Lay the Weight Down

I try to pay attention when something is repeated at me several times throughout the day or in a short period of time. I recognize that generally, God is trying to get my attention. He knows me well enough (really better than I know myself) to know, that sometimes I need things repeated multiple times to recognize He is speaking to me. I always find it interesting in where those messages come from in general.

As I was getting ready for work, the fictional book I was listening to on Audible mentioned the the Murph Challenge. I was only halfway listening when I heard the description, something about a crazy workout in weighted vest or body armor in memory of a Navy Seal. I didn’t give it much thought as I completed the chapter of the book I was listening to that morning and I went about my day.

As I sat down for my lunchtime devotion, I was reading from the Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn, Day 304 The Power of Apoluo. The student shared the lesson of completing his daily activities with a backpack filled with stones. At the end of the day he was asked if he was ready to let it go, or if he wanted to keep going with it. It was a picture of how many choose to walk through life carrying things they were not meant to carry.

Later that same evening, I was reminded of an illustrated message I heard. I do not remember who preached the message, but they had a back pack filled with stones labeled with doubt, worry, unforgiveness, etc. It was then that I realized the reoccurring theme that I was seeing throughout the day.

That night I did an internet search of what I remembered from that morning to find the name of The Murph Challenge (assuming that it must be real). For those, like me, who are not familiar with The Murph Challenge, it was created in honor of a fallen Navy seal back in 2005. It is done worldwide, and now funds a scholarship. The challenge includes a one mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats and then another mile run. This is all completed in a 20 lb weighted vest or full body armor. Certainly not something that would interest me, although honoring fallen soldiers would be right up my ally.

While people do the Murph Challenge to honor a fallen soldier, I immediately thought, “we do not honor the Lord when we carry things that we are not called to carry.” My thoughts immediately went to the extra weight I am physically carrying. I know this is truth; one that I have felt convicted of recently to change. I know it is likely at the front of my mind as I just started a new journey in that area of my life. Yet, I felt like God was trying to show me something more than just the natural path that I am on. I was brought back to the scripture that I journaled with my lunch devotion: For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

I wrote about how I have been praying lately that The Church, myself, my family, and those in my sphere of influence would have a true revelation of the finished work of the cross. I go back to Isaiah 53 as I pray. I ask that we would release the sorrows, the grief, the worry, the transgressions, the iniquities, the sickness, the disease, the oppression, and the guilt that weighs us down. Sometimes God lays specific people and needs on my heart to stand in the gap as I pray this, other times it is for “us” in general. We are set free from those things that so often weigh people down. We were not meant to carry them, despite the lies we believe.

Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:6 Like the student from my devotion, we have the choice to lay it down or to continue to carry the added weight. The enemy likes nothing more than to bring up our sin. But sin lost its power at the cross. Sin was done away with. Christ paid the price for our freedom. We make a choice to walk enslaved to our sin.

In addition to sin, the world tells us that we must do more, be more, and have more. We get weighed down with obligations that have little value, afraid to say no for a variety or reasons. We carry worries about needless things. We take on labels that bind us to sickness, oppression, and sorrows. We must learn to lay these things back down at the foot of the cross any time we chose to pick them up. Some days I walk in that truth, other times it is a minute by minute decision to remind myself of this truth and to apply it not only to my life but to those I influence.

I also pray regularly that we would see ourselves as God sees us. I pray that we would walk in the complete power of what was done at the cross. I love looking at Ephesians 1. Just a few of the things that are written about God’s children: blessed, holy, chosen, blameless, redeemed, forgiven, and redeemed because of the blood of Christ. That is the freedom that Christ as given us. We need a revelation of who we are in Christ to walk it out. I know that it is easy to see myself as God does when things are going good, but when your walking through the valley, the vision often needs some fine tuning. I know that is true of myself, and for those I influence.

As I thought about the extra things that we choose to carry, this scripture came to mind: For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30 ESV We are not called to carry the extra weight that are in each of the examples that came to mind. We are called to work together with Christ, to be yoked to Him. We are strengthened through Him because He carries the weight.

For whatever reason I was also reminded of Elisha, when Elijah found him, he was ploughing the field with a team of twelve oxen. When you have more people, you have less weight to carry, the work is done more efficiently. God has called us to work together as a body, when we work together with Him and each other, the burden is lighter. We were not meant to carry the load alone. Galatians 6:2 say Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

When God gets my attention, He generally really gets my attention. Whether it is physical weight, emotional baggage, sin, or obligations, we are not meant to carry what does not belong to us. If Jesus paid the price for it, we can choose to leave it at the foot of the cross. It is okay to tell others no and not take on added responsibilities that God has not called us to. And when we are being weighed down by the cares of the world, it is important that we ask God to help us carry them, and that we seek the support of our community of believers, friends, and family. We do not honor God when we carry weight He has already taken from us. We honor Him in laying it down.

