Thursday, March 28, 2013

You Gotta Big Mouth, and You Talk Too Much

When I was growing up there was a song that had the words, You gotta big mouth, and you talk too much. I don’t have a clue what the rest of the song says, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know, but for whatever reason, I remember that phrase probably because it summarized me well. LOL.

Some of you may or may not know, but my daddy is an ordained minister. When I was in elementary he was an interim pastor for a while. Since that time, he’s conducted funerals and weddings, and of course where daddy is concerned there is always one humorous story that happens in his wanderings through life. Funerals are no exception. While Daddy didn’t go to seminary, he had one of the main prerequisites to being a Baptist preacher…he could talk. Daddy is a story teller. He weaves a tale with colorful expressions and imaginative phrases, and whether it’s the first time you’ve heard one of his stories or the hundredth time you’ve heard a story, you can’t help but laugh. Some of his stories are longer than others, and some of his jokes are longer than others, but you put him in front of an audience who is expecting to hear something, and he is on…much like my daughter.

If you give a Baptist preacher a microphone, he just can’t limit himself to five minutes. I don’t know if they learn that in seminary, or if that is just part of that spiritual gift. It’s one of the reasons I think Paul had to have been the first Baptist preacher that walked the face of the earth…lol. In Acts 21, Paul arrives in Jerusalem, gives his report and begins a purification process when he is arrested. He’s arrested only after a flash mob has started to try to kill Paul by beating him to a pulp. (My version, you can check out verse 32). As the soldiers are leading Paul away, I guess Paul realized there was a captive audience, and he asked to speak to them. I mean what could they do, he had armed guards around him then. Paul is given permission to speak, and he uses this time to give his testimony, and he does it in such a way as to grab the audience’s attention.

Have you ever found yourself unexpectedly in front of an audience? Have you ever found yourself speaking to a few people that you hadn’t planned on speaking to? Do you use that opportunity to give your testimony? Are you prepared to give your testimony? Maybe that’s an even better question.

Have you ever spoken to someone on the phone, get a picture in your head of what they look like and when you meet, you couldn’t be more wrong? My son is 100% Hispanic. He has a head full of that jet black hair, beautiful almond shaped eyes, and his skin tans flawlessly. When we have visited our Spanish mission church, the kids run up to him speaking Spanish, and he looks at them and says with a twang, “What?” That cracks me up. My husband and I love to watch the show Chopped, and there is a chef named Jun. He is Asian but was raised in England and has the most beautiful British accent. That cracks me up. It caught my attention. I was expecting to hear something different.

The crowd listened to Paul when he spoke because he was able to speak their language. When you talk to someone about Jesus, don’t use the church lingo. Your speech should be like Christ, and the message while biblically based can be personalized so that all can understand. You don’t have to curse or swear to speak their language because if you curse and swear like them then you are no different and your message is no different.

Paul stuck with the facts, and the crowd was with him up until Paul said that God told him to go to the Gentiles. You know, they may have blocked him out after that but up until that time they were listening. They heard about Paul’s testimony about how her persecuted Christians and how he was blinded and how his sight was restored. God’s Word does not return void (Is 55:11). What that means is that whatever is spoken about God at his direction will produce an effect that he pleases and  for his purposes. God gave Paul a platform to testify. Many heard it that day, and I can’t help but think that God used his testimony to affect change in someone’s life that day.

It is not our job to brow beat people with the Word. It is our job to testify, to encourage, to learn it, and to teach it to others. God is responsible for the outcome. When you realize this, it really takes the burden off your shoulders. So I challenge you to look for opportunities to tell others what God is doing in your life, and I encourage you to speak boldly.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ominous Feeling...I Really Hate Those

I woke up one morning around 3 AM, and I realized there were tears streaming down my face. By the way, if I’m up at 3 AM, it’s because God woke me up. I don’t voluntarily wake up at that time. So, what I’ve learned to do is slip out of bed, go to my office, turn on my lamp with my Bible in hand, and I wait. So on this morning, I did that but this time I had tears cascading down my face before I even sat down in the chair. My heart was breaking, and God laid a person’s name on my heart, a person I hadn’t talked to in several years. My heart was so heavily burdened for her, and I had no idea why. There have been times God has led me to write letters to people about things I shouldn’t know about or understand, but this time I was being led to reach out by phone because she lived across country. When morning came, I told Patrick what had happened and that I felt I needed to call her, and he encouraged me to do so. About 10 AM I made the call. She answered. I told her what had happened to me in the wee hours of the morning and that I felt like I needed to check on her. There was silence on her end. When she found her voice, she told me she had given birth a couple of days prior, but the doctors wouldn’t let her bring her baby home because she had a hole in her heart. My heart was breaking because her momma’s heart was breaking for her baby.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit puts something or someone heavy on our hearts for a reason, for a purpose. Do you ever follow through on it? Do you ever check it out? God uses this to communicate to us and to help us function in the body of Christ to minister to others.

In Acts 20, Paul is telling some believers farewell and tells them he is headed to Jerusalem and that he doesn’t know what will happen to him. Paul believes he may die or be tortured because the Holy Spirit has been preparing him. That is one thing I love about God – He prepares you for what is down the road. Often times you just don’t realize it.

You know what I like and admire about Paul? The fact that even though the Holy Spirit had told him he would be imprisoned and undergo hardships (Acts 20:22-24) Paul didn’t run away. He did his best to prepare the disciples and brothers in the faith. He did his best to establish churches and correct teaching and doctrine, but when it was time to go to Jerusalem, he went. He was obedient.

