Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Altar and The Sword

"Believers cannot expect their High Priest to wield God's sharp sword, His Word which pierces to the separation of soul and spirit, unless first they are willing to come to the cross and accept its death.  Lying on the altar always precedes the plunging of the sword.  Hence all who desire to experience the parting of the soul and spirit must answer the Lord's call to Calvary and lay themselves unreservedly on the altar, trusting their High Priest to operate with His keen Sword to the dividing asunder of their spirit and soul. For us to lie on the altar is our free-will offering well-pleasing to God; to use the sword to divide is the work of the priest. We should fulfill our part with all faithfulness, and commit the rest to our merciful and faithful High Priest."

(The Spiritual Man, Watchman Nee)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Searched, found, reminded.

{Psalm 139:23-24}

Sometimes I think I have myself figured out. I assume I see myself clearly, believe I have dealt with my past, think my belief in the Lord is aligned.  Then the Lord uses strangers, who aren't strange at all, to reveal the truth in my heart, a reality I could not see.

In prayer, just a half hour or so before, I had asked to be searched and examined because I don't want to live in untruth, and I saw God answer that. I did not expect it- at least not then and there. Through that, the Lord affirmed to me what He was showing me in my studies- that He places believers (brothers and sisters in Christ) in our lives (possibly in passing, maybe for a season or a lifetime) to be mirrors, to ask hard questions, to shine light on areas we never knew were in darkness. 

The Lord revealed an area where I had unknowingly been living in untruth. He freed me to speak the truth about what I was feeling deep within, feelings I had been carrying for over a decade, even though relational healing had occurred.  I really did not see how these things tied into how I felt about my God, and it was really amazing to see God pull that out of me using a fellow brother in Christ as His instrument in a small prayer session.

Most of my life, I have had a running commentary on who I am set on repeat in my mind.  You're different. You're weird. That's bad. You're ridiculous. You're annoying. You're a bother. You're dumb. You're unworthy, uncool. You're a screw-up. Nothing you say has value. You don't fit in. You don't matter. You don't deserve....

For some reason, my flesh looks for reasons to affirm those things- inspects what people say and do, likely reading more into it than is really there- just so it can say, "Yep, you are those things. Here's the proof. You haven't changed."

In sharing that, we were able to trace the threads back to various situations where someone's words became the soundtrack of my life, which brought forth how I really feel about those situations and that period of my life.

The word that kept repeating to me was, "Unprotected."

The person I felt like should have been there in particular situations, who should have stuck up for me, who should have been my protector, was not. His comment of, "You can take care of yourself," may have been meant to build my confidence, but it did not.  I desired someone to step in and shield me, stick up for me, protect me.  I desperately wanted this person's approval, and lived most of my preteen/teen years doing things to win it- dating certain people, doing drugs, taking risks that I wouldn't normally have taken- which really put me in many dangerous, unhealthy situations.

Much of this happened in a time when I was pretty much left to myself. At that time, I probably would have said I rather enjoyed it- preferred it because the boundaries which I was used to had suddenly disappeared (or could be easily manipulated) and by default I was given more control over my own life- but now I can see how desperately I needed those firm, unmovable boundaries.

Thinking on these things brought out my true feelings on the matter.  I didn't realize that I was frustrated and angry with the situation that the people I felt should have sheltered me, who should have protected me from the world... or even more important, protected me from my immature youthful self, had not been there (for whatever reason- I am sure there are more reasons than the ones I understand). I had put that upon the Lord- feeling like He had abandoned me, not been there for me in those situations, left me to myself.  (To be clear, I was frustrated with the situation, not with the people. I have forgiven the people involved.)

I didn't think I felt those things towards the Lord because I can clearly see that He spared me from sinking even further, saved me from situations which could have been much worse, but God revealed that there was still something deep within me that questioned Him, something within me that didn't completely believe that He had really sheltered me.

I found myself asking, "Why weren't You there, God? Why didn't You save me sooner? Why did You let me go through all of that?" I saw myself as a little girl, needing a covering but without one. I suppose something within me felt like God wasn't there, that He let me endure all of that because .... well, let's go back to the soundtrack repeating through my head...

