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Promise Keeper

“Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40

Faithful Father, you have never lied and you never will.  I believe you.  Amen

I had a Christian woman tell me this once: “I know God has forgiven me.  But it’s hard for me to believe it.  It’s too hard for me to forgive myself.”  That’s why I nodded along when I heard a Christian teacher once say that there’s too many of us out there that have accepted our Lord as Savior but we just aren’t living our lives like we believe His promises.  It’s even hard for me sometimes when I look in the mirror to see what God sees.  To believe He loves me, blemishes and all.  It’s hard to believe He will take care of me without my striving and worrying.  But He will.

“You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

He has never, ever lied my friend.  He never, ever will.  What might happen, however, is that He will fulfill a promise in ways you didn’t expect.  Or in ways you may not agree or understand.  In fact, when I was doing a bit of research about God’s promises I found a blog that refuted God fulfilling promises.  In truth, the person sounded very wounded.  He also sounded poorly educated about God’s character and His ways.  His first example was of Genesis 2:17 when God admonishes Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, “…for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”  The blogger explained that not only had they eaten the fruit but they went on to live for more than 900 years.

What he missed is 1) their immediate death was a loss of the close spiritual relationship with God and their sinlessness and 2) they did, in fact die.  You see, when we look at God’s promises without a knowledge of Him and through our own broken lenses we can miss God at work.  If we, instead, believe that God is the only perfect being to exist and His ways are always right then we ask better questions and submit to Him in trust.  

I recently had a conversation with a godly woman about women as pastors.  Having become more educated about scripture I felt confident in holding my own – as she said the Bible has conflicting lessons about this topic.  My first comment was this: “God’s Word is never in conflict.  If you see conflict you are either misunderstanding context, historical meaning, or having translation issues.  Understanding that parts of God’s will and God’s promises may be difficult to accept also helps us to realize our sinful desires rarely line up with God.

Friend, if you are struggling to accept that God will not back out of a promise to you, turn back to His Word.  He is faithful.  More faithful than anyone will ever be in your life.   And for that we can celebrate with glory to Him!

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Lessons from Cherith

Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. 117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees. Psalm 119:116-117

Next week begins the new series, “Lessons from Cherith.”  For those of you unfamiliar with Cherith (also spelled Kerith) here’s a brief look into 1 Kings 17:2-6.  The Lord God had called Elijah out of his home and to the throne of Ahab.  While there he had the audacity to speak God’s words to the king telling him there would be neither dew nor rain for the next few years because of the kingdom’s fall into paganism.  Then the Lord told Elijah to leave the king, head eastward, and hide in Cherith Ravine.  And he obeyed.

He obeyed in spite of the fact that the drought meant the brook in the ravine was almost devoid of water.  And the desert-like landscape meant no food was available.  His trust meant God could continue to work miracles into Elijah’s life.

The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 1 King 17:6

It’s estimated Elijah stayed in this barren, dry place for almost 2 years.  And during that time, he learned some valuable lessons before his journey continued.  For one, the Jews listed ravens among the despised birds (Leviticus 11:13-16).  They were greedy yet tenacious.  Of course, God used the most unlikely of sources to bring Elijah food!  They were unclean and repulsive.  Yet Elijah had to rely on them – foreshadowing his next God-directed move to rely on an unclean and unworthy widow.

Elijah’s lessons learned may not all be ones you or I need to learn.  And during my own trip to Cherith this year, when I too was separated from my quiet, comfortable life, I learned lessons you may or may not need to hear.  But the one lesson we all can learn from Elijah is unequivocal trust in the Lord.  No matter what the Lord is trying to weed out, burn out, destroy from our thoughts and hearts He needs us first to trust in Him.  And like Elijah and his ravens He will do more than just sustain us, He will surprise us.  He will work to heal our hearts in ways we can’t even imagine.

I hope you will join me starting next week as I go back on a journey of remembrance from my time deep in my dry ravine.  And watch to see how God surprises us, heals us, and love us.

