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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Fearless Prey

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“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Peter prefaces this verse by encouraging the scattered believers to cast all of their cares upon God and follows it by reminding them to resist satan. He knew that when we get caught up in our cares, we take our eyes off of Jesus and become prime targets for the enemy to steal, kill and destroy. Peter had experienced this more than once and he had learned that standing firm in the faith and being deliberate in resisting the enemy was the only way to stand in the face of resistance.

The enemy, satan, the devil, Beelzebub, Lucifer, King of Babylon, Antichrist, Father of lies,  whatever name you have heard him referred to it doesn’t refute the fact that he is real. He would delight in nothing more than destroying you. Satan in Hebrew actually means destruction. Ignoring his existence does not lessen his efforts. He appears in ways that can be pleasing to us as Paul warns people to be aware of false prophets. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14

Deception is his game. Death is his aim. Often he uses people to create the distraction. He nudges someone to offend, or take offense. The Father of lies whispers unworthiness, uselessness, isolation into ears ripe to blame. Or he builds up, pumping someone full of pride and entitlement. He sneaks into the hurt and the wounded and encourages stuffing of the pain until a root of bitterness or unforgiveness grows in the darkness.

Death can come in the form of complacency, spiritual apathy, broken relationships, addictions, people bound up in trauma and pain, actual death. Anything that will hinder a thriving relationship with God. He doesn’t actually have to kill us for us to be ineffective in the Kingdom of God.

Yesterday my husband was working in the garage swapping tires on his truck. He heard a bird chirping as though in distress. Looking up he saw one flying frantically around the garage and as he watched a falcon swooped in behind it in full pursuit. The potential victim bird flew toward the windows of the door sensing a possible escape. In a moment, the falcon curled its deadly talons over the bird and dropped to the floor. Mesmerized by this scene, keeping eye contact with this predator for many seconds, Wade reached for his phone to try to capture the moment. Who would believe this? Much to his chagrin, his hip was empty, his phone left inside. A few more seconds of eye contact and the falcon lifted up and out the door, prey in tact.

The differences were evident between my husband and I as he was totally fascinated with this series of events and I incredulous, asked, is this an omen? It reminded me though of how the enemy swoops into our circumstances and lives with no regard for anything else but to capture its prey. He has someone in his sights and is relentless to try to capture them.

This is not meant to make you fearful, only aware. There is good news. Jesus. He wins.

Sin is a way for the devil to get in. Jesus died for our sin.

“But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

Repent. Acts 3:19, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

Live from a place of Victory. Romans 8:37 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Do not give in to fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV) “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and a sound mind.”

Always remember. 1 John 4:4, “You dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

We are not helpless prey, we have been given authority over the enemy by the blood of Jesus that was shed for us. Read the chapter Ephesians 6 to learn about your armour and power against the enemy and Stand firm. God wins in the end.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10,11…

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Authentic Koinonia

Koinonia (in case you are rusty with your Greek) means fellowship, share in common or communion. I have the honour and privilege every other week to lead a women’s lifegroup. My heart is for this to be a safe place where women can be authentic and walk with each other to grow in their faith and deeper in love with Jesus. To serve each other and the community and be a support system through life’s hills and valleys. It truly gives me great joy as I watch this happen and even as the group multiplies, the quality of authenticity permeates this koinonia. Only by God’s grace. Only by koinonia with Him first.

Pastor Craig Groeschel said, “You don’t have to know it all to be a great leader. Just be yourself.” For most of my life I didn’t believe this because my people pleasing determined my worth. In the process of God changing my life and recognizing my identity is in Him and not in what I did or didn’t do, God was able to extricate what being myself looked like.

One of the other great things about leading is helping people discover these truths as well. I have been reading the story of Isaiah in my favourite book of the bible, Isaiah! God gave Him a vision when He called Him to be a prophet to his people.The more clearly that Isaiah saw God, the more he realized his own powerlessness but he was still willing.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said,”Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

Isaiah knew he was inadequate for the mission by himself. What especially fascinates me in this passage is that God sends him to speak to His people about their disobedience but also tells Isaiah that the people will not listen to him. WHAT! I wonder if he regretted his claim of here am I , send me, with that extra tidbit?

