Beauty in the Weeds

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I’m taking a break right now and focusing on resting and getting deeply in touch with God.  We’re at a house on the ocean where nature is all around me and everything is peaceful.  I took a walk this morning to spend some time hearing from the Lord.  While on my walk I asked God to let me see the beauty of His creation.  I also asked Him to speak to me through creation.

As I walked down the street I began looking at the beauty of flowers people had in their yards.  I took pictures of things I considered beautiful.  Many of which I had never taken the time to notice before now.  Then, I walked past an empty, overgrown lot.  When I saw this overgrown lot that was so much different than the manicured lawns surrounding it I began to wonder what could be beautiful there.  Then, God showed me a weed I had never seen before.  The way the colors flowed from green to red was really amazing.  I looked at it and thought, “I really want some of these for my home.”

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Then, I saw another different weed that was equally amazing.  The leaves were beautiful and odd shaped and unique.  If I had not stopped to let God show me the beauty of His creation I would have completely missed this wonderful thing He made for my enjoyment.

What the Lord showed me in this abandoned lot was that there are weeds growing.  It is so easy for us to cast off the weeds as having no value but God created value even in the weeds.  He put beauty there.  Who decides what plants are weeds and which are garden plants anyway?  God didn’t create plants and say, “You will be a weed.”  People did that.  They selected from all God created and decided that some things have value and others do not.

We do the same thing with people.  We look at people who aren’t just like us and we consider them less valuable.  We look at people who are not serving God and we see them as just weeds who are polluting our environment.  We see people who are the throw aways of society and say, “Just cast them aside.  Put them on the burn pile.  They are worthless.”  But God doesn’t see anyone that way.  He created every individual unique and beautiful.  He has a plan and a purpose for every one of us.  There isn’t a single individual who has less value than any other one.  Every human is a child of God – many just haven’t discovered that they are.

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Out of the barren land God brings forth life.  Out of the ashes God brings forth beauty.  The things people often cast away as worthless are the things God values most.

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He asked me … What would you do if a homosexual came to your church?

Had an interesting encounter with a man in an airport tonight. He sat down next to me and started talking to me.

He asked if I had a man in my life and I told him, “Yes, I have been with my husband for almost 25 years and I have children and grandchildren.” Then he asked what I did to pass the time when I was traveling for business – how did I entertain myself. I told him, “I study and prepare to teach or preach. I’m a pastor.”

So, then he said, “I’ve never met a woman pastor before. How do you feel about homosexuals?” I responded, “I love them.” 

When he asked what I would do if a homosexual came to my church I said, “Ask them to sit with me.” He was actually more judgmental towards homosexuals than I was and just couldn’t grasp “how they could be like they are.”

Then, we had a 30 minute conversation where I had to explain to him how people who were living in a homosexual lifestyle were NOT born with birth defects (what he thought) and they were just like all other people. They make choices just like the rest of us and deserve to be loved just like everyone else.

By the time I left him he was completely amazed and said he had a lot to think about because he had never met anyone who explained it like this before and all of the Christians he had ever asked these questions to had given him very judgmental answers but never reasons for what they believed. He said that I was the first person who actually gave him valid answers that gave him something to think about and left him with clear understanding.

He thought it was interesting that I said that the choice to have sex with someone of the same sex was sin just like making a choice to have sex with someone of the opposite sex when you are not married to them. Sin is sin and I don’t condone sin but don’t stop loving people regardless of their sin. I accept them just the same. They have to make choices and live with the result of those choices just like I do.

I think he was scratching his head when I walked away to board the plane …

Lusting the Untouchables

I watched a television show the other day about a woman who was playing the role of Secretary of State.  In this particular episode the children of the family were ribbing the father about some attention he was getting in the media and they announced to their mom, “Dad made the news today.”  What was all the hype?  He had been placed at the top of the list of “Best Arm Candy” men in the US.  They were honoring him as being the sexiest and most desirable man attached to a powerful and famous woman.  The husband and wife had a few laughs about this honor and the show moved on to other topics.