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The Well-Worn Path

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

In the mid-1800s hundreds of thousands of pioneers left the comfort of their eastern homes beyond the Mississippi River and traveled West toward what we now call Oregon.  The result of those courageous pioneers is hundreds of miles of well-worn wagon wheel ruts.  In some places the gouges from the wagons extend four feet deep in the rock.  It became a symbol of being on the right path when your wagon wheels found the ruts for which to follow.  And because they were so deep it meant your wheels would stay true to that path.

And there lies the idea behind “being in a rut.”  A well-worn path that, in some cases, is a good place.  So often, however, the result of creating those paths in our lives leads us down roads we long to escape.  I wonder how many of us Christians find ourselves in a well-worn path that either isn’t to our liking or to God’s?  

The last few weeks we’ve looked at ways Christians are expected to stand apart, be held to a higher standard, and stand resolutely with Christ, not the world.  But for many of us that means climbing out of that four foot deep rut.  The rut of going along to get along.  The rut of living in half-truths such as only expressing love without truth or vice versa.  The rut of an unintentional life.  The rut of sitting in a church where you aren’t convicted or spurred to share the message of eternal life.  The rut of any number of sins.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling,no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. Psalm 91:9-10

The Apostle Paul was in a rut.  He followed half-truths taught by the Pharisees and then he, himself, passed those false truths along with a vengeance.  It wasn’t until Jesus abruptly entered his life and yanked him out of that four foot hole that he realized his state.  And when he did, he took the message in Psalm 91 to heart.  He pressed on and on staying close to Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  He trusted that although perils would befall him it would not stop him from his mission.  And thank God.  Because he, like you and I, was just a man.  A regular flesh and blood human.  A person filled with sinful ways.  Without his trust in God, without his life of intentionally following Jesus we wouldn’t have his wise words to guide us.  He was like Jesus in a sense that God wanted us to have a fleshly example to model.  Jesus clothed Himself in skin so he could endure our earthly life.  And endure it with full trust in God.  

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. Psalm 91:14

Because He loves me just as much as He loved Paul, I know that I can live a bold life in the name of Jesus.  I know that even when hands come against me or when words try to hurt me, I will receive the ultimate promised prize.  And when we live a life in worldly ruts – cowering before our accusers, afraid of speaking our faith, staying in the shadows not helping pull our fellow travelers from the flame – we are saying to God, “I really don’t trust you to work all things for my good.”

The ruts we need to seek are the well-worn paths of the saints, not the sinners.  The paths that Jesus has laid out for us are so clearly defined in His Word.  We need to look for them as parents, as spouses, as co-workers, as sisters in Christ, as citizens.  

He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation. Psalm 91:15-16

We can’t do this alone my friends.  Through praying in the Spirit (not the flesh), through Christian fellowship, good teaching, and constantly living with God just ahead of us as our pioneer guide we can accomplish everything He asks of us.  And He will satisfy us with salvation and the glory of heaven.

Friends, what well-worn worldly paths are you living in?  Is it your parenting style?  Or maybe you’ve flipped the script in your marriage.  Are you in too deep with equating your faith with your politics?  Have you forgotten that God sees and knows every word you speak, every emotion that lies in our heart?  Are you taking advantage of God’s promised salvation and disobeying Him without repentance?   It’s time to stop in our tracks and look up to the edge of the rut.  Stick out your hand and ask the Holy Spirit for a leg up.  You can do it, we can do it.  You are not alone.

Join me starting November 1-30 for 30 Days of Thankfulness!

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Sojourners & Exiles

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:4

We Christians are sojourners and exiles.  This is not where our ultimate allegiance lies!  

David Van Drunen, Politics After Christendom

We certainly aren’t lacking in opportunities to engage in political discourse these days.  From mask wearing to vaccine mandates and budget crises to abortion laws the world around us is in quite a turmoil.  But when, as Christians, are we to engage?  When are we called to join the fight and stand resolutely in our faith?  These next two posts will look at our life as Christians and the political realm.  First, starting with what role the church, and therefore Christians, play in our common citizenry.

