When I read God's Word, I hear Him speak

Since 1998, I have been reading God's Word nearly daily. Through my time with Him, I hear God speak to me. It's not audible. God just makes His Word evident to me. Those lessons are many times reinforced by messages delivered by teaching pastors and sharing with others who study God's Word. I used to write the messages in the margins of my Bible. Needless to say, my Bible is filling up with messages. In 2006, I started to be more intentional about writing God's lessons to me in a journal. Because God is just sharing so much with me, I feel the burning need to share with others. (Jeremiah 20:9) I am hoping that through this blog, folks will join me as we read, hear God and discuss what we've learned. This isn't so we can simply increase our knowledge about God or to spout off Scripture to impress people. This is so we can really come to know God, and get a greater meaning of His truths so we can go out and live them. God said that if we love Him, then we will obey His commands. (John 4:23-24) And James said don't just listen to (or read) the Word and think that's good enough; you're just deceiving yourself. Live the Word. (Rose's paraphrase of James 1:22) It's similar to this great quote people are passing around now... Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. So, join me as we learn from God and what He wants us to do. Then let's encourage one another to live it as a testimony to God so that people know He is who He says He is.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Knowing, Not Knowing; Obvious, Not Obvious

John Chapter 3

About fours months ago, maybe five, I began reading through the book of John needing something obvious and known. It's been a while since I started re-reading the book of John that I can't remember the true catalyst outside of God impressing upon me to read John and I thought, "Great; something familiar and almost light." John certainly isn't Leviticus or Job, requiring heavy concentration and frequent studying of relating sources. Or is it?

Using my normal approach to reading God's Word, I spent a morning in each chapter so day three into reading the book of John came with it an early, unexpected and abrupt stopping point. Even if you're not a follower of Christ or a regular church attending person, many people can quote John 3:16 nearly by rote. The verse is expected, nearly ordinary and routine. I remember as a kid growing up, there was always a man wearing a rainbow colored, afro wig, sitting at sporting events right within the camera's main shot, holding a poster that read "John 3:16" as if this were some magical Bible verse with the power to impact people upon reading it. This scene was always curious to me that a man dressed as a clown, carrying a poster with a Bible verse had some spiritual intent, yet to me, it always made God look silly. Why do we portray God as expected or ordinary or unknown or silly especially with this verse?

John 3:16,

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Most people, especially Christians, can rattle this verse off. It's so familiar to us that we think, "I got this; I know what it means" in almost a "big deal; now what?" approach. So when God revealed a little something in John 3 that caused me to put on the breaks so early in my reading of the book of John, it was alarming. What stopped me? Some simple observances. "Hey... John the Baptist just said the very same thing to his student followers that Jesus said to Nicodemus? How did John know these truths and yet Nicodemus didn't? And John called God "Father"; I thought Jesus was the only one to call God "Father" until He explained it to everyone? This has to be in the Old Testament so, where in the Old Testament are these truths because they have to be there? Jesus knows the truths. John does. And, Jesus is telling Nicodemus he should know them because he's Israel's teacher; because Nicodemus has studied the Old Testament Scriptures so well that he has memorized Genesis to the prophets. What's happening here?"

So, I began to break it down and spent months looking for the relating scriptures in the Old Testament, determining the meanings of words, reading commentaries on sections of John 3, trying to understand the context of the discussions. I came to the conclusion, although I still have many questions and reasons to continue to research, John 3 is considerably more pregnant with meaning than we teach in current Christianity. And, these things aren't hidden messages. These truths were well known and common day when Jesus spoke of them. It's why John the Baptist readily "got it" and why Jesus challenged Nicodemus for not knowing these truths. However, in Nicodemus's defense, Jesus was introducing a radical approach to God that was promised long ago but not delivered until then. After waiting so long and trying to anticipate what that new approach would look like, Nicodemus and others didn't recognize it. Was that because Nicodemus, the Pharisees and members of the Sanhedrin couldn't recognize the fulfillment of the promised truths or wouldn't recognize them? Perhaps a little of both and we should reflect and take heed, as well.

The crux of what both Jesus and John the Baptist are saying is: faith in God's promised Son is the only way into God's kingdom. That seems very obvious and known, almost a matter of fact without being an earth-shattering revelation yet, during a time when faith was placed into a religious system of do's and don'ts, the last thing anyone expected was relying on something uncontrollable to be deemed in right standing with God. Jesus said that in order to see God, which meant to be with God in His kingdom and to see Him operate here on earth, a person needed to have his soul (heart, emotional, intentional self, his being) washed clean from sin by God Himself and have God place His Spirit within that person. Without this action from God, no one would see God and be a part of His kingdom. A few supporting Old Testament Scripture verses pointing to this promise: "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me," Psalm 51:10. And Ezekiel 36:24-28 "...I will cleanse you from all of your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;..."

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus said during His sermon on the mount that people with pure hearts towards God, (not falsehoods towards God but, a right attitude towards God), would see and live with God, and therefore should be happy to know this fact. Jesus explains to Nicodemus that God's actions of washing clean a person's character towards God and placing His Spirit within the person to guide him, caused a person to be "born into God's people; His kingdom" or "born from above" or "reborn into righteousness" and a person couldn't enter into God's kingdom without being born into His kingdom. He explains that a person cannot control this process like the system of sacrifices and Jewish requirements had become; this action is God's doing. It's similar to your original birth. You couldn't control being born into this world as a human so, why expect to control being born into God's kingdom? Just like the wind is uncontrollable and unseen however, the evidence of the wind can be seen, a person would know he is a member of God's kingdom by seeing the evidence in his life. This is an act of trust in God; an act of faith and belief in God that He will and wants to clean, remake and restore you. Jesus reminded Nicodemus of a similar reliance of trust in God during an uncontrollable situation. The Jewish people were wandering in the wilderness having left Egypt. Many people were bitten by poisonous snakes and without an antidote at that time, the people bitten faced certain death. God asked the people to trust that He could cure them. So God had Moses make a bronze sculpture of a viper, placing the snake sculpture on pole, lifting that pole upright so that people could look at it; if the person was bitten by a poisonous viper and was dying from that bite, God said through Moses that looking at the snake sculpture on the pole, believing God could cure them, was the only way to live through the poisonous bite. It makes no sense yet, it's what God said to do believing He would save their lives and He did just that for those that believed God could work through faith.

The Law of Moses was to cause people to reflect on the condition of their being, their character and attitude towards God, all in their lives keeping them separated from God. Reflecting on the Law should cause people to turn to God asking Him to change their being - to permanently clean them of sin and restore them to God. With that reflection, God now washes the person's heart clean and breathes His Spirit into the person to give that person new and eternal life. Just like God originally formed man out of a lifeless thing - dirt - and breathed into Adam's nostrils His breath of life making Adam alive, God would do the same for our souls so we can live eternally with God, be guided by Him, as He intended and desires. The action is like a birth... a birth into God's eternal kingdom.

Jesus's examples and explanations heavily point to the Scriptural promises of the Old Testament and, for a man who was considered at that time Israel's greatest living teacher who memorized the entire catalog of Scriptures and Jewish doctrinal writings, Nicodemus should have recognized Jesus as the promised, anointed One from God - the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of Man, God's Lamb to fulfill His promises. Yet, Nicodemus had placed his faith, his trust, his belief, into a system of religious practices. The meaning of those practices had waned and the practices themselves had been elevated to a status beyond their purpose. The system God had given the Jewish people was to cause His people to know who they were as God's people, who they were when they were outside of God's kingdom, how to relate in community, and their current state as a people in need of permanent salvation from an ultimate death sentence. However, by Jesus's time on earth, those practices designed to produce reflection became a means to being in right standing with God; a means to righteousness that individuals could administer and control.

Jesus said "not so" and pointed back to the nature of God and His desire to have each and every person born into this world to be born into His kingdom so each and every person could live life with God as He intended before human beings separated themselves from God through sin. What is sin? It's the belief that you don't need God in your life, or leading your life, that you can live life without God, that you deserve all that God provides in life without gratitude towards God for the provisions, and that you are better than God and better without God; and worse, that you can be God. These thoughts form the basis of sin and cause us to act out in ways that are sinful in nature. When we are born into our human nature, we are born with the thought capacity bent on sin - bent on living a life without God and without recognizing God. John even provides a simple explanation for sin when he addresses his students' question about Jesus having more followers than John; "A man can receive only what is given to him by God...." In other words, our desire to take something that we want (lust for) when that something isn't ours and was given to someone else by God, is sinful in approach. We don't appreciate what has already been given to us by God.

It's incorrect to believe that a person can gain God's approval to enter heaven through a system of do's and don'ts that allow a person to earn his way into heaven. This belief puts a person into a frame of mind that God considers you "bad or good" and rewards you that way. That based on the status of your life, you can determine if you're in right standing with God or not; that if you follow the rules you will earn God's approval to enter His kingdom. Jesus again says "not so" and instead, Jesus says every human being already stands condemned due to human nature being against God's standards. But God... but God does not desire to leave us in our already condemned state. God loves us so very deeply and without condition, wants us to know Him and live with Him so He will provide a way to be considered His people and enter into a relationship with Him and into His kingdom. God Himself will administer that way. He will justify that entrance. He will clean us from our sinful nature. He will place His Spirit - His breath - within us to guide us into the right standard of living. And that "process" comes through the belief in His promises manifested into His Son who will pay the way for entry into God's kingdom. All we must do is believe that God can do this and did it through His Son whom we're to follow out of gratitude.

