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Friday, September 30, 2016

The Secret to Miraculous Transformation



Sam Wiley loves the book of John. I might be wrong, but he appears to have memorized Chapter 14. Maybe more. He quotes it. A lot.

His constant quotes sent me back to read and study in John, and it's been like balm on an itchy spot. Beautiful truths. Beautifully written. 

This morning, I'm looking at the story of the wedding in Cana as told in John 2. You probably know this story. The family hosting the wedding was in big trouble because they had lots of guests, but had run out of wine. 

Mary, Jesus' mother, came to Him with the bad news. "They're out of wine."

Jesus hesitated. I don't know if wedding wine was what He'd planned for His introduction into public ministry or not. Maybe the look on His Mama's face touched his heart. His hesitation lasted only a moment. 

As a mom, I know when my son's attitude about something softens, just by looking at his face. Mary did, too. She turned to the servants and gave them the wisest advice anyone has ever spoken. "Whatever He says to you, do it." (John 2:5) 

The miracle wasn't done yet. The evidence of His power hadn't been revealed. But she knew. She'd kept everything that had happened since before Jesus was born treasured in her heart. She'd probably recalled those memories hundreds of times over the years. Somehow, she recognized it as a pivotal moment and gave those servants the key to following Jesus before His ministry had begun.

"Whatever He says to you, do it."

Those are wise words we'd do well to heed. 

Whatever Jesus says to do, do it. Those instructions were the key to miraculous transformation, and they still are. 

Today, let's get still enough to listen and ask Jesus to speak into our hearts. Listen. Then, obey. Simply obey.
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In case you missed the story of Sam's project, here's the link: Sam's Project: Rubber Boots for Barefoot Rwandan Children
If you'd like to give to help buy boots for the barefoot school children of Rwandan, you can go directly to the project page here: Help Sam's Kids. There's still a LONG way to go. I'll have an update later this morning.


In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Three Reasons We Don't Have to Fear Spiritual Warfare
#Jesus #dailyinspiration

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Three Reasons We Don't Have to Fear Spiritual Warfare



"It's spiritual warfare."

Those words used to send chills through me. I'm not sure what I expected the devil to do, but I imagined him in a long, black cape that swirled around his feet as he walked, rugged face that could be charming in an instant, with dry-ice-style smoke billowing at his feet. I imagined him, arm outstretched, finger pointed my way, making a slashing motion and roaring, "Take her down."

There's not much that's Biblical about my Hollywood-inspired devil fantasy. 

What I've come to understand is that there is a spiritual battle being waged constantly. Evil against good. Satan against Jehovah God. 

In the end, our God wins because our God has all the power, all the wisdom, all the authority, all the control. Satan has a little power for a brief season. It's nothing compared to God's. (Revelation tells us this in vivid detail.)

I try to remember that.

Here's what I know from Scripture. Our God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. He controls life and death. Our enemy is not. 

God knows all, hears all, sees all, and is present everywhere, all at once. Our enemy prowls about like a roaring lion, (1 Peter 5:8) but he's not everywhere all the time. He can't hear our thoughts. 

If we want to resist with Scripture (as Jesus did in the desert temptation described in Luke 4), we have to speak it aloud.  

He has plenty of demon help to harass us far too often, and those demonic forces have a powerful hierarchy. (Ephesians 6) They have areas over which they are responsible, but their authority is not God-given. It's devil-given. They can hurt us and the ones we love, but they cannot take a life. God knows the days of our lives (Psalm 139:16), and that cannot be changed by warfare.

Instead, as believers, WE have the authority over demonic forces, and it has been given by the One who rules the universe and keeps the constellations in their place. (Luke 10:19, Matthew 16:19) We may be defeated in a few skirmishes, but we don't have to be. 

We have authority over our enemy.

Satan always opposes the work of God. If we're doing God's work, he will oppose our efforts. If we encounter no opposition, we need to consider how well we're doing the thing to which God has called us. It's that simple.

