God Tested

Genesis 22:1-2, 9-12

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

On the night of our wedding rehearsal, my father-in-law proposed a toast. It was a heartfelt speech, welcoming me into the Bullard tribe. Yes, tribe. A full-blooded Native American of the Lumbee Tribe, my father-in-law came from a very large close-knit family. Growing up in extreme poverty and feeling the sting of prejudice from southern white and black men alike, he left the tribal area to pursue a better life for himself.

But he never forgot his family.

Family was everything.

With raised glasses and our entire wedding party giving close attention, my fiancés father spoke assertively, “Jodie, you are now a part of our family…and we take care of our own.”

(kindof sounded like I was marrying into the mafia!!!)

Doug Sr. and I had a rocky beginning. I was a strong willed young woman. Barely 18 when I met his son, Doug Jr. (who was almost 6 years my senior), I was a rebellious, directionless sinner. He was a strong, disciplined, God fearing man. Needless to say, we didn’t get along very well- especially when I sat in HIS lazy boy recliner one Sunday afternoon to watch HIS naptime entertainment; golf!

Six months later, after Doug and I were engaged, he disapproved of the impending nuptials. IMG_1830Yet over the course of the next year and a half, we began to know- and love one another. And by the time my wedding day dawned, he had accepted me as a daughter, adopting me into his family on a warm spring day in 1996. Fifteen months later he had a massive heart attack. The family patriarch was gone.

After God adopted me into His family, I had a hard time trying to love Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. I was disciplined: I read the bible. I prayed. I served at church. Yet, I was completely unaware that in a dark corner of my soul, I had built an idol. It was named “family.”

Then God tested me.

He asked if I was willing to take each family member, whom I loved so much, and lay them on the altar.

Would I justify my relationships? (“God- you designed family. I’m supposed to love my husband, children, parents….)

Or would I repent?

I confessed the lie: family is everything.

I received His truth: God is everything.

I choose to obey the commandments, in order.

There’s a reason Jesus said we are to love God, then love others. Others may take care of us, train us, love us and welcome us into their family, but others will fail us. Idols will fall.

Yes, we must love our spouse, children, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. But we must not love them more than Jesus.

Matthew 10:37

“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.

Has God tested you?

Have you confessed the lie: family is everything?

Have you received His truth: God is everything?

Have you chosen to love God, then love others?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, my friend: all of your family has sinned.

They’ve all fallen short of the glory of God.

They will never give you eternal or abundant life.

They will forsake you.

They will leave you.

But, Jesus.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.

Jesus laid down His life on the altar for your sin.

Jesus will never leave you.

Jesus will never forsake you.

(and like the mafia, Jesus always takes care of His own!!!)

Pain, Desire & Struggle

Genesis 3:16-19 (NLT)

16 Then he said to the woman,

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,

and in pain you will give birth.

And you will desire to control your husband,

but he will rule over you.[a]

17 And to the man he said,

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree

whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,

the ground is cursed because of you.

All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.

18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you,

though you will eat of its grains.

19 By the sweat of your brow

will you have food to eat

until you return to the ground

from which you were made.

For you were made from dust,

and to dust you will return.”

How well I know the curse of pain as a daughter of Eve. All my pregnancies produced physical and emotional suffering in my body and soul. I delivered one daughter without drugs, but ALL our children caused indescribable pain when I gave birth.

How well I know the desire to control my husband. As a newlywed, I believed I was to share “the pants,” in order to rule and reign together as head of the family. In my rebelliousness and brokenness I used my strong personality to gain control… and when my husband attempted to lead, I viciously attacked him with my words.

Then I met Jesus.

Jesus became the curse for me, a sinful daughter of Eve. He died not only to give me eternal life with my Father in heaven, but He also gives me abundant life in Him on earth! No longer am I enslaved to the curse. I am a daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Yet, sometimes, unfortunately….I still listen to that slithering, sneaky snake.

Jesus said in this world, I will have trouble.

Pain will still occur.

Desire to control will still rise up.

But, Jesus.

Jesus.

