Yes.  Somewhere, people still make and keep promises.

They choose not to quit when the going gets rough because they promised once to see it through.

They stick to seemingly lost causes.

They hold on to a love grown cold.

They stay with people who have become pains in the neck.

They still dare to make promises and care enough to keep the promises they make.

I want to say to you that if you have a ship you will not desert, if you have people you will not forsake, if you have causes you will not abandon, then you are like the One, True God, Creator of the universe and the original inventor and pioneer of promises.

What a marvelous thing a promise is!

When a person makes a promise, they reach out into an unpredictable future and makes one thing predictable: that they will be there even when being there costs more than they want to pay.

When a person makes a promise, they stretch themselves out into circumstances that no one can control and yet, controls at least one thing: that they will be there no matter what the circumstances turn out to be.

With one simple word of promise, a person creates an island of certainty in a sea of uncertainty.

When a person makes a promise, they stake a claim on personal freedom and power.

When you make a promise, you take a hand in creating your own future.

[Keeping Promises, Citation: Lewis Smedes, “The Power of Promises,” A Chorus of Witnesses, edited by Long and Plantinga, (Eerdmans, 1994)]

Dear Spirit of Religion…

A Guest Post, by;  Bethany Carson

Photo Credit: Artistically Revealing the Spirit; Artist, Richmond Futch Jr.  If you like the painting attached to this article, please take the time to view Richmond’s other amazing work at:

Dear spirit of religion;

You​ ​are​ ​cruel.​ ​​ ​You​ ​create​ ​bondage.​ ​​ ​You​ ​enslave​ ​people​ ​by​ ​your​ ​demands.​ ​​ ​You​ ​inhibit​ ​freedom.  You​ ​operate​ ​by​ ​heaping​ ​guilt​ ​and​ ​hesitation​ ​on​ ​people​ ​for​ ​how​ ​to​ ​be,​ ​how​ ​to​ ​act,​ ​what​ ​to​ ​say,​ ​and how​ ​to​ ​live.​ ​​ ​You​ ​bind​ ​people​ ​with​ ​chains​ ​called​ ​fear​ ​and​ ​control.​ ​​ ​You​ ​place​ ​people​ ​on​ ​the​ ​hamster wheel​ ​of​ ​“What​ ​ifs?”​ ​-​ ​that​ ​spinning​ ​wheel​ ​of​ ​death​ ​-​ ​and​ ​leave​ ​them​ ​to​ ​run​ ​incessantly,​ ​where​ ​they neither​ ​achieve,​ ​or​ ​advance.​ ​​ ​You​ ​accuse.​ ​​ ​You​ ​condemn.​ ​​ ​You​ ​seek​ ​to​ ​destroy​ ​people​ ​from​ ​the inside​ ​out.

You​​ ​​are​​ ​​an​​ ​​ice​​ ​​cold​​ ​princess,​ ​​​ ​​spirit​​ ​​of​​ ​​religion.​ ​​​ ​​​​ ​​You​​ ​​seek​​ ​​to​​ ​​be​​ ​​right​​ ​and​ ​to​ ​self-protect​ ​​more​​ ​​than​ ​you​​ ​​seek​​ ​​to​​ ​​love.​ ​​​​ ​​Your​​ ​​division​​ ​​of​​ ​​the​​ ​​church,​ ​first​ ​by​ ​denomination,​ ​then​ ​by​ ​congregation,​ ​is​​ ​​the calling​ ​card​ ​​of​​ ​​your​​ ​​ruthless​​ ​​and​​ ​​reckless​​ ​​destruction.​​ ​​ ​I​ ​find​​ ​​comfort​ ​​that​​ ​​Jesus​​ ​​actually​ ​​came​​ ​​to​ ​bring​​ ​​division​ ​and​ ​I​ ​trust​ ​that​ ​His​ ​sovereign​ ​hand​ ​will​ ​use​ ​your​ ​attempts​ ​to​ destroy,​ ​to​ ​prune​ ​that which​ ​is​ ​dying​ ​and​ ​powerless​ ​and​ ​in​ ​turn,​ ​strengthen​ ​His​ ​bride.​ ​​ ​After​ ​all,​ ​his​​ ​​message​​ ​​walked​​ ​​in​ ​direct​​ ​​opposition​​ ​​to​​ ​​religion​​ ​​far​ ​more​​ ​​than​​ ​​it​​ ​​did​​ ​​against​​ ​​the​​ ​​broken​​ ​​sinner.​​ ​​​​ ​I​ ​choose​ ​His​ ​division, because​ ​it​ ​is​ ​what​ ​safely​ ​separates​ ​me​ ​from​ ​you.​ ​​ ​​The​​ ​​yeast​​ ​​of​​ ​​the​​ ​​Pharisees​​ ​​is​​ ​​what​​ ​​puts​ ​the​ ​true believer​​ ​​on​ ​guard​​ ​​(Luke​​ ​​12).​​ ​​​ ​​ ​That​ ​yeast,​ ​which​ ​you​ ​cleverly​ ​attempt​ ​to​ ​hide,​ ​​destroys​​ ​​what​​ ​​Jesus​ ​wants​​ ​​to​​ ​​do​​ ​​and​​ ​​accomplish​ ​through​​ ​​his​​ ​​Bride,​​ ​​the​​ ​​church.​​

