Paul stood before Felix the governor. The High Priest brought in a lawyer to level accusations against him. Paul once again used this opportunity to present his faith in Jesus. Felix would call for Paul off and on several times.
I am struck by Felix’s reaction this time:
“As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”” Acts 24:25 NIV
Do we react as Governor Felix did? He was afraid when faced with his own shortcomings/ SINS. He told Paul he had heard enough for now, and he felt he could listen at his convenience. May that never be the way we respond!
The Holy Spirit points out our shortcomings/ SINS so we can repent of them. In repentance, there is freedom. Acknowledging that we have done wrong and we need forgiveness as well as the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome the SIN is the path to freedom from the SIN that holds us in chains! When the Holy Spirit points to an area of our lives that we have chosen sin over God’s way, may we be eager to repent!
Felix did not want to rely on God for freedom from SIN. He did not want to live as God wanted him to. He did not want to hear of the judgement he faced if he did not come to God in repentance. Felix wanted HIS own way above God’s. He thought he could come to God when it was “convenient.” He had his own power, position, and authority. He did not want to surrender in total obedience, total submission, and total dependence on God. He chose to remain in the darkness of his SIN.
May we have a soft heart towards the Holy Spirit and be quick to repent!
We really don’t know what it means to live in unity, oneness. Back in the garden when Adam and Eve sinned, separation became all we knew and still is all we know. Sin separates us from God and others. Death separates us from loved ones. We live our lives very familiar with being separated from the ones we were meant to be in unity/ oneness with here and now. It may be physical separation, emotional separation, or spiritual separation. We know nothing but separation, but Jesus came to end separation.
In this section of scripture, Jesus is praying to the Father and speaks of something that as a sinful human being seems impossible, even scandalous to believe.
“that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:21 ESV
Jesus speaks of Himself being one with the Father and being “in” Him. Then He prays that we are in them, the Father and the Son. We are invited into a life where separation from God is no more. We are invited to participate in His nature and to be His representative here on earth. We are invited to such closeness to God that we are one with Him: Having His mind, the mind of Christ, Having His Spirit, the Holy Spirit connecting us to Him. It is all about relationship with God, which is fellowship or friendship.
We settle for far less than we were intended to have by living after ourselves (our flesh) and not God. We want our own ways and to follow our own paths. YET We have the greatest invitation of all, to be united in oneness with God and to go with Him.
Jesus longs for us to be in Him and to experience Him fully. May our hearts cry be the same!
Awesome chapter! Well worth reading the entire chapter. There are some very famous words that start in verse 16.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:16-18 NIV
The words that are standing out to me today are in verses 19-21.
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:19-21 NIV
In Jesus, there is no reason to hide in the darkness of shame. We are free to come out into the light so that all we have done can be exposed to it. Shame makes that a scary thing. God wants us to have it out in the open so that we can repent of the wrongs we have done and be healed and set free.
There is no fear in letting God’s light shine into the hidden parts of us. His light is full of love and healing. He is our Good and Loving Heavenly Father who wants the best for us, Freedom!
Every once in a while, a memory of hard, traumatic, unexplainable events of the past will raise its ugly head inside of me. It tends to rock me to the core. Sometimes taking a while to get my mind off of it.
Today I was reading in Luke 24:1-12. It is the account of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary Mother of James going to the tomb of Jesus to put burial spices on His body. They find He isn’t there. Suddenly, Angels appear and one says “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” This phrase resounds in my heart today. The women had seen some of the most traumatic events of a brutal death of a loved one. They surely were processing what had happened trying to make sense. But they were instructed that there wasn’t anything there for them in the dead things of the past. Jesus was living! He wasn’t in the past He has risen!
Whatever we have walked through that was hard, painful, and death to us is not where Jesus is. He has risen!! He is not in the dead things of the past. He is alive now and forever more!
The song “I Will Rise” by Bethel has been on my play list this week. This morning has been a morning that I have it on repeat. It speaks of what I read in Luke.
“Beyond the burial, there's a resurrection Your will be done in me Oh-oh, Let my roots go deep And I will rise, I will rise He holds the time that I will rise”
Jesus calls us out of our graves of the past to stand in the present with Him! “I will Rise! God through my life be lifted high!” We have no time to be looking intently into the graves of our lives! Jesus is not there! The living life of Christ cannot be found in the graves of failure and pain! He is risen and we are seated with Him in the heavenly places of His victorious Kingdom! I will rise! Let Jesus rise in me!
