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All posts for the month July, 2013

Perfume or Water?

Published July 28, 2013 by Dawn

This morning, I was the cool auntie! I had my niece and nephew over and the kids were having a blast in my back yard. They were also tracking tons of mud through my kitchen, but never mind all that … nothing a little mopping couldn’t handle. They all ran back and forth from the yard to the kitchen to fill up their water guns so they could soak each other in a game of water war. Since there were three guns and four kids, my very creative son decided to fill up a squirt bottle for my three-year-old niece to use. So he looked under the kitchen sink, grabbed the biggest one he could find, dumped it out and filled it with water for her … Bye-bye mega bottle of Fabreze! Ugghh! That one hurt a bit.

So, I stopped my daughter (only because she was in the house when I realized what had happened) and I said, “Um, that’s my Fabreze bottle you all are using.” And she looked at me smartly and said very chill, “I know … we dumped it out first.” I silently counted the seconds. One … two … three – the realization of what she just said hit her and she was like, “Ooooohhh,” and gave me the “oops” look. Same reaction from my son when I mentioned it to him. So I responded to both of them, “You took something that I spent money on, dumped it out for the bottle, and filled it with water …” Then, the irony of life hit me: don’t we all, at some point in our lives, get more caught up in worthless things and forget that there is something of value inside of us.

We tend to, if we are not attentive to the things of God, fill our lives with water-like things. Things that have little significance or value in the big scheme of things. And in order to hold them, we pour out on the ground the things of value that the Lord has placed inside of us. We do this in so many ways. For instance, the time we spend partying it up with our friends instead of hanging out with our Lord. Or how about the way we use our talents to chase after worldly things like success, fame and money instead of using our talents to further the kingdom of God and bring glory to Him. The energy we waste worrying about things that shouldn’t even concern us, when we could be using it to be the hands and feet of Christ.

The worst part is the cost of it all. While my bottle of Fabreze probably only cost a little over five bucks, our worth was paid for with the blood of Christ! The fact that I wanted my kids to see the significance of their waste only compels me to think that quite possibly the Lord wants us to also see the significance of the waste of our time, our talents and our energy. It’s a big deal! We only have so much time here to do what God has called us to do, and it matters whether or not we do it! Each of us has been gifted to make an impact in the kingdom of God and we shouldn’t be wasting ourselves on things that are of relatively little significance. When you stand before our Lord, what do you want to be holding in your hands? Something that is fragrant to Him, an offering, or water?

The Reckless Passenger

Published July 26, 2013 by Dawn

I’ve been in a little bit of a funk lately, as I just know my feet are on the edge of the Promised Land and yet, I feel like I have no direction and life is going on as normal. Frankly, I struggle to accept this “life as normal.” I’m not a “normal” kind of person. Yes, I just admitted it: I’m abnormal. The thing is, I know what I have heard my Father speak to me, and I know He cannot lie. I know that there is so much more to life than this and I hate the waiting.

I was praying about this this morning and I had a revelation of what my relationship with Jesus is like. I saw the two of us in a car together, he behind the wheel and me in the passenger’s seat. He was smiling, looking ahead and enjoying the ride, while I sat beside him with a look of sheer terror on my face. Then I saw myself grab the wheel and jerk it real hard toward my direction. The end.

And with that, I realized what the Lord is saying to me: I am a reckless passenger. I don’t trust Him to guide me, and I’m afraid of His guidance when He does. The concept of a joy ride is not even on my radar. There’s no such thing. I sense that this journey with Him is supposed to be peaceful and fun, a time together when the two of us can lovingly share in conversation while we journey down this road, and yet, I have no idea what He’s saying to me because I am full of anxiety over the path we’re traveling down. To make matters worse, I can’t seem to keep my hands and feet on my own side. I am either grabbing the wheel to steer things my way, or I am sliding my foot beneath His and slamming on the brakes. I’m the worst passenger ever!

