The sun was brutal this summer.
The dusky sky gave no rain.
Days on end brought record heat.
Record drought.

And this was the result.


These dead sticks are supposed to be full of purple flowers.

I gave up on my flower gardens.
Even the grass wouldn't grow.
Everything was parched and brown.

And I got used to it.

So used to it that when the long-awaited rains finally came,
I scarcely noticed the subtle changes.



Amidst the dead,ugly sticks, new life had begun.
At first it was so low to the ground,
anyone would miss it.

But there was no excuse for not noticing
when the dead sticks began to bloom.



The beauty was there to see,
but I had stopped looking for it.


Have you gotten used to life being a white-knuckle event?
  • Have you stopped seeing the potential, the beauty, the eternal benefits in what you're doing?
  • Are you walking right past the gifts God has given you with scarcely a nod?
Take another look around your life.

  • Maybe the rains have come and you didn't notice.
  • Maybe that sour, negative attitude has become so much a part of you that you scarcely notice it anymore.
  • Maybe that victim mentality has outworn its welcome.
  • Maybe your words have started reflecting Satan's lies rather than the truth of God.

Is your life a flower garden that everyone can appreciate but you?
Isn't it time you enjoyed the flowers God has created for your enjoyment?
A flower is a terrible thing to waste.


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Copying God


I love this picture.

My son Sam was about 4, the age when he wanted to copy everything Dad did--including shaving hair that did not exist.

Notice his eyes. He's not even looking at his own reflection. He's watching Dad to see how it's done. Then he tries to copy it.

That's how we learn.

Jesus did the same thing. John 5:19 records these words: " Jesus said,
'I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does'."

That's hard for us to get our minds around. Jesus was fully God, even while on earth. So why would he say he could do nothing by himself? Why would he need to watch his Father to learn?

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then absolute obedience is humility perfected. Jesus set the example for us by not doing anything of his own initiative. He waited on his Father's timing and instruction.

Philippians chapter 2 lays out the road map for us when it instructs us to "have the same mindset that Jesus had when he set aside all rights as God and humbled himself to come to earth and take on flesh and blood."

Jesus is our model. If he attempted nothing on his own, then so much more should we take our cues only from God. When we take our eyes off Jesus and start acting of our own accord we are headed for trouble, just as Sam would have suffered if he'd set aside the plastic razor and picked up the one with the real blade.


  • How many of your problems were caused by you acting on your own initiative?
  • How much of your stress comes from burdens you've placed on yourself--drudgery that has no eternal value?
  • How much disillusionment or disappointment stems from your trying to "do God's work" in your own strength? Maybe He never asked you to do it.

Notice what Jesus says:
I only work when I see My Father already there.

  • What if you determined from this day forward you would take on only the tasks that God initiated?
  • What if you evaluated every item on your To-Do list in light of its eternal significance, eliminating those that don't matter?
  • What if you lived in such sync with the Holy Spirit that you heard His voice and only did what He asked you to do?
  • How much would that lighten your load?
Ever wonder how Jesus accomplished all that He did in only 3 years of ministry?

The secret: He never acted alone.

What if you did the same thing?




Whose Terms?

He twitched across the short lobby and shot me a grin.

I followed him into the counseling room and shut the door.

His hands shook and his knees knocked together as he tried unsuccessfully to hold my gaze.

"How high are you?" I began.


"Oh," he laughed and wiped a boney arm across his forehead. "No. I know how this looks, but I'm not high. No, I'm' always like this. Jis' nervous, I guess."


I lifted a brow and we took a seat.

He coughed. "I-I c-can see why you'd think that..."


"Are you clean?" I continued.

"Well, I'm gonna be honest with you, Ma'am. No, I-I did take a hit last night. Just one. Really small."


"Thank you for your honesty," I said. His continual jerking was making me tired.

I studied the blank page before me while he tried to fill out the intake sheet. I didn't need to write down my observations. I would remember this clearly when I typed up my session notes.

Meth addict. Heavy denial. Convinced he was fooling me and convinced he could have a beneficial counseling session while under the influence. He wanted what I had to offer, but he wanted it on his terms.

We spent a fruitless hour-and-a-half as I unsuccessfully urged him to get serious medical help. He shook his head patiently, as though he was speaking to a small, dim-witted child. "I can stop taking this any time. I just t-took a little to help with my depression."

"You are a man in shark-infested waters with a shark chewing off your leg. I am the Coast Guard. How smart is it to argue with the Coast Guard?"

He left with tears in his eyes. "I g-guess I hoped you could help me, tell me why I do this. Give me some tools. But I don't need no doctors, de-tox, or Celebrate Recovery. I know God can help me without all that."

I watched him stagger away, miss the door, and try to open the plate-glass window. My heart cried after him: Why won't you listen? I'd love to help you, but I can't like this.

We've all been like that meth addict at some point in our lives. We find ourselves in a pickle and cry out to God for help. He shows us His plan, His requirements for healing, the steps we must take to get back to sanity...and we balk.

