Amidst Celebrations

‘Our faithfulness to God may not eliminate our sufferings but it positions us to receive one gracious blessing after another.’ Joni Eareckson Tada

I have had the great privilege of celebrating so many people I love through great occasions over the last few weeks. Our daughters’ birthdays, our bonus daughter’s convocation from nursing, a Lifegroup friend’s RCMP graduation, three dear young adults we love graduating from high school,    A visit with my brother after 16 years to celebrate his induction into the SJHL hall of fame, our grandson Kaiden’s 2nd birthday, a 60th wedding anniversary, friends baptisms and birthdays, the birth of our second grandson Parker,our friends having a baby the same day as our daughter,  watching our son serve with excellence at camp ministry, and so many more opportunities in between to bless and serve others and be encouraged and have fun with family and friends

My heart is truly overflowing and my wonder for life and blessings increases daily. What a privilege it is to utilize our time to love others with God’s love so that He can be glorified. I realize more and more as I age through this life and my grandchildren are now being born that most of what I do really is not about me.

It is about affecting and really infecting people with the love of God, so that will continue on into the generations and they can tell of His goodness too. It is even in the midst of celebrations where our sufferings serve that purpose as well. It is knowing He is enough. He is all we need. Jeremiah 32:27 says, ‘I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?’

This verse made me laugh and cry today and it served to enable me to encourage others to live trusting toward Him. It reminded me that my little battles are nothing impossible for Him even when I am in the midst of them and don’t see my way out.

You see, I have celebrated but I have also mourned. I have mourned losses in my physical body with multiple issues and diagnosis. I have mourned losses in relationship and difficulties that seem too hard to see how to live in the midst. I have mourned the loss of time for my lack of proper use and clarity. I mourn for many of those I love going through their own difficulties.

This is Life! There is often mourning amidst celebrating.  There is a time and season for everything. While we can’t always avoid suffering, we can choose how to respond to it. I am choosing to grow through it and not to waste it, for when I don’t submit my suffering to God, it is lost and wasted and has the potential to have me be bitter and resentful and discouraged.

It is important that we hang on tight to our faith when we can’t see or understand. Otherwise, at least for me, what is the purpose. We can’t immediately forsake Him when things don’t go as planned or we face disappointments or the question begs to be asked how much do we really know His heart for us?  We may not always see immediately what God’s purposes are in the midst, but we can rely on His strength to get us through.

I am clinging now amidst celebrations to the truth that He is the Lord, the God of all mankind and really that nothing is too hard for Him. Will you submit your mourning, your doubts, your disappointments, your diagnosis, your hurts, your problems, your expectations to Him too and join me?

Affirm His character, trust Him and be faithful and He may just surprise you with joy in the midst of suffering as He opens your eyes to all of the collateral beauty He brings through it all.

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Overwhelming Love

““Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭23:37‬ ‭

As I wandered in a small town where my child lives, everytime I came to a grove of trees right smack in the middle of town, I wanted to weep. I was overcome by emotion as I stepped into the wilderness amidst civilization. 

I realized it had been a long time since my mind and spirit had been quiet. Be still and know that I am God! I gulped in Holy Spirit peace and quiet and tranquility and it overflowed in my spirit as tears. 

I came with the intention to bless my children and yet I knew God had something special in mind besides them. Although they are enough, all of my children, it is my great pleasure to love and to serve them. Amazing gifts with no words to describe who they are to my heart, soul and spirit.

I sat breathing in pneuma, breath of God, and was desperate for the refreshing to go forth. I hear God whisper in my spirit, you are my child. As a hen gathers her chicks under its wings, so I long to gather you! 

I think of Jesus saying this over his city Jerusalem and feel the burden of his heart as He knows what they need, yet they do not seek after the One who created them. I imagine His frustration of watching His people missing the mark. I hear His nurturing heart as He longs to gather them! 

To be honest, this empathy over Jesus’ heart comes easily these days as for weeks I have been weeping. The seemingly silliest thing not only makes me well up but have big crocodile tears spill over uncontrollably, wondering if I am losing my ever loving mind. 