It’s amazing how stubborn I am. How little credit I give to the Lord for all He’s done for me, and knowing what He’s done in the past and how capable He is, I am still struggling to trust Him. What is wrong with me!? The truth is, I want to enjoy this ride. The scenery is so beautiful and the time together is all I’ve ever wanted with Him. I want to smile and laugh with Him while he navigates the road and I sit and take in the view. That seems so much more peaceful than what I am doing right now. My reactions to His driving are dangerous! I don’t want to be a reckless passenger any more.

Lord, please calm me with your singing. I would love nothing more than to be able to close my eyes, lean my head back and listen to you and you get us to our destination. I want to laugh with you and have intimate conversation in which you reveal your heart to me. You keep your eyes on the road and I will simply look up and be lost in this moment. This is my desire. I want to honor you as my Husband by trusting you to get us there.

Father Love

Published July 25, 2013 by Dawn

I crawled into bed a few nights ago, not too long after my kids fell asleep, and while getting snuggly with my pillow, felt a piece of paper scrunching up under my head. Sadly, that was nothing out of the ordinary; I’m a writer, and guilty of sleeping with books, paper, and/or pens on many occasions. When I pulled the paper out from under me, I realized it didn’t belong to my collection of notes. Someone had written me a letter! I love letters. It’s my “thing.” I was overjoyed to know that people in my house (my kids) were embracing my love for letter-writing as a form of communication. Excitedly, I opened it and began to read (I have not copied it directly because it was written in a code we lovingly call dyslexia):

Dear Mom,
I can’t wait until church camp. I am excited. And also, sometimes, I am lonely. Can you help me with any of that sometimes?

He didn’t sign it. He didn’t have to. Needless to say, this letter tore my heart. I crawled up into the lap of God and bawled my heart out. Lord, what more can I give of myself? I would do anything to help him with that. I felt in the deepest part of me a desperation for my son. His need, expressed in so few words, cried out to me for help and attention. I’d give him the world if I could.

So very tenderly, the Lord said to me as I poured my heart out, “This that you feel right now; I feel this way about every one of my children.”

I’ve never known this about the Lord. Sure, I’ve read the scriptures but for some reason, the God I struggle to know gets wrapped up in the worldly understanding that He is distant and iron-fisted, stern and commanding. To know that my Abba Daddy is tender-hearted and compassionate toward all that He has made is the most wonderful truth the Lord has revealed to me yet. It’s one thing to read it. Quite another to hear it from His lips. My fears dissolved and relief swept over me. The Lord’s heart is aware of his pain. He is aware of my pain. He is aware of your pain. And it tears His heart.

David reveals this truth in Psalm 145:13, “The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.” Toward all He has made. This mother-heart in me that hurts when my kids hurt cannot even compare to the love of God’s Father-heart toward His children. Jesus said in Matthew 7:11, “If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who keep asking Him.” God is a good Father, not to be confused with the earth’s best in parenting. Because as good as we are, we still fail sometimes to do the best thing in relation to our kids. Our Heavenly Father, however, not bound by earth’s limitations or our limited understanding, is able to provide all that we need and gives these good gifts without showing partiality. All we have to do is ask. And He wants to! That’s the best part. His heart is attuned to our cry and simply waiting for us to ask Him. There is no need He cannot provide for, no emotion He does not understand and care about. He compassion toward us is deep and He loves us with an everlasting love, and draws us to Himself with unfailing kindness (Jeremiah 31:3). When we realize the inability of the world to offer solace, we are assured of His ability, and more than that, His willingness, to be all that we need. Loneliness? He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Orphaned or widowed? According to Romans 8:15, you, dear orphan, have been adopted. And widowed woman, for you He has spoken Isaiah 54:5, “For the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, is your Husband.” The cry of a human heart is His call to action. He feels your pain in the depth of Himself, and He responds out of a sincere desire to stop that ache. Nothing can separate you from this Love (Romans 8:39).

