Thursday, October 11, 2018

Hope and Revival in the Church

Today is a sandwich day.

No, I'm not eating a sandwich...

...it's an in-between day.

I'm in-between speaking at one retreat and heading for another.

I'm just home from a weekend with a lovely group of ladies (from three different churches, actually).






My heart is full.

What could make it fuller?

Another retreat!

Last weekend I was at Estes Park, Colorado, and this weekend I'm in Machias Valley, Maine (that's 2311.6 miles in difference...I checked).


These opportunities, where I get to share my messy, broken stories and how the Lord God has redeemed them, are HOPE-GIVING for me.

Every speaking assignment God sends reminds me the Lord is still using what He's doing in my life to point others to the abundance of life in Him.

So, when I'm in the middle of a story-not-yet-reversed-by-Jesus, the old stories leave me filled with HOPE.

That's what remembering does.

That's what speaking out loud the moments of past-peripety will do for the soul: HOPE WILL BE BORN ANEW.

The Apostle Peter, focused on suffering, says this:

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you...
1 Peter 1:3-4

That is a passage packed full of lessons...there's just one I want to focus on today.


At salvation, our merciful God gifts His children a LIVING HOPE.

Not just any hope.

It's living!!!

Have you ever thought about what that means?

Our HOPE is meant to be active.

It's not ever passive.

According to my lexicon, in JESUS our HOPE has a vital power that is exerted upon our souls, and then, makes a difference in someone else's soul.

Our hope is fresh, never perishing.

It's strong, not meant to fizzle, or become weakened...

...AND...it's reciprocal.

Hope is a verb, not a noun, that turns around and puts more hope into the heart of someone else.

No wonder the enemy fights hope-in-our-hearts so hugely.

??? Think what our world would be like if everyone lived with more hope, then passed it on to someone else, who passed it on to someone else...???

I'm not sure, but I think REVIVAL could be an outflow!





Revival is desperately needed in the American church.

Hope is at a premium.

The enemy stands at the gates of our hearts ready to deplete us of hope at every turn.

The "foxes are in the vineyards."

It's time to trap them, eliminate them, and restore LIVING HOPE once more.

Hope waits, but does not sit. It strains with eager anticipation to see what may be coming on the horizon. Hope does not pacify; it does not make us docile and mediocre. Instead, it draws us to greater risk and perseverance.
Dan Allender


I, for one, can't wait to share the source of my living hope for another weekend!

May the Lord show up in all His Glory!




Thursday, October 4, 2018

Resist: A Final Ingredient in a Weed-Killer to Eliminate ANXIETY

Be alert.

Stay watchful.

We have an enemy.

He's LIKE a lion.


He's not one; but he wants us to think he is.

He wants us to believe he can devour us.

He prowls in such a way, so that we will believe he can totally destroy us...

He roars like he can...

But, he can't.

He's "like" a lion; but, he is not a lion...

Oh, don't get me wrong...he can do plenty of damage.

That's why we are to be watchful.


Psalm 22 gives us a great description of what a roaring lion can do (see verses 13-15):

I am poured out like water;
all my bones feel out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd.
my tongue sticks to my jaws...

That's exactly it.

That's what my enemy, the devil, does to me.

He intimidates.

The more he roars his lies at me, the more believable he seems.

It's a mental game he plays...

...But, it's a serious game - there's really no "play" in it.

Well, no play for anyone except for my/our adversary - he's totally in it for the fun of seeing me squirm in misery.

This is his modus operandi:

He corners us, and he dances in delight.

His roaring causes us to fight, freeze, or to flee.

Typically, I freeze.


But, the older I get, the more I am preferring to face my enemy and fight back.

It makes me angry that he can have such power with just a roar.

I believe that's what Peter is hoping for in 1 Peter 5:5-11:

Anger at the enemy!

Yep, Peter desires for us to respond with righteous anger.

Righteous anger is not wrong anger.

We MUST make sure we deal with it rightly.

In your anger, do not sin...
Ephesians 4:26a

So, just as Jesus got angry with the tax collectors and took a stand against them, Peter tells us to stand firm against our enemy...

