Uncategorized

All posts in the Uncategorized category

Gonna Be Worth It

Published October 31, 2018 by Dawn

The last two days, I have heard echoes of the conflict inside me from the mouth of a teenager and I have learned so much in speaking with him. I have ministered to him with many scriptures, because it’s easy to regurgitate scripture even when your heart is hurting. I have also shared my own stories of perseverance in the pain. I know too well the depths he’s drowning in.

“I don’t even know if I believe anymore. What’s the point in it? I mean, I want to but I just feel like everyone around me is having a great time with life and I am hurting. Nothing ever goes right, all joy is stolen from me right after it starts and I’m tired of it.”

Oh, boy! I said, “You seem to be in one of those moments where you’re like, ‘God! What are you doing in my life? You’re really hurting me!”

He nodded his head.

I shared with him some scriptures, starting with Psalms 72. He asked me to explain it to him. I told him that David prayed the same things. Everyone around him was prospering in life, and especially those who lived such wicked lives. David wondered at their peace and prosperity and asked, ‘What’s the point in keeping your commands, God, if I’m going to suffer so much in doing so?’

Then he went into the temple and prayed. He was reminded of the end; a time when all will reap what they sow and all that people have will blow away like dust and all that will remain is what has been done for the kingdom of God. I also mentioned that his belief in God “is not something you just walk away from because you are bitter. You can’t disown God after knowing Him as truth. You simply put up a wall of hatred and refuse to let him into your life. You lie to yourself because you feel betrayed.”

Why do we often feel betrayed? Here’s why: we haven’t properly read the Bible. Joel Osteen says God wants you healthy, wealthy and living your best life now, but that is not what the Bible says. We shouldn’t wonder at rejection, poverty, or any other suffering. Paul says we were destined for it (1 Thess. 3:3). He also tells us that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered. He learned to say, “this hurts, but whatever you want.” I reminded this kiddo of the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus was so shaken by the suffering ahead that he prayed so fervently, he sweated blood. His prayer was that God let there be another way to redeem humanity. Jesus had shared so many times that this was his whole purpose in coming to earth, but in that moment, he really wanted to back out. “Father, if there be any other way, let this cup pass from me.”

It was a bitter cup. It would take all that he was capable of giving and all of the Spirit of God inside him to get through the agony of the next 24 hours of his life. The physical torture, the mental anguish, the final death. Sometimes, God takes us to the edge of ourselves and asks us to bring Him glory there. To do His will – drink the cup – in the worst moments of our pain.

This kiddo told me, “I’ve been suffering my whole life.” I simply said, “You know, me too. It’s never been easy. But God never said it would be. He told us to expect it. Jesus said, ‘If they rejected me, they’ll also reject you.’ You have something inside of you that no one wants to be confronted with because it testifies against their flesh (John 7:7). We’re no better, but the Spirit of God inside of us pours righteousness out on us and teaches us to live a different life than we can apart from Christ. People who don’t know Him can’t stand that.”

He started talking about doing good and being good as the whole purpose in all of this, i.e. the ticket he needed to get into heaven. I said, “No, the scriptures say that if you believe in your heart that Jesus is the son of God, and confess with your mouth that He was raised from the dead, you have citizenship in Heaven. But scripture also says that if you continue to live in sin after hearing this Word, you don’t know Jesus at all, and haven’t believed anything in your heart. You’ve just made a meaningless confession. It’s not truth in you (1 John 2:3-6). If you truly believe it, then you can’t disbelieve it just because you are suffering in life. That’s a lie based on bitter feelings. God did not ever promise us wonderful things this side of heaven. He actually told us we would suffer and be rejected, just like Jesus. Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8-9), and I know that sometimes, God teaches us obedience through our suffering as well. Also, we go through things just so that He can make us more like Christ. And Christ’s main goal, aside from dying as our substitute, was to bring glory to God.”

I watched the anguish melt from his face and tears form in his eyes and I knew he had taken a hold of hope again. As the devil continuously assaulted me over the last few days, I kept looking up to find the silver lining and rejecting the roots of bitterness that were trying to take hold of me again and again. I told God how faithful He is and how grateful I am to know Him and be a part of His plan, even though it hurts a lot. I can’t wait to get to heaven and see Christ face-to-face and feel the immediate release of anxiety when Jesus wraps His loving arms around me and says, “Well done.” I’ll sweat for that. I’ll take the blows and hand back mercy and forgiveness. I’ll die to self so Jesus can live through me. When these feelings overwhelm me, I’ll go to Him and be renewed and restored, and comforted, so I can comfort others with the comfort I have received (2 Cor. 1:4). It’s gonna be worth it!  

