Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Word for this Christmas: The Name Matters

That morning I stood absolutely OVERCOME with emotion.

It's happened before when the realization of who I am, where I am, and what I'm doing seem to hit with an overwhelming velocity.

Me...a very common, not extremely gifted, fairly simple-minded woman, with a few ordinary life-stories (I do have a "BUT GOD," to my benefit)... places I would never have seen myself - not in my WILDEST imagination.

SPEAKING (seriously, I stumble over my words on a GOOD DAY) a group of women about the ONE who has been in the business of changing my life since the beginning of time. 

I was in JERUSALEM (me)! 

(overlooking the city from Mt. Scopus)

(the old city)

(the market in the Muslim Quarter of the old city)

(overlooking Jerusalem from the Prayer Tower at King of Kings Community Church)

Jerusalem (!), the place, where in all actuality, the story of my life as I know it today BEGAN just over 2000 years ago.

...and I, I was the one honored to GET to talk about HIM, the Son of God, Savior, Life-changer...

I had asked the Lord, and sought for weeks, what He would say, in this Age-of-Today, to the women from this particular congregation.

As is not-so-uncommon, I sensed only bits and pieces of the message over the course of those weeks, until just a few days prior to the event. Then, the Spirit of the Lord opened my eyes to a simple quote that was like putting all the pieces of the puzzle together in a flash. far as what I knew I was to speak, there wasn't a question.

HOWEVER, I hadn't done my research on this particular congregation.

It's comprised of a lot of internationals, along with many Messianic followers.

So, what was the problem...after all, these were women who all loved Jesus (from many backgrounds, yes, and diverse in age)?

What I didn't realize is that there is an entirely different "culture," and "language," that surrounds the worship-preferences of Messianic Jews.

So, in the course of my sharing the very message the Lord placed on my heart for these gals, I used some terminology that failed to impart their faith in ways consistent with their Jewish heritage. In fact, the words I used carried negative historical baggage. 

I was clueless.

Until after-the-fact. 

When I finally inquired (a little-too-late) of the pastor's wife why something seemed a bit "off," she (very graciously) apologized for not making me more culturally aware before the speaking session began.

She assumed my cross-cultural background bore understanding I had not acquired.

I assumed I was among people-of-like-mind and could speak my common-to-me spiritual language freely.

We both assumed wrong.

As it was, a couple of older women in attendance, insulted, began to walk out. 

This sweet pastor's wife, as she put it, "Talked them down from the ledge." 

They stayed. 

They relaxed. 

They ended up enjoying the day. 

In fact, I had the privilege of washing, massaging, and painting the toe nails, on the feet of one of those women.

So what has been my take away after pondering the last few weeks?
(By the way, click on this link if you want to see an abbreviated dictionary of correct Messianic Terminology.)

This week, in heart-preparation for the Christmas season, I began studying the Gospel of John.

John writes his stories-of-life-with-Jesus for a specific audience and for a specific reason (each of the Gospel writers do). 

Here's what I noticed right from the get-go.

John begins with The Name.

You see, one of my faux pas was to use the name "Jesus." 

A very precious name to me.

Yet not to these gals.

The name Jesus hits raw nerves...Through the centuries, our Jewish friends have suffered persecution in "the name of Jesus." Consequently, using this name brings to mind hatred and anti-semitism. The preferred name is the one Jesus used as He walked on earth: Yeshua (salvation).

While Jesus is the most BEAUTIFUL NAME (link to song here) that crosses my lips, John-the-Beloved doesn't just start right out with this Name-above-all-Names, nor does he call Him Yeshua.

He begins with this name: WORD.

John knew his audience...and he knew this was the name they needed to hear.

At the beginning of this Christmas season, we all need to be reminded of the same.

What I discovered in Jerusalem that day: A NAME MATTERS!!!
(Shakespeare was wrong.)

So, John wants us all to remember that before He was Jesus, or Yeshua, He was the WORD (Logos).

It didn't matter what the angel had told Joseph and Mary to name the babe.

What matters most is that all of us who read John's stories (from the day his hand penned them to today) would KNOW THIS TRUTH:

The WORD (who was with God in the beginning and was God) wrapped Himself in flesh to become the DIVINE EXPRESSION of THE I AM!

That's what matters more than the name Jesus, or Yeshua...
...and, that's when it resonated with me.

We can only know Jesus/Yeshua (Salvation) when we truly believe and receive He was first, and is always, the WORD-Made-Flesh.

This gives us the right to be children of the God-Most-High (cf. John 1:12).

So, this Christmas season may we filter every thought about the Christ-child through this one truth:
That babe born in the manger was born-to-be GOD'S DIVINE EXPRESSION, so you and I could know Him by whatever Name matters most to us.

Let's Remember that
His Name Matters.

He was the WORD.

