Lessons from a Mouthy Tenderloin…

I ran out to get a few things the other day from good old Publix and ran into the store right before the rain came down in sheets. The rain was falling so hard, that it sounded like billions of tiny ball bearings were hitting the roof over our heads in the store. I looked out the front window of the store and to my amazement, there; where the parking lot had been, raged a river of water at least 8 inches deep! People were running into the store soaked in only seconds.

Of course, I had things to do, places to go, and people to see. I stared at the parking lot and then, went into what I call my “efficiency mode”. This means I purposely decided to turn “off” my social people greeting, side smiling, comment making self, and got down to the REAL business of finding a pork tenderloin. It was serious work and needed my full attention. I couldn’t be bothered by any distractions insomuch as pork tenderloin selection is a delicate process and is; of course, a great responsibility.

Just when I was zeroing in on a prime portion of tenderloin robbed by a butcher from a pig, I felt the brush against my right shoulder of a person reaching past me to grab my prized piece of pig! She just bumped me, said a cursory, “excuse me” and literally elbowed me out of the way with her left arm and started to grab my selection of swine!!! My blood began to boil. I placed my hand on the same selection of corpulent pork flesh as if to say…”Not so fast sister!” The room fell silent. The air became tense and thick with tension. Slowly; but deliberately I turned my head to the right to look the impatient patron of my Publix store directly in the eye. Everything went into slow motion…mothers of small children protected their young,… the butcher on call that day, ran to the back room for protection against the impending explosion. The chill of the refrigerated section made the hair on my arms stand on end.

A voice spoke up, “I want that tenderloin” she said sternly, not waiting her turn. “I saw it first!” I said with equal sternness having possession of the pig but not my soul. We stared at each other, she, declaring that I was taking too long… I, asking her who made her the official timekeeper of the meat department. It was a spectacle! I’m always the peacekeeper…you know? I always have to be the one who must “behave” and “be a good Christian!”. I rolled my eyes at God…”Why, oh why can’t I ever mix it up with people…” you know? I handed her the (damn) tenderloin (I mean it, folks, this is me in the FLESH I said that in my head…”Here’s your damn tenderloin!” and smiled like I was just kidding and she cheesed it up like, “that’s a good boy….give Mama what she wants!” Inwardly I was seething…yeah, and this was over a piece of pork folks!

She left smiling… and inside of me, I felt as if someone had just called my sister ugly…I wanted to throw DOWN! This raw emotion was more volatile than the thunderstorm outside the store. I actually had to walk over to the frozen potato freezer and just tried to cool off. If you think this outburst and overreaction just a bit too immature…well, it was. And it was something that as I shopped, God had to deal with me about. I’ll let you in on the conversation, and if you find yourself judging my immaturity in the exchange, just know that your judgment is probably right, but it takes time when you are angry to quiet things down inside to learn the lesson.
In the first place, the Lord is kind…and merciful when he brings up my childishness. I felt Him kind of say, “What are you really mad about?’, to which I, exploded;

“Why do I always have to lose?!!!’ Why do I always have to DO THE RIGHT THING…HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE…BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH!!!”

I don’t know about you, but when God wants to talk things over with me, I am still thirteen years old and I like to sass. It always starts out hot and God lets me slowly cool down and doesn’t make thunderous, Wizard of Oz-like pronouncements like, “QUIET SCARECROW!” but rather with very calm questions that…are crafted to bring me back to the important things.

The silence of God is the most formidable silence I have ever known. I asked the question again…like maybe he didn’t hear me or something. Again, no answer on the other end of the phone. So, you know what I did? I hung up the phone! I just white-knuckled my shopping cart and pushed it toward the tenderloin section again and started looking at; what I was sure to be, inferior cuts of tenderloin. (yes, dear reader…I was pissed off about tenderloin! Lol!)

I bent down over the refrigerator when I heard the Lord ask, again, “What are you really mad about?”

My reply was, “Well, that old bitty just stole my tenderloin, and I had to GIVE it to her because you want me to be a GOOD Christian! I always have TO LOSE because, of course, I could send someone to hell by givin’ them a little taste of their own medicine!…but oh no…no I have to be everyone’s DOORMAT and get walked on in the name of “being a good Christian!”! ALWAYS! You never let me just give em a piece of my mind!”

Maggot filled heart, service out of necessity, not out of love…God just wanted me to hear my own heart and I DON’T EVEN LIKE PORK THAT MUCH!!!

I was mad at something that I didn’t even realize. That a lot of my so-called “good Christian” BS was all just smoke and mirrors…just out of religious service to look good and not to be good. I was a whitewashed tomb…outwardly kind but inwardly full of dead men’s bones…and my mouth…dear Lord, my mouth was just pouring out everything in my heart. I was genuinely angry at the very source of my life and joy…blaming Him for my hypocrisy. I, however, did not repent at that moment. I was still very bitter about it.

Up and down the aisle I went, my attitude worse than the weather outside…and I exuded that attitude as well. I was scowling…lower lip pushed out, kind of brooding and definitely grumpy. Two of the employees who know me saw me walking and later told me, “You looked mad so I didn’t want to say anything to you,” which made me feel really ashamed of myself. Each time, for “some reason” that lady who stole my tenderloin was coming down the same aisle toward me and each time I had to turn my head away from her because I saw that tenderloin in her basket and it would call out me saying, “Hey ya little sissy Christian, I’m goin home with this 90 lb old lady who kicked your butt!” “Ya little loser!” Evidently, the tenderloin was from Jersey…cause he spoke with a Jersey accent.

I decided I’d had enough and walked all the way to the other side of the store to get something else I needed. Of course, as the lesson master would have it, the pushy old lady with an elbow like an MMA sucker punch, also decided to go over to the other side of the store. Here I am in the bread aisle and I see that mouthy little tenderloin saying, “Go ahead, reach for the Bunny Bread…I dare ya!” I just knew the second I reached for something the old lady was going to reach for it too so I just stopped and stood behind my cart and waited for the lady and her belligerent pork butt to leave the aisle. I can’t stand a mouthy piece of pork!

