Ripping up Bad Report Cards: a Freeing Experience

Fearful spies brought God’s people a bad report of the Promised Land (see Numbers 14:32).

Most people got discouraged when they heard it.

“Oh, how we wish we’d died,” they cried,

“In the land of Egypt (where they had been gypped).”

 

To enter a land of milk and honey

With an outlook bright and sunny

seemed like an impossible task to them.

 

That’s how I used to feel: like I could never reach that promised land. Then one day recently I was looking through some bad report cards former teachers had written about me.

These were bad reports, I realized,

Telling me I was the wrong size

To tackle all those giants in the Promised Land.

 

Rip, shred, tear!

One bad report card hit the trash, then another.

With great joy I threw them all away.

 

My teachers’ wrong assessments went sailing into the can. Along with those false assessments went the insecurity that stems from trying to please other people rather than pleasing God.

Because teachers have expectations

Based on whatever evaluations

Someone else expects them to complete

In order to prove they’ve done their job

And done it well.

 

If a teacher is mostly negative, however,

It can affect a child’s self esteem

(And make it hard for them to reach their dream).

 

Rip, shred, tear!

 

For many years those bad report cards

Stared me in the face.

One of them especially lacked very little grace:

 

Tons of minuses from a teacher who must have hated me.

She couldn’t find one quality in which this shy child excelled.

 

NOT A SINGLE ONE.

 

Despite the fact that I never caused trouble in the classroom. I got zero points for being well-behaved.

 

ZERO POINTS WHATSOEVER: as in, one entire column showed straights N’s (N meaning Negative).

 

So, what do you think I did with that report card?

 

Rip, shred, tear!

Throw out the bad report card and free the child from discouraging expectations she could never meet.

For I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

True, like everyone else I have fallen short of God’s glory, but that DOES NOT make me inferior to other human beings. Because Jesus cared enough to die for me, which is what those failing teachers failed to see.

Do I hate them for it? No, but I do give the worst grader an F minus when it comes to understanding children. Yet, at the same time I do believe that she, too, can change. In fact, perhaps she has already changed for the better. If not, I pray she comes to know God’s love in a most amazing way.

Meanwhile, do I accept her bad report?

NO WAY!!!!!

Throw out the bad report card and free the inner child,

And in the end there shall be peace and harmony for all.

 

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A Lump For a Bump: Hezekiah’s Pain

Hezekiah had an oily bump, the kind they call a boil,

But he wouldn’t let the boil throw him in turmoil.

He heard the mean Assyrian king who kept on threatening

To take his people from the land, a woeful song to sing.

 

Sennacherib was the king’s name and he played a cruel game.

He said, “I’ll cart you to my country where the fruit’s the same

As what you eat in your land.” But Judah’s king did not a agree.

He knew that God was greater and refused to bow the knee.

 

The evil message that he heard was obviously a trick,

Though knowing that did not keep Hezekiah from getting sick.

The king, he had a boil you see, and it was quite a bump.

To nuke that horrible mean bump He had to have a lump

 

Of something greater than the poison ringing in his ear,

For the enemy’s toxic words were more than he could stand to hear.

They threw doubt on him. Then Isaiah told him he would die.

The prophet’s ominous prediction caused the king to cry.

 

He didn’t cry for medicine, but God sent it to him.

To get that medicine did not require a holy hymn.

To nuke the bump, he didn’t have to have some special oil,

Nor did he have to sweat like Adam, toiling in the soil.

 

He simply looked to God to meet his need and fry the bump,

After which came the prophetic word, the sign and then the lump

Of figs that came straight from a tree God never had to curse

But which contained a medicine whose power could reverse

 

The bitter sickness that had caused the man such loathsome pain.

Reminds me of the fruit of righteousness, which brings great gain.

Such righteousness is something we do not sweat to obtain,

 

“But freely come and buy! Without money you may eat

From the tree of life that makes the foulest water sweet.

The foulest hurts you’ve suffered it has power to defeat.

 

Scripture references: Isaiah chapters 37, 38, and 55; Exodus 15:23-26; Galatians 3:13

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Man and his Germy Rags – Who Wants Them?

Once there was an old man who found bargains worth good money.

