How to Treat a Snake Bite

Listening to the radio the other day, I heard a story about how to treat a snake bite. The number one thing NOT to do is put a tourniquet on it. If you isolate the poison by cutting off the blood flow to the area with the bite, you will probably cause more damage than the snake alone could ever cause.

When we are spiritually bitten, poisoned by the lies of the enemy, it is also crucial NOT to put a tourniquet on the area of the bite. In the spirit realm, placing a tourniquet above the area of the bite happens when we justify our choice to believe the lie of the enemy. This is the process: we tell ourselves that it’s okay to do something we know to be wrong. We find a reason that suits our personality and mind, usually something that is commonly accepted by the world, to convince ourselves that we can get away with doing that which we know to be wrong. We excuse doing what we know to be wrong by accepting some lie that makes it okay for us.

In my life, the area that I have most clearly applied a tourniquet to is my choice to overeat. I know that when I overeat, I not only make myself miserable–feeling stuffed, a little nauseous, sluggish, and weak–I also dull my ability to hear God speaking into my life. I can’t see others’ needs when my focus is the obsession to eat more food, regardless of whether I’m physically hungry or not. It is a way of escaping from my responsibility to take care of this marvelous body and life God has given me and from my responsibility to love others as I love myself. It is a way to pervert God’s gift of enjoying good food, which God created to give me energy and support good health. It turns God’s blessing into a curse.

By justifying overeating, which I have known for decades to be wrong for me, I have applied a tourniquet to this area of my life. I have used every justification out there to absolve myself from doing what I know to be right, with the main justification being–just this once can’t hurt. Of course, “once” every couple of hours over several decades is no longer just once but an ingrained pattern of self-abuse that has resulted in bursitis, high blood pressure, acid reflux, lack of energy, and having to buy bigger and bigger clothes every year.

But even worse than the physical problems is the spiritual atrophy. I will never know what God intended to reveal to me in those moments, day in, day out, for over 30 years, when I chose to do what I knew to be wrong, eating more than enough to satisfy physical hunger. I can clearly see now that by applying the tourniquet of justification to this area of my life, I cut off the flow of Jesus’ blood, causing great damage to what He wanted to accomplsh through my life.

But God is so much greater than my sin that even now, at 61 years of age, He can and will deliver me and cause His life-giving blood to flow into the area of my spirit that I almost killed by my disobedience. My part is to ask Him for forgiveness, which I do, right now, and to repent sincerely, from my heart, so that He can then show me how to turn away from doing wrong and begin doing right. I pray for His guidance to show me how to remove the tourniquet of justification by making choices I know to be right and good in His sight. All for His glory so that everyone I meet will know His goodness and grace.

Amen and men.

 

Pack a lunch

The young boy’s mother didn’t have much to pack for him that day, but she put all she had in a basket. She looked at him as she put the food into the basket and saw something shining in his eyes she’d never seen before. “Son, tell me more about this man you’re going to see,” she said.

The boy, a scrawny lad of no more than ten, looked up at her with his bright, dark eyes, but said nothing for several seconds. Then he looked out the door toward the sea. Their small house was not far from the sea where his father went every day to fish. His catch had not been enough to feed their small family recently, but the boy knew that if he could only meet this man they called Jesus, everything would be all right.

Finally, the boy answered her. “I am going to meet Jesus today. I want to give him our bread and fish so he can help Papa catch enough fish to feed us this year.” His mother smiled and handed him the basket. “Go then. Who knows? God go with you, son. But be home before dark to help your father with his nets.”

The boy took the basket and ran out the door toward the mountain in the distance. As his mother watched him, she saw people coming from every direction. She began to worry that her boy would be caught up in some terrible mob, and she cried out for him to come back, but the wind from the sea carried her voice away. She watched her son running toward the mountain with the others until she could see him no longer.

The boy was so excited as he ran up the grassy slope at the base of the mountain. He had glimpsed some of the men he knew walked with Jesus. He worked his way through the crowds until he found one of them, a man called Andrew who he’d met one day in the village. The boy tugged on Andrew’s sleeve until he turned to look down at the boy, saying impatiently, ‘What do you want?”

