Thanksgiving – Family, Friendships and Faith

Several nations, on virtually every continent, designate a specific time each year for thanksgiving. Some mark with appreciation harvest, freedom from slavery, life itself or a new homeland. Thanksgiving for me, however, is built around three primary relationships: family, friendships, and faith.

Canadians join in Thanksgiving festivities a month before our American counterparts, but the traditions are strikingly familiar. I am thankful for this national time to reflect and be thankful.

It is surprisingly easy to become content, even apathetic, in our blessings.

While out with my grandchildren recently, they all stopped to say “thank you” when someone offered them a treat. I was glad they remembered their manners without being prompted and surprised by the response they received, “You are the first children to say thank you all day!”

Something to Learn

Appreciation doesn’t come naturally to our selfish nature. It must be taught and learned!

Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you
who belong to Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Paul commands his readers to “be thankful” not just when we feel like it, but “in all circumstances”. We are not always thankful for our circumstances, but it is possible to be thankful in our circumstances. Yet I have witnessed faith grow so deeply secure in many whose peace and joy were tangibly evident in all circumstances. In their lives. expressions of continual thanks seem to flow freely even for all circumstances.

No matter how heavy, or how overwhelming life becomes, God is bigger! It is helpful to train our focus not on present situations, but rather on the One who

knows far more than we know,
loves beyond measure,
and cares above all others.

I applaud parents who instill in their children the value of gratitude. Our Heavenly Father also smiles upon those whose hearts overflow with appreciation.

Family

With a broad grin, my husband often says in reference to our five sons, “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any one of them, but wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for one more!” It is his way of declaring the blessing he recognizes within the gift of family.

When we were married, we both considered two children to be the ideal number. God had a better plan! Presently, our family is 23 strong!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts
than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

The joy of family is hardly measurable. The loss of a family member through death, or absence through separation, is the most painful experience we will each endure. Holidays are difficult for those feeling the weight of such a burden. Searching for thankfulness takes concentrated effort in the midst of such brokenness and pain.

Yet even then, as we focus on eternal reality, fragments of gratitude radiate through grief bringing strength to sullen days.

Friends

Second only to family, friends fill my thankful list. My husband and I made what seemed like a radical move out of our comfortable home and familiar community about a decade ago. We cannot image what life would be like without the many friendships that have been nurtured since that time.

Rather than leaving friends behind, our circle of friendships has widened, then widened again with overwhelming surplus. God has enriched our lives surrounding us with many loyal and true friends.

“Every good gift and
every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation
or shadow due to change.”
James 1:17

Genuine friendship is a gift from God! No amount of material wealth can replace the good and perfect gift of friendship.

The ability to simply “do life” together with others is something truly to be grateful for. Laughing and crying! Supporting and encouraging! Sharing and caring! Loving and lasting! Friendships fill our lives with colour and vibrancy.

Faith

Faith may be listed last, but it is actually first!

Give thanks to the Lord,
for he is good;

his love endures forever.”
1 Chronicles 16:34

Thankfulness begins with God! To finish well, we must start here, with an attitude of gratitude towards God. Void of thanksgiving, our faith inevitably slides into the realm of delusion and confusion.

“Yes, they knew God,
but they wouldn’t worship him as God
or even give him thanks.
And they began to think up
foolish ideas of what God was like.
As a result,
their minds became dark and confused.”
Romans 1:21

It is surprisingly easy to know God and yet neglect to appreciate Him — not just for what He does, but for Who He is.

Is the darkness and confusion woven in any culture visible evidence of hearts hardened against the worship and thanksgiving of God? Perhaps!

Remember

Even in writing today, I am reminded of so much more to be thankful for. Is it possible to cultivate a continuous level of thankfulness crowning every day with gratitude?

Here are a few practical ways to create a lifestyle of thanksgiving:

  • Use a journal! One of my daughter-in-laws has a thankfulness journal. Each day begins by writing something she is thankful for.

  • Several of my friends recharge their appreciation by doing a 100 Day Challenge. Each day for 100 days they share with others something they are thankful for.
  • Express it! Tell the people in your lives what you appreciate about them. Weave it into your family and friendship times until it is naturally spoken and expressed. Say “thank you” often and regularly.
  • Pray! Has prayer become a list of “I wants”? Expand you time with God to include more!

“Devote yourselves to prayer,
being watchful and thankful.”
Colossians 4:2

  • Look for “silver linings!” Even the most difficult situations have some kind of positive aspect. Is it the compassion others show in times of pain, the generosity that surfaces at points of need, or humility that flourishes in seasons of struggle? Be thankful!
  • Focus on others! When life’s challenges press hard, focus on helping someone else in need. Changing perspective by improving the life of someone else, will often stir thanksgiving within ourselves.
  • Notice the little things! Looking with child like simplicity often helps us see the beauty and wonder around us with new appreciation. Choosing to look at even the smallest of blessings can generate multiple reasons for thankfulness.

Just Do It!

Enough reading! It is time to do it! Starting a pattern of gratefulness will reap abundant blessing today while creating a pattern of thankfulness that will flow to subsequent generations.  Now is the best time to begin a new chapter of appreciation right where we are.

Start a fresh movement of thankfulness! Be the person others can emulate in their journey toward thanksgiving!

The Ultimate Goal is Love! Lord, Teach Me to Love!

I have been painfully inconsistent at setting strategically defined goals for my life. Except perhaps for one! When the love of Christ reached down to a broken, battered and hopeless young woman over 40 years ago, her one prayer and goal was, “Lord, teach me to love.”

I am that woman! My ultimate goal is to love — to love well, to love here, to love now.

But how?

