Saturday, November 29, 2014

Heavenly Surprise

John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us." But Jesus said to him, "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:49-50 NASB)

In this passage, the disciples had seen a man casting out demons in the name of Jesus. He clearly had both power and authority to do this, and was succeeding in an area where the disciples of Jesus had recently failed. Because he was not "in the group", the disciples had tried to stop him. The problem was not that this man had not had a life-changing encounter with Christ. It was not that he was doing anything to hinder the Kingdom of God. He was actually serving Jesus faithfully. It was simply a matter of not being in the right group (their group). 
Jesus was very clear. "Do not hinder him." 

We discussed previously that there would be no denominations in heaven. This sectarianism so common today is not recommended nor encouraged in Scripture. Even the Jewish law had a provision for outsiders who embraced the faith. There will be no denominations in heaven.  

Several people commented yesterday that there will be no race in heaven. It might be better said that there will be no race issues in heaven. We will "know as we are known", which indicates that we will recognize people. I'm not sure how our bodies will look, but we will not have the frail bodies we have now. While we are on the topic, it's worth taking a closer look. 

When we enter heaven, we will not take even a morsel of "stuff" with us. All our material possessions will be left behind. Heaven does not have rich and poor sections. We all enter empty handed. 

This may surprise you, but we are not heading to an American heaven. It will not look like an American subdivision. We will not be dressed in American clothes. 

John, writing in The Revelation, described a huge crowd of people from "every nation, tribe, people, and tongue". They were all dressed in white robes, all holding palm branches, and all singing praises to God. (Rev 7:9) Did you notice that everyone is wearing the same outfit? The only designer clothes we will have are those designed by God Himself, and everyone gets them. There are no secondhand or cast off robes in heaven. We all get the same. 

This may surprise you, but any "crown" we receive for good deeds will not be staying on our heads. Revelation 4:10 clearly describes the 24 elders casting their crowns before the throne of God. We can expect that our crowns will go there too, and so they should. 

There is another little point that may surprise you. We are all together. Did you recognize that the huge crowd is made up of everyone from every country? We will all be mixed right in. The Africans, Mexicans, Americans, French, Spanish and every other nationality will be all mixed up together. I was hoping I could be in the African section because of the freedom in their worship, but it turns out that we will all worship freely there. 

I don't know if you noticed the palm branches. It turns out that worship in heaven is not much like the worship in most of the churches I've attended. We will be standing, holding Palm branches, waving them and singing. Our arms will definitely be raised. Just saying. It's impossible to wave a palm branch with your hands in your lap, so we might as well loosen up in worship this side of eternity. 

We all have the same clothes. We all put our crowns before the throne of God. We will all be singing praises to God in one big group, all nations and races together. We will all be standing and waving palm branches as we sing. With enthusiasm. 

Our churches were not meant to exclude anyone. They were never intended to be all one color or socioeconomic class. Our churches should look as much like heaven as we can make them. Multicolored, multicultural, enthusiastic, and free. Why aren't they? You know the answer to that question and you certainly don't need me to tell you. We are the problem. We are not heaven-hearted, but we are supposed to be. Imagine for a moment what our churches would be like if we relinquished our prejudices and inhibitions and allowed God to give us a heaven-heart, one that embraces all people and loves freely. Before long, our churches could become little diorama displays of heaven itself! What fun that would be! 

It was Jesus' prayer that we would be one body, unified and working together. Let's make sure we are. 

The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is now available at Get your copy today. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Wanting something different

Belle is usually the sweetest horse in the barn. Lately, however she has had her eye on Cali's stall. When I open the barn door to let the horses in, Belle nearly plows me down. She is galloping to get to Callie's stall first. 

What's incredibly foolish about Belle's behavior is that she already has the best stall. Hers is roomy and comfortable. There's nothing wrong with her stall at all, and no reason to want a change. That is the problem. She wants a change. It won't be for the better, but she wants what Cali has. 

When I see her behavior, I know that it's foolish. It's foolish in horses and, I hate to say, it's foolish in us, as well. On this Black Friday, the most insane shopping day of the year, we would do well to recognize that our behavior can be just as foolish as Belle's.  Most of us already have all that we need. Most of the people for whom we buy already have all that they need. Most of us have a very comfortable life, as do those for whom we will shop. What, exactly, is the point of this shopping frenzy? 

