Kids and Grownup Church–They Belong, Too

Our family was far from perfect, but I’m thankful to have been born into it. I was a church kid, born to one of those families who believed in gathering for worship…and not just on rare occasions or when something else more interesting wasn’t going on. Whatever else they did or didn’t get right, my parents/grandparents raised us to be Christ-followers, within a larger group of other imperfect believers and families.  They modeled putting God first, in their tenacity to carve out Sunday for the Lord’s day (they definitely didn’t confuse us with on-again, off-again faithful attendance).  My parents didn’t fight with us or threaten to ground us on the issue…it was just our way of life, so since it was all we ever knew, we kids weren’t really exploring other options. If I may, I would like to just transparently share a little about kids and “grownup” church, and why I believe it’s important that kids experience more than just the nursery and the children’s program alone; we tend to try to keep it all so separate that our kids aren’t integrating into a grownup worship experience. So to keep babies from crying or parents from having to teach a wiggly child to behave for a little while and reverence God’s house, we just never bring them into where there’s grownup church going on.

Parents don’t seem as motivated as they once were with exposing their kids to a very spiritual encounter with God. So when it’s going to put any kind of kink in the routine, or if there’s an inconvenience of any kind; or if it’s not a service where there are kids’ activities running in tandem; or if church night clashes with other activities they like to participate in, the whole family just stays home. And our kids can develop a mindset that church has to be all about entertaining them–if there’s no cotton candy or egg hunt or pizza or face painting–it isn’t really worth the investment of their time. So as soon as they outgrow the games, they just stop coming, period. I grew up in a time when I wasn’t the excuse for my parents to stay home from church at night or during revival. Oh, there might be a sick day factored in there once in a while, but they never kept me out of evening worship services and said it was because I needed my sleep for school the next day. They had me there even when there wasn’t something special just for the little kids. Even if we should have to leave a little early (maybe we did…I don’t remember), they still brought me. Worship wasn’t the obligation we had to hurry and get over with just so we could rush out to go do what we would have rather been doing all along. I got to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of my church family from a young age, and you know…it was a healthy thing. So what was the benefit of my parents bringing me to grownup church, too, and not just kids church?

For starters, I learned a lot about Christians in the real world. I saw people who had to deal with some hard circumstances who didn’t give up. I saw others give up. I saw some quit and come back. I saw the saints and I saw the hypocrites. I saw church conflict, and when it was and wasn’t handled properly. I wasn’t shielded from any of it…and it taught me by example what to do and what not to do. I even saw sincere believers and family members whom I loved, who battled to the death with strongholds they wouldn’t break free from. I heard the way parents and grandparents prayed. I watched them forgive hard things. I saw them volunteer countless hours, hammer and saw, cook, serve, teach, sing, and just…be present.

And yeah, sometimes I got a little less sleep on a church night. It didn’t stunt my growth and I graduated in the top five of my class.

As a little girl, I fell asleep on the church pew and woke up in my own bed many a night. I got to stay back and see the things people miss who cut out early to catch their show on tv. I saw people get saved, get demons cast out, be healed, women shout their hairpins down. I remember watching my Grandma make homemade Communion bread, and I remember how that, as a small child, I knew it was serious that we not take the Lord’s bread and cup with unrepented sin or unforgiveness in our hearts. I took turns with all ages washing the saints’ feet (ladies in one room, fellas in another) in that old ceramic washpan, and sometimes the water got a little dirty in my little country church–and how that people often cried, rejoiced, forgave and made up with one another during that humble sacrament. I got baptized in a creek under an old bridge long before I attended a church that had a fiberglass baptistery. Sometimes I got taken to church when I had the sniffles or a cough…and when I did get sick (as kids will do), my parents didn’t hesitate to get me prayed for and even more importantly, they didn’t hesitate to lay hands on me and pray for me themselves. We had a special bottle of olive oil just for that purpose in our house! And they brought me to church…they didn’t just send me. I’m saying these things not to criticize or judge you if you’re a parent who’s raising your kids different from the way I was raised–but to encourage you to press in closer and let your kids have more than just a sterile, disconnected, indifferent, occasional relationship with the entire household of faith.