To be honest, I hate having that ominous feeling. I have had one since the beginning of this year, but the Holy Spirit has shown me yet what it is concerning. What I do know is like Paul that whatever comes my way that I’m not going through it alone. God has gone before me preparing the way. One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 42:16, I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Just like God led Paul through the trials and tribulations ahead in Acts, God will lead you through any hardship he leads you to. I just pray that I face whatever hardship and adversity that comes my way with the strength, class, dignity, and confidence Paul exhibited.

Reminds me of a childhood friend of mine who died this past year from breast cancer, she was bold in her faith, and everything she did and said was to bring glory to God because I think she knew she was going to see him before the rest of us.

So I encourage you to face whatever comes your way, head on knowing that if God is leading you to it, He’ll lead you through it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Common Day Miracles

I am totally convinced that we as Christians are so oblivious to the things around us that we are constantly missing every day miracles. Yes, I believe that miracles happen today. The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines miracle as, Events which unmistakably involve an immediate and powerful action of God designed to reveal His character or purposes. We are constantly being barraged with images, sounds, technology, information, and just noise in general that we don’t see the miracle. We don’t hear the miracle. We have become so immune to the wonder of who God is and how he works that we take things for granted.

For example, every time a healthy baby is born is an everyday miracle. Do you know how many things can go wrong on just one chromosome much less multiple chromosomes at the same time? Do you know how often babies are born without necessary parts or malfunctioning parts?

The fact that you were able to hear your alarm this morning, move your body to turn it off, grumble about getting out of the bed requires your brain that never sleeps or stops working to utilize your ears to hear and distinguish what was heard. Your brain then has to send messages to your arm and hand to turn the blasted alarm off. Then your brain processes thoughts and moves your vocal folds by forcing air from your lungs. Do you know how many people on this earth cannot do those things?

We have become so entitled-oriented that we actually believe that we deserve to hear, see, breathe, and move on our own. We have become so self-reliant that we have factored out the grace of God in our daily survival on this planet.

But what if God put big miracles in your life? Someone healed. A gift out of nowhere. A provision without notice. Do you feel entitled to those? Do you think you could ever get used to seeing people miraculously healed? Do you think you would ever become mundane about the work that God is doing in the lives of fellow believers?

In Acts, the Holy Spirit has been doing miracles through Paul. If Paul used a kerchief to wipe his sweat, someone would take that sweaty kerchief to someone who needed healing, and they were healed! When I was a kid I remember watching Elvis Presley do a concert on tv from Hawaii. I remember him wiping his face with those scarves and then throwing them in the audience. Women would fight for those things and swoon! REALLY!? His scarves never healed anyone of anything.

In Acts 20, Paul was in Troas, and he was planning on leaving the next day, and apparently he still had a lot to say, so he was teaching and preaching into the wee hours of the morning. There was a boy sitting in the window sill about three stories up, and bless his heart, he just couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. He fell into a deep sleep, and since there was no glass on the window he plummeted to his death. Say what? Have you ever heard this story? It’s true. It starts in verse 7. Talk about a scene stealer! Having taught and spoken in public I’m just telling you it would be hard to recover from something like this. Paul ran down stairs and threw himself on the boy, putting his arms around. Another miracle, the boy was alive. The Bible says in verse 11 and 12 that they went back upstairs and ate and continued talking till daylight. Verse 12 says, The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

After raising the boy to life, they ate. I don’t think they were ungrateful, but they were used to seeing miracles performed by God through Paul that they didn’t know to expect anything different. Entitlement and expecting are two different things. Entitlement says, I deserve this or you owe me this debt. Expecting means, they looked to God expecting and wanting him to do a miracle. They were comforted by this miracle. My guess is they were grateful too.

Squire Rushnell wrote a book, When God Winks. In it he describes how God let’s us know that he’s with us or guiding us by providing little winks. Doors are opened or closed. Provisions are given or taken away. A person is brought into your life for a reason or a season and then is gone. These are all God’s handiwork revealing some part of himself to you. Are you getting it? Are you seeing it? Are you catching it? If you aren’t, pray and ask God to open your eyes because you don’t want to miss out on these miracles.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Gets Knocked Down, But I Get Up ...AGAIN

I get knocked down, but I get up again…I have no clue how the rest of that song goes, but just those eight words should be Paul’s theme song. When I think of Paul, I hear Rocky’s theme song playing. That man got knocked down more times than I can count. He was open for discussion and debate, but when the scholars couldn’t win they resorted to riots, schemes and even stoned Paul. They chased him from town to town. They trumped up charges. Struggle after struggle after struggle, and yet he survived. He was shipwrecked and bitten by a viper, and survived. He endured prison for years without a trial. How much can one person take? How much does God expect one person to take? Have you ever asked that question of God – How much more do you expect me to take? Been there. Said that. Sometimes I think God has a higher opinion of me than he ought, know what I mean?

And not only that but there’s this prophet who doesn’t exactly have encouraging news for Paul. Ever feel like you are just waiting for the other shoe or sandal or flip flop to drop?

I have.

So, I looked at Paul, and his perspective.

1. Paul was no drama queen or king. When he gave his testimony, he gave it factually. He didn’t give a blow by blow about how badly he had been treated in every town that ran him out. He didn’t call the names of those who had done him wrong. When he testified, it was about what God had done since the creation, when he testified; it was about how God had changed his life on the road to Damascus.

2. He let things go. He dusted himself off. Shook off his sandals and walked on. He did not hold onto the bad things that had happened. He didn’t see the bad things as having happened to him even though he most definitely lived through them. He saw the people rejecting God. He didn’t take it personally. He invested in the believers and cried over them and prayed over them, but for those who didn’t believe, he didn’t allow the dirt they threw to stick. He let it go for God to handle.

