Category Archives: Christianity

Don’t let Satan mess with you

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 foothold.  Ephesians 4:26-27

footholdIn Ephesians 4 a stronghold is described as a foothold.  In the New Century Version, vs. 27 reads, Do not give the devil a way to defeat you.  Other versions say things like not giving the devil an opportunity or ‘don’t leave room for the devil.’  In other words, we are leaving a door open for Satan to mess with us if we stay angry. Not much more is said there, but boy there should be!

Let’s take King Saul for an example.  He had an anger problem. It would come out at David and it tormented Saul.  In 1 Samuel 19 it tells that Saul tried to pin David to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him.  In 19:9 it says, An evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand.  

First of all, it wasn’t directly from the Lord, but it was because a doorway was opened to Satan because Saul had disobeyed the Lord.  Saul had anger that he had not resolved, as well as disobedience. In 1 Samuel 15:23 Samuel told Saul, Rebellion is as the sin of divination (or witchcraft) and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.  Presumption is defiance and seething pride.  So this evil spirit came as a result of disobeying God.  It opened a door to Satan.

The rebellion probably came first, then the anger.  Then, because of the open door Saul was tormented by an evil spirit.  In the end, Saul lost his kingship and died in battle, taking his own life.  His sons were all killed on the same day. Not a happy ending.

Back to Ephesians 4, Paul goes on to tell us to Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice, in vs. 31.  Not opening a door to Satan is a pretty good reason to get rid of it!  

∇ So let me tell you my story on this:  The last few months have been a really bumpy ride.  I don’t want to exaggerate, but I would say there has been some demonic torment in there–especially with physical issues.  And with the car accident I had a couple of months ago. It all was like a barrage of bad stuff.

This last Sunday God spoke Ephesians 4:26 to me, and I knew exactly what He was getting at.  This last summer I, uncharacteristically, let my anger fly on a couple of phone service people.  They were from two different companies, and I felt perfectly justified because of their poor service and undelivered goods.  

No–I was not perfectly justified, and God spoke to me that this opened a door.  I let the sun go down on my anger and I gave the devil a foothold. He showed me that a couple of times after that I had let my anger fly again and it had to stop.  Yes, it had been uncharacteristic, but now it was becoming a pattern. A door had been opened and not it must be shut. This was the reason for the torment, the harassment.  

I immediately left my spot in church, went to an empty bathroom and prayed out loud to renounce my anger sprees.  I confessed it, asked for God’s forgiveness and then asked that He would shut those doors and seal them by the blood of Jesus.  It was a costly lesson, but one I learned the hard way. I must get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger and not let the sun go down on anything that needs confessed.  I will not give the devil an opportunity to steal, kill and destroy any longer.

What about you?  Have you given the devil any opportunities, any footholds?  Do you need to shut any doors by confessing fits of anger and having them covered by the blood of Jesus?

The good news:  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

Adrian Rogers, “Give Satan an inch and he’ll be your ruler.”

*Image from “Daily Tonic”

 

 


Defeating Strongholds

Do not be afraid of them for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel.  You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire. Joshua 11:6

And Joshua did just as the Lord said to him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.  Joshua 11:9

Judah captured Gaza with its territory…And the Lord was with Judah, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.  Judges 1:18-19

When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.  Judges 1:28

The people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help because Sisera had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for 20 years.  Judges 4:3

† If you followed the progression of these verses, the Israelites started out being able to defeat the northern Canaanites who had chariots of iron.  The Israelites didn’t have chariots, so it had to be intimidating. They must have been afraid, because God told them, “Do not be afraid.” In other words God was telling them, “If you trust in Me, I’ll drive them out for you.”  And they did trust in Him and it worked! He drove them out.

But not too many years later, after Joshua died, Judah could not drive out the inhabitantschariots-of-iron.jpg of the plain.  It doesn’t say because they lacked faith or because they didn’t rely on God. We didn’t get God’s commentary on this situation.  It just reports that they couldn’t drive them out. As a result, the people that they were supposed to drive out stayed in the Promised Land.  God told them in Judges 2:3, They shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.

You might not think that this is a big deal, but in Joshua 1:3-6 God promised, Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses…No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life…I will be with you.  I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.

So we move from God defeating the Canaanites with iron chariots for the Israelites, to the Israelites not being able to drive them out because of their iron chariots.  Then the Israelites didn’t drive out the Canaanites completely, as they were commanded to do. Instead, they compromised and just put them to forced labor. Funny, later on the shoe was on the other foot and the Israelites were the ones put to forced labor.

Then in Judges 4:3 we see that Sisera had 900 chariots of iron.  My take on that is the number of iron chariots grew. They didn’t defeat them when the number of chariots were small in number and now they are great in number.  And Sisera oppressed them cruelly for 20 years. The consequence of not driving out the Canaanites as God commanded bore fruit. They had become thorns and snares.

