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All posts for the month March, 2016

What Went Down That First Easter

Published March 27, 2016 by Dawn

“It … is … finished.”

Jesus’ last breath sent a shiver up his spine. Hiding in plain sight among the stragglers still standing near the cross, Lucifer shuddered as a coldness swept over him. He stared up at Jesus feeling victorious, but something about his death seemed all wrong.

He knew prophecy. The power of the spoken word. He had been there when Yahweh has spoken the earth into existence. He stood glorifying the King with the rest of heaven’s hosts that day. He marveled then, and marveled now, at the power that enveloped each word spoken by God. He was bitterly jealous of the Almighty for that very reason. It was a power Satan did not possess.

Distressed by the icy grip that had taken hold of him, Lucifer quickly fled toward Sheol, content that the Son of Man was no longer living. Unbarring the gates, he descended into the halls of torment to breath in the familiar comfort of man’s agony. His home. His paradise.

“Lucifer!”

The grip tightened. The coldness seeped deeper. That voice. He thought he’d never hear it again. He thought it was over. Hadn’t he just heard Jesus say it was finished? Wasn’t it supposed to be finished, then?

Lucifer turned in terror, straining to identify the sound coming down the stairwell from above. It was the unmistakable sound of destruction. His beautiful gates, with their familiar sqeauky hinges, were now being ripped irreversibly from the thick walls of the cavernous hovel he inhabited. A deafening crash followed as no doubt they were tossed carelessly, yet forcefully, aside. Frozen on the landing, Lucifer could do nothing else but cower as he heard the quickly approaching footfalls echoing as if a gigantic being were headed toward him.

“Accuser, I have come!”

Beads of sweat formed all over Satan’s cold, jaundiced man-form. Jesus stood before him, whole and towering menacingly. All the authority Lucifer had feared in God was in His son, and he knew he was powerless. He couldn’t muster the courage to even mumble a reply.

Jesus held out his hand. “Give them to me, now.”

The command was enough to draw the demon’s hand out of his cloak involuntarily. Against his will, he thrust the keys forward. His hand was shaking violently. The thought of Jesus touching him was terrifying and repulsive.

“Here! Take them!”

Jesus reached out and pulled the keys out of Lucifer’s hand. Clenching his fist around them, he commanded silence from all of the underground world. Looking hard into the face of his enemy, he spoke with such assurance, Lucifer could only stand mutely, whimpering in agreeance as his role in the universe became an insignificant minutia for all of eternity.

“All power and authority has been given to me. You will hereafter be a minor detail on the fringe of humanity. Though some will flock willingly to you, others will only be harassed by you. None will be conquered or overcome without their willing consent, and after the times have reached their fulfillment, you will be cast out into utter darkness for all eternity. Is has been decreed and will surely take place. Sin and death are hereby defeated. There is no power in hell, no power in fear, and no power in you that cannot be conquered by just the whisper of my name. Mankind will forever more subjugate your kingdom with the power alive in them. It is the same power alive in me. Tremble, you cowering snake. Today, I have crushed your head. It is finished!”

Without another word, Jesus turned and left. Satan sank to the floor, unable to combat or defend his realm. He felt the power drain from him. He heard the faint tic-toc of eternity echoing through the halls and for the first time, abhorred the sound. Utter darkness. The Lake of Fire. He knew his time was near the end. How much longer he had, he could only guess, for no one but Yahweh knew the times appointed. He trembled in fear. Jesus had overcome. God had won, just like He said He would. Lucifer crumpled up on the landing there and let out a piercing howl. He had been stripped and beaten. Defeated. Yes, he felt it in his marrow. It was finished.

 

 

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Saturday, Heaven’s Interim

Published March 27, 2016 by Dawn

There were stars in the sky that night. Bright, glistening stars on an ebony background. It was the interim. The night between two days. The first, a day of deep sadness and distress. Agonizing. Horrific. The second, a day of jubilee. Victory. Light. But that night was like any other, mostly. There were stars in the sky that shone down on a barren hill, where you might have never guessed three men had been crucified the day before. Stars that shone down on a garden, and a stone where tears and blood mingled together. Tears that fell from the Almighty God as he wept over what must be done to ransom his Beloved. Those stars cast their glow upon houses where some slept unhindered, and others wept unceasing. Those same stars watched in expectation over a tomb guarded by Rome’s best detachment of soldiers, sealed with an unbroken cord. Tiny bursts of light amidst a vast expanse of darkness, those stars were. Waiting for the earth to give up its dead. For Jesus to arise. Heaven’s glory shined like mini-beacons all across the sky, watching for the glorious day to come.

