Lines

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“Fair is not always equal ~ Equal is not always Fair.” This came out of my mouth on practically a weekly basis when I was raising my children. I find these days, as I go through hard situations with other adults, this is something I think, and sometimes, even say, far more frequently than I did back then.

We are raised these days to think that everyone is entitled. We are conditioned to think that everyone should get the same things, and if we aren’t, that something is wrong. But the thing about it is ~ life is conditional. People are in different places, walking out different circumstances, and need different things when it comes to what is best for them. And if you look at the Bible as a whole, this is how Jesus healed, taught, and walked.

Jesus was a rebel in His day. He still is! But not for the sake of being one – and not because He is on a rampage to show how great He is ~ calling everybody out and putting everyone in their place was not the motivation, although that had to happen in order to stand for what is right in God’s eyes. He was and is seen as a rebel simply because doing things the way that God intends is ALWAYS going to buck the system of man. Period.

Like so many others, there is another verse in the Bible that I find keeps getting twisted, used, distorted, for selfish gain. “There is no partiality with God.” (Romans 2:11)  In this section of scripture, we are told that no matter who we are, Jew or Gentile, God will not consider that which is outward when He makes his final judgements. Our outward appearance won’t matter. Our cultural or religious advantages, titles, and other things -not gonna help us out a whole lot. None of the outward things will give us a leg up when it comes to how God sees us.

God looks for what we do with what we know in our hearts to be true about Him. He looks on the inside. And He even goes beyond OUR hearts, and looks for whether we have accepted Christ Jesus into our hearts as Savior and Lord.  It may not seem “fair”, but we are all given a choice – in that way, it really is. We often tend to forget about that fact.

In this way, there will be a division – make no mistake about it, friends. Some will choose not to accept Jesus and the salvation He has freely offered us and rely solely upon their own good deeds or outward appearance and take their chances. Some will go through the motions, looking all bright and shiny on the outside, but not giving a hoot about what is there on the inside. Regardless, we stand no chance if we don’t accept Christ as our Savior so we can be seen as spotless in the eyes of the Lord.

And as we walk this earth, if we are true followers after Christ, we are going to have to become rebels too. The hard part is to do this when it is appropriate, without tossing the rest of scripture out the window, without sinning as we do what is right, and relying upon Him for help, rather than ourselves. God help us all.

So. We are to do what is right, and that doesn’t always seem “fair.” We are to stand for Jesus, and that can seem unbalanced at times (not equal). In some ways, the concept of fairness and equality can often seem evil to me now – it’s become so distorted.

I know this, because as a young child, living in the flesh and totally self-centered, I found myself always saying “that’s not fair” when I didn’t get what I wanted. Now, I find myself saying “that doesn’t seem RIGHT” a lot more.

Go ahead – don’t be afraid of the crashing judgment people will bring down upon your head for doing it.  Just say it with me: “That doesn’t seem RIGHT.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the woman who was about to be stoned for her adultery and how Jesus came up and showed ever-so-clearly, what it means to stand for what is RIGHT versus what seemed FAIR or EQUAL at the time. Let me tell you – in this particular situation – Jesus showed some serious “partiality”, friends. What he did looked biased. What he did was dangerous.

But it was RIGHT.

In the culture of the day, the men had a legal excuse to stone this “adulterous” woman. It was beyond “acceptable” to do so, it had been made into law.  Regardless of the fact that she had to have had a few partners to commit such a crime (who happened to be men? – just sayin’) she was the target for “death to the sinner” in this situation. They were out to get her – let her have it – and wanted Jesus to tell them it was okay to do it.

What did Jesus do? Did he follow the fair game rules of the day or what was culturally and legally accepted? Did he allow the men to carry out the sentence of death against this woman for her crimes and sins, because to them, it was only fair and just that they be not only allowed to do so, but they get his BLESSING in the process? Did I say already that they were more than “justified” through their customs and laws to give it more credence?

Did Jesus say that we needed to obey them and even go along with this death sentence in this situation or just walk on by and remain silent?

NOPE.

He not only stood up for the woman, and met her right where she was at, but he drew a line in the sand. He stood for what was RIGHT. He stood for mercy, compassion, love and grace. He defied the authority of the day to do what was right. And he didn’t bypass truth in the process. He addressed her sin, but not until he made sure she knew she was not condemned first. More importantly, he addressed the sin of the men on the other side of the line. To be even more specific – he dared them to address it themselves.

He took a stand for what was RIGHT. He drew that line in the sand.

But it wasn’t the line that the men of this town were hoping for. They wanted him to draw a line that would affirm their laws and customs. They wanted him to reinforce THEIR concept of fairness and justice. They wanted him to tell them what they were doing was not only acceptable, but right.

He turned the law right on its head. He challenged their “authority” because the situation called for it. And he did the whole thing without sinning.

Jesus then got down on the level with the woman – the so called sole sinner, (the target) in this particular scenario- the one who by law, justifiably and fairly for the day, could be stoned. She was a home wrecker – she was an immoral adulteress ~ she was in their eyes, a temptress who was leading the poor men of the day into sin. And no one cared about the circumstances or if she had been threatened into the immoral situation she found herself in or not.

  • Jesus didn’t ask first for clarification to prove he was somehow unbiased.
  • He didn’t concern himself with getting all the facts first.
  • He simply came DOWN right next to the woman. He aligned himself with the “sinner.”
  • And he told the men that they have a choice…

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 

He REINFORCED the line.  He then moved right into the line of fire WITH her. They would have to risk hitting him as well if they start firing away. No mistake about it. The men dropped their stones and left

And this is love. This is truth. This is Jesus.

