Are you allowing fear to protect you?

Does the Lord ever talk to you at night? He does to me. It’s almost funny when I think about it. I’m heading to the bathroom around 1 or 2 A.M. and suddenly I hear Him tell me something I didn’t know. That’s usually how I know it’s Him. I didn’t know it. Let me give you an example from the other night. I had been pondering on the behavior of my two cats. I had noticed that they would sleep in one of their beds for 3 or 4 days, and then on day 5 switch it up and sleep in a different bed. And they both do it. It might seem silly, but I had wondered why. So this particular night, coming back from the bathroom, I heard Him tell me that it’s because of instinct and fear of predators. If they stay in one place too long, their scent gets too powerful and a predator might find them while they are sleeping. So, they switch it up regularly. Makes sense, right? But, my real question from all this was, why did He tell me the answer? After 46 years of knowing Him, I know that He never wastes words and if He tells me something, there’s always a good reason. I probably could have looked that one up on google and found the answer. So why did He tell me the reason? 

When I got up the next morning, I wrote my question in my journal. Not the answer to the cats, but the question of why He had answered me about something so simple. And that’s where it got interesting for me. Never ever assume. If God tells you something, don’t dismiss it. He usually has something deeper He wants to teach you. That morning when I asked Him why He had told me what He did, sadly, I didn’t wait around for the answer. My mistake. The next day, He admonished me about not waiting for an answer. I confessed to Him, that I wasn’t really expecting Him to tell me, so I had moved on. His response to my confession took me by surprise. He told me that I had allowed my doubts about hearing His voice, to protect me. I know. You’re wondering what on earth I could mean by that. Let me explain. Fear of deception is a constant struggle for me. What if I’m wrong, what if what I heard was my own imagination, or worse, the enemy. What if it’s not really the Holy Spirit talking to me? So, in my fear of being deceived, I doubt. Hence, I allow fear and unbelief to guard my spiritual ears and my heart. Lack of faith is never a protection against deception, because it is based in fear. Fear does not protect you or me. Ever!

The only one thing that will protect me against deception is the Lord. His Word, His Holy Spirit, His wisdom will guard my heart and mind “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3) and  “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24). 

But if that was not bad enough, the Lord went on to tell me that I was allowing pride, or false humility from actually trusting that I could hear His voice. Surely, I am not so special that the Lord would talk to me? And why wouldn’t He talk to me? Why wouldn’t He talk to you! He tells us in John 10:3-5 that those who are His sheep know His voice:

 “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.

Notice that He not only tells us that His sheep follow Him because they know His voice, but that they DO NOT know the voice of strangers! Hello. 

The Lord protects us, but in order for Him to do that, we have to know His voice. Knowing His voice requires work on our part. First, we have to believe that He wants to talk to us. Second, we have to believe that He is talking to us. Fear and unbelief do not guard and protect us. They actually keep us from hearing His voice because fear is always from the enemy. God does not use fear to guard us. I want to point out that this is not the fear of the Lord I am talking about here. That is something entirely different. Fear of the Lord is actually part of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah tells us this: 

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,  And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”   Isaiah 11:1-2

So, if you’re still with me, are you interested in knowing why the Lord used the cat’s behavior to teach me all this? There is actually a connection between what I was doing and what the cat’s are doing. We were both allowing fear to protect us. The cats move to different sleeping locations out of fear. In the wild this would be wisdom. In the wild this would actually protect them from a predator. However, these are not outdoor cats. They live in my house, a safe place, free from predators. Yet, they still allow fear to guide them. I live under the shelter of His wings. Psalm 91 makes this very clear: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust. “He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:1-4) 

Am I suggesting that I could never be deceived? Absolutely not! However, to protect me from deception I will ask for wisdom and discernment. I will not allow fear to guard and protect me. That, honestly is like asking the fox to guard the hen house. I mean, think about. Would fear, the fear that comes from the enemy, really protect me? No, of course not. Jesus rebuked His disciples far too often for their fear and unbelief. I hope that I have the faith and the courage to trust Him in the future when I hear His voice. 

If you have enjoyed this blog post, it would bring me great joy if you could like and share it. Thank you.

For God so loved the world!

