Glimpses or Wellspring

Sunrise on the farm

One of our security cameras caught a picture of the sunrise as Mandee left to take Mia to school yesterday. I was talking with a vendor at work who commented on how beautiful it is here where we live, and I had to agree. We have beautiful sunrises, beautiful mountain views, and we see surprises of new beauty from nature every day. We also saw a new resident on the farm that we have named “Charlie”, or “Chuck” for short. We were sitting at the kitchen table eating lunch, and Mandee exclaimed, “What is that?! Is that an animal?” So I grabbed my “good camera” and snapped on a zoom lens and was able to get a quick picture of Charlie.

Charlie the Woodchuck

Since my wife was getting ready and putting on her makeup this morning, I read our family devotional with Mia, Olive, Pompom, and I all snuggled up in our bed. And as I began reading, Mandee chuckled to herself about the fact that it started out “Man looks at the outward appearance but I look at the heart” while she was putting on her makeup.

Jesus Always – Feb 26

But this morning’s devotional wasn’t just about the outward display of God’s handiwork, or just about glimpses of His glory in nature, or just about warnings about letting ourselves get hung up on outward appearances.

No, the most important piece of the devotion that we needed to hear was to “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” And in case we were too sleepy eyed, or distracted, or foolish to realize that was the most important thing — like a good teacher laying hints during review for a test — the Word of God clearly emphasizes this by starting out “Above all else”.

A Wellspring in Nature

“Above all else” seems pretty important, don’t you think?

My mom and I talked about the state of the church in America on the phone last night, and how instead of ” guarding their own hearts” and insisting it is a “wellspring of life” — it seems like much of mainstream conservatism has become complacent and primarily focused on telling people what they should be “afraid of”, what they should be “offended by”, what they should be “loudly opposed to”. Outward appearance and loud demonstration “against things” seems to have grown to be the keynote for too many religious discussions — while too few focus on asking:

“What is the source of this fear? What is flooding fear into our hearts, and therefore flooding words of fear from our mouths and fearful posts from our social media influence?”

“What is the source of this offense? What is flooding offense into our hearts,  and therefore flooding words of fear from our mouths and offended and offensive posts in our social media influence?”

“What is the source of this opposition and divisiveness? What is flooding divisiveness into our hearts,  and therefore flooding words of exclusivity from our mouths and divisive posts in our social media influence?”

Polluted Waters

Some might say with pointed fingers that “What THEY are doing is causing us to act this way!” But Jesus explains how defilement happens quite clearly:

After He called the people to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen [carefully] to Me, all of you, [hear] and understand [what I am saying]: there is nothing outside a man [such as food] which by going into him can defile him [morally or spiritually]; but the things which come out of [the heart of] a man are what defile and dishonor him. [ If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” ] When Jesus had left the crowd and gone into the house, His disciples asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, “Are you, too, so foolish and lacking in understanding? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile and dishonor him, since it does not enter his heart, but [only] his stomach, and [from there it] is eliminated?” ( By this, He declared all foods ceremonially clean.) And He said, “Whatever comes from [the heart of] a man, that is what defiles and dishonors him. For from within, [that is] out the heart of men, come base and malevolent thoughts and schemes, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, acts of greed and covetousness, wickedness, deceit, unrestrained conduct, envy and jealousy, slander and profanity, arrogance and self-righteousness and foolishness (poor judgment). All these evil things [schemes and desires] come from within and defile and dishonor the man.”
Mark 7:14‭-‬23 AMP

Yes, He is talking about physical food not defiling us, but we “consume” more from television and the Internet these days than we could ever consume with our mouths to fill our newly expanded quarantine bellies. Do we fear that TV show or website or vaccine or implant because we think that it might “defile us” and that it is the “mark of the beast”? Or is the real fear that the real source of the “wellspring of our heart” might be those things Jesus described as the true mark of the beast, the true means of discerning whose are children of a very different Father. Those things that rise up from within the ravenous wolves to be visible beyond the white washed outward imitation of sheep.

