Bitter Medicine

Sheba on PillowNot only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  Romans 5:3-5

Like most senior citizens, Sheba has a collection of pills that she takes daily, medications and food supplements to maintain her health and relieve her allergies and arthritis.  These are very effective treatments, and as long as they’re consumed she moves around quite comfortably.  But Sheba doesn’t like her pills—apparently they taste bad—and if they’re given alone she won’t touch them. Added to dry dog food, she’ll eat all around the pills and leave them in the dish; every morsel will be gone except the few tiny bites that will keep her healthy and pain free.  So we disguise them with moist food, coating each pill so thoroughly that she never even realizes she’s eaten something that’s good for her.

Life typically hands us a lot of ‘bitter pills’, and we all endure unpleasant experiences that ‘taste bad’.  But amazingly enough, these hardships that we despise so much may be the very medicine we need—opportunities disguised as problems that God allows so that we can become stronger.  And when it all just seems too much to swallow, Take the old prophets as your mentors.  They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God.  What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end.  That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.” (James 5:10-11, The Message)

Hurry Up and Wait

 Kev & Sheba on Wade PorchBut do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:8-9

It seldom fails that Sheba decides it’s time to go outside at the most inconvenient times, and she is notorious for taking a very long time, sniffing everywhere for a place that meets with her satisfaction.  Now, Sheba may be deaf, but she’s not blind—in fact, she can probably see farther than I can.  So, though all I want her to do is hurry up and take care of her business, she’ll stop and gaze off into the distance if she catches sight of someone walking toward us.  Without moving, she’ll watch every step until they reach us.  Then she turns on the charm and usually manages to get the inevitable attention that she wants—few can pass her by without stopping to give her a pat on the back or a scratch behind the ears.  When they finally move on and turn the corner out of sight, she’ll get back to the reason we’re standing out there in the first place—and meanwhile I’m praying that another neighbor won’t decide to go for a walk so we can finish up and go back inside.

How often do we have an urgent task that needs to be accomplished—a purpose to be met—a destiny to be fulfilled by becoming all that God has called us to be; but we get sidetracked and let our attention waver toward other activities that appear more gratifying at the moment?  Unlike me waiting impatiently for Sheba, God is patient, and he waits lovingly and faithfully until we regain our focus and turn back to him and his agenda for our lives.  Then, he brings us back into his house where we are welcomed as “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” (see Ephesians 2:19). I can’t think of any place I’d rather be!

A New Interest

Sheba KevDo you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Sheba is getting old; she walks slower and seldom runs, and she loves to lie around and sleep a lot.  If she were human she would probably complain that life has become boring and meaningless, with her only pleasure coming from pleasant daydreams of the past or from the love and attention of her family.  But the other day Sheba developed a new interest that revolutionized her attitude.  There are lots of rabbits around our home and Sheba has pretty much ignored them for the year we’ve lived here.  On this morning, she stopped and stared—for a long time—not moving, hardly breathing—at a rabbit.  And the rabbit was watching her pretty closely too, ready to bound away if Sheba so much as blinked!  Finally, curiosity got the   better of her and she made a quick move toward the rabbit, but surprise, surprise; it didn’t just sit there and wait for her; and the chase was on.  Suddenly her whole body was infused with a new purpose; she just had to chase that rabbit.  Where did it go?  She knew it was on the neighbor’s patio, but how could she get to it?  Straining on her leash, her eyes bright with excitement, her cute, curly little tail wriggling with anticipation; she was like a puppy again, with a whole new goal in life.

Do you ever catch yourself sinking into monotony—content to lie around and sleep, or to sit and watch TV, or to do whatever it is you do when you’re bored and have no sense of purpose?  Have you ever considered just sitting still and waiting on God for a while; then getting up with a renewed sense of energy and purpose as He takes off in a new direction and your desire is to chase after Him?

