Dec 29, 2011

The Best Investment Strategy

I have been laying out my goals and dreams for 2012, and, as always, it has gotten my brain thinking soberly about my life. What am I investing my life into? 

I work in the financial world, so I often find myself comparing a personal concept to it's business counterpart.  When investing money we all know that the only smart purchase is one that will increase in value. But do we understand this when we are dealing with our time? Our lives? Our brains? Our relationships? Our energy? Our youth?

You see, some buy high and sell low. They spend everything they have on what everyone else is doing. The newest fashions, the top video games, the latest movies, the most popular concerts, the hottest TV shows, etc. They fill their brains up with useless information about things that don't really matter - worldiness and philosophies. Their greatest treasure is a good time. But, it comes down to this: when they look back 5 or 10 years from now will they find that they made a good investment with all that time, energy, and money? Will they regret decisions?

Others are careful. They weigh everything before they spend anything on it. The question they always ask is: how will this benefit me and everyone around me? If there is no benefit to be gained, they pass. They invest time into worthwhile endeavors. They spend their money on lasting purchases. They invest into true friendships. They pour energy into righteous causes. They use their brains to invent and create things that will benefit generations to come. Their youth is spent building firm foundations for the rest of their life. Their greatest treasure is instruction and a lesson learned. They invest with wisdom and reap real rewards.

"My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; THEN you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path. When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you." -Proverbs 2:1-11
And what will Wisdom and Understanding get you?

Proverbs 3 (read the chapter, these are all in there)

  • Long life
  • Peace
  • Favor and high esteem with God and man
  • Health and strength
  • Happiness
  • Life to your soul
  • Grace to your neck
  • Safety - walk without stumbling (how many of us would love to not make stupid mistakes?)
  • Freedom from fear
  • Sweet sleep
  • The blessing of the Lord

But where is the adventure in that? Where is the fun?
You tell me.
Sure, there is a time and place for fun, and movies, and chilling with friends, and watching hilarious music videos on Youtube. But the real question is, 50 years from now, when you look back on your life, will it really matter if you beat all levels of that game. Or if you saw that artist in concert 15 times? Or if you watched every episode of that sitcom? Or that you saw that movie in 3D? Or originated that hilarious meme?

Is the real adventure, perhaps, to be found in using infinite materials to build something eternal?

Don't get me wrong, the preacher is preaching to herself on this one, too. On looking back on my last 25 years days, I find I have wasted plenty of precious time on silliness. And I realize it is time I will never have returned to me. But I also realize I have many years of time ahead of me to remedy my habits and start living like I'm part of something grand. I have time to gain wisdom, and with it, all the rewards of wisdom.

Time spent in the Bible and gaining wisdom will never be time wasted. Energy used to walk in understanding and advance the Kingdom of God is energy invested well. It will bring an eternal reward.

You only have this moment for this moment.
What are you going to spend it on?
Get to it!

Dec 27, 2011

The Beauty of Hard Times

Hardships.         We dread them. And yet, we cannot hope to become anything without them.  I think the Lord takes His beloved through hard times so that our message is always fresh...

You know what it is to be the one going through hard times and to see someone who is delighting in all the successes life can offer. Their sympathy can only feel like pity, their words tend to be hollow and empty of real comfort, and the contrast of their happiness makes our sorrow hard to bear. It is difficult for those in the valley to accept comfort from those on the mountaintop. It is hard for those on the mountaintop to remember what it was like to be in the valley, or to stop and ponder those still there. We are finite beings, so prone to become desensitized to the lessons of the past. So, the Lord, for the sake of our ability to minister to each other, allows us to reenter the valley every so often, lest we forget.  It is not punishment, it is a part of the maturing process. It is His mercy keeping us sharp and useful for His work.

You see, it is quite different for a sufferer to see one with them in the valley who, though suffering, overflows with joy and wisdom. Here is a counselor they can rely on. Here is a true friend in time of need. Here is one who can give a "word in season to the weary".  

In our affliction our comfort is softer and more merciful than if we never faced wounding, trial, or temptation. Our words are clearer. Our message rings truer. Our example is easily followed. Our humility in realizing our own weakness draws and will not repel. In our own dependence on God we tap into a power source that flows through us to all who come for help.

In my times of trial I have looked to other people who have faced and learned to rejoice through trials. People like Joseph and David in the Bible, or more modern heroes like Amy Carmichael and Elisabeth Elliot have become my own "mentors". Their stories, written in their suffering for my encouragement, have given me courage to endure. And they, in the middle of their trials, realized their purpose.

