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Saving a Pastor Time and Money

Published October 2, 2017 by Dawn

My old job kept me in captivity most of the time. Captive to monotonous conversations I couldn’t get out of even for a phone call. I was a receptionist. I do recall, however, one of the shortest and most meaningful conversations of my life. I made an enemy in less than two minutes.

I didn’t mean to. It was really just a case of not thinking before I spoke, but it did two things: it freed me up to get back to work and delivered a gut-punch of truth I wouldn’t have muttered if I would have thought about it. After years of cultivating the precious habit, I now think before I speak (sometimes, rather than never) and usually give truth more tactfully, but this lady didn’t even see it coming.

A coworker of mine had sidled up to the counter and peered down at me while I ended a phone call. Poor lady. She was just trying to put some distance between herself and her own nightmarish conversation. But she picked me to talk to and that might not have been the best decision …

I’m not sure how the conversation started, but she was telling me about her second job. She was a social worker by day and a public speaker by … another day. Her topic: building the church. She traveled on the weekends delivering conferences on how to build the church through best business practice. My first question was pure curiosity: “People pay for that?” She bragged, “Yeah!” Then I did it. Engrossed by the idea and in the spirit of conversation, I mused, “That’s so weird! I mean, Jesus said in the Bible, ‘I will build the church.’ I can’t believe pastors pay for that!”

I kid you not.

She gave me a hurt look and without saying another word, she turned and walked to the farthest corner of the room and sat down. She gave me pitiful glances for the next half an hour and I just smiled dimwittedly at her because I had no idea how much I had hurt her ego.

I’ve been thinking about this for over a week now because for once, I finally understand why people pay for things like that. Someone told me a few Sundays past that they are seeking another church because as much as they love the one I attend, they preferred to be in a church where the youth are on fire for God. I agreed with her wholeheartedly, as that’s so important. Inside, though, it stung. I’m the youth leader…

When the Lord called me into youth ministry, I committed to God that I would never rely on gimmicks to build up a youth group. I told the Lord that day that I would simply teach the Word of God and let the chips fall where they may. I ministered for years to groups of three or four … sometimes two, and on some occasions, one. Every once in a while, the group would swell to eight, ten or twelve. Inevitably, though, I’d lose some and the numbers would go down again. Remembering that it’s important to be faithful in the little things, I have always just pressed on, teaching a message each week to whomever showed up that I had faithfully studied and prayed over all week prior. God was faithful to give me a word in due season and I was faithful to feed His sheep. I knew what she meant, though. We’re not, per se, “on fire.”

This friend’s comment, as honest and admirable as it was, hurt my pride. I went home and prayed in my closet, “God, if there’s someone else you want to move in here, please send them! I am not so proud that I won’t sit down and let someone else rock this for your glory. I wouldn’t mind being done.” I’ve been doing youth ministry for nine years.

I felt the desperation. I felt what many pastors must feel after faithfully ministering for so long to a congregation that is either dying or dead. And I finally realized that we’re all like the woman in the Gospels with the issue of blood. We’re dealing with a sickness that’s been persisting for so long, we’re desperate. We’re willing to throw money at anything that seems promising, even if it means paying someone to strategize about the carpet, the seating arrangements, the music and the length of the sermon. We’ll even trust a carnal businessman if he’s promising a positive change to the depressing state of our churches.

But, like her, perhaps our hope will not be found there. Jesus said in John 6:44 that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” Unfortunately, that means we’ve wasted a lot of time and money, and fruitless effort, trying to do something no man (or woman) on earth can do. And I think we’re a little confused about what it means to be on fire, too. We can purchase the amazing theatre lights, go for broke on our musical instruments and shout the roof down, but that’s all just hype if people don’t leave services changed. As a teacher, I have seen many students go from Wednesday night youth to Friday night dances wearing the shortest and most revealing dresses and cussing like a sailor. Undulating with the sway of human depravity and hiding behind their sheepish grins when our eyes meet. These young people are not on fire, even if they raise their hands and worship or give the most eloquent testimonies.

