Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Faithfulness



Originally posted on 05/1/11 on Sudden Inspirations. I needed the message again today.

As I stood in the morning worship service on May 1, I was suddenly struck with a desire to thank God for His faithfulness. Not to thank him for the many blessings he's bestowed on me, nor for all that he has done for me over the course of my life – the healings, the comfort, the financial blessings, the urgent prayer requests he's answered. No, I simply felt it necessary to thank him for his faithfulness.

It was a new notion for me. Of course, God is faithful. I know that! The Bible is filled with statement after statement of this. But knowing that God is faithful is something I take for granted. I don't think I've ever thanked him for that.

You see, life is hard. It is filled with broken things – dreams, hopes, desires. Broken hearts, broken lives, broken relationships, broken toys. We get wounded. Life hurts. Things don't go our way. Life is unfair. People suffer and die. Life is cruel. It is a challenge at times to even get out of bed because facing life is like walking into the flames. We are consumed by the shear effort. Our minds scream at the searing pain of living each day. Life is unbelievably hard.

I wish I could tell you it gets easier. It doesn't. It gets harder. When you realize that your time is running out you begin to think about what you should have done that you didn't do. It could have made such a difference! And you stare into the mirror with a realization that you can't change it. Life is excruciatingly painful.

I've spent a long time attempting to reconcile this in my mind. Why? Why does it hurt so very much to live. There are all kinds of philosophical explanations and I will be frank in telling you. I don't care. Pick your view and put it in your pocket. It will not change a thing. Life will still be hard. And some times it will be so hard you won't think you can make it another day. And there are some who won't.

I am one of those people who keep clinging to meaning. I look for it in every single thing. I can't settle for a pat answer. It all means something. I get mad with God at times and we have some heated discussions. When Jerry died I dare say my questions got harder and my anger fiercer. I could find no answers for the cruelty of life, for the pain and misery that seemed to come with every day. I began to break beneath the onslaught. My mind at times simply couldn't keep up with all the terrible things pouring into it. The walls we erect to keep horror at bay crumbled and there were times I feared to go to sleep. I did not want to live another day in this pain but I didn't want to die either. And when I saw how easy dying was, I was shocked to my soul. Living is so very hard. Dying is simple.

For the last two years I have repeatedly read a particular passage of scripture and hung onto it as if it were a lift preserver. Perhaps it was. I even have a bookmark in the section so I can find it immediately. I don't suppose anyone else would see any comfort in it. Some would call it depressing. The author was a man who had a right to be depressed. He was threatened with death several times by his own people, thrown into a dungeon, rescued only to be taken hostage, and eventually killed in a foreign land. It doesn't get much worse than that. But he tells a story that is eerily familiar.

Lamentations 3:1-41
I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.
He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.
Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.
My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones.
He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.
He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.
He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy.
Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.
He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked.
He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places.
He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate.
He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.
He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins.
I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day.
He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood.
He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes.
And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:
Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.
My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
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.
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.........................
..................For the Lord will not cast off for ever:
But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,
To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,
To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.
Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?
Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?
Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.

When I fail, He never fails. When I turn away, He never walks away. When I throw up my hands in defeat, He never gives up. When I am consumed by life and can't remember where I am, He never forgets me. When I have reached the end of the road and simply want to lie down and rest, He never grows tired.

(Deu 7:9) Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

(Psa 36:5) Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
(Psa 89:1) I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.

(Psa 89:2) For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.

(Psa 119:90) Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.
(Isa 25:1) O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.

(Lam 3:23) They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

I am so thankful that God is faithful.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Sacred Spaces

My Mama always said pick your friends wisely because you're known by the company you keep.  If you've ever had a weekend guest, you know they always leave something behind that you have to ship back to them. But they may also leave that unseen baggage and you can't just mail it or toss it out with the trash. 

So, who comes into your house? Do you realize they bring all their negativity with them? If you bring a drug addict, a drunk, or some other corrupt or immoral person in your home, you're bringing all the things that make them who they are in with them. They have baggage, unseen spiritual baggage.

People don't "leave" things intentionally and weeks may pass before you realize someone left something behind. For example, negativity is contagious. If you hang around someone with a bad attitude you "catch" it or you begin to feel the effects of it: stress, frustration, depression, even anger. Hours or even days after the person is gone, you can experience the side effects. These could all be the results of spirits that have invaded a space and are affecting you. 

Spirits attach themselves to people and objects because it is much easier to move from place to place and person to person. They can "feed" off one person until they can connect with another, and like mice, if there's one, there could be more. And even though they move into a new "space" they're leaving pieces behind to continue to oppress the host. 

As a Christian, spirits can't just latch on to you or reside in your space ...unless you invite them or leave an opening for them to access. People "invite" attachment by their thought processes, actions, associations, and acceptance of unholy principals. Access is passive permission. You're may not open the door but you didn't lock it, either. Insurance companies recognize this as allowing theft of property and may not pay out on a claim because you didn't take due diligence. This is why Paul stressed renewing your mind (Rom. 12:1). Why "every thought" has to be brought into captivity (1 Cor. 10:4-5.) 

