Dry Bones

You know when God asked Ezekial “can these bones live?” Ezekial’s response was the only logical one: “Only You know”.

If God had asked me that at any point in the last couple of years my answer would have been “only you know (but I doubt it)”.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am not talking about someone else’s valley of dry bones nor the churches dry bones nor those of our nation nor any other nation. These are my dry bones and my ministry’s dry bones. We are a small group of mostly family but our bones have been spread out over a valley deep and wide with no river, spring or rain in sight. Oh hush, I know that is not what anyone wants to hear or that you’re going sing me a verse of I’ve Got a River of Life Flowing Out of Me. I know all of that. I have preached the sermons and bought the T-shirts in the lobby.

But the fact is that sometimes it just quits raining… Hello desert.

Or maybe it’s the total opposite.

It hasn’t quit raining for days, months, and years on end. It’s been cloudy and dreary and now everything is not just wet, it’s soaked. It’s a sopping wet, swampy, sweaty, bacteria-infested mess. We can’t go anywhere or do anything. We couldn’t feel healthy in this mess if we tried (and trust me we have tried) and now our bones have sunk deep into the muck and mire of it all. Oh maybe we should stop here so that you can sing me a little bit of The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow… Annie.

The fact is sometimes it doesn’t quit raining… Hello swampy wasteland.

The question still begs: “can these bones live?”.

In the midst of those verses in Ezekial 37 God had him prophecy life, “Prophecy to the bones: LIVE” and then breath: “Prophecy to the wind: BREATHE”. The funny thing is it really doesn’t matter whether it is dry or swampy, you’ll still have to prophecy both to get the desired results. And sometimes you have to wait for the process to complete. I’ll be honest, during this time period I have prophesied until I was all out of breath and I wasn’t the only one. (Consider the possibility that Ezekiel stood at the head of that valley everyday for years having this interaction with God, but then suddenly one day the bones rattled.) There is a time and a season to all things. All things go through processes. It’s all going to be ok, at least that’s what I’ve had to keep telling myself and others.

So here we are with our bones finally coming back together and breath filling our lungs. The dry valley is seeing rain. And the swampy mess is feeling the sun and wind again. Either way. WE WILL LIVE and not die.

 

Hold On A Little Longer

Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NKJV)

Someone needs this word today – I hope it’s you! The Lord says to wait for what He said, it will happen. It will be ok. Wait. Trust. He’s got this.

Words – Life or Death

I have been thinking a lot about words recently. There is much to say about words and how we use them. How am I using my words? Do I think about what I am saying and how I am saying it? Do I truly understand the power my words possess? Are my words bringing life or death?

There are so many mediums in which we rely on words. Speech is only one. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, texting, blogging, and every other place we can leave comments and feedback are all filled with words. Words are everywhere.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, (Proverbs 18:21a) Now before you go off about how this is talking about the tongue or spoken words and not words typed out on the internet you must understand the meaning of the word tongue. With a little bit of study it becomes apparent that this word can mean speech or language. In fact Vine states that “the manner of one’s “speech” is considered to be the external expression of the character of the speaker.”* This would be all words used by an individual not just the spoken ones.

Ok enough with the word lesson and back to the questions at hand. How am I using my words? Are my words bringing life or death to the hearer/reader? I do not think that we get the understand that my words have on 3 functions: life, death , or idleness. (We will look at idleness another time and it’s not good.) I also do not think that we understand just how many people are reading/hearing our words. I have somewhere between 2 and 3 hundred friends on my Facebook. Every time I write a status people see it and LOTS of those people will never like, comment or leave any evidence that they have read what I wrote. I forget they are there until perhaps I have a real life conversation with them and they say something in regards to a status or comment conversation I had with someone else. At first I am like “whoa who has been talking about me?” and then I remember I live in a glass house called the internet. People read my words. Even if it is only 3 people my words are being absorbed by someone. Am I bringing them life or am I bringing them death? This is something we all must begin to ponder as we use our words so casually to communicate.

I will leave you with these 2 thoughts. First, it has been said ‘the pen is mightier than the sword” but I would say “Words are mightier than the sword”. Be careful how you yield them. Second, we grew up with the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That was a lie.

