Friday, January 24, 2014
It’s 3:00 a.m.. The room is cold. Wrapped in a blanket holding a warm cup of steaming tea I find my resolve. What has been happening to me? I burry myself deeper in the blanket recalling the events of late. Almost out loud I utter “Is this real, Is this really happening?” It would take to long to voice all the thoughts in my head, the questions race so quickly through my mind that I can only speak a few words here and there out of my mouth in shock. “Am I ready for this? Can I honestly do what I have been pressed to do? Why me?” My thoughts drift to Moses; all the Sunday school lessons and bible studies couldn’t have given a more cinematically clear picture of what my mind was displaying before me: A huge fire, a thundering voice, a man cowering on the ground all to aware that his life was about to change forever, not just for a moment , but in that moment of fear gripping reality he knew he would never be the same.
The alarm goes off and catches me off guard. My tea is now cold. My thoughts had run me into an exhausted sleep, it was 7:14. I look at the pen and paper lying on the coffee table and I know that today is the day that a battle will be fought on paper. It isn’t even the kind of thing I have words to describe. I’m still in shock, I’m still so uncertain of my own abilities. Like a modern day Moses, I exclaim loudly in my mind, “Who will listen? I don’t know how to do this. Why have you shown me a captive nation in need of freedom? Who am I?” As I sit and unwittingly doubt God’s choices I find myself burning; a slow burn at first, but the crackle of the fire is symbolic of the doubts breaking in my mind. The fire picks up again and I hear the voice. “I am”. Just two small words but it is enough for me to pick up the pen, enough for me to close my eyes and quietly say, “Then I will.” I have no idea was spiritually charged weapon was forged in the fire of my obedience in that moment. But even in that moment the doubt crept in, more subtle but still there and my wrestle with self doubt ever present. Will I always doubt what is God’s voice and what is my own? How can I write an accurate account of the events that have transpired with my human fallible words, when the events themselves are so unexplainable. “God I desire to tell your story but my words are not enough, my words are so small in comparison to the feelings inside of me. And what I have to say is so unbelievable, they won’t believe me.” A pause, a silent (four million year) second passes. “I Am! I Am with you, I have chosen you.” I think again to Moses, all the judgment I passed on him, calling him a fool for questioning God, thinking he was a fool to want to pass on an opportunity to be great as opposed to being an ordinary nobody. I’m not judging now. Now I am asking the questions. Now I am feeling the fire, and although the fire is burning inside of me I find myself at an impasse.
I have to choose to give him my doubt and fear. I can’t take them with me on this journey. I have to leave them and it’s like leaving a companion, an old friend. But in that moment of surrender I realize that he isn’t leaving me alone, he is giving me new companions in exchange. I will need these new friends more than my awkward misbehaving traits of fear and doubt. The first is Faith: although at first very daunting to look at there is something very assuring in her face. The second is compassion, so very welcoming and my experience has left me needing this friend more now than ever before, this trait will keep my heart from growing hard against others who are living in pain. As I become acquainted with my new friends I realize that I am not morning my old acquaintances. I am equipped and in this moment of wholeness it occurs to me that God never meant for me to be alone in all of this. God designed this very moment of realization where I would see that fear keep you isolated and alone and doubt suppresses your dreams and robs you of security. But it is Faith that banishes loneliness and Compassion that secures your feet in purpose. I put the pen to the paper and it feels good to be free from the fear that had been a captor not a friend. My hands are free from the weights of the chains and can write without being held back. Being free from fear doesn’t mean I am not aware of the cost and the danger of what I am about to do; It just means that I am willing to move forward, knowing the only safe place is under God’s watchful eye.
The pen hit’s the paper…
“The events that have taken place as strange as they may seem are as true as the air I breathe. I take great care in writing each detail as accurately as I can and as descriptively as it happened so that you may experience the overwhelming truth, that we only see a part of what goes on around us. May it be said that I recorded what was asked of me by God so that we could know how very active he is in our lives every minute of every day.”
Most horror stories begin in a poorly lit alley, a lonely road, or a dark wood, or even a pitch black basement; somewhere cold, dark and uninviting. “Do Not Disturb!, Danger!” words that warn a person of impending doom. But is it too strange to conceive that the real terror is not lurking behind a dark corner or walking in the shadows but in it’s arrogance parading about in the light? We think of demons and somehow our mind is trained to see the shadows, the darkness the wretched creatures hidden in their hole. There may be an element of accuracy in that thinking but this record is the account of a very different kind of spirit. A spirit not bound by human expectation and assumption. He walks accustomed to the light and his egotism is unmatched. He is conceited and desires the recognition of his work.
His work has gone unnoticed until now, always a person getting the blame or the credit for his deeds. He hides in plain sight and until now he has relished in the secrecy of his plans. Thousands of years he has been a ruler. So unfulfilling to play such crafty games with peoples lives and yet go unnoticed as the master of these games. “At least in the pagan days the worshipers came to pay tribute, they always got the name wrong but the intentions were there, oh and how fun to play the role of their pagan Gods. But now all worship is directed at the humans, those stupid creatures, as if they could have devised such meticulously evil plans on their own.” The pride and jealously swells with the stronghold’s body until in outright rage he determines his next moves will not be so hidden, He has all but destroyed the small remnant of people who are willing to fight. More of a nuisance than a threat really. His cautious side wants to remind him that if these few realize the power they possess all of what he has worked towards and planned could crumble. But arrogance has a way of superseding such cautionary thoughts and in that moment it has been decided that his power is above reproach. “Why must I cower in the shadows like an abused animal, I own this land, I go unchecked in all my conquests, who of these unfit, so called warriors of God would dare raise a sword to me. They don’t even know who they are or who they are fighting, they have all but given up. I own this land, I own them. I am the master here.” He has set his foot into the light and for now it does go unchecked, for now the heavenly host watch on with anticipation of that moment when they will be called to fight. But God in his great wisdom will allow this stronghold to swell in his arrogance until there is no possible way to miss this swollen figure with even the smallest stone to the temple. He will fall like Goliath. And the earth will shake for miles around.
For centuries the Stronghold has sat in the Valley of three significant land marks. His tainted, defiled, corrupt temple consists of three points in a quaint forested area. The Native American tribes in the area have named these three places significantly for the worship and sacrifice they will bring.
The first a treeless butte to the east named after the Bear: In Cherokee culture bears are sometimes portrayed as violent enemies of humans, some tribes tell stories about monsters resembling man eating bears the size of elephants, which prey upon the innocent unknowing people. Bears can also be a symbol of strength and often healing and medicine is associated with them since bears continue to fight even after being seriously injured, the Native Americans believed that due to this they were magically capable of healing their wounds. (Fitting that in modern society this mentality unknowingly continues with the people who try to self medicate their wounds with drugs, alcohol and other outlets that are at best a poor imitation of the real healing that needs to take place.) Bears where also viewed as a hunter that knew the land. They were quick, big and powerful, and also considered extremely clever; outfighting cougars and wolves. This place of Native worship was a holy place, a place of ritualistic sacrifice.
The second of these pagan tributes is a mountain to the west named after a ceremonial dance, The Sun Dance: For some tribes it was a territorial display or a claim on the land spiritually, self inflicted injury was sometimes involved and dancing yourself into a state of exhaustion or unconsciousness so that the spirits could bring visions of what they wanted you to do. for most the dance symbolized the miraculous power of healing and life, then followed by a cleansing. These ritualistic dances could last several days and usually followed the cycle of the moon, most held on a full moon.
