Bible Study

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Yes, You Can Know God

Published October 11, 2017 by Dawn

It is amazing that across the eons of time, God has remained enshrouded in mystery and so incalculable to the human race. We dare not attempt to explain or define Him, because our finite understanding can never do justice to the God of the universe. There is so much about Him that doesn’t make sense in our limited understanding and so many facets of His nature and personality that we have yet to see even a glimpse of. The only thing we can say with absolute surety is that we will never understand God in all of His fullness, and even the things we do know about Him, we know pensively without absolution. God is so much more than we can ever imagine.

I found myself in speechless awe the other day as I was reading the book of John because a scripture I have read so many times finally came to light upon me with a clarity that stunned and enraptured me. Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” I read it and went on to the next verse and the next until I read again in John 12:45, “The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.” Jesus continued further on, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well” (John 14:7) … anyone who has seen me has seen the Father … The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:9-10).

Suddenly, I realized what it was Christ was getting at: we can begin to understand the nature of God by knowing the nature of Christ.

Y’all!

There are many religions that acquiesce to believe that Jesus was a great man, a prophet and a prolific teacher. But not Christianity. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the son of God, the incarnation of God in the flesh. I have professed this faith so many times, but it JUST NOW dawned on me: God is not unlike Christ. He is no better or worse than Christ. He is Christ. All the attributes that humanity witnessed in Christ belong to God, our Heavenly Father. He came to us to show us something of Himself, and although we know we do not comprehend even the smallest smidge of who God is in His fullness, we can know what He chose to reveal to us through our fellowship with the Word of God made flesh among us.

I know … you’re probably wondering how I could have read the Bible so many times and missed this truth. I have no idea. I just know that for the first time in my life, I finally see how God can be merciful and just, brutally honest but still loving, forgiving but confrontational too. Jesus was all of these things, and he told us, “For I do not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say” (John 12:49-50).

When Jesus drove money-changers out of the temple, we see that within God’s character is an element of righteous indignation. His house was being used flippantly for petty, worldly things. He had a standard for His temple and guarded it jealously. Scripture calls it “zeal.” God is full of zeal for His righteous standards, then.

When Jesus showed kindness to a woman caught in adultery, we can clearly see that God is kind toward the humiliated, weary soul. Christ did not affirm her in her sin, but He did not condemn and chastise either. His holiness alone was enough to convince her of her wickedness. Likewise, we know that God will defend the weak and miserable against the proud outrage of merciless humanity, but He will never stand in defense of sin, even when he stands in defense of a sinner. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

When we read of Jesus waiting after knowing Lazarus was sick, we find that God is patient when proving something of Himself to stubborn unbelievers. We also see a brokenness in Christ over having to use such a drastic tragedy to illuminate people’s minds and hearts with truth. Jesus did not enjoy waiting and did not rejoice in the pain it brought to Lazarus’ family and friends. On the contrary, he cried with them. God loves us through the trying times, and even empathizes with us when His purposes momentarily cause us grief and pain.

When Jesus slept soundly in the bottom of a boat while men and women around him gawked in fear at the raging sea, we find our God is never troubled by the storms of life, no matter how fierce they seem. He does not stir in anticipation, but responds only to the heart-cry of His fearful sheep. Peter yelled, “Master, carest not thou that we perish?” Jesus immediately woke and calmed the storm. He didn’t pay attention to the wind and waves, but he couldn’t ignore the turbulence in Peter’s chilling cries. Our God also does not waver when chaos comes. He remains steadfast and immovable. He is only ever moved by one thing: the cries of His children. When we scream out in agony, fear or disbelief, God immediately responds because we have touched His heartstrings with the faith of a child. We don’t know what we expect of Him, we just know that He is where our hope lies.

I could go on, friend, talking about all the miracles and acts of love wherein Jesus showed us the Great Liberator, Provider, Healer, and Friend, but you can read for yourself and find more about the character of God. One event urges me forward to the most pivotal moment in all humanity: Christ died for us.

Can you even imagine the love of God? Can you imagine the seriousness of sin? Can you imagine the desperation of our Creator to be with us? Christ died for us.