The Goal is Love

Paul left his young disciple Timothy to bring firm correction to a church that was going off track. Several in the congregation had become “shipwrecked”, rejecting their faith. (I Tim 1:19) It doesn’t seem fair for this mature father of the faith to post such a young man in this difficult position.

Love made beautiful through scars!

From the beginning, Paul sets a solid foundation for Timothy:

“The goal is love,
which comes from a pure heart
and a good conscience
and a sincere faith.”
I Timothy 1:5

Imagine the scene! People scampering over each other for leadership status, anxious to be “teachers of the law”. Debaters of every imaginable controversy pushing their way to notoriety. The church was growing in spite of vocal minorities proclaiming twisted spiritual concepts. Exuberant hopefuls  were forcing themselves to the front of the line.

I certainly wouldn’t be volunteering for Timothy’s church placement. Sounds like the perfect setting for any young minister to become disillusioned and burned out.

Didn’t he deserve something better? After all, wasn’t he called of God? Wasn’t he ordained into ministry by the most elite group of apostles? Surely being commissioned by Paul himself bore enough weight to guarantee success!

The Heart

I’m going to be painfully transparent. Just last week in a one-on-one counselling session, a hurting woman sat opposite me. Our meeting was difficult; break through for her was slow, painfully slow. I felt the distinct reprimand of God, “MaryAnn do you have a heart of love? Love here!”

I realized in the busyness of appointment after appointment, I wasn’t stirred with compassion and tenderness toward this brave woman. In a moment, I both repented and humbly asked again, “Lord, teach me to love.”

Love is where good grows

In an instant my heart changed and so did the direction of our meeting. The woman left finding the hope in Christ, she was so desperately seeking.

The heart of love became a channel of God’s intervention.

Why am I so slow to love? Why is this a lesson  so often repeated? What causes my heart to so easily turn toward other missions and focuses?

“The goal is love which comes
from a pure heart…”

Oh! There it is! Instead of pure, my heart becomes infected by personal agenda, selfish desire, arrogant pride … The list is much longer! The pollutants invasive!

With David I pray,

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.”
Psalm 51:10

A Good Conscience

Paul sets a godly example for Timothy,

“So I strive always
to keep my conscience clear
before God and man.”
Acts 24:16

A clear conscience doesn’t come naturally, not to Paul and certainly not to us. It takes effort! Only out of this fertile ground of a good conscience will love grow strong and free.

Love is personal and vulnerable!

Peter, too, experienced the tenacity required to maintain a good conscience,

“Keep a clear conscience before God
so that when people throw mud at you,
none of it will stick.
They’ll end up realizing
that they’re the ones who need a bath. 
It’s better to suffer for doing good,
if that’s what God wants,
than to be punished for doing bad. 
That’s what Christ did definitively:
suffered because of others’ sins,
the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones.
He went through it all –
was put to death and then made alive –
to bring us to God.”
I Peter 3:16-18 MSG

This mud flinging world, when allowed, will pollute not just one’s heart, but one’s conscience as well. “None of it” has to stick! What people say or do cannot restrict our ability to live godly in a godless world.

Love enables such a response to adversity — adversity that Timothy was plunged into!

Christ was Timothy’s example! He is also ours!

Sincere Faith

“The goal of this command is love,
which comes from
a sincere faith.”

Undoubtedly, human love reaches far and accomplishes much. However, it only extends in earthly portion.

But there is love that surpasses human comprehension, flowing unhindered, unpolluted from the heart of God who by His very nature is love. Only God’s version spans beyond human capacity to the contentious, the wicked, the loathsome and the broken.

Timothy would need such love. So do we!

Only through a sincere faith, can and will this ultimate command of love be anywhere near possible.

Faith may move mountains,
but love conquers all!

I have witnessed this undefeatable combination of faith and love multiple times — each encounter awe inspiring.

Put faith and love together and nothing is impossible! As a matter of fact, that is exactly what Jesus said to the man, whose daughter was dying. He approached Jesus with desperately simple and faltering faith.

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus.
Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Mark 9:23

Let’s face it! Love is impossible for us! Only faith makes reaching the command possible. Our dependence is not in our own ability, but rather in Christ’s transforming nature at work in us and through us.

The Command

As we look again, we see love is far more than a goal we hopefully achieve in some limited fashion. Love is a command!

The goal of this command is love …”

A love that is unending and strong!

That may sound a little forceful given the situation Timothy was being thrust into. Nonetheless, it is a command to love.

“Timothy, my son,
I am giving you this command
in keeping with the prophecies
once made about you,
so that by recalling them
you may fight the battle well.”
I Timothy 1:18

The specific words spoken over Timothy are withheld from our hearing. However, each one of us, as children of God, saved by His grace, have God’s affirming and confirming word through the bible. We may not have heard it from human lips, but God’s truth continually “speaks” into and over us.

As we remember God’s unfathomable grace toward us, we gain the capacity to more than endure — we fight! We fight the battle well!

Fighting for the sake of love may seem a contradiction, but it isn’t! Whatever we do of any value must be done in the context of love! It can feel like warfare as we defend and protect this goal, both inwardly and outwardly.

 

The goal of this command is love!

Love is always worth fighting for!

If God were speaking right now, I think He would personally say to each of us, ” ‘My son, my daughter, I am giving you this command … fight the battle well’ for love.”

“Lord, teach me love,” is my only fitting response.

A Hero – “If You Need Someone Strong, I’m The One!”

Hero or Superhero

Have you met a hero? One day at work, a gaggle of overactive preschoolers ran past my office door: two girls with long hair bobbing, followed by two enthusiastic boys. One little guy in the middle announced with exuberance, “If you need someone strong, I’m the one!”

