Christian Living, faith

Keep Gathering

Matthew 9:38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

A friend recently shared a dream she got many years ago. The crux of it, as I remember, is that she was gathering up a harvest. She recalls that it was a beautiful harvest. In the distance she noticed some sheep being abused and gravely mistreated by evil figures. That was grieving her so much she stopped gathering. A pastor she knew looked at her and said, “Don’t get distracted! Keep gathering.”

Keep gathering.

Those two words stuck with me. I’ve been processing this conversation in prayer. It’s so easy to get caught up in temporary pleasures of this world. And I believe it’s ok to enjoy life. However, far too often we forget that there is a spiritual battle of light vs darkness going on all around us. I often pray for others but sometimes, like all of us, I lose temporary sight of what’s really important.

I feel called to write in a transparent way, creating connection, healing, and hope to others. I don’t feel led to speak with authority into people’s lives as much as communicate God’s love and transforming power.

But I clearly see it.

I see the spiritual war raging. I understand that not everything being said is truth. We must rightly divide with the Word.

“Peace, peace” is shouted while violence and wickedness increases.

My heart is saddened to think of people arguing over silly things while the harvest needs to be gathered. While people are dying, lost. So few already are laboring. Too few.

God, help me to keep my focus where it should be. Bind my wandering heart to you. May I be faithful, unwavering, bold yet loving, gentle but strong, in speaking and living truth. May I fear you always more than any human. Help me live eternity minded, running the race to win so I hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Let my words and actions point to You and Your purpose.

Trials and persecution will come-to some degree at least. Truth will sometimes (if not often) offend. But I will think it. Speak it. Live it.

There have been testing times for me. Pushing that button to post a hard truth or giving a response that isn’t candy-coated can be tough. I’ve lost connections and casual friends. I will love you in heart, but I will not condone or approve of gay marriage. I’m not going to offer sympathy because you just “fell out of love” with your husband and want a new one. I refuse to jump on the sloppy grace train. Yes, there is grace. But the ten commandments are TEN, not nine. The church forgets what’s we’re told to remember.

And that’s not ok.

As for me, life is too precious to waste. Truth is the only thing that sets us free. So I will keep running to win.

Yes, I will keep gathering.

Hebrews 10:23 ESV Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Christian Living, faith

From Not to Lose to Winning

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

I saw a quote that absolutely pierced.

When we fear that God is not good and that He won’t come through for us, we’ll make fear-driven choices that lead us away from His best plan for us. We’ll play not-to-lose, instead of running the race to win.

-Susie Larson

God has been dealing with me for a while about something specific in my faith journey. My race. Hebrews 12:1 is a very precious verse to me. I’ve felt weighted down in life. And here, we are being encouraged to lay aside every weight.

We are not meant to run the race burdened down.

Something that’s totally revolutionized my faith walk is realizing that I need to fix the God I worship.

Let me explain.

The Word says to love as He loves. But we can’t properly do that until we know what love is ourselves. And until we receive love from a loving God, we won’t love anyone right.

Ourselves included.

I’m challenged to…challenge my perception of who I call Lord, Savior, Provider, Protector, Healer, Deliverer etc. And I’m finally able to see and admit this here.

I have been in the race not to lose vs actually finishing strong.

Yes, I love God very much. Jesus (Yeshua) is my King, Savior, and Good Shepherd. But I still saw Him too much like I see others. Flawed, unjust, cruel at times, cliquey, fickle, and even (I say this shamefully considering the cross) stingy.

Some wounds and trials were not my fault at all, some partially, and some completely. In any case, I couldn’t receive mercy because God wasn’t merciful in my eyes. At least not consistently. I couldn’t give love and grace to myself much less others.

Life was about me trying to heal from something while holding onto the good until it was taken from me.

No real lasting joy.

I ran into someone I hadn’t spoken to in many years. They kept repeating how I’ve changed and grown. Softened. Later that evening I looked up some old blogs I wrote. Read old writings I’d never shared. While nothing was terrible, I found my words came out at times choppy, blunt, and cutting.

That’s a reflection of how I saw God.

I loved Him with a very sincere faith, but I was just trying not to lose….something. God was a giver of good. But also a taker and withholder of good too.

I’ve learned the importance and power of words. And silence. I can see I’m more forgiving and more gentle. As God (in my eyes) changed so did I. The more loving He’s becoming, the more loving I’m becoming too.

Today, I want to encourage you to run the race with endurance, laying aside the weight that holds you down and slows you up. For me, the weight was a faulty perception of God. That translated as a faulty perception of others too.

Lies.

Ask God to reveal to you anything you’re carrying that you’re not meant to. Lay it at His feet. God is good and gives good. Finish strong, knowing you are never ever alone as He’ll never leave you or forsake you. Nothing can separate you from His love.

Live His best for you.

Christian Living, faith

The Prodigal Son’s Brother

Luke 15:29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.

