The Filter of Virtue

 

filter“Delightfully loved friends, don’t trust every spirit, but carefully examine what they say[a] to determine if they are of God, because many false prophets have mingled into the world”

(1 John 4:1 TPT The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC)

I wonder over the years just how many lies and half-truths we have believed about other people just because rumors got started…or news stories got published/aired…or how many times a tale got repeated with a little “yeast” added to it in increments? How many people have had a stain permanently grafted onto their reputations because of spoken/written words which weren’t true but just a matter of conjecture? We put so much stock in what we hear or read because we put stock in what we perceive to be “reliable sources.” Unfortunately, perception, even false perception, becomes the reality to whoever buys into it. We would all do well to ask ourselves more often, when exposed to information, “But what if it isn’t…true?”

We are bombarded on all sides with too much information. It’s yet another reason why I’m spending less time around social media. I don’t want to hear the dirt on people or situations. I don’t want to have to decide, in situations which aren’t my business, whether what I hear is fact or fiction; and truthfully, fact or fiction, some things I just don’t need to know! I don’t want to hear things that violate the peace in my spirit, or invite unnecessary drama into my life–or even open doors for the enemy of my soul to have legal access. Not everything passes through the filter of Philippians 4:8: things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy.

I’m trying to be more mindful of this. I have gotten swept into believing certain things before, just because I put confidence in “they” when I heard that “they” said or say. As I gasp at how easily people buy into believing horrible things and how anger and outrage and hatred explode, I’m reminded of times when I too have believed reports that weren’t true. It’s a time to pray daily for revelation and discernment so we won’t be deceived; and it is a time to pray daily for fortitude when we could find ourselves in the crosshairs of the accuser.

Persecution and opposition will come, believers…we haven’t had to see much of it here in this country, but we need to brace ourselves for the idea of being hated for what (and Whom) we believe…and a lot of it will come through people who believe lies. Be quick to repent, and be quick to forgive. Remember that the Word says to be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…and it also says not to believe every spirit but to try the spirits to see if they be of God; but to try the spirits, because there are many false messengers in the world.

Lord, help me not to be deceived even in seemingly inconsequential things, because it never is inconsequential. Help me to shut down what I allow into the gateways to my soul–my eyes and ears. Help me to be courageous enough to tell people, “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to know,” instead of having to try to cleanse my spirit of what I’ve allowed in. Help us not to be deceived by false messengers, and help us not to be guilty of being a relay runner of false messages by passing on what is not true.  Keep me pure in heart, in motives, in intentions, and in truth always!  In Jesus’ name…

 

Never Departing—Raising Kids with Values and Not Just Skills

arrows“Dedicate your children to God and point them in the way that they should go, and the values they’ve learned from you will be with them for life.”  (Proverbs 22:6 TPT The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.)

Your child’s real future isn’t in scholarship, it’s in #discipleship. Scholarship says, “I got it all because of ME.” Discipleship says, “yes I have talent, but even that is because of HIM.”

Praise the Lord for favor and open doors, for free rides to college, and I’m all for getting all the education and credentials we can; but please, Christian parents, don’t elevate your child’s talent above his or her spiritual well-being. If we teaching our children it is all about their earthly goals, we are teaching them to build on sand instead of the Rock. If their entire hope is tied up in their talent—their life plans formed solely around what their own hands can do–then their future is as fragile as one unfortunate sports injury or failed entrance exam. And what good would a scholarship be on the timeline of forever if that renowned college were to transform your child into someone who no longer believes there even IS a God? Celebrate that talent, but don’t make talent an idol. Don’t neglect the foundation in favor of making the facade look good. Want eternity for your kids even more than you want moments...yes, let’s want heaven for them even more than we want a degree from that prestigious university hanging on their wall! If we seek Him first and His righteousness, did our Lord not say that “all these things” (the things that the world would make the primary or sole focus) would be added to us?

I get grieved when I see once God-focused homes where the celebration is no longer on the children’s Jeremiah 29:11 future, but on exalting nothing more than skills and beauty and temporary achievements. Are your children discovering their spiritual gifts? Are they growing strong in their relationship with God, connected to stable children’s or youth church groups where they are fortified by other young believers and godly adult mentors? Are they being brought to see and participate in the move of the Holy Spirit in revivals, prayer gatherings, youth camps, and worship services, or is there never time or desire for those things because of all the other pursuits we have enabled? Do they hear prayer and the Word read in the home, or does God only receive honorable mention from time to time? Are the dreams they chase guided by godly wisdom and balance, or are we endorsing paths that lead far away from God by not teaching them to use those talents for His divine purpose? If we aren’t training them up in the way they should go, how can they stay on a path they were never taught not to depart from!

Lord, speak to our hearts today as Christian parents and recalibrate our focus. Forgive us for grooming our kids to grow up as unbelieving adults who were raised in lukewarm, powerless Christian homes rife with duplicity. You gave them to us as arrows; show us when the problem lies in our aim. You have blessed us with healthy, smart, beautiful kids–and we will teach them how to use their gifts to glorify You rather than to replace You.

