Friday, 26 June 2015

Kissing The Toilet

              I started this post months ago, and just now have the time and revelation to finish it.

   This evening I was in the bathroom with my puppy Reagan. I was washing my hands while she was on the floor, and she walked over to the toilet. Now, Reagan is a sweetheart, and she loves to give kisses. So as soon as she walked over I knew what she was going for. Sure enough before I got to her she licked the side of the toilet a few times. I promptly scooped her up and she started licking me! Somehow her kisses did not seem so sweet, and were rather off putting because I knew she had just been kissing the toilet! I started thinking about how often I do the same thing to God. I defile my lips and being by "kissing the toilet" myself. I give praise to things I shouldn't give praise to, I say things I shouldn't say, I give my time to things I shouldn't give my time to, I meditate on things I shouldn't meditate on. I watch, listen to, read and write things I shouldn't. I give my being and my love to so many distractions of the world. And then I so quickly turn around to God and start giving Him my kisses. And somehow, He still loves them.

   I vowed to save my first kiss for the alter, because I didn't want to defile my lips before God*. Yet how often do I freely give my kisses to the toilet? I also wanted my first kiss to be special, and to be a gift I saved and treasured for my future husband at the alter. But how often do I freely kiss idols, and then expect my kisses to God to be special and a treasured gift I saved for Him?

   To be holy for Him, and wholly for Him, is what I desire. I desire to know no other than Him, to "not even let their names be found on my lips."** I want to be so in love with Yeshua that none other compares, and that none other can hold my attention for even a moment. I want to be so captivated by His beauty that I never look away, never once to turn my gaze. I want to be wholly His.

   What's it to be to know only Him? What's it like to never look away? What do the angels in the throne room feeling after an eternity of His presence? What do the Elders feel after the thousandth casting of the crowns? That's what I long to know. Jesus for eternity.
 

*This was something I felt called to, but I don't believe it is for everyone. I do not believe anyone who has kissed a guy before the alter has defiled their lips! I just believe for me, as one who is called not to, that to do so would be to forfeit God's best in that area.

**Exodus 23:13, "Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips."



Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Vision Post Follow Up

   So, awhile ago I shared a vision I had. This week I wanted to follow that up with an application post for some of the things I touched on in that post.

   "How do we build infrastructure and strategy ahead of time so we can actually handle growth when it comes? And how do we partner with God’s heart/what He is doing in a way that we can sustain it?" I think the answer to this lies largely in cultivating discipleship and keeping our focus on intimacy with Jesus. We need to be discipling people and growing together with others, and we need to be discipled ourselves. We need to raise up the people beneath us in holiness and going after God. "Teach what we know, learn what we don't." We need to be constantly seeking out people to take us deeper in our walk with God, and we need to constantly be helping others grow in their pursuit of Him. But more importantly, we need to be focused on intimacy with God. We need to keep our gaze on Him.

   In a family, life naturally comes out of the husband and wife's intimacy. Life does not come from the children. Our relationship with God is as a relationship of a husband and wife. So are our ministries and spiritual children (those we disciple) as children in a family. Our ministries do not bring life into our relationship with God. Our relationship with God brings life into our ministries and relationships with our spiritual children. So often we lose our focus and expect our life source to be from how well are ministries are faring, and how successful our spiritual children are. But is that the natural? Does the life and vibrancy in a marriage result from how well the children are faring? No! No amount of life and well being in children can keep a marriage that lacks intimacy together! Rather the husband and mother foster an atmosphere where there children can be vibrant and grow strong by having a healthy relationship and intimacy together. The health in the home comes from the health of that relationship. Is that not how it is in the natural? Then why should we expect different in the spiritual? "First the natural, then the spiritual." The health in our relationship with God fosters an atmosphere where our ministries and spiritual children can grow and be strong. (That's not to say that if there is difficulty with a ministry or spiritual child that it is always because of a lack of intimacy with God, for there are winter seasons where fruit is evident, but it is often a factor.) Our intimacy with Christ is where the life in our ministries should come from! 

