Coals of Conscience

“Never hold a grudge or try to get even, but plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others. Do your best to live as everybody’s friend. Beloved, don’t be obsessed with taking revenge, but leave that to God’s righteous justice. For the Scriptures say: ‘If you don’t take justice in your own hands, I will release justice for you,’ says the Lord. And: If your enemy is hungry, buy him lunch! Win him over with kindness. For your surprising generosity will awaken his conscience, and God will reward you with favor. Never let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21 TPT)

When I was just a kid, my parents and grandparents had coal stoves in their houses, as did pretty much everyone else in our little Appalachian neighborhood. I can remember many times watching one of the adults empty the ashes or bank a fire; so that Scripture brings back memories of my childhood and the dangers of having to dispose of those hot ashes. To this day, I still have a healthy respect for fire. Yesterday while getting dressed, I was listening to an audio version of the Passion Translation. Romans is my favorite book in the Bible, and I’m very familiar with how the King James reads; so when the narrator came to the “heaping coals of fire” passage, my heart leaped. I had to stop what I was doing and actually look at this again in print (as listed above).

Romans 12 explains how we are to handle our enemies—being kind; meeting a need they have; literally feeding them if they’re hungry.  The vengeful person, who fancies this idea of an ash shovel full of glowing coals getting dumped on the head of someone he or she doesn’t like, might be a little disappointed that the Lord isn’t trying to burn those people who are not treating us as we wish. What He is aiming for is a softening of two hearts—ours toward them and theirs toward us!  Who’da thunk it!  We just happen to be the one He is calling on to make the first move.  And how?  Through kindness and goodwill and giving. 

You might say, “Well that’s just the problem; I’m always on the giving end.”  Truly, I don’t know each of your situations, and it would be overwhelming if I knew everyone else’s problems in detail.  But I do know that there is a difference when we go into something prayerfully and strategically.   Obedience pleases the Lord.  And the Word says that when a person’s ways please the Lord, He will cause even that person’s enemies to be at peace with him/her!

Let’s pray. 

Father, we have at any given time opportunities to have conflict with other people.  It’s becoming a crazy last days world where the love of many is growing cold, just as Jesus said it would.  Help us not to grow cold in our love and patience and long suffering toward others. 

We commit today to You, and ask that You make us mindful of not just the drama and conflict; but also how to build a bridge of peace.  Help us genuinely empathize with those we don’t get along with.  Help us to have eyes to see chances to do kindnesses toward them that awaken their conscience.  Lord, we don’t want to be used and taken advantage of and taken for granted, but because of the wisdom of Your Word, we extend kindness today toward even these who have gotten on our last nerve! 

As an act of obedience to You, we will sow what our flesh doesn’t want to sow into someone who has wronged us.  Lord it goes plumb against the grain of our carnal nature—but we are sowing with a harvest in mind!  Today we deliberately release Your Holy Spirit to go to work in us.  Change how we feel toward them, and change how they feel toward us!  You have permission to begin the work on our side.  Use our kindness to awaken their conscience.  Open doors of favor that were once dead bolted against us, for Your Word even says that You will reward us when we do these things!  May we represent You well today, and may we remain patient while You go to work in the seeds we have sown!  We release forgiveness and blessing into the lives of those who have hurt us and mistreated us, and we do it in Jesus’ name!

(I actually wrote most of this and posted on Facebook in January 2019 but just now got around to editing and sharing it on here!)

Lacking Nothing

Patience. Are you willing to experience the “almost-but-not-quites” on your journey to your destiny? Brace yourself because there will be some! My biggest need of all, perhaps, is to let patience have her perfect work so that I can be whole and entire, lacking nothing! It’s hard not to succeed immediately. We’ve spent our entire lives watching movies where the whole plot of the story gets resolved in 90 minutes, and we want real life to work out that way too. In our fishbowl society where all eyes are on us, we are so afraid people will judge us if we can’t be a superstar at every single thing…and in record time, no less.

It’s been the ongoing challenge of my life not to rush to the finished product. Lifting the lid on the crockpot knowing good and well that a peek disrupts and makes the process even longer. Not waiting for the nail polish to dry before the next coat. Putting the furniture together without reading the instructions, only to find out I just tightened the nut down on a part that was supposed to go somewhere else. Not waiting a day or two to proofread that manuscript one final time; or better yet, to have handed it over for a second set of eyes to critique. Not waiting to hear from God on a specific request, but rather, figuring that “silence is consent” on His part. I can criticize Abraham and Sarah’s rush for the fulfilled promise all I want; but I’ve tried to get ahead of God’s plan too, thinking He surely must need my input, surely He must have gotten busy and forgotten me…I’ve done it more times than I can count.

