After You Have Done Everything, Stand.

This is a familiar quote from around 60 AD by an imprisoned Roman citizen.

Consider. After you have “done everything”, don’t you want to just sit? Rest. Cool off. Check out for a bit? Unplug? Disengage? You’re pooped and are not feeling like standing.

Hey, when I was teaching, on my feet all day, doing everything, guess what I wanted to do and did when I got home? Not stand.

Now, when I work, mostly short shifts of 3-5 hours on my feet, having done everything, I still want to sit not stand afterwards. What about you?

But these 3 images came to mind today and with them, our title phrase – after you have done everything, stand.

The first image – A Sentinel Tomb Guard; standing guard at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, VA.

The second, the brave men of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division, US Marines, who on Feb. 23, 1945 captured the extinct volcano, Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

The third picture, a WW2 Veteran, who from a wheel chair and a long life of sacrifice, paid honor and tribute during a patriotic parade.

These men demonstrate what it means “after having done everything – stand.” Allow me to explain.

The Tomb Guard, a member of the 3rd Regiment (Old Guard) US Army, volunteers for this assignment and gives him or herself to the strict training that goes with it. After basic qualifications with personal records, financials and family, if accepted, they begin training.

This training is harsh, beginning with 2 weeks of basic instruction, uniform prep, walk sequence and behavioral assessments. Then they are tested. This test is the first of four that they must pass during their entire training period. If they do pass, they will spend the next 7-8 months in 12 hour duty days with homework galore. They are not allowed any TV, may not even acknowledge jokes while in quarters, may not acknowledge the public, and are not allowed even to speak to another guard unless spoken to.

During this period they are prepped and tested on three more occasions in these areas:

Uniform – they are allowed 2 minor infractions, no major infractions, and all items never more than 1/64 inch out of place. Imagine, they must pass a 100% inspection, where 97% is failing! There has never been a 100%.

Knowledge – they must memorize a 17 page packet with info on Arlington Cemetery and write it out, including punctuation. Passing the test with no more than 10 mistakes. If you miss a comma on 2 pages, that is a double fail.

Performance – On a 200 point inspection you are allowed no major infractions, 2 minor infractions. This includes performance on foot placement on the mat and cadence while walking the mat. They aim for a 72 beat per minute cadence.

There is a 10% completion rate of passing these 4 tests. Guards who fail the last test, may test again. If you fail again, you are released. You can come back but must start from the beginning. If you pass, you are a Fully Qualified Sentinel and earn the Tomb Guard Identification Badge, which is sterling silver and worn over the right, breast pocket.

While on the 24 hour duty then, every changing of the guard is evaluated and any infractions result in being released. So these highly regarded Sentinels are always doing everything to stand.

The standards for revoking their badge are the only ones in the military that are based on personal conduct. Any felonies or DUI’s means their badge is taken away and their name is stricken from the esteemed record.

These men and women, have truly done all, and their goal is to be standing in the end! If they are not standing in the end, their work has been in vain. In fact, that’s when their training comes fully into play. Standing in the end is the point of their training.

When the 4th and 5th Marine Division invaded Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945 their goal was to secure the island as an important airbase for fighter escorts and emergency landings between Japan and the US bases in the Mariana Islands. Their 36 day assault on this “Sulfur Island” of the extinct volcano Mount Suribachi, was a deadly one in which we lost 7,000 Marines and another 20,000 were wounded.

These Marines reached the base of the volcano on Feb. 21 and by nightfall the next day they had surrounded the mountain. On 2/23, by 10:30 AM they had reached the top and raised a small, American flag. Later that afternoon, 5 Marines, and a Navy Corpsman returned to raise a larger, visible American flag.

This image of that second flag raising was sent back to America and along with that flag raising, so too rose the spirits of Americans and brave warriors in each of the theatres of war.

Perhaps you’ve seen movies or read stories of the bravery displayed on that airstrip. Admiral Nimitz, famously immortalized it this way,

“Among the Americans who served on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Pacific Fleet, Commander in Chief Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

That very image became the template for the world’s largest, bronze statue – the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, VA, AKA the Marine Corps Memorial. It’s 32 foot high figures, raising the 60 foot flag stands to remind us all of the bravery demonstrated by those Marines in that battle, who did all they possibly could to stand at the end of that battle and raise that beautiful American flag.

Lastly, that WW2 Vet, a member of The Greatest Generation, after having served, lived, fought demons in country and his own personal demons at home, after everything he had been through he chose to stand, again.

With every excuse to sit, and stay down and given every exception by others to sit, he was driven by all that was within him, by all he had been through, by all that mattered to him, and by all he had fought to preserve to STAND. He had done all and now he would stand.

The training, the battle, the long fight… what is it for if not for us to stand in the end?

After we have done all, it is time to stand; maintain our position, hold down the victories, show off our training and execute the strategic plan and purpose bred into our fiber. It’s not time to sit, hold back, give up, or rest.

If you have done everything you know to do, up to this point- then it is time for you to stand your ground.

Cheers to you.

Props to Peter

Sunday Sermon 1.16.21

What would compel a person to step out of a boat that is in a storm?

As a sailor, who enjoys sailing the coastline of Southern California, this question gripped me, “Why would anyone leave a boat in the middle of a storm?” Consider it, why?

The foundation story for this question is found in Matthew 14:22-34, where Peter, a new follower of Jesus, aboard a fishing boat (sail boat) was, along with his other disciple buddies caught in a fierce storm. Here are the conditions on the lake, when we pick up the story:

  • it was dark at night
  • they were far from land
  • they were being pounded by high waves
  • there were strong, opposing winds

The men on board this boat were not having a good time! In fact it was dire for them.

Again, from my own personal experience, were I aboard Lady Debra in these four conditions, I would be absolutely terrified! Which is why I was wondering why leave the boat? What could ever be so motivating that you would actually step INTO these conditions without the protection of the boat?

(I can honestly say that each of these four conditions are ones in which I would NEVER sail. I don’t sail at night and get concerned when the sun is setting and we are still out. I choose to sail, nearly always, with land in sight. High waves and strong winds are no-no’s for me. Absolutely not, no way, not me on my boat!)

The boys were in a very difficult situation that did not look good at all. The best thing coming was dawn.

As the story goes, “Just before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake”. Matthew 14:25 Or put another way, “walking on the waves.”

Now we have some good news appearing. Jesus is showing up in the midst of the storm, walking on top of its waves. A lot could be said about this, but let’s focus on the disciples, who responded with terror, thinking he was a ghost, and crying out in fear. Matthew 14:26 To them, Jesus showing up like this seemed to add to the terror of the moment. Oh no, a ghost too, we’re gonna die! We’re dead.

Jesus wasted no time, and spoke to them across the waves and in the wind and said,

“Be brave and don’t be afraid. I am here.”

Matthew 14:27 TPT

These are reassuring words, for sure! We will come back to them.

Peter, upon hearing Jesus’ words responded with a statement, that on its face, to me seems odd. He said,

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (and waves and winds, in the darkness a long way from shore)

Matthew 14:28

Herein lies, our opening question. Why in the world would anyone leave a boat and step into the storm surrounding it? That’s crazy!

Well, I thought of 3 reasons why someone might do that –

  1. the ship is sinking – escaping it may save my life (remember Titanic?)
  2. suicide – taking a permanent solution to a temporary problem
  3. delusional – extreme conditions at sea causing me to see ghosts

Clearly, none of these apply to Peter and the gang. So why step out into those conditions? Why?

I can vividly imagine these conditions on the lake and the guys in the boat. I can vividly see the waves overwhelming the boat and the winds opposing their every attempt to right the boat. I can imagine the panic of darkness in this storm all the while knowing there is no land in sight or even near. This is real in my minds eye. This is horrific.

And yet Peter steps out of the relative safety of the boat and into the uncertainty of this dark storm. Why? What motivates him?

In one way, Peter’s statement back to Jesus is not unlike what many of us have said; Peter said, “if it’s you…”.

How many times have you said or heard said,

  • God, if you’re real…
  • God, if it’s really you…
  • God, if you’re in this…

That part I get, I understand because I have done it, said it. How ’bout you?

But Peter’s “conditional statement” If it’s you… then tell me to come to you…” puzzles me.

In math, the conditional statement formula is, p ➡ q. P equals the hypothesis, q equals the conclusion and the arrow shows the logical connection.

To me, I fail to see the logical connection between the two. It is not logical to come to Jesus on the high waves in this storm, yet it for sure is a conditional statement. So, what’s the connection? Why did he leave the boat and step willfully into the dark storm?

When Jesus responded to Peter’s statement, he did so by simply saying to him, “Come, join me.” Matthew 14:29

Peter made the connection and stepped into the stormy waves, not the glassy lake. Peter stepped into the roaring winds, just as the new day was dawning. Peter left the little safety he had in the storm tossed vessel in blatant defiance of all things logical. Yet, for him it made totally, logical sense to step towards Jesus on the turbulent sea.

Why?

Remember what Jesus told the guys when they first saw him on the water?

“Take courage. I am here. Don’t be afraid.”

Matthew 14:27 NIV

THAT statement is the key! THAT statement is Peter’s motivation! THAT statement was Peter’s reason for stepping into the storm and towards Jesus! THAT statement!

Peter was familiar with part of THAT statement. He’d heard about it for his whole Jewish life.

He’d heard how his ancestors had at one time called their God Elohim, (this is a title, not a name) until Exodus chapter 3, when God revealed to Moses His name as “I AM”. Exodus 3:14

He’d heard how I AM had delivered the Israelites from 400 years of slavery, sent plagues and judgment to Egypt, parted the Red Sea, delivered them from enemies, armies, threats, disease, judgment and so much more.

He’d heard that I AM was the source of all power and eternal in nature. How I AM was self-sufficient, self-sustaining. How I AM was and is and will be forever the same omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God of the universe.

He knew the name I AM. He’d heard it his whole life. He believed in I AM as the God of his ancestry.

NOW, Jesus, the one he had chosen to follow, was standing before him, declaring to him, “I AM. Don’t be afraid. Come to me.”

Peter now saw Jesus as the Almighty, omnipotent, self sufficient, name above all names, God who is in control of all things. THAT was his motivation for stepping out of the boat and into the storm. THAT was his solid ground he stepped onto when he left that boat.

How could he go wrong stepping towards I AM? There was no fear, no hesitation. When I AM says “Come to me” you step towards Him. Confident. Sure. Unflappable. Secure. Certain. Comfortable. Unshaken. Doubtless. Peaceful.

Even though “I AM” or the “tetragrammaton” appears over 6,000 times in the Bible this one, for Peter was his moment of truth. The dawning of a new day for Peter’s understanding of who he had committed his life to follow.

Although scribes through the ages could not say I AM out loud, nor fully spell it out, here was Peter walking towards the great I AM, fully able to express himself before Him and be accepted, cared for and destined for greatness

I AM brought proper perspective to Peter. Peter saw that, when he saw Jesus as the great I AM.

When you realize the great I AM is in control and calling you to come close to Him, you come close to Him, regardless of stormy circumstances, dark times, opposing winds or overwhelming waves. It makes perfect sense and is the only logical thing to do.

THAT would compel many to leave the boat and step into the storm.

So I say, “Props to Peter!” (Lord, help me.)

Go with God.

Digital Dependence

That’s the phrase I woke up with.

Whhaat? Why? So after some coffee and AM focus, I dove in to investigate this phrase.

Digital. What does that mean? Go ahead, how would you define it? Ummm, having to do with digits???, the internet??? How are you doing? Easy? Challenging?

“Digital, in its broadest sense, is any piece of technology that connects people and machines with each other or with information.” According to Leighton.com/whatdoesdigitalreallymean

For us old timers, we first knew it as IT – “Information Technology”, and it was how documents, spreadsheets and databases created information through the use of hardware, software and their necessary methods.

The term digital has now superseded IT and includes the addition of social media, mobile and cloud services.

But why does this matter and why should you keep reading?

Because we are living in a digital world and it is changing rapidly. So fast, in fact, that we cannot keep up with it, nor can our legislation. It, this digital world, is at the forefront of our First Amendment rights and the loss of them.

From October 29, 1969, when the US Dept. of Defense’s ARPANET delivered it’s first message from UCLA to Sanford and crashed the ARPA network, the technology has grown to a rate of 11 new users per second, resulting in one million new users each day. (“wearesocial.com/2019-global-internet-use)

Of the 7.8 billion people in the world today, 4.388 billion are active internet users, representing 57% of the total population; the vast majority of those are mobile users, 3.986 billion or 52% of the total population.

The stats reveal that these users are spending on average 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day. That means we are connected to devices hundreds of times each day.

These are the places those 4.4 billion are visiting during those 6+ hours digitally connected.

Please notice those companies, especially the ones at the top.

Now, we realize that time spent on devices is not all play and scrolling. We are emailing, reporting, comparing, creating, ordering, communicating, you know, actually working. The lines between leisure and work however, are slowly slipping away, as we are responding to emails “off the clock” and checking Facebook while “on the clock”. Our devices and their APPS, all digital, are “making life easier”, so they say.

In whatever amount of time we are spending in the digital world, we are being bombarded with messages of all sorts. We know that our search history is collected and we are targeted by ads and other messages that “they” deem important.

I can’t for the life of me figure out why, on my Instagram feed, since the election, COVID19 warnings and messages have disappeared! Has the pandemic ended? Why is it no longer inserted after nearly every picture? (I jest, but seriously!) Is it no longer important?

But back to the title, Digital Dependence.

Whether we like it or not, we are dependent on our digital world. Banking, PC/laptop data, cloud storage, medical records, records of most kinds for that matter, travel, communications, etc. We are dependent.

So, the first action step for me is to do whatever I can, to cover my butt, in the event those digital connections are lost. I mean it, folks. In the world in which we live, you cannot discount that possibility. My husband speaks of “EMP’s”, but as we are seeing now, there are several more ways our digital world could be upset. So back up, keep hard copies, write things down, arrange for other means of taking care of your business and dealings. Seriously.

Second action step, we need to make any changes in our surfing habits that are necessary. Six plus hours a day for the average person, online???? Don’t tell me you don’t have time to pray, read the Bible, meditate, talk with your family, visit neighbors or call your father.

Third and last action step, beware of the messages that are bombarding you while in the digital world. I am so ticked at some of these that just keep showing up on my feed or in my stream. I don’t believe them, hate seeing them and can’t get rid of them. I refuse to allow them to cloud my thinking and will seek to keep my head above the foggy, rising waters that wants to overwhelm me. The best way to do that, I have found, is to get off the devices!

I am an optimist and I do walk by faith, but the digital dependence we have learned to lean on is teetering, and I feel in my spirit we must prepare, we must beware, we must wise up. Change is coming and we need to be ready for it. Forewarned is forearmed.

photo from Larry Elder

What do you think? Am I off base? Where are you on my three action steps in our digital dependence?

Cheers to you.

When Things Don’t Go As Expected

Sunday Sermon 1.9.21

The previous year, 2020, has provided for all of us more than ample situations or events that most certainly did not go as expected. Were we to have a race writing things down, the only thing slowing us down would be our ability to write fast and the fact that no one would really want to win the race.

And here we are only nine days into the new year and that list just keeps growing. So many things are not going as expected. Not even close.

Shoot, here in my house, we were expecting a wonderful two week visit over the holidays with our son and his new wife – we got that and more – Covid. All four of us! So we actually got a plus three week visit instead.

Here’s the thing, when your life belongs to Jesus, God uses things intended to harm you for His good.

“You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”

Genesis 50:20

It sometimes is a hard pill to swallow, but He really does “work all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

All things means just that – all things!

Personal issues, relational issues, family, work, school, politics, church, community, health, financial, supply, housing, pets, neighbors, business, government, all things!

He works in each and every situation, always, to bring good from it for us. He is God, that is who He is and that is what He does.

“No weapon, (plan or purpose, idea, threat, legislation, edict,) formed against thee shall prosper…” Isaiah 54:17

When faced with the unexpected, watch what God can and will bring from it for you. Take a look at these few bible characters to get you going:

Joseph – the earlier quote from Genesis came from his lips after his brothers dashed his dreams by selling him into slavery in Egypt. There, after many years in prison, he eventually became the Egyptian vizier, 2nd in command. His dreams fulfilled and his brothers bowing down to him.

But consider how many times things did not go as expected for him. Goodness! Our hearts bleed when we recall so many injustices and seemingly bad outcomes for him. Beaten by brothers, abandoned, sold, forgotten, imprisoned, mistreated, ridiculed, forgotten again, promoted, falsely accused of rape, imprisoned again, promoted again, respected, empowered, honored, restored to family, blessed his family and the nation.

Joseph’s life is a vivid example for us of how all things really do work for good. All things are not good, but God is able to work them for good for you, and Joseph.

Consider another – Noah. Noah was living in a horribly wicked and violent era; so bad in fact God had it with the world. Seriously. You know the story. Noah built a floating barge under God’s direction and then God sent animals to Noah to fill the barge. Noah, his family (wife, three sons and their wives) all boarded the barge and God opened the windows of heaven and fountains of the deep, and rain as never before seen, flooded the earth and destroyed all mankind.

Did things go as Noah expected? Well, first off, he had never even seen rain before, so right there we have the unexpected. How ’bout the length of time for this rain stuff? Expected? How ’bout after the rain stopped and the flood waters covered even the highest mountains? How ’bout living in an indoor zoo for over a year, with your family??? Expected?

Noah certainly faced the unexpected and he too experienced the faithfulness of God. From that time aboard the barge, God worked for the good of Noah, eventually resulting in a blessing for he and his family and an agreement with Noah’s name on it – the Noahic Covenant; which turned out as a blessing for future generations around the world.

Abraham/Isaac– When this father and son went up to the top of the mountain with all the supplies and tools to make an offering to the Lord, do you think their expectations included Isaac being tied and laid on the altar? Could a father imagine holding a knife over his son, ready to slice his throat as he would an animal?

Why would a father do such an unexpected thing?

“Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”

Hebrews 11:19

What followed? God worked it for good and revealed a ram, just out of sight to be used as the offering. Issac was untied as were his fears and faith in his dad, not to mention Jehovah God. Oh, and remember what God said to Abraham, “Now, because you have not withheld your only son Isaac, I will bless you and you will be the father of many nations and your offspring will be more than the sand on the sea shore and stars in the sky.” Genesis 22:12, 17

I have several more to share. But stop and think. When things don’t go as expected, what is really happening for you?

Is all lost? Are hopes dashed? Is faith gone? I hope not, but if any of those are close, then this word today is vital for you. When you hit a wall, an unexpected and firm obstacle, God is still at work on your behalf, bringing to you a bigger, broader purpose than what you see in the immediate. He is working whether or not you see what he is doing.

What is faith after all? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:6

In the face of the unexpected, faith sees God working. We walk by faith, not by sight.

Joseph, Noah, Abraham and Isaac all looked beyond what their eyes saw. They looked beyond the immediate and to the One who was at work for them preparing them for the good which would eventually be forthcoming.

We could add to those men Moses, who went from basket, to burning bush, to bondage to being broke free. Did he face the unexpected, you bet. Did he have faith God was working, sometimes.

How about Rahab? This one was a business woman who happened to offer protection to some spies, and was rewarded by being the only family saved when the city was destroyed. Unexpected? Faith? Yep!

John the Baptist began his life the result of a prophetic word. He was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was even born and grew up being a voice that called the Jews to return to the Lord and His ways. He was all in serving the Lord, all the time. Bold. Brave. Brazen.

Did his life all go as expected? He was beheaded, probably not expected.

But was God at work for good even in THAT situation? It did turn out for good for him, he went immediately to heaven. And it turned out for good for the disciples and for us too. His life God used for good, even though the enemy meant his death for evil.

One last bible character, Peter. The unexpected fisher of men. The unexpected walker on water. The unexpected insightful friend, (YOU are the Christ!). The unexpected voice of Satan, (Get thee behind me, Satan.) The unexpected ear cutter-offer. The unexpected denier. The unexpected witness at the tomb. The unexpected preacher at Pentecost, saving 3,000! The unexpected healer, deliverer, teacher, prayer, leader. The unexpected martyr.

The unexpected result? This man is now listed as one of “these men who have turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6

Walking by faith, each of these persevered through difficult situations for them. They looked beyond what they saw to a God who was at work on their behalf. The wall was not all they saw. The problem was not all they saw. The impossibility was not all they saw. The unexpected did not deter them or their faith.

When things don’t go as expected, where do you put your faith?

Please allow me to close with a recent personal, account.

My husband had to have surgery on his L4, L5 in his spine. He prepped and was ready for the in one day, out the next expected hospital stay. Seven days later, after having unexpected drug interactions, and him being unresponsive, The Rapid Response Team was called.

During his unresponsiveness, from where we were, we thought we were loosing him. It was terrifying.

But later we found out, during that time of his unexpected, unresponsiveness, he was having an out of body experience, hovering above his body, watching all that was happening to him in his room. He was talking to an old man. Den asked the man, “So I guess now is the time I get to choose whether to go or stay?” The man, whose face was only a bright light, firmly told him, “I will tell you when it’s time!”

Those words sent Dennis back to earth, into his body and into a responsive state. Those words changed his life forever. The medical team, to this day still cannot explain what happened or why.

Den was released from the hospital the next day! Less than 24 hours from when we thought we had lost him. In fact, we had gained a totally new man, spiritual fervor and dedication stronger than it had ever been. His fire and passion for life and the Lord burning brighter than it ever had. God had once again, according to his promise, been working in all things for the good of Den, for us. From this unexpected event, has come Dennis’ greatest freedom, joy, and empowering; and one of my greatest joys and desires.

Covid free and facing the unexpected together with faith.

We serve a God of the impossible. All things are possible with God and our faith will remain anchored to Him, not to events. For when circumstances appear to be harm to us, He intends it for good. He is at work, he never stops working for the good of those who love him.

When things don’t go as expected, have faith and keep going. He is at work for your good.

Go with God.

Strange Things

With such a title, it leaves a wide variety of avenues for possible exploration.

First, although it is a bit tempting, we will not be addressing the similar title “Stranger Things”. You’ve probably heard of it, it is the science fiction, Netflix series about Hawkins, Indiana, the boy Will, the girl Eleven and their battles against The Upside Down alternate dimension. Nope, tempting but not going there.

There are so many times when reading news about my city, my state, my nation; politically, socially, morally, personally, corporately in which I find myself shaking my head and declaring the things I am witnessing as strange. Seriously, where would I begin my list, were I to begin a list of strange things in 2020?

We are living in strange times. Things in nearly every arena are simply strange.

There is already enough about our strange times being written and aired, so I want to go a different direction.

I want to share with you 10 strange and very interesting creatures in our world that I hope will make you smile or maybe even creep you out. But let’s just enjoy looking at some different strange things, shall we?

Axolotl

This amphibian lives in lakes and canals in Mexico and can grow to 18 inches long.

Velvet ants

These furry creatures look like ants but are actually wasps. Found mostly in South America, watch out for them, they are known for their extremely painful sting and in fact are called “cow killers”.

