Monday, October 6, 2014

Are We the Walking Dead?

        There is a strange cultural phenomenon right now.  It is a multi-billion dollar industry and is seen it in movies, TV shows, books and even in our county’s CDC’s information.  It is the Zombie Apocalypse.  Zombies, also called the Walking Dead, are un-dead people walking around seeking someone’s brains to eat so they can “survive.”  Even though Zombies aren’t real, could it be that our churches are full of them? 
In speaking to women, I have sensed a deadness WITHIN our congregations.  Yes, we are still going to church but seem to only be going through the motions.  There is very little passion and the result is a lifestyle of fear and negative living.  Many have become like the walking dead…devouring the brains of any new thing coming along just to make life better while ignoring the one thing that can truly give them fulfillment.  We jump from one conference to the next…from one new book to the next, the newest Bible study to the next and for brief moments are “alive” but soon are walking again in search of another “brain” to devour.  
The prophet Ezekiel saw something similar among the Children of Israel.   The children of Israel knew they were God’s chosen but some had become complacent about God while others became involved in pagan worship, living far outside the boundaries God had set.  Their lives were spiritually dead. When things went wrong these same people cried out, “Where is our God?”  Sound familiar? 
In response to their cries, God spoke in Ezekiel 37:1->.  God took Ezekiel to a valley of very dry bones and asked Ezekiel a simple question:  Can these bones live?  This was a mass grave and so these were the bones of lots of people who had died many years before.  As Ezekiel looks at this mass of very dry bones, God asks: Can these bones live?  If I had been Ezekiel I would have laughed or spouted something like, “of course not!” But the prophet spoke with the wisdom that comes only from knowing God, “ O Lord God, you know!”
Ezekiel was then told to speak to the bones and as he spoke there was a rattling and the bones came together and there was muscle and sinew and skin.  They looked alive. 
But there is one thing missing (verse 8b.)  There was no breath in them.  The breath the scripture is talking about isn’t what comes from the lungs but what comes from the Holy Spirit. 
The reason this passage means so much is that for years it described me.  I grew up in the church and went every time the doors were opened.  I was a good Christian girl who did very little “bad” in the church’s eyes.  As an adult, I continued going to church every time the doors were open so much that I was put on staff as a worship leader!  I believed that as long as I did all the right things, that my life would be fine. 
Somewhere along the way I entered a Christian coma-like state…just going through the motions…feeling neither excited about the Kingdom nor sad about the lack of people coming to the kingdom.  I guess you could say I was among the Walking Dead…eating the brains of complacency.  But God wasn’t going to leave me that way. 
My perfect life slowly began ebbing away…my family started falling apart, and I didn’t know what to do.  People I loved very much were dying and I was left alone…my own health was failing and instead of fighting to become stronger I found myself just wanting to die.  My bones felt as dead as those Ezekiel looked at.
Then one night, I had had enough, and began to tell God how disappointed I was in Him.  I reminded Him about all the things I had done for the church and how good I had been and this was my reward?  This rant went on for awhile and when I finally ran out of steam, I picked up the Bible I had thrown upon my bed only to discover it had opened to a very familiar passage in Psalms with the heading: To the Choir director.  (You think God wasn’t answering me specifically?)  I read Psalm 42 with new eyes…it said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longs for You Oh, God.”  It was then I heard in my spirit as loudly as if God spoke aloud, “Cyndi, when have you ever longed for me? You say you have worked for Me, but wasn’t that really just for you so you could get praise for yourself?”  It was then I realized that even though I had been saved, my life was only deadness and routine.  There was no real longing for Him. That night however, I fell on my face and truly began to understand what having the breathe of God within me was and I was free! 
So, I understand this deadness. Deadness causes us to do things by rote not having to even think about Jesus and often do not!  We are walking dead!  I believe today God is asking each one of us the same question He asked Ezekiel, “Can These Bones Live?”
The answer to this situation is in the next verses.  Look at what happens though when the Holy Spirit comes: “And they lived and stood on their feet an exceedingly great army.”  What we need today is not another book or program, but a fresh breathe of God.  We need to learn to LONG for only HIM. What the world needs to see is a vast army of Christian soldiers doing what the commander tells them to do.
What about you?  What have you been feeding on for your life?  Has it been the brains of others opinions or every new wave of spirituality? Perhaps you feed on, “your way or the highway,” not willing to bend to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Or have you refused to move forward after a tragedy and are stuck in the past?  Have you refused to offer forgiveness? If so, you are living in a “walking dead existence”. 
The bones Ezekiel saw had been dead for a long time!  The things that had happened to these lives were long gone.  Life changes for all of us.  The way we respond is important. 
Ezekiel wasn’t called to grave-tend, he was called to preach that God can give a fresh new spirit in even in our deadness.   
Has your relationship with God become routine?  Do you recognize yourself in this description of the walking dead?  God wants to give you a fresh new Spirit.  He is here waiting to fill you with His Spirit, which brings life and an excitement about what God is doing.  His Spirit brings us power.  His Spirit will convict and guide us into holy living. Ephesians 5: 14 says:  “Awake, O sleeper and arise form the dead and Christ will shine on you.”   II Peter 1:3 says “His divine power (the Holy Spirit) has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”   We have been given the Spirit’s power to become a vast army! 

