blind faith

The Dangers of Blind Faith

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 

1 John 3:1a

Recently, my pastor preached a sermon around our opening Scripture. His message challenged us to reacquaint ourselves with the Father’s love.

I wonder if some of us are still awaiting an introduction.

For many, God’s love remains a theory. We’ve heard about it. We quote Scriptures about it. We may even try to will ourselves to believe in it.

But John invites us to move beyond blind faith in God’s love. He challenges us to see it.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us…

Do you see it, dear one? Have you looked God full in the face and found yourself enraptured by His heart? Have you been caught by the fierceness of His love for you? If you aren’t sure, I’d guess your answer is no.

Many of us have been looking at God through a broken lens. Theoretically, we know that God loves. But something inside of us resists receiving the reality that God sees and desperately loves me. History’s wounds have distorted His truth and impaired our vision, leaving our belief system compromised. If we don’t have a clear view of God, we’ll operate in limited faith.

Take a look at what Jesus said in Luke 11:34-35.

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.”

Matthew 6:23 adds these words:

“… If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

You may not realize it, dear one, but your eye—your ability to see—greatly affects what you experience in this life. If your eye is good—if you see clearly and your perceptions are true—light fills your being. But when your vision is compromised and your eye is bad, your whole body fills with darkness. And not just a few harmless shadows. Jesus described it as great darkness!

“Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.”

Beloved, if the enemy can alter your perceptions, he’ll overshadow your light with darkness. And you will miss experiencing the graces of your salvation.

Isaiah 59:7b-10 offers a vivid picture of what false perceptions—thoughts of iniquity that defy God’s truth—will do.

… desolation and destruction are in their highways. 8The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peaceTherefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.10 We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men.

Precious child of God, are you groping in darkness? Do you look for light, only to find yourself experiencing gloom?

False perceptions—deceptive thoughts that oppose God—come from the enemy and have one agenda: to destroy. They rob us of peace. They hide our path. They release darkness where light should be, preventing Christ’s righteousness from overtaking us. They cause us to grope in the dark like the blind. 

That darkness has an astonishing result.

…among those in full vigor we are like dead men.

Behold today’s church, beloved. Many have become like dead men walking. Oppressed by the darkness. Hoping for light yet walking in gloom—and doubting God’s promises. 

1 John 3:14 sums up our problem.

Whoever does not love abides in death.

Death lingers where love is absent, dear one. We can serve God. We can worship every Sunday. We can read the Word and even memorize Scripture. But none of that matters if our hearts don’t run headlong into His. We need to receive and return the love poured out to us. 

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.

We will only operate in the power of our inheritance as God’s children when we see. We must invite Jesus to reveal who He truly is and allow Him to show us who we really are. Darkness has flooded Christ’s church, extinguishing His light. We have traded our joy for despair, our faith for hopelessness, truth for deceptions.

Let’s proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, liberty for captive hearts, and recovery of sight for the blind.

Lord Jesus, help us to see! 

Love Bears All Things

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24

We all long for love, and we think we understand it. We’ve felt its pull binding our hearts to another and think we know.

We don’t.

Love is so much more than we have understood it to be. Love revealed itself fully in the shape of a cross.

Don’t let familiarity with Easter’s story diminish its impact, beloved. Invite God to open your heart to a fresh reality, a new depth of understanding.

Love obediently surrendered Himself to a cup He didn’t want. Love endured pounding fists and baseless accusations. Love remained silent while mocking soldiers pounded a crown of jagged thorns deep into His brow. Love felt strips of leather and bone tearing flesh from His back, life and strength diminishing with each crimson spatter. Then Love stumbled in the street under the weight of a wooden cross.

A cross that wasn’t His. A cross that belonged to you and me.

How could Jesus do it? Why would He want to?

Scripture answers that question for us. He did it for the joyset before Him.

… Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2

You are that joy, dear one. His love for you compelled Him. He saw the weight of sin breaking you, hiding the untapped potential within your soul and stealing your life. And He created a way to release you from it.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24

His wounds have healed you, beloved. They brought death to sin, conquered its power, and released His righteousness in its place. 