As I stood pretending to look at my phone, again the teacher spoke in my ear…”So, what are you really mad about?” This time, I just was worn out and said, “You know Lord…you know what I am mad about”. He said, “Yes, I know, but I want you to say it out loud so you can hear it.” I sighed and said, “I’m angry that I have to lose my life everyday…I’m angry that I have to prefer others above myself, I’m angry that after 40+ years of following you, I am still as much of a pig as that tenderloin!” and I left my shopping cart right there and started for the front door. I figured I needed the quiet privacy of truck to talk this out. But He wouldn’t let me. Right in front of me, on my way out, was the little old lady. It was raining…POURING actually, and the store had three golf umbrellas sitting by the door for the employees who help with taking out customers groceries to their cars.

Remembering that the only way around the mountain was to go through it…I grabbed an umbrella, looked at the pork thief and said, “Come on, I’ll walk you out to your car!” She thanked me and I walked her toward her car. Yes, the thought DID occur to me to get her halfway there and then run back into the store…but I resisted that thought…it was a 10-year-old thought and I was thirteen so it was beneath me. We loaded her groceries, and then I followed her to her door to make sure she wouldn’t get wet.

When she drove away and I had walked back into the store, I found my cart still sitting where I left it. I went to the register to pay for my groceries but at the checkout, I looked at the “return basket” that every register has for when people changed their minds about something they didn’t want. As she checked my groceries across the scanner, I looked behind her in the return basket and…there, sitting in as big as life was the tenderloin from Jersey! Evidently, the lady didn’t want it after all, and here it was waiting for me.

“Hey, ya big palooka! Here I am, I’m all yours!” I smiled and paid the lady at the register but left the tenderloin in the return basket. Of all the gin joints in all the world, this tenderloin was sitting at the check out lane that I went to. The lesson I took away had nothing to do with the lady or the tenderloin…but it had everything to do with my motives about serving God and others.

I can pretend that what I do is for God and for His glory, but unless we lose… REALLY lose our lives, we will never find them in service, in good deeds or in religious exercise. We only really find our lives when, we lay them down, willingly. It is our choice, but it’s best to remember that dead men can’t feel resentment toward inanimate objects.

I’m going to Aldi next time!

The Tools of God…

“They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor” Isaiah 61:3c

As trees that grow, I did not start
As strong and solid as now I stand.
But I fell as an acorn on the ground
And covered up by silt and sand,
was pushed by foot beneath the soil,
and left alone, below the land.

When days and nights turned into weeks
I pushed myself above the dirt;
And felt the warmth upon my face.
And with a will to now exert, myself,
a purpose birthed within my soul.
“To grow, and to bless all the earth!”

So daily, in that forest thick,
I sought for my place in the sun.
And as the canopy would seek,
to steal my share, I had begun
to push up higher and master them,
for my purpose would not be outdone.

Then fell the rain, and then my roots,
went deeper still within the ground.
And wider, taller did I stand;
as less substantial plants would drown.
And surveying from my new-found height,
As “King of Trees” I would be crowned.

Then, years rolled by and I saw wars,
And men would camp beneath my boughs,
then, children played and climbed my trunk
And lovers in my shade made vows.
And lending strength to weaker things
remained the purpose I espoused.

Then came the day when men with saws
Cut down the forest to build a town.
And to my left and to my right,
Great trees were being all brought down.
and only I left standing still,
saw house and buildings all around.

In the center of their city park,
I stood alone; tall, old and grey.
And centuries like water poured,
And little by little I would decay.
And acorns that I’d drop below,
Would grow as I, in an earlier day.

And finally, when they came for me
With celebration loud and proud.
They said that I would be removed,
But oh, what “booing” from the crowd!
And back and forth they went for weeks
And then announced their plans aloud.

“This tree has seen 4 hundred years,
And knowing that it must be felled,
We cannot simply cut it down,
For from its strength our town has swelled.
Beneath its branches were treaties signed
And in its shade, our laws upheld.”

“So let us use its wood with honor,
And with it, church and courthouse build,
So men and women can worship still
and the purpose of its life fulfilled.”
And so they brought me down in honor
By the hands of workers wise and skilled.

You did not start life by yourself…
although well hidden, in the ground.
The God of Nations placed you there,
And the purpose for your life was found.
Your growth was never in your hands,
Within HIS hands, twas safe and sound.

And growing tall as the tallest trees
He graces you with Word and Prayer
To rule with him upon the earth,
Destroying evil everywhere and
Sowing acorns as you go, and
Growing them with love and care.

Such are the purposes of God,
Lending strength to others weak,
And becoming pillars in our towns;
So men will believe the words we speak.
The rain, the sun, the soil, and time,
The tools of God to make Great the meek.

Last Words

I have been reading about the last words of famous people. You know, the older I get the more I actually look forward to going home. I’m not trying to leave early though. I figure when it’s time, it’s time. There are many who have done things of note in their lifetimes and, their last words are both interesting and important.

I have read about famous last words of Presidents and Mafia bosses, (which, don’t confuse the two although there are some very close comparisons), and people of faith and those who were athiests. All of their last words are important. What we choose to say at the moment of our death may not be a summation of our lives, because some of us have surprise endings…i.e. accidents. But for those who were dying and knew it, some of them said some very profound things.

According to Steve Jobs’ sister Mona, the Apple founder’s last words were, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”

Emily Dickinson, America’s most celebrated poet’s last words were, “I must go in, for the fog is rising.”

When I read those things I often try to imagine what they saw. There is no doubt that the veil between life and death is exceedingly thin…less than a breath in my estimation. I wonder in my heart if Steve saw something so incredibly beyond anything he could imagine that the computer genius was reduced to his child like wonder statement…”Wow.”

There are humorous ones. Charles Gussman was a writer and TV announcer, who wrote the pilot episode of Days of Our Lives, among other shows. As he became ill, he said he wanted his last words to be memorable. When his daughter reminded him of this, he gently removed his oxygen mask and whispered: “And now for a final word from our sponsor—.”

When Groucho Marx was dying, he let out one last quip: “This is no way to live!”