Don’t shrinkwrap your kids’ church experience in just the parts you think they should see. Please don’t opt to keep them home whenever the service isn’t tailored to their age group!  You’d be surprised at what a five-year old understands from a grownup preacher’s sermon, and what he or she picks up when it looks as if there’s absolutely no attention being paid at all. You’d be surprised at what your kids can come to understand about prayer, giving, serving, living with integrity, and sharing their faith.

Believe me when I tell you that world doesn’t dumb down what it shows kids now. Your elementary school kids have probably seen more on tv than you knew on your wedding night. Why, then, do we try to ration their experience of real faith in the lives of real people who need grace and redemption and patience with one another? Bring them to all the fun, memorable, age-appropriate stuff..they need that, too. But be thinking ahead to where you want them to be spiritually once they outgrow puppets and VBS.

Integrate them into a full, multigenerational worship experience. Let them know what it’s like to experience conviction, to get lost in worship, to pray in the altar for the Holy Spirit. Moreover, may they learn from watching how you worship and respond to the move of God, how you give, how you serve, how you interact with others in the church family, how you deal with hard times, and how you pray.  Please understand, I’m not undermining the value of children’s Christian education, at all.  I am grateful to be a member of a local church that has a phenomenal childrens program.  I’m just saying, your kids will learn more from watching your life than they ever could from just children’s church alone.  They need both.  They’re going to need to know how to bear up under persecution, how to live without compromising their moral ground, how to do spiritual warfare, and how to pray the prayer of faith when sickness, tragedy, or injustice happens. And make sure that, in spite of some occasional inconvenience, their opportunity to witness the church in all its organic guts and glory isn’t lost in just pacifying them with an electronic babysitter to keep them from being bored (yeah, they can make it for 90 minutes without the iPad and earbuds!).  It is, after all, us visiting God in His special place. He didn’t just leave us the key and tell us to lock up and turn off the lights when we’re done–He wants to come down among us. If we are excited about meeting Him there, and our kids catch the spirit of that excitement too, talk about some quality family time…

I was seven when I gave my heart to Jesus–and it was in a grownup revival service. I was ten when I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit…at night, lingering long in the altar. In both situations, I was a child but yet I knew enough about the presence of God to experience hot tears flowing from a sincere heart who wanted to know Him. It changed my life. Regardless of what your denomination teaches about these things, I’m just sharing with you the precious experience I got to have as a child raised in a Pentecostal church. And just think…had my parents kept me at the house either of those nights, because I was young and because they wanted me in bed at a certain time, or because they reasoned that I would probably encounter Jesus sometime after I got a little older…I might never have made a decision for Christ that translated into a lifetime of rich, growing faith. It was just two church services on the timeline of my life; but oh, if I had missed them…

I’ve had my ups and downs spiritually, have made some good decisions and some unthinkably foolish ones; but I’m 52 and I’m still deeply, deeply in love with my Savior. This didn’t happen by accident. My parents steered me toward a relationship with God–very intentionally–and part of that involved raising me not just as an occasional visitor to His house, but a regular. It was all I ever knew. Sunday was His day, and very few times was it pre-empted for something else. And because I got to experience needing to exercise my faith, worshiping God in a setting of young and old, being encouraged to seek out my gifts and use them for His glory; and seeing the consequences of when things aren’t handled right by believers actually protected me. It kept me from becoming jaded from offenses and hurts and church splits and injustices–because unfortunately, those things happen. Your child needs to be conditioned to deal with the very things you wish they didn’t have to see.  I learned that men may fail you, mistreat you, withhold favor, betray you…but that God will not. Ever.

