Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Creepy Distractions

Dear Father,

Please forgive me for letting distractions creep into our precious quiet time. At the same time, You have blessed me so much with the opportunities to lead a Bible Study at H.L.'s office and witness to others. Thanks be to You!

March 12, 2014 (Letter #11)

Dear Reader,
(Back to 2014, as I return to sharing letters from past to present.)

Yes, distractions creep and they are creepy; both are true. A creepy distraction to me is one I didn't see coming, such as an unexpected bill, car trouble, or suddenly being extra busy at work.

Sound like life? Yes, exactly. Life is full of creepy distractions. We get used to them being around. We expect them and sometimes even look for them. And before you know it, we're not spending any time on doing the things we'd love to be doing.

Perhaps, it takes a lot of effort, leaving us feel like we have to go out of our way to do them. Perhaps, they're not appreciated as much by someone close to us. Perhaps, we're tired because it takes effort to refocus on those things and life has us feeling drained.

Distractions are able to creep in because it's tough to stay focused when there are fires to put out, real or imagined, and expectations to meet. What we'd love to do whispers in a noisy world. Rather, the screams and cuteness in the world catch our attention. Yet, the clock keeps ticking.

At these times, I try to remember Someone worth listening to is whispering something I'd really love to hear. It's precious. It's the things that are most important but not urgent (in the world's eyes) that matter most.

I need to make them urgent for me. I must remember to give time and attention to those things I love, and to simply let the distractions lose their creepiness, whether adorable or scary.

Take care, listen,

... a voice from the cloud said, 
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." (Matthew 17:5b)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Stop, Drop, and Pray!

(I skipped ahead from my earlier 'Letters to God' in recent posts to one I wrote this morning.)

Dear Father,

I shall set my mind on things above. For I have died to the elemental spirits of the world and my life is now hidden with Christ in You. Therefore, I shall be transformed. I shall test and know Your will. I shall love. I shall be thankful. I shall grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. I shall be filled with the Spirit, and I shall study to show (or present) myself approved (or pleasing) to You rightly discerning (or dividing) the word of truth.

I shall stop, drop, and pray! I shall stop being conformed to the patterns of this world and the desires of my flesh. I shall drop to my knees with all humility, physically. I shall pray to You, my Father, with a sincere and authentic heart that delights in You, in the name of Jesus, and You will gladly give me whatever I ask, as You have promised.

All the treasures of wisdom and understanding are hidden in Christ, as are all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of Your mystery. Therefore, let my heart be encouraged, being knit together in love with Christ and with all the saints who share in His inheritance. 

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)

Much love,
Jan. 15, 2017, Letter #10

Dear Reader,

It is my hope and prayer you would recognize the Scripture references in my letter: Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Timothy, etc. I pray you would seek these things out for yourself, for they are truth given to us by God. 

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Oh, that you would know how deep and how wide is the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and you would see these gems in His word, and know them for yourself, and hold them close to your heart. 

I am inspired by writing these letters, by studying and focusing on the word of God -usually a term or phrase or verse, sometimes a paragraph- and by having fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

I would love to converse with you. What inspires you? How do you communicate with God? What fills your heart to overflowing? Please leave a comment below if you're so inspired. Or click on my name to get my email address in my blogger profile. Just click on 'Email' to create one. 

Whether you contact me or not, may God bless you richly in Christ.

Much love,

Thursday, January 12, 2017

You Have a Strange Way...

Dear Father,

You have a strange way of answering prayer. Thank You!

I love You so much. I really crave our quiet time together. How can I get more of You? How can I give more of myself to You? I pray You and Your Son will make Your home with me, in my heart.

May I labor for the treasure that does not rust or fade. May my labor be fruitful. Use me for Your purposes, Lord. Grant me to be strengthened with power through Your Spirit in my inner being, so Christ may dwell in my heart through faith.

May I always walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which I have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience. Make my joy complete, being of the same mind as Christ, in fellowship with You, Father,

Dec. 30, 2013, Letter #9

Dear Reader,

My memory isn't what it used to be; I don't remember what the prayer was about, answered so strangely. It could've been a number of things. However, the rest of the letter puts my mind at ease. I read it and know how He answered it: with desire for Him.

The answer wasn't strange. He might be mysterious, but not strange. (Even though some might joke that God is spelled big "G" little "od.")

The answer was strange because it just didn't quite seem to match the request. I need money? Send money. I need love? Send love. I need patience? Send patience, now! I'm sure I was thinking of an appropriate answer on my inadequate, short-sighted terms. Yet, He answered in His perfect ways.

That ever happen to you? Like, most of the time? 😏

In Him,

PS - Many Scripture references used in my letter are in my thoughts. Can you find them?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Am I Doing Here? (Letter #8 - Dear Father...)

Dear Father,

What exactly am I doing here? That is, what do You want me to do right now, right here, with what I have? Please do not leave these things up to my imagination alone. Be a lamp unto my feet, a guide for the path You would have me take.

