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Articles for Encouragement

Standing on the Promises of God

This is the view from my desk in my classroom.
The view from my desk.

Just ask anybody: spiritual warfare is intensifying. The devil knows his time is short, and he is seeking to wear out the saints. Now, we know that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. We know that. But when an attack comes at us full force, it can help to have a plan of action ready to go. An incident I had this week in my classroom involving disappearing and moving objects taught me the very best way to combat the worry, stress, and confusion the devil tries to bring: standing on the promises of God.

I teach in a public high school. At the beginning of the school year, I consecrated my classroom to the Lord. I asked for His protection and peace. And, I took a stand against any enemy spirits that might have wandered in over the summer with the various cleaning crews that came and went. As a general practice, I pray over my classroom often. Any time there is any kind of incident or strife in my classroom, I anoint again with oil. 

Disappearing and Moving Papers

The incident happened on a regular Thursday during the last block of the day. I had two kids come in to make up a test for me while my regular eighth-period was having class. I have two versions of the test, one green and one blue. The girl finished her green test, and I grabbed the answer keys out of the drawer where I keep them. At first I started to use the blue one, but I realized her test was green, so I put the blue one back in my drawer. I graded her test and put it into the gradebook. I thought I put the green key in the drawer with the blue one. A few minutes later, the boy finished his blue test, so I went to grab the key out of the drawer. The drawer was empty. Neither key was inside.

I started looking everywhere. As a teacher with lots of papers and a lifestyle of constant multi-tasking, sometimes I stack papers and put them in places they shouldn’t be. I looked in all my drawers as well as the drawers for the graded work where I put the tests when I’m done grading them. No keys. Frustrated but still thinking there was a rational explanation, I contacted another teacher on my team and asked to use her keys to make new ones. She brought them over, and I hole punched a new set. All the while, I was alternating playing the audio book for the novel we are reading and discussing it with the kids in my eighth-period. 

I used my friend’s key to grade the boy’s blue test. Then I put her two keys in that same top drawer where I always keep my keys. I put my new ones on top (I still had to finish taping them.) Later, I went to get my friend’s keys out, and they were NOT in the drawer. I started my search of drawers once again. I found them in the drawer below along with another, smaller key that had been “floating” in my top drawer. Needless to say I was quite freaked out. Either I was losing track of my actions, or something or someone was messing with me. I was standing there the whole time. No kid could have snagged the keys from my desk, much less moved them from desk drawer to desk drawer. Something was going on.

Searching for Answers But Finding More Questions

I spent the whole drive home praying and asking God to show me what He wanted me to see. After all, nothing happens to His children without His say-so. Did I have an open door that needed to be addressed? Was He trying to teach me a lesson? Did my run-in with the mouthy girl during fifth-period allow permission for the enemy to attack me? Were her words of anger when she realized I called her parents somehow responsible, either directly or indirectly?

I didn’t get any answers on the drive. When I got home, I went to get into my pajamas like I always do, and I noticed that the two or three lights left in the chandelier in my bedroom were out. The room was completely dark. I didn’t think anything about it until I went to my bathroom and saw that two of the four lights in my bathroom were out as well. Now the darkness felt coordinated.

Requesting Prayer

So I put out some requests for advice and prayer. First, I talked to my pastor and his wife. They assured me that the missing keys problem was probably just a mistake in stacking that the enemy was using to cause confusion, self-doubt, and distress. They acknowledged the lights were probably a direct attack and prayed for me to have peace and protection. I also talked to several close Christian friends online who have had supernatural experiences involving objects being moved and removed. 

A brother in Christ told me about a mutual friend and sister in Christ who was having trouble with objects being taken out of other children’s backpacks and being placed into her daughter’s bag (to frame her for stealing). A sister told me about a time when she went to turn the light on in the basement, but it was out. On closer inspection, the bulbs were laying on the ground, fully intact, directly below the fixture. She had been alone in the house at the time. Another sister told me about a recent incident that involved brain fog and flickering lights. Both of them stopped after a warfare prayer.

The Solution Was to Stand

In any case, no matter if some entity had moved my papers or simply used mis-stacked papers to upset me, the burned bulbs and the feeling of confusion, stress, and worry pointed to a real attack. So, when I got to my prayer closet that night, I had a heartfelt talk with God. I told Him that I knew that I was His child and that I have authority over entities that would seek to torment me.

The Bible says that I don’t have to fear because He is with me, and I believe that He will strengthen me and uphold me with His righteous right hand. I trust Him to be my protection, and I was going to stand on those promises. I played the song “Standing on the Promises of God” and then read my passages in the Old and New Testaments right at my bookmarks like I always do. 

After I finished, I had the idea to read Psalm 37. There were the words from my prayer: “Trust in the Lord…does not forsake His saints…They are preserved forever, But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him.” I fully believe that God uses His Word to speak to us just at the right time. I was encouraged and relieved. He had heard my prayer and confirmed my thoughts were from Him. Whatever had happened, He was in charge and on top of the whole situation.

He is With Us in Our Praise

Then a song popped into my mind to play before I left my closet. It’s my new favorite song and a song that praises and thanks God. “When I Think About the Lord” has the most amazing chorus: “Hallelujah, thank you Jesus. Lord You’re worthy of all the glory and all the honor, and all the praise. It makes me want to shout!” The Bible says that the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. When I worshipped the Lord, I could feel His presence with me. As I went to bed, I was not afraid, and I slept soundly until the next day. That next morning, I spent a few minutes re-sanctifying my classroom, and I had a super day.

Warfare is bound to happen, and as we get closer and closer to Jesus’ return, it will more than likely increase in scope and frequency. But when those attacks come, whether physical or mental, we must remember our position in Christ. The enemy is more powerful than we are, but he is nothing in the face of our God. So the next time you are under attack, remember to take authority in Jesus’ name, praise Him with your whole heart, and keep standing on the promises of God..