*Vine, W. E. ;  Unger, Merrill F. ;   White, William: Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville : T. Nelson, 1996, S. 1:265

Today

Today is April 12. Today is my youngest daughter’s birthday. Today she is 22. Today she is 28 weeks and 5 days pregnant. Today my older 23 year old daughter is 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant. Today it has been 22 years since the last time I gave birth. Today I am 42.
This is how it is today. My girls are stronger and wiser than I was when they were born. I had no idea how very little I knew. I had no idea how emotionally broken I was. I was 18 when Ashley breathed her first breath. She brought with her an understanding that I had an important role in life, I had a chance to do something well, I had value but I was broken. I was 20 when Sierra breathed her first breath. She brought with her an understanding that I could be repaired, I could be healed, I was more than I thought I was but I was afraid. We say “children are a gift from God” but I am not sure we understand the depth of such a statement. These two little girls were true gifts from God to me. With them came the desire to know him in ways I had not even dreamed possible and to love myself when I did not believe anyone else could. Compassion, strength, healing, mercy, grace, courage, power, authority, knowledge, intimacy, love. These are the things that accompanied these girls. These are the things they gave birth to in my life. There are not words to describe the incredible gifts God has given me. These two little girls introduced me to the God I thought I already knew.
During retreat season at Touched by Grace Ministries in the fall of 2011 a friend of mine, BJ Hilton, had the opportunity to pray for me twice during the same weekend. Both times, with much excitement and a little bit of perplexity, he could only hear the Lord say one thing “be ready for your borders to be enlarged”. I thought I understood what this meant based on things I already knew from my own relationship with the Lord. Sitting here now I do not think I understood. At the time Ashley had already married Jason, who may I say is a gift in and of himself, and Sierra was not married but dating David, also a gift. In the time since then Sierra and David have gotten married and as I said above both girls are now expecting their first babies. The girls’ husbands have brought much into my life as well. Sons. Both of them challenge me to go deeper in what I know spiritually. They display the love of Christ for his bride in the way they love my daughters. They remind me that sometimes it is ok to just go play video games. The physical borders of my family have indeed been enlarged. But today as I sit here waiting for the birth of my first grandchild I am acutely aware that my emotional and spiritual borders are going to be enlarged as well. I am guessing, even more than I can imagine. I did not expect my girls to change my life in the way they did because I was young and naive. I am no longer young nor naive so am expecting great changes. I do not know nor do I assume that I should know what changes will come, but I know the Lord and I know that children are indeed a gift from God.
Today I wait with great anticipation for the God of all the universe to bring in the expansion that he so excitedly spoke of a year and half ago. Today I wish my Sierra a happy birthday. Today I thank God for the gifts he has given. Today is April 12

You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; (Psalm 23:5-6)

-Stephanie

Beloved, let us love one another

“Beloved, let us love one another.” (1 John 4:7) Pretty simple instruction (at least it seems like it should be), but lately it seems many (myself included) have forgotten what the word love means. Dictionary.com defines the verb love as: to have love or affection for; to have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for (another person); to have a strong liking for; take great pleasure in; to need or require; benefit greatly from. The Lord has really put this word in front of me a lot of late. I have really had to check my love meter to see if it is full or empty. A lot of what is in me that I thought was love has turned out to be judgement, opinion, or just plain mean hatefulness. So I am having to really let God examine my heart to see what is in there. What I am discovering is that I need to go after real love (God) and get full on it (him) so that what comes out of me is genuine, heart-felt love.

I am a minister and a follower of Christ. This is the position from which I write, and I have noticed lately that many of the people (myself included again) who should KNOW love the most, show NO love at all. Christians who say they know God are chewing up and spitting out people as if we are the lawnmower and people are nothing but overgrown grass, whether it be our President, our government, the cashier at Walmart, the nurse at the hospital, a family member or anyone who is simply in the way of the what we believe at the moment is important. It appears that our first instinct is not to love but to tear apart. This is especially true on social media. These sites have become a great place for cowards to “drive by” and “shoot” other people down with no real consequence except maybe losing a “friend” from a page with hundreds of “friends” and lets face it are we really “friends” in the first place. It is so easy to blast away at someone for their thoughts/opinions without ever stopping for a moment to consider the person. We rip through them with the sword of our own fleshly thinking when we should be considering what the sword of the Spirit says and means by “love one another”. Somehow the “love your neighbor as yourself” passage has left us (Matt 22:39). Either we really do not love ourselves or we just do not really know God because to not love means we do not know him (see 1 John 4).

Do you want to know a good way to check your love meter? Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV) and ask these questions about yourself and your love: Am I patient? Am I kind? Do I envy? Do I boast? Am I proud? Do I dishonor others? Am I self-seeking? Am I easily angered? Do I keep record of wrongs? Do I delight in evil or do I rejoice with the truth? Do I always protect? Do I always trust? Do I always hope? Do I always persevere? These may be hard questions but trust me they have been an eye-opener for me.

The first 3 verses of that same chapter have some very interesting insights into what a person without love amounts to so I will leave you with them. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

God help me to love like you.

