An Angry Spirit and Why We Must Deal with It

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

You will always be enslaved to a bad temper, rage, anger, and offense as long as you coddle the idea that you deserve to be angry and behave badly—or that this is “just the way you roll.” We credit that temper, sometimes with great pride, to our red hair, our family tree, our upbringing or social lot in life, and sometimes even our gender; but in truth, anger finds its place in a soul that has surrendered self-control to the enemy of our souls.  If it stays in us, it stays in us because we allow it a place.  Maybe up until this moment you thought you had no choice, but I beg to differ.  If you want to be free and find some peace to that unsettledness that drives you to boil over at every available chance, read on…

The devil wants you to always be exploding, brawling, quarreling, cursing, flipping people off, in others’ faces giving them what-for. It’s a rush of adrenaline; a high; a bizarre release of sorts for someone who’s got some deep unhappiness issues…a release that’s only momentary but doesn’t heal the anger. It becomes enjoyable to watch people be afraid of you or dreading you, and it makes you have a false sense of empowerment. It becomes the norm for you to think it’s ok to blow up on people only to come back later and say, “but I was just ticked off/didn’t feel well/had a bad day already/etc.; or somehow always shifting blame to the other person’s actions for one’s own unrestrained reactions.  How many abusers tell their victims, “…but I won’t let it happen again,” only to come back and do it again and again?

Yes, there’s an oppressive, controlling spirit that attaches itself to the person who just continually allows his/her temper to run unchecked. It will turn a home into a house of horrors, a school or workplace into a source of dread, and it will kill a thriving church. An angry spirit has a way of developing into iniquity that then transfers to your children and on down the line. Don’t be proud of that “(Your Surname) Temper.” If it runs in your family, you’d better find a way to end it in your generation!

Is it ok to get angry? Sure, it’s a legitimate emotion, and sometimes a little righteous anger will light a fire under us to make needed changes in the world around us. We actually SHOULD be moved by abuse, human trafficking, murder of the innocent, oppression, etc.; but only to the extent that God can use us to right wrongs, not so that we can go out and commit crimes against others in the name of being angry at what they do. Even when others provoke us, believers must remember that it’s not a war on the ground we’re fighting, but spirits of darkness in the heavenlies that compel humans to do the bad things they do. We are told in the Word to be angry but sin not. We are told not to let the sun go down on our wrath. It also says that anger rests (finds a permanent place) in the bosom of fools. We are to exercise self-control, and yes it can be done; but we have to invite peace into our lives and reject strife.

So what happens if you allow anger to find a welcome spot in your soul? At best, you’ll just be hard to live with. At worst, you may wind up in jail or dead, unemployable, alone, alienated, resented, or you may irreparably harm someone you love. Satan’s goal is always eventually to take you to hell, after he’s made your life hell on earth, with you and everyone around you miserable. He wants people to feel as if this is just who they are and that they can’t change. Yeah, it stinks when the soda pop machine steals your money. It’s normal to get aggravated, but not normal if you don’t stop till the machine is on its side with boot holes in it and smoke rolling out. It’s not normal to run people off the road just because you can’t control your anger over their perceived lack of driving skills. It’s not normal to terrorize people with your temper at ballgames, school assemblies, church, the workplace—and the saddest of all, in your home, where everyone should feel safe and loved. If you can’t deal with everyday minor inconveniences and issues without going into a cussing, stomping tantrum, you need help. If you don’t want to die of blood pressure, heart attack or stroke, or be caught up in some costly foolish act from allowing yourself to just explode at everything that fails to go your way, you need delivered from an angry spirit.  I think you know in your knower if I’m talking to you in particular.

Father, we live in an entitled-mentality generation who feels that we deserve to behave however we want to. Forgive us for feeling that we deserve to allow our emotions to become a sinful repetitive way of life. Father, forgive us for enjoying the little bit of power we feel when we bully or manipulate others through fear.  Forgive us for taking advantage of a reputation for being hot-tempered, to use for our own selfish ends.   Forgive us for the stress we have put on others around us and for the words and maybe even the physical altercations which took place because we failed to put a control on anger. It’s become a way of life for some of us and we aren’t sure we know how to undo it.  We cannot shut the door without Your help, so we humble ourselves before You and ask for Your intervention.

