Cache. Pronounced “Cash”. In computer technology it is a “secret folder” where the computer’s history is stored. Everywhere you have gone and everything you have done on your computer is stored in your “cache.” One of the interesting things I have come across recently in a conversation I had with a one of our help desk techies is that some people have been having a problem with a certain program, and the solution is to “clear their cache!” In other words, in order for that computer to function properly, they need to get rid of that secret record of all the places they have been, stored on their computer in some secret place, because something is in there that is affecting the effective and positive operation of their computer. In some cases it has actually crippled their entire computer.
Did you “cache” that? (I know, “Catch,” sorry! I know, very poor!) But seriously, how many times do we let our past failures and misdeeds affect our present usefulness to God in negative ways? How many of us have been crippled by dwelling in our past? God certainly does not live there. Why should we? God told us He would “clear our cache!” Look:
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions [clears our cache] for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)
“….but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back [cleared our cache]. (Isaiah 38:17)
“He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea [clear our cache].” (Micah 7:19)
“as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us [clear our cache].” (Psalm 103:12)
Let’s get on with life! God has stuff for us to do!
Case Closed! CACHE CLEARED!!
And when you try to dig that cache back up, may God give you that gentle reminder that he left us with in Psalm 103:10 –
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.”
If God doesn’t do dwell on it, why should we? Let me close with the words of 1 Peter 2:16:
“Live as Free men!”
I was amazed at this picture of destruction in Pearl Harbor as I am every year at this time. Agony, burning, explosions, death, destruction, mayhem….scars. But here is what is most interesting: this ship – the USS Shaw – was actually repaired and served in the rest of WW 2 in the Pacific. When I first saw the picture, I thought, “Wow – that ship is done for! Can’t rebuild that one!!” And that is what the enemy would like for us to believe as well for our own lives! In spite of the Hope of Glory, if satan can convince US that there is no hope of rebuilding, that we are done-for, and to just give up, then he wins! Remember, satan’s words are all lies. Smoke and mirrors!! Jesus told us that in John 8:44 –
“Why is my language [what I say] not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning…there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Wow!! Jesus said that to the religious leaders of that day! Makes me wonder what religious leaders I should be following today? I guess those who espouse and worship Jesus as Savior and Lord are a pretty good bet – which is what THOSE religious leaders did NOT do! So we must keep that in mind as we hear satan’s whispers in our ears and heart. Lies like, “You have REALLY messed up now! Why bother! You can never be fully used of God now!!” or how about this one that resonates with many young people, “You were born out-of-wedlock – see! You are not even supposed to be here! You are an ACCIDENT! You need to exit so that this place can be put back into the correct balance…” Or how about this one – “Yes God loves people – but not you. You are a screw up! You have pissed Him off so many times now that He is done with you! You might just as well give in and do what you want – have all the fun now cuz when you die, it is all going to be over!” [If you want answers to those lies or any of the millions of others, please write to me so I can help you know the truth!]
So, a lie implies that the opposite of what the liar said is actually what is true. So, if we are told we are an accident, then we must NOT be! The Bible makes that clear! The truth is in Psalm 139:13-15 –
“…For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them…”
There is no special “condition” or “exception” in that statement! We cannot even be here without God’s permission! If He made you, then you must NOT be an accident. If He formed you, then who and how you are when you are redeemed and set free is who and how He designed and intended you to be. If we hear the lie, “You have really done it now, there is no hope for you. God is so mad at you – He is just done with you! Give it up!” Then try this on for size:
Romans 5:20, ” …where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”
Here is what is awesome about that verse: the word “increased” and “abounded” are from the same root word in the Greek language – which is what this passage was originally written in. It is the word ἐπλεόνασεν, transliterated as “epleonasen” which means “increase, make increase, grow.” The Word “increase” is merely that basic word. But when God has Paul write the word “abounded” – He has Paul use another word: ὑπερεπερίσσευσεν, which when transliterated is hypereperisseusen (again same root word, but with a prefix on the front of it!) which means “be very abundant, cause to abound greatly.” So the idea is “You sinned? Okay, Wll my grace is bigger than your sin! So get over it! Press onward!”
Are you getting the picture of God’s heart? It doesn’t matter what you do. God’s grace will always be even more abundant than our screw up. God is NOT done with us! HE promised that! Philippians 1:6 tells us that
“…And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ…”
Let me leave you with this final word. One of my favorite passages in 2 Corinthians 4 (which is actually Paul’s 4th letter to Corinth, not his 2nd as many think). I have learned that God’s economy is always above and separate from whatever is happening in this world. If Greece is bankrupt, God’s economy is flourishing. If Washington is corrupt, God’s economy is always full of integrity. God’s ways are simply above and beyond our ways (what did Buzz Lightyear say…”to infinity and beyond!”). So what we see with our limited eyes is not the final word – like ships exploding and burning. Because our eyes cannot see the God of the universe at work behind the scenes…but we know He is there…He tells us He is! Look at 2 Corinthians 4:7- 11
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
Where Jesus is, there is Life. Even in the midst of death and destruction, sin and filth, violence and mayhem – Jesus brings healing, peace, life, grace, forgiveness, order, and purpose. God never promised a life without pain, or alife without trouble. But He DID promise safe delivery OUT OF them!
