Do you know the way?

I was thinking about the word “way” the other day. No special reason, I can’t recall anything in particular that started that train of thought.

“Do you know the Way to San Jose” wasn’t playing in my head. Not even Jesus’s statement, “I am the way.” It was more like random abstract thinking.

What does the word “way” mean? I was thinking. How to do something? Like a way to cook collards so they don’t smell up the house? (Yes, there is one. Ask me.)

Or maybe a way of looking at something? Like through my trifocals when watching TV but not when reading a book. Or looking at something from somebody else’s point of view.

Then the Holy Spirit interrupted my thoughts. “Do you know the way from Florence to Columbia?”

“Sure,” I said. “There are lots of ways to get to Columbia from here.”

I began to think of a few. Turn west on Palmetto Street to I-95, then north to I-20, then west to Columbia. Or just continue west on West Palmetto, which is US Highway 76. Take a few side roads, not main highways necessarily. They’ll all get you there, eventually.

The Holy Spirit began to ask more questions. “Which way is the right way? What time of day? One unbroken trip, or pit stops along the way? Detours to browse through other towns? An overnight stay in Sumter, maybe, to visit Swan Lake? Or picnic at a historic Revolutionary War site near Camden?” Hmmm.

“What about going east into Florence first, to pick up items for the trip? Or how about go all the way through Columbia to visit Lexington first, then come back to Columbia? Which way is the right way?”

Well, that sure got me to thinking. Then he continued.

“What is the best day? The best time of day? Or should you go at night? What’s the best season of the year? Is any one of those better than any others?”

“Should you drive your own car?” he went on. “Or maybe rent one? Or ask someone else to take you? Should you go alone, or with a companion or two? Maybe go by bus? Or by train? Or by plane?” I was accumulating quite a few mental images of what had been a simple trip. “If enough others went along, you could form a caravan!” he added.

“On the other hand, perhaps you could ride a motorcycle, or a bicycle, or walk, actually. Of course you could run, or jog. You could even hitchhike. Couldn’t you? All those are ways to go from here to Columbia, aren’t they?”

Uh huh. Hmmm. Now I was really suspicious about that first question. I wondered just what way he was getting at.

“So, which way is the right way?” he asked again. I sensed a smile in that voice.

“It all depends,” I slowly admitted, “on the purpose of the trip.” He stopped speaking and let me mull over all that.

Follow me, Jesus said to his first disciples. Take up your cross and follow me, he told them later on. Follow me as I follow Christ, Paul said to his readers. But that was after the cross, wasn’t it… so where was Jesus when Paul wrote that?

Where is Jesus now? I asked myself. Where is he going now? How do I follow him, unless he’s going somewhere? But he is going somewhere.

He’s not standing still like a statue on a Brazilian mountain top, or an icon in a church building. He inhabits believers, and while he is seated in heavenly places in the spirit world, he is also standing when I’m standing, sitting when I’m sitting, and going when I’m going, wherever that is.

“You’re beginning to get it,” the Holy Spirit encouraged me.

Suppose that Jesus wants to go somewhere, somewhere specific, in this imaginary trip from Florence to Columbia, I asked myself. What is the right way, then, to get from this house in Florence, to wherever it is he wants to go in Columbia?

I understand a little better the puzzlement of Thomas when Jesus told him, “Where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:4)

Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, how can we know the way?”

The disciples no doubt had the same puzzlement when Jesus felt he needed to go through Samaria to get to Galilee. (John 4:4) Now, no self-respecting Jew HAD to go through Samaria, they always went around it.

But Jesus knew there was only one way for him to go that day, because of the purpose of the trip. To rescue the Samaritan woman at the well, and her whole city.

Jesus told the puzzled disciples, “My food is to do the will of him that sent me… lift up your eyes, look on the fields; they are white already to harvest.” The whole city of Samaria, the whole area of Galilee, the whole world was ready to harvest! And it still is.

Believers still recite the Lord’s Prayer every week. “Thy will be done,” we say. If we really want to do his will, really want to carry out his wishes, we’ll listen to his voice. We’ll take him where he wants to go, the way he wants to get there.

