Bridge

Romans 11:15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

My husband recently had a meeting with a high leader at our congregation. I won’t disclose much, but to say they would like to see my family oversee outreach at some point. In addition, my church greatly values the Jewish insights and Hebrew perspective my husband brings.

Last month, my husband was invited to attend a meeting with Jewish leaders at a service that took place this week. It’s similar to a reading room where discussions of faith are held. One of the first things my husband noticed when arriving was the large number of books on the bookshelf. Rows of beautiful Jewish writings were on display. In the middle of one of the rows was a book, Broken Escalators, by Peter Haas, my pastor. Peter is a mainstream Christian. My husband mentioned he knows Peter and pointed to the book. This led to a long conversation.

The leaders were intrigued that my husband knew to touch the mezuzah with his right hand and kiss his lips per tradition. He knows Mishnah, Talmud, and many commentaries. He’s studied archeology, Hebrew vs. Greek thought, and Christian church history. I delight in seeing people in awe when the Spirit takes over and he just flows. There is nobody I know that can reach a Jewish believer better than my husband. Believe me.

He is humble and unassuming, and his appearance deceives. Over and over again, he surprises people. At my church, teens and young adults flock to him. His biblical depth stirs up an exciting interest in scripture, Jewish roots, and the Jewish Messiah (Yeshua/Jesus).

Back to the meeting, the leaders were fascinated that my husband doesn’t attend a Jewish synagogue or a Messianic community. And that fact is actually why they were so open. Unfortunately, they possess much negative feedback regarding the Messianic churches in the area. Sadly, these Jewish leaders do not see anything they want to emulate. They find Messianics to be a stumbling block. I initially typed out the specific details, but I decided to delete them. We’ve wanted to speak with certain leaders to help them. This would be best conveyed in person.

But my husband is different.

My husband told me, with tears in his eyes, that he felt the presence of God. And he realized the weight of his words and that they really listened.

A few months back, my husband shared about the Messiah to a rabbi that came to our church needing food. He was invited and went to a men’s group my husband leads. My church serves over a thousand cars a week with needed groceries and household items. The leaders at the meeting know about my church, my pastor, and respect their outreach and heart of tikkun olam (repair the world).

And yet, my husband shared how he felt like he doesn’t fit and never did. Back in Bible college, he was told he couldn’t go on a mission’s trip to the local Alaskan tribe because they thought his clothing and shoulder-length hair would be a turn-off. In fact, the leader that told him no was rebuked. It was discovered that my husband’s appearance would be appealing to the natives and my husband would be the one person they might actually receive from.

1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Being a bridge means a willingness to be stepped on by both sides. -Jimmy Rollins

The word bridge came into my spirit, and that phrase I heard Pastor Jimmy preach. My husband is called to be a bridge and connect both sides. But that will involve some rejection, misjudgment, and at times….loneliness. It’s interesting that my husband has been rejected several times for something he was the best fit for.

Both my husband and I are very directly dealing with unforgiveness and in a wonderful healing season. But as we’re discovering our calling and place in God’s plan, there’s heartache, too.

God has a specific calling for each of us. It will require us to be humble and promotable, as my pastor says. Blessed are the peacemakers per Matthew 5:9a. But it’s not easy.

I wrote this blog because our rejections in God’s plan carry a purpose. If God wants you somewhere, He will put you there. It doesn’t matter who doesn’t like you, or value you, or what anyone says behind your back.

If you’re feeling left out, it could just be that you are also a bridge. Shalom to the fellow bridges out there. God sees you.

God, help us all be like Jesus enough that people want to know You. We must decrease, You must increase. Take the little we have and multiply it for Your glory. Help us to love those that are hard to love. Give us Your heart for this world.

Romans 11:11-14 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

Three Hours

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

I debated sharing this, but I have decided to. I posted a blog recently that didn’t come out as I intended it, so I am prayerfully sitting on it. This message now is one God has wanted me to communicate for a while. There are some great changes coming for me at my work, and I’ve wanted to pull back with my blogging during this process. But this topic has been recurring in my spirit. I have struggled to relay it, so I waited for God to provide the opportunity and direction.

It came.

I met with a church friend yesterday. Truthfully, I had a stressful day at work and almost canceled. I decided to go with the intention of it being one hour max.

It was three hours.

My friend said to me that I seemed introverted when we first met in a women’s group. But she could tell there was a “real personality there.” As I’ve healed, my sense of humor has increased. This friend told me, “You are a really funny person. I like connecting with you because I always laugh.” Someone at work said to me a couple of weeks ago, “Ms Laurel, you crack me up.”

I assure you that “funny” is not a word people would use to describe me in certain past seasons. I responded with, “Believe me, I’d be a terrible stand-up, comedienne. I can’t tell a joke for anything.”

