Facing Truth

We often scurry around in life attempting to avoid truth and the painstaking decisions it asks us to make.  We dodge the truth of our past, truth of our present, and maybe even the truth of where we’re headed.  We run from the potential of having to face telling the truth, living in the truth, and walking in truth.  Somehow we’ve bought the lie that truth is something that is best kept hidden or removed, or worse yet; is subject to each person’s interpretation.  I can remember many years of not walking in truth, living in denial while the truth was never far behind me.  Even today, I continue to learn what it means to be willing to stand for truth…even if it means I stand alone, and without the approval of others.   

There’s a man whose compromise of the truth was well recorded in God’s Word, due to his effort to keep his political career intact. This man sought to appease an aggressive mob of enraged Jews and their religious leaders, who failed to recognize their long-awaited Messiah.  This man of compromise was the infamous Roman governor, Pontius Pilate of Judea, who was under the Emperor Tiberius in the New Testament (see the Gospels…Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).  He had a title that afforded him authority over maintaining Roman law and order,  as well as executing punishments for not abiding under it.  This authority should have provoked a need for discerning wisdom, but sadly; he lacked that ability.  The privileged power he held, gave him the complete freedom to end the life of someone; even if that ‘someone’ was innocent; like Jesus.  

As believers we know that all things in this life, have to pass through the sovereign hands of God. (see John 19:11)  He decides ultimately what He will allow and for the reasons He permits.  Jesus was in the Father’s will, and as such, His death had always been a part of God’s ultimate plan of redemption for mankind. (see 2 Thessalonians 2:13)  From the cradle to the cross, to a resurrecting comeback; all of it would go as the Father had ordained according to the scriptures.   

The governor, Pilate, had a misfortunate need to secure his immediate political future with Rome by manufacturing  political peace.  The peace Pilate sought was much different than the eternal peace that God was in the business of bringing through His promised Messiah.  So the inability Pilate had to stand firmly for truth, played directly into the Father’s hand.  His need for approval among people led to Pilate’s name becoming attached to the most publicized ‘wrongful death sentence’ ever to go down in history.    

You may remember in the book of John, how Jesus was dragged before Pilate to receive Roman ridicule and retribution.  The crowds and religious leaders stood in Pilate’s courtyard, demanding death for Jesus.  Not the typical death-by-stoning that was associated with Jewish law, but something more sinister that, unbeknownst to them, would further fulfill prophecy.  Because of the times in which they were living, they sought death by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans.  In order to obtain this gruesome act, it would require the Jewish leaders to meticulously twist their Messiah’s words to fit this sought out prophesied punishment.  Though the Persians had creatively come up with this sadistic form of death, it was the Romans who had perfected the art of making the process as painful and humiliating as possible (not that death by crucifixion wouldn’t hurt in the first place!) 

Pilate had hoped that by legally declaring that he saw no merit to this case against Jesus, it would rid him of any further responsibility, and he could go about his day.  He sought to discourage the religious leaders from dumping this matter in his courtyard; yet the leaders wouldn’t forgo their demands.  In search of a reprieve from this precarious situation, Pilate attempted to defer this very sticky legal matter onto others in authority, yet all his attempts failed.  No matter how far Pilate threw this explosive case in another direction, it boomeranged right back to him.  Having to render a verdict of who Jesus is, is something we too must decide, but on that day, Pilate would be called to render one.  There was simply no escaping his pre-planned appointment with the Creator that had been in the works since the beginning of time.  

Pilate didn’t solicit this particular trial into his life, and he had no desire to be thrown into the specifics of a religion he didn’t understand, nor have any interest in.   His true interest was self-preservation through political acceptance.  He was a man sandwiched between two groups of people; political Roman big-wigs that reigned over him, and the people he was forced to govern that he detested.  Both sides carried a voice and influence in his political well-being and livelihood.   

But nestled deep inside of Pilate, buried back behind his political need to keep the peace, was a man who grew increasingly torn between doing what was right for himself, and what was legally and morally right.  Pilate was at a fork-in-the-road like many of us find ourselves, and he made a wrong turn due to his inability to distinguish the truth and properly stand for it.  Pilate wavered back and forth like debri blowing along a highway on a blustery day, eventually giving way to him flippantly questioning Jesus as to what truth even was. (see John 18:38) 

His dilemma had him in search of pleasing many masters.  There was the need to appease his conscience, the earthly authority above him, and adequately sooth the rage of religious Jewish leaders and their people.  He knew if he could just somehow smooth out this tumultuous tension that transpired from a radical religious group, then he could go about his real Roman business!  He then wouldn’t have to fear the negative repercussions pertaining to his performance as a governor, making its way back to Rome. 

This internal turmoil that battled within, lent itself to the misfortune of an onslaught of physical brutality (flogging) to be inflicted bitterly upon Jesus.  Pilate simply miscalculated that a disfigured beaten body would somehow satisfy the insatiable appetite of the religious leaders, as well as the crowd.  He hoped to persuade the enraged audience to accept disfiguration, over death.   But Pilate soon learned that his search for the ‘easy way out’ from dealing with truth, would prove harder than he expected.  

The crowd hurled their angry insults at the top of their lungs, shouting that nothing other than Jesus’ gruesome death would satisfy their bloodlust.  And sadly, because Pilate spent so long trying to save his own skin politically;  Jesus’ literal skin was allowed to be deeply gouged, pierced, sliced, and ripped apart like pulled porkAll this incessant torment, led to prolonged agony for Jesus; far more so than if the Lord had been originally handed over for immediate crucifixion.  Pilate’s heart wanted to keep himself in good standing with the people,  even if it meant looking at Truth directly in the face, and denying it as such. (see John 14:6) 

 Pilate eventually saw that his attempts to avoid crucifixion were futile, giving way to his final decision that cost Jesus His life, and that gave way to our freedom from the penalty of sin. He proceeded to literally wash his hands of the responsibility of Jesus’ death, (see Matt 27:24) all the while giving into the Jews’ twisted demands for crucifixion. This led to an excruciating death for the Lord.  By washing his hands of this affair, Pilate believed the lie that he would somehow be off-the-hook of any responsibility for the shedding of innocent blood. Pilate stood outside his palace that fateful day, believing he held the ultimate authority that rendered judgement and a verdict over the Living God.  Yet one day that scene will be turned around, and Pilate will be the one standing outside the Lord’s palace, receiving judgement and a rightful verdict. 

 The death of Jesus would be due and through the sin of all mankind.  The Jews weren’t solely responsible for the death of the world’s Savior, nor would that responsibility lay at the hands of the Roman’s brutality (the Gentiles).  It would be a non-deserved death, in which the sin and sinful hearts of both Jews and Gentiles alike, (all of man-kind) would facilitate, just like the Father had prepared for in advance. 

Uncomfortable situations that call for us to stand for truth can be found anywhere, and can be exceedingly hard to run from.  We often try just like Pilate did, to escape having to make the tough choices in life, by running from those things we don’t want to face, or maybe understand.  We treat truth as if it is abstract, or even ambiguous.  Something which can’t really be… ‘nailed down’.  

Yet it was.

Truth was nailed down to a rugged cross many, many years ago.  It walked and talked among its people.  It declared itself among the crowds, and taught them how to live in the Truth, and how It would set them free (see John 8:32; John 14:6))

Drawing a line in the sand about truth, can mean risking a marriage, friendships, or our careers.  But some things in life require a line to be drawn, such as which side of the dusty road we choose to stand on when it comes to God’s Son; Jesus Christ.      

How many times have we attempted to claim we’re innocent in a situation by quickly ‘washing our hands of it’?  Or look to run from those tough choices in life; the ones that test our character, and reveal who we really are, and what we stand for?  Like Pilate, we may know what the right thing to do is, yet the fear of standing up for truth falls to the wayside in our attempt to gain accolades from the voices of others, or our attempt to silence our own. 

Jesus stands at the courtyard of our hearts waiting for our verdict.  He longs to see us stand as His proud supporters when insults are casually made of Him at the workplace, or when elected officials of this earth cast Him aside and wash their hands of Him, and His laws. 

We can live victoriously in the peace and freedom that comes from facing the truth, and not letting ourselves carry around the shame and regret of denying Jesus when He’s the One that died for us…and those we are tempted to appease.

