"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
THEY HAVE BEEN BROKEN!
LET FREEDOM RING!
It is a stunningly beautiful day in Orkney. The blue sky is studded with cotton clouds and there are more boats bobbing in Newark Bay than I have ever seen before. It is NOT warm, however. I will be missing a bit of warmth...and my family. Family and fireworks, brisket and baked beans...even the shifting smoke of the bonfire. I imagine preparations are underway for the annual Fourth of July festivities... and I am homesick. I love the celebration and the sentiment of 'Independence Day,' but my current geographical location challenges me...
In Orkney it is just Tuesday, 4 July. Henry is at the dentist. I am making taco salad for dinner. What about this 'freedom' thing? True political freedom is a rare jewel these days. I am thinking there must be more to this thing we call 'freedom.'
I decided to do a little research. It turns out there are eight Hebrew words which we translate as 'free/freedom!' Below are some of the definitions:
exempt from bondage or tax - liberty - spontaneous - abundant gift - to spread loose - to manumit (free from slavery) - to be or make clean - to dig up by the roots - cleanse - innocent - blameless - clean - clear - to dismiss - free - voluntary - generous - magnanimous - nobility - to open wide - loosen- break forth - set free
Genuine freedom is far more grand than it first appears. It is of paramount importance to God! It was for FREEDOM (from sin and death) that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to set us free. The words are almost too familiar though, and I for one, am guilty of taking my 'freedom' for granted. I am just now beginning to realize that freedom from sin and death is only the tip of the iceberg...
HE HAS SO MUCH MORE FOR US!
I am painstakingly learning the truth of Jesus' words in John 8:36 -
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
What are the invisible chains that bind you?
THEY HAVE BEEN BROKEN!
LET FREEDOM RING!
I may or may not have just spent half the morning on an unsuccessful hunt around the house for this old friend. The stories within sustained me during an awkward and lonely childhood. They continue to captivate! Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, Toads and Diamonds, Snow White and Rose Red...and of course, Cinderella... classic stories of good vs. evil, written before the lines between the two were blurred. Our beloved heroes/heroines face wicked witches, evil dwarves, curses and cruel stepsisters. Good always prevails in the end.
We LOVE these stories! They feed our souls, appealing to our God-given hunger for justice and righteousness. We are, after all, created in His image. Justice and Righteousness are the foundations of His throne! (Psalm 89:14) There is HOPE that one day all will be made right. Faith and righteousness will be rewarded. We await the arrival of our handsome prince...a not-so-subtle picture of Christ's return for His Bride.
We MUST have hope!
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick..." (Proverbs 13:12)
That said, the Lord reminded me of something VITAL this morning as I was reading in Hebrews Chapter 11:
"By faith...some conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the sword, were made strong in weakness, became mighty in war and put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection."
WOW!!! I want some of THAT faith!
This is where 'Fairy Tale' faith gives way to faith of an altogether different sort:
Hebrews 11 continues:
"By faith...some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted , mistreated..."
ALL THESE WERE COMMENDED FOR THEIR FAITH!
I hate to admit that I have failed miserably these past nine months. My incomplete understanding of faith, slanted toward the 'Fairy Tale' sort, has left me all too vulnerable to disillusionment and doubt. The enemy is quick to jump in with his vile insinuations:
"Did God really say...??? Does He even exist??? Does He really care about you???"
At times I have shaken my fist at God (forgive me, Jesus), having falsely believed that faithful obedience always results in a happy ending here in time and space.
Henry Blackaby's Comment on Hebrews 11 struck me this morning:
"A faithful life
does not always bring the same results
in human terms..."
It is time to prepare our hearts for the battle that is coming,
and is already raging.
'Fairy Tale' faith alone will not carry us. Faith is the substance of things hoped for!
"But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed,
but of those who have faith and preserve their souls."
"Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
"It is a world where goodness is pitted against evil, love against hate, order against chaos, in a great struggle where often it is hard to be sure who belongs to which side because appearances are endlessly deceptive. Yet for all its confusion and wildness, it is a world where the battle goes ultimately to the good, who live happily ever after, and where in the long run everybody, good and evil alike, becomes known by his true name...That is the Fairy Tale of the Gospel with, of course, one crucial difference from all other fairy tales, which is that the claim made for it is that IT IS TRUE, that it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still." (Frederick Buechner)
I spoke with our daughter, Kate Dahl, awhile ago. She, Richard and Adelyn flew to Colorado Springs yesterday for cross-cultural training. Lord willing they will soon be in the Highlands, working as Area Directors for Young Life Scotland. Prayers for the Lord's timing and provision are appreciated!
