Stripped, Shamed & Shackled

And having spoiled (stripped) principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly (shamed), triumphing (shackled) over them in it. Colossians 2:15

He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets. The Message Bible

Today in America we celebrate July 4th – Independence Day. It is a day to reflect and consider our nation’s greatest attribute, our freedom and independence over tyranny. “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice FOR ALL”.

We know that these two seven-lettered words did not and do not come without a cost and a very high price. We stand as a nation of relative freedom and liberty because of the sacrifice of men and women who endured two world wars, an economic collapse, conflicts in the Middle East, political and ideological uprisings in far places of the world all for the purpose of keeping these underlying principles intact in our nation. 

It is said there is a heavenly component intertwined in each and every earthly event. What transpires in earthly, physical happenings are the direct result of powers and forces occupying the spiritual sphere. Jesus himself asserted: “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven“. (Mat 18:18) This constant interplay between the earth and heaven will one day end (Rev Ch. 21). But until then, we are in the middle of the greatest power struggle in God’s creative universe – the battle for the soul; your soul, your family’s souls and the souls of your friends and neighbors. And the one who survives this epic battle and power struggle is determined by who and what is ultimately permanently stripped, shamed and shackled. Let’s dive into this a little bit more. 

Enemy Warfare Tactics – Stripping, Shaming & Shackling

The two key components in warfare operate at two levels – the physical and the psychological (mental). Which is the most powerful? You are right, the mental aspect of conflict. If your enemy becomes mentally defeated, you have won the war. The enemy of our soul, satan, understands this concept very well The human mind is in the crosshairs of his spiritual sniper scope to launch his campaigns of frustration, hopelessness, fatigue, offenses, strife and confusion. 

The first level of attack is physical in nature and involves a process of uncovering to expose weaknesses, vulnerabilities or failures. An example of this is seen in the account of King David’s servants and the Ammonites:

Wherefore Hanun took David’s servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away. 2 Samuel 10:4  

The Ammonites stripped David’s servants of their beards and clothes. What effect did this have on their morale and mental state? You guessed it:

When they told it unto David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed: and the king said, Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return. 2 Samuel 10:5  

The men were shamed and subsequently decommissioned (shackled) for several months until their confidence and self-value was restored. 

The same strategy was used against Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden:

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked (stripped); and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. Genesis 3:7  

And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself (shamed). Genesis 3:10  

Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken (shackled). Genesis 3:23  

 Satan uses these same tactics against us:

They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them? They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. Psalm 64:5-6

Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt. Psalms 35:4

But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not: Psalms 35:15

Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me. Psalms 35:26

And Satan used the same strategy against Jesus. First he was stripped:

And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. Matthew 27:28 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27:31 

Then Jesus was shamed:

Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! John 19:5 

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2  

And lastly Jesus was shackled:

And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. John 19:17-18

Jesus – The Master of Turning Tables Around

Jesus was known to turn a few tables over (Joh 2:15), but he also turned some tables “around”. Around that is on the devil. What Satan did to Jesus, Jesus turned right around and used the same tactics against him. 

First Jesus ‘stripped” Satan of his power over death:

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. Mat 28:2  
And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Mat 28:5-6  

Jesus’ resurrection tilted and shifted the power and authority structures in heaven and in earth. Jesus stripped satan of his power over death and forever proved who now ruled kingdoms in heaven and on earth. Satan would now no longer be death’s gregarious, arrogant power broker. His strutting and bold, arrogant triumphant parading of the death threat over God’s creation ended when Jesus ‘stripped’ him of death’s power by conquering and defeating it in a darkened tomb three days after his crucifixion.

Jesus ascended up into the Heaven’s in a glorified body and seated on the righthand (symbolism of ultimate power) of God (Mk 16:19, Lk 22:69).

This stripping and resulting humiliation brought shame to satan and his hordes of cursed, ungodly spirits. And shame always fills voids left by pretense, baseless authority and vain boasting. What is their shame? Jesus, the light of truth, exposes Satan and his hordes of who they really are. They are fallen spirits  (Jude 1:6), with no hope and destined for eternal punishment (Rev 20:10). Jesus’ church, those born of water and the spirit have living inside of them the exact same Spirit that was in Jesus (Rom 8:11). “Born again” believers now have the power and authority to expose these spirits and take authority over them (Lk 9:1, Mk 16:17-18). 

It was customary for the Roman army to take the vanquished and defeated foes and march and parade them through the city streets to humiliate and shame them. It was described as “triumphing” over them. 