Those germy rags looked stunning in the land of milk of honey.

They dripped with odes to worldly fame, success, prosperity.

This military man was rich and plundered them for free.

But when it came to TRUE wealth, he was poor as poor could be.

A social outcast when it came to God’s kingdom was he.

That’s because his name was Naaman. He had leprosy.

A stranger to God’s people and God’s promises was he.

 

The Lord had made a banquet from which Naaman couldn’t eat,

Because the germy rags he wore, they didn’t smell so sweet.

His sin-stained garments stunk like skunk. He dared not enter near,

Lest in God’s light of truth his inward nakedness appear.

A little girl with child-like faith he’d stolen saw it though,

And pointed this old man to one through whom God’s word did flow.

“There is a prophet from my land who has the cure you need.”

Into the old man’s sin-sick heart she sowed a precious seed.

 

Meanwhile, the germy rags of human reasoning got him lost.

Wrapped ‘round his eyes, they led him to believe he was the boss

He understood authority – no question about that,

But when it came to wisdom, he was blinder than a bat.

 

His message caused a king to tear his robes in hot despair.

“I cannot cure this man!” he grumbled, angry as a bear.

Elisha finally intervened: “Direct the man to me.”

He had a word of prophecy to heal the leprosy

 

Of one whose mind was focused on a “quick and easy sell.”

“He’ll wave his hand over the spot and I will be made well,”

Thought Naaman, who had brought with him a stack of  “bargain clothes”

To please his nagging wife who said “You must get rid of those.”

 

“They are so worn and germy, I can’t stand to bear the sight.

So, when you’re cured, please throw them out. They make me too uptight.

Get rid of them by any means you possibly can find,

And get yourself some brand new duds before I lose my mind.”

 

“Yeah, right,” her spouse agreed. “I’ll do it if you say so, dear,”

Not knowing God required more than might at first appear.

For Naaman wanted healing but would not let God too near.

Elisha seemed to pick up on his lack of holy fear,

 

Because instead of meeting the commander face to face,

He sent a messenger to say, “Seek out the special place,

A river of humility, where miracles abound,

Remove your clothes, bathe seven times. Your skin shall then be sound.”

 

Proud Naaman balked at this. “I must get naked, take a bath?”

He stormed off in a rage, and his poor servants felt the wrath.

With kindness they persuaded him to do as he was told.

So, Naaman dipped in Jordan, and his wrinkled skin so old

Took on a freshness reminiscent of a little child.

Rejoicing in his new attire – how soft, how fresh, how mild!

He offered to repay Elisha for his healing word,

Only to hear, “The water’s free. To pay would be absurd!”

 

Gehazi, though, was eager for some quick prosperity.

He drooled for Naaman’s worldly wealth and “What’s in it for me?”

He lied to get the old man’s garments which were not germ-free.

That’s how Elisha’s servant ended up with leprosy.

 

For the Isaac (Laughter) Set Before Him, Jesus Endured

Isaac, who means laughter, was the man-of-faith’s true joy,

For God gave Sarah grace to bear this promised baby boy.

Where faith met grace, the LORD performed a miracle so great,

It gave their friends and family great cause to celebrate.

 

Through Hagar, Abraham had Ishmael, who was very weak.

His mother had to shelter him while water she did seek.

For, like God’s holy law, he lacked the strength to set men free.

His line did not reveal the truth that leads to liberty.

 

His hand would be against all men and they at war with him.

As for escaping Ishmael’s judgment, it seemed less than slim.

Because, like law, he had no strength to save mankind from sin.

Therefore, only Through Isaac (laughter) can we really win.

 

Yet laughter’s dad was told to offer up his only son

Upon an altar to be sacrificed – God’s will be done.

He laid the wood on Isaac’s back as they went up the hill,

In order, this “obedience unto death” he might fulfill.

 

When asked “Where is the lamb?” Abraham said, “God will provide,”

Not knowing that a ram was coming up the mountainside,

Faith laid his Laughter on the wood, prepared to take the knife

And slay his son, believing God could bring him back to life.

 

But then an angel called from heaven, “Do not harm your son!”

