A Time and Place to Linger

February 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

Christmas 2012 is over. The decorations cleaned and stored for next year, and the residue of the season swept into the vacuum, the trash or the washing machine. Tablecloths, dishtowels, and napkins, however need a deeper cleansing. A time and place for them to linger, in a sink filled with hot water and Oxi-Clean to remove the stains inflicted by holiday festivities

If you’re like me, you’ve incurred a few stains during the holidays too. The stain and depression of remembering those not with you at the table or around the tree. The stain of disappointments and failures. Unfulfilled expectations. Relationships gone awry. The stain of guilt and fear of what has been and what’s yet to come.

So what’s next? Do we rush into the New Year, counting the days ‘til Easter, worrying over the state of our nation, our family, our world? Thinking of Resurrection Sunday and spring, attempting to sweep the stains under the carpet of life and just keep on keeping on?

The sun peeked through my window this morning and I found my mind skipping along the precipice of depression. A deep sadness burrowed deep in my soul. ‘Til I heard the Spirit whispering words I have typed throughout the holidays. Born to Die.

Yes, we’ve celebrated the miracle of the virgin birth of God’s Lamb. But that baby, that Lamb was born to die. And the Spirit whispered again—linger here.

Linger at the Cross. Don’t rush to the empty tomb—linger at the foot of the Calvary.

But I don’t like to linger anywhere, much less at the Cross. It’s a hard place. It’s ugly. And it’s uncomfortable. I see so much suffering every day. I’ve grown tired and desensitized to blood and suffering. I am war weary—at home and across the world.

The Spirit said, “all the more reason you must learn to linger at the Cross and contemplate the Lamb, born to die so that you might live in His joy, His peace and His love.”

That old hymn played through the corridors of my mind. “There’s power, power, wonder working power. In the blood of the Lamb.” Then another melody stirred. “There is a fountain, filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains…”

I thought about those linens soaking in the sink. In the power of Oxi-Clean. All their stains disappearing. A rapid cycle through the washing machine didn’t remove the smudges—they needed soaking. They needed to linger in the power of a stain remover.

The Spirit took my face and turned my eyes to the miraculous power of the blood of Jesus. The power that His blood has to remove all the stains sin has ground into the pages of my life. I needed to linger and soak in that fountain of my Lord’s powerful blood this morning. Every morning and remember the Cross.

Our journey through life on earth is messy. The filth of rebellious choices, a prideful heart, and selfish actions and what-ifs that had clung to my blemished soul and seeped to the surface needed a good soaking—a daily soaking in the deluge that still flows from the Cross.

Stop awhile and ponder the Cross and the love of a Savior—born to die—for you and me. Linger there. Allow the depression and weariness to vaporize in the power of the blood of the Lamb—our Savior, our Lord and soon coming King.

Behold the Lamb!

“And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came, and He took (the book) out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne…and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb…and they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy art Thou to take the book and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Revelation 5:10 NAS).

Words, Words, Words

February 9, 2018 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

Words surround us. Heaped in our ears and piled in stacks under our feet. From hands-free devices, to flat screens TVs. Phones. And books. Zillions of them. A constant barrage of words. All day, every day, and into the night.

But who listens? Does anyone really hear? Anything?

If you’re a parent, you’ve asked these questions concerning your children, your spouse, and probably your friends. So why waste the time and energy to speak?

Because the Lord Jesus Christ gave us the ability to speak and the command to go and tell.

“So Lord, what are we supposed to tell them? And how are we supposed to say it?”
Jesus instructed, “Go and make disciples.”

Preachers go to seminary to learn apologetics—how to present God’s Word to their congregations. I don’t have all those degrees. I’m just a normal person. I don’t know what to say.

How did those first century Christians make disciples? They didn’t have the written word. Yet their numbers multiplied. All they had to share were their experiences. The joy and peace of knowing Jesus after centuries of enduring a bloody altar that didn’t fix sin. The joy of suffering persecution on account of His name, and finally, death in the arena. And the account of their lives and deaths are still an incredible model for us in this twenty-first century.

Perhaps that’s the problem. We have the words but lack the experiences. Maybe, but I think we have the words and different experiences. I think pride and churchiness are the problems that prevent us from sharing our heart.

Fear and pride are the boogers-in-the-woodwork. Fear of what others would think if they really knew what we had done, what had been done to us, or what we really think in the dark recesses of our minds.

So we retreat behind the walls of the church and become clones of one another. Using fancy words. Words without power. Words that do not affect or change the life of another, much less our own.

The cure comes when we recognize the depth of our deception, acknowledge our need for repentance, then share with others how God transformed our life. Sounds easy doesn’t it? It’s not. Being transparent can be painful.

I’m here to use my words today to share a troublesome affliction with you. Not with flowery words that loose us in their trail of sweet sounding emptiness. Just the sorrow of my heart and the love of my Savior.

