truth

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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.

Happy Freedom!

Published April 16, 2017 by Dawn

“Look, Lord, on my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed” (1:9).

I woke up the other morning with no words. Surprising, right? No words to express to my Husband, my King … no exaltations, no entreaties. No words to describe my feelings or my heart toward Him. No words even to describe my deep hurt and pain. I was numb and empty.

I’ve been pushing Him away for a while. When life hurts, I tend to do that. When I do finally speak to Him, it’s with a big pink elephant in the room because there’s nothing in my but a submissive crying at His feet and saying, “Thy will be done.” Sometimes, I have to, at the same time, push down feelings of bitterness because my hope is in the One who is afflicting me and my children.

“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come” (3:38).

It’s such an uncomfortable truth, but true nonetheless, isn’t it? I mean, you either believe the Word of God or you don’t. All that we go through is overseen by a tremendously powerful God, and some of it is good and some of it is bad. And the bad hurts. In our case, the hurt has become unbearable and every time I pray about it, God assures me He is making warriors in my home. I want my kids to be mighty warriors, but the cost is heavy on a mother’s heart. My kids are learning deep spiritual truths for themselves and I can’t save them from the breaking. Thank God He forgives my disapproving, accusatory glances.

As my children learn spiritual warfare, I try my best to teach them truths that have delivered me but it is not easy.  “Those who pursue us are at our heels; we are weary and find no rest” (5:5) … All [our] enemies open their mouths wide against [us]; they scoff and they gnash their teeth and say, ‘We have swallowed her up. This is the day we have waited for; we have lived to see it’” (2:16).

Naturally, I find myself saying, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord” (3:18).

In His faithfulness, but with such a purpose I cannot fathom the depth of, He whispers back to my screaming heart,  “Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to Him for the lives of your children who faint from hunger at every street corner” (2:19).

Bitterness will keep a person quiet for a long time, but age will make sure you don’t miss that clarion call of the Lord. How many mornings have I been awakened in the darkness of the early morning out of a dead sleep. The Father looking down at me, waiting for my to speak the words my heart refuses to utter in mutiny. He knows them already, but He bids me speak so I might be free. So many nights over the past few months, but it finally happened just this morning. I woke up wanting to thank Jesus for His sacrifice, but the heaviness wouldn’t allow me to be grateful until I had spoken my peace. I found my heart-cry in Lamentation yesterday, and it was exactly what I needed to express to my Savior:

“Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure” (5:21;22). “For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (3:31-32). “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’ The Lord Is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (3:22-26). “You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear.’ You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life” (3:57-58).

I poured forth my heart in tears this morning, weeping over time lost and lies that have bound me for so long. Finally emptied, I was able to tell Jesus how much His love and sacrifice means to me. I heard His response so clear: Today is the day Satan knew he was defeated. Do you know it? Take off your graveclothes and live again!”

Oh. My. Goodness. To be washed in freedom. Thank you, Jesus, for your life. Your death. Your resurrection. Your intercession. Your mighty ways. I love you.

 *All Scriptures from Lamentations. 

 

 

 

Scriptural Grace to Cure Itching Ears

Published February 21, 2017 by Dawn

“Make every effort to live at peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14)

It’s hard to understand the concept of holiness these days. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the concept of personal accountability for righteousness in an age where the message we hear is so often “all about that grace.” Or, “the grace card.” Not too many Christians know how to put grace in its proper place, and very few understand it in the context of the full scripture. This one word, this simple teaching, has become so complicated that the church is divided into those who pursue righteousness and those who believe grace covers so much that life should be lived to the fullest. Jesus died for that, after all … right?

I’ve been praying about this for a long time. Several years, actually. My pursuit of truth in this matter began with the “Don’t judge me” movement. It started when a pastor in a pulpit told a story in which he threatened a man with a tire iron for cussing in front of his son, and ended with “Don’t judge me, I’m just enjoying living in grace.” I almost puked. Somehow, we’ve allowed grace to become a canopy that covers all kinds of vile and detestable things which mar our witness and make the church unaffective. And the church is unaffective in America. It’s not growing. Instead, it’s pumping out lukewarm people who have no idea who Jesus really is, or what his death on the cross means for us.

I started to pray very fervently because at that time, although the message that has been propagated among believers did not ring true in my spirit, I didn’t know how to combat it. I was timid about confronting the lie because I don’t want to dismiss something using my own logic. I want to defeat the lie of Satan in the church with the truth of God’s word. So I asked the Lord to help me understand grace properly through scripture. Over the course of the past year or two, this message is the result of that passionate plea.