Well,…laughing at me or with me, I suppose. I thanked her and shrugged it off. I’ve been a believer for over thirty years. For her, two. And yet, we’ve learned from each other. While I was entertaining her with my butter knife trying to get the juice out of a not-ripe lime, the door opened wide.

“You seem really sure of yourself.”

That declaration followed with some vulnerable confessions. She mentioned how the 12 steps have helped her. For those curious, I’ll include them below.

I quoted James 5:16, and we discussed the power of confession. Then I paused and felt an anxiety I hadn’t encountered in a long time. For some reason, it seemed like I was taking a steak knife and popping that balloon, tarnishing that image of me she had.

God nudged me to open up in return.

So I did.

When I first started at my church, I drove to a connect group after a very exhausting day with my work. I was peopled out. When I pulled up to the house it was at, there were a lot of folks heading inside carrying food. I didn’t have any food. I was drained. I put on my sanguine face all day for people. The thought of me not presenting the right image bothered me. I said, “Nope,” to myself in the car. I drove away, but I didn’t head back home. I didn’t want a lecture or an eye roll from my husband. The fear of being dismissed was so palpable. So I went to Target first.

But I sat in the Target parking lot for a while. Tired. Frustrated. Cold, because I didn’t want to waste more gas with the car running on a freezing day. It was like I disappointed God. Myself. Others. She looked at me and said, “Yep, I’ve done the same thing.” I was glad I shared it. Then I gulped my diet soda.

Six years ago, I had post partum depression. My husband had just lost his job. My oldest son started destroying things, including breaking two laptops, a nice MacBook, and was fecal smearing badly. I was getting no sleep. I was severely anemic. And we were turned away from a church, our friends. They made a small effort to repair it, but it fell short. I was told very, very painful things. The rejection hurt, but the damage went much deeper. I sensed a label, and a generalization was placed on me. It’s like someone looked at the worst chapter of my book and judged me from it. People shared with me after that a number of hurtful, untrue things they were told in the rumor mill. I have been labeled as a loose cannon, mental, needy, weak, immature, foolish, manipulative, negative, doing push/pull etc.

I was in a rough season and I just needed tenderness.

After that, I felt like pond scum. So very beaten down. If the church and those who have known God for years can’t love and show kindness, where will I go? Words cannot describe how horrible I felt. I started believing every negative thing I heard about myself. I battled with bitterness.

And I vowed to myself I would never let people see me in a negative moment again. Ever. Absolutely never.

The lie: we have to be perfect to be worthy of love and kindness.

I have mastered how to put on a great smile and give people what they want. I started with my employer just a couple of years after this. And I was funny. Smiley. Energetic. A great team player. I worked really hard. I was the only person to be a temp-to-hire and win the Trifecta award…twice. I have consistently had some of the highest numbers of all my co-workers.

I was ultra disciplined. Still am. It was my way of coping. Feeling ordered. Having everything structured.

“Being saved for 10, 20, 30+ years doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. You never do.” I told my friend I have my issues too. Don’t feel shame. Becoming like Jesus and growing in mind, body, and spirit is a lifelong process.

I asked her to keep me accountable. There’s a group 5 minutes from my house each week that I am totally capable of attending. But my exhausted flesh won’t want to. I put it on my calendar and told my husband to tell me to go.

God has healed me and continues to through authentic, godly connection. I have read James 5:16 so many times. I am continuing to see that verse breathed with new life each day.

I shared this, not to point fingers, but to convey how the enemy works (he uses people in their broken flesh) and how God uses people yielded to the spirit to heal.

It was community that wounded me. And it was in community that I wounded others in my brokenness. But praise God, it is community where we heal, grow, and give. Every single part for God’s glory.

It is through people where you will experience your greatest wounds. But it is also through people (in seeking God together) where you will experience healing, lessons, and blessings.

At the three hour mark, we agreed to put a pause on the great conversation. I attempted to end the chat by saying people aren’t the enemy. We all have our issues. We’re not cracked in the same places, as I’ve said before. When we get hurt by someone, we are told per Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:28, to pray for them. Don’t internalize. Don’t get bitter. Don’t seek pity or payback, as my pastor says. Pray.

Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

My friend and I agreed that the 12 steps are very powerful. When people hit rock bottom, they’re broken. It’s easy for them to confess and go to others.

I read recently in a psychology book that naming something automatically decreases its power in your life.

John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I want to leave you with a challenge. Find someone you can trust where you can admit safely the exact nature of your wrongs. Confession heals. Don’t let the enemy beat you down and replay something someone uttered in a weak moment.

It doesn’t have to be three hours. But it has to be something. Shalom to your heart.

