Fixated

..this would describe a heart seized by the Spirit of God. Unapologetically consumed by Him.

Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?

Words fail utterly to describe this experience. It is glory, it is rest, it is comfort, it is beauty, it is holy anguish, it is power, it is JESUS. Himself. Deep calleth unto deep…so much so that the flesh can hardly bear it.

This is when you know it’s real. As a book I’ve been reading so aptly puts it, This is That. It is exquisitely described, alluded to, and promised in Scripture. All of nature points to it. From the beginning, all of history, line upon line, precept upon precept, saturated with prophecy, type, and shadow, swelled to fill the universe with glorious Power, bursting forth on Pentecost. And the gates of hell could not prevent it.

And to this day, it will not. Greater is HE! He is the Rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest. He is the Peace that transcends every fear.

The Breath of God warms and transforms the stony heart of man, igniting that consuming fire. It is Jesus in my soul!

Yet so many prevent Him from entering. No, the gates of hell won’t prevail. But He will not force Himself upon those who don’t truly want Him.

What unspeakable joy is found in Him, what belonging, what purpose, what identity! What love! There is no substitute.

Counterfeit, yes. Substitute, no.

Does your experience with God reflect this? Am I describing your walk with Jesus? If not, what hinders you?

For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

~2 Corinthians 6:2

 

But if…thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.

~Deuteronomy 4:29

Do you know Him?

It’s two in the morning, and I can’t sleep. I have a question to ask:

Do you know Jesus?

I lay here, almost asleep, and the beating of my heart awoke me. This soul housed in my body is important enough to Him to DIE for. So is yours. Do you know this God?

I do not say this for poetic effect. I ask you sincerely.

Sure, you’ve been to church. Maybe you’ve been faithful. Do you hear Him speaking? He wants a closer walk with you. Are you listening?

Okay, maybe you’ve read His Word: His voice recorded on the page. But do you know the God of the Word?

Yes, there are enough cliches about knowing God to fill your twitter feed and Facebook status updates for years, but the question remains:

Do you know Jesus?

He speaks, pleads, screams, shouts, whispers through all the instruments of nature and circumstance to divert your attention to Him…have you noticed?

How long has it been since you felt His presence? How long has it been since you’ve seen Him move in your life? How long since you spoke in other tongues as the Spirit gave the utterance? (Yes it’s for YOU) How long has it been since the Witness of the Holy Ghost entered into your conversation and suddenly, you knew He was THERE in your midst?

Jesus won’t let me sleep, until I tell you: He is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance: turning away from sin, to Him. That means YOU. His ear is not deaf that it cannot hear; His arm is not short that it cannot save!

If you have never seen Him move, or heard Him speak, or felt His presence, You CAN! He longs for you to walk with Him. He is not a God who dwells in houses made with hands..He wants your heart.

Please, please, seek Him now, while you still have time. Call on the name of Jesus. All power is His in heaven and earth, and He knocks on your door right now, ready to transform your mind, and place His eternal law in your soul.

There are no perfect words to say; He is not asking for ritualistic, vain repetition. He wants the desperate cry of a hungry heart, broken and contrite before Him. This is the acceptable sacrifice.

Sure, shrug this off as just another blogger wanting to increase traffic (If you’ve seen how often I post, you know this isn’t priority). I’m nobody. But He’s everything! He’s worth listening to, if I’m not.

I cannot any longer call myself “gospelmom” if I don’t preach the Gospel to somebody! Have you heard that Jesus died for YOU, that He was buried and ROSE AGAIN to release you from the bonds of sin and set you FREE from the law of sin and death? And that ALL THIS He did so He could walk with you, live in you, rescue you?

This is not cliche, it is TRUTH!!

Call me a crazy fundamental nutjob, or a pentecostal freak. You’re free to do that…

but please do not ignore His voice. He calls now; will you answer?

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.       ~Jeremiah 31:33,34

On studying history..

I am currently in heated pursuit of the best Ancient History curriculum/method/resources for our next homeschool year.

