Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Journey into Faith

When I read my bible, it stands out to me that God is VERY interested in our faith.

Years ago, I remember bursting into tears after reading Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please God,...".  I felt like such a failure at faith. I imagined that God was very disappointed in me because of my struggle with a stronghold of fear.

But, what I didn't yet understand was that God is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He starts the whole thing in us and then He finishes it as well.

If you are still here, and you're alive and breathing.....He isn't finished with you yet. He knows exactly how to weave the events of our lives into experiences and encounters with Him that shape and change us from the inside out.

Sitting in a Henry Blackaby study called "Experiencing God" over 20 years ago, God zapped me with a one-liner that cut through years of frustration in my battle with fear. The author said simply, "If you have a fear problem, you have a love problem."  Those few words set me on a faith journey of self-discovery, and inner healing, that has continued to this day.

I occasionally still succumb to fear, but mostly I am victorious. I no longer believe God is disappointed with me (even when I fail), but I believe He is applauding my progress and journey.

Below are a few of the lessons I've learned along the way in overcoming fear.  I hope they help you, too.

1.  Perfect love casts out fear. (I Jn. 4:18) I had a fear issue because I had not encountered the love of the Father in my heart.  Once I began to come into the revelation of His all encompassing love, fear could no longer have it's hold on me. Now, when I start struggling with fear, I know I need another love encounter with the Father. When I run to Him, He does or says exactly what I need to hear or experience at that moment for whatever situation I may be facing.

2.  Guard your access points. There were certain areas of my life where I was more vulnerable to fear than others. I learned to distance myself from those things that might promote fear or give the enemy access to my vulnerable areas. Certain books, movies, conversations, etc. were off limits as far as I was concerned. For instance, when my children were small, I would not watch a movie about child abduction. Why give the enemy material to harass you with later?

3. Watch your agreements. As God began to renew my mind in the area of His love, protection, and Presence in my life, He also exposed the lies I believed in my mind and confessions I made with my own mouth. I learned that both God and satan work through the power of agreement. I had a lot of work to do with cleaning up my habits of speech and agreements with the enemy. I strongly believe and have witnessed first-hand, that some people experience continual difficulties because of the agreements with the enemies plans they continually make with their own mouth. Our words become self-fulfilling prophecies.

4. Speak words of life and faith even when you don't feel like it. This was key for me. I made lots of progress in learning what not to say, but I experienced huge leaps forward when I began to learn what things to say. You need to hear it, the enemy needs to hear it, and God wants to hear it. You can shift the atmosphere around you and others through speaking life and faith.

5. Find out what God is saying and hold on to it with everything in you. Remember, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.(Rom. 10:17) You won't be able to walk by faith if you don't hear what He is saying. We have the Word of God, and those are definitely promises we can claim. But, there is something special about getting alone with Him and having Him speak specifically into your situation. Sometimes it's only a word or two, but how precious those words are! It is no wonder that Jesus himself said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matt. 4:4)

It's amazing to me that now I can actually say I enjoy the faith journey. Sometimes, I think of the faith journey kind of like a video game where you get to go to the next level when you've overcome the enemies in your present level. The difference is we're not alone. The Holy Spirit is with us every step of the way training us, equipping us, clothing us for battle, and then cheering us on. If we mess up, we just get to try it again. He sets us up to win.

I love reading Hebrews 11, known by some as the Hall of Faith. The thing that strikes me most is that so many of the names listed as icons of faith made major mess-ups in their faith journey, and yet God saw fit to brag on them and list there names as examples of faith. I can imagine that He is penning another faith list in Heaven even now that He loves to brag on, and maybe our names will be on there, too.

Remember, He's the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Voice

Do you remember your first encounter with the Holy Spirit? I do.  I was probably around 14 years old. The Jesus Movement that started on the west coast of California was sweeping across the nation. We even felt the effects in the small town in South Carolina where I grew up. Our youth pastor began talking to us about the Holy Spirit, and I remember feeling intrigued and stirred. He led our small group of youth to begin praying together, letting the Holy Spirit lead us 'conversationally'.

I remember one particular Sunday evening we had gathered in a small room after the Sunday evening service to pray together again. As we began to pray, something unusual happened. The Holy Spirit's presence moved into the room in a tangible way and none of us wanted to leave or quit praying. This was not a normal experience for us! I remember laughing and crying and feeling so alive for the first time. We didn't want to do anything to stop what the Holy Spirit was doing in our midst.

Then, the hour became late and parents were worried, calling the church to find out where their kids were. So, the meeting ended. After that, all of us were eager to have another prayer meeting......anything to experience again what we had felt in the room that night.

