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From the Sidelines to the Seat

Have you ever felt a shrug of heart, you know that ‘Blah’ feeling, perhaps leading to anxiety or even agitation?  The only way to put it into words is ‘I’m off, just… off.’  May I offer – something may have shifted – shifted from the sidelines to the seat; something/someone is now sitting on the throne of our heart, pretty weighty isn’t it!  This, my dear friend, is found deep in the factory setting in the design of man, a component known as the Peace Barometer.  (Ok, maybe not – but that is what I call it).  Peace.

In the Old Testament, (Hebrew) the word for peace is shalom, (in short) meaning tranquility, harmony, wholeness.  It has been referred to as evidence of the absence of strife or war.  I would define peace not necessarily in what you do not have, but what you do have.  In the New Testament, the word for peace (in Greek) is eirene, which literally means to set at one.’  The picture is something that was once set in place has either been removed or toppled over – (think of the game Jenga, remove foundational pieces & over it goes) chaos, strife, irritation even war are the results.  Once it is set back in place, PEACE reigns.

Here’s a brief (VERY brief) explanation:  Remember God and man (and Eve) in the Garden, their relationship was good and whole (peace-filled). Then there was a sin outbreak, the relationship was broken, toppled over.  For generations (begetting) generations there was a missing element – what was, is no longer.  Later Isaiah speaks of the coming of the Prince of Peace and the government resting on His shoulders (9:6).  Fast forward to Luke chapter 2, the angels announce, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace…” (v14).  Peace was back on earth among man.  Jesus is the missing piece, He came bridging the gap (which was big & ugly) between man and his God – He set it all back in place, God the Father planned it, God the Son accomplished it, God the Holy Spirit applied it, the God package delivered – PEACE REIGNS.

Paul writes, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” (Col. 3:15) Here’s where the peace barometer comes in: If God is not ruling on the throne of our heart, be assured another will occupy it!  We will know peace to the degree that we YIELD to Christ, the Prince of Peace, if NOT – chaos, strife, irritation.  Paul again, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, PRESENT YOUR REQUESTS TO GOD, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7, emphasis mine) ‘Present your requests to God’ (KEY!) We are NOT to go looking for solutions elsewhere, if we do, we can potentially be placing things on the throne that shouldn’t be there, (thus the ‘off’ feeling).  Our peace barometer will TILT if Jesus is not the center of our life, the One residing and reigning on the throne of our heart.  Peace is not about peaceful circumstances, it’s about the applied authority of Christ.  Let’s cut to the chase: God doesn’t come to take sides (help sort our stuff) He comes to TAKE OVER.  It is His design, His throne.

May God Himself, the God (of Peace) who makes everything holy and whole, make YOU holy and whole, put you together – spirit, soul, and body.” (1 Thess. 5:23 The Message) God the Maker – God at the center – God on the throne.

Taking inventory of my heart. Peace.

*This is an excerpt from my teaching at our local women’s Bible Study.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

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God ONLY!

When I was in college, there was a book on the required reading list.  It impacted me. It wasn’t so much the content of the book, but the title – ‘The Kingdom of Self’ (by Earl Jabay).  The summary of the message was; by divine design within the heart of every man & woman is a throne – and WE are not to be on it.  That is all I remember (it has been 35+ years).  The throne of our heart.

God spoke to the children of Israel through Moses, telling them (I paraphrase) you were once captive and I took you out (of Egypt) we are family and within our family, we are not like other nations, we have family standards. (Queue conversation in your head “But Mom, everyone’s doing it!”)  May we take note; God does not give suggestions – He gives commands, family commands.  He opens with “You must not have any other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3) Continuing: “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind… you must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.” (vv 4-5 NLT)

Oh, we may not erect a stone statue in our back yard these days and bow to it – but we do create, buy and harbor gods of the heart.   When we think of an ‘idol’ we tend to think of controlling stuff, stuff in the ‘bad bucket’ – you know abusive things like drugs, alcohol, pornography, adulterous affairs… (The list is long, these have to be addressed!) BUT, what about ‘GOOD’ stuff?  An idol is anything that takes the place of God in our heart.

