Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, love, peace, prayer, retreat, righteousness, sorrow, Spiritual, tears, trials, Uncategorized

There are victories to be won

 

heart of hands

Where do I begin? The events of the last two weeks have rocked our world again. Emotions have driven hasty words, hurtful words, divisive words, all in a desperate attempt to cast blame because surely if we can point a finger at the culprits we will feel better. We will feel as if we have affected change. But is that the kind of change we really want? To step into the battle blindly believing that anger will stop anger, hate will stop hate?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

 We have been called to a maturity that requires we lay down our opinions and surrender our emotions to the One Who has called us to greater love. Loving our enemies wasn’t a suggestion. It was an expectation that if we call ourselves His children this would be how we show it to be true. This would be the only way we turn the hearts of our enemies – overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

“But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:43, 48

The emotions are raw and intense and conflicting and disturbing. Anger and frustration and sorrow and grief. And fear. FEAR. All whirling so violently in our souls that it seems they cannot, should not be contained. To feel so passionately about injustice surely must be the indication that we speak, no, SHOUT our views and if we shout loudly enough surely we will feel better. Surely someone will listen. Surely the madness will stop. Surely once released our souls will be quieted.

But this is the moment we must stop and turn the fierceness of those emotions into passionate prayer. We must retreat into the secret place wanting only what HE wants, saying only what HE says, doing ONLY what He says to do for everything else will be wood, hay, and stubble. It will not endure. It will not affect real change. It will not win the lost. And that remains our mission – to be led by His Spirit to be His heart, His hands, and His feet that take His love to EVERYONE.

He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty – Whose power no foe can withstand.  Psalm 91:1

Does it mean we don’t have good conversations in order to find understanding and work toward unity? Absolutely not! But good conversations rarely begin with verbal assaults or fingers pointed in blame. 

Should we protest? Should we post on social media? Should we bare our heartbreak through videos? Should we sit silent? These are questions that can only be answered in each and every Christian’s secret place with God. Will He lead us all to do the same thing? No. We each have a role to play in representing Him to the world and once committed to the pursuit of our individual purposes we can no longer play the comparison game amongst ourselves. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is where we find the peace Jesus died to give us and nothing can take it away. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is the first of the victories to be won.

We must stand for those oppressed. ALL who are oppressed. We do not choose sides. We do not take it upon ourselves to deem one worthy of His love and mercy and another condemned without hope. That is not our call. Our call is to obey. Whatever He says. No matter what anyone else thinks or says.

But the LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.  Psalm 9:7-10 

As I pray for the angry and the violent, the grieving and the lost, and for His children to be His shelter for these the oppressed, I pray for you “Peace”. Not as the world gives but as Jesus gives. For we simply cannot give away what we do not have.

There are victories to be won” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photo by Just Wild About Teaching

 

Bible, Christian, church, coffee, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, Jesus, love, righteousness, Spiritual, Uncategorized

But it FEELS like…

Screenshot_2016-01-27-11-19-03

In the sequence of our morning activities my husband is usually the first out of bed and downstairs to turn on the coffee.  While he waits for it to brew he also turns on the morning news.  Whether I follow in a few minutes or stay snuggled in the bed for another hour, whenever I get downstairs the television is tuned to the news.  This morning as I poured my own cup the weather forecast was being shown.  A cold front has blown through and the presenter of this ever-changing information was as excited about the dropping digits as if it were something never before experienced.  Now, granted, near-30 degree temps in our neck of the woods doesn’t happen that often, but there will be no snow or ice today and her enthusiasm was a little much for those of us struggling to be enthused about anything more than that first cup of coffee.  I listened for only a few minutes before changing the channel in hopes there would be something less irritating that would aid in the process of becoming fully awake.

