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.

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)

Fly, Bumblebee

Fly—just as if it doesn’t occur to you that you cannot.

When I was a child, one of our neighbors had a ceramic kitchen plaque that told about the bumblebee being scientifically unable to fly because of its wing-to-body-size ratio. The plaque went on to conclude, “The bumblebee doesn’t know this, however, so it flies anyway.” Odd that these many years later, this memory still often comes to mind…

What thing has happened to you which makes you feel disqualified from your destiny? Is it a moral failure? A betrayal? Is it financial/asset loss? Bad decisions? Recurring weaknesses? Lack of education or credentials? Insecurity? Inexperience? Divorce? Has the enemy attacked your health?

Perhaps one day heaven will reveal why, but it’s ironic how some of the believers who’ve most successfully prayed for others to receive healing find themselves (or perhaps a close family member) bound by a chronic physical ailment which remains unhealed—much like the Apostle Paul, whose deliverance ministry to others didn’t exempt him from that persistent “thorn in the flesh.” Just as I’ve heard people mock someone who teaches on healing but still wears eyeglasses; or who has had to live with recurring cancer, or has had a child born with a birth defect, I wonder if Paul too had some accusers who were quick to point out his own unanswered prayers in progress.

Now is a season where the devil’s minions are attacking the body of Christ with accusations of unworthiness and disqualification. Many are torn between persevering and instead going underground, or even giving up altogether. Many mature saints find themselves now battling depression and despair; and moreover, some have had to rebuke the spirit of suicide in their own lives.

My word to you is DO NOT ABANDON YOUR POST! If you have undealt-with sin, confess and forsake it. Repent. Hold yourself accountable. Then get back to what God has assigned you. If it isn’t a sin issue but an attack against your character, your ministry, your family, your health or whatever, then dig in your heels and stay the course. I’ve had some nuisance illnesses and injuries over the past year or so for which the enemy has taunted, “Yeah, you teach on healing, but you can’t get healed yourself. You should just shut up because you make God look bad!” You may as well know this: in the same area God has gifted you also lies the potential for your greatest personal battle. You can be sure the devil has studied your weaknesses, and has mapped-out the places in which you pose the biggest threat against darkness. Don’t be moved by this. God’s power within you (not your own goodness or skill) qualifies your fragile earthen vessel to be a container of His treasures!

Don’t despair! Be like the bumblebee who is oblivious to the scientific arguments of its accuser. You may never soar with the agility of the butterfly, bumblebee, but you stay airborne anyway. Abraham “considered not his own (90+ year-old) body” when it came to believing God’s promises. When the accuser of the brethren tells you that you need to just crawl off and hide, to sit down, to silence your testimony, you tell him, “I DON’T CONSIDER IT! I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH!”

If God has called you, He has also equipped you…even if your wings appear too small to hold up the burden you’re bearing! Fly, child of God, fly! 🐝

“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do,  but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, Message Translation.

Shhhh…

Sometimes we just have to hold our peace, because no answer is going to be the right one–and that’s generally true when emotions run high. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into commenting about something just for the sake of speaking about a matter, especially if you can’t see the big picture or have too little information to give a fair assessment.

When you blurt out a thought in haste that can be perceived in a way other than what you intended, it quite possibly will be! You or I can’t always convey with our mouth what’s in our heart…and sometimes we don’t realize how foolish something sounds until it rolls out. Man, it’s tough to walk that line in a culture where everyone is so vocal about anything and everything.

If you’ve ever experienced being misunderstood, you can relate to the embarrassment, horror, or pain that comes with it; so cut some slack to the other person whose words appear to have come out very wrong, especially if his/her comments can be taken multiple ways. We live in a world that loves to uncover and replay other people’s gaffes and flawed expressions for the purpose of discrediting, mocking, or harming. Even though it’s true that from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks…remember also that the mouth doesn’t always do a very good job expressing what’s actually in that heart.

As communication goes, we know how to do quantity; but quality, maybe not so much. Just as others don’t fully know us, we likewise don’t know what’s truly in the thoughts and intent of others; so perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to assume absolutes. Let’s be a little kinder to one another.

James 3:2 “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”

Lord, help us not to stumble with our words!

Deliverance from the Spirit of Trauma

 

“A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” (Proverbs 15:13 ESV)

I remember years ago when I worked in human resources in the mining industry, how that certain workers compensation claims were for a condition called cumulative trauma, defined as “the excessive wear and tear on tendons, muscles and sensitive nerve tissue caused by continuous use over an extended period of time.”

It wasn’t one big injury that caused a breakdown, but rather, a series of little ones over and over again, and instead of recuperating, the injuries weren’t given time to heal and they began to compound.

I believe there are a lot of us who emotionally are walking around with old injuries that were never healed, and who desperately need to be delivered from a literal spirit of trauma. We feel like because we’re saved and functional, that it’s ok to keep up appearances though we’re very much broken. It’s not an insufficiency on the part of Christ; but rather, a lack of awareness or at least of courage on our part to go back in and allow the pain of uncovering those old hurts in order that we might heal. It’s a bit like a surgery to re-break an old fracture so that it can begin to heal correctly. We avoid those situations because we know there is going to be pain involved; and we got enough of it the first time around. And since we are already suffering, we at least know the full measure of our pain and can compensate and cushion the known. It’s scary to venture past that threshold of knowing, so we stay broken–either out of fear, out of guilt or shame, out of dread, or we may just be too tired to pull ourselves up out of the ditch of despair.

