An Invitation to Adventure

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Two candles for 62 years.

About a week ago I was having my usual morning prayer time.  During my prayers, I try to stay open to hearing from God, and not just bombarding Him with my requests.  Often what He says is instructions about what to pray or how to pray, sometimes where to pray.  This time He said something that surprised me.  He said: “Give notice on your apartment.”

What?  Really?  Now?  Hearing this the day after my 62nd birthday was not what I had wanted to hear[1].  Immediately I understood that I was not being called back to the US.  I was being called out into my mission field: Europe.  But to do what?  To go where?  I didn’t know.  With trembling hand I called my landlord.  I promised to be out by the end of March.

With the step of obedience taken, God gave clarity: He is calling me to go to many different places throughout Europe to operate as God’s Secret Weapon (GSW) on prayer assignments.  This will be another Faith Trip like the one I took in 2011.  But it will be different in many ways.

The first place He put on my heart is one where I don’t know anybody, and where I’ve never been before[2].  Having taken that Faith Trip, I know one thing: even if I don’t know anyone there, I know that God will protect me and guide me.  I don’t mind occasionally sleeping on a bus, train, or plane.  And on the Faith Trip I always had a bed, mattress, or couch to sleep on, with a roof over my head.  I don’t want to have to sleep under a bridge or on a park bench, out in the open[3].

For my birthday God invited me to share an adventure with Him, and I am inviting you to come along with me—at least vicariously.  That’s because one thing I understand about this GSW Assignment Trip is that, as the Faith Trip launched me into writing, this trip will bring new depth and insight to my writing.  Buckle your seatbelts and stay tuned.  We are launching in April 2018.  God is good!

[1] See Change is in the Air.

[2] Because this is a GSW assignment, I can’t reveal the place until after the assignment is completed.

[3] I would sleep out in the open if I believed that God wanted me to.  I don’t think He will require that, though.  I’m already leaving the comfort of a very nice apartment in obedience to Him

Prayer Bombing

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The famous dome of the Hagia Sofia.

I was meeting Kevin and the team of missionaries[1] at the hotel after they landed.  Our first stop was to be a tour of the massive church.  Our tour guide is a friend of Sally, my ministry partner.  Elisabetta—Betty for short—and Sally were to meet us there.  Betty is a born-again believer.  I had met with her and Sally the day before to be sure that she understood our objective: prayer more than tourism, and the most important thing was my instruction from God to pray underneath the church.  Our tour was set to start at twelve noon.  But their flight was delayed.

Betty and I messaged back and forth, ensuring that we wouldn’t lose our place, despite being something like 45 minutes late.  When we finally got there, everyone was very hungry.  So our first stop was in the museum cafeteria for a quick bite to eat.  The food was not good, but it was more important to get some nourishment at that moment.  Prayer work is exhausting.

Then the tour proceeded through the museum.  It felt mostly like a waste of time and energy, but Betty had to take us through the whole course.  She did so as quickly as possible, taking time only to give a few pertinent details.  Even still, I was anxious to get the work done.  Since God had been speaking to me about praying underneath the church, and since that door is not often open, I had prayed and continued praying: “Lord, open the door for me.”

And because the tour was all about business and tourism[2], we would not be allowed to pray there in the usual sense.  God had prepared me for this beforehand.  He instructed me to write brief prayers or Bible verses on little slips of paper and fold them very, very small.  Then He said to pop them one at a time into my mouth and chew until they were soft enough to form into a ball.  Prayer bombs.  The strategy was to load up my pockets and flick them one at a time into the far corners of the underground area where we couldn’t go.  When I prayed for what verses to use, God led me to several scriptures—all about evil shepherds.

So as Betty led us through the museum, I was aware of the prayer bombs in my pocket, waiting for my moment.  In the fancy chapel with the painted ceiling I felt a nudge to drop a prayer bomb there, but where?  Since my understanding was that they had to go down underneath, it seemed like an unlikely place.  But just a few steps away I found a fancy bronze grate in the floor.  So I took one out and dropped it.  Many times you do something like that and it would hit part of the grate and go bouncing off.  But this time I think God had an angel slam-dunk it for me because the thing went straight down into the grate like a bullet.  It felt like a moment of victory.

