Birthing the New: Change, Transition, Beginning

As a mother of five sons, I have had some practice in “birthing the new.” Birthing can happen in many different ways, however. Have you birthed a business venture, a ministry, published a work or started a career? Each of these also contains processes similar to birthing.

I have had a new book, or should I say, a series of books, almost ready to reach full term. Pregnancy can present challenges, but pregnancy isn’t an end in itself. The goal or the new thing about to be released is the ultimate purpose. Every pregnancy is unique to itself, yet contains similarities to others. Each birth both predictable and unpredictable.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them and
make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.”
Isaiah 42:16

Count them! Five times God says “I will!” I am the blind one; He is the “I will”. Are you pregnant with a new ministry, industry or purpose? Or are you in the birthing process right now?

Unfamiliar Paths

Sometimes pregnancy can be unexpected and unplanned. I remember well, my mother coming home from town crying a torrent of tears. She was pregnant “again!” This was not her plan, desire or longing. Her present children were all in school and she was enjoying some independence. But this child to come would be the cream of the crop. He would become the adoration of her heart and fulfillment of voids she didn’t realize she possessed.

What unfamiliar paths does God have you walking down?

It seems every year God drags me into unfamiliar terrain. I both love it and dread it! It can be intimidating and daunting, to say the least. “Just own it” has become my new motto. One of my present “paths” is attempting to write and publish my next book. It is giant leap from anything I have ever done.

Talk about “unfamiliar paths”; every one of the processes involved contains new, even fearful elements of a journey I never asked to take or ever anticipated travelling.

Mine, it turns out, is an adventure of joy!  But like most unfamiliar places, this pathway

exposed deep insecurities,
revealed hidden fears,
demanded new levels of submission to God,
required more time than anticipated,
and has been a refiners fire of cleansing and healing
that I didn’t even know I needed.

Giving Birth

Five times God said “I will.” Five times in the natural I gave birth as I co-operated with His desire to bring forth something new in my life. Each birth embodied a promise fulfilled and a promise to be revealed.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain
because her time has come;
but when her baby is born
she forgets the anguish because of her joy
that a child is born into the world.”
John 16:21

Birthing brings unavoidable pain; a pain that seems impossibly more than one can endure.  Unfortunately, there is no birthing without first going through the process of labor. “Labor” defines it well! In the final moments before delivery, a woman goes through what is called transition — where she expends every once of energy, endures beyond what she thought possible and draws from a deep well of fortitude she never knew existed.

There is no shrinking back, tagging out or throwing in the towel. Pain marks this life giving struggle. Selfless love propels her through the temporary transition phase to ultimate joy. With that indescribable joy, she finally sees what has been hidden, carried, nurtured and labored for.

Birthing the new cannot be fully explained, only experienced!

God Births

Just in case you male readers are getting a little squeamish with all this feminine birthing stuff, relax. God is into birthing too! He is birthing forth amazing things in the lives of all of us — corporate and individual.

A multitude of people have been pregnant and holding on to God dreams for many years. They have surrendered to the process of humility, struggled through training and development, fostered destinies and withstood the season of transition. Like a baby’s first cry, freedom shouts, “The new has arrived! Make way!” The umbilical cord has been cut; a new independent life begins to grow outside the protection of the “womb.”

In the previous stage, everything was provided. Not now! At least not in the same way. The Source always is and always will be God — never of our own efforts, ingenuity or skill.

I see God birthing in this season like never before. He is releasing spiritual gifts in unprecedented proportions. New ministries are springing up with maturity and vitality. Communities and cities are being changed.  Spiritual landscapes redefined!

“So Christ himself gave the apostles,
the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
to equip his people for works of service, 

so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
Ephesians 4:11-12

Birthing the New

Pride has no claim to either the gift or the work being birthed in this season. We receive God’s gifts as evidence of His unmerited blessing and favor. The Giver asks only that we use His gifts wisely for the encouragement and benefit of others.

Like any true gift, it is ours — freely given and freely received.  If we choose to misuse or neglect it, it is still ours! Luke 19 makes it clear that gifts come with responsibility, however.

“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
  Isaiah 43:19

Babies arrive without instruction manuals. As much as we plan and prepare, unexpected surprises accompany birthing the new. The “I Will” makes a way, providing all that is needed.

“Take courage,” Jesus told his disciples who were losing the stormy battle. (Matthew 14:27) Remember God is always the I WILL. He never leaves you nor forsakes you.

He says, “I WILL be
on the ground beside you while you crawl,
the hand lifting you up when you stumble,
the ONE at the finish line cheering you on,
the gentle arm of encouragement,
the whatever you need in the moment
…I WILL

You aren’t alone! God accompanies you every step of the way. No matter what the processes you are in or the pathways ahead, you are guaranteed to experience Him in ways you would never have known otherwise.

In birthing the new, with a sense of peace and joy, we both look back and gaze ahead. We are confident not in ourselves but in God alone. He is leading, empowering, directing and holding us fast.

Many more pains and joys of birthing the new are ahead for each of us. Hold to His sovereign hand.

 

Is This Prayer? Vocal and Silent, Raw and Active – This is Prayer!

“Is this prayer?” is a question frequenting my thoughts lately. Moses’ powerful public prayer was birthed in intimate face-to-face encounters with God. His life demonstrates the qualities and benefits of this deep relationship. Though I enjoy a personal relationship with God, He has been challenging many of my paradigms of prayer. 

Moses, unlike any other person, experienced God in unprecedented ways. He heard God’s audible voice. He received detailed instructions on how to bring unity to a nation not yet nation, as well as how to build and organize a worship center for over a million people. His dependence upon God was evident,

“Then Moses said to Him,
‘If Your Presence does not go with us,
then do not send us up from here.'”
Exodus 33:15

Difficult Times

Perhaps, nothing forces us into the Presence of God quite like difficult circumstances. Moses faced more than his fair share of struggle. A posse of grumblers confronted him and his leadership. Dathan, Abiram and On were their self-appointed leaders. They boldly aired their grievances unaware of their own pride and disrespect!

“(They) became insolent
and rose up against Moses.
With them were 250 Israelite men,
well-known community leaders
who had been appointed members
of the council.”
Numbers 16:1-2

Such descension came not from a renegade group of has-beens or back-benchers, but from “well-known community leaders.” These men were “appointed members” of council! 

Envision the scene for a moment. Two hundred and fifty strong, angry, powerful recognized leaders shouting their demands!

“They came as a group to oppose
Moses and Aaron and said to them,
‘The whole community is holy,
every one of them, and the Lord is with them.
Why then do you set yourselves
above the Lord’s assembly?'”
Numbers 16:3

Silence

What would you do? What would I do? Would the first instinct be to fight, flight or fall? Moses prayed. Although the word “prayer” might not fit our preconceived notion of what prayer looks like.

“When Moses heard this
he fell face down.”
Numbers 16:4

Have you been in a situation so volatile, uncertain, and beyond reason that words won’t come? Any utterance falls insignificantly short. After prostrated silence, Moses would speak, but not now. Now was the time of waiting on the Most High, being still in His Presence, and listening for His voice. Hearing always precedes speaking for the wise of heart.