Resist him, firm in your faith...
1 Peter 5:9

We won't resists him as long as he scares the snot out of us.

James, the brother of Jesus, concurs with Peter.

Resist the devil...
James 4:7b

Resist: to push back; stand up against; stand firm against; express opposition through action and words; refuse to comply.

...but, how...???????????

Truly, this adversary is powerful.

Lions can swat a man's head off with just one swipe of a paw.

Not sure I want to stay standing in the path of, or anywhere near, even one like-a-lion-who-is-not-a-lion.

Thankfully, Peter and James give us a plan of action.

Add four teaspoons of "resist" to our weed-killer for anxiety:

1. Submit to the Lord (James 4:7a).  I humble myself under God's mighty providential hand. I put myself under obedience to the Lord my God. I give up control. I yield to God's will, His way.

2. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (James 4:8a). I boldly come before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) - because there, and only there, will I find HELP for my time of need.


3. Cleanse your hands, you sinners (James 4:8b). I confess my sins, agreeing with the Lord that my heart is impure. I then live in the truth of 1 John 1:9 and Isaiah 1:16-19.

4. Be steadfast in faith (1 Peter 5:9).  Be immovable in what you believe. Stand up and declare it to the enemy. Rehearse the faithfulness of God, not just to yourself, but to your adversary. Remind that devil he is already defeated. He's already been bound, and is on his way to slaughter. He may seem scary, but he is an overcome-defeated-foe (Colossians 2:15).

XXXXX

Add these things to that weed-killer we've been mixing...and the outcome is guaranteed.

Our enemy, the devil, who prowls LIKE a roaring lion that is seeking to devour something (or someone), will TURN TAIL AND RUN.

He will vanish.

He will FEAR US.


That description of Psalm 22:14-15? Instead of defining me, now, it will describe him.

He will attempt to be saved FROM ME - to escape ME, safely out of danger.

This isn't just words.

This is God's TRUTH for ALL OF US - a promise of HOPE.

God's Truth will fight for me.

He will fight for me.

How do I vanquish this enemy who seeks to intimidate me with anxiety?

I give absolutely NO OPPORTUNITY to the devil (Eph 4:27).

I get mad.

I take a stand.

I face him, looking him squarely in the eyes, and...

I LIVE RESIST!

Remember:















Thursday, September 27, 2018

To Eliminate Anxiety, I Must Stay Sober (Adding Ingredients to the Weed-Killer)


Last week, I ended saying that there's one more ingredient to add to our weed killer.

Really, there are two.

The fact is that I was going to lump the last two together, because there is a way to do so, but I realized, I wasn't holding entirely to the integrity of the Word.

In reality, I rather wanted to avoid diving into the first of the two final ingredients; well, because it could be a hot button, and I didn't want to be misinterpreted.

Call me chicken. It's OK. Just don't fry me up and eat me for lunch...

So, I'll just jump right in and go for it.

The next ingredient that has to be added to the weed-killer we are mixing for anxiety is:
SOBER-MINDEDNESS

Some versions translate sober-minded as simply sober, others translate it as self-controlled. I prefer sober-minded. Let me give you the whole Greek definition from my lexicon- νήφω nēphō; literally: to abstain from wine, i.e. (figuratively) be discreet: — be sober, to watch.
AV (6) - be sober 4, watch 2;
to be sober, to be calm and collected in spirit 
to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect

Undoubtedly, you can determine why I didn't want to "touch this word with a ten foot pole," right?

Potentially, it could be a divisive topic, as each of us has our own opinions on the place of drinking in Christian circles.

In its literal use, it means to abstain from wine (or, in another Greek dictionary, "anything of chemical nature, which affects the way one thinks").

Figuratively, it refers to using caution, and being careful, or circumspect (heedful of potential consequences) in one's thoughts or actions.

My intention is not to weigh out the right-or-wrong of drinking.

We're talking about ANXIETY...and, more importantly, how we can help encourage HOPE-FULL-NESS in ourselves and others, who are living in what author, Max Lucado, calls the anxie-tree.

Perhaps, an even better way to define sober-mindedness is clear-headed.


