Monday, July 29, 2019

Open Heart Surgery

I have an uncle who is a doctor. Growing up, I would visit him, my aunt and my 2 cousins nearly every summer in Florida. My uncle is a big teddybear but as a child, and even a teen, he intimidated me. I had a hard time engaging with him because I was afraid he would look at me and see that something was wrong. He is a doctor after all, isn’t that what they are trained to do? At least that’s how it is in my mind. I would always feel like he could look right through my skin and see there was an issue. It made me want to hide from him, even as a child I knew that was ridiculous, but I still avoided interaction. Crazy, huh? My poor uncle was completely oblivious to the level of anxiety his career choice created in me. I am pretty sure just being a general practitioner would have been bad enough but it’s not lost on me how God works - my uncle is a cardiologist, that’s right - a heart doctor. Do you see where God is going with this? Just pause this storyline for a minute because we will circle back in a moment.

A few weekends ago in the worship greenroom, my worship pastor asked us team members to share about our favorite times of worship. I was the last to speak so all my usual answers had already been said by others. I felt the Lord remind me of when I first received my call to lead worship. I had been singing with a secular band for a while and the lead singer wanted to become the manager having me become the lead singer. I was asking the Lord if this was something He had for me. I remember, my husband, Jason telling me for years that I was called to lead worship. I always denied him by saying worship was too emotional for me. I preferred to sing songs that meant nothing. But soon I heard the voice of the Lord clearly say, “I gave you a voice to use it for Me. You are called be a lead worshiper”, I was elated and terrified all at the same time. I realized what I had been saying to Jason all these years was - worship is too intimate for me because I am afraid of intimacy with God. I can’t hide that in worship. 

Intimacy, as I have heard it described, is “into-me-see”. I didn’t understand back then why I was so afraid to be seen by my cardiologist uncle, but I know exactly why now. I was experiencing a physical representation of a spiritual reality. I was afraid he would see that there was something wrong with me even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. It’s exactly what happened to Adam and Eve in the garden. They had complete, unadulterated intimacy with God in the garden. They were naked and unashamed. God knew them, inside and out, and they were great with it. Until - until they stopped believing God and started believing the lies of the enemy. They sinned and obtained the knowledge of good and evil. So for the first time they felt this little thing called “shame”. Shame caused them to hide from God because they were exposed. Their hearts were laid bare and there was now disease. But one of the most beautiful parts of this story, which I had never really seen before was when God, in the first and most symbolic blood sacrifice killed an animal and covered them. He covered their shame with a sacrifice. 

Christine Cane said, “The enemy will put shame on you in the very area God wants to use you.” It has taken me to this point in my life to recognize how all of this is connected. That is a long 43 years of shame and hiding. The still unredeemed part of my soul wants to believe the lies of the evil one that say I am not worthy of this call on my life. I am not good enough. There are still areas of my heart that are selfish and proud and ugly. I need to hide from intimacy with God because I don’t want the gig to be up. I don’t want Him to disqualify me because of my lack of perfection. He can’t know about my shame. I don’t want to get naked before Him. That makes me feel vulnerable. I don’t want Him to look at me and see that something is wrong. 

All lies! All of it! The enemy is putting shame on me in the very area God wants to use me!!! And he started grooming me for this when I was just a clueless little kid! What a jerk! Are you reading this and feeling connected to what I am describing? Are there areas of your life which have shame - thus fear of intimacy? That is probably the exact area God wants to partner with you to change the world! If you take away anything from this really long story of mine, it’s Intimacy in worship is the key to breakthrough. I promise it is. Just start with that! Just start with “getting naked” in worship and it will bring breakthrough in all other areas. It is wild to me to see how all of this works together. Our God is the very best heart doctor and worship is His remedy to shame and lack of intimacy. Let Him see into you because He loves what He created - You - restored to perfection by His son, Jesus. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Help My Unbelief

It was triggered by one of those cutesy, Christianese sayings people post on Facebook with flowers, or a sunset, or a puppy in the background. It went something like - if God takes something away, He always gives us something better in return. Bull crap. I don’t know what made me so cynical, but I just felt so over it. For the past few years I have been in a perpetual wrestling match with God. I have struggled in an area of my life for quite awhile and have done everything I know to do to fix it. I am just. so. done. I have seen too much. I have heard too much. I know too much. The hard questions never come with answers or at least not answers that make it better. I’m tired of pretending like we have to be okay with that.

