Heaven Knows

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Mourning_WomanSeated_on_a_Basket_(F1060)

Vincent Van Gogh “Woman in Mourning Seated on a Basket”

Some years ago I was in mental and emotional anguish.  Someone I had loved and trusted, someone I had even gone out of my way repeatedly to bless and honor publicly — my own pastor —  betrayed me.  First he refused to meet with me when I sought his counsel.  Then he refused to return phone calls when my husband Steve reached out to him on our behalf, requesting a meeting.  Then when we finally left the church, he stalked us, chasing down our new pastor to turn him against us, asking:

“How well do you reaaally know these people?”

His diabolic scheme worked.

His audience of one — our new “shepherd” — listened to his maligning testimony, lapping up every word against my character without even attempting to seek other witnesses —  an action which stands in direct violation against the biblical mandate forbidding that any accusation leveled against another be accepted as fact without first hearing corroborating testimony from at least one or two additional witnesses.

“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.”  ~ Deuteronomy 19:15

No such witnesses were ever sought.

Instead, after calling me on the carpet, my new so-called “shepherd,” proceeded to tell me how wanting my character was.  Then my husband and I were told there was no place for us in the fellowship.  We could *attend* if we wanted.  But forget joining.  That was OUT.  Church membership was closed to us.  They didn’t want “my kind” there.

Needless to say, I was devastated.  We had already invested nine months of our lives in this new church home, getting to know other members of the fold. In fact, Steve and I were already busy serving there.  And so happy to do so.

Now suddenly we were kicked out on the street — church homeless — based on the testimony of one man with an ax to grind.

The trauma this event brought about in my life is impossible to articulate.

How well I remember one morning trying to enter into praise and worship before the Lord, finally realizing I simply couldn’t.  I couldn’t.  My spirit was so crushed, I couldn’t even worship the Lord.  I finally broke down in tears.

“The spirit of a man can endure his sickness,
But a broken spirit who can bear?”

~ New American Standard 1977

This went on for weeks.

Then one night…oh bless God…

One night, as I slept, the Lord rescued me.  He sent me an angel!  I saw her…seated behind a veil.  A thin dark veil.  Like a curtain that hung between us.  There she was.  And I watched and I listened as she spoke these words to me:

Don’t worry.  WE know who you are….WE know…..DON’T WORRY.”

Heaven knew!  HEAVEN knew!  Hallelujah!  I wasn’t left without my own witnesses after all!  All the company of Heaven saw every single thing that had happened to me!  They knew me.  Knew my heart.  Knew the slander that had been perpetrated against me.

And now, just when I was inconsolable because my reputation had been destroyed by the accuser, the Lord sent help from heaven!  He sent His own angelic messenger to me to let me know with absolute assurance:

Though on earth men may smear me, though on earth I might be looked down upon as dirt beneath another’s feet, this one thing I could rely upon:

I had the affirmation of Heaven.

And that, friends, was the beginning of healing.  For what more could one hope for?  The Lord alone is the Final Judge in all controversy.  He has the last word.  There are no “hung juries” in heaven.   God not only knows the truth, He knows the precise condition of every man’s heart.  Thus He, and He alone, is able to judge righteously.

Whereby we are able to proclaim with joyful, healing confidence:

“If GOD be for us, who can be against us?”    ~Romans 8:31b

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God sent His word — and He healed me!  Then, and now.  Glory to His Name!

And so, beloved…I want to encourage you.

If you have never experienced anything like this, then bless God, you have been spared.

But if you have shared my experience…

If you have been falsely accused…if your reputation has been decimated by a false brother or sister or, as in my case, a false shepherd…if you have experienced anguish of soul and mental and emotional torment because of the lies of an enemy who was once your friend…

Know this:

You are not alone.  HEAVEN KNOWS.  And God will heal your broken heart…if you let Him.

Ours is simply to forgive from the heart, and let God do the rest.  Some say, no, we only have to forgive those who come to us asking for forgiveness.  But, oh my, I think that is a very slippery slope to walk on, and I would rather know that I am clean before God in my heart toward any or all who have sought my harm, than to hold a grudge or live in bitterness of soul separating me from my heavenly Father.

