I just can’t take it . Every time something terrible, horrible, bone chilling happens, the same question rises up. Where is God? And I tell you He is where He said He would be.
Right in the middle of the mess with us.
One of the single greatest omissions of modern church thinking is the concept that we live in a war zone. It is our enemy who prowls around looking to devour, even to kill, steal and destroy. (1 Peter 5 and John 10) So when that destruction comes, why are we so surprised?
Are we so deceived that we do not know how and why to rail against the true source of hate and death? Are we so socially and spiritually numb that we do not see the war against God’s children?
God loves the world He has created. The enemy hates it.
The enemy uses all manner of strategies to mar and distort all he can. But God still brings comfort, healing, hope and peace regardless of the tactics used. God’s number weapon? Me and you.
Last night, the Lord woke me up. As I focused my eyes in the dark, I saw the brilliance of the moon in my house. I heard this phrase over and over in my spirit
A Great Light has come
and the darkness cannot put it out.
So now what?
Jesus did this crazy thing in the gospels. First He said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 12) And then He turned around and said, YOU are the light of the world. (Matthew 5)
I don’t know about you, but I see a Great Light burning in the hearts of men and women who run to help in places of devastation and horror. I see God’s light shining through us as we love and bless when we could hate. I see a Great Light in the hearts of believers who carry His power and authority to stand and overcome the prince of this world.
I tell you worship God. It is our greatest weapon and the enemy hates it!
God is good. God in the details. So instead of blaming Him, let’s display Him.
In the White House, they call it the news cycle. On the TV, they call it breaking news. In the human heart, these predictions create sheer panic. Yet there is a greater revelation in of all the natural disasters and it hit me like a lightning bolt this morning. I was watching a clip from Steve Hartman on CBS Evening News about how we went from rioting, protesting, hating each other one week to rescuing, serving, saving one another the next week.
Then I recalled this photo circulating on social media.
This is the wonder moment. Me and my praying friends, and I am sure you and your praying friends, have been asking God to do whatever it takes to bring peace. I have been releasing the Shalom of Heaven over the violent mood of our country. And suddenly, our differences have turned from throwing words and punches to throwing prayers and supplies.
Has God used these natural disasters to bring about the prayed for perspective shift?
I understand if you are living through and after these catastrophic events, it is hard to imagine celebrating or lifting up praise. Yet my friend in Houston confirmed the shift saying there is an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Even more, she said, once they started reconnecting with the rest of the world and heard about the devastation in India and surrounding areas, she and her community were humbled all the more realizing it could have been so much worse. “Even with the destruction, we were still blessed,” she said.
Now with Irma, the forest fires, the Mexican earthquake, and other life altering circumstances, can we or will we maintain our confidence in a good God?
He is NOT bringing judgment. That is Old Testament rhetoric that has no place this side of the cross.
What we can see all through the Bible however is a God who is our “ever present help in time of need.”
This morning as I rejoice that Irma has reduced from Category 5 to 4, I am still praying for the storm to move, subside, or shift. I am still believing for rain. I am still believing for comfort for Houston and other affected parts of the world.
And. My spirit has paused to thank God for reminding us of who we all are. Human beings. Each and every one worthy of love and dignity. Maybe, just maybe, God has answered our prayers by showing how valuable life really is.
When I first stumbled through my overcrowded garage and my bare foot touched the tentacles on the floor, I let out a scream and jumped back. With my phone flashlight in hand, I crept up, somewhat embarrassed, to realize these “tentacles” were instead a tenacious vine.
(We are in East Tennessee after all and pretty far from any invasion of an octopus, wink.)
But still I couldn’t figure out what the heck this vine was doing creeping under my door. It was so sickly. Clearly it was dying. I started to pull it up but stopped short.
I don’t know why I let this vine interrupt my mission. I was confounded. Why would a vine be trying to get IN my garage. There is no sunlight, no nutritional soil, no means of water. It simply could NOT survive.