My Robe For His

It was a warm, ordinary weekday morning in the middle of May, of my Junior year in high school.  As I lay sleeping in my bed I felt someone approach me, then begin to sit.  That ‘someone’ was a grown man.  In a matter of moments, his unwelcomed contact became physically inappropriate.  With eyes still closed, my stunned mind darted into self-preservation mode, igniting the stretching of my arms in a forward motion, all in the hope of discouraging his distasteful act.  While purposefully extending my arms out with the sole intent of preventing this man from continuing; he suddenly fled.

His immediate need to take cover and slink out of my room, lent itself to the glaring truth that he knew his actions towards me were far from honorable.  While still dazed and in shock, I heard the shower my mother was taking during this offense; turn off.     

Never having had a boyfriend, or having been physical with a boy, meant these particular kinds of advances, were foreign to me.  So as quickly as I could, I got up, got dressed, and raced to get myself off to school, without saying a word to anyone else in my home about the layer of filth that now took residence in my head, and heart.    

Throughout the school day I began to process the inconceivable idea of what had occurred that morning, at the hands of my mother’s boyfriend. I grew disgusted that this man of more than twice my age, would evoke such disdain and distrust in me, let alone succumb to such reprehensible actions.  

So later that evening, I approached my mother discreetly, and shared with her what had happened.  I described in great detail where she was at the time this transpired, and exactly what her boyfriend had done, along with his need to flee once he believed I was beginning to wake up.

She later elected privately to inquire of the situation with this man directly.  That sadly allowed him the opportunity to falsely mislead her into believing that his actions were somehow ‘innocent’, under the disguise of showing me “fatherly affection” as he reported.  I had been without a father in my life for roughly three years at this point, but I was confident that emotionally healthy fathers didn’t show “affection” towards their daughters in that manner.  So naturally I couldn’t fathom my mother lending any merit to this obvious lie.  

Nevertheless, the story he dispensed was accepted by her, permitting him to maintain a key to our house, while remaining a potential threat to me.  That house key afforded him the ability to stop by our home whenever he saw fit, which was usually just prior to me arriving home from school, while my mother was still at work.  This was particularly concerning because he did not hold a job which would have limited his availability towards me.  

So he continued to arrive at our home, just prior to my homecoming nearly every…school…day. 

However, I maintained my resolve to protect myself from this unscrupulous man, by not arriving home from school until my mother was back from work.  I went directly to a neighbor girl’s home if I saw his car parked out in front of my house, never telling her the real reason for my constant visits.

At the time this situation occurred, my mother sought to resolve this issue by requiring that I wear my thick winter bathrobe whenever he was in our home, and it was nearing evening.  Her solution bewildered me, because the incident took place in the morning, so I never saw the logic behind her assessment.  This ‘solution’ did not resolve the issue, and only served to inappropriately hold me responsible for his misconduct.  I had already felt a sense of shame over what this man had done to me, giving way to reflection on other previous advances of his which now encompassed my mind.  So wearing a robe of ‘shame’ was only serving to victimize the victim, and causing me to recoil emotionally.  

Growing up in a home without air-conditioning, I began to loath that stifling robe as spring gave way to a scorching summer.  Month after month I wore the weight of it’s symbolic shame, with no sign of a foreseeable reprieve. 

So there it was; the consequence for speaking truth.  I was having to wear the shame of this man’s wrongdoing.     

But there would also be someone else whom I would later learn about in my adulthood, who was expected to wear a ‘robe’ of shame that didn’t belong to Him either.  

His name….Jesus.   

In John 19:1-5 we read of a well-thought-out plan to shame the Lord, complete with a thorny crown and a robe of mockery; for added measure.  Jesus did nothing to warrant the carrying of another man’s shame, or even my own for that matter.  Yet amazingly; He did it gladly, unlike the shameful robe I was forced to wear.  Jesus took on the world’s shame and wore it before the Father, causing Him to have to turn away from Jesus.  This turning from His Son led Jesus to say “Father, why have you forsaken me?” (see Matt 27:46)  

I certainly felt forsaken by my mother when she saddled me with the shame of another.  If I had had the words to express what my heart felt beneath the anger it would have been “Mom, why have you forsaken me?” 

Eight months passed by with me robed in another’s shame, before my mother elected to end her relationship with this unhealthy individual, for issues unrelated to my circumstances.  For quite some time this issue had remained unresolved in the relationship my mother and I shared.  

While I never received acknowledgement or an apology from this man, I did receive one eventually from my mother for the way she handled things. Extending forgiveness in my heart towards this man (years later) did not require an apology from him.  Instead it required truly understanding the forgiveness that God offered me through His Son; Jesus Christ, and the outflow of gratitude that sprang forth as a result.  

However, nothing has brought more validation and healing than the verse God brings us in Isaiah 61:10 which states:

I delight greatly in the Lord;

My soul rejoices in my God.

For He has clothed me with garments of salvation

And arrayed me in a ROBE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS……

The robe I once wore was a robe of shame, but Jesus saw to it to clothe me in salvation, and offer me HIS robe of righteousness.  I can’t tell you what a trade off that was for me!  

So have you ever found yourself in a robe of shame that didn’t belong to you, or perhaps maybe a robe of shame that did?  Often, we inadvertently elect to wear a robe of shame due to our own destructive choices.  The Lord, however; desires to disrobe EVERYONE of their shame and exchange it for the kind of radiance that can only be found; in His robe of righteousness.

A Gift No Box Can Hold

As a child growing up, I, like other children, couldn’t wait for the ‘the most wonderful day of the year’  to arrive.  Aside from my birthday, Christmas felt completely magical to me.  With Santa Claus at the center of the celebrations, there wasn’t much room to acknowledge the spiritual significance or purpose of Christmas in our home.  So for me, it was all about the anticipation of Santa’s arrival.  I was so enamoured by the idea that there was someone who saw me when I was sleeping; someone who saw me when I was good (and bad), and yet always wanted to give special treasures that fit so nicely in their decorated boxes and wrappings under our tree.  I enjoyed knowing that I could ‘cast my cares’ on this generous, loving, grandfatherly-man, in the form of a ‘wishlist’ for Christmas, and He would never disappoint come December 25th.  

Santa Claus and I had a particularly close relationship that was solidified through a mug of hot chocolate and freshly-baked cookies my brother and I left in anticipation for him.  He in return would leave behind the remnants of dried cocoa clumps stuck to the bottom of the cup and tiny morsels of cookie crumbs on the plate, which in my mind, only assured me of the closeness we shared.    

The thought that I was loved by someone outside of my family, and could somehow be seen from afar, thrilled me.  Adding to the excitement, were all the beautifully colored illustrations of Santa’s village my story books depicted.  The notion that Santa would be willing to leave behind such a grand estate, and come down and enter the world in which I lived so he could bless me with treasured gifts, only served to intensify my adoration for him.  From my child-like perception, no one could be more giving than Santa Claus!

Then one day, when I was about 9 years old, I was told that Santa would no longer be paying a visit to our home.  It was conveyed to me that the jolly old man who I just knew valued me; no longer existed. 

I was devastated.

On the day my mother blurted this information out, she conveyed that her intention was to simply speak truth, so that I would no longer be living under false beliefs.  Yet sadly, no further truth about the real ‘Father Christmas’ was shared in its place.  It wouldn’t be  until many years later that I’d learn, that though I had perceived having had a great relationship with the infamous white-bearded old man who had eight tiny reindeer; there was another, greater being than Santa.  

That individual is Jesus.

Many hardships and extreme losses (aside from the loss of that sweet, kind man in the classic red suit), would accompany my childhood.  Significant hurts and wounds I endured during my younger years, beat down on my heart like oppressive piles of coal.  But Jesus, the man who truly knew when I was sleeping; who knew when I was ‘bad or good’, was in pursuit of a real relationship with me because of an immeasurable love that simply couldn’t be confined to a holiday season.  He wouldn’t just emerge on the scene when I was sleeping on Christmas Eve, and leave behind some shiny wrapped trinkets that would one day be discarded because I outgrew them.  No…because the wondrous gifts the Lord would bring weren’t constrained by boxes and bows.     

