Who’s the Boss?

How would you feel if a stranger came, uninvited, into your house, and began to re-decorate?  They don’t ask about your taste or style.  They just barge in and take control.  My guess is that you might feel a range of emotions, and rightly so.

Perhaps decorating is that stranger’s specialty.  Maybe they’re really good at it.  Maybe they are a leading world “authority” on furniture arranging.  Maybe it would be foolish not to recognize their gifts and expertise.  But still…unless you’ve given them permission to redecorate, they are out of line, disrespecting your authority as owner.  They might be an authority on decorating, but they have no authority to use their gifts in your home unless you allow them first.

Did you know the Bible talks about different kinds of authority?  One is an authority given by God, and the other is given by man.  When these two kinds of authority are functioning in love and unity, a glorious atmosphere can develop.  When these two kinds of authority are out of balance things can, and often do, become more messy.

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My desire is to help the Church (The Bride of Christ) operate in health when it comes to this topic.  Many people have been damaged by an unhealthy understanding of authority.  The Father’s heart is to bring restoration and healing.

This is where the furniture arranging illustration starts to make sense.  If I’m in your house, I’m under your authority. Your Exsousia (in Greek).  Now, does that mean you have the right to abuse or manipulate me in any way?  No!  It certainly does not.  I also come under a higher authority; the law of LOVE, God’s law, His Exousia which does not require me to be manipulated or controlled.

In a healthy environment God’s exousia exists supreme.   Restraints come off and love reigns.  Get it?  Love reigns?  Sometimes love releases and sometimes it restrains, but both are done in LOVE. This generates an atmosphere of safety and hope for everyone.  Most importantly, sons and daughters are discipled.  Men and women understand who they belong to and where their true identity comes from.  A humble and discerning leader will equip others to fulfill their calling and vision.

Who is the boss, really?  What I mean is,  who’s the ultimate ruler over all? I hope we all agree that Jesus is the head of the church?  If we don’t agree on this point, then we aren’t going to agree on much else.

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The safest environments I’ve known are ones where leaders tune into the voice of the Lord and Jesus is exalted through humble leadership.   In ministry, it’s my aim to create a safe environment for those who attend our events.  For my team, this means making room for what the Holy Spirit wants to do.  I’ve found that as we gather together with this corporate mission, we rarely have to deal with “strange fire”.   As we make room for the presence of the Lord, He woos us corporately into what He’s doing.  He gets the glory as lives are transformed through His healing touch, which is something I,  as a leader, don’t want to get in the way of.

How could I get in the way of what God wants to do?   I could lean on my own understanding versus His.  I could pre-decide what every single prayer and ministry moment was going to look like.  We could literally schedule God out of our events.  Instead, we have chosen to make room.  Yes, we do a TON of planning.  We write down a detailed schedule, but in that schedule, there is room.  I can’t think of one example where the Lord did not show me something prophetically during an event.  Words of knowledge are great to pray for ahead of time, but most often they come in the moments.  The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are spontaneous, not programmed.  We can not schedule the Holy Ghost.

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I’m continuing to learn to trust the Holy Spirit.  Leaning on Him is a great place to lead from.  My favorite thing is watching people’s countenance literally change during our conferences.  This doesn’t happen without God touching souls in a deep, restorative way.  My job is to step back and make a place for Him to move.

Let me give you three guidelines to help you stay in a healthy place with this word authority.  My desire is to see God redeem it.  Authority is a word God spoke,  a word God loves.   We can love God’s design for authority, too, once we understand it better.

    1. Stay unoffendable.  I know…easier said than done, right?  But truly…do this.  Whether you’re the leader or the one under someone else’s authority….stay unoffendable.  Read Romans 12 and take note of the words about blessing those who persecute you.  When you get offended, forgive.  Every time that feeling of offence and pain comes at you,  forgive again.  Soak your wounds in God’s presence and light.  The best way to know if you are offended is to notice how much emotional pain you’re in.  If you still react when you’re reminded of something, there’s more healing to come.  The best way to move forward in your healing is to continue forgiving, blessing, and soaking until the sting is gone.  It takes time for our bodies to heal when we have a physical wound, and it takes time for our souls to heal when we have emotional wounds.  Our human nature wants instant results, but some things just take time.

     2. Communicate, communicate, communicate.  100% of misunderstanding happens because of a lack of communication.  Our flesh will jump to conclusions, especially when we are hurt, and this does not improve relationship. Talk it out…if you can.  Find out what’s going on.  Try NOT to judge motives.  Try to assume the best, until someone confirms otherwise.

     3. Be a powerful person. Don’t allow unhealthy people to control you.  If you’re a leader of  people who are wounding others, use your authority to deal with that in a healthy manner.  If you’re being controlled, manipulated, or abused by leadership, consider what moves you need to make to stay healthy.  Whether leader or participant, you have the power to do what’s needed to safeguard yourself and those who you oversee.  Seek outside counsel in either case.

I believe the church is becoming more and more glorious as healthy authority is being understood and established.   What about you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts about this issue.  Feel free to comment below!

Too Scary to Read

A couple of years ago I was outside after a huge hail storm.  One of the college students who lived in our neighborhood was having a smoke break on his deck and commented about the crazy weather.  He said, “It’s like we’re living in the end times or something… like the book of Revelation.”  I don’t know what his spiritual beliefs were, but current events were making him wonder about spiritual things. And that was two years ago.  Before Ebola, ISIS, and some of the crisis we face in 2014.

If you type in “Is this the….” into Google – guess what will come up 1st, 2nd, and 3rd?

You guess it:

  1. End
  2. End Times
  3. End of the world

That means a lot of people are wondering if this is the end.  Some of them might be looking for answers.  Motivated ones will research the Bible, the book of Revelation in particular.

I’ve had more than one person tell me the book of Revelation scares them, or that it’s, “too scary to read.”   If you’ve had any apprehension at all about reading this book of the Bible, this post is for you.  If a few people have told me, then there are probably many who feel this way.  Don’t worry, I’m not asking for a show of hands.  Now, take a deep breath and another sip of whatever you’re drinking…I promise, I’m not going to scare you!   I want to encourage us today to take a deeper look at this book.  Revelation has encouragement for us in any time.

Being afraid of what it might say is not a helpful foundation for studying it.

I’m not going to go into a big hermeneutics lesson here, but rule #1, for the purpose of this post, is:  fear and Bible interpretation do not go together.  It’s always important to interpret scripture in light of God’s love and character.  He’s NOT scary by nature, therefore, His Word is not designed to scare anyone.  The only reason to have any fear while reading scripture would be if you do not have a relationship with Jesus.  And if that’s the case, you can read more about developing that relationship here.

Revelation is filled with 22 mysterious, yet amazing chapters about Jesus and His bride. There’s not one individual who can say they completely understand everything that’s written in it, but all of us can find strength and encouragement there.

The name of the book itself is AMAZING….The book of REVELATION.  Wow…revelation is an amazing gift…and this book was given to John (the author) as an incredible revelation.  I believe everything from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is revelatory.  God gave us the Bible; it’s alive. He reveals Himself on every page.  I love that John simply shares the revelation and does not go into a big explanation about it.

More often than not we complicate things that are meant to be more simple.  The book of Revelation is meant to bless and not scare.  John said in Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it…..”  So, I’m thinking, if you want to be blessed, read the book.  But don’t just read it, ask God to bring you clarity and understanding as you read.  I’m not saying that you’ll “get it” entirely, but  you’ll be blessed and encouraged as the eyes of your heart are opened.

The book of Revelation has encouraged me on many levels.  I’ve been comforted, convicted, and intrigued.  It’s given me a hunger to experience more of Jesus.  John was privileged, but the blood of Jesus has bought us all similar privilege.  None of us will be adding to scripture, but all of us are welcome into revelatory encounters with the word of God, which is not only a book, but also a person!  If you’re weary or dry, I encourage you to take time and meditate on the book of Revelation.  Your spirit will be refreshed as you “eat” His words of life.

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Are we living in the end times?  I don’t know, but we are living in some exciting times, and God is not surprised by anything that’s happening.  Are things getting better or worse? Yes. Both. (Isaiah 60:1) Can reading the book of Revelation encourage us in these days?  Yes. Will it answer every question we have? Probably not.

Is the Church called to be a light no matter what time in history it is?  Absolutely.  Will encountering God in His word equip us to be more of a light to the lost and hurting?  Without a doubt!

 

Here are the facts:

  1. These are troubling times.
  2. God is our refuge and strength in times of trouble.
  3. We discover more of God when we read His Word.
  4. God is in the book of Revelation.