I posted something on social media. It was a meme that said, in essence, our trials are temporary. Things will change and we will heal. Someone commented that sometimes we’re stuck in bad circumstances because of our choices.

Yes.

I thought for a moment about my own life and the times I missed the mark. We all have. And yes, there are times when we can’t easily or rightfully undo a decision (pregnancy out of wedlock or marrying the wrong person.) This is not touching abortion or divorce.

But God’s faithfulness and love.

All of us have sinned and made some bad decisions. We’ve all hurt somebody at some point, intentionally or unintentionally. In many cases, the difference is consequences and people’s choices. Your fornication didn’t lead to a baby outside of marriage. That lie didn’t cost you something dear to your heart. Your struggle didn’t dissolve that friendship (as the other person was forgiving and merciful.) You still got that promotion. That blessing. Avoided an accident.

I know a couple of people who drove very drunk years ago. One made it home ok, and was never caught and simply woke up with a nasty hangover. The other hit a pedestrian, permanently paralyzing them and ended up spending a short amount of time in prison (with their license being revoked.) Sadly, a former manager of mine in 2011 walked home from a bar very intoxicated (avoided driving out of safety) and passed out drunk while taking a shortcut. She died of hypothermia. Had it been just one week later, the temperatures would have been warm enough for her to survive.

Choices.

I have found it’s easy to get critical and judge when you haven’t walked in someone else’s shoes. Sometimes we don’t know what led a person to choose what they did.

I’ve went over the speed limit while driving, especially when younger, more than I’d like to admit. I have never had a speeding ticket. How easy it would be to point my finger and say, “It’s your fault” as someone is struggling to pay a $100 ticket. While it’s true, being prideful is also wrong.

This morning, with this in mind, I’m thinking of the Prodigal Son. And his brother. Not only am I touched by the Father’s reaction, I am also humbled and thoughtful of the brother’s response.

God, help me to not only make wise choices, but to also have mercy on those that don’t.

That brother didn’t squander his inheritance. But he wasn’t sinless either. We are far, far too quick to criticize when it suits us and someone does something we don’t like or don’t do. But what of the sins and foolish choices we make? What if we weren’t given grace in a situation? What if it ended differently?

What if?

Today, I’m challenged (and I want to challenge you) to give more grace and mercy. Be slow to criticize. We don’t know all of what someone has or is going through. The Good Samaritan didn’t stop to ask why the man was beaten up and robbed or inquire of his worthiness to receive help. He just loved him.

You never know what can happen when a person who really messed up makes it right. They may end up stronger, better, and more loving than before-or even than those who criticize them.

I’m not mad at the comment on my post. I’m thankful. Once again I’m reminded of the wonderful love of God and that He is faithful even when we aren’t.

Thank you Lord.

2 Timothy 2:13 ESV if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

Christian Living

The Constant Gift

John 1:16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Grace: unmerited, undeserving favor. Getting what you don’t deserve.

Grace upon grace.

Someone a long time ago asked me how to forgive. I gave them the best answer I could muster at the time. Some good teachings and Bible verses came to mind. I shared a couple of life experiences. But I walked away feeling a heaviness.

I didn’t fully know myself.

These past few years I became determined to know. Truly know. In general, I’m a fairly laid back, forgiving person. But there’s been times nerves got hit. Loss and injury happened. Triggers were touched, unbeknownst to me then.

I did it all. I fasted, prayed, wrote letters and shredded them, sent short and long emotional ramblings. The teachings were watched, even while taking notes. I frequented prayer lines.

The answer came this year.

It was revealed in layers, I believe because God wanted the process for His purpose. But it can be summed up in this…

Grace upon grace.

I never fully received, nor grasped God’s forgiveness and grace for myself. This came from a faulty perception of my Creator.

I am a wretched sinner saved by grace. And it is a constant gift. God loves me and He loves you.

God’s grace-His favor and empowerment I don’t deserve-is given to me over and over and over.

I had an unpayable debt.

But love.

God so loved that He gave His son. Jesus (Yeshua.) Love gives. Grace gives. Even when we don’t deserve it.

You can’t model it until you get it.

Grace upon grace.

One prayer time I was on my knees and I broke. I understood. I was able to say, “The love and grace God has given to me I give to you.”

You can’t teach it. I can’t give it to you. It must be caught. But when your hands wrap around this and you hold it as yours, you know it. And you’re never the same.

For every person praying through deep hurts and offenses, I speak a revelation of “grace upon grace” to you. May you weep at the beauty and violence of the cross that gave you life, forgiveness, and hope.

John 15:13 ESV Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Christian Living, faith

Share the Table

I wrote a post this morning on social media regarding competition. I then read an article on healthy competition vs complacency.

This got me thinking and praying.

We women do tend to compete with each other. Unless they’re single and looking, women in general I think dress more for other women than they do men. I wrote on this last year, but I believe it’s because women do not want to be invisible. We were made to be seen and to influence (and that can be used for good or evil so guard your heart.)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a little intimidated by the Martha Stewarts of the world. Even more so in the churches. Those who seem perfect. They are the Queen of crafts, motherhood, culinary arts, academics, and the business world. Those who somehow seemingly do it all as I’m just praying all of my children are fed, clothed, bathed, and reasonably educated. I feel like I’m wading in the kiddie pool while some others are doing Olympic laps.