I can only tell you this because I’m getting ready to do some hard work untangling some years-old trauma in my own life. I’m not looking forward to it. I need to though, because it stands in the way of my joy and it blocks who I need to become. Some of it involves generational issues, some involves too many hits with too little recovery time in between. I’ve hit a wall and all I really want to do is stick my head in the sand and hope for the best–just being transparent here! My desire for pretty much anything is drained. I’ve come to that place where I can’t really help any of you beyond a certain point until I deal with what I’ve put off confronting for years. I read awhile back in a book on deliverance ministry that until we do the work of cleansing our lives of bondages, we are hindered in our ability to help others with theirs. Gee, it’s painful just to admit that!

The good news is, there’s healing from trauma if we will come to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! He heals; make no mistake about that. If I fall short or anyone else, He is still totally able to help you be free if you’ll release your situation into His hands and be obedient. Pray with me, as you and I endeavor to launch into a new place of healing:

Lord, please bless those of us who are limping on old injuries and cumulative emotional trauma. It has become a crippling disease of the heart and soul, that keeps the wounded from moving forward and becoming whole again. Some don’t even know they’re in that state; except that they haven’t felt emotions for a long, long time. In one sense, it feels safe to be in that cocoon of emptiness; but in other ways, it’s incredibly dark and full of much regret. The duplicity is smothering. They don’t know whether to be glad or alarmed that they’re watching life and destiny move on without them.

These precious people have survived accidents, have served on the front lines of war, police, rescue workers, medical professionals, been abused or neglected or exploited, served in pastoral roles, as caregivers, have been victims of rape or battery, multiple tragedies, financial and emotional and spiritual bankruptcy, just to name a few. They have grown comfortably numb, and the alarm of their condition has begun to fade. They wanted more from life, but it seems to matter less all the time. Part of them wants to change, but the maintenance required seems too great. O God, would you minister to and heal them?

Cause them to remember joy and innocence again, what it was like before deep disappointment and tragedy and overload began to rob them of their soundness. Lord, would you revive the dreams they may have lost along the way? Would you help them learn now to stop padding their personal space to keep others well-beyond connection? Let them love and be loved in return. Bring back the laughter, the highs and lows, the ability to cry whereas now they don’t feel any of those emotions?

We ask You to show us how to minister and be ministered to. Father, if these have been overcome by a spirit of trauma, teach us how to break that stronghold so that healing can come. Lord, give us courage to allow You to tear away the crusted-on bandages where we’ve attempted to fix our own brokenness. Heal us of the gangrene of the heart. Help us, if needed, to forgive those who let us down. Help us to forgive ourselves for not measuring up in our own estimation. The losses keep endless-looping in our minds. Please break the cycle, Father. We need You to come to our rescue.

Teach us to pray, Lord. And for those of use who are hurting so badly that we can’t pray, surround us with intercessors. We need to learn how to be restored, Father. If we’ve allowed certain sins or habits or wrong feelings to grant the enemy legal access in our lives, please show us where we have gone wrong. Some of us may have been traumatized our whole life and have never really experienced extended periods of security or joy. Our habits mimic the instability of our life stories. Lord, let this be the season where we are made whole. We’ve learned to manage, but it’s time to go beyond maintaining. You are the glory and the lifter of our head. Make us trophies of Your deliverance, and help us to rescue others who are in the quagmire of despair as well. You are rescuing us to make us rescuers of others, and in Jesus’ name, we will have a genuine, unfeigned victory: no longer covering up a state of deep unhappiness, but sharing a testimony of true freedom.

 

Unrefined Evangelism

Before they came to be known as the Twelve Apostles, they were just some men who dropped what they were doing and said yes to the invitation to follow Jesus. They weren’t seminary students, temple dwellers, priests, or skilled with anything other than the tools they used to make a secular living. They had rough edges and obvious flaws—issues to be worked out. One of this team would even become His betrayer. And in a critical time when He needed them most, they fell asleep instead of watching and praying, or fled when He was arrested. In other words, they were ordinary, very imperfect people who were blessed to become part of something way bigger than the scope of their lifetimes.

And yet, when among all the followers, Christ hand-picked his core, The Twelve (and even an inner core of three of those), He “deputized” 😉 them to do something great. It was on-the-job training like the world had never seen. He was continually having to work on them, cultivate them, correct their attitudes, even referee when they disagreed with one another. They sounded a little bit like…us, don’t you think? We’re in on-the-job training, too.

So when you see an unlikely someone whose testimony attracts a whole crowd and compels them to follow Jesus Christ, don’t be so quick to write it off as counterproductive, not genuine, a ploy for attention, or even “another gospel.” Don’t pick apart his or her fledgling faith and the untrained tongue that simply tells what God has done in that person’s own life. If you or I or these excited new witnesses wait until we are all “qualified,” there will never be carriers of the Good News. We are the unqualified called—all whom Christ has rescued!

Yes, there’s always that risk that the person won’t get everything just right. We ourselves don’t always get everything just right, either. If God has called him or her to a higher place of ministry, He will groom that new disciple with time, experience, and correction.

Inexperienced and untrained as he was, one of the most powerful “witnesses” in all the Bible was a man who didn’t even know Jesus was the Christ, in the moment he was asked to give account for the unusual miracle which been done to him. The Pharisees were hoping he would give evidence to support that the miracle didn’t really come from God, because they were already accusing Jesus of being a sinner. The man, when asked, simply told the people what had been done for him: “Whether he (Jesus) be a sinner or not, I know not. One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25). Isn’t it interesting that the Lord healed people who didn’t have a clue who He really was? What love for a humanity who were so unprepared to host such a Guest among them!

