Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ryan's Laws for Fishing

“Hey, Mom, I think I’m getting sick,” Ryan said.  “You look pretty healthy to me.  What do you think is wrong?  I can’t recognize any symptoms.”  I was mystified.  “I know I’m getting sick.  It’s about to be an emergency,” he insisted.  My son was very serious, but obviously not sick.  I tried hard not to laugh.  I could tell something was up.  “Do you need medicine?” I asked.  Finally, he started laughing.  “Yep.  Fishing medicine.  It’s been so long since I went fishing that it’s making me sick.  I may not be able to go to school tomorrow!”  In the interest of school attendance, I sent him straight to the lake until supper.  

Ryan considered himself an expert fisherman and, several years ago, developed Ryan’s Laws for Fishing.  As a fisher of men, you may find them helpful, too.
  1. You can’t catch fish with slime on your bait.  
  2. If the fish aren’t biting, try changing your bait.  
  3. If the big fish are eating all the little fish, you’d better try for the big ones, even if they are harder to reel in.
  4. There’s more than one kind of fish in the lake.  Different kinds of fish bite different kind of bait.
  5. Little fish are always hungrier.
  6. It’s nice to have bait from the bait shop, but not essential.
  7. Mommies don’t like to take the fish off the hook, but they can if they have to.
  8. If you’re fishing in tall grass, you’d better look out for snakes.
And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Matthew 4:19  NASB

What those laws teach about purity, spiritual warfare, reaching out to those around us, and servanthood is worth remembering.  If you are fishing for men but having no success, perhaps you should take a close look at Ryan’s fishing laws and make some adjustments in your bait or your technique.  The objective is not just fishing, but also bringing home a catch.  How well are you doing?

Battle in the Wilderness: How to Defeat Temptation (Luke 4:8)

Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'" (Luke 4:8 NASB)

Once again, Jesus countered temptation with Scripture, a lie with truth.  He was actually quoting from two passages in Deuteronomy. They are so rich that we will just look at Deuteronomy 6:13 today.

The first passage from which Jesus quoted begins with an explanation of the need to obey God's commands. Moses said that God had commanded him to teach the people the statues and judgments (rules and consequences) so that they would both fear God (respect with awe and reverence) and obey for their entire life, in order that:
1) they would have long life
2) they would be blessed and things would "go well"
3) they would "multiply greatly" (many children)
Those are pretty good reasons for obeying God, don't you think?

Moses went on to say that obedience begins by loving God. It's interesting that, even when faith seemed to be based on a stack of laws, God wanted a love relationship with His people. He still does. We are to love Him with every fiber of our being (heart, soul, and might).  With that kind of love, we are to teach our children and make faith such a way of life that it infuses every part of our day, every part of our being.

With that consuming love and all-encompassing obedience comes a lovely promise. God will surround us with blessings we did not procure for ourselves nor do we deserve them. In the midst of all the blessings, He will give us another precious gift -  contentment with what we have. (We will eat and be satisfied) How incredible!

Moses said there is a risk in this extravagant blessing. The danger is that we, in our contentment, can easily forget that every gift we enjoy comes from the hand of God. The way to prevent the danger is to keep our hearts diligently focused on God by fearing Him (reverence,awe), worshipping Him, serving Him. Our love for God should motivate us to worship and action.

Moses went on to say (Leanna paraphrase) that God is a jealous God, and He will not put up with a bunch of mess from us. He means what He says. We can have blessings galore, but we will only have them by doing things God's way.

Right there in the wilderness, the Scripture Jesus had learned as a boy came back to Him. Those words He had hidden in His heart helped keep Him from sin. (Psalm 119:11) What a great demonstration of truth Jesus gives with His answer to temptation!

Pray today that every word of Scripture our loved ones have learned will come back to them at just the right time to guard them from sin and point them to truth. Pray that we (and our loved ones) will live in such a way that we will choose love, choose obedience, choose blessing.

Friday, October 11, 2013

FIDO (Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations) and choices

My son text'd me with the most amazing news today. His wearable computing group project (FIDO) was presented in a paper to the International Symposium on Wearable Computing in Zurich and it WON FIRST PLACE!!!!

Of course, I'm the mom and I'm pretty sure they could not have done it without Ryan the Wonder  Boy. Oops. He's 21 now. Ryan the Wonder Man. Anyway, I am totally thrilled for him and the rest of the group. And for the professors, of course.  I'm also (without a doubt) delighted about how it will dress up his resume/CV when job hunting starts in earnest.