Miss Adelyn has done quite a bit of traveling in her twenty-one months! This is the first time she has had her own bag however. Kate said she burst into tears when that bag was placed on the conveyor belt at the airport and disappeared...fearing she would never see it again!
They did their best to explain...
I couldn't help but note the spiritual parallel. As a follower of Christ I am called to full surrender. To place my 'bag' on the conveyor belt, so to speak. I must release my will, my sinful habits, my preferences, my gifts and ambitions, my possessions, even my family...all that I am and all that I have to the Lord. Perhaps it would be wise to give up the right to use the word 'my' altogether! "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things..." (Romans 11:36)
Am I the only one who finds this difficult? This struggle to surrender is rooted in unbelief. It forms the matrix of a battle I must fight DAILY. If I put my bag on the belt, how can I be sure it will be safe? Most days I live under the illusion that I am in control...a GREAT and DANGEROUS deception.
Is there anything you are struggling to release to Him? Let us encourage one another! He is worthy of our trust. He is El Roi, the God who sees. He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider. He is our Protection and our Shield. He is El Shaddai, God Almighty! He is the Keeper of the Conveyor Belt. I am preaching to myself...Breathe. Trust. Rest. Hope. Believe. He is good in ALL His ways.
On July 12, 2012 I recorded this quote from The Pursuit of God (A.W. Tozer) in my journal. I have never needed it more!
"Possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in life. We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety...
so we WILL be brought to this testing place..and our whole future
will be conditioned by the choice we make."
LET IT GO.
The gales have returned after several days of spring-like weather. I think the snowdrops and crocuses must be shivering on this damp and blustery day!
It is a good day to build a fire in the stove and share a bit of what's been on my heart. If you read my last blog, 'Pressed But Not Crushed', you will know the past months have been bewildering and painful for me. The title of today's blog was impressed upon my heart several days ago, and I realized the Lord has more to teach me. His desire is to bring beauty from the ashes of His refining fire.
Honestly, I don't know much about threshing. I learned a bit by searching the Scriptures this morning:
There are two Hebrew words for 'thresh.' Both mean to trample, or tread down. Before the invention of modern farm equipment, sheaves of harvested grain were brought to the threshing floor, where they were either trampled by animals (oxen, donkeys, etc.) or beaten by hand with 'flails', as pictured above. This process separated the grain from the straw. The grain would then be kept for seed, or used to make bread. The straw was used as bedding for animals, or simply burned.
God speaks of 'threshing' in three contexts:
1) He warns the nations that they will be 'threshed' in judgment:
"You threshed the nations in anger..." Habakkuk 3:12
"His breath is like an overflowing stream that reaches up to the neck
to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction." Isaiah 30:28
2) John the Baptist describes the threshing and winnowing of God's people:
"I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who comes after me,
whose sandals I am not worthy to carry,
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor
and gather His wheat into the barn,
but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire."
3) Jesus speaks of personal threshing or 'sifting':
"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,
that he might sift you like wheat.
But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail."
Jesus doesn't leave it there, however! He continues:
"AND WHEN YOU HAVE TURNED AGAIN,
STRENGTHEN YOUR BROTHERS."
We are called to encourage and exhort one another...
James, the brother of Jesus and author of the letter which bears his name, writes:
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)
The threshing floor is a place of redemption
"Wash...and go down to the threshing floor...lie down at his feet."
Naomi told Ruth in Ruth 3:2
We seasoned Christians are adept at justifying our sins...impurity, deceit, enmity, strife, anger, jealousy, rivalries, dissension, division, unlimited forms of idolatry... The last thing we want to do is confess and be cleansed. We have a Kinsman Redeemer who invites us to be washed and lie down at His feet...
Lord, strip me of this chaff and fill me with the fruit of Your Spirit...
I can choose bitterness....
or I can allow the Lord to remove my 'chaff' in the shaking!
