Category: Encouragement

Sharing support, courage & hope

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.