Thursday, December 22, 2016

9/10/01 Lessons

"This is a haunting image of the World Trade Center during a dramatic storm. It was snapped on September 10, 2001, one day prior to the 9/11 Attacks. Even amidst the turbulent winds, cracking thunder, and stone-cold rain, the towers stand tall and strong for their final hours. This photo not only serves as a reminder to the American People of September 11th’s events, but symbolizes the strength needed to endure a difficult time."

That was the original caption printed under this, now, haunting image. What it brought to mind is resilience. It served as a reminder that although storms loomed on the horizon, although the trouble that came next was even worse than could have been imagined, although the subsequent horrors we survived came out of left field, although countless lost their lives, and although the nation was centered around NY, the effect was felt worldwide, we carried on, we bounced back. Through tears, broken bodies, and rubble, we still rose from the ashes, wiser and warier.

We may be gearing up for the battle of our lives, and some things may come from left field, but we've found that despite differences, when we come together, we can get through even the murkiest of circumstances.

Some have already begun to rally, sounding the war cry, while others prefer to hang back, conserving their strength, strategizing, awaiting the real war; regardless on where the gamut we fall, we may fall together, but we also rise together.

I post this from a heart that is both heavy with fear of possibilities and light with hope for possibilities.  My eyes have been opened, and so has my heart, but make no mistake, in the face of battle, my fist is closed.  I could cast aspersions, but that would be energy wasted, when it is better spent in prayer and preparation.

Some are standing in "The battle is not yours, it's the Lord's," while others are standing in "He trains my hands for battle, He strengthens my arm to draw a bow of bronze." The both are from the same manual, the Holy Scriptures, so I stand in both, behind God, my General, my Commander in Chief. I ask for a heart and body strong enough to see my convictions through.

But as of right now, I wait... 

Standing in the Gap

More often than not, when we as born again Christians, hear the phrase “standing in the gap,” we automatically think of praying for someone, of going to God on their behalf.  But let me take it one step deeper, standing in the gap means exactly that, there is a space that needs to be filled, and are you willing to put yourself, not just spiritually, but physically, in that place for someone?

Parents will often automatically answer with a resounding, “YES!” when it comes to their children, and some partners may say that about their spouses, but for the most part, bodily harm or some threat thereabouts will cause a person to pause and shy away from being their “brother’s keeper.”  Let’s be honest, modern day conveniences and creature comforts have softened our resolve to “live and die for Christ.”  So many times we say we would lay down our all for the cause of Christ from the safety of the sanctuaries we frequent on Sunday mornings.  But recently, even the safety of our sanctuaries have been breached, so much so that I have even heard many fall behind the banner of calling for arming their security teams.

This recognition of our being “watered down” may not be shocking to some, as many have heard the clarion call back to Holiness, heeding our Master’s Voice, and feeling the pull on the link to the anchor that keeps us from drifting too far.  But for some, just the idea that we have drifted at all sends shockwaves through their very being, not recognizing how much their “over-tolerant” behavior has pulled them from the Master’s Side, causing the choppy seas of tribulation to rock their boats (but that’s a topic for another day).  Today, I want to get back to “standing in the gap.”

I was listening to a teacher expound on a lesson about King David and Abigail, and conducted a study on the effects of  another issue in the King’s life that caused his seemingly outrageous reaction to Nabal’s insubordination (again, for another day).  The supporting text was, of course, 1 Samuel 25.  What struck me was Abigail’s response, and thus my subject, standing in the gap.

Synopsis of the chapter: King David had protected Nabal’s land and property and so when he wanted to come for a visit, he sent word to Nabal to help him and his servants out.  Nabal sent a very nasty negative response back to King David.  The King, being justifiably angered, vowed to kill Nabal and all his clan.  Abigail, Nabal’s wife, got wind of King David’s plans and hurried to meet him with gifts of her own, in hopes of swaying his wrath. David relented on her say so, God punished Nabal with sickness and death, and Abigail became David’s wife.  Oh, side note: Nabal had a notoriously nasty personality, so this behavior wasn’t unusual, but come on dude, the King?

Anyway, Abigail, being a godly wife, still wanting to save her husband and her household, went to stand in the gap for her husband.  She hoped that by meeting with the King before he had a chance to carry out his destructive plot, that she would somehow sway his resolve for this justified destruction.  Now if you remember your historical facts about approaching a King without being invited, you remember that that in itself carried a death sentence.  So Abigail was really putting herself out there for her husband.  Not only was she going against the law of the land, but she was also going up against the very justifiable wrath of the King, who was already on his way to wipe out her family and any associates.

When Abigail came within sight of King David, she descended from her donkey and ran to meet him, falling at his feet.  She then began to remind him of all his deeds, of her husband’s stupidity (his name “Nabal” did mean “fool”), but more importantly, of the Lord’s promise fulfillment over the King’s life.  She also alerted him to the foolishness of exacting vengeance for himself when vengeance belonged to the Lord (smart woman, invoking God’s laws and promises). That’s what standing in the gap truly is, putting your life on the line for another, and reminding them (and the Lord) of the promises of God and the punishments for disobeying God, of pleading with God on their behalf.

