My 61st Year

Yep, today I am the big 6-1, which means I have lived my 61st year, my year of being officially 60 years old, in 2020. It is a year we were none prepared for, yet a year of growth for me and, I trust, for many others.

It has been a year of much sorrow, of great anxiety, of profound perplexity, of unrivaled destruction, and yet a year for peeling back the layers of what is familiar and endeavoring to find what matters the most. Here are a few of the highlights for me.

I have discovered in a fresh way that what ultimately matters is living in the love of God: knowing Him through the power of the Holy Ghost, being immersed in His Word, and desiring to obey it more that ever before. I earnestly believe we are only in the shallow waters of what is approaching — as bad as it has been this year, this may look tame in the rearview mirror.

I have learned, in a deeper way than I ever thought possible to savor the contact with dear family and friends. I have enjoyed the chance to perhaps think of something to make the day of one who is my elder and take a chance to do it (while there are still people left who are my elders, lol).

I have learned to share more genuinely the sorrow of those who have lost these opportunities.

I have learned that my God is a provider; though I knew it, I have watched Him open doors in the middle of a dearth and pour out blessings on those who hold those with open hands.

I have discovered in a fresh way that just enjoying the moment, without deep preconceived expectations of what it has to be, can bring a blessing. I have also learned, in balance to that idea, that the act of making people aware of what you want or need gives them the opportunity to bless you, whereas wishing someone would just notice and offer doesn’t produce much reward.

This is not selfish, I realize; just being a human who lives in community with others who care and would love to address your concerns if they only knew them (translation: there is no value in trying to be Super Woman and handle it all on your own).

There are other things I could share, but I am aware our attention spans have been narrowed down by social media. I hope to disengage enough from that in the coming year to get my heart and spirit into the best condition possible. I have a book to finish editing and seek to have published.

My best advice for people of all ages? You are never to old to live a dream. Just pick a place to start, and see what comes to you. I know you will be surprised at where the road leads. For example, I have seen opportunities for public speaking this year that I could not have anticipated. It was on my bucket list, but only God could have opened the doors.

Above all else, I will say without question, my Jesus will do to depend on.

These things I have seen, and I know

Seeing is believing — a maxim tried and true for most situations. Yet, Jesus upbraided the disciple who failed to believe until his eyes had seen his resurrected Savior. Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed, John 20:29. Jesus pointed to a belief that goes beyond the sight of our eyes.

We know that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, Hebrews 11:1. In fact, this passage goes even farther to say in verse 6, But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Let us unpack that a bit. What is the reward, and how do we diligently seek?

I submit that our initial reward is seeing our need to obey the Gospel: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, Acts 2:38. How does this occur? It starts with what God does.

We understand that no one can come to God unless that person is drawn (John 6:44). When the hint that God was drawing me to Himself started to filter through my carnality many years ago, I began to turn my thoughts toward Him. My life at that time was so worldly that nobody in my circle would have suspected any connection with God beginning to form, but it was, and I responded. One small act of pulling away from a choice that I sensed God was discouraging me from taking turned something in my life. I was all alone and grown and no one but God would have known, but in that moment, though I did not fully understand what I felt, I chose to respond. From that simple act, more choices began to be presented to slowly take the path that could bring me closer to what I knew of God. When I had gone as far down that path as I knew, He drew me further to what He desired for me to know, the Acts 2:38 Gospel, which was new to me. At every step there was a choice, and there continues to be one every day.

Beyond salvation, through the act of walking obediently with God by faith, reading and hearing the preached Word of God, conditioning my heart with prayer and worship, striving for a holiness lifestyle, loving Jesus with all my heart, and knowing the joy of serving Him, I have been blessed to experience, to see, and thus to truly know truths that once were hidden to me. Let me share a few of those with you.

Revelation – I am not talking about the book of the Bible by that name, but rather to the idea of God imparting knowledge to a prepared heart, knowledge that the individual could not otherwise have received. Let me be perfectly clear: this is not referring to any supposed idea that “goes beyond” what is written in the Word. I will address that misconception first:

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation, 2 Peter 1:20

Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven, Psalm 119:89

thou has magnified thy word above all thy name, Psalm 138:2

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book, Revelation 22:18.

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that ye have received, let him be accursed, Galatians 1:8

From these Scriptures, it should be clear that there is a warning against casually handling the Word of God. We are not to look into the Word to find justification for what we already believe. We are never to claim some new “revelation” and peddle our “new truth” to hungry souls, exalting our own ideas as though they could supersede the Word of God.

Do you see and understand what I am not alleging? I will not advocate any “revelation” that grants the alleged receiver assumed authority to reinterpret what the Word clearly says.

Rather, I demonstrate to you that there is a revelation that opens the eyes of the obedient believer to see the Word and its treasures as God meant them to be seen by obedient hearts. Consider these Scriptures:

Blessed art thou Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven, Matthew 16:17 Simon Peter was the first among the disciples to see the truth that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. At that point something had been revealed to him that had not yet been revealed to others.

Then opened He their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:45. This refers to the all the disciples who, though they had walked with Jesus three and a half years, did not understand His Words or the Scriptures prophesying of Him. Jesus had to open their understanding so that they could see what was meant by the Scriptures. At that point, truths were revealed to them that were not revealed to others.

He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given, Matthew 13:11 Do you see the pattern? Some saw in their spirit, their mind and understanding, what others were not allowed by God to see.

I know this to be true because I experienced it. I clearly recall when I was in the stage of going to an Apostolic Pentecostal church and begin drawn to the power of the Holy Ghost that flowed there and to the preaching of the Word that had such authority (as the people described the preaching of Jesus in Matthew 7:29) because of the anointing. A desire to have that in me was growing but I was skeptical with my education and background of a traditional church view for this area. One of the most striking aspects of this time in my life was reading the Bible and having the knowledge that the One who wrote this Word now was drawing near to me and illuminating its pages. Remember, the drawing works two ways: Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you, James 4:8.

During this time, God led me from a vague understanding of how the godhead is to be viewed to a soul-deep knowledge and understanding of the Holy One. Sound bold? It should, because it is. I know the moment God opened my eyes to see that He is the Mighty God in Christ, and His name is Jesus.

A revelation is God-directed; it opens the understanding to truth in the Word of God (never beyond it, for such is not revelation but deception), and it comes to some while others do not yet (or ever) have it.

There are those who say this idea is dangerous and even heretical, that God shows Himself in unique ways to individuals and opens their understanding to the truth. It was not a strange idea to Jesus when He promised, And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free, John 8:32.

To whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed? Where is the dividing line of who does and does not receive a revelation? Remember the expression, “water off a duck’s back”? We understand that the coated feathers of a waterfowl do not receive water as readily as thirsty, prepared soil. It is the same with the human heart. Some receive the knowledge of God as life-giving water, while others splash around a bit yet are never affected inside. Is the individual hapless in this? Do people bear any responsibility for their condition with regard to receiving truth? More specifically, do they have any power over whether they are ready to receive a revelation from God?

