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)

 

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 Response to Terrorism

277359-20151124Have you watched the news today? Undoubtedly, there’s a report of a new terrorist act somewhere in the world. Last week it was in Paris. This week, nations are on edge as threats abound and warnings are issued here, there, and everywhere. Surely we are experiencing the terrible times of which Jesus spoke when lawlessness increases and the love of many grows cold, the end times when betrayal and hatred run rampant in our streets. All around, His words come to life before our very eyes:

You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake…And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Luke 21:16-17,25-26

Sounds pretty bad, huh? And, of course, it is! But it’s not the end of the world quite yet, and we must not focus on the abounding terror but on the One who is ultimately going to bring it all to an end on the Day of the Lord. He has not left us un-prepared or without hope, and He is sufficient in even the most desperate of times. But what does that look like? There’s a perfect example in the story of Esther, the Jewish woman who became Queen of Persia, which is, interestingly, the region we know as Iran.  It’s also interesting to note that those Persians of long-ago were just as violent and cruel as are the radical jihadists of today.

In summary, in his hatred of the Jews, Haman initiated a plan to have them all wiped from the face of  the earth and the king approved it for Haman was a highly favored and trusted official. Esther 4:3-17:

And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. 

When Esther’s young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”

And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. 

Can there be any doubt that Mordecai, Esther and the entire Jewish people were in mortal danger? Can there be any doubt that the terror they faced was very much like that which is seen today? I don’t think so.

So, what was their reaction? It was one we should model as we enter into mourning, prayer and fasting, and seeking the Lord for His sufficiency in our own time of trouble. We do have hope, for just look at how our amazing God stepped in when His servants humbled themselves and took a stand for righteousness, regardless of the potential consequences.

Previously, Mordecai had learned of a plot to kill the king and had saved his life. His action had been recorded but has seemingly escaped the memory of the king. Meanwhile, Haman had come to hate Mordecai more than any other Jew and even the sight of him made him very angry so he built a gallows on which to hang Mordecai, but on the very night before he approached the king about it, God intervened (Esther 6:1-11).

On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king’s young men who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” And the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows[i] that he had prepared for him. And the king’s young men told him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’” Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.” So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”

Talk about God’s perfect timing! And what delicious irony, as the bad guy had to parade the good guy through the streets of the city proclaiming the king’s favor over his enemy; favor he thought should have been his.

Long story short…well, not really very long because Esther is only ten chapters…not only did Mordecai and Esther survive, but so did all of the Jewish people. And even more, the king granted permission for them to avenge themselves against their enemies and 75,000 unrighteous haters of God’s people were destroyed.

Our King is coming, and His arrival is imminent. Nobody can say exactly when that will be, but it is certain that all of the signs of the end of which Jesus warned are manifesting now. Let’s not allow our hearts to fail us from fear, but let’s rise up and stand in faith in our God. He is always sufficient and His timing is always absolutely perfect.

Fear’s Antidote

Sheba circleGod, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful…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.  1 Corinthians 1:9 & 1 John 4:18

Sheba loves people and has no awareness that there are those who would abuse her, and even if she did I doubt that she’d be afraid because she knows that she belongs to us and she trusts us completely to take care of her.  As a result, she happily goes up to anyone and everyone she sees with no fear of rejection.  She also knows what behavior is expected of her and that she will be reprimanded if she misbehaves; yet she remains unafraid because she loves and trusts us.

Perfect love casts out all fear, and God loves us perfectly, so why are we afraid?  He’s not “out to get us.”  We don’t have to fear his wrath unless we disobey his commands; and even then, while we can expect a gentle reprimand, isn’t that what we need—what we want?  A master who loves us enough to correct us, to show us the right way to behave; yet a loving master to whom we can take our problems as well as our joys without fear of rejection.

As Sheba reflects our love for her by fearlessly loving others, so should we also reflect God’s love for us by loving even those who may seem frightening to us—those whose lifestyles are different than ours, those of whom we don’t approve.  Jesus himself reached out to the sinners of his day, even living and socializing with them!  They were the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the people who were looked down upon by the religious leaders.  He was criticized for it too.

Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers.  “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?”  Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” Matthew 9:10-13 The Message

What a role model! Lord, let me love as Jesus did—fearlessly!

