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Are you a “GET UP AND WALK” kind of Christian?

cormorant_2211091945

Soaring Cormorant

 

A couple years ago, I sat down to watch a documentary called “The Mysterious Islands.” On the film, they talked in depth about the Galapagos Island cormorant bird. This bird is the only cormorant species in the world that cannot fly.

Perplexed by this, researchers went to work finding out the cause for this lack of flight. They discovered that life on the Galapagos Islands was very easy for the birds. The cormorant was not hunted by predators, which meant it was not forced to fly.

Furthermore, the cormorant relied on his diving skills rather than his flying skills to find food. The Island cormorant became excellent at diving, even though diving was a secondary skill. Over time, the bird’s body adapted to how it was being used and the lack of flying until he became unable to fly.

As I watched this film, the Lord spoke to my heart: “The American church is like that cormorant bird.”

I was heartbroken. I knew God was telling me that as a whole, His children in America had come to rely so much on secondary blessings, such as wealth and abundance and tips and strategies and flashy resource after resource… that we have stopped living from our primary gifting- the Holy Spirit.

 

Flightless Cormorant - Galápagos Islands

Flightless Cormorant of the Galapogas Islands

 

Like the cormorant bird, the American church knows how to dive. We know how to get our needs met and dip into the abundance of resources we have. Life is good. We know how to host conferences and build buildings and put on grand performances. We have lots of resources and know how to use them.

While there is nothing “wrong” with diving and using our resources, I do believe we have forgotten how to soar.

I have had the privilege of living in other cultures where the Christians don’t have all these things. In fact, daily reliance on God is the only thing they have. Boy are they rich!! They have the power of God on their lives. They know how to soar.

No matter what our Christian culture does, as individuals we can choose to soar. Read Acts 3 and let the Holy Spirit speak very personally to you:

 

“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple.

Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”   (Acts 3:1-6 ESV)

 

The lame man was expecting a coin, some token thrown his way that would keep him surviving. In fact, it says he daily came out for his alms. And where did he hang out for these mere coins? The temple. The religious institution.

But Peter gave him something totally unexpected: full healing in the name of Jesus.

It makes me ask: What tokens are we accustomed to receiving? I wonder if we associate books and podcasts and conferences and workbooks with spiritual abundance when perhaps they are mere tokens? They keep us surviving but we keep needing more, day after day, week after week. They are never enough.

Are we eating scraps off the table when God has something far greater that He intends for us?

Peter didn’t have any gold. No shiny alm to make the man feel good and prop him up one more day.

Peter had the power of God.

I have a question for you: Are you a “silver and gold”  kind of Christian? Or are you a “get up and walk” kind of Christian?

Are you surviving on token Christianity? Or have you come to the place where you lay all of that down for a Spirit filled life that is full of power?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t make the most of what we have. I am saying these cannot be the object of our reliance. If it means not having them in order to have something greater, we must be willing.

I am absolutely, positively convinced that God desires His people to live powerful, get up and walk kind of lives. I’m sure of it because His word is clear.

I am also convinced that most of us have grown up in a “silver and gold” paradigm of Christianity and, although we long for a more powerful, dynamic walk with the Lord, we are stuck in the wrong paradigm.

For the past two weeks, Jennifer and I have been discussing the spiritual sense of “Hearing.” I believe one hindrance to us hearing God and living a powerful Christian life is the reliance on secondary skills, blessings, talents, and resources. Over-emphasis on these things have caused us to become dull of hearing.

 

“Concerning this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull in your [spiritual] hearing and sluggish.

 For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others, you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word. You have come to need milk, not solid food.

For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]!

But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law.

Therefore let us go on and get past the elementary stage in the teachings and doctrine of Christ (the Messiah), advancing steadily toward the completeness and perfection that belong to spiritual maturity.”

~Hebrews 5:11-6:1a

 

This passage tells us that when we become dull of hearing, we fail to train the spiritual senses we need for spiritual maturity. We are like that cormorant bird whose flying muscles atrophy due to lack of use. Habitually hearing God and acting on what He says is essential for steady spiritual growth. It is how Peter knew to walk over to that lame man and tell him, “Get up and walk!”

Training our spiritual senses through constant use is required for living a “get up and walk” kind of life. We’ve got to use those spiritual muscles and soar!

To help personalize this and make it useful in our lives, let me close with a few questions. It will help if you jot them down and then write the answers down as you prayerfully consider them. Writing things down helps solidify them.

 

1. Spiritually, what “tokens” are you relying on to keep going? Prayerfully identify anything you are relying on in lieu of His Spirit. List them as specifically as you can.

2. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the the Word of God.” The surest way to develop your hearing is to increase your intake of the Word. How can you get more word of God into your day? Brainstorm ideas, then adopt the most realistic one or two. Work on incorporating them into your life this week. {For the Bibles I use, click here}

3. This week, when you are tempted to reach for one of the ”silver or gold” tokens you have identified, turn to Christ instead. Ask Him to fill you with His promised living water (see John 4:10) Pray Samuel’s prayer, “Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening.” Then wait expectantly for Him to speak.

