Love U

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your words are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” – Psalm 139:13-15

This week’s thought was originally planned for last week, but when the Lord leads in a different direction, I’ve learned to readjust and go with it.  He’s pretty good and flipping schedules like that.  😊  But here we are, ready to think on that four-letter L-word.  Tina asked what it had to do with her situation, the Beatles sang it couldn’t be bought, and Mary J said she was searching for a real one (and boy did she say it!).

But that’s not the type of love I’m talking about.  Out of the 7 types of love we can experience in our lifetime, the one that I’m led to share with you is philautia, or self-love.  More akin to this (on the positive side) is self-esteem, self-worth.  Some of the other forms of love have their challenges, yes, especially outside God’s design for us as women and men.  We can do some real block-headed things for the passionate and playful love types.  And we are the first to rush back to the Lord when the haze clears and the mess is exposed…well, most of us do that.  There are some stubborn and stiff-necked folks who keep trying their way the same way and expect different results.

Still, self-love is important to understand, accept, and take care of.  It requires our mental, emotional, and spiritual state to be healthy so it can be healthy.  When it is operating well, the fiery darts of doubt and fear are extinguished long before they hit their mark.  The cannon-fire of unworthiness is deflected by the love in the ultimate defensive shield, our heavenly Father.  Excuse the poor grammar but can’t nobody tell us nothin’ when we walk and live in the knowledge of who and WHOSE we are.

Fam, this type of love is not dependent on how another person makes us feel special, wanted, or adored.  It is not dependent on any external thing, be it situation or people.  Philautia is about understanding and appreciating that God took the time out of all the awesome things He has done to create you and me.  From the mole on my right cheek to the freckles on your nose; from his short waves to her long, straight hair; from our various abilities, talents, and gifts to our personalities and interesting little quirks- we are all fearfully and wonderfully made.

When we are at our best, we are wonderfully made.  When we are at our worst, we are still wonderfully made.  The Lord stitched every facet of our being in a way that makes us unique and yet perfectly fit in the amazing mosaic that is His family.  Considering this fact, indulging the Enemy’s ploys to make us doubt our worth as defined by the Lord is not what we do.  Accepting his lies of not being intelligent, attractive, and just plain awesome is not what we do.  Thinking and speaking less of our literal God-made selves—and allowing others to do the same—is not what we do. 

Please excuse me if I’m coming across a little annoyed, but Satan has jerked us around long enough on this thing.  This really needs to be said.

Right now, someone is reading this posting, ensnared in a situation that drains the essence of who they really are and what they were created to become.  Now is the time to speak life and love into them. 

Now is the time to tell that man, “The Lord knew you when you were in your mother’s womb.  He knows the good plans He has for you and hating yourself is not one of them.  Be confident and assured that you have value, that you have worth.”

Now is the time to tell that woman, “Every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord.  He made no mistake in creating you.  Belittling yourself is not part of His design.  Stand tall and walk boldly into your season.  You’ve got this, because He’s got you.”

Now is the time to tell our own selves that the God who is loves and treasures us like no other.  Our worth was determined by Him long ago, and there is no changing that fact today, tomorrow, or any point in the future.  We matter to the Lord.

And that’s what matters.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for Your transcending, transforming love.  Thank You for creating us a little lower than the angels.  Remind us now and always of how much You value us, so that we live that truth each day.  Amen.

A Good Report

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?…Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:1, 4-5

This month, the thought was going to be about love and its various forms, or rather that was my plan.  Instead, the Lord’s inspiration led towards a different thought which touches very close to home.  A couple of weeks ago I received news about an uncle being in the hospital and the doctors telling him they had done all they could do, that he didn’t have much time left.  He went in weak and frail, not having much of an appetite.  But hearing these words from people who spent years learning the human body and the ways to heal its injuries and illnesses, did something to my uncle.  While he lay in that hospital bed with family nearby and on the phone, I am told he opened his eyes and looked directly at his attending physician with a determined look.  The strong faith he has in God shined bright from that point, giving him strength to eat and drink, to get out of bed.  He has told people more than once that he’s not worried because he knows the Lord’s got him.

My uncle has let people know just Whose report he believes.

