Honoring and Guarding Our Sabbath: A Devotional and Prayer for Ministry Leaders (and Workaholics in General)

“So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath-rest reserved for the [true] people of God; For he who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors, just as God rested from those labors peculiarly His own. Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves], that no one may fall or perish by the same kind of unbelief and disobedience [into which those in the wilderness fell].” (Hebrews 4:9-11, Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)

I remember once hearing Joyce Meyer say something to the tune of, “The Lord’s the author and finisher of our faith, but He’s not obligated to finish what He didn’t author.” The following paragraphs are not intended to make you bail on your calling, lie down on the job, or abandon your work ethic or loyalty; but rather, to compel you to work smarter instead of harder, and to actually consult the Holy Spirit before you start filling up your daily planner with what God may not have told you to fill it with! And you guessed it. I’m talking to me here…

Take care, friends, that you begin to respect your bodies and minds and start cutting ties with what God didn’t author, even what appears to be good or productive. Some of us are addicted to busy-ness and we gauge our stock value in the Kingdom (and everywhere else) by how far we can push the envelope abusing our bodies. Sometimes we feel a little more important, pious, “martyr-ish,” and yes, even prideful when people are fawning over our dedication with, “Wow, I don’t know how you do all you do.”

Let me lovingly submit to you that God doesn’t violate His own precepts! If you are not allowing yourself a Sabbath–on whatever day you choose to celebrate it–you are walking contrary to the system He Himself set in place and was the first observer thereof! God doesn’t need downtime…the God who never slumbers or sleeps doesn’t actually need to recharge; but He set the example for us by resting on the seventh day. Now, I realize that a “Sabbath” looks different for everyone–folks have work shifts, assigned workdays, etc., that are set for us without negotiation; but the point is, there must be designated downtime; set-aside blocks of time. For someone whose job mandates unreasonable 7-day schedules, I can’t tell you that you must leave that job, but I will tell you to make yourself a Sabbath block of time. That block may be hours instead of a full day; but I urge you, set aside your block large or small and guard it as sacred! For those of you who have the luxury of a 5 or occasionally 6 day workweek, you don’t get to fudge in this, either. Start establishing a Sabbath in your life instead of treating your quiet time with God like a power nap.

And full-time ministry leaders who aren’t under secular workplace mandates, this applies to you, too–perhaps especially to you. Start setting a better example for those in your circle of influence! Even a 3-shift coal mine sets scheduled downtime for maintenance on its equipment, if it wants to stay in business! Keep running that machine without greasing and regularly changing hoses, etc., and see how costly it gets when things start burning out, locking up, and falling apart… In Exodus, when God established the Sabbath, He did it not just for that head of a household and his family, but also for the sake of the animals and hired servants/slaves…He even designated Sabbath years for the sake of the land, which could be overworked out of zeal, greed, or a variety of motivating factors. Relentless leaders not only abuse their own bodies, they wear out anyone or anything who’s close to them or under their authority!

So why do we people in leadership feel compelled to give the “do as I say, not as I do” excuse for abusing our bodies? We reference Scriptures like “work while it is day because night comes when no man can work” to justify never, ever taking a break? And we tune out the voice of reason who urges letting go of a few things so that the remaining works we do are done more effectively. Are we letting the enemy guilt us into walking in rebellion, deceiving ourselves into thinking that because we are in the last days, we must override common sense (and the Word) to be as busy as we possibly can be? Can we do so and expect to be exempt from the health and emotional consequences of priding ourselves in being workaholics?

