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Faith is Better than Fear

Published October 19, 2017 by Dawn

It’s three o’clock in the morning and instead of sleeping, I’m thinking about the first time I conscientiously told a lie. I was in fifth grade. I even remember where I was standing when I made the decision to lie, against my better judgment. I was right outside the gym in my middle school. I don’t remember who I was talking to, but I do remember the struggle. Angel on one side, demon on the other. I bit my lip and told a lie knowing in my heart it was wrong and I shouldn’t have done it. That’s not quite the same as all the lies I might have told before, when my conscience had not yet been awakened. This lie was pivotal: I realized how beneficial lying could be to me, and the first seed of suspicion was sown into my heart.

I’ve always been a little naïve. Apt to trust others’ words more than their actions. Imagine my surprise when, at 13, someone told me that everything my dad had ever told me about his life growing up was a lie. I thought the world of my dad. He was the bravest, most daring man I knew and I loved the adventurous stories he shared of his life. Then I found out they were all lies. It crushed me profoundly. But perhaps not as badly as the lies my first “real” boyfriend told. All the time. I wanted everything he said to be true so badly, I lied to myself in defense of him until I was 20! I can’t imagine how gullible you must think me, but then again, it’s probably accurate because … I was 20 when I finally stopped believing what everyone else knew wasn’t true YEARS before.

The problem became, not my believing everything, but suddenly, I believed nothing. My naturally trusting nature became naturally suspicious of everything and everyone.

The Lord confronted me about this a few weeks ago at church. A little background here: God has given me promises. Not just me, but all of us. I take them very personal. I believe my children are His children, and when God said in His word, “I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save,” I wrote down the date He spoke this into my spirit because it was a rhema word to me. Boy, did I need it!

My son has embarked on a treacherous climb up his own mountain without me. God is training him to be a warrior and moms aren’t invited on that adventurous trip. There’s no way I could ever help my son become a man because princes fight dragons and princesses fear them. There’s a valiance that needs to be awakened in a boy that moms, in fear, can really impede. You couldn’t convince me otherwise because I’m living this truth. It’s not mere words to me.

Anyway, back to the believing thing: my faith has wavered for a while. I took my suspicion into the throne room in prayer and waved it in God’s face. He’d say something and I would get all defensive because I have learned to trust my sight much more than the words I hear – so antithetical to faith, but the world works opposite from God. He has spoken promises to me, and I have looked at the floor and angrily shaken my fist, refusing to believe. “But what is the truth here?!”

The Lord said to me while I was praying, shaking my fist, “You have been filled with suspicion, and you have questioned everything I have spoken to you. But God is not a man, that he should lie to you.”

That’s in Numbers 23:19, but it’s also been engraved on my heart since then, and this powerful truth has literally changed the battle in my prayer time. Whereas before, I would grovel at the Lord’s feet in utter turmoil because what is happening is so vastly different than what I expected things would look like (in my weakness, this does still happen sometimes), I am learning to pray boldly, speaking the promises of God into the atmosphere, reminding myself of scripture and the promises of God concerning my kids. Instead of allowing the devil to destroy my heart and mind with fear, I am pronouncing faithfully those things God has spoken. His words have become a weapon in my home, bringing peace and security into what has otherwise been the worst time of my life. I haven’t slept all week, but I have prayed powerful prayers in a place of real pain and heartache.

I might not be able to accompany my son on this long, scary trek. As his mother, I would have forbidden it. God knew that, so he took the matter out of my hands. He is raising a warrior. I would have raised a tall boy still clutching to his momma’s apron strings. However, although he’s in the hands of his Father, my prayers are with him, and I am speaking light into the darkness on his behalf:

God is not a man that He can lie (Numbers 23:19).

My children, He has promised to save (Isaiah 49:25).

No weapon formed against us will prosper, and this is not just my promise, but my son’s promise too (Isaiah 54:17).

When my son walks through the water, God will be with him. The rivers will not sweep over him. When he walks through the fire, he will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2-4)

If I raise up my children in the way they should go (which I have), when they are older they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

There are so many other precious promises in the Bible that I have begun to declare in faith because God cannot lie to me. And He will not, because it is not in His nature to do so. We do not need to regard the things He says to us with suspicion because if God spoke it, it is true. Although our feelings and our sight might disagree, we can bank on it. We may not know how, or when, God’s truth will come to pass. The timing thing is still something I am getting used to. God is working on a completely different timeframe than me and I don’t really understand it, but again, He told me I wouldn’t. God has never lied to us. His ways are higher, and His thoughts as well (Isaiah 55:8). We won’t always understand what He is doing. I promise you, though, if you begin to believe His word over your experiences, you will have peace and I believe Satan will tremble as you speak the promises of God over your circumstances.

If, on the other hand, you struggle to believe because of your experiences, I encourage you to read your Bible more. It is a record of God’s faithfulness in the lives of many other people, just in case you can’t overcome your suspicion that easily. Take your heart to God and read of His faithfulness. See if you do not experience a mighty change of opinion toward Him. Faith is so much better than fear, friend. God bless!

 

 

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Saving a Pastor Time and Money

Published October 2, 2017 by Dawn

My old job kept me in captivity most of the time. Captive to monotonous conversations I couldn’t get out of even for a phone call. I was a receptionist. I do recall, however, one of the shortest and most meaningful conversations of my life. I made an enemy in less than two minutes.

I didn’t mean to. It was really just a case of not thinking before I spoke, but it did two things: it freed me up to get back to work and delivered a gut-punch of truth I wouldn’t have muttered if I would have thought about it. After years of cultivating the precious habit, I now think before I speak (sometimes, rather than never) and usually give truth more tactfully, but this lady didn’t even see it coming.

A coworker of mine had sidled up to the counter and peered down at me while I ended a phone call. Poor lady. She was just trying to put some distance between herself and her own nightmarish conversation. But she picked me to talk to and that might not have been the best decision …

I’m not sure how the conversation started, but she was telling me about her second job. She was a social worker by day and a public speaker by … another day. Her topic: building the church. She traveled on the weekends delivering conferences on how to build the church through best business practice. My first question was pure curiosity: “People pay for that?” She bragged, “Yeah!” Then I did it. Engrossed by the idea and in the spirit of conversation, I mused, “That’s so weird! I mean, Jesus said in the Bible, ‘I will build the church.’ I can’t believe pastors pay for that!”

I kid you not.

She gave me a hurt look and without saying another word, she turned and walked to the farthest corner of the room and sat down. She gave me pitiful glances for the next half an hour and I just smiled dimwittedly at her because I had no idea how much I had hurt her ego.

I’ve been thinking about this for over a week now because for once, I finally understand why people pay for things like that. Someone told me a few Sundays past that they are seeking another church because as much as they love the one I attend, they preferred to be in a church where the youth are on fire for God. I agreed with her wholeheartedly, as that’s so important. Inside, though, it stung. I’m the youth leader…

When the Lord called me into youth ministry, I committed to God that I would never rely on gimmicks to build up a youth group. I told the Lord that day that I would simply teach the Word of God and let the chips fall where they may. I ministered for years to groups of three or four … sometimes two, and on some occasions, one. Every once in a while, the group would swell to eight, ten or twelve. Inevitably, though, I’d lose some and the numbers would go down again. Remembering that it’s important to be faithful in the little things, I have always just pressed on, teaching a message each week to whomever showed up that I had faithfully studied and prayed over all week prior. God was faithful to give me a word in due season and I was faithful to feed His sheep. I knew what she meant, though. We’re not, per se, “on fire.”

This friend’s comment, as honest and admirable as it was, hurt my pride. I went home and prayed in my closet, “God, if there’s someone else you want to move in here, please send them! I am not so proud that I won’t sit down and let someone else rock this for your glory. I wouldn’t mind being done.” I’ve been doing youth ministry for nine years.

I felt the desperation. I felt what many pastors must feel after faithfully ministering for so long to a congregation that is either dying or dead. And I finally realized that we’re all like the woman in the Gospels with the issue of blood. We’re dealing with a sickness that’s been persisting for so long, we’re desperate. We’re willing to throw money at anything that seems promising, even if it means paying someone to strategize about the carpet, the seating arrangements, the music and the length of the sermon. We’ll even trust a carnal businessman if he’s promising a positive change to the depressing state of our churches.

But, like her, perhaps our hope will not be found there. Jesus said in John 6:44 that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” Unfortunately, that means we’ve wasted a lot of time and money, and fruitless effort, trying to do something no man (or woman) on earth can do. And I think we’re a little confused about what it means to be on fire, too. We can purchase the amazing theatre lights, go for broke on our musical instruments and shout the roof down, but that’s all just hype if people don’t leave services changed. As a teacher, I have seen many students go from Wednesday night youth to Friday night dances wearing the shortest and most revealing dresses and cussing like a sailor. Undulating with the sway of human depravity and hiding behind their sheepish grins when our eyes meet. These young people are not on fire, even if they raise their hands and worship or give the most eloquent testimonies.

Dear pastors and youth pastors, please don’t waste another penny on conferences that promise to make a difference. Trust me, they won’t. I’ll save you time and money by shortening the truth to this: touching Jesus in prayer and intercession is the only thing that’s going to work. Holiness doesn’t always look like a loud, boisterous service. God spoke to Elijah on the mount in a still small voice, not in the earthquake, wind or fire. You can’t replicate the work of the Holy Spirit and get the same results Jesus got. Be faithful in prayer, teach what God speaks to you and leave the burden to God. If you are desperate, good! That just means you’ve read and understand James 3:1, which says, “not many of you should become teachers, brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

If you are afraid you aren’t doing something right as a minister, it’s okay. It’s humbling when you think about it: God chose jars of clay with hearts of stone to use to minister to the world. On our own, we are rather pitiful. We need God to infuse us. Infuse the worship and message we bring with His power and set people on fire because we can’t do that on our own. No matter how much we water down the gospel to fill the pews, we will not see people on fire for God in our own strength.

I hope this takes a load off. It does for me, at least. If you find this piece offending, I think it’s probably because you think too much of yourself. Jars of clay. Remember that. “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this extraordinary power does not come from us, but from God” (2 Cor. 4:7). God bless, friends!

 

Small-scale ministry, HUGE impact

Published September 19, 2017 by Dawn

This weekend provided a wonderful opportunity. Well, two actually. Firstly, I had the opportunity to be involved in a youth ministry event. I am always eager to be involved in such things, because I love ministry opportunities and I have been doing youth ministry for almost a decade, so I was very willing, except … the other opportunity was at the same time and it was equally exciting and important. I had a rare Saturday with just me and my son, and I sensed a need in him that some “guy time” always fixes.

I mulled it over for a while, wondering how my son would feel about sitting around in a youth leader training all day. Thinking about what an opportunity it would be and how it might steer him in a positive direction. I had high hopes! My final debate, though, happened in the prayer closet. I asked the Lord which choice was the good, and which was the best. His answer surprised me.

I spent Saturday with my son. I really felt led to put aside the world, and even the ministry opportunity, to minister to my son in his time of need. We went fishing. I even bought chicken livers for the first time in my life because he’s always wanted to fish with them. And even though he left them in my car overnight and I am still trying to get the smell out of my car two days later, I know that this decision was the best one, even though I was tempted to tend to the other ministry in my life.

Dear reader, I share this with you because I know that sometimes, we lose sight of the significant ministry opportunities we have on a daily basis to the people around us, waiting around for something bigger and better. We often chase the spotlight while neglecting to minister in the small things because we’ve been taught that bigger ministries equal greater impact. I don’t think this is true, though.

Jesus spent the bulk of his time ministering to a handful of men and women. He often broke away from the thousands to teach his disciples. After his death, it wasn’t the thousands who spread the gospel and gave birth to modern Christianity. It was just a small group of men and women who knew Christ intimately and loved him more than life itself.

Having been a youth minister for nearly ten years, I can honestly say that the crowd grows up and out, and some of them still take a trip out into the world to taste its fare. There are those who are rare gems, who stay true to the faith you teach, and they do it because they have grown into a personal relationship with God because of their close personal relationship with their parents and youth leaders. They grow to love the intimacy they knew and noticed through their personal closeness with the people who spent time with them. And probably most of that time didn’t feel like ministry or look like ministry. It just felt like quality time.