If you will live Jesus Christ before them, and be genuine in your faith, your kids will be ok even if they see others who don’t walk the walk. If you’ll value their spiritual growth as much as you value them making first string on the ball team, you are securing something even more important than whether they get skilled enough to win a sports scholarship and a free ride to college. Your kids need to be able to cope with life in a wicked, wicked world. They will worship somethingand if you don’t teach them and model before them how to put the Lord God first in their lives, you may lose them to the world system. If they see you indifferent about your commitment to Christ, don’t be surprised if they grow up completely detached from faith. It’s not going to be enough for your children to say, “Oh yeah…I believe there’s probably a God.” Or, “Hey, I might not be where I ought to be, but I still pray…sometimes”. The time to sell them on the value of that relationship is now, while they’re still impressionable. Your kids need Him for eternal life. They need Him, because drugs and alcohol and debauchery and pornography and crime and suicide are all waiting to grab hold of them.

Some of you prayed that God would bless you with children. Now that you have them, will you truly dedicate them to Him or will you instead teach them that life is all about what they can achieve and get and buy and own and collect and play? Will they encounter His presence or will their lives be all about getting numbed out by newest level of their favorite video game? Don’t raise them up not to know who their Father is, and don’t raise them not to know about a hell that’s to be shunned and heaven to be gained. it’s a matter of eternal life and death.

Being a church kid wasn’t–and isn’t–a bad thing to be. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

That’s all.

Strengthening Ourselves Against the Spirit of Offense

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Make a commitment to yourself and to God for this upcoming year not to be sidelined by a spirit of #offense. Some of you may get huffy on me even just reading that first sentence…but hold on and let me elaborate a little!

In my prayer time a couple of days ago, the Lord cautioned me that the enemy was going to launch an attack on the body of Christ in the way of offenses; an attempt to erode our unity. Not so much one big collective attack where everyone is hit at the same time by the same event, but many small instances. The old “death by a thousand cuts” strategy.

We live in a perpetually-offended society nowadays, and believe me when I tell you that listening to constant bad news on TV (true or not), listening to negative music, reading negative articles and books day in and day out can wreak havoc on your spirit man! That spirit of offense can get all over you if you don’t guard your heart! We worry more about our outward appearance being impacted by a lost culture, than we do about the inward impact of those feelings of entitlement, pride, arrogance, and yes, the tendency to get angry, hurt, and offended by everything that doesn’t agree with how we want it. People are ready to sue or to break ties or to ruin others’ reputations at the drop of a hat. And sadly, it happens even in church too.

So how do we cope and make it through the obstacle course of offense? By renewing our minds daily in the Word. By being honest with ourselves before God and recognizing what pushes our buttons. By praying protection over ourselves and our loved ones and inviting the Holy Spirit to change the atmosphere wherever we are—home, school, church, the grocery store parking lot, wherever.

Our minds are going be full of SOMETHING. We have to set parameters and say no to what the Holy Spirit cautions us to avoid. And even though we feel we shouldn’t have to be careful around others, yes, as believers we have an obligation to walk blamelessly before the world. We need to think before we act and do. And we need to arrest that spirit of offense when we feel it rising in us.

At some point over the coming weeks and months, you may feel the enemy say something like:

  • “You should just leave/quit/resign/divorce/part ways. You’re not appreciated. Your (spouse, job, family, group, ministry, church, etc.) ought to have to suffer a little bit and then they’d see how much you are worth.”
  • “They did that on purpose! Are you going to just stand there and take it?”
  • “God didn’t answer your prayers. He must not really love you after all.”
  • “So and so just gave you the stink eye. That person doesn’t like you.”
  • “They just did you wrong because you are (too young, too old, not beautiful, they’re jealous of you, not the same color as them; or they think they’re better than you).”
  • “Your church takes too hard a stance on that point of doctrine. They act like a cult. You should find a church that agrees with what you consider truth.”
  • “Who do they think they are to judge you for your choices?”
  • “They’re not the boss of you.”
  • “You should just go ahead and (hurt/kill) yourself and get out of the way.  That’d make them sorry.”
  • “That attitude can go two ways. If they’re asking for trouble, you know you can’t back down now.”
  • “If that person were really a Christian, he/she would (look, act, vote, participate, speak) just like you. Don’t trust him or her!”

