October 31, aka Halloween

In Psalm 11, David is lamenting on the crumbling of society around him. Despite his despair, or maybe because of his despair, he begins and ends this psalm with the LORD, his – and our – Refuge and our HOPE. As followers of JESUS, we can look at the state of our society and flee; run away from it, isolating ourselves into polar communities. Another option, and apparently the most popular choice, is to assimilate into the culture, becoming less visible as Christians, seemingly camouflaged from the enemy. Tolerance and acceptance of the things GOD hates are mostly easier than standing against the stampede of the Enemy’s forces.

Our final option is to infiltrate, but not to assimilate, into the culture around us. Infiltration means that like JESUS with the most despised of the Jews and Gentiles, the tax collectors, we are in the culture, while standing against sin. As our LORD counted tax collectors as friend, we should count the poor, the sick, the addict as friend, and show them JESUS in us. Spending time with the SAVIOUR showed the tax collectors where their salvation lay. JESUS didn’t sin, He showed sinners how to live in this life by His example, and to anticipate an eternity in Glory with Him. As flawed humans, we sin every day, and it is through our brokenness that we can let the LIGHT of the LORD shine into other’s lives. This is by far the most difficult option, and it requires daily foundation building with GOD. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NRSV) Like JESUS, we are to “go into the world.” (Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19-20)

Are we surviving the stampede, participating in the stampede, or being trampled in the stampede? To survive, we need to take heed of David’s words: “In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to me, “Flee like a bird to the mountains; for look, the wicked bend the bow, they have fitted their arrow to the string, to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” ” – Psalms 11:1‭-‬3 NRSV

Being assimilated by society is easy. Infiltrating is difficult and dangerous. It is so easy to fall into the Enemy’s traps! Paul writes in Romans 1: “…. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge GOD, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, GOD-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know GOD’S decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.” (Romans 1:28‭-‬32 NRSV)

Sound familiar? We Christians need more agonizing and less anger. The world isn’t going to change until JESUS returns, but we can make changes for good, wherever we are, by shining the LIGHT of JESUS on the darkness. New morality celebrates everthing GOD hates – We have become a nation, a world, addicted to hate; we live in ugly, perilous times where Evil is mushrooming. BUT remember this: GOD is sovereign and His Throne is not empty. (Read Psalm 45:6; 15:3; 103:19)

What do we do in these times? How do we as Christians treat this pagan holiday? Are we decorating our houses and our bodies with ghouls, goblins, ghosts, skeletons and zombies? And how does this allow the Glory of the LORD shine for the lost?

“The LORD is in His Holy Temple; the LORD’s Throne is in Heaven. His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of MAN, His gaze examines humankind. The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, and His Soul hates the lover of violence. On the wicked He will rain coals of fire and sulfur; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is Righteous; He loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold His Face.” – Psalms 11:4‭-‬7 NRSV

GOD is immovable, the Rock of Ages, the shelter for the righteous. He is the only One Who can make us Righteous through JESUS CHRIST; and GOD credits faith with righteousness.

“The Name of the LORD is a Strong Tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.” – Proverbs 18:10 NRSV

Stabilize your soul with the Sovereignty of GOD, and a solid foundation; find a fresh vision of GOD every day. We should be happy warriors, not sad or longfaced. We have Joy the world doesn’t have. GOD sees to us, He sees through us – His gaze examines us. WE are not the judge, GOD is the Judge, and His Judgement is coming. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah? (Genesis 19:24)

Ultimately, whether we celebrate tomorrow with Halloween or with Harvest parties is up to each of us to decide. I personally have witnessed too much of the occult and satanic focused on October 31 to celebrate it as anything except another day to be alive and Praise the LORD. Honestly, I’m fearful of the Judgement of the LORD! We are in the midst of the battle, friends; this is WAR.

“I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth. calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the Face of the One seated on the Throne and from the Wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of Their Wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” – Revelation 6:8‭, ‬16‭-‬17 NRSV

Prodigal, Sinner, and Hypocrite

Someone said that if he were to find the ‘perfect’ church and join it, it would no longer be perfect. I wonder at the churches – and church members – who think they are perfect and better than others. Why, how, could anyone think that an assembly of humans could possibly be perfect? Then there’s the other side, the person who refuses to be a part of any church “because they are all made up of hypocrites.” Um, duh. (Sorry. My sarcasm slipped out!) Seriously, how can a church NOT be made up of anything besides prodigals, sinners, and hypocrites?

The only thing that separates the church-goer, the true Christian, from the world is JESUS CHRIST, The LIVING HOPE!

In Luke 15, JESUS is disrespected by the Pharisees, those men who were stuck so rigidly to the Law that they were unable to see the MESSIAH Who was right in front of them.

“Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ “
Luke 15:1‭-‬2 NRSV

Horrible horrors, GASP! JESUS sat down to eat and commune with these despised Jews. He spoke to the people there and told them these stories. There was a woman who had 10 silver coins. She lost one and searched her home until she found it, then celebrated with her neighbors. He tells of the shepherd who has 100 sheep, and leaves the 99 sheep in the wilderness in order to find the lost one. He rejoices because he found it. Finally, He tells the story of the prodigal son, a story I think we have all heard. This son took his inheritance and left his home, then wasted and squandered the fortune. Even though he had sinned against his father, when he returned home in defeat, his father ran to greet him and celebrate his return.

“…. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” – Luke 15:32 NRSV

Every person to ever draw breath is a sinner; a hypocrite. Maybe we are all prodigals. I am all of these and more. I’ve shared my story of growing up in the church, of being raped and abused, and consequently turning my back on the GOD Who allowed it all to happen. I was a sinner in the lifestyle I adopted; I am a hypocrite, because I know the Truth but I often forget to live it. I need to allow the LIGHT of my LORD shine through my ‘cracks.’ I am a prodigal who has squandered much before finally returning to the LORD after my 40 years of wandering in the wilderness of sin and the Enemy.

Oh, that we would welcome every prodigal, every sinner, and every hypocrite into all of our houses of worship! We, as the Body of CHRIST, should be running to greet ‘those people’ as soon as we see them. Unfortunately, much of the time, we – the prodigals, the sinners, the hypocrites who make up the church – run away from ‘those people.’ I have witnessed it over and over, and I confess to having done it myself. When I truly returned to my LORD – and I had many false starts – I was Blessed to land in a church that wholeheartedly supported a great recovery program and pastor. I am one of ‘those people’ ….. but because I don’t show how ‘bad’ I had been in my outward appearance, people in the church are often shocked when I share my testimony. I have been found; saved through the Grace and Mercy of our LORD.

LORD, show us how to be the woman searching for her lost coin, the shepherd searching for his lost sheep, and especially the father running to meet his child. JESUS is our Shepherd, and we are like the sheep. We should share His Love and Mercy and Grace, and welcome the lost with open arms as they are brought in by the Shepherd. Do you open your hearts, or do you shut the door in their faces?

Rembrandt’s painting of the prodigal son’s return.

Standing in His Love

“No, I won’t be shaken, my fear doesn’t stand a chance, when I stand in Your Love…”

What a beautiful reminder to wake up to! “Stand In Your Love” is a new song by Josh Baldwin, and he sings about the power and strength of GOD’s absolute Love for us, and how His Love breaks anything that binds us to sin. JESUS spoke to His disciples after choosing them and told them this – and I believe He intended this for everyone, throughout the ages, who accepts Him as SAVIOUR.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the SON of Man. ….But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. ….If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. ….But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the MOST HIGH; for He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your FATHER is Merciful.” – Luke 6:22‭, ‬27‭-‬28‭, ‬32‭, ‬35‭-‬36 NRSV

“My fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in Your Love….”

When we attempt to follow our LORD JESUS, but we are afraid to step out of our comfort zone, our fears tend to take over and rule our lives. I know this, because I often struggle to love my enemies – instead of standing in GOD’s Love, I keep trying to do it on my own. I don’t have it in me to forgive my enemies. If it were up to me, they would pay for their transgressions in a long and painful way. My judging would have no mercy – and I thank GOD it isn’t left up to me! I have been given freedom from the chains and baggage of sin, and that forgiveness came completely and undeservedly from JESUS. Shouldn’t I then forgive and love on those who really don’t deserve my forgiveness?

I can’t forgive if I am standing frozen in my fear. If I forgive them, aren’t I somehow condoning* their abuse? (*Empathetic NO, it is not.) When we stand in GOD’s Love, HE forgives for us – and He will judge them according to their deeds. The only way to shed fear, to lock the enemy out, is to turn to JESUS and allow His Love to hold us up to bask in His Light. Fear is a liar; it is a jail of our own creation, and it all comes straight from the enemy.

“No, I won’t be shaken, my fear doesn’t stand a chance, when I stand in Your Love…”

Can you claim the Promise of Salvation today and let our LORD throw the fears out of your life? “Likewise the SPIRIT helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very SPIRIT intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And GOD, Who searches the heart, knows what is the Mind of the SPIRIT, because the SPIRIT intercedes for the saints according to the Will of GOD.” – Romans 8:26‭-‬27 NRSV

Salt

“You shall not omit from your grain offerings the salt of the covenant with your GOD; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” – Leviticus 2:13 NRSV

JESUS compares His followers (that includes us) to salt: “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” – Luke 14:34‭-‬35 NRSV

“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” – Mark 9:50 NRSV

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” – Matthew 5:13 NRSV

Salt. It is mentioned over 40 times in the Bible, and it’s a crucial element in human survival. Salt was used as a type of currency in several civilizations because of it’s high value, including the ancient Romans and Carthagenians. As late as the 20th century, pound bars of salt were used as such in Ethiopia. It’s versatile, being used for everything from preservation, cleaning, stain removal, arts and crafts, deodorizing, flavor enhancing, fast-chilling agent, and can even be used as a wallpatch. Salt is, simply, essential to life on earth.

A preacher (okay, my Dad!) explained how salt would lose it’s saltiness. In ancient times, and in JESUS’ time, salt would often be collected on the shores of the sea, and would contain impurities. As it was exposed to condensation due to being stored in open containers, or if it were exposed to rain, the salt would dissolve, thus losing it’s ‘saltiness.’ As followers of CHRIST, we become the ‘salt of the earth.’ when our focus shifts from HIM, we lose our ‘saltiness.’ We lose our ability to season lives in order that we can all ‘taste’ of the LORD. King David, in his Psalms, said “O taste and see that the LORD is Good; happy are those who take refuge in Him. O fear the LORD, you His Holy ones, for those who fear Him have no want.” – Psalms 34:8‭-‬9 NRSV

Just as our bodies die when we don’t have enough salt, our souls die without the Salt of the SAVIOUR. Our job as Christians is to show others how much better our lives can be – will be – when we have JESUS in our hearts, in our minds, and in our souls. As I imagine Paul would say to us, “Go forth and season the world with the Love of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, SAVIOUR, and our FRIEND.”

Photo credit: https://www.younesrejser.dk/

Every Thing, Every Moment, Every Thought

“Rejoice in the LORD always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The LORD is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to GOD. And the Peace of GOD, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in CHRIST JESUS. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:4‭-‬8 NRSV

Lauren Dagle sings a song called “Trust In You.” It reminds me that GOD is with me, no matter what I face, no matter where I am, no matter who I am with. He may not move the mountain or part the waters for me the way I ask, but He knows what I am going through because He has already been there. He is right beside me through every challenge and situation, and lifting me when I can’t do it on my own. Perhaps part of the motivation for the letter to the Philippians was to remind them and to reassure them that they are not alone, even while telling them to submit their prayers, their requests, to the Father – with thanksgiving. If we do this, when we pray and worship Him with thanksgiving, then He promises us that He will cover us with His Peace. Do not worry about anything. Any thing.

Like Abraham, GOD has made promises to us. Remember that although he and his wife were well past the ages of creating a child of their bodies (99 and 90, respectively!), GOD had promised Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son and that he, Abraham, through that son, would be the father of many nations. Abraham believed, and he and Sarah were blessed with their son Issac. So GOD hasn’t given you the perfect job, or the perfect house, or the perfect spouse ….. did He promise you would have them? I think not. Does that mean we need to go out on our own, without GOD’s guidance, and acquire them ourselves? Lke Abraham, are we reaching and not waiting? Look at how his not being patient worked out for him, because we are still dealing with the result in the continuous conflicts and wars between the descendants of Issac and Ishmael.

Every Thing, Every Moment, Every Thought – that’s exactly where we need to be looking for GOD; extending our thanksgiving away from we want and into every thing we see of GOD’s Creation; in every moment we are given to breathe on this earth, and with every thought focused on GOD’s Will, rather than on our agenda. I end today with this prayer for you:

And may the Peace of GOD, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in CHRIST JESUS. Amen.

Photo image credit: http://www.open.edu