   The way to keep revival going, the way we partner with God's heart in a way to sustain it, is to keep our focus on intimacy. To keep our focus on Christ and Christ alone, and let our ministries flow our of that place of intimacy.   



   Many of these thoughts were inspired by Nathan Davenport's teaching on Intimacy/Meeting with God. You can listen to it here http://www.chapelonthelake.org/#!teachings/cv40


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

God and Hamsters

It’s amazing how much hamsters can teach us about God and ourselves and how the world works.

God and Hamsters: A Theological Exploration
Tonight I heard a sermon illustration featuring hamsters, which has given me a lot of food for thought. It puts this whole strange world and life thing in simple and relatable terms. 

The pastor’s daughters had two pet hamsters, and they put them in a wonderful hamster cage. This cage had everything a hamster’s heart could desire: wheels, tunnels, treats, companionship, lots of food and water. However, one of the hamsters dreamed of a better life, because he started digging through the wall of the cage. The pastor took note of it, but decided to wait until it got worse before he patched the hole. 

Well, the hamster was more determined than he’d guessed, for one night it made its escape.

But the pastor knew something that the little hamster didn’t. Outside of the cage was a cat. The cat’s purpose was to devour the local mice population, but being a well-fed cat he more often nibbled on the mice rather than kill them outright. He was a sadistic torturer, gnawing on rodents before releasing them and catching them again. 


This hamster was in for a world of hurt.



Sunday, 10 May 2015

Validity Of Context

   Often you hear people caution against taking verses out of context. Their cautions are valid, but what if by limiting ourselves to surrounding verse and chapter context we end up missing things? What if we miss incredible truth and life in the Bible if we aren't pulling verses and phrases and even half sentences out of the Bible? What if we are trying to put the Scriptures in a box, albeit in a box made of Scripture? What if we had a better standard than just context? Or what if context included the whole Bible, not just the verse and chapter? 

Many scholars and Christians warn that you will be prone to misinterpret verses if you take them out of context, and they warn that you can make the Bible say anything you want to if you take verses out of context. Both of which I entirely agree with. You can misinterpret verses if you take them out of context. And you can make the Bible say anything you want it to say if you take verses out of context. But what if we are missing a wealth of Scriptural life by refusing to look at verses outside of the immediate verse/chapter context? What if we are limiting Scripture and refusing to let it come alive in ways it is meant to come alive in?

So what is the validity of context? Is the context argument valid? I believe that context is important. But what then constitutes context? And what then constitutes taking a verse out of context? 

When I first started putting verse on my pictures I was so careful to not take verses out of context. I often would use longer passages to avoid the risk of not giving enough context. I was concerned about accidentally making Scripture to say something it didn't say, by taking a verse out of proper context. As I have gotten older the Scriptures have become alive to me like never before. Without realizing it I threw such caution to the wind. What I cared about was accurately portraying God's heart and bringing to light verses that often get overlooked. I started pulling out half verses and phrases and even parts of sentences to highlight parts that came alive for me. I was eager to share what made my heart come alive.

I have seen such power and life come from seemingly taken out of context verses lately that it has begun to make me wonder. After much thought and contemplation of context (and the validity of it in properly interpreting Bible verses/passages) I had an interesting thought. What if the context argument was indeed valid, but rather what we were deeming context to be was off? Context is typically defined as the text directly surrounding a verse that tell the events/circumstances in which a verse was written.* But what if deeming only the directly surrounding verses a passage's context was putting the Scriptures in a box? What if it was only a piece of the story? What if we didn't limit our interpretation to verses in their direct passage context, but rather in light of the Scriptures as a whole?   

I think if we broadened our view to not just the few surrounding verses, but to the whole Bible we will have a much better standard. For me, the standard I use in my artwork is whether or not it lines up with the rest of Scripture. The Bible does not contradict itself, so obviously if we have a contradiction then we're the ones in error. But if it lines up with the rest of Scripture and can be supported by other passages than you probably didn't pull anything out of context. 