Father, thank you for such wonderful truth. Thank you that you hold our hearts and are attentive to our cries. Thank you for caring for us so much. I love that I can come to you as a daughter comes to her Father, and that you respond to me as a Father who loves His daughter very much. I am blessed to know You.

Full of New Wine

Published July 22, 2013 by Dawn

“ And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskin will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine immediately desires new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’” Luke 5:37-39

I’m not a theologian. I don’t understand a lot of the things I read in the bible the first time, and so I have to keep going back and chewing on them until I understand what the Lord is saying. This particular parable is one that never really made sense to me. I mean, clearly, the Lord was talking about the law and grace. The law being the old way of life, grace being the new. And our hearts are the wineskins. He was speaking directly to the Pharisees here, in that they could not accept this new doctrine of faith and grace because they were “old wineskins.” And Jesus was telling them they had to be made new so that they could receive it. And we all seem to agree on these points. But there’s always been something missing in this for me, and I have pondered it for years. Is this “new wine” simply the words Jesus was speaking, the purpose He came? The redemption story? Religion? Is there more?

I began reading Acts today and when I read this verse, I immediately recalled this story and saw what’s been missing:

“Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” (Acts 2:13)

It happened on the day of Pentecost that the “new wine” was poured out. The Holy Spirit is the new wine Christ spoke about. I just love how people in the bible say things without knowing the significance of the things spoken. Those speaking in tongues that day were indeed full of “new wine.“

Looking back at the parable, I wonder if it is true then, that the Holy Spirit cannot reside in a man who is not living in the new life of the Spirit. If you accept that the Spirit is the new wine, then it seems that the Holy Spirit cannot reside in a man who continues to live in the flesh, disregarding the Spirit’s guidance. Jesus himself said it: “ … or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and the wine will pour out and the wineskin ruined.” A man living unto himself cannot contain the spirit of God for long. Him who contains the Spirit must be a changed man. This changed man must submit to the “new wine” within him and pour out that wine in accordance to the will of God. If he continues being the “old wineskin,” then he risks being ruined and wasting the things of God.

Being ruined? Wasting the things of God? It’s a tragedy too often recorded. The Lord places people in ministry and they, just like the Galatians who, “having begun in the Spirit…” all the sudden seem to be walking about working in the flesh. Trusting in the flesh, in their own intellect or the intellect of others, instead of looking to the Lord for guidance. I’m guilty of this. Just the other day, I started a new chapter in a book I am writing and sat down with my bible to begin to read and mark down scriptures I could use, and the Spirit spoke to me and said, “Do you not think that what God would have you to write is not already inside of you, and I can speak it forth?” Not that sitting down to read my bible was a bad thing. In fact, it was a good thing to attune my ears to the Lord. But my purpose was not tuning, it was searching in my own wisdom and discernment. Ouch!

The problem, I think, was addressed by Paul in Romans 12:3,6: “For I say to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think … do not be wise in your own opinion.” When we begin to think we know something about something, we quit looking for guidance. Why should we? And the moment we become sure that we know something, we begin to live in the flesh.

I have learned something very wicked of flesh lately. Flesh is an open doorway through which Satan has access into our lives. Our flesh is in direct opposition to God, according to Galatians 5:17, which says, “for the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”

How then, do we maintain this “new wine” inside of us? We allow the Lord to do His work of making us new in Christ, and then, we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) and study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15). If that sounds like a lot of work, it is. We live in a fallen world with a foe who is constantly looking to trip us up. If we desire to live above the base things of life, if we desire to be all that God has called us to, we commit ourselves to an uphill battle. The Spirit is in us so that we can have victory. Don’t disregard your compass as you walk on the path the Lord has marked out for you. The Holy Spirit is that compass, and you will not make it any other way. Be renewed and carry the new wine “and both will be preserved.”