This Christmas Season has been the most difficult one of my life. Family issues, changing relationships, grief, and coming uncertainties for America, brought about a spiritual battle in me that loomed larger with each passing day. ‘Til I admitted and confessed that terrible word—depression—and fell on my face, crying to my Lord Jesus for help. He answered the groaning of my heart immediately. I’m His child. He picked me up, wrapped me in His comfort and refocused my eyes and heart on His love for me.
The formula is simple but always sure:

My plight + His love and power = His mercy, grace and healing = forgiveness and restoration.

No sin is beyond His ability to forgive. How long has it been since your words have been honest with God? How long has it been since He rescued you? How long has it been since you’ve used your words to tell someone else what God has done for you?

Blurring the Ancient Boundaries

January 26, 2018 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

Mother often recited, “I don’t build fences to keep you in. I build fences to keep bad stuff out.” But it sure felt like I was being detained.

Until I grew up and had my own children.

God sets boundaries for His kids too. Not to hold us captive, but to keep us safe. He’s the great protector, not the cosmic killjoy.

In the late ‘70’s, my kids were third and sixth graders in a public school that became the battleground to guerrilla warfare waged against children in the classroom.

Comments slipped from their mouths, and at first we responded, “They’re just kids.”

One afternoon our third grader retorted, “My teacher says I don’t have to mind you. You’re old. I can do what I feel like doing.”

What teacher in their right mind would tell that to a child? We instructed our daughter, “Your teacher wouldn’t say that. You need to be quiet and listen.”

But other parents voiced the same concerns when their kiddos came home with the same rhetoric. The teacher really taught these lies and the kids acted on her instruction.

We discovered the guidance counselor held classes with every kid, in all grades, each week. The School Board and school allowed this counselor to use a book not approved by the State Text Book Committee. A book not even on the list of books from which they could choose.

We tracked the publication to another school, borrowed it, and called a meeting for the parents of our elementary school. A reporter from a local newspaper, met with us and we previewed the book, DoSo The Dolphin, taught at the elementary school. The middle school taught Total Affective Behavior.

DoSo the Dolphin taught you could do anything you wanted if you had a good reason for doing it. One example in the book was this. “Little Johnny told a lie. But Little Johnny had a very good reason for telling this lie. What would you do if you were Little Johnny?” This lesson encouraged children not to go to their parents for answers, but to come to their “Magic Circle,” group, where they would find understanding. This book was used in grades 1 through 5.

Middle school kids were exposed to survival games—taught to make life and death decisions based on a person’s worth to society. This teaching became known as Situation Ethics. The situation you’re in determines the ethics you use.

The question remains: Is God’s Word truth? Is there absolute truth? Satan asked Eve in the garden, “Did God really say that?” And the blurring continues since that day in the garden.

Fast forward to 2012. We are dealing with high school shootings, drugs, gangs in schools, teen pregnancies, abortions, alarming STD rates, and an overcrowded prison system. We have raised a generation of adults who were taught in schools, “If it feels good, do it.” How can we expect them to have a moral or spiritual compass?

This brainwashed generation is raising children of their own with few, if any, boundaries. Where do we go from here? Are parents and grandparents failing our children and grandchildren in this society? Are we teaching them the Word of God?

God constructed the fence of His Statutes and Ordinances for His children, but His rebellious kids catapult over those walls of protection and find themselves in places they thought would bring freedom and joy, but instead bring destruction.

Were you a student in the classroom during this deceptive teaching or do you know people who were? How did it affect you? Please join the conversation.

Arise, cry aloud in the night at the beginning of the night watches; Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord; Lift up your hands to Him for the life of your little ones. . .” (Lamentations 2:19 NAS).

Mystery—Unexplained—Awesome

January 23, 2018 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

“As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking” (NAS Ezekiel 1:28).

Our Precept Bible group began our Fall Bible study in the Book of Ezekiel. I knew the book was about visions, but had never studied it. The first day’s homework directed us to read Chapter One. That last verse stopped me cold and sent my mind ripping back through the years—

—to a rainy Sunday afternoon, eight years ago when my husband and I were returning from Kansas City with our four-year-old grandson, Noah. Papa drove the car, while Noah and I rode in the backseat and played games and watched the rain splatter on the windshield.

Late in the afternoon, we came into Denton, Texas, on I35 South. It had not rained in weeks. The roads were slick, traffic heavy, and driving difficult.

The sky had cleared in the east and God had painted a spectacular rainbow against the darkness of the passing storm. Noah saw it and squealed in delight. I told him about his biblical namesake.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the flashing red taillights of the cars just ahead. Papa barked, “Sit back. Brace Noah. Relax.”

“What?”

I jerked my neck to glance out the back window. An eighteen-wheeler barreled toward us. Another peek forward and I saw the cars in front of us. Stopped. The truck would never be able to stop in that short distance. Not on these roads.