But let’s back up a bit.  For those of us living in the United States we’ve seen a serious deterioration from our Christian-held values over the last 70 years or so.  Not long ago almost all businesses were closed on Sundays and you certainly couldn’t by alcohol on that day.  Now, a business that makes the decision to not be open on Sundays because of their beliefs is vilified.  I’ve heard different arguments about whether or not the United States was a special project by God.  Whatever stance you may take on that we can be certain that every single nation was formed by God.  Every single head of state has been placed in their position by God and therefore is subject to His expectations and final judgment.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17

That the United States was founded with God and the idea of His sovereignty at the forefront should not, however, be in dispute.  Besides the federal founding documents, all state constitutions, except one, reference God and His oversight of said government in the beginning of those documents.  It was then left to the citizens, as it has throughout the history of the world, to maintain that stance.

When you get deep in to C.S. Lewis’ great Christian apologetic book, Mere Christianity, you’ll find the concept of a Moral Law.  Through every empire, every phase of human existence we turn to this moral law for guidance.  We know what basically is wrong (ie: killing another human for gain or pleasure) and what is right (ie: helping a widow or orphaned child).  And, as Mr. Lewis argues, no matter your faith or lack thereof those concepts have been placed in our hearts and minds by someone.

But as a society drifts further away from a common faith, as in the case of much of Europe, North America and South America, we create new ways of working around what we know to be right and wrong.  We bend the moral law to fit the desires of our flesh and we seek to be accepted by the world.

You cannot make men good by (man-made)law; and without good men you cannot have a good society.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

And so, as Christians we watch as one of the last bastions of religious freedom, the United States, which also built upon that with many other freedoms, begin to crumble.  And we can so easily misplace our fears on our elected officials and the laws they create. 

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. 2 Timothy 1:8-9

At the time Paul wrote this letter to Timothy the Romans ruled with an iron fist.  Anyone that did not submit to their laws was imprisoned, tortured, killed, or pushed out of everyday society.  And Paul reminds not just Timothy but all of us who read this message that we have one commander to whom we must be most concerned – God and His son Jesus Christ.  We are set apart to be holy and live a holy life.

We are reminded that our role in this world is a sort of dual citizenship – to the country we call home and the home that waits for us.  It’s a balancing act that the disciples knew all too well.  We are to obey the laws of our government as good guests yet remembering we have limits based on God’s expectation of our adherence to His moral laws and knowledge of the final judgment.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles,to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12

It may come as a surprise to many Christians in the United States but it isn’t our role to create a “just society.”  It is our role to seek justice for those in need in our communities but we can’t right every wrong.  We need to be comforted that God is in charge and we can, as individuals and corporately do His good works.  But Jesus, time and again, never sought regime change.  He sought heart change. He sought obedience by His followers to God’s expectations.

Being a sojourner did not require isolation from surrounding societies.  Abraham seems to have understood the need to exercise prudential judgment about how, when and with whom to share common activity.  One approach did not fit all cases.

David Van Drunen, Politics After Christendom

So does this mean we shouldn’t try and affect our government’s choices or laws?  No, it’s just remembering who we serve first, resolutely.  It’s remembering the difference between violently protesting a wrong and speaking out within the framework of how God wants us to act.  It’s figuring out where God and the church stands on an issue (ie: abortion) and where something may not be biblical at all (ie: the federal budget).  It’s making sure our heart and mind set firmly with God, not the world.

Believe me, I’ve struggled with these issues a lot.   I’ve stood on street corners waving my country’s flag and promoting a candidate.  I’ve stood up to politicians who have demonstrated a lack of moral character. Neither of which are wrong for a Christian.  I vote in every single election. Which is, in a way, expected as a Christian. But as my faith progresses, I’m taking a new view of my place on this big blue planet.  When I firmly set King Jesus as my authority, as my hope, as the Lord and Savior not just of my world but of every single human that has existed and will exist, my perspectives change.

As Christians we cannot continue to say we trust God, we know God will judge in the final conflict and still scream in outrage at people who disagree with our political opinion.  That message speaks loud and clear to non-believers that we don’t trust God.  That we haven’t set Him as our authority. That we have no concern for eternity. 

It’s time, fellow sojourners, to pull out our passports and remind ourselves of our future travel plans.  To stand resolutely with the one King that will judge everyone for all ungodly acts.  He has not appointed us commissioners of that judgment.  Yet, we are also not called to be passive in our worldly citizenry — sitting back and watching the world fall around us. He has appointed us as soldiers to exhort others to follow Him before it is too late.