I read somewhere once that the way to set up a peach tree for future bumper crops is to pluck off all the first year’s peaches while they’re still green and discard them. Whaaaaaaa?!!! I’d love to have a peach orchard on a big piece of property somewhere someday, but I can only imagine how hard it would be to cast off that first crop! Matter of fact, Levitical law actually requires the children of Israel to do that for the first three years…then the fourth year’s crop is sanctified holy to the Lord, then they may do as they wish with the fruit beginning with the fifth year. Interesting that even HE didn’t want the “first fruits” to be the firstfruits. Why, He even made provisions for rotating ground crops and letting the land rest. It’s little wonder that by obeying these religious laws, their land is so fertile and the produce so abundant. God always knows what He’s doing–He wrote the original Farmer’s Almanac!

What gets us in a pickle is trying to shortcut around what we know to be right. It takes faith in order to trust Him enough to count certain things as a loss in order to attain something better in the long run. It’s the test that we perhaps fail the most often. We might ask, “God, You knew how this would turn out…why did I have to waste my time going through the whole process just to walk away with nothing?” Disappointment is hard; but if we will let Him, God can build character and consistency in us when we choose to keep trying in the wake of failures. We see one scenario playing out, when in fact, He has the entire view from start to finish and has a better plan–something more than we can ask or think! Letting the process run its entire course; it’s what makes millionaires out of ordinary investors–not trying to pull out dividends as soon as they start accumulating, and not trying to sell off shares every time there’s a bear market year. Fear makes us foolish; faith makes us flourish!

Father, help us build this kind of resolve–to count the losses as mere trial runs, and to keep persevering while we wait patiently on Your plan for our lives. When we can’t believe that the invention, the song, the book, the piece of art, the business, the ministry, or whatever enterprise we’ve embarked upon did not bear a bumper crop, help us not to give up. Maybe it was a very good project that seemed foolproof, and then it flopped. Maybe, however, it was one of those first few crops that was meant to perish in order for our tree to be rooted deep and to be stronger and more consistent for many years to come.

We roll our works upon You–we commit and trust them wholly to You–and will do things Your way! We believe that, according to Proverbs 16:3, You will cause our thoughts to become agreeable to Your will. Wow! You’ll even help our thought life to align with what is going to work–Your will. When that happens, our plans shall be established and succeed! Yes, we CAN prune off what seems to promise to be a sure thing if that’s what You know will guarantee a better outcome later. We CAN rest when You say rest, knowing that obedience will take us so much farther than our best efforts to rush to a hasty quick-fix finish. Make us willing to fail in order to eventually succeed. Teach us to wait upon You, and to never give up!

Fallout Shelter

Back in days of the Cold War, “fallout shelter” became a familiar term as people grew increasingly aware of a threat of nuclear war. It wasn’t altogether uncommon for some serious preppers to build an underground bunker similar to the tornado shelters of the Heartland. I can remember, as a child, that I didn’t fully comprehend what a fallout shelter actually was; but I knew that it was protection from something ominous. The symbol on the outside of our county courthouse and other public buildings was an unsettling yet comforting reminder that if some bad thing were to happen, there was perhaps a place to run and hide.

Last night as I was brushing my teeth, I stared at the Psalm 91 print on my bathroom wall and in my mind, I recalled the fallout shelter symbols that were so commonly seen in my childhood. Although the most popular translation of Psalm 91 refers to the “secret place” of the Most High where a believer can dwell perpetually in our relationship with God, I pondered the aspect of that place of safety where the righteous might congregate when peril grips the land. We don’t really grasp what that means because in general, we haven’t felt unsafe out there rubbing shoulders with the world. We haven’t truly sold out to the idea that we’re not supposed to be absorbed into this culture; because though it shocks us from time to time, it holds the same kind of seduction that Sodom and Gomorrah held for Lot and his wife and daughters. The danger is perhaps a little exciting. We’re not genuinely repulsed, as well we should be, by the effects of sin on this world.