Sound familiar?

Well friends, we have a choice. We can do the work in our prayer and study time to toughen up, or we can run around constantly wounded and on the defensive. People hate having to always tiptoe around one certain person in their lives! Don’t let that person be YOU! Remember that much of the time, folks don’t even know that their words were inappropriate or caused you to be hurt. And yeah, some people are not going to be fair with us—now or ever. The Word tells us to pray for, forgive, and love them anyway. Sometimes we have to do it (without gossiping about them behind their backs, by the way) from a distance—but near or far, God’s grace can enable us to shake it off.

Pray with me: “Father, I don’t want to be overly sensitive. I don’t want to stumble on the rock of offense, this year or ever. I don’t want to abort my mission or abandon a divine assignment You’ve given me over becoming hurt, mad, or offended at someone else. Jesus, some of your followers even abandoned You when Your words offended their sensibilities.  Please help me!

There are any number of opportunities in a day for me to have my feelings hurt, if I choose to. Crucify the drama queen nature in me! I reject that tendency to want to dramatize and rehearse and nurse and tell others about how this person or that organization or that race or this group was unfair to me. It’s hard, Lord. Sometimes people’s words and actions are downright intentional! I feel sometimes like people who don’t understand my pain are against me. But by Your grace I am rising above offense, in Jesus’ name.

Today I put on the whole armor of God. I protect my mind with the helmet of salvation, my heart with the breastplate of righteousness, my whole being with the shield of faith, my vital organs and private parts with the loinbelt of truth, and my feet with the gospel of peace. I have the Word and Your Spirit in my hand as a sword of defense from the attack of the enemy. You have equipped me to protect my spirit, soul, mind, will, emotions, and entire body. I will not leave the place of prayer improperly dressed to meet my day!

Lord, Your Word tells me in Matthew 18 exactly what to do when a brother offends me—it’s actually a good template for my other relationships too. It starts with personal communication, not a Facebook rant. I will handle situations the way the Bible tells me to. I will not assume that the other person automatically knows, and I will not read his or her every action or inaction as some kind of negative response! I will be civil but honest when these kinds of communications must happen. The object is restoration and forgiveness. Father, in this moment I release and forgive every person who has knowingly or unknowingly offended me!

Lord, I remind myself today that the enemy’s goal is collateral damage. A hit at me is intended to wound and scatter and render ineffective my whole circle of influence. The offense was a weapon not of flesh and blood, but unseen wicked spiritual forces at work. I can’t afford to see this attack in the natural! I will ask what the devil is trying to accomplish if I accept his bait—for that is exactly the post I can’t afford to abandon! I refuse to leave my family, my church, or my assignment over becoming offended!

Finally, I will exercise more caution in the way my words or decisions affect others. When I know I’ve hurt someone, I will man or woman up and go make it right. I won’t just let that person simmer and stew in offense. I won’t just write it off as the other party needing to grow up. Maybe that’s the case and maybe it isn’t; but God isn’t judging me on someone else’s actions. He judges me by how I handle things from my end! I will take the high road. I will at least initiate the conversation that opens a door to reconciliation.

And finally, Father, I thank You for not leaving me comfortless! In a fallen, unfair world, Your Holy Spirit consoles and gives me peace. In the name of Jesus, I go forth today declaring that I AM NOT A VICTIM! I WILL NOT LET THE DEVIL MOVE ME FROM WHERE GOD HAS ASSIGNED ME! I am a Psalm 1 believer who refuses to be influenced by the negatives of others—a tree thriving in rich soil, which bears fruit and whose leaves aren’t withered. I am not ignorant of the devices (strategies, traps) of the devil. I won’t miscarry my destiny because of a vagabond, offended spirit. I am strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Amen and amen!” 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼

Speak to the Mountain! An Exercise in Radical Faith

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Jesus said to them, “Have faith in God!  I can guarantee this truth: This is what will be done for someone who doesn’t doubt but believes what he says will happen: He can say to this mountain, ‘Be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it will be done for him. That’s why I tell you to have faith that you have already received whatever you pray for, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:22-24, God’s Word Translation.  Copyright © 1995 by God’s Word to the Nations, Baker Publishing Group)

Need a little help speaking to your #mountain?

