Watching for Parables

Life flies by so fast!

My earliest memory is lying on a blanket outside as a baby, in the front yard of our house in Whitefish, Montana. We were just 2 blocks from the railroad, where my dad worked. It was a very nice day. The most vivid point of that memory is our family dog licking my face, and I felt so loved. I don’t have a lot of memories from that time of my life; but isn’t it interesting that I could draw conclusions from what was happening to me even while being so young!

Life, I think, is full of parables, if we can slow down long enough to see what’s going on. What expression just sparked through a loved ones’ countenance? Why? Our child just said what? The garden yielded what? My thought life just pondered what? That pot of soup to a sick friend. The joke. The ambulance ride. The hike. The sunset.

Sometimes I think God was “jumping and yelling” and I didn’t tune in enough to see the jewels placed right at my feet. Other times, I just ignored them. After all, if I chose to stop and “see” what God was showing me; I’d have to do something with it. Sometimes I get lazy, or just plain don’t want to change, or act. You?

Jesus spoke often in parables, and did so quite purposely. We hear Jesus Christ say in several places “He who has ears, let him hear…”

The parable is a way to speak to people about God or the “things of God” like righteousness, truth, peace, etc., without using the Name of God or quoting scripture directly. It uses things or situations the receiver easily understands to point to God (His Person, character, or other attributes) but doesn’t directly introduce God into the story. Often they use stand-ins for God, like the woman sweeping her whole house looking for one lost coin.

Lk 15:8-10 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’  Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” NKJV

Or, like the book of Esther. God’s Name is not once mentioned, but we understand much about God through the words and deeds of both Esther and Mordecai, as well as the king. We see God as an ardent proponent of His People. A provider, a defender, a long and short-term planner, and a friend and mentor to the faithful. We also see God giving choices, and pausing before His next move – to allow us to choose to follow; to sway us, rather than force us.

Est 4:13-17 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him.  NKJV

So, then, the hearer of a parable, once the story is finished, chooses to respond – to engage, or not, but the “teller” has done their job. Jesus spoke in parables to those not in his inner circle all the time. They had permission to follow Him into the Kingdom of Heaven, or to walk away.

Mt 13:34-35 All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

“I will open My mouth in parables; 

I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.” NKJV

But there’s more…of course there’s more! There is the moment of bliss when you, having chosen to engage with Holy Spirit, have your mind opened to new things. That deeply personal bonding; being drawn closer to each other because God reached out to you in a moment of time, or words from a friend. Maybe it’s a place of renewal as you see something new in a verse you’ve read many times.

Pr 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. NKJV

The parable is a whisper, not a shout, or a direct “hit.” The epiphany that follows can certainly shake you, though!

1 Ki 19:11-13 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” NKJV

A parable is a gilded box full of wondrous gifts. You just need the desire, and the drive to open it. To watch, listen, be engaged with what is happening around you.

God is speaking – showing you things every day. Be sure to stay tuned in, watching for His parables.

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
September 4, 2021

Re-renewing Our Minds – Fact Checking Tradition vs. Truth

Do we question enough? Do we seek to replace old information – or traditions, with better understandings? Are we re-teachable? Do we re-renew our minds, or stand on old information because searching is work?

There’s an old game with a great lesson – several people line up side by side, then the 1st person whispers a short story to the 2nd person in line. The 2nd person repeats it to the 3rd, and so on, until the last individual tells the group what they heard. The outcome is usually quite amusing, and the longer the line, the more the story changes. Sometimes it is quite unrecognizable from the very 1st whisper given.

Certainly, not all traditions are lies. They can be comforting; meant to be a place of truth or commonality that everyone can share – like Pumpkin Pie at Thanksgiving, at least at my house. Tradition, however, should be qualified by scripture. The death of a longstanding lie, or tradition, occurs when people realize they have listened and believed without fact checking – without putting the verse in context, so they know that its meaning is the same as when it was originally spoken. That’s one reason God urged early New Testament (NT) followers to write things down. A lot of arrogant, or misinformed people were leading new believers astray, like the Jewish converts that demanded circumcision as an “entrance fee” to the new faith. Paul spoke against this practice as the numbers of non-Jewish people entering the faith was growing rapidly.

Gal 6:15-16 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. NKJV

The civilization of that era was based in many oral traditions, and many stories were recited thousands of times to crowds of people and children, so they learned the lesson by heart, and without variance. They weren’t whispered into a single ear – they were “shouted” to many, and the many repeated back as one, over and over again. That is how their faith remained pure. A single person whispering lies would hit an insurmountable wall of people who knew the truth, and there the lie would fall to its death.

As the world grew and people of faith either went out into it, or resided in that world without a lot of support, and needing a foundation to share by, letters were written to help them understand, remember (Phil 3:1), and share their faith effectively. These “books” (the NT) became the wall that lies would hit, and die.

Even children are called to embrace their faith with personal zeal rather than just walking contentedly in their parents’ shadow, without fact checking. If we only walk in the shade of others, we’ll fall when we have to walk on our own. The “bright lights” of opposing viewpoints never openly dealt with can blind us to truth when we have not embraced it for ourselves. John (the Baptist), and Jesus Christ are examples of children who pursued their personal relationship with God, and were mighty ministers because of it. (Of course, their families, leaders, and synagogues encouraged and participated in their growth.)

Lk 1:80 So the child (John) grew and became strong in spirit… NKJV

Lk 2:40 …the Child (Jesus) grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. NKJV

Young people are also called to reason with people of faith, to learn, and to share their understanding and respectful zeal.

Lk 2:41-47 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast…Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. NKJV (Special note – I am NOT advocating that you ditch your parents in a crowd! 😊)

At what point do we have the skill to teach? That is up to our own efforts, our elders, and God, who is patient with us. In the NT we see people enter discipleship to teach as late teens (like Timothy in Acts) or much later in life, like Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), depending on when they heard God’s Truth, and pursued it.

For devout Jews, like Paul, who was an expert in OT knowledge, it meant going back and re-evaluating, praying through what he had been taught against the truth of Christ now lain before him.

Ac 9:11-19 So the Lord said to him (Ananias), “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.  And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” …So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. NKJV

The truth had to hit Paul (then called Saul) so hard to wake him from his zeal for tradition that Paul was left stunned deep within his soul, “blinded by the light,” fasting and praying, and needing a more mature believer to come to him, to pray with him, so he could heal. God sent Ananias, and Paul became an apostle, a writer of many NT epistles, planted numerous churches, raised up many leaders, and eventually gave his life to this cause.

All from re-renewing. From searching out truth, rather than just accepting the practices and ideas of others. The Bereans are complimented for fact checking Paul’s teachings against scripture after listening to him speak! (Acts 17:11) They “raised the wall” of truth in front of him, and his words proved accurate.

Look – no longstanding, Holy Spirit-filled preacher or teacher of God’s Word won’t occasionally say something like “I used to teach this, but I have studied more, listened to experts, and changed the way I think, act, and teach because of it.”  Our own dear pastor regularly challenges us to challenge her. Who does that? People who are more worried about Holy Spirit being grieved (Eph 4:20-32), than about how they might look in the moment. People who are purposely re-renewing their mind…like Apollos in the book of Acts.

Ac 18:24-28 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.  And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ. NKJV

Apollos was doing a good job to begin with, but, because he was still teachable, even though he was already “eloquent and mighty in the scriptures” he was able to go even further and change the lives of even more people in Jesus’ Name.

The active faith in our souls is crying out to God for “more” all the time. God answers. In the bible are many discoveries waiting to enhance your relationship with God. Reading to understand; to be corrected, to discover new truths (Prov 25:2) – it’s a bit like the “date night” a married couple wisely maintains in order to grow together, rather than become stagnant – lost in repetitions (traditions) of their everyday lives.

Let’s question even more – are our local or national traditions Godly? What about traditions or practices in our own homes and schools? Those verses we heard spoken of, but never looked up for ourselves, never pondered – was that teaching complete and in context? How do we know?

Are we allowing ourselves to be led toward Christ, or just led???

Col 2:4-10 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. NKJV

Jesus Christ Himself warned against traditions of men being allowed to override God’s Purposes and commandments.

Matt 15:3-9 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?  For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’  But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God” – then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.  Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

“These people draw near to Me with their mouth,

And honor Me with their lips,

But their heart is far from Me.  (heart – kardia #2588, the mind, intellect, thoughts)

And in vain they worship Me,

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” NKJV

Mk 7:13b …And many such things you do.” NKJV

Let’s practice our faith carefully, having good reasons for our actions and beliefs, so the next worldly principal that comes by doesn’t mess with us. Let’s enjoy saying to each other “Where does it say that?” Then, let’s set off together on a mini adventure of discovery in God’s Word!

There is an expanded study on this subject in “Digging Deeper”, for those who want to start asking questions right away!

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
September 4, 2021

Just Say It Already

You have to give credit to Ananias. Really – would you have gone and prayed for Hitler?? At the point that God told Ananias to go to Saul, soon to be known in Christendom as Paul, Saul was well known for being the one person that fought against the new “Jesus” sect most efficiently, and most zealously.

His victims were too many to count, and he didn’t care who they were. Zeal was a constant lifestyle for this up-and-coming young Jew, always had been – always would be. Yes, he was a student of Gamaliel, who taught in the school of Hillel in Jerusalem. To Gamaliel, the call was prayerful peace and standing aside for God to do His Work…waiting on The Lord (Acts 5:33-42). But Saul’s actions more suited the other school of thought in Jerusalem, the school of Shammai, who saw action, including war, as the tool to lead Israel to victory over its oppressors (See N.T. Wright’s “Paul” pg 36). Being from Tarsus originally, Paul had seen closely how Romans behaved, and it reviled him. He chose the path of zeal, like Phinehas (Num 25:6-12) and many others before him, convinced deeply that this was the way to drown this man Jesus out of traditional Judaism in the midst of Israel. To him, these new followers of “The Way” were a pox on their faith.

That is who God told Ananias of Damascus to go visit; who he was to touch and pray for – the oppressor of Jesus’ people.

Ananias did not just say “As you wish” and skip out the door. He was genuinely frightened. He hesitated. And THEN, he questioned. He questioned God Almighty! Even as I write this, I know I have done the same. And yet, I, and Ananias, live! What boundless love our Savior has for us! Worship God, my friends!

Ac 9:10-17 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.”  And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”

So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.  And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

And Ananias went his way and entered the house… NKJV

Basically, God told Ananias “I know who he is. Your job is to pray for him, MY Job is to change him.” Our problems, once stated out loud, become God’s problems. We no longer deal with them alone, nor of our own understanding. God loves it when we hand them over, even in the form of a question. God always has solutions, and He wants to bring you in, and make you a part of them; by your choice – the choice He gave us when He created us. Whether short, or long-term solutions, we get to be a cog in the wheel, instead of being ground into the dirt underneath it.

That begins with us telling God what we are really thinking…openly and honestly. Even when we disagree. Even when we are afraid, reluctant, or confused – find one bible hero who did not go through that – none were worthy on their own. God’s move within them made them capable; Jesus’ sacrifice made them worthy. What we do see is people in the bible having their panic attacks, deep doubts, intense questions, and fears “out loud”, in front of God. They don’t try to hide it, but are open about their doubts and weaknesses. This is a perfect opportunity for God to show Himself Strong – it’s what Holy Spirit is watching for. Humility, with an open ear, and a willing heart.

Jdg 6:12-27 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man…” Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the Lord. So Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.” Then the Lord said to him, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it The-Lord-Is-Peace.

So Gideon took ten men from among his servants and did as the Lord had said to him. NKJV

Lk 1:30-38 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” NKJV

These few examples can be seen playing out over and over again in scripture, and, if we look carefully, in our own walks of faith. Yes, we have questions, problems, and doubts. God has resolutions, relationship, and strength to give us.

Remember, God knows what you’re thinking (Luke 11:17, among many), so not saying it only withholds resolution, and a closer walk with Jesus. God is near, and waiting.  Just say it, already!

Blessings!
Leaona Huston
August 31, 2021

Having Seconds

I often say that anger is a secondary emotion. We experience anger because we experience some other emotion first, whether good or bad, correct or incorrect. Likewise, actions are based on decisions we have made – the result of our thought processes – again – correct or incorrect. It isn’t always wrong, in other words, to be angry. One can think of many things that make us angry, and rightly so, like someone lying under oath in court. There are also times when anger is wrong, and we can probably think of more examples here. Like someone telling the truth in court…about us.

So, let’s think about the root of some of our behaviors and thought processes, so we can put a nail in them when wrong, and pursue them if correct.

Since we have been talking about anger, let’s start there. If anger is “having seconds”, that means something else comes first. Jesus experienced this:

Mk 3:3-6 And He (Jesus) said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.”  Then He said to them (Pharisees, and others who were watching), “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. NKJV

Some people around Jesus would have held Him to a law they interpreted as meaning that no exertion of one’s self could occur on the Sabbath. Jesus knew God would never wait to heal someone based on the day of the week. It was hard heartedness for them to think so. He was angered by their disregard for this hurt soul, and because of the perverted way they chose to think about the situation, using it to try to hurt Him, while then leaving another in pain. So, Jesus’ first response was the wellbeing of another, and anger at those who put their own agendas before God’s agenda.

When we are set to respond in anger, we need to weigh our actions first. Is it appropriate to the problem, and based on God’s agenda, rather than our own, or someone else’s? If not, time to go to the bible and prayer matt, and find out how God wants us to handle things. That is not to say we leave things unresolved forever, but that we seek God’s Will for resolution, rather than exerting our own will outside of Holy Spirit’s guidance. I can tell you from personal failures, extended silence is not the answer. Neither, however, is immediate response when it takes on inappropriate expression.

What about rebellion? We see it mentioned in the bible all the time, as well as expressed in everyday life around us. We hear about it, and sometimes behave in that manner. But, rebellion is not a “first”. If you are participating in rebellion, you are “having seconds.” (As a review, the word often used for “heart” in the New Testament is “kardia”, which here (below) refers to the mind, understanding, or intelligence. In the Blue Letter Bible App on your phone, see word #G2588, or just tap on the verse, go to interlinear, and tap on the word you want to look up.)

Heb 3:7-14 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
In the day of trial in the wilderness,
Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me,
And saw My works forty years.
Therefore I was angry with that generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they have not known My ways.’
So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.'”

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end…NKJV

Rebellion is unbelief; a result of hardening ourselves by regularly participating in sin, rather than repenting of it (believing God), which is a test for all of us. Do we choose to walk God’s Way, or to walk regularly in sinfulness, which will darken our understanding and lead us to embrace rebellion; defending our own bad choices?

Obedience can be a tough “second”, but is a beautiful expression of love. Yes, obedience comes from real love. The kind of love that puts God first, then others. An unexpected side effect of obedience is understanding. Understanding who God is, and what God is up to…even why. Participating (obeying) in the work of Jesus Christ, teaches us His Purposes. We can’t see the finish line if we don’t enter the race. From participation comes wisdom, and friendship with God. Wow!

Jn 14:21 “The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”  MESSAGE

I wish I could tell you that I am at the point of sleeping through a storm while in the bough of a boat, but I am not. I can tell you I find wonderment in the storm, and am much better at holding God’s Hand while watching the storm unfold than I used to be. Over time, God’s Peace is a place I have learned to seek, and I really enjoy hanging out with God in tough times, reading His Word, and looking forward to God showing me what was going on in that storm. When I have peace, it is second to turning away from the world’s interpretation of trouble, and reaching out to Holy Spirit for guidance, and companionship.

Jn 14:25-28 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  NKJV

“Seconds” can be a good thing, or something to avoid – may God grant us wisdom to discern them, and courageous strength in our choices.

Blessings!

Leaona Huston

August 27, 2021

Personality Test

There are a ton of personality tests, and I have taken many. Some are strictly ridiculous in nature, but some can provide  some interesting windows into the workings of each of our particular natures. 

Many years ago now, the company I was working for was bought out, and there were changes on the horizon. I decided if  the possibility existed that my job might go away, I wanted any career change that I had to make perfect sense for me. I  didn’t want to just go out and grab a job, but wanted it to be something I could honestly “rest” in – something I enjoyed,  that used my particular skill set well, and something that “enjoyed me”. You know, a place where you feel like you are a  piece of the puzzle that was naturally cut for that hole, not one sawed up so it fit, so to speak. In the end, I kept my job,  but the test started me learning new things about myself, and personalities in general. 

I paid good money to take the advanced, full-featured Briggs Meyers test. I had taken a shorter version in college, and it  seemed scientific in nature, accurate, and challenging, rather than a “cutesy” sort of test like some I had taken. The results  showed me to be of the smallest percentage of personalities in the world, which answered one big question I had always  had. “Why don’t people ‘get’ me?” Reasonably, the smaller percentage personality type one expresses, the more  experience is required to really know that person. Since then, I have had a lot more grace for people thinking they know  what I am thinking or feeling. It used to just annoy me. I have also developed a great affinity for those who take the time  to get to know me, rather than assume, and I love them through mistakes, because I can see they are trying. I have a lot of  respect for someone who is really making an effort, even in failure. 

But, does having a rare personality type, or, indeed, one that is common, give someone a “pass” to behave in certain  ways? Do the 10 commandments in Exodus chapter 20, or the Law of Love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 become somehow  amended to allow for the subtleties of different personality types – their likes, dislikes, giftings, or callings? I have come  to believe the opposite. 

If I don’t allow someone time to get to know me, that is a lack of patience, which is unloving. If I am simply an impatient  person on a general basis, that is self-worship, which demotes our Lord, and makes me my own idol. That breaks the  commandment to have no other gods before Jehovah, in Exodus 20, verse three. It is possible to come up with a whole  book full of examples along these lines. 

In short, my personality is no excuse for my sins, bad habits, or shortcomings. But, and we don’t think of this as often as  we should, it is no validation of my achievements either. Whatever gifts I have were given, not taken; not “won”. It is a  responsibility, and privilege, to use them to glorify God, and any success I have there is a gift, in itself, from Holy Spirit;  like the breath of life. Our process, and, indeed, speed of growth as Christians reflects our willingness, or unwillingness,  to use the free will God gave us to cooperate with our Creator in His Plan to mold us further into His Image, all the way to  the day we pass fully into God’s Presence. We are never complete to the point we can just sit and revel in our own  successes. 

Still, those times when you really know that God just used your cooperation through Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s  Purposes are some of the most wonderful in our lives. The euphoria of the knowing makes you want to go out and do it  again, right away. Then, there is peace in knowing that we CAN cooperate with God, and that, whatever is happening  around us, God IS working in us, as well as through us, and the world will be changed by our little episodes of  cooperation to His Glory! 

Our personality type, though evident as we walk through life, cannot stop God’s Plan, but can be used to cooperate with  God’s plan by our own choice. Or, we can refuse, and God will use another, like Esther, to achieve the freedoms He has  for us all. 

In my heart, I want to be like Esther, who chose freeing her people over her own life. 

Est 4:13-16 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any  more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from  another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a  time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” NKJV 

Or like Paul, abandoning the life of a respected Pharisee for the achievement of God’s goals for His people, even at the  cost of looking like a fool to those who had seen Paul as having great (but lost) potential. Truly, they tried to kill him  because of it. 

Ac 9:24-30 But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples  took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket…And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and  disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out, they brought him down to  Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. NKJV 

Two very different personalities, different lives, at different times in history. Both fashioned by Christ, both used for His  Glory. Both expressed cooperation with God (even in the midst of fear of death) and were used by Holy Spirit in a manner  that expressed their personalities, but, to a much greater extent, expressed God’s personality to others. These expressions  of who they were, cooperating with who God IS, displayed the miraculous work Holy Spirit had done in their lives. 

That is our real personality test. Are we cooperating with God, using who we are, to be who Christ created us to be, rather  than just achieving personal goals based on our own likes and dislikes, and believing we should get the credit??? Are we  reaching toward the goal(s) Christ has set for us, stretching and being stretched, loving because we are loved? 

Php 3:12-14 I don’t mean to say that I (Paul) have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I  press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved  it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the  race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. NLT 

Blessings! 
Leaona Huston 
August 20, 2021

Catastrophe and Overcoming

I like to watch catastrophe movies. You know – earthquakes, tornados, sun explosions – movies where stuff blows up, but then people overcome. I watch a whole movie to see them standing together looking into the sunset knowing there is going to be another day, and they are together, and they have overcome.

What does it mean to overcome? Why is it so appealing to the human soul? Oxford Languages defines it as “succeeding in dealing with (a problem or difficulty). It’s different than succeeding in business, because there may be no other reward except knowing we have stood together, and the battle has been won. No money changes hands, but there is sweet relief.

Catastrophe comes in many different packages. Sometimes physical, sometimes political, sometimes emotional. We had a ripping storm here early this summer, and had what I believe to be a microburst on the property next to ours. We were on the back porch watching the amazing storm roll through when it hit. I have never seen so much debris thrown into the air at once. It came at us in a huge wave, mowing down foliage and small trees in seconds, and it took 2 days to clean up the mess. When I finished the yard work, I felt relieved, and things looked better than they had before the storm hit us. There wasn’t time to pray for deliverance, but overcoming the damage the storm caused left me feeling victorious…and tired.

Emotional catastrophes can take a lot longer to endure, and to overcome. In the middle, there is only faith. Sure, we know things just aren’t right. Sure we can complain (let’s be honest – we complain), seek counsel, shelter ourselves with friends and love, but it isn’t over until it’s over. Catastrophe somehow becomes a breathing organism with a cattle prod with our name on it. Faith gets us through with a sense of victory, rather than just exhaustion from the overcoming. For Christians, there is a sense of calm in the storm that does not deny the storm, but embraces a victory that has not yet arrived, and maybe cannot be seen. We can do that because we have seen God deliver us before, from the moment of our salvation. Our memories of God’s goodness sustain us as we wait for His Purposes to be fulfilled. And we know, because we know how the “story” ends, that God is going to kick evil’s butt. And we know that we get to see it happen, and maybe even participate – to roll up our sleeves and overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21) Many times those who don’t know Jesus see us as complacent, or weak, because they don’t know how faith sustains us, and are unfamiliar with waiting on an unseen purpose, or answer. Sometimes, we even have to remind one another, when the battle is raging. Waiting on God is part of overcoming, and deliverance.

Psalm 116: 1-14: I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary (naïve); when I was brought low, he saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”; in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.” What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.

As we wait, we must lovingly remind ourselves and each other that if God is an overcomer, then God’s people will also overcome. It might not look how we think it must be, but God will overcome. Instead of worrying about whether or not He will overcome, we should worry about whether we are helping or hindering God’s Plan. Our fate, after all, is to work together with God for His Purposes. In the meantime, storms will rage. But, we are not alone, or abandoned, EVER.

Romans 8:35-39: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long’ we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are m ore than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Stand with me, ye overcomers!
Blessings!
Leaona Huston
August 7, 2021