Paris, Terrorism, and Refugees

I didn’t change my facebook photo to the French flag this week.  Not because I’m not praying for Paris, but because for me, this is a global issue.  If there was a photo like that with an image of the Earth, I would change my photo to it.  

World

I remember the exact moment I heard about ISIS.  I was standing in my kitchen making dinner and I got a very uneasy feeling in my gut.  The first thought to cross my mind was, “If this thing does not get dealt with, there is nothing stopping it from spreading across the entire earth.”

 

The truth is, the world is actually a very tiny place.  I have a biblical worldview that makes it even smaller in some ways.  I believe the Church is the body of Christ, and no matter what continent we live on, we are all one body.  The scripture tells us, “when one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it.”  To me this means the person facing persecution in Paris or Turkey or Iraq is a part of me and I am a part of them.  Their suffering is my suffering and vice versa.

 

Certainly, God sees the world as one whole.  Having a worldview that encompasses His viewpoint will help us intercede in an effective manner.  When tragedy strikes anywhere in the world, it should affect us as if it was happening in our own town.  Just because someone doesn’t speak my language doesn’t mean we’re not connected in an eternal way.  

 

It’s time for the Church to come into clarity about her position before the throne of God.  We are not called to be a weak body. We are destined and created to demonstrate our God-given authority.  We have been given access to the throne room of Heaven which is the best place we can intercede from.  

 

As we connect with Him in that secret intimate place, He will give us revelation in how to pray effectively.  If you are unsure of what I mean by this, try this simple exercise:

 

Turn on some worship music and either sit or lay down quietly.  Close your eyes, and use your imagination to picture Jesus.  Put your focus on Him and allow His presence to invade your mind, will, and emotions.  Once you are in that secret place of fellowship with Him, simply begin to ask Him how He would like you to pray.  You may be amazed at what you hear and the results you will see!

 

Ask the Lord to give you His heart for the Nations.  The attack on Paris this week was not just an attack on Paris. It represents an attack on all of us.  When evil like that happens, it happens on a global level. Let’s not use it as an example of our political beliefs, whatever side you are on.  Let’s ask God what He has to say about it, and what our response in prayer needs to be.  
Tragedies like this could very well increase in the coming days.  Arguing and blaming will not help.  Turning our eyes toward Heaven and getting an idea of what God has to say is the place to start.

Everything Changes

Have you ever experienced the atmosphere in a room change?  Maybe someone was in a bad mood.  The color of the air seemed to change as their emotions filled the space.  The opposite can also happen when someone with gladness and joy releases peace.   One human can change the mood in a room for better or for worse.

If people can change the climate in a room – how much more can God?

One thing I will always seek after in ministry is God’s presence.  When He is present, anything can happen.  It’s like the words to the song, “When You walk into the room, everything changes.”  Healing, deliverance, restoration, and great joy abound when He is present.

But isn’t God everywhere? Yes, God is omnipresent.  However, His tangible presence is referred to in scripture as His Kabowd….or in more familiar terms, His Glory.   The Glory of God is defined as His heavy, weighty, presence.  It’s what Moses requested when he prayed, “Show me your Glory” in Exodus 33:18.  

God answered Moses’ prayer in a distinct way.  He will do the same for us as we seek and pray for the manifestation of His Glory to be in our lives, ministries, etc.

Is it important for us to make a request like Moses?  Certainly, God can crash in, even in His glory, without being asked.  But most of the time, from my experience, God is more present when His presence is INVITED.

We live in a condo.  Many of the condos around us are occupied with college students.  Occasionally, someone will walk into ours on accident.  It doesn’t happen very often, but it has happened on occasion. More often though, the only people who come into our condo have been invited in.  

Invitations are powerful.  They give access.

When we invite God’s presence ….His RSVP is affirmative.

invitation-md

We can take a couple of approaches when it comes to inviting God’s presence into our day, life, or gathering.  

First approach:

We can focus on doing our own thing and leave it all up to God whether He shows up or not. I’ve heard people say this about receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They will say, “If God wants me to pray in tongues, He will grab ahold of my mouth and make me.”

Some have the perception this is what happened at Pentecost…that God just showed up & made everyone speak in tongues. They were not asking specifically for the gift of tongues, but they were expecting an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Jesus had told them to wait for the gift that had been promised.

They were ACTIVE in their seeking and waiting.

I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with the logic that “God will make me…”  In fact, it completely removes responsibility off of the individual and puts it solely onto God. I disagree, because I believe God allows us to participate in invitation.

While preparing and planning (for whatever) we can say: “I’m not going to seek an experience…I’m only going to focus on my agenda…if God wants to interrupt me, that’s up to Him.”

