GOODBYE MARTINIS — HELLO HOLY SPIRIT

God’s Word (Eccl. 3:11) tells us that our Creator has placed an emptiness in our lives that only He can fill satisfactorily, yet so many people choose instead to fill that hole with substitutes: alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, risk-taking, or other addictions such as excess work, service, exercise, or pleasure. He invites us to exchange our demons for His refreshing peace (Matt. 11:28). Here’s one man’s tale of redemption from blessed Martinis to blessed Holy Spirit.

Prov. 23:35 (NKJV): “They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”

Rom. 8:6 (NLT): “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”

Phil. 4:7 (CSB): “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

_________________________

MARTINIS ARE OUT; HOLY SPIRIT IS IN

FOR MOST OF MY LIFE, I lived without the Holy Spirit in my heart. I did not know the Lord in a personal way. 

IF I WORSHIPPED anything besides myself, it was an extra dry Bombay gin Martini, with properly chilled glass and garnished with a queen-sized olive.CHILLED_MARTINI

When I went to church, which was rare, it was more out of a sense of duty than of worship … and it certainly was not to offer thanksgiving or repent of sin!

Mostly, I slobbered over young attractive women, especially the ones who sat in church without a boyfriend groping at them throughout the service. I was a strong proponent of immodest clothing and loved watching the women play with their hair. 

For 20 years, comprising the time of my first marriage through the wilderness of divorce, I was a “devout Unitarian Universalist,” if there was such a thing. Once I became convinced the UU church was a dead end, I left … and I struggled some more.

DROWNING MY DEMONS

WHEN MY DEMONS became too numerous to handle, I turned to alcohol to deaden the pain. Frankly, that happened every day.

That was an “easy fix,” and, over the decades, I became very adapt at maintaining an adequate supply of gin and vermouth and olives, chilling my glasses to keep them at the ready, then chilling the gin in easy-to-pour bottles so I would not have to waste time mixing the liquid with ice cubes. Even the vermouth was stored in  the refrigerator. I never ran out of olives. 54. Broken-Heart-Hand

Within minutes of arriving home after work, I could fix a strong drink even during winter months when that drink would be made before I took off my coat and scarf.

As time went out, year after year, my life turned downhill, and my future turned bleaker. 

In lucid moments, before the sweet relief of alcohol dulled my senses, I looked into the crystal ball of looming retirement and could only see blackness — a broken man, solitary, with minimal funds, and no hope.

TURNING A CORNER

IN NOVEMBER 2006, my life’s journey turned a corner. I met a single woman for lunch, and she asked me, “Ward, do you have a church home?” I said I did not. She then gave me a testimony regarding the importance of church.

As she talked, I determined to try church provided it could be with her. She allowed me at first before ditching me because I was not a Christian. I left her church for another one and two years later met a woman who led me to yet a third church.

There, I met the Holy Spirit.47.Changed Hearts

Everything from the friendliness of the worshippers to the welcome coffee in the atrium to the upbeat praise and worship music to the doctrinally sound pastor’s message showed me a vision of God that I had never seen before.

Yet, through my stubbornness, it still took me another two years — four years from the time I was asked about having a church home — before I turned my life over to Jesus Christ and received the Holy Spirit into my heart.  That was November 2010 — 10 years ago this month. Happy Anniversary to me!

I begged Him to do what He long wanted to do — captain my life, steer me in the right direction, and restore love and peace to my troubled soul.

That day merely began the course correction. 

COMPLETE OVERHAUL UNDERWAY

THE LORD IMMEDIATELY went to work, healing my brokenness and giving me hope for a future, not just in this world but, more importantly, in the world of eternity.

Yes, wouldn’t you know, His first order of business was to convict me of alcohol abuse and encourage me, and then demand of me, that I stop drinking altogether. 

67.Jesus_Welcomes_AllThat involved another three-year struggle, but He won that battle, and now I’m free of the devil’s solution to my emptiness. At the same time, He introduced me to a Christian woman, who became my wife.

As each day, week, month, and year passes, I learn more and  more about God’s promises and how He wants to lead me (and all of His children) into an abundant life (John 10:10b).

Today’s text source speaks volumes into my heart. My sinful nature was leading me into death, and God’s Holy Spirit was the rescue mission to redeem me.

The Lord’s love for His children gives meaning to my life in a way that I never could have imagined before surrendering my will for my life to His will for my life. 

