Deep Grief

James 4:7-10 New Living Translation (NLT)

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

IMG_6986Although I was raised in a Christian home, attended Sunday school, church services, VBS and youth group, I didn’t believe in the Lord until I was 9 months pregnant with our first child. Feeling like a beached whale lying on our bed, waves of tears streamed down my face as the reality of my separation from God began to crash over me. I knew I was completely unworthy of being loved and forgiven. Yet, at the urging of my husband, I poured out my sorrow to the Lord, confessed my sin, and proclaimed His Kingdom come, His will be done in my life.

It was many years later that my soul experienced the deep grief James speaks of. Like a child, I had been sorry for getting in trouble with my heavenly Father. I was even sorrowful for my disobedience…but I never felt grief.

Getting past the obligatory “I’m sorry” takes a depth of humility that only comes through continual submission to the Lord. When we humble ourselves in the light of His glory, we choose to surrender our will so that we can come close to Him. When He comes close to us, the power of His living water begins to pour over our filthy hands and the intense heat of His all-consuming fire purifies our hearts. His truth exposes the lies that are hidden within the dark places of our soul, proving that we are divided between our worship of Him -and the world. When we SEE the object of our worship, we realize our sin nailed Him to that cross. Tears drip down our face, like the blood that dripped from the thorny crown upon His head. Sorrow pierces our soul like the spear that pierced His side.

Then death comes, followed by deep grief.

Confession, which is simply admitting sin, brings tears and sorrow. But, repentance, which is acknowledging that our sin produces death, brings deep grief.

Jesus died for our sin. He overcame death. By believing in Him, trusting Him, loving Him and obeying Him, we can have LIFE- eternally and in abundance.

Are you stuck in a continual cycle of confessing sin?

Have you been doing all the “right” religious things (Sunday school, church services, VBS and youth group) to try and stop?

Have you shed a few tears?

Have you felt sorrow (distress, disappointment) over your actions?

Then do you sin….again?

My fellow disciple,

Tears and sorrow won’t deliver you from evil. JESUS is the deliverer. You must confess and repent of the sin that is lurking deep within your soul. Trust me, God will give you the grace to do so, if you humble yourself (James 4: 6).

YOURSELF.

Humble yourself.

No one else can do it for you. Not your spouse, not your friend, not your pastor.

When you humble yourself, confess and repent, the Holy Spirit will enable you to resist the devil and he WILL flee! You will draw close to God and He WILL draw near to you! There WILL be tears and sorrow and deep grief for your rebellion! There WILL be sadness and gloom. But, God WILL lift you up in honor!

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

Prepare the Way

Matthew 3:1-3 (NLT)
In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.[a]” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’”[b]
 
11 “I baptize with[a] water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.[b]

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. His message was simple: repent. John’s preaching cut through religion and pierced the heart: sin has destroyed your relationship with God. Repent! Be restored to God. John’s ministry tilled the hard soil for the One who would come to sew the seed of salvation.

I am John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed me for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

You are John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed you for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

The church is John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed us for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

John 3:26-30 (NLT)
26 So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”
27 John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.28 You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ 29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

But sometimes sin blocks the way…

In my pride, I can believe that MY ministry is who I am. In a struggle for significance on this earth or a desire to be esteemed by others I can hold on close fisted to the ministry God has appointed and anointed me for. Over a decade ago, I was preparing the way for MY ministry. I had served faithfully in children’s ministry organizing resources, soothing crying toddlers, changing stinky diapers on infants, singing and dancing to kids worship with 6-12 year olds – I did it all. Focusing solely on MY ministry, I neglected my relationship with God, my spouse and our children. My fist was so tightly closed around my role in the church that no one, NO ONE was gonna take it away from me.

But God.

God.

The associate pastor hired a new children’s director who instantly became my superior. She was also one of my best friends. As I struggled to submit to her authority, I simultaneously struggled to hold on closed fisted to MY ministry. Rebellion, chaos and disunity ensued. Eventually I was fired- from my volunteer position.

Angry? Absolutely! And I made sure God and everyone else knew it. I vomited insult after insult about my rights being violated and the evil actions of my fellow ministers in the body of Christ.

But God.

God.

As a loving Father does, when a child finally returns He welcomed me into His everlasting arms and the tension of my closed fists released. He was becoming greater and greater and I was becoming less and less.

