Friday, January 30, 2009

The Beauty of America's KESWICK and Nuts

Rarely is there a day that I drive onto these grounds that I am not immediately aware of the beauty of, the glory of, the Lord. His Presence permeates the very air that we breathe here in this place called KESWICK.

Yes, it's true that this place can, at times, have its fill of sorrow and pain because, well, life happens to all of us.  Sometimes the details are all wrapped up in the pains and sufferings of those we love. Other times, it involves those we get to know for brief moments of time as they come and go from a conference or a summer Victory week.  

Most often, we become carriers of hope, agents of change coming alongside those whose lives are caught up in the bondage of addiction. All the dramas that you can imagine and many more you can not are played out, lived out before us, and it is all a part of the work, ministry and life here in this holy place called KESWICK.

I praise God for the beauty of, the glory and the POWER of His Spirit in this place.  I am grateful that it is His Spirit which supercedes all that we say and do.  Because of Him we are able to, day-by-day, do the work He alone has called us to.  

There's laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, fun and games, etc.  Most of all there is faith to believe, to trust, to go on and allow God to increase as we learn by trial and error to decrease.

Sometimes I look around at all the people that God chose to call and equip to do this work and I have to chuckle, sometimes to myself and sometimes out loud. I laugh because, basically, were all a bunch of nuts, beautiful nuts that He collected and put into one place, to be about His business in all the assorted different ways that we are uniquely designed.

This time of year you can go to the store and find bins full of assorted nuts, each one different in looks, taste, texture. Some prickly and bumpy, while others are smooth and round, thick, thin, and so on. When I see a bin full of nuts like that, I can't help but think about the body of Christ that God chose to gather for such a time as this and all I can do is sing His praises, thanking Him alone that in the thick and thin of it we are united, with all our different flavors and taste for a single purpose - to be Jesus with skin to a world that is lost, sick, hurting and will surely die apart from the hope and life of the Gospel.

Wherever you are, whatever church you are planted in, wherever you are working, remember to keep the main thing, the main thing and be about the Father's buisness.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ripped jeans and perfection

Francesca Battistelli - Perhaps, like me, you never heard her name. I was driving to work one morning when I heard these words, "Cause I got a couple of dents in my fender; Got a couple of rips in my jeans; Try to fit the pieces together; But perfection is my enemy; On my own I'm so clumsy; But on Your shoulders I can see; I'm free to be me."  I was intrigued, so I did some investigating on-line and found Francesca's second radio single, "Free To Be Me," has set an incredible record! It is being played on more radio stations than ANY other single from a new artist in Christian radio in all of history! 94 out of 118 stations are playing it! 1  

So I asked myself - why?  Why was I instantly intrigued?  Why has her song sky-rocketed in popularity?  This is what I think: because teens and 20-somethings resonate with the words of her song. The first lyrics that jumped out at me were - "a couple of rips in my jeans" - we used to throw out clothes that got so ripped they were tattered, but now young people pay money (and often quite a bit of it) to buy clothes already torn! 

More importantly, the second phrase that jumped out at me was, "But perfection is my enemy." I am by no means an expert. I have two grown children and have had many, many conversations with young people. It is apparent when talking to them that in many ways they are not trying to be like us, they are different. They are crying out for us to see beyond the hair, the earrings, the piercings, tattoos, and torn jeans.  Every time we try to put a standard before them (that is not specifically God's) it comes across to them as disapproval, unacceptance, and critical judgment-the enemy of their souls. If we were to be honest, it is the enemy our souls as well.  Perfection is not our friend - perfection is a standard of law, a measure of acceptability.  The law brings the realization that we cannot keep it.  "I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain... But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." Galatians 3:21, 23-25 We cannot be perfect in ourselves. We cannot live up to a standard, and if we think we do, let us fall on our face and repent of our self-righteousness.  

If you know Jesus Christ, the only righteousness you have is His.  Our young friends will be saved by the same grace that saved you and me.  Jesus looks past the hair, the make-up, the torn jeans, the pierced noses, lips and brows, beyond the spikes, tattoos and gauges.  He sees the heart.  He reaches down and marvelously saves by His grace and in so doing sets each one of us free. Free to be ourselves IN HIM.  My friends, let us stop looking down our un-pierced noses at those who are unlike us and rather pray that we can embrace them and love them as Jesus does and, frankly, that they can love and embrace us, as Jesus does.    