Like any helpful mama would, I've been thinking of all kinds of things they could do for their next project. I suggested a collar for my cows to move them from one pasture to another by remote control, especially in rainy weather. Ryan is far too practical to indulge my silliness, and he has given me a full list of all the reasons why it's not a good project.  When I grumbled, just a little, he told me, "It wouldn't be buzzword compliant, but it would be easier to set up an outdoor loud speaker in each field and train them to that." Training them to move is not the issue. Rattling a bucket of feed works really well. So does whistling and yelling, "Come on girls."  Even Maggie the Wonder Dog can move the cows, which is a fairly amazing feat. Loudspeakers, buckets, and hollering, however, are not at all cool.  I want something edgy and exciting.

That desire for edgy and exciting has  made me an innovator who is not afraid to try something new. It doesn't all work, but it often does. Generally speaking, it's been a good thing.

It has, unfortunately, gotten me in more trouble over the years than I am willing to admit. (I was young and stupid once, too.) It is one thing to try something a different way because the usual way isn't working or isn't filling the need. Doing something just because it seems taboo and exciting is totally different, and often just plain dumb.

Listening to the advice of those older and wiser could have saved me a world a woe. But I often didn't. Obeying the truth in Scripture (where consequences are clearly explained) would have taken me a different direction. But, for years, I wouldn't. Being young and invincible, I didn't expect consequences to come my way, or for choices to take a toll. But they do, and they did.

Proverbs 14:12 pretty much sums the problem up. "There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death." (NASB) The crazy thing is, sometimes the way seems wrong, and we take it anyway. How dumb is that?

That brings me back, as usual, to making choices and how those choices affect us and the ones we love. Here is your chance to consider whether the choices you make are wise and leading to the life you want, or the edgy, exciting, probably shouldn't kind of choice that will only bring grief and trouble in the end. Choices are not optional, but dumb ones are. The question tonight is whether or not you will make choices that bring you closer to the life God intended for you.

All these years after my stupidness, my son is giving advice, and, believe it or not, I'm paying attention. Even more surprising, I'm doing what he recommended. Forget the loudspeaker though. I'm sticking with a bucket and a hearty holler.

Battle in the Wilderness: the Steep Price (Luke 4:7)

"Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours." (Luke 4:7 NASB)

Once more we see that there is a price for yielding to the temptation. The temptation for the glory the world can give comes at a very steep price. Jesus was tempted to trade eternal dominion for temporary public approval, but the price was to worship a false god. Of course, we look at this and say, "Why would Christ be tempted to worship the devil?" Jesus knew that he was the deceiver. He knew he was the angel of light who, after a rebellious uprising had been evicted from his place in heaven.

Let's look a little closer. The word translated worship is the Greek word proskuneo and, according to the New Testament Greek Lexicon, means "to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand". It is a word used to "show homage by a person of lesser rank".  The devil was attempting to extract a price he could never have. He was asking Jesus to "cry uncle", concede defeat, and acknowledge him as the greater power. The devil was not looking for the love and devotion of Jesus. He was looking for humiliation and defeat of the Almighty.

To have what the evil one promised was possible, and it did require worship of one other than Jehovah. It required worship of self and instant gratification. One day, every knee will bow to Jesus as Lord. The question in the wilderness that day was whether He was willing to wait for God's best or was going to take matters into His own hands and settle for what He could have immediately.

Every time one of God's children faces temptation, part of the price we will pay for yielding is this worship of self and settling for less than what God had planned. Satan's desire is to defeat God Himself, but he will settle for defeating one of his children. Temptation looks a little different when viewed that way, doesn't it?

Today, pray that we and our children will recognize the temptations that come our way, as well as the cost those temptations bring, and that we will choose to wait for God's best.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Simple pleasures

Maggie the Wonder Dog had a grand time at play day today! I could tell because, when I picked her up, she hurried to the car, jumped in the passenger's seat, and immediately went to sleep. She slept soundly for the entire twenty minute ride home.

Just as I turned in to the driveway, I began to let the window down to get the mail. That was the wake-up sound she needed.  She was in my lap like a shot and straining to stick her head out the window.  Maggie LOVES for me to drive fast down the driveway (20 mph) while she hangs her head out.  She has no fear because she knows I will hold her tight. The wind blowing over her is pure delight.  With her hair plastered to her head and her ears blown straight back like a pair of furry black kites, she is in "hog heaven".  Well, at least in doggy heaven-on-earth.  The fact that she looks ridiculous does not bother her a bit.  Maggie is 100% utterly abandoned to the pleasure of the moment.

