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Judas is Alive and Well

Published June 23, 2017 by Dawn

“Then Jesus said also unto the twelve, ‘Will you also go away?” (John 6:66-71)

Am I the only one who reads this and immediately asks, “Why didn’t Judas go then?” He had an out, and obviously no fidelity to Christ, so why didn’t he take this opportunity to turn away? I’ve spent hours studying this and I think it’s because Judas had access through his relationship to Jesus, to something that greatly benefitted him. His image, and thereby his ego: He was the keeper of the purse … and he was a thief (John 12:6).

I can’t imagine he was comfortable in his position. After all, Jesus alluded to him early on by saying that one of them was a devil (John 6:70). Did this memory ever prick Judas? Did it come to mind as he reached into the purse while no one was looking? Did he remember Jesus calling him out while he stood in the shadow of the synagogue waiting for his thirty pieces of silver?

Obviously, Judas was a snake in the grass all along. I mean, I imagine when Jesus sat down to eat with Pharisees, Judas sneered and jeered right along with them. We get a glimpse of his true colors when Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with precious perfume … Judas couldn’t imagine a bigger waste. “Why wasn’t this sold and the money given to the poor?” He couldn’t stand her devotion to Christ, but he covered his hatred with a piety that likely caused division in the room. His comment likely sowed seeds of distaste among everyone there. After all, the poor were a Godly consideration, were they not? Her humble way of honoring Christ was disputed and I can’t help but wonder if Judas leaned back at every table they supped to with his arms across his chest waiting for an opportunity to condemn the graciousness of God for the sake of the law.

Unable to shake his disapproval, Judas eventually stood in the outer court and pilfered Jesus out to the highest bidder. He was willing to deliver this man who called him friend. Why? Satan had entered him. How can Satan enter someone who is walking next to Jesus every day? All he needs is an opportunity, it seems. Judas provided that opportunity by esteeming his position and his access more than he esteemed his Lord. His rebellious nature was evident in the way he questioned Jesus instead of rejoicing with him. He welcomed Satan by refusing to submit to Christ as his sovereign Lord. To him, Jesus was a man. A man he hardly valued. Thirty pieces is a small price to exchange for eternal life and everlasting love, but Judas took it and betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Let’s pause here and notice the kiss: Judas betrayed Jesus, but still acted like his friend up until the very end. I have thought about this part all day long. How did Jesus respond to this betrayal? I reflected on it first by asking, “How would I?” My immediate response would have been to steel myself against the blow; act as if the crushing weight of it hadn’t affected me at all. As I thought about this, I realized that this approach is the place bitterness firsts digs in. When I have been betrayed, my response is to ignore the feeling of it. But the result is not what I imagine it should be: with every memory, the pain hits me fresh and I have to bury those feelings again. No, Jesus did not respond like that because such a response inhibits immediate forgiveness. To feel such betrayal is sometimes unbearable, but I have intentionally felt betrayal, to see what can be done and there’s only one thing: to cast that upon the Lord (1 Peter 5:7), or be crushed by it. I know this is what Jesus did. It’s very scriptural. He felt the betrayal wholly and then cast it immediately upon his Father so he could stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13). After casting betrayal on the Lord, His help enabled me to forgive, and I know Jesus immediately forgave Judas for hurting him because holding on to hatred is sin and Christ was without sin (1 John 3:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

As Christians, we will be exposed to the person of Judas in one of two ways – I won’t exclude the possibility that we can be exposed to both.

Firstly, we can be a Judas, loving the office in God’s house more than we love God. Loving the attention and the access more than we love and honor our Heavenly Father. We can be Judas by hating in our hearts those in the church who display any kind act toward Jesus, and justifying our hatred by drawing attention to the folly that often accompanies their efforts because God knows how to humble people. We can be a Judas by betraying Christ, or his workmen, by something as seemingly innocuous as slander or undue suspicion. God’s children do well to cultivate self-control under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, to avoid doing harm to His Son!

