Thursday, October 26, 2017

What Do I Worship? It's An Important Question to Answer...

I was asked the other day (following a discussion on the reliability of Scripture, the need for knowing, searching, hiding, and living the Word-of-the-Lord), this question:

Do you worship the Bible, or do you worship the God of the Bible?

Perhaps, because I daily see my need for the Truth in such great measure, am passionate to know it, hunger for it, I may come across as if I have enthroned the Word in my heart, instead of the Author who breathed it into existence. The asker of the question wasn't being rude, and I didn't take it that way, it was more of a tease...BUT,

The question certainly caused me pause; and, it's always good to take an audit of one's soul.

My answer:

Without the God of the Bible there is no Bible. He is who I worship, because I see Him on every page...

Good answer, I thought.

Yet as I thought it, I heard a question mark at the end of my sentence.

Is that true?

Each Word of our Bibles is God-breathed.


For teaching.

For reproof

For correcting.

For training in Righteousness.

Every word we read is the Artists paint brush across a canvas - each stroke uncovering for us the story of God...the Elohim...our 3-D-God: the Father, the Son, the Spirit.

My response is a good hermeneutical response.

Yet, truth is that most times I think I approach my quiet time, my daily readings, my Bible Study and research, as a way to find out more about me, than about Him.

I look for next steps.

I look for what I think the Lord wants me to know about Life-Topics, so I live life well.

I read for wisdom's sake, not necessarily for God's sake...

...and, while 2 Timothy 3:16 and Joshua 1:8 are outcomes of our study, the initial in-come of the Word should be seeking the Face of God.

When I see Him unveiled, I see my next steps, how to live life well, what is wise...because He is the one I imitate my life after.

The question was a good one, albeit a bit semantical; yet, a reminder to first look for the
I AM...before I look for "i-am-stuff"... then there is no question as to which one is on the throne of my heart.

So, for whatever it's worth, it's worth perusing the question...and evaluating:

What or who do you seek as you approach Scripture?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Lost in the Middle...and a Way Out.

In one week I leave for Papua New Guinea, where I'll be speaking at two back-to-back retreats for Thrive, an organization whose goal is to spoil missionary women.  This will be my sixth retreat. I love volunteering, mostly because there is much I relate to having lived and served overseas. It is a JOY for me to get to go (even though I do not like all!).

Before any event, I mull over, and over, and over, the talks I will be giving.

I teach them to myself...on bed in the middle of the night...while I'm driving into town...(I think you get the picture).

I live with each session I'm going to bring to these ladies.

I look constantly for edits...for better illustrations...for additional passages of Scripture...

The theme for these upcoming retreats is Lost in the Middle of Mission.

The idea behind it is that there are times in the midst of our calling, when we can feel "stuck"...and, yes, sometimes lost.  Truth is we never run out of need for God's Grace.  His salvation isn't just a one time, past tense, thing; but, a very present and personal need.

Sometimes, when I feel lost...I tend to just work harder. I doubt I'm alone in that.

The problem with this is that in correlation to how hard I'm working, the deeper I dig the hole in which I'm stuck.

This isn't just true for missionary women.

It's true for all of us.

We can often find ourselves "lost" in the middle of a plethora of life-situations.

David wrote a Psalm (143), when I think he was in a place of lost.

He uses the language of lost throughout the whole Psalm:

The enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground.
He has made me sit in darkness... spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled. soul thirsts... spirit fails...

Once again, I love David's honesty.
I love his willingness to be vulnerable; to own his pain.
The whole Psalm is David's way of facing his fear, of working "smarter, not harder."

David's bottom line prayer is this:

Destroy my soul's adversaries, O God!

Obliterate those things which are hindering and getting in the way of my relationship with You, God...please, hear my prayer!

It is a healthy prayer! One we can sit up and take notice of during times of lost...