I submit to you as well, we as spiritual leaders have a moral obligation to live in balance, for the sake of those who emulate our example. If we don’t respect our own body/soul/spirit, we must, MUST think of our families, our constituents, and a lost world around us–all of whom look to us for at least a reference point of guidance. Hebrews 4 doesn’t beat around the bush here…suggests that we can actually be a spiritual liability to ourselves and others if we disobey God’s directive on right balance. It’s not legalism to suggest that we treat the rest-time He has given us as a holy thing. God engineered all of creation to flow with that same protocol. You aren’t too important to observe some form of a Sabbath, and neither am I! Let’s start re-drawing the boundaries in our lives so that we can be healthy and strong–emotionally, physically, and spiritually–for these last exciting days before our Lord returns!Pray with me…

Lord, I sincerely appeal to You first for mercy, as a person who is guilty of making myself busier than I should be. My spirit man suffers and my words tell on me when I have spent myself beyond reason. While I don’t like the stress and aggravation of no downtime, I confess and repent before You that I’m a recovering addict of work. I drive myself to be busy while making others miserable, because I make sure they’re busy too. I’m working twice as hard for half the impact, because I’m breaking Your rules and expecting You to bless my dismissal of common sense and Your example.

I’m sorry for thinking that You make special exceptions for me because I carry a heavier responsibility. Yes, to whom much is given, much is required–but the “much” is in terms of a closer walk with You and a deeper level of consecration. And even if it were much more required in the physical realm of activity, there are a lot of things on my plate that You didn’t give, Father. Oh, I like to think of all these responsibilities as given by You, but some of them are of my own doing. Some of them are just because I won’t say no to people who can’t wait for me to get even busier doing things THEY want me to be doing! And I say yes and pencil it into my bloated calendar, knowing all the while that I need sleep, I need study time, and just a break from having to think and run so much.

Forgive me, Lord! You gave me a healthy body meant to carry me well-into old age; and I live like I intend to wear it out in half its life expectancy. I pass up sleep and exercise; and I rationalize that if I’m spending that time doing good works, it will never catch up with me.

I repent and I appeal to You for mercy on all others, too, who have become the work adrenaline-and-approval junkie I’ve allowed myself to become. We don’t know how to change except by submitting ourselves to You and listening for Your counsel. We will have to hear from You because we can no longer hear the appeals from our own bodies. We shush our compromised adrenal glands by pumping them full of caffeine. We have a pill for everything. You in turn have a Scripture for everything and a word MODERATION that we ignore because we convince ourselves that we must be always working 24/7 because of who we are.

I will find a way to be less busy, Lord, with Your grace. I will respect this body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and stop giving You an efficiency apartment with worn-out furniture and tired, cloudy windows to look out of. I will make not just room for You, but the best room. I won’t be merely shooting You a copy of my to-do list after I’ve filled it and crammed more into the margins and started on a new sheet. No, I will say, “Here, Father. Take Your eraser and start removing the sacred cows of a busy addict.” In fact, wad up my to-do list and just start me a new one. Put only Your agenda on my list, in Jesus’ name I ask. And I’ll start asking Your permission before I make all those plans that leach the life right out of me and anyone else who has to tag along.

What? You just wrote in a full night’s sleep and a Sabbath! More time with relationships with real people and less time on computers and electronic devices? And even orders to put healthier foods into my body and more time walking and moving! Wow, You are ordering me to get my act together so that You can get maximum return on Your investment in me. I thought maximum return meant how many items were on my list.

You’re after quality. You are after a ten-ring shot and not a broader spray pattern. Most of all, You are after my heart. You want me chasing after You, walking with You in the cool of the day for RELATIONSHIP, not for my sales pitch to You of all the things I did in Your name (or rather, in the name of “ministry”) which You may or may not have instructed me to do! You want me to know You. Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light? Wow. I guess I wasn’t listening to that (even though it was…written in red).

And Your way of governing balance will help me be first a better daughter to You, and then to be a better leader and better family and society member, too?

Yes.

Selah.

(Adapted from a Facebook post I made 03/31/17)

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.

Unabridged Blessings

close up photography of four baseballs on green lawn grasses
Photo by Steshka Willems on Pexels.was com

A few years ago, it made the news when I some fellow caught a baseball at a big game, and he was giving it back to the player who knocked it out of the park—only, the gift tax on the market value of the baseball was so much that it would be impossible to keep it. I can’t remember all the details, but to me it was just so absurd that a tiny little leather ball could create so much of a conundrum.