Help us to train them to be as effective in fervent prayer as they are in the fast pitch; to tear down strongholds even better than they can sack the opposition’s quarterback; to be Esthers instead of divas; Solomons instead of just intellectuals; Davids instead of rock gods; Daniels instead of conformists. Help us to model in front of them a burning, living relationship with You instead of just a religious experience we once had. Help us not to have poisoned our kids with pride and self-absorption! Remind us to tell them often that we are pleased with them not just because of all they can do but rather, who they are in YOU! Help us not to live our lives vicariously through our kids, trying to recapture our own missed opportunities. We want them to be successful and strong, but O God, we want them to love You even more than we ourselves have loved you. We want them to rise and be the ushers of a last-day awakening, who use their gifts and talents and testimonies to draw people to the Savior!

We choose today to openly to put You first, and to teach them to put You first, too. We will guard our conversations in our homes, what we take into our gateways of eyes and ears. If You tell us we need to change some things, add or take away some things, we will not ignore Your voice! We will communicate to our kids that no matter what else they do or don’t become, we want them to love and serve You first and foremost. We will help them hone their skills, but will teach them to give You all the glory for what those skills help them achieve. We will instill eternal-mindedness into them, and we will live lives in front of them that back up what we teach. It will show in how we invest our time, our money, our affections. We will have great fun with them and laugh and make memories; and we will teach them how to have compassion, how to give, how to love with perfect love, and how to flee from temptation. We will teach them how to cling to truth, stand firm even when the world bullies them for what they believe, and we will teach them how to forgive and be forgiven. We will love them like You want us to love them–unconditionally–and will love them too much to let them be deceived and led by the devil away from their life purpose!

Help us to hear Your voice concerning our kids, Father. Your planned future for them is better than anything we could lay hold of for them on our own. As we trust You for that future, we will be good stewards of our little arrows; and by Your grace, they will grow to be arrows hitting not just any mark, but the actual destinies for which You handcrafted each of them uniquely, fearfully and wonderfully!. We consecrate ourselves, our homes, and our children today. Bless them, protect them, do great things through them, and let them never depart from You, in Jesus’ name.

(Adapted from my Facebook status, August 11, 2017)

Unchecking the Excess Baggage

baggage“…let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us.  Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith.”  (Hebrews 12:1-2 Voice Translation) 

It is so critical that we put our attitudes and hidden heart issues on the altar, and become so immersed in the Word that we aren’t blind to undealt-with sin and/or weights. We can have every potential to do great things—may even have had prophetic words spoken over us about our gifts elevating us to leadership or notoriety—and negate the prophetic word through pride, narcissism, jealousy, unforgiveness, or fear. Instead of being angry at those we perceive to hold us back, and instead of being envious of others who possess our same potential, we must deal with that pesky hidden man of the heart.

If there are unforgiveness issues stemming back even to our childhood, or healing that needs to happen when we release those who’ve hurt us, we must do the work. If we fail to do so, we will taxi the runway back and forth but never gain the momentum to get off the ground. Still more tragic: we risk imprinting our character flaws on our children by forcefully living vicariously through them, by repeating abuses on them that we experienced, or by failing to desire success for them that exceeds our own. Even very good people can be trapped in a holding pattern, mind you…disqualified over things that could be fixed!

Father, help us not to be our own worst enemy. You are fully-aware of even what we don’t see about ourselves–those damaged, flawed, or underdeveloped matters of character that we haven’t yet recognized or owned-up to. We will stop blaming others for our lack of success and begin to look inwardly, with humility and a quick-to-repent heart, for what needs purged from our character. Even if we don’t aspire to promotion of some kind, coddling wrong attitudes and negative emotions is a behavior not pleasing to You; and as badly as we want not to feel like a failure in our destiny, we want to find favor in Your sight even more. As David prayed after his hidden sin bubbled to the surface, likewise create in us a clean heart and renewed right spirit. See if there be (expose) any wicked way in us; and after the diseased element in our hearts is purged, restore the joy of our salvation. May we bear good fruit—30, 60, 100-fold, unhindered by toxic emotions, attitudes, and behavior.

You discipline those whom You love…and we know You love us too much to leave us messed-up. We don’t want to be those Your Word speaks of whose neck becomes hardened from having to be chastised often. Help us get it right, to learn and be willing to change. Remove the blinders, and after we’ve seen ourselves without the wax coating, make us whole—perfect and entire, lacking nothing. Give us courage to allow ourselves to be overhauled from the inside out. We ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Adapted from one of my Facebook status posts, 08-2016)

Crazy Faith

Now faith brings our hopes into reality and becomes the foundation needed to acquire the things we long for. It is all the evidence required to prove what is still unseen. (Hebrews 11:1 TPT)

God expects #faith that compels action. I’m not talking faith versus works…I’m talking about faith that is too strong not to respond in some way to what we believe about Him.

Jesus requires the man with the withered hand to stretch it out as best he can toward Him. God’s word for Naaman is to dip seven times in the muddiest water hole around. The disciples are ordered to sit the 5000+ down for a meal that hasn’t yet materialized–and it’s either going to make them heroes or the biggest fools on the planet.