 

Advertisements

Unfathomable

Published October 5, 2018 by Dawn

I read through the Gospels last month and I had a mind-blowing realization that I immediately knew I wanted to blog about, but then I felt really stupid because I thought to myself, “Everyone already knows this! Why are you making such a big deal about it!” I talked myself out of blogging and wasn’t able to write another thing for two weeks. Every time I thought about blogging, this topic came back to mind because in my heart of hearts, I think it’s the most profound thing I’ve received in a long time. I have decided to write the blog because I feel like I need to be faithful to the Holy Spirit, who struck me with awe over Jesus once again.

Here’s the thing: I’ve heard about and preached on the death of Christ so many times. It’s the main ingredient to any message because if your teaching doesn’t revolve around or lead back to the death and resurrection of Christ, it’s not worth much. I’ve even considered his life: did you know that death on the cross was the final death of Christ, but certainly not his first? When Paul said, “I die daily,” he was telling his audiences how to be Christ-like. Jesus died daily too. For 33 years. Well, here’s what hit me the other day: Jesus fulfilled all of the law. We’ve all heard that, right? But what does it mean?

The law had two sides; the command and the way back to God if it was broken. The Law Moses gave the Israelites was extensive. It wasn’t a list of ten. It was a couple hundred commandments and how to avoid the wrath of God if one was broken. Each involved a sacrifice for repentance. Romans 6:23 sums up what the Old Testament taught over and over again, that “the wages of sin is death.”

Jesus lived the life we could never live. The life of perfection in the sight of God. The life that pleased God, to the detriment of flesh. Jesus said no to himself in every way so that the Father would be glorified. He did what no man could do while living in the flesh. Flesh is evil. Jesus put his flesh into submission. He fulfilled the requirements of God while living. He didn’t displease God in any way. He never required a sacrifice for repentance. He satisfied the perfect will of God for mankind. That in itself is amazing!

Then, he satisfied the other side of the law. The side that required a sacrifice to be made right with God again. “He made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). The only righteous one who ever lived paid the price for sin he never committed because he loved us and knew the price was too heavy for anyone to bear. I’m so overwhelmed by this truth. You’re probably like, “Duh!” But it hits me like it’s the first time every time I hear it! I can’t believe that Christ was willing to endure such pain for me. I can’t believe He would endure the wrath of God, the unbearable emptiness of God looking away from Him, just so God would never look away from me. When God sees us, He sees the righteousness of Christ. I don’t deserve that! I deserve His wrath. I deserve eternal death and damnation. What love is this?!

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me so much. It’s unfathomable.

Doctor Recommendation

Published October 4, 2018 by Dawn

I have now gone to the chiropractor two Mondays in a row. A vertebra in my lower back had slipped and there was a visible tilt in my trunk as well as a ton of pain. I could hardly walk for an entire weekend and called the chiropractor seven minutes after he opened the following Monday. The effects of his first adjustment were immediate and amazing. But as the week wore on, I could still feel a problem. My shoulders felt really weird, there was a twinge of pain that kept coming and going between my shoulder blades, and I had pain radiating up my neck. I walked into his office for a second time the next Monday and mercifully, he squeezed me in. After my second adjustment, I was finally pain free.

My mom and I were at the gym the next day and I said to her, “You have no idea how good it is to not be in pain. I feel like I’ve been in pain forever.” You might say, “Sounds like you were really only in pain for two weeks.” That’s what it sounds like, but I didn’t mention the constant pain from tight hamstrings or the fact that this vertebra had been working its way out of place for a while. It has literally felt like an eternity. To not feel any part of my back or legs is not normal for me. I am usually very aware of my body because it’s almost always screaming at me.

The thought occurred to me that there are people all over the world who share this experience. People who feel like they’ve been hurting for an eternity and have no idea if there’s a cure or if it’s just something they have to deal with for the rest of their lives. Some of these people hurt physically, and some of them hurt emotionally. If I knew a specialist who could help them find relief, I’d tell them about it immediately. I can’t stand the thought of people in pain! I am too intimately acquainted with constant pain to leave people to suffer.

So why am I not talking about Jesus like he’s the Great Physician? I know He can heal and restore. He’s mended my broken heart, healed my deep wounds, nursed me back to life and given me newness. He saved me from devastation and gave me a testimony. He literally pulled me away from my own obsession with suicide and given me reasons to live. He’s replaced all the brokenness in my life. People should know about this! If a person with back issues asked my recommendations, I’d give them the number of my chiropractor because I have experienced his expertise and think he’s amazing. Likewise, I took a lot of emotional turmoil to the feet of Jesus and found that he is most amazing! I recommend Him to anyone based on my personal experience!