Jesus did the exact same thing Satan did to him when he defeated the spiritual kingdom of darkness and made his ascent to heaven: 

And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Colossians 2:15

What was the prize? The prize was the stripping and shackling of a spiritual authority structure of gifts that shifted from the heavenly sphere to the earth. Jesus stripped, shamed and shackled these spirits, and in turn, took gifts originally intended to minister to him in Heaven (fallen angelic spirits now demoted to earth), to now minister through his church, the body of Christ, on earth.

This authority structure is what is now commonly called the five-fold ministry; a ministry that energizes church growth, defeats and deflects the works of the devil, empowers the gospel message to lead souls to repentance and experience the new birth, gives believers victory over sin and death, and lastly, for the perfection of God’s people:

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Ephesians 4:8

He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Ephesians 4:10-12

Jesus – The Greatest Freedom Fighter Of All

To conclude, what the devil did to Jesus, he attempts to also do to us. The greatest advantage one can have over their enemy is to know their strategy, be privy to what their plans are and to know where they are and what they are plotting to do. 

The enemy relishes in their work of darkness when they can freely operate in deception. The agents of destruction and accusation revel when they can move freely about undetected, undercover and unchallenged. Satan is empowered and emboldened while operating unexposed, roaming freely and unchallenged. Here is proof:

That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not. They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them? They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. Psalms 64:4-6  

Having this cloak of deception and deceivableness uncovered and exposed by light and truth, the enemy’s only recourse is to depart and vacate. He cannot withstand light. What is the result of being stripped of his covering? Being shamed and shackled. 

Today is not only a celebration of freedom for one nation under God, but also a day to know and celebrate that there is a God who has ALL  power, power available for people of all nations to be free from all bondage. And Jesus Christ is the name of the One who has come, and through his sinless blood, strip, shame and shackle the power of sin and death!

Be Happy & Be Free – July 4th 2021

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Luke 4:18-19  

The Past – Our Biggest Enemy?

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13-14

Is there one thing that will disqualify anyone from making it to Heaven aside from committing blatant sin? The scripture says that nothing can separate one from the love of God (Rom 8:38-39). Is that true? Is it really impossible to be separated from God’s love?

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Romans 8:38

But, what about the things not mentioned? Is something missing in the list? The present is mentioned and so is the future. But, what about the past? The Apostle Paul does not include the past as something that cannot separate one from the love of God. That means the past can. Our past is more powerful than we might imagine. Let’s take look into this.

The past is a powerful thing. It can be a well of pleasant memories of our childhood with family and friends. It can bring back thoughts of places we have been and experiences we have encountered. On the other hand, the past can be a difficult place to navigate. In fact, the New Testament writings when referring to the past many times paints it with colors from a dark, foreboding palette: (Rom 11:30, Gal 1:13, 23; Eph 2:2-3, 11-12, Phm 1:11, I Pet 2:10). These actions of the past are referred to the Apostle Paul as “dead works” (Heb 6:1 & 9:14), acts we all have committed of which we are ashamed and not particularly proud.

Why is this? When reminiscing about the past why do we tend to concentrate on the negative and not the positive? It is as if an internal switch defaults in the down position. This is no doubt a result of the law of sin resident in our members (Rom 7:23-24). So, when dealing with the past we come out of the runner’s block in life already disadvantaged because of the law of sin that seeks to always overrule our spirit (Gal 3:3, 5:17) that includes sinful thoughts and past sinful actions.

The Past & Who Is In Control? 

The past is also peculiar and somewhat enigmatic. The past on one hand can control us, yet on the other, it can be something else. What? The past can be something that only we manipulate that no one else can. Not even God if we so choose. We can be its arbitrator, judge or liberator. We cannot always control our present and less so our future. However, we can control our past by awakening it and repressing it at will. We can “bring up” the past on one hand and forget about it on the other – at will. Our will. That is control fueled by self-centered power. We can take ownership of the past because in doing so we can willfully control it. It is a piece of us that hinders and stymies the work and will of God in our lives because by manipulating our past we are in control and not God. And that is a big problem. A problem big enough that Jesus gave a warning:

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke 9:62 

Looking back (to the past) disqualifies one for kingdom work. It is a disqualifier and debilitating. Is this a hopeless situation? No, not with God. Because Jesus offers us new life, a new future and new beginnings. The key is to relinquish the past and move forward, by faith and trust in the Lord and in His word. Jesus came to heal us of our past – past mistakes we have committed (and we have all done them), past failures (even those), things done in the past to us, unpleasant thoughts from the past, all of these things Jesus can and is willing to give us victory over. Yes, he certainly can. And then we have the enemy to contend with in all this which brings us to the next subject. 

