It’s time to stand up and be counted. To come out of what we’ve hidden behind and say, “Here am I, Lord. Choose me!” Times are not just changing – the times have changed. Dutch Sheets says we are not just in a new season but a new era. We’ve all lived through many season changes and for the most part know how to navigate them, but this is something new in our generation. Therefore each of us is needed as the Lord calls up the army of God to stay focused and endure; trains the athletes with integrity and equips the farmers to bring in the harvest of souls quickly ripening in the fields around us. (see 2 Timothy 2). Every “I” who loves God and is part of His family is needed to raise a hand in worship and shout, “AYE!” Frankly, if we want to keep step with the One with Whom we walk, we don’t have a choice but to go beyond what is comfortable and known.
Uncertainty brings a measure of insecurity. I have the honor of speaking with a number of people from various backgrounds and nations. Each one has their own definition of what comfort and security looks and feels like just as each has their own understanding of what it means to walk with God. Isn’t that beautiful and one true expression of diversity? All have one thing in common: we don’t know what is happening in the world and therefore are unsure how to navigate once we say our ‘aye’ to God. I wish I knew and had all the answers: I do not. What I do know is that this life, this invitation to walk victoriously with Him into the unknown is one of the gifts He gives. I know He is good no matter what the newscast tells me is happening or how my heart may be breaking over something I cannot control.
A few weeks ago Jim and I came to Florida so he can help build a house for one of our nieces. Despite cool and rainy weather I have spent hours walking the beach, listening for Him. Looking for Him. Waiting on Him to speak in a way I can hear as to what this new era holds for us: at least for a hint of how to walk forward into it. He has spoken loud and clear at times, but for the most part I am finding, three weeks in, that my inner self knows things I didn’t know before; is settled in places that were unsettled in the past era. After a few days I sat down and made this list of what He was working in me as I walk. What follows is that list that came from my deep heart. I suspect some will identify with parts of it while others will catch hold of something else. That’s good. I’m not as interested in you knowing what I think as I am hopeful that my quickly scratched notes bring you a wider vision of this era, as well as courage to deal with the emotions, thoughts and uncertainties of your own heart.
An Uncertain Season in a New Era of Time
- Not about comfort! Be prepared to be uncomfortable. Out of routine, rhythm, place, space, time. My security is in Him alone.
- My language must shift from “If You are truly good….” to, “Because you are truly good…”. One word in a sentence that changes it from doubt and accusation to faith and worship. One word that makes a huge, important difference in my prayer life.
- The incongruity of traffic and waves. The house we are staying in is across the street from the sea. We must look over one to see the other, tune out the man-made noise to hear the real, the persistent, pursuing voice of God. Like the waves He speaks, He woos, He calls and pursues our heart.
- Find beauty in the broken. Seashells aplenty, very few perfect to the eye. Much of the beauty is found inside the brokenness.
- Decades of prayer have brought us to a time of hidden things being revealed. Much that has looked good on the outside is being broken open to reveal what has been hidden. Beauty that is of His making will be celebrated in the months ahead: that which is evil will meet with justice.
- Twenty years ago we came home from Asia talking about human trafficking – many thought we were crazy; how did we make up something like this? Now the awareness is commonplace though the depth of it in our own nation is still largely ignored. Out of the depths of darkness the Lord is bringing much to light that will shock those who have been unaware in their days of slumber. May we have answers and solutions to the questions about to be asked by many.
- Walking the beach I noticed how deep and pronounced are the footsteps of those who walk barefoot. In fact, the impression of their feet is made larger by the impact in the sand so it looks like Bigfoot himself has been cruising the beach. Tennis shoes leave a mark more true to size. This morning I wore a pair of water shoes I borrowed from my daughter. They seemed to skim the surface of the sand and I realized it would be difficult to trace my steps though I walked a long way. In this new era those who ask will be given new shoes, an upgraded ability to walk in peace and leave little to no trace except that which imprints hope and peace into the souls of the confused and frightened who didn’t see or expect what is coming. What is, in fact, here. The years ahead will be glorious for His children: how I want to be ready!
- Aware of many thoughts not my own. Thoughts of impending doom or disaster. Ugly, perverse thoughts. Things I never think or even think about thinking, therefore I know they are not my own but I am picking them up in the atmosphere of this place. I rebuke them, repent for any moments I accepted or agreed with them, receive forgiveness for that agreement, ask for any door in my own life open to these things to be closed, ask for angelic assistance and help. Remind myself and the powers of the air that I am covered and protected by the blood of Jesus, once again remember I have been given the mind of Christ and the helmet of salvation protects my mind. Purposefully think on things above, things that are good and pure. Worship and pray in the Spirit.
An old song runs through my mind as I walk: “Take me past the outer courts into the Holy Place, past the brazen altar: Lord, I want to see Your face. Take my by the crowds of people and the priests who sing Your praise: I hunger and thirst for Your righteousness and it’s only found one place. Take me in to the Holy of Holies, take me in by the blood of the Lamb. Take me in to the Holy of Holies. Take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am.”
One week from today, October 31, is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. That is the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door in Wittenberg, Germany and the Reformation began. Many new things were born that day, but my focus today is the fact that following this the Bible was written in common language so everyday people can read it for themselves. Because we’ve never been without access to copies of the Bible I doubt we can fully appreciate the gift we have been given. Translations now abound and are as close as one’s cell phone if you simply download an app. We’ve come a long way in 500 years.