Are you enough, or what?

Published September 13, 2018 by Dawn

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13) 

I couldn’t move past this verse today. It is sweet like honey and intensely satisfying to the hungry heart. Jesus was eating with “many tax collectors and sinners,” and a group of Pharisees came to interrogate him about it.

Knowing that Jesus is God in flesh, covered in the Holy Spirit at all times, I’m sure the Pharisees always felt His righteousness when they were around him. They felt the difference between their spirits and His. They were, no doubt, acutely aware of their righteousness being as filthy rags, but instead of humbling them, it hardened them. They found Jesus sitting around a bunch of sinful people and their first thoughts were to condemn him, because finally, they had a reason to point the finger and say “aha!”

“Do you know these people?”

I imagine their sneers.

“Do you know what they’ve done and the way they do others?”

“Are you gonna hang out with this trash?”

I love how Jesus talks about the men and women around him. He doesn’t speak of them as if they are lesser or unworthy. He calls them “sick.” He acknowledged their brokenness. Their desperate need of healing and cleansing. A doctor would take them in and clean their wounds, bind up their brokenness and tenderly nurse them back to health. Then, insist they come back for treatment as often as they need it.

Before this meal, he had walked past Matthew’s tax booth, looked over at him and said, “Come, follow me.” No one in their right mind would have talked to Matthew! He was a liar and cheat. He was, with permission from the oppressive Roman regime, robbing his flesh and blood for the sake of personal gain. But to Jesus, he was someone more than that. He was the man who would later write the first Gospel. He was a man who would, later that same night, invite a bunch of sinners into his house to hang out with God in the flesh. He was a gateway to the saving power of Christ in the lives of so many people who most likely weren’t welcome in the church, the market or anywhere else in town. Jesus called him out of his sin (literally, in the act!) and then used him immediately to call more to himself.

The Pharisees represent the church. It’s evident in reading through the gospels that they were self-righteous and indignant that Christ would rather hang out with people who were fleshly and in need than those who sacrificed every worldly comfort to be counted worthy in God’s eyes. Sacrifice, though. Let me pause there: I don’t think God is displeased with such offerings. I just think that when our sacrifice makes His mercy in the lives of others a point of contention between us and Him, we must understand that God would smile more upon our mercy to our fellow man than on our staunch sacrifice that often makes us feel self-made in His eyes.

Finally, I think it’s important to consider what the last part of this selection says: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” If we are honest with ourselves, we can humbly admit that He came to call us. We are sinners. In those moments when I feel righteous, I thank God that “… those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37). Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous to himself because they could never hear him anyway, over the sound of patting themselves on the back. C.H. Spurgeon once said, “While others are congratulating themselves, I have to sit humbly at the foot of the cross and marvel that I’m saved at all.” This is the attitude of those Christ has come to call, and those He will undoubtedly reach. Such people are aware of themselves. They know they are not enough on their own. But they also know that God makes them enough through the sacrificial blood of Jesus.

Thank you Lord, for saving such a wretch as I.

Maybe She’s Born with it … Or Maybe it’s Jesus

Published September 6, 2018 by Dawn

We all know Wal-Mart can become kind of a monopoly in terms of where we shop, if we aren’t careful. It’s so easy to take that one-stop shop instead of spending half a day shopping around for things. I mean, unless you are a shopper. I am not. I hate it. I don’t like crowds, or materialistic vibes, or the depths of vanity that try to manipulate me into buying things I don’t need. I bristle at the idea of spending money on frivolous and unnecessary purchases. I also have a pretty deep rut I’m stuck in regarding most things that I like. Just last month, I spent half an hour trying to choose a new mascara because Wal-Mart did what Wal-Mart always does: the moment I finally find something I like, Wal-Mart discontinues stocking it.

R.I.P. Covergirl Exact Eyelights Mascara. I loved you more than you’ll ever know.

There I stood, eyes wide in shock and befuddlement. There are several brands, and then a gazillion options within each brand! Although I liked the Exact Eyelights Mascara, I didn’t like another tube Covergirl had to offer, so the field was wide open as to what brand I was even going to choose. I paced back and forth through two separate aisles F-O-R-E-V-E-R, reading every last package trying to figure out whether I wanted Blackest Black or Midnight. Then I had to ask myself, “Do I trust this waterproof brand to come off with soap, or will I have to scrub my eyelashes with a metal scouring pad to chip it off?” Then I found something called “primer” and I wondered how necessary that was to a good experience with mascara, in general.