Secondly, we can be exposed to Judas through others. Every church has a Judas, and every individual will know one. Here, we have to lean upon the example of Christ. Jesus allowed him the money bag. His thievery was evident to all but ultimately, between him and God. Jesus allowed him to self-implode. Judas no doubt experienced deep conviction while traveling with Christ. Jesus was holy and shared a message of righteousness. Judas had opportunity to repent, but embraced his sin instead. Jesus let him. Jesus didn’t turn away from Judas’ kiss, which I am sure made the impact of Judas’ betrayal all the heavier to bear. Jesus heaped the burning coals (Romans 12:20); he didn’t respond to betrayal with hatred in like manner. Jesus defended the innocent from Judas’ charge, but he didn’t berate Judas or publicly humiliate him.

Jesus was (and is) in all ways gracious to everyone, including Judas. This means two things to us: God’s grace will forgive the Judas in us, and we should be gracious when hurt by the Judas in our lives. This much I know is true: Judas is here to test and betray us. Jesus calls him the devil (John 6:70), and the devil “has come to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). However, Beloved, Satan could not defeat Christ, and he cannot defeat those who are completely surrendered to Jesus and sheltered by the Almighty! Don’t be Judas, and don’t be defeated by him either.

Because He First Loved Me

Published June 18, 2017 by Dawn

I had a very humbling experience the other day. I was lying in bed the other morning It was really early … like, the birds weren’t even up yet. I laid there hoping for the best in terms of falling back to sleep and eventually slipped into a nap. I had this dream that the Lord was looking for me, searching deeper and deeper into the depths of this really dark pit. He finally made it to the bottom, still faithfully calling out my name. There at the bottom, he lifted up this thick covering and there I was, hiding underneath it. I looked up at him with fire in my eyes and venom on my tongue as I hissed, “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.”

I was a little kid who had lost a game of hide and seek. The Lord searched until he found me, and to my shame, when he finally found me, I was insolent and hateful. I had the sensation that this dream was a picture of Jesus. He was searching out the deepness of my heart, looking for me. I was humbled to hear myself whisper such a horrendous thing to my Lord. His gentle love in that moment humbled me greatly as I heard the Spirit whisper, “…because he first loved me.”

Being transparent seems easy for me, but I have to admit that this one was hard to even delve into for myself, much less admit it out loud for the world to know. I’ve prided myself for years … Is it okay if I get really transparent here? I might not have admitted this out loud to anyone before, but the truth is that me not being who I once was is a huge deal (to me). I took pride in it for years. Being redeemed, being transformed … I took pride in that. You will say to me, “That’s not Christ-like.” I know, friend. I know. I couldn’t help myself. I know that person, and I know myself now. I know the pit I came out of and I felt the weight of escaping it (though now I know I didn’t feel hardly anything compared to what Christ carried for me), but I felt it and the memories made me very proud to be where I am now. Are you hearing the echoes of pride as you read this? Is it turning you off? I am so sorry. I just want you to know what happened to me the other morning and to understand, you have to understand where I was at. I was proud. Of myself.

I have spent the last 8 years of my life in the arms of Christ. I have patiently bore the suffering for His name and His purpose in my life. I have not created my own way and called it good. I have remained as faithful as I can to His Will. Don’t abandon reading now … I know what this sounds like, but bear with me. I have, through all of this, nurtured this pride that somehow, I have attained “good enough” because I have strived for holiness, wrestled with flesh and maintained a firm hold on my own righteousness.

Yes, I credited God with my mouth. I thanked Jesus from my heart. What he did for me on that cross was amazing: buying me from the clutches of sin so I could pursue holiness. And each step forward, I patted myself on the back. That’s why Christ uncovered me. Because all this time, I have given credit to myself for something I could never have done on my own. There, in the secret place of my heart, I watched in horror as my child-like self hissed “I hate you” to the one who sought me, found me and pulled me out. What is there to be proud of when you know yourself like this?

That wasn’t the worst part, though. That wasn’t what did me in. Here’s what did it: He looked at me tenderly in that moment and I could see it on His face. He loved me in that moment.

Something happened. I broke. Jesus, hearing my rebellious heart hate Him, looked me in the eye with such compassion and reached for me anyway.

