Reckless Love

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“There’s no shadow you won’t light up

Mountain you won’t climb up, 

Coming after me

There’s no wall you won’t kick down

Lie you won’t tear down

Coming after me.”

-“Reckless Love” -Cory Asbury (Bethel Music)

Do you remember the feeling of falling in love? As a teen, it can “feel” pretty overwhelming. You actively pursue your love interest, memorizing their features, what they like and dislike. Every moment with them makes your heart skip and your face cramps from smiling so much. It feels like your love has no limits, you would do anything for him/her to show them you love them. And beneath all the emotions and hormones, you believe that you will love that person forever…..until you discover that they don’t want your forever. Pain like nothing else, as if your heart burst into a million pieces, leaves you feeling like the world is at its end. The future you had envisioned disappears along with the one you couldn’t stop thinking about.

In time, you accept the loss, you let go of your pain and realize that the world isn’t ending. You think of that person less and less until it’s as if they came from a different time, a different life. You fall out of love, the one thing you believed was impossible.

If only we knew we were loved by one who never stops loving. Pursued by one who never stops pursuing. Many of us don’t realize that we are in the greatest love story ever told, in fact, we are the bride in this great story. An infinite all-powerful God, romancing a fallen world….what reckless love.

He adores us even as His heart is breaking, His love has no boundaries, no conditions. We simply can’t escape it. And yet no one knows rejection like He does…the world has proven time and again that it’s not a faithful bride. God came to the earth through His Son Jesus, to be with us, and we killed Him. And what did He give us in return? Did He abandon us and fall out of love with us? No, He surrendered His son on the cross and in doing so, He paid the ransom we couldn’t pay and gave us so many blessings that we’re still discovering!

I’m reminded of the story of Hosea and Gomer. God told Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman to symbolize the unfaithfulness of Israel towards God. So Hosea marries Gomer and she soon returns to the life of an adulterer, sleeping with other men besides her husband. This life leads to Gomer being taken as a slave.

I can imagine this being Gomer’s all-time low. What man would love her after what she has done? Standing on a step with a price on her head, no longer a woman but something to be used. And then she spots him, Hosea, the only man who called her wife, pushing his way through the crowd toward her, ready to buy her back.

God told Hosea, just as I love my people Israel, you must love your wife again…

What reckless love.

No matter what you have done, God is always there ready to take you back. And He doesn’t come to buy you with coins but with His only Son Jesus, who is willing to take your place, to pay the ultimate price for you. I promise you, no human can make you whole, no husband or wife can fulfil your every need and desire for love. Only God can satisfy your soul, and He does so not because He has to, but because He wants to. We are wanted, desired, sought after by God…. that, is reckless love.

“Then Jesus told this parable: Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep!”

Luke 15:3-6

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Through It All

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“Through it all, my eyes are on you, and it is well with me…”

-“It is Well” by Bethel Music

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in God. I’ve had my doubts about His Goodness, but not about His existence. I simply can’t imagine not believing, nor waking up to His presence. He has been as fixed as the sun, a constant reality regardless of those who have tried to say otherwise. Once you have experienced and felt His presence, you can’t go back to a world without Him. A world devoid of any lasting meaning apart from Him. He was my friend when I felt insecure and misunderstood, and it was through Him I set my dreams.

I wish I could tell you that the Christian life is easy, but the truth is it’s the harder paths that are worth travelling. They are the paths that promise reward, adventure, and personal growth which only happens through the facing and overcoming of challenges. It’s this path that the Bible describes as “narrow” that few walk down, but their destiny is Heaven and they never walk it alone.

Loneliness, fear, anger, depression…can seem like impossible giants in this life. From a distance, they can appear more manageable than in those moments when they are wrapped around you weighing you down like so many bricks. Sometimes it starts out as a small burden, a single stone placed in your heart that begins to multiply with each day or experience. I find myself doing this…I turn from God and get swept up in life and satan attacks. He is like a wolf, always circling, patient and calculated. He waits for that moment of weakness and makes his move.  That is why he is the lowliest of creatures, he fights in the shadows because he fears the light. In the light, his tricks are revealed and his cover blown. We face an enemy who can only try and deceive us, our biggest battle is this- “Do we listen?”