Our God, full of repugnance at the thought of sin destroying His Beloved, came down and lived this life. Can you imagine? Who doesn’t, at some point, feel the anguish of living? The destitution, suffering, pain and rejection? God faced it all because in His wisdom, He knew we wouldn’t bring ourselves to His feet if we thought He couldn’t relate. He faced it because He wanted to fully understand our humanity under the spell of Satan. He faced it because He wanted the devil to know defeat at every angle. God, full of love and compassion for our fallen state, determined to have us again for all time and began just where we begin: born into a broken world. He came with no majesty, no physical appeal. He was cloaked in the most ordinary and unattractive way. He was true to Himself and therefore despised and rejected. And then, He did it. He allowed Himself, the Creator of all things, to be spit upon, beaten, shattered and torn – nailed to a cross in the utmost of human agony – God created the plan and submitted to all that Hell’s fury could aim at Him. All because He loved us.

His friends, tormented for days, felt the anguish of loss and were not comforted. Three days. Then, in unknown limitless power, Jesus rose. God Incarnate rose up from under the crushing weight of death that no man can defeat. God prevailed! For us!

Do you see it? How much God hates sin? How much He adores us? Oh, what Love! While there are many facets of God – many attributes of His character and nature – we finally must admit, Beloved, that in all that God is, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). In His justice, He is love. In His discipline, He is love. In His mercy, Love. In His grace, Love. In His righteousness, Love. In His fullness, God is love. In every way that God operates, He continually shows us the many ways He loves us. Too much to give up on us, too much to leave us in our sin, too much to abandon us. Everything He says and everything He does communicates His love for us. Sometimes, it’s tough love and sometimes, it’s a sweet, sweet salve. Always, it’s God’s love.

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A Word to the Elect

Published July 31, 2017 by Dawn

“The man of God said, “I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. I have been told by the word of the Lord: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.’

“The old prophet answered, ‘I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’ (But he was lying to him.)

“So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank at his house.

“While they were sitting at the table, the word of the Lord came to the old prophet who had brought him back. He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah, ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘You have defied the word of the Lord and have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore, your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors.’

“When the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him. As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was left lying on the road, with both the donkey and the lion beside it” (1 Kings 13:16-24).

The younger prophet had received a word from the Lord, was confident it was God, and shared it with Jeroboam, the one it was sent to. He fulfilled his duty to God, and when the King (Jeroboam) invited him to stick around for dinner, the faithful prophet declined. He knew that God had told him not to eat and drink there, and because he had just pronounced a judgment on Jeroboam, probably didn’t feel very comfortable staying much longer anyway. He took off without a backward glance. But then, an older man, known to also be a man of God, invited him to turn back and come sup with him. The prophet first stuck to his convictions. He knew God’s directions to not turn back or eat or drink there. But the elder prophet was more persuasive and because the younger trusted his leadership, he turned back. It was obvious disobedience to what God had spoken to him, but he trusted that the older prophet had received a true word and trusted the man. He turned back for dinner.

In the middle of the meal, the older prophet shares a true word from God: a word of rebuke and impending destruction. The younger man’s trust was misplaced in a lie and for that, he was going to reap the wrath of God.

It happened then, and still happens now. People of God have a hard time trusting their own discernment. They receive one thing from the Word of God, and another from a man of God, and refusing to trust the Spirit of God within themselves, they willfully trust in a lie. This is very evident in the church’s adulterous acceptance of New Age theology, calling itself “Reformed”, whereby the church has grabbed onto man’s understanding instead of seeking God through His word. Why? I have a hunch:

  • Reading the Bible takes time many of us refuse to give to God.
  • Understanding the Bible is hard to do, unless you allow the Holy Spirit to minister through it.
  • We’ve lost all respect for authority and most people don’t want to be taught; they just want to pretend they know it all already
  • The church is more comfortable putting together a program and sticking to it than getting together for prayer and leaving God to plan His own “thing”
  • People trust other people’s interpretations of scripture because they don’t want to spend time reading the Bible.
  • We expect our elders to be in touch with God, and feel freed from the responsibility to know God for ourselves because we have placed our trust in men.

In order to not be in error, we first must commit to our personal walk with the Lord. We cannot know God through others. We never will. We will know them, and we will know their walk with God, but we will not know God. We can be led to Him, but if we aren’t willing to take up that cross and begin a personal walk with the Lord, we are in danger of error.

