Captivated by Christ

This is a beautiful vision I saw during worship one Sunday. I had my eyes closed and before me I saw a large, softball size diamond.

Perfect.
White and gleaming.
Beautiful.

My hands were held out in a cup shape and it hovered just above, but did not touch my hands. My gaze was captured by the light and beauty of it – and the size! It went before me and captivated me. There was nowhere else my eyes were allowed to look, but into it. I believe this diamond represented Christ. Magnificent, holy, blameless and pure. Awe-inspiriing. He is to draw all of our focus.

As I walked to others, their gaze was captured by it and we’d marvel at it together. Then I saw a treasure box of diamonds – and a waterfall of diamonds.  When we keep our eyes on the light of his beauty, more diamonds are reproduced. The smaller diamonds are us, people who are cleaned and purified in the light of the original. Christ reproduces himself in us as we gaze upon him in worship, in our conversations, in every step and moment of our lives. In every conversation, it is in front of us – radiating. The many facets keep our attention and prevent us from being pulled in any other direction but to Him. We marvel in the light of the Glory of Christ. The same glory Jesus said in John 17:22 that he has given to us. “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—”

We are being recreated into His image as we keep our eyes on his beauty and look nowhere else.

Hearing the Heart of God – To go or not to go, that is the question

How many times do we feel called to do something and then wait for someone else to push us, help us or join the vision. The passion God puts on our heart is for US to act upon. It is beautiful when others receive the same vision and even more wonderful when we actually connect with them, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes a call is lonely and we wonder why others aren’t hearing the same thing and jumping in the car to drive with us. God uses the people who are available and stirs us up when we seek Him. Some calls seem big, some seem small. It could even just be a call that lasts a moment, or it could mean your life with change forever. It could be a fleeting idea or a driving burden in our hearts, but it’s still a call to move.

Sometimes we are the answer to someone else’s prayers, or the answer for a whole group of people. I think of the times God has connected me to others and spoke through the body of Christ to me, or used me to speak to others. It is amazing what gifts he has given to His children! When we receive a calling from God, we often wait for someone else to feel the same way or for others to be equally concerned before moving. I was led to read Jeremiah this week. He was called and he didn’t have a church to back him up, or an organization to fund him. He just was asked to speak the heart of God to a people who didn’t want to listen. It was lonely, and they thought he was crazy, but God told him it was important and it had to be done.

Are there places you are called to speak out?

Have you considered what is burdening God’s heart?

It isn’t a fun feeling when you have a calling and you don’t do all you should with it. I speak from my own heart of remorse. Let today be a day of redemption. God, redeem all the missed moments and renew our zeal for the burdens of Your heart. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!

ImageI’m asking forgiveness today for myself, for mixing my priorities with God’s priorities, for setting His priorities aside when it was inconvenient, and for the times I have forgotten how BIG HE IS! I’m taking up my cross today and receiving grace for where I’ve not lifted it high enough. I’m giving to God all the things that could have been done better and starting a new day today. You can include yourself in the prayer if this speaks to you….

Lord, have mercy on me for the things I’ve put off and for the lives left abandoned because I relied on others when I should have relied on you. Forgive me for not having courage to be the flood light where you have called me. Forgive me for thinking less of your purpose than you do. Whether big or small, what is important to you needs to be urgent for me.Excuses are so lame. Put your torch before me and let it burn constantly. Keep my eyes on it and fan it when you want me to flame for You. I am humbled by what you give me to do, but I am helpless without you. I pray for redemption of all the missed opportunities and for full restoration of all of your plans in areas I’ve messed up. Let the sun shine where I’ve left it dark and fill me with the joy of your salvation!

Jeremiah (Full text)

The Call of Jeremiah

4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

In God’s Image

In God's Image

Lord, it’s another beautiful day to sing your praises. The whiteness I see all over is deep and every flake of a single color. It reminds me of how you see all people as equally beautiful. Snowflakes fall in different groupings, some alone, some clumped together, but each one an individual, stunning crystalline work of art. I can see your perfection in every one.

Help us to see your greatest creation that way, Father. Help us see those created in the image of God like a beautiful snowflake that is waiting to be seen and admired. Some fall in the road and get muddy and some land on a branch and catch your glory as they shimmer in the light, but all came down with the same intent, to make the world a beautiful place. Redeem them all my King of Glory and let not one go untouched by your love.

Just like each flake snow melts, not matter how muddy it got when it was here, you separate us and recreate us in your image at the cross. Through the bright blood of Jesus, we become white as snow.

