Laurie Green Westlake's Blog

March 21, 2018

Lessons de Africa

Going back to work with an international Bible ministry, I’ve been reminded of the year and a half we lived in Equatorial Guinea working with a Bible translation project in process there.

My reflections ignited a myriad of emotions as I recalled our ten-year-old son surviving an acute asthma attack while staying in a village that had no medical resources. We could only pray. And pray we did, into the cloudless night, begging God to put breath in our child. God’s answer that night was “yes.”

Then a long-forgotten fear gripped my heart when I saw a vision of our eight-year-old daughter carried, like a rag doll, unconscious into a medical facility. Again, we prayed and again the Lord’s mercy fell upon us. She left the crude hospital three days later walking out on her own two feet.

Sometimes, the answers to our prayers were “no,” and other prayers went, we thought at the time, unanswered. But living outside our cultural norms where our daily work was to survive, we became dependent upon prayer in a way few living in the Land of Luxury (USA) will ever experience.

Alongside a developing prayer life, we also learned many new life lessons—some of a physical nature but most bore a spiritual complexion. We rose each morning with the neighbor’s crowing rooster to the relentless class of equatorial village survival.

The lessons were so many, I’m sure some have gone dormant—lulled to sleep by my dreamlike, western lifestyle.

But recently one of these lessons popped into my mind, like the first popcorn kernel bursting from the heat of a microwave. It happened when I heard a media evangelist talk about the poor and their need for a stronger faith. My blood boiled and then pop, a picture of my kitchen in Equatorial Guinea exploded across the screen in my mind.

In the kitchen, I remembered, I had a pantry. Well, sort of. Open shelving hung above the counter and those shelves were stocked with canned tuna, instant oats, flour, sugar, and imported oils (I never did figure out how to cook with the local palm oil).

Let me back up and explain why my kitchen pantry is what I thought of when the evangelist suggested that if one finds themselves poor, then one is not giving his or her faith muscles a proper training.

Early on in our tenure of third-world living I found myself amazed by the spiritual maturity of the Christian Africans working with my husband in translation work. These simple-living souls had little opportunity for “formal” education, much less advanced theological studies, yet carried a weighty faith. Their spiritual and proverbial responses to my cultural groanings would leave me in awe.

Or twist the knife of conviction deep into my heart.

They suffered under a tyrannical dictator and most had little in the way of material means.

And me, well, I had a pantry.

The faithful Guineans I knew didn’t have the luxury of shelves stocked with food. They began each day with an empty plate and they began each day expecting God to fill it. Give us this day our daily bread were not words prayed as a corporate, spiritual exercise in church, but words my new friends lived by.

I must be honest and tell you that I have never asked the Lord to feed me on a daily basis. I’ve viewed the Lord’s example of prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) as a bigger, general prayer that covers a host of life’s disruptions.

I have had the faith to pray for big bold healings, interventions, and personal dreams. I’ve prayed the Lord move across the world through His Word, and that He bring peace to Jerusalem. I’ve told demons to get lost. I’ve prayed without ceasing for my children. But I’ve never headed out to lunch without money or credit card and said, “Give me, Lord, the food I need to eat now.”

That prayer requires a kind of faith that is fashioned through knowing God as Provider, Master, Keeper. It’s not a side of the Creator that is called upon often enough by those of us living in the Land of Luxury.

Do you understand how the media pastor’s words were an electromagnetic wave blowing up my brain like a bag of corn kernels?

I’d seen the faith of the Christian poor. It was big.

It is big and here is what Jesus says about it:

Blessed are the poor in spirit (those who recognize their need for God’s Spirit, for their spirit is lacking the ability for eternal life), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn (who know the depravity of man and are troubled by it), for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek (those who need God, daily, to survive), for they shall inherit the earth,
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (that know what it is to live under the rule of the unrighteous), for they shall be satisfied.


There’s so much to learn from an empty plate.

There’s so much to miss with a full pantry.

May we make spiritual judgments from our need and not from our abundance.

And Lord, may I come to you for my daily bread.


Emptying your plate,

Laurie
www.LaurieGreenWestlake.com

PS There’s another lesson de Africa I remember but this one is from the muddy market streets teeming with entrepreneurs loaded with goods from the jungle and buyers quibbling over costs.

The best pineapples are covered in flies.

Go figure that one.
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Published on March 21, 2018 13:07 • 140 views • Tags: building-faith, faith, the-poor

February 26, 2018

Palm Beach and Prisons

When having tea with a new friend in Palm Beach, Florida, I was reminded of a certain verse of Scripture. I’ve meditated on James 1: 1-4 for three days now.

Let me start at the beginning. I work for an amazing ministry that sends me out to meet with the people who invest in our international work. I have the privilege of getting to know and working with some giants of faith, those who understand the urgency of the Great Commission. I consistently walk away from a donor brief with insight into what the Lord is doing in the world today. I’m telling you, I am blessed to do this work.

