Like many people my age, I have several scars on my body. One large one across my chest is from breast cancer surgery a few years ago. There’s a small one on my upper arm and another small one on my face, both from skin cancer surgery some years before that.
One scar is a faded half-circle from an accident with a kitchen knife as a child – I was trying to slice myself a hunk of cheese and sliced my finger in the process. Another almost forgotten scar is a tiny circular hole on my neck from a BB gun shot as an even younger child, when a childhood pal’s carefully aimed shot bounced off something and hit me instead.
It missed anything vital, thankfully, but it bled like crazy. My playmate ran one way and I ran the other, and we both tried to keep my grandmother and…
Like sands through the hourglass…whose time is it, anyway?
Two days ago as I was getting dressed in my bedroom, I caught my watch in my shirt sleeve and the back popped off. After a bit I went into the kitchen where the light was better and managed to get the back replaced on the watch, but it didn’t start running – I thought the watch was damaged, never thought about the battery at the time.
But on the kitchen floor I saw this tiny little circle looking like black sewing thread. I picked it up, wondering what on earth it was and thinking about just throwing it away. Not knowing for sure what it was, though, I went back to the bedroom and put it with my watch in my jewelry box.
And then the thought “popped into my mind” that perhaps the battery had fallen out and that’s why the watch wouldn’t run. But the battery is quite tiny, I didn’t see it anywhere, so I just planned to buy a new one.
Later on in the kitchen, I was using the hand vac to clean up crumbs from the cats’ breakfast when I saw a little metal fleck go into the vacuum. Aha! Watch battery? I dumped out the almost empty vacuum, and sure enough that’s what it was. Into the drawer with the watch it went.
Yesterday after the weekly ladies’ prayer meeting I took the watch, battery and little black circle to the jewelry shop where I always get watch batteries.
I could hear Billy’s (shop owner) voice from the back room talking on the phone. He is seldom there but I have known him slightly for many years. He was one of our dependable volunteers when Tim and I worked with Christian Coalition in the 1990s.
A nice young woman took the watch, battery and little black circle, saying “That’s a gasket, it’s really important, it keeps the watch waterproof.” In just a few moments she had the battery back in place, the gasket back in place and the watch running like new. (No charge.)
Then she said, “I need Billy to check on this, the gasket seemed a bit stretched.” Billy finished his call, came out and said with a smile, “Long time no see!”
“Yes, it has been, how are you doing?” I asked him.
“Do you want the usual answer, or do you want the truth?” He asked. “The truth,” I answered, knowing suddenly that I knew what I knew – here was the reason for my watch adventure.
“I have a pinched nerve in my neck.”
I motioned for him to come closer and told him to turn around, which he did without question. Laying my hand lightly on the back of his neck, I prayed and commanded his spine to be completely healed, whole, and normal, from the top of his head to the base of his spine. He thanked me and I left, thanking the Lord that I had paid attention.
That’s only the second or third time in the last ten years that I had actually seen Billy…
“The times, they are a-changing.” Odd day, today. Odd atmosphere. Odd time frame. Out of sync somehow. Out of order.
For several nights in a row I’ve had dreams to remember again, dreams with actual story lines and spiritual components. There I am, sharing a testimony with someone I don’t know, helping someone in need, or traveling somewhere I don’t recognize. Suddenly I’m in an unfamiliar scene, speaking to people, helping somehow.
There’s an urgency in these dreams, as if events are too quickly unfolding and time is growing short, too short!
It’s Saturday, according to the calendar. According to the television news and the daily morning newspaper, today is Saturday. But it doesn’t feel like Saturday. Just like yesterday didn’t feel like Friday, or any particular day. It just feels odd. Like waiting for the other shoe to fall, odd.
Last night as I was praying, meditating and trying to keep my attention in check, I was having a lot of trouble. Thoughts went here, there and everywhere except where I wanted them to go.
People, places, things, events, situations, issues all interrupted. Spiritual, physical, political – if it had been on the internet, on the television news, in the newspaper, in conversations with family and friends, emails, no matter where, they all crowded in. Sometimes in gangs! Like impish brats they demanded attention, sometimes loudly, sometimes sneakily. Psst!