One of my favorite parables in the Bible is the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. I’m not sure why I love this story so much, but it gives me so much hope. In it I see the love of a Father, our Father in heaven, who loves us unconditionally and waits for us to return to Him. I see a Father who has given us everything through Jesus, even if we don’t recognize it, as the older brother did not. I see compassion and mercy, no matter how much we have a bad attitude towards the Lord. But I also see the power of redemption when we return to God Almighty and confess our sins to Him. This parable is so rich with meaning and in my opinion filled with mysteries that we could probably spend a lifetime contemplating and never get to the bottom of. It expresses so wonderfully how much God loves the world, how much He loves His creation and that His one and only desire is for reconciliation and even more important, that He Himself has provided the way for that reconciliation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His only son. We are all sinners. We all have fallen short and acted like the prodigal, spat in God’s face and told Him we could manage our own lives, thank you very much. Even those of us who hang out in the church, often act like the older brother, feeling self righteous and superior because we’ve always gone to church. Simply put, we all need a savior!

Perhaps you’ve never read this story, or it’s been a long time since you did. Jesus tells us about two brothers in the Gospel of Luke. The older one stays at home and helps with the family business, but the younger one hates his father so much that he tells his dad that he wants his inheritance now, even while dad is still alive! An inheritance is for after someone’s dead, certainly not while they are still alive, so the implications of that are troubling to me. The astonishing thing is that his father says yes, divides up his property and gives the younger son his share. The younger son takes all of it and goes off to another country and wastes all of it, and I mean all of it. “Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.” (Vs. 13) Not only has he wasted every dime, but a severe famine arose and there was nothing to eat for him. He goes and works in a pig farm feeding pigs. If you know anything about the Jewish people, you will know that they don’t have anything to do with pigs. In other words, the younger son hits, what in modern language we would call, rock bottom. But even as he feeds the pigs, he still has nothing to eat. And this is where it gets interesting for me. In verse 17, Jesus tells us that something changed in this young man’s heart and mind. While he was starving and feeding the pigs in the field, it says, “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” Luke 15:17-19 

The story continues with his return: “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

There are two things that really stand out to me in this story that I want to focus on today. The first is the phrase “when he came to himself”. For years that expression has puzzled me. Although I understood that it caused him to go home and repent for his sin, I never fully understood what exactly happened in this young man’s heart and mind. Recently I believe I had what you could call a light bulb moment. I think that what happened is something we call self awareness. He became aware of his own sin. He saw himself through the eyes of God, realized the horror of what he had done to his father, and went home. He is so ashamed of his actions that he actually tells his dad “I’m no longer worthy to be called your son”. Self awareness seems to be a characteristic that is sadly lacking in our society. We hear phrases like “you are enough”. Actually, none of us are enough. We all fall short and need to repent, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.

So why does this stand out to me so much? Two reasons. First, if you have a prodigal in your life, you will know how to pray more accurately for them. Pray that they would become self aware of their own sin and return to the Father. Second, if you are a prodigal and you have no self awareness of your own sin, you need to realize that you are dead in your sins and lost, as the father in this story so succinctly says about his younger son. Those are not easy words to hear, but I would suggest that they are easier to hear while you are still alive and have the power to change. 

But I also want to point out the father’s reaction and the depth of his emotion and compassion that he held toward his younger son. Remember, this is Jesus telling us the story. He is describing how the Father, our Father in heaven feels when we walk away from Him. Jesus tells us “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” In other words, the father was watching the horizon, scanning the horizon and saw him far in the distance, even as he was making his way home. Not only did the father have compassion, he ran to him. The father ran and met him and kissed him. If you have a prodigal in your life, you will understand the agony of scanning the horizon, searching for that lost child, waiting and praying and hoping for their return. And you will also understand the joy that the father felt when he saw his son come home. 

If you are that prodigal, just know that there is not only a Father in heaven, watching and waiting for you to come to yourself, and recognize your sin, there are no doubt others, watching and waiting, hoping and praying, that you will come home. You are loved. It’s time to come home. 

The Bridegroom is coming.

Have you ever taken a “spiritual gifts test”? They have become quite popular in many churches. Basically, it’s a test where you answer numerous questions about your attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. At the end of the test, you are told what your main spiritual gifts are, thus helping you to know how to better serve the church you are in. I guess since I’m a curious person I’ve taken this test several times, each time in a different church or denomination. Since I’ve moved many times in my life and lived in many places, I’ve been everything from a Pentecostal to a Southern Baptist. That’s quite a range of different beliefs. Since I’ve taken the test numerous times, I began to notice an interesting phenomenon: My gifts changed according to the church I was attending at the time. At first this confused me, because I was pretty sure what my gifts are. I thought perhaps I was mistaken in what I felt God was calling me to do. But then when it kept happening, I saw a pattern. Please understand that I’m not trying to suggest that these tests are bad. They are not. But I do want to suggest that you take them with a pinch of salt. 

