Let’s continue unwrapping all the loveliness that God has hidden inside of Hebrews 11. If you missed the latest post, you can read it here. Please share with me anything that God puts on your heart as you read through this chapter. I feel that we will all find ourselves richly encouraged as we study the greats who were marked by faith.
Our power bill was jaw-dropingly shocking this past month. We had a snow storm…in Charleston! It was magical and money sucking. To minimize further damage to our bank account, my husband ripped out the faulty gas starter mechanism in our fireplace, and we had the gas turned off. We turned our fireplace into a wood burning furnace. I much prefer a fireplace that burns real wood. It’s comforting and smells like a log cabin in a secret hide away amongst the trees and creeks and woodland creatures. We quickly discovered that starting a fire is not quite as easy as Smoky the Bear would like us to believe. It’s true that, “You can prevent a forest fire.” It is also true that, “You can smoke out your house and produce only pitiful orangish embers.
Here’s what we learned very quickly about the anatomy of a fire.
- Start small. The foundation of the fire must be laid with paper, twigs…various and sundry forms of tinder.
- Honor the fat wood. The fire starter sticks are a fire’s bread and butter.
- Wait for things to heat up. You can smother your fire by piling on the wood too fast.
- Strategically choose your logs. Use the smaller logs first.
- Leave room for air. Fires deprived of oxygen will die.
I felt an elated sort of triumph the first time I successfully cultivated a blazing, Hallmark-movie worthy fire in our fireplace. Once it was crackling hungrily and heating the house, I only needed to be watchful, add logs when necessary, occasionally reposition things and poke or prod where the fire was getting lazy.
Through the journey of learning fire, God taught me this truth. The Father has built His own fire, specific for those who love Him, and His fire is a beautiful thing. In Matthew 3:11, when John the Baptist was announcing the arrival of Jesus, he said this, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” I believe John was preparing our hearts to understand that Jesus brings a greater baptism. His living water refreshes our souls. We die to sin and are washed in His purity; however, Jesus also offers us a baptism of the Holy Spirit AND of fire. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is precious and changes the way we read the Word and hear from God! And then there is the baptism of fire. We like to call it the refiners fire. Many willingly accept the baptism of water. Some accept the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (While God’s Spirit rests within us the moment we accept Jesus, I believe there is a separate baptism of the Spirit that may or may not happen simultaneously with conversion. This is a topic for another time, but if you are interested in what the Bible says, you can find Scripture here.) Then, there is the baptism of fire that still fewer choose to receive.
It’s understandable. Fire is scary! If you handle it correctly, it warms and protects. If you deal with fire improperly, you can get burned or worse. So, we shrink back. We hang out a safe distance away from God’s fire not realizing that it is in His blaze of holiness that we find true freedom, that we experience the all consuming, wonderful fire that our God really is. I believe that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego understood something that we do not. If God asks has to walk into fire, we will not be burned. As I learned the process of building a successful fire in my home, I felt God impressing on me that the refiners fire operates much the same:
- Start small. If God is anything, He is good and kind. He doesn’t overwhelm us by burning away every impurity all at once. He tackles first things first. Often the most recent deceptions or newest forms of disobedience are the first pieces of tinder He ignites. And how does He set ablaze our flaws and inadequacies? By the lighter of His love. It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. We fear facing our faults, and God says, “Don’t worry about looking into a mirror and seeing the ugly. That’s just what satan wanted for you. I see the beauty beneath the dirt. Let’s incinerate the mess of the enemy through the fire of my love!” So we humble ourselves, look in the mirror, acknowledge our anger, fear, pride, lust, unforgiveness… We see it for what it really is, the enemy’s form of fiery darts, searing our hearts and minds, making us hard and afraid. And we say, “Yes, God, bring your version of fire. The kind that cleanses and warms and awakens.” Once that twig begins to burn away, God ignites another. We understand now that we are perfectly safe in this blaze. And we give our Father one yes at a time.
- Honor the fat wood. There are those in our lives who are already ablaze with the intense and hungry flames of Jesus. They are beautiful. They walk in holiness and purity. God will send them our way to offer us fuel for our smoldering fires. They are the fat wood. They’ve already learned, been there, released that, fought this, won that through the power of Jesus. They lend us their fiery victories so that we can stand on their faith and be ignited into new levels of heat. Honor those people. Let’s not stand in offense, expecting perfection from a vessel made exactly like ours. Those people won’t be perfect. But they will have something to offer us, much like we are imperfect; yet, we have something to offer those who will come behind us. Let’s not push God’s people away in pride. The Bible tells us to confess our sins one to another. If you find a person who hasn’t failed. Congratulations. You are staring in the face of Christ. May God give us grace to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our self-motivated ways. Sometimes God will send to us a friend, mentor, pastor, teacher, parent, or even a stranger as a piece of fat wood, giving us the chance to see something clearly, the opportunity to change our minds and think differently. Always test what you are told against God’s Word and ask Jesus what He thinks, but if God sent that person, agree with Him! It smarts to be told we have made an error in judgement. But it feels pretty amazing to admit what is true and let the fire grow in intensity. That’s what freedom to freedom, glory to glory is all about! And if the pieces of “fat wood” in our lives are going to love us well, they won’t hold back their fire out of intimidation. They’ll give us the love and the challenge that what we need in order to grow.
