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Praise the Lord

Isaiah 9:6 -“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

I was listening to one of my favorite artist yesterday, Crowder. His music is very raw and really hits home to me. He has a song called, “Praise the Lord.” When you first hear the lyrics, they sound almost disrespectful, but if you keep listening, you hear the real message. Here is the gist of it.

How do you see Jesus? Do you see Him as a magic 8-ball that you occasionally ask a question to? Do you use Jesus as a gun, shooting down thoughts and feelings that are different from your own? Do you swing Him like a hammer, forcing your ideas and beliefs upon someone else? Do you keep Him under the steeple or in the Book? Or do you use Him as a prescription – only when something is wrong?

That is not Who Jesus is. That is not His purpose or His plan for you. Praise the Lord.

Sometimes we think that His love is more of a river rather than an ocean. Narrow and wide, deep and shallow, we fear that it will run away. But His love is more of an ocean that is vast and deep and constant. Others might think of His love as a song, wrapped up with a neat beginning and ending. But His love is more like a symphony that is filled with all kinds of notes and instruments that is woven together to create the most beautiful melody.

We try to make God’s love so difficult, so challenging. But Jesus is way more than we can ever imagine if we just let Him love us and be Who He is supposed to be in our life.

When we consider Jesus and who He should be in our life, we need to remember that He is endless – He always has been. I don’t think we can ever truly grasp it. It is a mystery that will one day be revealed when we are with Him. But the decision to be with Him needs to be a joyful choice, not a fearful leap. 

I think that too often we try to put Jesus in our neat little box or use Him as a weapon to drive fear and coercion into people. That’s not Who He is. Jesus isn’t a genie in a lamp or a lightening bolt throwing being or a fair weather friend. No, Jesus is so much more than that – Praise the Lord.

Jesus is The Leader. Jesus is Wonderful. Jesus is The caring Counselor. Jesus is The Mighty God. Jesus is My Everlasting Father. Jesus is The Prince of Peace. Praise the Lord.

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Sleeping through the storm

Luke 8:22-25 – “Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.”

We just went through a hurricane. Not my idea of a good time, I’ll tell you. As we laid in the closet under the stairs while the front and back of the eye of the storm went over our house, my kids slept. The electricity had gone out which caused the fan to go off which woke me up to the raging wind. It howled and screamed and thrashed against the front of our house. I’m laying in the closet praying, “Please God, keep the roof on my house and my friends and family safe” while my children are sleeping. Sleeping! I was glad though. I was in a state enough without having to deal with them freaking out.

While I was out and about yesterday working, I heard the same thing from many of my clients – they slept through the hurricane! What?! How can that be? They went to bed Sunday night and knew nothing had happened until they woke up Monday morning. 

My grandma always said, “The Good Lord’s gonna gitcha when He wants ya whether you’re hidin’ or not.” Faith. Faith that He is in control and we have nothing to fear. I experienced a great deal of fear last week, especially Friday. Friday was tough for me. I believe the majority of it was the uncertainty. We had no idea where the hurricane would hit and how bad it would be. The Holy Spirit had to keep whispering to me – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) He had to say it multiple times because I was having a hard time getting my heart and mind to listen. Faith.  Faith that He is in control.

Now, I’m not certain that all of my clients have that sort of faith in their lives. I’m working on that. But I do know that God used their…faith, or lack of hearing, to remind me that I have nothing to fear, even in a hurricane. It is about letting go and letting God. And that, my friend, is tough. I like to be in control of things going on in my life. I like to know when, where and how things are going to go before I step into it. But faith reminds me that sometimes I won’t know all the details. Faith reminds me that sometimes I need to sleep during the storm. I can’t control it. I can’t affect the outcome of it. I can only prepare and pray. 

Prepare and pray. Maybe that should be my new motto. Isn’t that all God really wants us to do? Second Timothy says He gave us a “sound mind” – the ability to know when to prepare and how to prepare. We know that “power” is from God alone. And we know that “love” should cover everything we do. And when we have that power, love and sound mind, we can sleep through the storm. Isn’t that why Jesus slept in the boat during the storm? He had all those things in abundance. 

So the next time you find yourself in a storm, whether figuratively or literally, have faith. Prepare and pray. Allow God to take the fear the devil attempts to plant in your heart and turn it into power, love and a sound mind. And sleep through the storm.

The never-ending sausage

Matthew 14:15-20 – “And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.”

My niece (1st grade) and two nephews ( 3rd & 4th grade) were visiting us yesterday. And as we sat at the table having lunch, somehow the discussion turned to a never ending piece of sausage. Yes, I promise, we were talking about a never-ending sausage link. 

