Waiting In Faith: Unwavering Hope In God’s Goodness

Waiting In Faith: Unwavering Hope In God’s Goodness

A little over three years ago I got to marry the love of my life. I’ll never forget the butterflies I felt in my stomach as I waited to walk onto the stage. And shortly after, the sheer awe that I experienced as my beautiful bride walked down the aisle. Weddings are a time for celebration. They are a time of great joy and thanksgiving. And while my wedding day is without a doubt etched into my mind as the best memory of my life, the season surrounding that time of my life was one of complete misery.

To be clear, it had absolutely nothing to do with my wife or the wedding itself, or even the wedding planning process. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was dealing with what I now know to be a chronic immune system disease called eosinophilic esophagitis (EE). In short, this condition is due to an excess build up of white blood cells in the esophagus that causes constriction and difficulty swallowing. I have been a slow eater my entire life, and I’ve often had trouble swallowing my food. On four or five different occasions throughout my life, I’ve actually choked and had to receive the heimlich maneuver from friends or family members.  

The EE was at the worst it’s ever been in the six months or so leading up to my wedding. I could hardly get any food down, and was basically on a diet of mashed potatoes, soup, and protein shakes. I lost an unhealthy amount of weight, and at six foot two, I weighed in at around 165 pounds the day of my wedding. This was an extremely embarrassing, exhausting, and miserable time of my life. Keep in mind, while all this was happening, I did not know that I had EE. Up to that point, doctors, psychologists, and therapists all thought I was just dealing with symptoms of anxiety. My anxiety was so bad that it was just causing my throat muscles to tighten up and make it feel as if I couldn’t swallow easily, is what they would tell me. I certainly did have a degree of anxiety that I had been dealing with since my teenage years, but this definitely seemed to be more than that.

Thankfully, after rigorous psychological testing to determine what was causing this degree of “anxiety,” a grad student who was reading my list of symptoms said that she learned about a condition in class that sounded similar to what I was describing. She referred me to a GI doctor and he scheduled a time for me to have an upper endoscopy. Sure enough, I had EE. In fact, my esophagus was so constricted that they could not even get the tiny scope to go down. They had to stretch it with a balloon-type instrument first.

After they stretched my esophagus and put me on a few different medications, I was able to eat much easier and within the next three months I gained about 40 pounds. That was about two and a half years ago. One would think that things are much better now, but that’s not necessarily the case. While my eating is certainly much more normal now, I still have to eat extremely slow, be careful what I eat, and I often experience indigestion and chest pain. More than that though, I’ve been dealing with some lingering anxiety symptoms for the last few years. You see, when you’ve had something lodged in your throat multiple times and needed someone to give you the heimlich, in that moment, you’re in a state of extreme panic and don’t know if you’ll ever take another breath. Plus, after being told that an actual physical condition was just “in my head” for several years, that led to much more anxiety, which produced many panic attacks. Most of those panic attacks felt like the oxygen was cut off and once again, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever take another breath.

Years of these experiences has led to my current predicament: a fear of choking again, a fear of losing my breath, a fear of not being able to breathe. As a result, I’ve become hyper aware of my breathing and often will try and “take over” my breathing on a conscious level. Many times this will lead me to hyperventilate until my face gets tingly and numb. This has happened dozens of times over the years, and often the only cure has been to take a prescribed anti-anxiety pill in the midst of it. Over time, I’ve learned to “deal with” these symptoms and I’ve become comfortably miserable. After things seeming to get worse again as of late, and having sought the Lord in prayer about it, I’ve decided to start seeing a therapist to focus solely on this one breathing fear / issue.

Very few people know any of this about me, as I don’t like to talk about it and bring attention to myself. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I don’t want to be misunderstood or labeled as “weak,” and I feel embarrassed because I know in my head that it’s all just an irrational fear. It’s not easy for me to share this with the world. So, this begs the question, why am I sharing all of this? Well, ultimately, my heart is that it will bring some much needed hope to someone else. But also, I want to explain how all this relates to God and the new covenant.