Sparklemuffin

He is also known as the Australian peacock spider. They were only recently discovered in 2015 and measure just 5 mm in length. He looks like he is “dabbing” and in fact, his leg is seeking to attract a mate. Who wouldn’t be attracted to a dabbing spider?

Southern Cassowary

These guys have earned the reputation for being the “most dangerous bird in the world” due to their razor sharp talons they use to defend themselves. So watch out for these flightless 6 foot tall, 190 pound meanies. If looks could kill….

Alligator Gar

This is a fish that grows to 8 feet in length! If you near fresh water rivers and lakes near the Rio Grande to the Missouri River, you just may see one. Sorry, this is just creepy.

Maned wolf

Nope, they are not in fact wolves, they belong to the dog family. That is probably why I think he is sorta cute. Although they are omnivores, they prefer veggies. You will find them in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. I think I want one.

Magnificent frigate bird

You’ve probably seen these before, as their big red sac on the males chest that balloon up are quite famous. Just ask the females. (Galapagos Islands) It looks uncomfortable… yikes!

Jabiru Stork

This guy grows to 5 feet tall and has been known to attack by stabbing with his 14 inch long bill. Ask the zoo attendees in Belize. I wouldn’t want this stork bring my baby, he looks dark and evil!

Pink fairy Armadillo

In Argentina you will find this lil guy, who is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. They are very rare and shy and scientists are still learning about them. Don’t you want to just pull off that top, ribbed layer?

Aye-aye

The aye-aye’s home is in Madagascar. He is known for his bulging eyes, growing teeth and long fingers. He is actually a type of lemur and will forage through the night. He looks like a fun one to hang out with at night, right? Never a dull moment.

Up until a few hours ago, I had never heard of most of these strange things. But at least now, I have more strange things to add to my already growing list of strange things happening in 2021.

Cheers to you, and smiles too.

Fill Your Sails

Sunday Sermon 1.2.2021

Earlier this week I felt impressed to create and share this image –

It is a message that I cannot shake off or ignore. I believe it is a call for us all, for the new year.

Our life is like a sailboat.

It is designed to sail, to catch the wind and navigate the lakes and seas, and then return safely to dock. It is not designed to stay tied up dockside, sheltered from the wind.

Don’t get me wrong, we have spent many wonderful times at the harbor, in the slip entertaining, laughing, talking, playing, and sharing aboard our sailboat. In fact, we have spent more time dockside than sailing. But that is not what the boat is designed for. She was made to sail.

Such excitement overcomes me when I make preparations to actually go sailing. Gauges are checked, items secured, unnecessary items removed, motor started, sails checked, and untied, lines checked, etc.

Then, using the motor, we back out of the slip and head for the open ocean. Before leaving the harbor, we face into the wind to hoist the mainsail, and then continue out of the harbor. Once beyond the jetty, we cut the motor, unravel the jib and allow the wind to fill both sails. We are now sailing.

aboard Lady Debra
click to play video

The wind is the power that drives the boat along. I steer the ship based on the direction of the wind, power of the wind, and our desired destination.

Without the wind, we go nowhere. Or facing the wrong direction in the wind, we also go nowhere. “Luffing” on a sailboat means your sails are not full and the wind is not being harnessed properly.

A friend of mine and I had been out for several hours and we had tacked to return back home. As anxious as we were to return, the wind was not cooperating. There was very little wind, and we were getting nowhere fast. To top it off, we would be loosing daylight soon. Although we were loving sailing, it was now time to use the motor; for without it, we wouldn’t make it back in daylight. (which is a rule of mine)

A sailboat, has a motor, but it’s primary power is from the wind. That is the way of it’s design. The sails are used for receiving the wind, embracing the wind and thereby powering the vessel. As the sails fill up the boat moves. The sails must fill in order for the boat to advance.

If the sails don’t fill, the boat is not fulfilling it’s purpose.

Lady Debra, under motor, not sail

The mainsail and the jib (front sail) are intended to fill with the wind. In this picture, you can see, they are not even up, much less filling with wind.

Here’s the Sunday sermon part, my friends.

Jesus told his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the gift that the Father had promised. He told them that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and that baptism would endue them with power. Acts 1:5,7

On the day of Pentecost, the power showed up in the form of a strong, blowing wind that filled the house where the 120 were sitting. All of them heard it and then saw dancing fire flames on one another’s heads. Acts 2:4 says that all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

When we are born again, our spirit is regenerated, reborn, made alive. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus. We are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Our spirit is alive now, within us.

Our spirit is like the sails of our sailboat. The wind of the Holy Spirit comes to fill our sails and empower us. The power of the wind (Holy Spirit) fills us, drives us, empowers us and allows us to advance. Without the power of the wind (Holy Spirit) we get nowhere. Our sails are “luffing”, we are floundering, without direction or power.

But the Holy Spirit blows on us and fills us we are thereby empowered to heal sicknesses, diseases, and drive out evil spirits. That is what we have been commissioned to do. That is our purpose. That is our call and our destiny. That is what Jesus authorized us to do.

We have been called to cast off the bow lines, leave the safe harbor, and hoist our sails to catch the powerful winds of the Holy Spirit that are blowing.

Mark Twain had it right.

It is time to allow your sails to be filled and experience the exuberance of sailing under the direction of the Holy Spirit, going where he leads and doing what he directs. Trusting him to use you where ever you are.

Your sailboat, life is meant for sharing. Everything that you have gone through, experienced, struggled with, lost to and gained victory over is meant to be shared with others. Your Christian life of peace, prayer, Word and worship is meant to be shared.

This horrendous pandemic with all of its ramifications has provided a ripe seedbed for hungry people, seeking truth, life and hope -all of which you have and have been commissioned to share.

I call forth 2021 to be a season of sailing under the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. A season of leaving the safety of the slip and venturing into the exuberance of a purpose filled life affecting others for the Kingdom of God.

That is what you, oh great sailboat were designed for!

Hoist up your sails and let the Holy Spirit fill you a fresh for an exciting 2021.

Go with God.

Washington’s Cruiser Flag

It was 1775 and General George Washington had personally outfitted seven ships in an attempt to drive the British from New England. He believed it was important to be able to attack the British from sea as well as land. Having already surrounded Boston and trapped the British army inside, his mission was to prevent British ships from delivering supplies to the army in Boston.

These seven ships or floating batteries as they were called, in order to be identified as “friendly” to one another, were flying a flag of white, with a pine tree in the middle and the motto, “Appeal to Heaven”; this also became known as Washington’s Cruiser Flag.

This fleet sailed before the first US Navy had even been commissioned, and was also known as “Washington’s Secret Navy”. These schooners captured many a British ship, including the British Brigantine named the “Nancy” that was carrying over a years worth of supplies. This capture is considered the greatest capture of the entire Revolution and it also inspired the birth of the American Navy as we know it today.

In April of 1776, the State of Massachusetts adopted this flag for its own navy as well as ordered the colors of the uniforms of the officers to be green and white. They sailed twenty-five ships in defense of America and were eventually absorbed into the US Navy.

Why this motto – “Appeal to Heaven”?

I’ll attempt to reel in my US History teacher bend and summarize it like so.

John Locke, one of American’s foremost political philosophers argued that

“When all other political and individual methods of resisting tyranny are exhausted, only “an appeal to heaven” remains.”

Second Treatise of Civil Government – John Locke

In summary, he contended that “no man had inherent power to regulate or restrict divine arbitration in civil affairs. Even in dire circumstances, natural rights transcended the political process.”

It was clear to our founding fathers that “God governs in the affairs of men”, and Benjamin Franklin clearly, and unapologetically stated that. It therefore held true, that in all things, Locke’s motto- appealing to heaven, should inspire the citizenry to work to the bitter end to achieve a remedy.

Locke maintained “people should be diligent to oppose egregious acts through political action. Rather than a tactic of last resort, an appeal to heaven was warning sign.”

Though today, Locke’s motto may be overlooked, it appears to me, it represents the very place we again find ourselves standing. It indeed is our focus, battle cry and our course of action.

I join with Washington, the founding fathers, and other revolutionaries who on behalf of a nation lift an appeal to heaven against all tyranny, foreign and domestic. If not now, when?

Won’t you join us in this appeal to heaven?

Cheers to you.

Messages of Comfort Part 4 Comfort in God’s Power

Sunday Sermon 12.26.20
The fourth and final part of a series from Isaiah 40

As we wrap up our look at Isaiah chapter 40 and the comfort it brings, let’s review.

Isaiah is writing to a nation in deep do do, who’s decisions had turned them away from God and toward certain judgment and doom. He had been warning them of their pending judgment and attempting to rally them back to God. News of oppression, doom and gloom just kept mounting until chapter 40 brings a dramatic shift to the book’s focus.

Like a shaft of light and hope piercing the skies, comes the declaration of chapter 40 and it’s opening first two words – COMFORT, COMFORT.

Resounding through the dark days rings crisp and clear hope, consoling comfort and encouraging vision. In the previous weeks, we looked at these comforting messages – “Comfort in Doom”, “Comfort in Obstacles” and last week, “Comfort and Good News”.

As we close this series, we end with a powerful picture of God’s great and amazing power. The section (verses 12-14) begins peppering us with 10 questions – check some of them out –

  • who has measured the waters in the hallow of his hand?
  • or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
  • who has held the dust of the earth in a basket?
  • who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord?
  • who can instruct the Lord or be his counselor?
  • who taught Him the right way?
  • whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him?

Each of these, gives us the perspective of a mighty, powerful Creator God. His hand holds and measures the oceans of the world. The extension of his fingers, from thumb to pinky measures the length of the heavens. He needs no counselor, advisor or teacher, for within the Spirit of the Lord we find all wisdom, insight, and knowledge.

We can and should find great comfort in the power of the living God. But by choice, we must focus on his power and his abilities, for if we don’t, we too can become discouraged and weary, just like Israel did, in the midst of national upheaval.

His power is over the nations, too. Isaiah reminds us in verses 15-17 that the nations are but a drop in the bucket, regarded as dust, so small they are to our amazing God. Every national crisis, government and situation is within his firm control and grasp. There is no nation or national crisis that he is not involved with. We must be reminded of this.

Our comfort and security come from seeing him, powerful and mighty “sitting on the circle of the earth” v. 22 From knowing that he is in control and there is nothing hidden from him or outside of his power and care.

Read these verses –

“Do you not know? Have you nor heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and his people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them like a tent to live in”

Isaiah 40:21-22

” He brings princes to naught and reduces rulers to nothing.”

Isaiah 40:23

It has always been a puzzling mystery why “God allows” certain things; that I will not argue. In fact, at a recent family gathering, we had just that conversation. We can develop our responses, answers and theories, or we can flounder for a meaningful response. But what I hope we will do, regardless of the outcome of our “why God allows” questions, I hope we fall back on HE IS IN CONTROL whether or not we see or feel it.

He is in control and in the blink of an eye or snap of his fingers he can change things, fix things, heal things, or judge things. He can show up in his power at any time, in any place, in any form that he wants and do the impossible right before our eyes.

In God’s power, I find comfort. True, therein lies a fair amount of fear and respect, but mostly comfort, that regardless of what my eyes see, he is at work!

Isaiah asks the nation of Israel –

“Why do you complain? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; and my cause is disregarded by my God?”

Isaiah 40:27

Are we foolish enough to think that our God doesn’t hear our complaints, whining, cries, requests? Do we really think he isn’t aware of our every situation and bent to hear our every prayer?

Isaiah encourages us to remember, that the Lord “will not grow tired or weary”. Isaiah 40:28

God is not like a man who wears out and grows weary. He never tires of hearing from us, responding to us and working all things in our life for good. He delights in bringing from our rubble and ruins hope, and building again within our heart a safe, strong place of trust in his ways and ability to get it done.

From Isaiah chapter 40, the message of Comfort in God’s power thunders from the heavens and resonates through every human heart on the planet.

We are reminded that even young people will get tired and weary (geesh, what does that say about us “older people”?) BUT –

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar… like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:30-31

In these days of national crisis, in the midst of waves of discouragement, let us remember to look up. Look to the power of the Almighty God to “lift us up where we belong”, to see things from his perspective, the eagle overview, and to draw from his power in our fatigue and discouragement.

His power is our comfort and his promise is to increase the power of the weak. (v. 29) So what do we have to loose?

Next time you’re needing a lift, remember God’s power is over all. Look to him, talk to him, allow him to lift and empower you.

Allow him to bring you comfort in his power.

Go with God.

Messages of Comfort – Part 3 Comfort and Good News

Sunday Sermon 12.19.20 The third of a four part series on Comfort from Isaiah 40

To quickly recap, as we approach Isaiah chapter 40 contextually remember, the nation of Israel had been facing the rigid edicts and judgments of the secular rulers surrounding them. For the previous thirty-nine chapters things were pretty grim and hopeless.

Then comes chapter 40, who’s first words resound, “COMFORT, COMFORT”. The tone and direction of the remainder of the book then shifts to promises of redemption, direction and purpose.

The whole shift starts with comfort, and that is the focus of this series.

Last week we were reminded of the comfort that comes amid the obstacles that we face, and the first week we saw how comfort comes in the midst of doom and gloom.

Today, we will look at comfort along side of good news. Yay, right?

Here’s the text:

” You who bring good news, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

Isaiah 40:9-11 NIV

Notice the theme in this portion is about good news and those who bring it.

It is interesting to note that twice in this passage the phrase “you who bring good news” is used. The Message paraphrase says it this way,

“Climb a high mountain, you’re the preacher of good news.

“Raise your voice, you’re the preacher of good news.”

Isaiah 40:9 The Message

What is Isaiah saying here?

First off, he is saying that there will be those who bring good news. He is declaring it. Could it be another people coming to bring good news? Could it be from within Israel herself? It could be argued for both.

Here’s the message though, those who do bring the good news get up to a high place, raise your voice, make it loud and clear, and don’t be timid in sharing it! Loud and proud shout out the good news for all to hear. It is much needed!

What is the good news that’s worth shouting from the high places for all to hear and find comfort in?

Here is your God!

Isaiah 40:9

Look no further, lift up your eyes, God is here. God is present. You are not alone. He is with you. Here he is.

Fantastic good news to a hopeless and weary nation. Amazing reminder to a nation that God has not left them. Encouraging declaration in the midst of dark, confusing times. Israel and our nation, “take heart”, Isaiah is saying, the good news is “GOD IS HERE.”

We can declare “God is here” in our life, situation, family, job. We can bring that comforting good news to those around us. We can make it our passion and profession no matter what – “God is here!” We can be the ones who bring that good news into a situation and we can speak it to our weary and worn out hearts as often as we need.

When God shows up in a situation things change. When God shows up people change. When God is present (invited, chosen, & yielded to) look what he brings.

He comes in power, ready to take action. He is the creator of all and will come to take over, take charge, bring order back. He is the Master of the universe and all powers are subjected to Him, so when He comes, everything else must bow. (Isaiah 40:10)

He also comes bringing a couple of things with Him. He comes with payback and He comes with rewards. (Isaiah 40:10)

He is bringing with Him recompense or payback for his enemies. He will show up ready to make amends for the loss and harm suffered. When God is here, so is his promise of recompense. Don’t loose heart, God is faithful and is bringing payback for loss.

When he is present, he also brings rewards for those who love Him.

There are wages earned by those who love Him and the good news is that God’s presence is our payment. Him being with us, through it all, comforts us and is our reward.

But wait, there’s more. (that sounds like a commercial)

The comforting, good news is not only that he is here in power, but that he is here like a shepherd. He comes to his people tenderly, as a caring shepherd who would gather his lambs up in his arms and carry them close to his heart.

Note, the shepherd is hugging his sheep. Touching them, caring for them tenderly. There is no social distancing with Him. He is pulling them close and holding them tight. Speaking to them up close and personal. (without a mask on)

THAT IS GOOD NEWS and very comforting.

As powerful as God is, let’s never loose sight of His tender loving care and compassion for His people. God is love. All love, only love. Even His power is demonstrated because of love.

Today I pray you first of all hear the good news that “God is here” and then experience the comfort of His presence, care and powerful touch.

I trust too, that you will find opportunity to be the one who brings that much needed good news to others. Find that soapbox, be bold – “you’re the preacher of good news.”

Feel His warm embrace enfolding you, infilling you and rest in the assurance that He will take care of both payback and reward.

Find comfort and assurance in the good news today that, “God is here”.

Go with God.

From the Asaph Files

Weird title?

I want to start a series to which I will add information that I have been researching that I feel is important for you to know about. Information about different topics and on different themes.

Because Asaph was a collector or gatherer, I am calling this my Asaph files. Today is the first installment from the Asaph Files.

Topic – The World Economic Forum’s global plan called “The Great Reset”

This past Fall I began hearing about “The World Economic Forum” and its founder and Executive Chairman, Klaus Schwab. What captured my attention was the bold declarations and plans of this group –

“to shape national economics, priorities and business models.”

http://www.weforum.org

The plan of The Great Reset Initiative as stated in the “Sustainable Development Plan Agenda 201” is to institute “a set of dimensions to build a new social contract that honors every human being.”

Now, there are parts of that that sound good and respectful. Of course we should honor every human being, who doesn’t want that?

And that is where I don’t want people to stop listening or paying attention, because this initiative is not honorable to every human being.

Here’s their plan on how they will shape a new economy, set new priorities and business models that “honor every human being”.

First, lest you think I am on some sort of weird tangent or conspiracy theory, here is a partial list of companies that have already jumped fully on board with The Great Reset. There are over 639 global companies on board, I counted each one!

  • American Heart Assoc.
  • AARP
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Bloomberg
  • Bank of America
  • Chevron
  • China
  • CVS
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Hewlet Packard
  • Honda
  • Japan Bank
  • Kaiser
  • Mastercard
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Microsoft
  • NASDAQ
  • NEC
  • Pfizer
  • Pepsi
  • PayPal
  • Rockwell
  • Russian Direct
  • Sun Pharmaceutical
  • SAP
  • The Coca Cola Co
  • The Lego Brand
  • Time
  • Tyson Foods
  • Verizon
  • Visa
  • Volvo
  • Walmart
  • Zurich Insurance

These companies, along with the big four accounting firms, led by the Bank of America CEO Brian T. Moynihan, are already underway in the execution of the Davios Manifesto and the new “Duty to Society”.

Here is a summary of what they are committed to and how they plan to achieve it. Again, this is research anyone can do, who is interested in what is going on.

The Davios Manifesto (which will be officially rolled out in January of 2021) makes these three declarations:

The purpose of a company is to engage all its stakeholders“. via – a. fair competition b. treating people fairly c. suppliers are partners d. supports the community e. shareholders return on investment

A company is more than an economic investment. It fulfills human and societal aspirations, in a broad social system. Performance is measured not just on return, but environmental objectives.”

A company is multinational in scope and serves all those stakeholders.”

Bottom line here – according to Klaus Schwab, “shareholder capitalism, as we currently know it, must change to stakeholder capitalism.”

Check these quotes revealing their business plans.

As stated in “The Four Building Blocks of The Great Reset”, August 11, 2020,

” 1. “Change our mindset” 2. Set new metrics 3. Design new incentives 4. Build genuine connection”

“COVID19 is redrawing the geopolitical map of the world and providing a unique opportunity to reimagine capitalism and think about the kind of people we want to be.” (TIME – The Great Reset)

Bank of America has released “Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics” that will be added to companies annual reporting in two years.

Folks, businesses as we know them will cease to exist.

The small business I work for, will no longer be able to function as it has for the past twenty-one years. Soon, new metrics will be placed on them, mandating that every vendor in their supply chain receive equal treatment, provide fair and safe work environments, are practicing green practices, and is equally sharing in their stake in the business. My boss will no longer be responsible for his employees but for every person, in every country that he even remotely does business with.

We are told that businesses do not have to stop sharing profits for their shareholders, they “only need to shift to a long term perspective on their mission; looking beyond the next year to the next decade.” (TIME – The Great Reset)

Whaatt??

The small businesses today are struggling the make it into the next year, and are in no position to forecast ten years down the road! C’mon!

With “every country, from the US to China must participate” and “every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed” wrote Klaus Schwab, we are seriously looking at a plan to fundamentally change not just America, but businesses in America and around the world.

“To rebalance economies” means taking away from those who have and giving to those who have not, across the nations – down the supply chain.

It means the merging of businesses with the state.

It means global government, and one unified global order.

It means no local governments or individual empowerment.

It means that by 2030, no one will own property.

It means international decisions are made over local independence and sovereignty.

THIS, is The Great Reset. This is moving ahead. This is the shape of the future.

“We are at a turning point of human kind – we should not underestimate the historical significance of the situation that we are in.”

Professor Schwab 11/20

DUH. Ya think?

There is so much more I could say and other branches to this, but that is not for now.

What is vital right now, is that YOU be aware of how America and the the world are being set up for CHANGE. There is a serious, global move to change the world as we know it. The plan is clear, in print and espoused by hundreds of global businesses and governments.

I am not wanting to be an alarmist, but a reporter of facts. This is underway!

Be aware. Investigate it for yourself. Take action as you see fit.

Until next time.

Running on Empty

Thank you Jackson Browne for that great song utilizing the famous phrase, “running on empty”. Today, Imma use it. Here’s the song if you wanna listen to it – 1977 baby!!

What do these things have in common?

  • banking
  • taking a vacation
  • catching up with a friend
  • touching base with a family member

When I was tending to some banking recently, I saw a connection between each of these four activities I had just participated in.

Do you see it?

At the bank I was making a deposit.

The vacation was an overdue necessity to retain sanity.

Close friends were chatting about what’s been happening in their lives.

Family love and connection was desperately required, poured out and yearned for.

In each case, a deposit was required to avoid running on empty, or perhaps to refill where the warning light was already illuminated.

Triple A keeps records of how many people run out of gas and receive their assistance. In 2006, 116,000 motorists ran out of gas.

I wish I could tell you how many people run out of gas emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, or how many are running on empty right now. I bet it would be many of you.

There are signs when your car is nearing empty. That light illuminates on your dashboard and signals you have 30-50 more miles to go before you will be on empty. After that, there will be no more going until you refill.

And if you do completely run out of gas, because your car is fuel injected, meaning the pump is inside the tank, that pump will be running dry which is harmful to the pump and engine and can cause costly damage.

When you do refuel, it then takes time for the gas to pump through the pump and carburetor, crank the engine and then it will finally start up again. Hopefully, without any damage.

Let me stick with this car scenario for one more point.

There are common symptoms of running out of gas – running on empty. They are:

  • indicator light on dash lights up
  • car won’t start
  • car stalls out regularly

Me thinks people may very well have similar symptoms when they are running on empty.

Like in the cases above.

It had been years since a vacation had been planned, taken or enjoyed. There were warning lights being ignored, fatigue was making starting more difficult and stalling out more regular.

After several busy and stressful weeks these friends finally were getting caught up. Only to find the fuel tank nearly empty and running on fumes. The conversation was helpful to refill the tanks, but fuel levels were dangerously low. There were many warning lights flashing, damage was imminent and much more refilling was needed.

