Can you hear the voice of truth?

It amazes me that people can read identical words or hear the exact same message and yet have complete different interpretations. They may not even hear the same words that are being said.

This became a reality to me when the “Laurel or Yanny” craze hit social media. A single word was spoken and the internet exploded. Some people heard the word “Yanny” while others heard the word “Laurel”. According to a couple different web sites, the confusion involved frequency. If a person hears higher frequencies they are sure the word is “Yanny” and vice versa.

Jay Aubrey Jones, who recorded the word for Vocabulary.com stated that he was actually saying the word, Laurel.  The word, Yanny, is not even in Vocabulary.com. Before the audio scenario debate there was the color of the dress debate in 2015. Some people said they saw a black and blue dress while others saw it as white and gold. (By the way: the dress color is black and blue.)

I realized that individuals can be extremely positive that they know the truth but somehow be very mistaken. From the moment a word is spoken it can become twisted or tainted. By the time it hits the ear of the listener it can become something completely different from what was said. It is like the game “telephone” that we played as  children.  A phrase is whispered into the first child’s ear and that child whispers it into the next child’s ear. By the time the phrase reaches the last child, it usually isn’t even close to what was said in the beginning.

The words Jesus spoke were often misrepresented or misunderstood. He often spoke in parables or stories to help explain salvation, the kingdom of God or other dynamic truths.  In Mark 4:9 he says, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (NIV)  That statement is heard several times in the book of Revelation, as well.

In Matthew 13:13b Jesus states” Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” (NIV)

That is a scary thought.

The truth that can lead people to salvation, to freedom and to an eternity with their creator was not being heard. It wasn’t because it wasn’t being spoken. Jesus stood among the people of his day and yet they could not hear the truth or see it. It is the same thing today.

Jesus continues speaking in verse 14a:
“In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” (NIV)

(I wondered how it could be possible that they could see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears, yet not perceive the truth. Jesus answered that question in the following verse.)

15a: “For this people’s heart has become CALLOUSED: they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.” (NIV)

Calloused skin is skin that has become hardened and thick. So a calloused heart is someone whose heart has become hardened and thick. They have put up a wall over and over so that truth can no longer penetrate. They have become insensitive. People with calloused hearts have refused to listen to truth so many times that one day they do not even recognize truth. Their hearts have become so hard they cannot hear it nor see it.

That is why Proverbs 4:23 states, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (NLT)

Jesus is very clear that listening to his voice will allow us to follow in his footsteps for our lives. He will direct each of us if we choose to listen to his guidance. He states in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (NIV)

You might ask how I am sure that I am following truth and not being deceived. Deception is deceptive. I have confidence because I ask my Lord to keep me in truth and reveal any area of deception. And he is faithful.

My prayer is found in Psalm 25:5 “Guide me in your truth, and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (NIV)

If you desire to hear His voice it is never too late to call out to God for truth. He will be sure to answer! God is full of mercy and grace and wants to fill you with his hope.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:27 (NIV)

My hope is that you and I will hear our Lord say ” But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”
Matthew 13:16 (NIV)

God bless.

Just for fun:
If you have not had the chance to listen to the Yanny vs Laurel debate open the link below and find out what you hear.  Then decide what color the dress looks like to you.

 

Yanny vs Laurel

 

 

black and blue dress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Warrior

The battle blazes and the fight continues. The warrior looks up and sees another flaming arrow flying towards her and her comrades. Without hesitation she maneuvers her shield high into the air, stopping the arrow from piercing her or those she has grown to love and admire. It almost knocks her off her feet. She is not wounded, but exhausted.

This particular battle has been raging for some time. She has been using all her training techniques but lately she has been distracted by other cares. Her mind is on things that take her thoughts to places that her commanding officer has warned is a distraction. Lately it seems she cannot focus.

She knows she has to learn to think about things that bring hope and not allow thoughts of despair to paralyze her. The commander has warned her to think about things that bring peace, especially while in battle. She must stay sharp.

Whoosh…another burning arrow flies right towards her. Suddenly a shield swoops in front of her and she hears the thud of the arrow bouncing off of it. This time the shield belongs to her friend. She turns towards her friend. They lock eyes. A smile crosses her friend’s face.

“Don’t worry,” she says. “I got this one.”  They nod at each other as they turn to continue the fight.

The warrior thinks to herself, “My commander is right, my thoughts are distracting me. That arrow could have hit me.”

“Charge!” demands the commander.

The orders produce a power that shakes her from within. With no more distracting thoughts filling her mind, the warrior and those with her charge the enemy with all of their strength. The battle turns from defense to offense. The warrior does what is second nature to her and begins the hand to hand combat with her sword. Strength infuses her weary body.

Suddenly the enemy runs in terror. The hooves of horses can be heard pounding away from the battle ground. The warriors holler in unison as they chase the enemy away. The slaughtered enemy that lay at their feet begin to disintegrate into black smoke, then disappear. They are not of human form but come from devilish soil. At that moment a shout of victory echoes throughout the camp. Another battle has been won. 

Joy fills the air where despair once resided.

Tonight there will be a celebration, a celebration of victory and hope. The tired soldiers can rest for a time. The grateful warrior turns to thank the commanding officer for the training and the tenacity he has taught her. As she reaches out her hand, he pulls her close for a huge papa bear style hug.

“Well, done my child,” he says patting her on the back. “Well done. You didn’t give up when you wanted to. You didn’t quit.”