Jesus risked everything of earthly value for the sinner – the woman. He risked his reputation to even be SEEN with her, let alone appearing to be “on her side.” He risked his life. He ensured she knew she was not condemned. And then, after earning her trust, he shared that she should go and sin no more. Just like he would for anyone else in the same situation.

Fair is not always equal. Equal is not always fair.

Is there something you feel you must do – a line in the sand you have to draw, that to the world, even the Christian one, will not seem fair, unbiased, or just in the eyes of man? If you have brought this to the Lord in prayer and He is reinforcing it, go ahead then and do it.  And know that it will be hard. Are you feeling the Holy Spirit moving you to do something that you just know, after a lot of prayer and listening, is right? But wow, oh wow, is it ever dangerous! Test the spirits – make sure it’s from the Lord and not your flesh. And the more you pray, the more clear it will become. And get ready – it’s not going to be easy – it never is and it will involve some serious risk and probably a whole load of suffering you weren’t wanting to invite in to your life. But God’s got you – right in the palm of His hand.

He’s not letting go.

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All The Way

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“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:1-7

You know what I see that we do a lot when we don’t want to truly change for the better, eradicate a besetting sin out of our lives, or make a heart change that is a real indicator of true repentance (the all the way kind)?

We take, and maybe even apply the parts of what we feel halfway comfortable with, in order to “allow for change”,  yet we discard much of the rest of what is truly required to allow the Lord to do the job completely.

When we do this, we are still in a state of resistance, not surrender.  And we can become very, very good at telling ourselves that is not what we are doing!

  • We tell ourselves little lies and walk in the halfway kind of ownership and surrender that is required to truly allow the Lord to “make all things new”, conform us to His likeness, and “work all things together for our good.”
  • We pick and choose what we will face up to and then reserve the right to customize just how we will go about dealing with that problem.
  • We find ways to make excuses for how this or that is not “working for us” and even go so far as to blame shift and hide beneath scripture we take out of context to justify ourselves in continuing to run.

We do that because we have not TRULY surrendered. And when we do this, we don’t see real change.

You see – most of the time, true surrender is a grueling process. Believe you me, this gal fully understands that because she is the QUEEN of not having mastered surrender!

But, so much of the time, if we really take a long, sustained, hard look, with a REAL desire to face the REAL AND WHOLE truth, we will see that we hang on and we grip very tightly to at least some form of control all the way to “the end.”

We like to do surrender halfway, man. Because it isn’t stinkin’ comfortable.

  • We want comfortable change.
  • We want comfortable accountability.
  • We want comfortable love, comfortable submission and comfortable truth in our lives.
  • We tell ourselves and others we want surrender, but the truth of the matter is sometimes, we just want it to be as comfortable as possible. Or at the very least, we want for it to be less UNCOMFORTABLE.

And sometimes – if we continue to walk in that for too very long, we then start to become people who profess our total commitment to Jesus, but are teetering on the edge of really just walking in a comfortable form of Christianity. And being a follower after Jesus Christ is not comfortable!

When we come to a place where we realize we are still reserving some form of control over our situation and not fully submitting, displacing ownership, blame shifting, and being the victim instead of submitting to the Lord, then we finally reach the place where we are in a state of surrender and the Lord CAN AND WILL WORK.

  • This place understands that the full truth and full self confrontation is nothing to try to run from – because God sees it all anyway.
  • This place understands that forgiveness is freely given, but restoration is conditional and requires full submission.
  • This place stops shifting blame and hanging on to control and looking at everyone else, and starts owning the truth.
  • This is the place that allows us to FINALLY START TO WALK in a struggle that is REAL, but one in which we are truly not alone and have the Lord fully on our side!

Why?

Because we open the door and let Him in. All the way in. He could knock it down- but in my life- He hasn’t. He waits for me to say “yes – come in and come ALL the way in.

We’ve all been through a war like I just described above – I venture to guess we will all go through one again. What I find interesting, is that those habits and tendencies die hard. Each new challenge or trial that I face causes me to see that I am still struggling anew with true surrender.

But thankfully, I am on to myself now. I know I can tend to want to go  halfway when it comes to surrender. I am aware of the fact that I tend to reserve some form of control over matters when it is necessary to fully let go. And I realize that letting go doesn’t mean that I stop doing my part – sometimes, letting go means discontinuing doing the part I decide to do for myself, and STARTING to do the parts that I wasn’t doing that God WANTS for me to do.

We don’t get to just say we have surrendered and not do anything. We have to walk in it. Really WALK.

So the process often isn’t as long and drawn out now when I see that there’s a new need for surrender again. But it will always be a struggle.

It just will.

And this whole constant cycle is indicative of just how much our flesh and our minds fight and war against facing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Facing the truth and displaying a true willingness to do whatever it takes to allow the Lord to change things, is necessary for true repentance. Facing that truth – all of it – (yes, even when it’s ugly), and truly submitting ourselves to the Lord, (all of our selves, sin and all) allows God to work through our imperfections and shortcomings SO THAT we can become more like Christ.

I’m here to share this with my friends today as clearly as I possibly can – In my own little life, I have seen – God doesn’t do His best work in us when we are only willing to  surrender halfway. But He WILL be there for us all the way through things- EVEN WHEN we haven’t fully surrendered yet.

He is patient. But He truly doesn’t want to see us wrestle with this over and over again. I’m sure He often wonders “why are you making this so hard on yourself?” But the process is important, otherwise, He probably wouldn’t allow it in the first place.