 

Let’s excercise this week, friends!!  As always, you are invited to share in the comments. Let’s be iron on iron for the glory of God! Your thoughts, insights, questions, even disagreements are welcome :)

Soar, my friend. Soar.

Jennifer and I will be back next week with more in this series. You can subscribe to Arabah and Smelling Coffee to make sure you get upcoming posts in this series.

~Arabah

 

Related: Post One in this series

Post Two in this series

How to Know God’s Voice

 

 

Welcome to the second post in our series on Hearing God! Are you a woman who listens to God moment by moment? Today, Jen from Smelling Coffee shares some practical tips on discerning God’s voice.

{To see how God uses His voice to lead us  read post one here. And Be sure to subscribe to Smelling Coffee and Arabah Joy for updates on this series.}

Here’s Jen on how to discern God’s voice:

 

“The Lord said to me…”
“I heard the Lord say…”
“I felt the Lord say…”
“The Lord wanted me to…”
“The Lord showed me…”
“The Lord brought you to my mind…”

Have you ever heard someone make any of the above or similar statements and wondered to yourself how in the world that person KNEW it was “the Lord” speaking and how they KNEW what He was saying? That’s what this series is all about, and Arabah Joy and I are so glad you’ve joined in the discussion with us today.

Hearing and discerning the voice of the Lord isn’t a magical spiritual power that some believers have and others don’t. The ability to hear and discern the Lord’s voice is the natural product of an intimate relationship with God.

The more time we spend with someone and the more intimate we become with that person, the more we learn to recognize that person’s voice, laughter, and even his/her whisper. It’s that way with my husband and me, and my children and me. I can tell which one of them is sniffing, or breathing loudly, or coughing, or walking – all because I love them and know them so intimately well.

The same is true with God. An intimate relationship with God is the most important factor in being able to hear God’s voice. In fact, it is the most defining aspect of our entire lives. It holds the key to our success and survival, happiness and strength, and our joy and purpose in this life we’ve been given to live.

John 10:27 says, “The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me.”

If you want to know how and when God is speaking to you, you must first make sure that you belong to Him. Click here for an easy explanation of belonging to God.

So how does God speak to those who belong to Him?

That’s a big question – and one we will {by God’s help} take a stab at discussing today. Next week’s post will be about how we can tell the difference between God speaking and our own wishful thinking or the enemy’s misleading.

God speaks through His Word.

Once you belong to Jesus, you must learn what His words sound like. This reorganization comes through time spent in His Word, the Bible. The more you are familiar with the Word of the Lord, the more apt you are to hear Him speak to you through His Word, and direct you in applying His Word to the intimate details of your life. As God’s Word becomes more and more familiar to you, and as the Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to teach, convict, and change you, you are learning the sound of God’s voice. God speaks to His people through His Word.

God, by the Holy Spirit, also speaks to His people through prayer, circumstances, and the church. If you’re familiar with Henry Blackaby’s wonderful Bible study, Experiencing God, you’ll recognize this as “Reality # 5.” ;-)


God speaks through Prayer.

Dr. Henry Blackaby explains it this way.

“As I pray about a particular matter, the Spirit of God takes the Word of God and applies tit to my heart and mind to reveal the truth. I immediately stop praying and open God’s Word to the passage I believe the Spirit brought to my mind. I assume God wants to give me specific direction through the Scripture He led me to. Sometimes as I pray, the Spirit places a particular person on my heart. I assume God is alerting me, through prayer, to someone He wants to minister to through me. After I pray, I look for ways God leads me to minister to that person.

‘We are weak and do not know how we ought to pray. (Romans 8:26-27) The Holy Spirit has an advantage over us; He already knows God’s will – He is God. When He prays for us, He is interceding in agreement with God’s will. He then helps us know God’s will as we pray… You must decide, however, that you want only His will. You must dismiss any selfish or fleshly desires of your own. Then as you start to pray, the Spirit of God touches your heart and leads you to pray God’s will.

“…Don’t play games with God. Don’t just look for a Scripture that seems to say what you want to do and then claim it as God’s will. That is dangerous…Watch for God to use the written Word to confirm or correct what you sense in prayer…” [Experiencing God, Unit 5, Day 5]

God speaks through circumstances.

God does speak through the things that happen in and around our lives. However, we must not view our circumstances as the number one way God speaks. Circumstances are often confusing. God’s Word is the primary way He speaks, and then He uses our circumstances to move us into places or attitudes of obedience to that Word. Not every “open door” is one we are to go through. And not every door we perceive as “closed” is closed to God. We can’t determine what God is saying by looking strictly at our circumstances.

When we are trying to hear God through our circumstances, we must be careful not to view God from the middle of our circumstances. Picture this: (artist that I am… below is my “draw something” version of a point I’m trying to make – haha!)

The person viewing God from the middle of the circumstance gets a distorted view of God and a muffled sound of God’s voice. The person viewing the circumstance through God and His Word is able to discern what God is saying in the midst of the circumstance. The Holy Spirit will take God’s Word and apply it to our circumstances as we lay aside our wills and listen for what God has to say. He will use His Word to comfort us, convict us, confirm us, and instruct us. Then, as we wait and watch what happens next, God will often use our circumstances to confirm His Word.

