When the Lord “Taketh Away”…Maggie!

“…the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Job 1:21

Soon after Maggie’s fabulous New Year Resolutions (see December 2016: Resolutions? Maggie Knows the Best!) she went to her vet with constipation and another seemingly minor complaint.  Surely simple interventions would resolve the problems and we’d be on our way….

“Haven’t you noticed that Maggie’s lost weight over the past few months?  She’s lost 2 pounds!”  The concern on Dr. Chiverton’s face seemed odd, I thought slimming down was a good thing.  However, x-rays, a sonogram and overview of blood work analysis yielded bad news…liver tumor, pancreatitis, and the final stage of chronic constipation – megacolon.  I saw the results and know what they mean for a 16 year old cat, “I want to treat her, make her comfortable, but I don’t want to prop up her life artificially to make me happy.”  With that I left Maggie in the clinic hospital.

maggie-in-hospital

Maggie during visiting hours….

A challenge loomed ahead as a planned trip with my elderly parents was set four days later.  Could I leave my loyal and loving companion?  Might she pass away while I’m gone?  Could I disappoint my elderly parents?  I prayed and could not discard the conclusion to go.  I hired a vet tech to oversee and administer meds.   “She’ll be okay” my husband said but to me I saw her weak and fading away…

I do believe in the sovereignty of God and His desire to reveal Himself to us and that He often does so when we are oppressed and in turmoil.  He honors our decision to go forth as He leads even when our feet are iron clad. 

I went through the motions at the airport with a heavy heart.  As time passed and thoughts swirled, pain gripped my heart.  I walked slowly to a vendor for bottled water and suddenly these words rose up clearly and etched into my soul,

“In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”  Job 12:10 

With a deep exhale, a great weight was lifted from me and the following days passed lightly, even enjoyably.

Maggie did survive but soon returned to the hospital.  This time I began perusing ‘final destination’ plans for my furry good friend.   “I believe God’s going to heal Maggie”, said husband Bob.  I almost chuckled when he added, “she can be with us another 5 years.”  I was hoping for another 5 weeks, when the ground wouldn’t be so frozen….

As I sat in the waiting room praying, contemplating and further perusing, another verse pressed upon my heart,

“Every good and perfect gift is from above….” James 1:17

I never doubted that Maggie was a good and perfect gift from my heavenly Father.  After finding her and her litter at an abandoned brownstone, she was the friend who sat beside me during times of grief, cuddled alongside when others betrayed,and  remained constant when life events brought upheaval and confusion.   Maggie is a ‘good and perfect gift’.  From that my heart grasped the further truth:  when God gives a good and perfect gift, His hand is seen in the beginning and in the end.  I sincerely and decidedly handed Maggie back to the Lord,” I give her back to you Lord” and my worries lifted.

And what is Maggie’s status?

podphoto

We’ll be storing this away for now!

Subsequent exams show her colon shrunk.  Recent blood screens find liver enzymes normal.  Is the tumor gone?  I don’t know.  Maggie’s eating again, gained 3 ounces in two weeks and, pardon me but she’s even pooping!  It hardly gets better.

Animals may be nicer but are not more important than people however, spiritual lessons and intimate fellowship with the Lord has immeasurable value.  When scripture transforms from written word to living word, we hear from heaven.  We will not ‘throw away’ the burial pod but will trust the Lord to keep that which we committed to Him.  We trust Him to prepare us for every life event – the giving and the taking away – and anticipate His lovingkindness even or especially when brokenhearted.

“A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10)  Maggie agrees….

maggie-slaps-five

and slaps a low five!

Resolutions? Maggie Knows The Best!

In fact, there is no need to wait for a calendar change or ‘ball drop’ to start these….

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  (Hebrews 11:6)

maggie-reads

                                               “I will seek Him with all my heart…”

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior;  my God will hear me”.  Micah 7:7

maggie-at-window-1

                                                     “I will wait upon the Lord”

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  Psalm 4:8

maggie-snoozing

“I will rest on His promises”

I pray that we find the Lord in greater measure.  And that God’s word encourage us as we wait upon Him through trial and storm, finding rest through the Holy Spirit.  

May the Lord order our steps into the New Year.  God bless you!

The Hopeless and Futile Life of St. Barnacle and His Followers!

Saint Barnacle of Galilee is not well known but his legacy lives on throughout the generations, sadly continuing on today. He lived as peer to the Lord’s disciples in fact, he was alongside the fisherman Peter. That is when he first heard the Lord speak. Jesus’ sermons captivated this Barnacle and he soon decided to follow Him. However, Christ’s messages became more and more convicting and difficult to accept. The call to “pick up your cross” greatly interfered with his lifestyle and ambitions. Realizing though that Jesus is the Messiah, Saint Barnacle never really turned away but established a place outside the inner circle, farther from the ‘hem of His garment’ but close enough to hear at least the good messages. When the loaves and fish were multiplied, St. Barnacle and his followers were there towards the back. They missed parts of the sermon but did receive a meal.