Can we just say it? Sometimes God doesn’t give us something better than He took away. Sometimes we suffer through a loss that leaves us feeling like every good thing we ever believed about Him was a lie. Sometime we see injustice that makes us doubt every amazing story about Him we have ever been told. Sometime we experience something we just can’t wrap our faith around with a clever saying or out of context scripture. Sometimes we just want to walk away from it all.

Problem is, I can’t. I can’t tell that friend who just gave birth to her stillborn child to just walk away. I can’t tell that teenager just rescued from a lifetime of being sex trafficked to just walk away. I can’t tell that man who’s wife just committed suicide and left him with three small children to walk away. I can’t tell that homeless child who ran from the foster care system to just walk away. I can’t. Why?

Because despite everything inside of me screaming no, I choose Him. I choose to trust Him. I will choose to believe that His promises are true. I will choose to surrender my expectations of what life should be like. I will - by an act of my will - choose Him over my lack of understanding. I will lift up my hands and worship Him. 

Sometimes all I know is that the Bible says to worship God, so I do. I feel like the father in Mark 9 who asks Jesus to heal his demon possessed son and Jesus turns and asks if he believes. He says, I believe! Help my unbelief. I am lifting my hands in worship and my heart is crying out, I believe but help my unbelief.  It’s all I have.

Then there are those certain songs - songs that will just break me down to a primal place where I am as raw and real as I can possibly be…

Well I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think your like
but I’ve heard a tender whisper of love in the dead of night
and you tell me that your pleased and that I’m never alone

You’re a good, good father - it’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
and I’m loved by you - it’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

You are perfect in all of your ways, you are perfect in all of your ways to us

…and it’s like I take a nose-drive into the vastness of grace that is still keeping me breathing…

It’s love so explainable I can hardly speak 
and peace so unexplainable I can hardly think

as you call me deeper still as you call me deeper still into love - love - love

I sing this song often from the platform with a sincere smile on my face, but I sing it even more in the quite places of my heart with tears streaming down my cheeks. Sometimes all we need is to hear His tender whisper - to know that He is pleased, He is near, that He is good. Something happens when you declare to God that He is perfect in His ways - you surrender to His peace. You say, even when you feel otherwise, you trust Him and His plan. Despite your doubts, you choose Him. 

I don’t have a pretty bow to wrap up this post. Terrible things happen…unjust and unfair things. They shake every fiber of the stuff we are made of. But one thing I do know - God understands. He didn’t exempt Himself from those very things. He allowed Himself to feel the brutal pain of unjust and unfair things to a greater extent than we will probably ever have to feel ourselves. Just lift up your hands and worship Him. He is worthy.

Good Good Father by Housefires

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Trouble with Zombies

Ok, you. Stop right there. Why are you here? What is it about the title of this post that lured you in? Whatever your motivation, maybe by the end of it, you will be better for having read it. That is my motivation for writing. I figure this time of year would be as good a time as any to write on the subject, wouldn't you say? October is my favorite time of year. I love everything about it, except for one thing. Halloween. It seems people are obsessed with it. We weren't really allowed to "do" Halloween growing up and I can't say I feel like I missed out on much. But honestly, this post isn't about Halloween or even Zombies for that matter. It's about the spiritual war we are surrounded by everyday which we either ignore or don't realize even exists. This post is about to inform you about how real it actually is. 

So, back to you. If you struggle, at all, with fear. I want you to know you are in good company. I used to be a bit of a poster child in that area myself. With that said, I don't want this post to be a stumbling block, so you may want to hit the back button right now and avoid this post until you feel you have overcome in that area. Fear isn't the point of this post either, it is freedom from it. "You will know the truth and the truth will make you free". Especially from fear. I wouldn't put it past our relentless yet defeated enemy to use this against you, so if you do decide to proceed, you have been warned. 