Check Out These Other Posts

If you like articles about spiritual warfare, try Spiritual Warfare: A Defeated Foe  in which God gives me a visual about the devil’s eventual demise. If you like more stories about school, try God Knows Even When You Don’t — So Pray in which prayers take care of a graffiti problem on campus.

Or, Check out my YouTube Channel where I will read all my posts to you while you do something else.

Articles for Encouragement

God Knows Even When You Don’t – So Pray!

Three public restroom stalls with green writing that says "Jesus Loves You" represents the place I prayed a prayer for a stranger only God knows.

As Christians, we pray every day. We just do. We pray for ourselves, our families, and our fellow Christians, as well as a variety of other people and situations that present themselves in our lives each day. God knows us and guides us, many times by those very prayers. So, when something happened at the school where I teach a couple of weeks ago that made me feel helpless in and of myself, I did the only thing I knew to do. I prayed. And that prayer made a difference for a stranger I may never know beyond the name I gave to her when I spoke to God: “Green Marker Girl.”

Disturbing Messages

I teach in a public high school in the DFW area. The school is well run, and the problems that come up on campus are dealt with swiftly in order to stop a snowball effect that can and does happen when discipline is ignored in schools. Restrooms are cleaned regularly, and stalls have always been kept pristine – until two weeks ago. It started with one stall in the girls’ restroom in my hall. The words were disgusting and written in green marker on the door of the stall I usually use. The next time I came in and used a different one, I noticed the same green writing. There was another dirty message about sexual activities done to a certain boy on campus. 

I called down to the office and left a message for the school secretary to have someone come upstairs and clean the walls. The four letter word used is pretty common to teens, but some of the other words this girl was writing might be “educating” some of the young freshmen who also use the facilities. The secretary was out, though, so nothing was done. By the next day, every stall I went into had green writing. After school, I talked to the night janitor myself. I specifically asked him to clean the stalls, and he did. 

No End in Sight

For a few hours the next day, the walls were clean and perfect once again. And then they weren’t. Green Marker Girl had struck again. This time, the writing came with smears of bodily fluids and messages of activities done there producing said mess. I was disgusted and distraught. Cleaning the stalls didn’t work. Cameras are not allowed inside the restrooms for good reason, and the cameras in the hall itself wouldn’t help catch someone who could come in with the marker hidden in a purse or backpack. There was really no way to stop this girl from writing on every stall, every day.

And then I thought a little more about Green Marker Girl herself. What must this girl’s life be like that she felt the need to do this? What demons must she have to prompt her to act out in a way that was so beyond normal behavior even for troubled teens? I had no idea who she was or even how to help, but God knows. So I prayed for her.

Prayers Make The Difference

I prayed for her to feel conviction, that God would impress upon her how wrong it was for her to be putting messages where other girls could be tainted by perversion. I also prayed that God would allow her to feel His love and peace, that she would know and understand that God loved her. Even if her situation was rough, I prayed she would think to turn to Him for comfort instead of acting out in such a way. Every time I came into the restroom, I would think of her and pray. The janitor cleaned the writing again that night. And then the writing stopped.

The stalls in my hall’s restroom have been graffiti-free this whole past week, but my prayers have continued. I keep praying for Green Marker Girl to know and feel the love of Jesus and for God to send people into her life to lead her closer to Him. I even pray that one day I might meet her as a sister in Christ in eternity.

We Are Never Helpless

Psalm 121 says that we should lift our eyes and look to the Lord for our help. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, and He is also actively involved in our lives. My personal prayer each and every day I walk into the school is for God to see me as one of His “guys on the ground” on my campus. Just like in Acts 18:10 when God told Paul that He had “many people in the city,” God knows where His people are, and I want Him to consider using me when He sees a need at my school. I want Him to send people and situations my way so I that can help others and bring glory to Him. 

We don’t have to know all the details in a given situation. Names are not important to a God who knows everything. We just have to pray to be in the right place at the right time for God to use us and to keep lifting people up to Him. We are never helpless. He is our help. And He can and does move on behalf of our prayers.

Interested in more articles about prayer? Check out Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray. It’s a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want. Or, see God Answered the Prayer I Did Not Pray. In it, God teaches me a lesson about leaning on Him for strength.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Points to Ponder

More of You, Less of Me: Let Me Be an NPC

Last week, I published a blog on The Mandela Effect and the Character of God. I got lots of comments on social media as well as on my YouTube channel where I read the blogs for people who like to listen while they do other things. One person on my video simply commented “NPC.” Unfamiliar with the acronym, I looked it up on the online urban dictionary. The definition hit me pretty hard. But what the man with the skull avatar meant as an insult to me has become my new fervent prayer: “More of you, less of me. Lord, let me be an NPC.”

What Is An “NPC”?

NPC is short for “non-player character.” It’s video game language for any character that is not controlled by an actual human player. Also called a “bot,” an NPC is like an “extra” in a movie. It responds to actions or dialogue from real players with a predetermined script. In the context of the Mandela Effect, in which some say that we are actually only participating in a simulated reality, NPCs are those people who cannot think objectively but simply repeat programmed “opinions.” It was a favorite insult on Twitter in 2018 when pro-Trump supporters put cartoon faces over the tops of news anchors who spouted liberal talking points.

The Implications

When I realized what the man was saying, I immediately understood two things. First, he was insulting me for not thinking for myself.  Second, in the context of who I am in Christ, I could take this as a great compliment. My article was about having faith that God is who the Bible says He is. Even more, it was about refusing to accept that He would act in a way contrary to that. I was repeating the truth of the Bible without deviating or stopping to entertain any possibilities apart from it.