“…Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all…” (Psalm 34:19 ESV)
That is why a few verses later we are told where to focus our thoughts and attentions:
“…So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
If you are hurting, pray and invite the “unseen” God – the Holy Spirit into your hurt. Invite Jesus there. Take Him back to the source of that hurt and pain. Invite Him there. He actually WAS there in real life, but invite Him there in your memory and in your spirit. Ask Him to bring healing, peace, life, grace, forgiveness, order, and purpose in those memories, thoughts, or experiences. He is so faithfully loving and gentle. And because that’s how God is, like the USS Shaw, you WILL sail again!
(The above song was written by Steven Curtis Chapman when he lost his daughter…)
By the way, want “the rest of the story”? Here is what happened to the USS Shaw (Copied from the US Naval historical records as recorded at http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-s/dd373.htm):
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Shawwas in drydock at the Navy Yard there. Enemy bombs set her afire and her forward magazines exploded, severing her bow and wrecking her bridge area.
However, Shaw‘s midships and stern portions were still essentially intact. Following temporary repairs at Pearl Harbor, in February 1942 she went to the Mare Island Navy Yard for a new bow and general overhaul. When this work was completed in late June 1942, Shaw spent several months in training and convoy escort duties. Sent to the South Pacific in October 1942, she participated in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands late in that month. While supporting the Guadalcanal Campaign, she ran aground at New Caledonia on 10 January 1943, requiring a trip to Pearl Harbor for extensive repairs.
Shaw returned to the war zone in October 1943 and took part in operations around New Guinea and New Britain. She was hit in an air attack off Cape Gloucester on 26 December 1943. After repair of that damage, she operated in the Central Pacific, including participation in the invasion of Guam. From October 1944 into 1945, Shaw escorted Western Pacific convoys and help liberate Luzon and other parts of the Philippines. When the Pacific war ended in August 1945, Shaw had just completed another overhaul, including major enhancement of her anti-aircraft armament. However, she was too old for retention in the post-war fleet and was sent to the U.S. east coast for inactivation.
Most would have thought that the Shaw was done for at the first attack. But because of her designer she was repaired and went on to endure several more major catastrophies, and was still used in the American naval service! We too are still useful to God in His plan. NEVER give up!
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29 ESV)
I was engrossed by the headline. A child had found her own biological mother years after being stolen from her hospital bed at just a few days of age. The thief was never caught – and the child was never recovered…until recently. How could this happen? As the child grew older, she just had this feeling that “she didn’t belong with the family raising her.”
Ever had the feeling you that you didn’t belong where you were? Felt like you were meant for something so much better? You were! Just like in the article above – this place we call home – it really isn’t our home! Designed to be born into God’s Kingdom of love, instead, we were given over to satan’s kingdom at birth because of Adam and Eve’s choices:
Rom 5:19 tells us that “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made [members of satan’s kingdom].”
I know. I have often struggled with that verse as well. We would like to say, “But I never made that choice! How can I be held accountable – even guilty – for a choice somebody else made?” Apparently, good ol’ American values don’t line up with those of the rest of the universe! God – and satan – think generationally. Always have. But, there is good news too!
Romans 5:15 “But the free gift is not like the trespass… For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ…Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
There are times where generational consequences don’t do us any favors. Satan knew if he could win my paternal grandpa over with alcohol, and have him die from a swimming accident due to his drunkenness, then that blow would sink the rest of his family for generations. Indeed! Furthermore, if he could do the double whammy of getting my other grandfather to be abusive to his family, then become an absent father, and then commit suicide after terrorizing his family, surely satan would put that family into a tailspin from which they could never recover, right? Except God.
Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind…”
This is my favorite part of the passage…
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus…”
So here is my question: How many leaders do you know who are willing to “show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us”? Drawn by God’s amazing grace, we were born into the household of God. Now, you can tell a lot about a King, by looking at their kingdom. The picture below is a fine collection of some of this world’s most powerful dictators in this century, along with a measure of the health of their fine kingdom.
The numbers under their name represent the number of people killed under their regime and with their blessing. Why? They didn’t think exactly the same way as their leader. Some were caught sneaking into the kingdom. Others (most) were caught trying to sneak out. Then there were those who dared to have a different skin color, or religious (or athiestic) beliefs, or culture. Penalty for any of these great acts of disobedience? Death. The above passage in Ephesians was exactly correct! Those people were children of wrath, dead in their trespasses in their respective kingdoms – just as we are if we are in satan’s kingdom. But God…
Don’t believe me? Ever known a partier who tries to quit the party scene? What do their friends do? Try to get them back! Ever known an alcoholic who tries to quit? What do their friends do? Ever known an addict who tries to quit? What do their friends do? The kingdom of satan cannot (and will not!) handle loss…But God…
Now of course, there is always the criminal element as well. What do you do with murderers and rapists, thieves and violent types? Well, let’s take a look at the “law” book that governs God’s Kingdom:
1 Corinthians 6:9, “…do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Forgiven. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on us who fear Him (Psalm 103:13).
Who is your daddy? In whose kingdom do you belong? If we have given our life to Jesus, then the answer is simple. Do you know Him?
Our true citizenship is in heaven. That might explain a few things!
That is why Jesus told us what He did in John 15:19,
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
And again Jesus confirms this in John 17:14,
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world…”
Philippians 3:20 tells us “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” Not only is our citizenship in heaven, that is where our true family is as well, as Ephesians 2:19 tells us:
“…you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…”
Hebrews 13:14 “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”
Here is what is awesome…are you ready for this? Because we are members of God’s Kingdom, we are here on this earth as ambassadors.
2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us…”
Legally, ambassadors are not under the law of the land they are in – they are governed under the law of their citizenship. Do you understand what that means for us? Everywhere we set our foot, we represent the grace and kindness of our God. We EMBODY the grace and kindness of our God. Every where we walk, every person we talk to, God makes His appeal through us.
And what is His appeal? Earlier on, He tells in verse 18 that “Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…”
We truly do not belong in this place. But while we are here, we live for Christ. We are not home…yet…
Insidious. Twisted. Devastating. Sounds rather snakelike doesn’t it! Those are the types of comments you hear after you see the results of deception. In December of 1941, the US was deceived into thinking all was well on the Pearl Harbor front. The pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor were equally deceived into thinking that some form of glory awaited them in the afterlife. On Sept 11, 2001, we were again deceived into thinking all was well. Again, those pilots who flew their hostages into the WTCs , the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania were equally deceived into thinking they had glorious experiences awaiting them in the afterlife.
I have taught my 3-4th grade kids at church that some people speak English, and others speak Spanish, but you can always trust satan to speak Lie-ish. Jesus Himself said that was satan’s native language.
John 8:44 is where Jesus says to the upholders of religion,
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
And this is not an isolated verse about satan’s deceptive nature.
2 Corinthians 11:3 also tells us, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
And again in Revelation 12:9-12,
“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him… woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
The world has many scars that are the result of this great deceiver. Hitler. Idi Amin. David Koresh. Jim Jones. Countless numbers of suicides and murder-suicides.
The danger with deception is that we do not know when we are deceived.
I will never forget my first year of teaching. I was a science/math/Bible/art/computer/you-get-the-idea teacher at a small Christian school in Medford Oregon. It was 7th period life science and Darby and a few of his friends were in the back corner of the class giggling during my obviously dynamic and brilliantly engaging lecture on the finer points of mitosis! I asked Darby and friends to please stop giggling, but it started up again after a minute or so. Once again I told them to stop. They did. For a minute. I knew it had to be something they probably should not even be talking about at school. So, when it happened yet again, I had Darby come to the front of the class to tell the entire class what was so funny. Brilliant! I knew that he would be embarrassed to say in public what he should not even be talking about in private. I also knew that this would be the experience that would stop him from talking at inappropriate times. So…I figured I would roast young Darby a little bit in public and let him go and sit down in repentance. I brought him to the front of the class and asked, “So, Darby – what do you find so funny that you must talk about it while I am talking?” His face grew red, and he did not want to say. Touche’ – I knew I was on target. I continued my carefully crafted plan: “Darby? You are now strangely silent! Surely you want us all to know? Come on Darby, out with it!” He replied, “Mr. Mauderer I can’t!” This was awesome. I had him just where I wanted him. I figured I would ask him this one last time and be done, believing my point had been made. “Sure you can Darby! If you can talk about it back in the corner and disrupt the entire class, surely you can tell me now!” “Okay, Mr. Mauderer – I am sorry….[pause]…your zipper is down.” I was sure the problem was NOT me! I was self deceived!
Insidious deception. We think we are doing just fine. We think our friends are doing just fine. This past Saturday, I figured the guys I was working with were all well established and mature Christian men who had laid down their lives to work with kids. It was a great day. Monday I get the email that one of those dear men ended his own life. Tragic result of the deception that there was no other way to deal with whatever problem was at hand. The result of that deception? A 10-year-old boy (his son) with a new legacy of self-destruction. A wife with a lifelong reminder of darkness. Friends with a nagging thought of they should have seen it coming. Satan is rejoicing. Yet, John 10:28 is still in the book!
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
I thought of the movie “Lion Witch and Wardrobe” where some kids are granted passage to a secret kingdom that is under the spell of a witch. In this kingdom, it is always snowing. Always icy. Never spring or summer – always winter. Everywhere you look. I wonder if that is how suicidal people are? Under the spell of the evil one so that everywhere they look, there is no hope.