If Sheba could get to that rabbit next door, just think of the fun she might have continuing the chase.  And remember the hidden joys that God has waiting for us if we persevere and follow him to the next adventure.  Then when we come to the end of our lives we can agree with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

De Rigeuer

BibleDe rigeuer.  It’s the word that was in my mind the moment I awoke this morning, and I can’t even imagine a scenario in which that would’ve been my first thought!  Knowing it had to be a piece of a bigger puzzle, I told the Lord that I didn’t have any idea what he was talking about, and I’d wait for Him to give me some more clues so I could figure it out.

As is my usual practice, I grabbed my coffee and settled in with my Bible for some quiet time with the Lord before the demands of the day ran away with me, and I started reading Isaiah again, going through the first four chapters.  I’d just finished it yesterday, but I’d received a wonderful new journaling Bible at about chapter 46, so I decided to go back to the beginning so I can ‘personalize’ a whole book at a time.  In fact, the reason I got the new Bible was because my last one is beginning to wear out, and many passages are double and triple marked, with hard-to-read notes scrunched into the small margins.  My older Bible was a gift that I really want to be able to keep and take along with me, but its days are numbered unless it gets a break.

Reading along and relishing all the space I now have to make notes, I read the first four chapters without really thinking about my ‘word of the day’.  When finished, I moved on to My LinkedIn discussion group, Standing In Faith, and read a new discussion in which comments had been made about the true value of success, as contrasted with popular indicators of value that focus on outward appearances.

Hmmmm, maybe there’s a pattern here. De rigeueur refers to a requirement of etiquette or current fashion in order to be fashionable or socially acceptable. Put that that together with the words of Isaiah 3:16-26, which I’d just read, and it sure began looking like the Lord’s had a plan in mind here.

The Lord said:

Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts.

In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the signet rings and nose rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.

Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty. Your men shall fall by the sword and your mighty men in battle. And her gates shall lament and mourn; empty, she shall sit on the ground.

The words above were written to the kingdom of Judah in the days of the Old Testament, but are as relevant for the church today as they were for His people then.  We live in a time when evil is increasing exponentially; immorality and downright debauchery are rampant; our children are being sacrificed through abortion; and the list goes on.  Unfortunately, in the midst of it all, many Christians are choosing to compromise with the world, preferring to ‘go along to get along’ rather than to stand firm in their faith, refusing to budge when it comes to God’s righteousness and justice.  It’s time to heed seriously the words of 1 Peter 4:17:

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

Yes, God’s judgment will surely start within the house of the Lord, and those who are His had better be standing in faith rather than compromise.  If we are, then there’s an amazing answer right there in Isaiah 3:10-11 to the question from 1 Peter:

Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.

Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.

Does anybody remember George Peppard’s oft-spoken line as Hannibal in the A Team? “I just love it when a plan comes together.”  That describes perfectly my sentiment today as I watched God assemble the pieces of His lesson of the day!  My prayer is that many of us will choose to be on God’s A Team.

Great Insurance

Kev Sheba BeachFor the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.  1 Corinthians 1: 18-19

Sheba could easily have a career as a garbage disposal.  She will ravenously gulp down almost any food, never exercising any restraint; not even slowing down to savor the taste.  Or, perhaps she could masquerade as a pig, albeit a likeable one, maybe a bit like Miss Piggy.   Left to her own appetite—her own wisdom—Sheba would eventually destroy herself by eating herself into oblivion.  But she has a health insurance policy—me.  I’m here to make sure she doesn’t self-destruct.

Not all of us have an eating problem like Sheba, but we all have a sin problem that can eventually destroy us if we follow our own foolish plans.  But God has a life and health insurance policy that can’t be beat, one unlike anything the world has to offer. First of all, it’s free; there’s no cost to us at all.  It was purchased by Jesus on a wooden cross about two thousand years ago, and it never goes out of date or gets canceled.  Second, it wipes out all of our past mistakes and provides everything we need not only to survive but to flourish during our life on earth.  And third, it guarantees an eternal home with God in heaven.

