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Archive for the category “Faith”

Time Out

Even before I know what happened while I slept, I was reminded God is in control. The birds are still singing, the earth still rotated for the sun to rise in the east. God is still a miracle worker, a way maker – even when we don’t see Him working, He still works. Even when we don’t feel Him near, He is still near. Most of those words are from a song titled Way Maker by Leeland. The song was playing in my head as I read my daily Scripture this morning.

The Bible is full of stories of God’s work in progress. I have read through God’s instructions to Moses and the Laws given to the Levites. I read through the promises God gave His people. But I also noticed God had warns if His people were disobedient. He promised too that if the people did not follow His Laws, then there would be consequences. And He warned them what would happen – exile from the Promised Land He would give them. The Land would be cursed because of their disobedience.

God is still working in the process. We may not understand what He’s doing in the midst of our circumstances, but He is still at work. This circumstance we’re in today may be a “time out” – a warning – like He gave the Israelites in the Old Testament before their exile. We have to admit our disobedience to God’s Word. We have been very disrespectful to Him through the last twenty years for sure. I don’t want to say this virus is a punishment from God, but this could be a way He uses to get our attention.

We have been distracted by many things especially in the last four years. This time out has wiped away our distractions – no more sports, no more running around after things that do not matter. The television is still blaring, but it’s only blaring bad news. I get stressed just listening to all the information they keep throwing at us. I turned it off. I still find out what I need to know, but I don’t have to listen to it sixteen hours a day.

Precautions are a good thing. Washing hands – yes, please do – we shouldn’t have to be reminded of this during a crisis. However, we are to be aware of what God is doing around us. If someone is panicking, we need to help them with perspective. God is still on the throne. God is still a miracle worker. He is the Way Maker. He is the hope of the world. We can help them look up and see Him at work in the world. This may be the greatest time in our current history to show them His glory.

I have a book that I read in my quiet time written by missionaries throughout the world. One of the stories I read this morning concerned a missionary who traveled by motorcycle to remote villages. A Muslim man drove him for many days on dirt paths through the jungle. One day, they had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. There was no hope for the tire to be fixed unless God fixed it. The missionary lifted the tire to the heavens and asked God to fix it.

The missionary handed the tire to the driver and asked him to put it back on the motorcycle. They started out slowly, but after a few miles the driver increased his speed. By the end of the day, the tire was like new. This story circulated throughout the area – not about a tire, but about a God who hears and answers prayers. Many came to faith in an awesome God who answers prayers.

God still answers prayers. However, we still have to be faithful to ask them. We still have to humble ourselves before Him. He is waiting patiently and sometimes He has to get our attention. Sometimes the finances have to be wiped away. Sometimes our health has to fail. Sometimes we have to realize we are not in control. Sometimes we need to be in time out so that we can see Him more clearly.

Time out is a fairly new concept. We didn’t have it when I was growing up. I got the full punishment when I was disobedient. There wasn’t a time when I sat in a chair to think about the wrong I had done. When I got caught doing something wrong, I knew punishment was coming. Most of the time it was just a spanking, but on the rare occasion I received the belt. I didn’t like punishment, but I knew if I disobeyed there would be consequences. Most of the time, I thought I could get away with my wrongdoing. Some of the times I did. But the times I got caught, I knew what to expect. I had already been warned beforehand.

This may be our time out for this season. We may have to think about the things we have done wrong and seek forgiveness. But if we don’t change our ways, there will be stiffer penalties in the future. We have had ample time to change our ways. God said in His word to Solomon at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 7:13-14):

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

God warns. We react with humility and prayers. We watch God work and give Him the glory. “Tires” should be lifted to heaven and watch God restore our land and fill our hearts. Let the Miracle Worker – the Way Maker do what only He can do as we lift those “tires” for His glory. Let us pray faithfully and obediently and watch God work.

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:15-16

Focus and Attitude

How much fear are you feeling today? It seems the world is spinning out of control. With the stock market taking a nose dive for the last week; the election and the virus running the news cycle, it’s enough to cause great fear among us. I know for myself, I have been a bit concerned about all these things. This news cycle is enough for any of us to take a pause to feel a bit concerned about the future. We are living in unprecedented times. Our culture and our times will never be as they were before. Not to give you a real downer today, but just a reality check.

Let’s look at the future for a minute. Socialism will one day rule over us. It’s the way of the future – not just for us in the US, but around the world – we will one day be ruled by the one world government. They will be in charge of everything – from financial, to religion, to how we spend our time. It’s going to happen eventually.

