I can’t think of a better way to end this week than with Mike’s Chair’s song, Someone Worth Dying For. Listen to the words and let them sink deep into your soul. They are Truth and Life. YOU are Someone Worth Dying For! At least Jesus seems to think so anyway!
Posts Tagged With: sacrifice
“Then Ornan said to David, ‘Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all.’ But King David said to Ornan, ‘No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.'” 1 Chronicles 21:23-24
Lord, I am so bewildered, befuddled, a little angry and just downright confused! You promised me this child of blessing, I believed you. And then I waited; nothing, no child. So I waited longer; nothing, no child. Sarah said take Haggar. So I did, that was a mistake. Then You came with Your two friends and spoke hope into Sarah’s womb, she laughed, we conceived, the child finally came! We’ve held this child of promise. We adored his laughter, his smile, and his childish tumblings. I love him more than my heart can admit. And now you’re telling me that I must sacrifice him?
Lord, I don’t understand. It just doesn’t make sense. You’ve asked me to kill the source of my tremendous joy. To give all that I have been promised. You gave me more than I could’ve ever hoped or imagined and now you’re asking for it all back? Why? What could you possibly need him for more than I do? He’s my son. He’s my legacy. He’s my great reward.
Abraham, I AM your great reward. I AM your legacy. I AM your Father and I know what is best. Trust Me. I love you.
Lord, I may not understand Your reasoning. I may not understand all the “whys”. But I do understand Your love. And I will take hope in Your love for me. Please allow me to take shelter under Your wings and allow me refuge from this storm of emotions tearing through my heart as I do my best to carry out this difficult task. You never said this job would be easy, just that it would all be worth it in the end.
I understand they’re called sacrifices for a reason and I will obey and choose to trust You with the end results. No matter how hard or how painful I choose to follow Your direction because at least then I have the reassurance that the pain has a purpose and a possible reward at the end. I choose not to “offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24)
Temporary Affliction=Permanent Reward
Oh my goodness how I have missed you my friends! It was a very interesting week, was it not? I think we had more technical glitches last week than ever before. There were several points where I said, “It would be so much easier if I were just posting myself.” But that’s not what God told me to do. He said to have other’s post for me.” And so while it was more work, I did it anyway.
At the beginning of this week “off” God posed me with a decision. “You choose. Neither answer is wrong. It’s your life; do you want to be a hobby writer or a career writer?” I chose, “Career writer”. “Then you need to start acting like one.” And for the next hour we went over schedule and borders (crossable and un-crossable). The first and firmest rule was that I had to treat it like a “real job” with office hours, open phone hours and specified times to work on the computer at my desk. But then came the tricky part. Helping those around me see it as a “real job” too. Because it is. My friends aren’t used to me having a schedule where I am unavailable to their phone calls. They’re used to me being able to sit for HOURS and talk. But if this writing thing is a career then I can’t do that like I used to. Because if I want to make money doing this (and I believe I can) then I’ve got to do it. God didn’t put this talent in this body for no reason. I’ve seen too many lives transformed from this pink pen of Grace to slack back and make it a hobby. Plus, honestly, while it would’ve been OK with God if I had chosen writing as a hobby, I think Satan would have been thrilled! This influenced me greatly in my decision.
Satan hates people reading in their Bibles because that’s where they meet Jesus. *Whispered aside* Satan doesn’t like Jesus very much. But more than that, Satan really hates when people have someone to explain that Bible to them. (Acts 8:26-40) He hates when people open themselves up to the Word of God to transform them and make them more like Christ. (Because remember, he hates Christ.) So when someone as bull-headed as me makes up her mind to help people understand the Word of God and bring them closer to God through something as simple as a blog and books. Well, Satan gets downright pissed off. And boy did I see that this week too! But honestly, it didn’t matter to me. You know why? Because I had made a choice to step into Enemy territory and fight a winning battle for as many souls as God will allow me.
The deepest desire of my heart is for YOU to know the love of Christ. I want you to experience how deep and wide, high and long His love for you is. I want you to experience your heart burning with the fire of His presence. I want you to experience the depth of complete transformation that is only possible through the knowledge of the Grace of God. I want you to know what it’s like to hold the hand of the man who can do all things and has promised to never leave you.
Yes. It’s hard to do the will of God sometimes. But it’s worth every second of fighting and hardship. Just imagine meeting someone in heaven you never met on earth and having them embrace you with a hug of gratitude because you unknowingly endured that hardship for the purpose of their salvation. They will stand there in heaven because you sacrificed just a little bit on earth. Wouldn’t that make it all worth it?
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient (temporary), but the things that are unseen are eternal (permanent).” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Yes, it is an affliction. Yes, it is hard and a huge pain. But is the pain permanent? Will it last forever?
Does that pain have a purpose?
What is that purpose?