The reason I point all of this out is because this is exactly the nature of strongholds in our own lives.  Strongholds are structures or fortresses that demons hide behind in our spirit man. It’s like when you decide to have a big snowball fight and you build a snow fort or wall to hide behind first.  That snow wall is the stronghold. Demons operate best in secret, because if you knew they were there you would call them out and get rid of them.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 tells us, For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

† Just like with the Israelites, we can drive out the strongholds in our lives with faith in God.  He has given us the same promises that He gave Joshua, that every place our foot touches is ours, that He is with us and will never leave us or forsake us.  If we have faith in God, He can and will drive out all of the things in our life that are “iron chariots.”

Those things can be abuse from your childhood, addictions, sin traps that you fell into that still hang on, patterns of negative thinking that need to be renounced and replaced, a rebellious spirit, bitterness from rejection, hurts and failures, and other faulty ways of dealing with life.  

God tells us to stay away from things in the form of commandments.  We don’t do it, disobeying, thinking “I can do it, it won’t hurt me.”  Or we think, “I’ll repent of it later.” God warns us that the same thing will happen–those things we played with will become thorns in our sides and snares.  Guess what? What we sow, we reap. We have to now get rid of the residual effects of our rebellion, cleaning spiritual house.

† This is not easy and takes determination, bold obedience and humility to renounce and to repent of things that have maybe been a part of your life for years.  I have heard people say for years that it is like peeling an onion, that it comes in layers. I kind of rolled my eyes inside at that, but now I’m beginning to understand it.  That is most likely because I have been experiencing it. You would think that I am old enough to have driven out all of my “chariots of iron.” But maybe we never are.

Over the last few months God, in His mercy, has revealed several new chariots to me that have been expelled.  I have been humbled through a series of medical issues and a car accident that was not fun. This has caused me to seek God’s face in a different way for healing and emotional health.  In the process, He has given me some dreams that have led me to breaking free of some demonic harassment that has been there since my childhood.

A couple of resources that have been helpful have been Youtube teachings by Derek Prince.  He is dead now, but there are many of his sermons on deliverance, strongholds and hearing the voice of God.  They are Scriptural and well laid out. Another guy that is on Youtube is a man named John Ramirez. He was a Satanist and teaches how to uproot and cast out strongholds.  

His book Armed and Dangerous has many good warfare prayers to break any ties that Satan may have.  As John puts it, if Satan knows that he owns property in our life, he will come and collect.  He will strip and rob us any chance he can get. He teaches how to cut the rope. This teaching on spiritual warfare is valuable and is a tool for the Holy Spirit to reveal doorways that need to get cut off for Satan to no longer be able to cruelly oppress as Sisera did to the Israelites.

Galatians 5:1 declares, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Are you ready to be free?  

 

*Image from Ryan Boyer/Google Images

 


Be the Change in Me

Claiming to be wise, they became fools (because they didn’t glorify God or give thanks to Him, vs 21) so they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  Therefore God gave them up to the lusts of their hearts… Romans 1:21-24

I used to think that it was just pagans, people who are totally separate from God and living in rebellion to Him, who Paul was writing about in these verses.  Of course they would be the ones that suppress the truth through their unrighteousness.  Not me.  Last year I studied the book by Brad Bigney, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols.  I learned that Christians are just as guilty as anyone else.

idols.jpgAfter getting through the book I realized my big idol is self.  Self gets in the way of a lot of things.  I want to do what suits me and will do whatever doesn’t get in the way of ME.  But Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily.”

It is so easy to exchange other things for God’s glory.  We do it all the time and not even notice it–until God brings it to our attention.  But then there is verse 24 of chapter 1.  It says, “God gave them up to the lusts of their heart.”  That means that when we choose to say, “I would rather have all of these other things rather than Jesus,” God lets us have our way.

God lets things run their course in our lives so we see what it is like without Him.  He doesn’t tear down our idols for us.  We have to do it ourselves.  The process is kind of a two fold thing at work between our choices and God’s intervening grace.  James 4:5 reads, He yearns jealously over the Spirit that He has made to live in us (2 Corinthians 6:16 We are the sanctuary of the Living God).  vs. 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

In other words, God’s Holy Spirit is inside of us and God doesn’t take that lightly that His Spirit lives in us.  God is watching jealously over Him.  So He is going to call us out, or make us miserable, or chasten us when we have other gods besides Him.  But God also bids us to draw near to Him and then He will tell us what has to go.  He will search us and try us and show us what is amuck, according to Psalm 139:24.

But God waits for us to ask Him.  And we have choices to make to rid ourselves of the idols in our lives and to draw near to God so He can speak to us.  If we don’t do that, He gives us over to the lusts of our hearts, whatever they may be.

****Check out the lyrics to this Casting Crowns song, The Change in Me (song from YouTube linked–it is powerful):

Your Spirit is a gentleman, standing at my hidden doors within; where You wait for me to let You in, so You can set me free.  Your Spirit is a wrecking ball, tearing through my rebel walls.  And one by one I watch them fall, ’til You are all I see.

