Not On My Watch!

“Dad says we should call 911.”

Nope!  Not this time.  Although the words were coming from a young medical student who had his family practitioner dad on the phone, I had my mind made up.  I replied, “No.  We will pray this through!”  I had seen this demon before.  Just hours earlier my husband had been discharged from and overnight hospital stay.  It had been two weeks of close calls with his life.  All symptoms pointed to a stroke.  And all tests showed nothing was wrong with him.  Despite the fact that the ER monitor registered his rates as 179/93, the doctors could see nothing triggering these episodes of symptoms.  And we were back home watching the symptoms start again.  I refused to call 911.  Not this time, Satan!  Not taking him today!  Not on my watch!!  Within minutes of prayer, he was up again and walking around.

It’s the slogan that often makes a good story line for a would-be hero.  The Marine, policeman, city leader, or whoever the good guy is in any particular story.  But what about the church?  Dare we speak those words into a situation?

A few years ago I had the privilege of attending a ladies retreat where my daughter was the speaker.  In one of the sessions, the same statement was emphasized.  And it has stayed with me. Yet what would it look like to really live out, “Not on my watch!”?

Let’s break this down.  A watchman both sounds the alarm and is prepared to defend.  He often will practice drill in order to keep his senses sharp.  We see this in Nehemiah 4.

“Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built.  And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.” 

Did you catch that?  Each of the workers were going along tending to their daily duties and yet remained on the alert to defend their family and community.  Their duties were rebuilding the city’s broken wall.  They realized that part of seeing to the needs of their families also meant making sure their city was protected from intruders who perhaps had evil intent.  And they were doing this as a team of workers.  Together.

Isn’t that how we should approach our relationships in Christ?  Working together.  Taking care of our families by also defending those connected to our families through the body.  Nehemiah gave a charge to the workers in verse 20, “Whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there.  Our God will fight for us.  Another “AHA!” moment!  When they heard the shofar, they were to come to attention, stop the work of building, and run to the aid of their friends.  The enemy was approaching and their community was at risk.

Standing in the gap for each other.  Protecting our families even while going about our daily lives.  It’s that state of mind where we remain alert in the spirit, listening for a possible spiritual shofar blast.  Times when you get an uneasy feeling and know you just need to pray.  Or when you recognize the pattern of attack, such as constant symptoms with no explanation, and you know it’s time to make sure the enemy realizes you have had enough!

One time I heard an audible voice call out to me in middle of the night.  Just one word. It was the name of a young man whose life was drowning in drugs.  I was immediately awake and praying for this precious soul.  Often God had placed this young man on my heart for prayer.  But this night I felt the urgency.   Later I learned that while I was praying, he was angrily speeding down the highway.  He did not come to Christ until a year or two later, but no doubt a tragedy was averted that night.

Once, after my husband had gone to lay down and rest, I was drawn to go in and pray for him.  I literally started crying and asking God not to take him.  I prayed until I felt a peace, then left the room.  When he was up a little later, he explained that a dark figure had crawled in the room and within minutes something was choking him.  He was being choked by the demon when I entered to pray.  Not on my watch!  The Spirit had sounded the shofar.  I used the sword.  We won the battle!

And there was the time I woke up to my eight-year-old daughter screaming from her room.  She had been battling with nightmares and that very night we had decided to anoint our doorposts and pray.   She awoke from a dream and saw red eyes watching her.  That made me angry!  How dare he defy my authority over him!!  Not on my watch!!  The commands starting flowing out of my very being.  He must go!!  That was the last night she battled the night terrors.

“When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”  Isaiah 59:19

A standard.  A standard is an object, such as a banner or flag, used for different occasions.  It often marks a rallying point in battle.  Flags raised as a standard usually are meant to represent the head of a state or a royal family and carries their emblem.  It’s presence speaks of power and authority for the one it is raised above.

Let’s put that together.  When God raises a standard, He has just initiated a shofar blast in the spirit in order to rally the watchmen to action.  And He has informed the enemy that He is giving the warriors His authority to break the back of the demonic forces.  It is then up to the warrior to choose to use that authority during his watch.

So what is happening to those around me during my watch?  Am I at alert while going about my every day life?  A soldier staying alert usually takes training.  Am I taking time to train in my spiritual weapons?  Am I dressing for battle?

I don’t know where you are today or what the enemy has thrown your way.  For me, he’s trying once again to take out several believers around me.  But he should know by now what my response is —-  NOT TODAY SATAN!   NOT ON MY WATCH!!!

 

 

Speak Life

Screenshot_20180702-045356_GoogleEvery thing we do matters to God.  Every word we say counts.  He is listening.

And yes.  Each of us are ‘big enough’ to get in God’s way.  No.  We are not bigger than Him.  But our pride, arrogance, or even fear can be big enough to alter His divine plan for us.  How can I say this?  Because I see it throughout the Bible.

First story that comes to my mind is Miriam.  Numbers 12 tells us that she and Aaron were complaining about Moses’ Ethiopian wife.  Although we do not read what the exact complaint was, God heard it.  And Miriam must have had more to say than Aaron did because God took action towards her.  Result: Miriam’s attitude kept an entire nation at a standstill for a week.  Over 2 million people were effected because of the attitude of one person!  And on top of that, they all knew she was now covered with a vile disease and made to sit outside the camp.  Outside.  Alone.  In the sight of  two million people.  Talk about pressure!  And humility.  All ego is lost on that one!!

