Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Love Learning

Can you feel your brain growing?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Making a Peace-treaty With the Devil

Everyone has a sense of justice, of right and wrong. Atheists, agnostics, people of any religious persuasion all have a strong gut-reaction when they see injustice happening to them or those they care about.  Whether they know it or not, that sense was instilled in us by God, so that we could live by His principles.

But what happens when someone who cares nothing about God tries to take action against injustice?  They act on a God-given instinct without any consideration for God.  Taking it to a more personal level, a woman who has been cheated on immediately knows this betrayal is wrong and needs to act.  But with no godly principles to refer to, she consults her raging emotions, her past experiences, the movies she's watched, Desperate Housewives episodes, and the attitudes of friends to know just what action to take.  She then, (I've known women who have done this) calls the woman who has been seducing her husband and threatens her, texts her constantly, curses at her and becomes obsessed with her every move.  Then she throws a violent tantrum with her husband, throws a few vases at him and kicks him out of the house.  But in a day or two, she's crying and begging him to leave that woman and be faithful to her.  She'll wear more makeup, more suggestive clothing, try to make him want her, and not succeed.  She becomes more clingy, more needy and an explosive bomb.  She'll confess her undying love for him one minute, and be ready to kill him the next.  This may sound extreme, but it happens.  A lot.  Meanwhile her rat-of-a-husband's inflated ego has gone through the roof, enjoying his new status of having two women in desperate battle for his manly attention.  (Excuse me while I throw up…) 

Seeking justice without the God of Justice turns us into fools.  

Psalm 101 is right on the money when it teaches us not to tolerate evil.  When our home is being infiltrated by demonic activity - spouses or children who are succumbing to addictions, cursing, pornography, immoral behavior, affairs - God wants us to have a zero-tolerance stance.  Does that mean we kick spouses or kids out of the house when we find them involved in any of this?  No, zero-tolerance means, we take action immediately to find a way to rid our homes of the evil, out of love for the people.  We get our kids to counseling, ban them from certain activities, pray stronger, ask God for specific guidance, change our own behaviors and habits if necessary, take them to rehab if we have to, but never give up on helping them.  Mothers can easily throw their hands in the air and assume that they've done all they can after a few groundings or scoldings or threats to take away their cellphones. Their kids get worse, and they make a peace-treaty with the devil.  "Well, as long as my son finishes school and doesn't get into trouble, what can I do?  Kids are kids…"  These mothers fear that if they insist on breaking their child free from addictions, their child will hate them and life will get worse.  So the focus of their concern is themselves, and not the wellbeing of their kids.  They make evil welcome in their house and in their own children - and then they wonder why God doesn't answer their prayers.

There are times when zero tolerance does mean letting that person leave, and face the terrible consequences of their own choices.  When you try to rid your home of evil, and the person you want to help loves that evil more than himself, he may need to be removed too.  But God is faithful.  In the midst of their suffering, your prayers and faith for them will be a protection, a constant presence of God to draw them to Himself.  But do you have the faith to believe that God can do what you can't?  Do you trust that your prayers are powerful enough to accomplish a miracle in your loved-one even when they have gone back to the gutter?  Do you believe that you can do battle against the demons in your family even when you don't know where they are?  What if it's an unfaithful spouse who refuses to change?  Do you have the faith to let him go and know that God still has an amazing life prepared for you?

The God of Justice demands one thing, that we love what He loves and hate what He hates.  He is relentless in His desire to see evil defeated in this world, and when we as His children are tolerant of evil, we go against His will.  We can love our families more purely when we fight whatever evil wants to destroy them.  When we follow HIs path, He shows us how often we are part of the problem.  Many mothers helped create a spirit of disrespect and coldness between themselves and their kids to the point that they lost control.  But these women can learn to change if they really want to follow God's wisdom.  A woman with a straying husband may have to let him go, but God can reveal her own blind spots and flaws that contributed to this problem.  Even loss can be turned into gain when God's ways come first.

Read Psalm 101 today, and pair it with Romans 12:19-21.  Zero tolerance for evil, yet love your enemies.  God is the God of vengeance and justice, but He can only step in when we get in line with His ways.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Brain Boost - Social Graces

Do you close doors on yourself?  There are lots of ways to do that, here's one you may not realize you do.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Being Paranoid

The simplest things can get us all tied up in knots… Be easy on yourself and stop the paranoid thinking!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

God’s Invitation to Enjoy Him

This is on my husband's daily devotional blog for July 19th. After witnessing the inauguration of our beautiful Temple in Brazil this morning, I thought this would be a perfect time to repost it here.

Shout out praises to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with joy!
  Enter his presence with joyful singing! 
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!  
He made us and we belong to him;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
  Give him thanks!
Praise his name!
For the Lord is good.
  His loyal love endures,
and he is faithful through all generations.  
(Psalm 100 ESV)

What comes to mind when you hear the words “praise and worship the Lord?” In churches around the country you can find a wide variety of worshippers enjoying lively performances and catchy tunes.  Among them are:  sincere believers who want nothing more than to praise their Lord and seek a deep relationship with Him, somewhat sincere believers who love to sing praises but aren’t interested in any correction from God, half-hearted church-goers who really like the cool band and hope to get to know the good looking date opportunities on the other side of the room, and absolute hypocrites who want to impress everyone with their superior spirituality for mere personal gain.

So in light of that, delete any preconceived ideas you may have of what praise is supposed to be.  True praise can only come from a true worshipper, and only you and God can know the motives and desires of your own heart.

C.S. Lewis, who became a Christian after years of atheism, dove deeply into studying the Psalms.  He wanted to know what God expected of him when he prayed.  He had no problem with prayers of thanks, or of confessing sins.  He regularly interceded for others and made requests of God.  But the type of prayer that was the hardest for him was praise.  He found that the Bible was constantly encouraging us to praise God.  Many times a day, every day, and without fail.  It was a command.

Does that mean God is egotistical?  Not in the least.  Lewis discovered that God is showing us one direct way to participate in all the beauty and wonder and amazement of His presence and His goodness. When we praise Him we learn to enjoy Him.  When we focus on all He is and has done, we stop looking at the small finite things of our limited lives, and begin to expand our minds to see His infinite power and love and mercy towards us.

Praising Him can heal us of our fears and worries, because we are looking to Him and not at ourselves.  Psalm 34 says, “delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Delighting, enjoying, celebrating and magnifying Him with our mouths, with shouts, with a joyful noise, is a powerful spiritual experience.  Praise demands that we become humble and recognize Him as far superior to us. We are sheep in His pasture, and grateful for it!  Without humility, true joy is impossible. Without praise on our lips, a bond with God is also impossible.

Praise is a natural part of our everyday lives.  We enjoy spreading the news of a great movie, a great bargain, a good restaurant, a funny story.  We tell whoever will listen all about the things our children have done.  Facebook and Twitter sing the praises of our friendships and families with each picture and comment we post.  Praising each other draws us closer to those we care about, and we don’t think twice about it.

So what does it say when we struggle to mouth a few words of praise to the God we claim to believe in?  When we’re embarrassed to sing to Him or raise our voices to heaven?  It shows that the most natural things that we do for the very flawed people we love, we can barely bring ourselves to do for the One who loved us so dearly that He gave His life for us.  If we really knew and loved Him, praise would naturally flow.  If we want to learn to love Him, we need to begin to praise, even when we don’t yet feel we can do it well.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

All who believed were together...

An explosion had taken place in first-century Israel, that was about to set fire to the rest of the world.  A group of believers had decided without a doubt that Jesus of Nazareth was God, the Son of God, their long awaited Messiah.  He had done what none of them expected.  Instead of establishing a physical kingdom on earth and driving out the Romans, He established a spiritual kingdom that had far more power than any puny earthly empire.  Jesus as God and as man, had died, destroyed the kingdom of hell, and had risen victorious to lead everyone who followed Him to a life of victory over evil, and eternal life.

So this bunch of people that were gathering together in the book of Acts, were so convinced that this Jesus that some had met personally and others had just heard of, was worth living for and dying for. Many of them were murdered because of that conviction.  They all had lives of their own, families, farms and businesses, but Acts 2 says that they gathered together with such eagerness to learn more, to pray, to be together in one accord.  They sold properties and possessions because they had found what Jesus had referred to as the treasure in a field.  The treasure of this new life was so powerful that it was worth giving everything for.

The Early Church was a bunch of rag-tag believers who God turned into a fearless force to tear down the strongholds of Satan wherever they lived and died.  They came from different backgrounds and cultures but their common Enemy kept them united.  Though they were sinful and had plenty of problems (as the New Testament shows pretty plainly) they preferred to die for their Lord than to deny Him and escape persecution.

Do we have that zeal today?  Do we have that commitment to "have each others' backs" like the first Christians did?  If we don't, it's because we don't know that we are all bound together by a common Enemy who is out to torture and kill.  We don't see our authority or power in this world the way Satan sees it.  He knows what damage we could inflict on him, and so he soothes us with comforting feelings that we don't need to be so extreme, so fanatical in our faith.  We are warriors with nuclear capabilities, spiritually speaking, but are lulled into a stupor by the comforts and distractions of our busy lives.

C.S. Lewis says it so perfectly in his book, "The Screwtape Letters," where an elder demon is instructing his young nephew on how to destroy the life of a newly converted Christian. (Side note: the "Enemy" is God, and "Our Father Below," Satan.) Written in England in the 1940's, it speaks directly to us right now.

"One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate. When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print. When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neightbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like ‘the body of Christ’ and the actual faces on the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father Below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbors sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous." 

Let's stop wasting time picking at each other's differences and irritations, allowing ourselves to become spiritually weak and flabby.  Let's see ourselves as members of God's true Church, rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners, because when we truly believe, that is exactly what we are.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Who do you imagine you're praying to?

"When I am alone, I like to see, Your face in my mind…" (How Can You Love Me)

I wrote that song in 1991 in Brooklyn, NY, as I fought through a lot of doubts about who I was to God, and if I could ever be worthy of receiving all of His promises.  I had a pretty bad case of low self-esteem then.  That song spoke exactly what my heart knew was true, and writing it helped to heal it in some way.

Picturing God in my mind, though my imagination will never truly do Him justice, is still an important part of my prayer life.  I need to see that He is eager to hear me, that He is pleased to see me coming before Him, and that He is full of light and power and truth and justice, that He is a warrior and a loving Father all in one.  Launching into prayers without making myself aware that I am speaking to a very real Person, usually makes my prayers dry and perfunctory, like any other duty that has to be performed.  When I realize I'm praying in that old religious way as I used to, I have to stop and refocus.  I have to remember that I am speaking to the One who is all around me, who made me, and who listens to every thought that runs through my mind.

