The Caffeine Nazarene
...some thoughts while possibly not fully caffeinated.
Those mysterious ways...
What happens when Christians are faced with the unknown? When life spins out of control and the things we've feared the most happen?
Death of a loved one.
A child in a downward spiral.
Loss of a job.
An addiction that consumes you.
A future of pain-filled days.
That diagnosis you most dreaded...
If you're like most, the first reaction is to freak out. Maybe cry. Get angry. Demand to know why. Proclaim the unfairness of it all. Possibly take it out on someone close to you, then later apologize.
It's understandable. You're human.
I love the Psalms, love the way David cries out all his frustrations to the God he sometimes thinks has abandoned him. He whines, begs, yells and sometimes even accuses, yet by the end of his song he's praising the One he knows he can trust above all.
And he was called "a man after God's own heart." The name David even means "Beloved."
Don't let the enemy make you feel guilty or ashamed for any of the emotions you feel, or for any of the stages or phases you go through in your trials. He's the accuser, remember? And the king of lies. He seeks to kill and destroy God's kids, and if he can do that by making us feel "less than," ineffective as Christians, you can bet that's how he's going to attack.
The Lord created us and He is never surprised when we act/feel/think the way we do. In fact, I'm pretty sure He expects it. But you can bet He's filled with righteous pride and immense joy when we finally take that deep breath, refocus our thoughts, and, like David, end our time of wailing and railing by offering praise for the One who holds us in His very capable hands.
Be blessed, brothers and sisters.
"They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs;
You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy." Psalm 65:8
Wolves Feed on Lost Lambs
"I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick..." Ezekiel 34:16
Have you ever wondered why God uses sheep as a metaphor for His people? After dealing with the fluffy creatures, I know exactly why.
Sheep aren't the smartest of creatures.
They'll get into situations they can't get out of and when you spend an hour dragging them out, they'll head right back in.
They have no concept of danger. Every single day for the past eight years, my husband has fed the little flock we have, while talking to them and making sure they're all doing well. Every single day for the past eight years, the sheep freak out whenever they see him. "Stranger danger! Stranger danger!" they bleat while slamming into each other in panic. Yet, when one of the dogs--who thinks it's fun to chase the sheep--gets into the pasture, they just stand there, blinking.
Sheep are dumb.
But honestly, there are few creatures cuter than a little lamb. I mean, what can rival a fluffy cotton ball with four legs, big brown eyes and cute little twitching ears? Not a lot. And, thanks to their parentage, they need a lot of watching over. They need a good shepherd who won't let anything happen to them. Need a guide to lead them in those green pastures and beside those still waters.
Do you think the Lord looks at us like we look at those little lambs? Do you think He says, "Awwww, look how cute they are! Just adorable. Oh, oops, no, little one, don't head over by that fence. There are wolves over there..."
The really cool thing is once we're saved, once we're HIS lambs, He wants us to go out and seek the rest of the lost flock. He wants us to be the shepherds (or maybe co-shepherds, since HE'S the ultimate Good Shepherd), wants us to lead the lambs to safety, to steer them away from the wolves. He wants us to feed His lambs... giving them all that they need to grow, to mature.
He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. John 21:17
Jesus said several times that if we love Him, we will serve Him. I fear that I have failed in that area. I have been sitting on my blessed assurance for far too long. I've been too comfortable in my little pasture, hugging up on the other lambs that have already been saved. Going over by the fence where the wolves are to rescue the lost lambs is scary business.
I refuse to be afraid any longer. Now I want to storm those gates and drag the lost lambs away from the fire. I'm coming to realize that with God on my side, what is there to fear?
Philippians 2:17 says, “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.”
The lives of His lambs are just that... an offering to God. We love Him because He first loved us and because of that love, we want to do the things that bring Him joy. And that comes from seeing all His little lambs come to Him!
On that note, my husband and I are feeling strongly led to start an orphanage in Mexico. This is super scary for several reasons. First... Mexico. I mean, c'mon, drug cartels. Human traffickers. Corrupt government. Crime off the scale. (It's at this point in my argument that I realize I'm already living in that environment... insert eye-rolling emoji here).