3. He was always looking for the opportunity to share the Word of God. So often we get distracted by our surroundings and hardship that we take our focus off of God. Been there. Done that too. He looked for opportunities to teach, to speak, to preach, to minister, and as a result, he couldn’t keep score of how many times he got knocked down.

4. He got back up. You don’t fail because you get knocked down. You fail because you don’t get back up. Paul knew what was coming. The Holy Spirit had warned him. A prophet had warned him, and yet he didn’t stop. He kept going…just like that little pink bunny in the commercial.

5. He realizes who the enemy really is and maintains his witness to those who are responsible for his care. Sometimes people have to do as instructed – like letting someone go because of cut backs. For Paul, he knew the centurion that was on the ship with him wasn’t a bad guy. He treated people with respect. What better way to have doors open for you? You treat someone with respect who is expecting so much less and when they receive so much more, they open the door for you. Because of the way Paul treated the centurion, the centurion made sure he was safe and gave him liberties.

6. Paul stayed focused. God told him he was going to be going to Rome to speak to the Gentiles. Paul knew that he wasn’t going to die in the storm…he hadn’t made it to Rome yet. He took God at his word and believed God would stay true to his word, and God did.

I could go on, but if you are in a struggle, remember stay focused on God, what he’s leading you to and through. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And one more thing about Paul, he made friends everywhere he went. When he was in need, his relied on his friends to provide, to take messages, and to encourage him. It is okay to rely on your Christian brothers and sisters. It’s Scriptural.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Slap You Nekked and Hide Your Clothes

In middle school, I had a friend who was popular. She had a cute hair cut, a cute personality, and even a cute walk, so what did I do? I got that hair cut. I imitated her personality. And I walked like she did. Instead of looking cute though, I looked like a scraggly, fake kid whose sachet looked like the waddle of a penguin.
Have you ever seen someone who was so authentic in their walk with Christ, so authentic in their worship, and so authentic in their love for God that you just wanted a piece of what they have? And have you ever tried to imitate that person? Truth is they are human beings and will have failures and will let you down, disappoint you, but it doesn’t stop people from doing it day in and day out.
Sometimes you may see once church emulate another. Maybe they are trying to model themselves after a mega church in Dallas or California. They will use the same programs, the same music, the same wording just trying to get their congregation to the where this other church is.
You know what happens when you try to emulate another person or another entity? My daddy used to say, “I’m gonna slap you nekked and hide your clothes.” It’s something like that.
In Acts 19, Paul is speaking boldly and arguing persuasively until the Jews become obstinate. So long as the Jews were willing to talk and listen, Paul stayed. When the Jews began planning riots or becoming obstinate, Paul knew there was no point in staying. Typically the reason the Jews would become upset and begin riots or become obstinate is because they became jealous or didn’t know how to defeat Paul. God was pouring himself into Paul. The Spirit was moving Paul. When Paul sweats, people were healed by touching his dirty laundry!  When the toxins that pour out of your body through sweat glands has the power to heal, to cast out demons, or to restore another person, then that has got to be some potent sweat.
That’s the power some of the Jews wanted, so some of them started casting out spirits and demons. What’s funny is they kind of went down a list of names to cast out the demon hoping one of the names would do the trick. In this instance they called on Jesus – you know, the guy Paul uses to cast out demons. All was well and good until a demon came out of a man and spoke to the seven sons of Sceva who were casting. Verse 15 says, One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?
Now put yourself in the sandals of one of those seven sons. If they didn’t have to go home and change their britches, then what happens next certainly will. Verse 16 says, Then the man who had the evil spirit, jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. See I told you that you get slapped nekked and your clothes go missing!
Truth is these men were calling out names of people and deity with whom they had no personal relationship. They only way for people to be genuinely changed is to be plugged into the source which is Jesus Christ. That is the way Paul operated. The power that comes from the Spirit isn’t like rubbing a magic lamp and a genie pops out. You can’t have the authentic walk of another Christian if you aren’t connected to the One whom they worship. You can’t have an experience or church or worship like another church or person or group without being plugged into the Source. And here’s the thing…just because you get plugged in doesn’t mean your worship, your experience, your power, or your walk will be like anyone else’s. It is completely up to the Spirit to determine what is needed in your life, in your relationship, in your walk, so get your eyes focused on where they should be. Don’t compare your walk to anyone else’s. Focus on getting so close to God that you can’t imagine operating outside of what the Holy Spirit tells you to do.
As a result of these seven guys getting their behinds kicked by a demon, there was a lot of fear and reverence in the name of Jesus Christ. I mean the demons knew Jesus’ name! Many unbelievers became Christians and brought their sorcery and witchcraft items and books. They estimated the value of all these books, trinkets and things totaled millions of dollars in today’s value.
Be authentic to who God created you to be because you look ridiculous and fake when you don’t. You might as well be parading around nekked because anyone who comes into contact with you will know just how unauthentic you really are.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What Is a Girlfriend Get-Away? This is how we roll.

Girlfriend Get-Away was a wonderful weekend away from reality to refuel, reconnect and restore. Any time you get a group of women together and God is present, it’s a good thing. There are tears. There is laughter. There is worship best of all.

Never in a million years would I have put this group of women together. It was an eclectic, unpretentious, unique group of women with one thing in common – we love God. That bond alone can overcome many issues.