Right before I succumbed to feelings of hopeless frustration, a friendly Wal-Mart employee walked up to stock right next to me and I turned toward her in desperation. She took in the sight of a haggard female reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in The Shining and gave me a hesitant, customer service smile. I melted into normalcy a little and said, “Can you help me?” Our eyes met and …

Her eyelashes were incredible!

There were no clumps, no flakes on her face, no black smudges beneath her lower lashes. Every eyelash was perfectly separated from the others, long and blackest black. I swallowed my anxiety while tears of relief leaked down my cheeks. “What mascara are you wearing?”

She walked over to it, pulled it down and began explaining that, although it’s slightly more expensive than most that Wal-Mart has to offer, it’s the best she’s found. The package had a white tube and a rose gold tube. The white one was primer, and she explained how to use it and why it was a good purchase in general. She had no idea I was already sold on this product just because I saw her wearing it, so she prattled on a bit before handing the mascara over to me. I thanked her profusely and grabbed a second one for my daughter. I should have grabbed a few more because we all know it might be the last time I see it at Wal-Mart, but for now, I have the BEST mascara in the world.

Seriously.

This is a lot like how it is when others come to us searching for something. They come desperate. Empty. Bewildered. They’ve no doubt been searching for a while – in vain – for something to satisfy their deepest needs and finally, our worlds collide, and people see that we have what they need so desperately.

Jesus.

People don’t come to Jesus because of our testimony. Our testimony helps us overcome. It’s a reminder for those hard times, so that we will keep going with confidence that the God who got us through will do it again. That’s what scripture says; “They triumphed over him [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and by the Word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11). Our testimony creates a “Cool story, bro” moment. People like to hear it, and it might give them something to think about or crave in their own lives. They might try Jesus out with hesitancy based on our testimony, unsure if that’s what they want and more prone to walk away in the trying times when their lives don’t fit the narrative we’ve created. But do you know what makes people sell out to our God? Seeing us with God all over us. When we walk, talk and act like Jesus is alive on the inside of us, we erase every measure of doubt in regards to His goodness. When people can look at us and see the effects of “Christ in me,” they will come to Him because the difference in our lives is unmistakable and beautiful and everything they wish they had. Peace, joy, love, kindness, patience, self-control. All the fruits of the Spirit of God, which cannot be emulated. They can only be purchased by Jesus and given to us in exchange for our acknowledgement and repentance. Wear Jesus, friends, and be a walking billboard for the God you serve!

 

Ten Virgins, Revisited

Published August 29, 2018 by Dawn

As I climbed into bed early last night, the Lord laid a story on my heart that promised I’d be up learning from the Holy Spirit for way past my bedtime. It was the parable of the ten virgins.

Recap for those who need it: these ten women were awaiting a wedding party. They all brought their lamps (I guess because they didn’t have electric at the time), and they all fell asleep waiting for their friends to show up. When they awoke at the sound of a wedding celebration heading into the venue, five of them were ready to go in and celebrate. The other five were mortified to find that their lamps were useless! They had neglected to prepare and had to run into town for more oil, while the party started without them. When they got back, they couldn’t get in!

I’ve always read this story with a vague understanding of what it meant. I hope I’m not the only one because that’s embarrassing, but when I read the part about the oil and being unprepared, I just took it to mean you have to be ready when Jesus comes … whatever that means. As I laid in bed listening, the Holy Spirit reminded me that in scripture, the oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit’s presence and anointing in one’s life. Suddenly, I realized what it meant to be prepared!

The Holy Spirit is a friend of fellowship. You don’t walk in with the Spirit just because you asked Jesus into your heart. You walk with the Spirit as you get to know the Spirit. How do you get to know the Spirit of God? The Word of God. Because according to John 1, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Akin to this verse is the whole of Proverbs 8, which I believe is the Holy Spirit’s autobiography. The narrator of that chapter is Wisdom, and Wisdom claims to have been with God from the beginning as well. Our spiritual wisdom is imparted through the Holy Spirit, because who knows the mind of God? The spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11). We can only know God through His Spirit, and we can only get acquainted with the Spirit of God through prayer and Bible reading.

