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.

Because He First Loved Me

Published June 18, 2017 by Dawn

I had a very humbling experience the other day. I was lying in bed the other morning It was really early … like, the birds weren’t even up yet. I laid there hoping for the best in terms of falling back to sleep and eventually slipped into a nap. I had this dream that the Lord was looking for me, searching deeper and deeper into the depths of this really dark pit. He finally made it to the bottom, still faithfully calling out my name. There at the bottom, he lifted up this thick covering and there I was, hiding underneath it. I looked up at him with fire in my eyes and venom on my tongue as I hissed, “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.”

I was a little kid who had lost a game of hide and seek. The Lord searched until he found me, and to my shame, when he finally found me, I was insolent and hateful. I had the sensation that this dream was a picture of Jesus. He was searching out the deepness of my heart, looking for me. I was humbled to hear myself whisper such a horrendous thing to my Lord. His gentle love in that moment humbled me greatly as I heard the Spirit whisper, “…because he first loved me.”

Being transparent seems easy for me, but I have to admit that this one was hard to even delve into for myself, much less admit it out loud for the world to know. I’ve prided myself for years … Is it okay if I get really transparent here? I might not have admitted this out loud to anyone before, but the truth is that me not being who I once was is a huge deal (to me). I took pride in it for years. Being redeemed, being transformed … I took pride in that. You will say to me, “That’s not Christ-like.” I know, friend. I know. I couldn’t help myself. I know that person, and I know myself now. I know the pit I came out of and I felt the weight of escaping it (though now I know I didn’t feel hardly anything compared to what Christ carried for me), but I felt it and the memories made me very proud to be where I am now. Are you hearing the echoes of pride as you read this? Is it turning you off? I am so sorry. I just want you to know what happened to me the other morning and to understand, you have to understand where I was at. I was proud. Of myself.

I have spent the last 8 years of my life in the arms of Christ. I have patiently bore the suffering for His name and His purpose in my life. I have not created my own way and called it good. I have remained as faithful as I can to His Will. Don’t abandon reading now … I know what this sounds like, but bear with me. I have, through all of this, nurtured this pride that somehow, I have attained “good enough” because I have strived for holiness, wrestled with flesh and maintained a firm hold on my own righteousness.

Yes, I credited God with my mouth. I thanked Jesus from my heart. What he did for me on that cross was amazing: buying me from the clutches of sin so I could pursue holiness. And each step forward, I patted myself on the back. That’s why Christ uncovered me. Because all this time, I have given credit to myself for something I could never have done on my own. There, in the secret place of my heart, I watched in horror as my child-like self hissed “I hate you” to the one who sought me, found me and pulled me out. What is there to be proud of when you know yourself like this?

That wasn’t the worst part, though. That wasn’t what did me in. Here’s what did it: He looked at me tenderly in that moment and I could see it on His face. He loved me in that moment.

Something happened. I broke. Jesus, hearing my rebellious heart hate Him, looked me in the eye with such compassion and reached for me anyway.

I don’t think I’ve ever fully understood the cross until this moment. I have spent endless hours reading the Word of God, drinking in the love story of He and Us, but the truth of it never hit me as powerfully until this moment, when His compassion destroyed my pride. I can’t even love Him without Him first loving me.  To me, that would be the easy part compared to some of the things I have been through. If I can’t even do that one thing without His help, how can I claim credit for anything?

I can’t.

Not only do I know now who I am without Him, I know fully what I am capable of. Without Him, I can do nothing. Without Him, I have done nothing. Without Him, I’m full of wickedness and a lover of darkness. I only have light because of Christ. I only walk in light and share light because of Jesus. Paul bids me to “take care lest ye fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12) and now I know just how far I am capable of falling. I am also humbly aware of just how much Jesus has done for me, in spite of myself. Not only am I ashamed of my pride, I am ashamed of my propensities outside of Christ. I thought I had a hold of righteousness, but it turns out I am fully capable of making the devil blush.

I’m in awe of Him. I am in awe of a God who can know this about me and still love me fiercely. He is all-knowing, all-powerful and I am so unworthy. Who could blame God for dealing harshly with someone like me? But that’s the incredible thing: He doesn’t.

He loves me.

Not just me, though. You too, friend. You too.

 

Dear Lord,

Your love is so incomprehensible. I can’t fathom the depths of your mercy. I am so humbled and grateful. Please continue to heal me and lighten what’s dark and forgive me. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your compassions that don’t fail. I love you … now, even from the depths of my heart, I can honestly say I love you. Thank you for your patience on my behalf. You are so good.

 

You Might Be a Bad Mom If …

Published June 16, 2017 by Dawn

I’m probably not a very good mom. Yesterday, my son reflected on himself while getting ready for bed and said to me, “I should probably stop lying. You would probably like me more.”

What was I to say to that? The truth is, his lying is a HUGE deal to me.