Is silence prayer? Can prayer be wordless and still be prayer? 

Raw

The conversation Moses had with God was raw, audacious and vulnerable. 

“Then Moses became very angry
and said to the LORD,
Do not accept their offering.
I have not taken so much as a donkey from them,
nor have I wronged any of them.'”
Numbers 16:15

The sting of injustice and angry retaliation oozed through Moses honest interchange with God. Is that Allowed? Is emotional venting prayer?

***

She sat across from me confused, disappointed and unable to understand the situation that seemed to threaten her. Raised in a Christian home, she had attempted to honour God at every stage of her life. Purity was high on her expectation list both for herself and her spouse. 

Past sins and secrets were recently disclosed by the man she loved. She fully submitted her marriage to God. Yet the sense of betrayal remained — not only by her husband but by God.

She was stuck in the dilemma of nicety. “How do you tell God your angry?” Such transparency seemed risky.

Slowly, she began to articulate her grief, pain and the depth of loss she felt. Gradually words started to break from the inner dam of disbelief and mistrust.

Afterward, she sensed God acknowledge and even thank her for her authenticity and courage to admit and honestly voice the pain of her heart. Perplexed she wondered why God welcomed the exchange. Slowly she began to realize God’s love covered her unconditionally. He desired genuine relationship with her.

Many people might ask, “Is this prayer?”

Standing in the Gap

Perhaps, Moses’ next exchange with God pictures more clearly our perception of prayer. 

“But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out,
‘O God, the God who gives breath
to all living things,
will you be angry with the entire assembly
when only one man sins?'”
Numbers 16:22

This is intercession at its finest. God stands ready to vindicate Moses and Aaron once and for all. Instead of saying, “Yeah! It’s about time! Do it God!” They stand in the gap by falling on their faces. Instead of applauding God’s justice, they plead for His mercy.

Only a few verses before, Moses laid silently face down in the dust. Again, He falls to the ground. This time with deep wails that would not be silenced. 

“What difference does the prayer of one person make?
You will never know until you pray.”
– Anne Graham Lotz

Which one is prayer?

Action

Can action be prayer? 

The grumbling in the camp rose in unceasing waves. No sooner had God dealt with one group of complainers and mutants, than another pushed their way to the forefront.

God’s patience ran low! His love would not restrain correction any longer. When Moses and Aaron saw the sudden appearance of “the cloud” covering the tent of meeting and “the glory of the LORD,” they knew time was running out.

“‘Get away from this assembly
so I can put an end to them at once.’
And they fell facedown.”
Numbers 16:45

Falling facedown in prayer almost seems synonymous for Moses. But this time, face to the ground prayer led to a completely different response. Quickly, via Moses’ instruction, Aaron “ran into the midst of the assembly” with a censer and burning incense.

“He stood between the living and the dead,
and the plague stopped.”
Numbers 16:48

Is running and standing prayer?

It may feel outside our traditional prayer paradigm when God spurs us to obedient action. The results will speak for themselves. 

More than one prayer warrior I have talked to has sensed God instruct them to stomp their feet or aggressively dance in warlike fashion as a declaration of freedom and breakthrough for others. Each of them testified to a distinct shift that enabled a restoration of relationship with a prodigal son or daughter. Their prayer acts somehow created a “gap” between the dead destructive choices while opening “paths” for the life of Christ to flow.

The bound were set free,
the lost found their way home, 
the plague of sin and shame broke.

Obedient actions when directed by God carry the sweet incense, the aroma of prayer, to the throne room of heaven.

Is this prayer?

Is This Prayer?

Yes, beyond a doubt, as Moses demonstrated, it is prayer. Prayer at its deepest level — sometimes silent, often raw, gap creating, active involvement initiating prayer. Prayer beyond words. 

This is the prayer that releases God’s authority and His mercy. Prayer that enables true and ever-deepening authentic relationship between God and man, Father and child, Redeemer and redeemed. 

It is the kind of prayer that refuses to abandon, pleads for mercy and seeks another way. Prayer reaching to the perishing. Prayer staying the hand of justice and soliciting mercy. Life being ministered to the lost and broken through the partnering of God and man.

 

To Be Forewarned is to be Forearmed – Be Prepared for the Trap

In any battle, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Knowing the strategies of the enemy gives us a fighting edge to be prepared for any traps ahead. Though I would rather focus on the victory Christ has already secured, wisdom is necessary to fully attain that position.

The enemy doesn’t have any new battle plans. He isn’t smart enough for that. However, his old tactics of ensnaring people continue to work as well as ever. Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to remember

“…we are not ignorant of the enemies schemes.”
2 Corinthians 2:11

Paul is referring to the trap of unforgiveness.

Solomon warned his son about certain life issues he might face. Within these warnings, we find the familiar but deadly pattern the enemy uses to entice us to sin.

Solomon’s downfall eventually separated him from God’s blessing. Perhaps, he speaks here to his son from his own negative experiences. During the course of my life, I too have followed a few paths of entrapment and gained wisdom through the experiences.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. We all need wisdom to be prepared to overcome these traps of the enemy.

Boundaries

My dad often said, “Good fences make good neighbours.” This old motto reinforces the need for boundaries. Boundaries create a positive dividing or demarcation line — separating healthy from unhealthy, positive from negative.

“I saw among the simple,
I noticed among the young men,
a youth who had no sense.
He was going down the street near her corner,
walking along in the direction of her house”
Proverbs 7:7-8

Not only the young, but everyone, benefits from having healthy boundaries. “Simple” could mean naïve or someone who lacks understanding and experience. Failure to establish boundaries of protection usually starts innocently enough. But we have probably all heard someone say, “I can handle it! It won’t affect me!”

Pride still goes before a fall!

So on he walks. Straight into the enemies trap! “Going down…”

“at twilight, as the day was fading,
as the dark of night set in.”
Proverbs 7:9

The cloak of darkness offers the illusion of secrecy. The wise walk in the light. Those with evil intention, however, attempt to hide their actions under cover of darkness. At least in the beginning.

False Promises

The devil promises big as he comes with “crafty intent.” ( vs 10)

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go,
keep you longer than you want to stay,
and cost you more than you want to pay.”
R. Zaccharias

Solomon wanted his son to be prepared. Truly, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Sin’s path can be found “at every corner.” It is only one step away for any one of us.

“now in the street, now in the square,
at every corner she lurks.”
Proverbs 7:12

Honestly, we don’t need to look down “the street” or into “the square.” The sinful propensity lies much closer than that. It is within us. Within us all. Appealing to our human nature — our flesh.

“She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:
Today I fulfilled my vows,
and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.”
Proverbs 7:13-14

The enemy promises a feast but delivers a famine. He promises pleasure but inflicts pain.

Prowling

No one needs to deliberately go looking for trouble to find it. Trouble watches and waits for us!

“So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you! ”
I have covered my bed
with colored linens from Egypt.
I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
aloes and cinnamon.”
Proverbs 7:15-16

The devil perfectly prepares each trap — appealing to all our senses. He makes sure it looks and smells good. Too good!