​​​​You​ ​certainly​ ​don’t​ ​operate​ ​with​ ​love.​ ​​ ​You​ ​place​ ​demands​ ​on​ ​people​ ​that​ ​are​ ​immobilizing​ ​and unattainable.​ ​​ ​You​ ​demand​​ ​​that​​ ​​churches​​ ​have​ ​boards​ ​of​ ​leaders​ ​​to​​ ​​establish​​ ​​accountability​​ ​​and​​ ​​to​ ​protect​​ ​​an​​ ​​already​​ ​​too-safe​​ ​​American​​ ​​church​​ ​​from​​ ​​anything​​ ​​that​​ ​​might​​ ​​be​​ ​​outside​​ ​​of​​ ​​the​ ​comfort​ ​zones​ ​you​ ​impose​ ​upon​ ​them.​​ ​​​​ ​​But​​ ​​the​​ ​​Holy​ ​Spirit​​ ​​of​​ ​​the​​ ​​Living​​ ​​God​​ ​empowers​ ​churches​​ ​​with​​ ​​warrior leaders​​ ​​who​ ​will​​ ​​cover,​​ ​​protect,​​ ​​and​​ ​​champion​​ ​​an​ ​army​​ ​​of​​ ​​fellow​​ ​​believers​​ ​​into​​ ​​their​​ ​​rightful​​ ​​place​​ ​​of​ ​power​​ ​​and​​ ​​authority​​ ​​over​​ ​the​ ​power​ ​of​ ​​sin​​ ​​and​​ ​​death​​ ​​and​ ​darkness​ ​in​ ​a​ ​fallen,​ ​hurting​ ​world.
If​ ​perfect​ ​love​ ​casts​ ​out​ ​ALL​ ​fear,​ ​then​ ​I​ ​cannot​ ​and​ ​will​ ​not​ ​bow​ ​to​ ​you​ ​and​ ​worship​ ​you,​ ​religion, because​ ​you​ ​walk​ ​in​ ​direct​ ​contradiction​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Gospel​ ​and​ ​power​ ​of​ ​Jesus​ ​Christ.​ ​​ ​I​​ ​​will​​ ​​never​​ ​​bow​​ ​​to​ your​ ​​religious​​ ​​doctrine​​ ​​without​​ ​​first​​ ​​bowing​​ ​​to​​ ​​the​​ ​​person​​ ​​and​​ ​​work​​ ​​of​​ ​​Jesus​​ ​​Christ.​ ​The​​ ​​Gospel​​ ​​of​ ​Jesus​​ ​​Christ​​ ​​was​ ​freely​ ​given​ ​​to​​ ​​set​​ ​​captives​​ ​​free,​​ ​​to​​ ​​loosen​​ ​​the​​ ​​chains​​ ​​that​​ ​​bind,​​ ​​to​ ​unshackle​ ​people​​ ​​from​​ ​​hindrances.​​ ​​​​ ​​Jesus​​ ​​Christ​​ ​​is​​ ​​my​​ ​​doctrine.​​ ​​​​ ​​He​​ ​​gives​​ ​​us​​ ​​a​​ ​​very​​ ​​clear​​ ​​moral​ ​compass​ ​through​​ ​​his​​ ​​Word​​ ​​for​​ ​​how​​ ​​to​​ ​​live​​ ​​and​​ ​​how​​ ​​to​​ ​​filter​​ ​​all​​ ​the​ ​​circumstances​​ ​​we​​ ​​face.​ ​​ ​I​ ​​trust​​ ​​the​​ ​​Holy​ ​Spirit​​ ​​in​​ ​​me​ ​and​ ​other​ ​like​ ​me,​ ​who​ ​reject​ ​your​ ​powerless​ ​splendor,​ ​​to​​ ​​lead​​ ​​and​​ ​​guide​​ ​​us​​ ​​in​​ ​​all​​ ​​truth.​ ​​​ ​​​ ​My​​ ​​heart​​ ​​is​​ ​fixed​ ​​to​​ ​​honor​​ ​​Him​​ ​​and​​ ​​to​ ​seek​​ ​​Him,​​ ​​and​​ ​​God​ ​​promises us ​​that​​ ​​we​​ ​​will​​ ​​find​​ ​​Him​​ ​​when​​ ​​we​ ​seek​​ ​​Him​​ ​​with​​ ​​our​​ ​​whole​​ ​​heart.

While​ ​this​ ​open​ ​letter​ ​to​ ​you,​ ​spirit​ ​of​ ​religion,​ ​is​ ​from​ ​my​ ​pure,​ ​but​ ​resilient​ ​heart,​ ​I​ ​bear​ ​these​ ​words up​ ​with​ ​the​ ​good​ ​news​ ​of​ ​truth​ ​from​ ​my​ ​Father.​ ​​ ​The​ ​good​ ​news​ ​of​ ​truth​ ​that​ ​became​ ​the​ ​person​ ​of Jesus,​ ​who​ ​then​ ​poured​ ​Himself​ ​out​ ​to​ ​fulfill​ ​it,​ ​and​ ​avenge​ ​me​ ​in​ ​the​ ​process.​ ​​ ​You​ ​try​ ​to​ ​convince us​ ​that​ ​your​ ​voice​ ​is​ ​louder​ ​than​ ​the​ ​Holy​ ​Spirit’s​ ​voice.​ ​​ ​But​ ​the​ ​Word​ ​of​ ​God​ ​is​ ​my​ ​weapon​ ​and​ ​I​ ​will lift​ ​this​ ​sword​ ​confidently​ ​and​ ​courageously​ ​toward​ ​you​ ​for​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​my​ ​life,​ ​letting​ ​the​ ​Holy​ ​Spirit’s power​ ​burst​ ​forth​ ​like​ ​water​ ​pouring​ ​forth​ ​from​ ​a​ ​cracked​ ​dam.​ ​​ ​On​ ​guard!

