Does GOD Care About ME?

GOD said, “I Will be with you ….. ” – Exodus 3:12a NRSV

In Exodus 3:1-9, GOD shows He cares about Moses and the Israelites, even though He allowed them to spend 400 years in slavery. Verse 7: The LORD spoke to Moses through the burning bush, I have observed the misery of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings …..” GOD cared enough about them to step down from heaven so that He could meet Moses on his level, because it isn’t possible for us as humans to meet GOD on His level. He cared enough about us to send JESUS to us, to live among us and instruct us on how much He Loves us, and on how to remain close to Him.

Psalms 94:9, 14-15 NRSV tells us of GOD’s care for us – “He Who planted the ear, does He not hear? He Who formed the eye, does He not see? For the LORD will not forsake His people; He will not abandon His heritage; for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.”

He cares and He comes down to meet us – in the Garden, in the burning bush, in the giant fish that swallowed Jonah. He sent angels to Abraham and Issac and others to show His care and protection. When we focus on the issues/problems of our lives and not on the blessings that surround us – yes, even when – especially when – we are in the valley of the shadows, we don’t see His Presence. The binding of sin; frustration with circumstances, anger, jealousy, and etcetera: these things are blinders that the enemy uses to keep our eyes off of the LORD.

“The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for YOU are with me …..” – Psalms 23:1‭, ‬4 NRSV

A portion of my daily talks with GOD contain that first verse, and I have to remind myself that it has no room for any “buts” at the end of the sentence. I constantly remind myself to trust GOD to know the very best who, what, when, and how for me, not myself. – because my track record in life of choosing the “best” for myself is a huge fail!

Psalms 13 starts as a lament, and it is a prayer most of us have prayed in our lives. Verse 1: “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your Face from me?”
I love how it ends in verses 5-6: “But I trusted in Your Steadfast LOVE; my heart shall rejoice in Your Salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

Yes, He cares! He cares enough for us that He left heaven and His Throne to live and die for us, and in doing so He conquered death and hell for us. “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”Matthew 1:23 NRSV

He is with us. What a fabulous thought!

Photo credit NewChristianBibleStudy.org

The End …. or A Fresh New Beginning

What happens when we die? Is there a heaven – is there a hell? Where is heaven? Absolutely. Both the Old and New Testaments record their existence. A classic example is the story JESUS related to His followers in Luke 16:19-31, telling of the rich man and the poor man. The story is impressive in the Truth that is shared, and a very poignant warning to those who reject our LORD JESUS CHRIST. As the rich man can see into Heaven, or Paradise, I see that as a part of the eternal torment of hell. He gets to see throughout eternity how beautiful is. The poor man doesn’t reply, and I think that goes to what John has written in Revelations 21:4.

“But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” – Luke 16:31 NLT

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” – Revelation 21:4 NLT

Read that second part of Luke 16:31 again, and consider the person telling the story – JESUS. He knows that He will be crucified and buried for three days, and that He will rise from that grave, and people will still reject Him. Because of this story, it is clear that as soon as a body dies, the soul is instantly transported to the heavenly banquet – aka Paradise, Heaven – or as quickly, the ones who reject CHRIST go directly to the place of the dead – aka Hell, Sheol, Hades. If we die before JESUS returns to destroy Satan, our corrupted bodies are buried and our indestructible souls go to one of these two places. We aren’t going to be in limbo, we aren’t going to purgatory, and we won’t be reborn into another physical body. After the Second Coming of our LORD, when He defeats the enemy forces led by Satan, then Heaven, the dwelling place of GOD ALMIGHTY, will come to our new earth. Those who have acknowledged JESUS as their LORD and SAVIOUR will come to abide in the House of the LORD, with the Creator FATHER GOD, JESUS the SON, and the HOLY SPIRIT. IMAGINE! Look at how John describes it:

“Then I saw a NEW Heaven and a NEW Earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down from GOD out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I saw no temple in the City, for the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY and the LAMB are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the Glory of GOD illuminates the city, and the LAMB is its Light. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty – but only those whose names are written in the LAMB’s Book of LIFE.” – Revelation 21:1‭-‬2‭, ‬22‭-‬23‭, ‬25‭, ‬27 NLT

Will I finally get to meet you there?I pray it is so!

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

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

Are Satan and Demons Real?

“As He [JESUS]stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw JESUS, he fell down before Him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have You to do with me, JESUS, SON of the MOST HIGH GOD? I beg You, do not torment me”— for JESUS had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) JESUS then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him.” – Luke 8:27‭-‬30 NRSV

According to the records of the disciples of JESUS, demons were very much alive and among them – and they acknowledged that JESUS was (is!) in truth the Son of GOD, MESSIAH. For centuries before JESUS lived, there are stories of demons and evil beings in opposition to mankind, beginning with the serpent in the Garden of Eden who subverted the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. http://www.Britannica.com has this to say about demons: Malevolent beings—demons, fallen angels, ghosts, goblins, evil spirits in nature, hybrid creatures, the daevas of Zoroastrianism, the nārakas (creatures of hell) of Jainism, the oni (attendants of the gods of the underworld) in Japanese religions, and other such beings—hinder man in achieving a proper relation with God…”

The story above of the man who was possessed by ‘Legion’ (“many demons”), is just one of many such stories recorded in the New Testament. On numerous documented occassions, witnessed firsthand by many people, JESUS and His disciples commanded demons to leave a person. There were demons who mimicked insanity, and others who caused illnesses and deformities and even death in their victims. You can Google the words demon or evil beings and get lots of hits. Many of the references of these beings are from hundreds of years before CHRIST. He didn’t make them up to make Himself look good! Listen to Isaiah and what he said to Satan:

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn*! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of GOD; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the MOST HIGH.” But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.” – Isaiah 14:12‭-‬15 NRSV *Lucifer, known as the Day Star, son of Dawn, Morning Star – his name is changed to Satan, which means Adversary. Reference also Ezekiel 28:18, Job 1:6-12, Zechariah 3:1-2, Luke 10:18

In Revelation 9:1, Satan is described as “…. a star that had fallen from heaven to earth,” and in Revelation 12:4a,7-9 “His tail swept down a third of the stars* of heaven and threw them to the earth {*angels; also Hebrews 12:22} ….. And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”

Dragons, demons, devils, fiends, evil beings, imps, incubus…. there are so many words, euphemisms, for the followers of Satan. They are real, Satan is real, and HELL is real. Are you prepared? Do you believe? Do you have the Assurance of Salvation from this very real threat that you can only find in JESUS CHRIST? Evil frightens me, but Satan doesn’t scare me.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but GOD is the Strength of my heart and my Portion FOREVER.” – Psalms 73:26 NRSV

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of GOD in CHRIST JESUS our LORD.” – Romans 8:38‭-‬39 NRSV

Lindwurm (means dragon) fountain, c.16th century, Klagenfurt, Austria – is it the sculptors imagination, or is it based on reality?