The Bible is a spiritual book written by A Spiritual Being to spiritual beings. That would be you and me. We contain a spirit and a soul within a physical body. Our spirits do not sleep. Our spirits can be affected by things our bodies can not see, hear, touch, feel or taste. Have you ever walked into a room and something just didn't feel right? That would be your spirit at work and if your spirit is controlled by the Holy Spirit, you will probably feel more and be able to discern a lot more than someone who's spirit is unregenerate. We were created this way by God for a reason. He wants us to understand the reality of the worlds around us. Yes, I said worlds. We see and understand the physical world we live in as planet Earth which is set within an infinite universe. But the world we don't see is in almost total control here on Earth - other than our free will, total control. Our spirits are part of this spirit world or realm. This is where the real action takes place. This world or realm consists of spiritual beings all created by God that are either for Him or against Him. They are also either for you or against you. Essentially they are at war for your soul - being your mind, will and emotions. These 3 elements together are basically where life happens. If God controls your mind, will and emotions, your spirit will reflect that. If the enemy controls your mind, will and emotions, your spirit will reflect that also. 

The enemy can not create, he can only counterfeit, distort, mutate and pervert. Unfortunately, though, he is pretty good at it. He often causes even "the elite" to fall for his lies. This is where knowing the truth sets you free. For every good thing God has created, satan has a counterfeit and usually with more bells and whistles. The scriptures illustrate this in Exodus 7: "The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake. So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs." That last part is the best, isn't it?! "But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs." This passage proves two things: 1. The enemy and his forces have the power to do supernatural things experienced in the natural. 2. God's power overcomes it. Always. 

Eph 6:12 "For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens." Therefore we must always be aware of these spiritual forces of evil and their schemes. Satan's targets are not the lost; they already belong to him. His favorite victims are the Saints. He will find any crack, any loophole, any unguarded area to slip in and wreak havoc in our lives. That is why we have to discern the influences we are open to and take a really hard look at what we allow in our lives. 

This became all too real when I was a teenager. My family was under the influence of a man who called himself a "prophet" of the Lord. I started to notice that some of the things he was saying did not line up with the Word. Something in my spirit said this is not right, but I ignored it. After all, I wasn't the adult here. So I just went with it. The relationship was getting way out of hand as was his influence. He even came over and "blessed" our house. It's not surprising then that really strange, unexplainable things started happening around our house to reinforce the lies he was telling us. It all came to a head one night when my mom and I went for a walk after dark. When we were walking down the driveway of our house, we simultaneously heard my dad in a tormented voice call out to my mom from a cat. Um, yeah. Needless to say, I didn't sleep much that night. My point is, this stuff is real. We were very much believers; deceived, but believers none-the-less. Remember, we didn't even do Halloween. 2 Corinthians 11 speaks of this sort of thing: "And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."

This is the height of deception. Making evil look Godly, but sometimes the evil is right in our face and we still deny it or in some cases, totally embrace it. In my humble opinion, this is worse. Here's where the title of this post comes into play. A dear friend of mine was doing research last year for a blog post about how Christians should handle Halloween. She sent me an article written by a pastor about the zombie problem in Haiti. Um...thank you? It kinda freaked me out...just a little bit. And here I was telling my kids that zombies aren't real. Silly me. So basically what happened is after the earthquake in Haiti dead bodies under demonic possession would walk the streets due to the heavy influence of witchcraft and voodoo in that region. These events were retold by the eye witnesses who happened to be two seminary professors with doctorates from very conservative cessationistic American schools. How enlightening that experience must have been for them. Kinda sounds like what the Holy Spirit does when it fills us but instead of being physically dead we become truly alive. Hum. I wonder if these professors would still confess to such rubbish? This is a second-hand story. Not a very reliable source. Let's just call this one a fable.

So then my own sister tells me about some friends from her church in Owasso who went on a mission trip to Panama. She shared that Panama is also a hotbed for sorcery, voodoo and witchcraft. That things happen there you just don't see around the good 'ol US of A. Her friend commented that the spiritual warfare there is palpable and that the animals, in this case cats, were often possessed. (Just love cats, don't you?) She said each night bunches of cats would climb onto the roof of the place they were staying and would scratch and claw at the roof all night. One night she looked out to see a black cat jump off the roof and turn into a bird and fly away. Come again? Then another friend told of going up a mountain to minister in an area known as a witches commune. As they made their way up, their pastor stopped abruptly and said, "we must pray". Just then a large owl swooped down from a nearby tree, turned into a human and walked away. Um, I don't like that Raymond. She basically told my sis that if anyone would have tried to tell her that sort of story, she would have thought they were coo coo for cocoa puffs. She wasn't sure why she saw it, but she did with her own eyes. Hello...emphasis on the "hell".