This blog talks a lot about the new covenant. The forgiveness we have in it. The freedom we have in it. The healing we have in it. I have always been passionate about the supernatural healing power of God. I love the fact that Jesus healed everyone who came to him that was sick and oppressed (Luke 4:40, Matthew 15:30, Acts 10:38). I’ve witnessed many people get supernaturally healed right before my eyes. Deaf ears opened, legs grown out, migraines dissolved in a moment, and more. I’ve even had the privilege of seeing others get healed through me laying hands on them and praying. However, in spite of all of this, I’ve yet to experience this same healing power of God in my own life. It’s left me questioning God many times. Why haven’t I been healed? I’ve been on numerous medications, seen many doctors and therapists, sat through deliverance and inner healing sessions, gone to healing rooms, and prayed persistently. All this, and yet still, nothing.

While it may be easy at times for me to doubt God’s healing power and His intentions, I’ve never been more convinced of His goodness than I am right now in my life. As I’ve come to a greater understanding of how to read the Bible through the lens of God’s covenant journey with mankind, my heart has drawn closer to the Father like never before. Despite my circumstances, I no longer have to question His true character or motives. I know that as a partaker in the new and better covenant, healing is God’s will. If Jesus is the perfect representation of God the Father (Hebrews 1:3), then I have to accept that my sickness is not His doing. If it were, then Jesus would have been in direct opposition to the Father throughout His ministry on earth. His ministry was one of healing. And it’s a ministry that he passed along to his disciples and us today as the church. Furthermore, we can see from Jesus’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 that the Lord’s will is “on earth as it is in heaven.” Obviously, there is no sickness in heaven. If God’s will being done means that earth would look like heaven, then I can rest in the sureness that sickness is not His will for me.

So, now to address the big elephant in the room: If it’s God’s will for me to be healed, then why hasn’t that happened? In all honesty, I have no answer. I don’t understand it, and I may not receive an explanation this side of heaven. However, I refuse to change my theology on healing just because I haven’t experienced it in my own life. Instead, I will line my theology up with what the word of God says and stand firm on that. I will continue to pursue my own healing for the rest of my life, and I’m hopeful that I will receive it. I’m hopeful because I trust in the goodness of my Father. He really is good all the time. It’s not just a cliche that I say from time to time, but it’s a reality that’s molding my relationship with Him.

One of my heroes, Bill Johnson, put it beautifully when he said, “You cannot hold God hostage to your questions. He doesn’t owe you an answer. If you want the peace that passes all understanding, you’re going to have to give up your right to understand. It’s called trust.”

I truly believe that my healing will one day fully manifest and I will have another great testimony to share with others. In the meantime, I will continue to boldly declare that Jesus is the healer and His will is that all would be healed. I will lay hands on the sick and expect that they will recover, and even if they don’t, I will still move forward declaring God’s goodness. And I will never, ever attribute sickness as something that is from God. We may not always understand why someone hasn’t been healed, but we can understand that sickness is a work of the enemy, and not of the Father.

So, if you’re reading this today and you can relate it to something similar going on in your own life, then I would encourage you to walk in the freedom that we have as new covenant believers. The freedom to not only receive healing, but also to admit that you’ve not yet been healed, and that it’s okay to not be okay. I believe the first step we need to take in order to receive healing is to admit that we’re not okay. Once we’ve done that, then God will meet us where we’re at and love us and comfort us through it all. He really is a good Father, and there’s no exaggerating His goodness. Whatever your situation, whatever your sickness, whatever your frustration, take it to Him today. He’s waiting with a smile and open arms to welcome you into His lap.

With unwavering hope,

Nate

The Gospel: Behavior Modification or Total Transformation?

The Gospel: Behavior Modification or Total Transformation?

– Part 1 –

About a year or so ago, I scrolled the never ending story of my Facebook news feed and came across a post from my local newspaper reporting on two young women who were arrested for abusing an old aboriginal man both verbally and physically while they were traveling on public transport. The whole incident was caught on video showing the verbal onslaught of derogatory language toward the man, the man trying to defend himself, the girls beating on him for standing up to them, and the driver finally stopping the bus and kicking them off.

As you do, when reading reports like that on social media, I checked out the comments section to see what the general public thought of the girl’s behavior. There were literally thousands of comments, and none of them, as you might guess, showed any favor toward the two young women. It didn’t surprise me to read comment after comment and reply after reply where people totally berated their behavior and called for them to be thrown in jail and for the key to be tossed away.