You see….. Jesus LOVES us even while we are still sinners. Jesus went to the CROSS for us because of His love for us. But until we truly accept not only the free gift of salvation because of all that He did on that cross for us, but also desire to truly walk in a submitted and surrendered manner with Him, we really aren’t allowing Him to be the center of our lives. The truth is, when we don’t fully submit to Him, we are still in the driver’s seat. And we will probably never experience the FULLNESS of the joy, love, peace and freedom He so desires for us NOW until we reach that place.

That place is a place of UNCOMFORTABLE AND TOTAL surrender. But it is a beautiful place to be.

He will still love us when we are not going all the way and when we are lying to ourselves and not truly submitting. He will still love us, warts and all. But we will never be in the kind of relationship with Him that He intends for us if we continue to hold on to our sin and the lies we tell ourselves and continue to fool ourselves with all this comfortable Christianity, comfortable submission, and comfortable surrender.

Halfway just doesn’t cut it if we want real and intimate relationship. He wants all of us. He truly wants the whole deal. Meeting Him halfway is not abiding – not truly. And it causes a separation in our relationship with Christ. We can’t just hang out on the vine and pretend we are connected and tell ourselves that we can actually bear fruit that way.

We have to cling to the vine. And often, we wanna go our own way when it suits us, but continue to profess that we never left. It’s just what we do sometimes. And the birth of fruit eventually slows, even comes to a state of “hibernation” or even rot, when we start to separate ourselves from the vine. It’s just the facts, jack.

Even if and when we DO attempt to die to our flesh and the war that goes on within our hearts AND our minds, we will struggle, make no mistake about it! But we can stop layering our own extra crud – I like to call it the “crud of resistance” (LOL!) all over the top of that innate struggle, and it will help matters. We have to realize and stop only going halfway with this type of stuff. We add to the battle when we do this, and it makes the “process” oh-so-much- harder.

  • It prevents surrender.
  • It prevents true change.
  • It results in halfway relationships – ones that aren’t truth.
  • And that includes our relationship with our very own Savior.

If we meet Him where we are at – and come to Him in FULL honesty, He will realize we at least want to submit, but that we are struggling and we need HIS HELP.  He knows the truth anyway. So why would we try to hide it?

We can cry out to the Lord and tell Him we want to fully surrender, but we realize we are struggling and still clinging to our own form of control. We can ask Him to do whatever it takes to break that down within us. It’s a  hard prayer to submit to the Lord, even. But if we truly mean it in our hearts, He will deliver.

It may be hard…

It probably won’t be comfortable…

But in the end, it will be SO VERY worth it.

Surrender your heart to God,
    turn to him in prayer,
and give up your sins—
    even those you do in secret.
Then you won’t be ashamed;
you will be confident
    and fearless.  Job 11: 13-15

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Bathing Matters

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The noise all around us can get so very loud – the slinging, the clamoring, the shouting and the bullying, the twisting and the pounding, the clinging and non-relenting.

The relentless noise, noise, noise is but one symbol of the consistent flow of darts and arrows the army of the enemy is launching toward us all the time.

This is war.

But what I have found, is that the more subdued whispers of influence and deceit are what can often do the most damage ~ because they frequently either go unnoticed, or we fail to deal with them once the noise subsides.

Think about war for a minute. Imagine you are a soldier in the civil war on the front lines. You are so busy fighting for survival from all the muskets and canons and other weapons of choice, that you don’t really have time to notice the things that are creeping in to take up residence on your side of this particular battle.

It’s called infiltration.

  • Disease…
  • Infection…
  • Maybe even a spy or two dressed up in clothes that look friendly.

This is the kind stuff that seeps in – to the mind and to the heart. This is the stuff that sneaks around the loud and obvious junk and plants itself somewhere – INSIDE.

This is the evil that remains long after we think the battle is done.

It plants itself and grows, and grows and grows.

Jesus tells us to be on guard for good reason. He tells us to be careful, friends. He also tells us to risk things for His glory and to reach out to others.

Again I say: It’s not either/or.

It’s both/and.

We may have to lock out the distractions for a season in order to move back to our first love – as it should be.

We may have to regroup and reassess our armor – are we wearing the armor of GOD, or something we made up ourselves because, well, we think our version fits better?

And sometimes we have to retreat – but not just for rest, but to reassess. Sometimes we just gotta clean house.

  • Sterilize.
  • Go through a burial process.
  • Cleanse the land.

If we forget this step after a battle – if we don’t make sure the last vestiges of the ravages of war are dealt with – nasty things will still grow and thrive in places they don’t belong.

Let’s not allow that simply because we’d rather just be done. Let’s ask the Lord to cleanse us from the inside out – not only during or after we are doing battle, but daily.

I often stand before the Lord in awe ~ in awe of Him and His desire and promise that He will accept that I keep getting so dirty. He doesn’t mind bathing me daily, even when I get into things He told me not to right after he’s put me in my Sunday best. I stand before Him in shock and disbelief at just how much poison and toxins have entered into my heart or mind from one day to the next. I never fail to be surprised that I have so much I need to dump out and ask to be cleansed of within one 24 hour period. Often this mess has been self inflicted – sometimes not. But either way, my loving Father never fails to bathe me and take care of me.

I truly believe that my tendency to get “dirty” is because not only are new things coming my way daily that I “absorb” so to speak, but there is much residue left inside of me that is so deeply rooted, that it will take time for the Lord to remove it – tentacles and claws and all.

He understands.

But at the same time that I’m fully (hurtfully, sometimes) aware of this fact, I am so thankful that He has brought this awareness to me – that I’m not asleep. It hurts to be awake and aware of the evil as much as the good – but it is far better than living a lie – which I have done as well and which is part of why I’m where I’m at today.

