Monday, April 30, 2012

Cleaning Up The Messy Things


Dear Friends,

In Joshua Chapter 6, when Joshua and his armed men marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days and the walls fell, God told them that when they plundered the city not to take any of the “devoted things.”  The silver, gold, articles of bronze, and iron were to be kept for the Lord’s treasury.
But Achan stole some of the devoted things and buried them under his tent.  Not a smart move. This didn’t make God happy.

So, in the next scene, when a small group of Joshua’s men should have defeated an even smaller group of men in Ai, instead about 36 of them were chased out of the city gate at Ai and struck down on some nearby slopes.

When Joshua, defeated and discouraged, went to the Lord and asked Him what happened, the Lord told him that the Israelites had kept some of the devoted things—and that’s why they were defeated.  Then, He said something profound to His servant Joshua, “You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it” (meaning the devoted things).

My point is this: Sometimes the only way to move forward in success is to go back to a mess that was made and clean it up.  Sometimes, we try to keep pressing on because we think, “I don’t have the time; I don’t have the resources.  I can’t afford to spend six months or a year fixing that. I have to press on.”
If we do this God’s discipline may get our attention, like it did for Joshua and the Israelites.  His discipline may come in the form of failure, extreme discomfort, or that still, small admonishing voice of the Holy Spirit.

Discipline is sometimes God’s way of saying, “Stop!  You can’t keep pressing forward and think that you don’t have to deal with what happened back there.”

Sometimes the only way to move forward and go on in success is to go back and clean up the mess.
As a closing encouragement remember this: there are times after God’s discipline (that has come perhaps in the form of failure) that we want to give up.  But we have to remember that one failure (or two or three) doesn’t a life make.  If God is calling us to straighten out a mess, it doesn’t mean we’ll always live in defeat.

After Joshua and the Israelites straightened out the “I-have-stolen-devoted-things” problem, they finally went on to defeat their enemies in Ai.

Blessings,


Shana Schutte
Beyond Imagination
www.shanaschutte.com 




Monday, April 23, 2012

Stopping the Voice of Shame

Dear Friends, 

Every person on planet earth has felt shame.  The successful business owner.  The man with the boat, the woman who lives in the cardboard box.  The author.  The school teacher.  The preacher. Everyone has come face-to-face with shame.

Here’s why.

Revelation 12:10 says that Satan is the Accuser and that He accuses us before God day and night. Not only does he accuse us to God, telling him how horrible we are, but he accuses us to ourselves, telling us how horrible we are.

We have all struggled with shame because the voice of the accuser is the voice of shame. We have all heard it.

Here is what it sounds like:

You are ugly.
You can’t love.
You deserved it.
It’s your fault.
You are not enough.
No one will accept you.
You are worthless.
There is something wrong with you.
You’ll never fit in.
You’re inadequate.
You can’t.
You’ll never. . .
You’re a weirdo.

Satan is not a respecter of persons or gender.  Shame isn’t a woman problem more than it’s a man problem - it’s a human problem.  Ever since Adam and Eve hid in the garden and first covered themselves with leaves, shame has been a problem for the human race.  Because this is true, we need to learn how it comes to us, how the voice of shame speaks.

Of course the voice of shame is the voice of the enemy, but Satan can also use someone close to us or close to us in proximity to be his voice of shame.

Remember that in the book of Job that Satan’s goal was to get Job to curse God.  Then later, after tragedy upon tragedy had happened to job by Satan’s doing, Job’s wife said to Job, “Curse God and die!”
My point is this:  In the same way that the enemy could use Job’s wife to tempt him to curse God, he can also use those around us to shame us.

So, the next time someone shames you, ask yourself if it sounds just like the enemy.  Next, don’t receive the labels that are being hurled at you.  Don’t let them stick.  Instead accept God’s truth about who you are and remember that you are in a spiritual battle and that there is more going on than what eyes can see.  Finally, pray for the person who is shaming you and forgive them.  Let love be your spiritual weapon to destroy the devil’s deeds.

Blessings,

Shana Schutte
Beyond Imagination
www.shanaschutte.com 





Monday, April 16, 2012

Is It Okay to Make Plans for Your Dreams?

Dear Friends,

For the last couple of years I have been wondering, When a person has a purpose or something they want to accomplish, is it okay with God to make plans?
There are two familiar positions related to this question.
Some people say that it’s not okay to make plans for anything; that you should be like a leaf floating in the wind.  You let God take you wherever He wants to take you.  You don’t exert your will, or your desires.  You just are.
Others say that if anything good happens in life it’s because you make it happen.  After all, God isn’t going to show up on your doorstep and offer you a new job, a new relationship, or a new life.  He set the world into motion and then stepped back to watch it spin.  Everything else is up to you.
I found something interesting in Scripture I never noticed before that addresses both of these positions.
James 4:13 says, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while, and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’  As it is, you boast and brag.  All such boasting is evil.”
We can throw position #1 that you don’t make any plans at all, that you don’t exert your will, your desires, or hope into any situation out the window.  Some people might think that is what this passage is saying.
It’s not.
Notice it says, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will do this or that.’  God is saying, “It’s okay to have a ‘I’d like to do this or that’ in mind. It’s okay to verbalize it and make plans for it.  But, in all of your expectations, remain flexible and let Me have the final say.”

There is no person who will suffer the disappointment and despair that comes from dashed expectations if they live with a plan in one hand and surrender to God in the other.
Position #2, as I mentioned, says that you make things happen.  That it’s all up to you.  You are the maker of your own destiny—you are your own god. I have one word for that  baloney! It’s pretty clear that, according to James, you can make your plans, but God says yes or no.
The real truth is that control is an illusion.  No one really has any.  We don’t even control our own breath or how long we live.  People who assume they have control over their lives are, as the Scripture says, boasting—and boasting is evil.  It’s opposed to the idea of being God dependent. Only God has total control—and because He loves us, we can trust Him with that control.
So, in short, if you have a goal, a hope, or a dream, pray over it and if you feel that God is giving you the thumbs up and it’s not sinful, go for it! Make your plans. Dream your dreams. But always let God have the final word.

Blessings,

Shana Schutte
Beyond Imagination

Monday, April 9, 2012

Is This My Stuff?

Dear Friends,

I was at a retreat center and it was raining, as we say in the UK, ‘cats and dogs.’  The women, knowing my heritage, teased me.  “I expect you’re used to being wet!” said one.  “You’re British!”  Another added, “You must love it when it rains!”  I’m sort of used to being blamed for bringing the rain!  Actually I do love the rain.  I love the gentle dew that falls from heaven and the aftermath, as meadows misted with the breath of God lie refreshed in all their emerald splendor, clear shining after rain!  Yet experiencing the rain and being held responsible for it are two different things!  Learning I am not responsible for the rain has been a lifelong lesson.  I have seemed to take personal responsibility for the circumstances of life, the actions or non actions of other people, and trouble in the church, community, and the world!
I have found myself taking responsibility not only for the weather, but a teenager’s hostility – “It must have been the way I approached the delicate issue.”  Even the bad behavior of our Golden retriever!  “Well, we didn’t go to obedience school and teach him not to collect everyone’s doormats and bring them home!  It’s my fault,” I murmured, as I left the dog at home looking really depressed after a scolding, and tiptoed around the neighborhood at dark, trying to match the mats with the porches!
Now perhaps I could own a little responsibility for Prince, or for a botched try at communicating with an antsy teen, but I have constantly taken on responsibility for things that are clearly out of my control altogether.  Women’s relationships with each other in the women’s ministry in our church, for example.  Trouble between a husband or wife, or the breakdown of a marriage.  Things that are clearly ‘not my stuff’ are collected like Velcro as I roll along through dry days and wet days alike.
Reading again Judy’s and my book on the life of Hagar and Ishmael, Desert of Hardship, Water of Hope, I was reminded of little Ishmael in dire straights, lying panting in a hot desert where he and his Mother had fled.  He was dying of thirst.  Sarah had got Abraham to throw “That bond woman (Hagar) and her son (Ishmael)” out of the tent, and they had wandered in the wilderness till the water was spent in the bottle.  The boy I am sure was wondering, “Was it my fault?  After all, the reason I’m here was I was giving my small brother a hard time!  It seems such a big punishment for such a small thing.”  What kid of divorce today has not owned the parents stuff?  “I must be responsible,” they say to themselves.  “If I’d been a better big brother, or kept my room tidy, or got good grades…”   Hagar must have been thinking, “Is it my fault?  Why does Sarah hate us so much?”  But this whole situation wasn’t their stuff!  They were in their dire straights because of other peoples’ choices!
And maybe a lot of the pain you carry isn’t your stuff either.  You can’t make things ‘Hunky Dory’ as we say in the UK (you can tell I have been back to the homeland to polish up my English!) for everyone.  We must all own our own stuff most certainly, and confess our manifold transgressions on a daily basis, seeking to make amends where we can.  But that is enough for anyone to deal with without confessing everyone else’s sins!  Learn to go to God when trouble comes, and ask, “Is this my stuff?”  If it is, deal with it the best you can and move on.  If not, say really loudly, “This isn’t mine to own Lord.  If there’s anything I can do show me, but otherwise I commit it to you in prayer.  And I will move on.”  And then do it!

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

You are His “Poema”

Dear Friends,

Looking through my old diaries, I found something I wrote shortly after coming to Christ.  It was about my experience in high school and my first year at college.  I was often left out of sports teams and the choir and was never asked to represent the school.  Other girls always seemed to be chosen first.  If no one in my world considered me worth choosing for anything, then I reckoned I mustn’t be worth anything much.
What would it be like to be chosen, singled out, and trusted with something special, I wondered?  When I was in the upper 6th, I hoped I would be chosen as a prefect.  I was in the running, but another girl won the privilege.  She was picked first.  What must it be like to be picked first, I wondered?  I fell in love regularly with different boys and when the time came for the dances at school, I did get asked, but never by the boys that I liked… and they didn’t choose me for me, but because my Dad was well off or they wanted to get to know my sister!  What would it be like to be chosen, set apart for a responsibility or special task?  What would it be like to be loved?
Then one day the living Lord Jesus came to me and forgave my sin.  He became my Savior.  He told me I was worth dying for!  Can you imagine?  He gave me His book to read.  Oh, the joy that was mine to read His Word and discover His grace and love.  It said in His Book that He had work for me to do.  He had chosen me before the world began to do this particular work and no one else would do.  Just me!  This was far better than being chosen to be a prefect for my elite school!  It was shortly after this I began to keep a diary of my conversations with Him.  The following is one of them.  I called it: CONSIDER YOURSELF.
Grace filled His horn with oil and came looking for me.  He found me at Cambridge University.  I was in the hospital, busy being sick.
“You are the one,” He said.  “Consider yourself chosen.”
He poured the consecrating oil of the Holy Spirit into my life.  (Consecrating means setting apart for a special job.)
“But, I’m only a first-year student teacher,” I muttered.
“I know.”
“I don’t even get A’s – and not always B’s,” I said honestly.  “I wasn’t chosen for the tennis team this term.”
“I know.”
“And Lord, I’m the youngest in my family.  Lord, have you noticed that my sister is much prettier than me?”
“I know.  I made her!”
“Well, nobody of any importance has ever singled me out before,” I explained.  “So it’s sort of hard to believe
“I’m Someone important, don’t you think?”  He replied.  Then, “Consider yourself anointed!”
“But anointing sounds so grand – isn’t it for missionaries, nuns, or kings and queens?”
“Consider yourself royalty,” He said softly.
He put His hand under my chin and made me look up.  Then I saw He was smiling at me.
“Consider yourself loved,” He said ever so gently.
And so I did. And life began. Joy!
All these years later, I find myself meeting many people like me.  For all sorts of reasons we feel worthless, useless, hopeless, and helpless.  Maybe you were mishandled as a teenager or abused as a child.  It could be that you have been disappointed by life that isn’t fair.  Maybe your spouse left you.  It could be that you have lived in the shadow of a brilliant sibling or tried in vain to live up to the high expectations of a parent.
“What’s the purpose of trying to do anything significant?” you ask yourself.  “Who’d want me anyway?”
He wants you!  He loves you!  He has plans for you!
When I was in India among the Dalits who are the poorest of the poor and the lowest caste in a system that doesn’t always value women; it caused me to teach three things:
You are chosen.
You are loved.
You are anointed.
In places where women are devalued, this special teaching brought light, life, and liberty.
Do you consider yourself chosen, anointed, and loved?  Did you know He picked you?  You were first on His list for the work He had in mind.  He had a job just for you!  Yes, He does.  What’s more, He believes you can do it.
“For you are God’s workmanship (Poema means work of art), created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10).
What joy there was in meeting the devalued, the deceived, and the downtrodden there in India who were coming to Christ in great numbers.  What joy to show them right from the Scriptures that they are chosen, loved, and anointed for service to the the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  What joy then, to see these same people taking their lives and making them count for good and for God in difficult and often dangerous places.
Of course, you don’t need to be a Dalit or a woman in India to feel devalued and worthless.   You can feel like that in the good old USA, the UK, South Africa, the Middle East, or anywhere else in God’s green world!
But listen to me.  You were worth dying for, planning for, and equipping with precious spiritual abilities.  You are called to do a work that He wants only you to do.
Consider yourself “Poema.”  You are precious to Him!

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine