Pearls of Wisdom: Trusting God’s Favor No Matter What

Our friend’s baby died. My friend’s mom was cured of cancer and it came back. My mentor’s body has been diagnosed full of cancer. Your classmates were killed in a car crash and on the lake. Our friend was hit by a car and paralyzed.

These stories could represent a really Godless existence where any of us could/should  look around in panic and wait for the other shoe to drop on us. We could live in a dismal state of depression and hopelessness and negativity.

Unless. Unless we heard the rest of these stories of how people were changed, healed, comforted. How they experienced God in the middle of these tragedies. How onlookers were impacted by witnessing ordinary people walking with God in terrible times. (I think of Missy, the little girl in The Shack, explaining how Jesus and the Spirit were so very close to her in the most horrible of circumstance.)

God’s goodness is a key factor to whole-hearted living. Without it, we life half-hearted lives scrambling and scraping to lessen our fears. And there is something weighty about this “favor of God” thing. He has been talking to me about favor for 13 years now. It began the day I found out I was pregnant with baby number 3.

I had one healthy baby, miscarried one unhealthy baby and was now pregnant again. I was terrified. Of all the things He could have said, He declared favor. He asked me to believe that I would see His goodness, no matter the outcome. Talk about stretching my faith…Then during my sabbatical, His favor became a foundational lesson to be fully embraced.

Favor isn’t based on circumstances. Favor is based on the heart of God and my willingness to receive it.

The C. S. Lewis quote comes to mind:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

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The favor of God is not a magic wand. Or a lottery ticket. It’s our inheritance.

And now we approach college, our newest scary season, with confidence in God’s goodness. Not because you are smart, which you are. Or your dad works hard, which he does.  But because God is going to reveal his favor to us through this Abrahamic journey.   When we were at orientation it became very clear.

One of the speakers quoted Deuteronomy 8:17-18:

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”
But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

God gave your dad this verse 25 years ago. Then, it was a message about humility and to remember the Lord in in his work. But in recent years, the verse has been a demonstration of God’s desire to show favor and so “confirm His covenant.”  As believers, we are part of an eternal pact.

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Do You Need To Re-think Christmas?

God gave me a huge download this last week.  I had a birthday which can be exhilarating and excruciating at the same time. Smile. I guess that reality aligns with our actual birth days which were full of joy and full of pain. However one precious gift I received was a word from the Lord. An actual word: honor.  I am still translating all that the Spirit poured out but I thought it was no accident to get this word right at Christmas time.

Honor is to elevate above, esteem, hold in high value. The Spirit brought to mind the verse, “he who honors me, him will I honor.” (1 Samuel 2:30)  It’s an odd verse.  But it is packed with promise. This isn’t a duty-bound, fear-driven demand. This is an invitation. From God.  He is saying, if you honor me, it’s not a one-way street. I am going to turn around and honor you back.  Selah.

I don’t know if you know this about God. But here is the word picture.  A mom says to her daughter, “You go fill up your hands with candy and give it to me. And then I will fill up my hands with candy and give it to you…”

Who do you think has bigger hands?

Childs-Hands-full-of-candy

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Deceived or Devoted?

Christmas devotionals abound, I know. But God connected a dot for me last night and I thought you would enjoy it too. It’s about two women and their radically different responses to God.

Here’s a  little context. Every year we  do an assortment of Christmas celebrations.

Watch “The Nativity” movie. Read “The Advent” book. Attend a couple of  musical presentations.

At one such event, there was moment when the characters acted out the fall of man, and thus the need for the Savior. In this particular drama, Adam exclaimed  that Eve got them kicked out of the garden. He seemed bewildered, amazed, overwhelmed by her deception. (Never mind that the man was with the woman when she was tempted by the serpent.)

Call me hyper-sensitive, but there was something yukky about the script or delivery,  as if everything would be hunky-dory if it wasn’t for ‘that woman.’ Continue reading

Pass the Popcorn…Every good gift is from above.

When Charis came home from school, she wanted a snack. I reminded her of the popcorn in the cabinet which produced a squeal of glee from my eleven-year-old.  “I didn’t know you had this!” she called from the kitchen.

