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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.

Happy Freedom!

Published April 16, 2017 by Dawn

“Look, Lord, on my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed” (1:9).

I woke up the other morning with no words. Surprising, right? No words to express to my Husband, my King … no exaltations, no entreaties. No words to describe my feelings or my heart toward Him. No words even to describe my deep hurt and pain. I was numb and empty.

I’ve been pushing Him away for a while. When life hurts, I tend to do that. When I do finally speak to Him, it’s with a big pink elephant in the room because there’s nothing in my but a submissive crying at His feet and saying, “Thy will be done.” Sometimes, I have to, at the same time, push down feelings of bitterness because my hope is in the One who is afflicting me and my children.

“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come” (3:38).

It’s such an uncomfortable truth, but true nonetheless, isn’t it? I mean, you either believe the Word of God or you don’t. All that we go through is overseen by a tremendously powerful God, and some of it is good and some of it is bad. And the bad hurts. In our case, the hurt has become unbearable and every time I pray about it, God assures me He is making warriors in my home. I want my kids to be mighty warriors, but the cost is heavy on a mother’s heart. My kids are learning deep spiritual truths for themselves and I can’t save them from the breaking. Thank God He forgives my disapproving, accusatory glances.

As my children learn spiritual warfare, I try my best to teach them truths that have delivered me but it is not easy.  “Those who pursue us are at our heels; we are weary and find no rest” (5:5) … All [our] enemies open their mouths wide against [us]; they scoff and they gnash their teeth and say, ‘We have swallowed her up. This is the day we have waited for; we have lived to see it’” (2:16).

Naturally, I find myself saying, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord” (3:18).

In His faithfulness, but with such a purpose I cannot fathom the depth of, He whispers back to my screaming heart,  “Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to Him for the lives of your children who faint from hunger at every street corner” (2:19).

Bitterness will keep a person quiet for a long time, but age will make sure you don’t miss that clarion call of the Lord. How many mornings have I been awakened in the darkness of the early morning out of a dead sleep. The Father looking down at me, waiting for my to speak the words my heart refuses to utter in mutiny. He knows them already, but He bids me speak so I might be free. So many nights over the past few months, but it finally happened just this morning. I woke up wanting to thank Jesus for His sacrifice, but the heaviness wouldn’t allow me to be grateful until I had spoken my peace. I found my heart-cry in Lamentation yesterday, and it was exactly what I needed to express to my Savior:

“Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure” (5:21;22). “For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (3:31-32). “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’ The Lord Is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (3:22-26). “You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear.’ You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life” (3:57-58).

I poured forth my heart in tears this morning, weeping over time lost and lies that have bound me for so long. Finally emptied, I was able to tell Jesus how much His love and sacrifice means to me. I heard His response so clear: Today is the day Satan knew he was defeated. Do you know it? Take off your graveclothes and live again!”

Oh. My. Goodness. To be washed in freedom. Thank you, Jesus, for your life. Your death. Your resurrection. Your intercession. Your mighty ways. I love you.

 *All Scriptures from Lamentations. 

 

 

 

Self-Annihilate, for the Glory of God

Published March 20, 2017 by Dawn

“…for you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God … put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature …” (Colossians 3:3,5)

I was lying in bed the other morning in a very self-righteous state of mind, counting the cost of transactions already made with the Lord. Parts of myself I have willingly given up and submitted to the Lord, things in life I have placed in His hands and not taken back, although I may have wavered at first. Battles with self that I have won … I was thoroughly patting myself on the back and recommending myself to the Lord in what can only be described as a disgusting display of self-pride. This was my usual prayer time and the Lord was there too, bearing witness to my self-love until He no doubt had enough. He very tenderly (but also firmly) reminded me of a story in the Old Testament that wiped the smile right off my face.

Samuel anointed Saul for a specific conquest and told him to destroy the Amalekites. The men, women, children, livestock … they were to be destroyed completely. Nothing to even suggest they ever existed was to be left. He then left Saul to the battle.

“When Samuel reached him, Saul said, ‘The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.’

“But Samuel said, ‘What this is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?’

“Saul answered, ‘The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.’