But, not everyone was excited about this new Holy Spirit activity, and so there were not too many more meetings like that.  But, I could not forget what I had experienced. My heart was set on a journey to search for the more of God that had broken into my world.

For years, I thought of the Holy Spirit as an 'it'. I had little to no concept of Him being a person or being able to have a real relationship with Him. I loved Jesus and the Father as much as I knew how, but the Holy Spirit seemed somehow more difficult to connect with, and not as necessary for me to know or understand.

But, Jesus' words to His disciples indicate the opposite is true. He tells them, "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you." Jesus makes it clear that having the Holy Spirit with them is even better than Jesus Himself being with them.

Jesus was at that point fully God, but had taken on the limitations of being fully man as well. He was not yet omnipresent. He knew that His leaving by way of the cross would open the way for the Counselor to move into the heart of every one who named the name of Jesus. He could be with everyone all the time.

Now, that is good news!  But, it gets even better.  Check out the Comforter's job description we find just a few verses later in John 16:

  • He will guide us into all truth (vs. 13)
  • He will only speak what He hears, and tell us what is yet to come (vs. 13)
  • He will bring glory to Jesus by taking from what is His and making it known to us (vs. 14)
  • Since all that belongs to the Father also belongs to Jesus, the Holy Spirit will make that known to us as well (vs. 15)
This not only boggles my mind, but makes it even more evident that we have been given an amazing gift in the Holy Spirit, who resides in us as Believers. 

There is a popular TV show on NBC called "The Voice." I mention this only because it is a name that I have come to associate with the Holy Spirit. There can be many other voices that speak to us; our voice, the voice of others, the voice of the world, and the voice of the enemy. But, there is only one voice that really matters....His voice. The Voice. It took me a long time to realize that The Voice is always speaking to me.(and you) He has so much to say! Remember, He has access to all the information, knowledge, wisdom and spiritual riches that belong to Father and Jesus, and His job is to make that known to us. 

I think much of our journey here on earth is about learning to recognize and hear The Voice, and then walking in the truth and realities that He shares with us.  Sometimes He shares amazing revelation with us, and other times He is very down-to-earth and practical. I can't tell you how many times He has reminded me to do something I've forgotten,  prompted me to take care of something that needed to be done, or helped me find something I lost. When I pray, He is constantly responding if I will take the time to listen for Him. Sometimes He speaks quite loudly, but mostly He speaks to me in a still small voice.

It is His voice that shares words of wisdom with us when we face difficult situations, and His voice reveals to us words of knowledge and prophetic words so that we can reveal His heart to those around us. The more we understand this gift, the more we come to value the treasure we have been given.

We show the value that we have for His voice by the amount of time we spend listening and pursuing Him. There have been many times that I have cried out to Him to let me hear His voice more clearly. One of those times He answered quietly to me Jer. 29:13, "You will seek me and fine me when you seek me with all your heart." Another time He encouraged me to "look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure".(from Prov. 2:4)

Our Father hides spiritual riches for us and there is nothing greater to me than hearing Him speak, revealing those riches. I believe The Voice within longs to share the secrets of Heaven with us. It reminds me of Prov. 25:2 "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; and the glory of kings to search it out."  We were made for this.  It's written into our DNA to desire to hear His voice.

And remember, it was Jesus who said, "My sheep know my voice". (Jn. 10:27a)

Then He said, "go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And behold the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake; an after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. I Kings 19:11-12

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Seasons of a Marriage

Recently, my husband and I had the privilege to share at "The Wave", a gathering of young adults in our church. They wanted to hear our story, and more specifically about our marriage.

The whole experience was a blast and has caused me to reflect more thoughtfully on our journey together as a couple. We have always considered ourselves extremely blessed. We didn't have some of the difficult hurdles that we have observed in other marriages, but we both carried into our marriage a measure of brokenness. Retelling our story caused me to see just how much God has done in our individual lives and marriage.

Being the amazing Shepherd that He is, God brought us in to healing in many of those broken areas. Sometimes our healing occurred simultaneously, sometimes separately, but the more whole that each of us became, the better we were able to love one another.

Having the advantage of surveying 33 years of marriage, I have learned that a marriage has seasons. Some of those seasons are joyful, surprising, adventuresome, and exhilarating, and others are trying, heartbreaking, and downright humbling.

In all of those seasons there needs to be an anchor. For us, that Anchor is Jesus. I can't tell you the number of times that we found ourselves up against a tumultuous season. Together, we faced financial crisis, health difficulties, shattered dreams, personal betrayals(not with each other), and discouragement, just to name a few.