I believe that the last days will see more non-“preachers” leading souls to Christ than suit-and-tie clergy behind podiums in ornate buildings with stained glass windows. In moments when people are desperate for hope, they won’t be asking the witness for a copy of his/her ordination certificate; they will instead be wanting honest answers as to why we actually believe in this God we call our Heavenly Father, with whom we embrace a relationship. A hundred bullet points of theology won’t resonate to a troubled, unchurched soul like the simple words, “This is what He did for me. He will do it for you, too, if you put your trust in Him.”

The theology will come. Spiritual maturity will take place all in good time. But let the Good News run through the streets like floodwaters, spilling out of those who don’t even know the fullness of the gospel…but they DO know that, once they were blind but now they see. Don’t beat down their zeal or crush their spirit just because they’re not as schooled in the Word as you, yet. Let the babes in Christ wave their palm branches and cry, “Hosannah!” who aren’t even old enough in their spiritual birth to know why He is who they proclaim Him to be. God will use for His glory and purpose those whose gifts may have been used elsewhere. He will pull His most grateful out of crack houses, gutters, jail cells, and nightclubs. He will turn the once foul-mouthed fisherman into a follower, then a disciple, and then perhaps even an apostle—and a fisher of men!

And never hesitate to be one of those inexperienced, uneducated carriers of the gospel yourself. While many argue who can be a “preacher” and who can’t, remember: the moment you tell someone else what Jesus has done for you, you have just, in a roundabout way, done the work of an evangelist! Do it and allow the Holy Spirit to inspire someone else to put his/her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, too! There is no advertisement more powerful than word-of-mouth from someone who has, firsthand, tasted and seen that the Lord is good!

Proclaimed—in spite of the fact that I am one of the “unqualified” —with love!

Releasing the Healing Power of Forgiveness–Body, Mind, and Spirit

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven (left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against) our debtors.”  “For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”  “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.”  (Matthew 6:12, 14-15)

Is anyone among you afflicted (ill-treated, suffering evil)? He should pray. Is anyone glad at heart? He should sing praise [to God].  Is anyone among you sick? He should call in the church elders (the spiritual guides). And they should pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Lord’s name.  And the prayer [that is] of faith will save him who is sick, and the Lord will restore him; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].  (James 5:13-16)

Is there really a connection between unforgiveness and sickness?  One might argue that the two subjects were addressed separately in the Scriptures, or that one has nothing to do with the other, but I urge you to consider the possibility of how dispensing forgiveness is integral component to our health and well-being.  We all get wounded by others at some point in our lives.  There’s no sin in that.  When we refuse to move on and we let it become a wall between us and the God who has asked us to forgive when we are wronged, it’s like applying a tourniquet to a hemorrhaging wound, but permanently.  It cuts all blood flow and life off to the injured part.  So one would wind up damaging or even losing the very thing he or she tried to preserve.  When we refuse to forgive, it is a rebellion and therefore, sin.  Making a spirit of offense a way of life can set us up for iniquity (deep, embedded sin) that is toxic to our loved ones.  Look at entire cultures who live for revenge!  Gangs.  The Mob.  We take on that same mentality of an eye-for-an-eye when we refuse to forgive.  There are individuals and groups of people who are still hating and warring against one another for wrongs committed years and even centuries before they were born!

Back to the point.  Forgiving those who have harmed or offended us is a critical element of healing of illnesses in our bodies. If we hold offense toward other people, it can actually hinder our recovery from sickness and can even be the root cause of certain instances of disease!  And while I certainly don’t believe that every sickness is tied to unforgiveness or other sin in one’s life, I would ask you to do some honest self-assessment if you are battling a health or mental issue or other chronic problem that just won’t go away.  Whether you never get well in the physical (and I believe you can), you owe it to your soul’s peace to toss some excess baggage over the side of the ship.  I don’t care what excuse you’re prepared to offer me, it’s worth peace and healing to let that vendetta die and stay in the past.

Even medical science, though not necessarily enlightened as to the spiritual aspect, agrees with the assessment that unforgiveness can breed/perpetuate illness.  Even if it feels unfair for you to be required to release forgiveness to someone who hurt you, please let me separate their act from your choice in my appeal for forgiveness.  You had no power over what they did.  You do, however, have power over what you choose to do going forward.  It doesn’t mean that you are agreeing to or pleased with what they did, or that you no longer feel it was wrong.  It doesn’t mean that justice no longer is applicable.  It simply means that you are shifting responsibility for retribution, going forward, out of your hands and into God’s.  You are no longer the jailor OR the jailed.  I plead with you to value your physical, spiritual, and emotional health over the luxury of holding your offender(s) in the limbo of offense.  Moreover, I plead with you to value your right standing with God in higher regard than your compulsion to hate and despise those who’ve mistreated you!  The satisfaction of incubating resentment is a cheap substitute for true freedom…and it’s a poor swap for health and peace of mind.

And if it doesn’t concern you enough for your physical health, let me tell you that unforgiveness can drive you quite literally mad.  I know the true story of a person whose family had a grave injustice done.  I certainly don’t downplay the seriousness of what happened; but this particular member of the family would not forgive, obsessed about the situation to the point of a nervous breakdown, and now is clinically insane.  That person babbles and rants all the time about what happened and is isolated from family and friends and community because the unforgiveness drove him/her to a loss of mental stability.  Unless a deliverance from that tormenting lunatic spirit were to take place, the person will remain in a mental state where reason and communication and peace are beyond reach.   Yes, it’s that serious.  How far are you willing to let the devil enslave you to unforgiveness?  Are you willing to never recover, or do you want to be free?