Suddenly I realized what was happening. I recognized the work of the enemy and began to demand his distracting minions to get out of my presence. As I started praising the Lord and thanking him instead of being distracted by all that intrusive negative stuff, they left (whining as they went). It was almost funny.
Catchy tune, poignant words. “What’s it all about, Alfie” is a 1966 Burt Barach song, written for the movie Alfie. It was a sad movie. I saw it when it first came out and was sorry I did.
But those words ring around in my head these days as I read so many prophecies, so many news stories, so many opinions from political pundits and religious experts.
Here’s another catchy tune, from 1971. It has better words, straight out of the Bible:
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”
In the last few weeks, I have watched the Holy Spirit demonstrate the kingdom of God in a variety of ways. Here’s a few instances:
A young college student was tormented by fear after his dad died in his sleep several months ago, terrified that his mother would also die suddenly and leave him an orphan. Unable to shake this dread, he was calling her at work multiple times a day just to be sure she was okay. They both knew he needed help. He needed deliverance. His mom came to me for help.
Several friends of his family gathered around him after church a couple of weeks ago. We commanded the tormenting spirit to leave and spoke God’s peace and joy to him, as the evil spirit of fear completely left him. Then we prayed for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he was. It has been marvelous to see what the Lord has been doing in his life since that morning. Freedom!
This past Sunday our pastor didn’t preach a usual sermon or teach a usual Bible lesson – he read long passages of scripture from Isaiah and Matthew, the prophecy and fulfillment of Jesus’ crucifixion.
“It was for you,” he said. “All of it was for you.” Then as he waited the Holy Spirit moved across the congregation, bringing several people forward for prayer. One young woman had decided to accept Jesus’ sacrifice and to say, “Yes, it was for me!” It was wonderful to join in praising God for her new life in Christ.
Not all the work of the kingdom I’ve been observing recently was in church altars or aisles. Last week in a local retail business, I had the privilege of laying hands on a 50 year old man for healing, and then for him to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He had recently been diagnosed with liver cancer and was facing weeks, perhaps months, of radiation and other therapies.
The power of God fell in that room. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so palpable, those observing were in tears – including me. We knew God was beginning something remarkable in him, even as he complies with his doctor’s plans for treatment. He was already an intercessor for his family and friends; now he will be interceding for his physicians, hospital staff, other patients and their families, all the new needy people he will encounter in this new chapter of his life.
The 54 year old son of friends had what should have been routine hernia surgery some weeks ago, but complications led to the build-up of fluid in his chest and then to non-healing of his surgical incision. Soon he was critically ill – an infection had developed in his blood.
He fell into a coma-like state and his family sent out an urgent request for intercession. His doctors weren’t optimistic for his recovery, but his family refused to be pessimistic as we spoke life, healing, wholeness, total and complete normal function to his body. Now only a short time later he is awake, talking and very hungry! After weeks of IV’s he is eating regular food – such a dramatic improvement that only the Lord can get the credit. And the glory!
In this last month there have been so many other opportunities, other occasions for the Lord to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are right toward him. He’s waiting for his people to take him where he wants to go and let him do what he wants to do. What he’s always done – demonstrate His kingdom.
If instead of looking at what’s wrong around us (in church, in government, in business, in family) let’s look at how we can manifest the kingdom of God in our part of the world. Letting Jesus use our eyes to look through is truly “eye-opening.” So many hurting people surround us every day, people who need help. God’s help. Our help.
When we see them that way, we’ll intervene. We’ll intercede. We’ll open our mouth and let the Holy Spirit fill it, extend our hand to convey God’s peace in the midst of turmoil. We’ll lay hands on the sick and see them recover. Speak the command and see demons flee.
The apostle Paul didn’t start out to be scripture writer. Or a Roman prisoner. Or a shipwreck survivor. Or a fugitive.
He didn’t intend to be anything but good at his job, using his life-long religious training. And he was good at his job – very good. Certain he was following God’s will, Paul became good at stomping out this new Way, this rebellious faction threatening the stability of his way of life.
Even though Paul’s way of life was not ideal, having to live under captivity and rule by a foreign, godless Roman king, it was relatively peaceful. A “Pharisee of the Pharisees,” well educated and trained by the renowned Gamaliel, Paul was at or near the top of his chosen profession. Influential. Powerful.
