Light My Fire [Noval]

It’s a cold night.  Not bitter but definitely jacket weather.  The stars sparkle in the night sky like a jeweler’s display of diamonds on black velvet. 

In the foreground is a fire, like a campfire- no, bigger, but not big enough to be called a bonfire  The flames leap up to about shoulder height.   The heat given off by the fire feels good.  Several logs glow red at the base.

A good fire on a cold night should draw people into its warmth.  That’s My heart and purpose for you.  Your life should be drawing people in like that warm, inviting fire.  People need the warmth, the light it offers. 

Sometimes I think there might be some attractiveness to the Christ-in-me that draws others.  Sometimes I don’t sense it at all. 

Your responsibility is to keep feeding the fire.  Seeking My presence.  Listening for My voice.  Feeding your soul on My word.  Reaching out in friendship and fellowship.  Interceding for needs.  The basic disciplines, done in faith, will always stoke the fire of My love that attracts hungry hearts. 

The strategic part, the part you can be most intentional about, is the part done in secret. The outreach is more spontaneous, almost serendipity, but when your heart’s prepared and glowing, you’ll be ready to respond to My promptings in the context of interpersonal encounter. 

The best ministry comes out of overflow.  You spill what you’re full of.  You reflect what you gaze at.  The Secret Place is the womb of power and life.

The enemy of your soul will tell you that time in the Secret Place is laziness, unproductive, selfish.  Those are lies-shut him down!  The Secret Place, the place of intimacy with Me is the place where your fire gets stoked.  

Come on, Jesus, light my fire..

Come on Jesus, light my fire…

I wanna set my world on fire!

[Apologies to The Doors]

 

The View From the Top [Noval]

Psalm 119:33-34 New International Version (NIV)

ה He

33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
    that I may follow it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
    and obey it with all my heart.

The psalmist asks for something beyond knowledge of the Lord’s precepts, statutes and commandments.  Knowledge is an important foundation, but knowledge without depths understanding will always be inadequate.  The kid who hears his mama tell him not to touch the hot glowing burner on the stove has knowledge of what Mama wants, but it may take a painful experience for him to really grasp the significance of her instruction. 

I believe that a depth understanding of God’s commandments will always reveal His loving, kind Father-heart. Man’s carnal reasoning sees the statutes as restrictive, or punitive, or both. The truly understanding person sees them as liberating, a  spotlight on the path to fulfillment, joy, peace and happiness. 

Do you remember the day trip that you and Jamie took to Old Rag Mountain with a couple of other dads and sons?  There were some skinned places and abrasions from scrambling over the rocks, and you all were pretty exhausted at the end of the day.  But recall the view at the top!!  

Oh, yeah. Stunning; breathtaking. 

That’s a good picture of my statutes.  You had to follow a rigorous, challenging predefined path to get to the top, but when you got there the reward was worth the climb.  This is just another way of looking at what you’ve sometimes called the Funnel Principle from Matthew 7.  The narrow end of the funnel, or Narrow Way as I called it, of self-discipline, sacrifice and behavioral boundaries truly broadens out into real life: fulfillment, productivity, healthy relationships, soul-peace. 

The truly understanding man is the guy who grasps how all of this works at the outset.  He doesn’t chafe and resent My guidelines and controls because he understands they are the necessary means for attaining what he really wants out of life. 

So to paraphrase the psalmist, he’s asking Me to give him a deep heart understanding of the cause/effect relationship, of the costs and benefits of doing life My way, according to the way I’ve designed him, and life itself.

Matthew 7:13-14 New International Version (NIV)

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are YOU Mature? [Noval]

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Mendenhall Glacier, Near Juneau

Proverbs 26:1-3 New International Version (NIV)

26 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
    honor is not fitting for a fool.
Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow,
    an undeserved curse does not come to rest.
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
    and a rod for the backs of fools!

What marks a mature person? How do you best define maturity?  Perhaps one way to define it is to say that a mature person has figured out how to handle life.   That’s little broad.  But Proverbs 26:1-3 suggest 3 aspects:

  • A mature person is marked by how he handles honor (V.1). 

  • A mature person is marked by how he handles harsh judgement and undeserved criticism (V. 2). 

  • A mature person is marked by how he handles discipline (V.3).

