Captain in Chains…

A sea captain was charged with treason and was chained to the mast, where he would remain for the rest of the voyage. He was replaced by a new captain who took over the helm. As the ship sailed on, the chained captain continued to bark out orders to the men, just as he had always done. Some of the crew members were inclined to follow his orders because that’s what they had always done. When the chained captain shouted, they instinctively sprang into action, obeying the commands of a condemned man.

The other men knew they were no longer under the old captain’s authority. Their allegiance belonged to the new captain, so they responded only to his commands. These sailors knew the chained captain was sentenced to die when the ship reached port; his power was broken. For the rest of the crossing, the condemned captain could do nothing more than spew empty threats.

Satan is chained and he is scheduled for execution, and our new Captain is at the helm of our ship. Our allegiance is to our Captain who broke the chains that bound us because he has set us free to live life the way we were designed to live it. When God determines it’s over, the chained captain will be silenced, and we will enter into the eternal life for which we are being prepared. In the meantime, there is no need to listen to the terminally condemned captain, let alone do what he says.

If you have not committed your life to God, you are being brainwashed by the diabolical god of this world. I realize that sounds harsh and possibly judgmental, but I can’t think of a reason to soften the reality of something so eternally important. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). If this is true for you, you are going through the motions of life, but you are being held captive by the condemned captain, marching to his orders.

Unfortunately, those of us Jesus ransomed often behave as if we are still under Satan’s spell. Satan’s best shot with a true Christ follower is to create the illusion of power and control in his or her life. He even masquerades as a lion. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NLT). But Jesus is the true Lion—the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5). Satan can only pretend to be a lion. Does Satan’s roar bring to mind the bellows of the chained sea captain?

~excerpt from Holy Libido

Hot buttons!

Our second nature came equipped with hot buttons. We all have them. When these buttons are pressed, an eruption of indignation lets loose. It’s an explosion of renegade neurons firing wildly in our heads. All of our buttons are linked to our self-serving or self-protective tendencies in one way or another. They remind us of the ways we’re conformed to the world.

One of these standard equipment buttons is the button of our rights. We have the right to be happy. We have the right to be loved and respected. We have the right to a short line at the grocery store. We have the right to an unobstructed traffic lane. We have the right to spout our indignant opinion. And we have the right to be wrong, without having to admit we’re wrong. We even have the right to protect our rights. When this hair-trigger button is pressed and our rights are “violated,” we can go from zero to livid—from sane to insane—in a neurological flash.

As Christ followers, our rights become secondary to what is right from God’s perspective. In fact, we need seriously to question whether or not we still have any rights at all. Based on God’s Word, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). So, in essence, I’m a dead man. What rights does a dead man have?

When I look at situations from God’s vantage point, I learn that my most godly right is the right to waive my rights. Or possibly that should read the right to waive my phantom rights. The default mode of my second nature is to stake my claim, defend my ground, and set the world straight, but when I am in the flow of God’s way, these things no longer make sense.

Satan wants to bind us up in our phantom rights—the rights we no longer have. He smirks at the things we cling to, like our grudge-encased right to judge, for instance. Or even our right to be hurt, or offended. We are tempted to react according to the gospel of our own selfish ambitions. After all, it’s our second nature.

Every day, all day long, we are confronted with decision points…will I do what I feel like doing, or will I submit my way to the guidance of God’s Spirit at work within me? These opportunities are forks in our path, and we will choose to go one way or the other.

Are We Christian Atheists?

“Love keeps no record of wrong. Bitterness keeps a detailed record.” (From the Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel)

The Christian Atheist is a book about people who claim to believe in God but live as if they don’t. If we are flying by the seat of our emotions, being critical of others in a demeaning and derogatory way (including our President Obama…ouch!), can we truly claim we are being sourced by the Spirit of God?

There is a vast difference between being judgmental toward a person and being discerning about his or her ways. We must be discerning, but at the final judgment, neither you nor I will be wearing the robe.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” ~ Colossians 4.6

But this is for Christians…not those who do not claim to have a relationship with God. If it’s not by our actions and the words we speak, how can others know where our allegiance belongs? How will people know how grateful we are for the amazing grace of God in our lives if we’re not living as “Christian” Christians?

Are we who we claim to be? Or are we Christian atheists? I think it’s a question we must be prepared to answer.

