PRAYER, FAITH AND SLOT MACHINES


SLOT     A casino is an interesting place to learn about prayer. Walking around in the twilight darkness, you see basically three types of players. First, are the drifters. These folks drift from machine to machine, watching others play until they see multiple players have tried the same machine with no luck. Then they move in. They are looking for the quick, easy score with the least investment. They figure, after all that play, it will pay off big for them. Next, you’ll find the vacillators. These are the ones that the drifters follow most frequently. They will play on one machine for a short period of time, then move on to another, hoping that the other machine will pay out bigger and more often. Finally, you have the homesteaders. These rugged individuals sit down in front of one machine and play until they get tired. If they lose, they keep putting in more. They are not going to give up until they hit the jackpot. They may lose all they have, but they will never give up.
In the old days, before the electronic slot machine, a player would put in the coins he wanted to bet and pull the handle. He would watch the tumblers spin in unison and stop, one by one, bells would ring and lights would flash when a jackpot was won. Coins would come spitting out into the tray at the bottom. Instant gratification. He could keep playing, or place his winnings in paper buckets and take them to the cashier. Or, he would watch the tumblers spin in unison and stop, one by one, and nothing happened. He would either drift, vacillate, or homestead, depending on his personal inclination. Now, most of the machines are electronic, with few, or no, coins involved, no handle action and no waterfall of coins on payout. The machine tells him how many coins he’s won and, when he’s ready to leave, his payout is received in a bar coded receipt which he can redeem at an ATM. He can still win or lose in much the same way he always could, but now it is more private and involves less human contact.
People tend to treat faith and prayer in much the same way as going to a casino. They are initially “in it to win it.” They enter into prayer with their pockets full of faith. They believe that all things are possible. They pray expecting. Or, do they all. As in a casino, you have three groups of pray-ers. Drifters, vacillators and homesteaders.
Prayer drifters tend to watch for the newest, or latest and greatest, prayer and faith teachers to tell them how to get immediate results. They watch, they listen to CD’s and read all sorts of books, trying to gain the knowledge of just the right formula to make God do just what they want. If that person’s ideas don’t work right away, they write them off as a fraud and move on to the next. They drift from teacher to teacher, from evangelist to faith healer. They never find a shortage of new ideas to try but never stick with anything.
Prayer vacillators find some success in their efforts. These are the ones who have “faith of a mustard seed,” but like to spread their faith seed. They will pray about this or that for a while, in earnest and fully believing that God will answer their prayers. After a while, they decide that God has heard their prayers and He is working on it, so they move on to something else. They may, or may not, come back to it again because “God’s ways are higher than our ways,” and He knows what He is doing, so they no longer press the issue. “It will all work out in God’s timing and I have more pressing issues at the moment,” they say to themselves. When God does answer vacillators, they are pleasantly surprised but caught off guard none the less. Yes, they were praying in faith believing, but history had taught them no expectancy. Their prayers had been a pacifier to calm them in times of trouble.
Prayer homesteaders, or, as they are known in Christian circles, the intercessors, are those who are in it for the long haul. They are determined to make their voice heard by God. They will not rest until they are absolutely sure that God has heard, and responded, to their plea. They rarely pray for their own benefit, but for the health, finances, safety, peace or salvation of others. They are relentless and, most usually, tireless in their efforts. They ask, they seek the scriptures for answers, they knock on heaven’s door until the doors and windows of heaven are opened wide. The answer is not always what they expected, but it is an answer, which they believe is directly from God, and that is what they were praying for, believing for and expecting, so they are rarely, if ever, disappointed by prayer. With every answer comes more faith and expectancy.
Jesus spoke about this with his disciples when discussing prayer in Matthew 7:7-11:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Also in Luke 11:5-10:
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
We all have, or will, fit into one of these three categories at some time or another. We may begin as drifters, looking for the easy way to God, but as our relationship with Him grows, we will pass through vacillation and into homesteading. As we grow in our faith, we find it is less about what God can do for us, and more about what He has done. It is more about believing, knowing and trusting. It is more about Him and less about us.
There is, unfortunately, one other group of people. These are the ones who never enter the “casino.” They never take the chance to find out what faith in God and His grace are all about. They will always be waiting for some “Prize Patrol” to show up out of the blue and change their lives for no apparent reason, even if they never entered the sweepstakes.
© Simply Consider This, 2014.

