holiness

All posts tagged holiness

Us Against the World

Published May 17, 2017 by Dawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Likeness of the Glory of the Lord

Published April 20, 2017 by Dawn

“Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezek. 1:26-28)

I read past this the other day with much difficulty. I reread it a time or two, but endeavored to move on in reading Ezekiel. Instead, though, I kept turning back to it. It was like the Lord was beckoning me to really consider what the Word was saying here. So I turned it over in my head, taking it apart word by word until the full meaning of it sunk in. You see, Genesis 1:26, 27 says this: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness … So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Always questioning my own understanding, I pressed in. “Teach me, Father, what you want me to know in this.”

Here it is: We were created in the image and likeness of God, and created to bear His glory out into a lost and dying world. We should be that rainbow on a cloudy, rainy day. We should be aglow with the radiance of God all over us. On fire from the waist up and on fire from the waist down. Surrounded by brilliant light. Sadly, I have to admit that I am often blowing on dying embers instead. I asked, “God, what will it take to be on fire like that?”

He told me … it’s not an easy thing for anyone. One must be willing to be set on fire. And when the fire of the glory of God comes on a person, it burns up everything that is not of God until that person is walking in a supernatural, consuming blaze in the likeness of God on his throne.

Many of us are willing to pay somewhat of a cost. Many of us will submit to God on one level or another. Some of us will go further than others, willingly taking on the pain of burning a little for a flame.  But very few of us are willing be completely consumed because that means complete destruction to the fleshly nature and we tend to love her … a lot. Especially in these days, because we have been led to believe that our feelings are gods. We worship so much of ourselves without even realizing it. We harbor the flesh when we should be allowing the Holy Spirit’s fire to burn it up ‘til there is no more of us left and we say, as Paul did, “Not I but Christ lives in me.”

God told Moses at the burning bush that no flesh can see him and live. The glory of God is not a trifle. It’s dangerous. You must be willing to be consumed, or not approach at all. Sadly, many of us reach a point in our pursuit where we know it’s safer to turn around than to continue forward and we turn around without hesitation, though God is beckoning us to come nearer still. He knows the cost. He ordained it. But still, He beckons us because he also knows what he can do in  and through one soul that is willing to submit in all things, walk into the blaze of glory and come out on fire from the waist up and from the waist down.

Will you be one? After all, friend, we were made in the image and likeness of God. We were made to operate in that glory. We were made to be consumed by it. Scared as you may be, don’t let fear keep you from your rightful position next to the heart of God, walking about in a radiant light in a world otherwise steeped in darkness. Cast everything else aside that has been distracting you from this one thing and kneel before the Father in complete submission. Let him rid you of yourself so you can be his hands and feet. After all, this is what we are called to. This is what we were made for. On fire from the waist up, on fire from the waist down. Ready and equipped to be the likeness of God in a lost and dying world.

Grace

Published July 16, 2016 by Dawn

I’ve been wrestling again with the message of righteousness. I see mine. It’s filthy rags. And I feel so unworthy. So incapable. So unholy. I’ve struggled to approach God lately. I know I’m a beggar in the court of the King. Completely out of place. I have nothing to offer him, but I need something from him so desperately. I need cleansed. I need healed. But I’ve been cowering because I’m afraid He’ll be disgusted by me.

Then … He notices me and begins to coax me out of hiding. He woos me with love and gentleness, and I’m so eager for it, I run to Him, forgetting my rags and filth. I wrap my arms around Him and cry into His neck, forgetting for a moment that I’m unworthy. But then it hits me. I don’t belong here.

I start to stutter my apologies. I push away from His embrace. He holds me even still and looks into my eyes. “But God, can’t you see me? I am so unholy. I am so utterly sinful and vile. I don’t deserve to be here.”

Then Jesus, who’s been sitting there at the right hand of God this whole time, comes over and lays a gentle hand on my trembling shoulder. He hands me a robe that’s shimmering and bright. Wear this, he says. I bought it for you.

I’m trembling more as I step out of my filth and put on this beautiful robe. “It’s too much!” I say, unable to take my eyes from it. With tears streaming down my face, I hastily work to take it off. “Don’t you know what I’ve done?”