Our pastor recently preached on the relationship between repentance and revelation. Some people in Jesus’ day, like the Pharisees, walked all around Jesus in earshot of His words yet received nothing from Him. His main interaction with them was to rebuke their proud and evil practices. The poor people on the other hand, who knew they were in need, heard Him gladly.

In another contrast a multitude of people were fed and then tried to crown Jesus king. Many of those same voices later called out for His death, while a remnant clung to Him and were still there to claim His Spirit when it was poured out on the Day of Pentecost. Prepared hearts, willing to obey, made the difference. Consider these Scriptures:

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth, John 16:13

And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him, Acts 5:32

If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.

And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand, Luke 8:10.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory, I Timothy 3:16.

Lord, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed, Isaiah 53:1

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? Romans 10:16.

The Apostle Paul, after humbling himself in repentance and being baptized in Jesus name, receiving the Holy Ghost, summed up his desire this way:

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death, Philippians 3:10. Whatever it took to know more of God, Paul wanted it. Do you?

Beyond revelation, what have I seen and know? I have seen and know that the Word of God is complete and it addresses every minute aspect of our lives: thoughts, words, relationships, finances, secret places of our hearts, our “private” lives, and this list could go on and on infinitely. The Word of God bears this out in many Scriptures, but consider these:

Through desire, a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom, Proverbs 18:1

Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee, Psalm 119:11.

Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple, Psalm 65:4

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, Hebrews 4:12

There is no aspect of the life we are to live, no place of hurt or triumph, no area of uncertainty or concern left out of the scope of the Word of God.

Here is a simplistic picture that many may relate to. When I was young, my mother packed my lunch. I would grab my little lunch box off the counter and take it to school, not thinking much about it until the time came to eat. When I opened it, I was sure to find what I needed for that moment. It was already in there, waiting for me, when the time arrived to use it. I have found the Word of God, as I have tried to hide it in my heart consistently, has been there for me, both in the times of my need and the seasons of my joy.

Your move. Do you want more? Would you have God reveal Himself to you? Seek to know Him, to understand His Word. Respond as He draws you, with a made-up mind to obey what He reveals to you. Find a place where the Word is preached under the anointing of the Holy Ghost in a church built on the foundation of the Apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:38).

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart, Jeremiah 29:13

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled, Matthew 5:6.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave a comment below; I would love to hear your thoughts.



Which Way Is Up?

Isn’t that the question of the day — when all that we knew and considered routine a few months ago is now being upended? Fear of getting and sharing an illness we had never heard of this time last year is now causing our very world to be paused, and we honestly do not know how or when the uncertainty will end.

We each find comfort during unsettling times in various ways: exercising our faith, communicating with friends and family or, one of my favorites, reading. Words can inspire, challenge, and comfort us as no other source can, and the written word seems to provide an extra measure of stability amid a changing reality.

I have held off on mentioning this, but at the dawn of the developing pandemic, I had completed and uploaded a book for self-publishing on Amazon. It was the worst possible time, of course, for a book launch or anything else that involved self-promotion, as the last thing I needed was attention for my work when the world was falling apart around us. In the last few days, though, I have begun to think more about the book’s contents and how they might benefit others facing uncertainty.

The work is a collection of essays on a variety of ideas. A few are personal experiences, and others are truths that I felt were worth passing along to others. Each is intended to inspire, challenge, and encourage.

I am offering a few insights into the first few pieces, to give an idea of what is inside. Some have a splash of humor, others are more serious. All are from my heart.

Up Is Just Backwards When You’re on the Way Down: Thirty Doses of Wit and Wisdom on Staying Upright

Chapter 1) SUNSHINE IS FOR EVERYONE, FIRE FOR A FEW

Ah, the warmth of the sunshine! One of the few things left on earth that is free is the benefit of that great glowing orb in the blue sky. Thus far, no government has found a way to tax it or to ration it out. If you can get to it, you can enjoy as much sunshine as you want. (Just remember the sunscreen.)

Fire, on the other hand, requires some effort. We are not told exactly when fire became part of the human experience, though our impression is that man has always warmed himself in that manner. The earliest specific references to fire in the Bible come from chapters 19 and 22 in Genesis. The first reference speaks of fire from Heaven raining on Sodom and Gomorrah, and the second reference mentions fire for the impending sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham (when God tested Abraham before providing a ram for the sacrifice).

We know that fire requires effort. Wood must be gathered (or chopped and split), laid in order, and lit by some source of flame or heat—unless you have one of those push-button, flame-throwing, gas-burning fireplaces. But I digress.

Freeware, anyone?

We love the sound of that word “free,” don’t we? I mean, the pulse quickens just a little to think we might be getting something new, and we owe nothing for it.

Recently I bought a new laptop, and as I readied it for use, my twenty-something-year-old daughter advised it would run a lot better if I wouldn’t put all that “stuff” on it. I was mildly offended, as I was sure my “stuff” … was necessary for making the device run optimally …

Chapter 2) UP IS JUST BACKWARDS WHEN YOU’RE ON THE WAY DOWN

Have you ever been lost? I mean the scary kind of lost that says, “I have no idea where to go from here.” I am not talking about the feeling of, “Where in the world of this vast Walmart parking lot is my car?” I am asking if you have ever felt the kind of lost that says, “If they don’t come looking for me soon, this is going to make the papers!”

There is no more helpless feeling, I suppose. It hasn’t happened to me more than once that I can remember, but it left a memory of fear when the familiar woods where I played began to look frightening and strange when it was time to get home.

When you are lost, things happen differently in how you relate to the world around you. Reason and intellect can assure you that a particular direction has to be right. But, taking off in that direction (instead of staying put, as all the scouting and survival manuals tell us to do) only leads further into hopelessness. Often, lost people who were later found had simply gotten turned around yet were convinced they were going the right way. The innate directional signals that should have helped them reach familiar territory got scrambled in their minds. At that point, they could not believe their map, compass, spouse, or…well, you get the picture, I am sure …

Chapter 3) THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS ME…NOW

“Yeah, I did that, but I was much younger, then — just a kid, really. I like to think I have a little wisdom on me now…don’t I?”

We may as well face it: we care how others see us; what they think of the choices we have made and the things we have done. If some example of our being less than wise is brought up, we are quick to put some distance between us now and the person who could have done that then. After all, we are allowed a few missteps in the teen and early adult years, right?

But, what if “then” was just last week?

What if we hurt someone’s feelings, forgot an important event, yelled at our kids, or jumped in front of an older lady in the check-out line because we were running late? And what if we did those things, like…yesterday?

What if we can’t put distance between ourselves and our less-than-stellar actions?

