Christ

All posts tagged Christ

Us Against the World

Published May 17, 2017 by Dawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Kind of a Mother am I?

Published May 2, 2017 by Dawn

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

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

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

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

“Pray with me, Mom.”

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

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

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

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

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

Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me

Published December 6, 2016 by Dawn

“I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages.”

                                                                                                                -C.H. Spurgeon

 

It isn’t a gentle lolling thing, it is a tempestuous monster. Gentle things don’t slam you. Mountainous, raging things slam you. They rock you to your core, throwing you around like the mud that you are. They make you forget that you are solid.

You break.

I found this quote today while scrolling through Pinterest in search of adequate expressions to quantify the last few months of my life. I’m clinging to the Rock at this moment, aware that to let go is to drown in the circumstances. I didn’t swim to this Rock, I was slammed into it by circumstances I can’t control. At this point, I can hardly even control myself. I may be holding to this Rock, but the storm is raging and I am hanging desperately to Him while my body thrashes helplessly about in the waves.

I’m not strong, so my grip is not solid. This wave pulls me away again and again, drags me out away from the comfort and safety of the cleft, but over and over slams me into the Rock of Ages.

This storm has taken all surety. I am no longer certain of anything other than the steadfastness of this Rock and the determination to hold on to Him. I feel hopelessly tossed in all that I know or ever considered to be true excepting this one thing: I can hold on to this Rock and He’s not moving.

I feel truly blessed here. Not because of the assaulting waves of life, but because they have cast me into the only position that brings peace: I am helpless at the Savior’s feet. As I worshipped at the altar this week from a place of surrender and brokenness, telling God to be glorified in the place I have fought so hard to keep from accepting, I heard His Spirit whisper, Glorify me now. This is what is means to be blessed and highly favored.

Suddenly, His definition of blessed dawned on me and I realized that we’ve had it all wrong. Where once I saw material gain as being the epitome of God’s pleasure pouring out on us, I now see God’s adoring smile because in my brokenness, I have chosen to cling to Him. He calls me blessed because He trusted me with something so monumental. Not things, but a message of comfort from a dark place that someone else might need. God entrusted that to me. His favor is in the message that others will hear, even though right now it hurts. This storm is knocking me about, bruising me and breaking me. Tearing through my flesh and hurling me again and again into the side of Christ. It hurts, but I have found where I belong. This cut, made by a soldier’s spear so long ago, was chiseled into His flesh so that one day, I might hide there and be safe from the storms of life. Rock of Ages, cleft for me. Let me hide myself in Thee.

I am certain of this one enduring truth: we belong there. That cut was made right beneath the heart of Christ. We belong there, next to His beating heart. Its rhythm is a tonic of peace we will never know unless we’ve been pressed into His side. It’s rapturous. Paul’s injunction to glory in our sufferings never made sense until now. How can we? Suffering is so hard. To rejoice in it is utterly impossible. Unless you’ve been there, nestled under his heart, lulled by the beating of His love for you. To glorify Him then is so normal. I have found it’s all I was made for. Everything else has suddenly become a chasing after the wind. Praising Him has become a weapon of my warfare. I can be here, nestled in the cleft, and reflect His adoration back toward His loving gaze, thoroughly enraging the enemy without fear because I am safe in His arms.

Oh! Beloved of God, surrender to the waves and allow yourself to be slammed into the Rock. Cling to our Rock. He is a mighty fortress and shield. Crawl into the cleft and be sheltered. Adore our Lord because He alone is worthy of all praise. Be blessed and highly favored there. Surely you know by now that the enemy doesn’t relent. He can only be defeated. Not by you or I because we are powerless. By our great and mighty King, who delivers all who delight in Him. Find your delight in the Rock of Ages and be delivered. In Jesus’ name, amen.

My Abortion Story

Published November 3, 2016 by Dawn

It was cold outside. I don’t remember what day or month, just that it was cold. I called my dad from school to ask him to come get me because I had been sick all day and it hadn’t let up. Nauseous. On the edge of vomit all day long. I just wanted to get home before it erupted. He took me home and I slept until the next morning. I awoke as nauseous as the day before. My sister and I talked about it in whispers while we got dressed … Could I be pregnant? Was this morning sickness? By the time we were ready to go, I was green. My mom agreed to let me stay home and my sister agreed to come get me later to go to the health department.

Our plans exploded around lunchtime and I found myself waiting on my mom instead. She drove me to the Health Department in silence. I was dying inside. When the test confirmed it, we were both pretty devastated. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes. I watched it slowly go down the drain as this new reality set in.

My dad called me a whore when I told him.

I was devastated. I felt ruined. I felt the shame of every grown-up in my life. I felt the daggers of embarrassment cutting me to pieces through the eyes of everyone around me. Someone told me to face the facts, and then, in case I wasn’t aware of all of them, told me all the statistics about teen pregnancies and teenage mothers so I would know what was coming.

Hardship. Hardship was coming.

My mom said to me one day, “Why don’t you take some time and really think about your options. You can put this baby up for adoption. Or you can abort it.”