It is to “prepare you for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
While the affliction feels heavy at the time. This word from God tells us the Truth. That affliction is light compared to the weight of the glory you will receive from bearing that affliction.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:38 “Whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” We each have a cross to carry, financial hardship, death of a loved one, loss of a friendship, cancer, hospitalization, trouble at work, car break downs, lost keys, the list goes on and on. But each of those afflictions, though difficult and cumbersome to carry, are temporary and light.
In the next chapter of Matthew we find Jesus urging His followers to
“Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (11:29-30)
A yoke is the rabbi’s teaching, this is why in verse 29 He follows “take My yoke upon you” with “and learn from Me”. The teaching of Jesus is as simple as any of them get – LOVE. And in Him alone our souls find true rest. The burden He places on our shoulders is LIGHT. We are called to be His light-bearers, torches of love to a dark and dying world. We are to be an ever-present help to others in times of trouble; Jesus’ hands and feet to the helpless and broken.
Christ carried the heavy cross so that we wouldn’t have to. (We wouldn’t have been able to if we tried anyway.) His lessons for us are easy and His burden upon us is light, it’s our future glory that is heavy.
It’s like Dory from Finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”
Just keep swimming my little fish, this temporary affliction will pass and all that will be left is your reward. “An eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”.
Word of the Day: “And the king said, ‘Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.’ Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, ‘Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.’ But the other said, ‘He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.’ Then the king answered and said, ‘Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is the mother.'” 1 Kings 3:25-27
The day was dreary and dismal as the rain pelted the roof reminding me that I had to go out. I had to go to the bank, and the water office and the post office, in this… blech! Little did I know what beauty awaited me, in this, the dreary and dismal. I pulled up the collar on my coat, took a deep breath and plunged into the cold wet day; freezing rain is no fun. What happened to the sun? It feels like years since we’ve seen it and played in its warm rays. Summer, are you ever coming back?
I get into the car to see the windshield covered in ice and breathe a prayer, “Lord, please don’t make me go out in that rain any more than I have to. Please let this ice come off with the wipers. Please.” One, two, three, click, YES! “THANK YOU JESUS!” The engine purrs as it pulls out of the muddy driveway and into the slush-filled street, here we go… blech! The song on the radio calls my attention, wasn’t this the song that I had stuck in my head all morning? Interesting Lord. They sing to me, “I know you’re out there, and I know you care, just like an angel watching over me…” and I wonder, really? Sometimes it’s hard to feel like God cares about me when it feels like everything around me is going wrong. Hmmm… maybe the weather just has me in a bad mood, I know God cares…right?
As I pull into the bank parking lot I thank God for the closest parking spot being open, “Thank You Jesus!” Running on my tiptoes so that the back hems of my pants don’t get too wet I yank on the door and sigh, we’re here…again. I was just here yesterday, for the exact same errand, a cashier’s check for the mortgage… But I forgot all the paperwork and didn’t have any amounts, sooooo because it was ten minutes to closing time I had to leave empty handed and come back in this…blech. I walked up to the same teller as yesterday and smiled, “Let’s try this again shall we?” She grinned in recognition. While I was waiting for her to fill out all the appropriate paperwork I got started filling out my check for the water office and putting our return address on the envelope for the post office, might as well make the most of my time while I’m waiting, right? All finished I bid the teller, “Have a good day, and stay dry!” as I breathed deeply in preparation of the blast of cold air that was bound to greet me when I opened the door. It did, it was even stronger than when I had gone in. Leaning my hat into the wind I slid myself back into the driver’s seat of my car, grateful for the break in the wind allowing me to breathe again.
And then it happened, as I rounded the side of the building on my way out of the parking lot I saw it. My shoulders drooped as my photographer’s heart quickened. A frozen fence with fingers of ice dripping down… how much was this picture, this child of my heart, worth to me? My thoughts raced in disagreement, “I have two more places to go before home, I’ll get soaked, AND it’s freezing out there!” But my photographer’s heart would not be denied that perfect “babe” of a picture. So while my skin and brain were ranting, my hands shifted the car into reverse to pull into the nearest parking spot.
Five minutes and completely frozen fingers later, I re-entered the warmth of my dry car, sopping wet coat sticking to the back of the seat. I had it, that one great shot that takes several bad shots to get to; I had it! But what’s more, I had something else. To put a name on it, is difficult. Maybe the more I write the better I can explain it, but I didn’t get into that car with only a great picture, I had something else in tow too. Salvation.
Photography is a therapy for me, there’s something healing in the capturing of beauty in unexpected places. When I left my warm cozy spot on the couch (curled up in a blanket with the dog and my Bible) and ventured out into this dreary mess of a day, I wasn’t expecting to be greeted with beauty. I was going to the bank, and to pay bills! Yet Beauty found me all the same, and she called to me from a frozen fence in the rain. Was I willing to sacrifice the dry safety of my warm car to capture her? Was I willing to put my comfort on the line to take her home with me and share her with all of you? Honestly, not at first! But those desires that God plants in our hearts, they can’t be denied. They can’t be rebuffed forever. What God plants, God tends. Like the good shepherd that He is, He cares for His sheep…even when it doesn’t seem like He is. I know He’s out there, and I know that He cares. He is watching over me, and He’s watching over you.
