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Archive for August, 2014

“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you obey?”  

(Romans 6:16)

In Psalm 51, as David cries to the Lord, “Purge me with hyssop and I should be clean,” it is notable that he understands that the penalty for his sin is death (v.7).  The story of his sin and its’ cost can be read in 2 Samuel 11 & 12.  His sin must be paid for.  Pastor David Platt adds, “in our sin, we can only approach God through the sacrifice of another in the place of our sin.  That kind of cleansing is costly for that sacrifice and free for us.  This is the wonder of God’s grace” (“The Confession of Man and the Compassion of God”, May 10, 2014).

Paul’s letter to God’s people claims that sin’s power has been broken! He continues to say, “we are no longer slaves to sin.  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin…Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves in righteous living” (Romans 6:6-7,18).

Platt introduces a third truth in his sermon, “Confession is the connection between our sin and God’s grace.  How can you and I be clean before God?”

Cry out, cry out to God.  And if you do not have the words, you may use David’s (Psalm 51):

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins…
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned…
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me…
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you…
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit and repentant heart, O God.

Through honest reflection, we come to believe and live a life reflecting God’s grace.  For man hides no secrets from God.   There are no more cover-ups for our sin before God.

We cannot live by the standards of the world, for then we become slaves of the world.  Rather, we must concentrate on the laws and personal words from God.  In the narrative of David’s life during the profession of these words, we find, “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them.  People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).  David is not trying to cover up what he has done any longer.  He is justified before God’s eyes and boldly asks God to rid him of his transgressions.  He is a man humbled in confession.

Platt explains that David understands, “sacrifice is an outward ritual that must reflect an inward reality.”

Yet, we as David did as well, continue to struggle.  Paul stencils such a personal conviction (Romans 7:7-25):

If there were no law, sin would not have hat power [to arise such desires within me]…[Sin] uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.  So the trouble it is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good.  The trouble is with me, for I am all to human, a slave to sin.  I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate…

…I have discovered this principle of life–that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind.  This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Remember that Jesus is the answer, and because His death has claimed victory over sin for all of mankind, we can rejoice, knowing that “not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38)!

Press on, even if you must chant it as a reminder, press on:  “I press on…Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.  I press on” (Philippians 3:12-14).

And when faced by temptations, tribulations, and feelings of defeat, prepare for battle.  Paul has left us with strength and encouragement (Ephesians 6:5-18):

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so you will stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world…resist the enemy in the time of evil.  Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop fiery arrows of the devil.  Out on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.

Are you practicing outward rituals that reflect an inward reality?  If so, is it drawing you nearer to God or further under the captivity of your sin? What is God calling you to? Where is your blame, do you know that your sin is against God, and God alone? What are you repentant of?  May you find the time to devote yourself to this honest reflection of your personal stance.  Stand firm in God’s Truth and know that you have the full Armor of God as you approach battle.
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August 28, 2014

During my scuba certification dives, my instructor, Elliot, motioned with two fingers to look up when clearing our masks.  It was as if he held a peace sign directly in front of his face and drew his wrist upwards.

I now think of this rather frequently. However, today the Lord drew a new illustration. As we looked up towards the surface to clear our masks, HE spoke, “Who’s eyes are you using?”  Had I been looking at my day through my own perspective or through the lens of the Gospel, of God’s Truth? As I looked up–I was stopped at a red light–I saw how beautiful it is to view life through a lens of compassion and gratitude.  I was awe-struck. Simply awe-struck.

Often times, I find myself judging superficiality and the materialist modern world.  How hypocritical of me.  Although my sight wasn’t blurred by dollar signs, fashion, or technology, I too was blinded.  I had my preconceived notions  and it was time for me to clear my mask.  To take off the mask, swim to the surface, and authentically live as God created me.  I am forever grateful that God continues to work on me from the inside out, as Paul has prayed over us, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).

In the midst of this lesson, I studied the cycle of morning prayers and night songs.

From the very beginning, before Adam and Eve, God created day and night, God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day,” which He then added stars to “to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:5-18).