So far, though undecided, I have found treasure:

The Heart of Wisdom Teaching Approach by Robin Sampson. This book has inspired me to take the High Road and teach my children Biblically, as God directed from the beginning. It wisely cautions the Christian homeschooling parent to think twice about throwing all the Greek ‘classics’ (full of humanism) at our children. Whew! Compelling and convicting. (Robin has a lot more to say than this, and it’s all good.) Well worth the read.

This paragraph from Exodus Books was worth sharing:

No one knows for sure what the end of history will look like, except that every knee in heaven and on earth will bow to the returned glorious Christ, who comes to judge the living and the dead. What we believe about Him will determine whether that culmination will be filled with joy or loathing (everyone will be terrified). He is the author of history, and its centerpiece; honor Him in your study of it.

Well put.

Zealot

There’s no mistaking it: God loves a zealot. A real, off-the-beaten-path wacko.

John the Baptist, clothed in animal skins, wandering around the wilderness.
Saul of Tarsus, persecutor-at-large turned Paul the Apostle, author of over half the New Testament.
Peter, jumping out of boats and hacking people’s ears off.
Another Simon, “Simon the zealot,” was a disciple.

Just about all the OT prophets were zealots.
And there’s David, who danced in front of the Ark.
Jesus Himself:

“the zeal of the Lord hath eaten me up”

…wreaking holy havoc in the Temple…(but it was HIS HOUSE).

Chances are, if you aim to please God, He will give you plenty of opportunity to make yourself a fool in the eyes of men. You might be the one shouting a little louder, dancing a little wilder in His presence, and dressing a little stranger than the norm. If it is truly to His glory, there is nothing more beautiful. It’s the overflow of something built up, something utterly consuming inside. The presence of a Holy God that by necessity overwhelms His fleshly house and spills over. It’s messy, loud, and a little strange. But it’s the glory!

Lest I cause someone to stumble, let me clarify: this zeal was not a ploy to attract positive attention; it usually had the opposite effect, in fact. The attention gotten was rarely (if ever) positive, but a disruption to the atmosphere, a shaking-into-the-present of minds lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the day.

For seven days, during the Feast of Tabernacles, the people watched as priests poured water over the altar from the pool of Siloam and worshiped in ritual. On the last great day of the feast, as they gathered in solemn assembly, Jesus stood up at a climactic moment and disturbed the peace.

“Ho, every one that thirsteth come to me and drink!

He shouted. Total zealot.

“How dare he!” huffed the Pharisees, straightening miter and tallit and shooting him a withering look. Ironic, when they were the fig trees withering from the inside, whited sepulchres with no life within. “Disturbing our beautiful tradition!”

I do not advocate chaos–let all things be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40). But it is within the perfect order and design of God to fill us to overflowing with His presence. While the spiritual evidence is unmistakeable and demonstrative, the humanity is still humble and does not seek its own glory. This is the order He has chosen. Spiritual zeal, humble humanity.
When was the last time you were eaten up from the inside, so hungry and thirsty and desperate for Jesus that it didn’t matter how you looked, how loud you were, or who heard you?

“Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”(Psalm 42:7)

Next time you find yourself quoting this, you can humbly blush to those around you, “Pardon my messy worship–that’s just my cup overflowing!”

..”be zealous therefore, and repent…” (Rev 3:19)

“A classical education…

“…tries to equip a child to join the Great Conversation, to understand and analyze and argue with the ideas of the past. Those ideas are important. Those words are important. Aristotle chose his terms with care; the reader must struggle to understand why, not substitute another phrase to simplify matters.”
~Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, The Well-Trained Mind

The core of this ‘Great Conversation’ is Truth. Words were granted meaning from the mouth of God. He spoke the word “Light,” and instantly its meaning was born.

One cannot separate words from their meanings without paying dearly for it. I may even be so bold to say that it is difficult not to sin while ignoring a word’s meaning: deception lies at the root of this kind of willful ignorance.

(I recall a certain former president calling into question the meaning of the word “is.”)

Not only do I feel the responsibility of teaching my children the meaning of English words and their use; I feel infinitely more responsible for equipping them with the meaning of the Original Words: what does God mean by

“Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD”?

(Deuteronomy 6:4)

This is, after all, the axis upon which the entire “Great Conversation” turns.

Planting the Word: where to start?

 

(continued from previous post…)

To me, Scripture memorization is absolutely essential.  There is no substitute for it. It is putting Treasure in the spiritual bank to be drawn from later when needed.