There’s something a  bit fascinating about that word “way.”

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nbg8zdBVcPc
“Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” a 1968 song written for Dionne Warwick by Burt Bacharach (music) and Hal David (lyrics).

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail…

hammeringnailThe first time I heard God speak to me, I was 6 years old. I was sitting in my first grade class, admiring the teacher. I thought she was really pretty, really smart, and I liked her a lot. Suddenly that voice said to me, One day you will be a teacher.

I didn’t know that other people didn’t hear God speak to them like that, I didn’t think it was unusual or strange at all. It wasn’t a common occurrence for me, though. Just that one statement was all he said for a long, long time.

As the years went by God occasionally said other things to me, like Don’t go there, or You should read this. Stuff like that. Just once in a while, nothing spectacular, no big deal. But I tried to pay attention, because I figured God knew what was going on a lot better than I did.

See, all during those years my family attended church, one that stressed the importance of studying the Bible. I admired my Sunday School teacher the same way I had admired my grammar school teacher. I liked her, and because she said knowing the scripture was important, I read and I studied. It was interesting, some of it actually fascinating, and because I enjoyed history of all kinds I enjoyed the Bible too. I just didn’t consider that it might be more than a history book and a rule book.

I wasn’t even born again in those days, at least as I understood that to mean. I had never asked Jesus to come save me, to be my Lord. I just knew that I knew that I knew — Jesus was God. Didn’t everybody know that? I suspect someone was praying for me, because God knew me. He was with me long before I ever knew him.

Then, as the teenage years rolled around, things I knew I should do, I didn’t do. And vice versa. I DID go there, where I shouldn’t go. I started doing things because I wanted to, whether my parents or my Sunday School teacher or the preacher thought they were okay or not. And believe me, I instinctively knew what they would think about some of it. NO-NO’s.

I had actually told God one day that yes, I understood how to be saved, and yes, I wanted to be saved some day, and okay, I’ll accept Jesus as my “saver.” Not really serious about it, I just said it and promptly forgot it. Gradually his voice stopped speaking to me, but by then I didn’t even notice.

Thinking I could run my life just fine all by myself, I dropped out of college and married a man my family didn’t approve of. A man who turned out to be exactly the kind of person they had warned me he was. We had two children, and bit by bit our marriage fell apart.

At age 29 when I finally acknowledged that doing my own thing my own way wasn’t working out too well, I seriously asked Jesus to save me and to manage my life. In other words, to be my Lord.

What happened next was spectacularly sudden, and supernatural.* Everything changed in a flash, and I knew that the Bible was actually, literally true. Not just a history book, but a living Word, filled with the words of God addressed to me personally. Wow! His voice returned, full of laughter and life! I was so glad, so very glad.

Well, before you know it, I was a teacher. I was teaching Sunday School, and a few years later teaching Bible college classes. One day it dawned on me – God’s statement to that 6 year old girl was the literal truth. One day I would be a teacher, and that day is today.

And I have recognized and come to accept that “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Even when you’re just 6 years old. Some folks know what that means…

Looking back I have realized that throughout my life, everything I’ve ever learned, I have thought of it as a teacher would, in terms of how to tell it to somebody else. How to explain it in ways they could understand, whether it was to my own children, friends, coworkers, stranger, whoever.

Whether meditating, speaking, writing, even emailing, my point of view has always been as a teacher. My focus has always been, How can I help somebody else understand this? Math? English? History? Science? Current events? Politics? Those certainly, but most importantly, Jesus. Father God. Holy Spirit.

It’s been a while since I was 29. I’m still reading, still studying, still finding the Bible interesting and fascinating, but one thing is for sure — it’s way better with the author right there with you. The extraordinary Teacher, Holy Spirit, Explainer-in-Chief, who always puts how best to share this with other people uppermost in our study sessions.

* Also see https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/all-things-became-new/

Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Prayer and Intercession

Holy-Spirit fireReaders, please notice a new Page titled Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Prayer and Intercession.