I’ve never had to run to a fallout shelter, nor hunker down in a reinforced space during a bad storm, and I hope I never will. Recurring nightmares of floods, wars, tornados, and disasters where I couldn’t find my family were more than enough drama without the real thing coming to pass. Yet, as I think of my most terrifying and vivid dreams, I can put that Psalm 91 shelter into perspective. Yes, it is plausible that something terrible could happen where we might have to be (if not outright hidden from an attacker who seeks to abduct or kill us) somewhere safe and secure from danger. Those of us who’ve lived in safety all our lives can’t really fathom a warning blast and having mere minutes to escape imminent danger. We don’t even have disaster drills in most locations because we’ve never had to have a rapid response plan. Yet the Psalmist, a man not unfamiliar with war, animal attacks, and danger, penned such a wonderful illustration when he wrote:

You who live in the shelter of ‘Elyon,
who spend your nights in the shadow of Shaddai,
who say to Adonai, “My refuge! My fortress!
My God, in whom I trust!” —
 he will rescue you from the trap of the hunter
and from the plague of calamities;
 he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his truth is a shield and protection.

You will not fear the terrors of night
or the arrow that flies by day,
or the plague that roams in the dark,
or the scourge that wreaks havoc at noon.
 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand;
but it won’t come near you.
Only keep your eyes open,
and you will see how the wicked are punished.

For you have made Adonai, the Most High,
who is my refuge, your dwelling-place.

No disaster will happen to you,
no calamity will come near your tent;
for he will order his angels to care for you

and guard you wherever you go.
They will carry you in their hands,

so that you won’t trip on a stone.
You will tread down lions and snakes,
young lions and serpents you will trample underfoot.
Because he loves me, I will rescue him;
because he knows my name, I will protect him.
He will call on me, and I will answer him.
I will be with him when he is in trouble.
I will extricate him and bring him honor.
I will satisfy him with long life
and show him my salvation.”
(Psalm 91, Complete Jewish Translation)

David frequently used verbage that described God’s protective nature, referring to Him in such phrases as “strong tower,” “shelter,” “secret place,” “refuge,” and others. We gloss over these phrases because few of us have ever had to cry out to God from a foxhole with the sound of exploding artillery all around us, or from a sinking ship being inundated with dark water. Our idea of trouble is Him getting us through a rough day at the office, or perhaps help during a financial crisis when we’ve had more month than money. David, Isaiah, and others knew danger when they penned words about Him hiding us in a safe place until calamities be past. I can only imagine the terrifying closeness of death that people feel when a tornado rattles vehemently over the locked doors of the underground shelter, and how glad they must be that they knew in time to run to safety. I feel that in these upcoming days, we will probably get a clearer revelation about what it’s like to be in a protected place while the sounds of disaster shake everything that can be shaken.

We need once in a while to be reawakened, re-sensitized to the fact that we are in the last days. We are about to see hard, sad, terrifying phenomena as the clash between righteousness and unrighteousness creates rumblings in the earth. Whether it would mean literal physical danger from war, or natural disasters, or famine and pestilence, or the intense battle for the souls of humankind, this earth is no longer a neutral ground in good versus evil. We need an established place of refuge in our God–familiar because we have been in His presence already–and know where to run and bring others when the worst day of our lives happens. And we will all have that worst day of our lives. Is He Lord of your life? Are you ready in the event that all hell breaks loose? Is the secret place ready to run to, or have you instead turned it into a junk room where there’s no way you could access it at a moment’s notice?

The interesting thing about museum depictions of the Cold War fallout shelters is that they weren’t just big empty rooms with walls meant to block the direct effects of radiation poisoning. They were ideally equipped with necessities for survival in the event that one might have to remain hidden for a time. Food, water, heat and light sources, etc., were kept stored in these bunkers for use by the hidden ones. I like to think of God’s provision in His Psalm 91 shelter as that way, too: if ever we have to take refuge from terrible life circumstances, He isn’t prepared just to shield us momentarily, but also to sustain us as long as it is necessary. I’ll be honest, I don’t want to think about being in survival mode; I like peace and I like an easy life. I’m glad, however, that my Father sees farther down the road than I do and is leading me to focus on something greater than the lull of my immediate comfort.

We don’t know, as these last days’ cataclysmic events unfold, what our previously free-and-easy lives might encounter. Food and supply shortages, infringements upon our civil liberties and religious freedoms, even invasion of a foreign enemy could change life as we know it. Covid-19 could just be the first of who knows how many more pandemic pestilences that invade the nations. Ungodly cultural shifts etch away at both our children’s and our own sense of right and wrong. We feel the pressure to conform even though we know we must be instead transformed by the renewing of our minds (just so we can continue to discern what’s good and acceptable to God!). If we have been lax in nurturing our relationship with the Father, now it is high time to shake off the complacency and begin familiarizing ourselves with His place of safety. We are going to need it even if we don’t fully comprehend what dangers lie ahead.