“I have these barley loaves and fish to give Jesus,” the boy answered as he tried to catch his breath. Andrew took the boy by the arm and made his way through the crowd to the place where Jesus sat with the rest of his men. Andrew knew that Jesus wanted his followers to feed the crowd, but he realized that all they had combined was not nearly enough to begin feeding the thousands of people who had come to meet Jesus that day. The boy felt a wonderful warmth of love when he saw Jesus looking at the multitude of people. Andrew said to Jesus, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9)

The boy watched, astonished, as Jesus took the basket from him, patted him on the shoulder, and blessed him for his offering. Jesus instructed his men to have the crowd sit down. When the multitudes finally settled down, “Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” (John 6:11)

The boy sat with the others, eating the food Jesus had blessed. He was happier than he’d ever been before. The bread and fish tasted better than ever, and he had a feeling of peace that he had no words to express. When he finished all he could eat, he ran up to Jesus to ask if he could help clean up. Jesus sent him with eleven of His followers to gather the leftovers. “Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over from those who had eaten.” (John 6:13)

When the boy came home late that afternoon, his mother was anxiously watching for him to return. She finally spotted him among the crowd coming away from the mountain. She was stunned when he retuned her basket filled to overflowing with fragments of bread, so much more than what she’d packed for him. She smiled but looked puzzled as she shook her head, kissed her boy, took the basket from him, and watched him run toward the sea to meet his father coming to shore in his fishing boat.

The mother watched her son help his father pull the boat onto the shore. Through the crashing of the waves and cries of the seagulls, she heard her son tell her husband all about the miracle Jesus made happen that day. She did not understand any of it but thanked God for giving her something to pack for her son to give Jesus that day.

(I imagined this story as the backdrop to the account in John 6:1-14. I pray it blesses you with a new perspective.)

The Eternal Good Friday

As our grand cathedrals burn to the ground

leaving only the cross of Christ to stand,

as our coastlands are washed away in torrents

and our cities crumble under wasted lives and deep divisions,

Christ Jesus hangs in an eternal sacrifice for any one

willing to accept Him as Savior.

On this side of eternity we cannot see

the value of a single soul who chooses to accept

His free gift of eternal life.

The eternal Good Friday reaches out to us today

with the horror of the only innocent son of man hanging on a cross

of unfathomable pain and suffering.

God chose and His Son Jesus chose

to come here to earth to save each one of us

knowing most of us would reject that sacrifice

as merely ridiculous, and throw away our only hope

of making it out of here alive.

But He came and suffered and died

for the one who would choose to accept her need

for a Savior to bring her back home,

knowing she had no other way.

But glorious mystery of wonder

that no one can fully explain:

that choice awaits each of us in our eternal soul–

accept salvation or live on your own.

You have the choice to believe you have found another way

because He values the one who chooses Him

above all.

Hope Over Heroin (hope over any addiction)

At New Life Church of God in Benton, IL, we are partnering with Hope Over Heroin. The big event will happen in August 2019. Look for much more information to come.

As in Ezekiel’s vision, recorded in chapter 37, we can no longer walk anywhere in this land without stumbling over the dry bones of the lives thrown away in search of more and more poison to fuel the disease of addiction. Our land is scattered with the shells of people whose lives are sucked dry of all hope of any existence outside their prison of addiction. People who used to live and laugh, who used to go to school and work, who used to love others and enjoy life now lay scattered across our land, able only to ceaselessly crawl toward the black hole of death that is addiction.

But, just as Ezekiel saw the valley of dry bones come to life, we too will see the broken, fragmented, buried lives lost to addiction come up out of the graves. God knows how to cause His breath, the very substance of His Holy Spirit, to enter into these dry bones: “Hear the word of the Lord” and live! “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live!” Ezekiel 37:4-5.

God also knows the step-by-step process it will take to restore the fractured, fragmented, useless shells of addicts back into living, breathing, loving, growing people. God is bringing His Holy Spirit from the four winds to “breathe on these slain, that they may live.” Ezekiel 37:9.  Once people are delivered from addiction, the toughest work begins. Long after they arise from their graves, they will continue to say, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off.” Ezekiel 37:11. So, through the power and might of the Holy Spirit, those set free will have to be convinced, over and over, that they can live and love and be happy, valuable members of our communities again.

We who partner with Hope Over Heroin to battle against addiction must be willing to walk alongside the restored for as long as it takes for God to convince them that He truly loves them and has a plan for them, until they know that the Lord opened their graves and brought them up out of the darkness simply because He loves them. Therefore, we commit to praying and seeing them through so that they will know that God has put His Spirit in them and placed them in their own land to live and breathe again. Ezekiel 37:13-14.

Amen and amen.

A Pure Language

“For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.” Zephaniah 3:9

Yesterday evening, a friend at church asked me to explain to another friend how I had received the Holy Spirit’s gift of tongues. This is where many readers will roll their eyes and be tempted to stop reading. Years ago, I too would have thought, “Oh no! She’s getting into that weirdo stuff only holy rollers believe in.” Well, I challenge you to continue reading; of course I am a holy roller–washed in the blood of Jesus and so crazy in love with Him that I can’t help but sing His praises every chance I get. You certainly should stop reading if you do not want overflowing joy that sustains you in the valleys and sometimes lifts you up to soar like an eagle.h

But my friend was hungry to hear how the Holy Spirit gave me this precious gift. Here is how it happened:

Until I was in my late 50’s, I didn’t know anything about this gift and thought it was a hoax, just another gimmick to get some old fashioned church goers lathered up so they could show off.  Then I began attending New Life Church of God in Benton, where it was common for people to speak in tongues during the service. But there was no show or production, just a quiet reverance from the congregation and almost always an interpretation in English from another worshiper. I came to realize that the Holy Spirit was palpably present in those moments, like He had wrapped us all in a warm, soft comforter, holding us in His loving arms.

When I read chapter 3 of Zephaniah, my heart almost leaped out of my chest at the promise that God Himself planned to restore to all believers “a pure language,” one that allows “all” of us to “call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.” (verse 9) Then, I read what this means to God:

“The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with          singing.” Zephaniah 3:17.

Then I understood. My simple openess to this gift of the Holy Spirit would give my Father in heaven cause to rejoice over me with gladness.  As I opened my mouth, willing to allow the Holy Spirit to undertake speaking to God Himself in a language so pure I could not understand it with my mind but only with my heart, I was simply submitting to God’s sovereignty in a new, miraculous, unfathomable way. God delights so much in our participation with the Holy Spirit that He rejoices over us with singing every time we allow His pure language to come forth. To me, this realization melts my heart, causing my pride and fear to wash away.

I spent quite a bit of time alone with God, allowing His word to grow deeply in me, before I was able to let go of control over my vocal chords enough to allow the Holy Spirit to undertake for me. I was not in church with others but alone, at home, during my sweetest time of the day, my morning meetings with God, where He shows me who He is through His word. When I finally let go of control and sincerely asked the Holy Spirit to undertake for me, He spoke through this amazed old lady with unknown words spilling out in a waterfall of diamonds and rubies and topaz light. That light then burst forth in my spirit, burning down the walls of resistance I had erected, thinking I needed to keep parts of my life only for me and away from God. As those walls came crashing down, the light washed me clean and free as never before. I knew I was changed forever, that right down to my DNA, I was truly a new creation.

Now, although I still struggle because I live in a fallen world where the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), I now have the constant assurance that I don’t have to rely on only the words I can think up in my own limited mind. The fact that I don’t know how to pray as I ought (Romans 8:26) no longer hampers my prayers. Now I have access to that pure language that delights my Father in heaven, and the prayers of my heart are transformed into the song of my Father.

So this tesimony is first for my friend. She knows who she is. And it is for anyone wanting more and more of God. May God Himself enlighten the eyes of your heart.

 

 

 

 

Testimony (proof, evidence, witness, proclamation of personal experience)

When I was 13, no longer a child but in that in-between, awkward phase of trying to learn how to be me, I met Jesus for the very first time.

Having been raised in a church, I had heard about Jesus all my life, although it seemed to me that we were supposed to be mostly interested in God. God was the creator, and all those old testament stories warned us not to make him mad. When the preacher mentioned Jesus, he just seemed like an afterthought, a side story that really was too messy and complicated to focus on. In fact, everything about Jesus made me (and apparently everyone else) uncomfortable.

When I was 12, I went to church camp, not because I wanted to get closer to God, but to be with my girl friends for a week-long sleepover, and much more importantly, to meet cute boys. We had chapel each day, and along with most of the other kids, I told the leader that I had given my heart to Jesus. Soon after returning home, I and the others who had been “saved” at camp were baptised in water. I barely remember any of it because it just wasn’t that important to me. I see now that I was only doing what I thought was expected.

Sometime in the following year, I got involved with a youth praise group doing a production of “Pass It On,” a musical with lyrics I could relate to. I didn’t think about it at the time, but singing praises to Jesus began to open my heart to a yearning for something to love outside of my own self-absorbed focus. Also, the true love some of the kids had for Jesus made me curious. I see now that their sincere praises, sung out to Him, brought the Holy Spirit among us, like an enticing fragrance I couldn’t identify but wanted more of.

After we finished performing the Pass It On shows, I went with our youth group to another church for a revival service. Again, I didn’t go to be revived spiritually. I went to be with my friends, no doubt intending to make fun of anyone else I thought wasn’t as cool as me. I had no idea that God had a completely different experience in store for me that night.

The preacher told us the simple gospel account of Jesus, how He chose to leave His perfect home in heaven with His Father, to come to earth, knowing He would be despised, rejected, and ultimately die a horrific death on the cross. When I heard the preacher’s words, something shifted deep inside my spirit. I realized the truth: Jesus had died for me! He made the choice to come to earth knowing He would die in place everyone who has ever lived on earth, knowing that most of us would reject Him totally. In that moment, I understood that Jesus had already, once and for all eternity, died for me. His death on the cross was a done deal. And He had given me complete freedom to either reject His sacrifice or accept it. What pierced my heart was realizing that by rejecting Jesus, by brushing Him off as irrelevant to me, I could not erase His sacrifice. Whether I chose to care or not, He died for me!! Jesus’ heart of sacrifice for me, knowing how self-centered and rebellious I was, broke my wicked, selfish heart. I couldn’t run fast enough to the altar to fall on my knees in humble adoration of the Savior I’d never known before then.

From that day on, I have always known He was with me, especially in my loneliest, toughest times. It is my relationship with Jesus that sustains me and gives me the courage to do what I know to be right. Jesus is not only my Savior, not only Almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing; Jesus is my constant, never-changing friend, always ready to listen to my cries, answer my questions, protect me, and comfort me. Jesus laughs with me when I am amused. He gets my jokes, doesn’t mind my off-key singing, and He loves me even when I don’t love myself. When I was younger, I often tried to run from His love, thinking that I had better things to do than draw close to Him. But He was always patiently waiting for me to come back to Him. Over time, I have realized more and more, that coming back to Him is the only way I ever find any real peace.

Jesus died for each one of us. His sacrifice is an eternal, unchangeable fact. Everyone who hears the good news, that Jesus died to save each of us from a life separated from our Father God, has a choice to make: accept Jesus’ sacrifice, His free gift of life, or throw it away and find your own way to eternity. Either way, He is there waiting to give you the peace that surpasses understanding. The choice is yours….

 

Hope Swims Upstream

I have several friends and family members who struggle with drug addiction. It is a wicked disease that too often completely takes over a person’s life, destroying relationships, wrecking physical and mental health, and ruining careers. Even when an addict manages to avoid the most dire consequences of the disease, depression and hopelessness tend to seep in unnoticed until they pull you under where you can’t breathe without the drugs.

Addicts have the most amazing ability to find each other. It’s as if there’s an underground stream they swim in, unnoticed by those not gripped by addiction. In that underground stream, which began as nothing more than a sewage ditch, the enemy provides addicts with special radar for finding other addicts and the drugs to support their addictions. As each new addict enters that underground sewage stream, the current becomes stronger, sucking all life out of everyone in it as they daily become weaker and less able to pull themselves out to safety. The stronger the current, the harder it is for those who take one step toward it not to fall down the slippery slope of its banks. Over time, as more and more addicts are pulled into that wicked current, the banks get steeper, more slippery, and far more treacherous.

But what if the current of that underground stream were reversed? What if the addicts were blocked from finding out where to get drugs because they kept running into ways to get help? What if there was another mighty river with a current so strong addicts began to be swept upstream to islands of hope where they could find help to overcome their addictions? Where they realized they could be free, once and for all, from any desire for drugs?

God is moving in a mighty way in our little town of Benton, Illinois. He is connecting people from all over Southern Illinois who are passionate about seeing the strongholds of these addictions broken. As God knits our hearts and prayers together, He is increasing the strength and volume of the river of living water that flows from our hearts out to the lost and dying world.

What is happening right now in the spiritual realm will soon be seen in the natural world: the sewers that the enemy causes addicts to swim in is about to meet the river of living water, and a new channel will be formed. The addicts (of drugs, sex, power, food, envy, jealousy, rage, you name it) will see the beauty of the glory of God and want to be washed clean and set free in His river. When those who’ve been caught up in the current of the devil’s sewer start choosing to change course, what has formerly drawn addicts to find each other will draw many other addicts to find the hope of God’s redeeming mercy and grace. As many as choose to will begin swimming upstream toward the light and against the sewer’s current, and those who haven’t yet seen the light will see them swimming upstream, and, as they turn to watch them swim upstream, they too will see the light.

There is Hope Over Heroin and all other addictions.

If you are interested in finding out more about Hope Over Heroin, please contact me or New Life Church of God, 707 N. DuQuoin St., Benton, IL, 62812, phone 618-439-3833, http://www.nlcg.org.