Childlike

Matthew 11:25-26

25 At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. 26 Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!

IMG_3765While sitting at Holden Beach, NC with some ladies from a ONE Flesh Small Group this weekend, I savored the sound of the crashing waves, the coolness of the wind blowing on my face and the softness of the sand enveloping my feet.

Not content to just sit at the beach, however, I finally got up and followed one of my friends, who was strolling along the waters edge, searching for unique seashells that had made their way to the coastline.

On the final day of our stay, I followed another friend who wanted to go swimming, into the cool Atlantic water. Afraid to completely immerse myself in the ocean because of an emerging head cold, I chose to stay in the shallows so that I could keep my head and shoulders above the water. But, as I continued to watch my friend catch wave after wave and float all the way to the shoreline I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out on something….

There was no fear in her, no worry, no anxiousness of being overcome by the waves. She acted so childlike; overflowing with joy….peace….fullness of life.

As I was relaying these beach adventures to my husband last night, he wisely replied, “kind of symbolic of our relationship with God, huh?”

Yep.

Some of us are so wise and clever:

-content to sit on the beach and just look at God.

-content to walk along the shoreline with His Son to get our feet wet from time to time…. when we want something.

-content to jump into the waves for a swim, but quickly high tail it back to the beach when a massive wave of His Spirit threatens to overcome us.

And some of us are so childlike in our pursuit of God:

-wanting to soak in Our Father’s love

-wanting to be consumed by the presence of His Spirit

-wanting to become more and more like His Son.

Fortunately, there’s hope for us who are wise and clever! God promises to reveal His truth to us….IF we turn from our sins, become like a little child, and obey Him.

Matthew 18:2-4

Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

“All God’s revelations are sealed until they are opened to us by obedience. You will never get them open by philosophy or thinking. Immediately you obey, a flash of light comes. Let God’s truth work in you by soaking in it, not by worrying into it….God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already. Beware of becoming “wise and prudent.’” –Oswald Chambers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Hi-VMxT6fc

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In Secret

Matthew 6:5-6

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

I began praying in the synagogue (sanctuary) long before I ever started praying in my inner room. Back then, I was plagued with the fear of being exposed or criticized when praying with a small group of people, so I remained silent, content to be a voyeur. Prayer is an intensely intimate conversation with the Creator of the Universe and honestly, I wanted to control how deeply I related to Him- and His children.

After years of being encouraged by church leaders, I finally forced myself to devote some time in my very busy schedule to talk to God and read His Word on my own. I’ll admit, that even though I was submitted to these daily disciplines, I didn’t particularly enjoy them. The desire to want to go away in secret not only to talk to God, but also hear Him speak through His spoken and written Word took years to emerge.

“Jesus did not say- dream about thy Father in secret, but pray to thy Father in secret. Prayer is an effort of will….the great battle in private prayers is the overcoming of mental wool-gathering. We have to discipline our minds and concentrate on willful prayer”

-Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

IMG_4389Almost a decade later, I finally created a space in our master bedroom where I could go away, shut the door, lock it (remember, we have 4 children!!!) and pray to my Father in secret. Since then, that inner room has become a refuge, a safe place for me to pour out my anger, grief, joy, fear, gratitude, frustration, and worship to my Savior. Now, when I get up and get started on my very busy schedule without going there, my soul knows it…. and yearns to retreat back.

Prayer is a lifeline to the heart of the Father. Just as Jake Sully, in the movie Avatar had to learn to “connect” to Eywa (their god), we must learn to be still and connect to the one true God in order to know Him. Otherwise, we’ll never be able to love Him, love others, or go make disciples.

Do you have an inner room? When’s the last time you went there, closed the door and prayed to your Father in secret?

Idol in My Hand

Isaiah 44

18 Such stupidity and ignorance!
 Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see.
 Their minds are shut, and they cannot think.

19 The person who made the idol never stops to reflect,
  “Why, it’s just a block of wood!
 I burned half of it for heat
 and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat.
How can the rest of it be a god?
    Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?”

20 The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes.
 He trusts something that can’t help him at all.
Yet he cannot bring himself to ask,
    “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?”

Recently, the Lord asked me to fast social media- again. A week into the elimination of checking news feeds, notifications, friend and follower requests, ministry and blog stats, I realized something extraordinary….joy had returned to the munIMG_4342dane tasks of my life! I had previously assumed I knew God’s reason for the fast, but I now know I was once again leaning on my own understanding….and believing a lie.