Yet, there IS hope. ALWAYS. Jesus called the Holy Spirit that He was going to send us the Spirit of Truth.
John 15:26, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father…”
The Spirit of Truth.
The Holy Spirit will show us the truth. Where the hope is. He will show us the way out. Many times He uses His people as His instruments.
John 16:13 quotes Jesus as saying further about the Holy Spirit,
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth”
And the source of that truth? As Jesus prayed to His Father, he said
John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
Jesus also told us that same truth would set us free to live the way we were redeemed to live.
If you or someone you know is under the “spell” of the evil one in the form of ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts such as depression, desperation, overwhelming sadness, or are thinking the enemy’s lie-ish thoughts of destruction, or ugly untruth) then gently guide them into God’s truth in His Word. A great place to start is Psalm 139. Or perhaps Psalm 37. If you regularly think thoughts like “God is so mad at me!” or “I am a mistake” or “I have sinned so bad that God is through with me” or anything like that, rebuke that lie, then rebuke the enemy who would seek to destroy you. Get into God’s Word. Pray for the Spirit of Truth to guide you (or whomever) into the truth.
Know that you are loved. Deeply!
I took this class last night on “Decision Making and the Will of God.” I walked away with some powerful things – some the teacher taught, and others the Lord taught me 1:1. One thing is clear, the Bible tells us to know the will of God, and that if we do not, we are foolish. Wow! So we pray for it, and we ask God for it.
I realized something really powerful last night. I want a blueprint for my life. Should I pursue this PhD? Should I take this job? Should I move my family? Yet, God won’t give me a blueprint. Why? Some of you might not like the answer.
Proverbs 25:2 tells us “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”
So I am seeking things, and God is hiding them! What is up with that?? And there is even more than that…
Deuteronomy 29:29 goes on to tell us “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
There are only certain things God reveals to us. And there is a reason why. Sometimes we want to use logic. We think that is the highest form of thinking. Yet, God tells us:
Isaiah 55: 8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”
God has an entirely different way of thinking. He also has an entirely different agenda. We want answers. He wants a relationship. That is why He made us – to have a relationship with us. Last night a woman asked “Can we know the will of God?” Right when she asked that, two passages came to my mind:
Romans 1:17, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
How do the righteous live? Not by a blueprint. God is much more interesting than that.
Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
This walk of faith will only take us deeper into His love. And then there is this gem from King David himself:
Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
The Bible is God’s headlights that we are to use as we travel this dark, late night road called life. So, if I stay in His Word, seek Him, and do not rely upon myself, I will do well? What does that mean to “do well”? Become a millionaire? Was Jesus a millionaire? Any of the disciples? Does it mean that I will finish this or accomplish that? If I do not finish my PhD, does that mean I was not listening to God? Or does that mean that God wanted me to take those courses, or meet those people, or undergo those experiences so I would learn the things I would need along the way He has for me?
It is interesting in the parable that Jesus told in Matthew 25 about the servants to whom Jesus gave money. Have you ever noticed how He responded to the various servants? Take a look with me:
Matthew 25:20-23, “And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
Whether they grew much or little, the Master was pleased. To the one who grew NONE – well, that is another story for another day!
Abraham went all the way up a mountain with a 12-year-old son that he thought he was going to sacrifice. He took along a bunch of things as well, only to get there and find out that God was merely testing his obedience. He had no intention of wanting Abraham to finish this task that HE told Abraham initially to start out on. Was the journey for naught? No – there were things Abraham would learn and undergo in the journey to build up his “faith toolbox.” – you know, the wisdom, and the evidences we pick up along the way to prove that God really is good, and loving, and kind, will meet our every need, and everything else God is. It helps build our relationship with our God.
So, it is a chord of many strands, the wisdom God has given us, God’s revelation, Me, and God Himself – all intertwined in this faith walk that, ultimately, will result in the joy we all seek that money can’t buy, achievement can’t earn, influence can’t persuade, and power can’t control.
When I was 8 or 9 years old, I went to the Northern Minnesota Masabi Iron range – which had some incredibly huge open pit iron mines. At this one pit in particular, they had blasted the wall and dug down so deep that it was to the point that the wall was a sheer cliff several hundred feet straight down. I was with my dad and my mom and my uncle – who was my absolute hero…I loved him more than life itself. We were just walking along the fence at the top of the Iron Ore pit when we stopped at a particular spot. My uncle – who had just returned from Viet Nam on leave – decided he would be funny and grabbed me by my belt at the back of my pants and straight-arm lifted me over the edge of the cliff and just held
me there – several hundred feet in midair. I will never forget the feeling of absolute paralysis – the inability to do anything about my predicament. I didn’t dare move. I could feel this coldness sweep over me like a flood. I remember screaming like I saw a monster or something. At some point he brought me back and set me on the ground (my mother’s screaming may have had something to do with it). I remember running to hug a pole – so thankful to be back on solid ground – and my parents had a hard time getting me to let go.