When a Man Loves a Woman

Published July 22, 2013 by Dawn

He looked up from his work to wipe the sweat from his brow. The heat was unbearable and the long hours in it very taxing on his body. Too long of a pause and he’d never be able to regain the strength of his muscles to finish off the day. How long had it been? How many weeks? How many months? How many years? He could hardly remember any more. He had it written down, to the letter, somewhere inside his tent, but he knew he wasn’t finished yet. Sometimes he wondered if he could make it. Could he finish what he started? Would it be worth it? And then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw her. Turning his head, he let his eyes drink in her beauty. He imagined the feel of her hair on his face, the warmth of her breath as she kissed him. His body ached for her, and his determination was renewed again. He would make it. Seven years for her seemed like nothing as he felt himself drawn to her. She threw him a passing smile and his heart leapt. He was captivated by her beauty. She was so delicate and graceful. She was so sweet. She was going to be all his. Seven years, dear Rachel. Seven years.

And indeed, seven years were like nothing to him. And when his uncle tricked him and threw in Leah too, he vowed another seven years for Rachel. She was the one he wanted. She was the prize for his labor. She was worth the time and effort. What’s another seven years to be able to lay in her embrace?

The strength and voracity of love is a mystery to me. What compels a man to work fourteen years in the grueling heat doing hard labor for a woman? It’s unimaginable to me. What was it about Rachel that so captivated Jacob that he hardly noticed the passing of fourteen years of his life? He was not building a home for himself or his family. He was laboring to pay a dowry. He was hardly more than Laban’s servant, slaving away for a bride. His only aim was her heart. What manner of love is this?

Jacob’s labor of love was a foreshadowing of Christ’s love for His bride. His only aim was our hearts. His only desire to pour out his love for us, and to be loved in return. In one of the most intimate moments of Jesus’ ministry, he looked out over the city of Jerusalem and wept. His bride. If only we knew how much we meant to him. Did Rachel understand her place inside Jacob’s heart? Did she value the sacrifice of years that he spent working to secure her hand? In like manner, do we understand and value the price of our relationship with the Lord?

What manner of love is this, that compels a man to put aside any other purpose in life, and pursue with such fervency the love of a bride he knows may not accept his hand? Jesus did that for us! He lived under intense spiritual attack, hatred and persecution from his peers, and eventually hung on a cross, all for the heart of mankind. Did he notice the passing time? Was he aware of the life he forfeited? If Jacob’s story is any indication, he did not. Love does crazy things inside a man, it seems. He lived out the course of his heart, not the course of his mind. What seemed crazy to every one else was pure delight to him. Did his flesh suffer? Of course. As did Jacob’s, day after day for fourteen years. But in the end, the time did not matter. The prize had been attained. Luckily for Jacob, Rachel turned out to be all that he imagined and more. He remained completely and utterly in love with her until the end. He had won her heart and she gave it to him with reckless abandon. For Christ, I intend to do the same. What else can I give to the man who went to such great lengths to win my heart?

Lord,
All of me. That’s what you labored and died for, and that is what I give to you. I don’t know where this marriage goes from here, but I know it will be glorious. You are deeply romantic to have pursued my heart to such great lengths. I give you nothing less than all of me. I love you more than words can adequately express. You are my treasure.

Made in His Image

Published July 21, 2013 by Dawn

About a year ago, I walked into my favorite thrift store just down the street from my house, both kids in tow, just to look around for a bit. I had hardly made it through the door when I heard someone ask, “Is that __________’s kid?” I turned in the direction of the voice and, not recognizing the face, said, “I’m sorry, do I know you?” This woman came around from behind the cash register and said, “No, it’s just the resemblance is uncanny. This has to be his kid.” She had correctly identified who my son’s father was just by looking at my son’s face. It was weird, to say the least. My son, of course, smiled from ear to ear. He loves his dad and loves being told how much he looks like him. Believe it or not, this scenario has happened repeatedly since. My son does indeed look just like his dad. He has the same smile and facial features, and sports the same hair cut. He also has the same mannerisms as his dad. Watching him is like stepping back in time. And it seems the older he gets, the more he looks like his dad.