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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The God of "much more"

Without commentary, let me share a collection of Scriptures about The God of "much more":

Matthew 6:30  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Matthew 7:11  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Matthew 12:11-12, 24  He said to them, "Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." 

Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!

Romans 5:9-10, 15, 17 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life...But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many...For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:9-11 ...or if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

Hebrews 3:3   For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses-as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.

Hebrews 8:6  But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.

Hebrews 9:13-14  For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Redeemed Friends ~ be blessed today for God has already given you MUCH MORE.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The law makes nothing perfect

Hebrews 7:18-19 "For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God."

The phrase that struck me was "for the law made nothing perfect."  Why, so often, do we live as if the law at least gets us close to perfect?  We "preach" grace but live as if it really is the law that gets the job done.  I am ever so guilty of this.  I find myself judging people by their hair, piercings, tattoos, music, and dress, just to name a few.  
Intellectually we know that our salvation and perfection are by grace not by the law, but so often we personally set a standard of righteousness, of right and wrong, or of what is acceptable and appropriate.  It is not God's law but our own or some tradition we have adopted.  We make this standard our own and subtly or not-so-subtly require it of others.  We set an expectation on others as to how they should dress, behave, speak, look, etc., to be acceptable.  We set a law that is more rooted in human tradition than anything remotely related to Christ.  

Why do we live as if meeting these human expectations somehow reflects the righteousness of one's heart or perfect them? If the law of God does not make perfect a single soul, how foolish we are to live as if man-made laws, expectations or standards can.

Beloved, stop looking around!  Stop looking at others who do exactly what I'm talking about and start looking at your own heart.  Ask God to reveal to you the ways you have erected a man-made standard or adopted a tradition for people to live up to in order to measure up or to be considered righteous and godly ("for the law made nothing perfect").

"yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified."  Galatians 2:16 

"I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose." Galatians 2:21


Monday, January 26, 2009

He hears your cries

Hebrews 5:5-11 "So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,'You are my Son, today I have begotten you'; as he says also in another place,'You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.' In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing." ESV

When did Jesus offer prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears?  Perhaps numerous times, but one time is recorded, in the Garden of Gethsemane: "And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, 'Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.' And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." Luke 22:41-44  

The night He was betrayed, He was pleading with the Father (the One who was able to save Him from death) AND HE WAS HEARD because of His reverence...

When we say God heard our prayer we typically mean -He answered us favorably. When things do not go according to our plan we tend to think God did not hear, or at least did not answer our prayers, and yet this verse says that Jesus' pleadings and vehement cries and tears were heard-even though the end (or seeming end) was a brutal death on the cross. However, that wasn't really the end because the result of Christ's submission and obedience was that He, Messiah, was perfected (vs. 9) and therefore became the author of eternal salvation. 

God, the Father, heard the cries of His Son yet Jesus still suffered and God's purpose was still accomplished in spite of the suffering, in fact because of the suffering.

When you are experiencing the weight of suffering, God hears your vehement cries and prayers.  He sees your tears.  If your suffering continues, know that God has not turned a deaf ear or ignored you. No...rather, God the Father hears your cries even if you still suffer and God's purpose is still being accomplished in spite of the suffering, in fact usually because of the suffering.  


Friday, January 23, 2009

Let There Be

In addition to the rumblings of my own soul and spirit, a song I learned as a child is the inspiration for today's Victory Call.  The song is as follows:


"Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father, brothers all are we, 
Let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now.
With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow,
To take each moment and live each moment in peace, eternally.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."1

(Words and Music by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller, Circa 1955)

Peace, however, is not what occupies my thinking today. It is truth. What if the song read, let there be TRUTH on earth? Would we be able to say that truth resides in us?

What is truth? From John 14 we know that Jesus Himself is truth.  In verse 6 Jesus responds to Thomas' question by telling him, "I am the way, the truth and the life..."

We are presently in a brand new year and where we are now in space and time none of us has ever been before.  It's all new.  My deepest, truest longing for myself and every follower/believer in Christ, is that we be marked by truth -His truth and no other truth.

So to paraphrase the song: Let there be truth on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be truth on earth, the truth that was meant to be. With God as our Father, sisters all are we.

Let us walk with each other in truth and let the moment we decide to do so be NOW and not later. With every step we take let us vow to BE ABOUT truth, taking and living each moment with eternity in view.