Whoa-oh, You’re the life in me; Whoa-oh, You’re the change in me

Your Spirit is a whispering, when all the lies are deafening. Speak to the very heart of me, and fear cannot remain.  Your Spirit is a light ahead, calling me to the depths.  And daring me to take the step, and let You lead the way.

Your Spirit is a holy flame, burning all the harm away.  Here I am Lord, have Your way, ’til all that’s left is You, all that’s left is You.  Your Spirit is my constant friend.  You’re with me ’til the very end.  I’ll never be alone again, You’re the change in me.

Whoa-oh, You’re the life; Whoa-oh, You’re the change in me!

****One of the things I thought of for my application was to spend time at the beginning of this new year to ask myself some questions:

  • What do I really love more than Him?
  • What do I spend most of my spare time, energy and money on?
  • What if I fasted from something for a month that might be consuming more time and devotion than it ought to?
  • What if I spent thirty minutes (minimum) more a day in prayer, in the Word, or on a ‘mission’ from God (with people or putting something into practice)?

I guess it’s my New Years’ challenge.  I’m a few days into it.  I don’t want to exchange God’s glory for anything else, and I want Him to show up in fresh and exciting ways this year.  Oh, how I need Him to be the change in me!

 


Two witness stands

For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So that they (all people) are without excuse.  Romans 1:18-20

witness stand

It would seem from these big verses that there could be two possible scenarios of putting someone on the witness stand.

⇒ The first scenario would be God putting all people on the witness stand.  God is sitting as a judge in these verses, and if He were to come down ask you how you would plead when it comes to the case of whether or not you knew He existed, and that He created the world–you would have say, if you were honest, “Guilty, your Honor.”

That tells me that deep down everyone really knows that evolution or the Big Bang Theory isn’t true.  Verse 18 says that we know it, but we have surpressed the truth through our unrighteousness.  In other words, we have pushed it down, drowned it out, or kept it from being known.  It’s like that tiny voice of our conscience that calls out inside of us tells us something we’re doing is a bad idea, or wrong. But we don’t want to hear it.  So what do we do?  We turn the music up, or we get busier, or we stay away from the people that might tell us we’re wrong.

In talking with people who have alternative theories of creation, in my experience, it seems that it they end up with more emotional rejections in the end, rather than intellectual ones.  Now this isn’t thousands of conversations, but dozens. Let me say that there are some that just want to do their own thing and don’t want to anyone tell them what to do.  It comes down to an issue of ‘what right does God have to tell me what to do?’  They deny God’s existence and creation because they don’t want Him to mess with their lives.

But the next category of people are those who end up with an emotional catch.  Here it seems that most of the discussions have led to hard personal topics where the statements begin with the question: “Well then, how could a good God let —- happen?”

⇒ That’s where I get to the second scenario witness stand.  It’s like they’re putting God on the stand.  This is what Job did.  In fact, God called him on this in Job 40:2, Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it.  Job’s question was about why he would lose his children and all of his riches, plus why he would be afflicted with boils.  Yes, that would cause me to wonder why my Friend would turn on me too.  And I would want some answers.

The whole book is filled with Job and his friends spinning their wheels, especially his friends.  But I think Job had a more genuine heart.  He was really wrestling with God, and God answered him.  God didn’t tell Job about His wager with Satan about how Job wouldn’t deny his faith in God if he took away everything.  God was proving to Satan that Job was following God because God was worth it, not because of all of his riches and blessings.  He didn’t tell Job that part, but He did show Job how big He was and how little Job was in comparison.

I love some of God’s questions to Job like Where were you when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 38:7 and Have you commanded the morning since your days began and caused the dawn to know its place? 38:12 and Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or have you seen the storehouses of the hail? 38:22.

In 40:8 God said, Will you condemn Me that you be in the right?  Isn’t that what people do when they question God’s goodness or His justice?  Aren’t they putting themselves in the right and condemning God?

For those who have had hard things happen that cause you to wonder about why such hard and even horrible things could come from the hand of a good God–go ahead and wrestle with God as Job did.  But do it with a genuine heart that wants to know Him and trust in Him.  God will meet you just as He met Job.  But get ready for Him to answer you in ways that you might not expect and show Himself in ways that go deeper than you can imagine.

Just don’t put God on the witness stand with a condemning heart and expect to win.  And don’t use the line, “If God is good, then why is there suffering?” as a red herring to point a finger away from your own call to submit to God’s right to set the rules in your life.

Job ended up with a repentant heart.  In Job 42:6 he said, I repent.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.  In Acts 3:19 Paul said, Repent and turn back, that your sins may be wiped out, so that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.

