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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Sounds of Grace

I have probably told this story before but I used to sing Amazing Grace all the time when I was young. I had no idea what it meant. I had no reference from a church perspective as the only time I darkened the steps of a church was for weddings and funerals. I don’t even know how I knew it, other than organ lessons perhaps. And no,  I don’t still play. What was I – a grandma even then?

This famed hymn written by John Newton in the 1700’s still resonates with people today, especially if Jesus has opened their eyes to see the truth of God’s love for them. Newton was a slave trader who had a radical conversion to Jesus after praying for a ship he was in not to sink. He later became an abolitionist to set slaves free. Often that which enslaved us, God redeems and it becomes a part of our story to help set others free.

Recently, I was reminded of how much redemption and amazing grace God has brought to my life. I was blessed to travel with 3 great friends to St. Louis, Missouri for the Joyce Meyer women’s conference. Incredible time away on all levels, empowering teaching, ministry opportunities, friendship growth and building times, much, much laughter and enjoying the beauty God has created in that city, in buildings, in people and nature.

In the midst of this goodness one of our friends starting asking the questions of earlier times in our lives before we knew Jesus. It was really humbling and encouraging to watch as she wept for some of the pain we had walked through in our lives and how emptiness had led to bad choices and sin. In the same token it built my faith to see how much God truly is my Redeemer, that I know Him best as that. He has changed my life so radically that I hardly recognize nor believe that my life, thoughts and actions were the way they were back then, in my other life as I call it. It is through the process of my other life and coming to the end of myself though that shows the glory of God, that makes me who I am now, that gives me a hunger to share the One who brought the redemption and made me new.

Grace means to get something you don’t deserve, unmerited favour.

Ephesians 2:4-9 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The sound of grace is tangible! It is music in the ears of those who feel lost and hopeless and broken and unworthy. It comes in and saves a wretch like us. We do not have to feel lost forever.  It really is quite unbelievable in our own thoughts that God would come in the midst of our stuff and redeem it, heal it, deliver us. But it is His heart and I have experienced it first hand.

Invite Him in to your brokenness, call out to Him in your hopelessness, seek Him where you are lost and even in your insecurity and feelings of worthlessness cry out to Him to show you His Worthiness. Aren’t you tired? “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

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