I remembered this incident today as I was contemplating my walk with Christ. In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Whom else was He speaking to but to Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Just as my son is the spitting image of his dad, we were made in the image of God. In His likeness, and in the likeness of the Holy Spirit. What does that mean for us as children of God?

I have looked into the scriptures and gained a distinct vision of what the Lord looks like:

God the Father is love, according to 1 John 4:8. He is slow to anger and very forgiving (Joel 2:13). Our Father is stable, “I am the Lord and I change not. (Malachi 3:6)” He is holy and righteous (Psalms 99:9, 116:5). And 1 Peter 1:16 says, “Be ye holy as I am holy.” He calls us to be like him in this! God is also merciful, according to Deuteronomy 4:31 and Psalm 103:8.

Jesus, our Redeemer, is wonderful to behold. He is “a man of sorrows and well-acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3)” In the face of intense persecution, he showed love and tenderness. He was full of compassion, many times putting off his need for rest because the crowds surrounded him with their needs. This is recorded numerous times throughout the four gospels. He was so peaceful with people, and when the Pharisees came against him with their own wisdom and understanding, he gave them truth without insults. Perhaps one of the greatest attributes of Christ was his willingness to submit to the will of God for his life instead of pursuing his own agenda (Matthew 26:39).

Looking to the Holy Spirit, we can most clearly see His character through the scriptures in Galatians 5:22, 23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

If it seems that our Father has left us a rather tall order to fill, it is true that He has. He has given us a lifetime to fill it, though. And the scripture says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit.(II Corinthians 3:18)” We are continually becoming more like Him, one day at a time, one obstacle at a time. Just as my son seems to look more like his dad everyday, we also grow into the image of our Heavenly Father as we aspire to be more like the people He created us to be. And hopefully, others will take one look at us and think, “Wow, the resemblance is uncanny! This can be none other than a child of God!”

When Scandal Rocks the Church

Published July 18, 2013 by Dawn

“But a prophet of the Lord was there, whose name was Oded; and he went out before the army that came to Samaria, and said to them: ‘Look, because the Lord God of your fathers was angry with Judah, He has delivered them into your hand; but you have killed them in a rage that reaches up to heaven … but are you not also guilty before the Lord your God? Now hear me, therefore, and return the captives, whom you have taken captive from your brethren, for the fierce wrath of the Lord is upon you.’ … Then the men who were designated by name rose up and took the captives, and from the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them, dressed them and gave them sandals, gave them food and drink, and anointed them; and they let all the feeble ones ride on donkeys. So they brought them to their brethren at Jericho, the city of palm trees …”
-2 Chr. 28:9-11, 15)

Scandal has broken out in the churches. Pastors who beat their children, pastors having affairs or defrauding the church’s finances. It’s all around us and making front page news literally everywhere. This is the stuff that journalists dream of. After all, isn’t church hypocrisy the crème de la crème for commercial journalism? And its not just the opportunity to smear a “saint” that so many find alluring. It’s the ability to get into the juicy details of a life that should represent Christ himself. And the world reads the news and wrinkles its collective nose in disgust: this is Christ?

Sadly, this sadistic spirit of gossip and slander doesn’t only show it’s ugly face in the papers, it also shows up in prayer meetings, bible studies, and on the facebook pages of so-called respectable Christians everywhere. I began praying in earnest about this situation a week or so ago, when a pastor very near my hometown, at perhaps one of the largest churches in the area, was forced to resign amid a scandal that no doubt has rocked his congregation to their very core. The accusations are irrelevant … the courts will ultimately decided his innocence or guilt, but in the hearts and minds of the people who live here, it seems that their minds are already made up. He’s guilty on all counts. I found all this out while perusing facebook one day … in a string of comments made by people in my own church. They’ve already decided in their hearts and proclaimed to the world his guilt and shame. It hurt me to see the body of Christ working against itself.

