Fruit that Remains: Excerpts from my journals that nourished me and might encourage you, too!

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Fruit That Remains: Lessons from my journals. These are excerpts from my journals over the years. Some are more current than others. I love going back into my journals because I always get refreshed and re-learn the lessons that the Lord has taught me and that I have faithfully scribed.

While in my daily devotions this morning, the Holy Spirit brought this phrase to my mind: “Do not make the Word of God of no effect.” Yikes! What does that mean??

I knew I had learned that Scripture from the Bible and that Jesus had said it, but I couldn’t recall where or to whom he had said it.  What were the circumstances? I needed to dig deeper as I felt the Lord correcting me.

When I looked up the reference, I found that this quote is in Mark 7:13. The King James Version of the Bible says, ‘Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.’ The New American Standard version says it like this: “…thus invalidating the Word of God by your tradition which have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

In this passage, Jesus is chastising the Pharisees because they put all of their religious emphasis on outward displays and man-made rules while their hearts are far from God. When Jesus says that the Pharisees “invalidate” or “make of none effect” the Word of God, the original Greek language that the text is written in uses the word, “akuroo”. Jesus uses “akuroo” to describe how they invalidate the Word and void it of power and effect by acting as though they can change it, adapt it, manipulate its message or disregard Who the Author is.

Akuroo (Strong’s Akuroo) is the negative, or the upside-down version, of the word, “kuroo” (Strong’s Kuroo) which means “to validate, confirm publicly, ratify”. “Kuroo” itself comes from another root word, “”kurios” (Strong’s Kurios) which means, “Master, Lord, the greeting of a servant to his master, the title given to God, the Messiah”.

When I don’t reverence the entire Word, I make its power of no effect in my life. After all, the Word is Jesus. John says in John 1:1,  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I must greet the Word with the reverence of a servant. The Word is not here to serve me, but I the Word. I am not here to take parts of the Word and make it fit my mold but the Word is here to mold me into its form. I am its servant not the other way around. I don’t get to decide what parts I want to read or obey…IF I want God’s power to be in it, that is! The power comes through reverence and honor.

No wonder Jesus was chastising the Pharisees here. They were standing right in front of the incarnation of the Word they professed to know backward and forward and they couldn’t recognize him. Meanwhile, the wounded, the blind, and the rejected knew right away that He was the Light of the world and the remedy for all that was broken. They knew that one word from His mouth would bring healing, cleansing and restoration to everything that was ruined in their lives.

If I believe that this Word is God-breathed, that Jesus is the Word (even if I don’t understand totally how that works), then I will approach the Word with the same faith, expectation, and devotion of those who saw and touched Jesus in the flesh. I will approach this powerful, restorative Word on my knees – either physically or spiritually.

Lord God, I repent for not honoring Your Word and hearing Your voice every time I read it. I repent for the times that I have handled your word incorrectly and without proper reverence and awe.  I ask for your forgiveness for the times that I have approached Your Word casually and routinely. Please open my eyes, my ears and my heart to see and hear You in Your Word. And help me to never again handle it with vile hands, human goals and selfish reasons. Your Word has suspended the heavens above the earth, created everything seen and unseen and will still remain for all of the eternal ages to come. Jesus, you are the Word that stood before creation, brought creation into being and still upholds all things.  I honor You, my Master and Lord. Help me to hear Your voice of love as You speak to me. 

Getting Unstuck: Step into the light again

Stuck -jeremy-bishopDo you feel stuck? How long have you been stuck? Was there a situation that happened that threw you into the “stuck” state?

If the definition of stuck is ‘stationary by some obstruction’, then I believe that many times we can get stuck because something happened that we don’t process in a biblical way.  Chronologically, the calendar keeps moving forward, but emotionally, the hands of the clock stand still as we are locked in pain, bitterness, or grief. Someone has hurt us, we hurt ourselves, or some situation has transpired that threw us down the rabbit hole and we don’t know how to get out.  The pain and question marks become the unwanted house guests who refuse to leave.

If we’re Bible believing Christians, this is particularly burdensome, because we have all of this Scripture that promises that the Lord will carry our burdens, that He will be our peace, and that no weapon formed against us will prosper.  So how do we handle the loss when a weapon formed against us does seem to prosper – when we lose a loved one or a relationship, when we experience a large setback like divorce or bankruptcy, or when a habit or addiction has caused us to make some hurtful choices and now we’re living in the stink of those choices?