When I started preparing for the weekend knowing that I would be telling women my favorite attributes, qualities or characteristics about God, I had my list ready. But the week before, God pointed out that while those were my favorites He wanted me to lead the women to discover what their favorites were. Then He showed me the qualities that He wanted me to bring to their attention. You see, it wasn’t about me and my love for Him at all. It was about Him. So Saturday morning after quiet time, I led the women through corporate prayer. What we praise God for and the reason we worship him are the reasons we love him. Corporate prayer time was amazing. When the praise goes up, the Spirit comes down. I love that about him. I reminded the women of the intimacy that God wants to have with us being the lover of our souls and how He works outside the box to reach us, to grow us, to deepen His relationship with us. He is an intimate God.

I had asked Stacy to share a favorite verse, and this was going to be outside her comfort zone, but she agreed saying it wasn’t about her. She was wanting to share Jeremiah 29:11, and no one will argue that this verse is wonderful, but God kept leading her to Lamentations 3. God’s loving kindnesses never cease. His compassion never fails and is new every morning for us. She pointed out that the Lord is our portion, and she discovered that her portion was her salvation (Psalm 73:26). She was led to verses 22-33 in Lamentations 3. He spoke to her about where she was in her life – in a waiting season. Verse 26 says to “wait silently” without complaining or whining. What she revealed spurred another woman who realized this was something she needed to dig into deeper on her own. What Stacy didn’t know was that God had led Sandra to that same verse for part of her time.

Sandra covered sanctification—what it means to be sanctified. She said we tend to be attracted to our opposites because they have strengths where we are weak. Her favorites about God were his mercy, his patience, his grace and his accessibility. One of her verses Deuteronomy 4:7 in the Message translations talks about what an intimate God we have and that He is not like any other god. Intimacy – this is not a fluke or coincidence. Neither was it a fluke or coincidence that God led her to Lamentations 3:22-33, nor was it a fluke or coincidence that God led her to choose God’s accessibility as one of her favorites.

Lori gave her favorite verse which was Psalm 121 – the whole chapter. Keep looking to the hills which is where our help comes from. She pointed out that God is always with us wanting to protect us and our strength. He is always accessible, and He knows us intimately.

What Sandra didn’t know was that Traci was led to speak on God’s accessibility to us. Traci gave some of her testimony about losing her spouse Tommy and the struggle she’s gone through, but that through it all, God was accessible to her even when all she could say was, “Please. Please. Please.” How the Spirit intercedes for us when all we can do is cry and groan. She pulled the verses Hebrews 10:19-23 not knowing that Sandra had chosen those verses too.

There were such good discussions during these Bible study times. I absolutely loved hearing these women talk about their love for our Savior, Jesus Christ.

There were two other ladies there that I’d like to mention. First was Tonya. I had met Tonya twice before, and the lady who had invited her had to back out because of a family commitment. Tonya came not really knowing anyone. She will tell you she was nervous, but God told her to come, and she obeyed. I admire her courage and her obedience. It would have been a completely different weekend had Tonya not been there. She is a riot!

And then there was Cris. Cris was so funny and didn’t even know it at times. Her words brought healing and encouragement. She really only knew me, and yet she came. This just amazes me.

At the end of this weekend, each of the women agreed it was a must. We have to do this again in the fall. We have to invite our girlfriends to come with us. Our goal is to fill two lodges with women – that’s 28 women. That is more than 3 times the number of women who were there this time, but we are trusting God to lay women on our hearts to invite. If you would like to come, please let me know. E-mail me, call me, text me – something. And if you get invited by one of these ladies, you need to know that God has laid your name on her heart and that she has prayed for you before she asked you, so you better think twice before turning her down. You won’t be turning her down. You’ll be turning God down because he obviously has a blessing for you that weekend, and you will miss it.

There was time to do our hobbies. There was time to take hikes. There was time to see the antique car show that was in the park. There was time to be alone. Our last night there the electricity went out. The whole camp was pitch black. Traci started a fire, and there was so much laughter and singing it was hysterical. Just to clarify, it wasn’t praise and worship songs. We got on a Ray Stephens tear and some other songs came from those. Like I said, we laughed, and we laughed a lot.

I praise God for being present. I praise God for sending each of those women. I praise God that they want to do this again. I praise God for the great weather. I praise God for the safe travel. I praise God that our families supported us and allowed us to have this time to reconnect, refuel, recharge and to get restoration.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Work It Out, Sista!

I loved my Pappaw Groves. I still love my Pappaw Groves, and his face is one of the faces I will be looking for when I get to heaven. In his youth, he had a John Wayne swagger. He was quiet, but when he spoke it was like E.F. Hutton, everyone listened. He loved aggie jokes, and would grin at me while clinching his pipe between his teeth by raising his eyebrows and raising the corners of his mouth. His hands were thick and off-colored. I was never sure if that was from handling tobacco for his pipe or from all his years in the steel factory. When Pappaw was 81 we discovered he had an aneurysm on the artery above his heart. No one in Louisiana would touch him because of his age, but if he didn’t have the surgery, it would rupture because it had gotten that large. He was care-flighted to Houston, and the surgery was performed. He would never recover. After several weeks in Houston, we had him transported to a hospital in Shreveport. I’d go there before work and during lunch to exercise him, talk to him, put Chapstick on him, brush his hair, and things like that. I knew the time was coming that Pappaw would be going home. I remember telling my daddy that I didn’t understand why God would allow my Pappaw to languish in that old hospital bed. Why didn’t God just take Pappaw home? All daddy could say was, “God doesn’t waste anything.”

