Category: Inspiration

Peaking your desire, enthusiasm & courage to do/be something

Convincing Proofs

Easter Sunday Sermon 4.3.21

Happy Easter!

There are many instances when believers must trust and have faith- you know, that tangible substance of something unseen.

But the resurrection of Jesus is not one of those instances; for we have more details, and historical evidence regarding the few days before and after Jesus’ death and resurrection than any other figure in ancient history.

“On this, the greatest point we are not merely asked to have faith alone, for there exists overwhelming evidence, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring a verdict that the resurrection story is true.” Former Chief Justice of England, Lord Darling.

Jesus death and resurrection stands with historical factuality, not faith alone.

Luke, one of the disciples wrote of these facts and evidence –

” Dear friend, I am writing for you, … an orderly account of what Jesus, the Anointed One accomplished and fulfilled among us. Several eyewitness biographies have already been written, using as their source material the good news preached among us by his early disciples, who became loving servants of the Living Expression (Jesus).

But now I am passing on to you this accurate compilation of my own meticulous investigation based on numerous interviews and thorough research of the story of his life. It is appropriate for me to write this, for he also appeared to me so that I would assure you beyond any shadow of a doubt the reliability of all you have been taught of him.”

Luke, the Physician, disciple of Jesus, chapter 1, verses 1-4

The NIV translation puts that last phrase this way – “so that you may know the certainty of the things that you have been taught.”

Luke, the doctor in Jesus discipleship group, was a detailed historian who documented the events of Jesus’ life and left them for us in the gospel that bears his name.

Additionally, he documented the events of Jesus resurrection, ascension and the day of Pentecost when the disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit and Jerusalem was rocked by that power. We find those complete details in The Acts of the Apostles, yet another book that he wrote.

As he states, his writing is based on his own first hand, eyewitness experiences, his interviews with other eyewitnesses, and his own thorough research and investigation of primary sources. The man was there and interviewed others who were also there. They are primary sources.

Luke is telling us that we can be absolutely certain, beyond any shadow of a doubt that Jesus’ death and resurrection really happened!

“After His suffering he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.”

Acts 1:3

It is important to note that in this text, Luke is using a legal term (in the Greek), that is the strongest type of legal evidence; he is making a legal declaration of convincing proofs for the resurrection of Jesus Christ; implying the weight of evidence in a trail to prove a case.

But we need not take only his word as convincing evidence, please consider these documented, primary sources, who were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection:

  • Mary Jn. 20:16, 18
  • other women Jn. 20:9-10
  • Disciples Jn. 20:19
  • Thomas Jn. 20:24
  • 2 men on the road Mk. 16:12-13
  • Peter Lk. 24:34
  • 7 fishermen Jn. 21:1-23
  • 500 eyewitnesses 1 Cor. 15:6
  • James 1 Cor. 15:7
  • Stephen Acts 7:55
  • Paul Acts 9:5
  • John Rev. 1:10

Again, not just the empty tomb, but the actual, physical body of Jesus was seen by hundreds of people in the days following his resurrection. Firsthand, eyewitness accounts, people who spoke with him, ate with him, and watched him ascend that invisible escalator into heaven. They were staring at him, wide mouthed and in awe when the angels said to them,

“Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way.”

Acts 1:11

On this Easter, 2021, know for certain that Jesus really, actually did die and come to life after three days – JUST AS HE SAID HE WOULD. You can be certain, beyond any doubt.

The importance of the physical resurrection of Jesus is paramount to Christianity. Jesus pointed in advance to his bodily resurrection, he foretold it would happen. John 2:19 – “Destroy this temple (his body) and in three days I will raise it up.”

Dr. Norman Geisler says, ” if Christ did not raise in the same physical body, then the resurrection loses its value as evidence of proof of his claim to be God.” Jn. 8:58; 10:30

If Jesus resurrection is not historic fact then the power over death remains unbroken, sin is not atoned for and we are without hope.

But because the resurrection is an event in history, we have new life and hope in this life and the one yet to come. Consider these factual and historic events:

  • Jesus was an actual man that lived with family and friends for over 30 years
  • Pontius Pilate literally sentenced Jesus to death
  • Jesus was killed by crucifixion
  • Jesus was placed in Joseph’s literal tomb and wrapped in grave clothes
  • his followers were dejected
  • a stone, large enough to be rolled by 20 men was placed in front of the entrance
  • the seal on the tomb was the imperial seal of the Roman government and was witnessed and affixed by the guards
  • the guards themselves (10-30 of them) were trained in military discipline and punishment for quitting a post was death
  • the disciples went their way
  • the tomb was found empty
  • the grave clothes were folded and left in the tomb
  • the seal had been broken
  • the guards were dishonored
  • the disciples were elated
  • post resurrection appearances to hundreds as listed above
  • transformed lives through over 2,000 years
  • establishment of the Christian church
  • establishment of Sunday services
  • establishments of sacraments like, Communion, and baptism
  • the martyrdom of most of the disciples (why if Jesus hadn’t been raised?)
  • the martyrdom of thousands of Christians through the ages

Each of these are actual, and real historical events. Each speaks to the tangible evidence of Jesus resurrection. Each provide for us convincing truths and undeniable evidence that what Jesus promised came to pass and if that be the case for his resurrection, He can and should be believed in all other matters.

Interestingly, Christianity as one of the four major religions based on personalities rather than philosophies, is the only one that claims an empty tomb for its founder.

Judiasm – Abraham has no resurrection claims

Buddhism – the Mahaparinibbana Sutta tells of Buddha’s death with utter finality

Mohammad – the Pali tells us that he died June 8, 632 AD at the age of 61 at Medina

Christianity – Jesus tomb is empty

It is safe to declare that without Jesus’ bodily resurrection there would be no Christianity. Christianity in fact hinges on the belief in Jesus resurrection. This fact, this hinge is solid and completely supported by evidence that would stand in a court of law. Your belief in Jesus’ resurrection need not be in faith and trust alone.