Jesus did the same thing with 10 simple words: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.  He did it from the cross, His life already laid down for us. He rushed into the Father’s presence in the Garden of Gethsemane, and even though it meant His life, He still went ahead pleading our case before a justifiably enraged God.

When we study the Holy Scriptures, we are often shown types and shadows of future occurrences, and here was yet another example of the tremendous sacrifice that Christ Jesus would make being foretold in the story of David, Abigail and Nabal.  So often we just read these “stories” just to read them, and just to reacquaint ourselves with what was going on at the time, but there is so much richness intertwined within these seemingly simply daily happenings.  This is what I found when I went to reread this story myself; I went to read for one reason, but came away with a whole different understanding. 

Won’t He do it?

Friday, October 7, 2016

This feeling

I need your help to define this new emotion I'm experiencing. I just saw "The Birth of a Nation," and yes, my initial responses were profound sadness and rage.  But, like perfume, the initial reaction has now passed, and the deeper, more lasting effect remains. I feel a form of contempt and familiarity, a renewed sense of self worth and purpose, an underlying pity and shame, and yet a powerful hopefulness riding on faith.

This movie and it's accompanying effects and emotions, are not for everyone, for few will know how to handle the rush and multitude of the reactions responsibly...I am unsure of whether or not I may even be one of them.  It comes at a time when we cannot cry "#blacklivesmatter" loudly enough, yet still receive resistance and apathy, pathetically enough, sometimes from our own. But what this movie has helped me to recognize is that with every battle, there will always be Benedict Arnold's and Judases, willing and unwilling.  I can no longer blame them.  They, like Patty Hearst and countless others, have been brainwashed so completely that they actually believe the filth that their captors are spewing.  I will leave them to their own paths, and pray I am elsewhere when they experience their inevitable, unenviable end.

But still, I am left feeling this feeling that am at a loss to define. I want to do something, but am at a loss as to what. I have so much to do, but am at a loss as to where to start. I have so much to say, but am at a loss as to how to convey the depth of it all.

I wish I could explain this feeling...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

This forgiveness thing

Jesus has been really working me over with this forgiveness thing.  For the past few weeks, the subject of forgiveness has been coming up in some form or another.  I'm sensitive to it because I seem to have a little bit of trouble forgiving.

I replay wrongs over and over.  I revisit situations over and over.  I rehash arguments over and over. I "re..." over and over...

Just let it go!

I want so much to let it go, but "something" keeps me holding on.  I now recognize that that "something" is a tactic of the enemy. He is only able to do it because lately I haven't given my mind anything better with which to replace those ungodly thoughts.  Philippians 4:8 says: "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."   I haven't been doing that; I've been foolishly going back to "my own vomit," as Proverbs 26:11 lays out, and falling prey to his schemes that try to lead me toward depression.  I haven't "fixed" my thoughts, I let them come and go, flittering away like a butterfly.  Isn't it funny how the things I should hold onto I easily let go of, while the things I need to let go of, are caught like in a steel trap?  Hmmmmmm...

I say to myself that I have every reason to be angry.  I have every reason to be upset.  I have every reason to be hurt.  I have every reason to react the way I do.  I have every reason to "rage against the machine."  BUT that does not give me the RIGHT!  Because I gave my life to Jesus (coming up on 43 years ago), I gave up that right to be ruled by my own feelings and distorted perceptions.  Because I made Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, He rules my life, and that includes my feelings and perceptions.  I gave Him my heart, the seat of my feelings and perceptions, I gave Him my mind, the origin of these thoughts and perceptions, I gave Him my soul, the vehicle for those feelings and perceptions.  After all this time, I'm supposed to have a better handle on things, right?

I am still clothed in flesh and so still struggle daily with temptations and distractions, but if I keep my mind stayed...

Wait, wait, wait a minute, I'm doing what I hate to hear other Christians do, spouting scripture when faced with a real, everyday issues.  I'm like a lot of you: I know the scriptures, I've read them numerous times.  I've heard them numerous times.  I've written about them numerous times.  They are imbedded in my memory, but I don't always remember that they are there.  As I get older, if I don't constantly find a way to keep these reminders at the forefront, I will fail, and that's a fact.

Here's some practical advice given to me at various times along my own journey:

1. Start the day in prayer.  This sets the tone for the day.  Prayer doesn't have to be long and drawn out; it can be as simple as "Good Morning Daddy, thanks for letting me sleep and awaken, let's get this day started!"

2. Keep the dialog going all day.  Talk with Him at every opportunity about everything, whether internally or out loud.  Ask Him about your wardrobe for the day, the accessories, have breakfast/lunch/dinner with Him.  Point out different things to Him (it's not like He didn't see it, but it keeps the "line" open).

3. If during morning devotional time, a particular scripture is given to you, write it down (put it in your phone's notepad for quick reference), or somewhere where you can get to it quickly throughout the day.  Refer to it periodically as a reminder of the day's thought and focus.