-Jeff

MawMaw

My sweet MawMaw died a little over a week ago. I owe a lot of who I am to this amazing little lady. She was one of my greatest encouragers and possibly one of my strictest critics. She wanted the best I could give so she encouraged me, as well as everyone else, to use our gifts to the fullest. To misuse or ignore what God had placed inside of us would bring swift but gentle correction. She loved. She loved her family, her friends, her church family, both past and present. She loved life and most importantly she loved the Lord! She taught me what it meant to really love your neighbor as yourself. Through her example I learned many of the things I now use in my life: a love for the piano, love for many types of music, a love of worship and a geniune love for leading people into the things of God. She would not let me give up on who God called me to be, even when I tried. Truly with MawMaw around “the gifts and callings of the Lord are without repentance”. (Romans 11:29 KJV) I am who I am because of the many people who poured of themselves into me. I can especially thank MawMaw for helping build my foundation, so I could become the man of God she always knew I would become. I will miss your laughter and joy, your piano playing, your good cookin’, your sweet tea and most of all I will miss you!

Jeff

You Are a Good Work!

You are a Good work! Did you know that? Phil. 1:6 says “He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” or as the old Hymn song says ” He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it, he who started the work will be faithful to complete it in you”. Notice the word says “He”  He started the work He will be the one to complete the work. Far too often those who say they follow Christ have a terrible habit of trying to finish something that the word says won’t be finished until Christ completes it.  Instead of allowing the Lord to complete the work we get impatient and try to do it ourselves. All the way back at the beginning, before we were shaped, before he breathed life into us, He knew us.  That’s when he started putting gifts, talents and abilities in us. That’s when He began a good work in us. We search every resource, every conference, and every form of intellect we think knows more than us, when we already  have all we need inside us. The word says we have an anointing from the holy one and know all things (1 John 2:20). What else could we need that we don’t already have. Christ said he was in us and that He is our hope  of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Jeff

The Death of His Saints

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15

I was talking with a friend the other day about the deaths of our elder’s generation (I am 42 by the way). In that conversation I received an awesome revelation about the older and younger generations. Those who have come before in this walk with Christ have looked forward to going to heaven to meet him. Those of my generation and younger seem more intent on Christ’s coming to meet us. These two positions can be seen in the music, books, sermons and entire belief systems in each. Many people who have loved ones that have gotten older and are ready to go home to be with Jesus would deny them the very thing they have spent their whole lives longing for in part because they cannot see the revelation these older saints possess. They were not meant to walk in the cry of the Spirit and the bride for Jesus to “Come!” (Revelelation 22:17) Oh yes, some did quote this verse and cry for a rapture of the church, but their hearts’ desire has still been to go and be with him in heaven. That is what God gave them, that is the desire he placed in his saints hearts. We have to know that those who have walked and are walking with God have to the ability to hear what he is saying TO THEM. We have to let people work out their own salvation. We have to trust God with his own people. He is not shaking his head in shame because his children of this older generation want to go to his abode or that they sings songs of heaven and going home. He is delighted. Their deaths are and will be precious to him. And he is equally delighted in the generation who cries for him to reign in the earth, who sing songs of intimacy and life. He loves ALL of his saints and all who believe in him are such! To the generations: Walk unashamed in the truth he has placed in your hearts! To the saints who have gone before: Thank you. To the saints who are: Abide in him and love each other. And to the saints who will be: Welcome!

Stephanie

Just Believe

I think we as Christians make living for God and getting to Heaven a harder journey than God meant for it to be. I love what John 10:28-29 says,” And I give them eternal  life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”  He says nothing can pluck us out of His hand. If we have a relationship with Him that is all that is required. Religion and law put on pressure, undue pressure, that most people on their best day couldn’t live up to. Rules for behavior, moral codes, lifestyle requirements that God never Intended to be there for relationship, we added for control. Now I’m not saying there are not certain behaviors we as Christians should live up to or that there are certain ways we should not act, but our behavior should always be based on what God says and not someone else’s moral preference.  When people try to live by manmade rules for behavior it can cause an attitude of defeat that makes life incredibly difficult. I’ve heard it said “if you do this…” or “if you don’t do this…” there is no hope for you and you are not going to heaven, but I say that’s just not how God intended it to be. This walk with its promise of troubles and trials also has promise of hope, peace and eternal life with Jesus  (John 16:33). So I don’t believe making the journey difficult was ever Jesus’ intention, but man’s.

So what is required in this journey? Jesus said just simply believe.    “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life”  John 5:24. You see that – “whoever believes in Him”. Just believe. Want to make it to heaven? Believe in Him. Need to be healed ? Believe.  Need a miracle in your family? Believe.  Need help in your finances? Believe. It’s not complicated, every instruction in the Bible is built on this principle – just believe in Him. This is the foundation of our faith, without it the rest is just words.

Jeff