However, as I went through my own rituals of morning, her overly enthusiastic words “But it FEELS like…” stuck in my mind.  Her stating of the actual temperature was each time exuberantly followed by the Real Feel temperature.   At one point I asked myself “Real Feel?  Says who??” and thus began my little search:

The AccuWeather.com RealFeel® Temperature was created in the 1990s… The RealFeel Temperature is an equation that takes into account many different factors to determine how the temperature actually feels outside. It is the first temperature to take into account multiple factors to determine how hot and cold feels… Some of the components that are used in the equation are humidity, cloud cover, winds, sun intensity and angle of the sun… The equation also takes into consideration how people perceive the weather…this can be debated, since not everyone perceives weather the same way, but the equation uses the average person’s perception of weather and adds that into the RealFeel equation.   http://www.accuweather.com

As God so often does, He tied that little phrase to the thing that I’ve been mulling over for the past couple of weeks:  Christian guilt.  My last post prompted some enlightening responses from a few readers. They were each thankful that I shared my little story and their responses included:  totally resonates with me… really needed to hear this…thank you for the encouragement in freeing me to REST without GUILT…   We just slow down a bit from our ever busy schedules which include church and prayer and giving and service because we love God…and we take a nap or read a book…but it feels like we should be doing something else, it feels like it’s wrong somehow…

What I write of today is not the bold and glaring guilt that shows up when we blatantly sin – I mean, we’re supposed to experience that guilt, right?  (We’ll get to that momentarily…)  No, this is the shadowy guilt that quietly whispers words that are more frightening to us than the loud scream of sin guilt.  This persistent companion is relentless in its finger-pointing, occasionally directed outward but most often toward the mirror.  We chase it away with our offers of worship and our acts of service.  Until we are alone. It is then we discover that it never really left, we had simply drowned its voice with the loudness of our own.  And with the realization that it didn’t leave during our offers of worship and our acts of service we accept its heavier-than-ever existence.  If this guilt had a name it would simply be Not Enough.

Your prayer was not enough.

Your offering was not enough.

Your worship was not enough.

Your service was not enough.

Your study was not enough.

Your faith is not enough.

You are not enough.

When was the last time you prayed or gave or served or studied or simply sat in the presence of the Lord that you did not walk away thinking you should have done more?  This guilt of not enough is at the core of why we can’t truly rest and we don’t allow ourselves to just “be”.  And it grieves the heart of our Father.

…God shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Therefore, since we are now justified – acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God – by Christ’s blood, how much more certain is it that we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God.  Romans 5:8-9

Jesus took our guilt.  He took it so that we would not have to.  All of it.  Once and for all.  Never needing to do it again.  It was enough.  We have been acquitted – found not guilty – and to seal the deal He gave us His Spirit to:  teach us all things, help us remember what He said, guide us into truth, empower us to be His witnesses, to be our Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby.

Never once does the scripture say that the Holy Spirit will find us guilty.  He gently exposes our sin and compels us to repent – to change our minds.  This is an act of love not anger!!  So…why do we feel guilty?  Because we have not fully believed that we have been made completely acceptable to God.  Right now.  Just as we are.  With fresh wounds and old scars, with things that we’ve already done and things still to do, with our failures and our successes, our weaknesses and our strengths, our humanity and our new nature.

One of the definitions of guilt is:  feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy

Imagined offenses.  We imagine that God is offended by all our “not enoughs” and that we are guilty.  These imagined offenses are like the RealFeel temperature (you thought I’d totally lost that train of thought, didn’t you?).  The real temperature, the actual comparative measure of hot and cold, is a fact. When I took that screenshot the temperature outside was 42 degrees.  Yet if we go by the RealFeel number, to many – the average people (which evidently does not include the vast population of women of a certain age who are sitting with windows open today) – it would feel like 35 degrees.  But RealFeel is also based in perception and how they felt did not change the fact that it was 42 degrees.

The fact is that God has made us acceptable to Him.  He pre-planned to keep us in His never-ending favor through what Jesus would do!!  His Spirit will lead us and guide us and teach us and this leading and guiding and teaching will always be more about what He has done for us than what we will ever do for Him.  Once we begin to set our minds on the fact of redemption rather than how we feel, we will find rest for our souls and the ease to just “be” and guilt will have no place. Ahhhhh…..     🙂

 

But it FEELS like…” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

 

Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, God, Jesus, loss, love, Spiritual, trials, Uncategorized

Do you love Me?

ca. 2004, New Zealand, Pacific --- Flock of sheep, New Zealand, Pacific --- Image by © Mula Eshet/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Feed My sheep.”

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Organize a protest against those Pharisees and Romans because they’ve really upped their game to oppose My sheep.”