Maybe the more important question is, “Why do we want so badly to distance ourselves anyway?”

Perhaps because our actions seem to define who we are. We crave to be validated by others, to be part of a bigger group, to have others simply like us. The smile or chuckle we get from listeners for a comment we intended to be funny lets us know it was well-received. A blank stare or raised eyebrows says it was totally off-point and poorly timed. Our feelings about those responses weigh heavily on even the most independent, introverted among us …

Chapter 4) HOW TO SCRUB YOUR BATHROOM FLOOR IN 30 EASY STEPS:

Ladies, be sure to keep this handy for reference — you will want to try this at least once.

1) Start deep cleaning the kitchen and doing laundry.

2) Notice your cell-phone ringing.

3) Try to ignore it because you are on a serious roll with this cleaning.

4) Side-eye the phone and observe the number is your 76-year-old mother’s mobile phone.

5) Remember, she always uses her land-line phone from home, unless something goes wrong …

Chapter 5) FOUR MINUTES THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

  1. True ____ False ____ An inch is a large unit of measure.

The answer is obvious…isn’t it?

This was an actual question on a Physical Science exam during my freshman year in college — possibly a final, since I remember vividly my agitated state of mind upon reading it. After all, it cost me what could have been a perfect score and helped earn only my second “B” at the school (the first was in Volleyball, but enough said about that).

I was only in the class because of a foul-up on the part of my academic advisor (another story in itself) resulting in my having to abandon the biology minor I had invested three courses in pursuing. Physical science seemed downright hokey to me after sailing through zoology and botany. Adding to my somewhat wounded pride was the undeniable fact that I simply did not like the instructor. He seemed to teach at a level of challenge designed to keep the university’s sports teams winning, with or without the players having to apply themselves academically.

With such a positive mindset, the exam question asking whether an inch was a large unit of measure set my brain to screaming, “COMPARED TO WHAT???!!! MILES OR MICRONS???!!!” With a fifty percent chance of getting that one right, as you might guess, I did not. I can’t remember which I chose but probably checked “True,” just to make my point.

Great choice …

THE REST OF THE STORY

Here are the titles to the other chapters, or doses, if you will. I would love to know how you like whatever you choose to read. Leave a comment below, or a review wherever you purchase the books. God bless.

WHAT’S UP WITH HIM??

FROM COLORS TO CHEMISTRY, FROM ADDITION TO ALGEBRA

THE SAGA OF SALLY

TWO THINGS I BET YOU CAN’T DO AT ONE TIME

THAT’S WHAT YOU GET!

JUST DON’T PLAN ON DOING ANYTHING TOMORROW

WHEN YOU HAVE TIME

WHAT ARE YOU HERE TO DO?

HOW DO YOU WALK ON WATER?

WHAT GETS TO YOU?

WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST FAITH MEMORY?

GOD WITH HIS SKIN ON?

“ARE YOU GOING TO EAT THAT?”

HOLINESS

FENCE OR GUARDRAIL?

THE TRUE WONDER OF THE SEASON

MY HEART ON CHRISTMAS EVE, 2013

CHECK IT OUT!

THE SHOW-ME STATE…OF MIND

SOMETHING FOR NOTHING?

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR WATER?

FATHERLESS DAY

THE CLOSING OF THE DOOR

ALL DONE!

WELL, WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE?

WHATEVER

WHATEVER life appears to have thrown at you, turn your face toward Jesus, put your situation and yourself in His hands, and seek Him with all your heart. You will not believe what He will bring out of your troubles and put into your life once you lock on to Him and refuse to let go.

I am not speaking some namby-pamby “Name it and claim it” words into the air. I am talking about a search for Jesus that brings one to an altar of repentance with tears and heart-wrenching prayer. I am talking about total commitment to obey the Acts 2:38 gospel message or to realign with it or to simply declare you have been living it faithfully and do not understand what is happening to you, but you will die holding on if God doesn’t deliver you.

Things WILL happen, somewhere in your heart and life and world when you do this.

You see, God devises means (2 Samuel 14:14) to bring about His plans: not often obvious, but always intentional.

There was a Hebrew family who was prophesied to serve in a strange land four hundred years and afterward come out with great substance and be brought into a promised land to possess it. The plan for getting them there called for a Hebrew youth to rise to power in that strange country first, save the day for them, and win the right to establish his own family in the choicest part of the land. We know that beautiful part of the story.

But the ugly part was used to bring about the beautiful part. Joseph was not likely to wake up one day in his father’s house where he was favored above his brothers and decide to run off to Egypt to find his fortune. Yet, he had to be gotten to Egypt.

So, God’s plan called for a cruel crime to be committed that broke his heart and his father’s, and must have seemed to both to have no possibility of any kind of happy ending.

But Joseph was rock-solid faithful to God, and after going through more and worse trials he was brought out and made the centerpiece of one of the greatest deliverances of the Old Testament. His family saw what God had done, repented and reconciled to him, and planted themselves where they could grow into a mighty nation from a small nomadic family.

Not every story turns out so well. Many testimonies have beautiful stories of redemption and restoration because of faithfulness.

Daniel 3:17-18 KJV

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods…

We know this story for how gloriously it worked out for these three young men. Even if it had gone against them (as it did for some referenced in Hebrews 11:36-39), their battle cry of “But if not…” would have still rung in our ears as the way to give it all to God no matter what. It can become our own rallying cry at at altar of prayer.

The time is short, and the door is closing. Some will fall, but we do not have to. We can let the forces coming against us propel us to an altar, or back to one again and again. We can see what God will do, trusting Him to bring unbelievable deliverance for us or our loved ones out of what presently does not make sense to our human eyes. If we see nothing else from it, we will see His face in peace one day, and positively declare that it was worth it all!

Do Not Immerse

I enjoy getting kitchen gadgets. I love trying out new things and seeing what they can do. Of course, I try to be good and discipline myself to read the user manual first. You know, operation may seem obvious, but no so much with all safety issues. I want to get the most out of my small appliance after all, and have it last for years of solid use.

The things they warn you not to do in the manual can be a little humorous, don’t you agree? I picture the developers sitting around a table talking through all the crazy things that could happen to pose hazards. “Do not use while sleeping” is my personal favorite.

Then again, the warnings may be the product of a table full of lawyers talking about the unbelievable claims they have defended against.

And then again, maybe it’s the government thinking of ways to protect us from ourselves–scary in its own right.

Small kitchen appliances, made to be around liquid and reasonably built to be proof against it (as opposed to, like, box fans or something), should be ready for some splashing and a good soapy rag being applied as needed. The recommendation may be more of the “wipe clean with a damp cloth” variety, but it takes a lot of elbow grease to get that spatter-you-overlooked-until-it-turned-to stone to let go.

You would really love to scrub that thing with some good hot dishwater sometimes, wouldn’t you?