The Past & Oz Behind The Curtain

The enemy knows how powerful your past is. He understands that if he can interject or resurrect past unpleasant thoughts into your mind (yes, the devil has the capacity to do that – 2 Cor 10:5) he can at worst control you or at best stymie your spiritual growth and development.

Before we go any further, it may be in order to get a better understanding of this adversary we are dealing with. Demonic spirits are past-bound spirits with no hope and no future. Demonic spirits were in the past a part of God’s angelic heavenly host. They partook of the wonders and splendors of Heavenly glory (Jude 1:6). No more. They rebelled, were kicked out of heaven and driven to earth as fallen creatures (Rev 12:7-9). Their only hope, their only means of even the slightest relief before their final destination of eternal torment in the lake of fire (Rev 20:10) is to latch onto another God-given spirit that does have hope and a future. And that God-given spirit lives in you. The devil and his cohorts find relief by accusing, oppressing and possessing humans who have a spirit with hope. What is their diet? Dust (Gen 3:14). What are you made of (Gen 2:7)? This explains the conflict. 

So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. Matthew 8:31 

God created swine (pigs) for a purpose and for a reason. They are farm animals and make good pulled pork and bacon. And even a pig retains its original God-given purpose. Fallen angels did not. They are dead spirits. Devils even seek to find relief possessing a farm animal living under God’s provision and favor. Okay, let’s move along.

The enemy completely understands he cannot control a person with a “made up” mind, a mind focused on God, His Word, totally surrendered to God’s will and unequivocally trusting in God’s person. The devil has lost the battle with that individual who lives no longer in the past and lives instead in the promises and hope of His Person and Word. A believer set free from the shadows and vestiges of the past is unstoppable when infused with faith, hope and love. This is not the case for those bound by the past, those whose lives are directed by its sinful reminders whether true or untrue. This is a place where the Creator of the heaven and the earth does not want you to be for he came to heal and set you free of your past:

In Conclusion

Left untempered and unrestrained, our past may be our biggest enemy. By God’s grace and His promise of new life, the past can be a distant memory God has healed and made whole. But, someone may ask, “You don’t know my past? You do not know what I have experienced in life, the things I have done or the things done to me”. No this blogger does not. But, there is someone who does. Jesus experienced more shame and pain than any other human that ever walked this earth. And Jesus can be touched by your pain and shame because he has been there (Heb 4:15). Someone made the following statement: “Get yourself a good prayer life because no one understands your pain better than God”. 

The enemy wants your hope. The enemy wants your future because he has none. It is said that the devil does not care about your past or your present, he just wants to steal your future. Don’t let him. Jesus has something more powerful for you than what a future-less, hateful and destructive end the enemy hopes for your life. What is it? It is the New Birth of water and Spirit (Joh 3:1-15 & 7:37-39). A new life, a new beginning and a entirely new bright future eons away from your regretful past.

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; Song of Solomon 2:11-12

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

The Cobblestone Effect

I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. Romans 7:21

Have you ever  rode a bicycle on a cobblestone path or road? Or driven an automobile on a street paved with cobblestones? It is an unforgiving, frustrating and bone-jarring experience to say the least. The harder and faster you want to move over cobblestones , the slower and harder it is to move at all. It is an exercise in futility to attempt to defeat and counteract its resistive forces . When traveling on cobblestones, you simply must take your time and endure the ride.

The gist of the cobblestone effect is this:

“Increasing efforts to move forward and faster invoke increasingly opposing forces to resist you”.

Or in essence, “the force of resistance is directly proportional to the effort to push; increasing the force to push, results in generating inherently  greater forces that resist”.

This  is a phenomenon known as the cobblestone effect and has real-life application. This is going somewhere. Let’s take a look.

The Cobblestone Effect

The City of Baltimore is a wonderful town rich in American history. I live there and travel its streets to work five days a week. And if the truth be told its roads still leave one with an authentic, nostalgic 18th century experience. Cobblestone-like streets are very much in vogue here.

And you can normally pinpoint a driver acquainted with the nuances of Baltimore’s byways and roads – they can be spotted as those driving up the road like slalom skiers, weaving and crisscrossing in their lane to avoid potholes, mogul fields of warped, elephant-like skinned sections of asphalt  or the misaligned, lopsided manhole covers that rudely mimic the feel of cobblestone.