This brought to mind another family member who had received a similar “bad” report, my mother.  February will mark the ninth year since she underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor.  What started out as migraines in the couple of months before became fainting spells and then a diagnosis in January 2011 that rocked our family: type 4 brain cancer.  Well, it rocked most of our family except the one who received such devastating news.  During that time, I witnessed a demonstration of faith that was so inspiring and humbling.  Mom let her doctor know that THE doctor who has never lost a patient would have the final say, that it was His report she chose to believe.  This woman prayed, immersed herself in the Word, and thanked God in advance for healing her.  All the while, I was afraid to ask God on her behalf because I didn’t know what to do if His answer would have been “No.”  Any other time I prayed, His answer was either a “Yes” or “Not yet”.  But I couldn’t shake the fear that this would be the first time for a “No”.  I wasn’t ready for that, as if anyone really could be.

Praise be to God for proving that fear to be “False Evidence Appearing Real”.

She and Dad drove to Dallas-Fort Worth for her surgery with a doctor who prayed with them (something we didn’t expect), which was on a Monday.  By the end of that week, he drove her back to our hometown for a brief stay in therapy, followed by in-home sessions.  The tumor was taken, analyzed, and the initial bad report we had received was changed: type 4 became a variant type 3 which had a treatment plan with a high success rate.  Mom went through chemotherapy and radiation throughout the rest of that year, and the brain cancer has not returned to this day.  I will admit that there have been other health issues since, the most recent being breast cancer.  But this time, instead of being afraid I declared Whose report I would believe, that if the Lord brought her through it before then He could surely do it again.

Looking at these moments in my family’s history, I love how God stepped in and confounded human thought and knowledge, how He demonstrated that He would always be the one with the final say.  I appreciate how the blood of Jesus which was shed on a cross has never-ending power to heal what some may say can’t be healed.  I am inspired how the words of Jesus can speak life (look at the son of the widow of Nain, Jairus’ daughter, and Lazarus) into dire or final situations, and stir up a determined faith to witness the power of God manifested in the lives of His people.  And I love how that same faith spreads to others, moving them to share what they saw God do with people who are looking for the same thing, a “Yes” to a difficult situation.

Right now that person may be reading this blog, wondering what to do, say, think, or even feel after receiving a bad report.  Don’t let fear overtake you, silencing you from reaching out to God.  Instead, speak out loud what you have seen Him do for you and for others, and ask Him to do it again.  Study and meditate on His life giving, lifesaving Word (see list of verses below) and declare that by His stripes you are healed. 

 “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?…”  Stick with the Lord’s good report. He has never been wrong yet.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your good and perfect report.  Thank You for having the final say in our lives.  I ask that You touch and heal the readers of this blog from what may be affecting them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Let Your power flow through them in a mighty way, so that they can further testify to how great and awesome You are.  I ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Suggested healing scriptures (see more at Bible Study Tools):

Jeremiah 17:14

James 5:14-15

Isaiah 41:10

Jeremiah 30:17

Isaiah 38:16-17

Philippians 4:19

Revelation 21:4

James 5:6

Psalm 30:2

Psalm 103:2-4

Walking in the New, Part 3: Spirit

“You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  (Ephesians 4:22-24)

If the human soul is the seat of our will and mind, then the final part of this month’s series – the spirit – is the real person, the core of who we are.  Borrowing from a book I once read, it’s who we are when no one else is looking.  Remove the layers of relationships, education, finances, and careers, and the spirit is what’s left.  And just like our hearts and minds, if this ain’t right, we’re in for some bad storms on the sea of life.  Perhaps this is why David asked God to renew the right spirit within him after petitioning for a clean heart.

Of course, the question must be asked: “What does walking in the new spirit mean?”  A closer look at what makes up our human spirit may provide the answer.  See, the components of this key part of our existence include intellect, emotions, fears, passions, creativity, awareness, insight, understanding and judgment.  Walking in the new spirit means all of these are in alignment with God.  It means putting off the old emotions, fears, and passions that we chased into a spiritual ditch, and putting on a new desire to chase after God’s good and perfect will manifested in His entire creation.  It means shedding the limiting view of “What’s in it for me?”, and developing a panoramic, Kingdom-building perspective.  It means opening our entire selves to God’s limitless possibilities. 

The things or people that would trigger us into a Yosemite Sam fit, or a classic Daffy Duck meltdown get at most a shrug with an “Ok, but God’s still in control and will have the final say.” 