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COMMANDMENTS


mirror image

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And, “Love your neighbor as yourself.

For centuries we have been reading and quoting these two ‘commandments’ and that is fine. One should, above all else, love God first and foremost. One should also love their neighbor— ‘neighbor’ being one’s fellow man—no matter who that might be. There is also a third part to these ‘commandments’, which is grossly overlooked. This third part is the last two words. “…as yourself.”

We talk about the love God has for us and how this should be reciprocated. We talk about how we should love the sinner (which is anyone and everyone) but hate the sin. We talk about loving our enemies, even if we don’t like them, which almost seems like an oxymoron. We talk about showing the love of God, letting God’s love flow through us, being an example of God’s love to others, and countless other Christian clichés about loving others, but we, and those who instruct us, forget one tiny detail. If we don’t love ourselves, how can we love others?

The “normal” answer for this is – once we accept Jesus as our personal Savior and truly love God with all we are, then that love will permeate our being and flow out of us to others. That still doesn’t account for the fact that we find everything about ourselves to be hideous and repugnant. We still need to find some way to forgive ourselves for what we may have done in the past and accept the person we have, or will, become. That is the one thing that is not taught in our churches. “If God can forgive me, why can’t I?”

Yes, there are scriptures to help with this, such as, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1) But that is taken out of context. The condemnation referred to here is man being condemned by God for sin. Once the gift of salvation is accepted, God grants a ‘pardon’ for our sins and wipes the slate clean of any record of sin. The sin stain is gone and we now appear before God as ‘spotless.’ But, when we look in the mirror, we still see the same person with all of our character flaws, past sins, evil desires and so on.

We can run to the altar and tearfully throw ourselves down in sincere repentance, asking for God’s forgiveness until every one of our sins are recounted, relinquished and removed from God’s sight, but, when we are alone with ourselves, we still feel disgust, or even a loathing, for ourselves. So we are back the next week, repenting and sobbing, trying to get the love, forgiveness and acceptance we already have from God, when we are the only ones holding out on us. We know that He knows who we are and what we’ve done, but so do we. And therein lies the rub.

Usually, it is at this point that the Apostle Paul comes to mind saying, “I die daily,” meaning that little by little we are to take off the old man and put on the new. Some, like Paul himself, make an over night transformation, but for the rest of us it is a lifelong process.

Does that mean that we all have to become Christian Clones? At times it seems that way when you talk to some groups of believers. They all act the same, talk the same, and begin to look the same after a short time of being around them. If they are content to be the Stepford believers, then that is fine for them.

But it is our uniqueness that God likes. He created each of us individually, to be individuals, for our individual purpose. The only one we have to try to be like is Jesus, and that doesn’t mean we have to run around with an angelic face, spreading love and joy and peace all the time. We can have a personality of our own. We do have a personality of our own. That personality is what makes you you and God loves you for being you, just as he made you.   And all of your past experiences have shaped and molded that personality into who you are today.

So where does all of that leave us on loving ourselves so we can love our neighbors? Let me take a scripture totally out of context and say, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) If God can forgive and accept us and love us for who we are, then why can’t we? Or better yet, why shouldn’t we? Are we greater than God? Is there any other standard higher than God’s? If we are good enough for God, we ought to be good enough for us!! Realizing that this is not going to be easy for some, if not most, there is just one more thing to say, meant as nicely as possible – Get over yourself. You are who you are and will be whom God created you to be if you quit trying to tell yourself you’re not good enough. If you’re waiting until you’ve arrived, you’re never going to get there. Never stop trying to improve, but realize that there was only one sinless, regretless, perfect man. Chances are that probably isn’t you, but it is a goal to strive for. In the mean time, just relax and know that everyone else was and is a sinner saved by grace.   You are the same as everyone else in that respect. Accept yourself for who you are and it will make it easier to accept—and love – others. You are unique, just like everybody.