4. Because prayer is a two-way conversation (imagine that?!!?!  You mean it's not the time to be mesmerized by the mellifluous tones of your own voice?  No. It. Is. NOT! It's the time to speak to God and to be SPOKEN TO BY GOD!), be prepared to quiet your mind enough to hear an answer or an acknowledgment of your greeting.  God loves our conversations, He longs to talk with us, but too many only want to talk, and not listen.  Sometimes we want to blame our overloaded schedules, but if we had placed the schedule in His Hands and asked Him to put things in their proper place, maybe we wouldn't feel so overwhelmed and rushed, and unable to "make time" for HIM.  Hmmmm...guilty...

5. Meditate on HIM and with HIM at times during the day.  Find that morning focal scripture and place it before you.  Speak it out loud.  Pepper the atmosphere with it, and then focus on it.  Let it's relevance wash over you.  Weep if you need to.  Laugh if you have to.  Dance if you want to.  Let it do what it's meant to do for you.

6. If a crisis arises during the day, don't panic.  I know, your flesh wants to go screaming into the street, "Why me, LORD?  Why now?"  But that is another distracting tactic of the enemy.  Try to refocus on Jesus.  Maybe that's why you were given that particular focal scripture today, to prepare you for what He already knew was heading your way.  Focus your attention on The Answer, not the crisis.

7.  End the day in prayer.  Talk over the day's happenings with Him.  Laugh about the laughable.  Cry over the upsetting.  Talk over the upcoming solutions.  And let it rest in His Hands.  I once heard it said that "A day hemmed in prayer, is like a quilt; it unravels without it."  That is quite true.  Starting the day without it allows the day to meander wherever without a set direction.  Ending a day without it allows the day to spill over into our dreams, or worse, the next day.  At the end of the day, hand it all over to Him, and, here's a novel concept, Go. To. Sleep.

Now you may be wondering, what does any of this have to do with forgiveness?  Well, I'm glad you asked!  Forgiveness is often wrapped up in "me, myself and I."  "They did that to me, and I can't forgive them!"  "I can't believe they did that!  They knew that would hurt me!" "Why would they do that, after all I've done for them?"  The focus is on yourself.  When we start, continue and end the day in prayer with and to the Lord God, it takes the focus off us and puts it where it belongs, on HIM.

When we allow ourselves to see the deeds of others from His viewpoint, the wrongs take on a different meaning and affect us a little differently.  For one, the hurt, though still painful, is not as harsh because the Holy Spirit is right there (because you've been in His presence all day) to help shoulder the load, or, if you let Him, take it all on Himself.  When we see it from His perspective, the lesson may become immediately apparent (notice I said the word "may" because the lesson may be more of a long-term session, rather than an immediate quiz), than it would have without His consultation.  You're able to see more of "why they did it" instead of "why they did it to me."

Given some of these new perspectives, forgiveness becomes a little easier and comes a little quicker.  It doesn't require so much debate and inner turmoil because the immediate discussion with God can eliminate the "flesh, heart and mind inner discussions," if you let it happen.  Letting go of past hurts and pain happens with less trauma because the Doctor has been with you every step of the way: from bringing your attention to the problem, diagnosing the root cause, accompanying you into the operating room, administering the anesthetic, guiding the Surgeon's Hands, removing the infected tissue, sewing up the wound, applying the Balm, wrapping you up in The Comforter, transporting you back to recovery, and being with you every step of the way through your healing process.

This "forgiveness thing" only happens if you want it to.  It's up to you if you want to revisit the places of past hurt and pain after you've already been in the operating room to remove it from you.  It would be your own foolishness in that instance (but sadly, we are foolish beings, and sometimes a trial has to be repeated in order for it's intended message to stick).

We've all heard the adage, "Practice makes perfect."  Well, that is so true in the practice of the things of God.  We have to "practice" being in His presence until it becomes so commonplace that not being there is like not being able to breathe. The same with not revisiting the places and people of past hurts and pain.  If God removed you from that environment and those people from our lives, why go back? Why invite them back into your new peaceful chaos-free zone?  Your compassion may want them to have as much peace as you, but they made that choice, and in inviting them back, they may end up stealing your long-awaited and hard-earned peace of mind.  Don't do it!  Let them be!  Pray for them from afar, but hold onto your peace!  1 Peter 3:10-11 says, "He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.  Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it."  Not everyone is willing to pursue after their peace.  You have!  You've done the Michael Phelps, why would you give up your medals because of the Ryan Lochte's of the world?  Practice holding on to the forgiveness and the peace that comes with it.  You deserve it!  Jesus died for it, and you pursued it.  It's yours to keep!

He leads me beside the quiet streams

Of course, the very same people who hurt you in the past are apt to hurt you again.  The thing about that is if you were able to forgive the first time, and you've practiced this forgiveness constantly, forgiving them again will get gradually easier.  After a while, either it won't even hurt anymore, or the Lord will remove them from you.  But you have to remain in constant communication with Him in order to know the how's and when's of those circumstances.  Practicing being in His presence will facilitate all of that.

