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 80%

Eighty percent. What is significant about the number 80? It is said that 80% of all the athletes competing in any given Olympics  have absolutely no mathematical possibility of ever winning a medal. That is four out of every five athletes competing have no possible chance of ever winning against the one athlete who is far better trained or perhaps given the better opportunity for success because of the resources provided by his or her native country.

Olympic athletes may be all fairly comparable in talent and potential. But because of better training facilities and cash-enriched sports programs one athlete in five is given an advantage over the others who did not enjoy such “gold-gloved” treatment.

In the world of sports and in other competitive arenas participants are judged against the clock, the numbers “put up on the board” or from distant judges who tabulate performance metrics by what their eye can see.

But, God sees things differently. He sees things that go deeper than just surface skin, outward performance, scoreboards and scorecards. God sees the heart. The scales of judgement and scorekeeping in God’s kingdom are not based on what happens “to” us, “through” us, or “by” is, but rather what happens “in” us. These things are captured in agencies beyond the realm of the natural eye.

The gold medals awarded in His kingdom go to those who are maybe not the fastest, the most talented, the best looking, the most healthy, the most intelligent, the most resourceful, the most “connected” or the most charismatic.

God’s gold goes to those whose heart is right with Him, with their neighbor and with themselves. Those who have “made themselves ready”. Those who love the Lord with all the heart, mind soul and strength:

Galatians 5:14  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

What Motivates Me?

Being aware of this 80% phenomenon does not stop the athletes from less economically prosperous countries from proudly carrying their flag and marching into the opening Olympic ceremony in unison to represent their native country. Does it really matter to them that they are labeled amongst the 80%? Do they give up or put forth a half-hearted effort just because nothing short of a miracle will send them back home with a medal?

One overlooked fact is these athletes represent the best of their country and are the elite for their respective area of discipline. Without their representation their country would be forgotten, unnoticed, and forever undocumented as having participated in any given Olympic event.

Could it be that God’s method of judging is not based on performance but on motivation? God is a righteous judge. He sees everything. Nothing escapes Him. He sees who shows up or not (and the condition of our heart when we do!). He sees the opportunities we have been given and the degree to which those opportunities have been capitalized on. He also sees the stumbling blocks and hindrances and road-bumps hindering the journey and the opportunities squandered due to neglect or loss of passion.

What motivates my “going for the gold”? Is my motivation in “living for God” derived from family expectations? Is it to not let the program down (so to speak)? Or is it to escape from going to hell? Is that it, just to selfishly save my own hide from eternal banishment? Or maybe the motivation behind my Christian confession of faith is to soothe my conscience. My appearance on Sunday is the silver bullet to get me through another week of mulling over feelings of guilt, sins, failures or mistakes.

A writer who penned the following thought so succinctly describes the essence of the whole matter:

The motivation of a man’s life determines his worth“.

Motivation. It is all about motivation. Jesus stressed motivation. His apostles stressed motivation as being the determiner, the litmus test to make heaven’s award ceremony. Here are some examples:

1 Samuel 16:7  But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25:35-36, 40

Okay, I’m An Eighty-Percent’er, Now What Do I Do?

You have read the facts, heard the rumors and overheard the grapevine and it is confirmed you are definitely not in the 20% upper echelon. Now what? The question to ask is: What nation or what people group am I representing? Are you representing an ancestry peppered with broken marriages, drug addiction, criminal acts, alcoholism or eating disorders? Or maybe your lineage is laced with mental or physical hereditary illnesses/ diseases, infidels, unbelievers, anger issues, compulsive behavior, infidelity  or lust. What does Jesus have to say about it:

John 6:37  All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

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

If so, keep walking for God. Hold the banner of faith, godliness, humility, truth and God’s love high and march on.

Show up at the opening ceremony of God’s grace and mercy awaiting you each and every morning and let God work out the details. You are standing in the gap for those who are depending not on your performance, but on your passion, on your pure motivation and not your accumulation of earthly medals.

