Who? Me? Submit to Him??

Lizzie was an independent woman who had no problems managing her life and other people.  She was successful in business and had a large group of friends whose company she enjoyed.  Lizzie loved the Lord and was active in her church.  She met Colton at a church retreat and she found him to be charming and kind.  He captivated her.  They married after a brief courtship and their life together began.

Soon she found that Colton had some flaws that began to bug her.  He would start projects and never finish them.  They had enough money to pay for them but he didn’t think anyone else could do the projects right.  He had a call to the ministry.  They also argued about the Bible and its interpretation.  He said that he could never go into the ministry if he couldn’t sell it at home.

As the years went by, Lizzie quit talking to him about spiritual things and she would hire people to come in and complete some of the projects Colton had begun.   Sometimes, Colton would let it pass.  This time she went too far.  It was a project he had been working on and pondering over.  He came home to find it finished and it was all wrong.  He was furious.  He ripped out the competed work.  They had a huge fight.

Lizzie went to the Pastor for counseling.  He brought up submission and she flashed anger. Pastor asked her if he was abusing her physically or spending hours watching pornography.  She said, “No, of course not.”  But how can I submit to him?  He is ruining out home.  We can’t talk about anything in the Bible or your sermons.  He doesn’t agree with me on anything and if he would just complete something- anything, I would try to submit!  Pastor told her that submission was the key to Colton finding his ministry and to her freedom.  Pastor tried to explain that she must quit focusing on the problems and start focusing on the Lord.  Then God would show her how to submit to the man she married.  She left his office adding Pastor to the list of men she didn’t want to submit to.

Lizzie hated the word submit.  It wasn’t fair.  She had always done her work with excellence.  She completed tasks on time.  She didn’t understand how anyone could let something be half done.  She studied the Bible faithfully and had for years, yet her opinion was not valued.  Pastor was a man and men just loved to tell women they should submit.  She fumed.

Things were tense at home that night and Colton asked her what was wrong.  She didn’t respond but got her pillow and went into the guest room and locked the door.  Colton was hurt and confused.

As Lizzie lay on the bed, her heart pounding, she asked the Lord, “Why?  Why do I have to submit to him?  I love him – love many things about him, but he is ruining our lives.”  She lay there, sobbing.  Colton knocked on the door several times, but finally he quit and went to bed.

About midnight, she awoke with a start.  There was a Presence filling the room.  She saw the Lord Jesus at the end of the bed and he said, “Get up and go to bed with your husband.  Give him to me and it will all work out.”  And then He was gone.  Peace settled on Lizzie.  She got up, took her pillow and went into her husband.  She wrapped her arms around him and whispered, “I love you.”  Colton took her hand and they slept peacefully.

From that time, Lizzie supported her husband in everything.  If he was working on a project, she would help him and amazingly, things began to be completed.  She found herself in awe of how able the Lord was to deal with Colton when she quit pointing out his weaknesses.

They began to be able to share their thoughts and understanding of Bible passages.  She found Colton much wiser than she had ever imagined.  He had begun to listen to her and as a result, she was listening to him.

Submission led Lizzie and Colton to an intimacy they never thought possible. They are inseparable. Colton is now moving into his prophetic role in the church.  Pastor smiles at Lizzie and nods his head knowing the great struggle that she had in trusting the Lord.

Today’s Lesson:

Lizzie not only struggled with submission to her husband, but further she was unable to submit to her pastor.  He submission problem was rooted in bitterness and a deep distrust of men.  A wife can get to the point of thinking she is entitled to do her own thing without thought of her spouse.  If he is not strong in His submission to the Lord, he may just give in to her leadership and go into neutral.  This is not what God has intended for us.  We are to be a picture of Christ and the Church.  It took a visitation from Jesus for Lizzie to change.  What will it take for you and me?

Submission is a gift.  It requires us to humble ourselves and recognize that we don’t know everything and we don’t have all the answers.  It is part of the choice that Father God built into our lives.  He made it possible for us to choose Him or reject Him.  He made it possible to submit to Him or resist Him.  If we can’t submit to God, we can’t really submit to anyone.

When we are willing, on our knees, to say, “Father, I don’t know what to do or what you want.  Teach me,” we are in the right mind-set.  He has said we are free – free to choose to go our own way.  Free to choose to love.  God will not take our hearts by force.  We get to choose to accept Him and His leadership or we can choose to accept the leadership of another that will take us by force.  The Scripture makes it clear.” Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”

When a husband and wife finds true intimacy with each other there should be no more secrets between them.  Submission is built on a trust factor into the unknown.  It is abandonment of yourself into the love of the other.   They each still have flaws but as they give up their right to change the other, and give them to God to deal with, life begins to change.

