Tinkering around the edges

I was just wondering what the Lord was up to this evening, wondering if maybe he’d like for me to do something different from what I was doing (reading stuff online), like pray, study, or what… when he said, “I’m tinkering around the edges.” Huh?

“When I see a loose thread, I’m pulling it.” Loose thread? What does that mean? I asked.

Some loose threads lead to knots, he said. Knotty problems. Knotty emotions. Knotty headaches and heartaches. So, I’m carefully pulling the loose threads, untangling the knots.

I suddenly visualized knotted muscles, knotted nerves, knotted relationships, and now a gentle scarred hand, painstakingly and patiently untangling those knots, soothing as he goes.

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What are you like, God?

eyesofthelordWhat are you like, God? I asked him that again this morning. I’ve asked it a lot over the years, and his answers are always instructive. Interesting. Fascinating. Enlightening.

And so I expected something along those lines today…

“Snoopy,” he said.

No, I thought – I’m snoopy, I must have heard that wrong. He corrected my thought immediately.

Yes, I am, he said. I am snoopy. Curious. Not to find fault, criticize, condemn or gossip, not to prove myself “holier than thou.”

But to search out and soothe areas of hurt, bruising, injury. Weakness.

Irritations? Aggravations? Annoyances? Soothe.

Resentments? Bitterness? Grief? Soothe.

Wounds? Cuts? Bruises? Soothe.

Soothe, and heal, and strengthen.

“The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect towards him.” (II Chronicles 16:9 KJV)

True? True.

And for my children, the eyes of the Lord run to and fro inward throughout the whole person, to show myself strong on behalf of that man or woman. On your behalf! To show myself a strong healer, comforter, soother.

I’m so glad! Yes, he is snoopy and I’m so very glad. I need that!

Scarred no more

Like many people my age, I have several scars on my body. One large one across my chest is from breast cancer surgery a few years ago. There’s a small one on my upper arm and another small one on my face, both from skin cancer surgery some years before that.

One scar is a faded half-circle from an accident with a kitchen knife as a child – I was trying to slice myself a hunk of cheese and sliced my finger in the process. Another almost forgotten scar is a tiny circular hole on my neck from a BB gun shot as an even younger child, when a childhood pal’s carefully aimed shot bounced off something and hit me instead.

It missed anything vital, thankfully, but it bled like crazy. My playmate ran one way and I ran the other, and we both tried to keep my grandmother and his mom from finding out about it.

This post is about scars, a dream, and a loving God.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Last night I had an interesting dream. In a room somewhere I was standing talking to two men. I had just prayed for both of them to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which they did. Then I heard a voice say, “Now you pray in tongues,” and so I began to do just that. The prayer was directed at just one of those two men.

As I prayed, words began to flow that I knew weren’t my usual prayer language. There was an authority, a sense of commanding something, not just asking for something.

I saw a v-shaped area of the man’s neck and upper chest, scarred from multiple small slashes. My words changed to English as the Lord began to speak to him.

“You have been cut over, and over, and over. You have been attacked and hurt, injured and damaged again and again with small slices and slashes. Now a thick scar has grown over that area, not hiding the injuries, just covering them. The scar doesn’t prevent more attacks, they still come and the scar grows heavier,” he said.

“Today the scar is being healed, soothed, erased and removed. The damage is being reversed.”

I watched in the spirit as the Lord’s hand gently moved over the area, and with each pass of the hand another layer of the scar disappeared. In a few moments the skin was clear, clean, blemish-free and healthy. And supernatural strength was replacing weakness in him, not just on the surface of his body, but deep in his soul and spirit.

At that point I woke up and knew the dream wasn’t just a dream. It was prophetic. I began to intercede and ask the Lord to perform that word.

Somewhere there is someone who is scarred from multiple attacks of the enemy. His (or her) mind, heart, and body have been injured. A protective scar has developed to hide the damage, but the Lord sees it.

And the Lord wants to fill that person with the Holy Spirit and with God’s own creative power, to make them completely whole, healthy and strong in spirit, soul and body.

Amen.