There are many “bring them to Me” moments recorded in the Bible. Everything from five loaves and two fishes to a weighty test of whether Abraham will be willing climb a mountain to offer his son to God. When the Lord is getting ready to do something whopping stupendous big, He asks a token of that person’s faith–and that something might seem embarrassing, ostentatious, risky, perplexing, seemingly nonsensical, or impossible to rationalize. But consider: isn’t faith at times any/all of the above?

I saw where Theresa Hanshaw posted a challenge today for believers to get their passports in anticipation of trips to the mission field. It’s another bring-them-to-Me window of opportunity. It’s a way of saying, “I don’t just flirt with the idea of God doing extraordinary things for me; I prepare for it.”

People of real faith don’t just pray for rain, they set out their buckets and barrels. Hungry seekers don’t just wish for a visitation from God; they clear all the junk out of their guest room, fluff the pillows, and keep checking to see if He’s on the doorstep yet. They start coming up with names for the baby. They stick their toes into the Red Sea before it parts. They don’t calculate their odds of winning, consult the Doppler radar for probability of precipitation, or fact-check at Snopes to ascertain whether that sort of miracle has ever really happened before.

Put walking shoes on your prayers today. And don’t pray lazy, boring, 95% off markdown rack prayers that apologize for expecting too much of a tired, frail, depleted, resourceless Savior—request the impossible kind of stuff a person would ask only if he or she really believes in a great big wonderful God. Not that any of it is actually a challenge to Him, of course…but our prayers are often so lackadaisical and faithless that they don’t even get the attention of our angels (who are left undispatched, like Maytag repairmen)—much less inspire the Creator of the Universe.

Ask big…then go get your passport. 😉

Father, we live in a day when, even with all our technology and endless information and gadgetry, our imagination for dreaming big things seems diminished.  It doesn’t even occur to us to bind and loose, to call things that be not as though they were, to see wrongs and deficiencies and make them right.  Forgive us for our anemic, lazy, “template” requests that require little to no faith.  Forgive us for giving You so little chance to show us just how powerful and capable You really are!

We ask You to awaken the dreamer in each of us today.  File away the callouses from our hardened, indifferent hearts so that we may have a heightened awareness of situations around us which warrant change.  Make us those agents of change!  Your Word tells us that we have not because we ask not…and we are not asking because we are instead ignoring or just accepting.  O God, realign our priorities.  Make us hungrier than ever for Your Word; for as we read Your great exploits from Genesis to Revelation, it renews our understanding all over again just how mighty and capable You are to do the seemingly impossible.  We ask that You will reveal to us extravagant requests to make…make us aware of what never before occurred to us to ask.  You are the Creator who created us in Your image, with creativity in our DNA.  Awaken that creativity which causes us to partner with You in the miraculous.

From this day forward, make us divinely dissatisfied to coast through our lives, doing just enough to get by.  Give us BIG vision.  Share Your heart with us about what YOU see needing changed and then help us to get on board with You.  We stretch out “withered” hands to You that have withered from inaction and we say, “Wake up every sleeping part of us that could otherwise be doing Your work.”  Help us build “crazy faith” so that we will imagine, dream, and invite You to go above and beyond our wildest requests.  Nothing is too hard for You…so take us on the ride of a lifetime as You erase the “im” from impossible.  In Jesus’ name we pray, and in faith we ask for more from a Father with an unlimited supply.

(Adapted from my Facebook status 7/31/17)

Optical Illusions

Illusion.png

The eye is the lamp of the body. You draw light into your body through your eyes, and light shines out to the world through your eyes. So if your eye is well and shows you what is true, then your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is clouded or evil, then your body will be filled with evil and dark clouds. And the darkness that takes over the body of a child of God who has gone astray—that is the deepest, darkest darkness there is. (Matthew 6:22-23)  The Voice (VOICE)

 

Most of the strife we encounter between ourselves and others can be traced back to #perceptions instead of reality. It’s said that perception IS that person’s reality; and while that may be the basis on which people make their decisions and speak their life-and-death-in-the-tongue words, perception is not necessarily #truth. Learning the difference is vital to your survival if you don’t want to walk around miserable and vexed in your soul all the time, always in drama and conflict with other people.

The devil knows how to use “optical illusions” to trip you up and keep you upset, angry, unforgiving, paranoid, suspicious, offended, and biased toward other people. He counts on you being driven by your emotions, because it’s when your emotions are all over the place that you have distorted perception. When you see that person whose presence makes you uneasy, the first thing the devil does is whisper in your ear. “That person hates you.” “You can’t trust him/her.” “They’re jealous of you.” “That group over there? Crooks. Dirty. They’ll cut your throat the first chance they get.” “She is out to get you.” “He thinks you’re ugly/fat/stupid.” “Her political views make her your enemy.” “He thinks you’re nothing because of the color of your skin and he’ll treat you unfairly.” And friends, when we lend him our ears and eyes, then the other person’s facial expression, tone, body language, quietness, nervousness, etc., will almost certain be interpreted incorrectly or in a way that creates further tension and distance.