The Lord’s gifts would exceed any other gifts ever bestowed upon me. The presents He would lavish me with would bring shape to my character; bring peace to my once chaotic life; and free me from the bondage of sin. They would also reconcile my restless spirit to the Father which would, in turn, provide everlasting life.  Jesus’ gifts would grow me, and not be gifts that I would outgrow.  But His abundant gift-giving wouldn’t stop there.  He would also deliver “gifts of the spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:4), and unlike Santa, the Lord Jesus would never leave me or forsake me. He would never stop His gift-giving because I grew too old to receive them.  It would be His love that drove the delivery of these gifts to me, not some fancy sleigh or reindeer. (see Matt 7:11)

I grew to learn that there are several other, significant differences between Santa Claus and Jesus Christ…such as the home from which they travelled. My childhood Christmas hero was one who had been described to me as living in a splendid place called “The North Pole”.  He was the ‘head honcho’ of the most amazing workshop I had ever imagined as a child.  Yet the real Christmas hero; Jesus, was there in the beginning, (Genesis 1), and the entire Universe was His workshop. His workmanship during creation would be inconceivable to even my adult mind.  

Jesus left His paradise (Heaven), in order to come down to earth for much more than filling my closets with ‘treasures that moths and thieves destroy(Matt 6:19).  He knew my heart would be best served by filling it with eternal things that would never perish. Jesus became flesh, so I could walk in the spirit.  He was born of man, so I could be reborn of the spirit. He took on human weakness, so I could be made strong in Him.  He entered the world under lowly circumstances, so I could ascend one day into the heights of heaven. And later He would lay down His life, so I could have eternal life

My interactions with Santa Claus as a child were limited to my sending him a letter once a year.  Yet with God, my encounters are limitless due to the Holy Spirit who works on my behalf (Romans 8:26-27).  My relationship with the Lord is made right, through the work Jesus did on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:18). And there’s no need for a stamp, or a long wait for my communications to be received.  Jesus has an infinite amount of time for me, and others, who wish to correspond with Him.  

As a child there was nothing more humbling for me than awakening to Santa having consumed the hot chocolate I had left for him; until I learned of the cup ‘Jesus drank for me’ (Luke 22:42; Matt 26:39; John 18:11).  Jesus came down from Heaven to pour out His grace and mercy on me, while God the Father poured wrath (intended for me); on Him.  The ‘cup’ intended for me to drink because of the sin that dwells inside of me, (and all of mankind) was the cup Jesus drank on my behalf For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” ( Romans 6:23).  Because the Lord delighted in spending eternity with me, He chose to drink from a bitter cup, unlike the savory hot chocolate intended for Santa.

As a child I used to envision what it would be like to fly above the clouds in Santa’s sleigh to his spectacular workshop.  Yet one fine day the Lord will transport me on a flight beyond my wildest imagination!  I’ll go to a destination far above the North Pole, where there are ‘many rooms(John 14:2) in which the Lord God Himself has prepared a place for me (talk about an amazing workshop!).  It’s a place where the dazzling color of gold isn’t found wrapped around temporary trees of the Christmas season, but upon the streets which we’ll walk (Revelation 21:21).

Every one of us can experience gifts that are truly treasured during the Christmas season, (or any season) when we take the time to believe that there’s a gift waiting for us through God’s provision; His Son.  Only then can we choose to receive this amazing gift of salvation from the One whose gift, no box can hold.

Driven By Obedience

Living in obedience to the Lord isn’t always easy.  It often involves laying down our own wants and desires for what God wants.  I’d love to share with you how I’ve had some long history of promptly obeying the Lord, but that wouldn’t be accurate.  In fact I’ve had to learn through the prompting of the Holy Spirit at times, what obedience even looks like. I’ve often gleaned knowledge through the examples of others who’ve walked in the faith for a lengthier period than I.  It’s solely due to the surrendered-heart-of-obedience of others that I have this story to share. 

Oh Lord, you know this car of mine isn’t going to last much longer’, were the words I spoke softly to myself while putting gasoline in my tank a few blocks from home.  ‘I don’t have a husband, or any other resources to help me purchase another car, and you know that.  So I’m choosing to trust that you will provide for me another car sometime soon.  You are the only husband I have right now.’ 

I’d had many conversations with God reminding Him of my earthly needs, as well as the spiritual need I had for Him.  Those 16 years of single-parenting were some of the hardest years of my life.  My perpetual need for Him, ushered me into total reliance on Him.  During that time in my life, He faithfully met every need I had, regardless of how faithful I was to Him in return.  Of course no matter how faithful His track record was, I still found myself in a constant state of worry, when it came to the ‘hows’ and ‘whens’ of His provisions.  Truth be told, I hated having to rely on God.  I wanted to be self-reliant, not God-reliant as we were all created to be.  

So with my two daughters in the backseat, and my little two-door car filled with gasoline, I was off on my pre-planned trip to see a friend I hadn’t seen in years.  Kari was a childhood Christian friend of mine, who I had recently re-connected with a few  years prior.  She was now a married mom of three, living roughly 2-hours away.  So that spring of 2003 she arranged a get-together for my daughters and I at her home.  This would be an amazing day spent with her, and her family, after not having seen each other for 20 years.  

But living life as a struggling single mom, while trying desperately to fit in amongst married friends isn’t always easy.  One example is that married folks often own cars that look a little more respectable than those of us single-parent folks who work fiercely just to produce enough food on the table.  When it came to modes of transportation, I never knew how much longer my car would last, and I certainly feared anyone I knew seeing me get in or out of it (let alone drive it).  

My dilapidated car had accumulated a lot of miles between its last owner and I, causing it to lose its aerodynamic look, many mile markers ago.  Its doors often failed to open when they should, several hubcaps were missing, windows would randomly fall down on their own…and in order to get into the car, I would occasionally have to enter by way of the trunk.  

Yep…the trunk.  

When the doors didn’t open, I could pop open the trunk and climb in. I would then need to reach forward and push down on the back seats, in an effort to gain access into the driver’s seat, so I could operate the vehicle.  However…once I started the car, I had the assurance that at least the seat belts worked faithfully!  

Following the prayerful moment that morning at the gas station, I arrived that afternoon safely at my friend’s home.  It was an incredible blessing to see her after all those years, and we connected as if time had stood still.  Having the Lord, as a commonality between us, promoted the rapid recreation of a great friendship.  I was to stay that night at a relative’s home in a nearby town, then return to my friend’s the next morning for a quick ‘goodbye’ on my way home the next day.  

As I walked out of her home following that first treasured visit, she began to walk with me to my car. This was something which I had failed to anticipate.  I began to feel an awkward sense of shame rush through me when I realized that my effort to methodically park several houses down from hers would serve no purpose in saving me from the embarrassment of her seeing my car.  The hospitality she extended in walking me to my car, would inevitably lead her to see it.    

Then to make an even more embarrassing situation…humiliating; my car doors would not unlock once she and I stood in front of this ‘classic’ form of transportation I had.  Of course the doors refusing to comply when I hit the “unlock” mechanism, only drew further attention to my car’s deficiencies.  Lastly, my mortification became complete as my friend then ran to get her husband to come out and hopefully be of some assistance. How she thought my car would obey him, I will never know.  She and her husband would now both be in plain sight of what I drove.  

At this point one of my daughters attempted to put this couple’s mind at ease by mentioning boldly to them how all we needed to do was climb through the trunk’, and that entering the car this way was ‘normal’.  

Shame was now in full gear, and I could have died!  

My daughter proudly illustrated to them what she meant, by crawling through the trunk, and unlocking the doors for my other daughter and I to get in.  So once my state of impoverished living was clearly in plain sight, I quickly started my car, hung my head in shame, all the while waving my hand out the window, driving out of sight as quickly as possible.  

Though thoroughly embarrassed to return, I reluctantly arrived back at my friend’s home the next day as I had promised.  Kari greeted me with a nervously enthused smile on her face, as she invited me in.  She proceeded to tell me something the Lord had laid on both her and her husband’s heart that evening following our visit.  She shared how they believed that the minivan they had intended to sell, was something the Lord had reserved for them to give to me.  

I was speechless.  

She prefaced sharing this with me, by saying that they in no way wanted me to feel uncomfortable by their generous offer.  She and her husband simply wanted to be; obedient to the Lord.

