Monday, June 25, 2012


In Revelation, John writes letters to the different churches, with God's message to them.  To the church of Sardis, His message is: "I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.  Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before My God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent.  But if you are not alert, I will come like a thief, and you have no idea at what hour I will come against you." (Revelation 3:1b-3)

We recently heard Francis Chan give an example that hit home.  I will pass that along to you.  Take a few minutes to think about this:

If I were to interview your friends and the people you hang around, what would they say about you?  If I were to ask them to list everything they thought about you and your character, what would their list look like?

Now, let's pretend that I could go to God and ask Him everything He knows about you...inside and out, all the public and private stuff...what would that list look like?

Think on that for a bit.  In your mind, place the 2 lists on a balance scale, with one side being the list your friends would say about you and the other being the list of what God knows about you.  What does the scale look like?  Is it balanced or lopsided?

Really think on this because it matters...  What does your balance scale say about you?

This struck me.  I mean...this just cuts through all the airs and masks and pretense, doesn't it?

What is it that God sees when He looks through the outer shell and into the inner self?

Who's opinion really matters here?  Are my works complete before the Lord?  He will come like a thief at some unknown hour when I'm busy with life. What then?  Will the balance scale be the way it should be?  Will He be pleased?

Right now, is He pleased when He looks at the bare naked truth of my life?

"For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God?  Or am I striving to please people?  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ."  Galatians 1:10

Who are you really?  Reputation has absolutely nothing to do with it.  It's a false weight.  It is hay and stubble.  All that matters is what you are when you stand before a holy God.  Are we really serious about obeying Him, following Him and serving Him?

Or are we focusing instead on perfecting these masks that people see when they glance our way?

If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


As a homeschooling mom, summer is my "free" time to get things deep-cleaned and in order before the next school year.  Everything gets a thorough scrubbing.  Drawers and hidden cabinets are laid bare and reorganized.

A couple of weeks ago, we scrubbed our kitchen floors...the kind of scrubbing that requires hands and knees and lots of elbow grease.  The brush we use is stiff and unyielding, forcing dirt out of unseen indentations in the floor.

The murky water doesn't lie.  Filth was unearthed that day.

Outside, a similar story unfolded over the weekend...  Six years of dust and mold and outdoor filth had collected on our house and porches.  It happened so slowly over time...the piling over and over of small dirty particles...that we didn't even notice how different our house had become over the years.
Our back deck, covered in filth
No amount of scrubbing on our hands and knees would have remedied this built-up.  So, last weekend, my husband rented a pressure washer.  This thing sprays water so intensely that it took quite a bit of the old paint off the front porch banister!  It's the no-holds-barred sprayer.  I'm pretty sure that if you got in front of that stream of water, your skin might rip right off (don't try it!)!  :)  This thing means serious business, seeming to erase dirt and muck the moment the high-powered water makes contact.   

We watched our wooden decks reappear right before our eyes...stripped down to the bare wood.  The difference between the clean and dirty was amazingly obvious.  There's something very simple and beautiful about bare wood.

And bare souls...

Sometimes I need a wipe-down to remove a layer of filth.  Sometimes I need the scrubbing brush with its unyieldingly firm bristles.  And sometimes the pressure washer has to be the stubborn dirt, the filth of the ages that has the slimy mask that smothers the bare soul.

"Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

"Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates."   --Revelation 22:12-14

What do my "robes" look like this day, right now?

There's beauty in that bare wood.  There's beauty and life in the purified soul.

"Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within.  Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." --Psalm 51:7

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

This Cross

"Then He said to them all, 'If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it."
Luke 9: 23-24

Excerpt from Crazy Love, by Francis Chan:
When Jesus calls us to take up our cross, He is doing much more than calling us to endure the daily, circumstantial troubles of life.  The people in Jesus' day were very familiar with the cross.  Having witnessed crucifixion, they understood the commitment and sacrifice of taking up a cross.
It is a call to radical faith.
Jesus is calling us to be willing to suffer anything and forsake everything for the sake of the gospel.  His call is to love those who have cheated us in business; those who have spread nasty rumors about us; those who would kill us if they could; those who disagree with us politically, practically, and fundamentally.  His call is to consider everything a loss for His sake.  His call is for total surrender.  He calls us to give up all that we have, to give even to the point of offering up our lives as a living sacrifice.  His call means realizing that His power is made perfect in our weakness, that when we are weak we are also strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
Many times, I want a different cross.

Sometimes, I fall under the weight of my own cross and have a pity party.  "Lord, if You ask me to give up all my earthly possessions and move to the mission field, I believe I'd go...with a spring in my step, even!  But this cross I have been given to carry is too heavy, too binding, too unfair."

When rejected, I must pick up this cross and offer loving acceptance.
When neglected, I must pick up this cross and offer loving attention.
When misunderstood, I must pick up this cross and offer unconditional love.

Oh, but my flesh fights it with fury.  Temper flares, and stubborn heels dig into the ground. Every cell in my being cries, "This is truly not fair or right!  This cross is all too confining!"

Jesus is calling us to be willing to suffer anything and forsake everything for the sake of the gospel. 

This part has confused me.  Perhaps THAT is why I'm willing to sell everything and move to the mission field.  Because I can see how that sacrifice is indeed for the sake of the gospel.  Hence, no matter how very difficult it is, the exchange is worth it because it is for the sake of the gospel.  But what if that isn't the cross I'm allowed to carry?  What if my cross this week, this year looks different?  And the question that absolutely stops me in my tracks: What if my cross doesn't seem to me to be for the sake of the gospel?

For example, what if my cross is to be mistreated by an old friend...or to offer forgiveness to someone who has deeply hurt someone dear to me...or to be pushed aside by someone I love?  I've struggled with this:  How are these things "for the sake of the gospel?"

Oh how I have begged for a different cross!  I scream, "I'm made for more!  Send me!!  Let me go to the ends of the world to further Your gospel!"  And I believe it's RIGHT to offer ourselves like be volunteer to be sent.  So many people stay in their safe little boxes their whole lives, never risking anything, never experiencing anything beyond their own safe world, their own country.  I have a different take on life, mainly because of my wide experiences: living in 10 different states, traveling through many more states in the U.S., traveling to 7 different countries.  Every place, every person encountered, every food, every language barrier, every different experience has molded me into someone who is willing to live on the edge for His Kingdom work.  I crave it.

Many times, I want my cross to look similar to Mary Slessor's or Gladys Alyward's or Hudson Taylor's...KNOWING that they carried very very difficult crosses...but that they lived on the edge for His Kingdom work.  They did what few have the courage to do.  It is easy to see how their crosses were indeed for the sake of the gospel.  The sacrifice is worth it when it's for the sake of the gospel.

The struggle inside me intensified...   And after all the crying, complaining and wishing, I came full circle:
"Then He said to them all, 'If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it."

I have to deny myself.  DENY MYSELF.  I have to take up my cross.  MY CROSS.  So, albeit unattractive, I must take up my cross.  Today that may mean offering forgiveness for being accused wrongfully or loving someone who has not loved me.

And how is taking up my particular cross "for the sake of the gospel"?  I believe it's because it reflects Him.  He forgave those who mistreated Him.  He washed the feet of those who would betray Him.  He suffered rejection at the hands of men, and He loved in return.  That was Him...His ministry, His life message.  Can I not pick up this undesirable cross and follow Him in those very things He Himself experienced?

Sometimes I can get too focused on wanting to know His Will for my life and wanting to do necessary work to further His Kingdom that I neglect and altogether forget the moment-by-moment following of Him.  I'd rather pack a bag to move to a primitive hut to spread His gospel than to look an offender in the eye and forgive sincerely.  I believe He wants us to be willing to follow Him to that hut...I really do.  But THIS moment, right here, right now...He wants me to follow Him in the very next step on this road.  If that means forgiving or loving or suffering, then THAT is His Will for that step.  And it reflects Him and furthers His gospel to those in my path if I am doing as He does, loving as He loves.  Step by step.   And whether that path meanders beside a primitive hut somewhere, that is for Him to decide...and for me to simply follow.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What am I living for?

