The Shadow Tells All

Cover off, God’s parable on!

Child of the 50’s that I am, I still remember the radio (what’s that, you ask?) detective program titled “The Shadow,” and the slogan that came at the beginning of every program: “Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man? The Shadow knows!” This morning I finally went out to the back yard to hit the elliptical on the porch around 7:15, already warm with the sun rising above the mountains. As I “loped” along to my inspirational music on my phone, I noticed the shadow of something long and thick in the pool. Hmmm…what could that be from? Peering intently into the pool, I saw a small twig floating. Aha! Not a snake or a log after all – just a small, twisted twig.

Two thoughts immediately came to me :

1: Sometimes people like to “cast a large shadow” before others, looking larger than they are, and I know that’s out of an actual sense of inferiority/invalidation/lack of importance. When you examine that person, you see the truth that they aren’t as “big” as they like to project they are. Hmm… have I ever done that, Jesus?

2: I’m a pretty small twig in the grand scheme of things, as are my sisters and brothers in Christ, but even a twig, with the Light of the World behind it, can make an important “reflection” and impact if and when the shadow we “cast” is the shadow of the redemptive work of Jesus on the Cross. Hmm… does my life really count for you and your Kingdom, Jesus?

Fast forward two hours to the Monday worship intercession group. Today we’re very much in 1 Corinthians 2: 2-16 (Amplified Version):

“As for myself, brethren, when I came to you, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony and evidence or mystery and secret of God {concerning what He has done through Christ for the salvation of men} in lofty words of eloquence or human philosophy and wisdom, for I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified… So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (human philosophy), but in the power of God….For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord so as to guide and instruct Him and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.”

I realized God’s thought to me through that stick fit with what we were focusing on today: our own humility and “twig” stature, and yet God loves us so much that HE gives us thoughts from HIS own mind, heart and being, so the “shadow” we cast in our thoughts, words, and actions bears, conveys, and prayerfully reveals the mind and heart of Jesus to others! We all agreed we’re quite happy to be “twigs”!

Fast forward to one o’clock, after the meeting, when I zipped down to the grocery store to pick up a few things. Yay, I found a parking space under a tree, and I waited for the young man gathering up the shopping carts to walk across the lane and get to the side of the building. For whatever reason (nudge), when I walked to the sidewalk, he was still there, going back for a few more carts. I told him thanks for doing his job and getting carts for us in the hot sun, and that began a small conversation about working out in the heat. I shared about a job where I had to do that, and said again I appreciated his work. He told me he doesn’t make much money at the job and rarely hears thanks, and I went on my way.

But that nagging nudge inside me told me our conversation wasn’t over, so after shopping and checking out, I saw him again pushing some carts toward the storefront. I turned my cart and walked toward him, and gave him a single dollar, telling him it came from Jesus, small as it was. He expressed his appreciation, then said, “This isn’t the job I want to have forever. I actually studied music in college, and I write music.
That’s what I want to do for a living someday.”

I asked if I could pray with him, and I did, asking the Creator who put that gift in the young man to open doors of opportunity for him to walk in his gifting and calling. He said, “You must be a hard-core Christian,” and I just smiled and told him I love Jesus and like to pass God’s love along to others. Oh, kind Creator God, I truly hope and pray what that young man, whose name I don’t even know, saw Jesus, not me, in that brief shadow this twig prayerfully, hopefully cast today! I may never see him again or hear the outcome of the words I know God’s Holy Spirit gave me to encourage him, but that’s okay. I’m a twig who casts a shadow of the Cross of Jesus, and that’s all that matters.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father… FOR IT IS GOD WHO WORKS IN YOU TO WILL AND TO ACT ACCORDING TO HIS GOOD PURPOSES.” Philippians 2: 1-11, 13 (NIV)

A “… but God….” for you to pray and think about today: Father God, I am just a small twig in the great scheme of things, BUT you’ve invested some of yourself in me, in my abilities, inclinations, gifts and heart. It’s really YOU living through me anyway, so help me feel YOUR nudges and know that being “just a twig” is meaningful when YOU’re with me and love through me. Give me courage to know and simply live before others, so YOU can __________________________________________________________________________, and remind me always that it’s YOU behind me, casting the powerful, meaningful, purposeful shadow! Jesus’ Name, with thanks, by the Holy Spirit, for God’s Glory and victories and transforming love in the lives of others AND me, amen!

An Improbable Avenue from an Omnipotent God

God’s grace to me and others, recorded in these books!

How in the world does God make these improbable connections? Ah, He’s omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. Still, God’s “weaving” humbles and flabbergasts me! All I intended to do was sell a king-size mattress set I didn’t need, trying first through my Facebook friends. And yay, the woman who managed the bookstore at my previous church messaged me that she wanted to buy it, so down they came and loaded it up. She asked me, “You used to write for Donna Partow, didn’t you?” Yes, after the senior pastor’s wife connected me with Donna because she knew I’d written books with the senior pastor of a previous church, I did put together two leaders’ guides for two of Donna’s books, a high honor to me because I highly respect Donna’s world-wide speaking and her faith that drives her.

I was still surprised when she contacted me just a week or two later. I didn’t know 1) that she was working now for a Christian publishing company and 2) that they needed more writers and 3) that Dana thought to mention my name to her co-workers! I drove up, interviewed with the staff, and began writing small gift devotional books for Christian Publishing Group. Holy socks, all that from selling a mattress? Yesterday I got thenexst six title they want me to work on!

My true delight in putting these books together is that I get to share stories from my friends of God moving in their lives. Yes, God moves for, in, and through His ordinary people through everyday events just as powerfully as through big-name preachers and evangelists! And my editor has remarked that these real, ordinary people stories are making their books more powerful than they’ve ever been, enough so that they’re selling out and going into reprint! What a Mighty God we serve!

Oh the matchless grace, kindness, power, sovereign authority and loving goodness of our Savior Jesus and Almighty God and Holy Spirit, our triune God! Not infrequently I’m flat on my face in my spirit, and sometimes literally on the floor, in awed amazement at the work God’s entrusted to me! As the worship song goes, “Who am I that the Lord of all the Earth would care to know my name,care to feel my worth? Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star would choose to light the way for this ever-wandering heart? Not because of who I am, but because of WHO YOU Are!”

I’m nobody more gifted or special than you are; I’m just the girl God created me to be. Many of you have giftings and talents and Knowledge and abilities beyond my capacities, and ya know what”? God wants to use YOU, too, just the way HE created you, for his improbably amazing works through ordinary people, and extraordinary God who chooses to love us and live in and through us when we come to him in awareness of our sins and wrongdoing and thinking, in repentance, wanting God’s forgiveness and help, and looking for and receiving his great merciful forgiveness, cleansing, healing, and righteousness through Jesus’ death on the cross for every single soul on Earth who will come to him and his indescribable gift.

These books, found on the Living Grace website, are the hearts, lives, spritis, awe and wonder of people loved by the matchless love of God through Jesus,and I do hope you can find them share them with family and friends, and yes, send me YOUR own stories of God in your life to richly, powerfully bless and encourage other ordinary people, children of a matchless, extraordinarily loving and giving Heavenly Father God! I couldn’t have possibly orchestrated this miracle myself, BUT GOD DID!