Next – Canaan.  Moses sent a group to look over the land and bring back a report.  Only two reported in God’s favor.  The rest saw defeat.  Here was a nation that had just seen an entire sea part in order for them to walk across.  And on dry land.  No mud.  Before the dry sea experience, they watched Egypt’s plaques fall from God’s hand.  But now they were declaring defeat and saying they would die in the wilderness.  God heard their words.  Instead of gaining a life in the land God promised them, they died in the wilderness.   Why?  Because of their own words.  God clearly tells Moses what He will do.  Numbers 14:28,  “So tell them that as long as I live-consider this to be an oracle from the LORD-as certainly as you’ve spoken right into my ears, that’s how I’m going to treat you.” (ISV)   From our lips to God’s ears!  For that group, their complaining sentenced them to life and death in the wilderness.

What about Job’s  friends?  They did not speak encouraging words to Job, but attempted to analyze the situation with their opinions of  why Job was going through his trial.  Ever been there?  I recall a time of feeling as if I had to jump through one more hoop, repent of one more sin or attitude, or pray in another manner, all to get the outcome I was seeking.  Yet none of the voices around me actually had God’s take on my situation.  Just opinions.  Job’s friends found out God’s thoughts on their opinions when God’s voice thundered down, demanding their repentance.  God defended His own name.  And He defended Job, the man whom the others were determined had sinned and caused the trials in his life.  Again, can you imagine hearing God, and everyone in the room hearing Him, audibly rebuke you from heaven?  Lesson learned!

Then there was Saul.  He couldn’t wait for Samuel before killing the lamb.  One more hour.  That was all.  If he had waited one more hour, Samuel would have arrived to offer the needed sacrifice.  But he chose to make a sacrifice himself.  Result?  A nation was divided into two kingdoms.

David.  His sin caused the death of his baby and an uprising in his own family.

Thankfully we have examples of positive altering of time as well.  King Hezekiah gained 15 years to his life! Just because he turned his face to You and through tears made his appeal.  Abigail’s quick action to appeal to David saved him from killing Nabal.  Sun stood still for Joshua.  The Canaanite woman cried out for her daughter’s healing and stood her ground when her lowly status was mentioned.  Her actions were seen as faith and her daughter was healed.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”  Proverbs 18:21 

Words really do matter.  It’s like that moment of heaviness among a group of friends, until, out of nowhere, one person makes a comment that releases a breath of joy.  The result of encouraging words bring relief to those that hear them.

 

A few moths ago I started dwelling on this topic.  I had read a post stating something to the effect of, “God is too big for you to get in His way.”  It seemed so profound to me at the time.  Not long after reading it, I sat across a room with another couple.  He must have seen the same post.  His wife was concerned that they were in God’s way of a matter they had been praying about.  He looked at her and asked, “Do you really believe you are big enough to get in God’s way?”  And I started thinking of their situation, recalling the prophetic words they had been given and the circumstances that had blocked those words from coming forth.  That’s when I realized, yes.  We CAN get in His way.

See, God will never break man’s will.  He gave us free will for a purpose.  And there are times that other people’s involvement can change our outcome. We’ve all been there.  That time when we were given prophetic words that never came to pass.  And sometimes we look back and realize it didn’t happen because not everyone involved cooperated with the Spirit.  Unfair?  Often, yes.  But God will always find a way to refine us through those disappointing times.

As I have weighed this out recently, my goal has become that of choosing to speak life.  If I believe God will give me what I say, then I want to speak what is good.  But the key is also to speak what He speaks, then we know we are speaking forth what is to be HIS will in a situation.  What if each of us vowed to be ‘slow to speak and quick to listen’?  What if each of us kept our spirits open to the voice or nudging of the Holy Spirit before we spoke?  Could we really make a difference in our situations?  Or change the atmosphere around us?  The thought that my words can have a ripple effect on the future is powerful!  Every action, every word, it all matters.  We either speak life into a situation or we speak death.  And  God gave us the ultimate example of speaking life.  He SPOKE this world into being!!

Let’s speak life!!  Let’s change the future for the positive!  Let’s align our words with the Spirit and bring about God’s plans for our lives!  Let’s be like Hezekiah and add God’s blessing to our lives today!!

Finding Me

Gods and demigods.  Spirits of ancestors.  Tribal rituals.  These characters are often found in the animated films.  And though in real life we know there is only one God, the story lines captivate even us adults.

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Spending time with my grandkids has become one of my favorite past times, and unless I have something else already planned, I jump at the chance to babysit my granddaughter who lives just around the corner.  To spend time with my grandson takes more planning as he lives in Dallas – six and a half hours away.  It might be a long drive, but the reward of time spent building that relationship is worth the drive.

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On one of my visits to Dallas, my daughter put on a movie that captivated my grandson.  He loves music and this particular film had plenty of musical pieces.  And the vibrant colors can be enchanting to the child’s imagination.  I admit that I was slightly disinterested at first as I have been watching the path that my beloved animated industry has been taking lately.  Yet knowing my daughter’s sensitivity to what she would allow to be in front of her son, I trusted her instinct and settled in for a family movie night with my grandson.

And God showed up!  That still small voice was speaking.  Even through the fictional gods and demigods, the true God chose to use the story line to speak my language.  To meet me right where I was struggling.

There is not really an explanation as to why I was less than interested when the movie started.  Perhaps skepticism. Or being tired from the long trip, followed by a busy day.  But whatever the reason, each scene started to draw me more into the story.  Gods and demigods put aside, the story of Moana, daughter of the village chief, had also captivated me.

(Spoiler alert!) Many years earlier, a demigod, Maui, had stolen the heart of the life-creating goddess, Te Fiti.  This destroyed the goddess and created the evil lava monster.  And the monster’s evil was growing, spreading across the miles of land and sea, and destroying all that it touched.  Death is what followed.  But this young woman, daughter of the village chief who had never left her island, did what had been forbidden.  She crossed the reef of their island, sailing on the waves of the sea toward the horizon.  Her goal was to find Maui and make him return the heart in order to save her dying island.