What I am about to share with you is a piece of my story. Maybe you are the one who is broken, feeling like no one will ever truly know you. How can God fill me? Make me whole again? you ask. The answer; one day at a time.

I grew up in an upper-middle-class school, though far from town and located amidst farmer fields, the students there were hardly the country type. Sports and popularity were everything, as well as how “rich” you were. I was a shy girl who liked hanging with boys and picking up bugs. I started off having trouble finding good friends. As the years passed I had lost many “friends” and had been bullied off by students and teachers alike. I began doubting myself, my abilities to communicate, and this grew with each passing grade. I never got to sing a solo in choir, and one time when I won a pie-selling contest my mom had to put up with angry parents saying that I didn’t deserve to win because I was open enrolled. Once middle school came, life was unbearable. Teachers belittled and called me names and the students pretended as though I wasn’t there. I had to sit at the boy table at lunch and couldn’t wait to go home. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was deeply affected by those experiences. Satan was on a mission to destroy my identity.

Thankfully, life turned around and just in time. I was put in a different school and found the best friends I could ever ask for. I learned to speak and laugh and couldn’t wait to go to school. Math was still difficult but I wasn’t treated differently because of it. Teachers loved me and I was hard pressed to find any student who treated me bad.

Notice how my life changed. We are often moulded and influenced by our surroundings and circumstances, often it’s unavoidable. Was it the end of my heartache? No, life always seems to have a way of building you up and tearing you down. We must learn to focus on something constant or we will be pulled along the tides of life, and become swallowed by our emotions. God has been my constant help, my comforter, and my friend. He makes the storms of life bearable and even beautiful. Everything He touches suddenly has meaning and purpose. And he restores all that was lost tenfold.

So no matter what you are going through, no matter what has happened in your past. You don’t have to carry that burden anymore. It’s not the end of your story. God was with you in every moment. I prayed to Him often in those lonely days..I felt loved and accepted by Him even when outwardly I was alone. He is the closest friend you’ll ever have, he knows your heart and who you truly are. He speaks life-giving words over you, drowning out the hurtful things that life has tried to brand you with. He’s beside you always. Through it all, you’re never alone.

That is why I can say, “it is well with my soul.”

 

 

Stoke the Flame

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“His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself.” 

-Revelation 19:12

I’ve always loved bonfires. My friends and I would keep busy feeding it with leaves and sticks until the yard was spotless. After that we would find other things to put in the flames, watching the ever-changing intensity and colors dance across the items and reflect on our warm faces. The fire isn’t concerned with the temperature of the world around it, burning just as bright whether it’s 90 degrees or 20. However, a windy night could be too dangerous to light a flame, and a rainy one would put it out before it ever began. But with the right conditions and constant fuel, a fire could stay burning forever.

Is it a literal fire that John the Apostle saw in Jesus’ eyes? Or could it have been the only words he had to describe the look in his eyes? Perhaps it was both, symbolic and real. The book of Revelation is filled with such descriptions that could be taken either way. It was a vision, after all, revealing things that we may not fully understand in this reality. The image this paints for us though can be very real and applicable today. I have read in books many times the line, “..with fire in his eyes…” It’s meaning generally signifying a call to action, a fury, or an unquenchable passion.  Those words call out something in us too, an inner boldness that has been in us since creation.

In Biblical times, that boldness had to be brought out of every able-bodied man on the fields of battle. A fiery passion and fearlessness are what drove the Israelites as they conquered armies larger than their own. It was a fiery zealousness that rose in Jesus as he upturned the money tables and chased away the profiteers. The very reason he had come was to reconcile mankind to God, and it angered him to see men aiding in this separation and making a profit of it.