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The Secret of the Garden

In my devotion today, from The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn, “Into the Garden” Day 282, I read how God placed man (Adam) into the garden (Genesis 2:15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.), a place of His blessings.

The garden then became a place of the curse (Genesis 3:17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.).

Then Jonathan Cahn contrasted man placing Jesus in the garden tomb (John 19:41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.), a place of sorrow.  He wrote, “God allowed Himself to be brought to the place of our curse to give us the power to leave that place, that He might once more bring us to a place of life, and to a life of His blessings.”

The Secret of the GardenI have been pondering on the garden all day.  I am used to hearing talk about the wilderness.  A place where Jesus faced trials, and to describe the place of trials that we walk through in our own life.  I have not heard much about the garden. As I thought about gardens the following is what came to me:

Death entered the world in the garden through Adam and Eve’s disobedience (Genesis 3:19 Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were  taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”).  Christ, in His obedience, overcame death at the garden tomb (Romans 6:9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.).

I also thought about the Garden of Gethsemane, it was there that Christ died to His own will and surrendered His life for us.  From the account in  Matthew 26: 38-44 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”  He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”  Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”  And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

It is just like Satan to pollute something that God created as a blessing.  He thought he won in the garden of Eden, instead God provided a way of redemption through Christ. Satan thought he had victory as Jesus wept in the garden, but God strengthened Jesus for the job ahead of Him.  Satan thought he won that day as Jesus died on the cross and was placed in the tomb.  Instead, Jesus rose from the grave.  God redeemed what looked like defeat every time.  He turned sorrow into joy.  He took what the enemy meant to destroy into victory.  What was mean to be a sign of final defeat, the garden tomb, became the hope of every believer.

The empty tomb became the first place that the gospel was shared (Matthew 28:5-7But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”), and to women  none the less.  I guess someone forgot to tell the angels that women aren’t suppose to share the gospel with men.  It is probably a good thing or they would have continued fishing instead of going to Galilee to seek Him.

As I thought about the garden in the natural sense, it is a place where seeds go to die.  It is a place where things fall to the ground, and ultimately die as well.  However, the garden is also a place of life, of fruitfulness, of growth, and purpose.  It depends on what part of the cycle we put our focus what we will see as we look at a garden.

I realize Adam could have made a choice not to cultivate the land and died after being evicted from the Garden of Eden.  Jesus could have said “Nah, I think I will pass on the beating and death on the cross.  They can pay for their own sins.”  And Jesus could have chosen to succumb to death and not risen again.  The cycles could have stopped if they had not refocused their attention to what God wanted in and through their lives.

In order to move into life, Adam had to move forward through hard work and effort.  In order to see the fruit bore, Jesus had to go to the cross.  In order to see growth, the women and then the disciples had to put their trust in something bigger than themselves.  In order to fulfill their purpose, they all had to lay everything on the line, and step forward even when death was all they could see.

I often I allow the enemy to cloud my vision and keep me focused on what has died in front of me.  I stay in that moment of defeat instead of allowing Christ to  move me into the redemptive cycle that will follow.  I stand looking and the dying seed that I planted, and fail to use the time to cultivate it’s growth realizing that it must die to bear fruit.  Or I stand looking at the wilted plant or even what is left after the harvest, instead of preparing the ground for the next cycle of planting.

How many seeds in my own life have gone uncultivated because I have given up on them?  How much land is still waiting for preparation so that the harvest can continue?  I am so grateful that I serve a God who can redeem the lost time, who has protected the seed and the land, because His plans didn’t change just because I was stalled by the enemy.

The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

Isaiah 58:11

My part is choosing to let go of what I thought it would look like, to let go of the dead things.  I must realize the secret of the garden is that the things that appear dead, they are just fertilizer for what is coming next.  I must start cultivating where I have been called.  I have to go back and tend to the seeds that have been planted, watering those that others have not come to tend in my failure.  I have to go back to the garden, and start preparing the land for whatever God is going to do next in and through me.

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Forgiveness of Sins

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  I John 1:9 

As I read this scripture my mind went in four different directions.  Such a familiar passage, and yet I was seeing it with a fresh perspective and an inquiring mind.

  • We have to CONFESS our sin

I am not sure why confession is so hard.   Even as children, it is much easier to accept the discipline than it is to confess what was done.  Children will receive time out or spanking with boldness.  Ask a child to tell you what he/she did wrong, and when he/she finally gets down to it, the confession is coupled with tears.

Confession brings us to repentance.  It shows our vulnerability, our imperfections.  Bringing those vulnerabilities and imperfections to a perfect God, feels intimidating.  So often, instead of wanting to confess my sins to God, I try to justify my sin, deny my sin, or hide my sin.  God KNOWS our sins, He just wants us to confess them.

When I try to justify my sins, God has to work on my heart condition.  When I justify something that I am doing, I am making the excuse that it is okay.  If what I am doing is really a sin, I need a heart change.

When I deny my sin, it is usually because I don’t see my thought or action as sin.  I need a change in my thinking; so that I can see it as sin, as God does.