True heroes are rare! I have no doubt this youngster has the right attitude!

I broke out in open laughter in response to such confidence coming from one so small. The more I thought of it, however, I realized I should possess this same buoyant enthusiasm.

“No, in all these things
we are more than conquerors
through Him who loved us.”
Romans 8:37

Small but strong hero!

God planted inside each of us a desire to overcome, triumph, defend justice, and fight for what is right. Children don’t hide it socially like adults do, but we all have this godly desire.

Overcome

Ask any child to name their favorite superhero and you might be there for awhile! The “first” superheroes emerged in the 1930’s. The list of imaginary “supers” is long!

Ask an adult the same question. Their ballots may include people of excellence in sports, arts & entertainment, social justice or a multitude of other fields.

A hero, according to Oxford Dictionary, is someone who is “admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities.” Look around for a moment. You will see heroes hidden behind humble acts of service rather than standing in front of a microphones or cameras. True heroes live well

parents, teachers, doctors, plumbers,
farmers, truckers, nurses, administrative assistants,
husbands and wives, neighbours and friends
courageously and faithfully
feet to the road and grit in their teeth

When there is unrewarding, difficult, relentless tasks, heroes say, “If you need someone strong, I’m the one!”

Yet, at the same  time, they face their humanity with all its limitations. Listen to this:

“…For apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

Heroes face their impossibilities not with drooped heads but rather with hearts of courage and eyes fixed upward.

Superheroes are made not born!

“I’m the one!” kind of people don’t back down from a fight; they press in to overcome!

If you need someone strong, I'm the one! Click To Tweet

Triumph

Heroes face grave opposition and come through! In knowing their strengths and their weaknesses, they are prepared to accentuate those strengths and place extra protection over their weakest area.

 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand
against the devil’s schemes.”
Ephesians 1:10-11

Actually, most of those who triumphed in the bible were not seeking front-line duty. Think of

Esther a young non-descript Jewish girl,
David, a young shepherd,
Samuel, as a small boy, dedicated to serve in the church
Moses, a foster child, a ward of the state, run-away, then shepherd
Gideon a farmer or Daniel a refugee
Ruth, a widow,
Peter, James and John, simple fishermen

High risk and no visible guarantee marked the tasks ahead of them. None of them had their hand raised saying, “If you need someone strong, I’m the one!”

Overcome evil with good

As a matter of fact, they were reluctant to step into God’s assignment. However, all of them grasped the truth

 “…What is impossible with man
is possible with God.”
Luke 18:27

Like true heroes they put on their God given armour and fought the fight of faith, triumphantly bringing good over the evil in their day.

Miraculous

Some of the last words of Jesus resonates as a call to heroism.

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation
….and these signs will accompany those who believe;
In my name they will drive out demons;
they will speak in new tongues;
they will pick up snakes with their hands;
and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all;
they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Mark 16:15-20

Greater is HE that is in us, than he that is in the world!

Clearly “superhero” stuff, right? Yet, Jesus said, these superhero qualities are for all “who believe”! Now that is a bold kind of faith!

Oh, but it is a faith that those who believe are running with!

Everyday people are set free from demonic strongholds, bodies are healed, minds restored, and some are even raised from the dead. Faith is being activated in people globally to walk as God’s heroes, trusting His word, and radically taking risks.

Faith is often spelled r-i-s-k! It may feel risky to pray for the sick to be healed, until they are. It may also feel risky to step into the fray and cast out demons, until they do. We will never see the dead raised to life, until we ask.

I can tell, I’m losing some of you here, but listen again to what Jesus commanded:

Heal the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.
Freely you have received; freely give.”
Matthew 10:8

I am convinced we have received far more through faith in Jesus Christ than we are presently accessing or releasing.

SuperGram

There is one more hero you, of course, have never heard about. Her name is “SuperGram”. Apparently one of her greatest powers is “master-mind”.

If you need someone strong, I'm the one!

The reason you have never heard of her, is because she was just so “bestowed” only yesterday!

Yes, only yesterday, my 6 year old grandson came to where I work secretly announcing my new position. Of course, he revealed his own super status and the secret powers he too possessed. He went around lavishly disclosing the hidden super hero strength of others as well. My girlfriend was instantly dubbed “Lightning Woman!”

I chucked and I’m sure you are too!

Yet at the same time, I feel Jesus nudge my heart just a little, “you are far more super hero than you realize”!

Why? Because

“Ye are of God, little children,
and have overcome them:
because greater is he that is in you,
than he that is in the world.”
1 John 4:4

Why? Because God is greater! The One who resides in us is greater than all else! As God’s children, we may be small, but we are overcomers!

Take this fresh motto from a child, “If you need someone strong, I’m the one!”

Embrace God’s truth; be a hero!

**********

Further Reading

Normal? What Does It Mean To Be Normal Christian?

Does Faith Stand Alone or Does Faith Require Action?

Childlike! Change and Become Like a Little Child

 

 

The Righteous are as Bold as a Lion – Survive and Thrive

Survive & Thrive - The Righteous are as Bold as a Lion

Apparently one way to age a lion is by scarring on its face. Scars show the fearless characteristic of a lion. The bible calls the righteous “as bold as a lion”. The scars of those who survive and thrive are evidence enough of their bold faith and tenacious perseverance!

“The wicked flee though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
Proverbs 28:1

The righteous are as bold as a lion!

Do you notice the difference between the “wicked” and the “righteous”? One runs from harmless shadows, the other faces real and impending threat squarely. We have to admit, there isn’t much a lion will back down from.