Today on Mother’s Day, I allow them to spill freely. I am weeping for the daily sacrifice of being a mother and all that encompasses. I am weeping for all of the mothers that have loved with all they have, yet their children are lost or addicted or hurting or absent. I am weeping for all of those single Moms that may struggle each day wondering if they are enough or if they will have enough. I weep for those that have experienced what I imagine as the greatest loss, one of a child. I weep for those who have lost babies before they knew them. I weep for those who have longed for their own child to love. I weep for those who have lost their own Mamas. 

In the same breath I celebrate these women who have been created in the same image of God, fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely made. Full of nurturing and compassion and love. I celebrate the gift of them for the others around them. I celebrate that the God of hope is gathering them under His wings. And I pray, that they will not forsake Him and His offer and His hope through His mercy and forgiveness and sacrifice. His promise of comfort is great , “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:3-4‬ ‭

As Big Daddy Weave says in Overwhelmed, may we delight ourselves in Him and the glory of His presence , captivated by His beauty and run into His arms unashamed because of mercy. 

My hope is that all of the women in any of the scenarios I have mentioned be overwhelmed by His goodness and love and be able to live from that place. I am thankful for the gifts of all of you. 

My heart is especially for my Tessa who is almost 2 years in to being an amazing, loving, wonderful Mama and my Keshia who is almost 2 months away to being an amazing, loving wonderful Mama and whose heart hurts today for the little one she lost.  For their gift of being able to grandparent is beyond words after the gift of loving them. And of course my Mama, who passed on her gifts of love and selflessness and pouring in to others before she went to be with Jesus, I was blessed in her and learned to love well because of her and Jesus. 

I truly am Overwhelmed by the gift of love and Jesus today! Go out and be His love today whatever your story. Happy Mothers Day! 

Embracing Suffering

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Romans 5:3-5 ‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’

Suffering.

We all want to avoid it.

We all try to escape it.

Our flesh rises up to run from it.

The enemy tries to magnify it.

What if we embraced it?

What if we embraced it in others?

I walked yesterday in 70km gusts of wind. It wasn’t a constant gale, there were moments of the heavenly scent of crabapple blossoms assaulting my nostrils, baby ducklings waddling unhindered, stillness and calm, baby bunnies seeking safety.

And then gusts that blew me off-balance, causing me to put my head down and press into it to gain traction, my breath on hold until it passed around and through me. It struck me that life so closely resembles what a wind creates. We go along minding our own business, completely enamoured with all that is around, when WHOOSH our breath is sucked out of us. A death, a sickness, a temptation, a betrayal, a disaster, a disappointment, any kind of perceived set back to the path that was smelling amazing and looking hopeful.

My suffering presently comes in the form of hormones running amok trying to navigate this perimenopausal pathway. The symptoms have been presenting themselves for a few years slowly but surely and for some reason have decided to turn up the heat (sometimes literally) this year. To say that I feel like I’m losing my ever-loving mind is a great understatement some days. I vacillate between ‘normal’ to depression to crying to resistance to weight loss which causes crying to forgetfulness to anger to racing thoughts to crying to pains to sleeplessness, and oh did I mention crying? I have begun to seek help along with crying to God for direction and strength and clarity. I am doing my research,  keeping in mind that the comfort I receive may be to suggest it to many other women in years to come. I sense we do not need to have years of suffering.

Graham Cooke said, “The expectation of God can engulf your circumstances.” I want to walk with God through this, I don’t want my character lacking because I did not embrace this suffering.

There was a time in my life that I was less concerned with my character and more concerned with avoiding the suffering in my life. The more I have embraced that suffering is part of the human condition, the more life is about God and less about me. I think we all have a natural aversion to pain and sorrow. Who really wants to live in this place? How do we ‘glory’ in our suffering? I am learning it is a part of what makes us whole and sometimes a lot of our pain stems from trying to avoid what we think is a non-redeemable whole hot mess.

