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Archive for February, 2013

Every mother worth her salt will read this, laugh, and say, “you go, girl.” Right after you tell your son or daughter, “I have a direct line to God, or maybe He has a direct line to me. In any event, think about where you’re going and what you’re doing, ‘cause I’ll always find out.”

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The weekend had been miserable. Cold and wet. Rained from sun-up ‘til sun-down for three days. And it’s a fact, cold rain’s  more bone chilling at the lake.

The lake. Where our husbands decided we would spend Thanksgiving. Cooking dinner over the fire, like pilgrims had done so long ago would be fun, they said.

Fun? Agrrrr. I wore three layers of clothing. For three days. The shower facilities at Lake Livingston were less than hospitable in the winter. No heat. No warm water. No creature comforts. We were roughing it, right? Guess who refused to shower? Yep. Me. Just played fruit-basket-turnover with the three layers.

We arrived Wednesday night and by Saturday morning the other wife and I had endured enough fun and issued orders to pack up and head home. I needed my large bathtub filled to the brim with hot water, central heat and an electric range.

Just as we loaded the final items into the vehicles the sun burst through the clouds and blue sky appeared. The boys, three of them, two sixteen-year-olds and one thirteen-year-old, begged to stay and fish. The dads put their heads together and decided it would be a great learning experience.

For whom?

My husband chose to leave my car for them to drive home the next morning. What could go wrong? Besides, they figured by leaving the younger brother to tattle, would assure good behavior. Our husbands, boys in men’s bodies, reliving their teen years vicariously through their sons.

The other mom and I objected. Vigorously. To no avail. The boys would stay at the campgrounds, fish, eat, turn in early, and then return home first thing Sunday morning. They’d be fine.

The dads said so.

Both dads waved goodbye while the other mom and I shook our heads, knowing this was not a good choice and we all drove off, leaving our three teenage boys in God’s hands.

Half way home the radio blasted a weather warning that South East Texas would be under tornado watch ‘til late Saturday night. I argued to turn around, go back and get the boys. They had no radios and I knew they’d be frightened out of their bedrolls. My husband said, “No. They’ll be fine and those weather guys are always wrong.”

I stewed all the way home waiting for the opportunity to  call the other mom. When I did, Dad #2 repeated the litany of Dad #1. “They’ll be fine. The Ranger will watch out for them.” Hmm. More man logic.

At 4 PM the weather reports indicated the storms were headed right for the State Park. Tornado warnings were issued. Like any other panic-stricken mom, I had to reach the Park Ranger, but phoned the Park Grocery Store by mistake.

A lady answered. And I spilled the entire contents of my heart and mind on this unsuspecting soul. She said, “I’m sorry ma’am. You’ve reached the Park Store. The Ranger’s office and campground is on the other side of the lake. Miles and miles away. But what’d you say those boys looked like?”

I repeated their description and the make and model of the car they were driving.

She laughed and said, “Why they were just in here. Asking directions to the drive-in movie in Livingston.”

“And how far away is that?” I asked.

“Thirty, maybe forty miles,” she replied.

Now hell has no fury like a woman scorned, but let me tell you a mother who catches a kid in an act of unspeakable foolishness, driving her car, runs a close second.

With as much composure as I could muster, I asked if she had the number of the drive-in movie. Still chuckling, she gave me the number and I’m sure, if she had boys, enjoyed imagining the capture and fate of these young fugitives.

The lady at the drive-in was helpful and promised when the teens arrived she would have them call home.

Now this is the point I’d have given the gold in my teeth to have been a fly-on-the-window of that car.

My unsuspecting son, Michael, pulled up to the ticket booth, his friend in the passenger seat, and rolled down the driver’s side window expecting to pay. But the ticket lady said, “Michael, your mother said you’re to call home immediately.” She leaned closer to the window and peered into the back seat. “There’s supposed to be three of you, where’s the other boy?”

A gasp and a cough from under a blanket on the back floorboard answered her question. They had only enough money for two tickets.

My telephone rang and my son’s raspy voice asked, “Mom, how’d you know?”

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Now we could end this story right there and it would have been enough. Right? Wrong. I’m convinced our God has a marvelous sense of humor and a unique ability to teach very hard lessons, up close and personal, when needed.