Set Me On Fire! Let the Gospel Live Out Loud!

Lord, don’t let us forget what you paid for! Fill us with the fire that lights our bones into a burning passion to make Jesus known and His mercy shine. Let the righteousness of God prevail in all of us. God! Purify our hearts with the power of grace that sets us free from sin! Kill the lie that we will all keep sinning. Your word says that our new nature CANNOT continue in sin, so if we’re still feeling mastered by sin, take us deeper in surrender to you and free us of that monster. (1 John 3:9) We don’t need to live defeated lives of struggle. When trouble comes, we need to be a people who know who our God is! The gospel doesn’t mean we’re still sinful beings and now we’re just free of the consequences. Jesus declared us DEAD to sin, free of sin itself! We’ll have NONE of it. None of it. Nothing that would mis-represent you should be a part of our day. Let the fear of the Lord leave us in awe and make sin repulsive to us.

When we see those trapped by sin, don’t let us tolerate it in their lives either but show us the enemy behind us and let us battle with and for them for the complete freedom, peace and joy that being joined with You brings. Let truth sing out and let it empower people to live the law without a second thought because their new nature compels them. Father, You are holy. I bow before you and ask you to take every thought or word that would cause you cringe. I want to be like you, holy and full of light with feet of peace and hands of healing. Jesus valued the people in front of him and I do too.

Image

God, dismantle the lies that give us excuses to be less the the glorious new creations that Jesus paid for us to be on the cross! In our hearts, we know grace doesn’t mean we can continue to be drunk, or continue to look at men or women with an ounce of lust in our hearts. Cleanse our thoughts with your purifying fire that we would never disgrace you before those who don’t believe or set a bad example for those who are weaker.

Heal our land. Heal our churches. God! Purify our minds and our hearts so that we don’t get up wondering how we’ll get through out day. Purify our minds so that we can see what YOU can do through our day. Take us. Push us. Don’t let fear rule our hearts. Fear is a spirit from hell. We are not subject to that Spirit when we are IN CHRIST. We are IN CHRIST, one with him through baptism. We rose with him. He shines and so do we. It is not humble, nor is it LOVE to withhold the truth from the person in front of us, it is cowardly and hateful. Kill that in me Lord. Kill it. Let your love pour out of me and set people free. Let the light just shine out of my eyes and into their soul, then out of your massive love displayed on the cross, move their hearts to conviction let every lie be crushed in their lives.

Jesus said there was going to be a day that it would be too late and He, more than anyone in the Bible, talked about the reality of an eternal hell, but he ALSO talked about the mansions he was going to build for us in heaven, for the time we would be where there is no more pain. There is no in between. No lukewarm. Jesus was crushed but not destroyed and persecuted but not destroyed. He rose, left and gave us his spirit so we didn’t have to look like the world anymore. Thank you for freedom. Thank you for killing the pain of rejection, fear, depression and loneliness. I am alive in You and it is the way I choose to live forever. In my mighty Savior’s name, who’s blood I see on my hands and whose light bathes me in glory. Praise Your holy name forever. Amen.

Love and Serving in Hard Places

What is love? We’re supposed to walk in love, in the midst of it, like warm boots in the deep, wet snow. Love is comfort and security in new places. It is the armor that keeps us firm in places that look like chaos. Love is amazing. It disarms anger, it calms fear it remains true when others fail. It casts hope where hope looks dead.

How far will we let love and compassion take us when we follow Christ? Is there an end of the road on our walk with Christ, where Jesus keeps walking and, even though we feel a tug on our heart, we say, “No, sorry Jesus, that’s not my gift. I’m not ready for that. Find someone else.”  What do you call a “follower” at that point- a stopper? Stoppers lead to clogged drains in the ministry flow. This isn’t a guilt trip to move you to do any one particular thing, it’s a reminder that we need to take that step in faith, not matter what the task is. Followers continue to follow, even when it looks like they are not able, or not equipped or utterly helpless. When a follower is helpless in their own strength, they then have to look to the one who they are following and trust that when they don’t know the answer, He will. They rely on God’s power and not their own. (You do know that I’m preaching to myself here, don’t you?)

In the parable of the talents, Jesus makes an example of three servants who received different amounts of talent. In the story, the talents were money, but they represent any gift God has given us. We sometimes begin with a night volunteering, an encouraging card, a few dollars, or maybe God reminds us of a need when we notice that coffee is on sale. Those little thoughts are the parable coming alive through the Holy Spirit. If we are faithful in these small things, according to the parable, we receive more. The more could be so many things, new gifts, talents, money or openings in your time.

