Sunday, July 27, 2014

Thoughts after an awesome Sunday

   These past several days have been nothing short of amazing to my soul.  Obtaining a solid and true understanding of our Lord was a work that He had to complete; it was not of my own volition or accord that He was able to bring me to where I reside spiritually today.  Through ministry, through the testimony of others - through His body of believers that continues to share my storms and dance in my rain, God has confirmed not only how much he truly loves and desires me individually, but He continues to love me and confirm for me His desire for His will and purpose in my life.  It is such a blessing to be used by God to help others, when many times we may think that we are the ones that need the help.  I know that I will never fully understand the ways and workings of God, but I do understand His love more today than ever before, and it is such a blessing to know - no weapon formed against me will prosper - God is my rock. The life of Jesus Christ has meant the death of me - and the death of Jesus Christ, now means life to me.

  There is something special going on in the brotherhood of believers here in Southern Ohio, and many of us here are speaking of this today.  The Holy Spirit is moving the hearts and minds of us to be emboldened to carry his light that is His love to others, in ways that make us speak of it and act upon it.  Our church was simply amazing today - it was the first time that I have been invited to speak before my Church - it was the first time that prayer upon prayer was offered as we gathered together as a group in His Holy name - no time left for a sermon - just pure praise and worship.  I would say that what we have together is as close to the Church that God intended for His followers to follow as I have witnessed - He is transforming us for His will and purpose, and it is amazing to witness the Spirit of our Holy and worthy Father guiding us together. It is a blessing that I do not take for granted. It is awesome to witness the work of God.  It is not to be denied.  It is undeniable.

  As I move forward today into yet another chapter in my walk with my Lord,  All I am left with is sincere humility and reverence for the way He has manifested His spirit and love upon me individually, and us all as a collective.  It compels me to rely more, pray more - to be with Him more and to give all that I have of myself, knowing that He knows no other way to love than completely.  I have had my ups and downs, my trials and errors, my victories and losses and defeats - He knows me completely this way.  Yet, it is God's continued outpouring of favor and blessing and Spirit upon me that draws me ever closer to Him - this makes me want to worship Him in spirit and truth to my fullest.  He knows me enough to bring me to the peace and comfort that I feel at this moment.  My life - my time and effort and resources belong to Him.  I wonder sometimes where the road I travel will take me with my Lord. But I have stopped worrying about where I am going.  I am just glad that He is there with me all the while.  I am nothing, nothing at all without My God - My Savior - My Rock - My strength. I cannot imagine that there is a better life, or a better way of life, than to give your life, for the one, who gave His life.

  Praise be to He who is worthy of all of our praise, all of our days.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Mirror.

Revelation 7:14
"...they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

For sale. White wedding dress, only worn one time and less than a year old. Hand-made by designer Vera Wang, this gown has a red stain in the front from a wine spill that cannot be removed, but other than that - it is perfect! Paid almost $8,500 - will sacrifice for $50 obo. 

Perhaps, this is how we view ourselves at times, seeing only the stain of our own sins and inherent imperfection, allowing these to devalue us entirely. Designed for such a beautiful purpose by the author of creation, but feeling devoid of our real value;  we sacrifice the value God sees within us, for the imperfect perception of others, and more destructive - how we perceive ourselves. Forgetting the 95 percent of us that is beautiful, we walk around believing that everyone is staring at the 5 percent of us that is not.  How often we forget friends: We have been washed clean from our stains, and are 100 percent complete and beautiful in Christ. You.  Are.  Forgiven.

The bible is full of perfectly stained examples of God's purpose made complete in the worst of us,  creating a beautiful reflection of once tattered and scattered souls.  King David was guilty of plotting murder and committing adultery - getting a married woman pregnant and then having her husband positioned to die in a war, but not before befriending her husband in the process.  Imagine this going down in your church. David confessed and saw his sin through and was blessed to be the seed of Jesus.  Paul was the very man that oversaw and approved the stoning of the Lord's servant Stephen in the public square - several days later, he was preaching the Gospel of Jesus, and went on to write 13 books of the Bible. Would you have seen this transformation coming? Peter would not even allow Jesus to wash his feet, and later denied that he even knew Jesus three times, right before Jesus was crucified. Peter went on to be commissioned to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles, and wrote two books of the bible. What would you say if Jesus asked you to your face - Do you know me? Thomas saw the resurrected Christ before his eyes and did not believe. Would you have done this?  The fisherman that Jesus brought into His 12 were back in the day, the uneducated and poor simpletons of their times. Today - we call these men Apostles.  (I cannot knock men that fish - I fish with my brother almost every weekend). All of these misfits and sinners and lousy examples of secular men were soon found without spot before the eyes of our Lord - not by their own hand, but by the shed blood of Jesus and the power that can only come from above - plain and simple. The truth will set you free.  Makes a lot of sense does it not.  These men walked boldly, and spoke not of who they were, but who they had become.  I think it is important to realize, that Jesus in many ways, not only saved us, but saved us too from how we see ourselves. How soon it is, that in Christ we find it so easy to forgive others, all the while, forgetting that this forgiveness applies to ourselves.   Perhaps today, stop and ask yourself, Do I feel forgiven. Really, truly...forgiven.  Our purpose and desires in Christ will never be made fully realized, until we realize, that forgiveness starts within.