Sweet Release…

Sorrow swept over me as I rode along the Rio Grande Bosque trail…overwhelming sorrow. As I pedaled along, with tears streaming down my face, gripping the handlebars, I was thankful I had sunglasses on as I rode past oncoming cyclists. I was pouring out my heart to God…not audibly, but from the inside out…heart to heart. He heard my cry, and He accompanied me over the next sixteen miles.

I glanced occasionally to the heavens, and saw cranes and geese fly overhead. Along the river bank rabbits and lizards scurried among the brush. The wind whispered through the cottonwood trees, rustling the leaves as they glistened in the sun’s rays. The wonders of His creation caused my heart to melt into His. I stopped from time to time to wipe my tears and blow my nose, and I was still…pausing to see if He would speak to me. But there was silence. Not a single word….only His presence.

My husband was with me on the bike ride, but kept a respectful distance up ahead, knowing that at that moment I needed time alone with my First Love, my Papa God. Rod is amazing to me in that way. He knows that when my heart is heavy and aches in a way that he cannot soothe, my First Love must come to my rescue. He allows me the necessary time to be with my heavenly Daddy.

By now you may be wondering…why such a heavy heart? What was it that caused such sorrow?  I woke up that morning reflecting on the lives of some of my loved ones…those that are hurting, confused, conflicted…some who may be doubting God’s love for them, bound by regrets and perhaps even shame that keeps them from turning back to the only One who can restore them and make things right again. I thought of the miracle of life. I marveled at how Papa God had gifted a dear friend’s son with a second chance in the midst of an accident that seemed too horrific for anyone to survive. He was given another opportunity to turn back to Jesus.

Earlier that morning I had taken my requests to the cross and laid them down, knowing my Savior would attend to each one.  I searched Scripture, and waited…wondering if the heaviness in my heart would lift as it typically does after I spend time with Him.  But this time it didn’t. The sorrow in my heart remained.

As soon as I started pedaling along on my bike ride, my thoughts led me back…back to my conversation with Papa, and I picked up where we had left off. Once again, I shared with Him the desires of my heart…the requests for His healing power, for His strength, His courage, and His wisdom in all the circumstances I was pleading for. And once again, I sensed His presence.

It was in that moment that the memories of my own life journey began to resurface. As I pedaled along the trail…each memory replayed in my mind. Papa God is so smart! He knew this particular morning that it would be necessary for me to remember my own past. I recalled the choices of my youth and the ways that I too had strayed. I recalled the painful consequences of bad choices and the ripple effect my sin had on my loved ones. My scars surfaced one by one…all for a purpose…a cleansing purpose. A redemptive purpose.

Moments like these are some of the most precious to me.  I embraced the imagery in my mind as I pedaled along the Bosque trail. I imagined the tears of sorrow my Papa God sheds for me when I stumble and fall…and when I dismiss His voice when He says, “Choose my way, stay focused, for I know the plans I have for you and they are good!”  I imagined how much His heart must hurt each time I disappoint Him…when I choose my own selfish desires over His leading. And I remembered His outstretched arms each time I’ve turned back, and how He has embraced my ‘coming home’…back in stride in my walk with Him.

Like a floodgate opening, my tears began to flow. I thanked Him for my beautiful scars…for the memories of the past that helped lead me back to a heart of compassion…His compassion. He reminded me once again that each person He has placed in my life is a precious daughter or son to Him. He loves them more than I ever could! I must never stand in judgment, and I must never stop praying!  My assignment each day is to stand in the gap for each daughter, each son, each grandchild, each friend…just as my Savior does for me!

Perhaps it’s time to recognize that what we value most is what we need to entrust to Papa God even more. Be encouraged…trust Him today with all your cares and allow His peace to guard your heart! For me, it’s a time of sweet surrender…a time of sweet release!  ~ IN HIS STRONG LOVE – rose

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:6-7

A Leap of Faith…

Christ followers accept the Father’s teaching with the same unquestioning trust a child displays when he believes what he’s told by his dad. My son Derick illustrated this principle to me in a way that has always stuck in my mind. I was attending Purdue University at the time, and I lived with my family in a mobile home park near the campus in West Lafayette. Whenever I got an opportunity, I enjoyed hanging out with my young sons, Derick and Aaron.

During one these special times we were wobbling a Frisbee back and forth between us when somehow it landed on the top of the trailer. So I did what any safety-conscious dad would do. Rather than boosting Aaron up, who was lighter, I decided on Derick, because he was older—about five years old. Aaron was two, and my better judgment told me he was a tad too young to be on the roof alone.