Father, I pray You help us to examine ourselves and confess our sins for healing. I pray You heal every heart and remove a root of rejection, bitterness, or any other lies from the enemy. Quiet the recurring torment in any mind that is replaying something painful that was said or done. Peace, be still. Heal us as we are still, listening in Your presence. We confess we are fearfully and wonderfully made. More than conquerors. Adopted. Loved. Forgiven. Never forsaken. Provided for. Whole in Your love. We receive the mind of Christ.

Let God Do the Sorting

Lamentations 3:40 Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!

James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Hebrews 4;12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

“Facing a mirror is one of the greatest fears people hold. Most never come to realize this fear because doing so would require taking action when avoidance is most often preferred.

The subconscious so seamlessly keeps one from digging into the depths. It knows we won’t like what we find and most people will never do the shadow work in order to accept the broken, the dark, and the pain so it can be integrated, bringing real genuine growth and change.

This is why we see many people chase instant gratification, the meaningless but time-consuming moments, and escapism. Take courage.” -shared by a friend

It’s tough sometimes to work through our own human brokenness while dealing with others just as flawed. Receive mercy, then give it. I’m still a work in progress. God sorts us all out the best. Thank God. 😊

Psalm 119:37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

While Building the Bear

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

I scheduled off of work yesterday to get a much-needed massage and then go to Build-A-Bear with my autistic son’s PCA, their adopted grandmother, and my youngest two children. My oldest, who has severe autism, will be turning fourteen next week. However, emotionally, he’s still a toddler. Gifts for him need to be simple, not very breakable, no small parts, and no easy access to batteries. For mommy and daddy’s sanity, preferably nothing that talks or plays music. My youngest really wanted to go to Build-A-Bear, and we were planning to go last year, but it never happened.

My youngest got a stuffed dog wearing a blue onesie with a blue doggie bed. My middle son chose the character Toothless, which looks like a black dragon in a Hershey’s Kiss costume for added fun. My oldest seems to gravitate toward the color red, so when I saw this red monkey, I knew it would be a great choice. I added the tuxedo. For those of you not familiar with how it works, you pick out the bear or animal, and the staff stuffs it in the store for you. What I didn’t know was they also have you pick out a heart to “make a wish” on and you insert it in the toy before it’s tied together and completed. We prayed over the heart for my soon-to-be birthday teen. This process got me thinking about what it means to get a new heart per Ezekiel 36:26, and also what being a new creation is like per 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Obviously, God doesn’t give us new hearts like at a Build-A-Bear store, but He does change hearts. A person’s heart is really their soul (mind, will, emotions). From our hearts comes thoughts, words, and actions. Feelings. Beliefs. Our choices. Ezekiel 36, like all of the books of the prophets, is pointing to Torah, which means instruction. Torah is the first five books of the Bible. Torah is the foundation, and the rest of scripture points back to following Torah and expounding for greater clarity. If you want to know someone’s heart, look at their choices. Where or on what do they spend their time, talent, and resources? Where we spend our time, giftings, and money is what we value most. If someone doesn’t have time for you, it speaks to the standing you have (or don’t have) in their life.

Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

What is the old heart?

If we get new hearts, and we are new creations, then what is the old heart and old self?

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

That’s the old self with the old heart that is unredeemed. Here’s the new self…

Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The more we draw close to God, the more we will resemble Him. Many believers do not have a goal or priority on becoming more Christ-like. To me, it begs the question, “What do you think your purpose is?” I think if many are honest, they’d say they don’t know, or it’s to gain success, just survive, work really hard, or do as much as possible in ministry. But none of those answers are correct.

We were made to be loved and to love.

God created this world for His glory. To demonstrate His goodness. His majesty. His beauty. His creativity. And His grace and mercy. Our broken humanity is an opportunity for God to reveal His great mercy and love.

Going back to the beginning of the post here, God supernaturally can take a hard, selfish heart and replace it with a soft, tender one. If we’re finding ourselves per Romans 7 doing what we know we shouldn’t do, our “flesh” or our hearts needs to be purified.

God can soften a heart, but keeping it soft is our responsibility. We do that by reading His Word, praying, worshipping, and also by giving and evangelizing. Having proper accountability.

Note: the harvest is many, and it’s not in the church. Churches are not meant to be exclusive social clubs. We cannot slip into a sin of partiality. We are told to go to the highways and byways. Help others. Bring belonging.

Good hearts come from good nutrition and healthy habits. If you want a good heart, watch what you’re putting into your body. Not just food, but what you see, hear, read, and who you hang around with.

In closing, God gives us new hearts. He softens and changes our old, unredeemed nature. But we must keep our hearts soft. It’s a lifelong process of drawing close to our Creator and letting His truth and His presence change us. It’s often uncomfortable, and doing what’s right rarely feels right until after it’s done. Nothing I can say or do on its own can have lasting and eternal significance. Only that which is done by God’s will for His purpose. May we live so surrendered that we are consistently emulating our Savior.