There is nothing more beautiful than watching one who, in their own suffering, overlooks their circumstance to reach a hand to another in need. This is the love of Christ. This will change the world.

Dec 18, 2011

He who looks into the perfect law...

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper."
-Psalm 1:1-3
The dictionary lists the definition of "conviction" as: the state of being convinced of error or compelled to admit the truth; a strong persuasion or belief. The Christian is to be a person of conviction.  We are to be fully aware and unwavering in our loyalty to truth (the Bible). In other words, we are to know what the Bible says about the issues of life well enough that we can spot error when confronted with it.

When God gave the Law to the Israelites He commanded them that:

"these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
-Deuteronomy 6:6-9

God gave us His Word as a safe-guard against error that leads to death.  In His mercy, He carefully explained how we are to live so we can be sure of staying far from sin. In I Timothy Paul gives Timothy the instruction to:

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.-I Timothy 4:12, 13, 16

All throughout the Bible there is instruction to believers to know doctrine, to be familiar with the Bible, to love the Law of God and to be careful to obey it. God gave us His answers, but it is up to us to search them out and obey them carefully.  It is to our benefit, and, really, for our safety that we search the Scripture to know how God thinks.

In speaking with many Christians, it is easy to see that many don't know what the Bible really has to say about the issues of life.  I have heard good God-fearing people discuss for hours the issues of drinking, divorce, homosexuality, etc. without one of them knowing what God has to say on the subject.  They ask friends' opinions or do internet searches but don't look into the answer book itself.

I think we tend to forget that in the end we will not stand before our friends, our culture, Christian authors, or even our pastors to give an account. We will, on the Day of Judgment, not be judged by a jury of peers, but by the Great Judge Himself.  In fact, Jesus said that we will be judged by the Word!

"He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him, the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day."
-John 12:48

There are no surprises on the last day, we will be judged by what God wrote in Scripture for us to read and obey.  The only people who will be surprised are those who foolishly assumed they knew God, when they never took time to read the instructions He wrote for them. (see Matthew 7:21-27 for more information on this.)

I encourage you to become very familiar with the Bible and what answers it has to the questions of life. I can guarantee that it has an answer for anything and everything that you will have questions about.

One last thought:
God is unchanging, "there is no shadow of turning in Him". What He expects of us has not changed since the beginning of time. In your study of the Bible, do not let your view of "cultural issues" be shaped or molded by modern-day philosophies or humanistic mindsets. Let God's Word be your guide. If God loves something, love it with everything in you. If God hates it, hate it with every ounce of your being.  Be confident that, on Judgment Day, you can stand before God with a clear conscience knowing that you will hear "well done, good and faithful servant."

"But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."
-James 1:25

Dec 17, 2011

Light Side & Dark Side In An Upside-Down World

I have noticed a peculiar mindset in many Christians of late - the mindset that in order to reach the world we should be as much like the world as possible and still "be saved". We are allowed to look like the world, talk like the world, tell the same jokes, browse the same images, laugh at the same entertainment, read the same books, have the same habits.  

"Good enough" is good enough for us. Forget sold out. Forget set-apart. Forget holy consecration. We don't, after all, want to make Christianity uncomfortable for the modern-day sinner.  Let them slide easily into church life without jolting them from sinful mindsets. Let them enter into this sacred fellowship with Christ's Bride while still partially clothed in filthy rags of worldly lifestyle.

But I ask, is the Church a club to enter and Christianity a badge that proves your membership? Or is the Church a new family, Christianity a description of your life, and Christ's blood your new identifying feature?

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." -2 Corinthians 5:17

Are we helping people to excuse worldliness or are we harming them? Are we walking so close to the edge ourselves that those who follow us are likely to slip over the edge?

What I think we have forgotten, when we excuse worldliness, is that the world's system is what has destroyed these people we want to reach. It is that lifestyle that has wounded, broken, scarred them. It is that mindset that has torn apart their relationships and left them with memories they'd rather forget. It is the world that bruised and left them for dead by the roadway. What the guilty soul truly wants is not acceptance of their current life, but forgiveness and hope for a new identity.  What the guilty soul needs is the blood of Christ that washes sins, grace that enables them to change, and instruction in righteousness that will preserve them from Hell's flames.

And so, what does this mean for us? We who would preach Christ must preach holiness. We who would preach holiness must live holiness. If you need an example, consider Jesus. Always among sinners, yet never sinful. When he walked into a room He did not become like the people there, He compelled the people there to become like Him. 

“Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.'" -Leviticus 19:2

Where are the people that will serve their God with a pure heart? Where are the Daniels? Where are the Joshuas and Calebs? Where are the Davids? The Pauls? Where is the generation of promise that will change the course of nations and cultures? Where are those with white-hot purity, with fiery consecration, and fierce convictions?  