At this point in my story, I can’t help but reflect back to another heart of obedience.  That heart belonged to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  One of the books in the Bible that we meet Mary in, is in Luke of the New Testament.  This 1st century Jewish girl didn’t have an automobile laid upon her heart to give to someone in need, but she was driven to please God through her heart of obedience just the same. In a society where being an unwed mother could be a death sentence, Mary chose to obey God and become pregnant by the Holy Spirit, prior to her marriage to her fiance.  She would deliver mankind from an even bigger need than a car; by giving birth to the Savior of mankind.  Mary’s obedient heart would give way to her young lips stating “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be done according to your word.”   

Neither my friend, nor Mary, allowed their head to get caught up in what their heart of obedience would cost them.  Both Mary, and Kari (along with her husband), simply said “yes” to what God asked of them.  Neither of these thoughtful women tried to renegotiate a different deal with God.  A deal that perhaps wouldn’t have dealt Mary the shame of an unexpected premarital pregnancy.  Or for Kari, and her husband, a deal that would have been more economically profitable, one which would provide them with the $7500.00 they had expected to receive should they have sold their minivan instead of being called to give it away.  Yet both women had great faith, and considered it an honor to be used by their God, to meet the needs of others.  

Kari and her husband asked nothing of me, other than to be willing to receive the gift God wanted to give to me.  Meanwhile, my head was in a whirl as I reflected back on the prayer I had said while getting gasoline less than 48 hours earlier.  I couldn’t fathom God meeting that need so quickly, and through someone I hadn’t seen in roughly 20 years.      

Though this was an amazing gesture of kindness on Kari and her husband’s part, I didn’t want to accept the van just because it was freely being given.  I wanted God to confirm it was His plan for me to receive it, just as they were convinced it was His plan to give it.  So as crazy as it may sound, I thanked her profusely, and asked if I could pray earnestly for God to make it clear to me by the end of the week.  

I expressed concern to Kari over the potential loss of income they would have, by not selling the van as they had been trying to do. So I told her that while I waited on God that week, if they received an offer to purchase the van, they should go ahead and sell it.  In my mind, if a buyer came along, while I had been praying, I would know it was not the Lord’s will for me to have that van.  

I spent the next week in prayer, which led me to call my friend the following Friday with the news confirming that I too, believed as she did, that God wanted me to have her beautiful van.  She was thrilled to hear my voice, and overjoyed to share with me how a man had called inquiring of the van just that week.  She retold to me how he had left his number on her answering machine, but when she went to return the call, the number he had provided was somehow not valid, and that he never called back again.  She laughed continuously as she shared how God had blocked a potential sale from happening so I would be the new owner.  

I was then told the history of their attempts to sell their well-maintained minivan for roughly 7 months.  This minivan had never received any inquiries throughout that time period regardless of having been faithfully advertised in the paper.  No inquiries of course until the one gentleman called that was unreachable.  Kari said that it was the most perplexing thing, to have no one show interest, and that they constantly checked to confirm their listing was published.  She and her husband couldn’t figure out what was happening, until God revealed the road of obedience they were to take in furnishing it to me.  

Being a mode of transportation for the Lord to do His will was rewarding to both Mary of the New Testament, as well as for my friend and her husband. Mary’s heart reflected her understanding that her purpose in life was obedience, and because of that, “all nations would call her blessed” (Luke 1:48).  She was willing to make sacrifices, so that others could prosper from her obedience…as was my friend.   

When we adhere to the yield signs God makes visible, and step out of the driver’s seat, by relinquishing the wheel of authority to Him, others benefit from having a roadmap to follow.  May we always remember to put the brakes on from catering to our own will, so we too; can have a heart; driven by obedience. 

Setting Sail By Example

Many of us set sail in life, on a quest for significance and meaning.  Our voyage is in an attempt to ‘find ourselves’, instead of finding God and living by His ways.  We have no idea who we are, nor the image we’re called to reflect, because we are unaware of whose image we were created in.  So we go in search of creating an image all of our own.

But then there are those who know who they are, and don’t spend their time staring into pools of blue so they can simply see their own reflection looking back at them.  Their actions reflect great understanding of who their Maker is, which led them into obedience in serving Him, no matter what the cost.  So they set sail, providing an example to the rest of us.  

A particular group of people come to mind when I think of those who made God their focus, by lovingly seeking to obey Him at all costs. This was a group of “Separatists” that boarded the Mayflower in England and persisted through unbearable circumstances.  Their determination to serve God according to the scriptures, by making the Bible their ultimate authority, afforded them opportunity in what became the state of Massachusetts in the New World.

What makes this story dear to me personally, is that a couple of years ago I learned I was the direct descendant of a five year-old daughter from one of the Pilgrim families who came to this land for that exact purpose. I had always been told I had American Indian in me, but it turned out my family attended the first Thanksgiving as a newly arrived resident of the land, instead of having had prior occupancy, as a Native American Indian.

Yet if we each dig through the Bible passages in the book of Genesis, we all ‘Noah’ relative we share in common.  He, like the pilgrims, found his calling involving a boat; an ark to be exact.  After having been declared righteous by God, during a time when  human wickedness soaked the souls of those around him, Noah not only boarded a boat, but he also spent many prior years fervently building it as God had commanded.  The blessing of being labeled by God as “righteous” was strictly a blessing bestowed by God, due to the inability of all man-kind to be righteous on their own merit.  Yet blessing Noah, would set him on a course that offered him freedom (like those on the Mayflower) from a land engulfed in corruption.  Noah’s boat-building and boarding obedience, involved callus ridicule from peers, and mountainous waves that would make even the strongest of pirates sea-sick.  

Though their stories span thousands of years apart from one another, both Noah and the Separatist Pilgrims had a few things in common. They each placed God above the desire of pleasing man.  Both were also willing to leave behind the land they once knew, because they trusted God in their journey, while having no way of knowing how ‘smooth sailing’ their trip would be.   Each party had also left their previous lands due to corruption of some kind that was prevalent in their nation.  Then following their journeys, both praised God for the provisions He made for them while they were out surviving the rough terrain of the seas.  But there is one sobering sad commonality they shared too; their obedience to the Lord would not be replicated by the generations that would later follow them.  

The Pilgrims had great hopes of settling in the New World where they would be able to maintain their English ways, while raising their children to honor God as their first priority.  They were able to set up homes that were similar to their old way of life, while free to read the Bible and grow in His word, without the harsh consequences of their former land. 

Then there was Noah, whose family had been spared from a disastrous flood through the boarding of a vessel.  His three sons and their wives had the awesome joy and responsibility of re-populating the earth with humans…people who would love the Lord as they had always been called to do so in the past, but had failed.  This family received the privileged responsibility of teaching and molding the new human race to honor the Lord, from that point on.   

Yet abandoning God and failing to walk under His authority would be what followed the generations on the new earth, as well as those who landed in the New World.  The undertaking of forming a new society that honored God would not be maintained.  Neither the generations that came from Noah, nor those descending from the Pilgrims would stay anchored in His truth, and so their honoring of God fell by the wayside. Did the generations become afraid of ‘rocking the boat’ or going against the current waves of their society, that they lost sight of what really mattered?  

With both sets of individuals from the ark, and the Mayflower, God provided reminders of how each generation was called to live in obedience to Him.  The ark illustrated to Noah’s descendants how serious God treats sin, and that we are all in need of being ‘washed’ from the costly price of sin, (Jesus) so we won’t drown in our own sinful behavior.  His promise of mercy following the flood was also made clear every time a person looked up in the sky and viewed a rainbow.

As for those who sailed on the Mayflower, their descendants would learn of God’s amazing provision by way of bringing them to dry land, and the bountiful help brought forth by the Indians that led to the first Thanksgiving.  Then later in the 1800’s a monument would be built that still remains today, echoing the reminder of how God calls us to live in this nation: a nation that once claimed to be under God.  The monument was erected so that the generations that followed would have no excuse in ever losing sight of this country having been built on the attitudes and standards of God’s Word.

Sadly, the generations that one day followed both of these groups of people, lost sight of their heritage, and what God had done in the lives of His people, which led them to do life apart from Him and His ways.  

Though both sides of these families’ descendents at some point lost their way, we as believers can be the ones to pick back up the torch and relight the lamp of truth that once burned out several hundred years ago from the generations before us.    

