Friday, May 15, 2015

Ears to Hear

More than 20 years ago I met a lovely young Christian woman who talked passionately about eating healthy, growing your own vegetables and God's plan for our health.  I remember listening to her and realizing that I wasn't really 'hearing' her.  Somewhere in my heart I knew she was right but I wasn't able to repent of my ways.  And I knew it.

But about 9 years ago, the Lord took me on a journey.  He told me to study 'light' both in the Word and in science.  And through that study, I began to understand what this woman was talking about and make changes in my life.

Jesus talks about having "ears to hear" (Matthew 11:15).  He often encountered people who could not 'hear' what He was saying.  I have learned, the hard way, that people often are not willing to hear what God is saying.  I have learned to listen to the Holy Spirit before ever speaking to someone what's on my heart.  I have learned that speaking before they're ready to hear can often cause their heart to harden.

I have often over the years asked God why He chooses to not reveal His Glory in more obvious ways. And one day He spoke to me and told me.

He told me that when He reveals Himself, people have two choices;  they can say, "Yes" or they can say, "No."  Because He knows their hearts, He chooses wisely to wait until they're ready to say, "Yes."

We need to follow this wisdom.  Jesus only did what He saw His Father doing and He only said what He heard the Father saying.  We need to listen carefully before we speak or act.

Often times I have wanted to share with people but stopping to ask My Father has caused me to remain silent.

But God also tells us that "the prayers of righteous avail much!" (James 5:16)  I like the Amplified version.  The earnest, heartfelt, continued prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available (dynamic in its working.)

Earnest, heartfelt, continued prayers can open ears!  Continued prayers can soften a heart and make a way for a person to 'hear' the love of the Holy Spirit.  And maybe you'll never get to say what's on your heart, but someday, somewhere, someone will share what was on your heart - what is on the Father's heart - and the person will 'hear.'

love and blessings~

Monday, May 4, 2015

God Will Fight For You

I LOVE a thunderstorm! 

We have lived in several different states and obviously, one of the big differences state to state, is the weather.  Colorado has its blizzards, Alabama has its tornadoes (and a hurricane while we lived there) but no one does a good thunderstorm like Michigan!

Michigan is surrounded by three of the Great Lakes.  The wind and rain form over these huge lakes, just like over the ocean, and it can  really rock and roll.  

Our family has been known to gather downstairs in the middle of the night - with candle light because the power's out - during these storms and look at each other wide-eyed while the world outside crashes and booms and seemingly explodes.

I know some people are really frightened by these storms and I get it.  While living in Virginia several years ago, my daughter, Laura, and I were sitting in our sun room during a stormy Sunday afternoon when lightening hit a tree in our yard. 

We had a row of pines along our property line, which was only about 30' away.  I saw the tree flash and there was deafening BOOM and the whole house shook.  The lightening had traveled down the tree in a spin and thrown strips of bark 20' away from the tree!

But one morning, several years ago, I was up before dawn, worshiping God during a thunderstorm. And the Lord spoke to me.  

The Word tells us in 1 John that Jesus is LIGHT.  In the book of John it also tells us that Jesus, the WORD, became flesh and dwelt among us.  Jesus is "LIGHT" and "SOUND".  

Colossians 1:15-17 says,

"He is the image of the invisible god, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."

Before Jesus became a man, He was at creation with God.  He was The Word of God with which God spoke the world into being.

Some people believe that God brings the storms in our lives.  I don't.  Not if we're walking in integrity.  If we've made a mistake, we repent.  If God had brought the storm when Jesus and the disciples were in the boat, Jesus would not have calmed the storm.  He only did what He saw the Father doing.  And He lived as an example to us of what we are able to do in the Spirit - calm the storm.

Job 37:1-5 says,
"At this also my heart trembles,And leaps from its place."Listen closely to the thunder of His voice,And the rumbling that goes out from His mouth."Under the whole heaven He lets it loose,And His lightning to the ends of the earth."After it, a voice roars;He thunders with His majestic voice,And He does not restrain the lightnings when His voice is heard."God thunders with His voice wondrously,Doing great things which we cannot comprehend.

