Monday, August 23, 2021

Prayer for Afghanistan


How to Pray for Afghanistan 

Father, You are with us! You are our help in our time! You promise in Scripture that if we call to You, You will hear us and You will answer. We come right now on behalf of a nation that has fallen to evil. You hate evil. You are the Most High God of all nations and You are a God of love who cares about what happens to Your children and to innocent people. 

You warned us in Scripture that when we hear of wars and rumors of wars to not be alarmed. You told us that nation would rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. You reminded us that these things will be because they are the birth pains of what is to come. You commanded us to be on our guard and to be ready to be witnesses before rulers that will beat us. Father, it is not easy! Help us! 

Right now, Your children are in dangerous situations and innocent people are being violated because evil seeks to reign for moment. We know that victory is in YOU! We know that good will overcome evil. 

You tell us that when we lose our earthly tent to remember that this is not our home. You are building us a home that is eternal. We need to focus on our heavenly home and not our earthly home. We know we do not belong here! 

Thank you for the promises that though mountains may be moved, Your steadfast love will remain. It cannot be shaken. And the covenant of peace YOU give us cannot be removed. For You are faithful and true and Your compassion overflows and Your peace surpasses all understanding. 

As men, women, children are in hiding right now and fear for their lives. We come and ask that You keep them hidden. Just as Jesus, Peter, and Paul were able to escape through the crowds unseen give them the ability to be unseen and escape. 

Numerous times in Scripture when the enemy was greater than those who are for You, You routed the enemy by their own hands. Please cause confusion in their camps. Cause them to destroy one another and through natural means be removed from the scene before attack even begins.
 
Wisdom begins in the fear of YOU! And wisdom is greater than any form of strength. Pour out YOUR wise counsel upon Your people and the innocents! 

The word refuge is a place you run to because you have been forced out by danger or crisis. LORD, YOU ARE OUR REFUGE! It is not a place, but a person. 

You promise that You will be our dwelling place that You are trustworthy, faithful, and true. That You will protect us like a mother hen covers her chicks under her wings. 
You promise You will hear us, You will answer us, You will deliver us, You will give us long life, and You will give salvation to all who call upon YOUR NAME! 

We come now and ask You to rescue brothers, sisters, and innocents from the enemy’s snares. Rescue them from illness. 

Please command Your angels to go before them. Help them to take courage! Give them boldness. 

Show them how to be Your witness. Give them opportunity to share about Jesus and how YOU so LOVED the WORLD that YOU GAVE YOUR SON, JESUS! And that ALL who BELIEVE in HIM will NOT PERISH, but HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE! 

We run to You and trust YOU! You will never leave us and never forsake us. In Jesus Name, amen!

The following Bible verses are what the above prayer is based on. 

Please take the time to read them and pray through them yourself. Ask God to use them to make you strong and confident as you pray and to grow in faith. 

Verses

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." (Psalm 46:1-3). 

When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me (Psalm 86:7). 

For the kingdom is the Lord’s. And He rules over the nations (Psalm 22:8). 

This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place (Jeremiah 22:3). 

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19). 

The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence (Psalm 11:5). 

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. 9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them (Mark 13:7-9). 

“When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people. He shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’ (Deuteronomy 20:1-4). 

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place (1 Corinthians 15:57). 

O give us help against the adversary, For deliverance by man is in vain. Through God we shall do valiantly, And it is He who will tread down our adversaries (Psalm 60:11-12). 

 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands (2 Corinthians 5:1). 

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you (Isaiah 54:10). 

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you (Philippians 4:7). 

They got up, drove Him out of the town, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him over the cliff. 30But Jesus passed through the crowd and went on His way (Luke 4:29-30). 

Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him (Acts 12:8-10). 

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:25-31). 

As soon as they began singing, the LORD confused the enemy camp (2 Chronicles 20:22). 

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10). 

Do not fret because of evildoers or be envious of the wicked, 20 for the evildoer has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out (Proverbs 24:19-20). 

Being wise is better than being strong; yes, knowledge is more important than strength. After all, you must make careful plans before you fight a battle, and the more good advice you get, the more likely you are to win. Wise sayings are too deep for stupid people to understand. They have nothing to say when important matters are being discussed. If you are always planning evil, you will earn a reputation as a troublemaker. Any scheme a fool thinks up is sinful. People hate a person who has nothing but scorn for others. If you are weak in a crisis, you are weak indeed (Proverbs 24:5-10/GNBUK). 

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. 9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, 10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91). 

Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance (Acts 28:31). 

In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him (Ephesians 3:12). 

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1). 

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31). 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Sinful Woman


As I shared the story of the sinful woman with a friend she said to me, "I love that HE saw her!" The best hospitality happens when we take the time to see the person!

Every culture has certain expectations for hospitality. Taking time to honor these lets the person know you see them!

Sometimes, we can think we are above the norm. In today's Heaven's Hospitality story, we discover that even religious leaders are not above the norm. They need to take time to see the person and serve the person.  

As you listen, do you see that Jesus kindly pointed out that Simon didn't even take time to see Him, the teacher, and offer him the basics of hospitality? 

If Simon wasn't willing to honor the Rabbi and show Him that he sees Him as a guest worthy of hospitality, what makes you think he would even see a known sinful woman? 

Hospitality sees! It doesn't look at the past. It looks at the person! And does what brings honor.

