holiness

All posts tagged holiness

Honoring God Through Unhappy Halloweens

Published November 1, 2017 by Dawn

For all the years growing up that I can remember, we didn’t celebrate Halloween. Somewhere in the Bible, something convinced my parents it was not honoring to God, so we never dressed up, never went trick-or-treating and never fit in on October 31st. Probably, there are a ton of Christian parents today who can relate to this. They have a similar story. Or, they did get to dress up, but were firmly convinced by mom and dad that “there is a good Halloween and bad Halloween … we are celebrating the good one.” They got to go knock on doors, smile cheesy and go to bed high on sugar.

Three weeks after becoming a mother, I dressed my daughter in the cutest bear costume and trudged through snow to the neighbor’s door for a kit-kat just so we could say she had a “first Halloween.” For several years afterward, we celebrated just like everyone else and my kids, for sure, were the cutest kids on the block. Then it happened: I began to study various literatures about the pagan ties to the holiday, the occult’s worship of this holiday in particular, and all the while 1 Thessalonians 5:22 resounded, “Abstain from all appearances of evil.”

You might have just rolled your eyes, but bear with me. I’ve read most everything that’s been written about Halloween. I’ve read the mommy blogs, where a well-meaning and genuine mother gives a heart-felt dissertation on why Halloween can be a fun outreach for the family, a moment to “be the light” in the darkness. I’ve read the Satanist’s giddy, mocking quip: “I’m so happy Christians let their children worship Satan one day a year.” I’ve read them both and I was ready to let this day go by without saying a word. As for me and my house, we call in Chinese and Netflix with the porch-light off. No big deal.

This year, I wanted to test the theory: Christians can use this holiday to reach the masses of unchurched people and people will come to Christ through our efforts.

Now, because handing out tracks is unscientific, in that I cannot accurately measure the amount of people who come to Christ through my efforts, I chose not to go that route. Likewise, how can I measure one’s acceptance of Christ by merely smiling and passing out candy? If we don’t talk about Jesus while they are with me, how will I ever know if my efforts to “share Christ” in such a way actually brought them to the foot of the cross? Lacking any other avenue of measurable means, I put a sign up on my front gate with the facts: No candy, but we have Jesus! Want Jesus? Knock! The door will be opened.

Yes, I did this. In the town my kids go to school in.

No one knocked.

No one chose to come to Christ when it was all I offered.

If I would have had a huge bowl of candy, I would have entertained the masses of strangers all over town but would any of them come to know Jesus … genuinely know Jesus, through my “evangelism outreach”? Would they dig any deeper than the bottom of their pillow case after a long walk home, to get to know my King? And all the while, I might have been showing my kids the opposite of what I preach:

  • That we don’t have to come out from among them and be separate.
  • That fear can be fun and exhilarating as long as they know that mommy is near.
  • That Satan is just a Halloween ghoul and witches are just people with green make-up on; the occult is nothing but a sham and Halloween fun.
  • That there is a good side to evil and everyone can partake because Jesus would never want us to feel left out.

Maybe this is just me rambling, but let me do so for a sec. The scripture clearly tells us that no one can even come to God unless the Spirit of God compels them to (John 6:44). Do I believe that all of these efforts to reach people are fruitless? No, not exactly. I believe God reaches people through any means necessary, and He works all things in conformity to His will. He can use even our sins and foolishness to draw people to Him because His purpose is unwavering even if we do things we shouldn’t. But are we honoring Him?

Does this matter to you like it matters to me? My heart broke the first time I had to explain to my kids that we would no longer be celebrating Halloween. No more huge buckets of candy, no parties, no costumes. This holiday fell off our calendar, so to speak. Yes, they have endured the pain of not partaking in something that brings a lot of joy to a ton of other kiddos. But isn’t this the reality of Christianity and sin in general? Don’t we want our kids to abstain from the things that dishonor God, even if the whole world is doing them? Then why do we make exceptions for this one holiday? Satan mocks God every year because of the millions of Christians who have chosen to justify their involvement in a holiday that glorifies darkness.

“I just want to honor God to the best of my ability,” I told them, through tears.

Here’s the truth, church: people will come to Christ as God compels them. That’s scriptural. God can use any means necessary, but He doesn’t need us in any way to do so. Be His hands and feet, but you don’t have to be so desperate to reach people that you worship at pagan altars next to the lost. Jesus didn’t do that. Did he eat with “sinners?” Sure. Did he engage in their sin so they didn’t shun him? Never. He was wholly set apart and different, and that’s probably why they were so drawn to him. He was weird and different, but full of love at the same time. Weren’t we called to be Christ-like?

Be Christ-like.

And, know that when you choose to be Christ-like, you will be treated as he was. Persecuted. Hated. The world will not accept you because it did not accept him (john 15:18). Even the church will mock and disdain you, my friend. Still, I encourage you to be Christ-like. The world will notice that you have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Not only, but your actions will please your Heavenly Father, which is worth more than the accolades any man can give. Be at peace!

 

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Yes, You Can Know God

Published October 11, 2017 by Dawn

It is amazing that across the eons of time, God has remained enshrouded in mystery and so incalculable to the human race. We dare not attempt to explain or define Him, because our finite understanding can never do justice to the God of the universe. There is so much about Him that doesn’t make sense in our limited understanding and so many facets of His nature and personality that we have yet to see even a glimpse of. The only thing we can say with absolute surety is that we will never understand God in all of His fullness, and even the things we do know about Him, we know pensively without absolution. God is so much more than we can ever imagine.

I found myself in speechless awe the other day as I was reading the book of John because a scripture I have read so many times finally came to light upon me with a clarity that stunned and enraptured me. Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” I read it and went on to the next verse and the next until I read again in John 12:45, “The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.” Jesus continued further on, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well” (John 14:7) … anyone who has seen me has seen the Father … The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:9-10).

Suddenly, I realized what it was Christ was getting at: we can begin to understand the nature of God by knowing the nature of Christ.

Y’all!

There are many religions that acquiesce to believe that Jesus was a great man, a prophet and a prolific teacher. But not Christianity. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the son of God, the incarnation of God in the flesh. I have professed this faith so many times, but it JUST NOW dawned on me: God is not unlike Christ. He is no better or worse than Christ. He is Christ. All the attributes that humanity witnessed in Christ belong to God, our Heavenly Father. He came to us to show us something of Himself, and although we know we do not comprehend even the smallest smidge of who God is in His fullness, we can know what He chose to reveal to us through our fellowship with the Word of God made flesh among us.

I know … you’re probably wondering how I could have read the Bible so many times and missed this truth. I have no idea. I just know that for the first time in my life, I finally see how God can be merciful and just, brutally honest but still loving, forgiving but confrontational too. Jesus was all of these things, and he told us, “For I do not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say” (John 12:49-50).

When Jesus drove money-changers out of the temple, we see that within God’s character is an element of righteous indignation. His house was being used flippantly for petty, worldly things. He had a standard for His temple and guarded it jealously. Scripture calls it “zeal.” God is full of zeal for His righteous standards, then.

When Jesus showed kindness to a woman caught in adultery, we can clearly see that God is kind toward the humiliated, weary soul. Christ did not affirm her in her sin, but He did not condemn and chastise either. His holiness alone was enough to convince her of her wickedness. Likewise, we know that God will defend the weak and miserable against the proud outrage of merciless humanity, but He will never stand in defense of sin, even when he stands in defense of a sinner. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

When we read of Jesus waiting after knowing Lazarus was sick, we find that God is patient when proving something of Himself to stubborn unbelievers. We also see a brokenness in Christ over having to use such a drastic tragedy to illuminate people’s minds and hearts with truth. Jesus did not enjoy waiting and did not rejoice in the pain it brought to Lazarus’ family and friends. On the contrary, he cried with them. God loves us through the trying times, and even empathizes with us when His purposes momentarily cause us grief and pain.

When Jesus slept soundly in the bottom of a boat while men and women around him gawked in fear at the raging sea, we find our God is never troubled by the storms of life, no matter how fierce they seem. He does not stir in anticipation, but responds only to the heart-cry of His fearful sheep. Peter yelled, “Master, carest not thou that we perish?” Jesus immediately woke and calmed the storm. He didn’t pay attention to the wind and waves, but he couldn’t ignore the turbulence in Peter’s chilling cries. Our God also does not waver when chaos comes. He remains steadfast and immovable. He is only ever moved by one thing: the cries of His children. When we scream out in agony, fear or disbelief, God immediately responds because we have touched His heartstrings with the faith of a child. We don’t know what we expect of Him, we just know that He is where our hope lies.

I could go on, friend, talking about all the miracles and acts of love wherein Jesus showed us the Great Liberator, Provider, Healer, and Friend, but you can read for yourself and find more about the character of God. One event urges me forward to the most pivotal moment in all humanity: Christ died for us.

Can you even imagine the love of God? Can you imagine the seriousness of sin? Can you imagine the desperation of our Creator to be with us? Christ died for us.

Our God, full of repugnance at the thought of sin destroying His Beloved, came down and lived this life. Can you imagine? Who doesn’t, at some point, feel the anguish of living? The destitution, suffering, pain and rejection? God faced it all because in His wisdom, He knew we wouldn’t bring ourselves to His feet if we thought He couldn’t relate. He faced it because He wanted to fully understand our humanity under the spell of Satan. He faced it because He wanted the devil to know defeat at every angle. God, full of love and compassion for our fallen state, determined to have us again for all time and began just where we begin: born into a broken world. He came with no majesty, no physical appeal. He was cloaked in the most ordinary and unattractive way. He was true to Himself and therefore despised and rejected. And then, He did it. He allowed Himself, the Creator of all things, to be spit upon, beaten, shattered and torn – nailed to a cross in the utmost of human agony – God created the plan and submitted to all that Hell’s fury could aim at Him. All because He loved us.

His friends, tormented for days, felt the anguish of loss and were not comforted. Three days. Then, in unknown limitless power, Jesus rose. God Incarnate rose up from under the crushing weight of death that no man can defeat. God prevailed! For us!

Do you see it? How much God hates sin? How much He adores us? Oh, what Love! While there are many facets of God – many attributes of His character and nature – we finally must admit, Beloved, that in all that God is, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). In His justice, He is love. In His discipline, He is love. In His mercy, Love. In His grace, Love. In His righteousness, Love. In His fullness, God is love. In every way that God operates, He continually shows us the many ways He loves us. Too much to give up on us, too much to leave us in our sin, too much to abandon us. Everything He says and everything He does communicates His love for us. Sometimes, it’s tough love and sometimes, it’s a sweet, sweet salve. Always, it’s God’s love.

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.