We are so quick to assume that people feel negative thoughts toward us, when in fact much of the time, people don’t have an opinion about us one way or another. We are all so inundated with information coming from all sides that we are apt to misspeak or to act in haste or to have a “look” that others can read into incorrectly–at any given time. You can hurt someone unknowingly, definitely unintentionally, just by being lost in thought. And so can I. So, shouldn’t we cut one another just a little slack? Shouldn’t we remind ourselves that the Word tells us our fight is not against flesh and blood? When you know this to be true, and remind yourself of it, you’re less likely to be moved by that initial reaction to what you’re observing. And pertaining to that flesh-and-blood Scripture, while it’s sometimes true that the devil is manipulating that other person’s ACTIONS–at other times it’s forces of darkness at work manipulating our PERCEPTIONS.

Yeah, it’s possible that certain people don’t like us. And if they do…so what? Really? We can’t control their decisions or their opinions, BUT we can choose to love them and to take the high road anyway. And, consider this: what if that other person is acting odd because the devil’s whispering that same lie about you that he whispers to you about the other person? What if you both think the other is a hater, when neither really is? And the real culprit sits and laughs from the sidelines because of the trainwreck of relationships…based on…perception. I had that happen once in a very memorable way. I went through several years of believing a certain person had a strong dislike of me…and because it made me act standoffish, that person in turn thought the very same thing about me. The Lord arranged a very timely, honest discussion about it, which healed a friendship and eventually led to some great conversations about faith and eternity. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this person didn’t have long to live. What if that wall had remained up?

Lord, anoint our eyes with eyesalve! With our prayers and affection toward You, we chase after truth even in the little things. We don’t want broken or strained relationships. We don’t want the enemy sowing discord. We don’t want to step out on the premise of an optical illusion to find that we are falling from the ledge of a carefully-crafted deceit. Sharpen our perception, Holy Spirit, so that we can tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not. As long as there is disunity so thick in the air we could cut it with a knife, we will never be able to operate as one Body. With skewed vision, we will always stand in opposition to, or at the very least, in distrust of, one another.

Yes, we will have to apologize to one another sometimes. Sometimes You’ll lead us to apologize or be the icebreaker even when we don’t feel like we are the party who’s in the wrong (smile). But we pray for godly love to overtake us, so that there’s clear communication and no room for wrong perception. Father, in times where someone truly has something against us, help us to navigate with wisdom and to handle the situation the way Jesus would. In this world, and sometimes even within the Body of Christ, there are at times people whose personality clashes with our own–nothing personal, just two personalities that don’t naturally meld. We can recognize that and garrison up our minds not to go at war with the other person who rubs us the wrong way. Sometimes if we take time to learn that person’s history, it can even help us understand why he or she behaves that way–whether or not it excuses bad behavior. Some of the people we butt heads with the hardest in this season may potentially become our biggest defenders when a crisis hits.

Help us to seek to please You, because when we are truly out to please You first, we will have a bent toward humility and right heart attitudes. May we be led by Your Spirit to sense times in which we need to behave better or to be more respectful or considerate of other people. May we live in such a way that if others do say bad things about us or treat us unfairly, they will feel convicted. Don’t let other people be deceived about us, and don’t let us be deceived about other people. We want love–YOUR love–to reign supreme in our lives, that love which is longsuffering, believes the best in other people, and is driven by great hope. We ask in Jesus’ name, as we receive eyes that see and ears that hear the TRUTH.

 

Cooling That Hot Button: Prayer to Set a Watch on Our Lips

Hot Button“My heart burned with a fire within me,
    and my thoughts eventually boiled over
    until they finally came rolling out of my mouth.”  (Psalm 39:3 – The Passion Translation)

If the devil put people in Jesus’ path to try and trip Him up and cause Him to #speak in haste, don’t be so surprised that you and I have to guard our #words as well. I was just thinking today of times when I’ve been vulnerable over the years, and some lessons hard-learned. At times I still have to go back to retraining. 😉

There are people out there who will solicit your opinion about a matter or about another person and then later use your words against you. I wish it only happened in situations where the other person is an outright enemy; but folks, we know that sometimes it unfortunately happens among those we care about and trust. Even more unfortunate when it happens in the Church. Most of these situations you can steer out of if you’ll listen to the Holy Spirit; and other times you may be accused falsely and just have to trust Him to clear your name. Stick tight…this isn’t going in a negative direction…it has a positive conclusion that will hopefully help and encourage you!

When I was young, I had a person in my life who’d routinely bait me. That person knew when I was aggravated or under stress and how to push my buttons. When I couldn’t take any more and I’d speak my mind, it would come back to bite me in the way of trouble. I would also get pulled into conversations I didn’t want to be part of and get included just by being in the room, only to hear that my name was dropped in a collective, “Well, it’s like when Lisa and I were talking the other day, and WE feel that____.” Many times all I did was just stand in silence while the other person rattled off, but then I’d get named as an opinion accomplice to something I didn’t agree with at all! Sound familiar? It took a while for Miss Naive to pick up on this, but God used what was a bad situation to teach me a little wisdom. The Lord even helped me to forgive that person, even feel pity, but to be wary of the pitfalls of getting too close in conversation.