Be prepared! And alert! Knowing the schemes of the enemy enables us to steer clear of his traps. Peter encourages,

“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

Persuasion

Like he did in the garden with Adam and Eve, the enemy continues to entice us all with forbidden “fruit”. He offers sex and calls it love. He presents greed and calls it blessing. Or selfishness and calls it empowerment.  Satan lures us

outside the boundaries of godly authority,
over the threshold of desire,
to eat stolen food —
seductively poisonous —
into the place of death,
locked behind doors of secrecy
and evil intention.

The pathway of deception is predictable,

“With persuasive words she led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.”
Proverbs 7:21

With words, many words, too many words, we attempt to rationalize the irrational.

Heart Issue

The enemies tactics appeal to every aspect of the flesh, but the real issue lies within our hearts.

“Do not let your heart turn to her ways
or stray into her paths.”
Proverbs 7:25

My little grand-daughter recently reminded me, “What you say is what you are because what you say is what is in your heart.” She is short in years but long in wisdom. Words and actions flow from our hearts.

The heart turns before head. The heart strays before our feet. Since sin is actually a heart issue, how can we keep our hearts pure and steadfast?

“How can a young person
stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.”
Psalm 119:9

The psalmist asked the same question. Then answers it. “By living according to your word.” Living according to God’s word prepares us for any trap the enemy might have waiting “on the path of purity.”

The Word

The word of God isn’t an endless series of dos and don’ts. It gives practical advice and perfect wisdom for young and old, for male and female, and for every and any situation.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed — honestly! God’s warning isn’t to create hopelessly or fear. Rather He shines a light on the way to victory against our adversary.

Resist him, standing firm in the faith,
because you know that the family of believers
throughout the world is undergoing
the same kind of sufferings.”
1 Peter 5:9

God enables us to be prepared to fully “resist” the devil. He offers solid principles for “standing firm” against every deception or temptation.

We start by establishing boundaries of accountability with others. Avoiding secrecy and living truthfully before God and others moves us one step closer to overcoming. No one is immune to attack! When we sense temptation or hear the lies of false promises, stop and look around. The enemy lurks close. God establishes levels of authority for our protection, so whenever we feel tempted to circumvent authority, we can be certain the bait has been set!

God has clearly exposed the enemies strategies to give us the victor’s advantage.

But let’s go one step further. Let’s help others avoid entrapment, too. When we become honest about our own struggles it creates a door of opportunity. It gives them permission to seek the support and accountability they need to rise in strength and overcome.

Be prepared! Let’s guard the gates of our hearts and homes together!

Greater Things than These – The God of Greater and Greater

God exceeds all expectation. What if greater things than ever before are coming our way? Greater than anything experienced to this point in history. The bible reveals sufficient evidence to cause us to believe that what lays ahead is far better than anything in preceding times.

“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

The disciples witnessed Jesus perform many miracles, heal the sick, raise the dead, calm storms, cast out demons and feed multitudes.  He taught scripture with indisputable authority, confounding His strongest opponents. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, His followers continued to teach and perform supernatural miracles. They were ordinary men doing extra-ordinary works through the Holy Spirit.

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John
and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men,
they were astonished and they took note
that these men had been with Jesus.”
Acts 4:13

The only explanation for the supernatural works of God moving through natural man was they “had been with Jesus.”

Glory to Glory

The Kingdom of God refuses to remain stagnant. In fact, “The Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing in spite of great opposition. (Matthew 11:12) Everything originating through God contains the seed of reproductivity and increase.

Entering the Presence of God caused Moses’ face to radiate with God’s glory. All who looked at him were overcome with fear and awe. Paul tells the Corinthian church even greater glory is coming.

“And we all with unveiled face,
beholding the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image
from one degree of glory to another.
For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18

Far greater things — expressions of God’s glory — awaits us. Why? Because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross.

Strength to Strength

One of my favourite psalms talks about the people of God triumphing over adversity as they continue to pursue His face. Even in the Valley of Baka (Valley of Weeping), they leave behind places of refreshing for others who have found the journey difficult.

“They go from strength to strength,
until each appears before God is Zion.”
Psalm 84:7

Only God provides us with that kind of momentum, ever-increasing levels of spiritual strength. capable of propelling us to finish well. Listen closely to these words,

“He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
…walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40: 29-31

Although my running days are over, walking is one of my favorite pass times — especially when I can stroll outside the city limits. The truth is, however, these frail bodies have a propensity to wear out and fail us. We all face varying degrees of personal limitation.

Yet, God gives His people a capacity to exceed any natural boundaries. He gave Elijah the ability to outrun a horse and chariot (1Kings 18:46). Moses endured two back-to-back forty day fasts — something humanly impossible. Samson with supernatural strength wrestled a stone palace to the ground with one mighty push. The feats of David’s top warriors (2 Samuel 23) remain unparalleled in history.

But even in our mundane day-to-day activities, for “those who hope” in their God, He grants us the capability of exceeding normal limits. Though my personal examples don’t compare with these biblical counterparts, I have experienced times when beyond a doubt, God, and God alone, carried me through.

Faith to Faith

After Jesus had established His ministry in the surrounding territory, He returned to His hometown.

“And he did not do many miracles there
because of their lack of faith.”
Matthew 13:58

On another occasion, He was astonished by a centurion’s “great faith” — a faith greater than anyone else in Israel! (Matthew 8:10) The disciples asked Jesus to “increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)

“For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God
is revealed from faith to faith,
as it is written,
‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”
Romans 1:17

The Good News of the Gospel awakens within believers an increasing progression of faith. The kind of faith that expands and deepens to even greater faith. Paul commended both the Corinthians and the Thessalonians for their faith that was “growing and growing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Their ever increasing faith became evident in the increase of love displayed toward each other.

Latter Is Better

I enjoy reading about the great revivals that have awakened and transformed the church over the generations. Faith sparking reading to be sure! However, even these remarkable revivalist were aware that what they experienced did not yet measure up to what is yet to come.

Whatever supernatural God encounters mankind has witnessed in the past pales in comparison to what is ahead!

“This is what the LORD Almighty says:
‘In a little while … I will fill this house with glory,’
says the LORD Almighty.
‘The silver and the gold is mine,’
declares the LORD Almighty.
‘The glory of this present house
will be greater than the glory of the former house,’
says the LORD Almighty.’…”
Haggai 2:6-9

The Lord God Almighty continues to be the God of greater and greater things. Our difficulty is

visualizing beyond former paradigms.
believing past the natural,
receiving God’s truth as infallible,
and responding to Holy Spirit incentives.

Isaiah declares

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it…”
Isaiah 43:18-19

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.”
Isaiah 44:3-4

As much as I am inspired by past revivals, they are but a foreshadow of what is ahead — a taste test of the main course to come. God promises such a mighty outpouring of His Spirit that the world cannot fathom. All things are possible for the “LORD Almighty!” 

Greater Things

I pray for an increased, faith-filled expectation for more. The world, my own flesh and the devil creates a gravitational pull that attempts to ground all such heavenly vision. As God begins to pour out Holy Spirit in greater measure, these counter forces work to diminish the effects of God’s live giving flow.

