Repentance: Don’t Hide–HEAL

Don’t let the enemy guilt you out of your #destiny. If you have sinned or otherwise failed or fallen short, repent. Yes, I know there’s seemingly nothing profound in that advice, but it’s still true. I didn’t say resign; I said #repent.

#Repentance isn’t just being sorry for something you’ve done (or in some cases, haven’t done), it’s evaluating where you went wrong and making the necessary corrections to keep it from happening again: a change of heart and action. Maybe you’ve done something or allowed something and it’s wrinkled the fender of your reputation and distanced you from God. Maybe you’re just disappointed in yourself and it’s easier to bail than to humbly start all over. The first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned was to HIDE. And may I even say, the more we are respected and admired, the harder it feels to get back up when we stumble because the accuser wants our shame to be very public.

Yeah, Satan’s goal is to take us out and damage as many people as he can in the process…but friends, when we’ve taken a faceplant, the world needs to SEE us recover, even if a few folks (and particularly some who are supposed to be on our “side”) hurl a few insult-and-accusation stones as we are picking ourselves up. Sometimes we privately recover, but truthfully, sometimes what we resolve to just do in private enables us to wallow a little longer in the mess–and kept hidden, sometimes we fix it, but sometimes we just choose to stay broken. Don’t stay in that place. It’s a rat’s nest.

There may be shame in failure but there’s no shame in turning to God to fix us when we have failed. Last night before I went to sleep, this verse went through my mind and I just meditated on it as I drifted off: “So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made me free from the law that brings sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2 NCV) The KJV says there’s “therefore now no condemnation.”

Because of our trust in the redemptive power of the cross, we can machete our way through the choking, dense growth of sin’s effect on our lives and emerge back onto the right path intact. Paul realized the possibility of preaching to others but himself becoming a castaway–so he held himself accountable. So should we.

It’s just where we are. Sharing the good news is relatively easy. Being the “living epistle read of every man” part, not so much. The best thing to do is to keep ourselves holy, on guard, prayed-up, free from bondages. It’s a lot easier to maintain than to break down and repair. But if you are reading this from the cave where you went to hide after your embarrassing fall, please know there is HOPE for you. Sure, there’ll be a few who would remind you of your inadequacy, but there is a whole host of witnesses crying out just beyond your earshot, “Get up! Try! Finish! Keep going! You’re almost home!” There’s a Father checking out the window, pacing in the roadway, wanting to put a ring on your stinky, stained hand and restore you with full privilege instead of demoting you from sonship to servitude.

I remember once when I was still in school, one of my schoolmates wound up getting badly burned when he threw gasoline on a bonfire. The kid was ashamed/afraid to tell his parents because it was a foolish act of disobedience, messing with fire and flammables; and because he hid the terrible burn under his clothing without getting help, the burn got badly infected and became a serious, dangerous problem much worse than a parent’s chastisement for disobeying. No doubt the scars are still on that leg, decades later. We hide our burns too, sometimes, don’t we?

Peter had to repent when he fell. Yep, one of “the three amigos” whom Jesus kept privy to His most important missions actually betrayed Him in a most contemptible way when things got too dangerous. But Jesus WANTED him back. He even said to him, “when you’re restored, strengthen the others.” See, your recovery is never just about you. Jesus didn’t choose to just gloss it over and strengthen them Himself in Peter’s absence; He in essence told Peter, “YOU do it.” There’s going to be a visible restoration of the part of you that needs healed, friend, and the people who’ve been let down by your absence are also going to be strengthened…by YOU. It is this action that will bring you full circle and it will keep you accountable in the future because of its humbling quality.

As much as it feels to the contrary, you aren’t expendable. God needs you on that front line. Replacing you is not His ultimate will — redeeming you, however, IS! He saw in ages past where a you-shaped piece of the puzzle needed to go, and He created you to fit exactly right there in the big picture. He doesn’t have a bunch of spare you’s just lying around in case you malfunction! Repentance says you are willing to let Him rebuild you to keep doing what He created you to do. And sometimes, we need rebuilt not only because of our sins, but also even from just being battle-weary, worn-out, and hyperextended. Let Him.

Lay aside what’s holding you back. Phooey on what anyone might say or think, don’t you wallow in condemnation one more day. Your destiny is right where you left it, and Jesus can recalibrate the driving directions from WHEREVER this moment finds you…to make sure you arrive safely. Come home.

Dishpan Discipline

“For whomever THE LORD JEHOVAH loves, he instructs, and draws aside his children with whom he is pleased.” — Hebrews 12:6 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

It’s amazing the things the Lord will speak into your heart when you are intentionally listening for him even while you go about your day.  There’s not a lot to be learned spiritually while washing dishes, right?  Wrong!

We got called out of the house abruptly yesterday for a family emergency and consequently, the dirty dishes just had to sit until a time when I could get to them…which happened to be this morning.  (Don’t faint from shock, you ladies who are better housekeepers than I!)
As I went in and started to tackle a day-old dish job along with a bowl and fork from a quick bite of breakfast this morning, the Lord just dropped this into my spirit about sin.  Two forks had the exact same food on them; except one had dried on from the day before, and one was fresh.  The Lord asked me, “Which one is dirtier?” to which I replied, “Neither, they’re both needing washed!”  “Which one will be easier to wash?” He asked.  The answer was obvious in the time it took me to clean one and then the other.

