Mark of the Beast

So many people are running scared – of the vaccine, of the microchip, of the government, and of each other.  Fear, my friend, is very real – it is a controlling spirit that tries to keep us in subjection and its ultimate goal is our destruction.

Many Christians point to Revelation 13:16-18 as proof that we need to be afraid.  These verses explain that everyone who carries ‘the mark of the beast’ will live forever in the lake of fire.  The verses even tell us where that mark will be – either in the hands or the foreheads.  Contrast those verses with Deuteronomy 6:8 which instructs us to keep the Word of God as phylacteries (a memorial, reminder, or sign) upon our hands and our foreheads.  Apparently we will carry either the mark of God (voluntarily) or the mark of the beast (involuntarily).

The explanation is simple yet profound.  God has children and so does the devil. Whomever we yield ourselves to obey, to that one we belong, whether God to righteousness, or the devil to everlasting damnation (Romans 6:16).

A simple explanation is to ask ourselves:  what am I holding in my hands?  Is it the Word of God, inspirational tracts, help for others?  Or is it astrology charts, tarot cards, hoarding for myself, video games, non-stop internet interaction?  What are we reading?  The Word? Theological studies? Inspirational messages? Or is it science fiction? Fantasy?  Evil imaginations and the like?  What are we thinking about?  God?  The things of God?  Or the things of the world?  Where does our imagination take us?  To good?  Or to evil?  Are we calling good, evil; and evil, good?

The works of our hands are phylacteries—memorials to the one we serve.  The thoughts of our minds are phylacteries.  The question we have to ask ourselves is to whom we have dedicated those phylacteries.  We serve what we worship, and we all serve.  We are serving either God or the devil.   Romans 6:19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

The Scripture also gives us a clue as to the identity of the Mark of the Beast.  Revelations 13:18, “This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.”  Those who have studied numbers and their symbolism in the Scriptures know that the number 6 represents man.  And the Mark of the Beast?  6-lust of the flesh   6-lust of the eyes   6-pride  

1 John 2:16  “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

Mankind is easily led astray and the devil and his children are masters at deception.  It is up to us to search the Scripture and set our minds on the things of God.  As is the case, our hearts will follow after what our minds’ decide to pursue – whether it is sin unto death or righteousness unto eternal life.  God is not a bully – He is offering us a choice.  And let me just say that there is no middle ground.  You will serve either God or the devil.  God is giving you a choice.  The devil has already assumed command over all those who have not chosen God Almighty.  And wonderfully, marvelously– GOD allows u-turns!

Joshua 24:15   “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Wives Submit

Colossians 3:18   Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands.

So much has been written on this subject, and so much has been misinterpreted.  This is one of the ‘hard’ sayings of the Bible.  If you will bear with me for just a few minutes, I think this might help.  If you are still reading at this point, it’s because Holy Spirit wants to talk with you.  The ride may be bumpy but when the Spirit is leading it is always beneficial.

The first step to understanding this verse is to examine the subject audience.  In this case, it is WIVES.  Not husbands, not children, not pastors or teachers.  The Scripture is talking directly to wives.

The next step is to examine the verb:  submit.  Submit means to yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another.  So to submit is a voluntary action.  The inclusion of the word ‘yourselves’ after the verb is reinforcement of the idea that the action is voluntary.  No one is being bullied into this position of submission.  It is voluntary on the part of wives.  Confusion in the body of Christ often stems from the word ‘submit’ and the lack of knowledge and understanding of the original language and the translated word.  Just to keep the record straight, ‘submit’ is a voluntary action, as opposed to ‘subject’ which is the act of subduing another.  Look at it another way:  using the same word in the same sentence, changes the acting party.  “One who submits …” is one who is under authority, as opposed to “One who subjects…” is one who is in authority.

The last phrase to examine is the object of the submission.  In this case, it is husbands.  Wives are to voluntarily surrender to the authority of their husbands.  Not someone else’s husband.  Not their friends, neighbors, family members, church members or anyone else who may be a part of their marriage circle – to their husbands.