I minced no words instructing the boys to get their fannies back to camp and stay there until sunrise. Tornadoes were on the way. And this mother spent the night on her knees.

The bedraggled boys arrived home early next morning and related a harrowing night in the log lean-to, by the shores of Lake Livingston, huddled in their sleeping bags, listening to the freight train roar, tree branches crashing, wind howling, lightening, hail and the groans of the ancient lean-to.

Yes, God’s hand of discipline holds the perfect scourging brush for rebellious teens and for big folks too.

Neither the boys nor their dads ever suggested camping again.

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6 NAS).

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SISSY BULLETS OR THE REAL DEAL?.

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Last week I opened my email to find a death threat. Whether this was spam or  the real deal is yet to be determined.

The officer asked if I owned a gun and suggested I might want to keep it handy and be aware of my surroundings. These words sent me scurrying to the closet to pull out my Smith & Wesson. I loaded the pistol with bullets my husband had stored all these years.

Realizing we were low on ammunition, I let my fingers-do-the-walking in an attempt to find replacement ammo. A number of calls later I located a store and told the clerk I’d see them first thing next morning.

I tucked the weapon into a safe hideout and crawled in bed for what I hoped would be a good night’s sleep. Before closing my eyes, I asked God to keep me safe through the night. My gun was loaded. I knew how to use it. I was prepared.

Early next morning I loaded myself and the revolver into the car and headed for the gun shop. And to be honest, a little concerned. I had never been in a gun shop and didn’t know what to expect. But walked in like I knew what I was doing and handed my gun to the man behind the counter, informing him it was loaded. Just wanted to be sure I bought the right bullets.

He emptied the chamber, held the bullets out and said, “Mrs. Gates, if you are going to shoot someone you’d best be sure you have real bullets, these are just for target practice. You’d make someone mighty angry if you’d shot ‘em with these.”

I gulped as the bullets slid from his hand into mine. And I stared down at the silver and gold cartridges. They looked real. They fit in the gun’s chamber. They smoked when fired and the cartridge shot deep in the ground when I pulled the trigger yesterday afternoon. Yet they weren’t real? My confidence and preparation cracked like a sheet of thin ice. Into very small slivers.

I thought I had a powerful means of protection. But I was uninformed. Powerless. Deceived.

The shells were fake. And using these fake shells would probably have caused me greater harm in the event of a break-in.

After allowing this new found truth to sink in for a moment, I was grateful I didn’t know the night before I had sissy-bullets. Wouldn’t have slept a wink. Would you?

We laughed. Well, kinda. I made my purchase of  the right stuff, and left for home. But I drove home asking myself how many other things in my life looked real but were powerless to protect me? Just like those fake cartridges.

A six figure life insurance policy? A large bank account? A portfolio full of stocks and bonds? My name on a church roll? Or perfect attendance at church—Sunday  after Sunday?

Financial assets can be swept away in a single market crash. And my name on the roll of the local church and perfect attendance means nothing without a personal, trust filled relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Without obedience to His Word. And without love for all my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I can sit in church clothed in my Sunday’s best. I can maintain a loving expression pasted on my face. I can even appear to be hanging on every word the pastor utters. But the litmus test? What’s going on in my heart. Worship of the Lord God Almighty or worship of the idol of self?

Am I depending on a sissy faith, a spiritless faith, a powerless faith to see me through the trials of this life and into the kingdom to come? No wonder fifty percent of the folks want nothing to do with religion.

Religion is like target practice bullets—smoking and loud but always missing the mark. Faith and trust in the blood of Jesus Christ is the only true power to save us now and in the days and ages to come.

In that day when I stand before the righteousness of God and He holds the fragments of my life in His hands will the evidence of my faith be fake or real? Will my name be written in The Book of Life? Has my life on earth given testimony and honor, fruit of the Spirit, to the Lord Jesus Christ or to the gratification of self?

Standing in the presence of God will He recognize His Spirit in me or will He say:

“Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’”  (Matthew 7:21-22 NAS).

Last week I had the opportunity to replace those powerless gun shells for the real deal. In that day it will be too late—no opportunity to exchange a deception for The Truth.

What are you relying on for protection?

The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only real salvation, now and in the kingdom to come. God’s Passover Lamb is waiting to exchange your sin for His righteousness. He is waiting to pour out His mercy and grace over you, in spite of who you are, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done. And He is waiting to fill you with the power of His Spirit so that you will know He is God.