We reject the root spirit of jealousy that manifests as anger, hatred, bad temper, and abusiveness. We reject pride that says others aren’t as good as us or that we must always have our own way.  We reject rebellion, lawlessness, and a manipulative spirit.  Lord, would you cleanse our hearts; and pour the oil of gladness and the love of God into us?  Cause us to fall in love with Your nature and desire to emulate the good in You.  Would you help us to change? Us not being able to change is a lie from hell. You can help us. We release You to go to work in our lives and break everything off us which isn’t like You—even the strongholds that we enjoy being bound by. We ask You, in situations where health issues, mental health issues, medications, hormone imbalances, and the like are at work, reveal to us a strategy to manage the physical problems themselves which manifest as ill-temperedness. Heal our sicknesses and help us govern our life choices more wisely.  Father, we release and forgive those who have wronged us, so that unforgiveness doesn’t open us up to a host of bad spiritual repercussions.  Help us say no to what opens a door to violent behavior–the wrong movies, music, influences, or friends. In other words, don’t let us remain content and justified in behaving badly! Don’t leave us alone, until we have a Christlike spirit that knows the difference between a righteous passion for justice and a tendency to always get angry over all things that don’t go our way.  Father, we don’t need to just get better at stuffing down anger only to have it resurface in other unhealthy ways or all at once; heal us in the area of our soul that needs healing, so that anger dissipates rather than just temporarily going into hiding.  O God, show us the people to whom we owe an apology or restitution for the way we have allowed anger to injure our relationship with them.

For those of us with more dominating, aggressive personality types, help us to channel that passionate or forward nature toward good and not evil. Sanctify us and use even our personalities in a positive way to make a difference in this world and bring You glory. Bring balance into our lives so that we aren’t excessive.  Holy Spirit, we invite you into ourselves. Be the dove of peace that rests in our spirit. Displace the spirit of anger which was never meant to occupy the high throne of our hearts. Break up the fallow ground of our hearts and cause gentleness, meekness, peace, love, patience, and every fruit of the Spirit to begin to flourish where the works of the flesh once overran our lives. Baptize our every word, thought, and deed in Your pure love.

In Jesus’ name, we accept Your forgiveness and Your deliverance. We will continue to verbally reject every temptation to explode with anger every time it tries to manifest; over and over, until the habit of overreacting is broken. We will not die prematurely from an undisciplined life that destroys our health and well-being, and we will not allow our behavior to destroy our relationships. We take responsibility now to walk as children of the light! We walk as free people, not bound people!

Matters of the Heart: Character

Good EggGod, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me.  Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.  See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on,  and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways—the path that brings me back to you.  —Psalm 139:23-24  (The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.)

#Character issues disqualify us from promotion by God far more often than lack of talent, geographic advantage, education, or even resources. Can God trust me….you….us? God wants to use us to fulfill His purposes in the earth. Some of those purposes are big, some are small. In either case, we need to be reliable and trustworthy to the One who created us, just as much so as if He were calling on us to be the next Billy Graham! Even if we perceive ourselves as little fish in a big pond, our character still matters very much to God!

We can choose to be assets or liabilities. How? By honest self-examination and surrender to God. David did this. He invited the Lord to search him, to try his heart, to uncover any wickedness. We know David had a fall, from which he recovered…but his fall was not an ongoing character issue that became his identity. He remained humble and repentant before God, and God honored that. We need to ask ourselves, in the neighborhood, the church, our family, our school/workplace…what are we known for? The reputation that precedes us, yes, can be tarnished by the lies/misconception of others…but how often is the origin for our tarnished reputations our own words and actions (or inactions)? I don’t want people to say of me, “You’d better steer clear of Lisa…she will stab you in the back, she’s lazy and unreliable, you have to walk on eggshells around her because she’s so easily offended, you can’t believe a word she says, don’t say anything in front of her that you don’t want spread all over the place, she won’t finish what she starts…” On and on.

If in our dramatic laments about why things aren’t going right for us, it’s always the other person’s fault, it’s probably not.😉 If we hear rumors about ourselves that are unsavory, it’s a great time to evaluate what we need to change and then go to God for help. Those character flaws CAN be healed if we will own up to them and work on them. Left undealt with, we are driving through life with bad brakes and it eventually will catch up with us.