There are a number of issues that misinterpreting this Scripture has caused, not only to the Body of Christ but also to the testimony of Jesus Christ and that of professing believers.  Take, for example, those who believe that this passage gives husbands the right to beat their wives into submission.  How does that make Christianity different from Islam?  Or what about those who use this verse to control (SUBJECT) their wives or the women in their congregations?  Aren’t they simply being bullies?  I would ask them this question:  when was the last time God bullied you into doing anything?

NO, you cannot use Jonah as an example.  Jonah was a prophet.  In those days, a prophet who did not publish the prophecy God had given them was killed and Jonah knew that.  He also knew that if he went to Nineveh and gave the prophecy, the people would repent.  His problem was that he also knew Israel to be a stubborn and stiff-necked people who struggled when it came to repentance, and if Nineveh repented where Israel had not, it would make Israel (the people of GOD) look bad.  So instead of bringing reproach on Israel and the name of God, Jonah refused to give the prophecy and tried to run away.  It must be noted that God did try to kill Jonah but then relented and saved Jonah because God knew Jonah’s heart. 

It is possible to find other verses in the Scripture to provide stand-alone support for the false doctrine of subjection of wives.  However doing so refutes the Scripture as a whole and the entire character of God, who loves and is love – perfect love.  Jeremiah 31:3  “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”  Remember Abigail?  She was a woman who voluntarily submitted herself to her husband who was, according to Scripture, a man with a bad disposition whose very name means ‘fool’.  Yet Abigail also used wisdom and her act of obedience brought her great reward because she was following and honoring the King.

Ladies, God loves you and does not want you to be in subjection to cruel and abusive men.  He has established a hierarchical structure with the husband as the head of the house but if the ‘head’ of the house is violent or abusive God is not demanding that you stay in that place.  Instead God has made provision for wives to escape abusive situations.  Protect yourselves. Protect your children.    1 Corinthians 7:10-11  10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.

 Husbands have a great responsibility and will answer to God for the way they treat their family.  Women hold a special place in the heart of God.  God dotes on His daughters.  Think about the way a husband or father dotes upon their little girl.  God’s devotion to His daughters so exceeds that, it is immeasurable.  He wants us protected, nurtured, provisioned and loved, and He has provided a framework and directions to fulfill His purpose.

God expects the men in our lives to protect us.  1 Thessalonians 4 talks about how men are to act – not with lust, but with self-control.  Men are not to defraud another person through sexual acts.  If ever a man hurts a woman with sexuality, they are rejecting God.  Another instance of God wanting women protected occurs in the Matthew 26:7-13 where the woman with the alabaster box of perfume anointed Jesus.  Remember how the other men present became angry at her, but Jesus spoke up and defended her, protecting her from their anger.  In a time and place where men considered a woman to be chattel, it was unheard of for a man to protect a woman.  Yet, here was Jesus, doing just that.  God’s command to husbands is to love their wives as Christ loves the church.  A tall order, don’t you think?

Need some other examples of God thinking we’re special?  John 20:1, a woman was first at the tomb.  Matthew 28:8, a woman was the first to proclaim the resurrection.  Luke 2:37, a woman was first to preach to the Jews.  Acts 16:13, a woman was first to greet Christian missionaries in Europe.  Acts 16:14, a woman was the first European convert.  I could go on, but you get the drift.

God cherishes His daughters.  God delights in our presence.  God loathes disciplining His daughters – it breaks His heart to have to do it – so he places men between us to bear the brunt of our discipline and punishment.  God has given us the role of wife, mother, daughter.  Yet instead of taking advantage of the buffer zone, women abandon God-given roles.  Men don’t have a buffer zone – we’re special.   We’re loved, cherished, adored, pampered, coddled, and protected.  So many of us have stepped out from under that covering – making demands and vows without our fathers’ or husbands’ guidance, or sometimes in direct opposition to their desires.  We’ll be held accountable for those!  I don’t know about you, but I like it better the other way.  As long as my covering is making Godly decisions, I’m following him!  Remember Abigail.