Honor (Verse 1).  The Apostle Peter exhorts us to “honor all men” (1  Peter 2:17).  After all, everyone you meet is God’s image-bearer: a walking, talking miracle.  But not everyone handles honor well.  The mature person takes it in stride, handles it with maturity and sobriety.  His attitude is the one advocated by Paul in Romans 12:3:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 

The one who lacks maturity doesn’t handle honor as well.  He’s more liable to get arrogant, puffed up, full of himself. His opinion of himself might become more inflated.  So was Peter wrong?  Should I not honor a fool?  No, my responsibility is to honor all men.  My responsibility when receiving honor is to handle it with sobriety and humility and not display the character of a fool. 

Harsh Treatment; Unjust Judgement (Verse 2). Another aspect of maturity is security in one’s identity.  The truly mature person has allowed the Lord to tell him who he/she is.  So he/she can handle harsh words with some objectivity.  He examines them to see what, if any, value there is in them without feeling shamed or depressed or mortally wounded.  They Don’t penetrate her soul in a harmful way. 

This quality is particularly valuable in the face of one of the most deadly tactics of the enemy of our souls.  Satan is the Accuser of the Brethren.  He loves to magnify our faults, errors and sins.  His objective is insecurity, a loss of confidence and a sense of identity.  Part of maturity is learning to put on the Breastplate of Righteousness as a barrier to the flaming arrows of accusation and to use the Sword of the Spirit to dig ’em out when they seem to penetrate, 

Discipline (Verse 3).  The immature often finds the discipline of the Lord to be painful because he misinterprets it as punishment, rejection and the withdrawal of love.  When tough times come to the immature she’s likely to conclude God’s abandoned her, must not care.  On the other hand, the mature believer has learned to embrace discipline as an aspect of the Father’s love.  He’s taken to heart the message of Hebrews 12:7-11:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 

Everybody likes to be honored.  Nobody likes harsh or unjust criticism or the painful discipline process.   But properly tell us (and the watching word) how mature in the Lord we truly are.

 

The Value of Peace [Noval]

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Back on the beach, near sunset.  One of my favorite places, one of my favorite times of day. Peace reigns. My soul rests.  You are here. 

Just as My joy is strength, as Nehemiah observed, so My peace brings stability. It’s a necessary foundation for wisdom.  When the soul’s at peace, you avoid the pitfall of frantically searching among your own resources for solutions to the issues of life.   Think about how hard it is to hear My voice when your soul gets rattled by anxiety or resentment.  There’s too much noise. 

There are practical limitations that physically limit you from being on the beach every day.  For one thing, the nearest beach is two hours’ drive away from you!  But in the Spirit we can meet here whenever you like! 

I love what You’re saying about wisdom and peace.  That makes a lot of sense.  Sometimes I’ve felt maybe a little guilty about seeking soul-peace in various ways, like my drives in the country.  It seems a little- I don’t know- self-indulgent. 

Look, self-care isn’t sin.  Think how often you’ve put together Romans 12:1 about presenting your body as a living sacrifice with Malachi’s rebuke of the priests for presenting sick or weak animals for sacrifice.  Caring for the health of your soul is as important, or moreso, as caring for your body.  Your soul needs beauty, rest, solitude, inspiration, fresh air.  When you come to the beach with Me in the Spirit you’re getting fresh air for your soul.

The Rain of the Spirit-Sheryl

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 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt. 11:28-29)

 

I don’t know what You might want to say to me today, Lord.  I just know I want to hear Your voice.  You want to meet outside…in the rain?

 

“Just feel the rain washing over you.  My rain isn’t cold.  There is nothing to fear.  There is no storm.  But I want you to experience Me as a gentle but soaking rain.”

 

I am standing in a field with no structures in sight.  My eyes are closed and rain pours over me.

 

“My rain washes clean, purifies, nourishes, brings peace to your soul.  It is the rain of My Spirit, My Word, My Peace, My Love.  With it I heal and bring rest.  Direction will flow from it.  But you must remember to come, leave other distractions, questions, agendas, even intercession.  For a time just stand in My rain and receive all I have for you. Everything that follows will run more smoothly and you will be prepared for the events and people that come. ‘Come all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’  Come and find peace for your soul.”

 

Thank you, Lord.