Each of these hurdles tests a marriage.  When we are secured to our Anchor, we may experience pain, but, we go through these difficult tests with a deep security. Though the sea might be raging around us, we can rest assured that we are firmly fastened in Him and He will not let us go.

We made a decision before we got married that we would never use the word 'divorce' with each other. When we encountered a test, divorce wasn't an option. We had vowed that we would never throw the 'd' word up to one another in the heat of a battle.

Our security was in knowing that the Jesus that lived in each of us was big enough to work out any differences the two of us might encounter. When we encountered a conflict, sometimes we just needed to spend time alone with Jesus. After I spent time with Him, time and again Jesus would focus on my heart and my response. I'm sure Richard would attest to the same thing.

A good marriage occurs when we are willing to humble ourselves to grow, learn, say "I'm sorry", and follow the gentle promptings of the voice of the Spirit within us. And, it greatly helps if both parties are doing this! I can't imagine attempting a marriage without His help.

I'm so grateful for the winter, spring, summer, and fall's of our marriage, and for the amazing, (and very handsome) man that God saw fit to allow me to share my life with. I'm also eternally grateful for the grace of God that has helped to mold, shape, and form us into a marriage that can glorify Him. I am acutely, and humbly aware that our marriage is a complete and total work of His grace.

And even as I close these thoughts, the lyrics and tune to a song by Hillsong surfaces,

'All of my life, in every season, You are still God, I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship'.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why I Love the Church

I know full well that the church has been a place of betrayal and hurt for many people. I wrote a blog not too long ago called "When Sheep Bite" and I found it very interesting that I had almost triple the usual amount of readers for this blog. 

Almost daily I read articles, posts or simple comments that lead me to believe that many are giving up on church as we know it. Some of that is good and a necessary part of change and transformation of the church.

But, there are elements of true church that can't be replaced by watching your favorite TV preacher, or by having lunch with a few good friends. I'm concerned that in our effort to walk away from those things that hurt us, we can also be throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. 

I have had an increasing concern about what I would call a 'disavowing' of the church. Disavow is not a word I commonly use, but here it is defined:

dis·a·vow - 
defn. - to deny any responsibility or support for.

In I Cor. 12, Paul talks extensively about the church being like a body and in 12:26, he expresses, "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it".  

Whether we understand it or not, we are all hurt in some way when someone walks away from the church. Each unique individual brings something different to the table. When someone steps away, we all lose out. We won't have the benefit of their unique personhood and gift mix, and just as importantly, they will not experience ours. 

As believers, we all hold a place of responsibility when it comes to the church. It's easy to walk away from the church and then talk about everything that's wrong. But, taking your place in the wall as one of the living stones, even if it's a burnt stone, takes humility, commitment, and even courage. 

The New Testament gives us some clear pointers when it comes to what church can look like, yet it is not so restrictive that all churches will look exactly alike. But, one thing is clear, churches are made up of people who have decided to do life together by loving, trusting, praying, worshipping, learning, serving, giving, crying, rejoicing, growing, and experiencing the Presence of God.

If you've been hurt by the church and have chosen the 'opt out' option, please consider reconsidering. Though not an exhaustive list, please ponder my musings on why I love the church: 

I love the church because at it's very core it is relational. This beautiful vortex of relationship found in the church is between man and God, and God and man, and man and man, all swirling together to create something uniquely divine and wonderful. It's in this cauldron of relational soup that many of our lives are shaped and formed. As we do life together, our lives coincide, overlap, and sometimes collide. Even in the colliding, we learn what is in our own hearts and we grow and become stronger as we allow the Spirit of God to do His work. He wastes nothing. He will not waste our joy or our pain.

I love the church because of the unique and powerful experience of corporate worship and prayer.  God ordained that a dynamic synergy and power is released when a body comes together in unified passion and focus.  Not to long ago, our church stepped into a new place of worship together. Though we've had some wonderful times of worship before, this was different. I felt the exhilaration of being part of a moment in time where it seemed Heaven and earth met, and dear brothers and sisters were experiencing that right along with me.  Corporate worship and prayer produces powerful and significant results.

I love the church because of the five fold ministry that works in and through the body to equip the saints for works of service. So much about the five fold ministry has not been understood, but in the last 25 years much revelation has been given to the church on the subject.

It is clearly God's plan that the body of Christ be equipped through the offices of the five fold ministry (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher) "to prepare God's people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ". (Eph. 4:11-13)

We will usually receive and take on a measure of the anointing that we have placed ourselves under.Relationship, connectedness, commitment, and perseverance are all important keys in giving and receiving impartation through the five-fold ministry. When we step away from a body of believers we are also stepping away from the most practical means of receiving from the five-fold ministry and essentially shutting down the maturity that comes as we walk in relationship and accountability.