When the Lord preached from the boat, St. Barnacle and his followers were the closest – they lodged themselves on the side of Christ’s boat but unfortunately, as barnacles they  were unable to ever leave – ever close, but unable to see Jesus. They could hear His preached word but never His intimate disclosures. When storms came, St. Barnacle and his followers were stuck on the outer side of the boat, unable to enter in and grasp a hold of the Lord. They never knew His peace.  They were distant when the Lord was crucified, and worse, they heard about the resurrection but did not witness it. They learned of the Upper Room but could neither receive nor conceive of the Holy Spirit’s outpour of might and power.

Saint Barnacle, perhaps not a saint at all, died on the side of Jesus’ boat as did many that gathered around him. A few followers however did manage to break away before that boat smashed against a rock. They continue to congregate today on the outskirts of ‘inner church circles’, never really entering in, never allowing Christ to ‘interfere’ with their lives, never really seeing the cross or accepting the call to die to self.

barnacles III

You may go places as a barnacle but never hear the Captain’s call.

Entire churches of barnacles gather today, content to live in the flow of the world,  using pearls of Holy Scripture to bolster and  coach their ambitions and goals.

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their inching ears want to hear.” (II Timothy 4:3)

I pray that we turn from preaching that builds us up.  The Holy Spirit is seeking to dwell within us that we may truly walk as the Body of Christ in this world. His candidates are God’s representatives in this world – those inclined to “pick up their cross” and follow Jesus.

Proximity and familiarity could not save those outside Noah’s ark.

In these last days, noted by Jesus “as the days of Noah”, we are spinning rapidly toward His return as water quickly swirls toward the end of a funnel. Now is the time to consider and affirm our stand before the Lord. Have we truly entered into a life with Him? Are we His sheep that hear His voice?

I challenge myself and friends, resist the clamor of the world as it spins toward judgment. Let us not be bystanders in church, content with a pep talk from scripture. Let us find the flow of the Holy Spirit, where He is working, and pray to enter in. If your church does not preach the full Gospel, including true repentance and coming judgment, pray for your pastor, pray for guidance and depend on the Lord’s leading.

Barnacles never enter in but live in perpetual yet futile proximity and attachment to the boat. The intimacy, power, and presence of God is forever out of their reach….yes, forever.

Our short lives on earth today determine our place in eternity. There is no salvation found in proximity to the Lord.  We can all be stuck like barnacles, powerless in sin, complacency, and confusion.  But the Lord’s will is for us to enter into His life – He waits for us to turn.

I pray oh Lord, scrape us off from the sides of this world and draw us into Your Life, live through us that our lives might be blameless and truly matter for Your Kingdom, through whatever ‘good works you have prepared in advance for us.’ (Ephesians 2:10)

THE GENESIS OF APOSTASY

“As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man…”

Although the ‘days of Noah’ are described as exceedingly wicked and violent, that is not the weighty sign of this passage as the Lord continues, “For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage…”  Amidst Noah’s ongoing preaching of coming judgment and obliteration, people were living their lives in denial and unbelief.  So it is today, however worse, as unbelief is coupled with a void of truthful pulpits to expound upon the Lord’s return and judgment.  The church, so much like the world, is complacent and comfortable, “…eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage…” without an urgency and passion to preach the whole counsel of God for salvation.

Why do we live like there is no Book of Revelation?  Why has unbelief lulled our minds into a faith of earthly blessings and heavenly visions, without “fear and trembling” and the due awe to submit to Almighty God?  Revelation did not fade away after the Book of Jude.  Revelation unraveled with the unraveling of Genesis – a strategic dismantling of the beginning and the end of God’s Word, stunting our spiritual life and power.

“For the Word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any two edged sword…”

“Living and active” yet with a scalpel of human wisdom and dead end discoveries men strive to amputate the truths of Genesis and, far worse, supposed believers subscribe to alternate theories of man’s origin.

Why such ongoing cultural and intellectual attacks on Genesis?  Genesis and Revelation are God’s powerful bookends.  Few scientists write dissertations on the impossibility of Christ’s resurrection, walking on water, healing the sick or any of the multitude of miracles included in God’s Word.  The one who ‘masquerades as an angel of light’ inspires to dismiss God’s truth in Genesis, paving the road to apostasy.

Websites such as Institute for Creative Research (www.icr.org) and Answers in Genesis (www.answersingenesis) present elaborate overviews of creation and science and many learned and anointed Christian leaders such as Watchman Nee (The Mystery of Creation) provide scriptural foundation.  For example, a great mystery lies between the first two verses of the Bible, Genesis 1:1-2.  The heavens and the earth were created by God and became dark, void and empty. Study through scripture brings understanding to this unknown length of time and events between the creation of earth and the creation of mankind.