Second... how in the WORLD are we going to accomplish this? I mean, we'd be leaving our job (we're co-managers of a ranch) and frankly, my books don't make enough to live on, not yet anyway. We can't buy any property, or even rent any, without money. Plus, there are things like food to consider. Health care for the children. Clothing. Transportation. How in the world...
Oh, wait. If it's of GOD, it's not of this world, right? Right.
So, leap of faith right off the cliff, we're praying for the "how" answers. If I could humbly ask one thing, it would be for you to pray with us for this huge calling. I mean, in my eyes, it's the Red Sea before me and pharaoh's army behind me, but I could be acting a bit dramatic. But we need our brothers and sisters in Christ for support. We can't do it without you!
Make War, With Love
Those of you who follow me on Facebook might have seen a post I made this week with a music video from an artist named Tedashii. The song is titled "Make War" and I first came across it back when I was working with the youth group in a small church in New Mexico.
I'm not (necessarily) promoting this song, the artist, Christian Hip Hop, or the video (which has had over a million views), but I am in full agreement that we, as believers, must MAKE WAR at this time in history.
It is time, saints, to storm the gates of Hell!
"What? War? Why?" you sputter, not fully able to form a complete sentence in your dismay. "Aren't we supposed to be loving, caring, churchy people who just spread butterflies and rainbows wherever we go?"
Yes. And No.
Jesus (I prefer His actual name, Yeshua, but most folks are more familiar with the English version, so I'll stick with that) was all about spreading the love (maybe minus butterflies and rainbows). His sermons were centered on sharing God's mercy and grace, in forgiving and not judging, and in how we're to love God above all things and treat our fellow man with kindness. And let's not forget the hardest one to swallow--loving our enemies.
Good stuff. Not always easy to do.
We are commanded to do all those things. But we are also to do battle... to make war against those who would deceive and lead others astray. It is our God-given duty to be soldiers for Christ. (See Ephesians 6:12)
So, how do we do that while loving our enemies? Do we shout, "Jesus loves you and you're about to meet Him!" while we lob grenades at them? Probably not.
This reminds me of a story from my son's grandfather, who had come to the United States from Italy when he was just 11. Because of difficult circumstances at the time, he had just a third-grade education. But he studied hard to learn what he needed in order to become an American citizen. He was so very proud the day he could claim that title and then he went on to work hard to support his widowed mother, while marrying young and starting a family.
And then Pearl Harbor was bombed.
Proud to serve his country, Grandpa enlisted immediately. He was at Normandy Beach. He fought across Europe. He lost many friends, was injured himself on several occasions. And then, one day, his company was called to fight in Italy.
With a heart that was breaking, he knew he was going to have to battle against his former friends. His family.
It wasn't something he wanted to do, but it was something he had to do. Zeferino told the story time and again at the family dinner table over heaping plates of manicotti and beef cutlets of how his hands shook with each shot he fired, wondering if he was wounding--or worse--someone he knew. A cousin, perhaps. A school friend.
The guilt ate at him.
But he resolved to focus on the fact that he was doing the right thing, regardless of what it might cost him. He was fighting against an evil regime, battling against tyranny and oppression. Regardless of how much it pained him, it was something that had to be done.
Evil could not win.
We all know the intense struggles the allies went through in order to successfully rid the world (at least at that time) of the dictatorial government threatening a one-world order. Then, it was easy to see who the enemy was.
Now, not so much.
We're fighting powers and principalities. There isn't one succinct person we can look to for a finger-point. There isn't one "bad guy" at work here. (Well, there is, but he is using a whole lot of others to do his dirty work, while he waits behind the scenes for his moment in the spotlight.)
The battles we now fight are against those who want to take our rights. Who want to oppress us and divide us by removing us from our churches and fellowships. By telling us that we can't gather in groups larger than ten, while at the same time condoning protests that number in the thousands. They tell us we can't worship, can't sing to the Lord, yet they see nothing wrong with chanting hate-filled slogans.
