Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Tell Them I Love Them"

For years, every time I have been asked to speak somewhere and asked Father what He wanted me to share, the answer has been, "Tell them I love them." I started to argue with Him after awhile because I wanted to share some of my own "insights" into the Word and not concentrate on His love. How arrogant can one person be? I have since learned and am continuing to learn that His love is the most important thing I can share with others and that it is the least thing we normally experience in our journey with Him. He loves you and He loves me with a love that is so much greater, broader and more compelling than anything we can experience in our earthly relationships! His love is completely unconditional and totally delightful! In fact, He delights in us and rejoices over us with singing. It is not about what we do or say or how many times we pray, but it's about us being His children, His sons and daughters. Zephaniah 3:17 states: "The Lord your God is with you...He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." That's the image of a loving father taking care of his children and enjoying them for who they are. As a parent and grandparent, I believe I have been given a glimpse into that type of love in regards to my offspring. I have always taken great delight in my little ones as they have maneuvered through life. I've beamed with pride at each new accomplishment, dried their tears and freely given my love. Sometimes, I just love watching them when they sleep or play because they are so precious to me - they're my kids and grandkids! I love them as unconditionally as humanly possible. A glimpse, but enough of one to give me an ability to trust Father God as my Daddy as I maneuver through life. In loving us as He does, He isn't into our performance for Him but He is into our relationship with Him. Father God isn't keeping score on what we do for Him because He wants nothing more than to cultivate a relationship with us. In fact, our score cards were completly filled by Jesus Christ and Father wants us to turn them in at His redemption center so we will start living our lives knowing we are fully loved by Him. Coming to that place of assurance, we will be able to trust Him for a relationship that supercedes our fears, our guilt and our lack for the sufficiency that is "Christ in us the Hope of Glory". My New Years' resolution this year is to bask in His love for me and to develop a deeper relationship with Him. I'm looking forward to telling others of His love and being able to share His love in every arena of my life. Abba Father is an extraordinary Daddy who delights in us, loves holding us in His arms and providing for our needs. He longs for time with us! Let Him be Daddy Father to you this New Year and, I promise, your life will never be the same! God's blessings on each of you in 2010 - you are loved!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Immanuel, God with us!

The cry is still permeating this season, "Keep Christ in Christmas!". We do need to remember that He is the reason that we celebrate at this time of the year. If we remember and honor Him as that babe in the manger and honor Him and remember Him as the Savior who died during the Easter season, we tend to think we have done our part. Those above mentioned acts are a definite part of the Christian faith and yet, we tend to by-pass God's ultimate plan. Since the Garden when Adam and Eve chose to eat from the wrong tree and to follow their own desires rather than Father's, God's plan was to provide a way for mankind to be able to enjoy a relationship with Him. Not a religious way of life with its rules and regulations, but a relationship with our loving Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All the way back to Isaiah in the Old Testament we are told that a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son. That son would be called Immanuel which means God with us. God with us! God having such sweet fellowhip with us that we know Him, trust Him, talk with Him, listen to Him and love Him. No other God has ever been able to do that and never will! Our God with us - never having to cover ourselves in shame, never having to hide our faces from His glory - but God with us in all His glory leading us ever closer into a deeper relationship with Him! Wow! What love and what a Savior! Now, thats a reason to be excited and desire to honor Him this Christmas! Celebrate His coming as that babe and celebrate and honor His sacrifice at the cross, but get excited about the fact that Emmanuel has come to dwell in us and to reveal His glory through us to the whole world! The world continues to wait and groan for that revelation to come. We need to seek hard after Him and make a relationship with Him our first priority so the world will see Him and get to know Him through us. Now, that is an extraordinary gift we ordinary ones can bless our world with this Christmas! Be blessed, dear ones, with the love and glory of a relationship with Emmanuel this season and throughout the rest of your lives.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What if Mary Had Said "No"!