That being said, one thing the designers probably never debate among themselves is slapping a “Do not immerse” stamp on the outside of your shiny new appliance. For good measure they plaster that directive right at the top of the WARNING list in the manual.

I suppose the engineers can only do so much. They make sure the appliance is sealed in a way that keeps the user safe from the splashes, the wiping, and even the elbow grease applied with an extra damp rag. The outer case is designed to withstand these limited exposures to moisture,so that the liquids drain right off, are wiped up, and no harm is done. What is different about immersion?

Physics class (or was it chemistry?) taught me the powerful effect of pressure applied under the surface of a body (or sink-full) of water. The concentration of water molecules exerts pressure that grows stronger with the water’s depth (think about those heavy metal diving bells needed for deep sea exploration). The pressure exerted all around an appliance means water will find a way inside if you immerse it.

Trust me on that one, but please don’t ask how I know.

Are we made that way? As an Apostolic Pentecostal I have long known the value of following holiness principles in my life. Being pulled out of the filth of the world when I repented, getting cleaned up when I was baptized in Jesus’ name, and having God Himself come to live in me when I was filled with the Holy Ghost was the defining moment of my life and brought a treasure I want to always guard. So, living by holiness principles for me simply means I recognize that what goes into my heart matters because it affects the Holy Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, living inside me.

I know it is unavoidable that splashes of things the world thinks are awesome but God detests will come in contact with my mind and spirit. I do not live in a cocoon: I work, I read, I drive, I shop. I cannot insulate myself from every word or image that would be offensive.

I have recently learned more clearly, however, that it matters whether or not I immerse. Splashes are one thing; immersion is another. One is unavoidable for anyone living a full life. The other is a choice I make consciously.

Where am I most in danger of choosing immersion? Most often with the type device you may be using to read this post. The hand-held super-computer we blithely call a mobile device: a cellphone, tablet, or laptop.

The device itself is not so much the issue. (I will insert here, though, that I made a choice years ago not to utilize a television, because, as I see it, the only function of that appliance is immersion, bringing a constant barrage of seeing and hearing.)

With a cellular device (euphemism for phone), I can opt to use the thing for talking to friends, family, or businesses. I can send messages, check my email, consult my weather app, peek into my bank account, or dive off into whatever social media platform my friends and family utilize.

While the list of what that little device can do is pretty encompassing in itself, the “diving in” part is where I see the immersion coming to bear. When I subject myself to scrolling through a feed, such as on social media, I,

a) don’t know what is coming next,

b) have little control over what someone might throw in to spice things up a bit,

c) tend to lose track of time.

Worse still, that behavior–much like eating sweets–tends to create an appetite for itself. I have seen occasions where I laid the phone down for about 15 seconds only to pick it up again because my brain felt the momentary lack of input as a problem to be corrected.

What is the real problem? I became aware a few years ago that I was being affected by something that was keeping my response to the things of God from being as fresh and immediate as it had once been. I asked God about that, and the response I felt in my spirit was that the root cause had to do with the things I was seeing and hearing.

Does that sound familiar?

“For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds,” 2 Peter 2:8.

Peter was referring to Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who made some very bad choices and lost his family because of it–some in the fire that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah, one who looked back on the way out, and two who fell apart after getting out just before the city was utterly destroyed.

According to Peter, though, Lot was not that person until he pitched his tent toward Sodom and immersed himself in that sinful culture. What he, that “righteous man,” saw and heard in Sodom worked on him and worked on him until he became part of it. We have no record that Lot was committing the sins of Sodom, but he became tied to that culture to the point that he could not cleanly remove himself or his family when the time came to do so.

How hard is it? I can remember how it seemed simpler to me to keep my heart pure from the world in the old days when a television was the main thing I had to stay away from, in order to avoid unwanted influences. It was even easier to avoid walking into the library and picking up a book I knew was not healthy or driving off to a theater to watch something conjured up by a heart that was not after God, because it took effort to get myself into contact with those things.

This little “appliance” is almost always with me, so convenient, that no one even has to know what I am seeing on it. I bear responsibility for what I could easily allow it to become to me: a television, an adult bookstore, or even a movie theater if I so desired. And you would never have to know.

My spirit would know. My responsiveness to the Spirit of God would be further diminished. As it is lately, I have received reminders through preaching and other input to back off my interaction with that device, limit my time on social media, and increase my time in the Word, the presence of God, and in service to others to fill up what should be on the inside. That type behavior has to provide some insulation against immersion.

How about you? Are you mindful of where your inner self receives its influences? Be careful how you conduct yourself around input that would short-circuit all that is good and meaningful in your life. Make up your mind to heed the warning: DO NOT IMMERSE.

Denying Jesus

What does denying Jesus look like? How does it sound?

We who are striving to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Ghost are aware there is a time coming upon the earth (that has already begun in many places) when believers will have to choose to deny the Lord or be killed. We know a man of sin is to be in power who will require a mark to be taken by all living upon the earth in order to buy or sell, but to take it will be to damn one’s soul to hell.

We are fully assured that we will stand for Jesus to the end, if we are doing our best to obey and serve Him now. I want to be ready for what is coming on the earth and be serving God with all my heart in this hour, to be ready for that hour.

The idea of denying Jesus is on my mind this week since reading the gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ arrest and Peter’s responses. Jesus had just told the disciples they needed swords (Luke 22:36). They told him they had two, and Jesus said, “It is enough.” Not surprisingly, one of them belonged to the bold and sometimes brash Apostle Peter.

Peter was no doubt sure of his course of action as he faced a multitude from the high priests and Pharisees carrying swords, torches, and lanterns. He drew his own sword and made a stand, though greatly outnumbered. Though Jesus rebuked Peter for this response and allowed himself to taken into custody, we see that Peter’s desire to fight for his Lord was strong.

No doubt confused and uncertain where this would lead, Peter followed the crowd from afar. John records another disciple being there, but all the rest had all fled. I cannot claim to understand what Peter was thinking; we only know what he said and what he did with what was going on around him.

Think on Peter a moment. Here is a man who has been told he would deny his Master. He had vehemently insisted that this would not happen, and then had demonstrated his readiness to fight when the first wave of danger hit. As he stood by the fire in the hall where Jesus was held, his thoughts had to be on what the Lord had told him: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat…” Luke 22:31. Jesus had warned them all that they would be offended, and when Peter protested Jesus said, “…this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice,” Mark 14:30.

Peter, I believe, would have been on guard about Jesus’ warning. Knowing a pit is ahead should, in theory, enable you to avoid falling in, right? What if Peter intended to watch for an opportunity to grab Jesus and get out of there when they let down their guard? We know he was watching what he could of the proceedings, and I imagine he was playing out in his mind the scenes that might occur. If Peter and I have anything in common, he would have been the hero in every one.

