Monday, November 13, 2017
I had a dream about a small dog barking on the side of a riverbank. It was barking repeatedly, not at anything in particular, just being noisy. Then, a massive leathery crocodile appeared just under the surface of the water and started swimming towards it. As the crocodile moved closer towards the barking dog on the riverbank, I was scared for the dog. I thought it really needed to stop barking if it didn't want to get eaten, but part of me wanted to see the crocodile jump out of the water and just get it. Then, the crocodile changed directions--it wasn't moving directly towards the dog, it was going to creep up on it on the side of the river bank. It slinked out of the water and began making its way up the bank. But then, the crocodile was no longer a crocodile on the river bank, it was a sleek black panther. The panther was huge and scary, but also attractive in a strange way, black and shiny, and smooth as velvet. The dog was no longer barking at this point, but the panther was stealthily inching over to where it was on the bank. And then, a lion came out of the forest, a huge lion bigger than anything yet....proportionally much bigger and more majestic than any of the other beasts. It poked itshead from the forest, and it's mane took up practically all of the vision in the dream. I felt it's pure power....it very nonchalantly slapped the panther down, with one paw, pinning it down from behind. It sat on the back of the panther and started eating it's head, devouring it alive as the panther wimpered and cried out.
Friday, November 4, 2016
We live in a culture with such a sensitive social climate. If your beliefs contradict those of the social norm, you must exercise extreme caution in expressing them. Speaking unpopular beliefs may get you tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. Specifically, Christians get this a lot. Accused of bigotry for many of their beliefs, in recent years, it is the belief that homosexuality is sin, and that God intended marriage to be solely between a man and a woman.
It is tempting to compromise in social situations. Not just in saving face, either, but because of compassion and sympathy. A history of prejudice and misunderstanding from the Christian community towards the LGBTQ community polarizes the two. Some well-meaning Christians want to make up for the past, for the wrongs of the Christian community as a whole. They want to bridge the gap.
And so, for several reasons, it is tempting for Christians to adopt a less divisive, more “feel good” stance than a firm belief that divides. Because make no mistake about it, as sensitively as Christians can lay it out there, this belief is divisive. It is either true or it is not; both sides of the argument cannot be true because they contradict one another.
Maybe we question whether or not what we believe is true; we question whether or not homosexuality is really a sin. But when we take into account the multitude of scripture that implies and even outright declares homosexuality as a sin-- Romans 1:24-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-11—we have a lot of difficulty making a case for it being holy or acceptable to God. There also exists God’s first commandment to people, His original desire for multiplication of men and women. (Genesis 1:28) And, of course, the way male and female bodies come together sexually to fulfill that purpose. (Genesis 2:24) Honestly, there are just no other ways to interpret those; much more difficult is finding a different interpretation for them. So, if this historical, traditional, and biblical understanding about the nature of man and woman and sexuality and sexual sin has ever been true, then it has always been true. And it will always be true. If it’s hard to swallow, if it’s uncomfortable, or if we don’t like it, it doesn’t become any less true. The beauty of scripture is that it is infallible, everlasting, and unchanging.
The gospel of Jesus Christ stings sometimes. Not just for gay people struggling to reconcile homosexuality with their Christian faith. In general, some sin just doesn’t feel like slavery, and when the Bible calls it sin, we resist. We remain clinging to it, protesting and justifying it. Deep within us is a longing for our sin more than Him. Even at the start of our faith, from the moment we receive Christ, He promises a difficult and fundamental change for us: He replaces our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, (Ezekiel 36:26) and we become a new creation from the inside out. (2 Corinthians 5:17) This is a wondrous thing, but it is not without the pain of transformation. Heart surgery leaves us sore. And although on the inside the old has “gone away,” we spend the rest of our lives trying to live that out on the outside!!! This new creation Jesus created internally, this “death to self” He requires of us to live out as a result, He never said it would be easy. He said just the opposite. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Truth about sin can be so painful.
The gospel of Jesus also inspires more joy, peace, wisdom, love, and life than anything else that this world could ever give. The clichés are true and I have seen them happen in reality—the slave sloughs off his sin chains, the lost become found, the blind see. Jesus makes manifest in people’s hearts and lives so that they become brand new people….transformed from the inside out. Born again, they embody a new life with a new purpose. This has happened to me. But it didn’t happen without the sting. It didn’t happen without some folks willing to share the hard and uncomfortable truths about my sin. I didn’t get a new heart without the removal of my old heart, and I never would have pursued my life change without people willing to tell me the truth. Truth can set us free.