The Christmas season is the biggest shopping season of the year. There is an incredible pressure and compulsion to spend and buy. The spending extravaganza that will take place over the next few weeks certainly has nothing at all to do with Jesus' birthday and likely nothing to do with extending the kingdom of God in any way. I wonder what God thinks about it. What does He think about the way we steward the resources He has entrusted to us during this season? 

Lest you think I'm the biggest Scrooge in town, let me confess that we put up a tree today and it is beautiful. The ornaments have been collected over a lifetime, many made by my son as a child. I will help with a Christmas luncheon for the Senior Citizens in my town and will dress the tables with typical holiday decorations. I'm singing in the Christmas musical at church. 

I'm fully invested in the season. It's my Savior's birthday and I want Him to enjoy the festivities. With that in mind, I've modified my traditions a bit over the years. The buying and giving has been decidedly different the last few years, and it will be more so this year. Handmade gifts will be the norm. I've learned some new food preservation skills this year. A few people are getting a sample with detailed instructions on my technique. I will definitely be giving books, and they will not all be books I have written, but they will have something of faith in them. I collected seeds from my favorite flowers in my yard and there will be a few seed packets tucked into gifts. Most gifts will have something of me in them. They will have meaning and, hopefully point to Jesus. 

Not all of my gifts will be "stuff" to add to someone's collection. Some of my gifts will be investments in the kingdom of God, and I will try hard to match the donation with the one in whose name it is given. 

Friends, the mess we've made of the Christmas season will not get better until those of us who know and love Jesus decide to do something different. The changes I have made would have seemed strange and terrible ten years ago, but they have come, steadily but gradually, and my Christmas celebration is better for it. It will be focused on Jesus and will point the way to Him. Come to think of it, isn't that the way it's supposed to be? 

Don't just try to keep Christ in Christmas, let's let Him have the entire thing. Why not make Him our focus throughout the Season, not a pile of stuff? Don't  just have a Happy Holiday. Make sure what we have this year is a Merry Christmas. 

Not in the Club

John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us." But Jesus said to him, "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:49-50 NASB)

When John went to Jesus with this information, he probably thought he had done a good thing. Someone had heard Jesus teach or had learned of His teachings, believed what He said, and had acted on His words. Remember, Jesus told His disciples that they would do greater things than He had done. This particular believer had believed and had begun to cast out demons in the name of Jesus. 

Just to be sure we all understand, the man wasn't "trying" to cast out demons, he was actually casting them out in the name of Jesus. To be perfectly clear, the demons understood that this man had the authority to cast them out in the name of Jesus, and, when he commanded them to leave, they left. There was nothing wrong with his theology nor with his discipleship. There was nothing wrong about his casting out of demons. In fact, he was helping people to find freedom in Christ in a way that the disciples had failed to do. 

John was upset about the fact that he wasn't in "the disciple club". "He doesn't follow along with us", John complained.  The problem, in John's mind, was not that he followed, but that he followed in a different group. When we read these words, they seem pretty silly, don't they? The only thing wrong was that he didn't belong to the First Disciple Church. That was it. 

There's a tendency to shake our heads at  John's prejudice but it is no laughing matter. John's attitude persists today and it is not only divisive, it is destructive to the body of Christ. It turns the Baptists against the Pentecostals and the Church of God against the Presbyterians. It puts one denomination in competition with another, one denomination convinced that their theology is better than another's. It sounds an awful lot like pride in disguise, doesn't it? 

Friends, this should not be. There is a harvest of souls that is not gathered, partly because the body of Christ is divided into so many territorial groups. Some of my favorite ministry efforts have been with non-denominational groups in which the gospel is proclaimed with only one label, the label of Christ Jesus Himself. When we work together, we can do much more than when we divide into territorial groups. 

In Heaven, there will be no denominational badges. The only thing that will matter is our relationship to Jesus. We will eat together, worship together, and live together for all eternity, and we will do it in perfect harmony. Since we will be together forever, why not practice unity now? If the body of Christ served and worked as one unit, despite worshipping in different buildings, just think what we could do! We could change the world, help the hurting, and bring a little bit of heaven to earth. We are one in the Spirit. Let's live like it! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Being least

, but An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great." (Luke 9:46-48 NASB)

The disciples were having an argument. The question was not some deep theological issue. The question was "Who is greatest?" Every one of them thought they were greatest. None of them were. Finally, Jesus (who knew what they were thinking and what they were arguing about) stepped in. 