The third and most protruding of the three religious marks was the mountain named after a crow right in the middle and slightly jutted to the North was this peak: The crow is an animal known to prey on week lambs or eating dead corpses killed by other animals. Decay and rot is a main coarse for this carrion lover but it is also a thief who steals grain, and sets traps of crumbs for small animals. It is a hunter as well as a scavenger and is one of the most intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom. It has the ability to hunt, to use tools, to count, to set traps, but also is the animal responsible for introducing the West Nile virus to North America.
The Bear, the Sundance, The Crow. Three peaks protruding up out of the earth to make a spiritually walled area, protective maybe, but more precisely a spiritual Strongholds place of residence and a prison to those who choose to fall into it’s traps. In the early days the unknowing worship of the tribes left this rule over the area completely unchallenged. But this worship was never enough for the ego driven Spirit.
Evil desired company, something that would not challenge his rank but would delightfully relish in his accomplishments. Greed and Lust perhaps? The twins feed off of each others spoils and are so self centered that they would keep to the refuse of his spoils, like scraps under the table. These mountains are rich with enough silver and gold to entice the brothers to homestead here. Giddy with the idea of all the bloodshed and addictive behaviors that would form over the next few hundred years the Spirit smiled a mischievous smile. And they came, the brothers Lust and Greed, they settled in the mountain village next to the mines. Brothels and capital gains: the busyness, the emptiness, the loneliness. They housed many guests over the years like, Rage, Adultery, Addiction, Selfishness, Gluttony and Jealousy. And many of these spirits left their illegitimate spawn behind to feast on the wreckage. Of these illegitimates the most commonly known of the pack were: Loneliness, Self loathing, Depression, Laziness, Fear and Insecurity. These demons don’t even bother with formal names anymore, the traits of whatever filth they portray becomes the name that they proudly wear. But not the self proclaimed ancient Stronghold, he is not confined by one trait, his thousands of years of experience have earned him more than that. Like a tree trunk with many rings he can recount countless stories of the pain he has stricken on those mere mortals. “Do they really think they can challenge me? Challenge the palace I have built with the bones of their ancestors?” Arrogance grows, He would call himself Master for now, for he is the keeper of the enslaved. He is the Master of the games.
A new day and the events that have transpired seem almost unreal. Until now she was under some sort of sugar coated idea of Christianity with moments of perfect clarity here and there, but in this moment all she can smell is the rot, the sores pussy and wet with scabs. That smell is an illusion, a parody of her weary soul but the taste of her own blood from a cut on my upper lip is all too real. As real as the burn of frozen hands, the ache of tired muscles and the throbbing of a forming bruise on her forehead. She must keep walking, she must not stop. Wherever this newfound fight is coming from, it is a place that has been dormant for a very long time. Her mind wandered to the accident, it was better than facing the cold reality of all the pain pent up inside of her. In fact the below zero temperatures that she somehow managed to keep walking through weren’t even that cold.
This is a war. We don’t fight against flesh and blood but that doesn’t stop the spirit world from trying to blind us into thinking that all of this pain is self inflicted. I had taken it all on me at first and now I see that yes a portion of this is my doing, I have made the choices that have led me here. I sin, I fail, I freely choose the path at my feet, but I was never alone. That Liar, that thief, the one that thinks he pulls all the strings, he thinks he owns my future, he is the unfit companion that led me to this slaughter. That sinister spirit of deceit had plans for me to fall into his trap but to my knees in surrender to God I fall instead. I feel naked, alone, cold and ready for death, but the spirit within me cries out and with one sentence forever changes everything I thought I knew. “You are loved by me, I have not forgotten you.” “God!” I cry out “rescue me, save me, though my life be as miserable as the lowest creature on earth, save me.” The enemy left me for dead, left me for the wild animals to devour as my soul slipped into abyss. He had done all he could with this his unknowing servant and my final act would be for me to die out here alone and afraid. But no, God himself picked me up and set my feet upon the path, it will not be an easy road but I feel him now, I felt him the moment I surrendered, the moment the enemy had all but killed me, for that was his plan; to dispose of his mess. He meant to say “The End”, but in his arrogance he has dug the very grave he will lie in. I will fight and this is not the end, the end of loveless affair with death and destruction, but the beginning of a battle that will end this war. He has in his pride abused a child of God. God will not sit back and watch as the spirit of filth spoils his beloved. He is sending a mighty host of angelic warriors, you dare not even look into those faces lest your eyes be forever lost to blindness. These warriors reflect the very light of the throne of the Father. Until this very moment they in his presence alone have dwelt. These three warriors, each one created for a single purpose: To destroy darkness, to restore his children unto him, and to banish this Stronghold to the very pit of hell.
And if you think you have not played a part in this unseen battle, it was your prayers oh children of God, Oh saints who unleashed these angelic beings from the heavens, and what is to come is more unbelievable than what has been. The evil spirits that have so greedily indulged on the misery of others are about to choke on what will be their last super. For a new legion is arriving, a new army has been formed, and they will awake fire in the hearts of those whose very purpose it is to fight this fight and battle this Stronghold of ages past. “We are the Chosen. We will not bow our head nor kneel in submission to any but our God. He is coming for his bride. We are this bride, the bride of Christ. The enemy has no claim on us or on those we have been called to love. Come now all who thirst for righteousness and hunger for his presence. God is here with us, Our Emanuel. When he speaks mountains are made, when he moves canyons are forged. Do not be mistaken in this… God will not be mocked, you spirits of profuseness, you slanderous cowards, `you infinitesimal putrescence. You feculence I cannot slay you but my father can and he will destroy you so entirely that your existence will be unmentioned as anything more than the tool that restored me and my house into God’s amazing grace. For I serve the God who was, who is, and who will always be. The scars of your wounds will serve as a reminder of the everlasting love the Father has given us. And this day forward I will live a life completely abandoned to his will.
Provoked… That’s the word I’ll use, I feel like I have been wearing waders, walking through the sludge that the enemy has vomited all over the people that I love. If you can imagine frustration, rage and a desire to inflict pain, that is where the enemy has me. I hate this place, the rage warms my soul but my spirit is left feeling empty and cold. When will I learn the difference between advancing toward the victory God has declared in the heavens and me being bated and provoked to fight in my own strength by the enemy. He has me so sick of the abuse that I am like a dog chasing my own tail, growling at it as I try to rest, thinking at any minute it will attack again. God gave me a vision that so many Christians walk around with a loaded weapon that never leaves the holster, but now that I see the fight, I am shooting at shadows and the rickashay of the bullets are bound to wound the innocent or me in the process. How do I fight a battle that has been going on longer than I have had ancestors? I am a new recruit in all of this and I need some training. If I run out there determined to fight but with no wisdom I will just end up fighting the wrong things. So I come again to his thrown, I lay in humility at his feet and I ask for his words to penetrate deep within my spirit. I want to be so in tune with his spirit that even when I am singing a different part of the song, it is the harmony to his melody. The enemy may have ripped me open but it is this open vulnerable state that God can use. I don’t even recognize who I am anymore. In one moment his all encompassing grace has transformed me. I know that my flesh will still react to the enemy. I may still flinch at his aggressive attacks but it is only a matter of time until the spirit of peace retrains my reactions and I no longer take the bait
Why do we take the bait of the enemy? Are we so hungry that we will eat anything? If we are full we will not need to eat from that tree in the garden he so cunningly taunts us with. We need to hunger and thirst for the tree of life, the tree that God intended for us to be blessed by. To feast upon the fruits of the spirit. Then the bait of the enemy will smell like a pile of compost; rotting and ruined. His bait should repel us not invite us. Walking away from his trap never seems easier than when there is so much Jesus in us there is no room for his snares. Then why do we stumble if we are full of the spirit? In fishing there are more than one way to bait a hook and to catch a fish. There are lures and jigs as well as live bait. One is to deceive hungry fish and the other is annoy the fish. This annoyance is an intrusion upon a territorial instinct, threatening security, or just plain irritating. If a fish can’t be tempted to eat, it might be tempted to fight. A natural instinct comes out of self preservation; a defense mechanism gets triggered and we attack but a hook and a line is all that is waiting there. So how do we resist this natural urge to attack so that we can outsmart this foe? We need to test our motives. Are we motivated by unselfish love or by hurt. The motivation of everything we do needs to come from the overflowing love of our father. Otherwise we are just boxing shadows. If we want to destroy the enemy we need to learn the difference in being provoked and being led. And when did we forget that when God leads us toward the victory that he fights for us? Although in our retreat to the Fathers arms, it looks as though the enemy is advancing, the truth of the matter is that now we have an actual chance of winning because God will fight for us. What looks like us retreating is just an acknowledgement of our surrender to God, not to the enemy. When Christ was tempted by Satan in the desert although he was hungry he was not swayed by the Devil for he had the truth of the scriptures and the relationship of his father. We too should be equipped each day with the words of the scriptures and the relationship of our heavenly father. Then we will be able to withstand the temptations and the provoking ways of the enemy. Then we will be able to tell the devil to flee with the same authority of that of Christ.
