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 __________________________________________.

 

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Marabel or Jezebel Or God’s Total Woman?

I’m thinking about the misguided advice in Marabel Morgan’s 1974 book Total Woman, which came out in 1974. Those were the days of tumult over feminism versus traditional womanhood, both rather muddled and culturally driven concepts. Quite a few of us young military wives on the base read that book, touted as it was as a Christian perspective, and young and naive as we were, I know some of my friends and I adopted some of her suggestions. But the book always smacked a bit to me of manipulation. Responding to a nudge today, I looked her up on Wikipedia, and this is a quote they had from her book, and reading it now makes me shudder at the downright ungodliness, not of her suggestions in and of themselves, but of the motivation behind them:

“It taught that “A Total Woman caters to her man’s special quirks, whether it be in salads, sex or sports,”[2] and is perhaps best remembered for instructing wives to greet their man at the front door wearing sexy outfits; suggestions included “a cowgirl or a showgirl.” “It’s only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him,” Morgan wrote.

So … my husband is so brain-dead and flagrantly self-indulgent that the only way I can appear beautiful to him is if I make myself scantily clad slave Princess Leia on a chain to Jabba the Hut? That’s disrespectful to genuine, upright, mature, strong in their character men! I remember something in the book alluding to the way to get your husband to buy you new luggage, or whatever you wanted. Manipulation, idolatry, demeaning, slavery, groveling, demanding, treating men like craven infants, yech!

Where is true love, loving and honoring each other for the person on the inside? Where is challenging eachother to be the best person each can be, the truest, bravest, most honorable and caring? Where was Marabel’s truly biblical advice – rather God’s commandment – to worship and revere God alone, and serve God first and before all? Out of loving God, honoring and grateful for the sacrificial love God showed us in Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, we give love and honor to those around us, not to manipulate them or finnagle their love, but to truly love THEM as unique individuals created in God’s image, valuable because they are, and loved by God. I was willing to serve my husband, but not willing to enable or encourage him to do what God’s Word calls sin. I’m sorry, Marabel, because I was the tastefully creative one in the intimacy department, but if personal integrity made me “unattractive” to him, then was his love truly love, or was it also self-driven manipulation for selfish motives?

The Bible’s ”poster girl” for self-driven unscrupulous manipulation is Queen Jezebel. From her example, her name now means a conniving, seductive, manipulative woman.

King Ahab, indifferent to God’s commands to only marry a Jewish woman who worshiped God Almighty so he would not be led to worship false gods, married a foreign woman who worshipped other gods than the God of Israel, Yahweh, Olam El, the Lord God Almighty. Here is a summary of Jezebel’s life, from https://www.thoughtco.com/who-was-jezebel-2076726

Jezebel‘s story is recounted in 1 Kings and 2 Kings, where she is described as a worshiper of the god Ba’al and the goddess Asherah — not to mention as an enemy of God’s prophets. As King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel mandated that her religion should be the national religion of Israel and organized guilds of prophets of Ba’al (450) and Asherah (400).

As a result, Jezebel is described as an enemy of God who was “killing off the Lord’s prophets” (1 Kings 18:4).  In response, the prophet Elijah accused King Ahab of abandoning the Lord and challenged Jezebel’s prophets to a contest. (Elijah and the One True God won the contest, and fire from Heaven burned up the prophets of Ba’al)

Although Jezebel was one of King Ahab’s many wives, 1 and 2 Kings make it apparent that she wielded a considerable amount of power. The earliest example of her influence occurs in 1 Kings 21, when her husband wanted a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. Naboth refused to give his land to the king because it had been in his family for generations. In response, Ahab became sullen and upset. When Jezebel noticed her husband’s mood, she inquired after the cause and decided to get the vineyard for Ahab. She did so by writing letters in the king’s name commanding the elders of Naboth’s city to accuse Naboth of cursing both God and his King. The elders obliged and Naboth was convicted of treason, then stoned. Upon his death, his property reverted to the king, so in the end, Ahab got the vineyard he wanted.

At God’s command, the prophet Elijah then appeared before King Ahab and Jezebel, proclaiming that because of their actions, “This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood — yes, yours!” (1 Kings 21:17).

Elijah’s prophesy at the end of the narrative of Naboth’s vineyard comes true when Ahab dies in Samaria and his son, Ahaziah, dies within two years of ascending the throne. He is killed by Jehu, who emerges as another contender for the throne when the prophet Elisha declares him King. … According to 2 Kings 9:30-34, Jezebel and Jehu meet soon after the death of her son Ahaziah. When she learns of his demise, she puts on makeup, does her hair, and looks out a palace window only to see Jehu enter the city. She calls to him and he responds by asking her servants if they are on his side. “Who is on my side? Who?” he asks, “Thrown her down!” (2 Kings 9:32).

Jezebel’s eunuchs then betray her by throwing her out the window. She dies when she hits the street and is trampled by horses.”

Uh, it’s clear to me that God is serious about being the one and only object of our worship, reverence, and first obedience. Bad things happen when we put anyone or anything else on the “throne” of our lives! And no, God is NOT a narcissist; God is the Creator, Author of the Universe, Holy, Good, Righteous, Merciful, Powerful, Authority, Kind, Just, and Loving, all together and no aspect of His character ruling out the others.

You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds. The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.…Psalm 145:16-18

Righteous and Kind, Just and Merciful, Holy. Here are clear directives from the Bible on Who is to come first in our lives:

And he (Satan) led Him (Jesus) up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” Away from me, Satan!” Jesus declared. “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'”

… Luke 4: 5-8, 10

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

“You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. Deuteronomy 6:13

–for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—Exodus 34:14

“You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. “You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you,” Exodus 6: 13-14

Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtoreth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” 1 Samuel 7: 3

For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. Psalm 96: 4-5

“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. John 4: 23

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2: 9-11

Yes, I am to love my husband and respect him. Equally true, my husband is to love and respect me as his wife. Mutually we submit ourselves and our wills to God and what He wants for our marriage and family. That’s the way God intended marriage to reflect His unity, integrity and upright love that calls the beloved to purity and righteousness.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped… Philippians 2: 3-8

So Marabel, no; husbands should not seek to be revered and worshiped and served, but as Jesus showed us all to serve one another out of humility and giving love, and wives should do the same.

https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/all-women-bible/Jezebel-No-1

“No matter from what angle we approach the life of Jezebel she stands out as a beacon to both nations and individuals that the wages of sin is death. Further, from this great tragic figure of literature and of history we learn how important it is for the influence of a wife and mother to be on the side of all that is good and noble.”

If I truly love another person, I ought to be about encouraging and enabling the best, truest, noblest, most upright, God-honoring choices and attitudes in them. I go back to 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 to the definition of genuine love: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

So, Truly Total Woman, honor and worship God first, and your respect and love for you husband will fall into proper place. Total Husbands, same goes for you. Total Singles, same thing: call forth, encourage, support and enable the best and truest, most righteous and kind and good in others. That’s what we all should be about, regardless of relationship to each other.

 

 

 

The Great ( C)Omission

Here I go out on a limb again. Dating myself, I remember first hearing about The Great Commission in college, probably at the Lay Witness Mission at our Methodist Church where I first went forward publicly to affirm my faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, or maybe at the college Sunday School class or Campus Crusade meetings I attended after that. Right here it is, in verse 19 of Matthew 28, among the last words Jesus spoke to his disciples after his Resurrection:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I’ve met many Christians in the last few years who say to me something like this: “My faith is very personal to me, a private matter between Jesus and me.” That’s great; I applaud a deeply intimate personal relationship with Jesus, because that’s what Christianity truly is. What usually follows that comment, though, is an unspoken “…and that’s why I don’t say anything about Jesus in public.” Hmmm…..

“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one,”so goes the argument for keeping quiet about your faith.  Imagine for a minute what the world would look like if those eleven men on the mountain with Jesus had felt the same way….  BUT the truth is, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” ” Romans 10: 13-16 NIV

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” John 20: 19-22 NIV

“I like to keep my faith personal and private- evangelism is for people like Billy Graham ” is the attitude I’m here calling The Great Omission. Granted, up front, not every Christian is called to be or gifted to be an evangelist, What exactly, is an evangelist, though?

Strong’s Concordance 2097: euaggelizó: to announce good news

Original Word: εὐαγγελίζω
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: euaggelizó
Phonetic Spelling: (yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo)
Short Definition: I bring good news, preach good tidings
Definition: I bring good news, preach good tidings, with or without an object, expressing either the persons who receive the good news or the good news itself (the good news being sometimes expressed as a person).

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

So an evangelist is basically anyone who expresses/communicates the good news of Jesus – who himself is the Good News – and his gift of forgiveness and salvation. If I may use an analogy, it’s a person who plays on and FOR the team, not a bench-sitter.

Truly, does anyone who plays on an athletic team of any kind join the team just to sit on the bench all season and cheer the other players on, but never actually play in the game? I may be wrong, but don’t the fans in the bleachers do that? Yes, fans may wear team jerseys, but they aren’t ON the team and IN the game. If the first disciples had simply been fans of Jesus, the cheering would have stopped when Jesus “left the field” and you and I wouldn’t be able to know, love, or live for Jesus today. Nobody else would have! But those first eleven, and the others who joined them, at the cost of their own lives took the word, yes the spoken out loud to other people word, of Jesus to every corner of the world where they were able to travel. They lived the Great Commission, as have millions of others since their time, and that’s the reason you know Jesus as Savior and Lord today: somebody SAID something about Jesus to you.

No, I’m not advocating that you get a soapbox and stand on a street corner. What I am advocating is that, even if your spiritual gift is administration, or giving, or accounting, or service, or helping others, or greeting at the door onSundaymorning, or teaching preschoolers, please don’t “hide your light under a bushel” and let people think you do those things well and happily simply because you’re a good person. “Oh, but if they see me doing good, they’ll ‘see’ Jesus in me know it’s because of Jesus.” No, they won’t. They’ll see a “good person” doing good unless you SAY something about your motivation to do that good coming from your relationship with Jesus. You don’t have to give a sermon. All you need to do is say something like, ”Well, God loves me, so I love others,” or “Jesus loves me, and I want to share his love, so I _________.”

The apostle Peter wrote, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect ….” 1Peter 3:15 NIV

And Jesus himself said to the thousands gathered on a hillside, “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: 14-16 NIV

Of course we aren’t supposed to call attention to ourselves. But how will those others know that you have a Father in heaven to give glory to if you don’t let them somehow know your have a Father in heaven and HE’s the reason for the good you do?

I suspect the reason we don’t make our faith known is that, deep down, we fear rejection or censure of some kind or ridicule. Isn’t it insecurity about what other people might think? I admit it wasn’t until four years ago that I started asking waitresses and waiters in restaurants if there was a way I could pray for them. Guess what? So far, no one has told me to take a hike. In fact, I’ve met some very receptive and grateful people! They don’t know my name, but they know Jesus knows THEM enough to nudge one of his teammates to express care about them. When Christ returns, or when I go home to heaven to meet him, I don’t want him to find me simply warming the bench.

Jesus paid the ultimate price for me, his own life, endured unimaginable pain and taunts and suffering for me to not just cover over, but take away my sins. and give me a loving, intimate, implausible relationship with the Creator of the Universe! Isn’t that worth sharing with someone who may never have heard the good news, and who may never hear it if you OMIT rather than COMMIT and don’t say something?

I quote Joseph Prince:

“God, who is the only one who can fully appreciate the full value of His Son’s blood and who is completely satisfied by His Son’s sacrifice, is at rest in His heart today concerning your sins! That is why He is not against you even when you fail. Neither is He out to punish you when you sin. No, He still loves you, is for you and wants to help you overcome that sin.

In the Old Testament, the blood of bulls and goats could only “cover” sins and not take them away. (Hebrews 10:4) But the blood of Jesus is not like the blood of animals! For by one sacrifice, the eternal blood of the Son of God has forever removed your sins (Psalm 103:12) and cleansed you of all unrighteousness! (1 John 1:9) In fact, God is so satisfied with His Son’s perfect work that He says to you today, “Your sins and lawless deeds I will by no means remember!” (Hebrews 10:17) And if God does not remember them, why would He punish you for them?

Beloved, you have “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”. Because Jesus’ work is complete, all your sins have been completely forgiven.”

If you’d shout at a baseball or football game when the team scores, why won’t you even quietly share one sentence with your next-door neighbor about the greatest goal, the greatest score, the greatest victory and the most amazing Victor ever? Will you ask God to give you courage from him to overcome your fear, and will you believe, if He was wiling to give His son to die for you, He more than wants to?

“Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play today!”

 

A”…BUT…” to pray: Lord God, you know I dont feel qualified or ready, but you equip the sent, so I’m asking You to help me ________________________________________________.In Jesus’ name, and Holy Spirit, I will listen _________________________________________. Send me with what YOU say!

 

 

 

 

Trust in the … Where’s the Lord?

Trust in the … Where’s the Lord?

img_1427 Driving through New Mexico not long ago, we passed two commercial trucks, one right after the other, and I heard God’s “Heads up –  this is your culture, and the choice I offer you.” The first truck carried a logo with a “lucky” 7, horseshoe,  and four-leaf clovers, and instantly I thought how much people trust in luck or their own intelligence and resources, rather than trusting in God, his wisdom and His loving goodness. No offense to this trucker; I thank him/them for being part of this nudge from God. The proliferation of magazines named and devoted to SELF and the  plethora of casinos in our country and folks who go there for recreation (hmmm….what happened to local, state and national parks?? tongue in cheek, not judgment) is only  symptom of the love of self and money that consumes so many of us, love of self I suspect out of hidden insecurity and not knowing how loved and accepted we are by God, and love money for the sake of security, money for the sake of things we can buy, money for the sake of money itself, rather than money as a tool God gifts us with to bless and further his Kingdom work and purposes in transforming lives.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Almost two thousand years ago the apostle Paul warned his discipled “son”  Timothy :

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV

Times have changed due to advancing technology, but I venture to say people haven’t changed at all. I’ll include myself, because I’m not free from own shortcomings, openly admitting here to an inherited internal sense of fear that many of us grew up with, being children of children the Great Depression and World War II. The fear caused me to let go of some blessings God placed squarely in my hands in the last few years, so I don’t pretend to be Wonder Woman of Faith; I’m as frail as anybody when I  trust in myself or let the enemy of my soul pour lies and doubt into me.

BUT, and you know there is always a BUT…, God is gracious and slow to anger,and He will not always accuse …

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. BUT from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts. Psalm 103:2-18 NIV

 

So the second truck we passed was a truck from Covenant Transport. I didn’t know  at the time, though I guessed, that Covenant Transport is founded on Christian principles and values. You can check them out on their website http://www.covenant transport.com,and no,I’m not getting any kickback from mentioning them, though I do think they are worth  considering  if you’re looking for a trucking company

 

covenant-transport-truck1

Covenant, and keeping covenant,  matters to me because it matters to God, and despite  tragedies in my life, I will not( okay, I even admittedly stubbornly refuse to)blame God for the tragedies or walk away from his love and goodness and faithfulness. What I will walk away from is swallowing Satan’s bait of bitterness that would poison my heart, walk away from doing evil to people who have hurt me,  walk away from hiding God’s  goodness in my life from others or ever being ungrateful for all the second and third and unlimited chances for  blessing God gives me, and gives you, too, if you call him Father and call Jesus Lord.

What and who we are to walk away from are the things and  people Paul told Timothy to avoid in 2 Timothy 3: 1-5. Paul goes on to warn and  encourage Timothy:

Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone. You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconic and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,  while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,  and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:5-17 NIV

James echoed the same warnings and encouragement in his  letter,and he includes a few BUT’s:

You adulterous people( note: an allusion to covenant unfaithfulness; see Hosea 3:1.), don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? BUT he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud BUT shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:4-10 NIV

 

So trust in 7’s, horseshoes, clovers, my own intelligence,technology,luck,theocrats table or slot machines to be the source of my blessing? As someone l loved was so fond of saying,”I just don’t think so.” I remember a verse  we used to add in the old gospel song “Give me Oil in My Lamp” when I was in senior high Methodist Youth Fellowship: Give me  gas in my Ford, keep me truckin’ for the Lord…”

Solomon said much the same thing in Proverbs 3, and I inserted Do’s where  appropriate for contrast and emphasis:

Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
(Do)Bind them around your neck,
(Do) Write them on the tablet of your heart.
4  you will find favor and good repute
In the sight of God and man.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.

(D0)in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; (Do) Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

8 It  will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.

9(Do) Honor the LORD from your wealth And from the first of all your produce;

10 So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.

11 MY son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof,

12 For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

13 (Do) how blessed is the man who finds wisdom And the man who gains understanding.

14 For her profit is better than the profit of silver And her gain better than fine gold.

15 Sheis more precious than jewels; And nothing you desire compares with her.

16 Long life is in her right hand; In her left hand are riches and honor.

17 Her ways are pleasant ways And all her paths are peace.

18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who hold her fast.

19 The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, By understanding He established the heavens.

20 By  His knowledge the deeps were broken up And the skies drip with dew.

21 (Do) My son, let them not vanish from your sight(Do) Keep sound wisdom and discretion,

22 So they will be life to your soul And adornment to your neck.

23 Then you will walk in your way securely And your foot will not stumble.

24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

25 Do not be afraid of sudden fear Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes;

26For the LORD will be your confidence And will keep your foot from being caught.

27Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in your power to do it.

28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it,” When you have it with you.

29 Do not devise harm against your neighbor, While he lives securely beside you.

30 Do not contend with a man without cause, If he has done you no harm.

31 Do not envy a man of violence And do not choose any of his ways.

32 For the devious are an abomination to the LORD; BUT He is intimate with the upright.

33 The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, BUT He blesses the dwelling of the righteous.

34 Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet (aka BUT) He gives grace to the afflicted.

And Shepherd King David gave us sound,wise advice in Psalm 37:

Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORDTrust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him(my inserted confession,this is one weakness I deal with in  being too impatient for God to move and act in  his time and ways,and I would have saved myself a lot of pain and grief and instability and turmoil if I’d stayed put where he first put me and not listened to well-meaning but not the best advice from people instead of listening for GODs voice back in 2009!! )
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. (Do) Cease from anger and forsake wrathDo not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, BUT those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land. Psalm 37: 3-9 NIV

Sighing for my own impatience, I remind myself that in April of 2014, the Lord showed me very plainly and sovereignly in three successive license plates: Justice Christz Chronos

I thank God that  he doesn’t give up on me ever, his faithfulness never leaves me, and he never  forsakes me. Instead, God “inscribes me (tattoos)  on the palms his hands”

“Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me. Isaiah 49: 16 NIV

God writes me on his hand Just as he does Jerusalem and Zion, because I’m part of his family and a citizen of his  New Jerusalem and Zion. I have his Word on it, and so do you if – yes, this is the condition  to receive his unconditional love – IF  you confess your sins, repent, and call and truly receive Jesus as your Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and Lover of your soul.

So a “…BUT…” to pray today is all the BUT’s in the Bible passages above, and any of your own that God’s Holy Spirit speaks precisely and patiently and lovingly to you: ________________________________________________________and in Jesus’ name a big AMEN,make it so, Father God, for Your Glory and Your Kingdom come here on Earth as in Heaven and Your Victory in my life for all the world to see!

 

“You Will Hear a Voice Behind You…”

img_0563

Ethan and I in Nanning – we made it!

Sometimes, sometimes God’s Word rings true right in the middle of real life. It’s always true, of course; I just don’t see it in action up close and personal every day, but at Christmas in 2014, God certainly proved his Word – and his Love – very true to me.

I flew my younger son Ethan with me to China to spend Christmas with my older son, daughter-in-law and the two grandchildren. Ethan had never been to China before and I thought it would be a fun way for him to see where his brother has worked for the last ten years. I’d taken four trips over there by myself, and yes, on the last two I had run into several snags in airports, but God had orchestrated help for me. Ethan was going to get to see God in action, and I was going to get a powerful reminder!

We flew into Beijing to catch an in-country flight to another city, arriving on a large. full plane early in the morning. We had about 90 minutes between planes, which I thought was adequate time to transfer, that is, until saw the line at the customs station in the Beijing airport. Ahead of us in line were roughly 200 people! It would take a small eternity to clear customs, and at 6:30 in the morning ….

A woman pushing a cleaning cart came up behind us as we were eyeballing the roadblock of people in front of us, and seeing our confustion, suggested in her limited English that we go through the diplomatic line over to the right. Could we do that? I decided it was worth a try, so, clock ticking,  we walked over to the  diplomatic line. A family was in front of us, and the father was methodically handing over eight passports to the agent. Sloooowwwwly the agent looked through them and stamped them, and sloooowwwly handed them back. At last we were next, and there was no problem evidently with us going through that line, even though we weren’t diplomats, when I showed the agent our departure time.

We sped off to the inter-terminal train, hoping to quickly go from Terminal B to Terminal D. The train zipped along to Terminal C, people exited, doors closed, and then the train zipped right past Terminal D to Terminal E! Whaaat???!! We had no choice but to exit the train, and ahead of us was yet another checkpoint. Beginning to feel flustered and anxiety creeping up in me, we began walking toward the checkpoint when a voice in perfect English behind us inquired, “Are you going to Nanning?”

I turned to find a young Chinese woman walking toward us, smiling. “Yes, we are,” I replied, amazed that of all the cities she could have named, she named the one we were going to. She walked withs through TWO checkpoints: the one into the terminal and the one on the other side of a stairway to catch the train going back toward Terminal B. She was a Mandarin instructor at a university in Texas and just happened to be from Nanning!

That wasn’t the end of our trials in departing the airport, and I will spare you the cliff-hanging terror of the accident when a bottle of taco seasoning my son was carrying as a Christmas gift flew out of one of his shoes as the FOURTH security team looked through his backpack, shattering and spilling spices all over the floor. (Frankly, this has been the story of my life for the past seven years!) Suffice it to say they held the gate open just long enough – and I’m talking ready to roll the jetway back – for Ethan to run to it and all of us board the connecting flight. Whew!

As we plopped down in our seats on the plane, a verse from Isaiah ran and leaped on the jetway of my consciousness: “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”” Isaiah 30:21-22 NIV

Praise God, praise God, from whom all blessings flow …. I absolutely knew God had directed two people, perhaps women who didn’t even know him, to help us make our connection that morning.  Four years earlier I’d faced a similar dilemma when I arrived at another airport in China, this time on my way back home,. I needed to catch the bus to the ferry that would take me to the Hong Kong airport, but what met me in the parking lot was a sea of vans whose only signage was in Mandarin. Behind me was a voice on that morning, too, asking me if I needed to find the bus to the Hong Kong airport ferry, and who should God have sent that morning but a pilot for Air China!

If you look back to my posts in 2013, you’ll find one that’s titled “God of my steps and mis-steps.” Boy, have I taken some mis-steps since then, out of sheer grief that sometimes rose like a tsunami to drown me. I would much rather tell you that I’ve trusted God serenely with my whole heart, but in all honesty, and because I’m sure someone else who’s goofed, staggered, and fumbled their way  through grief or PTSD needs to hear this, GOD has remained completely faithful to me despite my staggering!

Some days I still do, finding it hard to believe even now that a person I trusted completely would prove utterly untrustworthy, BUT God is trustworthy in spite of my wavering trust in him.

I quote Charles Haddon Spurgeon from a sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, July 23, 1882:

I invite you to notice first of all THE POSITION OF THE WANDERER to whom this special blessing comes. How does God find men when he declares that they shall hear a word behind them? First, he finds them with their backs turned to him. This is clear enough, if you remember that the word is to be heard “behind” them. The sinner has gone away from God, and God calls after him from behind. He has turned his back upon his true Friend, his best Friend, his only capable Friend, but that Friend does not therefore change his temper and resent the insult; nay, he is provoked to a love more pleading and persuasive than ever, and calls to him to come into the right way. After having transgressed wilfully and wickedly, the rebel now distinctly turns his back on God and truth; according to the Lord’s complaint, “they have turned unto me the back, and not the face.” He turns his back on the law, on the gospel, on mercy, on eternal life. He turns his back on the adoption of the great Father, on pardon bought with the blood of Jesus, on regeneration which can alone be wrought by the Holy Spirit: he turns his back upon holiness, happiness, and heaven. He turns away from sunlight, and wanders down into deeper and yet deeper night, striving to get away from God and holy influences. Yet the Lord follows him, and with a voice of touching love and tender compassion he calls to him, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” The word of warning, instruction, and entreaty follows the wanderer, and with ever-increasing pathos beseeches him to turn and live. Again and again the wise, earnest, personal voice assails his ear, as if love resolved that he should not perish if wooing could win him to life. The wanderer seeks not God, but his God seeks him. Man turns from the God of love, but the love of God turns not away from him. What matchless grace is this, that God should thus call after sinners when they openly renounce his rule, and flee from his mercy.  http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1672.php

This reminds me of one of my favorite songs, both in English and Chinese: “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not; Thy compassions they fail not. As Thous hast been, Thou forever will be.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I wonder how much different my life might have been, how many potholes and how much quicksand I might have avoided if I could have done just that: trusted in the Lord with ALL my heart? Oh, people advised me to, but the problem is, nobody tells you HOW to do that, and the people telling you TO do that have very likely never gone through gut-wrenching tragedy to give you some helpful advice. Well, I have gone through it, and I’m still alive, and God is still showering his goodness on me despite all the (probably, definitely) needless angst and craziness  in my life since 2009. THAT is the message I have for you, dear someone who feels like a flop and failure for not being able to pull yourself up all by yourself and nobly trust in the Lord with ALL of your heart:  “Yet the Lord follows him (YOU), and with a voice of touching love and tender compassion he calls to him (YOU), “This is the way, walk ye in it.” The word of warning, instruction, and entreaty follows the wanderer, and with ever-increasing pathos beseeches him(YOU) to turn and live. Again and again the wise, earnest, personal voice assails his (YOUR)ear, as if love resolved that he (YOU) should not perish if wooing could win him (YOU) to life.”

As the trite saying of the 1970’s went, God ain’t finished with YOU yet! I don’t know what you’re going through. Some light is shining in my life at the end of a very long, dark tunnel, and I’m deciding maybe God wanted good for me all along! That’s who God is: goodness, love, mercy, kindness, power, provision, grace.

BUT God is also HOLY, Righteous, a Refiner’s Fire, PURE, and we do ourselves a mischief if you and I don’t remember that God is not to be trifled with in terms of the way we live our lives when we know better from God’s Word. So here is the rest of the passage from Isaiah 30:

Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. 24 The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. Isaiah 30:22-24 NIV

Pretty graphic warning, isn’t it? I am/you are to regard everything we cherish, value, fear or reverence above God Almighty as unclean, unholy, un-holdable, untouchable, not to be done, thought, said, valued, or worshiped.

You are radiant with light,
    more majestic than mountains rich with game.
The valiant lie plundered,
    they sleep their last sleep;
not one of the warriors
    can lift his hands.
At your rebuke, God of Jacob,
    both horse and chariot lie still.

It is you alone who are to be feared.
    Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment,
    and the land feared and was quiet—
when you, God, rose up to judge,
    to save all the afflicted of the land.
Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,
    and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.

Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them;
    let all the neighboring lands
    bring gifts to the One to be feared.
He breaks the spirit of rulers;
    he is feared by the kings of the earth. Psalm 76: 5-12 NIV

In our “God is our buddy” culture that I see all too often in the church in America, we need to remember that the voice we hear behind us speaking in mercy is also a voice of PURE Holiness from the ONE who has a right to judge every useless thought, word, attitude and action, and let us, sisters and brothers, live our lives wisely and care-full-ly in REVERENCE and Holy Awe, too, of the incredibly just and righteous God we dare to call Father.

A “…BUT…” to move: Today, God, show me how you’ve been there for me before. Remind me of the times you broke into my life with your love and guidance, even when I wasn’t looking for you: _____________________________________________________. And show me, please, yes even this: show me YOUR HOLINESS so I have the proper respect and awe of you, Olam El, Everlasting God Almighty ___________________________  In Jesus’ name, amen, and Holy Spirit, please, speak to me know in a way I can hear and understand. Correct me where you long to and need to, and lead me in YOUR righteousness to make YOUR way plain before my face __________________________

I’ll Never Find Another You

Gosh, my age is showing here, but I heard this song in my head this morning and amazingly remembered the name of the group, The Seekers. Hmmm… God speaks throughout culture sometimes in ways we only recognize later. In 1967 I/we thought this song was about that true, starry-eyed, Prince Charming/Cinderella faithful human love we’d find, but now after experiencing the if/because/when/until transience of conditional human love, I hear it more as a song about Jesus and God’s love for us through him. Now we’re – or some of us are – old enough to that know His, or human love fueled by His, is the only love that won’t walk away or fail us when we mess up.

For all of us Seekers, one of my favorite promises from God are in the words Moses spoke to Joshua:

Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”Deuteronomy 31:7-8 NIV

The Lord appeared to us in the past,saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high. Leviticus 26:13

Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49: 13-16

And Jesus was and is God’s love incarnate, made flesh. He told his followers, “I am the gate for the sheep… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the  good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” ” John 10:7, 10-11 NIV

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you…as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”  John 15:4,9

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 1 John 3:16-24 ESV

I’m dumping “limerence” (that little “tingle in the belly” and stars in the eyes) that we so easily mistake for true love, putting it in its proper place as a temporary hormonal response that depends on the limbic system, and holding out for Jesus’ kind of courageous, marathon, forgiving and unflinching love. It’s the only kind worth giving, too, so that’s my aim and target, to be that kind of love for another/others.

No ejection seat, no parachute … just always, “forever and a day.”

True confession: I have the purple mini skirt dress I bought with my first paycheck in 1968, Carnaby Street look with a vest to go with it, and I can still wear it. I gelled and scotch taped my bangs, as all of us did back then, but my hair never would stay straight and flat ….. and still won’t. Older and hopefully wiser, my feet feel the”pony” coming on while my wavy hair does the same thing it’s done since 1968: wave. Somethings never change: my wavy hair, and, more importantly, God’s love and faithfulness.Let me dance for YOU, Jesus, and as I walk through the storm, you’ll be my guide, for I know I’ll never  find another YOU.

Can you lift this song in thanks to God for the unchanging, timeless, unconditional love he sent through Jesus? Let these words speak to you too, about his love for you:

There’s a new world somewhere
They call the promised land.
And I’ll be there someday
If you could hold my hand.
I still need you there beside me
No matter what I do
For I know I’ll never find another you.
There is always someone
For each of us, they say.
And you’ll be my someone
Forever and a day.
I could search the whole world over
Until my life is through
But I know I’ll never find another you.
It’s a long, long journey
So stay by my side.
When I walk through the storm
You’ll be my guide, be my guide.
If they gave me a fortune
My pleasure would be small.
I could lose it all tomorrow
And never mind at all.
But if I should lose your love, Lord,
I don’t know what I’d do
For I know I’ll never find another you.

A “…BUT…” to pray:  sometimes, God, it’s hard to believe that you can love me. People sure don’t love me, or act like they love me, when I mess up. I know I’m all too often the same, getting angry when others don’t meet my expectations, yet wanting mercy from those same others when I mess up. BUT here I am, Father God, standing in need of you more than anyone else. Remind me who I’ve failed and should ask forgiveness from _____________________________Remind me who’s failed me,  and I should extend a loving hand to anyway_______________________ Most of all, today, remind me of who YOU are to me ________________________________________ and who I am to you, Jesus ____________________________________________________

Armor-Bearer, Heart and Soul

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Friday my Bible fell open to 1 Samuel 14, and in an odd place I  read some of the best relationship advice I’ve ever found. The set-up is during Philistine domination of Israel at the time of King Saul. There wasn’t a weapon in Israel and not a single blacksmith to even sharpen their plows and sickles; the only weapons were the swords of Saul and Jonathan. One day Jonathan decided to go after a detachment of Philistine soldiers who had gone to a pass at Micmash. Saul had six hundred men, but Jonathan secretly went out alone with his armor-bearer.

Jonathan said, “Perhaps the LORD will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”

What faith and courage! His armor-bearer answered with words that, to me, should be in the heart of every one of us and every woman in particular , because I sense from the way God created us that our original design was to be the “ezer kenegdo,” the one who comes alongside. “Do all you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said, “Go ahead, I am with you heart and soul.”

Honestly I have known a handful of “modern American” women who feel that way. I am not saying that women shouldn’t work if they want to or if they need to, nor am I saying we were meant to be simply “barefoot and pregnant.” What I do see in this story, though,  is the heart attitude of Jonathan’s armor bearer.  Brenda, Patty,  Eva, Sharon, Sara, Karen, Viola, my “God’s Chicks” buddies from my church in Mesa are armor bearers. My dear friend Debbie feel and think this way, too. The Lord literally brought Debbie and me together as kindred spirits in trial and sorrow in very similar situations in our marriages, though Debbie was further down the road than I when God connected us. We prayed together and praised God together in the early stages, crying out for God to make himself real to our guys who’d gone down the slippery slope of infidelity. Debbie has a sweet, gentle spirit and we share a deep, passionate love for Jesus that I think perhaps only comes when you’ve shared in his sorrow. At any rate, she and I think alike, counter-culturally it seems, that the coolest thing to be is an “armor bearer” beside a Jonathan.

I’ve never heard a pastor preach on the faithfulness, humility, God-honoring and loyalty in Jonathan. All the “press” has been on David, his like-a-brother friend. Jonathan was in line to be the next king, but he knew God had anointed his friend David. What humility as the son of a king to bow to and consider equal to himself the son of a sheep farmer! And what courage Jonathan showed in 1 Samuel 14!

“One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his armor-bearer, ‘Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.’ But he did not tell his father ….’Do all you have in mind,’ his armor-bearer said, ‘Go ahead, I am with you heart and soul.’ … Jonathan  climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.”

Men are called to be Jonathans beside Jesus, and that’s an incredible commission handed to you. You guys need more than a pretty face, sweet words, hot body and healthy bank account in a woman: you need an armor-bearer, because when the heat is on and you have to go alone to take down the “Philistines” marauding the people and causes you love, you need a woman with the heart to carry your armor, be with you heart and soul, go beside you and take down a few behind you.

And yes, women are called to champion causes as well. In truth we all should have the attitude of Jonathan’s armor bearer toward each other, the attitude Jonathan had toward David.  Climbing over, getting ahead of, and standing on top of other people, particularly our family, friends, and colleagues,  will never give us the deep reward found in standing beside each other “with all my heart and soul.”

It takes two people and four hands to play “Heart and Soul” on the piano. It sometimes only takes two people and four hands, two hearts and souls, to bring down twenty of the “enemies” like offense, division in families, oppression,  you fill in the list.

Who needs you to go with them and put your hands, heart and soul beside theirs today?