There are a few ways we can respond to the times we live in.  We can bury our head in the sand, caving to fear; Or we can be brave and face head on that which in front of us, equipped with His power, Word, and love.

As I was typing, this song came on and I think it sums up what I’m saying perfectly.

No matter what happens…it is well with my soul.  When I have saturated myself in Him and His Word, I am confident in who I am and Whose I am.  Indeed, it is well with my soul.

 

Our Confidence

con·fi·dence
noun \ˈkän-fə-dən(t)s, -ˌden(t)s\
: a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something
: a feeling or belief that someone or something is good or has the ability to succeed at something
: the feeling of being certain that something will happen or that something is true

Confidence determines outcomes.

My 10 year old son started playing All Star Baseball this year. I’ve always enjoyed watching baseball, but never fully realized how mental and emotional this game can be. It’s easy to tell when the boys are feeling more or less confident. Confidence affects their outcomes. When they get ahead in hits and runs their confidence is high. They step up to the plate and go to battle every time. I can see the confidence on their faces. When their confidence is shattered, they don’t look the same. They make more errors and get fewer hits & runs. And I haven’t even talked about pitching yet. Pitchers have the toughest job of all and require the most confidence.

Our little Jr. Buck team has had some amazing victories this year and some emotional losses. I’m thinking that 10 year old baseball is just as intense as the MLB world series….minus the audience. The world might not be watching, but the competition feels just as fierce.

Right now they are learning that everyone makes mistakes, and those mistakes can not take them out of the game. One error in baseball can be very costly, but they are learning that they can not allow that one mistake to play into their next at-bat, pitch, or catch. The coaches will encourage them to, “shake it off”, parents will cheer, “it’s ok…get the next one.”

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Wait…am I talking about baseball or real life?

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a voice over our shoulder every time we messed up affirming us that our identity is not found in how we perform, but in who we are? Oh, yes! There is such a voice of affirmation:

But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. Hebrews 3:6

And what an incredible confidence it is! Confidence here connotes the following: freedom, unreserved-ness, fearless confidence, and cheerful courage. (Thanks Dr. Dav for that research!)

In other words..when we step up to the plate of life, we can swing with full confidence, knowing that we will succeed. Our success is guaranteed because of the finished work of the cross. I’m not talking about finances or fame here, I’m talking about success that comes from knowing who you belong to and finishing your race with confidence in Him.

Woah! Now that is something to meditate on and celebrate!

Saying Goodbye

This is our last weekend with our almost ten month old foster son.  He will leave as suddenly as he came.

 

Here is the back story:

Almost three years ago our friends who do foster care got a newborn baby boy.  His Dad was in jail and His Mom was not involved.  The Dad had two other son’s that his parental rights had been terminated on.  The state was going to terminate on this one as well.  As far as our friends knew, they were going to be adopting this little one.  The night before the termination hearing the lawyer for the state changed her mind and decided it would be best to go for a parenting plan for the Dad.  A few months later, when he was 15 months old, L went back to his birth father.

 

The state continued to monitor them for a short time.  Nine months later our friends got a phone call that L needed to be placed back in foster care and that there was also a newborn baby brother.  Our friends knew they wanted L back, but could not take in the newborn as they had already taken in another infant a few months prior.  They had the newborn brother (M)  for a night while DFS looked for a foster home for him.

 

Because we are good friends and live close, I was over at their home in the morning helping out with the three under-two-year-olds.  DFS called my friend at noon and said that they could not find a home for M.  There were no stay-at-home foster parents and he was too young for day care.  My husband and I had done some foster care in the past.  We fostered two newborns over 2 ½  years and ended up adopting both of them.  (This is one of our adoption stories) Our licence had expired, but my heart was being pulled.  Here was an orphan on my door step.  I could not look away.  It was like Jesus was asking me, “will you take care of him…will you take care of me?”  My heart was broken.

 

I called my husband who was visiting his parents with our four children and told him about this situation.  There was some hesitation in both of us, but ultimately we knew we needed to take M in.  I called the social worker and asked her if we could take him.  They were able to licence us that day and M came home with me.  The rest of my family came back home two days later.

 

Initially we thought that M would only be with us for three weeks.  That plan fell through.  DFS searched for other relatives that could take him, and that didn’t work out either.  So here we are, nine months later, and he is going back to his birth parents.

