Discernment and Understanding [Noval]

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ATLANTIC BEACH AFTERNOON

I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand Your statutes.   Ps 119:125

Unless we get an understanding of what God’s heart is like, we may misinterpret the nature of the laws, precepts, recommendations, warnings and proscriptions of the scriptures.  He’s a good, good Father, and He longs to see us prospering, flourishing, walking in abundance, peace and shalom.  To reign in life.  But because our hearts are impacted by sin, we’re vulnerable to all sorts of seductions and deceptions.  What seems like the right way can lead to death; what seems like the broad, easy, most convenient way winds up confining and restricting our lives in all sorts of unpleasant ways. 

A lot of wisdom is tied up in the concept of delayed gratification: discipline now, freedom later;  work now, rest later;  suffering now, pleasure later. 

The life of faith discerns God’s kind intentions toward us.  He’s not going to give us a rock instead of a savory bagel, a scorpion instead of a succulent salmon filet.  But the reward, the pleasure, the blessing often comes at a price.  The demand for instant gratification gets us into a lot of trouble. 

Who IS my God?  What’s He like?  What’s His heart toward me like?  Unless I get clear answers to these questions, I might be unwilling to wait, even for the things my heart hungers for the most.  

How I see the path to true life…a burden and a cross vs. an adventure and an invitation will depend on my view of Who the Heavenly Father is and of His nature. Building on rock is way harder than building on sand; wielding a sledgehammer burns way more calories, raises way more blisters, leaves way more sore muscles than pushing a shovel.  The Father smiles, winks, and says “pick up the sledge, kid.  It’ll be worth it. Trust Me!”   

We should trust Him.  Right?

What’s in a Name? [Noval]

Lincoln Stone

Proverbs 22:1 New International Version (NIV)

22 A good name is more desirable than great riches;
    to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

It struck me the other morning (the 22nd) that a “good name” in Proverbs 22:1 may refer to more than a nice reputation, but something much deeper: identity.  In ancient Middle Eastern culture your name was much more that the word used to address you.  Your name was identity.  Your name was calling, destiny, purpose and significance. The Jewish people chose the names of their children carefully and prayerfully. 

The enemy of our souls, of whom Jesus said, “he comes to kill,steal and destroy”, often does so by attacking our name. Allow me to elaborate.

I recently heard that three of Satan’s most potent weapons against us are the “3 i’s”—insignificance, incompetence and impotence: you don’t matter, you can’t do anything right and you have no power to change anything. 

Note how thoroughly the gospel blasts through these three lies!

  • Insignificance is addressed through the demonstration of my value to God: I am worth the very blood of His Son.  I have been redeemed-purchased- at an infinitely high price.

  • Incompetence is addressed by virtue of my calling and placement into the Body of Christ, where I have been given spiritual gifts to discover, develop and deploy in the service of others.

  • Impotence is addressed by the indwelling of the Spirit.  He comes to take up residence in me, to empower me to love, serve, grow and change.  He demonstrates His power in and through my weakness as I learn surrender.

Most of our besetting sins, I suspect, are rooted in our vulnerability to these three lies.  The life of the flesh flows out of futile attempts to establish a sense of identity, power, significance, value and competence in illegitimate ways, apart from the calling and purposes of God for our lives.  If this is true (and I think so), then repentance will normally involve a remembering: a returning to the foundational truths of who we are, God’s redeemed children, bought at great price, no longer our own but belonging to Another Who loves us passionately and has called us to live lives of holiness, service, purity, love and self-sacrifice out of overflowing gratitude to the One Who loved us first. 

Do you know who you are?  Are you aware of the good name you’ve been given? 

Seeing the Harvest [Noval]

amberwaves

I see a golden wheat field; amber waves of grain, like in America the Beautiful.  The waves move across the surface of the field as the breeze gently blows.  It’s a picture of abundance, fruitfulness, harvest. 

I know at one point in Your ministry there were a  bunch of people coming to see and listen to You and You turned to Your disciples and compared the people to a “field, white unto harvest”. 

The fields are still white. Ask Me and I’ll give you eyes to see.  Yes, I know there are tons of articles about the “Nones” and declining appetites for the things of the Spirit.  Don’t let that discourage you.  I assure you, it doesn’t discourage Me!  In fact, I delight in bringing harvest from what looks like barren dry ground, in turning ashes to beauty, despair to hope, spiritual apathy to revival! 