A little after Pappaw’s death, his nurse wrote a letter to our family. By the way, we loved this nurse. I walked in on him talking to Pappaw and turning on the television just in case Pappaw was tuning in. He saw my Pappaw as a person and not a number. Apparently, just as I had been watching this nurse take care of my Pappaw, he had been watching our family, the way we spoke to one another, what we said to one another, how we treated each other, how we treated guests, and how we treated him. In this letter to us, he confessed that he had wandered away from God, away from the church, away from the things he had once believed in. He said by watching and listening he had been convicted about his walk with Christ and that he was determined to get his family back in church. He wanted God’s healing for his family.

In Acts 3, a lame beggar had to be picked up and carried to the gate called Beautiful day in and day out, and one day Peter and John came to the gate. Because Peter told the lame that in the name of Jesus Christ to stand, the lame man believed and arose.

      So why did the lame man have to live for so long before being healed?

               God doesn’t waste anything.

                         Did the lame man not hear of God before this time?

                                   God’s timing is perfect.

Do you ever have questions regarding your walk with God? God, why did I have to go through this? How long do I have to endure this? Why can’t you just handle things like __________________?

I’ve been there, and I’ve wondered those same things about the lame man in Acts 3. Why did it take so long for someone to heal this poor man? Why did he have to endure this humiliation day in and day out and to what cost? Don’t you know he felt like a nuisance asking people to carry him wherever he needed to go? Don’t you know he suffered great humiliation being tended to by others because he couldn’t take care of himself?

My answer – God doesn’t waste anything. God’s timing is perfect. In order for God to gain the maximum effect in reaching others, to bring glory to himself and bring awareness to others, God wanted people to see this lame man. God wanted people to hear this man begging. If God had healed this man an hour earlier, a day earlier, a month earlier or a year earlier, then someone would have missed out on the message Peter preached right after the healing. Someone would have missed out on seeing the joy only God can give through complete healing. Someone would have missed Peter’s message about Jesus Christ being put to death at their own hands and yet it was the lame man’s faith in this Jesus Christ who had risen from the grave which had healed him. Acts 3:16, “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.” For some seeing is believing.

                      If the lame had been healed before this time, someone would not have heard the sermon to  repent, turn to God and your sins will be washed away.

Can you endure your hardship, your illness one more day if you knew that it would mean that one more person would come to know Christ?

Faith is trusting that God will work these hardships out for his glory and for your best. Sometimes we won’t know how He does or who all has been touched by our lives. We may not know until we are in heaven, so I encourage you to keep trusting God. Work out that faith of yours, and by work it out, I mean kick Satan to the curb when he causes you to doubt. Work out your faith means dying to your own desires and wishes for the kingdom’s cause. Working out your faith means persevering through the hard times in a Christ-like manner because you never know who is watching and what your life is telling them about God.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Why is it that some people find it easier to lie than to tell the truth? Seriously. Haven’t they figured out by now that telling a lie will come back to bite you on your backside?

I had an investigation involving a pair of brothers and their momma. They were staging accidents and causing accidents, and every time I would get their claims. About the 18th claim, I called one of the brothers in for his statement. We will change the name to protect the ignorant. We’ll call him Dufus. At the beginning of every statement, I ask benign questions for several reasons. Often times this is the only time I’d get an honest answer. I’d ask for things like name, address and phone number. I move on to a little more challenging questions such as prior addresses and who lived there with them at that time, and then I ask about prior claims. Now remember this is Dufus’ 18th claim, and I’ve handled most of them. I’ve taken his statement in person on prior occasions. I ask Dufus about his prior claims. One other thing to know is that if I ask a question, most of the time I will know the answer or have a good suspicion of the answer because I’ve done my homework, so I had a list of Dufus’ claims. Dufus looked at me and said he only had a couple of prior claims…a comprehensive claim (glass) and a vandalism claim. I sat there and looked at him. Then I stared at him. Finally, I said, “Dufus, take a good look at my face.” He looked up at me. “Does my face look the least bit familiar?” Blank. I never claimed that Dufus was bright. “Dufus, I have investigated every single claim of yours, your brother’s, and your momma’s. Now, do you remember me?” Light went on.

Don’t you feel sorry for my children?

Sometimes people think a little white lie won’t hurt anyone. Sometimes people believe that exaggerating the truth is okay too. Truth is if it isn’t the whole truth, it’s a lie. And a lie is what put Jesus on the cross among many other sins.

I’ve been reading through Acts, and in Acts 5, there is a story about Ananias and Sapphira. Ananias and Sapphira sell a piece of property, and they are going to donate the funds. In the early church this was common. People would sell things and donate the funds to the church or to the body of Christ to be doled out to help the less fortunate. So, Ananias and his wife Sapphira sell the property and decide to keep some of the proceeds. This wasn’t a bad thing nor was it a wrong thing. It would have been wrong if God had led them to sell and give it all, but we don’t see that exactly. What went wrong is Ananias and Sapphira decided to lie about holding back some of the proceeds. Ananias took the proceeds to Peter and put it at his feet. Peter tells Ananias that he hasn’t lied to man but to God. As a result of his sin, Ananias drops dead and exits stage right being carried off to be buried.

Three hours later his wife Sapphira hasn’t heard from Ananias, so she goes searching. She sees Peter, and Peter gives her the opportunity to be honest. Sapphira didn’t know what had happened to her husband, and she told Peter, Yes, that is the price. Just as the men who had buried her husband return back to the temple, Sapphira hears what happened to her husband, and she drops dead. The men carry her out the same way they did her husband.

1 Peter 4:11 says, If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. For some reason, I just don’t believe God lies because He cannot be untrue to himself. Psalm 19:14, May the words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Eccleciastes 10:12, Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. What comes out of the mouth pours out of your mind and heart?

Be honest, people, in all things.

