Category Archives: What about the truth?

The Power of Deception

wisteria1This morning at breakfast, I happened to mention to my husband how much I had been enjoying the beautiful vine with luxuriant purple flowers that adorns our back fence.  Previously unnoticed, it is draping along the top of the fence behind our stand of cannas.   Since purple has always been my favorite color, these blooms have been a delight these past few weeks, particularly now (autumn) when a few other plants have already passed their prime.  To my great surprise, when I asked him the name of that vine, my husband responded that it was an invasive plant that he needs to eradicate as soon as possible, as it will overtake all the other plants in the yard and choke the life out of them.   I was properly horrified!   “How can that be?,” I thought to myself.  

The spiritual lesson instantly registered in my heart:   more often than not, deception initially presents itself as something attractive, innocent, life-enhancing, and even beautiful.  However, as it progresses, it proves toxic and chokes the life out of everything around it.  Its appeal causes us to ignore prudent investigation of how it operates or what effects it may ultimately have on our lives.  After all, if we initially recognized deception as deception, it would (by definition) no longer be deception, would it? 

Although we hardly need to re-visit the oft-cited example of Eve yielding to the lust of the eye, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life in the Garden of Eden,  we certainly would benefit from applying the same lessons to our own lives, communities, and cultures.  Even a cursory glance at the news reports  exposes the rampant hatred, malice, selfishness, lying, and exploitation that run completely counter to Scriptural principles of integrity and personal accountability for our misdeeds.  Our media reflect who we are:  it appears we worship ourselves, our own conveniences, our own opinions, and our sexuality.  We accuse others of the very things of which we ourselves are guilty.   Are we even recognizable any longer as a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles?   

While no one may deliberately purpose in his or her heart to deceive and exploit others (at least not initially), when we fall prey to deception, we find ourselves choking in the throes of our own demise.  What initially seemed appealing, or even beneficial, proves toxic.  This principle holds true both personally for individuals and corporately for nations.   

I praise God that He is the source of hope for me, for my family, for my community, and for my nation.  Jesus is faithful to unmask deception in our lives and deliver us from every darkness.   Repentance is a gift we desperately need God to give us; happily, He gives that gift quite willingly, as He does not want us to perish!  I pray He exposes deception in my life, unmasks anything toxic, and empowers me to repent; He is able to deliver me and heal me, and He is my only hope!  I pray similarly for my country and its leaders.  

Jesus, send Your Word and heal us, and deliver us from our destructions!  (see Psalm 107:20)

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9 NKJV

 

 

 

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I Am Not Your Mother, but…

I love this story about a baby bird that hatches from its egg while its mother is away imgresfinding food.   Greeted by an empty nest, the hatchling has no idea where his mother is or what she looks like.  He consequently sets about searching for her.   When he asks various animals in turn, “Are you my mother?,”  he repeatedly receives a negative answer.  In the end, the little bird is catapulted back into his nest by a power shovel, just in time for his mother’s return to the nest.  Unfortunately, real life does not always match P.D. Eastman’s plot line!

As a mother of five children born over the course of just under nine and a half years, I was thrilled with my little brood.   Had I wanted to have more children, I could have continued that process.  Although I desired to be their mother and wanted each of my own children, I was patently unprepared to parent all their friends and the friends’ friends. After all, I was not THEIR mother!

However, God used one event to completely transform my attitude.   During my fifth pregnancy, a pleasant little boy lived next door us; apparently he preferred our house to his own, most likely due to the availability of multiple playmates.  As the months of my pregnancy wore on, I was lumbering around the house like a beached whale and often needed to lie down for a few minutes during the afternoon.  This neighbor boy would walk home from school every day with our oldest son, run next door to drop his backpack at home, and return to our house until dinner time.  Sometimes he would stay for dinner as well.  He was well-behaved and polite, but, as a responsible adult, I did not think it wise to be asleep while other people’s children were in the house.   One particular day, I was exhausted and desperate for a quick nap;  when my eldest son came through the door after school and made a beeline upstairs, I instructed our second child to please inform the neighbor (when he knocked on the door, which he surely would in a few moments) that I simply could not have him play at our home that afternoon.   A few moments later, I was lying down when the doorbell rang.  Through the fog of half-sleep, I heard child number two run to the door and open it; not one to mince words, he declared, “Go home!  My mom doesn’t want you here!” and proceeded to shut the door.   My heart was filled with remorse at his choice of words.   Nonetheless, as I explained to my son that diplomacy was important, I was also grumbling silently to God that I would’ve birthed a pile of nine-year-olds myself, had I wanted a pile of nine-year-olds.   The Holy Spirit wasted no time in correcting my attitude:   He spoke distinctly to my heart at that moment and instructed me to get up off my bed  when that neighbor rang the doorbell the next day, smile at him, welcome him, and receive him as if he were my own.