“Oh, Lord, please.” I gasped and smashed my body against the back of the seat and threw my left arm over Noah.

An arc of brilliant color appeared overhead and a luminous golden light shimmered all around us and reflected like a thousand tiny stars over the hood of our car. The power of stillness surrounded us within and without. Utter silence. Peaceful silence. Entrancing silence.

Then it was gone.

How long had it lasted? Minutes? Seconds? I don’t know.

Cars in front of us had stopped. The truck in back of us stopped a few feet from our back bumper. And we stopped. No squealing brakes, no sliding tires, no honking horns. Not a sound.

I sat, unable to speak. Papa let out a sigh and put the car in motion as the cars in front of us moved too. Neither Noah, Papa, nor I said a word for a few minutes. Then I leaned forward and whispered, “Honey, what did you see back there? What happened?”
Papa wiped his forehead and ran his hand down the back of his neck. He turned and “No. Please. Tell me.”

He stammered, “I…it looked like…we were in the middle of a rainbow and the light…was unreal. Golden. Sparkling. So quiet and peaceful.”

Our eyes locked in the rear-view mirror and I whispered, “Me too.”

Papa shrugged his shoulders. “Honey, that back there…,” his head tilted backward, “…was a God thing.”

I turned to Noah. His precious head slumped against the shoulder of his car seat. Sound asleep.

We rode another few miles pondering all that had transpired. Each of us knew a power greater than anything we had ever experienced or known had intervened in our lives. I Eight years later there is still a catch in my throat, and tears in my eyes when my mind plays that scene over again.

And that light—I’m at a loss to describe, paint or interpret it in any way except glorious.

Someway, somehow, the hand of God miraculously spared us that stormy afternoon outside of Denton, Texas. And He allowed us a glimpse into the world around us that we can’t see. Yet.

And wherever you are today, dear reader, God loves you too. And He has a plan for your life. Believe Him. Love Him. Because He alone is faithful.

The Seeds of Relationship

January 10, 2018 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

SCRIPTURE: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7 NAS).

The law of the harvest is: You reap what you sow, later than you sow, and more than you sow. Americans have sown to the wind for generations and we are beginning to reap the whirlwind, just as God said we would in Hosea 8:7

Remember when we were children? All it took was that look from Mom or Dad. If we were misbehaving—we stopped. If the look showed approval—we continued. There was visual contact. Nothing between our face and their faces.

As we grew older, we didn’t have to watch Mom or Dad’s eyes to sense their approval or disapproval. We knew what their responses would be because we knew them. The more we know who God is, through the power of His Word, the more we experience living in the light of His mercy and grace, the more we understand and know Him too. There is to be nothing between His face and our face. That’s relationship.

Too many of us find ourselves trapped in the garbage heap of deception and lies that capture and suffocate, preventing us from having a clear picture of who God is and what He is doing. Deceptive clouds distort our vision and lies disable our GPS and our ability to find Him.

God created a spot, in each one of us, for His Spirit to live. Without Him that place is empty, and we can’t fill it. It’s reserved for God. Without the Spirit of God our lives are chasms where whirlwinds develop and grow. Whirlwinds that have the potential to destroy us. Forever.

I walked in rebellion to God for years. I knew about Jesus, but was attempting to work my way to goodness. But I couldn’t do it. I had no personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I could no longer walk the tightrope between church-y-ness and the world, God brought me to the end of myself. I knew I was a sinner. I believed Jesus died to save me. I gave my allegiance, my heart and my life to His Lordship. Then He forgave me. Redeemed and restored me and gave me what I didn’t deserve. Because of His mercy and grace.

I’m forgiven. But consequences of past rebellion remain. I couldn’t teach my children what I didn’t know. But I didn’t teach them what I knew, that the consequences of sin are like tire tracks through patches of bluebonnets.

The Texas sun coaxes these flowers to sweep the pastures and roadsides in Spring. But they also brings swarms of folks to have their pictures taken in this ocean of blue. And those tracks and prints leave a trail of destruction through the bluebonnets, just like sin treads and tramples our life and the lives of those we influence. While the field and the plants remain in the pasture, the trampled blossoms never recover and don’t produce seeds for the next generation of bluebonnets.
Sin produces the same affect in the lives of those we touch. Tire tracks of anger and footprints of rebellion are stamped into the lives of our children. They maim and destroy seeds of love, trust, and relationship before they can blossom and reseed.

God doesn’t have grandchildren, only children. The choice to accept His mercy and grace through the blood of Christ—forgiveness—is an individual’s choice.

Do you murmur over treads and tramples that sin has deposited across the pages of your life? Or have you given your heart completely to God so that He can transform the ashes of sin into a life that blooms, reseeds, and gives glory to Him?

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