Then I heard this crazy whisper, “Raise the garage door.”
So I did.
“The gates of hell will not prevail.” I heard the Spirit say.
I stood there in awe.
Who knew this vibrant, green, luscious plant was on the other side of the garage door? Who knew is seemingly sickly yet unyielding vine was wholly and happily sustained by a stronger, larger network of plants?
This! This is what the true Church is. This is what the Body of Christ, the Life of God, whatever language you know, is all about.
Christ in us, the hope of glory.
This is what “Jesus alive in us” is all about. The plant is Not dying but fully alive in the mother plant. And the mother plant is spreading and multiplying in every direction.
Likewise, the Spirit of God in us is invading this world, even the dark, void of light garages of our world. And it is in a word, unstoppable.
We don’t have to be afraid of the dark. Life is sliding under the door.
And the gates of hell cannot keep it out.
I heard a clear word from the Lord in the night. It is for all of us in uncertain, disappointing or even painful times.
Remain faithful in seasons of ‘No.’
As I searched the Spirit for clarification, it became clear this is a two way sword. He remains faithful to us even if the answer to our pleas, requests, and prayers are ‘No.’ He has not abandoned us. His love endures. His goodness cannot change. He reminded me of a phrase He taught me as I was trying to teach my children.
My ‘No’ is as loving as my ‘Yes.’
We often accuse God, doubt God, or we are mad at God when He doesn’t give us what we want. It is through these times we learn to trust His heart, trust His goodness not based on circumstances. We see He is a compassionate God who walks along with us in heartache. We learn to know Him in a deeper way so that we see Him for who He is. As time unravels the rest of our story, we then see a greater revelation, a greater mercy that He gave us instead of what we asked for. And. He is still with us. Even in the ‘No.’ He is faithful to never leave us.
That’s one side of the sword. The other side is We are to remain faithful in seasons of ‘No’. We are to stand in love, stand in faith, stand in confidence in Him. How we ask? Our hearts are breaking, our hopes may be dashed on the ground. How do we approach Him if we don’t get what we want?
All of life, the point of all of it, the whole parade is summed up in this phrase:
“to know this love that surpasses knowledge.”
The end of Ephesians 3 breaks down the pathway of how to navigate the seasons of God’s loving ‘No.’
Our God is good. The Three-in-One is a good Father, a good Mother, and a good Savior. Our God is with us in the brokenness of life. He knows there is an enemy who would love nothing more than maintain the separation he caused at the garden. But Jesus came to share His fullness and the Spirit it here to escort us into faithful living. We must guard our restored relationship with God.
But how? we ask.
He didn’t come through for us. I didn’t get the job. My loved one died. This evil persists.
“To know this love that surpasses knowledge.”
We move from what we know— facts, diagnoses, outcomes— to a Love that transcends our broken hearts. We find a comfort and His very real Presence that overshadows our existence here on earth. We refuse to align our thoughts and words with an enemy who says our God is weak, and distant; He is unable or unwilling to help.
God with us.
So again. Remain faithful in seasons of ‘No.’
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3 12- 21
I had a rare and priceless moment this summer when I took my daughters and their friends, affectionately known as the Big Girls and the Little Girls, to our favorite mountain spot. We braved the cold river and splashed around in age appropriate ways, middle school, college and motherly. Wink. I loved watching them challenge and tease each other all the way from prissy hair tips to braving the rapids.
Then we hit a Mexican restaurant on the way home. In the awkward waiting for our food, munching on chips time it occurred to me that the Big Girls survived high school together and just completed their freshman year at different colleges.
The Little Girls both completed 8th grade at different middle schools and were now nervously looking toward the wild world of two different high schools. I had overheard enough of the “what ifs” and “what abouts” to know they were scared. Excited, but scared.
With a prod of divine brilliance from the Lord, I asked the BGs what they had learned that they could pass on. These little women had grown and changed so much through high school and even more through their first year of college. So what advice would they would give to the LGs as they were entering high school.
