Sunday, December 30, 2007

You Control Your Future

“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

One of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to learn was how to swim. It wasn’t getting into the water – I loved that. It wasn’t wading out into the deep water – I liked that too. But to learn to swim, you have to be willing to lift your feet off the ground and lose control so that your body can float. Every time I’d raise one foot to try, I’d tilt sideways and feel as thought I was going over on my back and drowning. If I lifted both, I’d panic because at first my body would drop deeper into the water, and I felt as if I were going under. The key was being able to lose control and trust the water to float me.

Martha had control issues as well. As she and her sister, Mary, had welcomed Jesus into their house. Mary was content to just drop all the chores that should have been done to welcome a stranger into your house. She wasn’t pouring the wine, setting the table, or baking the bread. Martha, on the other hand, wanted to control the situation. She wanted to be sure everything was just right! She wanted to bake the best bread, fry the best fish, set out clean dishes, sweep the house, and have everything just right for Jesus. So when she saw Mary enjoying just being in the presence of Jesus, she didn’t understand, and “ratted her out” to Jesus. If Martha had been able to relinquish control over the situation, she could have had a wonderful worship experience at the foot of Jesus. Yet, she let her own priorities overrule those Jesus had for her.

We often do the same thing. When we feel God’s presence and His move in our life we sometimes fear following Him. Following His plan instead of ours will lead us into uncharted waters, and we want to be captain of our own ship. Yet, by not allowing God to take control, we bypass the paradise in life that He longs to give us.

God will never hurt you. You can trust Him in all situations. Wade into the waters, and lift up your feet and let Him determine your future. Lift both feet, and give him full control.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Unopened Gifts

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” – I Corinthians 12:7-10

Have you ever given someone a Christmas present just to watch them say “Thank You” and sit it aside unopened? I have. There’s nothing quite like it! It’s the epitome of a slap on the face of love, a stab directly to the heart. I had searched and searched for the perfect gift, wrapped it with the most beautiful glistening ribbon, made my own bow, and there it sat – unopened. I’ve often wondered why - why did he not open the gift and show me that either he appreciated it, or didn't care for it?

Today it occurred to me that there are times I’ve done the same thing to God the Father. I’ve seen the gift He has given, and yet, tossed it aside unopened. I’ve neglected to take the time to explore what He wanted me to receive. Other times I opened the gift, and said “Gee, that’s nice” but placed it on a shelf and neglected to share it.

God gives us all gifts of the Spirit. These gifts are valuable not only to ourselves, but also for those around us. They’re to be shared with our friends and neighbors. Sometimes it’s the gift of faith, which when shared could grow someone else closer to God, and allow them to open their own gifts. It could be the gift of healing, which can change and save lives. It could be wisdom to give proper advice. But all of these are gifts from God.

Open God’s gifts first this Christmas. Ask Him to send them, and with open arms receive them. God has picked those gifts just for you! He longs to see you enjoy and share them. What you do with them is your gift to Him.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Honest to Goodness YOU!

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” – Luke 15:17

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what my future might hold. I’ve lived for years basing what I did on pleasing other folks – my parents, my friends, my church, my spouse, and even my kids. But God’s been talking to me lately about being honest with myself. When you’re honest with yourself you start asking deep questions like why do I part my hair on the side instead of the middle? Why should I ever wear a dress when they’re so darn uncomfortable? Do I really like coffee, or do I just like the thought of drinking the same thing as everyone else in the morning?

What I’ve discovered in being honest with myself is that a lot of what the world has chosen to be important is no longer important to me. When you really become honest with yourself, you discover who you are, and who you are in Christ. For example, just because a shoe looks good on me doesn’t mean it’s comfortable. I’m more about comfort than looks now because I’ve outgrown the need to look good for everyone else. Likewise, simply because it’s popular to party on New Years Eve doesn’t mean I want to. I enjoy the sleep I so dearly love far more than the countdown of a fancy clock! And while everyone else might like reading the popular novel of the day, I still find my good old Bible to be the most interesting book on the shelves – filled with deep meanings that make my heart flip just at reading it!

The prodigal son came to a point like this where he was honest with himself as well. Luke 15:17 says “But when he came to himself…” He had a moment of reflection on his situation, and it showed him his true identity. He realized the affliction he had given himself. Then he was willing to crawl back to his father and seek forgiveness.

Before you can come to Christ, you have to come to yourself. You can’t be a Christian and carry the cross you’ve been given without understanding why you are willing to bear that cross.

Friends, take some time to ask yourself the deep questions. Do you really want to do what you’re doing now for the next 20 years? Is this the life God has designed for you? Come to yourself, then bow to Him. Life is so much easier when your walking the path God has cleared for you rather than trying to clear your own.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Perfect Gift

“And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11

Here at Christmas time we’re all searching for that perfect present to give to someone special in our lives. But sometimes, the things that mean the most to you are not on a Christmas list. It’s the things that touch your heart that truly show the love that is Christmas.

I have to confess to you, I love to make people cry. My best friend is a crier. In fact, she carries a sponge and a bucket instead of tissues!  A few years ago she had blessed me with her testimony and really blown me away. Friends, this life story should be a book for all young girls to read. It impressed me to know that God had brought her through so many storms.

For Christmas that year, I gave her a journal. Inside it I wrote the preface to her life story for her, in hopes that she’d complete it within the journal for her daughters and grandchildren. When she got it, of course, she cried like a baby! It truly touched her heart. She cried because I’d taken the time to know her, love her, and to understand her heart.

When Jesus was born, three wise men traveled from the east to see him. They came to Herod and said, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” The fact that they called the star “His star” and that they already knew he was born “King of the Jews” says they had foreknowledge of Jesus, the Messiah, being born. Their purpose in locating Him was simple – they wanted to worship Him. They came to bow before Him and adore Him. How blessed all of our Christmas times would be if we first stopped to adore Him!

But they didn’t stop at offering Him their love in a silent manner. They proved it by the gifts they brought: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts are significant in that they proved their faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and they knew whom they were worshipping.

Gold was a gift given to Kings. Jesus would become King of Kings.

Frankincense was an offering made in temples to God. Jesus is the Son of God.

Myrrh was used to anoint a body for burial. Were it not for Jesus’ death and burial, His birth would have been unnecessary.

How Jesus must have loved the thoughtfulness behind those gifts! How perfect they were, because they were given from the hearts of those that truly knew Him.

This Christmas, seek to do more than check a friend off your Christmas list. Seek to bless them through your love, for that is the true meaning of Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Temporary Cures for Permanent Problems

“For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.” – Luke 8:29

When I was a little girl we had a black and tan coon hound named Big Boy. He was named after my Dad’s uncle, who’d given him to us. Big Boy was a great dog. My brother and I played with him as much as we did each other. We would dress him up in clothes we’d outgrown, re-fold the loose skin under his chin into pleats, ride him like a pony, and when we rode our bikes, Big Boy would usually follow along behind us.

Big Boy was an outside dog, and we lived in the country. He wasn’t one of these fancy dogs on Science Diet food, or something special. He ate table scraps and whatever he could catch. That didn’t make for the best smelling breath for the old dog! My brother and I decided one day we’d cure his bad breath. We first got an Oreo cookie, ate the center out, filled it with toothpaste and fed it to him. When that didn’t work, we got my mom’s toothbrush (well, we couldn’t use our own!) and brushed his teeth. Big Boy’s breath smelled minty fresh! Of course, he wasn’t too much for hanging around us for a while after that!

Of course it wasn’t long until he was out eating off the land again. We’d found a temporary cure for a permanent problem. As we often do, we sought the quick cure. We cured the symptom instead of the problem.

In Luke 8 Jesus encountered a man who was possessed by demons in the country of the Gadarenes. He had been in their possession for a long time. The Gadarenes had bound the man in shackles and chains. They were looking for the temporary cure. But the demons would break the links of the chains, and the shackles. The people no doubt lived in fear of this man. What if he hurt their children? What if he set fire to their homes? Maybe they didn’t even understand that the man himself was not the problem, but the spirits living within him. Regardless, they sought to cure the symptoms of his destructive nature by further binding him up in shackles and chains.

But when Jesus came, He offered a cure. He wanted to give a permanent solution to a permanent problem. He ordered the demons into a herd of pigs, and they ran off a cliff into the ocean, and the man was freed of the demons.

Let us always be mindful of the permanent cure that is possible through Jesus. We often seek to find a temporary relief from our problems rather than seek the cure. Jesus offers a cure for any and all of our problems. We just have to go to Him in prayer and ask, believing, and receive. We have not, because we ask not.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

All You Need to Know to Be Healed

“I cried like a swift or thrush, I moaned like a mourning dove. My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens. I am troubled; O Lord, come to my aid!" But what can I say? He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this. I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul. Lord, by such things men live; and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored me to health and let me live. “ – Isaiah 38:14-16

When the diagnosis is given and that knot forms in your throat and your vision becomes clouded by your tears, you need to know that God is in charge of your health. When you hear the tests you have to have and the side effects of the medications you will have to have, you need to know that God doesn’t will you to be sick. Life comes from God. He breathed it into us. He controls how much we have, and when it ends. If you are a child of God and you are living for him free from sin through your repentance and His mercy, serving Him daily, it is not God’s will for you to be sick.

Would God place even a blemish on the Body of Christ, of which you are a member?

Would God vandalize the temple where His Holy Spirit dwells?

Would God give His own children disease, when we would never do that to our own children?


If God hasn’t willed sickness on us, then we MUST view it as an attack by the enemy. So how do you fight back? How do you cope with a bad diagnosis in a Christian way? How do you cause the power of Christ in your to take control of the situation? With any war, there is always a plan of attack consisting of major battles. The war is won through winning these battles.

The Battle of Sin: Cleanse your Heart. God cannot hear your prayers when you live in sin, and you need His close companionship. Isaiah 59:1-2 says “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.“ Get down on your knees alone with God, name and confess all your sins. Ask Him to bring them to your memory so you can name them all.

The Battle of Faith: Time and time again when Jesus healed the diseased He said to them “by your faith you have been healed”(Matthew 9:22, 15:28, Luke 18:42). Our faith grows through understanding God’s strength in healing. Increase your faith by talking with those around you who have received healing. Listen to what God has done for them. Read the many times in the Bible that Jesus healed the sick. Psalms 103:3 says that he “heals all your diseases”. Matthew 4:23 says that Jesus went about healing “all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.” He’s already won victory over your illness! Faith in that can give you victory in your battle.

The Battle for First Place: Nothing gets God’s attention more than the sacrifices of His children. One way to do this is fasting. When you view your need for Him more than your need to live in a physical realm and feed your flesh, God comes near. Isaiah 58:6-8 says that He has chosen the fast and that “Your healing shall spring forth speedily”. Many people don’t attempt fasting because, bottom line, they don’t believe in it. If you choose to no believe in fasting, you choose not to believe the Bible. John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” which is a reference to Jesus. Can you really believe in Jesus if you choose to not believe fully anything in the Word of God? Are they not the same? Fast and pray. Put God first. He will honor your sacrifice.

The Battle of Anointing: James 5:14 says “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Anointing Oil is not just oil. It is oil that has been prayed over and that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is equally important that the “elders of the church” have faith in your healing. One seed of doubt in a field of faith acts as a weed. It will spread and choke out all faith. Don’t allow it. Choose very carefully whom you will even tell your diagnosis.

The Battle for Life: Holy Communion will act as a medicine to heal your illness. John 6:53-57 says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” Take Holy Communion as you would medication – on a set schedule. When you do, read Matthew 26:26-30. There is life in the flesh and blood of Jesus!

There is victory over ALL ILLNESS through Jesus. Claim your victory! It’s yours for the asking.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Cure for Cancer

First of all, let me just say this isn’t a soap-box sermon. I know first hand through the loss of three grandparents how devastating cancer can be. Because I was older, I remember most vividly my Momma Pearl going through her fights with cancer. I watched as cancer completely digested her body.

She first had a complete mastectomy, which was a terrible blow to this beautiful woman. Later she had a colonoscopy. As my Dad became the one to have to clean the bag, she lost her self-pride. As the cancer progressed, she could no longer form her own words, hold open her eyes, hold your hand, or even control her own drool. I can personally attest to you that cancer is one of Satan’s greatest demons loosed upon us today. But I can also tell you today there is a cure: Faith.

Faith is a funny thing. We have it, but only as much as we can understand ourselves to have. For example, I have faith to believe God saves because I’ve experienced it first hand. I can even tell you God cures migraines because He has taken them from me. I can tell you that God can heal a broken heart, change your finances, give you wisdom beyond your understanding, give you friends who are true friends, and on and on. This is the faith I have because I’ve experienced it first hand, and I understand it is possible.

But what about new challenges and trials? How will you respond when you’re faced with something bigger than your faith, like cancer? For that purpose, God has provided those around us who can strengthen our faith, and His Holy Word. Through His Word, which will generate a new faith in you if you allow it, yes, even cancer can be cured.

In Psalm 103:2-3 we read “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases”

Is God limited in His healing power?

Is cancer too great for God to cure?

No! In Luke 1:37 we are told “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Is there proof of God’s strength in healing diseases? Are there evidences we can look to as a means of support to our faith? Yes!

In Matthew 4:23 we read that Jesus was in Galilee, and “healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. “

Read that again – “ALL kinds of disease”. The verse isn’t worded that way by mistake because the Bible is the complete, infallible word of God. It’s meant to include cancer and anything else that our bodies can become inflicted by.

Jesus had power to heal all sickness. Jesus still has that power. He didn’t lose any strength in His death and resurrection. In fact, He shared that strength with us through the Holy Spirit.

In John 14:10-14 we are told “Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

The question arises, if this is true, then why are prayers not answered?

There are two conditions in this passage, the first of which is “anyone who has faith in me”. Again, our faith is limited by what we can understand to be possible. But Jesus tells us to believe on the evidence of His miracles, which will provide strength to our faith. He gives us events to look to and say, “yes, Jesus can do this because He has done it before”. Can we believe the miracles were performed? Can we trust the Bible to be the complete truth? If so, we can depend on the miracles that Jesus performed to strengthen our faith.

The second condition is we must ask him “for anything in my name.” Our power is only through the shed blood of Jesus, which is given to those cleansed by salvation. We can ask God for healing because Jesus has provided the path – the connection – for us. By His stripes, we are healed! In Jesus name, all things are possible! Anything we ask in Jesus name, even for the complete healing and recovery of someone with incurable cancer, Jesus says “I will do it”. It’s not that Jesus’ name is some magic word. Asking for something in Jesus name means that we come to the throne through Jesus, proclaiming Him as our authority to ask of God the things we need.

This is the promise we must stand on, that whatever we ask for in Jesus name, believing in faith and without doubt that we will receive, will be ours. God doesn’t break His promises because that would mean God lies. Does God lie? Absolutely not! In Titus 1:2 it says he cannot lie. In fact, the one and only thing God cannot do is lie!

So what are we to do now that we know (yes, KNOW) that God will heal those with cancer through our faith, and the shed blood of Jesus which gives us the ability to approach the throne of God in prayer, and ask for it? Look at what Jesus did before Lazarus was brought back from the dead.

In John 11:38-44 it says “Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. (Listen to what Jesus does!) And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

Jesus praised God! He thanked him BEFORE Lazarus was brought back from the dead. He knew, just as we KNOW, that healing was imminent! We don’t need to continually pray for the healing to come, we need to praise God for it as affirmation of our belief in His Holy Word without doubt that healing is being accomplished!

