How Do You Heal A Country?

HealMaybe it’s my age.  Maybe it’s not being able to turn my mind away from all the things I must do before leaving for Ecuador.  Whatever it is – I hate when it shows up!  Insomnia!   I commanded my body to sleep.  I claimed sleep.  I rebuked lack of sleep.  I even rebuked my husband who dared to sleep!

Alas, I got up and went to the living room, and dropped on the sofa.  Sleep still stayed as far away as possible, so I decided to turn on the television to see if it would put me to sleep.  (Yes, I know I could pray and read, but I wanted to veg out!)

There is little that I care to watch, but I saw “The Match Game” was an option.  I remember as a child watching the “The Match Game,” so I thought I would check it out.   Let me speak in the Amplified Version:  I was shocked, appalled, disturbed, astonished, and stunned!

This one-hour game show would have been “R” rated when I was a child.  The filth that was so funny and acceptable to everyone, was distressing to me.   At first, as a nation, we slowly walked to  the edge, and now it seems we are in full-blown free fall in accepting the unacceptable.

Am I here to bash the USA?  NEVER!  I love this country.  I lead a daily prayer group of about two hundred and fifty people, and our sole purpose is to pray for the United States of America.  I still get tears in my eyes when I see Olympians from the USA win a medal, and stand on a podium while The Star Spangled Banner is played.  I cry when I see vets come home to reunite with their loved ones.   I love this country.

It is also true that, as a nation, we have gone in directions that God never intended, and we are paying the price.  Let’s not beat the obvious problem to death.  What is the answer?

God’s people are the answer.

When Our Lord, Jesus Christ, came to this earth, He didn’t start  a club.  He started the Church.  Oh, I know, it technically was birthed on the day of Pentecost, but without Jesus, there would be no Church.  Jesus began changing people, who began changing their world.

Jesus said it this way, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18).   Jesus declared that He was building a Church, strong enough to have victory over death, hell and the grave.

If you have accepted Christ as Savior, you are part of the Church, the called out ones. Jesus, in essence, said, “I am going to change the lives of people, and build my Church (the called out) with them, and they will be called out and different from the culture.   It will be a Church that can stand against all that hell represents.”

What if the Church became the Church that Jesus described?  What if I became the Christian Jesus described?  If we stopped blending in with the culture, and become those Christians, what difference would it make in the Church?  And, if the Church began to walk closely with God, what difference would it make in the city … the state … the nation?

God said this is how a nation is healed: “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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV).

If we want to see our land healed, God says that it starts with His people.  The hope for America is God, and God works through His Church.

God Sees You

God who seesOh how her words stung my heart!  Eventually her words found residence in my heart, and I let them live there for a long time.

As believers, we are all going to have hurtful things said to us, or done to us.  One of the reasons so many give up on the Church, or even on God, is because a fellow believer wounded them.   I wish these things did not happen, but they absolutely do!

For blog purposes, we’ll call her Alice.  Alice was a strong believer, strong prayer warrior and even strong in the prophetic.    Alice did not like something I did as a leader, and as far as she was concerned it was war.   Her attacks on me were ferocious and unrelenting.   I was devastated.  How could a person, with such devotion, do this to a sister in Christ?

Rather than take her words to God, I took them to heart.  They had their own room in my heart for several months.  I would visit that room every day, and finally that room became the living room of my heart.  It became a place where I spent way too much time.   It wasn’t long before my hurt turned to anger, and my anger turned to bitterness.

My husband and I were scheduled to attend a conference on Power and Prayer.    As I packed for the trip, I made sure to take my bitterness with me.  After all, I had been wronged and maligned!   We arrived at the conference, but I’d already made up my mind to play the wounded card.  So much so, that in the group of over five thousand people, I had my husband sit way up in the nose bleed section.  My gift of the Spirit that weekend was going to be sulking!

Where was God?  How could He let her get away with treating me this way?

As I sat high up in the balcony of that church, totally withdrawn from what was happening, a woman came over to me.  She did not introduce herself, and neither did I.  She said to me, “God sent me to give you a word.  He said that you are a wounded pastor’s wife, and to tell you that He has not forgotten you.  He said to trust Him to make it up to you.”