When  I hide my sins, I am just adding sin, on top of sin, on top of sin.  I know what I am doing is wrong, but I just don’t want to stop it.  I have the original sin. I have the disobedience (from not just confessing it).  I have the sin of lying about it.

Regardless of my initial response, confession is what is needed.  God will with mercy show us the error of our heart, thoughts, or actions.  Plain and simple, we just need to confess our sins.  He will hear our confession.  He does forgive us.  He will not condemn us.

Confess our sinsWe just need to say “God, I confess my sin (And be specific).  I want to change.  I need Your help.  Thank You for forgiving me.”

And then, we need to work on the heart change.  With a heart change comes a thought change.  And with a thought change will be a behavioral change.    When we try to change the behavior first, the struggle is much harder.  Without a heart and mind change, we will often find we go back to the sinful behavior eventually.

  • He is FAITHFUL to forgive our sins

God is faithful to forgive our sins.  He is consistent.  He doesn’t roll the dice or ask the eight-ball if He should forgive us this time or not.  He is not a sometimes “I will” and sometimes “I won’t” God.  He is always listening.  He always hears our confessions.  He is always available.  We can rely on Him.  We can fully trust Him.  He will forgive our sins if we confess them.

  • He is JUST in forgiving our sins

The word “just” stuck out to me.  Faithful I understand, but what does it mean that God is just in forgiving our sins?

From Blue Letter BibleJustdikaios Strong’s G1342 observant of righteous, observing divine and human laws; one who is such as he ought to be; 2. In a narrower sense, rendering to each his due; and that in a judicial sense, passing just judgment on others, whether expressed in words or shown by the manner of dealing with them:  (who executes the laws of his government, and therefore also the law concerning the pardon of sins)

I take all that to understand that God is bound in the legal sense to forgive us because the price was paid in full by Christ.  He is just to forgive us because He does so under the law.  We are pardoned because Jesus paid the price.  He is just in applying it to us when we confess our sin.

  • He CLEANSES from ALL unrighteousness

It is not some, but ALL unrighteousness we are cleansed from when we confess our sins.

From Blue Letter Bible:  All – pâs πᾶς STRONGS NT 3956:  individually, each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything

From Blue Letter Bible: to Cleanse – katharizō Strong’s G2511 to make clean, to cleanse, in a moral sense; to free from the guilt of sin, to purify

Jesus made a way for us to be purified and free from the guilt of sin.  When we confess our sin, we  are cleansed from ALL sin.  That means after confession, any guilt that we feel is self-imposed.  God freed us from the guilt when we made the confession.

As I thought about being purified I was reminded of an old soap commercial that claimed to be 99.9% pure.  A friend used to say (not sure if it was jokingly or serious, as she had knowledge of the factory), that the 0.1% was because of  the mouse that dropped in the mixture.  The company could not say their product was 100% pure.