I know she was holding her breath in that moment. I squeaked in a panic, “Mom, please tell me that’s not an option. That can’t be an option.” She exhaled. “Well, I was hoping it’s not, but I wanted you to know you had options.”

But she hadn’t named them all. See, suicide is also an option. I didn’t want to kill an unborn baby, but myself? I could do that.

My life was an endless agony for the next few months. I was sick all the time, getting fatter, hating everyone, enduring their judgment and my own condemnation. Left alone to deal with it by the guy who fathered the child. It was hell.

I was going to end it. After having the baby, I was going to kill myself. I had a plan and a note. I had the resolve. I had an end in sight. The last month of pregnancy was the most hopeful month. I was ready to end it all.

I almost didn’t make it through delivery. It didn’t matter. I remember lying in the hospital room looking around while people talked and laughed, euphoric about the baby we were about to have. I was hurting so bad. Physically, but more so emotionally. My heart was breaking. Someone save me!

Someone did. It was the sweetest voice I had ever heard. Her tiny cry as they lifted her out through the incision reached into the depths of my broken soul and called forth a will I didn’t know was there. In one instant, I wanted to live for no other reason but to know and hear that voice.

And I did live on; so did my baby. But nine months later, the cycle started again. Another pregnancy he didn’t want. Another baby I wasn’t sure if I could deal with. More shame. More embarrassment. More statistical bullets shooting through any hope for my future.

I had him too. I endured it. I said this was about my abortion … I didn’t have one. I had a baby. I had two … before my high school graduation. I have lived on HUD, welfare, TANF, and I have raised two babies on my own for thirteen years. I know it’s hard. I know the shame is damning and I know about the nights you cry yourself to sleep because you are alone with thoughts nobody should be thinking. I know about the stigma and rejection. I know about the battles. I have lived them; so have my babies. We’ve all three survived.

I’m telling you this through tears. I understand not all pregnancies are planned. Some are even tragically the fault of another. But understand this: on the other side of that pain is a beautiful child who has the chance to live if only you will give it. She may grow up to love cheer and hate waking up in the morning. He may grow up with a weird obsession for cleanliness that makes housekeeping bearable. They may grow up to be the best thing that ever happened to you if you just get through this. The shame will subside. The pain will subside. The hardships make you stronger until you bust through those stereotypes and statistics and make something of yourself. Getting out from under the pressure and chaos and rejection are possible. The situations that grow you aren’t always preferable, maybe, but victory is possible. Your unwanted pregnancy is possible.

Just wanted you to know that. I love you, sister, and I pray for you and your baby every day. The world will tell you otherwise but most of them have never lived it. I have. You can do this. You’re strong enough. It doesn’t matter who fathered your baby or even if they help you raise the child. God gave that precious child to you. That baby may end up being the best gift you’ve ever received and God himself can and will help. Trust me. Trust yourself. Trust God.

 

The Message of Me

Published July 18, 2016 by Dawn

I was worshiping this morning, finally emerging from a dark cloud that had been over me for a little over a week. I’ve been joyless. This morning, while worshiping, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that the present message in the church is stealing the joy out of God’s people and making them ineffective. What message? The Message of Me.

The message that it’s all about us. That it’s all about favor and prosperity and reaping. The message that with enough of this and enough of that, we will be truly happy and our lives will be a testimony to how awesome God thinks we are. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

We have become shipwrecked in our faith, church, because we are living in a fallen world listening to a doctrine that encourages us to exalt ourselves and selfishly pray that God exalts us too. God, give me this and that. I’ve earned it. Shouldn’t my life look like I’m living for you? Don’t you care that I prosper? Prosper me!

I’m not pointing fingers. I’ve been listening and taking this message to heart for a really long time. I am about to take my new car on a very long roadtrip down to Florida for my first family vacation! God is prospering us, and for this I prayed. I don’t dispute Jeremiah 29:11 because I like it, and I like when God gives favor to His people.

But I’m also lacking joy most of the time.

The Holy Spirit said to me, “How can you say ‘He must increase, and I must decrease’ if you are always asking God to make much of you? To exult your present circumstances. You have it backwards.”

We have no lasting joy or peace, church, because we expect our circumstances to be indicative of how God feels about us. Bad day? “God, did I do something wrong?” Bad week? “God, what did I do? Just tell me!” Bad month? “God, please! I love you! I’m sorry! Whatever it was, I’m so sorry!!” Bad year or years? “God. Hates. Me.”

Let me tell you something true: God loves you. You will, like Paul, know both plenty and want, and in both of these times, God will still love you. He is crazy about you. He loves you so much that, before you were conceived and had done neither right nor wrong, He sent Jesus to redeem you back to Himself because He loves you. We live in a fallen, war-torn world and every day that we live, Satan is attacking us and accusing us before our Father. Read Zechariah 3, when Satan accused Joshua before the Lord. Joshua was guilty by all accounts, but Jesus stood and said, “The Lord rebuke you! … Is he not a branch plucked from the fire?”