This is what I mean by ‘sowing seed.’ I firmly (and gently) plant the Word of God into the soil of my children’s hearts by teaching them to remember it.

In Deuteronomy 8:11-20, God soberly warns the children of Israel not to forget Him. It is a matter of life and death. In verse 19, He says:

And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.

So, I take it seriously. We are to remember the Word of God. Read, repeat, recall, remember.

This is how we do it:

  • We learn a new verse every week (usually on Monday). It goes on an index card (written by Mom) into our verses box (a plain old recipe box).
  • We (those that can write) copy that verse into our ‘journals’, which are 3-ring binders with a dedicated Bible section. For those too young to write, I sometimes draw a picture that represents the verse, and the child learns to associate it with the visual.
  • We read, rhyme, rehearse, review, and repeat the verse until we can say it verbatim, including the reference. (Still on Monday)
  • For the rest of the week, we play games testing one another on the new verse and others from previous weeks, using the index cards. Sometimes, we simply use them as flash cards. But we do it daily.

Note that I said “We” a lot. Mommy learns the verse, too. 🙂 I have found that they are much more apt to learn Scripture when I am learning right along with them.

We began this method when my oldest two children were 3 and 5, and we started with the alphabet. We assigned a simple verse (or part of a verse) to each letter in the alphabet, and about 26 weeks later, we knew 26 new scriptures by heart! Yes, even my 3-year-old (she turned 4 before we finished the alphabet verses).

These are our Alphabet verses (hover over them to read):

A: Isaiah 53:6 (first half)

B: Ephesians 4:32

C: Ephesians 6:1

D: James 4:8 (first half)

E: Proverbs 30:5 (first half)

F: Isaiah 9:6 (The WHOLE verse! It took major effort, but we did it!)

G: Psalm 119:165

H: Matthew 24:35

I: 1 Thessalonians 5:18

J: Matthew 7:1

K: Psalm 100:3

L: Psalm 19:14

M: Psalm 34:19

N: Acts 4:12

O: 1 Samuel 12:24

P: John 14:27

Q: Hebrews 4:12 (the ‘Q’ is a bit obscure, but it works)

R: Philippians 4:4

S: Matthew 6:33

T: Proverbs 3:5,6

U: Ephesians 3:20

V: John 3:5

W: Isaiah 43:2

X: Psalm 127:1

Y: John 15:14

Z: Revelation 3:19 (you have to look a bit for the ‘Z’ here, but it’ll do)

After we learned these, we moved on to other important and wonderful verses (aren’t they ALL?) like Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Acts 2:38-42, Colossians 3:2, Exodus 20:1-3, John 3:16, Romans 3:23 and 6:23, and whole chapters like Psalm 1, 23 and 24, and the ‘Creation Hymn’ in Genesis 1:1-2:3.

We chose to memorize these in the King James Version, because of its broad influence, beauty, and connection to so many other Bible Study helps.

[A side note: this does not comprise our Bible curriculum/devotion; we also read daily stories from The One Year Bible for Children. The stories are brief but well-put with quality illustrations and questions for discussion. Recommended.]

I am not sharing this to brag, but to encourage: you CAN teach your children the Scripture, and from early childhood, they CAN be rooted in truth.

I cannot control how their lives will play out. What I can do is offer them my best, teaching them the Word, diligently, now, while I can. It will be their escape when temptation comes, and their protection in the heat of battle.

“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deuteronomy 6:7

 

 

Planting the Word

Yay for Spring! I have dirt under my fingernails and I’m not sorry for it. 🙂

I love the thrill of a new shoot peeking upward, announcing its humble, miraculous presence. My daughter and I just planted bush beans last week, and now a few little pale proofs of life have pushed their way to the surface.

I’m pretty sure that each little plant has emerged because we put the seed there last week, and because we watered it. And I’m also thinking it will survive if we keep watering it and making sure it’s got enough light.

On that note…

The Word of God is spoken of as seed in the Gospels. In the lives of my children (cute little plots of earth), I am a sower. It is my crucial task to sow the seed of the Word of God into their hearts with fervor and care.