As I boosted Derick up onto the roof to retrieve the Frisbee, I reminded him to be careful. That’s what good dads do. I didn’t want him to learn from experience what it felt like to fall from that height. Derick tossed the Frisbee to me, and then asked how he should get down. I told him to jump. As soon as the words—or rather word—left my lips, he was in the air, headed in my direction.

I didn’t think about it at the time, but afterward I wondered how much more free-flowing my life would be if I was as trusting of my heavenly Daddy as Derick was of me at that moment. At the time I was just focused on catching him. He was in the air, and the only thing between him and the concrete pad was me.

There’s no need for a Christ follower with the mind of a trusting child to understand why it’s safe to trust. We just do. And we don’t need evidence to prove what God has told us. Our faith is never bolstered by studies and discoveries that prove by science that the impossible may be explained by scientific knowledge.

(Excerpt from Holy Libido)

“Filling the Gap”…with God?

There is a longing—or angst—in the heart of every believer that desires a deeper, more intimate walk with God. And to experience this relationship with God, we must learn to “be still.” Learning the art of being still is indeed a daily discipline; a concentrated effort on our part to wait patiently for Him to speak.

For the most part, we rush into our day with so much on our minds–things to do, people to see, places to go, errands to run. Our lives are made up of deadlines, one right after another…or so we believe.

When we’re honest, we admit we often create “a gap of time” in our daily routine for God…the Creator of all that exists….including time itself! We proudly make a check-mark in the box when we’ve spent the 15-30 minutes or so we think we can spare for God. Wow…how arrogantly we’ve twisted our concept of time with Him!

And so we spend time running through our list of requests…for our kids, for our friends… telling God what we need, what we want…talking, talking, talking! Then we close with, “in Jesus name, Amen.” Bam…done! Devotional time is over! Put the check mark in the box. We said what we came to say, and we get up and walk away…on to the next “thing” on our list. Now do we feel better? Ouch!

So what’s wrong with this picture? Let me be clear…there is nothing wrong with sharing the desires of our heart with our Papa God. He loves it when we pour our heart out to Him. What’s wrong is that more often than not we leave our heavenly Father’s presence before we’ve given Him an opportunity to respond. We close His Holy Word as soon as we’ve completed the “prescribed verses,” according to our reading plan.  Our thoughts wander on ahead…on to the next task. And when we get up and walk away too soon, we miss the opportunity to hear what our Lord and Savior—our  Almighty Father—wants to speak into our hearts.

In order to discern the voice of God we must practice the art of being still. Papa God longs to breathe Himself into our souls. He longs to reawaken our spiritual senses. He is more than able to prepare us for our daily assignments…more than able to gift us with the desires of our hearts…gifts that are in accordance with His will.

But He doesn’t want to stop there. God wants to do LIFE with us! He wants to be present in our everyday walk…to lift us up when we stumble and fall…to be there for the “high-fives” of our successes (yes…Papa God loves to high-five me:). He wants to walk with us…all the way through our day…gifting us with an inner peace as we close our weary eyes at the end of another day.

So the next time you think you must just “get through” your quiet time, remember this: Pause…and hear His voice! Be still and listen to what He has to say. Then get on with your day…you and God. Invite Him along…and let Him be your driver! You’ll be glad you did! ~ IN HIS STRONG LOVE ~ rose

“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand….pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given – and you will receive even more.” Mark 4:23-24

My Hollyhock…

I love Hollyhocks! They remind me of growing up on the farm near Otisville, Michigan. They were one of two of my favorite flowers that bloomed near the old farmhouse. My other favorite flower was the Lily of the Valley.

The Hollyhock in the picture was a gift from Rose. It’s just one of many thoughtful things she has done for me, and this gift is one of my very favorites! From what I recall, I only mentioned to Rose in passing that I liked Hollyhocks. Within a couple of days, she gave me one in a small pot.

Rose’s spontaneous thoughtfulness reminds me of the importance of paying attention to the people we love and care about so we will recognize opportunities to please them with a special gift.

I’m not a good gift buyer. Shopping for a random gift makes me sweat—literally. I confess it’s something that makes me feel inept, and a little silly. How hard can it be to buy a gift? But the entire time I’m shopping, my wheels are spinning, and I’m trying to picture that special someone opening first one gift, then another, and trying to imagine the look on their face. That’s why I love giving gift cards and cash.

That is, unless I know of something I’m sure they would like. As much as I dislike random gift shopping, I love to buy gifts that I know will have special meaning to the special people in my life. I know Rose felt something very similar when she gifted me with the precious baby Hollyhock.