But as I read more and more of those comments – some of them saying the girls should be beaten up themselves, and even others saying that if they met the girls in the street, they wouldn’t leave them without drawing some blood – I started to feel a sense of hypocrisy. To be honest, most of the comments were just as brutal as each other, where a person would call for the beating of a person whose crime was – well, beating a person. Can you see the double standard? Judging someone with language that matches the crime you’re judging just isn’t okay in my books.

So, I made a comment that looked a lot different to the multitude of comments in the news thread. I pointed out that the behavior of the girls was not good, and that I believe they should be held accountable for their actions, but I also pointed out how their behavior may just be the result of a life of being abused, and maybe, all they knew was how to abuse others because when they grew up as impressionable children, all they learned was the behavior of abuse, and knew no other way. I felt compassion for these girls, but at the same time, I could see where everyone’s sense of justice was coming from.

It got me thinking about my own behavior and my Christianity. Is my civil behavior and courteous manner simply a result of my Christianity and what my parents and the church have taught me? Was I given a special privilege being born into a Christian family and being raised in such a way? What about those girls and other kids who didn’t have faith-filled parents or the church to teach them good behavior? – Hang on a second, so quickly I’ve forgotten my late teens and early twenties. I guess I wasn’t such a goodie goodie during those years, despite my beautifully Christian upbringing. Okay, maybe it’s not about Christianity and behavior modification, but instead, it’s about Christ and total transformation.

Here’s a question the Lord asked me when He started showing me the truth of the gospel message in relation to my behavior. He asked me, “How much control do you actually have over your behavior? Do you have total control, some control, or absolutely no control?” He then began to show me that to understand how much control I have, I have to first understand how my being is designed, how it operates and where the source of my behavior originates. You see, the human being is created in the image of God and it’s designed to function according to the pattern of His kingdom in heaven, and while we would hope every person would act like the angels, the truth is we don’t – in short, we were trapped in a lie when the original human beings believed the words of a deceiving serpent over the words of their heavenly dad.

When the human race was plunged into the sin of disconnection from God, we unnaturally found ourselves operating according to the pattern of the world, as opposed to the pattern of heaven. That means, even though we were created to be spirit first – relating to God in the realm of the spirit – according to the deception we were trapped in, as a human race, we were raised to believe we evolved as a body first. So when it comes to your behavior, the wisdom of this world wants to trick you into believing that you can control your behavior by exercising your will power over your thoughts and feelings – but really, it’s just an illusion to keep you from understanding that you have a spiritual heart, and it’s the source of your behavior.

God started to show me some things about the human heart in the scriptures that were a bit disturbing, and to begin with, a little hard to swallow. In Jeremiah chapter 17, verse 9, it says that, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure”.Wait, what? You mean to tell me that my heart is diseased and utterly full of lies and deception, God? Could you please give me some good news? That is what the gospel means, doesn’t it? The next scripture He gave me was Jesus talking, and I thought to myself, if Jesus is the one speaking, it’s gotta be good news, right? – wrong. In Matthew 15:18 & 19, Jesus says, “whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart and this is what defiles a person, for out of the heart come evil thoughts…” Wait, what? Again with the evil wretched heart thing. In all seriousness, – especially knowing God to be a good God – I asked Him what these verses meant, and from them, what good news is there for me to take away? 

He told me the source of my behavior is my heart and it flows through me like a river – first through the gate of my mind, then it fills up into the vat of my soul, and finally discharges through my body for everyone to see. So, the nature of your heart governs your soul – which is the way you think, the way you feel and the way you act. This means your soul processes your thinking and your feelings on a matter, and in turn makes a decision using the power of your will to act on those thoughts and emotions. Therefore, in any given situation, you’ll respond and behave according to the programming of your soul. Okay, if my soul has been programmed and my behavior is a mere reflection of my soul, what programmed it and how do I re-program it?

Continuing my conversation with God, He led me to another thing Jesus said. In Mark 12:30 Jesus tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength.” What God was telling me is that our design is spirit, soul and body, in that order, and that my heart is the primary source of functioning as God intended me to function. In other words, if I’m to love like my God loves, my question was, how is it possible to love God and others, or even behave righteously, if my heart is full of lies and evil beyond cure? That is what the bible says, right?