And again, if Jesus can bring Lazarus back from the dead after his body has not breathed a single breath in four days, what is curing cancer to Him? Either we believe the Bible’s recollection of this event to be true, or we don’t believe the Bible at all. If there’s one fallacy in the Bible, then the whole book is subject to question. But, time and time again, even history has proven the Bible to be true. Even archeology has proven it. The Bible is God’s Holy Word, complete and without flaw.

When your faced with a big trial as large as cancer, sometimes it’s hard to pray. Your words won’t come because your heart is so heavy, your spirit is filled with fear, and your soul is broken. Jesus experienced this himself when he went to Lazarus. It says he was “groaning in Himself”. This is the communication of the Holy Spirit within us when we are too weak and broken to communicate. In Romans 8:26 it says “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Don’t be worried because when you pray you can’t find the words. Pray anyway! Give God time alone with you. He will hear your heart through the Holy Spirit, He will heal your brokenness, and He will do the talking.

Perhaps the fear of this disease, which I know so many have seen in their families through the years, has overtaken your hope. I want you to see a guarantee that God provides for QUICK healing. That’s right – a guarantee! I must remind you God does not lie. Therefore, this verse is a lock-tight guarantee from Almighty God.

In Isaiah 58:6-8 we read “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

God says to fast, to give your bread to the hungry, your clothes to those that have none. God is saying to sacrifice the things your body wants and needs to bring forth his mercy and attention.

Any mother knows the pain of watching her child do without anything they need. If your baby is hungry, you’ll skip a meal yourself to feed it. If your child is sick, you’ll forget your own sickness to tend to them. If your child is heartbroken, you will carry the pain with them. If we are affected by our children’s needs so greatly, then how much more will God be affected by ours through fasting?

Fasting doesn’t have to be complete abstinence from food. What do you enjoy most? Is it television? Is it quiet conversations with a friend? Is it the computer time? Is it chocolate? Is it new clothes? Whatever it is – give it up until you see healing occur. Give the thing you love to others. Sacrifice to bring about God’s attention, and show your earnest in your prayers.

Then He says “Your healing shall spring forth speedily”. If God can bring the planets and all creation into existence in 6 days, how fast do you believe He can bring healing? Can you believe God for this promise? Can you trust Him to do what He says He will do!

We now know that it’s not that God can’t do it, and it’s not that God won’t do it. Perhaps Satan has led you to believe that this is God’s will. He’s such a liar!

Did you know God has placed a length on man’s days and allotted for an extension? In Psalms 90:10 it says “The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years”.
These are the lengths of our lives in God’s eyes. You have to understand this is His will for our lives, 70 years, or 80 if we are strong. God doesn’t punish his people through sickness and death. That’s Satan’s work!

God provides even greater than 80 years to you in yet another promise! In Exodus 20:12 He says "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” To live longer than the allotted time is to be beyond 80 years. Ephesians 6:2 says this is the first commandment with PROMISE. That’s right! It is a PROMISE from God, which will not be broken!

Maybe the lie Satan is giving you is that healing cannot come because the cancer or disease you’re facing is a punishment from God. Does not forgiveness from a repentant heart take away our punishment and sin? Psalms 103:12 says “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us“. Think about that! There is no end to be found. Your sins are gone forever. Moreover, Isaiah 43:25 God says "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” He forgets your sins! If He has forgotten them, will punishment remain? Absolutely not!

Now, based on the scripture we’ve read, we know that:

1. God, working through His Son Jesus has healed us of all diseases, and there is no limit to His ability.
2. Through Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are granted even more authority to do great things in His name.
3. God is affected by our prayers and fasting, which bring about quick healing.
4. God has guaranteed us at least 70 years by His standards. Anything less is due to an attack from Satan.
5. God does not punish those who have asked for forgiveness through sickness and death.

So, I must ask you now….

Do you have the cure?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

To Be Real: Unselfish

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

Pinocchio had proven to be brave and truthful. The last thing Pinocchio had to accomplish to become a real boy was to prove to be unselfish. He had to give away something that was dear to him.

He’d come deep into the ocean to rescue his father, Geppetto, from the whale that had swallowed him. After building a fire to make the whale sneeze, they found themselves on a raft being tossed across the ocean’s raging waves. As they washed violently to shore, Pinocchio rescued Geppetto, and then drowned in the shallow waters of the shoreline. He gave his very life to save him. The one thing Pinocchio wanted most, to be alive and real, he was willing to give up for Geppetto.

God wants us to love each other in that same way. If it took your life to save another, would you be willing to give it? I won’t answer that question and I don’t expect you to either. But that is the goal in which we should strive to reach - to love others more than ourselves. Jesus did it and if we are to be true Christians, that same spirit of love must live inside us.

God had to teach me a hard lesson about loving others on deep levels instead of superficially. When He caused me to examine my heart what I was not pretty. In fact it was down right ugly sin. I had created in my heart a set of requirements for whom I would love and be friends with. I wanted to be friends only with those who lifted me up, instead of lifting up others. I wanted to feel good in their presence rather than letting them feel good about being in mine. I wanted to be friends with those that could benefit me instead of looking to be a benefit to someone else. I didn’t want to be around smelly people, dirty people, needy people, sad people, or hurting people. God convicted my heart of the sifting I did in loving other. What I was giving was not love. It wasn’t even friendship. It was selfishness. Nobody could live up to my standards every day of the week!

But then He caused me to see myself as He did. I saw my “friend filter” and He condemned me. I had to see that I was only a child of God like everyone else. I wasn’t worthy of anything, and everything I had He had given me. When you realize that God’s grace levels the playing ground for us all, you realize that you have nothing to offer anyone. It’s then that you can love others as yourself. It’s then that you can offer what you have to others without feeling remorse. It’s then that you seek to be a blessing rather than be blessed.

What Pinocchio wanted most was to be alive, and he gained that life by giving his to Geppetto. The blue fairy returned at his death, and gave him not only the life of a wooden boy, but he became a real boy. He gained true life!

Do you desire to be real with God? Do you want to walk beside Him and feel His love in your heart? I can and do testify to you that loving others will cause you to be closer to Him. God is love and those who seek Him must seek to love and be loved.

To Be Real: Truthful

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. –John 4:23-24

In the story of Pinocchio, the little wooden marionette was told by the blue fairy, that to become real he had to prove to be brave, truthful, and unselfish. Pinocchio had a peculiar problem. When he told a lie, it was as evident as the nose on his face! In fact, his nose grew!

There is one scene in the movie where Pinocchio chooses to lie to the blue fairy about why he didn’t go to school. At first his nose becomes a branch, but as the lie grew, his nose sprouted cute little green leaves. He stretches the lie a bit more, and his nose stretched too, and then bore flowers and a bird nest! He adds to his misery by further loosening his tongue, and it grew even longer and the birds flew away. But then the leaves died and he’s left with a big ugly stick for a nose.

It occurred to me as I watched this scene that from Pinocchio’s view, he saw something different than we did. He saw pretty little leaves, flowers, and birdies! How sweet! But from our perspective, we saw how stupid he looked with that tree growing from his face! I think when God sees our lies He sees how stupid we look too. Oh that we could see ourselves in that same way! Some lies are big and some are small, but they’re all lies in God’s eyes, and they’re ugly.

To worship God we must worship in spirit and truth. We cannot be superficial with God. We cannot slap on a happy face, go to church, smile and say, “I’m fine!” to everyone who asks and expect God to be pleased. We cannot quote scriptures, sing “It is Well with My Soul”, yet feel emptiness inside, and pat ourselves on the back for a “good worship service.” God is not impressed with our fake happiness, our false friendships to Him, and the cloaks of pride we put on to hide the truth that is inside. He is not impressed with our prayers of big fancy words spoken to impress the people listening instead of Him. When we do that we worship the people instead of God. How that must turn His stomach!

Do you want to be real with God? Then be honest with Him. Talk to God about what’s wrong – from the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.“ He’s looking right at your heart with eyes wide open! You’re not hiding from Him. Good relationships are built on truth and trust. Faking what’s inside is useless, and puts up walls between you and God.