Donald O’Connor was a singer, dancer, and actor. He also hosted the Academy Awards in 1954. O’Connor died at age 78 with his family gathered around him. He joked, “I’d like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.” He still hasn’t gotten one.

I found that some of them were particularly poignant.Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Lotz says that his last words were for her 11-year-old granddaughter. Lotz’s family surrounded Graham during her final visit with him, and she said her 11-year-old granddaughter told him she loved him as the family was leaving. Graham answered back, “I love you.” Those were his last words.

Football coach Vince Lombardi died of cancer in 1970. As he died, Lombardi turned to his wife Marie and said, “Happy anniversary. I love you.”

O.O. McIntyre was an American reporter. He died at age 53, and spoke his last words to his wife Maybelle: “Snooks, will you please turn this way. I like to look at your face.”

When he was 57, Edward R. Murrow died while patting his wife’s hand. He said, “Well, Jan, we were lucky at that.”

John Wayne died at age 72 in L.A. He turned to his wife and said, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”Humphrey Bogart’s wife Lauren Bacall had to leave the house to pick up their kids. Bogart said, “Goodbye, kid. Hurry back.” Not quite, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” but close.

While I am both healthy and happy at this moment, I can think of nothing quite so peaceful and wonderful to gaze upon; before I leave this earth, as the face of my wonderful wife Mary Ann. I hope it will be so, but God knows.

Now don’t start thinking I’ve been diagnosed with some kind of fatal disease. I have not. But what people say at the last few minutes of life can be a window into what is most important to them. Like John Adams, who lay dying on the 4th of July 1826:

“Thomas Jefferson–still survives”… John Adams, US President, d. July 4, 1826(Actually, Jefferson had died earlier that same day.)

“See in what peace a Christian can die”. Joseph Addison, writer, d. June 17, 1719

“Now comes the mystery’. Henry Ward Beecher, evangelist, d. March 8, 1887

“It is very beautiful over there.” Thomas Alva Edison, inventor, d. October 18, 1931

I have lived my life in such a way, that as far back as I can remember, I’ve always looked forward to seeing the green valley that I believe God has promised me. As a child, I asked my mother what I would see when I died. It was a curious question for such a young child.

She sat at the edge of her 4-year-old child’s bed and stared at me. I remember she looked out the window in my bedroom and; at that moment, she heard the train passing through town over 4 miles away.

She looked back at me with soft tears in her eyes and smiled gently. “Doug, when you are ready to go to heaven, you will hear the gentle call of the heavenly train whistle and there will be a seat, with a quilt on it to keep you warm. I will be waiting on board saving your seat next to me.” I smiled and would ask her to repeat that story from time to time as I grew up.

As my mother grew older, after my father had passed away, we would talk often of heaven and I could tell my mother was so looking forward to “boarding the train for home”. In her last year of life, as she slowly approached the end, she would sleep often, and at least one night, as I sat by her bed in her little apartment, she would say, “Doug, I think the train is getting closer…” this time it was my turn to weep quietly. I held her hand until she drifted off to sleep.

In her final days, I was busy at the winery, but I went to sit in her room at the Hospice. She had been asleep for 4 days straight, and they didn’t expect her to wake up. It was on this day, that I sat by her bed holding her hand and singing “I come to the Garden alone”…her favorite hymn.

As time passed, I stood and had to leave her. “Mom” I said quietly, “I have to go to work, but I’ll be back tomorrow…I love you.” This was when; for the first time in 4 days she awoke fully and spoke to me with a full voice.“Doug, your Dad said, “Come Home”!” Standing in that room I was sure, just absolutely sure, I heard a train whistle from downtown. I choked on my response.

“Mom, you do what Dad wants you to do.” Her eyes smiled at me and she went back to sleep. The next morning, February 14, 2014 just 9 days shy of her 90th birthday, my mother boarded the train alongside my dad…her had called her home on Valentines Day and had come to the station to meet her with a quilt on her seat to keep his sweetheart warm.

What I want is for you, my friend, to know in your heart of hearts that you have your ticket securely in your hand. I want you there…with me, in my green valley. It’s lovely there…the flowers make music and there are levels…oh so many levels in that place where you can visit.

I will be there waiting for you on the train to accompany you if you’d like. I’ll have a quilt sitting in your seat to put around your legs for the journey. We’ll sit and laugh and talk and watch the lovely scenery pass us by until we arrive at the station where everyone we know will be waiting for us.
There will be my wine…the perfected wine I finally have made from perfectly sugared grapes and my dogs will all be there to greet you…yours too! And there will be no strangers there…only friends, dear friends and family.

And whatever you held dear, and whatever memory that comforted you will be real and waiting for you.

I don’t know what my last words on this earth will be, but one thing is for sure…it will be a blessing, a prayer or thanksgiving for having had the privilege of being born on God’s earth. If I survive my wife, we will hold hands and I will sing to her, kiss her forehead and listen for her last words. If not, she will be there holding my hand and I will be looking into her eyes and the eyes of my children and grandchildren.

But until then, there is work to be done, and a kingdom to proclaim…and the train is quickly approaching the station.

Are you a slave owner?…

There was a time in America (and is still in effect in some countries around the world), where people who owed money were placed in forced servitude to work off their debt. These individuals who owed money, would be “rented out” to others to perform all kinds of work often cruel and dehumanizing work…even prostitution.

“The owners” of these “indentured” servants, would make lots of money by renting out these servants until they had paid their debts and could be released. The only problem is, that while they would be “paying off” their debts, their board and keep would accrue and they would remain in servitude for the rest of their lives.

This would continue until the servant either, died, ran away (at which time they would have a warrant sworn out for their arrest and they would either be recaptured or put to death) or, in some absolutely miraculous case, someone would step up and pay their debt and set them free.