From that day on, I did exactly that.  In fact, that little boy was the first of  numerous “sixth” children in our family.  To this day, I treasure fond memories of him (he is now 35!).  Moreover, nine months after that particular day when the Lord so clearly reprimanded me for my attitude, that little boy’s mother died unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism.  Can you imagine the guilt that would have shrouded me, had I not received this child and made him feel welcome after school in our home?  

I may NOT be someone’s mother from a physical point of view, but God calls me to be available like a mother whenever He sends me someone He has called to be a part of my life.  Everyone needs to be welcomed, included, listened to, and loved.  My sixth children have truly blessed me in ways that words fail to describe — and I consider myself the richer for the experience!  “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!”  (Psalm 68:19, NKJV)

 

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The Orphan Spirit — A Motherless, Fatherless Generation

20160518_170852A friend of mine once commented on the fact that she and most of her friends had never really been parented or mentored as children.  Her words struck me speechless. After all, the people to whom she was referring (including herself) still had two living parents who were part of their lives, at least to some degree.  She continued by explaining that most of her generation were children of parents who had been pre-occupied with discovering who they themselves were; as a result, they had had little time or energy for training and mentoring their children.

As a child born in the fifties, I was raised with traditionally minded but forward-thinking parents who strongly encouraged me to pursue an education and a career (which certainly could include being a wife and mother).  They also modeled a well-developed work ethic and strong moral fiber.  They loved me unconditionally and gave me more than just a glimpse of the Father heart of God.  I assumed my family was typical of most families — yet I soon found out that mine was the exception!

Certainly, my parents were not perfect, nor was their generation patently virtuous. However, during my childhood, there were certain general standards for ethics, integrity, and morality that were well established in our communities.  As a result, when some of us had an itch to rebel, everyone knew it WAS rebellion.  That, in fact, was the whole point:  rebelling against what some young people perceived to be the restrictive, traditional standards of their parents’ generation.   If there had been no standards to rebel against, I am not certain that said “rebels” would have found insurrection so attractive.

A few decades later, our society is increasingly amoral.   Amorality and widespread tolerance of all manner of behaviors, with no boundaries at all, can tend to produce a generation of insecure, unstable, powerless young people who have no idea who they are.  Many of them have no vision, dreams, or goals, and no confidence in their potential.  Perhaps their parents never DID find themselves and were paralyzed in terms of giving their children affirmation and guidance.   Perhaps their parents abandoned them or were patently incapable of caring for them (due to financial constraints, emotional or work-related stress, addictions, etc.) — or perhaps the children left home and subsequently found themselves stuck in a rut and unable to return.

Whatever the specific cause in a given individual’s case, I find we are surrounded by a host of motherless, fatherless children; often these “children” are adults who have no hope, no direction, and no understanding of their inherent value to God or anyone else.  Often they have abandoned any dreams they had as children and have no positive experience with healthy community or family relationships.   Certainly, even those of us with living parents can feel like abandoned orphans, at least part of the time.

What does this observation mean for the Body of Christ?  The Scripture clearly mandates inclusion of the outcast, the lonely, the widow, and the orphan (see Deuteronomy 24:17, 19-21).   God wants us to incorporate them in our families and care for them as if they were our own.   He “sets the lonely in families; He leads out the prisoners with singing;…” (Psalm 68:6a, NIV).   Psalm 68:5a declares that He is a “father to the fatherless.”

In the sea of ministry outreach opportunities, sometimes the best thing we can do is the simplest thing:  be a loving “parent” or “sibling” to one another.   God demonstrated that ministry model when He declared Himself to be our Father; He also said that He, the Lord, our Maker, is our Husband; Jesus is our elder Brother.  The Lord Himself is a better father to us than the best earthly father could ever be, and He loves each one of us as a well-beloved, precious child made in His image.   THAT news should serve as the foundation of how we treat one another, both inside and outside the walls of the our church gatherings:   sometimes people just need a mommy to love them and listen to them, to give compassion and hope; other times, they need a daddy to understand, forgive, and walk alongside them through challenges.  Simple old-fashioned kindness works wonders, particularly when repeated in a relational context over the long haul.

Father, give us YOUR heart for the orphans — the fatherless and motherless children and adults who surround us.   Empower us to bring healing to those who have been disappointed or damaged by authority figures in their lives.  Work miracles of restoration in simple acts of care and kindness as we include one another in this process of discovering true life in You — in Jesus’ Name!