Secondly, while the texts of others can certainly lead us to truth, relying solely on the wisdom of others and disregarding personal prayer and devotion will most certainly always lead us into some error. There is no man who is 100% correct about God. Everything we hear, we should always take back to the word of God and search it out like the Bereans in the book of Acts (17:11). They were considered more righteous because they didn’t take the apostles at their word, but searched the scriptures daily to make sure that what they heard was in fact true, according to the word of God.

We also must spend time with God. In His word and in prayer. We cannot hear or heed the voice of God if we are unfamiliar with it. How can we trust that what we hear is God if His voice is that of a stranger? No, we must spend personal time (devote personal time) to our Lord, tucked away in a secret place and listening intently to what He is speaking through His word and in our prayer time. God is not often silent; we are just often not listening!

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). We have much to fear, church, if we are not students of the Word and stewards devoted to prayer. These people inhabit the pulpits. They teach on TV. They have a form of godliness, but deny His power and instead work in their own. They interpret scripture to cater to the feelings of their congregants or the tide of money flowing through the church. Many have heard God in the past, and are capable of hearing Him still, but instead minister lies to a vulnerable populace. How do we avoid the snare? We must remain guarded; girded with truth, listening with ears that hear the Spirit of God, and willing to admit wrongness so that God may be proved right (Romans 3:4, for clarity on this).

“For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). I tremble at the thought. May studying the Word of God and prayer become the passionate pursuit of my heart! May it be yours as well, friend.

Nevertheless

Published July 26, 2017 by Dawn

“Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love” (1 Kings 11:2).

Solomon had a problem: he loved women. He loved all women from all kinds of nationalities and many times, he took them home with him. He made alliances with other nations through marriage, and get this … he had seven hundred wives! You can add them to his 300 concubines, and Solomon had a colossal problem. One thousand women in his life!

Did you notice the “nevertheless”? It’s referring to the previous verse, in which the writer explains that God had warned the Israelites against intermarrying with other nations because their idol worship would lead them away from God. Nevertheless Solomon married nearly every woman who caught his eye, or conscripted her to his harem for his own pleasure without putting a ring on it, because he could and because he wanted to.

I woke up super early this morning, so I picked up my Bible for companionship. I began reading where I left off, but I didn’t get very far. I kept coming back to this verse.  “Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.” It kept beckoning me back, so I began to meditate on it. Why is this particular verse nagging at me? What is it trying to get at in me, and why can’t I just get past it and move on? Finally, I prayed. Lord, what is it? Why is this verse taking up so much space in my heart and mind right now?

It was the nevertheless.

God had spoken to His people. His children. He had given them direction – a warning, really – because He loved them and didn’t want them to have to endure a lot of unwarranted heartache. He wanted them to be wholly devoted to Him and He wanted them to have His favor and blessing. Solomon, their king, specifically asked God for wisdom and gained that and so much more. He was recognized as the wisest of all men, and his kingdom was the richest and most prosperous kingdom on earth at that time. But then it happened: the nevertheless.

Solomon, despite his wisdom and the favor he enjoyed from God, let his own desires (or weakness, if you will) come before the will of God for his life. Not only his own, but also the lives of all the Israelites. He married unscrupulously and his wives led his heart astray into idol worship. He built shrines for other gods in the land and then, the whole country began to believe that such idol worship was acceptable. Solomon’s sin in defying God had very far-reaching consequences and affected so many people. He probably did not intend to create such a catastrophe in Israel, but when the smoke cleared, his waywardness had led astray an entire nation and would eventually lead to the downfall of his kingdom. There was a lot on the line and Solomon shrugged it all off. Nevertheless.

It’s a word that signifies a stubborn self-will. A will that has decided, in spite of the wisdom of God inside, or even the word of God on a matter, to have its own way instead of His. Nevertheless represents the will of a person bent on his or her own satisfaction and gratification, despite God having already had a say in the matter. Nevertheless was Eve taking the fruit, eating and giving to Adam to sample. It was millions of people ignoring the prophets, giving way to the flood in Noah’s time, and the fire in Lot’s. It led to the captivity of an entire nation over and over again because they had no regard for the Lord or His expressed desire for them. Nevertheless led Jesus to the cross, and is still leading people away from God over 2000 years later. It has taken over churches, families, and cultures entirely.

