Faith

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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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God of the Hills and Valleys

Published August 3, 2017 by Dawn

“Afterward, the prophet came to the king of Israel and said, ‘Strengthen your position and see what must be done, because next spring the king of Aram will attack you again.’ Meanwhile, the officials of the king of Aram advised him, ‘Their gods are gods of the hills. That’s why they were too strong for us. But if we fight them on the plains, surely we will be stronger than they.”

“The next spring … the man of God came up and told the king of Israel, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.’”” (1 Kings 20:22-23, 26, 28)

I was picking up around my room yesterday morning, and it was a rare moment where I really wasn’t fixated on anything in thought. My mind was quiet, which hardly ever happens. I’m glad it did, though, because I heard the Holy Spirit say something that I needed to hear, very clearly.

You over-estimate the devil, and under-estimate God.

It was a mouthful of something bitter I needed to chew on. The truth is bitter sometimes, you know. I was glad the Holy Spirit confronted me on this, even though in that moment, I was uncomfortable. I mean, I know my thoughts are laid bare before the Lord all the time, but sometimes, I put on a good enough front, I can even fool myself into believing I have rock-solid faith. It’s all a sham, I’m afraid. When the Lord spoke this to me, I knew instantly I had been called out on something He wanted to deal with.

I wrote it down on the whiteboard in my bedroom. I put my prayer requests on it, quotes I want to think about, scriptures that are doing a work in me … pretty much anything I need to ruminate on go on the whiteboard. I wrote this “word” down and went about the rest of my day, thinking back to it often because let’s be honest, when the Holy Spirit speaks so clearly, you know God is about to do some major work in you.

I sat down to read my Bible this morning and eventually ran into the above scripture, and recognized myself in it immediately. I think this is my problem: I see God as master over certain situations, but deficient in others. I also tend to look at the enemy in certain circumstances and immediately give him the victory in my heart because I’ve seen him victorious before. I also worry a lot when I don’t see the whole picture, afraid that God is not going to prevail in things that are truly important to me. You see, I have designated Him a God of the mountains. I have come to expect the mountains, strive in climbing them, meet Him there, but then I descend (as we all inevitably do) into a valley and immediately lose sight of God because I believe Him to be up on the hill somewhere above me.

I don’t expect God to be with me in the valleys. I don’t carry with me the faith that He truly will never leave me or forsake me, even though He said so and the word assures me He cannot lie. In the valley, I am often defeated in my mind before the battle even really begins, and because of that, I cannot see the victories until I am up on the next hill looking backward. He hasn’t failed me ever, but I often feel He is failing me because I allow my abandonment issues to rise up and cloud my vision.

Add to all of this, the fact that I give Satan credit where none is due, and I can clearly see why the valleys seem so deep, dark and troublesome. I feel alone in a place I know the enemy is lurking. He’s got a plan and before he even begins to work at defeating me, I’ve raised my hands in surrender, trembling at the thought of what he’s capable of. I get my eyes off the Lord because I don’t trust Him to truly be with me and deliver me. In my heart, I have believed that God is not God of the valleys.

Just like the prophet said, the enemy is preparing for battle all the time. We need to muster our courage, check our defenses and strengthen what remains. We need to strategize and have a plan (it’s not hard … my plan is to rely on God and see His victory!). We need to stand up and face life head on KNOWING that our God is God in the valleys just the same as He is God on the hills. I probably don’t have to tell you that in this story, He reaped an awesome victory. He will do this in our valleys too. While our enemy may be encouraging us to see his own strength and to fail in our faith, God is lovingly imploring us with His tender gaze to TRUST HIM. He is no less God in the bleak days. He is no less powerful in the darkness or storm. He is no less loving in our struggles to believe. He is God who cannot change. The same yesterday, today and forever. He is for us. He is victorious!

Our God is God of the hills and valleys!

A Word to the Elect

Published July 31, 2017 by Dawn

“The man of God said, “I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. I have been told by the word of the Lord: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.’

“The old prophet answered, ‘I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’ (But he was lying to him.)

“So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank at his house.

“While they were sitting at the table, the word of the Lord came to the old prophet who had brought him back. He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah, ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘You have defied the word of the Lord and have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore, your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors.’

“When the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him. As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was left lying on the road, with both the donkey and the lion beside it” (1 Kings 13:16-24).

The younger prophet had received a word from the Lord, was confident it was God, and shared it with Jeroboam, the one it was sent to. He fulfilled his duty to God, and when the King (Jeroboam) invited him to stick around for dinner, the faithful prophet declined. He knew that God had told him not to eat and drink there, and because he had just pronounced a judgment on Jeroboam, probably didn’t feel very comfortable staying much longer anyway. He took off without a backward glance. But then, an older man, known to also be a man of God, invited him to turn back and come sup with him. The prophet first stuck to his convictions. He knew God’s directions to not turn back or eat or drink there. But the elder prophet was more persuasive and because the younger trusted his leadership, he turned back. It was obvious disobedience to what God had spoken to him, but he trusted that the older prophet had received a true word and trusted the man. He turned back for dinner.