I pray that we ask the Lord daily to cleanse us, friends. He has already saved us and wiped the slate clean if we have trusted Christ as our Savior. At the same time, there is still the reality of walking and living in this human shell. There still is the reality that we are in a battle of the flesh.

What we can truly stand in awe of if we get right down to it, is that GOD has already won the ultimate battle.

So yes – we have to be careful – we have to watch – we have to put on t he armor of God every single day. But we can rest in the knowledge and the beautiful, divine promise that the Lord has us in His mighty hands – and that He will never forsake us.

We have to show up for bath time though.

This is the good news that I am pondering today. I pray that if  you feel weary of battle, that you too, can remember that with Christ, it is both/and. And as we trust in Him, through trial or battle, and through seasons of rest and overcoming, we will know….

That He is God.

And He will be exalted.

He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:9-10

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Home Sweet Home

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My beautiful father-in-law, Alden, went home to be with Jesus, friends. And we will miss his presence here with us on earth, for certain.

BUT….

At the same time that we grieve OUR loss, we are rejoicing too ~ because we KNOW, that we KNOW, that we KNOW – he is with his Lord and Savior right now – and for that we rejoice!

Bless the Lord, oh my soul!

I couldn’t sleep last night, because I kept writing this poem in my head as I was laying in bed. I got up this morning and the rest of it came together, so I want to share it with you today.

If you are grieving the passing of a loved one who is also a Christian, friend ~ grieve away ~ and remember to give your grief over daily to the Lord. He will comfort you. He will be with you. He will place you under His mighty wing of refuge. It’s okay to grieve. We just need to do it with the help of our Savior.

And as you grieve, know too the peace ~ that only the Lord can truly provide. Know too, the promise of getting to be in our true home with our Savior when we leave this tiny dot in the universe to go home. Know that your loved one who accepted Christ as his Savior is there now. He is right there with Him…..

With GOD.

 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8

Home Sweet Home

He gets to run ~He gets to jump

He gets to dance and sing.

He gets to see ~ His shining face

And all the light He brings.

He gets to laugh ~ He gets to hug

And tears? He’ll never cry!

He now has wings ~ And gets to soar

Throughout the heavenly skies.

He gets to kneel ~ He gets to bow

He gets to worship in praise.

He gets to shout ~ “Thank you, Father!”

For eternity ~ all of the days.

He gets to live ~ his real life now

Days of adoration, joy and love.

His Almighty Lord ~ His Risen Savior

He meets Him, up above.

He gets to live ~ he gets to abide

Next to God and all His saints.

Where there’s no grief, and no, not war

Only praise, devoid of complaints.

He gets to do this ~ ’cause of mercy

From our Jesus, he is now there.

He loves His precious ones ~ all His children

He’s counted each and every hair.

And he is one  ~ he is God’s child

And His Father called unto him…

Come home, my child” ~ it’s far past dark

Into the light, where there’s no sin.

He gets to shed it ~ that broken body

And fly home, as it should be.

No longer encumbered ~ no longer trapped

God’s face now, he’ll always see.

For You have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
And my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living.

I believed, therefore I spoke,“I am greatly afflicted.”I said in my haste,“All men are liars.”

 What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
 I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
 I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people.

 Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.

Psalm 116:8-15

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Look Each Time You Bite

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It may be hard to recognize false fruits for what they are, especially in these confusing times. But one of the reasons Jesus tells us to constantly be in communion, relationship and prayer with Him is because the more we know Jesus, the easier it is to discern truth from lies.

Satan is very deceitful. He knows that the Lord tells us we will recognize truth and those who follow Him “by their fruits.” He wants to confuse us and throw us off base. He is a counterfeit of Christ, friends. And he has refined his fake products and fruity, lucious goodies to the point it is very hard to see that they aren’t the real thing – the truly GOOD thing – unless we go deep below the surface and we seek the truth in the Lord.
Seek the truth in the Lord ~ 

  • Diligently.
  • Regularly.
  • And with a heart and desire to know JESUS.

In the process we can recognize our real enemy much easier. He is the antithesis of Christ and the fruit he provides for us to consume is rotten ~ to the core.

Do we really think that the enemy does not know what the Word of God says? Do we really think the enemy forgets that he needs to counterfeit GOOD fruit as well?

He is formidable, make no mistake about it.

BUT GOD!

God tells us clearly in His word that the more we press in to Him and our relationship with Him, the more we can see the real truth ~ HIS truth, for what it is.

We need that. We need discerning eyes and hearts and minds all the more at this juncture on planet earth.

So is it true? Pretty is what pretty does? Yes – if we are pure inside, it will shine through ~ it is true.

But not all outward beauty is inwardly beautiful and true. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Many are pretending, friends. Many say all the right things and give us exactly what our itchy little ears want to hear. Many are also deceived – I know I find that I have been often. Usually I find out such things about myself only as the Lord helps me to see it – as I spend time in relationship with Him, He reveals such things to me.

I think it is so important to remember that all the time; that we can be deceived and that many others who are deceived may lead us down the wrong path if we are not careful.

Hint: It’s about more than politics. It’s a spiritual conspiracy.

So it is good to keep in mind that sometimes we still see what we think is good fruit, but if we dig a little deeper, we often see that it is rotten inside.

Again I say – But God!

We truly can trust in the Lord that He will guide us and lead us, friends. But we have to do our part as well. We must be active participants in our time spent with Him, in nurturing our relationship with Him, and in KNOWING JESUS.

Knowing Jesus makes things that are not of Him, all the more clear.

Just some thoughts that I had today as I did my devotions, and I wanted to share them with you.

Maybe we should check out the fruit – especially before we take a bite.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every tree bears GOOD fruit, but the bad tree bears BAD fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Matthew 7:15-18

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God does not Abandon Us

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Look at history. Look all the way back to the beginning of it all.

