Are You Loved By God?

I visited a church this week for a special service, and they sang a song that left me greatly disturbed.  It was celebrating the “reckless” love of God.  Ever since that evening, I have been asking myself, “Exactly what is reckless love?”

I know the answer all too well.  How do I know?  That’s not stories I want to tell my children.  Reckless love is hormone driven lust in youth.  Reckless love is running headlong into a feel-good relationship that one asks God to bless as an afterthought.  Reckless love is the failure to guard your heart while you speed headlong into destruction.  Reckless love is the highest high that makes the whole world happy and makes people do the stupidest things, refusing to look a few months or years down the road when their whole lives will lay in waste and pain and despair and brokenness; and worst of all, they are the ones who blame God for their self-centered I-want-it-now, I-deserve-it attitudes.

Reckless love refuses to consider a lifetime covenant, an economic responsibility, a painful submission, a laying down of life—out of which grows the deepest love that is the opposite of reckless.  We are not left to guess about the love of God—but I think the songwriter who disturbed me so greatly would be better served to find the rich and unending adjectives of scripture that teach me about the love of God.

Everlasting Love:  Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. (Jeremiah 31:3).

Unchanging Love:“For I am the Lord; I change not” (Malachi 3:6).

Invincible Love:“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans 8:38-39).

Father Love:“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me”  (John 17:23 ESV).

The love of God is patient and kind, never envious or proud.  The unseemly behavior of reckless love is completely foreign to the love of God.  He does not keep His anger forever, and His mercy is higher than the heavens; His forgiveness is further than the east is from the west.  When a relationship is angry and bitter, you will know that God’s love, and His will for you, are absent.

God’s love never leaves you in despair and hopelessness.  It never fails.  So, if you have sung the song (drinking the kool-aid is the metaphor that comes to my mind) don’t believe it.  Get out of the momentary feel-good relationships that do not magnify the presence of the One who is Love in your life.

Don’t settle for a counterfeit love.  The pain is indescribable, and the journey is … reckless.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above,

Would drain the ocean dry.

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure

The saints’ and angels’ song.

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A Supernatural Bird Lesson

 

Tuesday evening seemed like an ordinary Bible study for the 15 or so who gathered for a discussion of James 2, but God had other lessons for me.  When a teenager screamed from the basement, our hostess hurried downstairs to find hysteria (not serious, just the teenage type) and a very agitated bird.  No one seemed to know how it had gotten in the house, but the teens fed it corn chips and coaxed it into the bathroom and shut the door.

Our hostess said she would search for its owner and take it to the humane society.  I had the next day off, so I volunteered to take the bird and resolve the situation.  After all, you can’t just put a leash on it and walk it to the pet shop!  We managed to get the bird in a box, and I let it loose in my laundry room for the night.

This was no ordinary bird.  A few hours of research revealed it was a female rare blue Indian ring necked parrot, who needed a special diet and fresh fruits and vegetables.  My laundry room testified to its previous party night of corn chips.  What a mess!  As I cleaned and tried to calm her, I was captivated by her beauty.  She is a deep sky blue with bright orange eyes and a red hooked beak.  I wondered how long she had been in the wild, though her pacing and squawking revealed the fear and trauma she had endured.  I couldn’t even think about taking her to a shelter and throwing her to chance.

I spent the next few days shopping for the right food, organic fruits and vegetables, and looking for a kennel.  Large bird cages cost a small fortune.  She loves apples and oranges, and I spent hours making her eat her vegetables.   In the back of my mind, I thought about birds living 35 years.  Did I really want a bird until I’m 98?  I was captivated by her elegance, and after a couple of days, she began showing off her vocabulary as she sat on my shoulder and pecked at my cheek. I’m an animal lover by nature, but this was different.  I was falling in love with this bird.

In the meantime, our hostess emailed me about the bird.  More than one person offered to adopt her, but I couldn’t imagine putting her through more change and adjustment.  She was so nervous and afraid of everyone except me.  I had to take care of her, didn’t I?  And so, my week was consumed with constructing a proper place for her to live, and feeding her food that would make her healthy, and gaining her trust and affection.  I pushed the occasional thoughts about doing this for the next 35 years out of my mind.  She needed me, and  I was hooked.