It would have been easy to lambast and embarrass the disciples, but that's not what He did. (I should learn from Him on this) Jesus called a little boy to His side, and started teaching. The little boy was not rich or famous. He had no power or authority. He could not help advance their careers or their position. According to Thayer's Greek Lexicon, the word translated here as "receive" means "to take in to your home to raise and educate". If you receive (welcome and provide for) this child, you are doing it for Me. When you receive Me, you receive My Father who sent Me. The one who is least among you is the one who is great. 

That word "least" can also mean little, as in little influence. The one who seems the least important, the most humble one among you, is the greatest. Both Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died about the same time. One woman was very wealthy and lived a very public life with a lavish lifestyle. One woman spent her life in poverty, caring for the least of the least. Both woman did many good things. Both woman made an impact on their worlds. Mother Teresa, however, spent her life loving the diseased and the dying, willing sacrificing herself to serve others. In the end, the least was the greatest. 

Do you want to be great? If so, serve the least with great love. Greatness does not come with a big bank balance. It does not come with an important job or a fancy title. Greatness comes when we humble ourselves, roll up our sleeves, and care for the least likely with the greatest need. If you want to be great, you have to start by not only being least, but by loving and serving the least. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Prayers

I was hoping for a sweet, uncomplicated post for the night before Thanksgiving. Maybe even something funny. I considered a Wonder Dog Thanksgiving post. Then, I read the news. This morning, I saw troubling words on the WTVA news app. A soviet official, commenting on recent protests and violence, expressed concern about the "instability" in our nation. That has troubled me all day. Tonight, I find that there are numerous concerns in the international community about the stability and values in our nation, as evidenced by the recent rioting and protests.

Here's just a sample of what I've found (you might check for more information)
- The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine "expressed solidarity with the protesters".
- The Times of India describes events as an "eruption of black fury"
- An article in Venezuela compared the events in Ferguson to the demonstrations in Mexico and stated that the common link was the "role of the state".
- A Chinese business executive, commenting on social media, said "Americans urgently need universal values." 

In case you missed that, the international community is questioning our values and our stability, and rightly so. I do not presume to say what is right and wrong in a situation about which I do not have all the information. There are some things that are obvious, however. It is wrong to steal and to destroy someone else's property. No matter what else has happened, two wrongs do not make a right. My grandmother taught me that truth, and so did my mama. I have taught my son that, and I certainly hope he remembers it.  

Two wrongs do not make a right.

On the other hand, our first amendment prohibits the government from making laws that limit our right for peaceable assembly. I have reread the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Amendments to the Constitution this evening. It is a masterfully written and assembled document. There is nothing wrong with our Constitution. Just to be sure we all understand the first amendment, I've copied it  here:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The first amendment does not guarantee us the right to violence. It guarantees us the right to peaceable assembly. I, myself, have attended peaceable assemblies. If we are peaceable, then our Constitution guarantees us the right to assemble in that manner. I have sworn to uphold the Constitution on three separate occasions, and I have tried hard to do that very thing. The guarantees we have been afforded are precious and must not be taken lightly. Please understand me. I have nothing at all against peaceful demonstrations with signs, chants, or songs. I am not against a row of people standing quietly in the middle of a busy highway with a banner or a sign. That is inconvenient for the people on the highway, but is peaceable and is protected by the First Amendment to our Constitution. When we see injustice, it is our duty and our right to speak up, but we must do it in a peaceable manner. Shouting obscenities and threats are not peaceful, and are not protected by the Constitution. Throwing frozen water bottles is not peaceable behavior and is not protected by our Constitution, nor is looting, arson, or destruction of public property. Those behaviors are crimes.

You may not see this outbreak of protest and violence the way I see it. You may think I am wrong, and, frankly, I pray that I am. In a nutshell, we have a mess and only God can fix it. This is not going in a good direction. The looting and destruction of minority businesses does not help to heal a wound for which healing is long overdue. The burning of patrol cars makes a statement, but it is costly for the town in which it happens, and, in the end, it hurts the very people who need help the most. 

Lest you think I have overlooked the behavior of law enforcement, I have not.  My dear friends' son was arrested in St. Louis and, frankly, manhandled, while trying to assist protestors who had been maced and were seeking to flee the violence. There is not likely a more kind and gentle man, and I cannot imagine a situation in which he could be construed as a violent offender while sharing the love of Christ.

