Triage

Some say it takes a village to raise a child, and I believe that’s true,

but all villages include thieves and liars and fools.

Whether we like it or not, each makes an imprint the child carries with him always.

So what our children really need is a triage team that prays;

some who see the yearnings, and some who see the fears,

some who battle the enemy, and others who know the tears

the child has cried, alone in the night,

as well as his greatest delights.

Every day brings another load of emergencies to prioritize, stabilize,

and heal from the inside out.

It takes a triage team, waiting nearby, standing in the gap,

knowing when and what to pray about

to raise a child who’s always protected,

knows s/he is loved, now by us,

and eternally by God.

Amen and amen.

Magnify

Old people connected by family ties

to a young virgin girl,

not only a virgin in body,

but surely innocent of the ways of the world.

 

Old Zacharias did what he knew to be right

and served his Lord but that

shred of doubt made him

deaf and dumb, unable to tell even

Elizabeth the wonderful news

or hear her joy and delight.

 

Like Zacharias, Mary could not believe

the marvelous truth at first,

but God did not need to shut

her mouth or ears; she and

Elizabeth both pondered

these things in their hearts.

 

The Holy Spirit so sweetly and

powerfully at work in this

time and place to birth

the only way back

to the God of the world.

 

Old Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth,

the young peasant girl Mary,

and the babies who would

herald and fulfill the dawn of

salvation; every soul ever born now

able if willing to magnify the Lord

through His Son Jesus Christ.

Amen and amen.

(From Luke 1:5-80, NKJV)

The View

Blindness comes in many forms–physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational. For some, healing happens in stages over expanses of time.

A dear friend of mine has a form of blindness that typically begins early in life. This beautiful young woman cannot see how fearfully and wonderfully and perfectly God has created her, inside and out. Somewhere along the way, the enemy enticed her to look a little too long at the uber-thin, air-brushed, models in magazines and the tiny, botoxed actresses who’ve had teams of make-up artists and lighting directors spending hours making them look “better” than reality.  My friend bought in to the enemy’s lie that if she did not fit into a certain size of clothing or look like these models and actresses, she should be ashamed of her looks.

God understands how easily so many of us fall into this trap. We don’t realize that it is a trap when we start comparing ourselves to others whose looks conform to our society’s current standard.  The enemy also uses another related ploy to keep us down in the pit of body-shame: he tricks us with false feelings of humility. My friend is kind and considerate, easily puts other people first and has a genuinely humble heart that never boasts or puts herself above others. The enemy can slip in the back door unnoticed and twist our God-given and God-honoring humility into a self-loathing that no longer honors God because it puts the world’s image of what we’re “supposed” to look like above the uniquely wonderful body God actually gave us.

Of course, we need balance too. God expects us to care for these amazing bodies and minds He gave us, and He certainly doesn’t want us to hate someone else because she’s beautiful in the ways our society values most. But He’s given us a roadmap for keeping that balance:

I beseech you, therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2 NKJV

I pray that my friend learns to see, over and over again every day, how amazingly beautiful and valuable and perfect she is, just as she is today. I pray that her perception shifts from seeing herself through the lens of the world’s totally unrealistic expectations to seeing herself from heaven’s view–fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image, beloved, strong, and uniquely perfect. I pray the same for me because I still struggle with that perspective problem too. I pray for anyone who has only seen how they don’t measure up to the world’s standards, that we may each be transformed as God renews our minds to see ourselves through the love of Jesus.

Amen and amen.

Can you see?

Miracles happen, sometimes in an instant, but sometimes over decades. Sometimes we recognize the miracle, but too often we allow the enemy to provide an explanation that puts the miracle into terms of our every day world view. When we stop seeing the miracle through God’s divine sovereignty, we lose it. The miracle happened, but we only see how it occurred in the natural realm.

Jesus rebuked Peter for speaking against the divine plan for salvation that required Jesus to go to the cross, be killed for our sins, and then rise from the dead in ultimate victory. See Mark 8:31-33. Jesus knew that Satan was the source of Peter’s inability to see the Father’s plan, and He immediately rebuked Peter for going along with Satan’s lie, lowering the sovereign plan of God into the realm man’s limitations. If we are willing to listen, Jesus will rebuke us too when we speak out against His miracle-work on earth, calling it merely an everyday occurrence stripped bare of God’s power and authority.

I have a friend who had a serious, acute medical issue. She asked me for prayer, and I gladly prayed for Jesus to heal her completely. The tests results were negative; none of the problems she feared showed up. She was relieved that the doctors had found a simple problem with an easy solution. I was happy that she would not have to face the worst, but I failed completely to rebuke her for not seeing the miracle God had given her. I have confessed my sin, and God faithfully forgave me. But my friend lost sight of the miracle God gave her.