Make a decision today to pray this prayer from Psalm 51: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Pick Up the Hammer

1 Samuel 1:14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.”

A friend of mine sent me something to watch. When she watched this video message, I came to mind. It was regarding accusations and faulty judgments. In the end, when this man said, “Pick up your hammer and nails,” it pierced. I’ve set down my hammer when God didn’t call me to do so.

My previous blog, in a nutshell, was about a situation involving gossip, misjudgments, accusations, manipulation, sneaking around, bringing in third parties, sending others to report or relay information, hiding behind other IP addresses, social media drama etc. It has been a circumstance lasting for years. God gave me several dreams about it, and my family has been very wounded by this. God’s will in His Word is clear, but the enemy’s tactics have abounded. It’s taken a long, long time to heal because of the manipulation and craziness. The enemy was exploiting strongholds.

The most damage we can usually do to someone is when we believe we’re in the right.

There’s been a lot of watchful gazes from a distance. Judging fruit. Analyzing each detail. When I take social media breaks, am I really doing that? Answer: yep. What does a certain post mean? Those that are close to me will attest I’m the least manipulative person they know. I detest that. If it looks like something bad, it’s just that. An appearance. I am by no means perfect. But I seek to do what’s right. I have shifted my gaze errantly from God to people. Lord, forgive me. Your opinion is what matters.

I’ve grown tired of judgments and demonic chatter. Very tired. I’m not open to reconciling and would only possibly consider with serious prayer if there’s genuine repentance. I recently went to the Father about this, as I realize we don’t fight flesh and blood. People aren’t the enemy. Demonic influence over people is. God gave me the name Hannah. I read 1 Samuel 1:14, and I knew God was highlighting that for me.

Eli looked at Hannah’s posture and behavior and made an incorrect judgment. Imagine if you were pouring your heart out to God over something so sensitive and heart-wrenching, and you were flippantly accused of being drunk.

Even in the misjudgment, God still had a blessing for her.

1 Samuel 1:15-17, 20 But Hannah answered, “No, my Lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”

God granted Eli’s blessing. Hannah did conceive. Six times, actually. As I read through the story, I understood the message. But yet, I didn’t fully at first. God revealed to me in the last few prayer times that people’s mistakes, mistreatment, misjudgments, etc, do not stop the will of God in your life or mine. Only bitterness does.

When someone says or does something fleshly, immaturely, carelessly…our response is everything.

Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Eli later on received great judgment from God. We are to focus on doing what’s right and trust what’s not to Him. He will discipline and judge when needed in His perfect timing. We can’t get distracted from what God is doing in us. Our hearts should be one of love, forgiveness, and mercy. Only God truly knows someone’s heart, and only God can minister to the deepest needs of the soul.

Going back to the beginning, I have sought God on what He desires me to do. He’s the one I need to please, not others. I sense right now He wants me to speak lightly. Make sure my heart is free of bitterness. Walk in love. Keep on keeping on. I’m rather introverted, and withdrawing comes naturally for me. People, after a while, are draining. I’m likely to turn down another invest opportunity just so I can communicate less and be behind the scenes more. Quiet is my comfort zone. I have three different promotion opportunities to consider, and I am looking at what is best for me, my family, and God’s will for my life. My hard work and discipline are being rewarded. But I don’t forget that the Lord has called me to convey His heart and lessons I’ve learned. As such, I do it. Faithfully. Lovingly. Obediently. And at times reluctantly.

Where is God calling you to pick up your hammer? Have you given up and lost your focus? Is God nudging you to keep on building? Are you nursing a grudge? I strongly sense there are those that will read this that have in exhaustion, discouragement, or bitterness laid their hammer down. You stopped building the kingdom. You’re not praying, worshipping, giving, speaking, or plain old doing like you used to. Now is the time to start again.

God has called us to be fruitful.

Father, help us keep our eyes on You and bear fruits of righteousness. We know our reward will be great and eternal. Thank You for Your faithfulness and love. May we respond to the broken flesh of others with maturity. Thank You for Your wonderful blessings. Help us to treat others right even when they get it wrong. Keep us humble before You.

Fight Night Blog

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

I am taking a break from posting on social media and writing in general. However, a friend read the last blog I shared. She told me that she understood the message and why I wrote as I did. But, then she said, “You can do better.” I can write better. I definitely could write from a different perspective.

My pastor, Peter Haas, does far better than I ever could. He addresses the subject of conflict resolution, emotional and spiritual maturity, godly relationships, boundaries, and how to bring unity greater than anyone else. I’m approaching my mid-forties, and I’ve been to many churches. He is the most excellent leader I’ve ever met.