“But I was distracted by despair. An arrow could have hit me when I lowered my shield,” the warrior says embarrassed by her actions.  The commander simply laughs a hearty laugh as if it isn’t a big deal. “But you weren’t hit. Your friend shielded you. That is why you need one another. Besides, I already won this battle. Did you notice how fast the enemy ran?” he said in triumph between deep chuckles.

She did.

“They always run when they see me pull out my sword. They know that I will only allow my children to go through just so many trials. Once I pull out my sword they screech in their tracks, abruptly turn around and run in fear.”

She knows that his sword is extremely sharp and destructive. As he swings it  in demonstration a brilliant light radiates off the metal causing the entire land to flood with the light.

No wonder the enemy runs away with such speed. There is nowhere to hide. They understand they can be annihilated by the commander at any time so they cower at his greatness. 

A thought rushes through the warriors mind. “If  the commander is for me, then who can stand against me?”

As she lets that sink in, peace floods her mind and her heart.

The battle was his all along.

_________________________________________________

That is a synopsis of a moment in the spiritual realm of a warring believer in prayer.

As believers we will always be in some sort of battle. Here are a few things we must remember as we fight in the battle of prayer.

  1. Ultimately every battle belongs to the Lord.
    Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15 (NIV)
  2. We do not fight people.
    “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
  3. We need one another.
    “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.”
    I Corinthians 12: 20-21 (ESV)
    “Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 (GNT)
  4. There is a time for rest.
    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

God is merciful but also fierce. He will defend his own. We have to trust him. We may be warriors but we are also his children.  Be strong, fight diligently and rest in his grace.
God bless

What then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31  (NIV)

 

“The Warrior is a Child”
Twila Paris

Lately I’ve been winning
Battles left and right 
But even winners can get
Wounded in the fight
People say that I’m amazing
Strong beyond my years
But they don’t see inside of me
I’m hiding all the tears

They don’t know that
I go running home when I fall down
They don’t know Who picks me
Up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
“Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

Unafraid because his armor is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I’m amazing
Never face retreat
But they don’t see the enemies
That lay me at his feet.

They don’t know that I go
Running home when I fall down
They don’t know Who picks me
Up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
‘Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child.

 

 

 

 

Celebrations of victory on the altar of my life.

To those who may use FACEBOOK you might be familiar with the “On This Day” memories. They are memories you posted on your account the same day a year or more before. It is fun to view the change in your life or memories shared from year to year.

Some monumental moments may be that of a wedding, a birth or even the memory of a loved one who has gone on before us. Other memories are those of individual victories; perhaps the day your son took 1st place in a track meet or your daughter took her first step.  I followed a couple whose daughter was seriously injured. Thousands of people stood with them in prayer and watched her progress as she began to miraculously recover. That victory was celebrated by total strangers.

Like FACEBOOK, there are memories that come up year after year in our lives. Some memories are filled with moments of God’s miracles. If we took a personal inventory of what the Lord has done for us in our individual lives, we might be surprised of his greatness and compassion and love.  I could write a book of his faithfulness in mine; how he came through for me in hopeless situations, how he miraculously healed those around me, how he supplied my needs when my pockets were empty and delivered me, even from myself.

These personal inventories are testimonies that inspire us and ignite hope in our hearts.

One of those times was during our futile attempt to sell our house. It needed so much work. Either we needed to have a lot of money poured back into it or sell it, as is. It seemed simple enough but I felt trapped because we were paying on a mortgage for our house while living elsewhere. The day it was sold was so exhilarating.  I felt like heavy chains were broken off of me. I knew the Lord had a hand in leading a buyer to us who was willing to buy it, as is.

Each March I remember that miracle and I thank God again for his provision and goodness. It is a celebration I place on my altar of remembrance.

Another time we had a car issue. Since we bought our car new, we assumed it would be trustworthy for several years. Vehicle hunting was exhausting but necessary as we were without transportation. My husband and I came to a compromise. He wanted a pickup and I wanted an SUV so we decided on a car that we both liked.

Not long after we purchased it, it quit when I approached a stop sign. I mean it completely shut-down. I didn’t think too much about it as it started again. We brought it to the shop anyway. They didn’t see anything wrong with it. Then it happened a couple more times within the next couple years. Everything would simply shut down at once, without warning.

Twice I was on the highway when it “shut-down” and once I was almost hit by a semi-truck. Each time we brought it in nothing was ever found wrong with the vehicle. We couldn’t claim it under the “lemon law” because we had to have an issue repaired first. The problem was that there seemed to be no issue to be repaired.

We still owed money on the car and though we just wanted to trash it, we couldn’t.  I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. It was my only vehicle but it seemed dangerous. Each time I drove it I felt like I was gambling with my life and whoever was riding with me.

I prayed about it for some time and felt that I was supposed to go to the dealership and speak with one of the managers. I visited with him and explained my situation. He was very understanding, so much so that he had it thoroughly gone through without any charge. Again nothing was found.

I sat in his office, knowing that I could not leave without something being done. We both looked at each other in contemplation. I was praying under my breath while he sat quietly in thought. Suddenly he asked me if I would like to talk to the sales manager.

I knew we weren’t currently at a place to purchase another vehicle and I explained that to him. He still was convinced that was my best option. He had me sit in his office while he spoke with the sales manager. I thought, “Ok, God, I really don’t know how you are going to work this out, but I trust you.”