“’I know now that you love me,’ says the Lord. The work I’ve done,

Because old Abraham beheld the ram in thick vines caught,

A substitute for Isaac who from death now had been brought.

 

For God so loved the world, we read, His only Son He gave.

To save our joy from perishing. He overcame the grave.

And for the Isaac set before him, Jesus bore the cross

That those of faith like Abraham might escape eternal loss.

 

 

Christians Prepared for War or Battle-sore?

I. Can Armor Meant For War Restore the Battle-sore?

 

Prepared for war or battle-sore?

What does each Christian need

To fight forces of darkness

Draped in bitterness and greed?

 

Ephesians chapter six speaks of

The full armor of God –

We need to take it on, Paul says,

And with these things be shod:

 

Truth, righteousness, the gospel message;

Shield of faith as well,

Plus helmet of salvation

To withstand the gates of hell.

 

He mentions, too, the Word of God

And also speaks of prayer.

Hey, wait a minute!

Did I really see prayer mentioned there?

 

(In some circles, to make prayer a priority seems rare!)

 

II. Prayer to Restore the Battle-sore Also Helps Prepare for War

 

Prayer’s vital to the process of

Preparing us for war.

But as we pray, we may discern

That some are battle-sore.

 

They’re suffering from wounds

Resulting from a lack of time

Spent strengthening themselves

In Jesus Christ, the one true vine.

 

Before they put God’s armor on,

They need to reconnect,

Not just with faithful followers

Of Christ, as some suspect,

 

But with the mercy that flows freely

From His gracious throne,

Imbibing of His healing stream

To make His truth their own.

 

(Though sometimes it is so much easier to use the phone)

 

III. Jesus Restores the Battle Sore and Makes Them Fit For War

 

It’s something we all need each day,

Without it, we can’t walk.

Come, battle-sore believer!

Let us leave the empty talk,

 

Release the heavy sorrow

That so easily besets

And find hope for tomorrow,

Leaving no room for regrets.

 

Let Jesus clothe you with the glory

That protects your back.

He is your refuge from the storm

Who shields you from attack.

 

In an age where every person

Wields their own “opinion pole,”

The whole armor of God descends

From Him who makes you whole.

 

(It pays to cling to Jesus who alone can save your soul).

 

His peace, it is our freedom.

His joy, it is our strength.

To rejoice In His salvation,

Let us go to any length!

Too Much Knowledge Kills; Try the Tree of Life

They didn’t have to starve themselves. The tree of life was there,

Staring them right in the face, to eat from and to share.

They didn’t have to sweat for food to give their stomachs rest.

Perfection stood before them, yet it put them to the test.

 

Would knowledge not be better, to be clothed with intellect’s crown,

Two gods extraordinary set apart to fame, renown?

The serpent tempted them to trust in their own righteousness.

“A pedestal to pride is what you need to have success.”

 

“A taste of good and evil? You can handle it for sure!

Self-denial can kill, but man-made knowledge rings secure.”

And so, instead of eating from the precious tree of life,

They chose the pretty looking fruit which led to blame and strife.

 

But it made them self-conscious. Body shaming had begun.

They felt the need to cover up, their nakedness to shun.

For suddenly they saw themselves as open to attack,

With skin that lacked protection both in front and in the back.

 

The possibility of getting hurt became quite real,

For knowing evil showed them what their flesh so soft might feel

If hit by birds or bugs or germs they couldn’t even see.

To think they could have eaten of the tree of life for free!

 

For evil happens when somebody says “I’m in control!”

And tries to take upon himself the Holy Spirit’s role,

Attempting to bring good from evil which he claims to know.

But mankind simply wasn’t meant to probe such depths of woe.

 

In pride rejecting grace, man claims to know so very much

But in his wisdom acts the fool, rejecting Jesus’ touch,

Declaring in his willful ignorance that he’s the boss.

Oh Lord, please help him see the tree of life that bore the cross!

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Deep Sea Diagnostics: Holy Spirit Led Laser Surgery

I. Deep Sea Diagnostics

The diagnostics started when the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters. Then the Father spoke the Word – Jesus the Son (John 1:1), who created all things (Hebrews 1:1). Through the Holy Spirit, God performed laser surgery on a mixed up world – dividing light from darkness, waters from waters, sea from dry land.