  • Number one: lies are bondage. If “you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)” then what good is a lie? It’s no good! How can you put people you love in bondage and for what purpose?
  • Number two: lies show a lack of respect and love. How can you love someone and lie to them at the same time? And when you lie to someone, you are basically saying, “I don’t care enough about you to be honest.” Or, you are saying, “I don’t think you are smart enough to figure out the truth, so…” I hate both of those things.
  • Number three: What would Jesus do? Well, he wouldn’t tell a lie …

I could go on. I hate lies. I’ve lived my life being lied to and deceived by people I loved and trusted, and I hate the brokenness and suspicion that resulted. So when my son said this to me, I did what came natural … being a good mom wasn’t it. A good mom might have started with, “Oh son … I love you no matter what, but –“

Instead, I said, “Son, that’s legit.”

I kid you not. The truth just popped off my tongue and hit my son right between the eyes. He looked at me incredulously and did a nervous chuckle. I then defied motherhood a second time and I swallowed every instinct to immediately apologize for it. Here’s the truth: the way he lies – the ease and surety that makes me uneasy because I’m afraid he believes himself – it does kinda hamper my affections. You know how it is, moms. You know you love your kids but sometimes, you don’t like  them. We all feel this way at some point, right?! So it was truth and I delivered it unapologetically.

He just shook his head, chuckling, and said, “Mom, I can’t believe you said that!”

I sat down on the edge of his bed and said, “Son, your lying really needs to stop.”

I’ve been thinking about this all day, praying about it, because naturally, I’m always nervous about how badly I’m screwing my kids up. I wasn’t looking to justify myself, just exploring my own lack of good parental etiquette. Instead of finding myself coming  up short, I recognized a little of my own Father in it. You see, God hits us with hard truths sometimes. He allows things to dawn on us and when we begin to sense the Holy Spirit directing change in our lives, God guides us to that change with a healthy dose of truth that He doesn’t apologize for. He doesn’t even cushion the impact. If the truth is going to set us free, it has to first illuminate the bondage and break it. Being broken is hard, but freedom … who can deny it’s preciousness? It turns out God doesn’t always function within the guidelines of “etiquette” as we understand it either. He is loving, but often blunt as well. The Lord chastises those He loves (Heb. 12:6). We live in a time where this sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s scriptural. God doesn’t always protect our feelings. He’s busy protecting our spirits and our eternities.

I think it’s important to remember that God still loves us in these moments. I love and adore my son to death. But his lying … I don’t love that at all. I could live without it and I know that this bad character trait will make his life a lot harder than life already is. I love my son so much. I don’t want to see him intensifying his own struggles by something the Holy Spirit can deal with. I want him to embrace this as an eye-opening opportunity to make a change for the better. God wants the same for His children. And the Bible calls Him a good, good Father. I guess I’m not so bad after all!

The Boyfriend Bonfire

Published June 3, 2017 by Dawn

I’ve only been in one serious relationship in my life, but it was enough. Enough to experience one of the greatest acts of liberation to womankind: the boyfriend bonfire.

No, I did not roast him. Not in the 20th century or 21st century use of the word … I did, however, burn every last vestige of our relationship outside on my lawn one night in my last-ditch effort to get him out of my mind and out of my heart.

Everything good about our relationship sleeps around the corner while I write this. For a long time, though, I kept mementos of things we did together that I wanted to remember forever in a little brown lock box. Movie tickets from our first “official” date (you know, the one someone else drove us to because we were fifteen), the promise ring he bought me (which was thrown in a fit of madness and recovered a few months later having been worked over by some car tires), pictures of us, letters between us. All the things that would have been a cute story to tell our kids if things would have worked out between us.

I did hang on to them for a really long time, hoping to share this part of my life with my kids when they grew up, but just looking at the box became unbearably painful as I tried to eradicate him from my heart so I could stop crying and move on. Opening it was a day-trip to hell.

I saw the bonfire idea on an episode of Friends years before, and seeing it work for Rachel (kind of) sold the idea to me. So, one day, I took my box outside, opened it and burned each piece of it individually on the sidewalk. When everything that could burn was burned, including the box, I threw everything else in the trash and sat down and cried my last cry over all those memories, the loss of love, and the brokenness in my heart. Then I prayed to God this one prayer that I will never regret praying and which, mercifully, He granted. “Please, God, replace every thought of him with a thought of you.” I thought about this man every second of every day. It was a self-inflicted torment that I couldn’t seem to stop on my own. But those thoughts had to be replaced by something and I wanted it to be my Savior.

I’m telling you all of this because it occurred to me yesterday that separation from sin requires this same kind of desperate act. A bonfire, if you will, of everything that draws you to that sin. When the Holy Spirit begins to deal with you about sin in your life, your responsibility is to do whatever is necessary to end your relationship with that sin so you can be in a right relationship with God. God does not appreciate a half-hearted devotion. He doesn’t want a lover who is often in the arms of the world. You cannot love both. You will hate the one and love the other (Matthew 6:24), and God says if you love the world, you don’t love Him (James 4:4). You might be able to convince yourself that you do, but it’s not an acceptable relationship in His eyes. Who appreciates being cheated on?!