Lord, help us to be very honest with You and ourselves. You know our weaknesses and You also know our willfulness. Your strength is made perfect in our weakness when we lean on You to help us. Our will, however, is sure to get us in trouble if we rebel from aligning with Your will. Jesus, over and over, submitted His will to Yours; and He was the example for us to follow.

Reveal to us, Holy Spirit, when there is an ugly nature in us that needs dealt with. Whether it’s lust, infidelity, pride, unforgiveness, spite, cruelty, intimidation, prejudice, a lying spirit, dishonesty and cheating, a talebearer, a betrayer, a spirit of laziness, rebellion, hatred, insecurity, negativity, undisciplinedness, grumbling, jealousy, or fear—we lay our entire selves on the altar and ask You to sanctify us and purge us of anything unholy that would cull us from kingdom usability and trustworthiness. We renounce and reject any spirit that would attach itself to us and defile the pure gifts You have given us. We will not make excuses or blame others or be offended over Your attempts to prune away what disqualifies us. When we represent You in the earth, may we represent You well. Help us never to bring reproach on Your name, Your family, Your kingdom!

May it be said of us, even by those who don’t necessarily like our personality quirks or the way we look, “Blessed is he/she who comes in the name of the Lord!” Conform us to the image of Your Son. Fill us with a refreshing overflow that lifts the atmosphere in every room we enter. Make us fit for the kingdom—assets and not liabilities! And Lord, help us to reverse undesirable reputations whether or not we earned them. Make us willing to prove ourselves and to submit to those You would place in our lives as mentors and leaders. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

In Whose Shadow?

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“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand].”  (Psalm 91:1 AMP)
Do you have a parent, sibling, coworker, spouse, ministry constituent, or friend to whom you feel inferior? Does someone close to you in that way shine so brightly, so talented or gifted or just favored, that you feel there’s no room for you to ever excel and be lent credibility? You may feel like you’re in someone else’s shadow, but I encourage you today to choose WHOSE shadow you’re going to stand in. Choose to stand in God’s shadow. Learn to be at home in the shadow of the Almighty…you don’t have to stand in anyone else’s shadow, but you belong to Him and you need the rest and comfort and protection of His wings! That’s the only place where you won’t be plagued by the temptation and bondage that comes with comparison!
Stop comparing yourself to other people and viewing yourself as less-than (or for that matter, as more-than!). Stop buying into what other people have said or implied about you…a teacher or a parent or boss or someone who may have said, “Why can’t you be more like ____ (a sibling, a peer, or someone else who was/is used a measuring stick)?” You were not placed on this earth to fulfill His plan for their lives, but to fulfill the plan He tailor-made just for you. It is an insult to the power and imagination of our Creator, for us to try to make ourselves signed-and-numbered prints off of some priceless original. No, each of us is a priceless original, and He never runs out of creative power.
Be free from the spirit of comparison, from pride, from inferiority, from any other emotion or mindset that hinders you from living life to its fullest.
Lord, we cast down these crazy imaginations and “high, lofty things” that work overtime, which cause us pain and limitation whenever they run contrary to what Your Word and Your will for our lives has spoken. Forgive us for spending so much time looking at ourselves and comparing and lamenting and walking in fear. Fear tells us we will never be good enough because we cannot excel past certain other people. Fear tells us not to even try because we are doomed to failure. Your Word, however, says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
 
Forgive us as well for carelessly speaking damaging words over ourselves or others out of ignorance. We are not guiltless in the area of having made statements like “He/she sure is no ____” and compared one of Your precious originals to someone else we perceived to be be more skilled or talented or good in some way. You don’t create counterfeit, cheap knockoffs, and You don’t use a cookie cutter to mass produce lives void of authenticity. We are sorry for ever trying to establish the standards for excellence over ourselves or anyone else! We are not the Creator. We submit our words and actions to You again on the potter’s wheel and ask that You give us clean hearts that in turn compel clean words. We will resist the devil when he tries again to make us feel intimidated by the giftings and abilities of others, and if we resist–as often as necessary!–he will flee.  We forgive and release anyone who may ever have hurt us by comparisons, and we ask You to forgive them too, because they knew not what they were doing.
 