The enemy works first on our mind, whispering lies into our heads. If we don't take every thought captive, we can be easily defeated by those lies. (2 Corinthians 10:5) I know, because he's defeated me with lies more than once.

If we do take every thought captive, keeping our minds stayed on Christ, opposition will come in many other forms. Our enemy is creative in his efforts, and it's easy to get frustrated. When I remember that those efforts are borne of desperation, it's a little easier to withstand.

I recently encountered a surge of what I considered warfare. Multiple aggravations all designed to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10) It has taken years to get to this point, but I actually found the opposition reassuring, knowing that I must be on the right track for the enemy to work so hard against me. (That's a radical change from a few years ago, and I thank God for it.)

My response to spiritual warfare is no longer to cower, because God hasn't given us a spirit of fear. (2 Timothy 1:7)  Instead, my response is to work harder for the Lord.

Ephesians 6 explains that we have powerful armor for fighting spiritual battles. Girdle (or belt) of truth, breastplate of righteousness, boots of gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:11 tells us that we are to put on ALL our armor so that we can stand firm. If we put on everything except our sword, we are still in a vulnerable position. 

God's Word is our only offensive weapon. If we don't study the Bible and know it well enough to use it when we need it, we'll be powerless in a spiritual battle. We may stand, but we won't be able to fight.

Knowing God's Word is not optional for His warriors.

Either God has all authority or He doesn't. I believe He does. 

Either He has given us authority in Christ over the forces or darkness, or He hasn't. I believe (because of Scripture) that He has. 

Either our armor can protect us or it can't. Scripture says it can, and I believe that. 

Our response to spiritual warfare is based largely on our faith and our knowledge. Do we know what God has said and do we believe it?

There's another important point that's often overlooked. Vulnerability. When I'm tired or hungry, I'm most vulnerable to the enemy's advance. If I am already indulging sin (especially in the form of wrong attitudes), I become a much easier target. 

When God says we need to care for our bodies, which are temples of God, He speaks with our protection in mind. 

A well-maintained fortress is a more impregnable one.

As we work for the Kingdom of God, opposition will come from our enemy, the evil one, but we don't have to be afraid. Our Lord has both power and authority over everything in heaven and on earth, He has given us authority over the attack, and He has given us all the equipment we need to win our battles.

The question for today is will we stand in the face of evil? Will we fight to serve our Lord? Will we hold firm against temptation?
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In case you missed the story of Sam's project, here's the link: Sam's Project: Rubber Boots for Barefoot Rwandan Children
If you'd like to give to help buy boots for the barefoot school children of Rwandan, you can go directly to the project page here: Help Sam's Kids. There's still a LONG way to go. I'll have an update later this morning.

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: What Do You Seek When You Follow Jesus?
#Christian #armorofGod

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What Do You Seek When You Follow Jesus?



There's no telling how many times I've read the Gospel of John. This morning, though, I noticed something I'd never seen before. After the introduction, John begins with John the Baptizer and the baptism of Jesus. 

The first words of Jesus aren't recorded until John 1:38. Two of John's disciples leave him and follow the One John has just pointed out as the Lamb of God. Jesus turns to them and speaks. 

"What do you seek?"

It's a simple question, but with such depth that we do well to stop and ponder it a bit.

I've sought a lot of things in my life, many of them completely worthless. My tendency is to seek a lot of Jesus and at least some of the things of this world. Jesus and a comfortable lifestyle. Jesus and whatever momentary desire I seek. 

Maybe you do that, too. It's pretty common.

Jesus is not much on sharing the spotlight of our lives, however. He calls us to a "leave everything behind" kind of discipleship. Focus totally on Him. Obey only Him. Leave family and friends and riches behind. Embrace Him.

It's radical. It's hard. It's often agonizing. In the moments when I focus only on Him, get my eyes off the things of this world, I find that seeking Him is worth it. Every single time. I'm easily distracted, though, and it requires a daily decision to keep my eyes riveted on the One who redeemed me with His blood sacrifice.

Today, Jesus' question is just as valid. 

Those of us who claim to follow would do well to consider our answer to His question. "What do you seek?" 

Why do we follow Jesus? 

Maybe we should ask a harder question... Why do we follow Him halfheartedly? Why not follow with our whole heart?

Now is the time to stop and refocus. Let's get our eyes completely on Him and follow the way He intended. Completely. Wholeheartedly. Without reservation.

In this world, it may seem radical to follow Jesus. In eternity, we'll see. It wasn't radical, at all. It was the best way to live.

"And Jesus turned, and beheld them following and said to them, 'What do you seek?'" John 1:38 nasb
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In case you missed the story of Sam's project, here's the link: Sam's Project: Rubber Boots for Barefoot Rwandan Children
If you'd like to give to help buy boots for the barefoot school children of Rwandan, you can go directly to the project page here: Help Sam's Kids. There's still a LONG way to go. I'll have an update later this morning.
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Why I Didn't Watch the Presidential Debate and What I'm Going to Do About It
#Jesus #follow

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Why I Didn't Watch the Presidential Debate and What I'm Going to Do About It




I didn't watch the debates last night.

Maybe I should have, but I didn't. I have a TV but I don't have cable or satellite. That's because I'm less of a TV person than I am a cat person. I'm pretty sure my big TV still works, because I turn it on for a minute every few months, just to be sure.

My TV wasn't the reason I didn't watch the debate, though; it was because I never do.

I prefer to skip all the rhetoric and analysis by commentators. I get the transcript of the debate afterward. Then, I check the facts. In this day of fake news sites, you have to be super careful, but it's still possible to get truth.

Truth.

It's a scare commodity these days, but let me remind you that there is a source for truth. The Bible. In fact, Jesus told us that He is the way, THE TRUTH, and the life. (John 14:6) If we want truth, we need look no further than Jesus.

When we compare the two candidates against THE TRUTH, JESUS, neither looks too great. However, when I compare my own life against THE TRUTH, JESUS, I don't look too great, either.

When I compare their words against THE TRUTH, JESUS, I'm not too impressed with the candidates, but, again, I don't always line up too well, either.

Yesterday, an interesting thing happened that may have quite an impact on the election process. I spoke at Traceway (a local assisted-living facility) about The Untapped Power Grid Project. We had a wonderful time together. As I do sometimes, I used my "prayer board" to demonstrate what I mean when I talk about praying for my Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. 

I include Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in my Samaria, and pray for them regularly  I didn't intend for their pictures to make it into the stack of missionary prayer cards, but somehow they did. As I walked around the room, looking at the missionaries those great prayer warriors had chosen, I noticed one woman holding Hillary Clinton's picture. 

"Did you want a missionary card?" I asked.

"No. We'd better do something or we're in big trouble. I'm taking her."

She was right. Unless we do something significant, we're in big trouble. That "something" is not more rhetoric. It's not more bad mouthing. It's not more complaining. 

Check the facts for yourself, then get busy doing what must be done.

Repent. Pray.

Yep. Don't just pray. We must start with our own personal repentance. We have sin, too. Not just our candidates. Let's deal with our own faults before we take the faults of others to the Lord.

Once that big job is done, let's get serious about prayer. Combine it with fasting. I can't do this job on my own, but I'm willing to do my part. It's going to take all of us in the body of Christ, however. 

I hope you noticed how I've outlined my plan of action. I'm repenting and praying. Those two things are critical. In fact, I've already begun. 

But that's NOT all I'm doing. 

I'm also checking facts from reliable news sources. Well, as reliable as I can find. What I'm not doing is listening to a "talking head" to get my information. I don't want someone else's interpretation of facts. 

I just want facts, and I know I'll have to dig to get them.