Brave of Heart

To be lionhearted describes someone who is unflinchingly brave and courageous in the face of danger.

In the months ahead, I will be sharing stories of personal heroism demonstrated in the lives of some incredible people I know and appreciate.

Unflinching in danger they thrive!

Though none would consider themselves either brave or “bold as a lion”, their journey reveals a different story. Each one has faced dangers of various kinds. They have the scars to prove it!

Those who thrive hold wisdom like gold dust loosely in their hands. They willingly and with liberality reach into their experiences and share the treasures they have found in Christ, allowing the winds of the Spirit to inspire others. Their stories igniting faith, hope and courage in the rest of us.

Jesus said,

“In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

As we examine their lives, we will clearly see the difference between surviving and thriving is rooted in their faith and the unshakable love of Christ.

Love of Christ

Paul prayed for the Ephesian church,

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,
to grasp how wide and long and high
and deep is the love of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:17,18

Rooted and grounded in the love of Christ

“In this is love, not that we loved God
but that he loved us
” 1 John 4:10

God’s love is unconditional! God loves, because He is love!

Courage and bravery are not necessary to somehow merit His love. He loves us as we are. He loves us completely, even in our weakness and frailty. God will never love us more; He has no capacity to love us less.

It is in the basis of this relationship of love that survivors thrive.

Thriving Against all Odds

What makes someone brave? What compels one person to face life’s toughness squarely while another turns and runs?

“Courage is not the absence of fear, 
but the triumph over it”
Nelson Mandela

Thriving against all odds!

David’s bravery was tested in the pastures with his flock:

“…When a lion or a bear came
and carried off a sheep from the flock,
I went after it, struck it and rescued
the sheep from its mouth.
When it turned on me,
I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed.”
I Samuel 17:34-35

Acts of bravery aren’t always physically!

It takes courage to not only see your own way through difficult, but to lead others into victory as well. “Thrivers” are mothers and fathers who

love with the love of Christ,
disciple younger ones to maturity,
foster godly character,
instill hope and impart vision.

Lioness protecting and providing

Those Who Thrive Speak

My husband still teases me about my “farmer’s call”. Being the mother of five active sons who enjoyed roaming the acres beyond our farm yard, this “momma” learned to call her young in for supper or bedtime with a distinct “Yoohoo” that could be heard far and wide. It is a non-comparison to a lions roar, however!

I have read that the spine-tingling roar of a lion is as loud as a turbo fan of an aircraft on takeoff, reaching 114 decibels. It is one of the loudest voices in the animal kingdom heard up to 8 kilometers away.

Lions roar to tell other lions their location, to show how big they are and to warn lions from other prides to keep away from their home territory.

“They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb and
by the word of their testimony
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.”
Revelation 12:11

As these people share their stories, it may sound more like a whisper than a roar. Truthfully though, God has given them voices that echo through generations, powerfully declaring the faithfulness of Him who is greater, Jesus Christ!

Those who Thrive Rest

I have chosen people who have discovered the power of waiting! Waiting is the womb of courageous strength!

Wait patiently for the LORD.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”
Psalm 27:14

Lions resting and waiting patiently!

Waiting is the womb of courageous strength! Click To Tweet

In the natural, the most intense development and formation occurs within the concealed and protected womb. For these, waiting and trusting in the Lord has formed the foundation of their courage and strength.

Those who have studied lions say it is a boring of occupation. Lions sleep for over 20 hours every day! That is a lot of rest! In resting, a lion is able to conserve strength for when it is most needed. It is also a position of watching; the place where wisdom is gained.

I am excited to use this blogging platform to share their stories.  It is my hope that we will all draw from their wisdom, be inspired by their strength, motivated to action, and invited into deeper faith.

“A final word:
Be strong in the Lord
and in his mighty power.”
Ephesians 6:10

Wake Up Deborah! Part 3 – Jael Strike the Enemy!

Deborah Arise - Jael Strike the Enemy

God planned every detail of their victory, not just for Israel, but beyond. Deborah’s voice and Barak’s bravery secured the battlefield, but the courage of Jael would extend the victory to all. It is time to strike the enemy!

You never have to go looking for your enemy! The enemy is looking for you!

Be alert and of sober mind.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8

Our story began with a woman, “the wife of Lappidoth.” Let me introduce you to Jael, “the wife of Heber.”

Opposites Attract

If ever there were opposites, Deborah and Jael are a perfect illustration. Jael’s husband Heber had

moved away from his tribe…
Heber’s family was on friendly terms with King Jabin.”
Judges 4:11, 17

Heber means “alliance”. As a descendant of Moses’ brother-in-law, Heber believed in God but allied with the enemy.  Heber had led his whole family to do the same. In this no-man’s-land of compromise, Jael’s home was in constant jeopardy.

Heber a lover of God but ally of the enemy

They lived by the Oak of Zaanannim, “removings”.

Before you throw too much judgment at Heber, consider his predicament. He was a foreigner in a foreign land. The incessant and degrading worship of non-gods was invading his home. However by “removing” his family from Israel’s wicked influence, he was also exposing them to a greater threat of destruction by invading troops.

Heber and his family walked a fine line for survival!

On one side, we see Deborah married to a powerful man of fire and faith. She was an anointed, fruitful and honoured woman, a beautiful and rare “palm” within Israel. On the other, we find Jael as common, as ordinary, as the sheltering oaks that surrounded her tent. Yet, she possessed a strength she did not yet know.

Defeated before she began!
Struggling to make ends meet!
The cards stacked against her!
The wrong family!
The wrong place!