So how do we sign up?  It’s easy. “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame…for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:11,13)

Die, So We Can Live

IMG_1914The United States of America.  This is my county, the land that I love, and I’m forever grateful to have been born here.

Historically, our country has been well known as one nation under God, with the majority of our population professing a belief in Him.  But oops!  We have now become a largely godless society in which God’s righteousness has been trashed in favor of  the selfish standards of man’s ever-expanding quest for personal ‘rights’ and happiness.

We have been known for our freedom, for the famous liberty and justice that is available to all, and we have become a gigantic melting pot in which people from all over the would could come to live and thrive in freedom.  But oops!  Our freedoms are quickly eroding, especially for Christians, as those who govern us continually pile one unjust regulation on top of another.

For years we have been the world’s greatest superpower, enjoying unparalleled military might and economic strength.  But oops!  Our military has been downsized from majestic to pathetic, and our economy is in free fall as the national debt increases and our personal wealth decreases.

We have been especially known for religious freedom, and have been a place where people of all faiths could worship without governmental interference. But oops!  Now, if you stand by God’s truth, you are judged as an extremist hater.

We have such a proud heritage!  But oops!  We forgot something very important along the way as we began to trust in ourselves instead of God, sliding bit by bit down the slippery slope of moral depravity.  Our descent has been punctuated by such unrighteous decisions of our Supreme Court as allowing the murder of our children disguised as women’s rights over forty years ago and, more recently, endorsing gay marriage disquised as equality.

So what happened?  The answer is simple.  Along the way, Americans began to forget the God who has protected us and given us strength.  The nation, like many of us as individuals, has come to think of itself as self-sufficient and immune to the consequences of evil.  Much has already been written and spoken in terms of coming judgement, and it will most likely be sooner than later because God will not allow such apostasy indefinitely, but that is not my point so I won’t belabor it.

Can we see our nation’s problem for what it is?  Can we name our national sins as we name our personal ones?  Rebellion.  Pride.  Inflated ego.  Self-sufficiency.  Idolatry.  What?  Idolatry?  Yes, because most of us now look to government for solutions instead of to God.

So what can we do?  Many have been repenting and praying for revival; encouraging one another to follow the very good advice of scripture, hoping for the fulfillment of God’s promise:

If My people who are called by My name will 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. 1 Chronicles 7:14

But is that enough?  The Lord has been speaking to me for a couple of days about our need to die.  As we repent for trusting in government instead of God, for gauging our well-being on whether or not the economy is good, for looking within ourselves for solutions; perhaps what we really need is to agree to pray for our nation to die to itself.  Every mature Christian who has been refined in the Lord’s furnace understands that concept on a personal basis.  We understand the truth of such scriptures as:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.  Galatians 2:20

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”  Luke 9:23-24

Let’s stop counting on the possibility of electing of righteous leaders. Let’s stop counting on our military.  Let’s stop counting on a better economic forecast.  Let’s stop counting on governmental programs and benefits to make our lives easier.

Instead, let’s start counting on our God!  Let’s stand in for our nation and allow it to die to itself; to cast away national pride and self-sufficiency.  Let’s allow God to be our strength and our shield, having no other gods before Him, and seeking Him first in all things.

Come on America!  Let us die, so we can live in Him!!!

Running in Circles

Kev Sheba CouchFind rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  Psalm 62:5-6

One of Sheba’s favorite pastimes when she was younger was to run around in circles and entice people to chase her; and there was no way to catch her either, unless you managed to get tricky and trap her.  Such fun! But it was a temporary pleasure.  She would eventually get tired and have to rest (and so would we!)—and then go back and do it again…and again…and again… Always pleasurable, but always tiring, and needing to be repeated in order to experience the joy.  Never really getting anywhere either; just going around in circles.

