Archives

All posts for the month July, 2016

What Women Want (to hear)

Published July 21, 2016 by Dawn

A recent independent poll* identified several common longings of the young, female heart. Specifically, things a girl wants to hear from a guy. I took great pleasure last night in taking those longings into the Word of God and finding their origination there. Below is my compilation, which I shared with my group of young women at church (yes, I fawned throughout the entire discussion!):

  • “I love you.”
    • I have loved you with an everlasting love …” Jeremiah 31:3
  • “You are worth the wait.”
    • “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” S. of S. 8:4
  • “You mean the world to me.”
    • “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30
  • “It’s us against the world.”
    • “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4
  • “We can do this together.”
    • “With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
  • “You are the one.”
    • “I belong to my beloved and his desire is for me.” S. of S. 7:10
  • “I don’t want anyone else.”
    • “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you.” 1 Thess. 1:4
  • “I would follow you anywhere.”
    • “ … As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5
  • “You are beautiful just the way you are.”
    • “… show me your face, let me hear your sweet voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” S. of S. 2:14
  • “You are beautiful.”
    • “You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.” S. of S. 4:9
  • “You are strong and independent.”
    • “With your help, I can advance against a troop; with my God, I can scale a wall.” Psalm 18:29
  • “I have a strong relationship with God.”
    • “I and the Father are one.” John 10:30
  • I love you so very much, and I mean it with every fiber of my being.”
    • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
  • “Will you take my hand and be my wife until death do us part?”
    • “For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 54:5

Along with these, there were a few more superficial ones I enjoyed and used as well. Keep reading!

  • “I’m buying.”
    • “And my God will meet all of your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
  • “You can order anything on the menu.”
    • “You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” John 14:14
  • “No other girl could compare to you. You are beautiful, crazy, smart, funny, darling, and so outgoing. You make me so incredibly happy.”
    • “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves you. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
  • “She may be pretty, but to me you are the most beautiful girl I have ever laid eyes on, inside and out.”
    • “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Prov. 31:29
  • “Your hair looks amazing.”
    • “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead.” S. of S. 4:1
  • “That dress is lovely.”
    • “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10
  • “I have a well-paying job.”
    • “ … for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” Psalm 51:10
  • “Is this diamond big enough?”
    • “I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if this had been too little, I would have given you even more.”

I love how God fills us! I love how the Bible says all the things we are longing to hear, turning our hearts back to the Lord even while the world is tempting us to find our satisfaction in a worldly relationship. I also love two amazing young women who opened their hearts in a very real way and helped make this lesson to other young women so poignant and real. You both rock my world, and I am blessed to know your heart a little more. Love you Ky and Haleigh!

*It was unscientific and written out on notecards by a thirteen- and sixteen-year-old.

Painting Alongside Our Father

Published July 20, 2016 by Dawn

I decided last week to paint the porch a brighter color. I picked a teal color simply because of all the half-used paint cans in my collection, I liked this one the best. Without a whole lot of careful preparation, I just got up one day and started pulling things down and washing the wood in preparation. Then I started painting.

About half-way through, I decided I wanted my kids to help me. Child labor’s nice and all, but it wasn’t even about that. It was about them sharing in the transformation of our home. I wanted them to be a part of changing things up around here. I asked them if they wanted to help and they both did, so I pulled out a few more brushes and directed both of them to a part of the porch that was specifically “theirs.”

That’s when things got messy.

What I had begun, and been careful in, had suddenly become a little more careless and chaotic. Paintbrushes were whipped about with little to no precision, leaving paint on siding and portions of the walls I didn’t intend for it to ever touch. My porch carpet became a two-toned throwback to nineties paint splatter. And near the finish line, they both called it quits and left me to finish it alone.

Want to know something? I thoroughly anticipated all of this happening. I know my kids well enough to know they are a little less concerned about perfection. They like to enjoy themselves and when the fun wears off, they head off looking for something more entertaining. They’re a little reckless, so the paint everywhere was exactly what I expected. Thank God, I’ve become so chill because my past self could not have handled all of this “help.”

