Category Archives: Faith

A Tangled Path, or a Straight One?

tangled path

straight path

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6                                                      

To trust God is to believe in His reliability, truth, ability or strength. It means that you rely, depend, bank, or count on, and be sure of all that God is and what He promises.  Many times when there is some big rescue or feat, the newscasters will talk about “the indomitable human spirit” that made the people overcome.  When we put our trust in ourselves and our strength individually or collectively, we are missing the real source of our strength.  If we name the name of Jesus, the source of our strength is to be God and God alone.

In Genesis 11 we find the account of the Tower of Babel.  Everyone gathered together with the same language and said, Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, found in verse 4.  When God saw what they were doing He said, This is only the beginning of what they will do.  And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. God stepped in and confused their language and scattered them to the faces of the earth.

That is what happens when we decide to build or do anything in rebellion of the King of the Universe.  Sometimes we don’t plan to do things without God in rebellion, it’s just because we’re used to figuring things out on our own, counting on our own wisdom and desires.  But God calls us to consult and trust Him, not others and not ourselves.  To trust Him with all of our hearts means that we don’t have a backup plan.  God is our only plan.  And He will take care of the details of our obedience.

There is a promise in these two verses: God will make our paths straight.  Have you ever tried to accomplish something or get somewhere in life, but you keep getting twisted around?  Your dream or your desired goal might always end up just beyond your grasp. You take one step forward and end up three steps back.  Sometimes you don’t go backwards, you just go sideways.  Or you stall out.  Your route isn’t a straight line, but a tangled path.  If this is you, ask yourself this question: Are you acknowledging God in all your ways?  Are you doing things His way or your way?  

When you do things God’s way, things have a way of working out.  And your path will be straight, not a mess.  Step by step in the right direction leads to a habit and a routine and then a lifestyle of obeying God, trusting Him, and  consulting with Him before you make choices.  You can’t beat it.


I Must Get To the Sanctuary of God

pray.jpgBut when I thought how to understand this it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went to the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.  Psalm 73:16-17

Asaph wrote this Psalm.  He was David’s music director and was a priest and he set David’s words to music.  The context for today’s verses is that Asaph was getting twisted around by seeing the arrogant and wicked prospering while the righteous struggled.  He was bitter about it and it messed up his relationship with God.  In verse 22 Asaph recounted that when he was bitter he was like a beast, brutish and ignorant.  In other words, when you hold bitterness against God in your heart, you can’t hear from God, just like an animal.  You can’t be led.  It blocks off your relationship with God.

O God, I can get so bitter, cutting off the channel between us.  I can get bitter at others, which is just as bad.  I can mutter about others, and it’s really me that’s in the wrong place.  Like the King and Country song, “Oh, oh God, Forgive us (ME)…”  Show me where I harbor bitterness.

Another significant thing about what Asaph testifies is that he knew enough to keep his bitterness to himself.   In verse 15 he testifies, “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.”  If he had told others about what he had against God, he would have betrayed them by telling them something about God that wasn’t true.  How often do we vent to others, only later realizing that it wasn’t God who was in the wrong, but us?

God, keep a zipper on my lips.  If I speak against You or others I am really betraying the generation of Your children.  I am telling things about You that aren’t true.  I am a stumbling block.  

Asaph stayed in this funk until he went to the sanctuary of God.  In those days, they had to go to the Temple to meet with God because that was where His Spirit dwelt.  Praise God that His Spirit now dwells inside of us and we can meet with God anywhere, anytime!  It wasn’t until Asaph went before God that his attitude was adjusted.  It was in praying to God and seeking His face that Asaph realized that it wasn’t God that was off.  It was his view of what success is and his view of how God works.

Oh how my soul longs to get in quiet communion with You this week.  This is where I hear from You.  Clear out my schedule and keep distractions far away from me.  May I meet with You and see what you have to say about what’s been going on.  I so need You.

Then Asaph stopped being bitter and he started hearing from God again.  And he was able to write the beautiful words of praise found in verses 23-28.  Asaph realized that those who are far from God perish, but those who love and fear God will be rewarded in the end.  He also realized that it is better to be near God and to make Him his refuge than to have money.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; You hold my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory.  Whom have I in Heaven but You?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Psalm 73 23-26

When you are bent out of shape about life’s unfairness, don’t vent it out–go to God.  It is in our prayer closet that we get a proper perspective.  Don’t hold on to your bitterness, it only shuts off your connection with God.  Pray it out and listen to what God has to say.  Get close to God’s heart.  The nearness of God is our good.