In essence, I was refusing to think outside the biblical “box.” And I was encouraging others to do the same. It was an “aha” moment of sorts as I processed through the idea that my commitment to the Truth of the Bible meant that I didn’t want to think “for myself.” But no sooner had I patted myself on the back for being just an empty vessel, the Lord showed me that I’m not quite there just yet.

Not There Yet

That night was a Wednesday. As I drove to church for evening services, the song “Nobody” by Casting Crowns and Matthew West came on the radio. The lyrics go, “I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody who saved my soul…I’m living for the world to see nobody but Jesus.” Yes! I thought. I’m a nobody, a nameless Christian just believing what the Bible says and living the way God commands us to do. But God loves to use both irony and foreshadowing, and 1 Corinthians 10:12 pretty much sums up what happened next: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

It was about 20 minutes later during the service when an idea popped into my head to do something in worship that sounded incredibly embarrassing. The song leader was wrapping up the last song, and I knew I only had a couple of minutes to decide if I was going to do it or not. So the arguments started in my mind. Surely it can’t be God leading me to worship in a way that was outside my comfort zone. Maybe it’s just the devil trying to embarrass me. Maybe it’s simply a meaningless wild hair. If it is God, I want to submit, but why would God want me to do that? I was still arguing when the song ended and the pastor started his sermon.

Lesson Learned

The sermon was about Exodus 33:18 in which Moses, after receiving an answer to his prayer and a great compliment from God, didn’t just say “Thank you.” He asked to see God’s glory. He wanted more of God. But how many times do we just want what we want? We think God might be asking us to do something, but we misunderstand – or worse, refuse to submit to Him. Then another thought popped into my head: maybe I wasn’t such an empty vessel after all. I still had a ways to go before I was an NPC, simply speaking truth and responding without thought to the Master’s wishes. There were still way too many of my own thoughts, desires, and opinions rolling around up there. There was still way too much of me and not nearly enough of Him.

My New Prayer

So I prayed, “More of You, less of me. Lord, let me be an NPC.” I want to believe God and speak and act in a way that the Bible tells us to do. I want to die to self and live for God, responding without question when I believe it might be God doing the asking. Of course, we must always test the spirits. God will never suggest things that go against scripture. But sometimes He might want us to do things we don’t understand, things that might even cause us personal discomfort. But NPCs don’t get embarrassed or offended. They simply do what they are programmed to do without thought or argument. And that’s the way I want to be. 

Interested in more articles about prayer? Check out Make Mine Yours. It’s a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want. Or, see Hope for Lost Loved Ones: God’s Mercy In Trials in which God teaches me a new way to pray for lost loved ones.

Articles for Edification

The Mandela Effect and the Character of God

A lion and lamb basking in the sun represents the argument that the Mandela Effect changed the Bible from "lion will lie down with the lamb" to "wolf will lie down with the lamb."

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He doesn’t change. But there is a whole group of Christians out there right now who are convinced that the Bible does. They are calling it the Mandela Effect and are attributing the changes to a variety of possibilities. Some believe in multiple realities and a slide of consciousness from one to the next. Some say that it is the work of CERN, the great Hadron Collider, and a break through to a “mirror universe.” Others just believe the world is like a “holodeck” (to use a word from Star Trek) or a “matrix” (like the movie with the same name) with a glitch. Still others say it’s time travel or magic from the devil. Whatever the explanation, these Christians are sure that it is happening. And, they are slamming their Bibles shut in protest, claiming a “famine of the word of God.” But while these Christians will bring piece after piece of so-called “evidence” of the Bible’s “changes,” they are all ignoring one very important problem with any and all of these theories: the character of God.

What Is The Mandela Effect?

Fionna Broome coined the term “Mandela Effect” in 2009. It describes large groups of people all clearly remembering events that never happened. The name comes from a situation with political activist Nelson Mandela. While history records that he died in 2013, many people remember him dying in prison in the 1980’s. In fact, when comparing these false memories, Broome noticed there were similar details of the supposed funeral and a speech that his “widow” made.

But Mandela’s double funeral was just the beginning. As soon as people started hearing about the phenomenon, all of a sudden there were lots of examples. There were tons of tiny details that people were remembering very clearly one way but were finding out that they were not that way at all. The supposed changes involve characters and lines in movies, the spelling of names, and even the location of countries on the map. Whole groups of people remembered things that were simply not in historical evidence.

But the spelling of Berenstain Bears (versus Berenstein Bears) and the silver color of C-3PO’s leg (versus the all-gold version people remember) are minor compared to the “changes” people started to find in the Bible. The most famous one is Isaiah 11:6, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb…” (versus the lion and the lamb people remember, probably from the fact that Jesus is both the Lion and the Lamb). But there are also questions with the words “bottles” (used in the KJV when people remembered “wineskins” which is used in the NKJV and other versions) and “stuff” (which people argued was not a word in use at the time the Bible was written but was actually in the Oxford Dictionary as early as the 1400s.) 

Malevolent Bible Changes

Worse than that, people started finding words that they claim point to a new perversion in the Bible. For example, a website proclaiming supposed Bible changes said that the Bible is now condoning homosexuality. They cite the following verse. “Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left.” They say that it USED to say “Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.” As you will know if you search for these scriptures, the first one is actually Luke 17:35 and the second one is Matthew 24:41. They are BOTH in the Bible (and always have been). The gospel writers just chose a little bit different words to describe the same scenario.

Ridiculously enough, I also found a site that claims that the Bible now promotes the transgender agenda. It cites verses such as Isaiah 49:23 in the KJV. “And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers…” Now, as we all know, basic Bible learning is known as “milk.” Mature, deeper learning is known as “meat.” Is it so amazing that the King James Bible would use a metaphor here? John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible interprets the verse just that way. It says that Christian kings and queens would come “who feed the church with the milk of the word, and the breasts of ordinances.”