No, beloved, we must forgive, for as Jesus Himself said:

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 

~ Matthew 6:14-15

Sobering words, to be sure.

So let us forgive our enemies, dear one.  Every single one.  Let us forgive from the heart.

Then, having forgiven — let us rejoice!  REJOICE!  And hold firm within our hearts the sure knowledge that no matter what man may do to you, no matter what the world thinks of you, if you have the affirmation of heaven, nothing else matters.

Psalm 107:20“He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”   KJV

Romans 12:19 “Dearly beloved avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”   KJV

Romans 8:31b  “If God be for us, who can be against us?”   KJV

Matthew 5:11-12:  “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”   KJV

 

Awake, O Sleeper! Awake!

doomsday-clock-announcement-death-destruction-553614Recently my husband Steve and I were talking with a sleeper. Do you know what a sleeper is? A sleeper is someone who has pushed the snooze button so many times in life, they’ve lost touch with the world we live in. Of course when I say “the world we live in,” I mean the real world we live in…today. Which is no longer the world of 1950s America, but a different age altogether, as clearly evidenced by events continually unfolding before our eyes.

However, as Steve and I both quickly observed, the sleeper we spoke with didn’t want to acknowledge the realities of today.  Instead, the individual became visibly irritated and even hostile when their “sleep” was interrupted by our frank conversation.Hear-No-Evil-Speak-No-Evil-See-No-Evil-triptych-12x36-oc-2200_jpg (3)

I cringed — as I always do when I encounter a slumbering soul who refuses to wake up to the hour we live in, choosing instead to live in denial. I understand these are hard times. Even frightening at times. I get all of that.

But I still cringe in horror in the presence of denialists, as I can never escape the echo in my heart of one haunting scripture:

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”     Proverbs 27:12 New Living Translation

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God’s Word is clear.

Living willfully blind, clueless, and unprepared – aka living in denial — is a strategy for destruction. Indeed, to be blunt, God calls it the strategy of fools.

And I don’t want to be a fool. The cost is too great.

What is the cost exactly?

Just read The Parable of the 10 Virgins. Talk about spelling it out.

To my heart, no other parable Jesus taught speaks more powerfully — or more horrifically – as to the stark contrast in fates awaiting those who live ready vs. those who refuse to.

Consider this alarming warning from the Lord Himself:

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Matthew 25 Modern English Version

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be like ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were wise and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps, but took no oil with them. But the wise took jars of oil with their lamps. While the bridegroom delayed, they all rested and slept.

“But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!’virgins

“Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. But the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps have gone out.’

“The wise answered, ‘No, lest there not be enough for us and you. Go rather to those who sell it, and buy some for yourselves.’

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10 “But while they went to buy some, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. AND THE DOOR WAS SHUT.

11 “Afterward, the other [foolish] virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us.’

12 “But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’

Friends, this is the parable that shakes me to the core every time I read it. Though no one really wants to believe it, including myself, the words couldn’t be any more plain. Jesus warned us.

And Jesus doesn’t lie.

One day, just like the parable warns, there are those who fancy themselves the Bride of Christ who will instead be completely shocked when they are shut out of the very wedding feast in heaven they presumed to be part of.

And why will they be shut out?

Because they disqualified themselves from being Jesus’ Bride.

REPEAT: They disqualified themselves.

Now how exactly will that happen?

Let’s break it down:

Oil in the Bible represents the Holy Spirit.

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Thus, the picture of the wise ones being prepared by gathering extra oil would be a clear symbol for those who sincerely love Jesus with all their hearts, and stay filled with His Spirit by virtue of their ongoing, intimate love relationship with Him. Their lamps are always full of oil. And thus, even in the darkest hour of human history, just before Christ returns, the wise ones will shine brightly…because they are filled with the Light of the World Himself — Jesus. And that keeps their lamps burning.

Wise ones indeed…who live ready. So in love with the Bridegroom are they.

And then we have the fools.