Love did that for you, child of God. Because,

Love bears all things.1 Corinthians 13:7

God has captivated my heart with the meaning of that scripture. The Greek word bearsin that verse is stego. It means to cover, as a roof covers a house. 

Take a moment to contemplate that picture. The love of Christ has created a new dwelling pace for you. It conceals, covers, and protects from exposure to harmful elements. It offers you a place of safety, a shelter from the harsh realities of this world.

But it only becomes that shelter to us if we enter it. 

Have you entered into the love of Jesus, dear one?

I only ask because I almost didn’t. I believed in a Name, but I hadn’t opened my heart. And professing Jesus as Lord while withholding your heart doesn’t save. It simply stacks a religious weight on the load you already bear. And that burden will rob you of the very joy that the cross set before you.

Grace is found through death and resurrection. The old passes away, and a new nature rises in its place. But that resurrection only becomes possible one way. We must open our hearts to love. 

You see, our broken, hard hearts keep love out, and God IS love. Our self-protective walls reject the very answer our souls long for. If we withhold our love from Jesus, we deny the healing His cross bought us. And we will miss the blessings of resurrection life.

But if we will open our hearts to Jesus and let His love become ours—if we will offer Him our broken hearts to mend—a miracle occurs. We come alive in His love! And from that place of freedom, we become a shelter for others.

Ann Voskamp describes it this way. 

“Real love is a roof. Real love makes you into a shelter, real love makes you into a safe place. Real love makes you safe.”

(Voskamp, Ann. The Way of Abundance. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2018. Print. p. 98)

Have you entered into Christ’s love, beloved? 

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

We cannot say we have entered into love when we keep fortifying the walls around our hearts to keep people out. Only a real encounter with Love (Jesus) will free us from the fear of loving others.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18

When we boldly enter into the shelter of Christ’s love, we become an extension of it. We become a safe place for others to run to in a storm. Freed from fear, our love becomes a roof over another.

So very different from the wolves of this world who bite and devour. 

Choose love, beloved. Trust Jesus to open and fill your heart.

And you will live!

Save Now, Jesus!

And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”Mark 11:9-10

We come alive in pivotal moments. Our souls sense the rise of a changing tide and are quick to submit to its power. We love the significance of feeling a shift in the atmosphere, and something in us longs to participate.

That changing tide caught the crowd on the first Palm Sunday. The people could feel something in the air. Prophesies promised centuries ago were breaking through to fulfillment in their generation. 

And they couldn’t hold back their excitement. The crowds encircled Jesus, their voices crying out praise. “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Hosanna. Save now!

The people believed their hearts were ready to receive their Messiah. They spread their cloaks on the road and waved palm branches they had cut from the fields in honor of their King. They declared themselves ready for rescue, to leave the oppressive shackles of the Roman Empire and see their own promised Kingdom established.

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

Their hearts cried out for Jesus to save them. What they didn’t understand at the time—what we still struggle to understand in our day—is that true salvation requires surrender.

The people wanted Jesus to save them, but they wanted it on their terms. They wanted to define what it would look like. And it when it didn’t look like what they expected, they turned on Him.

Less than a week later, the rising tide caught the crowd again. Only this time, it turned their hearts against the One they had declared their saving King.

And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.Mark 15:12-15 

Beloved, how does your heart respond when Jesus doesn’t save the way you thought He would? When His answer looks different than your heart’s cry?

Does your heart stay true, trusting the One who declares He works ALL THINGS for your good? Or do your circumstances dictate whether Jesus becomes your Savior or your enemy?

Trusting Jesus means trusting Him fully. 

If we don’t get that up front, we’ll find ourselves rejecting Him. His ways won’t look like we expect them too. At times darkness will seem to overshadow His light. And that’s when you and I will need to choose, dear one. 

Will we allow ourselves to be caught again by the rising tide of fear that discredits Him? Or will we surrender all that we are to trust His love?

We aren’t ready for rescue if we’re the one telling Jesus what it should look like. In that scenario, we’ve invited Jesus to submit to us as lord—and that removes Him from His position as powerful Savior.

