No Room For Fear

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

Like many churches across the world, the one of which I am member is complying with the COVID-19 emergency ordinances and is streaming Sunday worship service and midweek Bible Study.  I’ve been a member roughly a year and am always grateful to the Lord for leading me there; there has been so much growth, it’s almost unreal.  And so, it was a little hard to accept that we can’t worship and fellowship together in person.  I felt some type of way, as the younger crowds say (or used to; I’m at the point now where keeping up with the jargon and slang just isn’t me…i.e., I’m getting old, fam).  But here I was early Sunday morning, following the usual routine as if I was going to church: listening to the Bible in One Year for the day, washing up, getting dressed, and making breakfast. 

The additional step was preparing the TV room with sorting, cleaning, setting up the electronics to watch the service on the big screen, and most importantly praying.  I prayed for the Holy Spirit to manifest in my home, to remove all things and thoughts that were not of Him, to empty me of self so that I can be refilled and refueled.  I prayed to be freed to worship like King David.

Finally, I looked at the yorkie terrier who’s been my roommate for the past few months and told him, “Okay, dude.  There’s gonna be some praisin’, singin’, and shoutin’ this morning.  Don’t freak out, just let me be.”  He gave me the canine equivalent of the People’s Eyebrow for you Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fans, and padded away.

10am, worship began and my prayer was answered: the Holy Spirit showed up and moved throughout my home.  I sang with the praise team, shouted at that good Word brought by the senior pastor.  I had what we Southerners call “Chuch”, minus the “r”.

In truth the Holy Spirit has been showing up for the past couple of weeks, whether at home, on the way to and from work, to and from church.  He has shown up in the daily devotional and scripture readings, the verse of the day, and in songs from one of the Pandora gospel stations.  He has shown up during death of loved ones, bringing the peace and acceptance that the Lord is sovereign no matter what.  There has been this pull towards Him without real thought.  Perhaps this was all in preparation for yesterday, to give to God sacrifices of praise, song, prayer, and service.  I don’t really know.  But one thing I do know is this:

There was no room for fear. 

There is no room for fear.

The mechanics of this virus and how to treat it are still being sorted out, people’s livelihoods have changed, and we find ourselves at crossroads we never thought we’d reach.  Panic and possibly greed have driven some to buy things in bulk that cannot be used or consumed in one or two years, leaving others at risk to go without.  Healthcare workers, providers, and first responders are doing their absolute best to help everyone, with resources and energy depleting.  Leadership in government appears to rely more on its own human (i.e., limited) understanding instead of getting real with God and asking Him for help.

Still, there is no room for fear.

I say this because I am just crazy enough to believe the Word of God –both literal and incarnate–when it says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.”

I’ve underlined the “do not” portions because these are the Lord’s instructions, not suggestions or recommendations.  Through the prophet Isaiah He told Israel not to fear their return after exile and the challenges they would face, because He was them.  He was their God who worked great and awesome things throughout their history, and He would do it again.

Guess what, fam?  He’s telling you and I the same on March 23, 2020.

When we keep that fact of the universe at the forefront of our minds, that the God is with us, He who promises to strengthen and help us, there is no vacancy in our hearts for fear. 

That False Evidence Appearing Real has gotta go. 

There is only room for confidence and trust in Him.  Never forget that our God is stronger than anything anywhere at any time.  When He says He will do something, best believe He will: “…I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  That is both a promise and a testament to the Lord’s faithfulness.  And He is always faithful. 

So be encouraged and encouraging, fam.  Even in this period of social distancing and heightened safety, keep lifting those voices whether it’s Sunday morning or Friday night.  Keep sending up the prayers and praise, for the Lord will shower down blessings of healing and recovery for us all.  Like Elevation Collective sings in their song, “Do It Again”:

Your promise still stands

Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness

I’m still in Your hands

This is my confidence, You’ve never failed

Your promise still stands

Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness

I’m still in Your hands

This is my confidence, You’ve never failed me yet!

You’ve never failed me yet….”

Prayer: Dear Lord, I’ve seen You move, and I know You will do it again.  I pray that You keep on, Lord, and see us through.  Amen.

Under His Shadow

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Considering our world today, this week’s thought is on Psalm 91, one of the most powerful and comforting songs in the word of God.  Despite what we are all going through with COVID-19 and its ramifications, I believe the Lord’s shadow is more than enough to cover us from this noisome pestilence.  I know He is Jehovah Shammah, The Lord is There, and is with us every day.  He will not abandon because He loves us, because He is Love.  Because of this, my encouragement to you is to:

Trust that the shadow of Jehovah Nissi, the Lord Is My Banner– comprised of his provision, protection, and prevention – is so broad to deflect the arrows of panic, misinformation, and fear and the reactions they induce from us. 