Let’s start with ground zero and we can work our way out all in good time. I know there are other issues that involve households, communities, finances, etc., but here’s what I feel impressed to share for now. I tried to hit it broadside, but you can of course be more specific in narrowing down the problem. It’s just an example. We’re to pray all kinds of prayer; but in addition, if you’ve never actually spoken to the problem directly, here’s how you might do it. 🙂

~Sickness, disease, and infirmity, you be rooted out of my body in Jesus’ name! Be gone–now! Be dissolved and cast into the sea. You must leave and never come back. I refuse to let my body and mind be a gracious host to you any longer! I command you to GO! I am alive with the life of Christ and I am healed from head to toe. I claim Mark 11:23 as the excavator that digs you out, lays its blade to the roots, along with every spirit that’s associated with you…and then disposes of you. I release grace, mercy, and goodness, righteousness, peace, health and joy back into every corner, nook, and cranny you occupied. You are evicted!

~Grace, mercy, goodness, righteousness, peace, health and joy: flood my body, soul and spirit now! I give no place to the enemy! I receive the forgiveness and healing of Christ and therefore, I invite the graces and blessings of God to inhabit this temple of the Holy Spirit! Together we don’t give up one inch of ground! We crowd out the enemy and we make me a warm, holy, and welcoming place for God to dwell! He has good things for me to accomplish while I am here, so for His glory I am brought out of the ditch of miry clay. My feet are on a solid rock and while I have breath, I will serve Him and I will bear fruit!

~Body, you start kicking into gear and rejecting these enemies of your health. Jesus already bore these sicknesses in His body on the tree so that you don’t have to. You fight for your wellness, body! By His stripes you ARE healed and made whole. All of you–organs, body parts, even down to my mitochondria and DNA and smallest parts–be healed and behave like you are healed! Body, I no longer look at you in the mirror and complain about how sick you appear. I call you whole and I praise God that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made! I glow with the countenance of someone who has been in His presence! My laughter and my positive outlook are contagious!

~Depression, anxiety, worry, anger, indecision, confusion, despair, jealousy, self-pity, unforgiveness…I speak to you and renounce you and command you to leave my soul…right now. The Son has set me free and therefore I am free indeed. There’s no place for you to reign in my life. You are a curse and offense to me, and Galatians 3:13 says that I’m redeemed from the curse. I choose to take God at His Word and not listen to your lies any longer. The Lord rebuke you, and I resist you, dark emotions that try to cause me to doubt the goodness of God! I call forth thanksgiving and praise into my life. I forgive others even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven me. I will say, “I forgive and release” every time the offense comes back to my remembrance. I give Satan no legal ground in my life. I put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, and I will praise even before I feel like it. I surround myself with praisers and encouragers, not naysayers. God is my source. I am single-minded and I will not sway back and forth between two opinions. My mind and soul are healed from damaging emotions and wrong mindsets. Go away, now, you toxic intruders! I resist you steadfast in the #faith!

~Mind, will, and emotions, I plead the blood of Jesus over you now, …I give the enemy no ground to operate in you! Mind, you line up with God’s Word! Just as I’m instructed in Philippians 4, I choose to think on righteous, uplifting things. I’m going to listen to the kind of music, teaching, and Scriptures that makes evil spirits very uncomfortable in my personal space. The devil will find it very difficult to hang in the same room with me because I will be speaking the name of Jesus, the name above all names, whose power no evil can withstand! Mouth, I forbid you to speak words of doubt and unbelief! Ears, you know the voice of the Good Shepherd, and you are not confused and deceived by any other voices! Eyes, you quit setting yourself on things you should not see! Fix your gaze on what’s righteous and holy! And hey, if you slip up and revert back to your old way of doing things, I WILL REMIND YOU OVER AND OVER TILL YOU GET IT RIGHT! I will, starting now, renew you daily in the Word!
————–
Thank You, Heavenly Father, that You have instructed me to be strong in You and the power of Your might! I’m no victim! I’m no slave! I’m no loser! I am an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony.
#callthosethings #prayer #declare #healing #freedom #wholeness #shalom

Matters of the Heart: Character

Good EggGod, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me.  Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.  See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on,  and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways—the path that brings me back to you.  —Psalm 139:23-24  (The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.)