You're different. You're weird. That's bad. You're ridiculous. You're annoying. You're a bother. You're dumb. You're unworthy, uncool. You're a screw-up. Nothing you say has value. You don't fit in. You don't matter. You don't deserve....

I'm probably not conveying this clearly because, honestly, it wasn't super clear in my mind, and it's difficult to tie it all together. The mind is so screwed up- that's why it needs renewing.

I was told to ask, "Lord, who do You say I am?"

I just couldn't bring myself to ask it.  The whole thing of asking questions, seeking answers was really difficult because I felt like a spirit of confusion and forgetfulness was hovering over me. I had a hard time focusing. My mind would go completely blank, and not in a good way, or I would be flooded with so many words and images at once that I couldn't focus on anything. My friends prayed that those spirits would be cast out and would not be able to hinder me from seeing the Truth.

I asked God where He was in all of that.  Where was He when I was suffering? I did not have a relationship with the Lord then. I was not a believer. I knew about God, but it was a list of rules to me.  

God gave me a picture of an old frail man laying on a cot. The man is racked with regret and guilt and pain. He feels like he is far from God- unredeemable.  What he doesn't know is that the Lord is there with him in that very moment, that the Lord has stretched his years this far even though death should have overcome him long ago. He has done that for a reason. And He has been there all the while.

I know this man.  He is my grandfather. Yet he is also me.

I heard the Lord say, "I pity him," and I was filled with disgust because pity sounds like a bad word, and I wanted to yell, "I don't want your pity!" but I realize I need it.

The Lord said to me (not audibly, but.. it was very plain and clear), "I was there then. I watched over you, protected you when no one else was protecting you. You were in My hand. I knew you though you didn't know Me. I could have saved you, opened your eyes, given you faith, brought you into My fold then, but I waited. I waited to give you a grander testimony for My sake, to reach those who needed your testimony. You needed to feel unredeemable to reach those who feel unredeemable."

Finally, I was able to ask, "Lord, who do You say I am?" and He gave me the simplest answer.

Do you know what Amanda means?

Worthy of Love

Below is great song that I have been singing a lot these last couple months. As I listened to it again that night, every single word seemed to resonate within me. It's really amazing how the Lord brought together lyrics I have written recently, songs I have heard on the radio or through friends, a blog post I wrote this time last year, things people said, conversations we've had recently, and so much more... and brought it all together for me at once.... like pieces of a puzzle I had gathered throughout the years, finally fitting together.

Do you need to be reminded of who you are because the voices around you and in your head keep telling you lies?

Monday, August 20, 2012


Grace never calls wrong right.

I think it's important to remember that, especially in our day and age where "tolerance" is preached. We hear a lot about it being all about "love"- the church says this and the world does as well. We are told to be loving, to extend grace.

But remember, true grace, true love... never calls wrong right.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Honestly Facing Sin

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I had a little laugh at myself the other day as I realized that sometimes I will try to pretend I have it all figured out or all together before the Lord.  What I'm saying to God is, "Oh, I'm okay. No, there's no problem. I'm fine. I've got this," as if I could possibly fool Him into believing that. How dumb must I be to think that the God who sees all things and knows all things is blind to me.

I was considering how silly it is when we refuse to confess our sin before the Lord.  We often act like rebellious little children who know we've been caught in the act but are still attempting to point the blame in some other direction or excuse away what we've done just as in the Garden of Eden.

Deep down, we know we're wrong (naked), so we attempt to cover ourselves with some sort of fig leaf (a story, a lie, finger pointing) in hopes that maybe God won't notice.  Justifications fly wildly, and like Adam, we may even try to pin it on God in some way.

"The woman You gave to be with me- she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate," he says.  

I don't know about you, but when I read that, it sounds like he's telling God, "You put me in this situation! This woman you created and gave to be my wife, well, it's all her fault.  You created her, and look what she did!"

I've been reading through Israel's exodus from Egypt, and the story of the golden calf has really stood out to me. Remember that Moses is coming down the mountain from this amazing time with the Lord in which the Lord God inscribed the ten commandments on stone with His holy finger.