Do we ever do that?  Run around in circles, spinning our wheels, to achieve the satisfaction of being the best, with nobody able to keep up with us because we’re so fast, or talented, or efficient?  If we do, we eventually fall into a trap—it may be that  someone else outperforms us, or it may be that we simply get tired or old and can no longer manage the pace.

Now that Sheba’s an old lady there are very few circles anymore; just a deep contentment that comes as she rests at my feet.

Perhaps we also need to learn that there is a level of peace that cannot be achieved by our hectic lifestyle, a quiet contentment that comes from learning to rest at the feet of our master.  We no longer have to work so hard to feel good; all we need to do is follow Him around, do what he says, and we will be rewarded with constant peace and joy, not just a temporary “fix.”

Making a Statement

Kev ShebaWhoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.  Matthew 10:32

Kevin had a t-shirt with a picture of a pug on the front.  On the back, lots of paw prints and the words, “My dog walks all over me.”  It was a statement of his love for her, that he was proud of her and wanted to show her off; and also a joking admission that she had a lot of influence over him.

May my life be as that t-shirt, portraying a proud witness of my love for God.  May the marks on the back be God’s fingerprints; and may the words be, “God holds me in the palms of his hands.”  May I never be ashamed or afraid to identify myself with Him.

11:11—What Does it Mean?

BibleThe 11:11 phenomenon poses a familiar question to many people, “What does it mean?”  It’s a question my husband and I have pondered almost daily as one or the other, or both of us, ‘just happen’ to glance at the clock at that exact time.  So, I Googled it, but the 502,000,000 answers that popped up in 0.33 seconds were not very satisfying, ranging from New Age philosophies that 11:11 has mystical powers, to Christian opinions implying the most dire of warnings to the most bountiful of blessings.

None of the many posts resonated in my spirit, so I left it to God and told Him if He had something He wanted me to understand I’d wait until He was ready to tell me.  I forgot about it for some time—months, at least.  Then one morning as I was reading my Bible, the Lord started me on a path through scripture that was eye-opening.

A footnote in 2 Samuel 24:8 caught my eye, and that it pointed to 1 Chronicles 11:11 suddenly seemed like a very important avenue of pursuit.  As I followed the trail the Spirit led me on, I came to believe that 11:11 is specific to the events of the end times in regard to Israel.  Not only is Israel front and center in the news, but Rabbi Jonathan Cahn’s books The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah have served to put Christians and non-Christians alike on notice that God is on the move.

I was led to begin at 1 Chronicles 11:11 and then to check every reference  in the Old Testament and in Revelation, keeping in mind that in ‘dreamspeak’, 11 means disorder, imperfection, incompleteness, and judgment; but it can also mean revelation, transition and prophecy.  Would each of these scriptures somehow relate to one of those meanings?

  • 1 Chronicles 11:11 is an account of David’s mighty men, which appears to be both historical in terms of Israel’s previous strength, as well as prophetic in terms of God’s mighty men of the end times.  Whether grafted in or not, we are, through Jesus, members of the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David.
  • 2 Chronicles 11:11 speaks of fortresses, commanders and provision, which again is historical but also fits with current prophetic implications for protection and provision.
  • Nehemiah 11:11 references priests who ruled over of the house of God,  also historical but  seemingly very prophetic of the priesthood of the believer.
  • The question in Job 11:11 fits with the idea of judgment, “For he knows worthless men; when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it?”  It’s interesting to note this in conjunction with Proverbs 11:11, “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.”  Both scriptures can be applied to the blessing and judgment of Israel.
  • Isaiah 11:11, “In that day the Lord will extend His hand yet a second time to recover the remnant.”
  • Jeremiah 11:11, “Behold, I am bringing disaster.” Kind of speaks for itself!
  • Ezekiel 11:11 speaks of the judgment of the wicked counselors of Israel and says, “I will judge you at the border of Israel.”
  • Daniel 11:11, “Then the king of the south, moved with rage shall come out and fight against the king of the north.”
  • Hosea 11:11, “they shall come…and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord.”
  • Zechariah 11:11, “So it (favor) was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord.”
  • Revelation 11:11 is about life returning to the 2 witnesses, which could represent both the Church, as the grafted-in sons of David, and Israel rising up together.

