Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

24 07 2014

Have you ever been comforted by the Lord? Have you been released from bondage, had your eyes open to things which you previously could not see? Been cleansed of sin?

Second Corinthians opens with this:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction…”

Why did He do this for us?

“… so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” (vs. 3-4)

Frustration is running high at the moment. I’ve been searching for someone who’s been in my shoes and shown the way out of the mess.

Those who’ve never been through what I’m dealing with are able to provide some relief, but very little experiential help.

Those who have been there, done that, aren’t talking.

When we are in a war and fighting for our lives, we don’t need pat, textbook ideology. We need a veteran who can share what works, what doesn’t…living, breathing proof that there is hope. We can survive this thing!

Life has been difficult, and a lot of damage was done when I was a child. Through the years, the Lord has been faithful to heal many of those wounds.

While being free of the pain was fantastic – able to respond to a current situation instead of react to ‘triggers’ – I discovered that the ugliness is redeemed every time I reach out to others and comfort them with the same comfort I received from the Lord.

As a veteran, I have more to offer than, “I read in a book…”.

“I’ve been in that trench: These are some of the things you need to pay attention to. Here are some areas to avoid.” 

There are many people who are hurting and in desperate need of hope – the kind of hope only someone who’s been through it can provide. (Think Job and his “helpful’ friends! He called them ‘miserable comforters.‘)

All that to say this: Whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been, if you see someone in a similar situation, lay down fears of what people might think if they knew and the pride of wanting to appear perfect, and

for the Kingdom’s sake, tell your story

…and offer to help.

This is the body at its finest,  The healing we receive from the Lord is a gift to us. As I read Scripture, though, I notice that gifts from the Lord are never solely for our consumption (with the exception of tongues). They are meant to be spent on others.

Our past does not define us – “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone; the new is come.”

Jesus bore all our shame on the cross. When the enemy uses my history to beat on me, I point to the cross where Jesus declared, “It is finished,” and thank him for the reminder of how much I need Jesus…what a mess I am without Him.

If you’ve been hiding behind a “perfect” facade, unwilling to let others know the secrets of your past, step out and let His glorious work shine through you to reach others. The word, “hypocrite” comes from the theater, and means “actor.” It is only in the dark where the thing has any power to hurt you anymore. In our mind, it grows and grows like dust bunnies under the bed.

Bring your light out from under the bushel basket and watch the hurting be drawn like bugs to a zapper! As an added bonus, you get to walk in the freedom that Jesus paid so high a price to secure.

The world needs the real you, so

Come out, come out wherever you are!





Carried On

15 05 2014

Here are wonderful promises for today:

Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,

And all the remnant of the house of Israel,

Who have been upheld by Me from birth,

Who have been carried from the womb;

Even to your old age, I am He,

And even to gray hairs I will carry you!

I have made, and I will bear,

Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

Isaiah 46:3-4

 

And…

Do not remember the former things,

Nor consider the things of old,

Behold, I will do a new thing,

Now it shall spring forth;

Shall you not know it?

I will even make a road in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Take heart. Our Father is near…He is here! He will never leave nor forsake us. What a wonderful God we serve!!!

 





Impossible!

5 02 2014

Chosen by God…that’s you and me.

We remember the day we were anointed to become kings and priests before our God (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6).

That we were chosen had nothing to do with skills, talents, gifts, abilities, looks, but was based on our heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Despite being chosen, some of us may not yet be “installed” into the place to which we were called – like David who was anointed to be king of Israel, but was not crowned until many years later.

What do we do in the meantime? Let’s drop in on David in 1 Samuel 17 to see what David did.

We find three of his older brothers with Saul’s army at the Valley of Elah. Across the valley was the Philistine army, along with their champion, Goliath.

Saul had already been rejected by God as king, and David already anointed to take his place.

However, David was at home, tending sheep! Not for long.

Dad called on David to run an errand. He was to take grain, bread, and cheese to the army.

In essence, this anointed one was dispatched as a pizza delivery guy!