The word “indenture” meant a contract binding one person to work for another for a given period of time. The word is synonymous with the words “pit” or “hole” or depression. In other words, to be an indentured servant was to be placed in a financial hole, where they would be trapped and not be able to get out of it until the person they owed let them out…or, as often happened until they died.
That kind of cruelty is illegal in our country and in many countries around the world. But I wonder if we understand how many of us are still slave owners?
I made a lot of mistakes in my past before I rededicated my life to Jesus. Even as a Christian I made a lot of really bad decisions and it reflected badly on Jesus and on myself. You see, it’s easy to forget after having been completely forgiven of our sins, how we also have to be willing to forgive others of their sins.

This is the scripture in The Lord’s Prayer that is one of the most powerful requests we can make to the Lord…“Give us this day, our daily bread…AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS (s we forgive OUR DEBTORS”

These debts could be the financial kind, and most likely, back in the days of Jesus, they were financial. But these days, most likely, the debts other people owe us are the offenses they have committed against us.

I remember going to a class reunion quite a few years ago. I hadn’t been to a class reunion since I graduated high school and it had been impractical because I had lived in South America and across the country, so it wasn’t really a possibility in the first 20 years. But the time came at the 25th class reunion that I was in a position to go to a reunion. I was; like all people I suppose, nervous because we all want to be well remembered and of course look “exactly like we did in High School” which might be possible for some people but certainly not for me. I was also nervous because I was not proud of my behavior in High School and I made it a point to make the rounds at the reunion and ask forgiveness of people when I got there.

Many of my old friends laughed and said, “there’s nothing to forgive…we only have good memories of you!” But there was one person…who, when I spoke with them, they seethed with anger. “You were such a jerk to me!!!” “I have hated you over these past 25 years!” I was shocked and asked forgiveness explaining I was such an insecure person in those days. I extended my hand to shake and even asked if there was anything I could do to make restitution, but the person said, “I will never forgive you…what has been done can never be made right.”

I recall that later that evening, I saw the person speaking with others, looking in my direction relating my past offenses to them. It didn’t matter that I had asked forgiveness, the person was going to seek to remind everyone of my past sin against them and to throw wood on the fire to stir up bad feelings against me. It sounds almost like a scene out of a movie, doesn’t it? With all of the good that came out of that night, the one thing that soured it for me was that this individual wanted me to be their prisoner for life…no reprieve, no parole…for me, it was life in prison. And at least up to this day, in that person’s mind, that is where I remain…life in her prison of hatred.

In very real terms, she is my slave owner. I will not comply with her contract of indentured servitude, but in her mind at least, I will rot in prison. Okay…so here is how you and I keep people in slavery.

Any time you or I seek to remind another person how much they have hurt us, or anytime we try to bring up a past sin committed against us, even as we mouth the words, “Oh, I have already forgiven you…”, even without knowing it, we are trying to place someone in a debtors prison. You may say to me, “Well, that is NOT my heart…I would NEVER try to keep someone chained to their past. I want to remind you of something a dear friend once reminded me,

“The heart is more deceitful than anything. It is incurable— who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 International Standard Version

None of us know our own hearts. Even our best of intentions can be draped in layers of hurt from past offenses and when this is the case, our verbalizing them to the person who hurt us is a lash to the back of our secret slaves. This is why Jesus told us when praying to Him for our daily needs that we need to ask forgiveness of our own sins in the same way we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.

God isn’t saying that what they did to you wasn’t wrong… God isn’t telling you to bury the hurt and “get over it!” No…God wants to heal our hearts. He wants to expose the wounds we carry on the inside and let him disinfect them and roll them out so they can be healed.

“Why do you want more beatings? Why do you keep rebelling? Your head has a massive wound, and your whole heart is afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head, there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and festering sores not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.…”

Sometimes, when we feel the most healthy, we neglect the fact that we are holding something against another person. In our hearts we have slammed the prison door and they are not going to get out of prison! When we harbor bitterness or….even less dramatic than that…anytime a person comes across your mind and your first thought about them is the hurt they caused you, there is still a splinter under your soul and it will cause infection. The longer it stays there, long more it will grow.

You’ve heard the old saying, but it bears repeating, “Holding unforgiveness in your heart against another person, is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” It doesn’t harm the other person…it harms you.

What DOES harm other people is when you see them casually and smile and say, “Hi, How are you? Oh it’s so good to see you! “Wasn’t that funny years ago when you embarrassed me in front of all our other friends?” “Oh…that was SO funny…well, ta ta, have to run!” then you might add, “Praise the Lord!” big smile…you walk away feeling better, they feel someone just peed on their shoes.

There is a direct relationship with letting go of offenses and being set free from your own prison of condemnation and oppression. When we forgive, God forgives…when we hold onto the sins of others, we are thrown into a prison of torment until we have released the other person. In Luke 7:36-50 is the parable of the Two Debtors.

“This familiar story is a contrast between traditional religion and a personal, intimate relationship with God through Jesus. It’s one that a Pharisee was confronted with but not able to comprehend. As with all parables, the meaning is hidden from those who do not have the Spirit to reveal the deeper message.

Obviously, Jesus paid the debt for all of our sins at the cross. But if there was a scale that could be used to measure the number or magnitude of sins that you committed during your life –how would you compare with other people? It’s crucial to understanding this parable.

“ Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”“Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” 1
Jesus doesn’t hold your past against you, my friend. If you have come in humility and confessed your sins and asked Him to forgive you, God casts your sin into the lake of forgetfulness and puts up a “no Fishing” sign. You are not allowed to go try to fish those memories out of that lake and HE will never remember them again.

“Let’s go back to the question posed at the start. Had Jesus not forgiven all of your sins already, where would you rank on the scale of needing forgiveness? You might think it’s not worth considering since He did indeed pay the entire debt. But the fact of the matter is that the rank that you assign for yourself determines the amount that you love Him. Paul measured himself and openly told the whole world what his score was.

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

When Paul said “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. . .” he was not trying to get us to agree that he was truly the worst. Rather, he wants each and every one of us to closely examine the depths of our need for a savior. Knowing your own thoughts and attitudes that flow through your mind all day long, are you really a basically good person? Or would you come to the same conclusion that Paul did in Romans chapter 7?

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)

Here is the passage from Revelation with a description of the church that is neither hot nor cold. It emphasizes the magnitude of how we should view our need –and adjust our “score” on that imaginary debt scale.