Now for the hard part: ladies, God wants us to submit – not for His sake, not for our husband’s or father’s sake, but for OUR OWN sake.  You see, God holds men accountable for their wives’ and daughters’ decisions and actions, and for their well-being, and that PROTECTS women.  Our husbands and fathers are our covering – a buffer of protection between us and the world AND God’s anger.  Note that I said a buffer between us and God’s ANGER, not us and GOD.  God wants intimate and loving relationship with us.  He doesn’t want to discipline us unless He absolutely has to.  How do I know that?   His Word tells me that.  Numbers 30:3 – A maid’s vow is her father’s responsibility.  If he lets it stand, then he is responsible for the outcome.  If he doesn’t, then it is of no effect.  Numbers 30:2 talks about a man’s vow standing.  A father or husband can nullify the vow, and the woman will be forgiven.  Numbers 30:13-15 – A husband may establish or void a woman’s vow.  If the husband holds his peace, then the vow is established.  If he later rescinds the vow, then HE bears the woman’s sin. 

Now, the woman’s liberation movement has twisted these scriptures to the point that they are unrecognizable.  They say it means we are less than men, that we don’t have the same rights and privileges, and that we should.  Hogwash!  This scripture means that the father or husband are responsible for the woman.  God will hold them accountable for their wives /daughters’ actions and their well-being.  Through this, God has offered us protection from His wrath by placing fathers / husbands as covering for us.  This same protection carries over into the New Testament.  In Ephesians 5: 21-29, 33 – This scripture talks about submission – one to another.  Once again, it has been perverted to make it seem like God esteems men over women, and we are less than they are.  In point of fact, that is NOT what this scripture is saying.  What it IS saying is that men are commanded to love, nurture, cherish and protect their wives as Christ loves and protects the church – how would you like to be held accountable for living up to that standard?  Wives are commanded to respect their husbands – and how could you not when you look at this scripture and see that God expects the impossible of your poor husband?  (A task he can only accomplish through God.)  The husband is the head of the wife – this is an awesome responsibility.  He’s responsible for her well-being: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.  And if he isn’t doing his job, GOD will deal with him.  You don’t want to be in the way.  What a treasure to have – a GOD that loves you so much, he’s given you someone to take care of you.  And He will hold that someone accountable, even for YOUR decisions.  Stop and think about it, ladies.  When was the last time God was harsh with you over anything?  Have you deserved it?  Probably.  But he doesn’t do it. 

                And how are we supposed to treat our husbands and fathers?  Do we talk down to them?  Do we point out their faults and shortcomings to anyone who will listen?  When they make a mistake, or miss God’s direction, do we browbeat them?  I’d like to think we’ve grown beyond that, but I know that isn’t necessarily true.  Jeremiah 31:22 – “ . .  and a woman shall compass a man.  ..”  What does that mean?  It means a woman shall protect a man.  Need another example?  How about the story of Nabal and Abigail in 1 Samuel 25.  Here, clearly, is the example of a Godly woman, protecting her husband.  Nabal was about to pay for his foolishness with his life when his wife, Abigail, stepped in and protected him.  She brought the offerings to the King, and she asked that Nabal’s iniquity be upon herself.  She acknowledged the foolishness of her husband, and pleaded for forgiveness, not for Nabal, but for herself because she took the sin upon herself.  What was the outcome?  The King relented, and she and her household were saved.  . . . at least, they were all saved except Nabal, who was slain by God, but not by the King.  And what happened to Abigail?  She received an upgrade.  So ladies, the next time your husband / father does something really foolish, step up to the plate and become an Abigail – God will bless you for it.

Peace on Earth

Peace…our hearts cry out for peace.  Some people want peace so badly they are willing to give away lands, property, wealth and possessions just to live in peace.  It never works.  The enemy trying to steal peace is never satisfied.  Our enemy is like a black hole, devouring everything that comes near and continually demanding more.