Let’s contrast what comes out of the heart of men:

out the heart of men, come base and malevolent thoughts and schemes, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, acts of greed and covetousness, wickedness, deceit, unrestrained conduct, envy and jealousy, slander and profanity, arrogance and self-righteousness and foolishness (poor judgment).” – Mark 7:

Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” – Galatians 5:19‭-‬21 AMP

To what springs forth from the Holy Spirit of God:

But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. We must not become conceited, challenging or provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:22‭-‬26 AMP

First, we must ask, “Does His pure life flow through me, or is my wellspring from something polluted and impure?”

If you see the need for change… for a new wellspring inside, beloved…

Do you believe with your heart in Christ as Savior, and confess your faith in Jesus openly with your life?

because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. For the Scripture says, “W hoever believes in H im [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations].”
Romans 10:9‭-‬11 AM

Do you ask Him for the Holy Spirit, this wellspring of life, an abundant supply of His character, nature, and presence in your life?

So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!
Luke 11:9‭-‬13 AMP

Thank you, Lord, for being our wellspring. Amen.

Realize His Presence

There is a difference that I’ve noticed between intimate time in His presence versus trying to “free the mind from worries and anxieties”, or “imagining Jesus by my side and talking to Him”, or “going through the motions of praying”.

What I’ve found is that when I’ve fallen into only meditating and listening, or only imagining and speaking, or only walking through the tradition and practice — that the intimacy is missing in my interactions with the Lord.

Do we truly “realize His presence” here with us — or does He feel far from us?

Are we “naked before God” by confessing our weaknesses and giving Him glory by acknowledging our need for Him to fight our battles for us — or focusing more on how we think our own minds should be clean and we’re wanting to be stronger and more positive in our thoughts?

Are we soaking in the presence of God as we savor our time with Him — or are we doing what we know we’re supposed to do and saying the things we’ve been taught to say?

Are we aware of His actual presence right here with us — or are we trying to imagine God strong enough with our minds so that we can put on a pretty face and ignore our feelings?

We might say these are subtle differences if we were a scientist or mathematician observing and asking questions to record measurements about the physical process itself — but there is an Almighty difference in what is happening spiritually.

Prayer is not something done alone “inside our own minds” — but is intimacy with Almighty God.

Faith is not us being strong minded enough to “put on a happy face” in spite of feelings and circumstances and to not hurt or not be unhappy or only think positively — but Faith is a choice to be honest and vulnerable about our brokenness, our weaknesses, and our need for God to fight our battles, coupled with our trust that He will because He said He will.

In today’s world where there is so much new aged philosophy and self help and religious practice around us to distract us from a personal and intimate relationship with our God — sometimes it helps to remember, to realize who is right beside us, who is with us.

Why would a man turn to pictures on his phone, or flirtations with another, or fantasizing on his own if his wonderful, beautiful, passionate wife is laying beside him? He either doesn’t want intimacy with her, or he doesn’t believe she wants intimacy with him!

And this is how we are with God! We trade actual intimacy with God — for self manufactured imaginations, coping mechanisms, and substitutions.

And don’t feel particularly low about it if you can see it yourself, friend. I said “we” because this is common to man. We have all gone astray and forgotten at times how sweet, beautiful, loving and amazing the Lord is to us. But it is time to return to intimacy with the Lord. It is time to be vulnerable and real. It is time to pray, realizing we are in the presence of God. Amen.

For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord , ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11‭-‬13 AMP

One thing I have asked of the Lord , and that I will seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, To gaze upon the beauty [the delightful loveliness and majestic grandeur] of the Lord And to meditate in His temple.
Psalms 27:4 AMP

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead), behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will take hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, And the night will be the only light around me,” Even the darkness is not dark to You and conceals nothing from You, But the night shines as bright as the day; Darkness and light are alike to You. For You formed my innermost parts; You knit me [together] in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was being formed in secret, And intricately and skillfully formed [as if embroidered with many colors] in the depths of the earth. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were appointed for me, When as yet there was not one of them [even taking shape]. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I could count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.
Psalms 139:7‭-‬18 AMP

How are we Repaid? How are we Repaying?

Now David had said, “Surely in vain I have protected and guarded all that this man has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missing of all that belonged to him; and he has repaid me evil for good.
1 Samuel 25:21‭ AMP

We can probably all think of someone in our lives who has “repaid us evil for good“.