Don’t neglect the small arenas of ministry waiting for God to open big doors in your life. Be faithful in the little things. You will eventually find such great satisfaction and fulfillment in the little things, that the wait becomes irrelevant. God is always at work, friend, and if you let Him, He will use you every day. It may not always feel magnanimous, but it will always be exactly His will if you walk in obedience to Him. You will not fail to make an impact, you just may not see it immediately. Stay faithful!

Just Do It!

Published August 30, 2017 by Dawn

My friend, Jordan, is an inspiring runner. He recently told me the story of his first run. He said, “I was horrible at it … but I went home and told my mom, ‘This is what I was made to do!” He said it with what I can only assume was the same ecstatic expression his mom saw that day. He’s been running ever since. He knew the second he tried it out in middle school that he had found the one thing he was created for.

I was not born to run. I had no such epiphany. My first run, I fought back vomit as I cycled through the first step of a couch-to-5k program, trying to maintain a steady pace for thirty seconds before slowing to a crawl for two minutes. I was mostly sedentary and I’m not even sure why I started running. Oh, wait, I remember! My sister was taking some class in college that required her to run and I joined her out of sympathy. I didn’t want her suffering alone.

She quit on me before her course was even over. I quit when winter hit. At that point, I was up to running six minutes at a time, still fighting vomit because I only got to walk thirty seconds in between. It was awful.

The next spring, or five months later – I’m not sure which is a more accurate statement – I started back at square one with the couch-to-5k program because I realized that of all forms of exercise (you might call it “self-inflicted torment), I preferred the one that got me out of the house and had a constant change of scenery. A year and a half later, I am a runner. I can run miles at a time without feeling the need to vomit, and I feel stronger with each run. I take a day off here and there to give my muscles time to heal, but I run most days of the week. I haven’t lost much weight, but I have trimmed down. My eating habits have improved a ton, and I can stay awake for an entire day without gluing my eyelids to my forehead. I am no longer battling depression and sometimes, I can even laugh at a lame joke.

I was not born for running. I had no intention of becoming a runner. I just wanted to be healthy and this was the way that worked best for me. It took a lot of grit (and gritting my teeth). I have had to run through rain, run through pain and run in defiance of what I otherwise felt compelled to do (which is sit on the couch and take the rest I felt entitled to). But I am better for it. I am happy, healthy and capable of so much more than I previously allowed myself to dream.

On the flip side, the first time I read a bible story, I fell in love. I knew in my heart that they were written for me. I was eight and I read the entire, ten-volume “The Bible Story” series before I turned nine. Then I started with volume one all over again. Our collection was missing volume four, so I missed all the stories about King David until I picked up my own Bible and read it through. I was fascinated. Curious. In love. And when I talked about them with others, I had the same feeling Jordan did. I was made for this.

Some people, though, don’t feel this way. The Bible is hard to comprehend. Dull. Dry. Lifeless. Reading it is a challenge. So much so that they turn away from it altogether. They would rather read a short devo, with one scripture to ponder and a page of man’s wisdom to go with it. It’s easier. It takes just a little bit of time, and an equal amount of effort.

I’m not condemning anyone, I simply want to be an encourager. Jordan will say to someone who is not a runner, “Try it anyway.”  And so I say: read it anyway. Press in. Do the hard thing. There are treasures in the Word of God I would have never found if I didn’t read it for myself. I have read many devos and they mostly center around a selection of well-known verses. There is so much more to be found! So much more that God can reveal to us if we faithfully immerse ourselves in His Word. It will take discipline. It will make us hurt, sweat, cry, vomit (maybe not that extreme, but stay with me). Anything worth doing is going to take some effort, and sometimes, a lot of effort. Do it! The Bible is full of rewards for the faithful person who sticks with it. In the end, we come out stronger, healthier, happier … we are able to withstand the fullness of a day and even endure things we weren’t able to before. The Word of God imparts wisdom and strength. It’s vital to our spiritual health. It enables us.