We all have a fire, a light that dispels darkness. As children of God, we are called to be a light, a burning flame, a lamp in a dark world. Our light is not for our sake alone, that we may see what lies ahead. It is a transforming light that should spread and conquer wherever we go. That flame within us is the Holy Spirit partnered with the desires of our soul. The closer we draw to God, the more we mirror His heart and passions.

How strong is your flame? Is it barely flickering or just glowing embers? What do you need to do to bring it back to life? Everyone has to stoke the flame every now and then. It is hard work, but not as hard as re-lighting it again. The only way we stoke our flame is by being in the presence of God and encountering the passions He has placed on our lives as Christians, and as children with unique destinies and callings. I feel a fire in my eyes when people are abused and when satan deceives people into feeling worthless and victimized. A zealousness for God rises in me when I come across people who feel forever separated from His love, as if our sins are somehow more powerful than His love for us. The religious spirit deadens the flame till it can be controlled and tamed. The flame becomes a candle, “this little light of mine” when it was never made to be contained or controlled.

The religious spirit is zealous about control and order. He’s the one who circles the fire in our souls like a hawk, pouring water on any flame that reaches for more. Our passions should be burning and growing. Our love should mirror Christ’s love, and our fire should be free. Free to burn for Him. This is why fires burn and spread so easily in places where people are hungry for more, their wood is dry and it quickly catches when they hear about Jesus. In places that are under the strict control of the religious spirit, or heavily deceived by satan, fires are harder to spread, everyone’s wood has been so watered down that it takes transforming miracles to see a revival.

Before we set out to change the world, let Him change you. Stoke the fires in your heart so that people will long for what you carry. Shine bright and brighter still so that the people who guard their candle lights would see that there is so much more. They have known Jesus as the lamb, now they must know him as the lion. As the one whose eyes are like flames of fire…Stoke the flame. Burn for him.

My heart is ablaze
with the flame of triumph
my soul alight
with this fire of success
an eternal inferno
rages within me
and when you peer into my eyes
then you will see
the fire burning within.

…The fire burning within my eyes. 

-Allen Steble

 

The Refuge

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How important is prayer? It seems that prayer is losing its potency in our culture. Mass shootings, murder, suicide…where is God? Now, we see that even churches aren’t safe from the world’s sin. But again I ask you, how important is prayer? Before you answer, I want to ask one more question, what have you been praying for? Now, if you are full of doubt in prayer but willing to accept a truth that is painful, keep reading. However, if you don’t believe in prayer and these three points listed below then please, seek God and have Him walk you through healing…because something happened in your life that made prayer seem impossible or powerless and until you believe in it again, you won’t be able to study it with an open mind. My three points are, what I believe to be truths, supported biblically and demonstrated in my life, they are as follows:

  1. God works through us
  2. Prayer releases power
  3. We carry power and authority

So what do you pray for? What do you pray for as a church? I know for me, I pray mostly about those in my life, situations that are close to me and are on my heart. I might pray a quick prayer for the rest of the world and pray a little longer when I hear something on the news that is troubling or disastrous. As a church, we pray for members of the body who are sick or need a breakthrough. We pray for the surrounding community and for the lost. But rarely have I heard this prayer, “Lord, protect our church from the lies of the enemy, from any form of harm he intends to send against us, God, if anyone intends harm towards us, I declare that their hearts be transformed and their eyes opened to the truth and the great love of Jesus, amen.”

Most prayers sound quite different, we pray for the lost that they would come through our doors, we ask God for a servants heart, we pray for specific members of the body that they would be restored and delivered from evil only after something manifests itself in their lives visibly. I have seen churches completely consumed with self-righteousness that they don’t feel the need for protection, and churches so set on servanthood that they neglect the health and safety of the body, leaving no one fit to protect the gate from the wolves.