There’s no doubt we love sin.  We were born into sin, and from our earliest recollection, it was wooing us. We find out at our first lie how well sin works in our favor. It guards us from discomfort, protects the ones we love from heartache, and keeps our pride intact. Don’t believe it’s true? Try admitting you lied to someone who holds the key to your job … I’ve done it and it’s awful. Ever cheated and then admitted it? Then you’ve seen the devastation on your lover’s face and hated yourself for inflicting it. Let’s face it: sin has a beautiful side and it’s easy to love. It’s easy to embrace and easy to give yourself over to it.

If we consider ourselves Christians – the bride of Christ making herself ready for her wedding – we cannot love sin on the side. Grace came to save us and purify us from sin, but God will not abide this continuing love affair with the world. We have to separate ourselves, and if it’s hard to move on because of the memories and the feelings, then we have to do something drastic … like a boyfriend bonfire.

How do we properly break up with sin? We take all the things that drum up memories or feelings for it, all the things that increase our desire toward it and we torch it on the front lawn! We turn away from those things that feed our visual sickness. We turn the knob on the radio, switch the channel, avoid the road that goes past the bars. We pause before the word comes out. We take the high road instead of the low road. You see, the Bible says that when we are tempted, God provides a way out so we can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13). We will not be tempted beyond what we can bear. We just so often choose the comfort of sin than the discomfort of taking authority in our lives.

I’ve no doubt that as you read this, the Lord is reminding you of sin He’s been trying to deal with in your habits. He’s asking you to be His, wholly. You are being wooed by the lover of your soul, but it’s time to break up with the world. It’s time to break up with your proclivity for things that displease God. And as you step away from them, as your purposefully avoid them and say no to all the things that would lead you back to sin, you should pray, “God, please make every thought that would be about this sin about you instead.” God is faithful, friend. You can be free from the grip of sin.  That’s what Jesus died for. This New Age message that tells you that you are hopeless in your sin, so thank God Jesus died, is keeping you a captive to something Jesus died to break you free from. If without holiness, none shall see God (Hebrew 12:14), then holiness is a good and proper pursuit for the Christian in love with Christ. But you can’t chase holiness while chained to sin.

If the Holy Spirit is convicting you right now, it’s time to have a bonfire. Let the holy fire of the Spirit of God burn up all the things that need to go in order for you to accept Christ as your One and Only. Do it now, friend, while the fire is hot and the Spirit is ready. You will not regret this break-up. You won’t even shed a tear.

Shut Up or Help Out

Published June 1, 2017 by Dawn

“The porch needs fixed, Mom.”

“It’s so dusty around here.”

“We should deep-clean our house.”

“Our house is such a mess.”

“The yard needs cleaned up big time.”

 

I had seriously just walked in the door after two full days of not being at home and my son bombarded me with a bunch of things that needed to be done around the house. Things that almost always need to be done around the house. No, scratch that: always need to be done because I have never done most of them.

I am one person in a house of three people.  I’m not going to say my kids don’t do anything around here, because they are decent about helping out. But with two kids, a job and a half, two dogs and no dryer, I can get busy real quick. The porch has never made it on my list of things to do because that’s a maintenance thing that I have never gotten around to. Dusting happens when things really begin to annoy me – not on the regular. The yard gets picked up before I mow, not because it bothers people. It bothers me all the time, but I have to prioritize or I will go crazy with the magnitude of need around here.

Okay, enough with the lame attempt to vindicate myself. I have a purpose and it is this: I let him ramble for a while until the anxiety really set in and then I told him to shut up or help me out. I said, “I’m not the only one who lives here and if something bothers you, do something about it! Stop waiting on me to do things because I only have so much time and there’s a lot more that could get done on the regular if someone else would kindly pitch in.”

This is a good word for the church, too, I think. The pews are full of people who can point out a million things wrong but how many get up and pitch in? There are a handful of faithful servants willing to be the hands and feet of Christ, but so much more can be done for the kingdom of God if everyone else would stop pointing out all the flaws and offer their time and effort. If you see something wrong in the church, wouldn’t it be more productive to pray about it instead of gossiping or complaining? Or better yet, step up and ask how you can help. Then put your wisdom to use instead of whispering it in vain in the form of a gripey opinion.

Don’t like the outreach methods being employed? Offer your time in that direction. Constantly complaining about the nursery workers after service or the way the church looks after its been cleaned? Do it yourself! There are so many things that could be done through the body of Christ, but so few people actually willing to do it. Of course, it’s much easier to find people if the position is lucrative and gives us a platform of some sort. But the stage is not the only place a ministry happens. What about the nursery? The altar? The youth group? Prison outreach? Feeding the homeless? Missions? Prayer groups? MOPS? There are so many opportunities within the church – so many needs – but not so many people willing to step up and help. What are you going to do: shut up or help?

Standing Outside the Fire

Published May 31, 2017 by Dawn

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

 

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

 

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

 

Dear Daddy,

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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