Again; this conclusion seems obvious and expected however, it's far from being these things. The best way to understand what Jesus is saying, is to read it in common language with expounded parts. After studying, this is how John 3 reads to me.

John 3

Now there was a member of the Pharisees named Nicodemus. The Pharisees were a legalistic group who strictly tried to follow the law of Moses and the traditions of the elders; it is truly impossible to follow the Law of Moses so their attempts were self-justified in nature. Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish religious ruling council called the Sanhedrin which was comprised of Pharisees, Temple Chief Priests, Scribes of the Law (lawyers), and Saducees who were more worldly and politically minded, and were theologically unorthodox as they didn't believe in the resurrection. The Sanhedrin were considered the Supreme Court of Israel and debated the Law and its application. This group had the final authority on Jewish Law and any elder that went against their decisions was put to death for being rebellious. Nicodemus visited Jesus at night because it was considered to be the best time of the day to learn about God, and potentially Nicodemus wanted to speak with Jesus without the disruption of the crowds following Him. At the time, he was considered to be Israel's greatest, living teacher and Nicodemus said to Jesus, "Rabbi (Teacher with authority to interpret Jewish Law); we know you are a teacher who has come from God and I'm one of the ones who believes this, within the Sanhedrin; I'm on your side. Some of us think this because no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if you weren't sent from God. (How do You fit within the Law of Moses and the Prophets?)

In reply Jesus said, "I'm telling you the truth. You think your self-justified actions of following the Law of Moses, as you interpret it, will earn your way into God's kingdom when in fact no one can see the kingdom of God unless that person is born into God's kingdom." Jesus said this because He knew that, as a Pharisee and Israel's greatest, living religious teacher, Nicodemus believed he was guaranteed entrance into heaven through his religious practices to adhere to the Law of Moses and the traditional interpretations of the elders. Nicodemus believed that his status among the Jewish people and nation was proof that he is considered righteous by God thereby qualified to enter God's kingdom upon death on earth.

"Seriously? How can a man be reborn especially when he is old like me?", Nicodemus asked. "Surely you're not suggesting that a man re-enter his mother's womb in order to be reborn?"

Jesus answered, "I'm telling you the truth, absolutely no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit (unless God washes the man's soul clean and places His Spirit into that man). It is nothing that you do; you cannot earn your way into God's kingdom. Think of it in natural terms. Humans give birth to human nature, and the Spirit gives birth to spirit nature. You should not be surprised when I say that you must be born into God's kingdom. This action is done to you and for you. This is something you cannot control, just like the wind in uncontrollable. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sounds, you see the evidence of the wind, but you cannot tell where it originated from or where it is going. Being born of the Spirit is just as uncontrollable.

"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked. "How can access into God's kingdom be uncontrollable by us; by we religious leaders?"

"You are Israel's greatest, living teacher and you don't understand these things?" said Jesus. "I'm speaking to you about truthful things, things we know from our history, things we've seen and testify to having happened; things God has spoken about through Moses and the prophets. I have spoken to you about commonly known, earthly things and you don't believe me; how will you believe if I speak to you about heavenly things? You know this. No one has ever gone into God's presence except the one who came from His presence - the Son of Man.This is faith, trust in what God has said He will do. This is not something you do or can administer or control. Just as Moses was directed by God to craft a bronze snake, affix it to a pole and told to lift it up while in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up as a way to cure the imminent sentence of death, that everyone who believes in him many have eternal life."

"God is not judging the world by what each of you do. God loves the world and each person in it. God so loves the world that He has sent His one and only Son to represent His authority, that whoever believes in His Son will not completely perish but be spared from that sentence of death and instead have eternal life with God. For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, to condemn the world - each person is already condemned as not being a part of God's kingdom - but the Son was sent to rescue the entire world through what the Son will do for the world. Whoever believes in the Son as being the true Son of God; whoever believes in what the Son will do for the world's benefit will be spared from that condemnation. But, whoever refuses to believe in the Son and what the Son has done for the world will remain in his already condemned state; the sentence will remain on that person for being against God and not belonging to God, not being a member of God's kingdom. That condemned person has not believed in the authority of God's one and only Son and the duties bestowed upon Him by God the Father to represent the Father in His actions of saving the world from the sentence of death. And what is that verdict already in place? This is the verdict, and you know this. A revealing light has come into this dark, blind world but, men love the cover of darkness instead of the revealing light because men's actions are evil in nature. Everyone who does evil things hates the light and will not step into the light because they fear their actions will be exposed as evil and against God. But whoever accepts and lives by God's truth, steps into the revealing light so he can see clearly to follow God, so that it may be witnessed by others that what the person has done, he has done through God."

After this conversation took place, Jesus and His student followers went out into the Judean countryside, where He spent some time with His students and His students baptized people. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and the people were constantly coming to be baptized. (This event happened before John was arrested and thrown into prison.) An argument developed between some of John's student followers and a certain Jew about the correct way to do ceremonial washing; obviously this certain Jew argued that baptism wasn't a proper way to do ceremonial washing. His students came to John and said, "Rabbi (teacher with the authority to interpret scripture), that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan - the one you testified about being the Lamb of God - well... He is baptizing and everyone is going to Him. He has a bigger audience than we do! What are you going to do?"

To this comment, John replied, "Listen. A man can only receive what God has given him. I cannot take something that wasn't given to me. You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Messiah, the Christ, but I was sent ahead of Him to prepare people to receive Him and the things He would be telling us.' Think of it this way. The bride belongs to the groom and I am not the groom therefor His audience of followers do not belong to me. However, the friend that attends to the groom (the best man), listens to and serves the groom, and the friend is so happy for the groom especially when he hears the groom's voice utter how happy He is. That friend's joy for the groom's happiness, that joy is mine. That is what was given to me from God and now, I'm fulfilled and my role as friend to the groom is completed. The Messiah must become greater than me, and I must become less than Him."

"The one who comes from God's presence, who comes from above, who comes with God's authority, is above all, has authority over all and speaks with God's authority. The one who comes from the earth (that's me) belongs to the earth, and I speak as someone from the earth, with the wisdom and authority limitations of the earth. The one who comes from God's kingdom has the authority given to him from God. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, what God has told him to say and do, but no one accepts his testimony. However, the man who accepts the sent one's testimony, has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, on behalf of God, and God gives the sent one the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has given His Son the authority to represent Him in His business, His action to rescue the world from its inevitable end. Whoever believes that the Son of God has completed these actions by God has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son and what the Son has done on this person's behalf will not see an eternal life with God, for the eternal judgement and sentence, for not being a person belonging to God, remains on each person."


A few things struck me in this recounting of time between John the Baptizer and his student followers. Because they were arguing the correct way of ceremonially cleansing a person, baptism was probably a public act of recognizing a sinful condition and needing God's atonement to be permanently cleansed. In this case, baptizing both done by Jesus and His disciples and John and his disciples followed the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus about God being the One to permanently cleanse someone of sin and placing His Spirit into that person. Perhaps, this public act of baptizing is related in some way.

John the Baptizer told his student followers the exact same thing that Jesus told Nicodemus consequently, who Jesus is and what He came to do as God's Lamb and Son, and His relationship to God was predicted in Scripture so therefor, since John knew, Nicodemus should have known. John spoke about God's desire to cleanse all of us, that judgement already was upon us for our sinful nature. That Jesus's purpose was part of the act of permanently cleansing the world which was complete as compared to the temple sacrificial actions which were repeated regularly. Those sacrifices didn't permanently cleanse a person from sin but pointed towards what God would ultimately do for everyone. Jesus had the authority to represent God the Father in God's business and, simply believing in what God through Jesus is doing was part of the permanent cleansing act for us to be guaranteed eternal life. Plus, John called God 'Father' and referred to Jesus as 'God's Son'. That struck me a curious because I thought Jesus was the only one to call God Father, while Jesus was alive on this earth. If John knew from Scripture that God was to be called Father, and viewed as a father to us or at minimum to Jesus, then why didn't any other religious leader make that connection?

Upon reflecting on baptism; both Jesus and John and their student followers were all baptizing people who recognized the need to be cleansed permanently of sin. Immediately following Jesus's conversation with Nicodemus concerning salvation coming from God and not through something men controlled and administered, Jesus sets out to baptize so this action must be an illustration of what He just taught Nicodemus because Jesus's student followers probably overheard the discussion He had with Nicodemus. John the baptizer received his name and reputation through baptizing. Jewish people (leaders) argued with John about the real meaning of ceremonial washing - as part of the prescribed Law of Moses no doubt which appeared not to include washing in a river away from the temple. However, what Jesus told Nicodemus about salvation, what John told his student followers about God's salvation through Jesus must be related to the public act of baptism. Scripture is God inspired so, if items are together within a passage of scripture then those items must be related. Could baptism be an example of what God is doing for men? Is it a response of a heart reflection by men? Is it a sign of a God-made promise fulfill? I now think yes to all.

