Skunks

Like most people, I have an evening ritual. After the dinner dishes are done and the kitchen is tidy, I get the living room ready for our evening entertainment. I roll the vertical blinds down to cover the windows, and turn on a lamp. From the closet, I retrieve our throw blankies and special couch pillows so we can snuggle in.
One night, as I was closing the blinds, something caught my eye in the darkening of the dusky evening. I happened to glance across the street at what appeared to be a black and white writhing roller coaster of fur. As I focused in the receding light, I saw three skunks wrestling and playing in the irrigation ditch. The way they jumped and frolicked was utterly adorable. They pounced on each other with silly abandon, running in circles and laughing. At least I perceived it as laughter. I could hear them making a joyful noise of enthusiastic delight, that was absolutely contagious. It sounded like giggling! Those skunks were having a blast dodging in and out of a culvert; being completely free and uninhibited.
The skunks reminded me of Jesus and His amazing love. We might have been famous for our stench resulting from the old life of sin and shame. We may have been bound by the opinions of others, by our flesh and by an unforgiving heart for those who hurt us. We once were slaves to our addictions, servants to old habits and lies. We were selfish and unloving; miserable and full of fear.
But Jesus grabs hold of us, removes the smell of death, fear and futile self-defense. He becomes our defender, our deliverer and our protector. He bathes us in His blood and conditions us with His love. He is patient and kind. He makes us into a new, clean and sweet-smelling creation. He liberates us from ourselves and from the lie of the devil that deceived us. He fills us with joy overflowing, so contagious that it reaches out and seizes those around us.
Even though we used to stink of sin and shame, now we can laugh and play in the joy of the Lord. People are no longer a threat, they are a blessing. We are now able to spontaneously dance before Him, with grateful hearts, completely forgiven, new, fresh and free. I love that.

Paper Dolls

 

When you were a child, did you play with paper dolls?  I remember breathlessly waiting for the newest edition of McCall’s magazine to arrive in the mailbox.  It seemed like a month was an eternity.  It was so exciting to flip through the pages and find the paper dolls.  Do you remember them?  The dolls were made of heavy stock paper and you cut them carefully out of the page.  The dresses were the latest style, outlined with little black hash marks, ready to cut out.  These were printed on thin magazine paper and you had to be careful to cut out not just the dress, but the all-important little tabs that folded over the paper doll and held the dress in place.

I remember having a box to keep all my dolls and dresses safe.  I learned very quickly that they had to be treated very carefully because they are only made of paper and are very fragile.  One careless move could crush the paper, irreversibly wrinkle or tear it.  I had to be particularly aware of the little tabs that held the dresses on the doll.  Folding them over and over again to dress the doll created a weak spot and they eventually broke.  I remember trying to tape them but they couldn’t be repaired successfully.  What a heartbreak, especially when the dress was a favorite.   Oh how I loved my paper dolls.  Every doll had a name and a personality.  We had tea parties together.  We acted out elaborate dramas together.  They were my treasured rainy day companions.

There are times I’ve felt as fragile as a paper doll.  There are times I’ve had to give up what I was clothed with because it was no longer the season.  Sometimes we become complacently happy with how we are clothed.  Something happens and God comes along, gently drawing us out of our comfortable place.  He says look, that dress is torn and wrinkled, it’s out of style.  Look with My eyes.   I have come to cover you with My garment.  I want you to discard the flimsy tabs that held that old dress and embrace a new, strong and smooth fabric.  I have not only mended the rips in your garment, but I have created a new one specifically for you.

This is Kingdom living.  This is an embraceable moment with Jesus, one you never forget.  What unspeakable joy to look upon His face and see new beginnings, new goals, new faith and new worship.  He always keeps us fresh.  He is careful not to crush us, to wear us out.  He makes all things new.  He sweetly reminds us He is always with us; He carefully keeps us protected in a special place.  He preserves us and renews us.

Because I know this, no matter what life throws my way, I can keep going.  I know that I know that He will never leave me exposed.  He is my fortress, my protector and my friend.  What amazing peace and joy it is to know Jesus.

The Race

I like Nascar races, I admit it.  For 3 hours or so you sit on the couch eating special Sunday  snacks and enjoying the crashes, the near misses and the drama of the arguments.  An anticipation builds as the last 30 or so laps come around.  Something in the air changes.  The closer to the end, the more exciting it gets.  Strategies become clear; skill and endurance become paramount.  By the time the final lap comes around, the fans are on their feet.  All the spectators are caught up in the exhilaration, thousand are screaming and holding their breath at the same time.

So it is with us.  In Hebrews we are encouraged to run with endurance the race set before us.  It’s the last lap, the great cloud of witnesses is on its feet cheering with expectation of victory.  The atmosphere is electric with anticipation.