- Wait for things to heat up. Jesus knows very well how I’ve hated waiting. I loathe it. I want to be there before I get there. But sometimes, we have to be seasoned. The process is the treasure as much as at the end game is the award. We must let Jesus take us at His pace. If we try to usurp God’s timing, feeling we’ve burned away enough of the old man and jump head first into a ministry, job, relationship or a new season before He has finished cultivating the correct temperature in our spirits, we will fall hard! Being in the secret place with Jesus, enjoying the wealth of friendship with the Holy Spirit and walking in humility through the purifying fire, is more important than what we feel is next! I’m the chief of sinners in this area, but I have learned to love my holding place, so much so that now when I feel God urging me to step outside of it, I make excuses for why I need to stay. When you jump into God’s fire, you become transfixed by it.
- Strategically choose your logs. Use the smaller logs first. When you feel released by God to do, because you have learned how to be, then do; However do the first things first. If you force a hug log on a fire, whose foundational coal bed isn’t established, you will snuff out the flame. So, instead of preaching on a stage to a thousand right of the bat, share the the love of Jesus with a friend at school. Ask God for a word of knowledge for a neighbor. Pray over a stranger. God wants to build your faith and your character so that when you are given more responsibility and acknowledgment, your fire will hold steady.
- Leave room for air. Fires deprived of oxygen will die. The Holy Spirit is the wind of the Word of God. We must leave room in our hearts and minds for the Holy Spirit to blow a new wind! My brother once asked me, “What has God said to you lately?” I answered, “Well, I had the coolest moment with Him a few months ago.” He looked at me kindly, but offered me a piece of fat wood. He said, “Be careful that you never coast on yesterday’s victory.” The Holy Spirit is a wild untamed fury! He goes where He will, and we have the honor of being carried along with Him if we choose to go. But we must leave room for His new words! If we settle for yesterdays revelation we will miss today’s message and fight against tomorrow’s mission! Jesus help us to constantly ask for the direction of your Spirit. He is always speaking. He will whisper in your ear, “This is the way. Walk in it.” When we are not wise in our own eyes, we will have open ears and our flames will catch the new wind. Our fire will be fortified by the new breath of God.
Once God’s process has reached maturity and we are in a healthy sustainable fire, we have only to keep the fire going and growing by being watchful, adding logs when necessary, occasionally repositioning things in our hearts and allowing God’s Spirit to poke or prod us where the fire is getting lazy. Friends, I hope we are all untamable inferno’s by the time Christ returns, fueling each other’s fires as we walk in ever increasing levels of love and purity.
Let’s continue unwrapping all the loveliness that God has hidden inside of Hebrews 11. If you missed the first post, you can read it here. Please share with me anything that God puts on your heart as you read through this chapter. I feel that we will all find ourselves richly encouraged as we study the greats who were marked by faith.
11 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.2 For by it our ancestors won God’s approval. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
By faith, our ancestors (those beautiful yet flawed men and women who have preceded us in eternal life) actually won the approval of God! This verse really messes with me. I’m a recovered legalist. That means that I used to strive to earn God’s love. If I were a vacuum cleaner, I would have been a Dyson, a top notch cleaner-upper, doing my best to live a pristine life while literally sucking the very breath out of my body. Working for God’s love only results in pride and self destruction. When I read this verse, it makes me feel as if I need to go backwards and DO something so that God will like me. When I ask God about it, I feel that He is telling me that I could never earn His love. While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. He loved me before the foundation of the world! I cannot earn His heart; however, this verse is not about securing His love. God would love me if I spat in His face, stomped on His feet and stuck my tongue out at Him. He cannot….not love. He is love. However, just like with any good Father, there are choices I make that He will either approve of or find disappointing. Approval is the action of officially agreeing to something or accepting something as satisfactory.
I think of it this way, I love my brother, and most of the time I approve of him as well. He’s wise, compassionate, hilarious, self-sacrificing….. However, when he stuck me in a toy box and sat on the lid, I did not approve of him in that moment. When I was in high school, opened the freezer and discovered he had eaten the last strawberry toaster strudel, I was disappointed in him. When he wrote a song that made fun of my nose and sang it on my 21st birthday, I was not in agreement with his timing nor his nostril inspired lyrics. Yet even in those exact moments, I deeply loved him. God’s love is perfect. It’s foundational. If I fail to choose faith and holiness, His love alters not, but my heart longs to make choices that will delight Him. I feel the same about my earthly Father. I know he loves me, but I bring him chocolate and write posts about Jesus, not to earn his affections, but because I long to see his face light up!
