Power

Have you ever felt powerless? I know I have – many times. Just think of the last time you had the flu! Wouldn’t you have given anything to have it stop? Power is important. We need it. Rely on it. You wouldn’t buy a toaster or a vacuum that doesn’t work. Nor would you buy a car that only moved if you pushed it. We only want these things if they have power.

What about church/religion/God? The world offers so many options to those seeking. You can find a church to suit any interest or genre. So what makes Christianity so special? Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians wrote, “for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance” (1:5). Christianity is not a religion that is made up of nice thoughts and empty words. God has power – and He will use it! Just as Elijah went altar to altar with the prophets of Baal and God showed up with undeniable power; just as Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified so that He could prove He was God by rising from the dead three days later; God still wants to move with power today. Can we say of our church or our own ministry that “our gospel [is not] in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit?” (1 Thess 1:5). I am not sure we can, or at least not consistently – but why would that be? God has the power available to us and He clearly desires to use it.

So why is our gospel so powerless? One of the questions that I have had the evil one plague me with at my lowest times is, “what has God done for you lately?” Outside of, well I am still breathing… sometimes, it can be hard to think of an answer. Has God lost His mojo? Am I just not important to Him anymore? No, that is not it. God’s word tells us: if we ask, it will be given (Matt 7:7); whatever we ask in [Jesus] name will be done (John 14:13); and we do not have, because we do not ask (or we ask amiss) (James 4:2-3). I am not asking. We as a corporate church are not asking. We need to be asking – begging – for God’s power and Holy Spirit to be present!

People want things that work. That have power. If our church or ministry has power, they will come. They will want it. They will want God! God’s power does not end when He saves us. He has so much more to do! It is time to humble ourselves before the Living God and sincerely ask for His will to be done, for His Spirit to anoint, and for His hand to move!

I know I need Him. Our church needs Him. Our city needs Him. Let’s open the door and invite Him in….

Filling

I remember being in the arms of my husband and enjoying his presence with me. The closeness I felt is immense, but the yearning for a deeper closeness remained. I would squeeze into him a little tighter. I would say, “I need to be closer. I wish I could be so close it would be like you would be inside of me.” Unfortunately, he cannot fill me. The deepest place within that is aching to be filled can only be filled by the Spirit of God Himself. That place has been there all along, whether I was looking for Him or not. The emptiness was there and there is nothing else that can fill it. The closeness that is required to fill that place is how intimately God wants to know us and be known by us. He is not a God that is far off. He is personal. And He has been waiting for the invitation to fill that place within me that aches to be loved and surrendered to One that I can completely trust and be free with. Come Spirit, fill me!

Warnings

I have been finding with my posts that God speaks to me on a certain subject. But then I hear the same message from the pulpit and on the radio station. While this could be confirmation of the message He is giving me, it seems that God is speaking to the church at large on the same theme. And these themes have been about us being dead without Him (The Vine and The Branches) and the necessity of the corporate church to make Him Lord (Is He Lord?). I am currently reading Desperate for His Presence by Rhonda Hughey, who reminds us that God warns His church before He removes His presence and sends them into captivity. Could these be warnings to us? Does God really need to send us into “captivity” before we see our need for Him and drop to our knees? Are we so numbed to the lack of His presence with us that seeing we do not see and hearing we do not hear (Ezekiel 12:2)? Do we not feel the movement of the Spirit so heavy on us to set our priorities in order? Is there not a sense of urgency? We must wake up from our slumber and petition God for His mercy and forgiveness for our idolatry. We must come together as a body with one voice crying out to God to not leave us to suffer the consequences of our own actions. We must move from passivity to desperation! We must not wait! Who will join me at the altar?

Is He Lord?

I like hockey. I might even call myself a fan. But of what team is dependent on who I am beside. When I was a kid, my older brother was a Montreal Canadiens fan, so I cheered for them. My first husband liked Buffalo, so I cheered for them, and my current husband is a fan of Boston, so I am as well. I don’t pay much attention during the regular season, but during the playoffs I might catch a part of a period here and there. If it is the final game, I could be found watching the whole game and passionately cheering for “my” team. And if they were to actually win, I would consider myself vindicated for having placed my “faith” in this team. I would expect to get the acknowledgement from the nay-sayers that I made the right choice.