Yet with Christ, we are 100% purified.  There is nothing left that the enemy can use to condemn us.  Christ blood purified us. He freed us from the guilt of our sin!

~~~~~~

Lord, thank You that all I need to do is confess what You already know, my sins.  Thank You that the finished work of Christ allows Your complete, faithful, and just, forgiveness of all my unrighteousness.  Thank you that I am purified by the Blood of the Lamb.

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One Size too Big or too Small?

This year I felt that my focus word needed to be intentional.  It is a work in progress, but I have focused on being intentional on a few areas of my life.  I have looked for tips and tools that help me to be intentional in those areas.  Earlier this month I started listening to Intentional Living by John Maxwell.  From listening to many of his trainings and books, I know that he is a man that lives intentionally.

This book Intentional Living has so much knowledge and wisdom in it.  He encourages people to dream and live bigger than themselves.  He shares about the difference between success and significance.  He talks about the trade-offs that we have to make to live a life of significance.  He talks about living beyond our fears, and trusting God to help us fulfill the dreams He has given us.  He talks about walking in faith for the resources we need for our God given purpose.

He talks about passionate people and their intentional pursuit of dreams bigger than themselves.  He shares about the importance of being surrounded by like-minded people, staying on the path of the true why behind the dream, and keeping the right attitude.   He talked about the different responses to dreams: survival, success, and significance.

What caught my attention though, and stopped me from going further in his train of thought in the moment, was when he shared the following story:  “Dreams often come one size too big, so that we can grow into them.” He shared about how as a child his parents would buy a size bigger shoes for him, because he was a growing young man.  They would tell him “You will grow into these in no time.”  He said that is what he tells people now as they step into their significant shoes, “It may feel a little too big for you right now, but don’t worry as you start taking steps, you will grow into them and become the significant person you were created to be.”

Too Big or too smallI quickly thought about how many times, I have stopped my pursuit because I feel like it is bigger than me.  I never considered it was something I would grow into as I moved forward.    Even in small things, I have allowed myself to doubt and refused to step out of my comfort zone.

My mind immediately went back to shoes.  When I worked at the hospital, we would often have shoes sales.  The shoes were specific brands designed for nurses who were on their feet all day. While there would be some American shoes, the majority were European shoes.  The sizes were much different than what I was used to, instead of a size 8 or 9, I would wear anywhere from a 39 to 41.  As one of the salespersons helped me, I told her there was a little slip in the heal when I walked.  She explained that it was indeed the right size as there was suppose to be a little room.  She told me that Americans actually where their shoes too small.

That message screamed at me, as I contrasted it with John Maxwell’s comment about growing in to who you are created to be.  I realized not only have I not been willing to consider growing in to my calling, I have been content to wear a calling that is even smaller than what I am created for right now.

The dream that has been in me for over two decades is to see the Church be the Church.  Daily I see the hurting world around me.  I see the tangible needs of people, and want nothing more than to see God’s hands reach down and and minister to the need.  I remember coming to the realization that God did not call the government or the non-profits to meet the needs, He called the Church.  My repentant heart broke before the Lord and He created in me a new heart.  I began to see things differently and want to see a change in how I helped others.

At first, I didn’t see that my dream was in operation.  I knew what I wanted to see happen, and what I was doing did not look like I thought it would.  Yet, I distinctly remember the day that God showed me I was in fact living out that dream.  It was at a smaller scale than the dream I have, but God was growing it, and I was walking it out.

Somewhere along the way,  I know almost the exact point, I stopped expanding and instead shrunk back from the dream that has been within me for decades.  I allowed my vision to get blurred by hurt and rejection.  I recognized it, and attempted to adjust and refocus.  Eventually though, I pulled back from all but my professional role.  Now here I stand in shoes that are too small for the dream inside of them.

We bought some shoes for our grandkids a few years ago.  They always came in flip flops, and we thought it would be safer for them to have enclosed shoes when they were riding the bicycles they kept at our house.  So the shoes stayed at our house, and when they wanted to ride they would put their shoes on.  Eventually their shoes became too small, yet I know for a while they would still squeeze their feet in the shoes because they wanted to ride their bicycles.  It wasn’t until they needed some assistance in getting on, I realized how small the shoes were compared to their feet.  We went and bought new shoes.  Yet, four years later, as I was cleaning up their room the other day and I still found one of the size 9 Minnie Mouse shoes and the size 7 Turtle shoes.

I have to let go the past.  I have to reclaim the dream that is inside of me.  I have to step out of the shoes that are too small, and go ahead and embrace the shoes that I can grow into.  I have to look ahead and not behind.  I have to stop just trying to survive, there is so much more inside of me than mere survival.   It is time that I ask God for new shoes, allow Him to show me the size and trust that I will not only find success as I walk in them, but that they will leave a trail of significance as He leads.

 

 

 

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Shine as Lights

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life… Philippians 2:14-16

Our light shines before the world, when we do things without complaining and arguing. We are blameless and innocent, children of God, when we do things without complaining and disputing. I know that I can be both a complainer and someone who argues. I have to consciously stop myself from, as my mother would say, “arguing just for arguments sake.”

There is no doubt that the world around is crooked and twisted. A quick scan of news headliners screams this truth.

It seems, all people want to do, is complain and argue. People share their complaints more than their compliments. Complaints drive our society.  If you want change, complain the loudest.  Large scale changes occur, not because society as a whole agrees, but because a small group of loud people cause so much noise that it is mistaken for the masses.

