Believer’s Meeting

9:00 am, Sunday morning eyes close, hearts open– cue the perfect opening song, chosen because it’s upbeat, uplifting, and it gets the blood pumping. Energy surges. Those who practice loudly in their cars are ready to join in corporate Praise and Worship of Jesus, right?

Except, “I” and “me” are used far more often than His name.

It’s all about You, Jesus and how much You have done for me, how much I have been changed, how much You love me, how You’ve made a way for me…”

Song one finishes. Cue songs 2 and 3, in similar keys and subject so they can flow into each other smoothly. Hearts and minds are focused on all Jesus has done for “me“.

Cue song 4 for the offering, something catchy and convicting to encourage Believers to give to God freely…

Song 5 helps transition right into the sermon, getting hearts and minds prepared to receive the Word of the Lord and the Preacher’s sermon.

The sermon is deep, convicting, full of Truth and equipping Believers to make it through another week until it can all start over again.

A closing song extending the sermon message, inviting people to let down their personal guard so they can receive personal ministry to help them overcome the things holding them back, keeping them from fully embracing Jesus, God’s healing and deliverance…

And… we’re done.

It’s a set, a church service proven to be a smooth and embraceable formula that the majority of American Church models follow now.

What’s the fruit? Happy people, a love for deep, powerful music, a new determined focus to meet the challenges and difficulties of a week focused around “me”.

Mid-week, there used to be Wednesday night Believer’s Meetings to help get us past the dragging down of our spirits, and re-focus in putting Jesus first and foremost in hearts and minds. It seems many churches have instead poured their entire focus on that Sunday morning gathering. Which is fine, Wednesday night sometimes just adds into another thing that keeps us busy and exhausted.

Which songs in church help equip Believers in how to treat others? How many prepare Believers for interacting with those hurting, abused, or abusive outside of the Church bubble?

What church service songs encourage us to help rescue others from the spiritual muck and mire that acts like quicksand, holding and pulling people farther from freedom through Jesus.

We hear the words “help the dying and lost” so often, we’ve gotten numb to their meaning and impact.

The world that has not embraced the Salvation, Grace and Mercy of God through Jesus– it’s not a friendly, warm place. There are people who hate Christians, hate everything about God. Are we ever prepared to walk in the empowerment of God to not only deal with people that hate us, but also show them Jesus?

We lack transformative power, most often, because I believe we are stuck in a “me me me” rut.

Me filters everything– how does this song minister to me? How does this affect me?

All fingers are pointed at me. I’ve recently been confronted with my own boundaries of keeping the ugliness of the world out of my perception and eyesight-hearing range.

Choosing what I allow my understanding to be exposed to is a luxury.

The hurting, lost and spiritually dying don’t have that luxury. They don’t have Jesus, the necessity for us all, to protect them, to shield them, to deliver them from the cold, dark world of animosity towards all God has created– which includes them.

I had forgotten where I had come from. But– God reminded me. How can I not go back and help others ? Did Jesus rescue me so that I could become cold-hearted towards others who need Him to rescue them as well?

Jesus told us to go, share the Good News with the world that hates Him, and by proxy– hates us. Share the Good News that they don’t have to serve hatred any longer, they can have His free gift of Eternal Salvation. Before meeting Jesus, after allowing Jesus to give freedom is like night and day. It’s like shackles and freedom, caged and free, oppressed and… free.

Free.

No price.

No bondage.

No entrapment.

Free.

Mind-blowing, am I right? The human mind cannot even fathom what that means, and so many reject it because it sounds far-fetched and unbelievable.

We need God to empower us to demonstrate that reality of Jesus.

Where does the neat and tidy American church service infuse that empowerment?

We will never find that power on our own, within ourselves, to reach out to a torture victim. Because they do exist– in America.

How can we help rescue someone’s mind who has been trapped in human slavery– because, again, that exists inside of America.

Jesus left Heaven to be born as a human to walk with us, so He could rescue us– heart, mind and soul. Not just our soul. Not just physical and heart healing.

Our minds.

Our emotions.

He came to set the captives free.

Where are we most held captive?

In our minds.

How can we ever be ready to help people get free from the ugly hatred of the world if we stay focused on “what Jesus has done for me? Those trapped don’t care what He has done for me. They need Him to help them, and they need us to stand in the gap while He sets them free.

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:17 (NASB)

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

One Size Fits… Um No

I confess– I have a tendency to be a serial unasked-for advice giver. I can’t help it. I know others can glean from my experience-gained wisdom. Right?

Except that’s never how it’s taken.

If I’m honest, it’s also not how I take it from others, either, even though I try to be polite and respectful.

The old cliche’ about judging a book by its cover fits here well. How often do we hear or read something someone says and opine that we know the solution to their problem? After all– it worked for us, so it will work 1000000% for all– right?