 

To say our hearts are breaking would be an understatement.  Foster care is such a mixed bag.  I have true compassion for his parents, and I am praying for ultimate Justice and redemption for them and for M.

 

What is in front of us right now is most likely one of the most difficult things we have ever done.  We have loved M like our own son.  Our friends still have his older brother (L) and will hopefully be adopting him in the coming months.  When the boys came into care last summer  their Dad signed off his rights to L.  He saw that the best thing for him was to stay with our friends.  The boys have different Moms.  Our little guys is his birth mom’s first child.  They have done everything the State has asked them to do.  Clean UA’s, made all their visits, parenting classes, therapy, drug rehab, etc.

 

This is not the end of their story or M’s.  The parents are facing criminal charges for Felony Child Endangerment.  Knowing what happened in that case makes sending M home more challenging emotionally for us.

 

We have no other option than to trust God.  Trust that God will keep him.  Trust that God will be sovereign in M’s life.  Trust that God will continue to restore his Mom and Dad.  Trust that we will be able to stay in touch with him and be a part of his life in some way.

 

This weekend will be a time of saying good bye.  I might post again…the emotions are overwhelming and this is a good outlet for me to grieve.  I am so thankful for our friends who are with us in this.  I’ve had text’s, phone calls, and even a very comforting song that my friend Barb got from the Lord for us. Maybe I’ll share that in my next post.

 

All I can say is that when God calls us to something He does not guarantee a happy ending.  At the same time, I have no regrets.  I have learned to love more unconditionally….more like Jesus.


We will never be the same.

goodbye

We Will Laugh

There are things we take seriously in this life that we’ll laugh at in the next.

 Everyone who’s put their hope in what Jesus did for them through His crucifixion and resurrection is destined for an eternity in heaven that is incomprehensible.  None of us can even imagine what it will be like to live day after day after day after day in the presence of God (Father, Holy Spirit, and Jesus)  and with every believer throughout all of history and time.  I think we can gain glimpses and revelation of what Heaven will be like, but until we are permanently in our eternal home, we are left to read, imagine and dream about what it will be like.

 Some of the things we find important on earth are not going to matter to us at all in Heaven.  Here is a list of five things.  Five things we take seriously now….that we will laugh together about in Heaven.

 

1) Denominationalism

This is number one for a reason.  I honestly believe this will be the first thing we will laugh about.  We’re going to laugh because remembering how divisive we were is actually going to seem quite funny in light of the perfect unity we will eternally dwell in.  Think about it.  We will not be “Baptist” or “Lutheran” or “Pentecostal” or any other specific name.  We will be “The Bride of Christ”  Period.  End. Of. Story. There will be no differences in theology. We will know fully even as we are fully known. We will love and be loved perfectly.  There will be no relational insecurities, jealousy or miss-trust.  We will honor and deeply appreciate everyone as we spend eternity getting to know one another better.  Our individual worship style will be as unique as we are, but our unity in worship will be unparalleled to anything we experienced on earth.

 

2) Gender-ationalism

Yes.  I just made that word  up.  I’m referring to the debate in the Church about the roles of Men and Women.  Come on now…do you really think there will be any debate in Heaven about weather a woman can teach?  Or what it means to submit?  Nope. None. Nada.  I only hear laughing….very hysterical laughing.

 

3) Stress about lack

We will laugh at how much we stressed over finances and time.  These two things will not be an issue in eternity.   There’s no lack in heaven.  We will have all the time and resources to do whatever we desire to do no matter what the cost or the amount of time it might take. Hallelujah!

 

4) Loss and grief

There is nothing funny about loss in this life.  Most of the time our reaction is anything from sadness to deep mourning.  However, in eternity, we will be stunned by how deeply we grieved the loss of our brothers and sisters who graduated to Heaven.

 

5) Thoughts that heaven will be boring

Heaven is going to be everything except boring.   We will laugh and laugh about our ideas of heaven being a place with nothing to do except sit around and sing with angels with harps on clouds.  Heaven is going to be the ultimate experience and it will last for ever and ever.  It will be incredible fun.  Check out this video if you have ever thought otherwise.

 

clouds

 

Christmas Snow

Christmas Snow

A voice from Heaven spoke clear, without show.

“Go, tell it on the Mountain…it’s going to snow.”