If someone were to give me a big yacht, or a sprawling mansion, or for that matter, a pet giraffe, that person would be unthinkably generous. And while it sounds as if it would be nothing but a #blessing, in truth, the maintenance and upkeep of any of these things would be something that I could neither do myself nor afford to pay someone else to do.

You know, God, the supreme gift-giver, has something to say: “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” (Prov. 10:22). Wow. A blessing that’s not pulling a ball and chain behind it of regret, error, buyer’s remorse, penalty, dread, fear, painful toil, fractured relationships, high maintenance, or strife. Yeah, that’s got my attention.

He’s also not toying with us here…not humoring us or trying to use psychology on us. He’s not baiting us with the carrot-and-stick approach. He’s initiating trust and patience while He teaches us perspective on what’s really good and what’s…meh…only good at first.

Could it be that, as we look to Him for provision and blessing and the fulfillment of dreams, He knows exactly how to bless us without those blessings becoming a burden to us instead? Pause and reflect! We can’t get those sorrow-free blessings by the strength of our own hand–so we learn to patiently anticipate and petition them from the One who knows exactly what will satisfy our deepest longings, without cheapening our relationship with Him or stunting our spiritual growth!

There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. There’s nothing wrong with a Christian or even a preacher (uh oh, some religious bristles just rose on a few people’s necks) being wealthy. I want to be. I want to have the means to do some generous, righteous, benevolent things I can’t do on a grand scale on my limited income. I want to be able to buy necessities like a new car without making the lenders…wealthy.

But, even as I pray daily for my needs (and a few wants) to be met, and as I look to a very generous but wise Father, I trust Him to bless me in ways that won’t be a curse as well as a blessing.  Yeah, who wouldn’t want to get behind the wheel of a Maserati on a stretch of highway with no state troopers, and open it up just to see what it had under the hood…smile…even a few state trooper friends would have to smile at this fantasy…but do I want the insurance payment, property taxes, extra security measures, and the sheer cost to service that baby? Nope. Do I envy or judge the person who has the means to own one? Absolutely not! 

Lord, I pray for myself and my friends reading this today. We all have needs and we all have wants and dreams. And we all have to find a balance between our focus on this life and the eternal life to come. I ask You to meet our needs. Lord, for some, that need might be extra food to last through to the next month. For others, it might be money for college. Or healing from cancer. I’m asking You, Papa, to then bless us with a blessing that makes rich and adds to sorrow with it.

Your blessings always go above and beyond, because that’s just who You are. That overflow is meant to be used for a worthy purpose. I pray that we will have more than enough to meet our basic needs and reasonable wants—and that when You do pour out Your blessing, we will have the good sense to manage it well. You are not a God of waste and ostentatiousness even though You own the cattle on a thousand hills!

Teach us to stop envying others and coveting what they have! Teach us to stop railing on others who do have wealth and talking about them for how they spend their money. Teach us to be better planners with what we have. Teach us to have neither a poverty mentality nor an obsession with material things. Teach us not to judge others by what they have or don’t have. Teach us not to use our lack or thrift or frugality or even our better management as some measure of being holier than someone who has more than we have! Ouch! Conversely, teach us not to look down on someone who has less than us, as if our prosperity is a measure of our level of holiness compared to his or hers. Help us throw away the measuring stick, period! Destroy that comparison mentality which stems from pride, period! And send us the blessing in the form You know we can handle, that accomplishes great deeds but doesn’t take our eyes off of You. We will not rob You of what belongs to You, either!

Over and over again, You warned the children of Israel not to forget You when at last the blessing of the Promised Land would come. Some of us prayed to have healthy children and got them, and now we don’t even teach them about You. Some of us have taken job promotions that keep us so busy, we never have time to worship You or pray or spend time with our families. Some of us have received miracles and extended lives and we went on our merry way and forgot to come back and thank You, just like the other nine lepers Jesus healed. Some of us prayed for talent and we have squandered it or used it in ways that bring You shame. Lord, in whatever ways we have failed You—in whatever ways we have forgotten You and where our blessings come from—we repent.

