Category: Blog

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 Can Say That Again

Sunday Sermon 11.21.20

I don’t like repeating myself.

Whether it’s from forty-three years in the classroom, or because I am impatient or because people aren’t good listeners; I really hate repeating what has already been said.

Of course there are qualifiers; some things need and must be restated, and some stories bring continued joy upon retelling.

Then there is the expressing of love. Expressing love bears repeating, right? Love is well worth repeating, and in fact, must be repeatedly expressed for a healthy relationship to continue growing.

Using those thoughts as our springboard, check out these repeated phrases:

” All you Israelites, trust in the Lordhe is their help and shield. House of Aaron, trust in the Lordhe is their help and shield. You who fear him, trust in the Lordhe is their help and shield.”

Psalms 115:9-11

When recently reading these words, they jumped out to me. It was the repetition that stood out, they were repeated three times!

  • trust in the Lord” – repeated three times
  • he is their help and shield” – repeated three times

You can say that again, and again and again!

Why? Attention getting. Well, it got mine.

Then two chapters later, we find this repeated phrase:

“Let Israel say: “His love endures forever“. Let those of the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” Let those who fear him say: “His love endures forever.”

Psalm 118:2-4

Again, the phrase was repeated three times.

  • “His love endures forever” – repeated three times

You can say that again, too.

But wait, we’re not through! In the same chapter, there is another repeated phrase.

“All the nations surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. They swarmed around me like bees, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.”

Psalm 118:10-12

The repeated phrase –

  • in the name of the Lord I cut them down – repeated three times

That is alot of repetition! Is the Lord trying to help me deal with my dislike of repetition, or is there a bigger picture and message here? (Probably both.)

Here we have three passages, with at least one phrase repeated three times; and in one case, two phrases repeated three times.

That’s alot of threes!

O, The power of three.

Did you know that there is actually “a rule of three”? Not the rule of thirds as in photography, but rule of three. It suggests that words grouped together into threes are more appealing and easier to remember.

Because our brains are pattern seeking machines, they are constantly looking for meaning in all that is around us and seek to help us make sense of it and and remember what we can. Three is the smallest number we need to create a pattern and is the perfect combination of rhythm and brevity.

Research supports this and further tells us that speeches, ads and other messages that are designed with three claims will persuade, but four or more will trigger scepticism. Cool right?

Speech writers use the rule of three, we use it in conversation, listening for that list of three, as well as in our writing. (I just used it… he he)

Here are some examples that you are probably familiar with:

  • “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” – Shakespeare
  • “Government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Abraham Lincoln
  • “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Declaration of Independence
  • “Stop, look and listen.”

So, our brain likes chunks of information in threes for our short term memory. More than that requires alot more brain work.

In Biblical numerology three represents wholeness, completeness and perfection.

Whew… enough already.

What’s the point here? Three?

Nope. It is the fact that these simple, perfect and complete messages have been submitted to us three times, for our thought, growth and investigation.

Let’s go back to them:

  1. trust in the Lord
  2. he is their help and shield
  3. his love endures forever
  4. in the name of the Lord I cut them down

Each repeated three times for a reason.

Each repeated three times to help us remember. Each repeated three times to form a pattern for us. Each repeated three times to persuade us.

I am so encouraged by these phrases. You can say that again.

In the midst of my daily life, duties, and stresses I am reminded to trust in the Lord. Not myself, not my paycheck, not my understanding, and not the world system.

He is my help and shield, no matter what comes at me and my family. He will help me in every circumstance and he will provide a shield of protection to us as well.

There is nothing that can separate me from his love, no powers, forces, ideas, or laws because his love endures to me forever.

When I am faced with giant thoughts, fears, worries, stresses, jobs, events, or forces, it is in the name of the Lord that I cut them down to size. He helps me to balance, gain perspective and reduce those giants to size.

So, be encouraged today – trust the Lord because his love for you never ends, he is your help and shield, and he will help you cut your problems down to size.

Now that bears repeating!

In fact, you can say that again.

Go with God.

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.