“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
William Carey

God is prepared to pour out far more than even our greatest expectation. This greater glory will require even greater faith to lay hold of the promised out-pouring. Greater strength, wisdom and sensitivity will be needed to steward well what God is about to do.

“I also pray that you will understand
the incredible greatness of God’s power
for us who believe him.
This is the same mighty power
that raised Christ from the dead and
seated him in the place of honor
at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 1:19-20

Let’s get ready! Greater things are coming!

**********

5 Little Steps To Walking With Our Big God

Vibrant Christian faith includes a series of intentional little steps. How can these little feet walk in step with such a big God? Only with God’s help! God promises to walk beside us. He also welcomes us to walk with Him.

Today a family of three generations walked past our house. A preschooler recklessly led the entourage while riding his bicycle. The father pushed an empty stroller, while the mother kept the little biker from running over grandpa’s toes. Grandma held both hands of a toddler encouraging its every step.

In a similar way, God walks beside me

holding my hands,
guiding my steps,
providing protection,
and encouraging strength.

God joined Adam and Eve for a daily walk. I imagine happy chatter bounced between the three of them as they walked and talked — that is until the fall.

“Then the man and his wife
heard the sound of the LORD God
as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day,
and they hid from the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.
But the LORD God called to the man,
“Where are you?”
Genesis 3:8,9

“Where are you?”

God still calls to us, “Where are you?” as he waits for us to walk with Him. The same intimate relationship Adam and Eve experienced with God before the fall has been restored to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ parting words to his disciples were,

“…Surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20

Where am I? Too busy or preoccupied? Hiding like Adam or blaming like Eve? Feeling overwhelmed or discouraged?

Where are you? Have you struggled to develop a consistent faith walk?

Every journey, including our walk with God, contains a series of little steps. “S-T-E-P-S” form an acronym for reliable practices that have proved beneficial for generations of Christ followers:

Scriptures
Take away
Early
Prayer
Sacrifice

Scriptures

God’s Word creates a solid footing. Like that Grandmother holding the toddler’s hands, the bible establishes sure principles for us to walk in and live by. Its eternal truths endure through all seasons, for all generations.

God’s Word is perfect in every way;
how it revives our souls!
His laws lead us to truth,
and his ways change the simple into wise.
His teachings make us joyful
and radiate his light;

his precepts are so pure!
His commands, how they challenge us
to keep close to his heart!

The revelation-light of his word
makes my spirit shine radiant.
Every one of the Lord’s commands is right;
following them brings cheer.
Nothing he says ever needs to be changed.
The rarest treasures of life are found in his truth.
That’s why I prize God’s word
like others prize the finest gold.

Nothing brings the soul such sweetness
as seeking his living words.
Psalm 19:7-10

This small passage illustrates just a few of the benefits God’s word provides. Reading, mediating and studying the bible deposits immeasurable “treasures” within us. God holds our hands as we read, protectively guiding our faltering childlike steps —little steps with big God.

If consistent bible reading is new to you, start small. Choose a “quiet” spot where you can keep a bible, a small notepad or journal, and a pen handy. Establishing even a modest goal of 15 minutes a day will reap benefits.

Take Away

As you read the bible seek Holy Spirit’s help for a practical “take away” — something you can begin to incorporate into your life. Ask yourself several questions as you read,

“What application can I pull from this passage?”
“How does this relate to my circumstance or relationships?”
“What can I learn about God’s character?”
“Is there a point of growth for me to pursue?”

The bible documents God’s journey with people from eternity past to eternity future. Though the bible was written by over 40 different authors over a period of 1500 years, its relevance never diminishes.

“Such things were written in Scriptures
long ago to teach us.
And the Scriptures give us
hope and encouragement
as we wait patiently
for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”
Romans 15:4

It’s helpful to record the daily “take away” in a journalGod’s voice to your heart for that day. He may reveal something new or affirm an old lesson in a new way. Recording the “take away” helps us retain His truths. It propels us, through little steps, as we consistently walk with our big God.

Early

A day quickly becomes cluttered with activity or clouded with responsibility. Taking time early in the morning gives God our priority. Jesus said overcoming the pressures of life becomes possible by putting God first.

“But seek first his kingdom
and his righteousness
and all these things
will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 6:33

For some people, early in the morning may be the hardest but most important step. Jesus consistently patterned the example for us.

“Very early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
Jesus got up, left the house
and went off to a solitary place,
where he prayed.”
Mark 1:35

Prayer

That leads into the next “little step” — prayer. Reading the bible allows God to speak to us. Prayer is our response in this ongoing conversation.

After spending time reading the bible and considering a “take away”, prayer flows naturally from our full heart. Aspects of prayer may include:

  • coming into agreement with God’s word
  • committing oneself to follow Him
  • thanksgiving or praise for who He is and what He has done
  • presenting the needs of others
  • laying personal requests before Him
  • or silently waiting in His Presence.

Rejoice always, pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you
in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Consider writing a prayer in your journal as you confirm this little step with God.

Sacrifice

Jesus called his followers to count the cost of discipleship. Walking with God means abandoning our way and desires. Little steps yield to God’s direction.

When you fast,
do not look somber
as the hypocrites do,
for they disfigure their faces
to show others they are fasting.”
Matthew 6:16

The word “when” implies followers of Christ would fast. Fasting goes beyond dietary restrictions. All the previous steps focused our attention toward God, fasting turns our hearts away from other attractions and distractions.

Food is the most basic need of humanity. The conscious decision of fasting professes God to be our highest essential requirement. Though few Christians in North America fast regularly, fasting acknowledges God as sufficient.

God out-measures any sacrifice we might make. With eternity in mind and joy on our faces, He empowers our little steps of sacrifice.

Five Little Steps

Anne Graham Lotz  writes about two basic rules needed for anyone to walk together:

“The first rule is that we must walk in the same direction.
The second rule is that we must walk at the same pace…
If we want to walk with (God),
we must walk in His direction…at His pace.”

Many generations of followers have incorporated these five little steps in their walk with God: reading of Scriptures, finding a “take away”, seeking God early in the day, prayer and sacrifice. God walks with us encouraging our every step. So let’s keep walking with him. Step by step we will reach the finish line!

*********

 

 

Reputation – What Do I Want to Be Remembered For

One of the most valuable things we can obtain is a good reputation. Call me a little crazy, but sometimes I wonder what people will say in memory of me, when I am dead and gone. Perhaps it is a good thing to keep in mind while I’m still alive and have an opportunity to make life-style adjustments.

Awhile back, I attended a funeral that had been entirely pre-orchestrated by the deceased, from the floral arrangements, to the pictorial history, right down to the obituary and eulogy. This concerned person wasn’t leaving anything to chance.

I don’t enjoy going to funerals, but I do enjoy listening to the revelations of those who knew the individual the best. Usually a person’s life is abbreviated into a few short paragraphs of humorous stories, positive attributes, and outstanding accomplishments.

