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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

As parents we have responsibility to love, nurture, provide, teach and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, creative, authentic adults and contributors to society. Most of us try to do something like that, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God seems to have an equally important role for our children in our lives. I will try to share a few of the things my kids have taught me. This lesson comes from my #3 child, Joshua

My grandchildren—and their parents before them—always love a carousel.  It’s fun—for them and for me to see their joy—but it just keeps going around, again and again.

I’ve always been a slow learner—in lessons that matter.  I think it has to do with my stubbornness, my lifelong journey toward surrendering my way and choosing God’s way.  So I seem to spend a lot of time on the carousel—learning the same things again and again.

Our son, Joshua, now 30, was God’s sharp instrument to teach me some invaluable truths in the years of his teenage (and longer) wilderness:

God never gives up on me.

So often I was ready to give up—because of many choices he made.  This became clearest to me through homeschooling, which we were doing in hopes that he might actually graduate.  But he really wasn’t interested.

I would give him his assignments, listen to his arguments, and walk out of his room almost every day saying the same thing:  “I give up.  He doesn’t care—why should I?”  And every day God responded with the same words:  “Have I ever given up on you, Judy?” “Never, Lord.” “And I need you to not give up on Josh.”

So I kept going, and he graduated from high school with a B average.  For which he is grateful.

I am weak and prayer is my strength.

Those were hard years, filled with lots of tears and fears.  Nothing we tried seemed to help Josh make better choices for his life.  We were desperate.

So we did what most people do when they are desperate.  We prayed.  I’m sure our prayers had significant impact on Josh—God was very creative.  But I’m also sure that our prayers had even more significant impact on our lives—especially mine.

Prayer became not just frequent conversations with God, telling Him how I was doing and what I needed.  Prayer became my life breath.  It became a constant communion with God, pouring out my heart, listening to what He was saying, surrendering my requests/demands to His will.  Prayer became my response to His invitation, my resting in His welcoming arms.

I am so grateful.

Unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.

One of the joys of parenting young children is all the hugs, kisses and love they usually give.  By the time they are teenagers we can’t always count on that, and we miss it.  Josh, though, had a prior allegiance to the birth mother he spent his first eight years with.  He couldn’t betray her by loving me

I understood that.  I was patient.  My love for this boy God had entrusted to us grew and expanded.  And eventually I yearned to hear him say, “I love you.”  I begged God to open his mouth to say those words.

So clearly, though, God said, “Judy, by definition unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.  If he never says ‘I love you’ to you, I am calling you and enabling you to keep on loving.”  So I kept loving, not perfectly of course, but perseveringly.

It took 13 years before he could say those words.  I am so grateful I waited.

These lessons have been so real to me—over time and with people and in trials. They speak to core issues of my trust in God. Mostly I have remembered them and recognized the truths as still true—and reckoned them as reality—by the power of the Spirit—in my life.

But the past six months have felt like we have gone back 10 years, like I have forgotten those lessons, like I am starting over.  We have gone through some hard things, and some of my same old responses have surfaced.

I have felt like giving up.  And God has said, “I still haven’t given up on you.  Keep believing.”

I have felt my weakness, and once again prayer has been a source of strength.

My loving and giving have felt unappreciated, and Jesus said He understands.

Yes, as parents we teach our children so much.  But I think God uses them to teach us even more.  And if I seem to have gone from Lesson 101 in some areas to 201 and 801…it should be not surprise me that some of the same challenges with our children come around again.

I’m ready to get off the carousel.  Probably the roller coaster is next.

What about you?  What lessons are you still learning?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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God scatters blessings to his people throughout Scripture and throughout our lives.  And He gives us the command and the privilege to bless others.  I love to write blessings for people.  So here is my blessing for you, my readers.

May you rise when you fall and come out of the darkness into God’s light.  (Micah 7:8,9)

May you be built up, not torn down; planted, not uprooted.  May you turn to God with all your heart. (Jeremiah 24:6,7)

May you hope in the future of God’s good plans for you. (Jeremiah 29:11)

May you comprehend that it gives God joy to always do good to you. (Jeremiah 32:40)

May you receive the new heart and new spirit God is giving you.  (Ezekiel 36:26,27)

May nothing of the world, the flesh or the devil satisfy you, but only God. (Psalm 90:14)

May all the days and years of your life stolen by the evil one be restored. (Joel 2:25)

May the comfort, peace and healing of God bring praise to your lips. (Isaiah 57:18,19)

May you feel cords of lovingkindness as the Father bends down to feed you. (Hosea 11:4)

May God pour out His Holy Spirit on you. (Joel 2:28)

May you know that in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation. (Romans 8:1)

May you be convinced that nothing can separate you from the love of God. (Romans :38,39)

May the eyes of your heart be enlightened that you might know Him. (Ephesians 1:18)

May God surprise you with blessings beyond what you can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

What about you?  How has God blessed you?

c2012 Judy Douglass

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From time to time I get asked to talk about some of what I have learned in years of ministry leadership.  What are some essentials for being a person who can lead spiritually?

First of all, I know I am inadequate and unworthy for such a calling.  As I have thought about it, it seems that spiritual leadership has a lot to do with whom and what you know.  These ideas, though surely not exhaustive, will help explain what I mean:

Know God

I mean really know Him.  One of the most helpful activities for me has been to study the names of God. It certainly has not been an academic exercise—God reveals what He is like through every name He calls Himself.

As I discover that He is El Elyon the most high God, and He is Abba, my daddy, that He both sees and hears everything about my life—and so much more—I find myself on my face before Him, worshiping Him, talking to Him, listening to Him, thanking Him.

I can know the God who made me!!

Know Yourself

A significant paradox of Christian faith is that you and I are nothing and everything.  Scripture tells us we are nothing—we are made from dust and return to dust, we are like grass, even our substance is just a vapor.  At the same time we are of unimaginable value—made in the image of God, treasured by Him, bought with the price of Jesus’ blood, a partner in the Kingdom-building team!  Both of these truths should remind us of who we are.

Another amazing reality: God was there forming us inside our mothers, and when we were born He declared each a work of art, a masterpiece.  He made us who we are because He loves us and because He designed us just right for the “good works He has prepared for us to walk in.”

Understanding our gifts, our like and dislikes, our strengths and weaknesses will  help us to make wise choices as we consider what opportunities we pursue.

Know Your Culture

Leading spiritually requires understanding of the times in which you live.  A few consistent activities will equip you to engage—and lead—across cultures and generations:

Read—Reading is still essential.  In a visual world, fewer people read.  But we need to know history as well as today’s news and events.   The past always interacts with the present as we move toward the future.  I read blogs, magazines, occasional newspapers—and books.  Reading expands and enriches our thinking.

Listen—Oh how we need to learn to listen!  What are people saying?  What are their concerns, hopes, dreams, fears, struggles…? To touch their lives, we need to know the ways into their lives.

Observe—Go through life with your eyes open, not shut.  Pay attention.  The same truths you learn by listening you will also grasp as you observe the people you interact with, watch online, in movies, on TV.  Ask questions. Make connections.

Technology—In our world, we must engage through technology to some degree at least.  I am so not technological—I have no idea how it works.  And yet it has given me access to people around the world—people I can love and encourage to believe God for the more He wants to do in and through their lives.

Know How To:

Take wise risks—Assess realities, don’t be foolish, but step out into the unknown, the uncertain, the scary with courage and confidence.

Learn from your mistakes—We probably grow more when we fail than when we succeed, if we take time to discern what happened and why.

Value relationships—Life is about people.  Leading is about people.  Meaning comes through relationships.  Give priority to the people in your life.

Grow in the difficult times—I’ve found that God is more committed to my character than to my comfort.  But I’m grateful that He comforts me while He works on my character.

Walk in the Spirit—This is the key, the bottom line.  Scripture reminds us that in ourselves we can do nothing.  But with Him, nothing is impossible.  Jesus sent His Spirit to comfort, to encourage, to teach, to remind, to convict, to change us, to equip, to empower.  Walking consistently in the power of the Spirit is the means to true spiritual leadership.

What about you?  What have you found helps you to grow as a spiritual leader?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Judy Downs

I was pretty sure I was something special.

I was the only writer/editor at Arrowhead Springs.  I was the associate editor of Collegiate Challenge Magazine.  My boss was Bill Bright.  My first year on Campus Crusade staff included trips to Seattle, Berkeley, UCLA, Balboa Beach, Palm Springs—all to write up activities of CCC among college students.  Pretty heady stuff for a just-graduated, new-on-the-job young woman.

I loved my job!  And, deep inside, I thought the ministry got a good deal when I said “yes” to God’s call.

However, apparently my arrogance was not buried so deeply inside me.  Others could see my self-important attitude.  And they were offended by it.

At the end of my first year on staff, Dr. Bright invited me into his office.  We talked about the magazine, articles he and I were writing, the effectiveness of this tool on campus.  Then he asked a penetrating question:

“Judy, are you walking in the Spirit?”

Pause.

“I think so,” I stammered.

He responded, “Others are not so sure of that.”  He elaborated on the pride that was evident to others working beside me.

Bill Bright

Then he asked, “Are you sure you are called to be on Campus Crusade staff?”

That was easy for me to answer:  “I am sure that God called me to this ministry.”

His next words reminded me of Jesus with the woman caught in adultery:  “Then neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  Dr Bright said kindly, “Then go and walk in the Spirit.”

A sobering conversation, for sure.  But transformational for me.  No, I haven’t always walked in the Spirit since then.  But I am consistently conscious of the incredible grace God has extended to allow me to serve Him in ways I have.   I know that I am unworthy and inadequate.  Yet, as I live by His Spirit, He continues to give mercy and strength and wisdom and ideas—and even fruitfulness.

I am grateful Bill Bright did not shrink back from the hard question, but I am so glad he also offered mercy and grace at the same time.

What about you?  Has someone asked you a hard question?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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I love to read the stories of the people God has used powerfully throughout history.  And I especially get challenged when I see women of God who surrendered all to Him.    Their words are kindling to my spirit, starting fires in my heart and mind.  Here are five of my favorites.

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc, mystic visionary, military leader, martyr, heroine of France:

“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying. “

“In God’s name! Let us go on bravely!”

 

Catherine Booth

Catherine Booth, co-founder of The Salvation Army:

“If we are to better the future we must disturb the present.”

“Here is the reason why we have such a host of stillborn, sinewless, ricketty, powerless spiritual children. They are born of half-dead parents, a sort of sentimental religion which does not take hold of the soul, which has no depth of earth, no grasp, no power in it, and the result is a sickly crop of sentimental converts. Oh! the Lord give us a real, robust, living, hardy, Christianity, full of zeal and faith, which shall bring into the kingdom of God lively, well-developed children, full of life and energy, instead of these poor sentimental ghosts that are hopping around us.”

Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, rescuer of children, founder of Dohnavur Fellowship:

“But God is the God of the waves and the billows, and they are still His when they come over us; and again and again we have proved that the overwhelming thing does not overwhelm. Once more by His interposition deliverance came. We were cast down, but not destroyed.”

“Missionary life is simply a chance to die.”

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom, survivor of Nazi concentration camp, author of The Hiding Place:

“Hold everything in your hands lightly; otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”

“Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”

Isobel Kuhn

Isobel Kuhn, missionary to China and Thailand:

“I believe that in each generation God has called enough men and women to evangelize all the yet unreached tribes of the earth. It is not God who does not call. It is man who will not respond!”

“The difficult lessons of 1942 taught me to fear leaning heavily on human props. I had surrendered husband, child, friends, all I possessed, long ago. But this was something deeper. This was relinquishing my rights to them. This was holding them, but on the open palm of my hand…. Affection, especially with intense natures… runs to excess if given free rein. Uncrucified love runs to inordinate affection and selfish possessiveness which blights rather than blesses.  When we allow the Lord to nail our affections to the cross (to use the scriptural metaphor), we do not cease to love. We love even more widely, but it is a love stripped of corrupting influences. Love is not killed – only the seed of corruption in natural affection is killed.”

What about you?  Who has started fires in your heart and mind?

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This is the sixth in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on GRACE, which is the theme of the 2012 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is a powerful story of forgiveness and redemption.   When Jean Valjean is released from a 19-year prison sentence for stealing bread, he is a hardened man.  Looking for a place to sleep, he is invited in by a kind bishop.  In the night, though, Valjean stole silver from the bishop and sneaked away.

In the morning the police brought him to the bishop, silver in hand.  The bishop’s response:  “So there you are.  I’m delighted to see you.  Had you forgotten that I gave you the candlesticks as well?  Did you forget to take them?” And to the police:  “This gentleman was no thief.  This silver was my gift to him.”

That was the beginning of Valjean’s transformation.

Err on the side of grace

That story had a powerful impact on my response to our prodigal.  It coincided, in the darkest days of our journey with our son, with a strong word from God:  When you make mistakes with this boy—and I made many—err on the side of grace.

What?  What about consequences?  Of course there were consequences.  What about enabling?  No, we didn’t want to enable.  It takes supernatural wisdom to blend these things.

But God was clear:  Forgive.  Extend grace.  Seek reconciliation. Pursue conversation, not conflict.  Keep your doors—and arms—open.  It’s not a balancing of truth and grace—it’s a blending of 100% truth and 100% grace.

God is our model here.  When I want to make sure my prodigal experiences what he deserves, I think of how God has responded to my many bad choices:  Mercy.  Forgiveness.  Grace.

Keep on forgiving

His Word is equally powerful:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)

“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:4)

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”  (Luke 23:34)

Philip Yancy, in What’s So Amazing About Grace,” writes: “Like grace, forgiveness has about it the maddening quality of being undeserved, unmerited, unfair….The gospel of grace begins and ends with forgiveness…grace is the only force in the universe powerful enough to break the chains that enslave generations.  Grace alone melts ungrace.”

Henri Nouwen defines forgiveness as “love practiced among people who love poorly”  He goes on:   “…even as I have said [I forgive you]…I still wanted to hear the story that tells me I was right…I still wanted the satisfaction of receiving praise in return…for being so forgiving

“But God’s forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that does not demand anything for itself….It is this divine forgiveness that I have to practice in my daily life….it demands that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged, and that wants to stay in control and put a few conditions between me and one whom I am asked to forgive.”

And again from Philip Yancey:  “…forgiveness is an act of faith.  By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am…I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy…Though wrong does not disappear when I forgive, it loses its grip on me and is taken over by God, who knows what to do.”

Finally, a word from Lewis Smedes:  “The first and only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgivenss….When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us.”

A Prayer of Forgiveness

Following is a brief prayer that you might want to pray, expressing your choice to forgive your loved prodigal.  You may have to pray it many times.

Father, thank You for Your mercy and grace toward me, and for forgiving my sins through Your death on the cross.  Thank You that You forgive me over and over, for repeated sins and for new sins, big or small.  I am so grateful for your grace.

Lord, I need to forgive ___________, my loved one who has wronged me, hurt me, betrayed me, offended me, sinned against me.  It is hard for me to do this—I am still hurt, angry, confused.  So I come asking You for the power to forgive ____________.  Fill me with Your Spirit and remind me of Your love and mercy to me—and to _______________.

By Your Spirit, I choose to forgive ________________.  I choose to extend grace and mercy to him/her, even as You have done for me.  I choose, as You enable me, to live at peace with this person I love.  I ask that You bless ____________ in Your love.  Please may we be reconciled and our relationship healed.  And if that does not happen, may I continue to love and forgive.

Thank You that this is possible in the power of Your Spirit.  In Jesus’ name.

 What about you?  Is there someone you need to forgive?

c2012 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation.

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I’m in a very wonderful but busy season of travel and speaking.  Rather than just post fewer articles here on Kindling, I have chosen to introduce you to some of my Redbud Writers Guild friends.  I think you will love meeting them, reading their very good writing and experiencing new connections with our Savior.   This post is by Ilona Hadinger.

Recently, the ink ran out of my fountain pen as I was writing. “No! Not now!” I chided.  A stream of good thoughts and reflections had to be written lest I forget them. (Being over forty, forgetting comes much easier to me now.)

The ink, however, continued it’s sporadic offering until I found myself scratching the paper instead of writing on it. The ink supply had been exhausted. No matter how I shook it, I was working with empty.

I stopped what I was doing. The source of the flow had to be renewed. It didn’t matter how important or urgent my notes were, when the ink ran out I was forced to take a break. I had to get up and go to the place where the extra cartridges are kept. I opened the drawer and took out a new ink cartridge. I unscrewed the pen, took out the empty cartridge and replaced it with a full one.

Then I waited. It takes time for the ink to flow through the feed, the intricate collector and into the nib. Finally, with the supply refreshed, the pen was again useful and I was able to continue what I had been doing.

The analogy didn’t take long to hit me: how often do I work on empty? When I do, do I realize I’m only scratching and not really making a mark?

God’s spirit feeding mine is the source of my strength. When I neglect my time with Him—often because I’m doing much for others in His name—the source runs dry.

God gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak…those who wait on the Lord will gain new strength. (Isaiah 40:31)
You who seek God, let your heart revive. (Psalm 68:32)

Before I end up working on empty, I need to stop what I’m doing, go to the place where I keep my Bible, open it, and meditate on it’s laws and precepts. Then as I wait on the Lord in prayer, His spirit begins to flow in and through my heart, mind, and soul. With my supply refreshed, I become useful again.

What about you?  Are you living on empty?

Ilona describes herself:  I’m an American born with Hungarian blood living in a Zapotec Village in Mexico. I speak three languages (English, Hungarian and Spanish).  I have four kids, one husband, a lot of interests and a few gray hairs.  I’ve been a pastors wife since I walked down the aisle and said “I do” and a missionary since I said “Huh? You really mean us, God?”.   You can read more from Ilona at http://inkyspot.wordpress.com/

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