2 Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” God’s love is free. Accepting His love, gets us the keys to the Kingdom. That’s just the beginning. The real prize is discovering the heart of our Father. After we accept Christ, we have choices to make. We can either say, “Yes!” to God on a daily basis or rebel and become stagnant, stuck children of God. We have all made choices that we are ashamed of. God is offering us the opportunity to choose His way and find an abundant life that we never have to find embarrassing. Later in Hebrews 11, we find that, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” We cannot even hope that God will find our motives and choices satisfactory if we do not utilize faith, the assurance of what we hope for. By faith, our ancestors secured God’s approval. In other words, God was proud of them when He made them and loved them when they were unlovable. But because of their faith…because they believed what God said even when they couldn’t see it, taste it or feel it, they won his approval. The great battle of our lives will be believing God in spite of what we feel. That’s the kind of faith that makes God’s heart leap for joy. God won’t love you less, but He will agree with you when you agree with Him! That’s not tyrannical. It’s right! God’s way is love, goodness, kindness, justice, mercy, vibrancy, holiness, faithfulness… Agreeing with God’s thoughts is like the beloved Little Mermaid Song, “Look at this trove, treasures untold. How many wonders can one cavern hold?” God’s way is for us, not against us. His way is all that is lovely. The sooner we agree, the more lovely we become.
“By faith we understand.” I love that part of vs. 3. We don’t understand truths and then believe them. We believe first, and then understanding is given to us. I believed that Jesus was Lord when God urged me by His Spirit. It wasn’t until after I accepted Christ, through faith, that I began to understand the wealth and treasure that Jesus really is. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. The writer of Hebrews gives us this example of faith. Jesus, the Word of God, created something out of nothing, and not just something…everything we know and see. That kind of thinking offends our natural brains. No one conjures something out of nothing. How ludicrous to assume that a being could defy the laws of nature itself. Well a Being could, if He is maker and interpreter of those laws. I am vastly pleased that God’s logic transcends my own. What a scary thing it would be to place my life, future and kids into the hands of a God that could fit inside my mind. Thank you, Jesus, that your power, wit, knowledge and wisdom so far exceed my own. I need You to be greater. I need You to be smarter. I need You to be stronger so that I never have to doubt that you can and will hold all things together and complete what you have started. And God continues to speak Kingdom shaking somethings out of nothings. Romans 4:17, He is our father in God’s sight, in whom Abraham believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist.” I believe God loves the opposite game. For me, He plays the game like this. “Lauren feels weak and terrified. I’ll call her strong in Christ and fearless. She’s striving and sick. I call her rested and whole. I love God’s opposite game. He’s using the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. The moment I began agreeing with His opposites, they overcame my negatives and now they are my positives. What a mighty God we place our faith in! If God approves of it, I am for it. Let’s leap in faith together!
I’m going to read/pray through Hebrews 11 and ask God to help me break down the chapter and extract every bit of truth from its wondrous mysteries. Feel free to join and add/comment/share any wisdom God places in your heart! I love learning with and from you. Today’s post is on Hebrews 11:1 =)
Hebrews 11:1— “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
The first question that came to my mind after reading this verse is, “What should I hope for?” In Isaiah 40:31, God tells us to hope in the Lord! There are certainly lesser joys to hope for. We hope for world peace, cancelled debt, job promotions and nights where our kids sleep without endlessly waking. But all of these lesser hopes only hold weight under the greater umbrella of the ultimate hope. “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” ascends to God for his glory.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) Every promise is fulfilled in Christ! The promise that God will never leave us was fulfilled via the veil torn by Jesus. The promise that God is greater than he that is in the world was fulfilled by the resurrection of Jesus. The promise that God has good plans for us was reconciled to us by the death of Jesus that ushered in our abundant life. Jesus is every good and perfect “Yes!” and the exclamation point of faith called the “Amen” which literally means, “It is done.” Jesus is the permission and the punctuation. When we end our prayers with, “Amen,” we are making a faith statement based on the Who that we hope in. Faith is being certain, sure, confident, unwavering, fully convinced, never doubting, always believing that Jesus Christ, the holder of our hope, will fulfill every promise. Amen. It is done.
We can bank on the outcome even though our eyes have yet to focus on the actual visual manifestation of the promise. “Now we see through a glass dimly.” You and I have glimpses of eternity, partial fragments of a beauty that will transcend the very best sunset and brightest gemstones this world has offered us. We cannot see perfection just yet, with eyes shadowed by the curse of broken humanity. But if there’s a lesser perfect, there’s a greater perfect. If there’s a partial fulfillment, there’s a full fulfillment. Do you know that we have a set of eyes that are not shaded by the Fall? The eyes of our spirit do not have to be hindered by the natural. The vision of our spirit is only nearsighted (me focused) or farsighted (control focused) in so much as we surrender to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the “natural” eyes, or the pride of life. “You will listen and listen, but never understand; you will look and look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back—and I would heal them.” (Isaiah 13:15) Yesterday I was driving, and for about ten minutes of my trip, I had a long, clear string in my eye. I couldn’t find it but I knew it was there. it was irritating my eye and creating a cloudy foam over what my right eye could see. It was a little scary trying to drive with impaired vision. Many of us know that the eyes of our faith are not quite 20/20. We can tell by the irritants we face such as anger, depression, anxiety, the host of the enemy’s arsenal that steals our peace. We try to navigate life with these vision polluters because we just can’t put our finger on the source of the problem. When I finally located the string and pulled it out, I was audibly thankful. What if we asked God to show us exactly where we have allowed the enemy to dim our vision. Let’s not be afraid to find out we made a mistake, or a few thousand. “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” Congratulations. You are part of the glorious all. That means you’re alive. Not being dead is good. The question is not IF we will mess up, its WHEN we will humble ourselves and allow God to rescue us.” As soon as we give God access to the strings (or beams) in our eyes, follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and change the way we think/view life, the clearer our spiritual vision will become, the better we will navigate challenges and the more our faith will grow. Afterwards, we can consistently be assured of what we hope for because our spiritual vision is alive and well even if the eyes of our humanity lag far behind.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for (i.e. the goodness and power of Jesus) and certain of what our (earthly) eyes cannot see.”
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” (Ephesians 1:18)
What are your thoughts?
A few days ago I felt uneasy. I knew something was wrong with the way I was thinking, but I wasn’t sure where I had gotten off. I slipped away to the coffee shop to ask Jesus. (Side-note: You do not need to be in a coffee shop to hear from Jesus. It’s just been my experience that He speaks louder when there’s a decaf honey vanilla latte in your hand.) As I sat, read from James and sipped Heaven’s latte of choice, I felt Him ask me this question, “How do you want people to think of you?”
My first response was, “Well, I want people to believe that I love Jesus.” Somehow that answer didn’t feel completely satisfying. Yes! I want people to experience the overflow of my heart resulting from the fact that I love Jesus well, but in my spirit, I knew I was missing something. Then, it hit me. If I choose to be remembered by any form of my own merit, I will strive and strain every day for the rest of my life. That’s where I had gone sideways in my thoughts. Of course I should pursue falling more in love with Jesus every day, but there is a much greater love than mine! “We love because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19) My love is only ever a response to His love! I cannot fabricate affection from my own heart. I can only grow in love in direct response to the love of Jesus. I realized that I had been hoping to be caring, compassionate, wise and honorable, all worthy goals but if the end all is to be known by what I do, I lesson the beauty of what He did!
Here is how I want people to think of me. I want them to be awestruck by this thought, “Wow! Lauren is the princess that Jesus loves!” Do you know why? Because when they see how good and kind God is to me, knowing all of my faults and failures, they will have faith that this Jesus loves them just the same. If God can rescue me from the door of death, the pit of anxiety and the carnage of self-protecting pride, He can do the same for you and anyone else He has breathed life into.
I think Jesus’ disciple, John, was less braggadocios than many have given him credit for. Sure, he was handed a holy pen and gifted the freedom to craft his own Spirit-inspired book of the Bible, allowing him license to describe himself as, “The disciple whom Jesus loved.” But I believe in my heart that John wasn’t lifting himself up as God’s favorite so much as he was choosing how He wanted to be remembered! John didn’t want people to say, “John, the disciple who was transported to Heaven because of His great wisdom and weight in the Kingdom,” No! He wanted every reader throughout all generations from then and forevermore to know that his worth was solely in the tireless, self-sacrificing way that Jesus loved him.
I hear you, John. I breathe a sigh of relief when I realize that is my desire too. I don’t need you to think I’m wise or lovely, brilliant or inherently good. I just need you to know that Jesus loves me when I am not any of those things, and He loves you just the same. When we let His love wash over our thoughts, our heart, our will and our emotions, our response is to trust Him, lean on Him and let Him lead. There’s no safer place to be. And the result? We will naturally become like the One we love! You, dear Reader, are the extra special child that Jesus loves. Nope. Don’t qualify truth with a, “But i did this…” statement. It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t love you because of what you did. He loves you because of what He did! And that….will always be enough.
There lives a man whose heart is weary, heavy, bruised, careworn.
And rests upon him there a thought, “Why was I even born?”
“I dare not think I’ve made a mark on this repugnant earth.
Do I exist to live then die, and never know my worth?”
And on he trudges every day, same steps, same thoughts, same way.
Until one morn he haps upon a donkey and some hay.
He looks the donkey in the face, his anger rising high.
“Even you, he cries allowed, are of more use than I!”
The donkey laughs, a hearty wheeze. In shock, the man leaps back.
