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Don’t be Fooled by False Evidence

And he identified it and said, “It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” Genesis 37:33

On March 7, 2020, my husband and I boarded a plane for an island in the Caribbean to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Some dear friends joined us for their 30th, and we enjoyed a fantastic week together sharing in the wonder of God’s goodness. We returned on March 14th to a world turning upside down in fear of Covid-19.

International travel restrictions compelled me to stay home in self quarantine for 14 days. By the second day, I began to feel ill. Although I had no cough or fever, a dizzy head and aching body unsettled me. A nagging fear began to whisper that I had picked up the deadly virus and was putting my family at risk.

After 12 days with no change, I called my doctor. He confirmed my suspicion that I likely didn’t have Covid-19 but had picked up some other virus which should soon work itself out.

The achy, viral feeling eventually ended, but I didn’t return to feeling normal. Dizziness continued to plague me in waves, along with a strange, floaty feeling in my arms and legs. A new fear slowly emerged from my history, “Your thyroid has stopped functioning properly again, and you’ve come out of remission.”

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease. An overactive thyroid caused my systems to operate in overdrive and was particularly threatening to my heart. Medication and a radical diet change brought me into remission, allowing me to avoid the looming options of surgery or radiation. Praise Jesus, He healed me! I have been medication free for well over a year.

Until the voice began to whisper that what God had done had been undone.

As the symptoms continued, I became more and more convinced that was the problem, and I called my doctor to get a new prescription to carry me through the next few months of pandemic lockdown. He refused to give me the medication without checking my blood, so I made the journey to a lab. Two days later, I received the call that my thyroid was operating in normal levels, and he would not give me the medication.

Why do I share this with you? Because our enemy is a deceiver who manipulates our hearts and minds through fear.

He works to separate us from what God has spoken, and he even fabricates evidence to substantiate his lies. He is the ruler of the kingdom of the air, playing at our hearts with suggestion. And over those weeks while fear oppressed this nation with increasing power, I allowed the enemy to convince me that a lie was true. Had it not been for a conscientious doctor, I would’ve created a greater problem by taking unnecessary medication.

Beloved, our enemy fabricates evidence to convince us to agree with him instead of God. He uses fear to persuade us that the worst is true.

Our opening Scripture offers a perfect illustration of his tactics. Jealous over their father’s affections, Jacob’s sons had sold their brother into slavery. To cover it up, they took Joseph’s robe—a gift from Jacob—and coated it in animal blood. When they presented the bloody robe to their father, they didn’t utter a word. They simply presented the evidence.

The deceiver then led Jacob to a false conclusion. “A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.”

Jacob was certain of the conclusion he’d come to. Without doubt. Unfortunately, he was convinced of a lie. Joseph was alive and well, repositioned by God to Egypt where He would use him to save and bless a nation.

Our logical conclusions often lead us away from truth. I wonder, dear one. How often does the enemy author your conclusions, convincing you that his lies are true?

Another lie crippled a nation and kept Israel from entering God’s promises. When Moses sent spies to check out the promised land and bring back a report, they returned with evidence proving the land was bountiful, just as God had said. They also brought back a lie based in fear.

And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them. Numbers 13:33

The spies saw the evidence presented to them—giants possessing the land God promised them—and came to the conclusion that those giants saw them as insignificant insects. But who told them that the inhabitants of Canaan thought of them as grasshoppers? Where did that perception come from?

Decades later, when Joshua would finally lead Israel into that very land, God exposed the truth. Joshua’s spies found refuge from Rahab. I’ll let her tell you why she helped them.

“I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Joshua 2:9-11

While fear had told Moses’s spies that the people of the land saw them as grasshoppers, reality was quite different. Their hearts were melting in fear of the God of Israel, and they were convinced of their own destruction. They were still convinced of it, 40 years later.

If only Israel had entered the land at God’s command to claim their victory! Instead, they partnered with the lies of the enemy—rejecting both God and His promises—and lived out the rest of their lives in the scarcity of the wilderness.

Wilderness beliefs can’t enter God’s promises.

Oh, dear one. Let’s stop letting the enemy convince us his lies are true. Let’s stop settling for the devil’s wilderness when God offers a land flowing with abundance.

We need to know the Truth to recognize the enemy’s lies. His name is Jesus.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6

Invite Jesus to show you the way into Truth that leads to life. He won’t disappoint you. He can’t.

