Friday, August 30, 2013

The Fullness of Time

"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, 
both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him..."
Ephesians 1:10

There is a day of fruition to and the fulfillment of every prophecy contained in the Word of God.
A date when the prophecy becomes reality....
when the prediction comes to pass.
A fullness of time.
The time of coming full circle.

There is an expiration date to every trial and 
a moment of completion to every season of life.

Only God knows when that moment will be.

Sometimes, we become complacent...content with conditions as they are.
We settle in to a level of comfort from which we would never budge...
if God didn't come along and jolt us to the fact that it is absolutely time to move on.
Many times, the way He reveals this is by completely closing a door
or by allowing a situation to become unbearable.
If He didn't do that, we would never realize that the fullness of time has come.
That we have fulfilled our duty...our a particular place or situation.
That He is finished with us there, and it is His will we go forward.

I have found throughout my Christian journey that God is absolutely faithful.
He never allows us to stay where we will eventually dry up and become unfruitful.

Aunt Joyce and I went shopping yesterday in one of her favorite stores.
She has shopped there for years.
I have, too...on occasion, but not nearly as often as she has.
She and I have both become well-acquainted with two particular ladies who work there.
They have faithfully donated box upon box of clothing hangers to Charity's Closet.
Recently, we found out that the store is closing...very soon.

It is sad to me.
The saddest part is wondering what will become of the two ladies
who have always been so kind to me and to others,
and who rely upon the store to provide their livelihood.
Where will they work?
How will they survive?
What will they do?

The chapter is closing, and there isn't one thing they can do about it.

As we stood there talking to them, 
Aunt Joyce said,
"God never closes a door, without opening another one."

She is so right.
Everything has a fullness of time.
Life is full of seasons.
Though we feel they will go on forever,
all things in this life will come to an end.
But as one door closes, God has something new in mind.

We are so resistant to change,
but change is not always a negative thing.
Sometimes, God has something much better in mind for us...
when He chooses to bring something to an end.
I know it will prove true for the ladies at the closing store.

Everything in this life is temporary,
and we are passing through only once.
None of us know when the fullness of our time will come.
Every second is important.

Nothing proves this point more to me than being a mother.
Zachary is growing up so fast.
We waited so long for this little guy, and now, just look.....he is quickly becoming not so little.
I want to make this time...
this season of motherhood...really count.
Because I know one day, he will be grown.
And though I will still be his Mama after he is grown and leaves home,
his growing up years will become sweet memories...tucked safely away....
inside the deepest chamber of my heart....
where I keep the ones that are most precious.

I won't get to do this whole thing over.
There are no second chances.
God help me somehow get it I have the chance....
while he is still in the making....
under the protective umbrella of a loving home.

The other night, he came to me with a heavily-burdened heart.
He was so troubled.

I picked up on it instantly and dropped everything I was doing.

We sat and talked for the longest time, as he expressed feelings he had buried deep.

How I treasured every word!
How long will he confide in me like this?
I keep dreading the moment he decides to shut me out.
Will he always consider Kevin and me his confidantes?
Will he always be this open with us?
Some of the things he shared with me were deeply personal.
It was beyond precious.

In the course of our conversation, I discovered some very profound hurt.
I have known it was there for a long time.
I guess I just didn't realize how much he hated the ones who inflicted it.

Recognizing the magnitude of the opportunity,
I gently spoke.
"Zach, we have to deal with this.
We have to forgive...we have to let it all go.
Think about Jesus...on the cross.
He forgave, so we would have the grace to do the same."

We talked, then prayed together for a long time.
His heart melted.
His will broke.
He prayed clear glorious victory....
until he could honestly let it all go....and forgive.

The fullness of time had come...for his healing.
I had longed for it...wished he could find peace....tried to make it happen.
I couldn't do it.
It was not something that could be rushed.
It wasn't time....until that moment.

He has been a changed boy since that night.
If names of people who have hurt him come up in our conversations,
I don't sense the hate anymore.
God miraculously took it all away.

Isn't grace amazing?

There are certain things that cannot be rushed.
Things like healing...and forgiveness....and promises from God.

God gave the Old Testament prophets a foresight to envision things that were to come.
They wrote about it and declared it to the people of their day.
They told of a Messiah Who would be born to a woman who had never had intimate relations with a man.
They prophesied specific particular and so precise.

It didn't happen overnight.
They longed for it to happen in their day, but it just wasn't time.

God has a plan.
His thoughts are way above yours and mine.
He is not governed by our timetable.
He has one of His Own.

We can push and shove and pound our fists towards Heaven,
but God will not be hurried.
He will move at His Own pace.
He does not adjust His plans to suit our impatience.
He does not alter His will to appease our demands.
We are foolish to think the world and plan of God revolves around our whims.

When the fullness of time came,
Jesus was born to a virgin named Mary in a town called Bethlehem,
just like the Old Testament prophets predicted and foretold.
His Father was the Holy Spirit Who overshadowed Mary's womb
and implanted the seed of life that grew and became the Son of the flesh.
He lived a sinless life.
He died a horribly painful, anguish-driven, cruelly-inflicted death.
He bore the sins of every man, woman, boy, and girl who had ever or will ever live and breathe and sin.