For those of us who grew up in traditional churches, reading written prayers out of a book, the word prayer can feel like the opposite of what it's supposed to be - a dull, ceremonious, mumbling sort of practice surrounded by lots of sour-faced adults in a cold church.  If I hadn't begun this habit of visualizing God as He is described in the Bible before I prayed, I'm sure I would never have developed the spiritual ears to hear Him answer me.

Prayer is so powerful, that it shouldn't even be just called "prayer."  It's such a deep and profound communication, a give and take, with the Creator of all things.  I talk to Him, I share with Him, I cling to Him and He washes over me with a wave of assurance, and answers.

I always hear Him spur me on to anger against evil that is happening around me, He challenges me to fight for the freedom of someone who is in bondage.  And at the same time, there's a comfort, an embrace, and with it a new way of thinking, an inspiration to view a problem or situation with new eyes.  This is all done with words on my part, and virtually no words on His.   Though He speaks to me when I read the Bible, it's often deeper and more personal than the actual words that are written on the pages.

And then come the answers.  The surprises that happen because I've been talking to my Father and connecting to His Spirit, appear in transformations of people who's lives I've been fighting for and changes in tough situations that seem too big to budge.  And funny enough, other blessings happen that I didn't even ask for, just because I've been seeking Him first!

Every night for this 40 Day Fast, my husband and I have been driving around the perimeter of our town, praying constantly for all of our church members, for our town, attacking the demons and principalities that are destroying lives.  It's an unbroken, unstructured prayer between he and I, and sometimes with the kids as well, that lasts for over an hour every night.  Sometimes we leave church so late after a meeting that by the time our drive-around prayer is over and we pull into our driveway, it's already past 1am.  But we love it.  We see answers, we feel closer to God and to each other, and more than that, we know that we are pleasing God and we can see that He is smiling down on us.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Getting Ready to Be Slammed...

If you're not into science, read this anyway.  It's all about you, and the Creator of all things!

My husband just came across this fascinating article about new compelling evidence on how the moon was formed, from the Christian science website called Reasons to Believe.  The evidence shows that the moon was formed by a giant planet that had at one time slammed into the Earth, almost completely liquifying our planet, after which molten matter from that planet shot out from the core of the Earth, straight out of our atmosphere, and formed our moon.  Scientists have just discovered that isotopes found in moon rocks are vastly different from those on planet Earth.  Our Earth and the moon are made from very different materials.

(If you want to read the whole article, click here.)

How many of us have pictured the creation of the universe to be solemn words spoke by God here, and planets would magically appear - a proclamation there, and animals would pop out of thin air? We have TV and movies to blame for our crude imaginations of the power of God's hand.

So if this hypothesis is true, (and evidence is increasingly in its favor) God used the sacrifice of one planet to create much more than just our moon.  The Earth became liquid as it was slammed so violently by another planet the size of Mars, and later cooled and reformed it's solid shape. With God as the Master-Creator, the state of the Earth after that collision was made perfect for sustaining life.  The planet that melted as it entered our Earth's core, gave birth to our moon that was shot back into the night sky.  Our moon has a magnetic pull that determines our ocean's tides and seasons.  From the beginning of time, our moon is a necessary part of keeping our Earth alive and strong.

God used sacrifice, death, and rebirth to create the one planet in the entire universe that He chose to invest all of His love, creating children for Himself.

When God requires sacrifice from us, it's just a part of the laws of the universe.  It feels violent, painful and frightening, but it's beautiful!  Sacrifice, God's way, creates an abundance of life.  New, unexpected things enter into our orbit.

I'm ready for my sacrifice, to be slammed into by a giant "planet."  I'm ready to be liquified - to even feel as if I am imploding, to turn a rocky barren landscape into a thriving, abundant, life-sustaining world.  I know enough about how good and loving God is not to doubt Him or to resist Him.  Abraham knew that if he killed his precious son on the altar, God was powerful enough to raise him back up from the ashes.  God did better than that!

When you think about sacrifice, first of all, don't give unless you know that it's what God is asking of you.  He'll ask what is way, Way, WAY out of the ordinary.  You know you would never give that if anyone else had asked.  But if it's Him, don't resist.  Go with the giant collision that is about to happen.  Let yourself be liquified, and watch how new life will take a hold of you like you've never dreamed.

I say, bring it on!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What praying was meant to be

I don't have a perfect prayer life, and I'm not an expert, but I guess I have lived and prayed long enough to know what prayer isn't.  And as I learn and grow, I'm getting to know more of what it ought to be.  I still have far to grow, but this is a truth I have come to personally know.

When we were little, our moms and dads were the strongest and wisest people we knew.  In fact children don't even feel like they are independent people at all, but actually extensions of their parents.  They live and breathe and exist because Mommy or Daddy is there and taking care of them, and they are perfectly happy with that arrangement.  So much so, that when children are dropped off for Sunday School, there is usually a great deal of separation anxiety and tears and grasping onto necks and arms and legs for fear that the bond between them and their parents will be forever broken.  That is how our prayer life with God is supposed to be.  We see ourselves as an extension of Him.  We cling to Him for dear life.

God is not called "Father" for nothing.  No one really calls their dad, "Father" anymore, and the thought of calling God "Dad," or "Daddy," sounds too casual and almost silly.  But set aside the word for a moment and think instead of what a child senses when their very loving and caring father is right close by, strong and protecting. Children care nothing about their parent's bank account, or bills, or mortgage.  All they know is that they are safe and cared for.  When they need to talk, their dad stops what he's doing, listens, laughs, jokes with them and lovingly reminds them to finish their dinner and clean up their toys.