The Enemy Knocks

Before Sisera knocked at her door, Jael saw him coming. His presence always signaled trouble for her and her household. Alone and running for his life,

Sisera fled on foot to the tent of Jael.”
Judges 4:17

A heart as dry as the desert

Though her ears never heard Deborah’s prophecy, God had this courageous, quick thinking woman ready!

“The LORD’s victory over Sisera
will be at the hands of a woman.”
Judges 4:9

How trapped in the cycle did Jael feel?  She knew already Sisera’s army lay defeated. Why else would he be on the run, fearfully glancing over his shoulder. Even without an army, Sisera possessed enough personal strength to annihilate her family.

God had asking her distant relative,

“What is that in your hand?”
Exodus 4:2

What could she, a woman, possibly do now? Courage rose above fear! She steeled her heart and steadied her mind! Her existence depended on it!

Sisera’s wild eyes and hands whitened against his sword disclosed his unpredictable nature.

What is in Your Hand?

It was a woman’s responsibility to tend to every aspect of her tent, from construction to maintenance. She would be the one to set up, repair and dismantle it. Like every mother today, it was her responsibility to protect it!

“Come into my tent, sir. Come in. Don’t be afraid”
Judges 4:18

Jael disarmed Sisera’s fear and used his fatigue as opportunity. She calmed the wild bull of a man with warm milk, settling him in a secluded corner of her own tent. Jael covered him with her blanket assuring him to rest.

“If anybody comes and asks you if there is anyone here,
say no.”
Judges 4:20

No where to run! No where to hide!

So many lies! The deceiver asleep in her tent! How tired was Jael of running, moving and longing for security? There was no where to hide. No more lies! No more making peace with the enemy!

The Courage of Jael

How many times had lies increased trouble for her household? Countless! Each lie strangling, poisoning, numbing to truth.

“No more! No more lies!”

As Jael watched her tears fall to the dusty ground something caught her eye. There they lay where she had fastened the last cord of her tent.

Numbly she reached for the long spike and crept toward Sisera, her heartbeat echoing in her ears.

As Deborah spoke in a voiceless land, Jael would no longer be silent! If Barak moved in audacious faith to engage Sisera in battle, she would not sit still! Because 10,000 men rose to the call without sword of shield, she would not rest!

While Israel’s warriors raised their voices in triumph, one obstacle prevented lasting peace. He was asleep on Jael’s floor.

God, who brought victory for the army of Israel, steadied her hand and her resolve.

“with her left hand she reached for a tent peg,
and with her right hand for the workman’s hammer.”
Judges 5:21

Courage is contagious. It started with Deborah, ignited Barak, and activated an army. Once awakened, courage flowed to the common, the ordinary, the survivors, the crippled, and the wounded. From the same dust that drank the blood of Sisera, courage continued to rise.

A Hammer and A Nail

Jael did not know that she was the fulfillment of Deborah’s prophecy. She was simply a mother watching over her tent.

Jael also didn’t realize she signalled another blow that would crush another head.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
  Genesis 3:15

Every believer since Adam and Eve has lived, like Heber and Jael, in the borderland between faith and alliance with the enemy. Some are caught in this broken place paralyzed by fear, incapacitated by sin, and numbed by lies.

In the North American Church today only 5% of Christians live in vibrant faith:

 bible reading full of exciting revelation
readiness to share the Good News of Christ
stepping into areas of ministry
praying with fervent faith
caring for the poor and under privileged
raising up disciples
enjoying God’s abiding presence.

Borderland is the prison confines of the too many!

Christ has paid the price for freedom! In His death and resurrection, He has crushed the deceiver once and for all!

May Deborah, Barak, 10,000 warriors and an ordinary woman named Jael, ignite an appetite for more. May we not settle for borderland living, but move toward freedom! If Satan has gained access anywhere in our homes, our families, our communities, our nation, or our world… arise!

Through the victory of the cross, STRIKE the enemy! God has already crushed his head and won the battle! Reach for the hammer and the tent peg. We may only get one swing, so let’s make it good!

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If you missed the first two parts of “Arise! Wake up!”, read on!

 

Something Better! God is Faithful to All He has Promised!

Something Better - God is Faithful!

Every Christian faces a tension between believing in faith and in walking present reality. Hebrews 11, often referred to as the faith chapter, encourages us. In fact, God affirms, “There is something better! There is something better than we can even imagine!”

Something better? Yes! Something even more than we have faith for?  It is so much better only God has thought of it!

“Now to Him who is able to do
exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,
according to the power that works in us…

Ephesians 3:20

It takes great faith stand firm. To know in the midst of unanswered prayer, something better is on the way!

Doesn’t Get Better!

Friends on vacation sent a picture of ocean and beach. The caption read, “It doesn’t get better than this!”

Men returning from sledding in the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains declared, “It doesn’t get better than this!”

A wonderful family welcomed the birth of a healthy baby into their home. Guess what they said? “It doesn’t get better than this!”

It doesn't get better than this!

My father’s favorite place was sitting in his little fishing boat with a line dangling overboard. Drinking in the peacefulness of a quiet lake with autumn colours surrounding him, he would often say, “It doesn’t get better than this!”

My husband and I enjoy the special pleasure of family gathering in our little home. We lean back amidst the laughter and noise and say, “It doesn’t get better than this!”

We grasp brief and precious moments thanking God, “It doesn’t get better than this!”

Or does it?

Best

The best this world has to offer is no comparison to what is yet to come! This world is where

bodies grow weak
roses fade
marriages crumble and families struggle
tears flow and hearts ache
eyes see dimly and ears hear faintly

Faint reflection of what is to come!

Here is but a faint reflection of what is to come! Faith will dwindle unless we have our eyes fixed on “something better,” the best awaiting in eternity.

