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If Only I Had Moved

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” Exodus 33:18

Our hearts hunger for glory. We want God to show up and prove that He’s who He says He is. We long to see the miracles recorded for us in scripture.

But we don’t want to have to participate. We’d rather sit back and watch God show up. At least, that’s what I discovered about myself.

I sat with my mother in the oncology wing at Exeter hospital while she rested during her chemo drips. I’d decided to use the quiet moments to catch up on some ministry work.

I never saw the woman enter the hospital. My position behind the curtain in our little cubicle blocked my view of the hallway, and my fingers clicking across the keyboard had stolen my attention from everything else. I hardly noticed the presence of another patient in the curtained room beside me.

Until I heard her.

A painful cry pierced the monotonous buzz of hospital activity. “Stop it, please! It hurts! It hurts!” Panicked wailing accompanied her cries.

My eyes lifted from the computer screen to my mother’s face. Her eyes fluttered open, and we looked at one another with increasing concern. The cries lingered on. We waited to hear sounds of relief, but her anguish only increased. “We need to pray for that poor woman,” Mom said. I nodded agreement and silently lifted her before my Father.

I heard her story unfold through broken, anguished sobs. She had come for a blood transfusion. I don’t know what illness plagued her, but I know her journey had been long. And hard. The continual treatments had caused her veins to collapse, and now even what helped her, hurt her. She was tired of the pain.

And she had lost hope. “I can’t do this any more.”

Something stirred in me to go to her, to put my hand on her and call upon the Great Physician to open her veins and ease her suffering. Almost simultaneously another thought overshadowed the urge to rise from my chair. She doesn’t want you to bother her. You’re a stranger. She doesn’t want to know that everyone is listening. Just pray where you are.

 So I never got out of my chair.

I reasoned that she wouldn’t want me to pray. Her demeanor suggested she might kick me out of the room. Besides, I had ministry work to finish.

Shame rises in me as I type those words. Ministry.

Beloved, what is ministry without love?

Jesus came into this world to meet people in their suffering, to call a lost world that has forgotten their Father back to Him. He watches us striving to grab hold of life by any means. And He sees us fail, because life is only found in Him.

Yet people don’t know, because the deceiver has veiled God’s glory (2 Corinthians 4:4). They believe they’re alone in their suffering, that there is no hope because they’ve exhausted all their own resources. They don’t understand that hope lies in their Heavenly Father and has been poured out to them through His Son.

And they won’t know. Unless we tell them. Unless one who houses the Spirit of God within her rises when He calls to reveal Him. And offers love in the midst of hopelessness.

I can’t help thinking of Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan. A man lay bleeding, beaten and robbed. A priest and a Levite both passed by on the other side of the road, perhaps even on their way to do “ministry.” They missed that love defines ministry.

I wonder if the priest and the Levite in Jesus’ story did what I had done. Perhaps they muttered a silent prayer, convincing themselves they had done their part. But they still left the man bleeding and half dead on the side of the road.

Yes, God hears every prayer, dear one, even the silent ones. But that suffering woman on the other side of the curtain that day never knew anyone cared. Her circumstances hadn’t changed. She felt as alone and hopeless as she did when she came in. And if God had touched her in response to my prayer, she never would have known He did it. Her gratitude would’ve gone to the nurse that finally found the right vein.

And she would’ve left still not knowing the God who wanted to save her.

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8

Glory lurks in every dark place, beloved, waiting for exposure. God releases it when His people show themselves as His disciples.

We show ourselves when we love, dear one.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

God desired to move in that woman’s life. He wanted her to know the comfort only He can give. And He wanted me to show her.

Forgive me, Father. Thank you for your new mercy every day. Sift my heart, Lord, and make me faithful to respond to You alone. I ask again for Your healing touch upon that woman. You know her name. You know her need. Send a faithful one, that she might know and experience Your love through another. Please, Father. Don’t allow my shortcomings to rob her of Your blessings.

 If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:13

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The Secret of Holiness

I have to confess, the last several weeks have been hard. I’ve experienced all manner of emotions, walking alongside my mom and dad through her cancer diagnosis while simultaneously preparing my oldest son to leave for college. Joy mingles with tears. Hope battles fear. Thankfully, the Prince of Peace reigns.

And as I seek His face, I am reminded of the glorious purpose revealed through suffering.

Holiness.