While teaching this to the women at church, I pulled out a tie, representing my husband.  He is a good man, our marriage is good, and it is God ordained GOOD.   HOWEVER, I can elevate him to such high status that he takes the prominent place on the throne of my heart and God is moved aside.  It is the same with all relationships, with our children, friends, even our leaders.  The same with position, dreams, endeavors and yes, our ministry or vocational careers.

I pulled out a calendar (we are busy-bustling people) does our calendar reflect the PURPOSE God has for us? The central motivating plan of our life as designed by God or does it center around MY stuff. (OUCH! The throne of my heart – cluttered to overflowing).  The same is true with (as the women groan aloud) when I pulled out my cell phone.  THIS technological gadget is the leader among all distractions.  It distracts us, making us pay with our time, attention and yes affection, elements we are potentially allowing our phone to be stealing from God. We can tell of its importance when we panic when just one block from the house and we realize we forgot it and screech on the brakes.  Remember how Jesus describes the enemy of our soul, ‘the thief whose ONLY aim is to steal – kill – destroy’ (John 10:10) folks one of his tactics is to distract.  (Enough said)

I then pulled out a miniature whirly metal windmill, it was created with an erector set.  Using a screwdriver twisting a bolt, a gal asked me what I was doing – “I’m building.” I said, “Building my expectations.”  Our creation is never complete; we are continually tweaking and adding to it.  It seems to always be with us, we take it to church, work, family gatherings and when visiting with others we force them to ‘hold it’ – putting in their hands all the bells and whistles to make us happy.  THIS too can be a ruling attitude of the heart factor.

God is either taken off the throne or He is added to. Numerous times, it is said of the Israelites ‘they worshipped God AND they served others gods…’  TOTALLY getting them in trouble. It is not God and… It is God ONLY.  Jesus tells us to ‘seek FIRST His kingdom, His righteousness…’ (Matthew 6:33)  AND (the only ‘and’ in God’s economy) we get all the stuff we need.  To be very frank, all the ‘other’ has to be at the feet of Jesus, at the feet of the throne, NOT on it.

Move over throne cluttered mess – God is coming for more of our heart!

*This teaching is from our current local women’s Bible Study, titled ‘No Other Gods.’

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Are You Reading ‘Jesus Calling’?

I want to come and sit next to you and share something on my heart. My passion is Jesus, which spills all over His written word. I would like to offer something that I have been drawn to. When I walk into a Christian bookstore, it is there. On the shelves at Wal-Mart, Target and other department stores, it is there. I have heard so many ladies claim of its inspiration, full of guidance, considering it strong enough for the day’s journey. Over the years every time I pick it up I get a HUGE check in my spirit. I do a quick ‘thumb through’ and still …red flags and put it down. It is the book ‘God Calling’ and the newer rendition, ‘Jesus Calling’ by Sarah Young.

Many use this book for their morning devotions rather than the Bible itself or alongside the scriptures. I decided to take a closer look. As I researched the origin of this book, (sorry this article is quite lengthy) I was shocked. ‘God 9f6106ac2f8847040089ea2d5a2c6788Calling’ was written by two women known as ‘The Listeners.’  They wanted to remain ‘anonymous.’ This is NOT a book full of ‘allegory’ the intent is ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ It is written (as is ‘Jesus Calling’) in the First-person perspective. Meaning a personal story, or a running commentary of thoughts. We the reader are not watching this from the outside but through their eyes. We see what they see and hear what they hear. So, in essence, the authors are claiming these are Jesus’ words. With a strong declaration, they state they would sit down with pen & paper, empty their minds and then begin to write. Write messages, messages they claim were from Jesus Himself. The messages are peppered with bible verses or a slight glimpse that is referenced at the bottom of the page.  The content is primarily the ladies poetic sway.  They eventually took the whole collection of these messages and sent them to the Oxford Group, where the book was soon published via the Oxford Group (In England) and came out in 1935.