As disciples of Christ, we cannot expect the non-believers of this world to act like Jesus. Why would they do that when we find it so hard to do ourselves? Acting like Jesus is OUR responsibility as the body of Christ. Acting like Jesus is not optional. I hope you understand those two facts, but they bear repeating. 

Acting like Jesus is OUR responsibility as the body of Christ.
Acting like Jesus is not optional

I really do not want to go here, and to be honest, I would have had a happy, funny blog post up two hours ago, but I was under such conviction that I had to repent and write what was on my heart. Body of Christ, we do not have much more time. We must get with it. We need to do what needs to be done, and we need to do it now. We do not need to wait until after Black Friday and we probably do not need to wait until after Thanksgiving. Our nation is in a mess, and that Great Cloud of Witnesses is poised and watching to see how we will respond. 

I remind you again of what God told Solomon. When the country is in a mess and under the judgment of God, only God's people can help. If they do not do what needs to be done, judgement will proceed. Are we under judgement? I can't say for sure, but we certainly do not appear to be in a peaceful, blessed condition right now. If there is injustice, we need to correct it. If there is prejudice, we need to lead the way in changing that. If there is brutality, we need to speak up and demand change. 

More than all of those actions, however, there is something that is not optional, and only God's people can do it.

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 

It is not enough for  me, alone, to humble myself, pray, seek God's face, repent, and turn from my sin. It is not enough for me alone to repent of our corporate sin. The body of Christ must join together to accomplish healing in our nation. We can do this, and we must. We will be so glad we did. It will be much better than getting a great before-dawn deal on something we do not need. I recognize it is the holiday season. I know we have family gatherings scheduled. I know all that, and I have all those same things planned. 

At the same time, I am deeply concerned about our country and deeply committed to its preservation. Please, my brothers and sisters, look around you. We have a situation that cries out for our help. I hate to say this, especially the evening before Thanksgiving, but the best way to humble ourselves is to fast and pray, begging God for forgiveness.
Oh, dear ones, please understand the urgency here. I hope that I am wrong about what will happen if we fail to act in repentance. I hope I am wrong, but I do not think I am. You will not like where we are headed. You will not like it at all. Time is short, dear ones. Please pray.

The peril of prayerlessness

An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great." (Luke 9:46-48 NASB)

Jesus was training His disciples to carry on once He returned to heaven. The disciples didn't yet realize that they were being groomed for a near impossible task. If they had, perhaps they would have been less concerned about who was greatest and more concerned about how they would accomplish the enormous job Jesus would give them. My mother sometimes said, "Ignorance is bliss." For the disciples, ignorance was a kind of bliss that allowed them to continue with foolishness, such as the argument about who was greatest. None of them were greatest. Those who were privy to the transfiguration had failed to stay awake for the divine event and those who were left to carry on the ministry had failed to heal the sick boy. 

Both groups had failed as a result of the same root cause. Prayerlessness. Peter, James, and John did not persevere in prayer when they joined Jesus for His mountain prayer retreat. As a result, they drifted off to sleep and missed most of the divine events for which they had been included. The other disciples were busy trying to carry on with the work and failed to spend the amount of time in prayer required to be prepared for the work. 

Does that sound familiar? We, too, are often guilty of being so busy that we fail to spend time with our Lord in prayer and Bible study, preparing for the work He has given us. We are equally guilty of thinking that our agenda, our plans, are what matters for the future. God has a plan. His word is clear about it. There is a plan for each of us. It is a plan for good and not evil. It is a plan for a future and a hope. What we need to understand is that God's plan is the one that will be blessed, and we would do well to align our lives and our priorities with His plan. If we could grasp the fact that there is a plan that requires our participation to expand the kingdom of God, perhaps we would be more focused on preparation for that plan, more vigilant, more faithful. If we understood that the tasks ahead cannot be accomplished in our strength alone, perhaps we would be willing to spend the time required to gain the strength we need. 

What do you have on your agenda for today? Is it the same agenda as that of Almighty God? It is the busiest days that require the greatest amount of prayer. As you make your list of tasks to accomplish today, be sure that time with your Heavenly Father is at the top of the list. That time is the source of your power, so be still until you have the power you need. 
The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is now available at Get your copy today. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Trusting and obeying

I am abuzz with books these days. Getting The Waiting in my hands after all the work and waiting was so exciting! When I returned from Nashville, I was so glad to be home that I temporarily forgot they had been delivered. That big stack of boxes was wonderful!