Five fools who, when the hour comes for their Bridegroom’s return, will discover they have zero oil.  And zero light. In fact, their lamps will be completely out! For one simple reason:

Sheer lack of passion for God. Period.  Nothing else.

For clearly…so indifferent have they been toward their Bridegroom, that in the dark days leading up to their wedding day to King Jesus they don’t even bother to keep their lamps burning by spending time with Jesus, loving Jesus, seeking Jesus, delighting in His Presence, and thereby continually refilling themselves with the “oil” of His Presence in their hearts. Just couldn’t be bothered.

Now does that sound to you like someone in love?  No, I don’t think so.

And for their indifference, these foolish ones will one day pay dearly, as each and every last one of them will be denied entrance to the wedding banquet with King Jesus.

Imagine it:  Shut out by the Bridegroom Himself! 

And if you wonder who these tragic souls might be…these foolish ones…I submit, beloved, that the Lord has already identified them for us in His Word:

“Behold, the people praise me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Isaiah 29:13a

Now who does that sound like to you?

To me, it appears pretty obvious. I believe the scripture is pointing directly at that vast company of souls who, though week after week may be observed habitually attending some local church, in reality they are merely “playing church.” Nothing more.

Oh they know the Gospel, these “foolish” ones.  Sure do.  They know exactly Who Jesus is and what He did for them. They’ve heard the gospel many times, even from the time of  their youth many of them. That’s why they’re represented in the parable as part of the company of virgins waiting for the Bridegroom to return. Because they know the Truth of Jesus. And they even know He’s coming back.  No question.

But the difference is this:

In reality they are only what might be called “social” Christians. Because for all their outward, public display of allegiance to Jesus, in the private sanctuary of their hearts – which God alone sees and knows well – there is no real love for Jesus residing there at all.  None whatsoever.  Just an ingrained …passionlesshabit of worship.

“Behold, the people praise me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Isaiah 29:13ath

Too late one day, just as the parable warns, these foolish ones will surely discover – to their utter shock – that their own hearts have disqualified them from being Jesus’ True Bride.

For Jesus won’t have them!

And what sane person would ever marry someone whose heart toward them was blatantly indifferent…blatantly lukewarm?  I know I wouldn’t.

And Jesus surely won’t.

“I would that you were hot or cold,” Jesus said.

“But because you are neither hot nor cold, but LUKEWARM,

 I am about to vomit you out of My mouth!”

 Revelation 3:15b -16

Startling words of warning from the Bridegroom.  Yet know this:

Jesus only warns out of love. Pure love. Never ever out of cruelty. He is full of compassion and mercy, and doesn’t WANT to have to say to you or me:

“Truly I say to you, I do not know you.”

Beloved, it is time now for each of us to take stock, examine our hearts, and seek to discern the true temperature of our hearts toward our Bridegroom.

Am I hot? Cold? Or merely lukewarm toward Jesus, just going through the motions?

Can it be said of me:  “My lips praise Him but my heart is far from Him”?

Jesus knows the answer to all these questions. And He’ll show anyone who asks the true condition of his or her heart.

So let us ask. Each and every one of us. Ask today. And then join me, won’t you, in a heartfelt prayer:

O Father! Help me never, never, never to be lukewarm toward Jesus!  Help me to live ready, to be wise, and not a fool. Help me to wake up to the late hour we’re living in, and keep my lamp burning… watching for You continually, pressing in to You daily, my beloved Bridegroom…until that great and glorious Day when at last I see You face to face.  Amen!

God bless you saints. I love each and every one of you. Live ready! He’s coming!

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“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” 

Matthew 25:13  Modern English Version

 

“INVEST Your Time — DON’T *SPEND* It”

 

file3031348651890Years ago the Lord gave me a strong word.  He said, “Cinnie, I want you to begin thinking in terms of investing your time.  Never *spend* your time, but rather INVEST it. Time is the most precious commodity you have in life. It can never be regained once lost.

“Just as money spent is gone forever whereas money  invested well offers dividends — so it is with time.

“Time spent is lost. Time invested pays dividends. INVEST your time, Cinnie. Never, never spend it.”