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” Romans 11: 13

O the Depth of Love Divine

The United Methodist Hymnal Number 627
Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788 
Music: Carlton R. Young 
Tune: STOOKEY, Meter: 76.76.77.76


1. O the depth of love divine, 
the unfathomable grace! 
Who shall say how bread and wine 
God into us conveys! 
How the bread his flesh imparts, 
how the wine transmits his blood, 
fills his faithful people’s hearts 
with all the life of God! 

2. Let the wisest mortals show 
how we the grace receive; 
feeble elements bestow 
a power not theirs to give. 
Who explains the wondrous way, 
how through these the virtue came? 
These the virtue did convey, 
yet still remain the same. 

3. How can spirits heavenward rise, 
by earthly matter fed, 
drink herewith divine supplies 
and eat immortal bread? 
Ask the Father’s wisdom how: 
Christ who did the means ordain; 
angels round our altars bow 
to search it out, in vain. 

4. Sure and real is the grace, 
the manner be unknown; 
only meet us in thy ways 
and perfect us in one. 
Let us taste the heavenly powers, 
Lord, we ask for nothing more. 
Thine to bless,’ tis only ours 
to wonder and adore. 

All those open doors for God to pour Christ’s light into!

Capistrano beach sand heart

 

 

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.Colossians 4: 2-6 NIV

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9: 4-5

 

Twice in as many days, and this isn’t to honor me ,but  to brag on God and His timing and open doors, his loving, caring, compassionate heart, and what happens if we’ll just be, as Patsy Clairmont said in the title of her humorous devotional book,”Cracked Pots” who let the Light shine through our humanity. On Tuesday morning at the opening women’s ministry meeting, I hung my purse on a chair, only one woman I didn’t  know sitting there , brought back a plate of fruit, and began engaging in conversation with the four  other women at the table. Nothing earth-shaking – just friendly conversation. That led to me  connecting with Peg. She told me  later  she was a bit unsure but got the Holy Spirit’s nudge to talk with me. And the result was me being able to drive Peg to the Tuesday night Healing Room at Two Rivers Church, to intercessors  who’ve blessed me many times, so she could get some words from the Lord. When I heard the laughter coming from the prayer room, I knew I’d done the right thing, and Peg indeed got her “socks blessed off.” Way to go, Abba God!

Then this morning, for whatever reason, I decided to pop into the grocery store I’d visited on Tuesday to see if any of the reduced price protein drinks were still there. so I pull into a parking  lane and wait for the older (says she who is 68!!) woman to  walk  by before I pull into a spot. She’s getting a cart at the entrance as I walk up, and she motions me to go ahead,  but  I say,”No,  please go  ahead.” As she walks in, she jokingly says, “Open sesame!”  and I reply, ”Oh, you must be magic !” That  silly little exchange opened the door  for her to share that she’dpaid a large bill by check, put it in the mailbox,  but the letter carrier dropped  that envelope, someone picked it up, “washed” the  pay to line,  and chased her check. Now she was in a tight financial  bind. I touched her  shoulder and prayed with her for God to bring her vindication, and restitution, and she thanked me and  said, “Amen!”

Twice  in two days straight, after Carol had shared on Monday about being Holy Spirit-nudged to pray  with a woman  in the produce section of Wal-Mart, motivated by the lack of plastic bags readily available! And Melanie on Tuesday driving back to give some encouragement and affirmation to a woman she’d passed, standing on the sidewalk,  who said  thanks  after Melanie simply said hello to her! Linda’s had those encounters, and so have Donna, Libby, Lily, the other Carol, Yolanda, Val, Debbie, Julia ……

It ain’t me!  It doesn’t just happen to me! It’s God pouring out HIS light, love, encouragement, empathy, compassion, smile, validation, affirmation, acknowledgement  to people who need a bit of light, a word of cheer, and breath of hope from The Almighty Himself, just poured out through us “cracked pots”!! All we need to do and  be – all YOU need to do and – is available and ”cracked” enough to get over yourself and your insecurity (yes, I get it; me, too!) and start a conversation! I’ve lost track of how many times God has done this through. (See my past post about “Connect the Dots” for a few more).

Oh,Rose and ________________  (fill in your name), why do you ever doubt Jesus loves you?Why do you ever doubt the Holy, Almighty, Creator and King of Kings DOES want to live and love through you,to be a vessel of His Light and Love and Truth and Word on Earth?! Why do you think you’re the power that moves in these Divine encounters? As in the opening words of the book The Purpose-Driven Life, “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!”

Soooo …… as Jesus told us, HIS “disciples” meaning “sent ones,” “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9: 4-5  Carry HIS Light! Be that “cracked pot” that God’s  Light can shine through. Night IS coming, and we need to  get out into the Harvest fields of people all around us and share God’s  Love through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit who DOES live in you and me and us who call ourselves Christ Followers, not just Sunday morning  pew warmers. 

Your”…BUT…”to pray: God, I admit it ,sometimes I’m downright too insecure and chicken  and people-pleasing/people-fearing to open my mouth and say hello to someone, much less pray  WITH them, BUT YOU ARE ABLE, so help me get over myself and_______________________________________and help me SEE  the next open door YOU open in front of me so I can help someone who needs to see and experience YOUR LIGHT of LOVE right then and there. Holy Spirit – gulp – I know YOU will help me, so I ask this in Jesus’ Name, amen!

Capistrano beach sand heart

Making the most of the sands of time

The Right Receptors ….

 

cloud heart

Yesterday morning the sky was SO blue! Clouds to the north and east and above us,  but such intense blue over our heads. Of course, that started a chain of thought in me. How do we humans see color? It’s just energy, frequency of light waves, photons…..Of course, we have receptors in our eyes to take in that energy,but to take in that energy and REGISTER/INTERPRET IT AS COLOR????!!!

Here’s the science of vision, from Wikipedia:The visual system in animals allows individuals to assimilate information from their surroundings. The act of seeing starts when the cornea and then the lens of the eye focuses light from its surroundings onto a light-sensitive membrane in the back of the eye, called the retina. The retina is actually part of the brain that is isolated to serve as a transducer for the conversion of light into neuronal signals. Based on feedback from the visual system, the lens of the eye adjusts its thickness to focus light on the photoreceptive cells of the retina, also known as the rods and cones, which detect the photons of light and respond by producing neural impulses. These signals are processed via complex feedforward and feedback processes by different parts of the brain, from the retina upstream to central ganglia in the brain….

However, the following applies to mammals generally and birds (in modified form): The retina in these more complex animals sends fibers (the optic nerve) to the lateral geniculate nucleus, to the primary and secondary visual cortex of the brain. Signals from the retina can also travel directly from the retina to the superior colliculus.