Read full chapter here: https://www.bible.com/bible/116/1SA.25.NLT

Those of us who have been beaten down by people who have repaid evil for good in our lives — might have learned over time the same initial self-defensive response as David. David proclaimed that he would go and destroy them all. Almost a “kill them all and let God sort them out” mentality.  This man, David, a man described in the Bible as “being a man after God’s own heart” — set his mind upon the utter destruction of this fool and everything associated with him. I can understand this perspective.

There are people who I feel have wronged me so badly that I could see justice in God crushing and humiliating them, in their businesses and pursuits being dashed upon the rocks, and in their wicked ways being made an example for others to avoid. But I am reminded of what Proverbs tells us on this topic of our enemies falling or stumbling:

Do not rejoice and gloat when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad [in self-righteousness] when he stumbles, Or the Lord will see your gloating and be displeased, And turn His anger away from your enemy.
Proverbs 24:17‭-‬18 AMP

In this story in 1 Samuel 25, neither Nabal, the harsh and evil fool in this story, nor David, the angry and offended warrior king, are the ones that we want to model when it comes to initial responses and reactions. But if you’ve ever felt hurt or betrayed, you can probably at least understand where they were both coming from.

Nabal is thinking to himself,  “Why should I help this person, let him help himself” like we might say when we encounter someone with a request, a need, or a challenge that “isn’t my problem”. Like my reaction just today towards the homeless guy that approached me in downtown Greenville as I bought my Chickfila sandwich for lunch — when I put my headphones back on my ears quickly, just in case he was going to hit me up for some money. Albeit, David was no complete stranger to Nabal, so this was a bit different — but I can put myself in the shoes of this foolish man pretty easily.

And here David was, mourning the death of Samuel out in the wilderness with his men,  being a blessing to Nabal’s men and offering them protection, and he extended a blessing to Nabal:

and this is what you shall say, ‘ Have a long life! Peace be to you, and peace to your house, and peace to all that you have.
1 Samuel 25:6 AMP

Nabal and his men were celebrating a festive day, the time of shearing, and David simply asked if Nabal might show his men favor and let them “have some of the leftovers”.

Ask your young men and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your sight [and be well-treated], for we have come on a good (festive) day. Please, give whatever you find at hand to your servants and to your son David.’ 
1 Samuel 25:8 AMP

Matthew Henry’s commentary has to say of verse 8:

Riches make men look great in the eye of the world; but to one that takes right views, Nabal looked very mean. He had no honour or honesty; he was churlish, cross, and ill-humoured; evil in his doings, hard and oppressive; a man that cared not what fraud and violence he used in getting and saving. What little reason have we to value the wealth of this world, when so great a churl as Nabal abounds, and so good a man as David suffers want!

I have recently encountered a man in India who runs an orphanage,  who messages me most days through Facebook Messenger with blessings:

Having seen similar circumstances in the past,  and having discovered some to be scam artists panhandling for money by targeting Christians in private over the Internet,  I wanted to validate this need, when the inevitable request to send money came. So I checked with a friend who had confirmed that the need in this instance was indeed real. I was immediately reminded of “heroes” like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, George Mueller, and Harriet Tubman (read more: http://www.linnysaunders.com/2017/11/heroes-2.html ).

Day after day, he blesses me with his messages, and many days,  I have ignored them — expecting they were just contrivances meant to open conversations so that he can ask for money. The name Nabal means “fool”, and when I look at how I many times respond to those in need around me,  I feel quite foolish. Yes, I sometimes help, but even then,  I “feel good about myself” for having helped someone in need — it becomes a “big deal” in my own mind that I helped someone else. How foolish is that!!! God has given to me abundantly with excess, and I cling to it with closed fist as if it isn’t meant for me to be a blessing to others! As if helping and loving and serving those in need is supposed to be some unique/odd occasion instead of my very way of consistently doing life.

Lord, forgive me for seeing things wrongly and seeing enemies — either from the perspective of Nabal or David.