The alternative is, well, you know...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

You're valuable

You! Hey, you!  Yes, you!  You are valuable!

You are important!

You matter!

You are worth so much more than your mind can conceive right now!

God already calls you the "apple of His Eye" (Jeremiah 2:8) and "His workmanship" (Philippians 2:10).  So why are you calling yourself anything else but the treasure that you are?  Why does your face look like a gloomy day?

Don't you know that you mean the world to someone?  No, seriously!  Here's your "It's a Wonderful Life" moment.  You may not have recognized how many lives you've touched as you've gone throughout your day, but there's someone out there who may owe their very life to you, simply because you may have glanced their way.  To you, it was just another moment out of a million other "insignificant" moments, but to them, it may have been that split second that saved them from stepping in front of a speeding bus.  Or someone who was feeling invisible and your glance let them know that someone actually "saw" them.  That child that you smiled at may go on to produce the cure for AIDS simply because they felt like they mattered enough for you to smile at them.

Don't take yourself for granted.  God created you for a purpose.  Today may feel like a struggle just to get out of bed, and there are days like that, but trusting and believing in the God Who knows you matter, makes all the difference.

Say to yourself, "I matter!  I am important! I hold significant value!"

Keep repeating it until you believe it.

Now walk in it!
Image result for images diamond

What is Normal?

Originally penned 9/4/12

The dictionary defines “normal” as “conforming to the usual standard, type, or custom.”  But then we take a look at the definition of “conforming,” which is then defined as “behaving acceptably, following standard, or being, or making, similar.”  Ergo, being or making similar to the usual standard, type or custom of what or whom? Hmmmmm….

God defines those of us who are His children as “a peculiar people, a royal priesthood.”  That, in itself, goes against the dictionary’s definition of normal; peculiar being, in essence, the antithesis of normal, if not its direct antonym, and royalty setting the standard, not conforming to it.

So just remember, the next time someone tells you to “act normal,” ask them, “according to whose or what standard?”  If they say, “according to the standard,” tell them, “if it’s not the Lord’s standard, no thanks, I rather like being on the Lord’s side.”  If they say, “well, normal according to everyone else,” then remind them that “ ‘everyone else’ died in both the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah.  Again, I like the Lord's side.”

Going against the grain is my “normal.”  I’m your sandpaper, baby!  ‘Nuf said…

Friday, September 2, 2016

Just because...

"Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims." - 1 Corinthians 6:12 MSG

In essence, just because I can, doesn't mean I should, because I might get used to doing it and become convinced that it's the right thing to do, simply because it's become a habit.

Examine some of the things you're doing in the light of the Word. Is it really the right thing, or is it because of custom or habit, or because "they" told you to? Often, even our mentors give us bad advice, not because it came from a bad place, but because it's not the right thing for you. It may have worked for them during a crisis, but it should not have become a repeated "go-to" solution.

Examine your own solutions and make sure they are what you're supposed to do, not because it's what you thought you were supposed to do. We all make mistakes. We all fall short. We all miss the mark. The key is learning from those errors and veering back onto the straight and narrow.

Being mindful of what we're doing at all times can be exhausting, but we are not told to do that either. We're told to "keep our minds stayed on Him (Jesus), and He will keep us in perfect peace." We're told to "cast our cares on Him, because He cares for us." We're  told to "trust in the Lord with all our heart, leaning not to our own understanding. But in all our ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct our path."

This walk could be a lot easier if we stop letting the enemy crowd our minds with legalistic conundrums and wasteful doubts. Trusting God takes time and practice if we're not used to it, but the benefits are so worth it. However, a child trusts implicitly, and we're told to be like little children. So maybe, some of these "myths" of what adulthood should be came out of someone else's misguided notion from a habitually wrong practice? Hmmmm, something to keep in mind when considering whether what you're about to do is really right, or just right for now...

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Blessed beyond the curse

Blessed beyond the curse
(penned 3/21/14)

I was listening to Israel Houghton last night, and one of the phrases he uttered was that we were “blessed beyond the curse.”  Now, I have been listening to Israel for years, have probably heard that line dozens of times, but this time the seed found fertile ground because it kept rolling around in my mind until bedtime and is still with me.  So as with most of the “words” that the Lord ministers to me, I unload it onto paper.

I didn’t even recognize that I had asked the Lord for its meaning, because almost immediately after “receiving” that word into my spirit did explanations and examples start pouring out.

The first one was Saul and David.  Although Saul had sinned in the eyes of the Lord, and the Lord had begun to send him troubling spirits and various forms of madness, he was still an anointed man of God, and David recognized that fact.  Even when David had ample reasons and opportunities to avenge the wrongdoing Saul had perpetrated against him, David acknowledged that his was not the hand to come against God’s anointed.  Even though the Lord Himself had sent curses against Saul, those curses still did not outweigh His blessing on Saul’s life.