Now and forever. He’s the only deal. The real deal.

 

“Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice. Do not harden your hearts…”(Psalm 95:6-7 NAS).

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How many times each day do I say “that’s too much?” The grocery clerk hits the total key and I gasp, “Oh my goodness. I didn’t realize I spent that much.” I step on the scales and realize those cookies I gobbled yesterday expressed themselves in two additional pounds. Overnight. A new house, a new car or even a new suit or dress seem to be twice-times-double these days. And I repeat, it’s all too much.

The nightly news broadcasts problems everywhere—at home and abroad. Hideous crimes plague our nation, our homes, and our families, tramping  underfoot moral and spiritual values. Our children and grandchildren are forced to confront problems, situations, and people they should never have had to face.

The entertainment industry wallows in the depths of depravity and beckons us to join them. And many do. The definition of marriage has been defiled and this nation is going the way of Sodom and Gomorrah. The number of aborted babies since Roe v. Wade numbers fifty-four million and counting.  The City of Chicago is a killing field with more murders there than have been military casualties in Afghanistan. Human slave trafficking in the United States traps untold numbers of our children and teens each year. All of these things are too much.

Politicians, regardless of party, and judges have taken oaths to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America but are openly passing legislation shredding our liberties and ripping apart the Constitution to ideologies of a rogue minority. Responsible financial stewardship is a lost concept in government and in our families. Checks and balances that were established to maintain a democratic government, forbidding any one of the three branches to force power on the other two has been demolished. And the Congress of the United States of America has allowed itself to be neutered because of their greedy grabs for power that are changing the face of America. Forever.

“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;  but when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2 NIV).

Yet when I turn on my computer to write this blog I’m advised to entertain you with pleasant antidotes, endearing personal stories, and to use pictures. Lots of pictures.  And, for goodness sake, they say,  don’t sound preachy and don’t use too much scripture. I’m told audiences don’t have an appetite for the truth of the Word of God.  These experts say it’s okay to gently point folks to God and to the Word, but anything with enough meat of the Word that folks could chew on  and receive nourishment from would be too much for them to swallow.

So how much is too much? And how much is not enough?

Look at the state of our nation and our homes. Could it be each one of us have not shared enough of our Lord’s words with our neighbors. Or could it be we don’t know enough of His Word to share?

Are we going to recognize, before it’s too late, that we have moved God’s ancient boundaries? Boundaries He established to protect us and keep us in a position to receive an abundance of His blessings.  The Lord God has called His people to come apart and be different. To be holy as He is holy.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 NIV)

The Old Testament is the historical text of Israel choices to be like everybody around them and when God rescued them from slavery, they even wished to return to Egypt. After centuries of warnings, mercy and grace, God finally said that’s too much and He sent nations to carry His people out of their land and scattered them among the nations.  And for centuries the Jewish people have paid an enormous price for their rejection of God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

But God is a faithful covenant keeper, even when we’re not.

God delivered our forefathers from religious bondage and brought them to America. He gave these courageous men and women the freedom to worship Him in any manner they chose. And they gave their lives to establish this great nation—One Nation, Under God. The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and the blood of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution calls us to consider our path; to repent and return to principles and precepts of God so that He can hear our cries and heal our land. It’s all there in the pages of His truth, folks. People of God—we are the problem.

“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV).

Bible surveys demonstrate how little Americans read and know the Word of God. Even many within the church know more about Downton Abbey than they know about God’s story. It’s evident that we can’t live and teach our children what we don’t know.

If you or I had the cure for cancer we’d be shouting it from the rooftops. We have the remedy for all of the sins of our nation and our people. The Scriptures are our road map. But we remain silent.

Unless God’s people get serious and repent, learning to live in the power of His Spirit so we don’t fulfill the deeds of the flesh, living to bring honor to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and living so that the nations will know that He is the Lord–America will not survive.

So please tell me, how could we ever have too much scripture? When we stand before God how will we explain our loss of appetite for the truth of His ancient Word? Words preserved for us by the blood of the prophets. Our actions shout like those Jewish exiles, we’d rather go back to Egypt.  Because obedience to Your Word, God, is just too much.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”  (Romans 15:4 NIV).

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