I want to be better.

And I believe better is a good thing. But in the midst of my desire to be more flawless and perhaps impressive, something is missed. As I’m envying and comparing my paint to others with their glossy top coat, I am reminding myself of a verse in scripture.

Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the pure in heart.

I can look at fruit, but only God knows someone else’s heart. But I can search my own.

Is my heart pure?

Am I trying to be the best me, or attempting to be what someone else is? Even in similar giftings, the work and call can still look very different.

I don’t have to build up virtual walls and sit at my own table, leaving my purse on one chair and my coat on another. And I don’t have to (nor desire to) squeeze my chair at a table where I must repeatedly convince others of my place.

No.

I can share the table with other women. Those I like, and those who challenge and annoy me. Those similar to me and others who are the polar opposite. As long as we have one thing in common.

Messiah.

The Father’s love and His blessings are inexhaustible. There’s enough for all of us. My prayer and desire is to connect with and bring connection to others who want the same. Who understand the same. And for those that don’t, that they will in His timing.

Community is a beautiful thing. God, unify your church, and us women for Your glory and purpose. Help us learn to share the table.

Christian Living, faith

The Guilt of Sodom

Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Sodom.

The first thing that comes to mind is Sodom and Gomorrah. The second…sexual sin. But that wasn’t Sodom’s greatest transgression.

Selfishness.

I am grieved as many others are at the moral decline in our country. Families are broken at heartbreaking and record levels. Few children have a mother and father at home, even fewer with godly ones.

But that’s not what grieves me, and I believe God most.

It’s selfishness. Complacency. My selfishness and complacency. All of us are guilty to some degree. Living in America (or Western nations) means living at a standard of prosperity most of the world can only imagine. Do we enjoy it? Are we truly thankful of it? How often do we take it for granted?

It’s sad enough to see desperate needs in other parts of the world. But to see it here should make us really pause. How much do we care about our neighbors? The needy? We are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper. Cain learned that.

How are we responding to this truth?

I believe sexual sin and a reprobate, depraved, debased mind per Romans 1:28 is a late stage of unchecked sin in a culture. It starts with men and women choosing to live self focused. Whatever feels good. God’s law requires humility, restraint, and considering others. That brings inconvenience. And the flesh craves comfort.

Winners of souls must first be weepers of souls-Charles Spurgeon.

Am I weeping for souls? Are you? Father, forgive my selfishness. Help me love. Help us all.

It’s time for us to learn repentance again. We serve a God that is love. And love gives.

Christian Living, faith

Hallowed

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

God has been really speaking to me in a fresh, powerful way. This season seems to be one of many positive changes on the horizon. I have been wonderfully challenged to see God in a better, more loving perspective. Hope has been restored. My prayer times have received an extra jolt. One principle God has been teaching me goes back to the Lord’s Prayer.

Start here.

I don’t believe there’s a formula per se in how to pray. A person can pray anywhere at any time with any posture. The more heartfelt and raw, in some ways, the better. Although we should pray according to God’s truth and not feelings, He wants US. This includes our honesty. The very core of our hearts. Prayer must be from a place of sincerity and with a clean heart to be effective. And, obviously, it must be in line with God’s character and will.

But there is a model of prayer given to us.

Jesus (Yeshua) was asked how to pray by the disciples.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Hallowed.

Hallowed: holy, sacred, revered.

There are a few times in the past I’ve praised God first, acknowledging His holiness and majesty before prayer. But not consistently. Not long ago I heard a teaching by John Bevere. He said, “Remember the Lord’s Prayer.” He explained that Jesus said when praying to start off by speaking of the Father’s holiness. Then ask for His will. This brings His tangible presence.

Matthew 6:10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Then ask for provision. And the sobering part…

Matthew 6:12 Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors

How many of us want God to forgive us as we have forgiven our debtors? Hmm. I paused for a moment myself. Very humbling.

I want to focus on the first part of the Lord’s Prayer, which I’ve been recently doing. Hallowed be your name. Before I utter anything, a demand, request, cry, complaint, even joy…I first say, “You are holy.” Often I follow it with, “You made everything I see. Everything exists because of You. Your law of love is what this world was created from. In You I live and move and have my very being (see Acts 17:28.) I am second and You are first.”

Do you want God’s ear? Humble yourself before Him and acknowledge His holiness and greatness.

And how do we do it?

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Be a living sacrifice. Obedient. Faithful. Humble. Acknowledging you are second and He is first.

Today, I want to encourage you to praise God and revere His holy name before praying anything. Not only is He worth it, but it is what Jesus modeled for us. I believe there’s a powerful reason for it.

God gives grace to the humble. Father, humble me. Keep me broken. You alone are holy.