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 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!