As I stood with my hands on my hip on my fresh-prince carpet, I realized that this is us and our Father, working together on something He could do alone – and undoubtedly do with a lot less of a mess – but He loves to pull us into this work of changing our world. He loves to see the wonder in our eyes and appreciates the joy we receive from it. He knows some of us will get antsy and walk away from the job unfinished, searching for something else to do. He knows we’ll color outside the lines and make His perfect plan look more like a Picasso than a Monet. Still, He hands us a brush and delightfully watches us do our little portion of the work with all our hearts.

I love that about Him. God is so chill. And I love this gentle reminder because I have a judgmental side, and often the Holy Spirit has to remind me that to their own masters, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand (Romans 14:4). Honestly, I can’t tell you who got paint on the carpet, who painted the siding or who left me hanging first. That wasn’t my focus. I appreciated every moment of their time with me, and I chose to focus on what little time I had working beside each of them. I know that one day, our works will be tried by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13). I am learning, however, that Judgment Day is an appointed time, and I don’t want to live in it prematurely, tormenting myself with what God thinks of my pitiful attempts. Nor do I want to live in judgment of others any more. We are all working together toward a common goal, messing things up a little as we go and no doubt, putting a great big smile on God’s face because we have managed to be a little childlike in our feeble attempts to make a difference in the world around us.

 

The Thumb Trick

Published July 19, 2016 by Dawn

The thumb trick: I had never heard of it. A pastor told my son at boy’s camp that if he ever needed a word from God, he could just do the thumb trick. That’s where you rub your thumb across the pages of your Bible five times and wherever your thumb lands the fifth time, that’s where you open it and read. I told my son that sounded like a bunch of superstitious nonsense akin to witchcraft, and then we went on further in this conversation about needing words from God. Rhema words, as they are called.

I pointed out that reading out Bible is not just about us receiving. It’s about building a relationship with the Lord. If you think that you will always get a rhema word when you open your Bible, you will undoubtedly struggle with reading it. Because there’s a lot in between Isaiah and Malachi that will not serve the individual as a rhema word. Those words were penned for a collective people, and when I was much less mature in my walk with the Lord and read for the rhema, I was very discouraged and unsettled when I looked at the Bible as only my source of personal confirmation or exhortation. This limited understanding led me to a very dark place as I wrestled with these scriptures that I had taken to heart, and it took me a long time to understand that God was showing me himself and his heart through them, not condemning me with them.

I told my son that our relationship with God is very one-sided if we only open our word to receive from Him. Hidden within the scriptures are precious treasures we can only find if we take the time to sit and study the seemingly monotonous, mundane history of God working within His creation. Take, for instance, the prayer of Jabez. It’s one verse that ministers to so many, stuck in a whole lot of genealogical records. It’s a treasure that had to be sifted out. The Bible is full of these! Beautiful treasures that tell us so much about our Great Creator and King, who He is and who we are in Him.

My approach to the Word is that I want to be full of it. I want it to be buried inside of me. I have found that scriptures that seem to mean so little on the surface when I read them become so relevant when the Holy Spirit plucks them up in my memory in His own time. When I spend time reading the Bible, it’s just so I can know Him. So I can become familiar with God’s voice, so I can know that I know when He is speaking to me. And how can I profess a deep love and adoration for Someone I hardly know? I know Him through His Word. Because the word became flesh and dwelt among them.

 

The Message of Me

Published July 18, 2016 by Dawn

I was worshiping this morning, finally emerging from a dark cloud that had been over me for a little over a week. I’ve been joyless. This morning, while worshiping, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that the present message in the church is stealing the joy out of God’s people and making them ineffective. What message? The Message of Me.

The message that it’s all about us. That it’s all about favor and prosperity and reaping. The message that with enough of this and enough of that, we will be truly happy and our lives will be a testimony to how awesome God thinks we are. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

We have become shipwrecked in our faith, church, because we are living in a fallen world listening to a doctrine that encourages us to exalt ourselves and selfishly pray that God exalts us too. God, give me this and that. I’ve earned it. Shouldn’t my life look like I’m living for you? Don’t you care that I prosper? Prosper me!

I’m not pointing fingers. I’ve been listening and taking this message to heart for a really long time. I am about to take my new car on a very long roadtrip down to Florida for my first family vacation! God is prospering us, and for this I prayed. I don’t dispute Jeremiah 29:11 because I like it, and I like when God gives favor to His people.

But I’m also lacking joy most of the time.