After I told my story again to the sales manager, he explained that he was going to do a miracle for me. “Okay”, I thought. He then asked me what kind of car I would like. I was assuming he was going to lead me to the used cars on the lot. I answered, ” I want one that doesn’t quit on me while I’m driving.” He laughed. “No really, what do you want?”

I boldly told him that I wanted a SUV. (Remember I had wanted that in the first place.) He left me in his office for a moment. Then he returned and brought me out to the new cars in the lot. Parked right in front of me was a brand new SUV.

“Do you like this color?” he asked. I couldn’t believe it. He was offering me a NEW vehicle. I was flabbergasted!

“Really? But..I don’t have the down payment.”

He asked again, ” Do you like it?

“Sure!”

I don’t know how it happened but I walked out of the dealership that day with a brand new SUV! NO down, NO credit check. I was amazed.

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It was during the Christmas holidays and I knew it was my Christmas present from the Lord. I didn’t deserve it, but God heard my pleas and met my need. Actually he went over and above what I thought I needed. My husband laughed when I pulled up in my new SUV.

“Well, I guess you got what you wanted after all,” he said in disbelief.

Each December I remember that miracle, placing another celebration of victory on the altar of my life.

There are several occasions mentioned in God’s word when an individual or a group of people marked a certain event in their lives. As a reminder of his faithfulness and their victory, God had them build an altar or mark the event with a day of celebration.

In Genesis 35, Jacob built an altar to the Lord because God had heard his pleas of help when he was in trouble. He wanted a reminder of God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Most people know the story of Moses leading the children of Israel onto dry ground across the Red Sea. That was a significant time of celebration, remembering God’s power and faithfulness. But God did a similar thing when Joshua crossed the Jordan river. It was such a miraculous event that the Lord told him to set up an altar to remember how he opened the river for them.

Joshua 4:6, ” This will be sign for you. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?'”

Each time they looked upon the altar they could remember the time the Lord miraculously made a way for them and could explain it to their children.

There are many more monumental events scattered throughout the Bible. The Jewish faith if scattered with days of celebrations and feasts to remind them of God’s miracles and his deliverance in their lives.

As believers, we take part in communion to remember Jesus’ greatest sacrifice. He encouraged us throughout the gospels to continue to take communion in remembrance of HIS sacrifice and of OUR victory. That is why the cross is so extremely important to believers. It is a reminder of God’s victory in our lives.

We need to REMIND ourselves and those around us of the faithfulness of our Lord. He promised that he would never leave or forsake us. He will meet our needs no matter how small or how big. I have several testimonies of God’s goodness. I thank him each time he has met my needs or given me my heart’s desire. It encourages me as I look into my unknown future. What he did before, he will do again. He is a faithful.

How about you? What miracles has he performed in your personal life?  Celebrate his goodness. When you remember what the Lord has done for you or for others it can give you strength during the times when you feel frustrated or overwhelmed.

Remind yourselves of his faithfulness in the past as you walk through the doors of the future.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

God bless.

 

 

In the Image of my Father

The last couple years I have had the privilege of having my parents live with me. It has taught me so many things about myself; who I am and why I react the way I do. When my parents have different views regarding something, I have discovered that I can agree with both of them, even when their views or opinions are different.

You see I have inherited DNA from both of them, perhaps not equally, but enough that causes me to understand most of their viewpoints equally. Likewise I have noticed that my children have inherited a lot of my traits but they also have many traits like their father.

As believers have we inherited the traits of our Heavenly Father? Have we inherited his DNA? I know when we get “saved” or “born again” we are renewed in our spirit man. In the book of  John, chapter 3, Jesus explains to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven he must be born again. Then in Romans 8, the author states that we, who belong to Christ, have the Spirit of Christ LIVING in us. And though our bodies are subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

FLESH VS SPIRIT
We become a new creation when we ask the Lord into our lives, yet we are still living in our human bodies. So it makes sense that we wrestle doing what God desires vs what our flesh wants to do. Part of us is renewed. Yet our old thoughts argue because our flesh likes the easy way and doesn’t want to grow up. Paul explains this in more detail in Romans 7. He says that though we want to do what our spiritual nature tells us to do, our physical nature is always fighting with us.

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:17 (ESV)

But the more we desire the Lord’s will in our lives and choose to live for him, the less hold the enemy has in our lives.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NIV)

BLOOD OF CHRIST
Jesus was human, yet he was the son of God. Though he was human, he didn’t sin. Jesus was able to condemn sin because he overcame sin while living, like us, in human form.

Yet his blood had the DNA of the Spirit of God which is pure.  So his sinless blood can heal us AND cleanse us from our sins. His sacrificial sinless blood had to be shed to cover darkness and sin. Once we ask Jesus into our lives, that same sinless blood that was shed–covers all our sins — past, present and future.  I believe God sees us without spot or wrinkle because he sees Jesus in us.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

MIND OF CHRIST
Our mind bosses us around and tells us many things, true or false, and our body follows suit, which is why many people stay in bondage. They believe their old mind-set, old thoughts, instead of the mind of Christ. They believe they are defeated. They believe they are unworthy. They believe there is absolutely NO hope. Or quite the opposite, they think they do not need the wisdom of the Lord.

