek souls will receive him,

still the dear Christ enters in (Brooks, 1835).

Perhaps, as you draw near, you will hear the Father tell you the same thing He told

me, “I’d like a little silence, please.”

Reference

Brooks, P. (1835). O little town of Bethlehem. The hymns and carols of Christmas. Retrieved fromhttp://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Notes_On_Carols/o_little_town_of_bethlehem.htm

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What are You Dong Here? Part II

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What are You Doing Here? Part II

Sometimes it takes running ourselves to exhaustion before we recognize that even our best efforts are not enough to sustain us through the battle.

Passion waning? Faith wavering? Have the challenges of life wearied you to the point of exhaustion? What should you do? Begin with the simple things first.

First, get up, and drink the water of the word, and eat the bread of heaven the Lord provides for you – whether you feel like it or not. I know this may sound trite, but often when people become discouraged, they also lose hope and energy, and depression can easily set in. When this happens, even the simple things can feel futile. This is the simplest step you can take, but it leads to the path of spiritual health and restoration.

The angel of the Lord appeared to Elijah and offered him food to eat and water to drink. The provision given him did not simply provide natural nourishment, but it provided supernaturally enriched nutrients of heaven that energized Elijah so he could go 40 days through the wilderness to Mt. Horeb, the “Mountain of God.” When tempted in the wilderness during His 40 day fast, Jesus rebuked the onslaught of the enemy by reminding Satan and Himself that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the Father’s mouth” (Matthew 4:4). Living by the word of God represents an ongoing, continuous action. In other words, we cannot survive on yesterday’s food and water; we must consistently allow the Father to nourish us with manna from heaven. Like Elijah, we must understand that yesterday’s word does not meet the need for today’s battles.

Naturally, when we do not drink water, toxins and waste builds up in our systems. When we do not eat, we can experience physical shakiness, mental confusion, and general irritability due to low blood sugar. Predictable results occur: we become fatigued and listless. Concentrating, exerting energy, and taking on challenges become difficult.   Even simple things become hard when we are weak and dehydrated.

Surely, we can apply this to our spiritual lives as well. When we do not drink “the water of the Word,” we become spiritually parched and left thirsting for more. When we do not drink, we will not be cleansed from the toxic thoughts and attitudes that so subtly and easily find their way into our thoughts and lives. Often it is easier to drink from the cisterns of this world, which offer instant gratification but never satisfy in the end because they do not possess the refreshment that only God’s Word can provide.

We must intentionally quiet heart and mind to allow the water of the Word to saturate our souls and wash us from the dust and filth that accumulates as we walk life’s pathways.  The God-breathed, God-given word “is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (I Tim 3:16, NIV). Allow the “washing of the Word” (Ephesians 5:26) to cleanse and restore you.

When we fellowship with Christ, by reading His word and praying it back to Him, we are partaking of the Bread of Heaven, so freely offered. When we neglect this simple process, we starve ourselves spiritually, producing dullness of heart and spirit that manifests in emotional and spiritual malaise and myopathy. Our commitment to “work for God” does not compare to dining with Him. Like Martha, we expend so much effort preparing and serving the meal that we miss the meal ourselves. He does not want your work and the challenges of life to keep your from the feast He prepares for you, but He cannot feed you when you’re running. As Elijah experienced, sometimes it takes running ourselves to exhaustion before we recognize that even our best efforts are not enough to sustain through the battle.

God knows where you are, how you got there, and all the circumstances regarding your weariness. He knows your frailties and weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).  Because He too experienced temptation and suffering, He empathizes with us and knows how to help us through our suffering and temptations (Hebrews 2:18). Listen to the tender cry of the Father’s heart.

Isaiah 55:1-3

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.”

Do you see who qualifies to receive the “richest of fare” God offers? The thirsty, the starving, and the broke. I qualify. Do you?

Don’t wait; run to the Water of Life; partake of the Bread of Heaven. His word will cleanse and nourish you and give you supernatural strength to continue the journey He calls you to. Like Elijah, your wilderness journey may not yet be over, but if you allow the Lord to feed you through His word, you will gain supernatural strength to get to Mt. Horeb where you will encounter God in new and supernatural ways. His still small voice is waiting to speak to you. Will you “arise and eat”?

Here are practical steps to take to deal with spiritual discouragement and exhaustion:

  1. Follow the Spirit of the Lord into the quietness of the wilderness.
  2. Identify the enemies that have driven you to exhaustion and discouragement.
  3. Hide yourself in the cleft of the rock.
  4. Pour out your heart to God.
  5. Confess your sin, repent of it, and receive forgiveness.
  6. Allow the wind of the Spirit to break up the hardness of your heart.
  7. Ask the Lord to shake away the shifting sand so you are once again standing on the firm foundation of the Rock Himself.
  8. Ask God to rekindle the fire of His Presence and pour out the fire of His Spirit over you once again.
  9. By faith, be clothed once again in righteousness, and go in the Spirit’s power.

Please leave a comment, and let me know what you think . . .