His Spirit fills my heart with joy even when I’m hurting. Even though I am not always happy or content, I am always joyful.

HEALING EVERYONE’S HEART

BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR HEART?

Do you fill the empty spaces with something other than God’s Holy Spirit? 

It could be alcohol … or it could be something else … illegal drugs, promiscuous sex, uncontrolled gambling, pursuit of pleasure, excessive devotion to work or service projects or exercise or children’s activities … anything that takes the place of our loving God.

image-14If so, remember that God said anything that takes His place in our hearts is wrong and sinful: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 NET) 

Yes, filling that place God intended for Himself to fill with anything other than His Holy Spirit is worshipping a false god. Satan would love to help you find a substitute to deaden the pain, when only God can provide a solution to heal the pain (Matt. 11:28).

If so, I invite you to claim the promises of our loving and gracious God, who loves each of us so much “that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16 NIV) to die for our sin that we might be reconciled to God and live … really and truly live.

~All the praise, honor, and glory
 go to the King of kings
 and Lord of lords.~

_________________________

PRAYER

OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, we thank You for loving us with a rich love that surpasses our understanding, even our imagination! We thank You for your rich mercy that floods us with grace. We thank You for your rich compassion that forgives our sins. We thank You for your rich generosity that gave us Your Son, who died for our sins and lives again so we, too, can live forever in Your presence. In His name we pray. AMEN

Meditation … CARING FOR ONE ANOTHER

Especially during times of stress, we in the body of Christ should serve as a model for gracious service. Jesus said He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for our sins. He commissioned us to consider the needs of others before our own. We can accomplish this by staying in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is renewed within us by prayer.

Especially during times of stress, we in the body of Christ should serve as a model for gracious service. Jesus said He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for our sins. He commissioned us to consider the needs of others before our own. We can accomplish this by staying in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is renewed within us by prayer.


Hebrews 12:15 (NLT) Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.

Hebrews 12:25 (NCV) So be careful and do not refuse to listen when God speaks.

Hebrews 3:15 (CSB) Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.


50. Open_Bible
God’s Holy Word speaks into our hearts … if we allow Him in.

THE WRITER OF HEBREWS gives two instructions: one to those who have received God’s redeeming grace and one to those who remain outside His grace.

To believers, he says we should care for one another so that no one will fail to receive “the grace of God.” To unbelievers, he admonishes them not to harden their hearts when they “hear his voice.”

WE OBEY THROUGH PRAYER

HOW DO WE, as believers, work to ensure that both instructions are followed?

Through prayer and only through prayer. We pray for our continued fellowship and obedience, and we pray for the opportunity to share the Gospel in word and deed with others.

Jesus reminded us (John 15) that we are to “abide” in Him and promised He would abide in us; that He is the vine, we are the branches, and that, without Him, we can do nothing.

ASK FOR OPEN HEARTS

SO, WE CANNOT guarantee or ensure that unbelievers will listen to the Good News when presented, but we can pray in advance that God will give us the words to say, the opportunity to say them, and receiving hearts to hear them.

The rest is up to God’s Holy Spirit and the unbeliever.

________________________

PRAYER

image-5

O LORD, help us to be faithful to Your command for our lives. Give us the people You want us to reach, the opportunity to reach them, the right words to say, and the right tone to say them, and give them open ears and willing hearts to listen and believe. We lift this prayer in the redeeming and sanctifying name of Jesus Christ, AMEN


GIDEON: MIGHTY WARRIOR

God knows that each one of us is weak, yet He has chosen to work through us to reach broken humanity. We cannot do it on our own, but He does not expect us to. Instead, He will empower us through the Holy Spirit. In His Bible, He shows us how He can take a simple man like Gideon and turn him into a mighty warrior.

When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12 NIV)

But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

Find blog posts at LoveAndGracetweets at Twitter.

Comments welcomed. Let’s share what God says to His saints.

GIDEON — YES, THAT GIDEON OF THE BIBLE — was not anyone’s idea of a gifted leader.

Yet, we read that an angel of the LORD appeared to him one day and called him “mighty warrior.”

62. Gideon_And_AngelWhen Gideon heard this word of affirmation, he replied with that famous battle cry: “Pardon me, my lord.” 

Hmm.

Not too commanding, was he?

“Pardon me, my lord” was the ancient world’s equivalent of our “Say what? You talkin’ to me?”