Have you recognized it yet, in your own life? It’s there, friend. We all have a nevertheless. We all have a will of our own, bent on destruction unless completely surrendered to God. It might not seem that way at first. Surely Solomon never thought his lack of fidelity to one woman or one nationality would lead to such chaos. But his infidelity in marriage mirrored his infidelity to God. Just as he was not satisfied with one woman, he was not satiated in his relationship with God either. But it wasn’t God’s fault, it was his own. God promised to be with him just as He was with David. Solomon didn’t have the same heart as his father. David’s heart desired God above all else; Solomon’s loved women.

What is it that you love above God? What desire have you placed before His will? What self-knowledge have you exalted above the wisdom of the Word of God? Know this: your story will have a nevertheless. I do not write this in judgment, but rather in fear and humility. I have experienced my own already. I tremble to think what my own self might decide at any point, and steer me away from God’s will for my life. I watch my life closely because I know the power of my own heart and my naïve willingness to blindly follow feelings instead of God. I have caught myself in the middle of rebellion before. I know this, though: it doesn’t have to be that way. God would prefer it not be that way, and eventually so do we.

There’s only one way to avoid the error, and that is on our knees. Prayer enlightens us to the depths of our own sinful natures, and our wayward desires. Prayer awakens us to our need of God. Prayer enables us to admit our faults, and lay down our pride. Prayer makes crooked ways straight and hardened hearts flesh again. Prayer is the only way to destroy the commitment we’ve made to our own flesh. Prayer is the only way to avoid nevertheless.

Dear Holy Father,

You know us. Thank you. You know us better than we know ourselves, for you have made us and we are yours. Your ways are higher than ours and often, because we cannot see what you see and understand what you know, we follow our own weak vision and near-sighted understanding of things. We follow our deceitful hearts and end up making a mess of things where your Will would have done something redemptive and holy. We’re a mess, Lord. Please forgive our waywardness and the way we jump so quickly into our own actions. Help us to pray. To linger in prayer until we know your Will. Help us to obey your Word and your Will as you give us understanding of it. Give us an increased measure of faith to drown out our fear. We long to walk in your ways.

Have your way, Lord. We love you.

Amen.

A Stone’s Throw Away from Judging My Neighbor

Published July 22, 2017 by Dawn

“Judge not, lest ye be judged” (Matt. 7:1)

It’s the newest hot-button issue. The world loves this verse. Heck, so does the church. We’re throwing it around as a means to fend off anyone who wants to talk about morality because as a society, we’ve decided morality is so last century. I’ve been praying about this one for a while, because there are some scriptures in the Bible that seemingly contradict this one, and we’re all a little confused.

Because this is such a delicate issue, the authority of scripture is the basis of all commentary presented, and I hope this blog reads more like an expose. I also hope you understand that I have spent hours researching scripture and praying over this. I don’t claim to know it all, just want to present the scriptures and I pray the Holy Spirit leads you to the truth of God’s Will.

Let’s just begin here, with Matthew 7:1-5. I’m going to use the NIV text for ease of reading. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Ok, we have the topic of judging, alongside the topic of hypocrisy. This is a great place to start! Most of the time, this text is quoted in part. In effect, “Don’t judge me. The Bible says that.” But look further and you will notice that in differentiating between your plank and your brother’s speck, Jesus is referring to one thing: seeing your own sin. Christians should be introspective about sin before they discuss it out loud. They should know their own sin and then deal with it. To paraphrase, “take care of your sin first.” Christians should not speak of sin if they don’t have a healthy prayer life involving repentance. If we don’t know our own spiritual depravity, we shouldn’t try to help anyone else. When you come to know the depravity of humanity and what you are capable of, you can approach the topic of sin from a place of humility. Humility is so important, especially when discussing sin with unbelievers. When we have a nonexistent or weak relationship with Christ, we cannot help others understand topics such as repentance, forgiveness, and grace. There is no salvation from sin without these.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He says “deal with your sin first, then help your brother.” This is where things can get a little uncomfortable. Because we are called to talk about sin … no one likes that truth. For a more in-depth understanding of what Jesus meant, let’s follow Him to the scene of another group of church members discussing someone’s sin.