So what was the pattern I saw? The questions and therefore the different gifts were slanted towards the beliefs and doctrines of the particular denomination or even church that I was attending. For example, one church we attended, although they believed in the 5 fold ministry gifts and claimed to be Pentecostal, had taken every single question out of their test that related to prophecy. How did I know? Two reasons. I was familiar with the test they were using and they had been sloppy. Every question related to prophecy, although the number was there, was left blank. They couldn’t change the number because that would have changed the outcome of the test results, so they simply deleted the question. When I pointed this out to the woman who was leading the church growth class, she appeared shocked. They had a prophet as their leader and I guess there wasn’t room for any other prophets. Another church we attended had a pastor who also didn’t like the prophetic gifts. It was a charismatic church by the way. When he saw my results, which were slanted towards the prophetic, he told me point blank that those gifts were not needed at his church. I should have walked out right then and there, but I didn’t. Another church we attended simply changed the test so completely, that they made up their own version. Their questions focused only on certain gifts talked about in Romans 12:4-8, namely Shepherd, Exhorter, Teacher, Giver, etc. The gifts discussed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 which deal with the spirit realm, such as word of wisdom, word of knowledge, discerning of spirits, faith, speaking in various tongues, were conveniently left out of their test. These people were leaving nothing to chance.

So what is my point? Why am I sharing my observations? I am sharing this because the church is asleep and needs to wake up. Paul tells us plainly in 1 Corinthians 12:15-21 that each of the gifts represent different parts of the body of Christ. He tells us that the eye cannot say to the hand that it’s not needed. Nor can the head say to the feet, I have no need of you. But that is exactly what the churches have done. They don’t like certain gifts. They don’t like gifts that see, or hear, or perceive what’s going on, and so they silence them. It is now the hands and the feet that are telling the eyes and the ears, we have no need of you, be quiet. Consequently, the church is fast asleep! No one is able to call out sin, no one is able to correct or admonish people. No one is able to say, “this is what the Spirit is saying to the churches” because we don’t believe in “ears that hear” or “eyes that see”. If anyone tries to use those unwanted gifts, they are called critical and unkind. 

How do I know that the church is asleep. Because Jesus tells us so in Matthew 25:1-13 in the parable of the ten virgins. Jesus shares this parable right after telling His disciples about end time events and what would happen before His second coming. The Greek word used here is “tote” which translates as “at that time”. At the time of the end, the call will go out that the Bridegroom (Jesus) is coming. I’ve been hearing this since the day I became a Christian back in the 1970’s. He’s coming back soon, has been the clarion call for decades now. But then life happened, and I, like everyone else in the church, fell back asleep. Not that long ago, the Lord woke me up. He told me He’s coming soon. He told me to look up, that my redemption draws near. And He also told me that He still has things He wants me to write before He comes to get us. I’ve been pondering on this parable for days now and I noticed something I had missed in the past. Matthew 25:5-7 tell us “But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.” Did you see it? All 10 virgins arose, all of them woke up! Every single one of them. I also noticed that the cry came at midnight. It came at the last minute, when it was already too late. The 5 foolish virgins did not have enough oil and while they were busy getting it together, Jesus came and they were left behind. Do you see why it’s important for the church to wake up now, before it’s too late? 

If there were eyes that were allowed to see in the church, if there were ears that could hear and warn the church, perhaps more could be saved. Yes, I said saved. Jesus tells the 5 foolish virgins, left behind, “I do not know you”, verse 12. Maybe I’m a dreamer. Maybe I think that my feeble voice can make a difference. Only God knows. But I do know this. Someone in that parable was shouting, get up, get ready, be ready, He’s coming back. If you’re awake, if you see Him coming on the horizon, use your gifts. Warn people. Don’t let the leaders silence you. Don’t let a test silence you!

Has God given you a gift?