I don’t think I’ve ever fully understood the cross until this moment. I have spent endless hours reading the Word of God, drinking in the love story of He and Us, but the truth of it never hit me as powerfully until this moment, when His compassion destroyed my pride. I can’t even love Him without Him first loving me.  To me, that would be the easy part compared to some of the things I have been through. If I can’t even do that one thing without His help, how can I claim credit for anything?

I can’t.

Not only do I know now who I am without Him, I know fully what I am capable of. Without Him, I can do nothing. Without Him, I have done nothing. Without Him, I’m full of wickedness and a lover of darkness. I only have light because of Christ. I only walk in light and share light because of Jesus. Paul bids me to “take care lest ye fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12) and now I know just how far I am capable of falling. I am also humbly aware of just how much Jesus has done for me, in spite of myself. Not only am I ashamed of my pride, I am ashamed of my propensities outside of Christ. I thought I had a hold of righteousness, but it turns out I am fully capable of making the devil blush.

I’m in awe of Him. I am in awe of a God who can know this about me and still love me fiercely. He is all-knowing, all-powerful and I am so unworthy. Who could blame God for dealing harshly with someone like me? But that’s the incredible thing: He doesn’t.

He loves me.

Not just me, though. You too, friend. You too.

 

Dear Lord,

Your love is so incomprehensible. I can’t fathom the depths of your mercy. I am so humbled and grateful. Please continue to heal me and lighten what’s dark and forgive me. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your compassions that don’t fail. I love you … now, even from the depths of my heart, I can honestly say I love you. Thank you for your patience on my behalf. You are so good.

 

You Might Be a Bad Mom If …

Published June 16, 2017 by Dawn

I’m probably not a very good mom. Yesterday, my son reflected on himself while getting ready for bed and said to me, “I should probably stop lying. You would probably like me more.”

What was I to say to that? The truth is, his lying is a HUGE deal to me.

  • Number one: lies are bondage. If “you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)” then what good is a lie? It’s no good! How can you put people you love in bondage and for what purpose?
  • Number two: lies show a lack of respect and love. How can you love someone and lie to them at the same time? And when you lie to someone, you are basically saying, “I don’t care enough about you to be honest.” Or, you are saying, “I don’t think you are smart enough to figure out the truth, so…” I hate both of those things.
  • Number three: What would Jesus do? Well, he wouldn’t tell a lie …

I could go on. I hate lies. I’ve lived my life being lied to and deceived by people I loved and trusted, and I hate the brokenness and suspicion that resulted. So when my son said this to me, I did what came natural … being a good mom wasn’t it. A good mom might have started with, “Oh son … I love you no matter what, but –“

Instead, I said, “Son, that’s legit.”

I kid you not. The truth just popped off my tongue and hit my son right between the eyes. He looked at me incredulously and did a nervous chuckle. I then defied motherhood a second time and I swallowed every instinct to immediately apologize for it. Here’s the truth: the way he lies – the ease and surety that makes me uneasy because I’m afraid he believes himself – it does kinda hamper my affections. You know how it is, moms. You know you love your kids but sometimes, you don’t like  them. We all feel this way at some point, right?! So it was truth and I delivered it unapologetically.

He just shook his head, chuckling, and said, “Mom, I can’t believe you said that!”

I sat down on the edge of his bed and said, “Son, your lying really needs to stop.”

I’ve been thinking about this all day, praying about it, because naturally, I’m always nervous about how badly I’m screwing my kids up. I wasn’t looking to justify myself, just exploring my own lack of good parental etiquette. Instead of finding myself coming  up short, I recognized a little of my own Father in it. You see, God hits us with hard truths sometimes. He allows things to dawn on us and when we begin to sense the Holy Spirit directing change in our lives, God guides us to that change with a healthy dose of truth that He doesn’t apologize for. He doesn’t even cushion the impact. If the truth is going to set us free, it has to first illuminate the bondage and break it. Being broken is hard, but freedom … who can deny it’s preciousness? It turns out God doesn’t always function within the guidelines of “etiquette” as we understand it either. He is loving, but often blunt as well. The Lord chastises those He loves (Heb. 12:6). We live in a time where this sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s scriptural. God doesn’t always protect our feelings. He’s busy protecting our spirits and our eternities.

I think it’s important to remember that God still loves us in these moments. I love and adore my son to death. But his lying … I don’t love that at all. I could live without it and I know that this bad character trait will make his life a lot harder than life already is. I love my son so much. I don’t want to see him intensifying his own struggles by something the Holy Spirit can deal with. I want him to embrace this as an eye-opening opportunity to make a change for the better. God wants the same for His children. And the Bible calls Him a good, good Father. I guess I’m not so bad after all!

The Boyfriend Bonfire

Published June 3, 2017 by Dawn

I’ve only been in one serious relationship in my life, but it was enough. Enough to experience one of the greatest acts of liberation to womankind: the boyfriend bonfire.

No, I did not roast him. Not in the 20th century or 21st century use of the word … I did, however, burn every last vestige of our relationship outside on my lawn one night in my last-ditch effort to get him out of my mind and out of my heart.

Everything good about our relationship sleeps around the corner while I write this. For a long time, though, I kept mementos of things we did together that I wanted to remember forever in a little brown lock box. Movie tickets from our first “official” date (you know, the one someone else drove us to because we were fifteen), the promise ring he bought me (which was thrown in a fit of madness and recovered a few months later having been worked over by some car tires), pictures of us, letters between us. All the things that would have been a cute story to tell our kids if things would have worked out between us.

I did hang on to them for a really long time, hoping to share this part of my life with my kids when they grew up, but just looking at the box became unbearably painful as I tried to eradicate him from my heart so I could stop crying and move on. Opening it was a day-trip to hell.

I saw the bonfire idea on an episode of Friends years before, and seeing it work for Rachel (kind of) sold the idea to me. So, one day, I took my box outside, opened it and burned each piece of it individually on the sidewalk. When everything that could burn was burned, including the box, I threw everything else in the trash and sat down and cried my last cry over all those memories, the loss of love, and the brokenness in my heart. Then I prayed to God this one prayer that I will never regret praying and which, mercifully, He granted. “Please, God, replace every thought of him with a thought of you.” I thought about this man every second of every day. It was a self-inflicted torment that I couldn’t seem to stop on my own. But those thoughts had to be replaced by something and I wanted it to be my Savior.

I’m telling you all of this because it occurred to me yesterday that separation from sin requires this same kind of desperate act. A bonfire, if you will, of everything that draws you to that sin. When the Holy Spirit begins to deal with you about sin in your life, your responsibility is to do whatever is necessary to end your relationship with that sin so you can be in a right relationship with God. God does not appreciate a half-hearted devotion. He doesn’t want a lover who is often in the arms of the world. You cannot love both. You will hate the one and love the other (Matthew 6:24), and God says if you love the world, you don’t love Him (James 4:4). You might be able to convince yourself that you do, but it’s not an acceptable relationship in His eyes. Who appreciates being cheated on?!

There’s no doubt we love sin.  We were born into sin, and from our earliest recollection, it was wooing us. We find out at our first lie how well sin works in our favor. It guards us from discomfort, protects the ones we love from heartache, and keeps our pride intact. Don’t believe it’s true? Try admitting you lied to someone who holds the key to your job … I’ve done it and it’s awful. Ever cheated and then admitted it? Then you’ve seen the devastation on your lover’s face and hated yourself for inflicting it. Let’s face it: sin has a beautiful side and it’s easy to love. It’s easy to embrace and easy to give yourself over to it.

If we consider ourselves Christians – the bride of Christ making herself ready for her wedding – we cannot love sin on the side. Grace came to save us and purify us from sin, but God will not abide this continuing love affair with the world. We have to separate ourselves, and if it’s hard to move on because of the memories and the feelings, then we have to do something drastic … like a boyfriend bonfire.

How do we properly break up with sin? We take all the things that drum up memories or feelings for it, all the things that increase our desire toward it and we torch it on the front lawn! We turn away from those things that feed our visual sickness. We turn the knob on the radio, switch the channel, avoid the road that goes past the bars. We pause before the word comes out. We take the high road instead of the low road. You see, the Bible says that when we are tempted, God provides a way out so we can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13). We will not be tempted beyond what we can bear. We just so often choose the comfort of sin than the discomfort of taking authority in our lives.

I’ve no doubt that as you read this, the Lord is reminding you of sin He’s been trying to deal with in your habits. He’s asking you to be His, wholly. You are being wooed by the lover of your soul, but it’s time to break up with the world. It’s time to break up with your proclivity for things that displease God. And as you step away from them, as your purposefully avoid them and say no to all the things that would lead you back to sin, you should pray, “God, please make every thought that would be about this sin about you instead.” God is faithful, friend. You can be free from the grip of sin.  That’s what Jesus died for. This New Age message that tells you that you are hopeless in your sin, so thank God Jesus died, is keeping you a captive to something Jesus died to break you free from. If without holiness, none shall see God (Hebrew 12:14), then holiness is a good and proper pursuit for the Christian in love with Christ. But you can’t chase holiness while chained to sin.

If the Holy Spirit is convicting you right now, it’s time to have a bonfire. Let the holy fire of the Spirit of God burn up all the things that need to go in order for you to accept Christ as your One and Only. Do it now, friend, while the fire is hot and the Spirit is ready. You will not regret this break-up. You won’t even shed a tear.

Standing Outside the Fire

Published May 31, 2017 by Dawn

I walked into a tree limb yesterday morning. It was literally my breaking point. I walked into a tree limb, it poked me in the eye and I started to cry.

 

I know … I sound super lame right now, but it’s true. I fell apart after being poked in the eye by a stick. You’re probably cracking up right now. I’d be laughing too, but … well, ok, I’m laughing now. It wasn’t funny at the time.

 

I hit my breaking point exactly as I just mentioned. After a two-night, surprise admission to the hospital (which means a crappy shower and no razor … let that sink in, ladies … ), I came home right before a strong storm knocked out the electricity (ok, seriously, am I the only one obsessed with taking a shower?). I came home with a kid who doesn’t understand how vital it is to not do anything for the next ten days of his life while his body wards off a very nasty infection that necessitates some of the strongest antibiotics currently known to the medical world. To say I have been stressed lately doesn’t seem like I have adequately conveyed to you the angst going on in me. But do you get it when I mention the tree poking me in the eye? It didn’t even touch my actual eyeball. It just poked me near my tear duct. Tears welled up in my eyes, but the tears from my heart pushed them overboard and I stood in the yard crying like a child.

 

Dear Daddy,

I’m done. Please, not another thing. These so-called light and momentary troubles are getting the best of me right now. I don’t know how strong you think I am, or how strong you want me to be but I assure you I’m not. I’m done. This assault … can I call a time out? I don’t know what you’re aiming at in my life right now, but my hands are up and I surrender. How can I glorify you in this moment? What purpose can you possibly have in poking me in the eye? Cease fire! I can’t take anymore!

 

I eventually sucked it up and got back to what I was doing: picking up the yard after said storm so it could be mowed. The Holy Spirit whispered something to me that Paul said, about counting it all joy in suffering … it was an okay thought and it got me through the moment but that yard just sucked me back in to the here and now.

 

There was so much natural debris in my yard, I decided to start a small fire and burn it little by little. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned how God uses music to speak to me sometimes, but it’s one of my main obsessions, so it makes sense. Only His choice of song was a little strange … Standing Outside the Fire. I don’t think I’ve heard that song since I was a kid. But there I was, standing next to the fire when it started running through my head.

 

Life is not tried it’s just merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire.

 

And I realized that here lately, I have been merely surviving. With my head barely above water, so to speak. Standing outside the fire – existing outside that precious communion with the Holy Spirit – I am barely making it. I am overwhelmed. To be completely honest, I’m not trying. I’m not putting forth much effort beyond just making it through each day.

 

There are several encounters with fire in the Bible. Moses at the burning bush. Moses on the mountaintop. The fire at Mount Sinai. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Elijah. The fire is both unapproachable and engulfing. I can clearly see a progression of the Spirit of God: coaxing us near, engulfing us, drawing us near to Him. When the veil was torn, all of humanity was given a beautiful opportunity to come into this kind of fellowship with God. Unfortunately, there’s also a discomfort involved. Fire purifies. It burns up the natural man until there’s nothing left to hinder in our pursuit of the Father’s heart. It feels a lot like heat and tribulation in this life. Jesus came that we may have life more abundantly, but we won’t ever do more than merely survive if we are willing to stand outside the fire. We’ll just be surviving the onslaught. Never victorious. Never advancing. Never coming into precious communion with the Father. I know I wasn’t made for that.

You and I were made for Him who shows up as a pillar of fire. Who says He will be a wall of fire around us. The children of God were made to be consumed. These sufferings come so that the glory of God might be revealed in us. The fire of His presence. I don’t want to stand outside the fire. I want to step into it. Walk in it, knowing that God is there with me and will not leave me or forsake me. I want to allow His Holy Spirit to purify me through trials. When I am weak, He is strong. Here I am freely admitting my frailty. I am ready and needing God to stand by me and give me strength. These moments are so sweet, even if they seem a little bitter at first. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an even greater glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17).

 

 

Know Your Purpose

Published May 31, 2017 by Dawn

Arguably the biggest question fueling the Christian book market today is “What is my purpose?”  We literally spend billions sifting through all the prescribed ways to figure out what God was thinking when He made us. What might He want to do through us? What big difference were we put here to make in this world?

 

Can I simplify this? I promise not to sell you another book, because I don’t think it’s that complicated. Your purpose is multifaceted and as complex as you, but at the same time, so simple. You were put here for two reasons: to worship God and to bring glory to His name.

 

I’m sure you knew that, and I’m also sure you’re asking, “But how?!”

 

Any way you find to do it. Did you know you can worship anytime, anywhere? Sure, it’s probably not socially acceptable to sing praise and worship while walking through Wal-Mart, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means people might look at you funny. Why do you care, if you are doing what God has purposed for you to do? I often worship in Wal-Mart. In my head, in the shower … the place is irrelevant. It’s the act of worshiping. God inhabits the praises of His people. I don’t know about you but I want Him in Wal-Mart with me. In the car, or the shower, or wherever else I may find myself. I want His companionship. Therefore, I praise Him.

 

In addition to all that worshiping, we are called to bring glory to Him. How? By doing everything to the glory of God. Doing everything as if unto God, not unto men. And when we do that, people will look at us and see the Spirit of God resting on us. Bam! He gets praise and glory through our everyday lives. While we’re cleaning, shopping, or working. God can be clearly seen through people who are perpetually focused on Him.

 

The problem … the thing that gets in the way of our purpose is our overwhelming preoccupation with ourselves. Gratifying ourselves. Putting ourselves on a stage somewhere. Worshiping ourselves. The message of the cross has been systematically replaced by a “Message of Me.” We want God to make something of us, instead of using us to make something of Him. We want to be able to look at what we are capable of and listen to the praises of others on our behalf.

 

It doesn’t matter what kind of humility you are capable of portraying. Your deceitful heart is capable of fooling others and even you, if you aren’t exposing yourself to the Holy Spirit on a regular basis. Ask God to magnify your heart so you can see the truth and you will most likely be appalled at your own motives. Mine have to be overhauled all the time by the Holy Spirit.

 

Here’s the truth: God will not put you in a position to draw attention to yourself. Pride is such a cancerous sin, and God knows how devastating it can be to a vulnerable soul. However, many a man (and woman) have exalted themselves because they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) wait on God, or submit to serving in obscurity. Is it okay if, at the end of the day, no one knows who you are? Could you live a life of devotion to God if He doesn’t have a public stage in store for you? What if, at the end of your life, God is the only one who knows your name? Would you be okay with that? If so, you may very well be on your way to fulfilling your God-given purpose. If not, you may want to check yourself before you wreck yourself because you have made your service in the kingdom all about yourself.

 

 

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?