Jesus

All posts tagged Jesus

Published June 10, 2018 by Dawn

I hurt. I should be walking through the doors of church right now but instead, I’m still lying in bed with my feet hooked on the end of the mattress, gently stretching out my calve muscles while I write. I’m going to miss church this morning, which means there will be no one to lead youth. I’m also going to miss our fundraiser – the men’s group is selling the best barbecue this side of heaven – which is going to directly benefit the youth group. I should be there but I couldn’t push myself to get out of bed this morning. I’ve been enduring one pain after another for a while now, but yesterday took the cake in the duration and intensity. Although I can’t be sure of a proper diagnosis, I’m fairly confident in my educated guess that all of this can be attributed to a lack of stretching before and after my runs.

Did you know that your hamstrings can tighten so much that they can pull your pelvis out of place? I didn’t either. When I abruptly stopped my half-marathon training in January to pacify my daughter and went from running 25-35 miles a week to running nothing for two months, I gave no thought to the creeping tightness in the back of my left leg. Nor did I connect it to the first twinge in my upper back. I wondered about the lack of running being connected to the stiffness that set in to my lower spine, and when my gait became uneven, I knew a trip to the chiropractor was in order. But I didn’t know it was all because I hadn’t stretched.

The chiropractor straightened me out and educated me on the hamstring. He warned me to stretch it out properly every day before I left his office. I should have listened, but who has time for stretching, right?

My mom and I go to the gym M-F. I only live two and a half miles from the gym so I get up in the morning, lace up my running shoes and meet her there. I walk about a minute up the hill from my house and then take off toward the gym. I used to do a five-minute walk to warm my muscles up before running, but now that I’m meeting mom at the gym, I don’t have time for that. She gets to the gym ahead of me and does ten minutes of cardio so that when I get there, we can head straight into lifting. I might stretch my arms a little after signing in, but here lately, I’ve had to be back home within half an hour of getting there, in order to take my son to football practice, so we move right in to lifting without stretching. My mom drops me off at home afterward and my son meets me at the door ready to go. I drive him to school while my muscles cool off and then go home to take a shower and get ready for the day.

I think my body is in revolt. The chiropractor warned me about what can happen if I don’t stretch my muscles, but he didn’t tell me about the creeping pain that starts out subtle and turns into a fire. He didn’t tell me about all of my muscles coming together in defiance to torment me while I sit helplessly behind the wheel of my car on a long drive, unable to stretch them out. He didn’t tell me that not stretching my muscles could cause a mutiny in my body.

It seems silly to be telling you all this, but although I’m not at church, the Holy Spirit has been ministering to me all morning and the lesson started with this musing. See, my current physical situation mirrors my spiritual one: I’ve been in pain for quite some time, and most likely, it’s because I haven’t taken time for the things that matter.

I’m into the final stretch of raising two kids on my own. Thus far, I’ve made it through a combination of prayer, fasting and constant surrender to the Lord. I have pleaded for His wisdom and strength, as well as His provision and comfort. God has not failed me. But this final stretch … well, it’s a lot like any final stretch for me while running. I’m not the kind of person to look at the finish line and press harder toward it. I see a finish line and quit trying early because I can see it … I’ll get there eventually. That last little bit of the race is so hard! That’s why I stop running. It’s so painful. My muscles have already endured so much and I’m ready for it to be over. If I push through, I put my muscles through the worst pain of the race! Why not just walk it in? I’ll get there eventually.

Raising teenagers is hard work. It’s the last leg of the race, I’m exhausted and this is the most intense moment of parenting. It seems endless, although people will tell you, “It goes by so fast!” I silently lament, “Not fast enough!” I feel like I used to have allies in my home, and now my crew is in revolt. They seem to hate me in unison and attack me without provocation. It’s full on mutiny.

I’m not naïve enough to believe this battle is avoidable. This is just how raising teenagers goes. They literally fight you to become their own person. No one who’s done it tells you it’s going to be easy … but nothing they say can prepare you for the mental breakdowns, the constant confrontation, or the letting go. I might have avoided some of the pain, though, if I’d taken time for what really helps. Prayer. Fasting. Constant surrender.