I’m not sure when it started, the drift. My best guess is 5 years ago, maybe more.. That’s why it’s called a drift. You just slowly give up on or slowly release your determination to believe one way and shift another way. Then all of a sudden you wake up and realize you’re not where you used to be spiritually. Those around you may not even know you’ve been evolving slowly because you’ve been looking for and developing reasons to justify your unbelief.
My drift has stopped! Thank God! The past couple of years God has pulled me out of it and set me back on course. But every once and awhile I find myself thinking like I did when I was adrift. God has been faithful to point out “Is that really the truth?” To me over and over.
The past few weeks my eyes have been opened to another area I had let drift away- a desire to listen to the Holy Spirit’s direction, to hunger for Him to show me His will, and the earnest prayer for Him to fill me full of Him. I had put them in a file in my head called “Dangerous Prayers”.
In my mind “Dangerous Prayers” were… well… dangerous. Dangerous because it would require me to step out in faith as opposed to hovering in the shadows of fear. Dangerous because I would have to let go of my plans, my choices, and my will and obey God. That’s the irony of it all “Dangerous Prayers” are dangerous to a heart that wants to drift. Because once you pray them, sincerely and from the heart you are no longer drifting and flirting with unbelief.
“Dangerous Prayers” are really only dangerous to one person, our enemy, Satan. Our enemy knows the moment we sincerely pray from our heart to the Holy Spirit asking Him to fill us full of Him and to make us sensitive to His voice with a heart of sincere obedience, his plans for our demise are done. No wonder the enemy wants us to believe that prayers of surrender are dangerous!
Maybe it’s just me the enemy tries this on, but I bet it’s not. He tries to convince me that if I pray “Dangerous Prayers” then he will put me in his crosshairs and aim his firey darts more frequently. I assure you as one who has been there and done that, this could not be any more false. His attacks are relentless no matter if you cower in a corner afraid to pray or stand boldly declaring God’s Word and His Power. All the more reason to pray the “dangerous prayers”. The only safe place to be is “IN THE LORD our refuge and fortress”, and the best way to get there is to pray the “Dangerous Prayers”. Prayers for the Holy Spirit to help me to hear, obey, and abide in His presence alone are the only safe place to be. They are prayers of safety for the believer. But dangerous to our enemy.
I’ve discovered a pretty good rule of thumb to operate in here lately. If I hear a fearful voice shouting that praying sincerely from my heart, “I want the Holy Spirit to lead me in every area of my life” is dangerous because… “What will God make you do…” Then DUH… PRAY IT! That’s just another “Dangerous Prayer” that needs to be prayed. Why would I not want to follow the only voice that promises to lead me in “Paths of Righteousness for His names sake” i.e., “Good paths/ Peaceful ones” the voice of the One who promises a “Future and a Hope” for me? So, when I hear the lying voice say, “Don’t pray that! That’s a Dangerous Prayer!” May my reply be, “Well thank you for the reminder I believe I will.”
More than once in my 40 year walk with the Lord, I’ve come to conclusions that my way is best, and more than once in my 40 year walk with the Lord, I’ve figured out it isn’t. Every so often God allows me a course correction, usually entailing me having a brief glimpse of who I really am and who He is. It’s at that point I feel all the feels Isaiah did when he exclaimed, “Woe to me!! … I am ruined!!” I think God allows us those peeks every so often so we can see just how much it was that we thought we knew and we didn’t.
I Thought I Knew
I thought I knew how to grab ahold of You, to be close to Your side. But how can I know how to dwell in unapproachable light?
I thought I had you figured out, what to say to move Your heart. But how can my earthly words command You, the One who orders the stars?
I thought I could impress You by all the good I've done. But how can I compare to You, whose righteousness outshines the sun?
I thought I had perfected the tricks to make me be alright. But how can my performance compare to the price You paid when on the cross You died?
I thought I could fix myself, present to You my best side. But all You wanted me to do was surrender and Abide.