Monday, August 16, 2021

How to use Symbols to Recall a Bible story


Watch video here:
How do you use Symbols to Recall Bible Stories?

I was recently asked, “How do you use symbols to recall a Bible story?” Some Bible stories are more difficult to recall than others because of abstract ideas, lists, or repetitive dialogue and non-narrative passages are not as easy to internalize because they do not follow the natural narrative flow. This is when it is a good idea to use symbols to help with recall. 

We will use John 3 as our practice story. Did you notice that I chose to divide it into five storylines? 

Notice how I kept the symbols simple and consistent because this helps with recall. Symbols are not meant to be masterpieces that draw the masses to your art, but simple story prompts to help you internalize the passage. It is not intended to be what you will use when you go and tell your story. It is personal to you. Your symbols will not carry the same meaning for someone else. 

For example, in order to remember that Nicodemus is a pharisee I put him in a triangle pointing downward to illustrate that he was a religious leader focused on man’s rules. 

I put a moon over his symbol to remind me that Nicodemus approached Jesus late at night. 

On top of the triangle, you will notice that I have person bowing before another to show that Nicodemus saw Jesus as his teacher and was seeking to learn from Him. 

I kept Jesus’ symbol simple. A stick figure with a halo. 

In order to depict being born again took a lot of thought. I chose to use the theta, the symbol for God because it looked like an egg which is a symbol for birth. The incomplete line on the inside represented that unless someone is born of the Spirit they are not born again. And then I used the cloud to represent the kingdom of God. 

The question mark inside the born-again symbol represented Nicodemus asking, “How can someone be born again?” 


The use of the born-again symbol and a water droplet remind me that we must be born of water and spirit. I drew the wind bigger because there was more information about the Spirit and that it is like the wind that blows wherever it pleases. 

The question mark over the wind/spirit symbol is Nicodemus asking, “How can this be?” 

While the question mark over the symbol of Nicodemus represented Jesus asking, “How is it possible that you as a religious leader do not already know this?” 


The next division in the storyline I noticed it is only Jesus speaking, so I put each of the symbols in a speech bubble. The one with the eyes represents that the Jews speak from what they have seen and know.


For me using the no symbol with the quotations and ellipses was the perfect way to represent that the religious leaders did not accept their testimony. 


And then to show that people were not believing what Jesus said about earthly things, I used a tree. For me a tree is one of God’s beautiful examples of earthly things He created. 

The cloud symbol represented that they would not believe Jesus if He spoke of heavenly things. 


The little man running up the stairs with the no symbol over him represented that no person has ever gone to heaven except the Son of Man. Jesus standing at the top of the stairs with a cloud represented that He is the only one who has been in heaven. 


Some symbols are easy to chose because they are widely used already like the snake on the shepherd staff for Moses, the figure on the cross for Jesus, or the ichthus for believe. 


Jesus on the cross with the trinity symbol signifies that anyone who believes in Jesus will have eternal life. I had a harder time picking this one. I really like how the trinity symbol is created with three believe symbols. 


Creating the John 3:16 verse was fun for me. I layered the images. The world filled with a heart shows that God loves the world. I added Jesus on the cross to symbolize the One and only Son. Again, the trinity symbol represents eternal life provided for all who believe in Jesus. 


The theta symbol with the arrow pointing at Jesus on the cross illustrates that God sent Jesus to the world. The no symbol over the world is the reminder that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world. 


On the next image adding the trinity symbol and removing the no symbol over the world illustrates that God sent Jesus to provide eternal life. 

By now you can see why I chose to use divisions and symbols to help me with the recall. 



Did you notice all the different ways eternal life is repeated? The ichthus symbol and trinity symbol remind us again that the one who believes in Jesus will have eternal life. 


Likewise, the ichthus and trinity symbol covered with the no symbol illustrate that those who do not believe in God’s one and only Son are already condemned by their unbelief. 


In the last storyline, I used a light bulb to convey light. The light bulb over the world shows us that the Light of the world came to earth. I like it when a symbol is easy to choose like a light bulb. It is always best to keep your symbols simple. 


While man’s love for evil is represented by a heart surrounding an evil face. This shows that man chose darkness instead of the light. 


While the choice to not love the light is a light bulb scratched out. I use this to help me remember that those that hate the light fear their evil deeds will be exposed. 

While those that love the truth go into the light so what they do can be seen. Their good deeds are represented by a heart inside a light bulb. 

And you can find the story of John 3 in a link below. 


Let me know if you use symbols to help you with Bible story recall! 

Using symbols to recall Bible stories is a great way to help you be in the Word, be with Jesus and be transformed.

Shalom ya’ll.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

What must we do to do the works of God?


Sometimes words just need to be mined in order for us to truly understand what is said. Today the word "works" jumped off the page and caused me to pause in John 6:28-29.  I thought of all the many discussions I have had with others about what it means to do God's work. It seems that the people of Capernuam struggled with knowing what to do, too.

Ergaz┼Źmetha is the Greek word for works.  It means to do. Here is a compilation of many resources that I have written into a description.

To do the works of God is to be committed to exert one's power to be actively engaged to receive God's Son. It is about looking for the opportunity to join God in what He has already accomplished in my behalf.

