I am not one to have a fear of heights. Years ago, I thoroughly enjoyed flying in a helicopter with my legs hanging out the door. It was exhilarating, as I felt like I was flying on my own. I’ve even climbed a 75-foot ladder in the fire service, and didn’t flinch.
A few years ago, I checked a block on my bucket list. Research was done and I found the skydiving school with the best safety record, and I jumped at the opportunity (pun intended). Ground class was required, then we loaded into the little plane – the pilot, the cameraman, and the instructor. At 7,000 feet I hooked into the instructor as it was a tandem jump. At 10,000 feet the door opened, and the rush of wind filled the little Cessna. My heart began to pump and there was a tightness in my chest.
The instructor and I scooted to the door where he told me to hold onto the exit door and to place my foot on the little metal plate outside the door. All I saw was the green pasture 10,000 feet below me! For just a moment I couldn’t move. My hands had a death grip on the door and neither of my feet would make any movement toward that ever-shrinking metal plate outside the door. Fear had me frozen for just a moment.
We see news reports on TV where fear is gripping our nation and the world. News broadcasters are predicting a jump from a world pandemic all the way to anarchy at the speed of light! I have to say, this fear is exactly what the Enemy would have us focus on.
1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” We know God is love. Therefore, in God there is not fear. In God, fear is driven out by Him. In God, we are made perfect in His love.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say to worry about everything, fear everything, or be paranoid about everything. When we focus on God and all His goodness instead of all the bad things we are hearing, all else seems to fade away in His presence. The Good gets even better.
Jesus told His disciples just before His ascension, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” God the Father watches over us. Jesus is always with us. And through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can experience the purest of all love.
Let’s change our perspective and focus on the goodness, mercy, and grace from our Heavenly Father. And let’s open our ears to His Word, and not the words of fear!
Spring is here, and with it comes Spring lawn cleaning! Small branches, brown leaves, and pinecones cover our lawn in the most haphazard fashion. As the lawn and leaf rakes have come out of storage, new gloves purchased, and the image of a finely manicured lawn with beautiful Spring flowers fill our landscaping imaginations.
As we rake, and rake, and rake some more gathering all these unwanted Winter gifts together, pull the dead Fall flower bushes from the beds around the house as well, the thought of burning them is in the forefront of our plans. I saw just that earlier this month as we had a few days of sunshine and warmer temperatures. But as we’ve all experienced, if you gather the debris into a pile and leave it a few days, its going to get wet. We’ve had so much rain this Spring, having a nice dry pile of sticks, leaves, and twigs to burn is a rarity. Face it – all these twigs, leaves and bushes just won’t burn if they are wet!
So, we wait for a nice sunny day to once again rake and fluff our piles trying to dry them out, and prepare them to be set aflame. And for those of you who read this column weekly, you’re ready for the transition question: Is our Christian walk like a wet bush?
How do we “tend” our faith bushes? Do our faith bushes get wet from time to time? Do we all have the same bushes or are they one of a kind?
God wants us to have a relationship with Him. This is the reason we were all created – in His image. And for that matter, we look like our Father, as we worship in spirit because God is Spirit. We are all different, but our spirits are mostly alike.
It seems nowadays we ignore the similarities and look for the differences. If theologians say we are mostly alike, why do we focus on the small differences and ignore the major similarities? In all honesty, if we focus on the similarities, it helps us to see the uniqueness in all of us with greater clarity!
If we try to stand out from the crowd by being unique, are we not using the lesser percentage of our faith? We all have been given spiritual gifts to use to edify and bring glory to the Father. But if we always look at the minor side, we miss the major side of our faith – the side that joins us all together as one big family.
Even a slightly wet bush will burn. We all need to concentrate on the largest part of our faith, stand closer to His fire (the Holy Spirit), and let Him prepare our bushes to be set aflame to burn brightly for His kingdom here on earth. The time will come when we will burn brightly in a place where there will be no more tears to dampen our bushes!!!
Lately we have all seen commercials on the television and heard them on the radio about debt forgiveness. I’m not exactly sure how it works, as thankfully I haven’t been in need of such services. What sticks in my mind are the testimonials. Those using the program speak of “great weights being lifted from their shoulders” and a “new lease on life” as their financial worries have been reduced or eliminated.
We all have been through pains and hurts in our lives. Face it, people just don’t treat other people like they should. As a result, we carry hurts we shouldn’t, and in some cases we carry anger with us as well. Those are enormously heavy things to carry around and can weigh our daily lives down. Much like putting a heavy weight belt on an elite runner, our abilities to perform and have a greater positive attitude is inhibited – all from the anger and hurts we’ve wrapped our hearts in.
In His sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave some very clear instructions to make our daily lives “lighter.” In Luke 6: 37, 38 Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you.” Jesus was telling those gathered around Him that day how to live lighter lives, in very simple terms. But notice one thing: the actions required by Jesus originates with the ones who have control – us, not with the ones who have hurt us!