The perception of objects and the totality of the visual scene is accomplished by the visual association cortex. The visual association cortex combines all sensory information perceived by the striate cortex which contains thousands of modules that are part of modular neural networks. The neurons in the striate cortex send axons to the extrastriate cortex, a region in the visual association cortex that surrounds the striate cortex.[1]

The human visual system is generally believed to perceive visible light in the range of wavelengths between 370 and 730 nanometers (0.00000037 to 0.00000073 meters) of the electromagnetic spectrum.[2] However, some research suggests that humans can perceive light in wavelengths down to 340 nanometers (UV-A), especially the young.[3]

 

Right…. got all that technical terminology? The ONE truth  that resonated in my spirit as I beheld that astounding blue – those photons that my cornea, lens, photoreceptive cells of my retina, optic nerve, ganglia and lateral geniculate nucleus and visual cortex received,translated  and somehow gave me appreciation for that beauty – is that GOD IS AN INCREDIBLE, WONDROUS, GLORIOUS, KIND, LOVING, AWESOMELY ABLE CREATOR! You can’t tell me that the mammalian eye just somehow evolved over eons from a single-celled glob of slime  that “magically”changed over time to become a WALKING,  STANDING, SEEING,WARM-BLOODED, CHILDBEARING, COMPASSIONATE,  CARING, LOVING, GENEROUSLY GIVING, COMPUTER CREATING COLLECTION OF CELLS WE CALL HOMO SAPIENS!

To believe we came to be by some cosmic accident takes so much more “faith” and “willing suspension of belief”that it’s almost comic to me. I don’t mean to insult  evolutionists; I totally agree that adaptations happened and still happen – but the ONE question evolutionists can’t answer is the origin of life from chemicals. Life – even slugs and jellyfish – is something SO MUCH MORE COMPLEX, so much more CREATIVE and AMAZING than an “accidental” perfectly right combination of chemicals that somehow sparked LIFE: the capacity to receive input,  interpret it, think, have language to express, wonder, procreate,create, and CARE that I find it incomprehensible that people can’t allow for an INTELLIGENT DESIGNER behind it all. Oh, but that would mean SOMEONE to whom they are now accountable for how they invest, spend, live the life given  to them NOT created by them themselves ….

Hmmm….does the real question, then, come down to  1) somehow lacking the spiritual/emotional/relational receptors to perceive the evidence of a loving Creator God or  2) wanting to BE  “gods” ourselves so we don’t have to answer to anyone?  Hmmmm…..

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12: 7-10
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 91:1
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:  13-14

 

….since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Romans 1: 17-23

…. images made to look like humans …. fast,flashy cars, fancy houses, glaring designer jewelry, gilded diplomas, stock portfolios ….. boy,we humans worship a  LOT of things (ourselves included) that aren’t the SOVEREIGN CREATOR GOD.

Yep, all that from a patch of very blue sky, which just goes to show me that God IS speaking, all the time all around us, if we great and powerful (till our health goes haywire or the banks go under) humans humble ourselves enough to see, listen, and agree. But catch this, too ….God created you to know him and his love,  his great, deep desire for relationship with you, yes with YOU! SOLI DEO GLORIA – TO GOD ALONE BE THE GLORY!

 

 

A “…but…” to pray: Holy, gracious heavenly Father,Creator God,author of my existence and lover of my soul, I confess that I don’t always listen when you speak o me, and sometimes I dismiss what I do hear and see, BUT you show your mercy to a thousand generations to those who fear  (reverence) you, so help me truly experience holy,reverential awe of you and thankfulness that YOU ARE, and because YOU ARE, gratefully, I am. Here’s my confession and my thanks ____________________________________________________________________________________and  thank YOU for your forgiveness, gracious unmerited mercy, long-suffering patience, and passionate love!Holy Spirit, I’m listening ___________________________ and in Jesus’ mighty name, amen!

 

On No One’s Coat tails…

“I see a generational line of pastors and teachers in your family line. I feel a sense of culmination to this point in history, that you are facing a giant, a battle, which has been ordained that you should fight ….” She’d never met me before, had no idea who I am, and yet the words Charity spoke were solid, right on.  How could she know there are pastors and preachers in my mother’s mother’s  family line, including my great-Uncle, and many before him?

Even with this heritage,though, I know that I know that I  know that I can’t call myself Christian because any of my ancestors were.Christianity is not an ethnicity, not an inheritance passed down by your parents. Sitting for decades in  church doesn’tmake you Christian any more than sitting weekly in the garage makes you a car or  wading in the ocean till you’re pruny makes you a tuna! Christianity, being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, not just a lip-service pew sitter, comes down to one thing and one thing only: a personal choice to acknowledge that 1)yes, I am a sinner,  2)yes, sin (even one) separates me from relationship with a Holy God, 3) no, I can’t  possibly DO anything to merit  God’s grace 4) Jesus made  the ONe and ONLY fully adequate, fully covering, fully atoning sacrifice of his own life on the cross to pay the  Blood price for my forgiveness required by my sins and 5) I have to REPENT AND CHOOSE and daily choose  to live in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice  for me,  receiving God’s unmerited grace, favor, unfathomable mercy, forgiveness and matchless love.

MY SINS – CHRIST’S DEATH ON THE CROSS. What an almost unimaginably priceless, inconceivably costly gift, freely given by Jesus! And all I have to do is agree with God  that I’m a sinner in desperate need of His grace to receive it  and walk forever, here and in Eternity, in joyful fellowship and relationship with My Righteous Father God Almighty! No, that doesn’ t give me license to keep on willfully sinning. What a slap in the face to Jesus that would  be, to think I could presume upon his boundless,  pure  mercy and live in a way that dishonors, trivializes,  and disgraces God’s costly  gift to me! I receive his unmerited grace, mercy, forgiveness  and love, and out of reverential gratitude and eternal thanks, I choose  to live to please, honor, serve and worship God Almighty, helped daily by God’s Holy Spirit present with me.Do I blow  it sometimes? Yes, and then I’m right back on my knees confessing, repenting, and staying in relationship with God as his chosen daughter. Yes, God chose every single one of us before the foundations of the Earth, that we should come to know his boundless love and live in fellowship with HIM. And yes, God “recklessly” gave us the freedom to accept His Gift or go our own  way, trusting in our own goodness, which God’s Word says is like filthy rags, instead of in the freely given Righteous Blood of Jesus ALONE.

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long. Who do YOU choose  to worship, choose, revere,love,  follow, and trust?  Today I quote an entire chapter. These aren’t just my thoughts, but  thoughts straight from God’s Holy Spirit, yes through a human being, but not humanly reasoned out! We’d think  “religion” is enough. God knows how inadequate anything  but the Blood of Jesus truly is (my bold):

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’[a]

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
    after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds.”[b]

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
    I will remember no more.”[c]

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

A Call to Persevere in Faith

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”[e] 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”[f]

38 And,

“But my righteous[g] one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”[h]

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Hebrews 10 NIV
Who in their  right mind would refuse boundless  love and grace,  freely given, despite their failures, rebellion and weaknesses?
10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep.  John 10: 10-15 NIV
NO  “But’s…” about it: not Great Uncle Cyrus,  not great-great-grandpa whoever, no building, no just  words creed, no mindlessly recited prayers, nothing and NO ONE and NO WAY but Jesus, now and forever, PRICELESS LOVE, amen!

Shallow Roots: The sissoo tree didn’t have a choice, but you and I DO!

 

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 14-19 NIV

Yesterday a whopper of a thunderstorm/dust storm/rain storm moved through the metro Phoenix valley. Our house was on the eastern end of  the “summer monsoon” storm and caught the brunt of it, though other areas of town saw powerful winds and microbursts, too. I wasn’t home when the storm came through, so it  wasn’t till the winds died down and it was safer to drive that I made the drive east  down Baseline road, with huge downed  trees alongside the road nearly all the way. Yikes: when I got home, I heard  the whole story that led me to praise God on at least three levels and  sense the urgency to share the spiritual parallel I saw in our back yard.