2020 had taken it’s toll on these family members; the separation, isolation, loneliness, stresses, numerous disappointments were emptying the tanks. Phone conversations for temporary refueling were helpful, but what was needed was face to face, extended time being together, and that was coming up this week!!!! Tons of warning lights, stalling and just not being able to get motivated were signaling it could not come fast enough. They were running on empty.

The bank account was in need of a deposit as well, before it too became too dangerously close to empty. Luckily, a hefty deposit saved the day and things kept running.

I am concerned about you, about people today. Are there warning lights trying to tell us we are about to run out of gas? Are we in need of a deposit? Emotional deposit? Physical deposit? Spiritual deposit?

I urge you to stop and take notice. Do not go one step further without evaluating your fuel levels. Are you low on emotional fortitude? Physical energy? Spiritual drive?

Have you been finding it difficult to get going, or start things? Is your motivation nill and interest low?

How are you doing with completing tasks? Do you finish, make it through to the end or stall out somewhere before?

These are signs that you are running on empty, that you need a deposit of some sort.

For me, I recognize the signals in my life when I am running on empty; irritable, antsy, unhappy, hard to please, selfish, tired… Anyone else?

And for me, usually what is needed most is I need to get outside and spend time alone out there just being. Unplug, disconnect and refuel. Get my personal tank resupplied.

Jackson Browne had it right when he said, “Looking into their eyes I see them too… running on empty…” “Running on empty, running blind.”

Get refueled, refilled, make those deposits, receive those deposits and heed the warning signs. Keep yourself from running on empty.

Cheers to you.

Messages of Comfort – Part 2 Comfort in Obstacles

Sunday Sermon 12.12.20 This is the 2nd of a four part series from Isaiah 40 on Comfort

Look no further, here you will find COMFORT, encouragement, help and hope.

Regardless of the previous voices that you have been hearing, this voice, right here, is speaking comfort – freedom from pain or constraint and ease of grief or distress.

Busting into your world of distress, weariness, and discouragement is a resounding voice calling – “Make room for the Lord! Get ready. Give Him space.” Isaiah 40:3

Keep reading and I will show you how He comes to bring you comfort from:

  • depression
  • mountains of trouble
  • rough places
  • corruption

All of these situations are spoken of clearly in Isaiah 40.

Isaiah 40 represents a dramatic shift in the book and that shift starts with a comforting voice speaking into these obstacles in our life. Check it out.

To begin with, the comfort offered here comes from the arrival of the Lord. By that we mean, God’s presence actually showing up in your life and situation. Make space for Him, make way for Him, prepare for His presence in your life. He’s coming to bring you comfort.

Are you prepared for His presence to overwhelm you, right now, as you sit there? Make yourself ready, prepare your heart to receive the provision that comes with His presence. Stop, focus, breathe deeply, soak Him in.

When He arrives He promises to do several things. The first one mentioned in Isaiah 40:4 is –

“Every valley will be raised up”

Valleys are low places, depressions in the landscape. Many times surrounded by mountains and covered in shadows. Valleys can be lonely places, dark places, isolating places. Psalm 23 tells us there is a valley of the shadow of death.

These valleys represent depression. In the low places of depression, His presence will overshadow you. His presence will comfort you. His presence will raise you up. EVERY VALLEY WILL BE RAISED UP.

He wants you to be free of depression and hopelessness. He has a plan for you and a future. He knows your path and will walk with you through the valley to the other side. Make room for Him. Prepare for His presence. Place you hand in His and allow Him to lead you through your depressed valleys and raise you up.

Next He promises –

“Every mountain and hill will be made low.”

Those mountains of troublesome ideas, thoughts, and plans that are so big they can be scary… He will bring them down to size!

Mountains are huge obstacles and sometimes the thoughts within our minds are huge obstacles. Other times, the obstacle is a mountain of seemingly unsurpassable roadblocks. No matter what, whether facing the mountain and even the smaller sized hill, we can find His comfort.

In scripture mountains represent governments. So even when government seems like an obstacle, God promises to bring them down to size.

Remember Jesus told his disciples, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move.” Matthew 17:20

I’m still working on that kind of faith. I guess I still don’t have even a tiny mustard seed worth yet, but I’m not giving up, and I am still believing. I will exercise my faith, to see His presence and comfort in the face of my mountainous obstacles.

The third promise He gives us is that He will make –

“the rough places plain”

Haven’t there been excessive rough places in your life? Rough situations, rough expectations, rough disappointments, rough relationships, rough, rough, rough. Geesh, we sound like a dog.

Bumps here and ruts there. Rough storms and issues to deal with.

Our comforting God assures us that He will make those rough, bumpy places smooth.

Just like He did for the disciples, in that boat, in the storm, He will stand next to you and speak to the storm, “Peace, be still”, and you will see smooth water where there were rough seas.

His comfort, peace and safety come when facing the rough obstacles.

Lastly, His comfort is promised when facing the obstacle of corruption. Look at what Isaiah says:

“and the crooked places plain.”

“Crooked” always represents twisted, and corrupt ways, ideas and people.

Scripture is full of judgment being called down on corruption. Corruption is never blessed or honored and even though it’s judgment may not come until the next life, it will surely come.

But it is satisfying here, in Isaiah 40, amidst this dramatic shift for the Israelites and thereby for us, that we are comforted by the fact that corruption will be made plain. Corruption will be exposed. Corruption will be judged.

These four obstacles have wormed their way into our lives: depression, mountains of trouble, rough patches and corruption. Yet, we are not without hope, consolation and comfort.

Make room in your life for the presence of the Lord. Prepare a place for Him to reside and in doing so you will find the comfort, strength and victory over these obstacles that you crave.

Don’t delay. This can be immediate and permanent.

And should you face these or any obstacles, keep exercising that faith muscle, so that you can reach the mustard seed size.

In the face of all of your obstacles, there is a voice calling to you, offering you peace and comfort.

In fact, “Tidings of Comfort and Joy”.

Go with God.

The Electoral College (and more)

Election season is usually the time that we brush up on what the electoral college is and now more than ever, I believe that refresher course is needed.

America’s form of government and how it works is built upon the the Constitution of the United States of America. The Constitution determines how our government is set up, run and changed as needed.

The Constitution is not a political document, in fact it is the compass for politics, (if there must be politics). It is the guiding force of our nation, providing structure, certainty, safety and direction. It tells us how to do what needs to be done.

All Federal employees, officers, workers, and many State as well, when assuming their jobs, take an oath of office, “to uphold the Constitution of the United States”. The Constitution is our most prized and protected document, for within it we find our foundations.

In Article Two of our Constitution we find our guidelines for “The Presidency”. The four sections of that Article lay out for America, how she is to select the President of the United States. All the details are there.

In Article 2, sections 2,3, and 4 we read about the “Electors”. This is the collection of people that we, today call “The Electoral College”. I will explain more, in a minute.

Let me first say a word about why the framers designed it that way they did to choose our President.

You’ll remember, our original 13 colonies were a collection of small and big states.

From the very beginning of our nation, there has always been heated discussions between the large and small states. Both accuse the other of not understanding their state’s needs or need for power.

As early as 1787, at the Constitutional Convention, the large state of Virginia was fighting with the small state of New Jersey about representation.

Virginia believed their governmental representation should be based on population – because they were big, had a large population, they would have more status and power.

New Jersey believed that each state should have equal representation in their government and therefore equal power. (Just cuz they were small didn’t mean that they didn’t matter, right?)

They were at a stalemate and moving no where fast.

The founding fathers realized that both the big and small states must be represented in our United States, in our government and especially in our elections.

What came of it was what they called, “The Great Compromise”. One in which the states would be represented by population in the House of Representatives (the Lower House) and the states would also be represented equally in the Senate (the Upper House).

This is what has worked for 233 years, and what we call Congress, The Legislative Branch of our government.

Now, this is important and affects our presidential elections too.

Why? Because the founders had no intention of having the popular vote determine the outcome of the presidential election. They knew the large states could easily overpower the smaller states by the shear size of their voting blocks.

Therefore, in writing the Constitution they fleshed out a plan based on “electors”.

How does it work?

Rather than have a candidate win only large states, and thus not truly represent ALL Americans, the candidate would need to earn the electors from many states, thus representing a cross-section of Americans.

The popular vote of a state would determine who would receive those valued electors.

Each state would then hold their national election and it’s outcome would determine how their electors would be assigned.

How many electors does each state get?

They receive the number equal to their representatives in Congress. For example, I live in California, and CA has 55 electors – the same number that represent us in Washington DC.

The electors are people, who are selected to attend a meeting, after the general election; at which time they will cast their assigned vote, based on their states popular vote (except Maine and Nebraska) for President and Vice President. This process is called “The Electoral College”.

What this provides for is the representation of all states in our election. Candidates must work to relate to many states and their people’s needs, many differing ideas and ways. The majority, therefore represents the majority of electoral votes and not the majority of popular votes. Whoever receives 270 electoral votes, receives the majority and thereby represents a broad swath of American ideals.

This is how the Founders designed our system to work. It is not perfect, but for over 200 years it has worked, even in turbulent elections (1800, 1824, 1836, 1872, 1876, 1888, and 2000).

Now here’s the deal, our 2020 electoral college is scheduled to meet on Monday, December 14, at which time, the electors should be casting their votes.

However, because the state legislatures must certify their elections prior to the electors voting, and because that is currently NOT the case in every state, there is the possibility that the December 14 date may be affected.

Additionally, the idea of “safe harbor” – or that safe zone for disputed election results is looming today.

To be clear though, the “safe harbor” ruling says that, “if an election dispute is not resolved by the State by the safe harbor deadline, Congress has discretion over the disposition over the State’s electoral votes.” THAT is a wide open statement in my humble opinion.

Wait, what… whadoyamean?

What I mean is this – the Constitution of the United States has provided direction and guidance for us through very sketchy times, for a very long time. It is the law of the land, and it is working.

However, still to play out are the disputes and contestations – they actually have more time to evolve and will probably be sorted out by some mix of The Supreme Court and Congress. (again, in my opinion)

To close, I am a Constitutionalist, I dearly believe we need it (AND the Electoral College) to be the America we love. I also believe our current election is far from over. There are still unaddressed and contested outliers yet to be adjudicated.

I pray that all of my readers find themselves on the side of the Constitution, regardless of what side you may be on politically.

My continued prayer is God, please Bless America.

Cheers to you.

Messages of Comfort Part 1 – Comfort in Doom

This Sunday Sermon, is the first in a four part series that I have created on Comfort based upon Isaiah chapter 40.

As I look around at my family, friends, community, nation and world I see a tremendous need for comfort, consolation and encouragement.

Battered by uncontrollable edicts, changing norms, judgments, unresolved politics, and losses, people are worn down, frazzled, afraid, and even becoming hopeless. It has been difficult to find encouragement and keep ourselves propped up with positivity.

We are all in this struggle together. You are not alone in the adversity that you face nor in the weariness that accompanies it.

Therefore, today, and in the next three Sunday Sermons, I will share a message of COMFORT, because we all need the assurances and peace that come with comfort.

In the Bible book of Isaiah, the fortieth chapter begins with

” Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

Isaiah 40:1-2

Notice the double imperative that starts that text. COMFORT, COMFORT.

What we see here is a bold declaration of comfort, consolation and heartfelt pity.

Why?

Because for the first 39 chapters of Isaiah, it was all doom and gloom, judgment, and loss. In Jerusalem things were getting really, really bad. Things were constantly changing and moving from bad to worse. New leaders were showing up with prideful, arrogance and flexing their political and military muscles. Jerusalem was becoming more and more secular, oppressed and just plain worn out. It was looking very bleak.

Chapter 40 begins a new emphasis, a new direction and hope for the remainder of the book. Therefore, it is altogether appropriate to begin with COMFORT, COMFORT.

It is altogether appropriate to have comfort and doom side by side, because the message here is that comfort triumphs over doom.

It has been said, that the seeds of comfort take root in the soil of adversity. And it is true that you may not escape adversity, but you may find God’s comfort in it.

God promises to comfort his people. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”

To those in relationship with Him, who call Him their God, he promises to comfort. In Him they find peace, consolation, and tender mercies filled with strength and hope. They hear His loving voice reassuring them that their sins are forgiven and their hard service is completed. He promises double blessing and double comfort – COMFORT, COMFORT, because of the double price paid for their redemption.

The comfort He offers His own in the middle of grief, distress and doom is meant to be felt and experienced worldwide. His comfort is available to all.

So, let’s review -in the midst of doom and gloom Isaiah tells the people

  • God is speaking comfortably, to the heart, tenderly to you
  • the time for your release from doom has come
  • your debt has been paid in full
  • a great price (double) has been paid for your sins

How is that message any less important, timely or needed for us, today?

Reread those and be reassured that is God’s message to YOU too.

A dramatic shift occurs when we choose to focus on Him rather than on the doom of the day. Just like Isaiah’s shift in chapter 40, when we focus on God and His comfort and consolation rather than on trusting in the secular rulers of the day, things change for us too.

I trust you will find renewed faith to look to Him above all else and in doing so find new comfort, encouragement and strength to live in daily victory.

“Praise be to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…”

2 Corinthians 1:2

John 16:33 -” I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The God of all comfort wants to be your comfort. He will tenderly draw you close to Him and speak gently to your weary heart. See His love for you and power to lift you and change you with His comfort during these days of doom.

Isaiah 40 is packed full of truths that apply to our times, so I hope you will check back for the second installment of Messages of Comfort from Isaiah 40.

Next up – Comfort and Obstacles – Isaiah 40:3-8

I am wishing you tidings of Comfort and Joy this holiday season.

Go with God.

Thinking of You

No one really knows what races through our thoughts and minds each day.

Some say that the majority of our thoughts are useless and unimportant ones. Perhaps though, there are creative ideas either way, thoughts are much like butterflies, ever flying around from one flower to another, rarely standing still.

Medicines are even given to some who have uncontrollable thoughts, impulses and inclinations in their minds. They actually need assistance controlling and settling their thoughts.

Science tells us the average person has between 6,200 and 80,000 thoughts a day. The numbers vary with a common thought being 72,000 thoughts a day!

If that is true, (Dr. Deepak Chopra thinks it is) that would mean you have:

  • 3,000 thoughts per hour
  • 50 thoughts per minute
  • 1 thought per second

And those thought are fast little suckers; like those fleeting butterflies.

When we receive some sort of sensory stimuli, it takes about 50 milliseconds for our brain to become aware of it. If we are to respond to that stimuli, then that takes 150 milliseconds to take action. (Sciencefocus.com) That is super fast!

I’m sure that you have found all that gobbledygook to be true, each time you sit to try to meditate, or study, or rest quietly.

Your mind and thoughts are racing, and the busier you are, it seems the faster and more distracting the thoughts. So you do your best to allow those butterfly thoughts to stop and still. It is very much like herding cats. Good luck with that.

One last little scientific detail – Psychologists say that “the psychological present” is a window of about 3 seconds. Everything else is past or future. So, the present is only 3 seconds long.

You’ve heard the term… “we need to be present” aka fully engaged in the moment, body soul, mind and spirit. Now we know that present window is only 3 seconds.

We struggle with being present for 3 seconds??!! Focusing for only 3 seconds. Really?

Yep, cuz our mind is so full of thoughts, butterflies, cats needing to be herded.

Can you imagine being the target of all of those thoughts? The object? The intended receiver of each and every one?

Try to, because you actually are.

Every single moment you are thinking of me! How precious and wonderful to consider that you cherish me constantly in your every thought! O God, your desires toward me are more than the grains of sand on every shore.”

Psalms 139:17-18

It is estimated that there are roughly 7.5 x 10 to the 18th power, or 7 quintrillion pieces of sand on Earth.

Now realize, that God’s thoughts to YOU are MORE than 7 quintrillion every single moment! In every 3 second, present moment 7 quintrillion thoughts are coming at you. In the next present moment, 7 quintrillion thoughts coming at you.

He is covering you, every moment with innumerable thoughts. He is present for your present moments. In every breath, every beat of your heart, every thought of you mind – He is showering you with loving thoughts. More than you can comprehend.

“How vast is the sum of them”, David said. I couldn’t agree more.

Recently, I was singing a song, who’s lyrics were :

“Is it true that you are thinking of me?” YES! It is true!

Today, be reminded that God is thinking of you, and it is AMAZING!

Over 7 quintrillion times amazing!

Cheers to you.

Broccoli Man

Sunday Sermon 11.28.20

As I am writing this, we just finished celebrating Thanksgiving a few days ago.

Thanksgiving is an important celebration for alot of good reasons, but I would like to suggest one – because we humans forget, we are forgetful. So to help us remember the good, positive and even bad and troublesome things, we give thanks, we intentionally choose to remember and not become a victim of forgetfulness.

We “forget” the pain of childbirth even though we swear it was so bad we will never forget.

We “forget” abuses of people and keep walking back into the same ole situation.

We “forget” the positive words and remember only the negative ones.

We “forget” the painful consequences of sin and remember the moments of pleasure.

We say we will never forget, and yet there is a generation who has never even heard.

We are a forgetful people.

The Bible uses the word forgot or one of its forms over 110 times. I’d like to share one of them with you.

” … and after looking at himself in the mirror, (he) goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like…”

James 1:23-24

In this passage, James is talking about a person who looks at himself in the mirror and afterwards goes away from the mirror and forgets what he looks like. Who does that? That’s crazy, right?

We all can remember what we look like, isn’t that why we generally don’t like even looking in the mirror in the first place? But no…

I used to explain this verse as a guy looking into the mirror, seeing he has broccoli stuck in his teeth, and walking away, doing nothing about it – sharing his broccoli smile with everyone he meets.

I sat next to a guy on an airplane once with twice this… pleasant flight…

But that’s not really accurate.

You see, in the context of what James is teaching, the mirror isn’t a glass, painted with Rustoleum Mirror Effect. He was not referring to a typical mirror, mirror on the wall.

He tells us that the mirror is actually The Word (of God), the Bible. (verses 22-25)

So here’s the picture James is creating for us – a man looks into the bible, reads it, sees an image of himself, and walks away from the mirror and forgets the image he saw.

I always thought the image the man saw of himself was “the broccoli man” – you, know, the one with sin, blemishes and tons of imperfections, including broccoli in his teeth. So of course, he’s gonna walk away and forget! He doesn’t want to remember what a sinner he really is. Duh.

Alas, again I was wrong.

Listen to what James is really trying to tell us –

“…You become like the person who looks in the mirror of the Word to discover the reflection of his face in the beginning. You perceive how God sees you in the mirror of the Word, but then you go out and forget your divine origin.

James 1:23-24 TPT

What broccoli man really sees in the mirror, the Word, is an image of his own divine origin, created in the image of God. In that reflection, broccoli man sees himself as God sees him, before the broccoli, before all sin, before the consequences of sin.

He sees the man created in the image, beauty and glory of God. No broccoli whatsoever. He sees the reflection of Jesus in him.

Now THAT’S amazing and confusing. Broccoli man looks into the Word and sees an image of himself that he doesn’t recognize. An image unfamiliar. A new creature.

In the mirror (the Word) broccoli man sees himself in God’s light:

  • God sees his heart and not his outer, physical appearance 1 Sam.16:7
  • as having a hopeful future Jer. 29:11
  • as a masterpiece for good Eph. 2:10
  • as a loved child of God 1 Jn. 3:1
  • as chosen, royal, holy 1 Pet. 2:9
  • as worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice Jn. 3:16
  • as a new creation 2 Cor. 5:17
  • as chosen, loved, compassionate, kind, humble, meek and patient Col. 3:12
  • as light the darkness Mat. 5:14
  • as a son or daughter and heir of all heavenly blessings Gal. 4:6-7
  • as being wonderfully made Ps. 139:13-16
  • as a friend of God Jn. 15:15
  • as a place where Jesus and His Spirit lives 1 Cor. 6:19-20

Holy Schmokes!!

THAT is the image broccoli man sees in the mirror. He can’t believe it. That is not who he lives with, who he struggles with, who he thinks about. That is not what plays over and over in his mind. That image is not one that sticks with him easily…

So as he walks away from the mirror (Word), it is not long before he forgets what he saw.

We are a forgetful people. We tend to easily forget the image in the mirror/Word that God is wanting to become implanted in our memory. Over and over God reminds us of how He really sees us. Time and time again, as we gaze into the Word/mirror we catch a glimpse of what He sees for us.

There are times of encouragement, confidence, and strength. Then we forget, wander away from the true image of who we are and who we are meant to be.

Not one of us will maintain the divine image of who he has meant for us to be without returning to the mirror, over and over and over and over. It is by the constant viewing of His image for us, and that image being mixed into our daily actions and thoughts, that helps us to actually remember who we really are.

You are so much more than what you see reflected in that glass mirror!

Turn to the mirror of the Word to see the truly valuable, beautiful, worthy, loved and chosen image of you, that He sees.

Don’t forget it. Work it into your thoughts, words, and lifestyle.

No more broccoli man. His image of you is way beyond that.

Lord, help us to NOT forget our divine image of who you have made us to be.

Go with God.

Are They Really That Important?

It’s true, I might have a touch of OCD, but yes, those things do matter, to me.

What things?

Well, let’s take planning a meal for a large crowd hosted in your home. How ’bout those things?

Pre-prep:

  • house in order (this statement alone is fraught with important details!)
  • menu determined
  • groceries purchased
  • guests contacted and informed
  • seating sufficient
  • kitchen pots and pans, dishes, utensils available
  • lighting set, candles?
  • fragrance determined
  • appropriate decorations in place
  • music and speakers ready
  • food prepped as needed (oh my, details!)

Are these little things or big things?

Then there’s the event, itself:

  • strategic hors d’oeuvers placement (yes! it matters)
  • plate, and napkins too
  • coat, purse placement
  • drinks arranged and all that’s needed for them
  • greeting guests upon arrival
  • directing and introducing each
  • receiving the fares that they have brought
  • dealing with the placement and needs of those
  • keeping a watchful eye and nose on the kitchen, where all the foods are warming or on their final countdown towards launch
  • being hospitable
  • smiling
  • keeping a calm attitude and demeanor

I must stop, I can feel my heart racing…

Remember that old adage –

“The devil is in the details”

I sorta believe that. I believe unattended details cause problems, so I seek to address the details so the problems can be forestalled.

How ’bout you? How into the details are you?

Do they really matter yo you?

They mattered to Martha, too.

She invited Jesus and his disciples to dinner at her home where she lived with her sister, Mary and brother, Lazarus.

When Jesus and his crew arrived, Martha welcomes them and then begins her hostess “duties”. AKA the list above… she paid great attention to those details.

In fact, here’s how the bible explains her demeanor –

“”Martha became exasperated by finishing the numerous household chores for preparation for her guests…”

Luke 10:40 TPT

Oh my goodness, I can so relate to Martha. There have been times, behind my smiley, hostess demeanor, I was exasperated. Am I alone? Have you?

Martha’s exasperation was not only with the tasks needing to be completed but the fact that her sister wasn’t even helping her. Martha felt that she was doing it all herself and it was unfair.

Ouch, I have felt that too. My thought bubble would read, “It sure would be nice to have some help around here. Why am I the only one?”