We can’t carry hurts and pains around, waiting on those who caused them to come ask for forgiveness. If that was the prescription, imagine the weight we would be adding to our lives daily waiting for them to come to us!! No, Jesus said it is up to us to lighten our loads by throwing off all of this by not judging, not condemning, giving, and certainly forgiving.
Lighten your load this week by removing the weight belts we’ve placed around our hearts and give yourself a new lease on life. Easier said than done? Absolutely. We can’t do it by ourselves. Absolutely not! Turn to the One who gave us the prescription. He stands ready to help us to forgive others, in the way He has forgiven us!! Christ is in the debt forgiveness business for those willing to accept Him.
As my mother would tell me time and time again, “Be careful who you associate with!” She was correct because as we have heard, “Actions speak louder than words.” We can all look back and remember these and many more sayings our mothers, grandmothers, and other important figures in our lives would say. I call them my “granny-isms.” I tell you, she was one wise woman.
Experts today validate what these women in our lives would tell us as we were growing up. It is said that 70% of all communication is non-verbal. This means our facial expression, our body language, and yes, those we are associated with communicate more than just words alone.
To experience this, I invite you to turn on any cable news program, especially the opinion segments, and turn the sound off. Even though we’ve eliminated the auditory words by lowering the volume, the body language of the broadcast journalist says a great deal. You can easily pick up on positive stories, those that touch your heart, and even those that spew negativity, discontent, and outright hatred.
Don’t think for a minute this is new. Pick up your bible and read in any one of the Gospels. But when you do, turn down the “volume.” What I mean by this is open the big screen in your mind and “see” the mood, the context, and the intent of those speaking.
The Pharisees confronted Jesus almost daily. I read the encounters and can see in my mind the bombastic and pompous attitude and body language they must have elicited. And when they couldn’t get to Jesus, they attacked those around Him in the same way.
Jesus healed the man who was blind from birth. The Pharisees were tired of getting nowhere with their attacks on Jesus, so they “commanded” this man (who could now see) to appear in their presence (can you picture their smugness?).
This man had been a blind beggar his entire life. They asked him what happened and he told them facts and facts alone: “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes.” After he washed the mud off he could see. Then they asked him “where is this man?” This is a laughing moment. They just asked a blind man who had not seen Jesus, nor would recognize him, where Jesus was!
Try as they may, the man would not fall into the trap of saying something negative toward Jesus – something they could use in an accusatory manner to finally catch Him. Frustrated, they called his parents before them and followed up with a second summons for the previously blind man. They failed at every attempt.
Why do we despise that which we do not understand, or refuse to allow ways that are different from our own? God made us all different, but yet we are all in the same “boat”; we all fall short. God will forgive our sins if we ask Him. Let’s try to be more encouraging this week to touch lives for His kingdom!
Try to get onto any military base in the United States and you will get questioned as to your business, that is unless you have a military identification card. The guards at the gate are given a great deal of authority to allow cars to enter, to pull to the side and receive a pass, or to be turned away all together. Responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the base lies at the highest echelon of command on the instillation, but the authority is filtered down through the levels of command to those standing guard at the gate.
The guards that occupy the east and west gates of our community are no different. They have been given the authority to allow entrance or turn away cars. In both of these examples, authority is used to protect individuals from evil in our midst.
When Jesus cast a demon out of man who could not speak and was blind (Matt 12:22) His authority was questioned by the religious elite – the Pharisees. They accused Jesus of casting out demons in the name of Satan, from which He (Jesus) received the power and authority. We can almost laugh at the blindness created by their hatred for Jesus. He had already cleansed a man of leprosy, a disease considered to be caused by egregious sin against God. To be cleansed, divine intervention had to occur, and then the circumstances of the cleansing had to be investigated by the High Priest, according to the Levitical law. If the High Priest questioned Jesus and the disciples about the cleansing (and we must assume there was an investigation), it would have been determined the only logical answer was to acknowledge Jesus’ divinity. But as we know, instead of adoration there was only accusation by the religious leaders.
So here we have Jesus casting out a demon under very specific circumstances (mute/blind person) – an act only the divine could perform. Instead of praising Jesus and acknowledging Him and His authority over all of creation, they accused Him of deriving His power from Satan himself. We can shake our heads, but their denial of this miracle and the power of Jesus AND the Holy Spirit was an egregious sin in and of itself.
Do we have the authority to do things in this world? Authority can be passed down as in my original example of the guards on a military base. But has authority given to Jesus been passed down to us?
Jesus told His disciples just before His ascension into heaven “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore to and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt 28:18,19). Jesus gave His disciples the authority to spread the Good News and do many things, and it is the same authority given to us today.
We need to acknowledge not only the power we have to move mountains, but most importantly the Person from which we derive this power!