I love reading the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus,
then turning to the New Testament and seeing them fulfilled...right to the tee.
God allowed the prophecies to be fulfilled....exactly when they were supposed to.
Not a moment before.
Not a second after.

All things done by God are orderly and transacted in the exact manner in which He intended.
Nothing fails that He wills to be done.

In late 1991, I prayed...flat on my face...on the floor of the spare bedroom of our apartment.
Kevin and I had been married for 3 1/2 years and wanted desperately to have a child of our own.
It wasn't happening.
Instead, my health issues had become worse and more pronounced.
Dad was seriously ill, and we weren't sure how much time he had left.
I was desperate to get a hold of God.
I remember that night like it was last week.

During the course of that prayer,
God promised me a child.
He didn't say when it would happen.
But, I had His word on it.
I knew it.

Multiple doctor visits, medical testing, fertility experts,
tears, and feelings of failure were mingled among the happiness and peaceful married life
Kevin and I were blessed to enjoy during the next nine years...
as I clung tight to my promise from God.
I admit I didn't always understand.
I didn't always believe.
My faith wavered.
I even questioned whether or not it had really been God's voice I heard that night on the floor.
Sometimes, I fought bitterness and resentment.
Always, I yearned....each time I saw a newborn baby.

Dad's health was up and down, but never good.

Finally, out of the blue, in April of 2000,
Kevin and I found out we were expecting!
Could I ever express our joy in mere words?

On December 26th, nine years after God promised,
Zachary made his way into our waiting arms....and hearts...and home.
The fullness of time had come for my promise to be fulfilled.

Dad was never to see our sweet angel....not on this side.

Dad died shortly after we got to share our wonderful news.
He knew Zachary was on his way.
He just didn't live long enough to see him arrive.

I struggled for a long time with trying to understand God's timing.
Couldn't He have taken Dad a few months later than He did?
After waiting that long....couldn't He have waited just a little bit longer?

I don't this day.
But, I have come to trust God's wisdom.

It is not all about me.
His will and my will don't always come to a place of agreement.
His will trumps mine, and the best thing I can do is to relax in His arms
and allow my will to surrender to His.
Fighting it and trying to analyze it will only end in exhaustion and frustration.

Just before Jesus ascended to Heaven,
He told His disciples He would come again.
That was nearly 2000 years ago.
Scoffers say it will never happen.
Atheists say He doesn't exist...that He never did.
Skeptics say it is all a myth.

The fact of the matter is, God always keeps His word.
God does exist, and He holds every bit of control.
He doesn't operate in a box of our making.
He does what He will, when He will.
It is all according to His plan.

Jesus will come back.
We don't know when.
We just know He will.
In the fullness of time.
When God is ready.
Jesus will call His children home to live with Him forever in eternity.

How about you, my friend?
Anything you are waiting for?
Has God given you a personal promise that yet remains unfulfilled?

May I encourage you to wait on God?
He never makes a promise He doesn't keep.
The fullness of time will your situation.
You will see that He was right all along.
You will find Him 100% faithful.
Don't give up.
Don't give in.
Always believe.

It will be worth the wait.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Keeping It Real

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.
In the world ye shall have tribulation:
but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

We live in a world that is fantasy-obsessed.
We do our utmost to escape reality...because oftentimes, reality is painful.
And difficult.
And troubled.
And hard to face.
So, we try to numb our senses...or at least dull them enough to take the edge off.
In the process, we become desensitized.
That is never a good thing.

Because walking through life with numbed senses and a desensitized conscience is not safe.
God created us the way He did for a reason.
It is necessary to feel.
What if we lost our physical sense of touch?
What if God created us without the ability to identify hot surfaces?
How long would we be able to last...
without completely destroying ourselves?

Would God be fair and just?
To create us without instilled pain sensors?
What if we didn't realize we were cutting ourselves, 
until we saw the first sign of blood?
Pain is a God-given indicator that something is wrong.
It often indicates an underlying problem.

Emotions are every bit as important to our well-being
as are our five physical senses.
Keeping them dead is not healthy.
We need to be able to order to recognize danger signals.
And we need to be able to feel in order for God to communicate with us.

Perpetuating a desensitized emotional state inhibits God from being able to get through.
How can He deal with our hearts, when we can't feel anything?
How will we know when we are getting too close to the edge,
if we are so emotionally-sedated that we cannot hear His still, small, gentle voice?

During some of my deepest trials, I have been sorely tempted
to do some things that I would never have considered before.
I'll be honest.
There have been moments that the mental anguish was so overwhelming,
the grief so unbearable,
the heartache so intense,
that satan dared and had the audacity to present some mind-numbing options to me.
He whispered that it wouldn't hurt anything to deaden the pain...
to escape from it all by swallowing a pill....or worse.
I thought of how good it would not feel....
for just a day.
To not have to cry.
To be able to get through one day without falling apart.
To feel like I was okay again.

The point is that even if I had caved and crumbled to the temptation,
it would have been nothing more than a fantasy.
Because, the reality was that I was not okay.
Far from it.
I was a complete mess,
and the mess was something I needed to sort and work through.
There were stages of grief that needed to be experienced....
in order to heal properly.
Had I deadened the pain, I would have killed my God-given ability to recognize I was in trouble.
That would have been unwise.
It would have created a false sense of security,
when the security I really needed....was only to be found in God.