Dufus and his brother went to jail. Their lies caught up with them, and your lies will catch up with you too.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

God Can Use Dirty Laundry

My children are learning to do their own laundry. They are twelve and eight. This came about when I saw on several occasions clothes that I had folded and instructed my children to put away returned to the hamper unworn and still folded -- never worn. So, now they wash, dry and fold their own clothes. It's a good skill to know. It is a needed skill to have. I am after all preparing my children for adulthood. I don't want to forever be washing their clothes...especially the boy's after he comes home from a hunting or fishing weekend. That's just gross. And as children do, sometimes they have had to wear dirty laundry because they didn't do their washing when I reminded them. There are times that I obviously do their laundry like when they are in school, but I don't fold or put away. They can do that. And the idea that God was able to use dirty laundry to bring healing to someone makes me wonder just how sick the person had to be!

Cookie cutter. Predictable. In-the-box. Mundane. Routine.

So often we look for God to answer questions and handle our problems the way we think it should be done, and then we get upset and angry with God when he does something differently. I lost my job; God will give me a new one. My home was foreclosed; God will provide another house. My spouse cheated on me; God will fix my spouse. My health is failing; God is going to heal me. My car broke down; God will provide the finances for the repairs. Are any of these bad ideas or thoughts? Absolutely not. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve prayed for God to heal someone or prayed for God to provide a specific thing.

But sometimes I think we lose our WONDER in God because we expect the predictable. We want him to be predictable because there is security in that. We say that God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Consistency doesn’t have to mean repetitive, contained or routine. God’s consistency is that He’s with us no matter what comes our way. God’s consistency means that what he says he’ll do. God’s consistency can be trusted because we know he goes before us and that he holds our tomorrows and prepares us for it.

I expected to get pregnant to have our children, even though God had put it on my heart when I was in high school to adopt. I expected God to heal a childhood friend from cancer this past year, but he chose to cure her permanently and took her home. I expected God to keep my family safe, but my mom was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. Predictability is not the way God operates. God does not have a box within which to operate.

Sometimes we have to get desperate for him. Sometimes we have to hunger and thirst for him so badly that we are willing to operate outside what appears normal. In Acts 4:12-16, people were desperate for healing. They were so desperate that they believed that if Peter’s shadow passed over them they would be healed. GOD USED THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT TO HEAL…They believed this because God was working in Peter’s life. They believed in the God that Peter was praising and worshipping. Acts 19:12, people were healed by touching facecloths and aprons Paul had used. GOD CAN USE DIRTY LAUNDRY!!!! What other uncommon ways did God use in the Bible to minister, to teach, to heal? What about the talking donkey (Numbers 22:29)? Isaiah 55:8 says, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…”

You want something to happen in your life? You want or need something from God? Then don’t expect the expected. Be open. Be observant. Be grateful.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Not a Boring Ride

Every other month I drive to Alexandria, Louisiana, for an intelligence meeting with law enforcement. I have to tell you I-49 from Shreveport to Alexandria is rather mundane. As a matter of fact it is easy to zone out, and then I look around and realize I’m in Mansfield. What happened to Natchitoches? I’d like to say I’m teleported or something, but I’m not. I just become unaware of my surroundings. Sometimes I really dread the drive.

Have you recently read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian? I love this story. It’s found in Acts 8:26-40. You should make time to read it and meditate on it. Read it in different translations while you are at it and put yourself in their shoes. Let me set the background for you. Stephen has just been stoned, and Saul is on a rampage. Christians start scattering like roaches when the light comes on...pretty colorfull description, huh? What Saul and Satan meant to use to harm the Christian movement actually spread the Word of God like wildfire. When persecution hits and the believers divide, God is actually multiplying. Philip had just been in Samaria where they were hungry for the Word of God. People were being healed. Demons were being caste out. People were becoming Christians, and the Holy Spirit had made his presence known. Talk about a mountaintop experience! Then an angel tells Philip to go to the desert road.

REALLY? The desert? Do you know what it’s like out there? It’s dry. It’s dusty. Plus, I’m in a great place on this mountain. That’s the way a lot of Christians would probably respond today. Instead of expecting God to show up in an awesome way on the desert road, we would complain about the conditions in which we were going to have to serve. Sometimes I really hate that about myself. But let’s see what Philip does.

As soon as the angel tells Philip to go, he does. There’s no delay. There’s no picking up a few groceries or packing a bag. He just goes. How honest. How trusting. How pure is that?

On the way Philip sees an Ethiopian eunuch who according to verse 27 is an important official in charge of all the treasury of the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship. After doing some googling, it appears this eunuch traveled over 1000 miles one way to worship. Some of us have a hard time and look for excuses not to go to the church less than 10 miles away using our cars! This eunuch traveled for days just to worship in Jerusalem. He was obviously hungry for the Word. Have you ever hungered after the Word like that? Have you ever just wanted to be in God’s presence or in the Bible that you were willing to do whatever was necessary to have that time? The eunuch was sitting in his chariot when the Spirit told Philip to go to his chariot and stand near it. What did Philip do? Did he nonchalantly walk over? Did he sachet? Did he swagger to the chariot? Nope. He ran. Has the Spirit ever laid something on your heart? How did you respond? Did you run to do as he instructed? I so love this about Philip…childlike faith. He didn’t know what was going to happen, but if the Spirit was leading him, Philip knew that something was going to happen.

So put yourself in the eunuch’s place. He’s sitting on the side of the road, chillin’, trying to read and understand the book of Isaiah, when this goofy guy who had been walking down the road makes a bead line towards him running at a full sprint. I’m surprised Philip wasn’t accosted by the eunuch’s men, but maybe they were all to stunned by his behavior to react or maybe just maybe God had already prepared them.