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. I Peter 5:7

After a vexing day at work, school or the cares of managing a home and family it might take all of your strength to practice a musical instrument till midnight to the point of competence and near mastery. It consumes what remains of your stamina to pray and study scriptures to assemble a meaningful Bible or Sunday school lesson. The remaining embers of energy left at the day’s end may be exhausted by visiting a sick or needy family member or friend.

If it is all done for the glory of God then so what? He deserves the glory for it all anyway and it is God alone who will be handing out the medals for the Olympians of His kingdom:

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13

And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. Revelation 21:6-7

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  

 

The Love Warrior

And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. Revelation 5:5  

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11:12

All good things in life are based on the foundation of love. The love of Jesus Christ touches everything good. God’s love is life’s “secret sauce” for spiritual growth and fruitfulness, true happiness, joy, peace, fulfillment, and harmony with others (a short list). The reverse is also true. Evil, base things, the beggarly elements, works done in darkness and the like share a commonality – a lack of true love.

When Jesus stepped upon the stage of this earthly drama he knew the odds were stacked against him. God understood it would take something very special, unique, radical, “out-of-the-box”,  disruptive, paradoxical and above human calculation to break through sin-hardened hearts, walls of prejudice, evil spirits and hopelessness. Jesus was up to the challenge. Jesus conquered the works of darkness and the sin of mankind with a full frontal assault with an amazing strategy; approach it with the weakness of a Lamb as The Love Warrior.

The Call For War

There was a serious problem in heaven. Imperfection surfaced within the perfect eternal realm we know as heaven (Ezekiel 28:15). God, being the perfect, eternal Being (Deu 32:4, II Sam 22:31, Ps 18:30), engaged the plan to restore order in heaven. The Word is not clear how long that took, but no doubt long enough for the rebellion to complete its course. The Lord works that way (Gen 15:16, Dan 8:23).

So, Lucifer, Heaven’s premiere worship leader, and one-third of his worship team were expelled from heaven and exiled to a realm encircling earth’s lower atmosphere:

In the sphere of which trespasses and sins at one time you ordered your behavior as dominated by the spirit of the age in this world system, as dominated by the leader of the authority of the lower atmosphere, the source also of the spirit that is now operating in the sons of the disobedience, Ephesians 2:2 (Wuest)

Church splits (and sometimes individual exodus’ for that matter) are always centered around worship. Always. How is that? Because people decide to worship the “god of self” instead of the God of Glory. Okay, let’s move on.

Now that heaven was rid of its rebellious blotch, the Lord encountered the dilemma of now dealing with the fallen archangel and his cohorts. And God, who is never confounded, confused, dismayed or dumbfounded had a plan for that too. In fact, His plan was ordained before the foundation of the world (John 17:24, I Peter 1:20, Rev 13:8). Enter front-center stage the One for whom all things were created (Is 40:21-28, John 1:3, Eph 3:9, Col 1:16, Rev 4:11) – the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ.

God rolled up His sleeves and went to war. Why? For love.

God who “is love” never knew what it was like to “be loved”, until now. God as the man Christ Jesus came to earth to fulfill and perfect what the law could not do – set the captives and prisoners of the earth free with the love of God (Is 43:10-13, Is 61:1, Lk 4:18, Ps 68:18, Eph 4:8).

Jesus Christ is The Love Warrior.

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10

And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. John 17:26

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. Luke 23:33–34

Jesus’ Love Warrior Boot Camp

Jesus has a knack for turning disciples into love warriors. One of Jesus’ prime examples was a man named John. John was a potential warrior, but his weapon of choice, his passion for revenge, needed some tweaking:

And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? Luke 9:54

Fire? From Heaven? To scorch the poor guys? Not Jesus’ MO, at least not yet. But, as usual when Jesus begins a work of grace, mercy and love on a subject they might as well surrender because love never fails (I Cor 13:8). And John did not let Jesus down.