Her joy in the wind is such fun to watch, partly because I rarely enjoy anything with the same degree of utter abandon.  No holding back, total disregard for appearance.  It is such a simple pleasure.  All she wants is for the wind to blow in her face.  She doesn't require special equipment, a special outfit, a perfect setting.

What fun it would be to indulge in a few simple pleasures of our own, like we did as children!  Splash in mud puddles, walk in the rain, take a hike in the woods and look for nature treasures.  Your list is likely longer than mine.

This weekend, take a few minutes for fun... The simple pleasure that is spontaneous and silly and to which you can utterly abandon yourself for a few minutes.  Forget about looking ridiculous.  Rest in the confidence that your Heavenly Father is holding you tight and will not let you go, no matter how silly you look. Go ahead.  Act like a kid. Take a break just to enjoy a simple pleasure. You may be surprised how much younger it makes you feel.

Battle in the Wilderness: Giving Glory (Luke 4:6, Isaiah 48:11)

And the devil said to Him, "I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. (Luke 4:6 NASB)
"... My glory I will not give to another. (Isaiah 48:11 NASB)

Glory. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines glory as "worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving". This is the kind of glory we give to God. An alternate definition is "great beauty and splendor" which is used to describe the magnificence of a civilization. The Greek word used here is doxa, and, according to, in the NT it is always used to indicate "a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honour, and glory". 

The devil was offering Jesus "doxa", but it was the magnificence of a civilization instead of the worshipful praise which was His due. There was a similarity to what Jesus was to receive after His resurrection, but it wasn't the "real thing".  It was a quick, seemingly painless alternative. It was the easy out, but redemption would not be accomplished, and fellowship with His Father would be irretrievably broken. What the devil was not offering was the glory of God. That is not shared and was not his to give. 

As we have said before, the temptation would not have been offered if it had not had appeal for Jesus. The time in the wilderness was a point of no return. Either He was going all the way to the cross, or He was not going at all. 

Praise God, Jesus was not deceived by this temptation and was able to rebuff the enemy of His soul once again.  We, too, must not be deceived into thinking the easy out will bring the blessings only God can provide. What is your temptation point? In what way are you tempted to compromise? 

Today, pray that every temptation to compromise and accept the devil's imitation of God's best (for ourselves and our loved ones) will be recognizable and quickly refused. Pray that our children will be willing to take the harder path of obedience to God rather than the seemingly-easier way of the world. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Christmas Shopping

Christmas shopping has officially begun!  One of my favorite catalogs has arrived, and I have wept with joy over the offerings. The Samaritan's Purse Christmas Catalog is here, and what wonderful choices they have!  If anyone is wondering, I want #11, located on page 9.  It is a gift to the Education and Literacy Project, and it provides supplies and tutoring to teach a child to read and write.  Literacy would open the world for a child, give them opportunities they will never have without it.  They can improve their life and the lives of their family, maybe for generations to come.  Most importantly, they can read the Bible for themselves.  What a precious gift!

My family has not always shopped the donation catalogs.  We grew up with mountains of presents under the tree, and my sister and I carefully divided the gifts into stacks to see who had the biggest pile. (Well, mostly I counted the haul.) Christmas was, in some ways, about what we wanted and how much we would get.  Oh, and all the cakes and candies my mom and grandmother made.  What wonderful sweets we would get for the holidays!

Please don't think my family was pagan.  Far from it.  We were very active in our local church.  My grandmother saved for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering all year long.  You could borrow from the stash in her purse if you asked just right, but you were definitely going to pay it back.  She was totally serious about her Christmas missionary offering.  I didn't realize it at the time, but my grandmother saved all year long for Jesus' Christmas gift.

Really, how crazy is it to give gifts to ourselves when it is Jesus' birthday?  I'm not sure how we have justified all this gift giving, but I am no exception to the shopping frenzy.  I am sure I will still buy and wrap a stack of presents this year, just like always. Somewhere along the way, however, I have begun to understand that Christmas is not at all about gifts or what I want. Christmas is about Jesus, God's gift of redemption to a perishing world.  

A few years ago, my sister and I began a new tradition.  We carefully looked at all the opportunities for giving and selected donations for every person on our gift list.  We tried hard to match the gifts to the person so that it would be meaningful.  My elderly mama was always cold.  She received a "gift" of blankets for elderly people in a cold environment.  My sister, with two lovely granddaughters, received a gift that provided for the rescue of two girls from sexual trafficking.  I received the gift of life giving medications for a third-world county.

That first year, my son received the gift of sponsorship of a young Rawandan boy with his same birthday.  We studied about Rawanda and learned about the political climate, the culture and class structure, and the geography of the country. A few months later, Ryan moved into a student apartment complex, where he had randomly assigned roommates.  Much to my surprise, one of his new roommates was from Rawanda!  His parents had been refugees from the Rawandan genocide.  How amazing is that? Even though we may never meet our sponsored child, Gil has made Rawanda real to us, and the sponsored child even more precious.

Ryan showed livestock when he was in 4H, so the gift of a pig for a family in a third-world country wasn't surprising to him.  That pig may sound unusual, but one pig will have multiple babies with every litter, providing food and income for the family.

Just thinking about all those fun choices has me really excited!  I hope you are catching some of  that excitement.  You can change the world with your holiday shopping.  There are lots of options for giving to large international ministries, but your local relief organizations can use a helping hand as well.  Salvation Army, Goodwill, local food pantries, all need extra help during the winter months.

My challenge to you tonight is to work on Jesus' Christmas list first.  After all, it is the most important. See how creative you can be as you touch the world, one person at a time.  As you look at the needy around you, be careful to see Jesus in every face.  Here's what Jesus said, "I'm telling the solemn truth; whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was Me - you did it to Me."

Battle in the Wilderness: The Crossroads (Luke 4:5,6)

And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, "I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. (Luke 4:5, 6 NASB)

The earth, and everything in it, belong to the Lord. He created it, he sustains it, and scripture is clear about it. Jesus certainly knew it. The devil does have a kind of temporary power here, (where he roams about seeking whom he can devour) but ultimately any power or position he can offer is temporary. We will hear more about glory tomorrow, but any glory the devil could offer would be a poor imitation to the glory to which Jesus was accustomed. 

Jesus surely knew that He had come to give His life as a sacrifice for sin. What the tempter was offering was a different path. Jesus could have the way of the cross or the way of the world, but only one way offered redemption for mankind. Two roads diverged, and Jesus had to choose. 

Everyday we are faced with choices that make us more or less like Christ. We are constantly at a crossroads. Pray today that we will choose the way of the cross, rather than the temporary thrills the world can offer. Pray that our children, our loved ones, will make wise choices that move them closer to the Lord at every decision point they reach and that their eyes will be opened to the direction their potential choices can lead. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Instant Gratification

My nephew recently moved to Antarctica as a fireman.  We have eagerly watched the webcam most afternoons at 2:30 to see him walk from his barracks across the snowy street to the fire station for work. It never occurred to us that the government shutdown would affect him at the southernmost end of the earth. Much to our surprise, we found out a few days ago that the work force would be drastically reduced and all but a handful of people would be sent home.  Sam is one of the few who will remain in that frozen wonderland.  

Suddenly, the shutdown has become a totally different situation.  It is no longer a vague argument in Washington.  In an instant, someone I love dearly has been affected by the wrangling.  I do not pretend to know how to fix the whole jumbled mess, but I wish I did.  My world was already filled with local politics, community development, medical practice, faith, ministry, and (especially) my wonderful and brilliant Georgia Tech senior son, not to mention my constant blogging.  The shutdown has shoved its way into my very full life, and it has greatly increased my interest in both what happens in Washington and when the decision to compromise will come.  Jobs, security, paychecks have all taken a priority.  I'm checking national news much more frequently now.  

Imagine my surprise when I saw this quote on the New York Times today.  The article was about expanding the whole "one-click shopping" process.  See it in a magazine, want it, just scan a code in the ad to purchase it.  There were multiple ideas for making the purchasing quicker and easier.  Matt McKenna is the founder and president of a marketing agency specializing in digital and mobile marketing.  He was quoted as saying, "The whole world right now is about instant gratification."  