Endurance.  How do we maintain that?  We must renew our spiritual vitality.  Look at Hebrews 12:12-15.

12.  Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down and the feeble knees, 13. and make straight paths for your feet so that what is lame may not be dislocated but rather be healed.  14. Pursue peace with all people and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord; 15.  looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”

The instructions are clear.  YOU are to strengthen yourself with the Word of God.  Refresh yourself in His grace and mercy.  Encourage yourself by remembering what God has done in the past and what He has promised to do in you.  You know the perfect character of God, you know He never leaves you nor forsakes you.  He is the author and finisher of your faith.  Look to Him as you breathe in that second wind of the Spirit.  You know this is a joint effort with Jesus.  His word, His breath strengthens you.  It’s intimate and empowering.  For He knows the plans He has for you.  You only need to stand up, seek Him carefully and run forward, denying offense to cloud your view.

You see, you are not alone.  This is a global race.  Every member of the Body of Christ has an important role to play, a perfect piece of the plan.  With every one of us seeking God and running with endurance, we partner with him for the great final victory.  Be encouaged!  Pray and go forward with what He’s whispered in your ear.  Look up to the cheering crowd of witnesses who have done their part and are now partnering with you for yours.  The crashes are over, the smell of victory is coming!

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make YOU complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen.  Hebrews 1:20-21.

Gimmee Cake!

Do you do this?  Am I the only one?  We just finished a really healthy dinner, low in fat and carbs, high in protein and veggies.   The dishes are done and the kitchen is sparkling so I skip on over to the couch and settle in for some TV with Mike.  About 20 minutes in I start hearing this voice in my head, screaming for a snack.  I need cake!  Cake is good, it’s carrot cake so it’s almost a vegetable.  It’s ok, just one little piece, it won’t hurt anything.  You know the drill.  The voice gets louder and louder as the minutes tick off.  Pretty soon I’m convinced the voice is also shaking me to get my attention.  I want cake!  I deserve cake!  I’ve been good all day and need a little reward!  Ok, so I give in and have just a little piece.  That’s when the real trouble starts.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 came up this morning in my prayer time.

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  4 “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.  5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,”

Well then, that shines a lot of light on the problem.  The flesh argues, creates strife, anxiety and gets your mind twisted up.  Your flesh hammers at your mind bringing confusion and frustration.  Give me cake, give me cake!  Then, when you give in and shut that voice up, the devil swoops in to berate you and make you feel guilty and condemned.  Depression, negative self-talk.  He loves to grab our weaknesses and make them forefront in our minds.  But wait, here comes the flesh again gearing up to demand another snack.  Sugar after all, is addictive, and now that you’ve had some, it stands to reason that you need more.  So what do I do?  I decide that’s it!  I will just go on a diet and deny my flesh the satisfaction of unhealthy sugary goodies.  Sentence imposed, no more snacks, gavel down!  And what happens?  You guessed it, epic fail.  Now the devil is not only making you feel bad for eating, he’s berating you as a complete failure in life, doomed to be chubby.  And, the whole cycle begins again the next day.

God said He would never leave us nor forsake us.  That’s the Bible, that’s the truth.  So where do I go to find the answer to my fleshly dilemma?  The word of God.  I dig in and He is faithful to provide the answers.

The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.  This my friends, is a stronghold.  The enemy has discovered my weakness for cake and has created a stronghold from the lie that I can’t resist.  He bugs me with that till I accept that as truth rather than the truth that Jesus conquered all on the cross.  My focus is off, I need to repent and get my thinking in the right direction.

I need to use my weapons.  What are they?  The Word of God, the Blood of Jesus and the name of Jesus.  The Word is truth and like a sword, cuts off the lies of the enemy.  The Blood of the cross overcomes all evil, even death.  For we have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.  I declare and testify that the Word is truth, the devil is a liar and the father of lies, there is no truth in him.  I plead the blood of Jesus and I am covered by that overcoming power.  Finally, I wield the name of Jesus and all the authority that name bears.  I have the privilege of naming the name that is above all names in Heaven and in earth.  In the name of Jesus, I declare I am free, I am saved and am provided for.  I am now equipped to cast down those arguments in my flesh and bring them to the obedience of Christ.

 

So the next time I think I need some cake, I’m prepared to do battle with my flesh.  If I sow to the flesh, I will reap weakness in the flesh.  If I sow to the spirit, of the Spirit I will reap life.  Now I know, now my eyes have been enlightened.  Now I get it.  I am not weak; I am strong because He is strong in me.  I am filled with the Holy Spirit and He goes before me and is my rear guard.  I will, in His strength, resist the devil and as promised in the Word of God, he will flee from me!  I have dominion over cake, cake does not have dominion over me and the devil can no longer use it to make me crazy!

Bless the Lord!