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Attempting to obey God and follow Jesus Christ our Lord

Posts tagged “spirituality

God in a Box

One challenge we face is to get God out of the “box,” by which we mean our preconceived restrictions concerning what He can and can’t do. However, the idea of “God in a box” did not originate with us, but with God Himself!

How could a king woo and win a peasant girl’s heart? If he showed up in his limousine, accompanied by his body guards and told the woman that he wanted her for his wife. She would go. After all, he is the king, and what the king wants, the king gets.

Would she love him? Ah, there’s the dilemma. How would the king ever know she was with him by choice, not by obligation?

If, instead, he dressed the part of a peasant, he could let her get to know him. He could court her without any reticence on her part. By the time she knew he was a king, he would be certain of her love for him. They could live “happily ever after.” It would take humility on his part, and patience as well. The result, if he was successful, would be well worth the effort.

We have a God who took this approach.

Israel’s time to leave Egypt had come, but by then the relationship between God and man had become strained. There were so many gods, malevolent in nature. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob seemed no different.

At Sinai, God, the King of kings, called the people near. He was loud; all lightning flashes and thunder. Fire and smoke covered the top of the mountain. Understandably, the people stood afar off and told Moses, “Yyyooou ggo speak to Him. Wwee’ll wwwait here!” (Exodus 20:19)

On the mountain, God told Moses, in essence, “I love every one of you. I want to be with you. If they won’t come to me, then built me a tent – I’ll camp with you.” He humbled Himself, desiring to be more approachable. He “tamed” Himself…put Himself in a “box.”

Work commenced, and soon God was happily situated in their midst. All were invited to drop by for a visit (Exodus 33:7). Instead, whenever Moses went to the tabernacle, the people stood at their tents’ door and watched.

For forty years God led them round and round in the wilderness. He stayed with them, no matter how they treated Him.

In time, the Israelites were situated in the land God promised them. Because they were no longer wandering, a permanent “box” was built for Him – the temple. There He lived for hundreds of years.

This wasn’t close enough for the King, though, so one day He moved into a much smaller “tent” – a human tent. They called Him “Jesus.” It was a perfect disguise. Many loved Him, talked to Him, and touched Him. He was free to interact with them – almost like in the Garden of Eden.

Then came the day of the great unveiling. In John 14:9, Jesus tells His followers, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Tada!

And yet, being close to us in this way had its restrictions. He could only be in one place at a time. It was not quite satisfactory. Jesus left His earthly tent behind…

…and sent His Spirit…

…to live in our tents with us! (1 Corinthians 6:19)

***

I will dwell in them

And walk among them

I will be their God,

And they shall be My people.

(2 Corinthians 6:16)

***

And they shall call His name Immanuel,

Which is translated

God with us.

(Matthew 1:23)

God created us because He loves us. Love cannot be forced, though. How patiently and humbly He pursues us, His heart on His sleeve. He longs for us to know Him intimately, and to love Him deeply.

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In Your Wildest Dreams

Night after night I lay in bed, tears coursing silently down my cheeks. Deep pain burned through my heart, which no longer held a steady beat.

Kathump, kathump, kathump…

Silence…

…when your heart does not beat for several seconds

…is very loud.

I wonder if it’s going to….

tat, tat, tat, tat, tat

Yes it is; I guess this isn’t the end.

It had been a very long and trying month, which came to a most unexpected end.

My mother lay in the morgue, awaiting cremation.

During our ordeal with her heart surgery, followed by complications, the Lord had been closer than I’d ever experienced Him. The Christian radio station I played in my car seemed to have been cued into our  situation, for every time I left for the hospital or to return home, the DJ would say something like, “If you’re struggling today, stay tuned. (Pastor’s name) has a message of reassurance and comfort for you.”

Or songs like “Praise You in this Storm” would be playing. I never felt so “buffered” in all my life.

The vision my (“unsaved”) father had the night she had to be taken back to the hospital was the Lord’s way of forewarning us that she would be going Home.

He was wide awake, praying for her (something he didn’t do), and saw my mom standing in a white robe. A large angel came behind her and enfolded her in his wings until all that could be seen was her head.

“Tam, I felt so comforted when I saw that,” he told me later.

I’m glad you feel comforted, I thought. I know what that means.

My dad’s vision was the first of many, many amazing things that happened during that month. I could fill this entire post with them.