Begin now with yourself. Are you walking in truth...the TRUTH and the WAY...and the LIFE? If you are, glory to God!! If you are not, will you take the truth of John 3:16-18a, and meditate on it?  Will you allow it to speak life to you and save you from the lie that TRUTH in the perfect sense does not matter?  Jesus is the truth and, apart from Him, nothing else matters.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. "He who believes in Him is not condemned..."

Selah...think on it...



Thursday, January 22, 2009

Not I but Christ

About 2 months ago, (11-18-08) I challenged you, encouraged you to join our Higher Ground women with their assignment. "May I invite you to join our Higher Ground group with their assignment? For one week, frequently remind yourself 'not I, but Christ.'  In the ordinary things of your day, remind yourself, 'not I, but Christ.' When a difficulty comes and your flesh response is unChristlike, remind yourself, 'not I, but Christ.'  Each night, write down what happened.  How did you respond differently because you remembered you were dead?  Feel free to email me your stories. I'd love to hear from you."

The Higher Ground ladies had some very interesting stories from their assignment. Most of us realized we are much more "alive" than we were ever aware of. In other words, we had many opportunities to remember "not I, but Christ." There were numerous times in which our first, natural response was fleshly not Christlike. In addition, I realize that I have the heart of a rebel.  When I realized that my flesh was getting an upper hand, and I would remind myself "not I, but Christ," I found myself having a discussion with the Holy Spirit explaining all my reasons why His way wouldn't work or was ill-timed.  There is much room for growth in my life as Jesus continues to whittle away at the hardness of my heart.  

Now I want to ask, "How did you do?"  I only received one email response, out of over 800 direct subscribers to Victory call, so I'm really curious how the assignment impacted you. What did you learn about yourself?  If you did not take up the challenge in November or if you did it for one week, let me encourage you to do it now or do it again.  It is not a practice we should try out and then stop (which, by the way, is what I did).  We are called to live in light of our death, our union with Christ in His death. (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:5-6) "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" Romans 6:11. But not just that we are dead, but also alive to God.  "I have been crucified with Christ; 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" (Gal. 2:20).  

If we walked around saying, "I'm dead, I'm dead" I don't believe that would have the impact that remembering that I'm dead, AND that Christ lives in me. "Not I, but Christ."  


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Denial or Death

"For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." Romans 8:13

A few weeks ago,  I shared with you a Victory Call (Jan 1, 2009) quoting Miles Stanford (The Complete Green Letters) "Denying oneself certain things for a time, or even for all time, is not even close to the answer since the old nature will adjust and thrive under any conditions - anything short of death." 

He was making the point that there are many man-made ways of denying self that miserably fail, and only one way that works, God's way.  He lists several methods people try: Mortification (denying the flesh), Conquest (More study, more prayer, more meetings, more...); Training (Good godly training); Revivalism (spiritual punch in the arm); Growth ("expecting in time self will change for the better as they grow"); Cleansing ("Up-to-the-moment confession and consequent cleansing"); and Experiences. (Pgs.65-67). These can be good, but Stanford's point is that none of them will succeed because they are all born of the flesh.  The only way for our old nature, our flesh, to be reckoned with is through the Cross.  

This can be rather confusing.  Is what Stanford saying contradict verses like:

Matthew 16:24 "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.'"

Colossians 3:5 "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."

Philippians 2:12 "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

1 Corinthians 9:26-27 "Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."

I believe the answer is found is Romans 8:13. "For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."  

First, it is not denial but death.  "Put to death the deeds of the body." This is only possible because of the Cross.  ", crucified together with Christ (Gal.2:20). It is not by putting yourself to death, but by taking, through faith and surrender, your place of union with Christ in His death" (pg. 45). Second, and this is key, this is accomplished BY THE SPIRIT.  It is not a sheer act of the will nor by trying harder, but rather by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ living His life through you by the power of His Spirit.

Not denial, but death. Not willpower, but yielding to the Spirit's power.  


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Prejudice - Part Two

Continuing on from yesterday, we read a small bit of what God's Word has to say about being judgemental and prejudiced:

"So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way." Romans 14:12-13

Acts 10:34 and Romans 2:11 both make mention of the fact that God is no respector of persons.

"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3:26-29

Dear sisters, my simple challenge for all of us today is to seek to know Him Who is the way, the truth and the life and to be so marked by truth that we are careful not to be informed by incorrect notions, biases and prejudices. 