This most wonderful time of the year gets my thoughts turned to the story of Jesus' birth in the first chapter of Luke in the New Testament. I've always been intrigued by the account of Mary's encounter with the angel, Gabriel. After greeting her as "highly favored of God", she's told that she's been chosen to bear the Son of the Most High God in her womb. As a young virgin engaged to be married to an older man, she knew what a pregnancy without a marriage meant in her culture. She knew that her betrothed could choose to put her away and that she would be ostracized by society among other things. She didn't know that it would mean having her baby in a stable, having to flee with him to Eqypt for his protection, watching him be misunderstood, humiliated and beaten. She certainly didn't understand that it meant she would witness His crucifixion on the cross. What if she had said, "No way, God! Not going to endure that! Not going there!" If she had refused, I believe God would have chosen another young virgin who would have received His call. But, Mary didn't refuse because God knew her heart and knew that she would yield her fears, her dreams and her life to His will instead of hers. She states in Luke 1:38, "May it be to me as you have said". The submission of this ordinary young woman to the plans and purposes of Father God show that she responded in faith to a unique calling. The fact that she was ordinary makes her so extraordinary! When you and I respond to Father God the same way Mary responded, we become extraordinary people. We get to share in the extreme joy of fellowshipping with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we get to be a humble servant, a devoted child, a patient teacher, and we get to share in Christ's sufferings. We become extraordinary not because of who we are, but because of Who He is in us as we submit our will to His. There is no place I would rather be this Christmas than to respond in faith to His plans and purposes for my life with, "May it be to me as you have said!" You are blessed and highly favored, dear ones, and you are loved with an awesome, never ending, extraordinary love! Rejoice!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

True Faith

I've been musing this last week as I've been overcoming the flu bug. I've been musing over the state of the Church in America. I've thought about the times of great growth in the Church's history and how the movement of Christianity has impacted our world. Look how the Church in China, even after many years of isolation and persecution, grew and developed believers willing to live and die for their faith in Jesus Christ. The underground Church did and continues to preach the Good News without the use of Bibles, study guides and video series to enlighten them. They've shared the love of Father God with others under tremendous pressures and consequences and the Church keeps growing. It is vital and alive. It doesn't get to meet two or three times a week to "fellowship" together and yet, it keeps growing. It's been tried in the fire and it keeps growing! We, the Church in America, on the other hand, have all the above mentioned things plus numerous others and we are shrinking and loosing our nation to unrighteousness. We're doing it all, the settings to entice, the music to satisfy and the programs that hit all the "right" elements and we keep shrinking! What has happened to the Church in America? Simply put, I believe we have strayed far away from God's vision of His Church (even with all our Bibles and all the versions) and have been seduced into believing the world's way is better. We look, talk and act like the world all the while professing to love one another as we judge and gossip about our fellow Church followers. That last statement was what I believe the Church has largely become - Church followers instead of Christ followers. We care more about what others think of our outward spiritual face than what Father God thinks of our inner spiritual heart. We've got to start, individually and collectively, getting back to God's directives for His Church and stop trying to do it our way. Most of us are not joined to a part of the Body that is so filled with love for one another in the Church that unbelievers are drawn to Christ. We don't even take good care of our own weak and broken and yet we expect others to see us as we want to be seen. Unfortunately, most unbelievers are more discerning than we expect and end up rejecting what we have to offer. How sad an indictment against us. Take a few moments in your day and muse on the words of A.W. Tozer, one of my favorite authors, from his book, RENEWED DAY BY DAY.
"If true religion consisted in outward practices, then it could be destroyed by laws forbidding those practices. But if the true worshiper is one who worships God in spirit and in truth, how can laws or jails or abuses or deprivations prevent the spiritual man from worshiping? Let a man set his heart only on doing the will of God and he is instantly free! No one can hinder him. It is only when we introduce our own will into our relation to God that we get into trouble. When we weave into the pattern of our lives threads of our own desires we instantly become subject to hindrances from the outside. The essence of spiritual worship is to love supremely, to trust confidently, to pray without ceasing and to seek to be Christlike and holy, doing all the good we can for Christ's sake."

Ramona and Bill - Shining Stars!

Eight years ago tonight, I sat with dear friends who had just learned of the death of their oldest child in a car accident. Their daughter was a beautiful, godly young woman with two teenage daughters and a husband with whom she served in ministry. A young woman at the full-bloom of her womanhood - gone. She was their only daughter and had helped them go on after the death of their oldest son years before in a car accident his senior year of high school. Their only remaining child, a son, had driven over five hours in his own grief to tell his parents of his sister's death. As my husband and I drove to their house that evening I kept asking God, "Why? Why?" My friend asked the same of me as I held her and we wept together. I had no answers and certainly wasn't going to make statements that tried to comfort or assume I knew of a higher plan. So, we just sat on her couch hugging and crying and all I could say over and over was how sorry I was. I didn't know if they could go on, or if they would even want to. It was a mother and father's worst nightmare, times two! If you're a parent you know what I mean. If you're not, you'll understand when you are. Well, my friends have gone on. They didn't stop trusting Father God or His love for them and they didn't stop reaching out to others in need. They are burning brighter for Him today with a sweetness of spirit that has been constant through their deep suffering. I see my two friends as "shining stars" in the Kingdom! I believe the fire they have endured has changed them into spectacular creations that shine His love - His glory is being revealed in them as promised in 1 Peter 4:12-13! What an awesome privilege to call them friends. They are the kind of stars I want as my role models, not Hollywood's version. I bet they are already listed in God's Hall of Fame! They are just ordinary people who have learned they can trust their Extraordinary God no matter what! I love you, friends!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Place of Remembrance