Isaiah 6:5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
I grew up in a small southern Missouri town near Montauk State Park, a state park known for trout fishing. Opening day of Trout Season, March 1st was almost like a holiday in our area. Kids were known to skip school so they could be on the river, pole in hand, listening for the early morning whistle blow that signaled the day of trout fishing had begun. I didn’t go much, but some in my family did. Then I met my husband and we married. He took to the whole trout fishing scene and became pretty proficient in catching his limit of trout, almost every time. That is not easy. I could fish for hours and catch none….. Years went by, camping at another state park for trout fishing became a yearly, if not more occurrence. It was nice. We had a pull behind camper. I would sleep in with the kids, he would go fishing. I would hang out, relax, do some school work with them, since we tended to camp during the school year, perks of Homeschooling… Then the camper was sold, the kids grew up, and my husband needed a fishing buddy. So my love for trout fishing began.
One of the things about catching trout that still stumps me to this day, is they are incredibly smart. They can see the line, if too thick, the hook if too big, and they will NOT bite on it. You use a very light weight line and a very small hook considering the size of fish you will reel in.
This morning the image of a large trout being reeled in on a small hook has been floating around in my mind. I’ve seen it lots of times as I’ve stood with waders on, in the stream. Fish in one hand, my other hand free to remove the tiny hook from its mouth. How I ever got it into my net on such a small device eludes me. It probably amazes the trout as well. One chomp at an alluring fly and it’s a done deal, with the right skills, he becomes mine.
There is a parallel between the trout on a hook and the thought life I have struggled with for years. But finally, something has clicked inside of me that has “unhooked me” in my mind, and all I can do is praise the God who sets me free.
I’m pretty sure any person who struggles with trauma-based anxiety will identify with this pattern in your mind. A thought of an event or situation of the past comes to mind, a trauma. Then the thought, “uh oh… I thought the thought. I remembered the event. I prayed about that memory. I asked God to take it away, but here it is. I must not have experienced the healing God promises. What can I do to set myself free?” So, YOU fight to not think about it anymore: Distract, medicate, meditate, self-help techniques galore, the list goes on… That is the equivalent to a large trout hooked on a tiny hook. That trout will FIGHT to not be reeled in. All the while digging the hook deeper into its lip.
Yesterday, the Bible study group I go to, “Women on Wednesdays” had a workshop on Emotional Woundedness. They invited the Reginal director for Center for Women’s Ministries to lead it. There was something talked about during the workshop that has “unhooked” me, “Holy Forgetfulness”. God must have been trying to get my attention, because not only did it come up during the workshop, the topic was brought up in church on Sunday by a guest speaker for Spring Revival, and it also came up on a teaching I watched online by Robert Morris. In fact, a quote from Robert Morris’ teaching was posted in my Facebook feed. “Holy forgetfulness doesn’t mean we won’t have the memory anymore; it means we won’t have the stress and pain associated with the memory.” I would venture to say God has been trying to get my attention. It hit me… Memories of painful events don’t just vanish. They happened. But fighting the memory by trying to forget will only “set the hook” worse. God has “unhooked” me! Satan wants to drag up the chains, the handcuffs, the prison cell bars, from the recesses of my mind and say, “Yep, they are still there…” But the fact of the matter is NOT that all those things have existed as a part of my story. The FACT is I am not in them anymore! The pain they caused me has been healed. I am free! Jesus, the healer and the source of freedom, has unhooked me! That memory that I have tried so hard to forget needs to only be filed away under the label, “YOU ARE FREE!” and each time it may come up, the label clearly displayed. Because that memory has no hold on me!
A sheep’s life has to be fairly uncomplicated. Graze on grassy slopes, drink cool water from streams, stay with the herd, listen to the shepherd’s voice, hang close to the shepherd. Wool just naturally grows on your back so you don’t have to work up some wool growing ritual, just occasionally yield to the shepherd as he shears it off. Yep, that’s pretty uncomplicated…
However, there are some sheep that complicate the good life. Case in point, New Zealand’s very own Shrek the sheep. Shrek decided he wasn’t content with the good life of sheepness. For six years he evaded his shepherd hiding in a cave living life his own way. He had avoided his only responsibility, yielding to the shepherd as the shepherd would sheer his sheep. Six years of missing his annual sheering left him with 60 lbs of wool on his back, a typical year yielded 10 lbs. Enough wool to make 20 large men’s suits. That, my friend, is a lot of excess weight for one wandering sheep to carry, and Shrek was having troubles bearing up under the weight he had taken on.
I heard the story of Shrek the Sheep years ago at “Ashes to Beauty- Women’s Encounter”. After attending this past weekend, I was reminded of it. Now this morning the images, the thoughts about the spiritual parallel keep running through my mind. (That’s usually a sign a blog is about to be written.)