Would this be a possible reason for his brushing off questions from the crowd watching Jesus as he was? The ones questioning him were not officials, just servants or other members of the public as far as we are told. If Peter intended to make a stand for Jesus, even one where he could lose his own life, surely he pictured it being with the high priest or some other official demanding to know his allegiance, don’t you agree? These minions standing around the fire with him were not who he had come to stand against.

Could we pretend for the sake of creating a picture of his mental processes that he was trying to keep his cover intact so that he was not escorted out of the hall, or else arrested and kept from any role where could have helped?

Make no mistake, I make no excuses. I am only wondering whether Peter recognized too late that these small occurrences were what mattered so much to Jesus. Peter had in fact denied Jesus three times before he realized the real test of his allegiance had already come.

Perhaps in his bitter weeping, he remembered some of the words of Jesus:

“He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much,” Luke 16:10.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heave,” Matthew 7:1.

“Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are: depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity,” Luke 13:27

The spirit of the words of the Apostle Paul would pen later could been in his spirit as well:

“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him…,” Titus 1:16.

Peter knew in that moment that nothing of what he had said for Jesus could redeem his failure to act on His behalf in what may have seemed mundane at the moment.

Peter had intended to stand, and had even made a stand. Perhaps he failed because he was unable to recognize that this scenario mattered. He was ready, he felt, for the big moment when he would show his fierce devotion, but he tragically overlooked the little things that mattered to Jesus right at that moment.

Jesus turned and looked Peter in the face as the sound of a cock crowing rang out in his ears.

Are there things in the Word of God you are overlooking while holding on to the image of walking boldly to the executioner to take your stand for Jesus? Are you being faithful with what is put in your hands: time, money, or the intercessory Spirit Jesus longs for you to use?

Worse, yet, have you undersold the idea of whether obedience to the commandments of Jesus is even essential to see Him in peace at His return? I submit to you that unless you are committed to being diligent in obedience, you will never make it through the the things that are coming on the earth, not the least of which is the prominent spirits of lethargy and apathy.

Obedience matters.

Details matter.

Holiness matters.

Will you take a closer look at how you have viewed your obedience in the light of how Jesus views it? Have you stepped over the original message of salvation in favor of a more modernized version that doesn’t make as many waves? Are you sure your obedience qualifies you to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” when Jesus returns?

Check out these other ideas on standing for Jesus or denying Him:

BUT IF NOT: Coming to a city near you

What’s Up with Those Pentecostals?

If you are in our area and need an Apostolic church to attend, where the real power of God moves and the Word is preached without fear or favor, come and check us out:

First Pentecostal Church of Bay Springs, Sunday 10 AM and 6:30 PM, Wednesday, 7:30 PM.

The Name of Jesus

We were singing about the name of Jesus, so beautiful and wonderful, and I was feeling something special as I pictured what that name signifies.

A whispered, “Jesus!” brings His presence so tenderly to me when I am hurting.

At the name of “Jesus” every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

My heart, through the powerful move of God’s Spirit, was seeing the two images alternating in succession: the Jesus who is “nigh to all who are of a broken heart,” (Psalm 34:18) and the Jesus who will step into Earth’s last battle and destroy the Wicked one with the spirit of His mouth.

Jesus will reign forever and ever: nothing and no one can stop Him.

The same Jesus who robed Himself in flesh to walk humbly upon the earth, who would not break a bruised reed, who gave His life willingly for me that I could miraculously know Him (as a gentile Christian I am ever amazed that He opened the door for my salvation), who rose again, ascended, and sent back His Spirit to live in us, is walking and working to draw souls to Himself. His mercies are new every morning.

Yet, in the events of the end time, when we will face tribulation such as has not come on the earth since the world began and will not be after (whatever your thoughts about our departure, we must be ready for whatever will come on us before we leave this world), Jesus is able to keep us in Him until His triumphant return.

Oh, the power available to the One who draws near me when I weep!

I am so very safe in His arms, for the events of my little life, or of this whole world, are no surprise to Him.

Getting into God’s presence, where the Holy Ghost is poured out in a church that stands for the same truth the Apostles preached (and died for), is what will keep us in the love of God through whatever comes our way: the losses in life that we are to navigate by His grace and mercy, or true persecution such as was faced by the early church and is coming again upon the earth.

Our God reigns. He is the eternal King of Glory, and He is the Lily of the valley–my valley–all powerful, yet gentle and near to those who call upon Him in truth.

What a powerful name, Jesus! There is none like it in all Creation!

There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved but the name of Jesus (see Acts 4:12). Jesus said we must be born again of the water and of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5). Peter preached the first message of the church age with the undying plan of salvation when he told those who asked that they must repent, and be baptized every one in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (which is the birth of water), and they would receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (which is the birth of the Spirit). Peter’s message, echoing Jesus‘ commandment, continues for us today: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, to them that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

If you have not experienced the Lord Jesus in this way, I urge you to take a fresh look at what He has commanded all men.

There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain. He will break whatever chain has held you from seeking Him with all your heart, moreover from striving to enter into His kingdom. He said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able,” Luke 13:24. Verses 26-27 describe those who said they were serving God but found out in the end that their effort was not what He required. If you make striving to obey and to walk with Jesus your top priority, letting go of all claims to what obedience is supposed to “look like” or “sound like,” and determine to obey His word in all things, you can press toward that mark of being among the called, and chosen, and faithful who will be with the Lord of lords and the King of kings when He ultimately overcomes those who make war with Him. (Rev. 17:14)

Whether in the whisper of need or the shout of victory, the name of Jesus is above every name!

Death of Truth?

Can the truth die? Just go away forever?

We know, of course, that the truth cannot die. Truth will live on for eternity, because truth is of God, Who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” John 14:6. One of His disciples said, “ye know…that no lie is of the truth,” 1 John 2:21.

So, why use this title at all if I have debunked the idea before I even make my case?

Because while it is a fact that truth cannot die, it can become dead to us.

How truth is transmitted

My generation has witnessed communication morph from handwritten letters and conversations on landline telephones (with cords) to instant, wireless connections with people all over the world. Those changes have brought great benefits, but some results could not have been anticipated.


Sociologists detail changes in society, including those that have occurred because of technology. For example, the good old automobile, a wonderful advancement in transportation, affected the social fabric by doing more than just taking us places faster than the old horse and buggy could do. It also served to take dating from the front room of the parents’ home to the backroads of who knows where. The inventors, we know, were not trying to create a more private location for courting. They were just giving us a faster way to get around; yet, their advancement became used for all kinds of things they could never have envisioned.


We love communicating with each other, and as technology advanced, we welcomed offers for free email accounts and platforms that allowed us to grow more connected. Social media provided a way to share our pictures and family events with people we cared about in real time. No more waiting for film to be developed and packaging those prints in a letter to Grandma. We had access to all of it, right now.