And that opened the door for me to say something about Jesus feeding the 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fishes. My one nephew said, “I always thought He just gave them a tiny little bite,” as he held his fingers super close together. And I reminded him, “Nope. The Bible tells us that they were all filled up AND had 12 baskets of food leftover!” He had never really stopped to think about that before. 

These are Bible stories that we have heard all of our life and sometimes we fail to appreciate the magnificence in them. Jesus showed Himself as God that day. Nothing could contain His power. Nothing could stop His provision in these people’s life. 

And the cool thing is, He is still wanting to do that very thing in our life – He wants to provide and love and care for us. We just have to let Him. 

So the next time the discussion at the dinner table turns to a never-ending piece of sausage, remember – there’s a Bible story for that too! Always look for any and all opportunities to teach someone about Who He is!

Get off the porch!

Exodus 32:1 – “And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.”

I read a quote yesterday. “If I only trust what I can see with my eyes, I commit idolatry.” Simple, yet profound.

The children of Israel had just finished committing themselves to God. They had agreed to follow His instruction and guidance. They had committed themselves to Him. Moses goes up on the mount to chat some more with God. While he is gone, the people give up. They don’t know what has happened to Moses and they aren’t waiting around to find out. So they go over, grab Aaron by the arm and say, “hey, make us a graven image. We know what God said about idols but this guy, Moses, is gone and we need something to worship. Something we can see. I can’t believe in this God without Moses around.” (Melissa paraphrase, of course)

What about you? Is your faith in God tied to someone or something? Do you follow Him only when you can SEE Him working in your life? Does it need to be a minute by minute conformation? Can you only have faith because your grandparent is around? What happens when they are gone? Do you only believe in the power of God only when the pastor is around? If you were blind, would you still believe – even though you can’t see the works of God around you?

If you only trust when you can see, do you really trust? If you only believe when the one that teaches you is around, do you really believe? If your not at church, do you think God can speak to you?

As followers of Christ, we want to believe that we have this idol thing under control. “We don’t have idols set up at church or in our home. We know that worshipping something made with our hands is wrong.” But what if our faith is tied to someone or something?

We are approaching perilous times. We need to affirm our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. There are people around the globe, right now, that are being killed for their profession of faith in Jesus. There are people being persecuted by their neighbors because they refuse to deny Christ. If someone came in today and took away your Bible and took away your right to go to church, would you still believe? Would you still pray? Would you still have to courage to share Him with others? What if your family was threatened?

My point today, princess, is that we need to make sure that our faith in Jesus does not hinge upon someone or something – that our faith lies solely in Jesus. If everything was taken away – our Bible, our church, our family – and we were put in a cell with only the walls to keep us company, would we praise God for giving us life that day? Or does our trust and our faith rely upon our eyes?

This is a hard subject. But it is time to step off the porch and run with the big dogs. We need to stop with the warm, squishy feelings and hit home. God doesn’t want robots that go to church and routinely worship and serve Him. He wants people to be tough, be ready and be willing to show others a faith that is solely in Him and not dependent upon anyone or anything else.

The Armor and the tricky little booger

Ephesians 6:11 – “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Back in the day of hand to hand combat, the soldier had to wear a significant amount of protection – armor. If worn correctly, the armor left little room for injury. Obviously there were chinks in the armor where an enemy could injury or take the life of the soldier. But the armor was designed to give the warrior maximum protection.

So, what does this have to do with the armor mentioned in the Bible? The armor that God issues to us is designed to protect us spiritually. But just like anything else, it doesn’t work if you don’t use it. That is why in this verse, Paul encourages us to “put on the whole armor of God”. He doesn’t say “just make sure to grab your helmet on the way out the door”. No, he tells us to put the whole thing on, start to finish, head to toe.

Why? Why isn’t just grabbing the helmet good enough? Things aren’t really that bad, are they? My pastor made the statement one time that if we could see the spiritual warfare that was actually going on around us, that it would probably scare us out of our mind. Yes, spiritual warfare is everywhere. It is in our hearts, in our minds – everywhere.

But just what are the “wiles of the devil”? Sounds like something from an old Saturday morning cartoon, doesn’t it? The word in the Greek looks like “method”. It actually means “travelling over, i.e. travesty or trickery”. So, the “wiles of the devil” means the “trickery of the deceiver” (remember, devil also means “deceiver”).

Sounds like trouble, doesn’t it? So, why wouldn’t you put on he whole armor? Forget? Don’t have time? Really don’t care? Don’t believe?