My uncle used to have a large yard. He would mow it as my aunt would tend to the garden. Every day he would sit on his deck and survey his land for unwelcome guests. It wouldn’t be long before he would spot a groundhog waddling towards his garden, digging and eating all the while. My uncle would instantly take action, he would grab his rifle and put the creature out of commission. My uncle killed a lot of vermin in his life, and his garden and yard remained peaceful and safe whilst he was there.

Who protects the church from satan’s tricks? Who has discernment in your church to alert the body to danger? Who carries the rifle, and makes the tough decisions regarding the safety of the flock? Who, deals with the wolves?

Oh, how important prayer is…how often do I blame God for something in my life…and then see the truth, I didn’t pray for those things! How can God bless me and answer a prayer that I never uttered? And if I did speak of it, did I really ask? Did I contend for it? Did I believe in it? As Christians, we have become so desensitized to the violence of the world, so used to satan triumphing that we have forgotten who we are! We pray with a sense of hopelessness, a begging for change, forgetting that we might just be the answer to our prayers! God wants to use us to change the world, He has given us the Holy Spirit and the authority to take back this fallen place. But we can’t do that until we remember who we are again. We need to wake up and put a foot down. We need to pray with authority, believing that our words have power and speak into things before they happen. Pray for your church! Bind up evil spirits before they set foot upon your stair. Speak life over the country, don’t speak curses! Don’t aide in the world’s destruction, but in its renewal. Prayer is important, but I dare take it farther…it is VITAL!

“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, I will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

2 Chronicles 7:14

Know Thy Enemy

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“I’m sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the spider to the fly.
“There are pretty curtains drawn around, the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in.”
“O no, no,” said the little fly, “for I’ve often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed.”

-Mary Howitt

It started as a sudden jolt of fear, as I recognized the silhouette of a small hairy spider on the wall across my room. I stared for a while at its small frame, knowing that its size would greatly increase with proximity.  I slid out of bed and snuck towards it, my imagination going wild, adrenaline kicking in. I gasped as I finally took it in fully. Shiny black eyes pointed at me. It’s front legs poised to pounce, its jaws moving hungrily. I ran for a newspaper, but in fear grabbed a bowl instead. Returning to the scene I raised the bowl and found that I couldn’t move. Spider: 1 Adult Human: 0.

What happened next? After some time, I finally got the nerve to see past my fear and capture the little beastie. My fear turned to victory as I held the bowl in my hands, watching the spider try and strike, completely powerless in the sealed bowl. I saw clearly that it was afraid of me, more than I was of it. That what I thought was hungry chewing was actually shaking and shivering terror.

This story is not unlike an elephant afraid of a mouse, or a child too afraid to sit on the lap of the easter bunny. Why are we so afraid? We have rational fears that make sense, but what of the irrational fears? The Phobias…

I fear spiders but nothing gets my blood pumping like wasps. Their angry slanted eyes and buzzing make my hair raise. My husband though is a different story, he swats them away like they are nothing more than overzealous butterflies. The outcome? To my surprise, he never gets stung. It’s like the wasps respect him, while it seems when I walk out the door it’s an air raid. Surely the problem isn’t the wasps, but my fear. I give them power over me by fearing them.

I know it may seem silly but as children of God, filled with power, we can easily give our power away. We see this with satan all the time. He is a bug on the floor, but he uses fear to make himself appear large and undefeatable. It’s his pleasure to scare us giants into submission. He loves making God appear weak and his children appear weaker. Why does he deceive through fear? To fear is to distrust God. A family divided cannot stand, he wants the children of God to rebel against their father, to turn from him. If he can cut us off from God, we are made vulnerable and then like any spider with prey in its web, he comes in for the kill, wrapping us in as many lies as he can till all we can see is distorted by the silk covering our eyes. If you didn’t know it, it could be pretty comfortable wrapped in a web. You could easily mistake a cage for a bed and live in that dream very nicely for quite some time…

But with the film over your eyes, you wouldn’t notice the approaching doom, the life draining from you as each day passes. You weren’t made to be anything less than a child of God. What satan offers you is counterfeit and supremely evil. He comes to kill steal and destroy, but he appears to you looking like everything you ever wanted. He is the ultimate con man.