On Friday evening, I was praying about all the things I usually pray about—our nation, our church, my children and grandchildren, and for wisdom and revelation to do the will of God.  I waited as I felt God’s presence settle in my room.  What about the bird?

Yes, God.  What about the bird?  I love her.  She is beautiful!

You haven’t talked to Me about the bird.

Actually, no, I haven’t.

In a moment, I knew that this was not about me wanting a bird, or someone else wanting the bird.  It was about what God wanted.  He gently took me to the place we have discussed many times–A situation arises, and I immediately go into problem solving mode.  I run around and expend lots of energy, and work hard, and enact my own solution, and demand what I think is the very best outcome.  Then God stops me in my tracks.  Why haven’t I learned this lesson by now!!!

OK, God, let’s talk about the bird.

Who is responsible for taking care of birds?

(Hint:  read the Book!)

God reminded me that when Noah didn’t know what to do, God sent a bird to give him the message.  At Jesus’ baptism, God needed the crowds to understand the presence of the Holy Spirit.  He sent the message with a bird.  Actually, God singles birds out of all his animal creations to let us know how much He cares for them.

 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matthew 6:26

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

Isn’t that amazing?  God is a bird man.  Of all His creation, He chose them for bright colors, and variety, and striking beauty, and peaceful singing, and His messengers to announce sunrise.

I get it, God.  You are the One who will take care of this bird. After all, You have been doing it for thousands of years.

So I jumped out of bed on Saturday morning at 5:00 a.m. and I emailed her rightful caretaker.  And as we loaded her up, I was not giving her away to an unknown future.  I gave her back to God.  You see, He brought her supernaturally into the middle of our Bible study because His eye is always on the birds, and He loves her.  Though it took me a week to hear His voice, I now understand God was patiently working a plan.  He moved her into her next phase of mission where she will supernaturally teach a young man how much He loves birds—and how much more valuable we are than many of them!!

 

 

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Healing and Food

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them.  Matthew 4:23-24

In Matthew, chapter 4, Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread.  After fasting for 40 days, His hunger was overwhelming, and His power always available to act.  But having that power and using it for His own satisfaction was an act He rejected.  He would live by the word of God.  Job in the midst of intense suffering made the same declaration—“I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”  (Job 23:12)

I have had extraordinary opportunities for ministry this week for people to whom I have extended God’s call to surrender their appetites for food.   I offer them the words of Job and I teach them about our glorious bodies, knit together by God, and made to maintain itself one cell at a time with food nutrients which in America are tainted with chemicals and grown in soil lacking in the very nutrients we need.

Jesus chose to maintain His body in the ordinary way, by eating the food of that day, rather than speaking to the stones and creating a super food that would sustain Him.  How much time and hassle He could have saved by not needing to eat!  As a man, He submitted Himself to the Father’s will for the appetites of the body, and the scripture says He learned through suffering!

There is power in understanding how to nourish the body and walk in health.  It is so easy to come across as arrogant and judgmental of those who are sick, or addicted, or dependent on drugs with devastating side effects.  Jesus’ example in Matthew 4 spoke deeply to me this morning.  After rejecting Satan’s temptation, he began his ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing.  He taught His followers the principles of the Kingdom, preached to those who were lost and blinded by religious tradition, and He healed everyone.

Yes, He healed everyone.  Some had very ordinary afflictions, and surely that day was no different from ours.  Gluttonous and neglectful eating has brought on chronic pain and illness.  Jesus healed them.  He healed neurological injuries.  Finally, research is helping to explain how the brain deteriorates from blast and concussion, exposure to heavy metals and toxins, and deficiencies of essential nutrients.  These things have brought epidemics of “mental” illness with a physiological root to our current generation.  Jesus healed those with seizures; the helpless children; He healed everybody.

Some were demon possessed.  He healed them too by casting out their torturers.  He made no distinction between the natural suffering and the supernatural suffering.  He healed everyone.

The point I am making is this–  It is more than 2,000 years later, and industrialization has robbed us of putting our hands in the dirt and understanding God’s seed that produces abundance and nourishment beyond our wildest scientific theory.  It is wrong to succumb to the temptation to eat the stones turned to bread—the empty potato chip that screams to our brain’s bliss point, and the processed toxin laden boxes and bags that offer our bodies only misery in the long term.  But Jesus did not distinguish between the natural and the supernatural.  He healed the body.  He restored.  He alleviated suffering.  He loved.  All of us need His healing touch.