Drinking bitter dregs of sorrow, rejection, and hopelessness
has taught me a lot of lessons,
made me a lot more understanding,
and a lot less critical....
of those who choose to drown the pain.
It has opened my eyes to comprehend how people become so driven to places of fantasy,
where reality is completely cut off and shut out,
and senses are blissfully bereft of feeling.
I am not so quick to judge now.
Because I was there....and tempted, too.
There, but for the grace of God, go I, without a doubt.

Jesus refused the temptation to dull His pain.
On the cross, He became desperately thirsty.
He longed for a drink....of water.
Can you imagine the severity of His dehydration?
Profuse sweating and loss of blood that had lasted for literally hours
had dangerously depleted His bodily fluids.
I can't even imagine how thirsty He really was.

"They gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall:
and when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink."
Matthew 27:34

Instead of the water He so severely craved, Jesus was offered vinegar that was mingled with gall.
Most Bible scholars agree that the "gall" or "myrrh" as it is referred to in the book of Mark,
was added to the vinegar because of its narcotic qualities.
It dulled the pain, and in its process, had a stupefying effect upon the senses..

Jesus recognized this instantly.
Even in the height of the intensity of His sufferings,
Jesus made the choice to bear all....
with a clear, unclouded, un-intoxicated, entirely composed, and completely conscious mind.
So that He could pave the way...for you and do the same.
He suffered every single pain that you and I will ever experience,
so He could offer us the greatest gift.

It is called grace.

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities;
but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
Hebrews 4:15

Jesus did not cave.
He never took an easy way out.

He is the Source of all comfort.
His comfort reaches the deepest, most remote pain-filled crevice.
To turn to alternate sources of relief is to seek help that is inadequate.
It can't penetrate past the surface.
It merely creates a facade.
An illusion....which, if left unchecked, leads to a delusion....and self-deception.

David struggled for years, while being maliciously pursued by King Saul...
having to hide out in caves, spending life on the run, away from home and peace and comfort.
He learned the value of allowing God to ease his anguish.

"Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee,
when my heart is overwhelmed:
 lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.Psalm 61:1-3

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  
My help cometh from the Lord, which made Heaven and earth."
Psalm 121:1-2

God longs for us to turn to Him...for what we need.
For all we need.
He wants to be our Source.
He is sufficient.
He is enough.
To shut Him out, when we are hurting,
is to shut out the Healer.
To turn away from Him in search of alternate forms of relief
is to deny ourselves the very antidote to our problems.

It must grieve His heart deeply to watch us in our struggles.
To see us seeking...looking for what we need in all the wrong places.
To observe our never-ending quests for peace.

Peace is not found in a bottle, my friend.
It is not to be discovered in a pill.
There is no drug powerful enough to fill a human soul with blessed assurance.
That only comes from knowing Jesus and allowing Him to heal what is broken inside.

Know God.  Know peace.
No God.  No peace.
Author Unknown

His is a peace that passes all understanding.
Regardless of outward circumstances, it remains.
Because it is not contingent on us or what we are going through.
It originates and emanates from the throne of God, which is unchanging and unmovable.

It is God's will that we face reality....square in the face.
He created our emotions.
Only He can repair them when they become torn...
and frayed...battered....bruised....ripped to shreds.
Glossing them over with false, make-believe happiness will only perpetuate the damage.

"He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds."
Psalm 147:3

Substances can deaden; 
only God can heal...from the source outward.

The most advanced modern medical equipment still has no capability to see a broken heart.
Only God can see that deep.
Only God can truly mend and heal something that remote.
To find and indulge in oblivion is to deny God the opportunity to do what He is meant to do
and to deny ourselves what we need the most.

It may be the quickest way to eliminate discomfort,
but taking the easy way out is not always in our best interest.
It turns out to be not so easy.
Because it leads to deeper, bigger problems.

How many people have ended up substance-addicted
because they started out to just find a quick dose of relief?
In the end, they would have been better off to keep it real.

I know it hurts.
I am aware of the agony.
Let God heal.
Allow Him to wrap His arms around you....
when the waves are overwhelming,
when you can barely breathe...
as it takes everything you have to force yourself past the barrier to come up for a gasp of air.

Fall into His arms.
Experience the balm of Gilead.
Relax in His grip.
Let Him do what He so longs to do.

He wants to make you whole.
To pick up every broken, shattered piece,
and fit every crushed part of you....
all back together again.

It is a process.
His way does not happen overnight.
You will walk the lonesome valley...
every stage of grief...
every phase of healing....
but you will never walk it by yourself.
He will walk every pain-filled, anguished step...with you...alongside of you.
And in those moments you stumble and cannot walk,
He will gently lift you up....and carry you in His arms.

"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms..."
Deuteronomy 33:27

If you find yourself at the end of your endurance,
may I encourage you to make the right choice?
God's way is real....healing....restoration....peace.
It is honest.
There is no deception.
No false hope.
He created you.
He knows you....
your history,
the reasons for your pain,
the deepness of your wounds.
Let the One Who made you make you whole.
His way is the right escape your trials.
His way is truth....

and the truth will set you free.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Resisting What Is Best

"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice..."
I Samuel 15:22

A man stood in our yard talking to Kevin.

