That I May Know Him

A few days ago, I posted the following on Facebook, requesting responses from my friends:

Do you regularly read content written by Christian authors (books – fiction or non-fiction, articles, blogs, etc.)? If so, what do you like about them? What don’t you like? If you do not read Christian authors, why not Can you give examples of authors you like and those you don’t?

The responses I got were not surprising to me but would perhaps be surprising to some Christian writers and publishers.

Most of those who answered the questions said yes, they did read Christian content, although not many had good things to say about Christian fiction, particularly women’s fiction because much of it tends to stereotype women into very traditional roles and thought patterns. I have found this to be true in my own reading. Several authors’ names did come up as exceptions, though.

Of the I-do-read-Christian-content responses, preferences were primarily well-researched non-fiction books and articles. Some of the authors are well-known and others more obscure. There was an almost overwhelming negative response toward the “feel good” books that play on emotions and fail to address and deal with the root of the issues. My friends who no longer read much Christian content have been disillusioned with the shallowness of what’s out there, the poor quality of the writing, or the false perceptions such material leaves with readers.

Now I’ll tell you why I have embarked on this research.

Recently, I was invited to participate in a webinar for Christian writers and bloggers. I was looking forward to it, as most of the writers’ conferences and seminars I’ve attended have not focused on Christian content. I should have skipped this one. Let’s just say that after the webinar I was not compelled to respond to the “rate us” email. There was no option to give a minus rating. It was horrible. Worse than horrible. Not once was the name of Jesus mentioned. Not once did the speakers talk about digging into the Bible for content, answers, or direction. Not once did I hear anyone say that the focus needed to be on God the Father. As a matter of fact, the “best” advice, they said, was to go to a local Christian bookstore, look around at what is offered there, and write that. Because it’s what’s popular. It’s what sells.

Are you kidding me???

Okay, I calmed down a little and then yesterday, I took myself off to a Christian bookstore – the only one within a 100 km radius that hasn’t gone out of business. As a point of reference, I am a former Christian bookstore owner and I know the pain of having to close the doors on a labour of love.

My fact-finding mission at the bookstore uncovered no surprises. The department occupying the greatest amount of floor space was giftware. Yeah, you know. All those cheesy ornaments with Bible verses on them. The next largest area was fiction, most of which looked eerily the same as my own bookstore did twelve years ago – a HUGE number of Amish romances, a good number of mysteries (also romances), and a few really good books by really good authors.

I moved on and turned the corner and my eyes widened. Rows and rows of floor-to-ceiling shelves of Women’s Interest books. Do publishers not know how bad pastel covers look en-masse? I wanted to run away screaming. While I’m certain there were some truly excellent ones in there, anyone would have been hard pressed to find them among the volumes of drivel.

(drivel – childish, silly, or meaningless talk or thinking; nonsense; twaddle)

Seriously. A good 50% of the books even had the smiling face of the author on the cover. Who are we worshipping here? And the titles! Don’t even get me started.

Here’s my point: Where is Jesus? Who is He? What is He for/to you? Why do you follow Him? How can you know Him and the power of His resurrection?

And I continually long to know the wonders of Jesus more fully and to experience the overflowing power of his resurrection working in me. Philippians 3:10 (TPT)

THIS is what we need. To know and experience the living Spirit of God moving through us, in us, around us. To understand what He is to us and for us. THIS is what it means to be alive in Christ.

Anything that does not point you to Jesus should be questioned. That goes for so-called Christian books that offer answers for every life problem – books that make you feel good about yourself and excuse you from having to actually deal with your issues without giving Jesus the liberty to work with you. I’ve read many of the books I’m generalizing about here. I know what’s in them. And for all the money I’ve spent, words I’ve read, and felt justified in my sanctimonious attitude, nothing, NOTHING worked until I let Jesus show me the areas in my life that needed work. He and I are still housecleaning in that regard.

My greatest desire is to write what the Father God puts on my heart. Not what sells the best. Not what makes readers feel good (aka fluff). Not what other people tell me I should write. I believe that when I write what God has burned in my spirit, lives will change, and He will be glorified.

My little Facebook research project is a good indication that there is an audience for authentic writers who truly hear from God and write what He says. So, if you’re one of those, GO!

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Powerful Wind

SIGNS & SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (WIND) | JESUS WAY 4 YOU

A powerful wind blew through our area last night, leaving wide-spread power outages, downed trees, and property damage in its wake. The sound was deafening at times, like a jet airplane flying at a low altitude directly above our house. Rain poured from the sky in torrents. Visibility was non-existent.