A Spiritual “Pull”

If you start to research this, first of all, please cover yourself with prayers of protection against deception. There is a real spiritual “pull” there that tells me that this whole idea comes straight from the enemy. Secondly, you will see terms like “the newest changes” as if this is some kind of ongoing project to rearrange and replace words throughout the Bible. You will also see verses you know, love, and remember, and claims that they have always read a completely different way than you know they have. It’s a frenzy; it’s a blindness. Once people believe this lie, they stop trusting everything in the Word of God. It leads people to paranoia, distress, and lack of faith in the things of God.

The Character of God

Put aside for a moment that the theories of “quantum pollution” and parallel universes are farfetched and like something straight out of science fiction. Ignore that people’s memories are fallible and susceptible to suggestion. Never mind that internet search engines and available information can be tampered with and pounding people’s brains with false information from memes, t-shirts, and broadcasts can make a big difference in how they remember things. Forget how different Bible versions and slightly different wording in different chapters can cause confusion. Dismiss people’s tendency to paraphrase when they can’t remember the exact words to a verse and the even greater tendency to repeat what people say, handing down verses and prayers in an oral tradition, instead of checking what the Bible actually reads. Discount all of these great explanations for why people are misremembering what the Bible says, and you are still left with the greatest problem with this theory: the character of God simply would not allow for His Word to be changed.

Is God Weak?

2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” 1 Peter 1:25 says that “the word of the Lord endures forever.” Hebrews 4:12 says that the “word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” John 10:35 says that “scripture cannot be set aside.” If the Bible is God-breathed, enduring forever, alive and active, and cannot be set aside, is God too weak to protect His Word and His own reputation for Truth? God forbid! The God who created the universe and calls the stars by name is well able to protect His own words. He is not at the mercy of quantum physics or the devil’s wiles. He is in control.

Is God Careless?

Ephesians 6:17 tells us that the sword of the spirit is the Word of God. We are in a battle. Most of the full armor of God is defensive, but the sword is the one offensive weapon that God gives us to fight the enemy. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, He fought using the Word. He used Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 6:16, and Deuteronomy 6:13 to withstand the enemy, and the enemy had to leave. It is the same with us today.

As believers, we stand on the promises God made in His word. We resist the devil, and he has to flee. Does God care so little about His children that He would allow someone or something to sabotage our weapon? Would He allow the very words that will vanquish the enemy to be changed little by little? God forbid! 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strong holds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God…”  

A Great Deception

It is the strangest thing talking to people who believe this great deception. The people simply refuse to answer the question as to why God would allow His word to be corrupted. When talking to someone on YouTube about the phenomenon, I commented that people should be very careful what they lend their ears to because to “and to you who hear, more will be given.” The person’s comment was that I didn’t even know the Bible. The actual verse read “for whoever has, to him more will be given.” But he was correcting me to Matthew 13:12 while I was quoting Mark 4:24

Likewise, people comment that the Bible warns about the Mandela Effect when it says that in the last days, there will be a famine of the word of God. But that isn’t what Amos 8:11 actually says. It says there will be a famine for HEARING the words of the Lord. These people are so worried about the Bible being changed by nefarious sources that they have stopped reading their Bibles altogether and are relying solely on what they remember. This absolutely contradicts what the Bible tells us to do. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding.”

Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.”  Ephesians 5:26 talks about the “washing of water by the word.” Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Besides being a sword to fight the enemy, faith, guidance, cleanliness, and protection from sin are just the start of the massive benefits to daily Bible reading. But when people start to question the Word of God, they are questioning the character of God as well. Those who say the Bible has been changed are falling into a trap of the enemy. They no longer trust God or His Word.

The Final Trilemma

CS Lewis popularized the “trilemma argument.” The argument goes that when you add up the things that Jesus Christ said and did when He was on earth, it was not possible that He was just a “nice man” or a “good teacher.” He either had to be a liar, deceiving others for His own gain, a lunatic, himself deceived into believing He was a deity, or Lord, God in the flesh. Given recorded history, there is no other alternative. I believe the same kind of trilemma exists with the so-called Mandela Effect and the character of God. Either God is weak, unable to protect His Word from the haphazard changes of the universe, He is careless, leaving His people vulnerable to fight the enemy with a defective weapon, or He is well able to protect both His people and His Word.

If you like articles heavy on scripture, try God’s Like Button: How to Know God Is Pleased. In it, we explore the scriptures that show what pleases God and the tangible evidence of His pleasure. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Articles for Edification

Are You Offering Your Sacrifice of Praise?

A girl lifting her arms in the sacrifice of praise.

God’s Old Covenant with the Jewish people worked on a system of sacrifice. People would gather their goods, and the priests would offer them to God at certain times each day or on special occasions. The sin sacrifice was a type and shadow of the New Covenant when Jesus Christ would become our one-time sacrifice for all sin. But what about all the other types of sacrifices? And with no Levitical line, who is supposed to be offering them up to God each day? 1 Peter 2:9 says that the priests are you and me. As such, we have a very specific task each day: to offer the sacrifice of praise.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

1 Peter 2:9

A Perfect Sacrifice

Old Testament offerings had to be spotless and without blemish. The Israelites couldn’t expect to please God by sacrificing lame animals or blighted grain. Everything had to be perfect and done with a heart that was devoted to God. In this way, it produced the “sweet aroma” that God was looking for. God could, and often did, reject offerings that were not perfect or that were given by hearts that were far from Him. That same concept is in action with believers today as we see that all the types of sacrifices have New Covenant counterparts.