I believe the answer is to learn how to process our situations in light of the Truth of Who God is and what He says He will do with our messes. We get stuck because a trauma has frozen us in one spot.

But there are ways to get “unstuck”. Let’s look at a couple.

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Thought for the Day: You can hear God speak to you. (Yes, you!)

Every now and then, my morning journaling time becomes more about what the Lord is saying to me than the other way around.  These are the times that I feel as though I have hit the bulls-eye in my devotion time.  After all, what’s more meaningful – pouring out my prayers and requests to the Lord or hearing His direction and wisdom on a matter? My words are important, and my prayers are a delight to the Lord, but when He chooses to enter my Here-and-Now and speak a word of comfort, direction or wisdom, I just can’t write fast enough! Below is one of those simple words that came while I was pressing in in prayer regarding some issues in my finances and my ministry that just weren’t budging.  I was fighting off discouragement as I looked at how many years I have prayed about some of these things. Let’s see what Jesus had to say:

“I am the God of the In-Between. I will fulfill every promise to you.  And in between the promise and its fulfillment, I will hold you and carry you. Stay close to Me. Don’t turn from My Word. Don’t turn to the left or to the right.  My promises are certain and My ways are sure and solid. I will never leave you or forsake  you. Make sure that you stay close to Me. Open your heart to Me and let’s be together. Pressure comes from you, not from Me. Peace and joy and overwhelming love come My holy presence. Surround Me with your love and it will deepen. I will take the seed and give you back a harvest.”

Now you:

  • Do you hear the Lord speak to you this way?
  • Do you believe that Jesus wants to speak to you as His child?
  • Do you know that you can hear Him speak to you?

Every child of God can hear His voice. God is no respecter of persons, the Bible says in Acts 10:34. That means that God answers the faith of whosoever.

I remember when I was first taught that I could hear God speak to me and that I could write down what He said.  When I started trying to journal what I thought I was hearing, I felt so foolish! I felt like I was making it all up! But here’s how I knew that I wasn’t making it up: As I kept practicing my ability to hear God’s voice, I began to write things down that were so correcting, aligning and freeing that I couldn’t have made it up.  The words carried such life that the more I meditated on them, the more I began to change. That could not have come inside me or else I would have been changed and found freedom long ago! Further, the words that the Lord speaks to me are always in alignment with the Word of God.  My thoughts are not always in alignment with God’s word, so that’s a big litmus test right there! And finally, the proof has been in the pudding, so to speak, in that I have grown in my ability to hear not only for myself, but for others as well.  And when I have ministered what the Lord wants me to say to other people, He has blown them (and me!) away with His accuracy and knowledge of their heart struggles.

But I had to start with the basics – getting a notebook, putting myself in the place of worship and then asking the Lord to speak about a situation or whatever He felt I needed to hear. Cool, huh?

You can hear God speak to you, too! Don’t believe the lie that you can’t!

John 10: 4-5a: When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow…

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Chain Breaker: Keys to breaking free from depression and anxiety (Part 1)

Broken chainsI suffer from depression and anxiety.  And ADD.  I was blessed with the trifecta of toilet bowl thinking.  It’s only been recently that I have put two and two together and allowed the cumulative history of my life to tell its story.  But now, at 51, I have more life behind me than in front of me, and I can see that I have wrestled with these debilitating brain shackles all my life.

I remember that when I was in elementary school, I would be physically sick every morning due to the anxiety of going to school.  My mother called the doctor who gave her some advice about giving me juice or something, but I vividly recall the nausea that would hit the moment I woke up and realized I had to go to school.  Anxiety affected how I made friends and how I handled day to day challenges.  For the most part, I was fairly popular, but inside I was wracked with self-doubt and fear.

I also remember periods of time where I felt really blue.  I thought everyone felt that way.  I didn’t know what depression was.

And I also struggled with ADD, which back in the 70’s and 80’s wasn’t even a recognized handicap.  All I knew is that I even though I managed to get decent grades, I studied 5 times harder for 80% of the good grades that my two best friends got with half their brains tied behind their backs.