He knew that there would be a collision of darkness and light, good and bad from the very beginning.  He created a visual prompt for all of creation to see that they are separate.  To know that the way of God is good. And only God is good.  We have the opportunity to be mesmerized by appreciating the sight of His magnificent creation, the sky.  A distinction necessary to the human eye only, for “even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you” (Psalm 139:12).

“Each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life” (Psalm 42:8).

Our anxieties shall not keep us from rest.  Our day’s work shall not keep us from rest.  God includes such a warning through story to be incorporated in His text, “Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless (Ecclesiastes 2:23).

Rather we know that God is victorious.  We believe that enemies cannot penetrate the walls of our Fortress; we move in courage and in trust. “I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the LORD was watching over me” (Psalm 3:5).

We know that there are nights to devote to God not through rest but through prayer and meditation, perhaps.  As Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night” in choosing the twelve disciples” (Luke 6:12).

Remember the separation of darkness and light, of night and day, “for you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Cling to what is good, draw near to God.

Rest in Jesus. “Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light'”(Matthew 11:28-30).

Nothing should keep you up.  No trouble is too big for Jesus to lift from your shoulders.  Rest tonight, and in the day, serve the LORD, “work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3:23).

As morning comes and the day begins anew, cry out to the LORD, “I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words” (Psalm 119:147).  Devote yourself; for you to can say, “The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will” (Isaiah 50:4).

Quite literally in my life, I wake up to the birds singing what sounds to be songs of praise and gratitude for the blessings of shelter, light, food, and drink. Also, to the sound of winds burring, reminding me of God’s balance in great strength and tender embrace. Or if nothing else, I awake to worship, celebrating the time of God’s delivery of me into this earth.  All call for celebration, time of devotion, time of solitude before the Creator and my Guide.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path” (119:105).

Know that God’s promises from the Old Testament are reassured through the life of Jesus, as he is listening when we call upon His name (Psalm 18:6).  Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17).

It is victorious, for we can shout,

God did listen!
    He paid attention to my prayer.
Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer
    or withdraw his unfailing love from me.

May you too go about your day, praying.  Continually speak with God, knowing that He is constantly near.  His ears are open and His heart is eager to hear from His child, His friend, His creation.  To have the courage to remove the mask and sit in vulnerability, presented before the King.  Make plans that serve God and glorify His name, that bring attention to His kingdom.  Pursue relationships that spread the gospel and deepen your understanding of the character and presence of God.  And when you speak, expect God to lead you, to speak to you, to teach you (Psalm 5:3).

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August 27, 2014

This level of vulnerability has been prayerfully considered, as this is my first full confessional piece of public writing I have ever written.

My vice: laziness.

Now when I speak about my testimony, the wickedness that is of my flesh is not limited to mere laziness.  No, unfortunately there are many.  However, the greatest, the one that held me captive, I felt was removed from me years ago.

“If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

In nearly every essay I have written about God’s ministry vision for my life, I write “The nightmare was my prison; the dream became my freedom.”  It held true.  Until laziness got the best of me.

I find through every inward search of weaknesses, sins, and character flaws, that there is victory in God’s glorious name transforming me from within.  I like how Richard Foster puts it, “The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours…We cannot attain or earn this righteousness of the kingdom of God; it is a grace that is given” (Celebration of Discipline).

Out of the ease of foolishness that comes with being human, I have come to recognize a hideous pattern.  In all the character flaws and sins I have confessed, I have felt God’s grace in renewing a vibrancy in my Spirit.  Except for with laziness.  *Laziness: the quality of being unwilling to work or use energy.  I must bring attention to the misconstrued interpretation: Busyness is not the opposition of laziness. *Busyness: having a great deal to do.

Busyness, I have come to know, distracts us from being available to witness the LORD work in our daily lives.  If you have meetings to go to and clients to see, the cashier at your lunch spot might go without a smile.  Or perhaps the Spirit nudges you to speak boldly to a girl walking passed, wearing a hood to cover the tears streaming from her eyes.  Did you feel it? Are you willing to be flexible with your schedule and practice the discipline of service in bold ways?

That was my rant.  Busy is my least favorite word that is used in the proper English language.