Comfort / Comforter

Comforter ComforterRescuer

What kind of comfort do you need?

The origin of the English word comfort from the Oxford online dictionary: “Middle English (as a noun, in the senses of strengthening, support, consolation; as a verb, in the senses of strengthen, give support, console): from Old French confort (noun) or conforter (verb), from late Latin confortare, strengthen, from com- (expressing intensive force) + Latin fortis, strong. The sense of something producing physical ease arose in the mid 17th century.”

Thus scriptural comfort is a reinforcement of strength – mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.

In 2 Corinthians 1:4 the Apostle Paul said this about comfort:

  • “who (i.e. the God of all comfort, v. 3) comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (KJV)
  • “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (NIV)
  • “who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (NASB)
  • “who comforts and encourages…” (AMP)

Note: The KJV word tribulation in this verse is from the Greek word thlipsis, meaning pressure, oppression, affliction, distress, straits; it’s translated trouble or affliction in other versions.

Comfort here is from the Greek word paraklesis (G3874, noun), defined in Strong’s as meaning:

– a calling near, summons, (esp. for help); importation, supplication, entreaty; exhortation, admonition, encouragement
– consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment
– thus of the Messianic salvation (so the Rabbis call the Messiah the consoler, the comforter)
– persuasive discourse, stirring address
– instructive, admonitory, conciliatory, powerful hortatory discourse

John 14:16-17 (NIV) says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Advocate here in the NIV is translated Comforter in the King James Version. It is from the Greek word paraklatos (G3875, noun), defined in Strong’s as:

– one who is summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid
– one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate
– one who pleads another’s cause with one, an intercessor
– of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins
– in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant
– of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom

John used this word to describe the Holy Spirit. It is translated Comforter in KJV, Advocate in NIV, Helper in NASB, and Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) in the Amplified Version. He is all that, in every imaginable variation and circumstance.

What kind of comfort did Peter need?

  • Understanding, wisdom, speaking ability, revelation knowledge
  • Angel for a jailbreak…

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. (Acts 12:5-8 NIV)

What kind of comfort did Paul need?

  • Understanding, supernatural information, healing from beatings, resurrection from stoning, deliverance from mobs
  • Earthquake for a jailbreak…

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:25-30 NIV)

See the Book of Acts for these and many other examples. Also see I Corinthians 12 for Gifts of the Holy Spirit, i.e. God’s power tools, equipment, supplies, inside information, wisdom and weaponry.

God the Holy Spirit, the believer’s indwelling Comforter / Helper / Assistant / Intercessor / Strengthener does more than just bring emotional calmness and peace of mind which is what most people today tend to think of as comfort, although he certainly does that.

And he isn’t just called alongside to help, he’s INSIDE to help.

So – what kind of comfort do you need?

What’s it all about?

Catchy tune, poignant words. “What’s it all about, Alfie” is a 1966 Burt Barach song, written for the movie Alfie. It was a sad movie. I saw it when it first came out and was sorry I did.

But those words ring around in my head these days as I read so many prophecies, so many news stories, so many opinions from political pundits and religious experts.

Here’s another catchy tune, from 1971. It has better words, straight out of the Bible:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

In the last few weeks, I have watched the Holy Spirit demonstrate the kingdom of God in a variety of ways. Here’s a few instances:

A young college student was tormented by fear after his dad died in his sleep several months ago, terrified that his mother would also die suddenly and leave him an orphan. Unable to shake this dread, he was calling her at work multiple times a day just to be sure she was okay. They both knew he needed help. He needed deliverance. His mom came to me for help.

Several friends of his family gathered around him after church a couple of weeks ago. We commanded the tormenting spirit to leave and spoke God’s peace and joy to him, as the evil spirit of fear completely left him. Then we prayed for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he was. It has been marvelous to see what the Lord has been doing in his life since that morning. Freedom!

This past Sunday our pastor didn’t preach a usual sermon or teach a usual Bible lesson – he read long passages of scripture from Isaiah and Matthew, the prophecy and fulfillment of Jesus’ crucifixion.

