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.

 

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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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