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Isaiah 59:19

So shall they fear
The name of the Lord from the west,
And His glory from the rising of the sun;
When the enemy comes in like a flood,
The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.

Graham Cooke said when you see the enemy coming in like a flood in your life, look around to see what God is raising up.

While this thought intrigued me it also lured me in. I started looking into it.

The book of Numbers describes each tribe in the nation of Israel had a banner or a standard that represented their tribe; it identified them. Each tribe camped under that banner; they went to war under that banner.

When the Word says, the Lord is lifting up a banner, He is going to war for you. That alone is powerful.  Or He is creating a place of peace (a place to camp) for you.

There is more there…

My parents came to know the Lord in a more profound way in their early 20s. They joined a Spirit-filled church when I was nine months old. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to live their lives for Jesus…well, for Jesus, their church and their pastor. The church had “standards” (translates rules) that were to be lived by. The standards were loosely based on the Bible (some poor interpretations and bad definitions). Basically, there were many “NOs” and very few “YES, do this”. At least from my point of view. For example…no tv, no movies, no short skirts, no makeup, no tattoos, no piercings, no jewelry, no alcohol, no, no, no…. The focus was on following the rules not on following Jesus. Somehow they made it through all of this with their faith in Jesus (they may have lost some faith in others). This is my backstory. A foundation of what was not allowed and fear of breaking those rules as my standard of who God is.

As a parent, I find I am often saying, “No”. I don’t like being the “No” person. (I am almost always the “no” person)  There are some things that are our standard of living. These things are based on identity not on DOs and DON’Ts. We learned in foster care training about establishing family values in a positive way. For example, instead of saying, “We do not lie”, we say, “In our family, we tell the truth.” It became about establishing our identity….we are truth tellers. There is no riding the fence about deception, we tell the truth. If you have a foundation of who you are you live your life accordingly. It’s not about not about “no”, it’s about “this is who I am and that doing this isn’t who I am.”

Webster’s Dictionary has several definition for the word “standard”. On of those definitions is “something established by authority, custom or general consent.” Another definition says, “a rule for the measure of quality, weight, extent, value or quality….the fineness and legally fixed weight of the metal used in coins; the basic value in a monetary system.”

Standards define value.

In our lives, God sets the value system or the standards in which we live by. There are some “DOs” and some “DON’Ts”.

As a kid, we vacationed in Colorado….several times.  We traveled in motor homes and with travel trailers up to the mountains near Durango; we stayed near a little town called Silverton, next to a river.  We are from Texas…in August, we experience hell-like temperatures along with the humidity of central Texas, it’s the pool or staying inside.  That’s when we escaped to Colorado for two or three weeks.  We tried going swimming in that river but the water was cold; that river was a result of the snow melting on the mountains above.  They still had snow up in those mountains.  When we setup camp, we dropped out hoses in river as our water source.  That water was clear, cold and pure.  It tasted like heaven. There was a purity to that water that felt incorruptible.   In order to maintain that water’s purity, we did not dump our waste product in the river.

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In America, we enjoy a certain level of expectation when it comes to our water.  As a country we have established standards of purity when it comes to our water. When we turn our faucet on in our home, we expect clear, clean water to flow.  Certainly there are exceptions to this but overall the standards we have set for water systems and enforced by our government have allowed us to live with an expectation of clean water.  There are “DOs” and “DON’Ts” for companies expelling used water; those standards are in place for our protection. There are some things in life that are better pure. Most things are better pure.

Let me throw out an example that almost everyone (especially you all who grew up in church) can relate to. When I was a teenager, the churches approach to sex was “don’t do it, it’s bad.” Many young people ignored this because it’s a lie. We heard rumors that it was super fun. The truth is, sex is great. God created it. He has some standards in regards to sex that protect us from harming our bodies, hearts and spirits. God’s standard is not “don’t do it” God’s standard is “do it, when you are married.” When we follow His standard we maintain a purity that adds value. On the flip side, we cannot put so much value on virginity that anything less is spoiled goods. We must also rise to God’s standard of grace and complete forgiveness; His standard of anything He calls clean is completely restored.