I had a dream this morning that made little sense to me. However, since God likes to talk to me in dreams, I have learned to pursue their meaning and not just dismiss them. A few years ago He nudged me to buy a book called “God’s Prophetic Symbolism in everyday life”. It can be found on Amazon. I have found this book to be quite helpful in at least getting me started in figuring out my dreams, but I do believe the interpretation of all dreams ultimately belongs to God Himself. In Genesis 40:8 we are told about Joseph, who being in prison, finds both the baker and the cupbearer, who are also in prison, sad, because they have each had a dream that no one can interpret. So Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God?”

Obviously, the enemy likes to give us false dreams as well, but I’m not talking about those in this post. At any rate, I took the symbols in my dream and looked them up in my book. It still made little sense to me, so I went to the Lord and asked Him what He was trying to tell me. Let me make clear here that the God that I am referring to here is the God of the Bible, whose Son Jesus Christ came to earth and died on a cross for our sins and then rose from the dead on the third day. He now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He’s alive and therefore He hears my prayers.

I dreamed that on the ground floor of my house was a train station. There was a train track running through it and there were even little rooms where people waited for the train to come. I saw two small trains, each with just one car and an engine slowly come through on the tracks. I remember talking to two different groups of people, one was a man with his partner and their child. Another, was a woman who offered to pay me a dollar to get on the train. I told her that if she was local, the train ride was free. My little train station was very rough around the edges, with stone walls and floors, and not the slightest bit fancy. 

As I sat at the Lord’s feet and asked Him what He was trying to tell me, I heard Him say the same thing to me that He has told me several times in the past. Let me explain. The train represents ministry, and the house represents me. This little blog of mine is my ministry. I reach people all over the world with the words that I write. Unfortunately, as easy as it is for me to write, it is also very hard. 

I’ve had several people tell me that my ministry is useless and just entertaining, or even more sadly that I’m boasting when I share what the Lord tells me. I hear that my blog really has no value. I know in my mind that this is not true, but my heart wants to believe it. My greatest desire is not to entertain. I want to share with others what God is teaching me and pray that my words change lives, like His words have changed mine. But I am also lazy. I will admit it. Writing takes effort and time. So I come up with excuses for not writing this week, or even this month. 

So what did the Lord show me this morning about my dream? He repeated what He has told me numerous times in the past. I have been called to write. So write already! He has given me this gift to share with others. The funny thing is that at first I thought the dream was just another admonition to write. Some encouragement if you will. But as the morning wore on, and I was coming up with yet another excuse not to write, I realized something that frightened me. The dream was also a warning. Just as with the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, I was in fact, burying my “one”talent. The symbolism of the woman offering me one dollar in my dream was not lost on me. Perhaps I don’t have the same bad attitude that the wicked, lazy servant had. I certainly don’t believe that the Lord is “a hard man, reaping where (He has) not sown, and gathering where (he has) not scattered seed.” But nonetheless, regardless of my attitude, I was lazy and wasting my talent. Does that make me wicked? I doubt it. I know the Lord loves me and I certainly love Him. But He also makes it very clear in scripture, that if we love Him, we will do what He commands us to do (John 14:15). He has commanded me to write, regardless of how others feels about that or even how I feel about that. 

Please understand that I am not trying to base my salvation on whether or not I am writing enough. I do not believe that I am saved by my works. Paul makes that very clear in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Nonetheless, I felt that this morning He was warning me to stop being lazy and use my gift. If you’ve come this far and are still reading this, what gift comes to your mind, that you have buried? What gift are you too lazy or perhaps too afraid to use to bless others with? Not all the gifts make people feel warm and fuzzy. Sometimes we are called to speak truth, when no one wants to hear it. Not all the gifts bring us the praises of men, for then we would already have our reward. Some gifts require courage and stepping out in faith and are met with resistance because they don’t make people feel good. No one wants to have their “mail read”, if you will. I’ve been told that the reason why people don’t share my blog, is because my writing is “edgy” and makes them uncomfortable. It convicts people and therefore they don’t feel good about sharing it. But at the same time I get all kinds of private messages telling me that I’m spot on. So, I will repeat, I cannot use the bad responses or my own laziness as an excuse to stop. How about you? 

Why do we have to “close the door” when we pray?