Martha was so worked up about this, that she went over to Jesus, who was seated in the front room, teaching those gathered, including her sister, Mary, and said,

“Lord, don’t you think it’s unfair that my sister left me to do all the work myself? You should tell her to get up and help me.”

Luke 10:40 TPT

Talk about things really being important!!?? These dinner details were super important to Martha. They were also robbing her of her joy, peace, compassion and keeping her from being with Jesus.

Again, I can relate to Martha and have been robbed of the same.

Imagine it, though… here Jesus is in the middle of a family squabble, now made public. All eyes are on Jesus and the hostess, Martha. Mary, I am sure turns and glares at her sister for outing her in public. This does not look like a happy family dinner gathering.

Martha, bitter and exasperated; Mary, betrayed; guests wondering what to do. And Jesus.

Jesus answered Martha,

“Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by all these many distractions? Are they really that important?

“Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing to sit at my feet. She is undistracted, and I won’t take this privilege from her.”

Luke 10:41-42 TPT

Jesus, He always gets it so right. For everyone involved. Wow!

That whole list of hostess responsibilities… Martha’s exasperation… Mary’s choice… the guests… Jesus … What is really important? What is the one thing that is most important?

All the distractions, the things pulling us away, demanding our attention, requiring our focus… what is the one thing that is most important?

Geesh, does it really matter if the olives aren’t in that spot on the table or the white and dark meat are not separated? Does it really matter if the plates don’t match, or the house isn’t immaculate?

All the distractions. All the details that pull us away from what is most important. Oh my…

Mary discovered what was important.

She chose to be undistracted. She chose to refuse the pull into the unimportant details. She chose the most important thing.

What a privilege to have Jesus’ attention. Mary had it and wasn’t about to give it up for what was of lesser importance, regardless of Martha’s tattling.

My friends, during this busy season, may we not loose sight of what is most important, what really matters.

May we fight the distractions of unending, tiring and draining details and focus on what is most important- enjoying Jesus’ attention and the love of family and friends that surround us.

It is our choice. We choose what is really important to us.

Are they really that important?

Happy Undistracted Thanksgiving.

Cheers to you.

You’ve Never Heard About Goliath Like This

Yesterday, 11/15/20, I woke up burdened by the Lord with the word – Goliath. So I got up and began digging into 1 Samuel 17.

What you will find here is a teaching video of me telling what I discovered, what it means and how it applies to us today.

I feel the urgency to get the word out, so I am using all of the platforms that I have to do just that. These are days for swift and full obedience.

Please take some quiet time to watch and ask the Lord what He would have you to do.

11.15.20

Go with God.

Overwhelmed? Discouraged? You’re not alone.

Sunday Sermon 11.14.20

1. Feeling tired and afraid, he said, “I’ve had enough!”

2. Overwhelmed with complete exasperation, ready to quit, yet emboldened.

3. Clouded in anger and self-pity.

4. Discouraged by feeling unsafe and gripped with bitterness.

5. Life, livelihood and family threatened.

6. Alone, poor, troubled, weepy and sorrowful.

7. Acquainted with sorrows and grief.

Can you identify with any of these feelings? Could they match anything you have felt lately? If they do, you are not alone.

Those statements are taken from seven different bible characters. Take a look at them again. Can you guess which person each statement identifies? I’ll wait…

Lets briefly examine each one.

  1. 1 Kings 19:3-5 – Elijah was afraid, said I have had enough and laid down and went to sleep.
  2. Exodus 32:32 – Moses was exasperated with the people’s sin, ready to quit yet he prayed for them boldly
  3. Jonah 4:3,9 – Jonah threw a pity party, and was angry with God
  4. Job 10:1; 30:15-17 -Job was filled with bitterness, hated his life, felt unsafe
  5. Psalms – David was chased down, his family affected and position lost
  6. Jeremiah 20:18 – Jeremiah never married, had no kids, was alone, ministered alone, was called the weeping prophet, and experienced trouble and sorrow
  7. Isaiah 53:3 – Jesus was a man familiar with grief and sorrow

How did you do?

More importantly, check out these men of faith and the truth about their discouragement and feeling overwhelmed. Amazing, right?

These guys are some of the greats. We love their books, and stories. And yet, they were just normal, human beings, filled with emotions, feelings, and personal struggles too. They battled their discouragement. They fought against being pulled under by their circumstances.

They weren’t anything but ordinary. (except Jesus, of course.)

In the fight with their feelings, they were honest with God, and held nothing back. They were real and raw in voicing their complaints, emotions, and prayers.

I remember when I was teaching, I was always amazed that people felt that they could not tell God their real feelings. To a man, (woman or child), through the years, in schools, jails, prisons, church, and family rooms, people felt they could not tell God they were mad, angry or hurt. They weren’t allowed to, He wouldn’t look favorably on them.

That is so wrong. God expects honesty from us. Open communication about everything.

Have you read the Psalms? Geesh, so many different authors venting feelings and fears. The prophets hid nothing in their expressions to God. They all were totally real with God and voicing their situation.

This week I was reading in the Psalms and came to Psalm 102. Here’s how it starts:

“A prayer for those who are overwhelmed and for all the discouraged who come to pour out their hearts before the Lord. “

Psalm 102 – the title, The Passion Translation

I was blown away!

Here we have in the very first verse such important information.

Remember, the titles of the Psalms, those italicized words after the chapter number and before our verse 1 are literally verse 1 in the Hebrew bible.

We would call its content the setting of the Psalm, and it is. But it is inspired, given by God, and God breathed.

In the inspired “title” of Psalm 102 we see can understand that the verses that will follow are a prayer specifically for the overwhelmed and discouraged. Written clearly, by someone who was overwhelmed and discouraged.

He was not holding back whatever discouragement, bitterness, anger, frustration, or exasperation that he had. He was sharing it all with God. No holds barred. Just open, honest, heartfelt and teary sharing with his Creator.

Without even reading any more of the verses of Psalm 102, we can find encouragement in the title. Encouragement to pour out our hearts before the Lord, even in the midst of feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we don’t need the twenty-eight verse chapter. That chapter, as you can imagine, is packed with gut wrenching feelings, and emotions, truths and challenges. But that is not to be my focus today.

Today, the focus is to those of us who may be feeling overwhelmed and discouraged – we are not alone.

In fact, the great Charles Spurgeon, writes this about Psalm 102, placing it in what could be a very similar political circumstance

” It is a prayer of a sufferer – it has it’s own bitterness. This is a patriots lament over his country’s distress.”

We are not alone in our discouragement, in being overwhelmed. Whether it be in politics, education, religious freedoms, family relations or personal wholeness, multitudes have fought and are fighting these battles too.

So in the midst of whatever emotions that have parked on you, realize afresh that God wants to hear your voice pour it all out to Him.

He hears us. He cares. He has compassion. He understands.

In our weakness He is strong.

We can cast our anxiety on Him. 1 Peter 5:7 We can come to Him with any and everything. Matthew 1:28-30 His grace is sufficient and his strength is perfect. 2 Corinthians 12:9

We don’t have to be anxious and troubled. Luke 10:41-42 When we come to Him He will arm us with strength. Psalms 18:3

He has promised to never leave you and that includes even when you are overwhelmed and discouraged.

You’re not alone. God is ever present for you and with you.

You’re not alone in the feelings of discouragement, anger, tiredness, loss and fear.

Pour our your prayer to Him, and experience His strength, insight, peace and grace.

You are not alone.

Go with God.

The Unfinished Work

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

President Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

This speech, given one hundred and fifty-six years ago highlights still the unfinished work of honoring the bravery, and sacrifice of our veterans; those parents, children, grandparents, friends, neighbors, coworkers, spouses, and community workers who whether they volunteered or were conscripted, served the nations interests rather than their own.

To them, no matter their walk of life, the conflict they were or are assigned to, or their MOS (military occupational specialty), we owe the ever unfinished work of our gratitude and the expressions thereof.

Not everyone is called to serve. Not everyone can serve. There should be no judgment for nor expectation of it.

There should however be expectation by all, of honoring those who do serve; not only those who die in service (Memorial Day) but those who serve.

Those like me, who have not served, will never know or understand fully their service. Their sacrifices. Their pain. Their selflessness. Their longings. Their courage. Their solitude. Their commitment. Their obedience. Their patriotism.

We cannot fathom the depths of their memories, their losses, scars, and injuries, both physical and mental.

We little recognize the demons of survivors guilt, depression, or other PTSD symptoms.

We cannot count the number who have elevated rates of anxiety, substance abuse or suicidal thoughts.

To our veterans, who have given us safety, security and freedom, we owe honor, gratitude, and thanks. To those men and women who are currently serving, we owe the same.

We owe them honor not just with our words, but with our lifestyle.

Living a life that honors our republic. Honors our values. Honors our flag, the Constitution, our Bill of Rights. Living a life not only for our own interests, but for the best interests of our country. Living a life of respect through differences and obedience to laws. Living a life of self sacrifice for the greater good.

“It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated” to giving our veterans the honor that they deserve; with our lips and with our lives.

May we be about this unfinished work, not only this week, but throughout our lives and through the generations that will follow.

I proudly honor and respect:

Dennis “Doc” Chaney, Richard Olson, Andrew Chaney, David Olson, Wes Styles II, Kathy Olson, Sidney Shaw, Glen Foster, Joe Kiszeli, Zack (?Hanson), Aaron Partridge, and Ryan Garner.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for your selflessness. We are forever indebted to you. Ryan, my prayers still ascend for you, your mission, call and safety.

Won’t you join me in seeking to complete the unfinished work of honoring our veterans?

Cheers to you.

But God

Sunday Sermon 11.7.20

Those two words are like a hinge. They open things up.

When I was teaching middle schoolers, I would often say, “I love the buts of the bible.” Of course, they laughed and leaned in to listen to what in the world I meant.

I explained, that no matter what was happening in the story, when you read the word “but”, things were about to change. Get ready. Then we’d look at examples.

But, what is even more exciting and powerful is the phrase “But God“. Because with God, a whole new world opens up; no more closed, dark, hard and constricting places.

It really doesn’t matter what the situation is before the phrase, because after the phrase it no longer is domineering. Think of it… blah, blah, blah BUT GOD, and now the pivot, the hinge, things change and open up!

Let’s consider a few bible examples.

The first, Noah. He found himself living in a wicked, violent, and evil world. Genesis 6:5-9 says that in Noah’s day, man’s heart was only evil all the time. So, God’s heart was deeply troubled and he brought judgment of the earth.

Noah was to build a giant, floating, farmhouse to carry pairs of animals and his family when judgment came. You know the story, judgment rained upon the world and lifted Noah and his ark above earth and he floated on the waters.

He was in that ark for one hundred and fifty days, that’s five months, when we read this powerful lil verse:

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.”

Genesis 8:1

But God changed things for Noah.

Another good example, most of you will remember is Joseph, Jacob’s son.

Remember, he was the dreamer, who kept sharing his lofty dreams with his brothers, who didn’t take too kindly to his self exaltation. Finally, having had enough of his big dreams, they plotted to fake his death, tell their dad he was gone and get on with their lives.

It worked. Joseph wound up being sold to merchants who took him to Egypt as a slave. There, he ended up serving in the palace and became a trusted servant to Potiphar.

While in Egypt, Joseph went to jail on false accusations, was released from jail and restored, even becoming Potiphar’s Prime Minister of the land.

Eventually, after many years, Joseph’s brothers had to come to Egypt and face him. They didn’t recognize him, but when he revealed himself to them, needless to say, they were frightened, and they had good reason to be. But look what Joseph said to his brothers –

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”

Genesis 49:20

But God changed things for Joseph.

But God. A powerful hinge, a turning point, open door.

Last week, I was reading Psalms 64, about secret plots of evil doers, wicked conspiracies, cruel words, and unjust plans. The first six verses were like reading todays news. BUT, guess what popped up in verse seven?

But God will shoot them with his arrows; they will suddenly be struck down.”

Psalm 64:7

In verse seven, after six verses of craziness, is But God, and what God will do in spite of the wicked, evil, cruel and unjust actions. But God, the hinge, the change, the open door.

It was then, that I decided to write this post, realizing no matter what happened in the coming week, the hinge, change, and door that mattered is that phrase – BUT GOD.

As believers, there is always a BUT GOD. Our circumstances, world events, death or the enemy do not get the last word – God does.

There are ample verses to support this thesis. Here are some Old Testament references. Psalm 66:19; Genesis 39:21; 45:8; 32:42; 1 Samuel 23:14; 2 Chronicles 20:15; Psalm 49:15; 73:26.

Here are some New Testament verses: Matthew 19:26; Acts 2:24; Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 1:27.

Of course the bible is filled with stories of miraculous turn abouts, stories of divine intervention. I started a list, but you could too. Just think of the stories you know and see how the hinge, But God changed things.

But even outside of the Bible we can read stories of miraculous victories because of divine intervention. In spite of insurmountable odds and statistical improbabilities, the hinge of divine intervention – But God, changed things.

You can find such stories in the annals of every war of in the world. Go as far back as you like, stay current or don’t bother at all. But know, they are there, documented and clearly But God moments.

God is always the unseen thumb on the scale tipping things on your behalf. It matters little what hardship, trouble, impossibility, danger, defeat, or lack you face. The hinge, the turning point, the change comes with But God.

Therefore, we strive to stay focused above the battle, and beyond the immediate.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.

We fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16, 18

But God changes things for us, too. For you, for me, for all who focus on him.

But God, the hinge to open up and unlock new hope, perspective and victory.

Be encouraged today.

Go with God.

American Values

There’s alot to think about on this election day.

For me, at the hub of my thoughts is who America is, who she is meant to be, and who she is to become. For me, it boils down to American values; what are they, what are we doing with them, are we defending them?

Let me share this acrostic that developed in my mind last night.

American

V ote

The bedrock of our nation is that it is a REPUBLIC. We the People hold the power to willingly elect our leaders to represent us and legislate on our behalf. Our voice and choice is expressed via our vote. This can never be diminished or voided. For if it is, our nation will cease to exist.

A rticles & amendments

The document that allows for our republic to function as such, and provides the basis for structure, covering and balance in our governance is the Constitution. That document, its seven articles and twenty-seven amendments protects us as a nation. It sets us apart from other nations. It is clear and specific in its vision of American government and what it must be.

This is why every civil service employee and military candidate must “swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic” prior to taking their place of employment.

L aws

We are a nation of laws. They are laws to be followed by all. Lady Justice is blind, and all are bound by her laws of the land.

A society without laws and governmental control is called anarchy. A society without a moral code will rarely survive for any length of time. America is bound to something greater than anarchy.

U nited

From thirteen loosely knit colonies forged from the heat of revolution into a nation; we have grown into fifty states, one federal district (Washington D.C.), five major territories ( Samoa, Guam, Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands), and nine unpopulated territories.

E Pluribus Unum – our national motto, “Out of many one”. Our national name – UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. We are one nation with many people. We are different but united. The Civil War didn’t divide us nor the World Wars, and area conflicts that followed.

We are a people united. May our name continue to define us. U.S.A.

E quality, exceptionalism

Because of the exceptionalism of this nation, from its inception there have been struggles for equality. Because of our exceptionalism, I believe there will continue to be cries for equality, and justice for all. Because America does value all of its citizens and those seeking to be such, she will continue to rally for the poor, the downtrodden, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and the weak.

But she will also push back against those in power who hoard their power, abuse their power, and misuse their power over the masses. Equality means all are treated the same. Rich and poor.

S tars and stripes

Our flag, Old Glory, The Stars and Stripes, is our ensign.

Its thirteen, equal, stripes of red and white represent those thirteen original colonies who declared independence from, fought and won that independence against Great Britain. The red forever reminding us of the cost of freedom in blood from the valiant who, through the years have fought for it. The white speaking of the purity and singleness of that commitment.

Fifty, five pointed stars, on a field of blue – the union, forever aligned to demonstrate our commitment to and pride in our fifty, united, states. And just like the people in the nation are different, so too, are the states in this union. All different, beautiful, strong and united.

Long may it wave, and may patriots all over this great nation forever honor and cherish The Stars and Stripes.

American Values

May we not loose sight of who we are or who we are intended to be. May we be as courageous as those who gave their all, as we seek to preserve our precious American values.

May we speak out, stand up, and defend this great nation. She is not perfect because we are not perfect, people are not perfect.

United we stand, divided we fall.

God Bless America.

Cheers to you.

Testing Positive

Sunday Sermon 10.31.2020

We are living in the days of testing.

My husband, the President, and Justin Turner, to name a few. Who do you know that’s been tested? Who do you know that has tested positive?

Of the three I listed above, two tested positive, one tested negative. One failed the test.

The Bible is always relevant, check out this passage about testing positive, in 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular check ups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.

The Message

Paul, the writer here, urges the people of the churches in Corinth to test themselves and see if they test positive for Jesus. And if they test negative, to do something about it.

How simple is that? What a clear challenge.

Using the original language, a transliteration of that verse would more accurately read, “Test, scrutinize and prove yourselves. Could your convictions relating to God and your convictions relating to Jesus Christ be approved or rejected?”

I love the fact here that the testing is done as a self assessment. We look at ourselves seeking proof, or evidence that Jesus Christ resides in us. No one else is judging us, we get the first look, the first cut as it were.

How do we know if Jesus is in us? How can you tell? What evidence or proofs are there?

We can tell if Jesus is in us by what comes out of us. The evidence is our actions, words, habits – our fruit.

There are all sorts of things that are tested and done so with the sole intent as to prove its quality and what lies within.

Athletes are tested.

Coach Bear Bryant said, “If a man is a quitter I’d rather find out in practice than in a game.” He therefore designed grueling practices for his teams all intended to show the quitters. He said, “Championships are won when the stages are empty.” He knew if an athlete could survive the practice runs and plays, they proved themselves worthy and passed the test for the big game.

Swords are tested.

Taken from the sheath long before war, swords are tested in peace, under stress, fire and disaster drills when there is no real danger. They are tried, scrutinized, and approved for battle.

Gold and silver are tested.

Gold is put in a crucible and heated to 1100 degrees Celsius allowing the dross (impurities) to rise to the surface, where it is then skimmed off. The process is repeated until there are no impurities left.

Silver goes through “fire assaying”, which is the process of separating all of its impurities. Again, the goal is to test what is inside as pure, to at least 92.5% silver. Thus silver 925.

We, people, believers are tested, too.

We are told in 1 Peter 4:12, to not be surprised or think that it is strange that we are being tested.

1 Peter 1:7 says that the test is to prove the genuineness of our faith and remove the impurities. When the heat is up, the impurities come out until all that’s left is Jesus. So that one day, when the heat comes up, all that comes out of us is Jesus, no more impurities.

Psalm 66:10 – “For you, God tested us; you refined us like silver.”

James 1:2-4 is a classic passage, reminding us that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. Very much like the practice runs and plays by Coach Bryant, the practice sessions for us in the heat of life will reveal what we’re made of and whether or not we are quitters.

Those who persevere, do not quit. With each test, they are proven solid in their faith and test positive for Jesus emanating from their life.

If in the test, they test negative for Jesus, they do something about it. They check the symptoms and do what is needed to correct the evidence.

Testing negative for Jesus is no reason to quit. The testing is meant to produce perseverance in you. Get back up, get right, and keep on walking. “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” Proverbs 24:16

THAT is perseverance. Doing something about the negative test and getting ready for the next test. Cuz you know, it’s coming.

The tests will continue until there are no impurities left. Until only Jesus is left. Only his reactions, words, mind, attitude, feelings, emotions, ways, and thoughts.

So we will have ample opportunities for testing positive for Jesus.

And there is even a promise –

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:12

One other thought in closing.

The heat of life, the tests of life come to us to reveal to us what lies within our heart. To give us firsthand evidence or proof of what we’re made of. God already knows whether we test positive or negative for him – he wants us to know. So he has designed these practice runs to reveal what is in us. Deuteronomy 8:2; Job 23:10

Returning to and reviewing our starting text, the charge is – give yourselves regular check ups – check for firsthand evidence of Jesus in your life and seek to test positive, but if you fail, do something about it.

Because we are living in days of testing, and we need to test positive.

Go with God.

Silent Sentinels

Strong armed by four men and two women, who strapped her to a chair, her arms and legs secured with leather lashes, they then forced her mouth open while one woman straddled her holding it so against her protestations.

A rubber tube was then inserted into her nose and pushed into her stomach. Blood ran from her nose while abrasions and bruises began to appear on her body.

Raw eggs and milk were then poured into the tube which then landed directly into her stomach. She later described the pain as “a ball of lead in my stomach”.

Against her will, she was being force fed.

This happened three times a day.

On one night, the superintendent of the prison ordered many to be severely beaten. These were mid to upper class women, who were beaten by the guards, all of whom were hurt, some to unconsciousness.

This night is referred to as The Night of Terror, November 14, 1917. Lorton, Workshouse for Women, VA, 20 miles southwest of Washington D.C.

These women, arrested and charged with trivial charges like “obstructing traffic”, were given the choice to pay a fine or go to the workhouse, where they would serve six months in prison.

Not all were force fed. But Alice Paul, one who was sentenced to seven months for obstructing traffic was treated so roughly and fed only bread and water, decided to go on a hunger strike. Again, the superintendent decided he would have no one “die” on his watch, and ordered her to be torturously force fed three times a day.

Her crime? Those women’s real crime?

Silently marching outside the White House, protesting the lack of women’s voting rights. Those women were called, “Silent Sentinels”.

News leaked about the night of terror and abuses within the workhouse and two weeks later the women were released.

Three years later, August, 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed assuring women as citizens and providing them the right to vote.

“The right of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the U.S. or any State on account of sex.”

The 19th Amendment

The right to vote has been passionately fought for. Not only for women, but for many disenfranchised citizens. Our nation has a rich history of many such battles, protests, and yes, finally victories.

The right to vote, the freedom to vote, as with all freedoms, is not free. It has not come without a high cost and sacrifices. Many there be with stories like the Silent Sentinels, who stood their ground amid persecution and abuses and thereby won the freedoms we enjoy.

In 2019, two billion people in fifty countries voted.

Next week, in America, citizens will again vote. (or like me, perhaps have already voted by mail.)

My prayer is that you will be one who takes your freedom and responsibility seriously and with your ballot and voice be that sentinel keeping watch over America and her values.

Cheers to you and to America.

It’s No Joke, it is Real

Sunday Sermon 10.24.20

Recently, while walking through a neighborhood close to my home, I encountered a home that was decorated in the most ghoulish manner imaginable. I have never seen a homegrown display of such blood, death, dismemberment, pain, destruction, and evil. Proudly displayed in the center of the lawn was a sign that read, “House of evil”.

Here on display for all to see was the blatant declaration of evil.

And there on that street, I decried the evil unleashed there, in that home, on that family and in that neighborhood.

Evil is no joke, it is not some cute theme for decorating, it is real. It’s powers are real, it’s players are real and in the end it all will be pulverized!

With that as our springboard, let’s talk about evil spirits.

Evil is not only present in our world but reigning in and over it because of Lucifer’s pride, rebellion and enmity with God as displayed in heaven in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 and then on earth in the garden in Genesis 3.

