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Weekend: Delivered unto a life well-lived

Posted by on Jul 27, 2013 in July 2013, Weekend | 2 comments

Our God is a deliverer. Throughout the history of the planet He has come on the scene to rescue those who trust in Him. His greatest act of deliverance happened about two thousand years ago in a little place called Israel. He Himself took on flesh and walked the earth, preaching a message of repentance and forgiveness, salvation and healing. And as many as received Him and believed in His name, to them He gave the right to become the children of God (see John 1:12).

There is nothing quite like knowing that you are not only forgiven and made brand new by the Creator of the universe, but also that He  has pledged never to leave or forsake you and to be with you always, even until the end of the age (see Hebrews 13:5 and Matthew 28:20).

How the God of all things can care about small, insignificant humans is beyond the comprehension of many of us. But He does. David declared in Psalm 18:35, “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great.” I imagine David was in awe of God’s amazing intervention on his behalf and that of his nation; but this verse reveals something even more amazing about God. When David praised God for His gentleness, he was extolling the fact that the Creator Himself, the Mighty One of the Universe, in humility, meekness, and an act of condescension, made him—insignificant David—great.

God rescues us. He delivers our lives from destruction. He saves our souls and welcomes us into His family. He is with us at all times and will continue to be right there until the end of our lives or the end of the age—whichever comes first! And to top it off, He gently humbles Himself to grant us greatness in our little time span.

But there are hindrances and obstacles to a well-lived life. And those hindrances don’t have all that much to do with whether or not your dreams were fulfilled the way you had hoped—no; such disappointments have less impact upon the quality of your life than you would imagine.

The hindrances and obstacles that must be conquered in the well-lived life have everything to do with the mind and attitude, beliefs and reactions, flexibility and resolve. Upon what do you meditate? What is your prevailing attitude toward work, responsibility, or others? What is your belief system—beyond your faith in Christ? Do you believe easily that He will cause all things to work together for your good, or do you think bitterly, probably not—nothing works out as I want? How do you react to stress? Do you seek Him and trust, or do you fly off the handle in fear, panic, or rage? Can you deal gracefully with changes in plans, whether short-term or long, or do you stew over the unfairness of it all? When options present themselves that violate your convictions, do you follow your conscience or do you fudge, just this once—it won’t hurt anything?

These are the things that determine whether your life is well-lived. Dreams fulfilled, desires met—those are icing on the cake.

This weekend, I urge you to spend some time with your Deliverer, Rescuer, Redeemer, Forgiver, Healer, and Savior. Pour out your heart to Him and allow Him to touch any encumbrance in your life that, if left untouched, would hinder you from having a life well-lived. Let Him do what He loves to do: to bring light to entanglements, to deliver you from hindrances, and to remove every obstacle that would disqualify you from having that life well-lived. Don’t put it off; He who saved you is delighted to bring you to full maturity. Remember, it is His gentleness, meekness, and humility directed toward and in you that will make your life, when all is said and done, not only well-lived, but great.

And, on that Day when you see Him face to face, may He look you in the eyes and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Happy weekend, happy life, happy eternity!


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On accuracy, the love walk, and joy

Posted by on Jul 24, 2013 in Everyday Observations, July 2013 | Comments Off on On accuracy, the love walk, and joy

Yesterday’s blog was about joy, but I didn’t plan to write on that subject. I intended to continue Monday’s topic by investigating ways to overcome obstacles that arise when believers don’t see eye to eye on points of doctrine.

Instead, I was attacked out of the blue with a migraine and couldn’t get my mind to think about much of anything. That’s why I wrote about joy. When I undergo a physical attack, I’m learning to relax, trust God, smile, and laugh a lot. So, aided by the Word of God and a migraine-busting ice pack, I rejoiced in God and wrote about joy. And the joy of the Lord was my strength. No more ice pack!

As I thought about the unconnectedness of Monday’s and Tuesday’s blogs, it dawned on me—they are very connected in a way that can help us to stay on track.