I gave her a perfunctory smile as she walked away, but I was stunned.    Stunned that the God of the universe picked me out of thousands that day. That He saw me in the crowd.  That He cared enough to not clobber me over the head, but to say, “Trust me.  I’ll make it up to you.”

While at that conference, I redecorated the living room of my heart.  I took down the black curtains and let the light shine into the places that had been hidden.   It was a life-changing moment from the lips of God.

Are you wounded?  Have you been hurt?  How is the living room of your heart decorated?

God  had me write this today, to say: He sees you.  He picks you out of the crowd.  He hasn’t forgotten you.  He knows what has happened to you, and if you will walk with Him, He will make it up to you.  He will give you a healed heart, and an abundant life in Him.  He is the God who sees.

Is it time to redecorate the living room of your heart?  The Master Decorator is waiting.

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” –  2 Chronicles 16:9a

Where Will You Sit?

JOeFour-year-old Joseph and I were driving to his house, and it was close to his bedtime.  On the almost half-hour drive,  I talked with him, and sang with him,  to try to keep him awake until I could get him in his bed.

Finally, we got to his house, and Joseph was still bubbly and awake.  We walked up to the house, and I stuck the key in the front door, but it would not turn.  For the next five minutes, I tried almost every key I had, but was unsuccessful in getting the door to open.

Though Joseph had been cooperative, there came a point that he wanted to go inside. Until someone could get me in the house, I took Joseph back to the car so I could turn on the air conditioner.   Since strapping this big boy in his car seat is a bit of work, I decided to sit him beside me in the front seat. After all, we were not going to move.

Joseph looked at me as if to say, “This is not where I belong!”

Before I could walk around the car to get in on the driver’s side, Joseph had climbed to the back, climbed up in his seat, and smiled, as if to say, “Now, this is where I should be sitting!”

What seat are you in?  Is it the right seat, or do you need to quickly say, this is not the seat that I was made to sit in?

We should quickly jump out of these seats:

  1. Seat of fear.
  2. Set of anger.
  3. Seat of lying.
  4. Seat of unbelief.
  5. Seat of bitterness.
  6. Seat of unforgiveness.
  7. Seat of negativity.
  8. Seat of gluttony.
  9. Seat of  ___________. (You fill in the blank.)

As followers of Christ, we should be quick to know these are not seats in which God wants us to rest.

We should quickly jump into these seats:

  1. Seat of trust.
  2. Seat of calmness.
  3. Seat of truth.
  4. Seat of belief.
  5. Seat of love.
  6. Seat of forgiveness.
  7. Seat of positive confession.
  8. Seat of self-control.
  9. Seat of ___________. (You fill in the blank.)

Like four-year-old Joseph, as soon as we realize we are in the wrong seat, don’t hesitate – JUMP to the seat that God has provided for your best life.

Where will you sit?

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2:6

A Friend of Jesus

Friend of GodDid you know that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, and God changed her life?  I know it’s true!  Do you know how I know it’s true?  Because I have heard so many people repeat it over the years!

The truth of the matter is that we have no evidence to prove that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.  Scripture mentions her several times, yet not once is there any inference that Mary was a “woman of the night.”    There is not an iota of genuine evidence to substantiate the rumors about Mary.

Do a search of scriptures about Mary Magdalene, and you will see that not one says she was a prostitute.  Scripture does tell us that Jesus delivered her from seven demons that possessed her.  After her Jesus encounter, Mary Magdalene was never the same!  She was transformed and whole-heartedly followed Jesus after that.  She was in love with her Deliverer!