But as believers we have the mind of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2 the author states that no one can know another person’s thoughts except their own spirit. In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Then he ends by stating, “But we have the mind of Christ” 1 Corn.2:15 (NIV)

It is amazing how powerful our mind is. I remember running in cross-country in high school. I kept wanting to give up, but I would tell my body to stop complaining and complete the race. My body then did what my mind commanded.

If my own mind has power over my body, can you imagine the wisdom that could filter from heaven if we would submit to the voice of the Lord Almighty?

Paul writes: “Do not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

Remember when Jesus said that he only did what the Father told him to do? Well we can do what the Father asks us to do also. As believers we can hear how he thinks. He reminds us of truth, tells us when to pray, or when to speak hope into another individual’s life. You and I have the mind of Christ! BUT it is up to us to listen.

LOVE ONE ANOTHER
The Bible states that as a believer we have become children of God. Just as a child receives his/her parents traits and personality, we each have a part of the Lord’s traits and personality. If we are His children we should work together in harmony, showing grace and love towards one another. He understands us individually, just as I understand each of my parent’s view points.

In the book of John, Jesus states: “…May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” John 17:23 (NLT)

ACTING LIKE MY FATHER
So if I have the DNA of my Heavenly Father, I should act like him, right? A baby grows one step at a time. When they become adults they often look and act like their parents. As we grow in Christ we go from glory to glory. It is a process and can include trials, suffering and mistakes, but develops into deliverance, victory, peace and hope.

My prayer is that I will become more and more like my heavenly Father. May each of us grow into the image of our Father.

God bless.

 

FREEDOM!!!!

Magistrate: The prisoner wishes to say a word.
William Wallace: Freeeedommm!!  – Braveheart, 1995

Though the film, “Braveheart” was considered a “historical fantasy” it was a great descriptive story about a few brave souls who sacrificed everything– even their lives–to be free.

Of course this isn’t the only account of sacrifice for freedom throughout the history of the world. There are many nations and/or people groups that have been oppressed. And many individuals who valued freedom enough to sacrifice all they had for it.

The point is: freedom is NOT free. Someone, somewhere, sometime sacrificed so that the word “freedom” could become more than a dream. Instead it would be a reality for those that came after them. I think that many in America or perhaps even abroad do not understand those sacrifices.

Even I take so much for granted. I can work and live where I desire, save money or spend it freely, marry who I want or stay single. My kids can play outside without fear and are able to get an education so they can expand their knowledge. I can worship in any way I want and even have the freedom to express the way I believe openly.

FREEDOM is a gift that I hope my descendants can enjoy, as I have.

Of course you know where I am going from here. The greatest sacrifice for freedom came the day that Jesus gave up his life for each of us. He sacrificed for people who were torturing him. He sacrificed for those who had already died and for those who were not even born. Why was this such a great sacrifice? It was because he was sinless. It was because he was and is the son of God. He wasn’t doing it for himself. He was obeying what his heavenly Father was saying.

The fact is that he could have just rained down fire on those who refused to listen. But he knew that the spilled blood of his pure sinless life was the only avenue that would wash away the sins of each of us and reunite us with the Father. We can now enjoy the same relationship that Adam and Eve had enjoyed before they opened the door to sin. And one day, after this life is over, we will walk with him on the streets of gold.

Jesus didn’t just sacrifice his life enduring great physical pain that was unimaginable. He sacrificed with mental and emotional anguish, having been abandoned by his heavenly Father and dear friends. We may never understand all that he endured that fateful moment. We won’t be able to understand what it felt like to have the sins of the world put on our shoulders nor the pain of all the physical ailments slashing through our bodies when we were already enduring our own agonizing pain.

He didn’t stop there. He entered into the belly of hell for us and stole the keys of sin and death from satan, himself. He broke every rule of a quiet and meek individual and became the warrior no one suspected. And then if that wasn’t enough, he came victoriously back from the dead to encourage those he left behind and even those who had not yet believed.

Because of that– we can be free!

We are free from the death that could have spun us into an eternity of hell damnation and fire. We are free from religion that binds us up with so many dos and don’ts. We are free to trust in a Savior that brings joy and with no condemnation. We are free from the chains of sin that try to keep us in bondage. We are free to love others and forgive when we couldn’t have before. We are free to pray and come boldly, with grace, into the throne room of our heavenly Father. We are free to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and believe in healing and hope when the world tells us otherwise.

There are so many freedoms found in Christ.

But we must be careful to not confuse our new freedom with a license to get lazy and sin. Sometimes freedom gets mucked up with the idea that we are not accountable for our actions.  Freedom does not equal no boundaries. Think. Use common sense and wisdom in each situation.

“Someone may say, “I’m allowed to do anything,” but not everything is helpful. I’m allowed to do anything, but not everything encourages growth.”
I Corinthians 10:23 (GWT)

In other words, just because you may not experience conviction about a situation, ask yourself if it brings encouragement and growth in you or those around you. If not, is it the best choice? You and I may be the only version of Christ others may see. (I am preaching to myself here.) These are the times when we use the wisdom of the Lord in each circumstance and remember that we each need to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)

But let’s go a step further.

Though some choices may not be a big deal, other situations may seem a bit confusing in the hour that we live. Life tends to be more gray, than black and white, these days.  Because something is legal does not necessarily mean it is right or moral. Let’s not forget what Jesus did on that cross that dark day when he sacrificed his life. He set us free from the bondage of sin and deception.

Be careful. Do not turn around and head back down the path you came from, returning to what you left behind.