Today, choose life! 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Why I Love Football (repeat)

People often ask me why I like football so much.  It is a valid question for I am female and involved in Women’s Ministry…shouldn’t I love shoe shopping instead??  At first I didn’t think it strange that I had this love but I must admit my conversations concerning the last SEC or NFL playoff game with other women tend to be very short.  When I try to talk to men, they just look at me like I am sporting one eye in the middle of my forehead!  It could be a very lonely existence but God has been gracious to give me one girlfriend who loves football as much as I do, so I don’t feel completely alone.  This season, however, I began to ask myself the same question, “Why do I like football so much?”  I often say because my daddy did…and he liked it but his favorite sport was World Federation Wrestling and  (to the relief of all my family) I don’t follow that at all.  So, why do I?  It is not to support my husband because he really could care less…he will watch it with me but would rather watch Pawn Stars or Duck Dynasty! (a blog for another time!)  I would like to think it is because I am supporting “my” team…but it really doesn’t matter who is playing…I get involved. Now, I LOVE the Saints which brings another dynamic into the mix…  So, I went to my little quiet place where I contemplate the big things in life and asked myself, “Why?”  Here is what I came up with!!

·      I love that at the beginning of each game there is hope!!  The scoreboard is even…the field is freshly painted and the crowds are cheering and hoping for a victory!!  It is like the life God gives us through His Son!  We start out each day with a clean slate and the hope that today we are going to win the race!! 

·      I love that like life, there is going to be opposition to getting to the goal line.  It excites me to see the players pushing on to the goal without giving up.  I used to love to watch Deuce McAllister carry an entire defensive line on top of him as he moved closer to the line that would bring a first down or a touchdown.  I want to be that person…one who will push on…one who won’t give up when it gets hard.

·      I love that even after a mistake (interception, fumble, or missed tackle) that the players come back out on the field and play like it never happened.  This is where I really wish I could would learn the lesson because often in my life when I mess up (happens a lot!!)  I just want to go to the sidelines and have a pity party…I want to just quit the game rather than go onto the next play.  People like Drew Brees, who comes back every time, inspire me! 

·      I love it when my team wins!!  But I also realize for that to happen another team must lose and believe me, I find myself feeling sorry for particular players on the other team who played their best and still lost!  When I have victories in my life I want to shout it from the rooftops but I want to be aware that there are those who have fought hard and still their victory hasn’t come. I don’t want to be so consumed with my life that I forget those who are struggling to find some small victory…I want to urge them on to try again.

·      Finally, I have learned that sometimes my team doesn’t win!   I often say, “Next year!”  and I mean it.  It is also like life…sometimes things don’t turn out like we thought it was going to at the start but God in His graciousness, gives us more games to play.  I want to learn from my losses---not wallow in them.  I want to become better because I learned what to do and what NOT to do next time!  Most of all, I don’t want to just stop playing the game.  Many of us do that when our losses become more than our victories…I feel like doing that but then I look at my Saints…who lost more games than they won even to the point of being called “the “aints!”  The fans returned every year with hopes of a winning season time after time only to go home empty handed.  But then came that year!!!  We didn’t know what to do with win after win…then the playoffs…then the Super Bowl. Finally, we had a victory after years of defeat. 

And after that big win life hit hard again and it starts all over because victories in this life are short-lived…and for many teams it is back to “next year!” 

I guess that is why I love football…the hope that it can be better next time…if we listen to our Coach….work hard to prepare and don’t give up!!   Paul said it best in Philippians 4:13  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  It is not about giving up….it is about pressing on toward the goal!!!  I guess I just took that goal literally. 
So this new season, learn the lessons of football and Geaux Saints!!!!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Are You in Prison?