Only when we dive beyond the surface will we discover hidden treasures.

Only when we dive beyond the surface will we discover hidden treasures.

Questions should not lead us away from scripture but draw us deeper – beneath the surface – to find hidden truths and a greater measure of the Lord’s presence.

“The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.”   (see: I Chron 28:9, II Chron 15:2, Jeremiah 29:13)

The spiritual cost of compromising God’s Word cannot be measured by any human standard.  While the Bible can sustain man’s scrutiny, it is pride that stirs the willingness to discount Genesis and receive seeds of disbelief and dishonor toward God.  With man in the judgment seat, the entire Word of God is tried at man’s own dire expense.

Unraveling Genesis infects the entire Word of God with a virus of unbelief, not because the Word is fragile but because it is so strongly intertwined with chronological truth and historical testimony. To ‘fictionize’ Adam and Eve casts shadows over carefully established genealogies and the numerous references to them and creation itself.  Our ‘knowledge’ puffs up over great learned and anointed spiritual leaders such as the apostle Paul, as if they were somehow naïve or ill informed, not endowed with the Spirit of God.

Choosing to believe God opens up a spiritual door of understanding, only then is the Bible truly alive and able to impart life in us.  Conversely, when we choose to disbelieve, the Bible begins to dry up as the ‘living water of God’, the Holy Spirit, will not impart Himself.

Man has not evolved at all.  In fact, after all these years of supposed intellectual and technical growth and advancement, each generation is more depraved than the last.  Puffed up with knowledge and fearless in rebellion to God’s standards, we demonstrate a vested interest in dismissing Genesis:  Robbing God of the awe and majesty as Creator of the universe and every living being emboldens us to invalidate anything else in His Word, from flagrant sin to the return of Jesus as King and Judge.

As ‘Lucifer became Satan’ we set upon a similar course, rising up as our own ‘god’ with ‘freedom’ to choose, to sin, and order our lives as we determine.  ‘Freedom to sin’ however, is like an oxymoron as every sin and allurement gives a heady feeling of control and liberty but always leads to bondage, loss, despair and futility.

Apostasy begins as we devalue Genesis and, without repentance, infect our faith with disbelief.   Losing the supernatural counselor, the Holy Spirit, we are left to rely solely on ourselves for understanding – yielding a futile and foolhardy study of Scripture.

in the beginning

Let us delve deeper into this great beginning, aligning ourselves with Him and the power of His Holy Spirit.  God, our Creator and King, delights to open the treasures of His Word to us.  To the sincere and seeking heart, He reveals Himself with great reward, opens a view of eternity, and prepares us for His great and promised return.

5 Benefits of Excruciating Trials

In these end times when sin and apostasy abound there is an undeniable deep shaking, the epicenter of which lies in the Body of Christ.  Many are suffering great persecution and loss from the rise of nightmarish demonic enemies.   Others who live in relative safety are greatly shaken by fiery trials allowed or orchestrated by the Lord Himself.  As darkness thickens over this fallen world we can be assured of two things:  The Lord will always have a testimony of Himself in this world to reflect His glory and secondly, as pervasive evil comes to fruition, it will always ultimately serve the purposes of God.  The Lord’s prophetic word unfolds with certainty and eternal victory.

What of these fiery trials?  An entire book would not be sufficient to describe them – they seem tailor made for personal grief, heartache, confusion, physical and mental anguish.  Outside of James, believed to be the half-brother of Jesus, few lay claim to find “pure joy” when facing trials of many kinds (James 1:2).  But, while on the path to victory, many of us can testify to great spiritual benefits that come forth through fiery trials.  Five benefits arose in my heart, even as I continue to wade through the high waters:

  1. The battlefield of fiery trials strips us of frivolities and useless vanity, creating a pointed focus with priorities established by God.  Here we learn that much of our previous fretting and preoccupations were valid to the world but counted for nothing in God’s Kingdom.  When your house is on fire, trinkets hold little value.
  2. The Word of God will actually become “living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword”.  In times of confusion and turmoil we will see this living Word as “a lamp to our feet and light to our path”.   As we seek Him and wait upon Him, the Lord Jesus will speak through His Word as He is the Word.  (John 1:1)
  3. Fiery trials that manifest with supernatural power force us to acknowledge the futility and sin of selfreliance and worldly dependence. Money cannot buy relief, social ‘connections’ become powerless, and no search engine holds the answer.  Cornered without strength or resources, God reveals Himself and begins to unfold His ways, His agenda, His deliverance within the storm.  There is no greater backdrop for God’s divine providence and power than a totally surrendered heart.  Resolving to trust Him is the greatest challenge but comes with great promises.  The Lord will not disappoint.
  4. There is a supernatural peace that “surpasses understanding” when one is solely dependent upon the Holy Spirit. The peace of God is His visitation upon our heart as we cry out to Him.   We can sleep as Jesus slept, in the midst of a raging storm.
  5. As the Lord Himself cried to the Father to let the cup pass, we also cry to the Lord to spare us tragedy, grief, and pain.  Yet it is the fruit of crushing brokenness that prepares us for Kingdom work like nothing else.  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Loss, betrayal, grief and injustice are the personal milestones of spiritual giants, from Genesis to present day.  Excruciating trials are launching pads of great works of God.  Every challenge and obstacle leads us to higher places of faith and usefulness to the Lord.  They are opportunities, even appointments, used by God that hold great eternal reward.