This meeting in Palm Beach was no different.
I’ll call my new friend Jessica. Sipping tea and looking beyond the sun-kissed tourists lounging around the pool and elaborately draped cabanas, Jessica’s gaze fell on the turquoise-blue waters of the Atlantic. “It is beautiful here,” she said.

Then she told me of some ugly places she’s seen.

Jessica explained that the Lord has allowed her, in small part, to see some of the hard-to-understand cruelties of life. Jessica is a lawyer who works pro bono for impoverished juveniles caught in the prison system. She’s wondered around the bowels of earth, the place where those who have been devoured by Satan now dwell. And she goes there without compensation.

I’m not kidding.

There we sat, at the Four Seasons Hotel, no less, and talked of boys who had little hope for a future. Boys caught in a vicious cycle of evil.

I shared one of my own stories. I’ve seen prison. I’ve had a child dwell there.

That’s when Jessica mentioned James 1: 1-4 to me. She reminisced that life is full of trials, and there’s no escaping this truth this side of eternity.

Powerful. Powerful reminder of God's work.

When I returned from my travels, I looked up notes I’d written years ago on these exact verses. There, I found that I’d mined four nuggets from the waters of truth flowing through the book of James. Here they are:

1. When I am in a trial, I am in by God’s design. (Acts 17:26)
2. When I am in a trial, I am under God’s keeping. (Psalm 121:3)
3. When I am in a trial, I am under His training. (Isaiah 64:8)
4. When I am in a trial, I am in God’s timing. (Acts 17:26, again)

When the Lord pulls me away from sunny shores and drops me into the ashes of this world, it is by design. And that, is beautiful.

Trials prove the Lord righteous and trials prove the Lord trustworthy.

How, you might ask, does all this talk of beautiful beaches and boys in prison come together in James 1:1-4? Here’s my answer: the world our Holy God created is a place of immense beauty and peace but has been marred by the work of an evil force. As children of God, we experience both extremes.

This is why the Great Commission is so very important. We must go into the bowels, along with Jessica, and share the beauty of the Gospel. Share our trials. Share our God.

Eternity is coming.

I pray you consider your trials as God’s design. And I pray you’ll not stop with your inward reflections, but outwardly share these truths with those who have not yet heard the lovely truth of God’s salvation.

Amen.

Laurie

Got a little something from my spiritual ramblings? Please like me on FB @LaurieGreenWestlake

www.lauriegreenwestlake.com
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Published on February 26, 2018 09:32 • 162 views • Tags: james-1, trials

December 20, 2017

Crushed Olives

I had the chance to sit on a patch ground on the Mount of Olives in a garden facing Jerusalem. The story of Gethsemane - Christ taking Peter, James, and John to pray the night before his mockery of a trial ensued - came to life in a tangible way.

I’m not sure that I sat in the exact spot where Jesus, three times, beseeched his closest disciples (human-flesh friends) to pray with him. But considering there are only so many positions you can take on the Mount of Olives to look down upon Jerusalem, I got the gist of the view and what happened that extraordinary, yet woeful night two-thousand years ago.

The experience chilled my heart. In a holy way.

A Messianic Jewish teacher recounted the story for me and the others gathered there. His breath quickened as he spoke of Jesus climbing his way up the rocky hill to the olive grove. His arms flailed about as he described Jesus sweating blood. His eyes brimmed with tears as he spoke of Judas’ kiss.

Reading the Gethsemane story in black ink on cream-colored, fine paper is a privilege I don’t take lightly. Thank God, He has given us the Scriptures. But hearing someone who knows the terrain and understands ancient Jewish culture tell the account is like no experience I’ve read. God speaks in pictures and the picture of Jesus praying in the garden surrounded by olive trees is a visual lesson the Jews lived out every day in the land of abundant, fruitful groves. I found a treasure buried in the story of the ordinary, Jewish olive garden.

Did you know that in the days of Jesus, an olive grove was called a garden? That an olive garden would always have an olive press within it? The night of his betrayal, Jesus took the disciples into an olive-garden word picture that foretold of the coming hours.

The word “Gethsemane” means olive press. Jesus and his three amigos went up to a clunky, rock, olive press to pray.

Here’s a look at what would typically happen in Gethsemane at harvest time. After beating his olive trees with a stick so the fruit would fall to the ground, the gardener would carry his olive-laden baskets directly to the nearby press. Presses were always built within the grove because the baskets of fruit were too heavy to carry up and down a mountain. At the press, a heavy stone would roll over the olives, pressing down upon the black berried fruit to extract oil. The pressing process took place three times, wringing every droplet of oily goodness from the tiny fruit. Then the oil was bottled and sold, primarily, as lamp oil. Olive oil is how they lit their homes and the temple courts in those days.

It’s no coincidence that Jesus chose an olive grove as a place of prayer that fateful night.

It is more than happenstance that the method for getting fruit from the olive tree was by beating the branches so those little black balls would plummet to the ground. (Does “I am the vine and you are the branches” ring true here?)

It is not by chance that Jesus asked the three disciples with him to pray three times, for three times he was pressed.