Dear pastors and youth pastors, please don’t waste another penny on conferences that promise to make a difference. Trust me, they won’t. I’ll save you time and money by shortening the truth to this: touching Jesus in prayer and intercession is the only thing that’s going to work. Holiness doesn’t always look like a loud, boisterous service. God spoke to Elijah on the mount in a still small voice, not in the earthquake, wind or fire. You can’t replicate the work of the Holy Spirit and get the same results Jesus got. Be faithful in prayer, teach what God speaks to you and leave the burden to God. If you are desperate, good! That just means you’ve read and understand James 3:1, which says, “not many of you should become teachers, brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

If you are afraid you aren’t doing something right as a minister, it’s okay. It’s humbling when you think about it: God chose jars of clay with hearts of stone to use to minister to the world. On our own, we are rather pitiful. We need God to infuse us. Infuse the worship and message we bring with His power and set people on fire because we can’t do that on our own. No matter how much we water down the gospel to fill the pews, we will not see people on fire for God in our own strength.

I hope this takes a load off. It does for me, at least. If you find this piece offending, I think it’s probably because you think too much of yourself. Jars of clay. Remember that. “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this extraordinary power does not come from us, but from God” (2 Cor. 4:7). God bless, friends!

 

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Maybe God Misses You

Published September 6, 2017 by Dawn

James Dobson said something to my mother heart when my kids were very young that haunted me since. He said, “At some point, a boy begins to push away from his mother.” He was talking about bringing up boys, and I was mostly resentful (then) of his wisdom because I faced the daunting task of raising a son on my own, and Dr. Dobson made it sound all but impossible. I have slowly conceded to his points, one after the other, as my son has shown how very much Dr. Dobson knows on the topic (in contrast to how very little I know). This past summer, this particular nugget of truth became revealed. My son wanted to be home as little as possible.

I have always, ever since becoming a mother, wanted my children’s happiness more than my next breath. I have lived for their delight. I have read all the psych books, poured over the scriptures, and done all that I could within my power to secure the perpetual joy and bliss of my kids. I will not sing my praises more than this, because perhaps I have failed … I don’t know. All I know is that this past summer, while my daughter clutched the apron strings just a little tighter in anticipation of high school (which we are ALWAYS reminded is really just a blur in the rearview mirror before you know it), my son pushed us away like we were a plague. The end of summer brought him back home long enough to find out his new boundaries for the school year, then he was off every evening after chores and spending the weekends with his friends again.

Last weekend, he asked me if he could go to his friend’s house and I told him no.

“But WHY?” The badgering began.

Can I admit something to you? I didn’t have much of a real reason. I told him it was because I wanted him to do his chores, which was partly true. He came home and did them, then asked again.

“No.” I just wanted to cry. Why do you want to leave me?

He was getting a little heated. “But I did my chores and I always go to my friends’ on the weekends. Why can’t I go?”

I stumbled through a list of excuses, all of which he had a great rebuttal for. He protested like a legal expert and I had to concede one after the other until I was left with nothing but the truth.

“I miss you!”

He just gaped at me. “Are you serious?”

Tears welled up in my eyes.

“I want you to stay home. I miss you being here.”

I wish I could say he melted then and there into my arms and told me he’d never go anywhere ever again. He didn’t. He actually continued to argue with me, and even though all I had was the truth of my heart’s cry, I used it to combat his defenses until he sulked to his room. I hugged myself and went to make dinner.

Then it happened.

“Mom, come in here.”

He was in his bedroom. I stepped into the doorway.

“I cleaned it up in here. Want to sit with me?”

Did. I. Ever!

To be invited into the sanctuary of my thirteen-year-old son … YES! I went in and sat on his futon. He laid down on his bed, pulled out his phone and ignored me for the next twenty minutes, but my heart was satisfied just being in his presence. When I finally got up to leave (because let’s face it, I can only be ignored for so long before I have to get up and actually accomplish something with the daylight left), he implored, “No, Mom, don’t leave me. Sit here with me.”

I excused myself to finish dinner and he trailed me into the kitchen and helped cook. Every time I turned around, he was leaning into me for a hug. For the first time in months, my son wanted to be around me. I was in heaven.

Do you ever wonder if God keeps us isolated from our friends so He can be with us? Do you think it’s because He misses us? Maybe it’s because He knows that if our attention were on other things, we wouldn’t turn to Him for companionship. Maybe all the times relationships have fallen through, friends have seemingly abandoned us, and family has forgotten we exist … maybe all of the times we felt society shun us was God’s way of giving us a gentle “no” that redirected our attention to Him. Maybe He has a longing for us that hasn’t been articulated so much as shown by a cold shoulder from the world around us. Maybe God just wants to be near us again.

Perhaps, too, we are like my son: pulling out everything we can to distract ourselves, even when God is sitting in the room, and not interacting with Him even though we want Him near. Is it enough to be in His presence? Of course! But we must admit … there’s so much more to God than nearness and silence. Oftentimes, we get this far and we feel like we’ve experienced all there is in our relationship with God, but if we venture out of our sanctuary into His world, and we follow Him as He does His thing, we will inevitably find that God is working on things and we can partner with Him. So often, we invite God to be a part of what we are doing. Perhaps it’s time to stop asking God to make something of us and use us, and instead, we come alongside Him while He works and help in what He is doing. There’s a huge difference, after all.

Yes, I believe God misses us more than we miss Him sometimes. I encourage you to turn your eyes to Him in your loneliness and allow His presence to bring you peace. Furthermore, allow Him to lead you out into the things that He is doing and graciously agree to be a part of His work, whatever He may ask of you. God bless!

Fight The Good Fight for Your Teen

Published August 28, 2017 by Dawn

I’m a little scared. I’ve been a mom for fourteen years now, almost fifteen, and I have never been so scared of motherhood before. I don’t mean to freak any of you newbies out, but teenagers are whack.

I’m sure you hear all the time, “Cherish this time. It only gets worse.” You probably silently assure yourself that while their kids may have gone crazy with the onset of hormones, there’s just no way your darling little angels could ever be anything more than your sweet little lambkin.

I just want to cry for you.

I thought the same thing when my babies were little. How could these amazing, funny, adorable little bundles of joy ever be anything more than sunshine and smiles in my heart? I did not see this coming, and now I’m literally terrified. After all, no one ever tells you how bad it can get. They see the look of pity in your eyes and laugh, leaving you to your new-mom delusion.

It happened this summer. Don’t ask me what it is – my head’s still spinning. I didn’t see it coming. It just hit like a ton of bricks and left me dazed and confused, scared out of my mind. Teenage-hood. That’s a word, right?

I don’t think my prayer life has been this solid since the Holy Spirit began to woo me in my early twenties. I have not sought so desperately for God as I have begun to since this season of my life – this hurricane season, if you will – came on. I’m suddenly living in hostile territory, unsure of what I can or can’t say. Heaven forbid I breathe in my own home! I’m in a house under siege and my hands went up in surrender pretty quickly.

God, these are your children too, remember? Do something!

One thing has become abundantly clear: teenagers have to come into their own. They have to understand the world on their own terms, come into their own faith, have their own relationships and all the while, they push you away and reject your wisdom. It’s the scariest thing ever! To know that at any moment, your kid might make a decision that forever alters the course of their life. You might have to watch them walk into a bear trap without being able to save them. You might hear them questioning the faith they were brought up in. Who’s idea was this?! I think it stinks.

I mentioned my prayer life. My Heavenly Husband and I have gotten very close lately. I have become acquainted with a new level of parental fear and He’s my stronghold. My Rock. I am clinging to God.

Yesterday, I was reading my Bible and came across this amazing scripture that quenched my fears. “Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in His sight” (1Chron. 19:13). Immediately, I remembered a similar scripture in Nehemiah and flipped the pages to find it. In chapter 4:14, Nehemiah says, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

Don’t be afraid of them! Not your kids – I mean, of course, don’t be afraid of them either. No, don’t fear the devil in this. The hardest part about being a parent is having to step back and let your kids walk on their own. You don’t just experience it once, though. That lesson is physical first, then spiritual. It’s just as terrifying watching your kids stumble spiritually as it is when you watched their chubby little hands slip off the edge of the coffee table as their top-heavy body falls right into the corner of the table. You rush to their screaming, bleeding little bodies, scoop them up and sooth them. When they are teenagers, you watch your kids try to walk on their own and when they stumble, you rush in only to find them hardened against your compassion and you have to hold yourself together while they hurt at a distance. It’s horrific!

But we cannot fear Satan. We cannot give any room to the devil. We have to fight for our babies the only way that’s left: in our prayer closets. We have authority over our families. We were given authority when Jesus ascended. We can stand up for our children in prayer. We can demand the enemy cease and desist in their lives. We can pray in the spirit that the Holy Spirit convict them, steer them, fill them with discernment. This is battling when we feel our hands are tied and I know that this is sometimes the only thing we have left. BUT, friend, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They are mighty! We can use them to pull down strongholds, cast down all imaginations and everything in our children’s minds and hearts that are set against God (2 Cor. 10:4).

These wonderful verses encourage us to be brave and courageous. We must believe that God is hearing our prayers and we should be thanking Him even if we don’t see anything with our eyes. We must believe that God is doing what is good in His sight. More than that, we must believe that God is fighting for us. We must believe that just like Daniel, the moment we pray, the angels are dispatched to fight a war in the heavenlies on behalf of our prayers. God is the same yesterday, today and forever and we must believe that He not only hears us, He delivers our children in response to our prayers. Scriptures declare that angels guard them wherever they go (when they become teenagers, they tend to go a lot).

Most importantly, we need to remember our blessed promise in Proverbs 22. Verse six promises that if we ”train up a child in the way they should go, when they are old, they will not depart from it.” Satan, no matter what he tries, can never defeat the promises of God. They are yes and amen! This is a promise we parents can stand on when their walk takes them into scary, foreign places.

Be strong and fight for your families! God bless.

Proper Running Posture

Published August 27, 2017 by Dawn

Finally, a full month over my knee injury, I have begun to hit the pavement again on the regular. I take in a lot of literature on running, now that I officially meet all the requirements to call myself a runner:

  • Checking the weather for tomorrow’s runs today
  • Planning my day around my run
  • Having withdrawals when I don’t get one in
  • Walking around in my workout clothes as a way to make sure I get my run in (can’t change until it’s over!)
  • Eating conscientiously because I know that what goes in has to be run off later
  • Totally “getting” the running memes – they finally make sense

There’s a ton more, but that’s my list. Anyway, that part is not important. I’ve been reading the lit lately about proper running posture. Didn’t know there was such a thing? Me neither. But now I do. There’s a proper way for your feet to hit the pavement, your legs to push off, your arms to swing, your chin to tilt and your shoulders to lift. It’s crazy when you think about it, and at first, I didn’t give it too much thought. But then I paid attention to the foot strike and corrected it. Suddenly, running was so much easier! After a while, I took the push off into consideration and noticed myself feeling more powerful during the run, and less pain after, as I grew accustomed to running in the prescribed way.

Last week, I decided to attend to my arms and chin. I took a run last Tuesday and kept my arms swinging by my sides instead of across my chest/stomach. I was running, chin up, gently swinging my arms by my sides when I felt this pain in my upper back become very acute. It was a pain that had been there for years, often the source of all my back problems. Suddenly, I was super aware of it, but right when I might have stopped running, I felt a grisly pop just left of my spine and all the pressure I often feel in my upper back was immediately gone.

It’s been a week and I have not felt it since. That’s monumental. I have felt that pressure, and sometimes pain, for years!

Paul uses the runner analogy in scripture to talk about the discipline of a Christian. That we should be aware of ourselves, one would think, goes without saying. We should be disciplined in our actions and our words, as the scripture has revealed to us the standards that please God. Holiness is important to Him (Hebrew 12:14). But have you thought about your posture while running your race?

Just as in running, in your spiritual walk, your steps are important. Where you go and how you walk before others may be the only glimpse of Jesus others see. As Christians, we are encouraged to mind our footfalls. As we become more aware of our feet, we will find that our walk with the Lord becomes easier if we let Him direct our steps.

As we discipline ourselves in our spiritual race, we might initially find ourselves running more from our own strength and power, “pushing off” just any way that seems appropriate, but if we intend to stay in the race for the long run, allowing the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to teach us how to run properly will add strength and power to our race. When we live and move and have our being in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, we will find that though the struggle is very real, it’s not nearly as painful. We can be thankful in our sorrows and suffering because we know that we are growing in the Lord and He is enabling us to be more and more impactful to the world around us as He has His way in our lives.

I noticed this past week that as I focused on the way I used my arms while running, making sure to keep them at my sides and not swinging them across my body, I was in fact using less energy to run, and immediately, the posture of my whole frame was much more erect. I had a habit of keeping my head down while running, which I knew was a running no-no, but when I started to keep my arms in place, my whole posture took a new and improved form. It seemed easier to keep my chin up, my back straight and my legs and feet in proper alignment. In the spiritual sense, we should also be aware of how we walk in the newness of life that God gives. We so often forget that we have been adopted into sonship by our heavenly King, that old things pass away and all things become new, and we allow Satan to remind us of our pasts so mercilessly. We run our race with our heads down. We avert our eyes, insecure about who we used to be, even though Jesus died to make us new!

Did you know that crossing your arms across your chest is a sign of defensiveness? Why do we walk, or run, like this? Christians, though humble, should be able to be confident. Not in themselves, but in who they are because of Christ. We should be able to walk with our chins up, able to meet the eyes of others because we are the head and no longer the tail. Drop those arms to your sides and allow your posture to improve so that others will see that you are strong in the Lord! It could be that running with your arms in their proper position and your chin up cures a lot of things you’ve been struggling with!

Dear Lord,

Help us to see ourselves as you see us. The Bible says you are able to humble us, so please show us how to walk with a confidence in you that defies Satan’s constant barrage of torment. Humble us if necessary, but help us to walk in a way that draws men and women unto you. Improve our posture, Lord. Help us to be aware of how we run this earthly race.

 

Are You a Wedding Crasher?

Published August 10, 2017 by Dawn

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:29-30).

I’ve been in four weddings, none of them my own. I have thus far only been a bridesmaid. I have always loved getting the call to attend the bride in some capacity, though one thing is always abundantly clear from the get-go: it’s HER big day. Her day. All that I did in preparation for each wedding was with “her” wishes at the forefront of my mind. I wore the dress “she” picked out, put on make-up, let someone else fix my hair how “she” wanted it. I loved every minute of it.

Each time I walked down that aisle ahead of “her” big moment, I walked next to a man “she” chose (or her soon-to-be groom, as it were) and stood where “she” wanted me in the front. I was simply there to see my beautiful friend get married to the love of her life.

One thing a bridesmaid knows (or should know) instinctively is that this day is not about “you.” It’s about “her.” Wedding etiquette might be a short list, but there are definitely a few things you don’t do:

  • You don’t wear white. EVER.
  • You don’t propose at someone else’s wedding/reception.
  • You don’t argue with the bride or groom … it’s “their” day, not “yours.”

John the Baptist used the analogy of a wedding to explain his relationship to Jesus when his disciples became concerned that Jesus was stealing John’s thunder. John simply said, in effect, “it’s not my day, it’s his.” All that John did in ministry was to point others to Jesus. His heart’s desire, and great delight, was for other people to be a part of what Jesus was doing. Everything John did was for Jesus to be noticed, loved, celebrated, etc. John knew wedding etiquette and he knew his place.

Proverbially speaking, John went down that aisle first, looking, speaking, and acting just as Jesus wanted him to. But he wasn’t the main attraction. He was simply the prelude. At this point in his ministry, this was the moment when he would have been approaching the front, stepping to the side and taking his position next to the man of the hour: the bridegroom.

I’ve never seen it done, but I’ve read horror stories of brides and/or their grooms being upstaged at their wedding. Unfortunately, some people can’t stand to be in the background. I found a group of such people as I read further on in John today. Chapter 11:47-48 tells it like this: “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

You guessed it … it was the Pharisees. The Chief Priests. A little to smug in their positions, they had forgotten their calling. You see, the Pharisees had taken pride in their positions, forgetting that they were called for one purpose: to draw attention to God. To magnify God. To exalt God. To lead people to God. They had a really hard time stepping out of the way so the Lord could have a personal relationship with His people. They upstaged the bridegroom, so to speak, and it really upset them when He tried to take his rightful place. They were afraid of losing their influence in society, their positions which had always made them feel superior to the people they ministered to, and all the finery that their position afforded them. They didn’t want to be servants, because that was too humbling. They wanted the center-stage with lights, and they wanted the love of the nation to bolster their pride.

Which are you: friend or foe? Do you live to make Jesus known, or yourself? Is the ministry God has called you to “your” ministry, or His? Take this test: if God told you to step down tomorrow and live in obscurity doing menial tasks in the church – or no tasks at all –  how would you respond? Don’t hide the truth from yourself, get real!

I believe we have to ask this of ourselves often in the ministry: what is my motive in this? Who gets the glory? If the answer isn’t Jesus, we’re not being a very good friend of the bridegroom. Our callings get us up out of the pews and a little closer to the limelight, but that spotlight isn’t ever for us. It’s to draw attention to Jesus. To direct the gaze of others to their beloved groom and watch in fascination and awe when their eyes meet for the first time. If we go beyond that, we have sinned greatly against our Friend, at the least. We may lose our position in the ceremony and be thrown out, if we aren’t careful! Take heed, and be a true friend of the Bridegroom!

A Word to the Elect

Published July 31, 2017 by Dawn

“The man of God said, “I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. I have been told by the word of the Lord: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.’

“The old prophet answered, ‘I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’ (But he was lying to him.)

“So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank at his house.

“While they were sitting at the table, the word of the Lord came to the old prophet who had brought him back. He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah, ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘You have defied the word of the Lord and have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore, your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors.’

“When the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him. As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was left lying on the road, with both the donkey and the lion beside it” (1 Kings 13:16-24).

The younger prophet had received a word from the Lord, was confident it was God, and shared it with Jeroboam, the one it was sent to. He fulfilled his duty to God, and when the King (Jeroboam) invited him to stick around for dinner, the faithful prophet declined. He knew that God had told him not to eat and drink there, and because he had just pronounced a judgment on Jeroboam, probably didn’t feel very comfortable staying much longer anyway. He took off without a backward glance. But then, an older man, known to also be a man of God, invited him to turn back and come sup with him. The prophet first stuck to his convictions. He knew God’s directions to not turn back or eat or drink there. But the elder prophet was more persuasive and because the younger trusted his leadership, he turned back. It was obvious disobedience to what God had spoken to him, but he trusted that the older prophet had received a true word and trusted the man. He turned back for dinner.

In the middle of the meal, the older prophet shares a true word from God: a word of rebuke and impending destruction. The younger man’s trust was misplaced in a lie and for that, he was going to reap the wrath of God.

It happened then, and still happens now. People of God have a hard time trusting their own discernment. They receive one thing from the Word of God, and another from a man of God, and refusing to trust the Spirit of God within themselves, they willfully trust in a lie. This is very evident in the church’s adulterous acceptance of New Age theology, calling itself “Reformed”, whereby the church has grabbed onto man’s understanding instead of seeking God through His word. Why? I have a hunch:

  • Reading the Bible takes time many of us refuse to give to God.
  • Understanding the Bible is hard to do, unless you allow the Holy Spirit to minister through it.
  • We’ve lost all respect for authority and most people don’t want to be taught; they just want to pretend they know it all already
  • The church is more comfortable putting together a program and sticking to it than getting together for prayer and leaving God to plan His own “thing”
  • People trust other people’s interpretations of scripture because they don’t want to spend time reading the Bible.
  • We expect our elders to be in touch with God, and feel freed from the responsibility to know God for ourselves because we have placed our trust in men.

In order to not be in error, we first must commit to our personal walk with the Lord. We cannot know God through others. We never will. We will know them, and we will know their walk with God, but we will not know God. We can be led to Him, but if we aren’t willing to take up that cross and begin a personal walk with the Lord, we are in danger of error.

Secondly, while the texts of others can certainly lead us to truth, relying solely on the wisdom of others and disregarding personal prayer and devotion will most certainly always lead us into some error. There is no man who is 100% correct about God. Everything we hear, we should always take back to the word of God and search it out like the Bereans in the book of Acts (17:11). They were considered more righteous because they didn’t take the apostles at their word, but searched the scriptures daily to make sure that what they heard was in fact true, according to the word of God.

We also must spend time with God. In His word and in prayer. We cannot hear or heed the voice of God if we are unfamiliar with it. How can we trust that what we hear is God if His voice is that of a stranger? No, we must spend personal time (devote personal time) to our Lord, tucked away in a secret place and listening intently to what He is speaking through His word and in our prayer time. God is not often silent; we are just often not listening!

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). We have much to fear, church, if we are not students of the Word and stewards devoted to prayer. These people inhabit the pulpits. They teach on TV. They have a form of godliness, but deny His power and instead work in their own. They interpret scripture to cater to the feelings of their congregants or the tide of money flowing through the church. Many have heard God in the past, and are capable of hearing Him still, but instead minister lies to a vulnerable populace. How do we avoid the snare? We must remain guarded; girded with truth, listening with ears that hear the Spirit of God, and willing to admit wrongness so that God may be proved right (Romans 3:4, for clarity on this).

“For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). I tremble at the thought. May studying the Word of God and prayer become the passionate pursuit of my heart! May it be yours as well, friend.

Nevertheless

Published July 26, 2017 by Dawn

“Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love” (1 Kings 11:2).

Solomon had a problem: he loved women. He loved all women from all kinds of nationalities and many times, he took them home with him. He made alliances with other nations through marriage, and get this … he had seven hundred wives! You can add them to his 300 concubines, and Solomon had a colossal problem. One thousand women in his life!

Did you notice the “nevertheless”? It’s referring to the previous verse, in which the writer explains that God had warned the Israelites against intermarrying with other nations because their idol worship would lead them away from God. Nevertheless Solomon married nearly every woman who caught his eye, or conscripted her to his harem for his own pleasure without putting a ring on it, because he could and because he wanted to.

I woke up super early this morning, so I picked up my Bible for companionship. I began reading where I left off, but I didn’t get very far. I kept coming back to this verse.  “Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.” It kept beckoning me back, so I began to meditate on it. Why is this particular verse nagging at me? What is it trying to get at in me, and why can’t I just get past it and move on? Finally, I prayed. Lord, what is it? Why is this verse taking up so much space in my heart and mind right now?

It was the nevertheless.

God had spoken to His people. His children. He had given them direction – a warning, really – because He loved them and didn’t want them to have to endure a lot of unwarranted heartache. He wanted them to be wholly devoted to Him and He wanted them to have His favor and blessing. Solomon, their king, specifically asked God for wisdom and gained that and so much more. He was recognized as the wisest of all men, and his kingdom was the richest and most prosperous kingdom on earth at that time. But then it happened: the nevertheless.

Solomon, despite his wisdom and the favor he enjoyed from God, let his own desires (or weakness, if you will) come before the will of God for his life. Not only his own, but also the lives of all the Israelites. He married unscrupulously and his wives led his heart astray into idol worship. He built shrines for other gods in the land and then, the whole country began to believe that such idol worship was acceptable. Solomon’s sin in defying God had very far-reaching consequences and affected so many people. He probably did not intend to create such a catastrophe in Israel, but when the smoke cleared, his waywardness had led astray an entire nation and would eventually lead to the downfall of his kingdom. There was a lot on the line and Solomon shrugged it all off. Nevertheless.

It’s a word that signifies a stubborn self-will. A will that has decided, in spite of the wisdom of God inside, or even the word of God on a matter, to have its own way instead of His. Nevertheless represents the will of a person bent on his or her own satisfaction and gratification, despite God having already had a say in the matter. Nevertheless was Eve taking the fruit, eating and giving to Adam to sample. It was millions of people ignoring the prophets, giving way to the flood in Noah’s time, and the fire in Lot’s. It led to the captivity of an entire nation over and over again because they had no regard for the Lord or His expressed desire for them. Nevertheless led Jesus to the cross, and is still leading people away from God over 2000 years later. It has taken over churches, families, and cultures entirely.

Have you recognized it yet, in your own life? It’s there, friend. We all have a nevertheless. We all have a will of our own, bent on destruction unless completely surrendered to God. It might not seem that way at first. Surely Solomon never thought his lack of fidelity to one woman or one nationality would lead to such chaos. But his infidelity in marriage mirrored his infidelity to God. Just as he was not satisfied with one woman, he was not satiated in his relationship with God either. But it wasn’t God’s fault, it was his own. God promised to be with him just as He was with David. Solomon didn’t have the same heart as his father. David’s heart desired God above all else; Solomon’s loved women.

What is it that you love above God? What desire have you placed before His will? What self-knowledge have you exalted above the wisdom of the Word of God? Know this: your story will have a nevertheless. I do not write this in judgment, but rather in fear and humility. I have experienced my own already. I tremble to think what my own self might decide at any point, and steer me away from God’s will for my life. I watch my life closely because I know the power of my own heart and my naïve willingness to blindly follow feelings instead of God. I have caught myself in the middle of rebellion before. I know this, though: it doesn’t have to be that way. God would prefer it not be that way, and eventually so do we.

There’s only one way to avoid the error, and that is on our knees. Prayer enlightens us to the depths of our own sinful natures, and our wayward desires. Prayer awakens us to our need of God. Prayer enables us to admit our faults, and lay down our pride. Prayer makes crooked ways straight and hardened hearts flesh again. Prayer is the only way to destroy the commitment we’ve made to our own flesh. Prayer is the only way to avoid nevertheless.

Dear Holy Father,

You know us. Thank you. You know us better than we know ourselves, for you have made us and we are yours. Your ways are higher than ours and often, because we cannot see what you see and understand what you know, we follow our own weak vision and near-sighted understanding of things. We follow our deceitful hearts and end up making a mess of things where your Will would have done something redemptive and holy. We’re a mess, Lord. Please forgive our waywardness and the way we jump so quickly into our own actions. Help us to pray. To linger in prayer until we know your Will. Help us to obey your Word and your Will as you give us understanding of it. Give us an increased measure of faith to drown out our fear. We long to walk in your ways.

Have your way, Lord. We love you.

Amen.