Jesus looks at me tenderly as I tug at my rags trying to cover myself with them again. Finally, I give up and stand there, sobbing in my nakedness. He hands me the robe again. Don’t you know what I’ve done?

 

*****

 

I’m often guilty of vascillating between self-righteousness and self-loathing. Neither are healthy, but it’s the pendulum I find myself on quite a bit. I either compare myself to others and build a pedestal, or compare myself to God and dig a hole to hide in. Neither are His perfect and pleasing will.

Lately, I’ve been comparing myself to God’s standards of righteousness, and getting stuck on how short I’ve fallen of what I believe God wants from me. I’ve been desperate for Him, but unable to come into His presence because I can see myself, and I don’t like what I see.

Little did I know that this is what the Bible says happens. Romans 3:20 tells us that through the law, we become conscious of our sins. We read the law and realize how desperately far we are from being able to please God. We become aware of our sins. We see our filthy rags. This makes the law good. Because what happens after we become conscious of our sin? Repentance.

God woos us out of our groveling pit and we come before Him knowing how unworthy we are. We repent of our sin and receive grace. We find that instead of being condemned, we are forgiven. Jesus hands us that robe and we put on his righteousness. He bought it for us. It cost him so much, but He made that purchase because he’s crazy about us.

This is the full Gospel, and it’s good. We’re not, but He is. Grace is not a card. It’s a robe. A robe of righteousness we can’t attain on our own.

Are You Chasing Rabbits?

Published June 15, 2016 by Dawn

I have certain expectations while I am exercising. Most importantly, I don’t like to be talked to. In a close second is that I don’t like to be stopped for any reason. I am ultra-focused on the finish line, because once I get there, the death that I’m dying will be over. I hate working out!

Lately, I have taken to running. I needed to exercise the dog before work, getting out as much of his pent-up, country dog energy before leaving him in a backyard kennel for hours while I work. I also needed to find something that works for me and serves to also destress while kicking my butt. Running was the natural solution to meeting all of these needs.

Bleu and I get up early to get our run in before I get ready for work. Let me just stop right here and say I never saw that happening. I like – no, LOVE – sleep. But sacrifices have to be made some times and it was inevitable. Morning is the only time I feel really motivated to move. After a long day of work, and homemaking chores afterward, exercising at night is the last thing I am capable of sticking to. Evenings are so busy, my body so wiped out, and my bed calling, all of which make exercising in the evening a total failure.

So most mornings, I get up, down a glass of water to loosen up my muscles and prepare them for the beating they’re about to take, grab my ferocious dog’s leash and head out. After a few minutes of walking, we hit a fast jogging pace and settle into it. It’s just he and I, and my several expectations, out for a morning jog.

Well, mostly. Do you know who else get up really early in the morning? Critters. In our neck of the woods, it’s mainly rabbits. Cute little white-tailed bunny rabbits that any hunting dog would be itching to catch. A hunting dog … like my half-beagle, half-shepherd who thinks the world is his playground, but also has deep insecurities that make him either really afraid or really unfriendly, depending on how close his mom is in the moment.

Obviously, we have an issue every time we see a rabbit. Which means we have a problem every time we go running. We see at least five rabbits every morning, which means there are five times every time I exercise that my expectations are tossed violently aside and my arm ripped violently out of socket. My loyal running companion forgets momentarily that he is on assignment and heads off to fulfill his innate responsibility to rid the world of Peter Cottontail’s endless progeny.

It’s so frustrating. In the middle of my dying, my dog is just beginning to really live! Here I am trying to discipline myself and make a change for the better, for me and the dog, and he’s pulling hard against the leash in a moment of panicked excitement, bucking all discipline to catch a rabbit. A chase that will most likely be futile. He most likely will not ever catch a rabbit, but that wouldn’t keep him from trying.

You know what happened, right? This … for two weeks, until the Lord pointed something out to me. “Chasing rabbits. You’ve heard that, right? It’s the opposite of discipline and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It’s the opposite of knowing the will of God. It’s following every little thing that hops across your path because you suddenly feel alive in it, but finding out later that it was pointless and fleeting. And it’s the devil’s game to keep you distracted from doing the good works created by God specifically for you.”