I wish I could tell you that you have every right to carry that grudge if it makes you feel better, but I’d be doing you a terrible disservice. You can choose to keep carrying that thing, but not without terrible consequences to yourself. You’re not hurting the other party–you’re letting poison sludge through your own body, soul, and spirit. You tie the hands of God from righting the wrong when you take this liberty to violate what His Word says about forgiveness, justice, revenge, and mercy. A grudge doesn’t create a separation from you and the person who hurt you, as it seems it should–but it actually cements the connection. Would you like to handcuff yourself to someone you have something against and have him/her everywhere you go, 24/7? When you refuse to forgive, that’s exactly what you do in the spirit realm.  That person or offense then follows you day and night, giving you no rest, giving the devil legal access to attack you in your body and mind.  Sickness, depression, anxiety, fear…they love to sneak through the cracks in your armor left by unforgiveness.  The only way to truly sever a tie that’s capable of keeping you sick is to forgive and release. Don’t be mad because I’ve told you the truth–the good news is, you can set yourself free when you forgive.

If someone has done a terrible injustice to you, let God be the one responsible for dispensing the justice. No one wants to be sick or to suffer or to create an iniquity that can go from generation to generation in one’s family! The devil tells you that you cannot forgive that person, that employer, that race of people, that school, that political group, that church.  He will even tell you that you are betraying yourself, your family, or your cause if you forgive and release.  But I tell you, you can. And you must, if you want to walk in the full blessing of God! If laws have been broken and moral laws violated, judges and courts may still dispense justice and in many cases, absolutely should. But don’t let the probability of or the right/wrong outcome of those things determine whether you forgive and forgive quickly.  Do it now, before a root of bitterness springs up and starts an avalanche of emotional and physical illnesses in your life.

Believe me when I tell you, people don’t really care if you choose to hurt yourself by holding that grudge. The other party may never know or never care that you feel this way. It won’t make anyone treat you better or feel sorry for you or grant you favor…or make you look like the one who was right. You sickening yourself through unforgiveness won’t compel the other person to make things right with you. If you choose to hold onto this offense, you do so to your own detriment. Please…let it go and be healedYou can do this.  Pray with me:

Father, _____ hurt me. You saw it happen and you have watched from Day One as it all unfolded. I am still harboring anger, hurt, resentment, and yes, unforgiveness. It’s so hard to just let this go! My flesh says I can’t! But…I don’t want any barriers between You and me. I don’t want my refusal to cooperate with Your Word to be a cause for sickness and disease, or to cause a chain-reaction unfortunate events in my life and in my family. I don’t want to pass on a begrudging, vengeful spirit to my children and grandchildren as they watch me stew and rant and implode.  I don’t want the people around me to grow weary with my constant re-hashing how I’ve been done wrong and how I can get even.  I repent before You, even though the devil has told me I shouldn’t have to be sorry. I’m sorry that I let my feelings come before my relationship with You. Jesus didn’t just die for me, He died for the people who hurt and crucified Him; and He died for the people who have hurt me, too.

I declare with my mouth that I forgive ____ and I release him/her/them from this day forward of this injustice against me. Every time what was done to me comes back to my mind, I will say “I forgive” over and over again. Your Word mentioned a 70 x 7 of offenses; and while that person may not be doing evil things to me 490 times in a day, my thoughts may be rehearsing those past wrongs that many times or more in a day. So I will address every instant replay with “I forgive” because I AM forgiving! I even forgive those who are now in the grave. I even forgive myself of things I’ve done, should not have done, said, whatever.  I may have done a great job of hiding my feelings about this thing, but You knew my heart all along. Forgive what I held in contempt privately even though I never told a soul! Forgiveness isn’t saying that I deny any wrongdoing on the other person’s part. It doesn’t mean that his/her/their actions will not bear consequences of sowing and reaping. It doesn’t even mean that I have to welcome future opportunities for abuse. It does, however, mean that I no longer wish harm on that person! It does mean that I stop obsessing about what I can’t rewind and change. It does mean that I love You more than I love to feel as if I’m in control. It means that I am willing to do as Jesus taught: I will love those who have made themselves my enemy. I will bless those who have cursed me. I will do good to those who hate me, and I will pray for those who persecute, bully, and accuse me falsely. You would never ask me to do what Your grace could not enable me to do, so in faith I say that I am a FORGIVER. In giving my best effort to do these things, I release Your favor over my life and I loose Your hands to be my vindicator, my healer, and my protector!  When I’m tempted to take on this spirit of heaviness and unforgiveness again, I’ll think of myself kind of like a hermit crab–offense may have once been my identity; but I’ve grown since then and I can’t squeeze back into that old, small, suffocating, incarcerating shell!

And now, Father, I lay my physical and mental health conditions before You and ask that Your healing go to work in those things which unforgiveness may have caused or exasperated. Send Your blessing over my life and mend the brokenness. You can restore all things which may have lain in ruins. I look to You to provide for my needs, to right the wrongs, to bring joy and health back to me, and You may even enable me to laugh at the very thing which tried to take me out! I love You, I trust You, and I ask Your will to be done in my life. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart please You, my Rock and Redeemer! Thank You for revealing the problem and helping me to get on the path to WHOLENESS!