His perfect love will cast out fear and lead you to the Father’s abundance.

 

 

The Power of Giving Thanks

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sometimes gratitude hurts.

Life isn’t always kind, and when we find ourselves struggling over circumstances we wouldn’t choose, we don’t naturally feel grateful. In fact, we tend to get angry. Even bitter.

Yet our opening scripture suggests that God desires for us to give thanks in all circumstances. Every one. That includes the good and the bad.

This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, beloved. Gratitude.

 Why would gratitude be so important to God? Perhaps verse 19 offers some insight.

Do not quench the Spirit.

Ingratitude stops the flow of the Spirit, hindering God’s work in our midst. Praise and thanksgiving, on the other hand, release God’s Spirit to move.

You see, thanksgiving carries us into His presence.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4

 I don’t know your present circumstances, dear one, but I do know a God who desires to reveal Himself in the midst of them. And sometimes—when life seems hardest and the view seems darkest—offering a sacrifice of praise may be the very thing that ushers God’s presence into your mess and changes things.

How do I know? It happened to Paul.

In one of his darkest moments, wrongfully imprisoned and chained in stocks, Paul offered God a sacrifice of praise.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. Acts 16:25-26

Beloved, perhaps God’s ready to release you—and even those around you—from whatever oppressive prison has been holding you.

Depression. Bitterness. Illness. Fear.

Thanksgiving may be the key that unlocks your miracle.

Tomorrow we celebrate a day of Thanksgiving. Don’t let the holiday pass without fixing your thoughts on the One from whom all blessings flow. Whatever you’re going through, offer Him praise.

And if praise feels like a sacrifice, beloved, offer it anyway. Because when circumstances suggest that God has abandoned you yet your lips offer praise and thanksgiving, hell trembles.

And heaven releases power-packed grace.

What Are Your Choices Costing You?

“Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.” 1 Kings 8:61

We love to celebrate God’s grace. His love and mercy offer so much blessing we don’t deserve, we often find ourselves tempted to think our choices don’t matter. God forgives, so we trust He overlooks the little things. Especially if our lives produce good kingdom works.

I wonder if that’s what Solomon believed.

Solomon inherited the kingdom of Israel through God’s promise to his father, David. Even Solomon’s birth unfolded in wrappings of grace, evidence of God’s redemption after his father’s grievous sin with Bathsheba and his attempts to cover it up.

But David’s sincere repentance unleashed marvelous blessing upon his son. And God gave Solomon a kingdom he had not earned.

When the time came for Solomon to take his throne, David gave him these instructions.

“Now therefore in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, observe and seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and leave it for an inheritance to your children after you forever.

 And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” 1 Chronicles 28:8-9

Solomon started out dedicated to God’s ways. He sought God’s wisdom and God honored him, exalting him high above all other kings. Solomon built God’s earthly dwelling place, a glorious temple of gold, and his kingdom prospered with wealth and peace. God blessed Solomon, just as He promised He would.

But Solomon had one area of his life that he neglected to submit to God, one fleshly appetite he continued to feed in spite of God’s Word on the matter.

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 1 Kings 11:1-4

In spite of God’s warnings, Solomon clung to foreign women who did not follow Israel’s practices. And just as God predicted, Solomon did the unthinkable.

Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. 1 Kings 11:7-8

Unbelievable. The son of promise entrusted to build God’s house on earth also erected places of worship to other gods—demons who defied his God—on the mountain east of Jerusalem.

Why? To please his wives—the ones God warned him not to marry. Solomon allowed his appetite for women to pull him away from heeding God’s words.

And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. 1 Kings 11:9-10

 Did you catch it, dear one? On two separate occasions God appeared to Solomon to warn him and call him to repent. But Solomon refused.

Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.” 1 Kings 11:11-13

Like his father, Solomon enjoyed the remarkable privilege of hearing from God. Another similarity also unites them. Both found themselves caught in sin, pulled away from God by the strong desires of their flesh. Yet one marked difference separates the legacies of these two men.

David loved God more than his sin, so he fell on his face in repentance when God confronted him through the prophet Nathan. And God poured out blessing that could not be undone.

Solomon loved his sin more than he loved God, so he built altars that defied Him. His refusal to repent cost both him and his children eternal blessing.

I have to ask, beloved. What are your choices costing you?

