Behind the Battle Lines

February 22, 2021 by  
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By Jennifer Slattery –

A few summers ago, our family spent a week in Branson. While there, we met a woman passionate about the life movement and we engaged in conversation. She told me a story of a pregnant girl she reached out to her. One day, she spoke with the girl’s single, impoverished father who asked her, “Are you going to be here to help pay the expenses once the baby’s born?”
What he was asking was, “Do you really care, or are we just an agenda, just a battle to fight? Will you, so focused on speaking truth, walk with us when we put action to your words?”

This stuck with me, and is something I ask myself every time I’m tempted to engage in a battle. And there’s plenty of battles to fight, aren’t there? If we want to, we can spin from one to the next, Bible thumping every unsuspecting passerby hard enough to leave them dazed … and enraged.

At Easter, we’ll fight the Easter Bunny. Come Christmas we’ll write articles, boycott stores, and give long-winded sermons fighting for the phrase, “Merry Christmas.” Then we’ll grab our picket signs and line every street corner in protest of abortion.

Oh, how easy it is to hold a picket sign for an hour or two. It’s much harder to become actively and consistently involved in a young girl’s life.

Here’s the thing, while we’re drawing battle lines, people are dying. And seeing a “Merry Christmas” or an “abortion is murder” sign isn’t going to save them. In fact, I often wonder if most often our long-winded debates fall on deaf ears because it is impossible, yep, impossible, for man to understand spiritual things apart from Christ (1 Cor. 2:14). There’s only one way to change societies, and that’s by changing hearts. And there’s only one way to change hearts, and that’s by bringing them to the cross.

Let me explain it another way. Or, better yet, read how the Bible explains it:

Romans 1:21-28
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

You see, absence of God leads to depraved thinking. Many of the battles we fight are the result of depraved minds—deceived thinking. So how do you fight a depraved mind? You don’t. You introduce the depraved mind to Jesus and let Him change them from the inside out.
Think about it for a moment. What if every dollar and hour we spent on picket signs and protests we spent on outreach, instead? One-on-one, demonstrating, relationally, the love of Christ? How many lives would be changed? How many souls would be saved? And once those depraved minds were transformed by the love of Christ, how many issues would there be to fight. Folks, what if we’re merely chasing fires? Instead of fighting fires, would it not be more effective to start making people fire proof?

Now, I’m not saying never speak truth, but I am saying never let your truth mask your love. The next time you’re ready to fight a battle, before you enter into that debate, ask yourself, “Would I die for this person? Am I ready to stand by them and to walk with them?”

Jesus answered both questions with a resounding yes. A yes that drove Him to the cross.
I believe He wants us to offer the world the same answer, because truth without committed and consistent love is painful, destructive.

Repellant.

A Dream

February 19, 2021 by  
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By DiAne Gates –

SCRIPTURE: “How precious are Thou thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with Thee” (Psalm 139:17-18 NAS).

A dream. A realistic dream. A dream that remains alive and vivid hours later. A week later. What about you? Ever had such a dream? Did you dismiss it? Miss it? Or forget about it?

In the early hours of last Tuesday morning, I had such a dream. I’ve never put much stock in dreams. But this one—so lifelike, so clear, so intense.

Monday night I went to bed mulling over a problem and the dream opened with me telling two men about my problem. One, a dear friend, the other the pastor of the church where I grew up—Dr. Homer Lindsay, Sr.

I finished stating my problem. Dr. Lindsay got up out of his chair, came over, and put his arm around me. He leaned close to my ear and said, “DiAne, you remember Jeremiah 29:11, don’t you?”

I replied, “Yes sir.” And we quoted it in unison, his voice recognizable and intelligible. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

The dream ended, my eyes flashed open, and a sense of comfort and hope that only God can give wrapped around me and carried me through the morning with a renewed sense of security and joy.

Until four A.M. the following morning when my husband woke me. “DiAne.” He spoke in a voice I’ve come to understand means trouble. “We have a problem. It’s my heart. I want you to drive me to Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.”

We were in Longview, Texas—two hours away from Dallas and Presbyterian Hospital.

I sprang from the covers and pulled on yesterday’s jeans and a shirt. “O Lord!” my mind raced and my heart quaked. “What’s he thinking? I can’t drive two hours with him. In the car. About to have a heart attack.”