I didn't write much yesterday because of other responsibilities but today I was able to write almost all day. I am constantly surprised by how much fun it is to write, especially writing fiction. It has turned out that my quest for facts extends to fiction, as well. I have very rarely seen fiction with footnotes, but my new book has them. 

Since terrorists from Uzbekistan have surfaced in my book, I had to read extensively about Uzbek and the terrorists who are active there. You may not be surprised that the terrorists are planning an act of terror, so that prompted a very informative search for the types of dastardly deeds each terror group prefers. Even more surprising, I learned today that those dastardly deed doers who use bombs have multiple bomb choices, and some are very unexpected. I know a good bit more about bombs than I ever expected to know. 

Of course the FBI is helping track these bad guys. That's mostly because I forgot all about Homeland Security. It turns out that no FBI agent can be in two different cities (in two different states) at the same time. Unfortunately, I didn't discover my error for almost two action-packed chapters. Today, I had some re-writing to do. 

The best part of writing fiction is that I can give my characters some of the most wonderful parts of my day. When they least expect it, God shows up. When their mind is in a stew, He speaks. When they have never heard of Jesus, someone introduces them. It is exactly like real life. (Or how real life is supposed to be) In fiction, it is possible for the body of Christ to act like the body of Christ is supposed to act, and the results can be pretty amazing. 

I believe that, if the body of Christ acted like the body of Christ all the time, we would see some pretty fabulous things. God would do more than we can imagine and we would see signs and wonders. If we acted like we are supposed to. That's a pretty big "if", but it is not an impossible if. Do you want to see God move in extraordinary ways? Do what He says. It's just that simple. It may be horridly complicated in fiction but in real life, all we need is obedience and love. 

Who is greatest?

And there arose a reasoning among them, which of them was the greatest. (Luke 9:46 ASV)

The disciples had been busy. Most of them had been left behind to manage the ministry while Jesus took a break for prayer, accompanied by Peter, James, and John. Things had not gone well, and an upset father confronted Jesus upon His return with the news of their failure. His son had a demon causing convulsions and they had not been able to remove it. Jesus intervened, removed the demon, and healed the child. 

Afterwards, He spoke to the disciples about the importance of remembering the things He had taught them. He would be arrested and they would need to carry on. They didn't understand and they didn't ask questions. No one wanted to know what He meant, nor what was to come. 

Some time after this exchange, a disagreement broke out among the disciples. They were discussing which of them was greatest. When you think about it, this was a crazy argument. Who was greatest? Jesus was. There should have been no argument about that. The question then became which of them was second greatest. 

There were two groups. The larger group had just failed miserably in the area of healing and miracles. The second group, made up of Peter, James, and John had just slept through the transfiguration, waking only as Moses and Elijah, Jesus' heavenly visitors, were departing. It is pretty clear that neither group had much cause for celebration. If they had seen themselves as they were, with all their flaws and failures, I'm not sure they would have found much about which to argue. Who was greatest? None of them. 

The disciples had a problem from which we all suffer, and it's called pride. They saw the good in themselves and the negative in the others. Their skewed opinions caused unnecessary friction in the group. A clear understanding of their own heart would have eliminated all cause for argument, but they saw what they wanted to see, much as we do. Those flawed disciples had much good in them, but they also needed to grow and mature. Years later, these same men would evangelize the world with the good news of Jesus, but they had a long way to go before that would happen. 

Most of us have that same pride problem. It may not manifest in the same way, but it's a common affliction. There's a common solution, too. When we see ourselves as we are in comparison to who Christ is, our self-importance begins to fade. We would do well to ask God to show us our own hearts. When we see our sin in comparison to the spotless Lamb of God, there is no doubt. Who is the greatest? Jesus. Only Jesus. 
The new book, The Waiting: When The Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is now available at Get yours today!
Link to last night's post:

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Wonder Dogs Get a Bath

The Wonder Dogs went with me to the barn this afternoon. One of my friends had challenged me to a Work Week Hustle, a friendly competition to get the most steps during the work week. This afternoon, I checked the step counter and I was a little behind. It's not that I'm competitive or anything, but I did have a daily step goal to meet, so I had to get some walking done. 

Once or twice to the barn and back was about all the Wonder Dogs could stand before they found a more interesting distraction. Unfortunately, that interesting distraction was soft, smelly, and still steaming in the cow pasture. They had a grand time! The stench was awful, and their appearance was even worse.  

