Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What God Wants to Give Us Instead of Resolutions - 6 Things to Practice...

Was it really only six days ago when we were last filled with hope and awe as we remembered, once again, the birth of our King and Savior? Not only our hearts, but the entire world stilled – it didn’t even matter if it was because one believed or if the stillness was demanded by a culture needing their holiday. Only six days ago our minds were wrapped around thoughts of peace and joy and quiet wonder.

We wonder how to press those qualities deep within the marrow of our being, that they may become our lifeblood in the days to come.   Were our fickle hearts transformed this year, or would they betray us once again, returning to their old ways?  Did we know 6 days ago that in a few hours “real life” would draw us back to responsibilities and the state of feeling pressure?  And perhaps we were practicing a bit of psychological denial in some hidden place so that we could enjoy whatever moments we possible that cocoon of timelessness we weave for these holidays?

How Resolutions Grow in Our Hearts

That gentle, tender time of Christmas forms the backdrop to where we perhaps find ourselves now….reaching into self instead of resting in the sacred.  We can rest in Him when all of life is suspended for these holy-days, but how to carry that sense of being enveloped in the sacred to our everyday is a lesson some of us haven’t quite learned – or in my case, I have to learn it again and again!  The juxtaposition of the urgent that calls forth our flesh against the holy that nourishes our spirit finds its most intense expression when we try to make a  “New Year’s Resolution”.  We want to take that feeling God has nurtured in our hearts and make it incarnate through some action.  Maybe we want to prove that what we have felt is important to us, and that we believe He can change us and this new year will be better than any before. 

Our thoughts and intentions are good – but if accomplished from self-effort, they are destined to fail – maybe in a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, or a couple of months (if we are particularly strong willed as I am!).  Six days ago we were abiding in Him; now we reach for a goal we can work towards to show Him our love, our strength, our determination.  (Oh, how He must be smiling now!  Isn’t that what He came to save us from? Ourselves?)

 And here it occurs to me that the number six represents the number of man, 7 is the number of God, of perfection…6 days ago we were on our way to 7, but we stopped short, and so are left to our own strength.   In this season of making resolutions, of setting goals, God wants to bring something better into our lives, our hearts, our homes.  What we need is something that relies on His Spirit within and isn’t so dependent on our own soul (our thoughts, will, and emotions) and therefore subject to our inherent frailties!   

We are making resolutions when God wants to give us revelation!

Revelation is that something more, something better, something permanent, something not burdensome and never dependent on our own efforts!  Revelation is what we have stopped short of.    The Lord always wants to reveal Himself to us...He declares:

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit…”
Zechariah 4:6

And He also says that He has given us a spirit of power and self-control…

“For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
2 Timothy 1:7

Not only has He given us His Spirit, but He has also granted us His promises!

…His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  
For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, 
so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature…”
2 Peter 1:3-4

And His promises are His Word, which always accomplishes the matter for which He sends it:

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. "For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands…
Isaiah 55:10-12

Instead of resolutions, let’s lay hold of God’s revelation!  
6 Steps to try from within His encircling embrace! 

Simply answer this question: What promises of God are you claiming for the new year?

Better relationships?
A closer walk with Him?

So many promises!  How does a person narrow it down?

1.  Ask yourself, “What has He prepared me for?”  God can use it all - the hurt, mistakes, scars, pain – for His good.

2.  What do you need?  There is a promise that addresses it.  Search the Bible for that promise, then write it down, keep it in a prominent place, labor over understanding it and experiencing it  till it is rooted in your heart…to do this you may have to press into the next step:

3.  Pray for Him to prepare you – let go of bitterness and unforgiveness.  Let Him enlarge your vision; begin to see yourself the way He sees you…He is faithful to His promise and you will  see it fulfilled…but it might be further in the future than you are comfortable with!

4.  Pray for revelation of steps to the promise.  You need to take steps to get anywhere on a journey – but perhaps the first revelation will be to step into His embrace!  And then:

 there may be a hunger that grows,
you may realize a “holy dissatisfaction”,
  there may be a remembering of things He has already instilled in you.

                Ask God to show you which step He wants you to take.

                **I believe this is the place where the growing movement of “My word for the year” can
                 really be useful.  It may take a year to really learn and understand the promises He has 
                 revealed to you!  I have personally joined His Kingdom Come – a new site with a
                 Christian focus that a few of my friends are on.  They are unveiling a "word for the year"
                  directive called Logos365!  I am looking forward to it!

5.   Look to the example of Simeon:  Divine revelation always results in some God- ordained action that positions you to receive what was promised.  For instance, the Word says of Simeon in Luke 2:27-28:

Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.
When the parents brought in the child Jesus
to do for him what the custom of the Law required,
Simeon took him in his arms…

Simeon followed through on the Spirit's leading - this is NOT acting out of the flesh, but being obedient to the promptings of the Spirit within us.  Sometimes the knowing of "is it me" or "is it God" is confusing, until we have built the experience of knowing that we know that we know His voice!  And perhaps this is the task God wants to refine in us this year?!