The old is gone.
A monster came into my house, got into my bed, inside of my body, and as I awoke I became the thing I hated more than anything. Yelling at my children, spewing hateful words and resenting the role God has given me; the purpose, the love for being home, for being a mommy, for being a wife, all of it gone. I lost it, I lost all my joy. Where are you God? I know this person all too well, the person who has to apologize not once but three times in less than 20 minutes. All the good you have brought into my life once again buried under a pile of garbage. This soiled person that has no love in her mouth, I hate this version of me! Then like a flash flood your mercy catches me off guard and restores me to you. I feel your spirit, I feel your arms, I know you are here. I cry out “Kill the thief, kill the liar in me!” and again I rejoice for you come. How do I explain the last few days. Like a fog. An eerie fog horn warning in the background. When the fog comes the rocks are impossible to see and I can’t steer my way through on my own. My heart casts an anchor out as though I know I can't navigate in this smothering, saturated cloud. I didn’t even look for the lighthouse. Maybe I was scared, maybe tired, or maybe my resolve was so worn down by the battle I just wanted a break,. But I’ve been lonely for you; Like a ship that longs for it’s shore. The fog is gone now. I see clearly and although I rejoice that I can see you and hear you, and feel the golden rays of your light shining upon me, I know that this was not the last of the fog. In all reality I should have tried for the shore rather than stay in the stagnant waters covered by the murky fog. But I stayed because I didn’t trust what I couldn’t see.
Christ taught his disciples through the storms. I need to be okay with walking through these times of hazy weather. How should we handle the fog when it comes? The enemy uses smoke and mirrors and maybe he even has a fog machine. But I know you are still here even when I can’t see you, even when I don’t know where you are. You are still here, you have not left me I will call out to you. I will not allow myself to grow stagnant spiritually but I will allow the LIVING water to flow through me. I will trust you and have faith that even when I can’t see you, you can hold me and in those times of intimacy I will grow. Even if I outgrow who I was I won’t care because I want to change into who you have created me to be. A woman with love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. And may this fruit be produced not forced, from the living water that flows from the spirit. The enemy can have what he has taken, I don’t need to take it back because it’s like the skin a snake sheds when it grows. I have outgrown my need for what I was. For God has promised me something new every morning, I don’t need yesterdays promises, I have today’s. And though the liar brings the fog and we begin to fear the rocks, the Lord has given us a lighthouse, a place where when all else seems dark we can see the way. Our God is good, he is a strong tower, we run to him and are saved. The monster that had me this morning is gone and if I have to slay it a thousand more times I will. Keep the old me I don’t want it back. I am a new creation the old is gone the new has come. And now that I am looking for the light I will not fear the storm for I know my help is on the way.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
We Push, We push again, and again. The door creeks a little and so we keep on pushing. Our hands are dirty from touching the ancient gate. The gate is old but was built to last, the craftsmanship is far more superior than anything of today’s standards. We keep pushing. Finally when enough of us have come together the door starts to move. It’s opening. We have battled, we are tired and weary but the site of this ancient city is a fuel to a fire that had all but died but now roars with life within us. Our invincible Lord has conquered the enemy and now the creaky gates of this long abandoned fortress will be the dwelling place of our God, our defender. Too long have we sat outside the gates taking destructive hits to our body. But now we have found our king; now we sing the Psalm 24 cry: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all it’s people belong to him. For he laid the earth’s foundations on the seas and built it on the ocean depths. Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his Holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have right standing with God their savior. They alone may enter God’s presence and worship the God of Israel.”
The song does not end here, it goes on but for now my mind wraps itself around this savior who has found me outside those gates. He has washed the blood off my hands. Some of the blood came from my own wounds but much of it from the wounds I also inflicted upon others. My tongue has been a sword slashing the innocent and guilty alike and then in my guilt taking it’s sharp blade to myself. Until now I have been slowly dying. I kept fighting and wandering, I kept looking for medicine to heal me, to comfort me, to numb me. The world and it’s remedies fail, the numbness deadens my heart not my pain. Like a woman in labor I cry out as I am forced to give birth to grief and shame over and over until I can bare no more.
When my beautiful savior found me I was so far gone that I had given up the meaningless pursuit of happiness, wealth, and of me. He filled this empty heart and gave healing to this broken soul. I wondered how long he must have been waiting, how long until I would let go of the enemies gate. Both hands shaking it , furiously yelling at the top of my lungs at this liar and thief that held me for so long. I yelled so loud and long that I have to voice left. Taunting the enemy of my soul almost begging him to end my miserable life, but he will not even give me that. I remember the halls of the enemy where I once partied, the songs and dancing, the riches and glory, all a façade, those halls are empty now, but I guess they always were. Now I lay outside wanting my squandered youth forgiven. Wanting my stolen dreams restored. The Lord waited, He waited for me to let go, for me to realize what emptiness came from that stronghold, such a reminder I would never forget, so that I would never return to that God forsaken place. He waited and waited for what must have seemed too long to even bare as he watched his beloved tortured by these smooth criminals all for the sake of free choice all because I thought I knew what I wanted. There were times I was so hungry that I would eat the scraps of rotten food that even the animals refused to eat. My clothing once a symbol of my wealth, now revealed as rags not even fit to warm my freezing body. It wasn’t enough for the enemy to just pursue me, to deceive me, to lie to me and allow me to invest my life’s inheritance into those lies. No, now comes the rejection, the abuse and to now be thrown out left to die. Here I lie the rejected, the worthless being I am. And the attacks still come, the words, his lies are like arrows. I am almost dead now, almost gone. But then he comes… not a moment too soon, not a moment too late. A savior, gentle hands, tear filled eyes. He holds me and for the first time in eternity I understand what a gift his love is. This sweet mercy and grace filled gift. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” I belong to him and in this moment I take comfort in the idea that I have a kind and loving master. I belong somewhere, I belong with someone, I belong to someone. He loves me. I had prostituted myself to the enemy, I had given him what he wanted so that I could have what I wanted. Isn’t that how it works? You pay for what you own.