I was reading Philippians this week and came across some familiar verses: “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:10-11). Whenever I read these verses it seems like the same scene as when my team wins the Stanley Cup. I can picture myself standing there, hands on my hips, smug look on my face, while the whole world bows and I am vindicated for having placed my faith in “team Jesus” as the winner. This week however, while I was imagining the scene, I felt the Lord watching me, asking, why aren’t you bowing?

Ouch! Here I am, standing with Jesus, as if it is me that deserves the accolades, when in fact, I should have been on my knees all along! Even Jesus, who is God, “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:8). Jesus humbled Himself, do I? Is He really Lord of my life? Or do I only hop on “team Jesus” when we reach the playoffs? In my everyday life, am I making Him Lord? Do I humble myself before Him? While I am facing a large chimney replacement bill, am I pouring over my finances, or hitting my knees? When dealing with illness or stress, am I popping a pill, or hitting my knees first? When I am deciding on a major purchase, am I consulting with my friends, or Jesus? I would have to admit that in a lot of ways I am lord of my life. I don’t submit to Him in many of these areas.

Then I started to wonder if I even know how to truly worship. I mean in our culture, there really is no example of worshipping something. We don’t have a royal family to bow to or a statue that we consider it necessary to pay homage to. I am not sure how to submit myself under Jesus, to worship Him as Lord. Saviour, yes! That is not a problem! I can and will be grateful forever, but as Lord?

There is a description in a book I read (unfortunately I cannot remember which one), that asks you to imagine Jesus having gone out to fight for your city/country and returning victorious over your enemies. Here he comes, triumphantly entering the city, bloodied and bruised, but victorious. The city gathers around to welcome Him back. Here I might be able to see myself bowing in worship of the King. I seem to be able to worship in the spiritual realm. I sing praise songs and acknowledge Him as God. But in all other aspects of my life, is He Lord, or am I? There is a whole part of my life that remains in need of saving because I have yet to submit it to the Lord.

Those verses I quoted at the beginning were not written in the future tense. They are in the present. They are written to me and the church. That submission begins with me, with us. Jesus said in John 12:32: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” Who am I to not exalt Jesus? I cannot save people. And my witness will be completely ineffective if I am not making Him Lord of my life.

I quoted Phil 2:8 earlier that describes Christ’s humility that led Him to the cross. The next verse says, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,” This is then followed by verses 10-11 that I quoted earlier. But perhaps they are better read like this: that at the name of Jesus I should bow and my tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. There is no final game of the playoffs to wait for before I show my devotion. My worship of My Lord must begin now. If I get out of the way and exalt Him, how many people around me will see Him and be drawn to the Saviour?

Simplicity

The qualities of God are manifest in His creation. The hope that is in a sunrise. The grandeur of the ocean. The miraculous power in the birth of a child. The message of God is simple. I love you. The Old Testament’s simple purpose is to show us that we need Him. And the New reveals the depths of His love for us in the death of Christ. It is simple. God loves us. He wants us to know that. He wants us to know the depth and breadth and height of His love for us. This is beyond our understanding. Just as the sunrise is beyond the capacity of our mind to take in, as is the magnitude of the ocean and the sky, and the miracle of children. We, because of our inadequate capacity to comprehend, try to break it down to elements that we can understand – we make it complicated. We pollute the simplicity of God’s love. There is no word after the period in the sentence: God loves you. There is no, if, when, but, or only. There is a period. We need to abandon the layers that we add, and embrace the magnitude and simplicity of the fact that God loves us. And our only duty is to communicate that love to others. Nothing more, nothing less. No complications. No conditions. Just love. We need to get back to the simplicity of who God is, and that He loves us. To understand the oceans of love that He has for us. Forget about the sunblock and chairs and snacks, and just see what He has before us.

Darkness and Light

Darkness. In a room without light the darkness is palpable. We immediately become fearful, panicked, disoriented. Our first instinct is to reach for something solid. Something we can hold on to. If it is not within arms’ reach, we may take a few stumbling steps seeking it as a buoy in a storm, but if it cannot be found, we will opt for the floor. At least it is solid. We will secure ourselves to anything that provides the comfort of being a firm support. This spot will be our anchor, our refuge. We will not stray from it and we will learn to process the world around us only from the vantage point of this spot. There is no progress, no path, no purpose other than to just hold on. But what if this “buoy” is a pile of broken glass? We cut our hands the first time we found it. But in lieu of any other reference point, we will come back. We will learn to embrace the shards.  As time goes by, we get used to the cuts and start to even lay down in the pile of broken pieces. We stop feeling the pain. This is our fate, our destiny. We tell ourselves that it feels good and we continue in our self-destruction.