Be confident that God’s faithfulness is unfailing: it is the shield and rampart that defend us against the attacks of the enemy on our bodies, minds, and hearts.

Declare with the boldness of the saints of old that “The Lord is my refuge”, not could or may be our refuge, our shelter.  No, He IS, ongoing without pause. 

Praise El Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts, with the highest praise because He commands His angels to guard us in our going out and coming in, and to lift us up from harm. 

Shout glory and honor unto Jehovah Rapha, The Lord That Heals, for the healing that is coming for us all. 

Thank Him for His promises to rescue and deliver us, because we know His name.  Jehovah Jireh, The Lord Will Provide, will send it without question, without fail.

Be assured that God has not left us or forsaken us.  He is El Elyon, the Most High God that moves on the behalf of His children.  And do believe He is moving on time.

This week and the weeks and months to come, let’s all read Psalm 91 everyday, speaking the Lord’s truth and power into the atmosphere.  Let’s gather under the shadow of the Almighty God as one body of many parts, trusting Him to be all that we know Him to be:

Deliverer.

Savior.

Healer.

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for this song that like Your Word has withstood the test of time and provides comfort in these uncertain times.  Please let your healing waters flow upon this earth like a flood, restoring health of the body, mind, and, heart.  I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Amen.

Good Thoughts

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:8-9

(Note: First off, I owe you an apology for the irregular postings these past few weeks.  It was definitely not the intent and I am very sorry, fam.  But after this week we’ll back to Sunday evening updates.  Just had to get that out there.)

A couple of years ago while I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I stumbled across a picture of a glass jar filled with scraps of paper.  It wasn’t anything fancy, just your standard mason jar, but it was the caption above it that caught my attention.  The author of the post (I wish I can remember who it was!) suggested that at the end of each day, we should write down on a piece of paper one good thing that happened.  Whether it be finding a $5 bill on the ground, completing a task at work, exercising, or even having a pleasant conversation with a stranger, we should write it down.  At the end of the year, every piece is removed from the jar, and we should read aloud every good thing that occurred.  “That’s a good idea,” I remember thinking, and started doing that in September 2018.  I admit that I didn’t stick with it and didn’t have very many noted things on December 31.

“No worries, I’ll try again in 2019,” I encouraged myself.

I didn’t fare much better, because…life, stress…”adulting”.  But, on December 31, 2019, I sat on my bedroom floor, poured out what I had collected and read every piece out loud.  I smiled and chuckled as I remembered every moment that led up to the one good thing.  Quiet reflection happened a lot, too, followed by tears of gratitude to the Lord.  Through all of the highs and lows in our standard 24-hour period, there was always at least one event worthy of thanks and praise.  Even if it was something like, “I didn’t go off on this person today” (not saying there was a paper slip with this, but…well, anyway), or “I completed repainting the bathroom today and didn’t mess it up”, it was a positive experience that had to be noted, a positive experience of peace.

So, I tried it again on January 1, 2020, and this is what my jar looks like (with a few missing days):

The “Good” Jar

This activity made me think of this week’s Scripture because let’s be honest, Fam, we all could do with some positive thinking.  Through our disruptive seasons, endurance trials, and the like, it is important to focus on “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable”.  Paul instructed his readers to do this and instructs us, too. 

Now being the nerd that I am, I searched for the healthy benefits of positive thinking, which may include the following:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

I underlined the word “may” above because 1) that’s how the author of the source link wrote it, and 2) because these bullet points could very well not be realized without the guarantee from verse 9 –that God’s peace will be with us when we follow Paul’s lead.  It’s interesting how we sometimes forget this fact, but the Lord’s presence and His power make the difference every time

Correction, it’s not “interesting”: it’s the human condition predisposed to initially focus on any and everything but God, especially during the bad times.  So much thought, energy, and emotions are consumed over planned do-overs and reactions, the “I wish he/she would try me again, because I’m the right one on the wrong day” attitude.  Or if we’re not reciting the “wish” creed, we’re going extreme research/NCIS/forensic files, analyzing the negative moments and intentions until we think we’re down to the last atomic particle. 

PSA, fam: We ain’t Gibbs from NCIS or Grissom from CSI.  We can’t analyze every single thing, and I’m totally including myself.  😉

Operating in this mode, there’s little room to remember the positive moments and offer up a “Thank You, Lord”.  There’s little room to use four muscles to smile, because we’re too busy straining forty-two muscles to frown.  Yet there’s plenty of room for spiking blood pressure, restless nights, and stress eating.