This generation is tired of those who dabble in religion or profess a Christianity they will not sell out for. Stand in righteousness...even if you must stand alone in righteousness...and see if you will affect change right where you are.

“Catch on fire and others will come for miles to watch you burn.” -John Wesley

Coming tomorrow...a examination of convictions. Where to get them and why your convictions are vital. 

Dec 16, 2011

Today's Martyrs

Often we say, “If an assassin put a gun to my head, I would die for Christ.”
But how many of us will lay down temptation for Christ?
How many would give up our rights if it wasn’t fair?
How many would bless the Lord if He took away a person we loved?
How many would remain committed if no one else did?

The test of our devotion to God is not in the pinnacle moments, but in the everyday decisions. It is not always the crisis moments that really show our commitment to God. It is our response to the daily tasks, the small disappointments, and the mundane life, that truly prove us His own or not.

Radical faith is born of radical obedience. Christ doesn’t ask for great deeds, but for great character. He doesn't long for fields strewn with corpses of martyrs, He desires vessels that are empty of themselves and willing to be used however He asks. These are the real heroes of the faith: the man who rises before dawn to spend time in prayer, the woman who forgives an offense quickly, the man who will not watch a certain movie because he wishes to keep his mind pure, the girl that holds her tongue when she'd rather lash out.

Yes, some of us may die for our faith – but all of us are called to crucify our flesh - with all its passion for earthly lusts - and to do it today, tomorrow, and each day.

Dec 15, 2011

Waiting Doesn't Start Until You Think It Should Be Over

Psalm 37:9 "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth."

In times when we don't know what God is doing, it is easy to become fretful, or anxious, or to lash out in anger and frustration when we become insecure. It's all too common to find those who give in to sinful reactions when they didn't see an immediate reward for a little obedience. Remember, those give in to evil responses birthed from impatience will be cut off from the good things God has prepared for them. But those who endure -- those who patiently wait for the Lord's perfect timing will be abundantly rewarded. Don't worry if you've obeyed and still more obedience is required. God always takes care of those who let Him. Release the decision, the frustration, the worries, the questions into God's hands and see if He will not work things out so much better than you could have.

"God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with him." -Jim Elliot

Dec 14, 2011

Song in the Storm

When all my life is tossed and shaken; when all I trusted turns to dust. When life itself become uncertain, You alone stand firm.
When waves of doubt buffet at my soul and winds of change threaten all I am, I fear I cannot stay this course but You alone stay sure.
In darkest day, in night of need, in hours of confusing pain. Though arguments build up in piles, You alone are true.

And precious Master, when I would doubt remind me whose slave I am. Remind me of the purchase price, remind me You care for Your own.
Dearest Jesus, hold me close. "Prone to wander", so, Savior, keep me near. When I would stray, when I'd run, bind fast my heart to Yours.
Treasured Friend, take charge of my heart. Keep coldness far and hardness banished. And if lean I do, as lean I will, keep my leaning bent toward You.

Oh soul of mine, how quickly you doubt. You tend so much toward despair. Remember, I charge you, the Father's protection and your Shepherd's constant care.
Mind and will, you too, must yield to trust and not to sorrow. Despair can have no place in here, I am my Father's daughter.
And finally, joy, bubble up and over, delight in this season too. Spring from thankfulness for the lessons you learn, and hope in the dreams of tomorrow.

Dec 12, 2011

No Vacancy

"...and she wrapped him in swadling clothes and layed him in the manger, because there was no room for them in the inn..." Luke 2:7

Since almost the beginning of time they had waited. Ever since that fateful day that Eve bit the forbidden fruit and God slew the first lamb to cover the first sin, they had waited. Prophesy upon prophesy had been recorded. Father's taught their children the words about the Messiah. Mother's spoke of them at home. Children committed them to memory as soon as they could speak. The Messiah would arrive, they knew it.
Throughout captivity they had yearned for it, spoke of it, considered it, sung about it. The Messiah would come, like a lion and like a lamb. He would redeem them from their captors. He would raise them up to the promise once again. He WAS the promise. So they waited.

4,000 years they had waited. Now it was time. History was at it's centerfold. Everything was about to change. But Bethlehem, sleepy little Bethlehem, the city of the destined Messiah, was busy.

Times were changing. Everything was in upheaval. The government was expanding its realm and tightening the reigns on every citizen, the Jews were chaffing under Roman rule, zealots were beginning to lash out against the government, the religious leaders were corrupt. In the middle of everything Caesar Augustus had decreed a census to be taken, and every Jew was to return to his birthplace.
Bethlehem was bursting at the seams with business. The streets were packed, the inns were packed. Everyone had family staying in their homes. Business was booming and life was happening at a fast pace for everyone here.