"For the one who sows to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."
It has been a long winter for this soul. Though the weather has been unusually mild and I have become accustomed to the shorter days, a different kind of darkness has threatened to undo me...
Forgive me for lamenting...I know there are untold numbers in the world today who would trade places in an instant...
For more than four months I have succeeded in dissuading myself from exposing myself, managing to hide a heart that has hemorrhaged. Jesus warned that following Him would be costly:
"Now great crowds accompanied Him, and He turned and said to them:
'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yet, even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and
COUNT THE COST,
whether he has enough to complete it?
Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish,
all who see it begin to mock him.'"
Of course we cannot take this literally, as Jesus commanded us to love...even love our enemies! He is using a bit of hyperbole here to make His point. If we will follow Him, obedience must be our highest priority, no matter the cost.
I have counted and recounted the cost over the past few years, thinking I had offered all I had...leaving children, an elderly mother, extended family, ministry, dear, life-long friends, the family farm, horses, sheep and chickens...everything precious and familiar, to answer His call.
I could not have anticipated the crucifixion of my character.
On October 3 a prominent member of the church and community requested a meeting with me, ostensibly to discuss a possible project. Instead, for more than two and a half hours the 'accuser of the brethren' hurled one stone after another.
"Is anyone telling you what people are saying about you?"
"Isn't there anyone who is speaking candidly with you about what people are saying?"
"Isn't there anyone in the church who knows you well enough to defend your character?"
Requests for specifics and clarification were met with a glib rebuff:
"I am not going to betray my confidences."
Henry had just left to visit his Mom in Indiana. I came home that evening to an empty house...consumed with torment, confusion and grief. My only goal since arriving in Orkney has been to 'be a blessing' to our new community. I grabbed my journal and cried out to the Lord:
I am practically crawling out of my skin at the moment. My 2 1/2 hour meeting turned into a lengthy recitation of all the reasons I have failed in Orkney...evidently everyone has been talking about me, but no one has bothered to tell me...
Four months later, I now know the claims made that day were unfounded. I had not ruined my reputation...my 'character' was not in question. Sadly there has been no resolution, no reconciliation, as the accuser denied all of it...suggesting I fabricated the entire incident. I have been deeply hurt and frustrated beyond belief. The battle with bitterness is REAL.
I must believe that ALL things work together for good...so what have I learned in all of this?
1) Our God is El Roi, 'The God who sees.'
In Genesis 16 Hagar had been mistreated by Sarai and fled into the wilderness. The angel of the Lord found her and ministered to her. She called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, "You are a God of seeing...truly here have I seen Him who looks after me."
2) He is my Defender
King David cried out to the Lord when Saul pursued him in jealousy: "Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me...my God in His steadfast love will meet me..." (Psalm 59:1, 10)
The Lord has stripped me of all self-reliance. I can no longer fall back on my 'reputation' of being a woman of godly character...after all, as it was pointed out:
"No one knows you well enough to know that what you have to offer is ok..."
I am completely dependent on Him. The words from a Chris Tomin song come to mind:
"Where you go, I'll go.
Where you stay, I'll stay.
When you move, I'll move.
I will follow...
All Your ways are good
All Your ways are sure.
I WILL TRUST IN YOU ALONE...
Several days ago I was walking on the beach...feeling quite alone. I picked up a flat stone. (I often pick up flat rocks or bits of pottery upon which I can write verses. These sometimes find themselves in a bubble-wrapped envelope, travelling across the Atlantic to a loved one) That day on the beach, looking for flat stones, I asked the Lord:
"If you were to write something on a stone for me, what would it say?"
Immediately the words from Jeremiah 31:3 came to mind...
"I have loved you with an everlasting love!"
Forgive me for doubting You, Lord.
It was a strange way to wake up. On the 9th of September, the Spirit of the Lord spoke while I slept. I was vaguely aware, but sleeping too deeply to awaken easily. Finally, around 5:00 I was awake enough to realize that the title for a new blog had been 'downloaded.'
"Heaven: Password Protected"
"Clever," I thought, "but what am I supposed to do with that???"
Tonight, I think I know. We have just witnessed the conclusion of the most vulgar and embarrassing presidential election in living memory. The results are in. A decision has been made, but the combat continues. Nerves are raw. Tempers are flaring. Tears are falling. Folks, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.