When I choose to trust Jesus, instead of the enemy, I receive God’s blessing: abundant life! I am comforted in pain. I know that He is in control. I submit to my husband, as unto the Lord. And even if my husband doesn’t love me as Christ loved the church, I feel how wide, how deep, how high, my Father’s love is for me.

cropped-IMG_2982.jpgFor more than 20 years I’ve watched my husband scratch a living. By the sweat of his brow, he has provided food for our family each day. As a son of Adam, the curse proclaimed over his life is different than mine. It affects his work mentality. Mine affects my relationships with him and our children. Regardless, if either of us chooses to submit to the enemy, the same result occurs: death.

If I am deceived, and my husband listens to me, and we both eat the forbidden fruit, spiritual and emotional death separates us from God- and one another.

Does that mean its all my fault?

No.

I am accountable for my sin- not my husbands, not my children’s. Mine.

My husband is accountable for his.

When a husband listens and obeys God’s commands, he finds his identity in the One who formed him from the dust of the earth. His work is not who he is. He is a son of God.

When a wife listens and obeys God’s commands, she finds her identity in the One who formed her from man for man. Her role of mother and wife are not who she is. She is a daughter of God.

Who are you listening to?

Who are you obeying?

Who are you choosing?

I choose life.

I choose the way.

I choose the truth.

I choose Jesus.

Where it is Deeper

Luke 5:1-11 (NLT)

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee,[a] great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon,[b] its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Simon was a hard working fisherman. On the night before the biggest catch of his life, he failed to pull in a single fish.

Complete failure?

Perhaps in the eyes of his fellow fisherman.

But not according to Jesus.

From a Kingdom perspective, the empty boat was an outward sign of an inward transformation that would take place in the heart of Simon Peter. Simon’s “bad day at the office” was a tangible demonstration of what would be required to follow Jesus; forsaking himself- being completing emptied of all self-sufficiency.

IMG_5056Our disappointments, failures and losses often remove the excess from our lives so that we are able to be still – and listen to the Word of God. With no work to do, Simon had available time to sit among the crowd on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and listen to Jesus preach. But after the sermon, Jesus told him to climb into his boat and go back out, where it was deeper.

Simon obeyed.

The deeper is where we face our greatest fears. The deeper is where we cannot understand His ways. The deeper is where we see Jesus do the miraculous. The deeper is where we willingly call Him “Lord.” The deeper is where we fall to our knees before Him. The deeper is where our hearts realize we are too much of a sinner to be around Him. The deeper is where we are left awestruck.

And then….then, Jesus tells us to not be afraid.

He speaks the great commission into our life.

He tells us we will fish for people…..IF we are willing to empty ourselves of everything, and follow Him.

Your Own Work

Galatians 6:4-10 (NLT)

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

The comparison trap always leads to death in the soul. Whether we are measuring our waistline, our bank account, our marriage, or our position at work, comparing ourselves to others makes us dissatisfied. Either we feel like a loser (“they are way better at such and such than I am”) or, it inflates our ego (“I am way better at such and such than they are”).

KIM_2018_edited-1The body of Christ is no exception. A worldly view of our family members of faith ranks people by where they serve. The people on stage are AWESOME! The people changing dirty diapers…not so much. God is not impressed by our ranking system. He is not amused with our justification for idolizing certain areas of service. He is not naive about our desire for attention or worthiness. He is not ignorant of the condition of our heart. He knows all. Yet, mercifully, He forgives all.

When we love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength our souls are set free from the comparison trap. We are still. We know Him. We know who we are in Him. We know the gifts the Spirit has given us. We know the talents the Lord has equipped us to use for His glory.

When we love Him, we obey Him.

When we obey Him, we submit to His will for our life.

When we submit to His will for our life, we do good – especially for those in the family of faith…..and it makes absolutely no difference to us if we use a microphone or a diaper to do it.

Pay attention.

Pay careful attention.

You are responsible for your own conduct.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone.

Thorns, Cares & Riches

Matthew 13:22 (KJV)

 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Every summer, when I was a little girl, my mother would require my older sister and I to weed “the hill.”