God kept His word to Solomon, exalting Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s servants, to rule over the kingdom of Israel.

“But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand and will give it to you [Jeroboam], ten tribes. Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. And I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel. And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.” 1 Kings 11:35-38

Nothing would keep God from keeping His promise to David. He watches over His word to perform it. But Israel became a divided kingdom because of one area of unsurrendered ground in Solomon’s heart. And his inheritance—the blessing that would also pass to his children—diminished to 1/12 of the blessing God had intended for him.

I wonder, dear one. What blessings are we cutting off from our inheritance because we don’t walk in God’s ways with all our hearts? Do we daily deny our Lord through appetites that defy Him?

In the days of the kings we just read about, the cross had not yet defeated sin. Sin still had authority to rule and reign within man’s heart. Yet God still held them accountable for their sin in every way their hearts denied Him.

 How much more will He hold us accountable on this side of the cross, beloved?

Jesus freed us from the bondage of every sin. Fear. Lust. Greed. Selfishness. Pride. No stronghold remains that Jesus did not defeat. He has given us the power to overcome every fleshly appetite.

Repent, beloved, and rise to receive your full inheritance.

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.

Enter In

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:5-6 NIV

A delightful inheritance awaits you in Jesus Christ.

Whether you believe it yet or not, God has wonderful plans for you. He has drawn your boundary lines in pleasant places. The only catch is, you need to go claim that ground.

Many of us—dare I say most of us—are stuck floundering in desert places while the promised blessings Jesus made available to us lie just ahead.

I’m tired of the desert. Aren’t you?

The Israelites once stood where you now stand. Their feet camped on desert ground while the land God promised them remained just that: a promise.

God told Moses to send a representative from each of the twelve tribes to explore the land He’d set before them and bring back a report.

They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” Numbers 13:27

Imagine that! They found the land exactly the way God had described it. God had called them out of Egypt by faith, but He didn’t stop there. He allowed them to witness the bounty of His provision with their eyes. Not just a promise. A reality.

Surely they would run toward their allotted inheritance! Unfortunately they also saw something else.

But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. Numbers 13:28

Suddenly an adversary appeared bigger than their God.

Fear overshadowed them, erasing their witness of God’s faithfulness. It didn’t matter that God had kept His word and led them to a beautiful land. And they quickly forgot that God had vanquished their Egyptian enemies before their eyes with a grand miracle. In that moment, they could only see the powerful enemy that lay ahead of them.

And they were afraid. So they stood still.

Rather than trusting God for the victory He had promised, they chose to remain in the desert. And they grumbled against God for bringing them there in the first place.

So much for “seeing is believing.”

Dear one, how often have we convinced ourselves that if only we could witness the miracles described in scripture, we would believe? We insist that we would easily trust and follow if we could see the things the Israelites saw.

But the Israelites saw. And they still didn’t believe.

Beloved, if we don’t possess the faith when we don’t see, we aren’t going to possess it when we do. Just look at the Israelites. Seeing didn’t translate to believing.

If we don't possess faith when we can't see, we won't possess it when we do either. Click To Tweet

But one among the crowd did believe. His lone voice rose to proclaim God’s faithfulness.

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” Numbers 13:30

Amazing. Caleb chose to trust that the God who redeemed them was stronger than their adversary. The rest of them argued, claiming they couldn’t win against this much larger enemy. They spread a bad report throughout the camp, and “that night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud” (Numbers 14:1). Their fear led to this conclusion, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (verse 4).

Really? After all they had seen God do on their behalf, they thought their best option was to head back to the slavery He had delivered them from?

You and I can easily judge Israel when we read their story as history. But we also just as easily behave just like them.

Beloved, Jesus stretched Himself out on a cross to purchase your inheritance. And your victory over the enemy who has held your ground is guaranteed.

… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37

But He calls us to take up His Word—the sword of the Spirit—and go to battle to claim it.

Yet like the Israelites, we label our enemy too powerful to overcome and never draw our sword. Instead we choose to grumble at God from the desert. Even worse, we run back to the slavery from which He rescued us.

What if you and I determined instead to rise like Caleb, choosing to believe God’s promises even if no one else around us agrees with us? The world may tell us there’s no point in fighting, but God’s faithfulness remains sure. If we will trust Him for His promises—even if we have to stand alone—He will prove Himself. He did to Caleb.