How do we fight against the oppression? By refusing to bow down. To make it clear that we serve the Lord first and foremost, and not the agenda set forth by governments who strive to silence us. We fight by standing together and sharing the truth.
But we do it in love.
Sharing the truth of God's great love is how we win. Witnessing, we call it. Evangelizing. Going forth and making disciples of all nations. Bringing the stray sheep back into the fold.
We fight our battles on our knees, by praying for a great global revival, believing with all our hearts that the Lord is going to bring it about. There is nothing that scares our true enemy more than seeing a saint on his or her knees, because he knows that the Lord hears our prayers. The enemy knows that he can do nothing to stop us.
We are mighty, unbeatable warriors in that moment.
Oh sure, we're going to lose some fights. We're going to get beat up (sometimes even literally) and beat down. But we can't lose hope. We can't give up. The gates of Hell do not stand a chance when we stand together.
Together, with God on our side.
And remember--just as we know the outcome of WWII, of how, despite all the odds against us, good overcame evil, we also know who wins this war.
TOO HOT TO GROW
I'm super frustrated. After months of tending seedlings in the house--watering, fertilizing, treating (organically) for pests, I finally got around to planting them in my newly formed garden that my husband lovingly made for me. And when I say "lovingly made," the man went far above and beyond to put it together so I could grow veggies. My tiny little plants that had grown so well would finally be able to stretch their wings...er, roots.
...but then I murdered them.
Okay, so maybe it wasn't my fault. I mean, I carefully planted the little darlings, watered them gently, talked to them. (Admission: I did have a major tantrum when I dropped the box and dumped the plants out on the ground. That *might* have had something to do with their demise. Ahem.) Maybe there were other forces at work here.
Yeah, 100º worth of forces.
Apparently, it's just too danged hot here to garden. This makes me sad. I really want to grow our own veggies, mostly because I just don't trust what we get in the stores. Between the pesticides, questionable fertilizers, and chemicals they spray to make the produce ripen/not ripen/retain color, I'm just sort of afraid of what we're putting in our bodies.
At least when I grow it myself, I know just cow and chicken poop was used (which is gross enough).
But there's also the fact that I want to save some money on the expensive store-bought produce. The hubs and I have been following a ketogenic diet since October, and that means lots of fresh veggies. (By the way--if you want to lose weight, or just feel better, like lowered blood pressure and controlled blood sugar, you should check it out! We follow a low-carb 20 grams or less a day diet and feel great! Plus between the two of us, we've lost over 60 pounds!)
So, to say I'm disappointed that my garden isn't doing what a garden is supposed to do is an understatement.
Like I said, it's just too stinkin' hot here. Water evaporates before it hits the ground. The humidity level is so low that my skin actually cracks. "It's a dry heat," they say. Yeah, so is a pizza oven.
But the garden fiasco got me to thinking--are we the same way? Are we not growing because it's "too hot?" Are we stagnating in our walk with the Lord because we're just too close to the fire?
I think so.
If we choose to hug those sins (see my blog post about "Besetting Sins"), if we refuse to turn away from them and turn to our Savior, then I think we're just too close to the "fire" (Hell itself!) to grow.
God tends His garden (us!) well, much better than I ever tended my little seedlings. He gives us cool water to drink (living water), the right food (His word), He prunes us of the dead branches that are weighing us down, and when we're "ripe" He sends us out to do what we're supposed to do--bring others to the garden!
But, unlike my little seedlings that had to rely on me to plant them where I did, God gives His "plants" the ability to move about of their own free volition. We can go anywhere we want--up on the hill, down in the valley, under the shade of the trees... or right next to the fire.
It's near the heat of that fire that we start to wilt. The water no longer cools us. The food no longer gives us sustenance. We don't ripen. We don't thrive.
And if we stay near that fire for long enough, we don't survive.
I don't want to be a sad, wilted, nearly dead plant. I want to grow deep roots right in the center of God's garden, where I'm watered and fed and lovingly tended to. Where I can turn into a productive plant that "bears much fruit"--good fruit--and brings others to the garden.
