Category Archives: Where Are You Now?

Sink or Swim?

wooden raftSwimming, in theory, should come naturally, once one masters the techniques.  Supposedly, once one learns to swim, kinetic memory ensures those skills can be summoned whenever necessary at any point in the future.  However, swimming in a pool is quite another matter from swimming in a turbulent sea!  Similarly, paddling a canoe on a still lake is far less challenging than steering that same canoe through river rapids in a steep canyon!

Although we like to think of our life with Jesus as a place of safety, experience has taught us that it occasionally feels undeniably risky!  Instead of feeling snug and safe with Him in the boat (NOTE:  HE was sleeping, but the disciples definitely were not in any state resembling repose!), we lurch about on the turbulent seas of life as we desperately cling to our fragile rafts.  The waves crash over us, we are wet to the bone, and we wonder where our Prince of Peace might have hidden Himself!

Usually at some point in the midst of such storms, I remember that our Messiah subjected Himself to every sin, temptation, test, and storm imaginable during His life on earth in a human body.  He endured pain, sorrow, grief, and trauma far beyond what any of us could possibly have endured — and through each ordeal, He maintained a righteous attitude of heart without flagging.   If we are to reflect Jesus in this life, our cruise season on Earth with our Lord will not be merely still waters, nor are our vessels built with high, protective walls to shield us from every ripple in the sea of life.  Instead, we are awarded a wooden raft — a cross — to which we must cling for survival.  It may not FEEL safe, but He is with us on it; in fact, He was nailed to it on our behalf and can still save us through any circumstance life brings us.   Although He never promised to shield us from getting wet, or from feeling the wind on our faces, or from being bent over and clinging to that wood just to survive, He is faithful to be present with us in every situation.  Even when we are unaware of His nearness, He is with us; He guarantees He will save us THROUGH this stormy life, even though He does not always rescue us FROM it or from every painful or challenging circumstance.     

Father, thank You for providing the wooden raft of Your cross for me.  It is far more powerful than it sometimes seems in my more desperate moments!   Thank You that Your cross HOLDS through every storm and can carry me to the other side of every challenge.  Thank You that You are victorious when I cannot be; You are more than enough to compensate for all my weaknesses and inadequacies.   The place on that raft — Your cross — may seem risky for me, but it purchased my safety and assures me of Your Presence in me!   When the salt spray is in my mouth and the wind stings my eyes, help me to remember that You did this before me and will never abandon me.

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Waypoint or Destination?

465303034-612x612When we are passionate about something we are doing, particularly a spiritual pursuit or passion,  we typically make every effort to ensure the visibility, desirability, and even attractiveness of our cause.  We might have a passion to pursue Jesus Christ in all His fullness and to experience the truth and power of the Gospel, a passion to end modern-day slavery, a passion to end abortion, to eradicate racism, to end child labor in African coffee fields, to dig water wells for communities without clean water, to provide education for the homeless or fair wages for those in the clothing factories in China. While there is nothing wrong with drawing others to a cause we deem worthy of their attention, we need to be aware that we (and our “ministry” or “cause”) are a waypoint, as opposed to a destination.    If we are not careful to serve only as a stopping point, a location where people might find a bit of rest and a place to get their bearings before continuing their journey, others may fail to reach their goals; they may camp out with us and completely forget about traveling onward to reach their own intended destinations.  

In the case of Aglow International, the local groups are (quite appropriately!) called lighthouses.  Lighthouses illuminate the safe approach into a harbor potentially fraught with obstacles.   Local Aglow groups use the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit to refresh, equip, and train “travelers” to continue to their various areas of Kingdom assignments this side of heaven.   However, in my experience, it can be far too easy to expect people to come to US, remain with US, champion our particular cause, and never move on past a certain point.  

This principle applies to families, churches, and any other ministry or movement.   The purpose of parenting, for example, is to raise self-sufficient, independent young adults who pursue their own paths in life.   My thirty-year-old should not rely on me to tie his shoes!   He should be well equipped, if I have done my job properly, to make his own decisions and pursue his own passions (which may not be expressed the same way as mine).  Similarly, churches are families of believers where people are equipped to touch the hearts of others outside that immediate family with the good news of Jesus.   If churches never train and launch anyone, they will never impact the surrounding community.   

I often ask myself whether what I am doing revolves around me and my personal causes, or whether I am designing what I do to include, train, and send others on the road to their respective “harbors.”  Do my ministry activities focus on drawing others to me, or do they facilitate others in connecting with the Holy Spirit and hearing His voice for their own areas of impact? Am I seeking followers to come camp with me permanently, or do I remember to shine the light, serve up something fortifying and refreshing, and perhaps provide a temporary stopping place, before launching them back into the water?

