Today is THE Day!

When my sons were little, we lived way out in the country, so far that we were the boondocks. On the 30 minute drive to school, I always asked them, “What is today?” They had to answer, “Today is the day the Lord has made. Rejoice and be happy in it.”

Now, the truth is that many of those mornings, I was frazzled and impatient, and the boys were fighting with each other and certainly not cooperating with me. But somehow we got into the car with backpacks stuffed with books and (hopefully finished) homework and lunch bags and (hopefully signed) permission slips. I would pull out of our long driveway and head out on our gravel road toward town and school.

Too many times, I am sure I asked the question through gritted teeth in an angry tone of voice, causing my sons to respond with sarcasm and rolled eyes. This would be one of many reasons that, once my little boys grew up and moved out to lead their separate lives, I have often prayed for God to fill in the gaps from where my parenting flopped.

Still, I hope they got the message that I was trying to learn myself. Whatever the day brings, even when, actually especially when, the day starts out like the worst Monday morning ever, with nothing going right and everything going wrong, we need to acknowledge that God gave us THIS day to rejoice in. We don’t get another one, just today.

And in the words of my beloved friend Phyllis, have a day of your choosing.

Amen and amen.

Deliberate Blindness

The Pharisees met Jesus and saw His miracles

but refused to believe

and instead plotted against Him.

Judas was a chosen disciple

who walked with Jesus.

Too many decide in their hearts

not to accept Jesus as their Savior.

Lord, show me those who don’t want to be saved

so I won’t waste time on them.

Instead, point me to those who are willing,

hungry, desperate, poor,

without hope in themselves

but grasping for straws.

Give me Your word

as a sword to cut through the disbelief

that You could ever save

a wretch like me.

We each receive

condemnation or justification

from our Creator, God,

based on our heart’s response

to the Spirit of God.

So many are willfully, deliberately blind,

totally unwilling to see

Jesus is our Savior.

The most impenetrable darkness

surrounds the one who refuses

to see the light.

In the world today,

we’re building a tower

much higher than Babel;

artificial intelligence

weaving its impervious web

over all but those who choose to see the light.

Just as staring at the sun too long

causes blind spots,

looking only at what we can do for ourselves

too soon leads to eternal blindness,

dead eyes that can no longer see

the glory of God.

Looking inward

to focus exclusively

on our own brilliance

causes our heart to shrink

like a withered orange,

hard, with no more juice left inside,

then like a walnut shell

whose meat is dried to stone

no longer good to eat.

We’re plugged into everything

except the source of life.

Our own batteries

will too soon die,

never to be recharged.

A Fool’s Relief

For a few weeks, I’ve been feeling

that old, too-familiar, worn out

sadness, that sense of being left

behind because I’ve been too stupid

to know which bus to catch,

too muddle-headed to know

where I’m supposed to go,

discouraged because others

won’t come with me

to show me the way.

Then my Friend Jesus reaches out

through eternity to show me, again,

the gem He gave me to treasure

a long time ago:

“A highway shall be there,

and a road,

and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.

The unclean shall not pass over it,

but it shall be for others.

Whoever walks the road,

although a fool,

shall not go astray.”

Isaiah 35:8

That verse always jerks my head up

from looking down

to see the hope dancing in the clouds.

Even a fool like me can find her way,

not because she knows how to go,

not because she’s mapped it out

or planned a thing,

not because of her sense of direction,

because she was born without that.

Only because Jesus has washed me

(EVEN ME!) clean,

I shall not go astray.

Amen and amen.

In the Shadow of the Scroll

Above us still a large scroll casts a shadow, hiding the face of God.

An indictment charging theft and perjury,

taking what is not ours

and declaring what is false in His name.

Charges against a nation and against me.

I have been guilty with many others

of taking credit for accomplishments I never could achieve

without all He’s given me,

and I’ve too often proclaimed God is this and that

only because it suited my purpose at the time,

only to support my justification for doing

what I wanted to do when and how

I wanted to do it.

Since the beginning we’ve all tried to

make God be what we want Him to be.

He created us to have that choice

but never without consequence.

We’re trying again to make a name for ourselves

and build a tower that reaches heaven.

But God won’t allow it now anymore than then.

Unless we’re willing to live under the shadow of His indictment,

we cannot rob Him of glory or say He is who He is not.

Myself, I want to look up

and see where I’ve failed, again,

and cry out for forgiveness, again.

Then, He can bless me

by making His face shine upon me;

warming me with unclouded grace and peace.

Amen and amen.

See Zechariah 5:1-4, Genesis 11:1-9, and Numbers 6:22-27.

 

Break Through!

If you feel lost and all alone, let the love of Jesus break through. If you are overwhelmed by fear and confusion, drowning in a sea of problems you can’t control, let the Holy Spirit lead you back to the surface where you break through, able to breathe again. If you feel like you might as well be dead because addiction has completely taken over your life, let Your Father in heaven break through your pain and breathe life back in to you.

Listen carefully and you will hear the sound of God’s heart beating in tune with yours. It is no coincidence that you are reading this right now–God has a plan to save you, if you are willing. Come to New Life┬áChurch of God in Benton, Illinois, where God is breaking through. God is getting ready to do something so big, we can only see a tiny sliver. He is moving and shaking us out of our routines, causing us to move out of our pews and into the great unknown. We only know that where He goes, we will gladly follow.

Focus now on Jesus, who is your Savior, whether you know it or not, even if you are certain the last thing you need is a savior. If you have no idea who He is, then ask yourself if you want to find out why people like me keep talking about His love and mercy and grace and forgiveness, how He has healed us and set us free from our own addictions, how His love has radically transformed our lives from the inside out. Come, tonight-Sunday, June 23, 2019, at 5:30. We will be praying. At 6:30 we will be singing His praises and learning more about this man who came from heaven to save us and set us free.

It is no coincidence that you are reading this. Let God break through your pain and suffering.

New Life Church of God, 707 N. DuQuoin St., Benton, IL 62812. Phone 618-439-3833, nlcg.org

 

The Way Back

It begins with knowing that we are lost on our own. Because I accept that God created me, it is easy to see how often I have run away from Him thinking that going my own way is better. When I run away from God, I lose His protection. He still sees me and loves me even as I rebel and act hatefully to Him. The truth that never ceases to amaze me, however, is that He is always nearby, just a heart-cry away, anytime I call out to Him.

Through Hosea, our Father shows us the way back to Him. In chapter 14, God pleads with us to simply return to Him. He knows how we have stumbled by taking the wrong path–any path leading away from Him. And what He desperately wants us to know is that which path we are on or how far away from Him we have fled DOES NOT MATTER.

We don’t have to clean ourselves up before coming to Him, and the truth is that we cannot clean ourselves up anyway. To God, who loves us because He created us in His image, the first step away from Him is as wrong and sorrowful as the step we take today, even if it has been years or decades since we tried to get back to Him. So please, don’t even try to clean yourself up before coming to Him. His grace will begin to clean and restore us the second we turn back to Him.

The way back begins with our words. Just begin telling Him what you know in your heart, whatever you know you have done wrong. Start with the first thought that comes to your mind. Tell your Father, who already knows, where you are and how you got there. In telling Him, using whatever words you have to explain it, He will show you not only how that has hurt Him, but also, what you have missed by going your own way. When you see what you’ve missed, you will naturally turn toward Him and see His light beckoning you home.

By talking to God honestly and not hiding the truth or trying to justify our mistakes, we can’t help but see that what we have run to cannot save us but has only enslaved us in a dungeon that has shut out His light and love. As we accept that our own ways have only led to destruction, God can begin to heal us and show us His love. His love and mercy, showered on us the moment we turn back to Him are like the dew of the morning awakening our hearts and minds to have hope for a new day. He restores in us the life He meant us to live all along: as beautiful and carefree as the lillies of the field, and as strong and sure as the deepest roots of the tall cedar trees of Lebanon. He makes us flourish like an olive tree so we have more than enough to sustain ourselves and naturally give nourishment to anoint others with the oil He produces in our lives. Our lives, lived under His shadow, close enough that we can see His magnificence towering over us and reaching into eternity, not only shelters us but also gives shade to many others from the burning glare of the world.

When we make that journey, which is actually just one word away, we will be the most amazed person of all. We will exclaim to ourselves, “I don’t need any of these crutches I used to think were all that held me up!” We will know and understand with the deepest clarity, everything we’ve ever dreamed of and longed for is found in Him. Being at home with our Father, close enough to feel His love overshadowing the terrors of this life is where we find our sustenance and joy.

“Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them.” Hosea 14:9.

Amen and amen.

 

 

 

 

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.