I laughed out loud when I saw this.  The whole world?  Was he kidding?  He has obviously never heard of (or at least never understood) Afghanistan, or Sudan, or Uganda.  People around the world are dying of malaria, AIDS, starvation.  They are desperate to find food for their children's next meal.  I guess the unrelenting hunger that robs you of life and health is a kind of desperate instant gratification. Desperate to be instantly gratified by a few grains of rice or a small bowl of beans.  

The dichotomy is astounding to me, and I, too, am as guilty as Matt McKenna.  When all we see is our tiny section of the world, it's hard to realize there is an entire globe filled with people who are suffering and perishing from treatable diseases and losing their children to malnutrition while we combat an epidemic of morbid obesity.  

We could change the world if we would.  I've believed that all my life, and I still do.  Jesus took twelve of the least likely men in the world, trained them for three years, and radically transformed the world through them.  We could live like Jesus said, do what He said to do, and make a difference.  If we saw every person through Christ's eyes, wouldn't they look different?  Wouldn't we respond differently?  If we loosened the hold on the gifts God has given us, wouldn't we be freer?  Wouldn't we feed and clothe those in need more effectively?  What if we decided to teach the hungry how to make a living for themselves, or helped to provide livestock for families in third world countries?  We could transform our world, if we would.

Tonight, I am asking you to step up to meet the needs around you.  Loosen your hold on the life you are living, and allow Jesus to do whatever He wants with His things and His gifts.  Sponsor a child through a relief agency and commit to provide for them until they can provide for themselves.  Invest yourself, not just your discarded clothes and household goods, with local charities.  Serve Thanksgiving Dinner at the Salvation Army this year.  Help with a food pantry. Visit a nursing home and hold the hand of an elderly person who feels forgotten and alone.

We could transform our world, if we would.  If you would.  It only takes one to make a difference.  I am asking you tonight to choose to be the one.

Battle in the Wilderness: Better than Bread (Luke 4:3,4)

And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone.'" (Luke 4:3, 4 NASB)

In Jesus' time, there were no printing presses to produce large quantities of printed materials. That would not come until Gutenberg in 1450. There had been other forms of movable type printing, but nothing that could handle large quantities until Gutenberg's invention. In Jesus's time, the only "books" were painstakingly handwritten scrolls. There were no children's Bibles for young ones to handle and read.  Instead, young Jewish boys were schooled in local synagogues, where they were trained to memorize Scripture. The boys were supposed to memorize the books of the Torah - the first five books of our Bible. (The girls were taught Psalms and Proverbs by their mothers.) It was an incredible feat of memorization that we have, sadly and to our detriment, abandoned today. 

When the enemy tempted Jesus to turn the stone into bread, Jesus responded by quoting a verse from Deuteronomy 8:3. (Matthew records the entire quote, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that proceeds from the mouth of God.") This was a particularly astute use of Scripture because this passage is one in which the children of Israel had just spent forty years in the wilderness. They were about to enter the Promised Land, and it was Moses job to teach them how to live obediently once they entered. In this passage, Moses was explaining the purpose of the wilderness. He said that God had allowed the wilderness to humble them, test them, reveal what was in their hearts, evaluate their willingness to obey Him, and to discipline them. It is the purpose of our own wilderness times today. They are designed to make us more willing to obey and more like our Lord. 

Jesus clearly understood that His time in the wilderness was also a time of testing and preparation for what God had prepared for Him. He was determined not to fail and realized the test was not yet complete. This final part was a critical portion in testing His willingness to submit to the will of God.  The verse Jesus quoted was speaking of the manna God had given the Israelites in the wilderness. Moses said that God allowed them to experience hunger, then fed them with manna so that they could understand that they "didn't live by bread alone."  Jesus understood that God could and would provide in His timing. 

What we ingest orally is not nearly as important as what we ingest into our hearts and minds by what we choose to read, watch, and hear. Jesus clearly felt that the Scriptures provided a nourishment that bread alone could never provide. Are we filling ourselves with Scripture? Do we ingest daily nourishment from the Word of God? In Jesus's own words, bread is not enough. To really live, we desperately need the Word of God. Are you receiving a steady diet of God's word? Do you spend enough time with Him to be nourished and strengthened for your day? Perhaps during our own wilderness experiences, those difficult times that come to all of us, we drew strength from God, but have we moved away and begun to rely on ourselves? 

Today, consider the Spiritual nourishment you ingest every day. Do you need to spend more time studying the Bible? Memorizing Scripture? 