The first documented account of deception is the garden of Eden. We have a couple who lives in paradise and still the enemy tempts them away from God’s goodness. The deceiver convinces them that God is holding out on them. But in reality he is protecting them. The amazing part of this relationship with God that we fail to understand is that we already belong to him by his right as creator. When we reject that union with him and sell ourselves to the enemy, God could just say no because we don’t own those rights. Like a father with an inheritance, we ask for an advance that hasn’t been earned. And when we squander that inheritance his reply could be one of rejection to us. But instead it is met with forgiveness and the amazing love of a savior. The price of Christ’s torturous death was the cost of us seeking out our selfish pursuits. God paid in full not once but twice for our life. To think we are not valuable to him would be foolishness. We may never fully understand this kind of love or sacrifice but as I lay in his arms near death I realize what he did. He healed me, he washed me, I sit up drinking in the living water and as I take the cup from his hands, and the I see the marks from the nails that held him to the cross. Only a love greater than anything I have ever known can explain this kind of exchange. The enemy would have had to have thought he had won to have traded my worthlessness for Christ’s worthiness. And so it was that my selfish sins that had held me in bondage and had become the chains that kept me from a loving God would be destroyed by an act of Love that had greater power than any sin ever could. A powerful Creator who had the power to just take back what belonged to him, paid an even greater price for our restoration, redemption and rebirth. He would pay a price we never could, settle a debt he never owed, all for the answer to the question of how great his love is for his creation. He loves us. We are priceless to him. God paid a price worth more that devotion, it’s worth our love. His death wasn’t a down payment it was the deed to our hearts. His sacrifice opens up a place inside of us that was created just for him to fill. So now as we who are broken come to this gate, this ancient gate. Pushing, pushing and finally opening the door we sing the rest of Psalm 24: “Open up ancient gates! Open up ancient doors and let the King of glory enter. Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord invincible in battle. Open up ancient gates! Open up ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter, who is the King of glory? The Lord almighty he is the King of glory.”
This part of my heart, left empty for far too long, I open up to the King of glory, that he may enter, and this fortress should forever be his alone. For I belong to Him.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Waking up slowly piecing together my crazy dream: I owned a small house outside of town, one bedroom, scratch that, is that a lake? A lake house with a great room, well it’s a mansion now with a dock on the lake and boats. Soon I realize that the property extends to a restaurant, theater and radio studio. This property keeps expanding and soon I am a very successful business woman. At one point in the dream I even ask myself “When did I get so big? This is bigger than me.” I wake up very overwhelmed. The thing about dreams today is that we are taught to do so realistically. No parent wants to have to deal with the disappointment of a child who never sees dreams come true. So we are taught to never dream beyond what we can handle. As I woke up from that dream I realized that I like knowing that I can control my life and why would I want to dream beyond what I can control. And then God clearly spoke to my heart. “DREAM BIGGER.”
“Dream bigger, so big in fact that you can not accomplish it on your own, so big that you can not control it.”
“Me, loose control? I don’t know? I hate being disappointed. Especially in myself. If I set small attainable goals for myself I don’t have to worry about all the failure involved with dreaming too big. Hmmm, If I didn’t have to worry about the fear of failure what would I dream?”
Again he spoke to my heart. “What is your dream?”
“I don’t know?” The question catches me off guard. “I want to dream bigger but my dreams are so small. I want your dreams. I can not dream big enough to break my own safe rules of self preservation. Lord, I want your dreams. Show me how to dream. Show me what a life abandoned to you looks like. Because I trust you. I not only trust you with my pain, my sins and fears, but I want to trust you with my dreams. I want to dream bigger and trust that although I can not accomplish it on my own, that I am never alone. You oh Lord can bring in to fruition all the plans you have for me. I need your dreams. Teach me how to dream, I want to be a dreamer and I want you to teach me how to show my children to dream. All hope rests on the future of your children discovering how to dream big dreams in you. And letting you have the control in our lives to bring them to pass.”
Then I remember a dream I had once. I was very young, this was when I knew how to dream. But this dream was not of my own conjuring. It was from God and it was more of a vision. I was at a youth convention many years ago. God planted a movie like picture in my mind of something that would come to pass in my life if only I would follow him. The scene was me sitting in a circle surrounded with many children. Different colors of skin painted the canvas of this beautiful picture. The ground was dirty, the sun was bright, the children were beautiful. We were playing or reading or I was teaching; all I know is that I was imparting the love of God to them. It was such a beautiful picture in fact that I wanted it as soon as possible. That was twenty years ago. The vision is still there and I recognize some of the faces now. Having four of my own children has filled a part of my life I never knew existed. But that moment in that vision has not happened yet. I have tried in all my wanting to push that day closer but I know in my heart that there is a process of growth, purification, instruction and design involved. A laying down of me and a recognition of the Lordship of Christ in my life. We want the outcome of the dream without the process of the journey. Some days I think I can handle my life, and other days I feel lost and overwhelmed and I truly believe that until I learn to give God all my days, and trust in his strength and not my own, then I will have to wait that much longer.
If we rush the process, the result is affected. Let’s say we were making ice cream but we skipped over adding the sugar, or maybe we didn’t mix it, or instead of sugar we added salt because we like to take creative license with our lives, or we got all the ingredients right but then out of our impatience we couldn’t wait for it to freeze. Mushy warm ice cream isn’t even close to the disaster we could have in our lives if we rush the process of God teaching us how to love others and the responsibilities that go along with being an ambassador of his love. If we can not be patient and wait on God now than how will we be able to wait on him in the midst of greater circumstances. I was frustrated when I was single, trying to wait for something so enormous seems almost impossible sometimes. Out of that frustration I could have taken matters into my own hands, sometimes I tried, but thankfully the concerned prayers of my parents kept me from making choices that would derail the path of God in my life. I could have married a convenient boyfriend and had children so I could start this family that I felt was part of the dream, but I wanted the picture that God put in my heart. And for that I knew I had to wait. I am not the first person nor will I be the last who is asked to wait. The "Father of many Nations": Abraham, was given a dream, a vision from God. For him when waiting on God seemed illogical and unbearable he took matters into his own hands and a divided nation was born. Ishmael was the result of Abraham trying to bring about God’s blessing in Abrahams time frame. Did it take more faith for Abraham to act on his own or for Abraham to wait on God? We confuse faith with action and sometimes faith is in our ability to wait even when we want to move forward. Isaac was the promise that God intended for Abraham and a promise that he kept in his time frame. We need to trust God that if he is big enough to move in a vision, that he is also big enough to bring it to pass. We must give up our selfish determination to bring about the will of God in our lives. It’s an oxymoron to ask God to have HIS will done in our lives and then to willfully exclude him in the process. We are so stubborn that we justify our actions, turning the situation selfishly around and making it about us, and yet claiming it is all for God. The absence of selfishness is the beginning of true obedience. Here is a spiritual litmus test for if God is in control or we are:
A man under the Lordship of God: Is patient, Knowing that God will give clear direction when movement on our part is needed. Understands that there is as much faith in waiting on God as when God asks us to move on something he has asked. Has a restful spirit. Can hear God’s voice. Let’s God take the first step. Others want to follow because they sense the presence of God in his life. Is aware of the growth in his life. Understands the importance of Lordship and the relationship between God and him is not dependent on the circumstances around him or the environment. He is confident that God will move greatly in his life.
A man under the his own Lordship: Is impatient, and frustrated. Does not feel he needs clear direction to move and uses faith as an excuse to move without God. Has a restless spirit. Cannot hear God’s voice and has to supplement with what he thinks God is saying or looks for the signs of God rather than for God himself. Wants to make the first move and gets frustrated when others do not want to follow. Is unaware of the growth in his life and almost feels as though he is stuck in a rut due to circumstances and the environment he is in. Is overly confident in himself and mistakes his own pride for faith knowing he can accomplish things on his own.
What man are we? How do we keep dreaming without taking over the responsibility to make our own dreams come true? First we must realize that God is not showing us what we can do but rather what he wants to do in us and for us. I would be easier to get on an airplane and go to Africa, find all those precious babies that need love and live a life abandoned to a calling of servant hood than to wait patiently on God. It takes more faith to wait on God and to trust that the desires of our heart are not lost but safe in his hands. We will only ever get a second rate dream come true if we push the plans of God out of the way to make room for our plans. God has not forgotten us, he is shaping us. We are so arrogant to think that we know more about our dreams than God does. He created our dreams; he created us and he created a plan for us to follow. Go back to the last thing that you know God asked you to do and do not move from that spot until he moves you.
The saying about getting the cart before the horse is a great visual. Do you want to be pushing the cart all the way to finish line just because the horse isn’t moving as fast as you want? Let God take you on this journey and don’t miss everything around you in this moment because you are pushing your own cart. The last thing God asked me to do was to love my children unconditionally, with his love and his strength. Go back to your moment and I promise you will find your purpose. Don’t get frustrated when the dream seems so far away, for you will lose today if you keep pushing towards tomorrow. Love your children, for they grow up so fast. Tell your brother about the love of Jesus for you may not get another chance. Bake bread for the hungry. Tell your parents how much you love them and pray for them. Worship God in spirit and in truth. Study his words because they are a love letter to your soul and living water to your spirit.
Joy is not dependent on circumstances or the location of your body. The location of your heart is what determines the steps you will take. Let your heart be found in the thrown room of God praising him for who he is. Determine to have faith in Him and that he is who brings about the promises for your life. Don’t pursue the dream, pursue the God who gives us dreams, the God who intends on making those dreams come true.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
He waits… Lingering in the shadow, his teeth are stained red; The blood of many victims. Fresh blood drips down his hairy chin in the place of saliva. He growls at the thought of his prey. A hunger deeper than that out of necessity; a starvation that has brought this beast to crave the taste of flesh. He watches the sun slowly setting, impatient as the last glimpse of light dissipates. The darkness has come, the shadows have become the night. He has come to steal, kill and destroy. There is a fence, a gate, a shepherd and his flock. Pacing the perimeter but staying ot of the sight of the Shepherd this wild creature prowls, hunting and waiting for any moment that would allow him to feast. He watches the Shepherd and waits for any sign of weakness. Will he sleep? Will he allow any distraction from his watch? Will he run in the face of danger? What kind of character does this Shepherd possess? This Shepherd is flawless in his Love for his flock and so he must wait for a lamb to wander from the fold, to a place beyond the loving watch of the Shepherd. Waiting for that moment is torture to this impetuous and depraved creature. His eyes hold a hatred so intense you would think the very existence of the flock wounds this ego driven beast. His goal to steal, kill and destroy will not be easy because the Shepherd never leaves, and the authority of this simple man is apparent in his alert and loving watch. He knows each sheep and has named them all and they know the shepherds voice.
John 10 describes the Good Shepherd, his sheep and the thief. This Chapter is packed full of relational tidbits. The relationship we have with God is likened to a Good Shepherd and his sheep. Christ describes a wall with a gate and inside the Shepherd with his sheep, “Wherever they go they will find green pastures.” David a shepherd himself describes this relationship in Psalm 23 “resting in green meadows and being led by peaceful streams.” How I long for those green pastures, to know my God’s voice, to stay away from the voices I do not know. There is caution that Christ gives in John 10 not to trust anyone who will not come through the gate (the gate being Christ) but sneaks over the wall. Are their people in our lives that who are uncomfortable with our Shepherd? Do they try to lead us away from his care? For that matter are there areas of our life that we would prefer that God stayed out of, resentments towards others that we would like to hold on to and will not give over to God, Trust or control issues that we are trying to handle on our own? Be careful this is the thief’s territory. He needs to get the sheep isolated and away from the Good shepherd. Christ warns that the thief will steal, kill and destroy. He can not do this if we are in the Shepherd’s presence. Do we know our Shepherds voice? David knew his Shepherds voice. The psalms are filled with truth about the relationship of intimacy with God that he longs for us to have. In Psalm 40 he talks about God rescuing him (a sheep in despair) and in verse 2b he says “He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” Our walk with God is meant to be stable and sure footed even in the midst of shaky situations. Too many days have I walked an insecure walk with God. I must remember it is my Good Shepherd that steadies me as I walk along. If we are looking all around us for others to steady us then we will be tossed back and forth by the nature of human emotion. If we look to ourselves we will be easily tempted when the thief comes to whisper his lies. Our dependence must be in Christ he is the only one who can keep us safe, secure and full of the fruit of his Spirit. And the Fruit is: Love… Joy… Peace… Patience… Kindness… Goodness… Faithfulness… Gentleness… and Self Control.
I want a walk like that. I want Love that pours out of me and completes me. I want Joy that bubbles over and gives me a smile and a song. I want Peace that gives me the ability to rest in his green meadow. I want Patience to know that God is all powerful and I can wait on him. I want Kindness that emulates who my Shepherd is. I want Goodness that the enemy will have no ammunition against me. I want Faithfulness that God would know I love him too. I want Gentleness that others would come to know him. I want Self Control that I would be transformed into his likeness. John 15 talk about the True Vine, “You can not be fruitful apart from me.” All we must do to access this fruit is to remain in him. In verse 9 he says, “Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow.”
Oh my Shepherd, I long to know your voice, to dwell in your presence and to live by your Spirit. I long for your intimacy at any cost. I trust you Lord. I will follow you. Amen
Monday, January 20, 2014
Here is a thought, after reading an article on the law and several others including one titled “why I don’t tithe“. It is one thing to start the conversation exposing a lie and telling people that you cannot live by the law. It is even ok to base ideas of it like, "well then I am not bound by these things so I don't need to follow them," but Paul finishes the conversation and so should we, all the verses that were given in that article should be read in full context. In our passion we enjoy exposing a lie that held us bound but so many people will stop there and never experience the freedom that comes from the next step. They are free from the world and free from men's laws but only to step into bondage and slavery to other idols (most likely the idol of serving yourself) that can cause real harm. It is one thing to say I am free from law and I will walk in God's love but we cannot do this on our own in our flesh. If law is not our master and Christ is, then we need to have a clear understanding of what that looks like, What is obedience to Christ? What does it mean to be lead by His Holy Spirit. If obedience to the law was REPLACED by Christ then our obedience to Christ is pivotal for the freedom to take root in our lives. I have experienced a whole new level of obedience to God this year and it is overwhelming!
On the tithing issue... At the very worst point of our financial issues I sat and wept to the Lord about our finances and said God (not 10 percent) I give you full control over the finances in our home, lead me into what that looks like, I want to be obedient to you and be free from this mess I have created and the stress of financial opposition. God and I sat down with the books and he showed me what mattered most to him in our finances. For us it included a 10 percent tithe to the Church that was feeding us spiritually. He wanted my faith, not my money, he wanted to see me be obedient to trust him with even a small percent so he could show me that when I TRUST him and OBEY what he is asking, that he is our provider. I know it sounds bad but I don't care if anyone in the old or new testament or if anyone else tithes, All I care is that I am being obedient to what God has told me to do. I am blessed by God's provision and ever since I have given him control in that area he has done miracles in our finances on an almost pay check to pay check basis, or obedience to obedience basis, if you will. I have come to understand that God just wants us to know who he is and if we never give him the chance to be the manager of our homes and we stubbornly insist we know the way than we could miss some very important communion with a very intimate God. I guess my caution is this. To tithe or to not tithe? They are both laws, One says Do and one says Don't. To eat meat or to not eat meat they are both laws, one says do and one says do not. Law to me is a principle that exalts itself as the voice of God in our lives, but we have Christ in our lives to direct us now, so why do we need two masters. No I am not bound by the law. I am bound by Love, (or another word for bound/ embraced) I am embraced with Christ's love. so I will follow his voice and where he goes I will go. He doesn't always go where I want to go, or where it makes logical sense. So be aware that our lists of the things that we don't do because they are law, could become our new law if the reason behind them is just to oppose the law instead of doing it out of obedience to Christ. It would be easier to follow the law because it is a list (although lengthy) written out, and very few laws are concerned with our mind or attitudes. 2 Corinthians 10:5 "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" Wow! The law was concerned with my body but following Christ is a much deeper more intimate interaction, it concerns my thoughts, my spirit, and my body. So although living in obedience to Christ is more involved (and at times more difficult) it is more fulfilling too.
So brothers and sisters, you know not to do anything just because it is a law based principle (Laws that God gave in the Old Testament) but are you willing to also lay down all the law that you have made for yourself in your hearts. Often we judge our brothers and sisters rather than love them out of where they are. I am so guilty of this, replacing God's law with my new found insight (my new laws) usually because I see someone in bondage or stumbling over the law and the practical solution is to free them, but be careful not to leave that person empty with nothing to replace it, or to replace the law of God with the law of man. For there is a spirit of rebellion and disobedience that looks for those who are no longer bound by those laws of God. For we could lead them into the bondage of sin and death very easily. No we must fill that empty place within us and others with the life of Christ and the power of his Holy Spirit. We will always be submitted and obedient to something, We are created that way. We are not required to submit to law because of Christ. But he was not just the solution he was the replacement. So all obedience belongs to him now. If we want freedom from sin we go through the cross (not law) but soooo many Christians stop at the cure for their sickness. not thinking about the daily application of whether they will submit to a life of sin and death or to a new life of obedience in Christ. They accept a trade of sin for a life with Christ, but Christ’s work is ongoing just like the law was ongoing. People are so Lazy and think well this is so much better than law because I don't have to do anything, it was so much work to keep the law and now it's so easy. I can just do what I want and their are no consequences. The truth is that it is more work to be submitted to Christ than to follow rules because it is a moment by moment decision to be obedient to God. I believe that our laziness to be submitted to Christ and our hesitancy to be obedient to him is so damaging to our relationships in heaven and on earth.
The message that Law is not the answer should always be followed up with teaching on how to be submitted to God and how to be obedient to Christ, and how to be led by the Holy Spirit. It is so easily cliché to say Love your neighbor and Love God but do we know what that even means?!!! True love lays down it's life!!! True love will go through what Christ endured so that others can know God!!!! True love isn't some happy field of flowers. It is turning the other cheek when we get slapped, it is giving our enemies food and clothing, and yet we walk around saying love your neighbor but most of us have never said more than two words to our neighbors. We roll up the window to the street person holding a sign, We drive by a prison and shake our heads in disgust instead of praying for their souls, we are angry at people in a restaurant when their children are being disruptive, we are impatient when the line at he grocery store is too long. We are not loving our neighbor or our enemy, we are uncomfortable and inconvenienced by the slightest change in our plans. So before we shout it out that we should love God and others we should be aware that their was no law that ever came close to the sacrifice that Christ gave out of Love and no law that is as difficult to follow as living a life of Love and obedience to Christ. We align ourselves with the cross... THE CROSS was a torture device! It was the death of selfishness! A time is coming where the children of God will not be able to say "Love your enemy" with a smile, It will come with great pain for we have been living a very watered down version of love. If we want to share in the cup of Christ we will endure suffering, and persecution! This message is not one that is received well because we live in a world that wants to be comfortable and happy, but to be in Christ is freedom at the cost of laying down everything at his feet. All our comfort, all our ideas of how to do it right or wrong, all our impure unseen motives. All of us poured out for him for that is what he did for us. And this suffering that will come whether we consider it joy or not, we will endure it for that which is set before us! For even in the midst of all trails He is with us! And he has prepared a feast for us. Christianity is about to be purified through trials.
God has prophetically spoke to my heart that what is to come will be confusing to some as it will be in conflict with the false teachings of prosperity. Our comforts will be stripped and all of the external sources that fed us will run dry so that we may draw from a living well. Our Joy will flow from heaven , Our peace will come in the silent prayers of our hearts and our faith will burn in the depths of our spirit. His love will be made complete in us. Do not fear for God will make himself known and truth revealed, Our flesh will cry out for relief but God will minister to our spirit instead and we will know him, his face, his voice, his touch. And we will go out and others will see him too, and it will be a great harvest, a time of reaping not sowing, for he will draw them unto him; a harvest bigger than our lofts can hold for the truth will purge and penetrate the lies of the enemy and his traps will not be adequate for truth will set the captives free!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, January 19, 2014
I am a planner. I love my lists and I feel so unorganized if my little control freak hands are not touching something. I realize that many people do not struggle with this to the extent that I do but I feel like we all get to the point where if we do not have the answer to something it starts to bother us and nag a bit. I have been very frustrated this last week, feeling as though God could not hear me or I could not hear him just because the big questions in my mind were not being answered. It’s May and I want answers for September. I just feel so very “Out of Control” when I don’t know the specifics.
So last night as I was praying and spending time with God, I knew I was in his presence but again he seemed so silent in the matters of my life. He gave me words for others but I just came up blank when it came to me. Then finally he spoke, as if he was keeping a secret and had to spill a little. “I am moving in your life. The plans I have require you laying down your plans. Will you be ready when I move? Because I know the plans I have for you and they are big.” Then it occurred to me that God wasn’t silent because he didn’t want to talk to me, but that I was asking the wrong questions. “God tell me what you are doing so I can plan it all out.” God wasn’t giving me the answers because I need to be flexible and open to whatever changes may come before then. Am I willing to lay down my plans when he is silent? Understanding that I can not control the future.
That isn’t all that God showed me. He showed me that as much as I need to relinquish or give up my control in that area, he gives me the right to take up control in other areas. He recently reminded me of a few things that I felt led to pursue as a youth. Years have gone by and an awakening has risen up inside of me to these past desires. Many of these goals, desires, and passions were developing in me as a 16 year old. I felt led to memorize the bible, learn sign language, play an instrument (the violin). And Write, Write, Write!! These gifts require a great deal of discipline or SELF CONTROL to accomplish any level of greatness in. I am trying to re navigate the control issues I have. God is letting me have a few things that I can exercise some control in while he takes over control in other areas. God knows me so well. He knows how my personality works and instead of feeling lost and unable to participate in my own life he is showing me what areas I am to develop discipline in. When God takes something, he gives something back in return.
My challenge to you is this: If you feel like God is not moving in your life, as though you are stuck or not getting answers. First: ask some questions. Second: look at the questions you are asking, do you need the answer? Maybe he has given you the answer and you don’t like it. Maybe you aren’t getting an answer because the question is the wrong one. Or maybe there are things you need to do out of obedience before you can take the next step. Don’t misunderstand God’s silence to be that he doesn’t care. In fact he cares so much that he takes us down different roads to grow us in faith; roads where you don’t always know what is next.
I am sure that God’s silence in Job’s situation was overwhelmingly painful. He had questions for God too! When Jesus was on the cross and he could no longer hear God he asked, “Why have you forsaken me?” If they felt shut out of God’s plan and the sting of God’s silence, how can we be so arrogant to think we won’t feel that way at times too? Don’t let the enemy and his tongue of lies rob you of this important silence. Both Job and Christ went on to receive the miraculous in exchange for their patient endurance through trials. We too, can have the victory! We can know that God is good and that no matter how quiet it gets he is still right beside us through it all.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
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.
Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.
Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps
Saturday, January 18, 2014
What do we do when life Is HARD.
Allowing God to Shape us through opposition and Trial
I could start off with beautiful quotes, flowery words, or scriptures on what we need to do to pull it all together when times are hard. And if you are looking for that, stop reading right now! These stories have nothing to do with a perfect life only full of “happily ever afters“. At moments you are going to feel like you are being slapped in the face because these stories are about the hardships of life and how we either grow bitter or better through them. This isn’t a feel good pep talk , although if you take these words to heart you will feel better. But we have to lay down the attitude of self entitlement. The “should have been’s” are killers. We find ourselves fighting through hard times because we stand around feeling entitled to a better version of what we have.
Have you ever started a sentence with “God if you loved me…” Chances are you feel entitled to something better. Or how about the words… “It must not be God’s will for me to have Joy, Peace, Love… because all I ever feel is pain, hurt, rejection.” We take our bad days and our worst moments in life and we throw them at God or others and we say, “No, I am not going to suffer, I am not going to sacrifice and I am not going to carry those burdens because it is too much, too uncomfortable, too heavy, too scary, to ugly… Thank goodness Christ didn’t say those words to God as he took on the punishment for us and dies a brutal and torturous death.
Don’t waste your trials! Let me repeat this phrase and I am going to keep repeating it throughout these stories… DON”T WASTE YOUR TRIALS! If there is any great tragedy among the modern church it is that we do not understand the beautiful transformation that comes as we bare our soul to Christ and become one in his suffering. We have lost our ability to allow trials to shape us because we have become entitled heirs to a kingdom rather than children who want to know their Father. To know Christ means being a part of the suffering that he endured.
I grew up always waiting for “My” testimony. I would listen to these great stories about people who walked away from a life of drugs and prostitution into Christ’s redeeming love and I would wonder, “Who is going to ever listen to me.” I have never been there or done that! My trials had not come yet but even the ones that I had gone through seemed small in comparison to what others had weathered. I always made it about me and my story but the truth is that Christ’s life is the testimony, His testimony is what we live for. His sacrifice is what we hold on to.
So often we sit and cry out to God about our miserable lives and it must seem like a child crying about a hangnail in comparison to God watching his only perfect son be tortured to the point that he cried out “Why have you forsaken me.” We need to position our eyes upon the cross because whatever it is that we think we can’t endure, Christ already suffered more and conquered the grave. We have a savior that literally went to Hell and back, so when we sit pouting with our arms crossed or prostate on the ground crying because we can’t take any more, we need to remember that Christ is for us, and when he is for us… Who can be against us.
Trials can be Man made, Devil made, God made, or just plain “old maid“. We tend to think that since God could remove those trials if he wanted to that he must not like us very much when he asks us to go through them. People often say If there is a God then WHY this or that. I am here to say that there is a God and he is not afraid of your questions. I used to struggle with the character of God because I watched something happen that seemed so awful to me that it seemed like God must not care. I would like to share that story because I feel like when it comes to death we have a very worldly perspective, we don’t understand the beautiful eternity ahead for us and so we hold onto this world so desperately.
I was about twenty nine years old, God had always come through before in ways that I could understand meant that he loved me. I saw him heal diseases that were crippling. I saw him free people of demons. I saw him perform miracle after miracle in my life that to me equaled his love. And if healing and life equaled love, then death most certainly seemed to be the opposition of that. I had lost grandparents but somehow it seemed right for them to be with God because they had lived full lives. But this was a pain I could never have prepared myself for.
My sister was pregnant with their second child, the pregnancy was filled with complication. The baby had down syndrome, congenital heart problems and fluid was filling up in the heart and lungs. We watched my sister go through some of the most dangerous and painful procedures to keep little Joshua’s heart beating one more day in the womb. She went into labor early and for several beautiful days he graced this world with his innocence. The day he passed I watched my sister hold him and smile. She never once blamed God or shook her fist, even after she had to painfully allow her milk supply to dry up while not having a baby to comfort, hold and nurse she continued to radiate a joy, peace and love that I not only didn’t understand, I selfishly resented. I didn’t understand any of my family, they all just thanked God for the little bit of time they had with him.
I was bitter, I wanted to understand but I didn’t want to ask God why? I guess I figured that asking why was a sin, but more likely it was my pride, my questions proved that I didn’t know something about God, that I didn’t trust him and that I didn’t have faith. I allowed that bitterness created by my unasked questions to wedge a gap of communication in my heart towards God. Several years later I found myself in a place where I needed that wedge removed. I was reading about God’s love and I just felt confusion and hurt.
In a much needed moment of revelation I felt him say to me that it wasn’t in asking “why” that we sin, it is our heart and motive behind it that matters. Two people in the bible came to my mind,: Mary the mother of Jesus and Zechariah the father of John the Baptist.
Luke 1:18-20 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” His pride and doubt got in the way. while another person with questions Mary the mother of Jesus asked of God but it was not motivated by doubt but by a desire to know God’s will.
Luke 1:26-38 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
I knew that I needed to ask God “why“, but that my heart needed to be right before him as I did. I cried to God, “Why did you take Joshua? I don’t understand how this is love. I have seen miracles, I have seen love in action and now when it was in your power to act… you removed your miraculous hand. I don’t understand.”
He said, “My little one, I love Joshua so much. I Am, I am all knowing and I chose to love him by sparing him from all the pain he would have endured in this world. He will never know the physical pain of his abnormalities or the extensive surgeries he would have endured, he will never know the unkind words of an ignorant person, he will never know the pain of being out of my presence. Am I not a perfect father? Who will love him more than me? I love him so much more than you know.” I broke… all of my resentment and the walls that had been built on what my definition of love was, it all broke down. I knew that it was my desire for Joshua to be here because of my selfish wants and needs, but that Joshua was being loved by a Father who would always know exactly what he needed.
In the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, Jesus was not moved by Martha’s anger and accusations toward his character and failure to be there, but those same questions put into humble grieving words by Mary, moved Jesus to tears and he called forth Lazarus from the grave. In my moment of honest grieving, Jesus spoke to my pain and I was taken out of my death like slumber. We can know that God’s character is good and that he loves us. God is looking out for us. This world is not perfect and what the enemy doesn’t take from us, he tries to distort God’s character and make God look like the bad guy. But God is good. God is Love. No matter how bad it looks if we come to him with questions out of humility instead of prideful anger that accuses his character, I believe we will get answers.
My sister is one of the most amazing people I know, she is a hero of faith to me because she allows the pain of her circumstances to draw her closer to her savior rather than let it drive her further away. In the bible we see two specific people who should have struggled with joy who seem to have it in spades; David and Paul.
David, was exiled and pursued by a King who wanted him dead for years, all while knowing that God had anointed him King. Hiding out while his resume includes slaying a giant, delivering a nation from captivity, killing a lion and a bear with his bare hands and all of it with the miraculous power and anointing of God over him. Now he was hiding in caves and running for his life, and still the joy of the Lord was his strength and song as he wrote the Psalms.
Paul was imprisoned, beaten, ship wrecked and brought before the law and yet counted it all joy for the cause of Christ. While in Jail he sang songs to God of praise! He sang until the earth moved, literally; an earthquake broke him free, but instead of seeking freedom from his chains he waited on God. Acts 16:22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
Is our comfort more important than our character? David and Paul both had the right to accuse God’s goodness, because if God’s goodness is based on our circumstances than they both should have been in a position to question God. But instead they chose to worship and praise him because they knew he was above all things a loving God.
I will say it again. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TRIALS! Like those who have allowed the character of God to become known to them, they held on to his goodness in the midst of hard times. Great joy is to be found in those moments, despite our circumstance God is able to give his peace, his love, his joy to us! There are moments when God uses his great love to do miracles and free us from the things that afflict us. But it is equally miraculous when he allows us to be strengthened and refined by our trials. We can grow bitter or Better. Our strength will fail, it was never meant to hold the weight of our burdens. Christ’s strength never fails. Instead of wallowing in a pit of self pity and preservation, cry out to God with a joyful praise, allow him to pull you out as you sing songs of his goodness, his faithfulness and his love.