The delight of taking that one good picture put a smile on my face that lasted all the way through the rest of my rainy day errands and on to home; where I came straight to my computer to look at it again, and it took my breath away.
There really is Beauty in the blech.
This morning I woke up exhausted, too many late nights preparing for Christmas. I wrestled with myself for several minutes whether or not I should go back to bed after my husband left, the kids were still sleeping… I went back and forth, Bible study, sleep, Bible study, sleep… I weighed the consequences and possible outcomes of each and still couldn’t convince myself which direction I should go, nourish the temple or feed the soul? I sat down and opened up Streams in the Desert, one of the many devotionals I read, and it was all about a dream someone had about Jesus never coming. And then I thought of the “Footprints” poem on the wall behind me, it’s a dream as well! And then it dawned on me, you know it’s pretty hard to receive a dream like those, if you never sleep! And I know from personal experience that I dream the best when I sleep the hardest… when I’m exhausted. In Psalms 1:2-3 it says “His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whole leaf doesn’t wither. Whatever he does prospers.”
Now, I feel the need to point out that because Jesus DID come, the “law” that this verse refers to is Jesus. In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus Himself tells us that He didn’t come to wipe out the past laws of God, but rather to complete them. The laws from the past were guidelines for healthy living, everything from food safety to relationships. None of these things have passed away since Jesus came. On the contrary, they’ve only been intensified. The Law (before Christ came) was like the pencil sketch outline on a canvas being prepared for a masterpiece. Jesus is the paint that came along and filled in all those temporarily gray pencil-lines with bold vibrant color and LIFE! The pencil lines are still there under the watercolor hues that now lie over them, but they certainly aren’t the picture. They’re not the part that you admire when you look at (or meditate on) the picture. Your eye naturally focuses on the colors that fill the lines. While the Law is still here it’s still active and applicable in our world and our lives, it’s not what saves us, it’s not what fills us it’s the color and life of Jesus that saves and fills and completes our world. Jesus IS the Law, in every sense of the word. He came to color in what no one else could. All we could do was add more gray shading, details to a formerly perfectly white canvas. The more rules humanity added to the Law, the more we added bleak gray to our world, and then Jesus came, with His paints and brushes and turned our upside-down thinking right=side-up. He is the Law on which we are to meditate. He is the bulls-eye that all of history points forward to, and all the future looks to. He is the focal point of all humanity.
How are we to meditate on Jesus – The Law – in the night though? Easy! You go to bed meditating about Him and His word. I can not tell you how many times I have gone to bed with a question on my mind and a prayer on my lips only to wake with my body in a position of praise (hands above my head) and the answer written in my heart. While my mind and body were at rest, and out-of-the-way, my soul was free to commune with the Holy Spirit without interference from my busy activities or my mind immediately rejecting everything He says because it might not be logical or the “smart” thing to do. Many times I will have a cryptic or strange dream that when prayed over and interpreted will reveal the answer to my question. God speaks to us constantly, but the business of our lives and the clutter of our minds disturbs His messages. It’s like He projects His messages on the movie screen of the still water of our souls and the more we disturb it with our motion, the more the message gets muddled. The best way to receive a clear message from God is to be routinely still, not just in our body but in our soul. To rest in His arms like that weaned child, who KNOWS that they are loved and fed and provided for in every way by their heavenly Father so they need not throw rocks of worry in the water of their souls, because God’s got it ALL under control. Every minute detail, He knows them all. For “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Rest well this day, and this night, my friend. May the waters of your soul be undisturbed by rocks of worry. Rather, may you stand on THE rock, the horn of our salvation, and drink deeply from His gently flowing streams of living water. May that water fill your soul with refreshment and quench your thirst for anything less than His perfect righteousness. Jesus is the Law colored in with His perfect love that casts out fear. May His love for you shine through your darkness and color your life with the vibrance that only a child of God can claim. The vibrant life that starts with the red blood shed at the cross and sweeps across the entire blue sky with the rainbow of His promise of love poured out for the whole world. He loves the world so much that He sent His only Son to be the Way to an eternal relationship with Him. Praise be to the Living and active God who loves us with such an abandon that He is willing to go the distance and die a tortured death to show us just how much He cares for us. Jesus loves you my friend, rest in that truth today, He is calling you, by name, to come and sit with Him in His lap. Quiet your soul and be still so that you may KNOW that He is God.