Back story: when we bought this house, the back yard was shaded by a  sissoo tree, nearly  45 feet tall, as well as a tall  mesquite and a pepper tree. Shade in Arizona is a prized commodity, but (isn’t there always a “ …but…”),  the roots of that lovely Indian Rosewood tree were huge AND visible atop the ground. One huge root – and I’m talking 28” in diameter where it comes off the tree base, 20” going under the fence –  cracked the block wall on the east side of the lot, and one equally large shallowly digs down under the foundation of the house.

From Wikipedia:

Your botany lesson for the day: Dalbergia sissoo, known commonly as North Indian rosewood, or  shisham, is a fast-growing, hardy deciduous rosewood tree native to the Indian Subcontinent and Southern Iran. D. Sissoo is a large, crooked tree with long, leathery leaves and whitish or pink flowers.D. sissoo is a medium to large deciduous tree with a light crown which reproduces by seeds and suckers. It can grow up to a maximum of 25 m (82 ft) in height and 2 to 3 m (6 ft 7 in to 9 ft 10 in) in diameter, but is usually smaller. They have a long tap-root and numerous surface roots which produce suckers.D. Sissoo is native to the foothills of the Himalayas. It is primarily found growing along river banks below 900 metres (3,000 ft) elevation, but can range naturally up to 1,300 m (4,300 ft). The temperature in its native range averages 10–40 °C (50–104 °F), but varies from just below freezing to nearly 50 °C (122 °F). It can withstand average annual rainfall up to 2,000 millimetres (79 in) and droughts of 3–4 months. Soils range from pure sand and gravel to rich alluvium of river banks; shisham can grow in slightly saline soils. Seedlings are intolerant of shade. Its wood is used for cabinetry,  veneers, musical instruments, plywood, and flooring. The twigs can be chewed and used as a toothbrush.The fruit has ethanolic extract, a pesticide. The wood is also used for fuel.

Such a helpful, useful tree! And from our  back yard yesterday afternoon, what  a potentially dangerous tree! My first  PTL is that several weeks ago we had an arborist stop by to assess the tree, give us suggestions, and cut through that root  going under the block wall. Why praise God? Because if  that root hadn’t  been cut, when the blast of wind came through that took down that 30’ tall tree in one whoosh, ripping it up at the base, the uprooting  would have taken out the block wall entirely!   And praise God again that  the tree fell diagonally across our back yard, entirely clearing the house (and it was planted MUCH too close to the house for  safety!)  and falling just short of the back block wall, and even somehow sparing our new  little lemon-lime tree planted just last fall.  Yes ,the “limon” bent over under an upper branch, but it didn’t break.

Praise God BIG TIME, number three, that just fifteen minutes before the tree fell, Daniel felt so hot from working on the drip lines and emitters in the back yard (finishing up on the little limon tree) that he came inside to cool off and wring  out his T-shirt. Fifteen minutes  later, he would have been under the falling tree! Holy, holy, holy, righteous, glorious, merciful, majestic, gracious, good, powerful, loving God Almighty! Can I get an “AMEN”??!! I shake even as I write this.

Pause to praise and worship, falling before YOUR Throne:

So what’s the analogy I  take away? Refer to the scripture at the beginning: ….so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…..

This house is 17 years old,so that 45’ tall sissoo tree is only that old. Unfortunately for the  tree and for us, it evidently was never deeply watered, so its tap-root couldn’t go down deep into the soil, securely anchoring the tree. If it HAD been deeply watered, it wouldn’t have fallen to the wind. Watered only with the drip irrigation, its roots grew shallowly, and even though they grew large, shallow roots can never securely  anchor a tree.

Where’s the parallel? I’m going to say something unpopular: Don’t  be a “sucker” coming from a shallow root, falling for cultur al compromises! Our culture continually “feeds” us with a “drip” of shallow, empty, deceptive philosophy based on the traditions of men:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy,which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. Colossians 2: 6-9a  NIV

PLEASE DON’T HEAR JUDGMENT in what I’m saying; rather, hear a warning  out of a  compassionate, empathetic heart that doesn’t want to see ANYONE taken down by threatening winds that, let’s  face it, come against us all, sometimes out of the blue like the storm here yesterday. The weather warning didn’t come till 3:30 on my phone, and by then the storm had already struck east Mesa. Daniel certainly didn’t hear a  storm warning before he came inside!  True confession time here: God gave me two warnings, one word I didn’t fully understand in 2000 and one dream in 2003 that I thought was  just a nightmare, but I didn’t press in hard and persistently enough to God’sHoly Spiri counsel to discern what those warnings meant. Out of God’s great mercy  and  enormous  kindness,  he’s never left  me on my own despite my all-too-human “Pollyanna” head in the sand, ignoring the ”storm warnings.”

So no, I don’t judge anybody who pays more attention to the flawed “wisdom” of our western contemporary culture that tells us “If it feels good, do it” and “Just follow your heart,” than  God’s Word when God’s deep water pool of TRUE wisdom tells us :

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?

10 “I the Lord search the heart
    and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
    according to what their deeds deserve.”  Jeremiah 17: 9-10 NIV

There is nothing reliable in what they say; Their inward part is destruction itself Their throat is an open grave; They flatter with their tongue.Psalm 5:9

Do not drag me away with the wicked And with those who work iniquity, Who speak peace with their neighbors, While evil is in their hearts. Psalm 28: 3

Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.

Proverbs 24:12 If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?

Proverbs 26:23-25 Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross Are burning lips and a wicked heart. He who hates disguises it with his lips, But he lays up deceit in his heart. When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart.

Isaiah 44:20 He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside And he cannot deliver himself

 
1Timothy 3:13 Evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived….

Does ANY of  that truth sound  like “If it feels good, do it”??!! Showing my age here, “Danger,Will Robinson!”

That  crabby, God’s Word denying, “I did it my way” “Doctor Smith” of contemporary  cultural compromise  wants to shut me up by telling me ”Aw, don’t you want their ‘happiness’? You’re spoilling their fun!” and keep me and you enslaved  to hollow, deceptive, flawed, mis-directing, shallow-root-producing “drip irrigation” lies and half-truths and prevent your true safety-ensuring anchoring tap-root from digging down DEEP into the pool of Living Water of God’s eternal, transforming, saving, redeeming, cleansing, nourishing TRUE WORD!

Well, the strong storm winds will come one  day,  and one last one  for each of us, and all you’ve anchored yourself in will be tried and tested at God’s throne, if not before. Go ahead and call me Noah or fun-squashing Jeremiah or Malachi or habakkuk or Isaiah, but those deriding voices who scorned God’s prophets weren’t laughing when the floods came (yes, in geologic history and even in the Epic of Gilgamesh, there WAS a catastrophic flood  the region of modern Turkey/Iran!)  or when Assyria  attacked or Babylon came and sacked Jerusalem and took  Israel captive to Babylon. The real warning goes out to Jericho, behind those “impregnable” walls that fell to the Ark of the Covenant and God’s PRESENCE, to the praises of the priests and Levites, and to the HOLY POWER OF ALMIGHTY God, OLAM EL, YHWH ADONAI  that IMPLODED the walls of Jericho without the Israelites lifting a finger or sword against them.