My oldest Texas grand boys were with me this summer and while they were here, we spent some time in Narnia.  Now for those of you who don’t know, it is a place that C.S. Lewis created in his great children’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia.  After they left, I wasn’t ready to leave Narnia and spent time in the final book, appropriately called, The Last Battle.  It is filled with theological thought and I believe that one of the things C. S. Lewis dealt with in this final installment of his Narnia collection was atheists.

Because God is so real to me, I truly cannot understand that some people cannot see Him.  I associate everything with God and His love for me.  It gives me peace that passes all understanding and gives me purpose for living.  The hardest thing in my ministry is to try and explain to someone pre-disposed to not believe that God actually IS.

Currently there is a group who call themselves the “new Atheists.”  They describe themselves in their book, The New Atheists, (authored by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens) as a progressive thought and different in belief from prominent historical atheists such as Nietzsche and Sartre. They don’t claim, “God doesn’t exist.”  They claim they just don’t believe He does. Read this review:

A popular tendency among some atheists these days is to define atheism, not as the positive thesis that God does not exist, but as the neutral claim that an atheist is one who simply lacks belief in God. If we could scan the mind of the atheist and catalogue all the beliefs the atheist holds, we would not find a belief of the form, “God exists.” Those who insist on defining atheism in this manner want to avoid the implications of having to defend the claim that God does not exist. They demand justification for faith in God while insisting that they bear no rational burdens in the debate since they are not making any positive claims on the question of God’s existence.

It is the easy way out!  No defense, it is just what I think.  No truth, no lies, nothing other than what I have in my own mind.  It is all about “me!”  I am the final judge…all for me and only me.

It was the same in Narnia! There were a group of Dwarfs who were disillusioned with the idea that there was a “great lion” called Aslan. (A character that symbolized Christ)  They had not seen Him and therefore, he must not exist.  At one point in the book, there was a scam of a fake Aslan and they had been duped.  Never more would they believe in such a silly thing.  They claimed, “We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs!”

I see this same thought in the US today.  False Christianity over-shadows real faith and “the world is not going to be taken in again.”  But in the book Aslan actually came to the dwarfs yet they refused to see.  Aslan showered them with great foods and they refused to admit the food was good.  He gave them light, yet they preferred darkness. Their pride kept them from the best thing they could ever experience!

I understand that. Pride, kept me from seeing and experiencing all God wanted in my life for many years.  I knew all the answers…I just didn’t know any of the questions!  When I finally allowed myself to see God as He really was, “High and lifted up!” (IS. 6:1) my eyes were opened to the light and life He really gives.

All of Aslan’s followers saw the Dwarfs sitting in a circle looking down, refusing to see and begged Aslan to help them.  His comment was:

They will not let us help them.  They have chosen cunning instead of belief.  Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.   

It is sad that there are those who refuse to see.  My prayer is that I will keep my eyes looking for Him and to pray for eyes of the blind to be opened.  If you are in a prison of your own making allow God to release you. He will!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In the Depths of Failure

