A fresh year to adventure with Jesus

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Welcome 2021! Another clean and fresh chapter, adventuring with Jesus.

Ever since I heard Christian peace advocate Jamie Winship talk about his years working among warring radical tribal Muslims, my time reading the Bible and praying to Jesus have changed significantly. 

Thanks to a new way of listening to Jesus, I received a nudge, encouraging me to start writing daily.  The game of this new habit, 6 weeks in, is to put into 175 words or fewer an insight God reveals from that day’s readings and meditations. I love this ‘pleasant boundary line’.  Each week, therefore, I select two of my dailies and offer them here, to you.

My goal is to encourage you, too, to read, digest, talk truthfully to Jesus and listen for what He thinks about any problem or situation or worry and then do what He says.  An adventure is bound to follow, making life 1.0 (until His return) exciting and energizing.

Blessed adventuring to you, dear reader, this 2021.

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, Revelation 4:11 NIV

For years, I announced: “I’m not creative!” I believed I couldn’t generate novel ways of teaching. Pressure to use my imagination stressed me.

But toward the end of my classroom teaching years, I began to come up with new ways of presenting learning experiences to my French students. Innovation turned into a friend. Different ideas energized me, stimulating me to take risks. ‘Same ole, same ole’ bores us all.

What happened is that I relaxed into my calling, how God wired me (and you).  We know that God is Creator. If we bear His image, it follows that we create, naturally.

Now look at the text – being creative is worthy of honor.

When we originate something, try a new approach or employ different materials, we have embraced our calling, reflecting God.

Who do you suppose works to keep us tired and blasé? Who stands to gain if we believe life and God are boring?

**

They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings–and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers. Revelation 17:14

My Bible notes remarked that angels are NEVER referred to as ‘called, chosen, faithful followers’.  Only believers!!!

This news stuns me. Implied is this, that if we die before ‘The Last Battle’, we will fight alongside Jesus in his final military defeat of Satan and his vile, wicked guerrillas.

No wonder this life is challenging, hard, often painful for believers, aka warriors in training. Life on earth is Divine Bootcamp! Field exercises and live fire familiarization prep us for real skirmishes with the enemy and the occasional drawn-out battle.

But remember, we have only one enemy – Satan.  People are not our enemy.

My take-away from today’s Bible reading? Suffering is both real and necessary.  God has carefully planned every detail of our training with this future Day in mind. Those who die in the Lord will experience the most exciting, epic Victory in all creation. R&R awaits all soldiers on the other side, our Rest and Re-creation.

You want me to do what??

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Today’s adventure with Jesus takes place over two days. More and more I’m putting into practice what Jamie Winship teaches, this honest revealing of my thoughts and actions to Jesus, followed by listening for His ‘take’ on my situation and what He wants me to do. The other night in one of his videos I heard Jamie say that in the Bible people’s reactions to hearing from God is one of surprise and resistance: “You want what????”  Think Joshua or Gideon or Peter about letting down the nets on the ‘wrong ‘side or mingling with Gentiles. Then there is Simon who greeted the newly blinded Saul, notorious Pharisee hunting down Christians.

I had one of those, ‘You can’t mean You want me to….” reactions.  Yep, that was JUST what Jesus had in mind.  Hard to resist God, isn’t it?

Part 1

…not pursuing dishonest gain; Titus 1:7 NIV

I’m a thief who plans her robberies.

Stopping at Target, I purchased 5 items, paying for them in the self-checkout area. “Oh, I’ll be able to ‘stock up on’ (ahem…steal!) extra Target bags for the cat litter.”

Other stores’ plastic bags are not sturdy. So, I look forward to getting Target bags. Last time, I took an extra 5, on purpose.  This time I grabbed about 15.  But then, God!

Focused on pilfering these ‘poop bags’, I walked out, ‘extra’ bags in hand, minus the purchases.  Suddenly, my empty hand startled me – “Where are my 3 cans of tomatoes?” Running back, I found the self-checkout employee who handed me my bag.

Then the Holy Spirit convicted me! It took that episode to show me just how I was dishonoring God. “Is this how King Jesus treats His adopted little sister, reducing her to poverty so she robs Target?”

Today’s appointed reading and Jesus’ gentle message pressed: ‘Go confess this to the manager!’

My response?  “Yes, Lord Jesus.”

Part 2

if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship 1 John 1:7

Yesterday I agreed with Jesus and told Him I would go to Target and confess my theft, but after Christmas.

But then I couldn’t sleep and resolved to go this morning, but after church.

But then, I couldn’t wait. I showered, quickly dressed, grabbed my stash of Target bags and drove off.  Entering the store, I bee-lined to Customer Service. The gal eyed me approaching, waiting to help.  I quickly admitted my theft, handed over the bags, and told her I was sorry.  Listening, she smiled, then said “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not!  It was wrong and a sin” and something about Jesus and getting this off my chest. I thanked her for listening, eyes moist with tears, and left Target a free woman.  Freed of sin. Free to fellowship again with Jesus and light of heart.

Help me remember, Lord Jesus, that you call us to stay in your light, enjoying your affectionate peace.

Hearing God

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The amazing discovery. I can actually have a conversation with the Living God and HEAR what He says. Not audibly, mind you, but He provides the sense or thoughts. Here are two recent journal entries.

November 29

Since you are precious to me, you are honored and I love you…… Isaiah 43:4 God’s Word Translation

I was lying. To myself. About who I am.

Identity is foundational. Watching a Jamie Winship teaching on identity, I pressed myself to be honest.

Since I was 8 years old I have believed that I am one who is NOT enough. And in order to be liked, appreciated, needed, valuable, popular, chosen….wanted, I have to DO a lot for people.