When Samuel returned, he was indignant. Saul greeted him with a victor’s hello, but Samuel immediately knew something was not right. Saul boasted in his victory and paraded the livestock and even the king of Amalek around as a spoil of war, bragging that he had completed the mission God had sent him on but that was not how God saw it at all.

“Samuel said, ‘Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, “Go and completely  destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out. Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?’

“’But I did obey the Lord,’ Saul said. ‘I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag, their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.’

Samuel repeated the instructions God had given Saul, but Saul still wouldn’t admit that he had done anything less than completely obey. He was blinded by his own pride. He kept Agag as a sort of trophy for having defeated an army that was notoriously vicious and most often victorious. In the same breath, Saul defends himself and says he did exactly what God commanded and destroyed all of the Amalekites, but admits to keeping Agag alive. Um, hello Saul! Is Agag not one of them?!

In his mind, Saul was justified in keeping Agag. He also distanced himself from the sin of keeping the livestock by blaming it on his soldiers. Twice. With all authority in his hands, he shrugs off his soldier’s defiance against the orders of God. And in case that wasn’t enough to satisfy Samuel, he tells him that the best of the livestock was purposed for God anyway.

When the Lord begins to deal with us in matters of the flesh and our earthly nature, He comes at us resolutely with the command that all must die. All of ourselves that is flesh and not spirit must be given over to death so that we may live in the new way of the Spirit. Because we love Him, we zealously thrust forth everything He points out as being unholy in us and nail it to the cross we are bid to carry. We easily identify our lusts and our unrighteous inclinations. We know they don’t please him … in fact, they no longer please us either, so it’s an easy sacrifice. But if we go on in this way for long enough, God begins to deal with things we would rather He leave alone. Things we carry around as trophies, spoils of war from days gone by. We look Him in the eye and insist it will be dealt with, then squirrel it away out of sight so we can take it out when we think God isn’t looking and admire it some more.

There are things in our flesh we are  sympathetic to that we will never willingly submit to God if we are functioning in our self-will. We have to submit to His will entirely in order to see the job done correctly, or like Saul, we will kill off only the things that serve no real purpose in our lives while keeping parts of us that doesn’t please God. We might even think, in our deceptive hearts, that what we have kept will serve a real purpose in His kingdom. And it will … just not God’s purpose. It will serve earthly purposes. Devilish purposes. Never God’s.

You see, God commanded Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites because He knew the threat they posed to the kingdom of Israel. The rampant idolatry, the constant destruction and war. God wanted His people to live in peace in the land He had so lovingly reserved for them. The Amalekites threatened their peace and security, and their presence threatened their purity and devotion to God. Saul’s sympathies – or pride, as it were – endangered the Israelites for centuries afterward.

There is sin in us – deep, hidden things that when brought to light, we will defend instead of surrender – that are traitorous to us. There is treason within our hearts just waiting for the moment we sympathize with it. Things God has said must go that we have hidden away because it seems to serve a purpose, or exalts our lowly pride. We will even look at God and insist we have given over all of ourselves, put to death all the misdeeds of the flesh, while glancing back at things we know He commanded us to give up and kill completely.  We don’t realize how serious a threat these things can be. How detrimental to our faith and our walk with the Lord. God wants us to live with inner peace and joy, and we are allowing things of the flesh to rob us when all we have to do is kill those desires and inclinations in us and we would be better off for it!

Be careful what you side with in your character. Each of us should bare every part of ourselves to the Lord and let Him approve or disapprove. We will no doubt approve of things that does not please the Lord, so to be all that God desires, we must allow Him to show us what in us is not of the Spirit, and then we must immediately kill the things that displease Him, dishonor Him, or violate our witness in any way. We cannot offer to God parts of ourselves as a holy sacrifice that He has already deemed as an unholy thing. We can never pride ourselves in a job well-done, because to pride ourselves at all is to admit that the job isn’t done. When we have completely died to flesh, we will find ourselves mortified, humbled yet gloriously alive in the Spirit and a pleasure to our Heavenly Father. To become such, we must first abandon all of self to death, so that we can be raised to life in the Spirit.