The people who bait you may or may not even realize that they’re doing it; and they may do it just to serve their own agendas with no malice intended against you. Others definitely do it on purpose and with wrongful intent. We see it happening all the time on TV–reporters asking a minister or leader his/her stance on hot-button sensitive questions of our current culture, so that the reporter or network or special-interest group can later brand the person a homophobe, racist, chauvinist, hypocrite, charlatan, heretic, etc., etc. The person in the crosshairs stands to then get accusation flung from both sides: one side accusing him/her of compromise or being too cowardly to speak the truth; then the other side accusing him/her with any kind of label that might destroy one’s livelihood and reputation. Entrapment. Sure, that’s the extreme instance of it, but we see that happening more and more as the public gets increasingly bloodthirsty for a good brawl. When it happens to a fellow member in the Body of Christ, oh how sad that we all gang up on the one who’s down and kick that person in the ribs! Peter knew there’d be times like this…and he urged us this way, “If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs.” (1 Pet 4:15) And folks, we need to honestly speak with caution when we get BAITED into commentary by these “news” articles on the Internet and begin to judge one another unfairly. I’m trying a lot harder to avoid them entirely! I keep reminding myself of the times when the Bible says, “And Jesus answered them not a word!” or, “He was reviled, yet reviled not again.”

Either way, while we can’t go through life distrusting everybody, we can be, as the Word says, “Wise as serpents, harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) I have friends who’ve taken some serious hits against their personal and professional lives, accused wrongly, even some convicted without cause. While I’m sorry that’s happened to you, I know full well that it could happen to any of us but for the grace of God.

I don’t know why all this comes to mind today, because I’m not in a situation like this right now; except perhaps the Lord wants that to be a focus in our place of prayer. An admonishment for days ahead as we deal with culture, with school, with workplace, community, church and home. You and I may have encounters in the future where we’re going to have to bow out of a conversation and just walk away if there’s no tactful way to say, “I’m sorry but I will not be part of this.”

Father, David talked in various Psalms about those who lay in wait to ambush him. There are many of us who’ve suffered by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like Joseph. Others of us have taken the bait and sinned with our mouths, or at the very least, made some commentary we’d like to retract but cannot. Help us to remember that our battle isn’t at ground level, person against person, but a more diabolical force is at work to entrap us. We purpose today to set a guard on our lips. We will listen for You and trust You to order our steps. If someone were to ask our opinion about a matter or about another person, we will answer with our ears aimed heavenward. We will garrison up our minds and beware of our vulnerabilities when tired, stressed, aggravated–and we will give no place to the devil to use our words against us either in the court of heaven or down here on earth exchanged between those who gossip and manipulate.

Father, we likewise commit to pure motives in all we say and do; and just as we don’t want others drawing us into discussions we’ve no business being part of, we will not do that to other people either. We will not gossip. We will not spread innuendo or allow others to be misled by ambiguity on our part. We will let our yes be yes, our no be no, and we won’t be caught up in evil by all the tricky layers in-between. We will not betray confidences or look for opportunities to embarrass, demean, demote, or discredit others…not even when it’s to our perceived advantage to do so.

We confess Colossians 4:6 over our lives: “Let your speech at all times be gracious and pleasant, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to answer each one [who questions you].” We will no longer say of ourselves, “Well, I was just mad, irritated, upset, having a bad day,” as a poor excuse to let our words run untethered. And we plead Your grace over the situations we’re still dealing with where in previous times we have spoken amiss and loosed hardship on ourselves. We draw on our heritage as servants of the Lord and we invoke Isaiah 54:17: “But in that coming day, no weapon turned against you shall succeed, and you will have justice against every courtroom lie. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. This is the blessing I have given you, says the Lord.” Thank You for mercy, for helping us to hear from heaven when we are treading in gray areas. Help us learn from past misjudgments, that we may people of integrity, not weakened by having undisciplined speech.

Finally, Lord, we release and forgive those who’ve ever used our words as weapons against us. We forgive those who’ve lied on us, twisted our words, taken advantage of us, and “pushed our buttons” to cause us to say and do wrong things. As we release them, we look to You to release and forgive us. We will let You vindicate us of false accusations, and we will trust You to restore multiplied favor for what was taken away by the enemy. You are always good. Always fair. We can trust You to keep us, so we plant ourselves firmly in the palm of Your hand and we refuse to budge from there!

We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Shortlist

We have too many options nowadays in our drop-down menu world; and with them comes the addiction to heap on more and more so that we can “experience it all.” Truthfully, in our quest to have it all, we dilute the purity and goodness of the things that matter most. There’s only so much time, affection, money, energy, and devotion to expend; and it’s easy to wind up with a whole cartload of mediocre instead of a balance that leaves a wide berth for the excellent.

Have an honest conversation between yourself and God about those 4 or 5 highest priorities (or the ones that should be, if they’re not). What’s on your short list of life priorities that cannot afford to be anything less than excellent? Now empty everything else out of the equation except those things. Only begin adding back other pursuits into your basket to the extent that those few key elements can remain excellent. Whatever else goes into the mix can be any size or shape as long as it doesn’t compromise those things which can’t afford to be watered down. Know this: you’ll run out of room and will have to make some choices, and they won’t always be easy. Some elements will be seasonal, some constant. The list moves and breathes and is organic. Yeah, you’re right—this is hard! You’ll have to recalibrate that balance often and fight to keep your priorities in order. At times you’ll feel cheated for having to keep that list narrowed down (if you’re in the habit of comparing how many holes are punched in your experiential dance card), but you won’t have sacrificed the integrity of what really matters just to see how many ways you can squander those unrecoverable moments of your life.

Just remember that you can have an overflow of cheap and worthless, and be the envy of your friends who measure success and happiness according to quantity; or you can sharpen your focus on those elements that carry forward into eternity and live a truly balanced (and may I add, JOYFUL), right-priority life. It’s interesting that Jesus will say, “Well done” to the person who’s faithful over a few things. Maybe within the entirety of that passage is a hint that less really is more. Ask Him for help as you whittle away at those non fruit-bearing pursuits. Don’t let anything steal the shine from those things that matter (or at least should) the most.

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

Selah.

Celebrate, The Weeping Time is Over

wailing wall“…be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.” -Nehemiah 8:10 (AMP).

If you look at the context of the above Scripture and the time period in which it was written, the Jews had just completed a hard process of reconstruction of the wall of Jerusalem that had been torn down for at least 70 years. The whole city, including the beautiful temple constructed by Solomon, had been reduced to ruins by the Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian conquest of Judah in 586 BC. The Jews been exiled (or “carried away”) to Babylon, and those who’d been left as stragglers had endured unmentionable atrocities. A huge proportion of those now back within the borders of their homeland hadn’t even been born yet when it had all been destroyed, to remember the grandeur of how things used to be in Jerusalem. Now the wall was back up, and the fact that it went up in a mere 52 days was enough to shake the rumor mill and put the fear of God into their enemies. Jerusalem was back, and it would be restored. And it was known that they had God’s strong arm on their side. So as the people were gathered and the Word of God was being read by Ezra, they just began to weep uncontrollably. Ezra comforted them and told them, “Today is not a day for crying–it’s for rejoicing! Go home and prepare a feast for celebration!”

Sometimes when we have been oppressed for so long, the response we have when the cloud has been lifted is just to weep uncontrollably. It’s like all that time you were having to be strong, putting on a tough act; and once you can relax, the natural reflex is to just begin to cry. I’m like that. I’ll be a rock until a crisis is over then I just turn into a weepy mess.

But for God’s people that day, the reading of the text of the law seemed at first to grieve them–they were reminded of where it all went wrong, the choices they’d made, the God and His blessings they had taken for granted, and the people who were lost along the way.  But then, as they deliberately began prepare for a time of joy, the hope of those Scriptures begin to soak in and they understood that, even with judgment, God’s ultimate plan is for our deliverance. I think that this as the perfect example of putting on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…something that involves choice. See, God was never NOT for them–and He was bringing them full circle because He loved them! And He had just enabled them through supernatural means, good leadership, and favor from unexpected sources, to rebuild what seemed impossible. Yeah, He’s all about that restoration. All things new.  True repentance does indeed take us through a feeling of grief over what we didn’t get right, but it also shifts to rejoicing when we allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us that there’s a chance to move forward.

Reach for the joy of the Lord, at wherever on the timeline of trial you find yourself today. I don’t know if your situation arose from bad choices, or whether you have just been facing one attack of the enemy after another.  Lots of different scenarios can bring us to an emotional pitch-point.  And maybe now that you don’t have to be so strong, you find yourself unable to stop crying. Let it out…and then let it go.  The joy of the Lord is earmarked for you–has your name on it. It’s in reserve for the taking. It will not only empower you, but it is a safe place whose walls hold off the enemy’s attack! Thank the Lord today that He is doing for you what He did for the exiled of His people–He is setting you free, He is sending help from the most unlikely people/sources, He is strengthening you to start all over again, and He is setting you up for safety in His presence.  Why not take a moment, right now, and call those things out specifically in a prayer of thanksgiving?  Thank Him especially for those items on the list that haven’t materialized just yet…they’re on the way.  God wants you. He doesn’t care that you have had years of bad decisions, bad circumstances, bad everything–He wants you to be His “comeback kid” with a testimony that glorifies what He’s done in your life.

Think once more about that 52 days it took to rebuild the wall. It was hard work. Their enemies were interfering. There were grumblings and disagreements among themselves. And it still went up and the gates still got hung and pulled shut and order restored! Right now you are at a potentially pivotal time. What if the answers to your biggest prayers were only 52 days away from coming to pass? Another Old Testament prophet wrote this: “The vision will still happen at the appointed time. It hurries toward its goal. It won’t be a lie. If it’s delayed, wait for it. It will certainly happen. It won’t be late.” (Habakkuk 2:3 NET) Whether your prayer is 52 years, 52 days, or perhaps even 52 minutes from being answered, it will not be too late. God will sustain you and yes, He will even help you to have joy and peace in the place of waiting.