In order to stay in Your shadow and to dwell in the secret place, we have to be on the move, as well! You don’t stand in one place with your wing of protection stuck out for us to stand under. No, You are moving and working constantly—so our secret to staying in Your shadow is to move with You, to go where You go, to do what we see the Father do, to speak what we hear You say. What worked for Jesus works for us today–operating under the canopy of submission to You. We submit ourselves to You today and we will stay under Your protection, fulfilling every wonderful thing You have ordered for our lives! We are free from approval-seeking and self-exaltation and self-deprecation and any other tool the enemy would use to shift our eyes onto ourselves and off of You. Be glorified in us today, Father—all of it—You get all the glory and we will gladly stand in Your shadow, we pray in Jesus’ name!
#Psalm91 #2Corinthians10 #callthosethings

 

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.

Cupbearers to the King: A Prayer to be Liaisons of God

GobletThere are two people in the Old Testament, one named and one not,  who served as a cupbearers to pagan kings…with supernatural destinies mapped out by God.

The first was the cupbearer who would displease Pharaoh and wind up a cellmate with Joseph.  Two servants had been tossed “in the slammer,” if you’ll remember–the cupbearer and the baker.  Joseph interpreted their dreams and begged them to remember him to the king when they got out.  Sure enough, the baker met the prophesied death, and the cupbearer was restored to his former position with his master.  Only after the king  himself began having troubling dreams did the cupbearer remember Joseph and the promise.  The story ends powerfully:  a godly man winds up in leadership directly under Egypt’s powerful potentate, and the lives of untold numbers of people (including Jacob/Israel and his entire family) are saved from a deadly famine.  The liaison God used to bring Joseph and Pharaoh together?  An unlikely cupbearer, whose very life was spared for one critical moment when he would speak a right word!

Fast-forward to the time of the Babylonian exile of Israel’s descendants.  Persia has ousted the Babylonians, who had taken God’s people out of their homeland and into captivity. Through the process of time and with much opposition from nations who hated the Judean people, the actions and edicts of King Cyrus,King Darius, and King Artaxerxes would eventually see Jerusalem restored.  I find this whole story (in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah) so interesting; because one day, seemingly out of the blue (which we know isn’t the case…it was because of God’s sovereign plan), King Cyrus just issues an edict that a temple in Jerusalem is to be built!  He orders surrender of the precious artifacts and tools that had been stolen out of the original temple.  From there, the avalanche of restoration had begun–on the enemy’s dime–and there would be no stopping it.  This is another whole message in itself!

Now, back to that second cupbearer, Nehemiah, who served King Artaxerxes.  While Ezra would be the one to whom it was given charge to rebuild the temple, it was this cupbearer of the king who would be given charge to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. Artaxerxes was clearly pleased to have a trusted servant like Nehemiah, so I don’t take it lightly that he would be so willing to turn loose of this man whose job was to guard him from being poisoned!  This was no coincidence. Out of all the positions Nehemiah could have been assigned in that kingdom, God saw to it that his would be one in direct connection to the king himself; and that there would be a relationship of trust established.  Jerusalem would be restored, yes…and by people who had administrative abilities, labor skills, defense strategies, and priestly ordination.

It saddens me that so many believers want to be far-removed from the political arena these days.  Much of it is just this whole living-in-a-goldfish-bowl society of ours.  Everyone’s personal life is on display, and the price for offering one’s service to government often calculates to the destruction of his or her reputation and credibility.  These folks find enemies they didn’t know they even had.  From the campaigning time throughout a public servant’s career, his or her life is scrutinized and criticized.  I myself would be petrified at the thought of running for any office!   If you’re like me, not someone with political ambitions but who’s still concerned about the welfare of our nation, may I challenge you to offer yourself as a cupbearer to the “king?”  Taking on the role of a servant to those in authority, if you are a child of God, can be as instrumental in His purpose for our nation as being in rule yourself. By saying this, I mean a true servant.  Not a spy, and not a source of leaking information or gossip, not a saboteur or a manipulator: someone who recognizes that proximity opens the door of opportunity to bring prayer closer to those in leadership!

Presidents, governors, congressmen, judges, mayors and the like, they’re all just people.  They often find themselves uncertain and in need of input; more often than we even know..  As we saw in the movie, “The Butler,” those who serve them in a non-political capacity are often subsconciously regarded by these authorities as more trustworthy than the people in official advisory positions around them.  While a leader may or may not acknowledge that relationship as “friendship,” a trusted servant has a powerful connection!  There are others in the Bible with that same type of direct and indirect influence, such as Mordecai, Daniel, Shadrach, Meschech, and Abednego…and then there’s Esther, whose beauty and goodness became the favor point that earned her a place in the kingdom at the king’s side.

