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Archive for October, 2010

The other day, someone told me that I have an awesome prayer life. I had no clue how to respond to that, because I don’t think my prayer life is that awesome. I know how far short I fall of ‘pray without ceasing’. I know how often I avoid talking to Father God, because I’m afraid of what He’ll say. (Which is hogwash! He never says what I feared He would. He always speaks to me lovingly and encouragingly. This is one of the things He and I are working on getting me free from. Thank God!!!)

So, how did I get to this place – where others think I have a great prayer life, even if I don’t think so, and how could they get to where I am (and hopefully farther)?

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First off, a definition: prayer is talking to God. That simple, and that hard. The simple part is talking. Believing He hears you is harder. And shutting up and really hearing what He has to say in reply is harder yet.

But Jesus promised (remember? He’s God and He can’t lie!) that his sheep hear His voice (John 10). So step one is to believe that He hears you.

Step two might be to read Psalms. David is said to be ‘a man after God’s own heart’, and he sure expressed his emotions to God in these songs he wrote. So expressing all your emotions to God seems to be a good thing. Trust me, He knows what you’re thinking and feeling anyway, and it’s not gonna knock Him off the throne. So give Him the respect of being honest with Him.

Step three No, no more steps. Talking to our God does not work by a formula. When you make a new friend, do you follow a formula? No, you follow each other down conversational paths that lead you to know and understand each other better. That’s prayer.

You can start your conversation with Father God by using traditional forms or prayers, but don’t force it to stay there. ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ is a wonderful way to start, but stop and listen in between phrases. He might have something to say back. As you learn to know His voice well, He might even give you certain people or things to pray for. Example: “give us this day our daily bread” might turn into a conversation about the needs of a friend, family member, or yourself. Or even someone you don’t know, but saw at the gas station. Real conversation is like that – it wanders.

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Which brings up an issue lots of people struggle with – distractions. I was taught as a child to pray following a certain form, and to pray for a certain amount of time each day (morning and night). This was torture for me. So much so, that for years and years, I made no attempt to spend time with Him on a daily basis. No matter how hard I tried, I could not bring my mind to focus on God, so I gave up trying.

Then, one day, He showed me how to handle all the mental interruptions – share them with Him. (Duh!) By talking with Him about them, I allowed them to be important (and He often showed me solutions), but then they could be put aside while I talked with Him about His subjects. That’s how you talk to your friends, isn’t it? You each get to share what is on your mind or heart at the time.

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This brings up a major point – the purpose of prayer. I don’t believe you can develop a great prayer life if prayer stays about you. (It’s natural for it to start that way, though.) If it’s all about what you want, what you feel, what you think God should do or give you, then it’s only half a conversation. Unlike us humans, who will walk away from a friend who monopolizes all the conversations, God never deserts His children. But can your relationship with Him develop very much, if you monopolize all your conversations with Him?

The real purpose of prayer, in my opinion, is not to give God a list of my demands/requests. It’s not to tell Him how I think He should run the world. It’s not to whine about how hard my life is. Those can all be part of prayer, though. Look at Psalms again. But if David starts with whining, he doesn’t end with it. Obviously, God’s reply changed David’s attitude.

The purpose of prayer is getting to know Father God, His Son Jesus Christ, and our Comforter and Teacher Holy Spirit. It’s a big part of learning to live in Him, to abide in the Vine. Jesus said in John 17:3 that eternal life is knowing God and Jesus Christ. Sharing your hearts with each other, in lots of long conversations about what matters most to each of you, is the best way to get to know someone. This will naturally include emotions, both ours and God’s, and beliefs and ideas, and random nonsense.

Don’t be afraid to laugh with Him! Cry with Him! Rant to Him! He can handle it all. But listen, too, as He shares His thoughts and feelings. It’s an amazing ride!

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May you learn to hear His voice more clearly, as you allow Him more input into your conversations with Him. And may you get to know Him so well that it is said of you that you are a person after God’s own heart.