When circumstances are confusing, always ask God to reveal the truth about those circumstances. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” We must ask God to reveal Himself and to give us His perspective. Then we must stay in God’s Word, obeying what it says, and wait for God to speak to us about Himself and our circumstances.

God speaks through other believers (the Church – the Body of Christ).

God will often use other believers who are seeking His Word to confirm what He has been saying to us. But very rarely will God speak about our lives through another person when He has not already been dealing with us about that same area or issue. God uses believers who seek His Word and His Will to come alongside other believers and encourage us to press on toward obedience. We must beware of the one who gives us “a word from the Lord” that is either contrary to Scripture, or way off radar from what God has been speaking to us. Always carry someone’s “word” for us back to the Lord and ask Him to reaffirm it through His Word. He will not mislead us.

If you want to delve more deeply into this subject, may I recommend these three resources?

Now it’s your turn to speak. ;-)

  • How has God spoken to you by the Holy Spirit through His Word, prayer, circumstances, or the church?
  • How did God use His spoken word to you to make a difference in your life?

Jennifer

The Woman Who Hears God {A Practical Blog Series on Discerning God’s Voice}

hearing god

 

 

A few months ago, I received a letter in the mail.

I opened the envelope and there with the note were two gift cards to Walmart. The letter was from Jennifer and she wrote to tell me that someone asked her to pass one of the gift cards on to me. Then she said, “The other card was given to me, but the Lord told me it belonged to you too.”

I showed the note to my husband and we did a Thank You Jesus dance in the living room because:

1. we needed groceries and

2. we knew God was telling us that He saw and He knew and He would never, ever forsake us.

 

Jennifer was an instrument of God that day. She could have kept the cards and I never would have known the difference. But because she (and the generous woman who gave the cards) listened and obeyed, the Holy Spirit communicated great peace to our hearts. We saw how God was moving in other hearts on our behalf and we once again, knew that we can trust that kind of God.

Make no mistake about it, the woman who hears God’s voice and promptly responds is a woman who touches and changes lives.

The question is, do you want to be that kind of woman?

For me, there is no better or more fulfilling way to live. I also know Jennifer to be a woman who listens to the Spirit all day long. She relies on Him for her hair. Her wardrobe. Her ministry. Even her marriage bed! She knows what it’s like to commit her day to Him and let Him bring His life in her to fruition.

After spending some time with Jennifer, I saw her intimacy with the Lord as something others could greatly benefit from…so I asked her to prayerfully consider doing a blog series with me on discerning God’s voice and walking according to the Spirit. She said yes!

 

Every Tuesday over the next few weeks, we will discuss topics such as how to know it is God speaking, how to hear God through the Word, how to hear Him in the daily mundane, what God expects of us after hearing, and what it all looks like in an everyday life. We will share personal stories and whatever else the Lord lays on our hearts!

I’d like to give you a little meat to chew on from John 10 regarding hearing God…and I want you to meet Jennifer too, so please click over to Jennifer’s blog for a little dip into John 10~ 

 

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”    Isaiah 30:21

 

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe for updates to avoid missing a post: Smelling Coffee and Arabah Joy.

Hephzibah

There’s 20 minutes before service starts and I’m rushing to shower before leaving out the door with wet hair…and I hear His voice speaking to me.

“Take her a gift.”

I’ve never met “her” before, the young woman from Guatemala who is going to be sharing at services tonight. I hardly know anything about her.

“Take her a gift to show how beautiful she is to Me.”

I’m scurrying around pulling my towel-dried hair back in a pony tail and searching for my missing sandal and this is what He whispers to me.

I pause.

The only thing I have worthy of giving a beautiful woman is the “H” pendant I received at Christmas. And I don’t know if her name starts with “H” or not.

“Lord, what about the pendant?” I ask Him. “Is that what You want me to give her?”

And then He reminds me of the passage I read that very morning, the one from Isaiah 62:

“You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. 

You will be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,  a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted,  or name your land Desolate.

But you will be called Hephzibah, for the Lord will take delight in you.”

 

H for Hephzibah. The new name. The new identity.

“Okay, Lord,” I say as I scratch out a note card explaining why she is receiving an “H”  pendant on a string from a stranger. “This is a *little* crazy, but okay.”

I arrive at church and we listen to testimonies and finally it is time for the girl from Guatemala.

She is 22 and she’s never been out of her country before and she is scared to be speaking in front of us.

She grew up hungry. Her parent’s were alcoholics and the 11 kids they gave birth to didn’t have food to eat. She became the surrogate parent to her younger brothers, always scrounging for food, collecting old coffee grounds or gathering plaster from old buildings.  Anything they could fill their stomachs with.

She grew up a castaway. At 8, she was raped by 2 of her older brothers, while her younger brothers were forced to look on. When she told her mom about it, her mom slandered her and shamed her and disowned her.

Then, family members filed complaints and the judge ordered her to the orphanage and life changed for little Velma.

She heard about Jesus. Slowly, she began to trust. Slowly, she began to believe.

After the service, Pastor asks me to come forward and pray for Velma with a “V” and I pray Isaiah 62 over her and when everyone is dismissed, I slip her the gift.