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich, and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:17-20)

Hopefully, between these two Scriptures, you are able to see yourself as Paul saw himself –” the worst of all sinners.” In doing so, your relationship with Jesus will grow in meaning and purpose for your life.

The Scriptures go on to explain the change that takes place through the new identity we receive by being “in Christ” –where we are rich, having no stain of sin, able to clearly see all that He has provided.

By the way –should you be interested in the symbolism in the Luke passage– the kiss is about seeking acceptance; tears are of saltwater implying an impending death; a woman’s hair is her glory, her best; and anointing is showing respect for someone who we consider great. The standard way of showing respect in those days would have been by pouring oil downward onto the most respectable part of a person –from our supposedly high position.

The woman recognized Jesus as being supremely important. By anointing His feet; she was looking up from her lowly position. She was seeking His acceptance –knowing that her very best was less than His least. From the perspective of the story of two debtors, the woman knew the enormity of her debt and so she loved Jesus greatly.

We should all recognize ourselves –our flesh– has not changed even after salvation. It will not improve. Although our actions might appear better as Christians, our inner thoughts and attitudes –that’s where our flesh is– remains unchanged and destined for death. And its war with our spirit wages on. The point of this is that we can grow in our love for Him –that personal relationship– by knowing the enormity of the debt He canceled for us.” 2

Don’t be a slave owner any longer…Jesus has turned “slave” into “salve” he places it on our wounded souls so we will no longer have a need to hold the sins of others over their heads. I for one…am eternally grateful for that!

1. http://www.myredeemer.org/parables/debtors.shtml
2. Ibid

“When I was a child”…

Daily routines are what I’m all about…and that is different from when I was younger. When I was young, there WAS no plan for the day. I didn’t really have a planned time to wake up, or shower, or dress for the day. I had no real routines at all except that when my stomach said “feed me”, I ate, and when my body said “sleep”, I slept. “Instinctual living”; if that’s a term, ruled my life.
When you live like that, you inwardly know that you’re a slug. I’m not being mean here…but, anyone who has a brain cell knows that when you do what you want….WHEN you want to do it, they are being directed by their herd instincts and NOT by purpose-driven living. When you have a purpose, you plan, and you discipline yourself for that purpose. When you live in such a way so as to go where “the weather suits your clothes”, you need no purpose…only a suitcase.

I will go a bit further on this rant. When I slept until I wasn’t tired and ate whenever the urge moved me… it did not bother me (nor did it ever occur to me in all honesty) that it may have inconvenienced other people. I had no thought in my head that others had already had breakfast, cleaned the kitchen and were now well along in their days work. I would get up and eat, dirty some dishes and leave them for someone else to clean. Same with the bathroom, I would shower, leave the toothpaste out, throw my towels on the ground and move on out when I was good and ready. I was studying for a Ph.D. in hedonism when Jesus came along and changed my major.

Perhaps, you were not as much of a sluggard as I as a young 14 or 15-year-old. But I want to tell you that when you live that way for a long time, it takes a pretty strong jolt to get you to change your behavior. I don’t want you to misunderstand me …I didn’t have a mean or ugly heart. It wasn’t like I was saying, “Who cares that they cleaned the kitchen!…I’ll eat when I want to…and they can just deal with it!” No, I was a 14-year-old child. I still had the idea that the world revolved around me and my desires, much as a baby thinks the world revolves around them. In other words, I still thought like a child.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. “ “I Corinthians 13:11

I am eternally grateful that in some ways, my gymnastics coach had given to me a sense of purpose and direction concerning self-discipline and self-control. By the time 16 and 17 years of age rolled around, John Hinds had drilled into me, that TEAM was more important than self. He had instilled into all of his young charges, “You don’t stay out late, because you owe others on the team a good nights sleep to be your best in tomorrows gymnastics meet!” He wasn’t kidding. There were times at 8:30 at night, he would call my parents to make sure I was home and in bed, and not just me…all of the gymnasts on our team!. Hinds had a purpose and his purpose had to become MY purpose.

By the time I was a senior in High School, getting up at 5 am, waiting for my buddy Jeff Nasby to pick me up at 5:30 in order to be at the gym by 5:45…BEFORE SCHOOL, to meet our coach and do an early workout…was just a routine part of my day. After the workout, we would shower and then go to classes, only to return to the gym at 3:20 to perfect our routines until 7 pm. Life revolved around that purpose.

What has stayed with me over the 40+ years since those days as a student and gymnast, has been that; absent of a motivational purpose, without a meaningful reason for self-discipline, it is easy to lapse back into a life that does not recognize a higher calling. In other words, without living for a higher purpose, I will regress back into a life of self-centered living.

As far as my motivation today, I don’t have to struggle to get out of bed or clean up after myself…(Ok Mary Ann, maybe cleaning up after myself is still a bit of a struggle… but I’m getting better! lol). I have an appointment every morning. It is an appointment to meet the Creator of the Universe at coffee. He doesn’t necessarily care what I look like when we get together, but what He has to say makes the world go around. His motivation is nothing artificial. When He speaks, He conveys words and concepts that are of imminent importance to me and to the world. He challenges me to show Him to the world in any and every way I can.

Now, I am not personally an articulate or motivating speaker. I have always been a person who was a bit embarrassed to speak publicly about my faith to be perfectly honest. I guess I was more concerned what people thought about my phony baloney image, and figured Jesus didn’t fit that debonair look I was trying to convey. However, after having failed in life in many areas, the only thing I can now brag about is how Jesus rescued me. And God has given me particular gifts that I can use in order to show people His goodness and how much he loves them. I don’t have to wait for a manufactured evangelistic event to show and share the life-changing effects of the Gospel on my life. The everyday opportunities are where we can all use our talents to draw others into a relationship with Jesus.

In the fresh fruit section of the grocery store or at the gas pump. In our day to day activities at our jobs or in the course of our days doing the repetitive, monotonous duties of living. These are the pulpit, and in these activities is the potential power of reaching the world with a word of kindness, an act of love, a consolation to a broken heart. Offering a coupon to a person at Kroger can be the portal through which others can glimpse Jesus through the ever-thinning veil that separates heaven and earth.