It is by design that olive oil was used to light lamps all over the world.

Jesus compared Israel to an olive tree. Paul tells you and me that we’ve been grafted into this magnificent, yet strange-looking shrub.

The imagery here is fantastic.

I walked back down the Mount of Olives that day smiling, knowing that where Jesus sweat blood among his little olive trees and sleepy disciples is where he’ll place his feet again. Soon. And on that day, the very mountain of His burden will be split in two, redeeming the story of Gethsemane.

If you’re feeling like a tiny olive that's been beaten, hurled to the ground, then crushed under the weight of a burdensome stone, take heart. Your sweaty mess is lamp oil that illuminates a world for a Christ.

God gives us extraordinary lessons from the ordinary things in life.

Faith really does come by hearing.

‘Till all have heard,

Laurie
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Published on December 20, 2017 08:09 • 460 views • Tags: gethsemane, oil, olive

July 9, 2017

A Lack of Wings

Someone once told me that after their grandmother died, she became a beautiful angel in heaven. This gal had been raised in the church. She’d even attended a private, Christian college.

Her background allowed me the space to address that little hiccup head on.

“You’re a sweet gal,” I said. “But your theology is off. Your grandmother may well be with Jesus and doing some awesome stuff, but she was not created as, nor ever will be an angel.”

My friend looked at me wide-eyed then blinked. Cute as she was, I had to explain the difference between humans and angels. I don’t say “had to” in the context that it was a chore I begrudgingly took on. I say, “had to,” because I felt if I didn't share the truth, this gal may come to believe all sorts of fallacies. We’re so capable of following the trail of heresies, Jesus often referred to us as sheep - animals with limited brain capacity who will follow any-old path to self-seeking greener pastures.

I am passionate about doctrine. I get asked “why” all the time. Recently, after railing against the current, and popular notion that God’s creation account in Genesis is not a literal, six-day description, a friend asked me, “What does it matter? What does that have to do with salvation?”

My answer? Everything. Every-thing.

Doctrine matters. So does grace and grace abounds where our doctrines are often wrong. But the Scriptures warn us to be sleuths when it comes to uncovering the truth from the Word of God because in the last days, false teachings will be so slick, so attractive, we stand the chance of being deceived. This results in our heading out to deceptive, green-looking pastures.

I’ll write on the creation account and why that matters in another blog. Today’s exposé on false teachings about angels allows me to start slow and build from here.

Those who know me well know that I can’t stop myself sometimes. My brain goes into overdrive when I hear obvious, false and sometimes just silly theology. Recently, after learning I was a Christian, a new friend set out to defend her own, made-up, theology which was a blend of new age and Hinduism (defined as Syncretism). She wrapped up her aggressive discourse with a “After all, God loves everybody, and that’s what Jesus said.”

You won’t believe what Scripture blasted through my brain as soon as those words came out of her mouth. “Jacob I loved, but Esau, I hated.” Romans 9:9-13.

Don’t freak out. I didn’t quote this verse to her to convince her she was wrong about Jesus’ love for mankind. I believe that Jesus died for all, loving all, wanting none to perish. But, the Esau Scripture blew up my brain and I was forced to do something with it.

Which is the point of doctrine. We are forced to examine the parts of the Bible that ruffle our feathers, make us squirm, and don’t fit into our feel-good-God boxes. Doctrine matters because it forces us to look at just who God says He is. Which is sometimes quite different from who we want Him to be.

"But really," Laurie, I can hear you ask. "What harm is done if a few biblically illiterate believers think we become angels when we die?"

This innocent-looking little hiccup alters God’s redemption story.

Jesus didn’t become an angel in order to reconcile fallen angels back into a relationship with God.

That privilege was given to man alone.

Christ put on flesh and bone to become like one of his lowly human creatures. Humans are redeemed. Angels are not. This is radical and so mind-blowing, even angels are fascinated by it. (1 Peter 1:12). As we should be.

Doctrine keeps us looking at God’s revelations about who he is, and away from our own, limited reasoning skills. Holding to doctrine is taking a stance on God’s Word. To say I want to be doctrinally correct is to say, "I am a created thing and my creator has revealed all of himself to me through the Word (which is also Christ, John 1). And as a created thing, I am in subjection to the Creator. Even when it doesn’t make sense to my wee, little brain."

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

In this blog, I’ve taken a very simple, misunderstanding to illuminate the need for sound doctrine. In coming blogs, we’ll look at more complex, often debated Bible passages that get twisted around and used to create fake beliefs about God and His purposes.

I don’t have mighty angel wings. But I do have fingers and I type away, fighting against the fake dogmas looking to pull you and me away from truth.

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” our human king explained. The question is not “Does doctrine matter? The question is, “Do I believe the Word?

“And the Word became flesh…”

Till More,
Laurie
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Published on July 09, 2017 09:55 • 261 views • Tags: angels, doctrine, false-teachings

June 21, 2017

Live From Heaven

Hebrews 4:12 is one of my favorite Scriptures. This passage proclaims that God's Word can do miraculous things inside of you. It's not just a book to enlighten us (although it does), but it is a tool that defies the laws of matter.

