Always the Heart

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Isaiah 55:11 ‘so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’

This is a call to Christians. A call to please God, not man. ‘Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.’ A call for you to evaluate where your hearts are at. A call to draw close to the One who made you and called you according to His purposes. A call to really know Him and what He is calling you to. A call to be grounded in the Word. A call to know what is required of you. Micah 6:8 ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’

I feel like I need to write a caveat before I send this blog forth. It is possible I may offend people but before you choose to take an offense up, can I challenge you to ask your heart why? And forgive me please as my intention is not to cause offense. I write about this subject because God is burning it in my heart these days and I feel broken because of it. I write about this because I have been in the middle of these situations all the way back to when I first found Jesus. I have been a part of these situations. Because guess what, people are people. Even if we don’t purposely set out to let the enemy use us, when we don’t know God’s voice, we can become the accusers of our brothers and sisters. One word timely whispered and an offense can be set off. Revelation 12:10

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:pointing-1991215_640

“Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
    who accuses them before our God day and night,
    has been hurled down.”

My heart is burdened because we cannot do His will here on earth well as a fractured body. And we can do so much more together. I mean, He is God and His purposes will be accomplished as the Word says above but will we fall by the wayside and will He have to raise others up to accomplish the purpose He had for you?

How well do you know God? Like really know Him and His Word? Would you say that His heart is for you? Would you say you know you are loved, forgiven, saved, righteous, His child? Would you say that you are following Him and not people?  Are you sold out to His commission for us as believers? Matthew 28:18-20 ‘Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

My heart has been breaking for all of the stories I have been hearing lately about how people are hurt by Christian people and that becomes generalized to the church and then projected on who they think God is. Offence is picked up and if not dealt with this can turn to resentment. If they are Christian, their faith may suffer, reconciliation might never happen,  then they possibly fall away or in some cases plan never to attend church again. In the meantime a fracture happens within the church by the loss of these people and that particular body goes on but with a noticeable limp. I realize sometimes there is a grand purpose in God removing some people from a particular body of believers but it may not always be the case. It may be the enemy working his steal, kill and destroy program through his bait of offense.

I understand when someone is a Christian we naturally give them a higher standard to hit and that should be the case but I think it should be higher, not impossible. This also means if you are a Christian, you also are called to this higher, not impossible standard. It is not impossible with His spirit and strength, it will be in our own strength. They are not God, neither are we, we are all human and we hurt each other, often not on purpose. I also realize that church is not the only platform to display His glory but it needs to be a place where we grow together to be strengthened to go out into the world, in all the places He calls us. The local church is the hope of the world but a fractured one doesn’t always paint a beautiful picture of hope. Please don’t take this to the extreme because I know we are all broken in some way and the beauty of God doing what He does through broken vessels is often what it is about. I am just saying if we are loudly broken without Christ on display in our behaviour, hope doesn’t always shine through. What is your part in the restoration?

So what is getting in the way of your witness? Is it you? Can I gently suggest we get over ourselves? I love how Revelation 12 gives us the answer with verse 11 in the Message translation,

‘They defeated him through the blood of the Lamb
    and the bold word of their witness.
They weren’t in love with themselves;
    they were willing to die for Christ.’ 

Most of all I think God’s heart in all of this is not to equate who He is with who we are as humans. Remember the part, my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways? God said that. He sees us through the filter of what Jesus did, dying on the cross for our sins. Christ’s blood and His love cover a multitude of sins.

As I was praying through this blog, a few things came to mind that may get in the way of us not fulfilling the commission.  Pride, unforgiveness, inability to work through conflict, missing God’s heart, lack of identity, disobedience, blindness from our own wounds. This doesn’t just apply to issues within the church but  within our own hearts. Working through these things is not easy and I think we forget that we have the power of the resurrected Christ within us to help us get through these places.

Joyce Meyer said,‘ The gap between desire and doing is determined by how much pain one is willing to endure to do God’s will.’ . It is always a heart issue. How sold out is yours for our Saviour that you will do whatever it takes to live at peace with others and be obedient to His purposes?  Please read the following out Romans 12 out loud, stop on each verse and challenge your heart to see if you are living these words, if not, repent, ask His forgiveness and move forward knowing He is for you, and Holy Spirit will empower you to live this out. Be blessed brothers and sisters.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’

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The Subtleties of Offense

 “Therefore , if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5 :23,24

It struck me as I finished my last post about unity that this theme was not finished. I started thinking how deeply offenses are hidden in us sometimes and even when we read the verse above in Matthew, that it would not necessarily bring conviction to our hearts if there was some kind of reconciliation or repentance needed. We need to keep a couple of things in mind like sometimes we have old wounds and we are ripe to be offended by something that was not intended as an offense. If the offense taken seems largely disproportionate to what happened, dig a little deeper. Still here we need to choose to walk in forgiveness. Then there are people who have legitimately been offended. We ask if we have a right to be offended and John Bevere said that an offended Christian who won’t forgive, is one who has forgotten what they have been forgiven of. Jesus paid a big price for our sins. We gave up our rights when we chose to walk with God.

Offense – annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles. Yes, it can start as an annoyance and this can easily grow to resentment if your standard or principle is legalistic and an expectation that everyone should think the same way as you. Our lenses of perception are often cloudy.