The book of Ephesians describes the walk of the Gentiles: “… [they] walk in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them… who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to licentiousness… (4:17-19). We remember those days, right? When we said, “in for a penny….” And,” well, I’ve already messed up my diet, I might as well finish the cake…” Or, “no one will know…” The question is, was that before we came to Christ, or just yesterday? 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We have been called out of the darkness.

In a dark room any light is visible, no matter how dim. And the light is a beacon. It immediately provides direction, orientation, purpose, and hope. It draws everything and everyone that can see it. We have been called out of the darkness into the light. We are instructed to “walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8). We meet on Sundays and enjoy fellowshipping with the Lord and other believers in the light, but how often do we put a cover over our light on Monday and go back to our dark room and locate our pile of glass again? How many of those habits have we drug from our old life into our new one because it is “just who we are”? How many times have we been asked if we believe in God, and in order to answer yes to that question, we have needed to have an immediate personality change? 1John 1:5-7 says: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth, but if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin”.

Satan likes to have us believe, that although we may have Christ, we haven’t changed. We are still the same old person, with the same bad habits and hang ups. He does not want us to walk into that dark room as a light. Even a dim one. Because any light will free all the others that are in the room with us. But we know that we are a “new creation” (1 Cor 5:17). We need to believe what God tells us. We are changed. We are not a slave to the old habits. They do not have any hold over us any longer. Galatians 5:1 challenges us: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” We are free. We are light. We need to shake off the old man that keeps trying to smother our light and walk into our week shining – a beacon for all to see.

The Vine and The Branches

Jesus told us, “I am the vine and you are the branches” (John 15:5). The vine is attached to the root – the source of life. The branches receive their supply from the vine. Christ is our source of life and we are the branches. We need Him to live. Often we are deceived into believing that we can live, albeit ineffectively, apart from Christ. This is a great lie of the devil. Apart from the vine, the branches wither and die. They cannot find the basic essentials for life separated from it. We are either getting our life from Christ and growing in Him or we are dying. There is no life apart from Him. Those days that we feel dry or not close to the Lord, the days that we choose to unplug and move through the day without Him, we are not simply unblessed, we are starving – dying. Once we choose to reconnect to the vine, the damage of the days apart must be healed. There is no immediate growth. Rehydrating and re-nourishing must happen first. Too many cycles like this and we become weak and unable to bear fruit at all. We need to be fed every day. Connected every day. Growing every day. The quality of the fruit we produce is proportional to the quality of our connection to the vine. Christ has unlimited resources for us, we need only to remain connected. Receiving. Growing. We are made to enjoy an abundant life and to produce a bountiful crop. Will we choose death instead?

Anger

I have been angry a lot lately. When I heard that someone was saying not nice things about me at work, I got angry. When I felt that my husband was not appreciating my efforts, I got angry. When I took the kids to the mall and had to drive through the parking lot – I got angry! God has been speaking to me a lot lately about my anger: Where does it come from? Why does it happen? What does it say about me and my example?

It seems to be a natural human reaction to defend ourselves when we feel attacked. It was an issue that we find addressed throughout the New Testament. In many scriptures we are told to not get angry: Ephesians 4: 29, 31-32: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you; Galatians 6:7-9: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh (from Gal 5: 20:… hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions…) will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit (5:22-23a:… love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…) will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

But there is more than that. We are told to love our enemies: Matt 5:44: But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you; Romans 12:14: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse; Romans 12:21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