“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22)

Scriptural Grace to Cure Itching Ears

Published February 21, 2017 by Dawn

“Make every effort to live at peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14)

It’s hard to understand the concept of holiness these days. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the concept of personal accountability for righteousness in an age where the message we hear is so often “all about that grace.” Or, “the grace card.” Not too many Christians know how to put grace in its proper place, and very few understand it in the context of the full scripture. This one word, this simple teaching, has become so complicated that the church is divided into those who pursue righteousness and those who believe grace covers so much that life should be lived to the fullest. Jesus died for that, after all … right?

I’ve been praying about this for a long time. Several years, actually. My pursuit of truth in this matter began with the “Don’t judge me” movement. It started when a pastor in a pulpit told a story in which he threatened a man with a tire iron for cussing in front of his son, and ended with “Don’t judge me, I’m just enjoying living in grace.” I almost puked. Somehow, we’ve allowed grace to become a canopy that covers all kinds of vile and detestable things which mar our witness and make the church unaffective. And the church is unaffective in America. It’s not growing. Instead, it’s pumping out lukewarm people who have no idea who Jesus really is, or what his death on the cross means for us.

I started to pray very fervently because at that time, although the message that has been propagated among believers did not ring true in my spirit, I didn’t know how to combat it. I was timid about confronting the lie because I don’t want to dismiss something using my own logic. I want to defeat the lie of Satan in the church with the truth of God’s word. So I asked the Lord to help me understand grace properly through scripture. Over the course of the past year or two, this message is the result of that passionate plea.

Let’s begin where the message of grace starts. Galatians 2:16 sums it up very nicely: “So we too have put our faith in Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” This scripture makes it very clear that we cannot work our way to heaven. We are justified through faith, not because of anything we did as other scriptures tell us, but because God chose us to receive this grace. We can’t earn it, it’s a gift.

Why do we worry about holiness, then? Isn’t grace enough? Isn’t Jesus’ sacrifice enough and now I can live freely as I want without fear? I have asked these questions, and I have tried living under that canopy of grace, trying not to judge myself because my spirit was averse to such freedom. I found that when I lived in such a state of freedom, sin was crouching at my door just like God spoke to Cain, and I entertained it because I felt that freedom afforded me that. The Holy Spirit, however, made it impossible to live in such freedom without conviction. He convicted me at every turn until I finally looked to God and said, “What?!”

“…without holiness, none shall see God.”

There it was again. I thought I was covered by that sacrifice at the cross, and of course, I am. But scriptures led me into a deeper understanding of that sacrifice. Hebrews 10:14 tells us that, “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” He has made us perfect. That’s the done deal. His death broke the curse of sin off our lives, making it possible for us to not live in the flesh. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Today’s Christian message is one of peace and comfort. Its aim is to make people feel good about themselves and their lifestyles. It’s self-serving and self-assuring, but is it true? What is this sword Jesus came to bring? It is the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, which is “sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This sword Jesus brought was to divide a Christian, flesh from spirit and effectively end the war between the two. It is a sword to put oneself to death in the flesh so that he or she can live in the new way of the spirit. Unfortunately, this sword also divides the church into those who will suffer to live according to the Spirit of God and those who choose to live according to their own will and desires.

You see, when we come to Christ in truth, his Spirit cuts away from us that flesh that hinders our pleasing the Father. It shouldn’t be on us at all! In fact, 1 john 3, beginning in verse 3 says, “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure … (v. 5) But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” So Jesus died to take away the sin we commit in ignorance, but when we come to him, he also changes our hearts so that we no longer lust after sinful things. John says if this is still our focus, we haven’t really had a moment of salvation. We’ve had a feel-good moment with a bunch of smooth-talking men and women who convince us of a false doctrine and lead us astray.

I was reading in 1 Kings today about a prophet who was sent to deliver a word, and after he delivered his word, he left by another way because that’s what God told him to do. Another prophet comes to him and implores him to turn back, in contradiction to the word God had spoken to him. The second prophet assured the first that God has sent him and it was okay. The first prophet listens and as a result, dies that same day because of his disobedience. Many of us in the church are in great danger of becoming like this man. We’ve heard a word from the Holy Spirit which wrecks us. We no longer desire sin and we cling desperately to Christ. But a false message is trying to compel the church into reveling in sin and accepting Satan’s clutches, all the while calling it grace. It’s a lie! Grace is the liberator, but it’s not a license to sin.