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The Sweetness of the Cross

images8ESYTBYZThen Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”  And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.”  (Exodus 15:22-25)

This passage from the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness serves as an illustration of the power of the Cross in our daily lives.  In case you haven’t noticed, life seems to offer us a vast array of opportunities to taste rejection, disappointment, hurt, pain, infirmity, misunderstanding, and sorrow.  The fact that the Israelites recognized that the water was impotable — potentially even toxic — was significant!   Often we ignorantly take a deep swig of bitterness and end up experiencing its toxic effects for a long time after the poison has been ingested.   At least they knew the waters were bitter and unsuitable for consumption.

When Moses cried out to the Lord for help, He showed Moses a remedy in the form of a piece of wood.  In the Hebrew, the word is not a log, but rather a tree.  Jesus Christ was crucified on a tree and thereby redeemed us from every curse.  “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written,Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'”  (Galatians 3:13)   In the Old Testament reference here, the word for tree is the same as the word used for log in the Exodus passage. Just as the tree absorbed the bitterness of the water and made it sweet (safe to drink), the redemption provided by the Cross absorbs the bitterness of our sin and makes life sweet.   The Cross transforms the bitter waters of life’s painful experiences and losses into a door of hope for restoration and redemption. 

Father, teach me how to cast the power of the Cross into every river of pain and loss that I must navigate.  You are more than able to absorb the bitterness of my disappointments and give me in exchange a taste of Your sweet living water.  Remind me to apply the Tree to every trial, in Jesus’ Name, and watch your transforming power at work!

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The Desire of All Nations — The Heavenly Man

http://stnoufer.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/nativity1.jpgThe prophet Haggai proclaimed, “‘And I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  (Haggai 2:7)  The Desire of All Nations is a title for the Messiah, God-With-Us.   He is the epitome of anything and everything that has eternal value for anyone on the face of the earth.   He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End — the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

However, not everything we DESIRE here on earth necessarily comes  to pass.  In fact, seldom can we ourselves actually transform our desires into expectations that are fulfilled.   The good news is that God does the transforming, as HE HImself is the true desire of our hearts, whether we recognize that fact or not — He alone can satisfy our desire for fulfillment, completion, satisfaction, and purpose.   When we acknowledge that He is the only one that can quench our longing for significance, our desire becomes a concrete sense of expectation.   Just as a woman can desire to birth a child, yet only actually EXPECTS a child when she is physically proven to be pregnant, our desire for meaning and purpose in life can only become an expectation when certain confidence of that desire’s fulfillment becomes evident.

How can we be confident that Jesus will ever truly be, not only the Desire of All Nations, but our one true desire?  How can we expect Him to be what He says He will be for us?

He promises to be Emmanuel — God-With-Us.  Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15 that the first Adam was a man of the earth, a man of dust.   The last Adam, Jesus, was the heavenly Man.   Paul affirms that “as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man” (1 Corinthians 15:49). Jesus, Son of God, literally came to earth in the likeness of the man of dust (aka a human being like ourselves) in order to empower us to carry His DNA and bear His image, the image of the heavenly Man!  What an amazing promise!   Even though Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, was subsequently resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, He lives in us by His Spirit and has truly become our expectation of life:  Christ in us, the hope of glory! (see Colossians 1:27)  

The Desire of All Nations has become our sure expectation.  When we allow the incarnation to happen in us, the risen Savior begins to replicate His glorious DNA in us, complete with His fruit and character (2 Corinthians 3:18).  We begin to look like Him and sound like Him; we become a radiant reflection of Christ in our very own man of dust.

Father, may I rest in the assurance of Your Presence in me as I receive the truth of your coming to earth in the likeness of the man of dust.   Thank You that I can always EXPECT You to be ever-present with me.   You never leave me, and I am confident You will continue to multiply Your goodness in and through me, in Jesus’ Name!

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Mantled to Dismantle

clothed-in-light-300x168[1]In the midst of a society that seems to grow more hedonistic and perverse on a daily basis, I have at times become radically self-protective in an effort to avoid being stained by what I see around me. In fact, in an effort to protect myself and my family from  the rising tide of wickedness in our culture, I have been guilty at times of allowing my God-given discernment to morph into judgment and condemnation.   Almost without realizing it, I can paint myself into my own personal legalistic corner and wonder why none of my unbelieving acquaintances sense the love of Jesus in me enough to join me in that tight corner!

Somehow, I forget that my own judgments and efforts to pursue holiness do not defeat darkness.   Instead, the glory, goodness, and love of Father God are the weapons Jesus used (and still uses) to dismantle wickedness.  The Blood of Jesus shed on the cross is a powerful expression of His love and His heart to redeem me from the darkness resident in my own soul.   If God’s love, light, and goodness defeated wickedness and sin on the cross, surely those same weapons are equally powerful today!