6.  Look to the example of Anna:  Worship, fasting and prayer positions you to receive His promise. 

She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 
Coming up to them at that very moment, 
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child 
to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 
 Luke 2:37-38

Anna was going through her normal routine - which was focusing on the Lord - and He placed the divine appointment in her path.  He will do this for us, allowing us to "let go" of the striving in the flesh that we are prone to...

That is it!  We can enter into God’s revelation instead of working in the flesh to achieve resolutions!

Till later, beloved...

Friday, December 26, 2014

Exploring Circles - A Shield of Protection - part 6 {Paths to Healing}...

I have written about the Caim prayer already in this post; but I do want to share even a little more deeply here.  The word "Caim" is an old Gaelic word meaning:  "protecting", "encircling", "sanctuary", loop or circle and has been passed down from the ancient Celtic church.

When the ancient Celtic Christians of Britain felt threatened physically or spiritually they used the Caim (encircling) prayer. The Caim involved both a spoken prayer and a simple ritual. (To some this may sound odd, but it is nearer to prophetic acts of the Old Testament prophets or words and symbolism,  eg baptism, communion, even handshaking or stopping at red traffic lights, that are used today.) The "simple ritual" was the actual "drawing of a circle" in the air using ones hand, much like making the sign of the cross at the end of a prayer that some of our Christian brothers and sisters use.  The act helps make the connection with God's Presence more real, visible, in this physical world.  Brother Tadhg Jonathan calls these "enacted" prayers.

There are several prayers called caim, and the individual is encouraged to adapt them according to need. 

Here are some samples:

The sacred three
my fortress be
encircling me
come and be round
my hearth and home. (Prayer from Outer Hebrides)

From : Susan Gaddis
Use your imagination to see yourself and those you are praying for surrounded by the safety of the Father’s care and protection.
Here are several ancient caim prayers from Celtic Daily Prayer.
Circle me, Lord. Keep protection near and danger afar.
Circle me, Lord. Keep light near and darkness afar.
Circle me, Lord. Keep peace within; keep evil out.
See how easy it is? The basic structure of a caim prayer looks like these examples. Simply insert the name of the person you are praying for and change the wording to suit the circumstances.
Circle (name), Lord. Keep (name the good you want revealed) near and (name the evil you want removed) afar.
Circle (name), Lord. Keep comfort near and discouragement afar. Keep peace within and turmoil out.
Circle (name), Lord. Keep hope within and despair without.
Circle love (exploring circles post)...
Exploring Circles - techniques post - {Paths to Healing}...
Exploring circles - post 1 - {Paths to Healing}...
Exploring circles - post 2 - {Paths to Healing}...
Exploring Circles - post 3 - {Paths to Healing}...
Exploring Circles - Bringing Focus, Bringing Containment - part 4 {Paths to Healing}...
Exploring Circles - A Shield of Protection - part 5 {Paths to Healing}...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

When You Need to Encourage Yourself (Jude 1:20-21)

In my last post I wrote about the need we sometimes have to encourage ourselves:
 Not everybody knows how to be encouraging.  The word means to "put courage in", not to be critical.  Encouragement shows someone how to find strength even in their weakness, points them to Jesus, and stays in relationship no matter how messy it gets.  Encouragers never use shame to motivate.  Evaluate your relationships and let go of people who are the opposite of encouragement to you.  Pray for the Lord to send people that will build you up and support you in what God has called you to. You may find that you have to encourage yourself for a while until the right relationships have developed, and I have a video (coming later today) that will give you some ideas on "how".
Well, here is the video:

At the end of the video I invite you to visit my and my friends' online "joybox" on Pinterest right here ...

There is so much inspiration on Pinterest, and I think everyone has a quote pinboard that holds meaningful words - see, you already know how to encourage yourself! But just in case you need that encouragement and CAN'T be on the internet, a little joybox on your shelf is the next best thing...

Till later, beloved,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday of Lights - What is the Significance of Hannukah for Modern Christians?
Image Source

 Voice of the Lord

God raised him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name (Philippians 2:9).
Jewish Date

Although Chanukkah (the Feast of Dedication) is not a festival specifically commanded in the Scriptures, we are told that Yeshua observed it in first-century Jerusalem (John 10:22). He certainly affirmed the importance of the Maccabean victory of 164 B. C. E. and celebrated the preservation of his people, Israel. A central part of the observance is the lighting of the nine-branched chanukkiyah (Chanukkah menorah, or lampstand) to commemorate the miracle of the oil.

We are told in the Talmud that as the Maccabees kindled the Menorah in the restored Temple, one day's worth of oil lasted for eight days until a new supply could be produced. Hence, we light one candle for each of the eight days. Why the ninth candle? We call this candle the shammash (servant). It is the first candle lit, kindled by the match; in turn, it gives light to the other eight candles. Although shammash means "servant," it is clearly exalted above the rest of the candles of the chanukkiyah. It stands taller than the others.