Today’s blog is an excerpt from a book the Lord ministered to me through last year, Secrets of the Secret Place. Today, He drew me back to these pages, and I felt compelled to share them with you. May you also discover the glory of the secret place.

The Secret of Holiness

Bob Sorge

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. Psalm 24:3-4

LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart. Psalm 15:1-2

… Holiness is not an inherent quality we carry; it is a derived quality that we take on. Holiness has but one source, the Holy One. Holiness has to do with proximity to the throne. The seraphim are called “holy ones,” not because of who they are but because of where they are. They are “holy ones” because they live in the immediate presence of the Holy One! I am holy to the extent that I abide in His holy presence.

I used to define holiness more by what we don’t do, but now I define it more by what we do do. Holiness is found in drawing near to the holy flame of the Trinity. There, anything unholy is burned like stubble, and all that is holy is enflamed and made hotter.

“For the LORD God is a sun” (Psalm 84:11). As my Sun, the Lord is my light, my warmth, the one around whom my life revolves, and He is the one who brings forth fruit from the garden of my life. His Spirit waters my life, His word nourishes my life, and His face is the power that causes the fruit of my garden to grow. As a planet revolves around the sun, I want my life to revolve around Christ. I want to be a planet, not a comet that swings by every 300 years only to return to the darkness. And I don’t want to be a Pluto, hanging out on the furthest fringe. I want to be close—blazing with the same holy fire that radiates from His face. …

Holiness is much more than simply clean living. Holiness is a life lived before the throne of God. The Scripture says of John the Baptist that “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man” (Mark 6:20). John was not simply just (clean). He was much more than that; he was also holy. He was set apart to God, carrying the presence of God, a man of heaven living on earth. John lived in the presence of God—which is why Jesus called him “the burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35). Just and holy men cause kings to fear. They’re not just pure; they also burn with the flame that emanates from their fiery abode around the throne.

Holiness is to prayer as fire is to gasoline. When a holy man or woman prays, explosive things happen. We don’t pursue holiness for the sake of power, we pursue holiness for the sake of love. But those who pursue holiness out of affection for Jesus become very influential in the courts of heaven. James 5:16 links holiness and prayer: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Things change on earth when a holy man or woman, with a cultivated secret life in God, prays with passion and urgency to the Lord he or she has come to know and love.

God is so committed to bringing us into this holiness that He is willing to do “whatever it takes” to get us there. The Bible points out that the main purpose of God’s chastening in our lives is primarily “that we may be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). If we will respond properly to His disciplines, they inevitably lead us via the pathway of repentance to true holiness. When the chastening first comes, it feels like God is trying to kill us. But if we will persevere in love, crucifixion and burial is followed by resurrection!

I want to close this chapter with this powerful truth: Holiness produces resurrection. As certainly as chastening produces infirmity and brokenness, holiness produces resurrection, deliverance, and healing.

It says that the Lord Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). In other words, it was Christ’s holiness that precipitated His resurrection. …

…You can’t keep holiness buried forever. Even if you feel dead and buried under the weight of God’s disciplining hand, devote yourself to His holy presence. Regardless of your shattered dreams and deferred hopes, live in the secret place of the Most High. It is the secret of your redemption. As you love Him from your grave, you are setting powerful spiritual forces into motion. Joseph was buried in prison, but because of his holiness they couldn’t keep him buried forever. The longer you try to keep a holy man buried, the more force must be exerted to keep him there; and the more force that’s exerted to keep him buried, the higher his resurrection will eventually be. Keep Joseph buried too long, and he’ll rise to the heights of the palace.

The grave could hold the Holy One only until the beginning of the third day. Death’s grip gave way, and Holiness rose to the highest place:

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

Practice the holiness of His presence, O weary saint. It’s inevitable—holiness will rise again!

 

Excerpt from: Sorge, Bob. Secrets of the Secret Place. Grandview: Oasis House, 2001, p. 136-139.

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When Enemies Take God’s Ground

After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. 1 Samuel 10:5a

Scripture is packed full of hidden treasure waiting to be uncovered. I believe 1 Samuel 10:5 holds one of those valuable gems.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem to offer anything too extraordinary. I passed over it many times without much pause.

But my ESV Bible offers literal Hebrew translations to many significant words, and this time something stirred in me to check out the footnote. To my surprise, I read the following words.