Amazing, isn’t it? Decades of living condensed into a “Reader’s Digest” version. What is even more interesting is that within a few short years, we begin to remember loved ones not by paragraphs but in single sentences.

“She was a stubborn as the day is long!”
“He was the best teacher I ever had.”
“That man could make anything work.”
“I felt sorry for anyone who tried to stand in her way!”

Oddly enough even the one liners quickly evaporate into single words that capture an entire lifetime: kind or mean, generous or cheap, caring or selfish, thankful or complaining.

Reputation

Reputation deserves more thought than we perhaps give it.

“Choose a good reputation over great riches;
being held in high esteem
is better than silver and gold.”
Proverbs 22:1

It is often the daily things, the little things, in life that blend the colours forming the full picture of our character. From front row seats, our spouse and family witness it all. They watch us navigate the highs and lows of life. They know how we respond when the kids are sick, we hit our thumb with a hammer, get cut off in traffic or stress pulls us like an elastic band to breaking point.

Solomon points out that reputation matters. How God evaluates our life, however, counts the most.

Paul advised Timothy to carefully examine the lives of people before choosing his leadership team. Positive attributes like “faithful … temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, and able to teach” started the long list. Negative qualities to be avoided included “not violent, not quarrelsome” and “not a lover of money.

“He must also have a good reputation with outsiders,
so that he will not fall into disgrace
and into the devil’s trap.”
1 Timothy 3:7

God is looking for the evidence of exemplary character at home, church, work and in the community.

“You can fool all the people some of the time,
and some of the people all the time,
but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.”
– Abraham Lincoln.

God’s View

I must admit I have trouble with God’s viewpoint on a few biblical personalities. But then, a broad gap separates human perspective and God’s.

The church in Sardis had “a reputation of being alive,” but God called them dead. (Rev 3:1) How is that for differing viewpoints?

When a worshipper decided to break an expensive flask of perfume and dump it on Jesus head, everyone in the room turned on her in anger and screamed, “Why this waste?”  Jesus saw the gesture as beautiful.

“Truly I tell you,
whereever this gospel is preached
throughout the world,
what she has done will also be told,
in memory of her.”
Matthew 26:13

Did you catch that? Her act of worship would never, ever, be reduced to a single line or word. Her reputation as a lavish worshipper would be told, in full, throughout time.

God says, “Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.” (1 Kings 4:30) Anyone who thinks he needs 1000 wives and concubines (who by the way turned him away from God) isn’t all that wise, to my way of thinking. Anybody could predict trouble in that scenario. Actually God and I agree on that one!

Too quickly, we summarize King David’s life to a single word — adultery. God expands it to

“…I have found David son of Jesse,
a man after my own heart;
he will do everything I want him to do.”
Acts 13:22

The Challenge

So here is my challenge. People have identified me with some surprisingly good attributes and many equally not-so-good ones. You probably have experienced the same. How do we live in a consistently honouring and godly way to develop a reputation that is above reproach with God and man?

I know it is possible.

“And the boy Samuel continued to grow
in stature and in favor with
the LORD and with people.”
1 Samuel 2:26

Jesus also “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) I don’t know about you, but I consider Jesus in a class all His own, even though he was fully man.

Solomon offeres concrete advise for us, however.

“My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.”
Proverbs 3:1-4 

In one of Solomon’s smarter seasons, he recognized the connection between following not just the “commands” but also the heart of God. This reproduces a godly character that wins “favor and a good name” on earth and in heaven.

In Memory

Those who diminish the bible to a long list of “dos” and “don’ts” miss the mark. The bible reveals God and His great love for people. Yet, reality exists. In our own ability, we are powerless to create good and godly reputations. We need help!

As we commit our lives to Jesus Christ and cooperate with Holy Spirit to re-form us, change happens. The Word of God is powerful to transform lives. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is redemptive, creates hope and opens our destiny to lives well lived.

We identify Peter as the “rock” who helped establish the fledgling church. Rarely do we remember him for his betrayal of Jesus. We remember Paul for being the great apostle to the Gentiles and writer of much of the New Testament, not his persecution of the church. Everyone remembers John as “the beloved”, not as a son of thunder.

By the grace of God, a reputation can change! Perhaps Paul said it best,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me
was not without effect.”
1 Corinthians 15:10

I know that I have a long way to go to build that godly reputation. I also know God is improving on the original version of who I once was. If there is hope for me, honestly, there is hope for everyone.

God is an amazing Master Builder, Redeemer, Re-Creator, and Restorer. He is ready and willing to lead us into that new reputation.

**********

Your Promise is Waiting – Do Something!

Earth’s resources may be diminishing, but heaven’s never do. Your promise is waiting, but you may have to do something illogical to receive it. However, these God opportunities sometimes have expiration dates.

I read the other day that over $800 million remains in unclaimed bank accounts in Canada alone. A $60 million lottery ticket currently sits unclaimed in Alberta. That sounds ridiculous to me. Somebody do something!

How many even more valuable promises sit in God’s hand waiting for somebody — anybody — to do something? God’s prompting to motivate us may hit a road block in my over-rationalizing mind or carry a risk I’m unprepared to take. Possessing our promise may take courage.

“And without faith living within us,
it would be impossible to please God.
For we come to God in faith knowing
that he is real and that he rewards the faith
of those who give all their
passion and strength into seeking him.”
Hebrews 11:6 TPT

Courage requires faith. Faith demands courage.

Risky Faith

Peter had given up everything to follow Jesus, including his family, business and security. So when the tax collectors came knocking Peter’s pockets were empty. Jesus instructed,

“…go to the lake and throw out your line.
Take the first fish you catch;
open its mouth and you will find
a four-drachma coin.
Take it and give it to them for my tax and your.”
Matthew 17:27
 

Sounds little “fishy” to me! (That’s Canadian for unbelievable.) I like fishing, but the most unusal thing I have found in a fish’s mouth is another fish. Peter trusted Jesus’ words and took a risk. He did something perhaps no one else would have done. He obeyed.

You would think everyone who saw the day’s catch would go fishing. But they knew God gives a specific word to a seeking heart that is unique to that time and situation. 

What if Peter chose not to listen? What if he failed to respond? Frankly, I don’t know why God often relies on the obedience of people. 

It’s Absurd

Familiarity gives the absurd directives within bible stories almost a “normal” appearance. The way of us earth-walking humans and our infinitely minded God present distinct and contradictory opposites

God recruits Moses, Egypt’s most wanted criminal and fugitive. When an entire nation cries out in panic as a fierce army corners them against the Red Sea, God tells Moses to point a stick at the water. Seriously?

“Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the Israelites to move on.
Raise your staff and stretch out your hand
over the sea to divide the water
so that the Israelites can go through
the sea on dry ground.”
Exodus 14:15-16

Who would you rather be? Moses or the first person stepping into the ominous depths? As absurd as the instructions appeared, victory came as everyone moved forward in obedience. Moses knew the voice of God. His confidence rested not in himself, but in the faithfulness of the One speaking.

A promise is waiting for all who will obey.