Oh, the parallels in the life of Shrek the Sheep and me… I am Shrek the Sheep. Something inside of me finds it hard to rest in the beautiful green meadows. That something feels the need to rush on by the peaceful streams. Jesus assures me that a life living under His shepherding would be a life of His provision, His protection, and His care, but I tend to wander away, like Shrek. Maybe it’s my disdain for the process of being sheered every so often. I’m sure for a sheep that isn’t a comfortable procedure. Yielding to my Shepherd’s will isn’t always comfortable for me. Maybe it’s the “I want what I want, when I want it, how I want it” that rolls around on the inside of me. I’m sure that’s what Shrek had in mind as he slipped away to “do his own thing”. Me too… And then there’s the weight that piles on from time away from the shepherd’s care. Not to mention the discomfort of a summer with way too much wool on your back. For me all the choices, the voices, the burden to bear piles on after time spent away from the Good Shepherd’s gentle hand. Thankfully my shepherd has no trouble finding me, taking the unnecessary weights off of me, and showing me time and time again how much His love is for me even when I do not understand.
Yes, I am Shrek the Sheep. Once back in the Shepherds care, I am treasured, loved, healed, freed to roam in the life of abundance that He gives freely to me knowing that my every need will be met, and I am safe as I stay close to Him.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalms 23:NLT
David of the Bible spent many years as a shepherd before He became King. During His years as a shepherd, he experienced God’s supernatural help in battles with enemies against his sheep and most famously a Philistine Giant. In 1 Samuel 17:24 he recounts how “The Lord who rescued him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue him from the hand of this Philistine (giant).” as a young man he tells Saul he will not only fight the Giant, who intimidated the entire Israelite army, but defeat him. He did experience that victory. Later, through a series of events, he was anointed King over Israel. 2 Samuel 5:17-25 gives the account of how the Philistines found out David was no longer just a shepherd and a mighty warrior; he had become King of Israel. They decided to pursue him with “full force”. After hearing about this, David went down to the stronghold, a mountain area in the desert of Judah that he had used before when defending himself. It was there that David asked God, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” God told him to “Go” and David defeated the Philistines there at “Baal Perazim”.
In the Bible names have meaning. “Baal Perazim” means “The Lord who breaks out- Breaks through”. After his victory David said, “The Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” 2 Samuels 5: 20. The Lord of the Breakthrough!
Last weekend I attended “Ashes to Beauty- Women’s Encounter” sponsored by Encounter Ministries. It was “Awesome!” and that is an understatement. 48 hours of testimony, teaching, worship, and prayer for issues that women battle. Everything from Repentance from our sins, receiving forgiveness, forgiveness for self or past hurts, to how-to live-in victory in everyday life as a woman of God.
One of the songs played during the sessions for worship has touched me deeply and has been stirring around inside my heart, “Breakthrough” by Chris McClarney.
Many of those who attended last weekend, came from situations that needed exactly what the words of this song speak to. They were surrounded by problems too big for them to solve, drowning under the weight of it all, but instead of running to the one who is the answer to their problems and very capable of removing the heavy weight they had been carrying, they had chosen to run after all the solutions the world offers: unbiblical sex, pornography, drugs, alcohol, ungodly relationships, etc. Finding themselves struggling with the results of those choices: addictions, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, etc. FAR from the peace that God wants to offer as we hide away in His stronghold, seeking Him. This was exemplified in the account of David I described above. David, being a man after God’s own heart, knew where to go when surrounded by situations bigger than Him, “The Full Force of the Philistine Army” that had it out for him because of Him already having taken out their Champion, Goliath. David was their #1 target. We God’s beloved, made in His image, are also the #1 target of the Enemy of God, Satan. We would do well to follow David’s example: Run to our stronghold, God himself, Seek HIs direction, and Act only on what we are told to do. Totally depending on God’s Omnipotence, the all-powerful Defender and the God who fights for Us! He alone has the power to “Breakthrough” situations that are harder than stone, to free us.