©  Simply Consider This, 2014.

SWEETLY KISSED BY JESUS


father kissingBeen sweetly kissed by Jesus

A tender kiss He placed upon my cheek

Affectionately given, as a Father loves his child

As I came to Him, with my arms reaching out

My heart calls to Him, my lips lovingly proclaim

Abba, Father!

Your presence surrounds me

I feel so safe in Your arms

Yes, sweetly kissed by Jesus

A tender kiss He placed upon on my cheek

Treasuring this moment, forever

Until eternity

When at last I reach Heaven

We will finally meet

Remembering how You held me

In Your arms cradled tenderly

Never forgotten will be

The tender kiss placed upon my cheek

Running toward my Savior

My God, my King

The One who so willingly died for me

Bowing humbly down before Him

Overwhelmed by His majesty

There at His feet to adore Him

The One who kissed my cheek

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

PRIDE


luciferPride is an odd fellow to have living with you.

He always makes you feel good about yourself, but can cause you to make others feel bad about themselves. He can cause you to strive to be your very best, but rarely lets you see the best in others.

He can cloud your judgment and make you feel superior to others. He can make you think that you are the only one who has it right.

Remember: Lucifer was an archangel, the worship leader of heaven’s choirs, the most beautiful of all the angels, and Pride caused him to be cast down from God’s presence.

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

THE GIANT AND THE STONE


dngFamiliar story to most people, of course it is about David and Goliath.  What an awesome story!  The seemingly under dog, (David) beats the snot out of the big bully, (Goliath). In fact he took his head, literally.   I have heard many sermons preached on this story…. many.   Sermons on how to face your giants, God uses even a boy, when God is on your side, how big is your faith and many more.
However, as I was reading it again for the umpteenth time…the Holy Spirit gave me a new perspective that made an impact.  He said to me, “This is how I want you to pray.  With tenacity, boldness, and confidence in who I AM.  For My Word never fails.”   It must have struck a chord, or why would my heart begin to understand exactly what that meant.
These are just some observations from the story…. just thoughts that came to mind as I was going over the chapter.

1)      Know who you are in Christ – David knew who he was, what he meant to God, and where their relationship stood, he understood who God was.  David was just an ordinary guy, a young lad who worked for his Dad tending sheep. He wasn’t presumptuous or arrogant, he was who he was, going about everyday life, doing what he was supposed to do…tending the sheep. He did his job, rescuing the sheep, finding the lost wandering ones, guiding them from one pasture to another, protecting them from the lion and the bear.  Must have been a boring job…c’mon, this is sheep we are talking about here.  But instead of complaining about it, David spent the time with God.  Playing music, singing and praising the Lord.  Don’t you think that a relationship happened when there is time spent doing that?  David ministered to the Lord. He began to find out who God is, who he was and the connection between the two of them became strong.  David knew God.

2)      Be Bold – David was trained for this day with the bear and the lion. He had training in the field protecting the sheep.  This was not a wimps job. It was hard work.  He learned how to use the sling and the staff.  He learned about dangerous encounters, but they were small compared to what He was facing now. He knew what he was capable of because this was not his first rodeo, so to speak.  Therefore, he was confident in the abilities God had given him because of those small victories (with the lion and bear), because of the past experiences with God being at his side, he knew with God all things are possible. David stated to King Saul, “ The Lord who delivered me out of the paw of lion and the bear, HE will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.  Before that statement he said, this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them (lion & bear) for he has defied the armies of the living God. Bold statement.  Bold claim. David was bold in the Lord his God.

3)      Believe  –  David showed no fear, when the armies of Israel shook in their booties.   David was not afraid of the giant, why?  Why did he not fear like his comrades?  Because he trusted and believed in the Lord God of Israel.  In fact he mocked Goliath, by asking those around him, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, who dares defy the armies of the Living God?” What a  statement! The men that were around him, thought he was being cocky, who is this kid who thinks that Goliath is a push over? Cocky, not at all.
David called it as he saw it.  David declared who God was, he declared God was bigger than the “enemy”, bigger than the giant they faced.  Wow, look at how much David believed in his God!  When there is that much trust and faith, you not only can kill the giant, but the Lord said you can move the mountain.  Believe, God is able to do what he said he would do. Take Him at His Word… literally.  David had in him, the “holy boldness” Christ has given to us.  Not once did David declare he was mister wonderful, here to save you pitiful people from the big bad bully.  David knew who his God was, knew if God is for us, who then can stand against us…he knew God, he totally believed in God, so much so, he staked his life on it.