This morning, the sun was shining as a beautiful day began. At first glance, all appeared right with the world. Yet, the evidence of the storm’s effect was there. The wind we could not see had made its presence known in things we could see.

The same thing happens with the Holy Spirit. His role is to glorify the Father and the Son, and to dwell in us – making Him unseen. But like the wind, the Holy Spirit works in unpredictable ways. Even though we can’t control or manipulate Him or make Him to do our bidding or anticipate His next move, we know He is there. We see the evidence of His presence in us and around us. We see the effects of His work in the lives of people who yield to Him.

For the Spirit-wind blows as it chooses. You can hear its sound but you don’t know where it came from or where it’s going. So it is within the hearts of those who are Spirit-born! John 3:8 (TPT)

Be still.

Allow Him to breathe His life into you. Hear His voice speaking to you, whether that be a gentle breeze or a powerful wind.

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Leaning on Our Senses

Making Sense of Your Five Senses - Ask The Scientists

We know what our senses are: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Those senses dictate our actions, to a large degree, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. But can we trust them? Of course, a bad odor may indicate a problem somewhere, a hot curling iron burns if we touch it, and not everything we eat has a pleasant taste. So yes, we can trust our senses to give us information about our surroundings.

However . . .

I remember a song we used to sing in Sunday School with the words, “be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little ears what you hear” (see full lyrics below). Why did the song zero in on those two things first? Because, I believe, sight and sound are the two senses where the enemy has initial access to our thoughts and subsequent actions.

This past year, I’ve been more aware of the consequences of allowing brain space to be taken up by things I should not be looking at or listening to. This is particularly true when it comes to the Covid-19 situation, political unrest, conspiracy theories, etc., and watching the world lose all sense of – well – common sense. I’ll even go so far as to say that there are even some pastors and churches out there who are contributing to the problem by ignoring God’s agenda and promoting their own during this time of vulnerability.

None of this is new. It has occurred throughout all history. But today, with our ready access to the news (if you can call it that) and wide-spread social media, our eyes and ears are being bombarded with so much trash and untruth, it’s become difficult to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t.

This is where we, the redeemed of the Lord, the Jesus followers, the believers of the whole Bible, have a responsibility.

We are responsible to ourselves, and to our friends and families, to uphold the Word of God and test everything we are seeing and hearing with that Word. We are responsible to speak the truth as God gives us utterance. We are responsible to cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). We are responsible to take authority over that which would attempt to pull us away from whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (Philippians 4:8).

I urge you to resist giving place to pessimism, to negativity, to self-condemnation, to fear, to anxiety, to bad habits, to wrong beliefs and attitudes, to lies, and to complacency. These things do not come from a place of victory in Jesus Christ, and if they take root in your mind, they will steal your peace, your joy, and your hope. Eventually, they will destroy you.

Strong words, I know. That’s why it’s vital to stop leaning on your senses.

Lean on the One who is above all. See His words. Hear His voice.

O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see

O be careful little ears what you hear
O be careful little ears what you hear
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little tongue what you say
O be careful little tongue what you say
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little tongue what you say

O be careful little hands what you do
O be careful little hands what you do
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little hands what you do

O be careful little feet where you go
O be careful little feet where you go
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little feet where you go

O be careful little heart whom you trust
O be careful little heart whom you trust
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little heart whom you trust

O be careful little mind what you think
O be careful little mind what you think
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little mind what you think
So, be careful little mind what you think

Traditional hymn, composer unknown

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All Things New

All Things New - Sermon Series & Sermon Graphics - Ministry Pass

I started at the back of the Book this morning and the scripture below caught my eye.

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. Revelation 21:5-7 (NKJV)

The phrase “all things new” stood out because I really like it when God says all. When He says all, He means all. He will make all things new. He will restore all things. He will renew all things in your life story. He will renew your strength once and for all, and give you joy that endlessly overflows.

Even though you may not see it right at this very moment, God is working on your behalf. He’s dealing with those prayers you prayed yesterday, or even years ago, ensuring that they are answered at exactly the right time in exactly the right way. Have you been looking for Him? Listening to Him? Getting yourself ready for the new things He is waiting to place in front of you?

God is freely giving the water of life to the ones who are thirsty for Him. Remember to drink from that fountain. Know that He is good, He is on your side, and He will never fail you.

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In the Beginning

Was it a coincidence that my copy of The Book of Genesis: Firstfruits (The Passion Translation) lay right there in front of me when I sat down at my desk this morning? I don’t think so. Not on this first day of 2021.