Build in us great character so that You can entrust great blessings in our hands! Cause us to be faithful over what we have now—in our time, talents, and treasure—so that we can handle promotions, divine favor, and blessings, without our increase becoming our downfall. Who we are with little is who we will be with much, just on a bigger scale. May we be wise, generous, and ethical in all our dealings whether seen or unseen! We will do the right thing. We will be the servant capable of ten talents instead of misusing the one. Bless us, Lord, but in proportion to our character, maturity, and our ability to use that blessing wisely and not recklessly.

We receive today those things from You which money can and cannot buy…and we will put nothing or no one else before You. So as Jabez prayed, bless us indeed, increase us, and keep Your hand on us that we might not cause (or incur) pain. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Strengthening Ourselves Against the Spirit of Offense

man lights legs silhouette
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

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!” 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼

Blessed Paradox: Hope and Encouragement for the Introvert with Extrovert Gifts

person sitting on bench under tree
Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

People who only “sort of” know me are actually quite surprised to find out that I am an introvert. They see me minister weekly on the platform with multiple instruments and singing, or see my blog and the book, or me breezing through the hallway shaking hands and hugging necks.  They think I am bold as a lion and to a certain extent, they are right.  I suppose it does take a lot of courage to grab a mic and play a song in front of a large group of people.  But still, there’s the safe, invisible “space” between me and those who might be sitting there listening. It’s the same with writing…a way to project thoughts and bring inspiration and glory to God from a comfortable distance.  I guess some gifts even develop or evolve from a necessity to make the best of the personalities we’re born with.  At any rate, here I am, a bit of a recluse, with gifts that make me look like the exact opposite.  A true paradox.

The reason I’m sharing this so transparently is that some of you have this same personality quirk; and you feel it renders you useless in the kingdom of God.  I wasn’t always sure myself that I’d be able to work through this nagging need for personal space; and some days I still have to hack through the cloud of self-doubt.  But I know that the Lord was not on autopilot the day He created me to be who I am!  And He wasn’t half-engaged the day He made you, either.

We aren’t social misfits, we introverts.  I heard it described perfectly not long ago:  introverts get energy from time spent alone, and they find being in the presence of others enjoyable but absolutely exhausting—physically and emotionally.

I married a man who understands this part of me, and he loves me anyway.  We have built a life together where we respect one another’s need for quiet and space, and times for social engagement, too.  He’s better with people one-on-one than I am, and that’s the place in ministry where he fits so perfectly; but at the same time, he actually gets me.  And though sometimes even he overrides my need for alone time, he actually works at protecting my boundaries, love his heart.

So where do you fit on the broad spectrum of the body of Christ? Don’t let anyone, especially the devil, convince you that you cannot be a fruitful yet quiet person who craves solitude. There are places where you can serve which require minimal interaction while still meeting vital needs in the church or community.

Volunteer to do the downtime, behind-the-scenes work.  You may not enjoy being the person performing in the Christmas drama on stage, but you can help build the set or run the spotlight. You can come in and tidy up the nursery after church if you want to help the kids’ ministry but aren’t great with kids. Bake the cookies for the funeral reception. Stock the food pantry shelf after hours.  Fold the bulletins or manage the website.   Agree to lead the devotions for the small group held in someone else’s house, if having people in your own home is too disconcerting. Send the care cards to shut-ins and write them personal notes of encouragement.  Be a youth leader’s assistant who handles the side stuff…it may give you just enough people time to feel bonded without getting pulled into relationships you’re not feeling comfortable enough to sustain.  Interestingly, introverts often become powerful intercessors because of their ease with praying for extended periods in solitude.