But when we’ve exhausted ourselves near the point of no return, and the Enemy’s trick of distracting us to call on the name of the Lord falters, look Who’s right there ready to do what He does best?

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24

“And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,” – Ephesians 4:23

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” – Colossians 3:15

There can be no greater comfort than knowing the Word of God alone is so powerful to calm a stressed and agitated mind with reminders like these and similar verses.  It is a miracle, really, how one positive thought, one good, righteous deed, can cancel out every moment of a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”  And it is on us to recondition our mindset to capture that moment and give the Lord thanks and praise.  In times like these, we need to seek and appreciate every miracle we can get.

So, here’s my challenge to you, fam: starting tomorrow, get a jar, tear up some paper or use Post-Its, and before you go to bed right down one good thing that happened.  And watch God’s peace at work.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we thank You and bless You for the little miracles each day that make us smile, lighten our hearts, and calm our minds.  Guide us always to see the good—Your good—at work in all things.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Ultimate BFF

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

This week’s inspiration stems from a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with a friend.  We go back to 2005, when we were both working in the same department.  We met while trying to put up a hanging folder rack on a cubicle; between the years of degrees and previous work experience, you would think the both of us could have figured it out.  That rack gave us the blues, Fam, until we finally realized it was missing some key hardware pieces.

Engineers…gotta love us.

But from that, a friendship was born that is still going on and strong.  We’ve laughed together, cried together, ranted like Yosemite Sam and then some together.  He is my “brother from another mother”, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.  

God has gifted me with other friends, three who are like my brother and are part of my core, the “circle of four”.  Dating back to college in one case, work in another, and an online writing group for the third, these women and men are my go-to’s for prayer, advice, laughter, crying shoulders, and classic venting sessions.  I look at them and all the years we’ve known each other, and I’m reminded of the theme song from “The Golden Girls” (yes, I’m dating myself and I don’t care.  Y’all know that show was and still is hilarious.  I’m pretty sure some of you have a Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia, or Rose in your crew, too):

Thank you for being a friend / traveled down the road and back again / Your heart is true / You’re a pal and a confidant /
And if you threw a party / Invited everyone you knew / You would see the biggest gift would be from me / And the card attached would say /
Thank you for being a friend‘”

I am forever grateful to the Lord for our paths crossing, and our backgrounds not being so different that true bonds of friendship — of kinship — couldn’t be formed.  And I can confidently say that we are lifetime friends; they couldn’t get rid of me even if they tried.  😉

When the bond of friendship is true and strong, there is no judgment or condemnation.  There is love at all times, like today’s verse says, a love that won’t enable us to do what we know is wrong and harmful.  Friends- especially the life-timers- don’t hype each other up to fail and fall.  They give us the proverbial (and maybe even literal) knock upside the head when we’re being total numb chucks about a situation, a person, or our own selves.  They don’t rejoice and tear us down when we ignore their advice and jump feet first into some good old foolishness.  They pull us back and give us the “business” (i.e., fusses like an old school grandmother with the classic “I told you so!”), but also helps us straighten what we’ve messed up.  Friends are always ready to fight our battles with us, to stand in the gap and agree that no weapon formed against us (or them) will prosper.

Lord, thank You for the gift that are friends.  I call them a gift because in this world, they are not promised, and should be treated as the treasures they are.  😊

Still, as much as they are a gifted treasure, we can’t forget there is one Friend we all have.  Whether it’s early in the morning or late in the midnight hour, He is always available; He neither slumbers nor sleeps.  He’s better than Dr. Frasier Crane from that old TV show, in that we can find no better listener.  He heals our bodies and mends our hearts like the surgeon of all surgeons.  He doesn’t judge, doesn’t talk about us behind our backs.  Rather, He is with the Father constantly interceding for us when the Accuser brings up every selfish and sinful thing we’ve done, said, or even thought.  He’s there each time, saying “My blood covered that.”

His presence is so comforting when we’re grieving, or feeling lonely, or exhausted.  He doesn’t allow us to think poorly of ourselves and sends us confirmation of who we are to Him and the Father through the Word, song, inspirational thought, and of course our friends.

He gives us joy in all situations (something that forever baffles the Enemy) and demonstrates His power and authority to work all things for our good.