These were all commended for their faith,
yet none of them received what had been promised,
 since God had planned something better for us
so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
Hebrews 11:39-40

Faith

Who are the ones Hebrews is talking about? These are the ones who were persecuted and died in their faith without receiving what they had fervently prayed and believed for.

Unanswered prayer was no reflection on them! God had something more, something beyond their highest prayer!

Here is the daunting description of what they faced – through faith:

 “There were others who were tortured,
refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.

Some faced jeers and flogging,
and even chains and imprisonment.

They were put to death by stoning… sawed in two;
… killed by the sword.
They went about in sheepskins and goatskins,
destitute, persecuted and mistreated
the world was not worthy of them.
They wandered in deserts and mountains,
living in caves and in holes in the ground.”
Hebrews 11:35-38

For me one line speaks volumes, “the world was not worthy of them.”

Heaven is better than all earth's treasures!

The Tension

The tension arises as we walk faithfully in bodies of flesh inhabited by Holy Spirit! We yearn and hunger for the better that is waiting, longing for it to come now.

We witness the miraculous when heaven invades earth and God moves in divine intervention to the groaning we utter. Rightly we yearn and hunger for more! The more the spirit is fed, the stronger the spirit becomes. We move from faith to faith, strength to strength and glory to glory. All by God’s design.

In predicting His own death, Jesus said

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

This tension between living in perfect peace while tossed by earth’s storm is supernaturally natural for faith-filled Christians. Our faith and hope rests beyond the dust of this earth in the One who overcame, Jesus Christ.

 

Whether our eyes witness the answers here and now, or we wait for the “something better” God has prepared, we stay the course. We pray and believe for the impossible. We stand undeterred.

Something Better!

Let us not miss the wording of Hebrews:

“…none of them received what had been promised,
since God had planned something better for us
so that only together with us
would they be made perfect.”
Hebrews 11:39-40

God just didn’t have something better for them! He has something greater for us because of what they suffered! There is a joint perfecting of faith and purpose for ALL who suffer without seeing the answer here and now.

Eternity will fully disclose the beauty of that perfection.

It is in continued faith that we hold to and believe the promise of God, while feeling the discord and tension of the present. In the joining of faith, we experience in a greater way the greatness of who God is.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things?
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all –
how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.”
Romans 8: 31, 32, 37

God has a perfect design for achieving all that Christ died for. His grace has not failed us! He has not abandoned us! Indeed, “in all these things we are more than conquerors!”

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From the archives:

From Curse to Blessing – God’s Redeeming Character

 

Childlike! Change and Become Like a Little Child

Like a Child

The bible challenges us to maturity. Yet, without contradiction, Jesus emphasizes the importance of possessing childlike qualities in our relationships with God and others.

“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18:3

Simple Faith!

As a new Christian, my Sunday School Superintendent asked if I would be willing to teach a group of two and three-year old children. I quickly learned what a dozen children can do with scissors and glue in a short amount of time! But I learned so much more!

Faith Trust

Children receive and believe with open heart and hand the love of God; they absorb truth like a dry sponge.

The older we get the more reasoning and intellect can hinder us from receiving in faith God’s love for us and His gift of salvation. It seems too simplistic, too easy, for most adults. A child, however, will believe with unquestioning faith biblical truth.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Hebrews 11:6

Though fundamental to our Christian walk, having a childlike faith is perhaps the hardest to regain. Yet, it is absolutely necessary!

Joyous Expectation! Hope!

A friend related this true story of her little niece:

One day she awoke excited and asked with great anticipation, “Is today the day I get a bunny rabbit?”

Her parents had never heard her request or had in any way suggested they would gift her with a rabbit, so they were quite surprised.

Later that afternoon, she excitedly bounced into the house after school, “Is my bunny here? Did it come today?”

The next day was a repeat! She couldn’t contain her enthusiasm, “Is today the day? Is my bunny coming today?”

After school, she was anxious to play with her new pet, “Is my bunny here? Was today the day my bunny came?”

Expectation Hope

Day after day, week after week, month after month, her excitement and joyous anticipation never wavered! Every morning she was sure “today” would be the day her beautiful pet would arrive! Every afternoon, she had unwavering hope that today was “the day“.

Finally, months later her joy was complete; a little rabbit awaited her when she arrived home from school.

As the story was being shared with my friend, her young niece was giggling in an adjacent room as she played with her bunny. This story clearly illustrates the anticipation and hope that we are called to.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen;
it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”
Hebrews 11:1

The character and nature of our Heavenly Father is good all the time! Everything He has for us is good! When we come to Him, we can expect He will respond out of His absolute goodness.

“You are good, and what you do is good…”
Psalm 119:68

The character and nature of our Heavenly Father is good all the time! Click To Tweet

Like a little child, we can confidently hope in God, the Source and fullness of all that is good. Out of His nature, He generously gives all that is good.

Wonder!

When our granddaughter with young, she had a fascination for all creatures, but especially ladybugs.  By spending time with a children, the wonder of creation can be re-ignited in us too.

Wonder

Creation has the ability to point us to The CreatorAs a matter of fact, creation so clearly directs us to God that we are “without excuse!”

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities
—his eternal power and divine nature—
have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,
so that people are without excuse.”
Romans 1:20

We are invited to slow our pace and see God in His creation, regaining a childlike desire to know, examine and understand more fully everything around us.

God is not intimidated by our questions. He never grows weary of our curious wonder while believing Him for the impossible and unexplainable.