The Holy Spirit has a name that I love, “The Spirit of Truth”. John 16:13 says, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” The Holy Spirit, our Spirit of Truth living in us, will guide us to know more truth, and to live in truth. He will hear from God, and talk to you. He will deliver God’s word to you. But you have to be willing to live in truth, to communicate with God on a spiritual level, to set aside all falsehoods, and all pretenses. This is how God wants to be worshipped – in spirit and truth.

So it all comes down to this: Do you want to worship? Then you’ve got to get real with God.

To Be Real: Bravery

“If I ascend into heaven, You are there, if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” – Psalms 138:9

In the story of Pinocchio, the blue fairy tells the little wooden boy that if he wants to become real, he has to prove to be brave, truthful, and unselfish. God wants His children to be real as well. He wants us to have a true relationship with Him, not a superficial one. He wants us to be able to shed the cloaks of personality and character we put on to please people, and just be ourselves with Him. In order to do that, we also have to be brave.

Bravery comes in many different forms. We think of soldiers as being brave. They fight for what they know to be right. They show loyalty to their country. They stand for what is right even in the face of death. God seeks this kind of bravery in us.

Being a Christian is a way of life, a chosen profession. You can be saved, yet not be a Christian. To be a Christian is to strive be Christ-like. A real Christian has to be brave enough to stand for Christ in the face of opposition, to be counted for Christ when it’s not popular. It means listening to God’s voice, and following His call as a servant. That can be frightening. If you don’t think so, ask a missionary who’s been sent into the region of witchcraft in Nigeria, or into the areas of Jihad in Iran. Bravery means fighting for what is right.

Just as Pinocchio found out, there are obstacles we must face in life. The blue fairy gave Pinocchio a helper. She named a little cricket named Jiminy to become his conscience, and gave him the title of “Lord high keeper of the knowledge of right and wrong, counselor in moments of temptation, and guide along the straight and narrow path”. She then instructed Pinocchio to let his conscience be his guide.

As Christians, the Holy Spirit is our guide. He is our keeper of the knowledge of right and wrong, our counselor when temptation comes, and our guide along the right path. But we often choose to not listen to that still small voice and go our own way.

On the first morning of being “live”, Geppetto sent his little boy to school. But along the way he met up with a fox named “Honest John” who showed Pinocchio that he could have a life of fame and fortune if he went into the acting business. Jiminy tried to warn him. He pointed to Honest John and said “Remember what I said about temptation? That’s him!” But Pinocchio ignored his guide, and set off on his own path. He soon found out that the life of fame and fortune would trap him, literally! He was placed in a cage and could not escape.

There’s a scene in the movie where Pinocchio is still trapped by the puppet master, and Geppetto is looking for him. His father, Geppetto, walks in the cold and rain calling out to Pinocchio, “Oh, where can he be? Where can my little boy be? Oh, Pinocchio!” He wants him back. He wants him home.
Our father wants us with Him. When we choose the life of sin over the life He has for us, He still seeks to have us with Him. He still calls out to us. But when you’ve been captured by the life of your own desires, it can be very hard to let go. That’s when bravery must be found.

Sin can be as confining as Pinocchio’s cage, yet it can feel as comfortable as an old shoe. Change can be frightening. Friends may be lost. Habits may have to change. The places you visit may have to change. But wherever you go, whatever you do, God is always there for you. You can find courage in that. You can be brave. Psalms 139:8 says, “If I ascend into heaven, You are there, if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” Even though where you are at can feel like hell, you cannot escape the love God has for you. He is a faithful Father. He still calls out to you.

Do you want to be real with God? Step out in faith and find Him. He’s waiting. He will release you from your bondage. Turn and go back home to God. Turn from the bondage you’ve created, and allow him to give you real life. He’ll welcome you home.

To Be Real: LIFE

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“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. “ – 1 John 5:12

When my son was growing up, we must have watched Pinocchio about a ten million times! It’s a wonderful story about a man named Geppetto who was a toy maker. He lived by himself with a cat named Figueroa and a goldfish named Cleo. One day Geppetto made a marionette puppet boy out of wood and named him Pinocchio.

That night as he lay in bed, Geppetto wished on a star. He wished that little Pinocchio would become a real boy. Geppetto drifted off to sleep. But while he slept, a blue fairy heard his wish, and came to visit Pinocchio. That night in the toyshop, she gave life to the little puppet boy. He was still a wooden doll, but she told him that if he wanted to become real, he needed to prove to be three things: brave, truthful, and unselfish.

God wants to give us life too – eternal life. But unlike the story of Pinocchio, you have to ask for it yourself. Your parents may be Christians. Your grandparents may be Christians. You may have Christian friends. But becoming God’s child doesn’t happen through osmosis. You have to ask for it.

Do you want real life? Do you want to be free from the life you lead? It’s a wish away.

Do you believe that Jesus was God’s son? Even demons know it to be true. (Matthew 8:28-30)

Do you believe you are a sinner? Guess what? We all are! (Romans 3:23)

Do you believe that Jesus died to right your wrongs, to clean you from your sins? He did. (1 Peter 3:18)

If you can answer those questions with a “yes”, you can be saved. God waits for you to ask for it – to wish for it. Simply pray, talk to God, and tell him you want him as your Father, you want the new life he has promised, and that you accept Jesus as your savior. Then tell others! (Romans 10:8-10)

So, tell me now you have eternal life?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oh, Give Thanks

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works!” – 1 Chronicles 16:8-9

Writing thank you cards has become a lost etiquette. When I was growing up here in the south if someone gave you a birthday present or did you a favor, big or small, you were expected to write them a thank you note. It was just the polite thing to do. I was taught to include in the card a mention of the item by name, and something I liked about it. I’ve taught my children to write them as well. I think it’s important to acknowledge the kindness of relatives and friends.

If you were to write God a thank you note, what would it say? Think about that. Where would you start?

Here in the south if we have a baby or bridal shower someone keeps a list of who gave the gift and what it was. When the shower is over, its customary for the one who received the gifts to write thank you notes for each item on the list.

What if you had to make a list of what God has given you? What would it say?
1 Chronicles 16:9 says we are to “talk of ALL his wondrous works.” Friends, if we were to do that, we’d have no time for small talk, no time for gossip, no time to argue, and no time to whine and complain. What a blessing we miss by simply not acknowledging our own blessings.

This Thanksgiving I have many things for which to be thankful. This past year has been a real struggle for me. There were times when I felt Satan was attacking from all angles. At the top of my list of things I want to thank God for is YOU, my online friends. Having this blog and being able to share my thoughts on our Father God, Lord Jesus Christ, and the working of the Holy Spirit has lightened my heart, and kept my focus on higher things than this life. You all give so much love to me, and I know it must be the love of Christ through you. Words will never convey how much I appreciate your kindness and your friendship. May God shower you with blessings, shine upon your face, cradle you in His arms, and give you sweet peace.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Carrying the Daily Cross

“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” – Luke 9:23

Mornings are tough sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job…most of the time. But some days I’d like to stay in bed. It’s warmth is much more appealing than the drudgery of getting dressed, rushing out the door, and dealing with the attitudes and politics of work all day. This was one of those mornings. I just really didn’t want to go to work.

I’d played several conversations that might take place over in my head. I’d chosen my comments, stressed over the likely responses, and decided what to say and not to say. I’d carefully picked out the right clothes so I’d look comfortable, but not sloppy. I’d done my hair and makeup. As usual, the entire time I was getting ready, I was giving my kids the checklist of questions we go through each morning.

“Did you brush your teeth?”

“Do you have your homework?”

“Where’s your jacket?”

“Did you make your bed?”

“Is THAT what you’re wearing?”