   2 Timothy 2:15 in the NKJV says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." In the ESV it says, "Rightly handling the word of truth." I think we need to know our Bibles well enough and be saturated in Scripture enough that we can go beyond verse chapter context and use the Bible in it's entirety for our context. We need to be students of the Scriptures and students of the Holy Spirit. The word is living and active, and we need to be asking Holy Spirit to bring it to life for us. The Bible is a living document and we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. The life and truth contained in the Scriptures is beyond imagination, and is worth seeking out.




*It can also refer to the historical context a passage was written during, however for the sake of brevity I am only referencing and dealing textual context in this post. 
       







Friday, 10 April 2015

Holding On To Hope

Holding on to hope these last few years has been hard. My family has had a lot of sickness (Half of the 7 members of my immediate family have had major health crises) and it doesn't seem to end. It's hard. It's really, really, really hard. I can't begin to describe to you the pain. I can't count the long nights spent crying myself to sleep, praying my heart out, only to wake up to still no change. And to have those nights turn into weeks, and those weeks turn into months, and those months slowly became years...

   Holding onto hope that it will get better, that healing will come, was (and is) hard. In all honesty if it were just up to me I would have lost all hope long ago. But it isn't just up to me. It's not just up to me because God promises to never leave me or forsake me. He never gave up and He never gives up hope. He never gave up on me, so why should I give up on Him healing? I know He is there, and I know He cares. I don't know why He hasn't totally healed my family already. I don't know. But I know He can and I know one day He will.

   I don't have all the answers. But I know God is love, and He is in control. And love doesn't let suffering occur without a purpose. Love doesn't forsake. Love doesn't abandon us. Love doesn't leave. Love doesn't give up. Love holds on. And if God is love and God is in control, which I know He is, than it will be ok. Today might not have been ok, but tomorrow will be. And if tomorrow isn't the next day will be. And if that day isn't that one after that will be. Eventually it's gonna be ok. I can't always see it, but God is good, His love endures forever.

   This was supposed to be a post on continuing to pray and hold on to hope even when it's hard. But honestly? It's a lot more like being ok with spending most of your prayer life in tears. Or living in a state of mostly emotionless because you no longer have the energy for emotion and things begin to grow dull after a point. It's getting out of bed everyday and doing what needs to be done. But God is ok with that. It's not a super Christian, walking in insane amounts of hope and faith and ignoring current circumstances. It's choosing to trust in the current reality, and doing what you can to shift it. It's acknowledging that life sucks, but also trusting that God is still good. (Believe me I am way better at the former than the latter though!)

   So how do you hold on to hope? I don't know. You just don't give up. You sing praises to God at the top of your lungs in the middle of the hurricane, and when you can't do that you whisper an "I love you". And when you can't do that you just sit there believing He is good. And when you can't do that you ignore Him for an hour or so and try again.

   You hold onto hope, because God said, "I. Love. You." And that is always, always, always, enough.


    "Love... it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves. Love never fails."
1 Corinthians 13:7-8a



Friday, 3 April 2015

Vision

  A little over a week ago I was laying in bed trying to fall asleep when I saw a vision. I shared it with a few friends, and thought it would be cool to share it here.   

 I saw a Muslim lady walking quickly alongside of a long parked bus
(which was dark grey/navy with a brown stripe running down it). She was emotionless and 8 or 9 months pregnant. Suddenly the view changed and I could see inside her womb. The baby (a boy) was dead and horribly deformed, especially his left leg which was almost completely missing. When I saw this part of the vision I cried out to God in heartbreak for the life of the baby. At once the baby kicked the wall of the womb 3 times (the number of perfection), and it resounded like a deep drum or shaking. Immediately it sent the women went into labor and she delivered her dead and deformed baby. I had expected him to be born alive after having kicked the womb 3 times. When I saw he was still dead and deformed my heart was wrenched and again I cried out to God for the life and health of the baby. At once life began to enter his body and the vision ended. 

   I was exhausted that night and fell asleep almost immediately after having the vision. In the morning God gave me the the verse in Daniel about God being the God in heaven who reveals mysteries and I remembered the vision. I praised God and asked what the vision meant, and this is what I got.