Another thought zipped through my mind. Look at his color. I turned on the light and looked at his face. His color was good. Warm. Not the pasty gray of a heart attack. Immediately the dream of the previous night flashed across my consciousness and the peace of God took control of my terrified heart and I heard—drive him to Presbyterian in Dallas.

We made the drive in record time. And for the next thirty-six hours, the medical staff at Presbyterian Dallas accomplished the necessary tests to confirm that my husband did not and was not having a heart attack. His previous bypasses and stints were unchanged and blood was coursing through his arteries as it should be.

For once in my life, I rested in the promise God confirmed to me the night before all this transpired, and reminded Him of that promise during that two-hour drive Wednesday morning. I traveled through those thirty-six hours at peace with the knowledge God was in control—not me.

Almost a week has passed and I paused this morning to contemplate how many times I’ve missed or dismissed God’s instructions and warnings. Choosing instead to race ahead of the stresses and strains of life. Always running. Refusing to be still. Neglecting to rest in Him.

Father in Heaven, help me remember. Remember to listen and heed your Word and Your warnings. Remember that You are the same yesterday, today and forever. And remember that You think of me—all the time.

Signs of the End Times? – Rebuilding Babylon

February 11, 2021 by  
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By Dianne E. Butts –

Zechariah 5:11 and Isaiah 13 talk of prophecies against Babylon. But Revelation 14:8, 16:19, and chapters 17-18 talk about the fall of Babylon in the End Times. It seems the literal city of Babylon will again exist in the land of Shinar for these prophecies to take place. The remains of ancient Babylon are found in present-day Iraq about 55 miles south of Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein was the fifth President of Iraq, serving from July 16, 1979 to April 9, 2003. According to an About.com article, “Saddam Hussein said that Babylon’s great palaces and the legendary hanging gardens of Babylon (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) would rise from the dust.” During his more than twenty years in power, Saddam worked toward rebuilding the ancient city of Babylon.

Babylon flourished in 1894 BC under the Amorite king Hammurabi who created the short-lived Babylonian Empire, but it quickly dissolved after his death. It rose to power again and was the seat of the Neo-Babylonian Empire from 612 to 539 BC. Nebuchadnezzar II ruled from 605 BC to 562 BC and, according to the Bible, conquered Judah and Jerusalem and sent the Jews into exile in Babylon. According to Wikipedia, “He is credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.”

The About.com article says Saddam’s workers began reconstructing the 600-room palace of King Nebuchadnezzar II in 1982. Saddam’s reconstruction took place right on top of the ancient ruins which horrified archaeologists and historians, but they were powerless to stop him. The About.com article says, “The original bricks, which rise two or three feet from the ground, bear ancient inscriptions praising Nebuchadnezzar. Above these, Saddam Hussein’s workers laid more than 60-million sand-colored bricks inscribed with the words, ‘In the era of Saddam Hussein, protector of Iraq, who rebuilt civilization and rebuilt Babylon.’ The new bricks began to crack after only ten years.”

That’s not all Hussein set out to build. About.com says, “Adjacent to Nebuchadnezzar’s ancient palace and overlooking the Euphrates River, Saddam Hussein built a new palace for himself…a monstrous hill-top fortress surrounded by miniature palm trees and rose gardens. The four-storey palace extends across an area as large as five football fields. Villagers told news media that a thousand people were evacuated to make way for this emblem of Saddam Hussein’s power.”

Ceilings and walls in the palace depicted 360-degree murals from ancient Babylon, Ur, and the Tower of Babel. Plumbing fixtures appeared to be gold-plated and pediments were engraved with Hussein’s initials “SdH.”

About.com continues: “When American troops entered Babylon in April, 2003, they found little evidence that the palace had been occupied or used. Saddam’s fall from power brought vandals and looters. The smoked glass windows were shattered, the furnishings removed, and architectural details – from faucets to light switches—had been stripped away. During the war, Western troops pitched tents in the vast empty rooms at Saddam Hussein’s Babylonian palace.”

U.S. Marine Daniel O’Connell, Gunnery Sergeant, took photographs of many of these sites in 2003 and you can see 26 of his photos in a photo gallery on About.com.

So what do you think? Is Saddam’s rebuilding of Babylon a sign of the End Times? Or do you think the city of Babylon will be rebuilt to a greater degree and occupied by the Antichrist?

Trending

January 31, 2021 by  
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By Janet Morris Grimes –

I wonder sometimes how I have gotten to be so predictable.