Taking a brief look at this profound passage, we learn an outstanding truth about God's Word.

Let's review the context before digging into this amazing proclamation.

Evidently, a chance that we could miss God's rest exists, even if we believe we follow Christ. In the passages leading up to 12, the writer of Hebrews has given us an historical example of this by reminding his readers that many of God's followers (following Moses) sinned in the wilderness after being led miraculously out of slavery in Egypt.

The people of the great Exodus saw enormous miracles before and during this world-changing event, but when these eye-witnesses got to the wilderness - when things got tough - they forgot God's promises. As a result of unbelief, thousands died, never entering rest (The Promised Land). This is a picture of a salvation not grasped; not fully believed. Entering rest means entering God's eternal salvation - both a literal and figurative place far from the curses of the earth.

It’s hard to imagine how any one who witnessed the plagues pummeled upon their ruler (pharaoh); or had an Angel of Death pass over their little mud-brick house; or see a body of water part down the middle and roll out a red carpet could come to a point of disbelief.

But it happened.

If these miracle-seeing, freed people can lose their trust after experiencing these mind-bending events, then so can you and/or me.

But living in the age of Grace, God has given us the ultimate weapon of defense in our salvation. His Word.

The written Word has a power that protects us from the unthinkable.

It is:
1. Living – it has breath and blood. It’s alive just like you.
2. Active – it is in motion, never stagnate. It’s moving you places even when you don’t notice.
3. Sharp – it can alter you. It’s a tool God uses to cut away the excess baggage we carry around and it cuts into our lives to expose the sin that lurks there like a cancer.

What it does:
1. Pierces – when we ingest truth, that truth penetrates our belief system and exposes our sin; reveals our unbelief
2. Judges – the book laying on your nightstand is able to judge you: your heart, motives, actions, desires.

The living, breathing, and chosen way God has decided to reveal himself is through Jesus, who is the Word. (See first chapter of John where that’s explained) And the Bible is a representation of Jesus for us today. When we interact with this representative, this shadow of the real Savior, we build a defense against the death-inducing, rest-defying unbelief the writer of Hebrews spent thirty-something verses talking about.

Live from Heaven, the Word of God reveals a Living God and revalutionizes the walking dead.

It's like we receive a free mental and spiritual upgrade every time we read the Word.

I try to imagine what it will be like in the coming days when I’m with the Flesh Word having coffee in his office, or hanging out by the throne one afternoon.

I want to hear him say, “Well done my faithful servant, Laurie.”

But I also want to hear Him say, “Hey, every time you read me, I did some pretty awesome work in you, Laurie. Loved those times we spent together, me working in your heart and changing things.”

How cool would that be?

We've been warned that in the last days that false teaching (2 Timothy 4:3-4) will lead many astray, just as false teachings weaved through the camps of Israel during the Exodus. The only defense against these deadly theologies is to know the Living and Active Word.

Defend your greatest treasure - your salvation.

"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12



written by:
Laurie Green Westlake
www.LaurieGreenWestlake.com
www.CasaMilagroTX.com
@authorLaurieGreenWestlake
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Published on June 21, 2017 07:13 • 210 views • Tags: active-word, hebrews-12-commentary, living-word

July 8, 2016

Virtue, Where are You?

It seems our society crumbles and evil pervasive as our nation’s leaders lose sight of their primary objective to serve the people, allowing them to be the shining city on a hill. The format of our democracy does not put leaders above us, but rather among us. In the United States of America, we govern ourselves and we once governed with virtue. It seems that virtues are lacking today and the proof is in the upcoming candidates selected to run for the office that should be the most virtuous in the world, the office of the president of the United States of America.

I have found myself perplexed as our current candidates spew crude remarks, spin tragedy to promote their agendas, lie to cameras that put their words before the nation, and fight to keep a position that was intended to be a temporary, sacrificial assignment. And there are no consequences that we require of their childish, selfish behaviors. It seems to me the quest for power has trumped (no pun intended) the quest for righteousness.

I am concerned.

The Preamble to our Constitution states, “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

We the People. When the constitution was written, “We the People” consisted of men and women who had lived under an unjust monarchy and suffered beneath the weight of religious oppression. But these pioneers were overcomers and in their new land, they held a unique allegiance to a faith that had prepared them for the future. For most who had braved the journey to wild America, the Bible provided a moral, self-governance manual that made survival in a new land possible.

Historians agree that the founding fathers of this great nation respected the Christian values found in Scripture. Even those who were not professing Christians understood that in order for the exciting and revolutionary idea of a new democracy to work, a moral compass would be key. The virtue of the rugged American people made the idea of a free nation possible. Even Ben Franklin, a self-proclaimed Deist who dismissed his Christian roots wrote, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.”

Our leaders need to be reminded of the assets of virtue and the consequences of evil. If evil prevails, we will all lose, including those who altered laws and watered down God’s truths.