Psalms 51:9 are the words of King David, after he committed what is likely the best example of someone who was stained by his own sin:  "Don't keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt."  There it is.  GUILT.  Feeling guilty.  This feeling, and I can say this from personal experience, over-rides every other emotion when it is in full swing and will decimate the goodness within our hearts, consume our thoughts and amplify 100 times the worst things that we do, will do, or have done.  And it is okay to feel guilty - for a minute.  However, do not deny the power of what Jesus did for the world collectively and for you individually when He sacrificed His perfect life on the cross for the very sin and guilt that many of us feel.  Do not deny the power of the blood of Jesus in your life.  Knowing this truth within will not make you sinless, but it will certainly make you; sin less. This is what His love does.  When we can meditate on this kind of love and redeeming power that overlooks the stains of our actions and sees only the beauty of our true nature in Christ Jesus - we are not just forgiven, we feel forgiven, and we act forgiven knowing that regardless of ourselves,  we are loved.  We are able to walk in boldness in our faith because of the power of the love that the life and death of Christ Jesus set for our every step.  We have been washed clean.  We are set apart. We are a chosen people. You, are forgiven.  Those stains are already gone.

Not for sale:  White wedding dress, worn and tattered with stains that has now been made into a perfect, spotless white robe. Paid:  by the blood of Jesus. Value: Priceless.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why Be Sheep?

I spent many months in the wilderness of Northern Colorado one summer and discovered the silent nature of wild animals.  I was surprised to learn that they are more attached to curiosity than fear, especially when they are truly, wild animals.  I once had a bull moose come right up next to me within just a few feet. This is when I felt fear, and not curiosity.  If I could be any animal, it would be a moose I reckon.  They are big, fast, and fearless. They have very few predators that are crazy enough to consider them a food source, and they eat about 50 lbs of vegetation a day, necessary to maintain a 6 foot tall, 1,200 pound frame.  They are called the great wanderer, traveling all of their lives in the wild - never calling one particular grove, home. Of all the 138 animals mentioned in the bible (Moose is not one of them), I wondered the other day why our Creator would liken us to ordinary, defenseless little sheep, instead of something powerful with a more commanding presence. That seems to be our nature at times. In doing some research, I came to the conclusion of why we are compared to being like sheep.  It has everything to do...with the shepherd.


 As I unfold these facts about sheep, keep in mind how accurate and deliberate the Word of God is - every comparison and every symbolism, perfect in its meaning. When you put all of the pieces together, we see how God's use of sheep in the bible is absolutely there for good reason; for His perfect reasons. With over 500 mentions of sheep in the bible, it outnumbers any other animal by a long-shot, as well as the words praise, pray, believe and heaven. In an odd coincidence, what is the word that is used more than the term sheep in the bible?   The next one on the list coming it at 530?  Christ.

Sheep will not pasture or graze unless other sheep are visibly present. They are the most naturally herding animal known to exist, and they are the easiest to herd. They are a completely defenseless animal; individually.  The single defense they have is flocking together in a large group for protection. The only real protection they have from their most dominant and feared predator the wolf, is the shepherd himself.  Without a shepherd, sheep will follow the first sheep that moves away from the flock, whether it is a good idea or not. This instinct to follow and flock is so strong that in 2006, 400 sheep died after falling over a ravine in Turkey, as they were following a stray. No shepherd was present. Sheep do not like to walk in water, or move through any narrow openings - they must be compelled and motivated to do so. Any sheep that is isolated from the flock will begin to show signs of illness and agitation; naturally. A shepherd can easily identify the individual sheep within the herd that are the most vulnerable and ill in health by this trait:  It will be the last one to enter into the pen, or the first one to stray. Weird? Not really. Like I said - Our God is calculated, and deliberate.