Then WHAM!  The climax of the movie!  The confrontation with truth.  It was that moment when the Moana starts walking toward the lava monster, Te Ka, as she has discovered where to replace the stolen heart.  This act would restore Te Fiti to true goddess status.  Each step she takes toward the lava monster, each crescendo of the music that built up the moment, and every word sung, flew its own arrow straight to my heart.  And I found myself back to that familiar question, “Who are you?”

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Through streams of tears, I played and replayed that last scene.   Moana had seen the truth.  She saw through the anger and hurt of the lava monster.  She saw what had been stolen with the heart.  She saw the beauty that was hidden behind the fire which had brought fear to many people through the years.  In the midst of the hot, fiery lava was the hidden goddess.  Although she almost turned back, no longer believing she had what it took to complete the task, something kept drawing her to continue on.  Alone.

Back on her journey, she finally makes it to the destination.  And knows it is time to face what had been feared.  Te Fiti, bound by the evil known as Te Ka, sees the heart and longs to be restored to herself.  The would be goddess lurches toward her freedom.  As the Moana steps closer, her words echo, “I have crossed the horizon to find you.  I know your name.  They have stolen the heart from inside you.  But this does not define you.  You know who you are.  Who you REALLY are.”  (Time to bring out the tissues!)

It is an age-old question.  Yet many still do not realize it’s deeper meaning.  Who are you?  Really?

Not: What is your name?

Not: What do you do for a living?

Not: Who is your family?

Instead –  WHO ARE YOU?

Years ago, while pastoring in Missouri, God led my husband to talk about breaking the patterns in our lives that were shown to us by others.  We are creatures of habits.  So often we set our table the same way grandma did because, you never know, “she just might be watching from heaven.”  He explained how we often discipline our kids the way our parents disciplines us.  The way we talk, our mannerisms, often are actions we have learned through what was mirrored to us as children.  Old patterns passed from one generation to the next.  Yet those patterns many times often represented human opinions of how things should be handled instead of God’s true nature.  For about three weeks, you could almost hear a pin drop among our small congregation.  The words were hitting deep inside many of those listening as they realized the old patterns had brought much hurt that needed healing.  Others realized the damage they had done to their own kids because they had followed unhealthy patterns.

At the same time our church was walking through this teaching, our women were scheduled to attend a conference.  When we arrived that first night, you could still sense where some of the women were in their processing of the things they were learning.  We entered into worship and I watched as different individuals ministered to each other.  Then came the first speaker.  She was giving her testimony.  And, like He always does, God showed that He had planned the timing of this event.  The speaker shared how she had fought depression and went to see a Christian counselor.  And he asked, “Who are you?”  And she proceeded to share of her journey to wholeness and finding out who she really was in Christ.  Who she was created to be.  Her gifts.  Her calling.

After that weekend, I realized it was time to start a Bible study with these ladies and help them on their journey of finding out who they truly were… at the very core of their being.

Looking back, I take such joy in seeing the fruit that was a result of our small group of ladies.  None of us have reached the status of perfection, but each of have grown so much along the journey.

Since a child, I have always known who I was in Christ.  Yet often I did not recognize that even in my knowing, I still did not have the full picture of how He wanted to use my giftings.  In the last 10 years, I have watched as one by one my dreams have been shattered.  My trust has been betrayed.  My heart broken.  And, yes, I have had those times of questioning if what I believed was all just my imagination or actually God’s plan from the beginning.  In the midst of the hurt and disappointment, I lost me.  I lost that confidence of who I was.  Now began my journey once again to find healing of my wounds.  And to find me in the midst of a confusing time.

In the midst of my journey, He has stripped away my thoughts of what my calling should ‘look like.’  I am a pastor.  I am a teacher.  I am a minister.  But above all, I AM A DAUGHTER OF THE MOST HIGH GOD!!

As a pastor, we picture a building full of people.  But honestly, a pastor is one who continually looks after the care of others.  I can do that through email or text or social media.  I can do that over coffee.  Or lemonade.  I can do that through the phone on a weekly call.  Because who I am is not tied to a building or a denomination or a group of people.  It is tied to My Heavenly Father.  It is tied to The King!  My confidence is in knowing I am His.  People, circumstances, or positions do not define me.  Only Christ has that right in my life.

What about you?  Do you know who you are?  Or have you lost you?  As the Rita Springer worship song says, “When I thought I lost me, You knew where I left me, You reintroduced me to Your love.  You picked up all my pieces, put me back together, You are the defender of my heart.”

He has my heart.  He is my Defender.  He is my lover.  He is ABBA!  Father God!  And me?

I am a victorious daughter of the most High King!  I am a Priest in His Kingdom!  And I win!!

I found me again……..in the midst of the mess……..He held my heart in His hands…..and held me in His arms.

And He has you……….Go!  Find you again!  He will replace your heart and restore your dreams.

A Royal Wedding

Yesterday, the world watched as another royal wedding took place in England.  The younger son of the late Princess Diana, whose wedding also captured the world in 1981, was celebrated by millions.  Each detail of the wedding was discussed on cable networks.  Details such as how many quests were invited, celebrity guests in attendance, what the bride and groom wore, who made the dress, how many flowers were used, where the reception would be held, what was on the menu.  People wanted to know every detail of this magnificent event.  Those who were invited and accepted the invitation were able to witness this firsthand inside the chapel.  And thousands lined the streets outside to get a glimpse of the historic event.

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Months planning went into the details of this wedding.  From the typical decisions of bridal attire to the intricate details of security, no item was overlooked.  The cake represented both Britain and American tastes and boasted of fresh flowers that were added just at the right time in order to keep their beauty vibrant.  No doubt the Queen had to be involved in some of the planning due to her understanding of the importance of their family lineage. And this American bride probably had her homework to do in order to be prepared to step into the role of a Royal.  She is preparing to give up the way of life she has previously known.