So let’s look at the Peacemaker in this story. Her name is Abigail. She is Nabal’s wife and when she sees what her foolish husband,  Nabal, has done,  she “hurries” to make peace. It is pointed out in both verses 18 and again in verse 23 that she did not hesitate, but she hurried to meet the need and to make peace. And in verse 24, she even asks that the blame fall on her. She then proceeds to bless David and his men,  not just with physical provision, but with a proclamation of spiritual blessing upon them in verses 28-31. Abigail shines like a bright light in this moment and reminds me of another one willing to take blame for our sin, willing to intercede on our behalf, willing to provide provision without question or delay to meet the need, willing to be a peacemaker — His name is Jesus,  and He is clearly Lord in this story.

We can read on to see how Abigail was freed by the Lord from her foolish husband,  and how she was blessed greatly. I wonder how many opportunities we might miss to be the blessing for the glory of God because we delay, we procrastinate, we avoid — instead of hurrying to be the peacemaker, to meet the need, to be the light of love in the midst of dark and challenging situations?

If you would like to run towards a need,  I encourage you to reach out to someone in need. Maybe check out this man who has contacted me and communicated his need to pray for them and see how you might be a blessing: https://www.facebook.com/100024177901842/posts/856366498512606/?app=fbl

Maybe consider donating to help him fill the need: https://paypal.me/MallikRao?locale.x=en_GB

I cannot speak to all of the particulars of this man’s orphanage or ministry. But he repeatedly offers me words of encouragement and an opportunity to be a blessing for the glory of God. Abigail didn’t run hurriedly towards the need because she thought she would eventually be blessed as David’s wife — she saw the need was urgent and she interceded. The blessing was “added to her” because she was “seeking first God’s way”.

“Therefore I tell you, stop being worried or anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted) about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow [seed] nor reap [the harvest] nor gather [the crops] into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying can add one hour to [the length of] his life? And why are you worried about clothes? See how the lilies and wildflowers of the field grow; they do not labor nor do they spin [wool to make clothing], yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory and splendor dressed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive and green today and tomorrow is [cut and] thrown [as fuel] into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Therefore do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted), saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ For the [pagan] Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; [but do not worry,] for your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:25‭-‬34 AMP

https://bible.com/bible/1588/mat.6.25-34.AMP

“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever]. “Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted]. “Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied. “Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God. “Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favor] are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they will [express His character and] be called the sons of God. “Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever]. “Blessed [morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness] are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of [your association with] Me. Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:3‭-‬12 AMP

And Your godly ones will bless You

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works [the entirety of things created]. All Your works shall give thanks to You and praise You, O Lord , And Your godly ones will bless You.
Psalms 145:8‭-‬10 AMP

All Your works shall give thanks to You and praise You, O Lord , And Your godly ones will bless You.

The distinction at the end of verse 10 stirs us. There are two categories mentioned:

  • All your works
  • Your godly ones

There is a distinction made between the first and the last — that all of His works will give Him thanks and praise Him — but that His godly ones will bless Him.

I pray that we will give Him thanks and praise Him, but not be satisfied with only that. I don’t even pay that we would give Him thanks and praise and “want to” bles Him. We need to pay that we will be a blessing to the Lord, AND we need to live our lives to be a blessing to the Lord — because there is a great distinction between the two.

May our lives bear fruit, actions, deeds, service — not just words and songs — but let our lives be a sweet song lifted to you in the language of love.

…let our lives be a sweet song lifted to you in the language of love.

“Beware of the false prophets, [teachers] who come to you dressed as sheep [appearing gentle and innocent], but inwardly are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them [that is, by their contrived doctrine and self-focus]. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the unhealthy tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruit you will recognize them [as false prophets]. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from M e [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’

Therefore, by their fruit you will recognize them [as false prophets]. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.

So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish (stupid) man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great and complete was its fall.”
Matthew 7:15‭-‬27 AMP

So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock.

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory and majesty and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him [for judgment]; and He will separate them from one another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right [the place of honor], and the goats on His left [the place of rejection]. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father [you favored of God, appointed to eternal salvation], inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me [with help and ministering care]; I was in prison, and you came to Me [ignoring personal danger].’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.’ “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Leave Me, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (demons); for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me [with help and ministering care].’ Then they also [in their turn] will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or as a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will reply to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did not do it for one of the least of these [my followers], you did not do it for Me.’ Then these [unbelieving people] will go away into eternal (unending) punishment, but those who are righteous and in right standing with God [will go, by His remarkable grace] into eternal (unending) life.”
Matthew 25:31‭-‬46 AMP

The King will answer and say to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.’