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We Say Yes

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

A few years ago, God put my faith listening ears and my trust in Him to the test.  He asked me to step outside my well-built comfort zone based on the pride of working.  For an unknown period of time, He directed me to feed the homeless with 100 lunches once a week.  He told me what to make and where to take the food.  He tested and challenged me week after week to put my complete faith in Him.  To stand resolutely with Him.  For almost a year I experienced a relationship with God like no other.  

As I wrote the other day, sometimes God asks us to stay silent.  Other times, like during His 100 Lunches Project, God asks us to step up and say, “Yes!”  And if we aren’t paying attention, aren’t tuned in to His character, aren’t sure that He is directing us, then we miss out on great gifts of intimacy with Him. 

The actual making of the first few weeks of lunches wasn’t so far out of my comfort zone.  I had enthusiastic helpers and a husband who supported my venture.  But as time passed and God kept calling, I was faced with having to be resolute in following Him.  For one, my husband thought this would be sort of a “one and done” activity.  Not a financial investment and something that would take up room in our already full garage.  He also was concerned for my safety as I ventured into potentially dangerous areas, at times alone.  I could have easily agreed with him on all counts and shut the program down.  But I knew God wanted me to stand firm.  So, as I explained to my husband, God was directing this project, not me, he relented with a few requests.  One being that if I didn’t go with someone that I would regularly check in via text.

And then there was my work schedule.  At the time I was a long term substitute in a school office.  I prided myself on always being on the schedule to work at one school or another.  It was my source of “happiness” that people needed me.  The direction I was getting from God was to give out lunches in the middle of the week.  Doing that would require me to tell the school I currently worked I couldn’t be there that day for an unknown period of time.  My fear was they would let me go.  And so, I prayed to God.  Asking Him to guide me and bolster me.  The day I spoke to the office secretary I told her, “I’m doing this lunch project, directed by God.  And I can’t work Wednesdays anymore.”  A weird thing to say,  for sure.  Especially in the more liberal area that I live.  The response?  “Sounds good.  We will take you any day you can work for us.”

That’s how the year went.  Door after door opened.  And some closed as needed.  I watched and listened for His Word.  And I did His work in His name.  It was glorious!

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

The greatest lesson I learned that year was about trust.  Trusting in that when God speaks to us and gives us a challenge He will provide.  And any obstacle that is put in front of you, you can stand firm in who has your back.  That year I had many people scoff at what I was doing.  Family, friends, policemen, strangers.  But when you know that your mission is God-sent nothing should stop you.  You can be resolute.

So many of us Christians are sitting and waiting for God to call us to something special and yet we haven’t taken up the directions already laid out before us in God’s Holy Word.  We don’t need another whisper to tell us to be kind or forgiving.  We don’t need a tap on the shoulder to know how dangerous our gossiping tongue can be.  It’s all there in the Good Book waiting to be lived out.  We just need to take a stand for God.

The process of sanctification starts with the basics and moves on toward more and more challenges of trust.  When He sees we are obeying the small things He places more of His banquet in front of us.  But like the process of knowing when to stay silent we must be able to discern it is God, not our flesh, directing us.  I knew it was God asking me to embark on this grand project because it asked me to do things so in opposite of my own desires and yet followed perfectly His.

When you act for God you will have detractors.  You will have people that call you crazy.  You might even have people who get angry with you.  You might have to ask God to confirm you are on the right path.  And I’ll tell you, brothers and sisters, when you are on that path, the work you do for Him will be seen by people who need to see it.  You just may never realize it.  

There were so many lessons for me in that year of 100 Lunches (which grew to about 300 per week!).  And one day in December of that year God said to me, “You are done. It’s time for something else.”  He closed that door and told me to stop.  Even then I needed to be resolute.  People chastised me for not continuing.  Someone got quite angry with me.  My response?  “This wasn’t my project to begin with, it was God’s.  He told me to be done so I am done.  But you are free to serve in my place.”

I mentioned in my last post about the story from Sparkling Gems from the Greek and listening to God’s voice.  I’d like to share with you the prayer from that day.