As for fighting our battles for us, lookee here: nobody gets down like our Friend.  He can just speak and demons tremble, devils flee.  He tells us to “be still and know” that the Lord is God, and makes our enemies behave.  For example, think of that co-worker or supervisor who seemed set against you and Who you represent.  How many of us can testify to the Lord’s goodness of fixing that work situation and changing people’s hearts and minds when we called on Him?  Or what about the problem that seemed to pass from generation to generation- how many can testify to how He broke that curse and set people free?  Show of hands, please! 😊

He conquered death and the grave by sacrificing His life for us, so we all should know He can conquer anything.  Is there anything too hard for Him?

Of course, I’m talking about Jesus Christ, the One who knows and loves us anyway.  He’s traveled down the road with us and back again, never giving up on us.  He is our eternity Friend, who truly loves at all times, and our elder Brother who stands up for us to protect us.  He does more than we can ever think or imagine.

He is the ultimate BFF; now who can beat that?

Prayer: Lord, thank You for gifting us with friends.  Thank You even more for the ultimate Friend in Jesus Christ.  May we treat all of them as the treasures they are.  Amen.

Love U

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your words are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” – Psalm 139:13-15

This week’s thought was originally planned for last week, but when the Lord leads in a different direction, I’ve learned to readjust and go with it.  He’s pretty good and flipping schedules like that.  😊  But here we are, ready to think on that four-letter L-word.  Tina asked what it had to do with her situation, the Beatles sang it couldn’t be bought, and Mary J said she was searching for a real one (and boy did she say it!).

But that’s not the type of love I’m talking about.  Out of the 7 types of love we can experience in our lifetime, the one that I’m led to share with you is philautia, or self-love.  More akin to this (on the positive side) is self-esteem, self-worth.  Some of the other forms of love have their challenges, yes, especially outside God’s design for us as women and men.  We can do some real block-headed things for the passionate and playful love types.  And we are the first to rush back to the Lord when the haze clears and the mess is exposed…well, most of us do that.  There are some stubborn and stiff-necked folks who keep trying their way the same way and expect different results.

Still, self-love is important to understand, accept, and take care of.  It requires our mental, emotional, and spiritual state to be healthy so it can be healthy.  When it is operating well, the fiery darts of doubt and fear are extinguished long before they hit their mark.  The cannon-fire of unworthiness is deflected by the love in the ultimate defensive shield, our heavenly Father.  Excuse the poor grammar but can’t nobody tell us nothin’ when we walk and live in the knowledge of who and WHOSE we are.

Fam, this type of love is not dependent on how another person makes us feel special, wanted, or adored.  It is not dependent on any external thing, be it situation or people.  Philautia is about understanding and appreciating that God took the time out of all the awesome things He has done to create you and me.  From the mole on my right cheek to the freckles on your nose; from his short waves to her long, straight hair; from our various abilities, talents, and gifts to our personalities and interesting little quirks- we are all fearfully and wonderfully made.

When we are at our best, we are wonderfully made.  When we are at our worst, we are still wonderfully made.  The Lord stitched every facet of our being in a way that makes us unique and yet perfectly fit in the amazing mosaic that is His family.  Considering this fact, indulging the Enemy’s ploys to make us doubt our worth as defined by the Lord is not what we do.  Accepting his lies of not being intelligent, attractive, and just plain awesome is not what we do.  Thinking and speaking less of our literal God-made selves—and allowing others to do the same—is not what we do. 

Please excuse me if I’m coming across a little annoyed, but Satan has jerked us around long enough on this thing.  This really needs to be said.

Right now, someone is reading this posting, ensnared in a situation that drains the essence of who they really are and what they were created to become.  Now is the time to speak life and love into them. 

Now is the time to tell that man, “The Lord knew you when you were in your mother’s womb.  He knows the good plans He has for you and hating yourself is not one of them.  Be confident and assured that you have value, that you have worth.”

Now is the time to tell that woman, “Every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord.  He made no mistake in creating you.  Belittling yourself is not part of His design.  Stand tall and walk boldly into your season.  You’ve got this, because He’s got you.”

Now is the time to tell our own selves that the God who is loves and treasures us like no other.  Our worth was determined by Him long ago, and there is no changing that fact today, tomorrow, or any point in the future.  We matter to the Lord.

And that’s what matters.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for Your transcending, transforming love.  Thank You for creating us a little lower than the angels.  Remind us now and always of how much You value us, so that we live that truth each day.  Amen.