The truth, which He illuminated in His Word today exposed an idol that I had been holding in my hand; my cell phone, with its many social networking apps.

Throughout my journey as a disciple of Jesus and leader of other followers, I’ve tried diligently to find my love, worth and acceptance from God alone. Unfortunately, there have been times in which I’ve been deceived into believing the number of followers, likes on our page, “friends,” or comments on my blogs is an indicator of how much I am loved and how “successful” I am in leading others. Without even consciously realizing it, I have been a poor deluded fool. I have feed on ashes, by measuring a block of wood, drawing a pattern on it, carving it into a human figure (Isaiah 44:13) and continuing to worship it.

Jesus wasn’t concerned with being liked by “friends,” networking to obtain more followers, holding larger fish and loaves conferences, or writing #trendy blog posts. His life focus was entirely about loving God & surrendering His will in complete obedience to Him. By doing so, His soul was filled to overflowing with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22-23). You see, Jesus felt loved, worthy and accepted by His Father- regardless of how others adored…or hated Him.

Through no effort of His own, Jesus became a famous preacher, teacher, healer and “friend” of many…..yet He always, always, always diverted His praise to the One in which it was due; the Creator of the Universe, the Creator of man and woman, the Creator of me, the Creator of my “ministry.”

“If it is only because of my preaching that people desire to be better, they will never get anywhere near Jesus Christ. Anything that flatters me in my preaching of the Gospel will end in making me a traitor to Jesus; I prevent the creative power of His Redemption from doing its work.”

-Oswald Chamber, My Utmost for His Highest

Father, thank you for ever so gently exposing the lie of the enemy in my soul. Obliterate my pride. Destroy the idol that I have created. Teach me to look to you alone to fill me. Help me to lay down my life for others– regardless if they adore me or hate me, just as your Son did. Thank you for your grace and forgiveness. Amen

Do What They Say

Hebrews 13:17

17 Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

IMG_4126Last week, our family embarked on our first ever class 1 and 2 white water rafting adventure in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. During the bus ride down to the river, our guides gave us a short (and I do mean SHORT) lesson on paddling in order to navigate safely down the 8 mile stretch of water -and how to avoid going overboard. When we arrived at the waters edge and climbed into the rubber boat, I assumed 1 of the 3 guides would continue with their instruction, instead, they shoved us into the water and we were quickly on our way! Since my husband was the only one out of the six of us who had previously experienced white water rafting, we unanimously elected him captain in order to navigate us down the Lehigh River.

As my fear began to rise, feeling extremely unprepared to venture into uncharted waters, I began paddling like a mad woman- completely ignoring my husband’s directions. As some of our children followed my lead, chaos quickly erupted and we all began struggling against one another- and the rapids. In the midst of pandemonium, however, I heard that still small voice tell me to STOP and obey the voice of my leader….

After I took a deep breath, and began paddling at Doug’s command (and the children followed suit) our boat began floating along, almost effortlessly down the river….and all of us were able to enjoy the ride.

The same struggle to successfully maneuver through the uncharted waters of life often occurs within my marriage and family. I am quick to see the whitewater emerging around the bend and the dangerous rocks that loom beneath the surface of the deep that threaten to overturn us. What I often fail to realize, however, is that my captain (husband) has a different vantage point, and ultimately, he is responsible to God for how he chooses to navigate. My responsibility is simply to trust God and *obey my captains directions as we journey down the river together. As an engaged co-captain, I should be able to relay any potential warnings to my captain, but ultimately, I must learn to let go of my fears and leave the navigating to him. Sure, there will be times when he doesn’t lead wisely, but he’s human- and bound to make a few mistakes. And yes, since we are in the same boat, I may get splashed by the waves, or hit a few boulders, or perhaps even get tossed overboard, but…..if I continue to trust God, and submit my will to His, I will be able to enjoy the ride- despite the raging waters beneath me.

 

*I would not obey my husband’s directions if he was deliberately engaging in sin- or asking me to do the same.

18

 Proverbs 18

Unfriendly people care only about themselves;   they lash out at common sense.

Fools have no interest in understanding;    they only want to air their own opinions.

Doing wrong leads to disgrace,  and scandalous behavior brings contempt.

Wise words are like deep waters;   wisdom flows from the wise like a bubbling brook.

It is not right to acquit the guilty   or deny justice to the innocent.

Fools’ words get them into constant quarrels;    they are asking for a beating.

