Pressing On

Pressing On

I remember the first time I was hurt by someone I trusted and respected. They had been a source of life and love for me in my spiritual walk and they had presented themselves as someone to count on. I’d reached out to confide in them and ask for advice as I had been feeling dull and lost. The needle of my compass wasn’t staying fixed on a direction and I was slowly sailing through the fog. To add to the burden of confusion, I had been beating myself up because I couldn’t figure a way out of the fog. It was certainly a hard place to be.

The response he gave was sharp and lacking poise. I walked away carrying a second helping of condemnation in my spirit. “How could you let yourself get here, Casey? Why are you feeling this way? What did you do? Who are you? Why are you here? Just give up and disappear.” Those thoughts surged like waves against the rock face of my heart and the internal confusion compounded.

It would be neat to say that in that moment Jesus showed up in a magnificent and profound way, but He didn’t. It would make for an awe-inspiring story to say that an angel appeared before me with an invigorating encouragement, but that didn’t happen either. I stood there staring into the abyss of nothingness. I was confused, lost, and disappointed in myself for allowing myself to even get into that place. Jesus eventually did show up though. Or, I should say, He eventually appeared to show up.

Years later Holy Spirit reminded me of that event. I winced. I attempted to withdraw from the memory but He was persistent. It was painful at first but when he removed the blood stained gauze that had become glued to the wound I saw something I didn’t notice before. What I saw surprised me.

Jesus was there all along.

When Holy Spirit brought me back to that event, I saw Jesus sitting there in that moment, turned towards me, with His loving and tender gaze fixed solely on me. His eyes, oh my goodness His eyes. I could climb Everest in one go with a single glimpse of those eyes. I could endure a life of nothing but pain, hardship, and suffering if I had but one look from His eyes. I could joyfully embrace a martyr’s reward with just one eye-locked moment with Him.

There was nothing but pure love, concern, and empathy in His eyes.

I noticed something else in that experience. I noticed I hadn’t once looked toward Him. I was sitting on the couch mentally pacing around my hurt and confusion wondering what on earth was going on, and I never once looked at Him sitting there next to me. As you can imagine, that experience resulted in tears streaming down my face. Good tears. Healing tears. He was so patient with me in that moment, and in all the moments since. He didn’t rush me through it. He sat there with me. He didn’t tell me to brush it off and put your big-boy pants on. He experienced the pain with me. He didn’t tell me to hurry it up. He endured it with me. Jesus has never responded to me in the way the other man did. His love is so steady. His love is unending.

Dear reader, Jesus suffers with you. He endures with you. He walks through the pain with you. He’s there, ever-present and ever-ready, to offer His healing and empowering embrace with His gaze fixed on you.

How do you move past pain?
How do you press on from hurt?
How do you navigate out of the fog?

You look into His eyes.

Written by: Casey Bolton Crocker

The Leavens Of The Mind

The Leavens Of The Mind

It’s impossible to scroll through Facebook today without seeing some passionately written, sometimes angry posts. These posts can take on a variety of different flavors. It could be the classic political rant, a religious rant, or any other number of rants that are always anti-something or someone. With the current political climate and division that we’re seeing throughout the US, it got me thinking about a teaching I heard years ago that is more relevant now than ever before.

In his book “The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind,” Bill Johnson has a chapter where he talks about the leavens of the mind. Leaven is defined as a substance, typically yeast, that is added to make dough rise. It can also refer to a pervasive influence that modifies something or transforms it. In the natural realm, when activated by heat, leaven causes dough to rise. In the spiritual realm, when activated by “the fire of difficulty” or trials, whatever leaven is influencing your mind will rise to the surface and be exposed. It is in this context that Jesus used the word leaven when speaking to his disciples.

Right after Jesus miraculously fed the four thousand, the Pharisees came to him and questioned him, testing him and demanding a sign from heaven (as if feeding 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread wasn’t a sign from heaven!). Jesus sighed and refused to give them the sign they so desperately wanted, knowing that they would still reject him no matter what. After his interaction with the Pharisees, Jesus addressed his disciples: “Be careful. Watch out for the yeast (or leaven) of the Pharisees and that of Herod” (Mark 8:15).

We see from the life and teachings of Jesus that there are three types of leaven:

  • The leaven of Herod
  • The leaven of the Pharisees
  • The leaven of the Kingdom

These leavens, or mindsets, are alive and active today and they greatly affect how we think and live. They are a picture of influence on our minds and will influence our thoughts, decisions, and frame of reference.

The Leaven of Herod

The leaven of Herod is an atheistic influence based on the strength of man and man-based systems, like politics, popular will, and persuasion. Herod’s leaven excludes God entirely. This belief represents a big problem in the Church: practical atheism, or a disbelief in an active God. As believers, how often do we face situations on a daily basis where we don’t bring God into the picture? We are professing Christians, but are we living any differently that our atheist neighbors when we face a problem? Is our first response to seek God’s counsel and invite Him to intervene?

America is permeated by the leaven of Herod. We applaud those who are “self-made” and relied on their own strengths and abilities to rise to success. Sometimes the Church falls into this deception as well. We falsely think that whatever we can accomplish on our own strength has been directed or honored by God. We may accomplish our goals and reach what the world calls “success,” but that doesn’t always mean that God is involved in our efforts.

The Leaven of the Pharisees

The leaven of the Pharisees represents the religious system. This mindset embraces God in theory, but not in practice or experience. For those under this influence, the concept of God is essential, but the experience of God is completely removed. Bill Johnson said it beautifully when he wrote, “Pharisees provide explanations, but not solutions.”

