Dumping your purse on the table

Posted onCategoriesTerri's Thoughts

Yesterday a friend said something very profound. She said they had finally cancelled their home telephone service– giving up life as they had known it.  What a life changing thought.

Because of her casual comment, I have metaphorically dumped all of the contents of my life onto a table for the Lord to pick and choose what stays, what goes.    Is all of this stuff really necessary?

Many of us perform this operation every January 1 in the name of New’s Year Resolutions, which I favor.  Self-evaluation is healthy. Everyone should stop and examine what they are doing and why they are doing it—unless, of course, you want to stay the same person doing the same things you have done since you graduated from high school or college.

I would like to believe that all of us want to grow and change from year to year, but maybe that assumption is wrong.  Maybe there is a percent of the world that is happy with themself and feel content to “keep on keepin’ on.”  If that is you, stop reading. We have nothing in common and none of this will make any sense to you.

Perhaps it is because of my age that giving up life as I have known it sounds profound to me.  Who knows why? But it is time.

Should I stay in my house or move?
Quit my job to look for another one?
Same Church?
Same husband—easy answer, yes.  Not only is he a keeper but it is Biblical!
Same Bible study?
What about how I order each day:

Exercise more?  Certainly not less.

Change how often I eat out?  Cook more?  Cook less, or just in general think about food less

Take up a new ministry such as feeding the hungry in downtown Dallas?

Cancel the Wall Street Journal?  Cancel Southern Living magazine?  Which of these items reflect who I am today?  More importantly, which of these items reflect who I want to be in 20 years?

Just like in the bottom of my purse, there are some sticky, nasty things that need to go from my life.

When I graduated from college, I moved away which forced me to change my habits and patterns of living.  Therefore I changed—a lot. After all, I hadn’t been earning income before then!

I think I am facing an equally profound life change today as I come home every night to an empty nest.  I can’t financially retire yet but I can begin to build a life that is sustainable until death.  One less centered around my children, and more centered around God’s voice.

Who knows what tomorrow looks like for me?  Only the Lord. He can tell me what is safe to jettison.

In this new phase, I no longer need to listen for baby’s cries in the night nor teenagers returning home late to a dark house.  Tune my heart to listen for You Lord with the same careful attention, straining to hear Your voice through the fog of life.

Lord, please show me what I should keep.  All of these possessions will burn up in the end times anyway.  Why not give them away to someone who can use them now.

Besides, think how much lighter I can be when walking around here on earth without possessions and magazines and ill-suited organizations calling for my finite, precious minutes.

As the song says, you can’t run holding suitcases, it’s a new day so put away all your shame….

Why is the cross the symbol of Christianity?

Posted onCategoriesTerri's Thoughts

After Jesus returned to heaven, early Christians used the anchor as their symbol for Christianity. Why did it change? In my humble opinion, an anchor is a great symbol to represent Jesus.

I don’t know the story, but I guess the switch to the cross was intentional. Why? Why the change when we should anchor our lives in Jesus? It’s truth.

Why? Because Jesus called and calls us to die to self. Jesus called us to take up our cross and follow Him. Jesus called us to follow Him and His path took Him to the cross. Why should ours avoid the cross?

Consider.

  1. All the disciples, except for John, were martyred for their faith in Jesus, who was considered a criminal who died a criminal’s death.
  2. John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
  3. John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends.”

I live with a lot of crosses around me. Why? Why do I live my life with the cross ever before my eyes?

To constantly remind me and re-remind me that my eternal life, my salvation, was bought with a price. My salvation was not free. It cost Jesus everything, leaving heaven and the presence of the Father, living 33 years on this fallen earth around fallen people, and ultimately dying a painful and humiliating death on the cross.

I want to be like Jesus. I confess that I pray that does not include painful martyrdom. But….I want to become like Jesus, to follow Him wherever He leads me. That will not “earn” my salvation. But it will represent how my life is inseparably bound with His.

Consider the price, consider what He called you to do.