The Word admonishes us to be wise as serpents yet harmless as doves.  A mature believer full well knows the importance of one’s words.  Would you be willing to be an unsung hero for the kingdom of God, by just being an unassuming voice of reason to those who have the power to order a thing to pass?  Pray with me:

“Father, I don’t know whether You would will it to be so, but I offer myself today to be a cupbearer to the king, for Your glory.  If I was born for such as time as this, I am willing.  Thank You that we live in a nation and states where we are a free people, and where our religious freedoms still abound even when they are challenged.  Forgive me for times when I have railed on the “establishment,” and chose to complain instead of pray. However, I know we are in a late hour, and that You are mobilizing key people to be godly influences to those in leadership in these last days.  You are not just using our gifts inside the walls of the church; You are using our talent, abilities, and insight as tools in both the secular world and the government to turn attention back toward You.  Use what You’ve given me WHEREVER You want!

I may or may not have proximity to actual persons in authority, but I ask You to help me walk in the kind of integrity that could open up that possibility.  Help me to be a person in whom others can share things confidentially, knowing that I won’t betray their trust.  Help me to develop a reputation for honesty, for even-temperament, for respectability, for wisdom, for quietness until there’s a right time to speak.  May even those who don’t yet value You value the qualities they see You instilling within me.  Set them up for an encounter with You through me!  Give me great love for those who are over me; a willingness to see them as souls and not just authority figures.  Burden me to pray for them and their families.  Give me genuine concern for their well-being spiritually, physically, and mentally.  As Your Word has instructed, I will make it my priority to pray for them.  I ask You, too, to alert me to pray for the ones who are often overlooked by other intercessors!

Lord, even if it is not meant for me to be a servant or confidante of someone in authority,  I pledge to be salt and light right where I am now.  I’ll be a model citizen.  I will be that employee who’s trusted and valued.  And I pray now for others who might be chosen to be cupbearers.  Father, raise up godly men and women and young people who are in the ears of those who must make decisions that affect entire geographic regions–nations, states, counties, municipalities.  May these leaders feel drawn to the wisdom and integrity of godly influences, and may they begin to conform to the attributes of these godly people even though they might not yet know You!  Use your children to walk the halls of capitol buildings, corporate boardrooms, courthouses, and city halls.  May our prayers echo and bounce off the walls into every crack.  Lord, bless even the little old Christian lady who’s on her knees scrubbing the floor where a senator or governor sits.  As she does her job, may praises and prayer quietly infiltrate and change an entire atmosphere!  Send dreams to our leaders as well, and to their spouses…for You’ve even used dreams to initiate positive change.

Finally, Lord, as a cupbearer, I ask you to remind me when someone is in captivity or being treated unjustly!  Like the Pharaoh’s servant who suddenly remembered Joseph, may my carefully-dispensed suggestions come sparingly but always in Your time, so that a word in season might spark an entire chain of events capable of saving a nation!  Like Nehemiah, may my influence, whether at a secular job or in the town in which I live, open a door to further Your kingdom and Your will!  Give me favor and I vow not to abuse it.  If I am a cupbearer one day and suddenly assigned to build a wall of protection, to restore broken things, and to fight the enemy at the same time if necessary, then amen and so be it!  Make me a restorer and rebuilder wherever You situate me.  On whatever level You choose to use me, I am yours.  Make me Your ambassador, Your special liaison, and I will strive not to disappoint You in any way!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Velcro Devotion in a Teflon World

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“But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life.”  Deut. 15:16-17 NIV

In these last days, it seems harder than ever to find people who will serve in any capacity—much less ministry–with lasting devotion.  In the era of contractual service, we seek an “out clause” in almost everything we say ‘yes’ to.  Marriages dissolve once the honeymoon is over; parents abandon their post and leave their children to be raised by the grandparents (an alarming trend); and, few places of employment are left where someone can hope to work clear up until retirement. We all tend to want to milk the best out of something and then discard it once it no longer profitable or fulfilling to us.  It makes me think of the Winans song, “Bring Back the Days of Yea and Nay.”