After looking up each passage where the same Greek word is used, I've come to an opinionated conclusion about Peter's intent. Obviously, I can not read his mind, but think my grasp is informed and fairly accurate.

Here's what he's saying in brief:

Walk at all times alert in mind, thinking logically and coherently.

As, strong drink can muddle the mind, and cause one to perceive things inaccurately, a believer needs to use caution, and stay unaffected and realistic of thought, and yes, even emotions that will naturally follow what is thought about.

WHAT WE THINK ABOUT WE FEEL...
Including Anxiety!

So, how do I practically live sober-minded and clear-headed? I:

+ Think about what I'm thinking about (there's a word for this: metacognition).

+ Ask: how well does my thought-life measure up to God's way of thinking? Am I being rational? Am I being logical? Am I thinking what is TRUE, NOBLE, RIGHT, PURE, LOVELY, HONORABLE, and PRAISEWORTHY?


+ "Take captive every thought and imagination" by staying focused, and fighting back with TRUTH...

+ Literally destroy every wrong thought and lie that raises itself up inside the head (believe me, these last two are not easy - there is a reason for the word head-STRONG in our dictionaries).


+ Like all "demons" that are cleared away, I must replace the mental-ones, and fill my mind with renewed thoughts...(to renew: completely change for the better). Exchange the bad for the new. The wrong for the right. The negative for the positive. The self-pity for appreciation. The ugly for the lovely. Put off the old, put on the new.


+ Dwell on the Word of Christ (live in it and allow it to influence your heart and mind).


By practicing the practical, we are adding 6 teaspoons to the weed-killer for anxiety. Those 6 teaspoons are POWERFUL!

Honestly, all this mixing is already beginning to do its work.


XXXXXX

After, completing the above yesterday morning, I went for a long walk. The Lord whispered to the ears of my heart - "you didn't finish."

  

"It's as done as I want it to be, Lord."

Silence.

 That's when I saw a beer bottle lying beside the road I walk, littering the pristine beauty of the national forest ahead.


While discussing, anxiety, there is a rule of thumb all Christians should heed regarding drinking...

1) Don't get drunk. As Paul says, this can lead to debauchery (an old French word, meaning "to loosen up," so as to become lax and unrestrained in morality).

2) Instead, by filled with the Spirit, or as author/speaker Beth Moore says, "There is no high like the MOST HIGH."

3) Keep your wits about you, so you can make the most of your time.

4) And, oh, please ---- don't litter.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

My Trash and Mixing a Weed-Killer for Anxiety: How They Are Connected


Every Tuesday morning, my phone beeps with two alert notifications.

Some days, I really need gentle reminders to help me stay on task.

I hate to say that I'm easily distracted, but, quite often, whatever is yelling at me the loudest gets all my attention...most frequently, it's bank accounts that need reconciled, bills paid, letters that need to be written, or floors that need swept and mopped (OH!, the list is endless)...

Hence, the established beeps.

The first beep on Tuesday tells me to get all my trash to the dumpster at the end of our driveway because it is pick-up-day (thank you, Jesus, for our local waste disposal folk, I really am grateful).


The second beep is a reminder to begin focusing on my Thursday Thought.

This Tuesday the two collided.

Who would have thought my trash would get to be highlighted in my blog?

But, this particular Tuesday morning, as I pushed aside the bar that crosses the lid, and shoved back the heavy metal covering (our dumpster is not only bear-proof, it's somewhat Peg-proof, too), a little switch clicked on in my brain.


Once open, I take the bags of trash I've collected from my house, and I "cast them" into the bin.

That is exactly what Peter tells us to do with our anxious thoughts; and, this is the next ingredient that goes into the weed-killer for anxiety.


This same word (to cast) is sprinkled throughout Scriptures...and it means to transfer, throw away, or lay aside (often because it is unfit). 

Best example: The disciples prepared a colt for Jesus prior to his Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem (see Luke 19:35). They "cast their garments upon the colt"...and, of course, the crowds that thronged the streets, cast theirs, as well, spreading them in front of Jesus on the ground.


To cast is an intentional act of "getting rid of" (or relocating) an object by giving it to someone or something else.