A plague (along with war and famine) will one day wipe out a forth of the world’s population. And one day there will be a one world currency because of the fall of financial systems as we know it today. The future looks a bit bleak, right? The future has been given to us in the Book of Revelation so it will come to pass, one day, but not today.

Today, it’s just a blip on the screen. Socialism won’t come in full force no matter who wins the election, because it’s not time yet. It might be a step in that direction if the socialist candidate gets in the White House. We do have a choice this year on how the future will look for the next four years. Choose wisely, my friends. We still have a congress that will keep socialism at bay for a few more years (hopefully).

The virus that is playing havoc today with the news cycle will die down again eventually. Yes, there will be some sick people out there carrying this thing to the ends of the earth, but it’s not the plague that will take out millions of people. The flu is more threatening than this current virus – so far. It could change, but scientists are working hard to find a cure or vaccine, whichever comes first. And the financial crisis won’t last; stocks will rise again and the economy will bounce back when fear isn’t driving financial decisions.

I took a road trip last week to see one of my dear aunts. Visiting her was such a blessing. Her attitude was so refreshing in this climate of fear. The doctor recently asked her if she had been depressed lately. Her response was why on earth would she be depressed after all the blessings she has experienced in her life? She exuded great joy of all the Lord has done for her. She has an attitude of gratefulness – one that I need to take to heart myself.

When we are grateful for all we have in our lives – all the blessings the Lord has given us – there is no room for fear. When we see our Great God for who He is, there is only hope for a brighter future, because God has all things in His control. Nothing is a surprise to God. It might come as a great shock to us – but for the Lord, this is nothing. If it’s nothing for Him, then why should we be concerned?

We have a focus problem when we are fearful. We focus on the problem and not the One who is in control of the problem. These times maybe unnerving at the moment, but it’s nothing to fear. I don’t like my IRA to drop as it did this week, but I believe God’s in control of my resources too. After all, all the resources come from Him; He knows my needs now and in the future.

I will get out and vote in the next few days for a candidate to run this nation and for those in congress. In November, I will do so again and will hopefully join a larger group that will put the right people in office to do the right thing for God’s will to be done.

And for the virus of the day, I will keep myself healthy – sleep well, eat well and exercise – and take my supplements to keep my immune system running well. There are always steps for us to take as God makes His will known to us. We do our part as God does His.

Our focus should be on doing His will and let the consequences play out as God allows. Keep the faith and do your part too. God is bigger than all this. Trust Him in the midst of our difficulties and let gratitude for a great God exude from you too.

As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the
Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure. Psalm 18:30-32

The Rescue Story

Before the sun peeked over the horizon this morning, I was laying at the edge of wakefulness when I heard a gentle whisper “we carry a message, not a stone.” As I contemplated those words, more words started flowing. Of course, the bed was warm and I wasn’t quite ready to greet the dawn; so the words that I write now will not be as eloquent as the words given first thing, but I will give it my best shot. A song popped into my head as I thought about the words – it’s about a rescue story. Have you heard the song by Zach Williams? Check it out sometime.

The story opens with the snake slithering in and speaking a message of deception. The enemy said (Genesis 3:4-5) “you will not surely die” and “you will be like God.” Eve looked at the fruit and saw it was pleasing to the eye and desirable for wisdom, she took some and ate it (Genesis 3:6). In the previous two chapters in Genesis, God created a perfect world. Sin had not entered into the picture. Two chapters of God’s perfect world were undone by a deceptive snake. Eve believed the lie and sin entered in with one bite. The rest of the Bible is God’s rescue story.

I have entered the reading of Leviticus for my quiet time reflections. I am working my way through the offerings the Israelites were supposed to burn on the altar. It’s a hard read. Animal parts, burning on the altar, blood splattering. Animal after animal was offered to cover the sin problem, but it was never permanent. It was a symbol of what it would take to become a permanent solution – a perfect Lamb – without blemish (sin) – sacrificed outside the city for the sake of all.

God takes sin very seriously. I know, we don’t like to think of Him that way – the God of wrath. But sin to Him deserves wrath. It is an abomination to Him. No matter the sin, it’s all against Him. He does not take this lightly and nether should we.

When Adam and Eve took that bite, they surely did die. The perfect relationship was broken and they were condemned to die. The enemy said they would be like God knowing good and evil. However, God had already created Adam in God’s likeness (Genesis 1:27). The enemy suggested God was withholding from them – the knowledge of good and evil – God was withholding something they needed – wisdom. But they already had everything they needed – a right relationship with God and every need was already fulfilled.