If you just look with natural eyes, you’ll likely miss the plentiful harvest all around you.  Eyes of faith don’t just see what appears to be the current state of things, but the potential. 

Your church is packed with potential, as are your neighborhood, your city, your nation and your own life.  Use your spiritual vision, your holy eyesight.  What would it look like to see your neighbors come to a fresh and vibrant relationship to Me?  To see strongholds of poverty and addiction and family dysfunction and crime broken all around you?  The life of faith is always a life of vision- to see what’s unseen, to see potential, possibilities, a bright future. 

Ask Me often and I’ll sharpen your vision. 

Lord, help me to see the things You see, the way You see them!

Hidden Reefs–Sheryl

Aerial view of  hidden reef between Yasawa and Vanua Levu Great Sea Reef, Western Division, Fiji. December 2013.

Hidden reefs — Book of Jude

 

Father, I dreamed I was living in a one level house a little larger than this.  In a large, empty back room I saw mice suddenly running around like they were coming in from outside, maybe to get away from the cold.  I had no luck chasing or swatting them.  They began appearing in other rooms.  Then I saw small flying insects associated with the mice.  Finally, I saw two small horses, less than a foot tall, that also had gotten in.  They evaded me too but did not seem bad or evil.  Somehow it was revealed that a mouse had used one of these horses as a host, but it had died inside the horse.

 

There was a couple, in one of the house bedrooms, awakened from sleep by a man.  The woman sat up and called to her a mouse that she had made a pet.  It ran to her and climbed up on the bed.  She picked it up, petted it, and sort of sicced it on the man who had awakened her.  It wasn’t clear what the mouse was to do.

 

Lord, please tell me what You will about this dream.  I see us on the heavenly walkway.  That is quite a contrast to the house of vermin in my dream.  What is the house?

 

“Anywhere I am not truly Lord.  It can be a person’s life, their home, an institution, including a church, even a country.  There are many applications.”

 

Do vermin or evil spirits never come in where You are, Lord. 

“They cannot enter unless they are given an opening–believing a lie is the enemy’s preferred method.  A wrong spirit can also enter a group through a member who has been deceived and brings it in.  They may come into a house that was previously clean, but not saturated with My Word. Maybe you have become too comfortable or complacent or busy about other things.  The enemy seeks warmth, welcome and emptiness. The first room where you saw the mice and horses inside was empty.”

 

What about the insects that came after the mice but seemed associated with them?

 

“Evil spirits can be ruling spirits that attract other similar spirits to further affect and make unclean.”

 

I was chasing them and swatting them to no effect.

 

“In your own power you were doing this.  You never asked Me or anyone for help in the dream.  Be willing to identify where help is needed and ask for it.  Also, strengthen yourself in Me continually and ask for My help.”

 

The horses seemed different.

 

“Evil spirits like to feed on the most innocent or unprepared.  Don’t harm them.  Help them to see and be delivered.”

 

The couple in the bed?

 

“There are those who prefer to sleep, stay comfortable.  Instead of helping combat the problem, they make friends with it and use it to attack those who try to wake them up. Unfortunately, whole denominations have embraced wrong spirits such as homosexuality. They have fed into the culture. As they become more relevant to the culture they become less relevant to Me. My servant Jude spoke of this.”   For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about[ long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 4)

 

So what do You want me to do with this?  What was Your reason for the dream?  I admit I like comfort but I don’t want to be a part of the problem.

 

“Be more intentional about making connections in the body, getting to know people better, spotting and encouraging their gifts.  Take more people to lunch. Sometimes you might have people in. Winter is a good time to start. People have more free time.”

 

Please also grant me more faith and reach others through me, through healing or through speaking Your Word.  That has to be You, Lord, because I really don’t naturally do that.  I want to be a part of the answer,Lord, not part of the problem.

 

Seek Peace and Pursue It [Noval]

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Along the Cabot Trail- Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Psalm 34:11-14 New International Version (NIV)

11 Come, my children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

I acknowledge that I am accountable to You for controlling my thought life.  Please empower me to quickly discern any and all thought patterns that are inconsistent with Your holiness, whether pride, geed, lust, resentment, self-righteous judgement, rage, fear or anxiety. 