1​​ ​​Corinthians​​ ​​14​:1​ ​says,​ ​​“Earnestly​​ ​​desire​​ ​​(Greek​​ ​​-​​ ​​to​​ ​​have​​ ​​strong​ ​affection​​ ​​towards,​​ ​​be​​ ​​ardently​ ​devoted​​ ​​to,​​ ​​to​​ ​​make​​ ​​a​​ ​​show​​ ​​of​​ ​​affection​​ ​​and​​ ​​devotion​​ ​​towards)​​ ​​the​ ​spiritual​​ ​​gifts​​ ​​(Greek​​ ​​-​​ ​​pertaining​ ​to​​ ​​the​​ ​​soul,​​ ​​as​​ ​​distinguished​​ ​differently​ ​​from​​ ​​what​​ ​​concerns​​ ​​the​​ ​​body,​ ​pertaining​​ ​​to​​ ​​the​​ ​​nature​​ ​​of​ ​spirits,​​ ​​pertaining​​ ​​or​​ ​​relating​​ ​​to​​ ​​the​​ ​​influences​​ ​​of​​ ​​the​​ ​​Holy​​ ​​Spirit,​ ​superior​​ ​​in​​ ​​process​​ ​​to​​ ​​the​​ ​​natural​ ​course​​ ​​of​​ ​​things,​​ ​​the​​ ​​miraculous),​​ ​​but​​ ​​especially​​ ​​that​​ ​​you​​ ​​may​ ​prophesy…​ ​Again,​​ ​​if​​ ​​the​​ ​​bugle​​ ​​gives​ ​an​​ ​​uncertain​​ ​​call,​​ ​​who​​ ​​will​​ ​​get​​ ​​ready​ ​for​​ ​​battle?”​

Prophecies,​​ ​​in​ ​the​​ ​​Greek​ ​we​ ​know​ ​and​ ​trust,​ ​​are​​ ​​a​​ ​​prediction​​ ​​of​​ ​​future​​ ​​events,​​ ​​a​​ ​​matter​​ ​​of​​ ​​divine​ ​teachings​​ ​​set​​ ​​forth​​ ​​by​​ ​​spiritual​ ​gift.​​ ​​​​ ​​Prophecy,​​ ​​in​​ ​​direct​​ ​​contrast​​ ​​to​​ ​​tongues,​​ ​​is​​ ​​to​​ ​​provide​​ ​​a​​ ​​clear​ ​battle​​ ​​call​​ ​​to​​ ​​believers!​ ​​ ​We​​ ​​are​​ ​​called​​ ​​to​​ ​make​ ​a​ ​show​ ​of​ ​affection​ ​toward​ ​the​ ​influences​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Holy Spirit.​ ​​ ​The​​ ​​purpose​​ ​​of​​ ​​this​​ ​​deep​​ ​​desire​​ ​​for​​ ​​prophecy​​ ​​is​​ ​​to​​ ​​edify​​ ​​and​​ ​​strengthen​​ ​​people,​​ ​​to​​ ​​encourage them,​​ ​​and​​ ​​to​​ ​​console​​ ​​them.​​ ​​​​ ​​It’s​​ ​​to​​ ​​build​​ ​​up​​ ​​and​​ ​​strengthen​​ ​​the​​ ​​church​​ ​​and​​ ​​to​​ ​​cause​​ ​​an​ ​unbelieving​ ​world​​ ​​to​​ ​​pause​​ ​​and​​ ​​take​​ ​​note​​ ​​of​​ ​​our​​ ​​Jesus!​​ ​​​​ ​​ ​​Prophecy​​ ​​is​​ ​​an​​ ​​impartation​​ ​​of​​ ​​a​ ​revelation​​ ​​or​​ ​​knowledge​ ​from​​ ​​heaven​​ ​​that​​ ​​is​​ ​​meant​​ ​​to​​ ​​give​​ ​​strength​​ ​​to​​ ​​the​​ ​​believer.​​ ​​​​

​​ 1​ ​Thessalonians​ ​5:19-21,​ ​“Do​​ ​​NOT​​ ​​quench​​ ​​the​​ ​​Spirit.​​ ​​​​ ​​Do​​ ​​not​​ ​​treat​​ ​​prophecies​ ​with​​ ​​contempt​​ ​​but​​ ​​test​ ​them​​ ​​all;​​ ​then​ ​​hold​​ ​​on​​ ​​to​​ ​​what​​ ​​is​​ ​​good​ ​and​​ ​​reject​​ ​​every​​ ​​kind​​ ​​of​​ ​​evil.”​​ ​​​​ ​​
You,​ ​spirit​ ​of​ ​religion,​​ ​​seduce​ ​people​ ​into​​ ​apathy.​ ​​ ​You​ ​leave​ ​people​ ​content​ ​to​ ​have​ ​knowledge​ ​and leadership,​ ​and​ ​to​ ​be​ ​skeptical​ ​and​ ​cynical​ ​of​ ​other​ ​spiritual​ ​gifts.​ ​​ ​You​ ​treat​ ​prophecies​ ​with contempt​ ​and​ ​encourage​ ​people​ ​to​ ​quench​ ​them.​ ​​ ​The​​ ​​word​​ ​​for​ ​quench​​ ​​in​​ ​​the​​ ​​Greek​​ ​​is​​ ​​to​​ ​​hinder,​ ​extinguish,​​ ​​or​​ ​​thwart.​​ ​​​​ ​​You​ ​are​ ​the​ ​master​ ​of​ ​​extinguishing​​ ​​any​ ​flame​​ ​of​ ​awakening​ ​and​ ​revival,​ ​no matter​ ​how​ ​frail,​ ​because​​ ​​you​​ ​​fear​​ ​​it​ ​could​​ ​​become​​ ​​a​​ ​​wildfire.​​ ​​​​ ​​How​​ ​​foolish​​ ​​and​​ ​​cowardly​​ ​​of​​ ​​you.​​ ​​​​ ​​You​ ​continue​​ ​​to​ ​set​​ ​​the​​ ​​church​​ ​​in​​ ​​a​​ ​​backward​​ ​​motion​​ ​​and​​ ​​hinder​​ ​​the​​ ​​work​​ ​​of​​ ​​the​​ ​​one,​​ ​​true​​ ​​God.

​​ ​​​​1​​ ​​Corinthians​​ ​​14:12-15​​ ​tells​ ​​the​​ ​​church​​​ ​​to​​ ​​excel​ ​in​ ​those​ ​that​ ​build​ ​up​ ​the​ ​church,​ ​to​ ​pray​​ ​​and​​ ​​sing​ ​with​​ ​​our​​ ​​spirit​​ ​​and​​ ​​with​​ ​​our​​ ​​understanding​​ ​​(Greek​​ ​​-​​ ​​our​ ​minds/intellect).​​ ​​​​ ​The​​ ​​Pharisees​​ ​of​ ​Jesus’​ ​day always​ ​​demanded​​ ​that​ ​He​ ​​bow​​ ​​to​​ ​​intellect​​ ​​alone;​ ​intellect​ ​they​ ​themselves​ ​presumed​ ​to​ ​possess.  Jesus​​ ​​always​ ​resisted​​ ​​their​​ ​​demands,​ ​demonstrating​ ​that​ ​it​ ​was​ ​the​ ​heart​ ​of​ ​a​ ​person​ ​through​ ​which their​ ​identity​ ​flowed.​ ​​ ​Jesus​ ​always​​ ​​included​ ​​the​​ ​​heart.​ ​​ ​In​ ​so​ ​doing,​​ ​​He​​ ​was​​ ​​constantly​​ ​​whispered​ ​about,​ ​muttered​​ ​​about,​​ ​​abandoned,​​ ​​and​​ ​​ultimately​​ ​murdered.​​ ​​ ​Spirit​ ​of​ ​religion,​ ​you​ ​were​ ​there.​ ​​ ​You looked​ ​on​ ​approvingly.​ ​​ ​But​​ ​​He​​ ​​died​​ ​​to​​ ​​set​​ ​​us​​ ​​free​​ ​​from​​ ​​you.​​ ​​​​ ​​This​​ ​​freedom​​ ​​should​​ ​​press​​ ​​us​​ ​​into​​ ​​an​ ​unwavering​​ ​​fear​​ ​​of​​ ​​the​​ ​​Lord,​​ ​​but​​ ​its​ ​precisely​ ​the​ ​​fear​​ ​​of​​ ​​the​​ ​​Lord​ ​ends​​ ​​up​​ ​​returning​​ ​​us​​ ​​to​​ ​​TRUE​ freedom.​

We​​ ​​are​​ ​​at​ ​war​​ ​​and​​ ​​it’s​​ ​​not​​ ​​enough​​ ​​to​​ ​​know​​ ​​God​​ ​​in​​ ​​our​​ ​​heads​​ ​​as​​ ​​the​​ ​​Pharisees​​ ​​did.​​ ​​​​ ​​We​​ ​​must​​ ​​know​ ​him​​ ​​in​ ​our​​ ​​hearts.​​ ​​​​ ​​He​​ ​​must​​ ​​envelop​​ ​​every​​ ​​part​​ ​​of​​ ​​our​​ ​​being.​​ ​​​​ ​​He​​ ​​must​​ ​​strengthen​​ ​​and​​ ​​establish​ ​himself​ ​with​​ ​​power​​ ​​DEEP​​ ​​in​​ ​​our​​ ​​spirits.​​ ​​​​ ​To​ ​evade​ ​your​ ​virulent​ ​tactics,​ ​spirit​ ​of​ ​religion,​ ​we​ ​must allow​ ​Him​ ​this​ ​access​ ​to​ ​our​ ​hearts.​ ​​ ​1​ ​Thessalonians​ ​5:24​ ​says,​ ​​“The​​ ​​one​​ ​​who​​ ​​calls​​ ​​you​​ ​​will​​ ​​do​​ ​​it.​​ ​​​ ​He​​ ​​is​​ ​​SURELY​​ ​​faithful.”​​ ​​​​ ​​Therefore,​​ ​​we​​ ​​can​​ ​confidently​ ​and​ ​continually​ ​​trust​​ ​​the​ ​Spirit​​ ​​of​​ ​​God​​ ​​in​​ ​us.​

And​ ​we​​ ​​don’t​​ ​​have​​ ​​to​​ ​​be​​ ​​afraid.​​ ​​​​ ​​We​​ ​​don’t​​ ​​have​​ ​​to​​ ​​be​​ ​​afraid​​ ​​of​​ ​​getting​​ ​​it​​ ​​wrong,​​ ​we​ ​don’t​ ​have​ ​to​ ​be afraid​ ​​of​​ ​​wolves​ ​and​ ​their​ ​​false​ ​teachings.​​ ​​​​ ​​We​​ ​​are​​ ​​to​​ ​​be​​ ​​shrewd​​ ​​as​​ ​​serpents​​ ​​and​​ ​yet​ ​​innocent​​ ​​as​ ​doves.​​ ​​​​ ​​This​​ ​​means​​ ​​we​​ ​​love​ ​people​​ ​​in​​ ​​the​​ ​​most​​ ​​pure​​ ​​and​​ ​​innocent​​ ​​ways,​​ ​​just​​ ​​like​​ ​​a​​ ​​child​​ ​​would,​ ​while maintaining​ ​a​ ​sharp​ ​radar​ ​against​ ​things​ ​that​ ​could​ ​pervert​ ​the​ ​Gospel.​ ​​ ​But​ ​we​ ​never​ ​operate​ ​in fear.​ ​​ ​We​​ ​​celebrate​​ ​​the​​ ​​gold​​ ​​in​ ​people.​ ​​ ​Though​ ​they​ ​may​ ​be​ ​different​ ​than​ ​us​ ​and​ ​though​ ​they​ ​may be​ ​lacking​ ​a​ ​complete​​ ​​understanding​​ ​​of​​ ​​God,​ ​like​ ​we​ ​all​ ​do​ ​in​ ​different​ ​ways,​​ ​​​we​ ​don’t​​ ​​abandon​
​them.​ ​​ ​We​​ ​are​ ​all​ ​being​ ​perfected​ ​and​ ​moving​ ​from​ ​glory​ ​to​ ​glory.​​ ​​​​ ​​We​​ ​​choose​ ​to​ ​rely​ ​upon​ ​each​ ​other​​ ​​to​​ ​​have​​ ​​a​​ ​​more​ ​accurate​​ ​​and​​ ​​complete​​ ​​picture​​ ​​of​​ ​​Jesus.

And​ ​in​ ​everything,​ ​we​​ ​​rejoice.​​ ​​​​ ​​We​​ ​​rejoice​​ ​​in​​ ​​our​​ ​​sufferings​​ ​​because​​ ​​of​​ ​​your​​ ​​cruel​ ​hand.​​ ​​​​ ​​These​ ​sufferings​,​ ​the​ ​​distressing​​ ​​circumstances,​​ ​​the​ ​distress​​ ​​of​​ ​​mind,​​ ​​the​ ​pressure,​ ​affliction​ ​and​​ ​​trials;​​ ​​they produce​​ ​our​ ​​endurance,​​ ​​which​​ ​​produces​​ ​our​ ​​character​ ​and​ ​thus​​ ​​produces​ ​our​​ ​​HOPE.​ ​​ ​And​ ​our​ ​hope​ ​does​​ ​​not​​ ​​disappoint​​ ​​us​​ ​​because​​ ​​the​​ ​​love​​ ​​of​​ ​​God​​ ​​has​​ ​​been​​ ​​poured​​ ​​out​​ ​​into​​ ​​our​​ ​​hearts​ ​through​​ ​​the​ ​Holy​​ ​​Spirit​​ ​​who​​ ​​was​​ ​​given​​ ​​to​​ ​​us​ ​(Romans​ ​5).​ ​​ ​All​ ​of​ ​that​ ​occurs​ ​independent​ ​of​ ​you​ ​and​ ​the​ ​control you​ ​so​ ​wickedly​ ​crave.
The​ ​power​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Gospel​ ​of​ ​Jesus​ ​Christ​ ​is​ ​at​ ​work.​ ​​ ​Galatians​ ​5:1​ ​says,​ ​“It​ ​is​ ​for​ ​freedom​ ​that​ ​Christ has​ ​set​ ​us​ ​free.”​ ​​ ​So,​​ ​​I​​ ​​worship​​ ​​the​​ ​​person​​ ​​and​​ ​​work​​ ​​of​​ ​​Jesus​​ ​​because​​ ​​worship​​ ​​is​​ ​​my​​ ​​warfare.​​ ​​​​ ​​As​​ ​​I​ ​worship,​​ ​He​ ​works;​ ​and​ ​you,​ ​spirit​ ​of​ ​religion,​ ​​become​​ ​​less​​ ​​powerful.​​ ​​​​ ​​As​​ ​​I​​ ​​fix​​ ​​my​​ ​​eyes​​ ​​on​​ ​​Jesus,​​ ​​you​​ ​become​​ ​​smaller​​ ​​and​​ ​​smaller​​ ​​and​​ ​​I​ ​realize​​ ​​that​​ ​​the​​ ​​illusion​​ ​​of​​ ​​your​​ ​​power​​ ​​and​​ ​​strength,​​ ​​exists​​ ​​to​​ ​​stop​ ​God’s​​ ​​army​​ ​​from​​ ​​daring​​ ​​to​ ​dream​​ ​​and​​ ​​from​​ ​​being​​ ​​willing​​ ​​to​​ ​​take​​ ​​risks​​ ​​that​​ ​​your​​ ​​lies​​ ​​would​​ ​​love​​ ​​to​ ​keep​​ ​​us​​ ​​from​​ ​​taking!​ ​​ ​Hallelujah!​​ ​​​​ ​​ ​​To​​ ​​God​​ ​​be​​ ​​the​​ ​​GLORY!