It is interesting that David didn’t tell his dad, “What? Are you kidding me? I’m the king! Get one of my other brothers to be your errand boy. That’s not my calling!”

Instead, he obeyed his father and set out for the battle.

As he drew near to the place, he could hear the big mouth of Goliath. Every boast and taunt rankled.

He left the supplies with the supply keeper, then went in search of his brothers.

After he asked what was going on, his oldest brother turned on David and accused him of being a rubbernecker. Undaunted, he went and talked to some of the other men.

Everyone told him how big and mean Goliath was.

On the other hand, David’s question was this: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

The men saw a big problem…David saw his big God.

Saul got word that there was someone willing to take on the giant. He was just a kid, though. What to do?

David was summoned, and the king insisted that the fellow put on his armor.

I think David went along with it just so he could tell his buds back home, “I got to wear Saul’s armor!”

The results were laughable. Saul stood head and shoulders above grown men, and David was just a youth.

It didn’t take much intelligence to realize that this would not go well. He took it off again and deferred to his own weapons – a staff and a sling.

He told of killing a lion and a bear with nothing more than these…and his Lord.

Besides, this guy was bad-mouthing the army of the living God – and it ticked him off. Someone needed to shut him up. If no one else was willing to do the thing, then he’d see to it.

Wearing someone else’s “armor” is awkward.

David knew God could use what this shepherd brought to the table.

He stopped on the way to the valley and selected five smooth stones.

Then came the moment of truth.

Once he stepped into that valley, there was no turning back. Could he do it?

Are you kidding?

He was there to defend the honor of the living God.

Without the first irrevocable step,

all David had said would be just a lot of hot air…

No different than Goliath!

“You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

“This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”

Then, in classic Aragorn fashion (Lord of the Rings), David ran toward Goliath.

True to his word, he felled the giant with a single stone, then took Goliath’s sword and severed his head from his body. (Ladies say, “Eew!”)

He took that head with him to Jerusalem. (Double Eew!)

As you see above, there are three things we want to take away from this story:

1. The men saw a big problem…David saw his big God.

When we are faced with difficulties we choose what we will focus on. Will it be the size of the matter before us? Or will it be the size of our living God?

2. Wearing someone else’s “armor” is awkward.

Each one of us has been given, by God’s divine power, all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3).

In other words, God knew what armor you have before He invited you into this ordeal.

We get ourselves into great trouble when we compare our equipment (anointing, skills, abilities, talents, or gifts) to those around us.

“Oh, if only I could teach like So-and-so.” “Oh, if only I was a prayer warrior like _________.” “If I had leadership skills like Whats-his-face…”

“THEN I could _________________.”

Um…wrong-o! First Corinthians 1:27 reads, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.”

Feeling too weak or foolish to see the thing through? Perfect! You’re exactly the person God wants to use!

Not only that, but we look downright silly trying to “wear” what someone else has when we step into the arena.

3. Without the first irrevocable step, we will be no different than many other people who sit in church on a Sunday singing about how brave they are…

…then go home and do nothing out of fear: fear of failure, of looking foolish, of not doing it right, of what others might think.

Life will come to a close. They’ll draw the sheet up over our heads, and we will have done nothing noteworthy to demonstrate the power of the living God.

Today I want you to know this:

You are enough for anything God wants to do through you!

Get your sling, and I’ll meet you at the edge of the valley, for nothing is impossible…

…with God!

(This was Sunday’s sermon…bits of it, anyway. It was so good that I went back in the evening to hear it again!)





Buffeted at the Buffet

27 01 2014

It’s easy to tell when we’re on the right track spiritually:

God is on the move in our lives and we’re cooperating with Him.

We’re hearing from Him in ways that are fresh and new.

We’re spending more time in His Word, or in worship.

We’re reaching out to others and speaking God’s truth into their lives.

At times like these, opposition grows and can become overwhelming, if we don’t know how our enemy operates.

I recently read 2 Corinthians 12:7 and noticed something I’d never seen before. Let me quote it, then we’ll chat.

“And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me…”

I’ve heard countless sermons on this “thorn in the flesh.” Most seem to think it was his eye problem, others that he was short and ugly…kinda’ rude, I think!

On the other hand, I’ve heard few talk about the “messenger of Satan.” For me, this bit was key.

What does a messenger do, anyway?

He delivers messages…words.

This one’s messages buffet us. They can be a continual onslaught

…nothing good or helpful…

…or true.

After all, his messages come from the father of lies – the one about whom Jesus said, “He cannot speak the truth, for there is no truth in him.

When I think of buffeting, I think of a ship at sea, fully rigged and sails billowing. Although the wind cannot be seen, the sailors must know how to read its effects. If they don’t, the vessel could be blown off course. Harnessed, the wind propels them toward their destiny. Unheeded, it could lead to their ruin.

In the same way, if we are not taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, we are at the mercy of the buffeting of these messengers of Satan.

We can find our mental energy consumed when we let the wind of their words carry us wherever they will.

As with a ship, this can lead to our destruction…which is, of course, the intent.

The Lord prepares a banquet before us in the presence of our enemies.

Never forget their presence!

For, while we’re enjoying the sumptuous fare set before us, they are at our side – buffeting us with memories of things done to us, things done by us. They seek to stir up strife, anger, bitterness, and rage – or guilt, shame, and condemnation. They hurl accusations against us. They can be relentless.

The most foolish thing a soldier could do in the midst of the war is say, “I’m sick of all the fighting, the continual vigilance, the stress of worrying about the next attack. Forget this. Let’s party!” We would hear about their death in the next edition of the news.

We must be wise, and not foolish. We are in a war. The time for taking off our armor comes when we reach heaven. Until then, we dare not remove it – especially at the banquet table.

Lord, this understanding is helpful; but is there anything I can do about it? I wondered.

“Yes, but it will take some effort on your part,” was His reply.

We must take those thoughts that come against us and turn them to praise.

If you think about it, every circumstance, every struggle, every dumb thing we’ve ever done has served to make us who we are today. The relationship we have with Jesus is a result of what we’ve been through.

We’ve learned by experience that God is faithful.

We’ve become stronger people, and discovered that things we thought would be the end of us have instead caused us to mature.

Current problems are opportunities for the Lord to show Himself mighty on our behalf.

Remorse and regret are not very helpful – unless we use those memories to praise the Lord for His immense patience with us. We can thank Him for those blunders, and for His atoning sacrifice that paid for every sin we’ve ever committed…and have yet to commit.

In other words, when we find ourselves in gale-force winds of adversity and choose to turn it into a praise meeting many good things come from our active resistance.

Life becomes peaceful when we take every thought captive and choose to look for the good, the right, the pure, the just, the lovely…the praiseworthy.

We move from a “victim” stance to one of victory as we look for reasons to be grateful for life’s events (and remember that they won’t last forever!)

Not only that, but a good look at the path down which we’ve come…including traveling companions selected for the journey…gives us a chance to see how God has taken all things and been working them for our good. That’s worth more than gold!

Do this often enough and our ever-present enemy may stand by us at the buffet…but the buffeting will cease – at least for a while. The last thing they want is for us to take their buffeting and turn it into a praise session!





Struck Down But Not Crushed

3 10 2013

Your past is insignificant except in its value to shape and mold you into the person you are today.

Please stop displaying the tools used to form you. They are not the masterpiece –

You are.

What the enemy meant for evil, I intended to use for good.

You are the showpiece of what I can create using the roughest of tools…everything the adversary brought against you.

Yet you sit on your haunches, whining and holding up the tools of yore for all to behold.

“Look what they did to me!” you cry to passersby.

Yes look. YOU look! Take a good long look.

Do you see the effects? The faith, mercy, compassion, empathy, grace, love, strength, endurance, perseverance, and patience that are now yours?

They are within you in greater measure than they were even a few years ago.

The trials have been hot – intensely hot, I know. They were necessary.

You are clay. Do you know anything of the potter?

The clay is rolled into a ball, then slammed onto the wheel. More pushing and shoving takes place. It takes a fair amount of force to center the clay on the wheel to keep it from slinging off when the work begins.

Then comes more pressure – and going round and round…wall, wall, wall, shirt…over and over. Seen the same scenery time and again? Now you know why.

The implements used are hard. Some smooth, some pointed and sharp.

The potters fingers are poked into the center, pushing, pressing, thinning out the walls.

More implements are used on the outside, and on the inside.

All the while, the potter’s eyes never leave his project. All could be ruined in an instant by distractions, so he stays focused.

The spinning finally stops; but it’s not over yet.

The pot is cut off at the foot…that useless excess clay that held it to the wheel.

Next it’s time for the drying rack; a place where no water is added, and the excess moisture can evaporate. Feeling like you’re cried out? Hmm.

The pot is shelved, seemingly abandoned and rejected.

At last it’s a beautiful earthen vessel. Not good for much, though.

If bumped, it will crack. If filled with liquid, it will absorb the fluid and begin to sag…until it becomes a useless lump of clay again!

What to do? It’s of little value if all it can do is sit there, untouchable.

The firing furnace is necessary to make it useful.

Glazes may be applied, then baked into the piece. What special “glaze” do you have? An illness, injury, or disease? These add to the beauty and uniqueness of each piece, you know.

An interesting thing happens in the kiln. The piece becomes transparent! The potter can see right through the pot. It’s at this point that he knows this vessel can hold water without reverting back to its original form.

Some vessels receive more layers of glaze to achieve the desired result. That, of course, means more time in the kiln.

This has been the story of your life: squished, rolled, smacked down, a life that goes in circles, pressure, your insides messed with, drought, the heat of trials and so forth.

But look, will you? As a result of all you’ve gone through, look what you’ve become!

The only significance those past experiences have had is that they’ve made you what you are today –

My masterpiece.

Without those implements, you would be a lump of clay that melts away into nothingness.

Stop cursing them and be grateful for their value in forming you.

It is My work in you that I want to show off,

not the tools I used.

I want My work in you to declare my glory to the world…my ability to use everything the enemy threw at you to create beauty from the ashes he left behind.

So long as you insist on holding up the tools as if they are badges of honor, that’s all people will see.

Pity will be your reward…a sorry substitute for the glory I want to display through you, don’t you think?

Stand firm…it’s time to rise from the ashes and see –

– not “what might have been”

-but God’s redeeming work in…and through…You!

Praise Him, He saved you from what you would have become, and used your past to make you into who you are today.

If you’ll only see it.

*****

God does not commit evil against us, but the Bible is clear that He allows mere man to choose to do whatever he wants, and also allows the adversary a certain amount of freedom to do likewise (Job, Peter).

Those who do not belong to the household of God belong to the household of the devil, and carry out his will against humans who were made in the image of God. Watch the evening news or read the paper. You can see that he is still hard at work to steal, kill, and destroy. His tools? Other humans.

The amazing thing is that God comes behind him and uses this to turn us into vessels of honor…fit to house the very Spirit of God. I do not pretend to understand this completely, but it has been my experience absolutely.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a great deal of evil, so I’m not talking in theory.

I’ve seen His handiwork as He’s healed this brokenhearted woman, set this captive free. He’s given me the ability to rise up with wings like eagles, to run and not be weary, to walk and not faint. It wasn’t until I was able to see His ability to give me beauty for ashes, and to redeem every bit of darkness within me that I was finally able to let go of my posture as a victim and walk in freedom and Light.

We must let go of unforgiveness and bitterness or learn to be content with pity as our reward for all we endured. I don’t know about you, but I suffered enough at the hands of others. I’ll be hanged if I’m going to pick up where they left off. I’m on my feet and heading for the battle field. There are many others who need to know of God’s healing power. They’ve been taken hostage, and enough is enough! Let’s go get them.

To God be the glory forever!

Amen

\o/