That wasn’t the first time God showed up for HIS Chosen People:

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground…19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lorddrove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. Exodus 14: 13-15, 19-22 NIV

Jesus told us who God’s chosen ones are:

“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ 19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me…. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 18-20, 34  NIV

What I say in the post, I say out of the love for mankind God put in my heart in an overwhelming eruption of God’s  passionate LOVE in me at 2  a.m. in June, 2009, that woke me up with my heart exploding out of my chest. Please, please, don’t be a “sucker” on a root  that can’t feed or anchor you, one of those who turn back from God’s merciful TRUTH AND GRACE, both of them endlessly, purely loving. Accept God’s Truth, yes about your sinful nature (I’m a sinner saved by Grace, too, not by my works or my “righteousness,” BUT ONLY by the Blood of Jesus), that is able to save you through the totally atoning, totally perfect, completely pure and justice-satisfying Blood of Jesus  poured out for you WILLINGLY on the Cross, and turn to God’s mercy in genuine godly sorrow and true repentance so you can drink deeply OF and root your life IN the passionate, true, purely loving MERCY OF GOD.

No “but’s” about it:

What HE calls me…

IMG_2258

I’ve been called some nasty names behind my back because of my love for Jesus. And no, it’s not “religion” (gag); it’s LOVE in relationship. Well, short and sweet today, here’s what God has told me HE calls me (and HIS Word is true, faithful, loving, Righteous, Holy, alive and active, strong!):

you will be called by a new name
    that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
    a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
No longer will they call you Deserted,
    or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,[a]
    and your land Beulah[b];
for the Lord will take delight in you,
    and your land will be married.
As a young man marries a young woman,
    so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
    so will your God rejoice over you….The Lord has made proclamation
    to the ends of the earth:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your Savior comes!
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.’”
12 They will be called the Holy People,
    the Redeemed of the Lord;
and you will be called Sought After,
    the City No Longer Deserted.   
Isaiah 62: 3-5, 12 NIV

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
    foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
    you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.

8 “For I, the Lord, love justice;    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.In my faithfulness I will reward my people    and make an everlasting covenant with them.9 Their descendants will be known among the nations    and their offspring among the peoples.All who see them will acknowledge    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.” Isaiah 61: 3-9
You are altogether beautiful, my darling;    there is no flaw in you. Song of Songs 4:7 NIV
From the ends of the earth I call to you,    I call as my heart grows faint;    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.3 For you have been my refuge,    a strong tower against the foe.4 I long to dwell in your tent forever    and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.[b]5 For you, God, have heard my vows;    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.Psalm 61: 2-5 NIV
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last-and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. John 15: 12-17 NIV
And these words aren’t just for me; they’re for everyone who calls  Jesus/Yeshua  Savior, Redeemer, Lord, God, King, Lion of Judah, Lamb of God, Friend
Now HIS question to YOU is, are YOU a friend TO Him? Does anybody know it?  Can anybody see it? Have you – here comes the ”scary” challenge to “church people” – TOLD anybody (yes with your words so they don’t  just think you’re a nice person) who HE is to you (including why JESUS IN you MAKES you “nicer” than you could be by yourself!!!!) and who HE could be and wants to be to them? Do other people know you’re free to bless them – even the ones who call you names – because Jesus says you’re HIS, delighted in and chosen?
We love to sing “What a friend we have in Jesus,” so how about loving to sing ”What friend I am to Jesus, all his greatness/goodness/mercy to proclaim! What  privilege to carry out His love to praise His name!”
Just sayin’……. myself included, maybe today we should all get OFF our “…BUT…” ’s  and live like HE matters!

 

Detoxing Spiritually

In doing some writing and editing for a biologist in the last two weeks, I’ve  seen serious parallels between toxins in our bodies and toxins in our heart/mind/spirit/attitudes. Toxins in the body destroy  tissue and organs and compromise our physical health, especially as they build  up over time.  Our blood deposits excess wastes and toxins in organs like the lungs, kidneys, heart, pancreas, liver, colon, or other locations. There the toxins “hide” and do their damage.

“Whole-body inflammation refers to chronic, imperceptible, low-level inflammation. Mounting evidence suggests that over time this kind of inflammation sets the foundation for many serious, age-related diseases including heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Recent evidence indicates that whole-body inflammation may also contribute to psychological disorders, especially depression.”       drweil.com/reducing-whole-body-inflammation

Like waste sites that must be cleaned up before safe building can begin, we need to clean up our bodies before we begin building and rebuilding good physical and even mental health. I strongly suspect the same is  true  in our spirits, emotions and attitudes/thoughts: toxic thinking and believing can accumulate in our spirits and emotions over time, with results just as deadly and degenerative as inflammation and toxicity in the body. I  imagine we all  are aware  these days that what and how we think influences how we feel.

“If you have a tendency to over-react to stress, it could be due to changes in your brain brought on by negative thinking. Negative experiences are stored in the brain by the amygdala. The thalamus is responsible to sending sensory and motor signals to the rest of the body but it does not understand that negative thoughts aren’t the same as real danger.  As a result, our bodies experience real stress symptoms of rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, and a state of heightened arousal.  Stress from negative thinking creates changes in the brain that may affect your likelihood of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, schizophrenia and mood disorders. The problem is that our brains are good at learning from bad experiences but bad at learning from good experiences.” drweil.com

Rapidly triggered release of chemicals like cortisol can affect your mood for an entire  day,  and  your memory of those moods can linger and accumulate for years.

Okay, so we know industrial wastes and – yikes – even prescription medicines in our waterways, pesticides and herbicides on crops and in runoff,  recreational drugs, smoking, and alcohol put physical toxins into our bodies. What are, and what puts, spiritual toxins  into us? God’s Word is pretty clear about what  “toxins” we need to KEEP OUT of our hearts/minds/spirits, and with what we need to PUT IN to cleanse and protect ourselves from the deterioration, blinding, bondage and poisoning of “toxic thinking/feeling/acting”:

Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. Psalm 37:8

In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a footholdGet rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4: 26-27, 31-32 NIV

Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool. Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. Proverbs 10: 18-19 NIV

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6: 14-15

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister  (see Ephesians 4:  26-27) will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ (let’s call it name calling/reputation destroying with any words) will be in danger of the fire of hell.Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift….You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5: 21-24, 27-10  NIV

Then Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand! It is not what goes into your mouth that makes you ritually unclean; rather, what comes out of it makes you unclean.” Then the disciples came to him and said, “Do you know that the Pharisees had their feelings hurt by what you said?”  “Every plant which my Father in heaven did not plant will be pulled up,” answered Jesus.  “Don’t worry about them! They are blind leaders of the blind; and when one blind man leads another, both fall into a ditch.” Peter spoke up, “Explain this saying to us.” Jesus said to them, “You are still no more intelligent than the others. Don’t you understand? Anything that goes into your mouth goes into your stomach and then on out of your body. But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these are the things that make you ritually unclean. For from your heart come the evil ideas which lead you to kill, commit adultery, and do other immoral things; to rob, lie, and slander others. These are the things that make you unclean. But to eat without washing your hands as they say you should—this doesn’t make you unclean.” Matthew 15: 10-20 NIV