Chasing rabbits. That’s pretty profound, isn’t it? With that word, I had to examine myself and consider if I, like Bleu, have been chasing rabbits instead of following the path God marked out for me. Have I been running my race, or have I gotten so far off course that I can’t see His plan anymore? Instead of a leash, I have been given a free will, so God might give me a gentle nudge to keep me in the direction He wants me going but He doesn’t yank me back if I get too antsy and belligerent. He lets me wander, giving me the wisdom that I have strayed and beckoning me back. But He is too much of a gentleman to force me to do His will. We always hear it taught that we’ve been specially crafted for a purpose, which I don’t dispute. But I do believe we are in error if we believe that no one else can fulfill our calling. God used a donkey to restrain a prophet and Jesus said the rocks could cry out in our place. All of creation was designed to serve God’s purpose and it will be fulfilled whether we do our part or not. Remember what Mordecai told Esther? “If you remain silent now, help for Israel will come from somewhere else.”

Chasing rabbits is the devil’s game. It’s Satan’s way of keeping us undisciplined, unrestrained, and unable to do what our Father has called us to do. It also leaves us unfulfilled and unhappy because we are continuously looking at the promise and asking God why we aren’t living our purposes, but all the while spending our energy on dead-end endeavors that God never told us to do. We wonder why it takes years for us, and months for others. Look at the trip to Canaan. They spent forty-years chasing common sense instead of eleven days following in the footprints of God’s miraculous provision and promise. How many years have we wasted in this way?

My spirit is in a fit right now! It’s time to stop chasing rabbits! It’s time to believe the promises of God are yes and amen, it’s time to believe that God is for us and not against us. It’s time to believe that we can do all that God has called us to do because of His power that is so mightily at work within us. It’s time to stop listening to the world’s wisdom about how to get there and start listening to God’s guidance. We need to start putting one foot in front of the other on the path He marked out for us before we were even born and stop turning our head to the right and left looking around. We are tempting the devil to distract us and he will do it! Focus on God. Focus on His word. Focus on His directives. Do what your hands find to do instead of chasing down the next big thing and just see if God doesn’t fulfill His promises to you. I believe this is a Rhema word, for me at least.

Father, help me to be disciplined and steadfastly focused on you. Fill me with the faith to believe in all that you have spoken to me, and give me the strength and longevity to see it through, for your honor and glory. Use me as you said you would. Help me to stop chasing rabbits.

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is Near

Published March 25, 2016 by Dawn

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17)”

Repentance. It’s such an uncomfortable message. The church of today rarely utters the word. We’d rather leave people alone in their sin than suggest that there is something wrong with the way they are living. We preach a message of unconditional love and acceptance that completely disregards unrighteous living, and I’ll admit, it sounds good. It’s liberating. But then there’s this truth: it wasn’t the message Jesus preached.

Jesus. The divine Son of God. The amazing King who loved us enough to die on a cross, bearing our shame and the rejection of our Father. He stood in our place so that we could come near to God with a pure conscience. So we could reflect the holiness of our Savior. This loving God preached repentance. His message made the people acknowledge their sin. The sin nature. The nature of man without Christ. Jesus preached that message. He taught his disciples to preach that message. And they considered it a loving Word.

Here’s the truth: we will not repent if we don’t recognize our sin. We have nothing to be repentant about if everything is okay. We were delivered from our sin nature and do not have to live under it, but because we are encased in flesh, we fail. Jesus died so that we would be free from our sinful nature, and also so that we can come before God without condemnation and fear in order to repent and be cleansed. Repentance is a message of love. It’s a message of hope. It’s a message that draws people to Jesus because we quickly realize how hopeless we are without him. I pray that the church abandons the New-Age motivational speeches and gets back to the good news. That Jesus died to save us. That He died for our sins and weaknesses so that we could be pure and free in him. Not free to pursue worldly passions and pleasures, but free from the grip of sin that we would be otherwise overcome by.

His Hands and Feet

Published March 25, 2016 by Dawn

It happened again. I took the kids to the Civic Center this afternoon, and while they played, I sat contentedly reading my bible. Right before we left, a little boy came from across the gym and sat down next to me. He said, “You know, my brothers both just got placed in foster care.” My heart broke! I said, “You are sad, aren’t you?” He nodded his head. I said, “Do you need a hug?” He leaned in with his arms open and I just hugged him back. Then I said, “Should we pray?” Again, he nodded his head. So we bowed our heads and prayed for him, his brothers and his family. Right after we got done praying, he was called back to the other side of the gym and I sat there in awe. God is so good.

My son came over and said, “Mom, what did he want?” After I told him, he and I both laughed at how God does that. All the time. All the time, He brings people into our lives for small moments that can mean so much if we take the opportunity to be His hands and feet. All the time, He is shining His light through us and drawing people to Jesus. Friends, this happens all the time in my life. Kids spill their guts at my feet and I pray for them.

The first time I vividly remember it happening, I was a very young, single mom walking the dog at the park. This seventeen-year-old boy (yep, he even told me his age!) came up to pet my dog and began telling me his latest woes. He had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and was uncertain if she would keep their baby, or let him have anything to do with the child. I was too scared then to offer to pray for him, but I did pray for him when I got home. And seven years later, I am still praying for that kid, even though now, he is a young man. I have never seen him again, but I pray for him as often as I think about him. Which is every time a kid approaches me and begins to tell me all about their lives. I remember and pray for all of them.

I have often thought of ministry as being this big thing. The souls God said He would bring to Jesus through me have filled stadiums in my mind. But what if this is what it’s all about? What if it’s small ministry opportunities that could feel like intrusions into our peaceful moments if we aren’t hiding in Christ? What if the millions of lives we will touch happen a little here and  a little there, through little boys like Malik who grow up walking with God because someone took the time to pray with him? Don’t overlook these moments, because this could be the way God uses you.

“Lift up your eyes and look about you:
    All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
    and your daughters are carried on the hip”

Isaiah 60:4

 

Undeserving

Published November 13, 2012 by Dawn

In the book of Zechariah, the prophet has a vision of Jeshua, the High Priest, standing before the throne of God in very dirty, ragged clothing. The devil was standing next to him before the Lord, accusing Jeshua of many things. The Lord stood up and said to Satan, “I reject your accusations, Lucifer.” And the angel of the Lord standing next to Jeshua gave him clean clothing and explained that the fresh clothing represented his cleansing before the Lord. Zechariah then asked for the angel to also replace Jeshua’s headdress with a clean one. This is symbolic of Jeshua being reinstated to his original position as High Priest after being cleansed by Christ’s forgiveness.

It was not that Jeshua was not guilty of the accusations Satan was bringing against him. He was indeed guilty of leading the people into idol worship and desecrating the Temple of God. Jeshua stood before God repentant of his sin, and God chose to remove the sinstains from Jeshua. Jeshua was guilty according to the law, he was guilty according to the rules that governed his position. Still, the Lord rejected the accusations of the devil. Why? Because Jeshua stood before the Lord covered in the dirt of his past with a repentant heart. But even then, he had the responsibility  of receiving the clean clothing. He could have argued that he was undeserving, refused to be cleansed  because Satan’s accusations were weighing him down with guilt. But he didn’t. He heard the Lord vindicate him, he allowed himself to be changed (literally, the others standing around him changed his clothing), and he remained standing where he was.

Can we do that? Can we stand before Christ, completely exposed and vulnerable, and allow ourselves to be changed? Can we stand before him, guilty of all the enemy’s accusations, and accept the complete exoneration from the Lord? Satan stands before our savior every day as the Accuser of the Brethren, and points out our every weakness and sin. And Jesus says to him, “I reject your accusations.” He doesn’t ponder our guilt or the severity of our sinfulness. He acknowledges nothing and rejects it all. He didn’t die to hold us accountable. He died to make us completely clean, free of sin’s stains and, like Jeshua, all we have to do is receive it.