God

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Man Plans While God Laughs

Published November 25, 2018 by Dawn

The Christmas tree went up last night. It’s beautiful chaos, and putting it up was beautiful chaos too. I don’t usually describe chaos like that. I don’t really like chaos … It gives me anxiety.

I know we all consider ourselves to be creatures of habit. I don’t know if anyone is as married to their habits as I am. After all, humanity glorifies marriage and I’m still single, so I think it’s probable that my habits are a surrogate. Let me explain:

My life is full of routine. There’s a system to my morning: wake up, potty break, shower (there’s a system for the shower too), lotion, dress, wake up the kids, hair, brush teeth, make-up, hot tea, walk out the door. Dishes have a system: Plates first, then silverware and cups, glass bowls, plastic bowls, pots and pan, and then anything else that sits on the counter (which is usually nothing). My life is a well-oiled machine until you throw people into the system and then I have to micromanage their existence so that it doesn’t mess up my systems … living with me sounds amazing, right? My kids think so too …

We always put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving, but this year, we had to wait until the weekend because my daughter is now a working woman. She missed Thanksgiving (I’m now an advocate for Black Friday starting on Friday), and had to work during the nuttiness of Black Friday, so we had to put our traditions off until the weekend. I made a full Thanksgiving dinner, invited the fam and recreated Thanksgiving for her yesterday. Not to put off the tree any longer, we meshed Thanksgiving with the beginning of the Christmas season in our house and dubbed Saturday “Thanksmas.” After gorging ourselves and cleaning up, we prepared to put up the tree.

I had a plan for last night, wouldn’t you know … we always go to the store and each pick out a new ornament for the tree. Then we come home, turn on a Pandora Christmas station, get out the stuff, do the tree, drink hot chocolate, and watch a funny Christmas movie (yes, it’s almost always one of three: Home Alone, A Christmas Story, or Christmas in Wonderland). Last night, we did things a little different… By “we,” I mean mostly me. That was not part of the plan.

My kids are teenagers, so music, facetime and hanging out trumps tradition. While I brought the many boxes of Christmas up from the basement, they hung out in my son’s room and ate chips and dip. While I painstakingly added volume to each individual branch and put it in its place, they played Country and Rap to drown out Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong. While I untangled the lights, fussed with the fuses and went to the store for replacements, they played basketball under the streetlights. Every once in a while a kid would pop in to see how things were going or lend a hand, but I had to talk myself out of a few pity parties as I lamented the ways things have changed this year. So many changes and none of them were a part of the plan.

When they did finally join me, it was only to hijack my phone charger and fill the living room with 90’s pop music. I must admit, I raised some eyebrows as I busted out my 90’s dance moves and sang all the lyrics at the top of my lungs. My son was unimpressed but my daughter decided to learn Vanilla Ice verbatim. They did help me put the decorations on after the lights were strung, but things are a little different than usual. Our angelic tree topper has a large green alien sitting on her shoulder … so different than I envisioned. But so like my son, who was pleased I left it.

I shared all of this because “Man plans while God laughs.” There is so much truth to this. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Similarly, chapter 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the purposes of the Lord prevail.” For a planner like myself, this is a little cringy. Situations that require me to just sit back and watch God do His thing are so hard. I know God is awesome and has great plans for us. I’ve read Jeremiah 29:11, and a slew of other verses that inspire me to trust God. And when I’m lost in adoration and worship, I can trust God with such fidelity. But in the drudgery, as Oswald Chambers liked to call it, the everydayness when life happens and there’s not an acute sense of God’s nearness, I go back to my meticulous planning and create order in the chaos as much as I can.

Last night taught me that strictly following my own plans robs me of the bliss in life. There’s not a ton of it, after all. If I had demanded they come into the living room and help, I would have had very sullen teenagers resisting every proposal or directive I made. If I had insisted on Christmas music, I would have missed belting Britney Spears, Spice Girls and the Soundtrack to Grease with my sixteen-year-old. Moments with my kids are slipping away faster and faster. Do I really want to miss out just because the alien clearly does not belong atop the angel atop the tree? I might have!