In the midst of this I heard the Lord speak to me gently in my heart and say, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”  I started to think about how many women find it perfectly acceptable to look at famous people and lust over their hot bodies.  Idris Elba and Anderson Cooper are names I’ve often heard passed around my own home by my single daughter as a few of the hottest men on TV.

Movies like Magic Mike drew crowds filled with women who would never go into a strip club but were thrilled at the opportunity to see a bunch of hot guys take it all off on the big screen.  I remember wondering how husbands felt hearing their wives lust over men they would obviously never have the opportunity to actually meet.

But what about the single women?  They aren’t married so they aren’t mentally cheating on anyone.  What’s the harm?  This television show made me see something that I had never considered before.  These men who hit the sexiest man alive, and hottest guy in long pants lists are often married.  The fact that they are movie stars, models, and rich and famous doesn’t make them imaginary beings.  They are real people with real lives and often times have real wives.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,” isn’t just a directive to men.  The implication here is also, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s husband.”  Women (and men) think it is safe to lust after TV stars and other famous people because they know that there is no chance of them actually ever having an affair with them.  But the destruction to your marriage happens in your heart every time you look at another person and think, “Wow, I’d love to get a piece of that.”  It opens your heart to the possibility that there is another human on earth that is more desirable than your spouse.

Every time a person sees or hears their spouse lusting over another person a little piece of their marriage dies because of unfaithfulness.  Hearing other people lust over your spouse is even worse!  I wouldn’t trade places with one of these famous wives with the “arm candy” men for all the money in the world.

Can you imagine constantly hearing women drool over how sexy your husband is?  When you call someone sexy you are saying they stir up a desire in you to have sex with them.  How does it feel to have women openly declaring this about your spouse?  How often do they wonder, “How long until someone more desirable than me comes along and he takes them up on their offer?”

It is time for us to open our eyes, ladies.  Lusting after these untouchables is harmful to our marriages.  It is harmful to their marriages.  It is harmful to us if we are single because our future spouse will never measure up to the imaginary Prince Charming.  It is harmful to their future marriages because when they finally do find a wife she has to compete with the world for her husband’s affections.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”  God didn’t just mean the ones that live next door.  He didn’t institute this commandment because he was trying to take all the fun out of life.  He knows what will destroy us and gave us boundaries to keep us safe, happy, and healthy.

These are the thoughts I’ve had spinning in my head on this topic but I would love to hear your comments and perspectives.  What do you think?

9 Stages of Giving

 

Stages of Giving

I’ve been teaching a class on Biblical Finances and came across this list containing stages of giving.  The list was very impactful to me because it gave me a vision for what giving can be beyond what I have imagined up until now.  It really helped me to see where I am and changes I can make to move to the next level.

At first when I looked beyond level 4 I thought, “This is where only the rich people can live.” But God started correcting me and showing me that people are able to give extravagantly because they manage their money with purpose.  People become rich because they manage their money with purpose.

Then, I started to realize that managing my money with these goals in mind will actually bring me closer towards wealth because I can’t give away what I don’t have.  When you really want to give at these higher levels you manage your money with wisdom so you can take care of you future and have more to give!

How many of us don’t even have a plan for the future today?  How many of us don’t have a plan for giving?  As you progress through these stages it is clear that a plan for giving includes a plan for the future.  This list might overwhelm some people, but it left me encouraged and inspired so I thought I’d share.  I have adapted it slightly from the book Faith Based Family Finances.

Stages of Giving

1. Minimal response – Give when asked and only when asked. This giving is not consistent. When someone “passes a bag” or makes a specific request you give out of obligation but if the offering plate doesn’t pass in front of you giving does not happen.

2. Involvement and interest – Giving happens because you are involved in a project or interested in seeing something happen. You give to support a cause or mission. This type of giving is emotional in nature and not consistent.

3. Give what you are able – Giving happens on a more consistent basis but is limited to what you can afford. At the early part of this stage regular offerings occur. As you grow in maturity through this stage semi – consistent tithing occurs. As you reach the top end of this stage tithing is consistent and offerings occur regularly.

4. Give as much as possible – This type of giving requires a plan. Tithes, offerings, first fruits, and alms become part of your budget and you make trade offs and sacrifices in order to give. Giving moves into a priority position in your life.

5. Maximum allowable – You give the maximum allowed by the IRS.

6. Beyond the max – You no longer allow the IRS to determine how much you will give.

7. Percentage of wealth – You measure your wealth and determine that a certain percentage of your wealth will be consistently given each year.

8. Capping of wealth – You determine and set a limit on how much wealth is enough for you, your heirs, and your future and give the rest away.

9. Bequests – You take care of your heirs and give a portion of your wealth (or the remainder of your wealth) away after you die.

(adapted from Ron Blue and Jeremy L White’s book: Faith Based Family Finances)

I highly recommend the book Faith Based Family Finances!  Even though the title may not suggest so, it is interesting and inspiring!

Courage to Continue the Battle

Hanging out with a few of my Divine Mentors this afternoon. Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego. 

They have really given me a lot of wisdom in a situation over the past couple of weeks and I’m very grateful that I have friends and mentors in the Bible that I can turn to for sound advice when I need help.

They have given me the courage to walk out my faith in the face of adversity. But, today as I spent time hanging out with my friends again it was King Nebuchadnezzar who encouraged me the most and solidified in my heart that every decision I’ve made made to be single minded in my faith has been the perfect decision.

King Nebuchadnezzar said to me today about my friends and mentors: “They trusted in God and defied the king’s (Nebuchadnezzar’s) command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God…” He further said of our God: “No other god can save this way!”

Introverts, Extroverts, Ambiverts – Life Impacts Us Differently

Three very different people types: extroverts, introverts and the very little known ambivert. I find that people have great misconceptions about what people with these three personality types can and cannot do. In general, I hear comments that extroverts do outgoing jobs that involve people and they are very successful, introverts don’t play well with others and they hide in closets, and ambiverts…what’s that?

Introversion, extroversion, and ambiversion are often misunderstood because people believe that the term refers to what people enjoy. However, the term actually refers to the source of energy input and depletion.

Extroverts gain great energy from interacting with people. Other humans are like fuel pumps. The more they interact with other people the stronger they feel. After spending an eight hour day talking to and meeting new people they are so energized that they feel like they could climb a mountain.

On the other hand, if they spend too much time alone they feel the energy draining from their body. After an eight hour day working in a room with no other humans and not a single conversation they feel so drained that they can barely make it to the dinner table before falling into bed exhausted.

Introverts, are the opposite of extroverts. Interacting with people drains the energy from them. This doesn’t mean that they don’t like people. Many introverts function in jobs where investing in people is the primary reason they exist. Pastors, counselors, coaches, teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. No profession or calling is off limits to introverts. However, being an introvert means that after a very fulfilling day of interacting with people they are completely exhausted and need time alone to recharge their personal batteries.

Introverts who work in high human interaction careers are more likely to close their office door and read a book during lunch than hang out with co-workers. Don’t take offense. This is not an indicator that they are not a team player. This is an indicator that they recognize what they need to gain strength to make it through the remainder of the day. Tell an introvert that they can spend a week in a little cabin in the woods all alone and they will tell you that upon their return they will be ready to conquer the universe!

Ambiverts are an entirely different animal. These are the ones who both get their energy from other people yet are completely drained by direct human contact. Being isolated for too long completely wears them out and they have to find humans to bring them back to life. Ambiverts might tell you that their favorite activity is being alone in a public place. People watching at a restaurant while dining alone is a comfortable welcoming experience that gives them life. Going to a party means hanging out on the sidelines contently watching as the extroverts work the room meeting everyone. Just being at the party with other people gives them energy. But, having to personally interact and have one on one conversations with too many individuals would quickly turn a potentially energizing evening into a night that could leave them completely exhausted.

Whether people are introverts, extroverts, or ambiverts they can all enjoy or dislike the same activities. All can enjoy being alone. All can enjoy being with other people. How they physically and mentally feel after these experiences is where the real impacts come into play.

SOAPing My Way to Maturity

In my last post on SOAPing I introduced the method of daily devotions.  I want to continue to share some of my personal devotions done through SOAPs with you so that you will see how powerful these can be in your own journey to maturity with the Lord.  I also am hoping that this will make you hungry to grab a scripture and try it for yourself!

Please share your thoughts with me.  I’m interested in hearing about how your SOAPing is impacting your life.  These can be very simple and very powerful.  Try it out!

Here’s my example from this morning… It’s titled:  The Impact of Immaturity

Scriptures:

Galatians 4:1 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage he is no different from a slave although he owns the whole estate.

Galatians 4:3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces (basic principles) of the world.

Galatians 4:7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Observations:

As I read through these scriptures last night I began to look at this from a new perspective.  I have always looked at these scriptures the “typical” way that they have been both viewed and taught by teachers and preachers but I feel that God has been pushing and challenging me over the past period of months to push the limits.  God wants me to challenge everything that I have ever been taught, to dig deeper to get His truth for me and not just what he has shown to other people.  I’m not saying that what He has shown others is wrong.  I’m just saying that just because that was the nugget of truth that set them free it does not mean that this will be the nugget of truth that I need to set me free.

The word has so many nuggets and part of the reason why people keep reading the word and it isn’t effective in their lives is because they haven’t gotten the right nuggets of truth out of the scriptures.  They are content to eat off the same nuggets God produced for other people.  But for their situations and their circumstances, God has other truths that are the right truths to set them free.  Not opposing truths, just deeper truths that speak to them directly.

So, what am I seeing here that I haven’t seen before?  What new truths and perspectives is God showing me about these scriptures that He hasn’t revealed to me through someone else’s study of the Word?

In the past I’ve looked at this scripture as a walk of maturity where a child had to be monitored and sit under tutors as they grew up into maturity until they were able to stand on their own two feet and the father said they were old enough or mature enough to manage the estate on their own.  That perspective takes these scriptures and views them through the eyes of the child of the estate and his growth from a child into an adult who is ready to take over the estate.  A child the father views as entitled and who will inherit regardless of his actions.  A child who walks in his father’s footsteps and grows to maturity.

But, there is another perspective here that I haven’t heard anyone address that God is addressing with me now.  There is the perspective of the slave.  These scriptures are talking about a person who owns the entire estate – they are the heir – the son.  The rightful owner and the one with all the control and authority on the estate.  But, because they are too young or immature to walk in that authority they are no different than a slave ON THE ESTATE THEY OWN.

They have full authority over everything but what they own (the slaves, tutors, guardians, and trustees) actually is controlling them.  Vs 2 talks about the guardians and trustees that they are subject to  — these people are actually people they have authority over but because of their age and immaturity they are subject to them.  At some point in their lives, they (the child) will step up and begin taking authority over these people – if they actually mature properly.

Depending on who the guardians, tutors, and trustees are and what areas of the estate they are in the child will mature in different areas at different times and stop becoming dependent upon them and will take authority over them or cast them out all together.  The child doesn’t mature all at one time in every area.  For example, the one who helps him take a bath will be told that he wants to do it himself when he reaches 4-6.  Even at this young age, he will take authority and dismiss her.

The person who chooses his clothes and helps him get dressed will be told by him to stop picking out his clothes and helping him when he gets somewhere between 8-14.  He will take authority and dismiss her.  He will do the same with the school teacher, the one telling him to clean his room, the nanny, the field hand, the one handling the finances, etc. until he finally takes authority over the entire estate.  Depending on how quickly he matures, he may take over the entire estate at 16 or 18 or 25 or 35…or never.  His maturity is dependent upon his decision to mature.

Application:

This is really powerful to realize.  What is this saying?  How does this apply to me personally and to the people to whom I minister?  This gives me a lot of insight into why people struggle in certain areas and not in others.  Pockets of strongholds and pockets of areas where people are still subject to slavery to sin or control of a spirit.  I see something deeper here than I’ve seen in the past.