But God…

As you see in the Romans passage above, it doesn’t stop at the suffering. In ‘Through the Eyes of a Lion’, Levi Lusko says, “Whatever our cross to bear is, is not going to last forever. What God produces in us will.” We live eternally, either with God in heaven or in hell. It is our choice and so it is with our character. We can choose to live in the brokenness that comes and is in us and the world or we choose victory, knowing that what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross is enough. We are free. We can choose to live in the hope of that regardless of any sickness or pain we may endure. David Crowder band says it best, “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t cure.” (Come As You Are)

Why are we so unwilling to face our pain? I think in the deepest part of us we know that we cannot handle it in our own strength. So does God. Are we missing the mark by enduring the suffering that we are given? A dear wise friend who has suffered with depression and anxiety responded this way,” I think it surrounds his Glory. It always comes back to Him. It’s not about us. LordemptymeThat is where we miss the mark. We can go through seasons of being free. But God also uses these ‘thorns in our flesh’ to draw us closer to Him. God knows us better than we know us and so in that he knows what will cause us to run to Him. He is jealous for our attention and I’m speaking out of my own experiences but it’s been in my worst depressions and deepest anxieties that my heart has sought after Jesus the most because I knew He was the only one who could save me.”

I think we have a tendency to judge things that we do not know or understand as we grapple with our unbelief when God has not brought the healing we seek. The truth of a God who allows suffering does not line up with our Sunday School understanding of a God of love. How can this be love?

It is in our own weakness and inability to grasp the depths of His love that we fight instead of embrace.

It is here that we throw out meaningless platitudes to those in the midst of suffering. It is here we are afraid to enter in. Yet, it is here that God invites us. To come without understanding, to sit without words, to hold up arms in prayer and practical love. For ourselves. For others. With Him.

You see suffering produces things. In the verse from Romans above, particularly perseverance, character and hope. James assures us to ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

One definition of perseverance is ‘a continuance of a state of grace to the end’. To me this means keeping our eyes on Jesus and walking in the grace he affords us freely, to continue to look toward Him and it is in this that our character is deepened. It is here we are given the strength to stand and have a testimony of God’s grace, goodness and glory. It is in this place hope is born. And Hope does not put us to shame!

So, we will all suffer in our lifetimes. How we respond to it is either key to our growth or our detriment. We have opportunity to choose and choose again. A godly response or a fleshly one.  ‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.’ Romans 12:12

How we help other people walk through suffering contributes to the character God is building. When you think you have nothing left to give, God sends someone who needs a smile, a hug, an ear, a helping hand. It is in this season when I am afflicted that many have come needing all of these things and more and so I pray for the ability to walk through it all in a continuing state of grace in order that His glory be shown.

‘Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired and weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.’ Isaiah 40:28,29.

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How are you turning to God in your suffering and weakness?

Love’s Price

Saved‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’

Isaiah 53:3-6

In the last week, my husband and I have hosted and said goodbye to 10 people we love, we laughed with our children and cried when they left, we had fun with family and watched great hockey, we celebrated a life lost to those we love, we came together humbly with others to acknowledge Christ’s death on the cross for us, we rejoiced with others in the resurrection of Jesus and we grieved over the loss of a baby we had prayed for. These are just the major events. My heart is full and sad and my body is exhausted. I’m afraid that is the price of love. I’m delighted though about having people to love.

I love how Ann Voskamp said it in The Broken Way – ‘The art of living is believing there is enough love in you, that you are loved enough by Him, to be made into love to give.’

Loving is a sacrifice, it is a verb, an action word made to give away. God gave us the biggest give-away in Jesus. His life was ransomed and ours was redeemed. By His wounds, We are healed. As it says in Hebrews, we are the joy set before Him. It was His joy to live and die such a sacrificial love for us.

Yet He has been and is still rejected. God has been revealing to me lately how I have been filtering some experiences through rejection. Charles R Solomon said that rejection is the absence of meaningful love. I believe it is our deep-seated need to be accepted, valuable, worthy. As humans we miss the mark of filling those basic needs in others. When we seek to fill those needs in ways other than through God, our expectations and theirs could take us out. As Eric Johnson says, ‘Expectations are how you think it should go, Expectancy is a Posture.’

A rejection filter distorts the truth of who we are, it cracks the lens and darkens the reality of God in us. It magnifies the lies we have believed and opens our hearts to assault. Ironically it is also in these parts of pain that our flesh can die and as we know in Jesus, with death comes a resurrection.

As always our identity in Him comes in renewing the mind or as Lysa Terkeurst so aptly says in Uninvited. “People can’t fix from the outside a perspective that needs to be rewired on the inside. Only the Lord can do that.”