"The guy says we need to have that tree cut back...
the one out there by the fence that Uncle Orville and Aunt Joyce gave us 
when they first moved here",
Kevin told me as he walked inside.

"But, I don't want to have it trimmed.
I love that tree!" 
I wailed.

"I know.
But, he said they've been having power outages in our area,
and they want to make sure none of the branches are causing a problem.
He'll be back next week to see what we decided to do."

I made up my mind right then and there, that when he came back,
I was going to let him know that he was not going to take our tree!
After all, we hadn't had any power outages.
Surely other people's trees were the cause of their problems.
Not our tree.

There were memories attached to that tree.
Zachary used to climb it.

He and his dogs have spent happy times in and around it.
They have had adventures there.

I have a hard time letting things go....
maybe you've figured that out by now.

I am sentimentally-challenged. :~)

The next week came and went,
and the guy never came back.

I just figured they had resolved the issue, 
and felt thankful that we were off the hook.
I was thrilled.

Fast forward to the end of May....and summer storms.

Zach and I were headed to a friend's birthday party one evening,
enjoying the drive down a country road, when the cell phone rang.

It was Kevin.

"I'm having a hard time getting ready for work.
The electric is out."

"Oh, no!  I wonder what happened?"

"It just went out.
I called and reported it.
Hopefully, they'll send somebody out soon."

Thank the Lord, they did.
They found the blown fuse in the transformer,
fixed it, and we were back in business.

End of discussion.....right?


That was only the beginning.
For the next several weeks, 
we experienced right after the other.

It was usually during times of high wind.
Sometimes, we would actually hear the fuse blow in the transformer....
right next to the tree.

Yeah, that tree.

Once we returned from a trip, only to walk in to a stifling, hot house,
with no A/C,
and stuff melting in our freezer.
We never did find out exactly how long the electric had been off.

It became quite a nuisance....and inconvenience.
More than that, I began to panic,
knowing Kevin was getting closer and closer to being able to work full-time from home,
and realizing this could create a real problem if it kept happening.

Still, I didn't even want to consider the thought....
of having to cut that tree.

One day, LD and Mark were outside working on a building project for us,
when the skies above overshadowed, and a storm came up out of nowhere.

You guessed it.
LD and Mark heard the loud boom,
and LD saw...firsthand....what caused it.

"Cheryl, those tree limbs are blowin' in the wind,
whippin' back, and hitting that transformer.
That's what is making your electric go off.
You might wanna get that tree cut back."

"I know."

I knew what we should do.
But, I didn't want to do what we should do.

That tree had a birdfeeder that LD built for Kevin hanging from one of the branches
that swooped out over the side of our driveway.
And another pretty feeder that my niece, Kristen, bought him for his birthday.
And another one that we had picked out together.

That tree was special.

Aren't they all?

I have a real problem seeing trees cut down.
It just really goes against the grain.

Besides, this one was extra-special, 
because of who gave it to us.

Aunt Joyce and Uncle Orville

I called the electric company.
Same thing, different storm.

I knew we should just go ahead and trim the tree,
but I kept hoping, by some miracle,
that we would find another solution...
and never have to do it.

It's called denial.

One day, I walked outside through the garage
to find a man from the electric company standing on the other side of our fence....
staring up at our tree.

I walked over to speak with him.

"I'll go ahead and submit a work order for them to come out and trim that tree for you."

I stood there and wanted to resist.
Wanted to tell him no.
I knew I shouldn't.
Knew I really couldn't stall any longer.

At last, I stubborn will.

"Okay.  Go ahead."

I finally gave in to what I knew was best all along.

The guys came out in their Asplundh truck,
with the mulcher, wood-chipper thing attached to the back.

Kevin went out to talk to them and came back in with worse news.

"They're not only going to trim that tree,
they're cutting it all the way down."

"To the ground???" I moaned.

"Yeah, they have to."

"But, why?"

"Because if they don't, it will just grow back,
and they'll have to come back out and deal with it again in a year.
It has to go, honey."

I walked down the hall to find Zach.

"If you want to say good-bye to our tree, 
you better hurry.
They're cutting it down."

A child after mine own heart,
he is almost as sentimental as I am.  

The three of us stood on our front porch and watched the whole, painful process.




Just gone.
The only thing left are the memories....several pictures.....and the stump.

The guy cut as close to the ground as he could with his chainsaw,
but there is still a stump.

A stark reminder...of what used to be.

I miss the beautiful shade it provided.
I miss the privacy it afforded, in that little corner of our front yard.

There was a time when that tree was not tall enough to cause a problem.

I remember a day when the branches didn't reach high enough to touch the transformer.

Then came the day, when problems developed.
We were told about it.
Given fair warning.
But, I didn't think it was all that serious.
Not until it started affecting us...that is.

Then it became personal.
Yet, I rebelled.
I kept holding on...hoping the storms would stop.
Hoping the wind would blow the other direction.
Hoping we wouldn't have to do what I knew deep in my heart
we should do.

Resisting what was best.

How often do we do that?
In life, I mean?

God sends little, subtle warnings.
He brings to our attention that we have a situation that holds potential to create problems for us.
He lets us know that a change needs to take place.
Things aren't so bad, at first....
so we try to ignore the problem....
and His still, small voice.
As the problem continues, it gets worse.
To the point that, one day He has attracted our full-blown attention.

