The Promise

This is now:

“…. but [JESUS] said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for Power is made perfect in weakness.” ” – 2 Corinthians 12:9a NRSV

His Power; my weakness. His Grace; His Mercy, is what has kept me alive – literally – this far into my life. I am lost without Him. My decisions, my “best thinking” is the primary reason for the troubles and hardships in my life. You’ve probably heard the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I lived it for years. Life is so much better when I say “Your Will be done, not mine.”

This is GOD’s promise:

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.” – John 14:2‭-‬3 ESV

The SON of GOD said that He will prepare a place for me. Can it get any better than that? I may live in a hovel on earth (I don’t, presently, but very little separates me from homelessness. It’s just a fact of living on earth), but imagine what awaits us when we leave here! I know that JESUS left His heavenly throne to live and die on this earth to atone for my sins; that He walked out of His tomb after 3 days and that thousands testified with first-hand knowledge to the fact of His Resurrection. I know that He died for ME. Do you? Can you say with certainty that you have accepted Him as your Saviour? If you have, then you have His promise, this future, to look forward to.

And this is my future:

“See, the Home of GOD is among mortals. He will dwell with [us] as [our] GOD; [we] will be His peoples, and GOD Himself will be with [us]; He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:3‭b-‬4 NRSV

Can you picture it?? Without GOD’s Promise for my future, life would, indeed, be bleak. My heart cries out for all the people who don’t understand that there is a hell, there is a heaven, and we will spend the rest of eternity in one of them – NO exceptions. Just reading the descriptions of hell in the scriptures is bone-chilling. Hell, Hades, Gehenna, the Lake of Fire…. it goes by many names, just as the “ruler” of hell has many names. Don’t be fooled! He and his demons start out making sin look so innocent and pretty, but it is all lies, deceptions, and untruths. I promise you that it is just a front that they hide behind to trap you. I was snared once. I couldn’t escape his claws and chains for years, and it was ugly. I would see glimpses of light, and I believe they use that to help keep their captives in line.

JESUS saved me. No one and nothing else could. Just JESUS. Call His Name anytime, anywhere, and He will rescue you! When you can’t reach out, He will reach for you. When you can’t see, He will guide you. When you can longer walk, He will carry you. When your burdens are too great to bear, He will take them. He PROMISED. He is the Deliverer, the Great Physician, Saviour of the world. Do you know Him?

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Do you know the words to the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”?

Great is Thy Faithfulness, O GOD my Father …. All I have needed, Thy Hand hath provided …. Written almost 100 years ago, and sung in churches across the world, it is on my top 10 favorite hymns to sing (well, it was, when I had a voice! Now, I just immerse myself in the lyrics and sing it in my head. 😁) If you are able to, take a minute to Google Chris Rice singing it. It makes a beautiful moment of worship. Listen to the words. They are straight out of the Bible. Of the hundreds of times I have sung this hymn and read these scriptures, this reality hit me this morning:

GOD, our LORD and SAVIOUR, is Faithful to me – and to you!

I’m having trouble grasping this concept! I’ve always known that we as Christians should be, and try to be, faithful to our GOD and SAVIOUR. But for HIM to be faithful to me? We know that GOD is omnipotent and omnipresent, so why should He tell us, over and over in the scriptures, that He is Faithful to us?

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1 NRSV

If He sees all and knows all, where does faith come into play for Him? Of course, we’ll never know the real answer until we see Him face to Face, once we have passed from this life into His Life and eternity. My supposition is that because of the Free Will He gave us when He created us, He doesn’t look into our hearts until we invite Him in. Therefore, He expresses to us that He will remainful Steadfast and Faithful while waiting for us and on us. In His Faithfulness, He sent JESUS to us for a visible, real-life example of His Love and His Faithfulness.

“And the WORD became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His Glory, the Glory as of a Father’s Only SON, full of Grace and Truth.” – John 1:14 NRSV

“…. so CHRIST, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.” – Hebrews 9:28 NRSV

“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of GOD.” – 2 Corinthians 7:1 NRSV

Have you experienced GOD’s Faithfulness in your life? Do you know; can you feel the depths of His Love? JESUS came once (Got that? ONCE) to cleanse us of all of our sins; to relieve us of the necessity to make sacrifices as our ancestors did, and to seal us, once and for all, and bring us into His Presence. Following the words of JESUS and His disciples, we should do our best to live an exemplary life, reflecting Him into our world. Accepting Him as LORD and SAVIOUR doesn’t make us perfect, it makes us forgiven. Read what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.