Oh, dear one. Salvation comes through surrender.Salvation comes when we trust Jesus to be Lord over us. When we trust Him to do what He must. Because He knows best.

Jesus IS love, beloved. It’s not what He does. It’s who He is.

And He cannot operate outside of love. He will always choose what’s best, even if it’s what’s hardest.

Like He chose the cross. 

The people thought they needed new government. Save now, Jesus!

What they really needed were new hearts. Hearts that wouldn’t harden over disappointment. Hearts that wouldn’t reject the very help held out to save them. Hearts that could love with heavenly love.

So, Jesus made the hard choice. He risked everything to save their fickle hearts—to save our fickle hearts. He risked being misunderstood. Risked rejection. Risked being hated. 

Because Jesus is love. And He always gives what’s best.

To receive His best for you requires surrender, dear one. It requires softening your hardened heart and opening it to trust. To trust His Way. To trust His Truth.

Only then will you experience His Life.

God is Doing a New Thing!

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 NIV

Hello, dear one.

It’s been five months since I last opened the Scriptures with you. I can hardly believe that time has flown so quickly! I’ve missed sharing God’s Word with you. Thanks for sticking around.

I’ll be honest with you. When God called me to take a Sabbath rest from my weekly teaching posts, I wasn’t sure what that would mean for the ministry.

Don’t get me wrong. I looked forward to the rest. The freedom from weekly deadlines. Time for my body to heal and to seek the Lord with new fervor. But humanly, it’s hard to let go of the work and trust that when you return, you’ll still have people to serve.

I’ve come to believe that rest requires more faith than work does. Rest trusts that God will still do His thing while you rest from yours. That He still holds everything together for you. That nothing slips from the gaze of the One who never sleeps.

And as I connect with you again during this season of rest from blogging, God has been so faithful. He has never stopped working and moving in this ministry. In fact, as 1 Corinthians 2:9 challenges us to believe, God has exceeded my expectations.

But, as it is written, “… no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Have you ever experienced a beyond imagining move of God in your life? I pray you have, dear one. But if not, I invite you to trust Him for more. He may just knock your socks off.

These past months I have sought God’s heart over His vision for this ministry, asking Him to articulate our mission so we could step boldly into His plan. Three simple statements have emerged that encompass our calling:

Reveal Christ.

Live Truth.

Love People.

Simple, yet profound. Our mission in a nutshell. Reveal Christ to a needy world through our character and our faith. Live according to His Word, releasing the power of His Truth.

And love.

Really love.

Everyone. Not just those who love us. We need to love those who don’t.

Why?

Because love is God’s heartbeat, beloved. Love describes His very being. God doesn’t just love in action (Romans 5:8). He is love (1 John 4:8). And His love holds the power to redeem and transform.

But it must be given. Freely.

“Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:8b NIV

Like Jesus did.

We must learn to live from our heavenly identity and catch people with Christ’s love. Because when love enters, darkness trembles. Hell cowers to God’s presence. And lives change.

I believe that with all my heart, dear one. And I aim to let God prove it.

So, we have stepped in faith to invest in a ministry space. A place where we can teach God’s Word, gather churches to pray, and to minister to hurting people. A place to store provisions for needy families and introduce the broken to God’s love.

And as we stepped in faith, God moved! He brought others to us who wanted to invest in what we’re doing. Builders, plumbers, and electricians offered time and resources to build our offices. A business donated desks and office equipment. Volunteers helped move our Love LIVES donations from our old storage facility in just a few hours.

And now we look at what God has built in a few short months with awe and gratitude. His Spirit leads with vision for the days ahead. And joy floods my heart for what He has yet to do beyond my ability to dream.

So to mark this new phase of ministry, we’ve developed a new logo, centered on the Word of God and boldly proclaiming our mission.

Thanks so much for being a part of our journey. We invite you to join us in our mission.

Reveal Christ. Live Truth. Love People

It will change everything.

Take a quick peek at the warehouse God has blessed us with

Below are photos from our new Love LIVES warehouse where through God’s provision, we meet the needs of abuse victims and broken families in our community. It offers an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus by providing for financial, physical, emotional and spiritual needs. In meeting the most basic of human needs, we build trust. This lays a foundation that enables us to share the love of Christ and the good news of the Gospel.