Answered Prayer

Posted onCategoriesTerri's Thoughts

Right now I am praying fervently for the health of a friend. Rarely have I been so intentional about praying for another. When you have a request before God that touches your heart deeply, it makes you evaluate all the reasons that God might not answer. I’ve spent a good bit of time thinking about the “why” of answered prayer.

At first I prayed for Satan to be bound in this situation. I’m praying for a strong Christ follower who has years of strength left to share with his wife, his four sons and grandchildren, with his Church. It seems to me that God would want to sustain the life of one like this! God has more work to do on this earth and this one wants to work God’s way, which is why I started praying for Satan to be bound, that the road before treatment would be smooth, no obstacles to medicine, diagnosis, easy sleep, and more.

Ephesians 6:12 “We are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world…against evil spirits in heavenly places.”

When I had plumbed the depth of those prayers, and I must confess that my depth is quite shallow, I started to re-evaluate other reasons that God might not answer prayer.

Perhaps I was praying selfishly. James 4:3 “You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” But I didn’t think this applied to this situation. Genesis 12:2-3 tells us that God blessed Abraham so that he could become a blessing to others. That definitely gave me more energy to pray because this person is a blessing to many others.

My third thought was that God doesn’t answer prayer when we have unconfessed sin. The best example of this is in the Old Testament after Joshua led the Israelite’s to conquer Jericho. Joshua 7. THEO parents and I began meeting weekly over Zoom to pray for our families and teachers. We have focused on unconfessed sin every week although I am confident we still have not given it the attention it needs.

So many people live far below all that God promises us, wanting to skate by on the thin precipice of “being saved.” When you live that way, beware that you will come up short when you have a God-sized need. As Jenni Allen says in her messages, “Discipline with God-time doesn’t guarantee intimacy with God.” That is so true, but it helps to build the structure needed for the intimacy that we need with our Lord.

And, even if my prayers are not answered for my friend, I know that he and his wife have intimacy with God that will make “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23) bearable with God’s presence.

Folks, even if God says no to a prayer request, His followers have a strength and peace that is unmatched by the world….which takes us to the fourth point. Maybe God doesn’t answer prayer because He has a bigger idea in mind. Maybe He wants to display the strength of one of His faithful for the world to see the benefits of following God, to see the Glory of God has value in our lives here on this earth.

I’ve rambled a long time on this topic but there is a lot to consider. Maybe God doesn’t answer prayer because our request is unscriptural. This is a broad category that most of us intuitively “get” even if we aren’t Christ-followers. Don’t pray to win the lottery or for your child to get all A’s or for a new car or a new house or whatever.

Finally, maybe just maybe, God is answering but for today, His answer is wait. His timing is perfect because He is perfect. Stop. I am stopping right now, to thank God for all the positive things I know about Him – regardless of the answer to this specific prayer. Things such as His faithfulness, His love and kindness, even when things don’t turn out “as I want.” We grow impatient when we are unsure. No need to grow impatient if you ware waiting on God. He is a sure thing. He is an unchanging sure thing.

Do pray for Him to give you eyes to see His answers, His movement. Ask Him to give you ears to hear His voice in the midst of the storm.

Praying for eyes to see or ears to hear always reminds of a devotional I wrote called “My active God hears you.” He hears and He is active but sometimes it takes decades for His actions to be uncovered, complete or finished. I wrote it after praying for something for 32 years. “My active God hears you” was validated another time when my 87 year old father-in-law accepted Jesus and was a changed man until his death at 92. God isn’t accountable to me to show me His plans. He offers us sneak previews on a grand scale, such as in the book of Revelation, but He is not beholden to anyone else’s time table – certainly not mine.

We serve a big God, creator of the universe, creator of time itself. It is truly amazing that He invites us to ask anything of Him at all. And yet He does.

So stop complaining about unanswered prayer. Start cooperating with God by reading His Word and aligning your life to His ways….just like my friend who needs a miracle today. It’s a great way to live. He may be walking through the shadow of the valley of death presented in Psalm 23 but he is walking with grace that I envy.

Try leaning into God’s ways. Begin today and keep talking to Him.

How loud is God’s voice in your life today?

Posted onCategoriesTerri's Thoughts

How loud is God’s voice in your life? 