            I am a self appointed perfectionist.  I have a tendency to curl up in a ball and go into seclusion if I make a mistake.  God has dealt with me on this in great ways but occasionally I slip back into that way of thinking.  Anyone else? Failing at something can put me into a state of desperation faster than anything else.  Satan whispers that I will never ever be able to serve God if … (fill in the blank!)  Although I have learned to combat his lies, there are still times I fall prey to this.  It is then God shows me in His Word how he has used others in the midst of their failures.  I can think of David!  (the Ark and Adultery. )  Jacob, Abraham, Sarah, Paul…as a matter of fact, most of those who served God mightily had failure in their lives.
            When I think about the apostles, I have always wanted to be like John.  The beloved…the one who followed faithfully…the one who was entrusted with the care of Mary…the good one!  It was not to be. I took one of those face book tests about “which apostle would you be,” hoping it would come up John, but it came up Peter.  I knew it would.  Peter and I have so much in common…well except for the fishing…I cannot stand to go fishing with the icky things you have to touch…but I digress.  I feel for Peter because I understand Peter and so what can we learn about desperation from Peter?
            His desperation came at his own hand.  Peter was a person who knew what he wanted, was a great leader and was very outspoken.  It was Peter who stated that Jesus was The Christ, but a few verses later scolds Jesus.  Peter was a smart guy…the problem was he didn’t know when to stop with his mouth.  He so desired Jesus to use him and to love him.  I believe he wanted to be the teacher’s pet!  Over-achiever extraordinaire!
            We see him in the upper room telling Jesus that he would never, ever leave him
Jesus knew Peter.  Jesus knew Peter was going to fail.  But Jesus also knew that this failure would shape Peter into the person he needed to become.  Peter needed to fall flat on his face so Jesus could come again to him and lift him up.
            I want us to focus on the words Jesus said:  And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.  Turned back?  Those are important words for people like me.  It took Peter awhile to turn back because he wanted to run from the situation.  He wanted to sulk and go back to fishing because he was not worthy anymore to serve. 
            Often we hear what we are doing wrong but do not hear what Jesus says will happen.  When you turn back.  In our failure desperation we have a choice.  We can remain in our pity pit or we can turn back.  When we turn back we will be equipped to “strengthen the brothers!”  Our failures prepare us to help others.
            Many have spoken on the walk that Jesus and Peter took before Jesus ascended…do you love me.  But let’s fast forward to Acts 2 where Peter stands and preaches and 3,000 turn toward God.  Read Acts 4:13…when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained me, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus. Failure brought Peter closer to who Jesus could be in his life.  It brought boldness because for the first time it wasn’t about him.  You see, when we are self-focused we are afraid of failure…when we are God focused we are bold because He is all that matters.  Before Peter was all about Peter and what Peter could do and be for God.  Now He was all about God and what God could do and be in Peter.
            One more thing: strengthen the brothers.  Peter remembered those words at some point because he penned I and II Peter to his fellow Christians.  I Peter 1:3-7.  What better way to encourage and strengthen his fellow workers…and what an encouragement to us.  He leaves us with no excuses for not living strongly for the Lord for he says in II Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.   When and where did Peter learn these powerful principles?  In his turning back from his failure. 
            Perhaps today you are struggling with some failure.  Perhaps you are listening to the whispered lies of the enemy who is saying you will never be used…you are a failure.  Jesus knew you would fail before you did!  He still loves you just as He loved loud-mouthed Peter.  You must answer that one question Jesus has for you, “Do you love me?”  If the answer to that is yes, then you too can turn back.  Your desperation in failure can be turned back and your failure can be used to strengthen those around you. 
Today, turn back.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Never Too Old

I was able to attend Living Proof Live this past weekend in Biloxi, MS, led by Bible teacher, Beth Moore.  If I am being honest with you, I went expecting the weekend to change the lives of some of the women I knew were searching and that happened. What I didn't expect was that God had a specific Word for me this weekend that I one had been searching for for many many years.

The theme of the weekend was "Longing"  Longings are those deep places you ache so much to be realized.  All of us have them even if we have ignored them for years.  I knew my longing...have known it...but for some strange reason felt it was a prideful, selfish longing and that there was no way it could ever be fulfill it because I was not worthy of it.  Then BOOM, Beth said these words, "If God prepared it, we were wired to long for it!" I sat in amazement because I at that moment I realized my "wiring" had been made exactly for that which I had always longed for.

Let me be more specific.  I am a speaker and a Bible teacher.  There is NOTHING in this life I desire to do more than to share what God teaches me through His word to other women. I would give up most anything to go to a place to is the place I feel most fulfilled.  On the outside that seems prideful and that was how I have felt.  Why would God use ME in this way. I am a nobody. Then that "wired for" phrase kept coming back to me.

I thought back over my years on this earth and I remember writing "sermons" in the 5th grade to deliver to my classmates! (never did but wrote them anyway!)  In high school I excelled in speech class and had a passion for studying the Bible at my church...I even memorized large portions. Because I was female and couldn't be a "preacher," while in college, I began singing in concerts called, "Sermon in Song" and spent more time talking between the songs than actually singing.  My personality sees everything in life as an illustration of a biblical principle.  (Movies are the worse)  I am so different than all my friends because I would rather discuss theology than go shopping for shoes....yet when I got the call into a speaking ministry, I became very insecure because "who was I??"

My longing has been to teach and "preach" the Word of God and Beth's words freed me to accept that this longing was put there by God as He wired this crazy blonde to do exactly what I am doing.  There is no pride in saying that...believe me....I have searched my heart over to make sure.  It is what I was created to do and God had prepared me from childhood to do this very thing. I accept that now and I cannot tell you how freeing it is.  I can now ask for opportunities to share without feeling guilty.  He wants to use me.