We invite you to join us in all the new things God is doing through prayer and financial support.

When God Says Rest

When God Says Rest

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Hebrews 4:9-10

Two years ago, after a women’s conference at my home church, I had the opportunity to share a word of encouragement with the speaker. I didn’t know at the time that God would intertwine our paths and allow us to serve alongside one another at several future events. But as I hugged her and withdrew, offering her smiles and warm words, she looked deep into my eyes and spoke a word to me.

“God says rest.”

Her gaze seemed to reach into my soul, and I sensed my Father in it. Her message reinforced something God had already been stirring up in my heart. He called me deeper. To the abiding place, where I would no longer go in and out from His presence. Instead, I would remain there. In that place, I would learn rest in Him.

I acknowledged that to her, and she spoke once more.

“It’s deeper. It’s deeper than that.”

Her words have lingered, surfacing off and on these last two years as I’ve sought to fulfill the call God has placed on my life. I know with certainty that God calls me to deep rest. But I’ll be honest with you. I haven’t known how to find it.

And all the while, Galatians 6:9 beckons relentlessly.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Sometimes our mandates from God can become the very thing the enemy uses to destroy us. The slave driver convinces us to bow under oppression once more. Only this time, we bow in the Name of Jesus. After all, we must continually sow if we hope to reap.

That thinking seems right—even noble—at first glance. But it negates another equally important mandate, one that God finds so significant, He incorporated it into the ten commandments.

“Remember the Sabbath… to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8

God extends two invitations through scripture that seem at cross purposes. Tireless perseverance. And Sabbath rest.

Do you ever find yourself caught in the pull of these two callings? I do. And let’s be honest. If our hearts lean toward Kingdom purposes, the one we more readily let go of is rest. We keep going. Pushing. Believing that God will honor our faithfulness and look with praise upon our efforts.

But does God ever turn a blind eye when we willfully dishonor His Word?

Beloved, God takes His Sabbaths seriously. We often get caught up in work. God wants us caught by Him. And you may be surprised that God links our Sabbaths with how much He will prosper our sowing and reaping.

“When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.” Leviticus 25:2-5

Perhaps you’re wondering how the Israelites were supposed to survive a year without sowing and reaping. God anticipated your question and gave His answer in verses 20-21.

 “And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years.”

Israel would work for six years and reap an average harvest. But when they rested in obedience to God, He would provide an abundance.

Oh, beloved. Isn’t that what our hearts yearn for? God’s own provision? I will command my blessing on you… a crop sufficient for three years.

When we trust God with Sabbath rests, people will witness Him. They’ll see God manifesting in ways He never could when we’re busy doing everything for Him. They’ll see a harvest that does not match our efforts, but instead surpasses it.

They’ll witness glory.

You see, beloved. Rest takes trust. It trusts that God will keep His Word and provide. It acknowledges that the harvest doesn’t rest on our shoulders, but on God’s.

But what happens if we refuse? What if we insist on working straight through His Sabbaths? God will remove us from our inheritance.

“And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.”

“Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it.” Leviticus 26:33-35

God manifests through grace, and only humble faith taps into its generous flow. God invites us—has invited me—to trust Him with rest. The invitation once gently offered through a serving sister, “God says rest,” no longer surfaces and retreats. It resounds.

So I am tucking myself away with my God for a while, remembering the Sabbath, and doing all I know to keep it holy. You see, that second part remains the most important. We’re not to rest from God. He is our rest. In our Sabbaths, we visit with Him. He fills us. Nourishes us. Equips us to keep doing the work.

Jesus spoke of Sabbaths in Mark 2:27.

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

I will be taking a break from sharing my Word on Wednesday for a bit—at least through the end of the year. We’ll see what God reveals to me in that time and if He releases me to resume in January. I smile inwardly, considering that this month will complete 6 years of official ministry and continual, weekly sowing. No detail goes unnoticed by God.

I invite you to pray for me. For healing. For discernment. For revelation. For rest.