In light of this sobering reality, I reflected on life in the larger sense and I must admit that there may have been times I missed out on things that would have deepened my connections with others or added to my joy because I was so stuck on the preplanned things in my mind. I don’t think that’s how God operates. He’s the creator of  spontaneity, after all. His plans seem to thrive in an atmosphere of bewilderment and joy. He hardly ever follows logic, and there is no rhyme or reason to the way God works. Clearly, we cannot stick to our plans so religiously and expect to walk in the perfect will of God. All of our preconceived notions make God laugh because we’re dreadfully simple and He’s extravagant and wild. I want that. I want whatever God is doing. That crazy, zany, impractical thing I can’t imagine because I like symmetry and He loves coloring outside the lines. Father, teach me to love what you are doing and the spontaneity of it. Teach me to sit back and enjoy what you are doing instead of trying to make everything make sense and have a semblance of order. Help me to hear your will and follow your directions into whatever it is you have planned for my life. I don’t want to control and contain what is clearly bigger than me and better than I can create in my own imagination. Have your way. Let’s have fun in this together.

“ … as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—” (1 Cor. 2:9).

 

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Gonna Be Worth It

Published October 31, 2018 by Dawn

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

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

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

He nodded his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Conquered by God

Published August 22, 2018 by Dawn

I took a moment this morning to ask the Lord where in the Bible I should read, to be ministered to according to His will. I felt the need to go back to Joshua. I love Joshua and read it A LOT, but this morning, the Lord pointed out a group of words I had never mulled over before: “the reproach of Egypt.” The scripture, Joshua 5:9, says, “Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’” I couldn’t move past the promise of this scripture.

It was a pivotal moment for the Israelites. They were on the cusp of walking into their Promised Land. All that they had been wandering about in the desert hoping for was about to become a reality. They were about to capture the first city in the land God was releasing to them in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham somewhere around 500 years before. They were about to step into battles they didn’t even have to fight. Walk into houses fully furnished for their arrival. Settle into a land that they had never known, but had envisioned through the wistful smiles and dimming eyes of their elders. Their castles in the sky were settled into a land called Canaan and spread out before their ever-wandering hearts.

Let me set the stage a little for this verse: Moses had died and Joshua was roused by God to lead the people forward. The dust had hardly settled over the grave and God was telling Joshua, “It’s time to get up and move into the land. Prepare the people to walk through the Jordan.” I find it interesting that they wandered 40 years between two large rivers that held them captive in the desert until God was ready to make a way for them.

Three days later: the Israelites had been instructed. They had consecrated themselves and packed up. They were waiting for further direction. Joshua told the Levitical priests to pick up the ark and move forward. The people were instructed to follow the priests because they had never been that way before. Don’t miss the fact that someone else was supposed to lead them. They were not to rely on their own understanding. “Clearly, we walk forward.” No. Clearly, you follow.  The leaders of the tribes were to pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan to build a memorial with. When they all crossed, the priests moved forward and as soon as their feet were out of the water, the river returned to flood stage.

On the other side of the Jordan, they were officially in Canaan. They camped under the stars beneath the shadow of the walls of Jericho. Here, in this foreboding position, God told them to circumcise themselves. Not just their hearts, but their physical selves. It’s curious that God would lead them to such a vulnerable position their first night in Canaan and then command them to make themselves easy prey by undergoing circumcision. Encroaching on Jericho was an act of war and here they were signing their death warrants … except God had already stepped in. Every warring faction in Canaan was afraid of them, even while they were helpless. The Israelites, in a radical act of obedience, physically disabled themselves from fighting and their first week or two in the land, had to trust God for protection from unknown enemies while their bodies healed. From the start, they were utterly dependent on God for survival there.