In high-school, my depression & anxiety combo really bound me up and between those two emotional challenges and the inability to stay focused, my grades tanked.  My brain was so full of depression and self-loathing that I fell into really negative behaviors trying to escape my sadness and of course, as we all know, all that did was exacerbate the anxiety.  I was scared to live because every day I took a breath, I managed to make worse than the one before. I had many bouts of suicidal thinking – although I never attempted to take my life.  That’s the condition I was in when I met Jesus.

I was 18 years old when I became a Christian and I thought that all of my anxiety and depression would magically go away now that I was going to live a clean life. The logic was: No more sin = No more fear.  No more screw-ups = No more sadness. But it didn’t quite out work that way.

Over the years since my decision to follow Jesus, I have studied the Word like it’s my job.  I love the Bible and nothing gets me more excited than getting to know Jesus and studying the Word. And I love to worship the Lord. In that place of awe and reverence, things come into alignment. And I have been faithful in church since I was 18.  I’m not a flighty person. I’m loyal and dedicated and I love the Lord. But even with all of that going for me, it still hasn’t been enough to stop the tsunami of sadness that comes over me at times.  Or the anxiety that gives me chest pressure and heart palpitations at times.

In all fairness, my adult life has been marked by a lot of losses and some really intense crises that would make anyone sad and anxious. So I never thought that depression and anxiety were something I suffered from.

But recently, I have encountered the perfect storm.  As I said, I am 51 so I am entering that marvelous time of life when the youth factories start shutting down.  Not only can that wreak havoc with your hormones and your emotions, but being at this mid-life age causes a lot of retrospective thinking.  “Why hasn’t A, B, or C worked out yet? I thought I would be further along than this by this age.  When are my opportunities going to materialize? Did I miss God? Am I out of his will?”

And then come the crazy thoughts: “Am I even saved?”

If you don’t suffer from any form of depression, you cannot fathom how crazy toilet bowl thinking can hijack you and sideline you.  But take it from me, when you’re sliding down the slippery slope of negativity without crampons, it is way too easy to lose your grip on reality and on what the Word says.

Depression and anxiety are slave drivers.  But one thing I know: Because Jesus is my chain breaker, I am free. I am no longer a captive.  When Jesus burst up out of the grave and blew the door off his tomb, he displayed the finished work that brought us up out of captivity with Him. He put the keys of the Kingdom in our hands. Those keys carry the same authority that Jesus exerted when he walked the earth and brought freedom to every person bound by any sickness or torment. And today, I plan on taking the set of keys he gave to me and placing them in the lock of your prison door.  Because of what he is doing in me, I refuse to let you sit in depression alone. You are not alone. You are not forsaken. You are not shameful. He has not given up on you. You are precious to Him.  Jesus is attracted to brokenness and He has come to set every captive free. Because he is your chain-breaker, you are free. You are no longer a captive.

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Thought for the day: God wants all so He can increase us

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In Genesis 26:4, God promises Abraham that He will multiply his descendants, make them as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all of the land that Abraham has been sojourning in.

Gen 26:4: I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed

But what is important to notice is that this promise is reiterated to Abraham after he had pursued heart-wrenching obedience to God by offering his only son, Isaac, as an sacrifice to the Lord. (See Genesis 22) God stopped him from this action and provided a ram in the thicket as the sacrifice, but Abraham’s heart was purified in the crucible of testing and he came forth as gold.

After this testing in the Refiner’s Fire, Abraham received that word in the Scripture we just read. I believe that this timing is not coincidental as I believe that the God Who instituted the law of sowing and reaping understands that what we sow in our lives is what will be multiplied.  God didn’t want Abraham’s self-life and self-determination to be what was multiplied as the stars in the sky.  He wanted the faith that would propel Abraham towards radical obedience to be what was multiplied in the earth.  So once the dross had been burned away and the lone heart of desperate longing for the Lord was left, God spoke the word of multiplication over Abraham and his seed.

The depth of purity of Abraham’s trust and devotion to his God, was the breadth of the multiplication of his descendants. Abraham’s descendants, both natural and spiritual descendants, are billions strong now and this corresponds to the depth of his faith.

When God allows us to go through the crucible, it is to refine us.  He doesn’t want to multiply wrong motives and our self-life.  He wants to multiply us but He needs our worldly attachments to become infinitely small so that He can become infinitely big.