4)        Step out – I love how this story shows David, who was not afraid to step out in front, out in front!  He stepped out and put himself  between the giant and the armies of Israel – he took up an offensive/defensive stance.  He did not hide behind a big rock or behind shields of armor – nor did he have anyone going before him.  When King Saul tried to place on David “his armor”, David was not able to move.  (Because someone else’s armor wasn’t made for him to wear, that alone will preach) David didn’t need someone else’s protective gear… David had God’s covering.  Selah (stop and think about that)  David stepped out.  In front, right in the way of harm…think about that for a moment.  It was just him, while the armies of Israel, including his brothers, stood in fear as far back as they could. In fact the two armies camped on opposite hills with a valley between them.  So, think about this… David had to go down into the valley to fight this giant.  He wasn’t elevated on a mountain, or even on the hill.  He was in a valley. David went into the valley to face, defeat and conquer!  The victory came in the valley.   Selah (pause and think about that)   So David stepped out in front, he was willing to give all he had to defend and prove there was a God in Israel.  That is called standing in the gap.  That is what it truly is to stand in the gap for others – to go to war on other people’s behalf.  Wow…this impacted me to imagine this scene in my mind, what that must have looked like.

5)      Declare – I found it interesting that Goliath had a shield go out before him.  This big bad bully, had someone go before with a shield.  Really, dude.  I guess that was how they fought in those days. Also, Goliath was caught off guard by who King Saul sent out to fight him and wasn’t expecting some young whippersnapper.  (catching the enemy off guard?) hmmmm…

Now as David was on his way to face this enemy, he stopped to pick out 5 smooth stones.  Stones, it was a Stone that was used to bring down this giant menace.  A Stone.  One.  I have heard stories of why David picked up 5 stones, it wasn’t because he was afraid he was going to miss the first time he slung it…he was going after Goliath’s brothers.  The point being,  David was determined not only to bring one giant down, his intention was to defeat all of Goliath’s brothers.  In David’s mind Goliath was already defeated, along with all the rest of the Philistines. This was going to be a total victory, complete defeat of the enemy, David was determined.
And so the show down began…..the two come “face to face” so to speak.
As Goliath faced David, he (Goliath) was insulted by this little pipsqueak of a boy who the armies of King Saul sent over to fight him. Goliath, said what?? Am I a dog that you would come to me with a stick?  He cursed David by his gods. And then Goliath shouted at David, boy I am going to mop the earth with your body and feed it to the birds and beast of the field.  And then I stopped and thought about the next verse.…..and smiled.  David who was a teenager or so, had the audacity to shout back at Goliath. NO, big boy you COME to me, and it will be your body that gets fed to the birds of the air and beast of the field. Not only that, but I will cut off your head, and then the rest of you Philistines are dead meat also. Then David declared. “you come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the ranks of Israel. Whom you have defied”.   David declared who God was, he declared to Goliath that God, the Living God, was going to deliver him into David’s hand….with the purpose of, “that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.  And all this assembly shall know the Lord saves not with sword or spear: for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands”.  Then he ran toward this mammoth beast Goliath, whipping the sling around and popped him in the head with one stone.  Goliath fell.   David didn’t come with any power of his own.  He didn’t say I will take care of this big bad bully, cause I’m all that and a bag of chips.  David knew where his help came from.  I love the verse that says, “but I come to you in the Name of The Lord of hosts.”  David declared God.  David declared who God is, what God has done and what God will do.
We have the same ability to take on giants and those things that bully us today.  Not talking about people (these are spiritual things) David knew who he was IN God.  We are told in God’s Word…we are MORE than conquerors.  When we pray, mountains will move, people will be healed.