This is the difference between confronting sin and undealt-with sin.  Just like those two forks, sin leaves you just as unclean whether it’s new or old; but undealt-with sin is sometimes takes more “elbow grease” to remove than when you realize you have erred and immediately confess, forsake the sin, and receive God’s forgiveness.  Although sin is sin, period, there are some sins that are harder to break free from once you lend yourself to their influence because they’re “clingier” in nature; just as there’s a difference between the effort required in washing the spoon that stirred the tea and the spoon that stirred hot cheese sauce. Understand, I’m not talking about grace versus works–what He forgives, He forgives and we are saved by His grace, not our works.  I’m talking about the effect sin has on us, not whether we’re truly saved.  I believe you comprehend when I say that there are some things we can get ourselves into that are a little harder than others to undo the damage.  The blood of Jesus cleanses us from every sin when we confess and turn away from that sin; but consequences of that sin can linger even when the sin is forgiven and gone.

The same scenario with unforgiveness and grudges…you need to deal with both new and old wounds and hurts, but the best and easiest time to let go of an offense is while it’s still fresh and not “baked on” to one’s heart.  If we willfully continue in the same sin and remain unrepentant once it’s exposed to the light of God’s Word, we have just crossed over into the realm of iniquity.  Friends, that’s a chance we can’t afford to take!  Iniquity can affect your family for generations to come!

Though God requires all His people to live holy, I believe He deals with each of us in different ways to get the same result end because He know our individual personality types life experiences, and spiritual maturity.  And just like those dishes in my sink, the method of separating that sin from me may vary with what kind of “dirt” it is (was it an unintentional erring, or was it a deliberate and direct disobedience to something I knew God’s Word says) , what part of my life it affects, and how long it’s been “stuck” on me!  To be sure, all sin needs cleaned off our lives.  You wouldn’t deliberately eat with a dirty utensil, and God won’t leave us to wallow in our dirty ways!
But just as some things require vigorous scrubbing while others require a more gentle, gradual pre-soaking; and just as exposing some things to too much heat only makes a stain or a stuck-on food harder to come clean, God knows just how to get up close and personal with each of us!  Some of us “get it” right away and require just a minimal bit of handling.  Others of us might be more stubborn, or by personality type are more vulnerable to reverting back to the same points of error over and over again.  Still, His Word applies to every person.  He hold us all to the same standard of obedience; but He is well-acquainted with His creation and how to bring the best out in each one of us!  We can trust Him and yield ourselves to His will for our lives.  He knows us intimately–what makes each of us tick, how to bring to fruition His plans for us…plans that prosper and not harm us…to give us hope and a future!”  He loves us too much to leave us in our sin, regardless of what method He needs to use to get our attention.
Wow.  While this may sound corny to some of you, it makes perfect sense to me.  God knows my kitchen is as good a place to talk to me as my prayer closet!  And whether He has to go all Brillo-pad on me, or He does a more subtle work in areas of my life where a harsh rebuke would be too much, I want to be yielded to His perfect will for my life because I trust Him.  Put yourself in His loving, capable hands and let Him work in big and small ways to make you a vessel of honor–clean and holy– and ready to fulfill His purpose in your life.  When He reveals something you need to deal with, please don’t put it off.  As a wise woman known here on earth as Edith Mahon once said, “Do it now, do it now, do it now!

Running the Backup Plan Aground…for Good

fiashing-netProbably the loneliest day of Peter’s whole fishing career was when he re-launched the S.S. Simon and tried to just be a fisherman again after following Jesus. The romantic call of the sea and the nostalgic smell of the salty nets held little sway over him now. After all, a Simon reed can easily sway in the wind; but now his name was Petra, a solid rock. The wind of recklessness and wavering was no longer his domain. I wonder if his pivotal decision to finally return to the disciples and Jesus came from an instant replay of that day when Jesus asked the twelve whether they, too,  would abandon Him like others who were turned off by certain elements of His teaching. Peter replied, “Where else would we go…YOU have the words of eternal life!” Perhaps it was the memory of this moment that caused him to finally sever all ties with his backup plan and dedicate the rest of his life to serving his True Source.

Once God has expanded your boundaries to accommodate the person He’s growing you to be, you can never quite fit back into your original container. Oh, to be certain, we have to make a living, support our families, and in general, be exposed to the world if they are to be exposed to US and to the Gospel we share. However, if you feel your failures have put you out of commission to serve the Lord and carry the Good News, I beg you to think of Peter and his brief turning away from his calling. His most victorious, passionate days would come after he realized that his success lay in Jesus within him instead of in his own strength.  The pages in his dossier that revealed days of his least savory performance were only left in the file because they were amended to show the amazing comeback in each circumstance. It no longer mattered that there were blotches on his record…the blotches were a setup for an amazing finish of, well, Biblical proportions. Peter’s last half of his journey as God’s “petra man” far exceeded his former days; for just forty days after Jesus ascended to heaven, the Comforter came and Peter got to be one of the first people on earth to operate under this release of power from on high!