"I want your help, God, but I want to do this my way."

It doesn't work like that. God watches us stagger away, miss the door, and try to open the plate glass window. And His heart breaks.

Satan convinces us we can hide our pet sins, our selfish choices, our willful goals from God and He won't care. After all, God is love so surely He will rush to help me when I call. Won't he?


And when He doesn't, we get angry. Pride calls the shots. Mankind has been trying to get to God on his own terms since the Garden and it has never worked. God offers all the hope, health, and healing you need. But only on His terms: drop the willful sin, humble yourself, stick to it, seek Him with all your heart.

It's easy to roll our eyes at the meth addict, but are you sitting there twitching and trying to convince God you're not as bad as He says you are? If you want help, it only comes His way.
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Which One?


He strode through the bright morning sunshine. A car or two rolled past, but the town mostly slept.

It was Sunday, after all. It had been a hard week. The coffee pots were timed for three hours later than usual.

The steeple soared from the vaulted roof of First Baptist Church. "Where is God?" boasted the crooked letters on the marquee.

He shook his head. Good question. Did they really not know?

Jay's Hardware was opening for business, and beside it Chloe's Cafe fed a record breakfast crowd. Truckers and farmers bent over morning papers while sweating waitresses kept everyone's coffee filled.

He paused to look at them through the speckled window. A few looked back with suspicion, then returned to their papers.

Across the street, First United Methodist looked closed until further notice. One car sat deserted in the shade of the children's wing. The pastor had been arrested for propositioning an undercover officer. The flock was trying to decide between an openly gay interim or a female transsexual. The vote was dividing the congregation.

A stone's throw away, Antioch Full Gospel needed a paint job. Two windows were boarded over. Didn't matter. No one went there anyway.

He kept walking, eying the stilled bells in St. Matthew's Catholic belfry. He used to love the sound of those bells. Last year the city council voted to stop the bell ringing except on Easter. Disturbed the peace or something.

He kicked an empty beer bottle against the curb. A used condom rolled with it. Peace?

On he walked. Church after church dotted corner after corner. Mid-American Christianity at its finest. In a couple of hours, the churches would begin to fill. Everyone would be at his or her best, smiles properly adjusted, masks in place. Songs would be sung while stomachs growled. Pages would be colored in Sunday School classes, Bible lessons taught with all the enthusiasm of a study on peat moss.

In the livelier churches, guitars would shriek, hands would wave in the air, and moods would lift in direct proportion to the performance of the band. The gray hairs would complain about the volume and the young would leave as sin-encrusted as they arrived. No one brought a Bible. Everyone left just as they had come in.

He stood at the edge of town and looked back. The sun bounced off the peaks and steeples of two dozen empty buildings. Emptier than they knew.

The Son of God had come to worship with his people and he had nowhere to go.

Eternity


The sun slips behind the golden wheat field and you feel it.
Ocean waves lap gently against on a deserted beach and you hear it.

Countless stars dot a black sky and you catch a glimpse.

An ancient woman, covered in wrinkles,
reaches for the hand of the man she's spent 80 years with
and for an instant, the light in her face
reminds you of something.


It's there and then it's gone, like an apparition. But you knew it. It was there. It was real. In that instant, it was more real than the material world.

Glimpses of eternity.

Our souls were created to live forever.
The breath of the living God brought them to life
and they struggle within the fleshly houses,
seeking opportunities to connect with what they know.

The eternal One breathed life into dust
and those living souls know their Creator,
regardless of what the mind tells them.


Voices strive to drown out that knowledge.
Education, philosophy, rationalization,
and outright denial shout "No" and seek other explanations,
but none is found.

Buried deep within every heart is that kernel of eternity,
the conviction that there is more,
and despite every attempt to kill it,
eternity springs to life
whenever it catches a glimpse of its reflection on earth.


  • Isn't it strange that though we may define it differently, we all know what beauty is?
  • We long to love and be loved.
  • There is within every human heart the desire to worship something bigger than ourselves, to show honor, respect, and reverence.

Mankind has done everything possible to erase this insistent yearning for eternity, but it does no good. We feel it anyway.

You can redefine it, explain it away, ignore it, or hate it
but the truth remains:
We are eternal and we know it.


Next time that insistent ache stirs in your chest, stop a moment.
Lift your hands and smile.

Whisper the secret you both know:

"I'm coming soon, God. We'll be together forever. Thank you that I am eternal."




Even Then Will I Praise


*I was sure by now

that You would have reached down

and wiped our tears away,


stepped in and saved the day.


But once again, I say, Amen---

And it's still raining.



As the thunder rolls

I barely hear Your whisper through the rain,

"I'm with you."


And as Your mercy falls, I raise my hands

And praise the God who gives and takes away.

--------------------------------------------

I'll praise You in this storm and I will lift my hands,

For You are who You are no matter where I am.


And every tear I've cried You hold in Your hand.

You never left my side, and though my heart is torn,

I will praise You in this storm.


