There’s a well nearby. You’ve probably seen it. It’s in a dusty abandoned town. You wonder who used to live here and why they all left.

Many people have traveled by this well on their journeys through life, but either didn’t notice it, decided not to check it out, or tried it but left for some reason. It doesn’t appear that the well has been used in a long time. You are not even sure if the water is good. The top of the water looks unappetizing . . . . disgusting actually – covered in dust, dirt, germs, bugs and grime. Who would even want to use this well or drink its water? You dip your finger in to just taste it anyways as you realize how thirsty you are, but you only taste the stuff on top. Yuck. You’re not drinking that! But your thirst remains.

You decide to move on. . . . to find something more appealing . . . more appetizing . . . more eye-catching and tasty. You heard there was something better down the road. So you turn your back to the well and head off.

I urge you to come back.

Things are not always what they seem.

There is more to this well than the casual observer and wanderer will ever know.

Let me help you draw up the DEEP water from the well. That is where the best water resides – where the cooler, refreshing, life-giving water is. It is not tainted by the dirt, dust, germs or bugs on top of the water. Nothing has touched this deep water except the bucket and cisterns that are allowed to draw deep into it.

Are you that kind of cistern or vessel?

Are you ready to go deep?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Fresh Produce . . . Now Open!

As I drove home a few days ago, I passed by a sign I’ve driven past hundreds of times before. It sits outside a scarcely frequented family owned produce shack near our house. I used to marvel at the consistency, dependability and patience of the older gentleman that would sit in his lawn chair day after day, all day long – just waiting for the few customers that would occasionally stop by to purchase some of his harvest. As I rushed about this city, dragging kids from school to events, sports practice and music lessons, and lugging pound upon pound of groceries home each week, I would drive by that fruit and vege stand and enviously wonder if I would ever have time to sit and relax like that sweet old man. I was also a bit curious . . . was it really worth it, profitable I mean, to sit outside in the heat and humidity, day after day, for hours on end? It didn’t seem like the best use of time, or the most profitable thing this gentleman could have done with the remaining hours he had in his life. Surely there was some other way he could make money or use his time more efficiently.

But the other day, as I drove by this familiar spot, I felt a nudge to do a double take and really read the sign. “Fresh Produce . . . Now Open”. This past year, or maybe a bit longer, the older gentleman hasn’t been outside. In fact, there hasn’t even been any produce at the stand. I’ve been curious as to what happened. Did he realize that it wasn’t worth his time and money? Or did something happen to that persistent elderly gentleman? Was it that hardly anyone was stopping by anymore – not needing or wanting some delicious homegrown organic fruits and vegetables? (I know I just picked mine up at the grocery store as that was easier and more convenient.) And yet, the sign still stood, announcing they had “Fresh Produce”.

As I looked at the sign with fresh eyes that day, I felt Holy Spirit gently saying to me – “Fresh Produce . . . Now Open”. I could feel Him wooing me – reminding me that, like the steady, unwavering older gentleman, He was still waiting – day after day, all hours of the day and night, for me to come and visit – to stop by for some produce. But not just to get the produce, but to take time to sit and relax, to chat about the day, about my life, my feelings, and to find out more about Him. Unlike the sweet old man, He would never leave His post at this “produce stand”. He is always there . . . here . . . waiting. And He will always have an infinite supply of produce . . . Fruit to be specific.

I love the “fruit” that Holy Spirit has to offer me. . . .that He has to offer you . . .to everyone! Love . . . Joy . . . Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and yes . . . Self-Control. Don’t those all sound heavenly?! Don’t you just crave to take home a bundle of Love? How about a bushel of Peace? An overflowing basketful of Joy? I can just smell their sweet aroma and taste their delectable wholesomeness right now! I know we have all asked for Patience, Peace and Joy in our lives from time to time, but what about the last one . . . Self-Control? Do many people want that one or look over it with envious, craving eyes as they do with some of the other fruits? It just doesn’t sound as sweet and juicy and wonderful as the other fruits. But let me tell you – it really is!

Each and every one of these nine heaven-grown fruits is a “must have”, and Self-Control is no exception. They are all a part of God’s divine plan, purposes and promises to create healthy, whole and loving relationships. And that’s what God is all about . . . Relationship! All nine of them are needed in our relationships with our kids, our spouses, family members, friends, neighbors, at our jobs and even with the grumpy woman at the grocery store. We know we need these fruits, but keeping them in “our house” seems tricky. I know I keep running out of Patience (sometimes on a daily basis) . . . and Joy can be fleeting (especially depending on what time of the month it is!). So, how can I keep my “house” filled up with this satisfying and healthy fruit each and every day?

Galatians 5:22-25 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

“Fresh Produce . . . Now Open” the sign still reads. Are you willing to stop by? Are there some fruits you need in your life? What you may not see is the “Vacancy” sign next to the other sign. Yes – the Lord is calling you, offering you a place to reside – a chance to “live BY the Spirit”. He doesn’t just want you to stop by – He wants you to live here – right beside Him – each and every day. Can you see how beneficial it would be – to be able to keep your supply of fresh fruit at your house full to capacity – each and every day - because you live RIGHT BY the fruit stand?! He doesn’t want us to just live there though – He wants us to sit and chat, walk and talk, “keep in step” with Him – every day. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to move in next door? Or are you still only comfortable with just stopping by when you have a free moment? Are you willing to spend time with Him daily – keeping “in step with the Spirit”?

The Holy Spirit is waiting. He has plenty of produce for everyone! But not everyone is going to stop by. It breaks my heart – just as it broke my heart to see that old man sitting in his chair . . . day after day . . . hour after hour . . . waiting patiently for someone to stop by and enjoy the delicious food he had tenderly and loving planted, grown, and harvested just for them. Even if people do stop by – many will not stay . . . many will not move in next door and spend time with Holy Spirit. That puts another ache in my heart as well. There is so much more to this life – so much more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control to fill our lives and enjoy . . . if only we will reside/live “by the spirit” and “keep in step” with Him. Are you up to it?

This Gentleman will be at his “stand” waiting . . . . . And yes . . . He does think this is the most profitable thing He could ever do! Even if only one person decided to come by . . . it would be worth it!! So on He waits . . . .

. . . .for you!

I hope you can stop by!

Taste and enjoy the Fruit!
- Lori :)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Intimate Friendship with God

I just found a book review I did when I was in YWAM (Youth With a Mission) doing a DTS (Discipleship Training School) when I was 19 years old - in Lausanne, Switzerland. The book was "Intimate Friendship with God" by Joy Dawson. This was written at a time in my life when God was rescuing me (from myself and my self-destruction) and changing me - breaking me, shaping me, molding me into something more beautiful! I thought I would share it with you to encourage you to read this book for yourself (and I may just have to dig out my copy of Joy's book and reread it).

Take a drink from the deep today!

Lori :)

Intimate Friendship with God
by Joy Dawson
Jan. 1990 DTS

Out of the 16 chapters in this book, there were many chapters that really spoke to me. However, I will focus on only five chapters or areas for this report. "The most exciting relationship of our lives" will be "Intimate Friendship with God", and that's what I want!

Chapter 1 deals with the Fear of the Lord and what it is. As Joy Dawson says, "It's the most fool-proof thing in the world in relation to sinning". But what exactly is the fear of the Lord? In Proverbs 8:13 it says, "The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil." This means that at all times we must have God's attitude toward sin. In Malachi 2:5, God says, "My covenant with him was a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him, that he might fear; and he feared me, he stood in awe of my name." The Lord is anything and everything I could ever want, need, or desire and beyond. So we need to "consider with awe and wonder, the limitless power and supreme authority of one who, by His spoken words alone, has brought the universe into being". I need to have a deep respect for, and understanding of, the holiness of God, the power of God, and the total sufficiency of God to meet man's need. I need to obey God because of what He says, but more importantly I need to obey Him for who He is.

Chapter 5, on the different levels in our attitude toward sin, really shocked me in a way. First of all, I didn't know that there were four levels of attitudes toward sin. "Level one . . . The person who does not sin because the consequences are too great. There is no hatred of evil and, therefore, no fear of the Lord. Level two . . . The person who lives by the Golden Rule. Level three . . . The sincere Christian who earnestly desires to please the Lord Jesus Christ. He is deeply concerned and longs for freedom. Level four . . . The person who has the fear of God upon Him." When reading this I realized I am sometimes on the first level, second level, or third level, but rarely on the fourth level. Like Joy says, "we have sinned because we have chosen to sin, because we love sin." That is so true, especially in my life. James 1:14-15 shows the truth about sin: "But each person in tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it is full grown brings forth death." I agree with Joy when she says that "sin not only hinders our closeness to God, but it is also destructive. Therefore, we do ourselves the greatest favor by avoiding it or getting rid of it."

One big problem that I struggle with is my thought life. So when Joy talks about our thought lives in Chapter 7, I read it closely. "All sin starts in the mind, therefore, we are only as holy as our thought lives are holy". Just as Proverbs 23:7 says, "for as he thinketh in his heart so is he. . . " I need to not only repent and ask forvieness for my words and actions, but also for my thoughts. I knew I had to do that, but I didn't think my thoughts were that bad if I didn't carry them out. How wrong I was! I really struggle with my thought life, but I will find that there is no attraction to a certain temptation to the degree I ask for the fear of God and receive it by faith. I should also try to replace evil thoughts with good ones. Like Philippians 4:8 says, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." So my greatest need is for the fear of God to be upon my thought life where all sin starts.

Relationships are very timportant to me, and a lot of time I struggle with some of them in different ways. Chapter 8 - Relationships: Holy or Unholy - really spoke to me. It gave me courage and hope to know that I can have a pure and holy relationship with someone - that it is actually possilbe. Joy says, "The fear of the Lord is the answer to all problems connected with relationships - whether with the opposite sex or with the same sex." God can totally fulfill any human being, but no human being will ever totally fulfill me. Joy also talks about love and holiness being linked together throughout the Bible. "Holiness in thought, word, and deed releases us to be loving and tender in our relationships without a particle of lust." That is so encouraging to me. It means that I don't have to be afriad if I love someone deeply, as long as the relationship can stand "the test of the bright, white light of the Holy Spirit's standard of purity in thought, word and deed". As Joy says, "The devil has convinced millions of people [including me] of the lie that a little or a lot of sin makes any relationship more exciting." I have fallen into that trap and lie so many times. Praise God though, because the Lord's been very merciful. However, Nubers 32:23 says, "Be sure your sin will find you out." "Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hiden that will not be known, Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops." (Luke 12:2-3). I know my sins will be made known, as some already have been. But I've been forgiven, and the Lord is doing a wonderful job at repairing some relationships of mine.

The last chapter I will talk about is Chapter 13 - Idolatry and the Fear of the Lord. This chapter showed me that I have the fear of God upon me only in proportion to my freedom from idolatry. "An idol is something or someone that takes a priority place in our lives over the Lord Jesus Christ in our thinking, in our time, in our affection, in our loyalty, and in our obedience." I didn't really realize that I did have some idols in my life and that I was breaking the first commandment by putting these "gods" before Christ. "God is concerned about the heart being distant, cold, and estranged toward Him because other things had taken His place". As Joy says, "I dolatry is a symptom of 'heart trouble'." I found I need to clean out my heart from the idols I have so I can follow Matthew 22:37 which states, "You shall love the Lord your God wil all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." God created us for friendship with Himself, but because of idolatry and other things, we give Him relatively little time for intimacy. If we decide to put God first above everything else and spend time with Him, He will reward us and do things for us. Plus, it's always in a way that is far beyond anything we could plan. So, if I name my idols before God and repent of them by a change of mind, heart, and life, God does His part to deliver me and set me free! Praise the Lord!

There were so many things in this book that spoke to me and that I could realte to. It's an excellent book and I wish I had read it sooner. I realize now that I need to clean up some things in my life and I really want and need the fear of the Lord in my life!

Examples of Application
I'm sure that there are many examples of how I could apply this material to my life. However, I will spare you many hours of monotonous reading by limiting my examples to two. :)

When Joy talked about the different attitudes toward sin, I realized that my attitude isn't where it should be. I'm usually on level three, but I need to be on level four. I need to have the fear of the Lord in me. This means I need to hate sin the way God deoes. I also need to respect and honor God because of who He is. He created everything around us, including us, and He died for us. The least we can do is to obey Him, not because of what He says, but because of who He is! I'm going to try and be obedient to Him, to view sin like He does, and to praise and honor Him above everything. I want Him to give me His attitude toward sin and I want to grow closer to Him.

In accordance with having the fear of the Lord and being obedient to Him, I want to get rid of the idols in my life and I want to love God more than anything on this earth. I realize now how many idols or "gods" I have put before my Lord Jesus Christ. I don't want to do that any more. I want to spend time with the Lord, get to know Him, become very intimate with Him, and just have the best relationship I've ever had! God is the only thing I really need in my life, and until I'm staisfied with that, nothing else will totally satisfy me. No one on this earth or anything can fulfill me, but my God in heaven can!
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