“It was for you,” he said. “All of it was for you.” Then as he waited the Holy Spirit moved across the congregation, bringing several people forward for prayer. One young woman had decided to accept Jesus’ sacrifice and to say, “Yes, it was for me!” It was wonderful to join in praising God for her new life in Christ.

Not all the work of the kingdom I’ve been observing recently was in church altars or aisles. Last week in a local retail business, I had the privilege of laying hands on a 50 year old man for healing, and then for him to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He had recently been diagnosed with liver cancer and was facing weeks, perhaps months, of radiation and other therapies.

The power of God fell in that room. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so palpable, those observing were in tears – including me. We knew God was beginning something remarkable in him, even as he complies with his doctor’s plans for treatment. He was already an intercessor for his family and friends; now he will be interceding for his physicians, hospital staff, other patients and their families, all the new needy people he will encounter in this new chapter of his life.

The 54 year old son of friends had what should have been routine hernia surgery some weeks ago, but complications led to the build-up of fluid in his chest and then to non-healing of his surgical incision. Soon he was critically ill – an infection had developed in his blood.

He fell into a coma-like state and his family sent out an urgent request for intercession. His doctors weren’t optimistic for his recovery, but his family refused to be pessimistic as we spoke life, healing, wholeness, total and complete normal function to his body. Now only a short time later he is awake, talking and very hungry! After weeks of IV’s he is eating regular food – such a dramatic improvement that only the Lord can get the credit. And the glory!

In this last month there have been so many other opportunities, other occasions for the Lord to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are right toward him. He’s waiting for his people to take him where he wants to go and let him do what he wants to do. What he’s always done – demonstrate His kingdom.

If instead of looking at what’s wrong around us (in church, in government, in business, in family) let’s look at how we can manifest the kingdom of God in our part of the world. Letting Jesus use our eyes to look through is truly “eye-opening.” So many hurting people surround us every day, people who need help. God’s help. Our help.

When we see them that way, we’ll intervene. We’ll intercede. We’ll open our mouth and let the Holy Spirit fill it, extend our hand to convey God’s peace in the midst of turmoil. We’ll lay hands on the sick and see them recover. Speak the command and see demons flee.

That’s what it’s all about.

 

Sometimes we’re a garden hose, sometimes a kitchen sponge

The apostle Paul didn’t start out to be scripture writer. Or a Roman prisoner. Or a shipwreck survivor. Or a fugitive.

He didn’t intend to be anything but good at his job, using his life-long religious training. And he was good at his job – very good. Certain he was following God’s will, Paul became good at stomping out this new Way, this rebellious faction threatening the stability of his way of life.

Even though Paul’s way of life was not ideal, having to live under captivity and rule by a foreign, godless Roman king, it was relatively peaceful. A “Pharisee of the Pharisees,” well educated and trained by the renowned Gamaliel, Paul was at or near the top of his chosen profession. Influential. Powerful.

But then… on the road to Damascus… things changed. Over the next few years Paul went from being a Pharisee to a follower of Jesus, then an evangelist sharing his personal testimony, a teacher expounding Christ in all the scriptures, a pastor shepherding his growing flock through perilous times, to an apostle traveling the civilized world establishing a chain of churches as he went.

How did he fulfill all those roles, moving from place to place, from his own culture, society, and nation throughout the rest of his life? He described that assignment as “being all things to all men” in order to win some of them to Christ. (I Cor. 9:22)

Paul could relate to the Jews as a Jew, because he was a Jew. And he could relate to the Romans as a Roman, because he was a Roman citizen. No matter the people, place or circumstances, Paul found a way to get the message of the Kingdom across. At various times and in various places, he served as the Holy Spirit’s

Conduit / Sponge / Radiator / Magnet / Thermostat / Fire-starter

And probably many other things.

GardenHoseHow do you transmit God’s intentions to somebody else? His desire (intention, wishes, will) to interact with them, by way of you?

I used to pray to be his conduit (visualizing a garden hose), a pipeline for him to transmit through. Or perhaps an electrical cord, plugged into Him as my power source.

