Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wave after Wave

For a couple of hours today, I watched one of those all-day-all-nature channels - some have underwater scenes, some have campfires, and others have ocean beaches and such. I was watching waves come in on the shore of some exotic cove.  

I was thinking about nothing in particular, just watching the waves come in. Every one seemed different, but they all had one thing in common: not one wave failed to reach the shore. Not one. 

That started me looking for photos of ocean waves coming to the shore and the thought formed as if it had always been there and I had never noticed. No matter what kind of shore it is, whether it is sandy or rocky or a cliff - the waves come in. Always. 

Photo "Sea Waves Splash Rock"
by 9comeback at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
It's such a powerful picture of the constancy and unfailing nature of God's love and grace. 

It doesn't matter if you are the kind of person who - like the sand - can let the waves of His love sink into you, wash away the blemishes and start fresh every time... or whether you are more like the rocky shore where the water seems to bounce off you ... the waves keep coming in anyway, over and over, wave after wave after wave. It's - that is, God's love - God's grace - is endless, unstoppable, and relentless. Whether we want it to or not, whether we feel it or not, whether we are the sand or the rock or the cliff - they still come. No matter what we throw into it, the waves come. They can't help it because HE can't help it. He loves us. Not because of anything that we do or don't do. They come because He IS love ... and he can't shut that off because if He did, He wouldn't be God; it's His nature. It's Him.

I get it. I finally get it. At least I'm starting to.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Sky is Falling

I saw something recently that made me do some thinking about an old fable I grew up with. What I saw doesn't matter, but the thinking I was doing started to turn into a blog post (as often happens) .... so here I am.

The tale of Chicken Little is the story of an alarmist young hen who one sunny day, got bopped on the head by a falling acorn and thought that the world was coming to an end: "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" She told everyone she knew about it (Hmmm. Some people would call that "witnessing" - but I digress). Her alarm caused mass hysteria among all the fowl (duck, goose, turkey), and they all ended up being part of a smorgasbord menu for a fox who took advantage of their desire to go tell the king something they'd convinced themselves was something to be afraid of. 

Photo "Chestnut" courtesy of olovedog at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
This kind of thing happens all the time in denominations. Some perceptive (if unenlightened) person gets it into his or her head that such-and-such a belief is something to be focusing on. The word spreads like wildfire, and soon everyone is all in a dither about it, leaving us vulnerable to be the victims of deception - possibly even harming our spiritual lives in the process. We get our eyes off how the Son shines and gives everything life not only around us, but in us. We focus on the circumstances and base our belief on them instead of what we know to be true. We gad about and spread panic and havoc in our own lives and in the lives of others, over things that really just don't matter at all. 


And we put ourselves in danger. We add to what God says by creating rules and restrictions ... and then judge those who don't do the same. We feel threatened by someone who lives his or her life in liberty without feeling the need to toe the party line.  We judge that person: we like knowing what the rules are and that we're following them, so we limit our own freedom and aren't satisfied until everyone else is as uptight as we are. If they refuse to get uptight, we judge them because we feel threatened by a lack of structure, a lack of control. 

And control is key...  because we like to be in control, to have a say, to not feel at the mercy of something that is bigger and more generous and more powerful than we can imagine. We like to either put limits on it, or put requirements on ourselves to access it.

Such was the case with Eve (yes, Adam's wife.)  She wasn't aware of all the reasons God said not to eat of that fruit. She didn't think about how marvelous was His wonderful love toward her. She just knew the one rule of the Garden: don't eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eating it would make her "die" - whatever that was - and that didn't sound good. So she felt that she had to add to that rule - and adding to it was her downfall. She figured that in order to not eat the fruit, it would be best not to touch it or to even go near the tree. Eventually she came to believe that even those things were forbidden and carried the same punishment. Along comes Foxy Loxy (the serpent) and says (in essence), "Look. I'm on the tree. I'm touching the fruit. Am I dead?" He planted that seed of doubt - and then came the clincher - "Maybe God's been lying to you all this time. Maybe He's holding out on you." It wasn't so much that Eve was convinced by the serpent; it was that she had allowed herself to get caught up in the trap of swallowing tradition as gospel, and made herself easy pickings for the deceiver.