In fact, (without all the detail that excites me), we can say to those who doubt the historical accuracy and dependability of the New Testament as our source that they are totally misinformed! Here are the facts:

  • ancient literature’s authenticity is tested by 3 basic principles, 3 criteria
    • bibliographical test – how many and how reliable are the manuscript copies
    • internal evidence test – does the document support itself from within
    • external evidence test – does external evidence support the document
  • the bible when tested by these same criteria stands head and shoulders above every other ancient work, including Homer’s Iliad
  • Iliad has 643 manuscript copies with a 400 year gap between the original and the first copies
  • The New Testament has 5,366 copies with a 225 year time gap between the original and its first copies

Plato’s writings have only 7 copies over a 1,300 year gap, and Pliny the Younger 7 copies with over 750 years as the time gap.

What does this tell us?

Scholars accept the trustworthiness of these ancient classics that were copied long after the original, therefore it is clear that the New Testament’s reliability is overwhelmingly sufficient and can be rendered authentic. The sheer volume of manuscripts alone would be enough to provide convincing proof but that coupled with the short gap between author and copies is a total “drop the mic” statement.

You can stand confidently, without any doubt that your New Testament is reliable, historical and factually accurate. The evidence presented by the circumstances and the primary sources, the manuscripts, and the criteria for testing ancient documents all point to CONVINCING PROOFS of Jesus death, burial and resurrection.

You can be certain of the things that you have been taught.

We have presented you with many convincing proofs so you can celebrate His resurrection with renewed assurance, enthusiasm and conviction.

He is Risen indeed! Happy Easter.

Go with God.

Palms, Cloaks and Artichokes

Sunday Sermon, Palm Sunday, 3.27.21

Nearly 2,000 years ago, as hundreds of thousands of travelers gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, Jesus Christ entered the city, riding on a donkey, as the victorious King of the Jews. The crowds shouted, “Hail to the King”, “Hosanna”, and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” as they waved palm branches they had cut down and carpeted the road with their cloaks.

This is recorded in all four of the Gospels in the New Testament. Without exception the crowds are characterized by waving palm branches and spreading their garments on the donkey and on the road along the procession. With passionate shouts they hailed Jesus the victorious one who they hoped would save them from Roman oppression.

In their celebration some preceded the Christ with palms and cloaks and shouts of praise while others followed in the same manner, with palms and cloaks and shouts of praise.

Here were men and women, removing not only branches from the palm trees but also their garments. Yes, their outer garments, but they willingly removed their cloak, or robe – perhaps the only clothing they owned, to pay honor and respect to Jesus Christ.

These crowds as participants in the processional, recognized who Jesus was. They acknowledged who he was with their ruckus praise and extravagant expressions. They realized this coming king was coming to bring God’s kingdom influence. They waved their palm branches in approval symbolizing His goodness, victory, joy and triumph.

The removal of their cloak too, was an expression of highest regard for Jesus Christ. This left them exposed and uncovered their lowly state. This removed their layered defenses and protections and left them with little to hide behind.

They had shed what people see in order to honor Jesus Christ and they chose to wave a palm branch as a sign of surrender to the victorious One.

This Holy Week, as we again reflect on Palm Sunday, (Good Friday and Easter,) what can be gleaned from it? We should ask ourselves these things, we should recount the events, and reconsider the fresh impact on our life. These stories are for us, for today. They have value for our everyday living, and are not just ancient history and outdated, irrelevant events.

So I offer you this, an artichoke.

Consider this thistle that we cultivate for a yummy food; it’s edible portion is the fleshy section at the base of the leaves and heart or choke at the center. Dip the leaves in butter, place in your mouth, scrape down with your teeth to remove the flesh, discard the empty leaf and start again.

Over and over and over again leaves are removed, layers peeled away, flesh is torn, and sustenance gained until the heart is revealed.

That artichoke is like those people on Palm Sunday. Like us today.

By removing their cloaks, they were peeling away at those layers that people see, their outer leaves if you will, and revealing their heart. What covers us, our cloaks must be removed, our fleshly ways must be shed to expose our heart.

Those things that we cover ourselves with and hide behind must be shed before we can join Jesus’ victorious parade. As we shed those “leaves”, a layer at a time, our heart too is laid bare and exposed, and there He finds joy in the true expressions of our heart and brings victory, joy, goodness and triumph to us.

We are living in a season of exposing the heart. He is wanting to reveal the heart of the issue, the heart of the problem, the heart of man. He is peeling away layer after layer, leaf after leaf, removing flesh and exposing the heart. Revealing what is hidden behind layers of defenses, cover ups and artificial protections.

He is revealing the heart of praise, the heart of abandon to Him, the heart of devoted passion and extravagant worship. The heart that doesn’t care what man sees, because that heart is all about reverence to the victorious king.

The heart that openly and publicly honors Him above all, lavishing praise, glory and respect to the King.

So you see, that first Palm Sunday crowd, you and artichokes share a thing or two.

I’ve heard said that God peels away at us a layer at a time, like an onion.

I submit a better analogy may be He peels away a layer at a time like an artichoke, because He wants to reveal our heart.

So, Happy Palm Sunday, and don’t forget the palms, cloaks and artichokes…

Go with God.

Chester Cheetah

You know him, don’t you, the fictional character and official mascot for Frito-Lay’s Cheetos snacks?

Anyone who knows me and our family knows how important these snacks are to my husband. He has a large cup that reads, “Den’s Cheetos” and he even has Cheetos socks. Friends and family see anything Cheeto and get it for Den or they pass on an image, or fact. So we know Chester well.

Chester is a cheetah and cheetahs are amazing animals.