Conveying his interest, his passion and compassion to people by way of words, prayers, lessons to a class, touches, simple conversations, emails, blog articles, meals if they’re sick, money if they need it, books to read, answers to questions, references to needed materials, smiles, encouragement, hugs – you name it – he finds a way to do it.

Whenever I meet someone on purpose or by accident, I pray, Lord, help me to help them. Then whatever comes to mind or just seems appropriate, that’s what I do.

spongeSometimes I change that prayer to Lord, make me your sponge, because sometimes I’m the one in need. My own sinuses are clogged, my ankle hurts or my back itches. Every cell in my body needs his healing touch.

Maybe my mood has taken a nosedive, something has gone wrong with my finances, or my family, or my car – and I need the Lord to fill me up before I can help somebody else.

So I ask him to fill my mind, my spirit, my soul, my body, my very self with his presence. And then ask him to “squeeze me out” like his kitchen sponge, when I come across someone else who needs his presence, wherever they may be.

Occasionally I need to be his radiator, radiating out from me his interest, grace, love, compassion and power when I’m not in a position to actually say or do anything in particular. Like when driving down the road and I see someone walking or riding a bicycle, or another driver who the Lord indicates is a bit needy today – I just let the Holy Spirit pray through me whatever it is he knows they need right this moment.

It may be while walking down a grocery store aisle. I’ll see somebody at a distance that I do not know, another shopper or a clerk. I can’t know what their life is like, whether they know the Lord as their savior or not. But I can let him radiate his love and kindness through me by way of a smile or a friendly “hello,” just a simple gesture. He will take it from there.

Lately I’ve discovered that the Lord can make us a magnet, too. Sometimes I’m in a meeting at church, sometimes in a mall store – and for some reason unknown to me, a person I don’t know begins to gravitate in my direction.

I’ll smile and say Hello, How are you, and generally they will say a few sentences. When we go our separate ways, I’ll say, Have a blessed day and they will thank me – having no idea that little interaction was God’s doing. I’ll continue praying for them for a little while, until the Lord seems to say, Okay, that did it.

Occasionally that happens with someone I know. One church friend made a bee-line to me before the service started recently. “I just had to come hug you. I always feel better when I hug you,” she said. It wasn’t a thank-you for anything, I think she just felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and wanted to be near it.

ThermostatYears ago I realized that believers could be thermostats and not just thermometers. When the atmosphere at home or work seemed tense, agitated, frustrated, or just “off” in some way, I discovered my own attitude could make a difference.

Instead of entering into the disorder, I could add peace to the situation by my demeanor, a silent prayer, or quietness. It didn’t completely solve problems all by itself, but it did make positive changes in the way those problems were approached.

FirestarterAlong the way, from time to time the Lord also uses people to be fire-starters. He does something through them, their words, their prayers, their commands or their touch, something so supernatural that a fire is ignited in the souls and spirits of desperate or doubting people.

People need to know that God actually does exist, Jesus is for real, and he loves them. He will use the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to do that, perhaps a miraculous instantaneous answer to prayer, something so undeniably supernatural that it can only be explained by God’s intervention.

See What Paul Did While Weak https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2012/10/27/what-paul-did-while-weak/.

Just reading through the gospels and the book of Acts, it’s obvious that Father God has a multifaceted delivery system. Now as then, no two people are alike, no two cultures are alike, no two eras are alike. Whatever will convey his heart and his message, that’s what he uses.

Sometimes we’re his garden hose, sometimes his kitchen sponge.

Watch your mouth

WatchYourMouth“Na-na na-na Na-Na!” one of us siblings sing-songed to the other, laughing, skipping, sticking out his tongue.

Get the message? I won and you didn’t! Or, I got it and you didn’t! Or, I’m better than you are!

If my mama heard that, “Watch your mouth!” would be coming next. She didn’t put up with that kind of rude, disrespectful noise out of our mouths.

“Now say you’re sorry,” she would insist.

“Sorry” would be mumbled, head down, eyes looking up. Really sorry? No, not really, just sorry we got caught.