In the case of Aglow lighthouses, the goal is to serve as a waypoint, a stopping point, an equipping post; Aglow is NOT a destination.   Aglow groups seek to position themselves in a harbor at a point of need or challenge in their respective communities, and they strive to shed light on the safe path through those challenges into the harbor of the truth of the Gospel.  Aglow leadership trains and launches others into various fields of ministries, which are always a function of the individual’s particular gifts and passions.

Let’s remember that our lives are NOT a destination — they serve to point the way for those around us and to encourage them in the area of Kingdom activity THEY are called to pursue.  It is no coincidence that Jesus said to GO into all the world (Mark 16:15); let’s shine our lights in strategic locations to help others find their way!  WE are NOT the destination…. 

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Living from a Platform of Peace

HaKotelDo you ever feel as if you are barely hanging on wherever life has taken you?  Are you hanging on by your fingernails, or are you flourishing, even on the wall of adversity?  Sometimes I feel as if I am about to fall into the nether reaches of a deep pit.   What precipitates this sense of peril?  It is not always the greatest challenges that shake my stability; instead, it is often the smaller disturbances that disrupt my internal sense of peace, particularly concerns about the people I love most.

The Holy Spirit spoke to me recently and revealed to me that this loss of peace was rooted in fear; He gently said, “You are not trusting me with ___________ [insert a situation or the name of a person you love].”  I immediately acknowledged that He had put a finger on a part of my heart that, in fact, did NOT trust Him!

Since that moment, I have been learning to function from a more solid platform of peace; although I certainly have not mastered the art of flourishing on the wall, I am becoming a better student of that art!  First, when faced with a challenge or a worry, I need to ask myself where I am sitting, as my position will determine my perspective on that challenge.  Ephesians 2:6  states that God “… raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus [the Messiah, the Anointed One]” (AMPC).  The perspective from the heavenly realm with the Lord will certainly prove different from my own human perspective!  How do I practice this approach?  I literally imagine myself running into God’s arms and jumping into His lap!  I then ask Him to give me His vision and His perspective on my situation.  I also take great comfort in being seated with my heavenly Daddy.

Secondly, I ask myself where I am planted. Although I am well aware that Paul instructs us to be rooted and grounded in Christ, I must confess that my heart often feels uprooted and transplanted to rocky soil or soil full of sorrow or despair.  The Holy Spirit is able to re-ground me and refresh me; He reminds me that my roots are in Jesus.  I am learning to submit my disturbed feelings — fears, unbelief, doubts, dis-ease — to Jesus; I do not deny my emotions, but I release them to Him.  It is His nature and character to comfort, heal, and encourage me.  I ask Him to help my thoughts reflect Who He is.  He is faithful to do that, as He has given to every person a measure of faith, and Jesus Himself is the author and finisher of that faith.  We can trust Him with our doubts, fears, and anxieties!

Finally, I am practicing what Psalm 149 describes as a powerful weapon of warfare:  verbal praise.   Praise is particularly powerful when expressed from a position of rest.  We read in verses five and six:  “Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud on their beds.  Let the high praises of God be in their mouth and a two-edged sword in their hand” (NKJV).  The rest of that psalm describes the effects of that kind of praise in the spiritual realm.

Operating from a position of peace means to assume the correct position (be seated in heavenly places and be rooted and grounded in Jesus).  Father, help me to remember my assigned seat with You and to stay connected to the ROOT!  Empower me to wield spiritual weapons rightly with Your high praises in my mouth and Your two-edged sword in my hand.  Praise will defeat the enemies of my soul and the enemies of those I love.  Praise will invite the Presence of Jesus Christ into every situation and circumstance.

 

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Shake It, Shake It, Baby!

earthquake-1665892_640Does it feel as if there is a “whole lotta shakin’ going on?”   Do things you have taken for granted seem to be shifting and shaking?  It seems that spiritual earthquakes are becoming more commonplace.  Our ways of doing things in church, in our ministry groups, and even in our households are changing.   Instability seems to rule, and confidence in our circumstances has become a thing of the past.

However, as challenging and disturbing as it may seem, this shaking process is a part of the Lord’s methodology for these end times.  “For this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land.  I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.   (Haggai 2:6-7  NLT)  God promises to shake everything before He comes in all His glory.  In fact, the earthquake releases the treasures into the Temple.   