Some facts about cheetahs I’m sure you know, are:

  • they are the largest cat on the planet and more social than other cats
  • they are the fastest land animal (recorded at 93-98 mph)
  • they have a light build, long, thin legs and long tail

Some additional cheetah factoids are:

  • females search for prey while males are more sedentary
  • they stalk within 200 ft., charge it, trip it during the chase and bite its throat to suffocate it to death
  • they are active during the day, especially at dusk and dawn

Why the Chester the cheetah talk, where are you going with this, Deb?

Glad you asked. I see a couple of fascinating similarities between you and me and cheetahs. Really!

According to Quora –

“…(cheetah’s) high speeds can only be maintained for 400-800 meters before exhaustion sets in and the body overheats.”

A cheetah’s entire body design is made to assist his speed:

  • he has a supersized set of lungs
  • he has a super sized heart
  • his nostrils are extremely large to take in Oxygen
  • his long tail acts as a rudder for sharp turns and in his pursuit assists with his balance
  • he has light bones
  • his reflexes are built to survive a tumble at 65 mph (wish I had that!)
  • his spine and back muscles are extremely flexible (not mine)
  • his claws are semi-retractable with tough pads for traction

Everything within the cheetah is fine tuned to allow for super speeds and yet, even with those design marvels, he still cannot maintain those speeds for very long with out facing exhaustion and overheating.

Additionally, in his sprinting, much of the time he is actually propelled through the air at long strides. One stride for him = 26 feet!

So when he sprints 300 yards, (3 football fields) his paws are actually on the ground for only 3-5 seconds! The rest of the time he is airborne. Plus, he is able to make 4 strides per second. Unreal! Cheetah’s really know how to fly.

Again though, he cannot sustain high speeds or prolonged runs very long. He must catch his prey in 30 seconds or less before he must rest. An example I read said that if a cheetah were to run 154 miles from Otjiwarongo to Windhoek (Namibia), it would need to stop and rest over 311 times. If it were able to run without stopping, it would take only 2 1/2 hours running at 68 mph. Incredible.

How are we like cheetah’s?

Our human design is masterful and yet without proper rest we, too will face exhaustion and heating up. We were made to take our strides here on earth, but our efficiency is when we are airborne, when our strides take us above ground and into the air. (Into the spiritual dimension)

Whether you find yourself in the desert, the grassy savannah (of the Serengeti), or the mountains (of the Sahara), like our cheetah friends, I trust that you will realize your absolute need for rest and your purposeful design to be airborne.

Now, let’s celebrate our cheetah likenesses by enjoying a bag of Cheetos. 🙂

Crunches to you.

Healing From What We Are Harboring

Sunday Sermon 3.6.21

Recently in my reading, I was struck with a phrase that has been reverberating through my spirit, mind and soul. It was this:

Because you harbored an ancient hostility…”

Ezekiel, the Prophet, chapter 35 verse 5

Other renderings put the same phrase this way –

  • because you kept this age-old grudge. The Message
  • because you kept eternal hatred. NLT
  • because you cherished perpetual enmity. ESV
  • because you maintained perpetual hatred. CSB

The challenge to me was to inspect within myself, those areas that may be harboring any type of grudge, resentment, or bitterness; those unresolved, concealed or secret hurts, or offenses. God was calling me to identify them for what they are – hurts, painful events, and to let them go by allowing Him to uproot their poisonous taproot of resentment and bitterness.

I believe this same experience is what He would have for all of us. He is wanting to completely heal us of all of our grudges, bitterness and resentment. He wants us to be whole and unhindered by negative, past feelings, memories and experiences. Letting go of the anger, bitterness, hurt and pain of the past allows us to focus on the present.

“When we hold on to grudges and resentment, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.”

Piedmont Healthcare, Angela Buttimer MS, NCC, RYT, CPC

In the book of Hebrews, we find this very same issue being addressed:

“Make sure no one lives with a root of bitterness sprouting within them which will only cause trouble and poison the hearts of many.”

Hebrews 12:15 TPT

The Apostle Paul adds this piece of insight to this whole issue of anger, bitterness, resentment and grudges:

“In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV

It is apparent that unresolved anger leads to poisonous roots growing in our heart, and yields a place for the devil with his toolbox of sins to grow.

One last quote and then we will look at a story.

James, the brother of Jesus, who wrote the book of James, and also knew a thing or two about envy, and selfish ambition left us this piece of wisdom: (geesh, can you imagine dealing with the envy, bitterness, resentment, and misunderstanding in this home between these brothers??!)

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts….such wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, demonic…”

James 3:14 NIV

All of us have had conflicts from which grudges have grown. Those grudges sorta become our consolation prize- we were wronged and now we get a grudge. It seems to serve as a way to compensate for our negative feelings.

A perfect example of this is found in the story to which Ezekiel was referring in our opening statement about harboring ancient hostility.

The story begins in Genesis 25, where we see Rebekah about to give birth to twin boys who we now know as Esau and Jacob.

Even from the womb these boys were jostling, wrestling and competing. Gen. 25:22 As they grew, they developed very different likes and lifestyles. Esau was an outdoors, hunter kinda guy, while Jacob was a stay at home, cooking in the kitchen type. Esau and his Dad were close, Jacob and his Mom were close. Gen. 25:27

The first glimpse we have of growing tension between Esau and Jacob is when Esau comes in from a long and exhausting hunt and is famished. Cooking in the kitchen, is guess who? Yep, Jacob. Esau asks Jacob for some of his yummy, red, stew, so Jacob finagles a deal – food for your first-born birthright. Esau easily caves and swears an oath to Jacob, stew for my birthright. Genesis 25:34 says that Esau hated his birthright.

Esau had given up his firstborn position in the family. Some would say Jacob tricked Esau out of it. What do you think?

Either way or both ways, Jacob was now considered the firstborn son with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. And so it begins, the grudge holding, bitterness and resentment.