She looks at me like I’m crazy but I’m grinning  because I know why He told me to give a girl named Velma a pendant with the letter “H” on it.

And isn’t it glorious?

Our loving God Himself wants her to know she is no longer forsaken.

No longer desolate.

She has a new name. A new identity.

She is a crown of beauty in the hand of her God.

 

Psst, click here for your “H,” because you are renamed too. Print it and post it on your fridge, carry it in your Bible, or get crafty and make your own pendant. Because you are a crown of beauty in His hand…and He takes great delight in you.

For those “Extra Grace Required” days

 

Over steaming bowls of apples and oats, Husband reads the words.

“It was good…”

Things don’t seem so good. The skies keep pouring rain and our support has run out and the bills are starting to pile up and Husband’s already gone 7am-10pm and how in the world can he ~ all of us~ take on more?

“It was good for me to be afflicted,” Husband reads. I sit up in my seat. Really? Who says that, that affliction is good? I need to tune in right about now.

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees.”

Husband glances over at me and smiles. He knows.

“Although He was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered…”

I can’t help the breath from escaping heavy and the shoulders from stooping. I’m a child too, receiving correction.

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”

Oldest is looking at me now too, smiling, laughing. Everyone in this family knows this Word is for me.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and test you…Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.”

Was it just last night that I told God He had to break through for me, that I couldn’t do this anymore?

We finish eating Words and oats and we clear dishes and I rinse sticky bowls… and I know Words will be my staple food today.

The kids get dressed and  make their beds and I sit down again with today’s Daily Light.

There’s a purpose to affliction.

I pour over the words and make a list in my journal, all the reasons given for hardship.

Like a bride’s veil being swept back, I see the beauty beneath. There are reasons for the mind-numbing days and the never ending pain and the deep deprivation and the soul desperation.

Affliction teaches us obedience.

I meditate and I chew and I imagine. I see Jesus, driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, that harsh season of pain, need, and trial. Cold nights in isolation and dark days of testing and hunger.

This wasn’t about Him proving His worth, earning God’s favor. The Beloved Son had already been approved, accepted, and publicly validated.

No, the wilderness was not about performing. It was about power…the kind only possible through learning obedience.

And with that wilderness account, Jesus, in the flesh, set the example for us on how to live powerful, purposeful lives.

I hear Him beckon.

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…”  “Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit.” Luke 4:1, 14

The Spirit, alive and aching to be made manifest in Him, led Jesus into the wilderness. The word for “led” means “to drive.” So intent was the Spirit to unleash His power upon Jesus’ life, He drove Him to the wilderness.

There He ”learned obedience from affliction.”

Before His first miracle…before His name became known…before He stood up in the assembly and said the time was fulfilled, Jesus learned submission. And He returned in power.

I ponder these things while I help children buckle up in the van. We drive into town to take Little Bit to her speech therapy appointment. The rain slaps hard and the wipers rush to keep up.

The children are quiet. Dark skies have us all silent.

Again, I imagine Jesus, our example to living full of the Spirit’s power. He’s crouching low to spit on the ground. Even this was purposeful. Even this was powerful.

Could the wilderness have prepared Him for that, to know when, where, and how to spit?

Yes, it’s how He knew to stop and stoop and spit on the ground and do the miraculous.

It’s how He wasn’t shaken by major disruptions and changes of plans and dangerous situations.

It’s how He could sleep in a storm.

He had learned obedience through affliction…the obedience of living in complete submission and unity with the Father and the Spirit. It empowered Him to live His life, fulfill His calling.

And I sense deep within that same Spirit urging me, driving me, calling me in the wilderness. “Learn of Me,” He says. “I am jealous for you.”

I’m ashamed of my bellyaching…what when God has such a divine, noble purpose for me.

Affliction is good. Surrender is learned, and this is how.

It is when we are returning from Little Bit’s speech appointment that the kids start to fight. I sit at the stop sign with wipers pumping and I hear it on the radio: “You want to overcome the stress in your life? I’ve got one sentence for you to pray, just one. It’s simply this: “Teach me to do Your will, O Lord.” (Ps 143:10)

The rain pours and the kids fight and I sit at the intersection in shock.

I can’t believe He would orchestrate all of this for me to get this message right. He is Spirit driving and Jealous Lover and I asked and He answered and is making sure I don’t miss it.

Preacher says it right there on the radio: “Get into yoke with Jesus. 90% of the stress in a Christian’s life comes from unwillingness in the heart to bring their lives under the control of Jesus. (Pastor David Jeremiah)

“I know what you are longing for,”  Meek and Gentle whispers. “Learn from Me. Let this affliction teach you obedience.”

“My burden is easy, there is no need to fear. Come and be a disciple; learn submission to Me. Let me teach you how to live under My control and domination.”

Affliction is good.

Yes, Lord,” my heart responds. “Teach me to do Your will.”

 

Restless

The clock reads 10:50pm when I hear his shuffled feet outside our door. “Son?” I call to him. “What is it?”

Husband gets up and lets him in and asks if everything is okay.

“I just can’t sleep,” he says.

An hour later I’m having the same problem. I keep thinking about silver and gold and what must I do to have a “get up and walk” kind of life.

I feel the stirring inside. I was made for more.