"As Tim Kizziar said, 'Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter'." --as quoted by Francis Chan in Crazy Love

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


"...Contentment is the equilibrium between the enjoyment of life now and the anticipation of what is to come.  Contentment serves as a guard against desires gone wild.  It is the key to unlock you from the bondage of unrestrained longing that wells up within your heart and inevitably begins to control your life, making you a slave to what you don't have instead of a fully engaged participant with what you do."  ---Priscilla Shirer, The Resolution for Women

A question was posed to me the other day...a prompting in my spirit...  "Are you present for these moments?"  When I'm there, am I really there? The truth is that often in my life, I have been pressing forward to whatever lay just over the horizon...the next meal, the next event, the next phase in my life, the next challenge, the next project.  Sometimes it's excited anticipation of what lies ahead.  Sometimes it's dreadful anticipation of the next event.  Sometimes it's just survival mode to make it through the rough day or the exhausting evening.  If I can just make it to bed time...  So, while I'm physically there, I'm not truly present in the moment.

It made me stop.  right.  there.  

Forgive me, God, for not being content in this moment.  Forgive me for wishing for situations I don't have...for plowing through a season of life just to get to the next season...for not believing (realllllly believing) that You are in control of all things and that You make all things work together for my good.  If I believe You, I will be content, peaceful, very present in this moment that You have given me.

This moment.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fasting -vs- Surrender

Yesterday we watched an Ellerslie sermon by Eric Ludy.  If you haven't heard of Ellerslie or Eric Ludy, you will want to check it out.  We watched a message entitled "Contempt for the Cool."  It was loaded with so many nuggets that are impossible to squeeze onto this post.  But one small thing that he said kept playing over and over again in my mind.

He spoke about the difference between fasting and surrendering.  Fasting is giving up something for a season, but you get it back later.  Surrendering is giving something up without ever getting it back.

Have I fully surrendered my life?  Absolutely everything?

Or am I simply pretending to be dead to my old self?

If I am really dead to my old self, then there will be proof in my life.  Want another gut check?  Ask yourself truthfully if you are craving comfort over God?  Do you have what Eric Ludy called a "hybrid relationship," where you are living comfortably and yet trying to serve Him?

That is not surrender.

We cannot serve two masters.  We have to CHOOSE today whom we will serve.  We have to be painfully branded by our Master.

Who owns my life?


Friday, June 1, 2012

Gut Check, Part Two

My husband and I recently watched a 6-segment documentary about the Navy SEALS training.  Every word I think of to define it is simply lacking the punch.  It was INTENSE, INSANE, OVER-THE-EDGE, GRUELING.  These guys enter into the SEALS training voluntarily.  They put themselves under intense training to become Navy SEALS, specializing in "unconventional warfare."  It consists of 6 months of grueling activities.  Their bodies are put to tortuous testing.  Their minds are assaulted from every angle.  Some who sign up for training drop before they ever get out of the indoctrination class...before they ever get to the first day of physical training.  Out of those who do make it past indoc, most drop out before graduating.  I've read different statistics, but most agree that drop-out rate for SEALS training is approximately 80%. 

While we were watching the documentary, I noted that nearly every single guy who dropped out said he simply didn't want it badly enough to go through the torture.  And those who did make it to graduation said they wanted it more than anything else in their lives and were willing to give up anything to make it happen.  It boiled down to a choice of what was important to them and what they were willing to put up with in order to attain it. 

Training reveals that these guys can put up with 15 times the amount of pain and discomfort they previously thought they could handle.  The instructors set them up to learn to survive anything they might face and to be able to fight anything they need to. 