In the middle of it all, in wanders a small family. A working class man and his pregnant wife, just two of the hundreds of people that wandered through the town that day. No room in the inn, so they stayed in the stable of a kindly man.

That night, in that stable the Messiah was born.

In their defense, who could have known this baby was the Messiah? There was so much going on and this Messiah looked nothing like they had expected. In fact, everything was happening exactly as God had preordained, everything went according to plan. But a few people knew what was happening. Anna for one, the beautiful old lady in the temple who had waited her whole life for a glimpse of her promised Redeemer. Simeon was another. Another soul who had watched and prayed earnestly for this day. Most people, though, were too busy to realize that the world had just changed right in the middle of them.

It all gets me to thinking about my life this holiday season. It's time for festivities. Family is in town, the world is changing all the time, the economy is in an uproar.  There is much to do and little time. There is life to be lived. Yet, in the middle of all of this, am I rushing right by the plans of God? In this little place I call my heart, do I have any vacancy for a move of God, or am I too full of my busy schedule?

I am reminded to be like Anna or Simeon in this next season. To stop and wait on God. To know His heart. To recognize what He wants to do. To spend time in the Word and in prayer so I know the times I am in. To not be so caught up in the rush of life that I don't have a place available for Christ.

When God looks for a place to accomplish His eternal purposes, I want to be ready for Him...waiting expectantly and looking upwards, ready to be used.
When the Messiah comes knocking at my door, I want to fling it open and have a welcome prepared.

Dec 9, 2011

Will I?

The will of God; what does it look like?

What does it look like right now, this commonplace decision?

Not His will yesterday, or even His will tomorrow, nor His will for someone else? What is God's will for me right this moment?

Do I know it?
If not, have I asked?

If I know it, am I doing it?

I am a Christian. I am one who lives to be like Christ.
Christ said, "I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things."
Christ is my example.
Do I speak only as He teaches me, do only what He commands me?
If not why?
Am I greater than Jesus?

I wonder now...what could God do with one? One who lives every day, every decision, every thought - waking or sleeping - every breath in obedience?

Or better question...what could He not do with that one?

Nov 21, 2011

Learning Love

I am learning that the love of God is shown through His Word, His commandments, His correction, His leading and His guiding
In the middle of my foolishness and transcending my understanding
At the beginning, at the end…and in the midst, of the journey.

His perfect love can’t be bought by goodness
It is more valuable than earthly gain
But it is available to me, if I choose to accept it

The cost of His love is the surrender of my life
My passions, my pursuits, my dreams, my ideas, my creativity
My mind, my will, my emotions
My strengths, my weaknesses
My schedule and my plans
My independence and my personality
My desires and my future
My songs of happiness, my times of despair
My living and my very being
ALL are counted as nothing, as loss,
As possessions that must be sold to buy the priceless pearl

For priceless it is

Without beginning, without end, without measure
It means hope in the darkness and joy in the journey
Mornings of fresh mercy; nights of saving grace
It means laughter in my heart and on my lips
It means freedom and life more abundantly
It means a new life, a new character, a new reason
It is completeness, fullness, progress, sweetness
Abundance and satisfaction
It is everything I could wish for and so much more
It is beyond imagination

And yet, His love is tangible

It surrounds me in beauty and I can observe it first hand
I can feel it, I can see it, I can hear it, I can sense it
It is the whisper of confidence in my ear
It is what upholds me in the flames of temptation
It is what soothes me in times of confusion
It is what makes me dance in the fields of abundance
It is my patient endurance in faith
It is my shepherding influence
My quiet pool in the middle of the rushing river
It is my lush pasture in the wilderness
It is rod, staff, comfort
It is my table in the presence of my enemies
It is my oil of gladness
It is my overflowing cup of praise
It is goodness, it is mercy

His love pursues me forever

It is the Presence of God at my side
It is the pillar of fire leading my way
And the cloud to cover me in safety
It is my rear guard
It is my forward motion

His love is my victory!

Nov 2, 2011

Witness of Power

I am pondering this evening:
So often we ask God to prove His power. "Do something miraculous", we ask. 
In response, God calls us into a land full of giants to be defeated. He says, "I will show My power by defeating a giant through you! I will make My strength perfect in your weakness."
...and we throw a tantrum.

"God WHY did You bring me here where it's so hard?" We sob and wail, "I *hiccup* thought You lllll-loved mmm-meeee."

We want God to prove His power, but we would really rather not be the ones He proves His power through. We want God to prove that He is a provider...but we aren't willing to go through times of need. I fear that we humans are quite illogical!

God doesn't want us to be distant spectators of His power --He wants us to experience His mightiness. He will show us His power first-hand if we are willing.

Of course this means facing giants. It requires unflinching faith, costly sacrifice, and daring obedience when what God asks us to do does not make sense. Sometimes it may require changing our attitudes from fear to curiosity...not questioning if He can, but wondering how He will.
It means being like Daniel, faced with a lion's den.
Like Job refusing to complain
Like Gideon in battle with only 300 men
Or Noah waiting for rain
Like Abraham with his son at the altar
Like Esther who would die if she failed
Like Elijah dowsing the altar with water
Or Paul and Silas singing in jail
Like Moses before Pharaoh with only a rod
Like David honoring a fractious king
Like the the old woman bringing her last cent to God
Choosing faith in this moment is the important thing

In the end we have proof of God's power, a display of His love, and an experience to put in our pocket to show anyone who wonders just how big our God really is.

Oct 16, 2011

Halloween: What's the Big Deal?

It's October, the month of spooky yard decor, crazy costumes, and horror movies.  I have been asked about fifty-eleven times what I am going as for Halloween, and shock people when I decline their Halloween parties.

It's a question that arises often in the Christian circles. Is it ok to celebrate Halloween? Some say it is, some say it isn't. So, here's the question. What's it all about, anyway?


Halloween has it's roots in the ancient Druid celebrations. The Druids were a sect of pagan priests and sorcerers. They were Christianity's most direct opponents in the Celtic world, in fact. Historical writings tell of their occultic practices, divinations, and human sacrifices.
The holiday was originally the Celtic New Year festival. It was the beginning of the "Dark Half" of the year; a time that the Druids believed the veil between the spirit world was drawn aside and the dead could walk the earth causing mischief and harm to any humans they encountered.
Some of the traditions of this holiday included séances, fortune-telling, and sacrifices-animal and human-to honor the dead. Trick-or-treating began with the people leaving offerings out to pacify the evil spirits so they wouldn't be cursed. In a nutshell, the Druid priests attempted to appease evil by giving in to the spirits' evil demands. In later years, as the Romans (ie, the Roman Church) conquered the Celts, they didn't eradicate the old holiday. Rather, they added a "holy" twist on to the occult practices by celebrating All Saints Day the next morning, calling the holiday "All Hallows Eve."


Basically every part of Halloween is a fascination with anything demonic, occultic, deathly, and fearsome. It can be summed up by its own admitted fascination with dead things. Many of our traditions today still have direct ties with the old Druid practices, as well as other evil symbols that have been added since that time...all having much to do with Satanism, occultism, paganism, etc.

Common sights during Halloween include:
Witches - "Wiccans", the worshippers of the goddess earth.
Ghosts - Dead people coming back to haunt the living.
Jack-o-lanterns - Named after a man "Jack" who was so wicked that neither God or the devil would take him, so he wandered the earth causing trouble.
Dracula - A man who lived off the blood of other humans
Bonfires - Original "bone-fires" because they were fueled by...bones...human bones.
Demons - Evil minions of Satan
Zombies - corpses animated by mysticism and witchcraft

...and many more...

On a social level, I spoke with a local police officer who told me that the holiday is one of the most crime-ridden days of the year. Common crimes police deal with are arson, vandalism, animal killings, suicide, and murders...all of which dramatically increase on Halloween night. In my source's own words, "Law enforcement, nationwide, allocates resources expecting more acts of vandalism and intimidation on Halloween night, than other times."

What does the Bible says about this subject?

Exodus 22:18 "You shall not allow a witch to live."

Deuteronomy 18:10-12, 14 "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire [human sacrifice], or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer [fortune-teller], or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you...For those nations, which you will dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so."

NOTE: God drives out those who practice witchcraft, divination and the like. They are dispossessed from His promises and He does not allow His people to engage in these practices.

Revelation 22:14-15 "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city [Heaven]. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie."

NOTE: Not just those who do but also those who love the deception. Do we walk in deception regarding our involvement in evil traditions and refuse the truth because the lie is more appealing or more culturally acceptable?

2 Chronicles 33:6 "Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger." *Also 2 Kings 17:17

NOTE: Imagine being a person who provokes God to anger. A dangerous place!

Acts 19:19 " Some believers, too, came forward to admit how they had used spells and a number of them who had practiced magic collected their books and made a bonfire of them in public."

NOTE: They burned their books. They left no way of returning to the old lifestyle because they realized magic and sorcery had no place in the new life of a Christian.