Because, not only is that fire hot... it's deadly.
THE CONE OF SHAME
Yesterday, we took one of our newly acquired strays, Pancho Villa, in to get his man bits removed. I'm hoping it makes him a little less obnoxious. For the record, my husband has been worried about my thought process ;)
When we picked poor Pancho up, he had his tail tucked between his legs (probably trying to protect the area where his man bits used to be) and he was looking mightily humiliated with his cone of shame around his neck. Poor guy looked like a furry lamp.
Now I know that the cone is important. It keeps Pancho from trying to tear out those itchy stitches as the area heals. The last thing we want is to have to take him back to the vet for new stitches. Of course, I might be tempted to just superglue the incision instead of driving the hour plus it takes to get to the vet. I've superglued my own deep wounds just to avoid having to go to the doctor. The only problem with that is I have a tendency to get a bit messy with the glue and usually end up attaching my fingers to themselves. One time, I glued my finger to my eyebrow. Don't ask.
Pancho would probably really hate it if I accidentally glued his, uh, man bits sack to his leg.
So, what is the point of this? Is there some sort of message to all this talk of man bits and lampshades and glue? Yes!
It has occurred to me that, just like Pancho, we all wear a "cone of shame." We have our sins wrapped around our necks, strangling us and making us bump into obstacles, just like that plastic satellite dish Pancho's rocking.
And just like my poor little dog who's a few ounces lighter today, our cone of shame makes us vulnerable. It blocks our vision. Keeps us from focusing. Makes others steer clear (you should see the big dogs running from Pancho now...they're terrified of this creature who looks like a cross between a daisy and a squished Oreo).
As we bump around through life with this thing around our necks, we can't help but feel like everyone is laughing at us. Pointing fingers. Snickering behind their hands and covertly pointing at our misery.
Maybe they are doing that very thing. But they have their own cones strangling them, their own circle of sin bringing shame.
And here's the big BUT (haha) here... BUT, we don't have to wear that cone of shame forever. There's a way to get rid of it and free ourselves from its burden. Yep, you guessed it--ask Jesus to take it off!
"Oh, but it's not that simple," you argue. No? Why do you say that? Because it is just that simple. It's as easy as a prayer:
"Lord, I'm sorry for (insert sin here). I'm sick of carrying it around. The burden is overwhelming. Please take it off me!"
And He will take it off of you. Gladly, too! There is nothing our Creator loves more than to have His children come to Him with their burdens and lay them at His feet. He takes them away, removes that cone of shame, and sends us off free and much lighter!
We just need to remember not to put the darned thing back on.
"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
What does that mean exactly, "besetting sin?" To me it means "I be setting on a sin." Setting, or sitting, like a chicken on a handful of plastic eggs hoping that I'm going to get something for my effort.
Yeah, I'm going to get something alright... I'll get a big disappointment. Just like that chicken when nothing hatches.
Sitting on a sin--that thing I just don't want to let go of, that big no-no that i keep returning to time and again--is just plain stupid. It's harmful.
But worst of all, it's disappointing to my Father.
I'm not going to get into the besetting sin that I keep running back to like that proverbial dog to the vomit (gross!). It doesn't matter what the sin is, whether it's "big" in human terms (no, I didn't murder my hubby and bury him in the north 40, despite the fact that he refuses to throw any trash into the waste bin grrrr), or if it's a "small" thing (again in human terms), like gossip or pride.
Daddy only sees disobedience.
After all HE'S done for me, after all HE'S given to me, after all the times HE'S forgiven me and let me run back to His arms... when I return to the sin, it's like that four-year-old who tells their parents "I hate you."
So today... once again... I'm repenting. I'm turning away. I'm begging forgiveness. I'm weeping in shame. I'm breaking my heart.
Thank You, Father, for Your unending mercies and truly amazing grace. I'm a wreck and I seem to keep forgetting that I'm YOUR child, daughter of the Most High. Please remind me of this. I want to make You proud.