And He continued to set the example to eat the ordinary and nutritious food to provide for His body.  Then He nourished His body, soul and spirit by every word that proceeded from the mouth of God.  Will you follow His example?  How we need the touch of God to be whole!  When we seek Him, He heals us and we leave behind the destructive lives that held us in bondage.  Some of the things He changes are assaults in the natural; some are in the supernatural.  He comes with love, and I get a new understanding of His desire to make me whole.  How I love Him!

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An Invitation to Healing

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.  Isaiah 53:4

I began this blog years ago, because God called me to reach out to people who have suffered grief and loss.  The blog has expanded well beyond what I knew back then, and I am grateful for the hundreds from all over the world who have followed and written notes of encouragement.  But it is time to narrow my thinking and purpose again for a little while.  This week I will begin meeting with grieving people for ten weeks to sort out the enemy of death.  My dining room table is spread with papers, but the gut pain of grief cannot be captured, though I have spent years trying.  For a moment, I asked God if I really have enough to give, but He is always the One who leads, and by the third week, we are anxious to come together, not to be led by me, but to experience the Presence of the One who has conquered death.  I am only one around the table who will re-experience the deepest pain and the greatest comfort known to us on earth.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of my husband’s death.  It is the day that I drink coffee alone in the morning, and try to remember things we talked about together.  I read the cards he sent, and look at our pictures.  I think about the day, as I watched helplessly while his chest labored violently for air, and his trembling hand moved slowly to his head where the pain would finally cease that day.  I thank him for all he gave to me, the love most of all, the songs he sang, the confidence in God and our family, his joy that still refreshes my spirit.  I visit his grave in a quaint little cemetery in Oldham County, where a small stone under a long row of pine trees announces his birth, his death, and his love.  “He loved God and Country.”  It is engraved there to remind me of our life together.  His legacy lives well beyond time and space, and though he has moved to his permanent residence, his dreams for us speak to me now.

On my table is a tender article by Billy Graham, written shortly after Ruth died.  It still brings tears to my eyes.  There are letters I have written—one to a high school student whose dad died in an accident.  Another unwilling grief student must grow up and live more fully than those around him.  He must believe in God’s compassion and mercy, and crush the temptation to disappointment.  Letters to my grandson in heaven; letters to widows; memories of those who came to grief classes in times past and so enriched my life forever—I like the disarray of papers.  Death is not clean.  It is not organized.  There is the workbook, a leader’s guide, and various tasks outlined to get ready for our meetings. These details are mundane.  I am distracted as I think of the miracles ahead.

I am looking forward to these ten weeks.  It is a strange thing to say about facing grief.  But I know the One who has conquered death, and He will lead us on a path very familiar to Him.  The Man of Sorrows is calling us to receive healing beyond grief and loss.  It is His gift.   If you are in Louisville and would like to join us, come to New Life Church on Goose Creek Road this Wednesday at 7:00.  We are meeting in the downstairs conference room.  You will not be asked to say or do anything.  Just receive.

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen:  for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.  II Corinthians 4:18

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Have You Received the Gospel?

For I want you to know, believers, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel; it is not a human invention, patterned after any human concept.  For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a direct revelation of Jesus Christ.  Galatians 1:11-12 amp. 

One of the greatest barriers to receiving Christ as Savior is to approach such a miracle as a mere human concept.  You receive salvation just like Paul did, and just like all believers for the next two millennia—I received Him through a direct revelation of Jesus Christ.  The Bible is deliberately vague about being “born again.”  Jesus told Nicodemus a strange thing—kind of like those crazy Jeep drivers with their big signs on the back that say, “It’s a jeep thing; you wouldn’t understand.”

Jesus tells Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it is coming from and where it is going; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  So that’s it.  Being born again is not understood in the flesh, by human concept, but by hearing the heavenly sound of the Spirit in a heart that is open.