When we got around to the main church I saw what looked like a marble drinking fountain.  But it was all dried up and dirty inside from disuse.  Etched into the marble were the words Holy Water.  So I took out my water bottle and squirted some water into the filthy fountain as an act of purification.

That was when Betty announced that she had a dentist appointment, and had to go.  She led me around to the door that goes down into the crypt below—it was open!  They were having mass there above, so Betty whispered a quick goodbye and left so suddenly that we didn’t even get the chance to thank her.  We went down into the crypt and I flicked the rest of my little prayer bombs into various chapels there below.  The atmosphere down there was very heavy, and it was difficult to pray in any other way.

Next we walked toward the nearby castle.  Church leaders had used a passageway atop a wall to go visit their mistresses in the castle, unseen by the people below.  They had believed themselves to be figuratively and literally above the common people.  But the hour was late, and buying tickets to enter the castle just to pray in a specific area didn’t make good sense.  What to do?  When the wall caught my eye.  There was a place where it was quite low to the ground.  So we went and prayed there.  As I prayed with my hand on the wall, I felt a holy outrage rise within me.  I began to pray for an end to unholy fornication by church leaders—especially pedophilia—that masquerades as celibacy.  I prayed until the outrage passed.

That was all that we could manage for our first day, but in reality, it was a lot.  I was exhausted—and I hadn’t flown across the ocean like the rest of them did.  We enjoyed a lovely dinner together and then all retreated to our rooms for an early bedtime.  We had a very full day the next day.  God is good!

[1] From my home church in Asheville.

[2] This place rakes in something like half a million Euros each month.

Change is in the Air!

Seagull in flight

Will I glide gracefully or will I crash hard?

I have been praying for several months now that God would draw me ever closer, and that I would never be satisfied that I have enough of Him[1].  Today I believe I got the answer to that prayer—and it’s not what I wanted or expected at all.  The Lord told me to give notice on the apartment.  Immediately, I sought to understand what this meant.  I didn’t feel called to leave my mission field, but rather to go more boldly into it, traveling to places I had not been to before as God’s Secret Weapon on a new and broader assignment.

I have to admit that this word, coming the day after my 62nd birthday, didn’t exactly thrill me.  The last time I got this word, when I gave notice on my former apartment, I went on a Faith Trip that was the basis for my first book: Look, Listen, Love.  I was also homeless in Europe for over a year, sleeping on friends’ couches, traveling from place to place, and suffering discomforts far from family.  But I also learned firsthand of the love and faithfulness of God.  For example, one evening, after wandering in a cold rain all day, I checked into a run-down hotel to find that my room had a gigantic bathtub.  Soaking in a hot bath was exactly what I needed in that moment, and the Lord provided it in the most unlikely place.  And like that first Faith Trip, I feel that this new Faith Trip will broaden and deepen my writing.

Shortly after officially beginning my ministry (in 2010), friends prophesied over me that, like Corrie ten Boom, I would travel into my old age[2].  I wasn’t thrilled at the time, hoping that it wasn’t true.  But it seems that they were exactly right.  So, at an age when most people travel no farther than to cross the room to their rocking chair, here I go again, traveling as another Tramp for the Lord.  It’s exciting and scary all at the same time.  But my pastor in Texas always says: “If your ministry doesn’t scare you, then it’s not from God.”  Well, that proves that this is from God because it’s terrifying.

Another confirmation is that Mom responded way better than I had imagined she would.  She has always been my strongest supporter, but I wondered what she would think of this.  Mom said that she supports me in everything I’m doing, and that I’ll always have a place to stay with her.  I thank God for such a sweet, supportive mom!

I also thank God for an amazing, supportive church.  Proof that God loves and cares deeply for me is that He plunked me down right next door to the most loving church I’ve ever been a part of.

Thank you to each of my readers for your prayers and your encouragement.  I fully intend to bring you all along for the ride as I step into this new season in my life.  Let’s see what God does in and around me.  God is good!

[1] See Hungry! and My Heart’s Cry.

[2] See Another Tramp for the Lord.

Early Mourning People

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My dad and my son–grandparents are important in a child’s life.