Philip asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading. The willingness of Philip to start a conversation with a stranger opened the door for him to share the most amazing story in the world. Philip told the eunuch about Jesus using the verses the eunuch was struggling with. The eunuch becomes a Christian and while the eunuch and Philip are traveling together they come upon a body of water. First of all, I like the fact that Philip walked with the eunuch. New believers need someone who will walk with them, teach them, encourage them, and mentor them.

Philip baptized the eunuch. The eunuch came out of the water, and the Spirit came down and took Philip away. So, let’s say you are being baptized, you come up excited, and then the guy who was baptizing you is gone. That would FREAK ME OUT! SERIOUSLY! The Bible says the Spirit suddenly took Philip away and the eunuch did not see him again according to verse 39. The eunuch went on his way rejoicing. Maybe after hearing Philip talk about everything he had seen in Jerusalem and Samaria, maybe the eunuch just thought this was normal. Verse 40 says, “Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about. Okay, so Philip is standing in water and then in a totally different town…Another example of teleporting (hahaha). But seriously, I am so curious about what Philip experienced and what he saw and felt and heard while the Spirit was taking him to a new location. Am I the only one who wonders about this kind of stuff? The Bible says he began travelling again and preaching the gospel. He wasn’t telling about his experience. He was telling about Jesus and what Jesus had done and what Jesus could do for them. Talk about focus! He obviously didn’t have ADHD…obviously.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How Do You Make a Quilt -- I Don't Sew

Don’t you just love it when God allows you to see how He has worked things out by bringing different people together at a specific time for a specific purpose? I do. Sometimes we take things for granted or call them coincidences when in actuality it’s just God doing his thing. When my mom was sick, we saw a lot of those moments. God would bring people into our lives for a specific purpose or reason, and then they would be gone. One case in particular. Lori felt led to make a quilt for mom to take to her chemo treatments. You can hang meat in some of those places. She and I talked about it and what it should look like. Did Lori know how to make a quilt? NOPE. Did I know how to sew a quilt? YOU’VE GOTTA BE KIDDING. We came up with the idea to iron on photos of our kids onto different squares of fabric. Colors were chosen, and Lori began contemplating how to sew it. At this time Lori worked as a social worker in a nursing home here in Shreveport, and she took her swatches and the photos of the kids to work one day. One of the residents living in the apartments had taken a turn for the worse, and the family had been called in. They were going to need to transfer the patient to a different wing once the resident was doing better. A woman from the family found her way to Lori’s office. As you can imagine, this lady had a lot on her plate, but when she saw the swatches she began asking questions. This lady was a quilt-maker. She walked Lori through the process of making this quilt. I’m not even sure if the lady ever got to see the finished product because the resident’s issues resolved and the family left. That lady was put into Lori’s path to give her guidance and direction in making a quilt, a quilt that Lori had been lead or compelled to make. Don’t you just love the way God loves us?

In Acts 10, two different men have two very different visions. Cornelius who is a God-fearing, devoted, generous centurion in the Italian army has a vision during his prayer time at 3 in the afternoon. In the vision the angel tells Cornelius that his prayers and gifts to the poor have come before God, and now God wants to use Cornelius. He tells Cornelius to sent men to Joppa to bring back Peter. In verse 9 the Bible says that at about noon the next day, Peter goes to the roof about noon to pray while lunch is being prepared. While Peter is praying, he goes into a trance, and a sheet with all kinds of animals. These are animals the Jews considered unclean, and a voice told Peter to eat. Peter said no that he had never eaten anything unclean. My guess is Peter thought this was a test of some sort. Otherwise, I’m sure he wouldn’t have argued with God. This goes on for three times when the voice tells him in verse 15, Do not call anything impure that God has made clean. While Peter is pondering this vision and searching for what it means, the Spirit tells him that some men are coming for him and that Peter is to go with them. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Have you ever noticed that God gives us small bites at a time? He knows how easily we are overwhelmed and how simple we truly are. At that time the men show up from Cornelius’ home, and they tell Peter about the angel that appeared to Cornelius and that Peter must come because according to verse 22 so that he could hear what you have to say. That’s when the other shoe dropped. If you have ever taught, done public speaking, or been put on the spot at a moment’s notice to say something, you realize that the Spirit told Peter to GO. He didn’t say nothing about speaking! For some of you that would be a terrifying prospect. God gives us a little bit at a time. He prepares us for what is ahead. It’s just sometimes we don’t recognize the preparation as such.

But this is how God has been preparing Peter. First of all, he has just healed a dead woman named Tabitha. In the eyes of the Jews, this would make him unclean because she was considered unclean. Then Peter is staying with a tanner, someone who deals with dead animals – another person who is considered unclean. Now this vision with the unclean animals, birds and reptiles. Then the Gentile’s servants and soldier showing up on his doorstep. What is Peter’s next step? Ask the Gentiles into the home. All these things are leading up to a remarkable pinnacle that affects us all greatly. Do you know what it is? If not, then read Acts 10.

Here’s the thing, whatever God puts before you, he has already prepared you for and he has already prepared a way. Are you looking for God in every situation? Are you seeking him in prayer and quiet time? If not, then how in the Sam Hill will you know what to do when you reach the pinnacle? That’s not exactly the time to freak out or panic. That’s the time to act in faith.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


When I was in upper elementary, my sister and I were walking through our neighbor's back yard when we crossed path with a boy who had thrown a prickly gum ball at my sister. It had hit her below her eye. I was a runt, and he was a bully. I didn't really realize how badly I was mismatched when I kicked the boy in the shin. I told him to apologize, and when he didn't, I kicked. He dared me to do it again, so I did, and then it was on. We were in a brawl, a fist fight, rolling on the ground. Lori ran to get mom, and she pulled us apart. I really hate bullies. He went home with a bloody nose, and I had a fat lip. That night my daddy called the boy's parents, and he taught me how to fight.