In time, social media also became a forum for expressing our opinions, sharing our creativity (one of my favorite uses), and exposing our drama. Rousing debates erupted, often turning bitter. Twenty years ago these group conversations could only have occurred in person (sometimes broadcast via radio or television), or through printed media (competing newspaper editorials, for example). They occurred infrequently in any sort of public arena. Now, anyone and everyone can put their thoughts out there. Like seeds in the wind, they can go viral in minutes.

What we communicate

Debate itself is not unhealthy, of course. A famous business man once said, “When two men always agree, one of them is unnecessary.”* But in the old days, there was an understood ethic that the publisher or broadcaster, took responsibility for whether the statements had basis in fact, or some merit in logic and rationality.

Now we are inundated with images of giant catfish and mammoth-sized pythons. Who generates this stuff? We could track that down, but we seldom take time. “People” spring up online who never existed, because a profile can be constructed (possibly out of those family pictures we posted years ago that are vulnerable to being recycled by a child predator).

I submit to you that on the internet, truth has died. Whole sites have sprung up dedicated to fact-checking, but we don’t always even trust them. What if they have an agenda all their own? We wouldn’t know unless we had first-hand access to the facts in a case. We cannot be sure of what is true and what is not, but that doesn’t stop some of us from sharing it as though we are absolutely certain.

I suppose the most discouraging thing about the “death” of truth in our common area of communication is that we are running low on the will to care. I stopped caring enough to fact-check very many things a while back. Instead, unless I know the people and the situation, I just don’t bother to pass on the information. I have no time to care that deeply.

Unfortunately, there is more at stake than the simple humorous, “gotcha” kinds of fake postings. We now know that the portal to our minds and hearts that is social media has been used by those intentionally spreading false information. At our heart and gut level, we are not fully sure who is saying what about whom that is true or false. We just hope we are getting it right in how we make our choices on, but our uneasiness is growing.

A danger

Once upon a time, misbehavior was punished after thorough inquiry, even court proceedings if warranted, sentencing, and appeals. We now witness the following: a thing occurs, people are accused, lives are ruined. It is that simple. Due process doesn’t occur in social media (if you don’t know what doxing is, be sure to study up on it and pray you’re never on the receiving end).**

The verifiable facts of a case may eventually be published once diligent inquiry is made, but by then the public has moved on. The facts never make the same splash as the accusations. The damage is done. People clutch their opinions tightly and suspect the motives of those providing contrary information. We know that people can say anything in social media (or broadcast or print media), whether it is true or not.

We have truly experienced the death of trust of our sources of information, which effectively leads to the “death” of truth. It is camouflaged so effectively that we must fight to find it.

What does God say?

I wouldn’t be a good Christian blogger if I didn’t bring the Bible, the Word of God into the equation. It is truth (John 17:17).

Distortion of truth did not begin with the advent of social media. It began in the Garden of Eden: “Yea, hath God said…?” the serpent said to Eve in Genesis 3:1. The enemy’s misinformation eroded Eve’s confidence in the truth, and she made a grave error based on faulty logic that justified fleshly lust.

Throughout history we see patterns of truth being proclaimed, obeyed and forsaken, over and over again. History seems to follow this example: redemption from the world by God’s intervention, the establishment of boundaries to protect that new-found redemption, a period of walking within those boundaries until the original mouthpiece of them had been taken away (Moses and Joshua, various judges and righteous kings, Jesus Christ and the apostles), followed by distortion of the boundaries by those who arose after them, yielding to the flesh and gladly chosing an easier way. But those who are stirred to seek the truth with all their hearts are guaranteed to find it.

Some of God’s statements on truth are:
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:32.
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship Him in spirit and in truth,” John 4:24.
“Let God be true, and every man be a liar,” Romans 3:4
“And for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness,” 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12.
“Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold,” Matthew 24:12.
Truth matters to God. It is Who He is. Unless it matters to us, we can never serve Him.

What should we do?

We cannot effect the change in society that would cause people to suddenly settle for nothing less than the truth. We can only cause that stand to be taken in our own hearts.

How do we do this? Cry out to God to cleanse and heal our own receptors for truth. Confirm to Him our desire to know Him through the truth, the only way He will be known. Seek Him for the strength to let truth move in our hearts and change us. Ask Him for the faith to believe that we can know the truth for ourselves.

Picture the image of a scale where each side must balance (the type depicted in seals or logos for courts and judges). “Knowing truth” is on one side, but “obeying truth” is on the other. We will know God’s truth only to the degree that we humble ourselves and become willing to obey the truth or the commandments of God.

No one receives the revelation of Who God is–the mighty God in Christ, the man Christ Jesus–without fully committing to walk according to His Word. If we consistently demonstrate that we prefer ease and convenience and soothed consciences over stark and painful truth, He will choose our delusions (Isaiah 66:4). We will happily go our own way until we meet Him in the judgement and meet an end we did not expect.

No, I know that truth is not dead. In fact, we can know the truth. The question is, do we really want to? For, to know truth is to allow truth and its direction to reign in our lives, to submit to it. Who wants to do that?
Those who want to live forever, like the truth will do.

*1The origin of this quote is itself the subject of some debate. The earliest attribution is to William Wrigley, Jr. (the chewing gum magnate), from an interview published in The American Magazine in 1931.

**Doxing, derived from the word “document,” refers to the practice of researching and revealing the personal information such as telephone number, physical address, place of employment, etc. of a targeted individual without permission. The intent is to give an angry public direct access to them, often resulting in threats and/or actual violence, and at the very least embarrassment and ridicule. Individuals are targeted for various reasons, including being suspected of a crime, simply disagreeing with an opposing group’s point of view, or being a member of a targeted group. Publishing the information compromises the safety of the individual and destroys the normalcy of their lives.

The Right Way to Be Wrong

Are you wrong? No?

Are you sure? Is there a chance you could be in the wrong in some area of your life?

Why would any writer start an article by asking such questions? Are we trying to lose readers here?

Being told we are wrong can cut us to the very heart. We have a nature that wants to believe we got it right the first time. None of us enjoys being confronted with proof that we did not. Still, we know the possibility exists, because our human nature fights to have its own way.

Remember the poet Alexander Pope’s famous quote? “To err is human;to forgive, divine.” It’s just part of who we are.

That is not to excuse our being wrong. A cross stands at the dividing line of history, giving us power to turn our wrongs into right, to bring them to an altar and have them covered by the blood that was shed for our sins. If we repent, we can be forgiven, and if we obey His Word we can forever leave those wrongs behind.

Not alone in being wrong

In the Bible, some people were glaringly wrong in their ideas and actions.  The difference in the failures of the villains and the failure of the heroes is whether they ever saw themselves as wrong, and if so, what they did about it.

