Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Genesis 34: Dinah, a Victim

As I ponder Dinah’s story my heart is broken. How many young women and girls do we have in our life? What do they need to hear from us? Do they know they are loved? That they are valuable and precious? Have they learned that there are some environments that are not safe? Will we commit ourselves to making sure we do all we can to make sure they know our love and protection as well as their worth and value as God’s special creation?

I wonder how many girls or young women God may bring across our path that are victims or victims waiting to happen? Could we possibly be used by God to mend their broken hearts or prevent them from making grave mistakes? How far can a smile or a few choice words go? For me they were enough to completely change the direction I was going. The words’ “You are so special to God and He wants to do something special in your life” were enough to get me to seeking out this God. Once I was found by God my heart began the journey of healing.

How many women and young girls are swallowing lies from Satan? So many want to judge the way some dress, where they go or how they seductively live. What we need to understand is that many of these have swallowed the lies. They believe that they aren’t precious or valuable, that this is as good as it gets and they have no hope because this was the life they were given. They don’t know what real love is because they have never experienced it. Most have been neglected and or used all their lives.

How would Jesus respond to these? I think He would be moved to compassion and want to touch their lives and give them the hope they are so desperately crying out for. Could you possibly be His instrument of hope and healing? Let’s keep our eyes and ears open to those God places in our lives (even strangers) so that He can move us to compassion.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stopping short of our Promised Land

In chapter 33 of Genesis we see another spiritual high of Jacob’s; His fear has come to naught because Esau embraces him. The relationship is restored. Where does Jacob go from here? Better yet, where should Jacob head next? It is true that for most of us, our greatest temptations come after our grandest spiritual moments. This is true for Jacob as well. Where should Jacob have journeyed and not stopped till he arrived?
Genesis 31:3 (NKJV) "Then the Lord said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you."
Genesis 31:11-13 (NKJV) “Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, 'Jacob.' And I said, 'Here I am.'…… I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.' "
What vow? Genesis 28:20-21 (NKJV) “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, [21] so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.
Genesis 31:18 (NKJV) “And he carried away all his livestock and all his possessions which he had gained, his acquired livestock which he had gained in Padan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.”
Jacob had direct orders from God…get to your promised land. He had made a vow to get back to his promised land. He began the journey back to his promised land. It seems that he had every intention to getting to his promised land. But he stopped short. He stopped this side of the river.
Why the delay going to his promised land? Why do we stop short of our own personal promised lands? What excuses can you hear Jacob (or his wives) giving? It’s too inconvenient today. I’ll do it tomorrow. We all know that tomorrow never comes. The kids are tired. Do we blame our lack of drive on our children, or our hectic schedules? We say that we will start when everything is in order. Everything will never be in order. If we are not intentional about our journey to arrive at our promised lands we won’t get there.
Delayed obedience is disobedience. What obedience are you delaying? What do you know you SHOULD do – and you’ve put it off… and put it off… and put it off? There is no better time than now to pack up and start crossing the river to get to the other side where you were meant to live, where your promises await you.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Room by Joshua Harris

I was asked recently to read this story. I am always cautious when reading things over the email because I know that so often they carry errors. This story was supposedly written by a young 17 year old days before his death. I read this thought provoking story and was humbled by what my own file room would look like. I don't even want to go their; yet we all need to make ourselves take that look so that we can begin to tremble now in His holy presence. The story is rewritten below so you will have the opportunity to do your own double take of your life. I did however do the research on this story to find that although the 17 year old did turn this in a few days before his death it was not original. He had procrastinated in turning in the assignment so I guess he got desperate to turn in anything even if it wasn't his. The true author is one my heroes Joshua Harris. Regardless of who wrote the story it one that causes us to stop and ponder our words, deeds and thoughts.

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index-card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I Have Liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match.

A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed."

The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I Have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed At." Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've Yelled at My Brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger," "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked "Songs I Have Listened To," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus.