People express their opinions in loud voices at anyone, whether people want to listen or not. People look at opinions as facts and often share them without even completely understanding what the issue is on which they have an opinion to share.   Everyone is complaining and disputing; it is happening everywhere. Sadly, even with the church, there is complaining and disputing.

As I read Philippians 4:14-16, I was quick to question, “How do I stand strong and spread the Word, the Gospel, without disputing? How can I not complain about the injustices in this world, and the crooked leaders, and the twisted world?  Tell me how, Lord.”

The answer came just as quickly as I penned the words down in my journal. People scream to be heard. Light is seen; it is not heard. Light travels farther and faster than sound. Light breaks up the darkness. Sound is easily drowned out by all the noise.  What a powerful picture!

It is often said, “Actions speak louder than Words.” The Word of God bears this truth:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

and

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2: 18 

Action may cause a sound, but the evidence of action is always seen. Works may be heard, but the result of work is always left to seen, even if the work is not.

It is by our fruit that men know that we are followers of Christ.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” and By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:5, 8

Fruit is seen; it is not heard.

I am not suggesting silence is the answer. We have certainly been silent for too long as the Body of Christ. We must proclaim the Gospel. We must share His Word. We must speak boldly of His Kingdom.

I am proposing we follow Christ’s example, and let our lights shine in agreement with His words, for God’s glory.

For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. John 12:49

And what the Word says, 

If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. I Peter 4:11

ShineaslightsI am putting forward that people should be able to see our light shining, without the noise of grumbling and arguing. It is possible to state the truth without getting into a knock-down drag out fight or without a screaming match or debate. I can speak the truth without having to convince someone to accept it. I had a pastor once who said “The truth can offend you or it can transform you.” There are many that Christ spoke to that were not ready to accept the truth (The Pharisees and Sadducees). It did not keep Him from speaking truth. They were offended by Him and the truth. They were offended that others accepted the truth they rejected.

I am urging that the signs and wonders that are suppose to follow those who believe, should follow us even now. This is promised by Jesus:

John 14:12 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

And even as He depart, He promised:

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:9

As believers, as followers of Christ, we should follow Him. Our words and actions should be similar to His, because we are called to be imitators of Christ (I Corinthians 11:1). We should be lighting up the world for His glory.  His message should not get drowned out in the sea of complaints and arguments that come from His people’s mouths. After all, we are God’s children; we are called to be blameless.  Let us shine as lights without grumbling and disputing.

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Deep Water

This passage has really been speaking to my soul over the past month.  I just keep being drawn back to it again and again.  Each time read it, I get another picture, another lesson that I can apply to my life.  I believe that God is calling me to go deeper in Him.  For years,  I have been moving forward, going deeper in the things of God.  Recently, I feel like I have been sitting in waist-deep water for too long.  I don’t feel like I am going backwards, but as heat rises water evaporates.  So sitting still, means I am loosing water even if I am not going backwards.

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.

Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”

Then he led me back to the bank of the river.  As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. Ezekiel 47:1-10

Deep WaterAs I thought about this scripture the first time, I realized it took intentional movement.  He had to made a decision to move forward, the water never carried him to the next level.    I think part of me has always wanted God to just move me out, and sweep me away.  I forget that He is a gentleman, and will wait on me to intentionally move towards Him, despite His movement of the water that can sway me in the right direction.

The second thing that stuck me was he was led to walk into the deeper waters. While God waits for me to intentionally move towards Him, He is always there ready to lead me into the next step towards Him.  In fact, His design is that where He leads, I will follow.  He will never lead me in stagnate water, He longs for me to go deeper.

It was a measured movement, one that was progressive.  He wasn’t led from the ankle water straight to the swimming water.  It was measured from a trickle, to ankle, to knee, to waist, to water deep deep to pass through.  I know that I struggle with wanting God to just take me to the deep and let me skip all the steps in between.  I don’t want to consider  those steps successfully prepare me for where He is leading me.  I need the lessons learned when I am waist deep to help me withstand the pressure of that water I can not pass through.

When I came back to this scripture, I thought about how many times I have stood in the ankle deep water wanting the refreshing that comes from just diving in.  I love being in the water.   I can settle for wading in water, but I am happiest when I can fully submerge.  It is easy to look at where others are, and think “Why doesn’t God use me like that?”  or “Why doesn’t God do that for me?”  I have learned that generally the answer is “When you do what they have been willing to do, I will do that for you too.”  People who appear to be more favored by God, generally spend more time in close proximity to the Lord. It provides them more opportunity for God to bless them.

Then God brought me back to this passage again.  I just kept hearing fishing.  I am not a fisherman, I have been fishing all of one time in my life so that is not my wheelhouse.  As I read the “And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish.”,    I thought about standing on dry land fishing.  The fish are few and small in shallow water.   Other than a fishing pole and a little bait, you don’t need much preparation.  You can fish and have little evidence of what you have been doing. 

Most Christians want to fish from the shore.  They want to live for God on Sunday and maybe Wednesday.  There is little preparation for any activity that involves God.  The rest of the week there is little evidence that they are a Christian.  There is a tendency to exaggerate our impact on the non-believing world around us, when there is little fruit in our effort.