That just could be the answer for all of us when we turn from trusting God and when we suppress the truth because we want to do things our own way.  When we stop trusting God because we think He has wronged us, we come up with alternative ways of living our lives that doesn’t include trusting Him and putting Him first.  We find other idols to fill our lives with that make our heart kind of crowded.

Some might hide it better than others, but if we’re not trusting in God, we’re still guilty.  And the answer is still the same: Repent.  In Job’s case, the outcome was a good one.  His fortunes were restored doubly.  God is that kind of a God.

Isaiah 30:18 says, Yet the Lords longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.

 


The Three “I am’s” of the Gospel Charge

I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.  So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  Romans 1:14-16

Paul lists three “I am’s” in these three verses that have gripped me for a long time.  I underlined them to make it easier to catch.  I say gripped me.  I could use the word driven.  Paul used the words “gospel ambition” in Romans 15:20-21: And this I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of Him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’

I became a Christian through and evangelist that came to my rural farming community through a Vacation Bible School ministry.  She and her ministry partner would come from hundreds of miles away for a week each summer to present the gospel to me and my community, a place where there was not a gospel witness.  It was there, from the age of four on up to the age of seventeen, that I sat under their teaching and heard the good news of Jesus and was discipled by the two.

They continued to pray for me and influence me well into my adult life.  The evangelist had a strong gift of teaching as well.  I secretly wanted to be with her at her death so I could receive her mantle (or cloak), much like Elijah/Elisha, even though she lived states away from me in a retirement home.  I didn’t find out that she had gone to be with Jesus until about a month later, but then God gave me a wonderful dream that I did get to walk her into the sunset off of a dock on a lake to go be with Jesus.  It was like He was saying that He did give me her mantle.

Along with that has come the passion that Paul describes in Romans 1:14-16.  He sums it up by saying: I am obligated to share the gospel with anyone and everyone; I am eager to come to you, whom I haven’t met yet; and I am not ashamed of the gospel because I know it is the power of God for salvation.

I am kind of like Clark Kent.  I don’t wear my cloak (cape) so everyone can see it, like a pastor or a missionary does.  I keep it under my principal’s clothes.  But it’s there.  It drives me and pulls me to places like the County jail, and to women’s homes that would never come to church–He calls me to go to them.  One time I was meeting with a gal who was just desperate for help and so she went to the phone book yellow pages and went to the church list and the church I attended was at the top of the list.  She called the pastor and said she was a mess.

He asked me if I would go meet with her, which I did.  In talking with her, I asked if she would like to know Jesus.  She said she would.  So I explained how she could do that and she said she would like to pray, so we prayed together.  We began to meet weekly for quite awhile.  We were at her house one day, and she had three unruly young boys–plus an unruly big black lab.  She firmly told the boys to keep him out of the house while we sat at the kitchen table and studied the Bible together.

Before we knew it, the boys let the dog in the door, which was right by the kitchen table.  The fiercely barking dog lunged straight for my face and jabbed his mouth at my cheekbone, just below my eye.  He had just been barking and his mouth was open, but yet when he got to my face, it was like it was slammed shut.  I firmly believe that God shut his mouth.  If He hadn’t, I would have a huge dog bite scar on my cheek.  God shuts the mouths of lions and black labs!

I think of this story just to say, you never know where God’s gospel ambition will take you, and how He will enable you to share with those who haven’t heard before to hear.  What a privilege.

Thinking about the three “I am’s,” why would we be obligated, especially since we’re saved by grace?  When we receive grace–the good news about how to escape from a common misery, then we owe it others to tell them the same good news of how to escape.  If I had cancer and someone shared a cure for cancer with me, I would feel a debt of gratitude to that person for sharing the cure and for being healed.  I would want to share it with everyone else who have cancer out of an eagerness to see them be healed, just as I was.

Paul found grace, so he was a debtor to tell everyone else the good news of grace too.  If I really get the gospel of grace, that I don’t qualify for it, and I got it–I would cherish it and gladly pass it on.  I would be obligated and eager because he has transformed my life with it.  God has also given me a reason to live and a hope for life after death.

How many people do you talk to that don’t really have that reason to live and that hope for life after death?  You have it, but maybe you don’t share it because you think they don’t want to hear it.  That would mean you’re ashamed of it.  It’s so easy to keep quiet because of that.  I have to remember to not be ashamed because the gospel is what people need, not anything else.

If I’m not ashamed of it, it means:

  • that I know that the gospel of God changes lives and there is no other way to find hope in life and death.
  • that I know I cannot rely on anything else to see change come about–not my personality, not a fancy presentation, not emotional stories, not cool music
  • that I must get the gospel out to whomever will listen

So, my thought is to be like Paul.  We are all debtors because of grace.  We have found the sin cure.  Because of that, we ought to be eager to share the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world.  Remind yourself not to be ashamed.  Being reconciled to God through Jesus is the very thing that everyone needs because all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  The payment for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus (Romans 6:23).