At the right time, God sent His Son not to condemn us for our sins, but to save us (John 3:16-17). Jesus is our hope and our salvation. He is our light in the darkness and ever present hope in despair. He is our redeemer and our rescuer. He doesn’t leave us in our despair, but lifts us out and puts us on a solid rock. This is the message we carry. Our job is not to condemn the world – carrying a stone to throw, but share the message of hope to this condemned world.

For those caught in sinful situations back in Old Testament times, stoning was the punishment depending on the sin. When caught, the community would take the one caught outside the village and throw stones until the sinner was dead. It was a harsh sentence. Everything seemed harsh back in that day, didn’t it? But again, sin was taken much more seriously than it is today.

Even the message we receive today about Jesus isn’t as harsh as it was in that day. Jesus cleaned the temple area with a whip – driving out money changers and animals. He spoke “woes” to the religious elite. Jesus’ message began with (Mark 1:15) “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Many heard His message and felt it was too harsh. Many turned away. Jesus said that the road was narrow to heaven and few would find it. Seems harsh, right?

We have often heard there were many roads to heaven. But if that were the case, Jesus didn’t have to pay the price for our sins and die a cruel death. The animals were offered as a sin offering until Jesus was able to do it once and for all. Face it; we have a sin problem. Confess it and turn from it. And be rescued once and for all.

As followers of Jesus, we don’t carry a stone but a message of hope, of peace, of joy and an everlasting love, mercy and grace. Many will reject it, but many will come to know Him and turn from their sinful ways. I know I did and I am so grateful for my rescue story!

Throwing stones reminded me of the story in John about the woman caught in adultery. Her punishment should have been stoning according to the Law of Moses. The crowd threw her at the feet of Jesus. I will leave you with Jesus and this woman’s interaction. We all have a come to Jesus moment. What we do with it means the difference between life and death.

When they (the Pharisees) kept on questioning him (Jesus), he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:7-11

One Decision

Experts say there are around seven major life events in every person’s life. Life events are forks in the road, major turning points that alter a person’s life. Not just our immediate plans, but the whole of our lives are different because of that one decision. From that point on, our future is different because of that one decision. And experts say there are seven of them.

Usually those life events have a cost. Sometimes the events are not of our own making; sometimes it’s someone else’s decision which alters our own lives. It could be someone makes a decision to get behind the wheel of a car after having one too many drinks and it cost us something when the drunk hits us. Or like when my parents made the decision to move me from my hometown to the mountains when I was twelve years old.

That decision was my first major life event. It affected me profoundly. I told my sister recently that I thought the move even changed my personality. Maybe I think of the younger me differently than I was, I don’t know. I just know my parent’s decision was huge in my life. It’s made me into the person I am today – good or bad personality traits aside.

Thinking of life events, I realize there is one decision that should be on everyone’s life event chart. It’s the decision to follow Jesus. It should alter our course – not just for now – but for eternity. I heard someone say recently he wanted everyone to have the same relationship with Jesus he had; to know Jesus as Savior. I have been contemplating the statement since I heard it.

Just a couple of years before my parents moved us to the mountains I made the decision to follow Jesus. If you noticed in the writing above, I said my first life event was the move. I did make the decision to receive Jesus as my Savior before we moved, but it didn’t alter my life right then. I do believe I had Jesus right then, but He didn’t have all of me. It took a few years before another life event would change my relationship to not only Jesus as my Savior but Jesus as my Lord.

My ultimate turning point with Jesus was because of another friend’s tragic end. I written about it in the past – my friend died – and it changed me. Maybe some would say I didn’t really belong to Jesus from the age of twelve – it’s not biblical. But I look at the disciples Jesus chose. They were asked to follow Him before they ever believed He was the Messiah. It took them three years and Jesus’ death before they truly believed. It just took me longer than three years to understand who Jesus is.

Peter declared Jesus was the Messiah before Jesus died, but that declaration wasn’t the catalyst for Peter’s transformation. His life event was when he saw Jesus in the upper room after Jesus rose from the grave. Peter’s life was altered in that moment. Peter’s path was totally different from that life event. He went from a fisherman to preacher man.

Everything should change when we receive Jesus as Lord. Savior and Lord – the man speaking should have said Lord, but he didn’t. Did it mean Jesus wasn’t Lord of his life? The speaker is the only one who can answer. However, we need to answer it as well. Is Jesus Lord of our lives? Has the decision to follow Jesus changed our trajectory as it did for Peter? I don’t mean we all give up our professions to become preachers, but Jesus wants to direct our steps just as He directed Peter’s.