I love the church because other than through our families, it is the primary place where our character is developed. We can get used to our 'drive-through' world, where in our bubbles we are rarely interacting with those around us. We learn how to live our lives through shallow social media relationships, all the time keeping a safe distance from real people and real relationships. Yet, we were made for interaction and relationship and it is in this environment of allowing other people into our lives that our deepest needs are met and our character is developed. We tend to run from those things that cause us pain, and unfortunately, that sometimes can mean running from people. Sometimes God allows us to experience those tough situations to show us what is in our own heart so we can bring it to the surface and deal with it. It is often in the soil of difficulty that the fruit of the Spirit is cultivated.

I love the church because she is a beacon of hope for many.  In one of my deepest seasons of pain with the church, God spoke clearly to me saying that He had not given up on the church and neither should I. It was in this dark season that we found a church who knew how to love people into healing.  It is often the smiles, the encouragement, and the arms of ordinary people in the church who God uses to bring about our healing.

As believers we instinctively know in the core of our being that we are made for more. In our efforts to connect with others we can often feel lonely, frustrated, and misunderstood.  It is especially hard when this happens within the church.  But, effective change will come to the church when those who love Her resist the temptation to disavow, and link arms with other imperfect believers to become that message of hope for those who are searching.

I know what it is to long for the real. I always wanted an experience like the church in Acts who worshipped, prayed, witnessed, and experienced the reality of God's power and presence through signs, wonders, and miracles. I'm kind of like Abraham who was 'looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.'(Heb. 11:10)  I always wanted to be part of a church whose architect and builder is God. We can have that, so don't settle for less. God is moving powerfully in His church!

Though the world seems to be growing darker around us, I, along with many others, believe that the church is stepping into her finest hour. We can shift the culture when the church steps into her true and glorious identity. We've been prepared for such a time as this, so find a church and jump in. We're going to need you!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Who Controls Your Mind?

The enemy wants to shape our world with the negative.  His plans to do this are strategic and calculated.  Though his maneuvers may sometimes be unrecognized or subtle, his intentions never are. His intentions are to shape our world so that our world looks like his. He does this by seeking to control our mind.

His job description was laid out ever so clearly in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy..", and he is all about doing his job.

It is the enemies' intention to shift your mindset into a negative stronghold. Strongholds are usually gained little by little by taking ground. The more significant the amount of ground taken, the more significant the stronghold from which he operates. Strongholds are built out of lies believed and acted upon in our lives. The enemy seeks to reinforce the lies believed in our lives because he knows it will only serve to strengthen the walls of the stronghold he has built.

But, God has not left us without hope or defenseless! He has made every provision for us to be totally free. Darkness may masquerade as a formidable foe, but it only takes a tiny match to be lit to chase darkness away. In much the same way, truth chases darkness away. It is the truth of God that sets us free.

Knowing that "the truth will set you free" should make us all avid truth seekers.  I'm finding that Holy Spirit deals with me about 'what is true?' versus 'what is a lie?'  a lot these days. What we believe shapes everything. We have learned that our words are powerful and creative, but before there is a word on our tongue, there is a thought. If we never learn how to let the truth and revelation of God change our thoughts, we will never master our tongue.   Luke 6:35 says, "....for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks".

In Romans 8, Paul talks about the importance of our mindset. He tells us if a person lives according to the flesh he has his mind set on fleshly things, and if he is going to live according to the Spirit, he must have his mind set on what the Spirit desires. We have the ability to set our mind and we must recognize that we have an active part and a choice in what our mind is set on.

When there is a negative stronghold in our thinking it may be very difficult at first to choose to set our mind on the things of the Spirit. We may feel stuck in certain areas and unable to make right choices or break out of hurtful cycles. This is why the ministry of the Holy Spirit is so important to reveal lies believed and then replace it with the truth of God. God's truth can quickly dismantle a stronghold that has taken years to build.

Jesus said that He came to give us life abundant and I am convinced that a very large key to realizing that abundant life, body, soul and spirit, is in learning to submit to the process of allowing the Spirit of God to change our mindsets into Godly strongholds.

We might as well realize that most of our spiritual battles take place in our mind. Satan has waged war against us and doesn't fight fair.  It is His intention to shift your mindset into hopelessness, fear, depression, cynicism, unbelief, defeat, and utter despair.

God's intentions toward us are so abundantly amazing. He is relentless in making sure that we grow up in Him so that we can experience the abundance that He has planned for us.The Holy Spirit is ever present with us and is constantly speaking.  If we tune our ears to hear His voice He is continually giving us guidance and direction as to which thoughts are healthy and which thoughts are not.

He has given us the equipment that we need for our battles and as we learn to cast down imaginations and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of Him, we will tear down the negative strongholds that have been built in our minds and step into the glorious freedom destined for us as sons and daughters of the kingdom.

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace....Rom. 8:6

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A New Operating System

It's a season of expectation and preparation. The only thing I know to compare this feeling to is the nesting instinct a young mother feels who is preparing for her newborn baby to arrive. Something, or should I say SOMEONE, is coming and we are to prepare and make way for the King and the coming harvest.

"See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. - Isaiah 43:19

About four months ago an unusual series of events began to occur for me. One evening as I logged on to my trusty Dell computer, my hard drive died. This had never happened to me before, but a trip to my local Discount Electronics confirmed the problem. So, a new hard drive was installed and after quite an ordeal, all of my data was restored to the new drive.

That hard drive lasted about a month and then the same scenario occurred. I figured the hard drive they sold me must have been faulty, and they agreed, and then installed another one. That hard drive lasted about a month and then it died, too.  It was about this time that I began to wonder if God was wanting to use these unusual events to say something to me. Those who know me well know that He has used unusual circumstances and repeated events more than once to speak to me.

Still, I don't like to over spiritualize things, so I just told Him that I wanted to hear what He was saying and to make it clear so that I wouldn't miss it.

Maybe this wasn't the right prayer, because things were about to get even more frustrating.  After the third drive died, I began to reason that it must be my Dell that was the problem, and it was a good excuse to finally make the long awaited switchover to a Mac. After doing some research, I decided to purchase a refurbished Mac, and fortunately it came with a warranty.  I say, 'fortunately' because yes, you guessed it......within a month that hard drive died, too.

I'm a little embarrassed to say, but now, four hard drives later, He finally had my attention. I don't think He was killing my hard drives, but I do think He was using my circumstances to speak a powerful word to me for this season and it just took me a while to hear it.

You see, every time my hard drive died all my programs and info had to be re-downloaded onto the new drive. As I was rummaging through discs to find printer drivers, etc., I came across my windows disc and the words operating system were highlighted to me.  And then I heard in my spirit the words,  "You're going to need a new operating system". 

In a very real sense this was just a vivid illustration of a truth that He had been speaking to me over and over for several months. Things are going to need to change for the new season we are entering. The old ways of doing things will no longer suffice. We will need a new wineskin for the new wine. We will need a new operating system.

It's not about better works or improving our performance, but more about fine tuning priorities, focus, and intentionality to aim with everything in us to run toward the goal. It's about an openness to step into the unknown and leave our comfort zone.  It's about leaving some good things in order to be fully available for the best.  And in all of this, it's about having an ear always turned toward heaven so that we move in sync with His heart.

One of the ways He has been fine tuning my focus is through prayer. I tend to be a bit of a Martha, and it's so easy for me to get wrapped up in tasks and getting jobs done. But, the reality He has impressed upon my heart, is that prayer and time spent in His presence is to be front and center as we move forward into this season. I'm excited that He is birthing new things and new ways of praying. He's awakening His church to join with Him to usher in His kingdom. Prayer, led by the Spirit, is never boring, but an exciting adventure!

Another area I see Him fine tuning in myself and our church body is community and covenant relationships. He is stretching, shaping, and challenging us to love extravagantly, and walk with utmost integrity of heart in all our relationships. There are some birth pains here as we make our way through to emerge with a new operating system in relationship to one another.  I hear Him saying, "Come up higher into love, truth, honor, humility, and integrity in all your interactions with one another."

Old ways of operating are being exposed in this season, but it is His loving hand that is allowing it, so that adjustments can be made and a corporate unity and acceleration can occur. 

So, four hard drives later, I'm excited about receiving a new operating system from Him. I'm excited for this season of expectation and preparation and I think it's the greatest time ever to be alive. It's a time for 'all hands on deck'.  It's a time be alert, wakeful, and vigilant. It's a time to lock arms and advance forward. I'm thankful to partner with a wonderful church body to make way for the King and His harvest. Like a recent speaker prophesied over our church, let's build for babies!  

"Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.  For you will spread out to the right and to the left...." Isaiah 54:2-3a

Monday, March 17, 2014

When Sheep Bite

Have you had hurtful
experiences in church?                                                                                                
Does the word 'church'
conjure up negative thoughts
and emotions in you?

Have you given up hope in

finding the perfect church?

If your answer to any of the above questions is 'yes', then you are not alone.  Many, many people have been hurt in church.  In fact, almost every person I know has experienced some degree of hurt at one time or another in church.  Do you know why?  Because people attend church.  Or, let me put it a little more gently.......people in process attend church.  A speaker I heard put it this way, "Sheep bite".

I am in no way excusing hurtful attitudes and behavior from individuals in church, but I would like to share some thoughts and truth that I have learned along the way that might help in dealing with pain  experienced from such encounters.

But first, I would like to share just a smidgeon of my journey. I was raised in a traditional denominational church in a small community in the south. You may be surprised, but my overall experience with church all the way till adulthood was pretty positive. I attribute this to a couple of things.  One, my parents had a pretty high value for respecting not only the leaders and authority in the church, but also those who attended. The benefit and result of this was that I grew up with a respect and understanding of honoring people of all types.

The second reason I believe my church experience was positive is found within the church community where I belonged. I could name off quite a list of adults who poured into my life through the years of Sunday school, VBS, choir, mission trips, etc. In many ways it felt like a big family to me. I grew up with these people. I felt loved there. They nurtured me, pastored me, mentored me, and helped launch me into the first steps of the calling on my life.

Now, fast forward about 10 years and my husband and I have begun our journey of experiencing the in's and out's of church ministry life. After pastoring for 9 years in the Northwest, an experience full of life lessons not to be delved into here, we entered a 10 year desert season where we experienced the gamut of hurtful church experiences, some intentional and some not.

It was about halfway through that 10 years that I spiraled into depression.  I had never been depressed before, so I didn't see it coming, and I didn't recognize the unhealthy thought patterns that allowed this dark cloud to overtake me.  I sought God in that place of desperation and He was so faithful to bring me out of one very dark pit.

During this time, a couple of books ministered greatly to me; Letters to a Devastated Christian by Gene Edwards, and God Meant it For Good, by R.T. Kendall. A CD I listened to over and over during our wilderness season was Why Wounded and Betrayed Believers are So Useful to God, by Graham Cooke.  I began to see clearly the enemies' plan to cause me to give up on the church, the destiny that God had for me, and ultimately God. The enemy was up to something, but God was up to something much bigger and greater.

With the constant help of the Holy Spirit, I began to sort out truth from lies and come to a place of  healing in my heart.

Below are listed some of the steps towards healing and lessons I learned on my journey.  I hope they will be helpful for you.

1.  Forgiveness for all those involved is an essential first step.

2.  Make a firm commitment to quit rehashing the whole ordeal.  By all means talk with a trusted friend or counselor, but you cannot release things until you quit rehearsing them.

3. Remember that all people (Christians, too!) are in process and many are badly broken. Broken people hurt people, so don't be surprised when you encounter conflict in the church. Understand that everyone is in process and varying stages of wholeness and healing. Having healthy structures, ministries, and core values for dealing with brokenness is essential to a healthy church.

4. Thankfulness and gratefulness for your journey is a giant step toward having your heart healed. It was not until I could begin to see with grateful eyes how God wanted to use my journey, that I began to experience the grace to be healed. The life story of Joseph was bread for me during those desert years and I was continually reminded of Gen. 50:20, "You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

5.  Allow God to use the furnace you are in to purify your own heart. Remember that God is never the author of evil, but He is an expert at taking the evil that befalls us and turning it around for our good. Part of that process involves letting our injustices cause the impurities of our own hearts to come to the surface. Repentance and cleansing will always change your perspective.

6.  Don't let your hurt cause you to be jaded and carry you into cynicism. In our journey we made a decision not to give up on the church. Why?  God hasn't given up on the church, so neither should we. When we separate ourselves from the Body of Christ we have taken a step away from the very ones who will help us step into our own destiny. I don't mean that we are supposed to remain in unhealthy, abusive situations, but find a church body that generally operates with healthy core values and practices and find your place in the wall. When we remove ourselves at the first sign of trouble, we are most likely removing ourselves from the very process that God wants to use in our life.

7.  The only way to trust again is to trust again. Self preservation never leads us in a good direction, but instead takes us farther into isolation from others and from God. Take His hand and let Him lead you out of the heartache you have experienced and into a place of healing. Acknowledge your own inadequacy to protect yourself and find rest from your striving under His wings.

8.  Have your mind renewed to begin seeing the people around you as treasures, made in the image of God with potential for greatness. Ask God to give you eyes to see them as He sees them, looking past the brokenness to call forth their treasure.