Go+for+souls+and+go+for+the+worst.+Some+men+s+ambition+is+art.jpg


God’s Enabling Grace

Through Jesus we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations.  Romans 1:5

So I moved on from reading 1 John all the way through every day to studying in Romans. As Paul is introducing himself and the Gospel of God, promised long before it happened to the prophets, written about in the the Holy Scriptures about His Son Jesus…he quickly gets to grace.

Paul wrote that through Jesus we received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.  That’s us!

In picking that apart, I was hit with the idea that grace isn’t just the gift that we get that is our entry point into salvation.  That’s a great thing and I don’t ever want to take it for granted.  But Paul links grace to apostleship and him being an apostle.  It’s God’s grace that woke him up on the road to Damascus.  Apostle means “sent one.”  So, in a broader sense, he isn’t just talking about the grace or enabling power that God gives him to be an apostle, but through Christ we get the enabling power to be sent to do whatever it is that He sends us to do.

That’s the only way I can do what it is that God wants me to do.  I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately.  There are two parts to what I’ve been thinking about.

 The first part of God’s enabling grace has to do with His actual grace in sending us out and how that works.  Have you noticed that there is only a small percentage of Christians that are actually about the Father’s business?  The rest seem to be busy with their own agendas, not really in tune with spiritual things.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 talks about how all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for training, correction and training.  Then verse 17 tells us that being in the Word makes us complete and equipped for every good work.

grace.jpgIf you are not in the Bible on a consistent basis, you don’t get that equipping and then you don’t get that sending out.  Or, as Paul put it in Romans 1:5 the apostleship part of grace, the “sent one” part.  There is a woman in her early 40’s who has been in my Sunday School classes through the years.  Last year she reflected back on how I called her out at one point (I don’t remember it) when she talked about not having time to get into the Bible.  She said I pointed at her and said firmly, “That has to change.  You must get into the Word.  You need to make daily time for God.”

She told of she began to get up at 5:30 in the morning to meet with God, which is a commitment with three young children and a demanding job as a physician’s assistant.  She said it is now a pattern.  The interesting thing is her family now has made the commitment to be foster parents over the last year or two.  What I see is that their hearts have changed because God has pressed that on their hearts as they have been in the Word as a pattern.  They have become “sent ones.”

If you don’t have a real sense of a mission from God, stop and think about your time in the Word with Him.  Are you sitting at His feet?  Do you spend time soaking in the Bible and meditating on it, or are you whizzing through a five minute devotional written by someone else?

My second thought about God’s enabling grace is about his prevailing grace.  It is His grace that enables us to continue to do what He calls us to do over the long haul…when the going gets tough…when there is no one to run with…when you walk by faith and not by sight…when you are broken and weary.  It is God’s enabling grace that holds us by His right hand, that is our faithful Shepherd that makes us lie down in green pastures, leads us beside still waters, and restores our soul.  He does that.

I have been praying this Christmas season that He would appear with His enabling grace to me just like He appeared with the angels to the shepherds and to Mary and Joseph.  It is a Titus 3:3-7 appearing with goodness, loving kindness and mercy poured out richly because that is the kind of God that He is.

Finally, He visits us with this grace not so we can be fat and happy, but as Romans 1:6 says “for the sake of HIs name among all the nations.”  It drives us beyond ourselves to the nations.  He puts that in our hearts when we get close to His heart.

Paul said it in Romans 15:20-21, We make it our ambition to preach the Gospel not where Christ has already been named, but so those who have never been told of Him will see and those who have never heard will understand.

What  a joy I had my last two jail visits to tell a 50 something Native American woman the Christmas story.  She had never heard it before and had never read the Bible before or been to a Bible study or church.  This was the first she had heard the Gospel.  I didn’t have to go far, just 18 miles to a place where Christ had not been named to find someone who had never been told of Him–because I had been sent–because I had spent time with Him in the Word.  Don’t forget that!


Experiencing God More Deeply

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  James 5:17

I’ve pretty much quit watching TV, with the exception of a football game once in awhile, and Jeopardy (one day I’ll be a contestant on there–really).  So I watch a lot of Youtube videos of sermons and get news from current event things from there.

Lately I’ve been blessed by Francis Chan videos.  They have fed my soul during some tough times.  He has encouraged me to stick to the core truths of the Gospel even when it’s tempting to water them down.  And he has given me a renewed passion for Jesus and for the Bible.  

If you’re looking for a good one to start with, here is a link to the one I’m referring to today, “Experiencing God Deeper 2018.”

If you’re like me, I always mean to get back to the link that someone shares, but it either takes me a long time, or I never do.  So I’m going to share some of his points and add some of my own (artistic license).

You experience God when you’re put in front of authorities and God gives you words when you don’t have them.  Francis gave the example of the 23 South Koreans who were missionaries in Afghanistan and were taken by the Taliban.  That was in 2007.  They were held for about two months.  The leaders of the group actually argued over who was going to get killed first: “Kill me, I’m the pastor.”  A second guy stood up, “No, I’m a pastor too and I’m older–so kill me.”  A third man stood up, “No, I’m ordained, so you have to kill me first.”  The third man was actually one of two killed, the rest were released.  