It’s time the church wakes up to who the devil really is. It’s time the church seeks discernment and faces the hard truth. There is an enemy out there, he hides in the dark and entices you with lies. He can easily work his way into your families, and into your church. The church is not off limits to demons, it’s not like playing tag in school and designating a tree as a ‘safe zone.’ We have to take ground for the kingdom of God, it isn’t given to us freely. Everything, every inch must be fought for and maintained. It really is a war we are dealing with here, the definition of a war- a conflict between two opposing sides.

Know thy enemy. Don’t fear thy enemy. God has decided the outcome, he defeated satan and the power of death. The battle has never been between God and satan, there is no match there….satan is merely a fallen angel. No angel or army of angels can defeat God. In simply speaking he created everything we see today, as well as the galaxies that will forever be beyond fathom. Why then are we fighting someone who is defeated? because satan has always been at war with us, from the beginning of man, when he tricked Adam and Eve, he has declared war on us. And as children of God, made in His likeness, we are to taste the victory of defeating our enemy. To become who God made us, we must pick up our crosses and take back the world.

 

The Secret Key

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“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 

– Matthew 16:19

First, I’d like to point out that there is no “secret” key per se, to those who believe, all that was once hidden and shrouded in mystery has either been given to us, revealed to us, or left waiting to be found by us. God doesn’t hide things from us, but for us. He is a God of mystery but He is also good. We must remember that Christ spoke in parables so that only those who believed would hear and understand. He didn’t do it to cause confusion or make it difficult for those truly hungry for Him.

“So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.”‘ – Matthew 13:35

It is the mystery left waiting for us to discover that keeps us hungry, the more that is revealed to us the hungrier we get. We are reminded with each new discovery that God is infinitely vast, not just in wisdom but in love. Again I must liken our relationship with God to that of a husband and wife. It is through communication and intimacy that couples grow closer together and so it is with God, it really is all about relationship.

The Bible is a great place to start, for all those who long for more of God, His Word is where we should all return to in both times of joy and during the varying storms of life. It is through the Word that we learn to recognize God’s voice and guidance amidst the other voices that try to sway us. It’s the Word which displays the character of Jesus which we are to mirror in our daily lives. Since we have received the Holy Spirit, the Word becomes an even deeper well of life that we get to drink from. I truly believe that if you let the Holy Spirit speak to you while you read the Bible, you will continually learn and grow in wisdom through it. You could read a chapter a million times and God will never fail to teach you more about Him.

It might seem intimidating, can we truly know God and yet not know Him fully? Honestly I can spend a lifetime learning about my husband and yet never fully know him…only God understands us all fully, even the parts of us we don’t even understand, He created us and it’s His right and will to know His creation. Nothing escapes His notice. Although I may never know my husband fully like God, I will know what stirs his heart; his passions, his dreams, what makes him smile, and what he would give his life for. You see when you are in a close relationship with someone you cannot hide your heart from them, and why would you want to? If you love someone you reveal yourself to them in ways you wouldn’t reveal to others. Love requires sacrifice and it starts by revealing your heart, sharing your dreams, and, quite honestly, being vulnerable. And so the answer to the question, can we truly know God and yet still have much to learn? Yes, we have seen through the Bible and through our personal relationship with Him the deepest desires of His heart.

What does the heart of God reveal?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“….God is love.” -1 John 4:8

Out of all the great displays of love I have received, from handmade gifts to tender kisses, to a mother’s embrace or a father’s encouragement….none of it compares to when God gave His Son for me…it was the greatest act of love, it was the first…He died for me before I even existed, before I was even a thought in my parents minds. Do you know why you exist? Do you truly know? It wasn’t by chance or because God just decided to create you on a whim…you and I were in the heart of God from the beginning…it wasn’t enough that we were just an idea…God wanted us to exist.