It's no different today.  Just like the Pharisees of Jesus' day whom we all-too-quickly condemn, we add burdens and place restrictions on ourselves and on other believers... and even on unbelievers! I remember hearing one well-seasoned (pickled? stagnated?) believer express amusement at the zeal of a new convert, commenting (in an "isn't that cute" tone) "That's okay, this will pass." (Really?!)  Yet that same believer will be one of the first to sign a petition and/or carry placards when some politician tries to grant equality to all people (even the ones with whose lifestyles we don't agree) calling it an "attack on the sanctity of marriage."  Or object when there are too many "street people" in the church (whatever that means).  Or some such thing.

Seriously? 

I was brought up in the church from my infancy. And I've closely and seriously examined the teachings of Jesus ever since I was sixteen years old - nearly forty years ago now. Nowhere, and I mean NOWHERE, did He ever judge or condemn anyone who wasn't religious. Over and over again, He ate with and enjoyed the company of the dregs of society: tax-collectors, prostitutes, even non-Jews (Samaritans, Romans!) and never once did He condemn. He saved His scathing condemnation for those (like the Pharisees and Saducees) who used their religion like a weapon instead of a magnet, or for those who used their power to oppress (like Herod, and even then, only once!) instead of to protect the innocent. His teachings were more about living a quiet life in faith and love, rather than brandishing a spear and shield and tackling political and societal ills like some holier-than-thou Don Quixote. 

I've also examined our modern society at some length. We can say all we like about how it is broken and so forth, but it's pretty accepting of most types of people.  However, among the things it can't abide are dogmatism, hypocrisy and elitism - three things the church has historically been famous for, ever since 300 AD. It's one of the top criticisms that unbelievers have about the church. It's probably the main thing that keeps them away by the hundreds.

Photo "Sun In The Sky" by
graur razvan ionut at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
We're too busy yelling "The sky is falling!" in their faces ... and - unfortunately - in each other's faces as well. We run all over the place trying to get each other to be concerned and passionate over the same things we are, when God has clearly created each of us different from the other. And we burn ourselves out in the process of our search for sameness. 

We wear ourselves down and worry about keeping hold of things He's already bought and paid for. His yoke is easy and His burden is light - but you'd never know it to look at us. 

Maybe, just maybe, He allowed the acorn to fall from the tree, not to alarm us into trying to convince each other that we're right, or to warn us that we're doing something wrong, but so that we'd think to look up to the Giver of all things, realize that He is right here with us and loving us. Maybe we'd figure out that the Son is still shining, and just say "Thank You."

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Moved with Compassion

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how God's intent is to conform us to the image of His Son, and that THIS is the "good" that all things work together for: Romans 8:28 must always be read with verse 29 to understand what that good is! What got me to thinking about that was the valley that a friend of mine is going through, with sudden and serious health problems going on in two different generations in her immediate family. (To read that blog post, click here.)

Friday past, that same friend got a frantic phone call from one of her grown children in a different province. Their sister (her daughter) had taken a bad turn. The message was to the point. "I think you'd better get over here." 

She contacted me right away and told me the news - the way any mom would tell a close friend that kind of news - in tears. My immediate concern was how I could help. She asked for us to look after her cat - I instantly agreed. The hospital was a 3-hour trip away, not cheap due to having to take a ferry to get there. But there was no question in her mind; she was going.

To make a short story even shorter, when she got to the hospital, she heard the news for herself. Her daughter had died while she was traveling to be with her. 

I got a three-word text as I was getting in the elevator at work to go home. "She is gone." 

I felt the earth sink a little beneath my feet. The room that I was in somehow had a hollow, "fish-eye" lens quality, and although there were people in it, they seemed to fade to the background. All that mattered was that my friend was hurting in a way that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

That set into motion a flurry of texts and communications back and forth with both her and the church family, along with vivid flashbacks of the day in October 2013 when I learned my own daughter had died. 

Photo "Sadness Woman In Friend's Arms"
courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
I knew some of what lay in store for my friend now, and the one emotion I felt (and still feel) was compassion. That compassion only deepened as she discovered the following day that her aging mother (96 years old, recovering from a broken hip and hip replacement surgery) was failing badly and unable to return to her home. Basically, she was put in palliative care. It's just a matter of time, and she's not sure how much time her mom has left. Probably not much.

One devastating loss, and another one looming. My heart broke for her.

The word "compassion" literally means "to deeply feel alongside" - one feels another's pain, or sorrow, or joy, alongside (or with), the other person. 

When Jesus was on earth, one of the most common emotional states He experienced was compassion. But in every case, the Bible doesn't just say He felt sorry for people who were hurting. It says that Jesus was "moved with compassion" ... meaning that he did not just feel the emotion; it meant that He did something about it. He was moved. His compassion put Him into motion. He helped. He healed. He met needs. He visited. He comforted. He prayed.