“Yep, just for you, my sweet,” I called back.

A delicious scent filled the house. She plopped her books and  freshly popped snack  on the table and began to study and munch.  I sat down with her to catch up on her day. I reached over to grab a few kernels and she looked at me with shock and pulled the bag away.PopcornKernel

I reached again. She pulled it away again.

I laughed out loud. Then I formally asked, “May I have some of your popcorn?”

Again shock,  followed by a little whine, “But mom, this is my popcorn.”

Trying to play along, I said, “and just where did you get that popcorn?”

She crammed more popcorn in her mouth. “The store.”

“Oh I see,” I said, “and who paid for that popcorn?”

“But it’s mi-i-i-ne,” she said half laughing, half serious.

“Girl, give me some of that popcorn. Everything you have you got from me.”

Again she pulled the bag away so I tickled her and tried to grab it out of her hands.

“This must be how God feels.”  I said. “He gives us everything we have. He asks us to share some with Him and we holler, ‘but it’s mine.’ ”

And there it was. She and I both heard it.  I paused to let it to sink in both our hearts.

Charis handed the bag over, and we both had a laugh and talked with our mouths full of popcorn. But I kept coming back to that thought.

Everything I have comes from the Father. Every. Thing.

Is my posture quick to share when He asks? Is my heart quick to give back to Him ?

Or do I defend, or hoard, or protect, and argue that “this is mine?”

I am talking about every thing in my life. Money, skill, creativity, time, family, comfort, stuff, wisdom, laughter, joy, friendship.

It is all His. Given by Him for our enjoyment, for our good. He has all kinds of surprises for us. Our job?

Say thank you. And share.

Okay that’s all today. Just do a heart check. Are you really grasping that the breath you just took to read this was a gift?  We are all so rich is so many ways. So pass the popcorn— without whining.

 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17

 

 

The Missing Ingredient for Breakthrough

“I’m stuck.”     “I can’t.”       “I don’t know how.”

I have come to a real epiphany around these phrases. As a warning, you may not like my revelation, but it is in the Word.  So I guess you’ll need take it up with the Author and Finisher of our Faith instead of with me. Smile.

I’ve spent a lot of time telling people how to get well.  Some respond and some don’t. No problem. But I have also spent a lot of time trying to talk people into getting well. Most don’t.  This is a problem on both our ends. It’s not a counseling issue, it’s a repentance issue.

Why?  Because, while God has forgiven us completely of our sin and no longer counts it against us, there is still a spiritual principle of repentance that is for OUR good health. Let me explain.

Repentance is like a spiritual thermometer. It checks the tenderness of our hearts, our willingness to see with spiritual eyes, our openness to hear from the Lord. When I get in a wad, it is repentance that invites God to redirect my heart and mind. Otherwise I continue to harden—defend — isolate—blame. These heart conditions always lead to stupid actions. Always. That’s why we want our “repentance reflex” to be very quick and strong.

So what is repentance?  To turn back. To return. To agree with God.

It is like Google Maps saying, “Re-routing.”  Somehow we have gotten off the blue line of wisdom or truth so repentance, or returning, helps us get back on God’s blue line of direction. And with repentance comes a promise.

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19-20 NASB)

This makes my heart beat faster. Have you ever felt this burden? The sheer weight of the bitterness, confusion, anger, disappointment, unbelief, sarcasm, shame or accusation?

As soon as we confess it, agree with God, turn our faces back to His, He wipes it away and we are given a fresh breath of His loving presence. Again and again He does this. His mercy never fails.

People who love to repent do get well over time.

But what about those who scoff or ignore or despise even the idea of repentance? Here is my epiphany.