I look forward to watching Him bring His harvest.

When Praying for Something Costs You

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

I. Love. Cheese.

Passionately. Cheddar. Asiago. Parmesan. I’ve always lived by the mantra that cheese makes everything better. Especially when melted.

Until recently, that is. A surprise autoimmune diagnosis this summer after several weeks of not feeling well stole dairy from my life in one shocking moment of disbelief in a doctor’s office. I wish I could say that was all. Hopelessness began descending like a heavy weight as the doc ran down the list of things I couldn’t eat while we try to reset my digestive system so my immune system stops attacking me.

Essentially, I’m allowed to eat meat, fruits and vegetables. Oh, and nuts. The doc was kind enough to throw nuts back in the mix, removing them from the off-limits list after a glance at me. Apparently, he has a soft spot for women on the verge of tears.

I think perhaps we all go through times when life seems to throw one curveball after another. This has been one of those seasons. And dealing with loss, two cancer diagnoses, ministry challenges, and hurting children seems a little easier with comfort food.

I’ll admit I gave in momentarily to that inner dialog that occurs when something doesn’t seem fair. I already eat far better than my immediate family members. I exercise regularly. Logic says this shouldn’t be happening to someone who tries to take good care of her temple.

But suddenly I find myself in a place where God is requiring more. And when I first heard the news, I wasn’t sure I wanted to give it.

Who wants to give up cookies, brownies and ice cream? Or even mashed potatoes, for crying out loud? And let’s not forget the cheese.

But even before I met with God in prayer to begin to sort all this out, I knew. He was in this. This filtered into my life from His own hand. You see, I’ve been asking Him for something for several years. Something I prayed with bold faith and expectation. This broken vessel has been crying out to God to manifest the work of the cross in my life. I have repeatedly asked Him to empower me live the promise of Galatians 2:20.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The crucifixion of our flesh is something we like in theory but rarely care for practically. It’s one of those themes in scripture we often skirt around. We may have the guts to crucify things we view as big, obvious sin. But what about those things that don’t appear to us as sin at all? What about things that may even appear good to us but somehow hinder the race He’s called us to run (Hebrews 12:1)?

I have repeatedly asked Jesus to put to death every bit of my flesh that resists Him. I want His Spirit to reign over every part of me. And I believed my words as I proclaimed these desires to the Savior who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Until He began to show me how much I really resisted Him. Apparently, I didn’t mean the part that loves cheese and baked goods.

We humans tend to compartmentalize. We’ll readily give Jesus access to some places. But others we reserve for ourselves. We’ll give Him our service, but we guard our cravings. Some part of us believes we have a right to them. And we wrap it all up with the notion that our God of blessing wants us to be happy.

And He does. He just wants to be the source of that happiness. He wants us living bound to the notion of Psalm 16:11.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

God doesn’t want us seeking to find joy in His blessings. He wants us knowing He is the blessing.

God doesn’t want us seeking to find joy in His blessings. He wants us knowing He is the blessing. Click To Tweet

Sometimes surrender is easy. Sometimes we go kicking and screaming. But the question remains. Will we go?

Will we ask Him to take us to His very best for us and be willing to follow where He leads? Will we go even if no one else goes with us?

Even though my flesh at times resists Him, I’m thankful for a God who answers prayer. And even though the road is often hard and bumpy, He’s worth the trip.

The death of my flesh isn’t the only thing I’ve been asking God for. I’ve also been praying for wisdom and understanding of His Word that will break open the darkness binding much of the church and release His bride to shine brightly in the beauty of the cross.

Look at what link He just showed me again in scripture.

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.… And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. Daniel 1:8, 20

God honored Daniel’s fast with wisdom and understanding that astounded the world. Only He knows how He’ll honor mine.

I’m not arguing with God anymore. Hopeful expectation has overshadowed that feeling of hopelessness. The King of Kings stands ready to move in my life as I willingly submit and trust Him with my future.

He won’t disappoint.