He also said that He did nothing on His own, but only as the Father directed Him. So, operating in the Holy Spirit, He felt that feeling of compassion, and expected God's direction as to what to do, how far to go and when to stop. He got that, and obeyed it.

We have the exact same resource at our disposal as Jesus did, the same Holy Spirit that empowered and led Him to do all those amazing things. As He relied on the Holy Spirit (for leading and for empowerment) we can too. How amazing!! We can depend on the Comforter, the paracletos (Greek: the One called alongside to help - wait - that sounds a little bit like uh, the definition of compassion!) to lead and strengthen us to do His bidding. Every moment, every day, that same energizing power is ours. 

And we can use God's dynamite power, His own person (the Holy Spirit) to reach out to people as He leads. Why would we reach out to people? Well, I have a news flash for you....it's not because we're "supposed" to!!!! It's because He loves us. Period!! Listen to Paul, "The love of Christ compels us..." (2 Cor. 5:14) It's because He loves us, because we've experienced that love for ourselves, that makes us want to be that "hand extended" - not because it's our duty but because we love Him in return for loving us first, and that spills out all over everyone with whom we come in contact. In short, compassion for others (the lost, other believers, whatever) is a natural overflow of His love for us!! 

Which brings me back to my friend. My prayer for her is that she is able to sense and experience that divine, unconditional love for her, and that (even in the midst of her pain) she can spill out some of that love into the lives of the people with whom she comes in contact....that she continually knows that "peace that [sur]passes all understanding" surging through her. 

And not only will I will pray for her and for her family members ... I will make myself and my resources available as God leads me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Through the Grapevine

Today I thought I'd take a well-known passage of Scripture, a passage which has been misinterpreted and warped into a club to keep people in line, and debunk the fear-based myth surrounding it. I am using the NASB which most scholars agree is the closest readable translation of the original Greek. 

John 15 || 1I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

The very first thing that must be clear is that there is a divine order in this analogy. We are branches. We have NO life in ourselves. He is the Vine; He has life in Himself and we have grown out of Him. He has begotten us (birthed us). We are (in this analogy) grape branches. If separated from the Vine, we do not become apple branches. Or weeds. We only become useless. Our life source is Him. We are part of Him.

Second, He says that the vinedresser (gardener, husbandman) is God the Father (remember this for later), and that "every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away." Hmmm. Every branch IN ME, He says, that doesn't bear fruit... so it IS possible to be IN HIM and not "bear fruit." (More about what that fruit is later.) And if that is the case, "He takes it away." God removes people who are born-again and who are not producing any fruit in their lives. The meaning is clear. He moves them to a place where they will abide in Him and bear fruit - or He takes them to Heaven. 

If our lives produce any of His fruit at all, He prunes us (the Greek word - and you can see this because it's used interchangeably - is one of "cleaning.") And He tells the eleven that "you are already cleaned (pruned) by the Word i have spoken to you." (vs 3) The pruning is hardly comfortable. God removes things from our lives that are hampering our growth in Him. He looks after us, and His desire is that we receive life from Him unhindered. Not so He can punish us for our sin (He has already redeemed us from that curse!) Not even so He can keep score of how much fruit we produce, but simply this: because He knows that this kind of life will bring joy to us (vs 11). 

That is abiding. That resting in His life, that utter and total dependence on Him ... that is life, that is living. That's why He said "Abide in Me, and I in you." It's a total intimacy, one that cannot escape the fact that He is the life source and we are His well-beloved offspring, continually dependent on Him. It isn't a conditional statement. It's a love-statement: a mutual resting, a mutual staying. We are one with Him: us in Him,  He in us. We have been forever changed because of having been born into His family through Him rescuing us. 

Here is where the misconceptions start. We read, "Abide in Me ... As the branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me." And we think - foolish humans stuck in religious thinking - that it is up to us to stay connected to Him. We are already connected to Him!! He has given birth to us! We are His!! What Jesus is warning us about is thinking that we have to "stay saved" in order to maintain that life-connection to Him. Nothing could be further from the truth

Here's where the error creeps in: we think that once He saves us, we need to "keep ourselves in Him" so (not wanting to "fall away") we "do" things to ensure that we don't find ourselves in the fire: we pray, we read the Word, we go to church, we tell others about Him (whether that is a co-worker or someone in another land). I'm not saying that those things are wrong in themselves. I AM saying that if we are operating out of fear (a fear of being separated from Him) then we are trying to do these things in our own strength in order to stay in the position that He has bought and paid for us to be in!! Can we not see the futility of this? He has said, in concluding this thought, "...because without Me you can do nothing." (vs 5b) 

Photo "Ripening Grape Clusters On The Vine"
courtesy of satit_srihin at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
We need Him to abide in Him and to produce fruit (vs 5). WE don't do it. HE does through us! Does the branch TRY to produce fruit? Does it TRY to stay in the Vine ... or does it just rest and draw life and strength from the Vine and the fruit just grows naturally, automatically?