We rebel.
We refuse.
We hope for a miracle....
for an easier solution....
than to do what God suggests.

An easy way out never appears.
We are backed into a corner.
Obviously, things are not going to change...
until we do what we know we should have done in the first place....
when God first brought it to our attention.

Most problems start out small....
then they escalate as we neglect to fix them.

Just like the cherished tree.

It's funny, but we haven't had a problem since they cut it down.

Had I given the beginning....
I could have saved us some miserable times.
We could have enjoyed uninterrupted A/C...
and other modern conveniences.

It is utter foolishness to ignore God's warnings.
If He says there is danger up ahead and we need to take an alternate path,
we would do well to listen.

He sees the end from the beginning.
He absolutely knows what is best.

Remember, Judas?
The one who sold out for 30 pieces of silver and betrayed Jesus
by leading His enemies to Him that fateful night?

Judas had a spiritual need.
Deep inside his spirit,
he had a problem.
He knew it.
It had reared its ugly head in the past and been brought to his attention.

He had manifested disdain when Mary poured the alabaster box full of oil
over Jesus' feet and allowed it to spill its beautiful fragrance into the room.
Her heart was full of worship.
Judas, one of the of Jesus' chosen disciples...did not like what Mary did,
because his heart was full of greed.
You can read the whole story in John 12:1-8.

"Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him,
Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, 

and had the bag, and bare what was put therein."

Judas chose to ignore the warning signs.
He, one of the 12 who walked most intimately with God in the flesh,
never asked Him for deliverance.
He had every opportunity to get confess and be cleansed of his greed....
before it led to bigger, more serious problems.

He lived life in denial...pretending to be something he never was.
He never paid attention to the red flags.
His failure to take heed and deal with his problem eventually cost him his life....
but even more tragic, it doomed him to an eternity apart from the One he claimed to serve.

Change is never easy.
I cringe every time I look in the direction of the missing tree.
I miss it being there.
Standing tall and strong...against the sky.
But, having it there was not in our best interest.
Trimming it would have only provided a temporary solution to a perpetual problem.

It had to come down....all the way.

Just like things in our lives that are detrimental to our spiritual welfare.
There are things we should just let go of.
Things that will never be good for us.
Things that should go sooner rather than later.
Things that should be completely eliminated....
because they will always cause us trouble.
Unfortunately, little problems turn into big problems,
and trouble multiplies and becomes more serious as time goes by.

God is faithful to point out our spiritual needs.
He cares about us making Heaven.
He gives us this life to prepare....for the life to come.

It would save us a lot of misery to just mind God.
In the beginning.
The minute He brings the problem to our attention.

Deep down, we all know it is true.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Recognizing A Counterfeit

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,
or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above,
or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:
for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God..."
Exodus 20:4-5

During the years that Kevin and I were on the front lines of banking,
we became very familiar with US currency.
If we had a penny for every piece of money that has passed through our hands over the years,
while working as tellers and head tellers,
we'd have quite a stash of pennies.  ;~)
I remember sitting on the floor in the vault with piles upon piles 
of strapped money all around me
and feeling the weight of its responsibility.

It was scary, at times.
You never knew who would walk through the front door with ill intentions....
and demand some or all of that money, while holding a gun to your head.
Everyone knows how much money a bank is required to keep on hand
in order to service their daily customers.

It was also scary, because of the liability of being accountable for the 
large amounts of money we were required to keep on hand....
both in our individual teller drawers and the added responsibility that came when
working in a head teller position, which included all of the cash stored inside the vault.
I never drew an easy breath until I balanced to the penny, at the end of the day.
The bank we worked for ran a tight ship, and only so many errors were tolerated.

Handling money for so many years really made me aware
of what genuine currency feels like, looks like, and is.
When I was handed a counterfeit, I usually knew it.
Pretty quickly.
Most of the time.

If we had any doubt, we could use the counterfeit-detecting markers
that show with just a single swipe whether or not a piece of money is authentic.
Or we could hold it under a black light, which would instantly 
reveal the threads that are woven throughout a real piece of money.
And there were other means of verification.

But, the main thing I came to depend upon was my own instincts.

Being so familiar with what is real, 
was my most reliable source of detection.
Handling real money so often, made it possible, even easy, to spot what was not real.

Being in banking taught me a lot about life.

It is important for us to know the one, true, real Spirit of God,
in order to have the ability to recognize a counterfeit.

We live in a world that is chock-full of spirits.
If we could pull back the curtain and take a peek into the spirit-world around us,
at any given moment,
we would undoubtedly draw back in horror at what we saw.

In the Christian life,
we aren't fighting physical warfare.

The Apostle Paul spoke of this in Ephesians 6:12.
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, 
but against principalities, 
against powers, 
against the rulers of the darkness of this world, 
against spiritual wickedness in high places."

If we don't know...I mean really know.....the God of Heaven,
how will we be able to identify what is not of God?

The world around us, in a large way, has lost its moral compass.
We have, to a big degree, lost our vision of Who God is.
We have exalted other gods above Him,
and we don't even know it.

Yesterday, I sat in a booth that was situated near a video game called "Guitar Hero".
I'm sure you've seen it.
It's been around for the past few years.
I happened to look over and saw a little boy standing there playing it.
He was so small, he could barely reach the gadgets attached to it,
and in order to see the screen, he had to look way up.