Just as when I eat a piece of bread my body will use the opportunity to exert its entire being to turn that piece of bread into life giving sustenance and then I am able to live and go about my day. My body commits to digest and use all of that piece of bread can offer.

Maybe this is why this conversation happened when Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life. When I taste and see that the Bread of Life is good. I will take the opportunity to commit to use all I am to join God in helping others to have the opportunity to partake in the Bread of Life.

I will eat His sustenance every day. I will trust the nourishment that He will bring about. I will recognize opportunities to give it to others. I will know what it means to be full, not just full, but satisfied.

Have you tasted and seen that the LORD is good? Are you willing to take the opportunity to commit to believing in the One God sent? Believing is as simple as eating a piece of bread. You just pick up the truth and you eat it. Then you commit to engaging and gaining all you can to join God as He provides opportunity.

Shalom! Shalom! 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

What is spirit and truth?

I am studying the woman at the well again. I confess I have studied it a lot and wondered, “Is there anything more You can teach me LORD?” It seems like we have this one covered! Oh my! God sure has patience with me! 

 I hope I can trace what I discovered this morning. 

I asked the question, “What is spirit and truth?” I felt I had it and I did on a basic level. Spirit would mean that I worship God through His Spirit and truth would mean that I worship Him through His Son, Jesus. 

But, then GOD showed me a few new things that just gave me such an ah ha moment that I have to share it with you! I hope it blesses your soul as it did mine, this morning! 

First, I went to the Greek word aletheia and one commentator said it could actually be interpreted as truthing. So not just giving facts but living facts! Pretty cool! But then I noticed that “a” signifies the lack of something. I found that a bit interesting. What might we lack in truth? And then I noticed that “lethe” means forgetfulness. So, if I am living in truth I am living in a lack of forgetfulness! This means I live in remembrance. But then I wondered, “What must I remember?” Please keep in mind this is how I discover. I ask questions and research answers. 

This is when I turned to Hebrew and discovered that the Hebrew word for truth is Emet or Amet. In Hebrew this is spelled “aleph, mem, tav”. Essentially, there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Her Royal Roots points out that the three letters that spell the word truth are the beginning, middle, and end letters of the alphabet. So, aleph is the first letter in the alphabet while tav is the last letter of the alphabet with the mem being the very middle. Do you see how the spelling of the word for truth covers the whole of the alphabet? Her Royal Roots reminded the readers that the point of this is that truth covers the whole counsel of God. It must be all of Scripture from beginning to end. We cannot pick one truth or part of a truth. It must be the whole truth in order for us to be set free! 

But wait there is more! I kept asking myself, “Does the “al” in aletheia mean something? In my mind, I kept thinking if El means God. Does “al” represent a form of God? I kept researching and I could not find a single reference, so I was beginning to think that I was just off in my thoughts until I read about the Hebrew word in Her Royal Roots. She noted that if you remove the “aleph” in truth then you are removing “Yah” which represents God. The word that remains is “met” which means death. For there is no truth without God only death (John 14:6). Let that sit for a moment and maybe go back and reread it! 


So, when Jesus said, “The LORD is looking for those that will worship Him in spirit and in truth,” He was pointing out clearly true worship is not a place, a style, a method, but a person. Without Him, we have no worship. His truth brings us freedom (John 8:32), rest (1 John 3:18), love (1 Cor. 13:6), guidance (John 16:13), and grace (John 1:14,17). His truth is our firm foundation (1 Tim. 3:15) and it shows no favorites (Acts 10:34). His Word is true from the beginning to the end, and it endures forever (John 14:6). It is a wholehearted devotion to Him. 

What I love about the woman at the well is that she got it! She left her water jar, the very reason she went to the well that day and ran back to tell everyone that they needed to come and meet the One that knew everything about her! An entire village went out to see what Jesus had to say and they too confessed that they believed not because of what she said, but because they went to Jesus to find out for themselves. Once they heard, they believed. Why? Because they were searching for the truth that set them free and they finally heard it! They experienced firsthand worship through spirit and truth. 

I love that immediately both the woman and the villagers demonstrated that they would not forget what they had seen and heard. 

Can you say that you know what it means to worship in spirit and in truth? Would you be willing to simply ask Jesus to show you how to worship Him in spirit and in truth? It worked for the woman at the well. It has worked for me. I know it will work for you, too!
 
Shalom y’all!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Let Your Gentleness be Known

Let your gentleness be known to all men (Phil. 4:5)! 

Are you serious LORD? No wonder Paul says saturate yourselves in prayer! 

Gentleness is the fruit of maturity. It comes from quiet strength. It is the ability to control my words, my anxieties, and my stress in order to not be sudden, rash, or brash. 

Gentleness is sensitivity that wields power because it submits to God to allow Him to have full control of the situation. 

Gentleness wields strength because it bears with another. 

Gentleness displays inward grace and humility. 

Gentleness is founded in love and poured out of love. It is light, tender, kind, and soft. 

Gentleness is sensitive. You know the healthy kind. I have a confession. 

I feel a war raging inside me and at times I wonder, Who am I? Does gentleness count when my insides do not feel any of these truths? 

Sometimes, words... no flat out logorhea pours out before I think. I hate it when I speak before I think. I really do want a gentle quiet spirit. I pray for it. Yet, I am not always obedient. 

I am so glad that gentleness does not mean that we do not speak up. It means that I speak up with respect for the other. If I hold the other person as God's image bearer I am more likely to honor them and let my gentleness be known. 