Okay so what IS this fruit anyway? When I was a child, I was taught in Sunday School (and later in church) that the fruit was new Christians. "Producing baby believers" was the work I and every believer was called to do. (What about "No one comes to the Father except by Me"? (Jn 14:6) What about "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (Jn 6:44)?) I later came to understand that the fruit that He was talking about here in John 15 was the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus was providing a final teaching for His loved ones. In chapter 14, He tells them He's going away and not to be sad because He was going to come back. In chapter 15, He tells them that remaining connected to Him in the meantime, would help them to lead a fully joyous life (leading to the question, "HOW?") and in chapter 16, He tells them (and by association, us) how: by His Spirit. By HIS SPIRIT. NOT by our own efforts! ("Without Me, you can do nothing."vs 5b)


Think about this: it does absolutely no good to "go into all the world and preach the gospel" (Mk. 16:15) if the Holy Spirit of God does not lead us. It is actually counterproductive. It does HARM to the cause of Christ to speak of His love and His grace if we ourselves have not experienced that love and that grace so much and on such a continual basis that it can't help but overflow into every facet of our lives. If that is not there, nobody will listen to the message. This is precisely what is happening today, when people in our society listen to Christians talk and can't hear the good of what they are saying ... simply because of the rigid lifestyles of the Christians who are speaking the message. Our unloving and ungracious attitudes, our unhappiness, our intolerance, our joyless spirits, our commitment to duty before love, pervades everything we do when we are so busy trying to keep ourselves in the Vine. It's a religion based on fear and duty, not a relationship based on love and gratitude. If we fear excommunication, we are not operating in love - because there is no fear in love.

THIS is what Jesus warned about when He said, "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away ... and withers..." (vs 6) Thinking that we can produce fruit in our own strength is as ludicrous a ventriloquist's dummy (if it could think) thinking that it can move its mouth without the ventriloquist's hand inside, and insisting that it can talk and make people laugh without its owner. It can't be done. Abiding isn't straining and grunting and striving to keep God from casting us out. THAT'S NOT ABIDING. THAT IS SEPARATING OURSELVES FROM THE VINE, trying to do it on our own. We abide in the Vine when we realize that there is absolutely NOTHING we can do to keep ourselves there. We are totally dependent on Him. TOTALLY. Remember He said that GOD is the Vine-dresser - it is God who looks after our spiritual life; all we need do is rest in Him, receive life from Him. The fruit will take care of itself. It just will.

And this is how: The fruit of the Spirit (that fruit that we bear when we abide in Him) is love, first and foremost. The rest of the fruit (joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control) are the different facets or expressions of that love. Pure and simple. Nothing complicated about it.

If you think that isn't enough - that we have to get out there and fulfill the Great Commission - let me tell you that unless and until we abide in Him (i.e., let His life infuse us, empower us, love us with an inexhaustible Love), the fruit of the Spirit will not be showing in our lives. Therefore, all that will manifest to the very ones we are trying to reach is how rules-based, how full of fear we are. They will prefer their own lifestyle to a life lived from a place of fear and duty.  NOBODY will be attracted to that. NOBODY. Not only that, but we will approach mental and spiritual exhaustion, and crash and burn in disillusionment and bitterness. How many people I have heard say (referring to what passes for Christianity in our society), "I tried that, and it didn't work." When I questioned them, I found out that they were desperately trying to do-do-do and didn't understand or experience the grace and love that is the motivation and the strength for all the doing.

Once we depend on Him and draw our life-source from Him, those fruit will automatically appear in our lives. We won't have to work our tails off to keep from falling in the mud or falling off the Vine; we will be happy and free and energized, and people will WANT to know what's different when tumultuous things happen to us and we face them with faith and peace and yes, even joy (recognize the fruit of the Spirit?) in the midst of circumstances that would just make them shut down. 