Do yourself a favor and read this amazing blog of his.

https://www.peterhaas.org/fight-night-the-biblical-art-of-confrontation-conflict/

Someone Needs to Walk

Acts 14:9-10 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking

This blog is going to be my final one for quite a while. There is a date I have set that, Lord willing, I will return on. This blog is going to be very open, more so than I’ve been in a long time. My intention, as always, is that God is glorified by shining light and speaking helpful truth.

Stay with me. I’m getting to my point.

Almost nine years ago now, my husband and I (I alone was emailed the message) was asked to leave a congregation. There was no meeting, no Bible quoted, no mention of sin, no call to repentance. It was vague, hurtful, and confusing. To this day I don’t fully understand what happened. One person sent a long emotionally-charged email that left my family feeling totally gutted. It’s only been in the past year that I can say we’ve really healed.

A close friendship for us was lost, and it hurt. Partly because of the loss, partly because of how it was handled, and partly because we knew God wanted better. His grief has been as tangible as our own.

I was told that the decision to suspend, and later permanently bar us, was due to “stuff that was said.” Interestingly, during these nine years I’ve had someone message me on Facebook that they heard I was “manipulative and divisive”. Another said I was “needy, seeking attention, too spiritually bright” (what a scary, unscriptural thing to say), and that it was “personal and church politics get ugly”. Exact words. Yet another person my family ran into said they were “warned to block us” while we were visiting a church. A fourth person, connected to the couple, had sent a message of a post they did on people having multiple personalities and drawing from childhood survival techniques to appear discerning. By the way, I do not even remotely have that disorder or anything close to that. At most, I’ve battled with depression, anxiety, and some PTSD. That was a weird one.

You can probably imagine how it felt hearing that from several different people. One person admitted to me they were asked to reach out and connect. Whether it’s to convey something or report information, I don’t know. Someone befriended me, and I later discovered, was reporting back what was said. A couple of people connected to our former friends would friend me on social media, then like only certain posts with specific topics. The icing on the cake was a person who told me, “Look, you’ve been manipulated. But they just want what’s best.”

Yikes.

The Bible tells us very clearly what is best in a situation like this (see Matthew 5:24, Romans 12:18, Luke 6:31, John 15:12, Ephesians 4:32). I had other strange messages, a couple of obvious fake social media profiles I had to block, and folks I was not connected to try to reach out that knew the former friends. I was suddenly blocked or unfriended with no explanation. It’s nearly impossible to heal when this is taking place. The few times we have directly communicated with our old friends was either small talk or me being told it’s my “communication style” that’s the issue. No exaggeration, when I was 8 months pregnant they told me that while I was in labor they would watch my children… but I was not allowed to communicate with their wife. My husband and I obviously declined. I am a loving, articulate person that wants the Bible to be honored in every situation.

I was left feeling traumatized beyond explanation, confused, and at one point I thought I was going crazy. I sensed spiritual warfare but it took a while for the confirmations to come. God in His mercy gave me a few dreams and words during my prayer time.

My posts and my blogs here are me simply being obedient to share what God has given me. I’m not the best writer, but I’m called to communicate. But sadly, over time what was intended for ministry was injured with manipulation. At one point I realized I was being watched from a distance. I asked God what He wanted me to say, and I said it. It stepped on toes. Unfortunately, I’ve had to uninstall apps so I didn’t have to wonder if a like was genuine or not.

A friend of mine a few years ago attempted to invite my husband to attend a meeting the old friend would be at. It was actually to reconcile with a visiting minister. The old friend, who was in a position of power, said no. We have felt so disillusioned and so hurt. We just wanted reconciliation and unity.

Year after year I prayed for them. I fasted in prayer for them. But as the third parties entered the picture and people were sucked into this sad mess, we started reevaluating.

We don’t get apologies, direct explanations, we are rejected repeatedly for either no reason or unbiblical ones, we’ve been ghosted, left trying to navigate a situation soaked in demonic activity. There have been accusations, assumptions, and judgments.

Note: some people are not mature. Choose very wisely who you bring into a delicate situation. Often, third parties make it worse and gives more dots for the enemy to connect.

I reached out to a friend I trusted for years for prayer and to talk everything that happened out. As this all was playing out in real time it was utterly catastrophic. I did extensive Bible study on relationships, sought therapy, and drew as close to God as I could. I continued to hold out hope for restoration. Unity. That Kingdom rightness would invade and defeat lies, misjudgments, and distortions.

A couple of people shared some very negative examples of this former friend’s character. My husband is now of the belief they may have never been truly saved it’s so disturbing. If a worldly person was spoken of like that to a non believer, they would even avoid them.

I’ve seen evidence of possible conviction and moves toward repentance and healing, but it never ends up happening.