Both dogs were shocked when I refused to let them in the house. Mamie ran back to the kitchen door and started scratching, desperate to come in. I opened the door, scooped her up, and headed to the sink. She whimpered, twisted, wheezed, and jumped around like I was killing her! I could barely hold her for all the jumping, which was, frankly, a disgusting experience because of the  smell and grossness. I had dressed in my polka-dotted rubber raincoat but even that was not enough. By the time Mamie was clean, I was also soaked. 

Maggie, on the other hand, let me bring her in and bathe her with not a single complaint. She was as good as could be, as you would expect from the original Wonder Dog. 

There's quite a contrast between the two when it comes to bath time clean up. Maggie likes to get dirty but she doesn't like to stay dirty. Mamie is just wide open.  She wants to get dirty, stay dirty, and get dirtier. As long as she doesn't have to have a bath, she's happy. 

We are, unfortunately, also a little casual about getting the dirt of this world and the soil of sin into our lives. We are often as cantankerous as Mamie about getting it out of our lives. There's an old hymn that says "sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow." Sin does leave a stain in our hearts that only Christ can cleanse, and having a clean heart feels wonderful! Why, then, do we so often act like Mamie, throwing a fit about removing the stain that sin has caused and refusing to relinquish its power in our lives? It is better to be cleansed and forgiven, but you can't always tell it from the way we behave. What is it about the stench of sin that is so appealing? Why do we struggle so hard to keep our sin? 

When I look at the grace with which Maggie accepted her bath, I think we, like Maggie, may just need to be a little older in our faith and a bit wiser. If we want to be right with God, however, we must accept His cleansing with grace.  Insisting on keeping the stench and stain of sin will never do, and, truthfully, we can't expect God to tolerate it. Friends, if there is something in your life that is as displeasing to God as the Wonder Dogs' cow pooh roll is to me, why not let God have it? Let Him cleanse you and make your heart as white as snow. 

Maggie has learned an important lesson. No one snuggles with a dog that's covered in cow pooh. A clean, sweet smelling dog is another matter entirely. A bath makes more snuggling possible. If a doggie bath can yield such a sweet benfit, just think what intimacy can follow the cleansing of a soul!
The new book, The Waiting: When The Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is now available at Get yours today!

The Persistent Father, part 10

"Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men." But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement. (Luke 9:44-45 NASB)

Today's verses show us the great kindness of God in preparing us for the future. Jesus, with the cross always on His mind, was trying to prepare His disciples for what was to come. They were not yet ready to understand all He would face, but He wanted them to know that a crisis was coming and it would not be easy. "Let My words sink in," He told them. "You are going to need them later." It's not exactly how He said it, but is clearly what He meant. Let these words sink in because I am going to be arrested (delivered into the hands of men). If Jesus was not with them, they needed His words to be such a part of them that they could remember them when they needed them. 

When Jesus said, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men," He knew what that meant. He knew that there would be an arrest, torture, crucifixion. None of that was a surprise to Him, and He not only came from heaven, knowing what was to come, He stayed all the way to the end. Scripture tells us that He persevered because of what came after the arrest, torture, crucifixion. The resurection, the pardon He purchased for all mankind, was worth what it cost Him. Knowing that, He endured. 

Do not miss this point. Jesus told His disciples to remember His words and make them a part of themselves. He did not tell them why. In fact, He intentionally kept the knowledge from them. Who could continue to follow if they had know what would happen? Likely no one. If they were allowed to go through the entire difficult time from His arrest until His resurection, they would be ready for anything, and they would need to be, but they needed the time of discipleship first. They needed the foundation He was giving them. Looking back, they would remember His words and understand what they meant. For the present, however, hints were all they needed. 

It's interesting to me that the disciples knew they did not understand Jesus' words, but did not ask for an explanation, as they had before. They must have realized there was something ominous in the words, because they were afraid to ask. Apparently, they felt they were better off not knowing, and it must have been true. 

Looking back over my years of following Jesus, I can see many times that He allowed a difficulty that would mold and change me into someone more like Christ. Had He informed me of all I would face, I might have balked and refused to go farther. Might? I almost certainly would have refused to proceed. His kindness allowed me to see only the portion of the path I needed in order to press ahead. Perhaps you, too, have experienced the grace of an incomplete understanding of the future that allowed you to go to a hard time and carried you through. During this week of thanksgiving, let us not fail to give thanks for those hard times that molded us into the disciples He intended and the grace that has carried us through. 
The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone  is now available online at

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Coming home

(I'm going to try again to write what I thought I was writing last night. If you were surprised by last night's post, just imagine how surprised I was! I thought I was writing about the Wonder Girls, but no. I was volunteering for war duty, and meant every word of what I wrote. I just didn't mean to reveal it. There is no telling what will happen when I get started writing. It's always been that way!)