Because of his iniquity, pride and rebellion, Lucifer was cast from heaven to earth and if we take Revelation into account (12;4), with him he brought a third of the angels. (now also rebellious and following Lucifer in the heavenly rebellion and earthly assault.)

From Genesis until now, he has been, as Ephesians says, “The prince of the power of the air. The spirit at work in the disobedient.” Ephesians 2:2

“It wasn’t that long ago that you lived in the religion, customs and values of this world, obeying the dark ruler of the earthly realm who fills the atmosphere with his authority, and works diligently in the hearts of those who are disobedient to the truth of God.”

The Passion Translation Ephesians 2:2

Lucifer, once a beautiful, covering angel of heaven, now has spiritual dominion over earth and those who refuse to obey the truth. His angels/ demons work diligently in those hearts for one purpose, they are bent on destroying plans, works and people of God.

He has a host of demons/spirits following him. In addition, of course, are holy angels – those who still follow God’s orders. Scripture speaks of these:

Cheribum, seraphim, and rank and file holy angels who each have their own function and realm of service.

Then there are what appears to be a hierarchy of demonic powers as found in these verses:

Ephesians 6:12; Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; Colossians 1:16; 2:15

They are:

Principalities, powers, worlds rulers, spiritual wickedness in high places and thrones or authorities.

The Old Testament speaks of evil spirits that trouble people, stir up dissention, murder, divide nations, and deceive nations. Judges 9; 1 Samuel 16; 19; 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 33

It also speaks of a territorial spirit called a Prince that resisted the release of God’s revelation for twenty one days. Daniel 10:12 Here, prayer had gone up from earth, God heard and answered, but “the Prince of Persia” – a demonic ruler had delayed God’s response from being delivered for twenty one days. So Michael, the Archangel was dispatched to assist in the release of the answer and defeat of the hindrance.

There are spiritual rulers over nations, over world rulers, over cities. Evil spirits are real and made obvious by and through people.

The New Testament mentions the word demon 75 times. They are real!

Jesus clearly not only believed in evil or unclean spirits, but he dealt specifically with many. He commissioned his disciples to “cast out demons”. Matthew 10:1,8; Luke 10:17; Mark 3:14

Jesus dealt with demons in the following ways:

He expelled them (cast them out) from people who were tormented by their influence. Mark 1:39 He spoke to them. Mark 1:24 They fell down before him. Mark 3:11 He sent them into pigs. Luke 8:31 He commanded those who were delivered from demons to testify of their freedom, and they gladly did. Luke 8:1-3

Jesus never sent anyone out to preach the gospel without commissioning them to cast out demons. John 14:12 Very interesting.

Demons, Satan and evil spirits are real. Evil is real, and we need to take this seriously, because we are its target.

Ignorance is not bliss. Indecision is a decision. Idling is going nowhere.

Even Anton La Vey, the author of the Satanic Bible and founder of the church of Satan said, “We smile at the amateur explorers of their own inner darkness – for we know they enjoy their brief dip into the pool of the shadow world.”

In another place, he says, “I’m glad that Christian parents let their children worship the devil at least one night out of the year and touch darkness, which is a daily mode of existence for Satanists”.

Evil is real. It is not a joke.

1 Peter 5:8 says, “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He is on the look out for people on earth who are open to his influences and and twists of truth. Open to his temptations, deceptions, and accusations. He is, after all the father of lies and there is no truth in him. John 8:44

We live under an atmosphere of his prevailing winds. Winds that blow lies, dishonesty, perversion, pride, arrogance, selfishness, greed, destruction, murder, hatred… geesh.

And yet – THERE IS ONE GREATER. There is a conqueror, victor, champion, helper, savior, JESUS.

When Jesus came to earth from heaven he came to crush the head of the devil as foretold in Genesis 3. He came and won the total and complete victory over Satan by his death on the cross and resurrection from that grave. He ascended into heaven the Victor, where he now sits in full authority and power over every other power in the universe.

1 Peter 3:22 – He has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

John 16:33 – I have overcome the world

Ephesians 4:4 – he descended into the lowest parts of the earth and took captivity captive

Colossians 1:5 – he disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Therefore, if Jesus lives in us, the prince of the power of the air has no authority over us. Although he will lie and try to tell us differently.

That is why John said, “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

Therefore, my friends, it is imperative that we live as “wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16 By that I mean, we must wise up and recognize the evil influences and demonic attacks and not give in or yield to them.

Paul tells the believers “do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:27

The Greek words here are powerful and are clear – they are saying do not, even once, not ever give a gift to or supply the slanderer, accuser an opportunity, a place, room or city in your life!

You see, as believers we have a choice to allow the devil or his evil spirits to gain a beachhead in our life. Those are places he can land and spread out his lies. We give him that gift or supply him that opportunity when we:

  • harden our hearts
  • give way to impurity
  • are greedy
  • lie and speak falsehood
  • give way to angry outbursts
  • steal (time, attention, items, honor)
  • have filthy speech
  • are unforgiving
  • slander
  • walk in apathy
  • don’t know the Word
  • fail to fellowship
  • do our own thing
  • don’t submit to the Holy Spirit
  • check out Ephesians 4:17-5:20 for a full list of opportunities

When these tendencies and choices show up outside our lives, scripture tells us to resist them. James 4:4; 1 Peter 5:8-9

If we find a beachhead begun inside of our lives we expel those evil influences. Kick them out. We ask forgiveness and do what is needed to close off that opportunity and take away every link in the supply chain.

Evil is real. We have a choice. Resist, expel, be free of evil spirits.

For generations of mankind, evil has been real and pervasive. Ours is no different. Evil spirits influencing TV and movies are not casual entertainment. They are demonic and evil and they are no joke.

“The Prince of the Power of the Air” – hummm… that sounds like airwaves.

Dear readers, although we live in the world we are not of this world. If we believe in Jesus, we are not under the authority of the devil or his demonic spirits. We are covered by the blood of Jesus and empowered as children of the King to live in His authority.

But we too, must make it our regular, personal, practice to resist the devil and not give him any territory or room in our life. No more opportunities of unforgiveness, selfishness, etc.

This is where being covered in God’s wrap around, spiritual armor comes in. Time does not permit for explanation, but Ephesians 6:10-18 should be our daily “suit up” list.

Evil is real, it is no joke.

God is good, He sent Jesus to overcome evil and empower us to do the same through the power of the Word of God and the grace and mercy of the Holy Spirit.

Go with God, dear ones.

Butt seriously, folks

We need some levity

This is what I see daily on the lake below our balcony. It is so funny to watch these bobbing bottoms on the surface of the water and then see some of them dive own to grab their meal.

I studied the anatomy of those birds to understand how and why they play “butts up” with intent to share here. But in that process, it seemed way more fun to look at other animal butts and their unique designs and uses.

Why? Because we need some levity in these days.

Bums and their designs are serious business. There is nothing by accident about bottoms in the animal kingdom.

For example, consider the Skipper caterpillars. These guys have a defensive tool called “scat firing”. When they are attacked, they launch poop at the enemy at speeds of 1.3 meters per second. That poo deters it’s main predator, the paper wasp, who is attracted by the odor of the poo.

Butt seriously… wow!

Maybe you’ve heard of the sea cucumbers bum. I’ve held many, but after learning this, that will probably stop. When they are in attack mode, they contract their bodies and eject their internal organs out of their anuses onto predators, often entangling them them in toxic fluid strands. YUCK! No worries about their loss tho’, because within six to ten weeks the thrown organs will regenerate. Crazy right?

Butt seriously…

Here’s a weird one and he lives on you, on your face! He is the face mite – Demodex folliculorum. This guy doesn’t even have a butt. None. Not at all. He eats up your dead skin cells which then stays in his large gut cells. Then after his sixteen day life span, he dies and releases his waste onto our faces once he disintegrates. I’d bet you’re touching you face right now.

A favorite of mine has even earned the nick name “bum breather” – he is the Fitzroy River turtle. This turtle can stay underwater for up tp three weeks without having to take in air through nostrils like other turtles. Why? Because his cloaca/anus extracts 41% more Oxygen thus allowing longer underwater stays. He breathes through his bum.

How bout wombats? They live mostly underground and have an amazing security system at their door. Their backside. It is used to block its burrow to protect itself from predators. It’s bum is super tough, filled with cartilage which sorta makes it like an armored car. His powerful buttocks is used as a weapon and can smash the skull of it enemy into the walls or roof of its burrow. Violent, ouch.

Just one more, giraffes. I used to collect them, especially after having been in Kenya and seeing them in their natural habitat. Who doesn’t love them? Long necks, elegant stride, beautiful colors. But what about their butts? Giraffes twist themselves into what looks to us like uncomfortable positions when they are ready to sleep. They do this to use their bum as a pillow. Yuppers. They actually rest their head on their bottom to sleep their 30 minutes a day.

Butt seriously, folks.

Time and interest don’t permit me to speak of disappearing butts, filtering sand bums, propelling bottoms, or detaching bums. But they are there.

Think about it. Shake your head in wonder. Marvel at the design and purpose in each of these. Such a small, seemingly insignificant body part – the bum. Yet, miraculously engineered, assembled and installed in each living creature. (well almost all)

But seriously, folks,

All things work together for good…”

And aren’t you glad they do?

Cheers to you.

There’s Always Hope

Bansky
Sunday Sermon 10.17.20

Spoiled foods can be beyond hope. A totaled car can be beyond hope. A fire’s destruction can be beyond hope.

But for people there is always hope. There is no situation so bad, no sin so grievous, no distress so deep that hope is inaccessible or change not possible.

Some of you may need to reread that last sentence. Go ahead. I know it is bold, but I also know it is accurate.

To support that statement and encourage you today, I want to take a deep dive into the bible king Manasseh, of Judah. You will find his story in 2 Chronicles 33 and 2 Kings 21.

As we look at his life, notice his situation, sins and distress. Compare across to your life, draw comparisons and gather your takeaways.

Here we go.

Manasseh was the 14th king of Judah and the oldest son of Hezekiah, the previous king. He was born during the 15 years that God added to Hezekiah’s life. Hezekiah was a really good king who followed God’s ways. (that is why in his sickness he prayed and asked God’s help, to which he was granted 15 more years of life.)

Manasseh’s name means “one who forgets”. That’s important.

Manasseh reigned over Judah for 55 long years. In those years he totally undid, disgraced, rejected and demolished all the good that his dad had done in the kingdom. He was one who forgot the ways of his dad the ways of his upbringing.

Not only did he forget, he willfully, actively, passionately and nationally followed these evil practices. These practices were not only a regular part of his daily life, but he had them instituted as national norms in Judah. The entire nation followed these “detestable” practices.

From 1 Chronicles 33:3-10:

  • he rebuilt the high places his father had destroyed – these were sex and religion shrines scattered all over the nation. The sexual perversion involved here is astonishing and involved phallic statues in abundance.
  • he bowed down to the starry hosts – he worshipped cosmic powers and took orders from the constellations.
  • he built altars in the Lord’s temple – cosmic altars, altars to Baal and Asherah, altars to many secular gods.
  • he practiced child sacrifice – Molech was worshipped by offering children in the fire. He offered his own sons and perhaps even his grandsons in this ritual sacrifice.
  • he practiced witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums – he gave full way to Satanic rituals, seances and the underworld.
  • “he did much evil in the eyes of the Lord” – bad dude!
  • the last straw, he had built and erected a statue to Asherah in the Lord’s temple – this sex goddess, was now worshipped in the Lord’s temple
  • Manasseh led the people astray – what he did privately was put into national practice and legislation
  • “they did more evil than the nations” – now that’s saying something, that’s alot of evil

One last sad note to Manasseh and the nations evil practices-

“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.”

2 Chronicles 33:10

Not only was he one evil practicing, sex maniac, proud, idolatrous, killer, but when the Lord spoke to him, he ignored the Lord’s voice.

Manasseh is considered the most wicked king in Judah’s history. There was none worse. Ahab was the worst in Israel and Manasseh the worst in Judah. Now you can see why, right?

Tradition and scholars tell us that Manasseh is probably the one who had the prophet Isaiah cut in two. Now that’s no way to treat your Grandfather. Geesh.

His tyrannical reign lasted for over half century!

So Manasseh’s situation is pretty dire. He is in deep, needless to say. His sins are pretty insurmountable as well, cuz these are “big time sins”. So how is his distress? Let’s check it out.

First, we must continue the story.

The Bible tells us that because Manasseh and the people paid no attention to the Lord, (forgot the Lord and His ways), the Lord allowed the Assyrians to overthrow the city and capture the King. He was taken to Babylon as a prisoner, bound in shackles, and a hook in his nose. 2 Chronicles 33:11

Here is where we identify Manasseh’s distress.

“In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.” And he prayed to him.

2 Chronicles 33:12

While a prisoner of war, in prison, in a foreign land we see his distress. While he is powerless, alone, overwhelmed, outnumbered and empty his distress is evident.

What does he do in this state?

He sought God’s favor, humbled himself greatly and prayed.

Now that is a turn around!

Somehow, in his distress he remembered the spiritual training of his childhood. The training of his ancestors. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” I’m sure Hezekiah was looking over the balcony of heaven finally cheering on his once evil son.

So we have the most vile, perverse, corrupt, person & political leader crying out to God. He needed his own experience with God, not his dad’s. He was calling out for it.

“God speaks to us in our pleasures but he shouts to us in our pains.”

God had been shouting to Manasseh but now Manasseh was shouting out to him.

How did God respond?

“And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.”

2 Chronicles 33:13

This is mindboggling to me.

After life long practices of gross and despicable sins, once Manasseh humbled himself and sincerely presented himself before the Lord – THE LORD WAS MOVED!

His humility, laying down his pride, and seeking God’s blessing and favor actually moved God to the action of restoring Manasseh to his kingdom.

In the Apocryphal book of “The Prayer of Manasses” he says, “I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea.”

There is always hope.

Our God is compassionate, loving, forgiving, just, strong, engaging, and ever present.

The story doesn’t end there tho’. Manasseh made a drastic and remarkable change when he returned to Jerusalem.

Side note- Do you think the citizens of the city were glad to see him return or scared for their lives? You see, personal repentance brings forgiveness but the influence of sin lingers and abides.

When he returned, he:

  • rebuilt the city wall & made it higher- reinforced the city defenses
  • stationed guards around the city
  • got rid of foreign gods
  • removed all the idols and altars in the temple
  • restored the altar of the Lord

His personal experience with God, “knowing that the Lord is God” motivated his change in behavior, word and deed. He took action nationally to undo what he had done. He took action personally. He had truly met God and was changed.

The amount of evil he had done was totally forgiven and covered because he humbled himself, sought the favor of the Lord and prayed to Him. His sins were forgiven, his distress was lifted and his situation changed.

God heard. God was moved. God responded to Manasseh’s humility and entreaty. God changed him. his situation, his sin, and his distress.

There is always hope.

If there is hope for Manasseh there is hope for all.

“No mortal man hath excuse to perish is despair. No one is justified in saying God will never forgive me.”

Spurgeon

Let’s return to our opening – There is no situation so bad, no sin so grievous, no distress so deep that hope is inaccessible or change not possible.

There is always hope for those who in humility make their entreaty of the Lord.

There is always hope.

Go with God.

A Slice of Life

I sat down wanting to consider all the factors, forces and functions happening in a one minute slice of my life.

A picture came into view in my minds eye. Looking beyond where I was sitting was a slice of time that looked like the rays of light that shine from a door slightly cracked open. In that moment of light, that slice of life – what factors were at work? What forces were in play? What functions were occurring?

Of the 1,440 minutes in my day, what was happening, from my view, in just one of them.

Starting with my body, then my position, and finally to what I could see and beyond, I looked into that small, lighted slice of time and began thinking, “What is happening in this slice of life?”

My brain began racing. Right here in my body, with just the things that can remember here’s what is happening:

  • there are 79 different organs working together keeping me alive
  • there are (some say) over 10,000 body parts working together
  • my heart is beating 60 plus times & pumping blood into my veins and through my body
  • I am breathing in Oxygen and my lungs are processing it throughout the body
  • while at the same time exhaling the hazardous gasses
  • my breakfast is being digested
  • nutrients from breakfast are supplying my body
  • wastes are being eliminated
  • my kidneys are filtering that waste
  • my eyes are processing millions of bits of visual data
  • my ears are hearing and registering the sounds around me
  • the other senses also are gathering and inputting information
  • all of it is happening because of the supercomputer brain
  • 2400 times faster than the best computer, my brain, is capturing billions of electrical signals and sending them out and receiving others in
  • thoughts are being formed
  • hair, nails, skin, red blood cells and white blood cells are growing and multiplying
  • water loss and need is being tracked
  • air pressure and content is monitored for the health of my body
  • sores and injuries are healing
  • I have spit in my mouth, moisture in sinuses and eyes as needed
  • eyelashes are defending against unwanted entry
  • nose hairs doing the same
  • skin protecting and defending and regenerating as needed
  • DNA mutations are being healed
  • hormones and chemicals are balanced as needed
  • there are muscles working that I can’t name
  • my bones are supporting those muscles and much more

STOP. My brain hurts. I cannot keep up or write fast enough. I don’t know enough, understand enough. And still there is so much more happening in my body!!!!

This, my body, is just the first stop in my considering what happens in my one minute slice of life.

I have yet, to consider my positional surroundings nor my view beyond.

In that slice, there is still:

  • the plants and their processes
  • the seen animals and their workings and wonders
  • the unseen animals, insects and creatures and all their complexities
  • the air composition and pressure
  • the effects of gravity on all we see (or what would happen without it)
  • temperatures within our body and outside our body that are “perfect” for life
  • effects of light and the powers of electromagnetism
  • the nuclear forces at work in both strong and weak forces
  • beyond our atmospheres, where do I begin?
  • water cycles

Again, I am simply overwhelmed by the vastness of the complexities of my world. I have forgotten much of the science but my heart explodes in wonder.

In just one slice of life, one 60 second glimpse from where I sit to beyond what I can see, I know of billions times billions of factors, forces, and functions at work. Overwhelmed is simply an understatement.

Now, if I were to take that one slice, multiply it by 60, then multiply that by 24… I now have before me a whole day to consider.

Additionally, these are static pictures. So let’s throw in people variables, and their interactions. Now add current local events and issues. Now multiply that by 19,495 because that is the number of cities in USA.

Oh yeh, what about the nations? America is not the only nation on the planet. There are 193 countries and two observer states. Oh my aching brain.

And while we’re at it, let’s not leave out the 7 main ecosystems and the interactions within each of those. How each part is playing a specific role in support of life.

Our finite brains are not able to comprehend the complexities, intricacies, and wisdom that shape each factor, force or function in our lives.

Sitting here, in my chair, viewing my little shaft of light, slice of life, I am unbelievably amazed by it all; from the squawking of the American coots outside my door, to the beating of my heart and closing of my eyelids.

My slice of life is beyond my understanding but not my appreciation.

I therefore choose to be grateful, awe struck and ever in wonder.

I also choose to trust, knowing that there is a greater, higher force and power at work, who is way beyond my figuring out.

Looking at my slice of life helped me to put things in perspective. I trust it has done the same for you.

Cheers to your slice of life.

Level Up

Sunday Sermon 10.10.20

These thoughts today are a follow-up to my recent video teaching, “Lessons from Elite Athletes”. If you haven’t seen it and would like to, here it is:

9:00 minutes

So, when was the last time you trained for something?

I sat down and made a list starting as far back as I could remember (back to elementary school) of things that I had “trained” for or in and came up with a list of 18 items.

Then I looked at the list and realized it could be broken into two different categories: athletic/body training and skills training in specific areas.

Try it, make a list of the things that you have trained for. Study it. What one stands out to you? Was it that great half marathon you ran? Was it those 30 pounds you lost? Was it surviving Basic Training? Was it competing in the SUP 10K, or scaling the mountain face?

Whatever it was, it showed you your ability to level up and advance.

So, what did it take to level up? What does a training mindset require?

  • a decision that it is needed – the mental commitment and conditioning to make it happen is the first and perhaps biggest battle
  • making the time to train – planning, preparation, reprioritizing
  • being consistent – without diligent consistency no new habits will be formed
  • pushing beyond comfort levels – “no pain, no gain”

I bet you would agree, you would never have leveled up and made it through your training without those four points firmly established and practiced.

We all have a choice as players in this game of life. Will we be bad players, good players or great players?

” Bad players don’t take much seriously. Good players take practice and games seriously. Great players take warm ups, nutrition, skill work, weight room, conditioning, stretching, film, practice and games seriously.”

Jon Beck – coach

Now, what about that same focus, fervor, determination and sacrifice in your spiritual training? Is it there?

Because way more important than training for an event is the race that we are in spiritually. And again, we are all in the game, the question is at what level. What is our commitment to leveling up spiritually?

The Christian life is a marathon, and we ought not be on the sidelines, but running diligently in the race as contenders for the win!

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 tells us we should go into strict training and train to win.

Consider these winning motivating challenges from the “rule book” for the race- the Bible. Practice saying these out loud to yourself:

  • John 3:30 – he must become greater
  • Galatians 2:20-21 – I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I that lives, but Christ in me
  • 1 Corinthians 15:31 – I die daily
  • Galatians 5:24-25 – I have nailed the passions and desires to the cross
  • Colossians 3:10 – I put on the new man
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 – I am a new creature, the old is gone
  • 1 Peter 2:24 – that I might die to sin and live for righteousness
  • Romans 13:14 – do not think how to gratify the desires of the flesh
  • Luke 14:27 – whoever does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple
  • Luke 9:23 – whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and follow me

These statements put our body on notice that it is time for training, your body’s shout for satisfaction is no longer your priority.

Those statements also stir the Spirit within you to wake up and take charge. Remember, those two are always at war within us. So the decision of which to listen to and side with is paramount in our training.

To level up spiritually begins with the mindset and decision that it is needed. We can’t stay where we are and level up at the same time. We must decide to go for it and press in, work at it consistently and leave the comfort of serving self.

That decision being made, then we can prioritize and make time for what we need to do. Do we need to build up our prayer time? Study the word more? Praise more? Fellowship with other believers?

Those things are the basics.

Acts 2 tells us of the new church and their habits that allowed the church to level up and grow.

  • they continued in the apostles teaching – bible study
  • fellowship – with other believers
  • breaking of bread – communion
  • prayer – worship

These are what I call basic training for Christians. These four areas are the first level of Christian life – the basics. From here, believers are challenged to grow up, mature and level up.

This is where we go into strict training in an effort to grow and mature and be the ones who finish the race strong and win the prize. We are the ones who actually bear fruit and not just express words. We are striving to become like Jesus. He is our standard.

To level up, we not only increase time and quality in the four basic training areas, but we also move into other areas of spiritual maturity.

Here are some areas for us to mature in. These represent meat for those who are hungry for more than baby’s milk.

Serving others, fasting, personal evangelism, missions, giving, baptisms, spiritual giftings, solitude, healing, signs and wonders, casting out demons, preaching the gospel, making disciples.

These are the things that Jesus called his disciples to. These are areas the Holy Spirit is calling us to move into. Jesus said, “greater works than these shall you do”. That is a WOW statement right there, cuz He did amazing miracles!