However with laziness, it is an issue of will. Emmet Fox writes, “As soon as you resist mentally any undesirable or unwanted circumstance, you thereby endow it with more power–power which it will use against you, and you will have depleted your own resources to that exact extent.”  I feel this depletion with laziness.  With my nutrition plan, spiritual growth, relationships, work and volunteer, I practice discipline.  However, when I feel weakened by an unwillingness, I find myself in grey matter.

I know how to repent of everything in my life and to overcome almost all obstacles by the power of Jesus Christ and the authority of God’s Word.  However, laziness has always confused me when it consumes me.

Three times I have now done a foolish thing.  And for this I have confessed and spoken with the LORD about intimately and fully–or to my understanding at least. When I find myself stuck in a lazy state of mind, body, and soul, I have fallen short and allowed that one sin to reenter into my life.  Just for a moment.  Once it is there, I ask the LORD’s forgiveness and find myself fully consumed by discipline once more.

Vulnerability… this is my filth.

Tonight I spent hours reading, meditating, praying, worshiping God while viewing His splendorous creation of the ocean.  Then in His presence, I read Foster’s words, “The purpose of the [Spiritual] Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear.” Yes! That is exactly it!  In meditating on His Truth and present works within me, I became a slave to Jesus not to my flesh that led me astray!

IMG_3752With the crescent moon in sight and my toes dancing in the wet sand, the words began to flood my head…

“Darkness all around me and still the sun–or Son–lights the sliver of the moon–the little we have to offer Him.  And the light creates a sturdy path for our feet.  You are and will never be lost in a crowd of grains of sand.  That s the image I have tonight.  It isn’t that our sins are covered and exist in the greater body, but that they are washed clean and removed! We have such an Adoring Abba God! He is the one who changes us from the inside.  I know I am of no use to alter myself, and for you too, we are being molded, closely aligned in midst of intimacy with Divine Love and grace poured over our lives, reining from within!”

I don’t have to falter to past sins, nor do you! The Light of Jesus never grows faint!

The path of a Christian is described by Foster as one being “fraught with severe difficulties, but also with incredible joys.  As we travel on this path, the blessing of God will come upon us and reconstruct us into the image of Jesus Christ.”

In the name of Jesus, I claim victory over laziness.  May the unwillingness be defeated.  May it be willingness to submit to His Will that directs the pursuits of my life.  I know I will discover many more of these through practicing discipline in intimate relation with God.  This too is my prayer for you, a song of praise and gratitude.

A song by Dan and Lauren Smith, “You Made a Way for Me” :

 

 

*Both definitions are referenced from Dictionary.com

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August 13, 2014

The woman was convinced.  She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.  So she took some of the fruit and ate it.  They she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.  So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves…So they hid from the LORD God among the trees…Then the LORD God asked the woman, ‘What have you done?’ ‘The serpent deceived me,’ she replied. ‘That’s why I ate it.”

Unfortunately, Genesis 3 can be attributed all of our guilt, shame, and suffering.  Because of Eve yearned for what she could not have, we too yearn.  Thankfully, through the life of Jesus, we as believers have Good News. There is victory over death.  “The Scriptures tell us, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person.’ But the last Adam–that is Christ–is a life-giving Spirit…Let me reveal to you a wonderful secret.  We will not all die, but we will all be transformed!” (1 Corinthians 15:45, 51).

In times of defeat, where we feel deceived by the serpent, let us concentrate on the life-giving Spirit.  Mark Driscoll speaks on these verses,

It is interesting, isn’t it? The first Adam forgot who he was, the last Adam didn’t. When Satan came to Jesus, he said, ‘Do no put the Lord your God to the test.’  He went back to the issue of identity.  I know who I am, so I know what to do…The issue of identity comes down to being in Adam or in Christ.  The first Adam turned from the Father in the garden, the last Adam turned toward the Father in a garden…In Adam there is defeat, but in the last Adam, there is victory.  In Adam there is condemnation, but in the last Adam there is salvation…In Adam we are cursed, but in the last Adam we are blessed.

Where is your identity? In times of trial, when battling mental or physical illness, are you in Adam or in Jesus?  Who do you cry out to or who do you blame?