Gibeath-elohim means the hill of God.

Let’s try inserting the meaning into the sentence.

After that you shall come to the hill of God, where there is a garrison of the Philistines.

Do you see it, dear one?

I’ll ask the question you should be asking. What in the world is a Philistine garrison doing on the hill of God?

Think it through a moment. A blaspheming enemy of God had been permitted to build a fortified stronghold on God’s property. Enemy troops were dwelling on God’s hill and oppressing God’s people.

How could this possibly happen? How could something that belongs to God come under the control of God’s enemy?

It only happens one way, beloved. The people of God allow it.

Perhaps you’ve believed that God’s possessions could never come under the oppressive rule of His enemy. Scripture disagrees.

In fact God repeatedly entreats His people to draw near and obey His voice so that He may bless them. He also warns of the consequences of neglecting to do so.

“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you…The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies…” Deuteronomy 28:15, 25

I don’t know about you, but I find that thought unsettling. When God’s people don’t obey Him, He causes our enemies to defeat us.

 I can’t help thinking of James 4:6.

 “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

When we don’t choose to draw near and trust God’s voice, He actually opposes us. And the enemy gets to set up camp on God’s holy hill—with permission to oppress His people.

Isaiah 63:18-19 describes what people who have surrendered God’s ground to the enemy look like.

Your holy people held possession for a little while; our adversaries have trampled down your sanctuary. We have become like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are not called by your name.

Do you see it, dear one? When the adversaries of God are allowed to trample His sanctuary—His dwelling place—the people of God resemble the rest of the world. They are just like those who don’t bear His Name.

Beloved, those words describe much of the present church.

Our wandering from the Word of God has allowed the enemy to set up camp in God’s dwelling place. We call ourselves by His name but bear no distinguishing mark of His presence. The same oppressor who has his way in the world is having his way in the lives of God’s people.

That shouldn’t be, dear one. The people of God should bear the mark of His hand upon us. His blessing should be evident to the world around us.

Do you want to experience the favor of God, dear one? Do you long to know the power of His anointing on your life?

Join Him in His purpose. Get the enemy off His ground by committing to obey His voice. Only then will we see God reveal Himself.

We’ve all experienced wonder at the stories of the Old Testament. We marvel at the miraculous defeat of a giant by a boy with a sling and a stone. We shake our heads at the idea of the fortified walls of Jericho crumbling at the shout of God’s people. We are amazed when considering Gideon’s band of 300 defeating an enemy of thousands.

One common denominator connects those miracles, beloved. Each time a child of God stood in faith to remove an enemy from God’s ground and establish the rightful place of God’s people.

None of God’s heroes were trained in warfare. They didn’t bring special expertise and experience. They simply chose to believe what God said. And their faith released the favor of God—the arm of God—to move on their behalf and accomplish His purpose.

We are desperate to see God move, but we’ve focused on the wrong things. We want God’s favor to promote our own agendas. But God’s favor falls when we join His.

Let’s obey God’s voice and get the enemy off His ground.

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Will You Pray With Me?

He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Psalm 107:20

I write today from the deep places of my soul.

This world is sick, dear one, ravaged by the dominion of evil. Separation from our Creator has left us deeply wounded. Instead of life flourishing, it withers under sin’s curse.

And that curse has reached into the heart of my family as right now two dear family members fight to see life triumph over stage four cancer. Yes, two of them. Sisters. Two beautiful, God-fearing women who love Jesus, who did not even know they were sick until recent diagnoses revealed an enemy working in secret.

Yet hope stirs within me because I know my God. He is good; that truth never changes. And He has a way of revealing His greatest glory against a backdrop of suffering.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13

Our flesh rejects that command. Rejoice when you participate in suffering? Perhaps we find it so difficult to rejoice because we don’t really believe in the promise.

You may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

I believe, dear one. I believe with all my heart that glory is about to reveal itself in our midst.

I can’t say how, exactly. I just know that it is. God is stirring my heart with a hope, a vision that slowly takes shape but has not quite come into focus. It remains partially veiled.

Some people believe that leadership is all about showing strength. If that’s true, I’m no leader. I write confessing my need.

Will you join me at the mercy seat, beloved? Will you come with boldness to the throne of grace?