When? Why not now? Why not you? Are you trained and ready?

THIS is the race that we are in. These are the areas that we are being called to level up to. This is why basic training is not enough. It is only the starting blocks of the race.

For some, perhaps basic training is enough.

But there is an army of believers rising up who are “forcefully advancing the kingdom”. They are not content with the basics. They see the Kingdom of God coming in power and authority and have chosen to be under that realm, sphere and influence. They have trained their senses to discern between good and bad, righteousness and evil, flesh and spirit.

They have learned to fast and pray and hear God’s voice, direction and plan. They have learned to follow the Spirit’s leading. They are expectant when speaking with people about the ways of the Lord. They carry His presence wherever they go and they are contending for miracles, signs and wonders – today, in our nation.

To be in that group, and be a great spiritual player, everything matters. Everything is training. “All things work together for good” in my life and help me to build spiritual muscle mass. I must stay consistent in my training. Even when I fail or trip, I will get back up and get myself back into training and the race.

I am determined and filled with diligence and discipline. I am committed to move out of my comfort zone with consistency, purpose, strength and accuracy.

I’m leveling up. I am advancing. I am beefing up my spiritual regiment. I am driving forward spiritually. I am thriving spiritually not barely existing.

We stand on the verge of worldwide revival. Our nation is ripe for His presence and power. It is coming. He is coming. Allow Him to put His super on your natural and rock your world, flow through you and change lives.

Evaluate your spiritual fitness. What do you need to do to be a part of what God is doing today?

It is time to level up.

God with God.

PS – Leave me a comment. I would love to heave from you.

Your Amazing …

Brain

Your brain never stops working.

The brain is the most powerful processing unit ever designed. Every second it receives information from the senses, chemical messages and other stimuli and it reaches a conclusion for us, automatically. It links data pieces to make a thought, decision, memory or picture of the world for us to understand.

It is the body’s command center for perception, thought formation, and memory creation.

Your grey matter is the most powerful computer ever designed, able to handle 10 to the 16th power amount of data per second! Consisting of 100 billion nerve cells and other neurons which could add up to 1 quadtrillion connections, each with the ability to combine and increase storage capacity.

Performing over 100,000 chemical reactions every second, and sending signals traveling along neurotransmitters at speeds of 268 mph, there are no two brains that are alike.

Whether you are awake or asleep, it is always working, making connections, processing information, creating chemical reactions, transporting signals to fill in gaps and complete mental processes.

During your sleeping hours, the brain is still active, controlling your body functions, and is engaged in activities necessary for your life to function as well as bringing you a better quality of life by helping us remember the things we learned the previous days.

It is the unconscious mind that tries to make connections with concepts you understand and work them into your actual learning. Even within your dreams are woven symbolic representations to connect concepts to your own individual understanding and experience.

Brain plasticity, which is your ability to adapt to input, is vital for your healthy functioning, too. Your brain not only helps you adapt to and in situations but it also removes waste products and unused data blocks, so that it can weave short term memories into long term memory banks. And , of course, your brain works to help your body and muscles grow.

Generating enough wattage to light a light bulb and provide a human 70,000 thoughts a day, this is a remarkably designed organ.

At only 3 pounds, a single, sand sized piece of brain tissue (eeww) contains 100,00 neurons and 1 billion synapses all communicating with each other!

AND, all brain cells are NOT alike. There are as many as 10,000 specific types of neurons. In fact, if all your neurons were lined up side by side they would stretch out 621.371 miles. But you wouldn’t be able to see them because they would still be invisible to the naked eye. (10 microns wide)

Your amazing, always working, powerful brain!

All this happens, keeping you alive and aware in your world without so much as a thought or worry from you.

Your brain functions powerfully, tending to you, your surroundings and all the stimuli that comes at you, striving to make connections and decisions on your behalf, allowing the quality of your life to be the very best that it can be.

Your amazing brain, it never stops working.

It is always processing on your behalf, always making connections for you. Whether you are awake or asleep it is always working, helping you to grow, remember, understand and be.

Isn’t that exactly what God, the Creator does?

Isn’t the brain a small picture of of the complexity and power of God and His care for you?

Go back and reread this post, as you do, think of all the descriptions of the brain and its complexities picturing Almighty God, and His complex, intricate love and care for you in your world.

Your God never stops working.

Cheers to you.

But What Are You Praying?

Sunday Sermon 10.3.20

The premise is you are praying.

” Is prayer your steering wheel or is it your spare tire?”

Corrie ten Boom

In these days I suppose that there is a good amount of prayer leaving people’s lips and I include you in that group. Our focus today, is to consider Corrie ten Boom’s question, is prayer your steering wheel or is it your spare tire?

Does your prayer steer where you go, the direction you turn, the course you’re on?

Or, do you turn to prayer when you have had a deflating experience, been punctured or are slowly leaking your life’s joy?

As we consider these thoughts, let’s go to a biblical example of steering wheel prayer – Job. The man who had it all, lost it all but wound up with double in the end.

His story is in the 42 chapters of the Bible book that bears his name.

In quick summary, this man lived in the near East, was extremely wealthy, had a large and happy family, was respected in the community and was considered blameless, upright and God-fearing. (he wasn’t an Israelite either.) Job 1

In a heavenly council meeting, God and Satan were discussing Job’s spiritual character, and Satan was given permission by God to mess with Job, ie: take away his flocks, herds, family, home, possessions and health. Job 1-2

What follows is 35 chapters of Job and his “friends” in dialogue back and forth; they accusing him of sinning against God, and he defending his innocence.

At their first sight of Job, they could hardly recognize him, for the disease that had raveged his body. The four of them sat in silence together, no one knowing what to say, or daring to say anything. This went on for 7 days! Talk about awkward silence??!!

Then the speeches begin. Each takes turn throwing out accusations, assertions, theories, defenses, and logic.

Then, in chapter 38 God shows up and “speaks out of the storm.”

For the next 5 chapters (38-42) God speaks to Job, and asks him questions like:

  • where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? 38:4
  • have you given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place? 38:12
  • where does darkness reside? 38:19
  • do you know the laws of heaven? 38:33
  • do you send lightening bolts on their way? 38:35
  • do you know when the mountain goats give birth? 39:1
  • does the hawk take flight by your wisdom? 39:26
  • will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? 40:2
  • do you have an arm like God’s? 40:9
  • can you pull leviathan with a fishook? 41:1

Job’s humble answer was, ” I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can the thwarted. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you, therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:2-6

THEN, the Lord spoke again to Job and told him he was angry with his 3 friends because they had not spoken the truth like he, Job had. 42:7

The friends were then told to make an offering and go to Job and have him pray for them. 42:8

We are told that the Lord accepted Job’s prayer and after that prayer, the Lord restored Job’s fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. Double the sheep, camels, pairs of oxen, and donkeys. He had another 10 children and this time his daughters received an inheritance among their brothers.

That was sorta a brief summary.

Was Job’s prayer his steering wheel or his spare tire?

He didn’t pray until the Lord gave him direction to pray for his friends. The Lord actually was steering Job’s prayer.

Although he had plenty of deflating, puncturing and slow leaks happen in his life, his prayer was never something he relied on as a fix it for those flattening experiences.

His prayer was definitely a steering wheel, inspired by God to bring restoration and double portion blessing.

Job’s prayer steered the direction of his life and that of his family and friends. Job’s prayer brought liberty and forgiveness to his friends and abundant blessing to his family.

Job’s prayer, steered by God, brought everything that Job needed.

Among the lessons to learn from Job, here are my big 5:

  1. God controls everything
  2. Bad things happen to good people
  3. Friends get it both right and wrong
  4. When God speaks He exposes our smallness
  5. Praying God led prayers brings restoration and double portion

In closing, lets return to the premise. I believe that you are praying.

But what are you praying? Are you praying God led prayers? Are your prayers steered by God? Inspired by God? Motivated by God? Are your prayers steering your life, walk, direction?

For those praying God led prayers comes restoration, double portion blessing, health, and provision.

Will you let Jesus take the wheel? Will you allow him to direct your prayers? Will you let him steer?

If so, you will enter into a new realm of freedom, empowerment, discernment, joy and satisfaction.

What are you praying for?

Go with God.

The Power of Love

There’s just something iconic about that 1985 song, “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & the News. For those of you not familiar with is, here it is:

Used in the movie Back to the Future

Are we rooted and grounded in love and its power?

In 1965, a song hit the charts, written by that famous team of Hal David and Burt Bacharach, called ” What the World Needs Now”. It was a call that resonates in our hearts today. Here it is:

Dionne Warwick later made this famous after having declined to record it

My heart has been hearing the call for LOVE and the full extent of its power in our lives and society.

A phrase I have been mulling over lately is “being rooted and grounded in love”. What does that mean? What does that look like? What is the power of love that the world needs?

Let’s dive into that phrase –

“Being rooted” of course is an agricultural reference. Roots grow below the surface and in most cases are unseen. Their function is to anchor the plant in place in order to resist the forces of wind and water that come at them.

In addition, those roots take in oxygen, water, nutrients and move them through the plant to stems, leaves and blooms.

Easytogrow.com tells me, “to evaluate the health and long term performance of a plant it is all about the roots.” “Signs of poor, damaged roots will lead to an unhealthy plant with short life and limited blooms.”

So, we see that the roots are the indicator of the plants quality of life.

I’m told that you can tell if a plant is stressed out if you look at the leaves. If they are limp or yellow then those are signs of stress caused either by extreme temperatures, drought, predation or disease.

Lord knows, there are enough stress factors on us plants, right? Are we showing signs of stress, limp or yellowing? Then let’s check our roots, what are we rooted in?

Just think now, if our roots, the roots of our life, were embedded and fixed in LOVE. Only love, all love, exclusively love.

Think what the effects would be if only LOVE was the nutrient coursing through us, feeding us, watering us and growing in us.

May we choose to plant out roots deeper and deeper into love and receive all the nutrients we need so that love grows and blossoms from us.

Oh, the power of love.

The second part of that phrase, is “grounded in love”.

This is a building term, referring to laying the foundation and making a building stable, having it grounded and ready to be built upon.

Yet, I am going to look at the electrical perspective of “being grounded”.

In electrical appliances a grounding wire gives the appliance a safe way to discharge excess electricity. The electrical circuit receives both positive and negative charges in order to operate. If something goes wrong, there will be a build up of energy within the wiring that will be stored there.

a grounding wire

Picture that, a build up of positive and negative charges, building up and being stored, unseen within the wiring. What we have here is an explosion ready to happen. An unseen power surge, ready to cause damage. This build up will not be noticed until contact is made and then the excess energy will be released.

A grounding wire in that same appliance will take that build up and send it outside of your home, back into the ground or external housing – hence, a “grounding” wire.

So, when the malfunction happens, rather than having the energy build up in the circuit, it flows back to the ground and turns off the circuit and pending explosion.

Imagine now, you are that appliance, you have been receiving all kinds of negative and positive signals. Something goes wrong in your life and now these charges are building up inside of you. Unseen to others perhaps, but they are there, caught in your circuitry.

When contact is made, with another “conductor”, sparks fly and an explosion and potential fire erupts.

But what if, your grounding wire were firmly attached to an external housing of LOVE thereby allowing love to shut down any circuits from blowing?

Imagine love being your grounding wire. The source of not only your power to shine, but also you ability to sort through positive and negative charges and malfunctions in your life. Love, as the grounding rod or copper water pipe of your life .

Oh, the power of love.

May we be healthy plants with strong roots, firmly established in love. May we also be those lights who are able to withstand overloaded circuitry malfunctions because our ground wire is in love.

What the world needs now is love, the power of love. Love flowing in us, through us, from us.

Cheers to you.

The Sounding Alarm

Sunday Sermon 9.26.20

I had gone into the kitchen from the patio, where I had just lit the grill, and after a moment of preparing the meat, my ears were being pierced by the sounding of our smoke alarm. The first to sound was the one in the hall, then harmony was added when the bedroom alarm joined in. As I turned in response, all I could see was smoke.

What ensued next was a series of activities meant to reduce the smoke and have the alarm stop. We succeeded and without the fire department’s assistance, I’m happy to say.

Our alarm works. We now know because it forced us to take action.

Alarms sound for different reasons. It could be the smoke alarm signifying you are about to be overcome by carbon monoxide; the beep, beep, beep, notifying you that the batteries in your device are low; or the high sounding whoop, whoop telling you it is time to evacuate.

Oh, and lets not forget those alarm lights too, you know, like the ones on the dashboard of our car. (The one’s I often ignore)

The purpose of alarms are to alert people to potential danger. So it is important to know two things when they sound or light up.

  1. What does it mean?
  2. What should I do?

I spend a good amount of time at our harbor and often hear the fog horn. If I am in the slip and hear it, I look around to see where the fog is and decide what my next steps are. Am I gonna stay or is it time to head home.

If I am on the water, in the harbor, on the SUP, dinghy, or Lady Debra and hear the alarm, I do the same. But now I have to maneuver both me, those with me and the vessel safely back to the slip.

If I’m out on the ocean and I hear the alarm, I am probably not surprised because I have already seen and been in the fog. However, I am very “concerned” now because my visibility is impaired and we have to get back into port – safely. Truthfully, I am very stressed.

Realizing what it means and what to do are vital when the alarm sounds.

In the world today, there is a spiritual alarm sounding, who’s purpose is to alert people to potential danger. It is sounding on every continent and in every country.

It is calling all to return to the Lord. Turn away from sin and turn back to Jehovah and His ways.

  • Joel 2:1 – Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm. Let all the inhabitants tremble.
  • Isaiah 58:1 – Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression.
  • Hosea 5:8 – Blow the horn , sound the alarm…
  • Jeremiah 6:17 – I set watchmen over you, saying, “Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!”

From voices all over America (and other nations) we are hearing the sound of the trumpet, the alarm. We are hearing the call to assemble, to pray, to march, to lift up a standard, to raise our voices, to praise – for the returning of our nation to God.

Today, even as I write, there is a gathering in Washington DC, on the Mall – the call, RETURN to the Lord. Right about now too, Franklin Graham and thousands of others are gathering to march through the streets of DC, sounding the alarm to return.

The alarms are sounding folks. Look up, see the smoke.

What does it mean for you? What is the alarm notifying YOU of? What import does it have to you right now. Ask yourself. What do these alarms mean to me?

What follows then, is what do I need to do? What action do I need to take before I am dead, having succumbed to the coming danger?

What does it mean to return to the Lord?

God created me and you for relationship. When we turn to him we enjoy the over – the – top abundance that life in him provides. John 10:10 In his presence we experience fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

He leads us, teaches us and stores up goodness for us. Isaiah 48:17; Psalm 31:19

Because to those who receive him, he gives the right to be called the children of God, we operate in His authority and peace. John 1:12

He provides everything we need. Psalm 23; And he will do even beyond what we can imagine, if we trust in Him. Ephesians 3:20

He preserves our life and keeps our feet from slipping. Psalm 66:8-12

In the presence of our enemies, he provides what we need. Psalm 23:5

These few ideas barely scratch the surface of what life in Him is like. Living a dedicated life to Jesus and yielding to His ways brings life. Choosing to follow Him is life. Danger averted. Life in progress.

Will you return?

Do you hear the sounding alarm?

What does it mean to you? How will you respond?

Go with God.

I Know a Cure

” The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears or the sea.”

Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)

This quote, made famous by an inaccurate Reader’s Digest article in 1934, has rung true through the decades.

As the logic goes, the three best ways to face and overcome life’s difficulties are:

  • working hard physically
  • crying
  • visiting the ocean

Another favorite quote is:

Saltwater heals everything.

In fact, it does promote healing. Salt forces the liquid in cells to move out of the body when it comes in contact with them. So, if those liquids are bacterial, they will be forced out – performing a cleaning of sorts.

How many of you have done a salt water rinse in your mouth or for a sore throat? Or perhaps you have used a saltwater solution on a wound area?

Why? Because salt kills bacteria and is a natural disinfectant that helps your body heal itself.

I know a cure – salt.

In ancient Africa, the salt-gold trade was standard. Gold was mined south of the Sahel and traded for salt from the desert. This trade made for an active trade route which made Ghana, Mali and Songhai large and powerful West African kingdoms. (Wow, I remember 7th grade History. Yeah!)

It always seemed like an odd exchange to me. But the key is demand. Isn’t that always a key?

Gold had little value if they weren’t able to eat their meat and survive. Salt had little value if they had no means to buy goods. So, gold-salt trade ensued and demands were met.

I know a cure – salt.

Let’s talk about salt.

I believe we have a salt shortage nowadays. Not of Sodium Chloride, NaCl, but of “salt of the earth” type people. For those of you too young to remember that phrase, a “salt of the earth person” was one who could be characterized as:

  • respectable
  • reliable
  • valuable
  • representing the very best in people
  • useful
  • having integrity
  • having received a very high compliment

This person, like the chemical compound salt, does not change. They are stable. Valuable. Dependable. Values oriented.

I know a cure – salt.

Most of us have heard the list of things that salt is used for, but they do bear repeating and review.

Salt –

  • brings out flavor
  • draws water out
  • cures food
  • creates traction
  • inhibits yeast growth
  • preserves
  • creates thirst
  • is a disinfectant
  • absorbs tremendous amounts of heat
  • has high melting point
  • lowers the freezing point

Salt doesn’t change. Yet, it becomes tasteless the more it is diluted. Take a cup of water and add a teaspoon of salt – you won’t drink it, it is too salty. But take that same teaspoon of salt and drop it into a giant vat of water – I bet you won’t even notice it.

Salt is a change agent. It is meant to change the things it comes in contact with; to draw out what is not healthy or needed, to preserve what is nutritious, to enhance flavor, to bring stability. It is meant to keep things fresh, and season the unsavory.

For today’s purposes, I would say that there are two types of salt.

Salt that is useful. It serves the purposes listed above.

Salt that is useless. This is salt that has become diluted and tasteless; it is ineffective, useless and adulterated. This salt is swept into the streets, no longer good for anything except to be trampled under foot.

Salt that has been diluted, has become complacent, or changes with every rainfall of ideology is useless, good for nothing. It has no flavor. It is not an agent of change.

Salt is such an agent of change, we even see its impact on some of our words.

Our word “salary”, the payment of currency for a job is associated with salt mine workers receiving their “salarium”. (sal – the Latin word for salt)

In Britian, the suffix “wich” means that it was once a source of salt. Example – Sandwich, Norwich.

I know a cure – salt.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

The Gospel of Mark, chapter 9:50

You are the salt of the earth. How is your saltiness?

Go, bring flavor, taste, stability, and all of the things listed above to your world. Be salty. Make people want a drink of what you have and come back for more. Be the salt of the earth type woman or man. The world needs us.

I know a cure – you.

Cheers to you.

The Head of the Year

Developing Discernment Series
Sunday Sermon 9.18.20

This weekend marks the Jewish New Year and is celebrated by Rosh Hashanah. It will be ending the Hebrew year 5780 and entering into 5781. (2020 to 2021). Rosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year”.

This is important to understand as we are seeking to develop discernment and understand the times in which we live. What is happening around us are not simply events set in motion by human action or inaction. They are related to and in fulfillment of a great, plan and purpose.

It is vital to understand, distinguish, and yes, discern what is going on.

In previous blogs, we have spoken about having our senses awakened and being able to discern with our eyes, feelings, taste and smell.

Today, we will conclude this series by speaking about using our mouth/words in discerning.

It is no small “coincidence” that the year 5780 introduced the decade of the mouth. 2020 and 5780 began a new decade, one in which the mouth would be preeminent. (Hebrew numbers and letters have word associations, values and symbols that support these things.)

And what have we seen happening in the decade of the mouth?

  • masks to muzzle the mouth
  • voices silenced
  • interactions prohibited
  • The Word attempted to be shut up
  • churches banned from meeting and singing
  • gatherings forbidden

Stadium gatherings that were planned this year, all over the world, for Gospel advancing and awakening had to be cancelled.

It takes little discerning to process this as a spiritual assault. There is an evil force seeking to silence the mouth and strip it of its power. But why?

Because the mouth DOES HAVE POWER. Your words have power. The Word of God is powerful and effective. And if that power can be rendered impotent, then that evil, spiritual force believes it has won and often convinces many there is no hope.

Your mouth is powerful. Look at what the bible says about it:

  • Proverbs 18:21 – the tongue has the power of life and death
  • James 3:5-6 – the tongue is a small part of the body but it makes great boasts; the tongue is a fire, it sets the whole course of one’s life on fire
  • Matthew 12:36 – I tell you every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment
  • Matthew 12:27 – the words you say will either acquit or condemn you
  • James 3:10 – blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth, surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right
  • 1 Peter 3:10 – if you want to see happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies
  • Matthew 4:1-11- Jesus overcame the devil’s temptations and words with The Word of God & said man does not love by bread alone, but by every word of God
  • Hebrews 4:12- the word of God is living and active and sharper than a double-edge sword, piercing between joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents if the heart

There is power in the words that we speak and these are the days in which we must use and choose our words wisely! We are not to be silenced.

We must allow the Lord to put his words in our mouth. Jesus did this, the Apostles did this and the Old Testament prophets did this. They submitted their mouth (along with their mind and will) to God and His Word, asking for his words to be put in their mouth.

Read it – Jeremiah 1; Isaiah 51 & 59; Luke 21; 2 Peter 1; Paul in most of his epistles; John 1.

Even in heaven, what do we see?

“I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him…He is dressed in a robe dripped in blood, and his name is The Word of God.”

Revelation 19:11-21

When it is all said and done, at the end of all our time on the earth, what will remain is The Word of God. The Word of God will triumph forever.

“The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

1 Peter 1:25

So what are we doing with our mouth? What are we saying?

Stop now, take a private, personal inventory of what has come from your mouth in the last couple of hours? Yes, you’ve been working at your daily duties, but in between, around, before, amid and after; what comes from your mouth? (not to mention your thoughts…)

What words have been released? Life? Death? Encouragement? Peace? Compassion?

For us Jesus followers, what Word of God has come from our mouth? Have we spoken it? Prayed it? Declared it? Stood on it? Meditated on it?

For all of us, do we know it? Do we know the Word of God? Do we spend quality time reading and or studying it?

His word in our mouth is as powerful as Genesis 1, when He created all things. His word in our mouth, at the right time, will bring victory. His word coming from our mouth and anchored to love will change not only our world but THE world.

Those of us seeking to walk in discernment must learn to apply the Word of God to every situation and speak it forth.

We are about to enter the year 5781/2021, and although we remain in the decade of the mouth, we now enter the year of the teeth – 21.

Teeth in scripture represent judgment, rebellion, sin; so there are no assurances that the year ahead will be absent what we have seen in 2020, I’m sorry.

The assurances we do have are in the power of the Word of God to stay us, anchor us, stabilize us, cover us, use us, empower us, equip us and release us to stand in victory.

Utilizing the Jewish custom of reading the Psalm that corresponds to the birthday you are turning, 5781 – chapter 81 of Psalms says,

“I am the Lord your God; who brought you out of Egypt. OPEN WIDE YOUR MOUTH AND I WILL FILL IT.”