I was blown away by this gift of perspective. Hope you enjoy it and will share it with your upcoming highschoolers too.
• Don’t dismiss people by their appearance. Clothes are misleading.
• Take action and actually say hello to people.
• Do sports and clubs, even if you don’t want to.
• After high school you can handpick your friends. But in high school you learn what kind of friend you want to be and what kind you want to have.
• Never be in the car with someone under any influence (drugs or alcohol, even anger.)
• Drive if you can and don’t take people with you so you have the freedom to leave a bad situation or party.
• Grades are not your identity. They matter but they are not everything.
• Don’t worry about your looks or what others think.
• Every “A” you get is money in your pocket.
• Build relationships with your teachers. They matter.
• Take hard classes.
• Go to tutoring.
• Be nice to yourself. Every year brought a drastic change as a person.
Thanks for the insight and courage Salem Spicka and Andy Gil.
What can I say? We have been doing “church” for years. Jesus called it ‘where two or more are gathered in his name.’ So yeah. That’s what we have been doing. But then came the call to start something on Sunday. And it just feels— different.
Call it cultural perceptions. Call it fear of man. Whatever it is, God is asking us for radical trust that this is His dream. New Wine Church is His idea.
We want to foster a place where the presence of God is the most important thing. We believe in a community that functioned like Paul’s gatherings. A place where deep hearted believers can come to celebrate God, to be fed, to grow in their gifting, and, a place where the unsaved are drawn into the family.
How? The power and presence of God.
So what to expect. A community with opportunities to engage with each other. Worship times where we expect to encounter the Holy Spirit. And teaching that is fresh manna.
Here is mine and Chuck’s heart. We know God is laying out a table of truth, grace, transformation, power. We are inviting anyone who as hungry as we are to join us for more.
First meeting is January 26 at The Empty Cup located on Executive Park Drive.
9:15-10:00 Coffee and Community
10:00 -11:30 Worship, Teaching and Prayer
I think I shied away from continuing to talk about sex and beauty. In my mind, my kids had heard it all before. We have been talking about sex and beauty since they were toddlers. Now as teens, their pushback was working. The rolled eyes, the “I know, Mom!” comments, the sighing and huffing was enough to deter one more lecture. But then, I saw the brokenness and confusion around sex and beauty and I knew it needed to be talked about. Again.
I was reminded of a weighty word the other day that’s worth repeating. It’s more than ‘save sex.’ It’s the WHY of sex.
God is always in the details. It’s important to know that the very first “shedding of blood” was not for the clothing after the Fall. It was the blood covenant of marriage between the man and the woman.
In the garden, the man and woman were naked and unashamed. God covered the woman’s vagina with a thin membrane called the hymen. And when this “veil” was torn, the small amount of blood signified the covenant she entered with God and Adam as the “two became one flesh.” It was a holy contract. And their heirs, the children they produced through their love, became a reminder of God’s faithfulness, because they too have passed through the veil of the blood covenant.
The symbolism is breath-taking. Do we teach this kind of beauty to our children? Because if we did, the worth of our sexuality just might go far beyond our current standard.
(This is an extremely short version. See Kris Valloton, Moral Revolution)
In light of such honor, the demonic abuse and distortion plainly seen. Turn on any channel.
We are more than objects and animals.
I want to remind us of the Why of God’s heart: to protect something sacred and honored. We set a high standard of purity because we agree that God’s way is best. “The marriage bed is to be honored by all.” Hebrews 13:4
So we count virginity for women and men as a great treasure because they have fought and defended what God prizes. We count marital faithfulness as a great treasure because we don’t allow the enemy to invade our Holy Ground. We don’t apologize for setting a standard that reflects the heart of God.
And. With grace, we understand that not all fight this battle to the end. We take courage and comfort in our sexual failures, because the blood of Jesus washes us from all stains. All. Stains.
Yet we do not deviate from the standard. God’s way is best. Every. Time.