As I watched them in the midst of such intense training, I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if more Christians were this serious about following our Lord.  Would we be willing to endure anything for His glory?  Would we be willing to do whatever He said, go wherever He called, endure hardships for His Kingdom work?

"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the recruiter." (2 Timothy 2:3-4)  Don't we get entangled in the concerns of civilian life?  Don't we falter when we know God is calling us to step out, but we are afraid to give up our civilian job or insurance or title or security or all things familiar?  Don't we have our list of things we are willing to do and another list of things that we would never consider for various reasons?

In our resolve, do we resemble a soldier?


Or do we relate more to the letter written to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3?  "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish that you were cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth."

The lukewarm soldier could never make it through SEALS training.  To be a Navy SEAL, it takes something that most simply do not possess.  They have to want it more than anything else in their lives.  They have to determine to resist every attack on the mind and push through every blow to the body.  Simply put, it takes something that most of us would never in a million years be willing to do.  And their reward at the end of training?  They are sent to the most dangerous combat zones to fight.

WHY???  Why would anyone be crazy enough to do that??  Simply put, they believe in the mission and are willing to do anything to further the cause.  

Why would we, soldiers of Jesus Christ, think that our lives should be comfortable and easy?  Why would we dare show up for training with a lukewarm spirit?

He said He will vomit the lukewarm out of His mouth.  Do we believe Him?  Are we so lukewarm sleepy that we simply don't have the energy to care?

Where are all of the soldiers?  The volunteers who will step forward to do the hard things?  

Gut Check, Part One

We have a large hydrangea plant in front of our house.  Last year it grew to probably 5 feet tall and looked very promising.  All spring and summer, we waited and waited for it to bloom.  Finally, it squeaked out one teeny tiny flower.  Spoken and unspoken words bubbled up in us: "That's it?!  All those gorgeous leaves and all that height and width, and you just put out ONE flower?!"  By the time fall rolled around, we had given up hope of ever having a fruitful hydrangea plant.

Many many times in my life, I find odd little things will be a direct reflection of my spiritual state.  Really...if you watch and listen carefully to the seemingly random things in your life, you have a front row seat to see God in action and to hear Him.  Put your ear close and press will hear Him.  Focus your eyes to see beyond what is in front of you, and you will see Him.  It's much like the wind...that unseen force that sways the trees and rattles the leaves.

I was looking at my dysfunctional hydrangea plant one day last summer, and in my spirit, I heard the whisper.  That plant was like me.  It looked healthy and right, but there was no bloom, no fruitfulness.  Another rebuke, another discipline in my life.  He disciplines those He loves.  Repentance gushed, and His faithful love and forgiveness flowed.

This summer, our hydrangea is bursting with blue goodness.

This morning, I was reading in Revelation 3.  As a note in my Bible said, "This letter is intended by the Lord as an urgent spiritual wake-up call."  He said to the church at Sardis: "I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.  Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before My God."

Again, the correction in my spirit.  

The hydrangea had bloomed.  It's easy to stop there.  It is quite natural to pick the flowers and put them in a vase.  Everyone who sees them sees beauty and life.  But the stems know the reality of severed vitality.    

You have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.  

God says over and over as He is speaking to the churches in Revelation that He sees their works.  He knows their hearts.  We all lay naked and exposed before Him.  There is no hiding, no pretending when it comes to Him.

He also repeats over and over: "Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches."  He wants to get our attention here.  He wants us to press in and listen to what He's saying to the churches in Revelation.

Why don't we??

Here's a gut check:  Perhaps we simply do not care about this enough to really put forth the effort.  Perhaps we want to grab onto Him as a Savior (no hell for me, thank you!), but we don't want to make Him Lord of our lives (no thanks, I've got my own way of doing things).  Yes, we are saved by grace, with absolutely no effort of our own. But so many people stop there.  They pick the flower and put it in a vase...end of story.  

Very few seem to be really committed to following Him.  Am I??