A couple of months ago my husband and I decided to adopt/rescue an 11 year old cat that had lost its owner and ended up in the shelter. She spent months in that little box they kept her in and took quite a while to adapt to her new home. At first I thought she was just anxious and nervous because she didn’t know us. But as the weeks have gone on, she has settled down. There are two things that have not changed with her, however. She has not gained weight from her original 7 pounds, no matter how much I feed her, and she sleeps very little. Unlike our other cat, Jack, who is a total couch potato and spends his days sleeping, Penny, likes to roam the house. She hates closed doors like most cats and seems to never stop moving. No doubt it’s why she is so thin. As I sat here this morning, reading my Bible and praying, I couldn’t help but think about how distracting she is. She wants into my room, she wants out of my room. She eats, then chases Jack, then eats again. Never ending commotion. To say it is difficult to focus on the Word and spend time in prayer is an understatement. But as I persevered, the Lord brought a scripture to mind that I had never really thought much about. 

In Matthew 6:6 Jesus tells us:  “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Truthfully, I’ve always focused on the part about rewards, although I wasn’t really sure what He meant by all this. Well today, He opened this scripture to me in a new way and showed me what He was referring to. 

The word that is translated as “room” in this scripture is actually referring to a secret chamber. I don’t have any secret chambers in my house, but I do have a room that is quiet and free of distraction. At least it was until Penny came into our world. Before she came, I would go into my room, close the door and spend time with the Lord. It was our “secret” place, if you will. Most mornings, I had no trouble focusing on Him and the Bible. But no more. I realized that if I was going to regain my secret chamber, where I could focus on Him and Him alone, I would have to train my cat. That sounds almost funny, if you know cats. But nonetheless, if I want my peace to return to me, she needed to stay out of my room and learn not to knock. Yes, cats knock on doors. It’s quite annoying. 

As I pondered on all of this, I realized that what was happening to me, happens to all of us. This world is full of commotion, distraction and activity. We have phones, iPads, computers etc. etc. to endlessly distract us. These distractions will continue, unless we do something about them. If I cannot focus on the Lord, then I need to remove distractions from my life. It’s my responsibility to go into my secret place and shut the door. No one will do it for me. 

There is something that I have learned however, from life before Penny the cat. The Father has rewarded me over and over again, when I make the effort to be alone with Him. Because I take time to read His Word, I know His Word. When someone tries to deceive me by twisting the Word of God, I usually can spot the red flags. Because I take time to pray and to listen, I have learned what His voice sounds like. Jesus made it very clear that we are to know His voice. (John 10:27)  “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” 

There are rich rewards in knowing the Lord. But we can only receive those rewards if we take the time to be with Him and get to know Him. Just as with any relationship, this requires time and effort. If you are struggling to focus on the Lord, if you are having trouble reading His word, may I suggest that you “close the door”? Turn off the distractions, get up earlier when the world is still quiet and resolve to spend that time with the Lord. He has promised that you will be richly rewarded!

Spending Time with Jesus

One of my favorite things about spending time with the Lord is that I never know what He’s going to tell me. It kind of reminds me of the story in Exodus 16 where God sent the Israelites Manna every single morning and they looked at it and said “What is it?” As I reread the story this morning I noticed something new that I had never seen before. They didn’t just eat this Manna, they actually baked and boiled it so that it become something else. (Exodus 16:23) They ground it up and turned it into bread, for example. To sum up the story, they had to go out and gather it. Then they had to grind it up and bake or boil it to create some kind of “processed” food. The more I pondered on this story, the more I realized that I can in fact apply what they experienced, to my own life today. Every morning I have to get up and gather fresh Manna from the Lord. I never know what it will be. Sometimes I even ask Him “Lord, what is this?” So what is this “modern day Manna”? It’s His Word, His Spirit, His presence, His voice. He provides all those things for me if I am a believer. But it is my job to get up and gather His “Manna” every morning. After I read His Word, I have to “process” what He is trying to tell me. That takes time. It takes effort. Just like bread takes time to prepare and bake, it takes time to eat the Bread of Life, Jesus. Solomon tells us in Proverbs 25:2 “God conceals the revelation of His word in the hiding place of His glory. But the honor of kings is revealed by how they thoroughly search out the deeper meaning of all that God says. (Passion Translation) Why is it so important for me to do this every day? The Lord tells me in Exodus 16:4: “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not”. Obviously, we do not walk in the law anymore. But I do believe that God tests my heart, to see how much I am listening to Him, to see how much I am obeying His Word. Jesus tells us in John 6:53-58 that He is the bread that came down from heaven and that “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me, and I in him”. Jesus was not just referring to communion, which he had not even taught His disciples yet. This is about getting up and spending time with Him every single day, reading His Word, and listening for His voice. Did you look for Manna this morning?

%d bloggers like this: