At the Altar

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

 

At the Altar 2Quiet chatter filled the church. Warm red light streamed down from the stained-glass windows on to the trail of pink rose petals. The organ pipes began to bellow announcing the bride. White waves of fabric rolled down the red carpet and abruptly halted just short of the altar.  This was the day she’d been waiting for—her dream come true. Yet, something briefly hindered her from moving forward.

The excitement and confidence she once held turned swiftly into a mountain of fear. Her thoughts became lost in a sea of doubt. I’m about to be a wife. What does this mean for me? She felt her identity and freedom slipping away, never to be found again.

The groom stood smiling and ready to receive his beloved bride. He looked forward to lifting her veil and kissing her cherry-blossomed lips. He marveled at the sacrifice she was making to live their dream together. The oneness and intimacy they longed to share together was about to become a life-long reality. What could be sweeter?

She took a deep breath and stepped forward. Her father stepped back and the pastor initiated the exchange of vows. From this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health each of them promised to love and cherish one another. Rings, symbolizing their new- found covenant, graced each of their fingers. The thoughts returned. What am I doing? Why am I doing this?

Then she remembered the day her mother presented her with a thin gold band with a small solitaire encased in a heart. The card read, “My dearest daughter, this promise ring is a reminder of who you are. You’re the bride of Jesus. He sacrificed himself for you so you could live freely in union with Him. You’re pure and blameless in His sight.  Someday, you will meet your prince, and the two of you shall become one. Until then, wait. Remain faithful.”

Her fear subsided and her thoughts returned to the altar. What a sacred place of beautiful sacrifice and union between man and woman. My marriage reflects my union with Christ. My sacrifices become gain because I’m living a life of unity with my true love. Oh, what we can accomplish together.

Jesus is coming back again to wed His bride, the church and restore His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven (Rev. 19 & 21).  The question is, are we ready?

Don’t dismiss what you are capable of when you surrender fleshly desires to live a life of unity with Christ.   Your life is not over; it’s just beginning.

Advertisements

Dive Deep

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dive Deep

The Deep is calling your name. I’m not talking about the 1977 underwater adventure film. Rather, I’m talking about an underwater spiritual adventure with God. He’s calling His children to swim out into deeper waters. He’ll meet you there and show you mysterious and beautiful treasures you haven’t seen before. But you’ll have to leave the comfortable, shallow water and tread out. Further. Deeper. Explore. Trust.

Those who don’t explore are like children and less adventurous adults who splash around and play on the shore. Colorful Frisbees fly through the air and into hands, occasionally skimming the water’s surface. Excitement, fun, laughter lie within the borders of safety.

While the shore might be fun, outside the shore’s safety awaits a world of beauty. Divers who take time to learn scuba skills can float effortlessly at the bottom of the sea and gain a different perspective than those who stay at the shore.

In the depths of the deep blue, in solitude and silence, the darkness is brightened by neon yellow angel fish and orange clown fish. They swim around and beneath you, into the swaying coral. Joy, peace and awe flood your spirit. All is well with your soul. You realize there’s more to life than what the world offers.

When I was a child learning how to swim, the instructor kept me in the shallow end of the pool until I learned basic swim skills. Casually, she led me out to the deep end. I was afraid, but I swam out to meet her because I trusted her. She had my best interest at heart, and I believed she would save me if I was in danger.

It is not much different on our Christian journey. Our swim instructor, The Holy Spirit, comforts, teaches, and guides us into all truth. Playing in shallow water is fun and necessary as the first step to learning to get comfortable in our new-found relationship with Jesus.

But He stands in deep water beckoning us to swim to Him. Father God stands by His side. He is ready to provide for us and protect us from any immediate threat. He unveils more truth and beauty the deeper you dive. The Lord is saying, “Call to me and I will answer and reveal to you wondrous secrets that you haven’t known” (Jer.33:3).

Here are 3 simple steps to go deeper with God.

  1. Desire more of God. Don’t be content with the status quo. The more you seek God, the more you know God. The more you know God, the more you seek God. The spiritually hungry never get full; they get hungrier. Nothing compares to knowing Him. “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You” (Psalms 73:25 MEV).
  2.  Draw near to God. And He will draw near to you (James 4:8). Jesus is singing, “Darling, if you want me to be closer to you, get closer to me.” Do something every day that makes you feel closer to God. Take a long stroll in the park. Contemplate His goodness. Converse with Him. Expect. Journal.
  3. Dive Deep. Don’t remain in a casual relationship with the Lord. But “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalms 37:4 NIV). When we open ourselves up to experiencing God in new ways, we mature in our faith and find enjoyment and rest.  Do something you haven’t done before like dancing, drawing or painting while you worship the one you adore. He’s bound to whisper wondrous secrets and unbury beautiful treasures. How exciting!

Going deeper is about intimacy with the one who made you and breathed life into you. Take the plunge, cool off and allow His Spirit to saturate you. Then emerge from the water refreshed and fully alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shine

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

bride image“Shelley Renee!”  My mother would say about three octaves higher than normal. This familiar sound often sent me into a tailspin.  What did I do now? I knew this spelled trouble. “Shame on you! You should know better. Don’t smack at the table. Sit up straight. Share with your sister. ”

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t do anything right? Like you wanted to run and hide?

That’s how shame affects us. Many people confuse shame with guilt, but they are two different things. Guilt says you made a mistake while shame screams you are a mistake.

I unknowingly carried shame well into my adult years. Like a hermit crab buried deep within its shell, my growth stunted. Then I had a life-changing encounter with Jesus that reversed the way I saw myself, God and others. Although I wasn’t a terribly rebellious child, I wasn’t an angel either. The biggest way I acted out and caused my parents grief came in the form of talking back—in repressed anger. I sought to protect myself by blaming and manipulating others. Eventually, this played out in all my relationships.

I thought I had to perform well to be loved. So, I worked hard to please my parents. I made good grades, got a college degree, a husband, a job and had two beautiful kids. From the world’s standard, I was an American success but deep down I was a mess. I was swallowed up in people-pleasing and felt I didn’t meet the expectations of others. I thought I was a failure.

Finally, I had enough. I was miserable. I wanted to be free from the shame robbing me of the life God intended for me. My freedom journey began when a friend of mine suggested I meditate on scripture about who God says I am and journal what I heard Him reveal to my heart.

What happened next changed my life.  I read Ephesians 1:4-6 through different eyes. I inserted my name in the place of the general pronoun, us. “Before the creation of the world, God chose me through Christ to be holy and perfect in His presence. Because of His love for me he had already decided to adopt me through Jesus Christ. He freely chose to do this so that the kindness He had given me in His dear Son would be praised and given glory.”

 
I continued to seek the Lord’s heart for me and He whispered, “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, you are beautiful! My darling, everything about you is beautiful, and there is nothing at all wrong with you. My sister, my bride, you have thrilled my heart” (Song of Songs 4:1, 7, 9). Woah! A veil had been lifted from my eyes, and I knew I was created first and foremost for God’s pleasure and He fully accepted me because of Jesus. He took my shame and rejection and gave me His glory! I am the crown of God’s creation and so are you. He saved the best for last—humanity. After God completed all creation, He looked at it and declared it all good! You are not a mistake but an intentional vessel of His glory. You were created to shine.

Five simple steps to help you break free of shame:

  1. Meet with Jesus regularly. Find a quiet place free of distractions and ask Him what He likes most about you.
  2. Verbally disagree with the lies you have believed about yourself, God and others.
  3. Ponder and pray until truth penetrates you mind and heart.
  4. Verbally agree with God about who you are and what you can do.
  5. Keep a journal. Write down what God says and review it regularly.

Living on the Edge

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

img_5808

Skydiving, rollercoasters, motorcycle and car races all provide addicting adrenalin rushes. As soon as we finish, we’re ready for more. There’s something about taking risks that scares and excites us at the same time.

In the movie Rebel without a Cause, Jim, portrayed by James Dean, is challenged by his rival to a chickie run. Torn between Preservation and self-honor, he accepts.

 Coincidentally, James Dean died young driving recklessly. He lived on the edge, taking unnecessary, impulsive risks, and it cost him his life.

Self-serving, pleasure-seeking and risky lifestyles can have a high cost. Similarly, Jesus said if we follow Him, it would cost us. So what’s the difference?

Taking risks for Jesus is jumping with a safety net over your life. There might be a cost, but Jesus can pay it for us. He covers us, reimburses us, and provides us with the means to take the plunge.

What if we lived our life on the edge, ready to defend the honor of Christ? What might that look like?

Not long ago, a friend and I were at the bus station of a downtown metropolitan city.  We asked the Lord to show us people He wanted us to minister to.  What seemed like endless minutes passed by before I noticed a couple of teenage girls sitting on a bench. We sat down next to them, but, being an introvert by nature, I was hesitant about beginning a conversation with them.  I prayed—asking God to open a door for me. And He did. Within 10 minutes, the young girl asked me if I could watch her luggage while she and her friend stepped out for a cigarette. Upon her return, I launched out with a couple of questions about where she was heading.

 That day a scared teenager received prayer and love from our Lord because I was willing and available to love, listen, discern and respond to a need.

This is one scenario and, while it didn’t cost me my life, it did cost something. Time. Money. Love.  Comfort. Possible rejection. At the same time, it was exciting and fun—an adrenalin rush.

Living life on the edge could be as simple as offering spontaneous prayer to a stranger or more complex like opening up your home to a stranger. Serving is a natural outflow of Christ living in us and through us.  You never know whose life you might profoundly touch unless you’re willing to take risks and live on the edge.

 Consider these 4 ways to live on the edge for Christ:

  1. Love: Ask God to see people through His eyes.

  2. Listen: Be attentive to the Holy Spirit. Who is he highlighting to you? What thoughts and pictures. spontaneously light upon your mind when you are talking with the individual? Are they in line with God’s character?

  3. Discern: Is there a need you can meet?

  4. Respond: Step out in faith. Share God’s heart for that person with them. Pray with them in expectation of seeing God’s goodness demonstrated. 

In closing, I leave you with these quotes to ponder: “Live as if God still shakes the world.” -Pastor Dan Morris

“He’s in us like a river. He’s not in us like a lake.” -Pastor Bill Johnson

Jesus is alive. Rely on Him and allow His life to flow through you and impact the lives of others. He has given you the gift of His Holy Spirit to empower you. If you are a believer, your mission is, as a friend of mine says, “to boldly go where Jesus has gone before.”

 

 

 

 

Be Careful Little Mouth

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

mouth-1

“At any given moment you have the power to say: this is not how the story is going to end.” -Anonymous

There’s something you might not know about me. I was once a great detective and Nancy Drew was my sidekick. We explored endless intriguing sites together such as a hidden staircase that led to a dusty old attic. On occasion, we hung out with a couple of mischievous brothers known as The Hardy Boys. Life was good and exciting.

Stories told in living color are descriptive in nature. The author’s choice of words has the creative ability to draw the reader into a different world. We momentarily leave our world and enter into the heart and mind of the characters.

This time of year, many will focus on the Nativity Story where God stepped down from eternity to dwell among us: to identify with us and restore mankind.

At the time of Christ’s birth, an angel appeared and said, “I bring good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

The Word is also a name of Jesus (Jn. 1:1). It emphasizes His deity and communicates who God is and what He is like.

Words are an integral part of our life. You wake up and greet your spouse and children with a cheerful good morning. During the day, you find out you have been the victim of a scam. But instead of thinking negatively, you speak positively and believe in God’s nature to restore what has been lost. A few weeks later, a friend gives you an unexpected gift.

Imagine another scenario for a minute. Upon waking, you stretch, yawn and moan, “I hate Mondays.”

As your day unfolds, you encounter one problem after another. You grab a cup of coffee and head toward the door and find you have misplaced your keys. You hurriedly grab the spare set of keys. You hit each light and now you mutter to yourself, “There’s no way I’m going to make it on time.” Needless to say, you arrive late.