The truth is, you can’t love like God with a broken heart. So, with a heart beyond cure the only answer is for it to be killed and for you to receive a brand new heart – one that is fused with God and no longer just yours to corrupt. In Ezekiel 36:26-27, God said through the prophet, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you… I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My ways.” This is good news – to find out that my behavior, that was once programmed by an evil heart, can be re-programmed by a new heart that God gives me freely, and He did that of course when Jesus died for all. So those two girls who may have been raised in abuse, can have a brand new start without the need to be born as babies again and raised in a nicer family who go to church?

But this is the gospel message, isn’t it? – Being born again is exactly what happens when we receive the good news of the gospel. We might not be born again as physical children, but we are born again by faith when we believe the good news and we receive a brand new heart from God; a heart that is the spirit of God Himself; a heart where God influences our soul, our thinking, our feelings and our daily choices to act righteously; a heart that literally transforms us from the inside out. True Christianity isn’t about behavior modification, it’s about total transformation. We don’t need to work up a sweat, exercise our will power and make ourselves good people – we just need to rest in the truth that God has given us His heart and He will cause us to walk in His ways.

It’s my intension that by reading this blog, you might rest in the knowledge that God doesn’t require your human works for you to be good and righteous people, but rather, to know that all He requires is your faith in His promise that He will be with you forever, and that by choosing to be in daily relationship with Him, you will grow from one level of glory to ever increasing levels of glory. For some of you, you may have come to know this truth already, but this information has just raised a few questions about the struggle some Christians still have with sin. In other words, if you’ve received a new heart and you’ve been born again, why do you keep sinning, or what can you do to stop sinning. Well, the answer is everything to do with renewing your mind, and the bible has plenty to teach on this subject. If this is your question, be sure to read part 2 of this blog, coming soon.

Written by: Drew Fraser 

Out With The Old, In With The New

Out With The Old, In With The New

I’ll never forget the moment I first encountered the Lord and surrendered my life to Him. It was the spring of 2010. I was 21 years old at the time, and for the first time in my life I felt an almost euphoric sense of peace and joy. In the blink of an eye, I went from depressed and confused to overflowing with hope and clarity. What a beautiful thing salvation is. For the next six months of my life, I felt like I was on a spiritual high. I lived from a place of total freedom and acceptance in the Lord. However, as time went on and I spent more time in church and learned from other believers, I became more confused in a lot of ways and the freedom that I first walked in seemed to be slipping away.

As I tried to put together the pieces of what it looked like to be a “good Christian,” questions started to flood my mind: Am I allowed to drink alcohol? Should I be watching this movie? How often should I be praying? Do I need to read my Bible more? What is expected of me?

Every Christian seemed to have their own opinions on these topics. As a new believer genuinely trying to walk out my faith the best I could, I wanted some real answers. Couldn’t someone just give me a list of rules or a set of guidelines that I could follow to know how I’m measuring up in my Christian walk?

Sadly, this is how so many Christians live their lives today. Having once tasted of the sweet salvation and freedom in Christ, they then subject themselves to rules and regulations, essentially putting themselves under “law.” They’re mixing the law with faith.

This is not a new issue within the church. In fact, this was something that Paul was constantly rebuking the early church for. In the 1st century church, there was a group of people called the Judaizers. This word stems from a Greek verb meaning, “to live according to Jewish customs.” Judaizers taught that for Christians to be right with God, they still needed to follow the Mosaic Law. For example, they promoted the idea that circumcision was a requirement for salvation. In the book of Galatians, we see Paul addressing Peter about this very issue.

“If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews? We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we have also believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” – Galatians 2:14-16.

Paul was reminding Peter that we are not justified by works, but through faith in Jesus and his completed work on the cross. By trying to abide by Jewish laws, we are only subjecting ourselves back into bondage.

Enter the new covenant.

When Jesus died on the cross, it instituted a new covenant between Him and the Father. This is great news for us, because there is nothing we can do on our end to mess up this covenant. All we have to do is simply receive Christ, and as His bride, we get to partake in all the benefits of this covenant deal. As new creations in Christ, we have been given a robe of righteousness and God says He will remember our sin no more.