How is it that the things that matter most are the things we put off first? It seems rather lunatic to know that stretching after a work out is so vital, and yet one does not spend time doing it. The suffering for it is inevitable. Likewise, how lunatic to know how important prayer and surrender are and yet not taking time to do so. Especially on the last leg of the race! If I were a well-disciplined runner, I’d be pressing in toward the mark. I’m not, though. And because of that, I’m suffering at home instead of leading my teens in Bible study. Although right now, it’s a physical pain that has kept me in bed this morning, sometimes, it’s a spiritual battle that I’m losing because I’ve ceased trying.

I don’t know if any other runner out there will be straight up with you about running but let me be honest: running sucks. It’s never easy, and just when you think it might be getting easy, something inevitably slams you back into reality of how much it sucks. Why do we do it, then? To eat cake. To fit into our clothes. To see results just a little faster. So we don’t have to fad diet. For the carb loading. For the mental health benefits. Cheap therapy. To be introverted without being judged. The same is true of prayer and fasting. It’s not easy, by any means. To still yourself before God can be the hardest thing. To calm your flesh in the presence of the Holy Spirit is so difficult. To still your mind and quiet yourself so you can hear Him speak is like herding cats. Who has time for that? But listen to me: the benefits outweigh the pain, aggravation, whatever.

Clearly, taking a break from running and not stretching out my muscles regularly has been the worst physical fitness decision I have ever made. Similarly, not taking time for prayer and communion with God has had dire consequences in my daily race. The good news is that I woke up this morning determined to make a change. I might not have went to church, but I have been in the presence of the Holy Spirit, praying and stretching while I write. It’s never too late to get back into the race, friend. It’s never too late to bow before your King in surrender. It’s never too late to make time for the things that will really make a difference in your daily life. I urge you to decide today that things will be different and allow the Holy Spirit to teach you how to discipline yourself. You’ll be so grateful you did.

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Mighty Weapons, Mighty Warrior

Published April 26, 2018 by Dawn

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty! For the pulling down of strongholds, the casting down of imaginations and everything that sets itself up against the wisdom and knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:4).

David walked into camp and handed over the goods, sat down and began to chitchat with the mighty men of war. A booming voice interrupted them: “Are you still here, Israel? This day, I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” Goliath taunted and caused a wave of fear to crash into the Israelite camp. The mighty men of war ran away in fear while David looked around in bewilderment.

His brother ran out from around the great boulder that shielded him and grabbed David’s arm, yanking him out of view. Anger painted his face red and he clenched his teeth in rage.

“Does this happen every day?” David’s nonchalance made the others ashamed and all they could do was nod their heads.

“What’s to be done for the man who defeats him?”

“What man?” Eliab sneered. He pushed David’s shoulder roughly. “I know you are conceited, but come on. You cannot defeat that gigantic phlegm-wad. Sit down and shut up.” David steeled his body against the blow, shoving his heels into the ground for stability against his brother’s attack. He knew his oldest brother was prone to jealousy, but this was bitterness he had not seen before. Perhaps the weeks of cowardice had sown that bitterness. David could see that fear had taken inches off his brother’s majestic stature as he cowered there with the rest of the men.

When the bellowing died down, the soldiers crawled out from their hiding holes and scattered once more across the hill. They could see the Philistine army in the distance, but they had evaded the war for one more day.

“You there! Come!”

David was shoved toward a captain who had called out to him, and he fell in beside the man as they rushed up the hill. Before he knew what was happening, he was standing in the tent of Israel’s warrior king.

“What’s this I’ve heard, boy?

David exuded a youthlike confidence that was somewhat comical against the backdrop of a cowardly army. “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine. Your servant will go and fight him.”

Saul eyed him suspiciously. He hadn’t the heart to stand against this magnificent threat, nor had any of his other men, or even his own son, who had once defeated 20 men with his armor-bearer beside him.

“You’re just a boy. He’s bred for fighting. It’s suicide.”