But that is not my focus today! Back to my nightly grief sessions…

After weeks of aching, and nightly anxiety attacks (the goofy heartbeat thing), I told the Lord,

“I can’t do this anymore. To stay in the reality that she is gone hurts so bad. Abba, can we decorate my home in heaven?”

(Earlier in the year I’d talked to the Lord about heaven:

“Lord, the idea of sitting on a cloud in a white nightie, strumming a harp for ages to come; or laying at Your feet in worship for years and years…um…I’m sorry, but that sounds incredibly boring. You know me, I can’t sit idle for very long. I love to be making something new, or learning new things, or going to see new places. I guess I lack the ‘worship gene.’ You’re going to have to put that desire in me and do away with my curious, creative self, ’cause if You don’t, I’m going to be a miserable failure in heaven.”

Not long after that, Steve Berger from Grace Chapel in Lieper’s Fort, TN lost his son in a car accident. Suddenly interested in what heaven might be like, he began to study the topic – then preach it from the pulpit. I highly recommend his sermons. These weekly messages were God’s response to my earlier conversation with Him!)

That night, I began by imagining what Mom was doing at that moment. She’d been there for a while. Was she still standing at the entrance, mouth agape at the splendor? In awe of the majesty of God? Was she skipping and dancing and getting reacquainted with my youngest brother who only lived for three days? With the many children she’d lost through miscarriage?

(She had nine miscarriages before me; I was the first to be born live…that makes me a 10. Eat your heart out, Bo Derrik!)

My thoughts turned to my “room” in heaven.

“Lord, I hate to vacuum. Could I have moss instead of carpet…maybe a little creek running through the living room? I love the sound of babbling brooks.

“Plasterboard walls aren’t much fun. They have to be cleaned. How about if You make the walls out of vines – ooh! – with beautiful flowers that change colors from time to time?

(I was on a roll…)

“Windows…hey! We won’t need glass windows because bugs won’t bug us, and there will be no burglars to burgle. I can have openings and fresh air all the time.

“If the rocks would have cried out in praise, that must mean they have that capability – and everything in the universe resonates…emits sound. Awesome! Would You line my yard with trees and bushes that can play the songs I have in my heart for You, but lack the skill to write on paper so others can play along? We could have nightly jam sessions and sing new songs every day!”

My thoughts turned to the concept of forever:

You’ll hear me ask from time to time, “What do you think you’ll be doing a million (billion) years from today?” I don’t know what that might be, but I know this…It’s going to be AMAZING!

Do you ever wonder what you’re being trained for while here on earth? Death isn’t “Game Over,” it’s the doorway into real life. In 2 Corinthians 5, we read that this mortality (what we consider to be real living) will be swallowed up by life! Now, that’s good news!!

****

“Who wants to go to Epcot Center?” I cheerfully asked two of my sons one morning.

Barely looking up from their schoolwork, one replied, “Uh, no thanks.”

The other said, “Not me.”

“What is Epcot Center?” I asked, a bit confused.

“I dunno. Sounds like a business complex…one of your ‘fun-filled’ field trips for homeschool. No thanks, Mom.”

They had no idea what they were turning down.

They’d never heard of the place, and so hadn’t given it a second thought.

Isn’t this what we can be like when we think of heaven? Having never thought much about it – or worse – believing the lie that it’s the isolation of being perched on a cloud, nighties and harps, singing forever, it’s no wonder we aren’t anxious to get there. (This, by the way, is a more accurate description of hell – isolation, monotony, hopelessness…forever.)

1 Corinthians 2:9 reads, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” When I read this verse, I hear, “Honey, use your wildest imagination…it will be fun for now, but won’t even come close to all I have waiting for you here!

I become thoroughly Homesick when I imagine what lies ahead (however inaccurate I may be) …

…in my wildest dreams!

***********

(Don’t miss the companion post. You can find it here: Now That’ll Wreck Your Day.)

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Is Your Skirt Flapping in the Breeze?

The battle was fierce, and I was losing ground.

Correction, I had no “ground” anymore, and was getting my butt royally kicked by the enemy!

The fight, to the outsider, seems to be a silly one. I hesitate to reveal it for that reason. However, it’s not over and I’ve discovered that the best way to fight is in the light of confession, not the darkness of my mind, so here goes!

Since infancy, I have loved music. It’s what inspires, encourages, and comforts me. I am never more alive than when singing with our worship team as we exalt our Lord on Sundays.

As a young child, play often involved music. My bed became a jeep, the records being played on my phonograph the score for the “musical” in which I was the star. Elvis and The Monkeys were often co-stars in my mini-productions!