Jesus met Peter on the beach one morning after His resurrection. Peter and the guys had been out fishing all night. Peter was at a fork in the road. He could have gone back to the life he knew – fishing – but Jesus intervened. Jesus had other plans for Peter – a plan to begin the church age on Peter’s profession – Jesus is the Messiah.

Jesus asked Peter to feed Jesus’ sheep – His followers. It’s not a literal meaning but a spiritual meaning. Peter had lived with Jesus for three years. Peter heard Him speak, watched the miracles being performed; even saw Jesus transformed on the mountain with Moses and Elijah. Peter was in Jesus’ inner circle and knew Him. Jesus picked Peter to do greater things with his life. Peter left the nets behind and followed Jesus wholeheartedly. There was no turning back. Peter’s decision to follow Jesus changed history. The church age moved forward with Peter’s willingness to go where Jesus led him and make disciples wherever he went.

I don’t think my life events have done the same – they haven’t changed history – or maybe they did. Mine certainly was changed. My decision to follow Jesus today, changes how I live each day. The people I meet each day are affected by my relationship with Jesus because I am a different person with Jesus than without Him.

Each day we are given a choice – live for Jesus; let Him be Lord today or live like the rest of the world and ignore the promptings of our Lord and follow our own path. Our relationship with Jesus makes us different. Other religions follow rules – we are set apart because it’s not rules we follow but Jesus. All roads do not lead to the same place. There is only one life event that leads to an eternal home with Jesus. I know. Jesus said it’s a narrow door and only a few find it, but it’s open to all who want to come in. Jesus and only Jesus can open that door. Savior and Lord. Know Him and follow Him and alter others lives for Jesus!

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:15-18

The Floater

The start of a new year is always a little daunting to me. New slate, new beginning, new… what? I really detest making goals. I detested it for my employers – because you know making goals never reflect in the raises we are given. It was always a budgeted amount regardless of what was stated on our reviews. I got a few promotions along the way because I was a good worker and did more than what was expected – but the raise was never given in proportion to the amount of effort put in and the goals that were attained. I did the work because I was given a job to do and I did it without much fanfare.

But I must tell you, through much of my life I have floated from one decision to another. I have led a quiet life. I don’t put things on a goal list or things I want to attain before I die. However, my Pastor challenged us today. He wants us to think of our funeral. I don’t like to think in those terms, but I see his point. God is a strategic God. And He wants us to be involved in His plan. His goals for our lives should be reflected in the way we live.

I have started reading through the Bible as my yearly endeavor. Right now, I am in Genesis – yep, just starting out. But I am reminded of a few things of significance – God has an order to things He creates; He puts things into place exactly at the right time and in the right order. He uses unlikely people for His purpose.

I am in the story of Jacob at this time. He’s an interesting character. Jacob’s name means deceiver and he lived up to his name. He stole his brother’s birthright and his blessing through deceptive means with the help of his mother. Jacob married a woman through deception – his future father-in-law switched wives on him and Jacob didn’t realize it until after the wedding night. Oops – married the first daughter and not the one he truly loved. Hate it when that happens!

But eventually He did marry his beloved Rachel. His first wife, Leah started having sons before his second wife Rachel. Jacob didn’t love Leah but yet she kept producing sons. Rachel was barren for many years then had Jacob’s favorite son Joseph and eventually Benjamin. He had twelve sons and one daughter through four different women – fascinating story; you’ll need to read it for yourself (Genesis 26-35).

It’s interesting to me that God didn’t use Jacob’s favorite wife to produce the heir to God’s Kingdom – His story is through the least favorite Leah and not through the favorite son but through one of Leah’s sons, Judah. Interesting, right? Jacob’s name is eventually changed to Israel and the blessing that was given to Jacob has been transferred from one generation to the next. The blessing given to Jacob (Israel) is that those who curse Israel will be cursed and those who bless Israel will be blessed (Genesis 27:29). God’s blessing is still reverberating through the centuries. God’s promises never fail.

As I contemplate God’s strategic plan, He has a place for me too. My Pastor told us we are to be intentional about our lives. We will never create a life of influence by accident. God has given us a vision for our lives – we are to bring Him glory in whatever we do. He has left it open to how He will use us, but He leaves nothing to chance. He uses it all for our good and for His purpose (Romans 8:28). When we go in the wrong direction, He uses it to build our character; for our future. But we are to surrender today and let God direct our steps for our future. He did this with Joseph, which means we will be exactly where God wants us to be at just the right time.

