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All posts for the month May, 2017

Standing Outside the Fire

Published May 31, 2017 by Dawn

I walked into a tree limb yesterday morning. It was literally my breaking point. I walked into a tree limb, it poked me in the eye and I started to cry.

 

I know … I sound super lame right now, but it’s true. I fell apart after being poked in the eye by a stick. You’re probably cracking up right now. I’d be laughing too, but … well, ok, I’m laughing now. It wasn’t funny at the time.

 

I hit my breaking point exactly as I just mentioned. After a two-night, surprise admission to the hospital (which means a crappy shower and no razor … let that sink in, ladies … ), I came home right before a strong storm knocked out the electricity (ok, seriously, am I the only one obsessed with taking a shower?). I came home with a kid who doesn’t understand how vital it is to not do anything for the next ten days of his life while his body wards off a very nasty infection that necessitates some of the strongest antibiotics currently known to the medical world. To say I have been stressed lately doesn’t seem like I have adequately conveyed to you the angst going on in me. But do you get it when I mention the tree poking me in the eye? It didn’t even touch my actual eyeball. It just poked me near my tear duct. Tears welled up in my eyes, but the tears from my heart pushed them overboard and I stood in the yard crying like a child.

 

Dear Daddy,

I’m done. Please, not another thing. These so-called light and momentary troubles are getting the best of me right now. I don’t know how strong you think I am, or how strong you want me to be but I assure you I’m not. I’m done. This assault … can I call a time out? I don’t know what you’re aiming at in my life right now, but my hands are up and I surrender. How can I glorify you in this moment? What purpose can you possibly have in poking me in the eye? Cease fire! I can’t take anymore!

 

I eventually sucked it up and got back to what I was doing: picking up the yard after said storm so it could be mowed. The Holy Spirit whispered something to me that Paul said, about counting it all joy in suffering … it was an okay thought and it got me through the moment but that yard just sucked me back in to the here and now.

 

There was so much natural debris in my yard, I decided to start a small fire and burn it little by little. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned how God uses music to speak to me sometimes, but it’s one of my main obsessions, so it makes sense. Only His choice of song was a little strange … Standing Outside the Fire. I don’t think I’ve heard that song since I was a kid. But there I was, standing next to the fire when it started running through my head.

 

Life is not tried it’s just merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire.

 

And I realized that here lately, I have been merely surviving. With my head barely above water, so to speak. Standing outside the fire – existing outside that precious communion with the Holy Spirit – I am barely making it. I am overwhelmed. To be completely honest, I’m not trying. I’m not putting forth much effort beyond just making it through each day.

 

There are several encounters with fire in the Bible. Moses at the burning bush. Moses on the mountaintop. The fire at Mount Sinai. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Elijah. The fire is both unapproachable and engulfing. I can clearly see a progression of the Spirit of God: coaxing us near, engulfing us, drawing us near to Him. When the veil was torn, all of humanity was given a beautiful opportunity to come into this kind of fellowship with God. Unfortunately, there’s also a discomfort involved. Fire purifies. It burns up the natural man until there’s nothing left to hinder in our pursuit of the Father’s heart. It feels a lot like heat and tribulation in this life. Jesus came that we may have life more abundantly, but we won’t ever do more than merely survive if we are willing to stand outside the fire. We’ll just be surviving the onslaught. Never victorious. Never advancing. Never coming into precious communion with the Father. I know I wasn’t made for that.

You and I were made for Him who shows up as a pillar of fire. Who says He will be a wall of fire around us. The children of God were made to be consumed. These sufferings come so that the glory of God might be revealed in us. The fire of His presence. I don’t want to stand outside the fire. I want to step into it. Walk in it, knowing that God is there with me and will not leave me or forsake me. I want to allow His Holy Spirit to purify me through trials. When I am weak, He is strong. Here I am freely admitting my frailty. I am ready and needing God to stand by me and give me strength. These moments are so sweet, even if they seem a little bitter at first. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an even greater glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17).

 

 

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Know Your Purpose

Published May 31, 2017 by Dawn

Arguably the biggest question fueling the Christian book market today is “What is my purpose?”  We literally spend billions sifting through all the prescribed ways to figure out what God was thinking when He made us. What might He want to do through us? What big difference were we put here to make in this world?

 

Can I simplify this? I promise not to sell you another book, because I don’t think it’s that complicated. Your purpose is multifaceted and as complex as you, but at the same time, so simple. You were put here for two reasons: to worship God and to bring glory to His name.