My goal here is not to throw out personal standards of holiness.  My goal is to change our thinking…if we know who God created us to be and what He says about us, so many of the “NOs” fall away and we see all God’s “YESes”!  His “YES” brings value, depth and quality to our lives.

What about the phrase, “Standard of living”?  Some people have a high standard of living and some people have a lower standard of living. Once you have achieved a certain level of living, you really do not want to go back to a previous level. That’s not to say you cannot go back or will not go back. You may be more willing to fight to stay at the level you are at.

My brother and sister-in-law lived with us for a few years. My brother-in-law works for Whole Foods; he’s a butcher. When Whole Foods would have a good sale on meat, he would stock our freezer up. When they had ground beef on sale, so be bought 10 pounds of beef, had them wrapped in one pound packages and put them in the freezer. When I cooked dinner, I would pull out what we needed. After a month or so of using beef from Whole Foods, I switched back to the cheaper version from our local grocer. When I cooked it, it stank; it smelled rancid. I could not stand the smell of it and wondered what was wrong with it. Moving forward, I began purchasing a grass-fed beef from the local grocer. My standard changed. I was no longer “OK” with the cheaper version.

When I look at this passage in Isaiah, I think about how so many times God allows us to go through things in order to change our standard of who He is. I did not know God as my provider until I was single and did not have a job in my field for almost a year. I didn’t know God as my provider until my electricity was shut off for almost two weeks. Once I went through that season, I could not unknow Him as the ONE WHO PROVIDES FOR ME….It became my new standard.

Once God has healed you, you know Him as the Healer.

When God says you are good daughter or son, you know Him as as Abba, Father; a good, good Father.

When God brings, healing, deliverance and freedom to your life, then He becomes who you look to for healing, deliverance and freedom!

When it looks like and feels like the enemy is coming in like a flood, look around for what God is doing. Look for what He is revealing to you about Himself.

Taking it a step farther….when you encounter a situation that you haven’t walked through, look to those around you because with God there is no partiality (Romans 2:11). That means, you can ask Him for the receipts. Let me explain. Shawn Bolz told a story about his family when he was growing up. One day, his dad and sister came home and she had shopping bags filled with new clothes. She was so excited about her dad taking her shopping for “no reason”. Shawn told his dad, “I want to see the receipts.” He dad asked, “Why?” He told his dad, “I know you are a good dad and whatever you spent on her, you will spend on me.” Shawn didn’t want clothes (he wanted video games). His dad laughed…he loved that his son believed in his goodness; he loved that his son knew him well; he wanted to bless his kids. Our God also is a good, dad. He wants us to ask for the receipts. If God worked something for one person He will do it for you. Ask Him. It may not look exactly the same, but He will work on your behalf if you rely on Him.

Have you ever wondered why you envy some people. Maybe it’s not pure envy. Maybe you are getting a glimpse of something God wants you get a vision for. Maybe He is trying to stir up a desire in you that He wants to fulfill. Maybe He is waiting for you to ask Him! Maybe He wants to set a new standard of living for you.

When the enemy comes in on every side…God is going to fight for you and reveal a higher standard of living in your life.

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Trust ME

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This is a Word for a friend.  Someone needs to hear this today.

Last year, life went crazy and a little sideways.  It’s a long story.  Nothing was as it seemed. Everything seemed swirly.

Thankfully God allowed the “crazy” to happen at the perfect time.  I was backed into a corner.  I could not react the way I wanted to…God knew.

At the time I prayed and I told God, “I cannot trust this person.”

We have all had situations come up when we cannot trust the people closest to us.  When trust is broken…it devastates.

In that moment, when I felt I hadn’t been hearing from God; in that moment when I felt my emotions were overwhelming His voice I heard, “You don’t have to.”  Relief flooded me.  I don’t have to trust this person…a weight lifted.  Then God said, “Trust ME.”

Like I have so many times in my life, I trusted Him.  I knew that I could believe what He said to me.  He is a good Father.  His plans are good.  I can trust Him.

There will always be times in our lives when people fail us.  Sometimes they are failing us for the first time but sometimes they are failing us for the fourth time.  You don’t have to trust them, but trust Him.