Let’s begin where the message of grace starts. Galatians 2:16 sums it up very nicely: “So we too have put our faith in Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” This scripture makes it very clear that we cannot work our way to heaven. We are justified through faith, not because of anything we did as other scriptures tell us, but because God chose us to receive this grace. We can’t earn it, it’s a gift.

Why do we worry about holiness, then? Isn’t grace enough? Isn’t Jesus’ sacrifice enough and now I can live freely as I want without fear? I have asked these questions, and I have tried living under that canopy of grace, trying not to judge myself because my spirit was averse to such freedom. I found that when I lived in such a state of freedom, sin was crouching at my door just like God spoke to Cain, and I entertained it because I felt that freedom afforded me that. The Holy Spirit, however, made it impossible to live in such freedom without conviction. He convicted me at every turn until I finally looked to God and said, “What?!”

“…without holiness, none shall see God.”

There it was again. I thought I was covered by that sacrifice at the cross, and of course, I am. But scriptures led me into a deeper understanding of that sacrifice. Hebrews 10:14 tells us that, “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” He has made us perfect. That’s the done deal. His death broke the curse of sin off our lives, making it possible for us to not live in the flesh. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Today’s Christian message is one of peace and comfort. Its aim is to make people feel good about themselves and their lifestyles. It’s self-serving and self-assuring, but is it true? What is this sword Jesus came to bring? It is the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, which is “sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This sword Jesus brought was to divide a Christian, flesh from spirit and effectively end the war between the two. It is a sword to put oneself to death in the flesh so that he or she can live in the new way of the spirit. Unfortunately, this sword also divides the church into those who will suffer to live according to the Spirit of God and those who choose to live according to their own will and desires.

You see, when we come to Christ in truth, his Spirit cuts away from us that flesh that hinders our pleasing the Father. It shouldn’t be on us at all! In fact, 1 john 3, beginning in verse 3 says, “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure … (v. 5) But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” So Jesus died to take away the sin we commit in ignorance, but when we come to him, he also changes our hearts so that we no longer lust after sinful things. John says if this is still our focus, we haven’t really had a moment of salvation. We’ve had a feel-good moment with a bunch of smooth-talking men and women who convince us of a false doctrine and lead us astray.

I was reading in 1 Kings today about a prophet who was sent to deliver a word, and after he delivered his word, he left by another way because that’s what God told him to do. Another prophet comes to him and implores him to turn back, in contradiction to the word God had spoken to him. The second prophet assured the first that God has sent him and it was okay. The first prophet listens and as a result, dies that same day because of his disobedience. Many of us in the church are in great danger of becoming like this man. We’ve heard a word from the Holy Spirit which wrecks us. We no longer desire sin and we cling desperately to Christ. But a false message is trying to compel the church into reveling in sin and accepting Satan’s clutches, all the while calling it grace. It’s a lie! Grace is the liberator, but it’s not a license to sin.

Many people feel a contradiction in regards to the message of grace and the message of righteousness. Hebrews 5:13-14 clears it up. “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” When we come to Christ, we are put to death in the flesh and born again in the Spirit. “Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’” We begin as infants in Christ. The message of salvation comes very heavily salted with the message of grace. It’s important for babes in Christ to understand grace because it keeps them in times of persecution from the devil over their past sins. Grace is a vital message. But it’s not the end-all of the Christian faith. It’s the beginning. Looking back at Hebrews, we see that we are not supposed to remain babes in Christ forever, but we are supposed to mature, just as any baby will grow into a toddler, an adolescent, a young adult and so on.

In order to mature, we have to learn to walk. This walking out in daily life the Will of the Father is the message of righteousness. We are no longer slaves to the law, but we are called to be obedient to His will. His will is that we glorify him and live according to the Spirit, not glorify ourselves and live according to our flesh. Remember, flesh is dead!

2 Corinthians 7:1 says we “perfect holiness out of reverence for God.” This righteous living is a matter of respect. Our daily pursuit of righteousness says to our Father, “I love you and what you desire of my life matters to me.”