“And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that has life. . . And God created great whales, and every living creature that moves which the waters brought forth abundantly. . .  God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:20-22)

Who can fathom the detailed wisdom required to perform such marvelous works?

How the Father, Son and Spirit worked together to create the world remains a mystery. What we do know, however, is that the Holy Spirit searches out the deep things of God (I Corinthians 2:10). His “deep sea diagnostics” can reveal God’s plans to us as well as where we have erred from those plans. What is His heart? What are his thoughts? The Holy Spirit knows. He zeroes in on our needs and the Father’s will for us.

 

II. Empowered to Do Laser Surgery Like Jesus Did

It is the Holy Spirit who brought Jesus the Great Physician to us (Luke 1:35). God (the Father) anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of doing good and healing all those whom the devil had oppressed (see Acts 10:38).

Led by the Spirit, Jesus knew what people were thinking – like when the scribes and pharisees wondered how he could forgive a person’s sins (Luke 5:21-22). He also knew what the paralyzed man really needed (forgiveness) and what he needed to say to get him on his feet again.

Amazingly, Jesus said that those who believe in Him would do the same things He did, as well as greater things (John 14:12).

“And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. . . they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:17-18)

How would it be possible for them to do the same works Jesus did? Through laser surgery performed through the power of the Holy Spirit. He diagnoses deep needs and supplies wisdom for the cure.

 

III. The Holy Spirit as Teacher

Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Comforter “whom the Father will send in my name.”  He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (I Corinthians 2:4-5)

He continues in verse 12, “Now we (referring to believers in Christ) have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God” – meaning the Holy Spirit – “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”

13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) teaches. . .

IV. Holy Spirit Diagnostics and the Cross of Christ

When it comes to healing, human wisdom only goes so far. The finest surgeon in the world can only touch the surface of the need. But to the believer in Christ, God can give a word of wisdom or of knowledge, faith, or gifts of healing, just to name a few (see I Corinthians 12:8-10) The Holy Spirit can perform the diagnosis and provide the cure.

No CAT scan can compare to the “deep sea diagnostics” He performs. He is like a deep sea probe, exploring every aspect of the divine, as well as  He knows how we are made – each and every part – and understands us, body, spirit, soul.

He knows what’s in our minds as well as what lies in our hearts. When it comes to healing, man-made medicine has its limits, but the Holy Spirit sees what needs fixing. He can perform laser surgery on any area that causes pain.  Where detailed needs meet divine sovereignty, He applies the cross.

 

The Holy Spirit Meets Deep Healing Needs

I. The Holy Spirit Does Deep Healing, Bringing Order out of Chaos

Sometimes those who struggle with a chronic illness or disease need deep healing because the pain of mental anguish has turned their world “upside-down.” The first chapter of Genesis seems to speak of such a world.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (verse 1)

“And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” (verse 2)

Though Biblical scholars disagree as to the meaning of this verse – did God create the world that way or did it become that way (after the fall of Lucifer)? – one thing seems clear: the world was dark. Little meaning could be seen amid the disarray. But then we read:

“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (verse 3)

Then God spoke, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (verse 4)

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God brought order out of chaos. He performed a “deep healing” on a world whose “body parts” were in disarray. The earth was like a lifeless corpse, but He brought order to it, separating light from darkness, waters from waters, and water from dry land.

“and God saw that it was good” (verse 10)

He spoke to the waters and they brought forth living creatures “abundantly” (verse 21). He brought forth many creatures from the earth as well.

“And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (verse 31).

II. Deep Healing For Deep Needs

God did not create the world to break down or become diseased. Everyone and everything was happy and healthy. But then, like the “pestilence that stalks in darkness” (Psalm 91:6), confusion snuck in, taking the form of a serpent. They didn’t see it coming but they felt the plague.

“Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat . . .’ ?”  (Genesis 3:1)

Man ate forbidden fruit. The result: heavy toil, hard labor, and death (Genesis 2:17; 3:16-19; and 3:22-24)

Adam and Eve didn’t die that same day in a physical sense, but death soon took its toll on their family. Their first son Cain acted insane by murdering his brother Abel, thus turning his parents’ world upside-down. No plant-based medicine could heal their aching hearts.