“Good man, the donkey, calls in mirth, you have no need, no lack!”
“What do you mean, the man replies? I’ve nothing but these clothes.
I’ve no great skill, redeeming prize, no purpose…merely woes.
Chewing oats, the donkey spits, then slowly he replies,
“Your problem, sir, lies not without, but right behind your eyes.
Think differently, my friend, just try…to see what you have missed.
For even I, a beast of fields, have reason to exist.
Upon my back a King once sat, noble, strong and meek.
He chose me….dirty, small and tame and made me feel unique.
Consider still, the hay that lies beneath your dusty shoes.
That too, dear man, a common straw, this King was prone to use.
Heaven’s babe at birth did rest upon a bed of hay,
That dried up grass became a nest for royalty that day.
Do you suppose, dear sir, that you are of less worth than sod?
Do you not know that in you lies the DNA of God?
No need to grope and strain to find the reason you exist.
The King himself commissioned you. Your name’s upon his lips.
The fodder and the donkey, how do we both compare?
Lowly, insignificant. But God. He met us there.
So rise, good man. Do not regret. Inside your heart, be merry.
Your worth rests not on you alone. Instead in Who you carry.”
The donkey brays one last small grunt and then falls fast asleep.
The man walks on in silent thought and soon begins to weep.
“I need not wonder who I am or feel as though I’m lost.
There lives a King who’s chosen me, who feels I’m worth all cost.”
The man decides to carry Love. He’s rescued, some would say.
And all because he stopped to learn from a donkey and some hay.
If I had a real life soap box, it would be farmhouse style, whitewashed wood with a touch of pearlescent glitter in the flowing lines of the wood grain. The soap would be handmade of goat’s milk, cinnamon and honey…handmade by nuns, living in the Alps, worshipping Jesus on ukuleles and windpipes. My hypothetical soap box sounds heavenly. As it is, if I get to take a shower three times a week using chemically charged, store bought soap it’s a good week. On this soap box I would slowly rise, eyes to the sky, hands over my heart. I only have a couple of topics that would be worthy of my soap box, but today’s post is dedicated to one of them.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Jesus Christ is referred to as the Word. With beautiful script from God’s own mouth Heaven’s greatest masterpiece was created. Everything exists not because God fashioned it with His hands, but because He spoke it into existence. Soon, the enemy entered and with the words of HIS mouth, destroyed it. It was our agreement with those words that sealed the curse. If words played such foundational roles in the creation and decimation of our history, we must grab ahold of the power that we hold in our tongues.
“Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (Proverbs 18:21) What if every word we say holds tremendous weight in the realm of the spirit, the reality that we cannot see yet somehow more strongly governs our existence than we have yet to comprehend. What if, we either align our words with the Word himself or with the words of the author of death. What would it be like if we truly believed that what we say matters? When God taught me to guard my tongue, it changed my life from the inside out. With words, God created life. With words, the enemy introduced us to death. Which kind of words will we use today?
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) You and I can actually build on the foundation of someone’s identity. One heavenly inspired word at a time, I can join forces with Jesus and brick by brick, inch by inch help speak purpose into someone’s life. The reverse is also true, we can take our jack hammer of a tongue and Miley Cyrus style, come in like a wrecking ball. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6) “And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” So we can either bless someone (bless: to bring well being, benefit, help) or curse them (curse: invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment.) We are never simply talking. It is my belief that there is no such thing as an inconsequential word. I’m either a builder or a breaker. And I better be very careful which I choose because whether I am addressing you or even speaking about myself, I am blessing or cursing someone that is literally made with God’s DNA. If a word isn’t an adjective that I would use to describe something that God himself made, I should never let it come out of my mouth in reference to a God breathed human being. Father, forgive me for those times I have cursed your masterpieces. Jesus, help me only use your words to describe your kids.
It’s true. People can be mean, ugly, horrible, detestable and evil versions of themselves. But it isn’t my job to judge them. It’s God’s. I pray God always helps me find the gold in any person He has made and speak into existence what is not as though it was, just like the Father wants me to do. Isn’t that what Jesus did? He told pompous Saul that he was Paul, which means humble. Then Saul become humble. Jesus called hyper emotional Peter, a Rock. And on that Rock, God built His church. What if we asked Jesus what is on His heart for a person, even for ourselves? Then, what if we spoke that blessing out loud, for every man, woman, child and spiritual force to hear? Slowly but surely, let’s allow Jesus to break every curse and let’s give the Word that Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us power over our tongues.