A Good Report

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?…Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:1, 4-5

This month, the thought was going to be about love and its various forms, or rather that was my plan.  Instead, the Lord’s inspiration led towards a different thought which touches very close to home.  A couple of weeks ago I received news about an uncle being in the hospital and the doctors telling him they had done all they could do, that he didn’t have much time left.  He went in weak and frail, not having much of an appetite.  But hearing these words from people who spent years learning the human body and the ways to heal its injuries and illnesses, did something to my uncle.  While he lay in that hospital bed with family nearby and on the phone, I am told he opened his eyes and looked directly at his attending physician with a determined look.  The strong faith he has in God shined bright from that point, giving him strength to eat and drink, to get out of bed.  He has told people more than once that he’s not worried because he knows the Lord’s got him.

My uncle has let people know just Whose report he believes.

This brought to mind another family member who had received a similar “bad” report, my mother.  February will mark the ninth year since she underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor.  What started out as migraines in the couple of months before became fainting spells and then a diagnosis in January 2011 that rocked our family: type 4 brain cancer.  Well, it rocked most of our family except the one who received such devastating news.  During that time, I witnessed a demonstration of faith that was so inspiring and humbling.  Mom let her doctor know that THE doctor who has never lost a patient would have the final say, that it was His report she chose to believe.  This woman prayed, immersed herself in the Word, and thanked God in advance for healing her.  All the while, I was afraid to ask God on her behalf because I didn’t know what to do if His answer would have been “No.”  Any other time I prayed, His answer was either a “Yes” or “Not yet”.  But I couldn’t shake the fear that this would be the first time for a “No”.  I wasn’t ready for that, as if anyone really could be.

Praise be to God for proving that fear to be “False Evidence Appearing Real”.

She and Dad drove to Dallas-Fort Worth for her surgery with a doctor who prayed with them (something we didn’t expect), which was on a Monday.  By the end of that week, he drove her back to our hometown for a brief stay in therapy, followed by in-home sessions.  The tumor was taken, analyzed, and the initial bad report we had received was changed: type 4 became a variant type 3 which had a treatment plan with a high success rate.  Mom went through chemotherapy and radiation throughout the rest of that year, and the brain cancer has not returned to this day.  I will admit that there have been other health issues since, the most recent being breast cancer.  But this time, instead of being afraid I declared Whose report I would believe, that if the Lord brought her through it before then He could surely do it again.

Looking at these moments in my family’s history, I love how God stepped in and confounded human thought and knowledge, how He demonstrated that He would always be the one with the final say.  I appreciate how the blood of Jesus which was shed on a cross has never-ending power to heal what some may say can’t be healed.  I am inspired how the words of Jesus can speak life (look at the son of the widow of Nain, Jairus’ daughter, and Lazarus) into dire or final situations, and stir up a determined faith to witness the power of God manifested in the lives of His people.  And I love how that same faith spreads to others, moving them to share what they saw God do with people who are looking for the same thing, a “Yes” to a difficult situation.

Right now that person may be reading this blog, wondering what to do, say, think, or even feel after receiving a bad report.  Don’t let fear overtake you, silencing you from reaching out to God.  Instead, speak out loud what you have seen Him do for you and for others, and ask Him to do it again.  Study and meditate on His life giving, lifesaving Word (see list of verses below) and declare that by His stripes you are healed. 

 “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?…”  Stick with the Lord’s good report. He has never been wrong yet.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your good and perfect report.  Thank You for having the final say in our lives.  I ask that You touch and heal the readers of this blog from what may be affecting them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Let Your power flow through them in a mighty way, so that they can further testify to how great and awesome You are.  I ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Suggested healing scriptures (see more at Bible Study Tools):

Jeremiah 17:14

James 5:14-15

Isaiah 41:10

Jeremiah 30:17

Isaiah 38:16-17

Philippians 4:19

Revelation 21:4

James 5:6

Psalm 30:2

Psalm 103:2-4

Walking in the New, Part 3: Spirit

“You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  (Ephesians 4:22-24)

If the human soul is the seat of our will and mind, then the final part of this month’s series – the spirit – is the real person, the core of who we are.  Borrowing from a book I once read, it’s who we are when no one else is looking.  Remove the layers of relationships, education, finances, and careers, and the spirit is what’s left.  And just like our hearts and minds, if this ain’t right, we’re in for some bad storms on the sea of life.  Perhaps this is why David asked God to renew the right spirit within him after petitioning for a clean heart.

Of course, the question must be asked: “What does walking in the new spirit mean?”  A closer look at what makes up our human spirit may provide the answer.  See, the components of this key part of our existence include intellect, emotions, fears, passions, creativity, awareness, insight, understanding and judgment.  Walking in the new spirit means all of these are in alignment with God.  It means putting off the old emotions, fears, and passions that we chased into a spiritual ditch, and putting on a new desire to chase after God’s good and perfect will manifested in His entire creation.  It means shedding the limiting view of “What’s in it for me?”, and developing a panoramic, Kingdom-building perspective.  It means opening our entire selves to God’s limitless possibilities. 