I can tell you that growing up as a result of that, I had a severe fear of heights. I could not stand on the edge of a one story roof top without that same feeling of fear. Let me fast forward several years. I am a brand new Christian going with my youth group to a Christian Adventure camp in Wyoming. Whitewater canoeing, swimming, rodeoing, horseback riding, and ….rock climbing. I was looking forward to it because I loved adventure. But while the rest of the guys were scampering up the rocks, I was safe and content at the bottom of the cliffs. There was no way I was going up there. The problem was the rest of the group. Everybody else was rappelling – it was my turn. I didn’t want to seem “weird” or a chicken. They finally coaxed me and I eased my way up the trail and got me to climb what was pretty much a cake walk stair-step rock climb to the top – but for me it was terror the entire way. When I got to the top, and got the gear on, it was, again, absolute paralysis just like those years prior. I remember being frozen on the edge of the cliff. I couldn’t do it. They had to talk to me for nearly an hour to get me to go over with full gear on. I was now in survival mode. Finally, a leader harnessed up next to me and went down right beside me. I remember the sense of relief I felt – I was not in this alone. I finally made it to the bottom, white knuckles, scraped up knees, barely breathing.
Fear of heights – it rocked my world. And it dictated what I could do, and what I could not do. 4 years later I was asked to return to this same camp to work on staff. The man Wes Walton put me in charge of the entire program and the chapel services – since I played guitar. I was the music and I was…you guessed it….the rock climbing/rappelling instructor! Don’t think for a minute that my fears of heights had vanished.
The first time I had to lead a group to the top – it was a small group – was a test of steel. How did I overcome my fear and function? It was a mental battle that nobody on the outside had even a clue about. Ferocious. By this time in my life, I had all new tools to deal with things. I knew God’s Word –
2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
So I have this nerve-racking fear, but I also have this alleged “power” and “sound mind.” Sure didn’t seem like it! Nonetheless, I knew the knots I had to tie, I knew the harness, I knew the safety system, I knew to hook into 2 anchors
minimum, and 3 if at all possible. Safety was not the problem. Each item of the gear would hold thousands of pounds – so that part was also a slam dunk.
So why was I afraid? The truth of the matter was that there was no rational reason for this fear. Everything was bomb-proof. I looked my fear square on and said for it to go away in Jesus’ Name. I knew it was a spirit of fear – the exact spirit that God said He had NOT given me.
1 Corinthians 2:12, Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
That means I know who DID give it to me. I also knew that the power within me was greater than any power in the world.
1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
So I was able to proceed. The fear was still there in the background – taunting me, but I was the one in control. I could laugh with the kids, I could harness up next to one who was crippled in fear like I was, and help talk them over the edge.
Over the years, I have rock climbed and rappelled hundreds of times. I have led groups as well as my own family. Don’t
let fear rob you of joy, or of the opportunity to do things that will stretch you.
Fear weighs you down. It consumes your mind. It makes you sick. It leads to depression. It leads you into bondage. It is also a doorway for demonic activity to enter your life, or at least your surroundings. It lets Satan know you will obey fear.
Remember the commercial, “Obey Your Thirst”? Well, when we give way to fear, and let it rule our lives, we tell Satan that we will obey his fear instead of trust God. So the question is: How do you get rid of bad fear? You replace it with something bigger and more powerful! Who would that be?
Now, to be clear, there is also a good fear. We need to have a healthy respect of heights, or we could fall and be hurt or even die. We need to have a healthy fear or respect of electricity. We also need to fear or respect God. But these fears actually lead to freedom, not bondage. For example:
Proverbs 9:10-11, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.”
Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”
Malachi 4:2, “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”
In each of these cases, the fear of God resulted in something good. My fear of heights robbed me of the joy of doing fun and adventurous things. Never, in 30+ years has anyone EVER gotten hurt on my watch while climbing or rappelling. And a whole lot of fun has been experienced! And by the way, my kids are like spiders on the rocks – all over the place! They LOVE IT!
I have had the distinct pleasure and honor these past two years of visiting the Coffield prison in Tenessee Colony, Texas. I’ll never forget the first time I went. An inmate named Mickie thought he’d play a joke on the “new guy” and start to tell me about his dream he had been having about eating chickens. He made it out to be some demonic dream and then at the pinnacle of the joke he blew some white feathers he had in his hand. His intent was to try to scare me – maybe to see what I am made out of. I was a bit taken back, but what he did not know is that I am a high school assistant principal whose ability to be scared of most anything has been very much squashed, although that one was close! We all got a good laugh out of it. Mickie, as it turns out is a very Godly man, and a humble servant of Jesus. He is an elder of the church there at Coffield. Truly a blessing, and I am honored to call him a friend. While I am still looking for an opportunity to “return his favor,” I am limited as to what will pass through the search upon entering the prison.