What difference did it make, we’d be thinking, if what we said was rude or ugly? Hurt his feelings? Made him feel bad? So what, he’d get over it. Wouldn’t he?

“We were just having fun,” we’d excuse ourselves. “Didn’t mean anything.”

“I don’t care,” Mama would emphasize, “don’t let me hear that kind of stuff come out of your mouth again.” And we wouldn’t – let her hear it, that is.

As my brother and I grew up, we started minding our manners a bit better. We were more careful how we expressed our selfish, holier-than-thou attitudes.

Then, we were both born again. Our attitudes began to change from the inside out; we began to learn that words really can help or hurt, create or destroy. But we also found that it takes work. It takes practice.

Nowadays I read multiple blogs and news stories on a regular basis. Like many of my friends, I use social media to keep in touch. I attend events like church services and prayer meetings. And I’ve noticed a troubling truth:

We Christians need to watch our mouth.

Just like the world, believers are apt to say “My back is killing me.” Or hearing a joke, to say, “That just kills me.” A young dad might tell one of his own kids, “You can’t do anything right.” Or commiserate to a friend, “I just can’t seem to get ahead.”

Describing the same problem over and over, they would beg God to fix it, then say in frustration “I don’t think my prayers are getting through.”

It’s disturbing to see so many believers criticize and find fault with their own church leadership, even the body of Christ at large. How is that helpful? Creative? I am more determined than ever to speak life, speak God’s word, offer real-time solutions, and not keep rehashing the problems.

Even more disturbing is hearing a Christian friend pray in doubt wishing, not knowing for sure what he’s asking is God’s will. Not knowing how to actually find God’s will in the first place. Not knowing the power in everyday words, not knowing what words really are:

  • Information. Facts, truth, ideas, solutions, answers – all conveyed by words, thought, spoken, or written. As time goes by, knowledge about everything under the sun is increasing. Wisdom in how to use that information needs to increase, too.
  • Weapons. Proverbs 18:21 says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword…” James 3 tells us that the tongue can be a bridle, a rudder, or a spark, and is humanly untameable. (The Holy Spirit can tame it, and he will if we let him.)
  • Containers of life. Jesus said in John 6:63, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” Jesus raised the dead to life again with his word.
  • Conveyors of authority.

Mark 1:22 – The religious leaders recognized that Jesus’s words contained God’s authority and were astonished.

Mark 1:25-27 – The unclean spirit (demon) recognized it also, obeyed him and came out of the man.

Matt. 12:13 – The sick man recognized it, obeyed Jesus and his paralyzed hand was healed.

Matt. 8:5-13 – The Centurion recognized it, acknowledged that Jesus only needed to speak the word of authority – Jesus spoke and the servant was healed.

Acts 3:1-8 – Peter spoke words of authority, the crippled man obeyed and was healed.

Acts 27 – Paul spoke words of authority to those onboard the troubled ship, they obeyed and their lives were saved.

Here’s the thing – We have been given the same authority Jesus has, as his co-workers filled with the Holy Spirit and assigned to be his mouthpiece. See Matthew 28:18-20.

Ephesians 4:29-30 admonishes us, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

Edifying? Building up, like constructing a house. Corrupt communication? Words that wreck faith, health, confidence – including your own. When you talk, the first person to hear what you say is you, yourself.

Matthew 12:34 says that what comes out of your mouth is what was in your heart. We all need to be sure that what is in our heart is life, not death. Filled with faith, not fear or doubt or confusion. It’s critically important how we talk (and what we write).

Life and faith don’t get into our hearts automatically, just because we become a Christian. We have to do something about that. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)

“Faith comes by hearing…” (Romans 10:17) Hearing what? Hearing God’s word. Read it to yourself, read it out loud, write it down, re-read it often. Get it into your spiritual memory banks, your mind, your heart.

II Peter 1:2-10 would be a good passage to learn by heart! So would Philippians 4:8-9.

“Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

“… receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:21-22)

“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

My prayer is that our words – our hearts, our prayers, our ordinary conversations – will be used by the Holy Spirit to help solve problems, not create more.