It’s not just healing that needs to occur.  It’s not just taking authority that needs to occur.  It’s not just a breaking of the chains that needs to happen.  This gives me insight to what needs to happen in order for people to get to the place they need to be for the actual breaking free to happen.

Spiritual Maturity.  As long as we are immature in an area, we are content to be in slavery.  We are content to be ruled over by something that we have full authority over.  Until we begin to mature, we don’t begin to recognize that there is something out of order.  Then, as we begin to grow and mature the usurp feels unnatural until we can’t tolerate it any longer.  Then, we rise up and say, “No more.  Take your rightful position in submission to me!”

This makes so much sense.  It is exactly what people need – and what I need to evaluate my own life and know where I need growth and maturity.  Where am I struggling?  This is the question people need to ask.

Am I struggling with fear?  If so, than I am immature in the area of fear and this is where I need to concentrate to gain spiritual maturity in my studies and prayer so God can help me to grow.  This is where I need to get mentoring and practical knowledge and exercise any other growth opportunities that will help me to become mature.  The quicker I become mature the less I will be willing to tolerate a lifestyle of fear.  This spirit that constantly controls me will begin to sicken me and I will start to take authority over it because I will realize that it is usurping my authority and will no longer tolerate its control over me as I mature.

Am I struggling with finances?  If so, than I am immature in the area of finances and this is where I need to concentrate to gain spiritual maturity in my studies and in prayer so God can help me grow.  This is where I need to get mentoring and practical knowledge.  I need coaching, I need classes, I need a budget, I need a plan, I need to practice fasting in my spending, I need to do whatever it takes to gain maturity in this area until I am sick of being controlled by a spirit of poverty, a spirit of greed, or whatever other spirits are controlling me and forcing my spending habits to be out of alignment with my income.  If my career is out of alignment with my need for income, I need to mature enough that that comes into alignment also. What do I need to do in order to bring these things into alignment?  What do I need to do in order to mature in this area?   What do I need to submit to in order to mature?

All of these things are a part of spiritual maturity but people don’t get the connection between how spiritual maturity connects to the natural world.  When we reach spiritual maturity these financial struggles will fall off because we will be subject to God to lead us and direct us and we will not be slaves to anything else – even ourselves in the area of finances.

Where else do people struggle?  What questions do they need to ask themselves? Am I struggling in my marriage?  In my relationships?  The same thing applies as in the other areas.  Am I struggling with the language I use?  Am I struggling with eating?  Wow-that’s a big one for a lot of people.  It’s just an area where spiritual maturity is an opportunity.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.

Prayer:

God, this is good.  Thank you for showing me this.  This was like the missing link that people need to understand to diagnose themselves.  We all want to “solve the problem” but the truth is that when we go “solve the problem” what we are trying to do is take care of symptoms.  We need root cause to truly fix problems.  If the root cause of ongoing struggles where we are still in slavery to things that we have authority over in Jesus’ name then show us our immaturity clearly so we can begin to take steps to mature.

Make us want to mature.  Make us so sick of being slaves to the things we have authority over that we rise up and want to mature and take authority.  God show us that this world is our estate!  We own this world!  You gave it to us and put us in authority over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth!  Over everything that flies in the air!  Over every principality and power that is in the second heaven!  All authority and power is ours.  The only reason we are still subject to our slaves – the only reason our slaves are ruling over us, is because we have not yet matured in that area.

It’s not a judgment of condemnation, it’s just a statement of where we are in this walk.  Show us ourselves clearly and point to us where you want us to take the next step of maturity.  I know in my life the areas where you are maturing me right now.  This year is a huge year of growth and maturity for me in areas where you have not worked before.  I am a totally different person than I was just 7-8 months ago and I know you aren’t done yet.  I receive whatever it is you need to do in me to make me completely mature in these areas.  I want to walk in full power and authority – spiritual maturity in every area of my life.

I want to be whole.  Not fragmented.  Whole.  Complete.  Mature.