This is a particularly strong word for me personally because I have had a terrible lifelong habit of being easily distracted, easily diverted, even with good things. Therefore, it becomes critical for me to be heightened in sensitivity to my days, my minutes, my seconds and to always confront myself with the question:  “Am I investing my time here — or spending it?

For God said to me:

“Cinnie…from this day forward you are going to give account for how you spend every single minute. Write down what you do with your time. Keep track. And invest your time wisely.”

Friend, perhaps this doesn’t apply to you. But if you are like me, you might appreciate a reminder that time, precious time, is the most valuable commodity we have in life. Will we invest the minutes, the hours given to us each day? Or will we spend them, throwing them away on worthless pursuits?

Now before I end here, I want to make it plain that by “worthless” pursuits I don’t think for a minute God frowns on recreation. Far from it. Recreation is necessary to be refreshed. So this isn’t about being legalistic. But what it is about is taking at least as much care to budget our valuable time as we would our finances — recognizing that in our daily “allowance” we are each given exactly 24 hours.

And how we use God’s gift of time matters.

Lord help me to submit to Your discipline, Your structure, Your order in my life so that my time, the gift of time You’ve given me is always invested, not spent, and in such a way that results in great dividends. Thank you Father.

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered–how fleeting my life is.”     
~ Psalm 39:4  [NLT] New Living Translation

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”    
~ Psalm 119:37  [ESV]

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”    
~ Psalm 90:12  [NIV]

“Make it PLAIN, Lord”

pillar of fire exodusThis morning I was reading about the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. What an amazing story. As I read, I purposely allowed myself not to rush through the reading, but to stop between the verses. Take it all in. IMAGINE the actual scene. Wow, what a picture it presented to my heart!

The Word says that while the Israelites made their exodus out of Egypt, the Lord led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. This got me thinking, “How plain can you get?  A pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night? Talk about skywriting. You couldn’t miss it.”

Meditating on this account in the Bible this morning has caused me to appreciate all over again the prayer my mentor taught me to pray so many decades ago. When seeking God’s wisdom and direction, she taught me to always add this to my prayers:

“Make it PLAIN, Lord. Make it PLAIN.”

I love that prayer. And it has stood me in good stead all these years. “Make it PLAIN, Lord.”

If God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and He was gracious enough to make it abundantly plain to the Israelites the precise direction they were to go in the wilderness – with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night – should we expect any less manifest wisdom from God when seeking His direction for our lives?  We don’t need a pillar of cloud or pillar of fire in the SKY to guide us – we have God’s Own Spirit living WITHIN us!  Wow!

So I needed wisdom today. And I prayed and asked the Lord to “Make it PLAIN.”  And guess what? Aww, you guessed it.  He DID!

Exodus 13:21-22 King James Version (KJV)

21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:  22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

James 1:5-8 New King James Version (NKJV)

 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 

Isaiah 30:21 

21 And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.

PEACE IS POSSIBLE

The Lord told me He wanted me to write this headline:  PEACE IS POSSIBLE

Sheep 1And then He said:

When wars and rumors of wars abound in the world, and even Christians panic and fear seizes their hearts, and they excuse themselves, thinking fear is “normal” considering the state of the world, I am here to report that PEACE IS STILL POSSIBLE.

It may not be world peace, but your “world” should be lived on the inside, where I reside.  Your world is NOT this external plain.  Your life is hid with God in Christ. It is hidden, your REAL life.

That is why I say PEACE IS POSSIBLE, children — because your life is hidAnd when you are hidden, you are SAFE.

Now STAY safe, don’t come out of hiding.  Stay hidden in the cleft of the rock. And there, where no evil can touch you – PEACE IS POSSIBLE.

Quit looking for your external world to straighten up before you experience peace. Peace is possible NOW.

Look inside. Look to Me, your Rock. And you will see, with delight, that in Me you are actually on very firm footing. Yes, even while the whole world – NOT built on the Rock — crumbles around you, you will find yourself unshakeable, immoveable, a bulwark of strength not just for your own good, but offering a show of strength that speaks volumes to onlookers in the world who haven’t yet discovered that true strength and true peace are found ONLY in Me.