If we are daughters of the Most High God, may our hearts, minds and lips be sealed, saved for what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy. 
"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 

      Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things." Philippians 4:4-8

For those who don't know, I am an American; a person of color; black; there may be the temptation to assume I am saying this purely from the perspective of my race or ethnicity. I assure you this is not the case. At the same time it would be naÔve and ignorant of me to pretend to ignore the reality of the times in which we are now living. That is why I encourage and exhort us all to be about the One whose name and image we bear. Let's have zero tolerance for anything that stinks, smells, sounds, tastes or feels like a critcal, prejudging spirit lest we fall short of our calling, displease God and therefore tarnish the reputation of a Holy God. 

"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14


Monday, January 19, 2009

Prejudice - Part One

If I were to ask you, "are you predjudiced?" your answer would probably be a resounding "No!"  For most of us, it is unthinkable, and yet for most, if not all of us, the answer "no" would be untrue.  In one way or another, everyone I know, including me, is prejudiced.  Whether we like it or not, and whether you admit it or not, it's true.  

I don't write this to condemn or judge you or myself. Rather, for the purpose of confession and repentance. Regardless of what should or should not be, or should have been in the past, this year, 2009, is our year of truth, of being honest about all the things we lie about to ourselves and to others.

Many of us are longing for more of God, for deeper, more intimate relationship with God and with each other. Yet, something stops us short. In a word, it could go without saying that it is, in fact, sin.  That being the case, I ask you to consider your own heart and life regarding prejudice. Are you prejudiced?

Let's take a quick look at Webster's dictionary definition as follows:
1. an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason. 
2. any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable.1

To be prejudiced basically means to prejudge.  Now, you know where I am coming from! Yep, I'm talking about being critical, judgmental and condemning. If you or I are judging any situation before it is heard, or before the arguments and facts are FULLY known, we are prejudiced.

Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language says this: prejudice is "an opinion or decision of mind, formed without due examination of the facts or arguments which are necessary to a just and impartial determination. It is used in a good or a bad sense...we are accustomed to believe what we are taught, and to receive opinions from others without examining the grounds by which they can be supported." 

How often do we hear ourselves making statements about people in situations when we know we do not know all the facts? And even when we think we do, are we likely to judge and/or prejudge?

God's Word has plenty to say on the subject. Here are just a few verses:

"Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?" Matthew 7:1-3

"Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." Luke 6:37

"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." John 7:24



Friday, January 16, 2009


"For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." Hebrews 2:10.
Every once in a while a Scripture I've read many, many times springs off the page, pricks my spirit and begins to find a home in my heart.  Recently, as I have been enjoying the book of Hebrews again and again, one such Scripture was Hebrews 2:10.  Not the entire verse but a small phrase in the verse.

"...for whom are all things..." This small phrase nestled within this Scripture of much greater significance gave me pause.  What I am sharing is not to be considered the sum-total of what this verse means but within this verse is a statement that I believe we, or at least I, often overlook, "...for whom are all things..."  The verse is referring to Jesus...for whom are all things. 

Often we consider that God created us, each of us, uniquely.  He made us. In fact, the next phrase in today's Scripture is " whom are all things..."  He created us.
Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
Isaiah 43:1a  "But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel" 
God not only created us, but He created us FOR Himself.  We are FOR Him.  We are His.  Isaiah 43:1b "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine."
What does it matter?  What struck me when I read this and meditated upon this truth is that I don't often live as if I exist FOR Him, I live as if I exist for me, that I am my own.  This simple yet profound truth, once grasped and embraced, will change how we live life, what decisions we make, how we spend our time and money.  It realigns our priorities.  

You and I were created and are sustained not just by Him, but also FOR Him.  


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fear of Man?

"You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world...There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.  We love Him because He first loved us" 1 John 4: 4, 18-19(NKJV).

Have you ever caught yourself being a man/woman/child pleaser? Let me put it like this: Have you ever found yourself about to do or say something differently simply because you wanted to make an impression or have people think better of you?

One way that might happen is this: You're in the middle of a conversation or discussion and you know it would be good/right/beneficial to share a word of encouragement, exhortation -or you simply have a different point of view on a matter.  However, you hold back, for fear others may think less of you.

In everyday life we are afforded these opportunities which draw us closer to the Father and toward the change necessary to grow us in His image and likeness. Not a single one of us is exempt. We are all very much human and, well, it simply is what it is.

I often find myself -after the fact- critiquing my every thought and deed, evaluating how I may have looked or sounded. (What a waste of energy!)
An example of this occurred at a recent meeting I attended wherein I raised a question in the midst of a particular discussion. I did not qualify or preface the question with any statements for or against, it was simply a question for which I had an answer. Period. The End. 

Now here comes the potential "fear of man" part.  There were a few responses and comments and I have to say that for a brief moment I had the feeling that I was wrong to have asked the question.  It was very clear that the content of my question was not considered good and that was 100% okay... at least on the surface.  In my head -for a few moments- I entertained the thought of clarifying to everyone that I agreed with them, for no other reason than my concern over what they MIGHT think of me.  It's not a good feeling at all to think others may be negatively or wrongly judging you. Yet, it happens all the time. Anytime we don't agree with someone or they don't agree with us, our flesh kicks into gear.  

In my case, I chose to let the feeling pass...this time.  On a different day I may have struggled or wrestled with it more or allowed my own idolatry "fear of man" "people pleasing" to stir up any number of negative emotions in me.

Praise God for the work He is doing in my life, yours, and in all His children, to enable us to grab hold of the freedom we have in Him. I praise Him for every baby step that draws us closer to Him and away from "stinky thinking."

Let's thank Him today for the victorious Christian life and the hope and freedom found in Christ alone. Let's ask Him to help us stay out of our heads. Let's choose to draw near to Him and think His thoughts and remember that He is faithful to take all that we commit to Him and refine it in the fire of His burning perfect love.



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lest we drift away

Hebrews 2:1 - "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away."

The result of failing to earnestly heed what we have heard is not simply status quo - rather it is that we drift away, our hearts become callused and insensitive.

Repeatedly we are warned not to harden our hearts, as they once did in the rebellion (i.e. Hebrews 3:8). Oh, we do not set out to harden our hearts any more that a person sets out to be addicted, but by one choice at a time, one seemingly insignificant choice at a time, we drift ever so subtly from truth.

Sister, absolutely refuse to drift. Live in the reality of the truth you know. James 1:22-24 "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the word, this one will be blessed in what he does."

Let us give more earnest heed to the things we have heard and remain steadfast and immovable in the truth!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More earnest heed

Hebrews 2:1 - "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away."

The author of Hebrews challenges us to give MORE earnest heed to the things we have heard. I once heard a pastor say we don't need to know more, we need to apply what we already know.

Are you seeking that one truth that will make the puzzle pieces of your life fall into place; when life will somehow be easier and obedience won't be so difficult? I'm sorry to disappoint you but there is no magic truth that will make that happen.

The author says, we must give more earnest heed, not just earnest heed but MORE earnest heed.

Why do we expect God to reveal more of Himself, more truth to us, if we have failed to earnestly heed the truth which we have already been given?

Are you living in the truth you already know? Are you giving more earnest heed to the truth you possess or are you hesitating and waiting for something else?


Monday, January 12, 2009

An engaged mind and receptive heart

Hebrews 2:1 - "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away."

How engaged are you in your personal Bible reading time? Do you find, like me, that your mind wanders and suddenly you realize you have no idea what you read? You haven't tracked the thread of understanding woven through the pages?

More often than not, I am frustrated with the reality that the only thing true about my quiet time is that it is quiet. People often refer to their time in the Word as devotions. As I consider my time reading, I would be hard pressed to describe it as a time of devotion.

Devotion: religious fervor; an act of prayer or private worship; a religious exercise or practice other than the regular corporate worship of a congregation; the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal.1

I have been reading through Hebrews lately, over and over again. I love the book of Hebrews; it was one of the first books of the Bible I studied as a new believer in women's Bible study. Recently, I was only a few paragraphs into chapter 2 when I stopped to pray, pleading with God to give me focus, clarity and understanding. I went back to the start of the chapter. I didn't get any further than Hebrews 2:1. It stopped me in my tracks, "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away." Is that what has happened to me? Have I drifted away? Have I lost my passion to tarry with the Lord in His Word? Have I somehow hardened my heart to His voice?

I know two things:

1. I truly desire to be totally immersed in my time with Jesus. I long to plumb the depth of Scripture with an engaged mind and a receptive heart. I long to grow in personal intimacy with Jesus Christ. Psalm 63:1 "O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water." Psalm 42:1 "As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God."

2. I cannot do any of the above apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. Unless He illumines the Word to my heart, it will simply be words on a page. I cannot even succeed in engaging my mind apart from His empowering and enabling grace. Proverbs 2:5-6 "Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding."

Oh, Holy Spirit, fall fresh on me. Give me clarity, focus and understanding. Illumine Your Word to my heart, today.


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Friday, January 09, 2009

Christmas Memory

Christmas 2008 is now a memory. Our presents have been opened and many already exchanged or even placed in a drawer and already broken. Christmas pageants are over and the lines the children worked so hard to memorize have already mostly been forgotten. The cookies, candies and goodies have all been enjoyed and eaten (and we have the extra pounds to show for it).

All the decorations from our homes and churches have been packed away for another year. Even the bright lights that had adorned our homes have gone out. Each piece of our nativity scenes have been carefully wrapped and put away. Even baby Jesus in his manger has been packed away.

I'm afraid, all too often, many of us pack away Jesus, not just physically but in our hearts as well. The joy of Christmas gets trampled for the next holiday coming up on the calendar and we think we just don't have the time.

Maybe we've begun to neglect our devotions, or perhaps our Scripture reading has been squeezed out due to a busy schedule or just plain laziness. Maybe we've missed a few weeks of church because of all the visits over Christmas. Maybe we are facing a trial.

Well maybe...just maybe... instead of packing Baby Jesus away we could leave Him out where we might see Him often and be reminded to praise God for the gift of His Son...given as a tiny helpless baby...This Baby Jesus who made it possible for you and me to have forgiveness of our sins and eternal life with God. This priceless gift given to all is a one size fits all, not to be forgotten and can't be broken or lost, if only we accept it. Each day as our eyes open to a brand new day, it's just another opportunity to remember God's gift and then praise and thank Him. There is a Christmas song with the line "If every day were like Christmas what a wonderful world this would be." Well, every day for a Christian IS Christmas. Keep the joy of the Christ Child in your heart each day of 2009 and share it with as many people as you can.

The world is a joyless and lost place without Jesus. But we can share the gift of Jesus that just keeps on giving and giving....

Luke 2:9-11 - "An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

A Savior for you and you and you and you and you.......
Glory to God in the highest!!


MaryAnn and John Kiernan have been married for 35 years, have 2 grown/married sons and are the proud grandparents of two grandsons. She serves at America's KESWICK as a Biblical Counselor and also as Intake Coordinator for the Colony of Mercy. Her life verse is Romans 8:28.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

God-centered Prayer

There are times when problems loom large in life. They seem to consume all our time and thought. They rob us of simple pleasure and rest. Problems will do that until we render them to their proper place of purpose.

"It happened after this that the people of Moab with the people of Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against Jehoshaphat. Then some came and told Jehoshaphat, saying, 'A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, from Syria; and they are in Hazazon Tamar' (which is En Gedi). And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the LORD; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD" 2 Chronicles 20:1-4.

An excerpt from "After the Spirit Comes" by Jack R. Taylor (pg. 33-34)

"...Listen to the final word of Jehoshaphat to the Lord: 'O our God, wilt thou not judge them? For we have not might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: BUT OUR EYES ARE UPON THEE' (2 Chron. 20:12). This is precisely where a problem begins to turn into prosperity. And this is precisely where most of us lose out in our problems. It is a matter of transferring the problem from our hands into His. Many of us engage in problem-centered praying. That is, we reckon more with the problem than anything else. Jehoshaphat engaged in God-centered praying. He turned his eyes away from the problem and unto the Lord. OUR EYES ARE UPON YOU! He talked with God, left the issue with God, and heard from the Lord.

God's word to him was: 'Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude: for the battle is not yours, but God's' (2 Chron 2:15). Let that final word vibrate down through the corridors of your soul...NOT YOURS BUT GOD'S! NOT MINE BUT HIS! IF we could but be convinced that the battle is the Lord's, the victory would soon ensue."

When you pray about problems in life, do you rehearse the problem (which gives it prominence) or do you rehearse the greatness of God (which reminds you of His preeminence)?


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Do I come to church out of duty or out of delight?

I was speaking to my neighbor a few weeks ago (on a Saturday afternoon about 4:20). As she was pulling out of the driveway, I stopped her and asked her how she was doing. She said she was fine but didn't have time to talk with me then because she was on her way to church and didn't want to be late. I could tell she was very distracted and said I'd talk to her later.

I actually did see her the next day (Sunday) after I was returning home from church, and we talked a bit more. She said she usually went to church on Saturday afternoons so she could sleep in on Sunday, go out for coffee and come home and read the Sunday newspaper at her leisure. Or - to my way of thinking - she didn't have to "mess up" her Sundays by having to go to church.