My dear friend, Suki, is a very bold evangelist who is not intimidated about talking to people that truly scare other evangelists.  I had gone to see her earlier this year when she spoke to a group in Turin.  At that time I had hardly gotten to speak with her for five minutes.  So when she told me that she was feeling low and needing encouragement, I knew that I had to go see her.

I was traveling to Rome on Sunday, and since she lives about halfway to Rome from Milan, I suggested coming to visit her on Saturday before continuing on to Rome Sunday, as planned.  She was thrilled at the idea—we both were.

On Friday, Suki contacted me, saying to pray for Lincoln, her husband, because his mom just died.  Of course I prayed for him and for the whole family.  I could just take my original train to Rome on Sunday, but I knew that the timing, the day before my planned visit, was no accident.  If she didn’t want me to come, Suki would tell me.

The rest of the day, I marveled, thinking about how God had done this before, having me visit a family in mourning very soon after their loss.  A few years ago Nina and I had made plans to return to visit friends in Bulgaria.  Five days before our visit we got the news that their youngest child had drown in the swimming pool.  My heart broke for them, and I asked if they still wanted us to come.  They said yes.  And instead of us comforting them, they comforted us.  Plus I think it helped in some way to have sympathetic ears to tell about the tragedy—and how God had both prepared them for it, and His grace carried them through it.

So I am not a stranger to visiting people early in the mourning process.  Here’s the thing: you don’t have to have the right words to say because no words can take away their pain or speed them through the grief process.  Job’s friends modeled the right way early in his mourning (Job 2:13).  Sitting with your friend in silence is the most loving way to help them through the process.  Unfortunately, when they heard him curse the day of his birth, they spent most of the rest of the book blaming him for his misfortune, thus modeling the wrong way to help a mourning friend.  Sometimes your friend has no words.  You don’t have to fill the silence.  Sometimes silence is the most healing thing they have.

In both cases, my friends while deeply saddened by their losses, were also filled with the joyful assurance of their loved one’s reception into Jesus’ presence.  They wanted to talk, and I did the other important thing: I listened.  Sometimes talking about it helps the person to process their loss.  They don’t need you to solve their problem—you can’t!  So just listen attentively and sympathetically.  Don’t offer them advice—they don’t need it.  If they want your advice, they will ask for it.

If the deceased was dear to you, too, in other words, if you’re mourning the loss, too.  Always give precedence to your friend who was closer to the person than you were.  In other words, if the deceased was your friend, but your friend’s spouse, parent, or child, then you need to be there for them, and not the other way around.  They might appear to be handling the loss better than you are, but remember that sometimes a smile is hiding a broken heart.  Be there for them.

When I arrived in their little town, I saw Suki at the other side of the station.  We waved to each other.  She came to help me with my luggage.  She told me about a large group of South Africans that she had met just minutes before.  I said, “What on earth are South Africans doing in your town?”  She said, “That’s exactly it!  I was feeling so sad, and then I heard one of them say [something that sounded to me like] ‘buy a donkey[1],’ so I asked her if she was from South Africa.  They all were!”  Their being there precisely when Suki was at the train station was definitely an unexpected gift and a divine appointment for the purpose of comforting her.  And it did.  I didn’t get to meet the South Africans because they had gone to their track to catch their train while Suki was helping me with my luggage.

Suki told me that Lincoln was taking it very hard.  He’s the oldest son, and he can’t leave Italy right now because they’re in the process of getting their permits to live in Italy.  If he left, he would run the very real risk of not being allowed back into the country.  Thankfully his youngest brother is still living with their father, so he’s not alone.  The other siblings and family members are returning to South Africa for the funeral, but Lincoln cannot.

Throughout the day Suki baked, doing the thing that comforts her most.  Both of them took turns fielding calls from various family members.  Angelina, their eldest daughter, showed me some family pictures.  I have always loved looking at family pictures, so I enjoyed looking at pictures of her grandmother, and of herself and younger sister, Kerrie, when they were little.  At one point Angelina told me: I don’t have any grandmothers now.  She said it like the thought had only just crossed her mind, which it might have.  It’s one of the saddest milestones in growing up.  My response was a simple: “Hmm,” with a sad smile and eye contact.  Meanwhile Kerrie busied herself with schoolwork, preferring to lose herself in math problems.  I didn’t intrude.