Why does David want this so badly?  There's one reason:

When we are saved from those things that keep our soul's in a place of stuck, we are able to press on as the Lord's servant!

God doesn't need us, but He has chosen to serve this world through us, using us as His hands and feet...

There are a myriad of ways the adversary comes against us:
An overloaded to-do-list
Demanding, needy people
Spiritual dryness
Health issues
Weather-related problems (praying still for those affected by the recent hurricanes and fires)
Family problems

These just tip the iceberg.

However, David turns a corner in verse 5 of Psalm 143.

As David prays and pours out his heart like water before the presence of the Lord, he:
1) ...Remembers God's faithfulness, His mighty works, and David meditates on them.  When we have a history with God, we walk boldly into the future minus fear.

2) ..."Spreads out his hands."  This terminology, combined with "thirsting for God as a parched land" is a picture of brokenness, surrender (returning to a place of trust), of letting go and receiving.  Hasn't God promised, that He who hungers and thirsts receives...YES! And, I've always found Him faithful.

3)  ...Starts listening for God's direction for next steps.

Sometimes stopping to remember, surrender, & listen is the key we need to finding our way out of being lost in the middle of....whatever!

Working smarter (rather than harder) involves STOPPING to regain perspective. 

When we do...we can continue to do what God has called all of us to do.....................SERVE.

But remember this, as well:

Another reason for STOPPING. Maybe God just wants time with us!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pay Attention...Pay Very Close Attention

For the past couple of years, these two words have popped up regularly in books, in messages, in blogs, in the Word of God, and, in thought:

Pay attention...

So I am.

I'm paying more attention to God-sightings.

I'm looking for Him in the little and big ways that He reveals His glory in creation around me, in the answers to prayer, in the whispers to my heart directly from His Word to my heart.

He IS present.

Sometimes I'm surprised at where He shows up (for example, I remember being a wee bit shocked at how a rock quarry in the middle of Africa could become such a sacred and holy place...but He was there and I was left in AWE and WONDER...and, isn't this the whole point)!

I shouldn't be taken aback.

He IS omnipresent, after all.


Where He is, we will always see the mystery and majesty of God's Great Glory...

Those moments are easy to document.

I can take pictures.

I can wrap some words around what I've experienced.

I can list the way He's moved, responded, answered, delivered.

These things are faith-builders, for sure.

More recently, I've been challenged to not just look outward, but inward.

How is God showing Himself to me in the middle of my messy heart?

Where is He at work in me?

It's as if, now that I've had a little practice at the outward AWE, I'm now being asked to take another step deeper into God's Presence within another realm.

This is a little more challenging.

I can't take pictures (Whew! because if I could, well it gets pretty ugly in there...).

And, while I can wrap some words around what I'm seeing, I don't necessarily want to share them.

Here is how I've been challenged:

"Pay attention to those things that annoy, irritate, and disappoint.  Those things have power to reveal truth about ourselves almost as much as anything. Learn to linger with what provokes... You may just find the Spirit of God moving there..."

See what I mean?

So, I'm sitting with this thought.

It's taken me quite a lengthy season to learn to look outward.

I can only imagine how long of a season it will take to learn this lesson well...yet, as I read the passage below, I think I'm prepared to begin to accept the challenge.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Never Disappointed in Jesus

Years ago, I was challenged to seek the Lord, and, then, to write a mission statement for my life...

It came together rather easily as I prayerfully funneled my strengths, spiritual gifts, passions, and
Scripture all the way down to one sentence: to teach, or disciple, women whether through the written or spoken word. 

Over the years, it's been a perfect tool for wholeheartedly giving my best yes to some assignments, and an "I really am honored you asked, but I will have to decline the offer" to others.

I love giving an enthusiastic yes, especially when it comes to talking about Jesus (and the truth of Scripture). I can't tell you how it thrills my heart to share life lessons, and how the Lord has intervened in HUGE ways FOR ME!