The things or people that would trigger us into a Yosemite Sam fit, or a classic Daffy Duck meltdown get at most a shrug with an “Ok, but God’s still in control and will have the final say.” 

Yosemite Sam (Looney Tunes)
Daffy Duck (Looney Tunes)

The other things that would leave us perplexed become crystal clear, as now we are better able to discern what is in or out of the Lord’s will.  Our insight and understanding dramatically improve as we learn to pause, take a step back, and pray to respond in a God-led, Holy Spirit-filled manner.

By walking in the new spirit, it is as the apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And who doesn’t like something new?

As with the heart and mind, all of this is a continuous process, and the possibility of challenges exists.  It requires us to work at it and be intentional as we do, even when it seems more than we can handle.  But –and thank God for this interjection—the Lord assures us through His Word and proven record that all things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.  Any setback is only a set up for a comeback, and that’s some pretty good news to me.

So, let’s keep pressing, keep walking into this phase of our lives with a new spirit, mind, and heart to see all of the wonderful things that the Lord has in store for us.

Let’s keep walking in the new.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for this past month, for revealing Your will and way in our lives.  Please continue to lead and guide us in this new season to stay on course and keep You first in the process.  Also, Father, please be of a special comfort to the families of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, the other passengers, and the crew during their time of need.  Strengthen them, Lord, in the days to come.  Bless them directly and indirectly through family, friends, and others.  I ask this in Jesus’ perfect name.  Amen.

Walking in the New, Part 2: Mind

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2

I think Pat Benatar got it wrong in the 80’s.  Though it can feel like it at times, love is not the battlefield (side note- I do really like that song): the mind is.  Without question it is the control center for our attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and actions.  If this ain’t right along with the content and character of the heart, we are in for a world of trouble, Fam.  Perhaps this is why it’s referenced or alluded to in at least 150 different verses in God’s Holy Word.  I’m talking about:

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” (Matthew 22:37)

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Or what about the lyrics to the following Gospel song?

“Woke up this mornin’ with my mind, my mind was stayed on Jesus…”

“Walkin’ and talkin’ with my mind, my mind was stayed on Jesus…”

“Singin’ and prayin’ with my mind, mind was stayed on Jesus…”

(Here is my favorite line because it is absolutely true):

“Ain’t no harm to keep your mind, stayed on Jesus…

And each verse ends with the highest praise we can ever give to our God: “Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah.”

When our minds are fixed on something, heaven help anyone who stumbles across our path; we can be doggedly determined to get whatever it is we want.  Think about our childhood, and the cookies we wanted were contained and out of reach.  How creative (and daredevil) were we to push the chair into position and climb until we stretched on our tip-toes on the countertop?  Remember how our mother or father yelled with fear at seeing us in that dangerous position, and how we turned to look at them with a “What are you yelling for?” expression? 

In that state, everything seems to fade in the background- our physical environment, guidelines, morals, consequences and implications.  Other things that drift from our periphery while we seek a goal can be our fears, doubts, and perceived lack of capability.  Our minds are laser-beam focused on just that one thing, that one person, or that one situation that we absolutely have to have.  Depending on what it is and our motive for wanting it, our focus can be askew and leave us vulnerable to – you guessed it – mental and spiritual attacks.  The progress in our process (ie, relationship with the Lord) can slow down, and even make a U-turn back to the patterns of this world.  These patterns, or the chicken coops from the thought on “Get Free, Be Free”, put us at a disadvantage on the battlefield of our minds, in that we stop using the armor of God like we’re supposed to.  10,000 arrows fly at us and blot out the sun as in the movie “300”, and here we are standing with our shields down, helmets off, and swords on the ground, staring at a flower.

Crazy, right?  And yet this is what we sometimes do!

Our focus on the wrong thing or motive can cause selective memory issues, and we forget “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).  We temporarily don’t know how to fight the Enemy, or even worse that we are in a fight.  And that rascal is tricky enough to confuse us into fighting against ourselves, and even God.  Fam, every day and all day, our adversary prowls to see who he can kill, steal, or destroy.  He seeks to snatch us out of the protective, preventive, and provisional hands of the Lord.

The Enemy’s mind is fixed.  On.  Us.  And that’s why it’s crucial that we get and keep our minds fixed.  On.  Jesus.

“Well that’s all fine and good, Ms. Writer, but exactly how do we do that?  How do we achieve victory on the battlefield of our minds?  How are we to be transformed and renewed?” someone may ask.