The Treasure [Noval]

Proverbs 2:1-5 New International Version (NIV)

My son, if you accept my words
    and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
    and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.

I see a  treasure chest out in the middle of a dense forest.  The lid’s open and there’s all sorts of precious stuff visible: gold coins, strands of pearls, jewels.  The location seems remote, isolated, dark.  Dense, lush evergreen foliage  is all around.  The treasure’s in plain sight, but it’s here in this remote location.  I get the impression that not many come here. 

Lord, tell me about this image. 

The treasure represents life- eternal life.  And remember, eternal life starts now; it’s as near as your next breath.   Everyone I’ve created longs for life, but as I stated at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, few find it.   

It’s not because it’s invisible or really that hard to find, but you do have to look.  As some people say, it’s hidden in plain sight! 

Some don’t find it because they’re not really looking.  They’ve settled for life Under the Sun: the pursuit of money, success, pleasure, power.  Their appetite for real life has become dull.  Because they’re busy, they rarely access the emptiness inside. 

The treasures I offer aren’t that hard to find- peace, joy, contentment, wisdom.  But you do have to pursue them.  You have to enter the forest, to begin thinking deeply about how I’ve made you, how I’ve designed life, the choices I set before you: life and death, broad and narrow roads, cheap or costly grace and gratification, humility or arrogance, surrender or self-will. 

Each choice is a branch or fork in the path through the forest.  It either brings you closer or takes you further from the treasure. 

Here’s the deal though: the location of the treasure isn’t static.  The pursuit never ends, you have to keep  moving.  In fact, part of the adventure, the fun, the real life, is the continuing pursuit.  You are a pilgrim, an exile, sojourner on a quest.  As you’ve often noted, pilgrimage, journey, pursuit and longing are central to the story I’m writing for each of My called-out children. You draw ever nearer to the prize but you never completely arrive or possess it.  Not in this life.

Matthew 7:13-14 New International Version (NIV)

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Enlarge Your Hearts-Sheryl

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Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border… (I Chronicles 4:10)

Lord, may I see Your glory?  Grant me more faith. My heart bows before You.

 

I remember bits of a dream.  I seemed to be part of a house church that also lived together in a couple buildings, one much larger than the other.  There arose some minor differences in theology and the leaders took their disciples away to live elsewhere.  Before too much time passed they brought them back again but then left themselves.  I think the people wanted to return, perhaps missing their friends.  There was a little discomfort as everyone tried to pick up the thread of fellowship and working together again while coming to accept some slight doctrinal differences.  As this was happening the group seemed to be suddenly invaded by a group of undisciplined and somewhat wild animals.  The dogs and horses were more of an inconvenience or nuisance while there seemed to be some threat posed by the lions and tigers.  No one was hurt just frightened at times.

 

Would you speak into this, Lord  I am guessing at parts of it.

 

“You are correct as far as your guesses go, but I will explain more fully.  The first part represents various streams of believers learning various truths and aspects thereof.  For instance, when the charismatic renewal began it was easier to separate out of older fellowships if your experiences were being questioned or disallowed.  Now, true believers are finding their way back to one another with better understanding that there are differences in understanding and practice that do not negate the basic truth and foundation of My Word.  There is more tolerance and sharing.  The more persecution threatens the tighter those bonds get.

 

The animals are different.  You pray for in-gathering.  You shall have it but it will be messy, threatening at times, and require much patience, love, and teaching. Can you love and reach out to the undisciplined, the unwashed, and those with nasty habits, mouths, or addictions?  Will you be able to see through those things to the hurting, seeking hearts willing to turn all over to Me?  Gird yourself with truth now.  Cultivate the fruit in your own lives that you may see and cultivate it in others.  Deeply desire and pursue the gifts you hunger for in your hearts.  Know I inspire them but call you up higher before I can entrust them to you.  I want My Bride to be ready to nurture My babes.  I want you to be truly known by your love for one another as Mine.”

 

Lord, do You want to tell me about the 2 house or building sizes in my dream?  One seemed like a small cottage. The other seemed to be at least a two-story apartment or house.

 

“The small house is the current standard.  My church, My house, My people need to enlarge their hearts, enlarge their vision, and I will fill the larger house.  I’m just warning you, if you are serious, it will be messy.”