Two years ago, I was approached about speaking at a women's retreat.

In every way, the request fit my mission statement; and, as a bonus, women's retreats are one of my favorite things to get to do.  As a teacher, I enjoy the study, the research, the putting-of-pieces together to create a series of talks...and, I can't begin to tell you how many dear friends I've made through this kind of venue over the years. Because I am not a vibrant speaker, I definitely shine when I get to build relationship with women over a series of sessions.

Anyway, the answer to this request was an easy YES!

...until the night before I was to leave for this retreat.

That night, two years post-request, I didn't want to go, which was a first for me ......................EVER!

I called Bay (who was speaking elsewhere), and told him, I simply didn't want to go.

I pulled out my journal, wrote out a prayer to the Lord, and told Him I didn't want to go.

It was easy to explain.

I didn't feel ready.

The sessions hadn't come together as easily as normal.

It wasn't that I didn't have material - I had a huge folder full of research, notes, stories, illustrations, writings, quotes, and on it went.

It wasn't that I didn't feel "prayed up."

It wasn't that I dreaded the travel, or that the size might be a bit smaller than anticipated, or that it was  going to be uncomfortable in any way...none of that factored into where I was sitting in the moment.

My heart simply didn't feel fully equipped - prepared; and, I argued, "The women who are coming deserve so much more."

It seemed that every time I sat to gather my thoughts, to put the pieces into place, to talk with the Lord about the sessions, I got no further than an outline. That outline became a wall, I just couldn't hurdle over, even though many times, I had prayed (and, preached to myself) David's words from Psalm 18:29b:

"with God's help, I can scale a wall..."

Instead of scaling anything, I seemed to keep slamming into the same wall (I even joked with Jesus about wanting just a small portion of Wonder Woman's jumping & climbing abilities). My heart wasn't a pretty picture that night.

Oh, I knew I'd go.
Even if it was a matter of obedience (I sure didn't want to be like Jonah, and while I didn't think I'd end up in the belly of a big fish, there are bears in this neck of the woods); but, I went to bed that retreat-eve longing for God's deliverance, for the purpose of His glory. My prayers had the smell of desperation.

The next morning, I had coffee with a long-time friend, passing through town.

As we talked, it seemed the Lord was giving me clearer thoughts, a sense of expectancy, even some breakthroughs on some direction for each session, and (wonder of all wonders) a sense of excitement for the weekend. God was at work on me, almost last minute, to let go, to give of myself, and to trust Him. As I drove to the retreat, I knew without a shadow of a doubt, I had done my part, and the Lord would be faithful to do His.

The purpose of telling you this story, at the risk of my own vulnerability, is two-fold.
1) I want to testify to the power of prayer.
2) I desire to remind both of us of God's faithfulness, in spite of ourselves.

No one at this retreat knew of my dilemma. I had enlisted a few in-and-out-of-town-prayer warriors (the beauty of our texting-technology)...  BUT, there, at the retreat, a gal, who I would consider an "elder" (not in the sense of age, but of wisdom), under the leading of the Spirit, felt the urgency to pray over me prior to speaking. Every single woman surrounded me, and prayed for the Lord to speak, to shine His face, to bring the Words of Truth that were needed for that weekend. I experienced first-hand these words from the pen of James:

...and God brought healing to my fearful heart, and a powerful sense of His Spirit's Presence, which is exactly what I needed far more than an organization of material...

I also realized that a huge part of my problem went much deeper. There is within me such a need to be in have all my speaking-ducks-in-a-row. So, to head to a retreat without my ducks lined up was frightening. I confessed my control issues to the Lord, knowing there is a balance somewhere between doing-my-part and leaving everything in God's more than capable hands:

"In Your weakness, I will be strong, for my power is PERFECTED IN WEAKNESS (my emphasis)."

Do I believe in prayer?

Do I believe in God's faithfulness, when we place our trust in Him?

I am a testimony to this fact: