Taking God For Granted
By Billie Marie Zal
I had just given out beef bones to the kennel dogs and suddenly the sound of fury filled the area. Just a few minutes before they got their bones they had been happy campers. But now bared teeth and snarls accompanied the “showing off” of their trophies.
It is perfectly normal for dogs to behave in this manner. They all descended from wolves and each animal protects it’s “space.” If they did not do this many would starve.
But believe it or not, people also “snarl over their bones.”
Just take a good look at those around you. Not a human being on earth is ever satisfied with what he or she has, much less thankful. And that, too, is “normal behavior.” We were born out of Adam (though at one time Adam was made in the “image of God”) and we react in the flesh. And who wants to let someone else have his trophy?
We live in a society where nothing is definite. People have their money and lose it. The economy goes bad. Wars are imminent. We don’t want this kind of life, but that is all there is for us down here.
And so, from childhood we begin to “collect our bones.” Some people collect money and store it away and it is of no value at all to our God. Some people collect fame and sooner or later the fame is gone and a wretched, miserable life comes to an end. And people collect power. Why else would the mafia exist? Men like to believe that people are afraid of them and they operate their enterprises through fear. But the mafia boss goes down to his grave with no hope of a tomorrow and no one to bail him out. Some people collect friends. I know people who will do anything just to have friends and again, the friends disappear at will, and the person is left alone, bereft of any comfort.
In our world it is seldom that we ever see an individual who collects nothing for himself and rather, “lays up his store in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust can touch it.” He gives everything to God by giving to others, and his rewards are waiting for him. But the person who gives “to get” will have nothing. Jesus said we had better have all we can get down here if we don’t want HIM and nothing more, because such a person would have nothing in Heaven. But who believes it?
I was watching a minister on TV this morning and he preached a very good sermon. He spoke of how we are born in Adam’s likeness and so we act like Adam did, once he sinned through rebellion against God’s rules. Of course he went on to say that when we are born again, we are born into the image of Christ who gives to us the Holy Spirit, to live within us and to guide us throughout our lives once we are saved.
He told his people that everyone in that huge congregation was going either to Heaven or to hell. And that is what began to puzzle me. Such a Word spoken in God’s anointing should have brought the people to their knees. But there they sat in their beautiful clothes
and carefully made up faces, and nothing happened. And I wonder how this man accumulated a few thousand people and built a church that must have cost millions, and speaks God’s Word, and nothing happens? Something is wrong.
I suspect that these people - though they might have at one time or another been saved - have collected their treasures all of their lives and they are secure. They have jobs, money, savings, children in college, beautiful homes, and they “amount to something” in the community.
This is the worst condition that we can be in - “having it all.” If we have it all, do we ever need God? Do we ever “examine ourselves, to see whether we are in the flesh?” Do we ever give that offering to God, expecting nothing in return? Does a man ever preach without a hope of an offering? Does he ever tell his people the “whole truth and nothing but the truth” without making it up to them by some pleasant remark which sets them at ease?
Looking back at my life I can see why God never permitted me to settle down in ease. Every time I thought maybe I could pay off my bills and have a little left over, He directed me to someone in need.
Because I had nothing to protect, I never took God for granted. Once my gold charm bracelet was stolen and taken to a shop where it was melted down and the person was paid for the weight of the gold. Each charm on the bracelet had been given to me by someone who loved me, and I treasured the love. But now it was gone.
I thought about it before I got the spiritual victory. I thought through on it and I remembered the words of Jesus who says, “To him that takes away your coat, give him your cloak also.” And I gave my bracelet back to God and left the loss behind.
It was a wonderful kind of life, really. We think we need so much and we go into the store and the beautiful things reach out to us and seduce us. But if we are protected by the Holy Spirit after we make our vows (and we are) then nothing means much to us. Sometimes I miss the excitement of a Christmas when we all had a huge get together and gave gifts. But the day came when we realized that Christmas was not for getting, but for giving. And we never again took God’s love for granted.
Going back to the minister whom I heard speak today - perhaps his people had never done without. Or, if they had, they might have vowed that they would never do without again, once they got going. And the things we own and keep can actually harden our hearts until we believe we “deserve” all that we have.
Human beings deserve nothing. Jesus Christ deserves ALL. But for His grace, we might even be in hell today. And yet, day by day we live out the wonder of life itself without giving Him so much as a thought.
One of the things which I do first when I get up in the morning is to thank God for LIFE. I thank Him for a home and a place to sleep because I know that “the Son of man had no place to lay His head.” Where were all the people whom He had healed and fed? Why didn’t He have a “place to lay His head?” It was because people took Him for granted and this is
perilous to the soul. Another thing I do is thank Him for a hot cup of coffee. I remember once going to minister in a church in southern Mississippi and I was so sleepy, having gotten up very early to drive there in my old car. I decided to stop for a cup of coffee. But when I checked out my coin purse and wallet I didn’t have a dime to buy a cup of coffee. But I got to the church and these country people of their own will gave me a love offering, and I could buy coffee on the way home.
When we are trained in this manner we never believe we deserve anything and we do not intrude into God’s presence demanding that we should “get the sinners’ wealth.” The body of Christ today has members who have no idea of what His claims are upon a life, once He has given us the new birth. The Church is asleep and the fact that a minister can preach a wonderful message on how little we are and how great God is, and the people do not shed a tear, is proof that the Church is asleep today.
Another thing that I do when I get up is thank God for the ministry He gave to me. Margaret and I were talking the other day and she said, “You were being trained all of your life to minister to prisoners.” And she is right. I learned to love those who had troubled minds and broken hearts and who took it out on me. I knew if I did not love them, then who would? I learned the sorrow of loss, the pain of rejection, the hopelessness of a life down here on earth unless there is a certain life in Heaven. And I saw all of the things that God has given us, in order to teach us to become like His Son.
This is why He took me through the bewildering events throughout the years and now I can see clearly what I never saw before - I was “born to die.” Not necessarily to die physically. We all must do that. But I was born to die to myself - to give up every hope, every job, every dear one, everything in order to have Jesus Christ’s Light shining within me. And then-individuals will see Him and if they seek Him, they find Him.
We can’t hold on to anything and be a true messenger of God. If you study the letters of the Apostle Paul you will understand how God feels about His Church and how much lack of love for Him is present in the Church.
I was at a place recently where a young woman was hostess. The moment she saw me she began to talk with me and there was instant love for one another. She told me that she felt so insecure, but as we talked she began to feel a peace, and a hope. And this was the moment I began to tell her of my life, how God had found me and made me whole. It isn’t hard to “witness” when the ONE who is our WITNESS lives within us. This woman came back to talk with me time and again and as she was leaving she almost cried. She asked if I would remember her. I have prayed for her daily ever since. She is ready for salvation and God’s Love within me touched her and she will be made whole. But what if I had been too interested in my “evening out?” What if I had determined to have at least ONE dinner and time out with no interruptions? I could never have been a vessel of God’s Love to this young woman and she might never have heard how much He loves her.
Lest anyone think I have “pride” in my heart I want each of you to know what the Apostle Paul said: “In my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” I am totally and hopelessly ineffective in my own flesh and personality. There would be far too much rubbish, and prisoners especially know when a person is a phony.
I am humbled to the dust to think that such a person as myself could ever have been saved, let alone given a ministry to men and women who have been deeply hurt most of their lives. My words would have no effect and you would all go away empty.
But I thank God that one snowy night in Chicago He showed me a glimpse of what I really was - good for nothing, lost, selfish, seeking things which I knew God never meant for me to have - I was nothing, nothing, nothing! And THEN He showed me His Son and suddenly I was SOMETHING. It happened in seconds and don’t ask how it happened, I just know beyond any doubt that it did. I was suddenly all new. I was made whole. And I had no right to continue in sin and forget that God visited me that night, and His presence is continually with me, showing me His righteousness, convicting me of daily sin (leftovers from the Adamic nature), and convincing me of certain judgment of this world.
Why did God give me this “unspeakable Gift of His precious Son?” Because His Love covers us all. His Son’s blood saved ANYONE who would “call upon His Name.” And He saved me because I had gotten so sick of myself and wanted deliverance from the penalty, from the guilt, and very importantly - FROM THE POWER OF SIN.
Who else but God could have done such a thing? We hear about other “religions” and yet, I don’t know of any other religions which has a God Almighty. A God whose infinite mind created the heavens and the earth. A God who was lonely for human beings who would love Him without limit, and so He designed the Plan of Salvation. And we as Christians have the empty Tomb of Christ to substantiate this claim that we have a risen Savior. He has given me new life and He doesn’t have any favorites.
If you believe that you can live your life without His Love, then that is your choice. God will never coerce anyone to become His child. He doesn’t have to; but He can and will save you from death and hell. I won’t argue the issue because the Bible says there is no use in arguing. But I know what happened to me, and to those who minister with me, and believe me - we have something that binds us together during these dark times of history, and we have no intention of ever turning away from the Only One who ever loved us. I pray that He might become your Father, too, through the blood of the everlasting Covenant. And you will reflect His love and glory to those around you - even in a prison cell. And you will never take God for granted again.
Many of you have written to say that you enjoyed the January newsletter about angels, and had comments of your own. We enjoy having some feedback. I had also encouraged all of you to look up the word “angel” in your Bible Concordance for references to angels, so that you could learn what the Bible says about them, as opposed to someone’s imagination. But so far no one has said that they have done this. Its easy to think that we know everything already.
There are a lot of myths out there about angels, like the one where we become angels after we die, if we lived a good life. Not true, and that can’t be verified by Scripture at all. Angels were around before humans, eons ago. Before the creation of the worlds a third of the angels in heaven followed satan. The others did not.
Angels are in heaven and they are God’s messengers and ministering spirits to those who
will inherit salvation. An angel can reveal itself in human form, just as the angels who
were sent to Abraham, Jacob, and Daniel, to name a few, with a message sent by God to them.
Personally, I don’t want to be an angel. In many ways we are superior to them, and the Bible says that we will judge them one day. God sent His Son to die for us, not for angels. When they fell like satan did, there was no mercy to be found. Think on that!
Someone wrote and said that angels and saints mediated between man and God. This is not true, either. The Bible teaches in several places that Jesus is the only mediator between man and God. First Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Jesus Christ.” This is why He took on human form, lived like us, died for us, and rose from the dead. He knows our frailty and our needs. He was one of us.
In the religious world there is a lot of talk about saints and sainthood. In many churches the members of the church are customarily called “saints.” In contrast to that, in the Catholic Church only a few people are considered to be “saints,” and only a long time after their death, following “beatification.” The Catholics worship their “saints” and pray to them.
But, what is the Biblical definition of a “saint?” What does the word saint mean in the Bible? In normal Greek of New Testament times, the word hagios was used in the meaning “devoted to the gods,” but in the Greek text of the New Testament hagios mostly referred to those people who had been separated or set apart to God. The New Testament definition of a saint, or rather the meaning of the Greek word hagios which many translate as “saint,” was that God had separated a number of people from this world, for himself, and for His Son, Jesus. Therefore, saints are not necessarily individuals of exceptional holiness, but rather anyone who follows Christ.
The Apostle Paul calls us all saints, if we are among the people who belong to God. I know when I die I don’t intend to be looking down on the misery of earth. I’m going to enjoy Heaven and the presence of Jesus, and I think that’s what all the saints are doing. It wouldn’t be heaven if we could see what’s going on down here on earth.
Having watched on TV hours of the devastation in Haiti, I feel more fully aware of how fragile our lives really are. In a moment everyone we love and all that we have can be gone. And what is left? Only the eternal, the relationship we have with God is the only thing that will last throughout all time, time without end.
I was amazed to see the spirit of the people in Haiti. People having lost in some cases every family member, home and all possessions, still found it in their heart to be thankful for their life. Here and there groups of people formed and sang praises to God. Could we do that in this Country? I wonder. We are so spoiled and self indulgent and have so much.
I appreciate those of you who asked about my eye surgery. It was not a surgery to make my vision better, that can’t be done. But it is to stop the loss of vision. Way too complicated a procedure for me to understand, but the doctor said everything looked good and was a success. However I developed some scar tissue, which has been extremely painful to remove. But I have the confidence that God will see me through, and when I feel like complaining I try to always remember and be thankful that I live in a time and place where this operation was possible. In my grandma and dad’s lifetime it was not available and they lost their vision.
We are in the middle of an ice and snow storm. The ice came first and coated the trees, but thankfully not as much as last year. But now we are getting several inches of snow and it truly is beautiful. We will be enjoying a walk in the woods before long. Barney came in covered with snow a little while ago. He sure enjoys this weather. So do the other labs we have in the kennel. Rodney and Brian gave them their morning run in the snow this morning.
Everyone around here has had a lot more work to do because of my need to stay home and recover, especially Gail and Shirley. It must please God a great deal when people do what needs to be done with willing hearts, not because they are trying to gain favor with someone or earn rewards in heaven; but just because the work is there and needs to be done.
Brian and Rodney are still cutting firewood every chance they get. It’s been a cold winter so far in our area. Brian and Gail are also burning firewood in their fireplace
now. It sure helps on the propane bill. We thank God for our warm homes on a day like this.
For years we have been taking care of the stray dogs we have out of this kind of grungy basement under Brian and Gail’s house. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but I would guess it might have been Gail. She’s the decorator around here. Anyway, they decided the basement needed some work. Brian painted, moved in new cabinets, sink, faucets, stove, etc., and a new window that lets in sunlight. It was so dark in there before. The basement is being transformed into something nice and it will be a great place to hide out in during those tornado warnings we have every year.
We are looking forward to spring, but here are some pictures to remind us all that it’s still winter.
Prayer Requests for February, 2010
For Johnny Carruthers, Florence, Arizona, for faith, understanding, and patience.
For our neighbor & friend, Colleen Brock, who has been plagued by illness, that she recovers soon.
For Willie Davis at Menard, Illinois, who just won his case in the appeals court. Now we are waiting to see if the State will appeal, or not. If they don’t, Willie gets to go home.
For Lucy Miron in Romania, and her ministry to the Gypsy children there.
For Kevin Cowley’s kids in New York: Shane, Ryan & Kevin, Jr. Kevin is at Florence, Arizona.
For Joseph Runge’s Mother, Mavis Runge, who is still undergoing chemotherapy for bladder cancer; and for Joseph’s Father, Joseph Runge, Sr., for his salvation. Joe is at Centralia, Illinois.
For Julius Young’s Mother, Alene Young. Julius was executed at McAlester, Oklahoma on January 14th.
For Ed Ewing, Visalia, California, who is 88 years old and in bad health.
For our friend, Sandra Beckom, Prairie Grove, Arkansas, who continues to battle cancer. God can heal!
For Willie Clark, Iowa Park, Texas, that he’ll be transferred closer to Houston to be near his family.
For Earl Oswalt at Hodgen, Oklahoma, that he will be transferred closer to his family.
For Robert Heffernan, Grady, Arkansas, that the Arkansas Supreme Court will order DNA testing.
For Willie Harper, Juliet, Illinois, that he stays “cancer free.”
For Michael Small’s son, Derek, that he will come back to the Church. Michael is at Menard, Illinois.
For the people of Haiti, for the recovery effort there.
For Freddie Lee Lott, Galesburg, Illinois, for his health and that he stays “cancer free.”
For Willie Hoffman, Florence, Arizona, that he finds an attorney to work on his case.
For Willie Scott, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, who is coming up for clemency at the end of the year.
For Anthony Grayson, Comstock, New York, that God will send someone to help with his appeal.
For Frank Williams, Jr., Death Row, Grady, Arkansas. He was granted a stay by the Arkansas Supreme Court and now his attorneys are working on an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
For Sister Ann & all the Carmelite Nuns in Little Rock.
For Anthony Grayson, Comstock, New York, that God will send someone to help with his appeal.
For Pastor Scott & her ministry (The University Network) in Los Angeles.
For Margaret’s eyes to be healed.
For all of us at Wingspread.
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