He was no longer on the cross. He was wrapped again in a familiar swaddling cloth and laid gently in another man’s tomb. A man so overcome with grief he might never have felt the promise of a risen Christ. No doubt, those closest to Jesus were so overwhelmed by his death that Saturday was a haze. The hours gliding past unnoticed. Food untouched. Stomachs unsatisfied because hearts were so devastated. All their hope was in him, and he was in a tomb. Dreams died that night. Hope failed.

Saturday convinced them of the reality: Jesus was dead. Now in a tomb. Not coming back. They were too engrossed in their grief to remember His promise. He told them he would rise. They knew the scriptures, but their hearts convinced them that second day of the finality. Jesus was dead. Darkness had won. Most likely, no one noticed the stars.

Those stars would have told them to hold on. That darkness, no matter how deep, can be pierced and driven back by light. That light, no matter how small, can render darkness ineffective. The stars would have told them to hold on to hope, for morning was coming. There would be a glorious new day. It was just ahead. All they had to do was watch and wait. Dawn was coming. Death and darkness would be defeated by the sun. By the Son! As surely as it would rise again, so would Jesus!

Look up, Beloved. The stars are there still, telling us the same thing. In the midst of our sorrows, our overwhelming grief, they are bidding us hold on. The sun will rise. The Son will rise. And no matter how dark it gets, even a pinprick of light is enough to stave off the fearful gloom of night. There is a dawn approaching. Our Christ is on His way. He is not defeated. He is no longer dead. He’s alive, and we will see him again.

 

Friday Night Fight

Published March 26, 2016 by Dawn

When Jesus was finally brought out again, Mary shuddered. He was red. His entire body was covered in blood. His flesh was torn to shreds. His face, shoulders, arms and legs bore the marks of a brutal lashing. The soldiers kicked him down the steps of the porch, laughing at his uncoordinated efforts to stand again.

John rushed to him and helped him stand. “Hey, you!” a soldier yelled, cracking a whip toward John. “Back up. He can stand on his own. Otherwise, how might he carry this?” The soldier heaved a cross toward Jesus. It barely missed his head, but landed hard near his feet. The women gasped.

The soldiers hoisted the cross across Jesus’ ragged flesh. He slowly turned to find comfort in carrying it, and Mary saw his back. The skin no longer covered his muscles and bone. She clenched her teeth to keep from crying out as she watched the rough wood dig into the open wound. “Agh!” Jesus groaned. Fresh tears ran down Mary’s cheeks. Her heart was torn at the sight of him. Her savior. In such excruciating pain.

Jesus staggered slowly and with much effort, in the direction the soldiers prodded him. Two other men were walking ahead of him, carrying similar crosses. The whip cracked continuously overhead, often finding a sliver of unadulterated flesh and mutilating it. More often biting into muscle and cutting bone. Jesus was so weak. How he continued to walk, Mary could not fathom. Finally, he began to falter. His mother broke away and ran to him. “My son,” she whispered desperately. Jesus met her eyes with silent pleas before John stooped and pulled her away from him.

A soldier ran back and kicked Jesus forcefully. He fell sideways, falling across his cross. With no energy left to get up or even cry out, Jesus laid there, panting helplessly. “You!” the soldier yelled, pointing at a man among the spectators lining the road. The man hesitantly stepped forward. The soldier commanded, “Pick him up, and his cross. You will help him.” The stranger bent down and gently lifted a languishing Jesus back to his feet. Soon, the man was covered in Jesus’ blood.

Picking up the cross, he placed one side of it carefully on Jesus’ shoulders, then maneuvered himself under the other side until the weight of it rested more on him than on Christ. Limping slowly, they did their best to catch up to the other prisoners and escape the cracking whip.

Mary could here Jesus breathing with great effort as the procession left the city and wound its way up a nearby hill called Golgotha. While most of the horde chattered in hysterical jubilation, John and the women walked somberly under a mantle of misery and despair. They wept. They clung to each other, watching helplessly as the soldiers laid Jesus upon his cross.
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Mary’s nails bit into her hands as the soldier’s mercilessly drove thick spikes into the heels of Jesus’ hands. His mother choked on her anguish as they placed his feet on a block of wood and hammered the three into the base of the cross. Jesus groaned in unutterable torment. The soldiers carelessly fitted the cross into the ground and raised it to hover over their heads.

A cheer went up as Jesus was hoisted into the air. He was unrecognizable even to those who knew him. His body was mangled and his flesh so torn, if they had not been with him from the beginning, they would none have known it was he on the cross. “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing,” Jesus sputtered, with much obvious exertion.

Mary fastened her eyes to him, watching every painful, labored breath he took. Several times, he attempted to cough, then jolted from the pain it caused him. The soldiers jeered and mocked him. Standing with their arms crossed haughtily, the Pharisees gave their approval to the excruciation.

Caiaphas mocked loudly, “He said he was the son of God. Humph! Let him come down now and save himself!” The crowd chuckled.

“He said he would rebuild the temple in three days? That would be a miracle!” The people howled at the absurdity.

“He can’t even get himself off the cross. Miracle worker, come down from there now!”

Caiaphas continued mocking Jesus, to the delight of those around him. Mary kept her eyes on Christ. Several of the other women surrounded his mother, their voices raised in a discordant wail. They were sincerely agonized over his death. Mary pressed her hand over her mouth to hold in the guttural cries that expressed her anguish. Her eyes were riveted to his pain.

“Oh! Oh! Perhaps in a couple days he can raise himself from the dead!” Caiaphas sneered.

The throng roared. The mocking and jeering went on and on. The soldiers bartered for his garments, occasionally giving attention to the dying men, occasionally to the rowdy crew. Several agonizing hours passes this way. Suddenly, the sky went black and a gentle breeze began to blow. Panic swept through everyone.

“What is happening?” “Darkness in the middle of the day?”

The centurion hurried to Jesus with a wet sponge. With obvious effort, Jesus turned his head away and refused to drink it. Someone lit a torch, and by that light, Mary watched the face of her savior contorted by the suffering of death. She watched his chest rise and fall haphazardly. She could hear his teeth grinding amid the rough staccato of his breathing. She breathed deeply for him, wishing she could help him. She wrapped her purple shawl tighter as the wind grew colder from the darkness. Her eyes never left the flickering figure of Jesus.

Several agonizing hours passed before his voice rang out. “Eloi, eloi! Lema sabachthani!” Mary’s blood ran cold. Her spirit had heard his heart-cry. My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” She watched Jesus struggle for one last breath. In a barely audible voice he declared, “It … is … finished,” then he hung limp. At last, his agony was past.

*excerpt from Redemption’s Road 

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is Near

Published March 25, 2016 by Dawn

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17)”

Repentance. It’s such an uncomfortable message. The church of today rarely utters the word. We’d rather leave people alone in their sin than suggest that there is something wrong with the way they are living. We preach a message of unconditional love and acceptance that completely disregards unrighteous living, and I’ll admit, it sounds good. It’s liberating. But then there’s this truth: it wasn’t the message Jesus preached.

Jesus. The divine Son of God. The amazing King who loved us enough to die on a cross, bearing our shame and the rejection of our Father. He stood in our place so that we could come near to God with a pure conscience. So we could reflect the holiness of our Savior. This loving God preached repentance. His message made the people acknowledge their sin. The sin nature. The nature of man without Christ. Jesus preached that message. He taught his disciples to preach that message. And they considered it a loving Word.

Here’s the truth: we will not repent if we don’t recognize our sin. We have nothing to be repentant about if everything is okay. We were delivered from our sin nature and do not have to live under it, but because we are encased in flesh, we fail. Jesus died so that we would be free from our sinful nature, and also so that we can come before God without condemnation and fear in order to repent and be cleansed. Repentance is a message of love. It’s a message of hope. It’s a message that draws people to Jesus because we quickly realize how hopeless we are without him. I pray that the church abandons the New-Age motivational speeches and gets back to the good news. That Jesus died to save us. That He died for our sins and weaknesses so that we could be pure and free in him. Not free to pursue worldly passions and pleasures, but free from the grip of sin that we would be otherwise overcome by.