My mom had an apparatus for hanging freshly-ironed clothes. It became my microphone stand. I would push one handle of my jump rope onto its top, and use the other handle as my microphone. We had one of the big console TVs that also had a radio in the top on one side, and a phonograph on the other. The record player became my “band” and I would sing along with Chubby Checkers, the Beatles, and a host of others.

In fifth grade, I joined the school choir. The songs I recall from that year were “Both Sides Now” and “Obla Dee Obla Dah.” We learned parts, and I loved it!

In sixth grade, my mom bought me a clarinet so I could join the school band. I quickly removed it from the case, assembled it, and in no time was playing songs on it (before my first lesson!).

By eighth grade I was “first chair first clarinet.” I had conquered the instrument and eager to learn something new.

My brother received a guitar for Christmas, but really had no interest in learning to play. My seventh grade teacher played guitar for a weekly sing-along, so I asked if he would teach me. He kindly gave me one of the lyric packets we sang from, along with chord diagrams. Within six months I could play them all.

On and on it went. By the end of High School, I was playing clarinet, guitar, piano, saxophone, French horn, trumpet, baritone, drums, glockenspiel, and flute. I took private singing lessons as well, and sang with the school choir and the small choral group called “Der Menga Singers.” I’d also written several songs.

Did I mention that I love music? I “knew” it was what God created me to do.

However, very few saw this in me.

My parents were tolerant of my musical pursuits. They had purchased my clarinet, and we later acquired a piano (free). Any of the other instruments I learned to play I got myself, and paid for my voice lessons too.

Mostly they would tell me to quit playing around and do something useful with my life. To follow my dreams was a colossal waste of time and effort, and I was sure to end up living in a cardboard box, they assured me. I had to produce something that people actually needed if I was going to have value to society.

My dad was especially critical of my musical talent. (This is a long story, and one I’ll save for another day.) Suffice it to say that at every opportunity, he tore me down, and ripped my musical heart to shreds in the process.

By the time I was twenty, I began to see the “truth” of their counsel. Add to that one preacher’s well-meant, but theologically inaccurate message about killing the thing we loved the most to prove our love to God. (You can read the story on my blog: I Offered the Wrong Sacrifice) I quit playing instruments, quit singing, and quit writing songs.

Thirty plus years later, I was recording a CD for my nurse friends in Nicaragua. Between takes, I would break down and cry, sure that something “bad” was going to happen if I continued. This went on for three weeks.

During the recording of my last song, I began crying out to the Lord, asking Him for help. What came next took me by surprise.

In a stern voice I “heard” Him say, “Get up!” 

“What?” I asked, stunned.

“I said, ‘Get up!’ I have given you Armor to wear. Do you have it on?”

“Yes, Sir.” I rattled off the various pieces so He’d know that I had them.

“Okay, you have all the components. Then what are you doing hunkered down on the ground?”

“Lord, despite your armor, I’m getting my butt kicked by the enemy. I don’t understand.”

At that moment, a mental picture showed on the screen of my mind. There I was in all my armor, on my knees with my face to the ground…

…my skirt flapping in the breeze…

…with the enemy behind me, kicking for all he was worth!

“I didn’t give you armor for that part of your anatomy. Stand up!”

A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. When I saw this one, the problem became instantly clear.

Standing to my feet, my shield before me, I raised the Sword of the Spirit…the Word of God…and fought this enemy in the power of God’s might.

He fled. What else could he do?

Like me, are you engaged in a battle? Have you put on the armor God provided for our protection? Having done so, are you standing firm…

…or is your skirt flapping in the breeze?

Want more on the importance of our armor? Don’t miss Lions Eat Christians? What?

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I Am Invincible

Until the Lord calls me home, I am invincible. No one, and nothing can take me out before it’s time for me to leave this rock!

More often than not, the person to whom I make the above statement comes back with something like, “Oh, yeah? Well, don’t step in front of a train to see if it’s true.”

Duh! Do I look that stupid? Why do people always want to “rain on our parade?” Who knows?

Think this through with me.

There is much freedom to be obtained through this truth.

We know that every day of our life has been written down – recorded before there was even one of them (Psalm 139). God knows exactly when we are going to die, and how. We won’t suddenly appear in heaven, only to have the Lord exclaim, “What are you doing here? I wasn’t expecting you for many years!”

There is a day appointed to us for our death; and nothing can hasten that day – not cancer, not an accident, not murder…NOTHING!