Many people feel a contradiction in regards to the message of grace and the message of righteousness. Hebrews 5:13-14 clears it up. “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” When we come to Christ, we are put to death in the flesh and born again in the Spirit. “Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’” We begin as infants in Christ. The message of salvation comes very heavily salted with the message of grace. It’s important for babes in Christ to understand grace because it keeps them in times of persecution from the devil over their past sins. Grace is a vital message. But it’s not the end-all of the Christian faith. It’s the beginning. Looking back at Hebrews, we see that we are not supposed to remain babes in Christ forever, but we are supposed to mature, just as any baby will grow into a toddler, an adolescent, a young adult and so on.

In order to mature, we have to learn to walk. This walking out in daily life the Will of the Father is the message of righteousness. We are no longer slaves to the law, but we are called to be obedient to His will. His will is that we glorify him and live according to the Spirit, not glorify ourselves and live according to our flesh. Remember, flesh is dead!

2 Corinthians 7:1 says we “perfect holiness out of reverence for God.” This righteous living is a matter of respect. Our daily pursuit of righteousness says to our Father, “I love you and what you desire of my life matters to me.”

It’s not a matter of legalism, then, to consider your own actions and to say to others, “this is not the way.” Not unlike Paul, Christians often fear that we will somehow disqualify ourselves. Paul talks about his own fears in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. He’s talking about running a race with the purpose of winning and he says that he beats his body and makes it his slave so that after having run his race, he will not disqualify himself from winning. Philippians 2:12 tells us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” So then, contrary to this present gospel of grace, a little fear and trepidation over the way we live is good and healthy. How can I say this? Because 2 Corinthians 7:10 goes on with this message: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”  We must take this fear to God, though, because perfect love casts out fear. Only in God can we be saved from this fear, but because it leads us to Him, it is a good thing. It leads to repentance and salvation. If we don’t take this fear to God, it leads us to worldly bitterness and the death of our faith.

Being a person who loves words, I began to consider all the words that are nullified by the false message of grace; that teaching that tells us no matter what we do, we are okay in God’s eyes. Here goes:

  • Temptation
  • Sin
  • Repentance
  • Forgiveness

These words mean nothing, they are completely nullified by this message. So then, we must ask ourselves, “Which is true? The bible I have read, or this message I have heard from a pulpit or read in my favorite devotional?” So many people do not trust that the Holy Spirit can teach them, and they lean too heavily on the “wisdom” of others, but we are told to consider the things we receive in light of the Word of God for this very reason: Satan is determined to deceive the saints of God, and we are apt to be deceived if we are not studying for ourselves.

Here’s the truth: Sin hardens us. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” When we indulge in sin, we allow ourselves to be hardened and when we are hardened, we reject the Holy Spirit imploring us to turn away from such godlessness.

Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them.” Why would Jesus always intercede for us if nothing we ever do is wrong? He is in ongoing intercession because we are fallible and we make mistakes, which is not the same as indulging in life as if nothing we ever do is wrong. The first is the result of our daily struggle with human nature. The second is because we choose not to battle that nature, but instead let it have its way. Titus 2:12 tells us that grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to be self-controlled, upright and godly. This is not the grace so many of us hear of. Imagine! Grace teaching us to rebuke our flesh instead of giving in to it. This is the grace Jesus died to provide.

How do we avoid this false message of grace and the trap that has been set for the modern Christian? “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God … Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature …” (Col. 3:2-3, 5). Paul tells us this is a daily death. Why should we be so concerned, and put forth such an effort in our walk with the Lord? “For God did not call us to be impure but to live a holy life” (1 Thess. 4:7).

Finally, what does the Bible say about those who preach this modern, New Age false grace? “These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom while they themselves are slaves to depravity … If they have escaped the corruption of the world by known our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning” (2 Peter 2:17-20).

“What then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin, how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6: 1-7).

Hebrews 10:26-29 says, “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. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witness. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? This message, dear friend, is a message that insults the Spirit of grace that has saved us. Choose you this day whom you will serve – yourself or God.