*Praise You in This Storm, by Casting Crowns

To listen to this amazing song, click here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHlQ6sBEO9A

The Plan

"The persecution isn't working. Everywhere we've tried it, the 'Believers'--as they like to call themselves--just keep multiplying. We need a new strategy."

Legion glared at the demonic throng gathered for instruction.

Skank cleared his throat and his eyes flashed red. "I've got an idea, Sir. The latest report says that this idea is working better than our wildest nightmares.."


"Where?"

"America."

"Go ahead."

Skank snarled and his chest swelled as he took the floor. "You see, it's a new twist on our favorite tactic--deception. I fear we've overdone the false religion thing. They hardly believe anything anymore. Strangely enough, that very apathy often leads them right into the Enemy's hands. Their desperation drives them to Him."


Growls of disgust rippled through the sulfuric steam.


"But this deception," Skank continued. "Oh, it's delicious! So simple, too. It didn't work for many years because those who called themselves His followers knew what they were talking about. They read that despicable Book of His and put it into practice. It was easy to tell who followed him and who followed us.''


He rubbed his claws together and cackled. "But now! Sir, your infiltration of their school systems, entertainment, and government has done its job. They are churning out idiots by the thousands who have no idea what the Enemy says. The whole idea of sin has been so watered down it doesn't scare them anymore."


"Yes, yes, I know all that. Get to the point."


"What I mean is, I've trained scores of new demons in the art of spiritual deception and they are quick learners. We've got truckloads of blinders, earplugs, and heart hardeners and we know how to use them. Our latest marketing campaign is...Are you ready for this?"


"Yes, yes, get to it!"

"What's working so well in America is so simple it's brilliant. We've infiltrated the churches. We have targeted the ones who are searching, floundering, what-have-you, and simply told them that they are fine and that they already have a relationship with God and that anyone who doubts that is judgmental."

"That's it?"

"Yes! I know, it sounds crazy. How can that work, right? That horrid Book spells out in frightening clarity what it takes to have a real relationship with...with
Him. But they don't read it, see? It's hardly even preached anymore. We've hinted to the pastors that they should preach more encouraging, helpful sermons that anybody can benefit from. So now they're stressing that the Enemy loves everybody and all they have to do is mutter a prayer or some such nonsense and that's it! They're in!

"We've even got some of their main players writing books about how everybody is probably saved anyway without knowing it!"


"You're lying! No one would fall for that, even humans."

"No, it's true. I just checked with your prince over North America and got it straight from him."

"That's ludicrous. Don't they know that our Enemy is...how He is--
Eeooow! I can't even say the word. But don't they know how different from us the Enemy is? He hates sin. Hates us as we hate him. How can they be that easily fooled?"

Skank smirked and looked around. "Because the Believers are helping us."

A gasp echoed through the vast pit.


"They always have, but never in such numbers. They are so easily duped into misreading that Book that they shoot themselves in the foot. Dare I mention the Crusades? How about the Vatican? See what I mean? They've got churches all over the planet that would make any Pharisee proud. How I miss those guys..."

Legion snarled. "No
real Believer is gonna propagate your deception. Now you're deceived."

"Oh, but they already are, Sir! They've redefined love to mean not stepping on anyone's toes. They've reacted to the Pharisaical churches by putting out a "We're all okay" message. The hungry seekers suck it up like our delicious sludge. Just check, Sir. Take a look down there. The churches are packed with them!"


The curtain parted and Legion squinted into the light. In a moment, the curtain fell into place and he laughed. "Hm. Thought I'd seen it all. So they really buy, that do they? Nice tactic. Get them to substitute feelings of spirituality for a relationship with the Enemy. Great idea. We've got them talking about angels, mystical experiences, relying on childhood baptisms and we've got 'em!

"I see how this could work. With no power in their lives, no change in ownership, they go right on sinning all they like. He doesn't discipline them, because they're not His, so they think everything is fine."


He flashed yellow fangs at Skank. "I like it. Is this in place on every continent?"


"Yes sir! But we consider America our masterpiece. With their so-called freedom, it costs them nothing to sign on to the Enemy's plan, so we have more success there than anywhere else."

Legion shook his mane and sparks few. "I like it. Start now. Here are your orders: Keep them away from the actual Book. Convince them that they're too busy, they already know what it says, they go to church, and so on. In fact, encourage them to go to church. That will only further their deception. Convince them they are fine."

Skank cackled and clapped his claws together. A roar filled the pit as millions of black creatures took flight.

Legion settled back with a satisfied smirk. "You know, Skank. I've always hated you, but today you have my grudging admiration. Your depravity is worth commending. Deception like that will get you a kingdom soon. Our time to work is growing shorter, but as long as possible, keep up the destruction."


He chuckled. "You know what keeps me going, Skank? The thought that when the Enemy's Son goes to get his church, so few will be missing that the rest of the world will hardly notice!"

He shrieked. "Isn't that a delicious thought? Their so-called Rapture will take place and the churches will still be full of people! They won't even notice. Don't you love it?"

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’

Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7:21-23

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