Now, back to those three questions at the beginning of my blog. I must admit that third question was a trick question. If you answered 'yes' to "Have you given up hope in finding the perfect church?", then give yourself a pat on the back, because there are no perfect churches. But, there are plenty of churches filled will beautiful, redeemed people who are right in the middle of their journey of growth and healing. Most are hungry for something real in their relationships.

I encourage you to find a community where you can love and be loved as you take the step to trust God with His process in your life.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Futility of Self Effort


I often wonder what it would be like to fully see into the Spirit realm.  I'm sure if we could gaze unhindered into the unseen realm we would be surprised at how many perceptions and understandings we have that need to be adjusted to match up with reality as Heaven knows it.  One of the major roles of the Holy Spirit is to alert us to the changes we need to make in order to cooperate with those things that God wants to do in and around us as we learn to walk by faith in a realm that we cannot fully see.  

Learning to live and walk by faith is key if we are to step fully into our destiny and see the fulfillment of our promises.  For me, the bottom line of faith is believing what God has said, then stepping out on it to demonstrate that I believe it to be so.

But, far too often we try and mix in man's best efforts or solutions just in case faith doesn't work out.  But, faith mixed with man's best efforts is not faith at all.

This is similar to what was taking place in Paul's rebuke of the Galatians in Gal. 3:3-5, 'Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing? Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?'

We live in a culture steeped in self effort and we are often blind to how it has permeated our lives. The Galatians were trying to mix in human effort with the gospel of faith and Paul assures them that it just won't work. It won't work for us either.

Early in our marriage, before encountering Financial Peace and Dave Ramsey, we were trying to find our way through financial struggles like many young married couples do. We wanted to live by faith, but the temptation to step in with a credit card when debts were looming sometimes got the best of us. It often felt like we didn't have a choice, but the reality was that we did. Faith will always feel risky because it is stepping out into the unseen.  I remember feeling disappointed that God 'didn't come through' for us, but what I didn't see at the time was that inserting our own solution (the credit card) short-circuited the whole faith process, and prevented God from meeting our need in the way that He would have wanted. The Apostle Paul might have said to us, 'Are you so foolish?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by using a credit card?'  

Another enemy of true faith is presumption. Presumption occurs when we insert our own wishes or desires in place of what God has said. Again, we can only step out in faith on what God has said, not what we wish He would say, or what we want Him to say, but what He has actually said.

Like presumption, self effort is devoid of true faith.  A sure sign that we are stepping into self effort or presumption is when faith plays no part in the equation.  Some good questions to ask ourselves are:

  • What am I living by faith to see?
  • What have I heard God say, and am I believing it will come to pass?
  • Am I trusting Him and leaving room for Him to work in my life?
  • Do I feel I have to manipulate circumstances or find my own solutions?

I have experienced firsthand the futility of self effort and the disappointment of faithless living.  Like the Children of Israel, I came to the place that I didn't want to circle that old desert one more time.

Believing God is a big deal. In fact, it's such a big deal that Heb. 11:6 tells us, "without faith it is impossible to please God....".  Faith is not some unreachable standard that God has put in place to frustrate us, but a key to our joy and fulfillment here on earth.  Unbelief, or lack of faith will always keep us from moving forward. The Israelites were not able to enter into their Promised land because of unbelief.  It seems like such a simple thing, but our adversary opposes us and wants us to fail in our faith journey. He knows that it's only through faith that we are able to access our full inheritance and promises, so He pulls out his big guns and blasts us with doubt, fear, and accusations aimed at our Father.  And all the time, our Father patiently whispers, "Hear my voice and trust me".

I absolutely love Heb. 12:2 because it tells me that Jesus is "the author and perfecter of my faith".  Faith was His idea......He authored or created my faith.  Not only that,  He promises to perfect my faith.  I have a hunch that when he sets about perfecting something, he does a really good job.

Thank you Father that "He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it" and that includes perfecting my faith.  Thank you for revealing the futility of self effort and the arrogance of presumption.  And thank you that my faith comes easily when like Abraham and Sarah I "...consider Him faithful who had made the promise." (Heb. 11:11) 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Birthing Revival Through Prayer


Around the beginning of 2013 I felt that God begin nudging me in the area of prayer. As I oversee the prayer ministry at our church I felt He wanted me to encourage all of our ministries to up the level of prayer. The phrase He gave me was to 'up the ante of prayer' in every area. As the year rolled on and all the busyness involved in church life took it's toll, it seemed we were spending less and not more time in prayer.