Caleb’s faith ushered him into his inheritance.

600,000 men left Egypt with Moses to journey to the land God promised them. Only 2 actually entered and took possession of it. Caleb was one of them. The rest of them died in the desert because of their unbelief.

Dear one, let’s not die in the desert when a delightful inheritance stands within reach.

Exposed…And Set Free!

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7

We spend a lot of time hiding.

Who we truly are.

What we really think.

How we really feel.

Our hiding began the moment seeds of sin embedded in man’s heart. Those seeds bore immediate, unwelcome fruit.

Shame. Guilt. Regret. Fear. Blame.

And that fruit still does what the enemy intended. It makes us hide.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:7-8

Adam and Eve found themselves naked. Exposed. So they did what they could to cover themselves and hide their true condition. But their hiding only distanced them from God.

Distance remains the enemy’s goal, dear one. He wants to separate us from our Creator so that he can render us powerless.

But while we might feel better with a little distance, the God who created us does not.

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” Verse 9

God’s intense love for man pours out from the pages of Scripture. He pursues us. Always. Disobedience doesn’t withdraw His affection. Rejection doesn’t stop His pursuit. We may run from Him, but we can never really hide.

Yet we still try. And He still calls us out from hiding.

Like Jesus did to a woman hiding in the crowd in Galilee.

He was on His way to Jairus’ house to heal his dying daughter. The crowds pressed in on Him, enjoying the spectacle this extraordinary Healer brought to their ordinary lives.

But one in the crowd had no interest in the spectacle. She needed the Healer.

For 12 long years she had suffered with a discharge of blood. She had spent all she had on physicians, yet no one had helped her. Her misery continued.

And shame engulfed her. This condition wasn’t just an inconvenience. According to Jewish law, her constant bleeding made her unclean. Defiled. Unworthy.

Twelve years she had born this burden. Alone. Hiding. Hating her existence.

And then word reached her of a Healer from Nazareth. One who made the blind see. Who healed withered hands. Who raised the dead. And something took hold of her that had eluded her for a long time.

Hope.

I can picture her slowly making her way through the crowd toward Jesus, heart pounding wildly with every step. And then she was there. Close enough to touch Him, staring at the back of her Savior.

She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. Luke 8:44

Imagine her wonder as knowledge set in. The bleeding had stopped. She knew it. It was finally over. Or at least she thought it was. A voice interrupted her private celebration.

And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” Verse 45

Familiar emotions surfaced immediately. Fear. Guilt. Shame.

She said nothing. The crowd clamored denial, and Peter responded with earthly logic.

“Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” Verses 45-46

The wild pounding in her chest ceased momentarily as realization dawned. He knew.

And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. Verse 47, emphasis mine

She confessed everything. The woman hiding in the shadows unveiled herself before everyone present, baring her shame.

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Verse 48

I have to ask, dear one. Why did Jesus do it? Why call her out in front of all of those people?

He already knew the answer to His questions. He knew exactly what had happened and who had touched Him. He had the ability to discern thoughts. So why expose her? Why not let her have her private, personal moment with Him that no one else was privy to?

Why, indeed.

Beloved, Jesus had more to offer that precious woman than physical healing. He could’ve let her slink back into the darkness, but then she would’ve missed the greater healing she so desperately needed.

She still would’ve carried her shame.

The only way to penetrate darkness is to let light in. And this dear daughter had spent 12 long years hiding. Feeling less than. Unworthy. Unclean. Separated.

When she willingly chose to expose herself to Jesus in front of the crowd she feared, He set her free. From all of it. Public opinion no longer mattered. Fear no longer controlled her.

Jesus made her well.

What are you still hiding, dear one? What grips your heart in oppressive darkness?

Expose it, beloved. Death lurks in darkness. Life is found in the light.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:2-5

Free to Choose

But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive. Jeremiah 13:17

For reasons beyond our understanding, God chose to hand the earth He created over to the dominion of man (Genesis 1:28). It pleased Him to give us a say in what happens here rather than force us to cooperate with His desires. You see, love is only love when it’s offered freely.

So He set His perfect will in place over His creation, and He gave man the authority to choose whether he’d walk in those blessings or live according to his own plans.

He chose poorly.

I sure wish Adam had taken hold of the truth revealed in last week’s opening scripture.