I was led to this word in 2 Chronicles, which I believe is the Lord’s wisdom in such situations as scandal in the church. To give you a little background information, this particular story involved the divided kingdom which became Judah and Israel. The Israelites still in Israel were sent of the Lord to punish the sins of the Israelites living in Judah. Apparently they gave it 110%. The prophet told them, “He delivered them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that reaches up to heaven.” In other words, you have taken it a little too far. You’ve done way more than God instructed you to do, and you have increased their shame and your own sin. “ … but are you not also guilty before the Lord your God?” A rage that reaches up to heaven? That’s intense hatred and hatefulness. Why would such an attitude be directed toward brethren? Could it be that our hatred increases to the level of our self-righteousness? And do not miss that the prophet called them their “brethren.” Those in the body of Christ are our brothers! Saying nothing of their guilt or innocence, is this the way to treat a bother?

Notice that when the army responded to the prophet, they “took the captives, and from the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them, dressed them and gave them sandals, gave them food and drink, and anointed them.” With the ability to do whatever they thought was proper and right with the people God had firmly decided to punish, they clothed the naked, gave them sandals, fed them and anointed them. Let’s dissect this a little: In accordance with the will of God, they clothed the naked. They took people whose shame and nakedness was completely exposed and covered them. They covered their shame. Instead of taking advantage of their vulnerability, they covered them. They didn’t point and laugh, gossip behind their backs. They didn’t exacerbate the situation by posting scandalous photos and juicy gossip in the town square or on facebook. The reality is that any man in the church caught in scandal, whether guilty in fact or guilty only in the hearts and minds of the world, shares that shame with the rest of the church. We are the body! When one part of the body is sick or suffering, the whole body is sick and suffering. When one part of the body is exposed to shame and vulnerability, the whole body is as well. Do not think that one man’s shame doesn’t touch the rest of us. Why would we, as the church, propagate a negative perspective of Christ in the world?

In addition to clothing, they supplied sandals. Sandals allow a man to walk in comfort on a rocky road home. When a leader sins in such a way as to command the attention of the world, it is the church’s responsibility to supply a way for that man to walk in comfort on the rocky road before them. The world will assure that man suffers heavily for his transgression. May I suggest that we the church provide in whatever way necessary that those the Lord has called may be redeemed back to the Father’s heart. Because such a man can be restored to the Lord, despite our opinions of whether or not he should be. Thank God, we are not the judge!

The warriors also fed the people and anointed them. This, I believe, is indicative of the way we as a church should respond to a wandering leader. We should nourish him. We should allow that his heart may remain full. Remember, the world will go above and beyond to punish him or her. The church must stand in assurance of faith that we will provide nourishment. We must also be faithful to anoint him or her. Thus, we must be willing to pray over them and their situations. It is not the will of God for their shame to be mercilessly exposed, but covered! If He is willing to forgive them, so should we be. And we should also be willing to pray for them that they may be dealt with in the most restorative way, that they may find their way back to the Lord.

Once they had dealt with these immediate needs of their captives, the army then led the people back to their land. Wow! Don’t miss that. They led them back to the place that the Lord had originally positioned them. Do not forget the story of the High Priest, Jeshua, in Zechariah 3. The devil himself stood before the Lord to accuse the man. Satan does not need our help accusing our brethren. Nor should we be so zealous to give it to him. Jeshua was guilty on all counts and he stood before the Lord wearing all the evidence of his guilt. His clothing was stained from his sin. God saw it! And He simply said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you!” He didn’t discuss the sin or the guilt. Jeshua was repentant and the Lord himself rebuked his accuser. I think the church should take heed of this, lest the Lord also rebuke us for participating in the scheme of Satan to destroy the church. What should we be doing instead? Take notes from the armies of Israel: lead them back home: “and they let all the feeble ones ride on donkeys. So they brought them to their brethren at Jericho, the city of palm trees …”