When I was done speaking that day, a special group of men stayed behind and invited me to join them. This was a group of approximately 6-8 men who call themselves the “Streetsweepers.” They are a group of devoted Christ-followers who desire to work with the youth of our nation to try to turn back those who are wayward. They each have written their testimonies, and live a life in prison that would make many free people look less than upstanding – including me! They have daily quiet times, go to their prison jobs and work with excellence, share Christ in a loving way, disciple new followers, and help new inmates get adjusted. They are truly broken, humbled, and Christlike men. Why did they want to talk to me? They found out, after my introduction to the 600 men or so at the Chapel service, that I was a high school assistant principal, and they wanted my help in getting the gospel of Jesus out through their testimonies. I got really excited. Their leader was a man named Robert Garland. He was also the leader of the elders, and the leader of the church there at Coffield. At the age of 41 he had spent 24 years of his life behind bars. But in talking to him, you would think you were talking to a professional, high ranking business man. His demeanor was calm and mature, but valued you as a person. When he spoke in the Chapel to get the men quiet, they listened. Tall and lanky, this man had the makings of a great leader and communicator. I grew close to Robert. He recently made parole after 24 years in prison, which means that he will be released in a few months – probably December. I rejoiced that he will finally be able to live out Jesus to the world. He already has several speaking engagements lined up across the US to share his testimony in schools and churches.
James 4:13-16, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say,”If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
Robert actually mailed me his brochure he had developed for the Streetsweepers in the hopes that my technology skills could make it shine. It has well-crafted testimonies and artwork by the prisoners. Very nice indeed! I told him I would work on it. The picture above is a part of his Streetsweeper work – drawn by one of our brothers in Jesus. I went again to visit Coffield this past Friday. Robert Garland died on Tuesday, September 6, 2011 – three weeks prior to my seeing him again. He was two months away from freedom – after 24 years of prison. Yet he is freer and richer now than anybody on this planet. His Lord and Maker gave him an even higher parole. God invited Robert to His house for dinner – Word has it they were throwing a big feast. Robert had made plans to do such and such – like we all do. He stood up one day, had a brain aneurism, and fell over – dead. Life truly is a vapor. He had just led a white supremist gang member – for security reasons I will call him Vinny – to the Lord, and had been discipling him these past few months. I had the pleasure of meeting this man and hearing his testimony last week – Jesus has truly transformed his anger into joy and peace. He is going to take Robert’s place, Lord willing. This once very angry man had tears in his eyes when he spoke of Robert and the work Robert did in the lives of the men in that prison.
Today, we remember Robert Garland, and all prisoners who know Jesus and are marked by His blood, mercy and grace. Robert had no immediate family – his parents died when he was a child, so he never had visitors in prison except those who knew his ministry and who came to see him from churches. Because he had no money and no family, his body was buried in the Huntsville Prison Cemetary – but it is just an empty shell of a body. Robert is currently at the feet of his Lord and Savior Jesus, celebrating with all of his heart. Poor and rejected by this world’s standards, he was truly rich in Jesus and stored up major treasure in heaven.
The closing of his last letter to me:
Hebrews 13:1-3, Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
I challenge those who read this today to become a pen pal with a prisoner. Maybe even go visit one or two on a regular basis – whatever regular means to you. Perhaps every other month. There are state and federal prisons, county jails and city jails. There are men and women behind bars, and all of them need a mentor or at least a real friend who will walk the distance with them. They don’t need a judge, they have already seen one! They don’t need condemnation, they are already in the middle of it! They need the grace and mercy of Jesus and hope that there is a better life. That is what Jesus does for us – we who are prisoners to our own addictions, worries, struggles, sins, and besetting life patterns – he walks beside us as a friend helping and empowering those who are willing to change their lives, giving us the Hope of a better life coming.
This is a link to a movie night our church gave to the men complete with bags of popcorn. They absolutely loved it! (yes, each man in this chapel signed a release for them to be photographed – it took over 2 hours to get them all signed in so they could take their seats!) Be blessed!
Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
I was in Bible college back in 1982 when I took this class on 1 Corinthians. I absolutely loved my professor, Dr. Vernon Olsen back at St. Paul Bible College. Now I have found that when you get old enough, they change the name of your college. I have been to 5 major colleges or universities, and two of them have changed their names – it is now “Crown College.” But I digress! I loved the class because he taught it not as a fountain of knowledge, but as a devotional. So, today’s message comes from that class nearly 30 years ago!It was one of his first days in the actual book of Corinthians – after all of the “historical and hermeneutical background” stuff. He had just gotten into 1 Corinthians 1:7-9, and I will never forget what he said:
“…our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Will sustain you. Who is doing the sustaining? It sure ain’t us! But it is even greater! When Dr. Olsen got into the Greek meaning for the word “sustain”, it is a word that means “earthquake-proof.” Now I have heard of bomb proof, which is pretty solid. But earthquake-proof!? We are talking some pretty serious “proofing” here! Jesus’ powerful sustaining of us goes to that extent – come what may, atomic bomb, EARTHQUAKE, you name it, He will sustain us through it.
