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Quiet Waters

The beautiful thing about hiding God’s word in your heart and mind is that it seeps into the little mundane moments of a day and transforms it. Here’s a scripture you probably already know:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.  Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23, a Psalm of David.

I’ve been praying this psalm, whispering it actually, all week as I prayed for people trapped in the conflict in Afghanistan. I’ve prayed it for the families of the 13 U.S. service members killed in the Kabul attack—25, 23, 22’s, and five twenty-year old killed evacuating civilians because our government left all our military gear and withdrew troops before civilians. God help them, guide them, comfort them as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It is such a tender psalm, especially knowing that David, the author, had seen so much trouble and heartache in his life.

I was hiking this week with my dog, Sophie. We went up to Pioneer Cabin outside of Ketchum, Idaho. What a beautiful climb through the trees and wildflowers, up 3000 ft vertical over a seven-mile hike.  Several times we crossed over or next to streams and each time I stopped so Sophie could drink. But it’s funny with a little dog, you have to choose a bend in the stream where the water is not rushing rapidly. If the water is too fast, she’s afraid and won’t drink, even though she is thirsty. While I was carefully bringing her to the right sections of water, God’s word came bubbling up in my mind: He leads me beside quiet waters.  Turns out that sheep are similar with little dogs in that they need still water to drink. And maybe people need a safe and quiet place to be refreshed as well. That’s why the Lord is our shepherd. He carefully and tenderly leads us to rest and replenishment. When we are exhausted by a wicked and unjust world, God thoughtfully leads us into a place of peace. When life is wearing us down we can remember that He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.

How has God brought you to quiet waters recently? Starting the day praying Psalm 23 out loud can be our choice to center our lives peacefully in His word. Blessings to you this week my friends. Be sure to sign up for my blog to hit your email rather than social media

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Reader’s Question: Law of Partnership

Just as the law of gravity orders our physical world, spiritual laws govern the spiritual realm. The law of partnership is one of those laws. In my Real Talk interview with Pastor Lily Olgiati I explained that in this law of partnership, God is a gentleman. Meaning that He waits for our engagement with Him, never intruding on space we have not offered. In contrast, the devil is terrifyingly intrusive, taking ground that was never intentionally offered.  Any experience with addiction, anger, or fear quickly verifies this. We may open the door to a temporary experience and find we have fallen down a slippery slope of painful behaviors. 

Throughout the Old Testament, we read statements like this: “If you would only obey Me, then…” (see Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 4,5,6, 1 Samuel 7) Is God on a big power trip about obedience? No, rather I believe He created this law of partnership, that He LONGS to bless us, pour good into our lives, IF we will only PARTNER with Him. God cannot force blessing upon us but eagerly waits for us to open the door to Him.  Similarly, if we partner with the enemy, we have empowered him (the devil and demonic spirits) whose goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. (Jn. 10:10) We see in scripture that when God’s people pray, fast, dedicate themselves, and obey, then peace follows. God delivers them from oppression of every kind and pours out blessing and rest. And when God’s people wander from Him and follow (partner with) other gods, the door to oppression, sickness, and lack opens.

How can we identify partnerships in our life? Think about the last experience you had that felt off, uncomfortable, or confusing. As you reflect, ask yourself- was I holding hands with fear? Anger? Rebellion? Or in this situation was I truly participating with faith, patience, obedience? We can partner (participate, hold hands) with the enemy in many subtle ways. Let’s take fear for example: maybe we come from a family who worries a lot. In every situation we have been trained to look at what could possibly go wrong and how we could be in danger. Even though we are Christ-followers, fears tumble out of us, keeping us awake at night as we fret over the health of our children, our finances, careers, politics, and so on. We partner with fear by obsessively controlling our relationships, health, and environment, constantly scrolling, posting and speaking our fear multiple times a day.