Lord, help me follow the Holy Spirit’s leading whenever He impresses me to do something.  I know there have been moments in my life when the Spirit was leading me to do something.  But because I didn’t understand it, I didn’t obey – and later I was always sorry.   Please help me become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to trust Him when He speaks to my heart.   I want to be obedient and to experience the supernatural life that He wants to give me!  I pray this in Jesus’ name!

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Resolute In Christ

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Luke 9:51

Hi Friends!  It’s been a while since my last post – which ended the 30 More Days of Praise series.  I’ve been praying for some time for direction about my next series.  And I finally received a push a few weeks ago to write about standing strong in our faith, in the face of adversity.  There’s a lot going on out in our world that pushes back against the message of Jesus.  From twisting God’s view of agape-type love to seeking comfort from our fears through worldly means, we Christians are in a tough battle.  Tough, but not a new one.

When we read the New Testament books, a common thread throughout is adversity.  The saints were constantly up against the threat of death, torture, and imprisonment.  Much of Jesus’ time here on earth was pushing up against, not the political world, but the religious one.  It was the supposed followers of God who called for Jesus’ crucifixion.  And it was his supposed loyal followers that abandoned Him at the time of His greatest need.

And once the twelve received the Holy Spirit and realized their holy callings it only got worse.  As word spread and followers grew so did false teachers and strife amongst congregations.  And each apostle either found themselves facing a murderous mob or a lonely prison.  Yet the Word endured. 

On the face of it all it seems improbable.  How could a tiny group of men (and a few women) from thousands of years ago be the ones who today help us to know and understand our glorious God, His son Jesus and the Holy Spirit?  How could the Word of God have been passed down through the ages with only slight changes in translations?  Because God is God.  And, because God is resolute in His love for us, He has made sure His message continued and will continue to educate, inspire, and comfort us for all time.

And that brings me to where I am today.  In a recent visit to my mother in law, I mentioned how I haven’t been writing lately.  And she said, “Oh how I miss my Emboldened each day.  I just am amazed at how much and what you write.”  It made me realize there are real people out there behind my computer screen reading my messages of God.  And I owe you an apology and explanation. 

You see, as always, God put on my heart just the right message at the right time.  To be Resolute in Christ.  To stand firm in His promises.  To be assured that He loves us.  To know without a doubt that He is with us, through thick and thin.  I need that message right now.  For the last two months I’ve been suffering through a medical condition that perplexes my doctors.  My ears are under extreme pressure and I’ve lost much of my hearing in my left ear.  I am in constant pain and so often can barely focus on the basic work I need to accomplish – much less sit and write.

I have pleaded with God to relieve me.  I have cried to God.  I have argued with God.  I have questioned God – even just today after yet another fruitless doctor appointment.  I’ve been so weak at times I’ve wanted to turn my back on Him.  But He pulls me back each day.  He is resolute and I need to be the same.

So, this is my first step to working through my pain, my brain fog and to be honest my self-pity.  I am a Jesus follower, just like the early disciples, who needs to trust God and obey His Word.  He has given me my marching orders and I choose to engage in the battle for the saints.  I am resolute.  

Join me September 20-October 22 as we explore the many passages in the Bible that show us how to be Resolute in Christ and to live an uncompromising Christian life.

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The Unexpected Warrior

When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Matthew 3:21

During my senior year of high school, I decided to try and live out my dream of becoming an astronaut.  I met with an Air Force recruiter and was excited to take off on this new adventure.  And then I told my parents.  It was my father that said to me, “You are a lot like your mom and your mom couldn’t handle the military. She dropped out after about a week.  You two don’t like to be told what to do.  So, it’d be best to drop this idea.”

From the outside I exuded confidence.  But on the inside, I was terrified about what people thought about me. I always obeyed my parents out of fear of the repercussions.  And so, I gave up my dream.  I assumed everything my father said was correct.

Imagine if Jesus had so little courage.

His own family thought him a little wacky.  I mean if you announced to your family that you were the Messiah…. But unlike me, He knew where His identity resided – in God.  

So often when we think about courage and courageous people we think of military and political warriors.  And while we can be eternally grateful for people that go off to war to fight for our freedoms and people like Martin Luther King who make big waves in Washington DC, if we stop there we might be inclined to not step up to the plate when it’s our turn.