Here are a few more facts that biologists have discovered about sheep that will really drive this message home:  Sheep avoid the darkness and shadows, and are naturally drawn to light. They will be still when it is dark, and will only move when it is dark outside, by hearing the voice of their shepherd. Shepherds must use a quiet and calm tone when guiding the flock, as loud and sudden noises cause a stress releasing hormone that makes them difficult to manage. When sheep become sick, they are easy to spot - the sick sheep are the ones that stray and stop eating...always. The healthiest sheep?  These are the ones that eat the most. Seriously, you just cannot make this up. When sheep are on their back, just like a turtle, they cannot get up, and will need the shepherd to pick them up. Why even have shepherds for sheep, and not cattle or pigs or chickens?  This is where it gets heavy:  No sheep in the pasture will be healthy and graze properly without a shepherd present...they require this guardianship  in order to stay together, and they must stay together in order to eat properly.  Sheep are the ONLY animal in existence that naturally need a leader that is not of their own kind in order to survive in the wild. Sheep were created, to have a shepherd. No sheep. Wow.

I find this all kind of oddly comforting, knowing how accurate and relevant it is now, that our Lord sees us as sheep.  His sheep. This is exactly what we are to Him.  We cannot live, eat or flock together, without our Lord - the Good Shepherd (John 10:14)  He existed before we were created, and we were created, for Him.  Without our shepherd, we do not live. With The Shepherd in our life guiding us, we come together hearing His calm and reassuring voice that guides us in the dark. We follow our Shepherd because we know His voice. (John 10:3-5)  When a lost sheep is returned to the flock, the sheep comes back to good health once again (Matthew 18:12) Above all, let us dwell upon where our Shepherd is leading us. John 10:7 and 9 tells us: "...Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep...whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture." 

Our lives before Christ may have found us with the spirit of a lion and the tongue of a serpent.  I am thankful by the grace and power of my Lord Jesus Christ - that I have been blessed with the life of a sheep, by the heart of The Lamb.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

God's Love

1 John 4:16
"...And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."

  We come together, as the body of Christ, not by our own accord or will.  There is no work that we have done that has made God reach his mighty hand down into our lives and touch us with His grace and love; this is a relationship that for each and everyone of us was incited and initiated by Him alone. He loved us first, long before we loved Him, and we cannot do anything to make Him do something that He has been doing since our first breath (1John 4:19) Before our birth and very existence, our Father in heaven has loved us with a passion and desire and purpose that is completely life-changing when realized. It is selfless, not selfish.  When I came to realize the truth of what Jesus Christ means for us individually, I came to, and into, our Lord and real life - real living.   I was dead before that day. His love has brought me to life.

  This love is like a river; unceasingly pouring into the deepest parts of our soul and spirit.   When we were of this world and in the flesh, doing whatever we wanted; His love was there.   Those years that we spent separated from God and attached to the sin and death that we were living in; His love was there.  Even in our most reckless of decisions, the puzzle pieces of our lives seem to fit together in retrospect to the grand climax that is God bringing us into His fold, and sheltering us with grace and mercy; we are nothing without this.

  We will never be able to do better or do more to make our Lord love us more.  His love is unchanging.  It is constant.  It is a flowing river that does not alter its course due to ours. It will always be there, never running dry.  His love is the bonding agent that attaches us to the truth and power of His love in the form of His Son Jesus Christ.  When we realize and understand what the life and death of Jesus means for us personally, our life is eternally changed.  It is a supernatural transformation, because it is not of our own doing that we are transformed.  We are changed in Spirit, and thus become the light that reflects His love to others, because God now lives in us, and loves through us. This is the will of God - that we receive His love so that we can be His light to others.  When that happens,  nothing can or will be accomplished in our lives that is not of Him, by Him or for Him.

  On the days when you are down, He is loving you.  On the days that we feel adrift in this world, His river awaits. The moments in time where all we want to do is cry, His hand is there catching our tears. The love of God and His comfort and mercy is desperately waiting for us every single moment in our lives. When we come to really know that He is not going to stop being or doing what He is, the life that we are meant to live for Him  can begin. "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them...."


Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Call to Ministry

   Romans 10:14
"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"

   Lately, I feel like I am robbing those around me of light - of truth - of a message that can save them.  I am not exposing the power of the truth of Christ by hiding my light under a basket - taking my candle into a room, and basking it its glow all to myself.  There is a reason why this has been on my mind so heavy as of late; chasing one sleepless night after another, peering into His word for the words He has already placed deep within my heart.  It is a calling upon my life, coming to fruition.  It brings me to a moment of complete abandon, and begs me to make this beautiful transition from living as I will, to living for His will.  It takes me deep into prayer to my Lord,  and in the quiet,  I wait upon His voice. He reaches into my heart through His words, and there He tells me: Now is the time, to tell others.

