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.


Stand up!

Ezekiel of the Old Testament heard directly from God and receieved many incredible revelations. At the beginning of his journey with God, he encountered the glory of the Lord, which overwhelmed him. He fell on his face, literally lying face down in awe of God’s magnificence. Ezekiel 1:26-2:1. This seems like a reasonable response to a personal encounter with the living Creator of the whole universe.

But God did not want Ezekiel to remain prostrate before Him. God told Ezekiel to “stand” on his feet for God to speak to him. Ezekiel 2:1. Ezekiel tells us: “Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me.” Ezekiel 2:2.

In the New Testament, in Hebrews 4:16, Paul tells us to “come boldly to the throne of grace,” where God’s glory shines brightest. As with all commands in the Bible, there is also a promise; when we come boldly to God’s throne, recognizing that He alone is sovereign, then “we obtain mercy and find grace in time of need.”

What this tells me is that when God has an assignment for us, or when we come to Him asking for help, we are not to cower or allow His magnificence to sidetrack us from the task at hand.  We are to stand on the legs He’s given us, to come as close to eye to eye as mortal to immortal can, and listen for His instructons so we can get after it. Or if we come to convey a need to Him, whether for ourselves or for others, we are to do so without reservation, unapologetically, frankly, using plain, everyday language, stating our case as openly and fully as we can.

It is Jesus who gives us the confidence and authority to enter God’s throne room to talk to our Father and listen to His instructions. After all, Jesus “lives to make intercession for us.” Hebrews 7:25. The word “intercession” in Greek, tunchano, means to meet with another to converse with him, but it also conveys a sense of pleading on behalf of another. So Jesus, who now stands at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55), is there as our Savior, and stands with us as we receive instructions from God and tell Him our needs.

Since we are also comanded to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), that has to mean that our Creator and Almighty Father is vitally interested in everything that concerns us, from the smallest to the most overwhelmingly huge. Through Jesus, God has plans for us that we are to stand up and take note of. It is our solemn responsibility here on earth to bring all of our needs for ourselves and others boldly before His throne of grace, and while there, listen attentively for His instructions.

Amen and amen.

Deliverance 101

Many of our worst habits begin from a good intention. One of my worst habits, overeating, began when I was a small child.  I loved to eat, that pleased my Mom, who loved to cook, and it made me happy.  But when I got older, in my rebellious teenage years, I added other habits that I thought at the time were harmless-drinking, smoking pot, partying.  At the time, I was interested only in myself.  I thought of God as my Creator but intended for Him to stay on the sidelines of my life while I did as I pleased.  Surely whatever I did would be okay.

By the time I got to college, my once innocuous overeating for pleasure morphed into a full blown eating disorder. Now overeating had become an obsession. I controlled the beast as best I could with strict dieting, only for the old habits to creep out unnoticed, causing me to binge-eat disgustingly huge quantities of food and then purge.  Over and over. I had developed bulimia and felt like I had no power to control it.

Through willpower, I forced myself to stop this destructive cycle after I got married and was pregnant with my first child.  I had read enough to know the physical risks to myself and my child.  Through the love God placed in my heart for my unborn child, I was able to stop the binge and purge cycle.  But willpower only took me a short distance along the path to recovery.  I still suffered from obsessive overeating. I constantly felt intense physical hunger, even after I had just eaten a large meal. I knew there was more going on than any diet plan could address.

It was not until I was much older that I began to learn about God’s deliverance plans through my church (New Life Church of God, Benton, IL; http://www.nlcg.org). You see, all addictions, including my addiction to overeating, stem from the most basic choices we make–choosing good or evil. We each know in our hearts what pleases God. We also know the opposite, what satisfies our rebellious nature and God’s enemy, the devil. Just as God is triune–Father, Son and Holy Spirit–we too are triune beings created in His image. We are body, soul, and spirit. To be entirely free from any true addiction, we must address it in all three aspects–body, soul and spirit. Otherwise, it will inevitably rear its ugly head, wreaking havoc again and again. Fighting that battle on only one or two fronts leaves us weak and exhausted.

Addictions often begin from a good, completely innocent desire, but can be and too often are warped by the enemy. I now realize that the eating disorder that plagued me was not only a physical and emotional problem but also a spiritual problem. The need to eat to nourish my body and the God-given pleasure of enjoying good-tasting food with my loved ones was perverted into an eating disorder because I allowed the devil into my life. For me, this happened in a physical way when I chose to ingest marijuana.  I knew my choice was wrong, not only because it was illegal but more so, my conscience knew it was wrong to seek oblivion instead of joy. But I wanted to go my own way without listening to anyone, God or parents, who I thought might cramp my style. God created this world to give us that free will, to choose what we know in our hearts pleases Him, or to choose what we also know in our hearts displeases Him because it honors the devil.

Physically, the eating disorder began when I started smoking pot. I am not a scientist, so I won’t even attempt to fully explain the science, but getting high on marijuana triggered hunger receptors in my body, giving me the “munchies,” making me feel like I was ravenously hungry regardless of any real physical hunger. For me, and probably for many others too, long after I stopped smoking pot, those receptors were left on. On my own, I could not turn them off. Hence, the obsessive overeating. My repeated attempts, often succesfully, to eat smaller portions worked. I lost weight and felt great, only to begin obsessively overeating again. It was a depressing, seemingly never-ending cycle of overeating, gaining weight, dieting, losing weight, and then beginning the cycle again.

It was not until I began to learn about spiritual deliverance that I began to see that self-discipline and eating plans could only address the physical and emotional aspects of what had become a disease with three aspects–physical, emotional, and spiritual.  It was not until I finally came to God for His complete and total deliverance that I received the victory He had intended for me all along. I still love food and still choose to overeat at times. But the uncontrollable obession to overeat is gone, for no other reason than that my Father in heaven loves me and wants me to be free. When I came to Him to confess that I had done what I knew in my heart to be wrong and asked His forgiveness in Jesus’ name, He forgave me. When I truly in my heart renounced all ties to those wrong choices, God delivered me and removed the spiritual forces that had bound me for so long.  I have no words to describe the joy and relief that flooded my heart when God Almighty set me free.

He can and will do the same for you if you are willing. The process is the same regardless of the addiction. Whether it is drugs, alcohol, sex, anger, greed, or… you name it… , God has a plan to deliver you and set you free. Please contact me if you have questions about this. This article just barely scratches the surface of God’s plan for deliverance.

“I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies…. He delivered me from my enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me.” Psalm 18:3, 17.