“Wow!  Really?  Finally!  I’ve been waiting a long time to stand up to those who’ve been pointing their fingers, mocking us, spitting on us, and give them a piece of my mind.  Just who do they think they are? We have rights, you know, and it’s time that we demand those rights be respected!  And I’m just the one who could get this movement started.  I know a guy who has a stock pile of papyrus – he’ll gladly donate it for a social media blitz.  We can flood the city with posters pointing out our enemies’ grievous errors and mistreatment of your people, we can slander them right back, all in Your name, of course.”

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Call those other two hotheads in the group and begin a battle strategy for My sheep.  It’s time for war!!!”

“I’M ON IT!!  I’ve already got some ideas.  I told you I’d have your back, Jesus, if they ever came for you.  You must have misunderstood what I meant though, because that whole “Get thee behind me, Satan” comment was a little harsh, don’t you think?  I’ve got my sword ready.  I can defend and fight for our cause.  You’ve seen my skills…you know that I can take a man’s ear off in a flash!  And surely that day you turned to the crowd after the snippy Satan remark and told them that to follow You meant that they had to deny themselves and not care if following you led to their deaths…you meant that for them because they’re too weak to fight, right?  And before you go back to heaven I could use a little clarity on that whole love our enemies bit.  But it’ll have to wait until after we destroy those wolves in sheep’s clothing that are right here in our town…   I’ll be safe, right?  I mean, I’m your follower so you’re going to protect my life because I’m fighting for You… aren’t you?…because it kinda sounded like You just said I was going to die…”

Not exactly how the conversation went.  But maybe that’s how it would have gone if Jesus had only an earthly agenda and Peter had been a little more like me…a little more like you…

The early Christians lived in deeply troubled times.  Trouble like most of us have never seen. Governmental oppression.  Excessive taxation.  Public mockery.   Estrangement from family and friends because of their faith.  Imprisonment for spreading the gospel.  Persecution and torture for sharing the Truth.  Even unto death.

He sat with the one so passionate and out-spoken, the one He had called a rock, the one who bore the heavy weight of his own recent betrayal, and mercy and forgiveness asked of him three times…

Do you love Me?

Feed My sheep.*

Each time He asked He was giving Peter His unfailing love and changing Peter’s perspective on how to truly respond to that love.  He knew the disciples would undergo hardships and persecution and how they would die, most of them as martyrs.  The Pharisees and the Romans had not changed their positions. They had not relieved the oppression of the saints.  They did not believe in Jesus even though they still could not explain how His body left the tomb.  But what mission did Jesus lay before Peter?  Lead a rebellion against the Pharisees?  Organize the troops to fight the government?  Lead them into war?  No. He said “Feed My sheep.”

If we follow current events and listen to the reports, both secular and especially religious, the alarm is sounding that the wolf is at our door.  Arguments rage and emotions are on edge.  Opinions abound and frustrations rise.  Complicated issues demand a response.  Maybe we are like those early disciples in our floundering about through the daily activities wondering what God would have us do.  Perhaps it’s time to sit with Him and listen.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to follow Me as My disciple, he must deny himself – set aside selfish interests, and take up his cross – expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come, and follow Me – believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life in this world will eventually lose it through death, but whoever loses his life in this world for My sake will find it; that is, life with Me for all eternity.  Matthew 16:24-25

Will we die for our faith?  I don’t know.  But I do know that if we expect to be bold and courageous under persecution, real persecution, the question must be settled in the secret place with Him long before someone threatens our lives.  He called us to death from the beginning – death to self.  Pursuing Him takes us further and further away from consideration of ourselves and gives us vision beyond the news reports and the fear that tries to settle over us like a thick, black cloud.  There are many who are struggling with this fear because they don’t know Him.  They are hungry for something real to hold on to, something that will give them hope.  Right here, right now, in our cities and our neighborhoods.  And I believe that if we would just turn our attention away from the chaos and onto Him, we would hear mercy and forgiveness speak to us the very same mission:  “Feed My sheep“.  Obedience to this command is the only correct response to the question “Do you love Me?”

According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.**

Now, I don’t know if this is really how Peter died, but he died doing what Jesus told him to do.  He spent his life feeding His sheep.  No matter the conditions, I strongly suspect as he was gasping for his last breath he was not wishing that he had never gotten out of that boat when Jesus came by, never left Galilee, that he should have just lived out a comfortable life as a fisherman.  No.  I believe as his life ended he was full of grace and completely satisfied that it had been worth it all.  Even unto death.