So why are you reverting to your backup plan, minister, leader, disciple, pioneer?  If God called you, and you have undealt-with wrongs, right them. Even if it means you have to prove yourself all over again and feel the humiliation of a tarnished reputation, be quick to repent, to forgive, to make restitution, to accept the mercy and forgiveness of the One Who asks nothing more of you than to “feed My lambs…feed My sheep.” You can build character, stability, integrity if you’re willing…and if you can’t return to the place where it all went south, God can absolutely redeem you to a different assignment, with perhaps even more powerful impact!  Eventually your failures will be yesterday’s news to those around you; and even if they should never quite be forgotten, God will weave a victory comeback into even that part of your story. The truth is, whether you’re used in the same way, a lesser way, or a greater way, you’ll never be free of that call to a destiny of His design.  It’s bigger than that small, safe, predictable life you once envisioned for yourself.

Run that backup plan into a sandbar and be done with it.  Put a “For Sale” sign on your escape vehicle.  Boom or bust, go all out this second (or even third or fourth) time around.  Have a Peter kind of finish. Even as a martyr for his faith, he went out on his own terms–better yet, he finished on God’s terms. Come back home, wandering servant of Christ. He still has need of your part….

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Mirror, Mirror

It is so critical that we put our attitudes and hidden heart issues on the altar, and become so immersed in the Word that we aren’t blind to undealt-with sin and/or weights. We can have every potential to do great things—even have had prophetic words spoken over us about our gifts elevating us to leadership or notoriety—and negate the prophetic word through pride, narcissism, jealousy, or fear. Instead of being angry at those we perceive to hold us back, and instead of being envious of others who possess our same potential, we must deal with that pesky hidden man of the heart. If there are unforgiveness issues stemming back even to our childhood, or healing that needs to happen when we release those who’ve hurt us, we must do the work. If we fail to do so, we will taxi the runway back and forth but never gain the momentum to get off the ground. Still more tragic, we risk imprinting our character flaws on our children by forcefully living vicariously through them, by repeating abuses on them that we experienced, or by failing to desire success for them that exceeds our own. Even very good people can be trapped in a holding pattern, mind you…disqualified over things that could be fixed!

Father, help us not to be our own worst enemy. You are fully-aware of even what we don’t see about ourselves–those damaged, flawed, or underdeveloped matters of character that we haven’t yet recognized or owned-up to. We will stop blaming others for our lack of success and begin to look inwardly, with humility and a quick-to-repent heart, for what needs purged from our character. Even if we don’t aspire to promotion of some kind, coddling wrong attitudes and negative emotions is a behavior not pleasing to You; and as badly as we want not to feel like a failure in our destiny, we want to find favor in Your sight even more. As David prayed after his hidden sin bubbled to the surface, likewise create in us a clean heart and renewed right spirit. See if there be (expose) any wicked way in us; and after the diseased element in our hearts is purged, restore the joy of our salvation. May we bear good fruit—30, 60, 100-fold, unhindered by toxic emotions, attitudes, and behavior.

You discipline those whom You love…and we know You love us too much to leave us messed-up. We don’t want to be those Your Word speaks of whose neck becomes hardened from having to be chastised often. Help us get it right, to learn and be willing to change. Remove the blinders, and after we’ve seen ourselves without the wax coating, make us whole—perfect and entire, lacking nothing. Give us courage to allow ourselves to be overhauled from the inside out. We ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Vagabond Spirit

ghostThere are a lot of paranormal shows and books that talk about ghosts being the wandering souls of the dead who still seek closure. Though I’m not blogging today to argue the existence or nonexistence of ghosts (smile), hold that thought about wandering spirits. I’m really going somewhere with this.

All around us (perhaps even a few are reading this post) are millions of living people who walk around with a spirit of restlessness that they’ve not been able to shake; this spirit sabotages everything they set their hands to. That’s a haunting far scarier than the things that go bump in the night—being stuck with an inability to commit or to find satisfaction in our already-blessed lives.  So these persons are constantly changing careers, in and out of relationships, church-hopping, changing college majors a dozen times, moving from state to state, and in general, never able to just unpack all the boxes and sink roots.

I’m speaking both figuratively and literally here.  And while I realize the nature of some vocations, ministries, and dreams involve being flexible and open to frequent changes, many people simply have issues with “stick-to-it-iveness.”  One foot is planted firmly while the other has the sprinter’s shoe firmly laced up and ready to bolt.  One eye is on the spouse or fiancé while the other is scanning other options, just in case the relationship fails to remain exciting and new.  And church membership?  Seriously?  That person has a laundry list of every pastor who has hurt him or her, of every church that’s failed to be stimulating enough to earn permanent home status.  Ask where he or she is connected and you’ll get an uncomfortable stuttering of, “Um, I’m kind of in-between churches right now.”  I bet you know at least one person like this…and I hope for your sake that person isn’t staring back at you in the mirror.  If he/she is, don’t be discouraged or feel condemned!  We are going to talk a little about this issue and pray together.