*Image from Auntie Em’s Guide to Life


Come to Jesus, all you who are weary and are heavy laden

Jesus- the invitation

 

This was my jail study this last week, with seven women.  This is Jesus.  Really, to know Him is to love Him.  Some have heard this in different shapes and forms, but need to hear it again and again until it sinks in.  Others haven’t heard it before.  One gal was getting sentenced this last week to a possible 20 years (she got 25).  Jesus changed her in front of our eyes over these last three years of her being in and out, especially in the last six months.  God still works miracles, the biggest being in changing lives!

 John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that He sent His only son, Jesus, that whoever would believe Him will not perish but have everlasting life.  God loves us and Jesus gave His life for us so that we won’t have to spend eternity in Hell because of our sin.

John 11:5 and Luke 19:5.  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus…Jesus looked up at the tree and said, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down for I must stay at your house today.’  Jesus knows us by name, and He loves us.  He doesn’t just love the world generically, but specifically.  He knows us by name, even the number of hairs on our head.  Psalm 139:4 says that before a word is on our tongues He knows it completely.

John 8:1-8.  That’s the account of the woman caught in adultery.  When Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin be the one to throw the first stone,” and they left oldest to youngest, she looked up and saw just Jesus.  He asked, “Where are the ones who condemn you?  Who’s left?”  “No one,” was her response.  “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  Jesus doesn’t condemn them when they come to Him; He wants them to be set free from their bondages.

  •  One gal was caught up in an interesting thought about how Jesus was a part of       making the law, but yet let her break the law.  Jesus really was the fulfillment of the law.   He was the law.  He was loving, kind, merciful and just, which was what the law was really aimed at.  The Pharisees kept the law, but weren’t any of those things.  So they really didn’t keep the law.  Maybe that’s why Jesus kept healing on the Sabbath, to poke holes in their broken system.  In Romans 8:3-4 it says that God sent Jesus to do what the law couldn’t do in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.  Bottom line: Meet Jesus, look into His loving eyes and turn from your sin.

John 4.  The woman at the well.  Here’s the outcast of the outcasts at the well at noon.  And Jesus talks with her, asking for water and telling her about living water so she wouldn’t have to thirst anymore.  “I want that water!”  “Okay, go get your husband.”  “I don’t have one.”  “I know.  You’ve had five, and the guy you’re with now isn’t one of them.”  Jesus knows our backstory and He still likes us.  He knows what it is that we’re trying to fill the hole in our heart with.  Everyone has a hole in their heart that God put there so we would long for Him.  It has to filled with Him, otherwise it’s still a hole that needs to be filled.  Some people try to fill it with guys, others with drugs, others with shopping, others with food…

  • The other interesting discussion...What are you trying to fill your hole with?  Why don’t you fill it with Jesus?  We all have holes.  Andy Warhol is the guy that said “Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame.”  That’s why people will go on ‘American Idol’ even when they’re really bad, or do whatever do get noticed.  There’s a verse in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that says ‘that God has set eternity in our hearts.’  The Oscar Meyer Wiener song illustrates it: “Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener, everyone would be in love with me…”  Why would it matter for everyone would be in love with them?  Because God put that hole there for it to be filled by Him.

Final verses: Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

 


Come Boldly

boldly go.jpg“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 

 

I had a God moment this week.  A gal from jail wrote asking that I come to court to support her as she appeared before the judge.  Let’s call this woman “Jane.”  Another Bible study chaplain friend and prayer warrior also came.   Jane was asking something rather audacious of the courts.  She was asking for something she didn’t deserve.  She has been in and out of jail and prison most of her adult life because of drugs.  Her last charge could have put her back into prison for three and a half years.   Jane wasn’t supposed to appear until mid December and got her court date moved up, plus she was asking for something opposite of what the judge and lawyers were recommending.

She has sat over four months in the county jail most recently.  She’s studied the Bible each time she’s been in, come to Bible studies I’ve led for over 16 years.  In and out.  But Jane says she is broken, finished, done with meth.  She wants Jesus and wants a different life.  I hear desperation and maybe hope.  She applied for Teen Challenge (David Wilkerson’s faith based powerful rehab program) on her own, and I mean on her own.  Her Native American background makes most of what she attempts to do apart from her culture on her own.  Here it is a culture riddled with drugs and death.

Back to court.  The District Attorney and her public defender that looked like he just got out of high school bantered sacrilegiously previous to the beginning of the proceedings.  I think they must not care about the cases as individuals, but must have to distance themselves somehow.  As the hearing finally begins, the judge  reviews her case and tells of how this looks hopeless as she reviews the years of drug and battery charges, the years of incarceration.  We sit and pray silently.  It stretches out much longer than we would like–just get to the punch line.