Signed, A​​ ​​Warrior​​ ​​Tigress​​ ​​for​​ ​​the​​ ​​TRUE​​ ​​Gospel​​ ​​of​​ ​​Jesus​​ ​​Christ

Someone Else

During my federal government career in Small City, USA, promotions were few and far between. Many of the folks that I knew of in my agency and other agencies and departments like it who were being promoted more quickly had to make sacrifices to achieve them. They typically traveled abnormally often, or lived and worked in less desirable locations. When promotion opportunities did come around to those of us who chose to commit ourselves and our families to small towns and stable lives, the competition for them was enormous and inevitably positioned friend against friend. But the reward almost never went to the most qualified. It went to the ones who made a political campaign of their aspirations, independent of their qualifications.

Applying for these opportunities certainly made me aware of the elevated qualifications that each of them required, and caused me to squeeze every drop of relevant experience onto my application in a vainglorious attempt to be good enough, but to no avail. Once the position was filled by the secretly aligned though, another picture began to emerge. The job into which they were promoted became a platform from which to disperse its duties onto the lower ranks, thereby freeing themselves to time and interests that really had nothing to do with the new position.

Let’s contrast that with Kingdom government and the Believers’ mandate to bring Heaven to earth.

I believe God speaks through Believers today. I believe in the overarching themes which I’ve heard consistently, that God is bringing “revival” and that God is going to “pour out.” But the picture I’m personally seeing about what that looks like is different than what I sense is the prevailing thought; which is that God is going to sovereignly do these things, and when He does everyone will recognize them and take their places automatically. Some to disciple and teach others with church programs, and some to be discipled and taught in those church programs. How happy we will all be.

I believe these two themes, but beneath them is where I’ve heard an ad-nauseum abundance of detailed prophecies, from so many sources that they’ve become confusing. My Bible clearly identifies the author of confusion, and it isn’t God.

But while everyone is busy preparing with scheduled activities, organized structure, and slick production, which I presume are being done to make ready, no one is really being transformed in them. When Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons, people flocked to Him from miles around to hear His teaching, which adjusted their thinking to line up with those miracles and the grace of God in them. It was definitely a “revival” and a “pouring out.” The overarching theme then, is what it is today. God wants you to be with Him in eternity, and wants you to be free until you get there.

When was the last time someone had a need and we said we’d pray for them, but didn’t do it in that moment? When was the last time that, when we did pray over someone, we commanded the spirit(s) troubling them to leave? Did we keep at it until the Holy Spirit bore witness with our spirit that they were actually gone? Why should we earnestly desire the gifts, as scripture encourages us to, if we don’t have the confidence to use them? Could it be that we don’t fully walk in the yielding that those things require? Maybe, like my example of earthly government responsibility above, we feel we’re called to direct what God is doing rather than do what God is directing.

God isn’t looking for those who would compete for a promotion in His kingdom, or manufacture a position for themselves when it doesn’t come. He doesn’t look for someone to assume a leadership role in name and title, or website and business card. His leaders are the walk-ons, who have put aside life’s distractions to hear His voice and act on it. His leaders are those who understand that by simply yielding and being available, all of Heaven trusts them to heal, deliver, and set free the captives around them.

See, we’ve taken the prophetic words that would propel us forward to our heads and our hearts, but we seldom put them on our feet. But walking out what Jesus said we would do, that’s what brings revival, and that’s a clear picture of God pouring out.

Just Stand Up

You’ve heard it said that sometimes life can be overwhelming.  Most, if not all of us can attest to that, because we have all experienced the crushing effects of unpleasant circumstances at times.  Some more than others.  There doesn’t seem to be a fair scale that weighs out trouble equally for all.  We envy those who seem to have little, and pity those who have much.

For those of us who have made Jesus our refuge, one of the lessons we soon learn is that our adherence to Him doesn’t necessarily mitigate the trouble that can so easily find us.  We have the promises from Him that troubles can not harm us, because He has overcome the world, but we also have the promise from Him that they will still find us.

Understanding that brings the battlefield from without to within, on the battlefield of our mind, which is ultimately where all battles are won or lost.  Without Christ, that battlefield is still enemy territory, with Christ, it can actually be Holy ground.

Recently condemnation came upon that battlefield for me very strongly, turning into a protracted fight that stretched into two days.  This, in spite of the truth which Romans 8:1 guarantees, that there is “no” condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  But it was vicious and unrelenting, nonetheless.  When it was over, I don’t think I won anything, as much as I thought I was left for dead.  I felt as though my ship had tossed me overboard and I struggled greatly to keep from drowning in the churning deep.

It was on that metaphor though, that I later realized I was thrashing about in merely a few feet of water.  All I had to do to win the battle, was stand up.


The Art of War, or Art as War

What defines a true warrior? Assuming there is a collective of strengths and mastered craft that makes up one of these, where is the comprehensive list of those? What if there are fifteen things on that list and one who calls himself a warrior has only mastered eleven of them, is he still a warrior? Or are they posers and “wannabes” until they show themselves capable in all the necessary warrior criteria?

The world in which we live, sometimes a difficult place to find peace in, almost requires that each of us becomes a warrior in order to establish that peace. Because that’s why we war, don’t we? To have peace. To create a defensible position from which we and those we go to war for, besides ourselves, can live harmoniously with each other and our environments.

Ah, but usually, though, as we seek out those collective strengths and craft that makes for good warriors, what we discover is the ever long list of vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and gaps that allow the trouble into our defensible position, before we’ve become proficient enough in war to effectively keep it out. We are forced to confront the nefarious enemies of all we defend from a compromised position, doing the best we can with what we know. Sometimes that doesn’t work well and then we, along with everyone we’re trying to protect, has to compromise and adapt. Messy business war is, and far-reaching are its effects.