The Holy Spirit said to me, “How can you say ‘He must increase, and I must decrease’ if you are always asking God to make much of you? To exult your present circumstances. You have it backwards.”

We have no lasting joy or peace, church, because we expect our circumstances to be indicative of how God feels about us. Bad day? “God, did I do something wrong?” Bad week? “God, what did I do? Just tell me!” Bad month? “God, please! I love you! I’m sorry! Whatever it was, I’m so sorry!!” Bad year or years? “God. Hates. Me.”

Let me tell you something true: God loves you. You will, like Paul, know both plenty and want, and in both of these times, God will still love you. He is crazy about you. He loves you so much that, before you were conceived and had done neither right nor wrong, He sent Jesus to redeem you back to Himself because He loves you. We live in a fallen, war-torn world and every day that we live, Satan is attacking us and accusing us before our Father. Read Zechariah 3, when Satan accused Joshua before the Lord. Joshua was guilty by all accounts, but Jesus stood and said, “The Lord rebuke you! … Is he not a branch plucked from the fire?”

God loves you. Your circumstances merely reflect the living here. The days of plenty remind us of God’s goodness and the days of want remind us who our source is and where our hope lies. This is truth worth rejoicing! Neither height nor depth, present nor future, angels nor demons, life nor death … nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of Christ. We have to know this, church, because perilous times have come and are coming still. They will touch us. Not because God hates us, but because we are His and darkness must reign a bit. We must find joy in something more solid and enduring than our circumstances. Throw any other Gospel out the window. It’s trash, and the Bible says that such doctrine will lead you astray.

 

 

Step Into the Water

Published July 17, 2016 by Dawn

I hate swimming in pools. I did get into one the other day, because this is something I truly wish I could be free in, but it’s really hard for me to have a good time thinking about all the bodies in that water. Bodies that get dirty, sweat and … do other unmentionable things. In the water. And when I get in, that water is touching me. Every part of me. Just thinking about it makes me almost throw up in my mouth. Do you know what pool is short for? Cesspool. And that is not a joke.

For the same reason, I also hate lakes. I like swimming in rivers, as long as I can’t see people swimming up-stream from me. I do hope to swim in the ocean in a few weeks, which is why I braved the swimming pool … to overcome my phobia so I don’t miss out on swimming in the ocean when we go to Florida in a few weeks. I want to enjoy my first adult vacation, which will also be my kids’ first vacation.

I’ll bet you’re wondering where all of this is going? Just this: I stepped out into the sea of humanity, just me and Jesus, and went to a concert. That’s no big deal; I go places, just me and Jesus, all the time. The amazing thing happened while I was there. I felt that familiar anxiety come on of wanting to run home and enjoy my isolation, snuggled under the blankets. “What do Danny Gokey and Johnny Diaz have that I can’t get from Jesus on my own at home?” Instead of running, I stopped and prayed. “God, what is it that I suddenly feel so vulnerable to? Why do I want to run again? God, what are you wanting to do in this moment?”

See, I am finally catching on to Satan’s tactics. I run. A lot. From anything uncomfortable. From anything that might require more of me than I feel confident I can give. And even when I don’t run, I push away until I’m alone again. I can deal with aloneness. It’s not lonely to me. It’s safe. It’s nice. I enjoy my own company, and I can sit for hours with my own thoughts. I’m a writer. This seems like a prerequisite …

Anyway, God answered my prayer yesterday by directing me to go back to the concert and approach a ministry about something very specific that He wanted to do for them. Something I have been equipped to help in. So I did. And I saw God move mightily in something He had been preparing all of our hearts for, for quite a while.

As I sat next to this group of women during the concert, the Holy Spirit said something so profound to me: You’re in the sea of humanity. You’ve stepped into the water. Come out of your comfort zone and allowed God to work through you because of your obedience. You have prayed for years, begging God to show you how you can walk in His purpose and His will, but you’ve been hiding. You can’t work out God’s will in your life tucked safely away at home. You have to step into the water. Step into the sea of humanity. Because it’s there that God’s work must be done. He can’t use someone to rescue people who will not get in over their head. That’s where the drowning and dying are.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you like sitting on your couch listening to itunes and singing your heart out to Jesus, just the two of you. But don’t like being around others because you feel lost, scared, hated, misunderstood, or just plain awkward. Maybe you have this vision of ministry that is burning you up inside because you’re thirty and it just isn’t happening yet. Listen up:

STEP INTO THE WATER!

