Friday, October 20, 2017

What I Gained From the Sermon I Couldn't Translate


Last night, I attended a small Baptist church. Both the music and the sermon were in Arabic. I can understand a limited number of Arabic words - when they're presented with flip cards or spoken very slowly, one word at a time, with careful enunciation. Strung together in paragraphs with total abandon, those same words are impossible for me to follow. 

Except when it's not.

The pastor preached from John 10:1-27 with a few other passages thrown in for correlation.

The entire sermon could be summed up in one sentence: 

The lives of Christ-followers are defined by their intimate relationships with the One they follow. 

Jesus was clear about His role as Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep by name, they know Him AND they follow Him. 

He knows our names.

Ponder that for one long, beautiful moment.

He knows me, and He wants me to know Him, too.               

We are to know our Christ "even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father." (John 10:15) This is a profound truth and one that's often overlooked. 

How well does Jesus know the Father? Perfectly. Intimately. They are completely unified, and only complete by that unexplainable union of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Don't miss this...we're supposed to know our Lord that completely. 

How is this depth of knowing possible? We must do what Jesus did. He spent hours in conversation with God the Father, sometimes all night long. He did His will, even when it was hard. He pressed on with the job the Father had given Him, despite His own desire to avoid the terrible task. 

Jesus surrendered His will in order to accept the will and way of His Father. So must we, if we are to participate in the grand adventure of knowing that God intended.

Surrender to His will and His way

One of the hymns we sang when I was a child sums it up perfectly. "There is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." 

Are we "happy in Jesus"? Do we know Him with the same intimacy He knows the Father? 

If that's the life we want, it's available to us, IF we choose to do what Jesus did. 

Surrender. Pray. Obey.

There's a lesson in those three words that I'll save for another day. For today, let's take a close look at our own lives of faith. Is this the kind of God-relationship we want? Ask God what prevents this grand knowing, and allow Him to remove it, then stay close to the One who knows us by name. 

"I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father know Me and I know the Father..." John 10:14-15 nasb
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In case you missed the most recent post, here's the link: When Freedom Is What We Want, Repentance is What We Do 

If you feel led to partner with this ministry, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

You can also mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When Freedom Is What We Want, Repentance is What We Do


The first pre-teen/teen Whisper Gathering was utterly amazing. Seven young people joined me. We ate pizza, laughed, sang funny action songs, and learned about praying in a deeper, bigger way. 

We studied the experience of Isaiah in 1 Kings 6. He walked into the temple and a glimpse of heaven rocked his world. He saw God high and lifted up, and Elijah was never the same again. 

We learned that prayer and hearing the voice of God should begin with seeing God as He is,seeing ourselves in relation to His majesty, and repenting of our sins. In a very real sense, praying God-sized prayers must start with sincere repentance.

With that in mind, we had a period of beautiful confession before each other and before our Lord, gave our sin to God, and left it with him. We studied Elijah's life to see how a prophet prays with God-sized results. We pondered the biggest requests we could make. Then, scattered around the room, we prayed huge prayers and staked our claim on world-wide revival. 

Afterward, I asked them what they'd learned and what they'd do different going forward. One young girl answered, "Repentance is kinda fun." Another said, "I learned you have to repent if you want to have answered prayer." 

When they got ready to leave, one pre-teen ran over to me. "Miss Leanna, is it okay if I go repent of one more thing before I go?" 

You know it was.

I watched from the door as that little blonde-haired girl knelt at the altar, gave her sin to God, and left it with Him. She headed home with a smile on her face and joy in her heart because she'd learned an important truth. 

When freedom and answered prayers are what we want, repentance is what we do.

It's that simple. 

Want to restore the joy of your salvation? Begin with repentance. Need answered prayers? Start by repenting. Hungry to hear from God? Repentance should be first on the list.

"And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." 1 John 3:3 nasb

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 nasb
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In case you missed the most recent post, here's the link: The Vineyard Behind the Gate

If you feel led to partner with this ministry, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

You can also mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.


Monday, October 16, 2017

The Vineyard Behind the Gate


On one particular outing recently, my mind wandered off the path and my feet followed along. I was soon in unfamiliar territory, and happened past a heavy wooden gate (above). It was encased in a concrete frame and connected to a large barbed-wire-topped fence. 

The gate was a rare sight, so I stepped closer to peek through the fence and see the precious treasure it protected. 

A vineyard. 


It reminded me of a parable from Matthew 21. A man planted a vineyard, surrounded it with a wall, built a tower, and rented it out to gardeners. These supposed gardeners were charged with the care of the vines on the owner's behalf. They were unfaithful and, in the end of the parable, the owner called the gardeners to account.

There are many lessons to be learned from this passage  but the thing that stands out in my mind is the care the owner lavished on his vines and the branches they produced. He protected them from outside influences. He hired workers to care for them.