I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

"No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished."

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

By Joshua Harris. Orginally published in New Attitude Magazine. Copyright New Attitude, 1995. You have permission to reprint this in any form. We only ask that you include the appropriate copyright byline and do not alter the content.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What Kind of Fighter Are You?

The other day as I was talking to God, He gave me a visual. There was a boxing ring and from the ceiling hung one of those old fashioned microphones and God was the announcer. He called out, "In this corner is the World, Satan and the flesh." Everyone in the stands, including me was booing loudly. Then God continued, "In this corner is…." There was complete silence. Then the focus zoomed right on me into the midst of the crowds yelling, "You can win. Victory is yours for the taking. Fight the good fight." Then all of a sudden I noticed that I was the only one cheering. Except for my voice it was completely silent and all eyes were on me. I looked around completely confused. I looked to God to see that He too was looking straight at me. He then said, "I'm waiting. We are all waiting. You can't have victory unless you enter the ring to fight. Just shouting the cheers, showing you acknowledge the fight isn't enough. You must get into the ring. You can't be a spectator shouting out the truth of the fight. You must get into the ring." Now what do I… you… do with it?

I know that I need… no must get into the ring and fight. That started me thinking about our different responses to fighting. What kind of fighter are we? I came up with just a few; in no way is it exhaustive but enough I think to get us to ponder.

As you ponder these types consider them in context of fighting the good fight of faith. We must fight against Satan his lies, deceptions and schemes. We must fight against the world its influences, ungodly world-views and its temptations. Also we must fight against our own flesh, its willful and selfish agendas, ungodly wants and desires, future fears and past wrongs that steal our focus and energy.

1. The Dodgers. They don't get anything resolved. Their attitude toward fighting is not getting involved by avoiding it. They don't develop a strong faith nor experience peace or God's power in their lives. There is no victory, no overcoming, no abundant living, and no liberty. Most of all they don't get to experience intimacy with a personal God.
2. The Deceptive . Their attitude is, it's my way, because I want my way. They tend to pretend they are really fighting but in reality they are justifying their actions and therefore the fight is null and void. They do what is right in their own eyes and still expect God's blessing. Their thinking is that since they show up in the ring they are fighting. But once in the ring all they are all show and trash talk no real action. Again they ever experience true victory or intimacy with God
3. The Deserter. They may enter the ring for a moment but as soon as it gets a bit rough they high tail it out. They never see victory because they don't stay in long enough to see it. They often are wondering why others seem to be experiencing more of God and His blessings than they are.
4. The Dealmaker. This is the one who is always trying to bargain with God. I will do it if... I will do it when… Because God does not make bargains they never get in the ring and therefore never really see the enemy because they are so focused on themselves. Therefore they never overcome themselves; their own worst enemy. Victory and intimacy are never theirs.
5. Determined . This fighter is committed to finishing the fight no matter what. He knows that finishing is victory. He knows cuts and bruises are a part of fighting. Going the distance will prove to be filled with personal rewards not to mention intimacy with God throughout the fight. True freedom and abundant living is found in the daily consistent fighting the good fight.

I want to be determined to fight everyday that I may live in victory and to know what it is to be an overcomer.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Experiences Wrestling with God