There is nothing wrong with God-ordained change.  Moses was getting up in years when God had him switch from herding flocks to herding people.  Sometimes we even make bad choices that warrant change.  Outside factors can leave us trying to find a new job, requiring us to move.  I’m not talking about these types of occasional milestone situations; I’m addressing the curse of never being willing to commit—truly sell out for a cause–that can rob an entire life’s sense of accomplishment and fruitfulness.

The existence of a vagabond spirit  is just as prevalent in seemingly-stable environments as it is among people who abandon their families and go live under bridges. Oh, it may not manifest as being the same thing, but the end results are not so dissimilar.  Person can’t deal with mundaneness of stability, so person exchanges stable environment for a possibly unhealthy, unfruitful lifestyle of hobo-esque wandering.  And sadly, the very thing which the person overtaken with a vagabond spirit is hoping to gain is the thing he or she forfeits in the name of freedom.  Yeah, just like a ghost…wandering aimlessly in search of resolve.

There is hope for the wandering soul.  It lies in submitting ourselves totally to God’s will; reading His Word, talking (and listening) to Him, disciplining ourselves, and admitting we have need of deliverance from the fear of commitment.

Father, break the “ghost syndrome” off Your people, we ask in Jesus’ name. We were not meant to be in a perpetual state of limbo in our lives. You began a good work in us and will finish it; and You designed us to walk in completeness. You have assignments for us–jobs, families, churches, life plans, goals, callings–that were meant to have a victorious, finished outcome. When we are faced with hardships, help us not to abandon our posts in continual hope that the pastures are perhaps greener somewhere else. Sure, it’s easier to quit, to lose by default; but why should we not instead…win?

Help us not to have chronic detachment that never allows us to stay and see things through. Help us to be people of covenant, people of our word, people of principle. When You end a particular season in our lives (and on occasion You do), it’s never left in chaos and confusion; that’s not how You operate. No, You have right order and a peace that accompanies every change that You orchestrate personally in our lives. Give us tenacity—the kind that sets us up for favor, promotion, and utter blessing. Give us an ear that hears the voice of the Good Shepherd and is keener to His voice than even to the sound of opportunity knocking. Not every knock is something or someone sent by God! We won’t open doors You don’t instruct us to open. We will be neither unable to commit, nor too stubborn to obey when You order change.  We will be balanced; we will be able to be in a fixed place/circumstance for as long as You ordain, without being attached to the world and things of the world.  We will find joy in the assignments You give us; and instead of being driven to find the next big thing that fuels our adrenaline, we’ll linger long enough to rest, reflect, give thanks, and enjoy the work of our hands!  Bless us with a deep appreciation of commitment that makes having variety and mobility safe instead of destructive to Your best for us.  We will bring the fruit of finishing to You instead of leaving a littered path of abandoned missions.

By allowing You to establish borders in our lives through accountability and covenant relationship, we poise ourselves to be fruitful and multiply. We prove ourselves fit, through our faithfulness in a few things, to be made rulers over many. Thank You, Lord, that Your children are being loosed from the “ghost” mentality.  Thank You for casting out the vagabond spirit that denies us satisfaction in commitment.  We are alive in You–and we are not aimlessly wandering souls!  In Jesus’ name we ask and give thanks for answered prayer!

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Foolishness: The New Wisdom

silhouette-boy-pointing-finger“But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.”  Romans 1:18-23 MSG

Remember in the children’s book, The Emperor’s New Clothes, how an entire kingdom of people got caught up in an important social figure’s delusion because those folks didn’t want to be judged in a negative way?  The pitch to this con was that, only the wise, intelligent people in the kingdom were able to see the clothes.  In wearing them, the emperor could separate the educated from the fools.  And out of fear for their reputations, their positions, the people pretended to see the imaginary fabric.  They went right along with the whole charade, and even applauded, ooh-ed and ahh-ed as their proud hero paraded down the street in nothing but his skivvies. It took an innocent little child to call out the absurdity of the situation...”But he’s not wearing any clothes!” If you’ve never read it, you should. The storyline is shockingly parallel to the hour in which we live.

We live in a 21st Century realtime version of the Emperor’s New Clothes, where no one wants to admit that the status quo is out of hand. How we want the acceptance of others, so we choke down any and all ridiculous demands that a few make in order to garner favor.  If you disagree, you might even be sued by your government and lose your business license.  The issues splattered across the headlines as we speak would be funny if they weren’t so tragic. Oh, it’s not popular to contradict the absurd ideals fabricated by our pop culture…no doubt I’ll be met with some shrapnel for saying so. But not even our culture sticks to its own ideologies for longer than a season or two, or until they get bored because it’s not obscene or unreasonable enough. Our appetite demands that our movies be increasingly filthier, our language coarser, our crimes more violent, our rights more invasive of other people’s rights. Our “emperor” of the modern world isn’t a man or woman; it’s the desire to dominate the majority; to win the argument, to create the illusion that our ideas are more relevant than truth itself. It’s a thought system and it stinks in our Creator’s eyes because we reject truth for a lie and we do it without batting an eyelid.