I can still hear some objections. I can still hear you say, "But what about the burning? doesn't it say that we'll be cast into the fire and burned?" 

Okay, let's look at that. "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and they gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." First, if we interpret "not abiding in Me" the way that I have mentioned above, that means He was talking about those who are trying to live the Christian life in their own strength, trying to follow all the rules so that God will be pleased with them. These are the ones who are [already] cast away, "fallen from grace". (Read the book of Galatians for more information on that, especially chapter 3:1.) But look. Even though they are cast away, "They are 'cast away as a branch'..." Those who are cast away don't stop being branches. NOT ONCE. And then look at who gathers the branches for burning. "THEY." The KJV says, "men." The implication here is that these are people who are not part of the Vine (otherwise they'd be branches.) The world will destroy you and rip you apart IF you are fear-based and rules-based. Your 'great' testimony, your brilliant words will fall to the ground and the ones you want to reach the most will not respond to you, starting with your children. You'll be treated like firewood ... useless twigs fit only for fueling their rejection of the Message. 

Then He makes the most amazing promise. This goes over and above what anyone could expect. "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (v. 7) So, if we let ourselves be loved by Him, if we let ourselves experience the wonder of His grace, we will want to know what He has to say to us because we love Him in return (not because we are commanded to do it, but because He rescued us from certain death!) ... From such a grateful heart, can any request that is out of His will and contrary to His heart be possible? Of COURSE the request will be granted, because we would not ask for something that was selfish after He gave up all that He had and all that He was just to be near us! 

Can we get our hearts and minds around that kind of unconditional love? Can we?

Can we grasp the supreme fulness of His grace, the awesomeness of His care of us, and let Him flow in and through us unhindered by our own efforts, dependent on Him for everything? Can we begin to lay hold of that simple truth that He has done it all? that nothing we can do can make Him love and accept us more than He already has?

I often wonder what would happen, how our world (both inside of us and the world with which we come in contact) would be transformed, if we really could "get that."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

He LOVES me!!

It's an iconic picture of girlhood, standing in a field of flowers with a daisy in one hand, plucking off the petals one by one, saying, "He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, he loves me not...." 

And that same girl, crestfallen (though briefly) when it turns out to be that "he loves me not." Undaunted, though, she picks another daisy and starts all over again. "He loves me, he loves me not..." 

At our breakfast conversation this morning, my husband and I were exploring that picture as a metaphor for what a lot of believers (including ourselves at times, possibly most of the time) think of when things happen in their lives. We base our perception of whether God loves us on the circumstances of our lives.

Let me illustrate. 

I get a new job. "He loves me."

The boss is a jerk. "He loves me not." 

I come home and see a beautiful sunset. "He loves me."

I get home to find that the dog got into the garbage and threw up all over the floor, and I get to clean up garbage AND vomit. "He loves me not. Grrr." 

My child gives me a card she made herself and tells me what a great Mom I am. "He loves me. I feel so blessed!"

That same child irritates the life out of me. Or has set her computer monitor on fire, leaving black smoke hanging in the air. "He loves me not. I'm such a failure." 

And we can treat our spiritual lives with that same sort of insecurity.
 
Photo "Girl With Daisy" by
Clare Bloomfield at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
I pray, and God answers my prayer with an immediate, miraculous YES. "He loves me." 

I pray again, and things get worse - things look hopeless - or someone I pray for dies.  "He loves me not. I must not be trying hard enough. I have to try harder. Maybe I'll give more money to the church." (Word to the wise - any other motivation for giving than love ..... always backfires...)

I give more money to the church, and the car breaks down. (See? now I'm out the money I gave to the church PLUS I have this huge hunking bill...) "He loves me not. What in the world does He want, anyway?" 

I sense His presence in worship, or He heals me of some ailment. "Oh, how He loves me!!" 

Not all that much later, I can't seem to feel His presence, the heavens seem made of brass, and I keep making the same stupid mistakes. "He loves me not. I'm so sinful! How come I keep doing this?" 

Sound familiar? 

I have good news for your heart and for mine. I know you and I have heard this so often that it almost seems to go without saying, but here's the thing. There's hearing and then there's HEARING. Our minds give assent to this thing because we hear it so often, but our hearts have yet to fully grasp what it means, let alone accept it.

Here it is - drum roll - in the first person so that everyone can say it with me: 

HE LOVES ME! HE REALLY, REALLY, LOVES ME!!