In a very real way, this good owner was willing to prune the branches and to let those he hired prune them. The vines were treasured and protected, however, from those who would do them harm.

In the vineyard along the road, the young vines had been planted in straight rows, staked with posts to guide their growth, and surrounded by protective walls to keep them free from harm, just like the vineyard Jesus described.

If an earthly vine grower goes to such expense to protect his young plants, how much more will our heavenly Father expend to care for us, the tender branches shooting off from the vine of His Son? 

He cares for us. He protects us. He knows us.

Ponder those words a moment and savor the truth that our Lord has a plan for our good, our welfare, our care. He's not caught off guard by our circumstances. He knows what He's doing and, in the end, it will be for our good and His glory.

"'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and nor for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 nasb
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In case you missed the most recent post, here's the link: Moving the Heart of God with the Prayer of No Words

If you feel led to partner with this ministry, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

You can also mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Moving the Heart of God With the Prayer of No Words


A strange thought occurred to me this morning. Are there examples of praying without words in the Bible? As it turns out, there are. I read the gospel of Luke this morning, and it's full of examples of women who moved the heart of Jesus without saying a word. 

The widow of Nain is one example. The story's found in Luke 7:11-17. Here's the Leanna paraphrase: 

A widow's only son had died. In her culture, there was no social security or widow benefits. No nursing homes existed. No medicare or medicaid. Her entire future provision depended upon anything her husband had saved and her son's care for her. 

When her son died, she was grief-stricken for more than one reason. Of course, first of all, she loved her son like any mother loves. There was also the question of her future. What would happen to her now?

You may not have experienced this depth of grief before, but sometimes, it's so enormous, there are no words to say. Only tears. 

That's where the widow of Nain found herself. Weeping was the only response she could make. 

Then Jesus arrived.

News about Jesus had traveled throughout the region, so it's likely this woman had heard of His fame, His miracles, His power. A few days earlier, when her son was sick, she might have knelt before Jesus and asked for a miracle, like everyone else did.

This day, however, all she could do was cry.

Jesus and His disciples walked through the gate just as her son's funeral procession was heading out. She saw Jesus and couldn't say a word, but her tears spoke volumes, and they moved the heart of God.

Jesus saw her tears, entered into her grief, and revived her son. He "gave him back to his mother."

In His presence, she communicated with Jesus through her tears, and it was enough. 

I've been in the place of such profound grief that my only response was tears. I've been the one on my face before God, praying without words. In His presence, my tears were a prayer without words, because I gave those tears to the One who is our Comforter, and He comforted. He responded. He moved.

Do all tears serve as a prayer? I don't know. What I do know is that the widow's tears, in the presence of Jesus, were enough to communicate her need to Him and move His heart.

Whatever our situation, we can take it to Him, and He will understand. Whether we have words to describe our situation or express our need or not. Today, let's give our concerns to the Lord, and let our hearts speak for us. Use words only if we need them. 

How do I know this is possible? Because God sees our hearts.

"...for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 nasb
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The picture above is of my little bedroom here in this beautiful place. In case you can't read the artwork, the lettering above the beds says "Be Still" and "and know that I am God." Exactly what I needed to hear.
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In case you missed the most recent post, here's the link: When Telling Our Story Reminds Us of the Miraculous

If you feel led to partner with this ministry, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 


You can also mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

When Telling our Story Reminds Us of the Miraculous


Yesterday, I visited with three ladies who have lived in this area for decades. Over Turkish coffee and sweets, they shared fascinating stories of their lives, including experiences during the Six Day War in 1967 and the war in the 1970's. 

Toward the end of our time together, one lady suddenly remembered something remarkable. She spoke in rapid Arabic to her sister, who turned to me with a surprised look on her face. "Oh, yes," she said in English. "Miracles did happen back then. You're right." 

Many years ago, her sister was terribly sick with kidney failure. The doctors admitted her to the hospital and attempted treatment, but nothing helped. After a few days, they stopped everything they were doing and gave her the grim news. "You're not improving. You're going to die."

One of the nurses in the hospital couldn't bear the thought that this young woman was terminal. She summoned everyone to the chapel to pray for a miracle. They begged God to heal her, then waited to see what He would do.

Two days later, the sister's kidney function returned to normal, despite the fact that all treatment had been stopped. 

She was completely healed.

"How did you forget something so miraculous?" I asked her.

She shrugged. "It was a long time ago..." she told me, her voice trailing off. 

I can't get their words out of my mind. The memory of a major miracle faded to insignificance by the passage of time. They'd stopped retelling the story and simply forgot.

The ladies sat up a little straighter after they shared their miracle, their smiles spread across their faces. The joy of the Lord was renewed by recounting His great and mighty deeds.