Their obedience led to their freedom in this new place. Because of their obedience, God removed their reproach. They would not be slaves in Canaan, so they couldn’t take their slave mindset into the land. They were going to be victors in Canaan, so they couldn’t take their victim mindset into the land. They were going to see new things in the land, so they had to forget the old things. God removed their reproach so that nothing of their old life would follow them into Canaan. He removed their shame. He removed their insecurities. The men in the camp had never seen warfare, but they had been raised by a generation who had only known defeat and captivity. God had to remove that from their hearts and minds. Instead of scorning the Israelites for their past, the nations in Canaan were filled with awe and dread because they knew God was moving the Israelites in, one victory at a time.

This one verse signified that God was removing all the former shackles in their hearts and minds so they could walk into Canaan as free men in their hearts and minds so that they could be victorious. They needed to see themselves as God saw them. As Beloved. As warriors. As owners and not beggars. You see, for forty years, Egypt might have speculated that God had led the children of Israel out into the wilderness to kill them off (Deut. 9:28). But God was about to exalt this nation that had been bowed down in defeat for so long. His glory was tied up in them and He honored them so that all people would honor Him in their hearts. After the Israelites were settled into the land, all people would look at the progression of victories and be unable to deny that these were a people God loved and cared for. Before they were conquerors, they had to be conquered by God. Their obedience was an act of surrender. Their faith was set in motion. Their God was about to deliver on His long-awaited promise.

Perhaps you’re there, friend. Poised on the edge of your promise. I was reminded of my promise the other day and I’ll be honest: it really ticked me off. There was no humility as I approached God’s throne in open defiance. “I am sick of hearing about this promise! Stop telling me that just over this mountain is the Promised Land because I feel like I keep getting to the top only to find it’s not the top and I still have climbing to go. I’ve been trudging toward it for so long! I’m weary and I can’t keep getting my hopes up!”

Maybe this is why the Holy Spirit led me back to Joshua today. Clearly, there are some things in me that God needs to deal with. You too? For instance, I can clearly identify that I’m throwing shade at God for promises I’ve been waiting on a long time. Not anywhere near 500 years, but for me, it’s felt like FOREVER.

Remember the two large rivers they crossed? The Red Sea separated them from Egypt, the place of their captivity, and the Jordan kept them from their promise until God was ready to release them. God had created a way of getting these people to look to Him for everything. Their waiting period was divinely orchestrated to draw them closer to God and prepare them to have all that He wanted to gift them. Us too, friend!!

One last thing before Jericho: they had to be circumcised. They had to cut away the things God said to cut away. They had to rely on Him for healing, and not only, but for safety in their time of healing. They had to become reliant on God for everything. They had to know who gave victory. They had to know the sheltering of the Almighty in dangerous places. They had to experience the truth that victory was not on them, it was on Him. Looking back at the last few years of my life, I can easily recognize that this has been God’s purpose; to destroy the fiercely independent woman I have become and create in me a heart that relies solely on Him for everything. To remove the things that can’t go with me into His Promised Land and heal me. I can’t take insecurities into His promises. I can’t take past defeats, or fear. I can’t take a victim mentality, or any abandonment issues I’ve had. I can’t take my own strength. His glory is tied up in honoring His promises in my life and He has to fulfill His promises because He cannot lie! Your life too! Be conquered by God, friend, so He can bring  you into the Land overflowing with goodness that He promised you so long ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pharisee Within

Published August 22, 2018 by Dawn

“Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you” (John 14:37)

All four Gospels share this exchange. Peter vowed to Jesus that he would go with him to prison and even death, rather than disown him. What a friend, right? Of course, we all know what happened just a few hours later. In what must have been the scariest moment of his life – and probably the most disappointing as well – Peter watched Jesus be lead away in chains and then tormented in every sense of the word. He no doubt felt the loss of every hope he had of seeing Israel restored to God’s favor and liberated from the tyranny of Roman rule.