Religion keeps God small and most people are happy with that arrangement because they can maintain their lusts and desires along with what they believe is God. But if truly have God, we have a fire – a Consuming Fire.  And this Fire will not allow the weeds and thorns to strangle the harvest and overtake the fruit we can produce for the Kingdom.

If our hearts are truly toward the Lord, we will welcome the Refiner’s Fire.  He is loving and gentle toward us, but unrelenting toward anything that will steal our destiny and possibly rob us of our eternal place with Him.

Galatians 6:7: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

Let’s pray:

Dear heavenly Father, we come to You as the Holy Fire.  We know that your holiness is as pure and consuming as fire and we desire to be changed and purified. Father, we can’t purify ourselves or even desire to tear our hearts away from the attachments of this life.  Our family, friends, and achievements are all to us at times.  But You have called us to higher life where we can hold on to You with all we are and also enjoy the blessings of this life without those blessings owning our hearts in trade.  We are yours.  You purchased us with the blood of your Son.  We are also the children of Abraham and as such, we can tap into that faith that takes us beyond what we see with our eyes into a trust that radically obeys.  Holy Spirit, please do this work in us.  As the days grow darker and the day of Your appearing comes closer, we need to cross the line and be all in with Jesus.  No more games.  No more comfortable religion.  No more halfway obedience.  All in – by Your grace alone.  In Jesus name we ask this, Amen.

 

My Great Reward: When life takes more than it gives, get refilled

Genesis 15:1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield,your very great reward. ”Hand and clouds.jpg

19 years ago, I was a single mom with four children, cleaning houses to provide for the kids and trying to figure out what happened to the perfect life I thought I had.  It was during that intensely difficult season where everything I trusted in was stripped away that I learned how to make Jesus my great reward.  In that time of rejection, loneliness and fear, I read the scripture in Genesis 15:1 where God told Abram that He would be his great reward. God Himself was the prize that Abram was being given.

That scripture came alive in me during that lonely season because I was living and breathing what it meant to have Jesus as my prize. Everything that I valued, except my children, was gone. But each morning when I woke up and stumbled down to the coffee maker and grabbed my Bible, I found the most awesome comfort and strength in the personal relationship that I had with Jesus.

If I had read that Scripture previous to this season of devastation, I’ll be honest, I don’t think I would have viewed God alone as the greatest reward.  My heart wanted many things and I didn’t have the maturity in the Lord to understand the surpassing worth of His Presence over anything I could possess or experience.

But during that season of grief, the Lord poured out a grace on me to seek Him and find Him in deep and profound ways. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and be with Jesus. He was the comfort for my rejection, the strength for each new challenge, my wisdom for every decision, and my rock of refuge. There is no way to explain how in the season of my greatest uncertainty and sadness I had the greatest sense of His tangible presence. In that valley I learned that because Jesus is my great reward, I am OK. Everything can be falling to pieces around me, but I am OK because the most important piece can never be stolen from me.

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Fruit That Remains: Excerpts from my journals that nourished me and might encourage you, too!

 

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Fruit That Remains: Lessons from my journals. These are excerpts from my journals over the years. Some are more current than others. I love going back into my journals because I always get refreshed and re-learn the lessons that the Lord has taught me and that I have faithfully scribed.

I live to hear the voice of the Lord. There is absolutely nothing more empowering, uplifting and life-changing for me than hearing the Father, our Creator, our Redeemer talk to me personally about what I am going through.  I yearn to hear His perspective on the external and internal struggles I’m facing and about the vision of where I’m headed.  This is the most incredible part of being in relationship with Jesus, as far as I’m concerned.

Most religions have rules and doctrine and have good works that people are supposed to do.  But the Christian faith has a risen, living Savior who still speaks to his disciples and calls us His friends.

My journals are filled with notes I have taken when I have stilled my heart and allowed the Lord to speak to me.  Below is one of those journal entries.

Here’s the backstory: My husband and I were encountering a difficult season.  For me, much of the challenge was with thoughts and fears inside my head that were overwhelming me.  My fears were like virtual reality goggles: everything I saw in my mind’s eye was making me stop dead in my tracks, even though the Lord had promised me that He was working on my behalf in the challenging areas.

My husband and I were also facing financial and relational issues with family members that were making us stressed and sad.  John and I have found that it’s hard to encourage your spouse when you’re down yourself!

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