Pastor Zac Poonen sums up the immeasurable value in brokenness:

“If you are really earnest about partaking of the life of Jesus, God will allow a thousand-and-one things to happen to you, in order to deliver you from the love of material things, from seeking the honor of men, from self-pity….if you are thirsting for God’s best, He will deal with you ruthlessly, cutting out the cancers that are ruining you and destroying the idols that corrupt you.  He will allow you to suffer pain, disappointment, loss, shattered hopes, humiliation, unjust criticism, etc. in order to bring you to that place of stability – where you can’t be shaken anymore.”   Zac Poonen, ‘Secrets of Victory’

“A thousand and one things” are really happening to true followers of Christ.  While the devil is “filled with fury, because he knows his time is short”, the Lord stands by us, ready to undergird and lead us through every inward and outward calamity.

The benefits, the eternal rewards of service, even the ‘pure joy’ await us in every trial once we pour ourselves out to the Lord and resolve to stand behind Him.  No matter how dark the circumstance, His love for us has not waned, His sovereign power never diminished.   The Lord stands at the edge of our Red Sea, ready for us to enter into intimate fellowship and His divine presence – His outpouring in us through committed time of prayer. 

“I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered..Hold on..” (Prov 4:11-13)  (AP Photo/David Duprey)

Satan would rob us of victory by magnifying the circumstance and disastrous outcomes.  Let us magnify the Lord, eat and drink of His living Word and He, our Deliverer will “broaden the path” beneath us so we will not fail, we will not fall. 

YOUR NAME HERE

YOUR NAME HERE - WRITTEN IN SAND

YOUR NAME HERE – WRITTEN IN SAND

For the follower of Christ, every accomplishment, acknowledgement, and acclaim – every entanglement- in this world presents the risk of spiritual death.   Every time we want our self to count in this world, we have diminished the purposes of Christ.  When Scripture speaks of separation from the world, most believers think bars, nightclubs, casinos, brothels, etc. However,  the entire world system lies under the domain of Satan – politics, education, commerce, trade – all that is in the world opposes the divine authority of God, and is culminating into a powerful anti-Christ domain.  We cannot sanitize any aspect or minimize Scriptural declarations:

“…don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”   (James 4:4)

Our highest and only ideal in any area, work, school, community – must be aligned with the Lord’s call for us there.  The loftiest arenas such as medicine, politics, science or education have the greatest potential to overshadow the presence of Christ in our lives if we pursue high worldly standards and miss the mark for holiness and humility.   God’s authority does not acquiesce to the ‘good’ of this world but calls us to obedience and surrender.   Christian ministries are not immune to worldly influence and trappings – the ‘self appointed’ will count for nothing when presented on Christ’s altar.

Often and aptly said, with Christianity ‘everything up is down’.   While those in the world strive to make a name for themselves, we as believers gain the greatest treasure – intimacy with the Lord – when we live as strangers, aliens, and foreigners in this world.  “…you do not belong to this world, I have chosen you out of the world.”  said Jesus, John 15:19

Divested, treading lightly, grasping loosely…..

“Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” (I Peter 1:17)

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” (I Peter 2:11)

“I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.”  Psalm 119:19

For Christians to petition unbelievers in Hollywood, government, or education to represent Biblical values is futile and, moreover, misses the mark of Christ’s demonstrated life.  Strangers, aliens, and foreigners typically do not make demands of host countries, nor do they have rights to do so, they are merely passing through.  Moreover, our power against the enemy does not come from ourselves employing worldly tactics, but are spiritual, through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  If we are commissioned by God we are backed by heaven. Too often though, we are quick to protest but slow to separate ourselves unto the Lord, to fast and pray.

Without the Holy Spirit, most miss the inevitable truth, “Your life is just a vapor…” written in sand in a windy world. 

YOUR NAME HERE - WRITTEN IN STONE

YOUR NAME HERE – WRITTEN IN STONE

“At every turn of your life, keep the end in view; remember that you will have to stand before a strict Judge who knows everything….”    Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ.