I try to care for the ‘soil,’ removing rocks and weeds (discipline), shooing away the fowls of the air (praying God’s protection for them, and shielding them as best I can from unGodly influence), and ensuring that the seeds fall on the dirt rather than the sidewalk (well-placed direction and criticism).

But I must remember that without the Seed, my fussing with the ‘soil’ is pointless.

It seems that most parents are very concerned about keeping the ‘soil’ tilled and weeded (keeping ‘bad influences’ out), but are often scant with the sowing (getting the good stuff IN). This is usually not intentional; most people are simply overwhelmed with the prospect of teaching their children the Scripture, especially when none of us are perfect.

For instance, It can feel a bit hypocritical teaching the following verse:

“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city”(Prov 16:32)

…when I just bit someone’s head off. I say this from experience. Eek.

But let me encourage you (and myself, please): these flaws and faults confronted in Scripture offer perfect opportunities to show humility in the presence of our children. We all pale in comparison to the glorious standards set forth in the Bible; it’s OK to admit this to our children:

“We all need the grace of God, and we all are trying every day to be more like Jesus. This verse tells us how/why…”

So, back to the seed…If I don’t diligently sow, what will I do with an empty garden bed? Is it not effort wasted, weeding and watering nothing but dirt? Thinning the plants comes later (rightly dividing the word of truth), but there will be nothing to thin if I don’t liberally sow now.

How exactly do I do this, you ask?

In my next post, I will be addressing the practical side: How to begin planting the Word in a child’s heart. See you then! 🙂

 

When the sick do the carrying

bible_old_hands2[22]My grandmother, widowed mother of six boys, commuted to work daily in downtown Chicago until she was in her eighties. Grandpa had died when their youngest, my dad, was five years old.

A tenacious woman, she is remembered for her steel determination and faithfulness to God and His Word. She had no hobbies other than reading and studying the Bible. I remember her often humming old hymns, like “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

All six of their boys became preachers of the Apostolic message. But as time passed, two sons found themselves outside the will of God. Whether it was personal offense or tragedy or temptation, I don’t know. But I do remember praying for uncle Lindy and uncle Billy from the moment I knew what it was to pray.

Well into her eighties, when she grew too old and ill to work any longer, it became necessary to sell the house in which she had raised her family. I still remember the screen door at the top of two well-worn concrete steps, the mint growing wild by the door, the vintage linoleum in the eat-in kitchen wherein lingered the wafting remnants of vitamins, nuts, and fried chicken. An old radio was always playing WMBI, Moody Bible Institute radio.

The whole house was scented by the treasured, leather-bound volumes left behind by Grandpa, which held their respected position in the front living room behind the protective glass panels of the old bookcase. Those commentaries and theological treatises were the glue that bound us together when seams were strained and the family fabric threadbare.

It was decided that the best place for Grandma was with Uncle Billy, who lived alone. Uncle Lindy, who never married, would quit his job as a truck driver to take care of her. The two prodigal sons were now entrusted with the care of their rigidly faithful mother, from whose lips a beloved Scripture or loving rebuke came often.

Grandma would never miss a church service. Uncle Lindy drove her to church in Harvey, where Reverend Terry Cox pastored. Lindy, guilty, tenderhearted and miserable, knew that if he spent too much time in the services, he would find himself at the altar. So he kept his distance as long as he could bear it. Uncle Billy would come on occasion with them, and both brothers found an occasional moment of repentance, but the change was never complete.

Then in June of 2004, Grandma died. Lindy, who had devoted his daily life to caring for his mother and now left with a great void, was most directly affected. The day of the funeral came, and for the first time in more than twenty years, all six brothers were in the same room.

Where differences and guilt had divided them, the passing of their mother united them. They talked and reminisced and laughed together. They sang beloved old songs, and ended in prayer, brothers praying for one another. Lindy and Billy were so moved by the presence of the Comforter who visited us that day that they both re-dedicated themselves to the Lord.

It has now been seven years, and Billy and Lindy have been faithful. Those who repeatedly had carried their ailing mother to the Lord had been themselves carried into His presence.

I have wondered about the four who carried their crippled friend to Jesus and let him down through the roof in Mark chapter 2. It is their faith that brought healing to their friend. Would they have been so adamant about seeing Jesus for themselves that day? The crowd was pressing, but the need of their friend overrode their difficulty.