It seems pretty clear that all of the references above relate to Israel in a way that aligns with the meaning of the number 11.  But writing this, I wondered if other biblical instances of 11:11 would also apply, and was not surprised to find that every other Old Testament occurrence can also be applied to Israel.

  • Genesis 11:11 is obviously pre-Israel, but it speaks of Noah’s son Shem, who was an ancestor Israel, David, and ultimately Jesus.
  • Leviticus 11:11 is a part of the law that was given to Moses, advising Israel of that which is clean versus unclean.
  • Numbers 11:11 occurs in the midst of the complaints of the Israelites to Moses—so bad that he complained to God, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant?  And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me?”
  • Deuteronomy 11:11 describes the Promised Land as, “a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven.”
  • Joshua 11:11 relates how Israel should have dealt with all of their enemies, “And they struck with the sword all who were in it, devoting them to destruction; there was none left that breathed.”
  • Judges 11:11, “So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them.”  Jephthah served God above all else, setting an example that neither Israel nor Christians have followed.
  • 1 Samuel 11:11, Saul led Israel to annihilate the Ammonites.
  • 2 Samuel 11:11, “Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field.  Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife?  As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.”

The 11:11s in the New Testament prior to Revelation are geared toward the Church, touching on John the Baptist, Jesus, and Christianity.  But, Romans 11:11 is notable for this discussion in that it references both the Gentile Church and Israel, “So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall?  By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.”  And then, Revelation 11:11 very appropriately ties it all together with the two witnesses.

It seems pretty clear that 11:11 should be a reminder to all that both Israel and the Church play into God’s prophetic timetable, which includes both the positive and negative aspects of the meaning of 11—disorder, imperfection, incompleteness, and judgment, as well as revelation, transition and prophecy.

So, I think I’ve got it—at least for myself.  I believe 11:11 is God’s reminder to watch what’s happening with Israel, and to remain alert for the signs of His coming as we, His Church, watches the unfolding of prophecy.

A Song of Hope

IMG_0105_2Like many of us, my cousin, Crystal Kain Ross, felt overwhelming grief at the Supreme Court’s decision to endorse gay marriage.  Soon though, she realized that God had not been caught unaware, He is still in control, and in the end He has already won the battle.  When all is said and done:

For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.  Romans 14:11

Then the Spirit of God spoke to Crystal’s heart and gave her a new song to sing. In telling me about the song, she emphasized two phrases (italicized in the text) that spoke volumes to her.  In the first verse, “His crystal tears,” the Lord showed her that Jesus’ tears are as crystal, multifaceted and pure.  In the fourth verse, the phrase, “His torrents of love,” cannot do justice to the magnitude of His love for us.

The darkness will soon disappear
The daughters of earth are awakened
To cry His crystal tears
His voice sings o’er the oceans
With judgments in their waves
The nations soon are coming
To see His brightest day

Soon every knee is bowing
Before the King of truth
And every heart will be accepting
Of the faith that needs no proof
The sinners are confessing
The secrets of their nights
They see the King’s great promise
Every day a new nation in His light

Sweet rivers of salvation
With healing life and grace
Flow now inside us unceasing
Until the darkness is stayed
Wash over us victorious
Bring purity from sin
Until we join the chorus
Of the songs that never will end

His torrents of love are falling
In glorious light-filled rays
So bright His paths before us
They flow in brand new ways
Each cry to heaven is counted
No prayers are cast aside
The gates to the heavens are opened
The King is drawing nigh

No matter what the Courts say
Or all their dark desires
The King of glory cometh
To light His holy fires
Be of that group so counted
Of His purity within
So when you time here is over
Your soul can enter in

Each cry to heaven is counted
No prayers are cast aside
The gates to the heavens are opened
The King is drawing nigh