How does this relate in a spiritual application? What relevance does this all have for an individual wanting to get closer to the true and living God? Immensely relevant.

The cobblestone effect is an effective tool in satan’s arsenal against the human soul and often a weapon of choice. Why? The enemy’s goal is to invoke frustration and futility while one attempts to seek the goodness and blessings available in God. We don’t have to be reminded that satan hates everything and anything where God is involved.

God is life. God is for growth. To satan, the only thing secondary to destroying life is to thwart or impede its growth – to throw continuous roads and paths of cobblestone in your life for the purpose of frustration, fatigue or even eventually just plain giving up in pursing the face and will of God. Can you relate?

Why not quit? Why not “throw in the towel”? Why not keep pushing and enduring long nights of loneliness and frustration?  One word:

Progress.

You are making progress over life’s cobblestones and onward to things with eternal significance as long as you don’t give up and stop moving forward!

Rise Above It

Outside of completely stopping or renting a hovercraft, the only way to minimize the cobblestone effect in life is to lighten your load and rise above it. How do you do that?

First, slow down:

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,(Ephesians 5:15)

Next, let someone help you pray, carry your load and burden:

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:1-2

Lastly, give it to Jesus:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.(Matthew 11:28)

But, there will be times when we need something more. We just cannot do it ourselves or with the help of those around us. What then? Jesus shows up walking above the cobblestones and just lifts us and carries us above it all:

My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. (Psalms 73:26)

For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. (1 John 3:20)

In Conclusion

We find in our journey through life that it is often a path lined with cobblestones; events, situations, encounters,  thoughts and experiences that “do not line up”, are disjointed, not level (‘not fair’ – anyone?) or seem bewildering to our natural minds. Could it be God has ordained it that way? Has God intentionally framed and ordained our fragile life on earth so that we walk humbly, carefully and attentively? Jesus never told anyone whom he healed to rise up and run. But, he did tell them to “walk” and keep moving forward (Mat 9:5, Mk 2;9,  Lk 5:23).

And it is interesting to note what will be found at the end of this life as we stand before God. Is the Lord so cold-hearted and cruel that He would line the street of Heaven with one of earth’s most dreaded surfaces – cobblestone? Not hardly:

And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. (Revelation 21:21)

Jesus once turned water into wine. He is also able one day to turn our streets of cobblestone into a street of pure gold – if we keep pushing forward! Be Blessed.

So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. (Isaiah 59:19)

The Quest

My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Psalm 84:2

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1-2

Many years ago there was an “animated adventure series” on TV entitled: “Jonny Quest”. The central theme of the series was to show the lives of a boy, his scientist father and friends on their many exciting, tingling adventures and “quests” around the world. Just the thing to project wonders of the unknown and exotic in lands faraway to engage the imagination of its young viewers.

Life is a quest. Life is a journey. And life can be summarized in one simple phrase:

“Life is an intertwining of events in a quest to find true love”.

And God created the soul with that intention squarely in the crosshairs because God is love (I John 4:8, 16). And on the journey to find this true love will bring one face-to-face with the true and living God. This is the heartbeat of God; for Him to love and for Him to be loved.

The phrase “living God” occurs exactly 30x in the KJV of the Holy Bible – spilt in half evenly between the Old and New Testaments. The God of the Old Testament is the same God in the New Testament. There is only One. God is not dead and very much alive.

Jeremiah 10:10  But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

John 6:69  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

To Live Again

There is an inherent nature in God’s creative work that can be defined by its refusal to quit; a determination not to die, a desire to live despite circumstances that speak otherwise.

For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. Job 14:7-9

Hope of a tree. Through the scent of water. Springs of fresh, cool life-giving water. If God engrained into a tree a nature to hope after being cut down to the ground, what has He gifted into a soul that will live for eternity? Much.

It is said there is a suicide epidemic raging within our nation.

This blogger is familiar with the subject of suicide. He was told at a tender age that his grandfather attempted suicide on his mother’s 30th birthday. Though stuff. Enough to make one cringe, even to this very day. And it has raised its face in some manifestation or another throughout life.

Lives have been irretrievably broken by a parent, a close loved one or a friend who have taken their own life. This is obviously not God’s will for the souls that He loves. This should not be. Why? Because there is hope. There is love. God’s love.