Or have we? Perhaps the saying, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ is sometimes applicable in our lives concerning the Bible. The tendency is to either not read it because we don’t understand it or not read it because we’ve read it before. Both are clever deceptions to keep us from reading it at all!
This week I invite you to join me in READING THE BIBLE ALOUD EACH DAY. From now until Reformation Day, October 31, choose a portion of scripture and read it out loud. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God, so expect your faith level to rise as you hear your own voice read the Book that is living and active. You may want to choose familiar passages that comfort you, or perhaps read from a book you’ve not read for a long time, if ever. Either way, the spoken expression of God’s word will bless both your heart and His. And if you read it like you mean it, you will begin to believe it.
Imagine if churches encouraged their people to do this during this week! Whether large groups or a few here and there begin to read the Word aloud this week, imagine what God will hear! From the earth, a fragrant offering of His own thoughts and words read back to Him in worship. Will you join me? I think each one who does will end the week amazed at how much more we love the Father and the Word as Holy Spirit brings it to life in us, by faith. And how much more we will also Love Ourselves to Life as we express words of life with our mouths! Let’s get going! Reformation is coming, again.
Words and the way we speak them, matter.
“If you had been here my brother wouldn’t have died.” POW! What a punch in the gut, I don’t care who you are. It is one thing to feel like I, myself could have done more but to have such a weighty and harsh accusation leveled is painful. The tone in which a thing is said, matters. Out of our heart our mouth speaks, so how we say a thing is a waving flag letting others know, “This is what I really think in my heart.”
The Bible is good at giving us life examples of how the same response can have very different results. For instance, right off the bat as the New Testament opens two people are visited by an angel to let them know they would have a son under impossible conditions. What good news! A baby! First a priest named Zacharias is doing his job attending to priestly duties when an angel appears to tell him his wife Elizabeth will bear him a son. Now we know that this was an elderly couple: in fact, we’re told they were ‘well advanced in years.’ That could mean almost anything in days when people lived a long time! Added to that is the fact that Elizabeth was barren. At least she had been until that moment when the angel spoke. Things happen when angels talk to you.
Now not only was Zach old, he was caught very off guard by this announcement. His response to the angel was, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Seems reasonable to me but something about it smacked of doubt and unbelief and at the angel’s word Zach became mute and not able to speak for at least the next nine months, “because you did not believe my words.” Doubt and unbelief are a bit more challenging to spread around when one can’t speak and there’s no internet or texting.
Luke also tells us that an angel visited a young woman named Mary, who was a virgin. We aren’t told what she was doing that day but it is reasonable to expect she, too, was going about her everyday life. Mary was troubled at the unexpected announcement that she was graced and favored by God. The angel went on to tell her she, too, would have son but not after she and Joseph married: she would become pregnant before she ever knew a man sexually as Holy Spirit would hover over her womb and impregnate her with the very Son of God. It is impossible to imagine how it would feel go be given this incredible announcement even with time to prepare, let alone without warning! You know Mary’s response: Initially she asked, “How can this be, since I do not know a man”. Once the angel told her it would be a miracle her response was: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” She and Zacharias both asked the same basic question, “How can this be?”, but whereas his doubt caused him to lose his voice, Mary ran off to tell Elizabeth. How grateful Elizabeth must have been for someone – a relative – who was also having angelic visits and miraculous conception and could talk about it!
Another example is Mary and Martha. As we looked at last week, the M&M sisters sent word to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, was sick. Would Jesus please come? They’d seen him heal the sick and heard so many testimonies, they had no doubt of His ability to make their brother well. You know the story, Jesus took His time and while He lingered, Lazarus died. Not only did the sisters love him but their brother would have been their protection, provision, covering, more. Now those things were all gone. What difficult news, a death.
When they heard Jesus was coming into town, both sisters ran to meet Him. Martha was first and in her own inimitable way said to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again” to which she replied yes, she knew he would rise again at the resurrection of the dead. Jesus then let her know that HE, Jesus, IS the resurrection. That whoever lives and believes in Him would never die. Did she believe? I can almost hear the impatience in her voice as she says she believes He is the Christ, the Son of God. She did not say she believed a person would never die. After all, her brother who loved and believed the same about Jesus was now in His grave. She had no grid for a physical resurrection let alone eternal life even though Jesus Himself just gave her a teaching on it. Later when they go to the tomb she argues with Jesus about opening the tomb. It’s almost like she’s saying, DO SOMETHING! No, not that, DO SOMETHING ELSE!
In contrast, when Mary came out to meet Jesus we read she fell down at His feet, the posture to which she was accustomed. To sit at a rabbi’s feet was to take the position of humility, of learning. Her words to Him were the same as Martha’s but I suspect they were said in a different tone, from a different heart position: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Part of the reason I believe her tone and demeanor was different is because when Jesus heard her He did not teach her, He wept with her.
We live in days of vast opportunity and much confusion and change. While we may or may not be visited by an angel bringing us a message, there are plenty of chances for us to be shocked and surprised at what comes our way. Each of us can identify with at least one of these Bible characters to some degree though our circumstances are unique. Proverbs 4:23 (CJB)instructs us “above everything else, guard your heart for it is the source of life’s consequences.” This week, take time to ask Holy Spirit to search your heart to determine how much of it is filled with doubt and how much, faith. Be sure faith is the dominant posture: you can do this through worship, praise, reading the Word, prayer, sharing with a trusted friend who knows Jesus well. It is important – no, it is vital – that our hearts be fully His so we respond to both difficult and good news with words of life. Words that help us Love Ourselves and thereby, Others, to Life. The world is waiting.