So, calling it an art, as in the ‘Art of War’ seems flippant and whimsically inaccurate. But is it?

I’ve watched a friend who is an artist, or is he a warrior? Both, I’ve presumed. Anyway, I’ve watched him paint wondrously gorgeous paintings, many of which grace our home, and in so doing there is always a circle of chaos around him. Colors so spattered and mixed on easels, aprons, clothing, and skin, that you almost feel sorry for him. He puzzles and broods over every stroke. Some of his best works have the history of their lesser equivalents, which fell short of his own conceived perfection, lying underneath the finished product by a few thin layers of paint.

Consider the writers of old with the tiny shreds of graphite, lead, and rubber eraser lying around them, or the brick layer whose work shoes are no longer flexible beneath accumulating layers of mortar, or the mother who collapses into her bed each night with the myriad messes that befit small children, lying barely atoned for just feet away. One-of-a-kind masterpieces, victories, and defensible security is the common goal of each and every brand of warfare, clearly visible to their warriors, on a horizon which lies on the other side of the battlefield.

And, so, we war.


The Lawn


About a year ago, my wife and I bought a house in an inner-city neighborhood which had been established more than one hundred years ago. In fact, at that time it was a farmland community that turned into a village, and then settled into a neighborhood as the city of now more than 2.5 million people grew outward to meet it. Then it kept on going. Our house was a rebuild, its previous version having been torn down to the foundation and a fresh design built in its place with updated materials. Its decent-sized front and back yards have been obviously well-trodden, and often tell tales of their past hosts by revealing interesting items just beneath their surfaces, especially after heavy rains. When we moved in, the house had been finished and dormant more than a year prior, so the lawns were a bit disheveled-looking. But in my ensconced western culture thinking, they were blank canvases on which I could not fail to produce masterpieces, because everyone is an artist and it’s not the canvas that is overly important, but the opportunity. That’s a topic for another day, though.

As the first mild winter came and went, I somehow failed to notice that the lawn I did have in the back yard, sparse as it was, had completely vanished. As I sulked through a plan of attack to correct this, I was mildly comforted that my front lawn was thick and probably the brightest shade of green in the neighborhood. Excellent. But, then again, that’s how crabgrass is: thick, bright and drought-resistant. Perfectly reliable while requiring nothing of you. It was ugly, but it was green and it was present. As the summer heat cranked up more and more toward

record levels, I became less and less interested in recovering for myself and our house the magazine quality lawns in my mind.

It was during this same time period, in this same summer heat, I began to reluctantly notice that the grass pastures of my inner man were in the same condition as the lawns of my abode. The front, which was the me I presented to the world that everyone observed, was thick and green, giving the appearance of health, but was none other than crabgrass, the woeful imposter. The back yard of my inner self, surrounded by a privacy fence, as was my real yard, had also become void of grass. It was a desert of dust in the heat and also a revealer of hidden unpleasantries after the heavy rains of life’s circumstances. I soon began to see that the Divine Artist was painting a picture around the outside of me that mirrored what was going on around the inside of me, and it was a spot-on match.

I prayed to and questioned the Lord who, throughout my life, has manifested His grace toward me time and time again, walking and talking with me. Nothing. I prayed some more, asked harder questions, while at the same time having to rise up to fight the accusations flying at me as to why He, who had always been patient for me to return while I explored little rabbit trails that led me away from Him, had withdrawn. Was I on a rabbit trail now? Still, nothing. Somewhat distraught, I put everything down: my projects, my to do lists, emails, texts, all of my “what-have-yous.” I had to go find Him. Immediately. I had to find my Gardener.

Joe the Landscaper had come to my attention on a recommendation. I contacted him not long after we moved into our house, to get help with the lawns. He came almost immediately at my call. He aerated, seeded, fertilized, and instructed me in a manner that should have all but guaranteed my success. “Water,” he said. “Water every day.” He also told me of worse- looking lawns and scenarios of decay that were beyond what I was experiencing which he had remedied, tended to, and brought back to a beauty that was better than before. The inner familiarity I had with the Gardener of my heart, which closely resembled Joe’s outward attentive presence and instruction for my lawns, let me know he was my guy. I did what he said to do for a little while, but for whatever reason I missed a day or two here and there, which made it easier not to continue when I remembered the instructions he had given me. As the weather got hotter and hotter, it was reasonably easy for me to justify over time a “why bother?” attitude. I had already missed enough opportunities to see the decay that defied what my guy, Joe the Landscaper, and I had discussed with confidence.

So, for weeks, I went looking for Him each day and many nights. The Lord. The Gardener and Landscaper of the pasture in my heart. Because I believed Him when He said, “I will never leave you, or forsake you,” I knew I needed to look no further than the lawns and pastures of the inner abode in my own heart which, because of Him, were far bigger than I remembered. A friend of mine, who was also familiar with the Lord as a Gardener and Landscaper, was gracious enough to

notice that I was looking, and spent some time helping me search. As we did, the soil yielded up things that I had long ago buried and forgotten. The problem was that I had uncovered some of these things before, but left them in place to ultimately be buried yet again, never having properly disposed of them. There was no getting around these now. I was on a mission and they were in my way. If I didn’t permanently remove them, they would continue to contaminate the soil, prohibit growth, and make the gardening harder if not impossible. Just like it is with my guy, Joe the Landscaper, I have a responsibility to do things that contribute to what he’s trying to help me do.