When He says, “I have a plan.”  You can trust Him.  When He says, “I know how much this hurts.”  You can trust Him.  When He says, “You are going to make it through this.” You can trust Him.  He keeps His words.  He always does.  So when He says, “Trust Me”  You can trust Him.  He LOVES you.  He LOVES your children even more than you do.  He is for you and not against you.  He is for your relationships, your marriage, your parenting, your ministry…He is for you.

When you cannot trust anyone else, trust Him.

 

 

Big Bertha

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Sometimes healing comes in weird way ways, at strange times and through the most obscure ways.

When I was growing up things weren’t as politically correct as they are today.  We used to play “Old Maid”.  It’s a kids card game and every card has a pair except the “Old Maid”.  That particular deck had a bunch of matching cards like, “Slim Jim” (featuring a skinny guy) and a fat lady named, “Big Bertha”.   Just to be clear, I was not a fat child.  I was pretty average.  I was active and healthy.  My three cousins, who (as you will see from this story) I counted as brothers loved to torment me by calling me fat.  Of course,  it really bothered this 8 year old girl.  They were merciless, like brothers can be.  Once they realized that I didn’t like being called “fat”, they found new and creative ways to call me “fat”.  Since we had all played the Old Maid game, they started calling me “Big Bertha”.   I hate to admit it but at times, this would bring me to tears.

Our family had a saying, “Boys will be boys”.  That was often the answer I would hear when I would tell on them for tormenting me.  That doesn’t fly with me.  Boys being boys at our house is getting dirty, wrestling, and going fast…not being mean to others.

I love my cousins…they are still my brothers.  When I was in my early 20s, I was a size 4 (I worked pretty hard to get to that point) and I realized I wasn’t a “Big Bertha” any more (I never really was but kids will believe anything).

Lance Wallnau has been hosting prayer every night. It is a great concept, he goes live on Periscope and Facebook and hosts prayer.  About 2000 people have been joining nightly for prayer.  If you “like” Lance Wallnau on Facebook you be alerted when he is live.  You can also watch past videos (Last Thursday, December 3rd, was powerful).  Mr. Wallnau is kind of loud man who is passionate about praying for politics, the nations, etc.  One night he was being very loud.  He said, “Some of you are very loud and it’s because God has given you a militant voice”.  He said a few other things.  He talked about being in military school and how they were taught to use a loud voice when responding to their commander and how we should be responding in a loud voice.  I’ve never had a problem being loud.

All of this reminded me….

You might remember be posting about going to the University of Texas game a few months ago.  We had such an enjoyable time.  While we were there, God spoke to me…what a weird place to hear from God.  The band took the field and they have an enormous drum.  The announcer said, “Big Bertha is coming onto the field.”  That’s right.  UT’s giant drum is named, “Big Bertha”.  Of course, I was immediately brought back to being called “Big Bertha”.  And then it happened.  I hear God’s voice as clear as day say, “You are my drum.  You set a beat to march to.” Drums are loud, by design.   Leave to God to take something that was negative and turn it into something powerful.

What my cousins meant to tease me with; what took root as “you are fat and will probably always be fat”;  what I had verbally denied because I didn’t want to be that person, God turned into something positive.   That was a healing moment.

This season can bring up many emotions.  For some people the sights, sounds and smells can bring back the negative. LISTEN! Pay attention!  God wants to speak to you.   God will speak when you aren’t expecting it; at unlikely times, in unlikely places.  

Worth

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If you are a follower of my blog you know that I have a passion for the fatherless…both spiritual and physical.  Yes, there are spiritual orphans and spiritual step-sons out there.  You can read about Spiritual step-sons here.  Here is a blog about spiritual orphans.

When I read this blog, What is Your Love Lid?,  by Kris Vallatton it resonated with me.   Naturally, I wanted to share it with you.

When I read it, what resonated with me is often the person who has trouble receiving from others is a person who hasn’t yet recognized who their Dad is.  When your Dad is the King, you learn to graciously receive.  It’s part of being a thankful son.  It’s not a matter of anyone owing you, it’s just a matter of knowing that He is a “Good, Good Father.”  It’s who he is (to quote one of my favorite songs lately).