Scripture, however, promises mankind peace.  Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  These words, proclaimed by the angels at the birth of Christ, are a promise from God Almighty.  And God is not a man – He doesn’t lie and He doesn’t go back on his promises.  So if God promised us peace at Christ’s birth, why don’t we have peace on earth?

The answer is pretty simple.  What God promised was peace between Himself and mankind.  It is impossible for God to give us total peace on earth as long as the enemy is on earth because God is not a bully. He is not going to force anyone to accept Him. Neither is He going to force anyone to be at peace with others. God asks us to be at peace with one another and He has also given each of us free-will to make our own choices. Those who are under the influence of hate, fear, anger and distrust find it impossible to live in peace.

For all those who have accepted Christ as Savior and Lord, God has kept His promise.  We have peace in the midst of every storm, every upheaval, every grief, trial and problem.  The peace God gives us through Christ is an inner peace – a stillness in our spirits that isn’t tossed to-and-fro every time there is upheaval in our lives.  We might be walking through a valley and yet the peace of God reigns in our hearts.  In every situation we turn to Him and we find a peace that is tangible.

Until Christ returns, there will never be peace on earth between man and man, culture and culture – no matter how hard we try.  When Christ returns He will destroy the enemy and remove all wickedness.  Then there will be perfect peace.  But until then, it is incumbent upon every believer to be the light of peace in every situation.  No matter what is happening around us, we are called to shine the light of love, peace, grace and mercy into the world.  Believers must not react to circumstances but must instead act in the love of God.

Want peace?  Pursue Christ.  Want joy?  Embrace Christ?  Want love?  Accept Christ.

Philippians 4:6-7  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 1:8   Whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

Jeremiah 31:3   The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you

Ghosts

Ghosts.  We all have them.  Those things from the past that just won’t leave us alone.  Ghosts of what was.  Ghosts of what might have been.  Ghosts of what should have been.  Some people are more haunted by their ghosts than others.  Why is that?  There are those of us who can’t seem to let go of the past – who are constantly looking back and pulling those memories out like worry beads, dwelling on them and reliving them.  There was a woman in the Scriptures who was like that.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is told in the book of Genesis, Chapter 19, verses 1-27.  At verse 26 is told what happened to Lot’s wife when she disobeyed God’s command to NOT LOOK BACK.  Most Bible commentaries focus on her disobedience.  Some even call her as sinful as all of the others destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah.  Today, though, I want to focus on what happened to her when she looked back.

Looking back is rarely edifying.  Some of us have mastered the art of replaying good memories and discarding the bad.  There are those among us, however, who can only look at the regrets and the hurts of their past.  These dear ones, like Lot’s wife, have become pillars of salt.

Why salt?  Why not stone, or wood, or some other mineral, like iron?  Why did GOD turn Lot’s wife into a solid statue of salt?  This is an important point in the story. Remember that Jesus warned the people to “Remember Lot’s wife.” in Luke 17:32.  He didn’t say “remember Sodom and Gomorrah”, but “Remember Lot’s wife.”  In taking a closer look at the salt aspect we have to remember the purpose for which Jesus came – to be a sacrifice for all of our sin and provide a way for us to be saved.  He came to destroy the works of the enemy, not to destroy mankind.  So when Jesus warned them to remember Lot’s wife, was he warning them that they were doomed to destruction if they didn’t listen?

Salt is used to season food.  It provides savor and enhances the taste of food.  It is also used as a curative and a preservative.  So why did God use salt?  If we take this in conjunction with the words of Christ, we have to look at the spiritual aspect.  Christians are the salt of the world (Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”)  A Christian in their daily life acts as seasoning in the lives of others.  Our words and actions are to produce and enhanced flavor in the lives of others.  When we speak, salt should pour out into the lives of those around us.  However, if we have become lukewarm in our relationship with God then our salt begins to lose its saltiness.  And as Christ said in Matthew 5:13, it becomes useless.  In ancient times, when salt became useless they threw it out into the roads to act as pavement!

The other thing you may have noticed about salt is that if it is left in the salt shaker unused, it becomes a hardened mass – like Lot’s wife.  Salt that is savory and useful is free-flowing and fresh. 