I pray all of you just get saturated today in the joy of the Lord, and that you encapsule yourself in the protection it gives. You can still have that joy even if all hell is breaking loose around you…it’s not governed by your circumstances…it’s existent in SPITE OF them. If you don’t have it, ASK GOD for it! Keep asking until it floods your soul! Now dry your eyes, understand that God’s Word points to a good and expected end for you, and prepare that feast of celebration. Even if you’re just going to have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, look at it as a celebration meal. The vision hurries to its goal! And you are greatly loved by the God who watches over His Word to perform it!

Release and Renew: Prayers for Those with Heartbreaking Jobs

”I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13 NAS1977)

Be deliberate today in your pursuit of the goodness of God. I speak especially to those in careers where you daily see the ugliest side of humanity, or perhaps the most hopeless-appearing situations. Soldiers, law enforcement, social workers, oncology nurses/doctors, ministers, teachers, counselors, and others–at the end of your day you must find a way to disconnect from the despair, lest you become a casualty instead of a catalyst for healing and hope. You can find that in prayer. At the beginning of your day you have to coat yourself in the hope of the Word to shield yourself from what you’re going to encounter. You might say, “why aren’t you suggesting I pray for the people I encounter instead of myself? This feels so selfish. What about their problems?” I’m writing this today to help keep you strong enough to do the hard work you do. You can’t help others if you wind up taken out by despair. It’s time to gear up because we NEED you doing what you do. Please, stay strong! Take care of your spirit!

Our world is sad. It’s bad out there. There’s so much despair and so many wicked activities taking place. There’s so much sickness and tragedy and cruelty. So many children, elderly, weak, innocent who are preyed upon. So many people operating under demonic influence inflicting pain and suffering on themselves and others. So much ADDICTION.

I’ll be honest. I went through my Twitter feed earlier this morning and the bad news was exhausting. I wanted to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. I honestly thought, “Death’s not such a bad thing…it’ll be a relief to leave this world and go on to heaven!” But then I remembered what Paul said about it being more expedient (needful) that he remain behind to help others instead of going on to be with the Lord. I want heaven. I want to go and be with the Lord and be away from all the madness for all eternity…eventually. But what I really want to do first is effectively hold back the worst of evil by collectively offering up effectual fervent prayer. I want to point others to Jesus and be someone who hammers signposts in the ground of life that show a lost world the direction in which to run to find hope. THE ONLY way I can remain objective is to have God’s Word tattooed on my heart and mind, and to stay close enough to Him to hear His voice. Otherwise I just disappear into the sludge of despair with everyone else who’s given up and is waiting to die.

So for all of you who are so bravely doing the jobs I could not do (or rather, don’t necessarily WANT to do), I just encourage you this morning to cover yourself. Even if you’re already well into your shift, there’s no time like the present to start. Pray with me:

“God, thank You for helping me survive all the situations I encountered yesterday. Your Word says Your mercies are new every morning. Today I receive Your new mercy. Clothe me with salvation, with humility, with strength. Just like the “whole armor of God,” I put on my tactical gear. My head’s covered with salvation. My heart’s covered with righteousness. My tactical belt is truth…I can attach every tool I need to do my job to this truth. My feet are covered with peace. My shield is faith. My defense weaponry is Your Word and Your Spirit! That said, Lord, I’m getting ready to walk into the unknown today. I will encounter messed-up lives. I will meet hurting people. My heart will break over what’s not fair. Use me to make a difference, to be Your light bearer in a dark place. Help me to respond not out of anger, but with great wisdom.

Help me to do my best while I’m on the job and then help me to LET IT GO at the end of the day. Lord, help me not to carry these problems home to my family. I need my family and they need me. Help me to appreciate and be ministered to by the innocence of the home I’ve worked so hard to build and protect.

Keep me safe today, guard me against burnout; help me to strategize with the mind of Christ about how I can use my gifts to bless others and my strengths to help those who are in the place of need. Help me not to lose my sense of compassion nor my sense of duty to minister to the disparaged. I don’t want to be callous or insensitive when someone is needing treated gently. Help me to be just and fair with all people, even those who aren’t just and fair with me. Remind me that I represent YOU and can’t afford to let my words and actions go contrary to Yours. Help me not to think as the world thinks, but as YOU think about situations. Keep me from being jaded. Keep my heart tender even as you keep it from breaking in two at the things which also grieve YOU. In Jesus’ name.”

And at night (or the end of your workday, whenever that is 😉 ):

“Father, thank You for helping me to make it to the conclusion of another day. These burdens I bore all day long, these suffering people I worked with, the situations I can’t necessarily fix with an easy button…these worries and cares all want to come home with me. The memories want to invade my ability to wind down, to hear my spouse and children’s conversations, to keep me from the place of prayer and the much needed place of recharging and sleep.

But just like a set of coveralls, I choose to unzip the activities of the day and I step out of them. What I couldn’t fix today, I will deal with tomorrow, but for now I let it go. I’m not God–You are. I trust You to put things on hold, to keep the people I can’t help 24/7, to send others alongside to help, and to keep this world spinning on its axis for another day. In Jesus’ name I reject the effects of constant exposure to negative forces. I will not cope with frustration and sorrow by engaging in substance abuse or destructive relationships. I will seek out things that keep my heart pure and guileless, I will freely laugh at every possible opportunity, and I will give mindful thanks for the simple blessings You afford me, like a beautiful sunrise or the giggles of a small child.