It’s important to understand, however, that the same Jesus who said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged” also said, “Go and sin no more.” Let’s take a look at John 8:2-11:

“At dawn he appeared in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

“But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’

”Again, he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away, one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’

“’No one, sir,’ she said

“’Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’”

Ok, that’s a lot to digest so let’s take it in a little slower. It starts with the representatives of the church, those specifically entrusted to carry the Word of God to the world … the Pharisees.

Ouch, church.

They caught her in the act and decided something had to be done. According to the law, they would have been justified in stoning her. They were zealous for God, and loved righteousness. In this, they weren’t wrong. But when they picked up the stones, the true motives of their hearts were revealed. They didn’t want to redeem her from her sin. They wanted to punish her for it.

We still do this. I shake my head at Christians every day on social media who, zealous for God, only quote the law and lambast the transgressions of everyone who is not in line with it. Jesus dealt with the Pharisees by again pointing out their hypocrisy. He encourages them to take a hard look at their own lives. It’s a humbling thing, to be sure! The bottom line is this: we cannot talk to the world about sin if we do not have an understanding of our own sinful nature apart from the saving grace of Jesus. Because one thing the world is not wrong about is that we Christians also sin! What separates us from the world is not our purity, it’s our repentance. If we aren’t repentant, we are not pure!

The Pharisees also made a public spectacle of this lady. They pointed out her sin in front of a crowd of onlookers and demanded Jesus do something. What they failed to understand is that this approach did not make the woman repentant. It made her ashamed. People who are publicly shamed are more apt to be bitter and hardened to any effect the Holy Spirit might otherwise have.

Therefore, I believe the church, if we must speak of sin, should do so in a way that brings that person to Jesus in private. It is hard to be naked in public, people!

Finally, her redemption happened when everyone else left.

Everyone.

We don’t have to hang over people to see how things pan out after we bring them to Jesus. They will be much better off alone with him than with us anyway. Ultimately, redemption is the work of the Holy Spirit. We can and should present the Word of God without error, and we should pray with and for people. But we are not responsible for anyone’s salvation once we have presented the truth. Their blood be on their own heads. However, if we refuse to share truth because we’re scared of the world’s reaction, their blood will be on us. “When 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” (Ezek. 3:18).

Listen, I know it’s uncomfortable. I’ve been dodging this bullet for years. The world is so well-versed on the “Don’t Judge” scriptures. But having read scriptures, we can see that talking about sin is not judgment. Jesus says to help a brother out with their speck after you have dealt with your own. He also addresses the woman’s sin after dismissing the mob. Discussing sin is not the issue! The issue is how we do it! That is where judgment creeps in. When we confront sin with an attitude of superiority, we stand in judgment over our fellow man. When we confront sin with an aim of seeing punishment afflicted, we stand in judgment. When we relish hatred in our hearts toward unbelievers, we are so guilty of judging them. Condemnation is a satanic tool; it resides in the heart of “Christians” who love justice without mercy. We also have to be aware that people are comfortable with their sin, and often love their sin. We cannot destroy them in the process of trying to “help” them. When Jesus said, “with the measure you use it will be measured to you,” he was talking about the measure of grace you extend to others. The measure of mercy. That’s a dangerous thing, church, to mete out judgment! If we aren’t extending love and mercy in our hearts, we are measuring out our own condemnation. That’s scary!

The crux of the matter, then, is this: “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sin” (James 5:20). This verse right here should be the driving force of any conversations we may have about sin. It is true: you can catch more flies with honey. We have to be aware that quoting scriptures will never be enough. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). When we speak it in the authority of of God, with the love of God in our hearts toward people and the attitude of Christ about sin, that’s not judging. Speaking truth in love is a possibility. No, more than that, it’s a mandate according to Ephesians 4:15. For that, we should never apologize. But we should tread lightly and for God’s sake, put down our stones!

 

 

 

Going Through the Motions

Published July 6, 2017 by Dawn

“Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, ‘Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemy.’