At one point, Lincoln’s sister called and asked him to send her a something to say on his behalf at the funeral.  He agreed, but then the “what to say” weighed on him the rest of the day.  And then he got the craziest news of all: they can’t bury her for two weeks.  South Africa is suffering so much violence these days that the cemeteries are having trouble keeping up with the number of dead that need to be buried.  He told me: they’re going to have to keep her in the fridge for two weeks.  I said, “That’s horrible!”  I know it’s only the shell that her soul had lived in, but I can’t imagine the suspension of closure as her body rests in a refrigerated drawer at the mortuary (of course, I didn’t say that to Lincoln).

Our day together also had many lighter moments, sharing stories, catching up with each other’s lives.  Because it was September 23, Lincoln asked me about the Rapture.  We discussed some ideas and pretty much came to the same conclusion: it looks like it’s not going to be this year.  And you know, I’m okay with that.  Lincoln said that he feels like he’s done.  I didn’t know how to react, so I just listened.  I understand.  I’m ready to go home to Heaven.  But more time on earth means that there is more work to be done.  I want to see it through to the end.

This morning I had to leave early to catch my train to Rome.  Lincoln carried my suitcase down the stairs and put it into the waiting cab for me.  Both of he and Suki hugged me and thanked me for coming.  I’m glad I did.  It was good for me to be there for them.  I know that God set it up every bit as much as He had set up the meeting of Suki with the South Africans.  I was His arms to hug them and ears to listen to them and heart to understand them.  God is good!

[1] I have no idea what she actually said.  This was the closest I could approximate the Afrikaans.

Dipping our Apple in Honey

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On Friday I have several friends coming over to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, so I needed to prepare.  My friend, Mai[1], is one of them.  She had lived in a Jewish neighborhood here in Milan, so we decided to go on an excursion across town to buy some challah bread for the celebration.

But since neither of us is from a Jewish background, we weren’t aware that the shops close down several hours before the holiday.  I had thought that the holiday started tonight, but it actually started last night[2].

So we were disappointed to find shop after shop closed.  When we found the coffee shop also closed, I stopped to read the sign on the door, which explained about the holiday.  A woman at the bus stop in front of us began talking to us, but with the glass between us and her, we couldn’t understand what she was saying.  So we went to the bus stop and she said it again, but she was speaking Hebrew.

Seeing the puzzled looks on our faces, she said, “English?”  And she told us that the coffee shop was closed for Rosh Hashanah.  She asked about our backgrounds.  I introduced myself, and when I said Texas, she responded “Houston?”  It was the only city in Texas that she knew because she has a relative there.  When Mai told her that she’s from Brazil, she stood and did her best attempt at a Samba and spoke a few words in Portuguese.  Then she introduced herself: Rivkah.

Then she wondered why we wouldn’t know that the shops all close early, and figured out that we weren’t Jewish.  So she asked why we were there.  We told her that we had come to buy challah bread for the celebration.  She said, “But why?  I saw Jesus . . . somewhere. . . .”  I pointed to the Jesus label on my purse.  That was what she had seen.  “So why do you celebrate Rosh Hashanah?”

We explained that we are Christians who celebrate the Hebrew roots of our faith.  She understood immediately that this is because Christianity came out of Judaism.  She stood and invited us up to her apartment.  She had been out sunning herself at the bus stop before she had to leap into action before the holiday starts.

Her husband and son were sleeping.  We entered quietly and she went to the freezer and got out two small loaves of challah and gave them to us.  As we thanked her, she waved it off, saying that she was doing a mitzvah, a good deed that will go on her record before God[3].

She explained that she had grown up in a non-religious Jewish family in Israel.  But some years back, she decided to become religious.  She had found her husband on a dating website and now they are married and both orthodox Jews.

Then she asked us a favor: pray for her and her family.  Of course we said yes.  She wrote their full names out for us: son, self, and husband, and specified the prayers we were to pray for them, which I dutifully wrote down because writing English is a chore for her.

We left quickly, knowing that she had a lot of work to do before the holiday starts.  We were both astonished at how God had set this whole thing up just so that we could meet Rivkah.  And since she had converted to orthodoxy, this says to me that she’s a seeker.  God promised that those who seek Him will find Him[4].