I will illustrate one subtle way we can become offended through a story about my writing. My husband says that I have a gift for putting things into words especially if it involves emotions. (good thing if I am a writer!) This is difficult for him to do but because it comes easily to me I create an expectation that it is easy for everyone. So if we are having a discussion and he takes time to process and sometimes a day later to discuss, it can be very frustrating for me. I can become offended at the lack of resolution. Now if I hadn’t learned through many discussions that played out this way that he needs this process time and I continued to be offended each time, this could build into something much more serious.

In Matthew 24, Jesus is talking about the signs of the end times and what will become of the majority of people. In verse 10 He says, “At that time, many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other.” Many say that we are in the end times and these things are already happening. When we read this we may think of this in the extreme , say for example a Judas betrayal of Jesus or a hatred movement like Hitler.  In his book The Bait of Satan, John Bevere says that betrayal means we seek our own benefit or protection at the expense of one we have a relationship with. So often this looks like withdrawing from a relationship even slightly instead of dealing with the offense. Add a bunch of these little offenses together and it could lead to hate which Mr. Bevere defines as an absence of love. This could look like the withdrawing and not really engaging in relationship with this person but not outwardly cursing them out. You know the ones that say well I have forgiven them but they want nothing to do with that person and each sighting causes a pain in their guts. He describes an example where somebody was being offensive to him to the point that others even asked if he was alright. He kept brushing it off and one day asked God if he actually was offended to which the response was Yes and he realized he had been too proud to say he was offended.

Jesus said to his disciples:”Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.” Luke 17:1 Herein lies your choice to become better or bitter. Offense will come and sometimes it will really hurt us. A lot of times it sneaks in and bites us in the rear end. Other times it is very obvious to others but our pride blocks us from seeing it. This is why it is Very important for us to spend time with Jesus and ask Him to search our hearts, to be quick to repent and also to have good counsel in the people who you associate with. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 Often God gives perspective to others to help you see things you can’t and to stay accountable in your actions.

As we get to know God’s voice better we will start to recognize the nudges in the subtleties. A frustration will turn us to repentance quickly and to bless the one frustrating us. A boldness will come in a situation that needs confronting. Forgiveness will come quickly in offense. A surfacing wound will get our attention and we will deal with it instead of stuffing it again. Our words will grieve our hearts and we will quickly ask for forgiveness. We will become more adept at taking thoughts captive that aren’t in line with God’s word. So dig in, know His voice and He will change you to become more like Him. Do all you can to keep unity. Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

 

 

 

Overshadowed with Expectancy

cloud I saw this cloud as I traveled from Regina to Saskatoon a few days ago. It stayed in this formation practically the whole trip. An umbilical cord to heaven was my first thought as it seemed to extend beyond my sight. I wondered if God was like us when we as humans  tend to say we need to ‘cut the cord’ with our children and allow them to become more independent. In some ways, yes, our free will may get us in trouble early on but it also allows us to choose to follow the One that created us. At that time we get a new umbilical cord of sorts called the Holy Spirit, that keeps us connected to our heavenly Father and Jesus and helps us to navigate this new life.

Umbilical cord may have been a close association to my baby focus these days but it was still a sweet analogy of how God continues to give us life-giving nutrients. Baby focus = Our daughter recently announced we will be grandparents for the first time, my good friend is about to give birth any day, our lives are surrounded by young families with little ones right now and of course as Christmas approaches I reflect on baby Jesus; the most important baby of all time.  

Luke 1:30-35New International Version (NIV)

30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God.

As I have been reflecting on the miracle of Christmas this year these verses have been especially prominent in my mind and in my readings. I don’t know about the rest of you but the submissiveness of young teenage Mary and how she must have known her God and how an encounter with God completely changes someone, never fails to blow me away. And that is just a piece of this incredible story! The orchestration of all of the parts and lives and circumstances God used to come to earth as a baby and change our future is mind-blowing, if you choose to believe the truth.

I love the term the ‘Power of the Most High will overshadow you’.  Overshadow in Greek is Episkiazo (ep-ee-skee-ad-zo) which means to envelop. It is used in the New Testament 3 times meaning God’s overshadowing presence which always brings His plans to pass. In these verses pertaining to Mary it particularly means that the Holy Spirit will come over her and impregnate her. My devotional said today, “God chose to place Himself inside her womb so that you and I could, one day, carry His presence inside of our lives as well.”

Edwin Louis Cole said ‘Expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles.’ Mary had an expectancy in God, not in what He was doing or how, just simply that He could. Can you choose to believe this Christmas, just simply that He can, that He did all of this for you and He desires to meet you in the darkest, most broken places of your heart. Your pain is not too hard for Him. Pastor Craig Groeschel said, ‘Push through the pain to the point of praise.’ Worship will break into your hurt. He also meets us in our joy and in our peace and through our relationships, He is Love. Let your prayers be that the Holy Spirit will overshadow you and impregnate you with possibility, hope and the anticipation of who God is and who He wants to be for you.

Merry Christmas from my heart and my family to yours. Let the Light of the world shine through you in 2015 and watch the finger of God change the world, one life, one moment, one miracle at a time.