And yes, you can absolutely teach and preach with an introverted personality.  I’m constantly surprised to find that some of the best pastors and ministry leaders are a lot like me–hidden away enjoying time away from the crowd–when they’re not doing ministry!

I won’t tell you that as an introvert in ministry, you’ll never be misunderstood.  This is that “suck it up, Buttercup” moment.  Yeah, by people who don’t know how your unique personality nuances affect your responses to being thrust into scenarios that are awkward or downright terrifying, you may get judged unfairly.  You may be perceived to be stuck-up, snobbish, strange, stand-offish, eccentric, too private, too serious, or just…an odd fit.  You may, as I have multiple times, hear people say that if you don’t love being around people, you’re probably not really called into ministry; or that your love walk is jacked up on cinder blocks. That’s not quite true. There’s a huge difference between loving people and actually wanting them in your personal space! Wink!

But newsflash… Jesus got misunderstood and He ministered anyway.  He migrated toward the fringe people and in so doing, was called a drunkard, winebibber, and friend of sinners.  While being judged inaccurately or unfairly isn’t utterly avoidable, remember the law of sowing and reaping.  Be careful of how you judge other people. There are a lot of odd sorts in the body of Christ and elsewhere who merely have personalities different from yours.   Before you write others off, consider how you yourself struggle with where you fit. Sometimes someone who’s the exact opposite of you has the same difficulty finding his or her place in the kingdom, too.  Judge not; it may help you to be less-often on the hot seat of judgment yourself.  Moreover, it’ll make you less likely to try to pressure someone else into serving where and how you serve.

It’s ok to be an introvert…but the spiritual issues that you allow God to prune off you in prayer and the Word (like insecurity, fear, judgmental nature, selfishness, unbelief, lack of love, and suspicion) will be what make you an introvert who is fruitful.  Learn what spiritual traps are more common for those who have that tendency to be loners…and do the work to strengthen yourself from what could destroy the unique and beautiful you whom God created!

A plus to being an introvert in ministry is the comfort level of the briar patch of aloneness. Ministry and leadership can be lonely to someone who’s always got to have a cheering section, always needing a Facebook “like.”  So the place which is difficult for the extrovert is actually where you thrive. There’s a need for all kinds of personality types!

To share with you my strengths and weaknesses as an introvert is a little awkward; but I think it’s necessary because people like me (maybe you’re one of them) feel the need to be understood. For me, I can only handle being around people for a limited amount of time before I retreat to my home.   It’s fun to fellowship, and I love people. I love to laugh and make others laugh with my quick wit and silliness, and I like to engage in deep conversation and to listen genuinely when others are talking. I especially love to be an encourager who speaks positive things into someone’s life.

But all of this interaction, even the fun kind, can exhaust me quickly.  People I would expect to bond with, I don’t always…and I haven’t learned how to make myself enjoy those connections; and yet I’m sometimes surprised at who turns out to be an easy fit. So knowing how I am, I tend to try to compartmentalize my social time and my alone time; and I keep as much as is practical of that time to myself.

I am also not a person well-suited to be the “face” of the ministry—haha!  Working as a church administrative staff person, I learned quickly that I’m terrible at being the receptionist. I don’t have the sparkle, the gregariousness, the gift of gab, the sheer patience; and people who talk a lot, are negative, manipulative, or overbearing make me very nervous.  I try to hide that, but unfortunately, don’t pull it off very well.  I can be social or I can be productive, but I’m a train wreck if I have to combine the two.  Nope, put me in a room off to myself with a stack of work, and I’ll work till the crickets stop chirping.  Yet I’m effective in my element.

At home, I’m pretty low-key.  I generally don’t host overnight houseguests; and I prefer a little notice when someone decides to drop by, just because I don’t fancy myself a great housekeeper.  I’m not so great with kids and babies because I never had any, even though I love them.  I also find myself backing away when someone tries to bring unwanted drama into my sphere, or who “hems me up” in a corner.