Love, Your Son,
December 28, 2014

Dear Reader,

I had been unemployed for just over 2 months at the time I wrote this letter. Nobody I knew of was hiring around the holidays. At best, I was hoping I would have landed a job before mid-December. Now it was clear 2015 would roll in before hiring activity would pick up again. Financial issues were beginning to pile up.

Still, I wanted to know what God's plan was for me more than anything. More than finding a job at this moment, I wanted to know the good works for which He created me in Christ Jesus.*

The lesson would become clear over time; don't sit around waiting for a special calling before realizing how special is the calling you already received.

Sometimes, it's like walking into thick fog. I want to know what's ahead, but I can only see a few seconds into the future, that is, a mere couple feet into the distance.

Rather, this is the time to make sure my footing is solid. This is the time to focus on the Guide and not worry about the future, for He cares for me.**

In Him,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

* For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

** Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I Said A Bad Word

Did you catch that bad word I so casually typed in my Letter #7 - Dear Father...?

I know! That was not nice of me, but I had to. Sort of. Well, maybe not that way, but...
  • A distinction was necessary. 
  • A distinction is necessary. 
  • Distinctions are necessary.
I learned the hard way it was absolutely necessary for me to make clear distinctions in order to understand Scripture. Why me? Making sure I understood what I believed was my responsibility. The question I asked myself years ago, and still ask myself to this day, that changed my Christian life and my approach to Scripture, is:

Why do I believe what I believe?

I discovered pastors, reverends, Bible teachers, etc., anyone who expounded upon doctrine, especially those whose job it was to elucidate the thoughts, ways, and mystery of God, are to be tested, not simply trusted.

I find many believers are familiar with the story of the Berean's nobility in Acts 17:11. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Upon hearing the teaching of the Apostle Paul, those folks didn't just take Paul at his word and walk away praising God. No. They tested what Paul was saying by searching the Scriptures themselves to see if what he was claiming was actually so. Then, they believed.

But, what if what is being preached is not in accord with the Scriptures?

That was one of the questions I had asked for which people didn't seem to have an answer, or even want to try to answer. I was starting to see a pattern here, and it worried me.

When I was a new believer, I didn't know better. I thought religious leaders of well-known denominations knew more than I could ever hope for. They studied so hard. They read so many textbooks, study guides, and commentaries. They were like spiritual brainiacs.

I'm sure they listened to hundreds if not thousands of sermons. They had read countless books, articles, and essays from famous theologians, usually within their own denomination. They had degrees in divinity and theology from popular seminaries. Ordinations and certificates became commonplace expectations.

Who was I to question what they preached? I was just a layman, after all. Me? Cause division in a church because I used Scripture in an attempt to correct what was said in the sermon? How dare I! How arrogant! I was once told by a pastor, who led the same church for over 25 years, and was on track to earn his doctorate degree, that Titus 3:10-11 applied to me.

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:10-11

Yikes! I was speechless. He was mad. But, I knew in an instant I could either take my place in the pew and do and believe as I'm told, or I could upset the apple cart and ask questions. I also realized there was only one way to really seek and know the truth.

So, I left that pew and started asking more questions, to others and myself. Especially about things that really mattered to God and was relevant to my Christian journey.

  • How is one saved and how can you be absolutely certain?
  • Can one lose their salvation? 
  • If not, what about verses that say if you do certain sins you will not inherit the kingdom of God?
  • If His righteousness is apart from works and comes through believing in Christ, what is the purpose of works? 
  • What are the works we should be doing and why?
  • Where is truth found? 
  • What is revealed to us and what is kept hidden?
  • What is the baptism of the Spirit and how does it happen?
  • What does it mean to be under grace and not under the law?

I had many. many more questions as well. I found another teacher who had asked many more questions of God than I did and who sought His answers in the Scriptures. Finally, someone who could guide me on my spiritual journey. Someone who teaches me how to find the answers myself.

Ultimately, no man was my teacher, interpreting Scriptures for me, and telling me what traditions to follow. Rather, I came to know the Holy Spirit as my true guide, who would guide me into all truth, but that He can work through people who are humble. I needed to be humble, too. Otherwise, I'd grieve the Spirit and He wouldn't be able to do His job.

What was the bad word I used? Legalistic.

"Ouch!" is right. I can't believe I said that. But why did I say it? Because I did not settle for human reason in reaching this conclusion: if we are in Christ, we are not under the law, but under grace.

Getting saved is simple; change your mind about what is required for salvation and believe in the One whom God sent, Jesus Christ. It depends on Him, not you. Next comes the work of sanctification; searching the Scriptures to see and apply what is clearly and directly taught, and then moving on to the deeper things of God.

Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." (John 6:28-29)

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

More Than Life Itself (Letter #7 - Dear Father...)

Dear Father, December 11, 2016

Do I love You more than life itself? Enoch walked with You and You took him; he was no more.* Why? Why did You take him at that time? How did he please You except by faith?

