Peace

john-14-27OK, so maybe I’m bragging a little, but a mom’s entitled. Right?

My son is an amazing dad, and to watch as his three little kids run to him for comfort blesses me beyond belief. Tears disappear as he cuddles and comforts, for in his arms they feel safe and loved; in his arms they have peace.

From an adult perspective, the traumas that send a child fleeing to a parent for comfort may seem very insignificant; but an ‘owie’, hurt feelings, sibling squabbles, a scary dream, anything that shatters his/her peaceful world seems as big a deal to them  as do the things that shatter ours.

As 2017 looms large on the horizon, there are certainly a lot of issues with which to be concerned. Whether our problems are personal, national, or international; there is much that would make us yearn for a place of rest and safety. Fortunately, such a place does exist, and we can rush headlong into the loving arms of our Father to be comforted just as readily as my grandchildren run to my son. Jesus understood this well, as He encouraged His disciples:

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 32-33)

About a hundred and fourteen years ago, Cleland B. McAfee wrote “Near to the Heart of God” from a place of personal grief and loss. Modeling Jesus, he also knew from Whom his strength came:

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
Refrain:
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God;
Hold us, who wait before Thee,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.

Over 2000 years ago, God was there for Jesus’ disciples; over a century ago He was there for Mr. McAfee; and He is still there for us today. May we all rest in His peace today, tomorrow, and throughout 2017.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

California: The State of the State

untitledBorn and raised in Humboldt County in the midst of the majestic redwoods of Northern CA, and living in the desert of South Orange County, I have a lifetime of roots planted throughout our wonderful state; and I have faith that God will bring it back to Him. About 17 years ago, He had me highlight every road on a CA map that I had traveled, assured me that this was my ‘promised land’, and He was on the move.

Why is our state so ‘blue’? Why do we have such unrighteous leadership? It’s simple, really; once we stand up for God and begin to move in faith, we will be a threat to the enemy’s influence on the rest of the nation and the world. The battle here isn’t between liberals and conservatives; it’s Christians against that which is unseen. Ephesians 6:12:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

CA has been home to some of the biggest moves of God in history, not the least of which was Azusa Street and the Jesus Movement. So think about that for a moment: Azusa Street was birthed in Los Angeles, and the Jesus People came straight out of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. See any parallels between that and the two biggest bastions of liberalism in the state today?

So what happened? Compromise! The church got all happy and full of God, but quickly turned away and compromised with the world, choosing to please man instead of God.

So what’s needed? Repentance! And not just on the part of the ‘sinners’ either, because many in the Church are right there at the top of that list. The Church Body in CA must repent of aligning with the world, of accepting such abominations into our fellowships as homosexuality, abortion, and co-habitation outside of marriage. The Church Body must repent of a multitude of sins that seem OK because ‘everybody else does it’; from the big ones just mentioned right down to the ‘little ones of ‘stretching the truth’ for personal gain, pride, self-sufficiency, and the list goes on. When the Church in CA repents, the spiritual earthquake that will occur will cause any physical earthquake we might experience here to pale in comparison!

We who live in CA can choose to focus on all of the evil that surrounds us, or we can shift our gaze a bit and focus on God, which will make all the difference in the world. We need to dive deep into Lamentations 3 and let God show us His way. He is our Hope. The thing is though, we must clean our own house before we can revolutionize our state. Lamentations 3:40-45:

Let us lift up our hearts and hands
to God in heaven:
“We have transgressed and rebelled,
and you have not forgiven.
“You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us,
killing without pity;
you have wrapped yourself with a cloud
so that no prayer can pass through.
You have made us scum and garbage
among the peoples.

An Upgraded Mind

img_3311In my dream, I was in a restaurant where food was ordered and picked up at a counter, and there were a few tables scattered around. I was with three unidentified friends (represents God in all three persons) and there was one table for four but it was right by the line/register and was very crowded. One friend suggested we go upstairs where there were some more tables and we headed up there. I didn’t actually see it, but knew instinctively that it was surprisingly spacious and open.

At the same time, there had been an experience going on in which I had received what looked like a balloon with a small amount of water—maybe 1/3 full (me, undergirded by God!)—so plenty of room for expansion. I remembered that much earlier in the night I had been awake and got the word, ‘backdoor’, but didn’t understand why.  I was developing a prayer in my sleep and couldn’t remember it when I woke up, but immediately realized that my mind/brain is an exquisitely designed computer and that programmers often leave a backdoor entry so they can get in when nobody else can. I got up and wrote a ‘backdoor’ prayer, also asking the Lord to apply to me personally everything I had ‘written’/prayed while in the dream state, though I don’t recall the exact words.