Christian life is about doctrine. Christian life is also about the attitude of the heart. Yet where do we as believers get gummed-up so much of the time in church life? In the areas of doctrine and attitude! When we think someone’s doctrine is off, if we don’t catch ourselves first, we’re liable to push Jesus off His seat at God’s right hand and pronounce judgment on the offender ourselves!

However, as you endeavor to be accurate both doctrinally and spiritually, the Father also holds you accountable to pursue and excel in love as well (see 1 Corinthians 14:1 and 1 Thessalonians 4:10). You are called to walk in both accuracy of discernment and a high level of love, but this takes a lifetime of practice.

Conflicts will  arise between Christians over doctrine. You will observe from time to time that someone is not behaving according to Scripture. You may even recognize that different ministers of the gospel are over-balanced in one direction or the other. Do you address any of it? Should you remain silent? What if someone else wants to discuss it with you? How do you guard your discernment and desire for accuracy without violating the law of love?

This is where the joy of the Lord comes in. It is your strength. Conflicts like these can weigh you down and wear you out over time if you don’t hold tightly to your joy. As you navigate through what can feel like shark-infested waters, you are not alone; Jesus is by your side. You have every right in the midst of conflict to praise Him; you have permission in the storms of strife to think on His goodness and rejoice, and you have the privilege when all hell breaks loose to ask Him to intervene in the situation and show you what to do. It is His good pleasure–His joy and delight–to come on the scene of your conflict when you ask Him to.

The Lord may lead you to confront someone about their error; the Lord may direct you to keep quiet. He may even correct you on the issue! But know this: the Lord is for you and not against you. As you seek Him in your pursuit of both doctrinal purity and love, He will instruct and teach you in the way which you should go; He will counsel you with His eye upon you (see Psalm 32:8).

And through it all, remember this: the joy of the Lord will always be your strength.



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The power of joy

Posted by on Jul 23, 2013 in Everyday Observations, July 2013 | Comments Off on The power of joy

One of the most unsung pieces of artillery in the war chest bequeathed to us by God is joy and good humor. As a melancholic personality-type (someone with a natural tendency to view the glass as half-empty and then to agonize over it long after the glass has been washed and put away), the good humor of joy has pulled me out of quite a few downward spirals. Does it sound odd to you that a melancholic-type can use joy as a weapon of warfare? It works—that’s why I use it!

As with every good thing we receive from God, Satan has devised a clever counterfeit for true humor and joy. Although I’m not addressing joy’s counterfeit here, suffice it to say that no one—including the devil—counterfeits worthless items. It is obvious, then that joy and good humor are very valuable when used in the right way.

A much-quoted Scripture declares at the end of Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

How does this joy—and its sidekick, good humor—work to strengthen you? Well, first of all, let me state something very clearly. I’m not referring to pretend “smiley-ness” and “praise the Lord-iness” that we can sometimes hide behind (I’ve been guilty, too) to make others think we’ve got it all together. No. The joy of the Lord which releases the strength of God is confrontational joy and humor—not exercised to impress others—but exerted in confrontation against the enemy—and against your own negativity, pain, or depression.

When you confront the devil with the joy of the Lord, he cannot stand against the strength that God imparts through it. Joy released during times of stress, pain, torment, or any other negative mindset or emotion empowers you to resist the devil, forcing him to flee from you.

However, sometimes an even more formidable foe stands between you and the attainment of God’s promises—you. How can you operate in joy when your mind or emotions scream in agony against the universe–or your neighbor–or your boss–or your body, racked with pain? It is at times like these when joy–and more simply, humor–can be among your most valuable assets.

When I catch myself becoming uptight and taking myself too seriously, I’ve learned that the quickest path out the inevitable downward spiral is through exercising the joy of the Lord and good humor. At first I have to force myself to participate in the process, but when I do, true joy always takes over and I am strengthened and refreshed. Remember—this is confrontational joy, and the target of this confrontation is yourself.