Psalms 104:1-9
Bless the Lord, O my soul!Lord my God, You are very great;You are clothed with splendor and majesty,Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak,Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain.He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters;He makes the clouds His chariot;He walks upon the wings of the wind;He makes the winds His messengers,Flaming fire His ministers.He established the earth upon its foundations,So that it will not totter forever and ever.You covered it with the deep as with a garment;The waters were standing above the mountains.At Your rebuke they fled,At the sound of Your thunder they hurried away.The mountains rose; the valleys sank downTo the place which You established for them.You set a boundary that they may not pass over,So that they will not return to cover the earth.
The Lord spoke to me that morning and He told me a storm was coming.  I remember thinking it was odd because things were so good at that moment.  But in the next few months I would encounter an attack from the enemy like I had never experienced before.  At times I would wonder if I had done something wrong.  And I would be reminded of what the Lord told me that morning
That He is in the thunder and the lightening and He comes on my behalf!  He sets Himself against the enemy and storms in defense of His children.  The storm that comes against us is not from Him.  He is the storm that defends us and fights for us.  The war in the heavenlies may boom with violence but none of it will come near us.  
Isaiah 54:11-17 says: O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and foundations I will lay in sapphires.  Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, and your gates of crystal, and your entire wall of precious stones.  All your sons will be taught of the Lord; and the well-being of your sons will be great.  In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; and from terror, for it will not come near you.  If anyone fiercely assails you IT WILL NOT BE FROM ME.  Whoever assails you will fall because of you.  Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and brings out a weapon for its work; and I have created the destroyer to ruin.  No weapon formed against you shall prosper and every tonque that accuses you in the judgment you will condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.  And their vindication is from Me," declares the Lord.

Psalm 91 says

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most HighWill abide in the shadow of the Almighty.I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress,My God, in whom I trust!"For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapperAnd from the deadly pestilence.He will cover you with His pinions,And under His wings you may seek refuge;His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.You will not be afraid of the terror by night,Or of the arrow that flies by day;Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.A thousand may fall at your sideAnd ten thousand at your right hand,But it shall not approach you.You will only look on with your eyesAnd see the recompense of the wicked.For you have made the Lord, my refuge,Even the Most High, your dwelling place.No evil will befall you,Nor will any plague come near your tent . For He will give His angels charge concerning you,To guard you in all your ways.They will bear you up in their hands,That you do not strike your foot against a stone.You will tread upon the lion and cobra,The young lion and the serpent you will trample down."Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name."He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;I will be with him in trouble ;I will rescue him and honor him."With a long life I will satisfy himAnd let him see My salvation."

1 Corinthians 15:46 tells us that the physical comes first then the spiritual.  In Matthew 16, Jesus talks about discerning the signs.  I have learned to watch what's happening in the physical to gain understanding about what's happening in the spiritual.  

If we begin to understand that He is always for us, when we see the storm rage, we will not fear. We will trust that we are hidden in Christ and we will begin to align ourselves with God and bring the storm against the enemy.

"Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns!"  
Revelation 19:6

love and blessings~

Saturday, May 2, 2015

What Would Jesus Do? - Helping the Homeless

There's been something on my mind for several  months - actually for a couple of years - and I would really like to hear your prayerful thoughts on the subject.  Your prayerful thoughts.  Not what you've always thought but I'd like for you to pray about it, let God guide you, and then tell me what you get.                                                ___________________________________

I was getting involved in our nearby homeless shelter.  I was involved a few years ago when a group was getting it started and then got a call, this past September, from one of the founders, asking me to get further involved. So I began attending the board meetings and working for the board members to raise money, etc.

The board members have a real variety of beliefs.  The founder who asked me to get involved has the same beliefs as I do.  She is born-again, Spirit-filled, trusting God and relying on His leading.  But the other board members are not born-again and seem to believe in a government that 'supplies all our needs.'  I found this very troubling.

I also began to volunteer at the shelter with a heart to get to know the 'guests' and share Jesus.

I did not feel convicted by God to do any of this - I felt personally convicted - and I was not quite sure why God wasn't convicting me.  And I knew I was uncomfortable working at the shelter.

I'm a small, 50+ year old woman and there are plenty of rough men at the shelter but there were other women who were volunteering.  In fact, every one of the board members are women and most of the volunteers are women.  So that did not seem to be a valid reason but I was uncomfortable.  My family and close friend also did not witness to me doing this.

The policy of the shelter was that a guest could stay for 45 days while looking for other alternatives. At the end of the 45 days, if they were complying with authorities to get housing but it hadn't come through yet, they could apply for an extension.  The longest a guest could stay was 90 days.

I was there one day when I became aware that a guest's 90 days was up on Friday.  The lady in charge of carrying out the Board's decisions in this matter had informed this guest he had to leave on Friday. One of the board members, the lady who's beliefs are the same as mine, interceded and said he would not be asked to leave.  There was a disagreement and the lady, who was following the board's directions, resigned.

In the middle of all this uproar, the guest who was being evicted (not) told me very rudely that "all you Christians need to read your Bible."  He rudely made his opinion known that we should continue to supply him with food and shelter.

I had already noticed an attitude from most of the guests.  There were a few who were polite and thankful, but most had an attitude of entitlement.  And some were just downright rude, foul-mouthed and demanding.  I would leave everyday after volunteering and have to literally cleanse myself in the Holy Spirit and God's Word.  I could sense the demonic trying to attach to me and shadow my thinking.  I always felt very aware of the filth and the mocking of the enemy.