Psalm 81:10

Be that discerning one who knows what to say, when to say it; who knows when and how to apply the Word of God to the situation and does so with the authority and the power of heaven.

Be that one who knows the will of the Father in heaven and brings it down on earth with your words.

Don’t allow your mouth to be muzzled, it is time to speak forth, release life, truth, hope and peace- all found in the Word of God. It is time to live the very things we are speaking and speak the very things we are living. It’s time to move things from our heart and head and into every corner of our lives. It’s time to make the Word of God visible in and through our lives via words.

Dust off that Bible, open up that APP, and get into the Word deeper than ever before. It is your life and victory in the days that lie ahead.

Through this coming year and beyond, you will need your senses activated and in tune with the Word of God to be able to discern effectively what is happening. I trust these studies have helped in some way.

In closing, perhaps you will want to join in the Rosh Hashanah, New Year celebration by dipping an apple in honey as a symbol of the ultra sweet year we trust God will grant us.

Shanah Tovah, have a good year.

Go with God

Your Amazing…

Eyes

Helen Keller, who lost her eyesight and hearing to scarlet fever, as a toddler of nineteen months is quoted as saying,

“Of all the senses, sight must be the most delightful.”

Helen Keller

Would you agree? Disagree?

Helen Keller, with the patience and expertise of Anne Sullivan not only overcame her blindness, deafness and muteness but developed her sense of touch so sensitively that she “listened to music” via the vibrations in the air and things around her.

She also developed her sense of taste and smell so acutely that she was able to gather more info through her limited senses than we probably do with our five senses. And yet, she had no eyesight.

Helen eventually went on to become the first deaf-blind person to earn a college degree. She is amazing!

“I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which is to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a man-made world.” “It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.”

We see, but do we have vision?

Our eyes are amazing. They provide vision of the world around us, and also reveal if we’re happy, tired, down, or confused and they even serve as “windows to the soul”.

Allow me to take you through a quick review of how exactly our amazing eye works. (Thanks to my own refresher course at livescience.com.) Then I’ll tie it all together with some interesting applications for you. Hang in there.

We humans have a “camera-type” eye. Just like a camera lens focuses light onto film, our cornea focuses light onto our retina, that big screen at the back of our eyeball. The cornea is transparent and is at the front of your eye to help focus the incoming light.

The iris, you’ll remember is that part that gives you your eye color. It is ring-shaped and it has an adjustable opening called the pupil. The pupil controls just exactly how much light enters the eye. It has to adjust to let the light in.

The colorless, transparent lens is located behind the pupil and focuses the light onto the screen of your retina. (Aren’t you glad we don’t have to remember all this before we see anything? It just happens, we have sight, we have an amazing eye.)

Inside that eyeball chamber are two different kinds of jelly, liquid type substances. The aqueous humor and the vitreous humor. (Can you guess the application of these two? 🙂 ha ha)

Of course, there are muscles involved inside the eye, too. The ciliary muscles for example, hold the lens and must both relax (pull and flatten the lens) and contract (thicken the lens) for far away and up close sight.

Review is almost done.

On the retina are millions of light sensitive cells called rods and cones, which differentiate between us seeing colors or black and white. When the light hits them it is converted to an electrical signal that travels to the brain via the optic nerve.

The brain then accepts that electric signal and changes it into images for us to see. Phew!!!! Review done.

Seriously, I could say nothing else and I think we’d be challenged and reminded just how amazing our eyes are, right? How perfectly designed. How intricate. How complex, having liquids and electric signals in the same spot without loss of power. How significant each part is and vital for sight to be effective. If a part of the eye anatomy is defective, sight is hindered, disabled or lost. For perfect clarity and vision, all parts of the eye must be fully functional.

The same can be said for the clarity of our other vision. By that I mean our “world view”, how we see the world around us. Not just anatomical seeing. The “eyes” through which we see what is happening around us.

Check out these practical tips for clear eyesight in these days, that I have drawn from our look at the amazing eye:

  1. Cornea – we need to focus on the light. Let the light in, focus on it not the darkness
  2. Lens – we must fight to stay transparent, stop trying to hide or cover up what we are feeling
  3. Pupil – we can and must control what we allow into our lives. We give things an opening and we decide how much to let in. Put controls in place in your life.
  4. Aqueous and vitreous humor – LAUGH! Find joy. Seek humor, make people laugh, laugh yourself. It is a medicine that we need a double dose of in these days.
  5. Ciliary muscles – to see things in the distance we must relax. Pull back, flatten out. Learn to relax and not jump too far ahead. To see things up close we need to have a bit more thick skin. Thicken our lens, be tough and we will see more clearly.
  6. Retina – seeing color is determined by millions of very, very sensitive cells; and those cells are responsible for sharp, clear vision. Our vision of color will sharpen as we are sensitive to those around us.
  7. Signal conversions – remember that everything we see has been converted to appear as an image we see. The brain makes translations for us and helps us make sense of what we are seeing.

We have an amazing eye who’s function is to help us see clearly. Today, at the very least I trust that your appreciation for your vision has been boosted.

Yet, beyond that, I hope that you are able to take away a more tangible lesson from the eye to apply and use to help you see more clearly in these days.

“It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.”

You’re amazing and so are your eyes.

Cheers to you.

How’s Your Sense of Smell and Taste

Developing Discernment Series
Sunday Sermon 9.12.20

I find it totally fascinating that on the list of symptoms for Covid19 is the loss (sometimes permanent) of smell and taste. Vanderbilt University tells us that up to 80% of people who test positive for the virus have complaints of taste and smell loss.

That same study goes on to say, based on their evidence, those who suffer such loss will experience a milder onset of the virus, yet those without any loss of smell or taste “appear to have a worse disease course”. Hmmm.

We all remember that “taste and smell are separate senses with their own receptor organs, and yet, they are intimately entwined.” (Brainfacts.org) Those organs send different and separate signals and those signals will eventually converge and allow us to detect the flavors in foods.

“Just as sound is the perception of changes in air pressure and sight the perception of light, tastes and smells are the perception of chemicals in the air or in our food.” (Brainfacts.org)

Get that? Smells are the perception of things in the air… The spiritual implications are clear, here.

Hence, we have the phrase, often with our head shaking, no, “Something doesn’t smell right”, or “I smell a rat”, or “we’ve got to sniff this out”.

We are talking about developing discernment, with the emphasis today on our senses of taste and smell. In real life, having the ability and perception to sniff out the afore mentioned rat. Perceiving in the air around us that something just isn’t right, it smells rotten. We’ve got a bad taste in our mouth.

You’ve used those phrases, haven’t you? You have identified discernment. That urging to use that spiritual sense inside you, prompted by Holy Spirit to help lead you and guide you into all truth.

I’m not going off some spiritual deep end here, there’s plenty of biblical support for these truths about discernment. Check out these passages:

  • 2 Cor. 2:14 – he spreads the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere
  • Job 6:30 – can my mouth not discern malice?
  • Ps. 119:103 – your words are sweet to my taste
  • SS 2:3 – the Lord touched my mouth
  • Jer. 1:9 – the Lord put his words in my mouth
  • 1 Cor. 12:10 – to another the distinguishing of spirits
  • Hos. 14:9 – who is discerning, let him understand

Our spiritual smell and taste help us to distinguish good and evil. They work together to help us perceive the atmosphere around us, and get a taste for what is happening.

They pick up signals just as the nose and tongue pick up chemicals. Those signals then, are offered in prayer to the Lord, asking for his clarity, understanding and knowledge. And the Lord in his faithfulness will make clear what we are sensing.

Bottom line friends, allowing our senses to be awakened and alerted to spiritual things is nothing short of the New Testament pattern. Read the Book of Acts, pay attention to what the Holy Spirit did, said, and used people to do, say and reveal. Dreams, visions, wonders, healings, resurrections, miracles, earthquakes, bold explanations, stonings, beatings, trances, angelic visitations, riots, church growth, persecution, government interference, unquenchable faith, casting out demons, turning the world upside down.

I AM IN!! I WANT IT! There’s no more exciting way to live, than being in tune with the Father, and listening to his voice by means of Holy Spirit within us, and having His Word, the Bible as the foundation for everything we do, say, know, and follow.

The Apostle Paul tells us that there are many gifts that Holy Spirit gives, and one of them is – “the gift to discern what the spirit is speaking.” 1 Cor. 12:10 TPT

So my prayer for you echoes Paul’s, as found in Galatians 5:16 – “Walk by the Spirit…” and ” Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” 5:25 Let’s live in a place and way that we can discern the spirit speaking to us.

Discernment is needed everyday to help us distinguish between God, Satan and the world, and to warn others. We must train ourselves to walk in it and exercise it. Heb. 5:14

In my simplistic discernment, I find it simply amazing that even amid this Covid19 mess, the evil one is seeking to rob people of their sense of taste and their sense of smell. That is not coincidental nor are they unrelated symptoms. It is a spiritual signal that we need to be picking up on.

There are so many of those signals around us. Are you picking up on them?

How is your spiritual sense of taste and smell?

Go with God.

What Do You See?

It was my son, the artist who first taught me about “negative space” in art work. I was interested then and I am interested now.

“Negative space” is the space around and between the subjects of an image. It is considered most effective and evident when the space around the subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting shape.

Here’s a classic example to help you visualize it:

what do you see?
vase? 2 faces?

In the 1980’s, I was working for a very young company based in Memphis, who’s goal was to ship packages overnight everywhere in the world. They wanted to beat out UPS and USPS. The CEO’s name was Fred Smith and we affectionately called him Uncle Freddy.

In 2000 they changed their logo to this, one that I believe nearly everyone has seen:

They changed it to utilize the negative space between the E and the x. What do you see?

There between the E and the x is a white arrow, pointing to the right, and is meant to represent the idea of moving forward with speed and precision, much like the FedEx brand.

Brilliant use of negative space, right? Had you noticed it before?

Below I am going to insert several logos, most of which are familiar. Study them, and not just the negative space, what do you see?

In each of these there is more to see than meets the eye, there is more to the message.

  • Wendy’s – look at her collar. It spells MOM. Home and family, are Wendy’s priorities.
  • Baskin Robbins – pink lettering reveals the number 31 – because they have 31 flavors. (that’s what I still call them to this day)
  • LG – the round, red circle is designed to be a face with the L and the nose and the G encircling it the outline of the face. Bringing humanity to machines.
  • Tostitos – delish chips for sure. Did you notice the “i” is a small table, it has salsa on it; the dot of the “i” is a chip, and surrounding the table (i) the 2, t’s are designed to look like people. The messaging, Tostitos are for sharing.
  • WHAT DO YOU SEE?
  • Formula 1 racing – easy to see the negative space 1 speeding away
  • Hershey’s kisses – hidden in the logo is another kiss. Can you find it? It is between the K and the I… see it? Message – another kiss is hidden in there
  • Goodwill – I always saw the smiley face in the left corner, but I never realized it was meant to also be another g… 2 g’s making the goodwill point.

These types of brain teasers I have always enjoyed. I’m hoping that you are too.

But there is another message too, and I’ll share it after this next and last set of logos. Look at them, what do you see?

  • Apple – we all know this one. True story, it is designed to represent when Eve took the bite from the “apple” and received knowledge (of good and evil.)
  • MLB baseball team the Milwaukee Brewers. A baseball glove with MB
  • Toyota’s logo of interlocking ovals shapes every alphabet letter of the company’s name
  • Pinterest- we have all seen this one, right? The P is a pin.
  • Toblerone – featuring the Matterhorn Mountain of Switzerland, has a hidden bear in the mountain symbolizing it is made in the “city of bears”
  • Sun Mircosystems – sun spelled out in the microchip, facing every direction
  • Hope for African Children Initiative – HACI – not only does it appear to be the continent of Africa but the outline is actually created by contours of two people – an adult and a child

So, what do you see?

What did you see before some of the messages were revealed? Did you see the entire, intended message?

Today, I am challenged by the fact that not everything we see is clearly understood. I am challenged to search for the underlying messaging, the hidden messages, if you will.

I am confident, there is more to it than meets the eye and the discerning will see beyond the curtain and realize just who is pulling the strings and levers in this land of oohs and aahs.

What do you see?

Cheers to you.

I Gotta Feeling

Sunday Sermon 9.5.20
Developing Discernment Series

Yes, I stole today’s title from will.i.am and The Black Eyes Peas. Woohoo. (Some of you are hearing it play now in your head, right? Go ahead, let it play out, then continue reading.)

As we continue to look at developing discernment in our senses, today we move from the senses of hearing and seeing to that physical sensation of touch, or we could also call it, our feelings.

Remember, the book of Hebrews tells us of a people who have have learned, or have trained their senses to discern both good and evil. (5:14)

So, how can we train our feelings to discern?

Feelings. those pesky things that often overwhelm us, fool us, and ignite us, can be good and controlled on one hand, and be negative, demanding and out of control on the other hand. How can they be trained and exercised for good?

We are triune beings like our Creator/Father, we are body, soul and spirit; and we know our feelings come from the soul part of us which is comprised of our mind, will and emotions.

That ole soul part can be problematic. Within it we find all of our emotions, all of our feelings, all of our thoughts, our conscience, our intuition, and our “gut” – that place where “I got a feeling”.

Because we experience our feelings consciously, and they are often triggered by events, it is so easy for their influence to be driving us. It is so easy for us to be driven by a feeling that may or may not be of God or His Spirit.

And let’s address too, our past experiences, prejudices, and traumas and admit that they too, affect our feelings.

What you have is a powder keg of explosive potential, for good, and for evil.

Hence, the desperate need to develop discernment over our feelings.

I have heard many people say, “I gotta go with my conscience”. (my inner feelings). Here’s the problem with that. Our conscience is determined by our life experiences and influences and therefore can become polluted.

1 Timothy 1:5 says that faith and a good conscience go hand in hand. In other words, without faith in God operating in your life, you will not have a godly, or good conscience.

Titus 1:15 tells us that to the pure all things are pure but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.

The New Testament is full of this principle:

If you feed on the Word – you will obey God. If you feed on the world you will disobey God.

Therefore, your conscience cannot be trusted to lead you to God/good unless it is filled with the Word and the Spirit. That goes too for “your gut”, your intuition, your hunches and your feelings.

Bottom line, the Holy Spirit is an actual person. Not an “it”. One of his many jobs is to work in the lives of believers and their conscience to notify them of sin, to see to it that no one (or thought, or feeling) takes that believer captive. Colossians 2:8

The Holy Spirit will lead and guide us. He will convince us. He will teach us to discern between our feelings and those prompted by Himself.

The Holy Spirit is a person. He does not evolve. Cannot be conditioned. Cannot be deceived.

Yet, our conscience, our feelings can. They evolve, are conditioned and can be deceiving.

Charles Stanley teaches that there are these types of consciences:

  • good 1 Tim. 1:19
  • struggling 1 Cor. 8:7-12
  • soiled Tit. 1:15
  • seared 1 Tim. 4:2

No matter the number, or the levels, the point is that our conscience, our feelings must be washed by the Word of God and submitted to God for them to be relied upon for guidance.

God wants to speak to us and will do so in any way He chooses and if He is to use our feelings effectively, they must be yielded to Him and cleansed of our own leanings.

God has given us feelings and emotions because He has them. We are made in His image. Therefore, He wants us to feel as He does. To be moved with what moves Him. To be broken with what breaks His heart, to be moved with mercy, justice and compassion as He is.

We cannot be effective in discerning the Spirit of God if we are tied up in the knot of our own feelings and emotions. He cannot reveal His Father’s heart to us if our heart is overgrown with weeds of hurt, distrust, and insensitivity.

Our heart must be tended to, groomed, softened and healed. Our heart must be submitted to God because from it flows everything that we are. Prov. 4:23

From our healed and tuned heart will flow the promptings of the Spirit and our faith will arise to follow that “feeling” – that feeling of the Spirit of God touching a man or woman with the very heart of God. Those feelings that have been trained to align with The Word of God and the heart of the Father.

Those feelings that reflect the influence of God as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal. 5:22-23

All the other feelings have been trained to submit to the Word, and so we can quickly distinguish good from evil, wrong from right, God’s will from man’s will. We can feel Him inside of us, directing us and teaching us, we can hear His voice and feel His presence.

That heart, that person – is a powder keg of explosive potential for good!

That is the one to whom discernment will come, because their senses have been trained by reason of much use.

Again, to quote will.i.am :

“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday, Saturday, Saturday to Sunday.”

Let those days be the ones that you discern a feeling…(from God).

Go with God.

Times are Changing

Sometimes it’s kinda fun to look back, especially when you can laugh at what you remember. Do you remember these?

Times are changing! Right!?

Sometimes the change is gradual and unintentional, other times change is targeted, and opposed. Consider the following that were inventions to target change yet they were criticized, opposed and spoken against when they were revealed:

  • Automobiles – in 1902, they were scorned and the leaders said, “the prices will never be low enough”
  • Liquid nail polish – in 1917, many doubted its usefulness
  • Talkies – movies in 1928 had no sound. When sound was introduced, the actors declared “talking doesn’t belong in pictures” it will be too distracting
  • Cheeseburgers – In 1934, in CA when cheese was added to beef, it was considered “just another crazy California idea”
  • Personal computer – those in the field agreed, there was “no reason anyone would want one.”

My, how times have changed.

Some changes really do stick around. Like these changes that are turning 40 years old this year – they were introduced in 1980 and are still with us; even bigger and (mostly) better:

Times are changing.

We are creatures designed to live in the present. We cannot live in the past, nor can we live in the future. Yet, our past affects our present and our future.

Our mind seeks possibilities yet it resists change.

In these tenuous times of change, what changes will be temporary and funny to look back on?

What changes will continue to be opposed? Which will be defeated by opposition and criticism? Which will overcome and change our world?

Which changes will be around another 40 years and make make our world a better place?

Times are certainly changing…

Cheers to you.

Tune In

Sunday Sermon 8.29.20
Developing Discernment Series

We are enveloped 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by radio signals. These radio waves are used for fixed and mobile communication, broadcasting, navigation and many other applications.

They are the lowest frequency waves in the electromagnetic spectrum, and travel at the speed of light. Their characteristics can be long waves and cover the Earth very consistently, or shorter waves and reflect off of the ionosphere and travel around the world; or they could even be shorter wavelengths that bend or reflect very little and travel only in the line of sight.

Those signals that envelope us unawares, are a vivid picture of the voice of God that is constantly speaking to us, 24/7.

What is needed? We need to tune in. Check the receiver. Turn on and tune in to His voice.

“It’s the nature of God to speak”

A.W. Tozer

You see, God wants to have fellowship with you and He wants you to hear him.

We have to find His frequency and tune in to it. When we do we recognize His voice and He then is able to lead us. John 10:4

To hear the voice of God, we must listen for it. It is a conscious and intentional choice we make. A decision to find the frequency of God in the midst of a loud, busy and distracting world.

Revelation 3:20 tells us that Jesus is knocking at the door of our heart and the first step we must take is to actually hear that knocking. Not ignore it or allow it to blend in with the noise of the world.

… if anyone hears my voice and opens the door…”

Rev. 3:20

That’s a big if!

The choice is ours to open the door of communication with Him. To recognize His knocking, His voice, His signals surrounding us. To tune in to His frequency.

God is a Spirit, and therefore communication with Him is Spirit to spirt, not brain to brain. John 4:24 Our spirit then communicates what we hear to our mind. Some call this “an inward witness” others a thought or prompting.

The Old Testament prophet called it “the still, small voice”; another translation says, “a gentle whisper”. 1 Kings 19:12

God is a god of communication, words with power. Here are some ways His voice has been heard and recorded in the bible.

He can speak in the thunder of creation, a trumpet blast, loud voice, many waters, in the wind, fire, earthquake, angels, dreams and even inaudibly.

The key is, learning to discern his voice from others. Learning to tune in to His frequency.

His promise is that if we seek Him, we will find Him. Jeremiah 29:13 Applying it to this lesson, if we seek His frequency and recognize it as such, we will find it.

If we call out to Him, He will answer. Jeremiah 33:3

If we hear Him, He will warn us. Psalms 81:8

A key to hearing Him, and tuning in, is being still. Psalm 46:10 It is often in the stillness that we hear His voice. Much like Elijah heard His voice in the gentle whisper, and not in the wind, earthquake or fire. But when he did hear it, he took action. He covered himself and went out. Then the voice kept on speaking to Him. And he was tuned in, picking up the God signals, and hearing the voice of God.

There are lots of other signals that we must tune out and discern their source. We get signals from our own emotions, heart and desires; forces outside of God, from the demonic; and from the Word and Spirit of God.

These all must be discerned, identified and recognized as God’s frequency, God’s voice or another.

Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice and another they will not follow.” John 10:5

As believers, our discernment is based on these foundations: The Word of God, prayer, meditating on His Word and acts, being still before Him and listening for that “inward witness” from His Spirit to our spirit; that gentle whisper from Him.

The signals of God’s voice are all around us, bouncing off Earth’s surfaces and reflecting through the atmosphere. They travel fast and yet are low enough for us to tune in to.

They are meant for us to hear, discern, and tune in to for a clear, two way communication with Him.

“He that has ears to hear, let him hear.“ Let him tune in to the voice of God on God’s frequency, and let him discern the different voices and frequencies all around him.

Go with God.

When the Sound of the Jackhammer Becomes Normal

that blasted jackhammer!

We have lived in our new home for 55 days now and for almost every one of those 55 days our understanding of the “quiet lil’ community” we moved into has been severely skewed.

This is normal? Really? This is not what we were expecting or promised!

I have wondered if we should reset our normal, or as Physicists call it address “renormalization”.

The blasted jackhammer seems to never stop!

the sound of the jackhammer

I don’t want this to be my normal, and scientists say that it will be accepted as resetting normal “unless it registers as a signal to rise above the background.” Well, I’m telling you it IS registering above the background, that’s for sure.

But that has had me thinking… where else in my life is there a signal that needs to register above the normal, background of my life? Are there signals that I am missing either willfully or inadvertently?

The jackhammer sound does not belong with such frequency in my happy lil home and sweet lil neighborhood. But am I missing other signals, other signals that:

  • are deafening
  • are irritating, annoying
  • don’t belong
  • are disrupting my safe environment and atmosphere
  • make it hard for me to do what I need
  • make me have to readjust my plans
  • infringe on our happiness and pleasure
  • cause me to view the source with contempt

All of these have been effects of the loud and obnoxious jackhammer in my life. The jackhammer is the cause and these are the effects.

Yet, I know there are other causes/signals in my life too, having the same effects.

And the truth is, I have absolutely NO INTEREST is resetting normal or renormalization!

So unless I decide take the signal from that proverbial frog and jump out of the boiling, water pot, I will be cooked, and life as I know it will end forever.

Remember, that classic frog when placed in cool water with heat signals warming up gradually, didn’t even notice his life was ebbing away until he had no sensations at all. By then he was dead to it all and noticed nothing changing around him.

things are heating up around us

He had the sense to recognize the signal of hot water not being his friend and used his fatty, frog legs to get himself out of there and not become someone’s snack.