Do You love me, Father? Will You take me? When is my appointed time? What is the work I must finish here on Earth?

[The "work I must finish" is not to be saved. For salvation is a gift from God, not of works.** Instead, this work is the joy for which I am created and have my being.***]

Paul was called to be an Apostle and preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.+ Peter to the Jews.++

I am not as clear about my calling except to abide in Christ+++ as Your adopted son, and that I love writing. Is it my calling to be an author for Christ, to a wide and diverse audience? Whether I know them or not? I love them.

Or is it to be a light, kind and gentle, to the select few You have brought into my life, whether they share my love for You or not? I love them, too.

Maybe it's to reach out to those who, like me, have been hurt by legalistic folks around them and/or betrayed by religious leaders posing as authorities in Christ, but really pushing their own agenda. I love these so. My heart aches for them, longs for them to know Your love that surpasses knowledge.*+*+

I recall having discussed these matters with my dear friend and brother in Christ, my Christian life coach, who helps me to get clear and stay focused. I should check my notes of our discussions for a reminder of a pleasant and profound surprise, my delight, that which is already in my heart, the love of Christ in me.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:24)  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)

** For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

*** For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

+ To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:8-10)

++ On the contrary, when they saw that I [Paul] had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised [Gentiles], just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised [Jews].(for he [Christ] who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), (Galatians 2:7-8)

+++ Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4) As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:9)

*+*+ For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
~ ~ ~

No, I didn't skip Letter #6. It's in the post titled, Major Milestones Reporting for Duty, Sir!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Major Milestones Reporting for Duty, Sir!

"So, this is your first blog post of 2017? It also happens to be your hundredth post? Plus, you are revitalizing your newsletter? Congratulations, Major Milestones, what a way to bring in the New Year! Well done. At ease, Major."

Joking aside, I did some reflecting and pondering yesterday; reflecting on lessons I learned in 2016, and pondering what may lie ahead in 2017. Both were enjoyable exercises. I asked myself:

  • What were the top five or ten things I learned in the past year? 
  • What are the top five or ten things I want to accomplish in the year ahead? 

Then I focused on one each, the most important lesson and goal:

  • What was the single most significant lesson for me in 2016? 
  • What will be my primary focus going forward in 2017?

Well, typical for me in my morning quiet time, I wrote a letter to my Father. It went something like this...

Dear Father, January 1, 2017

What better way to start the New Year than to spend time with You, reflecting on where we've been and pondering what lies ahead. I ask myself, "What are the top ten things I learned in 2016?" No doubt, most -if not all- of them regard spiritual matters. To me, those are the lessons that matter most. They are my Revelations For Life itself.

Probably, the most significant thing I learned in 2016 was to purify my motives when interacting with others about spiritual matters as a Christian. Specifically, I was attending a local church for the wrong reasons. I was trying to please others, not You, Father, while at the same time I disagreed with the doctrines of that church.

I see now my attitude was hypocritical. There is no room for compromise if I want to walk in the Spirit (and I do). I must work out my own salvation, not someone else's. Nor do I want to be arrogantly engaged in discussions of right and wrong biblical interpretations and human traditions that tear down. Who am I to cast judgement on another's personal spiritual journey?

Rather, may I always be ready to give a reasonable answer, with all gentleness, seasoned with salt, to anyone who asks about the hope that is in me, that is Christ. And if they don't ask, I won't shove it down their throats. If they stop listening, I'll stop talking. You respected my journey at every stage, Father, even before I knew You, or wanted to know You. Why shouldn't I do likewise?

Furthermore, I am sure You reward those who diligently seek You. In that regard, let me be an instrument in Your Hands, Father, to communicate Your abounding love, Your boundless mercy, Your amazing grace, the depth of Your riches in Christ, etc. Not for my own glory, but for Yours.

Looking forward to 2017, my heart desires so much to reach those who long for Your wisdom, but struggle to find direction and truth in this world. I was hurt and betrayed by those who called themselves Christian religious leaders and were instead wolves in sheep's clothing. There are so many of them! How do I know who to follow?  How do I know who is speaking the truth? What is truth? Where is truth?

I also want to fellowship with those who love You and are called according to Your purpose. There are always more insights into Your manifold wisdom to be discovered. May I apply myself to build up my brothers and sisters in Christ, and to be built up by them. Help me to be kind to others, tenderhearted, forgiving others as You forgave me in Christ. Let my words give grace to those who hear.

For these reasons, looking forward to 2017, I plan to write in my blog consistently with purpose, communicating boldly the love You've shown me. I hope readers will stay with me throughout the year as I open my heart to the lessons You have taught me and continue to teach me. I pray our hearts will be enlightened by the power of Your Spirit working in us.

Perhaps the spiritual journeys of mine and some of the readers of my blog will come to a crossroad of mutual benefit, where we find ourselves eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, walking in manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.