Pray today that God will help you move to greater strength via the Word of God. Pray, too, that God will bring every verse our children and loved ones have memorized back to their minds and use it to draw them back to Himself. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Battle in the Wilderness: Stone vs. Bread (Luke 4:3)

The Devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test: “Since you’re God’s Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread.”  (Luke 4:3 MSG)

Jesus had just completed a forty day fast and was hungry. His days of divine solitude were coming to an end, and the Tempter was ready for the attack. Seeing His vulnerable point of hunger, he struck by tempting Jesus to turn a stone to bread. Instant gratification.

We love instant gratification, don't we? I'd have been tempted to do it, and Jesus must have been too, because these temptations were tailor-made for Him. There is a difference, however, between waiting for God's provision and trying to make a provision for yourself. Remember how well her attempt turned out for Sarah? We are still dealing with the mess between Isaac and Ishmael today.

Could Jesus turn a stone to bread? Of course. It would not have been a temptation if it were not possible. The interesting thing here is that, as God's Son, present at the foundation of the world, the Holy Trinity had spoken the stone into existence. He had created the stone, and it belonged  to Him, to do with as He would. So what is the problem here?

Jesus's ministry required absolute selflessness and the enemy was tempting Him to selfishness. The temptation was to misuse His power for selfish gain. It was a temptation to worship self rather than God the Father.

For the One coming to sacrifice Himself for a perishing world, absolute submission to the Father's will was critical. There was no room for pleasing self. His only job, His only purpose on earth was pleasing the Father. Waiting for God's timing, even in meeting the most basic of human needs, was essential.

Wow! That is one tall order. Absolute submission to God's will and total selflessness are tall orders for frail humanity. Is it possible? Yes. Is it easy? Not always.

Today, pray for the grace to wait for God's timing in every aspect of life. Pray, too, that we, and our loved ones, would be more interested in pleasing our heavenly Father than in pleasing ourselves.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Battle in the Wilderness: The Preparation (Luke 4:1,2)

Part 2
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. (Luke 4:1, 2 NASB)

Jesus had just returned from the Jordan after His baptism and had gone to the wilderness in preparation for the ministry that had begun to unfold. Lest you entertain visions of Bear Grylls surviving in the forest, let me remind you that this was not a forest wilderness. It was most likely a bare rock wilderness. There were no trees, no mountain cabins, few streams, and probably just a cave for shelter. It was a wild place, but it was not a bucolic scene. It was a lonely, barren expanse. 

Jesus had gone into this bleak place "full of the Holy Spirit" and led by the Holy Spirit. In a spiritual sense, He was armed to the max, and that was critical, because his enemy, the devil, was there. Satan was ready for battle, and he never let up throughout the entire wilderness experience. 

Matthew Henry, in the early 1700's wrote, "The richest ship is a pirate's prize." The redemption of mankind was a hard fought battle, and it had never been more critical to sideline Christ than at this point. His public ministry had just begun, the Spirit had filled Him, and Satan was likely desperate to turn this around before it got out of hand. The most intense spiritual warfare mankind had ever known was underway, and Jesus was the prime target. 

Perhaps you, too, have gone straight from a mountaintop spiritual encounter with God into a time of intense spiritual struggle. Those wilderness testings are agonizing and hardly seem fair. I would much rather revel in what I've just enjoyed than engage in an all-out fight for my spiritual life. For warriors in the kingdom of God, however, when the Holy Spirit has led you there, the battle is the safest place to be. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, 
addressed the issue of surviving spiritual warfare. "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (1 Cor.10:13)

Ephesians 6 tells us about the tools we have available for spiritual warfare: the girdle of truth, breastplate of righteousness, boots of the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Jesus went into the wilderness fully protected and completely equipped for the battle at hand, and so must we.  If we are to emerge victorious in the fight for the hearts and souls of our loved ones, we must be completely equipped, ever vigilant, and totally reliant on the Spirit to lead us. 

That preparation begins with the girdle of truth. What is truth? Jesus. He is the truth and the source of all redemption. As we begin another day of praying for those who are precious to us, start by spending time with the One who loves you, redeemed you, and IS your Truth. Pray especially that those for whom we pray will recognize and embrace Truth. 

Sabbath Promises

After Sister Saturday weekend wound down, I headed back to Blue Springs. We had laughed a lot, eaten too much, treasured the blessings of family, and rejoiced in the maturity of adult children.  It had been a good visit, but how sweet it was to return home this afternoon. Maggie the Wonder Dog ran around in circles, wiggling all over with delight, bouncing up to nuzzle me, running around again, grinning like a jack-o-lantern.  Enthusiastic welcomes are always sweet.