Pressing On

Published March 25, 2016 by Dawn

Heart pounding in my chest, I pushed myself to keep running even though every muscle in my body was screaming at me to stop. “I can do this.”

I spoke it out loud, trying to convince myself that I could, in fact, do this. My goal was just ahead. I had told myself, “Get to the other end of that church parking lot, or make it to the end of your timer.” Both were farther off than I thought I could endure, but I kept telling myself, “I can do this.”

I lowered my eyes and kept moving, trying to keep my focus off the distance between me and the finish. It was my third set of nine minutes. I had never done nine minutes in a row before, and there I was on my last set. Three in one night. I was hurting. Straining. Refusing to give up.

“I can do this.” Unwilling to accept defeat so close to finishing it, I pushed myself harder. My throat was so dry from panting. When I started, breathing was easy. By this time, it was essential, but almost impossible. My lips were cracked from the air moving over them so quickly and I was parched. “I can do this.”

I kept saying it to myself, willing myself to do what I knew at this point I could not. I wanted to quit so badly, but something in me kept reaching for the mark. There it was. I was so close to the end of the parking lot, and my alarm still had not gone off. It had to be close to done too. Would I stop when I got there and miss out on a few seconds, or could I push myself past the brink and make the time? “I can do this!”

I was going for it. I was passing the end of the parking lot if it came to it, because I was determined to not let myself down. What’s a few more seconds when your body has already been defeated by your will? I leaned forward in determination and sped up to counteract the command my mind had already sent to my legs to stop. “I can do this!” I told myself. Just a little more!

Beep! Beep! Beep! The timer went off right as my foot hit the very end of the church parking lot asphalt. I was done. I stopped and leaned over, gulping the air and smiling in satisfaction. I had finished it! My last set of nine. My three miles. It was done. I had achieved what I thought was impossible. I had pressed on despite the pain of it. I had forced myself to defy flesh and pursue the end mark. I was victorious!!

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There’s a compelling doctrine circulating that tells us that God wants us happy. Healthy, wealthy and pain-free. Enough goodness and enough faith will bring about His abundant blessings. And it’s all a bunch of hogwash.

Paul urges us to press on toward the mark for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). He didn’t pen this letter from a lofty Caribbean escape, or from the backseat of his Lincoln. He wrote to the Philippians while in prison. And he wasn’t there because his life was a failure. He was there because he was doing the will of God and the forces of hell had come against him. Yet he was pressing on!

So many of us are wondering what we’ve done wrong because God isn’t blessing us. Or isn’t hardly speaking at the moment. Our lives don’t look anything like what the mega-preacher said it would, and we wonder how we can be of so little faith and yet feel like we believe wholeheartedly. There’s a missing link. Why are we sick? Feeling abandoned? Why are we not hearing His voice? We wonder what is so wrong in us that God is sitting in silence watching our worthless efforts instead of saving us.

Can I offer you this? How about nothing. Nothing is wrong with us. The missing link is this: the truth. The truth is God is not nearly as obsessed with our happiness as we are. He is obsessed with holiness. Without it none shall see God (Hebrews 12:14). And our trials are not evidence of our failure to have faith, they are meant to purify us (Isaiah 48:10, Daniel 12:10).

Who Among Us

Published March 25, 2016 by Dawn

I had an attitude the moment I pulled onto the church parking lot and saw her car. After months of sporadic church attendance, she was back for praise and worship practice, and I was indignant. How could she stand so easily before God, and lead the church in worship, covered in the sin of her everyday life? A life and a sin she wouldn’t readily admit to the church, but I knew because she was my friend.

I immediately began to pray. I knew my heart and my attitude were wrong, but I couldn’t shake the shame and distaste I felt toward her. The righteous indignation welling up in me would certainly hinder my pursuit of Christ if I was not delivered of it before the service began. So I brought all my feelings to the foot of the cross, repented of them and sought healing in it. And the Lord said something so profound to me.