This means that until that time arrives, I am invincible.

So are you!

Understanding this gives me courage to go places and do things I might otherwise avoid for fear of putting myself in danger.

For instance, I’ve gone on mission trips to foreign countries where “bad things” could happen – even death. The enemy runs rampant in many third-world countries. Weird things happen and it can get really freaky.

Jesus gave us power over all the power of the enemy, though. (Luke 10:19) He also gave us armor (Ephesians 6). If we get our butts kicked by the enemy, it’s our own fault!

Knowing that I’m indestructible gives me the guts to go into homeless camps and walk city streets at night, reaching out to people.

After all, if it’s my night to die I’m going to be killed in a car accident, taken out by some disease, stabbed to death by some maniac…or drop dead of a heart attack in the security of my home.

Whatever the means, I’m dead! It was my time.

Until then – yep! Invincible.

If we are forewarned of imminent death, we can plead with God for more time (I’m sure He doesn’t get this!). He may be gracious and grant our request. There is a case of this very thing recorded for us in 2 Kings. Let’s see what happens when we live beyond the time God has allotted us:

We discover, in 2 Kings 18, that Hezekiah began to reign in Judah when he was 25 years old. He was a great king, and did what was right in the sight of the Lord like David (a very high complement). He tore down all their high places, and destroyed their idols…including the bronze serpent of Moses’ day. We’re told that the Lord was with him; and he prospered wherever he went.

Hezz was a good and godly man; a man of great faith. (2 Kings 19:20).

When he was about 39 years old, though, he became very ill. Isaiah told him to set his house in order, for he would die from his illness. (2 Kings 20)

Hezekiah begged the Lord to let him live, using all the things we say: “Look how I’ve served You. Do You remember how faithful I’ve been to You?” In other words, he told the Lord, “How could You take my life? You owe me.”

God relented, and granted Hezekiah another 15 years. He knew it would come to pass, for God made the day longer to prove His word to ol’ Hezz.

Then we find out what happens when God does things our way:

Having gotten his way with God, no doubt Hezz was feeling his oats, as the saying goes, so when the “good ol’ boys” of Babylon showed up, he gave them a grand tour of all his treasures. You can bet they took copious notes!

They went home and reported all they’d seen, greed set in, and the plan to overthrow Israel was born. Isaiah came to tell Hezekiah that captivity for Israel

In addition, he sired Manasseh during these 15 years (Manny was only 12 when he became king – next chapter).

Manasseh was one of the most evil, vile king to ever reign in Judah, leading the nation back into idolatry – even set up idols in the Temple of the Lord, and shed much innocent blood.

(In 2 Chronicles 33, I’m happy to report that Manasseh came to his senses after being led into captivity with a hook in his nose – OUCH! – repented, and set things right in Jerusalem before his death).

My point is this, though: If this is what lays beyond the appointed time God has for me, no thank you. I don’t want to outlive my usefulness her on planet earth. If I’m only going to do evil if my life is extended beyond God’s plan for me, then I’d rather he take me out!

I believe this story was placed here to show us that God knows when it’s time for us to go Home.

Until then, however, no matter what comes our way, there is a plan and a purpose for our existence. No one can cut our lives short; no illness either.

We are invincible!

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The Day I Died

I have a grave – and a tombstone. It was a long, slow, painful death; but I finally laid down and died!

The process began with a counseling session with my pastor’s wife, Barbara. She is a sweet, compassionate and gracious woman. She’s also very courageous, wading into the mire of people’s lives dressed in the Armor of God and armed with the Sword of the Spirit.

I would tell her about some mistreatment or other that I was experiencing. She would commiserate with me for a few minutes, but then with pursed lips, she would slightly shake her head and say those words I hated to hear,

“What do you think the Lord is trying to teach you in this?”

It was like having a needle “scritch” across a record!

“No, you don’t understand. This is what they did, this is how they are treating me.” I felt hopeless, confused, like I was sinking.

“Tami, is God in control?”

“Yes.”

“Then, while He did not cause this to happen, He allowed it. If He allowed it, there must be something in it for you to learn, don’t you think?”

Ugh! I hated those conversations. In the end, I would see the truth of what she was saying and have to agree that there was indeed something in me that needed to be changed.

Another phrase she often stated was this:

“But it’s not about you; it’s about Jesus.”

This always came on the heels of a confession that I had not received validation from people for whatever it was I thought I was called to do: teach, write, sing, etc.