 

Best Ever

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When the Hubs and I were dating, way back when, we were both broke.  Many of our dates included walking in the park and drinking coffee or watching CSI (the original one…not all those knockoffs).

When we were first married, we would sometimes drive into Austin in the middle of the night to go to Kerbey Lane.  Our “big night out” usually consisted of dinner and a movie.

Then we started fostering and getting a sitter with foster children is like getting teeth pulled.

We often do family dates but getting to go out on dates, just the two of us has been a juggling act.

Lately, it seems that God has been setting us up on some very nice dates.  And they have been FREE.

Seriously.

Last month, we found out that the Cheesecake Factory was doing their “soft opening” at Barton Creek Mall.  In order to train their staff, they offered a free meal for those who made reservations.  The Hubs made reservations.  We had a lovely night out with a three course meal was wonderful.  We tipped our wait staff of course but the $148 bill (we doubled with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law) was completely free.

This past weekend, the Hubs won tickets to the Texas Longhorn game.  These were just free tickets, they were through the Texas Club which means…great food (fajitas, gourmet sandwiches, roast beef, fondue, etc), air conditioned club level and then great seats in the end zone.  I seriously felt so spoiled.  I would love to attend every game, if I could attend like this…but the tickets alone are $600+ a seat plus yearly donations.  What a great date though.  The only cost we incurred was parking.

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And more importantly, it was a great game.  My Longhorns lost in the last few minutes by one point.  While I hate that they lost (Lord, bless that kicker) the game was fun to watch and our guys played pretty well.  I’m super impressed with our QB.  (Sorry for all the football talk….for Texas girls it is required that we learn about football).  This is also a good indication of how God has worked in my life in the past few years.  I gave up football for quiet a while as I was getting very emotional (read angry) about it.  Don’t get me wrong…I do not know enough to play fantasy football with the boys but at one time I knew my teams.  Being a true Austinite (born and raised) my first love (when it comes to football) is college ball, specifically the Texas Longhorns.  When I lived in Alabama, I rooted for University of Alabama (Roll Tide) but it was never the passion I felt for my Longhorns.  Hook’em.]

Extra bonus…Matthew McConaughey was at the game…we got a few glimpses of him in his box seats that were on the same level as our club level seating.

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The score was 38 to 45. If UT got at touch down and field goal the score would be tied.

Interestingly, I am sooo very thankful and grateful.  While I am in awe, I am waiting with great anticipations to see what setup God has for us next.  Seriously, I wonder how He will top this latest blessing.  Trip to Hawaii?  (I’d be thrilled with a trip to Galveston).  Trip to Colorado?

God is good!

The Latest Boogie Man

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ISIS

Everyone’s talking about it.  We live in Texas and information has come out that ISIS is in Mexico planning car bombings in America.  I have no idea if this information is accurate.

The thing about organizations like ISIS is they play on fear.  They do whatever they can to get on the news.   Fear is NOT of God.

They are just the latest boogie man.  They are the latest Nazis, the latest Al Qaeda, the latest.  I remember in the 80s we were afraid the Chinese were going to be parachuting into the U.S.  (probably watched Red Dawn too many times).

I’m not saying that there isn’t a reason to be concerned…

The first scripture I ever taught to my young son (he was almost 3 year old) was  2 Timothy 1:7, “ For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  (we acted it out and everything).  We do not tolerate fear in our house because fear is not from God…it is always demonic.  I’ve had some fearful seasons of my life, especially with fostering and concerns about protecting our babies.  I’ve battled this thing.  Whether it is on a big scale or a little scale, it is not from God!

I believe that news networks perpetuate fear.  Think about it, they have to fill 24 hours a day on these stations…it has to be catching news…the more dramatic the better.  They are by nature sowing fear into the hearts of America.  Turn that crap off and read your Bible.