Honoring and Guarding Our Sabbath: A Devotional and Prayer for Ministry Leaders (and Workaholics in General)

“So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath-rest reserved for the [true] people of God; For he who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors, just as God rested from those labors peculiarly His own. Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves], that no one may fall or perish by the same kind of unbelief and disobedience [into which those in the wilderness fell].” (Hebrews 4:9-11, Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)

I remember once hearing Joyce Meyer say something to the tune of, “The Lord’s the author and finisher of our faith, but He’s not obligated to finish what He didn’t author.” The following paragraphs are not intended to make you bail on your calling, lie down on the job, or abandon your work ethic or loyalty; but rather, to compel you to work smarter instead of harder, and to actually consult the Holy Spirit before you start filling up your daily planner with what God may not have told you to fill it with! And you guessed it. I’m talking to me here…

Take care, friends, that you begin to respect your bodies and minds and start cutting ties with what God didn’t author, even what appears to be good or productive. Some of us are addicted to busy-ness and we gauge our stock value in the Kingdom (and everywhere else) by how far we can push the envelope abusing our bodies. Sometimes we feel a little more important, pious, “martyr-ish,” and yes, even prideful when people are fawning over our dedication with, “Wow, I don’t know how you do all you do.”

Let me lovingly submit to you that God doesn’t violate His own precepts! If you are not allowing yourself a Sabbath–on whatever day you choose to celebrate it–you are walking contrary to the system He Himself set in place and was the first observer thereof! God doesn’t need downtime…the God who never slumbers or sleeps doesn’t actually need to recharge; but He set the example for us by resting on the seventh day. Now, I realize that a “Sabbath” looks different for everyone–folks have work shifts, assigned workdays, etc., that are set for us without negotiation; but the point is, there must be designated downtime; set-aside blocks of time. For someone whose job mandates unreasonable 7-day schedules, I can’t tell you that you must leave that job, but I will tell you to make yourself a Sabbath block of time. That block may be hours instead of a full day; but I urge you, set aside your block large or small and guard it as sacred! For those of you who have the luxury of a 5 or occasionally 6 day workweek, you don’t get to fudge in this, either. Start establishing a Sabbath in your life instead of treating your quiet time with God like a power nap.

And full-time ministry leaders who aren’t under secular workplace mandates, this applies to you, too–perhaps especially to you. Start setting a better example for those in your circle of influence! Even a 3-shift coal mine sets scheduled downtime for maintenance on its equipment, if it wants to stay in business! Keep running that machine without greasing and regularly changing hoses, etc., and see how costly it gets when things start burning out, locking up, and falling apart… In Exodus, when God established the Sabbath, He did it not just for that head of a household and his family, but also for the sake of the animals and hired servants/slaves…He even designated Sabbath years for the sake of the land, which could be overworked out of zeal, greed, or a variety of motivating factors. Relentless leaders not only abuse their own bodies, they wear out anyone or anything who’s close to them or under their authority!

So why do we people in leadership feel compelled to give the “do as I say, not as I do” excuse for abusing our bodies? We reference Scriptures like “work while it is day because night comes when no man can work” to justify never, ever taking a break? And we tune out the voice of reason who urges letting go of a few things so that the remaining works we do are done more effectively. Are we letting the enemy guilt us into walking in rebellion, deceiving ourselves into thinking that because we are in the last days, we must override common sense (and the Word) to be as busy as we possibly can be? Can we do so and expect to be exempt from the health and emotional consequences of priding ourselves in being workaholics?

I submit to you as well, we as spiritual leaders have a moral obligation to live in balance, for the sake of those who emulate our example. If we don’t respect our own body/soul/spirit, we must, MUST think of our families, our constituents, and a lost world around us–all of whom look to us for at least a reference point of guidance. Hebrews 4 doesn’t beat around the bush here…suggests that we can actually be a spiritual liability to ourselves and others if we disobey God’s directive on right balance. It’s not legalism to suggest that we treat the rest-time He has given us as a holy thing. God engineered all of creation to flow with that same protocol. You aren’t too important to observe some form of a Sabbath, and neither am I! Let’s start re-drawing the boundaries in our lives so that we can be healthy and strong–emotionally, physically, and spiritually–for these last exciting days before our Lord returns!Pray with me…

Lord, I sincerely appeal to You first for mercy, as a person who is guilty of making myself busier than I should be. My spirit man suffers and my words tell on me when I have spent myself beyond reason. While I don’t like the stress and aggravation of no downtime, I confess and repent before You that I’m a recovering addict of work. I drive myself to be busy while making others miserable, because I make sure they’re busy too. I’m working twice as hard for half the impact, because I’m breaking Your rules and expecting You to bless my dismissal of common sense and Your example.

I’m sorry for thinking that You make special exceptions for me because I carry a heavier responsibility. Yes, to whom much is given, much is required–but the “much” is in terms of a closer walk with You and a deeper level of consecration. And even if it were much more required in the physical realm of activity, there are a lot of things on my plate that You didn’t give, Father. Oh, I like to think of all these responsibilities as given by You, but some of them are of my own doing. Some of them are just because I won’t say no to people who can’t wait for me to get even busier doing things THEY want me to be doing! And I say yes and pencil it into my bloated calendar, knowing all the while that I need sleep, I need study time, and just a break from having to think and run so much.