Gentleness means I take care to not cause harm. It means that I submit this crazy human to the will of God so that He can mature me so that I might bear this blessed fruit. 

Praying for gentleness to be made known in me that I might make it known to all. 

Maybe today you should say a prayer for me! :) 

Father, please let your gentleness be made known in me and through me for Your glory alone.

First posted August 11, 2020

Monday, August 9, 2021

A Marriage Prayer based on Colossians 3


I rocked hard in my cushy blue chair. My foot kept tapping on the floor as I pushed it back and forth. I was so frustrated! As a young newlywed, I knew I was not who I should be, and neither was Greg. We loved each other and we loved God, but UGH! How do we help someone to change when we ourselves are struggling with the change in us? Sometimes, we would just forget who we are and to Whom we belong! I hated these moments. So, my foot would tap, and I would rock back and forth pondering how to counter our latest moment of not so godliness with one another. On this particular day, I happened to be reading in Colossians so when I opened up the Bible, I remembered that I had heard someone say, “Real power comes when we pray Scripture!” So, I decided that I would commit to praying Colossians 3 over our marriage. I took Colossians 3 and wrote it out in my prayer journal praying it with my owns words and my own issues. I was trying to own it in my life. I wondered if it would really work for us. I wanted to experience the reality of God changing us. So, I rocked, wrote, and prayed. 

I do not remember what our particular fight might have been in the moment, but I do remember that when I paused to pray Scripture, I would see that I was more intentional to dress appropriately in God’s character qualities and when I prayed them over Greg, I was more apt to see them in Greg. Yes, I had to fight really hard to not point out his lack of being dressed properly and try even harder to focus more on how I was dressed in a God given character quality. We have had seasons of beauty and splendor, as well as seasons of Hmmmm… not so much! But what I know from almost thirty years of marriage is that when I prayed and made the choice to honor God, Greg would follow suit. When I chose to dishonor Greg and God, Greg would often follow suit. This goes the other way as well. When Greg would choose to honor me and God, I would make a shift and do likewise. And when he didn’t, I would easily fall into the temptation to do the same. We so easily can cause our beloved to fall. UGH! 

I think the hardest thing in marriage is learning to die to self! We expect our spouses to be the one that meets our needs, but it must come from God. Learning how to die to self to serve our spouse is the training ground God uses to grow our character. He knows we have so much to learn. So, He blesses us with one another to grow us! 

What might a marriage prayer look like based on Colossians 3? This morning I took the time to write it out in a prayer and as I prayed through it I wished that I had the one I had written some thirty years ago. But, as I wrote it out I recognized for sure that the things I probably emphasized as a twenty-year-old are different than what I am now. I have learned so much and I know the blessing of praying long-term in marriage. Seasons come and seasons go. All things pass, so what might feel devastating in the moment will in a few weeks be forgotten when truly covered in love. This is the beauty of love given freely. 

It is my prayer today that some of my younger beloveds might consider writing their own marriage prayer based on Colossians 3. Pray it often and allow God to dress you appropriately at home in His character qualities. Maybe God just wants you to pray what I have already written. 

A Marriage Prayer based on Colossians 3 

Father, thank You for raising us up in Christ. Help us to see the things that are above that will honor Jesus and honor You since He sits at Your right-hand in the position of strength! It is hard sometimes for us to remember in the moment that we need to set our minds on things above. Emotions, frustrations, routine, wants, desires, and needs get in the way. Life is real and raw, so we forget and focus on the earthly things. Please forgive us! We know that we are hidden in Christ because we have chosen to die to self and follow Jesus. Thank You for the reminder that our belief in Jesus will allow us to appear before You in glory. Sometimes that seems far away. Can You please show us Your glory in our marriage now? Help us to show Your glory through our marriage. 

Help us to put to death anything that might be hindering our marital journey. Slay within us sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil, desire, and covetousness that leads to idolatry. Thank You for all the ways You have already dealt with those in our lives and help us to celebrate the goodness You have already orchestrated. Father, in many ways it is the internal struggles that are the hardest to slay because they are hidden inside us, and no one knows our thoughts. Please help us to deal with our anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk. Help us to be honest about our struggles and to speak truth to one another. Help us to encourage one another to grow in our new self by renewing our minds seeking to be like You! Help us to remember that NO ONE has the advantage of being better than the other. We are both free in Christ both male and female. 

What a gift You have given us as Your chosen children. Please help us to dress like Your children and to never forget that these character qualities must be put on at home before we walk out the door to serve others. If we do not dress in them at home, we cannot walk about wearing them well with others. Please help us to dress ourselves in Your holiness—allowing You to do the sanctifying work that must be done to make us holy as You are holy. Help us to remember that we are beloved and that our spouse is Your beloved as well and that just as we expect to be treated a certain way so does our spouse. Help us to pray often for us to deeply love each other so that our spouse knows that they are our beloved. BE LOVED! Help us to get into the act of loving well. 

Dress us in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience! O yes! Give us patience! We ask for it from You because with You we will have a better chance of being patient as the trials unfold. Help us to bear with one another without complaint in the daily routine never forgetting that it is in our times of peace that we prepare for our times of struggle. Our choices in these moments prepare us for when we must trust our daily habits to get us through. Help us to take out of our hearts what we received as an offense and not hold on to it for true love keeps no record of wrongs. 