It all comes down to this...

No matter how you break things down, there are only two sides, two powers, two kingdoms. There is God's side (the way of life, light, and righteousness) and Satan's side (darkness, death, and evil). The two sides are contradictions of each other and will never mix.

Halloween thrives on fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. (2 Tim. 2:17)
Halloween glorifies death. God came to bring us life. (John 10:10)
Halloween promotes evil things. God commands us to overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:21)
Halloween is all about darkness. We are called to walk as children of light. (Eph 5:8)

In short, Halloween remains a holiday bent on the glorification of everything that is opposed to God's kingdom. As those called to overcome evil, we cannot afford to dabble in the ways of our enemy. It is ultimately treachery to God.

What should we do?

As role-models, parents, and guardians of the hearts of our children we have a great responsibility to train and protect the next generation. Will we let them continue in traditions based so completely in demonic practices? Or will we be willing to be different from everyone else in order to make sure we are not blurring the lines between good and evil in our children's minds and hearts?

Remember. The spiritual world is VERY real. What we allow into our homes can and will affect our lives and the lives of our families. It's not a game, it's not cute, it's not a joke. This is a weightier matter than cool costumes and free candy. Satan still walks about as a roaring lion seeking who he can devour. Being wise of this, I would prefer to lock the door firmly against him.

Sep 30, 2011

What to do with people who wound us...

Sometimes in life we face situations when friends wound us, or get offended with us and break off relationship. Maybe you stood up for what was right and someone got mad. Maybe you did something wrong and someone became offended, and refused to forgive when you asked for it. Whatever the situation, it can be difficult to respond with love to someone who is bitter towards us.
What do we do in times like that? How do we respond as a Christian?

Recently I was reading in Psalm 35 and was comforted, first by the fact that I am not the first person that has ever dealt with hard relationships, and second, by the wisdom David gives for how to handle people that hurt us.

First note: That the person is not your enemy.  Remember, "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12) Your enemy is a very real devil who would like nothing better than to cause you to stumble through anger, or hate, or offense of your own. Forgiveness, mercy, and love extended to the relationship is your best defense against him and your only hope for restoration of that relationship.

Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me;fight against those who fight against me. (verse 1)
Let God be your defense. He stands as our attorney in times when we are wronged. You cannot--must not--attempt to defend yourself.  Do as David did and take your complaint to the Lord only. Do not whine or complain to other people about how bad the person is treating you. Don't try to gather people to your side against that person; that will only serve to damage even more relationships.

...Say to my soul, 'I am your salvation." (verse 3)
Take refuge in God. HE is your Helper, your Comforter (John 17:7). You can hide in Him and find complete safety for bruised emotions and a wounded heart.

And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; I shall rejoice in His salvation. All my bones shall say, "Lord, who is like You, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, yes, the poor and the needy from him who plunders him?" (verse 9-10)
Make your soul take joy in the Lord. The most important key in relationship is not having a victim's attitude. Reject self-pity and anger before it has a chance to take root. Get out of the mulley-grubs. Don't let yourself become depressed by another's view of you. Stop and make a focused effort to fix your focus on God.  Remember, no matter what you face He is worthy of all praise and all thanksgiving. Besides, a joyful heart is "good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones." 

Fierce witnesses rise up; they ask me things that I do not know. they reward me evil for good, to the sorrow of my soul. (verse 11-12)
Recognize that sometimes people will be unfair. Sometimes they will not treat us well. Also remember that God is always, always faithful. ( 2 Timothy 2:13) He does not change based on our response or our worthiness, He is consistent.

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; and my prayer would return to my own heart. I paced about as though he were my friend or brother; I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother. (verse 13-14)

Here's the part that makes me stop and ponder. Our attitude must remain one of tenderhearted kindness. In fact, it looks as though David extended even more kindness than normal to this person.
Pray for them when they are sick or hurting. Fast for them. Wow, intense! Deprive yourself of food and pleasure in order to intercede for them. Allow yourself to remain emotionally attached to their well-being as though they were a best friend or brother. That's Christ-like love!

Vindicate me, O LORD my God, according to Your righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me. (verse 24)
Realize that God will vindicate you in time. Everything in life will someday pass before the judgment seat of Christ, and at that time all wrongs will be made right. For now, lay the case to rest within your own heart and be cautious not to exact vengeance for yourself.