Often in the Old Testament the Isralites were told to build a monument in remembrance of what God had done for them. He instructed them to set it up so they would never forget what He had done. God wants us to have places of remembrance that we revisit to remember His love, His provision, His mercy, His healing, His deliverance, etc. Those places don't have to be built of stone, but built in our hearts and shared with others. I have so many "remembrance monuments" that I have shared over the years with my children and others to acknowledge Father God's work in my life. I remember a year when my husband needed a new pair of dress pants. It was his birthday, I had seven dollars and a determination to find a pair of pants! I asked God to direct me and to provide the pants before I went shopping. I came home many hours later with empty hands! No pants could be found for seven dollars. A friend called a short time later and wanted to bring over some clothes for my husband - clothes that would no longer be needed by another friend who had recently died. I wasn't sure I wanted them since God hadn't met my request earlier and I was sulking over that dilemna. My husband was willing to receive them and as he was going through them later that evening, the last item of clothing in the bag was a pair of dress pants in his exact waist and length, the color he needed, with the price tags still attached! Wow! What a Father! He was providing exactly what my husband needed without my seven bucks. That was really the beginning of my faith walk with my Extraordinary Father that has produced years of remembrance monuments for me and my family. What are some of your remembrance monuments? Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to get them out and to remember what He has done for you! You've got a week to remember and to be so filled up with gratitude that it spills over onto everyone you touch on Thanksgiving Day! Start piling up those rocks on some new ones you might have passed over as well. It will reveal how dearly our Extraordinary God loves His ordinary children!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Building Distinguished Churches

I drive past a new church building on my way to work every day. It has an attractive design and color and appears to have a great deal of square footage. A sign at the site reads, "A Builder of Distinguished Churches". Having the mind I do, I started thinking about what that implies and would I want it. The dictionary defines "distinguished" as being marked by eminence, distinction or excellence; benefitting an eminent person; or dignified in appearance or conduct. I believe there are ways to make the definition fit into the Biblical call of the Church such as the call for excellence in all we do and being distinct in our function. Unfortunately, I see the adjective as being an inadequate representation of the function of the Church. Now, I know, that is not what the actual builders or the church itself is trying to convey - but, this is my mind, again! Is the Church in America too concerned about her "image" and desire for distinction that we spend way too much money and effort on attaining them and few too little time on building a Bride for the Bridegroom? The American Church has become distinguished by being seen as biased, bigoted and unloving places instead of places of refuge, healing and hope for a dying world and a wounded family of God. What does the average church have to offer someone who has been beaten up and knocked around by the world or other believers? I read a quote some time ago that stated, "The Church is the only army that shoots its' wounded." What a horrible indictment and yet, probably pretty accurate. We're told over and over again in scripture that we're to love one another, that without that love we won't see God. Yet, our churches can be some of the loneliest, most unlovable and unforgiving places around. Why would the world want to be like us or accept what we have to offer? Please don't misunderstand me, I am not against the Church in America, I love the Church. I am against the lack of acceptance of other parts of the same Body, the "showmanship" of religious activity and the absence of love for one another. We were told that our love for one another in the Church, would let the world know that we belong to Him and would draw them to Him! I think we've missed it! Rather than seeking to be distinguished for worldly ideals, let's get moving towards becoming distinguished by our love and our following of Christ's call! Oh, my, what one sign can do in the life of this ordinary woman!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Embraced by Father God

I love the way my Father loves me and loves to surprise me! I remember receiving a gift from my parents as a young teenager. We were money-poor and only received gifts at Christmas and birthdays. Upon receiving the gift, I started crying. I asked my parents if I was given the gift because I was dying. I had been dealing with a severe disease and thought the gift would only be given if I was close to death. My parents explained they gave it because they thought I would like it. There was no other reason. Of course, there was another reason - their love! Those kind of surprise gifts are what I have come to expect from my Father! He loves to surprise me and to delight me. It's not normally with "things" but with people and His workings. Yesterday, I saw a friend I hadn't seen in a few years. She has always been an encourager and an intecessor and she was one of God's love gifts yesterday. Leaving a store, I heard my name being called several times. As I found the source of the call, she gestered for me to come over to see her first grandchild. Being a friend and a grandmother, I was quick to comply because I love grandbabies! That baby was used as a connection yesterday for his nana and me. As we stood chatting and catching up on each other's lives, I shared with her some things God is doing in me and she, intercessor that she is, started praying for me right there on the sidewalk in front of the store. Everything she prayed was a confirmation of what my husband and I had prayed together that morning! She had no idea until the "amen" of how she had been used. As I shared with her what God had spoken to us and the requests we had made, we were both rejoicing and praising the Only One who is able to do that! What an extraordinary and loving Daddy we have who loves to pour out His love on us all the time -not just when we're dying! How can we not love Him Who loves us so completely and so personally! Fall in love with Him all over again if your love has grown cold and start enjoying the fresh rain of His love in your life!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Blessed and Highly Favored