   The dead and deformed baby is the pretense of life in the Muslim cultures. The women is the nations and Muslim peoples themselves. She was cold and emotionless, assuming she carried life within her when there was none. When the baby kicked the womb 3 times in response to travailing prayer (my cry was representing the cry of all the saints and the Spirit for the Muslim people), it was the beginning of new life and hope within her. It was the beginning of a shaking that triggered birth pains within her.

  3 kicks/shakings/drum beats was because 3 is the number of perfection. God’s judgements and shakings are perfect, and those birth pains ultimately bring life. The result of birth pains is a joy so great that the trial and pain is completely overshadowed and forgotten. I believe the joy of the harvest to come from the Muslim world will greatly overshadow the birthing pains of the trials (ISIS, war, persecution etc.) that are now working to bring forth life.     

   Since she was 8 or 9 months pregnant, and the baby kicked 3 times I decided to look up Isaiah 8:3 and 9:3 (no reason for Isaiah in the dream, I just knew that is where I was to look). Isaiah 8:3 is, “Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said to me, 'Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz’.” Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz means, 'quick to the plunder, swift to the spoils'. I think it has something to do with plundering Islam for Christ. We need to be quickly going to the spoils without wasting time. I believe we need to go forth to the Islam world in faith and in confidence for the time of harvest is upon us (The harvest is ready. John 4:35*). Isaiah 9:3 is, “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before You as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” (Emphasis mine). We need to be rejoicing and praising God for the Islam harvest** even now. We need to be devising strategy for dividing the plunder even now. 

   Because of my fairly extensive background (for a 17 year old anyways) in the inner workings of a lot of different churches, the dividing the spoils part really struck me. I have been in a lot of churches that have a heart to see revival and see lives change, and it will start to come but they end up not having an existing infrastructure that can support it. They end up with tons of seekers and baby Christians and a very very small group of strong Christians that become completely overwhelmed with all the need. The growth of the seekers and baby Christians stalwarts because they don’t have anyone discipling/teaching them and the strong Christians burn out from trying to meet all the needs and not being fed themselves. From there one of two things happens. One, the ministry or church completely disintegrates. Or two, you end up with a (often large but not always) ministry that outwardly is growing and very successful, and although there are success stories coming out of it and there are good things happening, for the most part on the inside there is little growth and a lot of burned out leaders. Those leaders either end up in compromise/sin or they push for as long as they can and then one day they up and leave because they were overwhelmed, overloaded and not having their needs met for their personal walk. I have watched this play out so many times in so many churches. It’s heartbreaking and although the desire is good the ability to carry it out well is lacking. I wonder what would happen if we had strategies and infrastructure built ahead of time so we could actually handle the growth when it comes. What if instead of our focus being on how to start revival and how to get seekers in the door, the focus was on how do we partner with God’s heart/what He is doing in a way that we can sustain it. Too often the issue is not starting revival, rather sustaining it.

   I also thought I was supposed to look up Jeremiah 8:3 and 9:3 (although I felt God wanted to emphasize the Isaiah verses more in this particular instance). Both verses really fit with the broken state Islam is in. 8:3 is, “Wherever I banish them, all the survivors of this evil nation will prefer life to death, declares the Lord Almighty.” The Muslim people groups are currently in a state of preferring death (Islam) to life (Jesus). They are banished from Him for their sins, though He has made a way to restore them to Him (through the cross). 9:3 was, “ 'They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge Me,’ declares the Lord.” That pretty much sums up Islam life (living in total deception, not acknowledging God and preferring death to life). 



1 Samuel 30:24 was going through my head while I was contemplating the dividing the plunder verse. “ 'The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.' David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.” I want to start a study on the different passages in the Bible that mention plundering or spoils. I will make sure to write a post if I get anything while doing that.  

 To clarify. Please don’t misunderstand me, I understand ultimately it is Holy Spirit who starts and sustains revival. It isn’t a system or any sort of human planning mechanisms that can do it. But I believe Holy Spirit is orderly and works within order (not that He can't work within chaos, but rather that even when it appears He is working within chaos, the reality is that He has an organized plan and purpose in everything. We just can’t always see it so we perceive it as chaos when in reality it well planned). I am not proposing we throw out Holy Spirit for a system or program, rather that we seek vision for how Holy Spirit orchestrates sustained revival so that we can partner with Him within order, and not just partner in what we perceive as chaos. I did want to clarify my heart on that.    