On the stage of the screen were rock stars.....the head-banging, wild-looking type...
with spikey hair, some with no shirts.
They were going through what I call conniptions,
swaying all over the place, yanking their guitars from side to side, 
jerking their heads back and forth.

It crossed my mind as I watched the screen how much my neck would hurt
if I were to attempt to do what they were doing.

The characters on the screen weren't real, obviously,
but they were based upon the behavior of people who are.
I wonder how they keep from getting a whiplash,
and how many ways their health in later life will be adversely affected
by the ways they continually jerk and carry on?

Situated below the stage where the rock stars were performing,
 were what appeared to be hundreds, maybe thousands, of people.
Adoring, screaming, highly-excited fans.
Hands raised in the air.
It occurred to me how much their behavior emulates worship.
If I hadn't been able to hear the screeching sounds coming from the video game,
had I been watching from a distance,
I would have wrongly assumed that the people in the crowded audience were in a church service....
raising their hands in worship and prayer to Almighty God,
as we are instructed to do in I Timothy 2:8.

My sister, Sandi, works in the school system.
She recently told me that they sometimes do surveys in which
they ask the children what they want to be when they grow up.

Remember back when the aspirations of children and young people 
were to grow up to be teachers, preachers, doctors, nurses, and dentists?
Remember when they dreamed of being the president or a missionary or an astronaut
or maybe their goal was to start and build their own business from the ground up?
Remember when their role models were Sunday School teachers,
scout leaders,
grandparents, and parents?

The answers of the children in Sandi's school district are good indicators as to how 
much we have changed and how much the nobility of our aspirations has disintegrated.
The answers of these children, to me, are nothing short of alarming.

Overwhelmingly, the majority of the children surveyed answered 
that they want to grow up to be....
 rock stars and celebrities.
They want to grow up to emulate their idols.

We have become a nation of idol worship.
Plain and simple.
Its true.
Number one on the list of the Ten Commandments 
which God took His Own finger and engraved on a tablet of stone, is this...
"Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."
Exodus 20:3

No other gods.

We are not to worship anything or anyone....other than the one, true God.

How did the lines become so crossed?
How did we end up here?
How did we become a nation so obsessed, engrossed, and driven...
to worship the creature, instead of the Creator?

"Who changed the truth of God into a lie, 
and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, 
who is blessed for ever. Amen."
Romans 1:25

We have tried our best to remove God and His Holy Word from the public square.
We are forbidden to place the Ten Commandments on the lawn of the county courthouse.
The very reason so many of our juveniles are inside the walls and chambers of those courts
is because they have broken the commandments that we are prohibited from displaying.
We aren't permitted to teach the Bible in our public schools.
The children and young people are forbidden to pray.
It is politically-incorrect to begin our school assemblies and ceremonies with intercession to God
for His protection over them and their activities.

We have dropped the ball and failed to keep the one, true God front and center....
at the forefront....
of our education process,
of our politics,
and of our lives.

That's how we got here.
That's why the lines are so crossed.
That's how everything has become so muddled and gray.
That's how we can bow down and worship and emulate idols....
and not even realize what we are doing.

The United States of America was built upon God's Holy, Divine Word.
Our legal system was founded upon the Ten Commandments.

If you pull the foundation out from under a standing building,
the building will have no option, other than to fall.
It will crumble.
There will be no support.

If we lose sight of who God really is.....the only real God....
how will we even notice when we begin to worship other gods....
who are not real?
How will we recognize counterfeit gods, when we are so far from and unfamiliar with
the One and only God Who is authentic?

Bro. Frank Hampton was recently invited to Washington, D.C. to pray over the 113th Congress.
Bless his dear heart, he did a wonderful job.
I was amazed at how much he was able to cram into that one minute, 23 second prayer.
His words are profound.
Wisely-used and executed.

Click here to see video of the prayer, if it doesn't load here.
Click here to see another video taken before Pastor Hampton went to Washington.

Thank God for this dear brother and the golden opportunity he was given.
  I found it very interesting that they still even open sessions of Congress with prayer.
I am SO grateful they do.
Dear, precious Lord, may it always be so.

But, seeing this made me wonder....
why is it that they are allowed to pray, but our children cannot pray in school?
Why is that Bro. Hampton was permitted to read from God's Holy Word
and quote Scripture in His prayer,
but our students are persecuted for even having a Bible on campus?
Why are other gods so promoted and exalted in our Christian nation,
while God is pushed to the back burner?

We worship rock stars, celebrities, sports, and athletes.

We are drunk on entertainment,
saturated with competition,
and gluttons for amusement.

We are putting all sorts of other gods before God....
our money, careers, relationships, material possessions,
even ourselves.

Anything that comes before God in our lives falls into the category of an idol.
If we aren't worshiping the one, true God of Heaven,
chances are, we are worshiping something or someone else.
Chances are, we have fallen for a counterfeit.
A cheap substitute.
An inadequate replacement.

A piece of counterfeit money is worth nothing.
It will not deliver.
It has no purchasing power.
No value.
There is no substance behind it.
It isn't worth the energy it would take to light a match and watch it burn.