Before I discovered that the Pilgrims were my direct ancestors, I had longed for a powerful Christian heritage reflected in my family, which did not seem to exist.  I am so humbled and appreciative for the sacrifice my Mayflower family made in an effort to honor God, as well as my dear relative Noah.  While many of their descendants walked away from the Lord, we can live in the privilege that by God’s grace, we have been given the opportunity to set sail and find freedom from sin through boarding the only real lifeboat there is; Jesus Christ.  He saves us from the catastrophic flood waters of sin, takes us to higher ground, and reminds us that like the Pilgrims and Noah, we too, can set sail by example.

The Great Provider

November is typically looked upon as a time for us to count our blessings, and express gratitude.  Even those who do not share in a relationship with God, through His Son Jesus, often gather at the Thanksgiving table with family and friends and discuss something for which they are thankful.  

I have so many things for which I’m thankful to God, but often overlook doing so.  Yet there is one particular season of time while I was a single parent, that I will forever be grateful to God for seeing me through. It’s a time  I hope I’ll  never overlook.  But my appreciation for God having met specific needs of mine is not unique to His character.  Many people in the Bible knew what tough times were like too, and had distinct needs that required the Lord to meet in a very personal way.   

In Genesis, God met a basic need that Adam and Eve discovered they had for clothing, by killing an animal (see Genesis 3:21).  Then there were the Israelites whom He led out of Egypt, whose need for water brought forth it springing from a rock. (see Exodus 17:6)  Then In 1 Kings 17:6 He used crows to bring bread twice a day to the prophet Elijah during a great famine.   God provided housing for Joseph and Mary, during a time when they needed it most (see Luke 2:4-7).  It may not have been the Ritz-Carlton where we would expect the King of all Kings to be born, but He faithfully met their needs.

One summer in particular, I too, had great provisional needs that required a great God.  But my story is a little different, because I wasn’t one of the first humans on the planet like we see in Genesis, and I wasn’t traveling across a desert as an Israelite in the book of Exodus, nor a great prophet like Elijah. And I most certainly wasn’t an expectant parent of the Messiah.  Yet God would prove Himself faithful to me; just the same. 

During the summer of 2001, I found myself in great need, after becoming homeless the night before I was to start a new job.  The years I spent as a single-parent were never easy, but the added burden of homelessness added a new element to the word ‘challenging’.  So that first night I did what any other single-mom who lacked money would do; I found a safe neighborhood parking lot to pull into, and my girls and I slept in our two-door car.  

The following day, as my world was falling apart, a friend of mine cared for my daughters while I arrived at work hoping to make a good first impression.  As the days progressed, Various friends stepped up to watch my daughters so I could go to work, hoping to build up enough money to rent a place for us to live.  

But as you might have guessed, sleeping in a car and appearing your best the next day for your new employer isn’t ideal, and thankfully God knew it.    

My friend who had taken care of my kids that first day, had been asked months earlier to house sit for several families that had some vacations coming up.  Knowing I needed a place to stay with my children, my friend asked those families if they’d be willing to allow my daughters and I to house sit in his place.  And because God is the God of provision; every one of those families said “yes”.  

God’s timing is always perfect.  I don’t always see it as such when I’m running in panic mode, but when I step back and look at His history of provisions, I’m ashamed I’ve ever doubted.  

Because each of the families had scheduled their vacations immediately following the other, there was not one night in which my children and I didn’t have a roof over our heads and beds to sleep in for roughly four weeks.  I was giddy with joy, and filled with great relief when I learned of how God had orchestrated each of these families’ getaways, to accommodate the great need I had!   Many of these families weren’t even Christians, yet God had given their hearts a peace that was needed to allow a complete stranger the blessing of their homes.

As summer began to draw to a close, and people began to settle back into their everyday lives, the need for a house sitter grew dim.  My only option that remained was a homeless shelter in the downtown area to stay at while I continued to save up money for housing expenses. While the shelter appeared to be imminent in my future, there was a lady from a local Christian Church who had been desperately seeking to find a better housing solution for my children and I.  I had shared with this warm-hearted woman that I only needed a place for perhaps another three weeks and then I’d be in a financial position to secure a more permanent residence.  I had felt so secure through the blessing of the temporary homes God had provided  that I really began to trust Him with the realization that the shelter would be our next home.

Then on our last day of house sitting, minutes before we needed to vacate, the phone rang.  It was the sweet lady from the local church, beaming with a voice of enthusiasm, as she relayed the good news of a home!  She shared that she was finally able to reach Bruce and Diana, an elderly couple who were well-established in the church and had just returned back from a vacation.  She was thrilled as she conveyed to me that they would be able to accommodate our needs, and they were looking forward to having us in their home.  

We arrived as welcomed guests, and were warmly greeted by the couple as if we were family.  Bruce and Diana informed me that they occupied a room on the first floor of their home, and permitted us to have the whole second floor to ourselves.  My girls shared a room, and had their own bathroom, while I had a room to myself, with a private bathroom attached.  I emphasized to Bruce and Diana that with my stable job, I would only need to stay for three weeks…tops!  

But God sometimes has other plans for us.  

A week or two into our stay with Bruce and Diana, my stable job collapsed.  Along with losing my only form of income, a close relationship I valued, also ended. I began to crumble, which led to me falling apart emotionally, on this wonderful couple’s kitchen floor.  I sobbed hysterically in front of them, while crying out from the pit of my crushed spirit, a lot of past hurts.  I had always been very tightly wound as a single parent, ready to just snap, and at that moment; I did.  The bandwidth of my emotional capacity, at that point; was stretched beyond what I could handle.  

I had no plans to fall apart that night, or any night I was a guest in their home.  But the truth was, God knew exactly what I needed and when, and for what reason.  I had carried overwhelming pain for years inside of me, with no place safe to let it out…until then.  These sweet Christian people that had embraced us in their home sat patiently for several hours while I cried about deep-rooted brokenness.  I’d love to tell you that my crying that night was an isolated event while I was there, but it wasn’t.  It became pretty clear that God’s plan for their particular houseguest was much different than for the purpose of ‘saving money’ and moving out after a three-week period.  

Though they had the outward appearance of an older couple, what I really saw reflected from them, was Jesus. My girls and I spent nearly a year staying with Bruce and Diana, as God helped me to become more emotionally stable through various forms of help I needed.  It was not an easy task for this couple to journey with me, as I spent a great deal of my time there a complete mess.  Shortly before I moved out, I learned that the church they belonged to, (that had connected us to their home), had also financially provided for some additional costs that I wasn’t able to cover on my own. 

I will never forget that Bruce and Diana had once shared with me how they had considered sealing off their second floor once they built a new master bedroom downstairs.   But a wise pastor of theirs told them at the time, that if they chose not to seal up that area, God would find a use for that part of the house, and that He would fill the rooms of their upstairs with His purpose.  Upon hearing that, they elected to not seal that space, which eventually allowed for my daughters and I to have a safe place to live, while the Lord worked to slowly rebuild me. 

I’m writing this amazing story of His, from an upstairs room in my own home nearly 20 years later.  I can’t help feeling excited over how He may elect to fill this upstairs He’s given me, (once my children are someday grown) as He did with Bruce and Diana’s home.  I share with you His story of great provision and bountiful giving during the season of Thanksgiving, with an emotionally grateful heart.

No Room For Evil

 As an adult, my absolute favorite season is fall.  What I love about this time of year is its welcoming of cooler, crisp weather…weather that I’ve longed for as the hot, sticky summer lingered into what felt like…forever.  I’m entranced by the beauty that unfolds as the leaves begin to slowly turn vibrant colors, and the once-humid air of spring and summer loses its grip.  The smell of apple desserts begin to permeate the kitchen in September, giving way to the baking of pumpkin treats in October.      

But there’s also a dark side associated in particular with the month of October that falls on the 31st.  Every store has their shelves packed hoping to catch your eye with various spooky, fear-invoking items meant for…’fun’.  Everything from ghastly ghosts, to wicked witches, and of course…evil spirit costumes like devils and demons.  All these items hang in clear view, in the hopes you will revel in the fantasy of pretending to be one of these characters.  Somehow the playful idea of dressing up as a villainous creature is meant to entice us enough into making a purchase.   