Take a hard look, friends. Doing so will simplify matters when it comes to the root cause of all that is going on right now.

If you want to see the core, basic reason all of these terrible things are happening, looking back does boil it down for us –  a lot.

  • The matter itself – all the violence in our society – all the heartbreak and tragedy – not simple.
  • The layers of intricate webbing around everything – making discernment beyond difficult, making what course of corrective actions to take near impossible – hiding the truth and illuminating all the lies – they are THICK. Not simple.
  • The barriers we have built around our hearts and minds – they are formidable. Not simple.

But the core truth of what ails us has always been the same. It just manifests itself differently throughout history and all time.

It comes from the heart.

It comes from the fallen nature of man. It comes from the enemy of Christ. And the true enemy is an ever-changing chameleon-like-wizard who is pulling our little strings as he chuckles and laughs in the most evil way imaginable all the while.

  • The enemy’s tactics? Not simple.
  • Recognizing the enemy in the middle of all the distractions and obstacles he places in our way? Not simple.
  • Remembering who the true enemy is instead of turning on one another and abandoning God? Not always simple.

So we are just to turn our eyes upon Jesus in the midst of it all – right? Yes! So easy, yet so complicated at the same time, it seems.

Friends. God does not abandon us. We abandon God.

I have yet to hear anyone in our world or society really talk about the REAL root cause of all this escalation of violence and hatred. I hear lots of other things, most of which are true contributing factors.

But we keep leaving the most important thing out: JESUS.

  • It’s about failure of leadership and corruption from the top down in the government ~ True.
  • It’s about the subtle, yet consistent dividing rhetoric we hear from aforementioned leadership and the way it has now permeated all of society ~ True.
  • It’s about the roots in slavery and white supremacy or corruption within our police departments ~ True.
  • It’s about people living under the victimization mentality and the “let’s blame everyone else instead of changing our hearts” mindset. True.
  • It’s about the self-driven, give-me-what-I-want-right-now, and hypocritical and finger pointing attitudes ~ True.

I could go on and on and on when it comes to the list of all the true things that are happening right now that we all think contributes to all this CRAP.

But they aren’t the heart of the matter. To say that any one of those or a combination of them is, is NOT TRUE. And if we ignore that piece, we will not see things truly change. They will only get worse.

Again – that piece is that we have removed Jesus. And we need to place the ownership squarely where it should be – on us.

God does not abandon us. We abandon God.

We like to say we haven’t, but as a society here in the United States and in much of the rest of the world, the reality is that we have.

  • We may talk about Him.
  • We may SAY we are Christians. And some of us may be.
  • But we don’t, for the most part, consider Him the center of it all. We may call upon Him as our Savior, but have failed to make Him our LORD. We have become our own god.

How’s that going for us, I ask you?

The simple truth really is just that, dear friends. We have taken over and are now placing our little butts smack in the middle of the driver’s seat. And there are too many of us drunk driving out there right now.

That is a recipe for deadly disaster. Utterly deadly.

Our problems run deep in America – true.

But if we could come back to this one simple truth about our need for Jesus, and live it, we would actually have a chance to co-exist on this earth a while longer and reach out more to others who don’t know Him as their Lord and Savior yet.

God does not abandon us. We abandon God.

We have totally lost sight of who the true enemy is. We are turning against one another and Satan is laughing harder than he maybe ever really has. He is playing with us like little puppets and having a great time doing it. The strings have become all intertwined and knotted up and the puppets are in disarray. It’s getting darker and uglier and more damage is being done on an escalated and daily basis. The puppet show is about to come to an end.

But God.

God will allow us to go our own way and take Him out of everything if that is what we choose. He will not force us. But nowhere in the Bible does it say that Satan operates the same way.

Nowhere.

What God does: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

What the ugly enemy does: 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

Today, I pray that we would come back to the simple truth of Jesus. That is simply that if we truly turn to Him, He is faithful.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

There are those who won’t bring God back into the center of their lives or even invite Him in at all ~ and Jesus tells us clearly to expect that, friends. He warns us to be watchful and take heart that He is still with those of us who truly follow after Him with all our hearts.

The disciples were concerned as to how we would know when He would be returning – He tells us clearly in Matthew 24…

And it isn’t pretty.

He calls it like it is and tells us the “sorrows” we shall see before He returns are akin to birth pains – contractions that move closer and closer together.

And those hurt.

  • “And then many shall be offended and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” Matthew 24:10
  • Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24: 12-13
  • Watch out that no one deceives you; for many will come in my name claiming ‘I am the Messiah’ and will deceive many.Matthew 24:4-5

But in spite of knowing this truth, friends – we can’t give up. Our hope is in Jesus Christ and He has work for us to do while we still remain here until His return.

We that follow after Jesus Christ with all that we have – We that have made Him and only Him our One Lord and the center of our lives – We have a responsibility and a privilege, really, to shine His light in the midst of this darkness.

  • The light may seem dim.
  • It may seem insignificant.
  • But a little bit of God’s light (not our own) does a lot for those who feel trapped in a lonely and isolated and completely dark, dank cave.

We as true Christians are not going to save the world. We can’t save ourselves with our own devices. We can’t even totally cleanse our own hearts and minds.

Only God does that.

But we can fix our eyes upon Jesus as we watch the things He told us would happen before He returns unfold. We can fix our eyes upon Him and be His vessels for truth and love in the middle of a puppet show gone mad.

We can share the good news with others!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whomever should believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

And how do we get through these increasingly dark and wicked times while we wait for our Lord’s return?

We remember this….

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Revelation 21:3-6

Because this is what is coming.