DSC_0419During my discipleship journey the Holy Spirit has continually helped me to humbly turn back to God. I’ve learned to be still. I’ve come to know Him. I’ve started obeying His commands. I’ve been washed in His magnificent love for me. I’ve repented. I’ve been forgiven. I’ve forgiven others. I’ve been delivered from evil. I’ve been redeemed from my rebellion. I’ve been restored in my soul. And as I’ve opened my hands to the ministry He’s appointed & anointed me for I have had the privilege of preparing the way for others to meet and know Jesus. He has become greater and greater and I have become less and less!

Dear child of God,

Release the death grip you have on YOUR ministry. Willingly open your closed fists to the Lord. Otherwise, He may need to fire you from your role to save your soul. He loves you. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to worship Him, not your ministry. He wants you to obey His commands so that you may have everlasting and abundant life!

Let go.

Trust God.

He will work all things for your good if you love Him.

Love, Me (& John the Baptist)

You Must Love

Matthew 22:37-39 New Living Translation (NLT)

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

I’ve been told I can be very emotional (if you’re wondering….yes, I AM a woman!). Yet, just like Joseph in Genesis 50:20, I know that those judgments which were meant to harm me, God meant for good.

Emotions should be expressed (to God – and sometimes, others).

That doesn’t mean we should use our feelings as a drama queen to seek attention, allow them to control us, or yield them as a weapon to manipulate others, but God gave us a heart (soul); mind, will and emotions, for a purpose.

IMG_5968During a recent “discussion” with my groom I was expressing my heart to him about our relationship. Let’s be honest, I was telling it the way I saw it: he wasn’t loving me the way I wanted to be loved! Emotionally, I was all over the place- bouncing back and forth between love and anger.

Weird.

I mean, I knew I loved him and I knew his actions sometimes made me angry, but why was I feeling these emotions simultaneously? I decided to ask the Creator of the universe, the Creator of me, and the Creator of my husband: Lord, what in my heart is going on here?!

Be still.

Know that He is God.

Backstory: the previous day the Holy Spirit whispered “pride, self-righteousness….” when I asked, “what do I need to repent for?” Hmmm. I didn’t feel prideful or self-righteous. Trusting that the Creator of the universe and the Creator of me knows better, I confessed, “Father, forgive me for being prideful and self-righteous.”

Back to the story: As I sat in my comfy chair the next morning, listening to the birds sing and feeling the warmth of the light penetrating the sunroom, the Holy Spirit showed me that I had removed my heart and laid it down on the ground as an offering to my husband.

Um. What?

Wait.

“Love your neighbor (husband) as you love yourself,” right?

Yes.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husband,” right?

Yes.

Then, what?!

Enter: deception, stage right.

Jeremiah 17:9 New Living Translation (NLT)

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
    and desperately wicked.
    Who really knows how bad it is?

What seemed like an action of a loving, submitted wife was actually the result of a desperately wicked heart. I loved my husband- not God- with all my heart. I was worshipping a man, not Jesus. Consequently, when my spouse broke my heart, I felt attacked (resulting in my anger). Failing to recognize the condition of my heart (deception), I assumed he was to blame for everything (hence my self-righteousness). Left unchecked, my heart began to suffer cardiac arrest (yo-yo feelings of love and anger).

Grieved by the revelation, I quickly confessed and repented to the Lord. He retrieved my wounded heart, washed it by the cleansing of His Word and performed a heart transplant (in case you’re wondering, I am recovering well. Thanks for asking).

My fellow wives,

I urge you to “guard your heart above all else” (Proverbs 4:23). If you’re having yo-yo feelings towards your husband, ask the Lord, “am I loving my groom with all my heart, soul and mind?” If the Holy Spirit whispers “yes,” then confess and repent for idolizing him. Receive God’s forgiveness and extend forgiveness to your husband if he’s broken your heart in any way.

Then, give Jesus all your heart. He gave up his life for you! He loves you. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. He promises to (as we say in the south) “bless your heart” – and your marriage.

Love,

Your fellow disciple

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.

Bitter Jealousy

Acts 8:18-24

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. 19 “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”

20 But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! 21 You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. 22 Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, 23 for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”

24 “Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon exclaimed, “that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!”