In the book of Exodus, Isaiah, and Psalms (to name a few), the Bible tells us numerous times to “fear not”.  Yet every year at the end of October we as a society welcome the notion of enjoying the concept of fear.  But when we turn the pages of the New Testament, we learn that many in those days were living amongst demonic attacks, that were far from enjoyable, or ‘fun’.  These poor individuals who suffered at evil’s hand would never have understood today’s need in society, to embrace or welcome in, what they desperately would have sought to be rid of.  Their terrifying situations didn’t allow for the simple removal of a rubber mask, or the disrobing of a gruesome design printed on fabric that they elected to tie around themselves.  They were shackled to fear’s grip, with no way of escape from the torment of what dwelt inside of them.  What we revel in as ‘fun’ on the playful day of October 31st was not fun and games for them. Evil was taken with much more seriousness in the days in which Jesus walked the earth.  

In the book of Luke, chapter 4:31-36, we learn of Jesus having gone to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, where He taught like no other teacher the crowds who listened to Him had ever heard.  He spoke boldly and with the dominion that came with being God in the flesh.  His knowledge of the scriptures, coupled with His great authority often amazed his audiences.  Yet there in the synagogue, that authority would be openly tested when a man possessed by an impure spirit (a demon), was present.  In front of the mass of people, the spirit cried out loudly at Jesus, telling Him to “go away“.  The boisterous voice of the spirit wanted to know something particular; “Have you come to destroy us?”  Then it addressed Jesus with His worthy, yet accurate title by saying..I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”  Jesus sternly told it to “Be quiet!“, while instructing the spirit to come out of the man.  The demon then threw the man down in front of the people, without any injury to the man.  The astonishment of Jesus’ authority stunned His audience.  

Then again in Matthew 8:28-32 two demon-possessed men were stopping individuals from passing them due to their violent outbursts.  But Jesus stepped into the scene and the possessed men inquired as to what the “Son of God” wanted with them.  “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” They then begged that if the Lord was to cast them out of the men they were occupying, that He cast them into a herd of pigs.  

People living in those times had grown to accept demons as being a very ugly and scary part of a world they had no control over.  They never knew if at any time a demon would choose to possess them.  Demons and demonic forces were far from pretend, and no one would have elected to have one enter them, or dress in a costume of their likeness.  These individuals were powerless over those spirits who entered into people, and they knew that no one else held the power to be rid of them either.  

Except the Son of God.

Both these stories beautifully illustrate the power of demonic spirits and the seriousness of their evil.  The only power over demonic spirits is the Lord’s power.  Even demons must obey His command.  They know what awaits them in the end (as does Satan), yet they asked Jesus in the book of Matthew 8:28-32, if they would be tortured prior to their impending demise, as referenced in Matthew 25:41

Jesus holds immense power as we’ve seen revealed through scriptures time-and-again, including the power of His name.  In Luke 10:17 we learn that Jesus sent out a large number of people in His name to heal others in many towns.  “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

But here’s a thought…what if evil wasn’t just an isolated concept in the New Testament?  What if evil spirits really do exist on our earth today, (and have, since Satan rebelled) like God’s Word tells us?  What if you inadvertently invited evil to your home, and it wasn’t funny or ‘pretend’ after all?

It was late at night on January 6th, many, many years ago.  I was living on the west coast of the U.S. as a single parent at the time.  I had been a Christian at this point for more than enough years to know and apply God’s truth to my life, but I unfortunately wasn’t as spiritually mature and as well-versed as I should have been.  This was a big night for me, because the following day I had an appointment to meet with the Head Director of a large well-known Christian organization.  This meeting had been scheduled for roughly two weeks, and what I was going to share with the Director would reveal an unfortunate truth to him.  Truth of ungodly evil acts perpetrated by an individual who misused the authority the Director had given him. 

I had prayed and knew I had the Biblical responsibility to be forthcoming in love and with integrity.  The hard part about this disclosure was that though deception had lured me in at first, I too, had also played a part regarding this ugliness.  I had to humbly apologize for my participation in what I would be sharing with him.  Yet despite the humiliation it might bring, and concern about his reaction, I had peace about this important engagement.

As I laid awake late that night in my bed prior to my morning meeting, I suddenly felt a very fearful presence standing next to me. The intense evil it radiated confirmed for me that it was neither of my two daughters who were fast asleep in a room down the hall. It was a wicked presence that carried with it a sense of authority, and it evoked fear.  Deep, dark fear.  

I laid there in a ball with my head securely braced on my pillow, covers tightly pressed over my face.  I hadn’t had time to fall asleep yet, so I knew this wasn’t a distasteful dream. The whereabouts of its strong presence was made known through each step it took, as it walked slowly and methodically around my bed.  I could feel its stern stare as it paced.  God revealed to me, though my eyes were tightly shut, that this being was tall in stature, clothed in solid black, and did not have the appearance of a human.  

I found it to be no coincidence that this ‘being’ elected to appear in my room on that particular night…the night before I was to expose evil for what it really was.  I had never in my life experienced anything so grim and fearful as this.  I didn’t know what to do or say while hiding my head fearfully under my white duvet bedding.  And then, a memory immediately popped into my mind.

When I was a little girl, there was a short season of time that my mother attended a Bible study, where she learned how to properly apply the powerful name of Jesus.  She shared with me that just the mention of Jesus’ name, commands authority over evil spirits. (as referenced in Luke 10:17)

So while I laid huddled under the covers, shaking like a leaf, I started speaking to God in my head.  I asked Him to give me the strength to speak with authority, using His powerful name.  Then I mustered up the courage He provided, and sat up instantly with a voice of authority stating, “Whatever you are, in the name of Jesus, you must leave my home!

The fear remained inside of me until the phrase, “in the name of Jesus” came out of my mouth.  At that very moment I was at peace, and my room no longer had evil pacing aggressively around my bed. Though the dark presence came at me with a ‘sense’ of authority as it walked angrily around my bed, there has never been, nor ever will be, authority higher than the authority of the Lord Jesus!

What I didn’t know at the time of this encounter, was that the disclosure I would provide that following morning would lead to an uncovering of sinister actions that went even deeper than I had ever known.  But the information that I furnished, allowed the organization to appropriately deal with what their further investigations brought into the light.

Does fear ever hold you in its grip?  Do you ever find yourself guilty of minimizing, fear-inducing things, such as haunted houses or certain costumes that represent evil?   As believers we’re called to “fear not”, and certainly not to entertain activities that invite fear into our lives, or the lives of others.  I’ve never encountered another evil presence like that one, those many years ago. I strive now to make good honorable choices that don’t welcome evil things to my door anymore.  

During the month of October (in particular), as Christians, let us not forget that evil spirits are VERY real and not just a theoretical concept. God does not want us to minimize evil or participate in things that would provoke it. Yet we can also rejoice during that month in knowing we serve a big God who’s name alone, has the power to cast out demons and evil spirits.  Who by His love and grace, lifts us from paralyzing fear…today, and everyday.

The Venomous One

Everything had been going splendidly well in a particular paradise known as the Garden of Eden.  The garden, and everything else created in, and around it, had been spoken into existence by the Lord God.  The Lord’s finest creation, man, was the only thing of God’s whom He fashioned with His own hand.  Man, and his valued counterpart Eve, were relating to their Creator, creation, and each other, the way God intended.  No shame, or blaming, nor questioning of their Maker had ever crossed their minds, till a friendly serpent (God’s adversary), was introduced to them in the third chapter of the book of Genesis, in the Bible.   

‘Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, you must not eat from any tree in the garden?”  (Genesis 3:1)

Never before had the only couple occupying earth entertained the concept of questioning God, His goodness, or whether or not He was withholding something good from them.  Eve, unwisely elected to engage with the serpent, when she chose to answer his question.  From that point on, things started to go downhill in that prime-choice real estate that was freely given to them by their Maker.  She ended up taking a regrettable bite from a piece of deadly fruit, while the serpent took his own unique bite, out of her!  His venom-injected bite wasn’t noticeable at first.  There were no visible puncture wounds like you see from snakes now, but nevertheless, she was left with venom that ate away at her, just the same.