“With all due respect, you misjudge me. I have killed both lion and bear to protect my father’s sheep. This uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Resigned, Saul waved his hand disparingly. “Go, and the Lord be with you. Only …” He signaled his armor-bearer, who jumped to attention scurried toward the chest in the back of the tent. David watched as the man pulled up coats of mail and shields, heavy swords and breastplates of the highest quality.

A few minutes later, David stood awkwardly, burdened down by the clanging metal suit and hardly able to stand, much less move around. “I can’t wear this into battle. I’m not used to them.” The men around him watched in horror as he took the armor off and piled it next to him. Brushing off his tunic, he picked up his staff and nodded to the room before walking out unencumbered toward the stream that lay between Israel’s camp and the camp of the enemy.

David studied the streambed as he walked slowly through, picked up a few stones and put them in his satchel. Then he continued forward to the edge of Israel’s camp. The Philistines mumbled as he drew nearer and nearer, and Goliath stood solemnly to greet him.

“What is this? Am I a dog, that Israel would send a boy with sticks? Come here, and I will feed your flesh to the birds and wild animals!”

David stopped and smiled. “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day, the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

Goliath moved menacingly closer to the edge of camp, shortening the distance between he and David at a terrifyingly rapid pace. David, unperturbed, ran toward the edge of Israel’s camp as Goliath lumbered toward him. He reached into his bag and pulled out a smooth stone from the bottom of the stream. He deftly fitted the soft leather pouch of his sling around it, swung it smoothly through the air with surprising force and released the strap. No one knew what had happened until the evidence of victory lay bleeding at his feet. The stone had hit with such monumental force, it sank into a self-made cavern in Goliath’s forehead and instantly, David had defeated the Philistine’s boasting. Running toward the body, David ignored the rumbling around him and drew out the sword from Goliath’s side. He stood above the giant’s head and slammed the sword down through his neck. Goliath’s head lopped off to the side and rolled toward the towering warrior’s feet.

********

We discussed this verse last night in Bible study and immediately, I knew I had to share what the Lord impressed on me this week as I read 1 Samuel 17. The chapter starts out with an innocent trip to see his brothers on the battlefield. David was sent with provisions for his brothers, as well as a gift to the commanders of the army, who were all encamped on a hill opposite the Philistines. Little did Jesse know what he had asked of his youngest son. Little did he know it was the last time David would be home tending the sheep. Little did he know his shepherd boy was about to make all the hearts of Israel captive.

This battle was David’s battle. Saul was a mighty warrior who had no reason to be afraid, yet his heart was melting in fear. His son Jonathan had proven his mighty faith in God by defeating an entire outpost of soldiers not long before, but we don’t see him stepping up to challenge Goliath. In fact, no one except David even dreamed of doing such a thing. It was a God moment, and David was to rise to the calling of the warrior within.

His brother, mistaking David’s courage for conceit, chastised him angrily. His cowardice resented the courage and conviction of his little brother. Here, he and all Israel’s great men had cowered for forty days under this verbal assault, and his youngest brother who had never known war was defending God’s honor and making them all look bad? Eliab was indignant.

My favorite part is when Saul tried to fit David with the armor. It’s symbolic of Saul trying to prepare David in man’s best wisdom and best effort. David knew that wasn’t how he was supposed to walk into battle, so against all better judgement, he shrugged it off and walked out just as he walked in. But when he got to the battle lines, we find he wasn’t undressed. The Bible says that David told Goliath that he came in the name of the Lord. Kinda like I’m in my favorite pair of jeans today … David was literally cloaked in the name of Christ and he wasn’t backing down because he knew that God’s name was enough! His confidence wasn’t in any man-made preparation. It was in the name of the Lord.

I love how David went into battle looking like a fool just to prove to Israel that their strength wasn’t in their numbers or their training. It wasn’t in their weapons or the wisdom. All their victories depended on God, and all they needed to do was remember how powerful and faithful God is. David, unwavering in his strong convictions about God, smote a man everyone else hid from, including their king.

No, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They are not devised by men with limited wisdom. They are mighty! They tear down strongholds. The enemy cannot prevail against the name of Jesus, for our God is the same today as He was then, and therefore, we have access to the same victorious power. If God be for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31).