I pray now for the courage to always speak up when I see a miracle in my life and in other’s. Satan comes only to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus comes to give us life, but not just life on earth bound by our own explanations for how all this works. He comes to give us an abundance of miracles that cannot be explained away with our logic or intellect. See John 10:10.

May I and everyone to whom He has connected me accept the divine truth of miracles every time we receive them.

Amen and amen.

Don’t Be Petrified

When we were kids, many of our moms told us, “If you make that face long enough, it’ll get stuck that way.” I certainly heard that warning many times as I stuck out my tongue at my sisters.  And we all know how bad habits form a rut that makes it harder and harder over time to pull out of.

Turns out our moms were on to something. When Jesus came into a synagogue to preach, the religious leaders “watched Him closely,” hoping that He would break one of their man-made rules “so thay they might accuse Him.” Mark 3:2. Jesus knew that they were plotting against Him, wanting to accuse Him of breaking their rules for healing someone on the Sabbath. Jesus healed the man despite the Pharisees’ condemnation, but He was “grieved by the hardnes of their hearts.” Mark 3:5.

The word for hardness in Greek, as used in this passage, is “porosis,” which refers to blindness caused by hardening or callousness. It is also a medical term that describes the process of a fractured bone’s extremity being petrified.

When we continually choose not to see the love of God, when we choose only to see how Jesus breaks the rules we’ve erected to give us a sense of control over our world, we fracture our relationship with our creator, just like breaking a bone in our arm. If we leave that bone broken, it will eventually set in that crooked, broken position. The end of the bone, broken off from its source of life, will harden, become useless, petrified. It will get stuck that way just like Mom warned.

But the great news is (and there’s always great news to be found in God’s kingdom), with one cry of a hardened heart, Jesus can turn our heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26. So Moms need not worry when their kids make faces at each other. They’re not really gonna get stuck that way. But anyone who sets his face against God and continues to scowl at Him, refusing to accept His love, will too soon get stuck that way.

If your face is stuck in a permanent scowl, just look up! Turn your eyes to look for God. If you choose to begin the journey back to Him, He will return to you. Zechariah 1:3. You might even find yourself smiling.

Amen and amen.

 

A Pure Language

“For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.” Zephaniah 3:9

Yesterday evening, a friend at church asked me to explain to another friend how I had received the Holy Spirit’s gift of tongues. This is where many readers will roll their eyes and be tempted to stop reading. Years ago, I too would have thought, “Oh no! She’s getting into that weirdo stuff only holy rollers believe in.” Well, I challenge you to continue reading; of course I am a holy roller–washed in the blood of Jesus and so crazy in love with Him that I can’t help but sing His praises every chance I get. You certainly should stop reading if you do not want overflowing joy that sustains you in the valleys and sometimes lifts you up to soar like an eagle.h

But my friend was hungry to hear how the Holy Spirit gave me this precious gift. Here is how it happened:

Until I was in my late 50’s, I didn’t know anything about this gift and thought it was a hoax, just another gimmick to get some old fashioned church goers lathered up so they could show off.  Then I began attending New Life Church of God in Benton, where it was common for people to speak in tongues during the service. But there was no show or production, just a quiet reverance from the congregation and almost always an interpretation in English from another worshiper. I came to realize that the Holy Spirit was palpably present in those moments, like He had wrapped us all in a warm, soft comforter, holding us in His loving arms.

When I read chapter 3 of Zephaniah, my heart almost leaped out of my chest at the promise that God Himself planned to restore to all believers “a pure language,” one that allows “all” of us to “call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.” (verse 9) Then, I read what this means to God:

“The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with          singing.” Zephaniah 3:17.

Then I understood. My simple openess to this gift of the Holy Spirit would give my Father in heaven cause to rejoice over me with gladness.  As I opened my mouth, willing to allow the Holy Spirit to undertake speaking to God Himself in a language so pure I could not understand it with my mind but only with my heart, I was simply submitting to God’s sovereignty in a new, miraculous, unfathomable way. God delights so much in our participation with the Holy Spirit that He rejoices over us with singing every time we allow His pure language to come forth. To me, this realization melts my heart, causing my pride and fear to wash away.