Oh, beloved. What are you willing to seek God for?

stubborn hard heart

The Danger of a Hard Heart

Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble. Proverbs 28:14

Sometimes life just gets hard. Particularly when you have to watch people you love suffer. We hurt when they hurt, and we don’t like it. So when people or circumstances inflict pain, our hearts get a little stony toward those responsible. We want to shut them out at best, and at worst, give them a taste of their own medicine.

But something happens when we allow our hearts to harden toward people. They begin to harden toward God.

You see, God loves people. He’s for them. All of them. And He offered up His Son on a cross to rekindle selfless love in the hearts of humanity. So the still, small voice of Jesus will incline our hearts toward mercy. Forgiveness. Love that covers a multitude of sin. Truth.

And when we insist on something else—anger, bitterness, retribution, deception—we harden our hearts to the leadership of our Lord. If we persist in denying Him, we will find ourselves in serious trouble.

Look at how God responds to perpetually hardening our hearts to His voice.

And now, because you have done all these things, declares the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim. Jeremiah 7:13-15

When we allow our hearts to harden toward what God is speaking, we harden our hearts toward God. And when we bear His name—claiming a position in His house—He will not tolerate our refusal of Him indefinitely. When we persist in disregarding His Word, eventually His presence withdraws and we relinquish the safety He brings.

That’s not all. God added this astonishing command to Jeremiah in verse 16.

“As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you.”

Can you imagine how Jeremiah must have felt hearing those words? God commanded him not to pray for these people who bore God’s name.

Judgment had fallen against the people of God. And Jeremiah couldn’t stop it. God told him not to even try.

I wonder if that thought unsettles you like it does me. God instructed Jeremiah not to intercede. He would not hear prayer on the matter. Surely this seems out of God’s character.

But this wasn’t the only time it happened. Here’s another.

For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart…”

 Again the Lord said to me, “A conspiracy exists among the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers. Therefore, thus says the Lord, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. Jeremiah 11:7-11

Did you notice in both passages that God warned them persistently? Over and over, God extended mercy, imploring them to respond. Yet these members of God’s house repeatedly rejected His cries, refusing to acknowledge His desires. Their hardened hearts unleashed consequences that could not be undone.

And again God commanded Jeremiah.

“Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.  What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds?…” Verses 14-15

Oh, brothers and sisters. Verse 15 brings me to my knees. What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds?

Indeed. What rights can we expect God to honor when we abuse our position in His house? How long will He suffer us to disregard Him when He speaks?

Are you listening, beloved?

It’s easy to feel discouraged by the condition of the church today. In many places, an enemy has misconstrued grace for license. Holiness seems foreign. The people of God resemble the world far more than Jesus. We build our own kingdoms with little regard for Christ’s.

Yet with all of this, something stirs deep within me.

Hope.

You see. God hasn’t commanded me not to pray. Quite the contrary. His Spirit calls me to my knees. And that, beloved, means we have not yet wandered so far that we can’t return.

Do you hear Him calling too?

As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Hebrews 3:15

God speaks, beloved. Our future depends on how we respond.

The Power to Live Your Calling

We need each other.

As much as we may like to think we can handle things ourselves, scripture teaches that we need one another. God Himself declared His thoughts on the matter in Genesis 2:18 after forming Adam from the earth’s dust.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

For five straight days, God opened His mouth and spoke creation into being. Light emerged. Then ground as water separated. Then plants and animals. And each time, God looked at what He’d made and declared it good.

Until He made man. He saw that he was alone, and declared it “not good.” Adam didn’t even realize it, but he needed a helper.

You, dear one, need helpers too. We all do. We were never created to work alone. We were made to live together and help one another.

Even Jesus needed people. He called together twelve that would help Him. And although Jesus went off by Himself to pray, He ministered with people. When He sent people out, He never sent them alone.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” Mark 11:1-3

And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.” Mark 14:13

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. Luke 10:1

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:2-3

Apparently, God still thinks it isn’t good for us to serve alone. We need helpers. But I wonder if you noticed a common thread woven through each scripture. God chooses them.

The same way He spoke creation’s story, He’s spoken yours. He has knit together the perfect plan and chosen the perfect people to help you accomplish it. But you’ll only discover it when you seek Him to reveal it. Even Jesus had to seek His Father’s direction over who would serve with Him.