This parable, then, isn’t an ambiguous statement about being prepared for Jesus’ return. It’s a parable that highlights the importance of fellowship with the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. According to this parable, if we aren’t prepared with the oil, we’ll miss it. We’ll be left outside the gate, which symbolizes eternal damnation.  Our time in the Word and in prayer prepares us for our eternal fellowship with Christ. If we aren’t fellowshipping with the Spirit of God now, why would we ever think we’ll be comfortable in Heaven? Because in truth, God makes flesh uncomfortable. To the point of death! If we walk in the flesh here, we’ll not be prepared for the presence and atmosphere of God. We’ll be unable to partake in His gift of eternity.

I think this parable is so important. It’s a warning, really. If you aren’t in your Word, and don’t have a strong prayer life, you will not be ready when Jesus comes to take His bride. I certainly do not want Him passing me by and telling me He doesn’t know me when I come knocking! Do you?

A Single Heartcry

Published August 27, 2018 by Dawn

A friend of mine very recently got engaged. She’ll marry into a family, with children, and reap an abundance as God promised her many years ago. The reactions have been nothing but gracious and loving; some have proclaimed God’s goodness, others His faithfulness, and still others, His miraculous abilities. Thank God, she’s about to be married!

I’m super excited for her. I’ve shared her secret anguish, holding onto a promise for so long. Having an unfulfilled desire and having to lean into God in weak moments of despair. Biting the lip and fighting back tears while others rejoice at God’s faithfulness at the altar of matrimony. Always wearing the bridesmaid’s dress and dying inside. I’ve lived there for a long time myself.

I stood in the kitchen with my 15-year-old daughter last night, making burgers and talking about heart longings. She asked me, “Why does the church make marriage seem like the ultimate thing?” I knew exactly what she was asking, even before she poured it out for discussion: why is marriage such a big deal to the church? Why do you only get validated in the church when someone’s ringed you up? Why are people so impressed by that ultimate validation of worthiness in another’s eyes?

I’ve recently been invited to join a singles’ group online, which I swore I would never do, but suddenly, it seemed like a community of believers I wanted to be a part of. They get me. The silent despair. The loneliness. The pressing in. The feeling of isolation, and being overlooked all the time. I joined and found that most of us feel this deep pain because we have fed into the lie that marriage makes us complete. That when someone else chooses us over all others, it’s because finally, there’s something about us worth choosing.

In response to the news, many have exclaimed, “It’s such a miracle!” I know that my friend will agree that God has been working miracles in her life through all her sojourn of singleness. She gave her singleness to God and He used it to the fullest. He took her places she might never have been as a married woman and mother, and used her in the lives of many children while her heart pined to hold a child of her own making. The miracles didn’t start with this one, church!

She gave her time to God and He blessed her with His presence. She was never alone. Just saddled with a feeling of loneliness because Satan knows it’s an effective way to derail a single Christian. That woman became strong in solitude, held onto God in desperation and got to know her Savior as her Husband and Friend. She’s been strengthened to know where her help comes from, should her earthly husband fail her. She’s held the hand of Jesus in dark places and He’s brought her out.

Someone else proclaimed, “God is so good!” Hadn’t He always been good? Wasn’t He good even in the trying times? Have we learned nothing from Job? God was good to this woman despite her suffering. He was good to her despite the times she lashed out in frustration during the wait. He continually did good for her, even if it didn’t feel good at the time. She’ll agree that although the wait being over is the best feeling in the world, God has always been good to her.

We have to stop glorifying blessings, Church. We need to start glorifying God. Despite our experiences, God is good. He’s always been good. He is miraculous, working in ways we can’t even perceive. There’s a world out there that’s not experiencing only wonderful things. People are broken. They need to know that it’s ok if God is the only one who sees you or calls you worthy. We do a disservice to the lost and dying world around us if we only acknowledge the greatness of God in our blessings. Wouldn’t they love to be held in the pain? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they knew how to lean into God while they suffer? Isn’t this of great worth in our walks with God? Shouldn’t we tell them? Shouldn’t we be proclaiming God’s goodness while the world comes down around us? If we can’t worship while we suffer, we’re in a relationship with God’s hands, and not Himself. Doesn’t He deserve more of us than that?

This is my #sorrynotsorry moment: we especially have to stop glorifying marriage as the ultimate “thing” in life. Especially in ministry. God used many single people in the Bible. They were not less than and they were not used less. God has given some a ministry of marriage and others a ministry of singleness. Both are precious in His sight and He can use either situation equally effectively. The church is hurting single people, it’s true. But God is holding them. For this, we can praise Him in our suffering, thanking Him that all this pain makes us cling to Him.

Be encouraged, single friends, you are being held by the Maker of Heaven and Earth. He knows your name. He’s pressed into your heartbeat and that kind of validation trumps any eye-catching moment here on Earth.