I was made to reflect and pour out His glory. Indeed, it burns within.

I was made to bless with my mouth.

I was made to nourish with my life.

I was made to succor with my arms.

I’m a woman; I was made to birth and nurture life, wherever I go, from dawn to dusk.

But I have to be real honest. My reality doesn’t live up to my calling.

I feel like the prodigal, feeding on pig’s pods. I should be supping at the table with my Father.

I should be anointed with His oil, overflowing with His wine, spilling out onto others.

Why this wallowing?

The restlessness twists me until I can’t stay in the bed and I get up. I turn to the familiar passage.

“I say this so that no one will keep defrauding you with their well crafted arguments.” Colossians 2:4

And just like that, I know what happened.

I had hopped on the computer before bed to check for an update. While there, I decided to take the risk: I clicked on the link and it took me to a lovely woman’s blog…but she talked about herself and gave all her suggestions for everyone else and it made me think about myself and I thought about everything I’m not doing, everything I’m horrible at, everything that’s wrong or missing or….

I listened to the wrong voices.

“Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. And you are complete in Him.” Colossians 2:8-10

How quickly the mind is captured with what others are saying and doing! How quickly we forget where our nourishment and support and life come from. How quickly we fall away from the grace provided us in Christ.

We rely on so many other things, forgetting that He is pleased to give us the kingdom!

He brings to my mind The Flightless Cormorant and there, I see the date these words were written: exactly one year ago.

“Do we only have silver and gold ministries to offer the lame beggar on the temple steps? Or can we, like Peter, say, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have, I give to you: In the name of Jesus, WALK!” (Acts 3:6)

All year these things have niggled me. All year I have seen how we, as a culture and for the most part, live the Christian life in the flesh. All year I have been sickened by how much of my life, my 12 years in the ministry as a church planter and missionary, have been lived relying on secondary skills.

The secondary skills aren’t the problem.

The forgetting what we are made for is.

We were made for Spirit wings to indwell us, fill us, empower us, carry us to places secondary blessings never can. We were made for “abundantly above all we ask or imagine,” from Him and to Him and by Him and for Him.

We were made for the kind of indwelling power that raised Christ from the dead. And we are content with diving?”

I’ve discovered something from my time online over the past year. Many, many things out there teach us how to be better swimmers. But very few indeed tell us how to soar.

My friend, we were made to live “get up and walk” kind of lives. Silver and gold can buy a crowd and pay for speaking lessons, but only the power of God can anoint you to tell a lame beggar to get up and walk! My restless heart is finally grounded tonight: In Christ is all the fullness.

And we are complete in Him.

I pray we are not moved away from the simplicity of Him.

**In praying about what God would have as my theme for the coming year, I’m convinced that it is to be “In Christ.” So during 2012, my topic of personal study will be what we have in Christ, who we are in Christ, and how to appropriate His life. I am very excited about how the Lord has led me to this and can’t wait to get started.

She Who Believes {Living Well Watered}

 

My friend Liu Lian and I walked the street to see the widow.

It was hot like usual, and the streets were crowded with hawkers and bicyclists and taxis. People milled around the newspaper stand and the noodle shop. We stopped at the produce stand to buy some apples for the widow.

“I want to get her some milk powder, too,” my friend told me. “She is pregnant and last night when I was there, she only had two vegetable dishes on the table for dinner.”

We ducked into a small shop for the milk powder before continuing our journey.

It was so hot my feet were sweating in my sandals and mixed with dust from the streets, I had a sudden urge to take up pedicures the next time we returned to the states.

We reached the apartment complex where the newly widowed young woman lived. Liu Lian talked us past the guard and we walked down the gravel road towards her building. Liu Lian pointed out painted red markings that ran along the ground at the side of the building.

“See that?” she asked. “That’s the line for the departed spirit to follow home. In case he gets lost…”

We followed the paint up the stairs to a second floor apartment. The door posts were covered in slashed, dripping red. A candle burned outside the doorway.

Her mother was there with her and they invited us in.

The room was somber and dark and I could sense the air thick with spiritual activity. On the table was a shrine to the murdered man and incense burned and filled the apartment with a pungent smoke.

They looked at me strange, eyes hard and distrustful. I was the foreigner, the outsider. What right did I have to intrude upon something so painful, so deep as sudden, violent death? And I’d never met these people before.

Yet I was compelled, yes, I was commissioned.

Aren’t we all?

My friend asked how they were and then began speaking very quickly, beyond my ability to understand. She gestured at me and waved and they smirked and nodded and I knew they’d just agreed to tolerate me.

She turned and looked at me. I was up. “I’m so grieved by what you have experienced,” I began. “And I know there is nothing I can do to change things or make things right again. But I came here today to tell you Who can heal your broken places.”

I made a simple gospel presentation and I quoted the scripture I had memorized: John 7:38

“He who believes in Me (who cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me) as the Scripture has said, from his innermost being shall flow (continuously) springs and rivers of living water.”

It was the only scripture I had memorized and I had worked for weeks to get it just right. Liu Lian had coached and tutored me.

I could see the desperation in the widow’s eyes. She was truly without hope. She asked me if I could help her get to America. I told her no, I didn’t have the means for that, but I had the good news of Jesus and He was better than any good life America might offer her.