Other gods are powerless.
They cannot deliver.
They did not hang, mercilessly, God-forsaken on an old, rugged cross
to purchase our salvation.
They have shed no blood to set us free.
They have no substance...and no concern for our well-being.
They cannot answer our prayers, heal our bodies, or forgive our sins.
They are fleeting, and like a granted power of attorney, they cease upon our death.
They cannot follow us to the other side.
They will not walk through the valley with us.
They are temporal...and temporary.
They are absolutely unworthy of our worship.

At the end of life's day, 
the exaltation of an idol will be the thing we most regret.
Trading a relationship with the God of Heaven for the worship of an idol
will turn out to be the most unwise choice and exchange we ever made.

Jesus asked,
"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
Matthew 16:26

The person or thing we exalted above God and loved more than Him,
will be the person or thing we loathe most throughout eternity.
It will ultimately be the reason we spend eternity away from God.

We were created with an innate desire to worship.
To seek a higher power.
To devote ourselves to something bigger than we are.
To elevate our thoughts and minds to the very throne of God.
Every one of us has within our spirit a deep yearning to worship.
God placed it that we would turn towards Him....
not for us to devote our love and affections to cheap imitations and counterfeits.

God is a jealous God.
He only is to be worshiped.
He deserves the number one spot in your heart and mine.

He is real.
Still on the throne of Heaven.
Still listening to the prayers of His children.
Still forgiving sins, healing bodies, saving souls.

Don't you long to worship the One Who is real?
The One for Whom our desire to worship was created?

Only He satisfies.
Only He can fill the craving, my friend.
Everything and everyone else comes up short.
Way short.

Are you tired of coming up empty?
Has the pursuit of lifeless idols left you sad, unfulfilled, unsatisfied, and alone?

The One Who made you loves you...with an undying, unconditional, Divine love.
He longs for your worship.

He invites you to come to Him and get to know Who He is.

The best safeguard you and I can build about ourselves is to come to really know God.
The one, true God.
To acquaint ourselves intimately with Him.
To allow Him full access into our hearts and lives...
until we are saturated with His presence and an unmovable faith in His existence.

Because knowing what is real is the best possible way 
to detect a counterfeit.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Same Bondage, Different Yoke

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, 
and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
Galatians 5:1

Bondage is a powerful spirit.
It is not easily broken.
It starts out small and doesn't announce its appearance or identity.
Usually, by the time you realize you are ensnared in its clutches,
it has the upper hand....and then some.

It doesn't operate alone, but with the assistance of a few select accomplices.
At the top of its list of most faithful and loyal assistants, is the spirit of fear.
The two work well together, without friction, and in perfect accord.
In fact, in all of their years of partnership, working side-by-side,
they have never had a disagreement.
Where bondage goes, fear is sure to follow.

Confusion and doubt are right on the heels of fear.
And let's not forget paralyzing hopelessness...which leads to complete indifference and apathy.
There is deep inside the numbed senses an awareness that something is horribly wrong,
but any emotion to motivate the possibility of making a change
is quickly suppressed and snuffed out the minute it appears.
There is an overwhelming inability to move a muscle in the slightest direction of freedom.

So, we remain trapped...a captive in a prison without bars.

I haven't mentioned it in a while, but I am still in the Potter's house...
being remade, re-molded, renewed, and most importantly, restored.

The other day, He spoke on the subject of bondage,
here on the wheel.

"Child, I want you to remain free.
I want you to be stay alert.
Don't become entangled again...with any yoke of bondage.
There are different brands of bondage.
Different types of yokes.
I have delivered you.
I have made you free...given you liberty.
Satan would like nothing more than to offer you another yoke.
He wants to enslave you by another means....
by using an alternate brand of bondage.
Stand fast in your liberty.
He cannot enslave you without your consent.
I have set you completely free.
I have delivered you....entirely and wholly.
Now, it is up to you....through My stay that way.
Bondage is a cruel taskmaster.
No matter which brand of yoke satan decides to use.
When you are delivered from one form of captivity, 
he will try his utmost to replace it with something else....
something that is nothing more than a different brand of yoke.
He will lure you in...and before you know it, 
the ropes will be tighter than ever before...
if you allow it.
Once you give your consent,
the one who attaches the yoke has control."

As Jesus spoke to my heart, my mind raced...backwards
to various binding elements in my life...
various situations...
and the way His miraculous power has set me free.
How He has brought me to where I am today.
This land is new territory for me.
I am not used to being free.
Liberty couldn't feel sweeter...than it does right now.
The path ahead...following Jesus....couldn't be more clear...
or more void of interference.

It is wonderful to be free.

I hate to admit it, but I stayed in and under bondage for so long...
satan had the unfortunate opportunity of inflicting some pretty intense damage,
and he took full advantage of that opportunity.
A lot of healing has needed to take place.
I am still in the healing mode.
But, God is absolutely faithful.

The balm of Gilead never expires...never runs out.
Praise His name!

I think once you have lived so long in enslavement,
you tend to hardly know how to act...
once you walk the unfamiliar path of freedom's road.
It is like you are so used to being bound,
you find it strange to walk free....
you even feel guilty about enjoying life...
and you are extremely vulnerable to walking back into bondage...
into the clutches of a new and untested form....
into the powers of a yoke of a different brand.