The above Scripture related to someone who had sold himself (or herself) into servant hood.   It was an understood law that in the seventh year, that person would be set free from the master, at which time the master awarded a blessing for the service before releasing the servant.  Now, I’m aware that sometimes it’s entirely fitting for someone to operate in a season, or an agreed time of service, and then be released from it.  I don’t wish to condemn anyone if that has been your chosen path; on the contrary, I respect and am grateful for all these days who sign on for any level of service, even the temporary!  Laborers in the field are often hard to come by!  What I do want to encourage in this writing, however, is for a special remnant of people to catch the vision of becoming a servant for LIFE.  Can we say to the Lord, “I will faithfully tend this patch of Your field, in good times and in bad, in season, out of season, when I’m praised for it and when I’m an unsung hero too.  I’ll be so predictable and so constant, You and my leaders won’t have to wonder if I’ll show up to serve…it’ll be a given!”

In terms of commitment in our service to the Lord, Who has so abundantly blessed us all, I would just challenge you today to examine yourself. Do you consider His work and His priorities something that you do ala carte, or is it an integral part of who you are?  You may never be called upon to sell completely out and go full-time into ministry, but if He were to ask, would you be willing?  What material possessions, hobbies, or other preoccupations would you find hard to push aside in favor of going to a higher level in your commitment to the Lord and His work?  Do you ever bow up and feel offense rising within your spirit whenever the pastor or a leader asks you to give up some of your closely guarded leisure time for a worthwhile investment in kingdom work?

Most of us who serve in the ministry do so on a purely volunteer basis; but may we, from this day forward, never look at it as a “favor” that we do for God.  Whether the time we invest in ministry is a few minutes a month or several hours each week, may we treat our offering of ourselves in this way as a holy thing unto the Lord.  May we not look at our service as something which we can do with less than excellence, or with less faithfulness than someone who is, for instance, a pastor.  May we not feel as if we are exempt from accountability just because we do what we do on a volunteer basis. The truth is, all of us are “paid” by the Lord.  As you are sowing your service into the work of the Master, He is returning blessing upon your life and upon your family’s lives in ways money can and cannot buy…and He has an excellent memory when it comes to keeping record of your faithfulness!

Those servants released at the end of the period of service walked away with their masters’ blessing—and reward–with no questions asked.  God will not withhold blessing from you for going no farther than what you may have originally pledged in His service. And He also knows that there are times in your life when you’ll be able to give less of yourself—He knows babies will be born, times of sickness may temporarily slow your pace, aging parents will need cared for.  He is not a tyrant Master! That said, in whatever capacity you choose to give yourself to kingdom work, I pray that, beginning today, you will do so with joy and with excellence, and with a renewed sense of zeal for His purposes.

Just know that you are a set-apart, unique, and treasured member of His household—bearing the mark of His awl, if you should choose to say, “Use me Lord, however You wish, for the rest of my life!” What a testimony of the goodness of our Master, when we declare to Him in the presence of a mixed-up and ambiguous, fickle world, “It’s unthinkable that I should ever be separated from my submission and service to You!’

My prayer today:

Heavenly Father, thank You for bringing us into Your family, both as sons/daughters and as Your servants.  I pray today that all of us will be consumed with zeal for Your house; may the plight of the lost and the destitute move us like it moves You.  I pray that we will always have a godly, meek attitude with regard to our giving of time, talent, and treasure—and that we will never look at what You ask of us as encroachment upon “our” territory.  Father, we love You, and we love being a part of Your family and Your work.  Whether our involvement is to serve in ministry in the church, or to be salt and light out in the secular world, we pledge to You that we will let our light so shine among men, and that we will take Your kingdom wherever we are planted.  We may not always be asked to serve in the same areas we start out in, and that’s ok–we realize the importance of times and seasons—but we yield ourselves in undying devotion to Your will, knowing that You’ll find ways to make us fruitful in every stage of our lives. You will never ask more of us than we are able to perform; Jesus assured us that His burden is easy and His yoke is light!  Bottom line, we make ourselves permanently available to You, to do with as You will.  With our ear against the door, willing to be pierced in covenant, we say to You, “Yours, unconditionally.”  In Jesus’ name, Amen.