She fell into a numb silence and I gave her a Jesus film and a gospel tract as we excused ourselves.

Past the dead man’s photo with incense, past the painted doorframes, down the stairs with their screaming message of despair.

Outside, Liu Lian turned to me. “Her mother told me she is pregnant with twins. She is six months along and doesn’t know how she will take care of them. She is seriously considering abortion because if she waits much longer, she will be too far along to abort legally.”

My heart broke and I immediately began praying for the lives of these two unborn babies.

I returned home but couldn’t get the woman off my heart or mind. The next day, I enlisted another friend, a local believer, to go with me to talk with the woman.

The guard was a bit more troublesome this time. My friend reverted to using the local dialect to convince him to let us in. He did, but the widow and her mother did not come to the door.

I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving without speaking to her.

We asked some neighbors if she was at home.

“She went out a couple hours ago but she should be back anytime.”

We waited.

Shortly, we saw the two women walking slowly up the gravel road, the young woman clinging tightly to the arm of her mother.

We greeted them and they were cordial and we asked to speak with them inside and they hesitated, but then acquiesced.

“I know you are struggling with so many decisions,” I told the widow. “But please, please don’t abort those babies. They are the children of your husband and there has been so much death and sadness already. You don’t need even more. Please!”

My friend also gave her advice and made many words about keeping the babies. I told her that if she needed anything, please call me or come see me and I gave her my address.

On our way out the door, the mother pulled my friend aside for a moment. We left and with tears in her eyes, my friend relayed the message to me that the widow had already aborted the babies. At the abortion, the momma found out what gender they were.

They were twin little boys.

And it had just happened that very morning. They were just returning from the clinic when we caught them on the gravel road.

We were too late.

I grieved those baby boys. “I’m so sorry,” I told them again and again~ like they could hear. “I’m so sorry.”

Grief has a way of messing with your faith. Pain and trauma and hardship all viciously attack your trust in God. There are some things that just aren’t supposed to be.

But they are.

And I’ve been through loss and grief and trauma and when I feel someone else’s, it all comes back, that innate tendency to close up and shut off because faith seems too risky. It seems downright foolish. It seems Sunday Schoolish and fairy tale and who needs that?

And yet…

It wasn’t a fairy tale when Jesus told Mary and Martha “This illness does not end in death” in John 11…and then Lazarus died. No siree, there’s nothing fairy tale about that.

Who could deny the cold, hard facts? The reality was that Lazarus lay decaying in a grave.

But didn’t Jesus also say to Martha, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So on the one hand we have the reality of death. On the other, we have the promise of God. It’s pretty clear that Jesus set this scenario up so that we would all know that faith isn’t a fairy tale. It isn’t some good-for-Sunday School-only concept.

He made sure the stakes were as high as they could possibly be, the reality as dark and the fate as sealed as possible. Then He turned around and taught us a profound lesson: that reality may be hard and cold and deathly but there is a reality just as true and real and concrete …and that is His word.

Because hadn’t He told them it wouldn’t end in death? After it was all said and done, Lazarus, the one who died, was. not. dead.

And doesn’t He say to me and to you that even though our reality may be empty and dry and spent and cold and inadequate…but there is another reality just as real and true and sure and that is His word?

She who believes will see the glory of God.

She who believes will have streams of water gushing from her innermost being.

Perhaps God wants you and me to learn what faith really is: a transferred focus from the reality I can see to the one I cannot. A faith that asks and correctly answers the question, “What is real? What I can see laying up in that tomb? or what God has said?”

What God has said is the truer reality.

 

[Most] blessed is the woman who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord, and whose hope and confidence is the Lord.

For she shall be like a tree planted by the waters that spreads out its roots by the river; and it shall not see and fear when heat comes; but its leaf shall be green. It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

What hard reality are you facing right now?

What has God said about it?

Which reality will you believe?

 

“I, the LORD, have spoken.” She who believes the word of the Lord will live well watered.

 

 

 

The Director of our steps

I head into town with the 3 little ones in car seats. It isn’t often I take them all with me on errands; I’ve learned not many errands are that important, but this one is. We’re getting vaccines.

Husband calls because he is at school and he’s close to where we’ll be and he suggests we meet him at the park after we’re done.

After shots we park at Chick-Fil-A and walk down the path to the nature reserve. Not ten steps down the path we see an Asian woman with two young children. The children with her are meandering, lagging behind. Mine are running ahead, looking for nuts and colored leaves.

Husband greets the woman in the language we’ve learned and she returns the greeting…she’s from our people group!

We start talking with her and she tells us where she is from and why she is here. “I can’t speak English,” she tells us. “I’m here to help with the grandchildren while my daughter finishes university.”

She says she wants to return to her homeland. “America is very beautiful, but it is not home.” We nod and relate our first experiences in a new country. “I’m 65 years old!” she exclaims, indicating she is too old to change much anymore.

I smile at her and tell her she looks so young…she really does…and Husband asks her if she has ever heard of Jesus before.

She looks baffled. “No,” she hesitates, not having a reference point. Is Jesus a place? A food? She doesn’t even know He’s a Person.

