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Brace Yourself

As the Lord has been peeling off layer after layer of perfectionism and legalism and works righteousness, I have been totally blown away through study of how little the Pharisees actually knew or wanted to know about Jesus. So steeped in the comfortability of their religion and traditions, they had no faith or trust for anything different. Shocking revelations below:

Pharisees/Saducees were steeped in a spirit of RELIGION. Jesus lived and operated in a spirit of HOLINESS. There was a massive difference between the two. And, I believe that many in the Church struggle in this same area today.  Brace yourselves....

Spirit of RELIGION :

-Focuses on power of sin, not power of God.  (Romans 5.20)

-Takes pride in genealogy (fear of man), not spiritual inheritance. (Matthew 39)

-Separates from "bad people" (fear of defilement), staying close to "good people" and only within certain circles, not allowing the process of sanctification to leave us and use us in the world but not be of it. (Matthew 9.10-13)

-Believes that if any activity is different from past experiences it is demonic or not "of God", not realizing that God constantly acts/moves in NEW ways.  (Matthew 12.33-34)

-Gives the devil too much attention and God too little glory.

-Loves to accuse by quoting scripture but doesn't value the truth.  The Holy Spirit frees and convicts (no condemnation) through scripture.  Satan actually misquoted scripture several times in order to tempt or confuse or cause doubt.  He tempted Jesus in Matthew 4 by this same device.  Because Jesus knew the true word of God, He was able to fight.

-Requires man's "holy" traditions, not God's holiness.  (We must throw off any human tradition if it hinders deeper walk & love relationshp with Jesus!)

-Gives man authority, not God.  When their own authority is questioned, use confrontation/disdain as a wapon.  (The Holy Spirit will confirm God's delegated authority of a man as His vessel.) (Matthew 21.33-37)

-Appeals to ego through flattery, false admiration.  (Matthew 22.15-22)

-Appears deeply spiritual, but actually denies the supernatural power of God; trusts in man's strength or scoffs at supernatural altogether.  (Matthew 22.29)

-So convinced of its own 'rightness' that it is unteachable and therefore divisive. (Matthew 22.34)

-Causes men to walk in fear of punishment/disapproval of God, not the righteousness of Christ.  To APPEAR holy, rather than to BE holy. 

As the Holy Spirit reveals in me an increasing knowledge of God, His sovereignty, authority, mercy, love my heart will be transformed in such awe of Him and my need of a Savior.  So, sanctification progresses, pulling me closer and closer to God, more aware of my shortcomings and need for Him.  Healthy fear of the Lord is mine! 


Until recently I would grasp at God's love like a child chasing a firefly through an approaching evening sky.  Seeing the firefly flicker, mesmorized by its glow, I would run after, feverishly.  Jar in hand, ready to capture it and bring it home.  As a triumph.  Proof of my ability to capture the illusive. 
Chasing this airy creature always proved exhausting.  Frustrating.  Defeated, I would release the jar from my grip and lay down in the thick bed of clover. Warm tears stream from my eyes as I beg to catch a glimpse of your love.   
Stars are undressed above me.  Just as my eyes begin to take them in, one by one, I catch my breath -- I am surrounded by dozens of glowing fireflies!  Dancing all around me.  I giggle.  I weep.  I rejoice.  For your love is not a creature to be captured, but a beautiful reality to experience.  And, the moment I settle, simmer, stop -- you dance all around. 
Oh, that Your love has found me! Oh, that it is not from my committment to you, but Yours to me. Oh, what grace is given! What love is finally known!

Know this.....

"...and to KNOW this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."  (Ephesians 3.19, NIV)

To KNOW God's love. Wow. Hurts my head. Can't wrap my brain around it. Then, you add the word "knowledge" and it seems as if I am required to study & comprehend this love.  Which is where so many of us get stuck.  But, it's impossible. We can't understand it. It doesn't make sense that God would love us-- for we are ragamuffins.  Doesn't make sense that He would send His Son to pay the price for our frivolous & flippant choices.  Doesn't make sense that He would want to dwell with us, intimately.

But, the word KNOW here, translated in the Greek, means "to experience".  So, here goes:  "to EXPERIENCE this love that surpasses knowledge--"

Yes, I know the verses on God's love. Yes, I sing praise songs to Him about His love. But, until I actually EXPERIENCED HIS LOVE, my words were but a resounding gong.  A clanging cymbal.  I got it in my head (knowledge, as if from a book), but I didn't get it in my core being.  Now, realizing that His love never fails, that He is JEALOUS for me, that He is pursuing me constantly, that His love is inexplicable because He just IS love.....and living in this.....I KNOW this love that surpasses knowledge. 


Too much to take in....