Forgive me, Lord! You gave me a healthy body meant to carry me well-into old age; and I live like I intend to wear it out in half its life expectancy. I pass up sleep and exercise; and I rationalize that if I’m spending that time doing good works, it will never catch up with me.

I repent and I appeal to You for mercy on all others, too, who have become the work adrenaline-and-approval junkie I’ve allowed myself to become. We don’t know how to change except by submitting ourselves to You and listening for Your counsel. We will have to hear from You because we can no longer hear the appeals from our own bodies. We shush our compromised adrenal glands by pumping them full of caffeine. We have a pill for everything. You in turn have a Scripture for everything and a word MODERATION that we ignore because we convince ourselves that we must be always working 24/7 because of who we are.

I will find a way to be less busy, Lord, with Your grace. I will respect this body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and stop giving You an efficiency apartment with worn-out furniture and tired, cloudy windows to look out of. I will make not just room for You, but the best room. I won’t be merely shooting You a copy of my to-do list after I’ve filled it and crammed more into the margins and started on a new sheet. No, I will say, “Here, Father. Take Your eraser and start removing the sacred cows of a busy addict.” In fact, wad up my to-do list and just start me a new one. Put only Your agenda on my list, in Jesus’ name I ask. And I’ll start asking Your permission before I make all those plans that leach the life right out of me and anyone else who has to tag along.

What? You just wrote in a full night’s sleep and a Sabbath! More time with relationships with real people and less time on computers and electronic devices? And even orders to put healthier foods into my body and more time walking and moving! Wow, You are ordering me to get my act together so that You can get maximum return on Your investment in me. I thought maximum return meant how many items were on my list.

You’re after quality. You are after a ten-ring shot and not a broader spray pattern. Most of all, You are after my heart. You want me chasing after You, walking with You in the cool of the day for RELATIONSHIP, not for my sales pitch to You of all the things I did in Your name (or rather, in the name of “ministry”) which You may or may not have instructed me to do! You want me to know You. Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light? Wow. I guess I wasn’t listening to that (even though it was…written in red).

And Your way of governing balance will help me be first a better daughter to You, and then to be a better leader and better family and society member, too?

Yes.

Selah.

(Adapted from a Facebook post I made 03/31/17)

Kids and Grownup Church–They Belong, Too

Our family was far from perfect, but I’m thankful to have been born into it. I was a church kid, born to one of those families who believed in gathering for worship…and not just on rare occasions or when something else more interesting wasn’t going on. Whatever else they did or didn’t get right, my parents/grandparents raised us to be Christ-followers, within a larger group of other imperfect believers and families.  They modeled putting God first, in their tenacity to carve out Sunday for the Lord’s day (they definitely didn’t confuse us with on-again, off-again faithful attendance).  My parents didn’t fight with us or threaten to ground us on the issue…it was just our way of life, so since it was all we ever knew, we kids weren’t really exploring other options. If I may, I would like to just transparently share a little about kids and “grownup” church, and why I believe it’s important that kids experience more than just the nursery and the children’s program alone; we tend to try to keep it all so separate that our kids aren’t integrating into a grownup worship experience. So to keep babies from crying or parents from having to teach a wiggly child to behave for a little while and reverence God’s house, we just never bring them into where there’s grownup church going on.

Parents don’t seem as motivated as they once were with exposing their kids to a very spiritual encounter with God. So when it’s going to put any kind of kink in the routine, or if there’s an inconvenience of any kind; or if it’s not a service where there are kids’ activities running in tandem; or if church night clashes with other activities they like to participate in, the whole family just stays home. And our kids can develop a mindset that church has to be all about entertaining them–if there’s no cotton candy or egg hunt or pizza or face painting–it isn’t really worth the investment of their time. So as soon as they outgrow the games, they just stop coming, period. I grew up in a time when I wasn’t the excuse for my parents to stay home from church at night or during revival. Oh, there might be a sick day factored in there once in a while, but they never kept me out of evening worship services and said it was because I needed my sleep for school the next day. They had me there even when there wasn’t something special just for the little kids. Even if we should have to leave a little early (maybe we did…I don’t remember), they still brought me. Worship wasn’t the obligation we had to hurry and get over with just so we could rush out to go do what we would have rather been doing all along. I got to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of my church family from a young age, and you know…it was a healthy thing. So what was the benefit of my parents bringing me to grownup church, too, and not just kids church?

For starters, I learned a lot about Christians in the real world. I saw people who had to deal with some hard circumstances who didn’t give up. I saw others give up. I saw some quit and come back. I saw the saints and I saw the hypocrites. I saw church conflict, and when it was and wasn’t handled properly. I wasn’t shielded from any of it…and it taught me by example what to do and what not to do. I even saw sincere believers and family members whom I loved, who battled to the death with strongholds they wouldn’t break free from. I heard the way parents and grandparents prayed. I watched them forgive hard things. I saw them volunteer countless hours, hammer and saw, cook, serve, teach, sing, and just…be present.

And yeah, sometimes I got a little less sleep on a church night. It didn’t stunt my growth and I graduated in the top five of my class.