Jesus wasn’t a military warrior.  He didn’t fight to change laws.  He didn’t work hard to get elected to lead a nation.  But what He did do, from the first day He declared Himself the Messiah, was choose to lay aside any and all standing with man to serve God.  He knew from that day it would be soon to die on the cross.

“His was the courage of the mind, the heroism of the heart.  It was a sober and reasoned thing.  He deliberately counted the cost and paid it.”

Charles Jefferson, The Character of Jesus

In other words, He knew without a doubt who He served and who had His back. Every single decision He made, the words He spoke were for the glory of God.  He knew people would hate him.  He knew people would misunderstand Him.  And He knew He still needed to speak.

In my BSGs study on Revelation we recently looked at chapter 11 in which two witnesses are assigned by God to give some final admonishment to the people.  A final plea to turn to God.  Throughout their 3 years on earth the world attempts to destroy these witnesses through any means possible – they are true “warriors for God.”  And until God said it was time to go, they were protected.  We were asked that week who are powerful witnesses in our present generation?  Who would you name?

Although I don’t know him personally, I do believe one such powerful witness is of the famed Duck Dynasty clan, Phil Robertson.  This rough looking, old man has been much maligned by our media and culture.  But to hear his salvation story can only show God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness. 

You see, Mr. Robertson was a child of the 60s.  When he went off to college in 1964, he had a wife and child at home.  The message proliferated at college was of the “sex, drugs and rock n roll” variety.  No rules, no obligations.  He took to that message like a duck to water and was frequently drunk, doing drugs, and cheating on his wife.  When he graduated and got a job this lifestyle continued.  He also felt his family was holding him down.  And so, they left him one day.  For two weeks he partied until the cows came home.  Then he realized he was miserable.  He had not only lost his job as a teacher but also a bar he owned.

He begged his wife to take him back.  She would, if he cleaned up his act.  God softened his heart and Mr. Robertson sought out a Christian mentor.  With the strength of God behind him he pulled himself from his old life and began a one reborn.  

“And so, I devoted my waking hours to studying the Bible.  I pored over the onion-skin pages and began to mark them up.  I consumed the Word of God as if it were food and drank deeply from its waters of wisdom.”

Phil Robertson, The Theft of America’s Soul

When I read this, what came to mind were the Navy SEALs that train not far from my house.  To be a SEAL, an elite member of the US military, you need to eat, sleep and devote every waking minute to training.  Their goal is to be the best soldier possible.  But what about us average Christians?  What is our goal?  Will we be like Phil Robertson and wholly commit ourselves to the cause of God?

Fast forward in Mr. Robinson’s life and we land in the middle of the show Duck Dynasty.  It was a reality show following around his family – a family of backwoods hunters and fishermen from Louisiana who own a duck call business.   During this show the family became warriors for God.  While their producers would almost demand they do or say things outside the morals of their faith, they would stand strong.  They were willing to lose all the money offered them.  They prayed and spoke of their faith throughout the show.  And they garnered millions of fans.  And enemies.  They were called backward, stupid, far-right crazy, mostly because of their commitment to their faith.  

“It’s been 43 years since my encounter with God and I can tell you, I’m not running from anyone or anything; I’m not enslaved to the ‘isms’ of the world.”

Phil Robertson, The Theft of America’s Soul

We can make excuses for why we won’t stand our ground and stand up for God – I might lose my job, I might lose my friends/family, I might be called any manner of names.  Doesn’t that all come from a fear of man rather than a trust in God?  Phil Robertson wasn’t famous and then got a TV show.  He was a man making duck calls who became famous for being funny, principled, a family leader, and God-fearing.  

Many of us probably aren’t ready to be a full time warrior for God.  We must practice the first two steps so they become a natural part of us.  When we can naturally say a prayer for those who would hurt us, when we anticipate and readily step forward to fill a need that Jesus places before us, only then are we certainly more prepared for this step.

I follow a Christian pastor on Instagram.  He has a series of YouTube talks where he delves into our culture’s most pressing topics.  After reading how he lovingly and with wisdom responds to some of the vitriol he receives I realized, I’m not quite ready yet for the bigger battlefield.  I need to chew and gnaw some more on God’s Word.  God has been testing me along the way with mini quizzes.  Small opportunities to stand for Him.  My training to be a Warrior for God continues.