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5: 43-48 NIV

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:  19-21 ESV

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4: 17 NIV

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. James 3: 14 ESV

In our physical bodies, toxins can come from within our body, too. Stress, infections, changes in the body’s population of good bacteria and even rupturing of cells also can raise toxin levels in our bodies. Fortunately, the body CAN cleanse itself of toxins. Our bodies have biochemical “cleanup workers” that know how to detoxify each of our cells . To  help our  body cleanse, we can also take  supplements and cleansing herbs, colonics,  saunas, steam baths, foot baths, exercise, deep breathing, and prayer/meditation and other stress relievers.  Here are more spiritual “toxic take outs”, coupled with what we should put into ourselves to “detox” emotionally, mentally, attitudinally, spiritually:

 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4: 25

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  Colossians 3: 7-10

Yes, none of us hasn’t stumbled or sinned in some of these ways. Not one of us can, on our own, truly “be perfect even as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” THAT’S WHY I/WE NEED  THE ATONING BLOOD AND FORGIVENESS AND POWER INSIDE US OF JESUS!  That’s why I need a Savior, why I can only trust in Christ’s Righteousness to cover me, and why I try to be quick to confess my sins/wrongs/stupidity and make amends when, yes it happens, I hurt someone,  even unintentionally (as it is with me, because I never set out to hurt anyone)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Yes, yes, yes,  let’s all take out the toxins that “inflame” our heart, mind, spirit and will, starting with recognition, humble honest confession, and repentance, and put in the “anti-inflammatories” that quench that destructive fire! And here are  the anti-inflammatories Doctor Jesus prescribed for us in the “BE attitudes.” Talk about a cleansing detox!

“Blessed are the poor in spiritfor theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn (my insertion,I do mourn when I recognize I’ve sinned, or when I see someone stumble in Satan-induced spiritual blindness), for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek (humble) for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousnessfor they will be filled. Blessed are the mercifulfor they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakersfor they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousnessfor theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 3-16 NIV

 

Boy I needed to be reminded of this today, and I just found a note I wrote years ago quoting some of Brennan Manning’s book “Ruthless Trust, “ which I read on a trip to Asia, as I recall, going to do childcare at a missions conference . Wish I still had a copy!

“Trust, the winsome wedding of faith and hope…. Christianity is not a message which has to be believed, but an experience of faith that becomes our message.” (p.88) He cites 2 Corinthians 3: 2-3 that God’s message is written on the tablets of our hearts. “We must deduce everything we know about God from what we know about Jesus… For me and many others, Jesus IS the revelation of the only God worthy of trust,” (p. 89) “The promise of His presence and the presence of His promise.” (p. 94) “What does lie within my power is paying attention to the faithfulness of Jesus. That’s what I am asked to do: pay attention to Jesus throughout my journey, remembering his kindness.”(p. 97)

May God cover all of us His children with His powerful Hands and Love today and give us courage to honestly confess,  genuinely repent and  let Him take  out the toxins in us., put in His cleansing, and help us say that we are HIS and live like we mean it!

 

A  “…BUT…” to pray: LORD God, I freely admit I can’t live up to all the things I know I should put into my life and make my BE attitudes, and yes, I need YOU to help me see and cast out the toxic ideas, attitudes, feelings, assumptions, and flat-out dumb  actions  in me. I can’t do it on my own, BUT HOLY SPIRIT, YOU CAN do it in me as I yield mtyself to You, so I ask You now to tell me _______________________ and show me _________________________ and take it all OUT of me,  and  show me _______________________ and  tell me  ____________________ that YOU WANT TO put into me  out of Your self, Your love, Your purposes,  and Your powerful grace. In Jesus’ name, Loving  Father God, amen, and Holy Spirit, please amp up the volume so I can hear you as I’m listening __________________________________________.

 

The Original 1997 Lost and Found

 

Lost and Found

Rose. M. Jackson ©1997

 

When I was nine, one of my favorite books was The Borrowers by Mary Norton. It’s about a family of tiny people who live under the kitchen floor in the house of an elderly lady. They’re called Borrowers because that’s their chief occupation: borrowing things from the larger folk in the house. If I didn’t know better, I’d think we must have Borrowers in our own house, because the oddest things keep getting lost, and no one has the slightest idea where they could have gone. I’m sure the fact that we are “savers” and have, admittedly, too much stuff under all the beds has nothing to do with our misplacing things.

Last year in early spring, though, I lost three things within three weeks. That’s a record even for me, and the unusual ways it happened lead me to believe those events carried a message for me. At least I’ve found a message in them – a message about losing things – that had a profound impact on my perception of loss.

The first incident occurred when I went to an allergist’s office for a scratch test on my back. Thinking I should take off my jewelry, I put in my shirt pocket the gold cross-within-a-fish necklace my mother-in-law had given me a few years earlier. I treasured it because of its unique design and because a jeweler friend of hers had made it specifically for me. After the test I put my shirt on, left the office, and ran an errand. When I returned home I realized I didn’t have my necklace. Horrified, I immediately called the doctor’s office and the store I’d stopped in on my way home. No one had turned in the necklace. My heart sank. How could I have been so careless?

In tears, I called my husband to admit my mistake. Instead of the anger I expected, he spoke with kindness, assuring me that he knew it was an accident. A week later he came home one evening carrying a red velvet box. Puzzled, I opened it and gasped. Inside was an exact replica of the necklace I’d lost! My husband had stopped at a jeweler’s on his way home from work the day I lost the cross. He’d drawn a picture of the necklace and had the jeweler recreate it for me. Tears streaming down my face, I wrapped my arms around my husband’s neck and sobbed for the beauty of his forgiving love. That necklace holds double meaning for me now, and I quickly tell the story any time someone asks where I got it.

The very next week I lost another item I treasured. I was feverishly working to finish a project by a rapidly-looming deadline, and as I shifted my gaze from the computer screen to the printer, I noticed a dark hole where the diamond should have been in my engagement ring. A hole. No diamond. Panic momentarily paralyzed me, and then my mind began to race. Where had I lost it? More to the point, when had I lost it? I had no clear idea of the last time I could say for certain that I knew the stone was in the ring.

That would mean the stone could be anywhere.

Just as quickly as the panic had come, though, a sense of certainty replaced it. Somehow I knew that this had happened for a purpose. I didn’t hear angelic voices, but I knew God had a reason behind this calamity, and I felt certain I would find the diamond.

I began to mentally check off all the things I’d done that morning which might have dislodged a loose stone. I’d put lotion on my hands, so I checked the bathroom sink, floor, and drawers: no stone. I reasoned that the stone might have come out when I changed my clothes, so I searched through the bed I’d just made and played bloodhound on the bedroom rug: lots of dust, but no diamond.

Now what? The immensity of the task of going through my actions of the previous day loomed on the edge of my consciousness, when I realized that I had re-potted a plant just an hour or so earlier. I had given up on an ailing ivy that I’d moved into the bathroom to recover, deciding to re-pot it in the large planter on the front porch to either pull through or die in the fresh air. Its root went much deeper in the pot than I suspected, and I’d had to dig at it a bit to loosen the ivy from its pot.