“So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

“ When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, ‘What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?’ When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid. ‘A god has come into the camp,’ they said. ‘Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before. We’re doomed! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods that struck down the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!’

“So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died” (1 Sam. 4: 1-11).

Isreal, God’s people, were in battle. Surrounded by the enemy and being defeated mercilessly. They were so sure of victory, they went into battle a little under prepared. We know that because they didn’t even take the ark of the covenant with them. It had been at the forefront of their trials in the desert, their crossing the Jordan and stepping into the Promise Land. All the battles won as Joshua was obedient and conquered the land so the people of God could have a place to call home. The ark went before them, symbolic of the presence of their great and mighty God. They knew where their strength lay … for a time, at least.

Then it happened: they went zealously into battle against a great enemy. The giants in the land – the Philistines. Israel, so sure of victory, went into that battle with nothing more than a grand illusion and lost. They had forgotten to bring God into their plans, and subsequently, their plans failed.

An elder knew immediately what was wrong. The ark wasn’t there. But to the new generation of Israelites, who hadn’t been in the desert, it was only a relic. They went after it, of course, and brought along the “priests” as well, but it almost seems like they just set it up ceremoniously on the edge of the field of battle, celebrated their forthcoming victory and again, went into  battle in their own strength.

It amazes me to think of how it happened: they Israelites even shouted in praise that the ark was there. Their praise was so loud, it shook the ground and got the attention of the enemy. It scared the Philistines, and awakened them to their impending doom. Their solution? Fight harder.

It worked.

How?!

I literally sat here and cried after reading this. It’s just like us, friends.

I prayed to understand, because frankly, I’m sick of being defeated. Here’s what happened:  The Israelites were defeated the first time because they went out high on past victories, in their own strength and completely underestimating their enemy. When they were defeated, someone reminded them that their past victories were due to the presence of God among them, so they went back and grabbed the ark. Sadly, to them, it was the symbolism that mattered, not the reality. They went through the motions and expected that God was in it. He wasn’t … because they hadn’t spent time seeking His will and His way to victory.

The really disturbing part is how their hollow worship scared the enemy into action. The Philistines recognized something the Israelites did not: They had brought gods into the camp. Not God. Little Gs … gods. They had brought their own idolatrous ideas and plans into the camp and worshiped as fervently as they knew how. Their enemy noticed and although they afraid, their fear was based on what God had done for the Israelites. Not what the Israelites had done for themselves. Are you getting this? The Philistines’ fear led them to fight stronger and because the Israelites had a form of worship with no power, they were defeated.

This scares me, church. And humbles me. And suddenly, the continuous battles and frequent defeats make sense. Maybe it’s because, instead of truly seeking God, we’re just going through the motions. Maybe that’s why America’s church is powerless and the world is in chaos. Satan seems to be winning because he is, I’m afraid. Because we’re fighting him with gods; our own ideas and strategies are failing us. We have for so long refused to get still before the Lord and seek His face. Instead, we’ve changed the program a hundred and fifty different ways trying to bring people in, but all this time, what we really need to do is bring God back in. Not with our preconceived ideas of how things need to go, or what people want to hear. People need God. They want to hear God. Not you. Not me. They are dealing with deep calling unto deep, but we’re beckoning them into shallow church services. We’ve reduced the movement of God to a program and put Him in a box we refuse to let Him out of. That’s what Israel did. They went back for the box, but they didn’t open it up and let God do what He wanted to do (technically, they were forbidden from opening the ark, but I’m speaking metaphorically here). They were afraid it would look a little foolish, maybe. After all, they defeated Jericho by walking around the walls and shouting. They defeated the Midianites by breaking clay jars and blowing trumpets. All God’s plans, and let’s face it: it was a little weird sharing the war stories. A little humbling. They couldn’t take credit. Maybe that’s why they went out without Him. Maybe they wanted to actually look and feel like warriors instead of weirdos. How’d it work out? Defeat.

I think it’s time to stop going to war without God. Stop trying to win people to our ideologies and get back to what scripture actually says. Stop trying to make it fancy and give it to people straight. Stop worrying about if they like our worship and just worship. It’s not for them; it’s for Him. Stop candy-coating, or polishing up, the truth and give it straight. It is the truth that sets men free, not a confusing combination of cutesy anecdotes and platitudes. Our sermons have become so devoid of actual scripture, the garbage being fed to the multitudes is quite vomitus. No wonder the world can’t stand the church! God himself would like to spew us out of his mouth, no doubt!