Now I can hear some of your thoughts. Even more, I can feel some of your pain. Some of you have had to endure to incredible pain and life disappointments in your journey. This is not meant as a band-aid statement. This is real. As real as the writer of 1 Corinthians lived his life. Do you know what HE went through? He gave us a short list one time in the 2nd book of Corinthians 11:24 –
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak?”
He wrote that to people who were accusing him – and hence the gospel – of being fake. God is not fake. Nor is His Word. And God wants US to not be fake. Hardships tend to separate the fakers from the real deal. The sheep from the goats. But God’s promise is priceless. The Bible? $29.99 God’s promises IN the Bible? PRICELESS! He WILL sustain us – bomb proof, earthquake-proof.
Now, he does not keep us tied up on a chain – we are free to leave. But then, if we do that, we also leave the source of our strength and perspective. The fountain of healing and power. Our anchor of Hope. Why leave? Will it make the pain go away? Will it reverse the past? Where you gonna go? Like Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples once said, John 6:68,
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
God never promises to protect us from pain, or loss, or suffering. Okay, so I know that even after reading what the Bible just said, it still may not mean much – especially if you are hurting. So let me introduce you to my “friend” – Tammy Trent. Not like we are deep friends or anything, but I met her when she came and sang at church once a few years ago. I get her newsletters, and the one I just got today (talk about timing, eh?) has the perfect testimony for today. You can read it directly at this link: http://www.tammytrent.com/emaillist/September2011.html So I have copied it straight from her newsletter (with the idea that I sincerely hope she does not mind my sharing a little of her story here!). Her story is real, and is a great example of what I am talking about. She had to stand one day as they brought her newlywed husband’s dead body from the ocean. I still remember Tammy’s emotions as she related the story to us at church that day years ago. 10 years ago. What else happened 10 years ago? 9/11. Here is what she so beautifully wrote today that I believe is so applicable to today’s message:
“I’ve been shaken to the core and still I stand with my fist held high proclaiming that I am unshakeable in this moment. But that’s just it. Sometimes we go from moment to moment, day-to-day, season to season. Even in chaotic uncertain times we can be assured that our very lives are in the grip of a loving God. We can completely rest in His love and presence, but also His unending attention, commitment and faithfulness to us.
“When I stood on the edge of the water 10 years ago I could hardly breathe…I was overwhelmed with grief and loss…I’ll never forget crying out to God to come rescue this broken heart and scoop me up in His arms because I couldn’t stand on my own. As the scriptures say it best, He was close to the broken-hearted and He saved me, whose spirit had been crushed. (Psalm 34:18) I once again realized my great dependence upon God and just how very real He is.
“Many of our moments, days and seasons have been shaken, but today I am a woman speaking over my life AND yours if you feel like you’re being shaken at this very moment … Our hope and our refuge is firm because of Jesus! (Psalm 92:2) We are heirs of everlasting life! He is in full control when life seems out of control.”
Wow. Well written Tammy! May the Lord continue to bless you and heal you and touch many women and men through you! To all of my readers – May you be blessed this day, and know that come what may, you really are bomb proof – in fact, EARTHQUAKE proof! Now, if you will indulge me…please look at this final picture taken just before the picture on the top. See the man in the doorway? The lighthouse is protecting them from these waves, much like God is our refuge and sustainer in the storms of life, like King David said in Psalm 124:2-8,
“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side…then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters. Blessed be the Lord…Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
FYI, these pictures are just two of hundreds taken by Jean Guichard who photographs Lighthouses. he is one of my favorites! Here is his site: http://www.jean-guichard.com/ Amazing stuff there!
I have spent many years as a lifeguard whether at lake beaches, pools, or cliffs. One of my favorite rituals to watch is the “testing of the water.” Someone will walk up to where the water is, dip their toe in it, and by that little exercise decide if they will jump in or not. Yet, I have NEVER seen a person stay OUT of the water based upon that little test! They always get in! And they always have fun!
There was a day much like that back in Numbers 13, but they chose not to have fun. God had brought the nation of Israel up to the edge of the promised land, and was ready to bring them in! I am sure the people were much like the person dipping their toe in the water – “It would be nice to see what we are getting into!” God understood that. He is not unreasonable.
Numbers 13:1, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel.”
So Moses did. When the spies got back , their worldly lenses kicked into gear, and things went south fast.
Numbers 13:26 -29, They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”
Remember God’s promise to them?