So as I wound around this rejection path, I couldn’t stop thinking of the words in Isaiah. He was despised and rejected by men and even so, He laid down His life for me on that cross and took up the hate and rejection so that I don’t have to. It is finished! Yet each time I pick it up, I am refusing to accept what He has already done.

Every time I don’t walk in the love He freely gives…

Every time I choose to be bitter instead of forgiving…

Every time I don’t repent when convicted of something…

Every time I judge someone and live from pride…

Every time I let rejection from people steal my joy…

Every time I let my feelings drive my behaviour instead of truth…

The truth is God accepts us, that covers over all kinds of rejection. The truth is that God is Love and Love covers a multitude of sins. The truth is the price of Love that Jesus paid is great and beyond our full comprehension. The truth is it is enough. There was a price for Love and it is paid in full. Love calls us to relationship and it is all God wants from us. Love sometimes makes us vulnerable to the rejection of others. Love is messy. Love is beautiful. Jesus redeems messy love making it beautiful. Love engages our heart and emotions. I’m afraid it is the price of love.

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Transforming Stones

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“My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; keep your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:20-27

If there was a way as a parent I could keep these words ever before my children, I would. This is just a few lines of wisdom amid the thousands that God’s word gives us to live well and make good decisions. Solomon is specifically speaking words to young people in these first few chapters, although the principles are beneficial to all believers. I have tried to guide my children in God’s ways and shown His love for them the best I knew how yet they have still been given the gift that we all have in this world. Free will.

Free will when not guided by godly principles can lead to difficult circumstances and hard consequences. Yet God is compassionate and slow to anger and desires that all will come to Him. In His economy, there is always a point in the pain or He can take what the enemy intended for evil and bring good out of it. I believe a subtle lie that the enemy tells is that if we do right things that will bring a right result. So, for example as a parent, I can guide them in all the right directions, leading from experience and what God’s word says but they still have the ability in their free will to choose outside of that. Stuff happens. Decisions are made based on wants or needs or wounds or lack or fleshly desires and those do not go unanswered. The ‘right result’ as we may see being fit, did not occur from right things.

As people we have a false sense of having more control over others and situations than we actually do. It plays into our fear and so we grab on even harder. This is not to say that we give up trying to be a moral compass and pray like crazy that Holy Spirit will guide our children or others into right behaviour. It does mean that we need to give the reins over to Him and trust that the struggle that comes from these situations will strengthen our faith and help us to release control.

I am reading “Idol Lies” (Facing the Truth about our Deepest Desires) by Dee Brestin. Let’s just say it is a timely kick in the butt. It is bringing even more revelation to how often, easily and in what ways I turn to other things before God. It gives me more grace for the free will ability we operate in. And a greater understanding of the grace of God when we constantly are turning from Him and breaking His heart even more. His heart breaks because He knows the idols we run to are blocking our intimacy with Him.

I used to parent so differently when my daughters’ were younger. Until they were 11 and 9, I did not know Jesus. I parented those younger years under the illusion that I was the end of it all, that I had to control them for the ‘right’ behaviour’. Be good, look good, act good, my wisdom was all there was and it was warped because it was based out of my own insecurities and sense of unworthiness. I thought the way my children behaved had a direct correlation to my character. I performed for love out of my lack of identity and so inadvertently, I taught them to do the same. (Insert broken heart here)

But Jesus came. He forgave me my sins, He gave me eternal life and I love Him. He redeemed me and showed me a new life, new hope, new desires for my children.  There are many ways my life and others around me have been impacted for what He has done in my heart.  But there are parts of my heart that I kept hidden away, areas where my trust had been broken and so I held them as a shield but it actually created areas of stone  that God could not transform. One I am realizing through Dee’s book is my idol of control. I missed the memo that God just wanted me to be faithful and the results were up to Him. Yikes.

I began this post with a proverb and I love how Dee clarified the purpose of a proverb. “The book of Proverbs, like every book in the biblical canon, is divinely inspired, but we must understand its genre. A proverb is a maxim (statement expressing a general truth or role of conduct) that we should follow because it leads us to the wisest path. But it is a probability, not a promise.” She says one of the most misunderstood verses is Proverbs 22:6 ‘Train a child up in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.’ This may be true and is the wise direction to head toward but it is not a promise.