In our lives, our own salt can become hardened and flavorless if we, like Lot’s wife, look back on our past with regrets or pining or unforgiveness.  It is incumbent upon us to keep our salt free-flowing and flavorful, and in order to do that we need to deal with the ghosts of our past.  It’s time to move on.  It’s time to truly forgive – whether that forgiveness needs to be directed at someone who hurt or offended us; someone who hindered us; God; or even ourselves.  It is time to stop blaming and start living.

Dealing with our ghosts can be a painful process, but it won’t kill us.  Not dealing with them might!  Our hearts might not want to forgive, but that’s okay, because our hearts (feelings, emotions) will follow our heads.  We make a determination in our minds to forgive and then we take that to God and ask for His help in forgiving.  My favorite prayer goes something like this:  “Lord, I choose to forgive _____ for _____.  Please help me to forgive.”  I have found God to be faithful every time.

So today, let’s lay those ghosts to rest, refill our shakers, and get out into the world and spread some salt!

John 8:12  Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Producing the Promises

True love is full of promises and hopes.  Every human being on this planet is seeking love – the kind that completes and nurtures.  A love that will last and allow us to grow.  And this time of year, so many people are watching Christmas movies and believing that that is true love – that the fantasies placed before them are what they really need and want.  That those types of relationship will satisfy.  I’ve watched those movies and they leave me singularly dissatisfied with the message they convey and the deception they perpetuate.  The truth is, while true love is romantic, romance is not true love. 

Confession time!  I need to learn to love – no, scratch that.  Anyone can learn to act like they love – just watch the aforementioned movies!   I need to love.  I need the love that God has for us to be made abundant in my heart so that I can truly love others.  “A person can give without loving, but cannot love without giving.”  (Adrian Rogers, I think?) 

So today, a quick study on just what love really entails.  For that, I am wading into 1 Corinthians 13.  

Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit; evidence of His presence in your life, not to be confused with a gift of the Spirit which is spoken of in Ephesian.  As a fruit, love is produced through the hard work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and is not something we can produce in ourselves by ourselves.  Our job is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He works in and through us, planting seeds of love, watering them, pruning us, and producing a harvest.  NOTE: don’t confuse perfect love with the lust that the media (in all forms) pushes upon unsuspecting souls as love.  If you do, you’ll be chasing down a blind alley that leads to destruction.

The kind of love that God exhibits toward us and that the Holy Spirit produces in us is:

  1. Patient.  That means that true love puts up with the weaknesses and faults of others without condemnation.  We are weak, ignorant, wicked and malicious at times.  True love looks past those faults and encourages us to press on toward higher ground.
  2. Kind.  Under any and all provocation, true love is tender, affectionate, good-natured, gentle and mild.  It is not harsh or critical, judgmental or bitter.
  3. Not envious.  Meaning, not jealous of anyone else—not jealous of their successes, their education, their wealth, their happiness, their good health, their fame, etc.  True love delights in the successes and happiness of others.
  4. Does not EXALT itself.  We will never see someone who truly loves using their gifts and talents in a way that makes them the center of attention or glorifies themselves.
  5. Is not proud.  People who truly love are not conceited and superior.  They do not display an air of superiority or use their position to subjugate others.
  6. Not unseemly.  A person who truly loves will not behave improperly or disgracefully towards the object of that love, nor will they act in a way that brings reproach upon the beloved.
  7. Seeks not its own.  UNSELFISH.  Someone who truly loves does not seek their own happiness over the happiness of others or to the injury of others.  True love seeks the best welfare of others, even if it requires self-denial, sacrifice and personal effort.
  8. Not easily provoked.  The essence of true love is acceptance.  Remember the red flag waving at a bull?  The bull immediately charges.  Well, if we truly love, we will not charge.  We will not become indignant, angry, irritated, vengeful or wrathful.
  9. Does not think evil.  Again, we are thinking in terms of others.  So true love believes in the best possible interpretation of others’ motives and actions and does not immediately incline to finding fault of assuming evil intentions in the actions of others.
  10. Does not rejoice in sin.  When someone around us falls into sin or adversity, those who truly love will be genuinely sorrowful for them.  True love is not pleased when evil triumphs, whether in a friend or an enemy.
  11. Rejoices in TRUTH.  Love looks at others with genuine compassion and feels sorrow and grief at their losses, but also feels great joy and rejoices at their gains, whether personal, financial, professional or spiritual.
  12. Bears all things.  We’re not talking about letting evil trounce all over us.  To ‘bear’ something in this context is to cover it, or hide it.  The Scripture is talking about not exposing the faults and imperfections of others but instead, to conceal or not talk about them.  It is the responsibility of everyone who truly loves to encourage, exhort and pray for others and NOT to gossip about them.
  13. Believes all things.  Once again, this doesn’t mean that one who loves is gullible.  Rather, the one who loves believes that others’ motivations are generally good and not intended to deliberately harm.  When others prove otherwise, the one who loves is genuinely grieved FOR THEM.
  14. Hopes all things.  Once again, no matter how dark or evil the conduct of others, this true love hopes that it can be explained and the issues disappear as understanding and fellowship are restored.
  15. ENDURES all things.  To endure all things means to remain uncomplaining at the treatment we receive from others.  We possess our souls in a patient and gentle spirit throughout persecution.  A great example of this is found in Job 13:15  “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.”
  16. Love NEVER FAILS.  All of the gifts of the Holy Spirit will vanish in eternity.  Love, a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, will go with us into eternity.  It is permanent, valuable, adaptable and always available.