Step into the sea of humanity. Release your anxiety. Look at the Lord and say to Him, “Now what?” Be free there until He directs you to move. But get in there! If you want to see people saved, you have to get out there and be around people. Stop hiding! Stop running!

STEP INTO THE WATER!

Grace

Published July 16, 2016 by Dawn

I’ve been wrestling again with the message of righteousness. I see mine. It’s filthy rags. And I feel so unworthy. So incapable. So unholy. I’ve struggled to approach God lately. I know I’m a beggar in the court of the King. Completely out of place. I have nothing to offer him, but I need something from him so desperately. I need cleansed. I need healed. But I’ve been cowering because I’m afraid He’ll be disgusted by me.

Then … He notices me and begins to coax me out of hiding. He woos me with love and gentleness, and I’m so eager for it, I run to Him, forgetting my rags and filth. I wrap my arms around Him and cry into His neck, forgetting for a moment that I’m unworthy. But then it hits me. I don’t belong here.

I start to stutter my apologies. I push away from His embrace. He holds me even still and looks into my eyes. “But God, can’t you see me? I am so unholy. I am so utterly sinful and vile. I don’t deserve to be here.”

Then Jesus, who’s been sitting there at the right hand of God this whole time, comes over and lays a gentle hand on my trembling shoulder. He hands me a robe that’s shimmering and bright. Wear this, he says. I bought it for you.

I’m trembling more as I step out of my filth and put on this beautiful robe. “It’s too much!” I say, unable to take my eyes from it. With tears streaming down my face, I hastily work to take it off. “Don’t you know what I’ve done?”

Jesus looks at me tenderly as I tug at my rags trying to cover myself with them again. Finally, I give up and stand there, sobbing in my nakedness. He hands me the robe again. Don’t you know what I’ve done?

 

*****

 

I’m often guilty of vascillating between self-righteousness and self-loathing. Neither are healthy, but it’s the pendulum I find myself on quite a bit. I either compare myself to others and build a pedestal, or compare myself to God and dig a hole to hide in. Neither are His perfect and pleasing will.

Lately, I’ve been comparing myself to God’s standards of righteousness, and getting stuck on how short I’ve fallen of what I believe God wants from me. I’ve been desperate for Him, but unable to come into His presence because I can see myself, and I don’t like what I see.

Little did I know that this is what the Bible says happens. Romans 3:20 tells us that through the law, we become conscious of our sins. We read the law and realize how desperately far we are from being able to please God. We become aware of our sins. We see our filthy rags. This makes the law good. Because what happens after we become conscious of our sin? Repentance.

God woos us out of our groveling pit and we come before Him knowing how unworthy we are. We repent of our sin and receive grace. We find that instead of being condemned, we are forgiven. Jesus hands us that robe and we put on his righteousness. He bought it for us. It cost him so much, but He made that purchase because he’s crazy about us.

This is the full Gospel, and it’s good. We’re not, but He is. Grace is not a card. It’s a robe. A robe of righteousness we can’t attain on our own.

Dear Shepherd, Go and Feed My Sheep

Published July 7, 2016 by Dawn

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’

“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’

“The people remained at a distance while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:18-21).

I live in the heart of America. Or maybe it’s America’s waistline. I don’t know … it’s called the Bible Belt. Waistline it is …

There’s a church on every corner where I come from. Many towns around here have more churches than bars, banks or schools. I even been to several places that I thought might have had more churches than homesteads. We have definitely given the Lord a place to stay in the waistline of America.

Do you want to know what else we have here in abundance? Rehab clinics. Because I happen to come from a place that also has an overabundance of drug addicts. The county I live in is #2 in the state for heroin usage, and by the looks of things, the margin separating us from #1 is getting smaller and smaller by the day.

I was out running the other day and passed three churches on one street. A building in between them, with an inscription above the door that said, “Erected in 1952 Educational Building for  —–“ It was the church’s Sunday school building. It was two or three stories tall, a real monument to the wealth of the church, and the youth that must have inhabited their great sanctuaries. That church is still as big as it used to be, but sadly, it’s congregation has dwindled to a faithful few.