Jesus told Nicodemus that God would save men from their sins and that men could do nothing to earn salvation nor administer prescriptions for the absolution of sin. God alone would wash a man clean from sin, remove his dead heart, and impart His Spirit into that person to become eternally alive with God becoming part of God's people. John told his students that Jesus has God's authority on earth to administer God's absolution, God has given Jesus the authority to speak on His behalf, to administer God's plan, and God has given Jesus His full Spirit to represent Him fully. Whoever accepts what Jesus has done on behalf of men, will be absolved by God.

There are two actions within God's process of forgiveness and reconciliation. First, God will clean a person completely from his sinful nature and the affects of sin in his life. Second, God will impart His Spirit into the person in order to bring that person from the state of condemned death to the state of resurrected or reborn life. Just like God breathed His Spirit into Adam beginning life on earth, God will breathe His Spirit into a person to begin eternal life.

If Jesus walked on earth to fully represent God fulfilling God's plans for mankind, then Jesus's actions are related to that responsibility. When Jesus began His public ministry, He began with baptism. He walked into the Jordan River where John the Baptizer was preaching about the need for recognizing the sinful condition of people's hearts, and baptizing people who responded to that message; John was preparing people to receive God. John was speaking publicly, telling people to reflect on the state of their hearts, recognize their condition and that they were separate from God and under His judgement for that condition. People who responded to those messages, where walking up to John in a state of reflection - a state of repentance, of turning to God for a solution to the now-seen problem, "I'm a sinful man and unworthy to be your people; cleanse me, oh God!" As John is baptizing people, he sees Jesus who he recognizes as the fulfillment of those promises by God and says, "Behold! The Lamb of God who will take away all sins!" Jesus steps into the Jordan River, wades out to John to have John baptize Him. John asks Jesus to baptize him rather than the other way around as John recognizes the fulfillment of God's promise. However, Jesus responds to John saying he should baptize Jesus to fulfill what was promised - to show that God will now fulfill His promise to mankind to wash mankind permanently clean from sin and deposit His Spirit into mankind. Upon that baptism, the Spirit of God physically descended upon Jesus and He begins His public ministry.

So, baptism is a public acknowledgement of the fulfillment of God's promise to cleanse people completely from our sinful nature and the affects of sin, and to replace our dead hearts with God's heart - with His Spirit - which births us into an eternal life with God Himself. Baptism itself doesn't do the cleansing. Instead, baptism is the acknowledgement that God Himself is cleansing you clean from sin and its eternal punishment, and that God has placed His Spirit within you causing you to become His child, a member of His kingdom.

We should have known this promise to be cleansed by God. We should have known this promise to receive God's Spirit to initiate and guide an eternal life with God. This should have been obvious to us and yet, it's not by our own doing.


Scripture studied:
Isaiah 44:3, 4:4, 32:15, 55:1
Ezekiel 36:24-28
Matthew 5:6, 5:8, 5:10, 19:16-22, 9:14-17
John 7:37-38, 13:8,
Psalm 24:3-6, 51:10
James 2:18
Philippians 3:7-11
Colossians 1:13
Genesis 2:7

Friday, July 1, 2016

Living the Salt Life & Lighting Up the World

When you are living in community, you never know when you'll be inspired. When you'll meet someone critical to your life. You'll never know when a connection sparks you to move forward. Community is Humanity's body lived in life. We are not meant to live alone in isolation. We are meant to live in community, live in relationship with others, live dependent upon one another while we become the body - the unit, the ecclesia, the gathering, the assembly, the congregation - that God intended us to be.

I have many communities that I live and operate in. One that regularly inspires and refines me is my Wednesday morning prayer group where we discuss what we see God doing in our local community, pray over the community and speak into one another's lives. Frequently, I may be reflecting on something or wrestling or walking through something and my prayer partners will say something that provides the missing puzzle piece or connects a dot for me or provides confirmation to me so that I understand what God is revealing. It's an amazing part of being "in the body".

So what does being in "the body" have to do with living life?

Physical activity is a way to exercise your body; train it to endure, go beyond what you mentally think you're capable of doing and improve your physical performance. When you finish a tough workout or physical activity, sweating out of your system water, fluids and minerals, replenishing your body with fluids to hydrate yourself is essential to recovering quickly from the activity. If the physical activity was very strenuous, the hydration keeps your muscles from cramping, nausea from setting in, prevents headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, fainting, the inability to sweat and worse. Without replenishing the fluids you lost, dehydration sets in. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids, mainly water, than it takes into the body. While hydration keeps your body from shutting down so it won't rob other body parts in search of water.

One of my friends has a keen insight on the science behind the necessity to hydrate. She grew up under a scientist's influence; her Dad invented Gatorade as he was trying to solve a serious dehydration problem among the 1965 University of Florida Gator football team members. In the process of determining why the football players were suffering from dehydration following workouts, Dr. Robert Cade and his team of scientists created a beverage that changed the beverage industry bringing us Gatorade which launched an entire industry on beverages that help with human performance.

(Here is the story behind Gatorade captured by ESPN's 30-for-30 Shorts called "The Sweat Solution".)

The best part about the story of Gatorade is that Dr. Cade was a believer and follower of Jesus Christ who lived a generous life led by compassion for others and awe for God. He was a "Love-God-Love Others" kind of man, from what I gleam from stories about him.

One Wednesday while talking with Phoebe about our faith lives, as she was mentioning the role-model her parents played in her life, I asked her, "Why Gatorade? Aside from your Dad being a strong Christian, why did God bless Gatorade which transformed an industry?" Her answer was so profound, so filled with Godly wisdom, so discerning and insightful that I heard God speaking through Phoebe. Since she uttered her explanation over two years ago, I have continued to nudge her to write the explanation down and share it through her speaking engagements because it's powerful. In a sense, she said Gatorade is the Gospel in a bottle.

Phoebe related that her Dad learned the body needs salt to hold water. Her Dad discovered that a simple drink of water, sugar and salt could hydrate a body more effectively than drinking only water. In simple terms, the scientific solution is the sugar in the drink carries the water into the body and the salt in the drink allows the body to hold onto the water to hydrate itself. In short, without salt in the body, the body cannot hold water. Along with water, one of the vital minerals lost during sweating is salt. It was critical that in the process of hydrating after strenuous activity, the body needed salt along with the water so the body could actually hold the water to re-hydrate. When the body cannot hold water, the body becomes dehydrated becoming inefficient, cannot perform to its potential and eventually can lead to serious health issues. With this explanation, Phoebe said, "...science always catches up with the truths in Scripture."

Suddenly Jesus saying, "You are the salt of the earth," had real meaning! It was a "Bam!" moment.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." Matthew 5:13

It's been explained that salt in this verse of Scripture is meant to be a flavor in life and/or a preservative. Some taught that salt is an antiseptic. Certainly Jesus meant something more than flavor, preservative and antiseptic. True; salt is a flavor additive and can help enhance the taste of foods. True; Christians over history have enhanced or improved the lives of humans considerably, motivated by what God had done for them to now do for others. True; salt is a preservative and an antiseptic which can help fight bacteria thereby slowing the disease and decaying process of food especially during the pre-food-processing and pre-refrigeration times of life. True; salt is an antiseptic used to fight infections in humans before medications were discovered. And, true; as believers, our presence in the world keeps the world from going into complete anarchy and debauchery. Because, God's presence in us keeps us from becoming completely self-absorbed and depraved. When we have God in us, then we should be reflective allowing us to act out of gratitude to assist others in the world. That point of "God in us" is really the crux of being followers of Christ.

Although I agree in part with these salt interpretations, believing Jesus called us merely a flavor, antiseptic or preservative never sufficiently interpreted the Scripture. This was one of those passages that nagged at me to better understand. There seemed to be considerably more in what Jesus was saying than what our 21st Century context was discerning.  Owning salt during the times of Christ was akin to possessing currency or something of wealth. The word salary comes from the word salt when soldiers were paid a salary allowing them to purchase critical items such as salt which was expensive yet a needed commodity for survival. Food, water and shelter were critical to life and the ability to afford such were the difference between life or death. In desert regions, water rises in importance over food and shelter. Perhaps it was a known practice to ingest some salt to help hold the water in your body so as not to sweat out the water before you can replenish it at another water source?

I remember when my family moved from Massachusetts to Maryland where the summers could get considerably hotter than anything we ever experienced in the Boston area. In the 1970's, it was still commonplace to hear of people using salt tablets to help them fight the effects of heat. Perhaps this was the practice in Biblical times and why salt was so valuable and why Jesus said we are the "salt of the earth"? (This will require more research.)