LOVE is a fruit produced in believers by the cultivation work of the Holy Spirit.  It is sown, watered, weeded, pruned, and harvested by the Holy Spirit.  If we want to bear more fruit, we must cooperate with the pruning work of the Holy Spirit.

So that’s my goal today.  A little more cooperation, a little less “what about me?”  How about you?

God Likes You — REALLY!

“You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.” These words, found in the KJV Bible at Daniel 5:27, carry the message of judgement. The following verses describe the punishment that accompanied the aforesaid judgement — death. Throughout the Old Testament of the Bible are messages of God’s judgement and resulting punishments — from boils to leprosy to death, among others.

So many people today are crying out “God’s judgement” when negative circumstances arise, whether it’s a broken bone or a hurricane. And along with those words come “why did God allow this to happen?”

It is incredible that people will blame God anytime anything bad happens, and these same people will take personal credit or thank their ‘luck’ anytime anything good happens in their lives. How vain we all are! We refuse to acknowledge that our own decisions and actions play any part in the horrible things that happen in our lives, yet we are all proud-peacock when anything good comes along. Where is truth in all of this?

So this is just a little reminder to all of us: God gave mankind free will way back in the Garden of Eden, and He hasn’t taken it back. He doesn’t step in to stop you when you do something stupid, although He probably tried to dissuade you in one way or another. He also doesn’t stop your NEIGHBOR OR FRIEND from doing something stupid or hurtful to you, although He probably tried to dissuade them. That’s what free will is all about. Mankind is given opportunities and choices and God tries to steer us to the correct path. But we’re stubborn and often stupid creatures (think ‘jackass’), going our own way regardless of warnings and then blaming God for not “stopping” the resultant disasters.

I’m not a great theologian who will debate Scripture in order to make a point. I have neither the time nor the inclination. Please remember: God loves us so much that He gave us His son to be a blood sacrifice for ALL of our sins – including stubbornness and stupidity. So let’s grow up and stop blaming others, including GOD, for our failings and lack. And let’s get back in the game of life with a prayer of gratitude that He hasn’t given up on us, He hasn’t found us wanting because Jesus took care of that, and start asking God before we take that next life-changing step. And try listening this time.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Inheritance

There once was a kind, generous and benevolent wealthy man.  He had many interests and his business dealings had brought him much honor and fame.  He was a humble man who credited his success to God and his family.  People loved being with him because he treated them all the same.  No one person was better than any other in his sight:  whether rich or poor, employee or friend, they all received the same encouragement, the same attention.