Another example is the Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  Those boys were blessed and anointed to carry out God’s plan.  They recognized this, and even came against the highest authority in the land, King Nebuchadnezzar, in recognition of this fact.  They let the king know that they served the God of Heaven, and would by no means serve or bow down to any other god, and whatever curse or punishment was meted out, that would neither change their stance nor their minds.  They even went to so far as to tell the king, “Even if He doesn’t save us from the fiery furnace, we will still never bow to your image.”  Well, we all know what happened after that!  Those boys were so anointed that not only did they survive the furnace, burning up their enemies in the process, but the very Son of God stopped by to be with them in their time of need.  Now THAT’s blessed beyond the curse!

I’ll give one more example, the apostle Paul.  Even though this man, as Saul, committed some of the most heinous hate crimes against the Christians of his day, his life was still anointed to become one of the most prolific writers of the Bible.  His works and words today influence so much of what we do and say as the “new” church of Jesus Christ.  His physical life as Saul you could say was cursed by misunderstandings, hatred, prejudice, small-mindedness, etc., yet the blessing of the destiny God had already preordained for him out-weighed all that to bring his life and life’s work, to its rightful conclusion.

Are you living under the shadow of a curse right now?  Has your life taken such a wrong turn that you cannot see your way clear?  Have things gotten so dark and gloomy that you can’t even see the tunnel, much less the light at the end of it?  My friend, don’t despair.  You are a Word of God, spoken into existence to fulfill your purpose, and you know that God’s word does not return to Him empty, not accomplishing what it was sent to accomplish!  Keep reading His Word.  Keep speaking words of encouragement to yourself.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Keep forgiving.  Keep loving.  Keep smiling.  Keep being the vessel of God He has called you to be.  When it’s all said and done, your blessing beyond the momentary “curse” will shine through.  I know it seems unbearable at the moment, that the burden seems too heavy and you have no more tears, but thanks be to God who not only gives us the victory, but always causes us to triumph.  He reminds us that with every temptation, He has given us a way out, so that we will bear the temporary afflictions that come our way.    Keep your head up, and your face to the Holy Spirit.  Seek Him while He may be found, call on Him while He is near.  And when He is silent, don’t believe that enemy’s lies that He has forsaken you (He will NEVER, EVER do that!), but stay the course and pass the test, knowing that He is still by your side, watching your every move, prepared to jump in if you go too far afield.

Always remember that you are blessed beyond the curse, that your life is not for naught, you were created for a purpose, and God’s got your back!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Wake Up And Get A Life!

Originally published October 2, 2009

Wake Up And Get A Life!

Scripture focus is Faith. This lesson deals with the woman with the issue of blood as recorded in Mark 5:25-29.

"And there was a woman in the crowd who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors through the years and had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she was worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched the fringe of his robe. For she thought to herself, "If I can just touch his clothing, I will be healed." Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel that she had been healed!"

Many wonderful lessons have been taught from this scripture on the woman's faith in the healing power of Jesus, and her temerity, and many of us have benefited from those lessons. Today however, I would like to shift the focus a little and go back to the beginning of the story rather than focus on the end so that some of us who are currently struggling may finally turn toward the Holy Spirit's tapping on our shoulders, trying to redirect us.

The Bible tells us that not only had she suffered from the hemorrhage for twelve years, but she also suffered at the hand of the many doctors she has visited, seeking help. How many of us use Jesus as our last resort for help? (I know, I know, if you can't say "Amen" say "Ouch!"). Some of our problems today could have been solved a long time ago if we had not only gone to Jesus first, but followed the instructions He laid out for the solution.

Many of us feel that just because we live in a certain neighborhood, work in a certain type of environment, send our children to certain types of schools, run with a certain type of crowd, that these surroundings give us the excuse to become "undercover" Christians. We don't shout like we used to, we don't dare praise God openly, and to dance for the Lord in the open, in the presence of unbelievers, has become unthinkable.

Some of us are running from the very commandment we've all been given, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." We feel that just because we don't have the official title of preacher that this is not our responsibility. Do you realize that just openly thanking God for a sale price on a necessity is a form of preaching the gospel? You're letting those around you know that you serve a God Who is so into the little details that He set aside an item according to your current situation (your manna, if you will), and you are letting Him know that you are grateful.

We are letting the world dictate to us how we should praise the very God who created it! We, who have insight into how amazing He really is, are allowing those ignorant of His grace, mercy and love to tell us where and when we should show our devotion and appreciation. We're allowing the "doctors" of the world to drain us of the very power Jesus left for us to use to heal the sick, free the captive, and deliver the bound. We're turning to the atheist for advice on how to word a prayer "politically correctly." The devil is a liar!!!

When are we going to realize that Jesus is passing by and standing by looking cute is not going to get it? Follow the example of the woman, who said, in essence, "Bump all o' y'all, I'm gon' get mine!" Following the world's example and living by the world's rules for so long, only got her so far. In truth, the Word says, that she got worse. How many of our situations (now looking back with 20/20 vision) have gotten worse just because we did "what the doctor said" instead of "what THE DOCTOR said?"