There’s a battle for each of us, and I pray you show up to yours with grace and unwavering confidence in God. I pray you act out of a heart of obedience instead of fear, trusting in the powerful name of Jesus to save you. I pray you defend God’s honor and ignore the shameful ignorance of those around you. I pray you go forward in peace and assurance that God will supply all your needs and deliver you from all evil, as He said He would. I pray you walk unencumbered by the burdens others try to weigh you down with, knowing where your strength lies. I pray for you, mighty warrior. In Jesus’ name!

 

*I took some artistic liberties with this one, so please read 1 Samuel 17 for the unembellished version. 🙂

 

Published April 26, 2018 by Dawn

“God met me there tonight, Mom. Can I tell you about it?”

 

My daughter got in the car excited after church tonight. It was a nice change, because we’ve all been weary lately. The battle has been so intense … and so daily.

 

As her youth leader, I would love to say I had something to do with this. I guess in a way, I might have had a small part. You see, last week, I took a hard look at myself in relation to my kids’ relationships with God and each other and realized something very painful: in the past, I had warned other parents that their direct involvement in youth meetings sometimes hinders their kiddos from partaking in what God puts before them. Only I’m the youth leader … and I have two teens … and this applies to my family too. I humbly asked a few other youth leaders what their take on the matter was, and the Holy Spirit confirmed through a meeting of the minds that I was onto something. Therefore, I was responsible to act.

 

I went home that night and told my kiddos that I would like for them to consider attending another youth group on Wednesday nights. Our group currently meets Sunday mornings, and so Wednesdays, they join the Bible study with the adults. They both find themselves in over their heads in that group, and so I thought it would be a good idea if they were ministered to by another youth leader, on their level. She picked one and he picked another. First night of this experiment was tonight, and I have to say I am ecstatic about the results thus far.

 

My beautiful daughter climbed into the back seat with a beaming smile and wet eyes. She was exuberant. I hadn’t seen that in such a long time. My daughter has been loosely holding onto sanity and trying in her own strength to be the glue that holds everyone together. She’s the strongest of the three of us, for sure, and I have depended on her strength a lot lately. But she’s been quietly wearing down and I could see it, but I didn’t know how to fix this for her. Thank God, He had a plan.

 

She continued, telling me about how God pursued during the ministry. Each speaker said something deep, that called out to deep in her, and finally, they were given the opportunity to stand up to show their desire to be all for God. But she thought, “I’m new. It’s my first day. I’m not standing up.” She said she prayed at her seat, all the – and I quote – “Crap you usually say that’s rehearsed and meaningless.” I couldn’t have described it better. Then someone stood up and admitted that he felt not everyone who was committed had professed it with their actions. He asked them again to stand. More did, but not her. She still did not want to be the newbie falling apart in front of everyone. She just kept her head down and continued her superficial prayer, but tears were flowing now, her shoulders shaking and sobs taking over her body.” Then, someone came.”

 

She said it just like that, and started crying again. They asked her some deep questions. More of that deep calling out to deep that crumbled the ever-hardening façade, and just like that, she fell into the arms of her savior and admitted her struggle and need. She said, “I didn’t even know it but more were coming and praying, and I can’t … Mom, it’s just indescribable. This all sounds so cheesy when I try to tell you about it. God met me there tonight, and when I wasn’t going to come to Him, He came to me.”

 

I came undone. Thank you, Lord, for being her great Father. Thank you for showing my lovely daughter your loving arms and healing her. Thank you for the wisdom of friends that brought her to your feet. Thank you for divorcing me from pride and making this moment possible. You are truly magnificent and so worthy of my adoration.

 

My daughter longed for the day she could be a part of my youth group, but now, she and I both realize her need to be ministered to by others outside our daily situation. Trust me, I preach it at home. They hear it and I think my kiddos tune me out a lot. It’s important for kids to grow in Christ, and sometimes, we need to let someone else come in and plant the seeds. I believe this is both natural and necessary. If we could lay down our pride and admit we need each other, the church would be a much healthier, much more effective body.