When Jesus uttered these words "You are the salt of the earth," it was at the beginning of His teaching we call "The Beatitudes". I love His teachings in the Beatitudes because Jesus begins to really describe God's character, His truths, the difference between God's truths and man's interpretations. Jesus corrects the misperception that bad things happen to someone because that person sinned against God and God is enacting a punishment; that if good things happen to you and/or you were wealthy, then you must be a good person in good standing with God. In His teachings we call The Beatitude, Jesus says "not so" and literally turns the relationship of God and man upside down making the relationship between God and man a heart and body issue. (Love God because God loves you and treat/love others as God treats/loves you.)

With His statement "you are the salt of the earth", Jesus begins to describe the role we all have within the body of believers and what role the body has within the world. The relationship with God and man is intimate, personal and individual yet, it is also corporate and communal.

For us who follow Christ, we are the body parts and we form the gathering, the congregation, as God calls us individually and corporately to Him. This gathering was named "the church" which was not meant to describe a building for worship. The church is to be a body of God's believers throughout the world who follow Jesus Christ as the leader of that body. And within the body of believers, we each have our role and purpose based on the abilities God bestowed on us, coupled with our life experiences.

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If it is serving, let him serve. If it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing, let him give generously; if it is leading, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Romans 12:3-8
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body - whether Jew or Greek, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is favored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having the gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with the gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have the gift of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:12-30
It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-12

As God is calling together the gathering of believers in Christ (under Jesus Christ's leadership and authority), and each of us is a different part within the body, all of us are made salty with the ability to hold the "water of Christ" - the Holy Spirit - within the body. Our role within the body is more than doing the function we are equipped to do. Our role is also to hold the Holy Spirit within the body allowing it to be hydrated thereby performing to capacity and together. Our role as the hydrated body is to carry the Holy Spirit into the world so that the world - those that live on the earth that do not believe - sees the body functioning at God's capacity and considers God. We don't "do anything"; we simply live out of the gratitude that God rescued us knowing who we were and who's we were prior to accepting Christ into our lives. We are to love those placed in our path, whether they accept our love or not; whether they want our love or not. We are to benefit humanity with actions caused out of the appreciation and knowledge of what God has done for us. We are to show sympathy, empathy and live compassionately because we walked the same road as those in our path. We endure continuing forward because we are hydrated by the Spirit and have the ability to push onward as the Spirit grants. "Your kingdom come; Your will be done; on earth as it is in Heaven." (Matthew 6:10) God allows us to bring His kingdom to earth so people can see what God's rule is all about.

When we think of the Holy Spirit, we may think Him as being simply the breath of God or perhaps the conscience of God. He is also the "living water" of God which gives life to the body allowing us to individually and communally live and, quenches the thirst for God to be in our lives. The Holy Spirit is the ever continuing connection to the source of life - to God because the Spirit is God. Without being connected to the ever flowing source of life then simple faith in something cannot withstand the struggles of earthly life. It's like a body being exercised strenuously without being rehydrated.

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Exodus 17:1-7
Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord and where he was proved holy among them. Numbers 20:2-13
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters. Isaiah 55:1
Now He had to go through Samaria. So He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” 

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” John 4:4-15
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this He means the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. John 7:37-39
Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:16-17
He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all of this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. Revelations 21:6-7
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. Revelation 22: 1-5
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17

Just as water hydrates the body and without water, the body dies, the Spirit gives life to the soul; without the Spirit the soul dies for a lack of connection to the source of life.  When we read the life of God or the Spirit of God as being a spring of living water or a stream of water, it is to represent a never-ending source of life. When we drink earthly water, our body is quenched yet, it naturally will thirst again. However, when we connect with God and drink in His life, it's as if we are connecting to a never-ending source of water to quench our souls' desire to be alive and live. 

We read that we are created in the image of God where God is Spirit/soul, mind/character and body/human. We too are created as body, mind and soul. However, with the sinful nature of our natural selves, our souls are dead - stillborn - until we are given life through our connection to God through belief in Jesus Christ and what He did for us.

In a sense, we thirst to be able to live in the right standard of creation which is free from faults, failures, defects - sin which is the inability to live up to the standard of God. We thirst to be accepted by God however, only God can grant that acceptance yet, we only need to ask Him to accept us into life with Him and He graciously and lovingly does. God gives us the cup of cool water to drink - the cup of forgiveness and reconciliation; the cup of salvation - which gives life to our soul rehydrating it. He then imparts a portion of Himself into us - His Spirit - thereby connecting us permanently to the never-ending source of life - Him. Now, we live eternally and out of that realization of what God has done for us, we should be living in a way that does the same for others placed into our lives. Living lives that nourish the world; lives of compassion, reconciliation, forgiveness, hospitality, mercy, justice, gratitude, all guided by an unconditional love.

Brigham Young University Singers "I heard the Voice of Jesus"
"I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Behold, I freely give the living water; thirsty one, stoop down and drink, and live."

So many times, we view the commands of God - the Laws of God - as commands we must "do" in order to "get to God"; in order to become Holy and acceptable to God. What Jesus taught us is that the Law of God should reveal the character of God - the mind and heart of God - and reveal our true selves without being connected to God. We should look reflectively at the Law and say, "I can't do that; help me do that, God." God will say, "I can do that. Here is my ability. I love you. Walk with Me doing for others what I have done for you." Instead, we try to live our lives without God which is a misperception of what life is. A life with only body and mind and without a living soul.
My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and they have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. Jeremiah 2:13

Without God living in us, without being connected to the source of ever-living life, we die for a lack of connection to life; to God. We dry up and return to dust, so to speak. We started life as dust and when we disconnect ourselves permanently from the source of life by disowning God, we will return to dust having written our names into the dust. God, based on our choice, sadly then blots our names from the Book of Life.
O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water. Jeremiah 17:13
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”  John 4:10

"If you knew the Gift of God which is the abundant, perfect and forever life and, the One who asks you for a common drink of earthly water, the very One who can connect you to the source of this Gift, you would have asked Me instead for what I can give you rather than what you can give Me and, I would have gladly, willingly and freely given you this forever life. Connecting you to the Source of life that never runs out or dry." Rose's paraphrase

God has granted us some great gifts without condition upon acceptance. He grants us the Gift of Life, connecting us to Him the source of ever-living life where upon acknowledgement of the need for Jesus Christ and acceptance of His actions for us, God imparts His Holy Spirit into us thereby resurrecting our dead spirits. He equips us for a worthy purpose here on earth where, all of the experiences we have in life - good and bad - become useful as we relate to others in this world showing mercy, compassion, forgiveness and hospitality. Individually we enjoy our relationship with God and share that relationship with individual people throughout life. He also calls us into His community, His family of believers, where we enjoy a communal relationship with Him and the other members of the body while together we operate corporately within the world bringing God into the world. This is the saying, "we are the hands and feet of God". In this communal role, we are a body-part assignment based on our giftings and we also have our role as salt where we hold the Holy Spirit - the water of God - within the body of believers carrying and imparting that living water into the dry, thirsty world. Our goal? In the process of living life with God and together as a community, people will see the effects of God and want to be a part of Him and us. We are the salt of the earth.

And yet, Jesus also stated that salt can lose its saltiness which renders it useless. So what does that mean?

While in the midst of reflecting on what God is teaching me, once again He used Phoebe to speak to me. As I was relating to Phoebe what I was learning about being the "salt of the earth" she said that we must continue to be refined to remain salty. In other words, when we "lose our saltiness", it's not that over time that the potency of our saltiness decreases. Instead, our saltiness decreases when more impurities from the world become mixed into our salt. The more impurities we add to our lives, the more things not of God we allow into our lives as acceptable, the proportion of impurities to salt changes. Over time, if we continue to add impurities, then the proportion of world-to-salt increases or, in other words, the proportion of salt-to-world decreases and we lose our saltiness. We become more worldly and less salty thereby losing our saltiness.

Spending time with God both individually and within the church is an integral part of the refinement process where we continue to reflect on God and ourselves placing the things not of God into the right perspective, priority and relationship within our lives. We should be picking out the impurities from our lives, whatever those impurities are, as God reveals those to us during our reflection time; our refinement process. Typically the impurities are how we view God, ourselves and the world. It's not necessarily what we do but the lens by which we make decisions to act. We are to live "in the world" and not become "part of the world". We are to continue to be refined by God. Our lives with God and with others through the divine assistant of God should continue to mature; continue on being sanctified by God as He moves us from a state of "glory, to glory, to glory", as it's said. Our salt must continue to remain potent while our lives hold the Gift of Life in it as we operate in the environments of this world who lack God's presence and/or are lacking a maturing relationship with God. We are to live the "salt life".

As God would have it, He gave me a visual to reinforce this lesson. As I was refilling my salt grinder, I noticed that my salt had impurities in it. When I can reach those impurities, I will pick them out of my salt because should they end up on my food, they will not enhance the flavor at all. The impurities are of no good but to be thrown out.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." Matthew 5:13

Immediately after this portion of Scripture, Jesus also calls us the "light of the world". Once again, what Jesus says seems obvious yet, there seemed to be more in what He conveyed to His audience some 2,000 years ago. What are we missing? What is Jesus saying to all of us? How does this relate to being salt? Is this an individual or a corporate description?