The problem is that people make us angry when they choose to live opposite of their design. A bully is a perfect example of a person who aligns his voice with death. Our natural impulse is to fight fire with fire. But God says bless those that curse you. Call out purpose, even in the bullies. Maybe no one ever has. Remember in Matthew 16 when Peter confessed from his mouth that Jesus is the Son of the Living God? Jesus said, “Blessed are you! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven.” In other words, Peter used his words to agree with the Father. Soon after, in verse 22, Peter declared with his tongue that Jesus would not die on the cross. Jesus turned to him and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Jesus wasn’t angry with Peter here. He was angry with Satan. Jesus recognized that Peter’s words were not authored in his own soul. They were agreeing with Satan. When we set our minds on the things of God, we speak the things of God. When others wound us with their words, we get to choose how to think of them, to recognize the source behind the words and respond with blessings in return.
Practically speaking, what does this look like? It looks like measuring our thoughts about a person before those thoughts become our speech. When we are angry with someone, we use the right weapon against them. Instead of, “You are an idiot,” we say, “I feel very hurt right now.” We walk away. We pray, asking God to show us the truth in his heart about that friend, loved one or stranger. Then, we agree with God. “Father, he is acting like a spoiled, selfish, mean, spiteful person, but I agree with you that he is made in your image. He is created to be kind and selfless, honoring and holy. I speak that over him, in Jesus name.” You still get to be angry, but you are also responsible to feed the Kingdom inside of that person instead of sinking to their level of death. Speaking only God’s truth over a person doesn’t make you a doormat. Even Jesus expressed His feelings about sin, but He also called out the glory of God in people. It needs to matter more to us that we fight with loving truth rather than simply making sure our angry feelings are heard.
Sometimes we are better at speaking the words of Jesus over others than over ourselves. We are quick to forgive and call out the gold in a friend, but at the speed of lightening, we speak curses over ourselves. “I’m worthless. No one will ever love me. I’m such a disappointment, mistake, horrible mess, weak minded. I’m always sick. I’m never going to be a good person. I’m always going to struggle with this sin….” But what does God say about us? Ask him! He’ll tell you. Search the Bible for how He feels about you. Those are the Words of God, alive and active and sharper than any two edged sword. Honestly, my heart hurts whenever I hear someone say, “I am an alcoholic.” I understand that the heart behind that is to acknowledge our mistake, come face to face with our choices. However, anytime I say, “I am…., I am about to agree with Heaven or Hell.” I will never be an alcoholic. I may be a person who believed alcohol’s lie for a while or struggled hardcore with addiction. But I am unbound, a child of the living God. I am royalty because Jesus gave me His name. I am loved, delighted in, held, liberated. I am in right standing with God because of the cross. I am filled with the love of Jesus. I am a masterpiece in God’s eyes. I am strong and able when I stand on the strength of Christ. Here’s the truth. God severed our chains with his death and broke open our prison doors when He rolled the stone away from the tomb. God restored the intimacy of the Garden of Eden and calls us FREE! But whether or not we choose to live out our liberty, it doesn’t change who God says we are. The sooner we believe this and agree with the voice of the Father, the sooner we will begin to walk in victory.
Jesus is coming back very soon, and guess how He will appear? “With the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.” (Isaiah 11: 4) “He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God. The armies that were in heaven followed him on white horses, wearing pure white linen. A sharp sword came from his mouth, so that he might strike the nations with it.” (Revelation 19:13-15) If our words are weapons, I want to be God’s mouthpiece. Even our kind words are swords that can do farm more damage to the enemy’s camp than an angry word every could. Sometimes I wonder, what if a person is one God breathed word away from breakthrough but instead, someone pours poison on top of wounds and pushes them deeper into despair. God give us a holy urgency to pattern our voices after yours. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
What if God isn’t mad at you? What if He’s been held at arms length by your own guilt, waiting for you to let Him hold you close and whisper, “My love isn’t earned or bought. It’s forever. I’m here. Let’s try again. This time stay close to me. I’ve got you.”
What if God isn’t distant? What if He’s not absent when fires rage and guns steal innocent lives? What if He’s present when the man lays his own body over top of his wife to shield her from the tragedy? What if He’s moving through the guy heading towards the bullets instead of away from them? What if He’s the calm in the midst of the chaos?The enemy thinks he’s won by authoring anger turned to hatred turned to violence. But what if God has the last word and its called Justice? What if we are moments away from seeing the enemy finally and completely eradicated and every wrong made right through the Word of the One who gave His life to save ours? What if He’s never farther than our next thought, the one that cries, “Jesus, I need you.”
What if God isn’t silent? What if He is always speaking and the static of our lives gets in the way? What if all we need to do to hear God is break agreement with that static in order to be free to hear every beautiful syllable that comes from the Father’s heart? What if our thoughts became feelings and our feelings became actions that created noise deadeners called fear, pride, doubt, anger, lust, and all manner of unholy partners? What if all it takes to dialogue with God is confessing and claiming the name of Jesus over our mistakes and agreeing with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? What if every bond of the enemy that we break and every turn around we make in Jesus name clears up a little more of the static, enabling our own spirits to host the voice of Heaven?!