Right now God is speaking on full volume to me, which reminds me that hasn’t always been the case.  Often times I have listened to other voices more than His.  Right now, Bible study is rich, fellowship with believers is rich, sermons at my Church Hunters Glen have been amazing thanks to the guest speakers Don Guthrie and Hal Habecker…so many blessings in the midst of the storm.

What is He saying to me?  Lots of things but the most wonderful is the song “Never Will I Leave You” by Michael Card.  Check it out on youtube and prepare to be blessed by the words, the message, the tone of Michael’s voice and the musicians.  After listening to that song 20+ times, it occurs to me that I love it because it feels like God’s voice singing over me.  Reminds me of Zephaniah 3:17 which says 

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

He is not singing this song only over me.  He loves you equally as much.  Today, make a conscience effort to tune into what He is saying to you.  Begin by listening to Mike’s song….It will bless you because it is truth.  He, the creator of the universe, will never leave us nor forsake us, so we may boldly say the Lord is my helper.  Hebrews 13:6

Have a beautiful day my friends.

The Paradox lives in me

Posted onCategoriesTerri's Thoughts

God created our world filled with paradoxes. In His Word, He makes in-congruent statements like “in our weakness, we are strong.” Or, the meek shall inherit the earth. The poor are rich. The contrasts don’t end there. He has tucked them inside each of us, whether we admit it or not. Example?

Think of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. In I Kings 18, we read of how he alone defeated 450 prophets of Baal. Read it. It’s amazing. I’d say unbelievable if I didn’t believe it. His boldness, his confidence in God.

And yet….only a few short verses later in I Kings 19, Elijah is crying out to God to take his life. Now that is believable. Many of us have felt those same emotions, said the same words. In this state of exhaustion, his life feels worthless, especially with Jezebel’s promise to kill him. It seems impossible that his I Kings 19 fear and emotions live in the same man who called fire from heaven and defeated 450 prophets of Baal mere hours before that scene in chapter 18. That’s a paradox! It’s hard to understand one so strong also being so weak.

And yet doesn’t that describe us? Humans are consistently able to pull off big projects, heroic acts of kindness, and yet, after the “party” is over, when the adrenaline rush ebbs, then self doubt sets in. That’s the paradox tucked in each of us. For some reason it reminds me of the compassionate and brilliant doctor who is also an alcoholic.

I believe the problem of this paradox is exponentially compounded because Satan knows this weak spot in us, in all human beings. He’s had time to study a lot of us. Being Satan, he purposes to leverage our own weaknesses against us at the most opportune times, or is it inopportune times? It happens so often that maybe we should label it the Elijah syndrome.

But there is an answer to the Elijah syndrome. It’s the same answer every time.

Fact: We are strong. But we are not perfect. Fact: We do great things. But we also make great mistakes which hurt others, hurt ourselves and irreversibly alter life.

Satan purposes to use this weakness against us, to beat us down, often at the exact moment of our success. Not Jesus. More than Satan, Jesus is even more aware of our flaws, our weaknesses and our tendency to sin. Yet He never is the voice in your head beating you up over those incidents. He came to save, not to condemn. His Holy Spirit is a gentle whisper turn the other way, there is a better way. We have to choose it, but salvation is a beautiful gift.

So, if you are struggling with self-doubt, if you have recently botched something big, then fall on Jesus, just as you did at the moment you believed. Turn your eyes upon Him. He died for you and He stands ready to cover your transgression, no matter the size, with His blood, which cleanses us from all sin.

That preaches. That promise brings hope, relief because we cannot “fix” anything. The forgiveness of Jesus Christ will bring joy in the midst of whatever you are struggling with today, even when there are earthly consequences yet to pay. Don’t expect the paradox to end. Don’t expect to be all saint all the time. It won’t happen this side of heaven. So stop, pause and pray. Confess your sins and re-enter the joy, the hope, the relief of forgiveness again. Run to Him. Don’t let Satan’s accusations push you into hiding from the One who knows you better than anyone, who loves you better than anyone else loves you.

The paradox is big, but God’s love and provision are bigger. Bank on it!