Sin Offering

Without the shedding of blood, there will be no remission of sins. Jesus was and is forevermore our only offering for sins. He was sacrificed outside the camp on a tree just like the Israelites sacrificed animals and then took them outside the camp to burn the bodies on wood. Jesus paid the price of sin with His blood and sealed the New Covenant. Now, God can forgive you and me.

Burnt Offerings

Burnt offerings were meant to be totally burned up on the altar to God. They could be oxen, sheep, goats, or even turtledoves or pigeons. In every case, though, they were to be without blemish and burned completely.

As children of God, this represents our total dedication to God. Romans 12:1-2 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

Grain Offering

Since there was no blood involved, the grain offerings were always done along with the burnt offerings. These consisted of flour and oil, making a type of “bread.” When burned on the altar, it was to be mixed with Frankincense (an incense) that was burned with it. Finally, salt was to be present with every offering. Salt is a preservative and can endure very high heat.

The Word of God is our spiritual food, or bread. When read with the help of the Holy Spirit (symbolized by oil), this is an essential part of our worship every day. Another part of our worship is prayer. Revelation 5:8 says are our prayers are as incense to God. As believers, we are to be salt and light. We preserve the ways of God and withstand suffering that comes with naming the name of Jesus.

Peace Offering

Peace offerings were to be to be added on top of the burnt offering and grain offering. They were eaten by both the priests and the people presenting the offering to symbolize the unity of God’s people.

Romans 12:18 says “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” We are to strive for peace, especially with our brethren, and live in unity with them when it is possible.

Trespass Offering

Unlike the sin offering which covered the Adamic nature and sins done in ignorance, the trespass offering was to be made when there was a specific law broken. It came with restitution for any party harmed in the process. Not only would someone have to sacrifice an animal for stealing, for example, but the victim would be entitled to compensation for the crime.

Now as then, when we trespass against God, we must not only repent to God, but we must make things right with those we have harmed. Sin has consequences. Some of them are spiritual and can be forgiven with genuine repentance made possible by the blood sacrifice of Jesus. But some also need remedy in the natural. When we harm others, we must seek to restore the damage we have done.

The Sacrifice of Praise.

Jeremiah 17:26 speaks of bringing a sacrifice of praise, and Hebrews 13:15 seals the deal: 

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

Hebrews 13:15

Sacrifice means there is a cost. The Israelites had to give up valuable animals and grains to be right with God. Today, God asks only for our time and attention. But in our busy society of work and family obligations, not to mention the constant draw of entertainment and social media, pulling ourselves away to spend time wholeheartedly praising God can feel very much like a sacrifice. 

But is reading the Bible and praying every day and going to church each week enough? Is God still pleased when we sit in church thinking about work or skim the Bible quickly to get to the sweet sleep that seemed to elude us the night before? Are our offerings without blemish, or are they the equivalent of a lame bull or a sick lamb? Does God get the best of us, or do we find ourselves giving God “what’s left”?

Likewise, do we always praise God even when things aren’t going well in our lives? While it might be easy to praise Him in the good times, are we so quick to praise when we are sick, tired, hurt, or broke?

God Deserves Our Best

God has been so good to His children. He sacrificed His own life to pay the penalty for our sin. He goes before us, He fights for us, He provides for us, and He loves us. Every day, He deserves our time and attention. Every day He deserves our praise. Not just when we feel like it. Not just when things are good. And, not just in our minds, but with our lips, we must praise him “continually.”

We can sing songs in the car or around the house or in our prayer closet or at church. We can speak of Him to others at work, with our families, or while we are out and about. And, of course, we can pray out loud in the wonder and joy that we are His children and He is our God. Praising God gets the focus off ourselves and onto Him. It leads us into more humility as we realize how small we are comparison to One so great. It also brings us peace in knowing that our great God holds us in the palm of His hand.

In Psalm 34:1, David said, “I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Praise is our sacrifice to God, and it is up to us to make sure it is “perfect” by praising Him from a heart and mind that are fully focused on Him. In every situation,we must thank and exalt Him, for He is worthy.

If you like analogies, try It’s Not the Machine That Makes Us Clean. In it, we see that neither dishes nor Christians get clean without the washing of the Water. Or, try Message in the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change . It is an object lesson about changing for the better. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Testimonies

Suicide, a Teen, and a Priest on a Plane

Suicide is a rough topic. When it happens, it’s horrific. But even more often than people do it, they think about it. Some just toy with the idea, and some go as far as planning it out. Some really believe they want to die. Others just want people to pay attention to them long enough to make them want to live. When I was a teenager, the thought occurred to me more than once. When I confided in a stranger on a plane, he spoke the words that I have kept with me all these years. It’s a testimony and a message of hope for anyone struggling with the idea of suicide today.

My Situation as a Teen

From the time I was 12, I lived in Texas with my dad and step-mom.  Every summer and Christmas break, I would fly to Minnesota to spend time with my mom and step-dad and brother and sister. It was on one of those trips when I was about 16 that I found myself seated next to a priest. Well, he might have been a priest. He could have been a minister or a pastor. I just remember he wore a collar. Given the nearly three hour flight, we started talking, and for some reason, I opened up. I told him that I had recurring thoughts of suicide. 

I was an emotional kid who loved to write. For hours, I would sit in my bedroom and read or write poetry. Some of my poetry was pretty sad and dark. I was a believer, but I hadn’t given my whole life to Jesus yet, so I think that’s the way I processed my world. Anyway, as those sad thoughts were rolling around in my head and spilling out onto the page, the background music was 80’s hair band ballads. If you’re not familiar with the genre, they are basically slow songs done by heavy metal artists. Poison, Skid Row, Warrant, Tesla – songs of lost love and teen angst sung to a soulful, heavy guitar riff with pounding drum interludes. It was all very dramatic. So the thoughts came in.