Life is a quest to find this true love. Unfortunately, it will not be found in a bedroom. That is too easy. God oftentimes appears elusive. True love must be diligently sought in Heaven’s throne. And He is looking for those who are looking for Him:

Psalms 14:2  The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

God’s love is still being radiated from His throne room through all of the muck, trash, darkness, filth, stench and garbage the enemy (yup, the devil) will hurl at you. The love of Jesus Christ refuses to quit, and it will never fail you if you hold onto hope:

Charity never faileth …….. I Corinthians 13:8

Speaking of that tree and its hope for water, Jesus is that living water and offers the hope of eternal life:

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. John 7:37-38

For there is hope of a tree. There is hope in his cross. There is hope in Jesus.

Be Blessed.

On The Shelf

imageOn that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.
And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus.
And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him. Esther 6:1-3

‘OTS’ – pronounced Oh-zuts as in “Oats”, acronym for ‘On The Shelf’. OTS Syndrome [definition]: a condition whereby one’s life is defined more by observation than by participation; life is put on hold like the cat who by an unseen force somehow mysteriously perched herself  on top of the living room window curtain rod, you are mostly invisible while observing life passing beneath you. (Source – Somebody’s Corny Urban Dictionary).

It is said that there is no tougher place to be then when the Lord puts your life “on the shelf”. What or why would God do that to anyone? Is there is purpose? If so, what is the purpose? In reality, there is purpose in living life mostly from an observation tower. Let’s take a look at some people whose lives were once “on the shelf” who God miraculously transfused with fresh hope and purpose.

A Man Named Mordecai

For some things, especially things concerning spiritual matters, timing is critically important. It definitely was for the Jewish populace living during the time of King Ahasuerus as recorded in the Book of Esther. Most are familiar with this often quoted line in the book: “And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” The man speaking those words was named Mordecai. And he was speaking to his adopted daughter-cousin Hadassah (Esther):

And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter. Esther 2:7  

As the story unfolds, Esther is chosen Queen and takes up residence in the king’s palace. Mordecai faithfully sits at the king’s gate day after day as a palace porter, sitting on the shelf (so to speak). During the course of his duties, he uncovers a plot to assassinate the king. He sends Esther communication about the scheme, then nothing. No recognition, no award, no bonus pay, no promotion was given to him. Mordecai experienced firsthand what it felt like living on the shelf. Life and people moved on. But, he waited. God had a plan for Mordecai and knew exactly when to move him to the next phase.

And the Lord did. The king had a bad night’s sleep and to help pass the time he asked that events recorded in the chronicles concerning his kingdom be read to him. Something catches his attention. It is about a man named Mordecai who usurped a plot to take the king’s life. “Was anything done for him?” Nothing. Mordecai’s life on the shelf had just come to an end.

King Ahasuerus rewarded the good deeds of the man who saved his life and generously made up for lost time:

And all the acts of his power and of his might, and the declaration of the greatness of Mordecai, whereunto the king advanced him, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed. Esther 10:2-3

God Calls Another Life Off The Shelf

Real kings keep their promises. David made a promise once to King Saul that he would preserve his lineage and not destroy his entire family:

Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house.
And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold. 1 Samuel 24:21-22

King David’s life on the shelf while running from Saul was now a distant memory. Life was good. He was now the “big man on campus”, he even got a name for himself (2 Samuel 8:13). Amazing how success, even for those chosen by the Savior, have a predisposition to forget the One who is behind any and all good that happens in life.

As time so oftentimes proves (substantiated by our fallen nature) promises of good made to a defeated foe faded into the shadows of his memory, maybe power washed by too many wars, women, wealth and weariness. But, the Lord remembered and brought it to his attention many years later:

And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet. 2 Samuel 9:3

Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar. Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant! 2 Samuel 9:5-6

There are not many accounts of people in the Bible as heartwarming and touching as that of Mephibosheth. Being the lame son of Jonathan, he lived most of his life in obscurity and heartache not knowing that an unfulfilled promise from God rested right above his head. His day finally arrived. God saw it was time for Mephibosheth to come down off the shelf:

And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually. 2 Samuel 9:7

From that day onward, Mephiboshet’s life was never the same. He became a new man with newfound hope and purpose in life. God is especially touched by the broken, crippled, lame and bruised – on the outside and on the inside (Ps 86:15, 145:8, Is 53:5, Mat 15:32, Mark 6:34, & Heb 4:15).