In Eric Metaxas’s recent book, IF YOU CAN KEEP IT: THE FORGOTTEN PROMISE OF AMERICAN LIBERTY, he reveals the spirit of our founding fathers’ beliefs. Metaxas cites John Adams who wrote, “The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue.”

Metaxas also cites French historian Alexis de Tocqueville who recorded his observations following a visit to America forty years after the constitution was created: “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”

In his book, Metaxas also explains the premise of “The Golden Triangle” that was woven into the fabric of society and culture of the people who dared to govern themselves when the Constitution was written. The triangle’s sides are freedom, virtue, and faith. Freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith, and faith requires freedom.

How true.

Today, “We the People” are military servants, the Black Lives Matter, police officers, evangelicals, the hipsters, the liberals, the conservatives and the tea sippers. We are the millennials, gen exes, and the last of the baby boomers. We are the parents, sisters, brothers, and children of those who have lost their lives protecting our freedoms and those who have lost their lives to senseless tragedies that multiply at alarming rates. We are the rich, the poor, and the middle-of-the-roaders that make up the “people” charged with keeping the most powerful and yet fragile government in the world as a beacon—a beacon shining it’s light for the glory of God.

I recently heard Duck Dynasty’s bearded leader speak at gathering of concerned conservatives. He spoke more like a prophet than a billionaire hunter. I made many notes, surprised at the convictions that stabbed at my heart. He read Scripture that warned of a wrath to come if we continued to leave God out of our nation. After talking about how one of our country’s major political parties had removed God from their national platform, he said, “If the Republicans take God out of their party, I’m going with Him [God].” He then prayed and walked off the stage.

Phil Robertson is going to follow God, not a political party. But his statement told me that if anything is honoring God, even a political view, it is good. We follow God and sometimes we follow Him into a political arena which I admit was a weird concept for me. I’ve tried to keep my political views about capitalism and not Christianity because I’ve seen lots of Christians get passionate about their politics while living luke-warm Christian lives. But once I read what our founders believed as they formed a new and terribly risky government, I realized that politics is not left or right, but about honoring God with our nation.

In the past two hundred years, bold, virtuous America has been a help to millions of people and bold, virtuous America has been the center of evangelism and great commission work around the world.

But today, I woke up to discover that twelve police officers in Dallas had been shot and five had died after recent incidents where police in other areas were involved in questionable shootings. This after the tragedies in Orlando, San Bernardino, the beheading of Christians in the middle east, the slavery of children stolen in other countries, and on and on.

Virtue, where are you?

And yet, virtue is in us. It may not outwardly surround us, but it lives within those who follow the Lord and His Word.

We must live our virtue. We must crawl out of our comfortable fox holes and engage in spiritual battle at every level of society. We must be like those wildly brave men and women who first dared to govern themselves in the beginning of our fragile republic under the banner of a virtuous Christ. We will be mocked, ridiculed, or even persecuted, but let not our hearts not be troubled, for our Savior wrote: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” (Matthew 5:11)

Campaign for virtue. Protest for virtue. Speak out to congress, senators, local officials, churches, and any group you are associated with. To be silent is to support the darkness that creeps upon our society.

We must talk about God and His will for the people that make up this nation and the world beyond.

And vote for virtue.

Don’t sit this election out even though it seems we are without virtuous options. Research, read, and know to the best of your ability the person you are selecting to lead this fledgling nation founded for God. To sit this presidential election out is to crawl back into your comfortable foxhole and say, “I won’t fight unless God gives me what I want.”

Be brave. Trust God. Newsflash here: God is on the throne. He hasn’t been removed so vote like you know He is in control of our nation; of all the nations. Because He is in control and He is watching.

Because we remain one nation under God.

Laurie
www.LaurieGreenWestlake.com
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Published on July 08, 2016 12:36 • 397 views • Tags: politics, virtue, vote

December 5, 2015

You Can't Handle The Truth

When I watch or read the news lately, I feel like the commentator, the writer, or the political force behind the information given sends me a subliminal and ugly message that says "You can't handle the truth." As unbelievable lies spill, like sing-song nursery rhymes, into my ears, I can just see Jack Nicholson's character in A Few Good Men clinch his jaw, curl his lips, and belt his declaration into the courtroom, "You can't handle the truth!"

Actually, I can. I can handle The Truth.

The Truth is a person (John 14:6). One I love and am devoted to. And I know Him well, as Truth has revealed Himself through powerful and historical writings called the Word.

It has occurred to me that if one does not believe in The Truth, one must be comfortable with the Father of Lies. Perhaps this is why today's global leaders, and some leaders operating on a smaller scale, promote agendas that attempt to suffocate Truth. To them, Truth is vague, unfamiliar, and intimidating. And to them, lies are concrete, controllable, and agenda pushers.

To know The Truth and be set free by it (John 8:31) one must be ready to give away human logic, self perceptions and self rights. This type of self-denial blows a lie-believer's mind. Giving up the treasured "self" opposes everything they've been taught.