God is not a Liar

God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good and fulfill it?
Numbers 23:19 AMP

At times, especially during times of difficult challenges, I have found myself tempted to doubt that God is good and has good in store for me. But every single time, He has proven to be faithful and shown me in due time that the storm wasn’t there to bury me, but to clear the way for what He had in store for me.

However, even though it is true, telling someone “God has good in store for you” or “God is faithful” in the middle of a storm where it feels, looks, tastes, and seems like they are about to drown may not be comforting — in fact, it may be like pouring salt in the wound. It may sound like “fix it” advice when they need love delivered in a different language than just a spoken truth.

God provides love in so many more ways to us than just written words in a book. So if I follow His pattern, I will love in more ways than just quoting words from the book or sharing lessons online.

Help me, Lord, to be faithful when the orphans communicate a need to free the purse strings. Help me, Lord, when the widows need a comforting hug and a warm place to sleep and food on their plate to appreciate the opportunity. Help me, Lord, to see a friend in need of something I have and to be open handed. Help me, Lord, to find a friend in need of the type of healing that only you can bring and to be prayerful. Help ne, Lord, to love and be faithful like you are faithful to me all my days. And I begin to realize that when my time is spent being faithful and loving to others — it is such a blessed opportunity. Then, even the sting of betrayal or abandonment but others doesn’t leave me with less love to pour out, because you are my source of love to give. And the depths of your love for me to tap into and receive in order to give never runs out. Amen.

Shifts from the Expected Patterns

You don’t have to look that closely to find my faults. Dig below surface level and you’ll find dirt. But I hope that you might also catch an occassional sweet fruit and find some valuable treasure — that just don’t make much sense growing in such a dark and dirty place as all of my weaknesses.

If we want to see each other’s value, we have to get past criticism, judgement, bitterness, hatred, jealousy, and all kinds of things that divide us.

When we give up our preconceived notions of what we think others “should look like” or “should act like” — we might just get past all of this loneliness and isolation — and get to know people and be introduced to their treasure.

I don’t care about your dirt. I’d rather you be honest with me and us both make mistakes, learn from them, and grow — than put on some fake attempt to seem “good enough” in the eyes of others.

You’ve made mistakes? Me too.

You’ve done stupid stuff? Me too.

You’ve said, “I’ll never do that again. And found yourself right back in the same place again?” Yep, I know the feeling.

I’m not perfect. You aren’t perfect.
I’m not even “good”. And neither are you.

If that offends you (for me to say that you aren’t good and you aren’t perfect), I’m sorry, but we just aren’t. A “good” person would be slow to anger, forgiving, and could easily laugh off a silly untrue statement — but the guilty “doth protest too much” about what is true but uncomfortable.

I say all of this to encourage you to not be so hard on yourself — shame is not the answer.

And don’t be so hard on others — judgement isn’t the answer either.

But what if you’re in a pattern of being hard on yourself and hard on others?

What if that pattern became a habit, and grew into a practice, and grew from there into a way of seeing everything around you, and grew from there into the way that you influenced everything and everyone around you?

I think we can easily imagine where that pattern would lead.

What about a pattern of forgiveness and encouragement?

What if that pattern grew in the exact same way — became a habit, and grew into a practice, and grew from there into a way of seeing everything around you, and grew from there into the way that you influenced everything and everyone around you?

Sounds hard?

How can a person change their pattern — change what feels like it might be an essential part of who they are?

Ask someone who you can see who is peculiar and has a uniquely different pattern than the norm. When I ask someone who is genuinely, authentically marching to that peculiarly different pattern — I don’t get an answer from them that is pride over what one might think is “good” or shame over what is “bad”. I always find someone who has found hope beyond themselves — and that neither the dirt nor the treasure in themselves is really of any great consequence to them. They aren’t striving to be perfect, nor are the lamenting over their imperfections. They aren’t religious zealots and hypocrites — nor are they self-absorbed, narcissist criminals.

Their eyes aren’t focused on themselves, and they aren’t focused on us either. The see something beyond what most see, like their eyes are opened in a different way to different things.