“Live like free people, and do not use your freedom as an excuse for doing evil. Instead, be God’s servants.” I Peter 2:16 (ISV)

Think of what Peter was saying. He mentioned in later verses that people can get free from the world of filth only to go back to it again. He stated that it would be better to have not known the freedom found in Christ than to have known it and return to an old lifestyle outside of God’s best. He ends by quoting a proverb from the old testament.
(2 Peter: 20-22)

“As a dog a goes back to its vomit so a fool repeats his stupidity.” Proverbs 26:11 (GWT)

Freedom is a wonderful thing. I am so grateful for it.

I pray for those that live in countries where freedom feels like a lost treasure. I pray that they can still find freedom within those boundaries as Paul often did while he wrote his letters from the confines of his prison cell.  I hope that they can feel the powerful presence of the Lord in the midst of any darkness.

For those that live in a free country, as I do, I pray that the freedom of the Lord will remain alive in our hearts and not grow dim by compromise. Instead I pray that we each use our freedom to spread the gospel of hope.

“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” Psalm 119:45 (NIV)

Enjoy your freedom in Christ. Amen and God Bless.

 

 

Phrases like “he isn’t acting normal” or “that isn’t the normal way to do it” are broad at best. What is normal to me may seem completely abnormal to my neighbor. The definition to the word normal according to dictionary.com is “-conforming to a standard, or what is common, usual, regular or natural.”

Still even that can be different according to cultures, religions, languages, customs, countries, cities, neighborhoods, families or even individuals. Age or the era that we were raised in can even promote different “normal” lifestyles. And when we begin to grow accustomed to the way things are done it is sometimes difficult to change. The custom begins to become part of who we are and we identify it as NORMAL.

Tradition plays a huge role in this,” normalcy”.  If you celebrate Christmas  (as I assume most believers do) the tradition in each family can be different. Perhaps you put up a Christmas tree in your house, or pretend that Santa is coming down your chimney or maybe you do not include Santa, at all.  You might celebrate the holiday on Christmas Eve or when the clock strikes mid-night or in the morning hours. There are a thousands of different traditions that are promoted in different cultures and even families. Who said that we must eat a turkey on Thanksgiving, though it is a strong tradition in America.

Tradition can melt into what you might perceive as normal.  I can only relate to what is familiar to me as people from around the world live differently.  But in America the “traditional family” has begun to change. When I was little it was normal to have a mom and dad. Soon it became normal to see a lot of single-parent households, then there was mixed families. From there couples quit getting married and began to just live together. That became normal. Then we began to see homosexual lifestyles evolve into families. And now the transgender lifestyle, though a minority, is fighting to become a new normal.

Life in America and across the world is changing. The normal is changing. People have grown accustomed to the new lifestyles. What was once thought of as “normal” in my era is fading into the background. As much as people want to ignore this fact, at one time in America it was normal to be a slave or have slaves. But THANKFULLY many good men fought to abolish that. And though it is no longer our “normal” in America today there is so much anger over our past, “normal”,  that violence is erupting. And violence, instead of peace, is becoming popular and normal.

What is normal? Does acceptance equate normal?

IF you profess to be a believer –and I write this to believers as unbelievers may have a different standard to base their truth or may believe that truth is negotiable. But as a believer, we must get back to the basics. The Word of God is the basis to use as any standard of truth. Jesus said that HE is the truth.

“I am the Way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NIV)

He also stated that we are not of this world and that this world does not and cannot understand, “our normal”.  Read John 17:14-16, John 15:19, 1 John 5:19, James 4:4, 1 John 2:15-17, John 18:36, 1 Peter 2:11-12 to name a few.

What should be normal for the believer is what we read in the scripture regarding the life of Jesus. It should be normal to heal the sick, raise the dead, set people free from darkness. It should be normal to love the lost and forgive quickly. It should be normal to live in freedom and to overcome the darkness that plagues our souls.

Though Jesus died for each of us, because WE ARE ALL SINNERS, it does not mean that we have to change what He stated as truth (or normal.)

I say all of this because different lifestyle choices than what I hold as truth, are all around me and will continue to be as long as I live in this world. Should I love all people?ABSOLUTELY!  Should I change my view of what I consider as “normal” because others think I should? No.

There is a gray line that confuses many. There is an unseen difference between loving people as Jesus did. (And HE LOVES PEOPLE) and living our lives by a standard that holds true to scripture.

I DESIRE to love ALL people–as Jesus did. He loved us so MUCH that he was willing to die for our brokenness and deception and sin.

I DESIRE to love our heavenly Father–as Jesus did.  He loved him so much that he REFUSED to compromise his standards and though he didn’t want to, he went to the cross so WE would be free.

“Lord grant your children wisdom. We need to learn to live a life that shows abundant love, as Jesus did. And we need to live a life without compromising with sin, as Jesus did. We cannot do it without your wisdom and strength.  Amen”

God bless.

 

Will you obey?

I want to share a written testimony from a friend of a family member. Though this is a season of thanksgiving, this is not a testimony of thanksgiving, but a testimony of obedience to the Lord which eventually leads to thanksgiving. Obedience is powerful and sometimes difficult, but ALWAYS rewarding. I hope this stirs your heart as it stirred mine.

So my life has been crazy these last few months. My wife and I took a huge step of faith, and answered God’s calling on our hearts to leave Alaska. Everything about what we’ve been doing has been a huge unknown. All we knew for sure was that God was asking us to leave.