God will not require of you or of me, anything that he has not equipped us for. He will not ask you, as you stand before His Throne, “why did you not end world hunger?” or “How did you not know the cure for Cancer?” God’s justice would be injustice should he require of you something for which you were not prepared. But I wonder how we will answer the questions that He HAS equipped us for? How will we answer concerning the talents he has given to each of us? Have we continued to discipline ourselves to use them or have we returned to idleness? Have you excelled still more by using your God-given talents to show god’s love and mercy or have you forgotten your former championship status and gone back to sleeping late in the day of harvest?

The Parable of the Talents Matthew 25:14-30

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, TO EACH ACCORDING TO HIS ABILITY. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.
So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.

But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’
But his master answered him, ‘YOU WICKED AND SLOTHFUL SERVANT! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?
Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming, I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
The lack of development of any of God’s gifts on our lives is called both “wicked AND lazy.”
I exhort you, my friends, that the world is in greater need of your “talents” than ever before. You are playing for “the team”. God, has given you gifts unlike those of any other person. They were not intended for you to use on yourself and for your own pleasure only. They were meant to be used for the championship! They were entrusted to you to grow and to use as God has given you the ability and grace to use them. And the time is coming when God WILL require the fruits of those gifts from your hands…
It is time to wake from your sleep. It is time to put away childish things, habits, and anything that keeps you from running with endurance, the race that is set before you. There is still time to get back in shape so that your discipline may be seen by all.

“ For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I Corinthians 13:12

Tell Them…

A couple of weeks ago I was out making sales calls… working with this company that removes odors out of people’s homes and cars. Not a glorious job, but something I do to rub shoulders with the public. Because of the cavalier way in which I go about business, I was looking for a place to park in my truck in order to make some marketing calls.

My truck is my office, my sometimes prayer closet, and my more than sometimes napping place. It is a big Master cab Ford F-150 and there are times when, I will find a shady place to park, turn on a great teaching online, turn up the A/C and stretch out to take a nap. On this day, I confess, I was thinking about doing just exactly that…but, Cody showed up.

I didn’t know Cody before I had hatched my plan for a little siesta, but as I reclined my seat into “meditation” position, there was a little “tap, tap, tap” on my driver side window.

I was used to having people panhandle while I was parked. It happens. When I turned to look to my left, instead of seeing someone standing shoulder to shoulder with me, I looked down at a smaller sized 9-year-old boy with a woman by his side. I rolled the window down. Before I could speak, Cody said loudly,

“Mister, I’m Cody and this is my mom. Would you please see if you could reach my plane in those bushes? My mom can’t reach up to that high and I would do it, but… I can’t do it…”

I smiled and looked down at Cody as he spoke. He had bright brown eyes, was smiling and confident and his mother looked at me and smiled in a shy, somewhat embarrassed way. Cody was seated in a wheelchair. His mother, Shawna, spoke up.

“I’m so sorry to disturb,” she said in a lovely Australian accent. “Cody’s usually a better pilot than this!” She laughed and I was impressed that neither seemed afraid to approach a stranger.

I sat up straight and muted my audiobook. “Of course I will,” I said, not looking to see where the “bushes” were that held the plane. I introduced myself and got out of my truck and locked the door. Cody explained he and his mom came to the park a lot to fly his plane…a small radio-controlled plane and helicopter set he had gotten for his birthday two months earlier.

His mother pointed at the tall bushes that were more like tall ornamental grass…but they were surrounded by low bushes and landscape boulders. I gladly struggled over the boulders, over the bushes and ventured into the grassy forest to get the plane that was stuck in the middle of one of the grass plants. I recalled the days of my youth as a gymnast when I would have bounded over those boulders….but that was 42 years ago…things have changed a bit at 61…no bounding!

As I emerged with the plane, Cody, forgetting that pulling the trigger on the controls would turn the propeller on the plane, he pushed the trigger and the plane sprang out of my hand and into the air. He laughed and his mother told him to be careful.

I climbed back over the big rocks and started on my way back to my truck and Shawna spoke up. “Cody was born with Spina Bifida…and he is our only child…my husband and me.” I had heard of Spina Bifida but wasn’t exactly sure what it meant as far as treatment and/or healing of the condition. She saw my mind was going through the mental process of trying to formulate questions when she generously offered, “ Do you know what that is?” I explained I had heard of it and she said, “Cody will be an independent person, but may always need his wheelchair…his treatment was started a little late.”

She explained that circumstances had prevented them from getting the kind of early treatment Cody had needed. I had understood it to be financial circumstances. It certainly was evident that her son was the apple of her eye. I asked about her family and about their spiritual lives. Listen, if someone is going to be bold enough to ask a stranger to climb over a bunch of rocks and bushes to get a toy airplane, I feel an equal amount of boldness is my due….so, there.

“Have you asked for prayer for Cody’s condition?” Shawna looked annoyed when I asked that.

“Thank you for your help.” She said trying to get rid of me. I persisted.

“Shawna, I asked if you have asked for prayer for Cody’s condition?” Her lips pursed together as her eyes narrowed. She became terse with her reply. “I appreciate your help…but that is a private matter!” I am an easygoing dude. I never push people, always try to be courteous and kind to people and you are going to think I was a real jerk, but this time I was not going to retreat because her fear was turned to anger. I responded.

“Okay, it’s between you and God…but I hope you aren’t angry at God for Cody’s condition…have a good day!” I began walking away. And this is when this little Australian lady became a bulldog.

“Oh…it’s not God’s fault, isn’t it? Oh…okay, now you opened your mouth so I don’t care now that you got his damn airplane out of the bushes…God did this to my son and if he didn’t he sure as hell didn’t do anything to stop it!” Her cheeks were flushed red and her eyes scowled at me. If you’re going to try to get to the root of someone’s issues, you’d better be ready for both barrels. In the back of my mind, I heard the words…”this is going to be your Waterloo!” She continued.