If we don’t proclaim the bittersweet and sometimes difficult truths of the gospel, we do people a GREAT disservice. For unbelievers and believers alike, if we exchange the realities of sin for what we want them to be, or what we wish they were, we haven’t really shared the gospel. We give people a shallow counterfeit version of the gospel….no challenges, no refining truth, no working out your salvation with joy and trembling as you learn to let go of your sin and trust that Jesus is King. Just believe what you want rather than the unchanging truth of scripture. Believe what is more convenient with what you are doing, and let your faith morph and mesh with the culture of the times. And then, tragically, we have missed the opportunity to share the beauty of the real gospel that saves….
It boils down to this: we cannot be afraid to lovingly and sensitively stand for truth with this issue of homosexuality and gay marriage. There is a time and a place and sensitivity must be of utmost importance with sharing truth--I can’t emphasis that enough!! The love and redemption of Christ is what we model, and that certainly isn’t rooted in debating argumentatively and antagonistically on Facebook. But also, it isn’t rooted in omitting information you think is really important or telling people what you wish were true, what you think they want to hear. That wouldn’t be love at all. And it wouldn’t be compassionate. At the very least, it would be suppressing the truth and watching them continue in sin, and at the most, it would be supporting and affirming the sin.
Because we love people, we stand for the freedom that Christ proclaims and promises to give us when we surrender sin and embody His truths. We don’t proclaim truth because we have a point to prove. We don’t proclaim truth because we have to be right. Again, we must sensitively choose a time and a place for having a one on one conversation with someone, face to face, after prayer and careful consideration. But we don’t negate to tell the truth. We proclaim truth because we believe in the freedom behind it!! We proclaim truth because we believe it. Because we do want to love people well, with REAL love, real love that may contradict public opinion and may cause persecution or scorn or distaste. We are willing to do that because we are willing to suffer and sacrifice for the cross; and we genuinely want people to know about the sweet, beautiful freedom of Jesus Christ.
In loving our neighbor as ourselves, the Word of God tells us that we speak the truth in love. We will not succumb to the approval of man, the approval of our friends, the approval of the culture. Love confronts. (Matthew 18:15) Love gently rebukes. (Luke 17:3) Love protects. (1 Corinthians 13:7) Love gently restores. (Galatians 6:1) Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with truth. (1 Corinthians 13: 6) And love does not compromise truth, because it is the freedom that seeps into our bones and changes us from the inside out. Love speaks honestly, (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9) because love understands that the truth makes us free. (John 8:32)
Monday, June 29, 2015
Physically, I see that my countenance has changed. When I see myself in the mirror a light has come into my eyes that wasn't there before. Literally, they are brighter and more full of life. I feel myself holding my head up higher and looking at people directly in the face more often. My smile comes more readily to my lips. I feel myself walking with my posture straighter. I see people looking at me differently and I look at them differently. When I smile at them, they physically can't help but smile back...
Spiritually, I had a revelation. You see, before this conference began, I believed the gospel applied to the inside of me, but not the outside. Jesus was my righteousness, my strength, and my salvation, and He had made the inside of me beautiful through His work on the cross. I knew my worth in Him on the inside. But on the outside, I wasn't good enough. The love of Jesus had not pervaded how I felt about my appearance....I felt that He had not made me beautiful on the outside. But Christ, through this conference, has helped me connect both TRUTHS about the gospel. Jesus has made me beautiful on the outside as well as in. He made me, He intricately crafted every feature of the way that I look, He said "This woman will have exactly the features and the face and the body that I will use for MY purposes. I have created a thing of beauty." And I have realized that I am beautiful. Not in a conceited way, not in a self centered way, but in a very tangible understanding about what the gospel says about me....about who I am in Christ on the outside. And just like on the inside, on the outside He treasures me for just the way that I am. He not only accepts my outer beauty, He loves it. He made it... ^_^
I am still being transformed. Different things are happening to me as we speak that I am not sure about yet, but I know one thing. I am not stopping here. I am taking this newfound freedom to its fullest extent. I am a beautiful, secure woman.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Girls, it occurred to me last night as I lay down to go to sleep that a lot of us are in deep trials and suffering right now in our lives. Joblessness, anxiety, health issues, family issues, and deep heartache from divorce or death are only a few of the things I can name off the top of my head. These are heavy burdens…
I want to thank you earnestly from the bottom of my heart for y’all being willing to share those things with the group. I also wanted to send you this email to encourage you. I want to share with you some thoughts on Romans 8:28-29.