Our God is a God of reconciliation and restoration. Those that are His have a ministry of reconciliation. As such we must be watchful that our hearts remain forever soft towards those that have wronged us. Don't burn the bridges of relationship. Pave the way back in to the person's heart. Sure, you can't change them, you can't fix their attitude. Sometimes you just have to stand at a distance and hope they are willing to reconcile with you someday. But if the day comes that they return, receive them with open arms and willing the father did to the Prodigal Son (story here) Christ did with you when you returned after rejecting Him.

We who have been forgiven so much will find we have many opportunities to love much.

Sep 12, 2011

The World Through People-Colored Glasses

You look at the world and see that you were abandoned when you didn’t deserve it.
You were wounded beyond repair.
Your bitterness is excuseable.
You have been horribly wronged.
You see those that hurt you owe you much.
You see you are a victim.
You see your future has been warped by your past.
You see you may never reach what you were destined to be because of the circumstances you had no choice but to endure.
You see that you are broken.
You see incompetence.
You see that you are a failure.
You see insignificance.  
You see pointless days stretched before you.
You see that you must be respected to have value.
You see that you must strive for approval, because only then will you succeed.

You are wearing people-colored glasses. You filter all you see through how people have treated you and how they view you. Your viewpoint is clouded by their perception of you. It is brightened only by their approval of you.

Take of these glasses and you may you are suddenly disillusioned for a moment.
Perhaps the best place you could be. Disillusionment means losing illusions. It means being faced with reality—with truth.

Take them off and here you are, lying bare before your own eyes. Seeing yourself as God sees you. And what will you see?

You will see that you have never been left alone.
You’ll see that in wounding, you have a Healer, and He who created can heal completely.
You’ll see that you have been forgiven much.
You’ll see that you do have the capacity to forgive much.
You’ll see that you have a Defender.
You’ll see that you are the debtor, owing a debt of love to the One who loves you best.
You’ll see that you are a victor.
You will see a future, shaped perfectly by every circumstance that you have walked through.
You will see that nothing and nobody but you can hold you back from the destiny God has planned for you.
You will see that you have been made strong by what you have endured.
You will see that you are made whole.
You’ll see that God perfects His strength in your weakness.
You’ll see that you are a child of God.
You will see that you are held, cared for, sung over, safe.
You will see a beautiful world.
You will see a bright future.

Sep 11, 2011

Hope in Disappointment

What do you do when disappointment crashes into your bright world and scatters your precious dreams?
Do you cry? Do you pout? Do you shake your fists at the sky? Do you try to make God tell you why?

When God removes something that is important to us, our first response is usually, "Why?" If no answer is readily given, our next response is often anger. Anger at God. Anger at the people who "caused"our pain. Anger at ourselves for having hoped.

Then discouragement sets in. Like a virus is sneaks in removing our desire to hope again. Leaving us numb, cold, lifeless. It steals our vision, causes us to react in fear and frustration, we become self-protective, and crawl into a metaphorical hole to hide from everyone. If the pattern of discouragement isn't broken, we are liable to stay in that hole forever--having dug ourselves a grave where we spend a living death locked away from the brilliant destiny we were made for.

Disappointment will come. That I can promise you.  Discouragement does not have to. One of the hardest battles any of us will have to fight is the battle of repeated disappointment. Some may deal with career failures--never being able to rise out of the cycle of business failures.  For some it may be relational brokenness. Perhaps it seems that your closest friendships always end badly. Perhaps you have a history of failed romances, or broken your heart repeatedly. Perhaps your dreams have been crushed by circumstance.

Discouragement is a deadly enemy because often we have to face it alone. Others may be aware of adverse circumstances in life, but seldom do they realize the deep emotion battle we face. Many times people do not realize it is our destiny--the rest of our life--at stake.

Joseph was a man who faced great disappointment.
As boy, God gave him a dream. He was going to be a great man someday. He would save thousands of lives.
But first, he had to be tested in the fires of disappointment.
He was sold as a slave by his own brothers.
He was taken to a foreign land.
He became a trusted steward to his master.
He was falsely accused.
He was thrown in jail.
He was forgotten.
He was left for dead.
...and the word of the Lord tested Joseph until the time came to fulfill his dreams. (Psalm 105:19)

In slavery Joseph was being taught by God. In prison, he was being shaped by God. God never once lost sight of Joseph's dream--it was His primary focus as He led Joseph through the different seasons of his life.
Walking out the dreams of God will require great strength.Disappointment serves to make us strong. Disappointment is not made to crush our dreams. It is made to test our dreams. It strengthens our dreams. It adds value to our dreams. Disappointment does not cancel our dreams; it simply postpones them until we can contain their full potential.

Recognize this. It will give you courage to face disappointment without despairing. Be excited that the Lord is preparing you for a time when the dream will be fulfilled.