I boldly declare that the helmet of salvation will keep my mind and protect me from becoming a walking case of PTSD. You are strengthening me, You are renewing my mind, You are restoring my innocence, and You ARE my joy, my strength. I will run to You and not be so “tough.” You’re the One I run to when I’m out of my league. It’s ok for me to be vulnerable in Your presence because You heal me and help me. I plead the blood of Jesus now to wash me clean, to cleanse the portals of my mind from what I need to let go of. Thanks now for blessing my family time, my worship time, my downtime and strengthening me to fight another day. I love You and trust You. Amen”

Repentance: Don’t Hide–HEAL

Don’t let the enemy guilt you out of your #destiny. If you have sinned or otherwise failed or fallen short, repent. Yes, I know there’s seemingly nothing profound in that advice, but it’s still true. I didn’t say resign; I said #repent.

#Repentance isn’t just being sorry for something you’ve done (or in some cases, haven’t done), it’s evaluating where you went wrong and making the necessary corrections to keep it from happening again: a change of heart and action. Maybe you’ve done something or allowed something and it’s wrinkled the fender of your reputation and distanced you from God. Maybe you’re just disappointed in yourself and it’s easier to bail than to humbly start all over. The first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned was to HIDE. And may I even say, the more we are respected and admired, the harder it feels to get back up when we stumble because the accuser wants our shame to be very public.

Yeah, Satan’s goal is to take us out and damage as many people as he can in the process…but friends, when we’ve taken a faceplant, the world needs to SEE us recover, even if a few folks (and particularly some who are supposed to be on our “side”) hurl a few insult-and-accusation stones as we are picking ourselves up. Sometimes we privately recover, but truthfully, sometimes what we resolve to just do in private enables us to wallow a little longer in the mess–and kept hidden, sometimes we fix it, but sometimes we just choose to stay broken. Don’t stay in that place. It’s a rat’s nest.

There may be shame in failure but there’s no shame in turning to God to fix us when we have failed. Last night before I went to sleep, this verse went through my mind and I just meditated on it as I drifted off: “So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made me free from the law that brings sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2 NCV) The KJV says there’s “therefore now no condemnation.”

Because of our trust in the redemptive power of the cross, we can machete our way through the choking, dense growth of sin’s effect on our lives and emerge back onto the right path intact. Paul realized the possibility of preaching to others but himself becoming a castaway–so he held himself accountable. So should we.

It’s just where we are. Sharing the good news is relatively easy. Being the “living epistle read of every man” part, not so much. The best thing to do is to keep ourselves holy, on guard, prayed-up, free from bondages. It’s a lot easier to maintain than to break down and repair. But if you are reading this from the cave where you went to hide after your embarrassing fall, please know there is HOPE for you. Sure, there’ll be a few who would remind you of your inadequacy, but there is a whole host of witnesses crying out just beyond your earshot, “Get up! Try! Finish! Keep going! You’re almost home!” There’s a Father checking out the window, pacing in the roadway, wanting to put a ring on your stinky, stained hand and restore you with full privilege instead of demoting you from sonship to servitude.

I remember once when I was still in school, one of my schoolmates wound up getting badly burned when he threw gasoline on a bonfire. The kid was ashamed/afraid to tell his parents because it was a foolish act of disobedience, messing with fire and flammables; and because he hid the terrible burn under his clothing without getting help, the burn got badly infected and became a serious, dangerous problem much worse than a parent’s chastisement for disobeying. No doubt the scars are still on that leg, decades later. We hide our burns too, sometimes, don’t we?

Peter had to repent when he fell. Yep, one of “the three amigos” whom Jesus kept privy to His most important missions actually betrayed Him in a most contemptible way when things got too dangerous. But Jesus WANTED him back. He even said to him, “when you’re restored, strengthen the others.” See, your recovery is never just about you. Jesus didn’t choose to just gloss it over and strengthen them Himself in Peter’s absence; He in essence told Peter, “YOU do it.” There’s going to be a visible restoration of the part of you that needs healed, friend, and the people who’ve been let down by your absence are also going to be strengthened…by YOU. It is this action that will bring you full circle and it will keep you accountable in the future because of its humbling quality.

As much as it feels to the contrary, you aren’t expendable. God needs you on that front line. Replacing you is not His ultimate will — redeeming you, however, IS! He saw in ages past where a you-shaped piece of the puzzle needed to go, and He created you to fit exactly right there in the big picture. He doesn’t have a bunch of spare you’s just lying around in case you malfunction! Repentance says you are willing to let Him rebuild you to keep doing what He created you to do. And sometimes, we need rebuilt not only because of our sins, but also even from just being battle-weary, worn-out, and hyperextended. Let Him.

Lay aside what’s holding you back. Phooey on what anyone might say or think, don’t you wallow in condemnation one more day. Your destiny is right where you left it, and Jesus can recalibrate the driving directions from WHEREVER this moment finds you…to make sure you arrive safely. Come home.