“I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I can not change it.” Numbers 23:20
Today I’d like to share with you the story of Balaam and Balak from Numbers 22-25. King Balak can see the Israelites stretched out across the country side and it strikes fear in his heart. He’s heard the stories of everyone else going up against these armies and getting squashed like bugs… and he could be next! So in his fear he summons Balaam, a local soothsayer with a reputation for successful blessings and curses. Balak sends several elders of Moab and Midian to deliver his message to Balaam. When they get there Balaam consults the LORD and asks if he should go or not. God tells him “no”, and he sends them all away. So Balak sends a group of princes heavy with treasure to ask Balaam again. He inquires of the LORD again, this time God says “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.” (22:20) So Balaam goes with them, has an incident with his donkey on the way that we’re going to skip over because it doesn’t apply directly to my point today. Anyway, he gets to Balak and explains “I can’t say just anything. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.” (22:38) Then they go up, sacrifice some bulls, Balaam has a pow wow with God alone and then returns to Balak with God’s message in his mouth.
Now Balak hired Balaam to curse the nation of Israel because the Moabites were afraid of what the Israelites would do to them. But when Balaam came down from meeting with God all he could do was bless Israel! Balak said furiously “What have you done to me? I brought you here to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!” and Balaam answered “Must I not speak what the LORD puts in my mouth?” (Numbers 23:11-12) But Balak, not being one to give up easily took Balaam to another spot where he could see the Israelites, perhaps he could curse them from a different view. Exasperated sigh… so, from a different angle they present their offering, Balaam went off by himself to receive the LORD’s message and then returned to deliver my favorite of Balaam’s FOUR blessings to Israel:
“Arise, Balak, and listen; hear Me son of Zippor. God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I can not change it. No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The LORD their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel. It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, see what GOD has done! The people rise like a lioness; they rouse themselves like a lion that does not rest till he devours his prey and drinks the blood of his victims.” (Numbers 23:18-24)
Blessings from the LORD are irreversible! No one can curse what God has blessed, no sorcerer can be against it, no divination can break it, nothing or no one can reverse what God has blessed. My friends I pray that you’re catching my drift on this one, but in case you’re not, let me make it a little more plain. As a child of God you have been adopted into this family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You may be a branch that has been grafted in, but you’re still part of this family tree! Every word of blessing that God used Balaam to speak over the house of Israel, he was speaking over you too! God Himself has spoken His blessings over you and your life! Hallelujah! And what God has blessed the Enemy can NOT curse! Oh can I get a praise the LORD from the choir on that one?!?
However, this is unfortunately not where our story ends for the day. Because although no one else can remove God’s blessing from your heads, you can. According to Numbers 31:16 Balaam gave Balak some parting advice. Balak couldn’t beat them with might, and Balaam couldn’t curse them because of their blessing, but they could ensnare the Israelites to remove the blessing from themselves. Although nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39), we can separate ourselves from that love, by the choices we make. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), but we can certainly make the choice to turn our backs and leave Him.
So, what advice did Balaam leave with Balak? Sex. He suggested that the Moabite women go and seduce the Israelite men – drawing them not only out of covenant with their wives but also out of covenant with their God. In Deuteronomy twenty-eight when God lays out the laws of blessing and cursing He prefaces the blessings with “IF you carefully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all His commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you IF you obey the LORD your God:” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2) and He prefaces the list of curses (which is easily twice as long as the blessings) with “However, IF you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all His commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and over take you.” (Deuteronomy 28:15)
IF, is a very strong word. It may be a small word, at only two skinny letters, but its a mighty one that packs a punch. IF you obey, you are blessed and IF you do not obey… well… then you’re not blessed. And believe it or not, it is completely possible to be blessed in many areas of your life and still be cursed in others. Your disobedience to the laws of God (love your neighbor as yourself) brings havoc and heartache, period. And the disobedience that brings the most havoc and heartache? Sexual immorality – adultery, porn, homosexuality, bestiality, you name it! And the worst part is, it’s not just physical sexual immorality that brings curses, it’s spiritual sexual immorality too! How many times in the Old Testament did the LORD refer to the nation of Israel as an adulterous nation? A LOT! As a nation, they were following the physical rules and yet their hearts had been led astray! They had allowed other things to get between their God and themselves. God’s flow of blessing is permanent, it can not be broken or stopped, but it can be redirected when you put up blessing blockades between yourself and God when you sin.
Once upon a time, in a high school far far away from here there lived a cute, short, curly-haired Freshman girl who had a friend named Carey. At this same school, with the same friend there was a Senior football player. He was handsome and funny and was extremely muscular. On the first day of school, the girl was nervous at lunch time. “Who will be in my lunch group with me this year?” she wondered, “Who will I sit with?” As she emerged from the lunch line and into the bright lunchroom she immediately spotted her friend Carey, a senior on her dance squad. She rushed over to see if she could sit with her. “Of course!” Carey said, and the girl sat down relieved that there was at least one familiar face in her lunch group. Next, Carey’s other friend, the Senior football player came up and asked if he could sit with Carey too! Seeing as how there was plenty of room and he was her friend too they said “sure”.