God gave Joseph a dream. The dream looked like nothing Joseph experienced along the way. However, Joseph stayed the course and chose to honor God in each and every situation until the dream was fulfilled. Joseph’s life wasn’t easy – first sold into slavery (by his brothers), then prison for something he did not do before he ever knew God was still working out the dream through him. The dream was fulfilled when Joseph rose to the second in command in Egypt. It was a road full of obstacles but one that finished at the right time and right place.

When I contemplate my own funeral, will it be a quiet affair with just a few friends and family in attendance? Will I have a life of significance? As long as I have breath in my lungs, I have an opportunity to live a life of purpose – glorifying God and letting Him lead me on a path with complete surrender of my own hopes and dreams. It’s His vision and dream that will be the most influential in all of history.

Can I be a part of His story? God’s Word tells me I can and you too. His Word also says to lay down our lives and take up the cross. That’s the life we’re meant to live – not a floater, but intentionally surrender every day. Not my will, but Yours be done; forever and ever. Amen.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Peace Beyond Understanding

When circumstances keep piling up from one thing to another, where do you turn for help? Over the last couple of months, I have seen circumstances change dramatically for several of my extended family members. One family lost their Mom suddenly; well, within 6 weeks time. The other family is in a battle that we all fear – cancer. Having experienced this myself, I know how their world can be rocked to the very core.

My Mom’s diagnosis ten years ago, will forever be etched into my memory. Devastation. Overwhelming sorrow. Shock. Questions of “what to do now?” seem to be unending. But right in the midst of the storm, peace. I told my Mom the peace I was experiencing and she too felt it. It was totally unexpected. Yes, overwhelmed with a sense of great grief, but peace in the midst. This peace transcends all understanding, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippi church (Philippians 4:7).

To be at peace, no matter what happens, is just not humanly possible. It’s an act of the Holy Spirit. I experienced it during those next two months as my Mom succumbed to the natural order in which we are all called. We do not get out of this life alive, but we are appointed to die at least once. However, that was not the end of my Mom’s story; she lives today with the Lord!

With my extended family’s ordeal, I visited my beloved aunt and noticed her own peace beyond understanding. She has the unbelievable peace knowing this is not the end. She knows her eternal home. Her joy was evident when I was sitting with her. She tried to explain this peace to me. She said she felt Jesus right beside her and knew He was there in the midst of her battle. She said no matter if He called for her today or in nine months, she was ready. Peace beyond understanding.

As I turn to a new year in just a few hours, I wonder what 2020 will bring. As the year indicates, I hope it’s a year of vision. I hope I can see clearly – both physically and spiritually. It seems this last year has been one of darkness. I can’t explain this cloud that has hung over me but something has kept me from writing or even had the ability to sit quietly in the Lord’s presence. It’s been a tough year. I do not have bouts of depression. I have joy and peace most of my days. The darkness has nothing to do with me physically. I believe there is a battle in the heavens that is playing out here on earth.

2020 may be another year of darkness, but I am praying for the rays of God’s light to shine brightly through the darkness. The world has turned upside down and I don’t expect it to right itself anytime soon. With the tumultuous political climate we’re in, this year may be a difficult year for us here in the US. Maybe I’ll be wrong, but I believe we’re in for quite a ride. So be ready for it. Prepare for the battle – with prayer – so that you will be at peace no matter what happens. I ask for God’s protection from this darkness. And pray consistently for His help for our nation.

I hope you are ready for the battle because it’s coming whether we’re ready or not. It could be a personal battle like my Aunt’s or a national battle that affects us all. We all come to a battle we cannot face alone. But we have One who will be in it with us just as my Aunt has experienced Him there beside her. I know God has all things under His control. He has the time of all events – life, death, Jesus returning, or the daily battles we all face – He’s got this now and forever. I trust Him to complete the work He’s started – in me, in my Aunt, in this country, and in the world. And I know His peace is for each of us to experience – beyond our understanding – now and forever.

May God’s light shine upon you and His blessings flow in you and around you for this next year. Keep focused on the His will; be obedient to His calling, and let Him use you mightily for His Kingdom throughout this New Year. Let’s move forward with His peace in this new normal and let Him get the glory. Here’s to a new decade of fruitfulness! Happy New Year!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Learning from John

For the last eleven weeks, my small group studied the letters of John (1 John, 2 John and 3 John). If you have read those letters, you probably noticed a theme – God is love. John pointed to the fact that if we know God and are found in Him, then we are to love as well. In John’s words: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

Another point I picked out from reading these letters is that truth and love go together. This point may seem obvious to you, but it did not occur to me these two should always be together. It makes perfect sense because Jesus is Love and He is Truth. When we walk in truth and love, we are the reflection of Jesus. Just speaking truth without love, is harsh. Just giving love without truth is incomplete.