In our last breaths, no matter what brings us to that point, will we be satisfied that we have done with our lives what He asked of us?  Will we love not our lives unto death (Revelation 12:11), whether literally or spiritually?  Will we have lived out our love for Him by feeding His sheep?

I suppose I should have included a sarcasm warning at the beginning of this post, but really…what can we do in the midst of the trouble that rages upon us?  Pray.  Support.  Give.  Vote.  But most importantly, let’s not lose sight of the mission.  Give action to His command.  Love the unlovely.  Help the helpless.  Stand for the defenseless.  Forgive the unforgivable.  Tell of Him.  Feed His sheep.

 

Do you love Me?” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

*John 21 contains the account of the conversation between Jesus and Peter.  The real one.

**source:  Wikipedia

 

 

 

Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, family, friends, God, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, love, prayer, retreat, righteousness, sorrow, Spiritual, trials

I have quieted my soul

IMG_3609

I knew before I left the house that the route to my destination would most assuredly include miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic before I reached the other side of Houston.  I set my mind to enjoy my trip no matter what and made sure to leave the house early enough to avoid the late afternoon rush hour.  I must admit there were moments which threatened my deliberate peace, but I was strong and resisted with my mantra “it doesn’t matter….you have plenty of time…enjoy the journey…”  I was prepared for the trip – I knew where I was going, had adequate fuel, snacks and water.  It’s easy to enjoy the journey when you are prepared.

I had been anticipating the retreat for months and with every mile that drew me closer, I could feel the pressures of the every day falling away.  As I drove onto the grounds of my destination an even stronger sense of quiet washed over me.  The kind of peace that you can drink in with every breath. Surrounding stillness that felt as if it were an alternate universe where tight muscles and tense nerves do not exist. Beauty of nature that softly beckons to let go of everything else and simply take it in.  A setting that clearly whispers be still and know that I am God.

I happily unpacked my things in the quaint, cozy room where I would spend the weekend.  There was plenty of time to get settled in and relax before the evening’s events.  I scanned my emails and messages to be sure that nothing important was left without a response and took a moment to review the latest social media posts.  It was there I learned of the attacks in Paris.  I quickly searched the web for more details as the sense of impending doom was knocking at my door.  This is our world and the inability to be prepared for these kinds of horrific acts strikes fear in our hearts.  The threats are bold and fierce and very real and we are at a loss as to what to do.

I gathered the initial facts and put down my phone.  Seeking Him quickly is the only way to turn away the fear of impending doom.  I offered up a familiar prayer of “God, I don’t even know what to pray!”  In times past, that would be the end of a quick “God help them.  God be with them.” prayer, but I have since learned to be still and literally ask God “What do You want me to pray?”  It is not hard to understand and pray for the immediate need for safety and comfort and protection for those who remain in the wake of the horror.  But somehow it still seems lacking.

In this great mystery that is prayer, God, who knows what we need before we ask, has chosen to involve us in a supernatural process.  The more I’ve grown closer to Him and the more I’ve sought understanding, the more it has become evident that I really don’t know very much.  Perhaps He will give me deeper understanding of why He involves us in the process.  Or maybe He won’t.  But He is teaching me more and more how to pray and that with or without understanding, He requires obedience.  If the bible is true and He is God and He knows everything and I cannot do anything (eternal) without Him, then it is very clear that I must learn from Him what to pray.

We can spend much time in worrying and fretting.  We can scream our opinions and blame our politicians, publicly shaming them for what we perceive as their lack of action to keep us safe.  We can cry and moan and fear for our lives, and spread the fear to those around us.  We can beg and plead with God to do something!!  But is that really who we are?  Is that what we are called to??

We must learn to quiet our souls.

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in matters too great or in things too wonderful for me.  Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me – ceased from fretting.  O Isreal, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.  Psalm 131

Peace I leave with you; My own peace I now give and bequeath to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.  John 14:27

It is clear that He intended for us to participate in this:  “I (David) have calmed…  (You) Do not let…”  We are able to bring our mind, will, and emotions into submission to His Spirit, which is the spirit of Peace. We must find that place of peace so that we can clearly hear His words to us and learn how to act in times of trouble rather than automatically react in our flesh.