Finally, yes!  She allows Jane to go Teen Challenge for at least six months.  Actually it is a 13 month program and its recidivism rate in the first year is like 20% (vs. a 70% National average).  In my 17 years of jail ministry, I have not seen an inmate actually follow through on pursuing going there and a judge actually placing someone into this program.  Hallelujah!  God sees and He hears and He is working in Jane’s life to bring about a miracle.

Jane was released to leave for Teen Challenge that same day.  She motioned for my friend and I to wait downstairs and we nodded that we would.  We waited with her mom and one of her sons, and a couple of others.  When she got down in her street clothes, she first came to give her mom a hug and mom pulled her close and said in a low, stern voice “if you stay at my house, you cannot bring your Bibles with you.”  It was the voice of the enemy so quickly in her face and ours.

We stood around the corner, respectfully waiting to give her a hug and quickly pray with her.  I told her I would mail her Bibles to her, but she must have her Bibles with her at Teen Challenge.  She said, “Oh no, I’ll put them in the garage.  She never goes there.”  God is able.

I must come boldly to the throne of grace–boldly and audaciously to ask and keep asking God to do big things just as Jane did this week.  He is not an overworked judge, He is one who is one waiting to dispense mercy and grace for me.  For Jane.  For all of us.


I Must Get to Jesus

This was my jail Bible study last week.  I’ve been thinking about it since then, about how it was really more for me than for them maybe.  I went in with a friend.  We usually go up with two of us.  I led.  My friend used to be in federal prison for like eight years.  Jesus got a hold of her in a big way there and she has such a soft heart for people.  She has yet to really tell her testimony.  I can’t wait until she does.  It will be powerful.

We  had three different groups of women, so I led this three different times.  Some women can’t get along with each other, and all together the little room we meet in would be too full.  I like the intimate nature of groups of three and four because we can really interact.  It’s a county jail and most of the women are Native American.  We chatted for awhile.  I’ve been going in leading studies on Sunday nights for over 17 years now, and some have been in and out of jail almost that long.

My thread was about people who wanted to get to Jesus so bad they were willing to do almost anything to do it.  The first was from Luke 5:18-20.  That’s where the four guys lower the paralytic guy down through the roof because the house was too crowded to get to Jesus.  In verse 20 it says, “And when He saw their faith He said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  It never really struck me before Jesus saw their faith.  And maybe the four guys were changed that day too.  Or maybe they encountered Jesus before.  But they were desperate enough for their buddy to get healed that they sawed a hole through a roof.  That’s audacity and desperacy.

The next scenario we looked at was Luke 7:36-50, the woman who washed Jesus feet with her hair, tears and ointment.  She busted into a dinner party of Pharisees and was willing to cut through put down’s and maybe getting tossed out so she could do something they would never do.  In washing His feet with her tears, she got to His heart and He got to hers.  Jesus turned to her and said that He knew she loved Him much and that though her sins were many, she was forgiven much.  The Pharisees didn’t get that.  But they weren’t willing to get to Jesus like she was either.  Are you?  Am I?

Image result for touch the hem of his garmentThe third person we looked at was a another desperate woman.  She’s told about in Luke 8:42-48.  Do you notice none of these people get names?  This one is “the bleeding woman.”  She had ‘an issue of blood’ for 12 years.  If you want to get a room full of women going, read that story.  She thought, ‘if I could just touch the hem of His garment.’  And she did and ‘boom!’ she was healed.  She had to push through a big crowd to get to Jesus.

What do you have to push through to get to Jesus?  I have push through a busy schedule, other people’s demands, through stupid distractions, through crowds, traffic, tiredness, laziness and all kinds of things just to get to Him.  There are times when I find myself saying inside “I just have to sit with Jesus.”  Sometimes I want to scream it.  Other times my soul whispers it.

To the women in jail, I encourage them to get radical to get to Jesus.  They will do whatever it takes to get to a party or to get a hit of drugs, or to get a boyfriend.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:29-30 that if your right eye or right hand causes you to sin to cut it off.  That’s radical!  We have to be radical to get away from sin and we have to be radical to get to Jesus.  Unconventional, desperate, audacious.  We have to saw holes in roof tops, break into dinner parties and push through crowds.

Do whatever it takes, but get to Jesus and hold on tight.