I spent quite a bit of time alone with God, allowing His word to grow deeply in me, before I was able to let go of control over my vocal chords enough to allow the Holy Spirit to undertake for me. I was not in church with others but alone, at home, during my sweetest time of the day, my morning meetings with God, where He shows me who He is through His word. When I finally let go of control and sincerely asked the Holy Spirit to undertake for me, He spoke through this amazed old lady with unknown words spilling out in a waterfall of diamonds and rubies and topaz light. That light then burst forth in my spirit, burning down the walls of resistance I had erected, thinking I needed to keep parts of my life only for me and away from God. As those walls came crashing down, the light washed me clean and free as never before. I knew I was changed forever, that right down to my DNA, I was truly a new creation.

Now, although I still struggle because I live in a fallen world where the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), I now have the constant assurance that I don’t have to rely on only the words I can think up in my own limited mind. The fact that I don’t know how to pray as I ought (Romans 8:26) no longer hampers my prayers. Now I have access to that pure language that delights my Father in heaven, and the prayers of my heart are transformed into the song of my Father.

So this tesimony is first for my friend. She knows who she is. And it is for anyone wanting more and more of God. May God Himself enlighten the eyes of your heart.

 

 

 

 

Testimony (proof, evidence, witness, proclamation of personal experience)

When I was 13, no longer a child but in that in-between, awkward phase of trying to learn how to be me, I met Jesus for the very first time.

Having been raised in a church, I had heard about Jesus all my life, although it seemed to me that we were supposed to be mostly interested in God. God was the creator, and all those old testament stories warned us not to make him mad. When the preacher mentioned Jesus, he just seemed like an afterthought, a side story that really was too messy and complicated to focus on. In fact, everything about Jesus made me (and apparently everyone else) uncomfortable.

When I was 12, I went to church camp, not because I wanted to get closer to God, but to be with my girl friends for a week-long sleepover, and much more importantly, to meet cute boys. We had chapel each day, and along with most of the other kids, I told the leader that I had given my heart to Jesus. Soon after returning home, I and the others who had been “saved” at camp were baptised in water. I barely remember any of it because it just wasn’t that important to me. I see now that I was only doing what I thought was expected.

Sometime in the following year, I got involved with a youth praise group doing a production of “Pass It On,” a musical with lyrics I could relate to. I didn’t think about it at the time, but singing praises to Jesus began to open my heart to a yearning for something to love outside of my own self-absorbed focus. Also, the true love some of the kids had for Jesus made me curious. I see now that their sincere praises, sung out to Him, brought the Holy Spirit among us, like an enticing fragrance I couldn’t identify but wanted more of.

After we finished performing the Pass It On shows, I went with our youth group to another church for a revival service. Again, I didn’t go to be revived spiritually. I went to be with my friends, no doubt intending to make fun of anyone else I thought wasn’t as cool as me. I had no idea that God had a completely different experience in store for me that night.

The preacher told us the simple gospel account of Jesus, how He chose to leave His perfect home in heaven with His Father, to come to earth, knowing He would be despised, rejected, and ultimately die a horrific death on the cross. When I heard the preacher’s words, something shifted deep inside my spirit. I realized the truth: Jesus had died for me! He made the choice to come to earth knowing He would die in place everyone who has ever lived on earth, knowing that most of us would reject Him totally. In that moment, I understood that Jesus had already, once and for all eternity, died for me. His death on the cross was a done deal. And He had given me complete freedom to either reject His sacrifice or accept it. What pierced my heart was realizing that by rejecting Jesus, by brushing Him off as irrelevant to me, I could not erase His sacrifice. Whether I chose to care or not, He died for me!! Jesus’ heart of sacrifice for me, knowing how self-centered and rebellious I was, broke my wicked, selfish heart. I couldn’t run fast enough to the altar to fall on my knees in humble adoration of the Savior I’d never known before then.

From that day on, I have always known He was with me, especially in my loneliest, toughest times. It is my relationship with Jesus that sustains me and gives me the courage to do what I know to be right. Jesus is not only my Savior, not only Almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing; Jesus is my constant, never-changing friend, always ready to listen to my cries, answer my questions, protect me, and comfort me. Jesus laughs with me when I am amused. He gets my jokes, doesn’t mind my off-key singing, and He loves me even when I don’t love myself. When I was younger, I often tried to run from His love, thinking that I had better things to do than draw close to Him. But He was always patiently waiting for me to come back to Him. Over time, I have realized more and more, that coming back to Him is the only way I ever find any real peace.

Jesus died for each one of us. His sacrifice is an eternal, unchangeable fact. Everyone who hears the good news, that Jesus died to save each of us from a life separated from our Father God, has a choice to make: accept Jesus’ sacrifice, His free gift of life, or throw it away and find your own way to eternity. Either way, He is there waiting to give you the peace that surpasses understanding. The choice is yours….