. . . there needed neither art nor science for going to GOD, but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him, or for His sake, and to love Him only.” From The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence

P.S. I was going to write a blog post about whether prayer is a discipline or a lifestyle, but it’s really a lifestyle, which can be developed through discipline. Just be careful not to let the discipline stifle the lifestyle! It’s only a foundation. So . . . there’s the whole post in a nutshell.

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Recently, I was reading several books on prayer that were written during the Middle Ages – Madame Guyon, some German mystics – and more modern works, like Calvin and Hannah Whitall Smith (both 19th century) and Watchman Nee (early 20th century). And then I ran across a 21st century work – When God Walked The Earth, by Rick Joiner (amazing book!)

Interestingly, they all had in common the same concept, expressed in different ways: that without Him, we can do nothing. That the essence of the Christian life is becoming totally dependent on God!

I shouldn’t be surprised to read the same idea from many centuries. God’s nature doesn’t change, no matter how much His methods do. And Scripture tells us that His ways are above our ways; that He chose the foolish things to confound the wise; that the Gospel is foolishness to those who don’t believe.

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But I have been a believer for almost 45 years, and I am just now getting to the point where I trust Him enough to be this foolish – to rest in and on Him instead of myself.

Much of that time, I was bound in lies, struggling to even believe God loved me. His revelation of Himself to me as loving Father, Creator, beloved bridegroom, has been a gradual one, based on my ability and willingness to see His truth.

Being raised in church didn’t help. Even though I was taught that we are ‘saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves’, I was just as clearly taught that the rest of my life was up to me; that it was my job to become holy, to do good works for Him, to stop sinning, to pray and read the Bible.

Nowhere in the doctrines of my youth was there anything about the indwelling power of Holy Spirit, about becoming a new creation, about abiding in the Vine. It was all about our responsibility to meet His standards (as expressed in the denomination’s doctrines, of course).

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Sadly, I am not alone in this experience. Even in churches that teach truth, I have often encountered a buried thread of thought that says, “I have a responsibility to do . . . “.

Yet, what I read in the writings of His children down thru the ages concurs with Scripture: the essence of the Christian life is being, not doing. It is abiding in Him (John15:4. which certainly cannot be described as work, although it can be difficult to do), being one in Him (John 17:21, 22).

In his book, Joiner points out that “Self-righteousness is what caused Satan to fall from grace.” “When Lucifer began to think that the light and power that he had came from himself, he turned from God to serve himself. Men who follow in his ways feel the same. This was the first transgression – the first turning away from God.”

Self-righteousness – believing that they had the ability in themselves to do good – is what Jesus repeatedly condemned in the Pharisees! Yet how many of us, His children, still live in it?

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Oh, maybe not consciously – I don’t know many people who will admit that they believe they are working their way to heaven, or to big rewards there. Few of us will admit that we really, at heart, believe that what we do for God is crucially important to Him and His plan for this world. No, we’re too busy portraying humility. And most of us probably really believe we are being humble; believe that we are doing God’s will. (The paradox of this is that what we do really is important to His plan. But only if we do it in Him. If we do it in our own strength or wisdom, it’s wasted.)

Yet, if He asked me (or you) to stay at home – never witness to anyone, teach no more classes or Bible studies, do no more volunteering at church or our favorite charity – to be with Him alone, would we do it? In other words, if He called us away to live only in Him, spending all our time in His Presence, ignoring the demands and needs of others, could we be satisfied with that, or would some part of us chafe at the lack of work to do? Would we be indignant that we were being asked to do something so unimportant?

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And yet, this is the heart of the Gospel – being with Him, not working for Him.

Foolishness, indeed!

How will anyone get saved, then? How will children be fed, the unborn saved from annihilation, the sick healed or at least tended to? How will we fulfill our part, if we just sit around praising Him? (And yet, that’s what heaven was portrayed as when I was a child!)

Please, understand that I am NOT advocating that we stop doing things to reach and help the world! NO!!! Never!!! While God clearly calls us to abide in Him, He also clearly tells us to go.

BUT . . . when we do it by ourselves, we have done nothing (John 15:5). If we are in Him, though, His life flows in us and then through us to others. (That’s the nature of life – it moves. Jesus spoke of a river of life in our bellies/hearts, not a lake.) We need to be in Him, though, so that it’s His life that is flowing, not our own. Then what we do bears fruit that lasts, and we don’t get burned out.