HE IS COMING BACK FOR US!!!!!

Soon and very soon.

  • Let us wait upon the Lord and be His light in a world that can sometimes be so very dark.
  • Let us watch for Him and pay attention to what is happening around us, but keep our eyes fixed upon Him through it all.
  • And let us make certain that we are confident that we have made the right decision – the right choice – JESUS CHRIST.
  • And if we aren’t sure, let us put the time into thinking about it very seriously once again.

It’s too big of a deal to sweep to the wayside, friends.

It’s the only way we can get through it all.

It’s the one way we can cling to God rather than allowing Him to be completely removed from our society and world.

It’s the most important decision each individual can ever make.

I pray that if you haven’t made yours, that you will do so. Today.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become  children of God. John 1:12

Because if you do? He will never abandon you.

God does not abandon us. Not EVER.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

 

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In Spite of the Thickets and the Thorns

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In the past two weeks, my devotions have been permeated by one main theme: In our trials and suffering, if we always remember to look up to the Lord, we will receive a reward that trumps the ugly of our situation.

That’s really the whole theme of this blog and I find it interesting that I am learning even more about what that really means – what it really means to look up in SPITE of all that clouds our vision here on earth. To look up in the face of intense opposition. To look up when our heads keep getting yanked back down. Just to keep looking UP.

But I don’t mean looking up in the way that the world does. The world tells us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get a good attitude. The world tells us to have a positive outlook and believe in ourselves so we can change our circumstances. The world tells us it’s  about mind over matter, motivation and willpower. The world tells us we can choose happiness and health no matter what.

The world tells us it all hinges upon US. The world tells us to look up to OURSELVES.

No. That’s not working for me – it never has. I have to seek Jesus and His face so HE can work all things together for my good. Only He can do that. My looking doesn’t even make that happen – it’s just the mere part that I play in it all.

Seeking HIM. Looking to HIM.

  • To look up to HIM – the only One who offers clarity.
  • To look up to HIM – even when all we want to do or feel that we can do is to hang our heads low.
  • To keep our eyes wide open and seek Jesus in everything – because He’s there in the midst of it all if we only search after Him.

We don’t often find ourselves ardently searching for His face in times of joy and ease. Sure, we can praise Him through the beauty of a time unmarked by pain, suffering, or difficulty. But for me – I find that when I have to look  harder, and I finally can fix my eyes upon HIM – He cuts through the cloudy and the murky and the junk – He cuts through it like a sharp blade and emerges…..CLEAR.

He gives me a point of focus through all that is murky and beyond my ability to endure alone.

But it’s not easy.

  • It’s not easy for us to look to Him when we don’t feel like it.
  • It’s a daunting thing to search for His face in what can seem like a forest of obstacle courses that have been set up with the intent to not only derail us, but maybe even wound us beyond repair.

And when it gets really hard for me – I focus upon Jesus and the many times He looked up in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

In the Garden of Gethsemane…

In the dark….

Surrounded by trees and very, very alone.

Knowing. Knowing what is about to come…

And He still looked up.

He looked up in the midst of an excruciating pain and blunt and brutal knowledge of the cup He was about to have to drink of in a mere few hours.

And I think of my Jesus upon that cross…

When not only gravity and the relentless pain and torture inflicted upon His body was pulling Him down…down….down, but also the spiritual pain and torture He must have endured that screamed out to him relentlessly….”give up already – they aren’t worth it.

And He still looked up.

Jesus looks up while upon that cross and He cries out!!!

He looks to the Father even in the face of having all the sin of the world resting on Him.

In that moment and in every moment, Jesus always looks up.

So can we.

Is there something in your life right now that makes you feel like all you can do is hang your head low? Do you find yourself seeking after the Lord, but unable to find Him? Would you please keep looking up in spite of it all? Would you have faith that He will show up, even if it’s not in the way that always feels good or removes your trial or thorn from your life? He is our Almighty and Loving Father, friends.

He wants what is best for us. Even if we don’t always understand it, He will work all things together for our good in the midst of our challenges, sufferings, even our sin. Our “job” is only to seek Him in the middle of it all. And obey if He asks something of us.

Just like Jesus did that day on the cross and every day – every. single. day.

No – The cup was not removed from Jesus, friends. But oh! What happens now for an eternity by far surpasses that horrific suffering that He endured.

For us.

Jesus looked up for us.

And He yearns for us to look up and seek His beautiful face. Every day.

Sometimes the days feel like weeks when we go through them living with these thorns that we cannot remove. Sometimes we wonder when it will all end or if we will ever have an answer as to exactly why it all had to happen in the first place. But we can trust in Him that He has us right where He wants us. We can work through our anger, our disdain, our confusion as we look up to Him for His peace, His comfort and His joy in the middle of it all.

Sometimes it’s the only way to embrace beauty in the midst of the ugly anyway.

  • He is always beautiful.
  • He is always faithful.
  • And He promises if we set our eyes upon Him, it will always be better than hanging our heads down low or resorting to our own inadequate devices.

I don’t have to feel great about this stuff that makes my days feel like weeks and my weeks feel like years. I don’t have to love my pain or my suffering. But I can be thankful in the midst of it all that I know that one day – one glorious day – I will be with my Savior for all eternity. And there – in that blissful place – there will be no more suffering. 

And we will always see His face. We won’t have to look long and hard and search through the thickets and the thorns. All of this will be a blur by then.

And we shall walk in the light and the love of our Lord and Savior forever more.