The backdoor prayer, “Lord, please forgive me for all unrighteous thought and for believing the lies of the enemy. Please forgive me for not setting my mind on things above and for allowing fear, worry, and regret to dominate my thinking. As my Creator/Designer/Programmer, please access the ‘backdoor’ of my brain/mind, which is like an elaborate computer system. Close all doors that should be closed, and open all doors that should be opened so the gates of my mind may never be shut against You. Please kill all viruses and erase all ungodly pathways. Please upgrade my speed, memory, and storage capacity so I can quickly recall all that You want me to know. Please re-program me; upgrade my existing programs and install new ones that align with your latest designs for my life; and set my entire being for automatic updates and releases. Please build a firewall of Your truth through which deception cannot penetrate, and install the Word of God as my always up-to-date anti-virus program. Please cause all of my thoughts to be aligned with Yours so I can always understand what You are doing and know how to respond appropriately in the world. Conform me to Your image, Lord.”

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

 

Out of the Mouth of Babes

Life Abundant

Spring has sprung in California, bringing evidence of new life everywhere. It officially arrived on Palm Sunday, with trees and flowers are beginning to bloom, and even a few spring showers in our drought-stricken state. A week later, on Easter, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, the most amazing example of life that exists.

The weekend following Easter, we were visiting our son’s family, enjoying the rare opportunity to spend time with our three (forgive me for gushing) adorable, cuter-than-cute, smart, talented grandchildren. Our identical three-year-old twin grand daughters love books, and reading to them is a sure guarantee of having both girls on my lap for extended periods of time. Book after book, from easy cardboard toddler books to a little more detailed storybooks, their attention never wavers as the already-read pile beside the chair grows and grows. Interspersed in the collection are some Bible stories, and these resulted in one of the most memorable blessings of my life; a memory that I’m certain will endure forever. Each time Jesus’ name was mentioned, Hope would exclaim, “Nana, He’s alive! Did you know He’s alive? He really is alive!” Such a joyful, excited, simple faith–no wonder Jesus loved the children so much, and no wonder we need to become as little children!

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!  Matthew 18:1-6

But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?”

And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” Matthew 21:15-16

Power in the Heavenly Places

Version 2It is exciting to share that my newest book with Paul L Cox, Exploring Heavenly Places, Volume 4: Power in the Heavenly Places, is now available in both print and e-book editions.  It can also be ordered as part of a package with the first three books in the series.

Throughout scripture we find one account after another of God’s power, and if we stop to consider the magnitude of that power it’s mind-boggling. We often read such statements as, the voice of the Lord is powerful; He rules by His power forever; by His power He brought in the south wind; Who knows the power of Your anger; Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; All Your works shall praise You, O Lord…And talk of Your power. All of His works shall praise Him—wow!!! That’s big.

God’s handiwork is evident everywhere we look, and the Bible is full of golden nuggets of truth that we may not have recognized because our everyday focus is usually on what we see right in front of us. The manifestations of God’s power hint of the glorious eternity that awaits those who are His; and while there is still much to understand, we begin to learn to recognize and access His power throughout the dimensions in Exploring Heavenly Places, Volume 4, Power in the Heavenly Places.

Fear Not

FEAR NOT PIC

I’ve often written about fear, but it seems to be on the Lord’s mind this morning so here we go again. If a lesson can be repeated over and over in the Bible, I guess it’s not redundant if I do the same.

As anyone who has paid attention to the news lately will know, fear is rampant throughout the world. The latest international incident motivating fear was the attacks against women that occurred in Germany and throughout a number of other European countries on New Years Eve. Nationally, it’s the story of a police officer in Philadelphia whose assailant walked right up to the window of the patrol car and blasted away, critically wounding him. As I watched a news program last night, I lost count of the number of times someone said, “I’m afraid,” “Should we be afraid?” or “You/we should be afraid.” But I’m here to say, NO, we shouldn’t.

Fear is NOT God’s plan for His people, as He made clear to me once again this morning. Currently, I’m reading in Genesis, Isaiah, and Matthew, which obviously covers a pretty broad span of time, yet God’s message never changes, so just from my devotional time this morning without considering the hundreds of other biblical references to ‘fear’ or ‘afraid’ (do a word search, and you’ll be reading for hours!):

And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” Genesis 26:24

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. Isaiah 8:11-13

Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced. Isaiah 54:4a

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

Jesus is the antidote for our hopelessness and fears, whether they are phony or based on very real threats, such as the terrorism that is rampant throughout our world. Fear not, for I am with you says the Lord!

A New Year’s Prayer

2016On December 31, 2015, New Year’s Eve, I awoke from a vivid dream in which I’d been surrounded by others at the sort of conference center that one might find in a nice hotel. A pianist was playing nice background music from the lobby, catching my attention as she began to play a familiar tune. As I began to sing, many others joined in:

God bless America, land that I love
Stand behind her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above
From the mountains, to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America
My home sweet home

I’d sung the words as a heartfelt prayer, with my eyes closed. When I opened them there was a nice looking man standing next to me who I believe was the Lord, and He encouraged me to keep on singing. Today, as I welcomed 2016 during my quiet time, He directed me to Psalm 100 and Psalm 101:1:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O Lord, I will make music.

May 2016 be a year in which we, His people, seek Him above all else and joyfully sing His praises, for:

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

May God bless all who read this, whether you are in America or in any other nation on earth, for He is there. May 2016 be a year in which you encounter Him  and His sufficiency, His grace, and His mercy in every aspect of your life.