Whether I feel Him or not, whether I do things for Him or not, whether good things happen to me or not, whether it's raining or sunny, whether the guy in the next lane cut me off or not, whether the diagnosis is cancer or the common cold ... 

HE LOVES ME! HE REALLY, REALLY LOVES ME!!

He (as my husband put it so eloquently this morning) bankrupted Heaven ... for me. He turned the gates of pearl inside out, gutted Glory, gave everything He had - just to rescue us. Just to rescue me

That's how good He is. That's how much He loves. That's how much He thrills when we talk to Him. That's how much He longs to bless me, how intensely and completely He has already forgiven me and accepts me. 

Period. No guesswork, no wishing it were true, no pulling the petals off daisies. Just lift my eyes to ... two arms spread wide. 

On a cross.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Greater Things

I was reading an email earlier this month and I stumbled over the sentence, "People cannot progress beyond their leaders." 

Huh?

I started seriously thinking about that, pondering it. I think the person meant that students can't learn more than their teachers know (if the only source of learning is the teacher.) 

Even though the person who said it certainly did not mean it in the following way, there is a sense in which that kind of statement limits the power of God. 

Jesus told His disciples that they would do the works that He did, and even greater things, because He was going to His Father. (John 14:12)

He had only been there for three years or so, working miracles left, right, and centre by the power of the Spirit, and He wanted them to know what to expect after He left. Answer: MORE!!

It's been just shy of 2000 years since He did those works, and yes, His followers have healed so many sick, raised so many dead, cleansed so many lepers and cast out so many demons that it would be impossible to count. The works are greater in number, exponentially! 

They've been greater in geography too: now people all over the world have been saved, delivered, healed, cleansed, and given new life, not just in the old Roman Empire but in places the original disciples never even heard of. 

Illustration "Giving To The Poor" by
David Castillo Dominici at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
They've been greater in visibility. Modern technology has made it possible to see thousands of people gathered and dozens, even hundreds at a time having their lives transformed by the power of God. 

Jesus also told His followers that the Holy Spirit would lead them. He'd teach them to remember Jesus' words when they needed to remember them. He'd direct them which people to talk to, and what to say and do when they got there (no matter how small; remember, He's the architect, so a bolt is just as important as a beam...) The Holy Spirit would show them which people would be responsive to the message, and which people needed to have a seed of hope or faith planted. Living life in the Spirit would grant His followers (including US!!) the same access to the power and direction of God that Jesus did when He was here on earth. 

The same power. The same access. The same
Wow!!

This is one reason why, if teachers teach the students how to listen to the Spirit, the students can indeed go beyond what the teacher knows. It's no fault of the teacher and it is no virtue of the student; it is just a function of the Holy Spirit to go beyond what we can imagine.

After all, with Him, all things are possible. 
 (Now where have I heard that before??)

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Valuable Pearl

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
~ ~ Matthew 13:44 NASB

 "All of my life," he explained to me, "I've read that little story in the New Testament and - because of my upbringing - interpreted it to mean that the gospel was the pearl of great price and that I needed to give anything, everything I had to possess it." 

I nodded. "And?"

"As I was reading it over again it dawned on me for the first time ... what it really meant."

I grinned.

His voice grew husky, and his eyes misted over. 

"I am the pearl."  He cleared his throat, blinked hard once, twice. "God gave everything He had to purchase me." He grew silent; his eyes brimming. "I ... I had it all backwards." A tear spilled over and nestled in the hollow beneath his eye. He took his glasses off and wiped the offending water away. 

"You realize what this is, don't you?" I prodded. 

He nodded. "It's the beginning - the very beginning of an answer to my prayer." 

"I remember that prayer. I've been praying the same thing for you."

Photo "Rose And Pearls" courtesy
of Victor Habbick at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
His voice sounded like he was far away. " 'Show me that You love ME, not just me as part of the world, but ME personally.' I prayed. Never dreamed He'd do it."

"I'd call this a pretty good first step." 

He nodded thoughtfully. "I guess so." 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It's personal. God's love is personal!! 

One whispered prayer in the middle of the night, one heart's cry, one sigh, one tear - whatever form it takes - He hears. He loves to answer those kinds of prayers, and He will tailor-make the answer to the person praying the prayer. The harder the challenge, the more broken the heart, the more delight He takes in orchestrating events, timed down to the last detail, to show us how much He loves us in a way that only that individual can understand and receive. He really, truly, intimately loves us. Each of us.

He does. It's why He came - because you are the pearl.

Just ask Him. He'll show you.