Learning to Let the Lord do the Heavy Lifting

Posted onCategoriesTerri's Thoughts

Today I learned something new.

After being troubled for weeks over a situation that seemed impossible to resolve, God broke into my thoughts and fixed “it.” The problem was conflict between believers.

Conflict weighs heavier on Christ-followers since we instinctively know we are called to be in unity with other believers, even before we know about Ephesians 4 or John 17:23 – I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

I don’t want to betray details and people, but I have a recommendation for all Christ-followers.


Try to let God do the heavy lifting next time you are facing a pesky puzzling problem. Warning: He won’t respond immediately, but if you ask, (like the neighbor who keeps knocking in the night for a loaf of bread in Luke 11:5-18,) then He will answer. Sometimes decades later; sometimes seconds.

The indeterminable time period of His answering reminds me of a lesson He taught me about ten years ago. It’s in these posts on the THEO web site, “My active God hears you.”

We knock. We ask. We petition. We might even beg.

He hears. He acts. He moves.

But His timetable is not ours.

And He is not obligated to reveal His actions or movement. Sometimes He never tips His hand to confirm He got the message…. But nonetheless, our loving God is active and hearing. Bank on those three characteristics.

Today, after my problem was solved, I could run far and long, even fast, for it is as if the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders, even before I’ve seen Him dissolve it.

Consider, if you are feeling troubled and unable to figure out how to fix some trouble, perhaps that means you are facing a God-sized problem, not one human-sized. Give it to Him, talk to Him, but then wait.

You may have to repeat this cycle. Or perhaps your faith is stronger than mine. You will know if you can patiently wait and remain in that weightless problem-free zone BEFORE you SEE His solution with your own eyes. Not me. I tend to pick it up and again and again to look for my own solution.

I only give it up permanently when I wake up to notice the size of my problem, i.e. weight, is more than I can bare. Then, only then, I resign. I then give it up for good and leave it in His court.

It seems I only can leave it with Him permanently in its unresolved state when I identify a problem’s size – God-sized or Terri-sized?

Again, take my advice. Let God do your heavy lifting. He wants to. It may be that your problems are smaller than mine, or maybe you are smarter and stronger than I am? But I’d guess not…so talk to Him!

He promises to enlarge me when I am in distress

Posted onCategoriesTerri's Thoughts, Uncategorized

 

 

In God’s economy things don’t work as you expect. Remember Jesus’ New Testament words, “the first shall be last?” It’s the same God of the Old Testament. He has not changed.

The principle of Psalm 4:1 is similarly unexpected. In the KJV translation it reads: Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness. Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress, have mercy upon me and hear my prayer.

Right now the world is distressed, groaning because of being hemmed in by the corona virus. This verse is quite promising in light of the distress so many are feeling.

Often our distress comes from feeling caged, penned in, cornered – out of control of our lives or circumstances. Whatever the pressure, in that pressure – enlargement. We may feel smaller and more confined right now, but He promises He is doing a work in people around the world and enlarging them, enlarging their capacity to endure, to think, to feel, to know.

As foreign as this concept sounds, it is my experience. In fact, I can tell you names of others who can testify to the same experience.

Talk to God about this promise. Challenge Him on it.

Writing more, citing examples, would be wasting my breath to try to convince you. Only God can bring this promise to life for you. He is listening closely right now. Give it a try to talk to Him.

We are spiritual beings on a human journey.

Posted onCategoriesTerri's Thoughts

The eye-catching quote is by French Jesuit theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Today it speaks to me. Maybe it will speak to me every day if I will make time to consider something more than my body.

No Christian would question that we are spiritual beings. Everyone votes yes. Yet, how many of us live like we are spiritual beings? Most often, even the most devoted Christ-followers only devote an hour or two to weekly Church attendance. A smaller percentage gives the Lord 10-30 minutes/day in a “devotional or quiet” time. We are so caught up in what makes us feel good, what makes us happy, that we forget that we are not all body. Percentage wise, we spend a much larger percent of our time on body care rather than soul care.

In my humble opinion, Americans seem addicted to their bodies and what makes them happy, or feel good. Sadly, I personally fall in line with the American way as well. I spend more time eating or exercising or whatever than I do on my time with the Lord.