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Rescue Me!

Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.
Psalm 44:26

I’ll admit I’ve had a bit of a rough relationship with God the last few weeks.  I have an on-going health issue related to my sinuses.  For years I’ve suffered through swollen sinuses, infections, allergies, clogged ears, excruciating headaches and more.  I’m in my third year of allergy shots and recently had a second sinus surgery.  And I feel worse.

A few weekends ago I spent most of the time feeling like my head was either in a tight vise or underwater. Conversations were muffled and my eustachian tubes felt as though a needle was being jammed in them.  I got on my knees and started praying desperately for God to heal me.  While at church I prayed continuously for healing.  And the pain continued.

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?  Rouse yourself!  Do not reject us forever.  
Psalm 44:23

Have you ever felt the way the psalmist did when he wrote that verse?  Like God just isn’t listening?  That Sunday evening, I sure did.  I was in tears.  And so, I cried out to God even louder to please heal me.  For a brief moment I even felt myself being pulled back into my old way of thinking that God didn’t care about me or worse, maybe didn’t even exist.  But my faith journey has brought me too far to let me slide backwards.

There is no relapse where Christ heals; no fear that His patients should be merely patched up for a season.  He makes new men of them; He give them a new heart and He puts within them a right spirit.  

Charles Spurgeon

My knowledge of God has led me to a place of greater wisdom.  Instead of asking God to “wake up” I started asking Him if this was to be my thorn, my constant affliction to cause me to rely more and more on Him.

It also led me to put my pain and suffering in perspective.  While my issues are painful and irritating, I am not debilitated.  I can still rise every morning and serve Him and the people around me.  And through a pounding headache I can still go out for a walk and experience a beautiful day.  I put my troubles up against my mother-in-law’s, who through a year battling cancer and diverticulitis has managed a smile each time I talk to her.  Yes, at her lowest she has cried.  But I’ve watched her turn back to God in faith, searching for His hand in all things.

I want God to take away my pain.  I know He can.  He can heal me as I write this.  And it is not for me to know why He doesn’t.  

I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  
2 Corinthians 12:7-9

I would prefer not to be held to the same spiritual standards set by the Apostle Paul.  To seek God’s goodness when I feel my worst.  To feel His presence when my head is pounding.  To do the work required of me when the pain is almost overwhelming.  At times I just can’t.  That’s when I beg God to help me, to rescue me.

I’m not going to stop asking for healing.  But I’ve decided that I trust God that there is a reason He hasn’t.  And I know for certain, that in trusting Him, one day we will all be free from affliction and experience His amazing glory.

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A Promised Return

The desert and the parched land 
will be glad;the wilderness will 
rejoice and blossom. 
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
Isaiah 35:1-2

It was only just recently that I heard the concept of a “return to the Garden.”  I mean I’m quite familiar with the promise of eternity but I just never made the full circle of an opening of the guarded Eden gates.

These past few weeks as myself, Todd and Madison have been reminded of the many promises of God, I keep hearing the word I have heard for more than a year – “obey.”  With each promise there is a covenant agreement.  God is sure and trustworthy about His side of the covenant.  But we “mule-like” humans struggle to hold on to God tightly and sign at the bottom line.  I wonder if it really just boils down to that little bit inside of us that doesn’t fully believe.

On March 26, 1997, San Diego Sheriff’s deputies discovered the bodies of 39 members of the group, Heaven’s Gate.  The home where the bodies were found is just a stone’s throw from my own home.  If you don’t recall their beliefs, I’ll give you a brief summary.  The leaders, using the Bible and science fiction works by Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke convinced their followers that extraterrestrial beings were clearly mentioned in the Book of Revelation.  And the comet Hale-Bopp, was the sign for them to give up their early bodies and hitch a ride to the heavens.  They twisted a lot of theology to meet their beliefs.

Sometimes when I’m talking about the concept of Jesus, salvation and eternity I think about those Heaven’s Gate souls and wonder if I sound just as crazy to non-believers.  I shy away from talking about God and loosen my grip on Him. Of course, one of the large differences is that God never asks us to speed up the date and time of the end of our days here on Earth.  And we have been constantly assured that we cannot know the hour of Jesus’ return.