Today’s shameful headlines will be upstaged by tomorrow’s stunts by the popular and powerful, and folks will go right along with outright lies to keep from being labeled closed-minded, bigoted, or archaic. Just so you know, I’m not talking about prejudice, hate crimes, civil rights, or social injustice here…I’m talking about the most basic, common-sense standards that have been flipped on their ear. And the crowd cheers “Bravo! Beautiful! Amazing! Superior thinking!” Hey, if celebrities are touting these far-fetched ideals as relevant, true, and not to be questioned, surely it’s got to be right…right? The fabric is only invisible to the intellectually-inferior. Plus, if you won’t concede to their logic, then you’re not only an opposing view–you are now a bad person. You lose sponsors. Others sever ties out of fear of losing popularity or status. Businesses pull contracts and relocate to get away from association with you. You may even wind up in court or on the unemployment line.  This isn’t really a demand for respect, for acceptance…it’s our twisted society’s way of saying, “You WILL do what we want, and you WILL like it.  Or else.”  And it’s being endorsed by our leaders just so they can garner more votes.  There, I said it.

We don’t even realize we’re going along with it just to appease someone else’s demand for the last word, (and to save our own reputations from ridicule). We’ve gotten so good at playing along that we even think we see the emperor’s imaginary clothes. And somewhere off in the distance, the “spinner” of the imaginary covering is laughing all the way to the bank. Will it take another child, oblivious to modern society’s uber-relaxed ideas of propriety, to blurt out the truth and wake up the deluded masses?

Pray for our nation. There are no words to describe some of the things that have elevated themselves to even be issues among us. Said cautiously and with love…but as honestly as I know how. I’d be really faking it right now if I pretended not to see how embarrassingly exposed we have become as a people. God, please snap us out of our blinded condition. It’s beyond humiliating; it’s becoming dangerous.

Letting Go of the Past…Three Times

fishnet“Peter, do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord, You know I love You.”

“Feed My sheep.”

That conversation was deeper than we realize. Peter had messed up in a moment of panic, fear, and haste. He had denied the Lord 3 times, cursed, and swore with an oath to hide his identity and save his own skin. And then he had to make eye contact with the very person he had betrayed, and have the realization hit him…everything Jesus said would happen, did happen. Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. There was nothing left for Peter now. The crowing of the rooster may as well have been a bugle sounding Taps over Peter’s dying ministry.  He just fled the painful scene, wept bitterly, and separated himself from his band of brothers and any association with what it meant to be a follower of Christ.

Go back to what you did before, Peter. Go get the boat. Launch out there in the deep, where you don’t have to talk to anyone, look anyone in the eye, feel others looking at YOU, judging. You didn’t mess up with the boat…it was YOUR boat. Even though…you were catching nothing that day until Jesus told you where to toss that net!

Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me” three times. I like to think He did so because He was giving Peter a VERBAL chance three times to undo those three denials. Peter, normally the loudest mouth of the twelve, couldn’t bring himself to say “I love You” on his own, not after what he had done.  The outspoken one, overcome in his guilt and deep shame, now needed help from the Master just to say what was bursting in his heart.  How could those mere words ever undo what he had done?  So, Jesus, Who knew exactly what Peter was wrestling with, showed him where to lower the nets once more. Jesus proved to Peter that He could forgive without humiliating and ostracizing.  He could restore him without putting him on probation, without demoting him, without dismissing all those times when Peter was part of the inner circle of His circle.  And that command, “Feed my sheep?” He was saying, “You don’t belong back in the fishing business, Peter. Your heart is to serve Me. I can see right through your weaknesses, and I know that in your heart, you would rather be close to Me than anything in this world. Come back. There’s still very much a place for you here. You belong in ministry. You belong to me. I forgive you. Let’s turn a page and finish this thing better than the chapter we’re on now.”

Have you made some mistakes that make you feel as if you are unworthy to receive Jesus’ forgiveness? Do you feel disqualified to follow Him, or specifically, disqualified to lead others to Him? Jesus is asking YOU today, “Do you love Me? Oh, I already know the answer, but I want YOU to think long and hard, past the guilt, past the self-loathing and regrets. You KNOW you love Me, and I know you love Me. Let’s turn a page. I’m far from finished with what I am going to do through you, and I want you to know that you are NOT damaged goods. You are not going to be left on the reject pile, forgiven but left broken. I am fixing you and I want you walking close to Me again, as My friend, as My confidante, as someone that I TRUST (yes, I TRUST you!) to love others like I’ve loved you!”