You see, amazing things happen when the people of God unite in prayer—especially in the midst of adversity. The saints uniting over Peter’s arrest made shackles fall from his hands and removed him from a locked prison. United prayer ignited the fires of Pentecost, unleashing the power of the Holy Spirit that birthed the church. And when Nebuchadnezzar ordered every prophet killed if no one could tell him what he had dreamed and interpret it, friends joined Daniel in prayer, releasing unknowable wisdom that saved them all.

So I invite you to pray with me, beloved. But the healing I seek isn’t just for my mother or her sister. Not just for the hearts of my sons who may fear an uncertain future. Not just for supernatural strength to serve those I love with grace.

I seek healing for the body of Christ. My heart longs to see Christ’s glory revealed in the lives of His people. This isn’t merely a desire. It is a deep longing birthed in the Word of God and gaining strength as the Spirit kindles its message within my heart.

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. Isaiah 61:2

Jesus seeks to reveal the power of His name.

So I ask you to join me in prayer over my mother’s surgery on Friday. But I also ask you to pray for me over the next few weeks as I seek the face of my God to lift the veil on what remains hidden. A new Bible study bursts forth from my heart, one that I believe God will use to awaken His church to the hope of our calling, giving us understanding that will release the power of God in our midst.

Our enemy doesn’t want to see God’s people living in victory. But the One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. Will you join me in prayer to see God’s kingdom come?

Thank you, dear one.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Psalm 27:13

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How You Are Affecting the Headlines

And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. Luke 6:33

“Don’t hate evil more than you love good.”

I read those words in a Facebook post a few days after the Dallas shootings. A police officer had posted a heartwarming story of a woman and her little boy who approached him to thank him for his service and pray for his safety. He shared how the kind gesture had touched him deeply and ended his post with this advice.

Don’t hate evil more than you love good.

The statement is simple, yet profound. Perhaps you should take a moment to contemplate it.

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Most of us would readily agree that we hate evil. We see its handiwork unfolding before us, getting much nearer than we ever anticipated it could. And far too many have personally felt the agony of its reach.

And we stand appalled, as we should.

We hate evil.

But hating evil does nothing to stop its movement. The real problem—the reason evil’s reach continues to expand— is that the people of God haven’t embraced loving good.

Don’t get me wrong. We like the idea of good. And we certainly like to think of ourselves as good people. But we rarely take the opportunity to release some good into someone else’s life.

We may think about it, but we don’t often do it.

Hear my heart, beloved. A great chasm exists between hating evil and loving good, and if we‘re honest, we’d have to admit that most of us dwell there.

It has a name.

Complacency.

And when we float along in the sea of complacency, nothing changes. Evil continues to harm.

Yet we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re doing our part, because we hate evil. So we voice our outrage. We join the ranks of those casting blame. We shake our heads in disgust at those who do violence. We accuse.

But that’s all we do. And our anger over the evil we hate only swells its tide, feeding its wrath and giving it strength.

Because hatred itself was born out of evil.

Beloved, only something contrary to its nature can overcome it. If we want to see evil defeated, you and I need to embrace God’s command in Romans 12:21.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Only good holds the power to stop evil, dear one. Simply hating evil won’t overcome it. Evil will suffer defeat when God’s children begin to take on His nature and express His goodness. We must learn to love good more than we hate evil.

How? By giving of ourselves.

By taking time to stop and pray with someone in the middle of our busy day instead of simply saying we will. Or blessing a stranger by paying for their meal in a restaurant or offering help when we see them struggle. We love good when we send an encouragement to a hurting neighbor or make them a hot meal.

Goodness—the nature and character of God—released into the world around us will begin to diminish the enemy’s power at work in our midst. We overcome evil with good.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus said in Matthew 7:19,

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Failing to produce good fruit is useless. Anything else only feeds evil. Expressing love is our answer. Giving of ourselves even when it’s not comfortable. Because love is never about what we say, it’s always about what we do.

 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18

This generation cries out for hope. People long to know and believe that the evil rising in our midst won’t win. You and I hold the means to prove it. The Spirit of God who only gives good gifts (James 1:17) dwells within us. Let’s let Him loose!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

Beloved, the tide of evil will only diminish when we begin to love good more than we hate evil. When our actions—not just our thoughts—begin to release goodness and love into the world.

I’m game. Are you?

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Feeling Powerless? Drink!

Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. Proverbs 25:25 ESV

The Gospel is good news.