John held one of Jesus’ three inner-circle gold cards. John had passion. John wanted to be close to the Master’s heart, so close as to hear what emanated from Jesus’ heart before it exited his mouth:

Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? John 21:20

You are going to hear some pretty amazing things when you are that close to God’s heart. What did John hear while living a life close to Jesus’ heart? It must have had a lot to do with love because John went on to write and reference more about love than any other writer in the Holy Bible:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. I John 4:7-8

Jesus saw John was a good candidate for becoming a Love Warrior.

There was another subject that showed some promise for becoming a Love Warrior. His name was Peter. Like John, Peter had passion and also packed some maligned, artful grit:

Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. John 18:10

Peter was aiming for Malchus’ head, not his ear. Peter was a changed man after the Day of Pentecost and went on to join the esteemed ranks of one of Jesus’ Love Warriors:

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: I Peter 1:8

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: I Peter 1:22

Jesus saw Peter was a good candidate for becoming a Love Warrior.

We cannot forget another one of Jesus’ love warriors. This one was a women named Mary Magdalene. The Bible refers to Mary as the women “out of whom went seven devils”.  I guess if one were to be demon possessed, seven devils might be the perfect number of choice. It is also noteworthy that Mary is referenced exactly twelve times in twelve verses in the KJV of the Holy Bible. Seven and twelve. Interesting.

Whatever Mary did in her past was now forgotten and superseded with a present and future centered around the Lord. Mary was a member of Jesus’ entourage of women who followed and ministered to Jesus (Luke 8:2). Who was there at Calvary? Mary (Jn 19:25).  Who was one the first ones to visit the tomb after Jesus’ crucifixion? Mary (Jn 20:1). Who was the first person Jesus appeared to after he rose from the dead? Mary (Mk 16:9). Who informed the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead? Mary (Lk 24:10).

Jesus saw Mary was a good candidate for becoming a Love Warrior.

Am I A Love Warrior For Jesus?

In conclusion, I need to ask myself: “Am I a love warrior for Jesus?” Are my thoughts and the meditations of my heart focused on the Kingdom of God, on the saving of souls, compassion towards the broken and weak, or does my life evolve around my needs, my wants and the pleasures of my flesh? Have I determined to seek “God’s own heart” like King David or the Apostle John?

Love Warriors always have a price to pay.

“Well, the Lord has not called me to be an apostle.” Maybe not. However, Jesus has called his church to an even higher calling – Kings and Priests unto God:

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:5-6

One thing is certain, Jesus came to this earth as a lamb, but he is not returning as one. Jesus will visit the second time as a lion, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. And he is coming as a warrior to judge the earth of its sin.

Until then, the Lord searches the earth looking for human hearts that will respond to his call to join him with his army of Love Warriors in The Name of Jesus. Be Blessed.

 

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.

 

Castles In The Sand

Castle 1Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Matthew 4:8-9

Building sandcastles is child’s play. Who has not built them either at the beach or in a sandbox in the backyard. A dream world of make-believe in your fingertips, a personal kingdom fashioned just to your liking and desires. Sandcastles – big, small, elaborate or just a row of simple pillars made from upside-down buckets of wet sand. Some things never change. The dreams just get deeper and more intense.

Cities of the world are built of the same stuff. Sand is the principle ingredient of concrete and glass. Skyscrapers are basically pillars of sand reaching the heavens, lifting and supporting its building occupants high above the earth. And the older we get it seems we prefer them bigger, higher and with fancier street names and fashionable zip codes.

The Bigger The Sandcastles The Better

It appears mankind has an innate, almost morbid proclivity to challenge God. The tendency surfaced long ago in the first created man, Adam. His legacy proceeded him for generations to include a man the Bible identifies as Nimrod:

And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and … Genesis 10:8-10

Nimrod was in the sandcastle business big time. The Bible refers to him as a “mighty hunter”. A mighty hunter not of the earth, but “before the LORD”. We never read anywhere where he ever hunted and killed an animal. But, he surely hunted after good real estate. There are nine cities listed in Genesis 10 attributed to him. And the man picked some prime real estate to build the greatest sandcastle of his day, what is commonly referred to as  the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:9).