I have exercised this confrontational form of joy against my own negativity more times than I can count. Allow me to embarrass myself as I share some examples.

  • During times of emotional overload in my twenties, I accidentally discovered that if I forced myself to look in the mirror when I was crying, I would end up laughing—especially if I made faces at myself. And as I laughed at myself in the mirror, I got tickled by the absurdity of it all, and stress and pain seemed to fade away. Then trust in God would return to me along with real joy. I challenge you to try this technique if you feel yourself sinking into self-pity. It has worked for me.


  • Driving home after one of those days as an eighth-grade teacher when no one would listen and the paperwork piled as high as Mount Rushmore, the Spirit of God prompted me to smile. I did so, then stopped, and resumed complaining to Him. No, He urged; keep smiling—all the way home. I felt like an idiot with a big fake grin plastered on my face for the next few minutes. But it wasn’t long until the power of those smile muscles started oozing sunshine down into my grumpy soul, and by the time I reached my driveway, I was rejoicing. Again, I have exercised this technique often since then. It is extremely powerful when used against frustration, stress, or an overall negative attitude; and I guarantee that if you stick with it, you’ll end up smiling for real.


  • At times in bed when pain attacked my body and I couldn’t sleep, I realized that surely I must have stirred up a hornet’s nest somehow by my life or prayers, and that the physical symptoms were a clue to me that my enemy was not pleased. And I laughed. And laughed. And laughed. As I laughed big, hearty, belly laughs there in bed, pain-induced anxiety lifted and symptoms subsided. I laughed big laughs one night not too long ago at pain immobilizing one of my hands—and that pain simply drained out and vanished, and I fell asleep, a happy camper.

The joy of the Lord is your strength. As counter-intuitive as it may feel—especially to a melancholic personality-type—confronting yourself with joy and good humor when in the pit of despair, self-pity, or pain is exactly what the Great Physician ordered. And as you allow yourself to participate in confrontational joy, you will find the negativity fade away, and in its place will be the strength that can only come when you exercise the joy of the Lord.

May you be strengthened as you confront negativity with joy!






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What’s in your coffee?

Posted by on Jul 22, 2013 in Everyday Observations, July 2013 | Comments Off on What’s in your coffee?

Yesterday morning I enjoyed a cup of coffee as I prayed in my prayer room. I usually share this room and my morning prayer time with one of my cats who is on a special diet. Although he’s humungous, he’s the youngest and my smaller male pulls rank every time and barges right in, gobbling down that inticingly forbidden special food. To avoid that, my prayer room doubles as a private feline cafe.

As I was finishing my time with the Lord, I drained the last gulp or two from my coffee mug. Something with the texture of a crumbled dunked cookie flowed into my mouth with the last slurp. That’s odd, I thought; I didn’t dunk anything.

I spit out the remaining liquid and crumbly stuff into a napkin over the sink. And there, right before my eyes, were small chunks of cat food. Yikes! And contrary to the label, it did not taste like chicken.

As I spit and rinsed, spit and rinsed, and spit and rinsed again, I wondered how it happened to find its way into my coffee. Earlier in the morning, I had dished out the chow for my cats while simultaneously making my coffee. Evidently, something went terribly wrong in the preparation.

And two thoughts came to me.

1.  In our own lives as we go about our daily routines, things can get misdirected, lines might get crossed by accident, and we end up with less than pure intake. In fact, at times we eat “cat food” in life without even knowing it. Things may not seem quite right with what you’re hearing; the input from others may seem funny to the taste, but on you roll at the speed of light without giving it a second thought.

This is why it’s so important for you, in your busy life, to test all of your intake with the Spirit of God and His Word. If something doesn’t “taste”, “smell” or “feel” right to you, lift up a quick prayer and ask God to sort it out for you. Then later, if the Lord hasn’t brought clarity to you yet, spend some more time in prayer and look into the Word to find out what God says about it.

A man of God I highly respect used to say that when we listen to sermons or read Christian literature, we were to “have as much sense as an old cow; eat the hay and spit out the stubble.” I would add, this pertains to everyday life as well.