Where our problems are concerned, it's a WHO, not a WHAT.

WHO:  The ONE whose heart-beats with concern and compassion for us. What is true for Israel is true for us today!


So, each Tuesday, I:

1) Bag up my trash...all of it!

2) Take it to the dumpster...all of it!

3) Throw it inside...all of it!

4) Leave it...all of it! (And, don't go back to rummage around through it...gross!)

5) Entrust it to another...yep, all of it!!!!!!

Just as I do these things, I should be doing the same with my worries: bag, take, throw, walk away, and trust.

To our list of ingredients, add 5 teaspoons of "casting."

"Casting" is one of the most difficult acts of faith. 


"Casting" says, "Lord, You know better than I do the answer to this particular concern, and I believe you'll take care of it in due time, with the best possible solution." 


"Casting" says, "I give up control." 

Because giving up control can be SO! VERY! DIFFICULT!, casting dissolves much quicker when we first add humility.

(That's why you can't get the ingredients out of order, otherwise this weed-killer might just blow up in your face.)

When pride has been squelched, casting becomes our natural response....and HOPE begins to replace ANXIETY.

So, on Tuesday morning, as I threw out my literal trash for removal by At Your Disposal (the god over my rubbish), I metaphorically threw in a few other things that were a waste of my mental energy (for the GOD over my worries).

I'm letting Jesus take them away.

I'll give Him the space to do what He sees fit --- fix, heal, bring direction, create solution...

I'll walk away and leave my concerns with Him.

And... I'll keep reminding Him of a few of His promises.

In fact, my words have been something like this: "Um, remember...HOW YOU PROMISED ______________, and I fill in the blank."

(Just FYI: Reminding God of His Promises definitely helps with the last couple of teaspoons of "casting" - the ones that tell us to walk away and have faith.)


There's still one more ingredient to add, and we'll break that down next week...


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Adding Ingredients to the Weed-Killer for ANXIETY


Last week, I mentioned a very real hope-choker: anxiety/worry.

It springs up in my metaphorical garden of faith, like the clover or dandelions that try to take over my flower and vegetable beds.

This truth has resonated with me all this week:

NOTHING COMES OF A SEED CHOKED BY WORRY.


As I stepped into the Apostle Peter's counseling office (by the way, he takes a direct approach; don't step into his practice hoping for pity...), he assured me he had the perfect weed-killer.

I had to gather the ingredients and mix it all up.

First ingredient: cupfuls of honesty.

It's easy for me to deny worry.

I disguise it under the word "concerned."

Sometimes it wears the mask of "mulling over."

My favorite is the one where I tell people I'm "seeking perspective."

I've found a lot of ways to beat around the bush.

Some of you do the same, and I often hear the word "overwhelmed."

No matter the crayon we use to color what's happening up there in our heads, in the end, it's all "clover and dandelions" (!!!!!)...


I have reasons/excuses to be nervous.

They are good ones in that they are...

...Explainable.

...Understandable.

Yet, anxiety does nothing, except rob me of my hope!

I've had opportunity, to put the things Peter has taught me into practice this week.

Hubby has been having heart issues.

He needs a surgery to help.



This week, we took the first step to seeing just how extensive that surgery would need to be -
One and done?
Two or more?
Open-heart or a simple corrective procedure that goes up through blood vessels?
When?
Where?
Who?
I have the fullest two months of upcoming speaking events on my schedule - will I have to cancel any of it? I'm willing to do so, BUT...well...I'm excited about these opportunities...
Hence, my "concern," my "musing," my.......anxiety.

Good news is that the testing has helped us eliminate one surgery, open-heart will not be necessary, and the timing of the one surgery needed could possibly be an absolute miracle.

In the meantime, I'm mixing up my weed-killer.

Like most counselors, Peter doesn't just spell it all out.

He expects me to sift through his suggestions and take to heart what I need.

It's different for all of us.

This is what he suggested:

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world (1 Peter 5:5-9, emphasis mine).


The obvious verb in Peter's dialogue is the word CAST...

However, before I can cast any of my anxieties, I have to back up, and add one critical ingredient:

HUMILITY

The problem with my anxiety is that my PRIDE stands in the way.