Another vehicle for spiritual invasion can be objects in your possession. Yes, I'm aware it sounds crazy. Native Americans knew and understood this connection of objects and the spirit world. They even believed spirits, good and bad, could inhabit animals. Many other cultures around the world have similar beliefs. If you're up on new age religion, animism, and several other nature religions you know they believe in "sacred" objects. So it isn't just an aberration of mine. And it isn't a hokey religion. It's fact. It can be such a strong, instinctive belief that, regardless of religion or lack thereof, some people will never buy or rent any property where someone has died, particularly violent death. They believe spirits are attached to the property.

Wikipedia describes a totem as "a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family,clan, lineage, or tribe". Virtually anything can be a totem. Look around your house. What identifies you? Family photos. Academic awards. Souvenirs from travels of myself and others. Totems of one type with no real spiritual context. Just symbols of lineage, achievement, and interest. 

Then, there's framed scriptures on my walls and tables. They identify my spiritual lineage. They are sacred objects, another type of totem. As a Christian, I believe that scripture can be a conduit by which heavenly spirits are able to access my home. For example: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." Prov. 3:5-6 sits in my living room where Sarah does her homework. Spirits of faith, understanding, and direction, I believe, are connected to that verse.  Every person who comes into my home is exposed to them.

Imagine a house that contains pornographic material. They too are a conduit. Spirits are attached to such material and these items identify the "owner" and the "owned". You don't own them. They own you. You gave them rights of ownership. You handed them the deed to you and all your possessions the moment you invited them into your space. They have access to all you love because they have access to you and your mind. Every person you come in contact with is exposed to them. This is the reason these kinds of spirits are the most devastating and the most difficult to eradicate. They own you and only repossession and transfer of ownership can fix it.

What you let into your home is completely in your control. It is a choice. This doesn't mean you have to bar your windows, lock your doors, and put up a fence of crosses. What it does mean is you have to be vigilante. Before you open your home to anyone, examine what you know about them. Are there things in their home: objects, actions, relationships, that you disapprove of or disagree with on principal? If so, you have to be sure you're taking appropriate steps to protect your home and your family from what they leave behind when they leave your home. If you don't know them, take the appropriate steps to cover your home in prayer ahead of time, keeping in mind that they may be totally oblivious to any spiritual connections.

When my oldest son was about 13 or 14 a new friend of his came to visit after school. He didn't have many friends so I welcomed the boy. I had never met him before but he stayed for hours. After he left, my son went to his room for the night. I walked down the hallway, past his room. The door was open and he was sitting on his bed with his head down. In my head, clear as a bell, something said, "Your son has pornography in his room." I brushed the thought aside as foolish and went to my room. 

Moments later the same voice loudly stated that there was pornography in my son's room. That voice I knew. Immediately, I stepped across the hall and into his room and there on his bed lay a pornographic magazine that his "friend" had brought him. I was horrified and angrier than I had ever been. I didn't allow such people in my home and certainly not such materials. That boy's mother got a call from me at 7 a.m. the next morning and was told to never come back to my house again. You may say that all kids do such stupid things. Maybe they do but not in my house. 

The key to access is in your hand. My son had invited that boy to visit. I had opened the door and welcomed someone into my house, unaware of what he brought with him. I should have questioned the boy, talked to him. But he was a kid. The voice that warned me after the fact could have warned me before the damage was done. Thankfully, I was in tune enough to hear the warning when I did. I have to tell you it was the weirdest thing I've ever experienced. 

I have an uncanny ability to know when someone has been in my house. More than once I've called my son or my sister to ask if they came by the house. More than once they said yes. They may have just walked through the house but for some reason they've left a little bit of their presence that "bumps" into me. Call me whatever you like, I don't care. I think its a bit crazy myself. I can't change it. Some of you have the same ability.

Often I pray over my property, house, and land. I've prayed before certain people visit my home and after they leave. I've symbolically swept my house with prayer. I've anointed doors and windows when something seemed off in my house. I pay attention to the space I live in and those I visit. As a result, I never experience fear to be in my house alone. However, there are times I'm very uncomfortable in certain locations and around certain people. Even people I like. Remember, just because you like someone doesn't mean there's not baggage. Even your family members can be carrying around trunks of stuff. 

Use wisdom and caution in your associations. Don't assume you have to invite just anyone into your home. Don't bring them home until you've prayed over your space. You have to keep things locked down. If you realize that there are some people who leave behind a very bad presence, they you can take precautions that it doesn't stay in your space. If you're listening, you'll get the warning signals. 

Don't make a habit of hanging out with people who do not share your philosophies. Not because you don't like them but light doesn't fellowship with darkness. I have a lot of friends of different beliefs and I really like them. I love talking to them. But I'm wise enough to know there are boundaries that I will not cross nor allow others to cross. I think they're wise enough to know that as well. I respect their right to be who they are and I think they respect me. I don't get asked to go out for "drinks" but I've been invited to a lot of lunches.

"But Jesus hung out with sinners." He did. But they followed HIM. He did not follow them. He didn't take anyone, as far as Scripture tells, home with him. He had lunches, too. He went to the streets where they were and to THEIR home and converted them by his witness. When they had baggage, he helped them get rid of it. Remember the man in the tombs? And if Jesus left anything, it was his peace. Shalom means Peace and is a greeting in Hebrew. "My peace I leave you." There is a reason for that. Jesus knew that when you enter someone's space you bring baggage and you leave baggage. All he brought was his peace, which he left as a gift, turning an ordinary house into a sacred space.