There’s a lot of cat food out there and there’s a lot of stubble. That’s why you need to be spiritually alert. Know what you’re hearing; know what you’re receiving as “the way it is”.

2.  You will survive with cat food in your stomach; you will survive some stubble. You just won’t receive the pure nutrients of the Word of God by consuming these things, and therefore, you’re not going to be nearly as strong as you could be in your walk with God.

If you go to church and find that you’ve been fed some stubble with your hay, just spit it out; don’t blast the messenger as a false teacher. Does Flossie the cow start an email campaign alerting the other cattle that Farmer Smith is a false farmer because she found some stubble in her hay last week? No, she eats her hay and spits out the stubble.

There’s a difference between stubble and poison. There’s a difference between cat food accidentally dropped in a cup of coffee and the intentional twisting of doctrine. You’re not only responsible to train your senses to discern between true food and stubble or cat food; but you also need to train your senses to discern between stubble and poison, cat food and toxins. The differences may seem subtle to you, but to God the differences are huge—as different as human misunderstanding versus the purposeful twisting of truth.

You are accountable every day you mature in Christ to develop discernment and to walk in it. When you are presented with stubble in your hay–or cat food in your coffee–spit it out! However, if you are fed a constant diet of stubble or cat food, you may want to find another place to dine.

On the other hand, don’t make the mistake of labeling those who have served some stubble or cat food in their messages as false prophets or teachers, or as those who preach “another Jesus”. Maybe they just had a bad week or a rough year. If you spend some time praying for them in love, you just might be blessed to learn how powerfully on-target they can preach.

It is my conviction that, as Christians, we need to refrain from labeling ministers and other believers in a knee-jerk reaction. Yes, we are to discern what we hear, but not everything that contains some stubble or bits of cat food is heresy; and not everyone out there who is labeled as false is, indeed, false.

And if you drop by my house for coffee, I’ll do my best to give you the straight stuff, cat food-free.




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Weekend: A Tale of Two Deliverances

Posted by on Jul 20, 2013 in July 2013, Weekend | Comments Off on Weekend: A Tale of Two Deliverances

The sword of the Spirit is a powerful offensive weapon given to every believer by the living God. This sword is His Word and is exercised under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Not one word or syllable of God’s Word is devoid of power, and when initiated by the leading of the Holy Spirit, it will surely hit the bull’s-eye and accomplish what God intended it to do.

God is able to quicken His Word to the heart of the newest believer, and when that Scripture is prayed or spoken with faith, it will achieve God’s purpose.

I’ve learned a bit about the utilization of God’s Word as an offensive weapon through the years, often by trial and error.

The main thing I’ve learned is that when I am confronted with impending trouble or disaster, I must lean heavily upon the Spirit of God. He always has a way of escape for me; my job is to check in with Him to find out what it is. If I mechanically press the “Gospel button” of my choice, then I assign myself as the one in charge of how I’m rescued, not the Lord. When I am facing sudden danger, I must let Him lead. Let me explain by presenting to you this Tale of Two Deliverances.

Deliverance Number One

Many years ago, I was handing out tracts with a group of friends outside of Busch Stadium, home of the baseball Cardinals. In front of Stan “the Man” Musial’s statue, a friend and I were talking with a scraggly young man who was standing with his back to the curb. A strange look came over his face as he leaned in toward us and snarled, “Have you ever considered that you would be martyred for your faith?”

Up from my insides, I spoke the words I heard: “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:11 and 12 just filtered up from my spirit and flowed out of my mouth! The sword of the Spirit was in operation.

But the next thing that happened left my friend Cat and me with dropped jaws. The man, leaning into us and threatening one minute, collapsed backward the next, onto the hood of the car parked behind him at the curb. Some of the guys in our group approached us just then and asked if we wanted them to take over. Cat and I, who were punching each other in the thigh in shock—that really happened? left the fallen man to the guys.