Quick thoughts we can grasp from the life of Mary Magdalene:

  1. The tongue was not created for the intention of tearing people down, or spreading rumors about them. Let’s grow up in Christ, and use our tongues to build up and pray for people.
  2. Life change should occur when one has encountered Jesus. Mary was possessed by seven demons, and Jesus delivered her from ALL of them.  We don’t see Mary feeling sorry for herself, or talking about how unfair life had been to her.  Mary Magdalene was changed by the power of God.  She walked in new life.  She became a new creation.  She fell in love with the Deliverer.
  3. When the compassionate eyes of Jesus eyes saw the wild-eyed woman of Magdala, He saw in her the blessing she would become to Jesus Himself and His followers. In His authoritative voice He commanded the tormenting demons to come out—and stay out—of her. Jesus has the power to deliver you from that which is tormenting you and controlling your life.
  4. Hell gave its best shot to destroy Mary Magdalene, but Hell is never a match for the power of God.

Once Mary was healed and saved, she practiced her faith in following Jesus and ministering to Him and His disciples.  Have you had a divine encounter with Jesus Christ the Son of God?  If the answer is yes, then begin practicing your faith – not just going to church, but practicing your faith.  Faith without works is dead.

“Mary’s gratitude and love manifested itself in devotion to Christ. She owed much, gave much, loved much, served much. Has He expelled Satan from our lives? If so, are we loving and serving Him to the limit of our capacity, daily witnessing to the power of His Resurrection?” – unknown

While the facts of Mary’s life are sketchy, at best, one thing is perfectly clear: Mary Magdalene loved Jesus, and Jesus loved her.  Mary simply became a true follower and friend of Jesus Christ.

“So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.” -2 Corinthians 5:16-18

The Secret Place

FullSizeRender (9)As I walked into my bedroom, my eye caught something that brought a big smile to my face.

Andrew, who will be three in July, spent the night with us, and stayed until lunch-time the next day.  Andrew is full of life and loves, loves, loves to play.  Andrew loves toy cars.  Papa keeps some small cars in a bag for Andrew to play with when he is at our house.  Andrew knows exactly where the cars are, and upon arrival, he will almost immediately open the drawer to retrieve his toy cars.

Papa was not home the morning Andrew was hanging out, and I tried to fill in for him.  (Andrew loves to play with Papa.)  I was kidding Andrew that those were my cars.  He’d respond, “No, they are my cars.”  We kiddingly went back and forth.    Those cars are precious to Andrew.

After Andrew went home, I was putting away toys, and straightening the house.  I walked into my bedroom, and something caught my eye.  On my bed is a decorative fabric liner.  Peeking out from the edge of that liner were Andrew’s cars.  He’d hidden them so that I could not get them.  He knew that the secret place, the hidden place offered protection for that which was precious.

Andrew found a secret place.

Most of us have a place we live, a place we sleep, a place we eat and a place we work.  But, do we have a secret place?

The Psalmist said, “He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” – Psalm 91:1-2.

Life has seemed heavy to me recently.  Thoughts and concerns have bombarded my mind and spirit.  I have found myself restless, not sleeping well, and eating all wrong.  The reason for these things is that life is trying to steal the things which are precious:  my peace, my hope, my joy, my faith, etc.

By personality, I tend to turn to comfort food in challenging times.  There, I said it!   This “preacher” girl is imperfect.   By nature, when things are hard, I can run for the chocolate!  After all, that will certainly bring me peace, hope and joy!  NOT!

I have learned that I must run to my secret place.  I must run to a place where it’s just God and me –  a place where God can do what only God can do.  The secret place is not a place to run in and out of occasionally.  The Psalmist understood that it is when we dwell in the secret place, that we learn to say, “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God, in him will I trust.”

Today, where will you eat?  Where will you sleep?  Where will you work?  Where will you meet God?

Andrew discovered that the precious things cannot be taken from us, when we find the secret place.

Who Do You See In The Mirror?

Cat in mirrorAs I sat in the audience listening to a gifted, well-known speaker, fear began to overtake me.  I was one of three speakers at that weekend conference, and I was totally unknown.    The voices in my head began to say, “What are you doing here?  You can’t compete with her.  You have nothing to say.  You will put people to sleep.”

I literally went to the head of the conference and said, “She practically covered my whole message, so you can just give the women the afternoon off.  I’m okay with that.”

She replied, “No!”