 

I’m sure you knew that, and I’m also sure you’re asking, “But how?!”

 

Any way you find to do it. Did you know you can worship anytime, anywhere? Sure, it’s probably not socially acceptable to sing praise and worship while walking through Wal-Mart, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means people might look at you funny. Why do you care, if you are doing what God has purposed for you to do? I often worship in Wal-Mart. In my head, in the shower … the place is irrelevant. It’s the act of worshiping. God inhabits the praises of His people. I don’t know about you but I want Him in Wal-Mart with me. In the car, or the shower, or wherever else I may find myself. I want His companionship. Therefore, I praise Him.

 

In addition to all that worshiping, we are called to bring glory to Him. How? By doing everything to the glory of God. Doing everything as if unto God, not unto men. And when we do that, people will look at us and see the Spirit of God resting on us. Bam! He gets praise and glory through our everyday lives. While we’re cleaning, shopping, or working. God can be clearly seen through people who are perpetually focused on Him.

 

The problem … the thing that gets in the way of our purpose is our overwhelming preoccupation with ourselves. Gratifying ourselves. Putting ourselves on a stage somewhere. Worshiping ourselves. The message of the cross has been systematically replaced by a “Message of Me.” We want God to make something of us, instead of using us to make something of Him. We want to be able to look at what we are capable of and listen to the praises of others on our behalf.

 

It doesn’t matter what kind of humility you are capable of portraying. Your deceitful heart is capable of fooling others and even you, if you aren’t exposing yourself to the Holy Spirit on a regular basis. Ask God to magnify your heart so you can see the truth and you will most likely be appalled at your own motives. Mine have to be overhauled all the time by the Holy Spirit.

 

Here’s the truth: God will not put you in a position to draw attention to yourself. Pride is such a cancerous sin, and God knows how devastating it can be to a vulnerable soul. However, many a man (and woman) have exalted themselves because they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) wait on God, or submit to serving in obscurity. Is it okay if, at the end of the day, no one knows who you are? Could you live a life of devotion to God if He doesn’t have a public stage in store for you? What if, at the end of your life, God is the only one who knows your name? Would you be okay with that? If so, you may very well be on your way to fulfilling your God-given purpose. If not, you may want to check yourself before you wreck yourself because you have made your service in the kingdom all about yourself.

 

 

Us Against the World

Published May 17, 2017 by Dawn

There was them, and there was me. We were all doing the same thing from different ends of the hall, but they all stood in a large group at the other end, engaging in conversation and warding off delinquents by their size and presence. I stood alone at the my end, fending off the masses alone. No one ventured down to my end of the hall. They kept to their end and left me to mine. The students, of course, knew my end was the weaker one. They were scheming shenanigans and I was the softy letting them pass because I wanted them to have their last hoorah. I loudly ushered them back into their classes, enforced sternly where a breech of authority could be plainly seen, but otherwise slowly turned from their fun so they could have it. At the other end of the hallway, there was a reunion of teachers. They all seemed to be having a good time, providing a comedic escape for the haggard few enforcing authority down there. I reflected to myself: isn’t this how it’s always been? The Christian life, symbolized.

I’m a loner. Probably not by choice at first, but now I relish it. I used to relish people and activities, but years of isolation and loneliness have turned me from extrovert to introvert and I have finally just embraced it. The truth is, I don’t belong in most groups because there’s too much that goes on that I disdain. I don’t “get” most jokes because my humor is decently nonexistent. What the world finds funny, I abhor. I have a fresh dislike for gossip, having been the subject of a very painful strain lately. I think most opinions are ridiculous, having their root in human logic rather than the Word of God. This is me, as symbolized here, coming out from among them and being separate. I don’t think I chose this. I just read the Bible until it became the only truth I care about and it seems that this isolation and loneliness is a direct result of that one pursuit: the wisdom and knowledge of God.

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:20). Sadly, the church is trying to engage this present culture with their own smoke and mirrors. We try to engage the godless with the very things that offend the Holy Spirit, throwing off the cloak of righteousness that separates us in favor of anything we can find in the costume closet that makes the lost look at us with oooohs and ahhhhs. We might get their attention at first, but then we adopt their ways and call it “Christianity.” In fact, we are being less Christ-like and more like the devil every day. The world cannot distinguish us because we would rather fit in – make it into that gaggle at the end of the hallway – then stand alone.