We thought selling all our stuff was going to be the hard part. OMG was I wrong! Traveling 14,000 miles across the country, grasping at straws trying to make sense of everything. Asking God is this it, is it that, what is it you want us to do?!?

Seemingly not getting any answers, just going off gut instinct that we should keep going. I personally felt lost, hopeless, and to be quite frank I was starting to doubt his existence.

I remember sitting in Dallas, Texas arguing with my wife telling her “I’m done, I’m freaking done. There’s no hope, he hasn’t said crap, this has been a huge sham, I’m done.” I found a place I really enjoyed, and was ready to just give up and move to Ft. Collins, Co.

Even though I was fed up, and felt like there weren’t going to be any answers. I still had this sick feeling in my stomach that we had to keep going. So I took one last step of faith, and said Screw It! I’m going to Orlando. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to have fun.

About a third of the way there, on a Saturday, this band I’m sharing with you,
(Give Thanks to God—Housefires) popped in my head. I told Lacey “this band I really like, they’re in Atlanta, how far of a drive is that, can we make it there for Sunday service?” My wife told me it was about 500 miles, I said, “screw it let’s go.” We drove through the night, though we were tired we made it! And it was amazing! It was like the word was tailored just for us.

After church we drove to Charleston, SC then on to Charlotte, NC to visit Lacey’s aunt and uncle. Two amazing people of God, gave us incredible words of wisdom. Decided, ok God we are going back to Ft. Collins.

Then the night before we were going leave, I said to Lacey “what about that church in Atlanta?” “How much would it add to our trip to go back to ATL?” To attend that church again. To both of our delights she said, “It’ll only add an hour to our trip!”

On the way to ATL I said to my wife, “what about ATL?” She said, “not a snowballs chance in hell am I moving to ATL!” I guess she really didn’t like it.

When we got there something amazing happened. God spoke to me. The one thing I’ve been begging him to do this whole friggin’ time, he finally friggin’ did it! He told me clear as day, “you can go back to Colorado, and you won’t disappoint me, but I want you here, the choice is yours.”

And apparently God spoke to my wife too, because at the end of the service she was balling looked me square in the face and said, “Well I guess we’re moving to ATL!”

We had decided together that it would be best to leave ATL and see if our hearts would change. So, we went to Florida to swim with the manatees. Didn’t see any manatees, but our resolve hadn’t wavered.

So, we went back to ATL and said, God this is it, we’re all yours! To which the reply was a big fat NOTHING! My initial reaction was to get angry! “Are you effing serious right now, I can’t believe you’d give me a glimmer of hope and just tell me to piss off!”

I was starting to feel hopeless again. Starting to doubt if what I heard was really God. I could have sworn it was him. I do not make this stuff up, I heard him clear as day.

Well about another week had past and my doubt is building. I’m back to feeling hopeless. Mind you I never really told any of my family or my friends what I was doing. Because I was certain that they would think that I was flippin’ nuts! So in all this, I felt alone. With the exception of my brother Pete, and my Wife. I felt lost and alone. ATL is a big city with over 5 million people and I didn’t know a soul.

Well, my Wife was going to a mother’s ministry at the church. I guess she lost it, she spilled the beans that we were for lack of better words homeless in Atlanta. That lead us to meeting Lisa a lovely lady at the church. We told her that we were contemplating skipping out of town to persue job opportunities in Colorado. She prayed over us and told other people about us and asked them to pray for us too.

That leads us to Gregory. Oh, Gregory you were personally my biggest step of faith!

I met Gregory at Amelies a French bakery in midtown. I didn’t find out till later that he practically lives there. Lisa from the women’s ministry put us in touch with him, and told us “Gregory has a word from God and that word is stay in Atlanta God wants to use you in a big way.”

So I had to meet this man who wanted me to stay. I need to see this man for myself. I need to size him up and make for 100% sure he is not full of crap. I met him, and he was 100% legit. He was absolutely on fire for the Lord. Ok Gregory, I’m going to trust you. And I’m going to trust that this is God.

I go to leave the bakery and I hear God again clear as day just like before. “Give that man your laptop” I said what? He said, clear as day! “Give him your camera.” To which I replied you’ve lost your mind, I’ve gone crazy! What God? which one is it the laptop or the camera? Not that I’m giving him either. I can’t believe I’ve lost my mind.

I’m standing by my jeep in the middle of this parking lot befuddled. “Really God I can’t believe you’re going to make me give up my prized possessions. No I ain’t doin’ it!

I go to get in my jeep and God says to me and I quote “DON’T YOU DARE DO THIS! NOT WHEN YOU’VE COME THIS FAR!” WHOA! Mind you I’m still pretty sure I’ve lost my flipping mind. Tell you what God, I’ll just go ask him if it is you he’ll tell me and I’ll know for certain.

So l go back in that bakery, and I ask this strange man I’ve never met before 30 minutes ago. “WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WANT?”

You should have seen the look on his face! “God told me you want something, what is it?”

Still looking utterly confused Gregory stammers, “well I have been praying to God for a new laptop.” Stopped him right there, and told him to follow me. He followed me to my jeep and I gave it to him, I just gave this strange brown man my laptop.

Gregory was ecstatic, I was feeling pretty good about myself. He took his laptop and I went on my merry way. Still totally confused. But screw it I’m all in. Gregory sends us a message inviting us to his house church. Told us he wanted to introduce us to his people.