The Shelf Life Produces Something Amazing

Some things in life are made better by being motionless, by just doing nothing. The process is called curing. Meats, fruits, vegetables, cheeses (and some other mysterious elixirs made from rye, barley and malt) are transformed into exquisite creations by simply left sitting undisturbed on a shelf. Such is the case with the one thing that saves us:

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Romans 8:24-25

Hope is what saves. Not love, not faith, but hope. Hope for what? Hope that God’s word is truth and will come to pass, hope that Jesus Christ is real, alive, is the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings, and that he is coming back again for his people. And if we don’t live to see it, he will raise us from the dead to make the appointment (Romans 8:11, I Corinthians 15:52). That is a hope worth holding on to.

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Romans 5:10  

The interesting thing about hope, unlike faith and love, it is not a spiritual fruit or spiritual gift. The Lord does not drop dollops of hope into our lives. Hope does not come easy.

Like precious earthly metals, stones and gems, hope does not occupy shallow ground, its origins reside deep within the soul. Hope is forged by enduring the pressure and heat of God’s handiwork upon our hearts. How and why? To form something rare, beautiful, exquisite, and valuable for His glory (Malachi 3:17). Hope is essentially the byproduct of God’s mercy and grace at work in our lives.

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: Romans 5:3-4

We with patience wait for it. Our soul is preserved by the nuclear bond between patience and hope. Jesus had something to say on this subject:

In your patience possess ye your souls. (KJV)
In the sphere of your steadfastness, constancy, and endurance you shall win for yourselves your lives. (Wuest) Luke 21:19

Your soul is acquired, secured, or purchased through patience – sometimes while enduring life while sitting on the shelf.

Is My Shelf Life About To Expire?

Is life looking like a dead end? Do you feel that your “shelf life” is about to expire? Who is to say that there is not yet an unfulfilled promise from the Lord resting over your head? How will we ever find out if we don’t patiently wait for it?

The Lord could be preparing you to come down from your disaster and enter into His destiny. The shelf has prepared you for this moment in time. And when you do come down, you will know for sure that “The Lord, He is God!”.

Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalms 100:3  

 

Answers From Strange Places: A Vignette of Gideon

Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. Judges 7:13 

What significance can of a lump of barley bread have? Not much by itself. But, for Gideon and the armies of Israel, it won the victory. Sometimes answers to life’s dilemmas are found in the most unusual places. Let’s see.

Just Give Me A Sign Lord!

Gideon was a humble, unsuspecting fellow. Just the kind of person God looks to perform great exploits through.  But, Gideon had some problems. Gideon had an optics problem which translated into a warped faith life. Gideon doubted God’s power and ability to work in his life. How do we know this? Because he asked God to give him signs, (not once, but three times) to prove to him that the Lord was indeed going to use him to destroy the enemies of Israel.

And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.

And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,

Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall ……

And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece….. Judges 6:17, 36-37, 39

Gideon was a sign-seeker. Why? Consider the man’s past for a moment. Gideon was carrying baggage, in fact a lot of baggage. And people who carry a lot of baggage have problems seeing things afar because to avoid stumbling they need to continually focus on what is beneath their feet.

Gideon’s Heavy Baggage

What baggage was Gideon carrying? Let’s start with his present state of oppression, and no doubt some depression in the mix. The Midianites had so weighted Israel down that Gideon was threshing wheat in fear that they would discover his protein stash and take away his family’s only food supply.

And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.

And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. Judges 6:6, 11

Strike one.

Secondly, the man had low self-esteem and was living in poverty.

And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. Judges 6:15

Strike two.

Lastly, Gideon was not from “good Israeli stock”. Gideon suffered generational curses inherited from his father. His father was a heathen, an idol worshipper:

And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: Judges 6:25

It’s not looking good Gideon. Strike three.

Eye Candy Syndrome

Gideon suffered from a malady known as ECS – Eye Candy Syndrome. He was attempting to serve with the “eye” a God who asks to be served with the “heart”. Thus the reason behind Gideon’s sign-seeking, a malady affecting hearts not valiant in faith.

“Show me God and I will believe”. How many of us have prayed that prayer? Or, “Lord, if you do thus-and-thus, I will live for you”. Or, “Lord, just let me off the hook this one time and I will get my act together and give my life to you”. This is basically asking God for a sign, something we can tangibly grasp onto to bring God into our life situation. God wants more. The Lord wants to bring us into His situation. And that is the only way Gideon could accomplish the calling God spoke into his life. It takes a God-walk to birth a God-work.

God knows and understands the uniqueness within each and every one of us. And only God knows all about the life lived in the pair of shoes named “Mine Own”.