I’m not a mother yet, but as time passes I find myself imagining the sound of a child’s laughter, I smile at the thought of what they will look like, and who they will grow to be. As I do dishes I look out the window and imagine my husband playing in the yard with our son. I think to myself, I can’t wait for them to be…will they like it here, will Aaron and I make good parents? I feel my excitement grow and look forward to the many memories we will share as a family. Surely these are the kind of thoughts God had of us before we came to be..

The Secret Key=Relationship

Relationship is the key to God’s heart. It is the key to the mysteries of God. It is the key to greater works through the Holy Spirit. It’s in the seeking that we find, and for those who seek God earnestly, there is much to be found.

Beautifully Broken

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“Life is so ironic. It takes sadness to know what happiness is, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence.” (weebly.com)

He had cancer…it had advanced to its final stage and there was nothing that could be done. I remember him in a wheelchair, bald from chemo, and yet always smiling. I was only a child and it was the first time in my life I saw God answer my prayers. Yes, he had answered them when I was afraid of coming storms or test results. But this was different, the doctors said he had only a month left, not enough to say goodbye. I prayed for him, asking God for time, and he kept living.. 2 months, 3 months…6 months went by, and then one peaceful evening he said goodbye, surrounded by his family, they said it was like he simply fell asleep.

When I remember this man I don’t feel sad, although I do wonder how things would have turned out if I would’ve prayed bigger, could he have been healed completely? All I know is that there comes a time in everyone’s life in which we must say goodbye. It is the one unavoidable truth, often feared and spoken of in whispers, as though the grim reaper was bending ear to hear. To a Christian though, death should hold no fear…so when I think of this man, I am filled with peace because I know that with every end, there is a new beginning. Heaven is the prize at our journeys end.

The truth is, it is during hardships that who we really are breaks through. So many people hide behind a false smile, burying their passions, hurt, and emotions deep within, believing that vulnerability is weakness, when in reality, we are all vulnerable and it takes true courage to admit it to ourselves and others. We can’t pretend away our brokenness, or sweep it under the rug.

There is beauty in our brokenness. We all need beauty in our lives, God made the world beautiful for a reason, with flowers of every color and fragrance, waterfalls, sunsets of red, orange, yellow and purple. Was God just showing off when he crafted the wings of a butterfly? Or just being creative when he decided that there should be seasons? I don’t think so..our God is righteous, pure, and beautiful, and so, being created in His image we too crave beauty in our lives. When it comes to physical beauty, we see through its fleetingness that God wants us to dig deeper into the heart of what true beauty is. Beauty is a matter of the heart.

Just as we are called to be joyful in all circumstances we are also called to find the beauty in every circumstance. Beauty and joy are correlated, as one can’t be experienced without the other. Just think of what brings a smile to your face….babies, nature, movies, art…the list goes on. You know what tops them all? Jesus giving his life for us….I find that beautiful.Is it also heartbreaking? yes, the pain he suffered was meant for us…a piece of us breaks when we realize all our savior did for us…..what is beautiful is his love. Sometimes beauty is the things we just can’t put into words, those moments of awe. Jesus loved us more than anyone has ever loved us….beautifully broken for us. What is more beautiful that love put to action?

God has been allowing me to see things through a different lense lately. The closer I draw to Him the more I see all the beauty around me. It is so important to stop and smell the roses sometimes…to simply walk with our God and be alone with Him. I think He created nature to do just that, to be a temple of peace and beauty that we can escape into at any time. Even Jesus went off into the wilderness at times to be with His father. I know life can be busy, the city lights often draw us in, and the daily chores can divert our attention. But the time we spend with God is irreplacable. And in those moments when we are too busy to go off and be with Him, ask Him to come along, He isn’t just in the wilderness but beside you, in your very heart. Being constantly aware of His presence will fill you with beauty and peace. If there is beauty in brokenness, there is beauty to be found in everything. Just open your eyes, and let Him show you.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” -Ecclesiastes 3:11