Look at this way: if a lie-believer were to lay down his life to follow Christ, there would be no throne to sit upon in his or her carefully built kingdom of self.

I'm not surprised that lies abound today. Over and over again, Christ warned of a coming deception (see Matthew 24) that would lead many astray at end of this age (If talk of the end times scares you, take heart, a glorious new age is close at hand).

I can handle the Truth and I must. It's a call to every believer living today.

Live brave.

Laurie
www.LaurieGreenWestlake.com
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Published on December 05, 2015 10:36 • 163 views • Tags: end-times, lie, truth

March 19, 2015

Lord I Need a New Mind

“This is never easy to say, but we are taking your team down to two people and cutting someone…”

“And it’s me?” My voice sounded small.

“And, it’s you.”

The Lord immediately took control of my emotions and my mouth: “It’s okay. It is the best move for the ministry.” There was that little voice again.

I considered my coworkers and was genuinely glad that neither had been recipients of that phone call.

I surprised myself. The strong-headed, strong-willed, fight–for-every-injustice Laurie did not show up in the moment of crisis. "God has transformed me at last," I thought. I was at peace with the unexpected (and financially devastating) news that my position with the ministry had come to an end.

The person on the other side of the dialogue stated that I was certainly handling the news well. “This conversation could have gone another direction,” he said, his voice tilted in surprise. He commended my maturity.

Right thinking continued as I considered the ministry and how, financially, this decision made sense for the bigger picture. I did not take the act of releasing me from the team personally.

I realize that I was operating in a mild state of shock and looking back, I also discern that the Holy Spirit truly directed my thoughts during and after the awkward conversation. I was not acting. I was truly and surprisingly more concerned for the ministry than for my own welfare.

I remember thinking how good it felt to not be upset and thanking the Lord that He had, finally, transformed my heart to be like His.

But then Laurie showed up the next morning.

Do you ever wake up and realize you’re still you? I woke up to that old familiar (and selfish) voice greeting me like an incessant noisy rooster.

"Are you kidding me? I had no warning! What are we going to do now? There are bills to be paid! I have to find a job; I can’t believe a ministry did this to me!" Blah, blah, blah. My emotions climbed and I entertained fantasy conversations with my now ex-employer—conversations that would shed light on the injustice of it all, I was sure.

And thus a two-week wrestling match with the Holy Spirit ensued. I was on an old and familiar roller coaster of anger then humility; worry then trust; upheaval then rest in His sovereignty. Sheesh. Anybody feeling this?

Sometimes I get so tired of me.

Lord, I need a new mind.

I was discouraged that after years in the Word, in church, teaching the Bible, and soaking up awesome Christian fellowship, I had not had a constant Mother Theresa-like response to the on-going crisis. I considered telling the Lord that He needed to throw this little fish named Laurie back into the murky waters He had pulled me from. I wasn’t measuring up in my thought life. I knew it.

And, I had prayed so long for a complete transformative overhaul. (Sniff, sniff)

I picked up the Word and went to a familiar verse about transformation. In Romans, Paul says to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I have prayed for mind renewal for years. I am well aware that my thoughts can get very worldly very fast.

“So Paul,” I asked out loud, “What does one do to get a renewed mind? Practically speaking and all.” Can you hear the sarcasm?

The Lord ignored my tone and took me to another transformation verse: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) The word “being” caught my eye this read through. “Being” denotes a process, not an instant event.

Processes consist of steps, plans, strategies. Processes don’t just happen. A renewed mind was going to have to start with an action step added to my prayer request.

Did you see that light bulb go off?

In his second letter (book), Peter explains that through God’s precious promises we become partakers of the divine nature and we should make every effort to supplement our faith with virtue then add to our faith, knowledge and to knowledge, self-control. The list of virtuous add-ons continues till Peter sums up his thoughts with this: “For these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In Peter’s words, I saw a process. One step, then another. One practice added carefully to the next.

I needed to practice. I need to practice godly thinking!

Replacing negative thoughts with godly ones requires effort. I made the mistake of assuming that the old complaining, critical, distrusting voice was a sign of defeat. That is not necessarily so. I did not act on my thoughts; I wrestled with them internally. I never spoke an unkind word to other staff or outwardly blamed anyone for the unfortunate situation I found myself in. Spiritual progress was in play and I needed to call out—reach for—good thoughts. Paul likens our sanctifying progression to an athlete running to win a race. Athletic prowess and spiritual maturity both come with hard, committed practice.

Now, I am practicing – even when I don’t feel like it – thoughts that point me to God’s grace and sovereignty. And with practice comes habit. By practicing (purposefully deciding to initiate) notions of God’s trustworthiness, I blaze a new-thinking trail for my thoughts to travel. With more practice and time, this preferred route will be the one chosen consistently. I am looking forward to the habit of trust-filled conversations in my head.

On a closing note, the Holy Spirit has reminded me that Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord for a night. The result of that match was a blessing awarded to Jacob. But Jacob also suffered a life-long altercation: “…and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him….The sun rose upon him… limping because of his hip.”