I know that you have to cast your line out farther and into deeper water to get bigger fish.  You might wade a little into the water (or that is what my grandson does).  You might need some weights on your hook to get it down deeper where the bigger fish swim.  You might use live bait to get their attention.  Still, you catch one fish at a time.  If you are lucky you can catch a few in each setting. 

I feel like that is where the Church has been. There are special program and activities that are done to try to cast the line far and deep.  Some groups are willing to wade into the water, as long as they don’t have to get too far in commitment of time, money or energy.  There is an excitement of the catch (as there should be with anyone who repents and turns to God), but often times we throw them back after a day in the boat.  There are too few willing to make the commitment to disciple and clean the fish once their caught. 

I then thought about the few shows I have watched with my spouse where they go deep water fishing.  Generally they cast a net, and when it comes up it is swarming with fish of all sizes and all sorts of other sea creatures.  You can tell the people on the boat are fisherman, and I can image they smell of it too.  It is a dangerous job and takes a commitment.

I felt like God was showing me that He is about to bring in a harvest of souls like we have never seen before.  He has been calling us deeper because He needs people who are willing to pull in the catch as fisher’s of men.  He is bringing in fish of every kind, a multiethnic catch.   This is where He is taking us, now.   We are into the deep, so He can call in the harvest.

It really is going to take all hands on deck in the Church, not just a church.  There is strength in numbers and this catch is going to be like Peter’s catch in Luke 5:5-7  And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.

He needs people who are willing to sort through the muck and mire that will also be there, regardless of how long it takes.  He needs those who can sort and clean up what is about to be brought in.      He needs those who are okay with walking around smelling like a fisherman, looking like a fisherman, and who are prepared to fully commit to being a fisherman.

The enemy is not going to give up the numbers without a fight.  He will do whatever he can to stop our efforts.  He needs people who are not going to give up the first sign of the storm but who are willing to weather it until the full bounty is in.

When we are willing God will use His written Word to reveal to us deeper things.  As we seek Him, He will reveal Himself to us.  He will show us the steps that we need to take to go deeper in Him.  He will show us the purpose of certain aspects that we face.  He will show us areas of our life that are holding us back, that are stifling our walk with Him.  He will even show us where He wants to take us, if we will only listen to His voice and follow His lead.

 

 

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Life’s Path

On a drive recently, I took notice off all the different terrains that people travel on.  As we drove along the highway, a saw cars on sideroads, dirt roads, and even grassy paths.  I figured since it was something I see frequently, and my attention was been drawn into it, there must be something more that I am suppose to learn from it. 

There are times when our path seems like a major freeway, busy and full of others traveling in the same direction.  Life can seem busy and full of life as we journey along with others.  It is easy to just go with the flow, because everyone else appears to be going in the same flow.  I feel like it is a season, that up until Co-Vid 19 many of us, myself included, lived on. 

 We didn’t take time to notice that the check engine light was one, our gas tank was running on fumes, and our oil was running dry.  When life is going full throttle, it is to say, let me just get to the next exit or city before I stop to refuel.  We just want to get a little bit farther.

At that speed, it is also hard to notice others around us, unless there is some major trouble that stops our flow like a collision or blow-out.   We miss out on the things that are happening right next to use or the things that we are passing by.  We fail to see our children struggling, our loved one’s pain, the need of a neighbor, or even the beautiful flowers that God has planted for us to take time and smell.

There are times in life the we need to travel the highway.  We need to get somewhere fast.  Multiple people need to reach a specific destination in a similar time frame.  But we can not sustain that lifestyle and be effective in the world around us, the one that we are meant to influence.

Other times the path seems like a country road, comfortable and familiar.  I used to drive a lot for my job and for family things. We lived in a rural area and although it was a highway, to me it was a country road because there wasn’t much traffic and at time the speed limit would slow as I passed through a small town.  I would often be so comfortable with the drive, that I felt my car could go on auto pilot to the destination.  I would not remember passing key points as I arrived at my destination.   

Life's pathThose times in life where things are comfortable and familiar are nice.  We know what to expect.  We journey the same path day in and day out.  There is a routine to life.  I love the structure that the country road provides.  There are times it is fast, and times it is slow, but I know when and where those spots are.

The danger is that sometimes we get too comfortable on the country road.    We can easily drift to sleep at the wheel if we are not paying attention.  Life passes us by because we aren’t really looking.  We know what to expect, and if there is not something that draws our attention from the routine, we may miss things that are right beside us or even in front of us. 

When we operate in a comfortable and familiar routine, there is also little room for spontaneous.   It is easier to make excuses because it doesn’t fit in our schedule.  It is harder to step out into things that are outside of that comfort zone.  It is harder to be redirected to take an alternate route where God might lead.

Other times it feels like a dirt road slow moving and bumpy.  We were recently headed down to the creek and were on one of these long dirt roads.  The car leading the caravan was not made for dirt roads.  Moving so slowly made every bump seem bigger in my Jeep.  Yet, there was not room to pass and so we drove feeling every bump along the way.

These times in life are rough.  Just like our drive, they often feel as if they will never come to an end.  Some bumps may just be a little rough, but others seem to jar our very being.  The bumps often seem to come one after another, leaving us feeling that we might not make it through.  It might be an illness, the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, a move, problems with our children, or even just a change like them leaving home.  

It is important when we travel on those roads that we realize we don’t have to travel it alone.  God is certainly with us, as He never leaves us.  However, it is important that we stay close to others during those times so we don’t get lost along the way.  Often times, there are turns that others can help us find that will make getting to the other side of the long bumpy road a little quicker.  We might also learn where a slight move to the right or left will lessen the impact of the bump.

Other times the path might lead to an off-road adventure.   I love the thrill of the adventure, but I am not brave enough to do it on my own.  When I was younger, I had some friends that loved to take me off-roading.  We would go places in their SUV that I wouldn’t dare even try to walk.  There were times where I thought the vehicle might flip, and yet the thrill of the moment I was not scared but invigorated with the excitement. 

I think sometimes, God would like us to spend a little more time off-roading with Him.   He wants to show us the thrill of riding with Him.  He wants to take us places we never thought we would go.  He wants to thrill us with what He can do in and through us if we will just trust Him to drive. 

Other times we find ourselves at a dead end road.   There is nothing wrong with being on a dead end street, I live on one.  There are only three people who drive on it, those who live there, those who are visiting, and those who need to turn around.

There will be times in life where we take a wrong turn, and come to a place where all we can do is turn around.   It is important that we don’t set up residence in those places, because we can stay stuck there too long.    If you find yourself in that dead end road, and realize that you have been there too long, it is okay to end  your visit and head back the way you came.  There is always the option of coming to a dead end, and just using it as a turning point to set off in a new direction.  

Sometimes our path may take us over a bridge.  Something that connects where we have been to where we are, with a definite transition between those spaces.  Some bridges are sturdy and solid.  Others sway with the wind and creak with every movement.

Life is full of many transitions throughout.  We go from laying to sitting to standing.  We move from liquid to solid foods.  We transition through school grades.  We transition from adolescence to adulthood.   We transition between jobs.  We even transition from life to death.  Sometimes we move boldly through one phase of life to another.  Other times we feel the ground move beneath us as we transition.  We can rest assure, we will make it to the other side if we are willing to leave where we started.

Regardless of the path we find journey on we must remember He is faithful and we must remain faithful to Him. We must realize we can not go full speed constantly, even the Lord rested.  We also can not get to comfortable with where we are.  When we are going through long, bumpy seasons, we must remember that will not last forever, and it is the best time to seek guidance.  If we let Him God will take us on an off road adventure if we let Him drive. And, if we reach what feels like a dead end, there is nothing wrong with turning around. There will be bridges in life that help us transition from one place to another.

It is easy to get on life’s path and not know when we need to stop for refueling or maintenance, but if we listen, God will direct us.  It is easy to miss the things going on around us, but if we slow down and open our ears and our eyes, God will bless us and use us if we let Him.  When life gets tough, remember we are not called to do life alone; God connects us with others to help us navigate those seasons.  When we realize we took a wrong path, repent and go back, it’s only wrong if you stay there.  We have to be willing to cross the bridge from one experience to another, God will help bridge the gap.  Above all, remember that wherever we are on life’s path, know that He will never leave you and He wants to direct your path.

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Enduring Brokenness #Write28days

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.  Isaiah 57:15 ESV

So often when we sit in the place of brokenness, we question if we can endure through the night, let alone the whole season.  Yet this scripture reminds us, that we do not have to endure alone.  The Lord is with those with a contrite and lowly spirit.  Although it may not happen in our time frame, He will revive our lowly spirit.  He will revive our contrite heart.

I have shared this poem before, but when we are in the midst of enduring brokenness it is a question we must ask ourselves.  It is a poem that has been attributed to many people, so I am unsure who really wrote it, but I stumbled across it as a teenager, and have quoted it frequently.

As children bring their broken toys,

With tears, for me to mend

I brought my broken dreams to God

Because he was my friend.

But then, instead of leaving Him

In peace to work alone

I hung around and tried to help

With ways that were my own.

At last I snatched them back and cried,

“How can You be so slow?”

“My child,” He said.  “What could I do? 

You never did let go.”

~Author Unknown

 

Often times, we need to search our heart during those times we are trying to endure brokenness.  We need to see if we are holding on to things that we were not called to hold. So often we try to control things, and inevitably we just make things worse and at best just delay Him being able to mend us.

Revive means to restore life, fresh energy, strength and interest.  When we are able to move past our brokenness, we will find a life awaiting us that is more than just enduring.  When you decide to live again, and allow the Lord’s healing to be received by your heart and spirit, He restores life to your soul.  It might not look like you think it will, but it will not disappoint if you let Him revive you.  You will find a joy that you did not have before as He strengthens you.  You will find fresh energy that He brings to areas of your life.  You will find new interests and passions that will help you to live again.

We all go through seasons, but if your season is lasting longer than you feel you can endure, spend some time in prayer and self reflection asking if there is something that you are holding on to that is keeping you from healing.  If you find it, surrender it by letting it go to Him, let Him mend that area.

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Broken VesselThis blog post is inspired by Anita Ojeda and the #Write28Days Challenge. The challenge was to write 28 days in February. I am running way behind, but wanted to finish anyway. For more posts on this topic go to Broken Vessel.

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The Christian theater

I woke up thinking about my daughter’s time in theater.  It was likely brought on by finding a picture of my husband’s time in theater from his yearbook. I enjoyed watching her throw herself in to practice and the role that she was filling in her productions.  

I thought about how in theater everyone has a role to play.  Each participant has their own role to play or position to fill. Yes, I realize there are one man shows, but even with those there are behind the scene people working to put on the show.