When my session rolled around, my feet felt like cement blocks as I walked up on the stage and to the podium.  I wanted to cry, and I wanted to run away.    Though I had sought God, prepared a message and dressed just right (hey, I am a girl), I wanted to go home.  I had little faith in my ability.

I opened the Bible, read the scripture and then began to speak what God had given me.  The response was amazing.  Once I was done, and went back to my seat, all I could say was thank you, God, for believing in me when I did not even believe in myself.

While I very much believe in positive confession of who we are, and who Christ is in us, there are times that life can weight you down. God doesn’t give up on you when your confession isn’t perfect.  In the book of Judges, a man named Gideon felt totally defeated. His confession was basically, “I’m just a big weakling who can’t do anything.” God, through an angel, said, “I don’t think so.” Well, actually He said, “You are a mighty warrior.”

When Gideon listed all the reasons he was disqualified to be used by God, God rejected Gideon’s small view, and said to him as recorded in Judges 6, “Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

Gideon went on to be the mighty warrior that God said he was.  The key to his success?  God was with Him.  God paid no attention to what Gideon thought of himself, or what others thought of Gideon.  What mattered is that God promised to be with him.  God did not expect Gideon to do it in his own strength.   God sees us not as what we are, but what we will be when His power is upon us.   Accomplishing great things is not about who I am, but about who God is.

Take another long look in that mirror, and see who God sees.  Over your life, God confesses, “Mighty warrior!”   He sees you much greater than you see yourself.

From Trash To Diamonds

flea-market-flip-title-shot-featOne of my most favorite TV programs is Flea Market Flip on HGTV.  Oh my goodness – I record FMF,  and binge watch several episodes at a time.  The show is all about looking for something that is all messed up, and envisioning what it could become. Each week amazing items are showcased; they are items which have undergone a transforming process.   The items are then sold for a major profit. Their value was maximized thanks to the hands of the ones who created the “new” item.    What was trash to others, became diamonds after being transformed by the hands of their creator.

I am so thankful that God transforms lives.  He looks at messed up people, people with flaws, people that others think have little value.  God looks at those people not as they presently are, but what they will become after His transforming process.

Many could be listed, but let me showcase some people who became diamonds because of the hands of the Creator:

  1. We met “Mary” in one of the states where we were pastors. She had lived a rough life, and had even begun to sell her body.  Mary was found by Jesus Christ, and He transformed her life.  She became a new creation.  Others saw her as trash, but God envisioned her as a diamond.
  2. “Susan” had quite a story.  She had lived in a horribly abusive marriage for many years.  What Susan had gone through at the hands of her husband is beyond comprehension.  One day she felt she had all she could stand. While her husband was sleeping, Susan shot him twice.    As a result, she was sentenced to several years in prison.  My husband led her to the Lord, baptized her and was used by God to help equip her for life change.  Susan eventually got out of jail, and was a new creation.  Others saw her as trash, but God envisioned her as a diamond.
  3. Then, there was a little girl named Barbara. Her life was rough while growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father.  The things she endured messed her up emotionally, and in other ways. God came looking for another “piece” to transform by His creative hands.  God took Barbara, and through a transforming process, changed who she was.  He would later open many doors of ministry to her, so she could proclaim the power of God to change lives.  Some saw Barbara as trash, but God envisioned her as a diamond.

It is so easy to look at people as losers, pieces of trash or not “worthy of the oxygen they breathe.”  God is looking for those messed up “pieces.”  He envisions them as diamonds.

Thank God that He can change trash into diamonds.  Barbara knows. Indeed she does!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I Am Disgusted With Disgusted

DisgustingI’m disgusted with the word disgusted.

Newsflash:  we live in difficult times.  Well, I guess it’s not much of a newsflash.  Right is now wrong, and wrong is now right. It is so difficult to see some of what is happening all around us.   The pressure is on!

My heart aches every time I hear God’s people say, “Well, if you are gay that is disgusting.”  Or, if you embrace this or that, “You are disgusting.”

How can we minister to the lost effectively when we hurl insults?