We have a serious problem. Neither candidate is as politically, ethically, morally, (or any other way) as attractive as I'd like, but a choice will have to be made. Let's make a prayerful AND informed choice.

For the sake of the nation, please help.

There are two verses on which I rely. They were first spoken more than two thousand years ago, but their truth has not been diminished by time.

"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." 2 Chronicles 7:14 

"The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes." Proverbs 21:1 nasb

Whether they realize it or not, a nation depends on the body of Christ to do what we can do. Repent. Pray. Get informed. Make the wisest, most Godly choice we can. We will have to pray hard for the one who's elected, but that's a problem for November. 

Today, let's check the facts, then examine our own hearts, get right with God, and take our candidates to Him. 
________________
In case you missed the story of Sam's project, here's the link: Sam's Project: Rubber Boots for Barefoot Rwandan Children
If you'd like to give to help buy boots for the barefoot school children of Rwandan, you can go directly to the project page here: Help Sam's Kids. There's still a LONG way to go. I'll have an update later this morning.
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Gory Gifts: The Biting Cat and the Decapitated Mole
#election2016 #pray


Monday, September 26, 2016

Gory Gifts: The Biting Cat and the Decapitated Mole


Cats are not my favorite. 

I thought they were supposed to be good for controlling mice at the barn, so I got a mama cat and one of her kittens. I settled them in the tack room at the barn with a nice comfy bed, plenty of food and water, and a clean liter box.

Mama Cat promptly climbed the wood wall and hung at the top, close to the ceiling. She never ate her yummy food or drank her crystal-clear well water. She refused to come down. Finally, she worked her way around to the freezer and jumped out the open window. She left her kitten behind and never came back. 

She still lives behind the barn. I occasionally see her with a new batch of kittens. If she catches mice at the barn, I can't tell it.

The kitten did better. His name is Max. I kept in him the tack room for several days so he'd know that was his home. It didn't help. As soon as I let him out, he headed straight for the house. He's made my back patio his headquarters ever since.

I had the best of intentions. I planned to take him to the vet to be neutered and get his shots. More than once I made an appointment, only to cancel because I couldn't catch him. Time went on. I was ashamed of having to cancel appointments and confess that I couldn't catch my cat. I gave up on the vet visit.

I was determined to gentle the cat, so I tried repeatedly to hold him. He bit me every time. I gave up on picking him up.

A few days ago, my cat had an unexpected turn-around. He meowed like crazy, rubbed on my leg, and insisted I pick him up. I threatened his life if he bit me again. He didn't. Instead, he purred. I was shocked.

This morning, he wanted to be held for at least 30 seconds. This is progress.

A few mornings ago, I walked outside with the dogs to let them potty. There was a decapitated mole on the back steps. Mamie thought it was a prize. I did not.

My friends tell me this is a good sign. I take purring as a good sign. The bloody body parts of a dead mole don't seem like a sign to me.  

It's a gift, they said. He likes you. I'd rather have another flu shot.

Someone suggested I write a blog about the bloody mole gift, but I didn't actually think I could. After all, who wants a blood-stained gift.

It only took a moment to realize that I'm the one who treasures a blood-stained gift. That's the gift Christ gave us when He willingly went to the cross to pay our sin debt and buy our freedom. His nail-scarred hands and sword-pierced side were a bloody, agonizing gift that bought my right relationship with God.

His blood-stained body was laid in a borrowed tomb and, three days later, it was gone. Empty tomb. Resurrected King. 

He's not a bloody gift now. Jesus reigns in heaven and one day, He'll step out of heaven and come back to get us. It will be a glorious day. 

I don't care much for the bloody mole gift, but the blood-stained Savior is another matter all together. That bloody gift is the most precious one of all.

Today, let's thank Him for the price He paid to buy us out of our bondage to sin and treasure the generosity that made our freedom possible. If you don't know Him, you should. He's not just the best gift of all. He's the best friend you can ever have.

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name..." John 1:12
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p.s. It's a terrible photo of my cat, but he refused to sit up or to cooperate. Par for the course with him. 
In case you missed the story of Sam's project, here's the link: Sam's Project: Rubber Boots for Barefoot Rwandan Children
If you'd like to give to help buy boots for the barefoot school children of Rwandan, you can go directly to the project page here: Help Sam's Kids

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Untapped Power Grid Project
#catgifts #Jesus #notacatperson

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Untapped Power Grid Project: Reconnecting the Body of Christ


The body of Christ has become disconnected from its most powerful part, and we don't even realize it. Two organizations hope to help open our eyes to our need and reconnect us in creative, innovative ways.

Jeff Flinn has been in pastoral ministry most of  his adult life. He currently serves as Vice President of Life Connections for a group of nursing homes. When residents who are frail of body but sound in mind and spirit enter the nursing home, many of their life connections are disrupted. They leave behind family, friends, occupation, home, and church. It can be a shattering event.

Three years ago, Jeff founded the 719 Project. It's based on Psalm 71:9, in which King David wrote, "Do not cast me away when I am old and do not forsake me when my strength is gone." If King David feared being forsaken in his old age, we may, too. 

The 719 Project vision is to end isolation and loneliness among the elderly and infirmed in our communities. The three pillars of the project are respect, remember, and reconnect. They host Sit With Me Sunday, service projects for youth, and an annual 719 rally that connects people of all ages. 

When the Untapped Power Grid project was birthed, my first thought was of Jeff Flinn and the 719 Project. It's a perfect pairing. 

As a physician, I rounded in numerous nursing facilities to do wound care. Many of those people were weak in body but not in mind. They were lonely and eager to reconnect and give back. I realized that the wisest people in the body of Christ, the most powerful prayer warriors, had become disconnected from the rest of us because of the weakness of their bodies. They were a kind of "untapped power grid" of prayer.

It's clear to me that we desperately need the wisdom and sound judgment of our elders.

UPG (Untapped Power Grid) seeks to reconnect the body of Christ with our elders in a way that allows the elders to give back in substantive and world-changing ways.

I've recruited missionaries and leaders in the body of Christ from a variety of organizations. They've given me a few specific needs for which they've like prayer and agreed to give me an update once a month. UPG pairs those missionaries with elders who are willing to pray big prayers for them once or twice a day. Every day. Without fail.

When UPG and 719 partnered to accomplish an enormous task, a beautiful thing happened. There's no competition for the top position, no "my".

"We", the body of Christ, are working together, and it's a beautiful thing.

The joint project is only a month old, but it's already making a difference. Seniors from Mississippi to Maine have agreed to pray. Missionaries around the world are receiving the benefits of those prayers. God is doing exceeding, abundantly above all that those elders ask for their missionaries.

It's an amazing pairing of two visions that make a lovely whole. 

When Jesus walked this earth, He had one group of followers. One group of disciples. One church. After He returned to heaven, He left behind one Church, the body of Christ. Even though they lived in many places, it is clear from Scripture that they knew they were all part of the same Body of Christ.

It's past time for Christ's followers to reunite in that same way. This beautiful pairing has convinced those of us in 719 Project and the Untapped Power Grid Project that we're stronger together than we are apart. We can make a bigger difference for the Kingdom of God together than we can separately.

We're equal-opportunity servants. Equal opportunity prayer-recruiters. 

If you are (or know) a senior adult who would be willing to pray, we have missionaries who need prayer coverage.

If your church supports missionaries, we'd like to recruit them to let us pray for them. It doesn't matter which man-made organization they're under, as long as they work under the authority and in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

There's no fee or cost to join UPG. Missionaries, prayer warriors, and facilitators are all welcome. 

We can't do it alone. We need people who can help connect us with elders and with missionaries. We need facilitators who will be the hands of feet of this project. 

We need YOU.

Want to know more? I can help with that. 