"But they use their witchcraft and sorcery for good against the evil witches and sorcerers so it's not bad". I have heard that so many times I could throw up. Apparently, satan only drives out satan to get you to like Harry Potter. Cough, cough.  Wiccans constantly defend themselves as being good and doing good things for people and animals. So what happens when someone makes one mad? I'm sure they bless them all the way to Figi. Yeah, noWitches and wizards are controlled by what the old testament calls "familiar spirits" aka demons. God declared that if you consulted one, both you and your wizard friend were to be stoned to death. Nothing demonically powered is good, but it sure can pretend to be to suck you in. There is a draw and a lure and a fascination with this stuff. Can you feel it? Maybe you felt it when you read the post title? There is actual power in these "secret arts" and people like power. Problem is, it's all false, it will completely control and destroy your life. (Cue Katy Perry's Dark Horse) Power for a moment until you are in mindless submission to its deception then you become its prisoner with no power at all. It all looks good, sounds good, feels good, tastes good until it's got you trapped in its grip. Isaiah 5:20 "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"

So what now? For some of my denominationalized friends, you may have determined I am indeed coo coo for cocoa puffs myself a few paragraphs back. Ok, fine, I enjoy a bowl of cocoa puffs or two or three, but I honestly don't care if you think that. I love you, but I don't care, because I'm not. Like my sister's friend, I don't know why I experienced what I did. But unlike her, I know what happened to get me to that point. We allowed something into our house and lives that seemed good in the natural but was exactly the opposite. I have lived just a little bit of this stuff and came out so much wiser on the other side with an awareness and lack of fear that I want to share with others. Why? Because I think a day is soon coming where these things will become common in the US. Evil will become even more fascinating and deceptive and a clear line will be drawn by those with the spiritual eyes to see. We know that "the false prophet"in Revelation will do many deceptive miracles and as satan's time runs out, he will not hold anything back in a last ditch attempt to take us out. 

So to those who would delete me from their friends list, may I ask to which spirit will you attribute this information? The Holy Spirit or Beelzebub? 1 Cor 2:14 says "The natural man can not see the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." The spirit realm is real, but if you buy into the lie that it doesn't operate this way, you have fallen prey to a trap that will keep you defeated in many areas of your life. I liken it to having cancer and denying it's there. It will spread until it kills you and you will have done nothing to fight it. 1 Peter 5 says "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever." The Bible doesn't warn believers of these things so we can go tell the lost to be on their guard. We are the prey.

So, here's the exciting part.  Like the story in Exodus, we are actually the ones with the power. 1 John 4:1-6 "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood." The One who lives in us, the Holy Spirit, is far greater than any force of evil and the gifts of the Spirit are legit. True prophecy, miracles, healing of God etc. are all at work today and changing lives as I type! On a side note, you might wonder what my beliefs are about the prophetic gift and prophecy since it would seem I would steer clear of that after what we went through. The truth is exactly the opposite. If satan tried so hard to distort and pervert my experience with something that God actually tells us to earnestly pursue - the prophetic (1 Cor 14:39), then there must be a huge reason. Turns out prophecy is one of my top spiritual gifts and I am now a member of our women's prophetic team at church. I recognized the attach for what it was and ran to the Lord for clarity instead of allowing that experience to make me fear the very thing God wanted to use me for. This is what the enemy does. He tries to thwart God's plans with fear.

So we have nothing to fear. The enemy is defeated and the only ammo he is to try to make us believe he's not. Understanding his deceptive tactics is key to being better armed against his attacks. But we have to be aware. We have to believe in the supernatural and understand how it works. We have a huge role in influencing it through our prayers, our worship and how we live out our lives. So, never fear the zombies, cat-birds, owl-humans or anything else the enemy tries to scare and intimidate you with. But for Heaven's sake, don't invite them happily into your house. They might just take over. 

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 
2 Timothy 1:7

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