Eve chose to eat from the tree, desiring its’ wisdom.  She was unaware and then her eyes were opened to the shame.  God made it clear then when she told them to not eat from the tree.  Now we have Scripture, “Look to God’s instructions and teachings!” (Isaiah 8:19).

“When we choose to sin, we choose to suffer.  And when we break God’s laws, we also break God’s heart,” (Mark Driscoll, “Good News Before Bad Advice”).

I know I fall short, but I do not desire to break God’s heart.  Rather, I’d like to be a recipient of transformation, “God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him” (Ecclesiastes 2:26).

May we have the strength to obey Him.  Oh wait, my prayer has already been answered.  He promises, For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13).

It is true, “According to the path of Good News, Jesus changes who you are and helps you change what you do. Who you are determines what you do.  Jesus says it this way, ‘A good tree bears good fruit,'” (Mark Driscoll).

Therefore, no matter the trial you are in, you have a choice.  A choice to follow the path of deceit or to remain obedient.

“You’re identity precedes your activity…The decisions people make are in light of who they think they are.”

Who do you say you are?

Are you an heir to the Kingdom of Heaven?  Do you own your physical body or do you yearn for your perfect, heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15)?

Whatever the weight is on your shoulders, know that on the path of Good News, “In Christ you are not just forgiven, you are new.”

Reach out.  Find a Bible.  Call a church.  Become a member of Jesus’ Church.  Wear white, for you are made new.  He treasures you as His bride.

Nothing about Jesus is imperfect. Nothing. God’s love for His people is immeasurable.

Do you accept it?  Can you embrace the identity He has gifted you?

My favorite image will remain,

Abraham willing to sacrifice his son

Abraham willing to sacrifice his son

God’s love for Abraham was so abundant that he allowed for a lamb to substitute the offering of his son (Genesis 22).  However, God’s love for His people allowed an everlasting offering.  Where God dismissed Isaac, He replaced all sin by offering His only son.

Jesus Christ gives us new life.  Although it doesn’t always feel physical, know that your burdens are lifted.  That the pain of mental or physical illness is not too heavy for God.

As a follower helped Jesus carry His cross, allow Jesus to help you carry yours.

You belong.  I belong. We belong to a great Family.  Our Father knows discipline, mercy, grace, and love in its’ perfect form.

Brene Brown, Ph.D. and researcher of shame and vulnerability says this quite well, “Belonging is the innate human desire to be apart of something larger than us…True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Allow yourself to be seen. And once you reach that place of vulnerability and Jesus has transformed you, may it not be the imperfections of man that the world views, but rather may you be seen for the example of Christ that you are unto humanity.

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August 12, 2014

This would be the part two of a previous post; however, I came to the rationale that perhaps what was written should have never been broadcast.  Either way, somehow it was unsaved and vanished from my computer’s memory.

That leaves us with this.

The death by suicide of Robin Williams has brought public attention to the seriousness of mental illnesses. I pray that as media begins to lessen the attention on specific suicides, overdoses, school shootings, etc. that we as the people do not forget the impact such illnesses have on individual choices.

I have a deep respect for how Pastor Mark Driscoll accounts for the separation of Christians and non-Christians, he states, “For the Christian, this life is as bad as it gets.  For the non-Christian, this life is as good as it gets.  And that is what I want you to understand.”

Either way, life is difficult.  We each have our short-comings.

I don’t want to act as if I am an expert on anything about Robin William’s life, and therefore will only add this one bit in reflection.  Matt Walsh has been receiving a lot of criticism for his chosen words in reflecting the passing of Williams.  I personally appreciate his boldness in recognizing the danger of messages such as “Genie, you’re free.” as posted by @theacademy.  Positive references allow onlookers to re-examine their thoughts about attempting to take their own life.  Scientifically, speaking of suicide does not increase the probability of one taking his or her own life; however, when an individual is seeking an escape from the current burdens of their own life and are holding on for one reason only.  Perhaps the reason is the impact it will have on those left behind or the fear that it is a lasting decision.  Speaking of peace and freedom weighs heavier on the “it is time to let go” versus the “fight to keep holding on” side of the battle.