Saints, it's time to become disentangled from the enemy's web of lies. We must extricate ourselves from those who seek to keep us in a downtrodden state simply because they're afraid to praise God openly. We've been given the victory in Jesus and denying Him openly is denying this very victory. It's been given to us; it's a gift, so why would we forfeit a fabulous gift just because it doesn't "go with everything else?" Please, get a grip!

Get a Life! And you know I'm right!

Boldly going in Jesus Name, where none have gone before!

The Psalmist. 

Obedience tested

Originally published September 3, 2009

Obedience Tested

Daniel 3 (NLT)
Nebuchadnezzar’s Gold Statue
1 King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then he sent messages to the high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. 3 So all these officials came and stood before the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
4 Then a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! 5 When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. 6 Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
7 So at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8 But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “Long live the king! 10 You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments. 11 That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
The Blazing Furnace
19 Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. 20 Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. 22 And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. 23 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames.
24 But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?”
“Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.
25 “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. 27 Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.
This present economic state has so many of us going through valleys, some of us have almost given up looking for the mountaintop experiences that are inevitably supposed to flank each valley experience. The road ahead looks so bleak, we think the light up ahead is only that of another truck barreling toward us to do us harm. Let's face it, life can look really grim when your finances are in question. Let's be real about this.Some of us know that God is our source and the job is our resource, but some days it's really difficult to tell our flesh to be quiet and stop griping! We want the creature comforts. We've gotten used to certain luxuries and will fight hard to hold onto them We may even compromise our standards just to hold onto some of those creature comforts to which we have become so accustomed. Sad part about that is, after the compromise has been made, the consequences are often much more dire than that for which we bargained.So then we go right back into the dark cycle we just exited. Let's take a lesson from the four Hebrew boys and stand firm, even in the midst of the hottest fire of our lives; we have to believe with every fiber of our being, and when that belief fails, we have to beg God to help our unbelief and help us hang on with that mustard seed of faith He gave to us.
V. 4: "Then a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command!" Even when the laws go out for the country, or the rules go out for the company, or the leaders create a new policy, if it goes against what God has decreed, be prepared to take a stand that may cost you everything. Everyone else may line up with what “they” say, but if you have to stand alone, follow the instructions to the Corinthians and “come out from among them.” If you are acting in obedience to God, then stand, even if it is alone.


V. 8: "But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews." There will always be informers, reporters, gossips, and backbiters who are watching your every move, waiting to pounce on your first mistake. Be encouraged that if you’re walking upright before the Lord, let them talk all they want; only God’s Word will stand at the end.
V. 16: "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you." You do not need to argue, debate or defend your position or stance; God will do it for you, as long as you remain obedient to His Word.
Because of your refusal to bow to satan’s will, he will throw a fit! He will try to kill you, literally or figuratively, but however he comes at you, his aim is to take you out! Be prepared for the fight of your life! Be assured, however, the fight is not one where you battle the enemy on his terms; the battle will be against your own flesh wanting to rise up in retaliation to the attack. Again follow the example of the Hebrew boys and continue in your obedience to God. Let God do the fighting for you. Only He can defeat the enemy on every hand in an all-out war.
V. 24-25: "But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.“Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” Rest assured though that even in the midst of this firestorm, you won’t be alone. Even your enemies will see God walking with you, and be astounded as he helps you make it through this firestorm. While you serve God under the current assault against your obedience, you will find your freedom restored—you’ll be able to walk around unfettered, unencumbered, unbound and unconcerned, even in the midst of the worst storm you’ve ever encountered.
V. 27: "They didn’t even smell of smoke!" When you finally emerge, no one will even find evidence that you were in the fight of your life. Those around you, friends and enemies, who know you were going through a trial, will crowd around wondering how you made it over. You will be so engrossed in your obedience to God, the very ones who attacked you will be the ones who will have to call you out of the furnace; you won’t even be aware that the trouble and immediate threat that was supposed to have put you under has passed!
And then! Even the heathen, the witches, the sorcerers, the purveyors of the very evil that tried to take you out, will have to admit that not only is there a GOD, but that the very GOD you serve, to Whom you have been so obedient, to Whom all honor, glory, dominion, power, strength, prayer and praise belong, is GOD and GOD alone! Then and only then will promotion come. And not the type of promotion that comes from a job (although that may come as well, if you serve the GOD Who gives most liberally), but the kind of spiritual promotion that even man will recognize as favor. That’s when people will start to ask “well, where did you come from? Seems like you just “appeared” out of the woodwork.” This from the same ones who just saw you emerge from the fire. Check the record. Ask Moses, Abram, Elijah, Joshua, Paul, Peter...they all went through a “fiery furnace” before their promotion.
So know that you do not go through a trial for no reason. God does not allow needless suffering. He doesn’t like to have His children suffer, but sometimes our disobedience brings about consequences that He as a Father, although His heart breaks at our suffering, knows that this suffering will drive us closer to Him. All He can do is wait until we have reached the point where we turn to Him and listen to Him alone. He doesn’t like the suffering any more than we do, but He knows that it will bring about the best result in the final analysis.
There are also the circumstances where we have been obedient (look at Job!), but we need our focus to be “kicked up a notch” and a firestorm is the only way to “kick” us out of a place of comfort. Again, God doesn’t like the suffering, but as in the other circumstance, He is there every step of the way, guiding us and waiting for us to look to Him for the way out, or at least the comfort while the storm is raging around us. Our obedience in the midst of each and every circumstance will either grow or wane, depending on our faith and focus.
God has given to each of us a measure of faith, and He is the Author and Finisher (or Perfecter) of that faith, so it would make sense to go to Him to help make that faith grow and carry us through each circumstance in life. Sadly, not all will do that, and the end result for those who fail to go to God will be confusion and resentment because they do not see the reason for the suffering. But it is those who go through each trial with their eyes focused on Jesus who will see the victory. They may not get an immediate answer, but the peace that accompanies their journey will be the proof that God has been there at every turn. God is a Rewarder of them who diligently seek Him, and our obedience is part of the evidence of us seeking Him. It is up to us to cultivate and nurture our obedience, so that we do not even consider disobedience as a viable option. Not saying it’s easy, but it’s not impossible, and with the help of the Comforter and Guide—the Holy Spirit—it can be done.
The Psalmist