Yosemite Sam (Looney Tunes)
Daffy Duck (Looney Tunes)

The other things that would leave us perplexed become crystal clear, as now we are better able to discern what is in or out of the Lord’s will.  Our insight and understanding dramatically improve as we learn to pause, take a step back, and pray to respond in a God-led, Holy Spirit-filled manner.

By walking in the new spirit, it is as the apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And who doesn’t like something new?

As with the heart and mind, all of this is a continuous process, and the possibility of challenges exists.  It requires us to work at it and be intentional as we do, even when it seems more than we can handle.  But –and thank God for this interjection—the Lord assures us through His Word and proven record that all things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.  Any setback is only a set up for a comeback, and that’s some pretty good news to me.

So, let’s keep pressing, keep walking into this phase of our lives with a new spirit, mind, and heart to see all of the wonderful things that the Lord has in store for us.

Let’s keep walking in the new.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for this past month, for revealing Your will and way in our lives.  Please continue to lead and guide us in this new season to stay on course and keep You first in the process.  Also, Father, please be of a special comfort to the families of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, the other passengers, and the crew during their time of need.  Strengthen them, Lord, in the days to come.  Bless them directly and indirectly through family, friends, and others.  I ask this in Jesus’ perfect name.  Amen.

Endure

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”  (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

The previous posts don’t really show it, but 2019 has been a rough year.  I’m reminded of the phrase, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through.”  And it’s true, I don’t.  Internally, this little old heart gained some new scars big and small, a few real fresh and still hurting.  Some friendships ran their course, family relationships imploded, job turnovers kept me in constant search-mode, new friendships faced spiritual challenges, infernal plumbing and A/C issues flared up at the worst times – geez, it looks like I must have done something wrong to have caught all this drama, huh?

But not so: this year hasn’t been about punishment and consequences.  I am convinced that 2019 was the culmination of the last 3 years and the lesson/character trait that the Lord wanted me to get: endurance.  It’s an easier thing to say than to develop, yet it is required of me as a child of God.  Why required?  Because endurance is the fruit of hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3).  And if there’s one thing believers must have with faith and love, it is hope.  It is a faith-building block for sure, but Lord have mercy!  The process to get it is a challenge.  And when we add our human condition to it – the struggle to forgive and forget, the temptation to hold on to the pain, the habit of feeling sorry for ourselves—y’all, this endurance business can be too much.

Yet, I’m still here.  Heart scarred, spirit bruised, mind weary, I…no, we are still here.  Not because we’re too stubborn to throw in the towel, though that may be true, but because of the Holy Spirit dwelling on the inside.  When things went south, He was always there to keep us from falling.  The enemy threw his best every time, an uppercut here and a right hook there, and the Spirit of God pushed us back up.  When we were clinging on to the ropes, He was coaching us from the corner to get out of there and keep going.  Imagine if you will that old school clown toy with the heavy bottom.  Every time we hit it, the toy would lean backwards without hitting the ground.  No matter how hard the blow, the toy would never fall flat and stay down.  It kept bouncing back.

Bozo Bop Bag

That something on the inside, its base of sand, enabled the toy to endure our wild child punches.  Occasionally, it would land a blow of its own, right in the face.  Likewise, the Holy Spirit is at the core of who we are, holding us up when the enemy and life try desperately to knock us down.  When we want to quit, the Lord won’t let us.  He will not let you, me, or any of His children fall.  He is our guardian who will not sleep (Psalm 121:3-4).

We lift our heads and cry out for relief, and He delivers through His word: “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  We lean heavily on Him to weep, and He answers with “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).  We close our weary eyes and listen for Him to say he “…will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).  Believe me when I say:

We are not crushed.

We are not abandoned.

We are not destroyed.

We endure.

Our faith and relationship with God are not in vain, and never will be.  He gifted us with the “bounce back”, His Holy Spirit, to go into this new year with hope that our latter days will be better than our former days.  He promised us this, and if there’s one thing I know and you should, too, is that God always keeps His promises.

Prayer: Lord, 2019 did a number on Your children.  We are still trying to make sense of it, honestly.  But for every sad and dark moment, You gave us light and love in unexpected ways.  You gave us energy to persevere, to endure.  Surely, we don’t look like what we’ve been through, and it’s all because of Your grace, power, and might.  I pray, Father, that in 2020 we receive “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3).

We are ready.

Amen.