That was it. I was sure that’s what dislodged the diamond. But when exactly had it happened? I’d also moved a petunia to a different spot in the planter. Like Hercule Poirot, I set my little gray cells to computation. Did the stone fall out in (1) the pot from which I’d taken the ivy, (2) the hole in the planter where I placed the ivy, (3) the dirt I removed from that spot to make the hole, (4) the spot where I transplanted the petunia, or (5) the other planter where I’d tossed some of the extra potting soil from the original ivy pot?

Heartened by the confidence that I’d find the stone, I began what could possibly be a long search. Here is a good spot to interject that the stone I was looking for was not large. It was just 20 points, not even a quarter carat, but it had cost my husband just about every penny he had saved at the time he gave it to me. I could vividly remember choosing that stone from a tiny jumble of brilliance on a black velvet pouch nearly twenty-five years earlier. This was not going to be easy to find.

The truth of that came home to me as I scooped out the first cupful of potting soil left in the ivy’s pot and spilled it onto a sheet of newspaper. Have you ever really examined potting soil? I never realized that much of potting soil is actually tiny pebbles of quartz – most of which were bigger than my diamond! Finding my diamond was going to be literally like looking for a needle in a haystack. All I had going for me was the fact that my diamond wasn’t shaped like a lump of quartz.

Cup by cup, on my hands and knees, I painstaking sifted through the soil. I was not willing to let even an ounce of that soil go unsearched. The irony of looking for one rock amid hundreds occurred to me after twenty minutes of unfruitful sifting. What was it, after all, that made this one rock so valuable to me? It wasn’t the DeBeers family controlling the world supply and setting the price of diamonds. It wasn’t money at all, for our homeowners’ insurance would cover this loss.

I didn’t want a diamond. I wanted that diamond, my diamond. What made it valuable to me was the love for me that bought it. As I realized that, I sat back on my heels. What had I really lost? I still had the love that bought that stone. In fact, I know my husband loves me more now than he did twenty-five years ago. All I’d lost was a rock. The love I still had was worth more than the most priceless diamond.

At the same instant I realized something else, too. What makes me valuable to God is not what the world thinks – or what I think – I’m worth; what makes me valuable to God is the love that bought me. That love bore the cost of degradation, anguish and agony of death by crucifixion to buy me. The price Jesus paid for me makes me priceless to God my Father.

I sifted through all the dirt left in the pot, but found nothing. I went out to the planter box where I’d sprinkled some potting soil, scooped up as much as I could recover, and went through that dirt – snail castings and decomposing leaves and all – cup by cup, but found nothing. I uprooted the ivy and searched the soil around the roots, but there was no diamond. That left just two more places to search. I’d been looking fruitlessly for over an hour, but somehow I still felt the assurance that I’d find the stone. I scooped some loose potting soil from around the hole left by the now uprooted ivy, spread it out on the newspaper, and there, amid the quartz and vermiculite, was my diamond. I felt ecstatic, of course, that I had found that tiny stone Chip gave me, but I also felt the warmth of knowing I’d found something more than the diamond.

If I was willing to look so hard and diligently for the sake of what love bought me, how much harder and more diligently, I thought, does God look for each one of us who is “lost?”   How relentless is his help in our searches when we’ve lost our hope or dreams? I knew beyond a doubt that God is good, and his goodness and love DO endure forever.

That knowledge was put to the test the next week in an equally remarkable incident. I frequently do my walking at a local mall early in the morning. Usually I remember to take my fanny pack instead of my purse, because it’s awkward to carry a purse and walk as fast as I like to. That day, though, I’d absent-mindedly taken my purse with me. Before I got out of my car, I put some tissues in my left pants pocket. I’d been carrying my watch in my purse, rather than wearing it, because of a rash on my left wrist. Now the thought came to me, quite distinctly and deliberately, “I’d better put my watch in my right-hand pocket so I don’t accidentally pull it out when I take out a tissue.” I put the watch in my right hand pocket, pocketed my car keys, did my usual two quick laps, returned to the car and went home to shower and write.

About two hours later I looked on the counter beside my purse for my watch, but it wasn’t there. I proceeded to scour the house for my watch, until it hit me: I had my keys in the same pocket as my watch, and I’d probably pulled the watch out of my pocket when I took the keys out on my way to the car. I sailed back to the same parking spot and re-traced my steps, but I couldn’t find my watch, nor had it been turned in to lost and found.

That watch had been a Christmas gift from my husband just a year earlier, and I felt sick when I realized I’d lost it. Then I felt angry. “What’s the deal here, God?” I cried. Why had that little voice told me to put the watch in the same pocket as my keys? At almost the same instant another question formed in my mind: “You can say God is good when you do find what you’d lost, but can you say God is good even when you don’t?”

God is still good, no matter what my circumstances are. I’d lost a watch, but the God who was with me and loved me when I found my diamond was the same God of love when I didn’t find my watch. In both losses it wasn’t what I’d lost, but what I had all along, that mattered. God’s character hadn’t changed; only my circumstances had.   I’m not saying that God engineered both situations, but I do believe that God brought me good through both situations.

And that lesson meant the world to me when I lost my Dad – something profoundly more precious than the watch or diamond or the necklace – just a few weeks later. My father was a good man who loved God dearly and lived it every day of his life. Even so, this man who prayed for healing for others had to endure five years of the slow death of Alzheimer’s.   We lost him little by little until he went home to be with his Savior. After his death, Dad’s attendants at the nursing home shared how much his kind and loving nature meant to them. How had they seen this in someone who hadn’t been able to speak for most of the two years he’d been there? It could only have been God’s Spirit in Dad, shining through in spite of his physical limitations. Though Dad’s strength faded and his brain cells diminished, his spirit stood strong and whole.

“Lost my Dad ” isn’t really the right phrase, for by the time Dad died I knew that it was what I still had – the love I’d known all those years, the godly heritage, example, and all the wonderful memories my father bequeathed to me – that mattered. If I filled my hands with anger over what had not been because of his illness, I couldn’t have held the precious treasure that was still mine. You can’t take hold of anything with a clenched fist. To hang on to our loss is to always feel lacking. To embrace what we have is to feel wealthy beyond words.

What I gained from watching Dad’s illness progress is the certainty that God’s Spirit never leaves our spirits. That certainty has given me freedom from fear. Even though my brother, sister, and I know that, thanks to heredity, we have a 50/50 chance of going the same route as Dad, in one wonderful way I’m not afraid of Alzheimer’s anymore. I know now that even if that’s what life has in store for me, even if my mind leaves me, my God won’t.

What I found and embraced that Easter season was the undying love of the living Jesus who paid the price for me and my Dad. His tireless love diligently searches for and finds us, even if we feel lost or valueless or no different from the dirt around us. He sees the jewel in us; this is the treasure that is securely ours. Jesus upholds us in his power and holds us safely to his heart when our strength fades and fails. He will not allow us to be lost. His unceasing, relentless love can transform even our deepest losses into immeasurable gain.

