Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Taste of His Own Medicine

Repent for the kingdom of God is near.” Matthew 3:2

The desert sun bore down ferociously but the crowds kept growing. Word of mouth brought people: rich, poor, young, old, educated, illiterate. The barren isolation and sweltering heat of the wilderness couldn't deter them. Was is really four hundred years since God last spoke? Words straight from the mouthpiece of the Divine refreshed their parched souls like an oasis spring. A life of sacrifice and self-denial produced results beyond his wildest dreams, success that surpassed his wildest imaginations. The way was prepared. The masses had taken the words to heart, repented, were baptized and transformed. Little did John realize that his message was not only for the people, but also for him.

Anointed and appointed by God to prepare the way for Messiah's arrival, John was a man on a mission. He lived an austere, disciplined life. He gave up all to avoid being side-tracked or distracted. Things were about to change and the people needed to know.

John like most Jewish people expected the Messiah to come and establish a physical kingdom. Were the Jews prepared for such a reversal of fortune? Hundreds of years waiting for their Savior to arrive made a “someday my prince will come” Cinderella mentality easy to adopt as opposed to a life of expectancy. Now was the time for kingdom-type thoughts: head not the tail; above not beneath. How do we run the show as opposed to being run over by it? Counting the cost was crucial. Nothing guaranteed transition would be a bloodless coup. Rome allowed their conquests great latitude to run their affairs, but any hint of rebellion brought severe consequences. It was unrealistic to think that the empire would pack up and go home without a fight.

John had God's promise that he would see the Messiah. He even had a confirming sign to watch for. At Jesus' baptism John hesitated but continued at his cousin's insistence. When the Lord came up out of the water the Heavens opened. The Spirit, like a dove, descended and rested on Jesus. The Father proclaimed, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17. John's expectations were met and he wasn't disappointed – not just yet.

His life's purposed fulfilled, John stepped out of the limelight in favor of Jesus. He directed the people and his own disciples to the Christ. Maybe he'd dreamed of one day having a normal life: a wife, kids, home, career and so forth. Years of sacrifice might garner him a position in the kingdom, instead, he found himself in a Roman jail. The long awaited Messiah demonstrated no interest in politics, world domination or a jail break for an imprisoned cousin.

Sometimes we think if God will just give us a sign, we'll be fine. No need for doubts or questions when you have physical proof – right? John had a word from God AND a sign, and still struggled with second thoughts. Was Jesus the one or should they look for someone else?

 John's lack of faith must have hurt. Most of Jesus' family thought he was crazy. John was the one relative who believed in Him from the start. Now even His cousin wavered in his support.

Roman jails were barely habitable. His stature warranted even stricter measures. Cold and damp, the cell was a stark contrast to the hot, arid wilderness.

Did I really get it wrong?

Messengers were dispatched to find closure for his uneasy feelings; all there was to do was wait...and hope. The sound of approaching footsteps broke the monotony. The cell door creaked open.

“Keep it short,” the guard snarled.

“Well, tell me.”

“His teaching is unlike any we've ever heard.”

“He had some of the scribes and pharisees squirming.”

“And the miracles! I don't know where to begin to tell you all that we saw.”

“And with our own eyes!”

“Did you ask him the question?

Their demeanor changed dramatically. This couldn't be good.

“We did.”

“Well, what did he say?”

The disciples lowered their eyes and avoided his gaze.

“Out with it!”

“He said, 'Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.'” (emphasis mine).

When God doesn't meet our expectations it's easy to become upset. Jesus offers us a choice, be blessed or get offended. Maybe like John you feel as if you've sacrificed even more than your fair share and things haven't worked out as planned. You're sure you've heard from God, but what you've stood in faith for hasn't materialized. Now you suspect you may not have heard correctly.

To all who face disappointment with God, we have a similar decision to make. Will we be blessed or will we get offended? How about you? What's your choice?

Photo from Google Images

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Death by Letters

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:6

The doppler radar screen looked like a Christmas tree on crack. The track of Hurricane Charley as it left the Gulf of Mexico and made land on Florida's west coast was the main attraction that Friday night. Several feeder bands of rain, bursts of wind gusts and tense hours later the storm exited the east coast and headed out to sea. Exhausted but confident that we'd lived unscathed through another hurricane, we called it a night.

That storm was only the first of five that hit the peninsula of Florida that summer; two resulted in mandatory evacuations and windows boarded until Thanksgiving. Charley ripped the roof off of a house we were rehabbing and left it in the backyard pool. After almost twenty years of life in the suburbs of the Deep South, a job transfer provided a means of escape. We packed up the house, the cat, the kid and moved forty-five miles north west of Atlanta – to the heart of Red Neck Nation (which I write with the kindest affection).

Life in Georgia isn't boring. There are real hills here, not the slight undulating rise and fall of the Florida terrain which is equivalent to speed bumps on the beach. No matter what the bumper sticker says about one's car climbing Mt. Dora, there aren't any mountains in Lake County, Florida. We have plenty of them here. I've still not acquired a taste for southern cooking and doubt I ever will. Although English or at least some dialect of it is spoken here, there are times conversations hit a stalemate. If I slow down, elongate my syllables and drop the verb to be I'm usually understood. Despite some setbacks, I wouldn't exchange my life here for anything. I've found God again! While in “the Sunshine State” my husband and I attended several great churches. Personally, I'd grown spiritually stale. I felt as if I'd “put in my time” and I wanted nothing more than to sit back and coast. Let someone else earn the brownie points and get gold stars on their celestial chart, I was bored. What happened?