When we wrestle with the Holy Spirit, we come out of the ring with a new walk—one that gives others pause.

The Word tells us that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

The two big take-aways here are that in my weakness God’s light shines, and if I am to be transformed, I must first act transformed, putting godly thoughts and acts into practice.

I joyfully practice with these meditations: God is in control, He works all things to the good of those that love Him, and I am to trust in the Lord with all my heart; leaning not on my own understanding.

Go ahead and practice.

Laurie Westlake
Relevant. Inspiring. Narratives.
www.LaurieGreenWestlake.com
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Published on March 19, 2015 14:56 • 467 views • Tags: fired, renewed-mind-encouragement

August 20, 2014

See You Be Brave

I don't know if there has ever been a time in history, save the beginnings of the New Testament Church, when the call for Christian bravery has been in greater need. Across the world, evil and chaos seem to spread at lightening speed. News of wars, horrific persecutions, and violent acts are rampant - I receive new, shocking reports on my iphone news app almost hourly.

Crouched in the heart of the mounting hatred is an agenda I was not sure I would see in my life time. The not-so-hidden-anymore agenda pervades not only religiously motivated wars like the recent Israel and Gaza conflict, but also culture: social standings, education, politics, and family life.

The agenda? Negate Judaism; negate Christianity.

If I had written about an agenda to negate Christianity two years ago, some of you would be saying, "Laurie, you're over the top on this one." But who can argue this conclusion today? What physical persecution is not doing to believers (see ISIS.ISIL activity in Iraq), a radically changing culture is.

We need to both defend our faith and to fight back.

During a time such as this, we should be speaking up about the core of our belief: the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It is the good news, the Gospel that Christ entrusted to you and me, that needs to be shared like never before. I know from serving twenty years in ministry that when there is a crisis, people look for answers and are ripe for change.

As Esther was placed in her role as queen to speak up for the Jews, you and I are placed in our roles as Christ followers to speak up for Christ. We need to act with the bravery of Esther. As she put her life in danger to save the Jews, so we must be willing to risk it all to share the salvation of Christ.

Current events look a lot like prophecy fulfillment to me and we have been warned of the chaotic nature of the last days. The time to act, to be brave, to speak, to love, and to be about the Father's kingdom-building may be shorter than we think. Could we be in the last stretch of the church's influence on earth? This is no time to retreat!

I know you, too, must feel the sense of urgency that permeates the air.

Be brave! Within the next few days share your faith story with at least one person. Speak of how Christ changed you. There is no need to make the salvation story complicated, just initiate, initiate, initiate.

And there is a promise from Christ that when we are defending our faith we need not worry about what we will say. The Holy Spirit, our king ensures us, will teach us what to say (Luke 12:12).

I had a recent act of courage. When getting a diagnostic physical test two days ago, I shared with the attending technician how Christ had redeemed me from the depths of self-destructive sin. She smiled and said, "How sweet," not giving me any sign that she was or was not a believer, or interested in further discussion. Perhaps hospital rules forbid employees to engage in religious discussion. If so, how sad, and yet another vital sign of the times.

I'll never know how my testimony impacted that technician. And it's not always my place to know; results are up to Christ, not me. My position is to be obedient and brave and open my mouth.

In the coming days, we may be ridiculed for our faith. In the coming days, we may be persecuted for faith. And in the coming days we may be asked to defend what we believe. Through the courageous act of verbally sharing Christ, we will be sharpening our swords for harder battles.

1Peter 3:15 tells us to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope within us. Peter would not have spoken such words had he not thought we would have opportunity. Sharpen your sword, brave warrior, and go find your opportunity.

And, please, post all acts of bravery here in the comments so we can encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

I wanna see you be brave.

Laurie
www.LaurieGreenWestlake.com
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Published on August 20, 2014 19:13 • 400 views • Tags: end-times, evangelism, prophecy

April 17, 2014

Change, Tears, and Joy

"Just go ahead and cry so you can get it over with and move on."

That was me telling myself what to do.

But tears didn't come. My back spasmed and my head throbbed, but no tears appeared.

The only solution, then, I determined was to write - not cry out the frustration. Write out the frustration. In the Albuquerque Sunport in a zombie-like trance, I gazed at the Panda Express menu board and as I did, I determined that I could write a blog about this menacing pain.

I scanned Panda flavors of the month. I ordered the black-peppered chicken and found a table where I could write.

I knew before I sat down in the busy corridor that I needed to start this blog-therapy session with a confession.

I once loved change.

I have been addicted to change most of my life. I liked change of all sorts: new experiences, new places, different cultures, new people, new ideas, new food, new houses, new crisp bed sheets. New coffee. New shoes. We lived in 6 different houses in New Mexico in the span of 9 years. What does that tell you?

I enjoy discovering how most everything works and challenging myself to learn new things. I am one of the few people on the planet that actually likes starting a new job! Change usually promises an adventure and I am always up for an adventure!