 

In a manger He was swaddled and laid.

Every curse against man was about to be paid.

 

He grew up in wisdom, grace, and favor.

The still small voice He could hear without labor.

 

A voice from Heaven spoke clear, without show.

“Go, tell it on the Mountain…it’s going to snow.”

 

God in the flesh; blameless and pure.

Was about to become mankind’s cure.

 

One obedient step at a time

He did not shrink back from Calvary’s climb.

 

A voice from Heaven spoke clear, without show.

“Go, tell it on the Mountain…it’s going to snow.”

 

He’s body was broken; in a tomb He was laid.

Little did they know; their debts He had paid.

 

The final card was in His hand.

This play would be felt throughout all the land.

 

Curses, shame, and all unrest

Are far from us, as east is to west.

 

A voice from Heaven speaks clear, without show.

“Sin’s red stain forever gone;   you are white as snow.”

 

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When Push Comes To Shove

Yesterday I enjoyed an amazing ski day at Big Sky Resort all by myself.  It was an introvert’s dream.  Thanks to my iphone I was able to follow Facebook, and unless you live in a hole in the ground, you know that everyone was talking about comments made by Duck Dynasty’s patriarch Phil Robertson in an interview with GQ.

The Duck Dynasty controversy, in my opinion, is not so much about A & E vs. Phil Robertson,  as it is about relative  vs. absolute truth.  Phil was backed into a corner and asked questions about where he stands on a specific topic.

Those who stand on the side of relative truth believe truth is defined individually.  It is up to each person to decide what is true for them.  Those who believe in absolute truth believe something outside of themselves defines truth.  Phil is in the later group.

If you follow the “truth is relative”  line of thinking consistently you have to take anything off of the table as “wrong” because if it’s up to an individual to decide right from wrong, then anything can be morally right.  And by anything…I mean ANYTHING.

Those who hold to a belief that there is such a thing as absolute truth believe that something outside of our own feelings or opinions defines truth.  Most in this group look to the Bible as a guide for defining what is right from wrong.

It comes as no surprise that I am in this later group.  I love the Bible because it is more than just a book.  It is a living word.    The very best part is that the word came in the flesh as Jesus.  He is the word, and I have access to Him!  I can talk to Him and He talks back.  His presence is felt in increasing ways as I grow in intimacy with Him.  I will live with Him for all of eternity because He came and took my place in death.  Forever and ever  I will worship Him face to face, and He will sing over me, in an eternal exchange of affection.

Whatever your opinion was about yesterday’s Duck Dynasty controversy,  you must now recognize that a line has been drawn in the sand.  Our culture has been approaching this moment for years and now there is no turning back.

I wish  Phil had said things in a different way, but I can not disagree with his stand about what is right and what is wrong.

His follow up comments brought clarity:

 “I myself am a product of the ’60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together.

“However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and, like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

The topic of homosexuality is a prime target for those who want to bring persecution against the Christian church.  It’s  a hard issue to address because it’s so deeply personal.  If we say murder is a sin,  few people will argue or be offended.  But when we say that the act of homosexuality is a sin we are suddenly hateful.

I have wrestled with this for years.  My husband and I have had hours and hours of conversation about this topic.  We have friends who are homosexuals.  We love them, and we have shown that love in very tangible ways.  I have ministered to gays and lesbians.  I have counseled and prayed with them.  They know exactly what I believe about homosexual acts, and they know that I love them.

It is VERY VERY difficult to say in one line “I love the GLBT community” and “I believe that their actions are morally wrong.”   Oh how I wish it were easier.  The good news is that there are homosexuals who do get it.  Some even spoke out yesterday in Phil’s defense.

The GQ interview was a push comes to shove moment for the Church.  When push comes to shove, what is our belief?

Misunderstanding and persecution are the same thing.  Jesus was completely misunderstood by the religious leaders. Those who backed Phil into a corner did so because their intent was to bring persecution.   I feel a boldness that is increasing in my heart to proclaim the truth in love.  I do not want to fear persecution because I believe  when persecution hits, there is  an increase of boldness and kingdom expansion.

My prayer for those who hold fast to absolute truth, is that we will   recognize this  increased freedom and favor to share Christ’s love and truth in humility this season.  God is by nature a redeemer, and I am confident that He is going to take this controversy and use it for His utmost good.

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