My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. Psalms 73:26

And if we’ll be honest, we all bring baggage to the table (some more than others) and it really comes to the light when the Light of the World calls you out on the carpet. You cannot hide it then. So, you have two options. Allow God to help you unload it, or keep it and suffer, and suffer a lot.

Let’s face the facts folks, we will accomplish little in the Kingdom of God while carrying a load on our backs, the load of guilt from past mistakes and failures, or beating ourselves up because of the burden of carrying generational sins of our forefathers (oh yes, they do affect us) or the ravages experienced from childhood abuses.

Thankfully for Gideon, and reflecting back on his life, thankfully for us, the proverbial light bulb lit up his brain. How? From a dream about a barley roll.

Pillow Power

Dreams and their interpretations from God are mind altering and heart transforming. Dreams can change one’s life:

And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you. Genesis 40:8

But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets ….. KJV
But there is a God in heaven who solves mysteries … The Message Bible Daniel 2:27

How many people in the Bible were given dreams from God that changed their lives, and even the course of history? Let’s name a few: Abraham, Jacob, Laban, Job, a butler and a baker in an Egyptian prison house, Pharaoh himself, Solomon, Joseph, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar, Habakkuk, Jesus’ step-father Joseph, and Pilate’s wife. And Gideon:

And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian. Judges 7:15

Gideon got a lot of mileage from his fleece test, yet he still doubted in the mission God called him to. Signs did not help Gideon’s faith, he was still unconvinced. How do we know that? There was one more turning point he needed to move him into God’s will. Then there would be no turning back. What was the turning point? Of all things, a dream about a piece of barley bread.

And it goes deeper than just the dream. The one thing Gideon feared (loosing his family’s food supply), God now turned around and used it against the Midianites. When God takes away your fear and uses it to defeat your enemy, you must know you cannot fail.

It can be said that signs whether from earth or from heaven do not always change our thinking, especially when faced with major transitions or juncture points in life (like the one Gideon faced). Jesus gave warning about this:

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. Matthew 16:4

In Conclusion

What about some other unlikely places that ushered in the miraculous of God: a mother’s packed lunch of merger fare for her little boy, empty water pots, a lady of questionable reputation standing alone at the town’s waterhole, lastly a talked about illegitimate son of a carpenter and his gruesome hanging in shame on a cruel wooden cross? Unusual places.

God will take what man’s disregards, turn it around, and use it for His glory:

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25

There comes a time when the miracle you desperately need can only be hand-delivered by a man walking on the water. A most unusual place and in a most unusual way.

A.W. Tozer penned the words, “God is looking for those through who He can do the impossible. What a pity that we settle for only those things we can do ourselves.”

Gideon could not do by himself the feat he was called to accomplish for God. But, the Lord is merciful and longsuffering. And the Lord knew exactly how to posture him for the promotion awaiting him. Have you had or heard of any strange dreams lately?  Maybe God is about to do something miraculous in your life.

 

Unclaimed Riches

Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Revelation 3:11

It is estimated that unclaimed wealth in the United States is valued at over $58 billion dollars. This includes unclaimed federal and state income tax refunds, life and medical insurance refunds, dormant savings or checking accounts, payroll checks, valuables left in safe deposit boxes, and the list goes on. In 2016 alone $1B in gift cards went unused and perhaps never to be cashed.

In short, there is a wealth of earthly property and assets left lingering that will never be claimed by its rightful owner or just simply neglected. Could this also be the case with heaven’s storehouse of treasures? Just maybe.

The Godly Inheritance

There is a familiar parable recorded in the New Testament where Jesus relates the story about two sons and their father. It is commonly referred to the parable of the prodigal son. One of the sons requested that he and his brother’s share of their wealth be divided so he can take his lot and move away from home:

And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. Luke 15:11-12

As the story progresses the son wastes all of his money, falls on hard times, and upon coming to “his senses”, looks to go back home and be reunited with his father. There is one interesting facet of this parable that is worth looking into a little deeper.

In reality, the son had not just one, but two inheritances – one earthly and the other heavenly. His “portion of goods” was the inheritance he wasted. However, there was another inheritance he left intact, the more important and valuable one:

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: Luke 15:21-22

The use of the word “best” when describing the robe given the son is an interesting choice. The word ‘best’ in the Greek is πρῶτος (prōtos) means former, foremost, chief, or beginning. In essence, the prodigal son retained his royal inheritance. He may have left home and trashed his earthly wealth, but his former, chief, foremost robe, his royal covering, was held dear and protected by his father.