Aside from the obvious, there is something deeper.

When God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was completely formless and empty, with nothing but darkness draped over the deep. Genesis 1:1 (TPT)

Read it again. When God created . . . CREATED. This word, according to the footnotes in my Bible, is used exclusively in the Old Testament to describe God’s creativity, things only God can do. He created the earth and everything in it from nothing, after all. The very first sentence in the Bible establishes that God is a creator and, until that mind-blowing event occurred, there is no record of anything being created before.

I am so awed that the beginning words of the Bible reveal God’s creative nature. But there’s more.

So God created man and woman and shaped them with his image inside them. In his own beautiful image, he created his masterpiece. Yes, male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (TPT)

We are image-bearers of the Most High God. And because He shaped us with His image inside us, we have His creative nature. Our imaginations, our dreams, our abilities to make ideas a reality are a part of God’s nature in us.

All of this might sound elementary to those who may have already grasped the depth of what this means, but I think many have not. I want to encourage the ones who have given up, the ones who can’t see anything but a dismal future, the ones who don’t believe they are important, the ones who are hurting or lonely or full of sorrow.

God has created you in His image, with everything He is inside us. Everything. You are one with Him in Jesus Christ. Allow His peace and comfort and grace and love to flow through you.

In this beginning of a new year, leave the old behind and embrace the Father’s nature living in you, His masterpiece.

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This is Now

The Time is NOW wall clock | Zazzle.com | Diy clock wall, Cool clocks, Wall  clock

It’s that time when we are reminded to reflect on the past year and set goals for the next. This is all with the hope that the new year will be everything that 2020 was not, as if that last tick of the clock at midnight will reset our lives.

Sorry to disappoint, but it doesn’t work that way.

This is now. It’s what you have.

I’ve concluded that I spend far too much time thinking about what happened in my past and, on the flip side, wasted so many precious minutes fretting about what could happen in my future. Really, how dumb is that? I don’t want to use my brain power on things I can’t do anything about.

The past is done. Over. Finished. You can’t change it. Remember the good stuff and learn from your mistakes. Move on.

The future is yet to come. Set your course to accomplish the things you need to in order to achieve whatever prize it is you’re reaching for and do it.

My point is: THIS. IS. NOW.

Are you missing the blessing, the love, the wonder, the joy of today because you’re mired in the past or caught up in what could happen in the future? Our Father, in all His infinite wisdom, gave us NOW.

Stop what you’re doing. Look around. Smile. Send a text message to someone you haven’t talked to for a while. Pick up the phone and call a friend or a family member. Write something positive in your journal. Thank God for your life, your health, your home – for His care.

No excuses.

Let this be your focus:

Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life. Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God! Ephesians 3:17-19 (TPT)

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What Will You Do?

This morning I had an instructional “conversation” with my husband regarding the use of bookmarks, URLs, and deleted emails. Let’s just say I am not a patient teacher when it comes to showing others how to navigate the world of electronic communication, especially when the student does not have any desire to understand the basic mechanics.

Over the years, I have repeated this phrase hundreds of times: the computer will only do what you tell it to do. I’ve had co-workers, friends, and acquaintances lament to me that their computer is different. Their computer is frozen, messed up, stupid, corrupted, or whatever, and it happened all by itself. Uh . . . no. At least, the answer is no 99.99% of the time. There isn’t any amount of blame-laying that will change that fact. Again, the computer will only do what you tell it to do. You just have to learn the rules.

I got to thinking about how this applies to life.

We like to blame someone or something else when life doesn’t work the way we want it to work, because it couldn’t be our own fault, right? Things went wrong because someone or something else messed it up, froze our attempts, corrupted our ideas, or whatever, and it just happened. Uh . . . no. We have to learn the rules. Or in the case of us Christians, we have to learn what the rule Book says.

We have the ultimate instruction manual – the Bible – and we have God, the Father, speaking to us by His Holy Spirit. All. The. Time. But what do we do with that? We often don’t pay attention or ask for clarification or allow the words to sink into our hearts. We think we know better, but seriously, we don’t.

Like computers, we can only do what we – WE – tell ourselves to do.

Where are we getting our information? Are we listening to the right Source? Do we allow His words to root themselves in our spirits?

What will you do?

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Is It Christmas Eve Already?