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles. Luke 6:12-13

Have you opened your heart to new, godly relationships? Are you connecting with the body of Christ, or do you allow the enemy to pull you away and separate you?

Tremendous blessings fall when believers unite in Jesus name for His purpose. Jesus shared one of them in Matthew 18:20.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Jesus manifests when we unite in His name.

You may have noticed that elders laid hands on Saul and Barnabas before sending them out in ministry (Acts 13:3). God has captured my attention with another mention of laying hands.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Timothy 1:6

Take a moment to meditate on that scripture. Paul writes that Timothy received a spiritual gift through the laying on of hands, and he charges him to fan it into flame. I can’t help thinking of Jesus’ words, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Jesus manifests when we gather in His name.

1 Timothy 4:14 offers this additional information about Timothy’s gift.

Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

Paul paints an interesting picture for us. Believers uniting in Jesus’ name, seeking God’s will to declare over their brother, released the heavenly power to accomplish the task. Romans 10:17 seems appropriate here.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

What if the faith exercised in believing Christ’s word spoken over a believer releases the grace to accomplish the task—ignites the spiritual gift?

Scripture gives us lots to chew on. But on this point, God remains clear. He wants us uniting with Him and others to advance His kingdom.

Perhaps it’s time to open your heart to those He’s called you to serve with. He may just speak your calling into your heart through one of them. And this principle calls to us from Genesis to Revelation.

Faith accesses grace.

Believe, child of God.

And receive the power to live your calling.

Don't let your guard down, enemy devours

Don’t Let Your Guard Down

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” Matthew 13:24-25

Every year as spring begins its march toward summer, I prepare for a season of gorgeous, knock-out roses by feeding and protecting our bushes with a systemic fertilizer and insect repellant. Well, almost every year.

Not this one.

This year just got busy, and I didn’t make the time.

And my lack of preparation left me with a nasty, tedious task: hand-picking Japanese beetles from the plants that were feasting on the leaves and new buds.

I know I’m supposed to love God’s creatures. And I do. Most of them. But my experience with these beetles has me almost convinced that these creatures weren’t part of God’s original creation. Like the thorn, they must have come after the fall.

You see, I can’t see what benefit they bring. They eat everything, leaving destruction in their wake. Buds that began with unhindered potential for flourishing beauty never get their opportunity to open. Instead, these creatures devour them, biting holes right through the layers of delicate petals until the bud withers and dies on the stem without ever opening.

Buds created with promise never satisfy their purpose.

And those clingy, crawling creatures had access to my garden because I got lazy. I let my guard down and rested from the work instead of doing what I know to be best for my plants.

Proverbs 6:10-11 and Proverbs 24:33-34 offer this sobering warning.

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

When God repeats Himself, we should take notice. Slumber allows poverty to overtake us like an armed man. Just like folding my hands allowed an enemy to destroy my roses.

I can’t help thinking that’s precisely how our spiritual enemy works in our lives. He waits for us to let our guard down, then lands where we’ve given him access and eats away at us little by little, leaving holes and scars that rob our potential. And if permitted, he’ll continue to nibble away until the glorious beauty that God wove into our DNA withers without ever blooming.

You know that’s his goal, don’t you? He doesn’t want you to become who God created you to be. So he steals, kills, and destroys (John 10:10), hoping you’ll never discover you hold the power to defeat him.

1 Peter 5:8 clearly describes his intentions.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Like those beetles in my garden, our enemy devours. Thankfully this verse also offers the means to our defense. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Know he’s coming, dear one, and proceed with diligence. Don’t let complacency give him a foothold.

 Trust me. I learned from those beetles. It’s easier to block his access than to remove him once you’ve given him ground. And scripture is your systemic fertilizer. It provides what you need to grow strong and repels the enemy’s advance.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7 

You and I can’t get lazy about feeding on scripture. It’s our lifeline.

Take the time to read the Word, beloved. Meet Jesus in it. His Word is your impenetrable defense against the enemy. And if you have stumbled and given him unwanted access, don’t despair. Keep planting seed.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

It’s Christ’s power that defeats your enemy and establishes you.