Exodus 3:8, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”
God was not about to leave them all stand high and dry. He told them “way back” that He was going to bring them to a good land. That’s how God is. He is good, and will not rip us off. The parallel is still this: that this new life in Christ is also a good life, flowing with His goodness and grace. But how quickly we forget this! And how quickly the people of Israel forgot this when they took the words from the spies “as-is.” Just like the Israelites, our worldly lenses get in the way sometimes! Our outlook on life – our attitude filters begin to run amuck. Look where it got Israel:
Numbers 13:30-33, “But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
At least Caleb had the fortitude and courage to see with God’s lenses – “All things are possible!” (Phil. 4:13). But like many of us who would rather sit around and argue with God about what He is and is not able to do through us, to us and for us, the Israelites argued with Caleb, and by default, God. The key phrase, “We are not able…” With that kind of attitude, they are right, they will NEVER overcome! With that kind of attitude, they also inflame God’s anger! General Colin Powell is quoted as saying, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”–Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state, as quoted in USA Today (http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/051031/31powell.htm). These people did not know the power of that idea. They preferred grumbling and complaining.
But what happens next is amazing. Caleb and Joshua again try to address their people through God’s lenses of promise and love for His people. Number 14 records it, and it changes the course of human history.
Numbers 14:7 “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.
God’s people are so rejecting of God’s word, that they are ready to actually kill God’s messengers! God Himself has to show up to protect His messengers! I wonder how many times we believers do this? Maybe not so outwardly, but inside we let worry and anxiety rule our hearts, instead of remembering that God has told us that HE has come to give us LIFE, and life ABUNDANT. He will not let us fall, He will never leave us nor forsake us. He provides a way of escape. He blesses those who obey Him. He heals us of our diseases. He gives us each spiritual gifts to use to benefit the body. Yet, we rebel, and persist in living a life of “disbelief” (disbelief = faithlessness = rebellion). God’s response is not one of blessing. He intends to give the people what they desire and focus on.
Number 14:32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.’ I, the Lord, have spoken.
Pretty strong words – consequences for our actions. Notice that they affect our children. Let’s be like Caleb – “We CAN…” Why? Because God told us! Trust and obedience to God is a “Blessing multiplier”!
When I was a new Christian back in high school (back in the “ancient” days, as a former student just
posted on my Facebook page!), I remember a time when the Lord spoke so very clearly to me out of His Word. I would take my Bible to school daily and read before school started because the bus dumped me off there about 45 minutes before classes started. I remember reading in Exodus, where God spoke to me so many times,
Exodus 3:8, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out
of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey….”
God said, “Rick that is a parallel of the new Christian life!” I thought to myself, “Brilliant! As God delivered Israel, God’s beloved people, out of the bondage of Egypt, so has He delivered all new Christians out of the bondage of the world and of Satan – who runs this world.” But if you extend that parallel, what does it say about our new life? “Flowing with milk and honey…” Sustenance fills the Christian life. Richness. Water is one thing – it keeps us alive. But milk has nutrition to help us grow.
God says our new Christian life flows with nutrition to help us grow. Now if God were angry with us, why would He do that? The answer is: He NOT angry with us. He loves us to the point that our daily existence is marked with daily nutrition to grow and mature. He loves us to bless us!
Honey. Did you know that honey is a food that is hard to spoil? Most all bacteria cannot grow in honey for its lack of water. But, you do not give honey to babies because the one type of bacterial spores that can grow in honey – rare – can be unhealthy for a baby. So, milk is for new Christians, but not Honey.
1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation…”
But like the old saying goes, “A baby is safe in a cradle, but that’s not where it is meant to stay” If we just feed on milk, we will not progress far enough…Honey provides energy. Energy is for doing – it is ACTION oriented.
Hebrews 5:12-14, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
So, we all need to grow up at some point. Some people are on different trajectories than others. Kinda like school. Some kids are early bloomers, while there are some who get to high school without puberty hitting them yet. Life is tough for those kids! Spiritually, we have a choice to grow or not to grow!
Honey is for the more mature Christians. Did you know honey does not freeze? It remains an amorphous type of substance way down to minus 60 degrees F at which point it will shatter if you drop it. Pretty durable! My grandfather used to harvest honey from bees. I was always amazed at how they would never sting him! Honey is formed from a honey bee that was drawn to a flower, experienced nectar from that flower, brought it back to the hive, and regurgitated it to the others. Refreshing, eh? I know you want to just rush right out and get some! BUT WAIT! Fear not! It’s not that bad. Bees have an extra stomach just for honey! It does not mix with the “other stuff.” So, the honey has been transported in a sort of honey tanker with wings…it finds the nectar, gathers it up, brings it back to the hive, and pours it into the honeycomb. I think that is how we grow as Christians. A Christian will experience things, and bring it “back to the hive” to share with others in the body in the light of God’s Word. This is the “Doing” part of the Christian life that the Hebrews passage talks about above. We do life, we do God’s Word, and we share the results of those things with others to help them grow. But we have to have the Word of God in us first so that our experiences are interpreted in light of His Word, or all we have achieved is existential confusion.
Are you growing IN CHRIST? Sure, we all experience things, but are they being regurgitated in the light of God’s Word? Are your powers of discernment increasing as a result of this? Remember, the Land God is leading you into is a life…and it really is flowing with Milk AND with Honey!
Be blessed this day!