I have a gift of hospitality that clashes with the introvert in me. For that reason, I usually prefer to be a contributor to someone else’s get-together, where I cook and send/bring the food (Dana and I share a love of cooking for other people, so this way I can do it without feeling the pressure of being the hostess).  We love to make food sometimes and just drop it off to people.  That blesses them, and it blesses us without stressing me out over the pressure to entertain!

The biggest shock of all to me was when the Lord spoke to me three years ago and impressed upon me to get credentialed in ministry.  As you know, I’m a writer, and I’m very content to make books and the internet my pulpit.  I don’t relish the thought of standing behind a podium and doing public speaking. Nevertheless, I said yes to God and completed a two-year process that earned me an Exhorter’s and then an Ordained Minister’s license in the Church of God denomination.  All the while, as I went though the process, I wondered why the Lord would pick a virtual hermit to be one of His messengers.  I had to arrive at peace with the fact that, while He will stretch this wineskin a little out of her comfort zone, He won’t rupture me and waste His investment!  I did a lot of soul searching, and it was healing to discover that I’m not less holy than an extrovert who by nature loves being in the company of others constantly.

Introvertedness is not a measure of one’s heart or holiness.  I like to think of us as the edge pieces of the puzzle.  We are connected to the body, too, but we have a specific place to fit in the overall synergy of the picture that perhaps makes us connected on fewer sides.  But, even corner pieces are necessary!

I’ve seen so many bold preachers and teachers and lay people who are incredible with people; and thought that there must be something wrong with me for not handling the close proximity thing with their kind of ease. At times I have felt as if perhaps I weren’t as good a person as those who are comfortable with people in their face constantly. I know people who make great foster parents, or who host a lot of company and love having people in their houses—even strangers.  Their driveways are always abuzz with cars coming and going.  Some of them even raise their grandkids and love it.

They’re also the sort who love to take a dozen people with them on vacation and always have a posse running around with them, hanging on their every word. Conversely, people who are extroverts don’t do alone very well; and they thrive on that constant interaction.  They have a wonderful work to do, God bless them every one.  I admire them, I cheer them on, but I am not them.  Other people’s drama can quickly spiral me into exhaustion and then depression.  But there is still a place for me in the body of Christ, and there’s a place for you if these scenarios aren’t your cup of tea, either.

Yes, it took a while for me to realize that not everyone in ministry is or has to be an extrovert!  Some of the people I thought were the most grand social butterflies are in fact, very much like me–the square peg introvert. They have just learned the fine art of emotional management, time management, and adhering to a schedule where there’s promised alone time.  I’m better than I used to be, but I’m still after all these years trying to find that happy medium.

I remind myself often that Jesus craved alone time and that He would routinely spend time away from His disciples to pray and recharge.  Sometimes His compassion would override His need for separation (as in the time He pitied the multitude following Him and ministered to them even while tired…seeing them as sheep with no shepherd).  But the Word does not tell us that He did that every single time.  No doubt He was always in demand; but He still got alone with the Father; and the Word even tells us His custom was to do it early in the mornings.  Perhaps that was the only time He could guarantee that other people weren’t stirring around looking for Him.

I do know that the more time I’m in the company of others, the less time I have for collecting my thoughts and pouring them onto paper.  I need that aloneness in order to release the essence of my gift. So the introvert nature is a bit of a blessing for the writer/artist part of me.

I just don’t get lonely very often. I was never the girl who couldn’t go to the restroom without asking one of the other girls to come along.   I love to go on long drives by myself, and some of my happiest prayer times have been on long, lone commutes. Much as I love my husband and other members of my family, I still need that space.  It energizes me.  It heals me.  It’s the “beside still waters” place where my Shepherd restores my soul and my sanity.

I’ve rambled a bit, so thanks for your patience.  I guess this is all gushing out because I need to say it as much as someone possibly needs to hear it.  Maybe I just need to get it off my chest. If you’re a friend or family member who wishes I would give more of myself, thank you for enduring the fact that I’m only good for a short stint before I retreat back into my cave.  I’m just like a cordless phone that can’t be off the charging cradle too long!