The good news is, He’s already got a special fallout shelter ready for those who will make Him Lord of their lives. God’s will is not for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance…which simply means, to do a “180” of heart and mind! When our hearts and minds change, our lives and actions will follow. You don’t have to be left defenseless from the attack of the enemy, because our Lord has already made a way. If the appeal of a cozy secret hideaway where you and God can meet in the cool of the day doesn’t draw you to the place David described in Psalm 91, then consider the non-optional fallout shelter of Psalm 91: for it’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN you’re going to need to be shielded from calamity as sin and iniquity continue to open the floodgates of demonic attack. You’ll not survive the storm about to engulf humanity if you don’t have a relationship with God.

Father, I pray that all of us will discern the times in which we are living, and that none will remain out from under Your protection. Convict hearts, O Holy Spirit, that we who are fickle might run without delay through the door Christ opened for us by His life’s sacrifice. We accept the risen Savior today and we ask You to not only save us, but to keep us, body, soul, and spirit. Teach us to cherish the place You have carved out for our preservation. Teach us to value holy living as well as listening for Your guidance. You will reveal pathways for our good and not for our destruction, through Your Word and through Your messengers. May the lives we live post directions to YOUR fallout shelter so that we might preserve many. In Yeshua’s name we pray, Amen.

The Fine Print

“When someone is tempted, he should not say, “I am being tempted by God,” because God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. Instead, each person is tempted by his own desire, being lured and trapped by it. When that desire becomes pregnant, it gives birth to sin; and when that sin grows up, it gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15 ISV

Ever hear the acronym “EULA?” If you’ve ever downloaded a software app or a game, you’ve no doubt met Eula even if you didn’t take time to know her. She’s the lady who makes you so impatient that you check the box without reading it just to get what you wanted. When you actually DO click the link to read the “end user license agreement,” it’s frustratingly long and complicated and full of legal yadayadayada, so you scroll past and select the box to accept the terms of the contract, get your product, and hope like crazy that you didn’t just pledge your firstborn. It doesn’t matter anyway…right?

I’ve done it many times and probably so have you. We have that inherent trust that surely, it’s just a required disclaimer and nothing more—a means to an end. Surely the licensor would not mean the licensee any harm. We just want what we want; then to our surprise, we start getting a mysterious recurring bill for $14.95 on our credit card. When we trace it back, our epiphany moment reveals that yes, it did turn out to cost us more than we bargained for. Oh, most of those checkboxes probably are harmless; but there’s a reason the terms are so long and cumbersome…they’re intended to frustrate you into agreeing without reading the fine print.

The devil is in the details of real life, too, and not just metaphorically. His end goal is to take you farther than you ever intended to go. Eula’s real name is ELLA—the End Loser License Agreement (no offense to ladies whose names happen to be Eula or Ella, btw). Surely the forbidden fruit is good for food; and then your eyes are opened and you find you’re not liking what you see.

Many times we blame God when our life choices go wrong. He allows us to choose for ourselves despite His warnings not to choose a certain way; and then when we override Him and it goes south, we angrily accuse Him of being an unreasonable tyrant. He should’ve made it so that there were no hidden surprises, no consequences, right? Actually, He warns us in clear language not to do certain things. Sometimes He’s been screaming in our conscience so long that we don’t even hear Him anymore. What we view as punishment from God is just the fine print of the devil’s crafty license agreement to do what God tries to warn us not to do.

Lord, You are not a deceiver. Your Word doesn’t trick us into hasty decisions and moral upsets. It’s very much to the point. If something is going to harm us, You say, “Don’t.” If something will bless us, You say, “Do.” You created clear boundaries for our safety, but You gave us free will. You don’t want us to choose what You cannot bless; You want us to choose life.

It’s only within Your boundaries that Your rules are in force. When we override Your written Word and even Your laws written in our hearts—our conscience—we begin to deal with another licensor. His product has no clear guaranteed end result. It can lead us down a thousand “additional in-app purchases available” paths before the end result emerges as death. Oh, it may not be literal death at first, but a thousand tiny cuts. Death of healthy relationships, death of a marriage, death of our health, death of our integrity, death of critical opportunities, death of time.

You came that we might have abundant life and You gave Yourself to give us eternal life. And though our salvation rests in what You did alone, we still must receive Your sacrifice. We still need to operate within Your boundaries in order to ensure an outcome You prescribe.