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have perfect peace and confidence.  In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer – take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted!  For I have overcome the world.  I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.  John 16:33

There are days I ask myself why I am so surprised when trouble comes.  Duh.  Jesus plainly said there would be trouble in this world.  Our ability to quiet our souls and not be afraid comes from the confidence that we are not OF this world.  THIS LIFE IS TEMPORARY.  Perhaps it’s time for us to step back and get a new perspective.  This life has purpose and meaning and is important to God, but it is a wisp, a vapor in time compared to eternity.

What did God tell me to pray when I heard the news of Paris?  He told me to pray that in midst of the pain and chaos and grief people are experiencing that they would find Him as Savior.  He told me that the mission remains the same, Tell others about Me.  I won’t be traveling to Paris to tell others about Jesus.  But I will be putting feet to my prayers for those in my neighborhood.  It’s not just the people of France who are afraid.  It’s our families, our friends, our neighbors.  If we are afraid right along with them, we have no message of hope to share, no comfort to give.

Draw away with me.  Quiet your soul.  Pray whatever the Father tells you to pray.  Do whatever the Father tells you to do.  Find supernatural Peace in troubled times.  He is waiting…

“I have quieted my soul” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

Christian, Encouragement, Faith, family, God, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, love, mothers, sorrow, Spiritual, tears

The silence speaks

If he had known the course his silence would chart, he would have spoken.  If he had known that his silence spoke to me lies of my unworthiness to be loved, he would have told me the very opposite – that he loved me more deeply than words could express.  His silence spoke his disappointment loudly and I was too young to understand that it spoke more about him and his pain than about me.  Through the pretense of the everyday as if nothing were wrong, his silence grew to be louder than any other voice my soul could hear.  And it broke my heart.

It was an excruciating pain to know that his eyes avoided mine no matter how close we stood, that his voice would not respond to mine no matter how clearly I spoke.  I stifled my cries as it was clear they would do no good nor bring about any change.  Day after day, week after week, month after month, the silence chiseled the fragile strands of any innocent childhood belief that I was good enough to be loved.

If he had known his silence would create in me a desperation that was easily wooed by sounds of false love, he would have spoken.  I had no warning that my opposition to him would cost so very much.  His silence taught me that the consequences of mistakes in love were to be feared and that I would have to work very hard to be good.  The emptiness left by the absence of the voice I adored most was mine to bear, and I while I gained sympathy from many who knew, deep inside I believed it to be just.  I believed I deserved it.

If he had known that his silence would teach me to be a pretender, he would have spoken because he despised pretenders.  But I had learned in his silence to put on a happy face and do the things before me as if it didn’t matter that I was broken.  By the time he spoke a chasm had formed, but we never talked about that either.  And in that chasm lay the belief that the key to love was to do and say and be what someone else wanted, and to keep silent about myself for no one wants someone who is broken.

I carried all that his silence taught me into the relationships I had and into my walk with God.  It’s easy to hear the message that God is angry when it is what you expect.  It is easy to believe that God can only approve of you if you do what is right.  It is easy to believe that you do not deserve His help if you do not do exactly as He commands.  It is easy to believe that His silence means you are unworthy of His love when silence is the very thing you fear.

My desperation and resulting failure at love were the very things that brought me to real Love.  Having nowhere to run and no place to hide and my pretense in shambles, my brokenness spilled out as if a mighty dam had crumbled.  Every sob I let forth was met with Tenderness.  Every sigh of unworthiness was captured by Mercy.  Every ache of unloveliness was comforted by extravagant Love.  Every effort to “do” was quenched by what was already “done”.  I found I was truly loved.

I am on a continuing journey of learning who He really is and what His love is all about.  And sometimes love is silent.  Like when a mother just looks at her child without a word because there are no words adequate to describe the love that rages inside.  She asks nothing of the child but to let her look, to not turn away.  I have learned that God’s love is like that.

I have to purpose to rest in His times of silent love because it is still easy for me to revert back to my impossible efforts and wrong ideas that I must somehow do something to deserve His love.  Just this week I was asking Him what to do with His silence, and He simply said

“My silence speaks:  Trust me.”

And I was not afraid.

 

The silence speaks” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com