The car had to be unloaded and all the things I'd taken had to be put away, but that was quickly accomplished.  There was another load of laundry that needed washing, mail to sort, a junk drawer to clean out, and hours' worth of house cleaning to do.  There's a book I need to finish formatting, a draft to print, and a book cover to plan.  I opted to do none of that.  Instead, I played with my dog, read a Christian biography, and had a sweet visit with the Lord.  It was a really nice day. 

A few minutes ago, I thought, "I have not done a productive thing since I got home today." Quick as a flash, that still small voice in my heart whispered, "Oh, yes you did.  You had a Sabbath." It made me think about Isaiah 58.  It says (the Leanna paraphrase) that, if we choose not to do the things we want to do, and choose to honor the Sabbath, God will give us delight in Him and "make us ride on the heights of the earth."  I can't even imagine what riding on the heights of the earth entails, but I'm thinking I would like it.  For sure, it would be a blessing. "And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob."  That sounds pretty good, too, doesn't it.

Just to be sure, I checked.  This is the blessing Issac gave Jacob on his deathbed.  (It looks like the heritage of Jacob to me) You are going to wish you had taken a Sabbath when you read this!

"Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine;
May peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you,
Be master of your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you.
Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you."           Isaiah 27:28-29 NASB

Is that not an amazing blessing for Jacob?  What is really amazing is that, when we are obedient about the Sabbath, God is so honored that He promises to bless us in really sweet ways.  I guess that says a lot about how many of us actually honor the Sabbath, doesn't it? I don't know about the grain and the wine and the fatness, but I'm pretty sure there is a promise in there to provide our daily needs. After this sweet day, that seems just exactly right.

Next Sabbath, why don't you join me in the gift of rest and enjoying our Lord? It's really the nicest day!

Battle in the Wilderness: The Secret Fast (Luke 4:2)

"...And He ate nothing during those days; and when they had ended, He became hungry." Luke 4:2 NASB

Forty days without food. That sounds unbelievable, but people still do it today as a spiritual discipline. Fasting has even been called a means of grace, because it brings us to a point where we cannot rely on our own strength and are totally dependent upon God's grace to make it through. 

In the Jewish faith, there were scheduled times of corporate fasting as well as feast days and celebrations. Fasting was a routine part of their lives. There were Pharisees who made an effort, by their appearance or their words, to let people know they were fasting. Jesus said the notice they received was all the reward they would ever get. He taught that we are to make an effort to keep the fast just between us and God, who would "see in secret and repay you ." (Matt 6:16-18) It's a little disappointing, isn't it, this doing a hard thing and not letting anyone but God know? We like the praise and notice of others, just as the Pharisees did. Oh, how much better to get the notice and approval of God! 

There is a little phrase we usually miss that might bring a bit more desire to the issue of fasting. "Will repay". Jesus said that, when we fast in private, God sees and will repay. We can count on that.  Like little children, we want to know what kind of reward, don't we?  While Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration, his disciples were trying, without success, to heal a boy with seizures due to demonic possession. When Jesus arrived, He cast the demon out and the boy was healed. Jesus said that it was the littleness of their faith that caused their failure, as well as the fact that "this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting" (Matt.17:21) One of the rewards to be gained in fasting is greater power in prayer.

Answered prayers. Now that is a reason to fast, isn't it? It can be a vital part of intercession, especially for parents concerned about the spiritual welfare of their children. The thing people often miss is that we can fast more than just food. Isaiah 58 speaks of fasting a judgmental, critical spirit.  We can fast anything from a favorite TV show or activity to a food group or a particular meal. What we fast is not nearly as important as how we fast - with an humble heart of sacrifice and a desire to draw closer to our Lord. 

Jesus, in teaching about fasting, used one critical little word that is often overlooked. WHEN. He did not say if you fast. He said when. Jesus expected that His followers would willingly deny themselves and follow Him. Fasting was a part of the self-denying process. 

My challenge to you today is that you pick one day this next week and fast as part of your intercession for your children and loved one. Those in frail health may want to fast sweets or an activity, but don't fail to miss the blessing God has prepared for you. Can you do it? Maybe not on your own strength, but with God's help, you can and will.