As a little girl, I fell asleep on the church pew and woke up in my own bed many a night. I got to stay back and see the things people miss who cut out early to catch their show on tv. I saw people get saved, get demons cast out, be healed, women shout their hairpins down. I remember watching my Grandma make homemade Communion bread, and I remember how that, as a small child, I knew it was serious that we not take the Lord’s bread and cup with unrepented sin or unforgiveness in our hearts. I took turns with all ages washing the saints’ feet (ladies in one room, fellas in another) in that old ceramic washpan, and sometimes the water got a little dirty in my little country church–and how that people often cried, rejoiced, forgave and made up with one another during that humble sacrament. I got baptized in a creek under an old bridge long before I attended a church that had a fiberglass baptistery. Sometimes I got taken to church when I had the sniffles or a cough…and when I did get sick (as kids will do), my parents didn’t hesitate to get me prayed for and even more importantly, they didn’t hesitate to lay hands on me and pray for me themselves. We had a special bottle of olive oil just for that purpose in our house! And they brought me to church…they didn’t just send me. I’m saying these things not to criticize or judge you if you’re a parent who’s raising your kids different from the way I was raised–but to encourage you to press in closer and let your kids have more than just a sterile, disconnected, indifferent, occasional relationship with the entire household of faith.

Don’t shrinkwrap your kids’ church experience in just the parts you think they should see. Please don’t opt to keep them home whenever the service isn’t tailored to their age group!  You’d be surprised at what a five-year old understands from a grownup preacher’s sermon, and what he or she picks up when it looks as if there’s absolutely no attention being paid at all. You’d be surprised at what your kids can come to understand about prayer, giving, serving, living with integrity, and sharing their faith.

Believe me when I tell you that world doesn’t dumb down what it shows kids now. Your elementary school kids have probably seen more on tv than you knew on your wedding night. Why, then, do we try to ration their experience of real faith in the lives of real people who need grace and redemption and patience with one another? Bring them to all the fun, memorable, age-appropriate stuff..they need that, too. But be thinking ahead to where you want them to be spiritually once they outgrow puppets and VBS.

Integrate them into a full, multigenerational worship experience. Let them know what it’s like to experience conviction, to get lost in worship, to pray in the altar for the Holy Spirit. Moreover, may they learn from watching how you worship and respond to the move of God, how you give, how you serve, how you interact with others in the church family, how you deal with hard times, and how you pray.  Please understand, I’m not undermining the value of children’s Christian education, at all.  I am grateful to be a member of a local church that has a phenomenal childrens program.  I’m just saying, your kids will learn more from watching your life than they ever could from just children’s church alone.  They need both.  They’re going to need to know how to bear up under persecution, how to live without compromising their moral ground, how to do spiritual warfare, and how to pray the prayer of faith when sickness, tragedy, or injustice happens. And make sure that, in spite of some occasional inconvenience, their opportunity to witness the church in all its organic guts and glory isn’t lost in just pacifying them with an electronic babysitter to keep them from being bored (yeah, they can make it for 90 minutes without the iPad and earbuds!).  It is, after all, us visiting God in His special place. He didn’t just leave us the key and tell us to lock up and turn off the lights when we’re done–He wants to come down among us. If we are excited about meeting Him there, and our kids catch the spirit of that excitement too, talk about some quality family time…

I was seven when I gave my heart to Jesus–and it was in a grownup revival service. I was ten when I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit…at night, lingering long in the altar. In both situations, I was a child but yet I knew enough about the presence of God to experience hot tears flowing from a sincere heart who wanted to know Him. It changed my life. Regardless of what your denomination teaches about these things, I’m just sharing with you the precious experience I got to have as a child raised in a Pentecostal church. And just think…had my parents kept me at the house either of those nights, because I was young and because they wanted me in bed at a certain time, or because they reasoned that I would probably encounter Jesus sometime after I got a little older…I might never have made a decision for Christ that translated into a lifetime of rich, growing faith. It was just two church services on the timeline of my life; but oh, if I had missed them…

I’ve had my ups and downs spiritually, have made some good decisions and some unthinkably foolish ones; but I’m 52 and I’m still deeply, deeply in love with my Savior. This didn’t happen by accident. My parents steered me toward a relationship with God–very intentionally–and part of that involved raising me not just as an occasional visitor to His house, but a regular. It was all I ever knew. Sunday was His day, and very few times was it pre-empted for something else. And because I got to experience needing to exercise my faith, worshiping God in a setting of young and old, being encouraged to seek out my gifts and use them for His glory; and seeing the consequences of when things aren’t handled right by believers actually protected me. It kept me from becoming jaded from offenses and hurts and church splits and injustices–because unfortunately, those things happen. Your child needs to be conditioned to deal with the very things you wish they didn’t have to see.  I learned that men may fail you, mistreat you, withhold favor, betray you…but that God will not. Ever.

If you will live Jesus Christ before them, and be genuine in your faith, your kids will be ok even if they see others who don’t walk the walk. If you’ll value their spiritual growth as much as you value them making first string on the ball team, you are securing something even more important than whether they get skilled enough to win a sports scholarship and a free ride to college. Your kids need to be able to cope with life in a wicked, wicked world. They will worship somethingand if you don’t teach them and model before them how to put the Lord God first in their lives, you may lose them to the world system. If they see you indifferent about your commitment to Christ, don’t be surprised if they grow up completely detached from faith. It’s not going to be enough for your children to say, “Oh yeah…I believe there’s probably a God.” Or, “Hey, I might not be where I ought to be, but I still pray…sometimes”. The time to sell them on the value of that relationship is now, while they’re still impressionable. Your kids need Him for eternal life. They need Him, because drugs and alcohol and debauchery and pornography and crime and suicide are all waiting to grab hold of them.

Some of you prayed that God would bless you with children. Now that you have them, will you truly dedicate them to Him or will you instead teach them that life is all about what they can achieve and get and buy and own and collect and play? Will they encounter His presence or will their lives be all about getting numbed out by newest level of their favorite video game? Don’t raise them up not to know who their Father is, and don’t raise them not to know about a hell that’s to be shunned and heaven to be gained. it’s a matter of eternal life and death.