The Lord has wonderful things in store for those who choose intimacy.  It is an amazing picture of the relationship He wants us to have

with Him.  He even says so in the Scripture.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)  He calls the woman to submit to her husband as He desires the church to submit as His Bride.

He also says to ‘love one another, for love is of God.’  His ways are not our ways but His ways will bring blessings into our lives we never dreamed possible.  “Submit ye therefore one to another.”

(As a caveat, I want you to know that there are circumstances that are too dangerous to submit to and that include physical abuse.  There are other areas as well, but you will have to seek the Lord.  I even hate to put this in here as I know there are some who will justify themselves in circumstances that are merely inconvenient and not dangerous.)

What and who are you submitting to?  Is your love affair with the Lord leading you in your relationships with others or are you still trying to control everything and everyone around you.  It really all comes down to trust and resting in the love of God.  Can you take the first step today and begin to believe in what seems impossible?  You can – will you?

We Are Made for Joy!

Mara’s baby had been sick for several months before he died.  Her hope for his recovery had faded slowly and when he died in her arms, it sucked the life out of her.  She had pushed away everyone.  Her husband came home on a hardship leave from his post in Korea, but he had to return a month later.

Dena was Mara’s neighbor who insisted on looking in on her.  When the baby was sick, Mara had given her a key that she never gave it back after the funeral.  If Mara wouldn’t answer the door, Dena would come in any way.  She would take over and open the blinds and air out the house.  She would put a pot of soup on the stove and begin to do the dishes.

When Dena walked in, this time Mara began to scream at her to get out.  Dena talked to her in a soothing tone of voice.  Mara screamed louder and began to jump up and down.  Dena waited until the fury ended and went to the distraught girl and took her in her arms and held her tight.  Mara began to sob.  She cried until she ran through the pent-up emotions.  Dena kept softly telling her that she loved her and that it will be all right.

Finally, Mara rose up and looked at her, “Really?  Will it ever be all right again?  How could God have done this to me?”  Dena knew this was not a time for reason, but she did say this, “Mara, you know God didn’t do this.  God is only good and he didn’t take your baby away from you, but He has your child now in His own strong arms.”

“I believe He has,” she sobbed, “but I miss my baby and my husband.  What am I going to do?” she wailed.

Dena looked at her and sighed.  “Dear girl, the baby has been gone for six months and your husband for five.  Brooding about this loss for such a long time is destroying you.  You were never meant to be sad and that is why it is so hard.  We were made for joy.  When we experience deep grief, it is important to find a way to get back to joy.  Do you know where joy is found? ”

Mara looked hopeless.  “If you want me to turn to God, I can’t pray.  I’ve tried, but I end up blaming God for all that has happened.  He took my baby and sent my husband to Korea at about the same time.  I am all alone!”  Dena said, “I know it is small comfort, but God has sent me to you.  You have never been alone.  He is with you and I am right next door and always as close as a phone call.”

Mara shook her head.  She couldn’t see any way out.  It was hopeless but as she listened to her friend, a glimmer of hope began to shine.  Finally she said, “I’ll try.”

Dena suggested that Mara take a shower and put on some clean clothes while she freshened up the house and then they would go out for lunch.  Mara shook her head indicating that she didn’t want to but slowly lifted her small body off the couch as if it weighed 300 pounds.  She obediently headed for the shower and stepped into the steaming hot water.  It felt good.  She poured shampoo in her hair realizing that she couldn’t remember the last time she had bathed.  She stood in the wonderful flow of warm water for a long time.  She felt she was being revived.

By the time Dena had finished changing the sheets and starting the laundry; Mara had fixed her hair and gotten dressed.  She looked better although her clothes were a loose from weeks of not eating.  She told Dena that she had prayed in the shower.  “I told God that I was sorry that I had been so mad at Him and asked Him to help me find my way back to Him.  I was amazed at the immediate peace that settled over me.  I feel better than I have felt since my baby left me.”  A small tear slipped down her check, but her eyes were brighter as she looked at her faithful friend.

Dena said, “Let’s go someplace really special.  What is your favorite restaurant?  She told her about a wonderful upscale restaurant in midtown and Dena said, “That’s my favorite too!”  Soon they were on their adventure.

Today’s Lesson:

When we go through difficult times, we tend to make them worse by isolating ourselves from our support group.  Mara pushed her friends and family away.  She was angry with God because she was alone; she never connected the fact that she had made it almost impossible for people to comfort her when her husband and baby left.

God never ever intends for us to spend months and months in grieving about loss of any kind.  He is always available to help us through the tragedies.  At one point in the Old Testament, he only allowed Israel to grieve for one month.  It is true that we need some time to deal with the change, but prolonged sadness grows and weakens us.  It becomes a place for the enemy to plant thoughts of hopelessness and victimization.

When we choose to run to Father God, His Presence brings us joy.  The more time we spend in His Presence, the more
joyful we become and he heals our wounds and binds up our broken hearts.  Scripture says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”

Mara had meditated on her pain and that always brings more pain.  When you feel the sadness over and over, the enemy helps us feel worse and worse and soon anger boils in our hearts.  Sometimes it results in destructive behavior.

Things weren’t all of the sudden wonderful in Mara’s life although she had begun her journey back from despair.  At times, she still had to fight the feelings of loss and loneliness, yet she has gone back to her church family and resumed her life.  She has even begun looking for a job.

Mara’s husband’s voice has sounded so relieved that last few phone calls.  He had worried about his beautiful wife and struggled with not being able to come home again but his tour of duty will be over in four months.  She is marking off the days on the calendar.

Dena still comes by and they have coffee and Mara is talking again about the baby and the pain.  She has learned the value of true friends and the joy of finding her peace in the Lord.

Until then, she is beginning again to spend time with her heavenly Father, Who never leaves her.

Sober, Focused and Complete in 2013

Dr. Scott had stopped by the bar before heading home.  It was the end of the week and he wanted a little down time before he returned.  He had six children and the house was always busy and loud.  He wanted a few quiet minutes to take the edge off.  The first drink slid down easily and he thought, “I will have another.”  He motioned to the bartender to set him up again . . . and yet again.  He relaxed, paid his bill and left.  He felt a bit light-headed but home was only a few blocks away.

He got in the car.  It responded to the turn of the key and he put the car in gear and headed for home.  Pulling into the driveway, he noticed that the door was opened and all the lights were on.  He jumped out of the car and ran to the front door.  Inside he found his wife was sitting on the floor holding their youngest and weeping.  He tried to clear his head.  That last drink had scrambled things.  What was going on?

“Honey?” he said. “What is wrong?”  Vera looked up, with tears streaming down her face, “Mandy was playing with the big kids tiny figure toys and must have swallowed one.  She isn’t breathing and I don’t know what to do.  I called 911 and they are on the way.”

Dr. Scott again shook his head and began to sober up.  He dropped to his knees and took Mandy and laid her on the floor.  He opened her mouth and couldn’t see the obstruction.  He grabbed his ball point pen and told one of the older kids to get him a clean knife.  He made a small incision in her throat and made a tracheotomy.  Gently he pushed on her diaphragm and she had a whooshing sound as the air flowed into her lungs.  Her color began to return and her eyes fluttered open.

Scott was fully sober now and remembered that he had been late because he chose to be intoxicated.  Soberness was so important.  What if he had been in an accident or had another drink.  What if he hadn’t been here in time?

The EMTs arrived and gently took Mandy and her Mom in the ambulance.  Dr. Scott called a neighbor to watch the children and got back in the car and headed to the hospital.

Today’s Lesson:

Intoxication with the things of the world will keep us from the important things.  Those of us who walk with Jesus must consider the hour.  There was a time when we could be frivolous and spend time pleasing ourselves, but the times we live in require us to be sober and focused.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t laugh and enjoy fellowship with others.  It doesn’t mean that we are like Scrooge.  What it does mean is that we are aware of who we are and more importantly Whose we are.  As we spend time in His Presence and He becomes more and more the focus of the gift of life He has given to us; we are ‘God-possessed.’

There are Mandys everywhere that aren’t breathing.  They need us to help them breathe again by introducing them to the One who loves them.  We are His hands and feet.

We don’t need a drink to relax.  We have the great Comforter to give us peace.  Peace in the Bible doesn’t mean a cessation of conflict; it means ‘whole, complete, and fully alive.’

The year 2013 requires us to be sober, focused and complete. There must be a level of preparedness and watchfulness.   This is my prayer for us all.

Joy Full or Joy Less?

Pastor Joy Full walked through her living room thinking about the paradox of her name.  She had married John Full just before he left to go to Iraq.  He was only there for two months when she got the official visit.  He had been killed by a sniper in the line of duty.  The ‘line of duty’ made it sound okay, but it wasn’t okay.  In point of fact, nothing was okay.

She fell on the big leather chair that John had picked out before he deployed.  She shook her head.  Jesus was supposed to be enough, but right now, today, He was as distant as John’s memory. Once again, she spoke her name.  Joy Full.   Her name did not suggest who she had become.  She should have been married John Less or John Empty, then things would have lined up with who she is today.

Her husband had been so full of life; so like his name.  He loved the Lord with all His heart and he loved her passionately.  It was some comfort to know that He was enjoying life with the Heavenly Father.  It should have pulled her toward Father, but she hadn’t wanted to visit Him in the Throne Room lately.  She held him responsible.  How could He let this happen?

Joy knew that Father God didn’t cause John to die, but the Truth was not setting her free tonight.  She was due at the church in an hour for the Tuesday night prayer meeting.  The group spent more time talking about people than praying.  She chided herself for not being a better leader.  She knew the faithful would show up but she just could not face it.  Sue Ellen had a key.  She wouldn’t be missed.

She rubbed the arm of the brown leather chair.  “I miss you, John.”  She burst into tears!  She picked up her jacket, threw a few things in a suitcase, stopped by the bank and took out $1000 leaving a small balance.  After she had filled the car with gas she started driving.  She didn’t know where she was going, but she was fleeing her home, the church, and the pain.  She turned on the CD  player.  An old friend of the family, a pastor from her hometown, was teaching.  She had always found his voice soothing.  His Scripture was Proverbs 3:5, 6.  It was her life verse.

5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  6In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

As she drove, tears rolled down her cheeks.  The ache in her heart, that she had ignored for these last two years, spread until she was sobbing uncontrollably.  She pulled off at a rest area and parked a good distance from the other cars.  She put the seat back and gave in.  She screamed at God.  “How could you?  I have lived my life for you!  How could you let this happen?”  Joy gasped for air, “John loved you and he loved me.  We served you!”  The rant went on for some time.  When she stopped, she listened but Father God was silent.

From complete exhaustion laid her head back and slept fitfully for thirty minutes.  She resumed driving.  Once she crossed the state line, she began to look for a place to spend the night and checked into a small roadside inn, paid in cash, and went straight to bed.

In the quiet of the morning, she saw the Gideon Bible on the night stand and she opened it.  It fell to Proverbs 3.  She smiled and breathed a sigh.  Her heavenly Father was letting her know that He hadn’t forgotten her.   “I know you heard me, Father,” she said.

She knelt on the floor by the bed and asked for permission to enter His Presence in the name of her big Brother, Jesus.  She crawled upon her Heavenly Father’s lap and poured out her heart.  She surrendered it all.  She gave Him the pain, the rejection, the loneliness, the emptiness, and her broken heart.  She told Him that she was sorry and that she knew that she would not heal until she gave up her right to this pain and the feeling that she was justified in holding on to it.

As she waited in His Presence, a sense of relief and joy began to fill her heart.  She recognized the grace and mercy of the Father’s love flooding her very being.  How foolish it had been to resist Him.  She knew that she would always miss John but the miracle of God’s love and mercy had pulled the stinger out of the pain.  She could release her hold on John and give him to the One who loves Him even more than she.

Pastor Joy Full felt God’s joy and for the first time in a long time, she was glad that John had blessed her with such a wonderful name.

Today’s Lesson:  In real life, the issues sometimes take longer to resolve, but when we fully release that which holds us to our Abba Father, (Daddy), then He takes the pieces and puts them together and we find ourselves even more complete and whole.  Joy is not the absence of suffering but the Presence of the Lord.

What holds you today?  What is it that you feel justified in nursing and rehearsing over and over again.  What is your private obsession?

Confirming Scriptures:

 

Psalm 77:1 – 6

1I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.

2In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.

3I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.

4Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

5I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.

6I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.

 

 

Super Santa, Super Heroes and the Supernatural God

Santa Claus has an appeal that incites our imagination to believe the unbelievable.  He promises to fly around the world in a 24 hour period delivering presents to every good little girl and boy.  He is carted about the globe behind magic reindeer one of which has a bulbous nose that can cut through fog with its laser light beam.  Santa’s ponderous figure is said to slip easily down chimneys and past locked doors in houses that are not fortunate enough to have a fireplace.  When he enters each house, he is presented with milk and cookies which he eats and I guess that is why he is overweight.  If a family does not receive a visit from Santa because of financial setbacks, the child assumes he was not good enough and feels rejected.  None-the-less, we delight to believe in the jolly old elf, but when the day comes and we find out that he is just a myth – a fable something in the heart of the child breaks.

All this time, he thought Santa was real and true.  It does something to his imagination.  He will never really be as willing to believe in what he cannot see.  He begins to question the unseen and decides that he can conjure up any imaginary being and pretend they are real.  So, the super heroes enter his life and he develops an alter ego that can jump over buildings and save or destroy whole cities.  It is all phony but he has learned to believe in the fantasy.  Nothing in his imagination is impossible.

At Church, the Sunday School teacher talks about an invisible God who loves him and sent His only Son into the world so that he might be saved.  She tells him that God loves him very much.  She goes on to say that He was born in a manger and He is the reason for Christmas.  “Yeah, right,” he thinks!  “This is just one more fable the adults want me to believe.  I did the Santa Claus thing and this sounds just as farfetched. ”

Today’s Lesson:

Today’s world is filled with stories of Star Wars, Transformers, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Twilight, Batman, Green Lantern and many more.  Each of them is endowed with super powers and fight battles of good and evil.  There is something in each heart that longs for power and supernatural ability.  The imagination is used to pretend superhuman strength and abilities.  It is a longing put there by God and we have an enemy who is busy trying to counterfeit it in all ages and seasons.

The good news (Gospel) is that there is a real supernatural power that is given as a free gift to all that will embrace it.  As we accept the complete work Jesus did to forgive our sins, we are put in right standing with the Creator of the Universe – yep!  He is real and not a fable.  He has provided everything that we need.  The Truth is that when you invite Jesus into your heart, you become part of the amazing family of God.

For years, the church has lived far below the privileges that God has provided them because they have embraced tradition and religion.  The Truth is that you have a new home and access to all the cool power tools that God has for you.  As you get to know Him, and He can trust you with His wonderful gifts, He gives you the power to heal the sick, raise the dead and walk on water – and much more.  It is you who gets to walk in the power of God as you yield your life to Him.  It is not just watching fake superheroes do stuff.  You join the Creator of the Universe and do amazing things.  It is a life of wonders beyond imagination.  It is a ‘Blast Life!’

Santa, Superman and the others pale in comparison to the One who creates out of nothing and loves the unlovable giving them the option of loving Him or rejecting Him.

All the pretend ‘super heroes’ have weaknesses and are self-centered or judgmental, but God opens the way to any who will choose Him to join Him and live forever past all natural reasoning and imagination.

It’s up to each one of us.  Do you want to believe the improbable and play games with pretend characters or do you want to reach past the limits of your imagination and embrace your Heavenly Father who loves you and promises you everlasting life?

Vote with God

Jake had always been an avid Republican and had recently joined the Patriot Tea Party.  He was concerned for his country and didn’t want to have it said, “That for evil to triumph, good men had to do nothing. “  He was going to do something.  He went to several Tea Party rallies and respected the message and the people.  They were considerate and polite even when they were harassed by people who saw them as a threat and a nuisance.

His new church had opened his eyes as to how far he had been from God.  He had been busy in his former church, but it was mostly out of a sense of duty and not because he was hearing God’s voice.  It had been a difficult transition.  It was hard for him to let go of his old habits and guilty pleasures.

Pastor’s goal was for everyone to have an encounter with God; to hear His voice and to fall in love with Him – returning to their first love.  Jake tried, but nothing much happened.  Pastor kept saying, “You have to have ‘floor time.’  By this he meant that you had to focus on God and shut out the world.  It hadn’t worked so far, but he saw others who were aglow with the love of God and wanted it too.

This night the worship was especially good and he felt himself drawing near to God.  As He did, to Jake’s amazement God showed up!  He was amazed and sat down putting his head in his hands.  He was lost in His Presence.  The service went on but he was unaware.  The service ended and he was still in wonder at God’s love and that He was available to him personally.

After that night, everything changed.  He had no heart to watch what was going on with politics and began to ask God what He would have him do with his life.   It seemed God thought that was too big and too premature to ask at this time.  So, Jake asked God, “What should I ask?”  The reply surprised him.  “Ask me how you should vote.”

God showed him that he should just go into the polling place and as he looks at the names on the ballot, ask Him.  Jake wasn’t sure he could vote for a Democrat.  God assured Jake that He would show him who to vote for and that he would have a wonderful sense of peace as he looked at the right name.

“Father,” Jake prayed, “Give me the strength to obey what you show me and not fall back on my old ideas.  Oh, and Father, please remember that this nation was founded by people who loved you.”  He was sure that God smiled.

Today’s Lesson:  When you give your heart to the Lord, you are not your own any more.  You have been bought with a price – a very high price.  Jesus gave His life on the cross so that you could become the person you were always meant to be.  You are now a child of the Living God.  He loves you.  He knows already who will win the election and so you might as well find out how he wants you to vote.

I can hear you saying, “But what if the person I vote for doesn’t get elected, will it mean that I didn’t hear right?”  Not necessarily, it just may mean that He wanted to see if you would vote for the person He showed you.  In the long run, it is about obedience and trust.  If you have died to your old self, you really won’t care who He asks you to vote for.  A dead man has no will of his own.

Minister of Death

The Pastor stood up in the pulpit.  He was a strikingly good looking man his hair graying a bit and a wonderful resonating voice.  He looked out over his congregation still reeling from the last counseling session is his office the day before.  How could anyone be so involved in so many sinful things?  He just didn’t understand.  Images had penetrated his mind that he just couldn’t shake.  He took a deep breath and began.

After an hour of coming against sin and admonishing everyone, by reminding them that every sin led to death, he begged them to give up anything in their lives that would cause them to come to judgment.  His own heart ached at the things he sometimes thought about.  He told them that “lust led to more lust, anger to more anger, dishonesty to more dishonesty, envy and strife to confusion and every evil work.”  He diagnosed their condition, but gave them no remedy.

He was quite worked up and the people sat in shock!  Their pastor had never before been so forceful.  Everyone sat in the pew, condemned and without hope.

This well intentioned pastor was a “minister of death.”

Today’s lesson:  When we try to be good enough, there is always someone to point out that our efforts are futile.  It is a misery that shows us exactly why God gave us the Law.   It is a bit like the diet started on Monday morning.  After you eat something that is not in the plan you just think, “Well, I blew it, I may as well finish that cake I made for the family.”

The purpose of the rules of the Law was to teach us that we can’t do it on our own.  All of our attempts, at keeping the whole Law,  end in frustration and disappointment.    Lifting up sin never leads us to freedom.  The Bible tells us that when we lift up Jesus, He will draw all of us to Him.

The pastor drew no one to the Lord that day.  He showed them their utter hopelessness without the Lord of Love.  His own sin loomed bigger and bigger as he spoke the words of judgment and condemnation over his listeners.

Jesus offers us grace which produces life.  Our job – our work is to believe on Jesus that God sent.  (John 6:29)  Our work is believing.  His work is doing in us what needs to be done.  Believing and trusting in Him sets us free.

So, do you want to be a minister of life or a minister of death?  Telling people all that they have done wrong never changes them.  We are told in Scripture that “the goodness of God leads people to repentance.”  Rom 2:4.  Repentance is a Bible word that means change.  It is turning away and turning around.  We look to Jesus instead of our sin.  We look to the Father instead of our own personal strength and ability.  We trust it all to Him.

As we turn to Him, His life – the ‘zoe’ life of God – grows bigger in us and we become freer and freer.

Why does the church minister death?  The Apostle Paul said, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”  (Galatians 1:6, 7)  This precious pastor never meant to lead people to a different gospel and a different Christ, but ‘there are some who want to trouble us and pervert the gospel.’  There is a demonic realm that interferes with us and we must be ever vigilant.  He wants to steal our freedom and put us back under condemnation.

There is only one Gospel.  It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Grace and  Love.  It is not about our sin.  It is about how He purchased us out of sin with His own blood and lavished His grace upon us.  Now we share with Him all of theblessings that Father God has provided for us.

‘I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing therefore, choose life that both you and your descendants may live!’  Duet 30:19  It is a generational promise!

Religion or Encounter?? You choose!

My Mama didn’t believe in joining a church because of her Mama’s religion. They taught you would get ‘the Mark of the Beast’ if you did. (I didn’t know what that was.) Grandma’s religion had made atheists of all of her kids because it was, what was then called the “holiness” movement. She wore dark stockings, no make-up and did not believe in having much of anything. There was no radio, television, indoor plumbing and for many years, no refrigerator. She carried wood and coal and used an outhouse until she was 90 years old. Her belief colored all of our lives. Mom and Dad could never agree on what to do about church and so they slept in and sent me to a small church two blocks away.

At that little church, we had a series of pastors, at least two of which I believe loved the Lord. The others were merely religious and not true shepherds.

The one that negatively impacted me the most was a man who had been asked to leave his previous denomination – and pastorate (at least that is what I remember.) Reverend was very unhappy. He had five children who were unique in that they didn’t even fit in and I know that was painful for them.

His wife was the one that still causes me to shake my head. One thing I remembered vividly was that she wore silk stockings with a seam down the back and acres of unshaved hair beneath them. She taught Sunday School. Her favorite song was “Holy, Holy, Holy” and I always felt she was singing about herself as she closed her eyes and warbled in a high stringy soprano.

She didn’t like me much. I was a bit of a leader among our small fellowship. The kids voted for me to give the Youth Sunday sermon. When the news got to Mrs. Reverend, she took me aside and said, “Reverend and I don’t believe that we should have someone in the pul-pit (emphasis on pit) that isn’t a member of the chucha (no ‘r’ and strong last ‘ch’).”

I was very hurt and confused. I left and went to a church across town until they left. It was years before I could hear the song ‘Holy, Holy, Holy and focus on the one it was about.

At no time did anyone in that small church talk to me about the Gospel. There was no power and often little love. It was a place where some folks were thought of as pillars and others as necessary but not honored.

When I went through my rebellious years, I turned from traditional ‘religion’ and started looking at alternatives including the New Age. I found the focus on me and I liked it. I had a new religion and I was the ‘god’ of that religion. It was comfortable but it did not satisfy. I did what felt right in my own eyes.

Many years later, as I drove down the street listening to R. W. Shambach on the radio, the Holy Spirit spoke directly to my heart and my life changed forever. I had an encounter with the Living God. I learned that afternoon that God was real, He loved me and had a plan for me the most amazing thing of all, I found out that I was forgiven. God Himself walked me through receiving His forgiveness and washing me clean. No one can ever convince me that God is not real. He is real! I am His and He is mine.

Religion is an ugly thing. It is a practice of traditions not instituted by God. It is primarily cultural and doesn’t focus itself on the love and Presence of God. It talks about God but doesn’t really know Him and can be a mere history lesson.

Religion is found in many different forms and even embraces Christianity that has explained away the power of God. Because they do not experience it, they deny it. I includes many different belief systems from all around the world. It incites people to have wars to protect their doctrines and beliefs. There is form but no supernatural power.

Today’s Lesson:

What religion has is tradition, judgement, culture, doctrine, history, and social clubs as well as conflict with anyone who disagrees with them. What God has is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Righteousness is His gift to us at our acceptance of His Son’s finished work.

Peace is ‘shalom’ in Hebrew which means wholeness – complete in Him.

Joy comes from His Presence and has no opposite and is found only abiding in Him.

A relationship with the Living God is far better than religion.

Are you in religion? Or do you personally know and fellowship with the living God?

If you don’t know Him, I invite you to an encounter with the Living God by accepting the finished work of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is easy to do. Just call on the Name of the Lord Jesus and believe with you heart – NOT your head – and you will be saved and He will send the Holy Spirit to Guide you into all Truth. Then ask Him to make Himself real to you and He will.

Let me know if you make this decision.

I Surrender Some . . .

The musicians began to move from praise to worship music and the words went up on the overhead.  “I surrender all, I surrender all.  All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”

Travis took a deep breath.  He had surrendered his time by teaching the young people.  He had surrendered his money by giving generously to the church and to rescue children from the sex trade and support children in India.  He had surrendered his talent by singing in the church choir and even occasionally performing a solo.  He had surrendered a lot.  He studied the Scriptures and could quote them with ease.  He had surrendered more than most, he thought.

He was somewhat proud of his ability to argue doctrine.  He disdained those whose opinion was different from his. He judged the preachers on television and even judged his own pastor.   He had given Jesus his whole head, but what he didn’t realize was that what God wanted was his heart.  Something about the song began to disturb him.  He sang out the words with his usual enthusiasm, but the band kept playing the tune over and over and over!

He began to examine his own heart and he found that it was closed and dry.  He changed the words to “I surrender some . . . “  Tears began to slip down his face.  He tried to get control.  He didn’t want anyone to see.  He wanted the song to stop!  He was, after all, the ‘go-to’ guy with all the answers, but it was too late.  The tears were flowing freely now.  Without any volition on his part, he found his feet moving toward the altar and there in front of everyone – all his acquaintances and friends – all that he had judged and disdained, this hard-hearted guy fell to his knees sobbing.  Shockingly, he didn’t respond to an altar call by the pastor, yet he found himself on the floor in broken-ness.  The worship team was still singing, “I surrender all . . .” and this tough, arrogant guy was being changed.

For the first time, Travis, felt the breath of the Holy Spirit flood his soul and he was swept into the arms of His loving Father through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Travis had surrendered his heart and his soul.  He was made new.

Today’s Lesson:

Today, there are many people sitting in the pews in churches who have prayed a prayer with their heads and think that they have something.  They go about doing good and thinking they are special.  They don’t know the One they think they are serving and this is a tragedy.   When Travis prayed the first time, it was with his head.  The Scriptures tell us that when we call on the name of the Lord, it must be with our whole heart and not our whole head.  Father doesn’t want just ‘some’ part of us.  He wants ‘all.’

If we have not entered by the Way that Jesus opened by His death on the cross, when the day comes, and we stand before the Lord, will He say, “Depart from me, I never knew you?”  The wheat and the tares – the real and the counterfeit – serve together in any local church.  So, as leaders and pastors, what can we do?  Is there an answer?

First, it is important that we examine our own hearts to see if we are fully surrendered and fully awake.  Have we walked with the Lord so long that we are more into the organization and the management end of things than we are into spending time in His Presence?  Are we lifting Jesus up in every service?  Are we drawing near?

The worship team in our story was fully prayed up and the anointing that rested on them lifted Jesus higher and the convicting power of the Holy Ghost was on hand to convict and to save.  When one of the prayer team knelt beside Travis, he just put a hand on his back and prayed quietly while the man wrestled with his flesh and came to full surrender.

When Travis finally stood up, the stress and arrogance were gone.  He had met the One who created him and he had changed his citizenship.  Somehow now, all of the things that he thought about his ideas and reputation didn’t matter.  He was made brand new.

Related Scriptures:

Romans 10:9,10   

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Matthew 7:21-23

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

1 Corinthians 13:3
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Psalm 51:10-17

10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

 11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.

12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

13Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

14Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

15O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

16For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

A Future and a Hope

Annabelle was so caught in the pain of her divorce that it colored every decision that she made.  It had come as a shock when her husband of eight years had decided she wasn’t what he wanted.  He wanted the pretty blonde neighbor.  She knew that he had been leaving in the night and coming back before morning, but she told herself he was troubled by work and was out walking to work it through.  The lie she told herself had been hard for her to believe but she didn’t want to face the truth. When he packed up and left, she had never felt so alone.

Since that day, Annabelle had been afraid to trust anyone.   She didn’t want anyone to get close.  She had been going to church and liked the idea that God loved her, but really didn’t feel the love.  People were nice, but she didn’t let anyone get close and if anyone tried, she would push them away. A woman named Ruth, kept coming to greet her and talk with her.  She would sit with her in church.  Annabelle tried to ignore her, but Ruth didn’t seem to mind her aloof attitude.  She just kept coming back.

One Sunday, Ruth took Annabelle by the hand and said that they were going to go out to lunch together.  Annabelle was so shocked by the touch of her hand, she just mumbled, “Okay.”  At lunch, she asked Annabelle, “Are you tired of living in the past?”  Surprised that Ruth knew what was going on, a tear slipped down Annabelle’s cheek and she looked at this woman who was making her face things. 

Ruth helped her understand that the God who loved her had provided her a future and a hope. “ Lay aside the fear and quit the past,” she said.  That day, Annabelle prayed with Ruth and she felt her heart melt.  Ruth explained that she was made brand new.  Her old life wasn’t who she was anymore.

Ruth explained, ” The future that God has provided you means that your old life has passed away.”  It would take Annabelle some time before she really began to understand in her heart what she knew in her mind.

As believers, we often don’t realize that  we don’t have a past anymore.  “Old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.”  We may still had some of the actions and feelings that we had before we were made new.  In I Corinthians 6:9, there is a long list of identities we had before our new lives in Christ.   The list includes idolater, adulterer, thief and drunk – but then it says, “And such WERE some of you.”  We may still act wrong (we might even think wrong ), but inside we have been made righteous and God will take the inside and bring it to the outside if we will just cooperate with Him.  When His Holy Spirit is in our hearts, He is not mad at us for who we were, and He has a future and a hope for each of us.  He wants us to have all the benefits of our new life.

Annabelle is no longer a rejected divorcée’; she is a child of the living God.  She is royalty.  She is a citizen of heaven.  When she realizes that the past is not her prison anymore and she begins to live the present based on the future, she will find that she is changed from glory to glory.  The past has no hold on her that she  doesn’t give it.

Today’s Lesson:  Begin to lay aside your past.  It’s over!  Romans 12:1 asks us ‘be transformed by the renewing of our mind.’  We have a role to play in finding out that the past is dead.  You may have some things to deal with because of it, but it is no longer your identity.  Father God will help you deal with the results of the old life while he teaches you about the benefits he has in store for you in the new life. 

He tells us in Jer. 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you, plans for a future and a hope and not to bring you sorrow.”  It goes on to say, ‘”Then you will call on me and go and pray to Me and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity.”

So, it’s up to you.  Live in the past and struggle with the pain; continue to live in fear of having feelings for someone and giving them the power to hurt you, and nuture your unforgiveness because it hurt so much, OR renew your mind and live out of the future promises while watching the present come in line.  In truth, if you call on the name of the Lord, He will answer and show you things you know not!

Life in the Spirit is a blast!  Will you give up your rights to the pain, bitterness and un-forgiveness of your life before Christ and determine to no longer identify with the pain of the past and choose victory in Jesus?  If you need help, please feel free to contact us by e-mail.

Related Sites:

Deep Calls to Deep

Confirming Scriptures:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Jeremiah 29:11-14a    11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  12Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.  13And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  14And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity . . .

Romans 12:1-2   1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

2 Corinthians 3:18
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Jeremiah 33:3
Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.