I was saved when I was 8 years old.  Watching Oprah one summer afternoon at my Nana's house.  My mother & grandmother, rocking in wooden rockers in the den of that quaint farm house, me sprawled out on the hard floor. Entranced by Oprah. (Who isn't?  Even today?) But, even back in 1988, she obviously had "star power".  She was doing a show on "the end times". Heaven. Hell.  Jesus' return.  Judgment.  And, growing up my small town's Baptist Church, this whole "fire & brimstone" thing wasn't news to me.  Fear pierced me.  Afraid of dying in some apocolypto/frightening flash (according to Oprah's panel), I immediately summoned my mother to the front porch...

"I wanna get baptized, mom."  I whispered.  Fighting off tears, trying to be a big guhl.  Petrified.  Seized by thoughts of being in hell for eternity.   
"Why?" my mom questioned.
"Because I know the difference between right & wrong. And, if Jesus were to come back today, I would go to hell." I squirmed.
"We'll talk to Brother Larry (our pastor) on Sunday. You can walk the aisle then." she said with a smile.
Deathly afraid that Jesus would return before Sunday, I nodded in agreement.

Little did I know that was just the beginning.  Fear. What a thief! From such an early age I can remember it -- and it has traced its menacing finger throughout my life.  Fear of the Lord. Fear of Failure. Fear of Man. Fear of Rejection.  More importantly, it has prevented LOVE from awakening.

Most people come to know the Lord & His saving grace by experiencing and wanting more of His love. I, on the other hand, knew only of this JUDGE, enthroned in heaven, casting out sinners left & right because they could not measure up to His standard.  Some people have earthly fathers who shower them with unconditional love and affection and affirmation. I, on the other hand, knew only of love based on condition, performance, and deed. 

What a breaking this has been.  What a constant, never-ending breaking this has been.  God has refused to leave me behind. Like a fellow soldier trapped in enemy fire, I have been caught in fear's ugly snare.  But, being the magnificent redeemer and rescuer -- He has refused to leave me behind.  And now, I bask in the overpowering truth of 1 John 4.18, "THERE IS NO FEAR IN LOVE.  BUT PERFECT LOVE DRIVES OUT FEAR, BECAUSE FEAR HS TO DO WITH PUNISHMENT.  THE ONE WHO FEARS IS NOT MADE PERFECT IN LOVE."

Fear and Love are actually complete opposites.  They can not co-exist.  Oh, the rejoicing in heaven as I finally grasp this -- and breathe it in.  How the enemy has tried to blind my eyes to His love. His protection. His care. His affection.  But, no longer!  My God knows how to be gracious to me, how to supply my every need, how to love me, how to teach me, how to refine me.  My primary identity is to love and to be loved.  Period.

Oh, Lord, that I would LET YOU love me. That I would LET YOU take care of me. That I would LET YOU shelter me.  That I would LET YOU fight for me.  Sit, Amy Leigh, at my feet. Watch my love surround you. Watch my protection envelop you.  Watch my plans unfold in miraculous symphony.

"One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard:  that you, O God, are STRONG, and that you, O Lord, are LOVING."  (Psalm 62.11-12)

State Typing Champ

That's right.  1996 Alabama AISA State Typing Champion - Electric. And, to this day, proud of it! I just found the old trophy when I was at home recently. HI-LARIOUS! Made me think....how often my self-confidence is gained through achievements or recognition or "atta girls".  I've lived my entire life waiting on these affirmations before I felt truly self-confident.

Shazam.  I'm so over the whole self-confident thing. I don't want to be confident in myself or my abilities. But confident in Christ. And Christ in me.  It's been really difficult for me over the past 6 months as the Lord is just pulling this out of me.  Mostly due to the pride that had built itself up in me -- and the judgmental attitude from the pride -- all tracing back to a self-confidence in my natural abilities and gifts. WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?  God has just been teaching me, as He taught Paul, that I should "never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6.14, NIV)

So, as I've gotten older I've realized they don't give trophies such as "MOST LIKELY TO NOT CUSS SOMEONE OUT AT THE GROCERY STORE" or "MVP OF CHURCH CHOIR" or "BEST MODESTLY DRESSED".  My confidence is in Christ. Period. 

How God Accomplishes His Work (4 of 4)

God Sees Every Ministry As Important.

The part we each play is parallel to the interdependent workings of all the parts of the body.  We are each needed;  the eyes, the ears, the hands, the feet. We are each being prepared, as the Bride of Christ, to build the Kingdom and to be brought from "glory to glory".  It's a process, yes, but a necessary one that is filled with immense growth and joy!

Let us not discount any gift, any ministry, any opportunity. For God uses every single opportunity to shape us into the Bride He longs for.

*How are you actively showing appreciation for how people serve? How do you show appreciation for the using of their time and talents?