Let Your forgiveness and grace be our norm. Let us forgive freely as You forgave us freely. Help us to cover ourselves in the blanket of love so that we might be bound in harmony as we let peace rule our hearts. You are so giving and so generous. In this we give thanks! Let thankfulness flow freely from our hearts, mouths, and actions. Cause us to say, “Thank you!” to each other often and to be very specific in what we are saying thank you for. Let us daily give thanks for the gifts You have given us and let us be known for our thankful and generous hearts toward one another. 

Let us dwell richly in Your Word, O LORD. Let the meditations of our hearts be upon Your Word and honoring Your Word because when we are in the Word, we are with Jesus, and we are transformed! Let Your songs of wisdom pour out of us with thankfulness to You! Help us to serve You in both word and in deed, giving Your Name, Jesus, honor. And giving praise and thanksgiving to our Father through You, Jesus! 

Father, as we submit to You it is so much easier to submit to one another because we are no longer thinking about our self, but the other and giving You glory. When we are submitted to You, O LORD, it is so much easier to love each other and not be harsh with one another. Allow our love and submission to one another be so honoring that we give You glory. We lift our children up before You and ask that we raise them up in honoring You and one another. Help us to show them how to respect us and help us to lovingly raise them up in kindness. Show us how to reason with them, guide them, direct them, coach them, and bless them as they grow. Show us how to encourage them so that they become strong and courageous. 

As we serve in work or ministry let us do it in reverence and awe as we serve You! Help us to not be people-pleasers always wanting to be seen. Let us serve for Your pleasure and not man! Thank You for the inheritance we have in Christ Jesus and that You call Your children Your inheritance. Thank You that we can rest in knowing that this is secure. Thank You that we can also trust that You will discipline the one that does wrong. You have no favorites. We can trust You to discipline us both as we go through life. We can trust that You can and will speak to our spouse when they have gone astray in their choices. Thank You for this assurance. We trust You! We give our marriage to You for Your glory! In Jesus Name, AMEN! 

May our Father, encourage you and strengthen you in your marriages today! 

Amen and Hallelujah! 

Shalom ya’ll!

Thursday, August 5, 2021

How did Jesus handle "Cancel Culture" Attitude?


I discovered first-hand that, in this world, we tend to “cancel” people much too quickly. I had just  given my testimony to my Foundations seminary class. I was terrified to share what I had because it was raw and pretty messy. It was my first time to tell my painful story and it was to a room full of ministry leaders I highly respected. I wanted their approval.  

I didn’t receive it. I experienced the pain that comes when someone “cancels” us because they judge us unworthy to be included. That day, I learned a lot about feeling ostracized. Once I shared the truth of who I’d been before Jesus changed me, people who talked to me regularly began to avoid me. They’d awkwardly walk away or turn before I could seek engagement. It was my first harsh encounter with being “canceled” because my story did not lend itself to a pretty Christian testimony. I had never been shamed for past decisions like I did that day. It hurt so much and made me feel ashamed, even though I was walking in freedom. 

And do you know what? Being “cancelled” hurts even more when it comes from those who should be helping us with forgiveness and healing.

“Cancel culture” is practically an accepted part of life now. It happens when a group of people ostracize someone because they’ve done something that is perceived as socially wrong. It’s a large-scale way of using shame to pressure the person to “do the right thing.” While there is some value to cultural norms of right or wrong, the dark side of “cancel culture” happens when a person or a group of people place themselves as the arbiter of right and wrong and do not allow room for the “transgressor” to  find forgiveness or redemption. Worse, when attitude becomes anonymous and widespread through social media, it breeds fear, which then lends to a very unhealthy cycle.

Do you know what really bothers me about “cancel culture”? If someone steps “out of line” or is “outed” for a decision made today or even years ago, they’re immediately deemed unworthy. Nothing matters but that one word or act. Over. Done. The person being “canceled” is given no place to find community.  No opportunity to know the gift of forgiveness, and no way to be embraced into a welcoming experience that begins the process of healing and restoration that leads to redemption. When this happens, we’ve missed the mark.

It’s terrifying.  But as I read the story of the sinful woman who wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears, I realized that “cancel culture” is not new to us (Luke 7:36-50).  

It was common in Jesus’ day for wealthy patrons to invite a visiting rabbi to their house to teach. Even though a person may not have been included, they were still welcomed to attend, but they weren’t permitted to speak. It was kind of like going to a theater. The uninvited guests would encircle the dinner party and learn from the teacher as an observer. In a way, it was an opportunity for the host to be pious and generous to the more unfortunate in his community. 

A dinner with a rabbi was the social media of the day. It was the best way to get a message out because all levels of society were in attendance. Dinner parties were used for moral reform just like our social media is today.

I imagine this scenario: when the sinful woman heard that Jesus was at Simon’s house, she grabbed her alabaster jar,  showed up as an uninvited guest, and stood behind Jesus. As she listened to Him talk, she heard about the forgiveness of sins and believed. She believed so strongly that she couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Before she realized it, her tears were covering Jesus’ feet. She knelt down to dry His feet with her hair. Her new understanding of the gift of forgiveness and that she was welcomed in His community were so profound that her worship bestowed little kisses on His feet in gratitude. Maybe she was lost in the spirit of welcome that she received in Jesus’ words as healing and redemption took hold in her spirit. One thing is for certain, she couldn’t contain her thankfulness. 

