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!!!!

Proclaim Declare Decree

How often we speak without considering the outcome!  Our conversations are rife with curses as we talk about circumstances of others without taking authority over the negative and speaking the positive.  How many times do we complain, grumble, mumble and mutter to God?

In 2015, in a time of prayer and communion with God and a dear friend, the Holy Spirit dropped these words into me.  I share them with you now, in remembrance of this dear friend who has this week left behind this valley of tears and moved to her eternal home with the Lord.  Hear the words of the Lord:

“I do not want you to be clamorous.  Be assured in your approach to me, confident in our relationship and what you expect of me.  I will answer every prayer but if you are not certain of what you expect or desire as an end result then I will respond according to my righteousness.  You have the power to move mountains and part seas, but if you hesitate, your mountain may shudder, creating an earthquake in your life) rather than move, and your sea may become a tidal wave (creating a flood in your life) and refuse to part.  Be confident in our relationship and my responses.  You have power – I have placed it in your hands.  Pray the end that you desire.  Command the mountains and the seas.  Watch, my beloved child, as the universe responds.

As you decree and declare a thing, the firmament moves in the direction of your declaration.  Just as water ripples in response to a swimmer, so the firmament responds to your words.  Speak words of life – speak words of abundance – speak words of health – and watch the heavens respond and line up with your words.  Your words have great power:  use them for good.  Bless and curse not.  The louder, the better.  Like a trumpet gets the attention of the entire band, so as you trumpet the entire firmament responds.  Watch, child.  As a son commands his father’s servants, so you have authority to command my servants.  Proclaim it.  Declare it.  Decree it.

AND WATCH!”

Virus Victims

The virus which began in Wuhan, China (so we are told) has claimed many live around the world.  And the numbers continue to climb in countries which have resorted to draconian measures to control their citizenry.  The platitudes that are being handed around include “it’s for the greater good”; “we have to protect one another”; “protect the children”; “stay away from one another so that you will live”; and on, and on, and on……

The victims of the virus are greater than the numbers of lives lost.  Greater, and taking a permanent toll, on all those left behind.  We have all lost freedom.  We have all lost trust.  We have all lost relationship intimacy at some level.  We have all lost truth.  From my viewpoint, the loss of truth is the worst of all.

We can no longer trust our government to do what is best for us.  The people governing us are now focused on doing what is best for them so that they can remain in power and keep everyone else in subjection.

We can no longer trust the news media as so many of them are no longer reporting but sermonizing the message they have been told to sell.

We can no longer trust the medical community as they are no longer dealing in truth and science, but in fear and subjugation. 

We can no longer trust pharmacists who may be changing the medication we have been prescribed for something they have been told is “better” for us.

The lies being spread on social media and by the fourth estate are propagating fear and distrust, division and hate.  But then, that is the goal, isn’t it?

No organization that is filled with hate and division can survive – whether it is a business, a family, a community, or a nation.

Wake up world.  You have sold yourselves to the devil and now you are allowing him to control your life and your future.  It’s time to take a stand.  Unite under one cause, one flag, one voice:  TRUTH!  Demand the truth from your leaders, your doctors, your pharmacists, and the MEDIA in every form.  A nation divided against itself will not stand.

MARK 3:25  “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Lincoln’s House Divided Speech      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln’s_House_Divided_Speech

Lift Me Up

There is sometimes such a deep, abiding despair in my soul that I cannot even cry out for help.  These past weeks have been like that, as I struggle to understand that battle in which my family is engaged.  Yet this morning, as I sat in quiet time with the Lord, He spoke to my heart about my newest sin – new as in the latest one that He is revealing to me.  It seems I sinned when I went to someone else for help rather than crying out to Him alone.

You wouldn’t think that was sin, would you?  I certainly didn’t.  I thought we were here to help one another make it through the days.  My Lord saw it differently.  You see, for many months He has been drawing me closer and closer into a deeper intimacy with Him.  He has been grooming me for His purposes and He wants me to rely on Him, trust Him, reach for Him when I am in need, and totally depend upon Him.  I knew that. 

So this morning why did I reach for a flesh and blood friend?  I don’t really know the answer to that except that I wasn’t hearing from Him and in my impatience I turned to a friend to see if they had an explanation and some kind of direction that I wasn’t receiving.  As it turned out, they didn’t.  The best advice they had was to sit and wait upon the Lord.  (If I could insert a picture of a sheepish grin here, I would!)

After receiving this sage advice, I sat back in my prayer chair and waited on the Lord.  It took all of about two minutes to receive the chastening of the Lord and His reminder that I belong to Him and Him alone and our ministry together is dependent upon our constant communion and trust of ONE ANOTHER.

Okay here’s a new one on me.  The Lord is trusting ME???  After I let it sink in a bit I realized that yes, in fact, He was.  He was giving me assignments and trusting me to carry them our according to His instructions.  He was trusting that I wouldn’t substitute my own ingredients into the recipe, or hand it off to someone else to babysit for me.  He was trusting ME to be reliable and dependable in the service He has for me.  How about THAT?!?  The God who created the universe is trusting ME!

With contrite spirit I repented before Him, asking for His forgiveness.  He, as always, was faithful to offer that forgiveness along with some new revelations and a step deeper into His heart.

I have dusted off my knees and am now basking in the incredible peace and joy that comes from walking intimately with the King of Kings.  Hallelujah!

So how is your day going?