We were finally leaving the house and I turned the corner to exit my room. I wouldn’t call it a vision because that might be misleading. It was more of a “holy imagination”. As I turned toward the door, I imagined Jesus leading the way, walking ahead of me. He turned to look back at me and said, “Let’s go!” It was milliseconds in length, yet I recall his flowing robe as He walked and the clap of his sandals on the floor. He was walking ahead of me, leading the way, as I started the day. I cannot express to you in words known by man the feeling of peace that gave me. The entire day became filled with hope.

Jesus has told us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. For years I read this verse and I assumed Jesus wanted me to follow Him because He desired my obedience. I thought of it as a command to do His will, a job, and another rule to follow. I look at this verse differently now. I know following Jesus daily is for my own benefit. He goes before me. He doesn’t walk beside me like a friend. He doesn’t say, “I’ve got your back”, and wait for something to go wrong so He can react. He walks ahead of me. As I pass through the day Jesus is going before me clearing the thorns and briars to make it easier for me to carry my cross.

He knows our crosses. We each have one to carry. Every day the cross is different than the one before. Sometimes it’s lighter, and sometimes heavier. But each day there’s a cross to bear, and a path to tread.

Can you name what’s hanging from your cross? Perhaps it’s a failing marriage, a rebellious child, or emotional scars of an abusive past. It may be an enemy in your workplace, or a job that’s stealing your joy. Is it your finances, your health, or the health of someone dear to your heart? Whatever it is, Jesus knows about it. He knows the obstacles you will face, and He has prepared an easier path. Let Him lead the way.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Smallest Things

"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." – Matthew 10:29-31

Last night the kids and I decided to try one of the newer restaurants near us. They seated us against a wall near a doorway. I was happy at first because I now had a good spot for one of my favorite hobbies, people watching. As I sat down, I immediately saw there was a problem. A halogen light was shining right in my face. All the other bulbs on the track were shining straight down, but this one was cocked to the side shining directly in my face.

There were only three chairs, so I couldn’t simply switch seats. If I moved my chair to the other side of the table my back would be to everyone in the restaurant, and I’d be in the way of all the servers. So I sat there for about ten minutes with the light shining directly into my eyes. It must have been a ten thousand watt super bulb developed by NASA or something. It was beginning to truly hurt my eyes and I said to the kids, "Well, I guess I could cover my eyes!" And just as I put my hands over my eyes, POP! The bulb burned out!

I praised God! I said to my kids "See how much God loves me? He even cares when there’s too much light in my eyes!"

Now you may say it was just a coincidence. You may say that was "cool", but it probably wasn’t God’s work. You may even think God doesn’t have time to take care of the things that are that trivial with war and famine and disease throughout the world. But I have to tell you that from the bottom of my heart I know God took that bulb out of service for me.

He cares about even the smallest things in our lives. If you lose a button on your shirt, God cares. If you are lonely, God cares. If you get paper cut, God cares. If you’ve lost your keys, God cares. If you are stressed about a dirty house, God cares. If you are hurting because your last child has moved out, leaving you with an empty nest, God cares. Nothing in your life that causes you the smallest amount of discomfort occurs without His knowledge and attention.

Matthew 10:30 tells us that He has even numbered the hairs on our head. I love my kids beyond what I can express into words, but I’ve never took the time to try to count and keep track of how many hairs are on their head. Yet each hair that falls from their head causes Him to update His tally. As a mom, it’s very comforting to know God loves them beyond even what I can, and is watching over them that closely.

When things of this life bother you, even the smallest things, don’t hesitate to give them to God in prayer. Crawl up in His lap, unload all your cares, and lean on His shoulders. He will support you. He is on your side.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:31-34

My 10-year-old daughter, Gabriella, recently wrote a poem called “What Chicken Little Might Have Said”:

It’s falling, it’s falling
The whole earth is falling.
In a few minutes, you will be crawling.

It’s falling, it’s falling,
The blue skies and clouds are falling.
Com’on you guys, there’s no time for stalling!

It’s falling, it’s falling,
You will be balling!
In minutes, in seconds, you will be balling!

Chicken Little was a worrier. He took a small thing - getting hit on the head - and grew it into something much worse. Before long he had everyone shook up, stirred up, and all in distress!

We often do the same thing. We look at a large stack of bills and we look at our check stubs, and we start to worry. We hear our child cough in the night, and start to worry about how we’ll be able to take them to the doctor when we’re working full time. We see a low tire and worry that it might have a leak. We have cross words with our spouse and we begin to worry that they don’t love us any more. We take the smallest things, and make them into incredibly terrible situations.

Why do we do this? We lose focus. It’s impossible to worry when you’re focusing on what Jesus wrote in Matthew 6:32, “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Matthew 7:11 also tells us that God, our Father, gives good gifts to His children. None of our problems take Father God by surprise. If we can continue to focus on that knowledge while dealing with our problems, we won’t become a Chicken Little! Look up when your problems come! Trust God with your circumstances. He is faithful, He is always on the job, and he will not forsake you.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Doing Battle with the Sword

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;” – Ephesians 6:14-18

The verses above are often referred to as the Armor of God. The verses tell us what we need to do battle in the spiritual realm where good and evil exist. We need the truth, we need righteousness, we need the peace of the Gospel of Christ, we need faith, and we need salvation. These elements pertain to our protection.

Only one weapon is mentioned in this text, and that is the Sword of the Spirit, God’s Holy Word. Evil can only be overcome by the word of God. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in Matthew 4, he didn’t try to manhandle Satan, although he could have. He didn’t send the angels to fight his battle, although he could have. He didn’t cause Satan to be mute and speechless, although he could have. Jesus simply spoke God’s word.

God’s word is the most powerful weapon we have, and yet, many of us never take it out of its sheath. There is power, and victory, to be gained by praying God’s word in times of struggle.

Do you have a child that will not obey?
Pray Isaiah 54:13, “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Pray Psalms 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” and Matthew 7:11, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”.

Do you have enemies that seek to destroy you?
Pray Deuteronomy 28:7, “The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.”

Do you have fears that overwhelm you?
Pray Proverbs 29:25, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”, or Psalms 112:7, “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD".

Do you have financial hardships that are burdening you?
Pray Matthew 6:29-32, “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

God has given us these promises to sustain us in battle. Other problems can come our way, but God has given us the words to fight in every circumstance. There are no battles in which the word of God will not cause us to be victorious. If there were, He would have given additional weapons in the Armor of God.

Friends, praying God’s word can change your life. It can enable you to overcome the problems that life brings your way, increase your faith and strengthen your relationship with God. The Bible is your sword, your battling iron. Don’t leave it in the sheath. Keep it polished and ever present.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Will You Be My Teacher?

“… teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;…” – Matthew 28:20

I was checking out at a department store recently and came in contact with a sweet lady who struck up a conversation about one of the baby items I’d purchased. She began to tell me about a couple who nearly lost their baby until she began to talk to them about praying God’s word over their unborn child. We talked for only 2-3 minutes while she was checking me out. As I went to the car it dawned on me that she had not only been my cashier, she’d also been my teacher.

As we go through the day, we come in contact with many people who are our teachers. It’s God’s design for us to learn from each other. Some teachers are as pleasant as my cashier and others…not so much.

What about the insistently whining child that was in the cart ahead of me? All that complaining and begging made me want shove the chocolate bar he wanted into his little mouth and snatch up his mom and give her a lesson in child rearing! But did I learn something? Yes. I learned patience. I’m praying I won’t have to have any refresher courses on this one, but I’d bet they’re on God’s agenda for me.

Just as others are teaching us, we are teaching as well. Someone once said, “You may be the only Bible someone will ever read.” Just as children learn to walk and talk by watching and listening to those around them, others are watching and listening each day to learn from us how to deal with the events of life itself.

Are we teaching self control, or how to lose our temper?

Are we teaching compassion or selfishness?

Are we teaching them to be “harmless as doves” or are they learning to use words that crush the heart?