The mouths of fools are their ruin;    they trap themselves with their lips.

Rumors are dainty morsels   that sink deep into one’s heart.

A lazy person is as bad as    someone who destroys things.

10 The name of the Lord is a strong fortress;   the godly run to him and are safe.

11 The rich think of their wealth as a strong defense;    they imagine it to be a high wall of safety.

12 Haughtiness goes before destruction;    humility precedes honor.

13 Spouting off before listening to the facts   is both shameful and foolish.

14 The human spirit can endure a sick body,    but who can bear a crushed spirit?

15 Intelligent people are always ready to learn.   Their ears are open for knowledge.

16 Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people!

17 The first to speak in court sounds right—  until the cross-examination begins.

18 Flipping a coin can end arguments;    it settles disputes between powerful opponents.

19 An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city.  Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.

20 Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction.

21 The tongue can bring death or life;    those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

22 The man who finds a wife finds a treasure,   and he receives favor from the Lord.

23 The poor plead for mercy;    the rich answer with insults.

24 There are “friends” who destroy each other,   but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Yesterday, on the 18th day of May, Doug and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. IMG_1830Mid morning, as we sat on the back deck, sipping our cups of coffee, Doug read Proverbs 18 aloud. I began to chuckle as I recalled the years we’ve spent together and how Solomon’s words of wisdom so aptly applied to our lives….

During the first five or so years of our marriage, we were both unfriendly people. Our constant quarreling proved we cared only about ourselves. I, for one, aired my opinion much to frequently and my mouth was my ruin on many occasions. I had absolutely NO interest in understanding my husband – or my God.

Through the years we’ve since learned how hard it is to win back one another’s trust and affection after an offense. We’ve realized that wise words, spoken at the right time, can satisfy the soul. We’ve also discovered that God honors humility and it is the key to resolution and restoration in a relationship.

In the two decades we’ve known one another, we’ve experienced joy and grief, happiness and despair, life and death….but the greatest experiences we’ve known are the ones in which we have seen and felt the presence of God. For without Him, there would be no marriage. Without Him, there would be no love. Without Him, there would be no possible way for one man and one woman to become one flesh after living together for 18 years!

Genesis 2:24

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Cleanse Me

Psalm 19:12-14

12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
 Cleanse me from these hidden faults.

13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
    Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
    and innocent of great sin.

14 May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

There’s a common misconception among those who visit our home. Repeatedly we hear “your house is so CLEAN- how do you keep it that way with 4 kids?!” in which I reply “I like to keep things tidy…but if you look close, you’ll see its not really clean!”

When I was a little girl, I passed over the top of the toilet, sink and shower with my sponge just enough to make it LOOK like I had actually cleaned the bathroom. But my mother wasn’t fooled. She frequently had to make me go back and re-do all of it.

Our kids are the same way. They wipe the surface of the fixtures, but they really don’t scrub them in order to clean all the hidden yuck lurking beneath. Perhaps they just don’t see it. Perhaps they’re too lazy to do the work. Or, perhaps they’d rather get their chore done as quickly as possible to do something more FUN!!! It’s probably all of the above. I should know, because I still do the same thing when it comes to cleaning the master bathroom shower. In fact, I’ve even started asking my husband to clean it for us (he’s a much better detailed cleaner than I am anyway….but really, I just don’t wanna do it!!!)

It’s a similar tactic the enemy uses on me time and time again to keep me from seeing the sins lurking in my heart. Sure, I may “confess” my general sins in order to wipe the surface, but often I’m too lazy to ask God for specifics, so that I may sincerely repent. To be completely honest, most of the time I just don’t feel like allowing Him to expose the yuck. It’s much easier to ignore it or blame someone else for the dirt- and try to force them to clean it up.

Let’s face it; cleaning the bathroom takes time, effort and a lot of scrubbing. But, when the hidden yuck is removed and the surface begins to sparkle like diamonds it can finally be used – and enjoyed – for its intended purpose.

If I truly want God to cleanse me I must be willing to invest the time and effort for the Holy Spirit to remove the yuck from my soul….AND I must be willing to crucify my flesh and submit my will to His. Only then will love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control shine like the Son on the surface of my life.

1 John 1:9-10

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the yuck to build back up in the bathroom….so I need to keep the cleaning bucket ready for touch up cleans, as well as the regularly scheduled deep cleans that are required. The same is true for my soul; cleansing isn’t a one-time event- it’s an ongoing, life long process.