We are told to stand in the gap for others.  Not to fear, for the Lord is on our side.  We are told in God’s Word who we are in Christ Jesus.  We need to grab hold of that, just like David.  Be bold, believe, step out and declare who the Lord God is.  One more thing, which I believe is so important.  Because of the relationship between David and the Lord, David was confident, sure and fearless.  Know the Father, know Him on a personal level, an intimate level. And nothing, no one, will shake your faith, nor your belief in what God can do…or what you mean to Him, who you are in Him.
Just one more thought I had while reading about the part about the stones……
David had practiced with his sling many, many times before this battle.  He was a prepared warrior, so to speak.  He knew the tools, he had confidence, he knew what & how to use the sling.  The stones, I find it interesting the detail about the stones a.k.a. rocks, he used.  It states he picked out.  David was carefully choosing part of the weapon he would use to bring down Goliath.  He thought about his enemy and what it would take to bring him down… couldn’t use just any old rock.  It was 5 smooth stones.  But it only took one.  One Stone.
Made me think of this, Christ is our “cornerstone” – He is our Rock.  God’s Word is the stone we use to defeat our enemies.  Not any old thing can be used to bring down and defeat the enemies in our lives.  We could read out loud the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Joyce Meyers, Rick Joyner, but they are not the smooth Stone that is needed to bring victory.  When God’s Word is used with a holy boldness, when we come not in our own name, but in the Name of the Lord God and began speaking to those things that are hurting, hindering, derailing and destroying our lives and lives of others, watch what happens.  When we with humility, confidence and boldness declare who God is, what He has done, and what He will do, we are slinging the One smooth Stone (the Word) smack dab in the middle of the enemy’s forehead.  VICTORY is ours!!!  For God’s Word never fails.
Just some thoughts… nothing of this is written in stone (and yes the pun was intended)  one person’s take on a story.  Maybe something here will make you simply consider this.

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

THE PACHYDERM IN THE VESTIBULE-revisited


elephantHe kind of snuck in when I wasn’t looking.
At first I didn’t even notice.
He was small, unassuming and quiet.
Most people ignored him when they came over
thinking he was ornamental.

But then he grew.
Fewer and fewer people came over
They were uncomfortable
with him in the room
I just worked around him as I passed by.

One day I had a hard time
getting out of my own house.
He seemed to block my way
So I went to the back door
And that seemed to work.

When he blocked
the entrance to the stairs
And I could no longer
get to my bed to sleep
I knew something had to be done.

I asked him to leave
but I could see that politeness
would not work.
I begged, then demanded and yet
he stood quietly in the vestibule.

Finally, in desperation,
I knocked down the wall
to the outside
When he saw the world outside
He went running to freedom.

The pachyderm is gone
But his memory lives on
I don’t miss him
He really messed up my house
Be watchful of the pachyderm

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

This is a repost. Not something I would ordinarily do, but I thought some would enjoy seeing this who might have missed it the first go around.   Little things that we let into our lives can grow to be quite large if we let them.  Sometimes we are the last to see it and no one is willing to tell us that we have a problem.

IN THE NIGHT


archangel1In the quiet stillness of the night
I hear my name.
With eyes opened, I look around
Everyone is sleeping.
I wait to hear but no sound is made
I close my eyes once more.

From the foot of the bed,
I hear breathing
A foul stench fills the room
Filled with fear, I begin to shake
I try to cry out but no sound comes
I dare not open my eyes.

The breathing seems to get closer
I try, but can not open my eyes
All my muscles are tensed with fear.
With lips clinched and jaw set
I try to cry out
I groan “Jesus” in my throat

Light flashes through my eyelids
Shrieks ring out
I try to look but now
my eyes are held shut
The shrieks subside
The stench is gone

My body goes limp
I open my eyes only slightly
To see a slowly fading light
A sweet aroma fills the room
A figure remains beside me
Peace flows freely

In the quiet stillness of the night
I hear my name
I open my eyes briefly
Then close them again
And say, “Thank you”
As I drift off to sleep

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.