In this post-Easter week, we continue to reflect on our Savior’s life, teaching, death, burial, and resurrection. There are some key actors in His story whose wrong choices were what put Him on that cross.  Truly we understand that our own sins were the reason He had to die, but the story of how it came to pass involved real, flesh-and-blood people who made wrong choices. Some realized they had chosen badly. When did they realize they were wrong what did they do? Let’s look back a little, shall we?

The Rulers of the Jews

The Council of Jewish leaders, as a group, were looking for a way to get Jesus off their hands. Multiple scriptures refer to their taking counsel (meeting to discuss) how to have Him put to death. One of their number, Nicodemus, had the courage to come to Jesus by night (see John chapter 3). Remember his opening statement? “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles which thou doest, except God be with him,” (John 3:2). Did you hear that? “We know…,” he said. Was he not referring to the council in which he served? At least some of them knew they were doing wrong, yet they continued.

They, as a group, eventually had their way, when Judas betrayed Jesus to them and He was arrested and crucified, but Nicodemus never voted “yes” to the plan. He would later provide a hundred pounds of spices to anoint Jesus’ body in a show of his devotion. He was part of a group that was wrong, and when he had the opportunity to do right, he did. Other than Joseph of Arimethea, who also refused to consent to their deeds, and took it on himself to bury the body of Jesus, I find no record of a member of that council admitting they were wrong.

Judas

The disciple who betrayed Jesus saw Him being led away to be crucified after the mock trials, and realized the thirty pieces of silver that had looked good to him (he could have betrayed Jesus for free, but chose to get something out of the deal) was the price of blood. He had betrayed an innocent man. He chose total despair over true repentance and took his own life before Jesus ever shed His blood to cover even that sin.

Peter

Peter, the disciple to whom Jesus had given the very keys to the kingdom, when he stood outside the site of Jesus’ mock trial, cursed and swore repeatedly he never even knew Jesus. His fear of what was going that night, and what would happen to him if he were truly identified with Jesus, overwhelmed whatever desire he had once had to be brave on His behalf. One look from Jesus, paired with the sound of a rooster crowing to fulfil Jesus’ prophecy to him of a few hours earlier, brought him to the point of going out and weeping bitterly.

He also could have ended up like Judas, but Peter chose to go back to where Jesus’ followers were. We find him later in the upper room when news came that Jesus had risen. We find him running with John to view the empty tomb, and later being present when Jesus appeared to His disciples. Peter was later allowed to make things right with Jesus when he was asked, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” — the same number of times that he had denied him.  He would go on to fulfill the task Jesus had given him when He placed the keys to the kingdom in his hands.

The thief on the cross

When Jesus was on the cross, the two thieves crucified on either side hurled the same insults at Him in their agony. But somewhere after he heard Jesus cry, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” one of the two realized he was wrong. He even rebuked the other thief, confessed that he was a sinner, asked Jesus for mercy, and received one of the most famous pardons in history (Luke 23:40-43). (Note that his pardon was issued before Jesus’ death, which ushered in the birth of water and Spirit as described in Acts 2:38.)

The Roman centurion

This centurion helped oversee the crucifixion of Jesus, as he had done for many bad men in Jerusalem. He no doubt assumed that this Jesus, despite His previous popularity, had simply turned out to be another one of those. But as he watched Jesus die, something changed. He heard Him say things no man had ever said while hanging on that torture rack. He must have been shocked to the core when he heard Jesus voice forgiveness for His killers. He saw Him forgive the thief who repented. He heard Jesus make provisions for His mother after His death. But when Jesus said, “It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost,” (John 19:30), and the centurion realized that Jesus was dying at the point He chose to die, and not a moment before, it broke him. “Truly this was the son of God,” he said. He had willingly carried out Pilate’s sentence against an innocent man. What he did with that knowledge we are not told. There were many Romans who came to the knowledge of the truth when it began to be preached by the apostles, and this centurion could well have been one of those, but God didn’t choose to reveal that in His Word.

The crowd that cried, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

Though stirred up by the jealous rulers, they played a powerful part in convincing the Roman ruler Pilate to go against his own judgment (and his wife’s dire warning and prediction) to send an innocent man to a brutal death. Pilate’s questioning them, his bringing Jesus out to them — bloodied and disfigured from the horrific scourging — could not move them from the course they had chosen. The more Pilate reasoned with them, the louder they cried out for Jesus’ death, even crossing the line to shout, “We have no king but Caesar,” and “Let his blood be upon us, and upon our children.” They were fully convinced they were right, and in the heat of that moment, no one would change their minds.

Then came Jesus’ bloody form struggling through the streets up to Golgotha, His being hung between Heaven and earth on a cross, and His choice to forgive, which provoked the repentance of the thief and the confession of the centurion. How many of that crowd were humbled by what they saw? Three days later, stories that this Jesus was no longer in the tomb began to circulate through the area, stirring something inside those who had cried out for His destruction, no doubt. Yet they still were left with the unclean, guilty, sin-blackened hearts they had in the moment when they got their way with Pilate.

Move ahead fifty days.

One hundred and twenty of Jesus followers, who had seen Him after the resurrection and witnessed Him ascend into Heaven, were obediently waiting and praying in the upper room at Jerusalem.

“And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all in one accord in one place. And suddenly there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire sitting upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and spake with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance,” (Acts 2:1-4). We are not told the makeup of the crowd who witnessed the one hundred and twenty stumble out of the upper room on the Day of Pentecost, full of “new wine.” We are only told they were “Jews, devout men, of every nation under heaven.” Did you read that correctly? They were “devout men.” But listen to the rest of the story.

The multitude that came together saw and heard something unimaginable: people speaking languages they hadn’t been taught, and these men of different countries (gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost) heard them in their own native tongues. What they saw and heard had so far gotten their attention, but it only brought curiosity, not repentance. After all, verse 5 says they were “devout men.” Why would they need repentance? Keep in mind that this scene is still in Jerusalem, where days earlier a blood-thirsty crowd cried for Jesus’ death. Did both crowds contained some of the same people?

Peter, standing up with the other eleven apostles, told the crowd what it was they were seeing and hearing: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel…I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,” (verse 17). Then Peter, the one to whom Jesus had given the keys to the kingdom, preached to them. He began to tell them Who it was they had crucified. Yes, these devout men were told they had crucified Jesus by wicked hands. Devout men or not, they were wrong in what they had done.

As he continued to preach, Peter told them, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ,” (verse 36). There it was, the accusation flying in their faces that they had crucified the Lord of Glory. How devastating, as conviction fell on them with this news. How would they respond?

What is the right way to be wrong?

“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart…” (Acts 2:37). They became convinced they were wrong. That in itself is the beginning of the turning point. You can be told you are wrong all day long, but until you receive that information, you are perfectly capable of believing you are only being  unjustly accused or simply insulted. What was they key to this crowd receiving it?