Well, no. It won’t.

Nothing about me or my life is ever a one-size-fits-all fit.

Even Scripture is not a one-size-fits-all life application. I mean– it is– but it applies in endless ways. Some Scripture is the same for everyone. Like John 3:16-17. And most Scripture will help us achieve the same outcome as others, but it applies individually and uniquely over every life it touches.

Because it’s the Living Word of God.

It’s not a one-size-fits-most bandaid or covering. It’s the healing/repair balm uniquely designed to fit our specific needs.

God’s Word is not reactionary to us, it’s designed for us to respond to it.

Unlike our random acts of unasked-for advice-giving.

I have so much more to learn about letting God love others through me.

His ways are so much better than mine.

Fighting An Invisible Enemy

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I have an invisible enemy. I’ve fought against it for as long as I can remember. This enemy does not fight fair. It hides in the shadows. I have exhausted myself many times throughout my lifetime trying to fight back, but it dodges every retaliatory jab.

My enemy catches me off-guard, though less often now. It strikes with the intention of crippling my efforts. It dismantles my credibility. Mocks my accomplishments, experience and concerns, rendering them invaluable– useless. It attempts to define me as “too emotional”, “uneducated”, “ridiculous” or “ignorant”. It laughs at me, or rolls its eyes with a sarcastic dismissal of my importance.

It steals my confidence– tries to steal my joy.

I’ve learned to stand back and just observe how this enemy attacks and come to recognize that part of its victory over me has been through the use of decoys. It’s as though I am blindfolded, and I think I know its location through a sound or a movement. But, when I attempt to retaliate, I punch through thin air, exhausting– even injuring– myself in the process.

It’s impossible to fight this enemy.

In an effort of self-protection, I surround myself with people who have proven their trustworthiness to me over time. People who value me and don’t laugh at my creativity, experience, or blow off my concerns. Sometimes those people disappoint me.

I have begun to realize, the best way to defeat this enemy is to guard myself during its assailment and then assess the damage.

The damage hardest to overcome or heal from is the friendly fire. I know my visible enemies will not care about or recognize the truth over their opinion of me, so their words no longer hurt me. But, those closest to me– their opinion becomes the fiery darts my enemy uses to go straight to my heart.

When I remember to hide in the shadow of God’s wings, the damage is minimal, often non-existent.  Psalm 63:7 reminds me: “For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy”. Hosea 14:7 encourages me that:  “Those who live in his shadow Will again raise grain, And they will blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon”.

Then I know, the only thing that ever matters is God. He sees all, knows all, and He’s with me every step of the way, guiding me with the light of His Word, working through me regardless of how useless or unimportant any person believes me to be.

God is my strength, and He helps me defeat my invisible enemy. Every time.

The Spiritual Damage Of Anorexia

I’m a former anorexic and bulimic, reformed through Christ. This post has been a long time coming.

To look at me now you can’t tell I was near death at one point from practicing anorexia.

The Spiritual consequence is what I want to get into with this post. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about that before.

Fasting is an important part of our growing relationship with God. When we fast unto God, we deny our flesh to set aside our physical wants and needs temporarily to focus on seeking God. We fast to repent, seek God, grow in our faith and understanding, and to actively put Him completely first. The focus is God, not our body, not the avoidance of food.

Anorexia is a tool the devil uses to corrupt that. Fasting not only becomes an obsessive practice of focus on ourselves. Opportunities open for the demonic to gain footholds in our lives, choices, beliefs, vision, perspective and practices. The devil sells us the idea we can obtain perfection.

When Jesus is our Lord and Savior, God sees us as perfect because Christ is in us.

Through the practice of Anorexia, the devil causes deformity within our spirits and our understanding. The devil clouds our vision, and converts our perception to a distorted view and belief system– the belief that our body is the enemy we need to fight against.

The Bible is clear that our battle is not against flesh and blood. We are transformed through the renewing of our minds, new creations through Christ Jesus.

Striving for perfection, we work hard for acceptance and approval of the world. But like a small kid in a game of Keep Away, or Monkey In The Middle, we never lay hold of it. The constant effort steals focus, energy, confidence– reality. The bar gets raised higher. It’s always just… out of…

Reach

God accepts and approves of us because of Jesus. We don’t have to prove our worth to Him because Jesus showed us how much He values us by dying on the cross, and rising up again. We are wanted, welcomed by God.

Jesus made it possible to have acceptance from our Creator. We can have a relationship with Perfection Himself, and He is working to make us the best version of ourselves– for His glory.

We have a choice: We can work really hard for a distorted version of perfection that’s never within reach. Or we can rest in God’s approval and meet Him in the changes He makes as He perfects us His way.

I have experienced both. I prefer God’s way.