I look ahead into a future that will be built upon reliance and trust in the truth of the Gospel, and considering the way it has completely changed my life, I have no other choice.  I want no other choice.  I beg the Lord now, to take this life that is no longer mine, and reach his hand of love and grace through me so others can be drawn to the same transforming truth that I have come to. This is my purpose now.  I have never had purpose before. I never had reasons to.

  I did have dreams when I was younger. I was going to be a songwriter.  I wanted that life so bad, one day I just packed up the Chevy and headed south to Nashville with a guitar in one hand, and the other on the wheel, but still, I had no direction.  Life would find me living all over the place: Cincinnati, Ohio - Nashville, Tennessee - Northern Kentucky and all over Colorado - two different colleges - two areas of study,  but in them all I found no real ambition.  I hated being a rolling stone, but I could never be a rock.  Life would bore me with one job I hated after another; countless meaningless relationships that were built upon a sea of lies that I would one day find myself swimming in, all alone.  The waves and the wind became my friend, and I became good at navigating these waters - but I would only drift along, never expecting anything from myself but a good time. One day, the good times come to an end, and real life begins.  I was never really ready for that, and what I did and did not have was a reflection of how ill-prepared I was for building a life of my own. I found myself, lost among the years and the seasons that I had sewn.  I had no one to blame for the rain in my life, and I thought that would never end.  This is when, I found the Son.

   I have tried every way possible to be happy on my own terms, and perhaps His love and patience allowed me to go through the hell I did, so I could better understand and appreciate His heaven.  The one who is forgiven much will love much in return. (Luke 7:47)  Understanding and reflecting on God's love and grace in my life has led me to a peace and calm that I would never have found on my own accord.  Truth can never be taken away from me, and now, it is the most valuable possession that I have. This truth brings me, to the purpose that my Lord and Savior has had for me all along.  I am here, to share His light to this world.  People are hurting, everywhere around me. This world is so dark and void of light that many believe the pain is the pleasure,  just so they can feel something.  So many broken lives are in this world - they scatter our streets and hide in the corners and never find a place that they can call home.  Countless children never know what a family is, countless parents never know their children, and countless children never know their parents. Morals have declined to a rock bottom that is now called normal. The bible has become just another book, and Christianity has become, just another religion.  Our nation is heading towards a Godless paradigm just to make sense of the injustices and maladies that plague us so unsparingly. Time marches on.

 There is one solution to all of these problems.  It is the Gospel. It is not cliche - Jesus does save. He is the light, and His light is truth.  This truth must be shared. As for me, my light will be upon a mountain.  This is my calling. How can I be silent about something like this?


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

On my Birthday

    I am 41 today.  Not much harder to remember - no big deal. So be it. Age is refining to me. It does not define me - and it is purely, math and sweet time.  I am still, young at heart. But an old soul.  I will tell you, there was a time that I never thought I would get all of the crazy out of me - I always had to be doing something.  I realized in time,  that the average woman was about ten times crazier than I, and life would be okay in the long run. Nowadays, peace tends to find me in the quieter places, being still in the silence sometimes.  You know wisdom and better sense are upon you, when you are seasoned enough to drink beer for the taste, and not so much, the effect. Life is much about moderation, across the board. Balance.   But at the end of the day, if you want to take life seriously, live it seriously. I have never been more comfortable with myself, and for me, that is enough. In my own skin, and bare to the world.

   I think birthdays are good for us, in that you can, for one fine day,  get free stuff.  I'll take the cake and Skyline Chili all day long. Other than that, it is a cyclical reminder of all the yesterdays behind me, and time gone into the wind.   It is funny how the times of our life see us living the roller coaster of wanting to be older, then wanting to never get older, then wishing you were younger. But after that, are the seasons of the good life - the years where you are happy and satisfied with who you have become, and how old you are. You never have to look at life as getting older when you become wise enough to understand, there is little you can do about it.  Embrace the reality of time. We fly,  while it stands still. A measure of our moments that I find to be foolish, when I am firm in the faith that I will live eternally because of what Jesus Christ means for our lives. My real birthday is on the day and in the moment that I came to believe and know this truth.

  I have plans this year - expectations so to speak. I would rather have resolve, than resolutions. My overall goals have little to do with me, and much to do with helping others.  A purpose and vision in ministry that will begin to form and define the rest of my years. Our purpose finds us, and away we go. I carry another heart into my future today, a true compliment to me.  These have made all the difference. I believe that it is not how many birthdays we have behind us, but how many we believe are ahead. 