And when I got home, I prayed for them according to Rivkah’s request, and concluded with the Aaronic blessing:

Y’varekhekha Adonai v’yishmerekha (Hashem bless thee, and keep thee);

Ya’er Adonai panav eleikha vichunekha (Hashem make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee);

Yissa Adonai panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom (Hashem lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee shalom), (Bamidbar (Numbers) 6:24-26, OJB[5]).

Shana tova, everyone!  Happy New Year!  God is good!

[1] Her name is a nice one in her native Brazil, but doesn’t work so well in Italy, where it means never.

[2] Note to self: Google calendar only shows the first full day of the holiday, not the evening it actually starts!

[3] This time of year, the Jews do good deeds before the Day of Atonement, when God writes their name in the Book of Life.

[4] Jeremiah 29:13.  See also Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 28:9; & 2 Chronicles 15:2.

[5] Orthodox Jewish Bible.

Cosmic and Atmospheric Confirmations

My Last Sermon Mocking REV 12 SIGN Hurricanes MARIA & Jose CONFIRM Sep 23, 2017 - YouTube - Google Chrome 20-Sep-17 073310

And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars.  And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides, (Luke 21:25, emphasis mine).

We are coming up on the date of the cosmic birth sign in Revelation 12: September 23, 2017.  And many of us believe this birth to be the Rapture—our birth into Heaven.  Then I came across something interesting.  Take a look at that verse from Luke, above.  Jesus is talking about the End Times.  He talks of strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars, which we have had in the past few years with the Blood Moon Tetrad of 2014-15 and the American eclipse.

Then the next thing Jesus speaks about is roaring seas and strange tides here on earth.  Hurricane Harvey hit Texas hard just four days after the eclipse, followed immediately by Hurricane Irma, and now Jose and Maria.

Jose and Maria are predicted to do a strange and extremely rare thing on September 23, 2017.  They are supposed to do a rare dance called the Fujiwara Effect in which the two storms pinwheel around each other[1], and one may ultimately absorb the other.  In July this year Hurricanes Hilary and Irwin danced the Fujiwara in the Pacific Ocean.  The Fujiwara Effect hasn’t been seen in either the North Atlantic or the North Pacific since 2001—interesting date!

Now take a look at the names of these hurricanes: Jose and Maria.  In English they would be called Joseph and Mary.  And they are predicted to interact on the day of the cosmic birth sign: September 23, 2017.

Here’s another interesting thing to notice: the numbering of the verse above, Luke 21:25 exactly coincides with the dates of the eclipse and Hurricane Harvey.  The eclipse was on August 21 and Harvey on August 25.

Also, consider this: from the date of the first Blood Moon, April 15, 2014 to September 23, 2017 is exactly 1260 days.  The exact same number of days as in Revelation 11:3[1].

[1] Which is also the exact same amount of time given in Daniel 7:25 & 12:7.

Sceptics explain away all these things, saying that Blood Moon Tetrads have happened before, also the Revelation 12 alignment.  And that solar eclipses happen, and hurricanes happen, and sometimes they do the Fujiwara.  I’m not saying that these things have never happened.  But:

  • Having exactly the same prophetic timeframe from the first Blood Moon to the Revelation 12 sign,
  • All of these being rare occurrences,
  • All happening one right after the other,
  • And the eclipse and hurricanes happening in the exact sequence that Jesus foretold in Luke 21:25,
  • Being that Jesus used the word strange to describe both the signs in the sky and the signs on earth (strange meaning rare), and
  • Happening on key dates that are reflected by the numbering of that verse. . . .

This is monumental, and it merits attention.

Now, does this mean that the Rapture is upon us?  It could mean exactly that.  Jesus instructed us the watch[2].  This is what I’m doing.  I’m also trying to help you be prepared, too.  If it’s not this year, it could be next year, but in any case the time is getting very close.

One thing I want to clarify: when I write about End Times, I’m not saying that this is the end of the earth—not at all!  This is the end of the defeated enemy’s reign on earth.  Although Jesus won the victory over him at the cross, he has not yet been fully and completely evicted.  But he soon will be.  Then Jesus will give the earth a total makeover, abolishing the reign of entropy[3] and death, and restoring its original life and beauty[1].