“Would you rather she be living in condemnation?”

I looked up to see her smiling and laughing with the others on the platform, and my heart broke. Because I think Jesus just asked me a rhetorical question, and the answer shamed me; she was. Not His, but my own.

I marveled at her faith, which seemed so much more mature than my own. I had groveled before the Lord for years, sure that I was not good enough to be forgiven, and thus, forever bound to my past shame. Identified by it. Remembered for it. Every unanswered prayer a painful reminder, a sure statement of the Lord’s disapproval of me. A disapproval I felt through the eyes of people in the church for years. Through their words, through their actions. Through their inactions, or their complete disregard.

Yet here I sat, guilty before the Lord of hating my best friend in my heart. Hating her as I sat in a judgment seat of my own making. A pedestal I created for myself, which I know was my own making because Christ knocked me off if it with His gentle reproach. My judgment was nothing more than an indication of my own pride and religious snobbery. She was good enough for Jesus, yet not good enough for me?

Whoa! I had somehow seated myself above Christ. And realized the danger of my position.

I prayed for forgiveness. First for the way I had treated her, and then for the way I had treated my Lord. By despising her, I had despised His sacrifice. I had created a standard for her to live up to, and thus nullified His death on the cross as her means of salvation and forgiveness. I had created something unholy and unrealistic, and had she known my heart at that moment, she may have slipped irretrievably into a pit of self-loathing and hatred and bitterness. Instead, she knew Christ, and fell into His arms.

Thank you, Lord, for your endless compassion. For your love that fails not. For forgiveness. For your grace. For understanding us and dealing with us in redemptive ways.

I share this because it is not just my sin, but the sin of the church. The way we treat each other. Who of us knows the depths and heights God has brought people from, that we should judge their proximity to Christ, or their own spiritual attainment of righteousness? Who holds the measuring line, that we may measure the sincerity of one Christian over another? Who sits above Christ, who himself stooped down to lift us to our feet? Who among us has not sinned?

One Nation Under Baal

Published March 25, 2016 by Dawn

Less than a month. We have less than a month to cry out to God in a land not entirely infested by idol worship. Less than a month before America erects the beginnings of a temple for Baal. This is not conjecture. It was published in NY Times Magazine. In less than a month, a memorial will be constructed to memorialize the many ancient landmarks destroyed by ISIS. Of all the landmarks, it was decided that two identical arches would be built, one in London and one in New York. Identical replicas of the arches that worshippers walked through to enter the temple of Baal in Smyrna. We are about to become one nation under Baal.

I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. The priests did not ask, “Where is the Lord?” Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols. “Therefore, I bring charges against you again,” declares the Lord. “And I will bring charges against your children’s children … My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:7-9, 13).

Wake up, America! Regardless of the current rhetoric, our nation was indeed founded on a deep love for God and respect for His standards. But slowly, Satan has moved in. And instead of taking back the land through prayer and fasting, we have fattened ourselves and entertained ourselves saying, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” But our kids live on! In a land that is daily becoming more and more oppressive. It’s like America has lain down with a python that is slowly tightening itself.

And now this. In April, we will join our brother across the pond in constructing a structure that since ancient days stood in the Middle East as the doorway to the temple of Baal. The temple of pagan worship where the people engaged in orgies and child sacrifice to appease a false god. Satan. Which is really symbolic, given that America is currently embroiled in a hyper-sexual culture trend and praising the organization that not only murders babies in utero, but sells their body parts wholesale for mass profits. We have forsaken true, Godly worship to worship the almighty dollar.

Turn from your wicked ways, America. Get on your faces before God. Admit you sin. Your guilt and the blood on your hands. Weep for our nation, and the direction we are headed because there is no hope in the darkness. We see it approaching everyday but instead of praying for the light, we stand dumbstruck in the twilight like it’s an inevitable thing. Nothing is impossible with God. Pray, people! Repent for your sins and plead that God might turn back the tide. Nothing is impossible with God, but we have to repent, turn from our wickedness, and seek His face. He will hear us!

Less than a month. In less than a month, we will become one nation under Baal. Unless America humbles herself, turns from her wickedness and seeks God.