(originally published May 8, 2009)

Sometimes... feel like you just can't take some of the things that life lobs at you anymore. J'ever have one of those days, weeks, or seeming lifetimes? It's been one of those "quarters." Oh, it's nothing big, but how many of you already know that sometimes it's the multitude of little, itty-bitty, nuisances that add up to the push that takes you over the edge? Things like annoying people picking at you, or just one more truck swerving in front of you, or one more nasty comment from that co-worker you can't stand anyway, or one more phone call where all "they" want to talk about it themselves and ignore the despair in your voice. You know, those kind of times where it's not a major storm, just the accumulation of tiny clouds that eventually block out the sun. Not a major hurricane, just a tropical depression. Recognize the signs?

 Been there too many times to count, yet today, here I stand ready to face the world again, despite the numerous times I've allowed it to push me to my knees. My secret? Letting it push me to my knees and not onto my back. See, when I find that I'm weakening, and can't stand up under the pressures anymore, I go to my knees, and the Lord invariably meets me there. Whether I'm on my knees literally or figuratively, My GOD knows when I am in need of a tangible bit of evidence of His Presence. I've read, heard and said so many times that "He promised that He would never leave nor forsake me," but too many times my focus is pulled away from that promise and doubt tries to take over and make me believe that He's left. But I KNOW that's impossible, 'cause I'm His child and this Daddy doesn't leave!

How am I reassured? Well, each time it's different, because even though He most often speaks to me through music, it's not always to music that I turn. Yes, I may eventually get to the point where I begin to sing again, but it isn't always the first step. I remember when I used to rush around, asking everyone to pray for me, or for a "Word." Thank God that I've grown some since those times. I know now to lean not to my own understanding, but to go where He leads me. Sometimes it is directly to the Written Word. Sometimes it's to another saint to encourage them. Sometimes it's to a known unsaved soul to encourage them. Wherever I'm led, He meets me there and encourages me during my own journey.

I may not like the potholes, but I continue on the road,
Jesus walks beside me, shouldering the load.
Moving forward, step by step to I-know-not-where.
May not like the view, but the company's beyond compare!


Friday, August 12, 2016

Drop or Hang?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Drop or Hang?

I remember seeing a poster some years ago of a kitten hanging on to the end of a rope. The caption read, "Hang in there!" As I considered that caption, I realized that there is more to it for a lot of us. Sometimes 'hanging in there' isn't the best answer, sometimes letting go is what needs to be done. Either way, wisdom has to prevail. The Bible teaches us that wisdom is the principal thing, but that we aren't to lean to our own understanding, but acknowledge God in all our ways so that He can direct our steps. That's where I picked up the rest of the message.

Although what we do all boils down to obedience or disobedience to God's Word and Voice, our faith in that Word and Voice will often determine our level of obedience or disobedience. Take the example of that kitten on that rope. Picture yourself in that kitten's place---barely hanging on. Now you can do one of two things: you can tie a knot in that rope and hang on for dear life, or you can let go. The only way you're going to know beforehand which choice is better is by asking the Lord for His Help. Only He will know what the outcome will be and which outcome is best for you. See, there's the wisdom (yours for looking to His).

You may be wondering, okay, that's really easy looking in from the outside, but no, really, think about this...since God knows what's going to happen anyway, and He only thinks good thoughts towards us, then He always has our good at heart. Now don't get this twisted, the outcome may be for our good, and the actual journey may be extremely painful, but that doesn't mean the decision was wrong, it just means it's going to take tenacity to get to the other side.