For instance, I wanted to sing a solo with our worship team. After all, I have a great heart for worship…it’s what I live for. No one else saw my “potential,” though. As a result, I was passed over time and again. That really hurt. I wanted to hear that I was right, they were wrong…then I wanted her to “fix” the problem.

“Is worship about you? Will Jesus be glorified – or will you? What are you really after here?” She asked these questions warmly, her eyes probed the depths of my own.

Barb is great at getting to the heart of the issue. The Lord has given her an incredible gift of discernment and tons of wisdom to go with it.

I finally had to be honest with myself and admit that I wanted to use worship to gain approval and acceptance from others. Ouch! That smarted.

Once I saw my true motive, she would encourage me to talk to Jesus about what was uncovered, give me a chance to repent, and ask the Lord to give me a pure heart.

We went through this process countless times, and about numerous topics.

“We have to learn to die to ourselves. That’s what the Lord is after. Until we are dead to our sin, we cannot be alive in Christ. Life does not revolve around us. We don’t want to promote ourselves. After all, who can we save? If at the end of life, these people know how wonderful we are, but don’t know Jesus, what will happen to them?”

She has a great way of putting things into perspective.

Dead. Hmm. Mentally, I just couldn’t get there…

…so I went into my back yard…

and dug a grave.

Not a big one, but one big enough and deep enough

to bury a photo of myself.

Then I made a tombstone and set it on top.

Now I have a grave. I can mentally see myself as “dead.”

This is not a move I recommend for the faint-hearted.

Jesus was obviously pleased with my desire to live fully for Him, for after that I began to be passed over, ignored, and overlooked almost daily.

It hurt – but then, dying hurts.

Then glorious things began to come my way. He began to use me in prominent ways. He could because my goal was no longer to promote me, but to make His name known.

Sometimes my stinky old flesh rises up from the grave. I can tell when the “old me” is up running around, though. People are repelled. I’m obnoxiously obvious by the rotted stench of my pride.

The process is repeated: confess, repent, revisit the grave, ask for help to make my life about Jesus and not about me.

Being dead has its benefits:

I don’t have to take things personally anymore – it’s not about me.

I can serve without caring if anyone notices – it’s not about me.

I can tell others how much Jesus means to me – He gets the glory

I don’t have to “do more” or “try harder” – what can a dead person do to improve themselves?

Approval comes from the Lord alone. He is the One I seek to please.  (Galatians 1:10 – Do I now persuade men? Or do I seek to please men, or God? For if I still pleased men, I could not be a bondservant of Christ.”)

FREEDOM! The freedom to become the person Jesus created me to be.

The day I “died” was the best day of my life!

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No Absolutes? Are You Absolutely Sure?

How do we determine what is “good,” and what is “evil?” Personally, I tend to consider those things which are pleasant to me, make me feel good, or add to my pile of possessions as “good.” Conversely, I consider those things which hurt, cause me grief, or deplete my store of stuff as “evil.” It’s pretty subjective, when I look at it in this light.

It works for me.

When I am deciding what is good and evil, that makes me the judge. That makes me god.

What happens though, when what I judge to be good or evil clashes with what my neighbor judges to be good or evil? I like T-Birds. You own one and I don’t. I decide that I want to have a T-Bird, so I take yours. Are you going to see it from my point of view and agree that it is good for me to have your car and let me drive off with it? I don’t think so.

We’ve arrived at the place in history where many people believe they are entitled to their own “reality.” They will say, “What’s true for you is not what’s true for me, and what’s true for me may not be what’s true for you.” They believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth.

Really?

Let’s carry that out to its logical conclusion:

If I’m entitled to my own reality, then in my mind, you should not exist. Prepare to die because I’m going to shoot you.

“You can’t do that?”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s wrong.”

“Who says?”

“I do.”

“Well, that’s your reality. My reality is that you should be dead.”

Without a standard by which everyone agrees to abide, we’re in for some serious trouble. Watch tonight’s news and you’ll see what I mean.

If only one person on the planet decided they were going to live according to their own reality, it would be a problem for the few around him or her. Unfortunately, we have an increasing percent of the population who are beginning to adopt this kind of thinking. As a result we see a sharp rise in murder, rape, war, slavery, theft, abuse of every sort.

On what grounds can anyone be convicted of a crime if there are no absolutes?

Is that what we really want?

Long ago, we were given a Book that contains absolutes. We call them the Ten Commandments. How different our world would be if everyone actually lived by them.