Simply Childlike

The next time we have opportunity to spend time with a child may we see it as God’s invitation to ask which childlike attributes He might want to revive in us:

  • vulnerability and trust
  • abandon and joy
  • curiosity and capacity to learn and grow
  • ability to forgive quickly and fully
  • love without reservation

Childlike

No matter how old we may be, it is wise to regain the childlike qualities we have lost, placing our hands into the hands of our Father and allowing Him to lead the way.

Regain the childlike qualities we may have lost! Click To Tweet

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Another thought: Hebrews 11:1 “Now Faith Is”

The Unbeatable Team! Power and Authority! It’s Amazing

Amazing

I think it is amazing that anyone could amaze Jesus! Who was this incredible person? What qualified him of such status?

Who?

We read about him in the gospels. He is a captain in the Roman army, an unnamed centurion,  overseeing about one hundred men. His solid reputation among the Jews, sincere concern of his slave and love for the nation qualifies him a notch above the norm. He also helped build the synagogue.

These attributes make it clear he was not the typical army commander of that day. Packing these characteristics into one human is enough to amaze me!

Though the word “love” only appears once, it permeates all he does. Whether behind closed doors where only servants witness or in the public square, a love that went above and beyond marked his life.

Centurion

The word “amazing” is perhaps overused today :

My grandchildren are amazing.
(I challenge anyone to disagree!)
The meal was amazing,
amazing hospitality, sunset, feats of strength…

To amaze means to fill with astonishment, to take someone’s breath away, to stun or leave someone open-mouthed. Somehow, I have a hard time visualizing Jesus in this way. Yet it is true!

Why?

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him,
and turning to the crowd following him, he said,
‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’ ”
Luke 7:9

Why was his faith amazing? The recorded interaction shows he had a firm understanding of authority.

Authority

“… say the word, and my servant will be healed.
For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.
I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one,
‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant,
‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Luke 7:7-8

Authority combines both legal ability and authorization to exercise power. It also carries the strength for enforcement. Power is the actual exercise and use of the power and influence of authority.

Authority is the permission granted to actually carry out a task. Power is the force exerted to complete it.

Authority it the permission granted to carry out a task. Power is the force exerted to complete it. Click To Tweet

The Start?

Matthew said Jesus

“… taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
Matthew 7:29

Supreme Court

Everything Jesus did (His power) flowed from this place of authority. In Christ, authority and power presented an unbeatable combination.

“Say the word,” the centurion said “and my servant will be healed.” His confession to Jesus was, “Speak and it will be!”

Whether it was words of healing, calming a storm or blessing a meal, Jesus moved in both power and authority.

Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy,
and he was healed at that moment.”
Matthew 17:18

Others

Jesus gave authority to the twelve disciples:

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him
and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and
to heal every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 10:1

And then to seventy-two others:

“I have given you authority to trample on
snakes and scorpions and
to overcome all the power of the enemy;
nothing will harm you.”
Luke 10:19

Snakes and scorpions were the cause of excruciating pain and even death. Walking in the authority of Christ produces the ability to overcome. That is good news!

But it didn’t stop there! One of the most profound statements in the bible is

“Just as you sent me into the world,
I am sending them into the world.”
John 17:18

Jesus came with power and authority, teaching and doing all the Father instructed. Just as the Father sent Jesus into the world with power and authority, so Jesus is sending each of us. I honestly haven’t grasped the measure of this truth, but I’m working on it.

I once read: “Power is the ability to do something. Authority is the right to do it. Power without authority is abuse. Authority without power is pointless.”

Power is the ability to do something. Authority is the right to do it. Click To Tweet

Senseless

Amazing?

Do you believe Jesus would send us out on mission ill-equipped or unprepared? Absolutely not! Everything we need to do even greater things is at our disposal.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me
will do the works I have been doing, and
they will do even greater things than these,
because I am going to the Father.”
John 14:12

Through Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have the capacity to walk in both power and authority. It truly is an unbeatable team!

“We must have the devotion and the confidence
to believe that He will not fail and cannot fail.”
Smith Wigglesworth

The centurion, the twelve disciples, Smith Wigglesworth and countless others took hold of the winning combination of authority and power.

For you or I to rank in the mix, we must grasp not only the concept of authority but take the nature of a servant, like the centurion did. I action flowing from a heart of love impact our generation.

Do you believe it is still possible to amaze Jesus? Jaw-dropping astonishment might occur more often as faith is put into action. Yes! That is our hope!

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Normal? What Does It Mean To Be Normal Christian?

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Friendship – Embracing Unity While Valuing Diversity

Friendship

As years pass quickly by, I find myself appreciate more and more those who join me in life. Friendship combines the complexity and uniqueness of two into a unifying momentum.

Two people are better off than one,
for they can help each other succeed.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9

Getting “two people” to work in harmony can be challenging. (I speak from experience!) However, when two people are desiring to help each other succeed, a synergy and unity blends and energizes.

A true friend loves and makes sacrifices for the sake of the other.

Quote for the today, “There is no harmony when everyone sings the same note.” I have an appreciation for music, rhythm and harmony, especially when instruments or voices resound in perfect pitch and tempo. Friendship is like that!

Harmony

The distinctiveness of each individual adds colour and variety. Differences in personalities, motivations, gifts, and even weaknesses brings strength and beauty to the combined sum.

Two Heads are Better Than One

Have you heard the proverb, “Two heads are better than one”? A scientific study did verify the point, but only if both participants were confident and competent in being able to communicate their ideas and views.

It is helpful to gain advice from someone who is willing and able to express themselves clearly. Otherwise, the study continues to state, two people can create a deficient!

“…true wisdom has two sides…”
Job 11:6

Friendship is one channel to speak wisdom and insight into my life; it gives opportunity for me to also reciprocate.

A true friend defends and builds godly character.