Almost every day after that, lunch was spent with these three friends chatting over one thing or another, high school issues, those kinds of things. And the more the girl got to know the boy, the more the girl liked the boy. He was fun to be with, he liked a lot of the same things that she liked. But the best thing of all was how he made her laugh. He had such a strange sense of humor that she just adored about him. After several months of this, Carey and the girl were waiting in the lunch line when the boy walked up behind the girl and covered her eyes with his hands, “Guess who?” he said. Of course she guessed immediately, and he let go of her eyes and stepped into line next to the girls to wait for lunch. That afternoon Carey, their mutual friend, mentioned to each of them that they might make a cute couple. Hmmmmm…. But alas, at the time he was single and she wasn’t, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
However, it wasn’t long before the girl broke up with the boy that she was seeing and took a bit more interest in the boy. He WAS handsome, very handsome now that she was looking a little closer. And wow! Look at those arms, he MUST lift weights, a lot! But, it was too late for her now too, he was asking another girl out by now. Siiiiiigh……
By this time Christmas was getting nearer and nearer and it was basketball season at the school. The girl was busy preparing for the halftime shows at the games and the boy was busy preparing for wrestling season (Oh, yeah, he wrestles too), and pursuing that other girl. So our girl started focusing less on the boy and more on her dancing, and a little on school too. The time came around for the dance squad gift exchange and the girls all filled out their short wish lists, placed them in a bag and then one by one drew them out to see who they had for the Secret Santa gift exchange. The girl, just as a joke put the boy’s name at the bottom of her wish list, because EVERYONE on the dance squad knew that she liked him and whoever got her list would think it was funny. Little did she know, but her friend Carey had gotten her list! The last few weeks of school went by quickly and the girl quickly forgot about her little “addition” to her list. The night of the last game of the year came around and there was a dance planned for after the game. All the girls from the squad were planning on going together, it was the last dance of the year before Christmas, they HAD to go! The game ended and the girl was in a small storage room next to the band room putting her things away when she looked up to see the boy changing his shirt. She nearly swooned at his rippling muscles! “Ahhhhh,” she sighed, “maybe someday”, as the boy then walked past her to the hallway on his way to somewhere else in the school.
Suddenly Carey came storming into the storage room with her coat. “Why does she have her coat?” the girl thought, “I thought she was staying for the dance.”
“I have another present for you!” Carey said with a giant grin.
“OK” the girl said suspiciously, one eyebrow cocked to the air. They had already done their gift exchange and she had said nothing of more gifts being in store for her, what was going on? Carey flung her coat over the girl’s head and led her in the direction that the boy had just gone. She wanted to say that she had no clue what was going on, but she did have one glimmering hope that it would be the one thing that she expected the least to get from a colorguard gift exchange. As Carey wrangled her into the hallway the rest of the girls in the squad chattered and giggled excitedly in a circle around her as she came to stop in front of two red wrestling shoes on the hallway floor. Carey asked her, “are you ready for your surprise?” “I guess so”, she replied, what DO you say in a moment like that? When Carey pulled the coat off her head the girl raised her eyes from the shoes on the floor to the jean wearing legs that were attached to them, to the familiar black shirt that she had just swooned over moments before, to the absolutely beaming face of that handsome Senior football player she’d had her heart set on for the last few months. The look on his face was PRICELESS to say the least, he was so proud of the fact that she had asked for him for Christmas and that he was able to deliver that gift himself. A trophy date for the dance to be sure! She nearly passed out as ALL the blood in her body seemed to flock instantly to her face! Boy, he sure was cute, and all hers for the night. After months of crossing paths, there they were, both single and staring at each other… with the entire dance squad standing around them watching! They all walked off toward the cafeteria where the dance was being held that night, the boy and the girl still in a bit of a daze as to what to do with themselves. The girl asked the boy, “I thought you liked Katie, what happened?” He said, “she told me ‘no’ because she knew that you liked me”. It looks like things might actually work out for these two.