Both bride and groom prepared for this historic day with anticipation.  Each with their own tasks to accomplish.  For the bride, no doubt her biggest goal was preparing herself for that moment when she would walk in the door and her groom’s gaze would be fixed on her.  She would have wanted to shine in beauty and strength, allowing her eyes to shine with the love she had for her groom.

In the week to come, people will still be talking about this wedding.  Friends will be asking each other, “Did you watch the wedding?”  There will be no need to mention which wedding as the images of Prince Harry’s wedding will be foremost on everyone’s mind.

Prince Harry’s wedding made history.  Not just because the Prince is a male descendant within Buckingham Palace.  That alone made it unique.  But what stood out even more with this wedding was the breaking of traditions which had been in place for centuries.  Harry married an American.  His bride is not only American and thus not of a royal or European title, she is a divorced American actress of biracial birth.  And she brought that culture into the ceremony.  This British royal wedding had an American minister who brought a fiery message about the love of Jesus.  And let’s not forget about the African American choir singing joyously.  All of this and more has marked this wedding as a remarkable event on many levels.  According to tradition, Megan Markle should never have stepped foot inside St. George’s chapel on May 19, 2018.  But there was a Prince who had a deep enough love for her who chose to break traditional boundaries in order to have the one he loved accepted into his world.  He gave a token of his love to his bride, a ring made of jewels from his own royal mom’s collection.  His bride accepted that token with joy and love shinning through her eyes!

There is another royal wedding coming.  It will also capture the attention of the world.  And like Megan Markle, the bride should not be able to enter into this ceremony.  Much planning is going into the wedding.  Every detail is being worked out.  And the Head of the Family is the One giving the final approval.

Who is this Bride?  Me.  And hopefully, You.  The Groom is Jesus.  The Family line is Holy.  No Bride can enter into this marriage without being holy.  No bride is worthy of this holiness.  Yet Jesus’ love was so great, He chose to break the wall between His Father’s holy throne and the human race that is born into sin.  His token of love He has already offered – His death on a cross. He bled for me to be accepted into His Father’s world.

All of humanity will be watching this wedding, yet not all will be guests inside the ceremony.  For some, they will always remain outside the royal, heavenly home.  They will watch from a place heated with a tormenting separation from all that is holy.  Why?  Because they refused the invitation – Jesus and His cross.

There is coming a wedding day.  One that will outshine all others.  One that will bring a joy no human has ever known.  I AM THAT ROYAL BRIDE!  I AM MARRYING THE KING OF ALL KINGS!  My goal is to learn all I can to make my heart and my life ready for the day I will be dressed in His glory to be His Bride. I choose to give up my previous way of life and prepare to rule with my King!  I am preparing for that day!  How about you?

Accept His expression of love today.  Let’s get ready for our own eternal Royal Wedding!

Catching Foxes

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It takes two to make a relationship work well.  A team.  A give and take.  Iron sharpening iron.  We see this played out in every area of life whether in personal relationships, a body of believers, or in business partners coming together to make a deal.  It’s that art of working together which makes us learn to be accountable.  Yes!  That ‘A’ word we often want to avoid.

Accountability.  No matter where we are in life, what position we hold, what responsibilities we do or do not have, accountability should be our constant companion. How many times do we hear of someone’s “fall from grace” and on the heels of the news we learn that no one around them was asking the hard questions.

Recently, I spoke with someone who was walking through difficult situations in both personal life and ministry.  She confided that although she had acknowledged to others she was facing some struggles, few reached out because they viewed her as ‘strong enough’ to not really need them.  Yet that thought process is rarely a glimpse of reality.  In fact, last I read, we are all fallible humans.

Our Creator knew this truth.  He purposefully designed us to NEED MORE than ourselves.  If we did not need more, we would not need to have a relationship with a Deity greater than ourselves.  He also created us to desire and need connection to others in our lives.  He wanted us to learn more about Him by learning more about healthy relationships.

We all have heard the saying, “No man is an island.”  Even Christ lived this truth while on Earth when He chose to live with His disciples.  And in His darkest hour, He took three men to the garden with Him to pray.  Christ knew the fight He was about to face was one that, in His humanity, He could not fight alone.  He needed the strength gained by having others pray with Him.

It was always His plan that none of us would be an island to ourselves.  None of us would be disconnected.  No leader or pastor would be a law unto themselves.  If we won’t allow others to speak into our lives, how can we “rightfully” speak into the lives of others?  That is how the iron sharpens the iron.

 “Catch the foxes, the little foxes, before they ruin our vineyard in bloom.”          Song of Songs 2:15 (CEV) 

No matter the type of relationship – marriage, dating, co-workers, friends, or our church family – outside circumstances will work to destroy its growth.  The style in which Song of Songs is written causes us to not always understand who is speaking in the verse.  But the words of verse 15 applies the plural nature, making the statement clear:  “Let us fight together to catch the foxes that are hiding, ready to destroy what holds our promise of growing in our trust of each other.”  We all need the trench buddies that we can trust to be at our side and not betray our hiding place.

Ultimately, there is one main relationship to not allow the foxes to destroy.  Our relationship with God Himself.  The enemies fighting that relationship often are small.  Little compromises.  Ignoring that still small voice.  Little indulgences.  Not guarding our spoken words. Letting activities steal our time.  It all fights our connection to our Lord.  That is where the accountability is most important.  When that is broken, our earthly relationships become weak.

Accountability also requires meeting one on one with either mentors or friends who are comfortable to ask the hard questions.  It’s the hard questions that are needed.  The ones that help us to examine our own hearts and motives.  Questions like —–

“How is your heart talk?” 