So much time is spent on God’s people who are Clearly lost and yet they act like they are not. This is denial, or worse, pride. I am finding it is better to let them soak in the hard place rather than to give hours of unheeded counsel. Here’s why. I believe our good intentions hamper their healing. People want to talk about their problems and they should. We all need it. In fact the Bible encourages us to confess our sins to one another that we may be healed. (James 5:16)

Yet here’s a dividing point. Danny Silk has this beautiful phrase, “You don’t have a solution for anybody on the planet that doesn’t have a problem.” People who want to massage their problems are not repenting. They want to feel better for the moment but they never want to get right with the Lord. They rarely ever want to confess that they are the problem. And more importantly, they never want to believe that Jesus can or will heal them. Even Jesus asked, do you want to get well? (John 5)
He didn’t ask, do you want spend endless time arguing, blaming, defending, explaining why you are sick and why I should feel sorry for you?

He asked a crippled man, Do you want to be well? When the man started giving his list of excuses, Jesus gave a clear instruction, “pick up your mat and walk.” It was completely counter to what the cripple expected. Here is where choice is a life or death matter in healing. The cripple had to respond to Jesus’s instruction in order to be healed.

Everyone has the freedom to choose life or death. God or drama. Free or stuck. Worship or numbed out.  People have to choose to go to God. To listen and respond in repentance. They need to feel the squeeze of their choices in attitudes and actions. We call this beautiful phenomena “being led by the Spirit.” And we all have to respond when the Spirit tells us to get up and walk.

I think it’s important for us to tell people about the incredible love of God and then get out-of-the-way. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. Not our begging, enabling, cajoling, controlling. Only the Holy Spirit can bring conviction and only the Holy Spirit can empower healing. Our job is to tell them what’s available, love them either way, and then let them choose their own path. Life or death. Healing or addiction. Conquering or quitting.

May we all work on our “repentance reflex.” There is so much more life available in God. I believe repentance is the key that unlocks the door.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. 
Psalm 42:5

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. 
Proverbs 28:3a

Why would we “retreat”?

If you know anything about military terms, “retreat” generally means you are getting your arse whipped. So you retreat to catch your breath, to design a strategy, to regroup and reassess the plan of attack.  If you have been around Christian circles, then “retreat” can mean something a little different — a time to rest and be quiet, to reflect and recharge. Think tents in battlefields compared to bed and breakfasts.

But I’m not sure the two meanings aren’t closer than we realize. We are in a spiritual war.  And sometimes it feels like we are getting pounded. We do need to rest and reevaluate our position and restock our weapons.  We do need to be reminded of what it is we are doing and is there a better way to go about the it. Who are we fighting again and why does it matter?

Thus said, I want you to strongly consider two “retreats” on the horizon, either for you personally or for someone you know.  The “Yes and Amen” Retreat is a time to get quiet with the Lord and really listen for Him. It is not mindless activity but purposeful exercises that help us see where God is working in our lives. We all need to be reminded of the “vision” He has for us and this weekend really draws that out. Time to rest, reflect, reassess what you are doing and why.  The Lord always seems pleased to breathe new life and new dreams into those who invest the time to be with Him. I don’t know how to explain what happens other than it is a supernatural time in His presence.  We are truly refreshed and renewed for a different level of warfare.

On the other hand, “Sweetly Broken” is a very unique retreat to help women who have been wounded by abortion. This  weekend is for women who have been recently wounded or have been carrying around this scar for years. We know that Jesus truly longs to heals this hurt so we are creating a very safe and tender time to seek that very healing. If this is you and you still feel shame or guilt, or feel like God is mad at you, please don’t live in this lie any longer. Come and be with other women who know exactly how you feel, but also know how to help you walk into wholeness again.  If this is someone you know, don’t let fear keep you from telling them about this weekend. The walking wounded need to know where to go for help, so be willing to give them directions.

If God has given you a  burden for these fellow soliders, we are waiting for Donor/Prayer Warriors who will carry each woman who attends Sweetly Broken in a spiritual way and a financial way. Think of it as going back to pick up a wounded solider on the field and carrying them to safety. We must link arms as we all battle together.

I am simply compelled to be part of building God’s kingdom.  But we must retreat at the right time.  I have to make myself pull away from the foray to really hear what my spirit needs for warfare. Won’t you join me for these two power filled weekends? And please, pray for His kingdom to be advanced as we seek His face.

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31