And change, to be honest, also offers a quick fix to the dull-drums that plague every-day life; the habits, the ruts, the boring.

I have also found that when it's time to get tough and struggle through a desert experience - always ordered to a Christian life - I'll jump to change something instead of trudging through deep desert sands. That's where the addiction part enters. I have a twisted way of controlling my surroundings by being out of control with change. Confusing, I know. I've lived with me for a very long time and I am just now uncovering the true motives behind my needed adrenaline fix for changing up the scenery.

Change is an exciting part of my life. Change is also a crutch.

But change has suddenly become a challenge for me. For the first time I'm facing change with a somber attitude. I'm not feeling the usual glee of discovering something new or the rush I can get from making plans and formulated strategies for the new something different. I find myself clinging to the familiar. Is it my age? Is it maturity? (Certainly not maturity!) Is it that I'm tired?

Let me share a bit of background and bring everyone to the same spot on the page.

Within the last two years my husband and I became empty nesters, added a much loved daughter-in-law to our family, and learned we will be first-time grandparents next fall. I lost a brother to cancer and am trying to be a better aunt to his two orphaned, college-aged daughters. My father has had multiple surgeries in the last couple of years and my parent's grief over the death of a son has been difficult to watch. And, our dog died.

Did I mention that my husband quit his job to look for another one in Texas?

Did I mention that we are moving to Texas?

My love for change wanes.

I'm staring change in the face and finding it, suddenly, more like a stranger than my long-time supportive friend. "Who are you, Change, and why are you messing with my MO?"

"Where's your sense of adventure gone, Laurie?"

I've asked myself the above question several times in the last few weeks. And I've answered myself with a less than brave-heart response: "Up yours."

(I do not have Multiple Personality Disorder. My job requires I travel alone and so I have ample opportunity to have conversations with myself. Completely understandable.)

You counselor types are saying about now "depression." You could see it coming three paragraphs back.

But I don't think my lackluster for life right now is depression. I think what I am experiencing is one of those full-blown God-tests that we've been promised as Christians. After all, very few people actually enjoy being tested.

However, the Apostle James wrote to us about these coming trials explaining how we as Christ followers should not only outwardly respond, but also feel about life challenges.

Here is what he said (written in Laurie language translated from the NKJV) "Think of it as joy when you are in the midst of all kinds of trials knowing that if you are being tested, it is because of your faith. And you should also know that when your faith is tested, patience will be a result. We all need to let patience have its perfecting work within us so that we can be perfect and complete, without need of anything." (For the real translation see James 1:2-4.)

While the crux of the above passage is about testing (and doesn't it bring great relief to know that the Lord has purpose in the trials in our life) the jewel buried in this passage is the word "patience." Patience is not something I possess and I should know by now that it is a virtue the Lord requires of me as one of His representatives one earth.

Wild, emotional, hard, unwanted and uninvited testing produces something dear to God's heart and that something is patience.

For the world to understand that we are made in His image, we must be like Him. We must posses patience. We must demonstrate patience.

What James is telling me is that on this roller coaster of change, I need to be patient, waiting on the Lord to complete His work through the current trials. I should not jump in and try to change up the game to suit my personally constructed comfort zone. And I need to have joy deep in my thought life as I consider the spiritual growth that will come as a result of not bucking this sovereign ride.

Instead of grumbling in my heart or whining about my life to the New Mexican cowboy seated on the airplane next to me (I really did grab that cowboy's ear and lament for an hour - crying "why, why, why" after eating my pepper chicken and boarding the plane), I should open my mouth and thank the Lord that He has found me worthy of a pruning, a sharpening, a fixing up. It reminds me that His eye is on me. If He has counted the hairs on my head (Matthew 10:30) then I can figure that He has counted the virtues in my heart and found somethings He would like to spruce up.

Thank you Lord. Please give me a heart of joy and a mouth of praise for I know you are working in me. That, in and of itself, is miracle enough. But the amazing bonus to this work in me is that I know everything will turn out beyond just okay. Down the road I'll see that the uncomfortable changes in my life have brought about spiritual growth and spiritual blessings. These blessings, we are told by the Apostle Paul, far outweigh the temporary discomforts the Lord has allowed us to experience on this earth (2 Corinthians 4:17).

So, in writing all of this down, I have discovered that even the things we love, like change, can become burdensome when we have too much of it. Isn't that the way it is when we over-indulge in all of God's blessings?

As well, while some of the current change in my life is not self-inflicted, I have been foolish in believing that none of this massive change would be hard for me.

I discovered that the natural flow of life's seasons (empty nest, older parents, death) is far different from the change I create or choose, and l need to be prepared through prayer and trust for how this affects the physical and emotional side of life.

Ouch! Truth has pricked my heart.

The Lord is teaching me to be prudent with my life-style and to be patient with His trials.

Now, I'm counting this current season of life change and trials as pure joy.

I'll have to find that cowboy and apologize.

Laurie Green westlake
www.LaurieGreenWestlake.com
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Published on April 17, 2014 21:05 • 357 views • Tags: trials-change-bible