Considering taking one’s life is a battle. Choosing to reach out is bold and the first sign of ambivalence.  If you are the receiving end of the conversation ENGAGE, take it SERIOUSLY, and LISTEN.  God is using you, and can save a person’s life–both the physical body and the salvation of their soul.

As a suicide prevention counselor the key is to always allow the caller to feel they are in control.  Therefore, we are not permitted to take suicide off the table for them.  Rather, we lead the struggling individual in a temporary partnership to seek alternatives.  Mental illnesses can be blinding to the individual; our job is to say the words and not be afraid: suicide…depression…suicide.

Warning signs are crucial.  Are your eyes open to the needs around you?

Mark Driscoll says this,

I want you to see when you meet with people and when they tell you what has dropped on their life..they ask one question, ‘What should I do?’ …That is a sacred moment, a significant moment, a strategic moment.  I want you to see that they have just opened the door of their soul to you…they have invited you in, they are trusting in you. And Jesus has placed you there, in that moment, to be the person they talk to, and invite in.

The words of Mark Driscoll that I have chosen to include in this reflection and proactive invitation to all my readers was spoken to the American Association of Christian Counselors at the 2013 World Conference.  His words are not in response to any one particular tragedy.  He speaks according to God’s advice for good counsel in leading with preaching the Good News before offering human advice.

He understands that “for a lot of people, they never get to this moment.  They will suffer in silence.”  Take the invitation seriously.   As an individual who has been the counselor or friend in several conversations about the threat of suicide, I ask you this: Don’t feel responsible for another individual’s life decisions.  And if the unfortunate does occur, don’t feel guilty.

Be prepared that even if you are willing to say the words, to approach the intimate moments of reflection, to speak of the hope in finding new identity, unfortunately sometimes, we do not witness the victory we hoped to see.

I do pray though, that you see this bit of honesty and know it is not an excuse to run from the hard conversations.

I must also add, if you read this and think this is a reason not to unload your burdens on someone, please reconsider.  If you can’t think of someone you trust that could engage with you about your thoughts or concerns, you can start by calling a hotline to talk or to consider a prevention plan.

On the hotlines, I am told to guide the caller to answering their own questions. Sometimes I feel led to comfortably share a little good advice.  But am told not to share the Good News.  When God needs His Truth to be known, He opens opportunity for me to engage in clear waters.

I am here.  God has gifted me with a compassionate heart.  And this year, He has led me to feel the sorrow and victory over the mercy shared. Please know, it is by God’s strength that I am able to listen, to comfort, to lift high, to cry with, and to rejoice with you when the time is right.  May you find a person to trust–whether it be me, your family member, a dear friend, pastor, or mentor–that can tell you the path of obedience, the path to salvation, the path to dancing in the glory of God.

And if you are reading this thinking, I could be that person for my husband, for my friend, for my sister, for my– you fill in the blank.  Please recognize that it is important to first humble yourself.  It is not by our authority that we share words of knowledge in someone’s life, rather we submit to the authority of God’s Truth and by that we wisely comfort as He embraces the individual in their vulnerability and pain.

“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” – Martin Buber

My prayer, whether it be God’s design to raise and lift up the spirits of these individuals struggling through mental illnesses in their current bodies.  To restore these physical bodies.  Or it is His ambitious, God-glorifying vision to meet with them and to fully resurrect their bodies into a Heaven-ward individual in the future.  Either way, our purpose is to make disciples of the nations.  Let it be known that God is with us in our struggles.  Let it be known that we have life, we have hope, and we have a new identity in what Christ has offered by the sacrifice on the cross.  All has been done, nothing needs to be done.  We cannot do anything to make up for the lives we have lived in sin and fear, rather, we must hold on and grip the Truth, the life of Jesus Christ.  For it has been done and we are free.  Let us live in freedom, not choose death to be free from life.  Let us walk in confident hope that our identity is a reflection of Christ and not dictated by the fall of man. We are presently free.  Lift off the chains and claim victory over disease!  God is in control.

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August 12, 2014

Iraqi Christians are being persecuted.

It has been referenced to as a modern-day Holocaust.  The Islamic State is posting images of raped and slaughtered women, beheaded children, and of the hanged men.  They are seeking the world’s attention.  And they have it.