Who and what is the Oxford Group?  The group is now called Moral Re-Armament (MRA). Members of the Oxford Group primarily find their guidance from within rather than the Bible.  Even though a follower of MRA attempts to follow moral standards from the Bible or of any religion, his primary light is that inner voice and his primary goal is self-improvement. No cross is necessary; no shed blood is required. Each member is encouraged to sit with their journal, pen in hand, empty their minds and write whatever ‘God’ tells them, then act on it.   This ‘method’ of listening/writing is known as “automatic writing.” An alleged psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words are claimed to arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source.  (Sounds New Age does it not? This is a very dangerous thing!)

Sarah Young, author of ‘Jesus Calling’ states that her inspiration first came from reading the book ‘God Calling.’ She was so enamored by the idea, that she began the pursuit of ‘listening’ as well. She states: (quote) “This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received. In many parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience of Jesus’ Presence and Peace. The messages that follow address that felt need.” Notice that her solution to addressing the desire for Jesus’ Presence and Peace is not Scripture or any other means of grace, but what appears to be the very messages she provides in her book. In her writings, she speaks seldom of sin and repentance and even less of Christ’s work on the cross.

A common denominator of all mysticism, (just cutting to the chase) acclaimed Christian or not, is the journey inward. The idea is to quiet the mind (soul) so that the result is space where one supposedly meets God within. According to Young’s citation of Jesus from her journal, this is what He wants as well, remember the “I” or “Me” is supposedly Jesus speaking: “I meet you in the stillness of your soul. It is there that I seek to commune with you. . . . Stillness of soul is increasingly rare in this world addicted to speed and noise. I am pleased with your desire to create a quiet space where you and I can meet.” (April 4)

Her main focus is ‘awareness.’ Awareness of Presence. Excerpt: “Let Me infuse My Presence into your thoughts. As your mind stops racing, your body relaxes and you regain awareness of Me. . . . There are actually more than four dimensions in this world where you live. In addition to the three dimensions of space and the one of time, there is the dimension of openness to My presence.” (May 24) Awareness, consciousness, and openness as described by Young are substitutes for faith in the promise of God of the Bible. “When My Presence is the focal point of your consciousness, all the pieces of your life fall into place.” (January 28th) One more,  BAD theology: “Most of mankind’s misery stems from feeling unloved.” (August 1)

Oh please do not get me wrong, I am fully persuaded that the prophetic is true and Holy Spirit DOES speak to us, through us, guides us and worthy of writing it down in our journals. HOWEVER, to apparently set aside the Holy written word and make the main focus on our ‘personal revelation’ is a very dangerous and wrong place to be, let alone someone taking that word, publishing it and others potentially reading THAT in place of God speaking from His holy scripture. One thing rings so true, the Holy Spirit NEVER contradicts the ‘Word’ nor does He contradict Jesus or the Father. The Holy Spirit points to Jesus and Jesus points to the Father.

I find nowhere in the Bible we are to ’empty’ our minds, rather we are to ‘think on these things’ (Paul lists in Phil. 4:8) We are exhorted over and over to “Mediate…” which in God’s economy, (in short) is the filling of our minds with His word and chewing on it! Paul exhorts “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5) Also… “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Ro. 2:2) The Pastor of Hebrews, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (4:12) Paul to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16) If God’s word is inspired and useful for equipping for every good work – what more do we need, outside of instruction of the Bible to lead our personal revelation of our God?   If we keep seeking the ‘other’ we become like Eve in the garden, distorting what God has said and listening to what sounds pleasing to us.  If not kept in check, this new revelation would soon replace the authority of scripture, creating new standards that we live by.

Paul said to Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4) This is rampant today, we want to tickle our ears, massage our heart and soften our pain. In doing so we reach beyond Jesus. Reach beyond His words grabbing for something else. As a dear friend shared, “This happens when we know other books better than we know the word of God, we are easily deceived.”   How many folks are underlining, circling and highlighting Sarah’s words rather than opening their Bible and reading His words?

shutterstock_132299630I would offer balance of course.  And if you do read these books and any others similar, to please prayerfully take this information to Jesus. Align it with scripture and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what is next.   When choosing a devotional, make it come-along side (not in place of) the bible,  may it be based on scripture, with sound theology. I LOVE devotional books, my favorites are Our Daily Bread, My Utmost for His Highest and Praying the Names of God, Praying the Attributes of God, by Ann Spangler.