Pretty abstract?  It’s deliberate.  If being saved were a human formula, we would all walk down our Roman roads, and say the four spiritual laws, and live happily ever after.  Jesus commands, “strive to enter in.”  Discover Him.  It will be a unique experience—just you and Jesus—and quite unlike what happened to everyone else.  Paul says he received the gospel through a direct revelation of Jesus.  I want to shout today to everyone I know that you can receive the gospel IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY!!  You do not receive it from man, nor are you taught it.

Are you ready?  Sit quietly, open your Bible and your heart.  Tell Jesus you surrender your life, your possessions, your family, your future—whatever He wants, He is worth it all.  Then wait for the revelation.

First, you will experience the rush of forgiveness.  A huge burden of sin, darkness, guilt, and disappointment will lift from your mind and heart.  Some of the things that are gone, you will know, and some you don’t need to know.  His clean-up is thorough and beyond your mind.  The wind is blowing in, and sweeping your heart clean.  He is making His new home ready.

Then you will experience a rush of love–His love for you, His love for everyone!  I remember feeling like a glass dome had descended over my body, and I could see the chaos through the glass, and inside the dome there was incredible peace, and everything I could see outside just bounced off my covering, because I was encapsulated in the absolute care of the Savior.  But that’s my revelation.  Yours will be different.

Next you will experience kindness.  The Holy Spirit will comfort you with mercy and grace that changes your whole understanding of yourself and the world.  There is inner peace and joy that is stronger than even death.  You will walk through fiery trials and learn to cling to His hope that fills you.

The revelation of the gospel will come to you as you read the living and sharp two edged sword called the Bible.  It will pierce your soul, sometimes in words, sometimes just in Presence.  Receive it gladly.

I say with Paul–I want you to know believers, that the gospel that I have received is not man’s gospel.  I am born of the Spirit, it is beyond any human concept, and I didn’t receive it from men.  And the revelation grows like new life in the spring.  He comes to me in my soul and spirit.  It’s like the wind.  I don’t know where life is going, but I follow the heavenly sound.  Come with me!  It is eternal life!

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Preparing the Way

And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1:17

These are the words of the angel Gabriel who stands in the very presence of God.  This is the beginning of the Christmas story.  Before Jesus comes—even as a baby—His holy presence requires a national clean-up.  John the Baptist is sent to get the people ready for the greatest event in history.  Could the words of the mightiest angel have application for a 21st century nation that walks in darkness, with brokenness between fathers and children, full of stupidity and flagrant injustice, and completely unprepared for the Holy Child of advent?

The wisdom of God required that a way would be prepared for His coming.  He chose John, filled him with the Holy Spirit, and called him to deny himself the lavish eating and drinking and chaos which people of the day had settled into as if it were a normal way of life.

It amazes me that it only took one man, full of the Holy Spirit, to prepare for Jesus’ coming. One Spirit-filled man, totally dedicated to the calling, got the job done.   Today, God has filled tens of thousands in America with His Holy Spirit. How could our nation be in such an awful place?  Perhaps we don’t understand our calling as John understood it.

To turn a nation, we must go in the spirit and power of Elijah.  James writes, “Elijah was a man of like passions as we are, yet he prayed fervently…”  God, teach me to pray fervently for my nation.  Teach me to pray Elijah prayers.

Elijah is known as a man of fervent prayer, and also a man of extraordinary boldness.  Had it not been for God’s intervention, he would have gotten himself killed by the fierce anger of Ahab and Jezebel.  His message was clear.  Forsake the worship of Baal, and choose the one true God.  Baal—the god of fertility, food, and child sacrifice—must be utterly abandoned.  God’s Spirit-filled people must clearly proclaim the message of Elijah.  It is a message of holiness.  Our lives do not find their meaning in the pleasures of food and sex; nor do we live in such fear of the future that we would sacrifice our children for our own security.  Life is repentance, faith toward God, baptism to forsake the old life, healing, resurrection, and the judgment that is certain for every soul.  Proclaim it as loud as Elijah did.