I write this to say that nothing is too hard for God. I am saying despite the stones in our hearts and the way we have been taught and trained is not the end of the story. He does not just want to give us salvation and eternal life but soul transformation and abundant life here and now. We are not a lost cause. Hope Lives! God is in control, not me, not you. We will experience frustration, guilt and discouragement if we try to be. Trusting God will bring peace, freedom and encouragement. The solution does not lie in ‘doing more’ but in having a better understanding of the gospel and Christ’s love for us. In this understanding we will be far more willing to turn from our idols and run to Him.

My heart these days is best described in Lauren Daigle’s song ‘Once and For All’ when it says, “Oh let this be where I die, My lord with thee crucified. Be lifted high as my kingdoms fall. Once and for all, once and for all.”

To my children and grandchildren, beautiful and broken and pretty darn amazing, God is not finished with us yet. The best is yet to come.

 

Blind Faith

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‘When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout,”Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”‘ Mark 10:47

One of my favourite hymns is Amazing Grace as it proclaims that I was saved from myself, found and blind but now I see. God awakens us to a whole new understanding of what life is about and that there is more to it than what we see. I also continue to get greater understanding and I hope, wisdom as I age that this journey does not always bring immediate sight. Faith is a process of knowing God and believing that which He said, then walking in that truth. We often are the ones that hinder that progress. We create our own experience of who God is based on false information or how we have been taught to see Him.

The other morning I was quickly reminded how I am blinded by my selfish tendencies. We woke up freezing but also praising God it was not 40 below outside. Our blower motor on our furnace had met its last days and so the night before my Mr. Fix it husband, spent a good three hours trying to replace it but something was not quite right and he walked away around midnight. Selfish tendency number one, if I am awoken at night, it is difficult for me to go back to sleep and it’s not pretty. I did all I could to suppress this and speak gratitude to him instead. Thank you Jesus. Victory number one. Funny when I do this, I don’t have that much trouble going back to sleep. hmmm…

Anyway, we get to the next day. We all have the afternoon off to travel to spend time with my family but because the furnace is still not right my husband decides to take the morning off as well. Noble deed right? My first thought, but I was so excited to be alone this morning and write before we left since our week was full. Another opportunity to take this to Jesus and submit my selfishness before Him to turn to my husband with gratitude for his sacrifice. We never run out of opportunities to die to our flesh that so quickly rises sometimes. I read recently that ‘There is never a death to self without a corresponding resurrection from God.” Praise Him for that.

As I reflected on my quickness to be blind to the blessings and the trait of persistence my husband has, I was reminded of the story in the gospel of the blind beggar that was healed. This story is told in three of the gospels but my favourite account is in Mark as it tells us his name. Bartimaeus. During this time a lot of the work was physical so if you had any kind of disability that prevented you from working you often ended up a beggar. I will let Mark tell the story, 10:46-52  Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”  Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.’

This story reveals so much. First of all, when Bartimaeus referred to Jesus as the Son of David, this disclosed that he Knew Jesus was the Messiah. There was no hesitation, he began to shout to Him. He knew the possibilities that lay before him even if he couldn’t physically see him. His heart knew. This is all we need too. For our hearts to know the truth of Jesus. This faith should rise up the shouting in us, despite what others say. You notice that many rebuked this man’s heart cry to Jesus and told him to be quiet. What I love is it said Bartimaeus shouted all the more. I also love that Jesus asked him what he wanted him to do. He gave him opportunity to ask to be healed.jesus-2152703_640

I think it was Bartimaeus’ persistence in faith that got Jesus to stop and call to him. Jesus wasn’t standing right beside him because he stopped and asked who was with Him to call this beggar. So you know Bartimaeus had to be yelling loudly. He knew this Jesus so well, He didn’t care what anyone thought. He knew His audience was of One and that was all that mattered. He had to have been taught to have faith, for blind Bartimaeus, 2 Corinthians 5:7 rings true in more than one way, ‘For we live by faith, not by sight.’ He believed and that was enough for Him to call out to the One who could save Him.

