Televangelists, Lawyers, Used Car Salesmen, Politicians …….

Apologies up front to any honest televangelists, lawyers, used car salesmen, or politicians who are reading this and protest that they are not at all like these Pharisees! My experiences with the above have convinced me that many, if not most, are exactly as the Pharisees that JESUS calls out here.

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of GOD; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.” One of the lawyers answered Him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” And He said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.” – Luke 11:42‭-‬46 NRSV

There is some debate among Bible scholars about the epistle (letter) written to the Hebrews. Some say Paul wrote it, and others say it was written by a group of early Christians. There is also disagreement as to who, exactly, are the Hebrews it is addressed, but those are discussions to be taken up by others …. Whoever wrote this, to whomever it was originally written, it is also written for us – Christians, CHRIST-Followers – today. I firmly believe that a true Christian will be honest and above board, in business and their personal lives, holding their convictions over what “everybody else is doing.” None of us are perfect, no matter what field we are in: stay-at-home mom/dad, student, retiree, businessperson, politician, preacher, salesman, or attorney. Not one, because we are human, and humans are grossly imperfect, unfair, unfaithful, and vindictive. JESUS CHRIST is the ONLY Man who was or ever will be perfect.

“Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don’t believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. For GOD is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by caring for other believers* [*Greek, for GOD’s Holy People], as you still do.” – Hebrews 6:9‭-‬10 NLT

We know that Salvation doesn’t come from good works, but that real good works, real love, and real caring behaviour, come only from our Salvation through JESUS CHRIST. Are you with me? More importantly, most importantly, are you with JESUS today, and FOREVER-more? Hallelujah if you are! But if you have to answer no, then I urge you to reconsider where you stand. Once you accept His Salvation, you have this promise to hold on to:

“And I am convinced that NOTHING can ever separate us from GOD’s Love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from GOD’s LOVE.” – Romans 8:38 NLT

I Declare The LORD’S Ministry

“…..[I] declare to you what [I] have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the FATHER and with His SON JESUS CHRIST. [I am] writing these things so that [my] joy may be complete. This is the Message [I] have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that GOD is LIGHTg and in Him there is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:3‭-‬5 NRSV

Lived it. Been there. As JESUS experienced life and was tempted by the enemy, so have I been tempted. Unfortunately, my humanity kept me in the darkness, succumbing to temptation after temptation – the complete opposite of my LORD and SAVIOUR. I tried to hide His Light in my life, because I knew that what I was doing was wrong, and I didn’t want to stop. I was living the life …. but in reality, was I even living? For years, I ignored right from wrong and let the enemy rule my life. I was having so much ‘fun’, I could (sort of) forget (i.e. ignore) how absolutely miserable I really was. I lived the definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Yep, absolutely, I was living the life ….. the life of insanity. Even when my late husband and I got involved back with a church, we partied on Friday and Saturday nights, then get up Sunday morning to attend services. It’s difficult to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground when they are in two different worlds! Eventually we figured that out and became involved with our church families. It was a much more peaceful way of life, even as busy as we were. When my husband became very ill, he became addicted to his pain medication and dropped out of church. At the same time, he became increasingly paranoid and verbally abusive. Satan had regained control of him and successfully turned him against everyone who cared about him. JESUS warned us about this happening in the scriptures:

“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.” – Luke 11:24‭-‬26 NLT

It’s true! I ran away from the situation and became angry at GOD because He allowed it to happen, shattering my dreams. I determined not to be overcome that way ever again, and set about finding people I could ‘fix’. How’d that work out for me? Not well! Those people became my focus instead of GOD. I left the fellowship and closeness of my church family so that I could focus on my friends – i.e. projects! – and fix them. I tried fixing both women and men, but especially men. I ended up bouncing between unhealthy relationships, and ultimately, not fixing anything. What I did, though, caused emotional harm to myself and ‘my’ people. Smart? NO! Painful and damaging? YES! There was so much ugliness back in my life, until one of my ‘projects’ lead me to a recovery program at church. I went to support him (no, to FIX him) and ended up staying in the program for myself. He left left the program to pursue his passions – lies, drugs, alcohol, sexual encounters, and more lies. Now he is permanently out of my life, and I am concentrating on keeping my heart focused my LORD. It’s the only way to go from mere survival to living.

Listen to Casting Crowns. Their song “Only JESUS” really sums up what my life was all about before complete surrender to JESUS instead of the world, and I hope you’ll take a minute to go to their website and listen to it.

Make it count, leave a mark, build a name for yourself
Dream your dreams, chase your heart, above all else
Make a name the world remembers
But all an empty world can sell is empty dreams
I got lost in the lie that it was up to me
To make a name the world remembers
But JESUS is the only Name to
remember

The Yearning I Feel

Do you know what I’m talking about when I say I have a yearning in my heart, in my soul? It’s that emptiness we feel and try to fill with people, places, and things to ‘make’ us happy. “If I just had that car / job/ house …..” “Getting to travel, that would satisfy me!” “I’m not happy alone. I need a partner.” “I need a child to fulfill me.” “My house / clothes / car has to be perfect for others to see.” JESUS addresses this very attitude while visiting with his friends Mary and Martha. He said to Martha, who was bustling around, worried that everyone was taken care of in her best hostess way, as she complained that Mary wasn’t helping her:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:41‭-‬42 NRSV

Did you read yesterday’s post? It isn’t “The LORD is my Shepherd, but …..” We should be thinking, and saying “I want (or think I need) this thing, but the LORD is my Shepherd.” Mary wasn’t worried about everyone else’s opinions of her. She was concentrating on the One Who mattered, the LORD JESUS CHRIST. I can imagine that Psalm 23 was very much in her mind that day.

“The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for His Name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff— they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely Goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.” – Psalms 23:1‭-‬6 NRSV

The yearning we feel and try to fill on our own is the yearning of our souls to fill the hole in our hearts, but it will never be filled with any person, or place, or thing in this world. We were made with that GOD-shaped hole, and it’s a hole that can only be filled by Him, our Creator. JESUS came to earth specifically to show us how to fill it. He spoke to the crowds near Capernaum and said this:

“For the Bread of GOD is that which comes down from heaven and gives Life to the world.” They said to Him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” JESUS said to them, “I AM the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” – John 6:33‭-‬35 NRSV

If you are experiencing that yearning, and you’ve tried everything you can to fill it but keep coming up empty, I encourage you to think on these things. Ponder them, research them, and finally, remember this verse and know that GOD doesn’t threaten, He only speaks Truth. The enemy is Satan, the Father of Lies, and even he and his demons know that this is true:

“Whoever believes in the SON has Eternal Life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure GOD’s Wrath.” – John 3:36 NRSV

https://it.aleteia.org/daily-prayer/domenica-29-luglio/

But, GOD!

JESUS said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Luke 11:2‭-‬10 NRSV

I got to hear Dr. Mark Hitchcock preach yesterday, and one thing in particular he said hit me in the face. Well, several things really, but today I need to focus on this. He was using the 23rd Psalm, and I realized that I have done what he said for most of my life. We read it, and scripture says, “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” – Psalms 23:1 NRSV How many of us read it, then pray like this: “The LORD is my Shepherd, BUT I need a job.” “The LORD is my Shepherd, BUT I need healing.” “The LORD is my Shepherd, BUT I need ….” Is the LORD my Shepherd, providing for my needs (* key word: needs, not necessarily wants), or is He not? Pastor Mark suggested reversing the prayer so that we acknowledge the Shepherd. “I need a job, BUT the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” “I need healing, BUT the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” “I need __________ , BUT the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

We brilliant, oh-so-smart humans think we are smarter and better planners than the LORD. Really? Looking at all of the decisions you’ve made in your life, on your own, without seeking or waiting for HIS input – how’s that working out for you? I get as frustrated as anyone (more frustrated!) when my life doesn’t go the way I think it should. I need a job. I need to know whether to keep my house on the market or take it off. I need, I need, I need….. but do I really? What I need is to change my mindset and my prayers. I need, BUT the LORD is my Shepherd. Is He your Shepherd, taking care of your needs, or are you attempting to be your own shepherd and caretaker?

‘The Shepherd and his Flock’, 1905, Wikipedia.org

Jesus said, “I AM the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I AM the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me…. I AM the WAY, and the TRUTH, and the LIFE. No one comes to the FATHER except through Me.” – John 10:11, 14, 14:6 NRSV

Amen.

Hippies, Rock ‘n Roll, Free Spirits

Anybody relate to those words? I do! Livin’ the life, free to live, free to love…. I wonder how many others felt the tugs and restraints on their hearts that I did whenever I immersed myself in that life? I know it was GOD, holding me back from utter destruction, but I wrestled and fought Him enough to put myself in spiritual and physical danger many times. It is only by His Mercy and Grace that I am here today. There was more than one occassion where I know that the only reason I did not die was because of the angels who surrounded me and protected me. Satan had a tight grip on my soul and he did not want to let me go! An old (figuratively speaking 😎) rock and roller, Zach Williams, co-wrote a song called “Survivor” that resonates with my soul. The chorus goes like this:

“God Your Love came crashing in, And pulled me out of the the fire …. You’re my GOD, You’re my Fighter, You make me a survivor.”

I love that last sentence! I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor. Satan does his best to make us victims; GOD and GOD alone makes us survivors. What are you, victim or survivor? Just changing that word in your thinking can go a long ways to getting your heart free from the enemy! In the recovery program I was involved in, that distinction became very important, even critical, as I worked with women in the throes of their hurts, habits, and hangups. Changing your mindset can help you get started on the road to recovery. Taking the next step and accepting JESUS; asking Him to be your partner on the journey is the most important thing anyone will ever do. His Love will come crashing in, and He will pull you out of the fire….. I testify to that!

“Whoever believes in the SON has Eternal LIFE; whoever disobeys the SON will not see Life, but must endure GOD’s Wrath.” – John 3:36 NRSV

Free spirits, free love, rock and roll – we thought that would set us free in our lives. Instead, the enemy used those things ( and still does!) to bind us in chains. The only way – hold on, I need to repeat that, with emphasis – the ONLY WAY to break the chains, the ONLY WAY to escape the fires of the enemy, the ONLY WAY to be a true survivor rather than a victim, is to turn to JESUS CHRIST as your LORD and SAVIOUR. He is the Great Physician Who can heal our hurts and afflictions; He is the Lover of our Souls, and He wants only one thing: for us to accept Him so that we can spend eternity in the true paradise of Heaven. People say that we have ‘hell on earth’. I’m here to remind you that hell is not here, although it certainly seems like it sometimes. No, Hell is a very real place, a place of unimaginable horror and agony, and it, like Heaven, exists now and forever. If you truly think this is hell on earth, I shudder to think how you will perceive the reality of Hell when faced with it.

I encourage you to turn to JESUS today, right now. There’s an old hymn that my Dad had sung at the end of so many services; a hymn that I adore. Listen closely to these words:

  1. Just as I am, without one plea,
    But that Thy blood was shed for me,
    And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  2. Just as I am, and waiting not
    To rid my soul of one dark blot,
    To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  3. Just as I am, though tossed about
    With many a conflict, many a doubt,
    Fightings and fears within, without,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  4. Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
    Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
    Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  5. Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
    Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
    Because Thy promise I believe,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
  6. Just as I am, Thy love unknown
    Hath broken every barrier down;
    Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Depression. It’s ALL In Your Head!

Depression is a real thing, and NO, it isn’t something most people can just ‘get over’. It often manifests in very real physical pain, and it can be the basis for or the result of many other illnesses. It is not a ‘punishment’ from GOD, although I have heard pastors and teachers use these verses from Luke when talking about anyone suffering from depression:

JESUS said, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness. Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.” – Luke 11:33‭-‬36 NRSV

Christians are not exempt from depression any more than we are exempt from any disease or illness. It is absolutely possible to love JESUS and still be depressed. There are people who can work through their depression without the aid of counseling or medication. Those people are not the norm. For most of us, it requires one or the other, and I believe it often takes both counseling and medication to break out of the depression. There’s nothing shameful about seeking help – if you have cancer, or a broken leg, or the flu, you go to the doctor, right? It’s no different when suffering from depression. My LORD won’t turn anyone away who reaches out to Him, whether they are in the blackest place it’s possible to be, or they are a ‘good’ person who has never been depressed (although I personally suspect that anyone who claims they have never been depressed a day in their life is probably lying to themselves).

I can say this to anyone who deals with depression because I have it, too. Keep a close check on yourself, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Find someone you are close to, to be accountable to. Get counseling from someone appropriate to your situation. Just as medical doctors have specialities, so do counselors. It has to be someone whom you trust, and beware of anyone who doesn’t listen to you – there are no pat answers to depression. If you are considering medication, find a doctor who is interested in listening and helping you find the right medication and the right dosage for you. If someone tells you it’s all in your head, well, agree…. But just because it’s in there doesn’t mean you don’t need help getting it out! When JESUS was speaking in Luke, the darkness He was referring to was not depression. It was about the enemy and the darkness Satan spreads in a futile attempt to extinguish the Light of our LORD.

“And this is the Judgment, that the LIGHT** has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than LIGHT because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the LIGHT and do not come to the LIGHT, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the LIGHT, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in GOD.” ….. But remember this!! “Whoever believes in the SON has Eternal LIFE; whoever disobeys the SON will not see life, but must endure GOD’s wrath.” – John 3:19‭-‬21‭, ‬36 NRSV

**The LIGHT is The SON. JESUS CHRIST. MESSIAH. LORD. AMEN!

But It’s Just a LITTLE White Lie….

….. But, it’s just a white lie. What? It’s only some paper clips. Oh, I’m not really gossiping. Just ignore the sex scenes in the show, it’s no big deal. Oh, I love steamy romance novels. It’s just some bad language. So maybe my behavior doesn’t quite line up with Bible, but that book is so old-fashioned and out of touch with the world. Come on, nobody will ever know. ….

The enemy wants us and is willing to do whatever it takes to turn our eyes away from GOD! Baby steps. Just a little bit. The reality is that one step becomes two, then another, and another. You don’t even realize you are moving away from GOD, or that the steps are taking you down a slope that becomes treacherous when you try to stop. C.S. Lewis said: “It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing…the safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones…” @CSLewis

“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” – Luke 9:44 NRSV

JESUS came to earth for one purpose, to defeat the enemy by offering Himself as the Ultimate Sacrifice for our sins. He has the answers we need, and He always speaks the Truth. I know He didn’t want to die the way He did – read His prayer to the Father while He was in the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 22:42-44 – but JESUS, ever obedient, did the unthinkable. He suffered unimaginable agony and death in order to complete the Sacrifice and ultimately defeat Satan.

JESUS said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” – Luke 10:18‭-‬20 NRSV

Every time we tell a white lie; every time we take something that is not ours; every time we are disrespectful, and so on, we participate in the torture JESUS endured to redeem us. EVERY. TIME. Does that make you take a step back and look at your behavior? It does me. Oh, I’m so far from perfect that I do all of those things and more, every day….. I think the key here is that by thinking about it, we might do them a little less each day. We’ll never get right until the day we meet JESUS, but, oh, what a GLORIOUS Day For those who have accepted His Sacrifice and Forgiveness – and that’s my TRUTH for today 😁😁😁 !

Photo credit http://www.crowdact.com