But that return is definitely promised.  And if we believe that God is the creator, the sovereign LORD overall, then we must also believe in our return to the Garden. 

The prophecy from Isaiah in 35:1-2 was written as a message of hope for the people of Jerusalem.  It’s likely the Assyrians had ravaged all the nearby cities and had made the roads too dangerous on which to travel.  The people, as Warren Wiersbe says in his commentary, “Were cooped up in Jerusalem, wondering what would happen next.”  Sound familiar?

He goes on to write that the faithful were praying continuously to God for hope and relief.  And God answered their prayers.  As He had done so many times before and since. 

“The time has come,” he said. 
“The kingdom of God has come near. 
Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark 1:15

How many jokes have we seen and heard related to this verse?  And yet it is surely true.  Jesus himself makes this statement.  I heard an evangelist pastor say once, “I don’t know when Jesus is returning and we will see the Garden again, but the time is certainly nearer than it was yesterday!”

It’s said that the new Garden will be even more magnificent than the first.  And although that sounds wonderful, I’ll be joy-filled just to be able to have my name written on the list to enter any type of garden God has for me.  

Each day I am here on this Earth is another day to hold on tightly to God’s promises and obey and believe.  Each day we are here is another gift God gives us to step out of our comfort zones, out of our cooped up lives and work on putting just one more name on that list. 

I hope you have enjoyed these 25 Promises of God through the Book of Isaiah.  Please join me for our next series titled, “Pray It Till You Make It!”  It’s a focus on praying to be the people we know God wants us to be and watching the transformation work He does in us! 

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The True Story of God With Us

Therefore the Lord himself 
will give you a sign: 
The virgin will conceive 
and give birth to a son, 
and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

At the time that Isaiah spoke this prophecy the nation of Judah was under a large threat from Assyria.  Alliances were being pressured and formed.  King Ahaz of Judah refused to align himself with the northern tribes because he had secretly made a pact with the Assyrians.  He didn’t grab hold of God’s past deliverances and trust God to save him and his people.  

Isaiah made his prophesy about the coming savior to the entire House of David as a warning to trust God and no one else.  God is with us (“Immanuel”) in so far as we are willing to trust and believe Him.

God is with me.  I hold on tightly to the knowledge that His Holy Spirit dwells in my heart, mind and soul.  It’s a promise completely fulfilled with Jesus.  And yet, I still occasionally fall into the trap of looking for a savior outside that promise.  A chance to make more money, a politician who scatters promises like birdseed, a new diet to get me “back on track” or a vaccine that will make the world “normal” again.

Promise made and promises broken

My BSGs just finished a section in our study of Everyday Theology.  It focused on scripture – its validity, relevance, purpose and origins.  We discussed how our modern times reflect Biblical times in so many ways.  Warring political factions, the lack of faith, and how the promises of God still stand true for today.  

Our world needs to grab on to the truths of scripture.  The Bible isn’t just some book some random guys put together.  It is what the study author calls, “God-breathed.”  There is no other book on the planet that has as much historical evidence to support what it says.  I asked the group why did the author choose to start a book about theology with the topic of scripture rather than say, God?  

One member responded quite rightly, “Because the Bible gives us the character of God so we can better understand who He is.”  

I gave the visual of using an encyclopedia book – yes, the actual book.  In the ole timey days we would hear about something and turn to the encyclopedia to learn more about it.  We knew what was written in that book was true.  No doubts.  After reading all about say, Marie Curie, we could be assured we knew just about everything we needed to know.

That’s how we should view the Bible – the true and relevant encyclopedia about God.  And know that it’s all true.  So, when Isaiah prophesizes the birth of Jesus hundreds of years prior to his birth, we can see it as confirmation of the whole story being true.

All Scripture is God-breathed 
and is useful for teaching, 
rebuking, correcting and training 
in righteousness, so that the 
servant of God may be thoroughly 
equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

And knowing it is true – that Jesus came to be our savior and the Holy Spirit would dwell in us for all time – should cause us to look toward Him and hold on to Him as our only savior.