I noted in a summary of one of the weeks: love is the indicator of our relationship with God through Jesus. If we love, it’s because of God’s Spirit in us; if we live in fear, God’s love is not there. Love drives out fear. John stated it this way in 1 John 4:18b: perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

It all makes perfect sense – when we are abiding with Jesus, day in and day out – we live with no fear, we live in complete love and we know the truth. Our joy is complete. However, it’s hard to live like that. It takes a daily grounding in God’s Word to sustain my mind in the truth and in love. I have to provide a shield over my mind and my heart. Because once I step out of my house, the world wants to influence me. Actually, I don’t have to step out of my house. The world creeps in when I turn on the television or I log on to the World Wide Web.

Another point John made that really hit home for me. We need to watch out for false teachers. He called them antichrists. We definitely have a problem today with false messages. John wrote two thousand years ago, we are in the last hour and antichrists are among us. His words in 1 John 4: 2-3: This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

How much more today than when John first penned these words. And the false messages are being broadcast across the globe. We need to watch who we let into our circle of influence – no matter if it’s a friend or a famous speaker (or singer for that matter). John wrote we should not let these who speak falsehoods into our house – check it out in John’s second letter: If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

The teaching he referred to was the teaching that Jesus did not come in the flesh; basically a deceiver who teaches falsely. Anytime we turn on the television or log on to the web, we are letting them into our house. Anytime we listen, we welcome them into our spiritual house unless we are grounded in the Truth and know the Truth and recognize their falsehood. John wrote in his second letter we are to test the spirits. This is how we will know if what we hear is truth or lies; compare it to God’s Word.

Last night, I listened to a show concerning the Hebrew year 5780 that just started a little over a month or two ago and the coming year 2020. The speaker said that “80” represented the mouth; 2020 is for vision. He mentioned this year there will be more speaking and more vision. If this is true, then we need to be grounded in God’s Word – first to understand truth, second to cover our minds with the helmet of salvation to protect us from negative influence.

God’s Word says it this way: Proverbs 4:23

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.

And in Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Be careful who you let influence your thoughts and your decisions. These days will continue to get darker. We are the light and we need to shine the light in this darkness. We are the ones who walk in love and in truth. Let us be the influencers we are called to be. Stay grounded. And stay focused on what’s important for this life and the one to come.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Having Sight for the Future

Greetings! It’s been quite a while since I have posted so let me catch you up on what’s going on in my world. When I woke up on Easter Sunday, I had trouble with my sight. I realized at one point in the day, it was just my left eye that was blurry. I thought eye drops would help; they didn’t. I waited a week, then a month, then two months – still no change.

When I finally went to the eye doctor, he sent me to a surgeon because I had a macular hole, which is a hole in my retina. There is no sight in that area. It actually distorts my vision with blurriness along the edges. The surgeon fixed the hole, but the vision hasn’t returned. It’s a little better, but it’s going to take up to a year to know how much of my vision will be restored.

Long distance isn’t a problem, but close up work is – details are hard to pinpoint. Writing was put aside in June because of my sight – both physically and spiritually. I wasn’t in a place where I could trust my vision. The words were not flowing anymore. You may have noticed over the last year or so this difficulty since my writings have been sporadic. For six years, I wrote every week, then something happened and the words quit flowing. So I decided to step aside until the words started to flow again.

This morning felt different. Words were flowing before my eyes opened. The trouble with that is – I can never get the words to flow when I sit down to write. I had such a good blog posting before I woke up fully! I need a tape recorder of my thoughts! So I will give it my best effort and ask the Holy Spirit to intervene in my ramblings.

For the last few months, I have been watching the world fall apart. Have you? The times are just crazy, right? Where has civility gone? For the last year or two, political correctness has gone to the extreme; and it seems everyone is getting offended over something.

People are rising up for change. Change in politics. Change in how things are done in our government and even in our religion. Christianity needs to change, they say. Prominent pastors and teachers are straying from the word they have spoken from the pulpit and written in their books. There seems to be a “great falling away” from morality and spiritually in this day like never before. Seems this was mentioned in the Book they say is out dated and not culturally relevant. Seems to me it’s more relevant today than at any time in history. We are seeing a great shift in attitude; the Bible told us it was going to happen in the last days.

Last night, I had a few minutes before my bedtime. I turned on a 30 minute program speaking on end of times events. I love this stuff! I love to see how God is working; but sometimes, I fell to see. Others seemed to be more attuned to these things so I listen to what they have to say. Pastor Jimmy Evans, from Gateway Church, was on the program. He said he has been studying Bible prophecy for forty years. He seems to be attuned to what’s going on today.