God is NOT Just a Good Idea! Take Two

 

Today is a replay. Given all the shaking and winds and waves not only in the physical world, but in governments and the political sphere, I  think I need to reiterate this thought. Thank you, Francis Chan,  for nudging me to agree with your message today! First, Francis:

 

I strongly suspect we take God’s mercy lightly. Evidently we think God sent Jesus because we deserved it. Nothing could be further from the truth. We deserved God’s wrath. He sent Jesus because HE is worth/deserved it: God deserves a people who walk in holiness and purity, fully aware of his glory, majesty, holiness, purity, splendor, reality, presence, being, and fully aware of what GRACE means, the price paid for us to come into relationship with him,with his love, BUT aligned with his righteousness. The Blood that HE shed for us is the costliest fluid in the universe, and I need, speaking for myself, to be aware of the value of that Blood.

I picked myself up off the floor this morning long enough to share this with you. I pray God’s manifest presence enters and covers your life, your day, our nation, and the world today, and yes, I have a tiny idea of what that really means and the consequences of what I’m asking: reverential fear, awe and awareness of and reverence for WHO we’ve been “messing and trifling with” to flood our lives, and our personal and corporate realignment and recalibration with HIS Word, HIS will, HIS worship.

Back to the floor ……

The check box “OTHER” has often been my answer of choice on surveys and sometimes on standardized tests when none of the choices or answers seems to fit quite rightly. When I did analogies on IQ tests in school, I could often see relationships between more than one of the answers, and I always wished those tests had a “free response” section so I could elaborate on connections I saw in multiple choices.

“For He is like ….” In writing about the passage in Malachi 2: 17-3:6, John Piper writes:

“He is a refiner’s fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner’s fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner’s fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner’s fire.”

“God is like …” – I read analogies about God all through the Bible, yet still I sense the need for a check box of “OTHER” when I try to grasp all of the Being of God. Sometimes in frustration I’ve wished I could step out of the skin of my humanity with all the physical limitations of my cells, amino acids and proteins, to truly behold God in all of His Glory and Presence. So far, all I’ve experienced are flashes of God’s Presence that literally made my heart skip beats, shut my mouth to any possible conversation or exclamation, and sometimes dropped me to my face on the floor.

And all those experiences did was make me hunger and long for more of them.

Somehow I sense that I the modern-day American evangelical church we have focused so single-mindedly on God’s grace, mercy and love that we have completely overlooked His Holiness, His “OTHER”-ness.

Deity is not an easy concept to grasp. We know nothing of it in our everyday lives, in the realm of the natural, and until and unless we come into a true relationship with God through receiving his Son Jesus as Savior, the only receptors/detectors we’re equipped with are our five senses, totally inadequate for grasping the HOLY.

Some religions reduce God’s Deity to human terms by claiming God “came down” physically and was sexually intimate with Mary to conceive Jesus. How we try, in our finite understanding, to bring God down to human terms we can grapple with or, worse, elevate our status to godhood! God alone is Deity, God alone is Holy, and it is nothing less than truly supernaturally miraculous that through Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection, God sanctifies our humanity. He does not make us smaller versions of Himself. God’s Holy Spirit comes into us to make us figuratively sanctified, cleansed and honored just as the cups and utensils in the Tempe were. In effect, God’s Spirit connected with our spirit by a means undetectable to our five senses, but very much felt within us, means God chooses to reside within our hearts and spirits as He did in the Holy of Holies in the Tempe in Jerusalem.

Do I “get it”? No. Do I believe it? Yes. Not me, not by my effort or merit. “OTHER.”

God is not in every tree, but every tree is OF God’s creative power. God is not contained (limited) in me. I am an image-bearer, but the image I carry within me because of my relationship with Jesus is a partial reflection of the character and nature of God, a reflection only of someone outside of myself.

One day, quite innocently and unaware of what an answer would do within me, I asked God to give me his heart for a person I was having trouble “loving.” I cannot humanly explain what happened, but I came into contact somehow with a love deeper, more passionate, more understanding and enduring than I had ever before experienced for another human being. “OTHER” is the only way I can describe the encounter.

Since that day I often see a beauty within people that I know I missed before. This ability did not come from me, generate from some goodness within me. I can only describe it as Holy.

I long to give this experience to others, but I can’t. Only God himself can transform so profoundly. I long for others, for you, to know God’s Presence, his Holiness. Periodically I have to take myself out of the “God is my friend” mentality that is true, but isn’t wide or deep enough to accommodate Deity in my perception., and restore God in my thinking to his Holy, Divine, Majestic place as Deity and the sole right focus of my worship and obedient surrender. I am compelled to not give in to those people who demand or expect me worship them. I can love them, but I can’t worship anyone but God Almighty.

Worship is defined as reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred; adoring reverence or regard. It is both an act and, more importantly, an attitude toward.

Perhaps today it’s time in your life to try to take in, apprehend, or at least acknowledge God’s Holiness, Majesty, Splendor, worth, Divinity, OTHER-ness.

I am the LORD your God. You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20: 3

Which of these titles belongs to you, my fellow human being all too often ensnared by narcissistic, selfish tendencies, desires, and expectations of others?

God is an all-consuming fire, A Refiner’s Fire. A crown of beauty. A Great High Priest. A Jealous God. A Hiding Place.. A Scepter. A Strong Tower. Alpha and Omega. Creator. King of kings. Lord of lords.

Adonai-Jehovah — The Lord our Sovereign

El-Elyon — The Lord Most High

El-Olam — The Everlasting God

El-Shaddai — The God Who is Sufficient for the Needs of His People

Jehovah-Elohim — The Eternal Creator

Jehovah-Jireh — The Lord our Provider

Jehovah-Nissi — The Lord our Banner

Jehovah-Ropheka — The Lord our Healer

Jehovah-Shalom — The Lord our Peace

Jehovah-Tsidkenu — The Lord our Righteousness

Jehovah-Mekaddishkem — The Lord our Sanctifier

Jehovah-Sabaoth — The Lord of Hosts

Jehovah-Shammah — The Lord is Present

Jehovah-Rohi — The Lord our Shepherd

Jehovah-Hoseenu — The Lord our Maker

Jehovah-Eloheenu — The Lord our God

In my emphasis on God’s love and mercy, do I forget God’s Holiness?

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes…. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Deuteronomy 10: 12-20 NIV

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Psalms 8:1

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. Psalms 29:2

Psalm 93:1 The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! Psalms 95:6

Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he! Psalms 99:5

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4: 21-24 NIV

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. Isaiah 6: 1-4 NIV

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.

the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. Revelation 4:10-11

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1: 15-16

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and Earth are filled with Your Glory. Hosanna, hosanna in the highest!

Pray a “…BUT…” to God: Lord God Almighty, I bow before You and I confess and gladly say that You are __________________________________________________ and I am not, BUT because I belong to you and Your Holy Spirit lives in me, I am ____________________________________________________________. I want to experience You more as__________________________________________ and please, God Almighty, make me aware of __________________________________ Help me to live in greater recognition and wonder of _______________________ every day and help me to see You in __________________________________________. Help me to bear your image in this situation where I struggle to live as I know you want me to live __________________________________________________________ You ARE Holy and wholly OTHER, and I ____________________________________. I rejoice in You and Worship You! In Jesus’ name, Amen! Holy Spirit, I’m listening _________________________________________________________God is NOT Just a Good Idea