Words I Won’t Forget

I don’t know why I shared those thoughts with my airplane seatmate, though. I certainly would never have told my own priest at the Greek Orthodox church I attended at the time. Maybe it is the same reason people put personal information online today. There is that little bit of anonymity that makes it okay to share your deepest secrets with a willing ear knowing that your family, your boss, and your friends in real life will never know. Anyway, after I finished talking, the man in the collar looked at me for a second, and then hit me with the words I will never forget.

You must be pretty important to God’s plan for Satan to work so hard to get rid of you.

Boom. Now, don’t take these words the wrong way. I don’t think I’m some big shot for God or anything. But the guy did have a point. Satan is a real adversary. He prowls about seeking whom he may devour. He was putting thoughts in my head that would take me off the path God had set for me and into the pits where he, himself, is headed. The enemy wanted me dead because I matter to God.

Comfort for Me and You

The words gave me comfort that I was important and hope that I had a future that was worth living for. To this day, I don’t really know if the guy on that plane was actually an angel, a good man of God, or just a guy who wanted me to shut up so he could sleep. What I do know, however, is that the message has stuck with me all these years. It’s something I held in my heart any time that the enemy tried those deadly whispers. And it’s something I now say to anyone who brings up the topic of suicide within my hearing today. 

If you are (or someone you know is) experiencing thoughts about suicide, you, too, are a target of the enemy. And you, too, are important to God and His plan. Satan has tipped his hand, and now you see all of his cards. He doesn’t win. He can’t win. So, fight knowing that Jesus has the victory, and rest knowing that you are loved.

Interested in another article about healing? Check out A Testimony of Healing After a Prayer in Faith. Or, try The Cure for Depression: Jesus is My Medicine, my testimony about how God healed me of depression and anxiety.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Closer Look at Scripture

God’s Chastening: Be a Martha, Not a Mary

Martha was upset when Mary wouldn't help her serve Jesus and His followers.

Most Christians are familiar with the scene in Luke 10:38-42 in which two sisters welcome Jesus into their home. Ever the hostess, Martha is busy cooking and cleaning for Jesus and His followers. She is working for her Master. Her sister Mary, on the other hand, chooses to spend her time sitting at Jesus’ feet. She is worshipping her Master. Most people read this as a story about priorities, and it is. But the events that happen next are often overlooked. It is there that we learn an even deeper lesson about God’s chastening and uncover which sister is really the better role model for believers today.

The Original Lesson

In that first scene in Luke 10, Martha is upset. She is working hard to accomplish the earthly tasks set before her. For years, I could relate a lot more to Martha than to Mary here. After all, day to day things have to be done; there is no getting around them. When more people help, it lessens the burden on the rest. But then as my own relationship with Jesus was strengthened, I realized that Mary was the smart one after all.

She had Jesus right there in her very own house. What other thing could possibly be more important than sitting at His feet and soaking up everything she possibly could? So, when Martha complains to Jesus that Mary isn’t helping her, Jesus chides her for her stress and lets her know that Mary is actually the one who is doing the right thing. She has “chosen the better part,” and He will not take that away from her.

The Next Scene

Fast forward to the next scene in John 11. Martha and Mary’s brother Lazarus has died.  As friends of the Messiah, they had sent for Him when their brother was ill, hoping that He could come to heal him. But Jesus had purposefully stayed away an extra two days in order to show the great miracle of resurrecting Lazarus from the dead. When He gets to their town of Bethany, Mary and Martha have a house full of people who were there to comfort them. It is the next verse that speaks volumes about the kind of servants the two sisters really were and gives a great lesson for us to learn.

Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.”

John 11:20

The Sisters’ Reactions

God corrects His children. That’s how we know that we are His and He loves us. When Jesus chided Martha in that first scene, she probably felt embarrassed and remorseful. (I know that feeling all too well, don’t you?) After all, she was doing her best to serve her Master. She had missed the mark, and Jesus corrected her. The Bible doesn’t say what happened next, but I imagine her taking off her apron at that very moment and using it to dab a tear trickling out of one eye as she sat down on His other side. He had chastened her, and she had to repent. But, after her brother died, and she heard Jesus was coming to town, she ran to meet Him.

Mary, on the other hand, “sat still in the house.” When she heard Jesus was coming to town after her brother was already dead, she didn’t make a move to greet Him. Was she upset? Was she wondering how Jesus could have possibly let her down after she had been so devoted to Him? She had sat for hours listening, and later, she was the one who anointed His feet with ointment and wiped her tears with her hair. She was a great and devoted follower who prioritized time with Him over all other things, but when something happened in her life that she didn’t understand, she refused to run to Him. Maybe she even took offense. 

It’s The End That Matters

In the Bible, it is never the beginning of thing that matters; it is always the end. Someone who starts as a great servant can fall away. Someone who gets it wrong but repents at God’s chastening can be restored. Now, despite her momentary hurt, Mary still belonged to Jesus. She came when Martha told her that He was calling for her. And, I’m sure when realized that Jesus was there to resurrect her brother, she probably repented of her earlier actions and apologized for doubting Him. I have been there too.

In fact, I don’t know about you, but I feel like at different times in my life, I have been both sisters at all points in this story. There are times when I’m the devoted one, forsaking everything just to sit at His feet. And there are times when I’m too busy serving Him to spend time with Him. Sometimes, I’m the one who runs to Him. And there have been times, to my shame, that I’m the one who has to repent for wondering how He could “let me down” in a time of need.

The Takeaway

In John 11:5, the Bible says that Jesus loved both of the sisters, but it mentions Martha by name. She listened to His correction and ran to Him in love. As Christians, we will all endure God’s chastening. It is in those times that, like Martha, we must repent and run to Him with our whole hearts, never taking offense when we don’t understand His ways. After all, He has our best interest at heart.