I’m not judging. I know it’s painful to be the odd man out. I lived it for many years before I finally managed to silence the still small voice inside long enough to run into the world and taste it’s wild fruit. It’s intoxicating. Mezmerizing. Death to the man or woman of God inside. So I went back into the Word, and necessarily, farther from being able to “hang” with most of the people in my life because we just aren’t on the same page. The things most people revel in, I find repulsive. This is not to imply that I am perfect. I am not. But when the Holy Spirit is your most constant companion, your discernment for what pleases God is awakened and you struggle to abide by things you once found “normal human behavior.” You desire less of the world and more of heaven in your daily life.

It’ll happen, friend, if you aren’t careful. Get a little too reckless with your time and you will find that the more you give to God, the less you will like the world around you. The less you will fit in. The more you will fight the enemy because people will dislike you simply because of who your friends are. While they have so many, you will only have three: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. You will become an absurdity among men. Don’t fight it. You have been called to be a peculiarity (1 Peter 2:9). God has spoken your name, calling you to “come out from among them and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17). You will either embrace the world with all it’s present, albeit fading, glory. Or you will embrace Christ. One offers you all that glitters in this life; the other, an eternity of being held in the arms of your Savior. One offers flesh all that it craves of attention and affection; the other promises to kill the flesh, but breathe eternal life into the spirit. You do have a choice, friend. God has laid it out and left it precariously in your hands. “You will hate the one and love the other” (Matt. 6:24). You cannot shirk the choice because to not decide is to decide in favor of this world. “Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of this world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). And with that, the present state of the American church as it is quite clear: “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me” (Amos 5:21). Why? Because our churches are full of dead men. There is no revival in our hearts because we choose not to talk about what displeases God. We don’t preach so that men may know the error of their ways and repent, we preach so that men may feel justified in their sin. That message will make a man think he has no need of a Savior. What does he have to be saved from?

We bring in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny for young children and their adoring mothers. We even dress up and hand out candy on Halloween. We sell the church to rock bands Friday evening, and expect the Holy Spirit to reside in the same place we have allowed the devil to cavort. It is not that the Spirit cannot, but that the Spirit of God will not. The Spirit of God will not abide in a place ferreted out to the world six days of the week. The church thinks God has lowered His standards, but closer inspection of the Word reveals He cannot. “He is the same YESTERDAY, TODAY and FOREVER!” (Heb. 13:8).

Leonard Ravenhill once said that “The only reason we don’t have revival is because we are willing to live without it.” I would add that we are willing to live without it because we are afraid that God might reveal the darkness in us. He might call forth repentance, in which case we would have to acknowledge that we are not as righteous as we pretend to be. If revival were to fall in America, it would completely shake up the churches. Santa and the Easter bunny might have to find a new hangout among pagan temples because we would no longer welcome them in our hallowed halls. We would shut down our church bar coffee shops and stop making money of the fatigued Sunday School crew, because suddenly, Jesus’ tirade in the temple courts would make sense again. We would preach an unwavering message of holiness, “without which none shall see God” (Heb. 12:14).

The church must be willing to stand alone. We must be willing to swim against the tide, because while we talk about the direction the world is headed, we are sadly just swimming alongside our neighbors in the same direction, telling them all they want to hear because we don’t want to offend anyone. The church has taken on PC Culture as if we came up with it, but in truth, it’s the doctrine of the devil himself. Jesus did not engage in conversations in a PC manner. He confronted sin. He confronted rebelliousness in the hearts of people. Yes, he did it in love. But love is not completely disregarding the sinful nature of a lost humanity. Love is compelling people with tears to come to God. To run from sin. To avoid eternal damnation. To speak an uncomfortable truth that puts us at odds with most everyone. Our message will isolate us, for sure. It’ll be uncomfortable and we will often feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable and outnumbered. We will say, like Paul, “a great door of effective ministry has opened for me, and there are many who oppose me” (1 Cor. 16:9).

We have mistakenly believed for so long that the world will embrace us. No! The world will persecute, plunder, and put us to death. That is why we are implored to be courageous. That is why we must have faith. That is why we need the Holy Spirit filling us every moment of every day. The world will forever be at odds with the church of God that is truly after His heart, because the world is in the clutches of Satan. There will always be them and us. “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval” (1 Cor. 11:19).