“What is your attitude to your children?” 

“What happened to the trust you had in your spouse, boss, leader, yourself?” 

“Who’s voice are you listening to?  Who are you secretly talking with?” 

  “How is your prayer life?” 

“Who’s controlling you?  God? Others? Your emotions?” 

“What are you dwelling on in your thoughts?”    

“How well are you fighting the temptations to compromise?  Are your boundaries still clear or becoming blurred?”  

“Who do you need to forgive today?”   

“Is there a scripture to back up how you feel?” 

  “Who’s approval are you seeking?  God’s or man’s?”

Becoming accountable means becoming vulnerable.  You choose to lay it all out there.  The good.  The bad.  The ugly.  There is beauty in watching Him meet you in the broken places.  It is allowing someone else who is trustworthy to see the hidden side of you, walk with you through the mess, and rejoice in the tools you learn as you become whole again.  A you that is more like Christ.

Accountability sets a trap for the foxes in life.  Lack of accountability often ends up in broken relationships.  Too often our defenses block us from allowing others to speak into our lives.  We think they cannot understand where we are.  They just don’t grasp the full picture.  And we walk away, taking our hurts and offenses with us.  Leaving behind us a trail of brokenness.

Being vulnerable.  It is not easy.  It takes courage.  And a desire to become who you were meant to be.  But it is the stuff that makes us better individuals and better as a whole community.

Being raised in ministry, I can relate to the young woman struggling alone.  My heart was always after God.  That resulted in being in leadership from the time I was in middle school.  But looking back, I can honestly say very few people actually knew me.  The real me.  The struggles that only my heart and God heard about.  And with that lack of mentoring came brokenness.  Thankfully for me, it drew me to depend on Jesus even more.  But too often that is not the case.  Too often the broken ones stumble in their hurt, or completely walk away from truth………and no one is there to help.  Honestly, I do not always WANT the hard questions.  But I NEED them.  We ALL do!

Are we joining together and setting fox traps?  Or do we just come to a service on Sunday, get our feel good on, then go our separate ways for the week?  Do our local churches look like community life or is it just a weekly event because of an obligation to a place or person?  Are we truly connected and vulnerable with each other, or could we just be playing the part?  Are our pastors meeting one on one with someone that speaks into their lives other than their spouse; someone who will hear those hidden talks of the heart?  If not, the fox trap has not been set.

Let’s choose to be trap setters!  Let’s make a difference in the world around us by becoming vulnerable and trustworthy to each other.  Let’s catch the foxes before the vine is destroyed.

Who will take this journey with me?  Let’s set the traps together!

 

 

All For One

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Have you ever been in a situation where you kept asking yourself, “Why am I here?”  I have.  Often.  In fact, many times during this last season of life.  The elephant in the room of my life recently has been, “God, this is not what I am called to do.  My heart is to be ministering and teaching Your word, not being in the marketplace.”  The struggle has been real.  Until the day a co-worker asked for counseling.  Then came that still small voice.

“It’s all for one.”

All for one!  It is a simple concept we all know.  My boys learned it early from watching The Three Musketeers.  And we teach about it in the church.  We remind each other that wherever we are in life, we are to look for that ‘one’ He might be wanting us to reach out to and help.  Yet, the struggle to see it often is difficult when we seem to hit a wall  day after day and our hearts are longing for something else.  But we have the greatest example of Someone who left everything He had done since time began and reached out to the one human race.  And He would have done it for even just one individual.  John 4 tells of a time Christ visited a town just for one woman.

History tells of a people group called ‘Samaritans’.   They were a ‘mixed breed’ of people that were a result of Babylon conquering Judah.  The king of Assyria  took most of the people back to the Babylonian Empire.  Those who were left behind intermarried with non-Jewish people that migrated into the region.  In time, this interracial group became known as Samaritans.  They had their own way of life and worship.  By the time of Jesus, most Jews despised the Samaritans even more than they did the Gentiles.  Why?  Partly because they were seen as ‘half-breeds’ in both their culture and faith.

If one was to travel from Jerusalem to Galilee, the shortest route was through Samaria.  Yet many Jews of that day avoided Samaria and took a longer route.  Their reasoning was to not be in contact with those who they considered no better than a dog.

But not Jesus!  John 4:4 says He NEEDED to go through Samaria.  Why?  For one.  One woman.  One testimony.  One domino effect on a city.  Several aspects of this story stands out.  His actions did not fit that which society deemed proper for a godly rabbi. It was about noon and the women usually went tin groups to draw water earlier in the morning.  But He knew there was one woman who was perhaps rejected by others and would go to the well alone later in the day.  So He sat and waited for her.  Rabbi’s did not speak to women in public.  Neither did the men ask to drink from a woman’s cup.  But Christ spoke to her and asked for a drink.  Why did He do all of this?  He was goal oriented on reaching that one!  The result: she ran into town and brought others back to hear what this Teacher had to say.  The domino effect.

As He started reminding me of the ‘all for one’ mentality, I started looking back on the last ten years of my life.  Our family and ministry has gone through many unexpected twists and turns.  They have not always been fun or easy.  And I have heard myself so often cry out, “God, really?!  Why are we here?!”  Yet looking back, I see the ‘ones’ that are now walking in freedom, called to minister, healed, redeemed, and much more.

Why move us to Missouri?  For the young adult who was starting down a wrong path but is now preaching the Word to young people.  The young woman who visited on a Sunday, accepted Christ, and was killed in a car accident the following week.  The worship leader who was set free from generational curses and is operating now in spiritual gifts she had never known before.  The high school students from broken homes that showed up at our dinner table weekly and experienced a functional family unit.