Pastor Evans mentioned the book of Malachy’s Prophecy, a book written about the future 112 Popes. If this book is true prophecy, then Pope Francis is the last Pope; he is the 112th Pope. Does that mean we are at the end of the church age? If this is so, then the end of the church age will mean the removal of the church from the earth by the way of rapture – Jesus snatches us from the earth. The Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth when we leave too.

The Pope is an old man; he doesn’t have many more years ahead of him. Apparently in the prophecy, the last Pope will go through the tribulation period found in the Book of Revelation. Do you see where I am going with this? Time is very short. The church age is coming to an end and judgment is coming. Pastor Evans spoke about this time when the church will be divided. Isn’t it more so today than ever before? Whole denominations are moving away from God’s Word.

Jesus spoke about this time in Matthew 25. Pastor Evans mentioned the parable of the ten virgins. Jesus refers to the Kingdom of God like a wedding. He is the Bridegroom. In this parable, the Bridegroom is coming, half of the virgins are ready; the other half are not. Pastor Evans mentioned if this is true, then 50% of the church will miss the rapture. Five of the ten virgins had oil for their lamps (oil represents the Holy Spirit). The other five ran out of oil. When they tried to get into the house, the door was locked and the owner said to go away for he did not know them.

It’s a sobering word. But the Word says to stand firm until the end. Keep the faith. Do the work we’re called to do. There will be crazy times ahead just as the Word states. I truly believe it is God’s Word which never changes. It’s relevant and it is the Truth. We are to encourage one another and keep looking for His appearance even if it takes another ten years or 20 or 30. His Word said He is coming to take us to the biggest wedding feast and it’s going to be amazing! Don’t miss it!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-9

Tokens or Devotion?

There have been a few times when something has lain heavily upon my chest. For the last few months, I have had trouble writing. The words come in starts and spurts. And a dark cloud seemed to stay between me and the Lord. I would get a word but before I could sit down with my thoughts, it was gone. I still may not be able to articulate it properly, but something is marinating in my head and in my heart.

It seems the world is spinning out of control and upside down. We know these times are spoken of in the Bible. It’s considered one of the “end of times” signs. You might say, people have talked about the end of times for generations. But nothing has pointed to the end events as we are experiencing today. You might decide to quit reading about now. But this stirring of my heart isn’t really about the end of times. It’s about the people of the early church, what they experienced with Jesus and my desire to see it again in my lifetime.

I must confess a couple of things to you. One thing is I am a bit jealous of those who walked with Jesus. They saw miraculous things. They heard Jesus speak with such authority that it caused quite a stir with the religious folks. But the true kicker that made everything come alive for them was the resurrection of Jesus. Everything changed for the disciples with that event.

I know. We have it so much better today because we have the Spirit of Jesus living in us if we are truly saved. The ancient ones would be jealous of us if they had known the Spirit of the Living God could dwell in them like we have it today. They would want to experience these things first hand. Some had the Spirit for such a time, but it was not like what we have today.

However, the Spirit of Jesus seemed to do more in the early church than what is experienced today. Why is that? If it’s the same Spirit (and it is), shouldn’t the Spirit still be working through the Church today? I would say yes. But I fail to see Him work these days like He once did in biblical times. I read about the wonders that happened with the early church through Peter and Paul and the other disciples. People came to know Jesus by the thousands by the words of the Spirit spoken by these disciples.

One thing that has come up for me is the word devoted. The early church was devoted to meeting together, reading God’s word and taking the Lord’s communion. They were devoted to prayer and fasting. The work of the Spirit was powerful in that day because of the devotion of the early church.

My second confession is this: maybe the reason I see nothing happening with the Spirit is because I am not devoted to the things that pleases God. I think the second thing that is brewing in my heart is the need for fervent prayer. We should all be devoted to prayer – not these light weight prayers but ones that shake the heavens because of the mighty forces we stir in Jesus’ name.

In Francis Chan’s new book Letters to the Church, he wrote about his daughter’s birthday. He asked his daughter if they threw a party and just offered cake would anyone show up to celebrate her birthday. She said a couple would. Francis asked if he provided unlimited tokens, food and prizes at a local kids place; how many would show up? She said the whole school would be there.

Church in this day and age is more on the “unlimited tokens and cake” page than the “devotion to things that please God” page. How many would show up if our gatherings were like the early church, just reading the word of God and prayer? Prayer has become more of an opener or a closer to the worship experience instead of a fervency to bring heaven to earth.