Pray with me: “Father, I’m putting aside my own feelings and the urge to run away. There is no place else I’m at peace but in Your presence. I can’t even go back to life as before and do it the way I did before I knew You. I need You! Forgive my sins, my mistakes, blot out anything that stepped between us. Fix me and if You want to use me, I’m here. Lord, You really DO know my heart. You know I’ve always loved You even when I let my flesh do the decision-making. Help me rise above my own will. Cleanse me and help me say no to whatever causes distance between us. I don’t want to feel like I can’t come near You anymore. I receive Your forgiveness and I am going to have a good finish–like Peter! In Jesus’ name.” Amen.

Where Do We Go from Here? A Spiritual Perspective on Recovering from Loss of a Leader

CrossroadsTruly, it is a demoralizing thing when a good person is taken from us in the act of doing good.  There’s been an exhausting, heavy blanket of grief over our region ever since our Sheriff was taken by this act of senseless violence.  Have I asked, “Why?”  Of course I have.  You probably have, too.  In this quiet hamlet of Southern Appalachia, things like this just don’t happen.  We may or may not ever receive answers that fully satisfy our questions about why this happened, in the natural realm.  But to the born-again believer, we know that the enemy of mankind was the mastermind of this attack on our county.  I say ‘on our county’ because that’s what it is.  Eugene was the one ultimately who died, but this tragic sin of murder has marred us all.  The devil’s intent was to take out someone doing good, and to discourage and leave in despair all others who might follow in good’s footsteps.

I don’t know how each of you felt about our elected leader personally, but please, even if you did not support him or even like him, keep an open mind to what I’m saying.  If you know anything about me, you know I would be heartbroken if this had been any of our other leaders past and present too.  I’m so not the political type…but that said, I AM very much aware of God’s stance on figures of authority and how we are to respect and come under authority.  This man was an authority whom I respected, but also a good and trusted friend.  He was a friend to our community, a schoolmate to some of you, a coach for your kids, maybe a member of your same church.  Some feel as if we’ve lost a member of our family.  It will take some time to mourn his loss and to heal from the gaping wound it’s left.

I beg of you, believers, please choose your words carefully no matter how full of grief or even anger that you are.  The Word says that the power of life and death is in the tongue!  We have an opportunity in this tragic time to declare healing and restoration over Mingo County, or we have an opportunity to pronounce curses and doom, all by what we allow ourselves to say.  Just think of what you’ve heard on the streets or in groups of friends over the past few days.  Perhaps you too have said things like, “This place is going to pot.”  “There’s nothing here anymore but a bunch of crazies and dopeheads.”  “The law will never be able to get rid of these dope dealers.”  “Before you know it, we’ll be another Detroit.”  If you’ve said something like this, I beg of you, repent!  Ask God to annul the harmful, idle words you’ve spoken and to usher in blessing in their place.  Begin speaking LIFE to our region and LIFE to Mingo County.  If you’re a Christian, it’s actually even your DUTY to speak the Word instead of agreeing with the status quo.  You have a good opportunity to sow seeds of peace and hope here.  Set a watch upon your heart and upon your mouth!

I’m not trying to be spooky or mystical, but there is something very spiritually significant about the fact that someone in authority has been slain, not for being a tyrant or for doing something wicked, but someone who was trying to do good.  As a body of believers, it is our duty to recognize the spiritual connotations and act accordingly to usher in healing and a cleansing over this bloodshed.  We, as Christians, must adorn ourselves with the prayer shawl and cry out in intercession for our land.  We must repent on behalf of our people for the events that have escalated into the killing of someone assigned as our leader and protector.  You might say, “Why should I have to repent?  I didn’t do it.”  The people who are dealing drugs, taking drugs, and even those who would kill to maintain this lifestyle are not likely, in a lost state, to feel the need to cry out for forgiveness, unless the Holy Spirit conviction sways them to confess and forsake their sin—and they heed His voice.  In the meantime, our land bears the curse of innocent blood spilled.  As when Cain slew Abel, that blood cries out from the ground for justice.  The life is in the blood; it is considered such a sacred thing that God commanded the Israelites not to consume the blood of the animals they sacrificed.  Un-repented sins, such as this slaying of our Sheriff, leave innocent blood crying out for redemption.  Believers have a priestly duty to initiate a cleansing of this act that stains our land and leaves us all under a scourge.

We do not want to become a place destitute, impoverished, and conquered by sin!  This has always been a place where the majority of our citizens, even those who don’t go to church, are peace-loving and law-abiding.  Though far from perfect, we’ve managed to stay at least one generation behind the mainstream metropolitan areas in the growth rate of criminal activity.  Though we’re often joked about for being like “Mayberry USA,” it’s actually a badge of honor that we wear—this being different and to some, this being “outdated.”

I heard lines of a poem read by one of the officers in the memorial service, where the writer referred to law enforcement as a “thin blue line” dividing good and evil, wrong and right.   God bless them for the role they play in securing our safety.  However, we must not ever assume that a war that’s meant to be engaged in the heavenlies can be won merely in the realm of the physical.  We need an angelic guard standing even in between the thin blue line and that evil!  Our protectors need protected as well.

Only God can heal and restore our land and our people, but He delegates the responsibility of the spoken word to us, His children.  Will you pledge to begin speaking life words over our region, our State, and our Nation?  Will you counter the negative declarations with positive words of affirmation that God has His hand on this place for a special purpose?  He can yet bring about good in spite of this nightmare of injustice that’s left us all reeling.