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

Once again, a friend within my community opened the door for me to better understand what Jesus was saying here. While visiting one of my prayer partner's (Jacob's) church and listening to him give his congregation a message, he read Matthew 5:14-16 and substituted 'you' with 'Gainesville church.' That substitution was enough to bring clarity to the Scripture. "Gainesville church; you are the light of the world..."

In western cultures, we think that the "church" is a building where a particular denomination meets on a given day, typically Sunday, to "worship God." Those of us who belong to these churches, think people not involved with a denomination should come to our building and join us inside the four walls to pay homage to God with set prayers, music, preacher messages and, with giving money to support this operation. However, this scenario is not the church and this liturgy is not worship.

Over the last ten years, my family and I have been moving towards denominations that operate outside of the four walls where members of a congregation practice living as God says we should. "Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and; love others as yourself. And; be in the world not of the world." Seeking God and His rule in life first then benefiting others over self out of gratitude for what God did for you, even if the others don't deserve benefiting, while living outside of the conventional "four walls" of the church. This is worship; this is how we are to live.

Yet, in our conventional church culture now, we think all the God stuff happens within the church building and once we leave that building, we go back to living as the world dictates. Then we bring all of our incorrect thoughts about God, all of our impurities from "the world" back into the church where the body isn't working together to refine one another so our "churches" and ourselves lose our salt potency. We display no impact from God in our lives and then we wonder why the world isn't showing improvements. We do not salt the world. We do not light the dark world.

What Jesus is saying about being the light of the world is this:

You, all of you that I have called and am calling into this congregation of My followers, this body of believers, you are to operate individually and corporately out in the world; out in the place where people do not know Me and do not believe in Me. You carry My Spirit within you and your role is to provide people the water it needs when people thirst for God; and light up the dark areas so people can see God and believe in Me. I did not give you a light so that you go inside a building with other lights, close the doors then only light the building for one hour a week. No! I gave you that light so that you would go outside into the darkness, be able to see your way and in that process, light the way for others to see. Don't hide your light inside this building you call the church. People don't place lights under a bed to light their bedrooms. Lights are placed on a table to light up a room. So, take your light and go light your world! (Rose's interpretation.)

Chris Rice "Carry Your Candle"

We "the church" members are to take what God is teaching us and go live outside in the real world; the dry, dark world that thirsts for something magnificent while feeling its way around in the darkness. We are simply to live lives that are lived through the lens of "Love God; Love others over yourself". When someone is in need, help him. When someone falls down, pick her up. If someone is hurting, love on him. If someone is celebrating, celebrate with her. If someone is trying you, show patience. If someone is persecuting you, show mercy. If someone hurt you, forgive him of the offense. Live life in community, generously and freely giving what God gave you; gave me.

We are to be both salt and light. God gave us the ability to carry Him, however we can wrap our minds around that truth, and we are to carry Him wherever we go. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Because we are now made alive through God imparting His Spirit into us, we are now living through God's ability and for His purpose which is to love others so they too will want to become part of His gathering, His body, His family.

So, be salty. Be a big, bright light. Engage your community, both the community of believers and the community of non-believers. Be the hands and feet of God. Don't worry if you're doing the right thing or not according to conventional church traditions. Ask God, "Lord; you have placed this action on my heart/this person on my heart. Guide me as I go out. If I am doing something against Your will, correct me. Help me to see what You want me to see. Hear what You want me to hear. Align my thoughts and intentions with Your thoughts and intentions. Let my words and my actions reflect You; let me glorify You. You are with me as I go. You are my ability and my strength; thank You."  Then just live outside and live this amazing life filled with God. He will do the rest.

Matthew West "Do Something" 

Lecrae "Send Me"

While walking into an event on August 11, 2016 I saw the following sticker on a car. God always confirms what He's teaching me through several ways.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dying to Self

Dying to self. It's something we who follow Christ are called to do. It's a simple concept but, difficult to apply and live. We westernize it with self-denying actions similar to giving up something for Lent and assume we are living out the true calling. We have no idea what it means to die to self. We miss the mark yet, declare ourselves acceptable. Acceptable to who? God? Certainly not.

Some of us wonder. Did Christ die to self? Even though He was fully God He was also fully man so, did He die to self outside of the obvious acceptance of death by execution? If He did die to self, did Christ truly anguish and suffer? Did He really wrestle with His calling to take on our punishment for the sake of God's truths, God's plan, God's desires? Was He lonely or disillusioned? Confused? Hurting? Angry? Frustrated? Wanting to walk away? Did He want to give up and leave every hateful, arrogant, selfish, lazy, self-righteous, sinful person right where he or she was? Was He unsure? Did He want to insist His righteousness? Did He yearn to defend Himself when falsely accused? I think 'yes' to all.

Yes because, without the emotional struggle, His passion for God is not persuasive. Yes because God's love must be so compelling that it defines God and is the reason to endure. God's truth must be the only standard for truth to allow self to be condemned. Yes because without the struggle there is no relation between God and man; no compassion. No sympathy. No understanding. Yes because without the struggle there cannot be, "Forgive them Father because they don't know what they're doing." Without the struggle He cannot be our complete substitute and be fully man while being fully God - the true Alpha and Omega; the first and the last - nothing below Him and nothing above Him. Without the struggle He cannot require us to daily die to ourselves; our wants. Our goals. Our desires. Our safety. Our agendas. Our dreams. Our ideas and expectations. Our realities.

I have heard many people preach that Christ experienced everything we experienced so, He fully understands what it's like to be human. I have heard that many of our battles with self are fought on the final battlefield of our minds. Without the struggle over dying to self then Christ would not have wrestled with thoughts in His mind and not have been fully human. However, I believe He was in fact fully human and fully God so therefor, I now think that Jesus died to self on a daily basis. If He Himself had not done so, He could not require it from us. Since He requires it then, He has completed it.

Since late 2013 into early 2014, God has been revealing His plan for our community to me and others. Throughout this time, He has spoken through His Word both read and through others' teaching, and through those who have been compelled to share it with me. Sometimes non-believers, in the midst of a conversation, have uttered parts of the very Scripture I am reading. God first spoke through Luke 20, Isaiah 8, Psalm 118 and Ezekiel 37 among others. Mainly, Psalm 118 became the vision for the process I was to witness and walk through. Ezekiel 37 became the awakening of the community members and joining them back into a complete body.

More than that, I felt as if God was going to make these words real for me, giving personal meaning to the words and making my faith alive and tangible. I was excited because, after reading everything He gave me, listening for further revelation or confirmation, I thought I understood how everything would unfold. And yet, I also knew that perception wasn't accurate because I could no more box-up God than I could fit the Pacific Ocean into a plastic cup.

Throughout the last two years of our community process, we had success at seemingly impossible moments. Even when the enemy was so corrupt and manipulative, God gave us success. Even though the moments were somewhat of an emotional struggle, the wins came easily. Too easily. Overall, those of us standing together as community were not battle tested and ready to endure; ready to die to self in order to benefit the greater good. Our fellow supporters weren't strong enough or motivated enough to endure a real struggle.

And so the struggle came. A vicious, hateful, corrupt onslaught proving our community army was not fit for battle. People gave up. Sat down. Turned around. Were indifferent. Walked away. We were outnumbered and loathed by the more motivated and practiced enemy. A handful of community warriors remained and they stood with us in an out-matched battle against those that oppose the community.

During the entire time, Christ's life in Scripture played over and over and over in my head like a movie or a song stuck in your brain. Verses came to mind or people brought them to me. When my friend Ora pulled me from a public hearing to share what God placed burning in her heart, I knew then we would suffer a loss. It was to be the day of our disaster - my disaster - and it was ordained by God Himself. Ordained. He allowed this. This was all orchestrated by God. How could this be, when He promised a different future? Why? As much as I wrestled, it was His plan and now I had a choice. Accept defeat; accept God's plan or walk away. When I accepted God's call to be with Him in life, the call wasn't for only the easy and fabulous things. I cannot pick and choose the best and leave the tough things for someone else. It was time to accept the full calling of God for our community. Drink the cup or walk into the night. I chose to drink the cup. If not, I too would walk away from God. I too would be Terah and only go halfway leaving the person to follow me to handle the tougher things and become Abraham. If I walked away from God, then what is my witness? Where is my faith in God that He can fulfill what He said He would do? Where is my faith knowing that God is greater than all of "this now allowed" route to the promised-land outcome?

To compound matters, my local reputation that I worked towards for 15 years was under attack. I was publicly being accused of wrongdoings that I had not done. I was being hounded by my enemies which grew larger by the day, mostly with people I didn't know. People spoke about me through conspiracies, as if they knew me personally and were aware of things I supposedly did, things I supposedly said, things my company was supposedly doing. As if they were in our meetings, in my house, and in my head. The newspaper and social media were relentless as I, my employer, our team, the pillars in our community, our project were all vilified. We were in the midst of Pink Floyd's "Lunatic".

Pink Floyd "Brain Damage" (The Lunatic)

And yet, I knew God's plan, His plan for our community, its people long oppressed, hopeless, shortsighted, indifferent or unaware. His great love which manifests itself into patience, endurance, mercy, forgiveness and generosity. His love for those that rebel against Him and exercise that rebellion on me, on others involved in the process, on all of us, on the community God is releasing.