God loves you. Your circumstances merely reflect the living here. The days of plenty remind us of God’s goodness and the days of want remind us who our source is and where our hope lies. This is truth worth rejoicing! Neither height nor depth, present nor future, angels nor demons, life nor death … nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of Christ. We have to know this, church, because perilous times have come and are coming still. They will touch us. Not because God hates us, but because we are His and darkness must reign a bit. We must find joy in something more solid and enduring than our circumstances. Throw any other Gospel out the window. It’s trash, and the Bible says that such doctrine will lead you astray.

 

 

Step Into the Water

Published July 17, 2016 by Dawn

I hate swimming in pools. I did get into one the other day, because this is something I truly wish I could be free in, but it’s really hard for me to have a good time thinking about all the bodies in that water. Bodies that get dirty, sweat and … do other unmentionable things. In the water. And when I get in, that water is touching me. Every part of me. Just thinking about it makes me almost throw up in my mouth. Do you know what pool is short for? Cesspool. And that is not a joke.

For the same reason, I also hate lakes. I like swimming in rivers, as long as I can’t see people swimming up-stream from me. I do hope to swim in the ocean in a few weeks, which is why I braved the swimming pool … to overcome my phobia so I don’t miss out on swimming in the ocean when we go to Florida in a few weeks. I want to enjoy my first adult vacation, which will also be my kids’ first vacation.

I’ll bet you’re wondering where all of this is going? Just this: I stepped out into the sea of humanity, just me and Jesus, and went to a concert. That’s no big deal; I go places, just me and Jesus, all the time. The amazing thing happened while I was there. I felt that familiar anxiety come on of wanting to run home and enjoy my isolation, snuggled under the blankets. “What do Danny Gokey and Johnny Diaz have that I can’t get from Jesus on my own at home?” Instead of running, I stopped and prayed. “God, what is it that I suddenly feel so vulnerable to? Why do I want to run again? God, what are you wanting to do in this moment?”

See, I am finally catching on to Satan’s tactics. I run. A lot. From anything uncomfortable. From anything that might require more of me than I feel confident I can give. And even when I don’t run, I push away until I’m alone again. I can deal with aloneness. It’s not lonely to me. It’s safe. It’s nice. I enjoy my own company, and I can sit for hours with my own thoughts. I’m a writer. This seems like a prerequisite …

Anyway, God answered my prayer yesterday by directing me to go back to the concert and approach a ministry about something very specific that He wanted to do for them. Something I have been equipped to help in. So I did. And I saw God move mightily in something He had been preparing all of our hearts for, for quite a while.

As I sat next to this group of women during the concert, the Holy Spirit said something so profound to me: You’re in the sea of humanity. You’ve stepped into the water. Come out of your comfort zone and allowed God to work through you because of your obedience. You have prayed for years, begging God to show you how you can walk in His purpose and His will, but you’ve been hiding. You can’t work out God’s will in your life tucked safely away at home. You have to step into the water. Step into the sea of humanity. Because it’s there that God’s work must be done. He can’t use someone to rescue people who will not get in over their head. That’s where the drowning and dying are.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you like sitting on your couch listening to itunes and singing your heart out to Jesus, just the two of you. But don’t like being around others because you feel lost, scared, hated, misunderstood, or just plain awkward. Maybe you have this vision of ministry that is burning you up inside because you’re thirty and it just isn’t happening yet. Listen up:

STEP INTO THE WATER!

Step into the sea of humanity. Release your anxiety. Look at the Lord and say to Him, “Now what?” Be free there until He directs you to move. But get in there! If you want to see people saved, you have to get out there and be around people. Stop hiding! Stop running!

STEP INTO THE WATER!

Idols in the Throneroom

Published January 27, 2016 by Dawn

I was immersed in worship the other day, exalting the Lord and asking him to take his place on the throne in my heart and mind. Lately, I have been distracted by many things, and even bitter about a few, and giving things way too much time and attention. Exalting them above the Lord, as it turns out when you allow your focus to make something in your life so much bigger than God. So in my worship, I was urging the Lord to take back his rightful place in my heart, and he showed me something that grieved me: it was Jesus, walking a thin path through broken and torn down idols to get to his throne.

There’s only one place for an idol to go in our lives, and that’s straight to the throne room. There, it competes with other things to become our number one priority. If we aren’t careful, the throne room of our hearts, made to be inhabited by Christ himself, is full of other useless things. It begins to look more like a storage room than a throne room. And we ask Jesus continually to wade through our filth to take his rightful place …

 

Lord,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry there is so much in me that clutters my heart and makes it uninviting. I’m sorry you have to wade through all these other things that I have given my devotion to. I’m sorry your throne is there, among the ruins of my wants, reminding you of my wanderings. And I’ve asked you to come in and take your place, but not taken the time to clean out my heart first. Now I find myself in the awkward position of asking you to help me, to remove these idols and destroy them, knowing you are gracious enough to do it, but humiliated that you must because without you, I can’t. You’re so precious, Lord. So longsuffering. So loving and kind. There is truly none like you. Let me love you with all of my heart, Lord, not just the empty spaces between these idols.