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So this is the foolishness I am learning to live in – not doing anything in my own strength or wisdom or anything else.

Yes, God gave me a really good mind, capable of learning and analyzing and organizing things well. What I have been through in my life has developed great internal strength. I’ve lived long enough, and benefited from other’s words enough, to be fairly wise. And, being a first-born, I’m a natural leader.

Those are traits He can use greatly! And I’m thankful for them. But He must be the one to employ my gifts and abilities, not me. When I do it by myself, I make a mess! And how subtle, how fine the line is, between doing things in Him, and doing them in myself! It’s not okay to get direction from Father God, then head off in my own strength to do what He’s asked. ‘The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.’ We need to take each step in Him, not just the first one.

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Actually, what I’m learning is not so much that He does it, but that we do it. He and I together. To say that ‘He does it’ can imply passivity on my part. Been there, done that, and nothing was accomplished like that, either.

What He is teaching me now is complete dependence on Him, which seems like a return to spiritual babyhood. Yet . . . it is more than that. It’s not blind dependence: it’s a partnership, a union, where we do things together. We agree on the goal (His, not mine), make a plan (also His), and do our individual parts. Yet I am not doing my part alone. He is with me, in me – teaching, helping, encouraging.

Some might find the thought of this extremely repugnant, as if God thought they had no strength or intelligence or wisdom. I don’t know what to say to that. Maybe you need to seek Father God’s face about this. Indeed, you should be seeking Him about everything you read here (or anywhere else).

This foolishness – this being in Him and Him working through me – feels, oddly enough, like what I was born to do. To be with Him. Not under Him, as a servant or slave, but beside Him, like husband and wife. Each with different roles, but moving together toward their goal. Each using their mind, strength, wisdom to fulfill the plan, because each one’s individual talents are needed to make it happen. And doing it all together, not independently.

Is that foolishness?

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May you draw close enough to our Father and His Son to know His heart and mind for you and your relationship with Him.

May Holy Spirit teach you what is needed to abide in Him, to be and do in Him.

May you know the true joy of living in intimate communion with Him, and having His life flow out from you to others.

“In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, we act all. For that is what produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.”

Jonathan Edwards

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I belong to a book group devoted to reading ‘inspirational’ fiction. The September and October books were about the South during the 60’s. (19, not 18). They were good books, but I find the whole genre of social commentary or awareness boring, like soap operas.

The endless discussion and dissection of how fallen we are solves nothing. Even if something good happens to a character, or social change is made, or there is a happy ending, none of the real underlying problems are solved.

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I’ll admit it right now, to start with – I am not black. I really have no notion of the burdens or pain that discrimination causes. The mild discrimination I run into as a woman (think car repair shops) in no way qualifies me to discuss racial issues.

But is race (or gender, or salary, or education, or hair color or whatever) really the issue? I think all those are just excuses people use to do what we all have been doing since Adam and Eve blew it in Eden’s Garden and lost their (and our) position in God.

The bottom line is that we are a fallen, sinful race. Every one of us is born with the feeling, the knowing, that we are not where we belong, that we are not accepted and loved the way we need to be. And every one of us tries to fix this, in some way or another.

Some try to achieve wealth, social status, stardom, or college degrees, in the attempt to make themselves feel worthwhile. If people look up to them, they must be worth loving. If they’ve achieved more than most people, they will have to be accepted.

Others try to make themselves feel worthwhile by making others look bad. Everything from empire building, to genocide, to slavery, to cyber-teasing is caused by someone trying to prove to others, and ultimately themselves, that they are wonderful. By proving that others are not worthy,  they prove that they themselves are deserving of love and acceptance.

And we all try to find that one person who will love and accept us no matter what.

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We can write books from now to the end of history about how one set of humans treats another set. We can make movies or plays to stir up the audiences’ social consciousness. We can even set up charitable foundations to pour money into problem areas. But none of that changes basic human nature.

Until a heart finds its home in Father God’s unconditional love and acceptance, the way it treats others will not change.