My servant David exhorted you to seek peace (shalom) and pursue it.  That principle applies not only to your external relationships, but to your internal environment.  Soul-peace is important because it facilitates healthy thinking, wise decision-making, and a benevolent spirit toward others.  That’s part of what My servant Paul was getting at with his imagery of “having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”  Inner peace gives you a stability that allows you to navigate setbacks, misunderstandings, insults as well as successes and those seasons when life just seems to be coming at you like the discharge of a fire hose.

It’s more than calm emotions.  It’s a posture of the heart that’s rooted in a keen awareness of My character- My faithfulness, My love, My generous and compassionate heart, My patience with your weaknesses. 

Jeremiah pursued inner peace in the midst of the chaos and sorrow of the destruction of Jerusalem by reminding himself of how My “steadfast love never ceases” of how My “mercies never come to an end, but are new each morning”.  Many of David’s psalms were written in pursuit of soul-peace when his life was anything but peaceful.  Being pursued across the backside of Palestine by a madman who wants you dead doesn’t cultivate peace in your external world.  David learned to deal with that stuff by reminding himself of My character and rooting his soul in My love. 

You can, too!

Fresh Bread [Noval]

I smell bread: hot, fresh baked bread!  There’s nothing more tantalizing than the aroma coming from a commercial bakery in the early morning.  There used to be a bakery on Canal Street near the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond- maybe it’s still there.  I remember the delicious morning aromas it emitted when I worked downtown in the late 70’s.  Tantalizing! 

I am the Bread of Life, and you become what you feed on.  The more you feed on My life, My love, My word, the more you pick up My fragrance.  That tantalizing aroma will draw people.  Your responsibility is to point them to the True Source of the aroma.  As Peter exhorted his disciples, always be ready to give a reason, an answer for the hope that resides within you. 

That doesn’t mean a canned speech.  Your words can and should be tailored to the specific needs of the heart you’re serving.  Don’t  be anxious about all that- I’ll give you the words.

The wavelength on which all truth is best communicated is love.  Ask Me, and I’ll impart My heart for people to you.  That’s a prayer I’m always pleased to answer. 

Recall that when I restated the Great Commission in Acts Chapter 1 I talked, not about an activity but about a state of being:  “…you shall be My witnesses…”.  It’s not so much what you’re doing as who you’re becoming.  Feed on Me, abide in Me.  Acquire the aroma and the rest pretty much takes care of itself. 

Recall the concentric circles I drew in the Acts 1 Commission: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.  There’s a strategy here.  As you’re faithful in your Jerusalem- your marriage, your family, your neighborhood, your church, your closest friends- I’ll expand and extend your influence to the regions beyond.  So the way to get to the ends of the earth is to focus your love on those in your immediate  field of vision. And be sure to keep feeding on Me so you have fresh Bread to offer.

Fragrance [Noval]

wine and cheese

Back in the little cabin.  As always, the table is set with wine, cheese, some fruit, candles.  This is different: a checkered tablecloth like in an Italian restaurant and some daffodils in a vase of water. 

You’re seated sideways, so I come around to Your side of the table, kneel and kiss the scars on Your feet.  You then stand, hold out both hands and pull me to my feet.  We share a hug.  You have a wonderful fragrance about You, manly and clean.  Spicy, like cedar, perhaps.  I feel the gentle power of Your embrace. 

I look into Your eyes.  How amazing they are!  They burn with wisdom, intelligence, good humor and a kind of fierce love. 

You’re everything I want to be. 

Well, the more we hang out, the more I can impart My life, My love and My character to you.  As I told My disciples in John 15, there’s great value in just being in My Presence.  Besides, as I’ve often told you, I delight in this as much as you do.  This is why you were created. I’m eagerly searching for vessels I can pour My life and love and power into.  Whom I can be intimate with.  Who come to Me to satisfy a mutual longing for connection. 

That just blows my mind.  You created me from two little germs, knit me together in my mother’s womb and now seek fellowship with me!  I really don’t get what’s in it for You, but I’m deeply grateful.  If I can be confident that Your holy, wonderful character is being formed in me by this simple process of connection, that’s a tremendous motivator to do more of it! 

Well, that’s an aspect of the “much fruit” I promised in John  15: mature character.  Robust and healthy love that reaches out and blesses others.  When we hugged, you noticed My fragrance.  Guess what?  It’s rubbing off on you.  Believe it by faith.

Thank you.  That is so encouraging!