We decide to get a hotel because we hadn’t showered in a couple days and I can’t even process what’s just happened. Let alone think about anything. And God spoke to me again.

“I TOLD YOU TO GIVE HIM YOUR CAMERA!”

“Umm, Lacey I think I screwed up, I think God wanted me to give him my camera too.” She said, “Are you sure honey, I really don’t feel like God is asking you to do any of this.” I told her “of course I’m sure I’ve never been more sure about anything.” “Tell you what, we’ll fleece it. If God wants me to give this man a camera, then make this evening about a camera.”

We prayed over it, and go to this house church function that Gregory invited us to. SWEET BABY JESUS! The whole evening was about Gregory and his dang photography ministry he’s embarking on. You have to be kidding me! Needless to say I pulled Gregory aside and told him God told me to give him my camera too, but I was holding it back.

It’s amazing! What those two acts of obedience did. I obeyed God and because of that, God is starting to open doors. I now have a church family, more friends than I’ve ever had in Alaska. I have a place to call home. And Atlanta is really starting to grow on me. I have no idea what God is doing, but I’m sure it’s going to be great!

I am so happy to call Grace Midtown my home. God is definitely doing amazing things here!

P.s. I told God my only steadfast requirement for a church is a worship service that is on fire with the holy ghost. And he delivered!

I’ve been embarrassed to talk about this, but I feel that God is asking me to. And I’m going to obey him. Because this is what I am. #iamsecond #gracemidtown #housefires #ermagerdburbbles

God bless each and every one of you.

If you’re so inclined please share my testimony — Gerald Wright

“But I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.”
Jeremiah 7:23 (NIV)

May you be reminded of several reasons to be thankful this holiday season. And may you also reap the rewards that follow obedience in Christ.

God bless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace in time of need

What if you had no control? What if darkness swirled so thick around you that it felt like you could not see your hand in front of your face? What if the silence in your head was so loud that you could hear your own heart beat and wondered what was in your future?

Have you felt that way before? Lost– bewildered–alone? Or worse, witness the horror of suffering or smell the sting of death?

When I first think of a time of great suffering my mind races to World War II and the horror stories that have been shared by the Holocaust victims and I shudder. But I know that suffering has taken place in different parts of the world and different times in our history over and over. Even today people are going through horrific experiences. Just listen to the news.

I simply do not understand pure hatred and violence on a level where humans care so little about another human life. But then I do not understand the evil that the enemy of our souls possess, nor of his bitter rage to destroy anything that represents joy, life or peace.

On the other hand I also don’t pretend to understand nor comprehend the love that our Lord has for us, so much so that he sent his son into this sinful world to defeat sin and death. He could have easily destroyed the world in a combustion of fire.

The Word states that before Jesus took on all the sins of the world he was beaten so brutally that he was unrecognizable. You see crucifix emblems that portray a sweet man wearing a crown of thorns on his head while being nailed to the cross. That is bad enough, but I dare say that the real visual was FAR worse!

He didn’t even look human.

Isaiah 52:14 -“But many were amazed when they saw him. (Jesus.). His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.” (NLT)

On top of the physical degradation; every piece of hatred already spewed out and the hatred that had not even existed in the eyes of those born, he paid for; as well as sickness, lies and sin and even death. All those things were unseen in this dimension. But if we could have seen beyond the physical world into the spiritual realm it would have been a more horrific sight as he carried them into hell.

Isaiah 53:3-6 “He was despised and rejected a man of sorrows, acquainted  with deepest grief. We turned our back on him and looked the other way. He was despised and we did not care. Yet it was OUR weakness he carried; it was OUR sorrow that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for OUR rebellion and cursed for OUR sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. We have left God’s path to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us ALL.” (TLT)

Powerful. The suffering that he endured so we might have an abundant life is a gift of sacrificial love beyond what we can imagine. Yet we quarrel about having to give up sinful lifestyles and think that perhaps he might wink at our sins. Listen! He suffered unimaginable pain and sorrow to set us FREE from the very things we don’t want to give up and lifestyles we have pushed as acceptable.

Or look at the sorrows we see around us; death, brokenness despair. We live in this sinful world where innocent lives are destroyed unmercifully. It’s a world where the thirst for revenge or the thirst for power supersedes all else. The evil filth is sometimes too much to ignore and can weigh us down. Hebrews 12 encourages us to NOT give up.

“We must focus on Jesus the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him so he endured the death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.”
Hebrews 12:2-4 (GWT)

Remember what John 10:10 says. It is one of my favorite verses: “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Often in this world you will face heartaches, some that may seem unbearable. But nothing catches God off guard or is hidden from his view. He knows the beginning of your life until the end. He knows the beginning of this world until its end. He would not have allowed his son to die such a wicked death for nothing. He came to give us abundant life, in this life and into eternity.

Sometimes our circumstances do not seem to dictate abundance. But an abundant life is one that is surrendered to the Lord. It is like Paul who said, “God’s grace is sufficient”. He knew. He suffered for him yet tasted God’s goodness. When the darkness of evil creeps across the land and you cannot seem to see your hand in front of your face– you can still know that the Lord will pick you up and his grace will fill your soul. That is what he does as a loving Father.

Hebrews 4:16
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find GRACE TO HELP US IN OUR TIME OF NEED.” (NIV)

Do you need God’s grace and mercy today? Your Father is willing to pour it into your lives. Ask. He is a great God despite the darkness, because HE is the light that destroys it! AMEN!