The next Monday at lunch the girl found herself sitting alone for some reason, I don’t remember why. Until just a few minutes before the lunch bell rang. She was just getting ready to get up and take her tray to the kitchen when the boy came strolling through the lunchroom door headed right for her lonely table. He plopped himself down and said “I’ve got a question for ya”. “OK” she replied, “what’s up?” He tossed his huge class ring across the table at her and said “will you go out with me?” As she sat there watching the ring spin like a top in the middle of the round table, what else could she say but “YES!”? And right there, in that small town school lunch room she and he became “they”. “They’re a couple now”, “they’re dating now”, “they’re an item now”. And they were, and have been for the last SEVENTEEN years, today. I am that girl, my husband is that boy, and he still makes me swoon when he takes his shirt off! Our “they” has increased from just the two of us, to the four of us plus two cats and a tank full of fish. As for everything in between that day and this day? Well, most of that is for another day’s blog, but parts of it can also be found in our book True Intimacy, the story of how our love became cursed through the sin of pre-marital sex and then adultery. And how Jesus redeemed that love and broke the curse, and the details on how you too can have a truly intimate marriage! Jesus can help, He helped us, and He’s more than willing to help you too! Trust me, it’s TOTALLY worth it. I thought that we had lost that high school romance long ago, but we hadn’t lost it, we had just cursed it, pushed it back away from us with our sins. But with God’s help we learned how to change all that, how to get that lovey feeling back, only it was better this time. Because it had depth and meaning and healing in it. Yes, this time our love was rich and real and founded on what it should’ve been founded on it the beginning, JESUS and His grace. I am more desperately in love with my husband today than I ever was seventeen years ago, and this morning as I snuggled up to him in bed I told him just that, and then said “and just think, if I love you this much more now than I did then, how much MORE will I love you seventeen years from today???” And he squeezed me tight in his warm and still very muscular arms and said “I love you” in that way that always makes my heart melt for him.
God has blessed us with something that many couples never get, a second chance at love with the person they fell in love with in the beginning. Through what I can only account as the grace of God, we have stayed together through some really tough stuff, and I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am for it! The love that I feel for this man is so much deeper than anything I’ve ever felt for anyone in my entire life. And honestly, that’s only possible because of the forgiveness and TIME that we have invested into each other. Neither one of us was willing to give up on “us” when I was so very ready to give up on him. During those cursed years of our relationship, which in all honesty was the majority of those seventeen years, we stuck together, many times just for the sake of sticking together. But I can’t tell you how glad I am today that we did stick it out despite those really cursed years. It’s funny how breaking a curse can change things. Happy things happen now, and we’re happy, not so happy things happen now… and we somehow manage to still find happiness, in each other. Nothing is perfect, and we’re just as not-perfect as everyone else, but we’ve found joy in our not-perfect-ness though. 🙂
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2
How does GOD want us to worship Him? What is worship that is pleasing to God? These are the questions I left church with on Sunday morning. We’ve had a lot of changes in our church over the last few weeks, with no sign of the changes stopping any time soon either. One of the many changes has been the style of music that we worship with. This change has caused a HUGE disruption amongst the members of my Sunday school class. Many of them have started “double church”ing, as they call it. Where they’re attending Sunday school at our church and then going to a different church to worship. We ended our class this week discussing the things that WE thought our worship service should include, the things we wanted… And as I climbed into our car to leave after service the Holy Spirit knocked on the door of my heart and whispered “What about what I want? What about how I want you to worship on Sunday and every other day?”
I came home that afternoon and pulled out my books, filled with questions about how GOD wants us to worship I started by opening up my Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament words and found that “proskuneo” is the most frequent word rendered “to worship”. It is used of an act of homage or reverence to God, Christ, man, idols, the Beast, etc. Proskuneo is from the Greek words “pros” meaning “toward” and “kuneo” meaning “to kiss”. I find this particularly interesting since I find worship so personal. Just the idea that when we worship we are kissing toward the person, thing or god that we are worshiping.
In Romans 12 Paul encourages us to be LIVING sacrifices, to live our lives in a continual state of dying to ourselves and allowing the LORD to live through us. To allow Him to pour His love out on others through our skin, our actions, our words, our deeds. But what does this have to do with a Sunday worship service? As all the changes have been occurring, and I have to be honest, I have not been happy with all of them, I have been talking to God a lot about all of it. Wanna know what He told me? “This is not about you.” The Sunday worship service has NOTHING to do with what I want in the music or the theme or the lighting, the feel, the layout of the room or the altar, NOTHING about me. A “worship” service should be all about bringing GOD glory. What does HE want? What does HE want it to look like, feel like, sound like?
You know what I think? I don’t think He cares about any of those things. What He cares about is those hearts that are being lifted up to Him in worship of Him. Through this change I have learned something about myself. I can worship God to ANY style of music. Even the kind that makes me want to fall asleep. How? Because it’s not about the words I’m singing, or even the music I’m singing them to, but rather about how my heart opens up to the LORD when I’m singing them. THAT is what He is seeking, THAT is what He longs for day in and day out. For my heart (and your heart) to open up to Him. To His word, to His touch, to His Truth.