Simon had been a sorcerer- astounding the people of Samaria with magic tricks. Yet when he heard the Good News of Philip’s message, he believed in Jesus Christ and was baptized! Simon was saved….. but he wasn’t instantly sanctified.

In Acts chapter 8, we discover that as Simon watched Peter and John lay hands on believers to receive the Holy Spirit, he wanted something.

But what he wanted was wrong:

He wanted power.

He wanted to be the apostles.

He wanted their gifts.

He wanted to be an instant leader in the Kingdom.

He wanted others to acknowledge and praise him (as they did when he was performing magic shows).

And then….to get what he wanted, Simon tried to manipulate Peter and John, through bribery!

Peter, however, wanted to obey the Lord.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter realized that Simon’s heart was not right with God. He quickly rebuked him for his bitter jealousy, urging him to repent for the wickedness in his soul and ask God’s forgiveness for his evil thoughts.

Jealousy.

Bitter Jealousy.
As a new believer, I sometimes looked at church leaders and longed to minister the way they did. Like Simon, my heart wasn’t motivated to bring glory to God or advance His Kingdom. I was jealous. Sometimes bitterly jealous of the praise and attention my leaders received on- and off the stage. Several times the Holy Spirit brought conviction and rebuke from my authority to correct me. I too, was given the opportunity to repent and be forgiven for the evil lurking in my soul. And when I did, God graciously sanctified the wicked areas by exchanging them with his holiness.

Sadly, many believers often receive revelation through rebuke as Simon did, but they still refuse to repent. In their pride, they tell their leaders (or friends) to “pray for them.” Instead of submitting their will through personal confession and repentance, they hide. Instead of fearing God, they fear the terrible things (v. 24) that might happen. Instead of taking responsibility for their sin, they blame others.

Are you bitterly jealous of a leader in the Kingdom of God?

Are you trying to manipulate others to get the provision, power or position you want?

IMG_2961.jpgSubmit your will to the Lord and ask Him to deliver you from evil!!!

Confess.

Repent.Be forgiven.

Be set free.

Then GO…share the Good News with the gifts God has given YOU to advance His Kingdom.

Magnificent, Unfailing Love

Numbers 14:17-20

17 “Please, Lord, prove that your power is as great as you have claimed. For you said, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’ 19 In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of this people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.”

20 Then the Lord said, “I will pardon them as you have requested.

Perhaps you have perfect kids.

Yay for you!

Perhaps you have been the perfect parent.

Kudos!

My children are imperfect….and so am I.

Romans 3:23

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

I’ve been training our children for over 16 years. Some days my heart is overflowing with love for them. Some days I wanna deliver a knock out punch to all four! And some days I hang lifelessly against the ropes, bruised and bloody from the fight.

Ephesians 6:12

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Besides the relationship with my groom, there has been no greater opportunity for me to know the power of the Lord than in my role as mother.

Sadly, I must confess:

I haven’t always been slow to anger.

I haven’t always been filled with unfailing love.

I haven’t always forgiven our children’s sin and rebellion against me.

And sometimes, I’ve excused their guilt:

“Oh, that’s just ‘typical’ growing pains.”

“At least our kids aren’t as bad as so-and-so’s.”

“I did the same stupid thing when I was that age.”

“Ya know what? I’m sick and tired. I don’t wanna deal with them right now!”

IMG_0987The truth is: God knows our children are imperfect. That’s why He sent His Son. God also knows that I am imperfect. That’s why His Son died for me too. And in His magnificent, unfailing love, He has graciously given me the power of His Spirit to draw me into repentance so that I can love Him… and love our children.

This year we’ll have 3 teenager girls residing in our home. I’ve heard it said that these can be “tumultuous” years. Perhaps that’s because its evident that children between the ages of 13-18 seem to be wandering in the desert. Perhaps that’s because their rebellious behavior is more expressive than it was during their primary years. Perhaps that’s because the sins of their parents is greatly affecting their lives. Perhaps that’s because they’re tired of following the leader (Moses) and they’d prefer to grumble and go their own way (Miriam & Aaron). Perhaps that’s because they want to worship the golden calves of the world instead of submitting to the One who beckons them to surrender all to Him.

Whatever the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life, their Heavenly Father will pardon them when they repent. And He will lead them into a land flowing with milk and honey if they trust and follow Him. For He knew them before He created them in my womb. He knows the plans He has for them. After all, they are His children and He loves them far greater than I do.