“The Steadfast Love of the LORD never ceases, His Mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; Great is Your Faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” ” – Lamentations 3:22‭-‬24 NRSV

GREAT is Thy Faithfulness! AMEN.

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.

WHY Is This Happening? Why Me?

Have you ever found yourself looking at someone who has had something bad happen to them, and thinking that it’s their fault; it’s because of their actions? I have, I’m guilty …. I have judged more than once, and I’m certain to do it again – and if you try to say you have never had that thought, I will call you out as a liar. Bad things happen to bad people, right? If we are “good,” somehow we will be spared? Try telling that to the elderly woman who was battered and raped and robbed. Tell it to the child who lost their family in a fire. Tell that to the hundreds of thousands who have been through devastating storms and fires and earthquakes; volcano eruptions and floods and tsunamis; tell it to people who have lost every material thing they own, along with family members who are killed. Sure, there are bad people among them, but many of those people were what we would consider ‘good.’

Do we, as the human race, deserve all the bad that happens to us and around us? Oh, friend, we absolutely deserve all of the bad! Are we the ‘better person(s)’ because we were spared? Not at all. JESUS answers the question of whether people who are ‘bad,’ the sinners and the offenders, are the only ones who suffer. We need to take heed of His Words:

“At that very time there were some present who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” ” – Luke 13:1‭-‬5 MRS

In fact, Satan (GOD’s nemesis, the enemy of mankind and all of the angelic beings) delights in tormenting the innocent and the defenseless; especially those who are at the mercy of others. He delights in torment, no matter how good or kind the person might be, and he especially takes pleasure in causing pain to all of GOD’s creation, maiming and disfiguring and hurting.

Because Adam and Eve chose to follow the guiles of the enemy, turning their backs on the ALMIGHTY GOD, simply to sample the forbidden fruit in the Garden…. the ONE tree they were to leave untouched out of all the bounty and beauty of the Garden. It lies in our perversity, our determination to do things our way rather than GOD’s way, that opens the door to let the enemy ceate havoc in our lives and in our world. Why does GOD allow it? I confess to not really understanding the ‘why’s’ and ‘wherefores,’ but I do know this:

Paul writes: “For many live as enemies of the Cross of CHRIST; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a SAVIOR, the LORD JESUS CHRIST. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of His Glory, by the Power that also enables Him to make all things subject to Himself.” – Philippians 3:18‭-‬21 NRSV

Paul’s words were true when he wrote them, and they are true 10x or 100x or 1000x today! Regardless of the damage that may be done to my body, or the loss of all my earthly goods, man – indeed, Satan himself, cannot destroy my soul. Jesus assures me of this:

“Who will separate us from the Love of CHRIST? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 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 8:35‭, ‬38‭-‬39 NRSV

Man may hurt and kill my physical body, but I am not afraid. For I know that no one, nothing, can kill my soul. My LORD has my heart in His very capable Hands!

Image: “Heart or Hand” by Shamieka Dean http://www.shamiekadean.com/hand-or-heart/

Acknowledge HIM

“Religion in the United States” is a survey done in 2016, and published on Wikipedia.org. According to the report, 73.7% of adults in the U.S. claim Christianity as their religion. Judaism claims 2.1%, Islam 0.8%, other non-Christian religions are 2.5%, unaffiliated 18.2%, and those who didn’t answer in the survey 2.7%.

I wonder, how many of the 73.7% and how many of the 18.2% of the unaffiliated go beyond ‘religion’ to really know JESUS CHRIST as their personal Saviour? How many of these people live as though JESUS were standing next to them, or show the Love of JESUS to their ‘neighbors’? Are we religious ‘Christians,’ ‘pew-Christians,’ Sunday Christians ….. or are we spirit-filled, life-changing, followers of CHRIST CHRISTIANS?