See, Jesus didn’t cancel her. He welcomed her tears and her wiping away the dust from His day’s journey with her hair. Jesus accepted her worship because it was an expression of faith. Jesus knew her past. Jesus knew her pain. Jesus knew her sins, but Jesus didn’t want her to stay there. Jesus knew the faith and peace which were yet to be born in her so that she might know the gift of welcome in community. Jesus didn’t cancel the sinful woman because Jesus came to change culture, not cancel people. A changed culture comes through a changed person. When we cancel people, we cancel opportunities for change.

But not everyone at that dinner behaved like Jesus did. They disparaged and spoke poorly of her and her actions. Consider that the Pharisee was the religious leader. He was the very person in the community who should have been offering the spirit of welcome to those that needed to know God and move toward God’s plan. 

It’s the same today. Where does “cancel culture” begin? Just like in this biblical narrative, it starts in one person’s heart and, if not dealt with appropriately, will be taught in whatever our culture considers the appropriate place to do mass social moral reform. “Cancel culture” moves one person’s thoughts to a group of people who want to belong, so they willingly cancel a person in hope that they will find their place. 

With the Pharisee, Jesus couldn’t let this teaching opportunity go! 

Notice how Jesus confronted Simon. He didn’t shame Simon by telling him he messed up. He didn’t “cancel” Simon the way Simon had the woman.  He actually modeled forgiveness and acceptance as He taught!

Jesus began with a statement. “Simon, I have something to share with you.” In the Middle East this meant that He had something important to say. He then shared a short parable about two men that had debts. One man had owed 50 denarii (one’s days wages) and the other 500 denarii. “If both were forgiven their debt, which one would love his master more?” Jesus asked.

Simon, tentatively, stated, “I suppose the one with the greater debt!” 

Notice, Jesus affirms Simon of his wisdom. 

Jesus then used the woman as His visual aid. “Do you see this woman?” 

Recognize this! Jesus wanted Simon to see her! He needed to notice her! Not who she had been, but who she was now! 

Why? It’s very hard to cancel someone you have taken the time to see!

Jesus then compared Simon’s actions to the sinful woman. Both revealed what was in their hearts. The opportunity for redemption came to a climax. The woman who had been “canceled” as sinful was elevated and given forgiveness, redemption, affirmation, and peace because she demonstrated faith in Jesus. 

Simon’s road to redemption is left untold. 

Why? I honestly don’t know, but I can’t help but wonder if this might give us the opportunity to dwell upon Simon and realize we might have the same attitude in our hearts.  This must be dealt with so that we can stop the “cancel culture” phenomenon that seems to plague us. Simon becomes our reminder that our thoughts lead to actions. The only way to truly change our culture is to begin with our own thought life. We are the ones that need to change!

How have you experienced “cancel culture”? In what ways might you need to deal with “cancel culture” thoughts in your own heart? Who might need to know that they are welcomed in your community so that the process of forgiveness, redemption, healing, and restoration might take place? Who in your life do you need to stop and just see? 

Shalom y’all!




Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Heaven's Hospitality: John 3:1-21 Jesus and Nicodemus


Have you ever been in a very dark room when someone switched on the light? Did you blink or cover your eyes? Often our reaction can be extreme. It feels intense and we try to block the light. But, if we pause for just a few seconds our eyes will adjust and then we can see with greater clarity. 

This is also true spiritually. 

The story of Nicodemus has a contrast between light and darkness. Listen to today's Bible story and listen to how Nicodemus moved from darkness to light spiritually. 

It is key to understand that Nicodemus was a religious leader that was living in the darkness spiritually. As he moved closer to Jesus and knowing Him, he was moving closer to the light. When we first move from darkness to light it is hard for us to see, but as we remain in the light our eyes will begin to adjust. This is true with our spiritual understanding as well.

How might God be asking you to move from darkness to light? 

Heaven's Hospitality: Ruth 2

What if kindness was the norm even during evil times? listen to the kindness found in Ruth 2 and consider how it was lived out during the time of Judges when everyone did what was right in their own eyes. The book of Ruth becomes a sweet reminder that kindness is a beautiful gift in hospitality.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

What I learned from hitting a tree!

What I learned from hitting a tree!

   

 I loved the swish of the wind and the sound of the “ZZZZZZ” of the line. I cried out to GOD aloud, “This is amazing! It must be wonderful to be a bird to see all of this beauty at anytime!” I looked out over the canopy of the trees and zipped across the tree line shouting with glee. As I neared the platform I started to pull down on the break and I noticed it wasn’t slowing. I looked at the twenty-year old guy on the platform and noticed he was chatting with the other team members. He wasn’t looking at me. I heard in my heart, “You are going to hit the tree. Relax your body. Bend your knees. And when you hit push off the tree!” I had no time to think I just responded, and I hit the tree. HARD! My body responds even now with sweaty palms, and I can feel the UMPH reverberate in me. My response. LAUGHTER! I hide my fear and pain by laughing. I was in shock. I did not know I was hurt. The guy moved my zip line to the next line and went on to his next arrival. I never told him, "I am hurt!"

I was able to stabilize myself and allow the zip harness to hold me up as I felt my body shake. I remembered two of my students were afraid of heights and all I could think was “I cannot let them know that I am hurt. It will make them afraid.” We were on a two-hour tour zipping through the trees. I had no clue how far into the tour we were or how many zips we had left. I did know that the last zip was our fastest zip at about 35 miles an hour because our guide told us as we waited to zip across. I got on to the next zip hoping it was the last, too afraid to ask. I have no clue what I was thinking from this point forward. I just kept moving forward. I know there was lots of laughter and chatter all around me. I was silent. We were asked to move off the zipline after that zip because we were about to do our last zip. This is when I realized something was not right. I stood between two college guys that made me feel tiny when I started to feel like I was about to pass out. It was 100 degrees that day so they didn’t think anything of me asking if I could hold onto their shoulders. They thought it was because of the heat. 

We were told that we were not allowed to get out of order but when the guy said that it was our last zip, I stepped out of line and walked right up to the zip and made him harness me. No one argued. I was the Dean of Women and the old lady on the tour. I got what I wanted in that moment. I listened to the ZZZZZZZ of the line for the last time and I have no memory of it. 

When I landed, I walked off the platform and as I stood waiting, I realized that my feet could not handle my weight, so I sat down on the rocks. The guide yelled at me and said, “No one is allowed to sit on the rocks.” This is when I realized I could not stand well on my own and the realization hit me that I was seriously injured. Some of the shock was starting to wear off now that I was off the zipline, so I allowed myself to feel for the first time what happened. It was surreal. I noticed that students were walking up the gravel hill to get to our bus about 100 yards away. I called out to my daughter Mikayla and said, “Come here!” I whispered to her, “I can’t walk!” She had no clue what was happening. I told her, “Help me to get to the bus. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.” She did. 

Somehow, I managed to get from the bus to the restaurant where we were eating that was across the street. I went to go pay our bill and as I waited for the cashier this is when I knew I could no longer stand on my own. The pain was unleashing burning searing waves radiating through my feet and up my legs. I felt faint. I do not remember telling the male dean or what happened from that point forward. I have vague memories of my students carrying me and trying to watch them finish out leadership tasks in blind folds. But these memories are like glimpses into a movie scene that pops up. I have a hint of it, but not a full grasp. 
I tried hard to make light of what happened because I hate being seen as weak. UGH! I am so prideful! “My new nickname is George! Just call me George and cry out, ‘Watch out for that tree!’” 

I knew I needed to see a doctor and I knew I needed a wheelchair. I wondered how I would tell my Greg. Phone calls did not work in the mountain, but I could text, so I text him and said, “See if you can find the movie George of the Jungle and could you please get me a wheelchair! I hit a tree!” I don’t remember his responses either. 

It is weird when you know you have walked through a moment, and you cannot recall it. We drove home to Nebraska the next day. I remember ice on my feet and a cooler holding me up. I remember kindness. Such kindness. Tears well up now, but I do not remember details. 

The next day I went to the doctor and after x-rays and seeing several doctors I learned that I had crushed my heal pads and tore all of my tendons and ligaments in my feet, ankles, and up into my legs. Time would reveal that I also reinjured areas in my lower back. The doctor told me that what I heard before I hit the tree saved my life and kept me from living with a crushed spine. It was in this moment that I knew I heard the voice of God and I obeyed. 

Today is the fifth anniversary of me hitting the tree and I would like to share what God has taught me. When Facebook reminded me that this was the day our team went ziplining, I realized that I am okay. In fact, I am finally ready to put to print what I learned from this experience. I never posted about it and only if you really know me well would you know that I went through it. Part of the reason is that I am prideful and vain. I have had to repent of both of those a lot in this journey. I would not allow my family to take photos of me in the wheelchair or using the walker because I did not want to look weak. UGH! I confess it now because I know the truth that when we are weak He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). The other reason was that I do not like writing or posting about things that I have not fully processed and allowed God to bring about His good fruit in me. I can with great joy say that on this fifth anniversary my heart is full and rich because of what I went through, and I know this is only because of what God has done for me. 

Shortly after I was injured someone suggested to me that God allowed me to be injured because He saw that I was sinning, and He knew I needed a wake-up call. O my! How to process that! God quickly reminded me that “pain happens to good people doing good things” as much as it happens to “bad people doing bad things.” None of us are exempt from having bad things happen in our lives. Things go wrong. Bad things happen. It only takes a split second. What we need to ask ourselves is How can I draw near to God in my pain and suffering? How can I give God honor in my pain and suffering? And how can I give to others what I am learning through this journey? I was not living in habitual sin or sinning in any form that would warrant God causing me to hit a tree and get injured. Honestly, that did not resonate with what I knew about God. I needed to simply accept that bad things just happen. No one is to blame. They just happen. 

As I reflected on my year and that I had chosen the leadership word of “Joy”, I realized that God prepared me in advance to be a person who chooses joy rather than whines and complains. I had already been praying for this character trait to be evident in me and I was able to pull on those prayers as I really wanted to whine and cry. I also realized once again how intimate my relationship with God truly had become. I heard Him tell me what to do and I did it. This realization gave me tremendous comfort as I processed my pain. It could have been so much worse! 