So, as 2014 rounded the corner the burden for prayer began to intensify in my heart. God had spoken over the past couple of years lots of prophetic words about our church body and it's place in the city and more than that, it's place in a coming outpouring of God's Spirit and resulting harvest. I knew that a concerted movement of prayer would play a significant role in seeing the fulfillment of these words.

It was during this time that something unusual happened. I was wearing a silver charm bracelet that had a single little silver key charm. One day, glancing down I noticed the silver key charm was gone. I looked around everywhere but could not find it. A couple of days later my husband found the charm in the carpet at our house. Then, just a few days later, I was wearing a necklace that had several charms on it, one of them being a key. I happened to look down and notice that now this key was missing! Again, I searched but did not see it. Then, later that day, Richard and I were standing in the foyer of our church and he noticed the key on the floor and picking it up said, "Honey, did you lose another key?" I immediately knew that God was speaking through this repeated event, (we call this the language of the Spirit, and it is a way that God speaks to me) but I didn't have any idea what He was saying.

I began to pray and ask God what He was saying to me, but I didn't hear anything right away. It was about a week after losing the keys, and Richard thankfully finding them, that just as I was dropping off to sleep one night I heard, "I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matt. 16:19) Don't let the keys fall to the ground". I knew that once again He was speaking to me about prayer.

A couple of weeks after this I had a dream. In the dream I found myself seated at what seemed to be my own dinner table. Richard was seated beside me and we were seated across from Bill Johnson. I should mention that I greatly admire Bill because of His walk with God and commitment to go after the Presence of God no matter the cost. As I found myself seated at this dinner table I realized that we were somehow hosting Bill Johnson for dinner. I observed the plates that were set on the table and noticed that none of them matched. Even worse I noticed that most if not all of them were chipped and broken. Then I was mortified to see that the food on Bill's plate was a mass of frozen meat. In my embarrassment I offered to warm up his food and Bill acquiesced. There was a microwave close by and I stuck it in to warm up the meat. End of dream.

When I woke up I felt it was a God dream, but once again I didn't have a clue what it meant. I made it a point to ask several different people if they had an idea what it might mean, but no interpretations rang true to me. So I continued to pray and ask God to interpret the dream for me. A couple of Sundays later during the Sunday morning worship service Richard was sharing all of the different prophetic words that had been given to True Life for the year 2014. In one of the words that someone had given, they mentioned that when you have a dinner party at your house you prepare. You prepare to host.

When I heard these words, it was as if God instantaneously dropped the interpretation of the dream in my spirit. I felt I heard Him say, "You are not prepared to host the Presence". I realized that Bill Johnson represented 'The Presence' to me in the dream, and we found ourselves unprepared to host him.

Again, I felt that this was a strong exhortation/warning from the Spirit of God that prayer would be the thing to prepare us to host His Presence.

In that same Sunday morning service where Richard read the prophetic words, a prophetic friend of ours approached during the worship and shared that she felt God had given her a word for the body. We decided to let her share the word at the end of the service and this is what she shared: "I saw an angel standing on stage with a torch, ready to go! But there was no flame yet....the Holy Spirit gently told me: He is waiting for MY command! This is MY special angel for carrying MY fire to the nations, MY GLORY! Tell MY people: it is not by might or by power but by MY SPIRIT shall those things happen..."

After hearing this word there was one phrase that stood out to me like a flashing neon sign...."there was no flame yet". As these words burned inside of me, again I felt I heard Him say, "it will be the prayers of my saints that release the Holy Spirit to light the flame of the torch and the prayers of the saints will keep the fire going". I was reminded of Lev. 6:13, "The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out." In the Levitical law it was the job of the priest to see that the fire on the altar burned continuously. It was never to go out day or night.

It continues to baffle and humble me that God has chosen to partner with the prayers of His people. He is looking for those who will stand in the gap. He is looking for a people who will say "Yes!" to co-laboring with Him in bringing His kingdom to earth through prayer. So much is at stake.

A. T. Pierson said this: "There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer."

And Watchman Nee said this, "Our prayers lay the track down on which God's power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, His power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails."

I'll end these thoughts with a short video that I shared with our church the same Sunday that I shared these thoughts with our congregation. These words by Banning Liebscher stirred me deeply!


Worthy of It All

Words by David Brymer

All the saints and angels bow before Your throne
All the elders cast their crowns before the Lamb of God and sing

You are worthy of it all, You are worthy of it all
For from You are all things, and to You are all things, You deserve the glory

Day and night, night and day, let incense arise
Day and night, night and day, let incense arise
Day and night, night and day, let incense arise
Day and night, night and day, let incense arise