Pray with me:

Heavenly Father, we stand depleted and without words to describe the agonizing loss we feel.  We ask You to do the miraculous and bring about good where the enemy meant evil.  We ask healing and restoration for Eugene’s family and closest friends and coworkers, as those closest to him are no doubt feeling the pain on an unimaginably greater level.  Do what we cannot, in ushering in a sense of peace in spite of the uncertainty that lies before us. We repent before You on behalf of the vile thing which has happened here among us.  We repent for all acts of lawlessness that have even required men and women to stand in harm’s way to serve and protect us.  We repent for grieving Your Holy Spirit by our sense of complacency.  We repent for the shedding of innocent blood, and we ask You not to leave its stain upon our people and upon our place.  Forgive us this unthinkable sin against You and against a fellow human being, and cause us as a people to stand before You no longer under the deluge of darkness.  May our county not bear this mark as a definition of who we are; may we instead, be branded a people who fear and serve You, and who have “Zero Tolerance” for anything that offends You or that breaks the laws which keep our land peaceful and prosperous.  Bring salvation and change to all those who may have in some way been responsible for what has happened; may they feel the full brunt of this grave error and come to repentance.  May they make an abrupt turn toward You, that even in the process of justice, their souls’ redemption would be a testimony that gives You glory…and that our fallen brother’s life might have caused salvation to come in the face of evil.  Bring justice for those who are now without a husband and father.  Godly sorrow worketh repentance…not just sorrow for being caught in our sins, but Lord, bring sorrow that ushers in a change for good.  You can yet redeem us as individuals and as a community.  As a testimony to Your grace, may the conviction of the Holy Spirit work during this time of our grief to corral those in who have strayed from You or do not know You as their Lord.  You can use even our grief to awaken the need for right change.

Help us to please you with our own attitudes about this incident; and while we pray that You will bring justice and closure, we relinquish the right to bear unforgiveness.  Help us to release this into Your hands and to give You permission to right the wrongs done to this family and this county.  May the aftermath of this incident come in the form of justice, due process of law, and not merely a need for us to have revenge.  Only when we surrender the right to recompense to You, can we be assured that You will step in and swiftly act on our behalf.  Though it’s hard, and we want to hate and feel anger when something like this happens, we still choose to please you above satisfying our own carnal desires.  You know our hearts and You know our limitations, so meet us where we are; and be strong in the face of our weaknesses.  We believe that even the strength to forgive, to resume living after such a devastating blow, it all comes from You.  We trust You to help us in these areas, whether You bring deliverance instantaneously, or whether we must walk through it as a gradual process of releasing it into Your hands.  Help our hearts to remain tender, innocent, and our vision unjaded.  Help us to see the good which remains in our people and not only the evil that needs to be weeded out.  We are far from a lost cause!  We pull down every such notion that would suggest that we are without hope.

We ask You to help our public servants fight the war of good versus evil; and as they act in the earthly realm, we ask You to engage Your angels in a war against the spiritual wickedness in high places, the powers, the principalities, and the demonic influences that manifest the evil we see on earth.  Protect our protectors, O God, and grant them Godspeed to do their jobs with integrity, for Your Word says that they do not bear the sword in vain.  In times when we, the ordinary citizens, have opportunity to help our uniformed brothers and sisters in this fight to reclaim law and order in Mingo County, give us courage to do the right thing always!  We ask You to save those on the force who don’t yet know You or who haven’t yet put their trust in You.  And as they strive to do good and act nobly, place a special mantle of anointing on them to enforce the law with godly excellence.  Give them a spirit of discernment to sense when danger is imminent; in times when they can be spared a bad incident through merely hearing and obeying Your voice, we ask that You help them to have ears to hear and eyes to see.  We ask that you uncover the hidden things and to shine bright light into the corners where darkness lies and where plots against our protectors are made.  We ask You to close any doors of evil that may have been opened through this taking of a life.

And Father, we ask that you will keep us all united in the fight to keep our county clean and safe.  Help us to disregard political divisions of the past and present, and to honor all of those in authority over us, regardless of party affiliations and the like.  Our job is to pray for them and to treat them with respect, so if we are obedient to You in this way, You will honor our faithfulness to obey.  Help us all to take personally the responsibility to pray and to act nobly in obeying the laws of the land.  And if we cannot help someone, help us always to purpose not to hurt him or her…beginning with our words!