I have had many calls on wrestling with God so I wanted to share a bit more about it. Wrestling with God isn’t an everyday event. We are invited by God to wrestle through an issue usually dealing with something or someone we are fearful of facing up to. The basic questions asked during the wrestling match are, can you be honest about who you are? Remember God asked Jacob, “What is your name?” Last time Jacob was asked who he was he told his father he was Esau. This time Jacob honestly answers God with I am Jacob (liar, deceiver.) Jacob was being honest about who he was and I believe he was also acknowledging his need for help. The other question is, are you going to trust Me that I know best and that I will see you all the way through to the good?
From my own experiences of wrestling with God two are coming to mind. The first was when I was faced with the fear of losing the man I loved. I remember being asked by a friend of mine, “Do you really trust God knows best?” That was a questions I had to ask myself. Down on my knees I went or in this case, to the mat I went. I poured out my fears to God. I kept praying through the question did I trust God? I finally got to the point where I surrendered my will to His perfect will no matter what they may be. I gave Him complete rule of who I dated, when I dated, and how I would date and especially who would be my husband. It wasn’t just words, I meant it. That is when the peace that passes all understanding literally flooded every part of me. I got up from the mat a changed woman. I walked differently after that. I never again questioned His will or distrusted Him concerning my future with dating and marriage. The greatest reward is that God blessed me with the most wonderful husband. I never dreamed I could have the marriage and love that I have.
The other experience coming to mind happened at High View, Jon’s first pastorate. It was during VBS. The other ladies were not doing as I wanted them to do concerning VBS. I had a fit and verbally was down -right mean. I left their presence but the Holy Spirit was gnawing on me like a beaver diligently dropping trees to build a dam. The Holy Spirit was determined to do His job. I knew God was telling me I had handled it wrong and I was to go confess and ask for forgiveness. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t want to face them; after all I was the pastor’s wife! As soon as VBS was over I ran to the attic of the church and sat there…He found me. I cried and screamed, “I will not do it.” Again, as clear as a voice on a radio He asked, “Don’t you trust Me?” Here we go again. Yes Lord, I do trust You. I went below and confessed my sin and asked for their forgiveness. Some did, some did not. Regardless of their response I again had a peace that was filled me with a power and a confidence. I walked away from that experience a transformed woman. I survived confessing my sins and asking for forgiveness and it felt great. I never again feared facing up to my own sins again. I know His way is the best way.
I hope this helps with your wrestling’s past and future.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wrestling with God

I recently had the privilege of getting together with some old friends from El Paso. One of the blessings of being in ministry is developing deep spiritual friendships. One of the non-blessings is having to say good-bye. Anyway in the midst of conversation I was challenged to keep blogging and to blog about the lessons from my Sunday School class that God has challenged me to write. I will try again to blog.
Wrestling. Boys love to wrestle. I know this through personal experience. There were many occasions in our home of Jon wrestling with our two boys. They wrestled up into their teen years, hence the broken sofa. Our oldest, Chad, now has a son of his own, Clay. I have watched the two of them wrestle as well. Chad is tall and has broad shoulders; he has grown into a big man. Clay on the other hand is a small 40lb, 3 foot tall tyke. He is still growing into his huge smile. Yet they wrestle. Looking on we would all say, that isn’t a fair fight. Chad could easily crush Clay at any time he wanted. I could imagine if Chad laid his head on Clay’s stomach and fell asleep, Clay probably couldn’t get up. Yet they wrestle. Sometimes it is Chad, the father that urges the wrestling match on, other times it is Clay the son that does the inviting. Why? Intimacy. The wrestling match is a time of bonding and a way of intimacy. The son never feels fearful that the dad is going to let harm come to his own son. Trust is a huge part of a little boy wrestling with his big daddy.

This last week we were in Genesis 32; the life-changing wrestling match between Jacob, the son and God, his Father. I can’t help but wonder how it got started. Stop and imagine the different scenarios that could have taken place. Back to point. We need to take time to wrestle with our Father. It builds trust in us and is a time of deep intimacy.

Jacob’s wrestling with God was filled with purpose. God had called him to face his past sins by facing his brother. He had to do this before he could get to his promise land. He was scared and didn’t want to face his brother. Jacob, all alone was invited by God to wrestle through his fears with Him. Jacob enters in and comes out of the encounter a changed man. His walk will forever be changed. He now is able to courageously walk before his family to meet Esau with his 400 men. He also is able to come to Esau with great humility.

My challenge for you today is to go ahead wrestle out those things you are afraid to face up to with God. The results will be a transformed walk and intimacy with God