Strange things happen when campaigning commences. Something that has it's roots in nobility rises in us. Primeval hope stirs. We ought not be surprised...after all, God has set eternity in our hearts. We instinctively know we were created for a better world. Tragically though, we are afflicted with a strange kind of amnesia. Vainly we fix our eyes on a political candidate, looking for a saviour of sorts. We set off on the yellow brick road, hoping to find Utopia. John Eldredge calls it 'The Haunting,' this strange desire for that which is beautiful and fulfilling and oh-so elusive. It is the longing for paradise lost.
Our beloved fairy tales betray our hearts...our desperate longing to be rescued, and our hope for a 'happily ever after' ending. My Dad used to say, "I have good news and bad news." The Good News is that heaven's door is open!
The bad news? It is password-protected. The gate is narrow. The way is hard that leads to Life, and those who find it are few. There is only One who holds the Key. His Name is Jesus. He is the One you have been waiting for! He is The Desire of Nations. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Seek Him while He may be found!
This is Escalonia. Unknown to me before our move to Orkney, she has become one of my favorite shrubs! From Spring until the worst of the winter gales set in, clusters of pink, bell-shaped blossoms adorn her branches. Her leaves are a deep waxy green, reminding me of Gardenia foliage, or the Camellias that grace the entryway of our old home in Graham. Above all though, I love Escalonia for her resilience!
Our first winter in Orkney (2014) was a WILD one! Orcadians in their eighties claimed they could not remember a winter like it. Salt laden gusts topping 100 MPH battered this beauty until the only leaves left dangling from her branches were withered and brown. "She's done for," I thought to myself...
The worst of the winter winds have not yet arrived, but I am ahead of the game. I have found myself in the midst of one of life's stormy battles. Several weeks ago Henry and I decided to have another go at our favorite study, 'Experiencing God'. Our renewed commitment to draw near to the Lord, to seek His purpose and plans, unleashed a barrage of fiery arrows from the pit of hell. The attack has left me feeling bewildered and helpless. My consolation comes from knowing that El Roi, the 'God who sees,' is my Defender.
This is a tricky time of year for me anyway...approaching the eighth anniversary of Dad's disappearance and death. Haunting memories of our Montana nightmare reappear: Images of pale November sunshine casting long, distorted shadows...Miles and miles of faded gold stubble, the barren remains of summer's harvest...The desperate, somber expression on my son's face as we searched for Dad, a mirrored reflection of my own heart...The sound of the helicopter as it landed, bearing news of Daddy's demise...And the abject horror of seeing my father one last time...encased in a black body bag.
Life can be cruel. It is against this backdrop that I began my study yesterday:
"If you were standing before God, could you describe your relationship with Him by saying, 'I love You with all my heart, and all my soul and all my mind and all my strength'?
Yes? or No?
How I wanted to check 'Yes!' But I could not. 'What has happened to me?' I wondered. I began to realize that the Thief has robbed me of trust in God's goodness, fueling the fire of doubt. The circumstances of Daddy's death provided the fodder and the spark...the testing of my faith and radical obedience required these past few years only fanned the flames.
'How can I love Someone I do not fully trust?' I wondered.
I began to pray, and as I prayed the words of C.S. Lewis came to mind, as penned in
"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
"Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh," said Susan. "I thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver..."Who said anything about safe? Course He isn't safe. BUT HE'S GOOD. HE'S THE KING, I TELL YOU."
"Course He isn't safe, but He's GOOD..."
I found myself praying, "Spirit, help me experience Your love for me as I recall Your goodness and faithfulness...thank you for giving me a Daddy who understood me - who loved me unconditionally..."
As I prayed, a torrent of memories washed over me! Momentary flashes of my father's wild and lavish expressions of love. My first Christmas brought a puppy, Inky, a black ball of fluff who would become my closest companion and confidant. Many pre-school days were spent standing on the seat of the 'call truck,' wedged behind Dad's shoulder. We bounced through the countryside, from farm to farm, tending to all manner of livestock. Those days were not complete without a stop for 'penny candy' at Mr. Kuper's store.
Several years later I would arrive home from school one afternoon to find a baby elephant standing in our front yard! Dad was a man of delightful surprises! Then there was the day he decided to buy a herd of ponies...twenty-four, to be exact, along with two 'pony rings' he would take to local carnivals.