But the Holy Spirit hovered over their darkness, waiting one day to fulfill the promise spoken  in Genesis 3:15 :

“And I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

One day Jesus, the “seed of the woman” (not Eve but her natural descendant Mary) would fulfill this promise by bruising the head of the serpent’s seed (meaning Satan, who used the serpent to trick Eve into eating the forbidden fruit – see Revelation 12:9).

“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”  (Luke 1:35)

The Holy Spirit is the one who shows us Jesus Christ our healer, the one whose blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:24).

 

 

 

Blazing Trails Through Jungles of Writing Rejection

Blazing trails through hot rejection while feeling all alone,

Each query one step forward, each “NO” a stepping stone

Until I reach that desperate place where fingers start to bleed.

What stumbling blocks stand in the way, my progress to impede?

 

Shades of Jumanji in this snare-filled writing jungle…

 

Through vines of unjust criticism, ponds of selfish greed,

And clumps of cynicism I will find the path I need,

Because new dangers lie in wait at every twist and turn.

I’ve dodged twelve fiery darts so far and still have much to learn.

 

They say the odds of winning big aren’t in my favor with this game.

 

The upward trek proves treacherous, I almost lose my grip

As false hopes of desired reviews provoke my hands to slip.

Such shaky rocks, I fear, are slicker than a pirate’s chest.

To rest upon man’s promises is ludicrous at best.

 

Roll the dice, hope for two sixes, get double ones. ARGH!

 

But trials force me to look up for wisdom from God’s throne,

For blazing trails through man’s rejection can’t be done alone.

Though in the market place abundant sales pitches resound,

Few sellers stay true to their claims while broken vows abound.

 

Shades of Jumanji. Watch the numbers. Can I prove them wrong?

 

It takes a mustard seed of faith with bold determination

To stay true to one’s purpose and not cave to resignation.

Each query one step forward and each “no” a stepping stone,

Blazing trails through man’s rejection, I expand my comfort zone.

 

It’s not dice rolls but “ask, seek, knock” that finds a way on out

 

Sometimes I need to rest and let the Holy Spirit breathe

Fresh air into my lungs; exhale old lies, new life receive.

I know eventually I’ll reach my chosen destination,

So I press forward without any fear or hesitation.

 

“And who is he that will harm you, if you be followers of that which is good?”

(I Peter 3:13)

 

Faith’s Journey: From Seed to Shoot to Fruit

I. From Seed to Shoot to Fruit

Faith starts out as a seed that stretches to become a shoot.

That shoot is destined to eventually develop fruit.

 

Along the way faith learns to speak. It shall not remain mute,

Provided it receives good care and doesn’t “get the boot.”

 

Sometimes when Jesus puts a seed of faith in someone’s hand,

That person sees hard ground and simply cannot understand

 

How best to help that seed grow up into a miracle.

Faith is a substance which contains amazing potential

 

But if you wrap it up in rags of your own righteousness

Then you will surely find yourself engulfed by fierce distress.

 

For, like a buried talent, that poor seed of faith can’t grow

Through your own sin-stained toil. You must let God help you sow

 

The faith that works through love, made possible through his shed blood,

A perfect sacrifice for sin. Receive the cleansing flood!

 

Remember: Those who grew their talents did it through a trade,

Replacing their despair with joy for which their Savior paid.

 

His grace given so freely is the soil that will nourish.

Through the power of His Spirit, He enables faith to flourish.

II. Faith Produces Fruit Through Love

“For verily I say unto you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

Miracles are a fruit of faith, but faith starts as a seed. The important thing here, however, isn’t the seed itself. It’s the  soil in which the seed is planted.

“But that (seed, of faith) on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” – Luke 8:15

So then, must we strain to bring forth fruit?

“Faith . . . works by love.” – Galatians 5:6

“God is love.” – I John 4:8

“Love (charity). . . believes all things. . .” – I Corinthians 13:1-7

“I (Jesus) am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.”

“Looking to Jesus,  the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2

“You shall know them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:16

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16