Tell them. Tell all you see who are struggling, bound in fear, that PEACE IS POSSIBLE.  That peace is possible NOW.  No matter how unstable the world is, when you run to the cleft of the rock, and hide there, when you finally grasp that your real life is truly hidden – hidden in Me – you will rejoice to see that you are actually in a warm bunker, away from the winds of change and tumult. You will sit down with Me and sup. You will rejoice to be in My company, as I always rejoice to be in yours.

Come, children. Come inside, sit down and sup with Me and the Father. We await your company, and the table is set.

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Come feel the warm glow of hope, renewed vision, and restored strength for the storms ahead.

HERE…in the Hidden Place…in the Secret Place…

…Where I AM…
…………….. THERE IS PEACE. 

Enter in.

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He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

~ Psalm 91:1-2  NKJV

 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. 

~ John 14:27  NKJV

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

~ Colossians 3:1-4  New Living Translation

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God!

Walking with my husband and two little dogs daily as I do, these last few weeks I have been overcome with the spectacular beauty surrounding me.  I find I cannot walk more than 10 paces or so down the little country lane we live on before I’m stopping dead in my tracks again…looking up to heaven…and erupting into spontaneous heartfelt praise to God over His magnificent artistry. It simply takes my breath away.IMG_3497

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To me, fall is the crowning glory of all God has put His hand to in nature, where even the sun itself blazes in a hue quite unlike any other season, casting that heavenly golden glow upon everything in its path. Oh, Father, You are awesome! I glorify Your Name!

No surprise fall is my favorite season. I suppose that’s why it is in the fall particularly, when I survey God’s Art Gallery all about me, that I have to scratch my head, contending that one would have to work awfully hard NOT to believe in a Divine Creator.

For the very heavens declare the glory of God!

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Day after day, night after night, the heavens speak to us.  So says the Word of God.  And so it is.  God has never, no never at any time, left mankind without at least this one witness:  Creation itself.  The incontestable witness both to His very existence.  And to His great glory.

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And that being so…the TRUTH is…there is not one inch of soil on this earth upon which man has walked, where any will ever be able to claim the Creator has NOT clearly spoken, has NOT spectacularly, lovingly, revealed Himself…again and again…through the things He has made.

To God be the glory!

 

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“The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.”

~ Psalm 19:1-4 [ESV]

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” 

 ~ Romans 1:18-20 [ESV]

Sacred Silence

Heaven's HeadlinesI’m alone at home now.  Everyone is out.  And I’m totally “unplugged.”

No television. No radio. No phone.  Just me and the Lord…a warm swath of late afternoon sun shining on my bed…and this silence. This glorious, healing pool of silence I’m floating in.

This is heaven.

Heaven is sitting in the Presence of the Lord, in utter repose and silence before Him. It is food for the soul. And the only place of rapturous peace.

When all the noise of the world is suddenly shut off and I am alone with God like this, it is not unlike the boat that has been through a violent storm, tossed to and fro, but once the raging stops and the storm stills, the vessel calms itself once again on the glassy water.

I am that boat. And the boat has ceased rocking. The endless clamor and tumult of voices have been silenced. And only the silent sun, cheerfully pouring through my window now, speaks. Speaking to my heart of God’s comforting Spirit.

Here comes joy.  Here comes peace.

I had no idea how desperately I needed this silence. But clearly I did need it, because I am drinking it up now like some thirsty desert traveler who has just happened upon a lifesaving well of cold water.

In this place of silence I am aware that I am finally released to listen fully to God’s heart because my own heart’s attention is no longer fragmented. Instead, all my senses are open to His heartbeat, and it is pure heaven.

Thank you Lord for sacred silence.

“And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.’  For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.   And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves.” ~ Mark 6:31-32 [RSV]

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” ~ Matthew 11:28-29 [KJV]

“…the Lord is in his holy temple:  let all the earth keep silence before him.” ~ Habakkuk 2:20 [KJV]