Sep 6, 2011

Calvary Love

By Amy Carmichael

If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting "Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received?" then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I find myself taking lapses for granted, "Oh, that's what they always do," "Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that," then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not feel far more for the grieved Savior than for my worried self when troublesome things occur, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can rebuke without a pang, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed me; if I say, "Just what I expected" if a fall occurs, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, "You do not understand," or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying "Peace, peace," where there is no peace; if I forget the poignant word "Let love be without dissimulation" and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I hold on to choices of any kind, just because they are my choice, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into self-pity and self-sympathy; If I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have "a heart at leisure from itself," then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my threshold, I do not shut the door, and keep that door shut, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth); if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel injured when another lays to my charge things that I know not, forgetting that my sinless Savior trod this path to the end, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel bitter toward those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I crave hungrily to be used to show the way of liberty to a soul in bondage, instead of caring only that it be delivered; if I nurse my disappointment when I fail, instead of asking that to another the word of release may be given, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never crosses my mind, or if it does, is never given room there; if the cup of flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that others are caused to feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I refuse to allow one who is dear to me to suffer for the sake of Christ, if I do not see such suffering as the greatest honor that can be offered to any follower of the Crucified, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my interest in the work of others is cool; if I think in terms of my own special work; if the burdens of others are not my burdens too, and their joys mine, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

(Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India. She began a ministry to the orphaned children and temple prostitudes. She is an amazing example of great faith and unwavering commitment to Christ, and one of my personal heroes. Read more about her life at

Sep 3, 2011

Lines in Sand

There comes a moment in our lives where a line must be drawn.
A point where we say, "I have made my decision and I'm not going back." A time when we choose our side, and raise our battle-flag so our loyalty is unmistakable.

This last week has been one of choosing sides, for me. I knew what God wanted, and I knew what I felt like doing. The decision was not a momentous one, and yet I knew it would affect my destiny quite a bit.
The choice came down to taking the hard, the steep, the world-changing path or settling for normalcy.
I knew which way God preferred. I also knew He had left the decision to me.

You see, God never forces us. He shows us our options. He lays the cost and the benefits out plainly. He tells us His perfect plan--the one that we were made for. But then He steps aside and lets us choose.
Remember Samson? He was a man with a great call. A very unique call. He was called to live like no one else....and yet he craved the life of everyone else. He wanted parties, and women, and luxury. He wanted fame and respect. He lived for the moment. He fulfilled his own cravings, and when it came down to it those cravings got the better of him. They cost him his freedom, his sight, and in the end, his life.

For me the decision I had to make had nothing to do with anything that anyone else saw.  It was all in the realm of thoughts and confessions of the heart. But not only will this decision effect a great deal of my personal life from here on out, it will also effect my ability to make future decisions correctly.  I have begun a pattern of correct choices, which means the next one will be that much easier.

What is the first thing that happens when we make a decision?
It is tested.
That's how it was for me.  I made my choice, I drew the line...but then I had to walk it out.  All week long the other option would ride up in my face, flaunting its so-called benefits, trying to seduce me to back down from the choice I had made. The only way I cam make it through times like that is to fix my eyes on God and not even look another direction.  The pages of my journal are full of prayers and God's responses, my voice is worn from reading the Bible aloud to myself, and my stereo has been playing worship music non-stop for days now.

Sometimes that is the hardest part of all.  Setting new habits of life or new patterns of thought is not easy.  The trick is not making an excuse to do it one more time.  It takes vigilance, carefulness, and a great deal of will. It takes the strength of the Lord. It takes grasping Him by the hand and not letting go.
Remember the story in Genesis of Lot's wife? She was miraculously delivered from a horrible situation, told to run for the mountains and not look back.  But she could not resist one last parting glance of the life she had known. And there she stayed. Looking back forever.  A pillar of salt. A warning for anyone else that would look with longing back to the old lifestyle.

You will reach a crossroad in your life. Actually you will probably face many. The first will be the initial choice to follow Christ.  Then after that, you will have many days where you will need to choose your way or God's. Selfishness or love. Offense or forgiveness.  Purity or compromise.  Sleep or prayer. Indulgence or discipline.  Normalcy or victory. Worldliness or holiness.

Often they will come when you are tired, or frustrated, or weak. Usually they will have a much larger impact on your life than you may realize at the time. When the time comes, make the decision that God wants. Then walk it out, Don't go back, don't look back, don't consider another way, don't make even one excuse, don't leave a back-door option.

Fly your standard high so the world will recognize whose side you are on. Make certain that when the Lord looks down for one whose heart is turned perfectly to Him, He will spot you in an instant and know you for one of His own.