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body....in fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be....
You are the body of Christ, and each one of you has a part of it."
~1 Corinthians 12.12-27

How God Accomplishes His Work (3 of 4)



Oh, no. He actively recruits!  H-E-L-L-O -- can we say BURNING BUSH (Moses)?  BIG FISH (Jonah)?  BRIGHT LIGHT (Saul)?  God always actively recruits. 
Jesus always meets people where they are -- Peter & Andrew were casting a net.  (Matthew .18-19)  James & John were in a boat with their father when Jesus met them.  (Matthew 4.21)

I love that God sees someone who has the potential to actively advance His Kingdom ... and then He goes and GETS THEM!  In the Church, we should be the same way.  We should recognize the potential in others -- their gifts, their abilities, their passions, their faithfulness -- and GET THEM ON OUR TEAMS!

*Why do we wait on Pastor Chris to make an announcement from the stage?  Why do we expect a response from the Worship Guide or the Growth Track?
*We should be wiling to go the extra mile in our recruiting efforts.  Jesus does.  (Remember: Jesus, the "Master Recruiter", had people reject Him, antagonize Him, shoot Him down.  But it never stopped Him from communicating, from trying to reach people.  So, if we approach someone and they are rude/snappy-do-little, don't take it personally!)


"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field." 
~Matthew 9.35-38

How God Accomplishes His Work (2 of 4)


Through the Holy Spirit.  By giving us spiritual gifts that enable us to carry on the work.

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him e the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."  (1 Peter 4.10-11)

God is so intentional with His distribution of gifts.  And He most certainly did not make a mistake in creating us and assigning gifts to us.  His entire purpose is to equip us, as a body, so that we all fit together in perfect  unity.  Preparing and becoming (simultaneously) the Bride of Christ.  How beautiful!

Be assured of this -- we will each be asked to answer one day for what we have done with the gifts given to us, for how we steward our one and only life.  We must not think we "get off easy".  For we are gifted to lead.  As leaders, and yes, you are one, we will be held accountable for those we lead -- our families, our Dream Team teams, our friends.

*  Why do we believe that just anybody will do for certain areas of ministry?  why do we not seek to fit specific gifts with specific outlets?
* Why do we overwork the faithful few, expecting them to do it all?  Let us seek out others who are gifted, passionate, and faithful.

How God Accomplishes His Work (1 of 4)


Truly, God could just SPEAK and make anything happen.  After all, that is how He formed the oceans, the mountains, everything!  Genesis 1 is filled with the words "And then God said", "And God said", and the like. 

But, instead, God chooses to use humanity to carry out His work.  Isn't that just crazy/ridiculous cool?

-God used Adam to do His work:  name all of the animals in the garden, all living creatures.  (See Gensis 2)
-God used Moses to do His work:  to lead His people from captivity. (See Exodus 3)
-God used Esther to do His work:  to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people.  (See Esther)
-God uses YOU to do His work:  to raise an army of believers, to be in community, to be a light in a dark world, to bring His truth into every corner of the earth.

Over and over again throughout Scripture we see it.  God using humanity to accomplish all that He desires.  That is His intention and we must get on board with it.  We will be used by God. 

*Why do we make excuses and fail to hold ourselves & others accountable to this?
*We are chosen BY GOD for His acts of service.  This is why we are called. Why do we act as if serving is optional?

"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."
~Ephesians 2.10

Boo Radley

OK, so a couple of nights ago Twila & I watched "To Kill a Mockingbird". The classic starring Gregory Peck, Sydne Potier, and a very young Robert Duvall.  Outta control I tell ya! I mean, this is SO the way I grew up.  (Except for the fact that Jem & Scout lived "in town" and I lived 5 miles from any near civilization!)  It really rocked my world.  Made me miss home.  Made me long for wide open spaces.  For our farm.  To be able to run, roll, cartwheel through acre after acre of alfalfa.  To walk bare-footed for miles along our dirt road.  To pick blackberries along our cedar fence all the way to our mailbox at the "county road".  Things were so much simpler then.  Your only concern was not stepping on a big ole thistle in the pasture or missing the fried okra at supper time. 

There is this suspenseful scene in the movie when Jem, Scout, & Dill are sneaking up to Boo Radley's house. (Remember how frightful this house is? I mean, seriously! There were NO landscape designers in Macon County then!)   They have to climb through Boo's collard patch to get to his house & this patch is surrounded by a fence.  The fence has a squeaky gate that can't be opened without severe squeaking - - alerting Boo to the children's scheme.  So, the all-knowing Jem asks for Dill & Scout to "spit on it" to make it quit squeaking.  Twila & I were in hysterics.  Seriously? That's the smartest thing I've ever heard! Spit on it!!

This morning, Twila opened the refrigerator to get some milk.  Our refrigerator, nearing its end, has a severely squeaky door that annoys the fire outta me.  As Twila opened the door & the squeak burst forth, I heard a giggle.  I replied..........."Spit on it"................