Hearing Well

Rebellion blocked Israel’s ability to hear God. Twisted attitudes and calloused hearts continue to affect our ability to hear clearly and respond fully to God’s leading.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear
a voice behind you, saying,
‘This is the way; walk in it.'”
Isaiah 30:21

Responding bridges hearing with receiving:

  • Wash seven times in the dirty Jordan River and the leprosy will disappear. (2 Kings 5:10)
  • Step out of the boat and you will walk on water. (Matt 14:29)
  • After we make mud from spit and put it into blind eyes, go wash for healing. (John 9:6-7)
  • Feed the starving crowd of thousands with a boy’s bag lunch. (Luke 9:13)
  • Throw your nets on the other side. A great catch was waiting! (Luke 5:4)

If we ignore the prompting of the Lord, insisting on doing things like we have always done them, we will miss many miracles and divine encounters. Perhaps a promise is waiting today. Is anyone willing to move in a radical way to find out? Will we hold back looking for a risk-free formula to claim the blessing?

Obeying

Though the bible is filled with such illustrations, none of these men or women moved in presumption. A sure word from God preceded each miracle.

“I will instruct you and teach you
in the way you should go;
I will counsel you
with my loving eye on you.”
Psalms 32:8

Biblical examples abound of those who “presumed” they heard God and missed the mark. Others hesitated and decided too late to respond, with disastrous results. 

Maintaining close relationship with God (through prayer and bible reading), while being in authentic relationships with mature Christians, creates a safe guard helping us discern God’s voice and respond appropriately. Having a mentor, coach or accountability partner will help us access God’s best for our lives.

But ultimately, the choice is ours. Will we trust God and risk?

Trust in the Lord
with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6
 

I have this verse etched on the wall at the foot of my bed. I need a constant reminder to resist the tendency to trust in my own strength, ability or wisdom. 

Promise

When my husband and I took over the family farm, my father responded, “What a relief! I never liked farmer.”

It was sobering to think that my father continued, for over 50 years, to do a job that he didn’t find fulfilling. As I questioned him further, I discovered that he kept doing what he always did because he lacked the confidence to risk change. His creative ingenuity remained largely untapped.

It can be the same with us. It isn’t easy to trust God in the unknown. Fear held my father back. Fear paralyzes many.

The psalmist declared, 

“I will hurry, without delay,
to obey your commands.”
Psalm 119:60

Those who accessed the promises and miracles of God hurried “without delay.”  Those who say “Yes!” to God, continually and radically create pathways for the supernatural. They may leave families, businesses, securities and predictable lives in their obedience. These aren’t absent minded decisions. They have

sought God with all their hearts,
listened intently to His voice,
tested and weighed the word against scripture,
and listened to the counsel of others,
before moving toward God in obedience,
knowing a promise is waiting.

Who Knows

God alone knows the result. Will we shake cultural norms? Will we allow His Kingdom to come to earth in surprising ways?

“But when he,
the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into all the truth.
He will not speak on his own;
but he will speak only what he hears,
and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
John 16:13

So if you ask me what I’m doing these days, don’t be surprised if I answer, “I’m walking with a stick.” “Going fishing.”  or “Making mud with spit.” God alone knows the outcome. I don’t intend on holding back. A promise is waiting! Hopefully, there will be no unclaimed balances left in any of my spiritual bank account.

**********

Giving Thanks – Sustaining an Attitude of Gratitude

Sustaining an attitude of gratitude may seem difficult for many people. However, it is an attribute that we can develop no matter what our circumstances.

In my limited travels to developing nations ministering to the very poor, I have noticed thankfulness in the midst of great lack. Here is North America, we often struggle with being thankful while accumulating “more”, “better than we had before”, or “different than what someone else has.”

Consumerism pervades not just closets but hearts. If we aren’t careful, a sense of entitlement creeps in. “I’ve earned it!” or “I deserve better!” becomes the unspoken but underlying thought pattern.

Paul encourages us,

Rejoice always,
pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The Passion translation says, “in the midst of everything be always giving thanks.” It is impossible to sustain an attitude of gratitude in all circumstances” if we haven’t developed a prayerful lifestyle of giving thanks.

People

An assignment recently required me to write a few notes to those who have inspired, motivated or encouraged me along my spiritual or occupational journey. I had no trouble thinking of multiple people who

taught me new skills,
created opportunity for growth,
advocated for promotion,
allowed me to be vulnerable and authentic,
or picked me up after a major setback.

I am blessed! Does that mean life has been easy or people always treat me fairly, with honour and respect? Absolutely not!

“Healthy cultures embrace people where they are
but they also nudge them
and sometimes even push them to get better.”
– Dr. Henry Cloud

I am thankful for those who have “nudged” and “pushed” me “to get better” even if it wasn’t comfortable at the time.

Paul wrote to a very unhealthy congregation at Corinth, yet he said,

“I always thank my God for you
because of his grace given you
in Christ Jesus.”
1 Corinthians 1:4

As I mentor women living under high-pressure, dysfunctional and even abusive situations, I exhort them to search for the “straws of good” in others. I’m not expecting them to ignore the reality, but rather inspire an attitude of gratitude.

Gratitude includes displaying thankfulness through words and actions. It isn’t long before these women come up with several things they can genuinely give thanks for.

Circumstances

It is unreasonable to give thanks “for” everything that is thrown our way, but completely possible to maintain an attitude of gratitude “in” everything we are facing.

I have never experienced extreme persecution for my faith, like millions of others. Paul did. He gives a brief summary: “hard pressed, crushed, perplexed, in despair, persecuted and struck down” (2 Cor 4:7-9). Add to that, in prison, flogged, exposed to death, lashed, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, and constantly in danger (2 Cor 11:23-28)

My life looks easy in comparison. Yours probably does too. Yet, listen to his perspective.

“All this is for your benefit,
so that the grace that is reaching
more and more people may cause thanksgiving
to overflow to the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 4:15

God’s grace works through every circumstance for His glory. That alone is reason enough for overflowing thankfulness.

I have enough years behind me to view life’s hazards through the lens of grace and thanksgiving. The tough times exposed ungodly attitudes and tendencies in me that otherwise would have continued to cloud my character. God uses the pressures of life to reveal and then refine. For that I am thankful.

God

A true attitude of gratitude rests in thankfulness toward God. The writer’s of scripture continually penned their recognition and appreciation for God and His great mercy and kindness.

“Praise the LORD.
Give thank to the LORD,
for he is good; his love endures forever.”
Psalm 106:1

Thankfulness naturally flows out of relationship with God. Yet, even though God gives us ample reason to sustain an attitude of gratitude, David knew thankfulness comes from a decision of the will.

I will give thanks to you, LORD,
with all my heart;
and tell of all your wonderful deed.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name,
O Most High.”
Psalm 9:1-2

The people of Israel experienced God’s blessing yet they adopted an “entitlement” culture as well. Paul encouraged the Colossians to remember it is all about Christ.

“… Be thankful.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you
richly as you teach and admonish one another
with all wisdom and through
psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:15-17

Sowing and Reaping

Sowing and reaping works in every dimension of our lives — natural and spiritual. If I want to reap thankfulness, I must plant seeds of gratitude in the ordinary activities of my day. Here are a few examples:

  • Speak – Tell people how thankful you are for them and the impact they are having on your life. Don’t assume they know.
  • Journal – Challenge yourself to journal one thing you appreciate every day for a hundred days.
  • Pray – Like David, make the decision to praise and thank God for His goodness and grace. Don’t let your prayer time slip into a list of selfish wants. Recognize God’s presence and His grace in your life.
  • Memorize – Search out key verses of scripture about thankfulness and “hide them in your heart” through memorization.
  • Rethink – It only takes 3 seconds to change a negative thought into a positive one. So lighten the gloom by re-programing your mind toward appreciation.
  • Accountability – Ask two or three friends to hold you accountable as you reshape your character into one of gratitude.

Even small steps go a long way in creating an attitude of gratitude. The reward will be a new perspective on how you view people, circumstances and even God. As you plant the seeds of gratitude in your own life, don’t be surprised if you hear those around you express their appreciation more freely as well.

“…Express your thankfulness regularly.
If you pray, offer prayers of gratitude.
Second fall more in love with the Giver
than you ever do with his gifts.
Third, never claim full credit for your story.
Acknowledge the role of grace and providence
publicly when you talk.”
– Carey Nieuwhof

Thankful

My paternal grandmother died of cancer leaving her young children behind. My grandfather was a rough man who found it difficult to express kindness. Yet my father and all his siblings developed a contagious sense of humour and an ease in conveying appreciation. Living with a mean-spirited father in the absence of a nurturing mother did not hinder them from creating and sustaining an attitude of gratitude.

My father generously passed on the heritage of thanksgiving to his children, of which I am a beneficiary. Though giving “thanks in all circumstances” is not always easy, I am thankful for the example he established.

Those seeds of thankfulness my father planted in me, I now want to invest in my children, grandchildren, and those I influence. Let’s pass it forward!

**********

Responsiveness! God Responds to Us. How Will We Respond to God?

Being responsive may be easy for some people, but it is difficult for me. Responsiveness forms the foundation for any thriving relationship. God responds as we look toward Him. But how will we respond to God’s invitation to come into a mutual relationship with Him?

The dictionary meaning of “responsive” is “to react quickly and positively, to respond readily and with enthusiasm.”

Here is my present reality. I want God to respond “quickly and positively” to my cries for help, yet expect His grace allowing me to hesitate, to evaluate, or even procrastinate in my response to Him.

“Do two walk together
unless they agreed to do so?”
Amos 3:3

Responsiveness gives agreement to each other.

Difficulty Responding

Disappointment, betrayal, rejection or brokenness form wounds within relationships, Wounds create callouses, a hardness of heart, that often makes responding difficult.

God gave Hosea the overwhelming task of marrying a prostitute, knowing she would be unfaithful. He had to overcome personal pain to woo her back.

God asked this humble prophet to live in a way that visibly demonstrated Israel’s betrayal of their God — the Bride’s betrayal of the Bridegroom.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor
a door of hope.
There she will respond
as in the days of her youth.”
Hosea 2:14-15

Broken bruised hearts struggle to respond to love. But God leads — even in “the wilderness”, in “the Valley of Achor” (Valley of Trouble). God turns this dry place of trouble into “a door of hope.” Even when hope vanishes, God leads the way!

Here beyond hope, “she will respond.”

Rebellion Blocks

Hosea speaks of Israel’s stubborn refusal to respond “quickly and positively” to God.

Israel’s arrogance testifies against them;
the Israelites, even Ephraim,
stumble in their sin;
Judah also stumbles with them.”
Hosea 5:5

The phrase “testifies against” translates from the same word for “respond.” Refusal to respond epitomizes defiance against our Redeemer and Lord.

Even our faintest response to God’s open “door of hope” releases a transformational change.

“‘In that day I will respond,’
declares the LORD —
I will respond to the skies,
and they will respond to the earth;
and the earth will respond to the grain,
the new wine and the olive oil,
and they will respond to Jezreel.'”
Hosea 2:21-22

Envision it! Our little response to God releases a supernatural reproduction. Creation breaks forth on the wings of human responsiveness to God!

Love Initiates

Jezreel means “God plants.” The seeds of responsiveness bloom and grow, producing a love that initiates — fully and continuously responding.

“I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called
‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called
‘Not my people,’
You are my people‘;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.‘”
Hosea 2:23

This same word “respond” weaves through the Song of Songs, veiling the responsiveness between the Lover and His Beloved

“My beloved spoke and said to me,
arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
come with me.'”
Songs 2:10

Singing and Shouting Erupts

Some versions translate Hosea 2:15 as she will sing there” in “Valley of Trouble.” The Psalms often express this way of responding.

“May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.”
Psalm 119:172

Such joyous response of singing or triumphant shouts over our enemies, represent quick, positive response. Listen to God’s decree over Babylon.

“The LORD Almighty has sworn by himself;
I will surely fill you with troops,
as with a swarm of locust,
and they will shout in triumph over you.”
Jeremiah 51:14

Here “shout in triumph” is translated from the Hebrew word for respond.

Covenant Facilitates

Responsiveness refers mainly within the context of covenant relationship. Perhaps that is why I appreciate Hosea so much. He experienced the deepest breach of covenant — the pain of adultery.

The Valley of Trouble leaves enduring scars — visible remnants of broken trust. Everyone faces the sting of betrayal to some degree. Recovery cannot be forced. How does a bruised and wounded heart respond again?

By God’s grace alone! David’s says, “I call out to the LORD, and he answers me.” (Ps 3:4) He assures us, “God will respond to your need.”

“May the LORD answer you
when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help
and grant you support.
Psalm 20:1-2

The word “respond” is hidden within Psalm 20 multiple times — responsiveness between God and His children in need. “Help” and “support” are essential to restoring trust. The decision to respond, not just to God, but to those around us, rests upon our security in the Lord’s Presence rather than trusting people to show value and dignity.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:4-5

God delivers and covers the bruised one from fear and the betrayed one from shame within the responsiveness of covenant love.

Responding

Jonah avoided responding by running and hiding.

“But Jonah ran away from the LORD…
he went down to Joppa…
After paying the fare, he went aboard…
to flee from the LORD…
Jonah had gone below deck,
where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.”
Jonah 1:3-4

Refusal to respond “quickly and positively” to God’s voice carries a heavy price. The journey leads ever downward into deepening disengagement from God, others and even ourselves. “The fare” costs far more than any realize.

Though Jonah eventually did what God asked, his heart never turned fully to God. He remained hard within the crusty shell of self-sufficiency (4:5), self-pity (4:8), and self-righteousness (4:9). Nineveh repented. Jonah refused.

There is only one man known for his responsiveness to God’s voice.

“Because your heart was responsive
and you humbled yourself before the LORD
when you heard what I have spoken…
and because you tore your robes
and wept in my presence,
I also have heard you, declares the LORD.”
2 Kings 22:19

Josiah was the man! Though imperfect, Josiah responded to God’s voice with humility and repentance.