Finding Truth

“But if you are unsuccessful,
take one or two others with you and go back again,
so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.”
Matthew 18:16

In the bible, two is the smallest number to verify truth. A charge could not be laid against anyone without at least two witnesses. Truth was established on the testimony of two or more.

Diversity Union

It is often helpful to bounce ideas off of or share vision with someone you trust. Friends can help us set realistic goals. Godly friendships help to ground us. They also provide an atmosphere to soar.

I can’t tell you how many times a friend has spoken a word of encouragement that gave me the energy to keep going. Equally, there have been times when a friends perspective has enabled me to see things I was missing, internally and externally.

A true friend delights in truth.

Commitment of Friendship

I am blessed with relationships that have endured decades

through varying levels of maturity
separation of countries or even continents
sharing joys and accomplishments
amid tragedies and pain
always strengthening
never ending…

Joined Together

When God is included in our friendships, there is a supernatural element of connectivity and strength.

“A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17

A true friend is always loyal.

God is Present

Having a friend who will pray with and for you is invaluable.

“For where two or three gather together as my followers,
I am there among them.”
Matthew 18:20

Two people who love and follow Jesus create an atmosphere that invites the Holy One, the I AM, to influence and occupy the relationship. Two plus God defines indescribable unity and potential.

The prayer support of those around me is of great value. My deepest friends are those I share faith with. We rejoice together in victories, weep together in difficulties, contend together in weakness, and stand together in injustice.

True friends share faith perspective.

Equals

Just as the influence of others can be positive, it can also have negative impact.

“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers.
How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness?
How can light live with darkness?”
2 Corinthians 6:14

Differences

I’ve also experienced many friendships where moral standards have been vastly different. However, one’s points of closest connectivity are of the greatest benefit when we share common faith and eternal perspective.

Those in my most intimate group of confidants and supports are those equal in vision and focus.

Can two people walk together without agreeing
on the direction?”
Amos 3:3

A true friend walks with you.

Friendship

An African proverb says,

“If you want to fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

Jesus illustrated the dynamics well of friendship. Though multitudes followed him, and many were called disciples of Jesus, He hand-picked twelve to spend concentrated time with. Out of those twelve there were three that were especially close to Him — the insider.

Let’s stick together for the long haul!

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More on Relationships:

3 Relationships We All Need and The Reasons Why

My Call to Action – Living and Communing Authentic Relationships

 

 

 

The New Math – A New Mindset with The Mind of Christ

Window of Faith

I have started facilitating a small bible study group. Seeking biblical answers for the questions of eager learners inspires me to dig deep. Developing the necessary kingdom mindset that can be difficult for most of us.

In class we were discussing the scriptural principles of reaping and sowing. Scriptural principles are constant whether we are aware of them or not. When I plant wheat, wheat is what I expect to harvest. The same is true in the Spirit. When I plant God’s word, from that word comes life through Jesus Christ, The Word.

Old Math

For over forty years me father was a heavy smoker, until he developed emphysema. Though he quit smoking the disease took his life. We could call this an equation that looks like this.

Old MathSmoking + Emphysema = Death

In the natural world, we see this math at work constantly.

Adding unfaithfulness to marriage produces divorce.
Drinking plus liver disease leads to cirrhosis and death.
Negligence in areas of finance leads to poverty.
and many more….

But God

Add God to any equation and the outcome changes.

“You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done,
the saving of many lives. ”
Genesis 50:20

“David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph.
Day after day Saul searched for him,
but God did not give David into his hands.”
1 Samuel 23:14

“But God will redeem my life from the grave;
he will surely take me to himself.” 

 Psalm 49:15

Every negative in our life is a horizontal reality. But when God is added everything changes!

Horizontal Reality

“My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:26

“Jesus looked at them and said,
“With man this is impossible,
but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26

“But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death,
because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” 
Acts 2:24

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

“For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is eternal life
in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 6:23

“…for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.
 But God’s word is not chained.” 
2 Timothy 2:9

This list is not exhaustive. I hope it is enough for you to begin to appreciate the many “but God” verses as much as I do. As soon as I see those two words, I know that everything is about to shift. Something supernatural is about to happen!

New Math

When I reason along the natural plain of this world, 1 + 1 will always equal 2. But when I allow vertically thinking and a new mindset, there is a shift.  I consider the negative realities fully and rationally. However, human reason no longer dominates.

“Without weakening in his faith,
he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–
since he was about a hundred years old–
and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.”
Romans 4:19

Abraham’s faith created the vertical alignment set over his horizontal reality of life. As a believer we don’t ignore the facts! We simply apply faith over every fact confronting us.

But God

Now Abraham took his number one fact, “his body was as good as dead”, with Sarah’s number one fact. One plus one! He plunked faith firmly in the middle, overlaying horizontal reality with the vertical truth of “but God“. Now fact, reality and faith were firmly connected!

Faith Plus

In the new math we stop right here. As we ask God in prayer, “God what is your purpose in this? What is your outcome? Teach me your desire? What does this equal with You?”

New Mindset

Now through the vertical dimension of faith, “2” is not the “natural” outcome to the equation.  Rather, faith creates before us a window through which light and life can flow freely.

New Mindset

 

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”
Isaiah 55:8

To see God’s potential reached, we aim for His mindset. In becoming more and more aware of His thoughts and His character, the Lord will enlarge our thinking to creative abilities and heavenly mindsets.

One plus one may just mean a new window of opportunity, growth or direction for you and those around you! Take this moment to ask God what your one plus one equals in His sight. You might be surprised!

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Further Reading:

Don’t Give Up! Don’t Quit! Finish Strong