When you use THOSE wisely, God says, “Hey! Here’s someone I can work with and trust with what I’ve given.” He opens the storehouse of gifts and talents again. The hardest part of the story is the part that has caused me to repent of many times. It’s when Jesus goes back to the one who just kept his talent hidden because he was afraid do anything with it that we must pay attention. We hear so much about grace and mercy, we often just think we can just go on and expect continued blessings even when we’re disobedient. The kingdom really doesn’t operate that way. When the servant hid his little talent, Jesus didn’t say, “Oh, I understand, it’s ok. I’ll just give you more anyway.” He said exactly this, “You wicked and slothful servant!…Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25:14-30

You see. Love costs something. It’s a valuable gift. People die every day. Love moves beyond noticing that someone looks a little down. It looks past anger. It looks into a bad day and cares about why. Love sits down next to that person and asks why.  When love sits down and hears a hard story, it asks God what talent he has that may be used in this situation. It could be finding an answer, sharing wisdom or praying. When love doesn’t know what to do, it calls on the one with five or ten talents to come in to the picture and show him what more experienced love can do. The point is that love never does nothing nor does it think that it can do nothing. 

Sometimes it costs us time to learn how to help in deeper ways at that point and we ask, “Am I willing to make the sacrifice? This may disturb my family life. I’m not sure I’m equipped for that. I’ve never done anything like that before. Isn’t it dangerous? What if………what if…….. what if……what if”

Who’s voice is that? God’s, yours or the devil’s. Maybe these verses will help identify the source and reassure you that the only weapon we need is love.

 1 Timothy 1:7 “for God gave us a spirit NOT of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

The better question is this…”What if I DON’T do something.” Down at Project Warm, a winter weather amnesty shelter we spend much time at, livers are failing, families are broken, heart attacks happen, feet get frostbite, alcohol numbs pain and unforgiveness and self-hatred batter people on a daily basis – but what love and the power of God can do!  Friendships blossom, people find Jesus, sharing occurs and we war for each other in the battles we face to keep the place running every night. To that, there is no limit. Prayer is moving those mountains for the ones we can reach and testimonies of His faithfulness are being repeated at devotion time. Have you heard a homeless person testify of God’s grace, provision or even physical healing in his life that week? Come and hear that too! Love will grow in your heart and faith for your own struggles.

We all start somewhere on the journey of greater love and action. I promise you that jumping into a completely new environment, we don’t all start out feeling like superman or Jesus. New environments take time to adjust to but if we persevere in love, how we see that environment changes. We get burdened, like Jesus was, to BE the help that people need. It’s not on our own strength. We have the tools Jesus left us and he directs us IF we are available to learn and seek Him – if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone. Jesus didn’t have a comfort zone. He saw what people didn’t see because they looked at the outside and not the inside. People look at the consequence of sin. Jesus healed the hurt. Every problem had a root and Jesus was a good gardener. He had a vision for every person he met. He knew who He created them to be. He will show YOU who he created the people around you to be. Ask him and you’ll love people better and see the good instead of the things that now annoy or scare you. Love brings a great response from people.

1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

Are you willing to use that talent you have? Want to spend it? Our God says “Nothing is impossible for those who believe.” We believe that. When compassion hits us, and our sense of injustice at someone’s condition boils our blood and stirs our heart to righteous anger, we have a God who says, “I’m in that with you. Let’s go.”  At that point we humbly say, “Lord, what you do you need me to do.”  Ask him that today. “Lord, what do you need me to do?” 

 

Forgiving Yourself

I’m always amazed that God choose to love me. I was, and still sometimes am, hard hearted, stubborn, selfish, and unaware of how big His heart is for me and those around me. Then, I think of Jesus on the cross. If God can forgive those who laughed as he hung there, he can forgive me. The harder question I had to answer was, “Can I forgive me? Can I forgive myself for what I’ve done? I was cruel. I denied knowing him. I broke a vow. I treated others who loved me with unkindness. I stole. I hurt. I failed to act in some way I thought I should. I’ve loved myself more than others. I should pay for those things, I thought.”