When my husband and I started writing True Intimacy we did not have open hearts. They were closed to each other and they were closed to the LORD. When your heart is closed, just like a door or a window, nothing can come in and nothing can come out. And the things that are inside become stagnant from lack of use. Things like love and caring for others, when unused become weak and useless. When your heart is closed the things inside become dusty and rusty. Making it harder the next time you want to actually use them. BUT, when your heart is open things can move freely from the inside out and vice-versa. Now, this also means that there is a higher likely hood that someone might come along and hurt your heart, this is true. But it also means that there is an even higher likely hood that someone might come along and hug your heart. Have you ever had your heart hugged? I have. It’s when, even though they aren’t actually touching you physically, it feels as if everything inside you is being hugged. Like your heart is going to explode from all the love that is being poured into it at the moment. God hugs my heart often, usually through my family and my soul sisters. Through the things that they say and do and just being with them, loving God with them. Sharing Him with them, telling them what He’s been doing lately and hearing what He’s been up to in their lives as well.
So I guess, as I work through this, I’m discovering more and more that what, I think, God would like to see in a worship service is community. A place where fellow believers can come together and hug each others hearts. Where they can share God with each other, lift each other up in prayer together and shout praises to Him through words and song. The songs that are sung, shouldn’t matter, just that they are sung with open hearts ready to give and receive God’s love in whatever form He chooses for it to take whether it be reproof or acceptance. Open to hear His word spoken, open to the idea that these hearts aren’t perfect and are in need of a savior who is willing to do anything, including die an excruciating death, to make sure that these hearts get purified and forgiven.
He loves us so tremendously, HOW we worship Him shouldn’t matter to us. Just THAT we worship Him.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Do you have one of those friends who likes to talk? I mean REALLY likes to talk, as in, you can have an hour-long conversation and you talk maybe 5 minutes of that. Yeah, that’s me. I’ve been trying really hard not to be that friend, but I haven’t been doing a very good job of it. Especially with God. I’ve been doing all the talking lately and I’ve been really frustrated about a lot of things, why? Because I haven’t been giving God the opportunity to tell me His side of the story! I’ve been so self-focused that I’ve lost a lot of my God-focus on things. I’ve unbalanced our conversations, making them more about me and my friends than Him and His plans. I’ve forgotten how important it is for me to BE STILL and know the HE is God. Yes, it is possible to be still in your spirit while your body is moving… but it is much more difficult to stay that way.
Yesterday God pinned me in a corner (by sending me to bed) and said “Woman! Be still!” and it made me think, when was the last time I stopped moving and doing and just sat with the LORD? I couldn’t remember!!!!! Clue 1) Last night God used a dear friend and quite possibly my only blog-reader to call me out “You haven’t been writing!” Clue 2) This morning I scolded my son “the floor is not the proper place for the new coat God gave you.” To which my husband added “or any coat for that matter”. And it made me ask, “LORD, what things have I been throwing on the floor that don’t belong there?” Clue 3) Then after my son left for school and I was pulling laundry out of the dryer I came to a white linen tablecloth, something that most people, including myself, would normally save for special occasions only. But this one’s been on our table for the last few months gathering stains. Something that is deserving of a holy position and set aside as special has not been taken care of, let alone cherished. All those clues, pointed me to my time with God. For me, it’s when I write. I’m not writing whatever I want, I can only write what He leads me to write. I’ve tried to write things on my own and it just doesn’t work. Anyway, my writing is my way of talking with God, hearing from Him and then you get to read it too. My writing time is sacred and special and I should be setting myself apart to do it. My time with God is my covering and yet I’ve carelessly tossed it aside in my pursuit of other things instead of keeping it in its proper place in my life – a higher priority than the dishes. You know, it just occurred to me that there are three other people in this house that are FULLY capable of doing the dishes for me, but no one can spend time with God for me! Just like no one can go to the bathroom for someone else, they’ve got to do it on their own. No one can grow my relationship with God for me either. I have to do it myself. And I need to do it because I love Him and because He loves me and WANTS to spend time with me. He yearns to hear me speak and then for me to stop moving and talking long enough for Him to have a place in the conversation. God wants to be part of the conversation of our lives!
What is your special thing that you do with God? How do you communicate the best with Him? Has He been trying to get your attention lately? Has He been trying to get some lovin’ from you today? Some TLC? Please learn from my mistake and take some time today to be still and know that He is GOD. Meditate on the truth that God Almighty, the creator of the heavens and the earth wants to spend one-on-one time with YOU today! Hallelujah!