Friday, January 17, 2014
My day started with a quick trip to Pinterest (a website with pictures of all kinds of great things that give you web page links; anything from sewing tips, to how to build a chicken coop, to amazing recipes). I seem to get derailed for hours day dreaming if you will or at the very least putting my current life on hold so that I can fantasize about my pretend one. This day I found myself fantasizing about having my own land and homesteading on it. I was reading up on bee keeping and how to raise goats. I quickly went into plan mode and had the rest of my life planned out… the problem was that God was silent.
We all have desires, plans, and things that give us deep purpose. Trying to sort all of that out with God’s will sometimes seems so very challenging and often I find myself derailing a very great path that God had me on to pursue a passion or desire that I want. And I find that almost every time I try to take my own happiness into my own hands without waiting on God to take me there. I end up feeling alone in my endeavor, wondering where God went, when it was me that strayed of course. One of my desires has always been to Homestead. A little Dairy farm with a garden and cute cuddly animals every spring. Part of what makes this picture difficult is that I also have desires to travel, be care free and flexible to whatever adventure God may have in store. I crave the missionary life and creating a settlement of any sort for long periods of time can create a restless stirring in me. So I wrestle back and forth with wanting to put my roots down and wanting to dig them up! I think the real struggle is whether or not I will choose to trust where God has me or make my own way.
Sometimes you don’t even recognize that you are out of his will until the silence on the other end is deafening and you get to that point where you would rather hear God yell at you than not say anything at all. And it’s so easy to slip right into living for yourself. It’s our natural instinct to follow the easiest path, the path that makes us happy, or to abandon a path that isn’t making us happy or is too difficult. But what we are really talking about is trust and faith. Those pillars of faith in the Bible all had one thing in common; they chose to trust in God. Even when they had moments of doubt or experiences with disobedience, they ran back to the Father as soon as they realized that his path, no matter how unfamiliar, was the better path. Two verses that come to mind for me are:
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.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
First in Jeremiah we see that God is reaching out to man and asking him to trust him, because he is a good God with good plans and what a remarkable life it will be if we choose to be blessed by him rather than pursue our own blessing. Then in Proverbs we see the wisest earthy king speak about trusting God with everything, not trying to make sense of it or analyze it so that we can control it but to really submit and let him straighten it all out.
But the real key to that verse is that word submit… That word we so often dislike, there is a reason we dislike it: We are selfish. In order to submit we must place more importance on another than on ourselves. We recognize this negative connotation even before we find out what we are being asked to submit to. Our whole life we are inclined to think in selfish terms, we make it all about us. Our life, our plans, our marriage, our children, our free time, our sanity, our vacations, our house, our money. Do I need to go on? When did it become ours?
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
A lot of our unhappiness in this life is due to our inability to recognize our purpose. We have god complexes; we think that God is here to please us and in fact we were created to bring him praise and glory and honor. When God sent Jesus to this earth, he modeled a life of sacrifice and obedience (servanthood) to God but he also experienced a closeness with God, the miraculous power of God and the development of relationships with people that no other person ever had. He gave everything for us out of an obedience that can only be explained by a love that I still have yet to grasp in all my understanding. Maybe that is why the writer of Proverbs says not to lean on our own understanding!
If all we have already belongs to Him than why are we not asking him what we should be doing with it? How would you feel if you left your children home for the night with a babysitter that was cruel to your children? This sitter said unkind things to them, refused to get them something to eat until the commercial of a favorite show on TV, talked on the phone all night instead of engaging with them, punished them out of anger, thought resentful things towards them because this person felt trapped by having to watch your kids. Would you ever hire them again? And yet those children that we love so much and would save from that experience are not our children at all. If they belong to God, (and they do) we ought to be treating that responsibility much differently than we do. God gave them unto our care and we are to treat them as His children and not your own.
How would you feel if you went to the bank to get your money out and the cashier said, “Well it’s not here because I felt like going on vacation, so I spent your money, I mean I work so hard at watching it for you, so I spent it.”? We would probably invest our money somewhere else with someone who cared. But we are just like that teller, God has given us everything and we spend that money so very selfishly without even blinking an eye to how God would have us manage it and we even have trouble giving God a symbolist 10% tithe as a sign that we recognize that all things come from him. And if that wasn’t enough we get mad at God for investing in others and not us, we question who he blesses and ask why we don’t have the same blessings in our life.
These words are not meant to condemn but I hope they convict, I hope that they stir within us the very idea that our happiness is in relation to how open we are to letting God be everything to us. We are like the man in the Bible who wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven and he asked Christ what he had to do. Christ started off soft with telling him to obey God, the man was excited to report that he had been doing just that and when the man pressed in further and said what else, Christ went to the heart of the issue, the heart of this man’s idol, the heart of his selfish behavior. Christ told him to sell everything and follow Him. The man walked away sad for he was a very wealthy man.
We are this man in one area of life or another. When we press into Christ to seek out the why to our question of an unfulfilled or unhappy life we often don’t like the answer. Does God hate that mans wealth? No He was just telling him that it would never be enough and that if he wanted true happiness he would need to deny himself and take up his cross, he would have to start asking whose wealth it was to begin with, he would have to start making a choice to include God in everything, not just the small percent that came easy.
For me it isn’t money or even my kids so much, not really my marriage, or my health, why? Because in all of those things I find myself helpless and in a constant state of crying out to God to take over for me. My big area of control and selfishness is in my purpose, it is in my plans and it is in my secret desires, those day dreams of a perfect world. I feel as though God promised me things that have not come to pass. I could hold onto my plans and take myself down a hundred different roads all by myself or I can trust him. I can choose to stop planning and start praying. I can as the scriptures say, lift my eyes to the things above and not on earthly things. And then that path, will unfold by God’s perfect design.
My false god, is me. It is my clinging to my selfish plans. And my constant nagging at God and trying to manipulate his perfect hand in my life. How does a person lay down such a personal false god? I am literally having to chose to lay myself on that alter, and trust that what God raises from those ashes is better than the death I am living and trying to pass off as His life. It hurts, yes devastates our pride to come into this kind of surrender to God but our pride is thing getting in the way of his joy, and his peace and his great love.
Later that night at church I felt God speak to me about the desires I have to Homestead. I was in worship and he gave me the picture of the lion laying down with the lamb. I keep trying to make my Homestead on this earth and the truth is that just like lamentations speaks about the futility of this world, that would be meaningless compared to the homestead I have in heaven. This world is not my home and keep trying to make it permanent. I keep trying to build my house on the sandy land and not on the rock. The truth is that so much of what I am building will not last. God wants me to invest my time and my energy into a heritage that will last, seeds that are eternal, a harvest that is not seen by our physical eyes. He gave me the lion and the lamb to show me that my desires are not foolish, they are just misplaced and that one day I will have my homestead but it will be in an everlasting and beautiful place that can not be taken away from me.
If we are to find a purpose that is to give us meaning and fulfillment we must stop investing in the things that are not eternal. God gave me several things that I am to invest in, it is a small list but it has a great deal of importance to me because no matter how side tracked I get by this world I can always go back to these things. I am to invest in 1. HIM. I am to invest in my God. With worship, with reading the word, with finding and using my spiritual giftings. I am to invest in 2. Others. I am to love others in a way that bring them closer to my loving savior so that they too can know the amazing love that he has for them. My Children and husband, my friends and family, my church and my leaders, and then those that God brings into my life however he chooses.
These two things are eternal. These two things matter. These are the things that my heart will choose with all intensity to focus on. Because there is no point in wasting time. There is only this moment and in this moment I choose to lay down my plans and hope for the eternal!