Some years later, when Isaac, Esau’s dad was old and blind, he asked Esau to hunt him some game and prepare him a meal, because it was time for Isaac to pronounce his Fatherly blessing on his son. Overhearing this request, Rebekah called for Jacob and told him to fix up Dad’s favorite venison meal. While Esau was out hunting, Jacob was cooking in the kitchen.

Making a long story short, Jacob and Rebekah hatched a plan that worked and one in which the Father’s firstborn blessing would be pronounced upon, you guessed it – Jacob!

When Esau returned to Dad and heard that Dad’s blessing had been given to Jacob, all were shocked and surprised! This was not a happy family. Esau’s grudge was now exploding and all of his pent up anger, bitterness, resentment came cascading from his lips and life. Jacob was gonna be toast if Esau had his way. This was no small grudge anymore, this was a pot boiling over with hatred, hurt and blame.

“Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

Genesis 27:41

When Rebekah realizes the depth of Esau’s anger and seriousness of his threats she arranges for Jacob to steal away and live with her brother in a distant city “…for a while, until your brother’s fury subsides… when your brother is no longer angry…and when he forgets…” Gen. 27:42-45

Pausing here, we can see clearly that Esau is harboring hostility toward his twin. Who knows how many years these wounds had been festering and infecting Esau and his relationships with his family members, as well as others that he related with.

It is no secret that holding onto grudges and negative feelings affects your health and your relationships with others. In fact, as you play over and over those negative, wounding, bitter memories, your brain doesn’t know what is real and what is imagined, so your body reacts as if you are having the same experience over and over.

“Living in this chronic state of tension disables your body’s repair mechanisms, increases inflammation and the stress hormone – cortisol.”

Piedmont Healthcare

Esau was in a very unhealthy state. His blood pressure was elevated and he was now at risk for heart disease. His prolonged feelings of resentment were also impacting his metabolism, immune response and organ function. He was probably even dealing with symptoms of depression and anxiety. (Facts from Neurocore)

Esau’s choice to harbor hostility was certainly not a safe harbor.

What Esau harbored during all those years growing up and following Jacob’s departure to Uncle Laban’s, ate away at not only himself, but he passed it on to his descendants, his sons, grandsons, and eventually to all of his ancestry. His offspring through time became the kingdom of Edom. In the kingdom of Edom, each had been programmed with the ancient stories of Grandpa Esau (or Great Granddad Esau, etc.). They were well versed in what happened between Grandpa Esau and Uncle Jacob. They all knew about the loss of the birthright and the blessing. They all had learned to:

“harbor an ancient hostility…”

Ezekiel 35:5

Although Jacob and Esau’s grudge holding match lasted twenty years, (which to me is a long and serious grudge) before they reunited with gifts, tears, humility, hugs and favor; (Gen. 33) the affects of that grudge on their family was centuries long!

It is quite scary to think that as a parent, my unresolved grudges as well as my resolved grudges impact my family. They have heard stories, seen reactions, and formed opinions. They have partaken of my poisonous resentment. Even after I resolve with that family member, the root of bitterness has been planted in them.

Additionally, that twenty year period of my grudge holding (or whatever the length of time in your life) has allowed the taproot of bitterness, anger, resentment, blaming, hatred, anger and hostility to sprout and even blossom. The poison has permeated my life, my thoughts, perspective, and relationships. What I have been harboring needs healing and uprooting.

That infection in you, God wants to heal. That sensitive area that you guard is what He seeks to puncture and drain. Those inflamed emotions and memories, He will restore to health.

God has the cure for what you are harboring.

In releasing it to Him, you are not excusing anyone’s behavior and you may not forget what happened, but it will break its hold on your life. Then you and the Lord will face that pain and walk through it together. He will empower you to live a life free of poisonous grudges and bitterness. He will free you from those ancient hostilities.

He will provide full healing for what you are harboring.

Go with God.

Elephants and Camels

I want to share two stories with you.

#1 Elephants

When walking through an elephant camp, a man noticed that these elephants were only secured with a small rope that was tied around one ankle. He wondered why the elephants didn’t break free from the rope, as the elephants we certainly strong enough.

He asked the trainer why, and the trainer said that they use the same size rope for baby elephants all the way up to adulthood. Because they’re too small when they are babies to break free from the rope, they grow up thinking that the rope is stronger than they are. As adults, they think the rope can still hold them, so they don’t fight it.

#2 Camels

A mother camel and her baby were lying down, soaking up the sun. The baby camel asked his mom, “Why do we have these big bumps on our back?” The mom stopped to think and then said, “We live in the desert where there is not much water. Our humps store water to help us survive on long journeys.”

The baby camel then stopped to think and said, “Well, why do we have long legs with rounded feet?” His mother replied, “They are meant to help us walk through sand.”

The baby asked a third question, “Why are my eyelashes so long?” The mother replied, “Your eyelashes are long to offer you protection from the sand when it blows in the wind.”

Finally, the baby said, “If we have all of these natural abilities given to us to walk through the desert, what’s the use for camels in the Zoo?’

Allow me to play Aesop, for a minute.

From each of these stories, we can glean important life lessons, and encouragement. Listen to your heart and hear what application lies there for you. At the very least, I will offer these:

All of us, like the elephants, have grown through and are learning to fight our own programmed, learned helplessness. You know, that thing or those issues that we believe are stronger than us and so we don’t bother fighting. Be they family traits, ingrained scripts, perceived weaknesses, or whatever; they are tied about our feet, trying to keep us from moving forward. FACT: you are stronger than your childhood programming and you are strong enough to break free from it all.

Our perceptive baby camel offers us the simple truth that you have been designed to withstand what comes against you. You have all that you need, if you are in the right place. The camel is designed for the desert and is therefore fully equipped for sand, wind, dry and waterless situations. Out of that environment, he doesn’t quite fit. He doesn’t really belong in a zoo, does he? FACT: Our design is perfect and fully utilized when we are in the right environment.