…Just sayin’ !

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Fearful Flight

Both doors into the house locked, a suitcase hastily thrown onto the couch, I raced down the hall to gather clothes while I struggled to gather my thoughts. My heart pounded. If I was caught, the scene would get ugly in a hurry.

What lay before us, I had no clue. All I knew was that we had to get somewhere safe.

My children were with my mom, who waited for my call. She originally said that she wanted no part of this operation. “He will hurt us, Tami,” she’d stated, eyes wide with fear.

“Fine. Then you need to know that this morning your grandchildren and I will be on the highway. We will hitchhike if we have to. Mom, we have to get out of here! They are expecting us at the Women’s Refuge at 10 a.m.”

The guilt did the trick, and she relented.

Fighting back tears, nearly overwhelmed, I ran to the boys’ room, yanked open the dresser, and began grabbing clothes. I took the armload and hurried to the living room and dumped them into the awaiting luggage.

Next was the girls’ room. I searched for a stuffed toy for each of them as well. They would need all the comfort they could get.

Back in the living room, I turned, ready to get some things for myself when

- for the first time in my life

- I heard the Lord speak.

“Go get your Bible; the one your mother bought you for Christmas.”

You’ve got to be kidding. I’ve got to get out of here!

I started down the hall when, in my mind, heard the voice again, “Go get your Bible – your One Year Bible.”

I don’t have time for this. Besides, I don’t even know where it is.

“It’s in the girls’ closet, up on the shelf, in the bottom box. Go get it!!”

His voice was insistent – not the, “Hey, this might be a good idea,” sort, but rather the “NOW!” tone a parent uses with a child who’s had it.

I charged back to the girls’ room, opened the closet and took down the boxes. I opened the bottom one as I had been told. There, right on top, was the Bible I was supposed to bring with us.

Wow! This is weird.

On my way down the hall, I heard, “Open it. Read it.”

I stopped, and opened the book up to that date’s reading. Here is what I read:

“The Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says, ‘I am the Lord your God, who punishes you for your own good and leads you along the paths that you should follow.

Oh, that you had listened to My laws! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river, and great waves of righteousness…there would have been no need for your destruction.

Yet even now, be free from your captivity! Leave Babylon, singing as you go; shout to the ends of the earth that the Lord has redeemed his servants.’ “

I crumpled to a heap and sobbed. After a few minutes, I calmly got up, finished packing, and called for my mom to pick me up.

[The above passage is from Isaiah 48 (supposedly "useless" because it is written to the Jews - and in the Old Testament, according to my childhood pastors), and from The Living Bible - a "heretic's" version. The Lord didn't seem to care about either of these issues! In later years, this recollection put to rest the "Battle of the Versions" for me. If God is okay with the Living Bible, who am I to question Him?]

For the next several months, that little Bible became like my diary, only written in advance. Each morning, what I read gave me a heads-up for the day. I was amazed at how specific and relevant the Scriptures were. After all, the scenery may have changed, but God does not. His ways are consistent throughout all the ages.

That was the beginning of “hearing” God, both through my thoughts and through His Word. These are His two favorite ways of communicating with me.

How does He speak to you? I’d love to hear your stories!

Our God is an awesome God. To Him be all glory, honor, and praise.

{Note:  if you are in an abusive relationship, you need to know that this is not God’s will for your life. In fact, the “law of the land” states that abuse is illegal. By staying, you are in violation of the law – as much as the abuser, for you aid and abet their lawless deeds. Seek the Lord’s guidance. He will deliver you!

And, if you know someone who’s in an abusive relationship, please don’t ridicule them or treat them with disdain. Without being in a situation like this, there is no way to describe the fear and worthlessness that person feels. Putting them down won’t help. On average it takes seven times before a woman leaves and stays gone. We were no exception, and were reunited within a few months. Thankfully, the Lord completely and gloriously delivered us from this nightmare a little over a year later.}

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Bewitched

No self-respecting Christian would consider casting spells. After all, this is a practice that is prohibited in the Bible. But are we guilty of this without realizing our error?

What is a spell, anyway? In its simplest form, a spell is the selection of words or phrases spoken with the intent of getting our desired outcome. Sometimes actions and implements are used in conjunction with words. The expected result is that the one casting the spell will achieve their will in the matter before them.

Here’s where prayer gets interesting.