It’s not a matter of legalism, then, to consider your own actions and to say to others, “this is not the way.” Not unlike Paul, Christians often fear that we will somehow disqualify ourselves. Paul talks about his own fears in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. He’s talking about running a race with the purpose of winning and he says that he beats his body and makes it his slave so that after having run his race, he will not disqualify himself from winning. Philippians 2:12 tells us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” So then, contrary to this present gospel of grace, a little fear and trepidation over the way we live is good and healthy. How can I say this? Because 2 Corinthians 7:10 goes on with this message: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”  We must take this fear to God, though, because perfect love casts out fear. Only in God can we be saved from this fear, but because it leads us to Him, it is a good thing. It leads to repentance and salvation. If we don’t take this fear to God, it leads us to worldly bitterness and the death of our faith.

Being a person who loves words, I began to consider all the words that are nullified by the false message of grace; that teaching that tells us no matter what we do, we are okay in God’s eyes. Here goes:

  • Temptation
  • Sin
  • Repentance
  • Forgiveness

These words mean nothing, they are completely nullified by this message. So then, we must ask ourselves, “Which is true? The bible I have read, or this message I have heard from a pulpit or read in my favorite devotional?” So many people do not trust that the Holy Spirit can teach them, and they lean too heavily on the “wisdom” of others, but we are told to consider the things we receive in light of the Word of God for this very reason: Satan is determined to deceive the saints of God, and we are apt to be deceived if we are not studying for ourselves.

Here’s the truth: Sin hardens us. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” When we indulge in sin, we allow ourselves to be hardened and when we are hardened, we reject the Holy Spirit imploring us to turn away from such godlessness.

Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them.” Why would Jesus always intercede for us if nothing we ever do is wrong? He is in ongoing intercession because we are fallible and we make mistakes, which is not the same as indulging in life as if nothing we ever do is wrong. The first is the result of our daily struggle with human nature. The second is because we choose not to battle that nature, but instead let it have its way. Titus 2:12 tells us that grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to be self-controlled, upright and godly. This is not the grace so many of us hear of. Imagine! Grace teaching us to rebuke our flesh instead of giving in to it. This is the grace Jesus died to provide.

How do we avoid this false message of grace and the trap that has been set for the modern Christian? “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God … Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature …” (Col. 3:2-3, 5). Paul tells us this is a daily death. Why should we be so concerned, and put forth such an effort in our walk with the Lord? “For God did not call us to be impure but to live a holy life” (1 Thess. 4:7).

Finally, what does the Bible say about those who preach this modern, New Age false grace? “These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom while they themselves are slaves to depravity … If they have escaped the corruption of the world by known our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning” (2 Peter 2:17-20).

“What then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin, how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6: 1-7).

Hebrews 10:26-29 says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witness. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? This message, dear friend, is a message that insults the Spirit of grace that has saved us. Choose you this day whom you will serve – yourself or God.

The Lord’s Supper AND Satan’s Masquerade

Published September 16, 2016 by Dawn

I was reading 1 Corinthians the other day when chapter ten really arrested my spirit. The first thing to catch my attention was verses three through five, which says in regards to the Israelites in the desert, “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” Further down in verse seven, Paul continues,  “as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to indulge in revelry.’”

The Lord showed me the parallel Paul was drawing here between the modern Christians in that time and the children of Israel. He was pointing out that the Israelites sat down to partake of God’s provisions, which were symbolicly Christ with them (note that the rock was Christ, v. 4), then got up and engaged in idolatry, sexual immorality, and grumbling to/about God. These were things the Lord found highly offensive and scripture records that many died as a result of His anger toward their sin.

First Corinthians 10:6 tells us, “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting out hearts on evil things as they did.” Paul reiterated this again in verse eleven, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings to us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.”

These men and women in the desert were surrounded by the habitation of the Holy Spirit. They were aware of God’s miraculous provision every day as they stepped out in the morning to gather their manna. They were intimately aware of God, yet still tempted to walk away from fellowship with Him (eating and drinking from the spiritual rock) to gourge their flesh on worldly wickedness. Now I know why Paul exhorts believers in Philippians 2:12 to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling! What a terrifying thought, that we can be closely acquainted with the Lord, but still so easily led away to worldly things!

I was put somewhat at ease by verse thirteen, which says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can endure it.”

Thankfully, God is aware of our temptations and works diligently to make a way for us to avoid falling into the snares of the enemy. We just have to be astute enough to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit as he leads us faithfully toward our deliverance.