We do this by understanding that transformation requires a radical and universal change through new habits.  And these aren’t truly new, but they can be to us.  Below are just a few:

  1.  Reading and studying the Word of God daily — To elaborate just a bit, this isn’t a task for speed-reading purposes, or half listening to while doing something else just to mark it complete.  To study is to meditate, to intentionally ask the Lord, “What is this supposed to say to me, Lord?  How do I take Your Word and apply it to my life now?”  It’s about actively waiting for His answer and putting it into continuous action.
  2. Surrounding ourselves with like-minded people who will hold us accountable — Having a “Hype Man” or “Hype Woman” ain’t a good thing, Fam.  They can hinder far more than they can help, even if that is not their intent.  We should not be afraid to be called to the carpet, per se, if our focus has shifted in a negative, harmful direction.  And we need people who are not afraid to check us (with love, of course) and help re-center our focus.
  3. Pray, pray, and pray: Scripture encourages and instructs us to pray in and out of season, when we’re walking on sunshine and when nobody knows the trouble we’ve seen.  It is the primary (not the only) form of communication and communion we have with God, and it is two-way.  It’s not about telling the Lord what we want.  It’s about Him telling us what He wants both from and for us.  It’s not always asking Him for the tangible.  At the right times, it’s about asking for the intangible, like peace of mind, and purpose.  And still there are times when praying to God has no request other than “I just want to hear what You have to say, Lord.”  We just need to be still and know that the Lord is God.

There are other new good habits to deploy that I haven’t mentioned.  But practicing these three until they become true second nature helps keep us on the higher ground mentally and daily transformed to battle the Enemy on the Lord’s terms.  God’s ways are guaranteed to work since He’s already won and as we are His children whom He loves, by default we are victorious, too.  Even if there seems to be a lull in the attacks to push us back to who and how we used to be, we are to practice, practice, and practice so that we don’t.

Hmm…looks like the Enemy is the one with the selective memory, because he keeps fighting a losing battle.  What do you think?

Prayer: Lord, we thank You and bless You for transforming and renewing our minds.  Please help us stay on track, on the high ground, so that when the Enemy comes with his usual tactics, we molly-wop him with Your Word, like-minded people, prayer, and other good habits that make him beat a hasty retreat.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Walking in the New, Part 1: Heart

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 11:19

Welcome to a new year, fam!  Some of you may already be on Day 6 of your resolutions, not missing a beat.  Some may have reached Day 2, shrugged your shoulders and said, “Welp, I tried.”  If you’re like me, you haven’t even bothered with a new resolution list because you still are working on the stuff from the previous two or three years.  (My memory can be like a steel trap at times, so I know what I’ve still got to do.  😉)  With the annual push for seemingly new everything, I asked the Lord about what to share not just this week, but for the entire month.  And true to form, He led to me to the thought of “Walking in the New”.  Yeah, the English may not be 100% correct, but follow me on this journey anyway. 

Instead of focusing on the external per tradition – physical fitness, debt reduction, employing wise spending habits to save up for that trip to Belize, starting a new hobby, etc—for the month of January the perspective will be on the internal elements of heart, mind, and spirit.  With countless Scriptures speaking to them, it makes sense to begin 2020 with these on the right foot.  For if one of the three is off, it will not matter what external goals we set these next 12 months.  We would ultimately be living out of alignment and just like a car operating in that same condition for too long, something in our lives will break down.

So, the heart…yeah, lots of things issue from this life-pumping muscle (Proverbs 4:23).  One could look to my favorite Biblical figure (besides Jesus Christ) and his Psalm 51 to see a sample of one of these “things”.  Though he knowingly and willingly messed up in a big way, King David was man enough to acknowledge his guilt when the prophet Nathan called him out.  And instead of dwelling in the shame of his Michael Corleone setup to get another man’s wife and cover up the affair, the shepherd boy-turned warrior-turned king cried to God and said so perfectly in verse 10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”  Jesse’s youngest son had a change of heart, repented of his sin, and began “walking in the new”, the next phase of his relationship with God.  Even when the consequences of his sin were meted out, David did not backslide as our more seasoned saints would say.  He stuck with the Lord who made him king of a chosen people.

Interesting how nearly 400 years later, the Lord offered similar words to His chosen, exiled people through the prophet Ezekiel: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”  Unlike David, both Israel and Judah didn’t really bother trying to cover up all the dirt they had done, the idolatry and outright rebellion against the God who brought their ancestors out of slavery.  Generation after generation, monarch after monarch, they weren’t even trying to get it right.  Yet just like God, He offered a way out which showed His commitment to the covenant He made with Abraham.  Instead of sending complete destruction, He preserved a remnant away from Zion and promised that they would return home.  And He kept that promise, too.