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Every great move of God since the birth of the church has brought about social change. Every one! But the change came because people met their God, and knew His love, and felt His heart for a lost and hurting world. Then they changed their society.

It’s time for another move of God, another time of spiritual and moral change. But it needs to come from knowing God – personally, intimately.

* * *

May you meet and know Father God in that way, and may you find your true worth in His eyes, and nothing else.

And from that, may you reach out to extend His love to someone else, to change the social structure of your world.

***

P.S. A really excellent book to read on this subject is ‘Searching For God Knows What’ by Donald Miller. Check it out.



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Not only does Father God want us to know Him in as many of His facets as possible, but He also wants us to know Him in as many of our facets as possible. He wants your mind to know Him, your heart, your emotions, your body. That’s why He provided healing. That’s why we study the Bible. That’s why we spend time in worship. Each of those addresses a different facet, drawing it closer to God.

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The church has long taught that the only part of you that needs, or is even able, to have a relationship with God is your spirit. But if that’s true, why do we have bodies or minds?  This is another of those teachings that is subtly used by our enemy to help us believe that parts of us are  unloveable or unneeded, can be neglected or even abused.

We were created as physical/mental/emotional/spiritual beings. He wants our spirits to know Him, yes, but don’t you think He wants to know and love each part of us?

Why do you think Jesus bore the beating that left His back in ribbons? Scripture says that was for our healing. (Isa. 53:5, I Peter 2:24) So obviously, He wants our bodies to know Him: to know His wholeness, peace and love.

He also wants our minds to know Him. That’s why He gave them to us. Why He wants us to use them. Start with studying scripture, but don’t stop there. Becoming His child does not mean you shut off your brain! The world is so full of amazing things, and every one of them can tell you more about our God, if you pay attention. So don’t be afraid of knowledge, even science. True science, studied without prejudice, will reveal God as creator over and over and over again.

And your emotions – also created by Him. After all, we were created in His image, and the Bible is full of God expressing His emotions. We can’t let them rule us, but when we learn to know Him with our emotions (worship is good for this) then they are healed as well, and we find out how to express them without them controlling us.

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One of the reasons why we don’t ‘get saved’ and immediately go to heaven is probably this one – we need to learn to know Him in all these facets (of us and of Him). That takes time, and yes, we’ll have all eternity to know Him, but some things we apparently learn better when we have to work at them or fight for them. So Father God, in His infinite wisdom, created this whole universe so that we could learn to know Him. He allowed evil to take over, so that we might learn to recognize it, see and experience His goodness by contrast, and thereby learn to know and love Him better.

So as you continue your journey through this life, allow Him to reveal Himself to you in whatever ways and facets He desires. You’ll run out of time long before you run out of facets of yourself or of God.

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May you be blessed with clarity and wisdom regarding which of your facets need to get to know your God. And may you be blessed with His unfailing love reaching out to you in every facet of Himself.

Come in, come in, and know me better, man!” the Spirit of Christmas Present in The Muppet’s Christmas Carol

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Lack is an open mouth . . .

Greedy, wanting . . .

Never satisfied . . .

Never enough!


An insatiable hunger . . .

An unquenchable thirst . . .

Greedy arms reaching out.

Never enough!


No matter how much it gets . . .

How full its throat . . .

How sated its belly . . .

Never enough!


Not enough’, it screams over and over.

And the heart where it resides

Writhes in torment.

Never enough!


Fear and anger and greed

And pain live in there too.

These are its brothers.

Never enough!


User” . . . “Lazy” . . .

Pig” . . . “Thief”. . .

Those around cry out . . .

Why is it never enough for you?”


But none looks beneath . . .

To see the pain, the fear

The heart in chains to

Never enough!


Oh, but God . . .

Loving Father God . . .

He sees . . . He knows . . .

Why never enough!


He comes . . .

He fills . . .

He loves …

And He is enough!


The chains are broken . . .

The lies destroyed . . .

And the heart can rest,

For He is enough.


Oh, beloved . . .

Come and see . . .

Taste and know . . .

He is enough!


Let Him fill you up . . .