*John 4:35, "Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest."

**By Islam harvest I mean the currently Muslim people who are going to get saved in these end times. 



Tuesday, 24 March 2015

My Yes For His Heart

   I was first called to go to the Middle East when I was 9 or 10. I had been told of the masses that were living lives of fear and brokenness without ever hearing the Gospel and it wounded my heart. I could not stand the thought of them not knowing my Jesus, and I determined to tell them. For years that was a cry of my heart, that God would send me.

   As I got older I started to forget that cry. In junior high my family and I went through some hard circumstances and I really began to wrestle with my faith for the first time (which led to a total transformation of my faith in which God completely reintroduced Himself to me, but that is a story for another time). At the same time I got involved in ministry with kids in a downtown after school program. I got distracted and caught up in my ministry in America and completely forgot about the call to the Middle East.

   Recently God has been tugging on my heart to go to the Middle East again, and I have once again given my yes. I am finishing high school this year and going off to the Fredericksburg House of Prayer (also called The Prayer Furnace) to intern with their Missions And Prayer School (MAPS). It is a 2 year program at their house of prayer, and then there is 3 months in a Middle East House of Prayer. From there I want to be a witness for Christ in a specific country (there is a specific country in the Middle East I was called to, but for safety reasons I won't name it). I am laying my life down to love God in the Middle East. I am laying my dreams and my plans for my future aside to pick up my cross and follow Christ.

   I tell a story of a young girl who heard a crazy call as a kid and said yes, and now as a teenager is acting on that yes in radical ways. The part of the story I don't tell, is I didn't really want to go for a long time. I tell the story of a kid that felt the call to go and said yes, which is true. But deep down I didn't really want to go, and secretly hoped God wouldn't actually end up sending me. I love my American life. I love my kids (I call the kids at the after school program "my kids"). I love my family. I love my city. I love my comfortable lifestyle. I love my dog. I have dreams here in America that if I go to the Middle East I leave behind. The idea of leaving all that behind and moving to minister in a foreign culture with huge difficulties, including crazy hard languages, was terrifying to me.

   So what made the difference? How did I go from saying yes but secretly begging for a no, to completely on fire for the Middle East and desperate to go? Jesus and prayer. Jesus and prayer made the difference. Holy Spirit slowly started working on my heart even while I resisted. I relented enough to start praying 7 times a day for the Muslim people groups and I started asking God to send workers into the harvest. They were (are) short prayers, often 2 or 3 sentences and nothing super spiritual. But somehow in that my heart shifted. Where fear once ruled my faith started to grow and take hold. In this transformation one day I was sitting on our couch and I saw Jesus's face. I physically saw my Lord. He was grieved over the unreached people groups and it broke my heart. I realized I can no longer pray for the Muslim people and pray that God would send workers into the harvest and not first go myself. I realized that if my heart is not breaking for the things that break His heart, than I am not truly in love with Him. I now weep at the thought of my Beloved having died for a people group that does not know Him as their Beloved, and that bow their knee to another. I weep for the Islamic masses that do not know my Beloved, that do not know my Father. The people who live their lives in brokenness, never knowing a God that is good. That is Love. Never knowing the Truth. It's no longer a sacrifice to think about giving up everything to pursue God's heart for the Middle East. I realize the truth in the quote, "There is no shame in lovesickness."* What was once radical or a huge painful sacrifice is nothing. My heart is so shifted that to go and to even give up my life if it comes to that is not a sacrifice.

   Some look at me and think I am crazy. Some question whether or not I have any idea what is going on right now in the Middle East (which despite our lack of a tv at home I do have actually an idea what is going on). Some think I am a radical super Christian. Some think I am signing up to be systematically executed. But in reality, I am just a lovesick teenager with a God who is in love with the Middle East. I'm not a super Christian. God's dreams were just bigger than mine, and when I gave Him my yes, He gave me His heart. And that is a trade I will make again a thousand and one times a day for every day of my life.

*Kim Hager, a The Prayer Furnace staff member.



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