Jesus didn’t see things that way. He went through hell so we could be free of hell. People he loved abandoned him. His neighbors and fellow Jews, the people he came to rescue, spit on him. His church leaders asked the Romans to crucify him. As his friends all ran out of fear for themselves, all he could say was “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”

Why didn’t they know? They didn’t see things like God sees them. Often we don’t see ourselves as God, the Father, sees us. We see through lenses of shame, condemnation, guilt, and pride. All those come from the same enemy that deceived Adam and Eve. The goal of our enemy, Satan, is that he keeps us from knowing who we are created to be! He wants us separated from the Father who loves us enough to sacrifice himself. That enemy wants us to feel defeated every day, just like HE has been defeated at the cross. His only power is to get us to look at him. If we know who we become at the cross, free and forgiven, we cancel his authority in our lives.

One day, God woke me up out of my self-punishment phase and said, “Didn’t Jesus pay for that? Wasn’t what he did enough? Do you think you can add to what My Son paid at the cross by your self-pity? Do you know what “redeemed” means? No… I really didn’t. I knew God loved my but I didn’t forgive myself.

Redeemed:

  1. To compensate for past poor performance (He paid the price of my poor performance. I’m not guilty of it anymore. My debt is cancelled.)
  2.  To regain possession of (God wanted me as a possession!)
  3. To exchange. ( He exchanged my old heart and mind for a new one that could understand his love for me and live without shame, fear and condemnation.)

 

God defeated death to end the curse on the world. He was saying to me, “I want to know you. I want you to come home to me, as a child comes home to their Father. My arms are open.”

 

I cried tears of joy! I had been deceived. I didn’t think I could forgive myself. Others were lovable, but not me.I hadn’t given myself permission to receive the healing love of God. I felt like I was an exception.  It’s easy to think that God is continually reminding us that we have sinned, but it was the enemy who wanted me to feel guilt, shame and condemnation. He told me it was humility, but true humility  is knowing that Jesus is our righteousness, all our works are like filthy rags, no matter what they are, so Jesus paid the price to cover them all. Truth said, “If God says I am redeemed, then who am I to think I am more right than God to keep counting myself under judgement? Until then, I didn’t get that Jesus hung there so my mindset could be changed and I could be free to step out of that identity of my old ways. He died so I could die to that old nature.

 
His perfect love on the cross casts out fear and condemnation. I could no longer hold myself accountable for something God had forgiven.
God’s love was big enough for even me.

 

Today, no matter what we have done. God declares, “You are worth it! I want you to receive the gift of forgiveness and begin fresh today.” His goal is always to help us find freedom, just like our goal for our children is always that things turn around for the good for them.

Healed by Releasing the Holy Spirit

Awesome testimony today! I can explain this one fully, because it happened to me. I’ve been suffering from this pain under my lower rib cage for some time and it seemed to be like something getting bigger and more noticeable. It sometimes seized and cramped up when I laid down. I had been ignoring it. This week I was thinking maybe I should go find out what was, but didn’t really want to and I wasn’t very convicted about the need for that. God’s my main health plan, even though I have insurance. I was just starting to think, “Maybe it’s something like a tumor?” My abdomen was a little bloated near my ribs and I felt “thick” like there was an obstacle, when I bent over – with some pain. I had previously thought it was my rib, but it became clearer that it was under it now. I am not one to worry about medical stuff in my own body, so I asked my husband to pray for it and went to bed.

Today in ministry class, we were releasing the Holy Spirit over people and and it was my turn to be prayed over. All one of my classmates did was say, “Come Holy Spirit” over me. We were just practicing observing what it looked like when the Holy Spirit came over someone. It’s amazing how willing the Lord is to come and teach us when we make ourselves available. Man, did he show up! It felt like a weighty presence was on top of me and I had to bend over. I began praying in tongues spontaneously and noticed the girl who’s hand was on me was trembling. I felt power and intensity.

While I was bent over, I started to feel the pain under my ribs. the area of pain began to tighten and swell and swell and swell and pain intensified until it felt like it was going to burst. For a moment i thought, “What if this thing explodes! Surely God wouldn’t let me get hurt.” Then, it just vanished. I don’t know what the thing was, but God does and it’s now gone! Praise him! There is no other life like the pursing God life…. And it is available to all. The best things in life are free! What a great lesson we learned today… Lots of them. God has a big tool box in the Holy Spirit. Praying may not are blessed in this way. Try releasing Holy Spirit over those you love who are sick. Wait for his presence to come and see what happens! Expect it to come. It comes by faith.

2013-11-24, There is no evidence of the pain or lump anymore, even in bed, when it used to cramp when I laid down. God, thank you for loving me! I also have lost 3 pounds and my abdomen is  thinner and has resumed its old shape. I’m so awed by His love for me and the power of relationship with my Father. He is good.