“For the simple are killed by their turning away… but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” Proverbs 1:32-33

Adam turned away from the protective counsel of His Creator and walked straight into disaster for us all. Why did He do it? He followed the wrong voice. He chose to trust the serpent instead of trusting God and found himself caught by the terrifying reality of Romans 6:16.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

The moment Adam did what the serpent desired of him and bit into that forbidden fruit, he became a slave to the one he obeyed. Sin entered his heart and took control of his will, tainting his desires with a bent toward destruction.

I can only imagine his horror as the tide of emotions brought on by his sudden knowledge of evil flooded his mind. Shame, guilt, fear, blame—all of which he’d never known—tumbled into his heart like a torrent.

I wonder if the realization even hit him in that moment that he’d lost his God-given position. One moment—one choice—diminished him from ruler over the earth to slave of the evil one, shattering his perfect world and altering the course of history.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. John 10:10

Indeed. The thief stole man’s dominion and claimed it as his own. There’s a reason evil increases with each generation. The reigning prince of this world manipulates mankind to see his agenda played out here instead of God’s.

And most of mankind blindly cooperates, powerless to stop it. Until Jesus . . .

God could’ve left us here to rot in our sin, dear one. After all, we chose it. But that isn’t what love does, and God is love (1 John 4:8).

So He sent Jesus—destined in God’s foreknowledge to become a perfect, sinless sacrifice— to bear our sin and conquer its power so that you and I could live free.

Do you see it, beloved? Jesus restored our right to choose. We don’t have to be carried away by the encroaching tide of evil. Instead, we have the ability to do what Adam failed to do. Set free by the blood of Christ, we can choose to embrace and loose the will of God.

That’s really what prayer is, dear one.

Prayer is the heart of a human vessel coming into agreement with the will of God and choosing to release it on this earth by faith.

That’s why Jesus instructed His disciples,

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10

According to Jesus, the primary objective of all prayer is to glorify the name of the Father and release His will on this earth as He has already prepared it in heaven. That’s why scripture can make so many extravagant promises about prayer, dear one. True prayer finds its source in Christ itself,

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:14

So let’s review. God gave dominion of the earth to man. Man handed it over to Satan. Jesus gave it back to the church. The only thing that can presently thwart the will of the enemy on this planet is the body of Christ releasing the will of God through prayer. That’s where you and I come in.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

And when you and I submit ourselves fully to the leadership of the Spirit, trusting God for His best for us instead of insisting on our own, miracles happen. When we willingly choose to agree with God and let loose His desires through prayer, blessings flow in Jesus’ name.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

I’m game. Are you?

 

Disabled by Fear

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

Have you ever had a moment that robbed your peace so suddenly and completely it felt like the ground you were standing on actually shifted? I had one of those last Monday.

Nothing particularly extraordinary happened. I simply received some news. But that news opened a door for a thought to enter my mind that I hadn’t considered before. And that one thought sent me reeling.

It’s amazing how a simple piece of information dropped into a conversation can change everything.

But the funny thing is, it wasn’t the news itself that caused the problem. It was what my heart suggested I do with it—the overwhelming sense that I should fear it. I didn’t have any concrete evidence to justify my fear. It was simply a thought—a whisper—a possibility.

But once I had it, I couldn’t get away from it. It repeatedly drew all other thoughts back to it, and every time it surfaced my heart pounded while my stomach churned. Because at the end of the trail that thought led me down, I saw pain for my family. Pain I didn’t want. Pain I was certain I couldn’t handle.

So my heart raced and my stomach turned. And I bent in submission to the fear.

Do you know, beloved, that you and I have a right to choose whether fear can have its way with us? If you have been redeemed and the Spirit of Christ dwells in you, fear has no right to govern you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear… (2Tim 1:7).

Yet fear does often govern us, doesn’t it? It did me. It took hold of me with such oppressive force, I couldn’t shake it. No matter how much I tried to regain control of my thoughts, I couldn’t. Instead, those thoughts, whispered by an unseen enemy, did exactly what they were intended to do. They threw everything I knew and believed as truth into confusion.

Can you relate, dear one? Have you, like me, ever beat yourself up for not having greater victory over your fear? For not managing it better?

Tuesday morning began the same way Monday ended. The moment my mind crept from its slumber and wakened to face the day, the oppression resumed. My stomach began its churning before my eyelids fluttered open. By the time I made it downstairs to get my boys ready for soccer, I was so overcome I didn’t know how I would function.