Let’s go back to the scene. Our hero, Gideon, is busy with the post-harvest chore of separating the wheat from the chaff. The best way the ancient world had for doing this was labor-intensive: the farmer stuck a pitchfork into the bale and threw it into the air, where the wind current would blow the lighter chaff away, thus separating it from the heavier wheat, which would fall into a heap.

Normally, this was done in a location where the wind currents were felt.

But Gideon was found in a winepress, which is a depression out of sight of those on the ground. The wind currents were not very strong there, but it afforded him sight protection from the enemy Midianites, who were prowling about.

If they saw Gideon, they probably would have run him through with a sword and taken the wheat.

+++

SO, HERE’S GIDEON HIDING from the Midianites, when an angel of the LORD comes down and sits under an oak tree. His greeting? “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”

At this point, Gideon chides the angel, reminding him that if the LORD were watching over Israel, if the LORD were doing His job the way Gideon thought He should, then why were the Israelites afraid for their lives. Heck, why was Gideon threshing wheat in a winepress.

Here’s the angel’s response: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Can you hold onto that question for a moment: “Am I not sending you?”

Where have we heard that one before?

Was it not Moses at the burning bush asking the LORD who should he say was sending him to free the Israelites from Egypt, and the LORD replied, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Ex. 3:14)

+++

GOD’S COMMANDS TO US ARE ACCOMPANIED BY GRACE.

He never sends us out without promising to be with us.

The LORD requires us to speak, think, and act according to His will. Our job, according to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), is to teach others that God has come into the world to save us from our rebellion, our hardness of heart, our human pride.

We are to take the message of redemption and forgiveness to a broken world.

All the while, He promises this: “Remember that I am always with you until the end of time.” (v. 20 GW)

62. RedemptionOften we fail. Some of us, quite often. Even when we do the right thing(s), our hearts might be looking for our glory, not His. So we repent, He forgives, He toughens us up, and we grow. Next time around, we do better. We’re stronger … until, again, we fail. The process repeats itself until we’re in glory with our LORD.

How comforting to hear our LORD’s promise to sustain us. He will not forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) nor leave us as orphans (John 14:18). He tells us not to be afraid because He will hold us up (Isaiah 41:13). When He has commanded us to do something, He says He will be with us while we do it (Joshua 1:9).

Our faith is essential to this process (Hebrews 11:1) for without faith, we cannot please Him (Hebrews 11:6).

+++

GOD CAN TAKE A WEAK MAN LIKE GIDEON and turn him into a mighty warrior, a warrior mighty in battle (Psalm 24:8). God’s will will prevail. His word goes out and accomplishes all that He has tasked it with. It will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).

Now, it becomes our turn to go, to be obedient, to share the Word of the LORD, to encourage others — in the name of Jesus Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. When the LORD asks whom shall He send, let’s be like the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV).

Well, Gideon was no Isaiah, so he didn’t quite say, “Okay, I’m your man.” Instead, he said, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh [one of 12 Israeli tribes], and I am the least in my family.”

That is where many of us stay. We know there’s Kingdom work to be done, but too often we feel we’re just not qualified to do it. The Lord certainly knows our limitations.

Most of us, if pressed, could readily point to someone else to take our place, someone else whom we think is much better equipped to handle the task the LORD has laid on our shoulders. In fact, we’re very eager to supply names, e-mail addresses, and mobile phone numbers — just to help out. We can be very helpful that way.

+++

WHEN WE LOOK TO THE BIBLE’S LIST of great leaders — Nehemiah, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel, Peter, Paul — we find that each one of them was prepared by the LORD to handle the task he was given before the task was assigned.

It’s not our position or title in a group that makes us a leader — not any more than expensive sneakers makes us an NBA star or nifty skates takes  us to the Stanley Cup.

62. Hockey skatesWhat makes a leader is character, and character is developed over time, usually starting with a vision, then denting that vision with adversity, then wrapping the result around perseverance. (Romans 5:3-5) (James 1:2-4)

Other examples of “leaders” were of lesser stuff. We think immediately of Barak, who would lead Israel into battle only if the female judge Deborah accompanied him.

Then, of course, there’s Gideon.

+++

THE BIBLE’S ACCOUNT OF GIDEON’S TRANSFORMATION is an interesting story.

First, Gideon places God’s messenger under a variety of tests or “proofs” that he is, indeed, sent from God. Of course, the angel passes every test with ease.