Paul assures in Galatians 3:26-27 that those who are baptized have “put on” Christ, that believers are clothed (or mantled) in Jesus Christ Himself, which includes all He is!  Isaiah 61 :10 also speaks of being clothed in Him:  “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”  My task is to remember who God is — His goodness, kindness, righteousness, mercy, love, holiness, light, and glory — and to literally clothe myself in Him.   His character trumps all the powers of darkness that could ever stand against me.   His power and Presence in me and on me are capable of transforming the people around me and even the city where I live.

It doesn’t matter how difficult the challenges are or how dark the darkness.   Jesus is far greater than any darkness I will ever confront.   I am learning to put on Christ and to remember the One Who clothes me with salvation, righteousness, and glory.   He will use me to dismantle structures of darkness and to defeat whatever spiritual adversaries I may face.   His goodness will touch the hearts of those I meet as I trust all my conversations to Him.  Father, help me to remember that You mantle me with Your goodness and that Your Presence in and on me is more than able to dismantle the enemy!   I want grow in my awareness of Your nearness and Your all-powerful love!

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Beheading Goliath: Demolishing Deception and Defiance

8152[1]Most of our spiritual combat today is rooted in our thought life.  This fact should come as no surprise, as the root of sin in the Garden of Eden was a simple (but spiritually dire!) problem of deception and disobedience.   Both deception and disobedience involve our thought processes.  In Eve’s case, her sin lay in listening to the voice of the serpent instead of the voice of God.   In Adam’s case, his sin lay in listening to the voice of his wife and making a willful choice to disobey God.  Both of them listened to the wrong voice.

However, in Genesis 3:15, God informs the serpent that the Seed of the woman (Jesus) will crush the serpent’s head, which signifies victory over all the power of the devil to lie to us and deceive us.  This verse is widely regarded as the first Messianic promise of redemption in the Bible.  David’s victory over Goliath serves as a “type” of Christ’s victory over the devil and paints for us a prophetic picture of how we can participate in that same victory in our daily lives.

If we consider the way David approached Goliath, it is interesting to note that he refused to wear any man-made armor.  He also eschewed man-made weapons of war; instead, David, wearing his usual shepherd’s clothing, confronted the heavily-armored champion with five smooth stones in his shepherd’s pouch.  When faced with the chutzpah of the young shepherd boy, Goliath was appropriately outraged (see I Samuel 17 for the entire story).  He had been taunting and reviling the Israelite army morning and evening for forty days.  He had dared them to choose their best warrior to face him one-on-one in combat. Whereas the men in Saul’s army were surely terrified, David was non-plussed.  He understood that Goliath, in reality, was NOT defying any man, but rather the armies of the living God.  When we remember that Moses had brought water from the rock in the wilderness and that the Israelites had long regarded God as their provider, redeemer, their rock of defense, the choice of stones for a weapon is not too surprising. [“And they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer” (Psalm 78:35). “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God, ” (Psalm 18:31). “”There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, nor is there any rock like our God ” (I Samuel 2:2).   “Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle;” (Psalm 144:1). — for starters!]

When David slew Goliath, the one who dared to defy the armies of the living God, with one stone shot from his slingshot through the champion’s forehead, he did more than slay a physical enemy.   He slew someone who thrived on terrifying God’s people, tormenting them ceaselessly, and playing with their minds.  Whenever we start to think that someone or something is stronger than God, our Rock, we are in a state of deception, at least at some level.  When David arrived on the scene with provisions for his brothers, the armies of Israel were risking paralysis due to fear of the enemy, as the camp was abuzz with the claims of Goliath.  However, the Stone of Truth pierced the head of the one who represents the enemy of our souls, the one who tries to overwhelm us with deception and defiance.  It was therefore most appropriate that David also severed the head of the slain Goliath from his dead body, as the seat of his anti-God thinking lay in the MIND of the enemy, rather than in his physical strength.

In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, the apostle Paul urges us to destroy the reasoning patterns of the enemy of our soul.  “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  Just as David slew Goliath with the Truth, the Rock of Defense, we can demolish the lies and deceit of the enemy using the same weapon — the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the Chief Cornerstone).  When we discipline our minds and reject every thought that does not agree with God’s Word, we are using, in effect, the Sword of the Spirit (the Word of God) to behead the enemy and render inoperative all his attempts to deceive us and defy the living God.  Holy Spirit, I invite you to expose areas in my thought life where I am believing lies; help me disarm the lies with the Cornerstone of Truth and use Your Word to behead the enemy!

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