If we want to experience change in our culture, in our communities and in our families; it’s going to take fervent prayer. Another confession, it’s been a real long time since I’ve prayed fervently. I haven’t experienced a Holy Spirit filled moment in church or in my quiet time in years. I have drifted away from the devoted things in this last season of my life. It’s been a tough season. Maybe it’s because of my lack of devotion to the things that please God. Maybe it’s time to change my focus again. Maybe it’s time to learn how to pray effectively with fervency once again.

If we are truly at the end of times, then we don’t have time to lose. If there are prayers that need to move heaven and earth, it has to come from us – the church body. There is no one else that can do it and we can’t do it alone. We need each other to be united in focus – to the things that please God. No more tokens for me. I want the real deal. I want the Holy Spirit to move like never before. How about you?

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

The Tribe

We live at the most social time in history. We have never been as connected as we are today. Looking at my Facebook friends, I realized there were friends from every aspect of my life represented. I have a few childhood friends and a few friends from high school. I lived in two different places during those two seasons and had to make new friends in my new place. I moved on to college, and friends from college are included on Facebook.

There are several friends from different employment opportunities. There are church friends represented as well over the years. The neat thing about Facebook is connection. Through Facebook, we can still experience life together even though we’re miles apart. Well, that’s the idea. I’m not sure we’re really experiencing that same connection as we once did in real life. My friends I’ve had over the years have shaped me into the person I am today. We have experienced something special. We each made it through our seasons together.

We survived childhood together – not everyone does. We survived high school. Today, it’s a wonder anyone gets through those difficult years. However, we made it. Then college, the experiences we had back then, well, I don’t really talk much about those times. It’s like Vegas, what happens in college stays in college (for the most part). It’s done, it’s in the past; but friendships are made solid in those years because of the experience we had together.

Work and church in those early years – the growth that happens – it really shapes us. Mentors help us through. We learn from them then we move on to a new place to learn and grow from there. Every step of the way, friends have helped us to survive and thrive. Connections are great, but experiences shape us.

There are a few on my Facebook account who I don’t really know, but hopefully the encouraging words they find on my page helps them too. It’s all about community. The school I went to in New York for health coaching called community our tribe. We were called to be leaders of our tribe; to show them the way to a healthier, better life. They encouraged us to reach out and build our tribe – it helps us as we gain a bigger platform to spread the message of change.

One of my favorite television shows is Survivor. I love the concept of putting people in an uncomfortable island setting to survive for thirty-nine days. I wouldn’t do it, but I love to watch others do it. They have to pull together to build their shelter before darkness falls on the first day. They have to be able to make fire, find food and water in order to survive for the next three days.

Then the games really begin. Games are for rewards and for elimination. The teams have to work together in order to outlast the other teams. Eventually, every person has to take on the challenge solely to survive until the next round. But through the time on the island, alliances are formed. The social game is really the key to becoming the sole survivor to win the million dollar prize.

We are social creatures. God made us that way. Community is the key to our survival. Jesus had His tribe as well. He reached out to twelve men who were His disciples. Jesus had an inner circle of three who He picked to share His more intimate experiences. There were a few more that followed Him as well. Mary, Martha and Lazarus seemed to be very important to Him. He stayed with them whenever He was near Jerusalem. Jesus had crowds following Him wherever He went. But crowds are fickle. They tend to follow as long as their needs are met. There was no real connection to the crowds. They followed until the message became too hard to bear.

Some friends are like that as well. They stay with us as long as their needs are met until we disappoint them or hurt them. But true friends are with us through thick and thin – hard times and great times. True friends stay when the crowds leave. The twelve stayed with Jesus even when the crowds left. They were determined to stay even if it meant death to them. Eventually, they too left when it was apparent Jesus wasn’t going to make it out of His circumstances. Jesus was going to die and the twelve scattered – well, eleven scattered. The twelfth had already left Him for thirty pieces of silver. Judas betrayed Jesus for the cost of a slave.

Jesus is the sign of a true friend. After Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus found His disciples and restored the relationship. He didn’t leave them but sought them out. He found Peter who denied Jesus and gave Peter a new purpose. Jesus set Peter’s course. He strengthened and encouraged Peter to follow His example. Jesus’ tribe changed the world. We are living in this time with the resources we have because of the tribe of Jesus.

Friendships matter. Connections and experiences make us who we are to become. We are told in God’s Word not to forsake the gathering together – our church community keeps us on the right path. We need each other in order to survive and thrive in this life. Thank you, friends, for being a part of my life. You make me better for the experiences we share. Let’s continue to learn and grow together. Our world needs us to be connected – we could change the world by the love we share with one another.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

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