You have probably heard the first verse, 28, as it is often said, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." But people often misinterpret this verse to mean that God works in all things so that your life will be good, and that is His purpose. Like, God works in all things so you can have a “good” and happy life. The problem with that is, where is the happiness in divorce? Where is the good in sickness and suffering and lack of peace? Where is the good in death? How is that for our “good,” God?
Well, it’s not. None of those things are for our “good” in the common way we think of that word. Those things are heartbreaking and gut wrenching and awful, in fact. But we have to read the verse in context to understand, that is not what God through Paul was trying to say. What God defines as “good,” what the real definition of good is, comes right after, in verse 29: "For those who God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."
God’s meaning for “good,” and His primary purpose for you and your life, is for you to be made more like Christ. Your happiness and contentment and fulfillment and joy and peace will likely result, but that is secondary to His “good” purpose. When you become more and more like Christ, which is the “good,” you will be able to shine His character and love/live like He did, helping others understand and receive salvation. You becoming more like Christ will ALWAYS be for your good because it is for God’s glory.
But sometimes the process of becoming more like Christ can be extremely difficult. When you think about it, it makes sense. How else do we grow in our patience if not to experience things that make us have to wait? We would have no way of learning patience otherwise!! Waiting is hard, but patience is the “good” and Godly quality that comes out of it. Suffering and heartache are awful, but receiving deep comfort and peace from Christ is the “good” that comes out of it. And there is something about suffering that connects us to Him in a profound way…we get to experience a tiny taste of what He went through on the cross. If there is anyone who has been through immense suffering and heartache and physical pain, it’s Jesus. We tore his heart AND his body in two.
Also, it’s not as though God enjoys you suffering; rather, the Bible says He hates the suffering of His children and He suffers with us. Remember, it was never His design for us to experience suffering in the first place-- we ruined perfection and His good plan for us when we sinned in the Garden of Eden. We brought sin and suffering and even death into this world. But…being the redeemer that He is, He longs to bring “good” even through our trials, even through our sin and self destruction; that we might be made into the image of Christ in the process. He longs for you to live out the peace and hope and love that is Him in You.
So, if you are hurting, if you are suffering, instead of saying, “Why me?” or “When will this end?” or “Why are you doing this to me, God?” A better question to ask yourself would be this: “How is God trying to make me more like Christ through all of this?” or “What lesson is God trying to teach me through all of this?” Even if you can’t see it yet, those questions will lead you to the “good.” J
Love you all,
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
In 2013, I had a moment with a mother in the streets of Mogote, a tiny village in Honduras. I was singing "La Niña de Tus Ojos" in the street with the little girls. It translates, quite literally, into "The Little Girl of Your Eyes." His eyes.
As I played the guitar and sang with these little girls, the meaning of the song and how God sees us as His precious children, along with these little voices singing, overwhelmed me. The tears poured out and I couldn’t sing anymore, but the little girls, with their sweet voices, carried the song. One of the moms and I met eyes and she was bawling, too. We embraced each other and praised God.
This mom’s name was Haydee, and her daughter's name was Genesis. Genesis was such a pretty little girl…she had the most beautiful, expressive brown eyes.
I may have met her the year before, but in 2013, she really made an impression on me. She was only 4, but she acted much older. She was one of the quiet kids, reserved and behaved. Her hands were always folded inside of each other and in her lap in front of her. As the other kids romped around and tickled and tumbled, she sat and observed, taking it all in.
When I sat down to play the guitar, she was enchanted by it, captivated by it. As I strummed or picked the notes of a chord slowly, her face turned to me and those big brown eyes lit up with wonder and joy. She smiled with her whole face as she watched and listened to me play!!
She was shy. When I moved in to let her see and hear the guitar more closely, she nervously looked away, but then found the courage to look back at me and break into a big beaming smile. I coaxed her into taking the pick from my hand and let her strum while I changed chords, so that she could hear the different sounds. She strummed so delicately and beamed when the sounds changed. :-)
When Billy and I got back home from the 2013 trip, I did some digging to find out who this little girl was, and what family she belonged to. I found out that Genesis’ mom was Haydee, the same mom in the streets when the little girls were singing us, the one who cried and praised God with me!! That was it. Billy and I decided to give the family some monthly support. We began sending $50 a month, each month.
When we went back to Honduras the next year, I was excited to see Genesis and her mom. Out in the street the first day, I saw them both and ran up to greet them. Genesis was a little shy at first, but she did hug me at her mother’s coaxing.