[1] Isaiah 11:6-9.

What Jesus did in my life, He will do for the earth, too.  God is good!

[1] To read more about this weather phenomenon, see: Fujiwara.

[2] Matthew 24:42 & 25:13.

[3] Entropy is the tendency for all things to decay and fall from order into chaos.  Entropy is the main proof that the Theory of evolution is a crock: because things don’t evolve into higher forms.  Mutations are always difficult or disastrous for the organism.

Resurrection – Hallelujah!

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The picture Laurie took of her autumn wreath.

This morning I was looking at Facebook while waiting for my oatmeal to cook—always a dangerous thing to do because a glance at Facebook and half an hour is gone.  I saw a post by my ministry partner (and friend of about 40 years), Laurie.  She had made a lovely fall wreath for her front door.  Laurie has an artistic gift for making wreaths.  So I commented on it, noting that her dog, visible in the picture, seemed to approve, too.  She made some remark about the dog and making a trip to Wisconsin to scatter Don’s ashes.  Don is Laurie’s husband, a genuine seeker of God with a brilliant mind.

I turned off the stove before making my reply: “Wait!  What?  I hope it was the ashes from Don’s BBQ that you scattered.”

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Wisconsin seems a long way to go to get rid of BBQ ashes!

Then Laurie messaged me to explain that she had inadvertently omitted the word “dad’s” so it was his dad’s ashes, not Don’s.  I had wondered how on earth I could have missed such life-changing news, but happily, Don is still with us.

In fact, Don commented on the post, saying that he was the one who did the driving for the Wisconsin trip.

I don’t think I’ve ever had such low and high emotions in the space of just a few minutes—and all before breakfast.  I had been devastated at the news of Don’s demise and then not just relief, but sheer joy at knowing that he hadn’t died after all.

I pondered these emotions as I ate my oatmeal: for me this had been like a resurrection because in my mind Don’s death had been very real—at least for a few minutes.  More than most people now I believe that I can say that I know how the disciples felt at Jesus’ resurrection: joy unspeakable.

So I posted on Don’s wall: Congratulations Don!  You’re the first person I’ve ever witnessed being raised from the dead.

To which Don responded: Ha!  That was so funny and at the same time kind of disturbing to read.  Be well friend.

I hated that he had been disturbed about being thought dead.  I imagine that it is sort of creepy to have someone out there who is convinced that you’re dead.  So I responded: Hey!  Having lost you and gotten you back in the same day, I treasure you all the more!  You stay well, OK.

Laurie has edited Don’s “death” out of the original post, so there’s no record of it any more.  But for me it was very real—even if only for a few minutes.  But equally as real for me is Don’s resurrection.  And someday all the dead in Christ will rise and we will meet them in the air[1].  I’ve already tasted just a little bit of how joyous that reunion day will be.  God is good!

[1] 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, NIV.

The Horizontal

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Becoming Christlike is the goal.

In my post A Lesson in Holiness I wrote about keeping a repentant heart before God by using the Word of God to separate who you are in Him from the sin nature that is in your flesh.  That’s the vertical beam of the cross:

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments, (Matthew 37-40, emphasis mine).

For some of us the vertical is much easier than the horizontal because God is perfect and never changes.  Our neighbors are quite another thing.  The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God[1].  All means all.  And if all the people around you sin, then sooner or later some of them will sin against you—even other Christians.  Even those dearest to you.

The defeated enemy loves to pit us against each other.  He will whisper in your spouse’s ear to say or do something that will push your buttons.  For me it was being accused of lying.  When I was a young wife, I worked very hard at overcoming habitual lying, so this was a hot button issue for me.  I can just imagine the glee as the defeated enemy watched the fireworks when my husband would accuse me of lying.  Then one day he came home from work and asked if it had rained at home.  I said no.  “You’re lying!”  The absurdity of being accused of lying about something as trivial as the weather made me realize the true situation: that this was the voice of the defeated enemy echoed in my husband’s voice.  I said, “look out the window,” and left the room, no fight.