I am certain that the elephant and the camel are speaking to many, and I trust that from their stories you will see yourself as strong, and well equipped for whatever you face. Break free and live life to your fullest, where you are s’posed to be!

Oh, what we can learn from the elephant and the camel.

Cheers to you.

What Comes from the Cave of Confinement?

Sunday Sermon 2.20.21

There are people struggling under a chaotic world where authorities are hostile to God; zealous, local governors have enacted laws against the church, and the faithful are targeted as scapegoats. Believers are pressed to question, “Is God in control?”, if so, “Is He working all things for our good?”.

In some places there is violent persecution of the church, in other places lawless violence. The church is under pressure to conform to the society norms and are assaulted with false doctrines and calls to practice idolatrous worship. Most people have become comfortable with their affluence and face a variety of challenges to their faith.

Banished to caves/rooms of confinement, government officials seek to silence voices of truth, all the while elevating their prominence above everyone else. False charges, events sparking revolts, economic instability, blaming and instability of governmental heads, and trouble between the elites and the commoners are the marks of this society.

Are the above paragraphs describing the events of these days or another era?

Remarkably, both.

The details given above are an accurate account of what is happening today, yet is also point on in representing the events of 95AD in the Roman Empire. The parallels are actually mindboggling.

In the first century the struggle between Caesar worship/The Roman Empire and Christianity was severe, persecutions were great and martyrs were many. The Church Father, Polycarp, was burned alive for refusing to say, “Caesar is Lord.”

All of the disciples/Apostles were tortured and killed, save one – John, who was banished and confined to a small island called Patmos, where he lived in a cave approximately the size of your living room, 23 ft. x 20 ft., and slept on a hard pillow, a rock every night.

It is John, in the midst of these dreadful conditions, that I want to zoom in on today.

Here he was confined to a barren, volcanic, island. It is believed that Patmos was a penal colony in the Roman Empire, hard labor there wasn’t necessary, for the isolation, barrenness, and heat were punishment enough.

Expelled here and restricted in movement, opportunity, influence, and expression what did he do?

Revelation 1:10 says,

I was in the Spirit realm on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice…”

John, The Elder

The simplicity of his verse has always challenged me.

Here you have John, in exile and isolation, yet he chose to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. Choosing the Spirit over surroundings and circumstances drove him, empowered him and placed him in the position where God could reveal Jesus to him. Additionally, whether “the Lord’s day” was the Sabbath, or any day matters little. In fact, it would be an even more powerful image if John viewed every day on that island of isolation as the Lord’s day.

Those who study such things believe that John’s room of isolation, the place where he slept, is the place that he received The Revelation. There, through a crack in the ceiling, he received the vision of The Revelation of Jesus Christ. There in that Patmos Cave of confinement he heard the voice of God. It was there, that he chose to be in the realm of the Spirit, rather than the realm of the natural.

There was no denying where he was; on that rocky island, in that dark, lonely cave, cut off from others, persecuted by political edicts, or any number of other worldly circumstances. Each of them were very real and affecting the Roman Empire at large. His focus was not on them, though.

He chose to see into the spirit realm, and live in that realm regardless of the hard realities of his life in that cave. The payoff was enormous! Because of his choice, we have a powerful and beautiful, (albeit confusing,) revelation of who Jesus is and the victory that He brings to His church, His bride in the end. (I’ve read the end of the book, and we win!)

I am extremely challenged by John’s choice in his cave of confinement.

Great things come from caves of confinement. Look at Jonah confined within the whale; that brought deliverance to Nineveh. Remember too, Joseph’s multiple confinements yielding freedom for all of Egypt! No matter the prison, restriction or confinement in our lives, we can chose to see “in the Spirit”, not in the cave.

It was being in the Spirit, in confinement that he saw and wrote; Revelation 1:4-8

  • all the best to you from the God who is, the God who was and the God who is about to arrive
  • Glory and strength to Christ who loves us
  • who made us a Kingdom of priests
  • He is coming, riding on the clouds
  • people from all nations will see Him
  • He declares, “I’m A to Z. I’m the God who is, the God who was, and the God about to arrive”

And those are just the first 8 verses of His Revelation! His choosing the Spirit realm over his circumstances, caused the Spirit to explode within him with clear vision, and hearing on Earth as it is in heaven.

My Spirit is challenged and that challenge I want to share with you.

Some say there are parallel ages of man. Maybe so, but I think we can agree that The Roman Empire of John’s day and America, the world of today share many similarities.

I trust that another one just may be that in your cave of confinement, you too will “be in the Spirit realm on the Lord’s day” – today, everyday, and especially the Sabbath. May you too find a new, and powerful vision of the Revelation of Jesus Christ and His love and purpose for you. May you see beyond your cave and circumstances.

What comes from the cave of your confinement?

Go with God.

Let Him

Sunday Sermon 2.13.21

Love is a powerful force. It’s potency is beyond measure and it penetrates all boundaries, obstacles and fears. Love can see what the human eye misses, and what our mind struggles to understand. It is transforming, refreshing, empowering, and yes, sometimes frustrating.

Decades ago (yes, I’m THAT old), there was a fad called “Glamor Shots”. Those of us who gave in to it found ourselves going to the mall, and into the Glamor Shot store for our appointment. We were then made over with a new hairdo, makeup and clothes for a photo shoot. Photos were taken in silly poses with props and looks that were s’pose to be glamorous. Then you chose which shots you wanted prints of, ordered them and went home to wash off the make up. (and try to figure out what to do the rest of the day with THIS hair!) I knew my husband wanted one, which is why I was there.

Yes, I caved and bought one (maybe more, I don’t remember). I remember the one because to this day, it sits on my husband’s night stand, in our bedroom! I’ve tried to replace it, throw it away, you name it. He’ll have none of it.