Paul is very straightforward in verse 21: “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in the Lord’s table and the table of demons.” Clearly, Paul is adamantly discouraging us from indulging in both the communion with Jesus on the one hand and cavorting with the devil on the other. Jesus himself said we cannot serve two masters. To reject a pursuit of holiness because we favor the world is to reject God’s standards for us. It is to deny and reject what Christ did to liberate us. If God provides a way out, we are to take it. In our weakness, we may fail, but that is not the same as disregarding the right path because we like the revelry.

Believe it or not, the early Christians invented the idea of the grace card. Christians even then began to say, “But Christ has delivered me from condemnation, therefore I am free to just LIVE.” Paul’s spirit did not agree with this theology. Many of the epistles record this transaction: “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is constructive.” Paul does not go on to address the fact that to willfully live like the world after one has come face to face with Jesus is sure evidence that that person does not know Christ (John addresses this in his letter, 1 John). What he does say is that this attitude is not one a Christian should even consider. Paul told his hearers to live for the good of others, not selfishly indulging flesh that might hinder another person’s salvation. “Do not cause anyone to stumble” (1 Corinthians 10:32), he surmises.

The gyst of all of it is this: Christians should not be so weak as to entertain both a feast with the Lord and a party with the devil. These are unfit for us. We should be very careful not to indulge our flesh, and even more so in front of others whose acceptance of Christ might be affected by our walk in front of them. This is where that fear and trembling might come in: I can’t stand the thought that my actions or words may cause someone else to hesitate in kissing the feet of Christ!

The truth is, we have been invited to both the Lord’s supper and Satan’s masquerade. So many of us want to go to both, but it’s not the life we have been called to. The Lord implores us to “Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Indulging ourselves at the latter completely nullifies the former. Even if we hide behind a mask, the Lord will recognize our attendance at the enemy’s soiree and will not be pleased.

I find it necessary to mention the cunning of sin. Many sins are obvious, but there are subtle sins as well. Most importantly, ALL sin is detrimental to a Christian’s walk. Pride is just as deadly to our spirit as sexual immorality. Grumbling, complaining and fault-finding are just as horrendous to the ears of God as hatred, jealousy and discord toward a brother or sister. We have all been set up by the enemy so that, at any time, we might stumble into a pit. Paul says in verse 12, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” How easy it is to stumble into sin! This is why we need to be walking closely with the Holy Spirit. We cannot discern on our own how often sin stands ready to trip us by the wayside. Often, we are unaware of the fall until we find ourselves on our knees.

Lord, We need you. Oh, how much we need you! Life is like walking through a minefield cleverly disguised as the answer to our prayers. Help us to recognize the enemy’s tactics and where the pits are, that we might avoid the traps set for us. Help us to die to our flesh so our spirit may live in uninhibited communion with your Son. Help us to put to death the misdeeds of the flesh, Lord. To tell ourselves no when temptations come against us. Help us to be strong in our weaknesses. Be our strength, Father. We long to commune with you. We long for your presence. Help us to pull up to your table of delights. To drink deeply from the rock that is Christ. To have our fill of your Holy Word and to walk in the light instead of reveling in darkness. We love you!

Amen.

 

 

You are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Published September 7, 2016 by Dawn

I hate middle school. I hated it when I was a student, and I hate it with an equal passion as a parent of a middle school student. All that soul searching done in a place where everyone is sure that the best version of themselves looks nothing like the current version of themselves. So begins the desperate attempt to find oneself that ultimately leads to so many kids losing themselves and living for many years afterward as someone they hardly know.

I guess I had forgotten how awful it was until confronted with the ugly truth once again as I tucked my daughter into bed. It was real talk time, where we take off the masks and really share our hearts. Little did I know that Satan’s arrows had been leveled at her and found their mark. My beautiful daughter, who recently made cheer captain, will soon be inducted into the National Junior Honor Society and has a host of other achievements to her credit, has been silently battling insecurity because so many people tell her she’s loud, her voice is squeaky, her laugh is weird, and a host of other things that make her suddenly quiet, reserved and afraid to express the joy in her heart.

Let me just say, I was dumbfounded. All of those things she suddenly is ashamed of came directly from me! I bellowed, “You’re loud because I’m loud!” She gave me a weak smile.

“Your voice is seriously just like mine. And that laugh … that’s good stuff. Who cares what anyone else thinks? You take after your momma and you adore me!”

Ok, so maybe I’m not all that humble, but I know she does, so … real talk.

She was still really upset about it all, and apparently knowing she got it all from me didn’t really help her to feel better. So I leveled with her. If ever I have prophesied to my children, I did tonight. I leaned over her bed, looked her straight in the eyes and said, ‘Listen here, my love. God has never stood up and faced humanity to apologize for you. He has never said, “Um … sorry, world, for this girl here. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was really feeling it that night, you know, but now … Gosh, I’m so sorry.’ No! He is smiling over you. He loves you. He is proud of the masterpiece He has created. He loves your loud mouth, your masterful way of making others smile. The way you laugh and the funny faces you make to have fun. He loves every part of who He created you to be and He is not repenting of it. So you should be you, unrepentantly. One day, you’re going to rock the world with everything about you that makes you uniquely fit for the purpose God created you for. Don’t try to remake yourself, because you are a special design to carry out a specific work. If God isn’t apologizing, neither should you. Be you unrepentantly!”

I then gave my daughter the best piece of practical advice. I told her to be frank with people. To tell people, with a serious face so they know she is serious, that when they say those things, they are hurting her. Her real friends will take that to heart and quit. The riffraff will take care of themselves by taking a hike. And who needs ‘em? Let them go! Maybe this doesn’t sound too PC but I don’t care. Frankly, I am tired of the façades. I am tired of masking reality to save face for others. I like real talk and I want my kids to like it too. It’s liberating. “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Being real is inviting freedom into relationships and individual hearts. I hope that when the moment arises, she will clearly recognize her own value and not suppress the truth for someone who doesn’t.

Finally, we prayed together and she whispered, as I kissed her goodnight, “My heart is smiling.”

I hope this truth finds lodging in the hearts of middle schoolers everywhere … no matter how old they are. You are fearfully and wonderfully made!

 

Who Among Us

Published March 25, 2016 by Dawn

I had an attitude the moment I pulled onto the church parking lot and saw her car. After months of sporadic church attendance, she was back for praise and worship practice, and I was indignant. How could she stand so easily before God, and lead the church in worship, covered in the sin of her everyday life? A life and a sin she wouldn’t readily admit to the church, but I knew because she was my friend.

I immediately began to pray. I knew my heart and my attitude were wrong, but I couldn’t shake the shame and distaste I felt toward her. The righteous indignation welling up in me would certainly hinder my pursuit of Christ if I was not delivered of it before the service began. So I brought all my feelings to the foot of the cross, repented of them and sought healing in it. And the Lord said something so profound to me.

“Would you rather she be living in condemnation?”

I looked up to see her smiling and laughing with the others on the platform, and my heart broke. Because I think Jesus just asked me a rhetorical question, and the answer shamed me; she was. Not His, but my own.

I marveled at her faith, which seemed so much more mature than my own. I had groveled before the Lord for years, sure that I was not good enough to be forgiven, and thus, forever bound to my past shame. Identified by it. Remembered for it. Every unanswered prayer a painful reminder, a sure statement of the Lord’s disapproval of me. A disapproval I felt through the eyes of people in the church for years. Through their words, through their actions. Through their inactions, or their complete disregard.

Yet here I sat, guilty before the Lord of hating my best friend in my heart. Hating her as I sat in a judgment seat of my own making. A pedestal I created for myself, which I know was my own making because Christ knocked me off if it with His gentle reproach. My judgment was nothing more than an indication of my own pride and religious snobbery. She was good enough for Jesus, yet not good enough for me?

Whoa! I had somehow seated myself above Christ. And realized the danger of my position.

I prayed for forgiveness. First for the way I had treated her, and then for the way I had treated my Lord. By despising her, I had despised His sacrifice. I had created a standard for her to live up to, and thus nullified His death on the cross as her means of salvation and forgiveness. I had created something unholy and unrealistic, and had she known my heart at that moment, she may have slipped irretrievably into a pit of self-loathing and hatred and bitterness. Instead, she knew Christ, and fell into His arms.

Thank you, Lord, for your endless compassion. For your love that fails not. For forgiveness. For your grace. For understanding us and dealing with us in redemptive ways.

I share this because it is not just my sin, but the sin of the church. The way we treat each other. Who of us knows the depths and heights God has brought people from, that we should judge their proximity to Christ, or their own spiritual attainment of righteousness? Who holds the measuring line, that we may measure the sincerity of one Christian over another? Who sits above Christ, who himself stooped down to lift us to our feet? Who among us has not sinned?

Are We Really Disciples?

Published February 10, 2016 by Dawn

Yesterday was a snow day, and I escaped to my bedroom for some time to study for my next book. I came across some really great stuff that will help me develop my characters, and also develop some of the internal conflicts I know I want to address. One document in particular blew my mind. It was about the path a Jewish boy takes in education, that begins when he is six or seven, and culminates in a discipleship. I was very intrigued!

Did you know that there were several phases to a Jewish boy’s education? The first step was called the bet sefer, which compares to our elementary education phase. It lasts until the student is twelve or thirteen and centers primarily on memorization and understanding of several key parts of scripture. Namely, the Torah, Shema, Halell, Creation and Levitical Law. These selections were Deuteronomy 6:4-6, Psalms 113-118 ( I bet they breathed a sigh of relief, seeing it stopped before 119!), Genesis 1-5, and Leviticus 1-8. After spending many years focusing on these key parts of scripture, they graduated into Beth Midrash – secondary school. In this part of their education, students learned to apply and debate the scriptures. The most promising of students then went on to Talmidim. That is, they selected a teacher who’s understanding and scriptural application they agreed with, and asked to become his disciple. The teacher would carefully examine the educational and spiritual history of the student before either accepting him as a Talmud or rejecting him. A rabbi could also choose a student based on his credentials, but this was rare.

Jesus blows my mind! He solicited the discipleship of 12 men who would have had this educational background and might possibly have not been selected by another teacher. He invited them to “come, follow me.” He was saying, in effect, “I see great potential in you! Come be my disciple!”

The disciple was not just an enthusiastic member of a band of traveling misfits. It was expected that when a young man took on discipleship, he would abandon himself to the life of his teacher. My favorite explanation was this: “To become a disciple, it was expected that  a Talmud would, with a passion and zeal, give up any and all of their preconceived notions on how to live and embrace their rabbi’s way as the best way to honor God.” **

The disciple would purposefully abandon his own understanding, his own thoughts, and agree that his teacher’s understanding was best. They would intentionally abandon their right to autonomy and agree to the submission and subordinance of their rabbi. That’s an extreme dedication!

With all of this new revelation, I began to wonder about the modern church and what kind of disciples we are. Is the Word we are following and preaching full of our own understanding, or is it the wisdom and knowledge revealed by the Spirit. Not any spirit, for we are told to test the spirits to see if they are from God. Are we following the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, or have we received a false gospel and called it good because it doesn’t challenge us to live a life worthy of the call we have received? Are we striving toward holiness? Our great teacher, Jesus, said, “Be holy, as I am holy.” Are we dedicated to His way of life? Are we loving? Are we full of truth? Are we the light of the world? Are we shamelessly pursuing God in a world that has all but rejected him? Are we dedicated to prayer? How do we respond to brokenness? Are we quoting His words, choosing them over our own? Do we even know His words?

Jesus did not come to rewrite the Gospel, he came to uphold and fulfill it. Are we like him in this respect? Do we acknowledge the law as good? Do we confront sin, and encourage holiness? Obviously, I’ve been very concerned lately about the perversion of grace. Jesus created grace, but he did not spit on the law in the process. He did not encourage believers to give in to their sinful nature because of their seeming inability to abstain. He preached, “Go and sin no more.” Do we believe our Rabbi, and have we abandoned our popular sermons for His truth?

I see a dangerous precedent being set in the church, and it is grievous. To accept the sinful nature is to deny the power of God within us. Jesus, being fully man, lived out a life of holiness because of the Spirit in him. This same spirit we have today! Will we never stumble? No, we might still. But this is different than embracing the darkness within. The Word tells us that light expels darkness! With Jesus in us, the darkness will flee. We will embrace either one or the other. Our Teacher was a force to be reckoned with. Are we?

A few treasures I take away from this: the disciple was first a student of the Word. He meditated on it day and night, and much of it by heart. He also spent hours expounding on it, and listening to the contributions of others. He did not accept everything he heard, but he did not hold so tightly to his own understanding that his mind could not be changed.  After achieving Talmidim, his thoughts, words and actions were no longer his own. He was led by his teacher in all things. His ultimate goal was to become just like his teacher. He was in a constant state of inquiry. “What does this mean to you, and therefore, to me?”

I wonder, dear friend, are we really disciples? Are we allowing Jesus to make his thoughts our own? Are we searching him out through his Word, that is alive and active, or are we learning about him through secondary means? Do we have fellowship with His Spirit, and are we walking closely with Him daily? Have we accepted his superior Lordship and acquiesced to His will in all things? Are we really disciples?

 

**https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/rabbi-and-talmidim