I had been leaning against the fridge filling a thermos with water when the tears came. I felt powerless. Helpless. I couldn’t get myself out.

And then I realized. I didn’t have to.

Leaning my head on the fridge door, I closed my eyes through the tears and whispered four words. “Come get me, Jesus.”

And He did.

It wasn’t immediate, but throughout the day peace slowly emerged. I found the strength to focus my thoughts and even managed a few hours of writing I needed to complete. The next day I discovered with joy that my worst fear would not be realized. The thought that fear had tried to convince me was certain remained what it had always been: a possibility, one that never came to fruition.

Dear one, the spirit of fear disables us. And while as believers sealed by the Holy Spirit evil spirits cannot possess us, they will work hard to oppress us and stifle the works God calls us to. I spent a lot of years bent under the oppressive spirit of fear. No more.

I recently read this passage from Luke 13 with fresh perspective. Perhaps it will speak to you like it did to me.

Now he [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. Luke 13:10-13 ESV

A disabling spirit had oppressed this dear woman—a daughter of Abraham (verse 16) —for eighteen years. Consider her posture. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself (verse 11). I can’t help but think of myself that morning, bent over in grief while I filled that thermos, unable to straighten under the weight of it.

Look what Jesus said to her. “Woman, you are freed…” Listen, dear one. Jesus has already set us free through the cross from every oppressive power. We don’t need deliverance; we’ve been delivered. Perhaps it’s time we believed Him and walked in the Spirit we have been given, one “of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7).

And in those moments when oppression comes so quickly and powerfully that we find ourselves bent under its force, it will not be our efforts that bring the victory. We need a touch of grace from our Savior.

And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. Luke 13:13

Death: The Door to Life

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

Death scares most of us. We spend the majority of our lives trying to avoid it. And no wonder. Death represents an end, ceasing to exist in the way we’ve known. What follows is unfamiliar territory. And most of us prefer the comfort of familiarity, even when what’s familiar to us isn’t all that great.

Like the way we feel about our sinful nature.

We don’t want to let go of it; it’s what we know.

It deceives us. It hurts us. It even harms the people we love. But we can’t fathom life without it. We fear the death of it more than we fear the pain it causes. So we rebel against Jesus’ command to crucify it.

Yet Jesus forever changed what death means for us as believers. He came to the earth and shared in our humanity,

. . . so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15

In Christ, we should no longer fear death. Jesus has conquered its power! Instead, He asks us to embrace it. Even seek it.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

Jesus challenges us to lose our lives for Him.

We read those words and our flesh kicks up. We don’t want to lose our lives. That’s death, and we’ve always been afraid of death.

But Jesus has freed us from that fear. In Christ, death isn’t an end, dear one. It offers a new beginning.

And Matthew 16:25 extends a clear promise: When you lose your life for Him, you will find it.

You will find your true life, beloved, when you’re willing to lose the one you have.

It doesn’t make sense to us. Logic wars against it. Everything in us screams to hold onto who we’ve always been. After all, it’s what we know.

But when you and I fear the death of our old nature and try to protect and preserve it, we settle for a less than life.

How can I say that? Jesus said it first.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Jesus wants you to experience life to its fullest extent. That happens when you stop living from your old nature and allow Christ to live through you.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

When you and I cease to live—when we put to death our sinful nature—Christ lives in its place. And that scares the enemy of our souls, because he knows he can walk all over us as long as we still live through our old nature. He governs that nature and can easily manipulate us.

But the enemy can’t do anything against the power of the living Christ. Jesus need only utter a word, and he’s undone. He’s powerless… feeble… nothing. And so he does all he can to convince you to remain in your own weakness. He whispers that you should fear death.

Beloved, Jesus has released you from that fear. It’s time to walk in the fullness of life Christ offers. Death has become your catalyst to abundant life!

Imagine it for a moment. What if you crucified your insecurity and let Christ’s assurance of who He Is reign in its place? What if you let go of bitterness and experienced the flooding of His love equipping your heart to feel joy again? What if you buried your self-centeredness so Jesus could replace your impatience and agitation with His perfect peace?

Abundant life awaits, dear one. You need only trust His Word.

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:4

Will you walk through that door and trust Jesus for your new life?