Then the LORD tells Gideon to assemble an army. He adds a caveat that if Gideon wants further proof that he was anointed by God, he could sneak up on the Midianites’ compound. When Gideon does — with a companion, of course — he hears the Midianites proclaiming their fear of Gideon and his army!

Yes, there’s also the winnowing down of Gideon’s troops from 30,000 to 300 because God said He wanted Gideon and the Israelites to know that it was He, the God of the Israelites, that delivered the enemy over, not the might of the Israelite army. (Judges 7:2)

First, God let every man afraid to go into battle to leave — that dropped the total by two-thirds — then He wanted only the men who lapped water by scooping it up in their hands instead of sticking their faces in the drink — that whittled most of the rest of them.

With 300 men, Gideon was fodder for a slaughter … except that the LORD’s mighty sword was raised on behalf of His people. They “won” the skirmish without fighting. The Midianites slaughtered one another.

After the battle, the Israelites wanted to crown Gideon their king, but he would have none of it. Not only would he not rule over them, he said, but neither would his son. “The Lord will rule over you,” he said. (Judges 8:23 NIV)

That often happens, too, with leadership.

Once you take the reigns for a time or two, the job is yours forever. People are quite content to let someone else handle the chores.

+++

EACH ONE OF US CAN BE A LEADER. To do that, we need to take ownership of our jobs. Of who we are and what we can do.

So, what is leadership?60. Faith

Leadership is character. It is not about being the boss or having one’s way. Sometimes, leadership is nothing more than looking around and seeing what needs to be done … and then offering to do it.

A leader — or one who aspires to be a leader — must dig into areas of character, priorities, attitude, and vision.

A leader has to discipline himself not only to set the agenda but sometimes to set the table for others to succeed.

Leadership is not just about our own enhancement or our position or our glory. It is not about attaining our will. It’s about sacrificial service.

Remember our LORD at the Last Supper when he got up from the table, wrapped his cloak around his waist, filled the wash basin, and kneeled down to wash the feet of His disciples — including, we presume, the feet of the man who, within hours, would betray Him.

+++

WHAT IS THE CALL IN OUR LIVES?

Where is the LORD’s cry in your life?

Has He been laying on your heart a task you think is too big for you, has He given you a word of encouragement that you’ve been hesitant to deliver, has He prepared you for a role in your life that He’s starting to unveil to you?

What does it take for you, for us, to take that first step of obedience?

John C. Maxwell, author of the book, Developing the Leader Within You 2.0, tells us this:

62. Bible_Leaders1. There are never enough leaders.

2. Every leader needs development.

>Moses spent 40 years being educated in the Pharoah’s house, plus 40 years of tending sheep in the desert;

>Joseph spent years in servitude to the Egyptian hierarchy and many years in prison;

>Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the Babylonian king;

>Paul was trained as a Pharisee before he was knocked to the ground by a bolt of light; and

>Jesus was … well, He had spent forever in the Trinity and then 40 days and nights being tempted by Satan.

Every leader needs encouragement, training, prayer, support. Are we giving each other that kind of encouragement? Are we coming alongside each of our brothers in prayer?

If we heed these lessons well, no one will end 2018 asking: Where have all the good leaders gone?

Instead, they’ll ask: Where have all these good leaders come from, and how can I become one of them?

+++

Cross Over BiblePRAYER: LORD, Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth and all creation, we give You all the honor and praise; O LORD, we take joy in worshipping You. Forgive us weaknesses, Father God; forgive us our hesitation to spread the Gospel of redemption; forgive us when we fail to honor You with our words and our deeds … knowing, O Father God, that at the root of this is our failure to honor You in our hearts. Equip us, O LORD, to be mighty warriors for the Kingdom, knowing that You’ll part the waters for us, that You’ll give us the words to say, and that You’ll hold our hands through every task, every abuse, every questions, every prayer request, every plea for understanding and help. LORD, love on us so mightily that we will love on those you place in our way. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen

QUESTIONS: 

  1. Do you feel God’s calling you to some task right now, something that seems just too big for you to handle? Are you thinking you’d like to recommend someone else for the job? Why do you suppose He chose you?
  2. What would it take for you to step out in faith and say, as Isaiah did, “Here I am, LORD, send me?” instead of what Gideon said, “Pardon me, my lord.”
  3. Who can you turn to for pray support and help in this matter? How can you pray for God’s will to be done on earth, this time through you?

Today Is … Loving Others as Christ Loves Us

The Bible tells us as followers of Christ to live lives that are worthy of respect so that we will reflect well on the Holy Spirit’s presence in our hearts. We’re also to be ready to testify to the life-changing power of Jesus’ love.