God bless.

 

Power of thoughts, power of words, power of hope.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”

Do you remember those words as a child when you were being harassed? We would chant them back at our attacker, knowing very well that those words spoken to us were cutting deep into our spirits. Yet we felt it was a way to protect our hearts; kind of like putting up an invisible force field. Perhaps if we said the chant louder to our attackers their words would not penetrate us as deep. It seemed negative words rang in our ears far louder than the positive ones did.

A person seems to know instinctively to try to guard their hearts from hurt. It is so important because out of a heart springs a well of life.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23,  (NLT)

There are a lot of broken people in our world. Their words can be hateful. That is why we, who call ourselves believers, have to be even more careful how we speak to others. It isn’t just because it represents the Lord, but because it represents our own hearts and can bring life and death to those around us.

Proverbs has many places in its passages that explain how the foolish use their words destructively and that it will eventually bring ruin to themselves and those around them. Yet it pleads to the reader to seek wisdom. It eventually states that there is life and death in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

I suppose that is why the Psalmist said, ” May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” PS 19:14

There is power in our words. It is with words that the Lord created the world. “Let there be light,” he said. And there was light! There is creative power in the things we say and even in the very thoughts that are hidden in our minds.

In fact you can find sympathy cards that state: “You are in our thoughts and prayers” or “sending good thoughts your way.” What are positive words or thoughts suppose to do?Actually they may do more than we realize. If it was the power of words that created our world, can you envision the power of words that can create hope in someone?

Adults that constantly criticize young people can create the way a child thinks about himself and eventually affect their actions. I know first hand. I had a teacher in first grade whose words were consistently harsh towards me. As young as 6-years-old, I had begun to have negative thoughts about myself.

Fortunately my 3 grade teacher thought so much differently about me. Her words of encouragement filled my heart with a positive attitude. It made such a difference to me regarding how I thought about myself. By the time I left her classroom I was a different person.

Believing in myself, I graduated as the salutatorian of my class in highschool. I say that to confirm the power of words.  Can you imagine the other road I could have taken had I believed in the negative words? My thoughts about myself had been renewed.

It is in our thought life that both good and evil are birthed. It is there that creative ideas are imagined. It is there that we decide if we can accomplish a task or give up.  It is there where we consider what we will be when we grow up. It is there that we choose a path for our lives, where to live, who to date, what job to take, etc…

That is why 1 Corinthians talks about having the mind of Christ.  It states that only the Spirit knows the deep things of God. It is just like our own thoughts; no one knows them but ourselves. That is why people who do not have the spirit of God in them do not understand God’s way of thinking; it seems foolish. But if we have Him in our hearts, we begin to learn what the Spirit is saying. Eventually we begin to walk with the mind of Christ and make our choices accordingly.

Philippians goes on to state that he will keep our hearts and minds in peace if we are not anxious. And where does anxiety begin? It begins in our minds or thoughts. What we think about, what we put into our hearts, what we meditate on will eventually be what we say and do. Good or evil will come out of our mouth because it was first stored in our hearts and in our minds.

I once heard an evangelist share that he taught these concepts to his little boy. One day he took his child to a store and the man in front of him in the check-out line was swearing up a storm. Suddenly the boy pulled on his daddy’s jacket and asked, “Daddy, is there s@#% in that man’s heart?” The father was extremely embarrassed until the man’s girlfriend turned around and looked down at the little boy and said, “Yes, honey, there is.”

“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45 (NLT)

Yes, I have interchanged heart and mind (and even thoughts) as I wrote. I know there is a saying that states, “Should you follow your heart or your mind?”  But I personally think that refers to following your feelings versus your reasoning.  I guess what I am trying to relay is this simple statement, “garbage in, garbage out.” What you meditate on (think about) will eventually find its way out in some sort of expression.

But I also want to add that it is EXTREMELY important what you say to those around you and even what you think or say about yourself.  What are you speaking? Are you speaking death and hopelessness or life and hope?

I challenge you to speak life, even in a corrupt world of political unrest, angry souls, unjust standards and simple foolishness.

LIFE-the true power of the life of Christ, the light of the world, will ALWAYS dispel darkness and death.

God bless.

 

 

 

 

To those that are broken

Twisted – broken,
Out of control.
Spiraling- falling
Deep in a hole.

Confused – Bewildered
Not sure what to do.
Lost – Alone
Can all this be true?

The life I shared
Is now in the ground.
The joy that we had
Has turned upside down.

I cried to the Lord
In my despair.
Did you not know?
Do you not care?

I cried to the Lord
Did you not see?
There was nowhere to run
To hide or to flee.

Why all the hurt?
Why all the fears?
Why all the sadness?
And constant new tears?

I heard him reply:

Dear Child
What you say is true
I know of your anguish
It hurts through and through.

I know there is hurt.
I know there is fear.
I want to hold you close
I won’t abandon you; I’m still here.

This world is broken
Chaotic and lost.
I know the pain.
I know what it cost.

It cost the life
Of my son on the cross
To break all the sin
To heal all the loss.

It wasn’t me
That took the life
It was evil consumed
With hate and with strife

When this world’s sins
Meets its final hour,
The demons that kill
Will flee and will cower.

Until that time comes
My arms will remain open
Its a safe place to heal
A heart that is broken.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

 

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