I went back into the house and that got me thinking about my own "preparations" for church. Now, I do not have the option of attending Sunday worship on Saturday because it is not offered. I wonder if it were what my response might be. Would I choose to not mess up Sundays with worship but choose rather to "get it out of the way" on Saturday? Where does that put me on the delighting in worship scale - from 1 to 10 - am I a 10? Do I fairly jump out of bed on Sunday, looking forward to going to church to raise my heart and voice in worship to God, or do I roll over and think, "I'd love to sleep late but I HAVE TO GET UP TO GO TO CHURCH." Notice I said "have to get up," not "want to get up." I will admit that on some Sunday mornings, my attitude toward worship is no better than my neighbor's. She at least admits she goes when it's convenient, not because she feels compelled by a worshipful attitude to go.

So today, as I write this, my prayer is that my attitude toward my church-going will become more worshipful and expectant as I prepare for what I will say to God and what He will say to me - prepared now because my heart is filled with praise for Him, for Who He is, and I can look forward with anticipation to going to church not because it is my duty, but because it is my true delight.

Lynn Randall

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Amazing Grace

Of all the songs I love to sing, this is one -if not the one- which I love the most. Think about it. "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind but now I see." Everyone today, who believes Christ and receives Him as Lord and Savior, was once lost and blind, but now found and able to see. It's a soul-deep feeling that makes His grace so indescribably amazing and the sound so satisfyingly sweet.

"Taste and see that the Lord He is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see- how good GOD is. Blessed are you who run to Him" Psalm 34:8.¹

It was many years after first hearing this song that I learned its history. At the time, I was shocked to learn that John Newton had a career as a slave trader before, during and for a few years after he wrote this wonderful song. As a person of African, Native American and other decent it felt almost weird to be singing a song written by a man whose livelihood was to capture, buy and sell into captivity, people who looked just like me. What did this mean? How could this be?

In the midst of this questioning, God began to speak to my heart and He showed me His visible faithfulness throughout the generations of men.

Were it not for Calvary's Cross we'd all be dead in our trespasses and sin. We'd all be as undone as John Newton by the prevailing ways that our own particular hearts are shaped and bent.

All of us have been in storms at one time or another. In fact, it was in the midst of a storm that Newton, realizing his helpless state, took his first steps toward religion and faith in God. Like we all once were, Newton was a spiritually bankrupt man who, just like you and me, came to a point of decision, realizing that only the grace of God could save him. As it has and does in our hearts and lives, the process of change began in his, and soon after he penned the words to "Amazing Grace."

I could share story after story after story of grace so amazing, not the least of which is how God intervened in my daughter's young life to save it, when she herself sought to take it. Amazing grace!! Why did He do it? We didn't deserve it! We did nothing to earn it. The grace simply appeared to us in the hour of our greatest plea, "Father God, in the strong, saving, healing name of Jesus! Heal her body, restore her soul and redeem her spirit." He saved her body, is restoring her soul and daily reminds His precious one, that her spirit is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

By grace alone, God has thus far brought us (all of us) and to this very moment we remain confident that He will lead us (all of us) safely home.

"The Lord has promis'd good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures."

Stephanie D. Paul

¹(NIV & The Message)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Planning, Sense and Facts

I have often heard parents say they wish that children came with a book of instructions. Well, guess what? There is a parenting instruction manual. It is called the Bible! Remember, we recently went over the pattern for discipline found in the book of Jonah. There are also many Scriptures that give overall instructions for Christian parenting as well as Christian living.

When we were raising our children, we adopted a theme verse. It is found in Proverbs 24:3-4. I especially like the Living Bible Translation: "Any enterprise is built by wise planning, common sense, and keeping abreast of the facts." There it is. A three point outline for a well balanced family. Wise planning; common sense; keeping abreast of the facts. The best time to start the Wise Planning is, of course, before you have children. If you are in the middle of child rearing, there is still time to make some plans. What are your goals for your children? College? Technical school? Dating age? Dating rules? Receiving Christ? Christian education? Sit down with your partner and start to make a list. Before they were in school, our children knew they would not be allowed to date until they were sixteen because Glen and I had talked about it and planned ahead.

A Christian psychologist once told me that most parents have an instinct about how to solve problems, but they are afraid to trust their own instincts, so they go to a counselor instead. That instinct is called common sense. I prayed for godly common sense. Sometimes we need to seek a professional's help to confirm what we knew all along.