Devotion is defined as,  “The fact or state of being ardently dedicated, relating to, or characterized by.”  What is it we want to be dedicated to, or characterized by?  The word of God or someone else’s empty-minded personal revelation. I don’t want someone putting words in God’s mouth when He speaks to me.  Thank you for reading this monstrous article, it is only written with a heart of love and desirous of the very best for you. You are loved dearly.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another one towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

There is MORE!

I am remembering a time my husband and I were visiting a church when the pastor, full of Pentecostal energy shared vigorously from Psalm 136.  Twenty-six times the Psalmist declares, “His mercy endures forever.” Oh, it does!  God’s mercy is unending. Matchless in every way, it can be seen from the beginning of mankind’s existence and has no vanishing point in the future.  Within the 15 minutes of sharing, the pastor repeated the blessing of God’s mercy, then “In closing…”  He said, “His mercy endures forever.”  As the folks stood to leave, preparing for the trek home to the roast in the Crockpot, I wanted so BADLY to stand to my feet and yell, Tell them!” (All eyes on the crazy visitor lady in the back.)   There’s more!  Pastor!  Don’t stop here!

Tell them that the Hebrew language is full of imagery, YES mercy! But there is more.  Just like there is ‘sunrise’ with just a glimpse of light peeking over the horizon, then there is SUNRISE with colors so vibrant you stare in unbelief at the magnitude of the brilliance of His creation. Colors spilling over each other as it dances across the sky in tones that if we are still enough, quiet… it could be heard.  Today, with the Pastors’ sharing, we were just …peeking.

His mercy endures forever. Mercy is ‘hesed’ (in the Hebrew)  Scholars find it extremely difficult to translate into English because there really is not an equivalent word. The King James Version alone uses 15 different words in an attempt to express its meaning in each context.  Words such as lovingkindness, steadfast love, loyal love, kindness, faithful love, mercy and yes, grace.  Grace. God’s mercy is withholding what we do deserve, where His grace is giving us what we do not. One hand pushes forward in giving, while the other holds back in restraint.  Divine coordination -THAT is our God!  Because of His love for us, His commitment to covenant, His value of relationship, our God interacts with hesed. It is deep, wide and continuing.

Jonah knew God’s hesed, saying to the Lord, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love (hesed), a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2)  Ok, maybe Jonah needed an attitude adjustment, (Thus the large fish story) but he knew, he understood, experienced and observed how God operates.

Yes indeed, it is worthy of repeating in twenty-six verses, “His mercy endures forever.”   His lovingkindness, faithfulness, love and His grace.  It is enough to make us bow our head, eyes closed with groanings that cannot be uttered!

Stand in the glow of His brilliant sunrise!

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Revelation vs Resolution

Happy New Year!  As the calendar rolls to a new year, we flip through the photos, whether it be of puppies, sunset images or as I just hung mine, photos of tropical islands. The empty squares indicating days yet to be lived, those 12 pages can either propel us or paralyze us.

The change of the New Year has traditionally become a re-setting if you will of our life compass. We evaluate the past and plan for the future. For some of us, this means sitting down and writing out our Resolutions. Money to be made, exercise routines, diet plans, buy that new house, get that promotion, clean out those closets, get organized and the list goes on, don’t get me wrong, these are all a good plan of attack, (yet there is more).  A New Year’s Resolution can be defined as ‘a firm decision to do or not do something, a course of action designed with the intent to keep a vow.’ Statistics claim, one in three Americans makes a New Year’s resolution of some sort, yet only about 75% of these folks stick to their goal for at least … a week.