They feel strong arms carrying them upstairs to bed whenever they are too tired or sick.  They smell his cologne, they hear his heartbeat as they lay their heads on his chest when he reads them a story.  They play with his pens at his desk and draw rocket-ships or fairy castles or flowers while he's on the phone talking important grown-up talk to those people he's always talking to after work. He is the strongest and smartest and biggest person they know.  He's scary when he's angry, but most of the time he's funny and kind and gentle, and he always, always loves them and is always, always there for them.

As children grow in a healthy and happy home environment, they continue to feel the constant urge to tell their parents anything new that they are going through or learning about.  They want advice, and they want to hear the approval of their dad's voice and see the joy in his eyes when they have done well.  They yearn for his comfort when they have failed, and though they know he's disappointed, they also know that he believes in them to get back up and try again.

Human children eventually outgrow that need for their parent's constant approval.  But spiritual children, born of God, never do.  Those who are born of God run to Him all of their lives.  They throw their arms around Him, dialogue with Him, listen closely to Him, and more than anything obey Him because they trust Him.

Prayer for those not yet born of His Spirit, is a burden, a task to perform.  They run out of words to say, and fall asleep when they try.  For those who just claim to believe in God but have not real relationship with Him, prayer feels like a waste of time.  But for those who really know their Father, prayer is like the air they breathe.  They are hopelessly  dependent on their Father who loves them and wants a deep and rich relationship with them.  They can actually sense His laughter, His approval, His comfort and His discipline when they come to Him.

If your prayer experience hasn't reached that level of closeness with God, you have so much to look forward to.  But this kind of closeness comes at a cost.  It only happens to those who die to their flesh, and give up control over themselves and all that they value.  They hand control over to God, even before they have felt anything.  They have risked it all to find Him.  Don't stop seeking and reaching out to Him until you have truly found your Father.  You'll know when prayer becomes a joy instead of an obligation, and the answers to those prayers come as freely as the trust you place in Him.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ending the Victim Mentality

Last Saturday's Rahab meeting in Katy was awesome - as always!  Such great comments and input from all the ladies there makes our meetings so much fun and insightful.  The topic was the Victim Mentality.

I researched and looked up a checklist of questions to ask yourself if you fall under that category.  I could see from the start that ALL of us go there from time to time.  Having "poor me" thoughts about ourselves, to thinking that life will only improve when circumstances or other people change first, keeps us stuck in that rut.

Just within this past week, a number of women have come to me to say how much that list has helped them break out of old habits and thought patterns.  Some have seen really positive changes on their jobs because of it, and some have said that they've posted up the list on their walls as a reminder that behaving as a victim is dangerous territory.

Personally, I have really benefitted from the lesson, discovering that I often sink to that level without even knowing it.  No one wants to admit that they are acting like a victim, but once you are honest with yourself about your failures, you can start to catch yourself and save yourself a great deal of useless agonizing.  Unfortunately I have known too many "spiritual" women, who won't admit they need help. When you are a victim, you feel completely justified to think of yourself this way, and become offended if anyone suggests that you need to change your mindset - you feel even more victimized to be encouraged to change!

Just to clarify, most of us have truly been victims in some form or another, from abuse to victims of curses and terrible circumstances that were physically beyond our control.  But that is not what the victim mentality problem is about.  It's about a state of mind that keeps us captive to the pain and abuse, even long after it is over.  We respect and recognize everyone who has been victimized by any form of evil, but the most subtle and damaging of all, is when our emotions are held hostage to the victim mentality.  We continue hurting ourselves needlessly.

What was our answer?

Fight!  Push back the negative thoughts that this is all you are good for, and even more, fight against the thoughts that circumstances dictate your happiness and freedom.  Faith gives us power over circumstances, and we no longer have to be enslaved to them.  We can break down the spiritual forces that block us, we can destroy the demonic obsessions of worry and guilt.  There is so much power and freedom available to us when we stop being victims and instead go on the offensive, spiritually speaking.  Entire kingdoms of oppression can be torn down, and that all begins within ourselves.

As much as we believe in fighting and casting out demons in our church, I am amazed at how few women actually implement these tools when it comes to destroying fear and negative thinking.  We need to be wiser and more proactive in our faith.  We need to bully our problems, bully the demons, bully the thoughts that keep us in victim mode.  You are not victims any longer when you are the aggressor!

Here is our list of questions we gave out in the Rahab meeting.  See if you can relate to any of these, and then... start fighting!

The Victim Mentality
• Do most casual conversations end up centered on your problems?
• Do you tend to play the poor me card?
• Do you engage in negative talk about yourself?
• Do you always expect the worst?
• Do you tend to act like a martyr?
• Do you often feel like God or the world is causing bad things to happen and that there is nothing you    can do about it?
• Do you believe that everyone else has an easier life?
• Do you focus mostly on negative events and disappointments?
• Do rarely feel responsible for your negative behavior?
• Is your misery contagious, affecting the mood/state of others?
• Do you seem to be addicted to misery, chaos, and drama?
• Do you feel that the world is out to get you?
• Does blaming others seem to improve your state of mind?
• Do you have a tendency to make others take responsibility for you?
• Do you have a knack for finding other victims and rescuers?
• Are you the kind of person that always seems to have everything going wrong?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Everything is connected - say yes to God

(Continued from yesterday's post)

So now you know the downward spiral that saying no to God causes.  Yesterday's post was just an imaginary scenario, but I'm sure all of us can relate to that in some form or another.  It could just be saying no to reaching out to someone who needs a prayer, or saying no to that extra hour of late-night TV when you really ought to get to bed.  Most of us think of saying no to God as a choice to blatantly sin, but for most of us, it's more of a choice between choosing between what is acceptable, and what is right.