Thank You for grace and for mercy. You can set us back on the right path if we confess and repent for our sins (our deliberate overriding of what You have warned us and outright commanded us not to do). Sometimes You lessen the severity of the consequences even as You forgive us, but our bad choices will still have altered our lives in ways that won’t change. We may leave here prematurely or damage others’ lives for our hasty rush to accept the terms of the other licensor. Whatever’s in his terms of agreement, the devil cannot fulfill a promise of no consequences for departing from Your will.

Create in us a clean heart, one that responds again to Your guidance and isn’t seared with a hot iron. Give us a hunger for Your presence and a desire to consult You for the choices we make, before we make them. Right choices don’t totally exempt us from opposition or hardship—sometimes we will suffer for doing right—but You will ultimately work all things for our good and will bless us for following Your lead. You can even bring about good things in spite of the consequences of our poor choices and sins.

We love You and we ask You to help us love You more. We will strive to make choices within the framework of Your Word and our conscience today, so that we don’t grieve Your Holy Spirit. Grant us mercy and grace to recover from the outcome of our sins. Teach us to judge ourselves, to pray, to turn from a pattern of repeated wrongs. Help us to do the work of killing the roots of strongholds that promise to keep reproducing cursed results. Forgive us and shape us in ways that please You, for You paid a terrible price to redeem us, we ask in Jesus’ name.

The Suspense is Killing Your Communication!

“The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl. The warning of a wise person is valuable to someone who will listen. It is worth as much as gold earrings or fine gold jewelry. A trustworthy messenger refreshes those who send him. He is like the coolness of snow in the summertime.” Proverbs 25:11-13 (International Children’s Bible)

How important is it that we learn to communicate with consideration for the other person? Very! My posts usually deal with spirituality, but this one is probably as much a matter of practicality.

Communication tip of the day, especially in this technological world of email, voicemail, and texting!

When you need to get an important point or message across to someone with whom you’re not making eye contact, just come right out and say the thing without, as my Granny would describe it, “hem-hawing around;” but use some common sense and put yourself on the other side of the conversation maybe even before you start. Ask yourself, “What would I be thinking if someone else sent/left me this same message?” Are you open with people from the very beginning, or do you make them labor to get to the bottom of why you contacted them in the first place? We don’t usually talk about it, but the truth is, most of us hate to deal with people who do us this way. Don’t be that person!

It’ll drive the people in your life crazy if you keep them in suspense, and if every message is open-ended and sounds like potential gloom and doom. Those abrupt “we need to talk” texts, or messages where your voice always sounds like “a dying calf in a hailstorm,” followed by crickets until they respond to get the rest of the story, already sound as if you’re gonna drop an unpleasant bomb on the recipients. It may send folks who have anxiety or depression issues into a tailspin. They will likely have to build up the nerve to respond because they are expecting the absolute worst! And if every single time you message people, it’s stamped “urgent,” they may come to dread hearing from you at all (or at the very least, stop taking you seriously).

The sky isn’t always falling, for heaven’s sake. Don’t make every communication sound dire and hopeless in the subject line.

Do you know how your own imagination runs away with you when you don’t have all the facts? Well, other people feel that same way! No one likes to feel as if he/she is about to be chewed out, or about to get lured into a drama crossfire; and no one wants to sit and stew and worry and wonder what’s wrong this time. To use that kind of manipulation to try and coerce people to respond faster may backfire, and you can be certain they won’t be eager to talk to you if and when they do finally respond.

Even if it’s very important, even if it is serious, even if it’s something you know others aren’t going to want to deal with, transparency is always the best route to take. We get enough misleading headlines and emotionally-jarring clickbait in the media…let’s not be sources of it! Keep it relatively short and sweet, but lay the information out in advance so that when people get back to you, they’re emotionally and maybe even situationally prepared. Sometimes the information you seek, or the favor you’re about to ask, or the emotional support you need is best gotten when folks don’t feel pressured, guilted, or put on the spot.

Relationships are a lot less complicated when we can communicate with consideration at least most of the time. Make sure that most of your dealings with those around you are positive and encouraging so that when the subject occasionally isn’t a pleasant one, they aren’t already trying to squirm away from you!

One final thought. If you’re the recipient of a message and the other person knows the message has been seen or heard (as most social media does show when something’s been opened or read), acknowledge it. A simple, “I don’t have an answer for you just now, but I want to acknowledge that I’ve received your message, I’m aware of the situation, and I will get back to you later (maybe even estimate a time) when I can help you.” And if the answer is a “no,” say no! Don’t just string people along or leave them hanging if an issue is time-sensitive! Silence is often perceived by the other person as, “I don’t place a value on you or your time.”

Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Be someone who refreshes instead of exhausts! 😉

The Art of Becoming

Have you ever watched a movie where someone was cast to portray a famous person, or perhaps watched a comedian who was an impersonator; and although he or she didn’t particularly look like the real character, the actor pulled off such a flawless representation that you temporarily forgot you were watching someone other than the personality being portrayed? The transformation is so believable that you “see” the person being imitated! I’ve read accounts where, in preparation for a role, some actors have gotten so immersed into becoming a character that after the movie was finished, they had a hard time going back to just being themselves! Some have even been somewhat permanently altered for having “put on” a certain role.

Romans 13:14 tells us, “But put on (some translations say to CLOTHE YOURSELVES with) the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Several times throughout the New Testament, we are encouraged by Paul and others to be imitators—to act out what we’ve seen. Imitators of God…of Christ…of the apostles…of certain churches…of the faithful and patient…of good rather than evil. To imitate someone or something, we have to become acquainted with his/her/its nature. We have to rehearse and practice to adopt a certain tone, posture, expression, personality, and presence in order to get into “character.” I’ll admit, I’m not as brave as Paul when he encouraged the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitated Christ. Sometimes, to my shame, I’ve borne very little resemblance to the Lord!

Sometimes in becoming a certain character in a movie, an actor might go through hours of makeup and prosthetics to become transformed into a believable imitator. In a world where we are encouraged to become whatever we believe our true selves to be, I would encourage us to find the best examples of what God would have us identify as…and walk in His divine nature. While there’s something admirable and virtuous about genuineness, we can become a better version of who we are meant to be by adopting qualities already demonstrated for us by Jesus and by godly men and women throughout history. Can we add to who we already are? By all means! Apostle Peter instructed us how to add to ourselves, with faith as a foundation: a layer of virtue, then a layer of knowledge, then temperance (discipline), then patience, then godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity.

Under all those layers, we effectively become another person, all while still being our true selves—who we were born to be! As we take on the nature of Christ, we even begin to discard some undesirable traits; and that, friends, is growth. There’s no hypocrisy in exchanging our former habits and mindsets for something more virtuous! Being a follower of Jesus isn’t pretending to be something we aren’t—it’s a daily dress rehearsal in faith of what we need to become. Gradually we are transformed and have put on—clothed ourselves with, gotten into character, become mirror images of the Master Himself!

The Greek word “mimitace” was sometimes translated as “follower” in the KJV, and it literally means to “mimic” or “imitate.” May I humbly submit that we probably can’t be followers of Christ without actually becoming imitators of Him. It should at least be our priority to be working toward bearing His resemblance even when we don’t always get it “spot on.” It’s a process we should all be undergoing.

I remember Sister Sharon Taylor singing an old song that said, “I want to be so much like Him that the world can’t tell us apart.” Indeed, may we all become just that skilled at adopting His character.

Integrity Even in Change

Some of my biggest regrets in life have been associations that ended on less favorable terms than I would have preferred. It doesn’t matter who’s to blame, if anyone—I hate any time that misunderstandings, presumption, or just a lack of right communication unravels years of positive achievements among those who journey together. It’s when these types of events occur that a troubling sense of non-closure remains in place of what should have been wonderful memories and a sense of gratitude for even a temporary joining of purpose.

We can’t change the fact that, during the course of our lifetimes, many people will move in and out of our circles. It’s a constant process. People whom we presume will always be an intricate part of our lives can suddenly be gone through death, divorce, broken contracts, changes of plans, kids growing up and leaving home, right or wrong open/closed doors, shifting seasons, dissolving of likemindedness, and even discord. Others whom we never imagined being part of our lives can just as suddenly become new friends, family, or associates.

No matter what shifts you’re experiencing, I urge you to apply great grace to how you handle each relationship in your life, perhaps especially those with whom your season appears to be coming to an end. Be tender even when you have to stand your ground. Don’t withhold words that need to be said. Don’t just let people stew in confusion or offense if it’s within your power to be the one who applies the healing balm of peace or brings clarity. Sometimes it’s humbling. Sometimes it costs us the chance to feel as if we got the last word in edgewise. Sometimes, even when we feel we weren’t in the wrong, it means we apologize first.

One translation of Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” The KJV would even say, “as much as lies within you.” Another one of those inconvenient seventy-times-seven moments! Could it be that even in the Twenty-First Century, mature believers are still expected to exceed the norm, take the high road, swallow our pride, lose the sarcasm and backbiting, follow peace, walk with integrity, forgive, choose to preserve the remnants of mutual respect…even when our emotions are all over the place or disappointment stings our sensibility? I believe that, yes we must— for the sake of Christ.