For years I asked “why”, and always got the same response, “Because THAT is the way I see you. You are beautiful and glamorous to me and always will be, nothing will change that.” (Talk about humbling…)

I have had to learn to let him keep the picture and let him keep his perception, because his love is powerful and sees what others don’t. (like me)

Perhaps that is why, in the greatest love song of all time, The Song of Songs, Solomon’s love song to his bride and an allegory of Jesus and His bride- the church, Solomon begins his song with the bride/Shulamite saying this:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.

Song of Songs 1:2

In order for love to have affect we must let it, allow it. In order for Jesus love to permeate your life, you have to let him love you. He lavishes His love on you, chooses you, desires you, sees you as the theme of his love song and yet, you must yield to his love and let His love touch you deeply.

We each hold the key to how close we become with Him, and how much of ourselves we allow Him into. Isn’t that the dance of love relationships? Fear, trust, yielding, opening up, changing, safety, love.

Will we allow Him to express His love for us, faith in us and delight over us? Will we allow His picture of how He sees us to become our picture, too?

Love is a powerful force. His love is inescapable.

In Solomon’s Song, we have a vivid picture of how He sees us. Let’s take just a peek.

In this allegory, Jesus is the Bridegroom wooing His chosen maiden, the Shulamite. Male or female, Jesus is wooing you and speaking in tender words of love, affection and devotion to you. You are being called to come close and let him have your whole heart. Let Him have your passion, focus, love.

Scripture says, “What a person desires is unfailing love.” Proverbs 19:22 This is the love that Jesus lavishes on you. Unfailing, unconditional, pure, and holy.

Digest these descriptions of how he sees you, as written in just the first 2 chapters of Song of Solomon.

  • adored
  • lovely
  • beautiful
  • radiant
  • dear one
  • thrilling
  • strong
  • regal
  • leading
  • tender
  • graceful
  • darling
  • a rose
  • the theme of His song
  • companion who stands out
  • pure in the midst of sin

YOU. That is you, glamorous you. His love sees you always and only this way!

Over and over in Song of Songs, He, Jesus, the Bridegroom calls to His bride, us and says, “Come away, my beloved.” We are His beloved, His dear one, His tender love. He gently woos us to come away with Him, to come closer, to let him love us. To trust Him. To step beyond our fear and insecurities and trust Him and His love.

I’m here to tell you my friend, that the seasons have changed. This is the season of His love and season to love Him more deeply. Listen to the call of the Spirit (to you) in Song of Solomon 2:11-15:

  • The bondage of the barren winter is over and gone
  • The season of hiding is over
  • Rains of refreshing have come
  • It’s time to bloom
  • It is a season of singing
  • A season of pruning
  • A new day of destiny is breaking forth around you
  • My purposes and plans are bursting forth
  • It’s time for buds
  • It is blooming everywhere
  • Change is in the air
  • Arise, my companion, run with me
  • Let me see your radiant face & hear your sweet voice
  • How beautiful is your worship
  • How lovely is your prayer
  • You must catch the troubling foxes that hinder our relationship
  • They raid our budding love
  • They ruin what I’ve planted within you
  • Will you catch them and remove them?
  • We will do it together

These phrases are taken directly from Song of Solomon and the Passion Translation version.

These are His words to you. This is His love and desire for relationship with you. It is a new season. He wants to hear our voice, prayers, worship. He longs to see our face as we spend time with Him. He desires for us to bloom and blossom and bud with all that He has planted inside of us.

He also wants us to check for spoilers in our relationship. He called them the “troubling foxes”, those things that will eat up our time and focus, keeping us from Him, keeping us from fruitfulness. He asks us to catch them, then He tells us we will do it together.

He is absolutely willing to help us identify our foxes and then work with us in being free of them. He longs for our freedom in relating with Him. We have nothing to fear and a wonderful, intimate relationship with Jesus to gain.

Change is in the air. His love is in the air, it is inescapable and powerful.

Will we let Him love us? Will we let him change us? Will we let his picture of us become ours? Will we see ourselves through His eyes and in His love? Will we catch those troubling foxes and let Him help us be free of them?

Let Him love you, more.

Go with God.

Finding Your Jet Stream

Who would have imagined that a sixth grade, Oklahoma farm boy drop out, armed felon, ex-con, suffering from severe depression, blinded in one eye, would become a highly decorated, world famous pilot?

Who would have imagined that in the midst of his modest life filled with adversity, he would find his jet stream?

At the age of 15, he went to the county fair with his parents and there he saw what he had never before seen – a beautiful plane. With his love for mechanical devices and now the sight of this airplane, he knew then that he would become a pilot.

At the age of 26, his flight path in aviation began, not as you would expect however. He joined a barnstorming troupe as a skydiver. In that capacity, he made over 99 jumps, and for the very handsome fee of $200 a jump, but he never lost his dream of becoming a pilot.

It was in 1926, two years later that an accident on the oil rig occurred, where a flaming piece of metal pierced his left eye. The doctors thought he would be blind, but eventually the left eye was removed and he wore a patch over that eye from then on.

Now with no depth perception, while learning to fly, he used telephone poles and 2-story buildings to gauge the height of things. This made for extremely difficult landings, but he learned by practicing over and over and over. (In today’s setting he would never even be allowed to earn his wings.)

With pilot license in hand, he became a personal pilot for oil men and flew them to their sites and barnstormed on weekends. Having received $1,800 settlement for his eye injury, he bought his first airplane.

In 1930, he entered and won the Men’s Air Derby Race from LA to Chicago by more than an hour and a half and he even had a faulty compass.

It was in 1931 that he set his first world record for the first successful aerial circumnavigation by a single engine monoplane. After 8 days, 15 hours, and 51 minutes, stopping only eleven times, in the “Winnie Mae” he had made it around the world!

He received a hero’s welcome and was celebrated at the White House and with a ticker tape parade in NYC. Following this flight, he bought another plane and wrote a book.