My Gmail account suggests addresses of people, based on past emails I have sent, who might be interested in the note I am writing and usually Gmail is correct.

Facebook recommends friends based on other people I know and love. More often than not, I am thankful for the new connections.

My phone lists my favorite numbers to call. Correctly.

Even my iPod knows which songs I will play to the end. It’s not unusual to hear a pick from that same artist within the next three or four songs.

My dog gets excited when I pull out my tennis shoes. He tracks down his own leash to make sure I remember that he is supposed to go with me.

My past behavior indicates what I will do in the future.

In the electronic world, this phenomenon is known as ‘trending,’ which means ‘to show a tendency toward something.’

I suppose my tendencies are obvious. My trends are often used against me—even when I invest effort into changing them.

Unfortunately, no one knows my past trends better than Satan. He remembers the last time I was lonely, confused, or doubting. He remembers what triggered my last argument. He reminds me of the failures I have tried to forget. He plasters my mistakes all over the walls to keep them in view.

He would love nothing more than to box me into a rut, and surround me with memories of past misery to keep me there as long as possible.

That is just his way. His tendency, if you will. He, like me, has a few trends, and has gotten quite predictable.

But I refuse to participate. To be predictable. Not with him, anyway.

He hates it when I feel free to move forward. He abhors it when I choose to forgive, especially when I have plenty of reasons not to. He cringes when I figure out what works. He detests it when I open my Bible to find answers that will last until eternity. He loathes it when I find ways to keep my heart from becoming bitter. He hates it when I buck the trend and do exactly the opposite of what he expects me to do.

When I resist, he flees. He has no choice. He won’t waste his time on me if I won’t play his game.

Could it be that by learning Satan’s greatest weapon against me, I have also discovered my greatest weapon against him?

I would do well to remember that the battle is over. There is no reason for me to doubt or be afraid. Victory lies with those who refuse to engage in Satan’s meager attempts to distract us.

It was Jesus who proved this to me, over and over again. How is it that I so often forget?

Transplant Trauma

January 20, 2021 by  
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By Kathy Carlton Willis –

We had just moved into our new home and the new sod, trees and landscaping floundered. Of course, it didn’t help that we were melting in a 100-degree heat wave. But the crux of the problem was transplant shock. Uprooting those green leafies from their old, comfortable setting and placing them into strange new surroundings traumatized them.

We did all we could to “love on” our greenies. They received refreshing drinks of water once or twice a day, requiring my husband to spend a good amount of time rotating the sprinklers to saturate the entire property. Even with the proper care, the bright green leaves of grass, trees and plants faded to a straw-like gold. Transplant Trauma.

We noticed it took time and proper care for the transplants to adjust to their new surroundings, and then they snapped out of the shock and turn green again.

Many Americans move to new locations as transplants. The month of May spotlights National Moving Month and Creative Beginnings Month. It’s no surprise that many of us look for fresh ways to start anew and learn to bloom where we’re planted.

I’m a transplant too. I’m not from around here. Perhaps you moved to a new area because of a new job or you moved your membership to a new church. God rarely has us planted in the same soil for life. God uproots us, taking us from the comfort of what we know and love, and moves us to a new area where we can flourish. Maybe God moves us to revive something that is parched and dry, to rejuvenate with our refreshing green ministry efforts. Hurting people and hurting programs look for a fresh new covering of green. Because of our faith in the Lord, we are part of the landscaping team to provide a spiritual covering, a layer of prayer support and green renewal of life.

But when we move to our new surroundings, sometimes it takes a while to get acclimated. We can’t minister or encourage others, because we no longer feel rooted as deeply into our spiritual nourishment. We fade as we go through a period of transplant trauma. Shock. The refreshingness of our green—the good intentions we bring with us—are temporarily turned to dry hay. With the right amount of time to adjust, and with the loving care of our new surroundings, we green up again. It’s good to know it’s just a temporary condition.

Sometimes we come to a new place still grieving the loss of our previous setting. We bring that trauma with us until we come to accept it. Other times, eager to get started in our new surroundings, culture shock stands in our way. We adapt. We add the water of the Word, confirming our calling to our new spot. We soak in the SONlight. We allow our Heavenly Master Gardener to tend to our needs while we tend to the needs of others.

And when in doubt, repeat this phrase, “Transplant trauma is temporary. God’s tender loving care is permanent.”

“They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do” (Psalm 1:3 NLT).

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