Remind yourself that our God is BIG!  Magnify Him.  Make Him bigger in your life!  Have some faith man.  I believe God has His hand on America, not because we are good.  We aren’t good.  We sacrifice our unborn, we produce more pornography than any other country probably (I have no idea if these is true…but if we aren’t the ones producing it we are surely the ones consuming it….I have only one things to say…Shades of Gray).  Like everyone else America needs a savior.  We can turn to the One who can save us.  Our God is bigger than Islam.  Jesus is the Lion and the Lamb.  Everyone sees the Lamb but there will come a day when the Lion will roar.

If your are feeling creeped out by ISIS just sing this song….

And pray. 

I love this song because it is simple and it sticks with you.

There are no boogie men out there who can take on our God.  All we have to do is turn back to Him.

And those are my thoughts about ISIS.

 

Safe vs. Good

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As we step out of a place that has been very safe for us I have had this in my head…a quote from Narnia (C.S. Lewis’ classic book).

Lucy:  “I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake” said Mrs Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.

Of course Aslan represents Jesus.  Is Jesus safe?  Of course He isn’t safe.  But He’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.

There are seasons in our life when we need “safe” but most of the time God’s heart for us is not that we feel safe but that we know His goodness.

Several of our friends who are transitioning to plant City Chapel at Slaughter Creek are giving up their jobs, the positions they have held in at their church(es) for many years, paid positions as staff pastors.  They are walking out of a job into nothing right now.  No back up plan…just,” God told us to plant a church”.  While that is scary as hell for a man with a family it is also just the opportunity for God to show Himself good; to showoff His goodness.

Psalm 23 says, “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”.  It’s time for goodness and mercy to overtake some folks.

I often say, “everyone wants to see God’s miracles but no one wants to be in the position to need a miracle.”  Think about it.  We want to see God heal but no one wants to be sick.  We would like to see an amputee regrow a limb but no one wants to lose an arm.  We want to see a financial miracle but no one wants to lose a job.  We want to see cancer healed but no one wants to have cancer and no wants anyone in their family to have cancer.  We want all the good with none of the risk.

God’s Kingdom isn’t safe.

I’ve often heard…and I believe Ruthanne Garlock said this at the prayer retreat, “God is more interested in your character than your comfort.”  I think of it like this…God is more interested in you learning to trust Him, believe in Him, believe in His goodness than He is in your comfort.”

Do you believe in the best things about God when you are at your lowest point?  

There was a time when I quit a very nice (say “safe”) job in Texas and moved to Alabama (say “no job”) because God told me to.  The first year was…let’s say “not great”.  My electricity got turned off and I had credit card companies calling me.  Some days the only people I talked to (because I had no friends) were the credit card people (Yes, I’ve discovered Dave Ramsey).  I was working at a temp job while praying for a real job in my field. You see, I was a system analyst who worked on computers but Mobile, Alabama isn’t exactly a techie mecca.   I continued to pay my tithes.  I got my check, paid my tithes and paid the rest of the money to the electric bill but the electric company wouldn’t turn it back on because it wasn’t the full amount owed.  It would take another week for me to get the money to get the electric turned on.  I laid on the floor in my semi-dark apartment (early evening) and cried out to God (say “threw a tantrum on the floor”).  I asked God, “Did you bring me out here to die?”  and He said, “Yes.  Some things have to die.”  Not exactly what I wanted to hear.  What did it grow in me?  Two things.  1. I am so sympathetic to people who have had their electricity turned off.  They can come shower at my house.  2. I do not give them money to have their electric turned back on because I don’t want to interfere with what God is doing in their lives.  Through all of that…I learned to trust in Jesus.  (Yes, those are song lyrics to a Andrew Crouch song…it’s old school but rings true).   BTW. a few DAYS later I found out I got a job as a software trainer and God turned things around for me.  To this day, I know He did it and not me.  And several years ago, just a week or so before Christmas,  my boss walked in and said, “The bank called in our loan so don’t come to work next week, we cannot pay you.”.  We didn’t worry.  I prayed and I told the Hubs, “God’s got this”.  And He did.  The Hubs got a raise, I didn’t have to work and a few months later, God sent our boy and I was able to stay home with him.  Because goodness and mercy follow me and over take me.

Following God is not safe but it is very good; the ultimate adventure!

Listen for His voice, step out of your safety zone and see what goodness follows.