The thing was God had called Isaiah because he was made uniquely for this purpose. God would be the strength he needed to call the nation to repentance but only see a remnant of the people respond. As I shared with some women in my group, you are uniquely created to reach people as you are. God wants to hear your voice. Be yourself, there is no one else like you for a reason.

Isaiah’s message confronted the people’s sin, yet only a tenth of them listened and returned to God. Often this happened only when the people had come to the end of themselves and had exhausted all other possibilities. Why do you suppose our nature is to try everything else, then if God is all that is left, well I Guess I will go to Him?

I encourage you today that however God is speaking to you, that you don’t wait until the He is your last resort. Are you to lead? Are you to supposed to be in an authentic koinonia? Are you supposed to take a message to even one person? Are you to repent of your sins and come to Him? He will extricate your true self from any lies you have believed and send you just as you are.

His child. Uniquely made. Be willing. Be yourself. See what the Lord will do.

God is our Pressure Valve

Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

I had this amazing memory today of my Mama’s stew. I could almost taste it. I don’t think I have had any quite like it and what I wouldn’t do to have it again. She used a stove top pressure cooker and I don’t hear of those being used much anymore. Although I am not a good gauge, I cook to live and help my family survive. Period. So cooking is not often a topic of conversation for me.

The pressure cooker was something though, it used to frighten me. Once it was heated to temperature, it got to shaking and a steaming and I literally walked a big circle around it thinking it was going to blow at any time. Of course it never did because there was a little valve that slowly let off the steam to relieve the pressure.

It reminded me of life this morning as I was praying for the many people I know that are facing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual difficulties. Life can sometimes be a pressure cooker. Heating up, steaming and shaking until we feel like the sucker is going to blow!

I have great news! We are not designed to live this life using our own strength, God has designed us to need His. Our part is to turn to Him, pressure or not and ask that He will be our strength and the valve that relieves the compression. One Hebrew word for God is Shub Nephesh which means Renewer of Life. Seperately Shub means to turn or repent and Nephesh means, life, person or soul. So to receive the renewing of life, we need to repent of our sin, our independence from God and breathe in the new life He offers.

Sometimes I think the pressure builds because we have not spent enough time knowing who God is. How can we know the Renewer of Life if we have not been with Him. There are too many things to keep us distracted. Do you know how you can be so busy yet still feel so empty? There is a longing deep within all of us for communion with the Father whether we know that is the thing we are trying to fill or not.

I am reminded of Martha, (Luke 10:38-42) probably because I have been like her for far too long. Jesus visited the home of the sisters Martha and Mary and Martha scurried about preparing the meal and serving while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. Today as I read it, God highlighted what Martha said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

I first laughed thinking Martha you are a bold woman telling, not asking, Jesus the Son of God to boss your sister around.  Then suddenly I thought she is not necessarily asking Jesus to get Mary to help her but is pleading with Jesus to deliver her from this cycle of doing. She was the oldest and probably naturally responsible but she knew she was missing something and she needed Jesus to tell her how to change that. In His mercy He did tell her, calling her name twice because it was important for her to know and His love was intimate for her. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus did not rebuke Martha for what she chose, He just invited her to set priorities. Do you feel your life becoming a pressure cooker with all that is happening in and around you? Are you overwhelmed with circumstances or have you become too distracted from what is important? I invite you to sit at the feet of Jesus and cry out to Him, ask Him to be Shub Nephesh, Renewer of Life to you. Let Him be the pressure valve and bring the relief.

I love the song ‘Just Be Held’ by Casting Crowns, one of the verses says,”If your eyes are on the storm, You’ll wonder if I love you still. But if your eyes are on the cross, You’ll know I always have and always will.” Listen and sit with the One who loves you.