It was the first time in my life that I felt a level 10 pain. I hate pain scales. I cannot honestly answer them anymore because I have experienced what I thought was a 10 on the pain scale. Labeling pain now seems almost unnecessary when it comes to my normal pain in any given day. How am I to scale pain when I know a 10? PAIN HURTS! And when pain is in full force it is so hard to think, care, or even see others much less put it on a scale! 

One day I was determined to walk to my classroom to teach without using my walker to get there. I was so prideful that I refused to stay in the wheelchair as long as I should have or on the walker as long as I was supposed to. I was so foolish! As I walked across the parking lot between the Administration building, the dorms, and the classroom, I was trying to walk but my pain was so intense that I wanted to sit down in the parking lot and cry. I wondered, “What would my students think if they saw their Dean of Women sitting in the parking lot bawling?” This is when God gave me my pain song, “Thy will!” by Hilary Scott. There is a line that says, “Thy will be done!” over and over. I started singing that song in my heart for each step, “Thy will be done! Thy will be done! Thy will be done!” and before I knew it, I was finally in my classroom. I felt so exhausted and empty, but I did it! God helped me walk to my classroom by myself. I carried my own things and did it! TRIUMPH comes in the very small things. I wondered if my students learned anything from me that day, but I made it across the parking lot despite the pain. PAIN HURTS, but GOD showed me I am stronger. I am so much stronger than I realized. I had no clue how strong I really was, but He was making it clear. With Him all things were possible (Matthew 19:26). 

I also learned that pain brought fear. I found that I was afraid of hitting things and in general I had this unusual sense of not feeling safe. I did not recognize this until one day in chapel as the worship song was being sung by our student leaders, I had a vision of God. It was so real that I felt it with my sense of touch. I saw a lion. A Big Beautiful LION! I walked up to Him, and He welcomed me with a nod of His mane. I laid down beside Him and nuzzled my face into His mane. It felt wirey and stiff. I started to run my fingers through the mane only to realize it was not easy to do because a lion’s mane is course. His muzzle felt like velvet, and I just curled up to Him and felt so safe. In this moment, I knew that God is safe, God is good, and God is present. I need not be afraid anymore. God did not make me hit the tree. He allowed it but did not make it happen. He was using it to teach me things so that I could give them to others as they dealt with pain and suffering. This vision was so real to me that I did not want it to end. I clung to that vision and used these verses as reminders of what God was teaching me. 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand” (Isaiah 41:10). 

“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His loving kindness is everlasting” (1 Chronicles 16:34). 

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (feet)” (Psalm 34:18). 

 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in our time of need” (Psalm 46:1)

Every morning I would rise-up and read the Psalms. They became nourishment to my soul. I was accustomed to reading large amounts of Scripture every day, but suddenly I found that I only had to read one and I was suddenly stopped by God. His Word was so alive and active in me. I felt His presence as never before. I found myself crying out, “I love the Jesus me, better than the me, me!” Begging God to grow the Jesus me and to remove the me, me! This prayer was especially important when I was home alone with Greg. I would work hard all day at school trying to hide my pain and then when I got home, I had nothing left to give Greg. God used Greg to minister to my pain in the raw, real, and ugly moments. Greg remained faithful and understanding when I was not the Jesus, me. He loved me even when the me, me showed up. God used Greg to be Jesus with skin on to me and show me love when I did not feel lovable. For Greg, I wanted to be more like Jesus than ever before. Eventually, I discovered that pain opened doors for me. 

The truths found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 became my heart cry. 

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many" (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). 

I asked God to use my distress and suffering to bring comfort and salvation to those I served. I wanted people to know that I did not rely on myself, but God and that He alone is the one that delivered me and enabled me to give thanks and keep on walking. And if they did not encounter the Jesus, me then it was because I was the one who walked away from the God of all comfort and compassion not the other way around. 

So where am I today with my feet and pain levels? I get asked this by those that know me and know my suffering. I am good. I am not where I want to be, but I am good. I know that God is good. God is safe. God is present. He is my help in my time of need. I have developed an incredible sense of empathy for pain and suffering. I can see it in people’s stories, bodies, and movement. God causes me to pray for people that I might not have ever seen before because now He has given me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that is willing to respond. And feet that move slow! I guess I needed to slow down! 

God surprised me recently. One night we were playing games and I had my feet up on Grant’s lap. He was unconsciously rubbing my feet. This is not something I have been able to tolerate since my injury, but on this night, God revealed a sweet gift to me. As Grant rubbed my foot, I jerked my foot back and he apologized so profusely as tears rolled down my cheeks. I tried to assure him, “Mommy is okay!” I jerked my feet because for the first time in four and a half years I felt pleasure at the bottom of my foot. It tickled! PURE JOY! I recently had prayed a different prayer. I simply said something like, “God, You have given us smart phones and smart brains. Will You please make my brain smart enough to heal my feet!” God heard and He answered. I can feel a tickle! That is bliss! 

I still suffer from chronic pain and if I walk too much or do too much I limp, but I know that God is good! God is safe! God is present! And that God is opening doors for me to walk through simply because I know pain and His goodness through it. Now that is a beautiful thing! 

I know you have your pain story. Everyone does. What are you doing with your pain? Will you use it to give God glory? 

It is okay if you don’t know how. Just ask Him. I promise He is good. He is safe! He is present! And He will help you in your time of need! 

"And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15). 

 Happy 5th Anniversary to me! 

 Shalom Y’all!