When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”  [Exodus 32: 19-24]

Did you catch that?  Can you imagine this scene?  Aaron is standing before Moses and he's got a mountain of excuses.

"These people are prone to evil!"
"They wanted me to make a god for them."
"They thought you had abandoned them!"

So he does all the fingerpointing, and I can just imagine him waving his hands wildly in emphasis, furrowing his brow at how obstinate the people are, and then sheepishly, hurriedly adding, "And then they gave me the gold and.... Ithrewitintothefireandoutcamethiscalf. Soooo, Moses. How was your vacation on the mountain? Good? Good."

And you know that Aaron didn't just toss the gold into the fire and, poof, it formed into a calf. It's almost comical that he explains the events that way. It's like me saying that cupcake I wasn't supposed to eat just fell into my mouth by accident.  It's absurd!

Yet that's often how we reason away our sin.
It's her fault. These people.... They wanted...  I just.... It just happened....

Sometimes we may find ourselves constructing a huge cover-up in order to hide our sin.  David was no stranger to this tactic. David sinned, and his sin had it's consequences.  Bathsheba became pregnant, and David knew he had to act fast. Her husband had not been home for some time, so everyone would know the child wasn't Uriah's.  So he tries work it out so that Uriah can go home and sleep with his wife.  But that doesn't happen.  David even tries to get him drunk, sending him on his way, but the man still doesn't go home to his wife because his loyalties are with the king and his duty.
When it was reported to David, “Uriah didn’t go home,” David questioned Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a journey? Why didn’t you go home?”  Uriah answered David, “The ark, Israel, and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my master Joab and his soldiers are camping in the open field. How can I enter my house to eat and drink and sleep with my wife? As surely as you live and by your life, I will not do this!”  [2 Samuel 11:10-11]
David refuses to look at his sin. He's too busy trying to cover it up. Since Uriah refuses to go home, David goes to plan B.  He sends Uriah to the front lines, where Uriah is killed in battle, and Bathsheba is freed to marry David.

Eventually, David is confronted with the truth of his sin.  He is made to face it, and he has a choice. He can either confess it as truth and seek the Lord, or He can harden his heart and try to reason it away.

When his eyes are opened to the measure of his sin, he crumbles. I love this part.  David sees the reality of it all, and sums it up in one statement:

"I have sinned against the LORD."

David stops trying to cover up his sin, and he surrenders to the Lord.  He doesn't point fingers. He doesn't try to reason or make excuses.  His snowballing sin smashes up against the Truth of God, and he is humbled before the Lord.

He cries out, "You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge."  He knows that the Lord has seen it all- seen his actions, seen his heart. I love to read over Psalm 51.  David is so exposed before the Lord, and rather than offer excuses, he pours out his heart, begging for compassion, purification, restoration, and God's saving grace.

I think David saw that he had everything to lose.  I don't believe he was worried about losing his reputation.  He didn't seem to care about what men thought of him at this point.  He cared about his relationship with the Lord God.
For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight.... Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt... Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Psalm 51 is the perfect way to respond to sin in our lives. David wanted to be searched and tried because he didn't want sin to linger in his life or stand between him and his beloved God Almighty.

I know whenever I feel even the slightest bit convicted, my flesh instantly begins to create buffers either to excuse it away completely or to at least soften the blow.  The Lord has really been shining a light on this area, and I really relate to David in so many ways.  Just the other day I saw my flesh getting all worked up, running around like a mad man trying to bandage and fix things so I wouldn't have to really confront my sin.  My flesh wanted to say, "That's not me!" but it was so much more freeing to say, "Yes, You're right about me, God."

So, the question I often have to ask myself is, "Do I really hate sin?" Do I just hate sin in other people, or do I hate sin in myself? Do I hate it enough to turn to the Father, confess it, and destroy it?