25 Christmas Traditions and Their Origins - HISTORY

When I was a kid Christmas always seemed to take forever to arrive. Minutes dragged by with sloth-like speed and I’m pretty sure there were years when I’d convinced myself that the celestial timekeeper was slowing down time just to teach me patience. Things gradually picked up, though, and the years starting racing by. Now it’s Christmas Eve again and I’m fairly certain we just had that a couple of months ago. Didn’t we? Or maybe 2020 is finally showing a random act of kindness by getting us through the year as quickly as possible so we can start planning a future without masks and social distancing. It’s a thought.

This week my mind has been filled with memories of Christmases past. Taking part in the annual Christmas Eve program at my grandparents’ church, wearing a brand new prickly, scratchy, ruffly dress (I can still feel that starched crinoline), a multitude of relatives packed into the house, celebrating my Dad’s birthday (he would be 87 years old today if he hadn’t taken an early flight to heaven), and so many other traditions.

It’s different this year. Our nine grandchildren and their parents are having Christmas in their various homes instead of coming over to eat, laugh, and be a family together. We’ve all agreed to abide by the laws of the province. We understand the reasoning, but we don’t have to like it, right?

But, more than the familiar activities we’ve grown to expect year after year, the purpose for all the celebrating hasn’t changed. God was born in human form, to start the ball rolling and make a way for us to be with Him for eternity. That’s rather awesome.

Stop for a moment and think about this:

That night, in a field near Bethlehem, there were shepherds watching over their flocks. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared in radiant splendor before them, lighting up the field with the blazing glory of God, and the shepherds were terrified! But the angel reassured them, saying, “Don’t be afraid. For I have come to bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard! And it is for everyone everywhere! For today in Bethlehem a rescuer was born for you. He is the Lord Yahweh, the Messiah. You will recognize him by this miracle sign: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough!” Then all at once, a vast number of glorious angels appeared, the very armies of heaven! And they all praised God, singing: “Glory to God in the highest realms of heaven! For there is peace and a good hope given to the sons of men.” Luke 2:8-14 (TPT)

Prayers for a blessed Christmas are coming from our house to yours!

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Fog in the Valley

The view from our home’s perch on the side of a mountain is extraordinary. Except on days like today when the fog rolls in and obscures the valley below. We know there is breathtaking beauty beneath the mist – green fields and forests (yes, even in December), majestic peaks on the other side of the lowlands, and the ever-changing skies above. We just can’t see it right now.

The fog distorts our senses. Images waver, sounds are muffled, the air is close. It can feel like an alternate universe. 2020 has been that alternate universe for many of us. We peer out the window to look for the tiniest break in the clouds and wonder when we will be able to see clearly again. It seems endless. Heavy. Uncertain.

But know this: God is not uncertain. He’s GOD.

He isn’t inhibited by Covid-19 or any other problem we have. He doesn’t sway back and forth trying to make a decision. He doesn’t play favourites. And He doesn’t leave us alone. Ever.

So, when you’re trying to find a way in the fog, remember that He is there with you. Take His hand and allow Him to walk you through.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 1 Corinthians 13:12 (The Message)

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Obstacle Course

I’m fairly certain that I am not only one who feels like life is one big obstacle course. A lot of things seem to stand in the way of things I want to do, but I am beginning to realize that often my very own thoughts have been creeping through my mind, hindering my desire to move forward. Sneaky things, those thoughts. And they can present some enormous roadblocks.

It’s good to recognize and acknowledge that there will be obstacles along the way. Although I am fully aware that there are legitimate obstacles that we must overcome, it’s also good to recognize and acknowledge that we have created many obstacles by neglecting the way we think – allowing anything and everything to crowd into our heads, causing all kinds of trouble.

Remember this little piece of scripture?

So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. (Philippians 4:8 TPT)

Forgot that one, right?

This is something I am always grappling with, given my rather vivid imagination. I know that I can very easily get sucked into a black hole of self-pity, depression, stress, and even fear when I fail to keep my thoughts continually fixed on God. For me, it has to be a conscious effort, hardwired into my brain so I’m not dependent on an unreliable wi-fi signal.

I love this verse:

We can demolish every deceptive fantasy that opposes God and break through every arrogant attitude that is raised up in defiance of the true knowledge of God. We capture, like prisoners of war, every thought and insist that it bow in obedience to the Anointed One. (2 Corinthians 10:5 TPT)

The truth is that when something is blocking your way, preventing you from moving ahead, you always have a choice. It doesn’t matter whether that obstacle is self-inflicted or an outside challenge. You can either curl up on the couch with your favourite cozy blanket and Netflix, or you can actually get up and do something about it. The choice is yours.

Take those thoughts captive and go through, climb over, go around, or dig under your obstacles.

God says you can.

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