Hold Down the Fort!

Jesus is the “word of the truth of the gospel,” the One who brings “forth fruit.” If you’ve accepted Him as your Lord and Savior, the good results of your life belong to Him; He has “delivered us from the power of darkness.” Colossians 1:5-6, 13.

On our own, we’re swimming, mostly drowning, in the enemy’s sea of darkness. When we accept Jesus, He pulls us out of that darkness. Unless we jump back in, it no longer has any power over us. I cannot count the number of times I’ve jumped back in, but I’m eternally grateful that every time I’ve cried out for Jesus, He’s pulled me out again.

Jesus is perfectly able to save us from the darkness, to cut off and revoke its power over us because “by Him all things were created,” “whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.” Colossians 1:16. Who better understands how to control anything than its creator?

That is why He tells us to “stand” when we put on the whole armor of God. Ephesians 6:10-18. He repeats this command because it is so vitally important. Our job is to “stand,” “withstand,” and “stand” as we “put on the whole armor of God.”

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness.” Ephesians 6:12. On our own, we can’t even see what or who is really behind the forces against us. Occcasionally, the Holy Spirit gives us a quick glimpse of the real enemy, a flash of a snapshot of the perpetrator. That momentary peek comes with no other clues or context, and we don’t see the cohorts or chain of command.

But, as we accept the armor He’s created especially for us, we get to participate in His line of defense against the real enemies behind our problems. Standing with other believers who have also volunteered to put on their armor, we serve as a line of defense, a bulwark, a barrier, a citadel and a stronghold through which the enemy cannot penetrate. We stand in the light, arms linked, guarding those we love, all those to whom He’s connected us. We don’t fight the battle ourselves, but we get to hold down the fort while Jesus fights for us.

Amen and amen.

7-31-2020

The end of another month.

All of 2020 & especially since March,

the pandemic has consumed us all.

Whether we’re infected with covid-19

or just the fear & isolation & pandemonia,

it surrounds and encapsulates.

The ants still scurry back & forth

doing their work.

The birds still fly & sing.

The possum still sleeps, or so we think.

The lion stands proud & high

& doesn’t need to roar.

The world has pivoted on its axis.

A slight tilt of a half degree

otherwise unnoticed but for

the constant faint sound, just beyond

our hearing, almost heard.

The swoosh, swoosh,

air in & out of respirators,

keeping some of us alive for a while.

“For a mere moment

I have forsaken you,

but with great mercies

I will gather you….

For the mountains shall depart

and the hills be removed,

but my kindness

shall not depart from you….

Behold, I have created the blacksmith

who blows the coals in the fire,

who brings forth an instrument

for his work;

I have created the spoiler to destroy.

No weapon formed against you

shall prosper,

& every tongue that

rises against you in judgment,

you shall condemn.” Isaiah 54:7, 10, 16-17.

We are not abandoned

or left to fight alone.

The battle rages beyond

the reach, outside the pall

of the pandemic.

We were caught unprepared

& off guard,

thrown to the ground

& down for the count.

But Jehovah the Lord

saw this coming from

before the clock started.

His blacksmith has

wrought out of the fire

the weapon to destroy

the enemy, melt his veneer

of lies and mirrors,

vaporize his disease.

“As wax melts before the fire,

so let the wicked perish

at the presence of God.” Psalm 68:2.

Amen & amen.

What Are You Looking For?

You can be sure that’s exactly what you’ll find.

What we focus on shapes and colors our world. Like “Where’s Waldo?” in the kids’ book section, we can train our eyes and ears to see and hear whatever we want, even when it’s hidden in obscurity in the middle of a puzzle.

Philippians 4:8 dares us to focus on, meditate on, concentrate on and seek out the good in life. “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8

It is desperately important for us to search out the truth. When has there ever been so many lies and half-truths? We are drowning in misinformation and meaningless tidbits of nonsense. But we can ask God to reveal the truth that rises above that cesspool, always and forever unchanging and certain.

We can look for nobility–not in the royal lineage of kings and queens–but in the poorest people giving the most, the sickest people complaining the least, the true heroes that never seek applause.

We can search out purity–of hearts, of smiles, of the blue sky, gray sky, hurricanes or gentle breezes, from the joy that comes not from a bottle or another person or riches or fame but from the love that comes first from God and then gets passed on from person to person, a pure gift that is wonderfully contagious and infectious.

We must look for and aid justice–in our courts and governments, in our homes and businesses and especially in our relationships, justice extended to everyone.

We are blessed beyond measure when we look for loveliness–in the lonely old man’s timid smile as he dares to look you in the eyes as he passes you at Walmart, in a child offering you the gift of a pebble retrieved from his driveway, in an old memory that comes unbeckoned but oh-so-sweet.

We need to listen for anything that is of good report–and then pass it on. If someone does something good, congratulate them and tell others about it. No matter how small the accomplishment, notice it and compliment that person. Never miss an opportunity to encourage someone, especially yourself.

Focus on whatever has virtue. Look for goodness and value everywhere; you’ll always find God at work there.

Turn your spotlight of attention on whatever is praiseworthy. When scanning the headlines or the horizon, pass quickly over the ugly, nasty, mean-spirited, negative news and wastelands until your eyes and ears rest on the good, praiseworthy miracles of life hiding in plain sight all around us.

If we only ask God to guide our eyes and ears and minds and souls to look for these good things, He will always show them to us, delighted to delight us, excited to enlighten and encourage us.

Amen and amen.

Supply and Multiply

“He who sows sparingly

will also reap sparingly,

and he who sows bountifully

will also reap bountifully.

God loves a cheerful giver.

Now may He who supplies

seed to the sower

and bread for food,

supply and multiply

the seed you have sown

and increase the fruits of your righteousness.”

2 Corinthians 9:6-7, 10 NKJV

Since every bit of everything good

comes from God,

we can hold it loosely and easily

allow it to flow on to others.

Even if the good Lord Himself

takes it from our hands,

we can rest assured that

He’s opening our hands

to receive something better.

Whatever we get from Him

benefits us most

when we send it on to someone else.

It’s God’s law of supply and demand.

He multiplies everything He’s given us

in ridiculously lavish proportion

greater than what we’ve given.

And He tops it off with whipped cream and a cherry,

the sweetness of joy & love & patience

& peace & goodness

& greater & greater ability

to trust Him more & more.

Amen and amen.

2020 vision

He started out firmly settled on one direction.

He knew without a doubt his way was right, the most righteous

thing to do was to continue doing what he’d always done.

Then he he got the promotion he’d been waiting for.

He was going on to even bigger and better things.

He was on his road to success.

Then Saul saw the light of his Savior

on the road to Damascus.

Jesus’ light struck him down to the ground

and blinded him to everything in the world.

Saul was left in black isolation

until Jesus sent a terrified servant to heal Saul’s blindness.

Like Saul, Ananias did not want to see beyond what he believed,

but they both accepted the truth and did as Jesus said.

The seed of truth accepted into the rock hard clay of unbelief

shattered lifetimes of reliable, familiar notions of what must be true,

what they’d always known to be positively true.

May our current 2020 vision of what must be true,

what we’ve always known to be positively true,

fall away like the scales from Saul’s eyes

if in fact we’re blind to Jesus’ light,

most especially and desperately those of us raised and steeped in certainty of belief

and long traditions of thought or ancient ruins of doctrine that no longer

hold life or water.

Ruin us for life as we’ve always known and cherished it

as we walk our road to Damascus without Jesus.

Strike down our proud hearts set on going our own way

and blind us with the light of your love

so we’ll know the way, the truth and the life

and no longer be only who we think we want to be

but who You’ve truly created us to be.

Amen and amen

Thlipsis

Nope. That’s not a typo. It’s what is happening to you if you live in this world, and I assume, if you’re reading this, you live here on planet earth.

Thlipsis is the Greek word for tribulation, and it means pressure, oppression, stress, anguish, adversity, affliction, crushing, squashing, squeezing, distress. It is pressure that comes against that which otherwise is free and unfettered. It is what happens to grapes when they’re made into wine and olives when they’re made into oil.