“My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring.” — 1 John 3:18 (NCV)

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” — 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)

God calls us to witness for Him 24/7/365. We are to live out the Gospel in how we act, think, and talk. While this includes sharing a word of encouragement with a brother or Cross Over Biblesister, and looking for opportunities to do so, it’s also about putting God’s Word to use in how we live our lives.

Then, when someone asks about the joy we feel, we should be ready to explain how Jesus Christ has changed our hearts. That’s when we share the Word in personal testimony.

QUESTION: Are you ready to share with someone — a family member, co-worker, neighbor, or even a stranger — your faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Whether you answered “yes” or “no,” could you take a moment and pray along with me and other readers of this post the following prayer for God’s guidance?

+++

PRAYER: O Gracious LORD, our Heavenly Father, we thank You for being a God of love and a God of mercy. Work on our hearts, O LORD, to turn them from stone to flesh, from hard hearts that are self-centered and prideful into hearts of love, hearts of mercy, hearts of service, hearts of encouragement, hearts of teaching, hearts of testimony. Lead us to serve You, for Your glory. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Trusting in the Lord’s Promises

The Lord holds out His promise of eternal life for those who believe in His Son and who hold on until the end, even though our earthly pathway may be rocky. He tells us to focus on the heavenly (that which is “unseen”) instead of the earthly (which is what we “see”). The “unseen” is eternal, but the “seen” is temporary.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

THIS MEDITATION HITS HOME.

Like many people who reach adulthood before accepting Jesus’ love and grace into their hearts, I responded to the Master’s promise of what He could do for me — that He would provide rest for my troubled soul and  eternal life with Him in Paradise.

FlowerSproutingInWood.jpegI did not “sign up” for the rest of it — spiritual warfare, condemnation from loved ones, or conviction for sinful thoughts and behavior. In other words, I wanted what Jesus could do for me, without thinking I would be called on to do anything in return.

Oh, yes, I assumed I would be made more aware of other people’s hurts and needs and maybe asked to do something about it, you know, from time to time. Nothing really inconvenient and probably nothing right away.

I had no idea. Continue reading “Trusting in the Lord’s Promises”

Touching Christ’s Cloak

Touching Jesus’ cloak. A simple act. Such power in his response. Problem brought; problem solved. What makes the transaction possible? Faith, trust, confidence. ‘Heal me, O Lord, if You will.’ ‘I will,’ He says. ‘Be healed.’ His healing power and our trusting faith yields positive results. Amen

 

Mark 6:56 (HCSB) Wherever He would go, into villages, towns, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged Him that they might touch just the tassel of His robe. And everyone who touched it was made well. 

 

THROUGHOUT THE GOSPELS, we read that common men and women sought just to touch the tassel of the Lord’s robe or let him lay hands on them to make them well, yet in every case, the illness or condition they wanted healed was limited to their physical  bodies.

Woman Touching Jesus
“She came up behind him and touched the edge of his clock, and immediately her bleeding stopped.” Luke 8:44 NIV

Only those religious leaders seeking to trip him asked the important questions about their souls. Even the disciples, who journeyed with him daily, failed to understand who He was (Mark 6:52).

How often do we ask the Lord for limited gifts — an end to sickness, a new job, grace in our marriage, strength during tragedy — when the King of the Universe longs to give us living water. We come so close to receiving everything, yet stop short because we don’t see beyond our immediate physical need.

The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians (3:20) that the Lord can give us “above and beyond all that we ask or think” and yet, because of our limited faith, we ask for so little. We fail to see the bigger picture.

So often we’re content to touch the Lord’s robe for immediate healing and ignore him when He calls us to follow him. His plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11; Ephesians 2:10) are far grander than what we seek.

++++

Prayer: Lord, forgive our limited and selfish visions. You offer us living water and a future glory that far surpasses the struggles and failures of our present lives, yet so often we neglect to ask your help in our daily walk. Too often, we’re content to ask for  earthly healing and then we’ll be good on our own. Help us to see our daily and constant need for you. Amen

Marcos 6:56 (EM) Dondequiera que entraba, ya sea en aldeas o ciudades o campos, ponían en las plazas a los que estaban enfermos, y le rogaban que sólo pudiesen tocar el borde de su manto. Y todos los que le tocaban quedaban sanos.