Acts 12 shows Herod is king and being part Jew himself, he attempts to please the Jews. So Herod begins to persecute Christians. Right off the bat the Bible in verse 2 says James is killed by the sword. James is the son of Zebedee and the brother of John. When Herod saw that pleased the Jews, he went after Peter. He imprisoned Peter during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was a festival that was celebrated after the Passover. To give you a little picture into some background, Herod was related to Herod the Great that killed the children of Bethlehem. He was related to Herod Antipas who participated in the illegal trial of Jesus and had John the Baptist executed. Herod Agrippa I (this Herod) murdered James. He also got along with Caligula in Rome. So he had Peter arrested during the festival and had him imprisoned. He didn’t execute him immediately because he wanted the Jews favor. In verse 4 it says, Herod intended after Easter to bring Peter to trial. That was Herod’s intentions. In verse 5 it says, but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. (Resources Life Application Study Bible King James Version and Women’s Evangelical Commentary New Testament).

There are several verses that come to mind:

• Genesis 50:20 – You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

• Jeremiah 29:11 – "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

• James 5:16 -- …The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. It’s not the prayer itself that changes things. It’s the righteous man who is going to his Abba that changes things.

At some point in time in our lives, we all have someone who is difficult to deal with. I have a young friend in high school who considered suicide because the difficult people became unbearable. When we are dealing with those difficult people in our lives, please remember the three verses above. It is difficult. It is uncomfortable. It is unpleasant. But know without a doubt that God is going to use everything that happens for your good IF you will allow him. Know that God has a plan for you and that he has already prepared a way out for you, and it is never suicide. And then tell someone. Tell you some godly people and have them praying over you and for you daily. Get your walk with God closer than it ever has and pray. Pray for those who are making your life difficult – much easier to type than to do I assure you. Holding onto anger turns into bitterness and resentment. Failing to forgive is a sin, and failing to forgive is choosing to bind yourself to your torturers. It’s like drinking poison hoping that the other person will die – ever heard that quote? It’s true. Proverbs 25:21 says, If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. Verse 22, In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

It is so hard to keep your eyes on God when dealing with a bully, but that is where we HAVE to keep our eyes. We have to keep our hearts open to God because God is bigger than any situation, any problem and any difficulty we may encounter. If you continue to read in this chapter, you will see Peter is actually able to sleep. He sleeps soundly during all these things. That’s peace.

Whatever you are going through today will not be what you are going through in a year. This is a season in your life, and seasons come and go. Hang on. It will go. It always does.

And BTW (by the way), Herod gets his in the end. Read the rest of Acts 12. He dies a pretty gruesome death.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Knock,knock, knock, Rhoda. Knock, knock, knock, Rhoda

Rapid knock, knock, knock. Followed by a character saying, Penny. Rapid knock, knock, knock. Penny. Rapid knock, knock, knock. Penny. There’s a commercial for a tv show called the Big Bang Theory, and I have to tell you when I read Acts 12:13-17, I immediately thought of that commercial. You see, Peter has just been led past soldiers at the prison in which he was being held. The gate to the city had opened ON-ITS-OWN! The angel led him out of the inner city and then disappeared. Basically, Peter is on the lam. He is running from the law. It’s the time when you want to stay on the low down. Peter comes to his senses and realizes what the Lord has done, and he goes to the home where they were praying for him. He’s standing at the gate knocking and calling to be let in when the servant girl Rhoda goes to the courtyard, hears Peter’s voice and loses all common sense. Instead of letting him in, she runs back into the house to tell the others that Peter was at the gate. When I blogged on this story before I see Gone with the Wind and the young African American crying, I don’t know nothing about birthin’ no babies. I hear Rhoda telling the others, Brother Peter is here! Brother Peter is here! No one believes her. Verse 16 starts out, But Peter kept knocking…hence the introduction sentence of this paragraph. Finally the believers get up and go to the gate to hush Rhoda up. You see, they thought it was Peter’s ghost which meant they probably thought he was dead. However, when they finally let him in, can you imagine the excitement!? But once again, Peter is on the low down. He doesn’t need a big ruckus nor does he want a big ruckus.

Peter leaves a message for Jesus' half brother James who heads the church in Jerusalem. He wants this group of believers to tell his brother everything that has happened. Do you think the word spread like wildfire about what God had done for Peter? What an amazing story! When you read this story, did you put yourself in Peter’s sandals? The life of a believer is not a dull life in the least.

Those guards that have been shackled to Peter were put to death. I sure do hope they listened to Peter’s message of repenting when they had the opportunity. Those who had inflicted pain and stress upon Peter got theirs in the end. Herod put the guards to death, and Herod got struck by an angel of the Lord and got worms. The worms ate him up right there, and he died. Sometimes when we take matter into our own hands, we take it out of God’s hands. As you can see, God is quite creative and can inflict more pain than you ever can. It may not be immediately, but I promise we will all be judged and get what’s coming to us. Praise the Lord, I can claim the blood of Christ to cover my sins. This doesn’t give me free reign to go do anything and everything though. How abusive would that be!

Every time I study this story I discover something more. That is one of the reason I love the Word of God. What have you unearthed in your study of Acts? It is a diamond-rich, gold-packed book in the Bible. I suggest you start diggin’.