Christians are asking, “Why aren’t we doing more?” Politicians understand “We just pulled out and we aren’t about to start another war in Iraq.”  Who is responsible for aiding the victims of this violent rampage?

The Islamic State has marked the Christian homes just as Nazi’s forced Jews to wear yellow stars.

Their command for Christians in Iraq is to convert to Islam, pay a high tax, flee or die.  The ISIS has allowed Christian descendents to choose from the 4 options; whereas, those who abandoned Allah for Jesus are seen by ISIS as apostates and are offered to either return to Islam or be killed.

There is also a difference in faith that it takes for someone facing such threat in making the decision to convert, flee, or die for their beliefs.  Reports show that no families opted to pay a high tax.  This leaves us with thousands of individuals killed since the first IS announcement in June, and thousands of displaced Christian families traveling, seeking refuge across the Middle East.  As for those who chose to return to Islam, let us pray for the sanctity of their minds and the sanctuary for their hearts.

Is it a subconscious value of the physical self over the spiritual self made new in Christ that permits an individual to verbally abandon their relationship with Christ to the community?

May they know and continue to trust in God the Father of Jesus Christ who bore their sins on the cross.  Perhaps in their staying in Mosul, many of the persecutors will come to also know the forgiving grace and adoring love of God.  Let us pray that their hearts have not been deceived, that in publicly proclaiming their return to Allah, that they have not dethroned Jesus as Savior in their lives.

Let us call out.  Let them call out.  Hear our cries, Father.  Watch over your children.  Walk with your lost sheep.  Bring them Home.

The Islamic State terrorist attacks are being broadcasted around the world.  Both religious and secular media sources share the news of this Christian-genocide. To learn more of what is being done and what you can do specifically to aid the persecuted visit The Voice of the Martyrs.

Warning, the footage on both media sites is hard to see.  Surely, as Jesus wept over his city, God is weeping over His sheep.  Let us pray for shepherding.  May they all find their way Home as God has planned for His people.  Delighted both in the Christians who have been raised by Christian families, and the Muslim converts to Christianity; there will be dancing once they’ve returned to His fortress.  Whether it be in this life or in their heavenly body, there will be dancing.


 

I want to also attract attention to the members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.  In praying for the persecuted Christians yesterday, I found myself questioning faith.  How far must one be pushed before surrendering their beliefs? However, today, I awoke shattered by my concern for the persecutors.  Let me say this again, I prayed for the persecutors.  One of my favorite people in historical accounts is Paul.  Saul as persecutor, Paul as apostle, Paul as servant, and Paul as persecuted.  The persecutor became the persecuted.

Saul was witness and perhaps led the persecution of Christianity’s first martyr, Stephen (Acts 6:8-8:1).  Paul says “I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13) and yet, now we attribute Paul’s life as Christianity’s greatest evangelist.  Perhaps then, one of these ISIS members can also be transformed.  Perhaps even, God has a plan for salvation for several of their lives.  What part in this transformation can we play?

Let us pray.  Let us surrender our words to God, may He lead us to pray what is in direct correspondence to His will.

And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.  And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for” (1 John 5:14-15).  For we know that God desires to be glorified, and  this transformation will bring glory to His name.

With the world looking in, a modern-day Saul-to-Paul transformation would bring great attention to the grace of God.  Is this God’s will?  Is this how He pleases to bring honor to His name, to bring witness to His great works?

Lord Jesus, teach us to pray.  May your people in Iraq believe that you are their fortress.  May they take upon themselves the complete Armor of God.  May your Truth be enough.  Satisfy their lips with words of Hope and Salvation.  May their bodies be fueled by the Bread of Life and cleansed by the renewing of the Holy Spirit.  May they hear you audibly if they do not have your Word to examine with their eyes.  Remind them of your Truth: “I command you–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Thank you God, for being their Shepherd.  For walking with them.  Thank you for being victorious!  We may not see it yet, but with prayers of expectancy, we know you will gain great victory when you see it best. We pray all these things in the mighty name of Jesus. For all these are possible.  Let us raise up Your Name and proclaim this victory yours.  We rebuke Satan’s grasp by the name of Jesus Christ.  He is Savior.  He is Friend.  And we are grateful that He is near to us, always.  Amen.