I tell her, “Since you are in America, we must share with you! Jesus! He is the most precious thing we have.”

She nods her agreement and Husband begins with creation, and the fall, and the broken relationship between man and God. As I look at the treasures the children have found, he tells how Jesus, God’s own son, came to restore our relationship with God.

Later he tells me he felt like he bumbled the whole thing. We are so out of practice using our second language! “You did great!” I encourage him. He is so much better at sharing the gospel than I am, and so bold.

While the kids are playing at Chick-Fil-A, Husband and I talk about the encounter. “You know that’s why we were at the park today,” he said to me, and I fill with awe. “He wanted that lady to hear the gospel in a language she can understand…”

“…and He sent us here to tell her,” I finish.

It is so amazing, so God, that I have no more words to say. We just look at each other in awe.

It doesn’t seem like we are doing anything “important.” We aren’t preaching to hundreds or leading Bible studies or writing books or even going overseas right now.

We are spending our days tired and I’m chasing a lot of children around and we’re doing a lot of studying and reading. And making a lot of trips into town for things like vaccines and diapers.

Yet today God directed our steps to a park where a woman from the other side of the world was, a woman who had never heard the name of Jesus...and couldn’t understand it anyway, if it was spoken in English.

“God looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From His throne, He observes all who live on the earth. Nothing in all of creation can hide from Him. He sees every step I take. I know the Lord sees all that I do; therefore, I will not be shaken… for He is right beside me.”

Surely it is God who ordains the steps of a man.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8

 

Wherever your paths take you this day, friend, may you know His counsel is upon you, His instruction in your steps. May you walk confident.

 

 

Who Is Arabah?

 

 

Daughter throws up all over the living room floor and little brother runs over to smear and track it all over and phone rings and breakfast burns and oldest brother argues with middle daughter while getting ready for school….

And I’m about to lose it, I really am.

I feel like a puppet on a string and I am not cut out for this craziness, this jumping up running from thing to thing. I’m not up for these interruptions and stresses and constant driven-ness and being overwhelmed all. the. time.

I’ve lived in the corporate world and it was easier than this.

I’ve lived in full time ministry and it was easier than this.

I’ve done many things that were easier than this.

I need a new life. And maybe I have one.

The scripture comes to my mind, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…”

So I stop for a split second, literally,  and laugh. “Okay, Jesus,” I say. “This life isn’t mine but Yours; so I guess this mess isn’t mine but Yours. You’re gonna have to come through here.”

James MacDonald says it like this:

“As we set out for a new day and yet another new day, we sort of assess what’s in front of us and we come to some conclusions about how we’re going to live our life today. And if we look to ourselves and our meager fleshly resources and we calculate how we will get by…  That’s a very bad plan. Especially when Romans 8:8 says that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Now I don’t know how it could be made any clearer. Living for Christ is not difficult. It’s impossible.”

From sermon series compiled in the book I Really Want to Change… So, Help Me God published by Moody Press

 

This Christian life was not meant to be lived in the flesh. It was not meant to be empowered by me. It is meant to be Christ using my body, mind, will, and emotions to live HIS life. It’s His life and it’s His power.

“But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit…” (Romans 8:8)

God’s Spirit is our power source when we are in Christ. Thank God, these responsibilities truly aren’t my problem. They are God’s opportunities to show His life and power.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells within you.” Romans 8:11

I tune into Jesus and turn off the burning breakfast and chase down a dirty toddler and hustle sick daughter and toddler both to the tub and ask siblings to be kind and somehow, in the midst of it all, faith in Christ within me bouys me and strengthens me and I am kind and confident because He is living His life through me.

Later, I’m getting ready for bed and I realize this is why I’m Arabah. I’m Arabah because who I am doesn’t matter… Because the life I live is no longer lived in the flesh. I’m Arabah because in the flesh I’m a dry, barren desert, a life trying and struggling and failing. An exhausted mess. But I’m also Arabah because the Spirit has been poured out and the wilderness has become a fertile field and the the desert blossoms and rejoices. (Isaiah 32:15, 35:1-2)

So…

Hello, again. I’m Arabah. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

James MacDonald (quoted above) is one of my favorite pastors. If you live in the Memphis, TN area, come hear him tonight at Bellevue Baptist Church. The husband volunteered to stay with the sick babes and let me go hear him tonight! PTL!

The Beautiful Wounded

 

 

The man, I notice him when he walks through the doors.

I’m placing toilet paper and laundry detergent on the conveyor belt of the local Dollar General. Before she even rings me up, there he is- in line behind me. He’s holding two quarts of car oil in his dark, worn hands.

I nod and smile and turn back to my cart and kids now bubbling all over the front area of the store.

He speaks to my inner place and I hear Him quiet, “This man needs to know I love him.”

“Okay, Lord,” I say. I turn back to the man with sunken face and smile again. “How are you today, sir?” I ask.

“Good, good, just hot.”

This is the South and it’s always the weather we fall back on when we talk small. Never mind the man is shrunk up to nothing, that his lip is bleeding, that his teeth are all gone, that he is literally wasting away for all to see...no, there is only the weather to tck tck at.