What exactly was Peter getting at when he said, “Even if all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29)? Furthermore, what did Jesus mean when, later in John 21:15, he asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Allow me to share what I felt the Lord laid on my heart a few weeks ago in regard to these scriptures.

There was something undone in Peter that had to be exposed and removed before he could effectively do what God had purposed him for. His question, “why can’t I follow you now?” was a foreshadowing of the hindrance God was about to uncover in his heart. When Peter told Jesus, “Even if all fall away, I will not,” what he was baring for all to see was the Pharisee within. Peter thought there was something in everyone else around him that he could never be guilty of. He thought his devotion to Jesus eclipsed that of his partners and friends. In essence, he thought he was incapable of falling in the same way everyone else was destined to do that night, per the prediction Jesus had made. Christ gently affirmed Peter’s eventual course, which Peter again refused to acknowledge his propensity toward.

Peter couldn’t avoid the falling away. He was destined for it. His weakness was about to be exposed. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). How wonderful that Jesus knew his failure before it even occurred and had already interceded for him!

I can’t imagine how painful the next few days were. Peter had to live with the guilt of his betrayal while he mourned the loss of his best friend. They had met eye-to-eye as the rooster crowed. Peter had wept bitterly knowing that Jesus hadn’t missed the sign he’d spoken of. The guilt must have been very burdensome, because when the disciples saw Jesus on the shore of Galilee after the resurrection, Peter jumped overboard and swam to Jesus while the rest of them rowed the boat back in. He was miserable, I’m sure, until he could repent at Jesus’ feet. Later, they walked side by side and Jesus said, “Peter, do you love me more than these?” I never understood that question before, but now I think I do: Jesus was addressing the original thought in Peter’s heart, where Peter thought he loved Jesus more and that was why he believed himself utterly incapable of sinning in such a way.

Peter was hurt. Ashamed. Still comparing himself, as he nodded toward John and said, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus simply said, “Don’t worry about him. You follow me.”

I believe it’s true that many Christians are really good at watching their lives and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16), and that’s scriptural. Nothing wrong with that. But I think we can also become so focused on our own efforts and our perceived goodness that we look at others and think, “Oh, I would never do that.” This attitude can be a hindrance to our ministry to love others because it’s not humble, and just as surely as Peter had to get that out of his system before he could see thousands respond to the Gospel, we will also stumble on all the things we are certain will never trip us up, until we hang our heads in shame, seek forgiveness and walk in humility among the people God has called us to minister to.

We can take heart in the fact that Jesus is never disillusioned about us. He knows what we are capable of far better than we know ourselves and intercedes for us according to his foreknowledge. He’s never surprised. There’s incredible comfort in that!

Ultimately, we must acknowledge the truth of Galatians 5:17, that the spirit and the flesh are at war and we are fallible to our fleshly nature at any given moment that the Holy Spirit is not leading us. But thankfully, there is redemption written for every failure because Jesus was victorious. He prayed for us so that we can be strengthened in our areas of weakness. God loves the humble, and these failures bring us nearer to the heart of God rather than further away, if we are willing to be guilty before him, as Joshua was in Zechariah 3. There are so many tremendous examples of failure followed by God’s forgiveness and redemption. The Christian should be relieved to know this, as the Pharisee within must be removed before God can use us like He used Jesus. Lift your head, friend, redemption draws nigh!

Conquered by God

Published August 22, 2018 by Dawn

I took a moment this morning to ask the Lord where in the Bible I should read, to be ministered to according to His will. I felt the need to go back to Joshua. I love Joshua and read it A LOT, but this morning, the Lord pointed out a group of words I had never mulled over before: “the reproach of Egypt.” The scripture, Joshua 5:9, says, “Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’” I couldn’t move past the promise of this scripture.

It was a pivotal moment for the Israelites. They were on the cusp of walking into their Promised Land. All that they had been wandering about in the desert hoping for was about to become a reality. They were about to capture the first city in the land God was releasing to them in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham somewhere around 500 years before. They were about to step into battles they didn’t even have to fight. Walk into houses fully furnished for their arrival. Settle into a land that they had never known, but had envisioned through the wistful smiles and dimming eyes of their elders. Their castles in the sky were settled into a land called Canaan and spread out before their ever-wandering hearts.