A few weeks ago, my husband was telling me about nuclear submarines in the arctic region. They can run for days far beneath the hardened layers of ice. But at the right time, they are able to surface, breaking through the ice to accomplish what needs to be done. I spent time this morning watching videos of this. It’s pretty cool. Nothing but snow and Ice and suddenly the top of the submarine appears and grows in size until it is the entire length of the submarine. One video showed this, then a hatch opened and out climbed a sailor to stand on the once, impenetrable ice. We are like that sailor. We may have spent days, weeks, months, years underneath something so hard and cold, nothing seems to be able to bring us above it. But hold on. God has the power to “Break us through” the cold layers of hurt, disappointment, poor choices, etc. Our God is as David knew him so long ago, “Baal Perazim”- The Lord of the Breakthrough!! He will not allow us to live out our lives covered over. As we trust Him, seek His face, we will find ourselves standing on top of what once covered us, proclaiming the Goodness of our God who give us the Breakthrough!
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
(Last Sunday afternoon I spent some time surfing the internet. I came across a church service online from a church that my husband and I attended years ago. This illustration came from their opening of the service. It struck me because it is something I’m sure we all experience. In fact, I experienced it a couple of weeks ago, so I will relay my occurrence.)
Every once and awhile I get a hankering for a large McDonalds UNSWEET Tea. It’s a dollar and some change, so when I’m out and about it seems like a little treat to me. I DO NOT LIKE the Sweet Tea. It is so thick with sugar. I feel like I’m trying to suck down some kind of syrup. So strange as it may seem Unsweet is what I go after. Two weeks ago, I took my grandson for a ride in my Jeep. We ran through the McDonald’s drive thru to get him an ice cream cone and me… you guessed it an UNSWEET tea. I tried my best to enunciate in the drive through order box that I wanted UNNNNNN Sweet. So, I felt pretty confident they would get it right. I handed the mini-ice cream cone to my grandson and sat my Tea in the cup holder. Off we went. All was well until I finally found the straw they gave me, stuck it in the cup, and took a swig. SWEET… UGH! I was already down the hill and entering the roundabout towards the next destination. My first thought was, “Oh well, you didn’t really need it anyway.” But then it hit me. I paid for Unsweet. I wanted Unsweet. I will go back and get it. So I did. I pulled up to the window and explained that I had purchased an Unsweet Tea and they had given me sweet. In a matter of less than a minute, I was happily pulling away from the window with the Tea I ordered. All this over a cup of tea that cost me a little over a dollar and some change. But I wanted what I paid for.
Starting today, Palm Sunday, we have entered Holy Week. I come from a tradition that observed little of the week with exception of Good Friday. But In more recent years I appreciate the remembrance and celebration of the days leading up to Easter Sunday. Especially the observance of Good Friday. Reflecting on the price Jesus paid for me to live free each year is so very important. As the verse above states, “The punishment that brought us peace was laid upon Him”. He gave all of Himself, so we could be in relationship with Him and live the life we were originally created to live before sin entered and our world, our lives were broken. We however choose to live lives that are far from what He purchased for us to live. He came that we would “have life and have it more abundantly” or as some versions say “to the full”. John 10:10. He came to make us subjects of His royal kingdom, heirs to His promises. Yet we choose to do what I almost did at the roundabout when I discovered I did not get the Tea I paid for: think oh well, I don’t need it anyway, and drive away… BUT Jesus wants us to live in EVERY Blessing He paid for us to live within. He “Wants what He paid for ” in our lives. He wants us to not settle, but to be willing to pursue and run towards the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14. He wants us to “take ahold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of Us”. As we go through each day approaching the celebration of Good Friday and then Easter, I believe God wants us to reflect on this one thing. As the old Hymn says, “Jesus Paid it all. All to Him I owe…” Am I living a life full of what Jesus paid the price for me to obtain? Am I experiencing His peace? If not, time to go through the spiritual roundabout back to where you got away from HIm and the peace He paid for you to have. Am I experiencing His joy? If not, time for a U Turn Go back to the only true source of Joy, Jesus. Am I living in His Love? No? Go back to the place you were when you walked away from your First Love. He paid such a great price on the cross so we could live in these. Don’t cheapen the tears that rolled down His face, the bloody stripes across His back, the nail prints in His hands and feet, by being unwilling to go back to Him. He is saying “I want what I have paid for in your life!” not because He is a “demanding” God, But because HE IS GOOD! And He loves us SOOOOO much! He is not satisfied for us to have a half fulfilled life. He wants to overflow us with ALL He has paid for, we are the ones who choose to go after it by going after Him or going our own way, turning down the Good He offers us.