Youngest keeps reaching for the toys near the register and oldest is pushing on the cart to play with Little Bit inside. I’m trying to use coupons and pay the cashier and keep the buggy from running into my heels while instructing daughter to put that back already.

“Let me get out of this caldron first?” I ask Him as I grab my sacked paper goods and round the kids up and herd everything towards the door. Sometimes its all I can do to think straight.

We get outside and I park the cart.

 The man is already out the door and I try to bargain with God. “If he comes by here on his way to the car, then I’ll tell him.”

I glance around and notice he is already at his car- on the opposite side of the lot. He won’t be coming my way. A lost sheep has to be found. I’ll have to be a shepherd and leave the fold.

For a split second I consider forgetting it, going my way and excusing myself. But I don’t want to miss what God is doing, and I don’t want to quench that Voice, that Spirit that I crave so much in my life.

“C’mon, kids,” I round them up. “I want to go speak with this gentleman.”

They listen quickly. Grace.

I approach the man and his van. He’s got the front hood up and is pouring oil. “Sir?” I ask. “Do you need to make a phone call? I have a phone you can use.”

It feels so lame, so silly, so moronic. But it’s the opportunity given and I take it.

“Oh no ma’am.”

“Well are you from out of town? Is there something I can do to help?”

“I appreciate that, but no, I just need to put oil in every now and then. We live out in the Acres and we’re moving today to be near my brother.”

I glance inside the van and notice a woman in the passenger seat, window down, asleep.

“Well sir,” I turn back, “I just want to tell you that God loves you.” I reach out my hand and place it on his frail shoulder. “God loves you.”

We are strangers and I hope I’m giving dignity to the man and not taking it by being so bold as to touch him, but all I can think of is how Jesus touched the untouchables. Up close, the man’s bleeding lip reminds me of the leper. Or hepatitis. Sometimes the greatest way to love is to touch. 

“Yes, well….” the man trails off and shifts on his feet. He doesn’t know what to say to that.

I look back in the van again, trying to speak with the woman. I never want a woman to feel threatened by me, oh no, I’ll be quick to wash feet. 

The woman is still asleep. I am aware of the kids around my legs. “Momma, why did we come here to talk to this man?” Youngest daughter asks. The man is listening, probably wondering himself.

“Because God loves him and maybe he needs help and we can help him,” I tell her and glance at him too.  He’s wrapped up and ready to go. I turn to take the kids back across the lot when I hear the voice.

“Ma’am! Ma’am!” It’s a woman’s voice and I turn to see her awake and sitting up.

“Are you a believer too?” she asks. Ups and yells it out the window.

“Yes ma’am. I am,” I say.

She does a little jig in her seat and stretches her arms out the car window. “Oh! Oh!” She is downright giddy. “I am too! It’s so good to meet another believer!”

I walk over to her and take her hands in mine. I smile into her eyes. “Oh, it’s just so good to touch another believer,” she says.

She is as frail as her husband, but she’s beautiful. And witty. I know that maybe she’s strung out. Or maybe she’s trying to work me. Or maybe she’s a little off her rocker.

But what if she’s for real? What if she really has met Jesus and she doesn’t get the chance to go to church?

I squeeze her hands like there’s no tomorrow and we talk. She is visibly moved. I can’t believe this is put-on. Her husband, the man Jesus loves, is growing antsy. I’ve about worn out my Southern welcome.

“We’ve got to go, hon,” he tells her. I invite them to church tomorrow and we exchange names and she is such a beautiful Jan.

“Well let go of her,” beloved man tells her, already in reverse with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake.

“I’m trying,” she says and laughs, eyes twinkling.  We give one final squeeze and release each other.

“God loves you,” I tell her and she almost cries. We turn to leave and they pull away and I wonder what just happened.

I buckle the children in and as I pull out of the parking lot I ask Him, “Why is it that I feel such an affinity with people like these? Why do I feel such at home?”

I think of the Good Samaritan and I wonder if there was a reason why he stopped to help the wounded man. Had he been wounded at one time himself? Did he know? Did he serve from experience? And did the wounded man heal and go his way to help other wounded?

I wonder.

“That’s why,” He whispers to me. “You belong because you’ve been the one wounded and left for dead. And I saved you.”

And it is later, when others turn their nose at sordid past, don’t care to hear of dark nights and imperfect days, as if Barbie is real and makeup covers more than wrinkles… It is when others can’t see beauty in scars that He reminds me:

“It’s not the well who need a Physician, but the sick. I came to save sinners, not the righteous.” 

I ponder the man in John 5, who after he was made well tucked his invalid mat up under his arm and went his way. That mat, it was his past. He carried his scars as a reminder. He remembered what he had been. He remembered what Jesus had done. And he remembered those who still lay at the pool, waiting for Someone to pass their way.

And aren’t we His hands now? Aren’t we His feet? Aren’t we His body? Can we not go to the wounded and weak? 

Isn’t He within us compelling us to go?

I get on my knees and I thank Him for beautiful Jan, for marks and reminders, for nail scarred hands that reached and touched and anointed us to do the same, for imperfect days that remind me I’m the kind He came for.

The Beautiful Wounded.

 

 

 

 

 

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