This wonderful man had many children and he raised them in the fear and admonition of the Lord, training them to be independent in thought and deed.  He disciplined them when necessary and insisted they make their own way in the world.  He did not bail them out of scrapes that they got into, but watched over them as they struggled to get themselves straightened out.  If they asked for advice, he was always there for them.  And if they fell, he would help them pick themselves up and set them on the right path again.

As a result of his parenting style, he had several successful children.  He also had the standard family dynamics everyone deals with.  One of his sons was so rebellious against his father and everything he stood for that he rarely visited.  However, always mindful that there was a reward waiting for him when his father passed, the son showed up dutifully for family main events.  He did what he was asked whenever he was asked, but always with that rebellious attitude.

Another son was very successful and loved to visit his father and talk about himself and his latest conquest, whether it was a business venture or a woman.  A third son, also successful in his choice of careers, acquiesced to any request for his presence, but rarely made the effort on his own initiative.

Then there are the daughters, two of which were vivacious and attractive, constantly doing things for their father.  They divided their time between their own homes and their father’s home, doing whatever they could find to do to make him happy.  Their father loved them, but sometimes his feelings ran close to irritation as the daughters continued to find things to do for him that he did not ask them to do.  He felt sometimes they were wasting their energies when they could be doing the things he had taught them to do instead of the things they decided were a better investment of their time.

Last, but certainly not least, is the third daughter.  She was neither as lovely nor as vivacious as the others.  A middle child, she was not what one would call a success, but she wasn’t a failure either.  A middle-of-the-road type of person, she enjoyed her own home and career (though she called it a job).  At family gatherings, she was never the center of attention.  Neither athlete nor business mogul, she had never attained the high scholastic marks the others strove for, though she always did her best.  So as the others laughed and traded witticisms and stories of their own latest successes, she listened and smiled, encouraging them with ‘ooo’ and ‘ah’ at the appropriate moments.  And after the others had departed, she would stay behind, making sure everything was back in order and her father was comfortable.  She would prepare two glasses of iced tea and, bringing him one, she would sit and talk with him a while before heading for her own home.  She often stopped in unannounced to see how he was doing and share moments of her life with him, seeking his wisdom and enjoying his fellowship.

As happens to all men, death finally overtook the man, and his family was left to divide the estate.  The day came to listen to the reading of the will, and they all (but one) sat in shock as they heard the lawyer read the man’s words:    “My dear children.  You surely must know how much I love each and every one of you.  I have placed before you many treasures throughout your lives and it has been up to you to gather them and experience the depth of those riches.  I have left you the reward of hard work, and you have turned it into a race for possessions and prestige.  I have left you the reward of obedience, and you have turned it into disobedience by deciding you knew better than I what needed to be done.  I have left you the reward of fellowship, and you have turned it into a game of one-upmanship, never delving any deeper than shallow, impersonal relationships.  My children, you have squandered the greatest rewards I can give you.  I do not believe that leaving you wealth and riches will enrich your lives.  Return, dear children, to the first lessons.”

Five of the children were outraged, incensed that their father should have denied them their inheritance.  But one of the children spoke softly, and the rest turned to listen.  She said, “He gave us our inheritance while he was with us.  You were too busy, too selfish, too self-serving, to notice.  The greatest gift he had to give us was himself.”

Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.  Revelation 22:12

Please, ask yourself today, why are you serving the Lord?  Is it because you think there is going to be some big reward?  Or banquet?  Are you doing what He has asked you to do or are you so busy ‘working’ for the Lord that you can’t hear His requests?  Are you spending time with Him, getting to know Him, exploring His character, and applying that beauty to your own life?  No one is promised tomorrow and we will all face death.  Please. Examine your heart.  If you are serving the Lord, why are you doing it?  And if you are not, why not? 

Stalemate

Good morning dear ones!

What a glorious morning….overcast, humid, rain on the way, and still, simply GLORIOUS! This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. And not only because He made it, but also because He woke me up to partake of it.