We might think we’ve cornered the market on this kind of crushing, pressurized stress here in our modern society, but it has always been part of living in the world. More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus faced the impossible anguish of being nailed to a cross. He knew what was coming, and in His humanity, He was under the same kind of crushing weight of oppression that we face each day, except He didn’t try to escape from it, but willingly died a horrible death for the sole purpose of saving me and you. He knew the unimaginable suffering of the cross, but trusted our Father’s plan to raise Him from death so that we, you and I, could live with Him in eternity.

Just before Jesus went to the cross, He told His followers:

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me, you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation (thlipsis); but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

What a hilariously encouraging concept! If only we choose to believe that Jesus is our Savior, that He died for you and me, then the crushing weight of the world becomes cause for “good cheer!” When we’re cheerful, we feel light and airy, not weighed down and depressed. The more the world and its ruler, Satan, presses in, crushing the life out of us, the more Jesus breathes His life into us. As we allow Him to breathe His life into us, we become like fine wine that cheers others without any drunkenness or stupor and oil that anoints ourselves and others to reach our true, creative potential.

I laugh in the face of thlipsis! How about you?

Amen and amen!

Can’t Hear Thunder

In my neck of the woods, when someone is hard of hearing, we say they can’t hear thunder.

The day before Jesus went to the cross for us, He devoted much of His time to teaching us what we need to know most: the way, the truth and the life. But as a man, fully human, His soul was troubled, knowing the suffering He faced.

Jesus said, “‘Even though I am torn within, and my soul is in turmoil, I will not ask the Father to rescue me from this hour of trial. For I have come to fulfill my purpose–to offer myself to God. So, Father, bring glory to your name!’ Then suddenly, a booming voice was heard from the sky, ‘I have glorified my name! And I will glorify it through you again!'” John 12:27-28, TPT.

Those nearby were startled by what they heard, some hearing thunder and others thinking an angel spoke to Jesus. Only a few recognized the audible voice of God thundering from heaven.

We have to truly want to hear the truth that is still thundering from heaven. Even then, we often only hear the thunder in the whirlwind. (Psalm 77:18, NKJV) Even God’s most dedicated servants sometimes have to run away from the world to hide in a cave until the raging wind passes, the earth stops quaking, and the fire subsides before we can hear the still, small voice of our God. (1 Kings 19:12) Even then, we may be reluctant to accept God’s calling instead of carrying on with our own plans.

But, if we’re willing to cry out to our Father God, He will hear us and deliver us out of our trouble. He will answer our cries “in the secret place of thunder.” (Psalm 81:7, NKJV, TPT)

For too much of my life, I couldn’t hear thunder. I really didn’t want to hear the truth because I knew it would mess up my plans and my way of thinking. Now, I am trying to quiet my soul enough to hear God’s still, small voice in the midst of the thunder.

Amen and amen.

The Promise of Protection

If we want it, God has promised us His protection from all evil. He longs to protect us from the evil and chaos coming at us from every side in this fallen world. In fact, even Jesus needed God’s protection from the evil that Satan launched against Him every day. Often angels were God’s agents bringing Jesus protection from Satan and the religious leaders who sought to destroy Him. That same host of angels that came to help Jesus in His times of need are still available to help every believer today.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus relied on God’s word to rebuke Satan, and then victoriously proclaimed: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.'” (v. 10) As soon as Jesus said those words, “the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” (v. 11) As His believers, we too have authority through Jesus to tell Satan to get away and proclaim our worship of God alone, so that God in His providence will protect us as only He can.

Both the old and new testaments are clear; angels are still available to help us. Sometimes they come simply because God loves us and wants to protect us. Sometimes they come because we have cried out for help. But they come. In small, unnoticed ways, and in miraculous, saving grace.

Think about the times when you’ve escaped danger, like a car passing in your lane and hurtling straight toward you when, in a flash, it’s back in the opposite lane, and you’re still alive and traveling on. Each of us have experienced unexplainable protection from danger, some we realize and many we won’t know about until we get home. If we accept that Jesus is our Savior.

Psalm 91 is a beautiful example of this promise. I pray that you will get out your Bible and read it yourself. If you don’t have access to a Bible, but you have a smart phone, there are many apps that allow you to read the Bible right there on your phone. Or you can go to the book aisle in Walmart, pick up a Bible, and turn to Psalm 91, near the middle of the Bible. In today’s world, at least in the USA, there are opportunities to read the Bible all around us. Again, it all comes down to choice.

“For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with ther hands so ou won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” Psalm 91:11-12.

Amen and amen.

Escape

When life seems too frustrating, I like to dream about escaping to a beach with the soft sound of waves contiually rolling over sand, sitting in the shade under an impossibly blue sky, the occasional sounds of seagulls squawking and other people’s laughter nearby. Aaahh! So soothing. The ocean is definitely a very happy place for me.

But too soon I have to wake up from my daydream to live out my mid-western, landlocked life with all its responsibilities and chores. I look around and see a house that needs to be cleaned, projects waiting to be started and many more left half-done. I think about the day ahead and begin to tense up as I see an endless to-do list and far too many choices to navigate. On top of it all, I have put myself on a “healthy eating plan” (not a diet–never even say that despicable word to me). By choosing to eat healthier and move more, I have confronted the temptations of junk food, mindless overeating, and couch potato slothfulness. Before this choice, I was always tempted, but I rarely allowed myself to think about those temptations before giving in to them. Now, I am trying and often succeeding in confronting those temptations as they occur. Much more often than before, I now make a healthier choice and avoid the unhealthy temptation.

A huge part of why I have been able to more successfully manuever through these temptations this time around (attempt # 10,469), is the word of God, living and powerful as a two-edged sword. The verse that I am trying to live out is this: (from The Passion Translation)

“We all experience times of testing, which is normal for every human being. But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face so that you can bear it. And each test is an opportunity to trust Him more, for along with every trial God has provided a way of escape that will bring you out of it victoriously.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.

I’d still love to escape to the beach this winter, but for now I am happy to escape the temptations of potato chips and ice cream so that I’ll get the far better reward of trusting God more in a life of victory. No more defeat from giving in to temptations I’m not willing to face.

More next week on how God sends His angels to help us escape from temptations. Love to all who read this.

Amen and amen.

Answer Yes or No

A direct question calls for a direct answer. If Jesus comes to me and asks, “Do you want to be healed?” the answer is either “yes” or “no.” I either want to allow Him to change me from broken to healed, or I want to continue doing things my own way.

If my answer to His question, “Do you want to be healed?” is to explain why I can’t be healed, then I have not only avoided the question like a true politician, but I’ve also set up my own method for dealing with the problem as superior to His. Now that I am in the sixth decade of this life God has graced me with, I can look back on far too many times I’ve avoided seeing and hearing from Jesus because that would mess up my plan for taking care of the problem myself.

In John 5:1-15, a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years had a plan to heal himself. He got himself to the place where other people went for healing called the pool of Bethesda where he believed an angel would heal him if he could crawl into the water before the others. When Jesus came there, He asked the man, “Do you want to be healed?” But the lame man did not answer the question. Instead he explained to Jesus all the reasons why he could not be healed. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” John 5:6-7.

Jesus chose to bless that man with a miracle despite his unwillingness to let go of his own plan–a plan he knew would never work. All it took for that man to be healed was to hear Jesus say, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” John 5:8. But that man didn’t even know who had healed him until Jesus found him again, revealed Himself, and rebuked him to “sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” John 5:14.

These days, I am trying to listen better, watch closer, and answer more directly when the Holy Spirit tries to get through to me. I want to be healed of my selfishness, my complacency, my willfulness, and especially any belief that is contrary to the word of God. Yes! I want to be healed of all physical and mental and emotional illnesses in me. And I want to allow Jesus to heal me much more than I want to stick to my own foolish plan that clearly has never worked anyway.

What is your answer? I pray it is a simple and humble Yes!

Amen and amen.