And each of these are now having a domino effect in their world.

Why the move back to Louisiana?  To be at my mom’s side the last few months of her life.  To see young adults walk away from a life of drugs and are now preaching.  For those who left promiscuous lifestyles and now teach faith and purity to others.  And for the one who rescued from suicide that now travels the world sharing the gospel.

Our society often judges a person’s success in ministry the way the world sees success in business.  For instance, if you have a large congregation or a large ministry, you must be more anointed and successful than that one who has a small group or is in a small community.  Yet the realization I have come experience is that Jesus, in His great love for even ‘the one’, will allow the paths of our lives to take unexpected turns for that ‘one’.  Christ is more interested in us allowing our lives to be turned upside down for just one then He is in how success we appear to be in the eyes of other.  That one may even have a domino effect and in time represent masses of people scattered from location to location.  Are we willing to follow an ever turning path?  Can we see the bigger picture?

Recently, while honoring the life of Billy Graham, we have seen clips of the thousands of people who attended his crusades.  But how many of us remember the name of the minister who’s message changed Billy’s life?  That man’s ministry had a domino effect to millions.  Those of us on earth may not know his name, but our Heavenly Father does.  And He counts the domino effect for eternity.

What about you?  Who is the one in your life that He placed for you to reach?  Are you willing to have your entire life unexpectnantly turned upside down, your ministry put on a shelf for a while, as you are sent to the marketplace and your dreams seems to be lost without hope of returning, all for reaching one?  Are you looking to be a Billy Graham, or are you willing to have your life take unexpected turns to reach the Billy Graham’s around you?

To paraphrase a verse from scripture, I challenge each of us today:  Test Him. See that there is no greater love, or joy, than to lay your life, your dreams, your hopes, your home down for reaching even one person today!  (My version of John 15:13)  There may be pain and disappointment at times along the way, but one day you will see the results domino in your life!

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”  1 John 3:16

 

 

The Scarlet Bow-tied Gift

PSX_20171224_230733I love so much about Christmas.  Even though I realize Christ was probably not born on December 25th, especially since that date originally was a pagan holiday, it still brings me great joy to hear His name proclaimed in the carols being played everywhere.  I enjoy proclaiming, “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” as strangers greet me with a “Merry Christmas!”  And it’s fun to watch their expressions at the non-traditional reply.  I also enjoy some of our own family traditions.

Every year my family knows there will be that gift, or several of them, carefully wrapped by my husband.  He would have put much thought into his every action.  There may be a drawing on the package, or an encouraging note, or even a riddle to be solved. Sometimes we find another wrapped box….. and another…… and another…, until we finally find the true treasure hidden through the cardboard wrapped layers.  But with each of those ‘gifts’, he took thought into every detail of what he wanted accomplished in order to bring great joy to the receiver.

The birth of Jesus is much the same as those layered gifts.  That first true gift of Christ came with a scarlet ribbon.  A scarlet sacrifice.  See, God is into details.  He personally wrapped each story in scripture in such a way for us to find another scarlet-ribbon-tied gift waiting to be unwrapped.  And He gets excited thinking of the joy that we will find in that last unwrapped gift.  The story of Christ’s birth is full of such deeper meanings.  The well known verses tie Luke’s account to the many previous ‘gifts’ given by our Creator.

Looking into some of these layered gifts of Christmas, I have often pondered the gift given by heavenly beings to local shepherds.  After all, the task of caring for sheep was considered as a hard, lowly and dirty job.  So, what was so important about this group to cause heavenly beings to personally tell them about the birth of the Messiah?  Simple.  They understood Hebrew Temple worship.  After all, they were Levitical shepherds.  Priests.  Men who’s duty was raising sacrificial lambs.  Men who recognized the details of the deeper, hidden gifts.

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”  Luke 2:8

The region of Bethlehem was home to thousands of lambs.  The Hebrew Torah gave God’s instructions for temple sacrifices which took place every morning and evening.  That would be a total of 730 sacrificial lambs a year, plus tens of thousands more lambs needed for the feast of Passover and other holy days.

“And you, O Midgal Eder, tower of the flock……the former dominion shall come…..”  Micah 4:8

In the northern part of Bethlehem, less than an hour’s journey by foot to Jerusalem’s temple, was the tower known as Migdal Eder, the “watch-tower of the flock.”  This was an area prepared for the raising of these sacrificial lambs.  During lambing season, shepherds would bring their sheep from the fields to the lower level of this tower.  The lower level was the place designated as the ‘birthing rooms’ for the lambs.

“…..you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:10

What is missing in this well known verse?  Look at it.  There is a detail here for us to find.  Keep digging!  It’s prophetic!  Every detail of the Levitical Priests’ duty was tied to that ultimate Lamb.  Look closely at the verse and see the hidden truth – the angels gave no directions as to where to find this babe!  No, “down the hill, turn left, near the stop sign.”  Just, “you shall find….”  Obviously these shepherd priests knew where to go.

By Levitical order, the lower level of the flock’s watch tower had double-hewn depressions from limestone rock known as “the manger.”   After birthing, the shepherds placed male lambs into the manger and swaddled them in cloths in order to keep them from thrashing around and bringing themselves harm.  These cloths of gauze-like strips which were required in order for a sacrifice to be valid.  They remained swaddled in the manger until they had calmed down enough to be inspected for any spot or blemish.  Those without spot or blemish became sacrificial lambs.

In Hebrew, the word for ‘without spot or blemish’ is tamiym.  It means complete, whole, entire, sound.  This tamiyd was sacrificed the third hour of each morning, the same time as Jesus, Yeshua haMashiach, was sacrificed!  The last wrapped box of the gift was sacrificed in tradition with the daily temple sacrifice.  The birth and death tied into one.   Hidden details.