It is possible to keep abreast of the facts by being involved with your children. Get to know their friends and their teachers. If at all possible, invite their friends to your house frequently rather than always letting your children go to their friends' homes. Get involved in school activities. Do you know the names of your children's five closest friends? What are their teachers' names? If your child ran away from home, where would he or she go? If you don't know the answer to these questions, you have an assignment for this week.

Do I know all of these things because I always did it right? Of course not! I have learned these things both by success and failure. After each new venture, it is important to spend some time with your partner in debriefing, figuring out what worked and what didn't. Determine to learn from your failures as well as your successes.


Friday, January 02, 2009

New Beginnings

It's time to ring in another new year....2009. A time for new beginnings. So many of us look where we have been and make plans or resolutions to do something in a new way, or NOT to do something. I know I have done it and I really can't think of one resolution I truly followed through with which then became a part of my life.

Not that it's a bad thing to make resolutions. However, the problem lies in what I'm are relying on to carry it through. Too many times I just make a resolution without even lifting up a prayer, or a cry to the Lord to seek Him in the midst of whatever the struggle is. Then I make my own plans and plunge ahead full force only to fall flat on my face and end up feeling like a failure.

It's not about what I want but what God wants for me.

It's not about what I can do but what God can do through me.

Its' not about how much willpower or strength I have, but about Jesus who lives in me who gives me the strength I need.

Really it's not about me at all but all about Him.

This year instead of my plans for change, my plans for accomplishment, I think I want to seek God in the midst of it first, then follow His plan, because I know He will give me what I need if it's His plan and not mine.

Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."

Matthew 26:41 - "Watch and pray so that you so not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing but the body is weak."

Philippians 4:19 - "My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ."

John 16:24 - "Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete."

1 Thessalonians 5:17 - "...pray continually."

You know, I'm thinking THIS is a winning plan! How can I go wrong? Would you like to join me for true change with God's plan?


MaryAnn and John Kiernan have been married for 35 years, have 2 grown/married sons and are the proud grandparents of two grandsons. She serves at America's KESWICK as a Biblical Counselor and also as Intake Coordinator for the Colony of Mercy. Her life verse is Romans 8:28.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The way of the cross...

As we consider a New Year, 2009, our propensity is to "turn over a new leaf," "start over," "get our act together," or "make a resolution." Recently, while reading "The Complete Green Letters" by Miles Stanford, I was again reminded it is not in my strength, my effort, or by shear determination that I will conquer my flesh, my old nature. All New Year's resolutions I have ever made lasted no more than a week and typically much less.

"Denying oneself certain things for a time, or even for all time, is not even close to the answer since the old nature will adjust and thrive under any conditions-anything short of death to self." (pg 43) In other words, our efforts to squash the flesh will only serve to force it into other areas. Short of death, it will simply morph into some other form and continue to scream for attention.

Let me give you an example from my own life. In 2001, I decided for a number of reasons to forgo desserts entirely. In about 6 months I lost 25 pounds. Here we are in 2009, and I have gained back about half of those pounds, not because I have started eating desserts again but because I have compensated in other ways to feed the old nature within me that cries out to be satisfied, even though it cries out from the grave because the Scripture clearly states my old nature is dead. "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin" Romans 6:5-7.

Why are people who quit smoking prone to gain weight? Because instead of smoking they start eating.

"Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" Romans 6:11. Unless and until we reckon ourselves dead (done deal) we will be duped into believing the lie that our old nature, our old man, has a say in what we should do.

"For it is not scriptural to believe that the old Adam nature can be conquered in that manner (i.e. denial/mortification). It yields to nothing less than the death of the cross. It is altogether too tough to be killed by abusing the body or starving the affections" (A.W. Tozer-quoted by Stanford-parenthesis mine).

"The 'flesh' will only yield to the cross; not to all the resolutions you may make at a conference, not to any self-effort, not to any attempted self-crucifixion; only to co-crucifixion, crucified together with Christ (Gal 2:20). It is not putting yourself to death, but by taking, through faith and surrender, your place of union with Christ in His death." (G. Watt - quoted by Stanford)

So this New Year - instead of resolutions, instead of turning over a new leaf, let's choose to exercise faith and surrender to the reality of our death, the death of our old nature. Let us take our "flesh" to the cross where it will yield to its death.