Could your words play a part of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

God’s word has the power to accomplish what he intends (Heb.4:12; Is. 55:11). God spoke the universe into being (Gen.1:1-5). Our words also carry creative ability because they send a positive or negative message to our brain. Our brain then acts on that thought.

Let’s return to the quote I opened with. There’s truth to this statement. Our power to change the end of our story rests upon our decision to speak words that are congruent with God’s character. Jesus is the first and final word, and everything in between.

 

Steps and Questions for Reflection:

  1. Stop. Read Ecclesiastes 5:2. When was the last time you found yourself acting with a hasty heart? What part did your emotions play?  Your emotions tell you the truth about what you believe. Sometimes we believe lies.
  2. Think. Read 2 Cor. 10:5. Spend time in a quiet place, free of distractions and use a topical concordance (located in the back of most Bibles) or Google to find a scripture applicable to your situation. Note any words or phrases that stand out and ask God to speak truth to your heart.
  3. Speak. Read Job 22:28. What truth will you declare today over yourself or a seemingly negative situation?

 

Golden Love

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

heart-locketTime turned backward one hour this week. Things around us appear lifeless. Bark hangs bare against grey skies while turning leaves fall on withering grass. Today the clouds have made the sun obsolete.   Rain drops dampen not only the air but also my spirit. Write. Study. Clean. Do laundry. The warmth and comfort of my home calls out to me, stay home. And of course, I’m inclined to obey.

For convenience sake, I put off my civic duty and privilege to vote until Election Day. Voting early requires me to go out of my way. Since I work from home, I have the flexibility and luxury to vote when it’s suits me best. Time is precious and money doesn’t grow on trees, right?

I realize now that convenience isn’t always convenient or perception isn’t necessarily reality. Have you ever felt that way? Last week, I convinced myself it was better to keep quiet than speak up on a matter. After all, silence is golden. I told myself, it’s better to stay out of it. It’s not my problem. This attitude was safer but not truthful. I wanted to remain in my comfort zone. Uninvolved. But God’s word calls us to speak truth into the lives of others (Eph. 4:15).

As a child, I was taught the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto to you (Matt. 7:11). Those well-known words of Jesus whispered in my ear. Then a minute later, I thought rules are also meant to be broken on occasion. No matter how hard I tried ignoring the situation, the words of Jesus grew louder. Motivated by love, I was gently prodded to speak to my friend.

How do we know when love is the motivating factor behind our decisions? When we put the other person’s welfare above our own, we are acting from a humble and pure heart. An element of risk is involved when we subject ourselves to the possibility of rejection. I was haunted by the thought of my friend taking offense and attacking me.

Jesus chose to speak the truth in love to the woman at the well in John 4. He gently and privately exposed her sin. And He did so, without condemning her. By the time she left the well, she knew the way, the truth and the life. Jesus spoke the heart and counsel of God into a life, and so can we. When we know love, we can speak truth boldly, confidently, and gently into the lives of others without fear.

Multiple times, we read examples in scripture where Jesus wasn’t concerned with people’s righteous appearances but rather the heart behind their actions. Love isn’t always simple or easy; it often costs us. Jesus paid the ultimate price for love’s sake: he gave his life so everyone could experience abundant life. Love is golden.

 

 

 

 

Review of The Book of Mysteries

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

The Book of MysteriesPicture a place of the days of old, where times were wild and outlaws bold. Saloons, corrals and a gunfight battle, and to market the cowboys drove the cattle.

This was the first clue my husband wrote for our daughter’s 16th surprise birthday party. A white limo pulled into our driveway, and our daughter was called out to greet it. The door opened, and she suspiciously peeked in to see seven of her closest friends smiling back and yelling surprise. The girls then ventured out on a photo scavenger hunt downtown Fort Worth.

God created our human nature with a bent toward mystery and intrigue. How many of us don’t love to solve a good mystery? Agatha Christie, a best-selling author, still captures readers around the entire world with her brilliant suspenseful story telling.

Rabbi Johnathan Cahn’s newest book, The Book of Mysteries, doesn’t disappoint our insatiable desire to uncover buried treasure. It is written from the standpoint of a sojourner who encounters a teacher in the desert. Their conversation stirs up the man’s curiosity so much that he decides to accept the teacher’s invitation to follow him through his wilderness school for one year.