Do you see this hidden gift?  It’s big!  These shepherds understood.  The angels spoke their language.  And this group of priests were sent to validate my sacrificial Lamb!  His birth was the scarlet ribbon which ties the entire package of His Love together.  The first gift was tied scarlet red and led to the last box, the true gift of our Sacrificial Lamb.  Each detail of the night of His birth has a hidden scarlet bow just waiting for us to receive His gift of sacrificial love.  From the beginning Christ understood that His birth led to His death.  He knew the meanings…..and sanctioned the very act!  He had to be bound.  He had to be hidden in the cleft of the rock.  He had to be inspected by the priests, these Levitical Shepherds, in order to be found spotless.  He had to be birthed in a birthing room near Jerusalem to be set aside as a sacrifice.  It’s in the details.  Neatly tied in red.  This message to the Levitical Bethlehem shepherds proclaimed, “You will find The Spotless Lamb of God swaddled in His protection.”  No doubt they understood the full meaning of these words.  It was in the details.

What about the details of your life?  Like the shepherds, is there a hidden message in the words you are hearing?  Others might see your walk as messy, off track, not the normal outward ‘look’.  But God knows the wrapped boxes that are layered inside.  They, too, are prophetic for your life.  And He has them neatly tied in a bow of His love.  Christ knew His birth was tied by the scarlet bow to His sacrificial death.  And He embraced it!

This year, give Him a gift in return.  Take time to get along with your Yeshua.  He’s calling.  Like Christ, embrace what has been given to you by your Father.   He has a deeper message for you than what others are hearing.  He’s in the details!

And this year, let’s celebrate that special wrapped gift Himself –  Yeshua haMashiach!!  

He’s speaking your language.  Listen!  He’s calling……………….

He Knows My Name!

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“And Rhonda, I know who you are!”

Although I can still hear the words being thrown my way, at that moment it didn’t earn my full attention.  The words were not spoken out of admiration. They were intended to intimidate.  Yet I stood there focused on another person in the room whom I had originally gone to comfort.  The accusatory voice coming from the one who was now pinned up against the wall did not phase me as I knew its source.  It was pure evil.  But I chose to ignore it.  The person against the wall was a dear friend.  The voice was not that of my friend, but a spirit that was attempting to control my friend as well as distract me from my mission.  That spirit was not going to win.  Not on my watch!  And not while I was in the room with others who also were precious to me……..and precious to my Father.

Years have passed since that evil spirit called out my name.  Looking back, I now rejoice at the changed lives represented in the room that day.  Each of them I consider as valued friends.  From the broken person whom I went to comfort, to the one who was pinned, to those observing, and yes, even to myself, each of us have grown much since that day.  However, just recently my Father revealed an important truth to me.  Often I’ve looked back on that day and wondered why I did not address the spirit.  In Christ I have authority to cast out demons.  But I stood there, glanced its way, then asked someone else to intervene while I focused on my original purpose.  I’ve questioned myself often, attempting to judge as to whether my actions were out of fear or lack of confidence.  Recently while pondering on this again, I heard another voice, that Still Small Voice, whisper, “He knew your name.”

Time stood still.  I looked off and let those words sink in deeper.

“He knew your name.”

Yes.  So……………why is that important?

“He knew your name because you know MY NAME.”

Whoa!  That’s it!  Our enemy knows who we are if we purpose to KNOW HIM!  Not just know His Name, but KNOW Him……..who He really is.  Like the account in Acts. Intimately.  Passionately desiring a deeper relationship with our Savior.  Through that relationship comes the understanding of the authority we have over evil spirits.  Demons tremble just hearing His name!  And they are aware of people who live by that Name.

In Acts 19, we read the account of a group who knew of Jesus.  In our day we would call them ‘name droppers.’  They had heard, and probably had witnessed, the miracles God preformed through Paul.  The group of men were known to be exorcists, but one day they “took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits. (v13)  The result was not something they expected:

“And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ ” (v15) NKJ

Their attempts had failed.  They ‘name dropped’ without actually knowing the Person. For me, as the evil spirit called my name, he acknowledged to those in the room that I had an active, solid relationship with my Creator.  The spirit who wanted to accuse  became a character witness on my behalf!  In a season of my life which I was at times struggling with my understanding, He chose to let me know that even my soul’s enemy saw that I still clung to the only rock of my salvation – JESUS!

As the impact of this realization hit, I closed my eyes and breathed to my Lord, “He knew my name.  Lord!  He knew my name!  Because I made You my everything, he didn’t ask for my name.  He called my name.”  It’s a humbling thought to recognize that God trusts you in such a situation.  That’s what the writer was referring to in Psalms 91:

 “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the shadow  of   the Almighty………….(you) shall not be afraid of the terror by night………….Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you…………………you shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.”        v1,5,9,13 NKJ

It’s all about relationship.  Relationship with Jesus grows as we choose to learn more about who He is and what is important to Him.  He is more than just a name to cry out as a way to escape an uncomfortable situation.  He is the strength that helps you walk through that situation.  He doesn’t promise to keep the evil from ever fighting against you.  The promise is that the evil will not win over you because He will hold your hand and give you the strategy to overcome evil.  Our battle becomes His.

The fact that a demon knows your name is not significant in itself.  What is valuable to remember is the fact that a demon knows your name because your relationship with Jesus is solid.  Your obedience to Him threatens the very works of demonic powers.  Of greater value is that you know your Savior and recognize the power given you as you speak His Name.

There will be no complaints if I never hear my name called again by an evil spirit.  But should it occur, I have confidence in knowing My Center.  He is the Rock which I have chosen to build my life upon.  My strength, my understanding, my everything comes from knowing Him.  My goal in life – to make Him known.