I was at a women’s group once where I heard a woman say to four different people that she had gotten a mammogram that day because her mother had breast cancer as did her grandmother also. All day and throughout her life she rehearsed this fear and spoke it to anyone who would listen: my grandmother and mother had cancer and I fear that I will as well. What would partnering with faith look like in this situation rather than holding hands with fear and foreboding? She could acknowledge her fear to God and hand it to Him to carry. She could then speak life over herself saying something like I am a blood-bought daughter of Christ the King! He says I am beloved and blessed. I am so sorry for my grandmother and mother’s experience but that is not my inheritance! I believe that God’s goodness will follow me all the days of my life because His plans for me are not for calamity but for good. (See Jeremiah 29:11) Throughout her life she then partners with God’s design for health in her eating, drinking, relaxing, and speaking. 

Have we opened doors to the enemy by partnering with rebellion rather than obedience? (I share my story of this in my Real Talk interview with Pastor Lily- watch it here: https://youtu.be/KZhNtOhpEwA ) Have we spoken fear over our life and now feel almost bullied by dread and foreboding? Have we held hands with a political spirit so much that we have alienated friends and family? 

When we discover how we’ve partnered with the enemy, we need simply to break that alliance. I’ve woken up some days in a pissy mood and then declared out loud I will not partner with this spirit! This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! And the power and love in God’s Name comes to me. Whatever your situation, say to the Lord I am holding hands with You today. I will not hold hands or partner with_____. I renounce it and break all ties with it. I command that spirit to leave in Jesus’ Name. I ask You Jesus to fill in all that space with Your peace and love. Amen

A friend asked how I developed this understanding of partnerships and laughing, I said, “I’m not that smart- I’m just a good reader!” My professor from Fuller Seminary, Dr. Charles H. Kraft brought this law to light. I highly recommend his books, I Give You Authority and Deep Wounds, Deep Healing.

An easy way to partner with God is to daily open the door to spirit-filled information and dialogue. You can get fresh input into your spiritual life by checking out my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion. You can find it on my website (along with this blog) www.MargaretAllen.org or anywhere books are sold. Next week we will explore powerful ways to partner with God to open doors of His blessing and protection.

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Need a Break? Pt. 2

Is the Sabbath relevant to Christians today? We ask the question like it is some bitter pill we must swallow, while the world outside is literally tripping over itself to market concepts of rest, self-care, mindfulness, gratitude, laughter therapy and other such shadows.

Christians, come on—let’s enjoy our beautiful heritage! From the very creation of the earth God modeled a Sabbath rest. Jesus said the Sabbath was made FOR us. (Mark 2:27) This gift of rest includes two facets: to stop working and to draw near in relationship to God. One day a week stop working! This requires faith though. How will we stay competitive if we take a day off? Our fear about performance roots into our identity whether a farmer, a Silicon Valley techie, or a minister. Few Christian businesses take this bold approach to obedience. Few individuals enjoy a truly restful, spiritual respite in their week.

My friend Shinae and her husband were compelled to build the rhythm of a weekly Sabbath into their young family after hearing a message on creating margin. She shared, “The Holy Spirit deeply touched our hearts about taking a full day off and relaxing spiritually, mentally, and physically on the Sabbath. Rather than doing our work and schoolwork on Sundays we finish by Saturday night. On Sunday we go to church, spend family time together hiking and biking. We invite friends over, read, and so on.” She ended with this, “I truly believe that taking a full Sabbath makes our family’s life more abundant and enjoyable.” 

One day in seven we design to look like heaven. Go ahead, imagine heaven and make your Sabbath mirror it– joy, peacefulness, childlike hope, laughter and wonder in the glorious presence of Christ the King. The believer’s rest includes a rest from strivings, a rest from fear, rest from working out a righteousness of your own, a rest from sorrow. As we place a boundary around this focused time, ask: Is our heart softened to hear God’s voice?  Are we positioned to receive from God Almighty? Can we offer Him the praise and honor due His Name? We set a boundary around our Sabbath to think higher, dream bigger, love more deeply, and find our stride with God.

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night…” (Psalm 92, A song for the Sabbath day.)

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If you need resources on how to walk closely with God, check out my book Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion. It can be found anywhere books are sold, or at http://www.MargaretAllen.org.