In the past, I have used rote prayers in an effort to “move” God and get what I want, whether it is forgiveness for myself or a change in someone I know. There are “key” phrases I believed needed to be incorporated – and if I used them, the result was supposedly “guaranteed.”

The “Lord’s Prayer” is one I used in such a fashion. Night after night I would chant these words to show God how serious I was about wanting to be His child. I have to say “chant” because there was no thoughtful consideration, really, of what I was saying. I’d heard that this prayer was “known” to put a person in God’s favor.

Another important “key” is that of praying in King James English. Somehow, doing so makes the prayer “holier” and more likely to be heard, or so I believed.

I would never touch an “eye of newt,” or spider webs; nor do I have access to dragon blood. The thought of using such things is distasteful, to say the least.

On the other hand, I have been known to perform certain rituals in an effort to “move heaven” and get what I was asking for. If my ritual was interrupted, I became angry. The whole thing was blown, and I would have to try again later when I was certain of being left alone to complete my rites.

The day the Lord showed me that all of my efforts were designed to manipulate Him,

and were no better than casting spells, I was horrified.

I had to rethink my prayer time and practices.

Going through the Lord’s Prayer, I began to see the words in a new light.

Our Father, which art in heaven – He is no man, and He is not like my earthly father

Hallowed be Thy name – You are holy God and worthy of honor and praise, I am neither holy nor God.

Thy kingdom come - The desire of my heart should be the restoration of all things to His original design – man walking with God

Thy will be done – You know best how to achieve the most blessed outcome for the most people. My goal is to make my life better.

On earth as it is in heaven – His will benefits all, making earth more like heaven. My will benefits me, and can bring hell to those who stand in my way.

Give us this day our daily bread – a reminder that there is nothing I have that did not first come from His generous hand

Forgive us our trespasses – How many times today did I “step on the grass” of activities, words, or thoughts of I know are outside God’s stated will, defiantly ignoring the sign that said “Stay Off?”

As we forgive those who trespass against us – Ooh! Do I really want to be forgiven in the same manner as I forgive those who have crossed my boundaries?

Lead us not into temptation – I can find enough on my own. Have I matured enough that I would be able to stand in the face of temptation? Please help me be strong.

But deliver us from the evil one – I have an enemy. His desire is to rob and steal and destroy. Help me remember this every day in every circumstance. Give me discernment to see when he is at work and wisdom to stand firm when his arrows are aimed against me.

For Thine is the kingdom - You are King of kings, Lord of Lords, and everything belongs to You. I am only a small piece of Your grand Story – certainly not the leading lady!

The power – You are in control at all times. You have placed this power, through Your Holy Spirit, in each of Your children to do Your good will. Let me never misuse this gift, but never let me refrain from calling on Your power when the situation warrants my involvement.

And the glory – You are the only one it is safe to worship and honor. People twist applause into pride and become corrupted. Nothing created can be fully trusted. All will fail; only You can be praised without being altered by the glory.

Forever and ever – What will I be doing a million years from today, Lord? Whatever that may be, amazing will be part of the package. I’ll have only begun to know You then. “Forever and ever” makes me Homesick. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

*********

This prayer is not a chant, an incantation;

it is an opportunity to magnify the Lord – see Him as big as He truly is.

When I pray like this, it corrects my concept of how “big and important” I am in my own little realm. In light of Who He is, my ego is diminished and I am humbled to be chosen as His child. In reality, my life is the inch between my birth and death – which connects with everyone else’s inch on the timeline of history. That puts things in perspective in a hurry!

Don’t misunderstand, I am not opposed to kneeling, or lit candles, or other acts of worship. These are more like setting a mood for an intimate dinner, though; and not to manipulate the One I love. In fact, sometimes I use a prayer shawl. The fabric against my cheeks is like having the Father place my face in His hands and say, “Look into My eyes.” It keeps me focused; but that’s as far as it goes. God doesn’t say, “Oh, look! She has on her shawl. I have to listen and grant her wishes now. That really inspires me to give her what she wants.” Or, “Uh oh! She said, “In Jesus’ name.” Now I have to do what she asked.”

My point is this: Why do I choose the words I speak to Him?

Are they carefully chosen to supposedly “back the Lord into a corner” so He has no choice but to perform that for which I’m asking? Or am I pouring out my heart to a trusted Father and Friend, knowing that His answer will be what’s best for all concerned?

Why do I carry out my rituals? Is my intent to invoke God’s favor and get what I want? Or is my desire to make my time with Him special?