Through the Valley of Weeping

Published January 23, 2017 by Dawn

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”   Psalm 84:5-7

 

Oh, the Valley of Baka. It’s on every Christians journey closer to the throne. The literal translation here is “weeping.” The Valley of Weeping. This valley is the place of trial and tribulations. Suffering. Let’s consider the whole scripture here for a moment:

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you” If I can throw in a parallel scripture, Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” So then, blessed are those whose strength – their joy, or heart’s delight – is in God.

“ … whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” What does is mean to be on pilgrimage as a child of God? It means to be ever drawing nearer. Always pursuing. Not standing still but moving closer and closer to the Kingdom. I love the promise this pilgrimage comes with. “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). Our Father – our King –  promises that when we begin our pilgrimage and endeavor to be near to Him, He will close the gap by walking in our direction as we walk in His. He is so committed to us.

“As they pass through the Valley of Baka …” It’s going to happen. It’s a part of the journey. There’s a place of deep suffering in every endeavor to draw near to the Father. It’s design is two-fold: it can either cause you to turn back, or cause you to become steadfast and determined to reach the Lord. Both parties have a purpose to the pain: Satan would have you turn and flee, chasing you back into the temporary safety net of the world. But God would have you press on despite the anguish into his eternal, loving arms. This Valley awaits all of us.

“… they make is place of springs …” Your tears are collected here, according to the precious words of David in Psalm 56:8. God is aware of them and they are not wasted. You see, these springs become a place of refreshment for those who come afterward. Those who walk the way you come will be drenched with the power of the Holy Spirit blessing your pain and suffering. Your tears provide an oasis for those who will be ministered to by your testimony. “the autumn rains also cover it with pools.” Your tears combined with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit raining down on the pilgrims behind you. The Valley of Baka is not a dry place. It is a place where those who seek God have a reprieve in their suffering. Trials and tribulations come there, but there abides also in that place the precious waters of the Spirit of God, called down as you pray and trust Him in this otherwise desolate place.

“…they go from strength to strength …” As you draw closer and closer to the Lord, you experience things that test your faith. Your desire for Him. Your commitment. Your love. As you withstand the enemy’s assaults, you become strengthened. Your spiritual muscles grow exponentially, and you are stronger with each assault. You are able to withstand more, believe more. Love through more. Seek God more. It’s often bitter-sweet because it doesn’t always feel glorious. Rather, it mostly feels like abandonment. But feelings are not always true. The Word of God is true, and it is to the Word we must cling if we want to make it through the Valley of Baka into the arms of God. He has promised, “He will never leave you nor will He forsake you” (Deut. 31:6).

“ … till each appears before God in Zion.” What does it profit a man to suffer these days? We hear of a grace that doesn’t require such a commitment. We can be saved and ushered into the kingdom without all this effort … or so they say. The truth is, this “gospel” is not the gospel of the Bible, but rather a New Age lie that requires no service from Christians. It requires no obedience or repentance. It requires nothing but acceptance of Jesus. But this is not the full Word of God. It is a half-truth. Grace without pilgrimage leads you nowhere. The truth is, pilgrimage which brings a believer nearer to God will take a believer far from the grip of sin. It will make a person dissatisfied with everything they crave in the world. It will take a person far from evil desires and fleshly pursuits because the nearer you come to God, the more sickened you become of the world. Of yourself. Repentance flows in this valley, and it is all the more harder to live here. You realize what it means to be “not of this world.” You are in pursuit of “a city with a foundation, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrew 11:10). This world no longer satisfies. Your heart, becoming more and more like Christ as you journey toward the Lord, pines for the throne of God and forsakes even the will of the flesh to have the heavenly promises.

We can avoid the Valley of Baka, but to do so is to accept that we will get no closer to the kingdom of God. We can avoid pain and suffering, but to do so is to decide against spiritual maturity in favor of comfort in this life. This life that is a vapor. When put next to eternity, it’s a life that counts for nothing unless our hearts are set on pilgrimage. If we do decide to pursue the Father in this life, we must accept that anguish and tribulation is part of the journey. We must press into the side of Christ and press on despite the pain, leaving pools of mercy behind for our fellow sojourners and making head-way toward the Kingdom.

 

 

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.