Positive Outcome

The bible is filled with examples of those who responded well and those who didn’t. They either received a blessing or ended life as a faint shadow of their potential.

God responds to our slightest movement in His direction. How will we respond to His leading, timing and call? Any slowness in our responsiveness delays

God’s presence and power,
intimacy and communion,
and the supernatural results of living
in fellowship with Him.

God waits patiently, but hopes intensely, for us to “quickly and positively” respond to the whisper of His voice. As difficult as responding often is for me, my heart truly wants to leave hesitation, evaluation and procrastination behind. I’m sure you do too.

I want the grace of responsiveness to permeate my life, both with God and with those around me. Every day requires choice. Will I shrink back or move into responsiveness?

**********

The Lord Who Heals – Is Jesus Still the Healer?

Is Jesus still the Healer? Is He the Lord who heals, or is healing coincidence? Many people believe that divine healing ended with the Acts of the Apostles. Personal belief is often based on personal experience.

Moses led the people of Israel through the Red Sea and into the “Desert of Shur.” After three sweltering days without water, they came to Marah. Here they found water enough to satisfy everyone’s thirst, but it was “bitter.”

God’s Name, God’s Nature

Bitter water formed the perfect backdrop for God to demonstrate His character,

“He said, “If you listen carefully
to the LORD your God
and do what is right in his eyes,
if you pay attention to his commands
and keep all his decrees,
I will not bring on you
any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians,
for I am the LORD, who heals you.”
Exodus 15:26

Bitter water healed

Under God’s instruction, Moses threw a piece of wood into the water. The water instantly became pure and life-giving, complements of the “Lord who heals” — Jehovah Rapha. God’s nature is to not just to heal, but to keep us from disease.

Healing in The Cross

Jesus displayed the perfect image of the Father (Heb 1:3). Healing was and is part of the ministry of Christ,

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the good news of the kingdom
and healing every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 9:36

The word “every” leaves no room for exclusion or doubt. Peter refers to Isaiah’s prophecy (Is 53:5) being fulfilled through Jesus when he says, 

“‘He himself bore our sins
in his body on the cross,
so that we might die to sins
and live for righteousness;
By his wounds you have been healed.'”
1 Peter 2:24

Peter witnessed Jesus heal multitudes before His crucifixion. God later used Peter powerfully as an instrument of healing.

Jesus didn’t have to be brutally beaten to save us from our sins. Such cruel treatment, “his wounds”, made healing available for every condition, however.

Confident

How can I be so confident Jesus still heals? Though my faith rests in God’s Word, not in experience, my experience validates that Word. God has taught me aspects of healing using my body as an example.

The first healing I experienced occurred shortly after I became a Christian. Even though the bible was relatively new to me, I approached it with childlike faith believing every word to be true — including healing.

Believe bible childlike faith

I had suffered from ulcers since my early teens. It wasn’t uncommon for me to vomit blood during painful flare ups. As a young twenty-three year old, I was bent over the toilet vomiting when a verse of Scripture came to mind:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
the new creation has come:
The old has gone,
the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

Though this verse doesn’t refer to healing, Holy Spirit amplified the word enough for my faith to grab. I stood up declaring, “Wait a minute! That means I have a brand new stomach.” You may laugh but I walked away, never to have any further trouble with my stomach. Ever!

In that instant, God became my Lord who heals! Not all healings are instant, however.

Slow Road

Some healings are more like a slow road to recovery. At fifteen years old, I was admitted to a psychiatric centre for treatment as a suicidal alcoholic. The journey out of that dark valley took decades, as God replaced truth for lies.

“Then you will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

I have witnessed many others escape mental illness through Jesus Christ, The Truth.

Set free from pain

 

Lung disease plagued my father’s family resulting in many deaths. When I was diagnosed with emphysema, the doctor proclaimed it a life long condition.

A word of knowledge led me to “cut off” the generational “curse” over myself and my family by renouncing the spirit of abandonment. In prayer, I agreed that I have been adopted by God into His family. Any sickness entering through natural genetic lines was eradicated through my new “bloodline” in Jesus Christ.

Was it a coincidence, or the Lord who heals, that further investigation revealed clear lungs?

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law
by becoming a curse for us…”
Galatians 3:13

The cross is enough!

Not Done Yet

God’s healing continued:

  • the connection between severe allergies and a broken heart was revealed through another word of knowledge. I claimed healing for my heart and renounced the side effects of allergies as I watched them disappear
  • painful arthritic hip was healed by the laying on of hands
  • ovarian cysts dissolved through forgiving of offenses
  • severely deformed hands were brought into alignment by speaking blessing over them in Jesus Name
  • restoration of movement and feeling to legs after an accident causing a 75% displacement of the spine, healed through active worship and much prayer
  • migraine headaches instantly left never to return through speaking the Name of Jesus
  • torn ligaments and a frozen shoulder instantaneously healed by rebuking the spirit of infirmity and commanding it to go.

Free from sickness and disease

 

These were all medically diagnosed. After the healing, specialists responded, “astounding”, “a miracle” and “unbelievable”. Even without God’s redemptive healing power, I believe Jesus remains the Lord who heals. These testimonies continue to elevate hope in the lives of others to also believe.

“Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday, today and forever.”
Hebrews 13:8

God never changes. He remains the same. What He has done for me He continues to do for multitudes.

Faith

Some people came to Jesus with unquestionable faith. While others came with wavering faith. Some, perhaps, lived “worthy” of such healing grace. Others became social outcasts, despised and rejected, yet bravely approached Jesus for healing.

Healing draws us to The Healer, filling us with awe for Jesus Christ.

“The apostles performed many
signs and wonders among the people…
Nevertheless, more and more men and women
believed in the Lord and were added to their number.”
Acts 12:12-14

Faith and healing

Healing demonstrates Christ’s presence and power among us.

“As a result people brought the sick into the streets
and laid them on beds and mats
so that at least Peter’s shadow
might fall on some of them as he passed by.
Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem,
bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits,
and all of them were healed.”
Acts 12:15-16

As you read this, may faith increase in your heart. God loves you! He is still the Lord who heals.

Receive

I seize every opportunity to pray for people. Many have also experienced healing — some instantaneous, others progressively still others have not been healed. Honestly, I don’t understand healing, but I know the more I pray for healing, the more I see healing happen.

I have faith to pursue healing for those who dare not hope themselves. Whatever the outcome, I trust God and want Jesus to get the full benefit of what He paid for on the cross.

“Therefore God exalted him (Jesus)
to the highest place and
gave him the name
that is above every name.”
Philippians 2:8

The Lord who heals

Whatever your diagnosis, may I agree with you today for healing? Would you trust to receive healing today from the Lord who heals? 

Lord Jesus, I thank You. You are the Lord who heals.
I bring this precious reader to you today.
In Jesus Name, I command all sickness and infirmity to go
from this person’s whole body, mind and soul.
I command every part to come
into complete alignment —
restored, healed and delivered.
In The Name above the name of every disease,
I declare, “Today is a new beginning!”
May the blood of Jesus
cleans and make every part new.
I thank You Lord Jesus for Your healing power,
in Your precious Name.

**********