The Bible describes this as “setting your eyes upon the heavenly things”. Jesus Christ healed blind men when he walked this world in the flesh. But even greater than opening physical eyes to see, He opens blind spiritual eyes to see things clearly and truly — which makes it a bit peculiar.

Imagine if no one had the sense of smell and taste, but you miraculously were given this sense of smell and taste. Imagine things that do not look appealing to the eyes, or feel appealing to the hands, but that smell and taste so sweet. Others would avoid them and you would live them.

I understand that people can’t imagine how it could be an absolute joy to read and study the Bible, or pray, or worship — if someone had never tasted how sweet it smells and tastes, they would look at the way it looks to their eyes and feels to their hands, and they would think it is insane!

But what if your life and those around you are missing out on the sweet aroma and taste of a fruitful life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self- control? Would you be willing to ask for the sense of taste and smell to know these things are good for you and all those around you?

I believe that we can come to God and ask Him for this “peculiar, spiritual sense of taste and smell” for these “fruit of the spirit”, these “things of God” and that our pattern will shift — because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ who died and the cross and is raised to life.

If you are tired of struggling against the old patterns, I will pray with you. Just let me know.

Pray for me too?

God bless.

Confession

I have contended daily in my life with lust towards women who are not my wife, with selfish pride of myself and harmful criticism of others, with doubt that God is good and truly has good in store for me.

I confess these particular shortcomings, not because they are the only ones that I have — but because they have been like a chronic infestation of bugs that have stolen from me repeatedly — and because all my attempts at extermination have failed. I am confessing my struggle in these areas of life because these are “sin” — something that has taken a foothold in my life that does me harm and not good.

Lord, before you and before everyone, I confess that I have sinned against you, in my thoughts, in my words, in my actions, even in my inactions. I believe that you will deliver me from these things — not just from the consequences of sin, but that your Holy Spirit is freedom. I believe that I will resist evil and see it flee. I believe that I will see those things that have hindered me be laid aside. I rebuke these things in the name of Jesus Christ and declare that you, Lord, will not only fight this battle, but will slay these giants, for your glory and honor. Lord, I know that you can, and that you are able. And I’ve seen you do amazing things beyond my understanding. Even while part of my flesh screams out in rebellion, “No, don’t let him take those things from us that have been a comfort!” I know that even poison can taste sweet to the tongue in order to get at its evil intentions. Lord, it is by the shed Blood of your perfect Lamb that I am able to make such a confession and trust you fully. Amen.

Lord, thank you that we do not have to wait until we have a great fall. Lord, thank you that we do not have to only wait to repent after the consequences of our foolishness has resulted in things we cannot undo. Lord, I realize many will read this and think “I see he must have been caught in something” and misunderstand confession.

I would be tempted by my own pride and criticism of others to think the same thing, and would need to repent. So I understand.

We are loved by the Lord. Everything that He has for us is better than the things we cling to that hinder our walk with Him. Yet, we are still tempted to accept trinkets of sin in trade for the treasure of holiness. Most of us excuse these “little compromises” and we give up more and more territory in our own lives day after day until we have drifted further and further away from where our lives should be.

Confession is an opportunity to believe this — ti acknowledge ands respond to what is treasure and what is trash. To truly believe it, not just say it, not just sing about it — but to commit to it fully. Whether a man is deeply entangled in his sin and caught in the consequences, or whether he is aware of the feel of that familiar trap tugging at him again — the Lord is slow to anger and mighty to save, and He will finish the work He has begun in you.

God bless you, friends!

If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose]. If we say that we have not sinned [refusing to admit acts of sin], we make Him [out to be] a liar [by contradicting Him] and His word is not in us.
1 John 1:8‭-‬10 AMP

Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) is able to accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power].
James 5:16 AMP

My PrayerMate

Great is the Lord , and highly to be praised, And His greatness is [so vast and profound as to be] unsearchable [incomprehensible to man].
Psalms 145:3 AMP

I really enjoy the PrayerMate app. It helps me bring some order to my prayers while not just being repetitive. I can build out separate lists and tell it how many items to automatically give me from each list when I start a prayer. That way, many of your names come up.