Is it any wonder that Satan elected to use the “craftiest” of God’s creatures, when approaching mankind, in an attempt to hurt our Creator?  We were created in God’s image, and are His beloved craftsmanship. Who better for Satan to attack, than God’s pride and joy…man?!  

Satan doesn’t always come across as our adversary.  He’s slick and subtle and his most successful venom is the kind that causes us to doubt God’s goodness, and to get our minds focused on self, much like what happened to Adam and Eve. Our great-distant grandparents were attacked in their own backyard, and it came out of nowhere as far as they could see…just like how the enemy who is after our soul, and testimony, comes attacking us!  

This once blessed couple started to doubt God’s goodness, and their minds certainly drifted towards self.  Four major relationships were severely damaged as a result of this extremely poor ‘fruit-fest’ they had in the garden.  It deeply wounded their relationship with their Creator, with all of creation, with each other, and their relationship with their own self-identity.

Immediately the serpent’s venom was at work in their mind, and heart…ushering it to beat for things counterproductive to their well-being.  Then their physical bodies began to know sickness, cellulite, and senility; all of which would age them along to death’s doorstep.  And though they had no money in which to speak of, they would instantaneously know how to ‘pass the buck’ when it came to taking responsibility for their actions.  For the first time, they would have an innate ability to blame each other, lending to a game we all play in their honor called, ‘the blame game’.  Grandpa Adam blamed both God, and Grandma Eve.  Then Grandma Eve blamed the snake, and all of creation would then suffer the consequences of this once perfect couple (Genesis 3:12-13).  

When learning the anatomy of a snake, we find that its fangs can be sharp, long, hollow, or grooved, and that they are connected to a small sac in the snake’s head behind its eyes.  The sacs produce a poisonous liquid called venom.  So when a snake bites, venom is released and starts to work immediately to kill or paralyze its prey.  And what, exactly is venom you may ask? The definition of the word ‘venom’, means, “a form of toxin secreted by an animal for the purpose of causing harm to another”. 

The original couple knew the damaging effects of a snake’s venom.  They, and the entire human race, have suffered the damage of those four major broken relationships (Creator, creation, with others, and with self) ever since the results of a particular snake’s venom in the garden.  Unfortunately, he still seeks to inflict his bite while he can, and so therefore, we will all be prone to his bites until Jesus’ long-awaited return.  

The serpent spewed his venom into Adam and Eve the same way he spews it into us.  In general, a snake carries its venom in its head, just as Satan attempts to fill our head with his venom too.  And all those toxins cause us to have very clouded thinking! 

One of the most dangerous snakes in our modern world is the Russell’s viper of India and South Asia.  One man who had been bitten by one, reported that he began to see double, and it took 110 doses of anti-venom to save him.  

Think again on that…he began to see ‘double’.

Don’t we too, start to see things in a double-minded manner, when the serpent (the devil), spews his venom at us?  As believers, we might say we believe one thing, but our double-minded spirit can often usher us into a lifestyle that doesn’t reflect what we claim to believe.  The Bible has much to say about being ‘double-minded’.  One verse in God’s word is James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you who are double-minded.”  

Another type of snake, the Pit Viper, hunts day and night for its prey.  Does this sound like someone you know??  God’s word tells us in 1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, roams around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  Our Enemy seeks us out, day and night.  He has nothing better to do with his time, and he knows his time is running out!  Job 2:2 says, “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Where do you come from?’ And Satan replied back, ‘From wandering this way, and that way on the earth, walking about it.’”  

We’re no different than our relatives from Eden.  We are just as susceptible to the venom of the enemy as they were.  Often our bodies respond to his bite as if we had experienced a real snake bite.  We become double-minded in our thoughts, and we run for cover. Soon after, our bodies engage in activity that doesn’t honor our Creator, and parts of us (the heart) are never the same.

The devil likes to keep himself hidden and inconspicuous, whether he is traveling beautiful gardens, or roaming this earth.  We can’t see his form physically, but we can see his influence through behaviors and attitudes we may hold, or those around us hold when bitten.

Has the enemy’s venom taken root in your heart, causing you to feel the image of Christ you were called to reflect, shutting down?  At times it has with me. I’m often guilty of letting whatever kind of venom he injects just slither around in my veins as my body bathes in toxic emotional poisoning, until it affects how I think, and act.  His venom can also often distort how I see God, then suddenly God seems smaller than the poisonous venom the enemy has me ingesting.

So what are WE supposed to do, upon suffering a venomous bite of the serpent’s??  We know that if we ever experience a bite from a physical snake, we’re told to stay calm, and elevate the affected limb.  So in Christian terms, that would mean when we’re bitten by the enemy we are called to elevate our heart and mind up to God. We must allow Him to renew our spirit, when it comes to a spiritual attack from our venomous one!  A serious physical snake bite warrants a trip to the hospital to see a physician.  After a spiritual attack from our enemy, our hospital is God.  He is our Healer, and the Great Physician.  We just have to be willing to come out of hiding, much like Adam and Eve were called to do (Genesis 3:8-10).

The truth is…I’m not always obedient in going to God when I’ve kept company with the serpent’s ways. I pay a heavy price, like my great-distant grandparents did when it comes to disobedience. If I’m honest with myself, so does everyone around me when I don’t go to the Great Physician and elevate my wounds to Him upon a venomous bite from the enemy. When I don’t make note of the enemy’s tactics, he can so often slither slowly around me, in my little corner-garden of the world.  He offers me all sorts of toxins hidden in such delectable ‘fruits’ of this world, which lead to a debilitating mind and heart, as he did my distant grandparents.  

So what about you? Are you mindful of the enemy in your daily life? Are you taking inventory of venomous poisons you may be ingesting? I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t always choose wisely which fruit to eat, or choose it from a tree of God’s provision. Our distant relatives learned that the only fruit worth tasting and producing, were fruits from God that were of His spirit. The same is true of us.  All other fruits we ingest, leave us unsatisfied, filled with guilt and thoughts that destroy. Through the ages of time, there seems to be more trees available with fruit that we are NOT called to eat. Those trees are the serpent’s favorite!  He’d love for us to hang out by those trees, so he can slither by us too, and fill us with his venom. But God’s antidote (Christ), is much stronger than Satan’s venom. 

We don’t have to keep company with the serpent of the world, letting him inject his lies and behaviors into us. There’s plenty of good fruit from God’s trees we can eat, while being mindful of…the venomous one.

Waters You’ve Entered

I grew up in northern California, about 30 minutes from its beautiful coastline.  Weekend day trips to the beach were commonly taken by my family.  Though outings to the beach were always something our family enjoyed, we were never encouraged to go in the water.  My mother was never fond of the idea of her children swimming in the great blue waters of the Pacific, due to its undertow.  She had shared with me how easy it was for the ocean to carry you out much farther than you had ever planned to go.  

So, I always spent my time there on dry land.  I would walk up and down the rich warm sand, hunting for the most exquisite seashells I could find. I was perfectly content watching the waters repeatedly kiss the shoreline, while I stayed dry, building sandcastles that would inevitably come crashing down within minutes of lifting the bucket I had used as a mold.   I knew nothing other than playing along the shore, so there never seemed to be anything I believed I was missing out on.

One summer as a teen, I vacationed with extended family at a beach town in the southern part of my state.  During this particular trip to the beach, I ventured out.  This trip was different, because I elected to get into the water.  Swimming in the ocean wasn’t ever anything I grew up doing, but somehow seeing my cousins basking in that seemingly refreshing San Diego water, with delight written on their faces, made it much more appealing.

I took one step into the foaming shoreline, and found that it wasn’t nearly as daunting as I had been led to believe the ocean waters were, when I was much younger.  Every step I took, invited me further into that serene blue ocean.  Each step made it that much easier to take yet another step, then another.  Before I knew it, I was treading water.  What I had originally thought of as a beautiful blue taste of heaven turned out to be filled with unappetizing salt.  In addition to that, I no longer found myself in the shallow portion where the waters could kiss the shore.    

As I reflect back on that beach trip, I see how that event mirrors much of how I lived my life.  I would often draw a line in the sand on a particular issue, (confident I would never cross it), all to find that crossing that one line, wasn’t so bad.  Before I knew it, that damaging poor decision, and others after it, would lead me out into uncharted waters, that didn’t deliver on the promise their appearance had led me to believe.  