I'm glad to speak to groups of any size about this project. My presentation on praying for your Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth might just change your own prayer life. You might help change the world. Message me, email, reply to this post, or call to arrange a time for me to speak.

When the body of Christ functions as Jesus intended, incredible things happen. More than 2000 years ago, a handful of men and women turned the world right-side up by their fervor and their unity. We can do it again. If we will. 

So, body of Christ, let's link hands and help bring the Good News of Jesus to a lost and perishing world.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." Matthew 28:19
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The woman in the picture, above, is my Grandmother. Vera Benson Thaxton. She loved everyone, and she was a missionary from her home. Her prayers, and the money she saved and gave to missions, reached around the world. Without her influence, I wouldn't be a missionary today.

In case you missed the story of Sam's project, here's the link: Sam's Project: Rubber Boots for Barefoot Rwandan Children
If you'd like to give to help buy boots for the barefoot school children of Rwandan, you can go directly to the project page here: Help Sam's Kids
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Dirty Laundry in the Background
Nothing operates without funding, and the Untapped Power Grid is no exception. You can help support this project financially, as well. Here's the link: Leanna Hollis/Global
#Christian




Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Dirty Laundry in the Background


I've noticed an odd thing recently. When something the least bit unusual happens, whoever's present says, "You should write a blog about this." As if I can pull a blog post out of the air on any topic imaginable. Maybe it's because I once wrote a story about the toilet paper in the church bathroom. Anyway...

One of the things that delayed the launch of Sam's Project was that I didn't have a good photo of Sam to put on the project page. Rory (our VP of Marketing) emailed me (again) to say he needed a photo, so I pulled one up on my phone and sent it to him. 

After I hit send, I realized that I'd taken the photo with an unsightly background. I rushed to Rory's office, which doesn't take much rushing, since he's just next door.

"You need to photoshop my dirty laundry out of this picture before you put it up."

Rory looked up with the most mischievous grin and said, "I don't think my photoshop skills extend to dirty laundry." 

It was something Ryan Hollis (my son) would've said. I knew how much success I'd have had with Ryan over something like this, since he once named a piece of pottery that was for sale on my website "elephant booger". It was on the website for weeks before I noticed it. 

I was doubtful I could sway Rory, but I had to try one more time. "Please, take the dirty laundry out before you post that photo."

"Nah. You should just write a blog about airing your dirty laundry." He laughed. Guys think this kind of thing is much funnier than I do. 

The photo stayed. 

The dirty laundry on the floor in the background stayed. 

In my defense, I was doing laundry when Sam arrived with his new Hope Church t-shirt. I stopped to take a photo and never noticed the pile of towels waiting to go in the washer in the background.

As I've thought about dirty laundry, I've realized my problem is not usually airing mine in public. The problem I'm more likely to have is to let my emotional "dirty laundry" (aka sinful attitudes) pile up in the background of my life and leave it there. Untouched. Unaddressed. 

To people who know me well, it may be evident on close inspection that there's something wrong. That a little "clean up" is needed.

So it is when we harbor ungodly attitudes. Judgmental, critical spirits. Anger. Bitterness. Unforgiveness. They're always in the background, marring the picture we present to the world. 

If we want a "clean" background in a photo, we need to deal with the dirty towels on the floor. If we want to present a "clean" image to the world, we need to deal with the "dirty laundry" of attitudes and sin that interfere with the picture of Christ we're supposed to present.

Let's stop for a moment and consider our own lives. Is there something in the background of our lives that mars the image of Christ? Why not deal with it now? Let's show the world a clear picture of the Christ we say we serve, not distract them by our sin.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 esv
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In case you missed the story of Sam's project, here's the link: Sam's Project: Rubber Boots for Barefoot Rwandan Children
If you'd like to give to help buy boots for the barefoot school children of Rwandan, you can go directly to the project page here: Help Sam's Kids
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Three Years and 1550 blogs Later...
#dirtylaundry #sin