Being a church kid wasn’t–and isn’t–a bad thing to be. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

That’s all.

Unabridged Blessings

close up photography of four baseballs on green lawn grasses
Photo by Steshka Willems on Pexels.was com

A few years ago, it made the news when I some fellow caught a baseball at a big game, and he was giving it back to the player who knocked it out of the park—only, the gift tax on the market value of the baseball was so much that it would be impossible to keep it. I can’t remember all the details, but to me it was just so absurd that a tiny little leather ball could create so much of a conundrum.

If someone were to give me a big yacht, or a sprawling mansion, or for that matter, a pet giraffe, that person would be unthinkably generous. And while it sounds as if it would be nothing but a #blessing, in truth, the maintenance and upkeep of any of these things would be something that I could neither do myself nor afford to pay someone else to do.

You know, God, the supreme gift-giver, has something to say: “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” (Prov. 10:22). Wow. A blessing that’s not pulling a ball and chain behind it of regret, error, buyer’s remorse, penalty, dread, fear, painful toil, fractured relationships, high maintenance, or strife. Yeah, that’s got my attention.

He’s also not toying with us here…not humoring us or trying to use psychology on us. He’s not baiting us with the carrot-and-stick approach. He’s initiating trust and patience while He teaches us perspective on what’s really good and what’s…meh…only good at first.

Could it be that, as we look to Him for provision and blessing and the fulfillment of dreams, He knows exactly how to bless us without those blessings becoming a burden to us instead? Pause and reflect! We can’t get those sorrow-free blessings by the strength of our own hand–so we learn to patiently anticipate and petition them from the One who knows exactly what will satisfy our deepest longings, without cheapening our relationship with Him or stunting our spiritual growth!

There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. There’s nothing wrong with a Christian or even a preacher (uh oh, some religious bristles just rose on a few people’s necks) being wealthy. I want to be. I want to have the means to do some generous, righteous, benevolent things I can’t do on a grand scale on my limited income. I want to be able to buy necessities like a new car without making the lenders…wealthy.

But, even as I pray daily for my needs (and a few wants) to be met, and as I look to a very generous but wise Father, I trust Him to bless me in ways that won’t be a curse as well as a blessing.  Yeah, who wouldn’t want to get behind the wheel of a Maserati on a stretch of highway with no state troopers, and open it up just to see what it had under the hood…smile…even a few state trooper friends would have to smile at this fantasy…but do I want the insurance payment, property taxes, extra security measures, and the sheer cost to service that baby? Nope. Do I envy or judge the person who has the means to own one? Absolutely not! 

Lord, I pray for myself and my friends reading this today. We all have needs and we all have wants and dreams. And we all have to find a balance between our focus on this life and the eternal life to come. I ask You to meet our needs. Lord, for some, that need might be extra food to last through to the next month. For others, it might be money for college. Or healing from cancer. I’m asking You, Papa, to then bless us with a blessing that makes rich and adds to sorrow with it.

Your blessings always go above and beyond, because that’s just who You are. That overflow is meant to be used for a worthy purpose. I pray that we will have more than enough to meet our basic needs and reasonable wants—and that when You do pour out Your blessing, we will have the good sense to manage it well. You are not a God of waste and ostentatiousness even though You own the cattle on a thousand hills!

Teach us to stop envying others and coveting what they have! Teach us to stop railing on others who do have wealth and talking about them for how they spend their money. Teach us to be better planners with what we have. Teach us to have neither a poverty mentality nor an obsession with material things. Teach us not to judge others by what they have or don’t have. Teach us not to use our lack or thrift or frugality or even our better management as some measure of being holier than someone who has more than we have! Ouch! Conversely, teach us not to look down on someone who has less than us, as if our prosperity is a measure of our level of holiness compared to his or hers. Help us throw away the measuring stick, period! Destroy that comparison mentality which stems from pride, period! And send us the blessing in the form You know we can handle, that accomplishes great deeds but doesn’t take our eyes off of You. We will not rob You of what belongs to You, either!

Over and over again, You warned the children of Israel not to forget You when at last the blessing of the Promised Land would come. Some of us prayed to have healthy children and got them, and now we don’t even teach them about You. Some of us have taken job promotions that keep us so busy, we never have time to worship You or pray or spend time with our families. Some of us have received miracles and extended lives and we went on our merry way and forgot to come back and thank You, just like the other nine lepers Jesus healed. Some of us prayed for talent and we have squandered it or used it in ways that bring You shame. Lord, in whatever ways we have failed You—in whatever ways we have forgotten You and where our blessings come from—we repent.

Build in us great character so that You can entrust great blessings in our hands! Cause us to be faithful over what we have now—in our time, talents, and treasure—so that we can handle promotions, divine favor, and blessings, without our increase becoming our downfall. Who we are with little is who we will be with much, just on a bigger scale. May we be wise, generous, and ethical in all our dealings whether seen or unseen! We will do the right thing. We will be the servant capable of ten talents instead of misusing the one. Bless us, Lord, but in proportion to our character, maturity, and our ability to use that blessing wisely and not recklessly.

We receive today those things from You which money can and cannot buy…and we will put nothing or no one else before You. So as Jabez prayed, bless us indeed, increase us, and keep Your hand on us that we might not cause (or incur) pain. In Jesus’ name, Amen!