I thought about how the goal of theater is to tell a story.  In the Christian walk, my goal is to tell of the Kingdom through daily living my life for Him. 

In theater, there is usually a director.   That role in the Christian walk is filled by Jesus Christ, God, the Holy Spirit.  He oversees and orchestrates the entire production.

Then there is usually a lead actor/actress.  The leading lady in the Christian walk is The Church.  Not a  church, but The Church, the full body of Christ as a whole.  There is no understudy or back up, the leading role belongs to us.   We must play our part to show the world the Kingdom of God.

While the Church as a whole, plays the part of the leading lady, we all have individual roles that we must play, and no two people can fill the exact same role.  We have to stop thinking that one part is better than another, when we all have the same overarching goal to share the message of the Kingdom.  If everyone is operating the lights, then no one is paying attention to the sound.  If everyone is trying to be centerstage, than no one is attending to the props. 

It is only when we each attend to our specific duties, and really listen to the Director that our goal in Christian theater will be completed.

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Eye opening perspective

Today, I had a little bit of an eye opener. I don’t really write about hot topics but this is one that I feel burning in my soul, and then today I made a little explosion that I felt it necessary to put out. However, it really made me think.

My young granddaughter had shared with me about a certain children’s television station going blank for s period of time and displaying “I can’t breath” during that time.  I was upset that a child’s television channel would feel it necessary to expose children to this terrible event in any way.  I was upset that my grandchild would need to ask questions that expose her to things that impact her innocence.  I was upset that the actions of a few negligent and abusive people in power might impact the way that children view and approach those that were meant to provide safety and protection.

If I am honest, I was in the third or fourth year of college before I knew anything about hate crimes.  I grew up in a town that at the time was not ethnically diverse. I did not know that per capita there were more white supremist in my backyard that in cities where hate crimes are constantly in the news.  Other than the news, I  was not aware of the tension between races.  Until I was in Junior High, I can only recall one person I knew that was not born and raised in our community.  He was from Vietnam, and he was my classmate and friend.     To my knowledge, he was not treated any differently, and was included in every activity.   I was not aware that people treated others differently based on the color of their skin.  So to me, age seven is way to young to be exposed to the awful truth of the hate that exists in this world.

At work we began a discussion, about how the racial tension was impacting not only our cohort but also the people that we serve.  Different people shared how they were impacted, how they were advocating, and how they were feeling.  I shared my frustration about my seven-year old grandchild being exposed to the hate crimes in such a way. 

I learned that the television channel was part of a larger conglomerate that aired the same thing on every channel. While it didn’t make me feel better about the choice made, it was a little easier for me to stomach.  We talked about ways that we could be more informed and what we could do to support our coworkers, the people we serve, and people in general.  A couple of coworkers talked about a documentary on Netflix called Thirteenth, and a few other places where we could be educated.

I could tell that my opinion was different from much of what was voiced.  It wasn’t about right or wrong, and no one made me feel like my view was in error.  However, being a social worker I can read a group, even if it is over the phone.  After the call was over, I reached out to one of my coworkers for validation of what I was feeling.  I asked her to shoot me straight, knowing that her ethnicity provided a different view from mine.  She validated what I felt, and acknowledged that my experience was different from her experience. 

eviltowinWhile I was upset I was having the conversation with my granddaughter because a television channel made a choice; she had to have the conversation with her child who was even younger because it was the reality of what her family faces.  Talk about eye opening for me.  I was humbled and saddened that our experiences are so different and that I am so blinded to the privileges I have.  I made the decision to watch the Thirteenth and also to educate myself more on other viewpoints.

After watching Thirtheeth, I can say I learned a lot about history that I was never taught.  However, I also realized that hatred breeds hatred.  I can recognize that there is a bias that screamed out at me as I watched the documentary.  A bias, that if I heard constantly, would breed the same anger in me.    I also recognized that although I am not as likely aware of it, bias is breeding hate on the other side too.  We all want others to see wrongs that were done from our perspective.  We each have our own vantage point that we experience life through.

My vantage point, was that my seven year old grandchild should be sheltered from the hate that is bred in our society.  I want her to experience life to the fullness, but I want her to be able to make her own decisions about people as a whole and individually.    I want her to see what she has in common with people as she builds relationships, not let what is different on the outside shade her perspective.

However, I can recognize that the vantage point of my coworker was one that she needed to prepare her young child for a reality he could face a any time.  I know that while my heart is saddened that she has to prepare him, the only way that can change is for there to be a systematic change in our society. I want for her child, the same as I want for my children.

I do not believe that it is going to happen if we sit quietly by and wait for change.  I also do not believe that it is going to happen by rioting and destroying property of others, that is a costly expense usually to people that are only bystanders in the community.  I do not believe that it will happen by defunding police or by enforcing curfews and martial law.  

It is going to take people educating themselves to the experiences of others.  It is going to take understanding and putting themselves into another’s shoes (AKA empathy).  It is going to take some hard conversations about things we wish not to talk about.  It means we have to stop screaming and start listening.  It means we stop justifying and blaming, and start looking at how to move forward.  It is going to mean making some compromises on both sides.  We can not deny or change the past, but we can chose to build a better future going forward.

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