I look around me at a world gone berzerk (violently or destructively frenzied; wild; crazed; deranged) and I wonder just how much of that is real and how much has been manufactured to take our eyes and minds off of what is truly happening around us? How much is hyped up and even created by the news media to create chaos?

Here’s what I see: The entitled brats are throwing tantrums. Unfortunately, they are doing so in the middle of valid protests calling for justice. And then there are those who are being paid to move from city to city, carrying weapons and instuments of destruction, burning and looting and attacking unarmed citizens. And heaven forbid! if a citizen should arm themselves and try to defend themselves. Anarchy. How did we get to this place of destruction? It is all around the world and even in our own towns.

And yet, my spirit sings this morning as I turn my eyes to the One who created us, who loves us, who wants to spend eternity with us, and who mourns our lack of love for one another. A glorious day indeed.

Dear ones, we are living in perilous times and it is important for each of us to make up our minds right now, today, about how we will spend eternity. This isn’t a political decision. This isn’t a cultural decision. This isn’t a religious decision. This is an eternal decision. Please be certain that you are CONFIDENT of the decision you are making, because there is coming a time when the opportunity to change your mind will be gone and you will be living (and dying) with your inexorable decision. There are no stalemates in eternity.

As for me….today is a glorious day!

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

Are you paying attention?

Have you been paying attention?  I have.

The world around us is spiraling out of control with a centrifugal force driving it ever downward in a morass of corruption, violence, hate, selfishness, greed…just to name a few.

What I have been paying attention to, though, is the amazing exhibition of those climbing out of the spiral, consistently striving toward all that is good and right and just.  I have seen exhibitions of God’s amazing love pouring out of people in situations that would drown most of us.  I have watched as parents apply grace to those who have cost them the lives of their children.  I have watched as first-responders heroically step into the fray of violence and disease, shining like gold as they unselfishly give of themselves, even to the point of their very lives.  I have learned of missionaries in foreign (for them) lands, in the middle of panic and fear brought on by an incurable disease, standing their ground and surrounding those they serve with love and compassion, help and hope.  I have watched as neighbors help neighbors without being asked.  I have seen the face of God in the face of strangers helping strangers.

What have you seen?  And what are you being?  Are you the hands and feet and voice of God in the lives of others?  Or are you the tantrum-throwing infant who demands attention and rights?

I think these are questions we have to ask ourselves daily.  I also think we become what we focus upon.  So today, just for today, practice lifting your eyes off of what evil is being accomplished in our world and look for what is good.  You’ll have to turn off the news and get out of the house – yes, out of the house.  Look around.  Lift your eyes and see others instead of yourself and your circumstances or what the news media is trying to force-feed you.  Just for today, look for God in motion.  And then tomorrow, when you awaken, turn your thoughts toward Him and all He has done for you – remembering that God is GOOD and His mercy endures forever.  In gratitude, set your heart on another day of looking for Him in motion.  And when you see it, join it! 

God loves you and He doesn’t want to be separated from you.  Not now.  And not in eternity.  Make a choice today.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

All I Can Do is Praise

When the world around me is crumbling …

All I can do is praise.

When my best friend succumbs to cancer…

all I can do is praise.

When my friends succumb to COVID-19…

all I can do is praise.

When cancer decimates my family…

all I can do is praise.

When my life partner goes off the rails and destroys all trust…

all I can do is praise.

When I sit alone without a friend left to call…

all I can do is praise.

When my sisters and brothers are so consumed with themselves they neither see or hear my pain…

all I can do is praise.

When I wake up in the morning…

all I can do is praise.

When I see a hummingbird…

all I can do is praise.

When I walk in the cool morning mist…

all I can do is praise.

When I receive bounty from your hand…

all I can do is praise.

When hope abounds and joy bubbles over…

all I can do is praise.

This day, Lord, I offer you praise. Praise for who You are. Praise for what You have done. Praise for the amazing grace, unconditional love, peace, and joy You and You alone provide. I praise you Lord Jesus. May a rock never replace my voice!

PRAISE THE LORD!!!!