“I’ll bet you haven’t had any hardship in YOUR life, have you? I’ll bet your nice tidy life is just perfect like your God designed it…I guess God just needed a target and chose my little boy for it!” Tears were coming down her face…and I have to admit, it had been a while since I had encountered something like that. I just froze in my tracks and inadvertently looked for a fast path to my truck.

I hesitated between getting back into my truck and driving away or saying something that would make a difference. The only problem was; at that moment, there were no words and none on the horizon. My personality type doesn’t like silence…we like to fill empty embarrassing gaps with talk but absolutely nothing was coming to my mouth to say.

I could tell that my silence was somewhat satisfying for her. She asked if the “Cat got your tongue?” I stood still and was looking down at the ground. Here is what I figured. I figured that pulling into this park was not something I had planned, I also considered that it was a one in ten million chance that a boy in a wheelchair would come tapping on my window. After thinking these things, I knew I was supposed to be the one here at this moment but was inwardly ashamed that I had nothing to say. No big dramatic, “parting of the water” statement…I mean…NOTHING. So I stood still looking at the ground.

She crossed her arms and I think began to feel embarrassed she had been so cross with a stranger. She sighed out loud and said, “Look, I’m sorry, I am really not mad at you. You’ve been very kind…” that was all. I felt I should try to defuse the silence with a nice, “It’s okay…no problem…” but I didn’t. Again, I stood there like a cigar store Indian…wooden and silent.
As she began to walk away, finally my mind came online again and I finally spoke without qualifying the words…

“My son just discovered this week he has a tumor in his head and I still believe.” She stopped and looked at me. “What?” she asked, “What did you say?” I answered a bit louder, “I said, my son who is 34 years old just discovered he has a tumor at the base of his skull and I still believe God is in charge.” Shawna took a couple of steps back toward me…then asked, “why? Why do you still believe?”

I said, “He’s a cop with three boys, one of them the age of Cody…and a gorgeous wife. He’s my youngest son, and it is wrapped around his carotid artery and nerves that could leave him without a voice.” I then said, “I believe because I know the character of God…he has always been faithful to me.” Even if I don’t get the result I pray for, God is a God of faithfulness and life.”

She shook her head no, like nothing I said would even matter. I didn’t have anything else I could do but do the one thing that I figured would rile her up again, which; is what I signed up for when I told Jesus I would follow him. In my head, I heard the words of the song by Andre Crouch and the Disciples from way back in the 1970’s…named ”Tell Them” God always uses music with me…

“Tell them
even if they don’t believe you,
Just tell them;
even if they don’t receive you.
Oh, tell them for me
tell them for me please
please, tell them for me…
tell them that I love them
And I came to let them know.

Tell them
when it seems you are forsaken
just tell them
though it seems their world is shaken
Oh, tell them for me
tell them for me please
please, tell them for me
tell them that i love them
And i came to let them know.

Tell that lonely man who walks
the colds streets all alone,
Tell that crying child
who doesn’t have a home
Tell those hungry people dying
and lost in the desert
They don’t even know that I care

tell them for me please
Tell them that I love them

Oh, just tell them on the streets
and on the high ways

and tell them and even on the bi-ways
Tell them I can mend the broken hearted
and restore the ones who have parted
And I came to let them know.
I came to let them know
And I came to let them know

They must know
they must know
…must know.

So I told her… and this is when boldness is mandatory…

“Shawna, I am going to leave, and you can ponder why you’re so angry with God, but I would like to pray for you.” She just stood there. I knew better than to place my hand on a strange lady, so I just prayed out loud. “Father, I pray that Shawna would know that you are a good and loving father…not one that would walk out on us and leave us to fend for ourselves. Not a father that would only show us, love, when life was perfect. Help Shawna to know that You love Cody and that if she will only believe, and leave the results in your hands, she will see your goodness in this life. Please let her know you love her. In Jesus name, Amen.

I thanked her for letting me pray and walked back to my truck. I heard her calling Cody as I approached the truck. I started it up and drove to the end of the parking lot to make a U-turn and on my way back toward the exit, Cody and his electric wheelchair sat near where I had been parked waving. I stopped and rolled down my window. His mother was walking quickly up behind him as he spoke to me.

“Thanks so much!” he said smiling broadly. “Thanks for getting my plane!” I told him he was welcome and I said, “God bless you, Cody.” That is when the boy with spina bifida looked at me and said, “God bless you too”… his mother had arrived by that time and looked down at him as I began to drive away and she asked, “What did you say to him?” Cody said, “I said, God Bless you!” Shawna looked up at me with a tear in her eye, and I said, “Out of the mouths of babes, God has reserved praise for himself” Cody took her hand and said, “don’t cry momma, everything’s under control!” Tell her Cody…Tell her!

Mind Worms…

I don’t know about you…but when I get out of bed in the morning, the first things I hear with my ears can stay with me all day. My kids knew this about me and sometimes, they would play some annoying song when I got up and it would stick in my head all day long. There is nothing worse than having something like “Baby Shark” in your head when you’re trying to concentrate on something else…it’s what I call a mind worm. A mind worm travels into your ear canal and eats its way through your mind until it finally either dies or is substituted by something else.

While that may be a funny story, mind worms are a serious matter. Our thoughts in the morning play a major role in how we well we function. I consider very carefully when I get up in the morning what I listen to because it can set the course of my day. Some might say I am placing too much emphasis on our thoughts, but something one of my readers posted the other day reminded me of a book I read years ago about sheep and the meaning of the verse in Psalm 23 where it reads, “He anoints my head with oil.”
In the book “A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm”

“For in the terminology of the sheepman, “summertime is fly
time.” By this, reference is made to the hordes of insects that
emerge with the advent of warm weather. Only those people who have kept livestock or studied wildlife habits are aware of the serious problems for animals presented by insects in the summer.

Sheep are especially troubled by the nose fly, or nasal fly,
as it is sometimes called. Here little flies buzz about the
sheep’s head, attempting to deposit their eggs on the damp,
mucous membranes of the sheep’s nose. If they are successful the eggs will hatch in a few days to form small, slender, worm-like larvae. They work their way up the nasal passages into the
sheep’s head; they burrow into the flesh and there set up an
intense irritation accompanied by severe inflammation.