But then… on the road to Damascus… things changed. Over the next few years Paul went from being a Pharisee to a follower of Jesus…
When Jesus grew up, his home town was Nazareth in Galilee. Where is that, exactly? As you can see on these maps (one of Ancient Israel and the other of Modern Israel), it’s in the northern section of the country, west of the lower part of the Sea of Galilee.
Nazareth was one of those towns occupied by a mixture of people from many different places, not well thought of by the more elite. Being close to a trade route, travelers coming and going would stop here and some settled here. Some probably even intermarried into local families. Quite a lot is known about this little sort of disreputable town, home town of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
— Joseph Heller, Catch-22
I’ve been thinking about armor lately. The apostle Paul told the Ephesians, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Eph. 6:13)
You don’t wear armor to play tennis. Or golf. Or lay around on the beach. Or just to work in an office, or push a vacuum, or cook dinner.
Ordinary people doing ordinary jobs don’t even own armor. A hunting rifle, maybe, a utility knife, maybe. But surely not armor.
It got me to thinking. Who does wear armor? Who even owns armor? Hmm. Soldiers. People who are trained to fight, who know what armor is for and how to use it. People who know there’s going to be a…
Even Underdog! Then there’s the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Green Hornet, Red Rider, Zorro… not to mention my all-time favorite, the A-Team.
What do all these have in common? The demand for justice. Fairness. “What’s fair is fair.” Because people know what is right, what is fair, what is equitable.
From the very beginning, they knew that some things were wrong. Like killing, stealing, lying, destroying.
How did they know? They were created to know, and they were given to know. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)
Along the way (beginning in the Garden), God’s definitions of right and wrong were questioned, then perverted by some. And people still cry out for justice, as they have from the beginning. God himself said that Abel’s blood cried out from the ground (Genesis 4:10). The perversion of justice demanded a penalty – death. (Genesis 2:17, Romans 6:23)
The oldest of civilizations devised codes of laws and systems of justice, attempting to get back to the beginning, to the Garden, perhaps.
Back in the 1980’s when Tim and I first got involved in politics, an irate woman shouted at us in a meeting, “You can’t legislate morality!” She was angry at our stances on various issues. Especially our pro-life stances. (We were actively, vocally opposed to removing the pro-life plank from the state and national Republican Party platforms.)
“Sure you can,” I answered, when I could get a word in. “That’s what legislation does. The question is, whose morality are you going to legislate?” I may not have persuaded her that day, but I hope she thought more about my question. Whose morality? Whose justice?
In the scriptures, the words justice and righteousness come from the same root word. Justice is a principle and a system of right and wrong as defined by the Creator. Righteousness is a state of being right in God’s eyes, in his opinion.
God gets to define “right,” and he gets to decide who is right. (When the word is translated justice, another word – judgment – is often found in that verse, meaning the decision and legal declaration of justice.)
Is justice always doing the right thing, never doing the wrong thing? But I couldn’t live up to that standard, no matter how hard I tried. So then, what is justice, to God? What is righteousness?
“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3) Hebrews 11 lists the “Heroes of Faith,” men and women who believed what God said to them and thus were considered righteous by God.
Now, I believe, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (II Cor. 5:21). Jesus took the penalty of sin, instead of me.
Having their conscience seared as with a hot iron – I Timothy 4:2
Having their senses exercised to discern good and evil – Hebrews 5:14
Let justice roll – Amos 5:24
There is none good but God – Matthew 19:17
There is none righteous – Romans 3:10
Vengeance is mine, I will repay, said the Lord – Romans 12:19.
And he did. Jesus got the penalty in my place, satisfied God’s requirements of justice, and I get his grace instead.
My recent dreams have been like chapters from a novel I haven’t read, not scary, not fantastic, just bits of life going on as usual for somebody. Occasionally they contain someone I know, a relative or friend, but most of the time the “cast” are strangers to me.
While I generally recall these dreams when I first awake, I don’t remember much about them after a few minutes. They aren’t disturbing, not even annoying – they just are.
But this past Sunday night as I was preparing to sleep, I asked the Lord to give me something more spiritual, more useful in a dream. And He did.
I was standing in a room in a building, furniture scattered around as if an office was being furnished, the placement of chairs and tables and desks experimented with to get the best arrangement. I was talking to a young man who was…