Each day they venture into new territory, the teacher uses a rabbinical line of questioning to reveal a deep spiritual truth. The teacher explores the Hebrew root meaning of words that bring prophetic insight into scripture. Because of the depth of each day’s topic, I recommend reading it slowly as a daily devotional.

I was mesmerized when I read Day 2: The I Am of all I Ams. I never entertained the thought that God created us to speak of our identity and purpose in Him when we introduce ourselves to one another. Utterly mind-blowing. But just like God.

Most Christians recognize Yeshua as the Hebrew name for Jesus, but did you know it comes from the root word that means to rescue, help, defend, preserve, make free, attain victory, bring to safety, heal, and save? Wow! That’s quite a comprehensive definition.

A picture of Jesus entering Jerusalem humbly on a donkey entered my mind as I continued to read. The people welcome him with palm leaves and cheer, “Hosanna!” (Mk. 11:9). The origin of the word hosanna means to save or rescue.

Remember Zacchaeus? A wee little man was he, he climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see. Upon entering the home of Zacchaeus, Jesus proclaimed, “Today salvation has come to this house…” (Lk. 19:9).

I pondered the simple but profound statement made by the teacher, “Jesus is the answer to everything.” Then it occurred to me, the word yes appears in His name. For the promises of God in Him are yes, and in Him amen, to glory of God through us (2 Cor. 1:20). Through some research of my own, I discovered the word yes comes from the old English word that means to be.

I found this book to be fascinating and truly thought-provoking. There’s much to glean, ponder and journal. Whether you are a seeker or a believer, this book is for you. Prepare for an encounter. Come with an open mind and heart, and a pen in your hand.

 

 

Limitless

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

LF Freedom Image (2)I began to lose my grip from the beads of sweat forming inside the palm of my hands.  It didn’t help that a man bumped into me causing me to stumble.  If it weren’t for the strength and quick reflexes of my other friends, who each carried a corner of the mat, I would have dropped him right in the middle of the crowd. We found a moment of relief from the heat beating down on us under a palm tree nearby. I considered giving up but then I heard the rustle of leaves from overhead. I tilted my head in the direction of the sound and had a thought. There was another route to Jesus we hadn’t thought of yet.

In the story of the paralytic, we see faith overcoming obstacles. Crowds blocked the entrance to the home where Jesus was ministering, but four determined men pressed onward and came up with a solution.  They would make their way to the roof and lower their friend down into the presence of Jesus. Why? Because they were certain if they did, their dear friend would walk again.

These men were not paralyzed by fear, pride or discouragement. They did not allow a stronghold to keep them from pursuing truth. Strongholds are false belief systems, which hinder the abundant life we were meant to live.  Often we’re not aware of their presence. Sometimes we need others to help us enter God’s presence and receive what we need from Him.

I remember a time in my life when I was desperate to be free from negative thoughts that plagued me. I was always worried about what others thought about me. It was stealing my joy and peace. At the time, I attended a women’s prayer group where I would hear stories of women being set free through personal encounters with Jesus. These women helped me leave my comfort zone and brought me into His presence. They held the corners of my mat, and I received heart revelation about my true identity and purpose. I took what I learned through being a part of that group and applied it at home on a regular basis. Today, I am freer because I have learned to recognize my need and receive from God.

You were created to walk, run, dance and even fly! Anything less is a limitation within your creative divine design. Today, ask yourself what is limiting you? Most of the restrictions we place on ourselves are based on lies we believe. Receiving and resting in God’s love through contemplative prayer brings us into His presence and makes us whole: limitless. Who is holding the corners of your mat?

*The story of  the paralytic is found in Mark 2:1-5

 

 

Four Simple Ways to Add More Joy to your Life

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

maxresdefault[1]The current events of the world have left many people feeling our nation is without hope. Disappointment turns our joy into sadness. Fear breeds anger and disgust. How do we remain joyful in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us? Joy is about choosing to respond to life with faith. Hebrews 11 tells us that faith is a conviction of things not seen. Here are four ways to experience hope and peace, which bring joy.