And most importantly He, Jesus, KNOWS MY NAME!  Does He know yours?

 

 

 

 

 

Ashes

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We all remember where we were that day when we got the news.  Every year we still relive it.  And each year it’s just as true as it was the year prior.

Ashes.  It’s all that was left of skyscrapers on that fateful day.  If you were anywhere within the vicinity of the Twin Towers when the planes flew into them, you can still see the explosion, hear the terror of screams, see people jumping from windows high above, and the the pile of ashes when it all came down.  You can still feel that sense of, “This can’t be happening!”  The images that played out on our TV screens are burned upon all of our memories.  So are the stories of the people who were there experiencing that surreal day in our country’s history.

Ashes.  They represent ‘something that was.’   Something that mattered, yet was destroyed through the heat of a burning fire.  At the time of it’s destruction, often disillusionment and grief quickly follow.  The many thoughts of ‘what could have been’ or ‘what should have been’ flood our minds.  And we face the dreams that were just lost among those ashes.

Once the fire is gone and the ashes are all that’s left, often we sift through the remains hoping to find any buried treasure from the past that may have survived.  Like the iconic cross from September 11th.  It stood as a sign that there was still hope that could be found in God above.

Recently I took a trip with my son, Steffen.  It was a trip that had become very familiar to us through the years.  Our destination was near a place that had represented hurt and betrayal not too many years ago.  The circumstances our family found ourselves in during that season was one that brought disillusion and discouragement to each of us.  The fire that tried our family was one that actually attempted to destroy our very faith.  Now, years later as we traveled the familiar highway, we started reliving events at various exits along the road.

“That’s where we met you on the road headed up for the interview.”

“This exit has a Baskin Robbins.”

“This is the exit we met up with friends.”

As we relived those fun memories, we laughed at dad’s constant hunt for an exit where he could get ice cream.  We smiled with memories of times with the friends we had made on our journey.  With each mile we drove, I felt God bringing healing in those small areas I did not even know still existed.  By the time we arrived at our destination, we had realized how rich our lives had become due to that season of testing.

At the end of that highway, we also reconnected with people who had walked that journey with us.  Having lunch with friends that day, I listened to things that God was doing in their lives.  I saw the joy on faces as we reconnected with each other, shared stories and pictures of families, and just enjoyed being together again.

Driving back home after the weekend, I reflected on our time with friends.  I felt healed and so full.  That still small voice spoke to me.  “You found My jewels among the ashes.  The fire was intense during that season, but it produced jewels that are left pure and resilient – shining brightly with My Love.”

What about you?  Has your journey left ashes all around you?  I encourage you to go back and see what remains.  The jewels you find might surprise you.  For the Master  Craftsman always enjoys making beauty our of the ashes of our lives.

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Outpouring

20170708_080615While our kids were small, we set aside Monday nights as our family night.  With the weekends busy in ministry, we wanted to make sure our family time was not ignored.  Once the kids were home from school, it was just our family.  No phones or appointments.  Our goal was to have quality time and fun memories as a family.  One of our family outings was going to feed ducks.  Recently, I started working at an office next to the same pond we visited in those early years.  On my breaks and at lunch, I often walk to the pond to feed ducks.  Most days the creatures that come are not the ducks but the turtles.  It’s fascinating to watch the turtles come from every area of the pond once I’m standing near the edge.  I may not see the shell as they swim my way, but the small head is seen coming toward me and the ripples of the water are proof that they are coming.  There’s probably about 20 turtles that come to feed.  As I throw the bread or crackers in the water, it’s a frenzy of small heads and hard shells fighting for a crumb.  Turtles crawl on top of the shells of other turtles  in order to reach just a crumb of bread.  There are a few very large soft shell turtles.  Their effort is to try not to get caught in the middle of the hard-shell frenzy, yet they rush towards the giver just the same.  Lately, I’ve stood watching in contemplation of what is happening.  The turtles just sense my presence when I’m walking up.  They don’t know if I have bread or not on that day, but they know that I, and others that come, often come prepared to feed them morsels from our own table.  And they are hungry.  And as they rally for the crumbs, they appear to have an unquenchable hunger.

Hunger.  As I watch the ‘gathering’ and frenzy of turtles, it strikes me, ‘That should be us seeking for His prescence.’  How often do we hear people speak of wanting an outpouring, but how many make their way to a personal prayer room seeking it?  And continue to do so.  Daily if need be. Just the movement toward that place of prayer would create a ripple effect and draw others.  Like the turtles, we should desire an unstoppable, unquenchable desire that will thrust us into action.  Our excitement should be contagious and cause others to also hunger.

Often I hear so talk about wanting an outpouring.  A revival.  A new awakening.  But life happens.  We can’t always attend every meeting.  But if we have an unquenchable hunger for His presence, it will be a priority to run toward the Giver as often as possible. Too often other things take priority when a call for fasting or an outpouring service is announced.  As I watch the turtles, I think of what it would be like if every time there was a gathering of believers seeking outpouring they all came ‘hungry’, expecting an outpouring.  They wouldn’t know if that day would be the day they would leave full, but they believe one day it will happen as they continue to come.   That belief ripples to others.  It causes hope.  Jesus saw the both hope and hunger in the people and was moved to respond and meet the need.

True revival cost something.  I don’t want just another good service.  And I don’t want revival just to keep it to myself.  I want an outpouring in order for His Spirit to ripple out of me to others!  I’m believing!  How about you?  Do you believe enough to shut yourself in a prayer closet some place and then go gather with others who also believe?  Don’t give you until He shows up!  I challenge you to do so.  It will ripple to others…..and He WILL respond!

I dare you to believe!    #tohostHisPresence #senseHispresence #comehungry