What does someone like me who doesn’t feel wanted for herself, apart from what she does LOOK like?  Competent and driven.

In the training, Jamie had us close our eyes and offer that false identity up to Jesus and then ‘watch’ what He would do. ‘Okay….I don’t think anything is going to happen,’ I thought. But I complied.

Immediately, a picture came to mind:   Jesus gently sweeping that identity of ‘Unwanted’ out of my offering hands, breaking it up into many sparkly, glittering particles that floated off into nothingness.

I realized: This is fact!  I am not ‘Unwanted’. Nor have I ever been. That is a lie absorbed, encouraged by Satan and believed –  all from my child’s sense of events.

Who does Jesus, the only True and Living God, say I am?

“Precious, full of honor and loved”. That’s the Truth.

30 November

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace (Shalowm) to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Psalm 85:8 ESV

The text message arrived late. I didn’t want another obligation! Knowing I was to meet with Jesus in the morning, I nevertheless fell asleep quickly, having reminded myself that Jesus calls me ‘precious, full of honor and loved’.

This morning, coffee at hand, I read yesterday’s words in my journal (Psalm 85:8) – an invitation to confess my feeling of ‘resentment’ due to that possible obligation. Freely writing down how I felt, I next formed an ‘identity statement’:

  • I am someone who doesn’t trust You to supply enough time to satisfy me.

Then I asked Jesus: What do YOU say about this?

Closing my eyes, I raised empty hands to receive.

I penned what came to mind. The ‘bottom line’ was this:

  • ‘Connected to me, Eternity, I’ll always supply you with enough time.’

His words of peace satisfied – ‘Shalowm’.

Where’s my belt (of Truth)?

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Gizmo lost his collar in the house.

Our granddaughter Elizabeth with Gizmo

He also lost his identity when his collar went missing – that little tag that says WHO he is and WHOSE he is.

I keep losing my ‘collar’, too. That belt or yoke which joins me to Jesus and keeps me KNOWING my identity and who my God is. When I forget and think incorrectly about who I am and who Jesus is, I temporarily lose all my peace and contentment.  I start to feel either anxious or angry.

I’m sure you know that believers don’t lose that ACTUAL state of peace with the Father, once they have been transferred INTO the Kingdom through Jesus’ blood. But we can lose our awareness of peace, of connection with Jesus.

Do you listen to podcasts? I love them. News & cultural reports, interviews, stories, reflections are part of my daily routine.  But never have I taken notes from a podcast, nor listened to one twice!

However, when our son Graham described a couple of concepts he had learned on a recent podcast interview, I knew I wanted to take my time listening.to this one.  Not multitasking as usual, but actually sitting down and taking notes.

Jamie Winship, the interviewee, is a believer whose gift is storytelling. During the two-hour conversation he related a few experiences from the time he and his family had lived in the Middle East and he taught in a Muslim university. Listening to these accounts opened up and changed my understanding of hearing from God.

He also shattered some of my fixed ways of thinking about Jesus.

Let’s circle back to peace and what happens when I LOSE my feeling of peace and joy and fall into fear, worry or anger.

Since the podcast, I have been practicing what I learned.  That is, when I’m stewing in fear, anxiety or frustration, I am learning to STOP and articulate my emotional state.  Jamie calls this ‘confessing’.

Here’s what I noticed and worked through on Wednesday, writing it all down in my journal:

  • Jesus, I’m feeling overwhelmed and burdened by the number of people in my life who need my encouragement and prayers.

Next, I confessed the ‘identity’ these feelings revealed.  Jamie describes this step as formulating an ‘I am’ statement.

It took me several attempts to articulate this functional identity, to get to what I thought was true about me, what fed my feelings of unrest and churn.

(warning, what you read is very ‘stupid’ and not at all true, but it’s what brought on ‘burdened and overwhelmed’ Maria)

  • I am one whose prayers tip the balance in whether people receive God’s blessings.

There, it was out, on paper in front of me.  Even as I penned the words, I knew ‘this identity’ was silly and not at all true. But ‘confession’ is an important step to being cleansed, to being restored.

The next step was to ask God: ‘What do YOU have to say about that?’

I didn’t ‘hear’ God…but He was revealing in my thoughts, what actually IS true:

  • Maria, you’re not me – God!  It’s not up to you how I act in the lives of your friends and family.  I have invited you to participate in their well-being.  Do you really think I won’t do what is best for them? Do I stop being all-powerful, all-good, all-wise, just because you don’t pray?

What was my reaction?  A ‘sheep’-ish realization of how I had been misrepresenting God!  And relief! No, it is NOT up to me!  Yes, I’m one of Jesus’ little lambs, part of His flock and I get to help out.  But I’m not the only one who has received the privilege of praying for certain people in my life.  Besides, if all of us little ones fail to pray, there is still the Holy Spirit who, together with the Son of God at the Father’s right hand intercedes ALL the time.

What happened next?  Amazingly, and immediately the burdens evaporated. Peace and calm came over me. I was back to knowing my true identity and thanking God for who He is.   That is what Jamie calls repentance – a returning to my identity and my God.

Just as Scripture teaches, fear and anger are where Satan abides.  Peace and joy are evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

The simplicity of this ‘tool’, this listening prayer dialogue stuns and excites me.

I’ve been taking advantage of the rhythm of noticing what I’m feeling, confessing it through words in my journal and then asking God for His input and waiting and listening for His answer.  He has not failed to respond to me, sometimes just in thoughts that occur, often through Scripture that just ‘happens’ to pop into my mind.

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