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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Always the Heart

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Isaiah 55:11 ‘so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’

This is a call to Christians. A call to please God, not man. ‘Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.’ A call for you to evaluate where your hearts are at. A call to draw close to the One who made you and called you according to His purposes. A call to really know Him and what He is calling you to. A call to be grounded in the Word. A call to know what is required of you. Micah 6:8 ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’

I feel like I need to write a caveat before I send this blog forth. It is possible I may offend people but before you choose to take an offense up, can I challenge you to ask your heart why? And forgive me please as my intention is not to cause offense. I write about this subject because God is burning it in my heart these days and I feel broken because of it. I write about this because I have been in the middle of these situations all the way back to when I first found Jesus. I have been a part of these situations. Because guess what, people are people. Even if we don’t purposely set out to let the enemy use us, when we don’t know God’s voice, we can become the accusers of our brothers and sisters. One word timely whispered and an offense can be set off. Revelation 12:10

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:pointing-1991215_640

“Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
    who accuses them before our God day and night,
    has been hurled down.”

My heart is burdened because we cannot do His will here on earth well as a fractured body. And we can do so much more together. I mean, He is God and His purposes will be accomplished as the Word says above but will we fall by the wayside and will He have to raise others up to accomplish the purpose He had for you?

How well do you know God? Like really know Him and His Word? Would you say that His heart is for you? Would you say you know you are loved, forgiven, saved, righteous, His child? Would you say that you are following Him and not people?  Are you sold out to His commission for us as believers? Matthew 28:18-20 ‘Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

My heart has been breaking for all of the stories I have been hearing lately about how people are hurt by Christian people and that becomes generalized to the church and then projected on who they think God is. Offence is picked up and if not dealt with this can turn to resentment. If they are Christian, their faith may suffer, reconciliation might never happen,  then they possibly fall away or in some cases plan never to attend church again. In the meantime a fracture happens within the church by the loss of these people and that particular body goes on but with a noticeable limp. I realize sometimes there is a grand purpose in God removing some people from a particular body of believers but it may not always be the case. It may be the enemy working his steal, kill and destroy program through his bait of offense.

I understand when someone is a Christian we naturally give them a higher standard to hit and that should be the case but I think it should be higher, not impossible. This also means if you are a Christian, you also are called to this higher, not impossible standard. It is not impossible with His spirit and strength, it will be in our own strength. They are not God, neither are we, we are all human and we hurt each other, often not on purpose. I also realize that church is not the only platform to display His glory but it needs to be a place where we grow together to be strengthened to go out into the world, in all the places He calls us. The local church is the hope of the world but a fractured one doesn’t always paint a beautiful picture of hope. Please don’t take this to the extreme because I know we are all broken in some way and the beauty of God doing what He does through broken vessels is often what it is about. I am just saying if we are loudly broken without Christ on display in our behaviour, hope doesn’t always shine through. What is your part in the restoration?

So what is getting in the way of your witness? Is it you? Can I gently suggest we get over ourselves? I love how Revelation 12 gives us the answer with verse 11 in the Message translation,

‘They defeated him through the blood of the Lamb
    and the bold word of their witness.
They weren’t in love with themselves;
    they were willing to die for Christ.’ 

Most of all I think God’s heart in all of this is not to equate who He is with who we are as humans. Remember the part, my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways? God said that. He sees us through the filter of what Jesus did, dying on the cross for our sins. Christ’s blood and His love cover a multitude of sins.

As I was praying through this blog, a few things came to mind that may get in the way of us not fulfilling the commission.  Pride, unforgiveness, inability to work through conflict, missing God’s heart, lack of identity, disobedience, blindness from our own wounds. This doesn’t just apply to issues within the church but  within our own hearts. Working through these things is not easy and I think we forget that we have the power of the resurrected Christ within us to help us get through these places.

Joyce Meyer said,‘ The gap between desire and doing is determined by how much pain one is willing to endure to do God’s will.’ . It is always a heart issue. How sold out is yours for our Saviour that you will do whatever it takes to live at peace with others and be obedient to His purposes?  Please read the following out Romans 12 out loud, stop on each verse and challenge your heart to see if you are living these words, if not, repent, ask His forgiveness and move forward knowing He is for you, and Holy Spirit will empower you to live this out. Be blessed brothers and sisters.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’

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Great & Unsearchable

bible-1388427_640 ‘But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—  having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.’ 2 Timothy 3:1-5

I know when God repeats a passage in 3 different forms to me in less than 12 hours, He is speaking and commanding my attention. Imagine my surprise when He speaks that I should have nothing to do with myself! The book of 2 Timothy has been heralded as the apostle Paul’s famous ‘last words’. He knew he was to be executed soon and so as he was in prison he wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy. It was a passing the torch kind of letter and it tells of the urgency Paul knew to be true for God’s people.

This same urgency has been placed in my spirit, to not just know about God but to have a transformative relationship with Him and to urge others to do the same. I feel many of us are walking around as Paul says above, ‘having a form of godliness but denying its power.’ We go to church, we speak the language, but have we truly allowed the living Word of God to transform our minds and hearts? Can you read in the list above and see yourself in it? ‘lovers of money’, ‘boastful’, ‘proud’,’ungrateful’, ‘unforgiving’, ‘lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’. To name a few.

My heart is repentant and heavy today, I had to come before Him and confess that there are many areas in my life I have not let His Word change. I have often been as 2 Timothy 3:7 says, ‘always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.’ Repentance is a change of heart and mind that is a literal turning away from our sin and brings us closer to God. The first step to receiving God’s forgiveness is admitting that we need it. Needing it is not just at the point of salvation when we realize we have sinned in the world and need Jesus, it is an everyday part of walking with God, realizing that we fall short and have a great need for Him to  help us in our humanness. How easily and quickly we can fall.

I think I have skimmed over these verses with thoughts of all the terrible things that are to come but dare I say it is here, and it is in us. Corrie ten Boom once said, ‘If satan can’t make us bad, he will make us busy.’ I fear in this we do not take time to know God and there are too many distractions from really sitting with Him and knowing His heart and having ours changed in the process. Louie Giglio said, “Why do we look so forward to eternity but we do not want to spend time with Him now?”

Verse 16 in 2 Timothy 3 says, ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ How are you letting the Word do its work? Do you know enough of it and God’s character that it has changed yours?

Has the time come that Paul talked about in 2 Timothy 4:3,4 as he gave Timothy a charge to speak the word, correct, rebuke and encourage others with it. ‘For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.’

We like to have our ears tickled don’t we? To hear all the grace filled things in God’s truth but if we are true followers of God’s Word, we need to give heed to all of it. A lot of it is correction, not because He is against us but He is for us! Do we discipline our own children just for kicks? Well neither does He. Our heart is for their best and if we take the time to know God’s heart, we will see clearly His is the same.

The beautiful thing is that He waits for us to come. He is a gentleman, He stands at the door and knocks, He does not barge in and force His ways upon you. He wants us to know Him but He has given us free will. My deepest desire is that I know Him and He knows that so I heard these words out of love and not condemnation today. He wants all of my heart, the hardened parts included. As He does yours. Are you willing to give it? Are you willing to sit with Him and listen, read His Word and ask Him to open your understanding. Jeremiah 33:3, ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ This does not necessarily mean the secret to world domination. Today it meant, see these places in your heart that keep you from me, bring them to me. Turn your heart from them and turn toward me. I love you and want you to know me.creation-1906289_640

Go to Him. What are you waiting for? He is waiting for you, just as you are.