 Here's an example of choosing what is right:

So you decide to do the 40 Day Fast, and delete your Facebook account, suspend your cable subscription and select a few good inspirational blogs to follow on your free time.  The first few days you pray more, you read your Bible more and you psych yourself up into a state of mind that say's "This is great!"

A week goes by, and you don't feel any different, other than you can't pick up that remote and put up your feet for some entertainment after a long day.  Your super spiritual psyched-up state of mind is slowly fading, and you don't want to admit it, but you are wondering if you really can last for 40 Days. But even so, you stick to your vow - you won't break the fast for anything.

The next day at work, a crisis arises.  Everyone is angry and blaming each other.  You've seen this before and it always ends ugly, and you get hurt.  But this time, you rise above it.  Your mind is clearer, you see the problem for what it is, not the exaggerated version that everyone at work is portraying it to be.

You remain calm, you pray.  You don't just pray, you fight.  You silently rebuke the demons in your workplace, you rebuke all the attacks on your job, and determine that God has to be Lord in that place and that this problem needs to find a solution without all this stress and drama.  You ask God for wisdom, what to say, what to do, and how to react.  He answers right away.

You are filled with a sense of boldness and peace, a knowledge that you are connecting with the power of the God of all Creation.  A frantic coworker comes to vent her worries at your desk, and words of strength and encouragement come out of your mouth, instead of the usual gossip that you have fallen for in the past.

You go home in joy, knowing that Psalm 91 just happened in front of you.  "A thousand may fall at my side, ten-thousand at my right hand, but it will not come near me…"

You can't wait to read your Bible and pray when you get home.  You can't wait to get to church for the next meeting and drink in all God has for you.  You can't wait to see how God will come through for you in the days to come!

In a matter of days, you have a hunger and thirst for the things of God.  You can't wait to listen to the audio Bible as you drive in to work, to the audios of the pastor's sermons online.  Every break you get, you are pulling up the Bible on your phone, and even when you don't have anything specific to pray for, you just want to talk to God as your friend - your Father.

Out of the blue, you get a promotion, over others with more seniority.  And without thinking, you react in such a spiritual, confident and humble way that no one in the office feels threatened.  You are moved to an office far away from the gossips and busybodies - and you didn't even ask for this!

Throughout the rest of your fast, Satan tries to throw problems at you.  A relative is suddenly ill - the family pressures you to leave town (which means leaving church and work) to stay by their bedside… Or so you thought.  Your mind is in tune with God and you hear Him direct you.  No, your prayers of faith and healing are what this relative needs.  Others can sit by his side, but you need to stay focused and not allow your spiritual journey to be interrupted, and you obey.

Two days later, your relative is miraculously out of the hospital and just fine.  And it doesn't surprise you at all.

Before you know it, the 40 days are over.  You love this new bond you have formed with God, you love the way you can hear His subtle urgings to pray, to care for someone, to say no to useless requests, to discern what is a trap of the devil.  It almost feels like you are going to have to put an end to a beautiful new relationship, and you don't want to do anything to jeopardize what you've just built.

You look at that big black screen in your living room and wonder why anyone would want to turn that thing on!  One thing you still haven't received - the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  But you feel so close, so sure, so firm in your faith.  You've started down a new and exciting path that you've never been down before.  Why stop now?

As far as you're concerned the fast isn't over until you receive the complete infilling of His Spirit.  You can taste it, you can smell it, and nothing will get in your way to finding it.

Without a doubt, God is pleased to grant you this amazing gift.

The smallest decisions can take on huge effects.  All you do in the spiritual world impacts every aspect of your life.  Even things that seem completely unrelated, are always related to God, the source of everything. Everything is connected to everything.  Isn't it worth it to say yes to God?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Everything is connected to everything

When we see the world through spiritual eyes, it's like seeing the intricate inner workings of a beautiful Swiss watch.  That's just a metaphor, and of course it's far greater and deeper than that.  It takes faith to even begin to understand how it all works, and I imagine that once we are in heaven, face to face with God, will still be learning and discovering all the intricacies of the spiritual world.  But even the little that we can grasp here through faith and through the promises God gives us, is that everything connects.

And that means the 40 Day Fast connects with everything too,  Here are some examples:

You have chosen to be a part of a church that has presented a challenge to fast from secular media and distractions for 40 Days.  This is optional, but you know that it's from God.

Since it's from God, choosing not to join in would mean saying no to something from Him.  Is it a sin to say no?  No.  Is it a good thing to say yes?  Absolutely.  So you have to choose between either merely not sinning, or doing a very good thing from God.

You choose the former, and opt out of the fast for no specific reason, other than you just don't feel like it. You know that you aren't outright rejecting God, since you still pray, attend church, and try to live an honest God-fearing life.  But in the back of your mind, you know that you have said no to His suggestion and have chosen comfort over trust. Doubt creeps in.