Do you have enough faith for this? To live by the truth and not always needing to ‘see’ a miracle or the hand of God, to know that He is present and working even when it is not visible to you? To continue to call to Him even when the naysayers are telling you to stop? And once you do receive sight from Him, are you willing to immediately follow Him? Our faith journey is constantly pressing in, repenting, turning back to Him, questioning, seeking, trusting, being still, listening, persisting, running the race kind of life. In this you will find Him, be amazed, be healed, be willing, do great things because of the Great things He has done for you. Never forget that His offer is always the gift of Himself. Relationship with our Creator. He is enough.

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Even If…

‘Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the LORD your God.’ Leviticus 26:1

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was brought to my attention with a fresh word today. If you are familiar with the story in Daniel 3, ask God to cultivate new awareness as you read it again. In short, King Nebuchadnezzar, a King of Babylon, made an image of gold that was 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. tower-838540_640He commanded that when the people heard all kinds of music they were to bow down and worship this idol. 3 Jewish men refused and the King’s punishment was to throw them into a blazing furnace. They had earned favour with the King and looked over his affairs but that had no bearing when they would not bow down to the King’s command. ‘They pay no attention to you’ was the tattletale account from the astrologers to the King. Nebuchadnezzar was furious but amazingly still willing to give them another chance. I love their reply. vs 16-18 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”‘smoke-1232654_640

As you can imagine, the King was furious and he threw them all in to the blazing furnace. You will have to read the rest of the story to see the amazing way that God rescued these men.

What God showed me was an incredible faith in these men that EVEN IF God did not rescue them, they were willing to die for their God. They knew Him and nothing came before Him.

I have been challenged in the last few days especially to look at the idols I have placed before my God and sense as I pray for the body of Christ that this is a heart issue in many of us, in fact I would even go so far that this is an ongoing issue we all need to stay aware of and keep in repentance over. My heart’s desire is to love God with all of my heart but to be quite honest, I find some things are layered in front of that.. Areas of my life that I continue to struggle with and not able to relinquish over to God when I do know that He is able to save me from myself. He has done so in many places of my heart.

God placed a book in front of me this past weekend called Idol Lies by Dee Brestin right after a time of prayer when the word idol came to my mind. Then this morning our marriage devotional was, you guessed it, about idols. Coincidence, I think not. Dee says it well, “Being released from the penalty (the guilt) of sin is instantaneous, happening the moment we respond to God’s call and to the payment Christ made for us at the cross. Being released from the power of sin is gradual, for bondage has layers. All of us have hidden idols that need to be revealed, removed and replaced.”

God is in the business of revealing things to us that need to removed and replaced so that He will maintain first place in our hearts. The beautiful thing is, He will not give up on us. One of my favourite promises is Philippians 1:6,’ being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’
I want to be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and not compromise my faith to God for something less than what He desires for my life. I want to easily be able to give up the things I love to love Him even more if He asks that of me. I want the death grip I have placed on some areas of my life to be removed and ready for him to replace with Himself.

‘Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.’ it says in Psalm 37:4. This Psalm also instructs that we trust, commit, be still and hope in the Lord. It is in these actions toward Him that we will find delight and the fruit will be our true desires. Come along on this continued journey of delight with Him, let Him reveal the things that get in the way of being fully devoted to Him. These sentences in Dee’s book grabbed me to simultaneously want to dig in and to close the book, “Every believer needs to be set free, and it begins with getting past our denial, with seeing what we really idolize and admitting this to God and to others.We may think for example that our deepest desire is for God, but in reality we are running to food, friendship or Facebook to fill up our souls. We may think that our identity is in Christ, but in reality if may be in the success of our ministry, mothering, or marriage.”

You know what my favourite part of the story of the 3 Jewish men is? This… Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire,  and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.’ Daniel 3:26,27. Not one hair singed. Not even the smell of smoke. We have all sat around a campfire I am sure and know how much that smell permeates our skin and clothes. Not even the smell…God can do this. He is a Redeemer that wants to remove any smell of smoke, any idol, anything that keeps us from true intimacy with Him. I do know this and so I will come and be still and listen, and repent and continue to walk out this journey until my stone heart has been replaced by a heart of flesh that is intimate with my God. Will you join me?

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