While I began to tread the waters of that San Diego beach, I felt a tug on my ankle.  That tug caused my whole head to unexpectedly go under.  I remember every time I began to gain the strength to fight to get back up, the weight of the pull kept me down under the water.  

There I was, fighting to get up for air.   I had drifted so far out from the shore, that the pursuit to get back to where I was, took all my efforts.  Once I was able to get my head above water, and breathe in some much needed air, I finally realized how far from land I really was.  I looked around for the familiar faces of my family, but all I saw were unfamiliar ones.  I paddled my arms so fast in an effort to reach dry land after that.

Much of my life has been spent treading in waters that God never intended me to go into.  Instead of being content on the shores He wanted to provide, I would find something else more riveting, that would inevitably hook me into the nets of destructive seas.  

Sin often takes us farther than we ever intended to go.  It pulls us down, and we are soon over our heads!  We are somehow convinced of the fun to be had in those wonderful pools of blue, but the oasis it promises, leaves a bad taste of unforgettable seaweed in our mouth.  And if we listen to that voice of a particularly seductive sin, eventually God’s voice is drowned from our heart, leaving us shipwrecked.

The Bible is filled with all sorts of folks just like us.  People who were convinced that the troubled waters they entered, weren’t that bad.  There was Jonah whose refusal to obey God led him to board a ship.  A ship that carried him into deep waters, after which he became the temporary lunch for a whale. (see Jonah 1:17)  Or King David, who instead of being on the dry land of the battlefield where he was called, found himself in a sea of compromise at the sight of someone bathing by moonlight. (2 Samuel 11:2)  Both of these choices carried Jonah and King David into seas of regret.

I don’t have a rock to throw in the waters that engulfed Jonah or King David.  I can truly relate to both.  I’ve personally set my focus on people (much like King David did), that I had no business bathing in sin with.  I can also identify with Jonah, who struggled with a defiant heart towards God, simply because I did not understand His ways.

So on what shore have you found yourself lacking contentment?  What sin is taking you in its undertow?  Has the line you once drew in the sand now been blurred on the shores, from waters you’ve entered?

Becoming A Moses

I often tell people I can relate to the Israelites of the Old Testament book of Exodus in the Bible.  The Israelites spent 40 years in a literal desert in which faith was required every step of the way.  After having raised my four children, I will also have spent 40 years in a faith-stretching ‘parental’ desert.  My own 40-year journey is due to having had four children over the span of 22 years.  I started my parental desert walk in 1988, and will have finished in 2028 after my youngest reaches the age of legal adulthood.  Because of the significant difference in age span, I will have had parental responsibility for 40 years. 

I raised my first two children as a single-parent and grumbled miserably throughout that taxing journey.  I wanted something more than the manna that was being provided, and often made idols out of things never meant to be glorified.  Simply said, I struggled with many of the same things the ancient Israelites did.  

But as times changed and I began to parent for the second time around, I learned how to parent purposefully, and with gratitude.  Little did I know, but God would soon be training me up to become a Moses.  

In 2014 the Lord called me to the daunting task of homeschooling my son, and subsequently my daughter.  I had selfishly been of the mindset that after having spent the first five years at home with children, the reward God gave to parents was a break in the form of sending them to school.  Public or private; the gift bestowed upon moms was that we now had our long-awaited uninterrupted ‘me time’.  Time in the restroom, time to clean the house without a mess being formed behind us, and time permitted to join a local yoga class.  Or if you really were thankful for this special time given, you could do something more ‘godly’, like… join a daytime Bible study.  In other words….some free time, after being set ‘free from hands-on, 24/7 parenting.

But that was not God’s plan for my life, or the life of my two youngest children.  

I had grown up and raised my first two children in California during the ‘90’s, where a negative stigma was attached to homeschooling.  But even if homeschooling had been a common practice in California during those days, as a single mother sometimes working multiple jobs, homeschooling would have been unrealistic for me.  

When I was later blessed, after remarriage, with the incredible privilege of being a stay-at-home mom and had birthed my second set of children, homeschooling was not on my radar.  During the pre-schooling years however, both my youngest children were diagnosed with different things that could potentially cause that ‘free time’ objective of mine, to be reevaluated.    

When God began to nudge me towards the idea of homeschooling my son, I was utterly overwhelmed by the thought, and found myself begging for a recess.  I had barely made it through my high school years and felt unprepared to complete college.  I was very good at having played school with my neighborhood friends as a little girl, but that wasn’t the same as having to actually homeschool my own children!  Playing school was nothing more than dressing up in my mother’s heels, holding a piece of white chalk, and pretending to impart wisdom on the neighborhood kids.  The thought of taking on the full-time job (in addition to general parenting), of instilling an academic foundation into my child, instilled massive worries of failure.  Surely God needed to be reminded of my inability to fulfill His calling. 

Which brings us to Moses…

Moses was one of several people in the Bible whom God had called to do His work.  He was called to lead God’s people out of the bondage they suffered at the hands of the Egyptians.  But Moses said to God, “who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  (Exodus 3:11)

We’ve often seen beautifully illustrated pictures of Moses shown in a child’s Sunday school class.  Pictures that depict and evoke mental images of him having been self-assured; but he wasn’t.  Moses had several concerns about his lack of qualifications, one in particular was in reference to his speech. But after a long discussion with his Maker over the interference of his perceived deficiencies God told Moses, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:12)  Moses was well-aware of his weaknesses, and so was God, which made him perfect for the task at hand.  God’s great glory and power would be made perfect in those weaknesses (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).  

The fears I felt over God’s directive for me to homeschool, were slapping my hand repeatedly like a wooden ruler in the hands of a teacher from the 1800’s.  And the shame I felt over my sense of inadequacies ushered me to believe I needed to stand, and face the corner.    

God’s words to Moses, were the words He spoke to my spirit … “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:12)

Though fear held me in its grasp, I just love that when God is calling us to do something, it isn’t to set us up for failure.  He uses imperfect people to do the work He has called them to do; so that He, the Lord God, can reveal His great power.  Yet Moses responded by simply saying, “Pardon your servant, Lord.  Please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13)

Is that not a relatable response?!

That’s just like us…or at least, like me!  I often squirm over the things God calls me to do.  I come up with all sorts of excuses as to why someone else may be better suited for the task.   I just knew I wasn’t suited for the task of homeschooling.  I didn’t feel equipped to handle that kind of responsibility.  ‘What if I fall short of what my son needs?’ was a thought that kept going through my mind.  Little did I know on that first day of homeschooling my son for kindergarten, that my nearly four-year old daughter would ask me where her work was too.  

Ugh!  Two kids to homeschool, when I didn’t even feel equipped for one!  

But God knew my little girl would inquire of her school-work that day, and He prevailed.  My daughter had no idea that she was not a part of my school plan for the day, but she was a part of the Lord’s plan!  Without missing a dot on the number line, I quickly gathered work for her to do.

How ironic that God would choose Moses, knowing that he was not an eloquent man.  There was no coincidence in His choice.  He selected a man (who admitted to having issues with public speaking), to speak in public to the high-falutin authority in Egypt. In addition to Moses’ public speaking engagement with Pharaoh, he was also expected to soon lead a nation full of complaining, golden-calf worshipping, Hebrew people through a parted Red Sea and many miles of dry, hot, desert land.  But because of God’s mercy, He allowed Moses’ brother Aaron to partner in His endeavour.  

There was also no coincidence that He chose me, a person who struggled all through school, to grow my children academically.  Moses learned a lot on his trip through the desert, as have I, on my homeschooling journey.  I would never have guessed how God, through His grace, could, ‘give back what the locusts have eaten‘ (see Joel 2:25) in my own education, through the instruction I have provided to my children. As with Moses, God has given me the words to speak as He teaches through me each year of homeschooling.  

I’m still walking through His parting of my own homeschooling sea through which He faithfully is leading me.  I choose to trust that the powerful waters that tower above me on both sides will remain in place by the Father’s hand, for me to finish my journey to the end.  He has been faithful to supply the manna needed for each year that I teach.   And this time…I live sustained, and satisfied greatly with that manna, as I make my journey.   

So what is God calling you to do through His strength, that you feel ill-equipped to do?  What desert journey are you called to lead others through, and what sea are you trusting God to part for you, as you’re… becoming a Moses?