I’ve been running past these churches for days, listening to the Lord speak a message to me that frankly, is kind of hard to share. It’s not popular. But He’s given me such a burden about it, I am sitting here trying to figure out how to be tactful so you’ll keep reading …

America is filled with churches that are filled with dry bones. Bones that once had the breath of life in them, but now they’re just embers of a dying fire. The message of Christ – the message that is so powerfully capable of saving the multitudes and changing the hearts of millions – has become meaningless drivel. The church has capitulated to a crowd of self-seekers who Jesus said, “Honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8). How long have we watered down the Gospel so that people can be comfortable in our pews? How long have we given them a powerless motivational speech so they don’t have to deal with the Holy Spirit’s conviction? They come into church with itching ears and instead of giving them a truth that requires them to be real with God, we give them a lie so they feel good about themselves. We’ve turned the Gospel into a lie to shield them from the truth of repentance. Listen to me! There is no forgiveness without repentance. Therefore, there is no grace without confronting the sin inside. The law was given so that our sins would be known to us so that we can receive grace (Romans 5:10). But “where there is no law, there is no trespass” (Romans 4:15). Paul is telling us that because we hear the law, we are conscious of our sin. That knowledge leads us to Christ because we are separated from God while living in sin. Jesus died so we can have access to forgiveness and freedom from the chains of sin. We are no longer bound to it, we are free!

This is such a powerful, liberating message. But it’s also foolishness and unacceptable. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Sadly, we’ve catered to the people who see it as foolishness instead of letting God’s word be true and every man a liar. We’ve created a parallel Gospel with all the “good” parts that everyone wants to hear. You know, the parts that tell us how awesome God thinks we are, and how much He loves us and wants to do amazing things in our lives. And so as not to offend anyone, we’ve taken out all the parts we don’t want to deal with.

  • Be holy as I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44,20:26)
  • The one who does what is sinful is of the devil (1 John 3:8)
  • No one who is born of God keeps on sinning (1 John 3:9)
  • “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11)
  • “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” *Hebrews 10:26-27)

The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus died so that we can be free from the grip of sin. Humanity was given a free will that was subject to the law of sin for thousands of years until Christ came and, by his death, liberated our wills, giving us control again so that we can live in Him, not in sin.

Just like the Israelites in the desert, so many people come in to church and become terrified by God’s righteousness. They don’t like hearing that they are wrong, because they are just living out the New Age gospel that tells them that their happiness is god. They don’t realize that either way, there’s a fire they’re going to face. It will either be the purifying fire of God that consumes them and burns up everything in their lives that is not in line with His Spirit, or it will be the eternal fire that consumes forever the enemies of God. And we aren’t comfortable with this part of the Gospel to their detriment, and ours. Dear preachers, haven’t you read James 3:1? “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Your motivational speeches that lack power and truth are killing people all around you and God is saying to us, just as he said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people … so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. If I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin and I will hold you accountable for their blood” (Ezekiel 3:17-18). That’s a high calling, brothers and sisters. Is there no fear and trembling when God speaks this word to you? Perhaps that is the place to start.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23).

This is a good word! A liberating word. Remember the day God reached down into the muck and mire of your life and pulled you out? You heard the full Gospel. You wrestled with it. You were broken by it, and then mended by Jesus. Remember that day? It was a good one! That message that rescued you was meant to rescue others. It’s powerful. It will bring people back into the churches. Give them Jesus! When Paul began his missionary journey, he began his ministry debating the Old Testament in the temple. By the time he made it around to the Corinthians, his method – his message – had changed drastically. He said to them, “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:2-5).

The message of the cross is powerful. It’s also offensive to the flesh, and our churches are full of people who have been encouraged to live in the flesh for so long, we are afraid to give them the simple truth. We tickle their ears to keep them happy, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. By hook or by crook, Satan vows to have us and he is having his way in our churches and our communities because we don’t want to come before the congregation in fear and trembling. We want them to be comfortable and we want to be comfortable.

Let me challenge you, pastor friend. Get back to the basics. Trade in your crafty message of half-truths for the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you want power back in your church and you want to fill the pews again and see people saved, get back to the unadulterated Word of God. Put down the books written by men you admire and aspire to be and consult with God over your message. See if He doesn’t lead you back to Jesus. Then Jesus will say to you, I am sure, “Go and feed my sheep” (John 21:17).