#Character issues disqualify us from promotion by God far more often than lack of talent, geographic advantage, education, or even resources. Can God trust me….you….us? God wants to use us to fulfill His purposes in the earth. Some of those purposes are big, some are small. In either case, we need to be reliable and trustworthy to the One who created us, just as much so as if He were calling on us to be the next Billy Graham! Even if we perceive ourselves as little fish in a big pond, our character still matters very much to God!

We can choose to be assets or liabilities. How? By honest self-examination and surrender to God. David did this. He invited the Lord to search him, to try his heart, to uncover any wickedness. We know David had a fall, from which he recovered…but his fall was not an ongoing character issue that became his identity. He remained humble and repentant before God, and God honored that. We need to ask ourselves, in the neighborhood, the church, our family, our school/workplace…what are we known for? The reputation that precedes us, yes, can be tarnished by the lies/misconception of others…but how often is the origin for our tarnished reputations our own words and actions (or inactions)? I don’t want people to say of me, “You’d better steer clear of Lisa…she will stab you in the back, she’s lazy and unreliable, you have to walk on eggshells around her because she’s so easily offended, you can’t believe a word she says, don’t say anything in front of her that you don’t want spread all over the place, she won’t finish what she starts…” On and on.

If in our dramatic laments about why things aren’t going right for us, it’s always the other person’s fault, it’s probably not.😉 If we hear rumors about ourselves that are unsavory, it’s a great time to evaluate what we need to change and then go to God for help. Those character flaws CAN be healed if we will own up to them and work on them. Left undealt with, we are driving through life with bad brakes and it eventually will catch up with us.

Lord, help us to be very honest with You and ourselves. You know our weaknesses and You also know our willfulness. Your strength is made perfect in our weakness when we lean on You to help us. Our will, however, is sure to get us in trouble if we rebel from aligning with Your will. Jesus, over and over, submitted His will to Yours; and He was the example for us to follow.

Reveal to us, Holy Spirit, when there is an ugly nature in us that needs dealt with. Whether it’s lust, infidelity, pride, unforgiveness, spite, cruelty, intimidation, prejudice, a lying spirit, dishonesty and cheating, a talebearer, a betrayer, a spirit of laziness, rebellion, hatred, insecurity, negativity, undisciplinedness, grumbling, jealousy, or fear—we lay our entire selves on the altar and ask You to sanctify us and purge us of anything unholy that would cull us from kingdom usability and trustworthiness. We renounce and reject any spirit that would attach itself to us and defile the pure gifts You have given us. We will not make excuses or blame others or be offended over Your attempts to prune away what disqualifies us. When we represent You in the earth, may we represent You well. Help us never to bring reproach on Your name, Your family, Your kingdom!

May it be said of us, even by those who don’t necessarily like our personality quirks or the way we look, “Blessed is he/she who comes in the name of the Lord!” Conform us to the image of Your Son. Fill us with a refreshing overflow that lifts the atmosphere in every room we enter. Make us fit for the kingdom—assets and not liabilities! And Lord, help us to reverse undesirable reputations whether or not we earned them. Make us willing to prove ourselves and to submit to those You would place in our lives as mentors and leaders. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

In Whose Shadow?

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“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand].”  (Psalm 91:1 AMP)
Do you have a parent, sibling, coworker, spouse, ministry constituent, or friend to whom you feel inferior? Does someone close to you in that way shine so brightly, so talented or gifted or just favored, that you feel there’s no room for you to ever excel and be lent credibility? You may feel like you’re in someone else’s shadow, but I encourage you today to choose WHOSE shadow you’re going to stand in. Choose to stand in God’s shadow. Learn to be at home in the shadow of the Almighty…you don’t have to stand in anyone else’s shadow, but you belong to Him and you need the rest and comfort and protection of His wings! That’s the only place where you won’t be plagued by the temptation and bondage that comes with comparison!
Stop comparing yourself to other people and viewing yourself as less-than (or for that matter, as more-than!). Stop buying into what other people have said or implied about you…a teacher or a parent or boss or someone who may have said, “Why can’t you be more like ____ (a sibling, a peer, or someone else who was/is used a measuring stick)?” You were not placed on this earth to fulfill His plan for their lives, but to fulfill the plan He tailor-made just for you. It is an insult to the power and imagination of our Creator, for us to try to make ourselves signed-and-numbered prints off of some priceless original. No, each of us is a priceless original, and He never runs out of creative power.
Be free from the spirit of comparison, from pride, from inferiority, from any other emotion or mindset that hinders you from living life to its fullest.
Lord, we cast down these crazy imaginations and “high, lofty things” that work overtime, which cause us pain and limitation whenever they run contrary to what Your Word and Your will for our lives has spoken. Forgive us for spending so much time looking at ourselves and comparing and lamenting and walking in fear. Fear tells us we will never be good enough because we cannot excel past certain other people. Fear tells us not to even try because we are doomed to failure. Your Word, however, says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
 
Forgive us as well for carelessly speaking damaging words over ourselves or others out of ignorance. We are not guiltless in the area of having made statements like “He/she sure is no ____” and compared one of Your precious originals to someone else we perceived to be be more skilled or talented or good in some way. You don’t create counterfeit, cheap knockoffs, and You don’t use a cookie cutter to mass produce lives void of authenticity. We are sorry for ever trying to establish the standards for excellence over ourselves or anyone else! We are not the Creator. We submit our words and actions to You again on the potter’s wheel and ask that You give us clean hearts that in turn compel clean words. We will resist the devil when he tries again to make us feel intimidated by the giftings and abilities of others, and if we resist–as often as necessary!–he will flee.  We forgive and release anyone who may ever have hurt us by comparisons, and we ask You to forgive them too, because they knew not what they were doing.
 
In order to stay in Your shadow and to dwell in the secret place, we have to be on the move, as well! You don’t stand in one place with your wing of protection stuck out for us to stand under. No, You are moving and working constantly—so our secret to staying in Your shadow is to move with You, to go where You go, to do what we see the Father do, to speak what we hear You say. What worked for Jesus works for us today–operating under the canopy of submission to You. We submit ourselves to You today and we will stay under Your protection, fulfilling every wonderful thing You have ordered for our lives! We are free from approval-seeking and self-exaltation and self-deprecation and any other tool the enemy would use to shift our eyes onto ourselves and off of You. Be glorified in us today, Father—all of it—You get all the glory and we will gladly stand in Your shadow, we pray in Jesus’ name!
#Psalm91 #2Corinthians10 #callthosethings

 

The Mandate of Teachability

teachable“For everyone who listens with an open heart will receive progressively more revelation until he has more than enough. But those who don’t listen with an open, teachable heart, even the understanding that they think they have will be taken from them.” (Matthew 13:12 TPT*)

Are you still being taught, still learning, still seeking to know more tomorrow than you know today? The day you stop being #teachable is the day you begin to stagnate spiritually. We are all meant to be in a continual state of growth, right up until the day we go home to be with Jesus. To remain teachable, we have to deliberately push ourselves beyond those things we already know (and sometimes feel like we know it all! Yeah, I’ve been guilty of that a time or two myself!), and place ourselves in the hands of people who know more than we do. Being teachable requires a bit of humility–for when we think we have it all figured out, sometimes we begin to disdain those who are trying to teach us what we feel is old hat. We are so conditioned to wanting variety, variety, choices, choices, drop down menus, where we can skip the stuff that is boring and go on to what stimulates our curiosity and makes us feel good about ourselves.

I remember one time being with a friend, and we went to a church meeting with a special speaker. We rode together. She sat about 10 minutes into the meeting, long enough to find out that the teacher was going to teach on the subject of healthy marriages and being a godly wife. She leaned over and said to me, “Let’s go. This is of no benefit to me. I already know all this.” How sad that I followed her lead and left, even though I was the driver! My friend may not have felt she needed the help, but I needed (and still do!) all the help I can get!

“To learn the truth you must long to be teachable, or you can despise correction and remain ignorant.” (Proverbs 12:1 TPT*)

While we can learn a lot from our peers, and while we can be iron sharpening iron to one another, there’s only so much someone else on our same level can impart to us. It can be a hard hurdle to leap over because we want to be with the people we enjoy most and feel we have the most in common with. Sometimes we have to deliberately place ourselves outside that common area for a season so that we can be more open to the meatier part of spiritual maturity–those hard lessons that aren’t learned over coffee and a game of cornhole. Some of the most valuable elements of growth you will ever receive are waiting to be imparted from people who don’t fit your parameters–some (and likely, most) will be older…some may even be younger…some will be from a different walk of life and not always what you consider to be a level up from your own…some will be people you don’t consider to be particularly interesting to hang around. Sometimes God will even pair you with someone that you have to pursue, who doesn’t offer you any encouragement to pursue him or her–like Elijah with Elisha! We have many spiritual brothers and sisters but very few spiritual mothers and fathers—and those, friends, are who we need to seek out IF we want to grow. Enjoy spiritual sibling-ship (if there is such a word…lol), but pursue mentors and spiritual parents.

I am not in any way downplaying the importance of fellowship and small groups—if anything, we need to connect more and more as the days grow more wicked. I hope each of you reading this will find such a group of people and get plugged in. It’s much needed and it will bless you. However, it’s been said that if you are the smartest person in the room, you need to be looking for another room. You can still enjoy common union with the others, but I encourage you, find the people God wants to use to TEACH you and include them in your life. If everyone you’re close to and gleaning from is on the same level as you, who is going to be able to rally the others when discouragement or crisis comes to the whole tribe? Or, think of it another way…would you really want to be operated on by a med student who’s not actually certified yet; whose only instruction is being taught by fellow med students and a correspondence course? Yes, we are all still learning, no matter how many years we are into our Christian walk—even surgeons have to do continuing education—but we will never be qualified to teach others if we avoid being under the authority of someone who can correct us when we are wrong, and protect us from ourselves when we are full of zeal and less full of wisdom.

There are many things I wish I’d asked my parents and grandparents before they died, both about spiritual matters and life lessons. It was only after they were all gone that I began to think of certain pieces of information I would’ve liked to have passed down to me, and now they’re no longer here to give that information. We sometimes surmise that because the generation up from us isn’t tech savvy, or that they had limited opportunities, that they are no longer relevant to who we are today. We couldn’t be more wrong! These folks may not have had Google search or a college education, but they knew how to survive in hard times—from depressions to child rearing to staying put when commitment to a family or to a cause was hard or lackluster or less than what they hoped it would be.

Lord, crucify pride in our lives that would cause us to become root bound, pride which says to our teachers, “I don’t have to listen to you, I know all of that already!” Send people into our lives who can impart and equip us to be what might be the final generation–and if we aren’t, then we need to be able teachers of those who come after us. Help us, then, to be teachable. O God, help us to welcome correction and to welcome accountability instead of leaning to our own understanding. We cannot give what we have not yet received. With all of our getting, may we get wisdom and understanding. Help us not to avoid relationships with trusted mentors who can speak transparently into our lives. Place us in the position of being discipled, that we in turn might disciple others. Cause us to develop maturity and humility and receptiveness to a right word in a right season. Empower us, Holy Spirit. We pray in Jesus’ name…

*Scriptures quoted from The Passion Translation® of the Holy Bible, Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.

 

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…

 

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)

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.