There are many spiritually sick people today, and they need Jesus Christ to change their lives.  I was spiritually sick for many years.  In my teen years, I am sure there would have been “church folk” who thought I was disgusting.  Actually, I was a hurt little girl trying desperately to find my way.  While I might have been disgusting to some, I was deeply loved by God.   I needed His love, grace, forgiveness and healing.

Do you know the difference between a believer and an unbeliever?  It’s the condition of the heart.   As believers we now have redeemed hearts, and a redeemed heart should be broken over the person who has a sin-sick heart.   Let’s not forget that Jesus came to our rescue when we were lost.

While I believe in standing up for the Word of God and right living according to His Word, our greatest impact will not come by getting in people’s faces.  It will come by getting in their hearts.    When is the last time you prayed, “Oh, God, let me lead someone to Jesus today?” “Oh God, lots of things will try to upset me today, but use me to be a voice for You.”  “Father, I pray for _________ who is trapped in sinful lifestyle.  “Father, save _______, and use me to help reach him/her.”

The greatest way that the Church will impact the nation is returning to the Great Commission:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:16-20

Jesus died for the person(s) we find disgusting.    As a matter of fact, I confess, “Jesus died for the disgusting Barbara Benton.”

God loves sinners.  Do you?

Becoming Friends With A Bee

BEESpring has sprung in the deep south!  I love the blooming flowers, the green grass and the warm, sunny days.

Over the weekend, my grandsons were playing in my backyard.  There was running, laughter and playing with the sand table.  There were also about half-dozen bees that continued to visit us.  Andrew thought it was so cool and smiled and was ready to be friends with a bee.   Yikes!   Today, kids have watched so many cute cartoons that show friendly bees, snakes, mice, lions and other creatures of nature, that now it’s easy to think of these creatures as something fun.   While the bee, in itself, is not bad, if one gets tangled up with the bee, that’s another story.

It is our job to teach and model, that while these creatures might look fun and harmless, they can be harmful, even deadly.  While the boys were smiling at the bees, Grammy was quick to tell them that the bee will hurt them, so don’t go near it.

As I have watched over the last decade, so many things have become cute and fun, that are really harmful.   There are things, that appear to be fun and life-fulfilling, and yet have been detrimental, especially to our youth.  Too much has been packaged as normal and inviting.   My heart breaks to see a ten-year old child engaging in or preoccupied with things that should not even be in their young minds.  Yet, it packaged as cute and fun all around them.

It is an hour when parents must be parents.  Teachers of God’s word must be teachers of God’s word.   Clearly in many instances, right and wrong are spelled out in the word of God.  Warnings of consequences are written in black and white.   Why are we so afraid to say that?    While we must not say it in a rude and hateful manner, we still must speak the truth in love.

I want to be a “mother in Israel.”  I want to speak the truth in love.  I want to have a voice that speaks God’s wisdom.

It’s not a time to make friends with a bee!

Let The Party Begin

celebrate-yourselfWe recently had two of our grandsons over for a morning.  I had been sick for a while, and we had not spent much time with them, so I had to see them!

Joseph is such a sweetheart, and is on the autism spectrum. Sometimes we have to work through little things, and I often clap for Joseph through every little accomplishment. We worked through something that morning, and I clapped and celebrated every time he did it. Eventually he was doing it on his own, but he would look and me, clap and say, “Yay!”

Joseph has learned to celebrate his little accomplishments.  Joseph has learned to celebrate himself.

Some of us can only see ourselves through a negative light.  We look at everything we have ever done wrong. We look at how much we weigh.  We look at how much farther we should be down the road. We look at the accomplishments of others.  After all that looking, all too often we can see no good in ourselves.

Stop and think for a moment.  What can you celebrate about you?    I know some are having a hard time coming up with something, and that ought not be!  Are you kind to others?  Are you an encourager?  Are you a good parent? Are you a prayer warrior? Have you grown in your relationship with God?

Today, I challenge you to celebrate YOU.  Celebrate what God has done in YOU and through YOU.   As a matter of fact, I challenge you to comment on this blog by writing something good about you.

Let the party begin!  Celebrate YOU!

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are Your works! And that my soul knows very well.” – Psalm 139:14