Where can we start to care more for our spirit than our body? I recently read that we all constantly carry on a conversation with ourselves in our heads. They recommended that we invite God into that conversation in our head.

I plan to try this new way of thinking. Lord Jesus, please join the conversation in my head. When I fail to invite you, please know that the door is always open to you. I want to remember that I am spiritual being on a human journey. I must journey in this body for a lifetime. Keep my eyes on you as I know you love me completely – body, soul and spirit.

Suffering

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This is an incomplete post, and probably always will be.  When can our finite minds and limited faith plumb the depth of all God has for us in our suffering? Nonetheless, let’s start the discussion….

Until a Christian suffers loss,  pain or lack of control, I don’t believe that we can hear the concept that God plans to change us/conform us/transform us into the image of His Son.  Up until we  face insurmountable problems or loss, we are deaf to the idea of God transforming us into the image of His Son – despite the fact that the principle of God transforming us is all over God’s Word.

Romans 8:29 NLT

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

We cannot become like His Son unless we suffer like His Son, unless we bear His marks.  I don’t expect any of us will be hanging on a cross soon, but there are so many ways humanity suffers – estrangement from loved ones, disease, financial hardships, being the subject of gossip, rejection by friends.  The list of “tools”  God might use to conform us is endless.

Up until we suffer, the majority of followers of Jesus believe that they need to clean up their act for the Lord, to get good enough for Him.  The “good enough, self-help dance” goes on until God is ready to reveal how futile our best is.  Think of  the Old Testament quote in Isaiah 64:6?

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

That isn’t “pre Christian.”  Unbelievers don’t have righteous acts.

God expects us to follow Him. The idea of not earning His righteousness is not a get out of jail free devotional, which is why Paul wrote to  the  Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to test themselves:

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

Another side of the coin of suffering? How God uses it.  Consider 2 Corinthians 1:6

Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. (New Living Translation)

If we don’t learn from our sufferings and use our sufferings to comfort others,  then our sufferings are merely “pain.”  I don’t know about you, but I can endure far more when I have hope that God is going to use my pain for good.

Now that I am a few years down the road from my crisis  season of suffering, I can assure you it brings me unspeakable joy when I can comfort someone in their crisis season of suffering.  After my story, I can comfort them with hope–with the truth that God can redeem all things.

To be honest, I now have things I can say.  Before my own crisis season of suffering, I drew only one dimensional platitudes when someone came to me for comfort in their suffering.

That’s a terrible feeling when you cannot truly testify to the Lord’s goodness and provision to others.

Consider….God has big plans for you.  They maybe not big plans as you change the world, but big plans as you minister to those around you one by one.  The journey may begin when He reveals His big plans for you to suffer.  Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials.

Foolishness

Posted onCategoriesTerri's Thoughts

My cousin’s adopted daughter decided to return to the Ukraine on her 19th birthday.  What heartache for the family.  All because of a boy she met when she visited last month.

But she won’t listen to reason….

Is that by definition foolishness?  The Bible says foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.  Proverbs 22:15

And we all want to judge her, and yet, every adult has been there. Old enough to do what you want.  “I’m an adult.  No one can tell me what to do.”  Old enough but not wise enough to see the downside to your plan.

My prayer?

  • That God protects her through this ordeal on the other side of the world.
  • That she’s smart enough to wise up quickly – not over decades.
  • That she’s humble enough to confess her plan failed.
  • That my cousin is wise enough to love her when she returns.  Love her without a lecture.  Life will have given her the lecture.
  • That this is that marker in her life that builds a beautifully firm foundation in her life of devotion to Jesus, the only good and wise King.

Parents, warning,  there is not a formula for raising “good” kids.  Adam and Eve had THE perfect parent, and yet, they rebelled.

If your kids do not rebel, it has more to do with God and them than with your savvy parenting skills.

Your child may not run off to Kiev but brace yourself for something because it is coming.

Then it’s your turn to choose to act like a foolish child or to emulate the good and wise example God gave us in the story of the prodigal son.

Choose wisely….