Speaking of Joe, I called him one day when I was dismayed. Dismayed by the false front lawn of crabgrass and dejected by the desert of dirt around my back yard patio. I couldn’t take it anymore and I ripped into him a little bit about what HE had failed to accomplish. Again, he came almost immediately. He asked me a few questions about the instructions he had given me and then boldly said, “I see what’s happening here. You didn’t keep up with what I told you to do and are blaming me for what we’re seeing.” Me: “Well, umm…” Joe the Landscaper had just quickly and efficiently shamed me back into reality by exposing me to myself. But he was gracious in doing so.

My hunch that the Gardener of my heart couldn’t leave or forsake me, because He had promised not to, was correct. I found Him. I found Him because He was leading me all along, though I hadn’t perceived it. He chose this way in our

relationship and in this instance so I could take note of things I had to do for myself, which I had stopped doing. Things that were necessary because the clutter between us, of those things being undone, was becoming prohibitive. He, likewise, had exposed me to myself and was gracious in doing so.

At about this time, having found again the Gardener of my heart, Joe and I resumed our partnership. He killed the crabgrass in front of our home, and though that made things look even worse, I felt great about it. He aerated, seeded, fertilized, and instructed me afresh. “Water. Water every day.” This time I’m doing my part consistently, both within and without, and new shoots of real grass are everywhere, both within and without. Joe doesn’t come over to water; I do it. Joe doesn’t come over to pick up the endless saw blades, broomsticks, broken glass, and other junk that work their way to the surface of the well-trodden soil; I do it.

The parallels, or prophetic connection, of these two scenarios happening to me at the same time this past summer have instructed me greatly. Through it all, just as I had faith to believe that the seeds of grass would fall into the ground and die, then rise anew to grace the abode of my home, my faith to know that the Gardener of my heart had, in like manner, fallen into the ground and died to rise anew and grace the abode of my inner man. Who I truly am required something of me. Something that I once again live to give and give to live.

A Readily Achievable Aspect of Complete Yieldedness


How many times have we earnestly and fervently prayed for something only to not receive it?  Or how many times have we held back that kind of prayer, to settle for whatever happens because we’re uncomfortably aware that we have  kept the God of answered prayers, to whom we should be praying, at a “safe distance” from ourselves.  This has probably happened to all of us if we’re honest, maybe more than once or twice, but if in those moments we don’t stop and re-consider the totality of those happenings, we can create the less than desirable effect of widening the gap of that “safe distance”.

To begin with, the grace that we all have experienced in our lives, to the point of sometimes taking it for granted, as well as our past prayers that have been magnificently answered, can become diminished and somehow insignificant.

I have found that many times my unanswered prayers have been for people who have succumbed to illness or injury and passed away, in spite of our great faith that God could heal and raise them up and our offering of those very prayers has seemingly come to nothing. That hurts.  Imperceptibly, those unanswered prayers can quietly usher in a false sense of unfulfilled promises.  The very promises that we know exist and may have been taught to us from our youth.

Could it be true that we just plain abhor investing ourselves into something like fervent prayer, settling for cursory topical ones?  How then do we become offended at not receiving the answer we desire.  Meager investments yield meager returns, no matter what the currency.  More on that in a moment.

Recently, while with some friends in a time of prayer together, one of them stepped up to lead us in a slightly different manner, suggesting a time worship followed by an invitation for us to pray freely afterward.   Her instructions for our worship were this though:  Take ourselves COMPLETELY out of it.  Even to the point of not including our thanksgiving in it, because that thanksgiving would have some aspect of “self” attached to it.  Just purpose to make declarations to God, purely and solely acknowledging who He is.

No mine. No my. No I, we, ours, theirs, them, us, etc.  Just… Him.

It was surprisingly hard to do this at first and I immediately realized that I had never, ever purposed to do it, always adding a little (or a lot) of myself whenever I worshiped God.  Within a few moments though, I began to detect a change.  I sensed that worshiping Him in this way took me to a place of wider spaces of peace that seemed fresh, new and unfamiliar, because I had never purposed to go there in that way before.  In that space EVERYTHING was okay, past, present and future. Gone.  Gone were the voices and callings of the world and my life, that beckoned for the attention due to them, which is never truly satisfied, by the way.  It was amazing.

Scripture is full of covenantal promises for us, some of them very direct and specific, but how are we to respond when our hope in them evaporates, sometimes in a single moment, because a heart’s desire would go unfulfilled?  Difficult as it may be, we must pry our clenched fists off of the doubt that invites itself into our very lap in those moments and grasp for the truth that no longer seems available because of those moments.  A traveling preacher, named Tom Skinner, began a series of teachings years ago which he started and ended with these statements:

I spent a long time trying to come to grips with my doubts, and suddenly realized that I had better come to grips with what I believe.  I have since moved from the agony of questions that I cannot answer, to the reality of answers that I cannot escape, and it’s a great relief.”

            I believe that somehow grace… is as big as the universe and has the characteristics of a liquid, always seeping to the lowest place it can go.  That’s where people live, unfortunately.  It’s the smallish definitions we’ve given to grace, that just don’t contain the revelation to give us recognition of it’s presence with us at all times. As a result, disappointment finds its way into our human lives more often than it should.

But in going to a place of pure selfless worship, even for a few fleeting moments, I found that it had no choice but to stay behind.  Standing in a very small part of that, away from my “self” became bigger and more secure than anything I’ve ever experienced.