He continued,
"Child, there are many brands of yokes,
but every one of them operate under the same spirit of bondage.
The enemy of your soul does not care how he does it.
Just so he sees you cowered down...enslaved....unhappy.
The thief comes only to steal, to kill, and to destroy.
To steal your joy, your happiness, your peace, your freedom in Me.
To kill your spirit, your enthusiasm, your zeal and passion for Me and My work.
To destroy your liberty, this bliss of walking free, every bit of the deliverance
wherewith I have set you free.
I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly.
You must continue to choose the life I have given you.
Don't ever succumb to any yoke...except Mine.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me.
It brings continual rest to the soul.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.
Being and remaining yoked to Me 
equates to walking in total freedom."

Satan recognizes an area of weakness when he sees one.
He knows what has been successful in luring us into enslavement in the past.
He is like a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour...
by whatever under-handed, conniving means necessary.
If victory is won in one area of bondage, 
he has many alternate yokes up his sleeve.
His objective is to keep us bound...
whatever it takes,
however he has to do it.

He likes to pounce when we're weak.
We are always at our weakest point,
when we feel the most confident.
Because in those moments, we rely upon ourselves.
Self is a very undependable source of strength.
The moment we become a bit too cocky and self-assured,
the instant we begin to toy with the idea that we are capable of maintaining liberty on our own,
satan is on it like a hungry shark who has just picked up on a trail of blood.
He kicks his scheming plans of recapture into overdrive,
and he enlists whatever recruits he finds available to execute his diabolical scheme.

One of his most effective binding yokes comes in the form of other people.
If he can get us under the binding, oppressive spirit of manrule,
he is excessively pleased with himself.
Because he knows and realizes the amazing strength of the power of this unyielding yoke.

The spirit of manrule is a spirit that will not be satisfied.
No matter what we do, it will demand more.
Regardless of how hard we try to please, it is never enough.
Each time we bow down, the whip will strike harder,
until we are completely and entirely spent and broken to bits....
until we are robbed of every ounce of inward joy....
until we are emotionally, physically, and worst of all, spiritually drained.

It is like an addiction.
It demands.
It commands.
It must be served.
It is without pity.
If you dare to buck its orders, the consequences are severe,
unsparingly painful,
and entirely void of mercy.

Addiction is a heavy, oppressive, relentless yoke....
no matter what form it takes.
It is a powerful form of bondage.
It cracks a violent whip over the life and soul of the one imprisoned in its clutches.
It becomes an undesired attachment....
like a heavy, cumbersome ball and chain.
following and tagging along....everywhere we go.

If freedom from one addiction is attained,
another will soon be offered.

It's all bondage...just different yokes.

How goes it with you, my friend?
Any restrictive yokes pulling you down
or addictions you cannot break?

Christ wants to set you free.
He has the power.
No matter how tightly bound you are
or how cruel your taskmaster
or how long you've been enslaved.

Light is shining today into the darkest dungeon of your despair.
Like the angel sent to rescue Peter from the shackles of prison,
the Spirit of God has been sent to rescue you.
To lead you out...through the iron bars.....past the prison guards....
beyond the impenetrable gate.
He holds the unlock every binding door.

All you have to do is offer Him the permission.
Once you consent, He will do the rest.

Believe me.
Trust me.
I know.
I've been there.
Maybe not in the same form as you.
Maybe so.
It really doesn't matter,
because it's all the same....
whatever form it takes.

Bondage is bondage.

Reach out to the waiting, loving, anxious-to-help arms of our loving Lord.
Come with your shackles....still attached.
Fall at His feet...dragging ball and chain behind.
As you kneel, before His cross,
you will find the most amazing response.
However tightly-wound,
the most possessive, unrelenting yoke of bondage,
will crumble.
 Melt away.
Off of you.
And out of sight.

You will be free!
Free indeed!

Because of Him and His sacrifice on the cross,
the gate is standing wide open.

As you walk through to freedom, you will stand...light, unencumbered, brand-new.
Glory to God!

Once you are free,
don't ever forget where He brought you from.
Don't ever let go of His nail-scarred hand.
Freedom is precious.

The most important element in standing fast in the liberty Christ gives,
is to trust in His strength...not our own.
To lean hard on Him, not upon ourselves.

The second most important thing we need to do is to stay on guard.
All the time.
To be quick to identify the plots of satan.
To realize the instant he tries to slip on a new brand of yoke.
To refuse the lure.
To stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.
To maintain a resolute determination to remain free.
Whatever it takes,
regardless who or who does not understand or approve.
Don't yield.
Do what you have to do to mind God.
Stay away from temptation's ground.
Don't allow yourself to remain on forbidden territory.
The tide is strong.
The pull is powerful.
Sometimes it means turning away...
and running in the opposite direction...
the minute the red flag appears...
no matter how many times you need to.
Your freedom in Christ is just that important.
Walking in His liberty is just that necessary.

Do what you must stand fast....
in His strength...
not your own.

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; 
for I am meek and lowly in heart: 
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Matthew 11:28-30
Bring your yokes of bondage, and lay them at Jesus' feet.

He offers His yoke in return...
a yoke that will set you free and bring rest to your bondage-weary soul.
It's an exchange you definitely want to make...
a sure way to never becoming entangled again.