Let me set the stage a little for this verse: Moses had died and Joshua was roused by God to lead the people forward. The dust had hardly settled over the grave and God was telling Joshua, “It’s time to get up and move into the land. Prepare the people to walk through the Jordan.” I find it interesting that they wandered 40 years between two large rivers that held them captive in the desert until God was ready to make a way for them.

Three days later: the Israelites had been instructed. They had consecrated themselves and packed up. They were waiting for further direction. Joshua told the Levitical priests to pick up the ark and move forward. The people were instructed to follow the priests because they had never been that way before. Don’t miss the fact that someone else was supposed to lead them. They were not to rely on their own understanding. “Clearly, we walk forward.” No. Clearly, you follow.  The leaders of the tribes were to pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan to build a memorial with. When they all crossed, the priests moved forward and as soon as their feet were out of the water, the river returned to flood stage.

On the other side of the Jordan, they were officially in Canaan. They camped under the stars beneath the shadow of the walls of Jericho. Here, in this foreboding position, God told them to circumcise themselves. Not just their hearts, but their physical selves. It’s curious that God would lead them to such a vulnerable position their first night in Canaan and then command them to make themselves easy prey by undergoing circumcision. Encroaching on Jericho was an act of war and here they were signing their death warrants … except God had already stepped in. Every warring faction in Canaan was afraid of them, even while they were helpless. The Israelites, in a radical act of obedience, physically disabled themselves from fighting and their first week or two in the land, had to trust God for protection from unknown enemies while their bodies healed. From the start, they were utterly dependent on God for survival there.

Their obedience led to their freedom in this new place. Because of their obedience, God removed their reproach. They would not be slaves in Canaan, so they couldn’t take their slave mindset into the land. They were going to be victors in Canaan, so they couldn’t take their victim mindset into the land. They were going to see new things in the land, so they had to forget the old things. God removed their reproach so that nothing of their old life would follow them into Canaan. He removed their shame. He removed their insecurities. The men in the camp had never seen warfare, but they had been raised by a generation who had only known defeat and captivity. God had to remove that from their hearts and minds. Instead of scorning the Israelites for their past, the nations in Canaan were filled with awe and dread because they knew God was moving the Israelites in, one victory at a time.

This one verse signified that God was removing all the former shackles in their hearts and minds so they could walk into Canaan as free men in their hearts and minds so that they could be victorious. They needed to see themselves as God saw them. As Beloved. As warriors. As owners and not beggars. You see, for forty years, Egypt might have speculated that God had led the children of Israel out into the wilderness to kill them off (Deut. 9:28). But God was about to exalt this nation that had been bowed down in defeat for so long. His glory was tied up in them and He honored them so that all people would honor Him in their hearts. After the Israelites were settled into the land, all people would look at the progression of victories and be unable to deny that these were a people God loved and cared for. Before they were conquerors, they had to be conquered by God. Their obedience was an act of surrender. Their faith was set in motion. Their God was about to deliver on His long-awaited promise.

Perhaps you’re there, friend. Poised on the edge of your promise. I was reminded of my promise the other day and I’ll be honest: it really ticked me off. There was no humility as I approached God’s throne in open defiance. “I am sick of hearing about this promise! Stop telling me that just over this mountain is the Promised Land because I feel like I keep getting to the top only to find it’s not the top and I still have climbing to go. I’ve been trudging toward it for so long! I’m weary and I can’t keep getting my hopes up!”

Maybe this is why the Holy Spirit led me back to Joshua today. Clearly, there are some things in me that God needs to deal with. You too? For instance, I can clearly identify that I’m throwing shade at God for promises I’ve been waiting on a long time. Not anywhere near 500 years, but for me, it’s felt like FOREVER.

Remember the two large rivers they crossed? The Red Sea separated them from Egypt, the place of their captivity, and the Jordan kept them from their promise until God was ready to release them. God had created a way of getting these people to look to Him for everything. Their waiting period was divinely orchestrated to draw them closer to God and prepare them to have all that He wanted to gift them. Us too, friend!!

One last thing before Jericho: they had to be circumcised. They had to cut away the things God said to cut away. They had to rely on Him for healing, and not only, but for safety in their time of healing. They had to become reliant on God for everything. They had to know who gave victory. They had to know the sheltering of the Almighty in dangerous places. They had to experience the truth that victory was not on them, it was on Him. Looking back at the last few years of my life, I can easily recognize that this has been God’s purpose; to destroy the fiercely independent woman I have become and create in me a heart that relies solely on Him for everything. To remove the things that can’t go with me into His Promised Land and heal me. I can’t take insecurities into His promises. I can’t take past defeats, or fear. I can’t take a victim mentality, or any abandonment issues I’ve had. I can’t take my own strength. His glory is tied up in honoring His promises in my life and He has to fulfill His promises because He cannot lie! Your life too! Be conquered by God, friend, so He can bring  you into the Land overflowing with goodness that He promised you so long ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pharisee Within

Published August 13, 2018 by Dawn

“Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you” (John 14:37)

All four Gospels share this exchange. Peter vowed to Jesus that he would go with him to prison and even death, rather than disown him. What a friend, right? Of course, we all know what happened just a few hours later. In what must have been the scariest moment of his life – and probably the most disappointing as well – Peter watched Jesus be lead away in chains and then tormented in every sense of the word. He no doubt felt the loss of every hope he had of seeing Israel restored to God’s favor and liberated from the tyranny of Roman rule.

What exactly was Peter getting at when he said, “Even if all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29)? Furthermore, what did Jesus mean when, later in John 21:15, he asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Allow me to share what I felt the Lord laid on my heart a few weeks ago in regard to these scriptures.

There was something undone in Peter that had to be exposed and removed before he could effectively do what God had purposed him for. His question, “why can’t I follow you now?” was a foreshadowing of the hindrance God was about to uncover in his heart. When Peter told Jesus, “Even if all fall away, I will not,” what he was baring for all to see was the Pharisee within. Peter thought there was something in everyone else around him that he could never be guilty of. He thought his devotion to Jesus eclipsed that of his partners and friends. In essence, he thought he was incapable of falling in the same way everyone else was destined to do that night, per the prediction Jesus had made. Christ gently affirmed Peter’s eventual course, which Peter again refused to acknowledge his propensity toward.

Peter couldn’t avoid the falling away. He was destined for it. His weakness was about to be exposed. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). How wonderful that Jesus knew his failure before it even occurred and had already interceded for him!

I can’t imagine how painful the next few days were. Peter had to live with the guilt of his betrayal while he mourned the loss of his best friend. They had met eye-to-eye as the rooster crowed. Peter had wept bitterly knowing that Jesus hadn’t missed the sign he’d spoken of. The guilt must have been very burdensome, because when the disciples saw Jesus on the shore of Galilee after the resurrection, Peter jumped overboard and swam to Jesus while the rest of them rowed the boat back in. He was miserable, I’m sure, until he could repent at Jesus’ feet. Later, they walked side by side and Jesus said, “Peter, do you love me more than these?” I never understood that question before, but now I think I do: Jesus was addressing the original thought in Peter’s heart, where Peter thought he loved Jesus more and that was why he believed himself utterly incapable of sinning in such a way.

Peter was hurt. Ashamed. Still comparing himself, as he nodded toward John and said, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus simply said, “Don’t worry about him. You follow me.”

I believe it’s true that many Christians are really good at watching their lives and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16), and that’s scriptural. Nothing wrong with that. But I think we can also become so focused on our own efforts and our perceived goodness that we look at others and think, “Oh, I would never do that.” This attitude can be a hindrance to our ministry to love others because it’s not humble, and just as surely as Peter had to get that out of his system before he could see thousands respond to the Gospel, we will also stumble on all the things we are certain will never trip us up, until we hang our heads in shame, seek forgiveness and walk in humility among the people God has called us to minister to.

We can take heart in the fact that Jesus is never disillusioned about us. He knows what we are capable of far better than we know ourselves and intercedes for us according to his foreknowledge. He’s never surprised. There’s incredible comfort in that!

Ultimately, we must acknowledge the truth of Galatians 5:17, that the spirit and the flesh are at war and we are fallible to our fleshly nature at any given moment that the Holy Spirit is not leading us. But thankfully, there is redemption written for every failure because Jesus was victorious. He prayed for us so that we can be strengthened in our areas of weakness. God loves the humble, and these failures bring us nearer to the heart of God rather than further away, if we are willing to be guilty before him, as Joshua was in Zechariah 3. There are so many tremendous examples of failure followed by God’s forgiveness and redemption. The Christian should be relieved to know this, as the Pharisee within must be removed before God can use us like He used Jesus. Lift your head, friend, redemption draws nigh!

Bewildered Parent, Please Read!

Published July 24, 2018 by Dawn

So, I met someone …

It was most unpleasant and such as it was, I decided almost immediately that this wasn’t for me and I didn’t ever want to do it again, for sure.

My son introduced me. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening at the time. I’m a little clueless like that, but in hindsight, I understand full well what was going on, and thank God for that! Otherwise, I would have taken the whole ordeal personal for years to come.

I met my son’s … sin nature. It’s silly, isn’t it, that after years of being in youth ministry, I wasn’t better prepared for the moment when my son really came into his own. Being fully aware that we all have a sin nature, how did I not immediately recognize what was happening? How did I not immediately run to God in faith that He can deal with the sin nature? Instead, I freaked out.

I did everything within my power to protect my kids as they grew up. Fifteen years single, celibate … 24/7 mom with no other goal in life but to raise two happy, healthy, well-adjusted kiddos into adulthood. No cable, nothing but Christian music on the radio, church three times a week … I had a list of credits that made me feel really good about their future selves. Then I met someone … the inner sin nature of my unbridled and foolish teenage son. I looked at my list of self-righteous accomplishments and threw my hands up in bewildered defeat! What now, God? How did this happen?!

It was bound to happen, and I should have known that. After all, WE ALL HAVE A SIN NATURE! Turns out, I can talk about that in ministry, but it hadn’t sunk in. I was doing a lot of things to avoid what would certainly surface anyway, and needs to because here’s the truth: how can we understand grace and the depth of sacrifice Christ made for us if we never face our sin nature? Do I want my son to not see himself in light of the word of God and the truth of Christ’s forgiveness? Absolutely not! Before the cross on Calvary’s hill can astound him, he must first know his own inability to attain righteousness on his own. And I can’t take this part of his walk with God personal!

I shared this for the parents out there who are blaming themselves for their kids’ behaviors. I’m not going to say you had nothing to do with it, but you haven’t nearly the fault you hold against yourself. Sure, you see yourself in that kid. You recognize your own past and recoil. But it’s all just fodder for the revealing of a sin nature that Christ will soon destroy. Our kids cannot ride to heaven on our coat tails (or apron strings). We must allow God to do a work in them, and it’s painful to watch. Rest in this, friend: God is a good Father. He is our Abba Daddy. He’s my son’s Abba Daddy too. What He has done in us, He will faithfully do in our children. Trust Him! Pray for your kiddos and allow God to work in them. You need to let God take control while they are in your house, so you can encourage them in that transition. Don’t fight it, and don’t fight your kiddos. Love them. Guide them. Pray over and encourage them. Correct them in love. This is how God has dealt kindly with you, and your wayward kiddos need that same kind of support. Trust God to deal with the things you cannot deal with. He must become greater; you and I must become less.