When the prodigal son left home he left his “royal inheritance” behind, the one not for sale on the world’s open market. And it was waiting for him when he returned. The son left his most valuable possessions behind in storage – his formerly unclaimed riches. God does not allow those belonging to Him to slip by so easily. And God is not one to waste what belongs to Him.

Heaven’s Unclaimed Riches?

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:20-21

Jesus states in Matthew chapter six that his people serving him on earth are simultaneously storing up riches and treasures in heaven. Could it be that there are mansions in heaven containing piles of treasures that keep expanding and growing? Is it possible that those on the “other side” watch as these mounds of wealth grow, waiting expectantly for their owner to arrive and take ownership?

“Wow, look at what Sharon is doing down there on earth? The Lord must really using her for the Kingdom of God. Her fabulous heap of riches here just keeps growing and growing! I can’t wait for her to arrive to claim these riches and see what the Lord has here waiting for her”.

And, what about the opposite situation?

“I wonder what has happened to Steve? Jesus was really using him when I last saw him. He was instrumental in me being saved. Steve witnessed to me about the love of Jesus, how that Jesus died for all of my sins and offered me the gift of being born again.

Man, his storehouse of treasures have remained stagnant for quite some time.  Something must be wrong. Steve must not be doing well spiritually. I sure hope he turns his life around and puts his focus back on the eternal things of God. It would be such a waste for these beautiful riches and treasures to go to someone else.”

These points are not mere conjecture. As the opening scripture states, Jesus alludes to the possibility of someone loosing their rightful, Godly inheritance. A crown is a kingly possession. A crown symbolizes authority, rulership, victory and blessing. Jesus has a crown for everyone who overcomes sin and fulfills the will he has chosen for their lives (Revelation 2:7,11,17, 26, 3:5, 12,21 & 21:7). But, what happens to someone who stumbles and falls in their walk with God like what happened to the faithful servant of the Apostle Paul, Demas?:

For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. II Timothy 4:10

What happens is addressed by Jesus in Revelation 3:11. Their crown is given to someone else. We read a similar pattern with Esau and King Saul:

And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.

And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25:30-31, 33-34

And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.
And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. I Samuel 15:26, 28

Saul’s kingly crown was given to David. And Esau forfeited his inheritance to his twin brother Jacob. The Lord will not waste any of His kingships and Godly inheritances, but He will change ownership if forced to.

An Unclaimed Masterpiece

image

The picture above is a painting called “Marche aux fleurs” or “Flower Market” by French Impressionist artist Edouard Leon Cortes. The painting was sold for $40,600 in 2008 at the famous New York City auction house, Sotheby’s. But, what makes this artwork so interesting is the story behind its discovery.

This painting was dropped off (along with an old coffee pot and other household items) at a Goodwill thrift store in Easton, MD in March 2008. The owner did not know what was in their hands. It was not until the watchful eye of an employee at the store was struck by something about the painting. This was not the typical “paint by number” artwork that typically graced the doors of the thrift store. This painting was different. And indeed it was. This was yet another case of ‘unclaimed riches’.

Jesus Holds The Future In His Hands

In conclusion, we see that we have in our hands life given to us by God. And with that life the potential to access storehouses of heavenly riches. The riches of God’s love, His grace, His mercy and the greatest gift of all – eternal life. It is said that satan, the enemy of our soul, is not interested in our past or our present. The enemy is interested in our future.

Why? For one the god of this world is crafty, keenly shrewd and highly intelligent (remember he once was the highest ranking archangel?) and knows a lot of things. But, there is one area where he is ignorant, weak and vulnerable. What are we talking about here? We are talking about the future. The enemy does not know the future God holds for your tomorrows. It is beyond his capacity to discern God’s sovereign will for your life (I Cor 2:7-8). And with that he orchestrates every scheme imaginable to thwart one from the path leading to a bright future in Godly, kingdom business .

Secondly, the enemy has no future. We do. And he wants the one thing he does not have direct control over on this earth – your future. We have in our fingertips an inheritance, a Godly kingship freely available to anyone who will believe on the lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus has secured what Hebrews 5:9 calls an “eternal salvation”. Jesus’ work on the cross has wrought  a victory all of the world can partake of that includes untold riches. Don’t you want to claim yours?

Take a look in the mirror, you may be looking at a masterpiece waiting to be discovered on your hands. Turn it over to Jesus and see what His work of love, grace and mercy will do!

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 22:32