Yesterday, I pulled in to my drive way and was delighted to see Maggie the Wonder Dog and Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy outside playing. When they saw my car, they started running around in circles and barking like crazy. They were insanely excited and it was hilarious. When I opened the car door, they both jumped in, landed in my lap, and refused to get out. They wanted their mama and they were not letting her go! 

When we finally made it out of the car and into the house, they could not be contained. Mamie alternated between running in circles and hopping up and down. Maggie had one thing on her mind, and she would not be deterred. Lap time! Maggie insisted I follow her to the big green chair and sit. She promptly jumped into my lap and snuggled in, intermittently reaching over to give my hand a lick or two. The dogs have followed me everywhere since I got home, and it's surprising how welcome I've felt. 

Truthfully, the dogs are excited to see me whether I've been gone seven days or seven hours. Sometimes, I go to the barn without them and, when I get back to the house, you'd think I had been gone a month. They know how to make a woman feel welcome! 

It's not like that everywhere I go, but wouldn't it be nice if it were? Just imagine people being glad to see us every time we entered a room. Imagine keeping an eye out for the new arrival and celebrating their presence. It goes both ways and it makes arrivals much more fun. 

The thing we often forget is how glad God is when we enter His presence. The psalmist said an interesting thing about being in God's presence:

In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. (Psalms 16:11 NASB)

"Fullness of joy" means everyone present is fully joyful. I guess that means we are glad to be there and He is glad to have us. What a precious welcome our Lord would offer if we would slow down long enough to enter His presence and stay there long enough to share His joy! A Wonder Dog welcome is a fun greeting, but it does not even compare to the greeting of Almighty God. Get still and spend time today with the One who loves you most. Fullness of joy awaits! Don't miss it!

The Persistent Father, part 9:

"Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men." (Luke 9:44 NASB)

And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."

And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer." (Mark 9:23, 29 NASB)

(We missed an important point and are returning to verse 44 to glean it.) 

The word translated as "sink" is one that conveys the idea of laying up or storing. Another way of saying this might be "let My works soak into and through you". Jesus' intent was for the disciples to do more than let His words go in one ear and out the other. He intended for His words to "sink in" and stay there. 

Which words did Jesus want us to store?  All of them. Every word He spoke was given to us with His face looking toward the cross and His eyes focused on eternity. His words were given that we might be prepared for what is to come. This story is also related in Mark's gospel, which included a few more details. I have pulled out a few of those words of Jesus from the Mark passage. First, "all things are possible to him who believes." What does "all" include? Any manner of healing is possible. Some healing will only be accomplished in heaven, but much healing could be accomplished here on earth, if we had the faith to request it. Jesus did not put a limit on the things for which we ask, only that we should ask in the name of Jesus and for the perfect will of the Father. 

Some things "can only come out (or be healed) by prayer (or by prayer and fasting)". This is still true. Perhaps the reason we do not see miracles in our American churches today is that we are not willing to deny ourselves by fasting and praying with intensity. I am not saying that, if your prayer was not answered in the way you wanted, it was because you didn't pray hard enough or long enough. In the end, it is God's will that must be done. Our job is to humble ourselves, repent of our sins, fast and pray. 

This is a hard word for the American church, and it grieves me to say it, but we need to hear it. Let these words sink in and hold to them. Our inability to see the miraculous signs and wonders of God in this country does not mean that God is unable to do miraculous signs or wonders, nor does it mean that they are not happening. According to numerous reports from first-hand observers, the blind are regaining their sight. The deaf are regaining their hearing. The dead are being raised. These miracles are not happening as a result of medical intervention. They are happening in places where there is no medical intervention. You may have heard the saying, "When God is all you have, you learn that He is all you need." It turns out that those words are true, and people in the most remote places on earth can attest to it. They still see God move. Miracles still happen. 

Our job is to know the heart of God and not just the hand of God. When we intimately know the heart of God (faith) by allowing His words to sink in like a gentle summer rain, we, too, may begin to see our prayers answered in ways too marvelous for us to imagine. It all begins with this one thing. Let His words sink in and take root. The fruit they can bear is more marvelous we can imagine.