For my lists, I start out praising God for who He is, with separate items praising:

Who He is as Father
Who He is as Son
Who He is as Holy Spirit
What He has done

Then I submit myself:

Confess who I am in Christ
Confess my sin
Pray to be granted Repentance
Surrender My Will to His Will

Then I pray your names and relationships:

My Closest Inner Circle
Extended Family
Church Family
Marketplace Relationships
Specific Unbelievers

At times, people ask for, or I feel led to specific intercessory prayer for others. I have a separate list of those names in that grouping.

Then I have groupings for:

My Walk with God
My Specific Needs
Missions/Outreach
Sharing My Testimony
A list of Biblical Prayers

I can set this app to remind me during the day to take a moment to pray. And by maintaining these lists, I can either have it automatically hand me a number of items to fit how much time I have right then for prayer — or I can drill down into a particular group and list.

Admittedly, I could be much more consistent and intentional with my prayer than I am at times. But this app really helps me with this, and when I’ve fallen out of practice, or when I’ve just been “phoning in my prayers” — I can look at the names and the needs listed and see the real hurt, challenge, and need and be prompted to truly contemplate the need, then pray for and try to help — rather than just grow cold.

I’m not sharing this to say “look how good I’m doing”. Nope, this is just an app that is helping me do what I should love you deeply enough to gladly remember to do on your behalf, to remember your needs, to remember our relationships and value them, and to remember that I can take it all to my Awesome God on your behalf.

I’m showing you my weakness. My crutch. That I need help, but that this is helping me — with organization, with access, with reminders, and with accountability.

I’m hoping that maybe someone else might find my crutch helpful, and maybe we could hobble along and encourage and pray for each other?

And most importantly, and as praising Him is first in my PrayerMate order, He is worthy of our praise. So whether it is with an app or not, let’s not miss out on our opportunity today to spend time with Him, to praise Him, and to walk with Him.

God bless.

If you want to be on my list, please just ask. I won’t even proudly say you’re already there. I’ll just be grateful that we have a relationship where we might be able to pray for each other and share something more than surface level things that are posted to Facebook. I want to love you, and prayer ands remembering the names of you and your family specifically ands regularly helps me. Thank you.

That “But Even if He Doesn’t” Kind of Trust

I’m looking at a “peculiar” type of trust today from the books of Daniel and Habakkuk. Imagine a trust that produced a “follow at all costs mentality” in people regardless of whether they got their own way or not.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.
18 BUT EVEN IF HE DOESN’T, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Daniel 3:17-18

I used the word “trust” because it doesn’t have the same religious connotations and undertones as the word “faith” — but in the context of this discussion,  we can use them both interchangeably.

I’m talking about a trust that is not about bartering and trading with some “magical genie in the sky” to do your bidding — but is about seeking to do His bidding “at all costs”.

That seems to be a radically peculiar type of trust from what life teaches us about trust when dealing with other people. To trust a normal man of flesh and blood with your absolute dedication, regardless of how he treated you in return would be both absurd and harmful — because of the abuse that usually occurs when mere men are corrupted by the lure of absolute control/power. So we can understand that absolute, unwavering trust of fallible men is “no bueno”, not good.

But when we are dealing with a holy God (who is not like men,  and who can be trusted fully) — instead of use the simple and common word “trust”, most religious folks interject the word “faith” when dealing with God because it implies a holy type of complete trust where the one being trusted is worthy of that trust. Whether or not the person has enough evidence yet to prove that God is trustworthy or not — He is trustworthy. That is who He is.

Habakkuk shares this same perspective that we can be joyful in the Lord, praise Him and trust Him regardless of our circumstances:

Though the fig tree does not blossom And there is no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive fails And the fields produce no food, Though the flock is cut off from the fold And there are no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord ; I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation!
Habakkuk 3:17‭-‬18 AMP

For someone who doesn’t believe in God, everything they know about “trust” is based on what life has taught them about people — evidence/proof. So they say to themselves, “If I can’t trust people that I can see and try to hold accountable, why in the world would I trust in something that I can’t even see or confirm?” They look for evidence and proof first, before they are willing to believe ands have faith. It is a valid, practical logical question for a man of flesh and blood — but that approach works hard against the spirit man. And that is what confounds so many.