For relief from this agonizing annoyance sheep will
deliberately beat their heads against trees, rocks, posts, or
brush. They will rub them in the soil and thrash around against
woody growth. In extreme cases of intense infestation, a sheep may even kill itself in a frenzied endeavor to gain respite from the aggravation. Often advanced stages of infection from these flies will lead to blindness.

Only the strictest attention to the behavior of the sheep by
the shepherd can forestall the difficulties of “fly time.” At the
very first sign of flies among the flock, he will apply an antidote
to their heads. I always preferred to use a homemade remedy
composed of linseed oil, sulfur, and tar which was smeared over the sheep’s nose and head as a protection against nose flies.

What an incredible transformation this would make among the sheep. Once the oil had been applied to the sheep’s head there
was an immediate change in behavior. Gone was the aggravation; gone the frenzy; gone the irritability and the restlessness. Instead, the sheep would start to feed quietly again, then soon lie down in peaceful contentment”. 1

The analogy here is obvious. The reason many people go through their lives with such disturbing mental issues that seemingly cannot be defeated is because of seeds that the enemy of their souls planted years and years ago, many times in their youth. As children, we are susceptible to all kinds of destructive eggs that the enemy has laid just waiting for their opportunity to hatch and cause us to dash our heads against the ground in agony trying to silence the irritation and noise of mental strongholds.

Many of those seeds are the comments made by parents, teachers, relatives or important authority figures we respect. When a person in authority speaks destructive words into the heart of a child, the damage may not seem immediate, but just like eggs, they will incubate until the personality becomes entirely directed by the wrong thoughts that hatch due to insensitive comments, accusations and even just hate-filled words. If you constantly or even intermittently have trouble with repeating thoughts of accusation, depression or any negativity whatsoever, this blog is for you…

I have told the story in my blog “How I Became Stupid” how the words of a vindictive teacher caused me to believe that I was stupid, and I did my very best to fulfill her hateful prophecy over my life. For years I struggled with rebellion and hate for learning because the eggs laid in my little soul by a teacher who was angry with me hatched into fully grown beliefs that caused me to hate myself and begin down a self-destructive behavioral pattern. Mind worms destroy reality and cause us to believe lies.

I once counseled a man who was fully convinced that he was born to be killed in a tragedy. He didn’t know what it would be, but he had already been involved in two near-death automobile accidents, a fall from a second-story window and a near-fatal electric shock. He used these examples as proof that God created him to die a tragic death.

When I did some investigating, he related to me of growing up with a maniacal father who tortured him by burning him with cigarettes because he would wet his pants as a little boy. His father had told him, “You will never live a long life…God wouldn’t let someone as stupid as you to live!” His father also had told him, “All the men in our family have died before they lived a full life…it’s your fate…just like it will be mine!” His father was killed at 43, being crushed by a crane on a work-related accident. It wasn’t until that belief system in his mind was rejected and he accepted the scripture Psalm 91 that he was able to be free from the destructive mind worm and its poisonous eggs.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “You are my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly plague. He will cover you with His feathers; under His wings, you will find refuge;

His faithfulness is a shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the plague that stalks in darkness, nor the pestilence that destroys at noon. Though a thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, no harm will come near you.

You will only see it with your eyes and witness the punishment of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling—my refuge, the Most High— no evil will befall you, no plague will approach your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. They will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and cobra; you will trample the young lion and serpent.

“Because he loves Me, I will deliver him; because he knows My name, I will protect him. When he calls out to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver and honor him. With (a) long life, I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.”

It is for this reason that the crown of thorns pushed into the head of Jesus on the cross was an important part of your salvation. The blood that covered Christ’s head was the payment for a sound mind…a payment that must be appropriated every day when we rise from bed and every night when we lay our heads upon our pillows. Scripture is very clear about how our thoughts AND WORDS can determine both our destiny and our outlook on life.

While our minds were purchased by his blood, the renewing power of washing it daily with God’s Word is WHAT KEEPS IT CLEAN from destructive mind worms. Counteracting accusations and lies that are thrown at us by the enemy of our souls is something we cannot just pray and ask God to remove from us. God tells us the RENEWING OUR MINDS IS A JOB HE HAS GIVEN TO US!!!

“Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, BUT BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND. THEN YOU WILL BE ABLE TO TEST AND APPROVE WHAT IS THE GOOD, PLEASING AND PERFECT WILL OF GOD.” Romans 12:1-2

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE to obey Christ”. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

“In I John 1:7, the apostle writes that we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. But the cleansing found here in Ephesians 5:26 is of a different kind. Hebrews 9:22 says, “Almost all things are purged by blood.” Almost all but not everything is. There are some things that must be purged in another way.

Ephesians 5:26 tells us that we are cleansed “with the washing of water by the word.” There are things that will be cleansed—things in our minds, things that deal with conduct, things that have to do with character and attitude—that are cleansed by water. The word “water” here is symbolic, referring to the Word of God, as well as to the Holy Spirit.

Christ gave a long discourse in John 6, which we often apply at Passover time, about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Towards the end, He says to his audience, “The words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

We have in the Bible the Word of God—and Jesus says it contains power. It has the power to cleanse a person’s mind because we can think only by what goes into the mind, concepts that are contained in words. Words are merely symbols of ideas that we use to reason. We turn those ideas into action, into conduct, which becomes part of our character and our attitude.
In other places in the Bible, the Holy Spirit is compared to water and to oil. Both of these have revitalizing, nourishing, cleansing, purifying, and sanitizing properties to them.

We are familiar with how we use water to cleanse things; water is the universal solvent. We do not use oil so much to cleanse things, but, on the other hand, the Samaritan in the parable treated the man’s wounds with oil (Luke 10:34). It had a purifying effect on him.” 2

Today, begin by filling your mind with God’s word…with God’s thoughts, and discover a new and living way of being free and breaking destructive thoughts that seek to derail God’s perfect peace over your life.