Ok –  fine, but don’t expect much of an encounter with God if you’re not asking for one.

Second approach:

A second approach is to invite God into our midst. Moses ASKED and God responded.

Jesus already made the first move.  He came as a man, and sacrificed His life in a brutal death so we could gain access to HIM.  Sometimes I wonder if we’ve forgotten the veil in the temple was torn.  That means we can boldly go into His throne room.   He is personal.   God is not some distant being up in space.  He is as near as our air.  He has form, substance and personality.  He has feelings and thoughts.  He’s a real person who has invited us to intimately know Him.

I remember being taught that the “touchy feely” part of Christianity was just for new believers.  I was taught that there was a honeymoon stage in the beginning, and after that we “mature” into walking by faith and not by our feelings.  Now I understand that is mostly a lie to move us into a religious system.  Jesus paid a great price to bridge the gap between us and Him.   The truth is IT IS FINISHED.  If we must “walk solely by faith and not our feelings” then perhaps we have missed the whole point.  The point being, the finished work of the cross.  

Meditating on the finished work brings up a lot of feelings for me.  Feelings of deep gratitude, humility, and a desire to pour out my entire life for Him.  Feelings of desiring more intimacy with this beautiful Savior, and wanting Him to receive the glory due His name. Feelings are not all bad.  Jesus created us to feel stuff because He also has feelings.

Feeling HIS presence is one of the best ways to experience Him.

Revelation of the access Jesus has given us to HIM is really all we need.  Confidence knowing He will give an affirmative answer to our invitation, makes asking that much more simple.

It sounds like this:

  • Holy Spirit, come.
  • God, come.
  • Show us Your glory.
  • Lord, fill our (home, office, place of work, church) with Your tangible presence.
  • Jesus, we love You, we welcome You here.

It really is that simple.  God loves us. He’s looking for resting places in people…  individuals and families who are simply humble and open to allowing His presence to rest in them.

How about you?  Will you allow His presence to invade your spirit, soul, and mind today?  Will you be His resting place?  

It’s as simple as asking.

Prophecies and Predictions

Some have seen the recent blood moons as an opportunity to give “prophecies” and “predictions” about current and future events.   The moons are in themselves interesting, but jumping to conclusions about what they mean is presumptuous at best.

total-lunar-eclipse-2014-video-blood-moon

I’ve enjoyed the moon this week.  I was bummed we had too much cloud cover the night of the eclipse to see it.  Last night it was beautiful, big and bright in the sky.  I find it fascinating that God knew these events would coincide with the Jewish feasts. He is big enough and sovereign enough to orchestrate something so massive that it leaves no doubt He is behind it.  It excites me that people are looking for answers, and intrigued by it all.

The important thing is to filter ALL events, prophecies, and predictions through the character of God.

Is He in a bad or good mood?  Is He angry or happy?  Is He punishing or patient?  Is He frugal or generous?  Does He withhold or does He provide?

If you’re fearful about “prophecies” and “predictions” that you are hearing, I challenge you to filter them through the goodness and kindness of God.  Always ask yourself if it sounds like Him.

I am excited about the day we are living in.

The Bible tells us:

“Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this.”
Isaiah 9:7 ASV

Let’s filter predictions and prophecies through a biblical grid.  The Bible says that His government and His peace will only increase in the earth!

Can God warn us of impending doom?  Yes, He did that in the Bible. He warned and gave clear instruction that led to protection.

What is going to happen in the future?  I have no stinking idea.  He keeps things hidden because He knows the joy we experience in chasing answers and discovering hidden treasures.  He loves to surprise us, just like we enjoy surprising our own kids. Sometimes He gives clues, and other times He gives clear instruction.  Sometimes He gives specifics about future events, but most of the time He only gives hints about how things are going happen, with the knowledge that prayer is always a game changer.

This is what I know for sure:

Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan.  As His followers, we get to be a part of the devil’s annihilation in the earth today.  It’s time for the Church to rise up in our secure identity, stomp on the Devil’s head and walk in the authority we’ve been given.

Confusion and fear about impending doom will cripple the strength we’re commissioned walk in.

Let’s rise up and be a force of prayer, restoration, and reconciliation in the earth.  No weapon fashioned against a church like this will prosper.  We will transform the world around us, as we humbly love and serve the hurting and broken.

“For this is what the Lord says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited— he says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
Isaiah 45:18 NIV

As you listen and digest people’s predictions, be careful to filter all of it through the knowledge that God is a good God.  This one thing can ease a lot of fear and bring peace and rest to your soul.

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.

peaceful_sunset_photo

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.”

meforblog

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