Indeed, God desires that we trust in Him alone — not in our families, our friends, our circumstances, our education or credentials, our employers, our governments, our ministry methods, or even our pastors.  He longs for us to abandon every confidence that is not established on Christ alone, the chief Cornerstone. “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken.”  (Isaiah 28:16)   Jesus Christ is the only One that will be a sure foundation stone that lasts forever.

As the various circumstances in my life begin to change and even shake, and it feels as if an earthquake is about to strike, I must remember to call on the Lord, who will be my rock of defense in times of trouble.  When everything falls away, He remains.   At times, even the things He has directed me to build and the areas of ministry He has opened to me seem on the brink of collapsing.   What should my response be?  I must declare that it is well.   I have confidence in God alone, and even that confidence is not of my own doing, but given by Him.

The Holy Spirit’s current word to the Church might be:  “Awake! Awake, TziyonClothe yourself with your strength! Dress in your splendid garments, Yerushalayim, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean will enter you no more. Shake off the dust! Arise! Be enthroned, Yerushalayim! Loosen the chains on your neck, captive daughter of Tziyon!” (Isaiah 52:1-2 Complete Jewish Bible)  If we recall that the earthquake following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was accompanied by the dead coming to life and the curtain of the Temple being torn in two, we can rest assured that any personal earthquakes we are experience are designed by the Lord to release treasures from dark places and fill the temple of our hearts with His glory.   The key is to let go of everything we tend to cling to during the shaking process.   Instead, let us cling tightly to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, our strong tower, the One who is never shaken but remains forever!

 

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What? Not THIS Again!

rocks-e1524531232783.jpgYears ago, when we lived on the southwest coast of Norway, I was impressed by the pristine beauty of snow-covered fields bordered by stone fences.  Every spring, after the snow had melted, the farmers labored to remove stones from their fields, thereby enlarging their fences.  I recall wondering why they had not cleared the land properly in the first place and why the fences were not already deemed complete.  “Why this annual digging for stones?,” I speculated.  My husband, an engineer in the oil industry with some background in geology, explained that the earth was not stationary.  Forces in the earth are constantly shifting, pushing the stones upward to the surface with changes in temperature and pressure.  That process led to the necessity for removal of the newly-surfaced rocks prior to planting the fields each year.

God has effected significant transformation in my life, particularly in the areas of rejection and self-hatred, guilt and shame.  Although the initial deliverance from powerful hindrances in these areas was substantial, occasionally something happens that exposes another stone — a residue of the strongholds that previously ruled my heart and my thinking.  As life marches on, there are circumstances that force those stones to the surface of my heart.  Each time, I have a choice regarding how to respond:  either I can recognize that there is another hard place in my heart that the Lord is tenderly digging up and removing, or I can deny it entirely, claim I am free, and refuse to submit to His cleansing touch.   A third option might be to beat myself up and doubt that the previous transformation even amounted to anything at all.   Clearly, options two and three are not helpful responses!

Taking the third option, if I assume I have not gained anything in my walk with Jesus, I will refuse to move into the next season and will endure a season with no planting and no harvest.  Secondly, if I refuse to acknowledge the stones emerging from the soil of my heart, I may plant seed, but it will be hindered in its growth.   On the other hand, if I recognize God’s revelation of the residue of my former bondage and submit to His hand, He will dig around those stones and remove them, rendering the soil fit for plowing and planting.

Father, till the soil of my heart and remove the residue of past pain and bondage.   Give me grace not to be blinded by my own pride, discouraged by the process, or fearful of the pain sometimes necessary to the healing process.   Cause my heart to be a heart of flesh, fertile soil fit for abundant growth of the holy Seed of Kingdom truth — truth who is a Person, and His Name is Jesus!

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 36:25 (NKJV)

See also Mark 4:1-20.

 

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SHIFTING GEARS: ARE YOU IN PARK OR DRIVE?

tattered tentRecently I realized that many of us are doggedly striving to hold onto ground that is not ours to hold.  While we assume that ground is our precious and rightful possession, to be defended at all cost, we are sadly deceived.   God calls us to move forward into His promises and purposes for us.  However, quite often, after the initial excitement of salvation and of digging into the glorious truths expressed in His word and the benefits of knowing Jesus as our Lord, we set out on the road to our new life and end up waylaid on the roadside, or even in a ditch.   When the storms of life come our way (and they DO!), we are fiercely focused on survival and somehow end up taking on the identity of the storm rather than the identity of our Savior.   Before we know it, we are hanging on in Camp Lack, Camp Fear, Camp Loss, Camp Infirmity, or Camp Despair.  Our struggle to hold on in adversity has become our identity, without our realizing it.   