Have we considered that instead of a resolution to do better, get more, and perhaps try to be something other than we are, that we seek … revelation? As we stand at the door of 2019, may we take pause and truly position ourselves to seek a fresh revelation of our God – as we read through our Bibles we see new qualities of His character that cause us to be in awe of Him. That is my plan, that is my goal. Making a firm decision to take action to learn and accept more of His love, trust His hand and bow more in gratitude of His mercy and grace.

I pray over us as Paul did, “I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Amen) – Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

From our home to yours, a hardy blessed Happy New Year.

In Him, DeDe & Mark (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Christmas Throughout the Year

“Everyday can be like a holiday.” Just one of Starbucks seasonal cup slogans, I like it with a hardy “Yes, yes it can” as I sip my Peppermint Mocha.  Often we consider the season of Christmas to be the day after Thanksgiving and lasting until New Year’s Eve, after that, the tree is taken down and the lawn reindeer stored in the garage rafters.  Christmas becomes a fleeting memory.  YET, the message of Christmas CAN be seen, felt and shared throughout the year.

I find it fascinating that the angel when appearing to the shepherds (Luke 2) addresses their fear first, taking the time to say something before they bolt and miss the message, the story would not be the same if they all took off running (in different directions). After the fear factor addressed, the presentation of ‘Good News’ given, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you, you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (v11-12) then the choir sings of God’s glory and peace now on earth and the service was over. I wonder… if our pastors today approached the pulpit and opened their sermons with ‘FEAR NOT’ would we pay just a tad bit more attention. (HA!)

Life is busy, our days full of routine, obstacles, and stress. However, the Christmas promise and message is clear and continues to roll forward.  What if (humor me) JESUS came to us, saying, “Don’t be afraid, today, I Christ the Lord, YOUR Savior is here, and here’s My sign…now as the shepherds did … come and see Me.” Sign in the Greek is defined as the power and presence of God manifested, noting significance.  Sometimes the significance is personal.

Do we look for God to manifest Himself before us, around us and ahead of us each day? Have we considered His orchestration of our life so we would take pause and cause us to look and …see Him? It may not be a Celestial choir gathering above the Metro area, but it may be a gentle whisper – See Him. Or a loving note from a friend – See Him.  Or maybe that very personal hope and prayer you’ve mentioned is indeed answered – See Him.

This year, may we take the Christmas message beyond the borders of the calendar pages – the Good News, God with us!  May we see and yield to divine manifestation.  Oh God, open our eyes, our ears that we too would do as the shepherds did, make a determined adventure to see You and then as they did, we go and tell others! (Luke 2:17)

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrew 10:24)

YOU are the Reason for the Season

This holiday season I have been pondering and rolling around in my head, the little seasonal rhyme, ‘Jesus is the reason for the season.’  It fits well as a lapel pin, even hangs proudly as an ornament on our trees.  I like it!  The message is clear and points to Jesus!

Yet… I began to think of this in theological terms, the accuracy of it. I know… I KNOW you are rolling your eyes at this point. But bear with me. I am a people watcher, I watch how they walk,  how they talk, their mannerisms, their facial expressions (there is much entertainment in it… ‘nough said’).  The other day as I was Christmas shopping I watched their faces, looked into their eyes, wondering if THEY knew Jesus. Then it dawned on me – ‘THEY are the reason for the season!’

The season is Christmas. Christmas is JESUS, His birth. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  Jesus came to earth, the divine embodied in human form, His life pointed to the Father, His death representing us, He resurrected in full power and authority and now sits, enthroned on the right side of the Father – for US!  WE are the ‘whosoever’.  WE are the reason for the season! YOU are the reason for the season! (Ok, group HUG!) He came for YOU!  THE best gift giving possible.

Even with all the self-interest, self-emersion and all the “I” focus today, this Christmas look into the eyes of those around you, consider THEM!  What a great opening line to the gospel, said with heartfelt humility as you tenderly lean forward “Did you know YOU are the reason for the season…” Then tell them about Jesus and why He came, use their name (read their name badge if they have one) “Bob, He came for YOU!”

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Blessed Christmas to you and yours,

In Him, DeDe & Mark (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)