Someone recently asked me, who knows only bits and pieces, “Why would you want a relationship with someone who will push you away from Christ”? It’s one way to put it. I have really prayerfully chewed on that.

I have done plenty of wrong things in this situation. I have repented and directly apologized with utmost sincerity. I have tried my best to take the high road, heal, and seek God’s will.

Why did I share all of that? It’s to say this.

Get where you’re going.

As a visiting pastor last month said, “Rejection will come. Get where you’re going.” People will wound us and wrong us. Whether or not they do what’s right isn’t our problem.

We are called to bear burdens, not issues, per Galatians 6:2.

Paul and Barnabas were mistreated in Iconium in Acts chapter 14.

Acts 14:5-7 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.

But they didn’t stay there.

Someone needed to walk in Lystra.

Imagine if Paul and Barnabas stayed in Iconium, begging the people there to believe them and respect them. There are people that never would have been touched by the power of God if they would have stayed in the rejection.

I have surrendered that couple to the Lord. My husband and I seek friends that will encourage us and push us closer to God. Friends that regularly read scripture, hear from the Spirit, and obey Him. Those that are seeking to grow and lay ego aside for the greater good of the Kingdom. We can’t stay in our dysfunctional, immature coping mechanisms of the past.

There will be Iconiums in your life. Some may come around, some never will. But what matters is the Lystra you’re heading to. I am angry at the enemy for the years I allowed him to destroy my peace, manipulate me, and beat me down.

Someone right now reading this will get freedom by saying, “I am not staying in Iconium, in ____. Lord, lead me to my Lystra.” There are folks out there that are ONE person, one moment, one touch from God, away from a life-changing, soul-saving breakthrough.

Someone needs to walk. So keep going in Yeshua’s name.

Father, I pray for those seeking a restoration. I ask for Your miracle-working power in their life. God, we believe You raise the dead, heal, deliver, bring beauty for ashes, and make all things new. I speak to the root of rejection and the trauma. I ask that You rewire the experiences with the truth of Your Word. Lord, we pray the prodigals come home and You do a heart work in those that need it. We ask most of all that You continue to grow US. Help us to walk in love, humility, and kindness. Keep us wise to enemy strategies to distract, shame, and wound. We know every rejection will be met with Your perfect judgment. Use us to make the lives of others better. In Yeshua’s name.

Nearness Brings Likeness

Ephesians 4:23-24 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

I met with a friend yesterday at Olive Garden. Quick plug: I love their soup and salad. However, those breadsticks are such a temptation when you’re trying to lose weight. Nevertheless, our conversation was really encouraging. We spoke about LASIK surgery (I’ve been told I may not be the best candidate for it but we’ll see), growing older, dieting, faith, and maturing spiritually. Both of us acknowledged the busyness of our lives and the desire for fruitfulness and margin. A couple of times during our chat I paused and pressed my little Zio heart monitor for palpitations and arrhythmia. The doctors are thinking it’s hormone changes but are monitoring it just in case. Growing older, as my grandfather once said, isn’t for sissies.

This friend has been a believer for almost 2 years now and she’s grown so much. At least from what I’ve observed. Our discussion was around how we grow, why some grow and some don’t, and what being a Christ follower should look like.

Why do we, or don’t we, grow?

I took it to prayer last night and this morning. A few specific points came into my spirit, and I thought it would be helpful to share it. I’m separating the lists out into two: one for why we grow and one for why we don’t.

First thing’s first. As believers we are new creations in Christ. We should be changing. But all of us know someone that is just as bitter, prideful, judgmental, fearful, rude, vulgar, angry etc as they were a year ago. Five years ago. Ten or more years ago even. In fact, my husband and I reconnected a few years back with a couple we met when we were first married. We attended their church for about a year. Sadly, they still had the same bondages and issues as before. We hadn’t communicated at all in almost 10 years. In one area, the wife was even worse. Gossiping, judgmental, spiritually drifting with the wind and chasing every latest fad. It was incredibly sad. My family decided to leave. I’ve discovered something.

You’re usually only as strong as your leaders.

If the leadership at a church is very prideful, it’s unreasonable to expect a humble and broken congregation. If the pastors and elders are critical and judgmental, the congregants are likely going to battle with some of that also. If the leaders have a stronghold of fear, you won’t see a tremendous amount of freedom and wholeness in the environment. Good and bad flows down from the top.

My husband and I have had numerous discussions about that situation, and we’ve prayed for them. I’ll start here by listing why I see people not growing spiritually.

1. Not spending quality time in the Word, prayer, and worship. Simply, we aren’t spending time in God’s presence.
2. Not wanting to grow because our heart is divided.
3. Having the wrong social circle or are under the wrong leadership.
4. Lack of accountability.
5. Lacking margin.
6. Believing lies
7. Rebellion.