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August 8, 2014

Tonight it became clear… I, Melanie, am afraid of making choices.

It isn’t necessarily commitments that freak me out, for I do enjoy being committed to a relationship or adventure into a new culture.  But it is the multitude of decisions all at once.  With so many choices, how am I to know that I am making the right one.

I fear making a decision that leads me away from the will of God.

This fear surfaces in considering abroad work programs, in booking travel plans, in reaching out to possible mentors and/or employers, to choosing which apartment I should or shouldn’t pursue moving into, all the way down to what shall I eat.

Unfortunately, I must admit that it is the latter–basic, physiological needs as conceptualized by Maslow’s “Motivation Theory”– that these thoughts derive from tonight.

Studying scripture has led me to know that God provides me the necessary amount of understanding in order to live obediently.  As modern Christians we are gifted as literate individuals able to discern God’s word individually, as well as within our community of believers.   The Old Testament law, gospel stories of Jesus’ life which fulfill the law, and the God-inspired written words through the first Christians, provide us the guidelines in assuring our daily pursuits are pleasing to God.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

As a self-reflective individual I thought my self-awareness was precise and very little would come as a surprise.  But through this journey of illness and healing combined with seasons of great discipline and times of physical and emotional weakness, I come to find that food is not the idol, it is much more.  Throughout the year, I find myself offering this idol at the altar, surrendering myself–my complete being– to God rather than the mundane ritual of satisfying cravings and dampening pains.  Although I do believe God healed me of the bacterial infections earlier on, I find myself engaged in physical battle once again.  I often think, “Why? Why God?  This practice of prepping food, concentrating on nutrient levels, and reading every item on an ingredient list takes up so much time.  Time that I could be serving your people! Valuable time is being wasted on me.”

How foolish! God loves each and every one of us, cares for our well-being.  He is a nurturing and jealous God who calls us His children. He would never allow for my mind, body, and spirit to be consumed by food that I forget to worship Him through my days!

So much of my outreach is leading individuals to God’s fortress, a place where they can stand firm in His Truth.  Secured by the great armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.”

As David sang to the LORD, “I love you LORD; you are my strength,” he reflected on the splendor of God’s salvation (Psalm 18:1-2).  For David was called at a young age and endured many discomforts in his pursuit to obey God’s purpose for his own life.  I continuously reflect on the seasons of sickness in my life as parallels to the desert.  It is a time to find solitude, to rest, to seek direction, and gain the courage and wisdom necessary to prepare for the next pursuits.

I have even come to a place of contentment.  Thanking God for being so bold in stopping me before I burnout.  Thanking Him for being so bold in declaring this season as a restful period to recharge and grow in understanding.  Thanking Him for providing me opportunities to counsel and to be counseled.

But now…I hesitate.  Being stuck in a stage of my life bordered in my the limitations of my physical needs prevents me from exploring my own passions, from being bold in proclaiming who and what God has and is doing in my life and in the lives around me.  Being sick causes me to identify myself with my fleshy self, rather than the replenished spirit-led individual I became when I surrendered to the LORD and was baptized into His Family.

 I rejoice knowing that these lies cannot hold me down, for God’s Word is True:

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him (2 Corinthians 5). 

I desire to be fully confident in what God has offered me, in such a way that everything I do is pleasing to Him.

Last night I shared my prayer request with a dear friend: “To discern which disciplines to pursue.”  Tonight, the Lord shared these words for what feels like the first time: “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Hebrews 12:11).

I want to explore a peaceful harvest!

My prayer, I ask you Father, discipline your children (Deuteronomy 8:5). We need your correcting.  Guide us through Your spoken and written word, through the witnessing of miraculous signs, through your beautiful creation.  May our fear be in You alone.  For nothing else can conquer, for you reign victoriously! May we be surrendered before You.  Engaged, fully engaged.  Willing to obey.  Desiring nothing but You.  May it be You who we bring glory to.  Your name we praise.  Thank you Jesus for paving the way. All things are made possible by the power of Your Name!

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