Sometime along the 40 day period, the devil attacks as he always does with one thing or another.  Your child gets sick, or your boss flips out on you, or your car gets into an accident and your stuck with a huge repair bill.  You pray and try to do the right thing, but you don't feel that conviction in your heart that your prayers will be heard.  You don't feel worthy.  Doubts start to turn into condemnation.

Your prayers are more angry rants than prayers of faith, and the problems evade resolution. You feel far from God, and voices pop into your head when you go to church that everyone else is doing better than you, and that they look down on you for being so unspiritual.  You suspect that everyone knows that you aren't doing the fast and everyone is talking about you behind your back.

You feel self-righteous and angry at these hypocrites, and decide that you "need a break" from church for a while because you can't handle all this confusion.

You disappear from church, you stop praying, and you have no idea why God has turned His back on you.


Read tomorrow's blog to see the other side of the story!

Brain Boost: A new video series on women and strength


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Beautiful Addiction - the ugly side of exercise

Roya and I were handing out flyers at a local gym for a special series of meetings we were planning in our SiLC Katy church last fall. Roya is a fitness enthusiast, a former aerobics instructor and formerly a workout addict - literally.  For her to give her life to God and reject the negative attitudes she had wallowed in for many years, giving up exercise had to play a crucial part.  For the rest of us, changing  for the better means that we really should be exercising more, but Roya was on the opposite end of the spectrum.

We watched the many clients of this gym stream past with their backpacks and bottles of water, heading to their classes - lots of stern and unhappy looking faces.  Few took the flyer or wanted to be bothered to talk to anyone.  But in half an hour to an hour, those same unhappy people were loud, rambunctious and pumped!  They came out all riled up, talkative, confident, and unrecognizable from the grumpy people who had just passed us before.  Everybody wanted to talk now, and everybody was happy to get the flyers and even promised to come to the event.  "Awesome!  I'll be there!  Thanks!  You guys are great!!" I wondered if their bodies had been invaded by aliens.

Roya knew just what was going on.  "It's all those endorphins!" she told me with a knowing smile.

There's noting wrong with that, is there?  I remember how good it felt on the softball and volleyball teams in high school.  I remember my jogging days and loving the thrill of going faster and farther, or mountain climbing with my dad and feeling proud that I wasn't even breathing hard when I'd reach the top.  Exercise is supposed to be good clean fun, healthy and hearty.  But for the first time that morning, I saw a very ugly side to it.

This is what she explained:  There are many successful women who have a past they are ashamed of, who have an emptiness inside of them, and who know that they have to do well on their jobs, take care of their homes and families, to keep up the appearance of success.  They don't want to escape their pain through drugs or alcohol since they have so much at stake.  So they often turn to exercise, perhaps some extreme sports, an active social life and a fast-paced life, as a remedy.  Not only do they get the high that comes from exercise, but they get the social status that comes with the side benefits of being svelte and strong.  They can look like Wonder-Woman and drown out the emptiness and shame.  It seems like a win-win.

For most of us couch potatoes, exercise is painful starting from zero, but once a certain barrier is broken, exercise becomes a powerful drug.  Those endorphins create such a sense of euphoria, plus confidence, plus physical strength, plus a leaner body, and for those who are unwise, an overblown sense of superiority, that it's worth all the pain of getting that high.

For a time, that superiority can sustain these women through all kinds of stressful situations.  A crumbling marriage, hateful children and a overly demanding job.  They have the extra testosterone to chew out the people who irritate them, and keep their foot on the heads of people who they think don't deserve to rise over them.  They can feel powerful and indestructible for a good amount of time, and their sarcasm is sharpest and funniest when their pumped.  It's exhilarating to be able to cut people down and make people laugh all at the same time, and exercise gives you that aggressive mental edge.

But when the high starts to fizzle and reality sets in, the workout addict can become miserable.  She has to find her fix.  If she isn't high, just stay out of her way.  She's just one more grumpy face heading to the gym.

Of course I'm not trying to say that exercise is evil, just that anything that appears to be "good" and healthy can become twisted when used to fill a space only meant for God's Spirit.  Self-esteem can be a dangerous thing to pursue.  Women and men who want to feel that they deserve to be looked up to and admired because of their physical bodies, are chasing after an illusion, much like a heroin addict is chasing after happiness.

After reading over this post, Roya just texted me this:

"Sexuality is power in this world, and if you are failing in every area of your life, sexuality becomes your worldly effort to make it.  I became an empty, arrogant, violent weapon with a mean right hook.  Think about that show, 'The Biggest Loser.'  Those people are told that if they lose weight they will successfully be relieved of the pain and suffering in life.  That is a lie we lap up like stray dogs!  I have tried to fill the void with everything this world offers, but throwing away all those old habits, behaviors and thoughts for God, was the hardest challenge I have ever encountered, but the only thing I can boldly say has brought results!  After meeting you in the Succeed in Marriage Course, I gave up alcohol, friends, antidepressants, bar-hopping, and had a desire to go back to law school.  I automatically lost 20 pounds just from giving up beer.  I am not a slave to any of that any more, I am free to live in balance."

That was a year ago, and since then Roya began to seek God in the church and be set free from all the evil of her past.  She still loves to exercise, but now that she has filled her life to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, her enjoyment of a healthy lifestyle is just a secondary part of caring for the temple of that Spirit.  Exercise is no longer is an end-all and be-all in her life.  All the emptiness is gone,she is full of joy, and she can overcome stressful situations through God's power now, instead of trying to fool herself into believing that she was all-powerful.