As Nike famously coined, “Just do it!” Pick up your Bible and read. Don’t set a chapter limit, just sit down with it every day and read it until the Holy Spirit gives you something you have to chew on for a while before it digests. Meditate on it day and night. Pick it up again the next day. Read more. Don’t quit. Create a habit of reading the Word of God and you will find it becomes easier until one day, you will crave it. A day won’t be complete without it. You’ll plan your day around your time with God. It’s amazing what a little determination and discipline will do. “Just do it!”

 

Proper Running Posture

Published August 27, 2017 by Dawn

Finally, a full month over my knee injury, I have begun to hit the pavement again on the regular. I take in a lot of literature on running, now that I officially meet all the requirements to call myself a runner:

  • Checking the weather for tomorrow’s runs today
  • Planning my day around my run
  • Having withdrawals when I don’t get one in
  • Walking around in my workout clothes as a way to make sure I get my run in (can’t change until it’s over!)
  • Eating conscientiously because I know that what goes in has to be run off later
  • Totally “getting” the running memes – they finally make sense

There’s a ton more, but that’s my list. Anyway, that part is not important. I’ve been reading the lit lately about proper running posture. Didn’t know there was such a thing? Me neither. But now I do. There’s a proper way for your feet to hit the pavement, your legs to push off, your arms to swing, your chin to tilt and your shoulders to lift. It’s crazy when you think about it, and at first, I didn’t give it too much thought. But then I paid attention to the foot strike and corrected it. Suddenly, running was so much easier! After a while, I took the push off into consideration and noticed myself feeling more powerful during the run, and less pain after, as I grew accustomed to running in the prescribed way.

Last week, I decided to attend to my arms and chin. I took a run last Tuesday and kept my arms swinging by my sides instead of across my chest/stomach. I was running, chin up, gently swinging my arms by my sides when I felt this pain in my upper back become very acute. It was a pain that had been there for years, often the source of all my back problems. Suddenly, I was super aware of it, but right when I might have stopped running, I felt a grisly pop just left of my spine and all the pressure I often feel in my upper back was immediately gone.

It’s been a week and I have not felt it since. That’s monumental. I have felt that pressure, and sometimes pain, for years!

Paul uses the runner analogy in scripture to talk about the discipline of a Christian. That we should be aware of ourselves, one would think, goes without saying. We should be disciplined in our actions and our words, as the scripture has revealed to us the standards that please God. Holiness is important to Him (Hebrew 12:14). But have you thought about your posture while running your race?

Just as in running, in your spiritual walk, your steps are important. Where you go and how you walk before others may be the only glimpse of Jesus others see. As Christians, we are encouraged to mind our footfalls. As we become more aware of our feet, we will find that our walk with the Lord becomes easier if we let Him direct our steps.

As we discipline ourselves in our spiritual race, we might initially find ourselves running more from our own strength and power, “pushing off” just any way that seems appropriate, but if we intend to stay in the race for the long run, allowing the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to teach us how to run properly will add strength and power to our race. When we live and move and have our being in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, we will find that though the struggle is very real, it’s not nearly as painful. We can be thankful in our sorrows and suffering because we know that we are growing in the Lord and He is enabling us to be more and more impactful to the world around us as He has His way in our lives.

I noticed this past week that as I focused on the way I used my arms while running, making sure to keep them at my sides and not swinging them across my body, I was in fact using less energy to run, and immediately, the posture of my whole frame was much more erect. I had a habit of keeping my head down while running, which I knew was a running no-no, but when I started to keep my arms in place, my whole posture took a new and improved form. It seemed easier to keep my chin up, my back straight and my legs and feet in proper alignment. In the spiritual sense, we should also be aware of how we walk in the newness of life that God gives. We so often forget that we have been adopted into sonship by our heavenly King, that old things pass away and all things become new, and we allow Satan to remind us of our pasts so mercilessly. We run our race with our heads down. We avert our eyes, insecure about who we used to be, even though Jesus died to make us new!

Did you know that crossing your arms across your chest is a sign of defensiveness? Why do we walk, or run, like this? Christians, though humble, should be able to be confident. Not in themselves, but in who they are because of Christ. We should be able to walk with our chins up, able to meet the eyes of others because we are the head and no longer the tail. Drop those arms to your sides and allow your posture to improve so that others will see that you are strong in the Lord! It could be that running with your arms in their proper position and your chin up cures a lot of things you’ve been struggling with!