He taught me to work. My career began at the age of twelve, cleaning kennels and mopping floors fouled by sick dogs. I watched my father practice veterinary medicine without partiality, loving and serving those shunned by others, often refusing to charge those who could not afford his services. He was NOT a perfect man...many a naughty word escaped his lips when he was frustrated or angry, but I NEVER detected a hint of pride. His was a humble, servant's heart.
After my disastrous and painful divorce he was often both "Papa" and very much a second father to my children. He loved his grandchildren in the same outlandish way he loved his children, with a balance of love, discipline and an unmatched sense of adventure.
Tears flowed freely as I relived life with Dad...wondering anew at the peculiar richness of my childhood. It was then I heard the familiar 'still, small voice,' and I knew...
"It was You all along!" I cried. "It was You blessing me through my father, revealing Your generous, knowing, loving heart through him! And You love me still..."
I asked the Lord to forgive me for doubting Him...for questioning His goodness. I told Him I LOVE Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength...and like the Escalonia, I know the storms of Winter will eventually pass, giving way to Spring.
"Habitat" is defined by Webster's Dictionary as:
'the place or environment where an animal or plant naturally occurs.'
After years of woefully neglecting this delicate habitat we call home, concern for the earth has reached fever pitch. While care and concern for Creation are noble and necessary, Ecology has evolved. Morphing from science, 'green' philosophy has spawned a peculiar, pantheistic idolatry which now drives national and international policy.
WE HAVE MISSED THE POINT ENTIRELY.
In packing up to move two years ago I realized I had a serious addiction to books. Paying by the pound to ship our belongings more than 5,000 miles, I was forced to be ruthless, bidding farewell to many a treasured tome. As I sorted, a handful of volumes cried out to me from the rubbish heap, reclaiming their place in my limited library.
I read Chapter Seven last night. The words, sweet as honey and bitter as gall, have forever altered my perception/perspective on "HABITAT." I want to share what has impacted me so deeply.
Man was created to be the HABITAT of Almighty God:
"At the far-in hidden center of man's being is a bush fitted to be the dwelling place
of the Triune God. There God planned to rest and glow with moral and spiritual fire."
We KNOW habitat is important...we spend millions creating habitats for animals in zoos. Appropriate habitat can actually make the difference between life and death. Imagine a habitat for pandas that contained no bamboo! In the wild, bamboo comprises 99% of a panda's daily diet! An inappropriate habitat would spell starvation.
In Chapter Seven of "They Drank from the River and Died in the Wilderness," Pastor Ravenhill reminds us that:
"God Himself has a 'natural habitat, a culture...a way of doing things that is different than ours. Unless we understand that we can offend Him and end up puzzled as to why our relationship with Him is not everything we would like it to be."
"WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE HABITATION OF GOD
IF WE WISH TO ENJOY THE FULLNESS OF HIS PRESENCE."
From the beginning God has expressed His desire to dwell in the midst of His people. In Exodus 25 the Lord said to Moses:
"Let them construct a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell among them."
Notice that it is GOD who takes the initiative. Moses didn't come along saying:
"You know Lord, it's about time You paid us a visit.
After all, we're supposed to be Your kids!"
No, God expresses His exacting demands:
"According to all that I am going to show you...
JUST SO you shall construct it."
A quick read through Exodus reveals, the Lord is concerned with EVERY DETAIL of His Dwelling Place!
You can learn a lot about people simply by visiting their homes. In Revelation Chapter 4, John takes us on a 'guided tour' of the House of God, His heavenly Tabernacle...
"After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven...
immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven,
and One sitting on the throne."
The first thing John sees in Heaven is the Lord sitting His throne. There is no question about who is 'in charge.' Now pay attention:
"If God is going to reside in your house or in mine, if we are going to experience the fullness of His presence in the way we desire, then HE DEMANDS THE THRONE. It's just that simple. He demands the right to govern, the right to rule, the right to control our lives. When God comes to reside in us, He comes as Lord, Master and King."
"If God's presence is to be fully manifested in us,
then He must fully reside on the throne of our lives."
As my mother used to say when I was argumentative:
"NO 'BUTS' ABOUT IT, Anne Marie, NO 'BUTS' ABOUT IT!"
If God is going to feel at home in our hearts, if we want a lasting, abiding and growing relationship with Him, then we MUST give Him the throne.
Now, back to the scene of God's home in heaven:
"And the four living creatures...day and night they do not cease to say,
'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty,
who was and who is and who is to come."
"If God is going to dwell in our lives on a permanent basis, if we are to enjoy the full richness of His presence, not only must we give Him the throne, but we also must provide Him with a HOLY PLACE...many of us expect Him to dwell with us when there is uncleanness, rebellion, lust, worldliness, or other unholy things in our lives. Part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to point out those things to us and clean them up.
OUR part is to OPEN UP AND LET HIM WORK. As long as we are cooperating and dealing with those things everything is fine. It's when we resist that we grieve the Holy Spirit. Persistent resistance will eventually quench the Spirit and He will withdraw. IF WE WANT GOD TO DWELL IN US, WE MUST PRESENT OURSELVES TO HIM AS CLEAN AND PURE."
God dwells in an atmosphere of continual thanksgiving:
"Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power;
for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will
they existed and were created." (Rev. 4:11)
Scripture exhorts us OVER AND OVER to give thanks to God. It is God's will that we give thanks in EVERYTHING! How faithful am I in obeying this??? I am ashamed to admit that I am guilty of ingratitude. The early Christians, despite immense suffering and persecution, learned to LIVE AND BREATHE thankfulness.
"If God sniffed the air of your 'sanctuary', would He smell the sweet,
fragrant incense of praise and thanksgiving, or the stench of bitterness,
pride and ingratitude?" (p.89)
Why is gratitude so vital? Because, according to Psalm 22:3
GOD INHABITS THE PRAISES OF HIS PEOPLE!
"Thanksgiving and Praise are part of God's HABITAT. Genuine worship comes from a heart that is in absolute agreement with God, absolutely committed to God, and resolutely, radically obedient to God...God is looking for those who will abandon themselves COMPLETELY to Him, casting everything at His feet. These are the ones who will take their crowns--all their achievement, their prestige, their recognition, and their rewards--cast them down and WORSHIP HIM. These are the ones in whom God will choose to dwell in His fullness. We must come to the place of absolute surrender to God's will and His ways." (pp.91-93)
"Lord, take the throne of my life. I give it to You. Make me into a holy HABITATION acceptable to You. Clean out the worldliness that has so controlled my life--the lust, the pride, the bitterness, the resentment, the uncleanness. Take it ALL out. I want to be a clean vessel, a holy habitation for Your presence and glory. Teach me to be grateful. Let thanksgiving rise up new every morning, like Your mercies, for GREAT is Your faithfulness. Teach me how to worship in spirit and in truth. give me an 'amen' in my heart of absolute surrender and radical obedience. Amen. So be it!"
Soli Deo Gloria
I awakened this morning having dreamed of a house that was plagued with snakes. These were not ordinary garden snakes. They were quite large, many of them five to six feet long and about two inches in diameter. There were different colors and kinds. I knew instinctively that some were poisonous. Every snake was headed for the door...trying to get into the house. Some were near the threshold.
The most unsettling part of the dream for me was the fact that the owner of the house had become accustomed to the snakes. By now they were so familiar he had grown COMFORTABLE with them. No longer alarmed by their presence, he simply walked among them...
This morning I have prayerfully searched the Scriptures, inquiring of the Lord in regard to the meaning of this dream. Jeremiah 8:17 caught me off guard:
" 'For behold, I am sending among you serpents,
adders that cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you,'
declares the Lord."
What provoked the Lord to send snakes to bite His people? Are we in danger of similar judgment? In the words of Henry David Thoreau:
"The more we know about the ancients,
the more we find that they were like the moderns."
Let's take a look at Jeremiah 7 and 8.
The people had not actually abandoned temple worship.
If you watched their worship, you would have thought the people were sincerely honoring the Lord, but their hearts belonged to the false gods all around them.
They paid lip-service to Jehovah, but gave their hearts (time, energy, attention) to idols.
The Lord warned them: "Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail! DO NOT PRAY FOR THIS PEOPLE...DO YOU NOT SEE WHAT THEY ARE DOING...?"
He commanded them: "Obey my voice and I will be your God and your shall be my people. and walk in all the ways that I command you, that it may be well with you."
He told Jeremiah, Say to them:
'This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God,
and did not accept discipline;
TRUTH HAS PERISHED: IT IS CUT OFF FROM THEIR LIPS.'
And the words of a grief-stricken Father:
"Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding?
They hold fast to deceit;
they refuse to return...no man relents of his evil,
everyone turns to his own course,
like a horse plunging headlong into battle...
Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
They did not know how to blush.
THEREFORE THEY SHALL FALL AMONG THE FALLEN...
I AM SENDING AMONG YOU SERPENTS,
ADDERS THAT CANNOT BE CHARMED,
AND THEY SHALL BITE YOU,"
Declares the Lord.
But there is GOOD NEWS:
"Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions,
and over all the power of the enemy, and NOTHING shall hurt you."
Our Defense? The Sword of the Spirit...
The Word of God
"If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."
The serpent is at the threshold. We must choose. The choice will be costly,
but the reward great:
"They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they loved not their lives even unto death."
It feels like November today. Cold, damp and gusty...gruesome by August standards! I am ashamed to admit I just took a twenty-minute nap. Something about stormy weather simply lulls me to sleep.
Life is like that too, isn't it? There is something about the constant tumult in the world today that tempts me to shut down. It's easier to 'sleep' than deal with the constant battle...the battering of heart and soul. We instinctively know life was never meant to be like this... The banners of justice and righteousness lie torn and tattered. Dare we hope?
Two weeks ago we had the privilege of celebrating the first birthday of our grand-daughter, Adelyn Hope. In light of Adelyn's growing passion for music, our daughter Kate aptly chose a 'Sound of Music' theme for the party, specifically the following line from the song, 'Edelweiss'...
The roses have long since withered and most of the decorations have been stashed in the attic. I haven't had the courage to wipe the tiny fingerprints from the glass coffee table. Evidence of the great blessing of her life, they remind me to pray, "Lord, may she bloom and grow forever!" I'm not certain when I began to realize these words resound from the heart of the Father's. He created us for ETERNITY. His passion and promise is that we WILL continue to 'bloom and grow,' as long as we abide in Him.
It sounds so simple! As an introduction to the events of Revelation, Jesus offers some straight talk to the Churches. He brings words of conviction and encouragement. The thrust of His message?
"To him who overcomes I will give..."
These are the words of the Great Commander of Heaven's army...the final instructions for His beloved Bride and the key to claiming victory in the coming Battle. The victory lies, not in a one-time confession of faith in Christ, but in STAYING AWAKE, and daily choosing self-denial and obedience.
Two days ago the Lord impressed upon my heart to read/study Malachi (meaning 'my messenger'). It is the last book in the Old Testament. I was shocked to discover it reads like a stern wake-up call for God's people:
1. Esau was 'hated' by God because he forfeited the privilege of his birthright...for a bowl of soup! He was ruled by his flesh, rather than the Spirit of God.
*In what ways am I ruled by the flesh???
2. "If I am a Master, where is my fear?" the Lord asks His people. They did not respect or revere Him.
*Do I conduct myself in a way that demonstrates a healthy fear of God?
3. The Lord 'despised' their offerings. Why? Because they were going through the motions, 'giving'...all the while continuing to live in sin. He said their offerings were 'polluted.' His name was dishonored because they were NOT giving their best!
*How's my heart? Are my offerings acceptable to God?
4. The Lord warns: "If you will not listen I will curse your blessings. Behold, I will rebuke your offspring and spread dung on your faces."
*He makes it clear that my children will suffer for my disobedience!
5. The people can't understand why God doesn't hear their prayers. The Lord tells them He is weary of their words because they called good evil and evil good!
*Have I compromised God's holy standard by condoning what He calls evil?
6. He says, "I the Lord do not change! Return to me and I will return to you!"
"Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a Book of Remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed His name. 'They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and one who does not serve Him."
May our names be written in His Book of Remembrance!
"You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand,
take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people
and lose your own stability.
IN THE GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."
(2 Peter 1:19, 3:17)
Soli Deo Gloria
Sojourner. Servant. Recipient of undeserved Grace. Worshiper.