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you, you need only to be still. Exodus 14:13-14
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it only leads to evil. … I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. Psalm 37:7-8 & 25
My soul finds rest in God alone my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. Psalm 62:1-2 & 5
I have a very intimate relationship with God. It is a gift above any gift I could ever ask for, it is my identity and my solace. He is my husband and my friend and I would die without Him. Because my relationship with Jesus is so precious to me, and because I believed what I had been taught about sins and the importance of confessing them in order to remain in contact with God I became extremely sin conscience. It started by making sure to clear my conscience before bed every night so that the Enemy couldn’t torment me in my dreams. Eventually I started the practice of clearing my conscience and confessing my sins every time I washed my hands – which is a LOT when you’re a stay at home mom! I finally got to the point where I was afraid to talk because I might sin, I was afraid to do anything wrong because then God would turn His face from me and wouldn’t talk to me anymore. I was constantly worried that I wasn’t doing the right things: Not spending enough time with my kids and too much time writing; spending too much time with my kids and not enough time writing… I was constantly walking on eggshells and afraid that one would break and I wouldn’t notice it soon enough that I would be able to confess it before something happened. I was afraid that God would lift His shield of protection if I sinned, there’s only one place I could have picked up that idea and it’s not from GOD! Honestly, the worst part of this whole thing, is how ignorant I was to the whole thing! Sure, writing it all down now and looking back it sounds psychotic, but the change was gradual and I was, at the time, convinced in my legalism (although I wasn’t seeing it as such at the time). I was deluded. I had been lured into being held captive to the lie that I needed to constantly ask for God’s forgiveness in order to have His stamp of approval and protection on my life. But all that succeeded in doing was to tie me up in knots, stress me out and frustrate me. I certainly wasn’t living freely, or abundantly.
Here I am, a FIRM believer in “God is in control” and yet I was placing all the control on MY very weak shoulders. The way I was viewing it, is I was expecting God to protect/bless us, IF I did everything right….. ummmmmm….. Tamar, at what point did you die on a cross and rise from the dead in order to place that kind of authority and power on yourself? Honey, that’s not how GRACE works.
Grace has nothing to do with you earning anything, and everything to do with JESUS. This past week I was struggling with my priorities (as mentioned before) and when I should be doing things during my day in order to get them all done. I have decided that I need to get up at five to spend time solely for prayer while I shower so that my day will start successfully. To do this I must exhibit self-control and walk away from the TV and/or household chores at 9:45pm in order to be in bed by 10:00pm (I have yet to actually do this by the way, close, but not yet). One morning I drug myself out of bed and literally stumbled my way into the cold bright bathroom attempting to wake myself up… it didn’t work. I tried reading my Bible, but my eyes just kept closing themselves. I told the spirit of fatigue to leave me in Jesus’ name, but that didn’t work either. Finally I said, “Lord, if You REALLY want me to do this right now instead of going back to bed, You are going to have to wake me up.” Still nothing. But in my heart, I knew that it WAS His will to spend alone time with me. He’s told me so on several occasions. I gave in to the tears burning my eyes and sobbed in frustration at my lack of ability to carry out His will. I said “Lord, I am so sorry that I can’t do this. I’m sorry that I’m not good enough for You. Lord, I quit, I can’t do this anymore…” When I was finished verbally beating myself to a pulp He said, “When are you gonna get it that it’s not about what you DO?” And the verse about our righteous acts are as filthy rags popped into my head.
Pleasing God, gaining His approval, benefiting from His blessings and His protection has NOTHING to do with what you DO, that’s legalism. And it has everything to do with what has been done in your name. Every day we do things “in Jesus’ name”, without ever realizing or thinking about what HE does in our name every day. The first thing He did in our name is He died to pay for our sins. Every single one of them, both past and present. And if that was all He ever did in our name, that would be amazing. But wait, there’s more! Right this very minute Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God the Father. And because we all have sinned and fallen short, every day, when it happens, as it happens, Jesus lifts His wrist to the Father’s eyes and let’s Him watch us through the holes that the nails left, so that Yaweh can now look upon our sin and yet never turn away from us. He views our sins through Jesus’ hand-made “Son-glasses”.
When we give our lives to Christ, it is a precious thing. Something that He does NOT take lightly. He takes us and places us safely in the center of the palm of the Father’s hand, where we are free to walk, run, jump, dance, eat, drink and be merry in His presence to our hearts content. And if at any point we begin to wander too close to the edge of His hand (AKA sin) then He will begin to tighten His grip on us, to close His fingers in around us, bringing us back to the center of His grace. That tightness may be a bit uncomfortable for a time, possibly even downright painful, but I think you will agree that the end result is worth it isn’t it? Praise God that life isn’t all about us! It’s all about Him! What He has done for us, not what we do for Him. It’s about how He loves us, and shows us that love in a multi-faceted ways everyday. How He keeps us protected from all eternal harm when we’ve chosen to allow Him to do so by placing ourselves totally into His loving hand.
So this morning and, I pray, every morning from here on out when I get up I will place my own set of Son-glasses on over my eyes to help me remember that what Jesus did on the cross and in the tomb, is a FINISHED work that He did in my name before God Almighty, so that the laundry list of my sins past, present and future are FORGIVEN. Once and for all, so that I can go about living life and not get wrapped up in sin. I can walk with confidence knowing that if I am doing something wrong, He will alert me to the situation and I pray that I will choose to heed His warnings and cease and desist immediately!