Stop doing your thing, church. Do God’s. And if you don’t know what that even means any more, I think that’s a good indication it’s time to get on our knees and shut up long enough for God to speak. He hasn’t changed. He cannot. He will not. Therefore, we must.

Judas is Alive and Well

Published June 23, 2017 by Dawn

“Then Jesus said also unto the twelve, ‘Will you also go away?” (John 6:66-71)

Am I the only one who reads this and immediately asks, “Why didn’t Judas go then?” He had an out, and obviously no fidelity to Christ, so why didn’t he take this opportunity to turn away? I’ve spent hours studying this and I think it’s because Judas had access through his relationship to Jesus, to something that greatly benefitted him. His image, and thereby his ego: He was the keeper of the purse … and he was a thief (John 12:6).

I can’t imagine he was comfortable in his position. After all, Jesus alluded to him early on by saying that one of them was a devil (John 6:70). Did this memory ever prick Judas? Did it come to mind as he reached into the purse while no one was looking? Did he remember Jesus calling him out while he stood in the shadow of the synagogue waiting for his thirty pieces of silver?

Obviously, Judas was a snake in the grass all along. I mean, I imagine when Jesus sat down to eat with Pharisees, Judas sneered and jeered right along with them. We get a glimpse of his true colors when Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with precious perfume … Judas couldn’t imagine a bigger waste. “Why wasn’t this sold and the money given to the poor?” He couldn’t stand her devotion to Christ, but he covered his hatred with a piety that likely caused division in the room. His comment likely sowed seeds of distaste among everyone there. After all, the poor were a Godly consideration, were they not? Her humble way of honoring Christ was disputed and I can’t help but wonder if Judas leaned back at every table they supped to with his arms across his chest waiting for an opportunity to condemn the graciousness of God for the sake of the law.

Unable to shake his disapproval, Judas eventually stood in the outer court and pilfered Jesus out to the highest bidder. He was willing to deliver this man who called him friend. Why? Satan had entered him. How can Satan enter someone who is walking next to Jesus every day? All he needs is an opportunity, it seems. Judas provided that opportunity by esteeming his position and his access more than he esteemed his Lord. His rebellious nature was evident in the way he questioned Jesus instead of rejoicing with him. He welcomed Satan by refusing to submit to Christ as his sovereign Lord. To him, Jesus was a man. A man he hardly valued. Thirty pieces is a small price to exchange for eternal life and everlasting love, but Judas took it and betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Let’s pause here and notice the kiss: Judas betrayed Jesus, but still acted like his friend up until the very end. I have thought about this part all day long. How did Jesus respond to this betrayal? I reflected on it first by asking, “How would I?” My immediate response would have been to steel myself against the blow; act as if the crushing weight of it hadn’t affected me at all. As I thought about this, I realized that this approach is the place bitterness firsts digs in. When I have been betrayed, my response is to ignore the feeling of it. But the result is not what I imagine it should be: with every memory, the pain hits me fresh and I have to bury those feelings again. No, Jesus did not respond like that because such a response inhibits immediate forgiveness. To feel such betrayal is sometimes unbearable, but I have intentionally felt betrayal, to see what can be done and there’s only one thing: to cast that upon the Lord (1 Peter 5:7), or be crushed by it. I know this is what Jesus did. It’s very scriptural. He felt the betrayal wholly and then cast it immediately upon his Father so he could stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13). After casting betrayal on the Lord, His help enabled me to forgive, and I know Jesus immediately forgave Judas for hurting him because holding on to hatred is sin and Christ was without sin (1 John 3:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

As Christians, we will be exposed to the person of Judas in one of two ways – I won’t exclude the possibility that we can be exposed to both.

Firstly, we can be a Judas, loving the office in God’s house more than we love God. Loving the attention and the access more than we love and honor our Heavenly Father. We can be Judas by hating in our hearts those in the church who display any kind act toward Jesus, and justifying our hatred by drawing attention to the folly that often accompanies their efforts because God knows how to humble people. We can be a Judas by betraying Christ, or his workmen, by something as seemingly innocuous as slander or undue suspicion. God’s children do well to cultivate self-control under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, to avoid doing harm to His Son!