JESUS said: “I tell you the Truth, everyone who acknowledges Me publicly here on earth, the SON of MAN will also acknowledge in the presence of GOD’s angels. But anyone who denies Me here on earth will be denied before GOD’s angels. Anyone who speaks against the SON of MAN can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the HOLY SPIRIT will not be forgiven.” – Luke 12:8‭-‬10 NLT

Remember, even Satan and his followers know Who JESUS is and admit to Him being the SON of the LIVING GOD. I think they bask in the lies of the so-called Christians who say the words and claim the title but live in the world. I’m sure the enemy rejoices every time a Christian neglects the LIGHT of our LORD, opting for the glitz and glamour of sin. I know that I gave the enemy many years to gloat over my fallen life before my eyes were re-opened to see Truth, the Light, the Hope and Mercy of my LORD JESUS CHRIST.

Fellow Christian, CHRIST-followers, lovers of the LORD, how do we comport ourselves; how do we let the LIGHT shine in our lives? Are we Christian in name only? Listen to For King and Country “Joy” – do you lift your voice in prayer to the LORD, do you choose JOY in JESUS CHRIST? That is Christianity!

Are you too busy to give Him your time? If we aren’t praising the LORD and acknowledging Him in our lives; if His Light isn’t Shining out through our flaws and brokenness, then we are liars living an empty life – EXACTLY what the enemy wants!

“But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most Holy Faith; pray in the HOLY SPIRIT; keep yourselves in the LOVE of GOD; look forward to the Mercy of our LORD JESUS CHRIST that leads to ETERNAL LIFE.” – Jude 1:20‭-‬21 NRSV

Eternal LIFE, or eternal DEATH. My choice. Your choice. “Hallelujah, death has lost it’s grip on me! JESUS CHRIST is my LIVING HOPE.” (Phil Wickham, “Living Hope”)

I Adore ….

“Yours, O LORD, is the Greatness, the Power, the Glory, the Victory, and the Majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is Yours, O LORD, and this is Your Kingdom. We adore You as the One who is over all things.” – 1 Chronicles 29:11 NLT

Complete this sentence: I adore __________.

Is this your verse, or is your adoration focused somewhere else? Where our focus is, is usually where our adoration is. Our kids, marriage, job, friends, shopping, food, even alcohol or sex – none of these is bad in themselves, but how much of our focus, our adoration, is left for our LORD? How about these – drugs, alcohol, self-gratification through sex or food, selfishness and greediness? When our focus is on these things, there’s no room left in our hearts or minds for adoration of the SAVIOUR. I don’t mean to say that when a person is immersed, buried, in one of these behaviors that they can just decide to change their focus, because that is rarely possible. Addiction of any kind is straight from Satan. He is continually fighting to keep our attention and adoration focused away from the LORD, and the best way to do that is to train our focus onto the highs he gives in those things.

How do we adore the GOD Who is over all things, when we can’t even lift our heads enough to see how miserable we are in our current “adoration”? It is definitely not easy! I follow a blog called beautybeyondbones. It is about a woman’s journey to break the addiction of anorexia and to come to a place where adoration of our LORD supercedes the adoration and worship of the disease. Again, this is not an easy task, because none of us chooses to be addicted to anything. I believe that true healing of any addiction, any disease, is only available through JESUS CHRIST, our LORD and SAVIOUR. Whatever the addiction, the disease, Satan will not let you out of it easily. When we put any other adoration in front of the ALMIGHTY GOD, we are falling into the enemy’s trap. He makes it so easy to fall, but hard to see that we are falling! Even though Satan tries to keep our eyes down on his path, the Hand of JESUS is extended down to us so the if – when – we open our eyes, He is right there, waiting to help us up and take our burden, that burden of the enemy that is keeping us bowed down from the weight.

Sometimes our only recourse, the only thing we can do at that point, is to breathe the Name of JESUS; JESUS, help me. As we begin pulling ourselves up with His help, we begin to see Hope and to have real Adoration for Him. As His Grace and Mercy begin to permeate our souls; as we see the Light and continue to reach for it, the enemy is pulling with all his might to keep us down. Relapse happens because walking upright while the enemy keeps loading us with regret and hopelessness and self-loathing is very difficult. When we look back, or down, we loosen our hold on JESUS, sometimes letting go completely. Because He is a gentleman, and because GOD has given us free will, He won’t drag us back to Him. It’s always our choice, but too often the enemy has such a hold that he can keep us mired in the addiction – BUT GOD has given us many tools to overcome the enemy and leave his focus, the false admiration, and to see and adore JESUS. Counselors, recovery groups, doctors – GOD gave them the talents and skills to help us recognize where our addictions begin, and what we can do to break the hold it has on us, giving us room to truly adore our SAVIOUR.