In the middle of the meal, the older prophet shares a true word from God: a word of rebuke and impending destruction. The younger man’s trust was misplaced in a lie and for that, he was going to reap the wrath of God.

It happened then, and still happens now. People of God have a hard time trusting their own discernment. They receive one thing from the Word of God, and another from a man of God, and refusing to trust the Spirit of God within themselves, they willfully trust in a lie. This is very evident in the church’s adulterous acceptance of New Age theology, calling itself “Reformed”, whereby the church has grabbed onto man’s understanding instead of seeking God through His word. Why? I have a hunch:

  • Reading the Bible takes time many of us refuse to give to God.
  • Understanding the Bible is hard to do, unless you allow the Holy Spirit to minister through it.
  • We’ve lost all respect for authority and most people don’t want to be taught; they just want to pretend they know it all already
  • The church is more comfortable putting together a program and sticking to it than getting together for prayer and leaving God to plan His own “thing”
  • People trust other people’s interpretations of scripture because they don’t want to spend time reading the Bible.
  • We expect our elders to be in touch with God, and feel freed from the responsibility to know God for ourselves because we have placed our trust in men.

In order to not be in error, we first must commit to our personal walk with the Lord. We cannot know God through others. We never will. We will know them, and we will know their walk with God, but we will not know God. We can be led to Him, but if we aren’t willing to take up that cross and begin a personal walk with the Lord, we are in danger of error.

Secondly, while the texts of others can certainly lead us to truth, relying solely on the wisdom of others and disregarding personal prayer and devotion will most certainly always lead us into some error. There is no man who is 100% correct about God. Everything we hear, we should always take back to the word of God and search it out like the Bereans in the book of Acts (17:11). They were considered more righteous because they didn’t take the apostles at their word, but searched the scriptures daily to make sure that what they heard was in fact true, according to the word of God.

We also must spend time with God. In His word and in prayer. We cannot hear or heed the voice of God if we are unfamiliar with it. How can we trust that what we hear is God if His voice is that of a stranger? No, we must spend personal time (devote personal time) to our Lord, tucked away in a secret place and listening intently to what He is speaking through His word and in our prayer time. God is not often silent; we are just often not listening!

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). We have much to fear, church, if we are not students of the Word and stewards devoted to prayer. These people inhabit the pulpits. They teach on TV. They have a form of godliness, but deny His power and instead work in their own. They interpret scripture to cater to the feelings of their congregants or the tide of money flowing through the church. Many have heard God in the past, and are capable of hearing Him still, but instead minister lies to a vulnerable populace. How do we avoid the snare? We must remain guarded; girded with truth, listening with ears that hear the Spirit of God, and willing to admit wrongness so that God may be proved right (Romans 3:4, for clarity on this).

“For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). I tremble at the thought. May studying the Word of God and prayer become the passionate pursuit of my heart! May it be yours as well, friend.

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.

Accidentally Running My Best

Published April 26, 2017 by Dawn

I just accidentally ran 3.75 miles.

You think I’m joking, but no … I am serious. And seriously terrified of how this is going to feel tomorrow. I don’t even know how this happened! Well, wait, yes I do. Here’s what happened:

My average run is a typical 5k. Slightly over three if I push myself, but no more than three most times. I run every other day, but mostly only three times a week. Never two days in a row. I need my heal-time.

Today, I went to my running guru, Stone. He’s the track coach at school and he works just a Stone’s throw away … see what I did there … Ha! Okay, I’ll quit.

Anyway, I asked him what his best advice was for me to transition to running every day. I told him my routine, and he suggested scaling my runs back to two miles and running every day until I can build back up to three miles on a daily. So that was my original plan when I started out today. I checked the weather on my five-minute warm-up walk and noticed it was going to rain tomorrow, and I don’t run in thunderstorms … rain ruins shoes. A light drizzle is okay, but storms are a NO. Do you see how anal I am? Now you must believe that this was all an accident!

I wavered, trying to decide whether to do two, or go ahead and do three since tomorrow was an off day. Since I’m goal oriented, I had to make a decision. I can’t just play it by ear because I’m a quitter if I don’t have a definite goal. Two or three it was, depending on how I felt at the end of two … do you see what I did there? This was the beginning of my losing control.

I ran one mile. My first is on that notorious hill that’s uphill both ways. I hate it, but it adds time and keeps me close to home. My first mile also includes “Quitter’s Hill.” This is the hill I walk almost every time I come up on it. If I can run this hill (I’ve only done it a handful of times), I can run the rest of three miles no problem. I lowered my head on Quitter’s Hill and pushed myself. I couldn’t look up because I did not want to see what was left of it, I just wanted to be over it. Halfway up it, I hear a loud, booming voice say, “You’re doing great! Keep going!” I looked up, fully expecting God to be wearing my favorite colors and waving a fan flag, but it was just a guy standing on his back porch. He said, “That hills a killer!” I laughed and replied, “Yeah it it. I hate it!” He hollered back, “You’re almost there, keep going!”