In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge

col 2-3.jpgThat’s what Colossians 2:3 says.  Have you ever really thought about that verse?  It’s come to my mind quite a bit lately, like when I’m really stumped.   What I think it means is that when we need wisdom and knowledge we can turn to the treasure chest of wisdom and knowledge–Jesus.

The more we delve into Him, the more wisdom and knowledge we find.  Colossians 2 as a whole talks about things that I’m not sure we really know what they mean.  I memorized the book of Colossians years ago and I review it occasionally on the way to work.  This week I’ve been on verses like the one above, as well as verse 9-10: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”  Teach me O God.

I’m am Elementary Principal by trade.  Quite often I face things more complicated than I prefer.  I don’t know if I’m looking to coast now that I’m in my late fifties, but things have gotten so much more complicated with broken down families, law suit hungry people and mental illness that’s maybe demonic affliction but disguised by diagnosis’s if all sorts.

This last week had some of those days where I really needed the treasure chest of Jesus’ wisdom and knowledge.   I guess I can’t really go into much detail, but I can say that as I tried to deal with a very disturbing situation, Colossians 2:3 was on my mind.  I bought some time by walking down the hall to get coffee and I walked and prayed that God would show me the answers I was looking for, because in Christ we have all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge—claiming that verse.

Slowly all parties involved worked through the situation, first with the boy and the school counselor, then his dad.  In the middle of that next night I felt God give me more insight into the boy’s psyche and how to approach the consequences and follow up.  My answers from God weren’t lightning bolts but I got through the day with about ten other side issues swirling simultaneously and can say  that this week was a “win.”

 


This is my Fight Psalm

high wallFor it is You who lights my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.  For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.   Psalm 18:28-29

This Psalm of David was written after the Lord had rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, including Saul who was bent on trying to kill him.  David led Israel in battle many times, so picture this being the words of a military general who had survived several tours.  Or, picture the battle being the tests and trials we face on a continuous basis.

For it is God who lights my lamp and lightens my darkness.   Isaiah 50:10 admonishes, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of His servant?  Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” Check out what happens if we don’t in verse 11: “Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches!  Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled!  This you have from My hand: you shall lie down in torment.”  Ouch!

The more happy companion verse would be Psalm 119:105, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  If you don’t know what to do and feel like you’re in the dark, consult God.   Pray and read the Bible.  Don’t run to friends or just stick with your own wisdom.  

For by You I can run against a troop and leap over a wall.  There are days that I feel that I’m getting attacked on every side.  I get people who threaten that if I don’t do what they want, they’ll go to Facebook.  I have to stand them down and call them out.  I gulp, I pray and I stand, not backing down.  By God I can stand against illogical, unreasonable parents.   I can find ideas where there aren’t any, because of God’s help.  

Do you ever feel like you are in over your head?  Maybe you are overwhelmed because the odds are stacked against you or there is someone opposing you that seems unbeatable.  With God, all things are possible.  We serve a God that is an odds beater, that champions the underdog and hears the cry of the lowly.  He equips us with strength (Psalm 18:32) and gives strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:29-31).  Call on God and trust Him with your challenges and obstacles.

God, I am calling out to You today.   Please give me the strength  to deal  with the problems I am facing.  I am asking You to help me.  Give me courage to do things Your way and not mine.  I will trust you with the consequences.  I don’t know which choices to make today, so would you direct my steps and give me the wisdom when it comes to taking action?  Your Word says that You give light in the darkness and that with Your help I can leap over a high wall.  Work and act today in Jesus’ name.  Amen!

 


God, my shield and the lifter of my head

shieldBut You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.  I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy hill.  Psalm 3:3-4

Have you ever been so depressed or overcome that you can’t even lift your head?   Or have you felt so attacked by troubles, people and problems that you need a shield to protect you so you can stand?  Then this is good news for you to grab a hold of and to live by!

God is our shield.  In Genesis 15:1 God appeared to Abraham and told him, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”  So fear not–don’t be afraid or anxious.  In Psalm 5:12 David declared, “For You bless the righteous, O Lord; You cover him with favor as with a shield.”   Just like Joseph, David and Daniel had God’s hand of favor on them, we can be covered with God’s favor shield as we walk obediently with Him.  There are many verses that tell of the shielding benefit of God to rest on.

God is our glory.  If you are absorbed in weight lifting and stare at your muscles in the mirror while you’re working out, you might say that your glory is in your strength.  You take pride in how much you can lift, or in how trim or muscular that you are.  Jeremiah 9:23-24 commands, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understand and knows Me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.”  We do not glory in our smarts, our strength or our money.  We glory in the love, justice and righteousness of God.  In God we trust.