Choose how you want to be remembered by those with whom your path has crossed. You can’t always prevent being misunderstood, but let your track record be one of such consistent virtue that it’d be hard for others not to see genuineness in your motives and guileless love in your heart. Each encounter, with those whose presence we take for granted, could be our last.

Lord, may we be conformed to Your image so much that, even in our losses, we glorify You and live above reproach. Help us be the repairers of the breach wherever possible; and whenever we find ourselves at those painful but sometimes inevitable forks in the road, help us release others with blessing and not bitterness. Sharpen our discernment to reveal the enemy’s hidden plots to erode and to isolate, to divide and to sabotage; and when we are in the wrong, compel us to run toward the opportunity to make things right again. Help us guard our hearts—and our words—with all diligence. We pray in Jesus’ name for Your grace to cover us and Your love to flow out of us. We can trust You to honor when we choose to live peaceably with all people. Amen.

A Share of the Spoils of Victory

“…as is the share of him who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the provisions and supplies; they shall share alike.” (1 Sam. 30:24 AMP)

Do your part! If you have an assignment in the Kingdom of God, then a win for the Kingdom is also a win for you! I’m not talking about grace vs works; I’m talking about how we are meant to serve one another as the Church, faithful in big ways and small.

When they passed out Super Bowl rings for yesterday’s game winners, they didn’t just give a ring to the ones who happened to be on the field when the clock ran out. Oh, there’ll be MVP’s and recognition given for those who went above and beyond, but the whole team is credited with the win. They passed out championship rings to the entire team whether a player got to play from the first quarter till the final buzzer, or whether he had to remain on the bench the entire time! As a matter of fact, a set number of rings are cast every year, far above the number of actual football players on the team. Although it’s at the discretion of the person in charge to bestow these rings, it’s said that they are most often awarded to anyone who brought some level of value to that team at ANY time throughout the entire year leading up to the Super Bowl. Victory is a collective effort!

When the 200 exhausted foot soldiers were left behind as David’s army pursued the enemy after the Ziklag incident recorded in 1 Samuel 30, David didn’t kick them out of the army because of their battle fatigue–nor did he completely excuse them from responsibility while the others went after the Amalekites. He left them in charge of watching over their supplies as the other 400 soldiers continued on.

Those 200 were still of use to the cause even though their role had changed for the time being; and moreover, they were still part of the army. They were a fraction, yet still remained part of the whole. And when David “recovered all,” he did not allow greed among his other soldiers to withhold from the ones who weren’t on the battlefield at the actual moment when they recovered all! David’s decree to share with them also validated their worth not just when they were frontline people, but also when they had to serve in a lesser capacity.

Perhaps in this season, your role in the Kingdom has shifted because of sickness, caregiving, disability, parenting small children, a personal crisis, or whatever. There is STILL something you can do in your off-season, even if it’s not the thing you originally set out to do: pray and support the work of those who ARE on the battlefield, and in general, be open to whatever else your God requires you to do!  Your assignment may be different but you are still called upon to do the part you can do. We are all on-call!

During WWII, an entire nation felt compelled to do its part–giving up creature comforts like extra food and fuel to make sure soldiers had supplies on the battle lines; spouses working the factories while the traditional breadwinners of that day were off defending their country; buying war bonds, etc. Everyone got to feel the joy of a victory, because everyone had a chance to contribute something of value.

There is no reward for deserters and for those who are dishonorably discharged; but for the person who stands ready to serve in his or her unique level of capability, or who has had a role in the overall victory during any part of the campaign, there is a share of the reward! Unless you’re unconscious or incapacitated or dead, you are still on-call! One of our responsibilities, when we’re down, is even to do the work of being restored (yes, sometimes it’s a painful recovery and process!), not just for our own sakes, but so that we can then strengthen our brothers and sisters. It’s never just about us. And just think–even if you go on to heaven before your prayers are answered, you’ll still receive a reward when at last they are! The church at Corinth was a result of different people doing different assignments…planting, watering, etc., to which God gave the increase…and everyone benefited!

There is always a “help wanted” sign on God’s door! Support a missionary if you can’t go yourself.  Are you grieved because you don’t feel your church does enough for the sick or elderly? That could be a sign that God wants to use YOU to minister to them!  Pick up your phone and call someone who’s shut in and can’t come to church.

Drop off some canned food, or make a donation to, the local food pantry…and volunteer to help if you can! Encourage someone who’s feeling down. Sponsor a kid who wants to go to youth camp. Be a bus captain. Rock a baby and change a diaper in the nursery. Pray for the lost and demonstrate the love of Christ every chance you get. Pray over and stand behind your pastor and leaders. Show up and volunteer, even behind the scenes, even for the things that don’t gain big attention. Remain faithful to tithe and give. And speak well of your church and its leaders to others, rather than belittling them and weakening their influence in the community. Remember, we are all still works in progress, including those who’ve been set over us in the Lord.

Be the person who will pray when no one else is praying. Those of you who say you are called to teach and then conclude that your church just doesn’t have an opening to use your gift, there’s no excuse…you can host a small group or just agree to be the teacher for someone else’s small group! Who says the group even has to all go to the same church? 🙂

Don’t say that you just can’t seem to get connected–perhaps you are called to connect others who also feel unconnected! If you have a gift that’s not being used, you can expand the overall results of the Church worldwide by thinking outside the box (or outside the four walls). If you preach, teach, sing or play an instrument, or have some other gift that’s not being used, find a platform to use it anyway without leaving your church or being offended that it’s not the platform you wanted!

Make your gift count in the places where there’s still a need but not many people filling that need; and if you do it without making sure everyone hears about what you did, so much the better! For the good thing you did in secret, God will reward you openly! Guarding the supplies didn’t sound like a very glamorous job for David’s “left behind” soldiers; but it was nonetheless a very important role…one for which they received a share in the victory. If you think about it, even when soldiers are in training, they’re required to do the things that seem “beneath” their skill set or level of importance. They keep their weapons polished. They keep the latrines clean. They still are up early and ready for duty even if they’re not in the heat of battle. Remaining faithful over a few things will make us rulers over many!

Find those unique places to minister, remain accountable to someone over you in the Lord, and bring glory to God. Preach on the the street corner or at the jail or the homeless shelter (or even in the nursing home when we are no longer restricted by COVID). Host a Zoom call Bible study! Play an instrument, read to, and/or sing for someone who’s sick or lonely. We know how to stay connected when it’s something WE want to do–just look at how much time we waste on social media talking about trivial, negative, or even ungodly things; what if we were to make that social time ministry time, using the gifts God’s given us!

Do your part and be available when God needs someone to just say, “Yes;” and when progress is made, you will have your share of the blessing for having remained faithful! Poise the entire team, the Body of Christ, for a win– by your sheer availability and obedience to the Lord.

We can all do something in the Kingdom of God, and we can all share in the victory!

“He who receives and welcomes you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives and welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous (honorable) man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones [these who are humble in rank or influence] even a cup of cold water to drink because he is my disciple, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.” (Matthew 12:40-42 AMP)

Clean, Um…Feet, and a Pure Heart

When I was a kid, my grandmother had this thing about going to bed with clean feet. I can remember getting ready to climb into bed and Granny, with her keen eye spotting what I wasn’t in the least concerned about, saying, “Get in there and wash those nasty feet!” To this day, if I look down and see the soles of my feet looking murky, I chuckle and think of her—and I dutifully go get the job done.

You and I walk through a lot of ugliness throughout the course of every day. Some of us are carrying worry, drama, bitterness, unforgiveness, traumatic experiences, anger, and unbelief right into bed with us, where we didn’t wash them from the part of us that comes into direct contact with these spiritual hindrances. They’re like filth, but in our souls instead of on our soles.

Father, we are getting ready to lie down and we want to receive the restorative sleep that You give to those You love. We ask Your forgiveness for anything that puts a barrier between You and us. We want nothing to isolate us from Your voice.

We ask You to wash us clean from the inside out. Lord, some of us have come into contact with evil spirits that would attach themselves to us like leeches. We have seen and heard things we shouldn’t have. Give us back our innocence and trust again so life doesn’t cause us to become calloused and hard.

And Lord, even though our feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, at the end of the day we still need to wash away the grime of walking through this world, picking up bad habits and wrong mindsets. We release our frustrations and our failures into the wash pan and we let You pour them down the drain forever. We don’t wallow tonight in regret or worry. Our feet are clean and we feel better, and we can now go to sleep knowing Your angels watch over us.

As You visit us in the night watches, upload Your mysteries into us. Let us awaken in the morning with praise and thanksgiving, a sense of peace and purpose, and wisdom to go about all we do with excellence. Your new mercies await us on the other side of the sleep we’re ready to receive. Tomorrow, You’ll order our steps again and at bedtime, we will allow You to wash away anything the day may have left behind.

Thank You for giving us clean hands (and feet), and a pure heart. Goodnight, our beloved Savior!