Daily I prayed. I wish I could say that I prayed fervently, willingly, without wavering or doubting; praying with the right heart. I cannot. Some days my prayer was simply acceptance that God's will was different than mine and then manage to get to my first meeting or to the office.

I was tired, hurt, angry, disillusioned, wanting to give up and let happen what would happen; give people the big salute and say, "Sleep in the bed you made; I'm outta here!"

I was worried I had misinterpreted God two years ago and misrepresented Him to others in the community. During the process, my biggest fear was misrepresenting God and making my agenda "His plan". I asked God to ensure that I didn't do that because I didn't want to compromise who He is to our community. For those who believed in His plan, I was worried people would lose faith in God and walk away from Him. Maybe if I worked harder, it would help. But the deep waters of the evil intentions of the enemies' hearts engulfed me; engulfed all of us. I was drowning. In fact, for three months prior to the vote, to end the first effort, I had regularly occurring dreams that I was drowning. A person whom I thought was more a believer than not, more supporting of our effort than not, posted on social media a dream she had about a man and baby drowning, and that post struck me. Her dream was for our community, for her and for me. I asked God for the interpretation of Mary's dream and shared it with her. She received it however, since that time, she appears to have moved into the camp of those who oppose the community. Plus, I didn't quite interpret Mary's dream sufficiently because she correctly saw our effort drown in the overwhelming, evil intentions of those working to oppose our efforts. Shortly afterwards, our effort's neck was broken. We all had hoped those voting on this plan would choose humanity over self and that our efforts would save the project from dying but, they did not.

In the public hearings, I sat numb trying to block out the words of the opposed as I watched the battle. Seeing people sign up to stand with the community only to show up at the front line, see the fierce enemy and walk away. Seeing people who I thought were battle hardened walk away leaving the community to fend for itself. Others sat quietly hoping to blend into the shadows of the seats and auditorium. A few brave people stood up to speak and that so encouraged everyone. Some were brave enough to challenge the enemy; they had no regard for self but for benefiting others. Their challenge was quite the rebuke to those that oppose and to those that retreated.

Honestly, I was disappointed in the community for a victory was given to us but, we did not grasp what was given to us and willingly handed it over to those that hate the inclusive community. We gave away what was our gift from God. We were the Israelites that were afraid to walk into the promise land that God was delivering to us but, for Caleb and Joshua who were ready to fight and trusted in God's ability over that of man's. I had to admit that I too was disillusioned with God. Why did He allow this to happen amidst His plan for freeing the community? Why did He allow me and others to see a different and better outcome? And, "I knew He would drag this process out to accomplish something in me and in the community." Thankfully, God had not abandoned me in the process leaving me decaying in these thoughts. The words He gave Ora to share with me rolled over and over in my head. "You did everything I asked of you." So, I took comfort and knew God knew right where I was at. Just like Jesus knew His followers were in the boat doing what He asked. (Matthew 14: 22-33) The funny thing about this realization, it was a fulfilled prayer in 2014 because I had asked God to call me out of the boat onto the waters and here I was now complaining that He called me out. And so, I drank the cup of acceptance; acceptance for this part in the process.

Hillsong United "Oceans"

Frequently I remember the dream I had several years ago (probably over five years ago) when Jesus appeared asking me to join Him in a fiery, consuming battle on earth where the billowing smoke from each army was engulfing the other army. He was seated on a horse-like creature with large wings and numerous people where also seated on similar animals beside Him; too many to number. I felt a presence that the same line up was beside me and looking confirmed that I was alongside Jesus in this line-up of warriors. I told Him "no" as the battle looked so fierce and frightening and I loved the place where I was at with Him. Yet, the look on His face pierced my heart as He looked so disappointed in me for answering "no". Thankfully - truly thankfully - He asked a second time and this time I said "yes" adding quid pro quo conditions that He never leave my side and I never leave His. That He stay with me at all times because I could not battle without Him. At once, we and His army descended into the battle and I woke up.

After this community hearing process, I realized that Jesus answered that condition - my ballsy quid pro quo - and He never left me during the battle. Never. In fact He increased His presence with me. He continued to speak through Scripture. He sent friends to encourage me, be with me, stand with me, sit with me, testify for the project. He gave me a loving, supportive family. I have bosses and peers who share the burden as we lighten each other's loads; we had one another's backs. Everywhere I turned it seemed people reminded me of God's plan and His ability to win. Reminded me that this was not over and told me, we had not failed but, faithfully served God and community. We were all enduring the same battle together and it became communitas instead of just community. It seemed as if the death of the plan was becoming the catalyst of an awakening to a newness in life within the community. A resurrection was beginning and I was not alone nor a failure.

This was opposite of what Jesus endured. While I enjoyed companionship and encouragement through the battle, Jesus accepted His calling as a man drinking the many cups of acceptance while struggling through the emotions and circumstances of His ministry to the point of sweating blood on His final night. This is when He agreed to accept the ultimate cup of God's wrath poured for all of us and He drank that cup of which part of the acceptance was the knowledge of going alone. With that acceptance, He knew He would be hunted, falsely accused, publicly humiliated, stripped of reputation, family, friends, followers and His clothes, brutally beat and tortured before being executed in a way that allowed Him to be aware of His circumstance as He died. That is when I realized that my "dying to self" was not at the intensity of Jesus's dying to self as He walked His final leg of His calling all alone and abandoned. And, at the final trial and execution, He did it without God's presence and THAT is where I know that Jesus's commitment to God is stronger than anything we will ever have in this life. He is the complete Alpha and Omega. He is truly, fully man and fully God. When He asks us to die to self, He experienced a depth of dying that we will not have to endure because He endured it for us. I can honestly say that I am ever grateful my calling was not to walk a path alone and abandoned. To have accepted God's calling and gone without support from God or without hearing Him speak encouragement, I would have gone mad or died under the strain or both.

This is why I claimed to have slightly tasted what it means to die to self, mirroring the path of Christ in some very small way. This experience is a gift to better understand what Jesus endured for us out of love for God and God's love for us. To truly love God through loving others unconditionally over self. He shared with me what it is like to place benefiting others over self so I could understand that reality and depth of love I am to have and that He has for me and... for others.

This gives weightier meaning to the most important command of God - Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength and, love others as yourself. "Our belief in and love for God will be measured by our ability to put others in place of ourselves. If we really love God and appreciate what He has done for us then we will be willing to extend the same benefit towards others, even those that do not love us because God loved us first and loved us when we were unlovable." (Rose's paraphrase.) As Jesus's brother James said, "Show me your faith without deeds (actions) and I will show you my faith by what I do (how I live my life)." James 2:18

It's why Jesus paired both Love God-Love Others together as one command. Out of the "top 10" and all of the other commands in the Jewish Law - some 600+ total commands - Jesus said two points define our faith and should be the lens by which we view all other commands and measure our faith. Anyone can "love God with all of his/her heart". As I've heard Andy Stanley state several times, "loving God" can be a personal thing between you and God where no one can judge the reality of that belief. Anyone can say she loves God then go about her life as she chooses. We cannot question her validity of her "love God completely" because we cannot see her heart. However, Jesus said that loving others over self is equal-to in weight of importance as loving God completely and, it indicates to others the depth of how you love God. Loving other indicates the quality of your love for God. Now a person can witness the quality of your love for God by your life's actions to benefit others over self.

If you really believe in and love God then people should see the evidence in your life.The quality of that evidence, of that love, will be measured by how you love others. Jesus also said that loving those who love you is easy and says nothing about the quality of your love. Yet, loving those that hate and persecute you - loving your enemies - that speaks to the quality of your love for God and gives evidence that God's ability to love is within you. To do this means that you love like God loves. (Matthew 5:43-48)

It's why I continued to ask fellow believers and my prayer partners to help me pray for those who seem to be my enemies. I knew we were called to love this way and I knew that God loves those who are my enemies and the enemies of the inclusive community as much as He loves me and those that believe in Him. If a person says he or she follows God, then you must follow His examples, His lead.

If we really believe in God, if we really love Him, and if we really trust Him with our lives believing He wants the best for us. If we really believe in His truths and we desire to have this belief manifest itself into actions in our lives, then we will place benefiting others over our own agenda for personal happiness, successful and safe lives. We will trust God's truths at our very core knowing that He can fulfill His promises. This is the basis for dying to self in order to benefit others over self.

For me, this wasn't a powerful or undeniable emotion of trust. I wish I could say it was. To be honest, my acknowledgement of trust and belief in God and His promises was based on a logical choice with a plea to tie the emotion of trust to that logical choice. My base knowledge of who God is, who He is not, His promises and revelation for our community were all learned-based and not some mystical emotion or overwhelming feeling. This choice was a result of learning who God is, who He is not and His truths of which I trust. It was the rock foundation built over time and life and I was forced to stand on it as the promise, when the emotions swirling around me were saying something completely different. This learned experience is illustrated in Matthew 7:24-27, where one man builds his house on a rock, solid foundation and one man builds his house on top of sand. When the storm came - because the storms of life always come - the house built on a solid foundation withstood the storm while the house built on the sand was washed away. This parable of trust became real to me.

I also felt like I could not turn back from my belief and trust in God even when the immediate circumstances were saying otherwise. There was too much evidence in my life and even during those circumstances that proved God's existence, His love, His trustworthiness, His abilities to fulfill His promise. Mostly, too much evidence proving His presence with and love for me. Evidence that He speaks to me and that God is who He said He is. If I were to turn away from a life with God, then what would life be without Him? Just as John 6:60-69 illustrates where Jesus has just further defined what following Him is to be like and His explanation seems hard to accept, many of His student followers (disciples) walk away. Yet, the 12 main disciples stay saying, "Lord; who are we going to follow now? You have the answers to life." (Rose's paraphrase) I was in the middle of the ocean, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a storm and I needed to either continue to go forward or go back and going back wasn't an option for me because life without God is no life at all. Matthew 14:22-34 became real to me and I remembered my prayer request in 2014 to join Him on the water as Peter did. This result was actually a gift from God to me. He called me out upon the waters where my faith had to become limitless. God was faithful and answered my prayer and suddenly I realized, I reacted no differently than Peter did. "Oh me of little faith."

David Crowder "I Am"

So, I sat within the emotional chaos that looked like failure, where the vicious attacks resembled sharks picking off passengers floating in the water as the ship sank. Logically, I sorted through the chaos looking for Jesus, measuring things against who God is, who He is not, and the scriptural promises. When Ora passed along God's message of, "You've done everything I asked of you," I knew that dying to self was not over. The ship would sink. The project would die, and that was God's plan... for now.

Mary's dream was correct. My dreams were correct. We were to drown in the sea of evil intent. I had hoped that God would rescue us before going under but going under needed to happen. God is going to use the public drowning for His good and bring about His promised plan. Remember? With God, there is resurrection and beauty from death. At least, that is my hope anchored on His revelation and His truths. In the meantime, I drink each cup of dying to self placed in front of me.

I don't want to drink these cups. I don't want to be kind to my enemies. I don't want to show them mercy, compassion, respect, patience. I want them to get caught doing the hateful acts they perpetrate on others. Yet, God loves them too. He loved me when I was and am hateful. He loves me when I'm self absorbed. He loved me enough to call me from a life leading to death to join Him in real life. And so, I must love them. I must show respect and patience and be polite and inclusive. I must treat them as I want and desire to be treated. I must model what I want to see in them. Although in my mind I am justified to throw the rock, I must put the rock down and forgive.

That is loving others over self. That is dying to my agenda and placing their benefit in a priority position. In the short term, I show them respect and welcome them into the process. In the long term, I try to separate my hate for the evil intent from the people imparting that hate who may ultimately benefit from our efforts. When God resurrects it and, as a result, these "enemies" may choose life with God which is His desire, I want to be able to embrace that moment with them, if I'm allowed to share it or witness it. I want to be able to celebrate that victory with God knowing how excited He will be that more of His created children chose life with Him rather than death without Him.  And so, I choose to lay my agenda of self preservation down. If this is what it takes, I'll do it. Reluctantly? Struggling all the way? Most certainly! Complaining to God? You betcha!

But, I am asking God to align my heart and thoughts with His, to help me navigate this course; help me present good decisions to my employer, family, community and fellow believers. Help me represent God well. When it's time to defeat the enemy, God needs to direct that - not me. God needs to end the fast in the desert, not me. God needs to say "Go!" not me. He's moving, although I cannot see clearly. He is putting the necessary pieces into place to fulfill His plan and I'm on a "need to know" basis. When I "need to know," He will tell me. I must accept that.

This is why Jesus always said He only told people what God told Him to tell; only did the things God told Him to do. Was it a struggle? The desert and the garden say, "Yes." The trial and the execution for crimes He did not commit say, "Yes." The family thinking He was losing His mind; the neighbors wanting to push Him over a cliff all say, "Yes." His calling was as much a human struggle as we experience. So when He asks God in Psalm 69:22-28 to blot the names out (of God's book of life) of those who are His enemies, I take great comfort that the Lord Jesus Christ knows exactly how I feel, what I am going through, where I am in this process and, I relish that He has not abandoned me to die in this process.

This process gift of placing others over self and dying to self came during our Lenten season and the death of our plan came during our Easter month. The resurrection to a newness of life is happening coinciding with the resurrection-to-Pentecost time frame. All of these coincidences are not lost on me, as I know they are not coincidental but intentional. We are acting out Psalm 118 and we are living through Exodus 13:13-14:4 and Ezekiel 37:1-8. The funny thing is, I recently saw a note written in my Bible remembering that Psalm 118 is a ritual Psalm that is to be acted out as well as recited. It's to be a pageant and so, we are literally living out Psalm 118. It's a hymn of thanksgiving for deliverance from enemies and obviously, we have yet to be delivered. Yet.

Just as the enemy thought that the death of Jesus solved their issues with Him by ending the Jesus movement, the resurrection changed everything.

And so I wait and take comfort that He knows I reluctantly choose to die to self. Wait for God to move. Wait for the whale to spit us out onto the shore alive. Wait for God to draw us out of the water and breathe life into us. We will be different when we emerge. We will have conquered death through His life. And finally, the entire community will be able to walk into a new life. I look forward to that day.

April 30, 2016

I began this journal while on vacation March 22, 2016 as a way to move forward from the death of our effort's process. As I was working through the thoughts over the last 40 days (40... that's funny, God. A 40 day fast in the dessert), I shared thoughts with my Wednesday morning prayer group and shared some smaller thoughts with others. As a result, my friend Jacob Larson, the Community Pastor at The Vineyard Church of Gainesville, invited me to share with his church on April 17th. This is what Jacob and I shared.

"City Dwelling" Podcast on April 17, 2016
Note: It takes 15 seconds for the audio to work because the microphone was on mute. My part begins at 24:00 minutes.

Also, as I was journaling, God was confirming the message of dying to self through Pastor Andy Stanley of North Point and several series of his, that I was listening to during the time.

Brand New

The N Commandments
Comment added on 5/17/2016: 
On Monday, May 16, 2016, I listened to the "Doubt Not" message from the "N Commandment" series. At Anthem Church in Gainesville, the "Doubt Not" message was given on Sunday, 5/15 and due to a family event out of state, I missed church and missed this message. Wanting to listen to it, I played it on Monday morning as I did my hair and make-up which is my routine to listen to messages as I get ready in the morning. This "Doubt Not" message added a huge punctuation onto this understanding about Dying to Self and what I journaled. This is an example showing how God speaks to me - to any of us - and how I hear Him teach me through others and His Word. 

"Doubt Not" by Andy Stanley of North Point Church

Avoiding Election Infection

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Mary's Dream about the Community

Written between January 1 through 9, 2016; and delivered on January 9, 2016

Mary C******** A*****'s dream on December 30-31, 2015

As posted on Mary’s Facebook page, December 31, 2015 at 4:51 AM

“I dreamed last night about towering tsunamis looming over my head coming from all directions. I dreamed of an evil man tossing a dead father, clutching a beautiful dead infant into the water. I watched them sink and knew both that the (father and – sic) the child held the secret to a wonderful future but also that someone would find the secret, but not for a long while. I should not read articles about climate disruption, crazy weather and corruption before I go to bed. I also suspect that this dream is about my business anxieties (evil men drowning my “baby” who don’t pay my business the money they owe). I need to read something inspiring tonight! I want to start the new year with faith and happiness.”

Rose's Interpretations:

Evil man = someone who goes against God. Who thinks he doesn’t need God. Who thinks he can ascend above God. Who thinks he can conquer God. Who doesn’t want to recognize and submit to God’s authority over all creation, time and life. Who seeks to destroy through violence and subtle things like lies, manipulations, half-truths. Who wants to hurt God by keeping His creation, His children, His people away from Him causing people to walk away from Him. Who doesn’t love God with all of his heart (intentions/desires/will), all of his mind (thoughts/dreams/plans) and all of his strength (ability). Nor does this man love others like himself, in spite of himself, above himself, in place of himself, even if the people are undeserving of love. (Loving others means you benefit others instead of benefitting yourself.)

Tsunamis = overwhelming oppression, the motives, intentions and purpose of a man’s heart, words spoken and actions from those motives

Father and child = God the Father and Jesus His Son

Hold the secret to a wonderful future = an abundant life with purpose here and now on earth, freedom to recognize and pursue God, freedom to step into all that God planned for our lives. In the afterlife, to live in God’s kingdom, His garden called paradise with Him forever where there will be no sin, no corruption, no oppression, no hate, no jealousy, no lies, no pain, no imperfection, no sadness.

Scripture studied; impactful Scripture:
Mathew 8:26, 14:26-30
2 Samuel 22:5
Psalm 18:4, 46:2-6
Proverbs 18:4, 20:5
Habakkuk 3:10
Luke 8:25
Mark 4:41
Isaiah 60:5, 43:1-13
Revelation 12:15-17, 17:1-2

Relating Scripture:

Proverbs 20:5 “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (purposes = motives)

Proverbs 18:4 “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.”