A heart that is clean and free of our mistakes, undivided in loyalty and truth, and flesh (i.e., alive) instead of stone (i.e., dead), one that is filled with the love of the Lord and from which life flows to the people around us – this I believe is one of the top three goals for every child of God.  Or rather, I believe it should be.  2019, 2018, 2017…1986, even, are done and over with.  The stuff that bound, conflicted, and hardened our hearts is done and over with.  It’s 2020, fam, and God has given us another chance to see that He is doing a new thing, and to join Him wholeheartedly.  Imagine all the wonderful things that can be accomplished, the amazing blessings that can shower upon us and those connected to us, when the Lord takes our imperfect hearts and fixes them right up.  Imagine the ease of experiencing His peace that surpasses all understanding, guarding our hearts in all situations.  Imagine people walking past us and wondering, “What is it about that person that is radiating such positivity, such joy?”

Imagine “Walking in the New” with a heart overflowing with unconditional love all year long. 

Wouldn’t that be something?

Prayer: Lord, thank You for a new start, a new chance to become closer with You.  Please protect the hearts of Your children as we go along life’s highway and show us the opportunities to invite others to walk in the New with You.  Give us the courage to speak the Good News so that they can come to know You as we do.  Amen.

Endure

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”  (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

The previous posts don’t really show it, but 2019 has been a rough year.  I’m reminded of the phrase, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through.”  And it’s true, I don’t.  Internally, this little old heart gained some new scars big and small, a few real fresh and still hurting.  Some friendships ran their course, family relationships imploded, job turnovers kept me in constant search-mode, new friendships faced spiritual challenges, infernal plumbing and A/C issues flared up at the worst times – geez, it looks like I must have done something wrong to have caught all this drama, huh?

But not so: this year hasn’t been about punishment and consequences.  I am convinced that 2019 was the culmination of the last 3 years and the lesson/character trait that the Lord wanted me to get: endurance.  It’s an easier thing to say than to develop, yet it is required of me as a child of God.  Why required?  Because endurance is the fruit of hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3).  And if there’s one thing believers must have with faith and love, it is hope.  It is a faith-building block for sure, but Lord have mercy!  The process to get it is a challenge.  And when we add our human condition to it – the struggle to forgive and forget, the temptation to hold on to the pain, the habit of feeling sorry for ourselves—y’all, this endurance business can be too much.

Yet, I’m still here.  Heart scarred, spirit bruised, mind weary, I…no, we are still here.  Not because we’re too stubborn to throw in the towel, though that may be true, but because of the Holy Spirit dwelling on the inside.  When things went south, He was always there to keep us from falling.  The enemy threw his best every time, an uppercut here and a right hook there, and the Spirit of God pushed us back up.  When we were clinging on to the ropes, He was coaching us from the corner to get out of there and keep going.  Imagine if you will that old school clown toy with the heavy bottom.  Every time we hit it, the toy would lean backwards without hitting the ground.  No matter how hard the blow, the toy would never fall flat and stay down.  It kept bouncing back.

Bozo Bop Bag

That something on the inside, its base of sand, enabled the toy to endure our wild child punches.  Occasionally, it would land a blow of its own, right in the face.  Likewise, the Holy Spirit is at the core of who we are, holding us up when the enemy and life try desperately to knock us down.  When we want to quit, the Lord won’t let us.  He will not let you, me, or any of His children fall.  He is our guardian who will not sleep (Psalm 121:3-4).

We lift our heads and cry out for relief, and He delivers through His word: “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  We lean heavily on Him to weep, and He answers with “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).  We close our weary eyes and listen for Him to say he “…will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).  Believe me when I say:

We are not crushed.

We are not abandoned.

We are not destroyed.

We endure.

Our faith and relationship with God are not in vain, and never will be.  He gifted us with the “bounce back”, His Holy Spirit, to go into this new year with hope that our latter days will be better than our former days.  He promised us this, and if there’s one thing I know and you should, too, is that God always keeps His promises.

Prayer: Lord, 2019 did a number on Your children.  We are still trying to make sense of it, honestly.  But for every sad and dark moment, You gave us light and love in unexpected ways.  You gave us energy to persevere, to endure.  Surely, we don’t look like what we’ve been through, and it’s all because of Your grace, power, and might.  I pray, Father, that in 2020 we receive “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3).

We are ready.

Amen.