If my motives are anything but love, (1 Corinthians 13:1-4), then I may well be in danger of attempting to bewitch Almighty God.

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Dirty Undies

Mama said, “Put on clean underwear. You wouldn’t want to be in an accident and have dirty ones on, would you?” Sorry, Mom, but I’m old enough to know that in an accident, the undies are the first things to go!

But I don’t want to talk about boxers, briefs, panties or thongs today, but rather to discuss mental “undies.”

Some mornings I get up feeling like 150 pounds of sin on a Popsicle stick. My mind is filled with the things I’ve done to hurt others and myself. Scenes of my yesterdays stream across the screen of my mind.

I was so foolish. What was I thinking? How could I have done such horrible things?

Days like this, I don’t bother to put on any other “clothes,” but run around with my “dirty undies” hanging out for all to see, and stinking to high heaven. If those I encounter don’t notice my attire, I will draw their attention to what I’m wearing:

“There was a time in my life when I would drink until I blacked out. During the blackout I would…” and other cruddy information about myself that they didn’t know.

(Appropriate shock and horror flashes on the face of my audience. Ah, good. They see my dirty undies.)

On other days, I put on “garments” to cover my “grunge” – things like a happy face, effervescence, helpfulness, kindness. Underneath these things, I am aware of the filth I’m wearing, but cover it up with vesture that will be more appealing to others. When I’ve dressed like this I try not to move much – the rustling of my “outer” wear causes little whiffs of the stench beneath to be released.

But God…

(Don’t you love those words – you know the story is only going to get better from here!)

Well, okay, this time it’s Jesus who has something to say on the matter:

You’ve been in my dresser again, haven’t you?

“What’s that, Lord?”

You’ve been in my dresser again. I see that you are wearing My clothes. Don’t you remember? I gave you a beautiful new robe of My righteousness to wear.

I feel silly, embarrassed even. How could I have forgotten? Jesus is the “Clothes horse” for my sin. He bore all my guilt and shame on the cross. Every bit of it hung on Him when He gave His life for me.

In exchange, He gave me His righteousness. He sees me as “holy, blameless, and above reproach.”

I don’t have to wear my old, dirty underwear ever again! In my robe of His righteousness, I am the fragrance of Christ to God. I’m free to live and move and have my being in Him. Move along, nothing foul to smell here!

“If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new is come.”

How about you? From whose “dresser” did you choose today’s outfit?

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Loving Well

“No one has seen God at any time.” This statement was plopped into the middle of 1 John 4, where we are exhorted to love one another. It seemed to be out of place, which begged the question:

“Now, why is that statement here?”

As I meditated on these verses, it became clear that we are to love God, Jesus, and one another. God is not visible to us. Jesus is no longer visible to us, having ascended into heaven long before any of us were alive. One of the purposes for Jesus to come as a man was to give us a clear picture of God. In John 14:9 we read:

“He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

Jesus ascended to the Father, and we were each given His Holy Spirit to live in us. One of the reasons we remain on earth after our salvation is so that we can be, as Jesus was, an example of the Father to the world. We are meant to be His hands, His feet, and His mouth. We are to be functioning as His body to everyone around us.

This truth convicts me as I consider how often I pick and choose who “deserves” my love, and who does not. He loves them all. If I am His body, then who am I to judge the worthiness of another?

If Christians understood their role as His ambassadors, we would be drawing people to our Lord instead of repelling them.

Have we become just so much noise as we champion for our rights

and try to get the world to validate our beliefs?

First Corinthians 13 addresses this very issue. We read,” Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

I can speak eloquently, succinctly, accurately, and with great knowledge and wisdom. If I do this without a heart of love, though, I am just another loud person who is demanding to be heard. To the world, I am nothing. I have nothing to offer, and they would prefer that I sit down and shut up.

The truth is that people won’t care how much I know until they know how much I care.

If my sole concern is that of obtaining their validation for what I believe, then I will fail to fulfill my assignment to love them with God’s love.

Their opinions of my beliefs do not alter the truth of the One in whom I believe. It is a challenge to remember that my battle is not with flesh-and-blood people; it is with principalities and powers. The person with whom I am speaking has been blinded and needs my prayer, not my disdain. Lord, help me remember this.

If it weren’t for Jesus, I would not have had a very clear picture of what God was like. Can others say of me, “If it weren’t for you, I would never have known what Jesus is like?”

Lord, help me to be love to others. Make me as accurate an example of You as is possible while I remain on earth.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

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