If you to look closely at scripture, try Three Simple Instructions From God to Us. In it, we look at Hebrews 3-4. Or, try Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job 28. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Testimonies

The Cure For Depression: Jesus is My Medicine

There was a time not so long ago that doctors made house calls. Sick people never had to leave the comfort of their own bedrooms. Instead, medical professionals would travel the distance to treat patients and write prescriptions. Not many doctors make house calls today, but there is one who still does. Jesus has been called the Great Physician because of the many people he healed during His earthly ministry. He still heals today, not just illness and injuries but also the sickness that is sin. This is the story of how God came for me and healed me. He was the cure for my depression and anxiety.

Lost and Hurting

When God found me, I was a mess. Newly divorced from my husband of over 17 years, I was depressed and anxious. I had been rejected. A lot. For the last seven of those years, my ex-husband had refused to say “I love you.” No matter how many times I said it to him, he just wouldn’t say those words. In fact, he made it quite clear that he didn’t. For the last few years, he had been making frequent trips to the Philippines for business. It was there that he had plenty of time to think of all the ways that I wasn’t the perfect woman for him. He did, in fact, find her a few years later in the form of a Filapena about 16 years his junior.

After the separation, I met my next husband very quickly. I was starved for affection, and my new man was loving and attentive. Despite the fact that I had always believed very sincerely in Jesus, praying and going to church, I had not given my entire life to Him yet. We started living together pretty quickly, even with my teenaged son still at home. The two didn’t always get along, and my son was dealing with his own issues. He got into drugs and made some stupid choices that hurt the whole family. My daughter had chosen to live with her father, and that hurt me deeply as well.

Heavy Medication Was My Solution

At that time, I was taking some pretty heavy medication for anxiety and depression. The doses started small when I was sad and lonely in my first marriage. But, over time, my system would get used to the drugs. Then it would take more and more to give me that “normal” feeling that everything wasn’t out of control. By the time I was set to be married again, I was up to 300 milligrams of Effexor XR a day. Two “red pills” at night kept me on an even keel during the days so I could function. If I forgot just one dose, however, I would jerk in the night and wake up groggy and disoriented. It was at that time that Jesus came for me.

But God Had Another Plan

First, God woke me up to the times that we are living in. He pulled off the veil so that I could see the truth behind government and Hollywood agendas bent on preparing the world for the coming one-world leader. He led me to prophecy sites and showed me that God doesn’t just listen, but He speaks to those who will hear. And then He called me into a deeper relationship with Him. I surrendered my life and started reading the Bible every day. He gave me His Holy Spirit, but that was just the beginning. He had to sweep my house.

I needed a lot of deliverance. While I was in the world, my sins gave Satan permission to bind and oppress me. I had opened doors that demons had felt free to waltz through. They had created strongholds in my life I didn’t even realize were there. In 2 Corinthians 10:4, the Bible speaks about warfare against those strongholds. It’s an active thing. Matthew 18:18 is all about binding and loosing. Again, it’s something we must do. The power to do it is in the name of Jesus Christ, but we must speak the words that rescind our permissions and close and lock the doors that Satan uses to gain access to our lives.

Steps to Freedom

I started by watching several Derek Prince deliverance videos, praying the prayers with him at the end. In Jesus’ name, I cast out any and all spirits that had attached to me. I took notes on the video for deliverance from generational curses, and then sat in my prayer closet one night and methodically went through every sin I could think of from both sides of my family that might be causing problems.

For over an hour, I prayed for the breaking of curses over myself and my children and rebuked, bound, and cast out all spirits of sexual sin, witchcraft, divination, addiction, depression, anxiety, pride, and more. I prayed prayers specifically to break soul ties to sever spiritual connections I had made through fornication. I learned to put on the full armor of God, and I was nightly in the Word of God, washing my soul with the pure water of Truth.

Free at Last

It was then that I got the idea to stop taking medicine. I asked the doctor for a lower dose, weaning slowly so as not to throw off my system. In about two months, I was down to just a quarter of my original dose every other day. And then I was free. I wasn’t taking any medicine for anxiety or depression, but I felt better than I ever had. I felt “normal” almost all the time. My relationship with Jesus was growing, and He was the one who filled my empty spaces. If I became sad or anxious, He calmed my fears with the promises He made in His Word to be with me and fight for me. He brought me peace and joy as I saw Him actively working in my life, changing me to be more like Him. 

There are a lot of reasons that people take medication for depression and anxiety, and I’m not saying that there is never a medical necessity for it. What I am saying, though, is that for me – and maybe others out there – the answer is not in a bottle. The answer is about allowing Jesus to come to you for treatment. He can heal your broken heart and clean and mend your fragmented soul.  He was my cure for depression. And to this day, He is my only medicine.

Interested in another article about healing? Check out A Testimony of Healing After a Prayer in Faith. Or, you might like this article about a new way to pray:  Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray. It’s a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Points to Ponder

The Judgement of God is Like a Merry-Go-Round

Multi-colored merry-go-round on a playground that represents the judgement of God.

If you were a child before the 1990’s or 2000’s, you probably remember merry-go-rounds. They were fast, and they were fun. They were also, apparently, lawsuit magnets for the many injuries sustained when centrifugal force met gravity. There are very few merry-go-rounds left in modern parks, but as I was pondering the latest warning from God’s watchmen one day, it occurred to me how a merry-go-round is an excellent analogy for the judgement of God.

Merry-Go-Rounds Pick Up Speed

The first thing I thought of is the fact that merry-go-rounds start slowly but pick up speed. I remember taking turns doing the running and the rush of adrenaline as I pushed as hard as I could and then hopped on at the last second. If you could get an adult to do the pushing, that was all the better. That last arm swoop after the run was such a rush as the spin got exponentially faster. 