Let Him break the chains . . .

Heal the wounds . . .

Let Him be enough!


He is fullness . . .

Satiation …

Love and trust and joy.

He is enough!


He is enough . . .

I say it again . . .

And again and again . . .

He is enough!

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Father God showed me something recently.  Lots of people are talking about the ‘law of prosperity‘, both Christians and not. But if there is a law of prosperity, there must be a corresponding and opposite law.

Which, He showed me, there is – the ‘law of lack’.

This is a law we’ve lived under since the Fall. “There isn’t enough … food/money/time/love” … you fill in the blanks. And it’s a LIE!!! There is enough, and more than enough, of EVERYTHING!

God is, among other things, the Creator of abundance. Nothing He made is skimpy. Insects, though the smallest creatures on the planet, are the most numerous. There are more of them than of all the other life forms put together. Abundance!

How about the sheer variety of creatures on this planet? Or the gazillions of stars in our universe? Just for this one little planet, so us tiny little humans could look up at night and wonder! Abundance!

Now, I’m not saying we should all run out and start wasting time, resources, money, love. We should be wise stewards. But what we are doing right now – hoarding those things, doling them out reluctantly and piecemeal – is an affront to the Creator of abundance. It’s calling Him a liar!

Part of our attitude springs from the realization that some resources are not renewable. So we’ve made changes: don’t clear-cut the whole forest; replant, so the next generation will have some; use water and finite resources responsibly.

Good! We’ve learned to be good stewards.

But we’ve gone too far, if we live like there’s not enough of whatever for us personally.

* * *

Make no mistake! The law you believe in will work in your life. Romans 6:16 says, “to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are”. As long as we believe and live under the law of lack, we will have lack in our lives, and it will rule us! Uck!!! (The New KJV says slaves, instead of servants. Ain’t that the truth! Then there’s the sowing and reaping thing – Gal. 6:8 just took on a whole new meaning!)

Borrowing on credit is living in the law of lack.  Buying used can be, it depends on your attitude. Are you buying used out of fear of not having enough money for something else? Are you settling for less, because you don’t believe you deserve better?

Or are you buying used because there is no need to be as wasteful as most Americans are, or to lose half the value of that new car once you drive it off the lot? (The last can still be a wrong attitude, if you value the value of something more than its usefulness.)

Which brings up another way to live under the law of lack: buying the best, or a certain brand, because that proves your worth, either personally or financially. That’s still lack mentality. It’s trying to compensate for a belief in your lack of personal worth.

This covers so many areas of our lives! Money, yes, big time! But also love, respect, acceptance, even time. Yeah, I know, you can’t turn back the clock, yet on two different occasions in the OT, God did just that!

* * *

So, do I know I have abundance of time, money, love, acceptance, respect, forgiveness? Or do I believe I must ration or fight for these things?

Jesus Himself said (in John 10:10) that He came to give us abundant life!

I repeat, I’m not advocating wasting time or money or love. We need to be responsible. And some of us will be asked by our Father’s call on our lives to do without certain things. (A missionary to the cardboard villages in the town dump somewhere in Mexico probably should not drive a Rolls to get there.) But that should be a voluntary, joyful choice we make out of love for Him and those we are sent to help (II Cor. 9:7). If we live in lack out of fear or unbelief, we are not living the abundant life He died to give us. Rather, we are living under satan’s laws.

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When the children of the kingdom finally get this, look out! There will be no lack in the King’s house, and every plan He has will go forward unimpeded by financial issues! This is the real secret! You can’t talk about the Law Of Prosperity, until people understand that they live under the Law Of Lack.  We can begin to truly live under the law of the Spirit of (abundant) life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:2, John 10:10) only when we stop living under the law of lack.

This is the underlying truth that allows us to live a giving life; to be just like our Father in heaven (see Matt. 5:45).

* * *

May you reject the Law Of Lack, and all its lies and works and wrong beliefs.

May Father God teach you to live in His abundance!

And may He show you how to be a good steward without slipping back into believing in lack.

“When you’re dealing with the infinite, you can never take more than your share.” (quote by somebody named Thubbard, I think.)


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