During the time period between Jesus’s crucifixion (30 AD) and the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD), the old (Mosaic) covenant still lingered. God only recognized the new covenant between Him and Jesus, but many still operated under the old covenant system. We read in Hebrews though that God had plans to soon make the old covenant obsolete once and for all. “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” – Hebrews 8:13.

In 70 AD, God brought judgment upon the old covenant system through the destruction of Jerusalem and completely put an end to the old covenant way of life. The temple was burned to the ground and the genealogical records were destroyed.

So, why is this important to us today? Well, because the old covenant is no longer in place today, the only covenant that we partake in is the new covenant. And the good news is, this new covenant is infinitely better than the old. Hebrews 8:6 says, “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises”

Throughout Hebrews, we also read that the new covenant has a better sanctuary (Heb. 9:1-10), a better sacrifice (Heb. 9:11-28), and better results (Heb. 10:1-18). Now, knowing this about the new covenant, how does it apply to the predicament I was in years ago – wondering what is required of me to be a “good Christian” and what I can and can’t do?

To put it simply, there is only one requirement of Christians today. That requirement is to love others as Christ loves us. The new covenant “law” is a law of love. In John 15:16, Jesus says, “This is my command: love each other.” Throughout the rest of the New Testament, Paul and the other writers give some other more specific “commands” to give practicality to what love looks like, but it always points back to this one charge from Jesus himself: love one another.

How freeing is that! We are not bound to a list of dos and don’ts, but rather we are called to walk in step with the Holy Spirit in intimate relationship and to abide in Christ’s love for us and each other. We have been released from the law and now serve in the way of the spirit, not the written code, which is what God always wanted from the beginning. As partakers in this beautiful new and better covenant, performance does not determine our value, but the fact that we’re sons and daughters does!

I encourage you to seek intimacy with the Holy Spirit in your life, because as you grow in relationship with Him, you will naturally walk in the law of love. You will no longer think in terms of dos and don’ts, but you will naturally flow in your identity as a son or daughter of God and your actions will be rooted in love. You will be free to experience life as God intended for you to experience it, abundantly (John 10:10).

Written by: Nate Ebel

Confessions Of A Closet Christian

Confessions Of A Closet Christian

I first met Jesus when I was 14 years old. My best friend and I went to a youth group at a local church and we were told about salvation through grace by Jesus dying for us on the cross.

I knew something happened that night. My heart was full, my spirit experienced something it never had before – a joy and peace so deep down that I have since then been spoilt in the fact that nothing in this world, can ever bring that same feeling, except communion with God.

Within a few years, I was baptized in water and Spirit and speaking in my new divine language. I was attending church up to three times a week getting lots of teaching and what I thought was knowledge.

However, over the years, things got more complex. I had a boyfriend and later a husband, my own life and career and struggles as I started to witness life’s disappointments. I felt I was constantly trying to “meet God’s requirements” of being a good person and coming up short. Why was I so angry, why was life hard, why wasn’t I coping, why was my marriage struggling. I looked around at the Christian figures I had in my life at that stage, I really didn’t see anyone who stood out, all seemed to be as miserable as anyone else, where was the victory and joy and freedom that I had heard about in Christ. Mostly why was there no visible difference between who proclaimed to be a Christian and who was not? I became plagued with guilt (of performance, or lack thereof) and fear of everything.

Also, as an artist, I always felt naturally drawn to the supernatural, the physic, the weird, and alternative. Yet I was constantly rapped over the knuckles for wanting to explore this. I really felt I wasn’t coping and couldn’t freely express and explore my authenticity. I slowly lost my pure joy of the Lord and could no longer feel comfortable in His presence as my “sins’ weighed deep on my heart.

This is when when I pretty much stopped going to church started going into the closet. It was easier on my fear and guilt if I didn’t hear every week that I wasn’t living up to what God expected of me. That the things I were naturally drawn to weren’t lining up with God’s word and I was letting the devil in! I didn’t have to tell people I was going to church on Sunday and have their faces get that look that says “oh, she must be one of those.”  I wasn’t going to be judged in the closet!

So for the next 18 plus years I lived there. I never lost my faith, I never lost contact with God, all I did was pray in the Spirit and ask God not to ever leave me, nor let me go to far away from Him. I didn’t attend church, proclaim I was a Christian, or openly share my faith. How could I? How could I convince anyone of God’s goodness, when I didn’t know anything of it. Could I tell people “live like me, but expect guilt and fear as part of the deal?” I would hear people criticize Christians in front of me and not say a word, I quite honestly felt the same and had to in many cases agree with them about the hypocrisy I saw.