Choose you this day whom you will serve; as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). We choose Christ knowing that it makes us enemies of the world. Knowing we face isolation and loneliness, persecution, disgrace, and everything else the world can lay siege to us because we bear that name that is above all other names. There is them, and there is me. Where are you?

Sinners in the Church

Published May 12, 2017 by Dawn

“Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, ‘This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.’ They followed him because he amazed them for a long time with his sorcery.”

Simon was well-known and praised among the people. His witchcraft awed the crowds and led people to exalt him as someone in God’s favor. Sorcery being a demonic activity, we can clearly see that the crowds were wrong. People who easily talked about God obviously did not know God, or they would have seen through the ruse. The crowd was duped by Satan.

 “But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw …”

Finally, the message of the cross resonates with the people – and with Simon – and they all get saved and are baptized. Even Simon.

“When Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ Peter answered, ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin’” (Acts 8:9-13,18-23).

After Simon is saved, he’s still chastised by the disciples because his discernment is way off. Peter recognizes two things in him: Simon was full of bitterness and captive to sin.

Full of bitterness.

Captive to sin.

But saved.

What?

I know it’s hard to believe, but Christians can say the right things, be baptized, and still need to examine themselves. Christians can be saved and still be full of dangerous things. Being made holy is a process. God will shine His light on so many parts of us, showing what displeases Him and expecting us to deal with it so we can draw closer to Him. That’s why it is so important to understand that we should not consider our sin a sad biproduct of living. We are freed from the power of sin. We are freed from the clutches of sin and we are capable of saying “no” to sin. We just don’t. We embrace and excuse our sin because that’s easier than getting on our faces and crying out for God to cleanse us. We would rather not know we need help. We would rather be saved and left alone to wallow in our flesh, like a pig wallows in the mud.

Peter told Simon to repent his wickedness. To ask for forgiveness for the thoughts in his heart. He called out Simon’s sin so that Simon could recognize his need. Having a “Don’t judge me!” attitude ensures that you will remain blind to the things the Holy Spirit has chosen to deal with in you. Having any attitude besides humility ensures that a person is unwilling to see themselves for who they truly are inside. In need of a Savior. Not just once, but every day. The Bible tells us to keep with repentance. That’s a continual drawing near to the cross, seeing the savior there and knowing that it’s because of what’s within us.

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is within you – unless, of course, you fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Praying for a Man

Published May 3, 2017 by Dawn

I hate confessions. It’s weird to let you into my soul. I’m not purposefully this open about things, but I feel like if God is speaking something to me, most of the time, it’s because He wants me to share it with others. So here goes …

A dear friend of mine invited me to a concert not too long ago. It wasn’t something I would have showed up to on my own because I’m not that cool. I like to sit at home and drink tea and avoid my phone … or any other form of communication with the outside world. I’m the kind of person who’s only an extrovert because I’m an introvert …

Anyway, I went to this concert and had a great time. It wasn’t just entertainment; it was worship. I love worship. I love getting lost in love for a while with my One and Only. And I love watching other people worship too. Music is one of my greatest passions and in a room full of people using their talents to worship my King is exactly where I want to be for eternity. Heaven, I can’t wait to meet you!

Ok, on to the confession: So, there was this guy … singing. On the stage. I had to close my eyes to keep from being distracted because 1.) he was gorgeous; 2.) no ring; 3.) his voice; 4.) his was lost in the worship.

I’m not saying everyone else on that stage was purely entertaining, because I don’t believe that at all. What I am saying is that this man was exuberantly worshipping. Without a ring on. Singing to my King. Gorgeously.

I kept my eyes closed most of the time so I would focus on the One I came to see. Not this guy, because before this concert, this guy did not even exist on my radar. I went home that night feeling very refreshed, released from some shackles and focused despite the distractions in my own head.

Imagine my surprise when, a few days later, God recalls this man to mind and tells me to pray for him. Here’s how that conversation went (relatively … I didn’t record it exactly):

(this guy comes to mind while I’m praying…)

Me: Ooooooo, I rebuke you, Satan!

Holy Spirit: Pray for him.

Me: … I probably shouldn’t be doing this. It’s not a good idea, Lord.

Him: It’s my Will. Pray for him.

Me: I know you mean well, but I can’t have this guy on my mind. I’m not strong enough for that. Can’t someone else?

Him: If you had a husband, you would pray for him all the time. Who prays for the single men in ministry?

Me: Their future wives. Come on, Lord, please! I can’t … I’m not strong enough to handle this.