But really? I mean, these people are maligning my character… shouldn’t I defend myself? Don’t I have to stand up for myself? If I don’t, who will? And there is the question… Who will? God says, He will: Ps 91:14-15: Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him; 2 Thess 3:3: But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one; Romans 12: 17-19: Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place for wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Then it comes back to the ultimate question again… do I trust Him? I have trusted Him with my salvation, I have trusted Him with my health, my family, and my finances. But can I trust Him to protect me? Can I not let Him into this area of my life and allow Him to really be my refuge, my fortress and my strength? God is asking me to trust Him. He alone has the power to protect me and shape the course of events so that I not only survive, but can impact my enemies for Him. Many scriptures tell us that we were designed to do good works and to be a good example of a Christian (Col 1:10,Col 3:17,2 Tim 2:15,Matt 5:16, 2 Cor 9:6-8,Eph 2:10,Eph 4:1). 2 Timothy 1:7 tell us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”. God has given us a spirit of love that He means for us to use. We are all familiar with the “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13: 1-8a) Those first few verses let me know that no matter how many devotionals I write, or food I donate to the food bank, or mission trips I go on, if love does not mark my life and permeate everything I do, then all of my efforts are worth nothing. If I do not communicate that God loves you when I am with you, what good are all the things I do or say when I am not with you? There is no other message that needs to reach those around me. Only that God so desperately loves them that He died for them. God sees all of them. If there was something to be hateful about, He would be the one to be justified in that. Not me. How are they any worse than I when I am not being loving to them? Verses 4-8a tell me what love looks like: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” I have not been loving. I don’t know if I have the strength to be. But thankfully, God gives me that (Phil 4: 13, Phil 4:19).

He reminded me of my favorite verses: Romans 8:38-39: For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He loves me. He’s got me. He will not leave me. I can trust Him. And I need to let these people see His love too. As I watched a girl coming into work this morning who doesn’t like me much, when normally I would have thought something not very nice when I saw her, today I thought, how different would she be if she knew that Jesus loved her? I am here for such a time as this.

The cross and the grave

The cross has always been a mystery to me. When I was younger I would hold the emblems during communion and pray that God would help me understand – that He would make it personal for me. I could understand that if I were Mary that she would be tremendously grieved at the loss of her son. If I were a disciple, I would be lost. But Jesus was not my family, or my teacher. Who is He to me? I have tried really hard to place myself back there, but I can’t. Because I don’t need to be back there. This is 2015. I need the cross here. What I know is that these nails have my name on them, and this blood that has been spilled should have been mine. We may not use crucifixion anymore, but the fact remains… the penalty was mine to pay. But Jesus, who I didn’t love or follow, out of an enormous heart of love for me, paid my debt so that I might live. This cross is not a symbol of death to me. It is a symbol of life! But more than that, it is a door to a new life – a life where I am able to connect directly to God and enjoy all of the blessing that comes from that connection. Jesus was not my son or my teacher, but He became my Saviour, Redeemer, and Friend. He is my source of life and love to whom I will forever the grateful!

Trust. It is one of our fundamental struggles. The disciples were struggling. Jesus was in the tomb. It appeared as though evil had won. The bad guys were rejoicing. They were mocking them. The world was convinced that Jesus was nothing more than a man who could not even save Himself. Satan was whispering in their ears… “It was a good run, but it’s over… He wasn’t really God… You should be embarrassed – putting all your hope in Him!” They would begin to doubt. Even though Jesus told them what would happen, they didn’t really believe it. This was not how they thought things would end. Were they wrong to believe at all?

Aren’t we the same? When things do not go the way we expect we start to doubt God. Or blame Him. And then we hear that same voice whispering doubt in our ears and mocking us. Evil is winning and the world is against us. Satan hasn’t changed these 2000 years.The same lies and doubt he whispered to them, he whispers to us. We haven’t changed. The same fears and self doubt that the disciples experienced, we experience too.

But God wasn’t done. In the next few days He would move with such great power that the world would never be the same. And today, we need to remember – God hasn’t changed either!

Love

Love. It is an immeasurable entity. Scientifically difficult to prove. But its existence is undeniable. Love is free flowing, able to fill any space. Limitless. We are not able to box it up, but we can limit it, withdraw it, deny it. We can withhold it from those that need it. It was never meant to be held back, or refused entrance to any area or any person. How often do we though? How easy is it to use love as a punishment where we can withdraw it in an effort to hurt. And it does. Who are we to deny the passage of love through us and all around us? The Scriptures tell us that God is love. God is immeasurable. God is meant to be present in the lives and hearts and experiences of all people. But how often do we limit Him? Withhold Him from others? Deny Him His place? God, love, is yearning to have free access to all who need Him. He will heal, fill, comfort and lead any who welcome His presence. How much of a roll do we play in His ability to reach people? Are we open windows through which His love can flow or bolted doors that deny His access to others?