Dear Lord,

Help us to see ourselves as you see us. The Bible says you are able to humble us, so please show us how to walk with a confidence in you that defies Satan’s constant barrage of torment. Humble us if necessary, but help us to walk in a way that draws men and women unto you. Improve our posture, Lord. Help us to be aware of how we run this earthly race.

 

Are You a Wedding Crasher?

Published August 10, 2017 by Dawn

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:29-30).

I’ve been in four weddings, none of them my own. I have thus far only been a bridesmaid. I have always loved getting the call to attend the bride in some capacity, though one thing is always abundantly clear from the get-go: it’s HER big day. Her day. All that I did in preparation for each wedding was with “her” wishes at the forefront of my mind. I wore the dress “she” picked out, put on make-up, let someone else fix my hair how “she” wanted it. I loved every minute of it.

Each time I walked down that aisle ahead of “her” big moment, I walked next to a man “she” chose (or her soon-to-be groom, as it were) and stood where “she” wanted me in the front. I was simply there to see my beautiful friend get married to the love of her life.

One thing a bridesmaid knows (or should know) instinctively is that this day is not about “you.” It’s about “her.” Wedding etiquette might be a short list, but there are definitely a few things you don’t do:

  • You don’t wear white. EVER.
  • You don’t propose at someone else’s wedding/reception.
  • You don’t argue with the bride or groom … it’s “their” day, not “yours.”

John the Baptist used the analogy of a wedding to explain his relationship to Jesus when his disciples became concerned that Jesus was stealing John’s thunder. John simply said, in effect, “it’s not my day, it’s his.” All that John did in ministry was to point others to Jesus. His heart’s desire, and great delight, was for other people to be a part of what Jesus was doing. Everything John did was for Jesus to be noticed, loved, celebrated, etc. John knew wedding etiquette and he knew his place.

Proverbially speaking, John went down that aisle first, looking, speaking, and acting just as Jesus wanted him to. But he wasn’t the main attraction. He was simply the prelude. At this point in his ministry, this was the moment when he would have been approaching the front, stepping to the side and taking his position next to the man of the hour: the bridegroom.

I’ve never seen it done, but I’ve read horror stories of brides and/or their grooms being upstaged at their wedding. Unfortunately, some people can’t stand to be in the background. I found a group of such people as I read further on in John today. Chapter 11:47-48 tells it like this: “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

You guessed it … it was the Pharisees. The Chief Priests. A little to smug in their positions, they had forgotten their calling. You see, the Pharisees had taken pride in their positions, forgetting that they were called for one purpose: to draw attention to God. To magnify God. To exalt God. To lead people to God. They had a really hard time stepping out of the way so the Lord could have a personal relationship with His people. They upstaged the bridegroom, so to speak, and it really upset them when He tried to take his rightful place. They were afraid of losing their influence in society, their positions which had always made them feel superior to the people they ministered to, and all the finery that their position afforded them. They didn’t want to be servants, because that was too humbling. They wanted the center-stage with lights, and they wanted the love of the nation to bolster their pride.

Which are you: friend or foe? Do you live to make Jesus known, or yourself? Is the ministry God has called you to “your” ministry, or His? Take this test: if God told you to step down tomorrow and live in obscurity doing menial tasks in the church – or no tasks at all –  how would you respond? Don’t hide the truth from yourself, get real!

I believe we have to ask this of ourselves often in the ministry: what is my motive in this? Who gets the glory? If the answer isn’t Jesus, we’re not being a very good friend of the bridegroom. Our callings get us up out of the pews and a little closer to the limelight, but that spotlight isn’t ever for us. It’s to draw attention to Jesus. To direct the gaze of others to their beloved groom and watch in fascination and awe when their eyes meet for the first time. If we go beyond that, we have sinned greatly against our Friend, at the least. We may lose our position in the ceremony and be thrown out, if we aren’t careful! Take heed, and be a true friend of the Bridegroom!

Nevertheless

Published July 26, 2017 by Dawn

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

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

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

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

It was the nevertheless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Holy Father,

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

Have your way, Lord. We love you.

Amen.