Not content or satisfied, he continued to press himself. Not knowing what was above him, only knowing he had to go higher and faster. (this turned out to be prophetic)

In 1933 he repeated his flight around the world, this time accomplishing it alone and using instruments that he had invented – auto pilot and the aerial navigational compass. This set another record.

Yet, still above him was his jet stream.

Even though a Japanese meteorologist had used weather balloons in the 1920’s to track upper level winds around Mount Fuji, our guy is the one who first began exploring high altitude, long distance flight. Working with Goodrich and Phillips Petroleum he was able to design a high pressure suit. This allowed him to fly at high altitudes, which had never been done before.

He was now able to fly at altitudes of 40,000 – 50,000 feet above earth’s surface. He was the first to fly at these altitudes.

While on one of his practice runs (remember, he practiced and practiced and practiced), he noticed that his measurements for speed on the ground and speed in the air were different. This told him that he was actually flying in a current of air.

He had found the jet stream.

Although the term “jet stream” wasn’t officially used until a German meteorologist used it in a research paper in 1939, it was our guy, Wiley Post, who made the first practical advances by actually flying in it in 1934.

He had discovered his jet stream. Literally.

If you have even flown on an airplane cross country, you, too have probably flown in the jet stream.

The jet stream is what makes it possible for me to go and see my sister from CA to NY in 5.5 hours, but coming home it takes 6 plus hours!

The jet stream is a fast flowing, narrow band of air currents high in the atmosphere, approximately 5-9 miles above earth, thousands of miles long, and a few hundred miles wide. They blow from West to East, which is why flights going East will always be faster.

Thanks to Wiley Post, now all airlines, and aviation industries have found themselves depending on and utilizing the jet stream. So too, do weather services, because the jet stream pushes weather patterns around the world. The position of jet streams helps meteorologists forecast future weather events.

Wiley Post’s life exhibited what he “discovered”.

You have your own forward speed BUT if you continue in it in an environment that is moving, it propels you faster.

He was propelled forward, through much adversity by his vision and dream of being a pilot and inventing devices to help him fly. The environment that dream created was like a moving walkway at the airport. As he stepped on it, it moved him faster in the advancement of his dream.

Then, one day, he flew into that moving current in the air, and there, he was propelled faster through the sky.

He had found his jet stream.

I trust that you have found your jet stream, and if not, it is still above you, waiting to be found by you.

Cheers to you.

Word Pictures for 2021

Sunday Sermon 1.31.21

At the beginning of a new year, I suspect most of us do some sort of evaluations, projections and/or goal setting. For the last couple of years, that process for me has gone a bit differently and I’d like to share it with you.

Last January, (2020) when out walking and praying I saw a very unusual sight along my path. So, of course, I took pictures. Here’s what I saw:

Trail sign post cement foundation
Foundation up close

Here on the trail I was walking was a cement sign post foundation totally dug up, uprooted and laying exposed rather than firmly planted.

It’s job was to hold signs and point the way but the foundation had been dug up and it was no longer functional.

Trail sign post

The Lord used these images the rest of my walk to help me see what my purpose was to be in 2020. I was to be one who re-established the long lasting foundations and pointed the Way.

Now, as I look back over last year, I realize what I saw on that path last January was not just for me, but was a picture of our nation. Our foundations would be uprooted and signposts broken down in an attempt to remap America’s course. As you reflect on news images of tearing down statues and the like, isn’t that what we saw?

So this January, when I had the same sense that the Lord was speaking to me with pictures, I really paid attention. Could it also be that what He was showing me was a bigger picture for 2021? You decide, as I share.

Last week, I was in prayer, asking the Lord to show me His heart, and help me to see things the way that He does. Later that day, while at work, my glasses broke. The frame snapped and I caught the lens in my hand. My boss was on hand and assisted with the magic of super glue. I have since had to reglue the frame and see the eye doctor for new glasses.

Broken eyeglass frame

But within seconds of my frame breaking, I had the definite sense that He was telling me that He was breaking my framework of seeing things and replacing it with His framework for seeing things. I knew then and there, standing at Art Sea in Dana Point Harbor, that the Lord was wanting to break my way of seeing things. He was indeed answering my prayer to see things the way that He does. He wanted me to get new glasses, and I’m sure a new set of eyes altogether.

That very same week, I went to the boat to cover the dinghy in preparation for the coming rains. As I approached Lady Debra, I realized she was moving about the slip more than normal. I opened her up and then inspected her to find out what was going on.

Walking around the bow it was obvious that she was not secured tightly. The bow pulpit was bobbing and nearly bumping into the dock box. As I turned to the port side, I clearly saw why.

dock line, perfect curl

Do you see why?

Broken dock line, coiled perfectly, up close

How bout now?

Brocken dock line, obvious

The dock line had been broken in the high winds that we had just gone through. I had to replace it.

Dock lines are meant to be attached to the dock at one end and to the vessel at another end. Like this:

Red white blue dock line

Several days after the dock line incident, following a personal time of singing, “Take Me Deeper into You”, I had that sense again. That sense that the Lord was using this picture to speak to me. The message was, if you want to go deeper Debbie, you have to remove the dock lines.

If I want more of Jesus, more understanding of His Word and ways and more walking in obedience to Him; if I want to go deeper in my Christian faith and walk, I have to leave my comfortable slip in the safe harbor and “launch out into the deep.” Luke 5:4 I must cast off my insecurities and trust His direction out in the unfamiliar waters. I must release my dock lines, those things that keep me tired down to the safe and predictable Christian life.

Four dock lines have to be released before Lady Debra can leave her comfortable and safe slip. In my life, I am sure that there are those things that I hold to, believing they are my security; when all the while they need to be broken or released in order for me to launch out deeper into what God has for me.

These two visual experiences, the broken glasses and broken dock line are my personal word pictures for 2021. They will fuel me, challenge me and remind me of what I believe the Lord wants of me through this next year.

But could it be, that they are for US, too?