To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Psalm 123:1

Gethsemane

 

Out of the Brown Box

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Sometimes ( a lot) the enemy attacks me inside for being completely honest with you, dear readers. I have things run through my head that I know are from the ugly enemy all the time – things like “no one wants to hear that stuff, you need to talk about the more beautiful things of life and help uplift others, Annie. You’re doing it wrong.”

And I know what that is: It’s the master of deceit’s attempt to get me to think of this little blog as something I do only for others and that I should tailor it to the things people might want to hear. The enemy tries to whisper that I should write only about that which makes me come across as strong and together and that I got it all going on just perfectly because I got Jesus. He says that something like this should not be something I do to bring about my own personal growth (spiritually) as I work through things with God – because that is….Just.So.Selfish.

The enemy tries to tell lots of pretty little lies, friends.

But I do write in order to work things out with the Lord, friends. I do, because He is the ONE and ONLY who can make us whole through the messy stuff in life. Writing this stuff out actually makes it more real and takes away the foothold the enemy likes to take advantage of when we keep it all inside. But he just keeps on whispering – that ugly minion. The enemy whispers that I should portray things as only being all glittery and shiny – like a beautiful treasure chest full of jewels – you can’t wait to open it to see what you will be rewarded with next.

But in so doing, I know that I would create a false prison of sorts. I know that I would be lying. The fact is that the Christian life is messy and ugly and beautiful and intentional all at the same time. So I write the way that I write for that reason. I share the way that I share for that reason. I share it ALL because it’s the TRUTH.

This blog was started as a form of worship of the Lord. Some people worship through music, or art. Some do it by serving in person at the church and expressing their love for Jesus in that way. I write. I write out my feelings and struggles and joy and everything I go through as a Christian far better than I speak it. I am a pretty sensitive person when it comes to things like the body language of others, tone of voice, etc. And I screw up all the time when it comes to my own peripheral forms of communication, so I know that by writing things out, the LORD knows my heart and He reveals things to me in that process. I know that by writing things out that He is working on within me, it takes power away from the enemy and enables me to have more clarity to see things that I need to turn over to the One who holds me tightly, in His mighty hands.

Not everyone who may read it does understand where I’m coming from. And that’s okay. Because another reason I share this stuff out here in cyber space is because I know that there are others who feel alone in their messy stuff right now. There are others who DO feel sort of the same way at times, and need to know they have company. There are many of you, dear friends who read this stuff from time to time who are isolated, and the only form of “fellowship” you may be able to have with other believers is through things like this.

So, I don’t have to share only the happy and shiny stuff here, friends. Because I truly believe that if the Lord would have something I write about help another person, He is God, and He will convey to that person what they might need from it. He will make it work together for our good. He will make it beautiful, in the midst of the messy. If He wants to use anything that I write in someone else’s life, then so be it. Whether it be to encourage, uplift, or just shine light on the fact that sometimes our less than pretty junk is part of the Christian life.

We are NOT perfect. Far from it.  But HE is.

So….I will continue to write the way that He has led me to. As mucky and weird as it may seem at times, I will continue. And it can be unpleasant stuff sometimes, I know.

I write a lot about angst – I write a lot about struggle – the struggles that come from sin, iniquities, and walking as imperfect beings who may have accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord, yet still sin. I am tempted at times not to write about such things. Yes, I am tempted beyond belief.

I am tempted at times to share only the joy-filled, awesome and feel-good stuff that convinces others that I am filled with the joy of Jesus Christ. There is always that pull, no matter who we are or where we are at in life as a Christian, to pretend that everything’s okay. There’s something in there that the enemy has lodged quite deeply – waaaay deep down – that whispers…

“but you must be a good example of how GREAT it is to be a Christian, you little complainer! You are leading people astray by sharing all this hard stuff. You are coming across as a martyr or something. You are __________, __________, and _____.”

But I know. I know what led me to start this blog and I know that Jesus only gave me the ability to express the things He is doing inside of my own heart and mind as a form of worship, and a way of speaking His truth AND love.

Love doesn’t always look pretty. Neither does truth. But the result of Jesus’ love and truth is always B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.

So I hold firm to the promise I made to the Lord – I will not cover up (as I write and I share) the ugly stuff.  We are still  imperfect humans –  And we still struggle – sometimes even more than we did before we were true followers of Christ. But HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness.

I write about such things because they are the reality that most of us (we Christians) truly do grapple with, but are afraid to admit at times, for whatever reason. I write about such things because I feel the Lord calls me to do so – He calls me and it is loud and clear.

Share it, Annie. Share it. Share the stuff that everyone thinks or goes through but maybe feel they can’t say. Share the stuff that is ugly and twisted and messed up, so others may see that they are not the only Christian out there still struggling. Share the stuff Annie, so that through it all, others will be comforted and know that I, Your Mighty King, have the power to help you all overcome these struggles.

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Yet He also whispers that I am to share the good stuff too. He tells me through my prayer and devotion time that what He really wants is to have others see that truly, beyond truly, He works all things together for our good.

  • He brings correction when there has been disobedience.
  • He brings restoration when everything seems to have been shattered.
  • He gives us peace during the most angst-riddled of circumstances or situation.
  • He grows our love when we feel like we’ve lost every last ounce of that loving feeling.

So as contradictory as it may seem, these things of beauty do come out of the ugly if we allow Christ to work in us. He is the Creator, the Great Physician, The Almighty and All-Powerful Lord and King. He can and does do it all.

So I shall also write about peace – peace that comes only from Jesus in the midst of these struggles, trials and temptations we face sometimes. And I shall write of love. The love of Jesus that is always there for us, trying to dominate our own hearts and spill forth in spite of the ugly stuff that tries to infiltrate. Most of all, I will share how God works through my own personal struggles and the lack of such things as joy, love and peace in my own little heart to draw me closer to Him and help me be more and more like Jesus through it all.