Except for careful planners, most of us will not actually see our ‘final destination’,  yet we could be scheduled to reach it tomorrow.   The most profound transition of our life is the moment of our death .  Rather than meditate upon it, even savor the moment we see Christ, we reject and dismiss such thoughts and go to great lengths to deny, delay and avoid the possibility of death.    Our predecessors did not live in such a way, they ‘loved not their lives in this world’…believing that “to die is gain”.  The Psalmist beckoned the Lord, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Numbering our days, meditating upon the great transition, is a deeply humbling influence to overshadow daily decisions, reactions, and priorities.

While harsh and devastating, death is often the quickening fire set to mature and separate  believers unto Christ.  It changes our focus from the temporal to the eternal – not just for our soul but for those eternal souls around us.  Contemplating eternity undergirds the great commission, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News…”  The reality of death should stir us with the passion and urgency of the Gospel.

YOUR NAME HERE - OMITTED OR WRITTEN FOREVER

YOUR NAME HERE – OMITTED OR       WRITTEN FOREVER

Sovereign, Almighty God has a divine and fearful Book of Life.  Such was supernaturally revealed to the hearts of God’s chosen throughout the ages; Moses referred to this Book of Life in his pleas for mercy, Daniel’s prophecies point to the preeminence of this Book,  the Apostle Paul speaks of this Book, and the aged Apostle John sees this majestic Book of Life in Revelation.  Man’s attempts to capture life, drama, and truth in books or literature are less than dust and ashes next to the book of all books, God’s Book of Life.

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it….And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life… If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”   (Revelation 20, excerpts)

One day soon the façade of this temporal world will fold and the majesty of God’s everlasting Kingdom will be established.  It has been said,

“The believer’s life on this earth is his only arena for change and fruitfulness…the nature of eternity is changeless.  Therefore, the time to become like Jesus, being conformed to His likeness, is during this earthly Christian experience of trial and faith”

“You and I will never be any closer to Christ, throughout eternity, than we are when He comes.  That’s the point of judgment”.

Paul exhorts us, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  Why so, if the cross of Christ is sufficient for our atonement and eternity?  God declares judgment for the complacent.   Unlike unbelievers, lukewarm ‘Christians’ misrepresent the majesty and awesomeness of God, attempting to weave Him into the world and that He opposes. God is a “consuming fire”.   If we rightly discern and anticipate His coming judgment and Kingdom, we will have godly fear and trembling, and a deep grief for the lost that are without hope at His arrival.

“Oh Lord, help us to put our name – our reputation, our possessions, all that we are and have – into your Hand.  Launch our lives out as Your vessels in this world that Your Name might be glorified and honored above all.”

THE GREATEST FEAR OF ALL

…is not the one you run from.  It is the fear to enter into and embrace.  There is no stronger protection, no greater wisdom, no deeper treasure to be found outside of the fear of God.

                     “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life”                         

 “The fear of the Lord leads to life: then one rests content, untouched by trouble”

“The fear of the Lord adds length to life…”

 (Proverbs 14:27, 19:23, 10:27)

“He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”    

(Isaiah 33:6)

‘Fountain of life’, ‘the key to God’s treasures’…yet, why so seldom preached? 

Entering into a true fear of God begins to empty us from self sufficiency, self satisfaction, and self determination.  It is a place of relinquishment – all that we are, all that we have, may be required on God’s altar.  We are so willing to sing, “I am a friend of God!” but do we count the cost of this ‘friendship’?  Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command”. (John 15:14)

Abraham, friend of God, obtained this privileged and honored place after demonstrating his fear of God, obeying His command to sacrifice Isaac.  For our benefit, God declared, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son.”  (Gen 22:12)   God knew what was in Abraham’s heart, his willingness to sacrifice and obey, but through this chosen vessel, God reveals to us the desires of His heart.  If we fear God, we will obey, “…all nations on earth will be blessed, because you obeyed Me” and therein is great reward…costly great reward.

Nearly three quarters of Holy Scripture is the ‘Old Testament’, establishment of law, the outpouring of prophecies,  revelations of God and His ongoing outreach to man.  Page after page reveals the power, majesty and sovereignty of God, self described as ‘a consuming fire’ whom alone should be feared and whom alone owns the word awesome.    The grace and love of the New Testament, manifested in our Savior, was bestowed upon those who, for generations, lived knowing the fear of God.  The revelation of God’s love completed their deep cry for the awaited Messiah, one who would atone and rescue them from certain and otherwise inescapable judgment.   Knowing the fear of God prepared their hearts to receive the love of God.

Basking in God’s love alone is wading in shallow waters….it may seem safe, but never yields the flow of living waters availed to us from God.  Worse is man’s inclination to fashion God in his own likeness, tailor His ‘love’ by our emotional standards, and live in the false security of God’s easy friendship. When life grows dark, when hardship and tragedy strike, from these shallow waters come the accusations, “Why this if God loves me!”