Words of a man’s mouth = shows the intentions, motives, beliefs of a man. Matthew 12:33-37 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of a man’s heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored in him. But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Wisdom = God’s knowledge of something and what to do with that knowledge, how to act upon that knowledge as God would act

Brook = living water, the Spirit, sooths, refreshes, nourishes, gives life, sustains life. Revelation 21:6, 22:1-6, 22:17; John 3:5; Ephesians 5:26; 1 John 5:6-8, 7:17; Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:8. John 7:37-18 “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” Righteousness = God’s right standard and rule.

Dear Mary,

The day I read your Facebook post, I knew in my heart that you had a vision from God. It was disturbing to me as well because lately, my dreams have been of me drowning or being trapped under water and under ice. However, your dream and my dreams were opposite in appearance as to what God has been speaking to me through Scripture about the great plan He has for our community. The questions became, were these dreams relevant to God’s vision for the community or were they a separate vision about something else happening? Were the dreams a warning, a correction or change to the revealed outcome? God allowed us to have these dreams; He gave them to us, therefor He could tell us the meaning. Honestly, I was nervous to approach you about your dream being from God and offer to ask God what it meant.

Sometimes people think this is all mystical when it’s just a Dad and daughter having a conversation. And yet, I doubted God would reveal the meaning of your dream to me and checked the intentions of my heart for offering. But, I remembered that Joseph and Daniel were ordinary people who asked God what were the meaning of dreams. And, I thought God was encouraging me so why should I doubt Him on this? What spurred that thinking along further was the recent lesson I listened to from Pastor Andy Stanley called Resolution where he asked “What breaks your heart?” where the messages are about helping those around us and not be self-focused; it mirrored God’s plan for our community. www.resolutionseries.org
So, I spent the last couple of weeks praying and studying, asking God to reveal the meaning of your dream, and this is what He led me to share with you. Forgive me for this explanation sounding all churchy or loaded with Christianese. I tried to be as straight forward as I could.

On the question of what breaks my heart, it’s seeing people either not stepping into a better future or, even more so, those who want to step into a better future yet are being prohibited by someone who is blocking them through a barrier of sorts. Some people know they are being blocked and cannot find a way around that barrier and just lose hope. Some don’t know they are being blocked and just know they are trapped in a life of less-than-it-could-be. Wanting to see people become all they can become drives me through my work.

You have a passion for the community. Your passion is evident in your efforts within your business, your business relationships, your work projects, your work partners, whom you mentor, whom you coach and cheerlead. You want the best for your community. You’re involved and available. You have good intentions because they are intentions to benefit others and not just yourself. So, knowing this, the question is, “What breaks your heart, Mary? What is motivating you to move forward each day? What needs to be done around you?” This is where you may consider spending time reflecting with God for in that reflection, you will know who you are with God and without God. You will recognize that God given purpose for your life and what is driving you. You will noticed that you’re feeling what God is feeling for our community and the people He has placed in your life. You will recognize that God is calling you to walk with Him and participate with Him in benefitting the lives of others. You’re being called to a great opportunity with God – the abundant life.

God has led me to believe that your dream was meant for both of us. One; because I kept asking God to tell me why I was drowning in my dreams. Why? I also think God wanted you to understand what He is doing in our community, through you, through me and through others so, when it occurs, you will know that it was Him – the One, True and Only God – and that He loves you, cares for you and for those around you; those He placed in your life. He has a plan for all of us and He wants all of us to be a part of His plan and included in the outcome. He wants you to join in with His plan. There is hope in your dream.

In 2009, I said ‘yes’ to God and haven’t regretted the decision yet. It’s tiring; there are challenges, maddening frustrations and struggles. Yet, my struggle is with myself and how I view those that oppose God’s plan for our community; with those who continue to fight it through corrupt means and those being manipulated by the corruption. Where I struggle is asking God to give His best for them recognizing that He loves those who are currently fighting me. He does not want to lose them anymore than He wanted to keep from losing us. The opposite reaction I struggle with is watching them choose to be God’s enemy knowing they will eventually suffer for that choice. I don’t want to be the one watching their judgement knowing in my heart that I could have participated in their salvation. I think a portion of your dream was this reaction; your sadness watching this destruction. God is the one who saves but He has called us to love each person as He loved us. It’s difficult to choose to benefit or help someone who doesn’t think they need the help, doesn’t want it or, in my incorrect mind, doesn’t deserve it. Perhaps in my dreams, I am experiencing their outcomes because, in my reluctance to help, I will share in their guilt. Who knows? I think in your dream, you saw what would happen if you don’t step into the God-offered opportunity. You must have a key role in the community outcome. However, if you say ‘no’ then know that God will call the next person.

In your dream, you are seeing two different things. First, you are seeing the ultimate, spiritual battle between God and Satan where Satan is ultimately hoping to conquer and destroy God. The motives of Satan’s intentions are seen as the tsunamis; they are the deep waters of destruction. The reason why you knew the dead father and infant child held the secret to a better future, is you know that God through Jesus has given us the way – the path, the opening, the gate and bridge – to a better future. Yet, you knew that someone would eventually find that secret after a long while. None of us come to a saving knowledge of God through Christ in a flash, an instant, a moment. We find God after a long while. Actually, we acknowledge Him after He has pursued us in His patience, faithfulness and persistence, for a long while overcoming our reluctance, selfishness and pride. Our only act in the salvation process is acceptance; He does the rest.

The second thing you saw in your dream is the present situation of our community and the undercurrents happening to try to prevent people from moving into better lives. The spiritual is always worked out in the ordinary here on earth. It’s why we don’t recognize it readily. We expect God to show up in extraordinary and miraculous ways. Many times, God moves through the mundane, the discipline of those who work in faith. He created all of us and saved us so that we would feel His heart towards humanity, towards our neighbors, be appreciative of what he did for us, know His truths and act upon those things to benefit others over ourselves. You are seeing the evil corruption that is within our community and how it is attempting to drown out God and His good plan. That corruption is the motives of people’s hearts and they purpose to destroy for their own benefit. 

The destruction comes through ordinary means and it is evident by the motive. If people are justifying their actions to gain an outcome of control through manipulation, that is evil intent. Evil isn’t always Hilter, Jeffrey Dahmer and such. Evil is evident in subtle ordinary actions such as lying and manipulating. God’s plan is simple, free people from what is oppressing them so that, in their freedom, they will know that it was God who freed them, turn around to follow Him and, out of love and appreciation, want to do for others what God did for them. God is building community. He is unleashing hope. You saw the wickedness that is trying to stop it. 

The wickedness is coming from many different directions and for those caught in its midst, it is overwhelming, inescapable and insurmountable. The wickedness is laced within laws, ordinances, codes, and how those items are enforced (the process); it is found in what is preventing community and people having access to life. Some of the people involved in this destruction are willingly doing this. Some are blindly following. Some of these folks are people who are our friends and their actions are causing us to question their motives and the validity of the friendship. Yet, these people really don’t know they are involved in a spiritual battle. They are just doing what they believe is right which is why we are to pray for them.

On a personal level to me, this dream coupled with my dreams mean that I will come under attack again from the opposition. You may agree or not agree but, I believe this will happen next and it will be personal.

Over all what your dream means to us is a reminder that the outcomes we are working towards have eternal implications as well as earthly implications. People can have access to an abundant life of purpose now as well as in eternity. We can choose to go onward within this freedom effort or we can stand back and watch those within our community drown in the oppression. What breaks your heart, Mary? What breaks, my heart? What needs to be done around us? Are we going to stand by and watch or are we going to walk out on the water and join God?

We are not to lose hope and also know that God has already defeated Satan so, his (Satan's) plans are in vain. God is also equipping us to carry out our role within His plan for the greater community and each person within it. We are not alone nor are we without resources.

Several pieces of Scripture will hopefully encourage you. (Psalm 18:4, Isaiah 43:1-13, Matthew 8:23-27 and 14:26-30) Perhaps you may want to either start or finish your day reading and praying with these Scriptures to see what God may say to you.

Mary… thank you for letting me share my faith with you. I appreciate who you are.

Psalm 18
For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:

I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.
He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him — the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.
He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.
The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God.
All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees.
I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.
The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great.
You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
I crushed them so that they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet.
You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me.
You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes.
They cried for help, but there was no one to save them — to the Lord, but he did not answer.
I beat them as fine as windblown dust; I trampled them like mud in the streets.
You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; you have made me the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me, foreigners cower before me; as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds.
The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be God my Savior!
He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me.
Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.
He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing love to his anointed, to David and to his descendants forever.

Isaiah 43:1-13
But now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf.
All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble.
Which of their gods foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things?
Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, “It is true.”
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.
I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.
I have revealed and saved and proclaimed — I, and not some foreign god among you.
You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?”

Matthew 8:23-27
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 14:22-30
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

P.S. An additional scripture given by my friend Jacob Larson that fit this explanation. Jacob said God is always present in the deep waters bringing order where disorder exists.

Genesis 1:2
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.