 

Jesus Loved Judas

Published March 1, 2018 by Dawn

It’s comforting to think that Judas was alienated from the others. He was the only disciple willing to betray Jesus, and the Bible records him as a thief who protested the exorbitant and flagrant misuse of money, that Jesus otherwise saw as an act of worship. One would imagine Judas was left on the fringe of their ministry, distrusted because he was stealing. One would assume that, like us, Jesus was wary of Judas and often suspicious.

Perhaps these thoughts are comforting, but I think we might be absolutely wrong.

The Bible says Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are, but was without sin.” As I stood at the counter of my local bank waiting for my new debit card to be printed, I realized that Jesus loved Judas. This was perhaps one of the most hurtful events in Jesus’ life. This was the moment someone caused Jesus the most pain, did one of the most unforgiveable things that led to deadly consequences, and gave Jesus an opportunity to know what it is like for a man to be betrayed by his closest friend. He had to understand our pain, right?

I stood there with my eyes closed, listening to the worship music playing overhead. It was weird, really, to publicly worship along to the lyrics, “For I am crucified with Christ, and yet I live. Not I but Christ who lives within me. His cross will never ask for more than I can give. For it’s not my grace, but His. There’s no greater sacrifice.”  Or it would have been weird if I cared. I was so hurt, I was willing to stand there soaking in the sweet reminder of the Holy Spirit, that all of the painful things in life give me an opportunity to die to my own reactions.

Someone hijacked my debit card and helped themselves on Amazon with my paycheck. Amazon has amazing records … you can give them your card number and they can tell you who’s account used it. My heart might have hardened a little toward a stranger. But it wasn’t. It was a friend. Someone I love dearly. I was heartbroken. Angry, yes, but mostly hurt.

When I prayed about how to approach the subject, my heart was flooded with peace and the knowledge that this was another opportunity to add to my 70×7. This person has transgressed many times, always seeking forgiveness but never following through with repentant behavior. Given unconditional trust and being very undeserving. Given mercy upon mercy and not caring a lick. Just taking.

I know Judas loved Jesus, because when the magnitude of what he’d betrayed Jesus to hit him, he was so overcome with grief, he committed self-murder. If he hadn’t loved Jesus, he wouldn’t have cared so much. He just obviously loved himself a lot too. His self-love betrayed him, I would say. I think the same thing happened in my situation. An abundance of self-love stole this person’s vision until they were short-sighted and foolish. The act discovered and addressed led to genuine remorse. I do not doubt the sincere cry for forgiveness. I cannot deny the plea, because I am responsible to God to forgive as He has forgiven me. My love didn’t diminish in the least and although I am aware of the potential going forward, I cannot live in relation to this person with suspicion leading me, because it’s not loving.

None of this is my natural reaction, and that’s how I know Jesus loved Judas. I think it’s comforting knowing that the depth of our sin toward God cannot diminish His love, or His willingness to forgive us and walk with us as if we had never transgressed after we’ve been forgiven. I love that His mercies are new every morning. I am grateful for His grace, that instead of being demanding, is so beautiful that my right relationship with God isn’t because I am intimidated by His sovereignty, but because I am so very thankful. What a wonderful, amazing God we serve.

“You Should Probably Pray About That”

Published February 26, 2018 by Dawn

I was chastised tonight in the parking lot of the church. I pulled in to the parking lot, put the car in park and prepared to practice my song one more time before going into the building. I was supposed to share a special song at the end of the worship service and I just wanted to practice it one more time. My son sat in the passenger seat, sunk down as low as he could go, looking off into the distance with a hurt expression on his face. He had disappointed himself just a few minutes before we got in the car to go to church and his reaction escalated quickly until he was out of control. To be honest, he had disappointed me too, but I am learning that sometimes, the experience is enough of a teacher and I was not going to hurt him with my admonishment since it seemed like his own disappointment was more than enough.

His voice, just barely above a whisper, broke the silence in the car as I was scrolling through my music to find the track I was going to use tonight. He said, “Mom, I am hurting so much.” I looked over at him and said, “Bub, you probably need to pray about it. I have to practice this song.” I only had five minutes before service started and we were still in the parking lot. I turned back to the phone, pressed play, and started singing along to the music, hitting all the right stops and starts, nailing the song … while the Holy Spirit stared into me. How can you think this service to God is more important than the person sitting next to you?

I was deeply ashamed of myself. If the Holy Spirit is going to say that to me, that means that God doesn’t think my singing in church – even if it’s for His honor and glory – is more important than praying with my son. It seems that goes without saying, but I probably do this often. I’m a one-track mind kind of person. I get stuck on something, and I have to work really hard to maintain focus so I will finish things, or I don’t. I am an expert at ignoring distractions to get work done, but apparently, sometimes, I ignore the work while I get distractions done.

I was really affected by this chastisement, and when my pastor preached this evening on the Acts 2 church, it dawned on me that this isn’t just my problem; it’s the church’s problem. We have mastered the art of doing service for God. Man, we do, do, do. And when we have a moment of nothing to do, we plan for the next service we are going to do. But we have neglected the people around us time and time again. We want to minister to people, thinking we can make a huge impact on them and their circumstances, but how can we make any impact on the world around us if we aren’t willing to stop and pray? The world is saying, “I am hurting,” and the church is responding, “You should probably pray about that.” Then we turn back to what we were doing before and ignore the brokenness around us.

The men and women of Acts who experienced a great, sweeping heavenly fire weren’t adhering to a carefully thought out program. They were praying. They were waiting on God. They had agreed with Jesus to still themselves in prayer until the Holy Spirit showed up. When the cloven tongues fell, those men and women were equipped to do God’s work, and God’s work no doubt took them by surprise. Which of them woke up that morning determined to make a fool of him or herself? The people outside accused them of public drunkenness, but they were just filled with the Spirit of God. They participated in what God wanted to do through them, and thousands came to Christ. That’s never happened in my lifetime, and I think I know why: the church has prioritized ministry in such a way to keep people and appeal to people, but not really to reach out to people where they are and minister life to the dying, or pray with the desperately hurting.

This is a tough word, but trust me, friend, I am not pointing fingers. I am GUILTY of this. My own son! I think, if we want to see a move of God as in past generations, we have to get on our knees. He must become greater and we must become less. We have to stop the incessant programming that keeps God in a box, close our eyes for a bit and really press in past the distractions to know God, know His will and His heart for the people around us. We need to be reminded again how powerless we are without Him, and then pray for the Holy Spirit to empower us in our weakness. Only then will we see a mighty move of God, instead of mediocre acts of men and women.

Notice in Matthew 25, Jesus talks about God’s work, and it all involves people. Reaching out the people. Providing for the needs of others. Taking care of those in desperate circumstances. Casting out demons and working miracles are most certainly a work of God that He equips people for, but if we neglect those around us’ most pressing needs because it doesn’t fit into our idea of ministry, we have failed in what God called us to do. Jesus warned that many will say to God on that day, “Lord, didn’t I prophesy in your name and cast out demons, and perform many miracles?” But Jesus said God would tell them to depart, that He never knew them (Matt. 7). These men and women thought they were doing the Lord’s work, but God didn’t acknowledge them or their efforts! Why? Because, while service is most definitely what God enables us to do, we are still responsible to do His will in His timing.

The church has become indifferent to things that God could never turn away from. How many orphans remain institutionalized because God’s people haven’t responded to the need? How many young people are desperately searching for love and attention in things of this world because men and women of God haven’t stepped into the empty places left by broken homes? How many men and women are more concerned about finding the right one, because they have never been introduced to The One who, alone, can satisfy? “You should probably pray about that.”

Father, break our hearts for what breaks yours. Teach us to pray, Lord. Teach us to tarry in prayer, waiting for you to move us instead of being so busy that we miss what you really want to do through us.  Remold your church into the body of Christ as it should be, and teach us to do your work, and not our idea of it. You love people, Lord, and sometimes, it seems that we love the lights, platform and accolades. Forgive us for putting minor things in the place of major things and neglecting those around us while we chase our own dreams.

 

Trials with a Tea

Published January 18, 2018 by Dawn

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet, not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Hot cup of tea in hand, I retreated to my bedroom this morning, set a fifteen-minute timer and sat down with the Lord for what was left of my morning before I had to leave for work. There’s not usually anything left of my morning, so this was a rare treasure I gave myself by getting up just a smidge earlier. I should really do this every day…

I’ve been quiet before Him for two days like this, purposefully. I cleaned “the chair” and took care of the laundry-in-limbo so I would have a special place for my time with the Lord. I just needed a newness because things have been stale and I’d become complacent. So I cleaned “the chair”, rearranged my room a little and now I have a quaint sitting area where I can have tea with Jesus.

Ok, now that you can visualize  … teatime this morning, the Lord shared something with me that really lifted a burden. I’ve been a victim to bad theology, and although I easily recognized it was false, some of it got into my heart. It’s that junk about God only having good plans for us, based on Jeremiah 29:11. We’ve created an entire doctrine based on this one scripture and I’m afraid it’s hurting people in the church. You see, the church is in a dangerous rut of delivering inspirational/motivational, me-centered sermons that convince people that God only wants them to be happy. Such a misguided notion tends to make people think, when things get uncomfortable in life, that it’s just an attack of Satan or a punishment for wrongdoing.

According to scripture, sometimes, hard things that break us are the will of God. I mean, it was in Jesus’ life. Also in Paul’s. And John. James. Peter. The list, people, is long. Many men and women in the bible endured hardship as the will of God. And do you know what’s missing in this scripture in Luke where Jesus, weeping droplets of blood, asks his Father to remove the cup because it’s a hard one to swallow? God’s reply. I checked all four Gospels and there isn’t one. God didn’t respond to him. Luke 22:43 tells us an angel came and strengthened Jesus, but he was strengthened to endure the road ahead. Golgotha. Betrayal. Torment. Death. All the will of God.

God did not even utter a word. I wonder if He was weeping just then. He knew what was to come. He purposed it. And Jesus didn’t deserve it. It wasn’t punishment. It was for a greater good. God’s greater purpose.

I desperately want people to understand that, while God desires our ultimate good, He is more concerned about working things out in conformity to His will than He is about rescuing us when things don’t feel good. Sometimes, He requires hard services and acts of obedience that take us beyond our own abilities and make us cling to Him as He teaches us how to walk the hard road. We cannot say that because something feels right, it must be what God wants because I have found that sometimes, things don’t feel right or good, but when I pray, God says to me (like he said to Paul), “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

God sometimes brings us to places we don’t want to be. Asks us to be obedient in things we don’t want to do. I believe He does this to humble us, so we see our weaknesses. So we reach out for His strength. So we learn to depend on Him. One of Satan’s many lies is that God never gives us more than we can handle. Sure does make us feel strong, doesn’t it? But it’s a lie. God often gives us more than we can handle because He wants us to turn to Him and usually, this is the only way to get us to do that.

I share this from my heart, friend. I pray this word brings relief and leads to healing. God really does love us, and while He has good things in store, He also works mightily through trials and tribulations. The Bible says that “he comforts us in all our sufferings so we can comfort others with the comfort we received” (2 Cor. 1:4). Such trials are precious when they cause us to run to God. Those tender moments of being comforted eclipse even the most harrowing circumstances and remind us just how good our God is. I hope you run to Him, friend, and climb into His daddy-lap. He longs for you and is patiently waiting, even now, to tenderly gather you under His wings where you can find refuge. Be at peace!

Paul, A Prisoner of Christ

Published January 7, 2018 by Dawn

I sat down with the Word of God this morning, specifically praying that God would transform my heart and mind (Romans 12:2) and make me holy by cleansing me with the Word (Ephesians 5:26). I’ve needed it, as I have felt overwhelmed by the battle lately, abandoned in acts of obedience, and left alone to bear the burden of life.

My last long study session, I read most of Acts so I pulled the satin strip of a bookmark out as I flipped open my Bible and began where I left off at Acts 25. Paul was imprisoned and had been handed down from Felix to Festus. It seemed the will of God kept Paul captive to a succession of administrators who needed to hear the gospel. When Festus questioned him and thought to send Paul back to Jerusalem so he could finally put an end to Paul’s trial, Paul appealed to Caesar. This appeal guaranteed his continued imprisonment, and we later find, after Paul witnesses to King Agrippa, that if he hadn’t made his appeal to Caesar, he could have been set free. The men who had accused him years before had lost their fervency and forgotten their accusations.

I wonder, if Paul had known how close he was to freedom, if he would have went back. This man, whom God continually gave wisdom to and great discernment, did not have this one piece of information that could have been his get-out-of-jail-free card. The truth is, God had kept this information from him because it was God’s will that Paul go to Rome. Paul never questioned God in this because he knew that the fulfillment of his vision for ministry, the vision God gave him, was that he should minister in Rome.

I find this truth slightly discomforting: God’s will for Paul was a purposed captivity. We find through the next few chapters that God provided a relative amount of freedom and comfort, and even safety, in Paul’s service, but at the end of the day, Paul spent years in captivity – years as a prisoner – because it served God’s purpose.

In Acts 27, Paul’s captors defy logic and reason, ignore Paul’s discernment, and set out on a ship with 227 men during the worse time of the year for sailing. Their zeal to finish their assignment swept them headlong into a massive shipwreck. Fourteen days on a harrowing, turbulent sea. Days without food, living in constant fear for their lives, these men could have avoided all of this if they would have just listened to Paul’s Spirit-led advice. Because God, was gracious, though, the storm eventually drove them to Malta where all survived, although they lost their ship and all their supplies.

Almost as soon as they had reached the beach, Paul began to build a fire and a viper latched onto his hand. He should have died, but instead, he just shook it off and kept going. This part of the story has awed me for years. I marvel at Paul’s faith, but to him it was a simple thing: God had said he was going to Rome, so he was going to Rome. There was nothing that could keep him from God’s plan for his life, no matter how scary and deadly. Paul was settled in this knowledge and it carried him through every attack of the enemy to make him fear otherwise.

Not one to waste a moment of His minister’s life, God used the shipwreck on the island of Malta to bring healing to the nation there, spread the Gospel of Christ, and replenish His missionary-in-chains. He used every bit of the shipwreck – used Paul in that place – and prepared him to go on in God’s ultimate plan.

Chapter 28, verse16, tells us that Paul arrived in Rome, in fulfillment to the vision God had given him. This fulfillment came through captivity. Clearly, it wasn’t Paul’s plan; who plans to live his life in captivity? It was God’s plan which Paul submitted to because he saw himself as an obedient servant, not a master of his own life. This plan was good, even if it didn’t feel good.

The end of Acts, the end of 28, tells us that Paul was a captive in Rome, preaching the gospel unhindered in his own rented house. I just can’t get over this. He was fulfilling God’s ultimate plan for his life as a captive, but living as a free man in his own rented house and preaching the gospel without hindrance. That blows my mind! God fulfilled Paul’s vision and used everything Paul endured. He encouraged Paul through others and kept him safe by posting guards outside his house. Otherwise, Paul was “free” to minister to the Romans.

As I read all of this today, I was astonished. Never did Paul waver in his faith. Never did God waste a moment of suffering. And never did God allow Paul to be harmed as he fulfilled God’s plan for his life. Paul was obedient. He didn’t complain. He took everything that happened with such a deep conviction that God could use it and all he had to do was yield in all ways to God’s will. Everything that happened was an opportunity for Paul to minister and he did. He never worried about himself. He endured discomfort for the sake of the lost, and was led in chains everywhere God wanted him to go. Satan had no power in any of this. Anything that might have been the work of the devil was thwarted and repurposed by God.

Father, I want that kind of faith. I desire an obedient heart like Paul’s. Give me ears to hear and a strong, steadfast belief in your love and ability. Increase my faith, increase my love and give me a heart that desires your will above all things. If your will for my life requires me to be uncomfortable, I pray for a love for you that surpasses my own self-love, so that I can do your work unhindered by my selfishness. Thank you for your Word, that brings healing and comfort, that renews us and helps us to continue. I love you.