They had just witnessed the power of God falling in a way that had never before occurred in human history. Then the man of God, chosen to preach that first message to them, had shown them in the Word of God where they were wrong.

What they did next was key: “they… said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They sought help for their condition.

Not only did they ask, but they received the answer on good ground.  Let’s hear the rest of the story:

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:38-41)

Three thousand souls! Did that include everyone who heard? Apparently not, as it said, “Then they that gladly received his word…” (verse 41). But somebody listened. Somebody accepted they were wrong. Somebody asked what they were supposed to do now. Somebody obeyed what they were told. They repented. They found forgiveness and cleansing when they were baptized in Jesus’ name. Somebody was filled with the same Spirit, the Holy Ghost, that had just filled the Apostles and the others. (Note that the original group was of one hundred and twenty people, including Jesus’ mother, as detailed in Acts 1:13-15. Let no one tell you this was just for the Apostles.)

In fact, thousands miraculously received forgiveness and remission of sins in the name of Jesus Christ by obeying the commandment, even though they had cried out for His death when Pilate would have let Him go.

What will you do?

What sin are you harboring that you’re sure couldn’t be forgiven? Or what nagging doubt are you trying to ignore, plodding along, looking only with a shallow glance into your heart and soul, hoping things are somehow OK, and that what you have will be enough good in you to get you into Heaven? Are you excusing some sin because “everybody sins”? Could you be wrong in your thinking?

We have seen that just being convinced you are right does not make you right. Where do you stand with the Word of God, with what Peter preached? If you suspect you are wrong, can you choose to be wrong in the right way? Can you have the courage to ask, and to obey the answer, as the crowd on the Day of Pentecost?

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, ” (Acts 2:38).

The crowd to whom Peter preached could have chosen, one by one, to slip away with the knowledge they were condemned.  Worse still, they could have stiffened, squared their shoulders and stalked off with a “How dare he?” in their hearts. But many chose otherwise.

How will you respond?

The answer Peter gave still applies today. For those who obey it, the Holy Ghost is still being poured out. If the question is the same, the answer is the same, and obedience brings the same outcome, will you trust anything less than that to be right?

Strongly Rooted or Dangerously Disconnected?

pexels-photo-247537.jpegThere was no real reason to notice it that day — the strong, stately pine with a lone branch suspended over the narrow side street.  It was familiar area I travel almost weekly, yet I was “seeing” this sight for the first time.

Something about the way that bough shot straight out, forming a canopy over the road, supported by nothing but the trunk that wore it so gracefully, caught my attention. “What on earth would seem remarkable about a pine branch here in the middle of Mississippi?” you might wonder. Large, stately pines are just about everywhere you could look in our area.

I’m sure a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have appreciated this one nearly so much.  But then, a few weeks ago I would have probably laughed at the idea that a near-record snowfall was about to hit our little piece of the South, with a crushing load that would leave most every roadway littered with pine boughs.

The branch I noticed that day had held on when others hadn’t. Its strength had a chance to speak to me in a special way.

THE STRENGTH IS NOT ITS OWN

A tree’s limbs are only as strong as their connection to the trunk. The branches grow there in the beginning because life-giving sap is able to move within the channels at their core. As long as this process continues unhindered, they are likely to remain intact. It doesn’t always work that way, of course. An almost imperceptible flaw can develop from some insult to the tree — a high wind that loosens some fibers or insects that burrow deep to make their home. Over time this process can progressively work against that branch, leaving it vulnerable to fall in an event that others might withstand.

Jesus used this analogy in the spiritual realm: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing,” John 15:5. He taught His followers about the life He was soon going to place within them, when He would fill those who obeyed Him with the Holy Ghost. Oh the joys of becoming connected to the Vine! The power He would pour out on the Day of Pentecost — which Peter told the crowd was “to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as our Lord shall call,” (Acts 2:39) — would turn the world upside down. But Jesus was showing them ahead of time that what He would place within them was not going to remain a strong, vibrant force unless they fought for it.  It was a connection that would have to be maintained for them to remain alive and productive in Him. 

He went on to say, “ If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned,” (John 15:6).

THE DANGERS

Beside our house, a beautiful cedar which had seemed to be growing a safe distance away when we built there, now has branches that stretch over that part of the roof. As it sits on the side where the power line comes in to the house, the power company recently trimmed up limbs closest to the line to avoid a catastrophe. During our snow event, branches that had seemed a safe distance above broke under the weight fell onto the  line.  It could gone very badly, pulling the line completely out of the house.  The tree will likely have to come down, as it has now become a hazard.

The same boughs that had blessed us with shade and beauty became a liability very quickly once they were disconnected from the trunk. Likewise, our disconnection from the Source of strength and joy affects so much more than our own lives.

Eve in the Garden discovered that what seemed to be a simple choice she was free to make on her own affected her husband, the children she would have, and all generations to come. All she could share with them of the Garden of God was her memories of being there and the shame of what caused them to lose it.

A disconnection that produces a fall inevitably brings someone else down as well. Others look to us, whether or not we are aware of how much we matter.

IT’S A FULL TIME JOB

Staying connected requires fighting our tendency to drift, to pull away from the Source of life. It requires a diligence to push ourselves to fervently pray every day.  We must read the Word of God with a goal of examining ourselves in the light of the Scriptures — exposing any area where some slight damage to our connection may be forming — rather than simply justifying ourselves that we are “close enough” to what it teaches. Faithfulness to the house of God where the Word is preached in power and anointing can never be neglected, for even in our best efforts, we will not always be as honest with ourselves as is required to stay connected on our own.

It is indeed not a comfortable thing to walk with God. We serve Him in a fleshly body with a carnal nature. “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).  These words of desperation were spoken by the man who wrote most of the New Testament.  Can we conclude he was only able to accomplish what he did because he saw his fight for spiritual health as it truly was? He told the Corinthians, “…I die daily,” (I Cor. 15:31), and “…I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection…,” (I Cor. 9:27). He knew how to stay connected, and the vital importance of regularly experiencing the power of God that Peter described as “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” (1 Peter 1:8).

CHECK YOUR CONNECTION

Where are you with being connected to the Vine? Have you established the connection Jesus promised His followers? Are you checking your connection consistently? Do you understand the fight of pressing toward the mark?

Dangerous disconnection often starts with satisfaction in where we are with God. Reaching for Him, calling on Him, seeking Him daily is truly the way to keep the life flowing from Him through us, to refresh, revive, and strengthen our hearts and lives.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on becoming, and staying, connected to the Vine. Feel free to leave a comment below.

SOME NEWS

Start to Finish: Starting a Walk with God That Can Finish Strong — some observations from my fight to stay connected over the past thirty years — is due to be published soon. I look forward to sharing these insights with you when the process is complete in a few weeks.  Look for it on Amazon, or find a link here on my site.

In the meantime, let’s stay connected!