Anyway, back to our "kitten" situation. You may think that just letting go may be the best solution, I mean, kittens land on their feet, right? Well, the poster didn't show what was below the kitten. For all we know, there could have been a pool of sharks swimming around below, just out of frame. We also have no idea how long the kitten has been hanging on to that rope, so fatigue may be a major factor. Regardless, we can't just happen upon a scene and make snap decisions about decisions; there is always more to "it" than what our eyes can see. My point is that only God can tell us what we really should do, and to find that out, we have to ask Him. This is where our faith and our obedience really kick in. God may tell us that although we see a pool of sharks below, He wants us to let go. Or, although there may be soft grass just inches below, He may tell us to hang on. The directive offered may seem absurd to our natural eyes, but faith doesn't look through natural eyes.

Remember when I said that our level of obedience or disobedience is all determined by our faith or lack of it? If we believe God, believe on His Word, believe in His Will for our lives, then we'll be obedient. If our faith and belief waver, so too will our obedience. Our level of commitment to follow the teachings of Christ will affect our faith and therefore our level and immediacy of obedience. Not saying it's easy, never will I claim that, but it's easier than making decisions on our own, with no insight or assistance whatsoever.

Yeah, decisions to 'hang in there' or 'just let go' are often life-changing decisions, no doubt, but with the help of the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Jesus Christ, our decisions don't have to be "blind." If we ask God for help, we hear His Answer, and we follow what He says to the letter, we can't go wrong. Others may not get it, but the decision isn't theirs and they don't have to live with the consequences of disobedience (well, maybe they do, but that will be their decision). No matter what it may look like from the outside, as long as the decision is God-led, the outcome will be glorious. Now that's wisdom!

Lovingly posted,
The Psalmist

A God Encounter!

Monday, November 3, 2008

A God Encounter!

About a year ago, I was flipping through channels and happened upon the last half of a movie I think was called "Lunch with Jesus." I have been looking for that movie ever since because the very idea intrigued me on a deeper level than just casual movie-viewing. If you know the title or actors, or can point me in that direction, I'd really appreciate it . Anyway, today, I think I had my own "Breakfast with Jesus." Before I go on, I want to ask a question: have you ever wondered why, out of nowhere, you get the motivation to go somewhere, or do something so different that you stop and wonder, "Okay, Lord, what's this You're getting me into?" Well, this morning was one of those...

I have been getting over a sinus infection and wasn't feeling very well, so my plan for my day-off was just to stay in bed and nurse my aching head. Besides the pain, I've had no appetite (which, if anyone knows me, that's when I know I'm really sick!). This is relevant because, out of nowhere (so I thought) I suddenly had this craving for biscuits with sausage gravy, hash browns and scrambled eggs. This is highly, extremely unusual because 1. when I'm sick, I usually crave soup, 2. when I'm sick there's no way I'm in the mood to cook or eat any of this kind of stuff, and 3. I am not a breakfast person. Also, it was around 11:00 in the morning, well past breakfast time (but who out there knows that when you crave something, time of day doesn't matter?).

Anyway, since I wasn't in the mood to cook, but this craving kept hounding me, I dragged myself out of bed and decided to go out for a late breakfast. The dilemma was, who served breakfast this late and wasn't too far away from home? Bob Evans! They were about five minutes from home and they definitely did sausage gravy! Okay, that should have clued me in right there, because I haven't been to Bob Evans in about two and a half years, even though it's on my way to and from almost everywhere.

Okay, so I'm at Bob Evans and beginning to peruse the menu. Now remember what I was craving? Why is there something called a "Country Biscuit Breakfast" with everything I wanted, nothing more, nothing less, for under $5?!?!? Hint number 2--okay, that one helped me clue in that something wonderful was going to happen. So I just sat back to enjoy my breakfast and wait for whatever it was. Sure enough, as soon as I took my first bite, the woman in the booth across from me said, "Excuse me, but my granddaughter just looked over at your table and said, 'Yum, Grammy, yummm.' " I looked over and there is this adorable toddler beaming at me. Well, she (the grandmother) and I struck up a conversation throughout our meals and came to find out that she is starting a movies-with-a-message ministry, called, get this, "Steel Magnolias," only my favorite movie in the whole world!

Now, those of you who don't know me yet, I am a real movie buff, and my outspoken nature about the content of most of the movies out there has more than gotten on the nerves of many, yet I know there are more like me who feel the same way. What goes in, comes out, and that definitely goes for movies! Why would you want to pay good money to watch a movie that curses at you, shows you enough gore to make you want to never eat again, and flaunts that which is sacred for all the world to see? You're offended by it (or should be) when you see or hear it on the street or in your everyday interactions for free, so why pay for it??? I have written movie reviews that either recommend or dissuade viewing. I try to be as honest as possible, not hiding my feelings on whatever the subject matter of the movie...but I digress...

This woman and I sat and talked after we had finished eating for another half-hour or so about the goodness of the Lord and the various ministries in which the both of us were involved, and the only reason I left was because I was still not feeling well physically. My spirit was so refreshed and there was a genuine smile on my face that hadn't been there for a good minute. She prayed for me and promised to contact me, and invited me to their next gathering. I know where her church is, so I definitely intend to visit. Now you tell me, was that a set-up or what? There you have it, my period of encouragement brought to me by none other than the Lord Himself!

Lovingly shared,
The Psalmist