God is the lifter of our heads.  There are those days when you can’t lift your head out of shame, depression, tiredness, or even an injury of some sort.  On those days, call out to the lifter of your head to do for you what you simply cannot do.  He will hear and He will act through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Ask for His strength and His grace when you need it.

I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me.  That’s what He does.  Jeremiah 33:3 promises, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”  Don’t wait until you’re in trouble to pray to God, pray early and pray often!

 


Finding God in the Middle of the ‘Why’

Job

I know that You can do all things, and no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.  Job 42:2

This is Job’s declaration at the end of not just a very bad day, but a bad stretch of years.  Job was God’s showcase to Satan that Job didn’t just serve God because of his riches and bountifully blessed life.  God wanted to prove to Satan that Job served and worshiped Him because of His character.  In a short stretch of time Job  his kids and his cattle all died.  Then he was afflicted with boils, and lots of them.

In the midst of this time of affliction, Job’s friends and wife accused Job of having some hidden sin to cause this.  God didn’t make sense to Job, but Job hung in there.  But he wanted answers to the questions of “why.”  God never told Job, but in the closing chapters of the book we see that God gave Job a view of God’s majesty in creation.

This verse was a part of Job’s response, saying in effect: “You are so big and I am so small.  Who am I to question such a magnificent and all-knowing God?”  There are times when God is silent in our lives and we may ask the same questions found in the book of Job.  Job never gave up on God or on searching for answers.  But in the middle of that quest, he didn’t get answers–He got God.

At a “Women of Faith” conference, Thelma Wells told of her daughter who was in her 30’s and single.  Her daughter told Thelma of her questioning of God and her distress over still being single.  She asked her mother to pray for her.  Thelma told her, “I’ll pray for you, but not for you to get married.  I will pray that you would fall madly in love with Jesus.”

Her daughter went away offended, thinking she already was in love with Jesus.  But her mother’s words spurred her on to spending large chunks of time with God over a period of months.  About a year later she came back to her mother and told her how God had totally changed her through that process and said, “Now I am madly in love with Jesus and it has changed me.”  She did get married not long after that.

Are you madly in love with Jesus?  Are you searching for the answer to something that has interrupted your life?  How can you find God in the middle of this quest, so that you can say with Job, “You’re God and I’m not.  Have Your way with me.  I trust You.”

*Photo from commons.wikimedia.org

 


But God

ButGod1920.pngBut God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Those are two of my favorite words.  When things are piled up against us for success, for our circumstances, for whatever life brings us and it seems there is no hope–But God.  Joseph said it in Genesis 50:20: “You meant it for evil BUT GOD meant it for good.”  Joseph could have said: “You wrecked my life, you took it on a course where I was a slave and a prisoner.  I had to be separated from my family and live like an orphan for twenty years.  I was a victim.”

My own narrative for Joseph: “But because of God, I’m okay.  I’m not going to have you put to death.  God has been a strong influence in my life, giving me the power to obey and the hope to not give up.  God has also spoken to me that it was His doing, His hand on my life.  It didn’t make sense until now.  He used me to save you all and that’s a big deal.  Things began to get better when I got promoted in Egypt and I started to think that was the reason all of this happened.  But now I see an even bigger picture and it’s about your lives and all of our relatives to come that God sent me here ahead of you.  It’s okay.  I forgive you.”

Let me take you to some other “But God’s” to see if you can grab a hold its significance in our lives.  Ephesians 2:3-4,  “We were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, who is rich in mercy, saved us because of His great love for us.”  And Romans 5:8, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  We were sinners and objects of God’s wrath, deserving of death and Hell.  But God stepped in and rescued us because of His great love for us.

You can write down the troubling things of your life, maybe your personal history of abuse, trauma and rebellion.  After each circumstance that continues to haunt you, write down “But God” and then write (or say in your mind) what it is that God has done to use those bumps and bruises for your betterment and for His kingdom.  

The script is different for each of us, but we all have “But God’s” if we’ve truly met Him and given Him our lives to take and to make new.  Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Paul could forget his rebellious and prideful past because God showed Paul His purpose for His kingdom and how he was using his past to write a new future.

Paul had to surrender anger, bitterness, shame and rebellion to God’s ways and to be melted by God’s love, We must do the same.  Surrender your past to God and allow Him to work out His providential plan and  redemptive ways in your life.

What are some things that may haunt you that you need to put down and add, “But God” to?  How has God changed those things to make them produce something good?