Deliverance Number Two

God has been good to me and has gotten me out of a lot of dangerous–and potentially deadly–situations. Another time He helped me did not play out the way I thought it should. You see, I was in awe of what He had done for me in front of Musial’s statue, and I decided that the Scripture that rose up within me that night was my secret weapon. Philippians 2:11-12 is amazingly wonderful, and every time I read it, I think about how God displayed His might that night at Busch.

One 4th of July, three of us were returning from a city-wide fireworks display. Traffic in the park was bumper to bumper, just inching along, and we had the windows rolled down. A young man in the park, all liquored-up, was screaming into the grid-locked traffic, “ROCK AND ROLL!!!” He and I caught eyes, and he yelled at me, “DO YOU LOVE ROCK AND ROLL?!?”

I looked at him out of the passenger window, and as he approached the car, I said, “I love Jesus.”

He lost his mind. Cursing, he grabbed me and attempted to pull me out of the window. Ah hah! I thought. I get to use my secret weapon again! and I quoted Philippians 2:11-12 as he continued to yank away. Instead of letting go of me as I expected, he became even more enraged and pulled harder.

Hmmm….this is not good, I thought, and quietly listened to the Holy Spirit within me to hear what to do next. With the upper half of my body being wrenched out of the window, I began to pray in tongues out loud, looking him in the eyes as I did so. I don’t know who was more shocked of the two of us, because he instantly let go and jerked away in disgust.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhrrrrrrrgggghhhhh!” he bellowed. “You’re WEEEEIIRRD!!!!” And off he fled into the night. I squirmed back into the car, but not before he poured the rest of his beer on my head and the windshield.

My Take Away

As I reflected on the two tales of deliverance I experienced, I started to realize something. God doesn’t necessarily perform according to our script!

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.” If God has a variety of gifts, ministries, and effects, would He not also undertake deliverance for us in a variety of ways? Indeed, God never changes, and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever; but He works out His wonders in a multitude of ways. The key here is: He does work wonders for us.

Your job and mine is to trust, ask the Lord for help, listen, and then obey whatever He shows us to do.

May God show you His wonderful delivering power as you hold fast His Word, listen for the leading of His Spirit, and lean heavily upon Him.





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Double up on the Discerner

Posted by on Jul 18, 2013 in July 2013, Prayer Perspective | Comments Off on Double up on the Discerner

Back in 1986, I felt as if I was being tackled by a dark cloud of oppression. Try as I might, I could not lift it. I was horribly confused by its intensity and had a critical decision to make—to go on an already-planned extended dream vacation with a friend or to stay home because of the heavy uneasiness I felt. A pastor I talked to told me to “double up on the discerner”, God’s Word, because it would discern between soul and spirit (see Hebrews 4:12) and shed light onto the right course for me to take. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” As I increased my Bible intake—not even on a particular topic—and sought God about the pressing decision I had to make, wisdom came.

I made the tough decision to cancel all plans, disappointing my friend, and obeyed what I believed to be the leading of the Holy Spirit. Days later, I knew why I had been “tackled”. My mother had been scheduled for a routine operation on the day I was to leave and was doing great just out of surgery. But within 24 hours, my dad called. “Your mother’s dying. Come home.” I found out that due to surgical error, her intestines had been punctured and she was dying from the release of toxins into her body.

Doubling up on the Word gave me the discernment to stay in town instead of camping out–for weeks–in the swamps of Georgia and the beaches of Florida like I had planned–before the days of cell phones. Had I ignored the pressure of the Holy Spirit or neglected to increase my Bible intake to receive the discernment I needed, I would have been unreachable when Mom was dying. On top of that, I would not have returned until long after she passed.

I will be forever grateful for the coordinated working of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God in my life at that crucial time. Thanks to the Holy Spirit’s tackle-like leading and the increased discernment I received from the Word of God, I was able to quickly make it to my mother’s side when her life unexpectedly drew to a close.

Thank You, Holy Spirit, for Your wonderful, intimate leading!

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