I picked up a book at Ross about a month ago because it looked interesting and was a great price. GOD'S TROPHY WOMEN by Jacqueline Jakes, T.D. Jakes' older sister, is certainly interesting and a great value! She relates the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was proclaimed to be blessed and highly favored by God and then had to endure pregnancy at a young age, marry an older man who doubted her word amid a society that was intolerant of sexual impurity! She then heard the accusations against that son and endured His crucifixion, all the while being considered "blessed and highly favored" by God! This book is forcing me to think long and hard about my willingness to be fashioned into a "trophy woman" for God through the circumstances, trials and relationships that He has used and is using to achieve His plan for me. I trust Him to continue to do what needs to be done in me as I follow His leading through the windows and doors of my future. He has used everything in my past to help lead me to this season of my life. He has protected me, healed me, chastised me, enabled me, encouraged me, forgiven me and loved me while maturing me into a woman whose foremost passion is to glorify Him in my life! That is the measure of a "trophy woman" of God and I am stepping forward, on His red carpet, to receive my place in His Kingdom script! It is truly a wild ride and a calm walk - it's my life and it's good!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Significant to Our Father

"Dear God, I want to be prophesied over!" "I've never had a prophetic word spoken over me and I want one." "I'm over here, Prophet! Please don't overlook me again, God, because I need to hear from you!"

Sound familiar? Perhaps you've had some similar thoughts at services where prophetic words are spoken. I know I have, more than once. We are all looking for validation and recognition. We don't want to be seen as insignificant in our world. All of us have had times when other people have made us feel insignificant, when even our credentials, if we have any, don't seem to help. Other times we may feel insignificant because we don't think we've done anything important. We think just a little recognition from God through one of His prophets, especially in front of others so they'll hear how special we are, will solve our problems. WRONG!

Problems occur when we allow our significance to be determined by what we've done or by what others think of us. No matter what we've done there will always be people who don't value us. But the God who made us, knows us, and loves us deeply and completely! We fare much better when we derive our sense of worth from Him because that is how we were originally designed to function. Father God is always ready to accept us, regardless of our emotional state of failure. We have to pour our hearts out to Him. He is always ready to listen, dry our tears and encourage us with His love. He won't ever make us feel insignificant or without value for it is He that formed us in our mother's womb. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image! That is a great starting point to experience the unconditional, fulfilling and significant love of our extraordinary God!

Love Covers Like Vaseline

The Greek word for cover in Scripture, "kalupto" means to veil and to conceal. When something is veiled, it obscures a clear view but doesn't hide. It obscures imperfections instead of flaunting and magnifying them. The film industry used to apply Vaseline to the camera's lens in order to obscure the lines and imperfections that age and use had left on the actors' faces. It gave a much softer and more youthful look to their features. Today they have special lenses that do the same thing without the grease. Instead of magnifying and exposing the real or imagined sin of others, we need to be exposing the love of God that covers and leads to repentance and salvation. I Peter 4:8 states: "Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others]." This is a message for the Church. We're not to forget what Christ has done for us in covering our sin and setting us free from its bondage. When we remember what He has done, we are more willing to be a veil and covering for our family, friends and the Church - not blind, but compassionate, not hidden, but forgiven! "Clothe yourselves therefore, as God's own chosen ones (His own picked representatives) who are purified and holy and well-beloved by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways and patience which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes with good temper. Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a grievance or complaint against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has freely forgiven you, so must you forgive. And above all these put on love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony." (Colossians 3:12-14, Amp.) Let's start clothing ourselves in this manner for our extraordinary God while making sure we have a big jar of vaseline!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Almond Tree

The first chapter of Jeremiah is one of my favorites in the Old Testament. I was reading the chapter recently and in verse 11, Jeremiah is asked what he sees. He answers that he sees the branch of an almond tree. The Lord replies that Jeremiah has seen well, for He is ready to perform His word. My curiosity piqued, I looked up some information about the almond tree. What I found excited me! The almond tree blossoms & gets ready to set its fruit in late winter, not when expected! It gave me great encouragement to realize that, like the almond tree, God is ready to perform His word in our lives no matter what season of life we've entered into. He's ready and this ordinary woman is ready, too!