I passed a church sign today that says it all. “Watch your step….everyone else does.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stirring the Pot

"He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was lead as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth." – Isaiah 53:7

My Grandmother Ruby wasn't the gossiping kind. She had a name for those who shared all their problems in detail. She called them "pot stirrers". She'd say they were "stirring the pot and they'd end up cooking up something terrible". She was right. As those pot stirrers would roam around from one person to another they'd gather bad advice like a dog gathers fleas. They'd get discouragement, they'd gain anger, they'd get fake sympathy to enforce their bad attitudes, and next thing you know, the pot was full!

When we give our problems the focus of our minds, they consume us. We should never give way to doubt or discouraging thoughts. It's often the mouth that ends up causing our problems. If every thought we had that was hurtful, disappointing, or not glorifying to God was simply tossed out of our heads by not focusing on it, consider how much happier we would be!

Just in case you're sitting back reading this and saying, "Oh, that's denial", let me just say that denial isn't a negative thing when it produces positive results. Will worrying about your problems make them go away? Will God be pleased with your worry, which shows a lack of faith in Him? Will He be glorified as you go from one person to another showing this lack of faith?

When Jesus was being tortured before His death, He did not speak. He bore incredible physical and emotional pain without opening his mouth. There's a lesson there for us. We need to keep our mouths shut more often. I can say this because I'll testify I should lead the "shut up" parade and carry the banner!

The only person who can help with our problem is God, and that should be the one we take them to. There's no problem we can have that he doesn't care about, can't fix, or won't fix if we only believe in Him and His deliverance. He won't give us poor advice, and He won't go behind our backs and spread those problems to others. Focus on God, and His authority over the obstacles in our life, and not on the problem itself. Focus on God, and all your problems will simply fade in comparison to His love.

The Search for Someone To Blame

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. “ – James 1:13-15

When I was younger we use to watch the Flip Wilson show on TV. One of the skits Flip would do was to dress as a woman and become his “alter ego”, Geraldine. Geraldine, a somewhat wild and unruly woman, would blame all her actions on the devil. She’s say in a shout, “The devil made me do it!” Satan will tempt, that is true, and it’s easy to let him be the scapegoat.

I’ve also heard people say that God placed a test in front of them and they failed, thereby they have committed a sin. But God doesn’t tempt us. It’s our own desires that cause us to stray from God’s will. Why would a Father who seeks to perfect His children place snares in their way to trip them up? Not only is it Biblical, but it’s simply logical that God doesn’t tempt His children. Would you purify gold just to contaminate it with dirt again?

It seems we’re always looking for someone to blame our sins on. It makes the repentance a little bit easier if we can share it.

“I lied to her about how nice she looked because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.”

“If I’d not gone with you, I’d never have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“You’re just one of those people that brings out the worst in me!”

“If you didn’t nag at me so much, I wouldn’t drink.”

“I could be nicer if you were smarter!”

No matter how we candy coat it, how many we find to blame, the pill is still a sour one to swallow. We sin, and we sin because the desires of our own heart lead us. Sorry Geraldine, it wasn’t just Satan honey, you were a willing accomplice!

“The search for someone to blame is always successful.” – Robert Half

Garbage In - Garbage Out

“So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”” – Matthew 15:16-20

In my last house, I had a garbage disposal in my kitchen sink. I loved that garbage disposal! I could put anything into it and at the flick of a switch, poof – it was gone! The turkey tetrazzini that sounded so good (but was so disgusting the dogs wouldn’t eat it), the pecan pie that was pecan syrup, the freezer burned ice cream, that stuff from the very back of the refrigerator that’s blue and hairy – it wasn’t picky! It would take it all in, chew it all up, and down it would go never to be seen again!

Now that I’ve moved, I don’t have a disposal anymore. Now I have a sink drain screen. When I rinse the plates, it catches the uneaten pieces of food. Then I have to pick up the screen, and take it to the garbage can and empty it. It’s a chore, but it’s much better to do it that way than to have a clog in my sink to deal with!

Sometimes we are like the garbage disposal. There’s no filter between the world’s vices and us. We aren’t picky eaters! We take in the behind the counter magazines, the TV ad’s that sell sex more than the product, the music that tells us to do what feels good rather than what’s right, horror movies, books of crime and devious acts, and so much more. We take it in, let our brains chew on it, and down into the depths of our hearts it goes. Just like the garbage disposal, poof, it’s gone! Or is it?

There’s just one problem with the garbage that we let enter our heart. There’s no drainage from the heart except back out through the body’s actions. Our senses take in the garbage of the world as if we were a disposal, when in fact we’re more like the sink drain screen. What we allow in most definitely will come back to hurt us. We have to make a conscious effort to filter out and dispose of the garbage we come in contact with.

Have you ever watched a movie on TV that had bad language, and found yourself repeating it just hours later? Have you ever watched a show where someone was drinking an alcoholic drink, and found yourself craving it? What do you think about when you’re listening to one of those songs about “intimate” relationships? It’s embarrassing to think we are that easily sidetracked. Yet exposing our senses, the plumbing of our hearts, to these corrupt things leads to one thing: sin.

It’s our own desires that cause us to sin, and those desires start in the heart. Our heart is the throne room of the Holy Spirit. We wouldn’t track dirt into God’s house, and we should be careful what we allow into the home of the Holy Spirit.

Photo courtesy of Wiseacre Photo.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lifejackets and Boat Anchors

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” – Galatians 6:1-3

I’ve often heard it said that the church is a hospital for sinners. Yet, it often seems that we church members have some sort of HMO plan that no one else can apply for, and therefore, the admissions desk is closed.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost sight of our true purpose – to love one another as Christ loved us. We’ve set in our hearts that we are something, when we ourselves are nothing. And through this judgmental heart, we’ve locked our church doors, built a mote, and raised the drawbridge!

I’ve seen so-called Christians in protests with signs that say “GOD HATES GAYS” and “GOD HATES ABORTIONIST” and “GOD HATES PORNOGRAPHERS” and so forth. What a lie straight from the pits of hell! God does not hate AT ALL! God himself is described as pure love (1 John 4:8). I need to clarify that this doesn’t mean he accepts homosexuality, abortion, porn or any other sins. These are sins as we read in God’s Holy Word. But God loves the sinner beyond the sin.

God’s word is clear on what we are to do “for” those - not “to” those - who are living in sin. First, we are to remain spiritual ourselves. The blind cannot lead the blind. If we’re suffering from the same ailment, we have no ability to help our brother or sister in Christ. Keep your spirit healthy by giving it generous doses of God’s word, Christian fellowship, and repentance (a bitter, but effective medicine).

Secondly, acting in a spirit of gentleness, we are to restore them to their original faith. We are not to point a finger, gossip behind their back, tell increasingly amusing lies to everyone we meet, nor grow the concerns larger by spreading the facts. When we work in gentleness, we bring restoration to their souls without breaking their fellowship.

Restoration is the return of something to a prior state, yet it is a destructive process as well. If I were to restore an old car to it’s original state, I’d first have to grind off all the rust. Grinding has to go deep beyond the paint and into the metal where the corrosion began. But as I grind away at the rust, I have to be careful not to break through the metal. Likewise, when helping a fallen saint return to their first love, gentleness is needed to not break their spirit and hope. Shouting hatred and criticism doesn’t solve the problem. Burning flags in their front yard doesn’t solve the problem. Making jokes behind their backs doesn’t solve the problem. Love is the only solution. Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

Lastly, we are to bear each others burdens. Christian friends in the midst of life’s storms are like lifejackets. They can pull you out of the worst situations. By showing you their concern and love, you realize you are not alone, and that you do have help when you need it. But you wouldn’t wait till you were on a sinking ship to buy a life jacket, would you? Don’t wait till you need Christian friends to make them. Surround yourself with those that can keep you strong in your faith, and that you can help in turn.

Likewise, those who want to criticize and be judgmental are like boat anchors, sinking us deeper into an ocean of discouragement. Being judgmental comes from an even deeper, uglier problem. It comes from a pride that tells you that you’re above the sin of the other person. Be reminded that in God’s eyes, all sins are equal. Sin equates to lawlessness, and all lawlessness is against God. James 2:10 says “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” To paraphrase Jesus, when you become perfect, feel free to cast the first stone.

Brothers and Sisters, it matters not that our congregation grows larger if our church members suffer from the diseases of sin. It matters not that our offering is growing if our congregation is dying from the burdens of life. It doesn’t matter not that our sanctuary is beautiful, if our pews are filled with ugliness in God’s eyes. God doesn’t need large churches, large offerings, or beautiful sanctuaries. What He needs and wants is our love for each other to strengthen His people.

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Fear of God Blossoms

“The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, And before honor is humility.” – Proverbs 15:33

My daughter and I are in a match of wills. I will for her to follow my instructions, and she wills to do everything else! Frustrating? You bet! Saturday, after asking her three (that’s right –1–2-THREE!) times to clean up her bathroom I went in to find her towel crumpled onto her toilet, and a week’s pile of pajamas in the floor beside her shower. But at 10 years old, this is just a phase that she must go through to understand that it’s best to follow Mom’s rules. How do I teach her that? By making it uncomfortable for her when she doesn’t. (Actually, describing it as ‘uncomfortable’ is like a doctor saying “this will sting a little…” as he comes at you with a six inch long needle!)

But children are like that. They need some sort of motivation for following the rules. They aren’t born wanting to make their parents happy, adhere to all their instructions, and honor them all the days of their life. That has to be taught.
Sometimes that motivation can be positive like praise for a job well done, or a small reward like a candy bar in the checkout lane. But other times, the motivation has to be negative to induce their obedience the next time an instruction is given. As they endure those punishments, they learn obedience.

Obedience is a learned response. Ivan Pavlov was a Russian psychologist that studied conditioned reflexes using dogs in the 1890’s. For a period of time, Pavlov would ring a bell, then feed his dogs. After a while, all he had to do was ring the bell and his dogs would salivate in expectation of their food. They knew what to expect based on past experiences, and even their bodies were conditioned to react to the sound. Likewise, my children have learned that the sound of my voice at a certain tone can induce great pain to their backside. And when they hear that sound, the conditioned reflex is one of obedience.

God’s children are no different. As young Christians, we often hear His voice, and completely ignore it. We test His will against our own. We try his patience, and then God our Father finally shouts “ENOUGH!” Then, the punishment comes. Through that punishment we become conditioned to not allow it to happen again. As we grown in Christ, our knowledge of the importance of following God’s will increases because our experiences teach us how uncomfortable it is not to follow Him.

That is called “The Fear of the Lord”. The fear of the Lord is not a trembling in the corner, hiding under the bed, praying to not be seen kind of fear! God would never want his children to cower in fear of Him! To fear God simply means to understand His power in your life, and to want to fulfill His will over yours. Obedience begins as a reaction to the fear of His wrath.

But God wants us to grow past that, whereby our reaction is rooted in a yearning to please Him. This stage of growth is like a bud turning into a flower! It’s the point at which the Fear of God becomes Wisdom. Wisdom is something to be seen as a crown of honor. Wisdom is a reaction to a powerful God that causes Him to be pleased with you. Wisdom is a reward to the perfectly joined will of God and man.

“My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;” – Proverbs 2:1-6

Blossom my dear friends in the knowledge of God! Incline your ear to him, apply the knowledge you receive to your heart, and cry out for more! This hidden treasure is worth far more than anything our own will could add to us. Praise be to God that he is a Father who desires to give us good gifts! Praise be to God for wisdom!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Waving the White Flag

Growing up, I loved watching the old westerns with my Granddaddy. Other than the Grand Ole Opry, that’s all he ever watched on TV. The westerns were so simple. If the man wore black, he was bad. If he wore white, he was good. If he had a bandana around his face, he was about to rob someone. If they called for a posse, they were on a hunt for the bad guy. If someone waved a white flag, they had put down their weapons and surrendered.

In many ways, the prophet Daniel was a cowboy. He was set apart. Even the pagan King Darius knew there was something special about Daniel. In fact, the King had such admiration for Daniel that he’d planned to set him over the whole kingdom. But then the bad guys came along.

The politicians of the day didn’t want to see Daniel receive the power to govern them. So they formed a posse, and began to plot as to how they could cause Daniel to loose favor with the King. They knew Daniel, and knew that the one thing that he would never do is surrender to another god. Daniel was a righteous man. He knew God, and he worshipped God from a pure heart, praying three times a day, day in and day out. The one thing Daniel would not do is turn from his God.

So the posse went to the King and said in Daniel 6:6-7 "O King Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den. “

Well, no doubt the King must have felt…well…like a King! He must have said to himself, “look at all these humble servants wanting to kiss up…err…show allegiance to me!” So the King agreed, and the law was passed. Now, in those days, when a law was passed there was no repeal process. This was part of the laws of the Medes and Persians. The deed was done!

Daniel now had a decision to make. The law was only for 30 days. It would have been easy for any man to have hidden himself away and prayed for the next 30 days. It would have been somewhat understandable if he’d decided to give up praying entirely for just the next 30 days. But Daniel did not conform. Daniel continued to worship the one true God in spite of the law. Daniel took his life into his own hands, and pressed on, praying publicly three times a day.

Now the posse circled, and decided to make their stand! Before the King they proclaimed, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” they said in verse 13. The King was devastated! He’d just sentenced his loyal friend to death. He tried and tried all day to find a way to rescue Daniel from his own words, but could not. Then the time had come. Daniel was before the lion’s den.

Daniel had a choice to make. He could remain strong in his faith, or he could put down his faith, and wave the white flag of surrender. No doubt King Darius wished he would just wave the white flag! “Wave it Daniel! Just wave it!” I’m sure he would have shouted as they looked down on the hungry lions. But Daniel would not betray his God. He would not bend, he would not conform, he would not be influenced by the fear of an impending death, and he would not wave the white flag of surrender. Instead, he relied on the God he trusted. He relied on God to protect him, and preserve him. The Bible has no mention of Daniel screaming in anguish and fear as he was lowered into the den, or any mention of him begging for mercy or pleading for more time to make a decision. He simply went to the den.

At the opening of the den, King Darius said to Daniel in verse 16, "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!" Now keep in mind, this King was a non-believer. He’d only seen Daniel’s faithfulness to his God. Yet now the King is relying on that same God to save his friend. There, at the opening of the den, with the lions circling below, roaring and pacing, Daniel was thrown in and a stone rolled into place to close the den. No doubt the King must have wept bitterly as he watched his friend be thrown to the lions.

That night the King could not eat nor sleep. He was devastated at what he’d caused to happen, yet he was powerless to change it. Not being able to pray because he didn’t know our God, all he could do is pace, and worry all night long.

The next morning, as soon as it was light, the King ran to the den to see if God had come through. "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?" he shouted in verse 20. Notice that now the King realized that Daniel’s God was something special. Daniel’s God was a living God, not a god of stone or wood. Perhaps that night of worry had taught the King a thing or two. Regardless, words from the den in verse 21-22 are bound to have established the King’s faith! "O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king."

God had caused the lions to become kitty cats! They’d no doubt been very soft, cuddly pillows for Daniel’s sleep that night. God had found Daniel innocent, and because of his loyalty to God, he delivered him.

Unlike Daniel, we Christians often run for the white flag to wave, and we allow this world’s political correctness, condemnation and ridicule to push us to surrender. As long as we surrender, we’ll never grow nor see the lost souls around us come to know our living God.

Endure your trials.
Pray through the storms life brings.
Cry out to God when the pains of this world become more than you can bear.
Walk through the fire if that’s what God allows to be put in front of you.
But never ever raise the white flag of surrender!