The judgement of God also starts slowly as He gives the opportunity for people to repent. When we don’t, the natural consequence of living outside of God’s way of doing things is trouble. God is a God of justice and mercy. His judgement rolls both into one. He punishes nations so that distressed people will turn to Him for help. Historically, God has punished nations for sin using famine (lack of food), pestilence (illness), wild beasts (demonic entities), and the sword (war).

Think about how much more in-your-face evil has become in just the past few years. We are also hearing about old-time diseases like measles and tuberculosis making a comeback. Crop losses in the heartland this past summer have left empty shelves, and “rumors of war” are a daily occurrence. I don’t think it’s our imagination that the judgement of God is building up into one big “push” that will leave America spinning.

Scaredy Cats Sat in the Center

Second, everybody knows that different parts of the merry go round make for a very different riding experience. Little ones and scaredy cats always sat in the center. There was still a little bit of a whirl, but the ride was pretty safe if you held on tightly. Older kids, mavericks, and thrill seekers sat on the edge – or even on top. There, the spin was significantly faster, and the pull was intense. Even holding on didn’t necessarily guarantee that you would stay on when things got going fast. There was a risk involved. It was dangerous. 

When the judgement of God hits a nation, where we are in Him will give us a very different judgement experience. Those who fear God stay close to Him. We will still see the turmoil, but the ride will be a lot safer with His protection. Those who choose to stay far from God will feel the full force of the world’s spin. The world has a powerful pull on a regular day. When times are tough, people might choose to do things they would never do in ordinary circumstances if they haven’t already made the decision to do things God’s way. Even holding on, there may be some who fall (away). 

How Can We Position Ourselves?

Make no mistake, the judgement of God has already started in America and is picking up intensity. Now is the time to get closer to God. Now, before the last big swoop when things spin faster and start to seem out of control. Make time every day to read the Bible and spend time in His presence. Search yourself for areas of your life that you have held back from Him, and give Him your all. Practice leaning on Him and listening for His voice to guide you in every decision you make now so that when trouble comes, you will be protected in His shelter.

Do you like analogies? Try reading It’s Not the Machine That Makes Us Clean. It’s an article that compares a dishwasher to aspects of the Christian life. Or, try Born Again: All About That Butterfly Life. An article about being born again using the analogy of metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Closer Look at Scripture

A Different Interpretation of the Pearl of Great Price

A picture of a pearl of great price inside an oyster shell.
Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay 

The parables of the treasure hidden in a field and the pearl of great price are back to back in the book of Matthew. Both stories are prefaced with “The kingdom of heaven is like,” and both stories seem to tell the same tale. Someone finds something of great value and gives up everything to possess it. Like many people, I have always interpreted both of them to mean the same thing: when people find Jesus, they will give up everything worldly to follow Him. But recently I came across another interpretation for the pearl story that is also worth examining.

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price

Unlike the parable of the treasure hidden in a field, in which a man just happens upon some treasure, in the parable of the pearl of great price, a merchant is actively searching for something very specific. He is an expert in pearls and knows exactly what he is looking for. When he finds the most precious one, he must have it. He goes away and sells everything he has to buy that one pearl.

In the typical interpretation, the pearl is salvation in Jesus Christ, the same as the treasure. But why a pearl and not a ruby or a diamond? And why repeat the same exact idea twice in a row? What if, instead of the pearl being Jesus Christ, Jesus is the merchant? 

Jesus is the Merchant

Jesus is the one who does the seeking. In Luke 19:10, it says, “…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” He is the expert. He knows what He is doing. In fact, people aren’t even able to accept Him without God’s intervention, much less seek Him for themselves. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Jesus actively pursues us. He chooses us. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, “ But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

He seeks us, He chooses us, and He buys us with the greatest possible payment: His own life. We are precious to Him, bought with a price. We are His beloved bride. That makes the pearl in this parable the church. Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

The Church is the Pearl

As most people know, pearls are the only jewels that come from a living organism. They come from oysters. A pearl is made when something foreign, called an irritant, gets into the oyster’s shell and injures the soft tissue there. Instead of ejecting the particle, the oyster begins to coat it with something called “nacre,” a shiny, iridescent substance that we know of as pearl. Layer upon layer is secreted onto the nucleus, that original piece of debris, until the beautiful pearl is fully formed.

Think about it. The center of the pearl is some sort of debris, like dust or dirt. When God created Adam, He formed him out of the dust of the earth. The dirt hurts the oyster, much like original sin hurt God. It damages its flesh, like the marring of the skin of Jesus Christ at His crucifixion. Instead of ejecting the debris, thrusting it out and away from itself, the oyster’s solution was to cover over the painful object with its own substance. Layer upon layer of pearl covers over the dirt until that irritant is slowly transformed into something beautiful and valuable. 

We are the dirt: the foolish, weak, and base. After we are saved, the process of sanctification begins. Over time, reading the Word of God and applying it to ourselves, learning to hear God’s voice and obey, and spending time in the presence of God, we start to mature in Christ. He transforms us. We start to be less and less like our dirt-y self and more and more like our priceless Savior.

Ephesians 25-27 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

The Parables

Jesus spoke in parables so that those who would seek to know the truth would be able to discern it, while those who were indifferent would not understand. Some, He explained to His disciples. Some, like the pearl of great price, He left for us to discern for ourselves. When we read with the help of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is like a treasure map, leading us to precious nuggets of wisdom from above. And that, like the pearl, is priceless.

If you to look closely at scripture, try Three Simple Instructions From God to Us. In it, we look at Hebrews 3-4. Or, try Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job 28. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Special thanks to a dear brother in Christ for suggesting I look into this topic. Please check out his YouTube channel at Michael Samuel Smith where he looks at the prophetic story of Israel.