Ready to Get Wet

page33bIn this you greatly rejoice though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise and honor when Jesus is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:6-9

Sheba is afraid of the water.  Not long after she joined our family, we were at the beach.  We wanted to play with her in the waves, but she would have none of it!  We would walk into the shallow, receding tide, and she would pull away as far as she could—up to about thirty feet if we allowed her to pull the retractable leash all of the way out.  A few days later, walking alongside a lake she did the same thing.  We’ve also noticed that just walking around our neighborhood she strenuously avoids sprinklers or puddles of water.  And if you want to make her keep her distance in the yard, just pick up the hose—it doesn’t even have to be on!

But Sheba has come to love her baths because she knows that bath time means some serious pleasure in terms of rubbing and cuddling.  After all, how can you not rock and cuddle a cute, towel-wrapped bundle of pug with those huge brown eyes staring up at you with absolute love?.  Her inborn fear of the water is overcome by faith that she’s going to experience incredible joy.

Faith in my master’s love also gets me through frightening situations.  It replaces my fear with joy beyond measure, and I can agree with Paul, “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Phony Fear

Kev & Sheba

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.  Proverbs 29:25

Funny thing about Sheba; she’s always been afraid of other pugs.  Either that, or else she just doesn’t want anything to do with them.  But put her up against a Doberman or a Rottweiler and she’ll most likely wag her tail and want to play.

The first time we noticed this we had taken her to a large gathering of pugs in a local park—a pug convention.  It was funny to watch as she pulled on her leash, desperately trying to get away from every other pug that we encountered.

Later we noticed that she would even shy away from her own reflection in a mirror, apparently thinking it was another pug.

On another occasion, we were camping and a couple came by with a pug puppy, only 6 weeks old and cuter than cute!  Sheba was not a happy camper; all she wanted to do was get away from that puppy who, held securely in its master’s arms, didn’t even resemble a threat.  She barked and whined and pulled on her leash, trying to get us to walk away.  But maybe she wasn’t afraid; maybe she was just jealous; maybe she thought we’d like some other pug better than her; maybe she wasn’t secure in the love we had for her.  Perhaps she didn’t know that she is priceless and that no other pug could ever replace her in our hearts—that we could never trade her for another.

Am I ever like that?  So insecure in my relationship with God that I’m threatened by others who are similar to me?  Am I afraid a co-worker is going to do a better job, or jealous of another Christian who has a bigger ministry?  Am I threatened because I think another person is better looking, or smarter, or more talented?  Do I try to escape the presence of those who make me uncomfortable?  Am I plagued by phony fears?

Perhaps what I really need to do is learn to accept who I am, the person God made me to be.  Perhaps I need to accept his love and the assurances in his word that I am special and unique.  Perhaps…just perhaps.

Is All Hope Gone?

IMG_1526He’s up well before dawn, already glued to his display of computer monitors.  Hour after hour after hour, he watches; analyzing every dip or gain on his screens; debating with himself the best course of action; celebrating or mourning his bottom line.  His whole life depends on how well he can play the game—the new home, the Lexus in the driveway, the kids’ private schools—all potentially gone in an instant.  He recalls the stories his dad told him of Black Tuesday, that terrible day in 1929 when the stock market crashed and people were literally jumping out of windows to their death.  What if it happens again?  What if he loses everything?

She stares intently into the mirror.  Is that little line a new wrinkle?  Better make an appointment for some more Botox.  Sure is a good thing she’s got great hair—oh, but wait; is that a strand of gray?  Breakfast is on the run with the latest high nutrition/low-calorie energy drink in hand, and she’s off to the gym to run and climb and lift and push and pull.  By the time she’s finished, every muscle in her body will have had a workout, and every ounce of fat will have been burned away.  Her career depends on looking great, no matter how hard the advancing years are pressing in; and she so stressed out by it all that somewhere in the week she really must make some time to see her therapist.

And so goes life for many people; perhaps in ways not as obvious as the illustrations above, but still jam-packed with worry and stress about jobs, family, education, health, the economy, world affairs.  Gone are the legendary ‘good old days’ when life was beautiful all the time.  Hope has disappeared, and the future looks bleak.  Just turn on the news if you think otherwise.  Right?

Wrong!!!

Hopelessness, discouragement, depression, fear; all of them are nothing less than smokescreens designed to keep mankind from seeing the truth that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  God’s light, and His words of love prove it better than anything I could ever say…

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. Psalm 20:7-8

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”   Lamentations 3:22-24

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. Psalm 16:8-9

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Psalm 46:1-3

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:5