From early on in my walk with God I'd studied the bible seriously. I wanted to learn all about God. I took the admonition to “rightly divide the word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15) to heart. Determined to be a dedicated student of the bible who discovered all the right answers I devoted time, energy and money to learn everything I could. Along the way I substituted knowledge concerning God for relationship with Him. I was like the expert whose head knowledge of a subject far outweighed real-world experience; lots of theory, little practical application. Jesus had me in mind when He said these words.

You keep examining the Tanakh because you think that in it you have eternal life. Those very Scriptures bear witness of me.” John 5:39, Complete Jewish Bible

How did I get it so backwards?

Intimacy with God was a scary proposition. If the High Priest who entered the Holy of Holies once a year could be struck dead for the slightest infraction – surely I'd come out as burnt toast. My idea of a Heavenly Father was that of a rather stand-offish, serious perfectionist. One misstep and the lightening bolts could hit at any time. When the angels partied in Heaven over someones salvation, none of them better spill a drink on the Throne Room floor! After years of believing I didn't measure up, I was worn out. Let others beat their brains out trying, I'd had enough.

God wasn't willing to be so grossly misunderstood. He took radical steps and a major move to put me in the place where we could get re-acquainted. Little by little He chipped away at my quest to be right which essentially kept Him at arm's length. I re-discovered Holy Spirit, who gave me a whole fresh perspective on God's Word. Sound biblical doctrine is important but it won't do you much good if you don't know the Author.

I'm grateful for the years of study, they weren't a waste. I'm extremely thankful for the Spirit behind the words in the Bible who is the source of life. I'm no longer looking to disengage, I'm having too much fun. The journey is exciting and fulfilling. I'm going for those 1 Corinthians 2:9 experiences. If I can see, hear or think it - it's too small to be God. There's so much more.

Photo from Google Images

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Flunked Eleventh Grade...Thankfully!

Everyone who sins breaks the law, in fact sin is lawlessness, but you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him there is no sin.” 
1 John 3:4-5

I'm a certified high school graduate although I'd be hard pressed to produce the sheepskin to prove it. I learned recently however, that I not only flunked eleventh grade but also was expelled. Who knew? Initially this concerned me but now I couldn't be happier.

During the past few months I've had a series of dreams about school. In each one I encountered failure of some sort. In one I drove a bus full of kids off a narrow bridge and they got eaten by alligators. Guess I know what my calling isn't LOL. I don't have any plans to go back to school so I was confused. What, if anything, did these mean? Finally I had the dream about flunking eleventh grade and being expelled. In the dream I was really upset. I hadn't done anything to warrant such severe action. I consulted my reference books and researched the symbolism. I know that not all dreams are from God, but some are. I believe this particular one was a picture of my salvation.

Before I made Jesus the Lord of my life I lived in lawlessness (eleventh grade). In the bible the number eleven stands for lawlessness. In the dream I was in the last six weeks before the end of the school year. Six is the number of falling short of God's standard. Schools can represent training and a course of action. I was actively pursing a life without God with no regard for Him or His ways.

Suddenly through no fault or actions of my own, I was expelled and I'd flunked eleventh grade with no hope of reinstatement either. This I believe depicts salvation. I didn't do anything to earn it. Through no efforts of my own I was expelled from a position of lawlessness into one of righteousness. I flunked eleventh grade purely by the grace of God. Woohoo!

I now have the righteousness of God according to 2 Corinthians 5:21. I don't always get everything right but that doesn't change my status with God. My expulsion from the Kingdom of Darkness was final.

If you never failed eleventh grade here's the chance you've been waiting for. Receiving Jesus is simple.

If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord', and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

God made re-establishing a relationship with Him so simple, anyone can do it – even a rocket scientist! If you've not experienced this, let me encourage you to not wait another minute. You too can flunk eleventh grade and be so thankful that you did.

Monday, August 4, 2014


And these signs shall follow them that believe...they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” Mark 16:17-18

I recently read a piece by Kenneth Copeland concerning healing. He described the frustration he'd experienced when people he'd prayed for weren't healed. One day in prayer the Lord addressed that issue - His answer, “Healing always comes.”

Kenneth was shocked. If that was true why wasn't everyone healed? God then said this.

'I didn't say they'd all receive it,' He answered. Then He spoke very sternly to me. 'I do my part. And I said they would recover!'”

Kenneth then understood that God didn't hold back. Healing always came but not all would receive it.

Andrew Wommack has some great teachings on healing. On one broadcast he mentioned the unconventional methods Jesus employed. The Lord didn't do these just to cause a spectacle but to force people to use their faith. A good example is found in John 9:1-7. Jesus covered a blind man's eyes with mud. He added another barrier to further impede the man's ability to see. He then instructed the blind man to go to the Pool of Siloam and to wash. In order to comply the man would have to navigate a distance of about three quarters of a mile through the streets of Jerusalem. Twisting and turning, filled with people, animals, shops and so forth this was a virtual obstacle course for someone with sight let alone a blind man. In order to receive his healing the man exercised his faith, made his way to the pool, washed and was healed.

The word recover in this verse indicates a change in one's status, but it is not time sensitive. It does not necessarily mean immediately. Healing may or may not manifest instantaneously, but it always comes. You can read this in Mark 8:24. This blind man's sight wasn't totally restored the first time Jesus prayed for him. Jesus also ran head first into a wall of unbelief which prevented Him from working miracles except He healed a few people, Mark 6:5-6.

If we don't see immediate results when we pray for others or receive prayer ourselves it doesn't mean that nothing happened. As far as God is concerned healing came. As a recipient perhaps we need to exercise our faith and not just try to piggy back off the faith of someone else. Consider it done and then listen for any instructions God may give you. Settle the matter in your heart immediately. Healing always comes. We have God's word on it.