Why My Defensiveness Is A Reflex Reaction For Me With Some

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Last night, I had the most wonderful time having dinner, talking, then just listening to a dear friend. I learned so much about her, things I never would have guessed! It’s even easier to see why she is such a beautiful, loving, sincerely kind woman of God.

As is the usual case with me, it’s also hard to not also see that deep contrast between her life and my own.

Again I come face-to-face with why I have often felt a type of rejection from some I’ve hoped to get to know. I’m no Miss Congeniality or Miss Anything.

Often in my lifetime I’ve been left feeling as though I’m not worth people’s time. Some of that is cultural, sure. Some of it is personality-clash. I can be abrasive. I’ve even been described as a “bull in a China shop”.

There aren’t many “boxes” I allow myself to be put in. I tend to fail under heavy-handed expectations. I am as God designed me, also molded from my unique life experiences, which also at times have borne the weight of heavy-handed expectations.

I have learned that not everyone is alike, not everyone does things the same, or reacts to expectation the same way.

I probably will never meet any human’s expectation.

I can only try to meet God’s. And, I fail… All. The. Time.

One of the toughest things to put into practice is listening when it feels like you are not heard by others– that’s where my reaction of defensiveness tries to overtake me.

My life is full of many amazing, even some miraculous testimonies of God’s work.

It’s easy to focus on things that happened because God was not in the circumstances. It’s best to focus on contrasts caused by God’s healing, intervention, love, kindness, miracles and His Mercy.

While the contrast between our lives is somewhat vast, my friend and I have one very important thing that is similar– the knowledge of Who God Is in contrast to who we are and how amazing it is that He loves us.

Remember Me?

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Lots of people make a fuss to get gifts for loved ones during the Christmas season. For some, it’s just about checking people off of a list. For others, it’s about spending as little money and/or time as possible. For others, it’s about really looking for that “perfect” gift for each person.

My love language is giving and getting gifts, so I’m a “perfect gift” searcher. I fail if I don’t give something that has special thought and meaning behind it. Empty gifts just create clutter and are easily given away. One with thought and purpose involved also contains a portion of my heart and thoughts towards the recipient.

I am not one to just get “something, anything”.  That makes me sincerely uncomfortable.

This year I got some really nice gifts.

God gave us all the ultimate gift. He put so much thought and care into His gift to us. It’s the perfect way to be with Him eternally, if we will choose Him to be first in our lives. He gave all of His heart, all of His love, all of Himself to make a clear path for us all to join Him one day.

Our gift to God is allowing Him to be our help in everything and loving Him more than we love anyone or anything else. That’s what He wants.

Have we remembered God this Christmas season?

Being An Enabler Is Good

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Isaiah 57:14 “And it will be said,
“Build up, build up, prepare the way,
Remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.””

We’ve all heard the phrase and warning, “Don’t be an enabler“. I grew up thinking there is only one definition and only one way to enable: to allow, encourage or make excuses for the wrong or hurtful behavior of another. I became an expert in not fitting that definition. I also became an expert at knowing how to avoid being co-dependent.

Recently I’ve become aware that Merriam-Webster is changing definitions to words. No, not adding new definitions, but erasing/deleting/removing previous definitions, then adding new ones. “Tolerance” is one that has been redefined. I’m going to work hard to help change the mindset about this word “enabling”. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we completely throw out the definition society most often grabs hold of and speaks out against. I am saying, let’s get to the place where that becomes a secondary definition, and the word doesn’t cause such a negative reaction.

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I thought about how using a lawn mower enables us to take care of our lawn.

Recently my husband was asked to play the keys in a band performing that didn’t have someone available to play them. I reacted, rather than responding, with a groan. My husband has so many demands on his time. Often when it’s my turn, he’s so exhausted he’s falling asleep. Things have been busier for both of us, and I was looking forward to just having a day where nothing was scheduled that we could relax at home. Then, he explained the reason for the performance. It was an opportunity for the young lady singing to participate in an open air concert, with a possible opportunity to be able to open for a big named singer in the future. Wow. I didn’t want to stand in the way of that possibility! So, I stopped complaining and dreading his being busy with yet another thing, and I went with him in support. Meeting her and hearing her sing, I realized this was a super big deal. She is good, with a powerful message that made me cry while they were rehearsing.

So, that got me to thinking, and realizing: I’ve been short-changed. There is a whole other positive side to being an enabler, one I think the majority of us would love the chance to embrace. So, here are some ways to enable the people in your life:

1) Always speak to them with words that encourage and build up.

2) Address things that need to be changed or done better, in a positive way. Don’t just allow the negative to continue, but don’t criticize harshly or condemn.

3) Be available to support in the ways they need, not the ways you think they need.

4) If they mess up or fail, be there to support, build up and gently encourage them to not give up.

5) Support them and help them have a balanced attitude when they succeed.