I want to control the outcome.

My desire is to fix everything MY WAY.

In fact, I frequently want MY WAY or the HIGHWAY...

I leave out of the equation two very important phrases -
GOD's MIGHTY HAND

GOD's CARE FOR ME

Because of God's great love, I can surrender to the safety found under His mighty hand.

I can abide under the shadow of the ALMIGHTY.

I can rest in His plan for me... It's a good, good plan...because He is a GOOD, GOOD FATHER!

In retrospect, whenever I've forced my plans, and the Lord has stepped back, I have mucked up my life...EVERY! SINGLE! TIME!


Pride is the root of anxiety all the time. 

The first ingredient to add to honesty are THREE TABLESPOONS OF HUMILITY.

1.  I confess my pride.


2.  I step back under the authority of my Heavenly Father, who knows me best, loves me most, and has a plan that beats none-other for my life!



3.  I rest again in the shadow of the Almighty's Providential care for me. This is called "submission."

Don't let that word raise hackles on your back...submission under God's Mighty Hand is the safest place to abide. After all, He is omniscient, and knows what is BEST! He'll do nothing in our lives that is not out of His GREAT LOVE.

Next week, we'll practice casting...

Thursday, September 6, 2018

MY GREAT HOPE-HINDRANCE - and an answer


My greatest, personal hindrance to HOPE is anxiety.

There! I said it.

It's just nine simple words.

However, to put that sentence on a page, let alone on the internet for others to read, took courage.

I reached down to my toes to bring it up through my fingers.

I don't want to be known as "one of those." 


One of what?

A worrier.

One with "carking cares." (I just love that word "carking...")

Jesus commands "don't."

Solomon adamantly advised to "refuse" it.

Paul echoes Jesus (he always does)...then, in his own words clarifies, "Be anxious for.......(What, Paul; what can I be anxious for?)...........NOTHING!"


Peter directs us to "cast it away."

The psalmist is just plain rude. He connects the dots of worry to vanity.

Oh, really?

Yep.

Here's a fly-over...

The problem is that for HOPE to SPRING UP, and to FLOURISH as a flower of beauty in my garden of faith, the weeds of anxiety have to be eliminated.

The gospels are clear on this.

I like the way the Message paraphrase repeats Jesus' words (Mark 4:18-19, Luke 8:14, Mt 13:22):

Nothing comes of the seed choked by worry.

Nothing!


Hope turns to hopelessness; and, we all know where that leads (if you're uncertain, go back and look at the very first entry on this study of hope on January 11, 2018).

All that is left in the garden are the weeds - and, it takes WORK to eliminate them.

I know.

I make attempts at gardening.

The weeds in my garden are a fairly accurate reflection of the ones in my heart, scattered there from the dandelions of doubt, worry, and anxiety.


From little to big, the cares of my world suffocate HOPE.

It was big-mouthed, abrasive Peter who rebuked and re-directed me this week.

Read his words, unless you are comfortable with anxiety ruling your garden:

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world (1 Peter 5:5-9).


In five verses, Peter gives us a solution for the best weed-killer known to man. Combine all the ingredients, work it into the soil, yank up the weeds (burn them for good measure), and re-plant HOPE-seeds.

However, each ingredient we need to mix together is a pretty potent "chemical" - so, over the course of the next couple weeks, we better make sure we have exactly the right items, or the solution we stir up won't be effective.

At the same time, I don't want to sign off without giving you the base ingredient. Of this, you'll need cupfuls - to teaspoons and tablespoons of the rest.


What's the "special sauce?"

HONESTY.

Every other item will dissolve best in TRUTHFULNESS.

It's right there in that passage above, advising "sober-mindedness"...meaning, to consider one's state in all seriousness, and/or to accurately describe one's immediate position, or "point of entry."


Sober-mindedness: an honest evaluation of me right now....AND, how I actually got here.
(My definition)

Hence, my first statement - "My greatest, personal hindrance to HOPE is anxiety."

There! I said it, again.

I'm just being honest with myself, and you.

Now, it's time to slowly add the rest of the ingredients, using caution, to make the most potent weed-killer on the market.