So why am I writing this on my blog??  Because I absolutely know that some of you reading this have a deep longing in your heart that you are afraid to voice because it might sound "silly, prideful, unreasonable, etc"  Friend, that is satan keeping you from your call.  Your longing  might not be the same as mine but God has specifically wired you to long for something in this life that you have been wired to do since you have been a child.  This earthly longing can be realized.  Look to Him today and open up about what it is in your heart.  Express your longing to the One who made you. You were wired for it...your whole life has been in preparation for it...the only thing lacking is, by faith, stepping out into it. He wants to use you, too!!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Let Freedom Ring!

(This week we will celebrate Independence Day in America.  This post is about true freedom!)

I admit it, when I take one of those spiritual gifts surveys, I have to almost cheat to get any points under the mercy section!  My gifts are those of prophecy and teaching and that means I see things rather black and white.  Now, trust me, I do give grace to those who fall (because I understand that falling) but offer very little mercy when the Truth is known and sin is justified.

Before I start my rant, let me make it clear that I am not addressing the secular world in this post. That is not my place. I Corinthians 5: 12 says, What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? But aren't we to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside." Strong words! I am speaking to those who call themselves believers and are a part of the church. With that cleared up, may the rant begin:

Have you noticed many churches have begun to relabel sin, giving excuses for wrongs committed against the Word of God?  They have done this all under the label of being loving and nonjudgmental.   They justify the Truth of the Word by stating, "God didn't really mean that was sin!" or "That was then and this is now!" Sadly, many believers fall for this because it sounds right.  But it hasn't led them to freedom and peace but rather to deep depression, drama and stress.  There is a reason for that!  God has called those who call His name, to be holy as He is holy!  We are to know the Truth...and it will set us free!

Friends, God set boundaries for us in this life.  He made us and knows us better than we know ourselves and because of that, He knows what will hurt us and what will keep us safe.  His boundaries are always for our GOOD.  But we have an enemy who hates God.  Since he cannot hurt God directly, his goal is to hurt the thing that God loves the most: His children.  he does this by causing us to question God's boundaries just like he did to Eve, "Did God really say..." Many read the Word of God and then begin to question if that is what God really meant! Tony Evans stated once, "God said it and He didn't stutter!"

I am saddened by this but at the same time reminded that this is not the first time God's people have turned from God's boundaries.  The Old Testament shows us time and time again that this happened.  But a remembering of this should also show that God eventually pronounced judgement on the nations who did this.  Before we get alarmed, we also read there was always a small group who remained faithful, who believed and followed God's statutes because they knew they were for their good. They loved the Lord their God.   These people were called the remnant.  I personally believe that God is assembling a remnant among believers today in our country.  Those who will stand for righteousness without compromise. I see it all over as I travel.  Those whose worship of God is more than words but truly one of a desire to become holy followers.

How can we do this?  By daily "CONFESSION!" Be clear here, I am not referring to the confession for salvation but the daily confessions that keep us clean before God and our relationship active with Him.

When was the last time you truly felt conviction, specifically, for a sinful action and fell on your face before God, confessed, and asked for forgiveness.    God's word clearly states, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all our unrighteousness." I John 1:9  That my dear friends brings something the enemy is trying so hard to keep from you: freedom.  Freedom is God's reward.  Within God's boundaries is freedom.  While that might not sound right, believe me it is.  He has so much for us within His boundaries that bring true joy, peace and satisfaction.  Why would I ever want to venture outside of His love? But we do and that is why He provides a daily cleansing.

A warning however: The longer you stay "dirty" and the farther away from the boundary you go, the more you will desire things that will harm you.  You will begin to beg for them in your life because you want to fill that emptiness. You will justify sexual sin because you doubt God's perfect plan.  You will become complacent because you have become numb.  Life will leave you with Solomon said: All is worthless.  But realize you are in the enemy's trap and it is a lie.   God is still there with His Truth longing for you to come home! Realize His ways are the best, and confess so He can cleanse you again.

We, the church, are to be the light of the world but sadly, have hidden His light under political correctness, tolerance and our lusts. It is time again to shine the light of His holiness! Become the remnant of our country. Stand for what GOD has said is right, no matter the consequences. Quit making up your own rules...allowing for sin to be justified. God's way leads to freedom! The enemy's way leads to complete bondage. The choice is yours.

Let this Independence Day be a breaking away from the enemies grasp.  Then truly we can let Freedom ring!!