The defeated enemy will goad those who you love and trust into sinning against you.  And it is your sense of having been betrayed (even in the smallest ways) that makes it so hard to forgive—especially when you have to forgive them again and again and again: seventy times seven[2].  And even harder when they don’t apologize.  Yes, of course you’re supposed to forgive whether the person apologizes or not.  Forgiveness, in the end, is not for them.  Forgiveness is for yourself.  You’re letting yourself have peace when you forgive others.

Now here’s the really cool thing that will help this process: as I wrote in A Lesson in Holiness, you learned to separate your view of yourself (as God sees you) from the sin nature that continues to live in you.  Now do that same separation for your neighbor.  Learn to see them as God sees them: separated from their sin nature, too.

This is part of your personal sanctification process, too.  As you learn to do this separation, forgiveness will flow much easier.

I had a teacher who was very cruel to me.  For some reason she picked me from the whole class to verbally abuse and humiliate.  When I became a Christian I knew that I had to forgive her, but it was so hard because I was still wounded.  Then I read something that said that forgiveness is not something that you do when you’re feeling better.  Forgiveness is a decision you make.  So I made the decision to forgive her, even while not feeling like doing it.  In fact, I took Jesus’ words about forgiving seventy times seven seriously, and every time she came to mind, I forgave her.  Then one day several years ago she spontaneously popped into my mind, and my immediate response was: “How could she possibly have known how precious I am to You, Lord?”  When I heard myself say those words, I knew that forgiveness had done its work, and the wound had completely healed.

My teacher was not a Christian.  But what do we do when a Christian treats us cruelly?  The exact same thing.  Because again, forgiveness is not for them.  Forgiveness is letting yourself off the hook.

If we can get both the vertical and the horizontal right, then we will be truly Christlike.  And that is the goal.  God is good!

[1] Romans 3:23, NKJV.

[2] Matthew 18:22.

Today I took a Walk

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You never know who you’ll run into on a walk in Milan.

I’ve been getting out and walking in an effort to build my strength back up after this summer’s bout with pneumonia (see Barking Hell).  I intended to go to the street market, so I headed out the door in that direction.

About a block from home I saw a woman talking on the phone.  As she approached me I saw something tiny fall.  At first I thought it was a piece of trash, like the foil pop-top to a juice container.  But as I got closer I saw that it was something valuable.  I only recognized what it was because of living part time at Bella Vista[1] with Mom: it was a hearing aid.  They are very tiny these days.  So I picked it up and caught up with the woman who had continued past me.

She was shocked at first, she hadn’t realized that she had lost it.  She asked me where I found it and I showed her, saying that I had seen it fall from her.  Then joy spread across her face as she realized that I had saved her a loss of a few thousand Euros.

As I walked on, I thanked God for allowing me to be her angel.  It felt really good!  And I just happened to be the right person to see that and to know that it was valuable.  And the Lord responded: “This is prophetic.”  Yes!  I get it!  Helping to open up peoples’ ears to hear.

Then I realized that I didn’t really need to go to the street market.  Where I did need to go was the Asian food store, which is the best place to buy coconut oil, spices, and peanutbutter.  So I changed direction and headed in a slightly different direction.

When I got there, I was shocked.  The Asian food store where I’ve been shopping for 15 years is gone.  Not only is it gone, but it’s never coming back because the shop next door has busted through the wall to expand into their space.

I remembered an Asian food store by the train station, and being right by a train station, I entered to catch a train.  When the train arrived, the door didn’t open—perhaps the people inside didn’t know that you have to push a button to open the door.  So I pushed the button and made the door open.  Again the Lord spoke: “This is also prophetic.”  And I understood that God wants to use me to set people free.

I got my items and returned home.  I realized that I hadn’t gone where I had originally intended to go—not at all!  I had left home with the intention of going to the street market, but wound up at the train station instead.  And I understood that God had spoken to me because I was willing to give up my idea of where to go, and to follow Him instead.

I love street markets, and especially this one.  There was a time not so long ago that I would have resolved to go anyway and just hit the Asian market on the long way home.  But by staying sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, I had the privilege to hear the Lord speak to me—twice—and also to understand His intention for my life: to help open peoples’ ears, giving value back to their lives; and to set people free.  A simple walk turned into a lesson from the Holy Spirit.  God is good!

[1] Gracious Retirement Living.