I am convinced that everything that can be shaken in 2021 will be shaken. Hebrews 12:27 That means, things that we don’t need will be broken off of us, whether we like it or not. The way we see things will change and and our lens must adjust. He is truly wanting us to see the world and all its people, plots and plans as He does. So we need a new framework.

Could it be that we need a new framework, a new way of seeing things because he is taking us to a place we have never been before. He is taking us out of our comfortable Christianity, where we have lived within the safe confines of our home or church and He is pushing us out into the deep, unknown, exciting life on the high seas of the Kingdom of God. Is He breaking our secure attachments so that we will trust Him while voyaging the unknown?

I do believe that 2021 will be another, different, rollercoaster ride, and for believers will be an even greater sifting time. What and how we see coupled with staying comfortable is up to us. Hot, cold, or lukewarm is our personal decision and one we will be held responsible for. Revelation 3:16

2021 will be exacting. I do not believe any of us will be immune to the Call of the Spirit to come closer, see from His perspective and move freely in the depths of His love, purpose and joy.

I’m in.

I’ve lived 66 years and I know that the best is yet to come. God is up to something fantastic and I want to be a part of it. These word pictures have helped to reaffirm that to me, even if I must leave my comfort zone.

I hope they have helped you too, visualize truth for 2021.

Go with God.

“Us verses Them”- A Time-tested Solution

Sunday Sermon 1.23.21

The nation I live in is changing and I don’t recognize who we are any longer and I wonder where we are headed.

There are terms and words and descriptions and ideas I don’t understand; words like- woke, intersectionality, gas light, call-out culture, and microaggressions, to name a very few. I have been learning a great deal and trying to make sense of it all.

Perhaps that is why, over the holidays, upon the recommendation of my son, I read and thoroughly enjoyed the book, “The Coddling of the American Mind“. (G Lukianoff, I. Haidt) In the book, the authors address many of these terms giving their foundational meanings, as well as submit what they call 3 great “Untruths”. These untruths, according to the authors, are well intended, but bad ideas being prominently promoted in academia, our culture, society and law for the past many years.

One of their ideas, using my summarization is, “Us verses Them”.

Listening to and watching events of recent months in our nation, “us verses them” is clearly visible. We are never without someone or group raging against another group. One set of beliefs is criticized and mocked by another point of view. “Us verses them” is at play.

We have been segregated into groups based on immutable qualities and characteristics that we did not even choose because they were beyond our control. We have been pitted against one another in an effort to divide us even more. “Us verses them” is at play.

But today, I want to offer a time tested solution to “us verses them”, and in doing so reaffirm a much needed foundation for not only our personal lives but our nation. For when we build on sure foundations, our security is guaranteed no matter the blasting “us verses them” winds that blow.

What foundation is that?

God made all of us.

Without exception, we were all made in God’s image, each unique in design, purpose and destiny. What God makes is good! He don’t make junk or second class citizens. Genesis 1-2

He breathed life’s breath into our lungs and as a proud parent, took joy in his design and marveled at our likeness. Created in His image, God’s idea, His child – that is who I am. I am because of Him, He made me. I had nothing to do with it. He loves me just the way He made me. Psalms 139; Psalm 71:6; Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15

All 7.8 billion people on the planet right now can make the above proclamation. God made each one of them, delights in each of them and loves all of them equally.

Please review these ancient verses:

  • Genesis 1:27 – God made man in his image, male and female he created them
  • Deuteronomy 10:17 – He does not show partiality
  • Acts 17:26 – From one man he made all nations
  • Acts 10:34-35 – God shows no partiality
  • Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:11 – Here there is no Gentile nor Jew, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all
  • Acts 10:28 – But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.
  • Malachi 2:10 – Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us?

God, through Jesus death on the cross, erased forever any lines of segregation, prejudice and “us verses them”. Talk about inclusion?!

As new creations in Jesus, we are given His identity, and that identity has nothing to do with religious, ethnic, cultural or socioeconomic features. Galatians 3:26-29

Our challenge then, is to keep putting off our old identity and way of referring to others and put on the new man which should be without distinction. Colossians 3:8-11

We are reminded that upon Jesus death, when the veil in the Temple was ripped in half, it represented the destruction of barriers and all dividing walls of hostility, thus making one new humanity, in peace and reconciled to God. Ephesians 2:11-22

These and other ancient scriptures remind us of the basic foundation of the oneness of mankind. All of us made by God, in His image, for His pleasure. All. of. us.

But what happens is we forget. And when we forget, we inevitably end up sitting in judgement of others. Isn’t that prejudice? And what results is an “us verses them” mentality, or perspective. Voila, that’s where we are today.

Not one of us is without guilt here. We are not perfect and yet, we still need to strive to live by our foundation(s). That is the beauty of walking with Jesus; he loves us enough to stick with us as we change and to allow us to fail as we grow along the way. But he loves us so much He will not allow us to remain the same. Made in His image, we have our work (actually His work in us) cut out for us, right?

Jesus walked with Pharisees, tax collectors, fishermen, men, women, Jews, Greeks, soldiers, prostitutes, thieves, lepers, Samaritans, the demon possessed, rulers, peasants… you name it. Jesus not only associated with but loved equally everyone. He even took flack from others that He did so.

His heart was always driven by love and mercy. His heart was free from prejudice and favoritism. He was not partial. He is our example. In Him there is no “us verses them”. He loves us all and expects us to do the same. He told us so in John 13:34, “Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

This foundation of love for all, because we are all made in the image of God, is for both personal and national stability. It is time-tested. It is sure.

Therefore, it is incumbent on us to re-fortify this foundation in our lives. To fight against the tendency to see things as “us verses them”, but rather to show mercy, love, and grace for all – period.

So, as I am learning these new terms and labels in our society, I will also seek to live without them and stand firmly upon the time-tested solution of love, mercy, and grace for all.

Lord, please help me, help us – all.

Go with God.