The next day, Genesis had found her courage. When she saw me come outside, she marched right up to me and proudly stuck out an envelope. I took it, opened it up, and my eyes began flooding with tears as I read the letter.
You see, all Billy and I did was to start sending a small gift of 50 dollars a month to Genesis and her family. But what God did, with His incredibly personal touch, was to have that gift arrive for the first time on Genesis’ birthday.
A little girl turned 5, and what God did was provide for her the shoes and clothes that she really needed on a special day. A birthday gift from the Lord Himself. How precious He is to us...
A little girl turned 5, and what God did was provide for her the shoes and clothes that she really needed on a special day. A birthday gift from the Lord Himself. How precious He is to us...
I stood there reading the family's letter of thankfulness and awe, and I saw the pictures Genesis had drawn for me in magic marker, flowers and whatnot. :-) She had also written a scripture in her 4-year old-handwriting, a Psalm of thanks that acknowledged the Lord's blessing. It was clear there was a special connection between us and this family.
|From the left: Me, Genesis' sister Katy, Haydee. Genesis is up front. The father, Cristino, was working during the time of the picture.|
So, what we are doing now is sending sweet, shy Genesis to “Hope Academy.” It is a program run by the organization we volunteer with on our mission trips every year-- “Hope for Honduras, Inc.” Genesis will be starting in the bilingual school for pre-K and Kindergartners, but as we continue to provide sponsorship, she will continue on through grade school. We have seen these programs in the flesh and know how valuable they are to feed children both spiritually and physically. The mission is Christ, but physical needs are provided for as well. And the education is also top notch. We feel blessed beyond measure to be able to give Genesis and her family this gift. We thank the Lord for what he has done and can't wait to see what He will continue to do!!
P.S. If you are interested in changing a child's life and spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth, consider sponsoring a child through Hope Academy, or donating to this mission: http://www.hope4honduras.org/#!contributions/c1avz There is nothing better than allowing God to use you in blessing others. Nothing.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
I don’t like being humbled. I don’t like not being able to do things on my own. I don’t like stumbling and falling like a child. But that’s what I have been forced to do with a couple of areas of my life in which I habitually sin. God is helping me learn to walk in freedom from them, and like a little child, I stumble and fall. I skin my knees and I get gravel embedded into my hands. It hurts and it sucks. I don’t want to learn to walk, I want to run already. And like a child, I don’t want to accept His hand, I want to push it away. I choose to grab onto other things to steady myself, rather than walk the hard road of dependence on Him. But I will never find real balance grabbing on to those other things. I will never learn to walk in Him as long as I am grabbing anything other than His hand.
It’s funny how you can have a “quiet time” without actually having a quiet time. How you can sit at the table and open your Bible or your devotional and just be glazing right over having actual time with God. You’re reading but not really receiving. You’re yawning and fighting the temptation to do other things.
It’s also funny how often this sort of “quiet time” correlates to you allowing sin into your life. Pride. Not admitting that you are a child and you need His help. Not grabbing onto His hand that fights for you, pleads for you, created you. Allowing yourself to grab other things and justifying or ignoring the fact that they are sins. Sins that you were, at one point, aware of and trying to crucify. Sins you were willing to go through the difficult process to remove, humbling yourself like a child to be healed. But suddenly, or maybe gradually, your heart shifted. You weren’t willing to stumble and fall and trust God throughout the process. You didn’t give yourself the grace to learn, nor did you admit the dependence on God you needed. And so, you have slipped back into yourself rather than Him. Sin crept in. And quiet times just don’t seem to have the same significance...
The brutal truth: What is the point of the cross if not to give Him our EVERYTHING? Our whole hearts and minds and strengths and souls and SINS at the foot of the cross, where Jesus bled out and died. Where He was CRUCIFIED to give us the hand that heals us. It is almost not worth it to have a quiet time unless we are willing to surrender it all. Everything. Because if our sin is more valuable to us than His awful death, we may as well just hang on to it instead.
But I say “almost” not worth it because I know He fights for us even when we hold on to our sins, that He waits for us to turn to Him with unlimited patience. Such a gentleman is our God. Slow to anger, quick to forgive, always compassionate...always loving us despite us. And there is value in going to Him exactly where we are, even if we’re not willing to surrender, even when we raise our stiff necks to Him. When we clench our fists in anger, when we fight Him tooth and nail, and when we slip into the passively mundane. Rebellion, defiance, complacence. Because He brings us to the TRUTH eventually. And eventually, hopefully, we are willing to hear it.