So…who do you know that might enjoy a special gift…today? What is their “Hollyhock?” May God help us to be aware of an opportunity to be a blessing to someone today.

Splashingly silly…

This past summer our family camped in Colorado at Vallecito Lake. It’s a place with a couple of features I miss from my home state of Michigan: water, and the color green. My wife Rose and I were hiking along the water’s edge with our son Ryan and his wife Melissa, and our grandkids, Landyn and Braylin. As we were walking along, Landyn, who was 3 years old, tripped and fell into the water. The scene that immediately followed would have gone viral on YouTube if someone had captured it with a camera.

Melissa spun 180 degrees – why, I do not know – and dove into the water backwards–arched back and all. She grabbed little Landyn and clung to him with all her might, determined to save him from drowning. Here’s the good part: We were standing in water that did not quite come up to my knees. As Melissa clung to Landyn, she was actually holding him under the water. I reached down and rescued him from his mother’s grip, and she stood up. She was frantically flailing in the water because she thought Landyn was in over his head.

The whole scene was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen. But then when I started thinking about the lesson I could learn from this experience, I realized I’ve done the same thing, only not in the water. How often do we flail around in our despair because of something we believe that is not true? In most instances, it’s our fear of circumstances, not the circumstances themselves, that take us under.

We all make decisions everyday about what we will choose to believe. The world around us is saturated with lies about what really matters in life. And lies about God, and lies that mock our need to surrender our way for his way. Unless we are standing on the firm foundation of God’s eternal promises, we will waste too much time flailing in the knee-deep water of our own silly imagination. Let this be a “stand up” day!

“In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” ~ 1 Peter 5:10

The “Unconverted Conscience”

What is an “unconverted conscience”…for a believer? It is the suppression of that “still small voice” that is trying to push through the barrier of our self-centered conclusions and choices. When we are honest with ourselves, we admit that when we come to a crossroad in our life, more often than not we tend to make decisions based on our past experiences, rather than taking the time to ask God for His wisdom. We all do it. It’s called our ‘default mode’… the way of our fallen nature.

The Holy Spirit has a way of speaking to us that is unquestionable! Consider the simple verse in Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The truth of this verse would resonate in our hearts as a command rather than a suggestion if we would simply stop dead in our tracks when we are about to take a left turn, instead of a right. He is ready and willing to lead us, out from the control of the residue of our fallen nature. He declares in Jeremiah 29:22 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This is His bold promise to you and me! He WILL, because HE IS the “Great I AM”….able to convert our conscience to be in tune with HIS calling…His perfect will.

So how do we discern the voice of God from the clamoring noise of the world? Perhaps it is time to begin our prayer time with Psalm 139:23-25 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” In order to experience a conversion of our conscience, we must be willing to allow Him to purge the impurities that cloud our perspective…even when the process hurts.

Let His mercy and grace find a resting place in your mind and heart today! Experience a “conscience conversion” that will pave the way for a life with purpose! He longs for relationship and desires obedience! So take time today to BE STILL…and take a moment to listen…really listen!  “…acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.”  ~1 Chronicles 28:9 ~ In His Strong Love ~ rose

Ahhh…the Mountains!

I suppose to some folks, the way Rose and I spent our time together this past weekend might seem a bit strange. After we set up our 5th wheel in the Jemez Mountains, we did absolutely nothing. Nothing, that is, except read and write.

We all have things we enjoy doing…things we gravitate toward when we find some time that has not been committed elsewhere. “Free time,” as we like to call it. Rose and I head for the mountains. Some of you can relate when I tell you the mountains were calling us, and we were excited to answer. The first time Rose brought me to the mountains to hike, a part of me felt as if I had come home. The splendor and majesty is difficult to explain to someone who has not experienced it firsthand.

So as I sit here in the shade of the canopy, writing my thoughts, Rose is sitting next to me clicking away on her laptop too. We pause every now and then to talk about some of the things we’re thinking, and the things we’re writing. And we like to pause just to thank God for the opportunity to enjoy each other—and him—in this way. Times such as these recharge our spirits, enabling us to continue on with the assignments we’ve been given.

I hope you have an opportunity sometime soon to find a special place where you can spend some quiet time, where God can speak to you, and you can hear his voice. And possibly you will want to take a moment to write about the things he’s showing you and teaching you. Rose and I always look forward to hearing about the things God is doing in your life. Thank you for sharing in this journey with us.

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