Secondly, we can be exposed to Judas through others. Every church has a Judas, and every individual will know one. Here, we have to lean upon the example of Christ. Jesus allowed him the money bag. His thievery was evident to all but ultimately, between him and God. Jesus allowed him to self-implode. Judas no doubt experienced deep conviction while traveling with Christ. Jesus was holy and shared a message of righteousness. Judas had opportunity to repent, but embraced his sin instead. Jesus let him. Jesus didn’t turn away from Judas’ kiss, which I am sure made the impact of Judas’ betrayal all the heavier to bear. Jesus heaped the burning coals (Romans 12:20); he didn’t respond to betrayal with hatred in like manner. Jesus defended the innocent from Judas’ charge, but he didn’t berate Judas or publicly humiliate him.

Jesus was (and is) in all ways gracious to everyone, including Judas. This means two things to us: God’s grace will forgive the Judas in us, and we should be gracious when hurt by the Judas in our lives. This much I know is true: Judas is here to test and betray us. Jesus calls him the devil (John 6:70), and the devil “has come to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). However, Beloved, Satan could not defeat Christ, and he cannot defeat those who are completely surrendered to Jesus and sheltered by the Almighty! Don’t be Judas, and don’t be defeated by him either.

In the Likeness of the Glory of the Lord

Published April 20, 2017 by Dawn

“Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezek. 1:26-28)

I read past this the other day with much difficulty. I reread it a time or two, but endeavored to move on in reading Ezekiel. Instead, though, I kept turning back to it. It was like the Lord was beckoning me to really consider what the Word was saying here. So I turned it over in my head, taking it apart word by word until the full meaning of it sunk in. You see, Genesis 1:26, 27 says this: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness … So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Always questioning my own understanding, I pressed in. “Teach me, Father, what you want me to know in this.”

Here it is: We were created in the image and likeness of God, and created to bear His glory out into a lost and dying world. We should be that rainbow on a cloudy, rainy day. We should be aglow with the radiance of God all over us. On fire from the waist up and on fire from the waist down. Surrounded by brilliant light. Sadly, I have to admit that I am often blowing on dying embers instead. I asked, “God, what will it take to be on fire like that?”

He told me … it’s not an easy thing for anyone. One must be willing to be set on fire. And when the fire of the glory of God comes on a person, it burns up everything that is not of God until that person is walking in a supernatural, consuming blaze in the likeness of God on his throne.

Many of us are willing to pay somewhat of a cost. Many of us will submit to God on one level or another. Some of us will go further than others, willingly taking on the pain of burning a little for a flame.  But very few of us are willing be completely consumed because that means complete destruction to the fleshly nature and we tend to love her … a lot. Especially in these days, because we have been led to believe that our feelings are gods. We worship so much of ourselves without even realizing it. We harbor the flesh when we should be allowing the Holy Spirit’s fire to burn it up ‘til there is no more of us left and we say, as Paul did, “Not I but Christ lives in me.”

God told Moses at the burning bush that no flesh can see him and live. The glory of God is not a trifle. It’s dangerous. You must be willing to be consumed, or not approach at all. Sadly, many of us reach a point in our pursuit where we know it’s safer to turn around than to continue forward and we turn around without hesitation, though God is beckoning us to come nearer still. He knows the cost. He ordained it. But still, He beckons us because he also knows what he can do in  and through one soul that is willing to submit in all things, walk into the blaze of glory and come out on fire from the waist up and from the waist down.

Will you be one? After all, friend, we were made in the image and likeness of God. We were made to operate in that glory. We were made to be consumed by it. Scared as you may be, don’t let fear keep you from your rightful position next to the heart of God, walking about in a radiant light in a world otherwise steeped in darkness. Cast everything else aside that has been distracting you from this one thing and kneel before the Father in complete submission. Let him rid you of yourself so you can be his hands and feet. After all, this is what we are called to. This is what we were made for. On fire from the waist up, on fire from the waist down. Ready and equipped to be the likeness of God in a lost and dying world.