Under this influence, we can “know” Jesus the wrong way, just as the people of Nazareth did – they knew him in form, but not in relationship or demonstration. We see in the American church today many people who are totally satisfied with the Pharisee leaven. They are content with being a churchgoer, but yet entirely unplugged from an active, invasive, ever-present God. Many Christians with this mindset find “explanations” for problems such as physical illness, broken relationships, or financial lack. They are confident in their ability to explain away any problem, but they are powerless to provide any solution.

I love how Jesus refused to give the Pharisees the sign they demanded from him. He was so focused on solutions that He didn’t even entertain their debate. The Church would do well to follow this example today.

The Leaven of the Kingdom

When we’re influenced by the leaven of the Kingdom, we’re able to live out the Lord’s cry that “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and know that anything is possible at any time. This leaven is activated in our minds when we surrender to the Lord and the ways of his kingdom. Every time we read about a miracle that Jesus performed, or experience a miracle in our own lives today, its purpose is to teach us a new revelation of God that we can build our thought lives upon. God wants every testimony in our life and the lives of others to have its full effect on the way we think – renewing our minds to be kingdom-focused.

It’s easy to be kingdom-minded when things are going well in our lives, but the real test comes when we face trials – your car breaks down, a relationship ends, you lose a job, face a physical sickness, etc. It is in these moments that we must refuse to bow to the reality of our circumstances and instead proclaim the greater reality of King Jesus and his kingdom reign. When we keep our minds fixed upon him, we know that there is always a solution to any problem we will ever face. We know that he will heal our hearts and restore broken relationships. We know that he will provide above and beyond what we need and desires for us to be prosperous. We know that it’s his will to heal every sickness and disease, just as he healed all those who came to him.

Does your thought life begin with what you lack, or does it start with the revelation of Jesus and his kingdom provision? Are you worrying over something that Jesus has provided for you time and time again in the past? Don’t get stuck in tradition or be deceived by the leaven of Herod and the leaven of the Pharisees. Remember, kingdom thinking knows that anything is possible at any time. Every testimony we have in our lives should become the new standard from which we think in the future.

I encourage you to reflect upon your thought life and take an inventory of what leavens you’re being influenced by. When the impossible begins to seem possible, then you’ll know your mind is being renewed.

Written by: Nate Ebel

Under The Circumstances

Under The Circumstances

I remember a story a Korean pastor used to tell of a woman in his congregation who would come in week after week with various complaints.  When he would ask her how she was doing she would reply, “I’m ok, under the circumstances.”  I love his response.  He would always ask, “What are you doing under there?”

We all have circumstances, situations that weigh on us.  Some that even may seem pretty dire.  But God does not call us to be “under the circumstances.” God calls us, as Christians, to rise above our circumstances.  Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.

Ezekiel, the prophet, is taken to a valley full of bones.  The bones were dry.  Obviously, there was no life in those bones, but God told the prophet to speak to the bones, to speak life back into them.  And he did.  He spoke and the bones reconnected to each other.  Tendons, muscles and flesh returned to the bones.  He spoke again and breath returned to the bodies and they stood on their feet. (Ezekiel 37)

God never told the prophet to call the bones what they were, he told him to call them what they should be.  The circumstance was a valley full of dead, dry bones.  That’s a pretty hopeless situation.  But God’s reality was that they became a vast army.

Another prophet, Elisha, and his servant were in a circumstance where they were surrounded by a hostile enemy.  The servant saw the circumstances and he was afraid.  But Elisha knew God’s reality was more than what the servant saw.  He told him that those that were with them were more than those that were against them.  He prayed that God would open the servant’s eyes, and the servant saw that there was a vast angel army surrounding their enemies (2 Kings 6).

And the most important circumstance to a Christian is the death of Jesus on the cross.  When Jesus died his disciples didn’t know what to do with themselves and returned to fishing, feeling hopeless about the man they had given up everything for.  The situation looked pretty dire to them, but then Jesus resurrected.  There was so much that God was accomplishing through the death of Jesus, but the disciples didn’t see it until they were on the resurrection side of it.

“Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1).  “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).  When we speak of things how they are we are “under the circumstances.” But when we speak what is not yet seen, we are speaking faith in God’s reality.

Most Christians I know, would heartily agree that we should be about the business of faith rather than speaking negatively about our situations.  The sickness, the financial situation, the rocky marriage – these can truly be devastating circumstances.  But we know that God is working everything for good, for those that love Him and are walking according to his purpose, (Romans 8:28), don’t we?

There is one area, however, where it seems to me that many in the American church are “under the circumstances.”  That area is the state of our country, which in some people’s estimation is very far away morally and spiritually from where it should be.  Rather than being about the business of the Kingdom of God, bringing light to dark places, Christians stand back and criticize the darkness for being dark.

Under the circumstances some things may appear desperate, but remember God is not calling us to see things how they are.  We are to speak life into what seems lifeless.  We are to speak hope to those who are hopeless.  The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.

Maybe it is perspective.  For those that view moral decline in our world as a sign of a soon arriving rapture and coming judgement, they may feel no compulsion to do anything but observe, shake their heads and tsk tsk at the circumstances.

But if our business is to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6), meaning to make the message of the Kingdom our number one priority, then no matter what the circumstances appear to be, we should always be advancing, always carrying the light to dark places, always speaking hope into what seems hopeless, life into what seems lifeless.  I think as Christians in America that should definitely apply to our country.  So, don’t stand back and blame darkness for being dark.  Stand up and be the light.  Speak life.

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (1 John 5:4).

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I love Toby Mac’s song “Move (Keep Walkin’).  In it he says, “Lift up your head, it ain’t over yet.”  Let’s keep that in mind when we feel weighed down by the circumstances.

Written by: Sharon Letson

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

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