Literally. That’s what it means.

And it is good news. The cross of Christ changed everything, offering what nothing else can. Forgiveness. Redemption. Identity. Healing. Resurrection life. Restoration. Wholeness. Power. Transformation. Grace.

But for some reason we don’t share the message of the cross like its good news. We act like we don’t want to bother people with it.

Huh? Somehow the enemy has convinced us to fear sharing the hope that will help people. That will quench their thirst. That will heal what’s broken, revive and restore.

Good news is like cold water to a thirsty soul, beloved. So why aren’t we more excited to share it?

I have a theory, based on my own experience.

While we smile and enter our churches all dressed up and ready to worship Jesus, inside we’re not at all sure the gospel offers any real power—at least not while our feet still kick up dust on this earth. Life hasn’t changed much—except that we set an alarm on Sunday—and we don’t want to look bad when the message we share doesn’t live up to their expectations.

Because we ourselves still thirst.

We’re dry. Broken. Bitter. Powerless. Weary. We sing praises to the name of Jesus, but our lives too closely resemble the lost we’re supposed to save.

And so we reason that the promises of scripture are future promises instead of now promises. And we settle for just getting by, with no real zeal for advancing a kingdom that seems to promise much but deliver little.

I get it. I’ve been there. But what if the words Jesus proclaimed to a thirsty woman at a well are actually true for us today?

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”” John 4:14 ESV

Sounds pretty fabulous to me.

Jesus said that in Him it’s possible to never thirst again. Ever. Can you imagine it? To never feel dry and unsatisfied but always filled and refreshed?

Well He said it, dear one. So the question really boils down to whether or not you believe it. And if you say you believe it, will you live trusting the principle, or will you settle for less than what Jesus has promised you?

Jesus claims that the water He provides will become a spring welling up within us until life flows—both in us and from us (John 7:38). Eternal life that doesn’t fade.

Ever present refreshment that won’t permit thirst.

But Jesus also gives a condition to experiencing those promises. We must drink the water.

We can’t just talk about it. It does no good to memorize scriptures about it. We have to drink it. Consistently. Deeply.

But we haven’t drunk deeply, beloved. We’ve sipped of His Spirit on Sunday mornings. And we expect the life of God to manifest in us while we live the majority of our lives ignoring Him.

It doesn’t work that way, dear one. We must drink the water to experience the life it gives. 

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We have to meet with God and partake. Only then can the water within us well up to produce life.

Then we will be changed.

And that change will compel us to offer that water to everyone we care about. Because when we have drunk deeply from the living water, allowing it to do its work—reviving our own souls and restoring our own brokenness—how could we not share the resurrection life we have been given?

 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 1 Corinthians 4:20

 God’s Word is true, dear one. Let’s prove it.

Drink.

Then drink more.

And keep drinking until you no longer remember how it feels to thirst.

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Where is God? He’s Waiting.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Isaiah 30:18

Most of us don’t like waiting, especially for the good things we desire. But we’ll do it when we believe the outcome is worth waiting for.

Our opening scripture reveals that God also waits. What does He wait for? To be gracious.

Let that thought sink in, beloved. The Lord waits to be gracious to you. He longs to pour out His favor and show you mercy. He simply waits for the opportunity.

So what provides that opportunity? What is our God of grace waiting for? He reveals it in verse 15.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

God waits for His people to return to Him. He waits for us to stop trying to handle everything ourselves and to rest in His strength.

But He also reveals our problem at the end of that verse.

But you were unwilling.

It’s really an amazing picture when you think about it. God—our Creator—mighty, yet full of mercy, longs to empower His people with the blessings of His grace. But we are unwilling to return. So He allows us the free will to choose to deny Him.

And His heart breaks as He watches us stumble in our pain.

Returning and rest release salvation, beloved. You may be wondering why those two elements are important to God. It really goes back to the whole reason He made man in the first place.

He didn’t create us to be slaves or puppets to serve Him. He didn’t need us. He desired to create living beings into whom He could pour His love. He made us for relationship.

He created us to enjoy Him, and so He could enjoy us. He made us to share life with Him, allowing us the privilege of drawing on all that He is.

But it only works when we come close.

Jesus revealed the desire of God’s heart in His passionate prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His arrest.

 “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24

Do you see it, dear one? Jesus is after one thing. Togetherness.