So often, the reason I can even see the need for greater love in my heart – the reason I see the need for more patience to be developed in my character- the reason I see the need to allow Him to correct me and grow me and help me change direction and take my hands BACK OFF THE WHEEL, is due to the absence of them. He shows me through writing things down that my heart and at times, my mind still need much work. He shows me how very much I struggle putting into practice what I know to be true under duress. He shows me that I am His child and that He loves me too much to leave me the way that I am.

He shows me my need for Him. More of Him.

He must become greater; I must become less.” 1 John 3:18

I hate how much of ME there still is. I want to be nailed to the cross once and for all, like Jesus was. But I struggle with signing up for stuff that’s painful. I don’t have the same kind of love that Jesus does, friends. I care about my own comfort too much. And that pains me in its own way….because I know this so well about myself. And it is hard not to walk in condemnation in the face of that.

That mirror is one I want to shatter sometimes.

But there’s good news in the face of all of that! It’s wonderful how the Lord knows each one of His children so well. He’s aware of every little nuance and quirk about me as a person. He knows what works with me and what doesn’t. He knows just how to get through to me.

He tailors His approach to me in a way that will work to pierce my ungrateful little heart. But He never changes His truth in order to do so.

He never stops loving me while administering the exact and perfect dose of truth that I need in order to stop being sick and return to good health.

One of the ways that He does this with me, in particular, is He has made me very aware when there is some form of toxic darkness in my own heart. I may hold on to it for a while, or I may try to trick myself into thinking it’s not there or denying its existence, and sometimes I have to regroup for a while to discern where it’s coming from, but after sitting still for a time, if I search after Him to reveal it to me, He does.

Every. Single. Time.

This is never a fun process, and I wonder ~ does the Lord ever get sick and tired of  having to discipline me for the same repeat offenses? Does He ever wonder, “will she ever learn?”

But He is my Father, and He knows this is how I operate. He knows that I try to continue moving forward in spite of the weed that is starting to grow in the garden of my heart. I get tired of pulling weeds, so sometimes I just pretend they aren’t there. Or I try to pull them, but if it proves too difficult for me, I just get exasperated and give up after a while.

I do this because I hate conflict that can’t seem to be resolved within reason. I do this because when things seem unreasonable or insurmountable, sometimes I want to flee. I do this because I still put how I think hard stuff should be handled in a little box of my own making.

And Jesus wants to blow out the box. Time for an explosion. The solace and protection we find under the Mighty wing of Jesus is far greater than a fake brown box of our own making. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. We like the cocoon-like feeling of our own boxes and like our security blankets of our own choosing. But God knows.

So at the same time that I hate that I finally go and try to hide from the thorns in life, or can’t tell the difference between surrender and resignation, the Lord uses that escape artist tendency for good. He uses that time that I retreat from the ugly to shine a light on the part of the ugly that is in my own heart. He helps me to purge that crud right out of there. But oh, is it a process.

And here it comes – the need for yet another fruit of the spirit to grow stronger in my life….

Patience.

I struggle with patience, but the lack of it manifests itself inside of me in such deceptive ways. I believe there are times we must walk away and regroup with the Lord, but at the same time, I want the work He does during those times to move at MY PACE.

I realize now how very much I do the either/or thing in my own life. This holds true especially in regard to conflict. I get so worked up emotionally in the face of conflict that stretches out over a period of time, that I lose all clarity – to the point that I have to retreat completely and let God bring about some sense to it all.

Do you do any of this, friends? Let me give you a short list of examples of what I am talking about here.

  • Suck it up and let it go. You just have to worry about your own actions here. (this breeds bitterness over time).
  • Attack the ugly stuff with kindness in spite of the fact that you know there is still a big thorn growing larger all the time that you have to pluck out. Just ignore it since all of your attempts in the past to eradicate it failed. (not gonna work – it’s still growing)
  • Work on yourself and ignore the stuff that is wrong with others involved. You’re only responsible for you. (not loving – real love confronts)
  • Give up – you have been defeated. There’s nothing more that you can do. Build a wall. Build a TALL wall! (still giving the power away to the enemy – still a fake brown box)

For now, I am in a place of being still, even though it may have come about because of my “flee and withdraw” tendency. And God is using it for His glory.

I  have confidence that He will show me what He needs for me to see, and shatter the box. He is already doing it and it has only been a short while now.

I am struggling in these days of remaining still and allowing myself to face the reality (look in the ugly mirror) of what He wants to have me discard out of my heart and mind. I am going through turmoil as to what is to be surrendered, and what is to be held on to tightly.

But our God reveals.

Our God refines.

Our God restores.

And I trust in Him.

If you are struggling today because you are in a place in which you know God is working to help you tear down a wall or shatter a cocoon you have created for peace and comfort, will you let Him bring about the heart work and move you closer toward Him? If, on the other hand, God has asked you to surrender something and retreat for a while to spend time with Him alone, will you obey and let things move in His timing? If you realize you are inside of one, will you allow the Lord to help you venture out of the brown box when He says it is time and move underneath His protective wing instead? If you are having a hard time stepping, ask Him to carry you for a while, because He will. You may even be called to quite a treacherous journey, similar to the walk Christ made to calvary….bloody, even. But He will be with you every step of the way.

He is a loving parent, and our mighty protector. He will help us to walk in what seems like exposed vulnerability, with His protective hand around us the whole time. He knows you, His child. He knows how to make us better. 

We have only to open our mouths and allow the medicine to do its work. We have only to turn the burden over to Him. And we must listen when He tells us to pick up the cross. He will give us the ability and the power to carry it.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

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