For, this is the WHY of a 
...that which is used
to cover
to feelings
aroused in the mind and heart;
that which, when mentioned,
brings to mind
the excellence,
the character,
the command,
the nature,
the pleasure,
of the

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cheering Stones Bring HOPE & THANKSGIVING!

The very stones in the walls cry out...
Habakkuk 2:11

I'm back home again after two weeks away where I had the privilege of talking about God's WORDS OF HOPE to women from all over the Middle East (believe me, it was no easy task honing down a years worth of blogs into just a few messages).

(In Limmasol, Cyprus)

(at King of Kings Community Church, Jerusalem)

One day prior to the retreat in Cyprus, our team of volunteers did a little bit of sight-seeing, visiting historical sites (Limmasol & Kolossi) near where Paul and Barnabas might have traveled as they walked from Salamis (now Famagusta) to Paphos, oh-so-many-years-ago. There in the amphitheater, we broke out in song: "It's Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, pour out our You Only..."

(Kollosi, Cyprus)

Two days prior to the retreat in Jerusalem, we visited the ruins of Magdala and Capernaum, then sang a multitude of praise songs (& danced) our way across the Sea of Galilee (in a boat of course...), where Jesus walked on water and calmed a chaotic storm.

(Magdala, Israel)

(on the Sea of Galilee)

We were privileged to take in some of the Holy sites of the Old City of Jerusalem, visit the Garden tomb outside of the city, stand on the Mount of Olives, walk through what remains of the Garden of Gethsemane, and pray at the Western Wall...and in many of those places, our little group, AGAIN, could not help but worship our Lord through song.

(at the Southern Steps)

(Old City)

(Garden Tomb)

(Western Wall)

For me, these times were moving experiences. Truly, indescribable.

"Seeing" brought color, texture, smell, and life to the gospels in a fresh new wave.

For some, touring in other groups around us, perhaps not-so-much.

I overheard a conversation (okay, I may have been eavesdropping) of one young American woman, who was completely over her sight-seeing. In her words, she was "so done" looking at piles of rocks that archeologists had uncovered; amazed that they were still sifting through dirt looking for treasures-of-knowlege regarding the past.

I take in those things, sitting with them, pondering...

As I pondered, I was reminded of some words of Jesus...and, went back to look them up. The story begins in Luke 19, as Jesus made His way down the Mount of Olives, into the Kidron Valley, heading into Jerusalem, riding on a colt. We know this as the Palm-Sunday-Story. Let's pick the story up in verse 36 and end at verse 40:

As He rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of Him.  When He reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of His followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen. 
“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”
But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke Your followers for saying things like that!”
He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
The religious leaders were spitting mad.

Jesus was anathema to them.

They vehemently disliked Him.

He was a popular teacher, with great crowds of followers...but, when His followers began to praise Him as the Messiah, they were of one-adament-mind to SILENCE the notion.

So, they whined to Jesus: "Tell them to stop!"

But Jesus...Those words He spoke?

"Even if you silence my followers, the stones will cheer for me..."

"Even if, over time, My praise get drowned out, the ROCKS will cry out...they will tell my story!"

I think what I've realized as I've been mentally processing this trip is that I have seen with my own-little-brown-eyes the TRUTH of this sound-bite straight from Jesus' mouth.

What is just a "pile of stones" to one is "evidence of God's reality" to me!

These stones, uncovered, are a testimony to the Reliability of Scripture.

The proof of this reliability points to the life, death, resurrection and CREDIBILITY of Jesus-as-Messiah.

What is TRASH to one is TRUTH to another: veracity...certainty...undeniable fact!


And, when the stones cheer the AUTHENTICITY of the ANOINTED ONE, they also cry out the fact that we have a God, who is our HOPE for every tomorrow...a HOPE that is an anchor of the soul.

Have a Blessed and HOPE-FILLED Thanksgiving.

Don't make those rocks cry out on your behalf!!!

O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms. 
(Ps 95:1-2) 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Dare to Wrestle Your Way to Hope

I've always wanted the faith........and, consequently, the HOPE of the minor prophet, Habakkuk.


My heart has a deep "want" to declare right along with the man words similar to his summarizing song:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

Those are some beautiful words!

I've sat with them numerous times and re-written them to fit my circumstances, but by the time I finish, I know I'm not entirely truthful.

While the "want" is there, getting my reality to match the desire is another story entirely.

Heart may be in it, but the spirit hasn't quite gotten to the place of agreement.

Basically Habakkuk's saying, "Although my life is falling apart around me, and the waves of circumstance are threatening to sink my boat of faith, I will not give in to doubt and despair. In fact, I will be joyful!"

I know me too well.

When circumstances crash about me, my attitude doesn't look at all like Habakkuk's.

- It's obvious, the man is calm, contented, and at peace.

- He comes across as assured.

- While not "happy," his heart is filled with joy.

- He has an attitude of gratitude.

- He has risen above the hard-stuff to a "high place" where he communes with the Lord intimately.

