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.

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.

 

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!