Have you ever been on a diet? You swear off sweets and bread. You go to work the next day and what is there, bagels and blueberry cream cheese! What! How hard is it to stand under that pressure? It takes a big, hard choice to make that one go away. Trust me, I’ve been there.

But the same principle applies in the spiritual world. You decide that you are going to get up and read your Bible every morning before breakfast. And what happens on about day 2 or 3? You had to stay up really late the night before finishing some work and you think you need the extra sleep to get through the next day. So you skip it. And then the next morning your alarm doesn’t go off. And after that, your decision to get up and read becomes a distant memory, just another promise forgotten. Spiritual warfare. Think that work was an accident? It was the first shot fired.

If we hope to stand against the devil’s tricks, we have to be prepared. And the only way to prepare is to suit up. And you can’t just put on the pieces that are flattering or easy to put on. No, you have to put the whole thing on. Remember, the devil is a tricky little booger that wants to destroy you. You have to be ready.

So, today princess, make sure that you have all the armor. We are going to steadily dive into it over the next several days, but you have to have all the tools to prepare. So, read Ephesians 6:10-20 and start now. And remember, all those promises made and broken can be healed by the Great Physician. You just have to ask.

The Armor – Power of His might

Ephesians 6:10 – “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

I want to do a series on the armor of God. I think that as a princess, we need to know how to arm ourself and where to find our protection.

So the first thing I want to encourage you with is this – don’t get hung up on the “brethren” thing. When the Bible was written, it was customary to write it in the masculine form. That does not mean that the Bible does not apply to His princesses as well. It just means you have to put “sister” in there at times. And that doesn’t change the meaning, unless of course, in the context of the subject He is speaking to men. Just be careful and pay attention to what is being said.

Moving on.

“Be strong” – There has been a recent campaign by the sports world to “live strong”. We need strength for all kinds of things – picking up kids, bringing in cat litter, yanking out trees, etc. But the kind of strength being referred to here is identified in the next phrase.

“In the Lord” – If there is one thing to say on this subject matter, it is this – you may be able to lift a truck. But if you don’t have Jesus in your corner, that truck will crush you. Physical strength is important for health. But spiritual strength is important for life. True strength can only be found in Jesus and His power.

“In the power of his might” – Believing in Jesus for salvation is the most important step. And then, the fun begins – living your life with Him. In everything you do, in every step that you take, in every decision you are faced with, you go at it with the One who can move mountains. Just think on that for a moment. Mt. Everest is an ant hill to Him! The Rocky Mountains are nothing more than rocks stacked in a row. He can move these mighty mountains! Just think of what He can do in your life!

So as we begin this journey on checking out the armor of God, let’s begin by realizing the coolest thing – I have the power of the Mountain Mover on my side. “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31

No Fear

2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

Have you ever experienced real fear? I’m not talking about being spooked. I’m talking about real, long lasting fear. Fear that makes you worry. Fear that consumes your thoughts. Fear that can cripple you if not tended to. Fear.

I think at some point or another we have all had this fear. It may manifest itself in different ways and at different times, but it is the same.

Fear is a tool of the devil. He uses it to control us. He uses it to keep us from thinking about what is good, true and righteous. He uses it to make us doubt. He knows that as long as we are trusting in Jesus to care for us that he can’t touch us. So if he can get us to think that maybe Jesus doesn’t have it all, then he can worm his way in.

The devil also uses superstition as a way to invoke fear. Black cats, things happening in 3s, walking under a ladder, broken mirrors – I’m sure you could name a hundred more. But these are vices for distrust. They are vices for fear. They are what can create a near panic moment. Are they true? No. I don’t believe in luck either. Don’t get me started.

Anyway, fear is very real. It is a battle to keep it at bay. When fear begins to rear it’s ugly head, just remember where it did not come from – Jesus.

God has given us power, love and self-discipline. Power to do what we need to do. Love to do it properly and with respect. And self-discipline to not let anything get in the way of what needs to be done.

Confidence. It is the opposite of fear. Now, I’m not talking about pride. That is sin. I’m talking about confidence. Believing you can do something. That something might be something big. Or it might be riding a bicycle. Confidence is believing that God can take care of it. That there is no need to fear. God is right there with you whispering in your heart that “you got this!”

Every situation we face, every challenge that comes our way, is an opportunity to show the world that we are a follower of Christ. That our confidence is not in ourself or our ability but rather in our Savior.

Fear is very real, princess. But so it Jesus. He is the One that wipes out fear. He is the One that is cheering us on to victory. Don’t let fear overtake you. Don’t let a lack of confidence keep you from what God is calling you to do. Be brave, sister. And get out there and make it happen!