Oh, how good it feels when we finally let go of sin. What new life is breathed into our time with Him. Such a sweet surrender when we trust Him at His WORD. A little scary…a leap off of a mountain. But as the air flows in our faces, we feel His freedom. We feel ALIVE again, like a stream of water has touched the desert place of our hearts, where we may not have even realized how parched we were. That living water is a humble place of repentance that only He can bring so directly, but also so lovingly.
I will become like a child. I will humble myself like a child. I will give myself the grace He wants to give me when I fall, but I will also be willing to stumble and fall and make sure that I do this the right way. Not be prideful enough to think that I have my own methods to “cure” my sin. Not be avoiding the road He has planned for me. My father in heaven is the only one that can guide me down this road, pick me up and dust off my knees when I fall, and lead me to streams of living water.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
I didn't really want to give away my first electric guitar. Even though it was an Ibanez "shredder" guitar, designed for a style that I don't really play much anymore, it was very sentimental to me. I had owned it since I was 14 or 15 years old, and it had been with me for all the many changes of my life. I had moved it with me when I moved to different parts of Texas at least 4 or 5 times. I thought I would always keep it, even if it was just a nostalgic conversation piece in the closet. So, when I sensed God leading me to dust it off, get it fixed up, and give it away, I was immediately resistant. Awwwe, man. God. It was my first guitar!! I whined a little to Him and pushed back on the thought of giving it away, but I knew it was what He wanted me to do. Because if it was just an extra guitar and didn't mean anything to me, what kind of gift would it be? My leftovers or whatever I "could spare" wouldn't mean much. But to give something that, in all honesty, I really wanted to keep, something that hurt a little to give away and was really a sacrifice, that means something. To God and to the recipient. Ok ok OK, God. I'll do it.
I planned to give it to the youth pastor at Hope 4 Honduras, who is also a wonderful guitar player and worship leader. But the thing was, I found out right before going that the youth pastor had gotten a job elsewhere and was no longer at the mission. Well, who would I give it to now, God? I debated about even bringing the guitar at all, but I remembered what God had told me and decided to bring it after all. I didn't know who I would give it to, but I had my eyes open for an opportunity.
Shortly after arriving in Honduras, I ran into Leo. I had forgotten about this guitarist. ^_^ Leo works at the mission as an IT guy and also does security there, and he happens to be a killer metal guitar player. The dude has a testimony you wouldn't believe of being redeemed by an all powerful God. He was raised in an environment where Satanic activity, black magic, and witchcraft was the norm. Before Christ, he was involved in all sorts of darkness and played music for the Enemy rather than God. In the 90's, he was in a band called "Blasphemy." But when he came to the Lord, he entered onto a journey when it came to music. The Lord led him to put down his guitar for a long time as he healed from his former life. God showed him his motives were more for his own glory and recognition rather than God's. So, after some years of soul searching and transformation, Leo pondered whether or not it would be ok to pick up the guitar again. Someone bought him one as a gift, an acoustic guitar, but he sensed he was not ready to perform yet. This time, he promised himself, his performance had to be for an audience of one. He loved metal and he loved to play live, but he wanted to make sure that his motives were pure, that it was for God's glory and His alone.
We sat on the patio as he was telling me about all of this, and he had a fire in his eyes when he told me that just recently, he felt like God was telling him he was ready. He had scheduled some time in the recording studio, only a few weeks from then. He was trying to get a group of guys together to form a Christian metal band, hopefully being able to bring Christ to the dark places of the metal scene. His goal was to be able to minister to those musicians as well, sharing his testimony, sharing the glory of God for his redeemed life. The only thing he needed was an electric guitar, which he was planning on buying. He didn't have much money, but he was hoping to be able to find something that would work. I asked him the brand and type of guitar he would get if he had the choice, if he had more money, and when he said "Ibanez" and started describing the characteristics of the guitar I had brought, I knew it was time.
|After I told him the story of how the guitar got there, and the two of us in awe.|
|Leo playing his new gift from God|
I will never...EVER get over how specific His love is for us. Down to the brand and the type of gift He would love to give us. I love how personal is His touch. I will never get over how He provides us with more than we can ask or imagine, at exactly the right time. I told Leo that this was His affirmation, that this was God telling him beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was, indeed, ready.
Leo is running with it. He has been jamming and recording, and has decided to call his project "Memra," which loosely means "Word of the Lord." In Aramaic, it is a word used in the Bible to describe when the Lord's power is physically manifested, when God's power comes alive in the physical world, as it will with Leo's music. To God be the glory for what He does with Leo and His gift. We are so excited to see.