What if God isn’t willing to risk us as collateral damage? What if He’s good. I mean really good? What if He’s endlessly kind? What if the Cross meant that He was willing to risk Himself instead.? What if we really believed that He has our best interest at heart and that is always to see us healthy and whole in His presence, partners with His Son and seated next to Him in an eternal bond of friendship?
What if God isn’t less valuable than family or relationships? What if being near Him is the pinnacle of life, the reason for our existence, the only thing really worth living for? What if we tasted and saw that He is good and actually believed that sacrificing a lesser good now would result in being more fulfilled than we ever could have dreamed? What if being close to Him here is actually tasting Heaven on Earth?
What if God isn’t like your father? What if He’s better? What if He’s perfectly in love with His kids? What if we believed that He is the everlasting Dad who comes to our games, dances with us, puts down His phone for us and delights in our childish attempts to show Him love? What if He’s pleased with us simply because we are His? What if He is endlessly patient with our messes and mistakes? What if being our Father made the sacrifice of the cross worth every drop of spilled blood?
What if God isn’t? Oh, but, friend, what if God IS! What if He IS everything He promises to be: the Giver of Life, the Author of Love, the Angel of Mercy, the Voice of Truth, The Arms of Protection, the Keeper of our Future, the Giver of Every Good Thing, the Healer, the Forever Father, the Faithful Friend, the Most Powerful Force in all of Time and Space…and what if this God is for you, on your side…waiting for you to let Him bring all that He is into your chaos and make you full and complete, lacking nothing, a conduit of His love to this world?! What if God isn’t moving away from you. He’s moving towards you. What would you do then?
“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” ~ Jeremiah 29:13
In a span of four hours last night, I changed three poopy diapers, cleaned beans, rice, crushed Gerber veggie straws, Cheerios and mystery sludge off the floor twice, re-washed a mildewed load of laundry three times all while playing ball, peekaboo, replenishing cups and bottles, swapping out the crusty onesie for a new, only slightly stained, version, redirecting my fussy, semi-defiant three year old and watching Little Baby Bum on repeat. (Heaven help me.) As I sat down for half a second, (That’s all I am allowed before a new toddler crisis arrises.), I thought, “This is my life most of the time, and I don’t really think about how deplorable many of the tasks that make up my day really are.”
Motherhood is a 24 hour clean up job. Add to that the fact that for at least 40-50% of the time, (Percentage moves up drastically when a kid hits three.), I am being yelled at or cursed out in baby language while keeping said children alive, fed, entertained and loved. Motherhood could be considered insanity! Who does that? Who nurtures, cleans, snuggles and protects little beings who consistently fight against the very person who is making sure they thrive! Well….God does.
I don’t love my children perfectly. I wish I did. Sometimes, the poop is extra explosive and the screaming is to a glass breaking decibel, and I lose my junk. I haven’t hit deep sleep in months and I finally give myself permission to explode. Mommy eruption isn’t pretty. Then, on top of dying to myself on an all day every day basis, I feel guilty for yelling at my precious little blessings. It’s a recipe for an extra cup of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus. So, no, I don’t love my children perfectly. But God does. That’s what hit my heart last night.
How much of my poopy decisions has God had to clean up? How many times have I grabbed for the very thing that would destroy me and then screamed at God when He took it away. How often have I made the same messes again and again and watched Him scoop up the crumbs of my mistakes and make me new once more? Sometimes God gives me the desire of my heart, almost like a shiny new toy, and I want something else the moment I have it. Through it all, Jesus never stops telling me how much He delights in me, congratulating me for the new, sometimes tremulous, steps I have taken in the Spirit and holding me so close I can catch the scent of Heaven.
When my kids stop crying or pulling on me for a moment, long enough to look in my eyes and let me see their cute little faces, I think, “Wow! I couldn’t love a little human more than I love you. What a gift you are to my heart.” I want to give God as many of these moments as I can, where I stop and gaze at His face, lock eyes with His love and let Him see the adoration in my heart.
I know God never tires of cleaning me up, and I will not be able to say, “Thank you,” in a way that truly expresses the depth of my gratitude. But I will remember the way He loves me, and I will love Him back with all that I am. I will strive to love my kids the way He loves me. Hopefully, as I grow, I will throw less tantrums God’s way and give Him more reasons to laugh. I’ll make fewer messes and instead, fill Heaven’s floor with words of praise. No more poopy diapers. In their place, a sweet smelling savor. That’s my heart’s desire.
I know one day, my kids will be grown. They won’t need my time as they do now, but, Jesus, please let them know that every day of their life You have loved them perfectly, even when I didn’t. May they know I pleaded and prayed for their victories, even when I felt defeated, that I looked to you to make me a better mom, a wiser mom, a more loving mom. I don’t feel condemnation today. I simply feel thankful that at the end of my rope, my kids find a God that will never grow tired or weary and will never look on them with anything less than perfect love in His eyes. Jesus is the beginning and the end. He’s holding my children at the beginning of every day and He’s there at the end of my patience. This love isn’t insanity, it’s revolutionary! This is the kind of love that saved the world! His mercies are new every morning, so, “Good morning!” I’m putting my love on. Take that, poopy diaper!