The shammash candle is a perfect picture of Yeshua the Messiah. He left his glory in heaven and humbled himself to become a shammash to mankind. Yet after his death, he was raised by the Father and exalted. We can only experience the light of God as we receive it from his Son, Yeshua, the Servant.

Thank you, Abba, for the light of your exalted servant, Yeshua HaMashiach (the Messiah)!*

Believers can celebrate this season along with their Jewish brothers and sisters...more in depth teaching from a Messianic perspective is available at this link if you are interested.  In addition there are instructions for the driedel game, the traditional game of the holiday!

For myself, I wanted to observe the holiday in a simple way.  I asked the Lord for help, and He gave me a simple verse and single thought for each candle.  Here is my celebration:

 You are welcome to use these same scriptures for your own Hanukkah lights - you can download a version at this link or a clean white background version at this link.

Till later, beloved...


*The italicized portion is taken from the Voice of the Lord edited by David J. Rudolph. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029.

Monday, December 15, 2014

5 Things You Need to Endure When the Holiday Season Gets Tough

I always enter the Holiday Season thinking I have everything planned and in place so I can relax and enjoy the surprises that always come our way during this season.  I have my mind set to be the one customer in cash register lines that is NOT in a hurry, and I smile and chat with those around me and bless the cashier during my turn.  But then there are things that happen like the cookies burning at 10 pm because my ancient oven decides to give a burst of heat to prove it isn't really that old...and the co-op homeschool party gets rescheduled 3 times!  The heater has gone out downstairs, but that is the room with a fireplace, so in actuality that is the perfect excuse to have more fires!
God is with me - all the time - and my life is good. 

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Psalm 16:6

It isn't that life doesn't hold heart-ache.  We have had our difficult years.  I don't talk about this often, but we have an adult son who is in prison, and we are raising our grand-daughter (this is my sweet teenager I talk about).  We have been her parents since she was a baby.  She has learning differences that sometimes still take me by surprise, because she is so "normal" 80% of the time.  My career outside the home didn't happen as we had planned- well, it did and then we made the decision to homeschool her.  God has been with us every step.

But sometimes I feel that I cannot stretch again.  I become hard and rigid with others so that I don't feel the scraping and punctures of emotional hurts - whether intentional or not.

I am needy, too.  Sometimes life is hard.  I am in need of endurance and hope and encouragement just like anyone else.    Whatever is the name of your hard place - loneliness, illness, stress, fear, unrest, depression - because we have Jesus, we can stand strong in the midst of whatever is happening.

That is the kind of environment the new believers of the New Testament also dwelt in.  The writer of the book of Hebrews exhorted these young Christians to stand strong in the midst of their circumstances.  He reminded them of the deity of Jesus, of His fulfillment of the prophecies of the Messiah, how His life and sacrifice abolished the futility of the legalistic system.  How He had opened up the way to fellowship with God once again.  And he further encouraged them with these words:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, 
for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:23 

Four of the five qualities we need to endure are in this verse:

1. Hold fast - In the original language, this phrase is put together from words that means to "pull down from a higher plane and to hold there.  I love the idea this creates in me - I "see" believers pulling down from heaven the promises of God, clinging to them in their present trials.

2. Confess our hope - The word "confess" here is homologia.  If you have been in a good Bible teaching church for a while, you may have already learned the meaning of this word: "to say the same thing about".  But even more deeply, it means arriving at the same conclusion.  We can "confess" without having the heart assurance, but this means that our confession is based on a conclusion that we have arrived at...we really need to have confidence in the thing we are confessing.  And hope is our confident expectation.  To confess our hope means to declare as true what we are confidently expecting when it comes to the promises of God.

3. Don't waver - Unbending.  Unyielding.  Resolute.  That is the meaning of the word translated "don't waver".  It must come from a place of strength; strength that is built by "holding fast" and true "confessing" the promises of God.

4. Be assured of His faithfulness - From  Strong's Word Studies:  1861 epaggéllō (from 1909 /epí, "on, fitting" intensifying aggellō, "announce") – properly, to declare a promise that is fitting (apt), i.e. legitimately applies. God specifically pledges (promises) His Word, and does so in particular situations.  And He is trustworthy (faithful) to fulfill what He has promised, not necessarily what we think He said.  That is why it is so important to know what His voice sounds like, so we don't go running around saying "thus says the Lord" when it is really just our own imagination!  So many writers are emphasizing this right now - know God's voice is definitely a "kairos" (always important but strategic for right now) word for the moment!

The fifth thing needed is other encouraging people:

and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some,
but encouraging one another;
and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25 NASB

Not everybody knows how to be encouraging.  The word means to "put courage in", not to be critical.  Encouragement shows someone how to find strength even in their weakness, points them to Jesus, and stays in relationship no matter how messy it gets.  Encouragers never use shame to motivate.  Evaluate your relationships and let go of people who are the opposite of encouragement to you.  Pray for the Lord to send people that will build you up and support you in what God has called you to. You may find that you have to encourage yourself for a while until the right relationships have developed, and I have a video (coming later today) that will give you some ideas on "how".

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