But seriously, back to the subject of ministry and the introvert, I encourage you not to perceive yourself as unfit!  Find a place where you can serve, that stretches you just enough to keep you growing, but that doesn’t let you make life all about you, either. There is a way to connect with other people even if you don’t want to have an entourage following you and calling you constantly! I think Jesus may have deliberately chosen 12 disciples with enormous differences in personalities and gift mixes.  It teaches us that it takes all kinds to make up His church.  Some of His disciples we know about practically in name-only.  They didn’t write canonized epistles or have particularly daring historical accounts, but their presence was significant just the same.  Jesus even chose the one who would ultimately choose whether or not to betray Him…and did. Interesting, isn’t it?

Hey, I’m in my 50’s and I’m still trying to overcome the desire to pull the covers back over my head a lot of mornings.  I could choose to let this introverted nature completely rule me.  At times, perhaps I have.  Becoming bold to be a writer and musician and to wear other hats has surely been a long process.  But I do want to be fruitful and to let Jesus conform me to His nature; so I keep trying, and I keep putting myself back up on the Potter’s wheel to work out the marred parts of my clay jar.

If you’re wrestling with your place in the kingdom and in ministry, pray with me:

Father, I identify with Paul when he wrote about wanting to be one way but found himself being another way.  He was referring to his sin nature which constantly needed put in check; but sometimes I find my personality just as frustrating as a sin nature. I need your help.  I present my body to You as a living sacrifice. Make it holy and acceptable. Take the parts of me that need perfecting, and work them over (and over again if necessary).

Paul said that he became all things to all men so that he might win some to You.  Help me to identify with others on a more Christlike level.  Help me to have the wisdom to make room for sharing Your Good News while navigating this life as someone whose personality prefers aloneness.  Show me ways to make a difference in the world in spite of my need for an arms-length relationship with most people.  Help me not to be blind to elements of my nature that warrant change; but also help me not to judge myself unfairly based on the accuser of the brethren’s voice, who tells me that I’m unworthy, not holy enough, or not fit to serve in the role of ministering to others.  

I want to be involved, truly—but I want to be involved in a way that is energizing to me and not just draining.  I need Your wisdom to pair me with what fits the person You created me to be. Give me opportunities to sow into the ministries of those who can handle the more dramatic one-on-one encounters!  There are people who are perfectly crafted to minister in some very difficult social settings which I cannot deal with effectively.  If You lead me to support those ministries, I will back them however You tell me—financially, behind-the-scenes, or just merely in prayer. Give me a servant’s heart that overrides my will, when my need for aloneness crosses the threshold from healthy to just plain selfish.  Even though I need down-time, help me to always be generous and compassionate. Give me balance.

And Lord, help me to be less judgmental of others.  I’ve often mistaken other people’s personalities for being something they weren’t.  Just as I don’t want to be misunderstood, help me not to misunderstand.  Help me to be more tolerant of those I perceive to be overbearing people, because in some cases, it’s just their extroverted personality showing through.  Help me work through my desire to retreat from and avoid the hard, necessary business of loving and tolerating people who aren’t just like me. Some of their strengths can compensate for my weaknesses, and vice versa.  We need one another.  

In whatever areas You have gifted me, I’ll serve to the best of my ability.  Yes, I can have a bold message of faith to share and still be someone who has a quiet nature.  I’ll draw strength from my time alone with You and will carry it out to a lost, hurting world who needs to know that You love them.  I’ll fight the doubt that tries to make me feel disqualified from ministry.  You made me; You can use me in any way that You choose…and not even my weaknesses can change that.  They are only crippling weaknesses if I were to refuse to let You work on me.  I surrender to You what I have.  I am the loaves and the fishes.  Bless me, break me, and feed the hungry.  

In Jesus’ name…

Speak to the Mountain! An Exercise in Radical Faith

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Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

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!
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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…