I am not saying that I am not without great compassion.  I am very aware that the Word tells us that "Jesus was moved by compassion and healed the sick."  Jesus aligned Himself with the poor and homeless and chose to be homeless Himself.  In this world, we Believers in Christ are homeless as we wait to be reunited with our God.  That's why I was there.  And I prayed for people and got involved with their lives.

The guests were required to do 'chores' at the shelter to keep it clean and functioning but there wasn't much to do and when I was there most of them sat around all day on their laptops or phones or just talking.  I realize that if you don't have a job to go to or a house to maintain there's not much else to do, but...

There's another principle of God that I believe we have to balance with our mercy and grace and that's that if a man doesn't work, he doesn't eat.  The shelter was appealing to the nearby churches to raise money to keep the shelter open.  People were coming by every day with clothing and food and I could tell they felt guilty that they weren't doing more.  I feel that some of my motivation was guilt and God does not motivate with guilt.  He  motivates with a pure love and conviction.

I realized that a lot of the guests had been 'in the system' for most of their lives.  This was just another way for them to continue in their life style.  When they left, the government would supply them with money to pay their rent.

I understand that a few of them were physically impaired but most them were not.  I was shocked, and I mean shocked, to see the amount of pharmaceuticals each guest had.  We kept them locked in a cabinet and the guests were required to ask when they needed to take something.  Most guests had between 3 and 8 large bottles of prescription drugs - antidepressants, pain killers, blood pressure medicine - all that indicate a very wounded soul.

Illegal drugs were not allowed in the shelter, of course, and some guests who had attempted to hide them in the parking lot outside or sneak them into the shelter were permanently evicted.  In summary, most of the guests were drug addicts, whether it was prescription or illegal drugs.  Very many times I have gone to God and said, "Where do I start, LORD?"

Almost every one of them smoked.  The shelter allowed them to step outside every hour on the hour, for a total of 15 minutes to smoke.  I asked someone how much a pack of cigarettes cost and did the math.  Most of them were spending $400 a month on cigarettes - money that could be applied to rent - and might even be enough to afford an apartment.

Most of them had families nearby.  Why weren't they staying with their families, I wondered.  But then I realized that they most likely were a 'product' of their families and things probably were the same there.

There's a government subsidized apartment complex in our town.  The rent is adjusted to income and I know that the rent for some is less than $400.  However, the people in the shelter could not qualify for this housing because of their criminal records or history of not paying on time.

It's kind of like the story of giving a person a fishing pole and teaching them to fish rather than giving them a fish every day.  I understand that each one of these people need Jesus to heal their hearts and we are dependent on Him for the answers.  I understand that people's wounded hearts and wrong thinking cannot be changed without Him and their whole lives need to change.  I also understand that God gives each of us a free will but many times our free will is held in bondage by the enemy with great deception.
Did you know that a large percentage of people who win the lottery end up bankrupt?  You can give people money, but you can't expect that they know how to manage it wisely and most times they will end up back where they started. Some people don't believe they deserve any better.

But in the meantime, we need to figure out a way to help them while still demanding that they be accountable for their lives.  We need to be careful to not treat them like children, which is what I felt like was being done.  They are adults and are responsible for their own lives.

And I want to make note that in our economy, there are those who have done everything 'right', lost their jobs and their homes and just need a step up.  I firmly believe that we are to help them!  These are the people in the shelter who spent their time looking for jobs, driving their children back and forth to school, and working on their vehicles in the parking lot.  We need to assess each person's situation independently.

So, my thought was to develop a system of work and credits.  In other words, if a church donates money and food, the people in the shelter work for the church - cleaning the building, shoveling the snow, working for the community.  I like everything about this idea.

The problem is that I saw in the news shortly after I quit volunteering that one of the former guests, a young woman who was particularly rude, was arrested for breaking and entering and theft.

So I realize that some of the people cannot be trusted.  And then what do we do?  The young woman had a 4 month old baby at the time.

So please give me your thoughts.  I initially went to the shelter thinking that we should all open our homes and invite people in.  I realize now how foolish that would be.  But "The Church" is called to be Jesus' hands and feet here on this earth.  I believe we are to 'seek the lost' - not hide in the church building. I believe we are to live sacrificially.  I believe we are to feed the poor, heal the sick and house the homeless.  How are we to do this - balancing God's mercy with all the principles He teaches?

I need to have peace that I'm doing all that I can do to change the world - Big Rapids, Michigan. This is where I'm called to serve.

love and blessings~

"Go to the ant, O sluggard.  Observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest.  How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like a armed man."  Proverbs 6:6-11