Interestingly, I got an email from my youngest son’s teacher regarding his increasingly naughty behavior while typing this. My son was Citizen of the Month, and soon after receiving that award, it got to his head. He told me, “Other kids are doing it” and “I’m not that bad.” Our flesh makes excuses. We just had a conversation about the importance of having a good attitude and making right choices.

Growth doesn’t magically come. It must be pursued. When I see someone, year after year, that is still bitter, rude, angry, jealous, fearful, selfish, addicted, gossiping etc the first thing that comes to mind is a question.

Do you want to change?

If you don’t, why? Ultimately, serving Jesus and the Christian life is about regeneration. This is what separates us from unbelievers. This is what changed Saul to Paul. Softens the hardest of hearts. Saves the lost. Sets the captives free.

We become who we spend time with. This starts with God. Sometimes, we also need to re-evaluate our relationships. Are they pushing us closer to Christ or away from Him? Are they encouraging us to pursue the things of this world or heavenly treasures? Do our friends and leaders model humility and wisdom? Are they sensitive and obedient to the Spirit’s leading? Do we share the same values and goals?

Furthermore, if we’re too busy, we aren’t giving room for the Holy Spirit’s work. Lack of margin equals lack of teachability and opportunity for deception. Change takes time.

The following is a list of habits I see in those who grow…

1. Spending quality time in God’s Word, prayer, and worship.
2. Choosing friends that push them towards Christ and keep them accountable.
3. Asking God to bring humility, with a willingness to do what’s right.
4. They are disciplined with healthy boundaries.
5. They pursue truth and righteousness.
6. They put God first.
7. They put others above themselves with godly affection.

Many years ago I read a Christian book that put me in a depression for months. I felt overwhelmed with the lies that were uncovered. One day I went to a leader, asking for prayer. She told me something that has changed me, and I still do it today.

This leader asked me to get up a little earlier. Read a chapter in the Bible, pray, and put a worship song or two on. Ask God to speak to me about any lies I’m believing and how He sees me. God knows where we’re at. He will be loving, gentle, and direct when needed. His presence is what changed me. As God speaks, I search out His Word for guidance and confirmation. I pray for others first, then myself. I have a pause app I use to meditate on scripture and truth. (Pause app by John Eldredge is amazing. I highly recommend it!) My times of worship get my focus on Him and His goodness.

For several years, my quiet times involved God revealing areas of bitterness and needed healing. I would say, “What my feelings do not allow right now the blood of Jesus covers.” I vividly remember times my flesh desperately didn’t want to change. It was so overwhelming. But the pain of my bondage was greater than the pain of change. It was similar with my physical body. When I developed GERD, and the pain and discomfort got bad enough, then I decided to make changes I didn’t want to. I had to. The acid reflux went into my neck and even caused ringing ears and vomiting. It didn’t get better until I did something.

The main difference between those who grow and those who don’t is desire and effort. Many of us were taught to live according to feelings. So, if we don’t feel like doing it, we don’t. We have an amazing promise in scripture to hold onto.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

God is our source of truth. The more of Him we receive, the more we will have the mind of Christ. In the Pause app I will meditate on having the mind of Christ. I say aloud, “I give all news, distractions, speculation, and anxieties to you God. I have the mind of Christ.” That declaration is very powerful!

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

I have seen God change people I never thought could be saved and delivered. God wants us free and whole more than we desire it. We as believers should be assessing where we’re at. What is working? What isn’t? What are we doing to improve? I will ask my husband and a close friend for their honest observation. I bring their opinions to God and ask Him what He thinks.

“When you stop growing you start dying.” -William S. Burroughs

My challenge today is for you to seek God regarding your spiritual growth. Jesus didn’t die for us so we could live according to our feelings. He died so we can crucify our flesh and its passions and put on a new nature. One that glorifies God and reflects His love. Sometimes someone is one person, one moment away, from a breakthrough. Our obedience makes the difference. I ask God to lead me to those people.

If you’re really struggling in a certain area, I’ll give you a practical tool that has helped me. I’ll bring my fear, worry, feeling, issue etc to God. I say, “Lord, I am struggling with ____and I know You want me to change. Forgive me for partnering with the lie. Reveal to me what the truth is and give me what I need to have victory. The blood of Jesus is stronger than ____”.

Truth bomb: fear is an indicator a lie has set in.

I could write a book on this. This is such an involved topic. But, I am not desiring to write a book here. My purpose is to share with you that a) we are either growing or not growing and b) the Christian life is about transformation. If we are struggling with the same stuff year after year, there is freedom for you friend.

Draw near to God. Not only will He draw near to you, He’ll also transform you. And that is what the world needs to see. Christianity isn’t a belief system. It’s a total rebirth.