Lord, give us spiritual eyes to see and comprehend and discern spiritual things. Help us to have an eternity mindset that is firmly founded upon your worthiness and your unfailing faithfulness. These things are true. Please help us to accept that no single moment’s snapshot of circumstance shown to us by the accuser has to allow confusion or doubt to win. It is easy for us to think of the enemy as accusing us before you each day — but most of the accusations he brings against us are true. But when the accuser brings accusations against you, Lord, when He tries to steal you from us by way of doubt, confusion, and lies — help us to know and stand firm in our faith. You are worthy. Amen.

Seeking

Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those who seek and require the Lord [as their most essential need] rejoice.
Psalms 105:3 AMP

This morning as my wife read our morning devotional aloud, and Mia and I listened — my waking mind wandered and struggled to maintain focus. As she finished and it was time for me to pray, I realized that I wasn’t sure that I had really comprehended everything that was spoken. But lyrics from a song immediately came to mind that seemed to fit so well with the parts that I had heard — and I prayed about how God is worthy always. I prayed about when our circumstances are challenging, or when we need to let go of things like fear, anxiety, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, temptations, or sin that poisons our spirit ands hinders our worship– and that anyone can easily see how those things cause hurt in the world — that time worshipping changes that. When we desire to be with the Lord and spend time with Him, He changes us in that intimate time together.

My mom shared with me yesterday how she starts each day with prayer and how some mornings it comes easy and is quick, and some mornings it is more challenging or long, but that it is always good. I shared with her that I’ve had the same experience and that I sometimes mistake “needing more time with Him” with being “my fault” or “something I’ve done” as the reason for the difference. While that can be the case, that my own self can hinder the process of prayer and worship — who is greater, and who is the solution when I need healing? JESUS!

Speaking with mom on the topic, I was reminded of a video that my pastor Mark Pangel shared of a prophet speaking “there is no wasted time, there is no wasted effort” and given instruction “clean the house” and “the lost coin will be found”. And we talked about how our limited perspective just doesn’t see things right.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10221320729860998&id=1030524632

It’s like people who foolishly say “Israel wouldn’t have had to walk through the wilderness for 40 years if they had just obeyed God” and stop there. While the facts of their statement might check out when measured by the law — and their exegesis may check all the boxes — they might have missed the whole point of God’s sovereign will and His purpose to walk close and intimate with them, and that He purposed, designed, planned and allowed that time for a specific reason.

Knowledge is easy for smart people, and rules and laws, and cause and effect makes sense to them — but wisdom is something greater than just accumulated knowledge — and wisdom begins with the fear of God.

I encourage you to watch and consider this wonderful video “He confounds the wise”:

Sometimes God has to break me out of the pattern of “just” reading comprehension, of “just” good hermeneutics, of “just” application, of “just” knowledge, of “just” understanding — to intimate time soaking in His presence.

Whether we need a quick shower to get on our way, or whether He has a long soak in the tub in store for us — whether our prayer and worship to start the morning ends up peacefully finished in our allotted timeslot — or whether it lasts through our morning commute and we must sit in our parked car for an extended time before entering our day’s responsibilities — our time is not wasted, our effort is not wasted. He is working in us to desire and to do His good pleasure, to bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, to turn graves into gardens, to turn mourning into dancing, to trade ashes for beauty. Amen.

“Graves into Gardens” is a song performed by American contemporary worship band Elevation Worship and American contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Brandon Lake which was released as the second single from their eighth live album of the same name, Graves into Gardens (2020), on August 7, 2020. The song was written by Brandon Lake, Chris Brown, Steven Furtick and Tiffany Hammer.

We sing this song because we have known the power of taking time to seek the Lord, desiring to know Him better. We’ve experienced coming freely into His presence and letting our hearts rejoice in Him regardless of the circumstances around us at the time because HE IS WORTHY OF PRAISE. when we ate standing upon the Holy Ground of genuine praise and worship, and we breathe in the rarefied air of His holiness, refusing our cars and concerns to rest in awe and wonder of the His glory, His presence envelops us like a big, spiritual hug, permeating us through and through — and He turns graves into gardens, turns mourning into dancing, gives beauty for ashes.

Thank you, Jesus!