His Word releases His power.

When God Sends a Storm

God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. Job 37:5

Monday morning, I awoke wondering whether the little island off Tampa Bay we’ve come to love had survived Irma’s vengeance. My parents fell in love with Anna Maria Island, FL about six years ago after stumbling upon it on Craig’s list. And after visiting them there just once, it claimed my heart as well. A few years ago, we purchased a town home there that has been a place of healing and rest for my parents and others. With Irma’s wrath descending on Florida Sunday, we didn’t know if we’d have a home to go back to.

We’re still waiting on word of the damage. But as we’ve seen a few images in news reports, our hearts praise God for His mercy and grace! That narrow strip of land surrounded by water on all sides didn’t get crushed by the anticipated storm surge.

Others, I know, weren’t so lucky. Images of Harvey’s flooding in Texas haven’t even cleared our screens, and now our eyes fix with horror on the devastating effects of this monster storm, leaving more havoc in its wake. Simultaneously, fires burn in the west.

Our hearts may be tempted to cry out, “Where is God?” We look at this devastation and feel abandoned. I’d like to suggest to you that the presence of these storms proves the opposite.

Look at what Job 37:2-12 teaches about God’s power.

Keep listening to the thunder of his voice and the rumbling that comes from his mouth. Under the whole heaven he lets it go, and his lightning to the corners of the earth. After it his voice roars; he thunders with his majestic voice, and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard. God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.…

From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world.

Scripture leaves many things unexplained, but who controls the weather isn’t one of them.

God alone stirs up storms, beloved. No wave, or wind or raindrop falls except in response to His instruction. Creation knows its Master, and as Jesus proved when He walked the earth, the wind and waves still obey Him.

I realize the idea of God stirring up storms may make some people uncomfortable. After all, we’d rather view God through the lens of His mercy and grace. God sending something so destructive doesn’t seem to fit our preferred view. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

Lamentations 3:38 proclaims this undeniable truth.

Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?

To declare God only in control of the good that happens in this world robs Him of His sovereignty. As if an enemy had the power to send a storm against His will while He fixed His gaze elsewhere.

No, dear one. God alone loads the clouds with moisture and sends them turning.

They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world.

He tells us why in verse 13.

Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.

Verses 12-13 leave no doubt that God sends storms with purpose. For correction. For His land. And for love.

I can’t help wondering if God’s movement in these storms was inspired by all three. After all, the United States began as His nation—His land—one nation under God. How His heart must break over what we’ve become. A divided nation. With many gods.

Can you recall what filled our news screens before pictures of flood waters took over?

Charlottesville.

Words like hate, white supremacy, and racism filled every news cycle. Murder unfolded before our eyes, and we watched in horror as a man drove his vehicle at high speeds into a crowd. People everywhere turned on one another, hurling accusations and taking sides.

A divided nation. With many gods.

Then the Most High summoned the wind and the rain to fall on the Texas shore. All eyes fixed on Houston, and the dialog changed. Hatred and supremacy gave way to an outpouring. Generosity exploded in the hearts of this divided nation, uniting us in a common purpose. God’s image surfaced on our news screens as ordinary people made extraordinary rescues, risking their own safety for their fellow man.

Color didn’t matter.  Neither did class or income level. Harvey made everyone equal. And a nation began to pray.

Then as an unprecedented storm gathered strength and headed toward our shores, we prayed some more. And the strength of that storm diminished, leaving far less damage than anticipated in many places. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Now the question remains. Will we continue to pray? Will we continue to unite for God’s redemptive purpose? Or will we soon forget, and return to trusting what we build with our own hands?

If nothing else, Harvey and Irma have proven the dangers of trusting in our possessions. They are a false foundation, easily cracked and gone in a breath.

Oh, beloved. God works all things for good. He hasn’t stirred up these storms to punish. He brings correction. His thundering voice calls our eyes heavenward and our hearts to believe.

God once used another storm to chase down a wayward son. Jonah was fleeing His presence and purpose.

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Jonah 1:4

God seeks correction through storms, dear one. His goal is love.

Let’s not refuse Him.