Begrudgingly, we’d wake up in the wee morning hours to avoid the heat of the Southern California sun at midday, put on our garden gloves and start digging & pulling thorns out from the MASSIVE hill. (I may over-exaggerate a bit….but when you’re a kid, everything seems MASSIVE doesn’t it?!)

After several days of digging & pulling, “the hill” would be restored to its original beautiful landscape.

But you know what? By the next summer, we’d be out there digging & pulling MORE stinkin’ thorns!

Ugh.

Such is the case with children of God. We get saved and God gives us a glimpse of the beautiful landscape that He has planned for our lives. We soon discover, however, that as we seek His Kingdom, He begins to reveal hidden thorns that the enemy has planted on our hill! Yet, by His grace, we can believe His promise to deliver us and we can wake up in the wee morning hours, put on our garden gloves, and ask Him to start digging & pulling the cares & riches out!

Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word for cares as merimna: “to draw in different direction, distract…that which causes a care, especially an anxious care.” Cares of the world can be any thorn the enemy plants in our mind that convinces us to believe a lie, instead of God’s truth. We can be distracted and anxious over our marriage, our children, our friends, our position at work, our position in the church- all of which choke out the Word, as people & position become more important to us than our Lord and Savior. Cares believe the lie that without the relationship or position, we won’t be loved or accepted. In short, we’ll be abandoned and alone.

Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word for riches as pluotos: “wealth, money, possessions, abundance…used evilly.” Basically, it’s any tangible thing that we own which was obtained with a greedy heart. Riches believe the lie that God will not provide everything we need. It justifies “wants” as “needs.”

Our church just finished a sermon series on The Parables of the Four Soils in Matthew 13. Although it isn’t yet summer here in North Carolina (even though some days it feels like it!), the seed that I received from those teachings encouraged me to wake up in the wee morning hours, put on my garden gloves, and dig into the rich soil of God’s Word. I’ve come to realize that the enemy’s thorns will continue trying to choke out Truth to keep His Spirit from producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in my life. BUT, I don’t need to worry, because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. His Spirit will lead me into all Truth. When I seek Him, I will find Him. When I ask Him, He will reveal any cares of this world & deceitfulness of riches that have taken root in my soul. When I confess my sin to Him, He will forgive me. And if that weren’t enough, He’ll even restore my hill to its intended beauty.

Is your life producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any hidden thorns that are choking out His Word. Confess, repent and forgive for believing the lies associated with cares & riches. Choose to trust God in all things- and watch as He restores the landscape of your life into His intended beauty.

Carrying Men

Luke 5:17-26 (NLT)

17 One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus.

18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, 19 but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.”

21 But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 23 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? 24 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man[a] has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

25 And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!”

There are Facebook “friends” – and there are loyal friends. Loyal friends become brothers in time of need. Brothers help. Brothers are carrying men.

Proverbs 17:17 (NLT)

17 A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.

Carrying men will pick up on your sleeping mat. Carrying men will try to take you to Jesus. Carrying men won’t be intimidated by the crowd. Carrying men will go up to the roof and take the tiles off! Carrying men will lower your mat right in front of Jesus.

Carrying men have great faith.

Carrying men love God with all their heart, mind, soul & strength. Carrying men love you, as they love themselves.

Carrying men aren’t satisfied to sit beside you & hold your hand while you lie on yoursleeping mat. Carrying men aren’t satisfied IMG_3691watching you remain paralyzed with fear, pride, selfishness, unforgiveness, anger, sexual sin or unbelief. Carrying men aren’t satisfied until they help you get to where you need to be. Carrying men use the strength God has given them to pick you up. Carrying men know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Carrying men believe that Jesus can forgive you from sin. Carrying men have faith that Jesus can heal you from paralysis!

Will you allow your carrying friends to take you to Jesus?

Will you receive forgiveness from the Savior of the world?

Will you obey the Lord’s command to stand up, pick up your mat and go home?

Surrender your will, my friend. Great wonder and awe of God awaits you, the carrying men – and the crowd.