As for me who has gained an undisclosed amount of pounds since my trip to Brazil …

I'm not an exercise addict in the least.  I'm hitting the treadmill again once I get back home, and if I try hard enough I just may start to like it again.  Promise.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Everyone's a perfectionist

Everyone has a perfectionist streak in them, no matter how laid back they may appear.  It's not just the perfectly accessorized coworker who has every hair in place that most would label as a perfectionist.

I remember several street beggars in New York before the time of Mayor Giuliani, when they were allowed to congregate on the sidewalk in front of our church and would often demand handouts, then angrily accuse us of hypocrisy when they disapproved of the amount we gave.  They'd even quote scriptures with the vehemence of a fire-and-brimstone preacher.  They had the lowest standards for their hygiene, warmth, health and safety, but when it came to handouts, they were consummate perfectionists. If you didn't live up to their expectations, you'd get an earful! 

One thing for certain is the Bible holds us all to high standards in so many aspects, that none of us can afford to assume that we have attained perfection in any of them. A friend who prods you on to improve is truly a friend, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.  She is keeping you from becoming complacent, and complacency kills faith.  Be thankful for the wounds of a friend.

But ask yourself, are you one of those friends who usually does the prodding, but is completely blind in other areas yourself?  Maybe you need to be on the receiving end.  Maybe you don't just need a prod, but shock treatment! Just like the beggars in New York, you can even use the Bible to justify why your version of perfection is the best.  Are you perfect in one or two minuscule areas, and even humble about the areas you're not so strong in, making you even more perfect?  

I can list for you the things that I am imperfect in, and for many of my friends, those areas are a breeze for them.  I need to prod myself and truly improve - I know.  But one of my frustrations is that in the areas where I have a strong perfectionist streak, few seem to even care about those things, or even notice that they are an issue. They are often brushed off as not worthy of effort, meanwhile I can see how incredibly important they are to being effective in the way we help others.  If I speak up, I become offensive, but if I remain silent, I stifle a very living urge inside of me to see this thing done well.  Foolishly, I have just remained silent for too long and didn't realize how much could have been done about it.

This is my challenge now, to do more than just speak up and be heard, but to be an example of how doing things right actually works. There is no better teacher and no better encouragement for others to follow your lead, than concrete results.  Meanwhile, I'll be working on all the stuff I've been prodded to do, and trust that God will use me to bless others as I prod them with my example.  Of course, if people want to hear what I have to say, I'd be more than happy to give them an earful!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

So you think you know God's voice?

God won't lead me somewhere that is awkward or uncomfortable. God respects my tastes and likes.

If I can just save one soul. just one, it will be worth it as long as it fits into my lifestyle.

On the other hand, if I could save thousands and tens of thousands yet be required to sacrifice the things I like… Anyway, if I can just save one soul…

I have sacrificed and given God so much, He wouldn't ask anymore from me now.

These things in my past used to be my idols, but now I use them to reach others, so God would never ask me to give them up.

Abraham was Abraham, and Moses was Moses.  God is so much nicer these days.

God wants me to live an abundant life, so I should keep doing the same old thing I've always done to get out of my poverty.

I love being radical, but only when it's safe.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Restoring Respect and Awe for God

"When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.”

This has to be among the top ten favorites stories for me in the Bible.  This happened when the conniving, scheming Jacob ran away from his furious brother because he had stolen his blessing of the firstborn.  But God saw in Jacob the con artist, a heart that hungered for His blessings, and so He graciously gave him a dream of angels climbing and descending a staircase to heaven.

When Jacob awakes in the middle of the wilderness, he is a changed man.  He is filled with awe and reverence, and sees the vast wasteland around him as a holy place, the house of God, the gate of heaven! From that moment on, Jacob is a man of faithfulness to God, a man of honesty and a clean heart.  A man filled with reverence for God, is a man that God can empower to change the world.

God renamed Jacob, Israel, who fathered the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel, from where our Savior and Lord Jesus came to save the entire world.  That alone shows the power that comes from a life of sincere reverence for God.

What people commonly consider to be "reverent" means walking around with a long face, speaking in religious sounding terms and basically being a boring snob.  Of course the devil would love to paint the most powerful attitude of submission to God in that light, so no one would be attracted to it.  But reverence can take on many forms.  God is the inventor of all pleasure and joy, as CS Lewis has noted in his Screwtape Letters, but there is no true joy without utter respect for God as God.  There can be no pleasure without a hatred and disgust for sin.  There can be no power without a total surrender and willingness to serve, merely because He deserves to be served.  But with respect and awe, come joy, pleasure, power, victory, peace, and all things good that come from our Father above.

The Temple of God in the Bible was a constant reminder that sin is evil and that His people need to live in a constant state of repentance.  How about now?  Too many people that I have come to know repent only when they are caught red-handed.  But people who live in the power of God, are constantly repenting and constantly reminding themselves that they are weak, and the God who loves them is strong to deliver them.

The Temple was also a constant reminder that the presence of God is so awesome that when anything defiled or evil approaches Him, that thing is burned up and destroyed.  Not because God is cruel and has no love, but because God is such a pure and powerful love, that evil cannot exist in His presence.

When you kneel down to pray, or even pause in the middle of your day on your job, do you realize that you are in the presence of an awesome and fearful God?  When you walk into your church every week and see the same bulletin board, the same kids class teachers, the same seats and carpeting, do you remind yourself that you are actually stepping inside the very house of God? The very gate of heaven?