Years later, Francis met with one of the guys who was a captive and he said that he wished he was still back there because of the intimacy he had with Jesus.  Others in the group expressed the same thing.  We fear something like this, but yet we experience God in closer and more sure ways when we are put on the spot, like Elijah.  We grow.  We are no different than Elijah.  He was a man just like us.  We feel more peace when we are in danger, yet we resist danger at all costs.  

We try not to have show downs like Elijah had, but if we want to experience God more deeply, we need to know this: Do not put your trust in money or freedom.  We have Christ and He alone is sufficient.  We don’t need to go out and try to suffer, but we should stop trying to avoid it.  

Not only is Elijah a man just like us, but God is still the same God that made the altar start on fire (1 Kings 18) even after Elijah doused it with water.  

You experience God when you get comfort when you need it–not when you’re comfortable.  When we do something that scares us, we experience God more deeply, like when Peter stepped out of the boat.  

If you find yourself saying, “Remember when I did this…” a lot, then it’s time to change it to the present tense.  I did a lot of faith adventures in my youth.  But I want to be like Caleb in the book of Joshua.  In chapter 14 he went to Joshua at the age of 85 and reminded Joshua of his inheritance promise and then said, I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then…So now give me this hill country!

When God called Moses and Jeremiah, they both had excuses about what they couldn’t do.  Isn’t that our tendency–to tell God what we can’t do when called?  “I can’t speak,” or “I’m too young.”  But instead of looking at what we can’t do, we need to look at what God is calling us to.  First of all, God is the one who is calling us, and that call has been from before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1:4; Eph. 2:10).  

So instead of reciting what you can’t do, know that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13) and 1 Thessalonians 5:24: He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.

Whoever abides in Him ought to walk as Jesus walked.  1 John 2:6

In our rock star driven culture, we have Christian leaders who don’t necessarily walk as Jesus walked.  Maybe they are just good communicators or good singers.  Francis Chan talked about how we need to play, “Follow the Leader.”  Our leader is Jesus.  We shouldn’t just memorize Bible verses about telling others about Jesus, crossing cultural boundaries to do so, or helping those in need, or obeying Him, getting rid of unforgiveness, etc.  We just need to do it.

We need to change our definition of success.  If I know Jesus, I should just be like Him.  I’ll walk like Him, love like Him, and others will know that they’ve been touched because being around me might be a little like being with Jesus.  I don’t know if that’s the case always.

This has challenged me to read through 1 John over and over for a month.  I hope it sinks into my pours enough that it changes me to the core.  I want to not say “I love Jesus” but to “Just do it.”  This has produced some change in me already.  I wrote in my last blog how it triggered a chain of events (giving money and an unfortunate car accident on the way to do so) that was a whirlwind.  But it has also unearthed some unforgiveness in my heart that God has pointed out.  May He do much more in the weeks to come!

May you experience God more deeply as you head into the new year.  

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love  him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.  John 14:23


The ecstasy and the agony…

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You. When my heart is faint, lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.  Psalm 61:1-2

So the last time I wrote, I was buried under a slew of  physical problems that just would not let up.  Starting a couple of weeks ago, I was reduced to sleeping about three hours at a shot, then every two hours, then one, then down to waking up every forty five minutes.  That alone is not good for sanity, let alone all of the other stuff that was going along with it.

Just over a week ago, I had a dream that seemed to go on a long time, but in real time it probably wasn’t all that long.  In my dream a multitude of people gathered around me and just kept praying what seemed to be most of the night.  I didn’t recognize them.  Before they would break, a gray haired man would lay his hand on my head and speak over me.  I didn’t know what he said–it didn’t matter.  Then they would circle me again and pray.  This same pattern repeated several times.

It wasn’t the next morning, but the morning after that I was getting up from yet another miserable night of non-sleep and pain.  This whole nightmare of physical problems had been going on for over a month.  My husband had left for the day and I was on my way out of bed, when suddenly–no bells or whistles, no angel songs or harps–my pain just went away.  Better put, God just took my pain away.  It was gone.  That awful pain that hurt when I walked, made my brain hurt and sent shock waves down my neck, shoulder and back–was gone!

That’s that ecstasy.  Here comes the agony, I guess…

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  1 John 3:16-18

That night I still only slept for 45 minutes at a shot, so I stayed home from work to just rest and gather myself for a day.  I hadn’t been out of the house for two full days and wasn’t planning on leaving for another day.  I was in my sweats having my quiet time, reading 1 John out loud (for concentration’s sake) all of the way through.  And I was texting a Native American friend from jail back and forth intermittently.

She was telling me how she was going to try to take her car back that was a lemon from a place that ripped her off.  She has no credit and he took advantage of her plight.  He told her she could exchange it for a different vehicle but she would need more money and she didn’t have it.  I was literally reading the above verses out loud when she said she didn’t have more money and didn’t know what to do.

So I asked if I could give her the money.  After some back and forth, the question was how she could get it.  We arranged a meeting place and time not too far from my house.  She called earlier than the arranged time, a bit lost.  So I redirected her and said that I would be there in five minutes.  I threw on a sweatshirt and a pair of boots and jumped in my vehicle for a ten minute errand–at least that’s what I thought.

On my way across the highway to meet her, suddenly I was hit by a truck that obviously I did not see coming–all I knew was that my airbags exploded, my Equinox spun around and I was plowed into the parking lot.  Next thing I know I’m in an ambulance headed to the hospital with a whiplash collar.  That was all a precaution, but suffice it to say, it was a grand mess, of which I am still wading my way through.

The upshot is that I got into it because I was seeking to obey God by putting action to my words.  All week I had to coach my friend into not being angry at God at what happened because she saw it all take place.  Her faith is all so new.  I told her that is what Satan would want, but God’s got this.  I have to trust that as I sort out the insurance, the financial loss and all of the fallout.

Sometimes we have to get our hands dirty I guess.  Isn’t that what Christmas is about?  Jesus got His hands so dirty He got nails pounded through them.  That’s mushing Christmas and Easter together, so I’m speeding ahead.  So that’s what the Gospel is all about, not just Christmas.  So it is the ecstasy and the agony.

But I’m ready for a calmer week.


There is wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb!

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for all sins, He sat down at the right hand of God…for by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12,14

It has been awhile since I have posted.  It has been because life has been moving at the speed of sound.  God has been moving in and amongst things, much like He was with Elijah when he took on the prophets of Baal, Ahab and Jezebel, and then he took off and ran, depleted and alone.  And then God came to  Elijah in a cave and he heard God speak in a still, small voice.  God told him he wasn’t the only prophet left and God had him get up and go anoint Jehu to be the next king over Israel.

When I read 1 Kings 18-19, it makes my head spin for Elijah because of the great showdown at the Mt. Carmel corral and then his emotional turmoil that followed–and then for me because I can so relate.  I too have been in the midst of many such spiritual showdown’s and roller coasters lately.  I would like to cry out with Micah 7:7-8 this battle cry: But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.   Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

For the sake of brevity, maybe I’ll get to those in another post…But for now, I will get to my verse for today.  At jail ministry this last Sunday night, where God ministers to my heart just as much or more than He does to the women, I was blessed to share with three  women.  Two were Native American, one Caucasian, if that means anything.  Two of the three have been changed by the Gospel in visible ways over the last months of being in the Bible studies while being incarcerated.  Praise God for new life!

I started the study with the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  It’s along the lines of continuing the same sin patterns and wondering why they end up in jail again and again.  That’s opposed to allowing Jesus to break the chains of rebellion–doing things now God’s way instead of our way–taking the narrow path and not the broad path, from Matthew 7:13-14.

No one talks about the narrow path–not on TV, not in books, not on Jimmy Fallon or Oprah, or Ellen.  I remember a time on “The View” where they censored a gal who said she lost 15 pounds on her diet and said, “Praise Jesus,” and they bleeped out Jesus.  But later in the show someone else used the name of Jesus in a profane way and they didn’t censor it out.  That’s the broad path.  Everyone is on it, and everyone talks about it.  Not the narrow path.  They shut you down.  So you have to go to jail to learn about the narrow path.  What an irony.

Then the Holy Spirit got all warmed up and fell on us.  I began to share about how much God loved them and quoted Psalm 103:8-13 about how God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, how He does not treat us as our sins deserve and He does not accuse and does not harbor His anger forever.  As high as the Heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for us and as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us.

I went on to say that the enemy, Satan, wants to steal, kill and destroy; BUT God knows the plans He has for them and they are for a future and a hope and not calamity and despair.  One of the gals talked about how she keeps feeling shame and guilt for her past and she can’t get past that.

That’s when I began talking about the blood of Jesus–hence today’s verses.  This is when the power really kicked in.  We went to the verses in 1 John 1:7 and 9 and 1 John 2:1-2 about how the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin and that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to please us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 2:1-2 talks about if we sin, we have an advocate, a defense attorney–Jesus Christ the righteous one who is the propitiation, the mercy seat, the covering, for our sin.

In the English Standard Version, the language seems to be more graphic.  I like that.  Like in the Old Testament when the Holy Spirit comes upon Saul, David, Samson and Gideon, it says that He rushed upon them.  I really love that picture.  Well in Leviticus 3:1-2, I really love this picture:  If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord.  And he (the priest) shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar.