  1. Turn despair into hope. When despair leaves you with a heavy heart, take joy in simple pleasures. Cultivate an everyday awareness of God, and reflect on His goodness. What makes you feel close to Him? Here are some activities that work for me.
  •  Take a long, brisk walk in a nearby park.
  • Stroll a local museum featuring some of your favorite art.
  • Pack a picnic lunch with some of your favorite foods
  • Grab a good devotional book, journal and pen, and head to a tranquil place.
  • Listen to music that speaks to your heart.

Life is full of distractions; destress and declutter your soul. Be intentional. If you work, consider your lunch break as a time to draw near to God. Scripture promises us if we draw near to Him, He draws near to us, and we’ll find fullness of joy in His presence (James 4:8; Psalm 16:11).

2. Turn disappointment into His appointment.

Ask God what He’s saying or teaching you through life’s trials. When my husband was laid off from a well-paying job and when my daughter’s surgery expenses loomed heavily over us, God was busy teaching me not to let my circumstances dictate my future. He’s much bigger than any giants I face. God is able to do more than I expect or imagine when I put my trust in Him (Eph. 3:20; 2 Cor. 4:18).

3. Turn discouragement into encouragement.

Live by truth, not feelings. Guard your mind, heart and words against negativity. We give power to what we agree with. Spend time in God’s Word: read, meditate and journal. Be creative. I have found that coloring while meditating on scripture brings me peace and renews my mind (Prov. 4:23; Lk. 6:45; Rom. 12:2).

4. Turn depression into compassion.

God gave us feelings. How we use our feelings is up to us. We can choose to use them for good or bad. Embracing an attitude of gratitude is critical. Thankfulness flows from recognizing everything we have is a gift from Him. When we are thankful, it’s nearly impossible to entertain negative emotions. Giving thanks births love, compassion and joy. We love because God first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). Let love guide you, and fill you with His compassion.

Turn darkness into light by piercing it with joy. How we live our lives affects those around us. We reap what we sow. What will you choose to sow today? Will it be acts of love and kindness inspired by God? Or acts rooted in fear and evil? You choose. You can live joyful or fearful.

Not a Wind-up Toy but a Sailboat: How to Let Go and Let God

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Segeljacht_Guppy_in_Den_Osse[1]

Are You Tired of Empty Cliches?

What do we really mean when we spout off things like, “God is in control, God makes all things work together for good, or Let go and let God.”

God certainly is sovereign. He is the supreme king but to say or believe he controls all negates the fact that God gave us free will. And if God has complete control over every event, then he would have no need to alter bad situations to benefit those who follow Him. (Rom. 8:28).

So what does it mean to let go and let God?

Life isn’t easy. Many circumstances work against us to steal our peace and joy. These situations can wind us up in stress and anxiety.

Maybe you feel emotionally wound up by life circumstances. Maybe work has you overwhelmed. Maybe you are burdened by health issues. Maybe the loss of a loved one has you down.

God wants you to let go of them by bringing them to Him in prayer. This involves your whole being: body, soul and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23, Ps. 46:10).

  1. Agree with God. Confess the emotion you are struggling with. Ask God to show you the truth about the situation.
  2. Acknowledge and receive forgiveness. Jesus died not so you could behave better, but so you could receive His righteousness. See yourself from the finished work of the cross: fully restored. This is an act of gratitude.
  3. Forgive others as God has forgiven you. This is a choice not a feeling. Ask God to reveal your heart before Him. Then trust Him to show you any lies you have believed, and what, if any action you should take to reconcile.
  4. Relinquish the situation to the Lord. This is involves acknowledging His sovereignty, and trusting in His extravagant love for you. It doesn’t mean He’s giving you a free ticket to paradise

 You were not created to be a wind-up toy but a sail boat.

He is inviting you to sail with Him. Spread your sails and let God be the wind beneath you. Surrender to His grace and mercy.

Let God come to you, work in you, and flow through you. He is inviting you to partner with Him in His authority and power. It’s why He sent us His Holy Spirit.

Where is He asking you to join Him at work so He is glorified?