This is a series of teachings given during a Sunday School class titled Principles of Prayer and Intercession.

You will need to click on the Page and its menu for individual posts, as they are not automatically distributed via email to subscribers.

I will do my best to update the Page as new material is addressed in class. Please let me know if you have questions about any of these posts, or if you would like to read notes from our previous classes on Prayer and Intercession.

 

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?

Holy Spirit, Trail Guide

TrailGuideWho are you, Lord? I asked again recently, recalling other times I’d asked him that.

Trail guide, he answered. The Holy Spirit is your trail guide for the journey you’re taking.

Over the next few days, I thought about that. Now and then I asked him why he used that particular title – I don’t find it in the Bible anywhere, I said. At least, not in those words.

Here’s how our back-and-forth conversation and my meditations went, more or less.

About the trail…

A trail is not a paved road. It doesn’t lead through cities or towns. If you’re taking a trail, it’s because you’re not going through civilized country. It may meander, lead uphill sometimes and downhill sometimes.

A trail is for travel. It makes traveling easier through woods or wilderness. It doesn’t destroy the woods or wilderness, only disturbing them a little. More than a rough path and less than a dirt road, a trail is created by the movement of shod feet, assisted by pulling or cutting away brush that may hinder the going.

A trail is to get somewhere, from point A to point B. It has a purpose. It leads to a definite destination. It may not be the shortest way, but with the trail guide it is the surest way.

About the guide…

He has much experience. He is not an amateur. This work is his lifelong employment. He is well able to teach and train believers to prepare, to travel, and to help others along the way.

The trail guide knows the terrain. He knows the starting and ending points, the length of the trail and the time the journey will take. He is knowledgeable of the seasons, the surroundings, the flora and fauna, and what other travelers you may encounter.

The trail guide applies both facts and wisdom. He plans and prepares ahead of time, gathering appropriate clothing, weapons, tools and supplies. He doesn’t take unnecessary gear. He takes the essentials and knows how to make use of them.

He prepares for unforeseen circumstances with well-designed contingency plans. He is able to protect travelers from sickness or injury, warn against danger, fight off predators, and call for reinforcements if needed. He knows when and where to break the journey with times of rest and replenishment for body, soul and spirit.

After considering all that for a while, I asked another question.

How is the Holy Spirit a trail guide? Normal life is not lived in the wild. Normal people have jobs, routines, families, interests and habit patterns. They live in buildings, drive on paved streets and highways – at least here in America.

You’re only looking at the natural world, the Lord said. Your spirit lives in the supernatural. If you could see with your physical eyes what happens in the spiritual realm, it would make more sense to you. Try looking at the world from my vantage point.

Okay, I will try to do that, I answered. And I have been.

Of course the Holy Spirit is much more than the trail guide, I added to myself. I was thinking of Comforter, teacher, empowerer, the one who reminds us of what Jesus said, and who tells us of things to come. I recalled the scriptures in Genesis where the Holy Spirit was involved in creation of the world.

Yes, the Lord answered my unasked question, but everything he is to you can be wrapped up in this descriptive title – Trail Guide. Think some more about that.

And so I am thinking about it. And about just what sort of trail we’re traveling on these days.

As I meditated on all he described, I recalled how the Holy Spirit guided the apostle Paul in his life. Not just in his missionary work, but in every aspect of his life… the where and when of his birth, his family, Jewish and Roman culture, education as a Pharisee of the Pharisees. His zeal as a persecutor of the church.

The where and when of his encounter with Jesus.

His years of seeming inactivity where zeal had to be refocused, patience instilled and polished. Then his assignment as a church member, evangelist, missionary, pastor. Prisoner.

Not to mention his many travels.

Paul wanted to go places, see people, do things for Jesus. He planned out his own reasonable, logical itinerary. Sometimes his plans weren’t quite right – the Holy Spirit had his own itinerary, his own agenda. He led him to other places, other people, other things to do.

Thinking of all that these last few days, trail guide does seem an appropriate title.

See John 14:26, 16:13; Acts 16:6-10.