What became of them? They were witness to one of the oft-recounted miracles Jesus performed.

Whatever their story might have been, the fact is that they encountered the Messiah that day because of a sick friend. My uncles both found Jesus again because of their ailing mother.

Many people have heard our story, and prayed for us as Wes endured brain surgery and its various complications. People we have never met–and still may never meet–have lifted us up.

I don’t presume to know the issues of all those who have prayed for us, but I do know God does nothing without purpose. And it isn’t the ‘main character’ alone who is suffering for a reason. The ‘supporting characters,’ the extras…they all matter, and they are all involved for a reason. There’s a reason each person who has heard about us has been exposed to our situation. God has been in it from the beginning, and His plan includes all the cast.

So, for all of you who have carried us to Jesus, I thank God for you. I pray His purpose finds you, and that you are closer today to Him than yesterday.

Whatever it is that brings us to our knees, I hope we are thankful to be found there, pliable in His hands, listening to His voice, and ready for the next step in His Way.

This is literally the best post ever. Literally.

I literally had to wait thousands of years in line…

The car behind me was literally up my tailpipe…

She literally hit the roof when that raccoon came parachuting into the living room…

One needs not ask the question, “Do you know someone who overuses the word, ‘literally’?” We all do. One Englerican (or Ameringlish) tendency is to mutate–or mutilate–a word’s definition and usage. I love words and their meanings–“Words mean something!” I often tell my husband.

To me, it’s abuse to use a word like “literally” out of context or loosely. He who uses such a word too liberally jeopardizes his credibility.

Dictionary.com defines “literal” (the adjective form of “literally”) as follows:

“in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical: the literal meaning of a word.”

But if you google “define literally“, a second definition is given:

“Used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true: – I have received literally thousands of letters”

Sigh. To what point has our language sunk, when a word becomes its own antonym? How is it that a word’s caricature is used as often as its original meaning?

With such treatment of this poor, defenseless word, it’s no surprise that it no longer carries its proper weight. For that matter, it seems few words have kept their intended meanings. I find this tragic.

Why is this? What are we trying to accomplish? Why do we think following word-trends displays a fresh, ‘hip’ persona? Do we not understand that doing so threatens to disembowel so many meaningful terms?

Do our words carry any value, or are they all up for personal interpretation? Is there no sacred standard by which to define them? If not, doesn’t all communication become vulnerable to this verbal cannibalization?

Let’s take a look at a well-known statement in a well-known Book:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

…is this literal? Or is it an ethereal, nebulous shell that you fill with your own marshmallowy meaning? Since the very word ‘literal’ no longer means what it should, I can really make of this statement whatever I want, and fit in convenient partial-truths (anti-truths?). For instance, ‘God’ really might be interpreted ‘enlightened essence’, and ‘created’ can now mean ‘developed’ or ‘evolved’….

…and down the slippery slope we slide. (say that ten times, really fast) 🙂

How about this one:

“Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.”

Okay, since literal’ is really not, maybe one’ here means three‘……or more.

See what I mean?

The question is (and here I arrive at the guts of this post), does God really intend for us to take Him seriously, literally, in the original sense of the word?

If so, then:

God did create the earth. Literally.

There is, and always has been, only one God. ONE. Literally.

He set in order a literal plan for mankind. Literally.

He came to us Himself, in flesh, literally.

He healed people and performed amazing miracles. Literally.

He (that is, His flesh) died a cruel, horrible death, without sin. Literally.

He resurrected after three days and nights. Literally.

He ascended into heaven, literally, offering His own blood once, for everyone. Literally.

He returned as promised to those who waited for Him and prepared their hearts to receive Him. Literally.

He filled–and still fills–people with His Spirit, giving them the Literal Evidence of His presence, of the adoption into His family.

The Promise of this adoption is for you and me. Literally.

Those who have received this literal adoption have literal hope for a literal heaven. Literally (I couldn’t resist).

For those who take Him at His Word, He rewards them. Literally. 🙂

Give Him a chance to prove Himself…what if He really does mean what He said, in all scripture? What impact would this have on your life? What literal changes do you need to make?