Oh God, throw Jesus’ blood against wherever it is You throw it to cover me from all unrighteousness!  We prayed on Sunday night that God would throw His blood to cover the ladies’ sins and wounds and scars and to bring healing and freedom.  It was Susan Powers from the 90’s that used to yell “Stop the insanity!”  I yell “Stop the insanity in Jesus’ name!”  All because of the blood of Jesus!  Throw His blood against the altar to cover those of us who are being sanctified.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.  Ephesians 1:7

*Image from ‘The Bleeding Temple”


Full of the Spirit

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said ‘Go stand in the Temple courts and proclaim to all the people the words of this life.’  Acts 5:20

This is what has stuck with me throughout this week, along with a few other thoughts.  It was the apostles that got tossed into jail for telling about Jesus and new life in Him.  The religious leaders were filled with jealousy, which is what 5:17 tells us.  It wasn’t any complicated scheme–just jealousy.  Anyway, an angel let them out and told them to go back to the Temple court and keep teaching.

What catches me is that the angel told them to teach about ‘the words of this life.’  The whole first few chapters of Acts are flooded with the accounts of the Early Church–about how the Holy Spirit has come and landed on them like tongues of fire.  And how when they prayed the place where prayed shook with power and everyone was filled with boldness.  And then there was so much Holy Spirit power that people brought the sick and they passed by Peter’s shadow and they were healed.

Acts 5-20So when they went back to the Temple Courts, they talked about Jesus being risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand as a Founder and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses of these events and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.  

I’m sure the apostles didn’t just mumble a sorry testimony and invite them to Temple too.  No, they were convincing witnesses about the resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.  That’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Go on to Acts 6 and read about Stephen.  He was described as being “full of the Spirit,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and “full of grace and power, who was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”  Now that’s an eye catcher.

People are looking for something to fill the holes in their empty lives, something big enough to occupy the space that they’re filling with things like their fascination with technology, the NFL, materialism, sex, drinking and other addictions.  If we offer a wimpy version of the Christian life, it is no more appealing than picking up an old textbook, or visiting their grandmother’s church.

But if you show them the real Jesus, and the “life that is truly life,” as 1 Timothy 6:19 says, or the abundant life that John 10:10 talks about.  And 1 Corinthians 4:20 it says that the kingdom of God is demonstrated in idle talk but in power.  

Last Sunday night I was at our County Jail for Bible study.  There were 6 Native American women and another jail chaplain and myself.  We talked for a bit to catch up on how they were doing, and as I began the study, there was a male inmate calling out loudly the whole time.  I stopped and asked what that was.  The women said it was a man in the holding cell.  They felt bad for him and said he had been yelling out all day in about ten different voices.

I asked if any of them had been at church with me the last summer when one of the women did the same thing and we stopped and prayed–and she stopped yelling out.  The women immediately begged me, “Please stop and pray.  Please pray.”  So we stopped.  The other gal with me prayed out loud first and me second.  We prayed that the spirits that were oppressing him would be bound and that the peace of the Holy Spirit would rest upon him.  Within one or two minutes the man was totally quiet.

I said, “Hey, do you hear that?”  And they said, “Hear what?”  I said, “My point exactly. It’s dead quiet out there.  Jesus did that.  He hears our prayers and has the power to work.  He will do that in your life.”  We got back into the Bible study and the jailers were stirring up a mighty commotion out in the hallway.  I mean it was like a circus out there.  It went on and on.

Finally I stopped and said, “I’m praying again.  This circus has to stop.”  I prayed that God would silence the commotion in the hall and that it would be so quiet that they could hear a pin drop.  Again, within a minute the noise stopped.  And again, I said: “Do you hear that?  Jesus did it again.  That’s what He wants to do for you.”

Today I met with a Native American gal that just got out of jail and treatment.  She came to church and is resolute about “doing the next right thing.”  She is making a break from the bonds of meth and alcohol.  I told her the story of what happened in jail last week.  Her brother is in prison, but God has gotten a mighty hold on him and he is a living, walking evangelist everywhere he was been incarcerated.

She told me about when he was back at the County jail and was with a guy I’ve known since he was a kid.  He was telling this other guy about Jesus and the other guy kept saying that he was a Native and believing that.  Her brother was telling him that it wasn’t helping his life and that  Jesus is the only way, and that He’s real and wants to save him too.

The guy said, “Well, if Jesus is real, I’ll pray for something sweet.”  Maybe he was being sarcastic, because it was 10 at night and he knew it wasn’t going to happen.  But they prayed that S— would get something sweet and that S— would see that God is real.  Not even 5 minutes later a jailor came to their pod where 5 other guys were, at 10:00 at night and said, “S— I have a cupcake for you.  I just thought you’d like it.”

This guy S— got down on his knees and started sobbing and said, “I believe, I believe.”

Now that’s proclaiming the words of this life!  Words of power, words that aren’t just words, but are about life changing abundance that people can grab onto and say, “Yes, He is real and can do things in my life.”

Now, I have to go stand in the town courts and speak words of this life…

*Image from Brittalafont.com