When we feel stuck, what can we do?  The first step is to recognize that the Lord never intended us to camp there in the first place; He has appointed us to bear His identity and to break out of captivity to the things that weigh us down.  Does that mean we never face storms or problems?  Of course not!  However, it does mean that we seek Him first and trust Him to impart His nature to us as we move through the storm (as opposed to securing our tent pegs in the wrong camp).  

In Micah 2:13, the prophet says:  “The breaker  [the Messiah, who opens the way] shall go up before them [liberating them]. They will break out, pass through the gate and go out;
so their King goes on before them, the Lord at their head.”  It is high time we abandon the land of captivity, move OUT, and move INTO the new fields of fruitfulness and pastures of provision!  

Father, show me where I have parked and set up my tent in the wrong camp!  Teach me how to pull up the stakes and move out and on with you, in Jesus’ Name!

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Residue from the Past? Bloom Anyway!

After a sustained bout of fervid horticultural attempts during the first ten years or so of my adult life, I came to the conclusion that proper care of plants proved far too time-consuming for my role as an overwhelmed mother of several young children.   I consequently threw myself into the silk plant trend with the goal of avoiding watering, fertilizing, rotating pots seasonally for optimum light requirements, and other such cumbersome details.

After several years of contented, indoor-plant-free living, a friend presented me with an orchid.  The flowers were delicate, exotic, and beautiful.  They lingered long enough to guarantee my heartfelt attachment to the plant.  In a moment of lapsed reasoning, I read up on orchids, trimmed off the old stems, and placed the barren potted stub in a northeast window.   Every so often, I remembered to put an ice cube in the little pot.   After a year or so of such treatment, I began to imagine I spotted a tiny sign of new growth.  I moved it to a different northeast-facing window in the kitchen, where I could keep the stub under closer observation.  In the meantime, various friends foisted their own abandoned orchids on me, as they claimed they did not wish to take care of them.  Two more friends gave me additional orchids as a gift.  I now have six orchids, happily shooting out new roots in sundry directions and occasionally surprising me with a bloom.

Apparently orchids are the perfect houseplants for me, as they thrive on neglect (my method of plant care)!  Over time, I have come to admire their beauty and have learned a few lessons in the process.   They require little water and seem to thrive when root-bound.   Their roots reach valiantly out of the potting medium through the air, seeking sunlight.   Am I that energetic and motivated when deprived of my creature comforts or under pressure?  I think not!

The several orchids I have observed generally bloom once a year.   After blooming, a leaf or two may turn yellow and appear to be dying; it is important not to pull the fading leaf off the plant until it nearly falls off on its own.   However, new blooms typically do not form until the fading leaves come off, new roots press toward the sunlight, and a new center stalk forms, a stalk that will ultimately bear buds for the new flowers.   This process follows in sequence on a schedule unique to the particular type of orchid.

However, one of my orchids is now in its third blooming cycle this year.  Moreover, it has two unsightly yellow, limp leaves that have failed to fall off the plant.   However, the fading leaves have not discouraged this orchid from unashamedly erupting again into glorious blooms!  I am reminded that perhaps we shouldn’t wait for the residue of the old seasons in our lives to be completely gone before we press into the new season.   Sometimes wheat grows with the tares; things that bear fruit may grow among a few weeds in our lives.   Retaining some baggage from a season that is ending should not prevent me from boldly moving forward into a season of growth.  In time, I will succeed in dropping my old suitcases from the prior season in favor of the beautiful growth of the new one.   In the meantime, I need to stop using the detritus of the old season as an excuse for failing to move forward.

Similarly, in my walk with Jesus, I was far from perfect when I came into relationship with Him. (If I had waited until I was perfect to know Him better, I would never have known Him!) He was not rattled by the evidence of sin, pain, and bondage in my life, for He knew what kind of growth He had created me to sustain.  He graciously tolerates my flaws as He sets about creating something of beauty.  Instead of cowering in the corner, ashamed of my imperfections, I can move forward with Him and allow Him to birth beauty in my life.   The dead leaves will fall off in due time.   

In Luke 17:14, we read that Jesus healed ten lepers.  However, they did not stand waiting before Jesus until the healing happened.   Instead, “He said to them, ‘Go [at once] and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cured and made clean.”  (AMPC)  Often, we are healed in the process of being obedient to move on; we are healed “in the going.”  If I obey the Lord to do what He asks me to do and choose to trust Him despite my circumstances and my “dead leaves,” I can move forward into the next season and bear fruit.   The fruit-bearing process will ultimately trigger the shedding of the baggage of the past season.   What a wonderful reminder from my valiant orchid!

 

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