He wants us with Him. And He waits for us to return, so that once we are with Him, He may be gracious to us, as He’s always desired to be.

Amazing.

We’ve let the deceiver convince us that God is after so many other things. Our service. Our sacrifice. Our money.

He really just wants us with Him.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

Don’t miss the significance of verse 10, dear one. The promise of salvation isn’t just about living with Him in heaven after we die. It’s offered here, while we live and have not yet fallen asleep.

Let’s give God the desire of His heart, beloved. Let’s live with Him.

Let’s return to Him with our whole hearts and allow Him the great joy of being gracious to us. Nothing gives Him more pleasure.

You’ll discover the same is true for you.

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What is God Keeping You From?

Following Jesus isn’t getting any easier, is it? While God’s plumb line for distinguishing right and wrong has remained eternally the same, the world’s keeps changing. Things that our grandparents would have considered appalling have become commonplace. Acceptable. The lines have blurred, and so have our convictions.

Dear one, allowing anything other than God’s truth to shape our thinking leads to trouble. Sadly, tasting the sweet enticements of this world eventually results in death.

Kelly Minter witnessed this lesson experienced the hard way.

Lessons From a Lizard

Last week I was out for one of my neighborhood runs on an exceptionally hot and humid day in Nashville. Stifling is the word that comes to mind. I was about 20 minutes into my route when I noticed the oddest thing on the sidewalk . . . a lizard of some sort . . .about 9 inches long . . .

The really bizarre thing . . . is that its head was stuck in a Dr. Pepper can. I am not making this up. I have several theories, but my best one is that the glistening drops of sugary water lured this reptile in on a hot summer’s day. The poor little thing had worked so hard to wedge its head in there that it couldn’t get it out. It suffocated in the smothering heat.

. . . I couldn’t help but catch the symbolism. As I stood there staring at this peculiar sight, I thought of the many times I had discovered a few drops I thought were sure to offer life. They were sugary sweet and went down smoothly, offering a respite from the blaze of summer’s heat. . . In the end they left me more thirsty and desperate than before . . .

[Kelly Minter, No Other Gods, Lifeway Press, 2007, p.54-56]

Funny how some things are so easy to walk into but so impossible to back out of.

Have you ever found that to be true? At first something seemed so appealing, so right, so perfect. So you went after it. But once you got yourself in, you discovered a whole other side you hadn’t bargained for: the death side. The part that, had you known about it up front, would have stopped you from ever going in.

Beloved, God sees all of it, including the danger lurking just beyond the temptation. That’s precisely why He has established boundaries for us, not to keep us from experiencing the sweet, sugary taste of momentary refreshment, but to protect us from the suffocating death that accompanies it.

The enemy has been deceiving and tempting us out of God’s protection since the Garden of Eden. Perhaps it’s time we got wise to his schemes.

Look at God’s instructions to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17.

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Pretty straight forward, right? Eat anything you want, except this one thing that will bring you death. Simple enough.

Enter the serpent.

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

God tells us one thing. The prince of this world suggests something else.

That’s where our enemy always begins, dear one, getting us to question God. He raises doubts about His motives, His goodness, His trustworthiness. Did God really say . . .

  • Sex is only for marriage
  • Wives should submit to their husbands
  • Drunkenness is sin

Then he makes us believe we’re forfeiting something by obeying God.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5

And here’s the really tricky part. The deceiver always offers some truth in his deceptions. Their eyes were opened (verse 7), and they did become like God in the sense that they would know both good and evil (verse 22). But what really hurt them—what devastated them— was what the enemy failed to reveal: the consequences of experiencing those things.

Had the serpent given full disclosure, I’m quite certain Adam and Eve would’ve made a different choice. But that’s not his way. No, our enemy reveals only what we’d perceive as benefit to entice us. The rest of the dark horror that follows he keeps hidden, relishing the moment we’ll discover it for ourselves.

Picture Adam and Eve experiencing a rush of emotions they had never known before. Shame. Fear. Guilt. Isolation. Blame.

Imagine their terror as each chilling feeling gripped them and they began to face the reality of what they’d done. Feel the awareness creeping over them that the relationship they’d known with their Creator was lost. Sadly, that wasn’t the end of their pain.

Seeds of sin that we allow the enemy to cultivate in us don’t just sprout immediate fruit. They continue to birth consequences long after they’ve been sown, even transcending generations.