The one who knows God fears God and takes His Word seriously.  “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My Word”.  (Isaiah 66:2)  Is there any greater honor than being esteemed by the Creator of the Universe?

Unlike the terrors of the world, our own deep anxieties and fear of man, the fear of God does not paralyze us but rather motivates us to serve Him, to do His will and offer ourselves as His vessels.  “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men”, said Paul in II Corinthians 5:11.  At great cost and sacrifice unto the Lord, the Apostle Paul faithfully served the Lord – a ministry that propelled the Gospel throughout the world.  When God is awed, magnified in our hearts, we are bowed low to the place of humility.  It is there where He exalts and raises us to worship and serve Him.  In friendship, the Lord shares His heart and grief for fallen man and engages us to represent Him to the world.

Spiritual greatness, wisdom, protection from temptation, even springs of life come forth from this right standing.  Motivation and inspiration to serve and sacrifice are grounded in this powerful place of acknowledgment.  Yet, while it is common to be plagued and tormented by worldly fears, can we generate a fear of God within us, the fear that delivers us from all others?

Fear of God comes from knowing God – we know Him through revelation from His living Word.  It is not a natural inclination, we are not predisposed to fear and obey God.  It must come from willfully seeking the presence of God, waiting upon Him to reveal the truth as we read and meditate upon scripture.  It must come from a willful decision to obey what He reveals toward us.  When the Lord calls us to a task or correction it may well be out of our capacity…often the desire to obey is beyond us.  Therein our relationship grows, matures, and yields fruit as God Himself enables a surrendered heart to obey and accomplish His will.

Satan is not the greatest enemy to our faith – our own complacency lulls us into spiritual death and uselessness.  The ‘complacent’ fail to fill their oil lamps, they bury their God given talents.  They are not ‘esteemed’ by God but risk their place in His Kingdom.  It is the fear of God that compels us to draw near to Him and there in His presence we rightly view our smallness, our sinfulness, and the brevity of our life.  Under His shadow, He who never sleeps will fan the flames, even the embers, of our faith for His glory.

woman praying

Lead me out of shallow waters Lord, and teach me to ‘serve you with fear and rejoice with trembling’.

 

 

 

RISE UP AND GO FORTH

From threshing, to rising, to the offering of bread…
(c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Grain is crushed for bread, but one does not thresh it forever…” (Isaiah 28:28)

While suffering, even threshing and crushing, comes equally to the lives of believers and unbelievers, those who follow Christ have great assurance through their trials, a two prong anchor: your suffering has purpose and its intensity and duration is divinely measured. It does not seem so under the weight of grief and loss, moreover, this assurance itself does not lift the darkness of torment, depression or fear. Truth is an anchor onto which we must fasten ourselves –  it does not stop the storm but sustains us to the end of it.

“Crushed for bread” is a Christian truism rarely preached in the western world. It does not fit well into much of the gospel entertainment and prosperity that prevails in many church circles. When the Lord allows, designs and orchestrates, threshing and crushing in our lives it assaults our fleshly thinking, our human comforts, our health and sense of security – sometimes all at the same time. It does not seem loving nor merciful. In fact, it may cause the deepest questions of ‘love’, ‘mercy’ and ‘God’ to arise in our soul. Yet Lord stands by the cries of anguish and even accusation – He will prove faithful if we decidedly hold fast to the anchor.

But why the fire? Why the pummeling pain of betrayal, disappointment, and confusion? Why the shaken ground, the void of peace – why indeed!

Like grain, we are shaken to remove chaff, threshed to make bread. Challenging our comfort, even all we have built as security and surety in our lives, as threshed wheat we are mixed for kneading and shaping – which leads us into a fiery furnace! While we desperately seek to dull the pain, find any exit, or extinguish the fire the Lord’s purpose remains – to reveal Himself to us in the furnace. The threshing floor and fiery furnace are painful places where divine opportunity is ever present: we can walk by faith in the strength of the Holy Spirit, surrender and defer to the Lord’s leading, and depend on Him to deliver us. If the Christian life is indeed supernatural, the Lord will shake all our natural strengths and prove them deficient.

But how do we survive through, even rise up and come forth from these trials?

Be honest with God. Forget the brave veneers, scriptural and religious clichés, and reverent formalities. Let go. “I can’t take this! ….Help me, Lord, I am sinking!…I’m not going to make it through…” Unburden your heart with expectancy and start the journey through the fire. Share your burden with brethren and spiritual authority, an elder or pastor. Consider support of godly counsel and intervention. Central to deliverance though – learn to shut in with God, unhurried and undistracted.

Study the sovereignty of God. Immerse yourself prayerfully in the Word of God and the testimonies of the ordinary men and women who fell prey to evil men, suffered great loss, were wrongly accused, deeply betrayed, tormented, grieved, anguished…yet found their pain and darkness counted greatly in the Kingdom of God. Beckon the Holy Spirit to speak through the Word to your heart, write down the very scriptures that challenge your fears, your doubts, your grief, and overwhelming powerlessness. Memorize them and decidedly dare to stand upon them in faith, they are your protective shield and winning sword. (Ephesians 6:16,17)

Decide to worship. “The sacrifice of praise” becomes a deep and meaningful as we willfully worship God even as our hearts fail from brokenness and fear. It is costly praise, valued by the Lord, a worship that declares, “Yes, I am miserable/in pain/fearful and anxious/crushed and heartbroken…but you are still God, sovereign over all and worthy of worship.” Powerful tactics of Satan, magnifying points of anguish and highlighting every possible disastrous outcome, begin to wane as we magnify the Lord and shift our thinking toward His promises of victory. Read aloud, even sing the Psalms as a battle cry.  A pastor once admonished, instead of “Set me free and I’ll worship you” resolve to “worship Him and He’ll set you free”.

Seek God’s Purpose. What is He threshing, separating, out of your life…what is He kneading into your life? What of Himself does He choose to reveal? Keep asking, keep seeking – believe that the Lord will draw near to us as we draw near to Him, “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”. What is His purpose for your suffering? As Pastor David Wilkerson often preached, “Don’t waste your afflictions!” Our suffering can produce valuable assets to the Kingdom of God, preparing our vessels for God’s Spirit to flow through and reach others who may be floundering in a dark miry pit.

Broken to be shared

Broken to be shared

Wheat must be threshed for flour, kneaded and molded for the fire and, finally, broken to be shared. When hardship and turmoil come, when emotional trauma strikes and pierces with multilayer pain, let us grasp the ‘two prong anchor’ and build on this foundational promise. Let us cry out to the Lord, seek godly avenues of wisdom and support. Decidedly worship, let your spirit gain strength as the Lord inhabits your praise. Above all, do not give up. Let us resolve that, even before threshing comes, we will stand and press on with the certainty that sovereign God will produce in us that which has eternal value.

When God Unleashes the Giants

Trials and tribulations are not giants, neither is a tumultuous storm. You will know a giant firstly by the fruits of his intimidation. Personal and deliberate, a giant arises and challenges us, often during times of calm and complacency. Like a snake bite with stored venom, a giant can surprise us with hostility.

A giant threatens to corner us....

Giants threaten to corner us….

When interference and confusion, even aggression, stand against us in our workplace, our marriage, our home, or ministry – a restrained enemy is allowed by God, even raised up and unleashed by God, with great purpose. It is God who leads us right into the battle. In doing so, the Lord sets the perimeters, determines the outcomes, and reveals Himself as defender and deliverer, One who will not fail those who trust in Him.

This truth is personified throughout Biblical accounts as God’s people, often at their weakest, must confront enemies with disproportionate strength, power, and arrogance. Moses, an elderly shepherd, became the perfect pick of God to confront an oppressive world power (Exodus 3). Unwilling and intimidated, Moses was led to the giant, surrendering to God’s supernatural power and purpose which infamously demonstrated:  no earthly or spiritual power can prevail over the weakest vessel led by God.  Later, in Numbers 13, as God pointed the Israelites to their promised land of abundance and beauty, we see the Israelites defeated by their unbelief, cowering in the shadow of giants. Their unfaithfulness slandered God as insufficient and the barren desert thus became their grave. Only Joshua and Caleb rightly gauged the power of God and gained the victory. And who, of any faith, hasn’t heard of David and Goliath?

Whether the battle consists of gigantic opposition or deceitful calculated attack, Satan instigates and influences those around us to intimidate and harm us personally, robbing our peace and confidence and stirring up flurries of fear and anxiety. Giants come with an aura and, after an initial sting, they will find any means to enlarge the threat and overshadow the arsenal of strength we have in the Lord. What is the true target in these attacks of harassment, intimidation, unprovoked hostility and slander? By raising up our flesh and weakening our faith, we become useless to purposes of God, we may lose God given ground in our life and, ultimately, dishonor the glory of an unfailing God.

And God unleashes, leads us to, such an opponent? Why?

God declared to Pharaoh, “…I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  And God, who does not change, stands ready to show Himself strong on our behalf to deliver us when, not if, attacks come upon us.

Spiritual battles target the heart and soul of the believer…and God allows them to do so. Satan inspires with a  tool box of deceit, slander, unprovoked hostility,malice, confusion and division.  When attack  comes and threatens to apprehend the God given ground in our lives, there are three possible strategies to pursue.  Firstly, we may retreat and suffer – grossly mistaking weakness, defeat and suffering for humility. Often we initially respond in the flesh, seeking support and sympathy, utilizing our own intellect, natural strengths and resources. The Lord reveals this maneuver as fleshly and futile, exalting self and disavowing His lordship; He  may well use the battle to reveal in us the state of our heart,  flushing out pride and self-sufficiency.

The only recourse that defies and confounds the wiles of the enemy is total surrender – total surrender to almighty God. Resisting temptations to repay hostility and malice and guarding our heart against resentment opens a place for God to speak His living Word into our soul. We cannot see clearly under the enemy’s shadow but under the shadow of the cross is light, strength, and victory. Our cover in the battle comes from separation – committed times of prayer and fasting – communing with the Lord who longs to reveal Himself as our deliverer.

Pray for the giants, they have lent themselves to dark influences to oppose God’s sheep. May God confound them and bring them to shame, leading them to repentance on this side of eternity.  And may God woo us to that place of separation, of dependence and deep communion, of confidence when we face a giant…

“Do not be afraid or discouraged… for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” (II Chronicles 32: 7-8).

 

Freedom: the great reward of surrendering to God.

Freedom: the great reward of surrendering to God.

RESENTMENT: “I Have a Right!”

Can you believe what they did to me?

Can you believe what they did to me?

Long before man invented the video, Satan himself perfected the art of rewind and replay. It seems reserved to replay acts done against us – betrayals and personal offenses – moral crimes that have somehow robbed us. Each time offenses are ‘replayed’ in our mind the details become sharper and more significant. Motives and intents emerge. The scenario worsens as offenders seem to go on with their lives, unscathed and unaffected, even prospering! Somehow, when our head hits the pillow, these acts of personal harm and indignation against us gain momentum and greater depth as accusations seem to find a megaphone.

A strong sense of self empowers resentment. In fact, it is the necessary fuel to feed the fire, “He did this to me??” It has been said, “Resentment is unfulfilled revenge”.
It is our perceived and asserted right to be offended which opens the flow of resentment and bitterness and, like a toxic river, will contaminate nearly every aspect of life. Without question, the human heart longs for relief, a salve or resolution for this harassment. Imaginary plots of revenge, even strong hopefulness of gross misfortune upon the offender, can create a semblance of relief. However, enacted ‘plots of revenge’ inevitably villainize us and wishing ‘gross misfortune’ never satisfies. Every heart challenge leads us to a fork, a place of choices, each with great consequence. Most will flow with the ways of the world, the sensibilities of self and remedies of self help galore.

There is a path rarely chosen, hardly even seen – at times only found in the dark. Narrow and difficult, unnatural to us, the one first trod upon by the Prince of Peace. This way alone holds deep healing and relief. No amount of resolve or energy can take us on this path – we embark through surrender – each step forward led and anointed by the Holy Spirit. Our world culture ‘self asserts’, ‘self defends and demands’ but the way of the cross declares….

 

“You have no rights”

By no means is this a rip off. It is an immeasurable trade up. We give up our rights, living for ourselves in this world, to follow Christ – and receive the indwelling of His life and His power. Our ordinary lives- mere earthen vessels – gain the potential of supernatural possibilities as the purposes of God live through us. “…we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that his all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (II Corin 4:7)

Every path, even in our thinking, has a final destination. Our sin nature – groomed and embellished by the world’s culture – will always lead us away from Christ, and like a thief, ‘will rob, kill and destroy’. The way of the cross, a supernatural path of self denial – is where we partake in Christ’s life, sharing in His riches and eternal Kingdom.

Resentment, and its inevitable seeds of bitterness and strife, threatens the fruits of Christ’s life within us. Bitterness and resentment are natural – our hearts are fertile and ready for planting – little work is needed to grow resentment! But the Word of God holds forth abundant life, life worth living, life that matters…life gained only through surrender. Repeated through the Gospels, Jesus beckons His followers, “Anyone who intends to come to me has to let me lead….Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self help is no help at all. Self sacrifice is the way, my way to saving yourself…” (Mark 8:35, The Message)

Jesus gave up His rights, His right as King and Judge, for ‘the joy set before Him’ – reconciling man to God. He washed the feet of His betrayer and all those who would forsake Him. Afterward, “The Lord Jesus on the night He was betrayed, took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat – this is my body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me…” (I Corin 11:23/24) Betrayed, yet He gave thanks.

Have you, have I, been betrayed? Rejected, wronged, used by others? Satan will rehearse and enlarge every offense in your mind and heart, sowing seeds of bitterness that grow deep and broad. Each seed will validate your right to resent, to hate, and avenge – every seed a weighty entanglement. But at every juncture stands the Savior, offering His indwelling power to forgive and be free. Forgiveness does not preclude justice or accountability. Forgiveness releases the debt, the offense, the indignation into the hand of a sovereign and Righteous Judge. It is He whom we must fear. And it is from Him we receive the power to forgive and the inner healing to restore peace.

Every path has a final destination…

The one led by Jesus Christ leads to eternal victory. While too narrow to carry baggage of bitterness, it is a path of freedom and release. “I surrender!” is the powerful prayer that starts the journey.