I heard an incredible God story last week about a man who was miraculously saved from death and immediately heard the voice of God. It was a Saul to Paul moment. I love those stories. They are faith building, but sometimes I wonder why all people are not able to have such encounters with God. So I asked Jesus, “Why don’t you speak that way to everyone?” In my heart I heard Him reply. “Most people aren’t looking for answers. They are looking for excuses.” That man was searching with all of his heart for an answer. He was willing to be wrong. That thought has come up in my mind often since last week. Am I willing to be wrong?
Here’s the thing about being wrong. You can’t choose right until you know you’ve been wrong. And you cannot know you’re wrong unless someone tells you. If you don’t want someone to tell you you’re wrong, then you will never be right. I used to be so terrified of finding out I was doing something wrong that I ran from God’s answers. I was afraid to find out I’d failed, afraid to see the depth of my weakness for fear that it would undo me. That’s a major lie of the enemy. He wants us to believe that we could never bare up under our own inadequacy…that it would destroy us. So instead of embracing God’s invitation for change, we get offended and look for any way that we can save ourselves from admitting failure. Like normal, the enemy is only giving us a partial truth and twisting it. It’s true that we cannot stand up under the weight of our poor thinking. That’s the point. When we come to the end of our own efforts, we find Jesus. I eventually got tired of being right in my own eyes. I wanted to be free more than I wanted to be right. I made friends with humility, and that’s where Jesus captured my heart.
Paul teaches us in Romans that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. If we really want the answers to why we are hurting, why we are struggling, why we are failing, why we are stuck, God will give them to us. It’s kindness in the form of correction. I don’t teach my daughter to share because I want her to feel like a mean and selfish girl when she doesn’t. I point out the times she chooses not to share, so that she will choose love. Love is the birthplace of freedom. Love begets healing. She will be full of joy when she grabs ahold of the higher call to love others as she loves herself. I want her to have the best life possible and that means she needs a life filled with God inspired, selfless love. God’s motive is much the same, only He is ALWAYS patient and kind when he is challenging me. God corrects me to give me a life full of joy and peace.
Once I discovered that it was safe to be wrong, that God would walk me out of false truth and into real healing, I wanted His answers, His truth. And when I asked, God peppered me with answers. “Lauren, that motive was impure, self-driven. That won’t end well. Princess, your fear is coming from a lack of trust. Let me show you how good I am at protecting my kids. Daughter, your impatience is causing stress. Keep your thoughts on me. Sweet girl, pride is the reason you don’t want to lay down that desire. Surrender will bring victory.” Those are just a few of the “answers” that God dropped into my heart. His truth revealed the lies that I was basing my actions upon. Then, I was forced to make a choice.
That’s the second reason we often make excuses instead of wanting answers. We have to do something different if we find out that we’ve been living incorrectly. Doing something different is hard. If it was easy to do something different than we’ve always done, then we would probably not have always done it. We have to choose to continue in the lie or turn and face the truth. Here’s an example. God showed me through one of his loving “answers” that I was my own worst enemy when it came to friction with my husband. When my husband disappointed me, I was giving myself permission to attack him in my mind. I would never have verbally assaulted him, but in my head, I spiraled into all of the reasons why I was right and he was selfish. God showed me that I was not honoring him, that I was sinning in my anger. Instead, God asked me to do something different. When I am angry, I get to choose to villainize my husband or to go to God with my thoughts. I can share how I feel with God. Then, I speak on my husband’s behalf instead of against him. I tell God, “I feel very hurt right now and here’s why… But I know that my husband is a selfless warrior. His heart longs to sacrifice for me.” When I funnel my anger towards prayer, I no longer spiral and accuse my husband of things he isn’t doing. And peace returns.
The first time we do something different is usually the hardest because we are forming new patterns. The next time is a bit easier and on it on it goes. Eventually, we are FREE and lighter and the sky has puffier, brighter clouds than we remember. That all comes from being willing to be wrong and choosing to do something different. What if we looked at God’s corrective answers as the oxygen mask that saves us from drowning instead of the judge’s gavel that seals our doom. God wants his kids to live in constant peace and presence. God corrects those that He loves.
David must have understood this about God’s heart. He said, “Search me, O God! Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any evil in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” David’s life was marked by miraculous answers from God. He knew that it is out of God’s unmatched love for us that He pinpoints the root of our mistakes. Why wouldn’t we want every tentacle of the enemy out of our lives? I pray I never settle for comfortably wrong when I could be radically free. So, search me, O God. Because you love me. See if there is any lie operating in me and give me the strength to do something different every single time. I want Heaven to come in my life now. I want to be close to you. No excuses. I love your answers, Jesus.