Sometimes I am bewildered by 21st century American young people.  I listen to them, but I am clueless of the conversation.  I watch them, and I am ignorant to explain their actions.  To prepare the way for Christ to come to America, something must happen among generations.  The young and the old must learn to stand as one in the mission.  Families are reunited.  Love and forgiveness will bring back mother and father and children as a unit of Holy Spirit power.  It is why John condemned Herod so strongly for taking his brother’s wife.  John’s mission declared by the angel Gabriel was to restore families.  Herod was not just a lone pleasure seeker.  His sin was mocking the calling of God on a nation.  America believes the lie as thoroughly as Herod did.  “It’s personal, it’s private, it’s doesn’t affect you.”  It took a John the Baptist to bring that lie to the light.

I believe there is a prophetic cleansing going on in America today.  The rampant sexual sin is being brought out of the darkness and into the light every day.  A part of me is repulsed, but there is excitement in my spirit.  The clean-up is preparing the way for the Holy One to come.  Isaiah saw the clean-up.  He wrote, “For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.”  (Isaiah 29:23)  I long to see the children, and the grandchildren, all of the generations together, forsaking sin and its destruction, standing in awe of my God!

John was finally called to bring disobedient people to wisdom and justice.  The war that rages in America is precisely against God’s wisdom and justice.  And the tens of thousands of Spirit-filled Johns that could prepare the way for His coming to us cannot seem to hear a clear message, nor is there John Baptist boldness to proclaim it.  It is God’s wisdom and God’s justice that will heal the brokenness of our nation.

We Spirit-filled Christians must stop whispering about Jesus’ coming.  He is coming now to save a nation.  I will go in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way.  I speak with the authority of an heir of God, who has called me His friend, and has asked me to become a fellow laborer with others He has called.  He has made us kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign upon the earth.  I am praying the earnest prayers of Elijah for my nation, and I have one desire, to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.”  Like John the Baptist, we were born for this hour.

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An Open Letter To My Daughter’s Boyfriend

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.  Lamentations 3:25-27

Dear Ben,

I want to wish you and my daughter a hearty congratulations as you celebrate one year together.  You have become a very important part of her life, and of course, as her parent, I have done my best to see what you are made of–to politely scrutinize, evaluate, nose in, inspect, analyze; and most of all, pray for you.

You have great strength of character, and I am grateful for my daughter’s discernment.  I like that you are a runner—a discipline often talked about in scripture.  The physical discipline of the body always spills over into other parts of life.  I have witnessed your patient love and care for her as she has for you.

Though I haven’t met your family, I know a little about them from conversations and of course, Facebook, the socially acceptable form of snooping not available with my older children!  Like my family, the youth of yours have borne a burden they did not create, and in some families, such injustice leads to destruction. Like Sarah, you have borne the burden well.

I was reminded of you as I read Jeremiah’s words this morning.   He is writing to youth whose homes are destroyed, parents carried off in captivity, war and famine, and a great struggle ahead.  It is such devastation!  But Jeremiah says, “It is good.”  My generation grew up in chaos.  The political, social, and spiritual unrest is indescribable; and your generation witnesses the horrible brokenness that was left in the wake of throwing off the protective bands of Christianity, marriage, a strong work ethic, and so much more.

Sometimes I see your generation as wandering in the ravages of a lost war.  We gave up when greed and power swept in and overtook the nation; and we turned inward rather than choosing to take it back.  And now young people sit as the generation of young Jeremiah with an uncertain future.  The words he wrote will carry you to success if you will put them into practice.

“It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”  I have found all of the answers I have needed for life in seeking God in the scriptures.  I have memorized them, studied them, and embraced their infallible advice for life.  I could not agree more with Jeremiah—it is good!

Jeremiah adds, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”  The pressures of life and the struggle to find significance and mission will only increase your strength of integrity.  As a parent, I never know if I have sheltered too much or too little.  Have I intervened to relieve the very struggle God intends as a good yoke of honor?  The character flaws you find in one another may be a yoke of learning.  Always remember that God says, “it is good.”  He also says, “His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.”

I am no longer parenting children.  I am advising and exhorting adults who are more precious to me than life.  I pray that I will always be a part of the struggle of your youth, and that my words and actions will be life giving.  My greatest legacy is my testimony.  I walk with God in the secret place of the Most High.  The Psalmist describes my life much better than me:

Though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,  for the Lord upholds his hand.  I have been young, and now am old,  yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken  or his children begging for bread.   He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. Psalm 37:24-26

 

 

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