I ask Lord that You will reveal to every person reading this the tactics of the enemy. Help us all to walk in a greater level of wisdom, love, and discernment. You paid the highest price to redeem us. May we be the living epistles read by all men and women. Use us to bring love, Your light, and hope to others. Give us a heart for the broken, needy, marginalized, and rejected. We want to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant” someday. Your truth is greater than any lie the enemy throws at us. Father, bring discomfort to our flesh in the areas that grieve You, and remove the pleasure of our addictions and sins. We receive Your freedom and healing Yeshua’s name.

Tenderness

2 Chronicles 34:27 because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.

Today, God put the word tender in my spirit. Tender has several different meanings. In particular, the Lord was highlighting soft, responsive, warm. I was led to 2 Chronicles chapter 34.

In 2 Chronicles 34, King Josiah began to reign. The Book of the Law was found by Hilkiah, the priest. He, in turn, brought it to Shaphan, the secretary who read it to the king. As he was reading it, King Josiah tore his clothes.

2 Chronicles 34:21 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.”

Huldah, the prophetess, spoke in verse 23. God was bringing His judgment. However, because the king’s heart was tender and he humbled himself before God, the coming disaster would be delayed. The Lord instead promised peace in his lifetime.

The chapter ends on a high note.

2 Chronicles 34:33 And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.

God’s wrath was temporarily stopped because of someone’s tender heart (albeit an important someone in a high position). This tells me a tender heart is very highly regarded by God.

Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Tenderness and humility (and faith in action) move the heart of the Father. I want to be someone that God favors. I want to thrive in every area of my life. But in order to have that, we must be surrendered in every area of our lives to God. No one is perfect. However, our broken flesh must be soft and responsive to God’s leading and conviction. We are here for His purpose to glorify Him.

When I saw the above photo, the innocence and love of the lamb touched me. God doesn’t want us immature, but He does want us to be tender and soft. Gentle. Humble. With a heart to serve and help others. Sadly, pride and ego often choke out the tenderness the Spirit is wanting to work in us.

I’ve discovered how much we need each other and how important unity is. The enemy is sowing division wherever he can. This starts with lies that become strongholds in our minds. We then see God, ourselves, and others through a hardened and polluted filter. God desires to bring us back to our first love. He wants us to stay gentle and tender. Open and amenable.

In the case of that Bible story, Josiah’s heart turned the Creator of the universe. And as such, induced temporary peace for the people he was responsible for.

I want to leave you with a challenge. Ask God to show you any hardness and pride that doesn’t please Him. As in Romans 12:1, offer up every part of your life to God as a living sacrifice. Tenderness can be very powerful. A soft answer can turn away wrath (see Proverbs 15:1). Oftentimes, one person’s strength clashes with another person’s weakness. The vast majority of issues between people stems from our failure to show tenderness in their shortcomings.

There are times when we need to be firm, but this culture is far too self-focused and cold. We as believers know “survival of the fittest” is a distortion and perversion in the perfect world He originally created. It’s not about thinking of yourself and getting more; it’s about thinking of others and giving.

I am ending on a serious note here. The world is heading quickly to the time when Messiah returns. Judgment is coming. If we cannot be tender now and obey God when it’s still relatively peaceful, we won’t when all literal hell breaks loose.

Keep your hearts tender toward God and others. Humble yourself and let God do the exalting. I pray the story of our lives will be written with peace as we follow Him faithfully.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Put On

Job 29:14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban.

This morning, that scene is where I’d like to be. And, this is how it is realistically feeling for me. It’s -10F air temperature. It gets cold up here where I live. In spite of that, I’ve found ways to make my quiet time cozy.

To be brief, something I saw recently online came to mind. It was a short video of a man describing worship. Worshipping God is like putting on the coat, gloves, hat, scarf, boots, snowpants etc. When I go outside in this brutal weather, I put on clothes that keep me warm and protected in this climate.

I am not warmer because the weather changes; I am warmer because I changed. I PUT ON warm clothes.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

That’s what worship and prayer are like. This is the result of spending quality time with God. We can be going through very difficult storms and battles, but we can PUT ON the armor, God’s peace, joy, love, HIS perspective, focus on His goodness, praise and worship Him. That changes our outlook in the cyclone of troubles and struggles.

Today, I am reminding myself-and you-to put on everything God has promised to keep us “warm.” I am thankful that right now, my furnace is doing that job. And when I’m traveling, it’s the heat in my car. But when I’m inevitably outside in the middle of difficulty, I’m prepared because I spent time with the Creator.

Make room for prayer, worship, His presence, His Word…HIM. When we do, we get what we need to face the trials each day brings.

Have a blessed day! Shalom.