In essence Nimrod said: “I will build a tower to reach the heavens. Just let God send another flood this way. I’ll teach Him. We’ll build a tower higher than God’s floodwaters can ever reach. Who needs the Lord and His protection?”

Jesus knows all things. He knew about this innate tendency within us to build sandcastles. You see, building them is easy for us. The material is plentiful, easily obtained, cheap and the results appear before our eyes almost instantaneously.

Unfortunately, the building of God’s kingdom does not work this way. God’s kingdom is not propagated with sand, but with three principle ingredients – faith, hope and love:

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Galatians 5:6

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. I Corinthians 13:13

And all three are invisible with only their aftereffects to show evidence of their presence. It is said that the Apostle Paul gauged a church’s maturity and spirituality using these three criteria. How strong is their faith, how deep is their hope and how pure is their love? These things are priceless. Jesus desires his people to move beyond the sandcastle business and into the business of things eternal:

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. Luke 21:27-28

Some Sandbox Rules

Building sandcastles and playing in a sandbox is a regulated industry. Within the sandbox are rules and regulations to follow.

Here is a list of the important ones:

1.  Play nice. Consider who you are playing with and who invited you here.
2. Stay on your side of the line and don’t play in my sand. Play in your own sand.
3. Don’t ever wreck or touch my work and sand creations. And I won’t touch yours either.
4. Never, never, never offend me by throwing sand, especially in my eyes!

Does something sound familiar here? We grow older in this life, but the rules of engagement do not seem to change. Maybe it is only this blogger, but we sometimes find ourselves playing by rules forged early in life. Sandbox rules. May the Lord help us grow up and to look up:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. I Corinthians 13:11

Built Upon A Rock

Most are familiar of the parable Jesus spoke concerning the foundation material upon which one builds their house:

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. Matthew 7:24-25

Jesus came to this earth not to deal with its sand, Jesus came to this earth with the distinct intention of dealing with souls. Jesus came with the anticipation of life waiting to happen – abundant life. How we fall so short sometimes in realizing God’s expectations of us and how we fall short in realizing our expectations of God. There was one man in particular mentioned in the Bible who “got it”. His name was Abraham.

Abraham was a man of faith. He simply believed God was who He said he was. And Abraham trusted Him. In fact his trust was so sure that he offered his only son Isaac upon an altar with the expectation that God would raise him from the dead if needed (Genesis 22:2). That is pure faith. Abraham’s faith did not end there. Abraham was not looking for a castle made of and  in sand. He was looking for a castle that would stand the test of time. He was looking for a castle where God was not only the architect, but God was also the ditch digger:

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Hebrews 11:8, 10

A city built on rock and not sand.

My Own Sandcastle

In conclusion, we must ask ourselves what am I building my hope and trust in this life on and where am I building it? A simple thought, but with profound repercussions. What foundation am I building my house upon? Sand or rock? We can claim many things as our own, but there is only one reference in the Holy Bible that mentions the true owner of God’s church on earth. Who is it? It’s found right here:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18

The Apostle Paul referred to many things as “My”: Gospel, Service, Helpers, Life, Kinsmen, Fellowprisoners, God, Brethren, Ways, Spirit, Work, Will, Liberty, Understanding, Soul, Joy, Children, Conversation, Body, Prayers, Record, Bonds, and Doctrine. Paul never penned the words “My Church”.

Jesus is the only one to refer to the church as “Mine”.  God’s church is His mighty fortress on the earth. The opening scripture shows the enemy’s strategy to point attention to kingdoms made of and built upon “sand” – sandcastles. What castle am I building today, the one on earth or the one forged upon ‘The Rock’ Christ Jesus spanning both earth and heaven?

 

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