There are times when it is important to not let distractions around you get you off track; to just forge ahead. But there are other times, when not noticing the loud and obnoxious sounds around you is terminal and will become a slippery slope in the loss of so much more for you, your family and friends.

I trust that in your life, right now, you will be able to identify the loud and obnoxious signals/sounds that are seeking to effect your life, lifestyle, happiness and fullfillmet.

Let’s not allow them to reset our normal, but instead to be the signal that rises above the background and sounds an alarm to us that the water is boiling and our sensitivities are being deadened.

We cannot allow the sound of the jackhammer to become normal.

Cheers to you.

Eyes to See

Developing Discernment Series
Sunday Sermon 8.22.20

Continuing with our series on discernment, we will look at how our senses are used and trained to distinguish and discern spiritual things.

Today’s focus is our eyes. What we see, how we see and developing our spiritual eyesight.

“There’s more to it than meets the eye” as the saying goes, is a pretty accurate description of what developing discernment with our eyes is like. It is the awareness that there is something else going on here, beyond what we are seeing.

I’m certain that each of you have had that “hunch” at some point in your life. You know, the time when the reaction was waaaaay off balance from the statement or question. Maybe it was with a friend, child, or partner, but you had no problem discerning that there was way more to that response than meets the eye.

Perhaps even in business settings, or world event contexts you have realized there’s something else going on here. Yep, that is part of discernment and yep, you’re right. Something else is going on.

Now to distinguish just what, though.

Remembering that there are two kingdoms we are influenced by and live under, we must learn to see them both, and recognize when one is usurping authority from the other. We learn to recognize good and evil, light and dark.

The Apostle Paul taught us:

  • we walk by faith not by sight 2 Cor. 5:7
  • we have not received the spirit of the world 1 Cor. 2:12-13
  • no eye has seen… but God has revealed it to us by his spirit 1 Cor. 2:9-10
  • the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened Eph. 2:18

When Paul was converted, he was literally blinded. He could see nothing for 3 whole days. Cut off from the world as he saw it, he was about to enter the Spirit realm which would teach him new things and grant him fresh revelation and perspective. His spiritual eyes would be activated, when he was prayed for by Ananias.

It is from this position that he tells us the things listed above. A position of having his spiritual eyes activated. A position of having eyes to see what the Spirit is doing.

There is a similar story in the Old Testament found in 2 Kings 6.

Elisha was a powerful and famous prophet. He and his servant were in a city that had been surrounded by enemy forces and the servant was very stressed out by it. The servant asked Elisha what they were going to do.

Elisha told him, “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” v.16 But the servant was having none of it. He didn’t see a thing! He didn’t see what Elisha saw, he only saw with his physical eyes, not his spiritual eyes like Elisha.

So, Elisha prayed for him, “Open his eyes Lord, so that he may see.” v. 17 “And he opened the servant’s eyes and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire…”

The servant’s spiritual eyes were opened, in addition to his physical eyes. There was truly more to it than met the eye. He now had the activation of his spiritual eyes.

In order for us to see into the spiritual realm, our spiritual eyes must be activated. The eyes of our heart must be focused on Him and the spiritual world.

We should expect to see with the eyes of our heart and spiritual eyes if we are maturing and growing in our daily walk with Him. Heb. 5:14

You see, our Creator wants to communicate with us. He made us for just that and sent Jesus as The Word, to reunite us with Him in that perfect relationship of open communication.

That Creator, endowed us with five senses all to be used in that open communication. Because God is a spirit, and lives in the spiritual realm, we communicate with Him in that realm. But we have to grow in the realm and learn to bring that realm down to earth. Remember the prayer – “on earth as it is in heaven”? (Of course God uses the natural realm to speak to us too. He is not limited in the way He can speak to us. But we are.)

There are plans, purposes, strategies and agendas for us to see in the heavenlies and bring down and apply here on earth. The Kingdom of Heaven will ultimately rule here on earth. How? By and through people who see with spiritual eyes and walk in the spirit realm seeing beyond the obvious into motivations and secret agendas.

This is not some weird doctrine, it is the Word.

Matt. 6:23 – the eyes are the light of the body… if your eyes are unhealthy your whole body will be full of darkness

1 Sam. 16:17 – don’t look on the outward appearance, the Lord sees not as man sees

Psalm 119:18 – open my eyes to see wondrous things

2 Cor. 4:18 – we fix our eyes on what is unseen, for what is unseen is eternal

Mark 8:22-25 – Jesus touched his eyes and opened them and he saw clearly

As we develop discernment, our desire is to have our eyes opened, to see into the spirit realm and understand what the spirit is doing.

This will spare us from false teachings, and deception and keep us anchored to The Word and our great God.

We need to be as wise as serpents in these days. Not everything we see is all there is. There is much more behind the scenes and developing discernment, starting with our spiritual eyes is one of the keys to unlock “on earth as it is in heaven.”

I’m asking the Lord to give the readers of this eyes to see.

Won’t you join me in asking for your spiritual eyes to be activated?

Go with God.

I created a bible study for this, it is attached here. Enjoy.

Retirement Report Card

It was one year ago that that I stood at the threshold of a whole, new way of life. A total change in all I had known, done, hoped for, and trusted in. It was not without tears, questions, and uncertainties that I decided to declare, “Time to refire” (not retire); it had become my theme and it surged from the deepest part of my soul.

pens from the party

We gathered together with family and friends and celebrated the past, all the while looking forward to an exciting, unknown and new future. It was such a wonderful time, surrounded by so many who had walked with me through seasons and times in my life. I was and am so blessed to be influenced by people of such quality and character.

Be careful what you declare. Be careful what you wish for. Your words are powerful and creative! Oh boy, have I been reminded of that truth through this past year.

Little did I know or understand what was to unfold as far as His plan for my “refirement”. All I knew was it was time to refire and not lay down and become a retired couch potato.

Within a week of that festive celebration, I was hired to work part-time in my favorite boutique AT THE HARBOR, which is my favorite place in Orange County. The whole story is remarkable and I still shake my head at how it worked out so perfectly – me.

Lady Debra at Dana Point Harbor

Then, around the first of the year, prompted by a desire to write and encourage people, I began my website and blog underdebrasplam.com. It has been such a rewarding opportunity for sharing and teaching and I am so absolutely grateful to you for your following and support.

My new brand

A few months into my new job, it was time for a new church too. Through a series of events and a miracle with my husband we eventually felt directed to a church in San Juan Capistrano.

After a few weeks attending there together, we knew it was the place for us to become involved. We loved what was happening there and wanted to be a part of it.

Dennis and the Pastor began a beautiful relationship of mutual respect and together we have had the joy of conversations, meetings, prayer and planning in church matters and ministry. We have been so happy and fulfilled to help and serve where needed.

In fact, I never dreamed of becoming involved again in music, praise and worship; but Someone higher than I had other plans. All those years of training and experience were not to be lost, or stored away, because it was TIME TO REFIRE!

As you know, last month we moved, only 8 miles from where we were, but again, it was a move towards refirement. We know it is all about refirement and doing what we are s’pose to be doing, sharing it here in this place.

We meet weekly with different groups and are in some ways more busy now than we have been in a long time.

new friends of my refirement

I have certainly refired!

One year ago, I faced a very uncertain and unclear future.

Today, I celebrate the hundreds of open doors, untold opportunities, joyous encounters, new possibilities, fresh energy and insight that has been mine this past year.

It is with pregnant expectancy that I peer into the next year as well, because I am convinced it is still TIME TO REFIRE.

Oh, and I am proud to say that the report on retirement is A+.

Cheers to you.

Developing Discernment

Sunday Sermon 8.15.20

Last week we spoke about the need for discernment in these days and I feel impressed to stay with that theme – DISCERNMENT for the next few “Sunday Sermons’. Therefore, today we will begin a series I’ve entitled – “Developing Discernment“.

There is an urgency in my spirit that says we must sharpen our sensitivity to what is happening, changing, being presented and being birthed in our nation and in our lives.

We must see beyond the obvious and evident and see with “spiritual eyes” what is happening. That is where developing discernment is absolutely vital.

Let’s review what discernment means, and this week, look at the biblical definitions.

Discern or it’s related forms are only used a total of 25 times in the bible. The Old Testament uses 5 different words that are translated in a form of discern and the New Testament uses 4 different words.

Taken together, the OT definitions are: to scrutinize, look intently; to hear intelligently; to know by seeing; to separate mentally, distinguish; and to see.

The NT definitions are: to separate thoroughly, in public as a channel; to scrutinize or investigate; decisive, critical or discriminate; and to test or approve.

To help fill out the definition further, here are some synonyms for discernment = sensitivity, shrewdness, insight, perception, discrimination.

And lastly, some antonyms = unperceiving, obtuse, purblind (never heard of that one), tactless.

Thank you for wading through those tall word weeds, I know they can be cumbersome to some. (I hope there are those who ponder and further study those meanings, tho’)

Developing discerning means that we learn to scrutinize, investigate and separate or distinguish with spiritually discriminative senses any given situation, word, person, or spirit.

Jesus told his disciples –

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”

Matthew 10:16

Did you notice that word, shrewd? It is a synonym for discerning.

Jesus was warning the twelve, and his warning stands for us, we are sheep among wolves in our generation and we need to be exceedingly shrewd, and discerning among the wolves.

In another place it says –

Solid food is for the mature, who have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Hebrews 5:14

That passages tells us that it is through practice and exercise that we develop discernment. Discernment is like a muscle that strengthens and becomes more defined with regular workouts.

With regular work outs our discernment muscle learns to distinguish between good and evil, truth and error, spirit and flesh, God and Satan. Left alone though, the muscle will atrophy – waste away.

But it takes more than human flexing and pumping and determination to develop our discernment muscle. The discernment that we are taking about developing requires a spiritual activation, spiritual drive and spiritual direction.

The Apostle Paul identified one of the nine gifts of the Spirit as “the gift of discerning of spirits”. 1 Corinthians 12:10 So we know it is a gift of the Spirit.

But all who are born again have received a rebirth by the Spirit and thereby can and should be Spirit led and fed. That is not a spiritual gift, per se, but a benefit of being a child of God and heir in His kingdom.

Therefore, we learn to grow in the Spirit, follow the Spirit, walk in the Spirit and discern the spirits around us. Our life on this planet should be one of developing discernment to the things of God.

I believe, in the months that lie ahead, it will be imperative for believers to understand the times (like Issachar of old) and discern what the Spirit is saying. If they don’t, they will be deceived with the rest of the unbelievers. (check out 2 Thessalonians 2 again!)

It is my prayer, that all believers be strengthened in their Spirit and learn to discern the days and times in which we live, thereby walking in full victory in the Spirit.

To that end, from now until Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 18-19) our Sunday Sermons will be on activating our five senses to discern spiritually.

If that’s your desire, won’t you join me in presenting yourself to Him this week and inviting Him to touch your eyes, ears, mouth, nose, and hands and teach you to mature in developing discernment?

Go with God.

Those darn masks

I have to chuckle each time I pick up my cell phone, with my mask on, and the facial recognition tells me I can’t be identified and I must enter my passcode.

Here we have the most elaborate and advanced mini computer ever created in our hand and it won’t work with face masks.

What’s so amusing is this is clearly stated in the Face ID set up directions, created and listed in November of 2017.

What Facial Recognition software is able to do is truly amazingly powerful. It uses a “TrueDepth” camera to analyze 30,000 invisible dots on your face and then create a depth map of your face, while at the same time creating an infrared image.

The neural engine of the bionic chip transforms that depth into a mathematical representation and compares it to the facial data that is loaded into the camera.

Voila, it is either you and you’re in or it’s not and you need your passcode.

This facial rec is s’pose to be intuitive and secure and is able to adapt to changes in your appearance and location.

The odds of a stranger picking up your phone and being able to access it with their face is 1 in 1,000,000. Add to that the fact that your phone allows 5 unsuccessful match attempts then locks, and you are said to be very secure.

Oh, and I forgot to mention it is all encrypted and protected by “Secure Enclave”. (whatever or where ever that is…)

Lastly about facial recognition, not only is it amazingly powerful but it has many uses. It is used to unlock your phone or ipad, you can make purchases, sign in and it even auto fills for you.

Obviously, facial recognition is not only used on phones. It is also used in DMV data bases, airports, Customs and Border Protection, traffic cams, police departments, Dept. of Homeland Security, retail stores, find missing persons, aid investigations and diagnose diseases, to name a few.

The seemingly infinite power of an A12 Bionic, 64-bit hexa-core ARM, high performance mobile chip is within your reach and available to you pretty much anytime you want.

And yet, it is rendered useless by those darn masks!

Hmmmm…

Reminds me of another infinite power that has abilities and uses which are available for us, all within our reach… and yet, we choose to cover ourselves with those darn masks.

Hmmm… think about it.

Cheers to you.

Give us a discerning heart

Sunday Sermon 8.8.20

“Discernment”, “discerning” are words not used frequently these days and yet, in my opinion, they are needed now more than ever.

How would you define them? Go ahead, think about it, create a simple and clear definition. Remember, though, discernment is not wisdom, understanding or knowledge; they are all different words.

It took me several attempts and mental edits to make it clear and concise in my mind. How did you do?

Here’s what the pros tell us discernment is: “the ability to judge well”. Another says, “to separate or distinguish between two or more things”.

Discernment is the ability to see clearly and decide between:

  • right and wrong
  • truth and error
  • good and bad
  • primary and secondary
  • essential and indifferent
  • permanent and transient
  • good, better, best
  • in Christian worldview the ability to think and see Biblically

Discernment is lacking and yet so vital today. It has always been so. So vital in fact, King Solomon, in about 900 BC made it his number one request from God!

“Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong”

1 Kings 3:9

What a request! He could have asked for anything. He pretty much had a blank check from God. He thought long and hard and concluded that what he needed most in his reign, life and influence was discernment.

God heard, God honored his request and God gave him more than discernment. In fact, because he asked for discernment and wisdom in order to be a good leader and distinguish between right and wrong, God said He would give him wealth and honor greater than any other king. Thus, that is why Solomon is counted as the wisest and wealthiest man of all time. BECAUSE HE ASKED FOR DISCERNMENT.

This so impacted me as a young Christian, Solomon’s request for wisdom and discernment, that I made it my life verse, goal and prayer. It is powerful.

King David also desired discernment.

Psalm 119:66 – Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I trust in your commands.

Psalm 119:125 – I am your servant, give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.

Some call discernment a 6th sense. Some call it how things look in God’s eyes.

No matter what we call it, scripturally it is called for. Today we need it. We must call for it in our lives in a greater measure.

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 – examine everything sensibility

1 John 4:1 – do not believe every spirit, test the spirits

2 Peter 1:3 – God has given us everything we need for godliness

Matthew 7:1,6 – be careful not to cast your pearls before swine

In these days, we need to be able to distinguish between truth and error, good and bad. We need to be able to discern or judge well. We need to be able to separate between things and sort and sift wisely.

Let’s join Solomon and ask God to “give us a discerning heart.”

Go with God.

Self care

With our latest technology advancements, you can find charging stations all over the place.

  • Electric vehicle charging stations at stores, gas stations, parking lots, transportation centers
  • Cell phone charging stations at airports, shopping centers, stores, stadiums, churches
  • Home charging stations in nearly every room and vehicle
  • Electric bike & scooter charges onboard or on street corners

Think about it. We cannot live, it seems, without our equipment being charged up and ready to go, so we have made places in our life to do just that, get them fully charged.

And yet, we often find that our life is running on empty and in need of a recharge. That recharge we need is called self care by many and is essential for our health.

It is vital that we pay attention to our body, but self care involves these areas too:

Self care is not selfish, no matter what that voice in your head is telling you. You are not being selfish when you are getting your rest, because in doing so you will become more energetic and be able to do more.

Self care is not a one time or rare experience, like going to the spa. Self care is essential maintenance to your well being and actually the well being of those around you. (Ask your spouse or a family member if they like you better rested or tired. 🙂 )

Self care in not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is wisdom at work in your life.

Self care is not only for some people. Everyone must find what it is that recharges them and get charged back up. Is it golf, sewing, alone time, a book, getting outside, a good movie? Find where your recharging station is and get plugged into it.

This has been my personal challenge these last couple of days. You can go and give and do and repeat until you feel yourself running near empty.

So when you see your charge being depleted, be brave, don’t deny and do what is needed to get that vital recharge.

Take care of yourself, you are essential.

Cheers to you.

Close the door

Sunday Sermon 8.1.20

Early this morning, this phrase came crashing into my heart and upon my mind, “Close the door”.

I hadn’t heard a door slam, nor had there been creatures invading us; the weather wasn’t threatening, neither were the circumstances. So why the imprint of this phrase on my psyche?

While pursuing its import, two main points developed before me.

We, adult humans are faced with 35,000 decisions each day with 226.7 of them alone, having to do with the food we eat (or don’t). That means, if we spend 7 hours sleeping each night, (and we assume no choices are made in our sleep, a BIG assumption) then, that means we make 2,000 decisions per hour or 1 decision every 2 seconds!

That’s alot of choosing, options, brain stress and distractions!

Many of those decisions are unconscious, but they are still decisions that the brain encodes 10 seconds before we even consciously, and with awareness make the actual decision. The brain has decided and then the conscious thoughts justify the decision. The decision is made in the neurocircuitry of our brain by predicting outcomes ahead of time. Then we actually make the choice in real time.

All of that research was published long before Covid and still remains true. But with Covid, those decisions have been confined to a smaller setting – our home, or the area we spend most our life in.

There are so many influences, voices, reports, demands, people, speaking or often yelling at us with directives. And what is spoken as truth this week, often morphs into something entirely different next week.

Our heads, hearts, and emotions are bombarded, battered and bruised with the onslaught information, (or misinformation) and in my view, these all are distractions, that must be cut off.

Close the Door point 1CLOSE THE DOOR on distractions that bring you anything but life, faith, hope, peace, and joy.

Turn off, stop listening daily, ignore notifications, stop feeding fear, don’t read it, refuse to own it. Don’t give place in your life to the endless, fearful distractions.

It is one of those 35,000 decisions you can make now, ahead of time and get your brain in the encoding process. Close the door to distractions.

In Matthew 6:6, Jesus told his disciples, to go into their room and CLOSE THE DOOR (and pray). He instructed them to close out distractions, shut themselves in with who really mattered, and focus on what was more important.

I am not saying to close yourself off from the world and only pray, that’s just weird and ineffective. I am saying, in order to be strong and effective in your mission on earth, you must learn to close the door on distractions while focusing on what is important.

Another place we see “close the door” in the Bible is in 2 Kings 4.

A widow, with two sons was facing creditor problems involving the seizing of her sons for repayment. She was desperate, so she sought out the prophet Elisha. She confessed to him she had nothing of value in her home (to sell) “except a small jar of olive oil.” 2 Kings 4:2

He told her to gather from her neighbors as many empty jars as she could and not just a few. Then she was to go inside her house and “shut the door” behind her and her sons, where they would then pour her oil into each empty jar that they had gathered.

She did as she was told – gathered, shut the door and poured into each jar. When there were no more jars to fill, her oil stopped flowing. Every jar had been filled and were now filling her home. She had plenty to sell, paid off the creditors, and lived off of what was left.

Close the door point 2You have all you need at home (your little bit of oil), you need to pour it out into empty vessels.

Your family and those who enter your home need what you have. You can fill them with your words, actions, kindness, encouragement, prayer, help, correction, insight, love. What you do behind the closed doors of your home is where the “anointing” starts. The outpouring of God’s spirit of love and favor – His anointing oil of the Spirit, starts at home, behind closed doors. Pour out your “little” oil there and see how you little becomes much.

It is my determination to ask the Lord to help me close the doors of distraction in my life, and work within me behind the closed doors of my home to fill up empty vessels.

I want His help in recoding my neurocircuitry and decision making prowess. I want to equip my brain with the positive and faith building data to allow it to predict the most favorable outcomes. This is a decision I have made!

Won’t you join me?

Close those doors, keep pouring out.

Go with God.

“Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents”

Although written in 1770 by British spokesman, orator and political thinker, Edmund Burke, that title could have come from our headlines today, and certainly reflects my heart and message for this blog.

It is Burke who is credited with one of the most popular quotes of all time, (even though his speech never specifically said the words.)

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

I’ll still take it, wont you? It is so good, JFK used it.

What Burke did say in his writing “Thoughts on the Cause…” was –

When bad men combine – good men must organize.”

Edmund Burke

I feel such an urgency for good men (mankind) to speak up, step up, step out, launch out, reach out, take action, refuse the trends, stay the “good” course, and as Burke said, maybe even organize. Why not? It is time!

In the words of President Grover Cleveland, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something.”

I am not running for office, nor are you most likely, but here’s the hitch- what are we standing for? Are we standing up for anything? Or have we allowed our voices to be silenced by fear, complacency, louder voices, cancel culture and censorship?

In the days of Women’s Suffrage there were suffragists and suffragettes. Suffragists believed in peaceful, constitutional campaigns for women’s right to vote. Suffragettes were activists, willing to take direct action into the community. Their motto, “Deeds not words” often led to hunger strikes and handcuffing themselves to the White House fence.

Both believed in the same thing – that women had the right to vote but they took action in different ways. The key though, they took action. The result? The passage of the 19th Amendment allowing women the right to vote. Susan B. Anthony would have been proud, after being arrested and still voting 150 times illegally. She stood up for that right long before others jumped on board and made it legal.

Being a student and lover of American history (I hear a yawn 🙂 ) I can’t help but go to dozens of examples of those who stood up in the face of “discontents”, injustices, and hardships and joined with others of like mind to push through change.

The good people voluntarily organized and took persistent action so that the evils of their day would not triumph in their society.

What would the nation/world be without these who stood up for the cause that gripped their soul, and sacrificed their own self interests for the good of the society and future generations?

Consider the following and their causes:

  • Dorthea Dix – mistreatment of the mentally ill
  • Horance Mann – education reform
  • Frederick Douglass – anti-slavery, civil rights
  • William Lloyd Garrison – abolition
  • Ida Tarabel – investigative journalism (what’s happened to that?)
  • Jane Addams – help for the poor and immigrants
  • Booker T. Washington – black education and training (peaceful)
  • WEB Dubois – black rights, NAACP (violent if needed)
  • Sojourner Truth – abolitionist
  • Harriet Tubman – anti-slavery
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson – writer, reformer
  • Caesar Chavez – farmworkers rights
  • Malala Yousafzai – Taliban awareness, women rights
  • Florence Nightingale – nursing
  • Clara Barton – founder of the Red Cross
  • Marie Curie – medicine
  • John Muir – wildlife conservation
  • Upton Sinclair – meatpacking industry reform
  • Jackie Robinson – racial equality
  • Sally Ride – space travel

The world is a better and changed place because each of these did something with the passion they felt. They joined with others and got things changed. These good humans pressed through the evil and triumphed over it. “Overcome evil with good”.

Solomon, in Proverbs warned us:

If you do nothing in times of trouble, your strength is small.

Proverbs 24:10

So, how’s your strength? These are NOT “do nothing days”. Shame on us if we are “do nothing-ers”.

I conclude my thoughts on the cause of the present discontents.

Cheers to you.