Guilt and shame was there – so deep, but no one knew, so no one could call it out.

But God was faithful and never did leave me. Looking back, I see so many times when he carried me and got me through rocky times in relationships and financially and in motherhood and my ego (to name a few).

About 6 years ago I stuck my head out of the closet. God had gracefully inspired some of my artwork that spoke of unconditional love and through that I had to start exploring Him from my heart and on my own. Also, reading a novel set in historical 70AD Jerusalem, that I couldn’t place in biblical terms, I started on a sincere journey for truth. I am now happy to report that I am no longer in the closet. Although I don’t attend church too often for the same reason, I am a guilt free person, learning to walk in victory and be joyful in every situation. I now understand, in my heart, God’s goodness. I have no fear of man and am free to explore anything I want as I am convinced that nothing can separate me from the love of God.

So now I look back and question why this happened. I believe we are taught in most churches, and correctly so, that we are saved by grace, we can’t earn it. But the grace seems to stop there. Now that we are saved, we must live up to some sort of impossible standard and earn the rest. Instead of teaching and the focus being on exploring the “new creatures” we are, we get rules. If we don’t tithe we can’t be blessed financially, when we sin, which we definitely will, because we are inherently bad, evil people and our flesh will get the better of us, we must get before this terrifying wrathful God who will forgive us if we really, really repent in our heart. We must fast if we are not getting prayers answered and thereby twist Gods arm (?) to maybe do something that’s really important to us like heal our friend of cancer. Not to mention constant reminders that I am a sinner and my righteousness is as filthy rags. I am exaggerating of course, to make a point and this isn’t a bold outright teaching, in fact I am even sure that half the pastors don’t even realize their deep rooted mind set on this as they too were indoctrinated at seminary. However, the teaching is there (and still is) albeit very insidious and subtle. It is a religious spirit and very much legalistic. So how could I possibly have a relationship with a God portrayed like this, one I was afraid of, and felt I displeased so often. Who would want to be a Christian except for the reason that we are scared to death of a literal hell and going there!?

I thank God daily that in my seeking and intimate conversations with the Trinity, and sound biblical contextual teaching (I am getting at an amazing bible school), that I have now been taught truth. I am knowledgeable and my heart knows what the Word says. I understand we are in a Better Covenant, a new covenant that Jesus brought, completely doing away with the old covenant which was the give and take agreement (blessing and cursing). We are now under a covenant that brings freedom, freedom from guilt and fear and condemnation, a covenant that embraces our beautiful lives, bodies and uniqueness and individuality here on earth and focuses on the redemption rather than the old sin.  All this held together through a true understanding of what Jesus actually accomplished at the cross. If we are not taught the full impact of what occurred at the cross, we cannot live victorious and free lives.  My walk as a Christian stems from my relationship with a very real extremely loving, kind God that isn’t accessible according to my deeds, but rather that lives in every fiber of my being and communes with me constantly, I need only to stop and listen. A God who has dealt with sin once and for all, who has created me anew where sin isn’t second nature, in fact it has no part of me. How can it be if I was crucified and resurrected anew with Christ and I am the temple of the Holy Spirit? Selah!

I am light, I carry light and the darkness cannot cover the light. I trust God, who when I understand His relentless pursuit of loving me, can only lead me to repentance and to say ‘I surrender all.’ And in losing me – I find myself.

If I had been taught this all those years of attending church, I very much doubt I would have even seen the inside of the closet. However, I have no regrets, and I don’t need this ‘confession’ to be a religious one, my God is one of restoration and mercy and kindness. He doesn’t have a whipping stick; in contrast, He has his arms wide open welcoming the prodigal daughter home.

I know now, for sure, that I will praise His name forever.

Written by: Avril Ward

You’ve Got This

You’ve Got This

I like to keep my lawn looking good. There’s nothing like a thick, lush, dark green lawn. I have a lot of different tools & supplies for keeping it looking good such as my lawn mower, my weed whip, weed killer, edger, fertilizer, dandelion remover and those kinds of things. I own my lawn, and I’m in control of my lawn. I’m responsible for what goes on in my yard. My name is on the title and I have assumed the responsibilities of a home owner. Pretty soon my sons will be old enough to start helping me out. I will teach them how to use the mower, the weed whip, how to fertilize and all the other tips & tricks for keeping it looking nice.