What I love, love, love about my awesome God is that He intervened in David's sin by sending Nathan to confront him. God doesn't show us our sin to beat us up.  He shows us our sin so we can overcome it.  He doesn't desire that I would wallow in guilt over my sin. He wants me to receive His forgiveness, turn fully to Him (and away from sin), and walk with Him.  Sin sends me down a different path, puts a wedge between me and the Father. Sin is the wall that prevents me from true fellowship with the Father.  Just as Moses completely destroyed the golden calf, we too must be willing to demolish sin in our lives.  We don't have to live as slaves to sin anymore.  Christ has overcome, and in Him, we can too.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Bride

How to I explain how amazing the Lord is? How can one describe His wonderful works, the way He extends His hand to us, opens our eyes, fills our hearts?

I am increasingly amazed as He shows me my place in The Church, what it means to be The Church, how He loves her (The Church), and what that says about Him.

Do you know that the Gospel is more than just a story of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins? Oh it's beautifully more.

Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church.  He is the Savior of the body.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her, to make her holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word.  He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless.  In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hates his own flesh, but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh.
This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5:22-32

 See, when many read this, all they see is a command for wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives.  But it is SO. MUCH. MORE.

We (collectively) are The Church, which is referred to as "she", likened unto a wife. Christ gave Himself for us, His bride. He makes us holy, cleanses us.  Why?  To present The Church to Himself in splendor, like a beautiful, pure bride.

Just think about that for a second.  As my husband and I lay in bed discussing some of this last night (through the wee hours of this morning), I thought about how protective my husband is of me.  When someone wounds me, hurts me, offends me- it is like someone is attacking, wounding, and offending him.  He loves me fiercely and protects me fiercely because we are as one flesh.

My husband often calls me his "trophy wife", but The Church, in a very real sense, is Christ's trophy wife.  She is His inheritance.  He passionately loves her.  We are united with Him, one flesh with Him.

At least, that is my understanding so far.  God is still working it out in me, still showing me new and wonderful things in His Word.  I love how His Word is always fresh and alive.  He desires more than head knowledge, but heart knowledge- wisdom that digs beyond the intellect and into the soul and spirit, and that's what I want as well.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jeremiah 33

This is such an amazing chapter (Jeremiah 33).  I can't help but become all teary-eyed when I read this- not just because it prophesies of the coming of Immanuel, but because I see God's heart so vividly.

I can just hear Him calling out to me, the passion in His voice-
Oh my dear Mandy!  Call on me! Loved one, I will answer you! I will! I will answer you and show you great, awe-inspiring, mighty and wonderful things which you can't even fathom!  If you would only call out to me, seek me, ask me!  How My Spirit desires to pour out understanding, wisdom, and blessings upon you- to show you more of Myself.  Come to me, my daughter! Come! Call! Cry out!
Verse six makes me giddy inside-  "[I] will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth."  Yes, He has forgiven.  Washed me clean. Clothed me in Christ.  He has formed me, made me into a new (wo)man, so I am not meant to live a defeated life!   I have been pardoned! I don't have to keep living in guilt, keep trudging through this myself, keep dragging my chains with me.


He is ready and willing to pour out His revelation of peace and truth.  Not just a little. Not just a sprinkling.

An {abundance, my friends!

Doesn't that make you want to shout for joy?

Monday, June 4, 2012

The True Vine

I really enjoyed this sermon this evening. So much I needed to hear, things God is already working within me.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Organic Church

What does church look like?

The church we read about in the New Testament was "organic."  By that I mean it was born from and sustained by spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions, controlled by human hierarchy, shaped by lifeless rituals, and held together by religious programs.
To use an illustration, if I try to create an orange in a laboratory, the lab-created orange would not be organic. But if I planted a seed into the ground and it produced an orange tree, the tree would be organic.
The same way, whenever we sin-scarred mortals try to create a church the same way we would start a business corporation, we are defying the organic principle of church life. An organic church is one that is naturally produced when a group of people have encountered Jesus Christ in reality (external ecclesiastical props being unnecessary), and the DNA of the church is free to work without hindrance.
To put it in a sentence, organic church life is not a theater with a script; it's a gathered community that lives by divine life. By contrast, the modern institutional church operates on the same organizational principles that run corporate America.

Excerpt from Reimagining Church
by Frank Viola