Him: But you aren’t salacious. Pray without coveting. He’s your brother and his integrity is important.

Me: This isn’t fair.

Him: Be obedient.

So I started to pray for this man. I pray for him daily. I don’t even know him, but I guess I don’t have to. My mind revolves back to God’s question in the matter: Who prays for the single men in ministry? And while I know there are single women everywhere praying for a husband, how many of us are willing to spend our time just praying for our brothers in Christ? After all, many of them struggle with the same things we struggle with. Loneliness. Isolation. Temptation. Distractions. And the battle intensifies when we minister for the Lord.

So many of us despise the single life. So few of us are willing to let it be anything more than a waiting room before we’re ushered in to our “happily ever after.” But what if it can be more than that? I offer to you that it can. It can be a time of fulfillment in the presence of God. It can be a time of undistracted worship, and obedience, to His will. If we allow God, He can use us mightily even if no one else ever knows our names. We can be a face in a crowd at a concert, but the prayer warrior in the closet holding up the weary arms of our brothers and sisters in Christ. So to the one guy on stage without a ring … I’m praying for you, Brother.

What Kind of a Mother am I?

Published May 2, 2017 by Dawn

When my kids were little, they had such beautiful faith. Every ache, fever, whatever … they would come to me and plead, “Mom, can you pray over me?” They just knew that if we prayed, they would be healed. God was so gracious too. Most of the time – without medication – a simple prayer later, my kids were back to their normal selves. It really bolstered their faith, and they began to rely on my praying over them more and more.

There were times, of course, when praying wasn’t my number one priority. As sad as it is to admit, when my kids would come to me in the middle of the night and wake me out of a dead sleep with really bad knee pains or headaches, I remember pulling him or her into bed with me and cuddling a crying child, trying to schmooze him or her back to sleep. “Pray with me, Mom, please!” The pleading would fall on deaf ears. The humiliating truth is I just wanted to sleep. I was mostly exhausted from working 40 hours a week and going to school, and semi-taking care of a house/yard/two kids. My excuse, however seemingly valid at the time, kept me from performing my kids’ saving grace. They knew if I’d just pray, they would feel brand new. I thought that feeling was the result of sleep, so I slept on.

I was sitting on the couch this evening with my son laid across the couch beside me, his head in my lap. I was thinking about prayer and how powerful it is. How devastatingly underutilized it is … when this truth hit me: it’s all my fault.

Don’t try to console me. I need this truth. You see, it is my fault and I needed to hear this. I am not afraid of the truth. I like freedom. I like growing. The truth is vital to both. I said to myself, “This is all my fault. The depression my kids are battling. The ways Satan has manipulated my family. The way he’s winning most of the time. I just wanted to rest, but look at what’s happened! Instead of pressing in in prayer, I checked out in exhaustion and suddenly the battle is out of control!

“Pray with me, Mom.”

I’m broken. It’s all my fault. I shouldn’t have allowed this slumber to get the best of me. I shouldn’t have encouraged my kids to sleep too, when prayer has become such a necessity. What kind of a mother am I to leave my kids suffering in pain while I struggle to maintain my grasp on ease and comfort and rest? How can I, with the keys to the kingdom in my hands, leave things unlocked in my own home? How can I, having been given all power and authority, allow Satan to run rampant in our lives? What kind of a mother am I?

Don’t try to console me. I need this guilt and shame. I needed God look me square in the eye and speak this truth, and let me grapple with it because tonight, things changed. My son heard me weeping and awoke out of his slumber. “What’s wrong, Mom?

“I’m so sorry. I love you so much and I’m sorry for leaving you in your pain and not praying over you.” Then we cried and prayed together, like I should have done a long time ago. I should have awakened and prayed a long time ago.

I hesitated to write this because it’s painful and raw … and really embarrassing. But I wanted to share it because I wanted to encourage you: whatever it is, pray. Wake up and pray. Stop allowing Satan to lull you into complacency. That’s how he keeps us ineffectual. That’s how he keeps winning in our lives. Prayer is so powerful and he knows it. But so do you. “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Don’t say to me, “But I’m not righteous.” There’s a prayer for that too! Get right before God, then get down to the nitty-gritty and take care of business in your life, and the lives of those you love. Sometimes, we can do nothing more than pray. Thankfully, prayer is the best way to make a difference. What kind of a mother am I? A praying one – enemy beware!