Sunday, June 1, 2014

"The truth shall set you free"

   It is 5:30 on an early Sunday evening.  I have tears in my eyes. Each one, almost as unexplainable as the next. One cannot always give a rational explanation regarding the power of the way God moves within us and what he can do to a life on a moment by moment basis.  The power of change, to release the chains within - that is His will for us all.  And I look around with my minds eye at this world around me; I know that there are so many more that were just as I - afraid to step out into the light that removes the darkness, exposing the truth about everything within themselves. There is a trouble with the truth that I believe keeps most people from even contemplating all that is our God...knowing what is true brings what is and was not right to light - and with this knowledge, one must walk away from what he thought he once knew, and into the great mystery that is our Lord and Savior. Faith, begins here.

 I dwell upon the words of John 8:31-32 today. "Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free..."  But, what is this truth?  What reckoning have I come to personally that has set me free? What truth has set my fellow believers free?  The truth of the truth is this: Knowing and applying the words of Christ Jesus as the way to life.  Just go back one verse and we read in context what Jesus was saying and why: "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you continue (to walk in) in my word (logos), you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."  I tell you, what I find so reassuring to my faith is what he was talking about specifically and its impact as found in the surrounding verses of these powerful scriptures. In verse 30, it states, "Even as he spoke, many believed in him". Dwell upon that for a moment, and wonder within yourself the absolute power of the Word of Truth. It changed these learned Jewish leaders instantly.  They were able to walk away from 2,000 years of law and repetition and animal sacrifice and temple worship and the religion of their forefathers,  and consider a different way of life altogether,  with just hearing the words flow from the mouth of Jesus. Instantly. So, what do you have to walk away from that may keep you from fully believing in the words of Christ Jesus?  Is it a family member?  Is it friends that believe it is just not cool to be a Christian? Is it the liberal indoctrination that has plagued our institutions of learning, making the belief in God seem foolish? Our adversary is amazing at presenting what seems to be viable and more reliable options than having faith today. He seeks to consume and devour with lies - while Christ seeks to shelter you with truth and deliverance. Let's go back to the book of John now, and see what freedom the truth of His word would give to the doer and hearer - to those who would 'walk in his word'. To anyone who can open their hearts upon this, it will change your life forever.

  In the following verses of John 8 verses 33-36, we read,  "They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

  To those listening to Jesus who did not believe or understand at that moment, they asked what was really a valid question with historical support in their eyes. In short, they replied to Jesus;  'We are not slaves to anyone, we have not been since what freedom is it that we need?  We are already free.' Jesus said in return ' You are a slave to sin, because you are all sinners -  and that is what you are a slave to... and I have come to set you free from the bondage of sin and all of its effects upon you, and only I can set you free. I want you to be my family. And know this; if I set you free, you will truly be free'.  You see, the Jews at that time believed that by their own way of life and righteousness,  based upon works of the law as given to Moses, they were able to manage their own destiny. Jesus was telling them otherwise. Jesus could only be a fulfillment of the law of Moses, to the believer. To the non-believer, they were still held captive by works, and not freed by having faith in His Word, and therefore, were still condemned by the sins that they committed.  This alone removed them from the protection and gift of grace and mercy as only made possible and available by Jesus Christ himself. From all of this I gather in my heart, the absolute importance of walking in, hearing, reading and applying the Words of God that came to humankind directly from the mouth of Jesus Christ himself.

  The reality of the meaning found in the words spoken by Jesus are by far the most important words that have ever been spoken to man since this worlds creation. The words of Christ Jesus, are literally, life-giving and life-saving. Sin is bondage - and Christ is the key that unlocks these chains within us, and provides freedom to the hearer. Christ Jesus changed the world, by the truth found in His words.  We can do the same by speaking these to those who will believe in His words today. We are His spokesmen.  How important it is, knowing this, that we share the light of truth today.  I think of how Peter understood the power in the words of Jesus Christ when he said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68) Jesus echoed these words in verse 63 of the same chapter; "The words I have spoken to you-they are full of the spirit and life."

  I have a new life now.  I am a new creation.  I have been born again.  And this change, this release from the chains and bondage that was sin and death is now freedom and life, and it was coming to a realization and understanding of the words spoken by Christ over 2,000 years ago that has initiated this transfer of my fate and destiny in His name. In this knowledge, I find meaning and purpose, and it is a purpose that is much larger than the life I can live here and now, today.  It extends beyond the temporal, and into the eternal.  I look at things much different now, because of the truth and freedom that is alive in grace, because of His love. I dare one, to step out into the oceans of faith, and renounce all that is this life of sin and death, and accept the words of the Bible as fact, and not fiction. Therein, you will surely find peace, hope, faith and love, and release from the chains that bind you, where his eternal words, will find you.