Watch this video and think about how we need to recapture that sense of holy awe for the God who has given His life for us.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Disrespecting God and revering demons

I know that no true Christian would willingly honor or revere the devil.  Even so, the devil will steal as much credit as he can get, no matter how he gets it.  A sincere Christian who inwardly blames God for the suffering he goes through, is honoring the devil.  He's letting Satan and his demons get off, scott free.  He becomes ever so slightly embittered towards God.  He reasons that if God, who is all-powerful, doesn't remove this injustice, then God must want him to suffer. Therefore, God is cruel.

He may not know that God is requiring him to fight against it, to rebuke evil in his prayers and to persist (like the Bible teaches) until God's justice shines through.  And most Christians do try somewhat hesitantly, unsure if it's God's will or not of them to pray in such an audacious way.  They may see God mercifully answer right away, but often when there's real demonic resistance to their attempts, the answers don't appear as soon as they'd like, and they give up discouraged.  Of course they would never  outwardly blame God, but in the back of their minds a thought grows - God let them down. It gradually eats away at their faith so that any future spiritual battle is already lost.

Christians who don't even try anymore are the saddest and most defeated.  They find themselves in the worst position of being a poster child for the devil's campaign called: God Doesn't Care.  God's people are rendered impotent.  They may be good and kind, but they have lost the will to fight.  Meanwhile the devil is basking in his glory.

For God to be given true honor and glory, His children need to be unrelenting warriors in prayer, and in determination to see His Kingdom advance.  If it's fighting for the spiritual freedom of someone who is lost in addictions, or fighting their own fleshly desires, or fighting for the salvation of their cities and towns, God's Word needs to be taken seriously.  If He promises victory, we need to insist on victory, and if that means we need to change for Him, to purify our hearts more, to become more humble or more courageous or more whatever it is that He wants, we have to be stubborn in our pursuit to do so so He is honored.  Christians who fail to do this, by default, disrespect God's promises and honor demons.

Read the next post coming up:  Restoring Awe and Respect for God: the New Temple of Solomon

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What to do about deliverance and demons

The expected answer should be obvious, but the true answer for most individuals is the opposite.  Just look at the typical American Christian.

Deliverance from demon possession is not common here.  Some churches don't want anything to do with it.  Their doctrines state that the moment someone repents of their sins and accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, all evil in their lives is spontaneously defeated.  No point in making deliverance prayers for the saved if demons can't affect them any more other than just tempt them to sin.  And why go through the fuss of deliverance for those who are not saved, if all they need is to answer an altar call, repent and say the sinners prayer?  Get them baptized, give them a certificate, and once they're teaching Sunday School and know the appropriate lingo, they are as good as gold. Nope, no demons there!

Yet other churches do have deliverance prayers.  They acknowledge that even though people are sincerely seeking God, have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, something very evil continues to work in their lives.  They may suffer depression or the trauma of childhood abuse.  They sincerely want to follow Christ, but struggle with addictions, anger or self-hatred.  Just reading the Bible isn't enough, and so a deliverance ministry is formed to help them.  But what do most deliverance ministries entail?  A group of very concerned people, under the leadership of a minister or deliverance counselor, who gather in private to respect the very delicate nature of the person who is in suffering.  With great sensitivity, they gather information about their past, deduce what might be going on, lead the person in a sinner's prayer, go through a process of helping them repent and forgive their abusers or those who have hurt them, and then begin the mysterious process of the casting out of demons.  Much singing, speaking in tongues and waiting around for God to give words of revelation goes on in these sessions.  Demons do manifest, speak, fight and react, but it can last for hours, sometimes needing breaks to reassemble another day when all are worn out.

So we have one set of churches that gives no credence to demons, just teaches the basic gospel truths of salvation, while the other group gives an honored place to the process of deliverance.

Church type A, doesn't know what to do with the alcoholic father who leads the choir and coaches the kids softball team.  He's such a great guy… when he's not drunk.  Rehab hasn't changed him, prayers of repentance haven't changed him, he's eager to help and so friendly but is a real embarrassment when  he's locked up in jail for public disturbance.  They don't know what to do about the gossip that is rampant in their church, the bickering between the church committee members, how to stop the teenagers from getting pregnant and so on.  Keep teaching people to repent, and hope that they change.

Church type B, may be very involved with deliverance, or may just allow a traveling deliverance ministry to come through and set up a series of sessions that are not held during the normal services.  Cleansing Stream and others like that, provide specialized demon-casting-out services so that pastors can continue their regular functions and not have to get all messy with the business of deliverance.  As they say in their website, "The thought of a church of people equipped and functioning in such a manner [doing deliverance] can be scary for many pastors." Pastors scared of the devil.  Go figure.

It's very convenient for the pastor who doesn't want to get his hands dirty, like calling in a plumber when Drano doesn't do the job anymore.

There are other churches that are more hands-on, where the pastors incorporate deliverance into their regular ministry of preaching, teaching, discipling, evangelizing, healing and community outreach.  These churches are few and far between.  And even those I have come across, the prevailing attitude towards dealing with demons is a sense of awe and gravity.  Nothing like Jesus and his disciples.

So it all comes down to two general categories: denial of demons, or awe and respect for demons.  Both of course, are just fine as far as demons are concerned.

Coming in my next post:

The great deception:
How God is disrespected in the American church, while demons are revered

Watch this video about our first deliverance meeting in Brazil for this trip beginning January 17th.