Finally, Father, we appeal to You to send a revival across our region, that permeates every church and every home.  May it begin with the fathers and spread to the children.  May Your Spirit manifest in a way that shows how much more powerful You are than the vices of addiction, sin, pornography, adultery, and every other evil.  Cause a work of renown to happen to where people will see the change in our region and that they will say, “Surely it was the hand of the Lord.”  And in Jesus’ name, we reject and break the spirit of Mammon off our region!  The love of money that drives drug dealers to enslave their victims, and the spirit of rebellion that causes men to call evil good and good evil, we reject them and say that they have no place in Mingo County!  Set angels around our borders with flaming swords to drive back drug dealers and instigators of sinful enslavements.  And those who will not fear You and live in an honorable, peaceful, law-abiding way, we ask You to move those people out of our county.  May this be a place where evil trembles and cannot rest until it leaves.  One can put a thousand to flight, and two can put ten thousand to flight…so raise up an army of intercessors to cover those who serve and protect us..  Your Word assures us that You will never suffer the righteous to be moved.  Give our new Sheriff, Rosie, the ability to fulfill every last aspect of the good work You began in her husband. 

 Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord!  In Jesus’ name we pray and receive strength in due time.  Amen.

Palace to Pig Pen…and Back (God’s Will Versus Our Will)

…”There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.  Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”  Luke 15:11-13 NIV

We know the whole story—a son wastes his father’s best, and then in a state of desperation, comes home, only to find forgiveness instead of a flogging.  We stand in judgment of him, like the other sibling who was so appalled that Dad wouldn’t at least make him grovel a little.  What our sanctimonious selves don’t realize, however, is that there are times when, instead of the good, obedient brother’s reflection, the person who’s actually staring back at us in the mirror has slop around his mouth and corn husks matted in his muddy hair.  We’re just like that prodigal in so many ways, aren’t we?

I sometimes tell folks, “I’m convinced that the good Lord has a whole lot more sense than I have;” and though it’s my humorous way of saying His ways are much higher than mine, it’s still just the stark truth.   I’ve come to know this, and occasionally have to re-learn it, from years of making foolish choices on my own before finally repenting and handing the reins back to an all-knowing, all-wise God.

When did the prodigal son actually get in trouble?  Was it in the gambling house?  The bar?  The brothel?  The pig pen?  No, it began when he went to his father and said, “I want it all.  Right now.  No strings attached, no one telling me what I should or shouldn’t do with it.” The inheritance was to be his eventually anyway.   However, his burning desire to have his own way—without any authoritative counsel—almost guaranteed this boy wouldn’t like the outcome of his imprudent request. As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for…”

God has a plan already in place for us; it’s His very best, and His perfect will for our lives is carved out of pure love and infinite goodness.  My pastor, who teaches frequently on eternity, reminds us that God’s order is sequential, not cyclical.  It is nothing like man’s “spinning wheel…what goes up must come down” philosophy. Our lives are a tiny speck on God’s eternal timeline; yet we so value our speck and make everything all about us, about our one short life.  Something in the base, carnal human nature—that “thing” in us present since the fall of Adam—feels cheated when we can’t be instantly gratified, when we can’t call the shots.  The backslider in heart takes the blessings of God with him and sets out to do it all his own way.  Worst possible choice with the worst possible outcome.

I’ve asked God amiss many times over the years, and in the times He actually said “yes” to a foolish request, I’ve had to live with those things I was so determined to have. How much happier, how much freer, how much less stressed, regretful, bitter, angry, confused we might be if we would just pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…” If we could only grasp and retain the knowledge in our minds that He really does have our best interests at heart even when His answer is not our answer.

You’re getting ready to suffer some whopper consequences if you’re asking for—or planning to do on your own—something of which you can’t honestly say to God, “Your will be done in my situation. If you don’t want this for me, I don’t want this for me.” When you can’t surrender a particular affection, desire, or thing to His will, you’ve skating dangerously close to committing idolatry AND are setting yourself up for some unhappy times to come.  It can be anything…a job offer, a sports contract, a record or movie deal, a home or car or some other material investment, a relationship. But, if you can’t offer it back to God and allow Him to decide if it’s right for you, you may be entering into a decision where much, much regret will follow.  You’ll despise the prize.

The enemy’s always tried to paint this picture—beginning with Eve in the garden—that God just dangles good things in front of us and says we can’t have them. What God actually does, however, is sets boundaries for us and yet allows us the freedom to choose…only with consequences when we step outside the protective canopy of His will.  The good news is, there is redemption for those of us who shake ourselves and realize that it’s time to go back home.  Our Father anxiously awaits the cry of repentance in His wandering children.  He’s not ready to dole out a beating, a bunk in the servants’ quarters, or a string of “I told you so’s.”  He just wants us to do right so that we can be His heirs.  He’s a Parent more loving than we can ever imagine, but does He mean business?  You’d better believe He does.  We may have to learn, over and over, the high cost of disobedience, but we serve a mighty good God.  He will make sure we get it right even if we have to learn the hard way.

Corrie Ten Boom once said something short but profound:  “Don’t wrestle.  Nestle.”  Put yourself at peace…whatever your circumstance, whatever your aspiration, your dream, your desire, put it in His hands and LET GO.  There’s nothing any more peaceful, more restful than turning loose of the struggle and committing your ways to His will.  He already knows how long you’re going to live, so His itinerary includes a fulfilled destiny in the time you’re allotted…if you’re willing to trust Him.

His palace sure smells better than your pad on Pig Pen Lane, too, in case you’re wondering.  Just saying…

©2012  Lisa Crum