With encouragement like that, how could I quit? I waved, pushed my head back down and pressed harder into my foot falls. Finally, I crested the hill and began a slow descent. Not too long afterward, I heard my first mile on the app. Twelve minutes, eight seconds. I just kept going. My legs weren’t hurting yet, so I hit my second mile with a relish. I was really surprised when I heard my second mile time: ten minutes, twenty-nine seconds.

Guys! That’s a minutes, thirty-nine less! That’s a full minutes less than my usual second mile. This is where it happened. This is where I lost all control. I could have run forever on that high, so I pushed into my third mile with such gusto and not long afterward heard it: my third mile time. It was nine, fifty-six. At this point, I knew I had to get home but I couldn’t stop. I kept running. I ran three and three-fourths miles this evening. I didn’t mean to, but isn’t it amazing what a little bit of Christ-like encouragement and seeing victories can do to a person! It makes one lose control! In a good way!

Keep running the race, friend. Notice and acknowledge the little victories. Don’t give up, press on! And if you’re not running at the moment, be Jesus. Be an encourager. We’re all in this together. Let’s do this thing, and let’s do it well!

 

Planted in Christ

Published March 13, 2017 by Dawn

It all started with an egg carton and a whimsical fancy.

I bought a tray of 30 eggs the last time I went shopping, and after using them up, I noticed that the egg carton seemed extremely useful. I was immediately sure of what I wanted to do with it, because on a whim, I had bought flower seeds just a few days before and suddenly, I had the perfect planter to start them in. I planted a different seed in each row, putting down a little bit of potting soil before dropping the seed, then covering each one with a layer of potting soil in top. Then I watered them. I measured the water with an oral syringe, making sure each seed got the same amount. That’s more care than I’ve ever put into planting. This is the third time I’ve planted flowers, and twice before, I labored for hours over the flower boxes and tossed the seeds in prepared soil while hoping for the best. This time, I was meticulous. Every day for the next two weeks, I measured out the water the same way and made sure each had a decent amount. Remembering that April showers bring May flowers, I was liberal with it. The water soaked through the soil, the cardboard and trailed along the table. Those seeds had all the water a seed might need.

I checked my homemade flowerbed every day for two weeks, watching for a sprout. Amidst all of the brown, I noticed a tiny bit of green a few days ago. My first shoot! A closer inspection before bed revealed nine more! I excitedly said to my kids, “Look what I have grown!” Immediately, my spirit was indignant.

“What you have grown?”

Ah, pride.

The Holy Spirit reminded me of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3, “I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor…”

Clearly, it was absurd of me to claim that I had grown anything. I had put a lot of meticulous work into the process, but although I planted and watered the seed, there would be no growth unless the life God put inside it is awakened by God himself. The growth is a miracle of which I am not capable. I am literally going through the motions if God is not doing His work. I believe the same can be said of anyone who finds themselves in a ministry of any kind. It doesn’t matter how much time, energy or thought we put in to anything. If God is not in it, creating life in the midst of our efforts, it’s all in vain.

I also took notice of the amount of water these seeds needed. Every year, the beauty of spring arrives through the coaxing of an abundance of rain. Before that seed sprouts up into something unique and wonderful, it nearly drowns underground. The beautiful thing it soon will be is delicately prepared under a lot of dirt and water. The same is true for us. The beauty that God is meticulously preparing in each of us happens in place of darkness and distress, but if we are willing to accept the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in those dark places, if we are receptive to Him, we will eventually come out from beneath the load of it and show forth a beauty that could not otherwise exist.

Another thing I have learned about plants over the past few years of breeding aloes in my dining room is that plants grow toward the light. Their shoots reach toward the sun. A few days without a light source and plants wither. All other things being the same, couldn’t it also be said of us? How can a Christian expect to remain strong without a light source? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” We need His face shining on us, and we must behold Him daily lest we begin to falter, or cease to grow. Like plants, we will naturally yearn for our light source and reach for it. But there are so many distractions!

I have a Bonsai on my dining room table, and every once in a while, I have to dust it’s leaves because if I don’t, the tree cannot grow. Although it has water and sunlight, it cannot photosynthesize correctly if the leaves cannot absorb the sunlight without distraction. We Christians must also keep ourselves clean of distractions if we intend to grow uninhibited in the Lord.

There are many things in nature that mirror our relationship with the Lord. All the things He has made reveal who God is in our lives. He has taken great care so that we may know Him. Keep reaching for Him, be receptive to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and free yourself from distractions so that you may continue to know Him more. God bless!

 

Scriptural Grace to Cure Itching Ears

Published February 21, 2017 by Dawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

“…without holiness, none shall see God.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Temptation
  • Sin
  • Repentance
  • Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 10:26-29 says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witness. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? This message, dear friend, is a message that insults the Spirit of grace that has saved us. Choose you this day whom you will serve – yourself or God.