Surrender in the old westerns never gave peace for the one that gave up. Instead, they were put in jail! The world and its sin and trials can put you in prison if you allow it. It can bind up the ever-present power you have within you through the Holy Spirit. It can throw a wet towel on the flame within you and douse your fire.

It’s up to you who will win this showdown. Just as Daniel had a decision to make, we all must one day make that same decision. What will it be? Will you choose victory through your trust in God, or will you surrender?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Living in Liberty

Martha had worked a full day. When 5:00 came she could barely stop herself from bolting for the door. There was still so much to do! First, she needed to gas up the car, then she needed to run by the local department store and pick up the three things on her list.

As she entered the department store, there was a group of young boys collecting money for their basketball league. She could tell they were inner city children. “Sorry!” she said as she rushed by them. She thought to herself, they probably didn’t know how to apply for funding! Didn’t they know there were grants available?

Through the isles she went with her cart. First, she needed birdseed, and she headed towards the garden section to find it. As she turned the corner to grab a bag, her cell phone rang. It was the church youth leader. “Me? Why can’t someone who doesn’t have a 40+ hour a week job help with the community Thanksgiving dinner? There are lots of others you could ask! I just can’t – I don’t have time!”

Next she needed a new blouse to match the slacks she’d bought last week. She wanted to wear them tomorrow. As she entered the women’s section and began to search the racks, her cell phone rang again. “I’m sorry Dan, I can’t be at the community clothes closet this weekend. I’m just too busy. You’ll have to find someone else to fold and tag the clothes. I just can’t find the time. I’m so busy these days I can hardly see straight!” Ah! There it was! The perfect blouse! Sure, it was a bit pricey, but she felt she deserved it after working so hard all day.

Only one more thing on the list, and she’d only been at the store 45 minutes. Martha felt a sense of accomplishment that things were moving so quickly. Now, off to the cosmetics isle to find the right shampoo. She’d been using her husband’s shampoo for the past few days and it just didn’t do the trick!

The cell phone again? “Well, I’m Miss Popular today!” she thought to herself. “Hi Mom. No, sorry, you’ve caught me at a bad time. I’m shopping and trying to get home to the kids. Sure, I’ll call later.” Her mom was undergoing chemotherapy and wasn’t doing well. The chemo was taking a toll on her body, and even her eyebrows had fallen out. She hated to see her mom go through such pain, but what could she do?

Finally she was home! Whew! What a full day she’d had! As she started dinner her 10-year old daughter came to her with math homework. “Sarah! Can’t you see I’m cooking dinner? After working with numbers all day long I certainly don’t want to do math homework! Ask your brother to help you!” She realized her words were sharp, but enough was enough!

As her dinner was baking, she remembered she had not read her Bible that morning. Her Sunday school class had agreed to read every day, so she felt obligated to sit down, and quickly read a few verses.

Her Bible opened to Galatians 5:12-14:

“I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.””

Her mind began to flood her with faces: the young boy asking for a donation outside the store, the youth leader, Dan at the clothes closet, her mother, and finally, her daughter.

Martha fell to her knees and cried.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Worship That Pleases God

“Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” – Exodus 40:34-35

Can you imagine not being able to enter a place because it was filled up with the Spirit of God? How would it feel when you were at the door trying to push your way in? How could your soul not be filled with the peace of the overwhelming power that lies right in front of you?

Moses encountered this power as he was about to begin the first worship service in the tabernacle he had designed for the Israelite people according to God’s words. God’s instructions were precise and detailed. There were certain placements for the items in the tabernacle, incense to be turned, oil to be used to anoint certain things, and veils to cover certain areas. It wasn’t just pomp and circumstance God was looking for; it was Moses’ obedience, and the obedience of the Israelite people. Before God entered, verse 33 says “So Moses finished the work.” It was necessary for Moses to comply with God’s will.

Then it happened. God came upon the tabernacle in a cloud. He filled it! All space in the tabernacle, every nook and cranny, was filled with the Holy presence of God. Moses most likely would have given his right arm to enter the tabernacle and be with God. He’d already experienced the presence of God and His glory on Mount Sinai. God’s fellowship is like a drug: once you have experienced it, you only want more, and more, and more!

There are times it seems God is so far away, and we cannot feel His presence, and that joy that fills our souls to overflowing. We want His presence, but while we go to the tabernacle, we can’t find Him there. It’s important to note that God does have precise instructions for our closeness to Him. He wants our obedience. When we fail to be obedient in all His commands, he expects our repentance.

When’s the last time you experienced the fellowship of God?
When’s the last time you fell to your knees in repentance?

Worship cannot occur without humble repentance. If you’re looking for an awesome worship service, start on your knees, and work your way up.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How Beautiful Heaven Must Be!

I hate to save money. To elaborate, I just love to spend money and I love to spend more than I have! Therefore, I would love to spend all I have, and not save any. Some folks are savers, others are spenders. I’m the later! That’s right, I stand proudly before you, and pronounce, “My name is Faithie, and I’m a terrible steward!” (Your response: “Welcome Faithie!”).

But I’m also mature enough to know that saving money is important. Things break! There are car repair bills, house repair bills, medical bills, and other things that can happen unexpectedly, and when they do, we need money saved up to cover those expenses. The knowledge of those unseen, but looming needs is motivation enough to cause me to save some each payday. No, I don’t like it, but I know it’s necessary.

As Christians, there are some days that the struggle just doesn’t seem worth it. We’re often faced with the ugliness of the world: hatred toward us, people ridiculing our beliefs, being called ignorant because we believe in the unseen, threats made against us, and even seeing those who believe as we do become martyrs.

When our motivation dies, we have to look past the current events to the reward ahead. Oh how beautiful Heaven will be! Think on that when you’re not motivated to turn the other cheek, to hold your peace, and to sit and “take it” just one more time. One day, it will all be worth it!

Heaven is described as a place we cannot with our simple minds even imagine. In 1 Corinthians 2:9 it says “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” Now, I’ve got a pretty good imagination, and I know others do as well. Think of all the movies of beautiful places. In the “Lord of the Rings”, the Hobbits lived in a beautiful land. In “The Sound of Music” the fields were green, and the skies beautiful blue. Do you remember the stripes of the sky in “Gone with the Wind”? But if we were to collectively imagine all that Heaven could be, the Bible still tells us that it is greater than anything that has ever entered into our hearts!

Revelations 21 describes Heaven as having a light as bright as a crystal and a great high wall with twelve gates. The wall is made of Jasper, which is a beautiful reddish brown stone. At each gate, which is each made of one pearl, an angel stands. The city itself is of gold, but is described as being like clear glass! Even the streets are described as clear gold. Within the city there is a stream of water that is as clear as crystal, and flows from God’s throne. There are twelve foundations to the city – one for each apostle. They are made of jasper (reddish brown stone), Sapphire (deep blue gem), chalcedony (pale blue stone), emerald (deep green gem), sardonyx (white and brown banded stone), sardius (red gem), chrysolite (greenish yellow gem), beryl (medium to dark green or aqua gem), topaz (deep amber gem), chrysoprasus (apple green gem), jacinth (orange gem), and amethyst (deep purple gem).

Now, are you imagining Heaven’s beauty? Can you envision the colors, the light of God shining through them, and casting all colors around the city like an eternal rainbow? Can you imagine the smoothness of the golden transparent streets under your feet? Have you envisioned the beauty of the angels as they stand at the gates? Can you see yourself there, surrounded by all the joy and beauty God has planned for you?

Even still, the Bible says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”.

Be blessed with each thought you have of heaven, and let them encourage you to continue on and receive your great reward. This is what we’re saving up for. This is why we bank our anger, our disappointment, and our grief as Christians. One day, the payday will come, and we will be in complete and utter bliss with these beautiful surroundings. And the next time you are ridiculed for your beliefs by those that are without the understanding of God in the world, consider that none of this will be theirs…if you don’t show them the truth. Work past the pain and find the love in your heart to share with them why you choose to be different. Oh, great is your reward in Heaven!