A Lesson in Holiness

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Be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect, (Matthew 5:48).

Jesus didn’t tell us to be good, He said to be perfect.  But how?  I try!  I really do try!  But I keep doing the things that I don’t want to do.  Paul explains it beautifully:

The trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good.  The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.  I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate, (Romans 7:14-15, emphasis mine).

That explains the problem, but how, then, can we ever hope to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect?  And realize that this is the Apostle Paul speaking.  I am not alone in my struggle against the flesh, and neither are you.  Even Paul[1] struggled.

And realize that struggling against your flesh is a sign that you are truly His.  Those who aren’t struggling have given up the fight and surrendered to their flesh.

But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good, (Romans 7:16, emphasis mine).

Struggling against your flesh proves that you know that what you’re doing is wrong, and that you agree that the Law is good and right.  So when we sin we are choosing another law over the perfect Law of God.  Sin is rebellion against God’s perfect Law.

Christians are not perfect.  Even with the help of the Holy Spirit we struggle against sin.  I believe that most of us are truly grieved that we’re not perfect.  How can Jesus tell us to be perfect when logically it’s impossible?

The word perfect is τέλειος, teleios in the original Greek, meaning:

Perfect, (a) complete in all its parts, (b) full grown, of full age, (c) specially of the completeness of Christian character[2].

So it’s not a matter of having no flaws, but one of completeness and maturity.  And those words of Jesus echoed for me something that God said to the children of Israel in the desert:

I am the Lord your God.  You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy, (Leviticus 11:44, emphasis mine).

The word holy is: קּדּוּשּׂ, qadosh, meaning:

Set apart, dedicated to the service of God.

Holiness, therefore, is a matter of separation.  We’ve got to separate ourselves from the sin nature that continues to dwell within us[3].  Remember, we’ve got an enemy that wants to draw us back into the old life when he had us[4].  But remember also that he is a defeated enemy.  His defeat has been sealed because as Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth[5], so is the enemy defeated from the foundation of the earth.

He’s tenacious and sneaky, though.  He will try to trick you out of your salvation any way that he can—or at least try to make you unfruitful.  God has given us everything we need to have the victory and to keep the victory.  Check it out:

For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account, (Hebrews 4:12-13, NKJV, emphasis mine).

The Word of God can help you separate yourself from the sin nature that is within you—and any creature that is using it to tempt you, too.

Anyone who continues to live in Him will not sin.  But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know Him or understand who He is, (1 John 3:6, emphasis mine).

Understand that John is not saying that we will never sin.  Instead what he is saying is that we cannot happily keep on sinning.  This is the key to personal holiness: using the Word of God to separate yourself from sin and everything that causes you to sin.  And when you sin (not if, but when), run to Jesus:

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.  So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.  But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts, (1 John 1:5-10, emphasis mine).

Like Paul, John also understood the dichotomy we are living under.  And John also understood our standing with Jesus:

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate who pleads our case before the Father.  He is Jesus Christ, the One who is truly righteous.  He Himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.  And we can be sure that we know Him if we obey His commandments, (1 John 2:1-3, emphasis mine).

And what about those sins?  The guilt might torment you.  But once you’ve made confession, you have put all those sins under the blood of Jesus.  God no longer sees the sin, but sees the righteousness of Jesus.

If, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!  Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people, (Romans 5:16-18, NIV).

And God put your sin far, far away from you:

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west, (Psalm 103:12).

When you keep your heart clean before God, He doesn’t remember your sins at all[6].

So to live a holy life:

  1. Struggle against sin. Do your best to live a sinless life.  Don’t ever give up and let sin win.
  2. When you sin, run to Jesus and confess. Understand how God sees you: that when He looks at you He sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
  3. Use God’s Word to separate yourself from the sin nature. Resist the defeated enemy[7]!
  4. Start to see yourself as God sees you. And then walk in it.

Holiness is simple, but powerful.  God is good!

[1] The greatest apostle: apostle to the gentiles and writer of most of the New Testament.

[2] Strong’s Greek Concordance.

[3] Romans 7:17.

[4] Ephesians 6:12.

[5] Revelation 13:8.

[6] For more about this, see Divine Forgetfulness.

[7] James 4:7.