As a mother of two boys, I’m especially stricken by the unimaginable grief that must have consumed Adam and Eve as they suffered the loss of their beloved son. I wonder if they held Abel’s lifeless body in their arms, staring in disbelief into the vacant face of the first dead man.   Far worse must have been the knowledge that he was taken from them at the hand of their firstborn. In one terrible moment, jealousy and rage—two devastating results of their choice to sin—stole their two oldest boys from them forever.

Beloved, when you disregard God’s instruction, you may experience a momentary thrill. But what follows will devastate you and those you hold most dear. Sin’s consequences are not always immediate, but they will always come.

Sin's consequences aren't always immediate. But they ALWAYS come. Click To Tweet

This is precisely why salvation comes through faith, dear one. We must decide whose voice we will trust to guide our steps. Will we follow the voice of Truth who always gives us full disclosure? Or will we trust the enticements of the world’s prince and allow him to deceive us into death?

I don’t know about you, dear one, but I choose Jesus.

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How You’re a Lot Like My Dogs

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8

The morning didn’t exactly go as planned.

It was supposed to be a nice walk in the woods at a local park catching up with a dear friend and former prayer partner. Great plan. Until she suggested I bring my dogs.

I knew they could use the exercise and would love the adventure. And I could picture our little Jack—only a year at the time— happily bounding along with his heart full of wonder on only his second time exploring a trail.

But I also knew having my little darlings along would greatly alter the dynamic of our time together. I wasn’t sure. She said bring them.

I brought them.

Excited is a bit too small a word to describe Jack’s mood.

All his lessons of heeling calmly at my left vanished as though they’d never happened. I guess his sidewalk experience didn’t translate in the woods. I found myself severely tempted to take him off the leash.

He repeatedly bounded ahead up the trail darting from one side to the next sniffing everything, often tying me and Jen up with crossed leashes. And there seemed to be some discrepancy between the dogs over who deserved the right to lead.

Let’s just say Jen and I didn’t set our pace.

We told ourselves they were just excited and would soon calm down and keep pace with us. It was a good thought.

Little did we know that half way around the loop the trail would narrow to single file, only intensifying their bids for first place. Up and down they pulled us, over fallen limbs and under leaning branches.

Through lots of laughter and panting breaths, we managed to share a bit with one another. But I can’t help thinking how much more enjoyable our time would have been without all the tugging and straining.

Always straining after what's ahead diminishes our present blessings. Click To Tweet

Not just for us, but for the dogs.

By the time we made it back to the car, the soft fur under their chins hung in soaked strings from their excessive panting. Exhaustion had so overtaken Annie that she missed out on one of her ultimate joys: feeling the wind on her face while riding with her head out the window. Apparently after all that exertion, it was too much effort to sit up and rest her head on the car door. Instead, she lay sprawled on the seat, panting heavily.

I had a mess to clean up when I got home.

We may chuckle at the silly antics of lesser creatures, but God’s been showing me that we humans are a lot like those dogs. We insist on striving and straining for more, always tugging at God, trying to pull Him in the direction we want to go.

And we want to get there fast!

But all our tugging only pulls us further away from Him. And we don’t get to enjoy the incomparable pleasure of just being with Him.

Funny, isn’t it, how instead of simply receiving and enjoying the blessings God gives us, we insist on striving, even in the midst of them. Rather than savoring each moment, we dart ahead to see what’s coming around the next corner.

No wonder God’s Word speaks so often of rest.

God isn’t holding back from us, dear one. He’s always giving. That’s His nature. God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), and He loves so deeply that He gives (John 3:16). He’s simply waiting for us to receive. Yet instead of resting in what God is giving, we tug and strain, trying to force our way into grace.

I’ll let Paul ask you the question God’s been asking me.

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Galatians 3:2-4

Beloved, no amount of striving on our part will usher us into what faith alone can reach.

While I can know that truth in my head, I still often find myself compelled to want to do something to catch myself in the flow of His grace. Reason suggests: If I …, then God will …

Yet God’s Word shouts the simplicity of grace freely given, and beckons us to believe it.
You and I don’t need to keep striving after the things we’ve already been given, dear one. We need to rest in them. We need to believe God when He says that we have them and press in close. Exercising that faith ushers us into His abundant grace.

Oh, how I love Jesus.