When that time comes I will go out into the lawn with them and demonstrate. I will get down on their level and let them try and walk along side of me until they get the hang of it. After a few demonstrations and having them walk along side of me for a few weeks, I will formally hand over responsibilities to them. I will transfer my authority as the home owner to them, my kids, and give them the key to the mower. Then I will go back into the house.

While I’m in the house, I will listen for them and keep my ears open for any cries for help. I’ll be thinking about them a lot, and hoping they do well and really take ownership in the work. While sitting in my chair I’ll glance over at their pictures on the coffee table and think about how much I love them and how proud I am to be their father.

Then I’ll remember that the lawn falls prey to voles and grub worms during certain times of the year. For a moment I’ll be concerned but then I’ll remember how I showed them how to get rid of these vermin and parasites and that there is nothing to fear because my sons are in control and they have way more power than those little things. Just step on them and smash them. I love watching them take authority over these things – just like I taught them to do.

Never in a million years would I consider opening the window and start shooting my sons with a BB gun in the knees to teach them something or to see if they can still take care of the lawn while in pain. Never in a million years would I take some dandelion seeds and throw them out into the lawn. Never in a million years would I ‘take’ one of my sons while the other son weeps for the loss of his brother and calls me “mysterious.”

Never.

Why? Because I’m a loving father. Because suffering never really teaches us anything other than how to endure more suffering. Because just as Jesus said, “a kingdom [or lawn!] divided against itself cannot stand.”

If I was telling my boys to take care of the lawn while hurting them in any way, or allowing voles & grubs into the lawn, or weeds – I would not have a lawn for very long, and I would be a terrible father. My sons would likely give up, thinking that I must have changed my mind about wanting a nice lawn because I’m sending all their problems. “We might as well sit tight and take a break – it looks like Daddy must have changed his mind about us.”

Satan’s #1 goal is trying to deceive us into thinking God is somehow responsible for evil & suffering because our entire identity is formed by how we experience God’s love.

Because we have fallen for this philosophical deception we come up with complicated, false theories & doctrines about the absolute sovereignty of God which is completely foreign to the original audience and authors. We tell the world that “God is in control of everything” and lay down in the lawn while the weeds, voles & grub worms take over. We tell each other that Daddy’s tools & gifts stopped working anyway. Our loved ones die from grub worm bites, and at the funerals we try to comfort them by saying Daddy is in control and “Daddy works in mysterious ways.”

But He does not work in mysterious ways. Jesus was “the exact representation of the Father’s being” (Heb. 1:3) and He was good ALL the time. We don’t need to guess what God is like – Jesus already showed us. He was an open book. And then He put us in control of the lawn.

To this, there are some Christians who will say, “That makes for a pretty small God” as if claiming that removing evil from God somehow diminishes His size or His nature. To me, that’s just sad. Removing the allowance of evil from God doesn’t diminish His nature or character – it strengthens it. It puts evil its proper place – “Satan, the father of lies”. Anything other than that Jesus describes as the “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” which is attributing evil to God’s goodness.

Other Christians will say, “Wait a minute, I learned a lot from the times of my suffering.” Of course you did, because “all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Just because we learn something from our suffering doesn’t mean God is causing it! He “works it together” for your good because He loves you but He certainly isn’t up there shooting you with a BB gun to “teach” you something. He loves you just like you love your kids, except infinitely better!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – Jesus

God loves you. If something is not going well or if there is evil in your life, for the love of God use the authority He gave you and command it to leave. “The power of life and death is in our tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). You have the keys to the lawn mower. Pick up the rake and smack that thing in the head. Don’t blame God. If you want to blame someone, blame the adversary – Satan. And then step on him.

May we trust in the goodness of our Father. May we trust that our Daddy’s garage is full of “everything we need for life & godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). May we look up at the house window, see our Father giving us a ‘thumbs up’ from His chair and mouthing the words “I love you. Well done. You’ve got this.”

Written by: Jeff Berger