Although there are definitely benefits to a written history instead of an oral one, retelling of stories of God's goodness serves an important function. It helps us remember His blessings, preserves our sense of wonder at the divine work in our lives, and fills our hearts with gratitude.

King David wrote about the importance of remembering the forgiveness, healing, redemption, lovingkindness, compassion, and blessings we've received from God. An amazing thing will happen when we recall God's goodness. Our youth will be "renewed." 

The word translated as renewed implies "polishing" or "cutting," much as one might polish and sharpen a sword. The process of remembering, in a way, renews the sharpness of our spirits and our minds and restores a youthful freshness.

If we want to be youthful in heart, even when our bodies are old, the solution is simple. Be diligent to remember the blessings of God.

Today, let's spend some time remembering all the good things God has done for us, His blessings, His miraculous interventions in our lives. As we savor our sweet memories, let's also share those blessed memories with someone else so that they, too, can be encouraged.

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits...so that your youth is renewed like the eagle." (Ps 103:2, 5) 
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In case you missed the most recent post, here the link: Getting Rid of the Excuses and Pressing On 

If you feel led to partner with this ministry, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 


You can also mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Getting Rid of the Excuses and Pressing On


Last night, we went to church. The sermon was in Arabic, which, despite all my lessons, I still can't understand too well. Fortunately, one of the ladies posted the interpretation on the screen in English. As you can well imagine, that's much better than having the words to the songs.

There was a phrase the pastor used that caught my attention. He preached from Acts 16 and talked about the hard times the apostle Paul went through and how he never gave up, but kept on trying. 

"Do not make excuses, but complete inviting people about Jesus," he said. I had to ponder those words a bit. 

When we share Jesus with someone, it's an invitation to know Him, of course. It's so easy to make excuses like, "I'm too busy" or "Will this person be unhappy that I tell them about Jesus?" or "What will it cost me?" Those excuses can easily stop us in our tracks and cause us to abandon our efforts too soon. 

Get rid of the excuses, the pastor said, and just do what God expects of you, including completing what you start. Especially if what you've started is sharing about Jesus.

"Finally," he said, "Don't look for excuses while serving...but have as your aim to glorify God by all you do."

I've spent some time thinking about the excuses I use for not doing more in serving God: Not enough time. Too much happening right now. Don't know what to say. Don't feel comfortable. My list goes on and on, doesn't yours? 

Today, let's take a close look at the excuses we use for not completing our service to God, then get rid of them. If Paul, despite all the hardships he faced, could persevere, surely we, who live in such ease and luxury, can do the same.

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14 niv
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If you'd like to share in my current experiences, you can join me for mostly-daily email updates. Please message me with your name and/or email address. I'll update as I have internet access. (I will not be able to share most stories on the blog.)

Please join us for corporate prayer at 12 noon daily. 

In case you missed the most recent post, here the link: When the Fragrance in the Air Smells Like Home

If you feel led to partner with this ministry, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

You can also mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

When the Fragrance in the Air Smells Like Home


The gate for my flight out of Chicago was in the International Terminal. It was twenty minutes away from where I'd entered the airport, the security guard told me. A long walk, a quick train ride, and another long walk and I was there. A turn to the right and the gate sign was clearly visible. 

My nose told me I was in the international terminal well before my eyes did. The aromas of the not-so-American spices filled the air, and I stopped to breathe in the foreign fragrance. The further I traveled, the stronger the aroma grew.

When I stepped off the last plane and entered the final airport terminal, the heady scent of foreign lands greeted me like a warm embrace. 

"I'm home," I thought for just a second before I remembered I'd left home to come here.

The apostle Paul used the imagery of fragrance more than once. In his letter to the Ephesians, he described the sacrifice of Christ by His love as a fragrant aroma. 

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." Ephesians 5:1-2 nasb

The word translated as "love" is agape and can also be translated as "love-feast." The "fragrant aroma" metaphorically represents a "thing well-pleasing to God."

Selah. Ponder that for a moment.

As disciples, we are to live in such a way that our lives are literally a continuing love-feast of obedience to Christ. When we share such a feast of love, we'll emit a sweet fragrance that will be well-pleasing to our Lord. 

I don't live in a continuing love-feast of obedience, but I wish I did. Don't you? 

Today, let's surrender those things that keep us from pouring out love on all those we meet. Pray that we'll be filled with the same river of love that flowed from Christ so that we, too, can be a fragrant aroma that's well-pleasing to our Lord.
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If you'd like to share in my current experiences, you can join me for mostly-daily email updates. Please message me with your name and/or email address. I'll update as I have internet access. (I will not be able to share most stories on the blog.)

Please join us for corporate prayer at 12 noon daily. 

In case you missed the most recent post, here the link: When You Read the Book and Do What it Says

If you feel led to partner with this ministry, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

You can also mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.