Nope, that is NOT my initial response.

It may not even be my third, thirtieth or tree-hundredth, either.

So, I dug into this little book over the course of the week.

After all, the verses I just printed, those are Habakkuk's final words before the "THE END".

There was a process that brought Habakkuk to that place.

It's recorded in the rest of the book.

As I read, I started feeling a bit better.

Maybe, just maybe, there is a chance I could borrow Habakkuk's roadmap, and get to that place of praise, "in spite of," a whole lot faster.

Here's the first thing I learned.

The secret to hope is found in Habakkuk's name.

BUT the book begins, we learn that H. is given an "oracle" from the Lord.

As a prophet, he is supposed to pass on this oracle to the rest of his congregation.

I looked up what the word "oracle" comes from a Hebrew noun, "masa" meaning " a burden."

God expects Habakkuk to carry the weight of a heavy burden...a message that is about to rock the world of his people. A message of despair, death, and captivity. A hard message.

The Israelites are about to be overthrown by the most vicious warring people of all time; and, it's all part of God's plan.

The flood of bad circumstances will be overwhelming...and relentless.

But, Habakkuk is true to his name.

The meaning of his name?  "To wrestle; or, to embrace."

Now, there's a dichotomy.

Yet, Habakkuk does just that.

Like Jacob, Habakkuk does some wrestling with God.

Unlike Jacob, who wrestled physically, H. does so verbally.

Like Jacob, Habakkuk clings tightly to the Lord until he is blessed.

He wrestles with questions until he gets the clarity he needs.

He wrestles until he is able to finally embrace what God is asking of him.

Having a 3:17-19 attitude starts with wrestling.

It begins with questions.

It's origin is found in the seeking, the inquiring, and the hanging-on until there is clarity and peace-of-mind.

Surprisingly, the Lord lets him wrestle away....

I wondered why...

Then, it dawned on me.

Habakkuk isn't asking in accusation.

He's not questioning God's character.

He simply wants understanding.

The best part of all is that the Lord gives Habakkuk what he wants...answers.

The road to HOPE in the middle of wave after wave of HARD begins with the wrestling.

Don't be afraid to come to God with your questions.

Don't be afraid to cling tightly to the Lord until He blesses you.

Wrestle until you are able to embrace God's plan based on the understanding He brings.

Dare to wrestle your way to HOPE.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Ever Wonder About God's Timing? OH my!! No need!!

As I type this, I am overcome by gratitude.

The words to this song keep running through my head, especially these lines:

Who am I that the highest king
Should welcome me
I was lost but he brought me in
Oh, His love for me!

Who am I?

I think of Moses who said, "Who am I that I should go...(Exodus 3:11)?"

My who-am-I-question is a little different: Who am I that I should be so blessed in this moment?

As I send this out, I am in beautiful Cyprus.

I'm here to speak at a conference/retreat for global workers serving in 18 different countries.

The fact that I'm here is, in itself, a miracle, in so many ways.

This time last week, I was in McMinnville, Oregon co-leading a staff-leadership-retreat for Church on the Hill.

Two days later, I was wandering the corridors of Penrose Hospital (talk about being in a foreign country!) in Colorado Springs, as Bay made his way from doctors-appointment to doctors-appointment prepping for heart surgery the next day.

The events around Bay's surgery were undeniably miraculous...(too much to go into here)...

One day later, I plopped into my seat on a Lufthansa flight, needing to just sit and take a few deep breaths.

For all this to happen, God's timing had to be perfect...IMPECCABLY SO!

And, it ALWAYS will be...

...because God is the God-of-Time. 

From creation He ordained this thing we call "time," telling the sun when to rise and go down, and the moon to do the same.

The hours in each day are Sovereignly given...and God, Himself, rules every nano-second.

If I ever doubted His timing, I never will again.

I'm sitting here, a living testimony of this FACT!

Which is why my mind keeps going to that question: Who am I that I should be so blessed in this moment?

This single-moment-of-time was designed for me in a kazillion other single-moments-of-time that danced together to the rhythm of God's orchestra-baton, all bringing me to this place, at this hour, all to give me the privilege of reminding each precious lady in attendance that He is ordaining the time-of-their-lives without mistake!

And may I remind you, too, of the same thing:
God-the-Father-of-time is still waving his orchestra-baton to give you the time-of-your-life, as well.

Don't doubt for a single minute that anything is out of His control.

Never wonder if He cares for you...

Whenever you hear the tick-tock of the clock, remember:

God cares enough to write down every minute of your life, and then orchestrate each and every one into His great symphony titled Eternity.

Oh, and a little P.S. about that question, "Who am I?"

A little further down in the Moses-story, God reminds us...that the why-am-I-here-question is irrelevant. The question needs reframing. It should be: Who is He?

And God said, "I am that I am! This is my name forever and ever, and thus I am to be remembered..."  

You were probably thinking this blogpost was finally not about hope.

Think again...