I spent many years under the spell of the enemy, wasting my life and “adoration” on me and my way, refusing to see that I was miserable and missing out on a good life, a great life, with my LORD. It took the intervention of family and friend’s prayers, Christian counselors, recovery groups, and even doctors who helped by providing medications to help me break the hold of the enemy. Sometimes I find myself focusing on the past, and I realize that my adoration of the CHRIST is slipping, and I lift my eyes to His Word to read His Truth and Mercy and Hope.

Did you answer the question? Have you figured out where your adoration lies today?

Listen to Zach Williams “Survivor;” Matt Maher’s “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” and Phil Wickham’s “Living Hope.” TRUTH! Only our LORD JESUS CHRIST, the ALMIGHTY and EVERLASTING GOD, is worthy of our adoration. JESUS is the Living Hope – everything else is temporary and will pass away, including – especially including – our enemy. You LOSE, Satan – HALLELUJAH, and Praise the LORD, we are survivors!

“[I] adore You as the ONE who is over all things.”

El Greco “The Adoration of the Name of JESUS”

Image courtesy of The National Gallery, London

Greedy Little People

“Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” JESUS replied, “Friend, who made Me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Then He said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” ” – Luke 12:13‭-‬15 NLT

It breaks my heart to see the families, the friendships, and the relationships that are damaged beyond repair because of greed. I suspect that most of us have witnessed this behaviour firsthand. I have experienced what greed can do in my personal life and in my extended family, and I have seen the consequences of greed in my own and in other’s lives. My Dad had four siblings, and came from a family that was, if not wealthy, certainly well off. When his mother passed, and when he was finally able to go to her house (he was the only sibling who didn’t live in the same city with the rest), he found it stripped of almost everything of value. No, no burglers, just certain family members who decided they would take whatever they wanted. A similar thing happened to my Mom when her mother passed on. I have seen it to a much smaller extent in my immediate family. I have also seen it in wealthy friends (really, multimillionaires – I don’t comprehend that level of wealth!), who were terrified that someone would take advantage of them or scam them to gain access to their money. Paranoia, distrust, bitterness in relationships were the result. Ironically, they were being taken advantage of by the people who were closest to them because of greed.

That kind of behaviour, i.e. greediness, causes hurt and division. People, nothing on this earth is important enough to lose family or friends because of greed. Whenever I die and pass into heaven, what good will it do for me to have all the best and brightest things? Absolutely no good, because nohing from this earth will go with me then. I am blessed to have some little things from my Dad and my grandparents; they have no monetary value, and I am fine with that. I like them for the memories they evoke. My response to greediness is to lable items with whomever I want to have them, to keep a list in my will, and to give things away now. I certainly won’t need any of it, but I especially don’t want to see any grasping greediness in those close to me!

“Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”

You may be experiencing sadness, and you might be hurting and becoming bitter because you weren’t left what you wanted, expected, or thought you ‘deserved’. Sometimes it is accidental (not leaving a will or written directions for the survivors), and sometimes it is intentional, sadly. Read the parable of the rich man in Luke 12: 13-21, in fact, read the entire chapter.

“But GOD said to him [the greedy rich man], ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich Relationship with GOD.” – Luke 12:20‭-‬21 NLT

JESUS replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the Word of GOD and put it into practice.” – Luke 11:28 NLT

I often feel like I don’t have much, and then I look around and see how absolutely Blessed I am with family and friends. I have an abundance of ‘things,’ including much of I don’t need. Downsizing is the topic du jour in social and print media, yet it seems that everywhere I turn there are bigger and fancier homes being built. It’s pretty obvious to me that our society is permeated by greed. As for me, I want to sell my (too large) house and get into a smaller one, closer to family…. my priorities have changed, and I attribute any good that has happened to my life to my LORD, JESUS. It is no longer ‘necessary’ to compete with the ‘Jones.’ Earthly weath no longer appeals so much to me. If I possessed monetary weath, I would do everything I could to help my family and friends, and my passions: my church, K-Love radio, the Salvation Army, the National Rifle Association. For me, I want my prayer to always be “Just enough, LORD, just enough,” and “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want” – with NO ‘BUTS’!

YES!!!