Tamed

I like to read well-known authors to keep informed of what is popular in the present. This month my book journey led me to “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle. Her message of letting go of others’ expectations and “living in the moment” is alluring. She uses the word “free” often, as in “free from” chains that hold us. Her 21st century philosophy of “finding yourself” and “living free” is an enticing message. Her self review is honest, encouraging readers to embrace themselves and break out of the “cages of conditioning” that thwart our growth and happiness. It is a popular message to the masses.

But there’s a problem.

As Christians we are not called to embrace ourselves, but to deny ourselves. It is an unpopular view, as well as feeling, because, honestly, it’s not easy. It takes for-thought and perseverance and gumption to deny one’s self daily. It’s hard.

But so was the cross.

The second fallacy is that one is “free” when following Doyle’s philosophy. In this world, you’re going to be a slave to something. If one grasps the philosophy proposed in the book, they are merely swapping one set of “shackles” (self denial) for another (“happiness”). Happiness now becomes the slave driver, changing moment to moment and at the whim of each person. It never fills because it is ever changing.

But there is One who is never changing. His message is also a message of freedom, but it is not clothed in “easy” or “wreckless abandon.” It is real and honest, warning the listener to carefully weigh the costs before jumping in.

Why?

Because self denial is not natural. It is not human nature to “reel oneself in.” We WANT to say what we want to say and do what we want to do without having to think of the heavy weight of consequences or what pleases God. It’s so much easier and feels so much (fleshly) better to just “do what feels right” and be the master of our own fates. But the Bible warns us that the heart is deceiving. So, what is one to do?

Cling to Him. Choose to live Tamed. Jesus said those who love Him will keep His commandments. Revelation talks of those who are saved as those who fed the hungry, visited the lonely…did the hard, self denial stuff. It’s not a life that sounds very enticing or romantic, but it is the only way to true freedom.

The Sacrificial Lamb

The Bible refers to Jesus as the sacrificial lamb. During my recent studies, I discovered a wonderful correlation.

The Bible talks about the woman anointing Jesus with oil multiple times in the texts. I had always assumed these were different accounts of one event, but they are not. There were, actually, two separate events.

In Luke 7:36-39 an immoral woman enters the house where Jesus is and, 6 days before his crucifixion, washes his feet with oil.

In Matthew 26:6-13 another woman, 2 days before the crucifixion, enters a house in Bethany and anoints Jesus’ head with oil.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, 6 days before the Passover, the priest selects an unblemished lamb for sacrifice and anoints its feet with oil. Then, 2 days before Passover, the priest again anoints the lamb – this time his head – to signify he is, indeed, disease and blemish free. When the Bible calls Jesus our sacrificial lamb, it wasn’t lying!

Power of Praise

King Jehoshaphat was leading God’s people when he got word that an enemy nation was on the way to attack. Jehoshaphat, wasting no time, commanded all of Judah to fast (abstain from food). They then all assembled and prayed to the Lord, praising Him and reminding Him of all the promises He made to them: “Lord, the God of our ancestors,(H)are you not the God who is in heaven?(I) You rule over all the kingdoms(J) of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.(K) 7 Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land(L) before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?(M) 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary(N) for your Name, saying,9 ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine,(O) we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us. 10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt;(P) so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession(Q) you gave us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will you not judge them?(R) For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.(S)”. (NIV version) They then asked the Lord the Lord for help. Jehosaphat then does a strange thing: “After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his[c] holiness(AB)as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”(AC)22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes(AD) against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.”

Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing praises to God ahead of the army! One would not expect worship singing on the way to battle, but they did. Notice what it says next: AS THEY WERE SINGING the Lord (fought against their enemies). God didn’t wait for the his men to even get there! He started fighting the enemy BEFORE they even arrived. When the Isrealites arrived, there was nothing but dead bodies on the ground!

24 When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.”

Wow! Imagine what victories could be won in out own lives if we followed their example of fasting, praying for help and praising God in the middle of the storm! It is a testament to God’s goodness and the power of praise!

Accuse Not

Once I was complaining to my husband about an encounter with an angry stranger in a store. At one point I said, “She had an evil intent in her heart.” That’s when the Holy Spirit used my wise husband to say, “Well, she acted angry, but you don’t know her heart.” He was exactly right. The lady could have been acting out of fear, or confusion. It was wrong of me to accuse her. //Revelation 12:10 calls the Devil the “Accuser.” “…for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night.” Note here it is not saying he stated facts, but ACCUSED, assigned intent. But only God knows the intent of our hearts. So, every time we assign intent (or accuse), we are kind of attempting to take God’s place. Ouch.//Another time accusing is described was when Michael, the Arch angel, was wrestling the enemy for the body of Moses. Jude 1:9 says, “But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels,[a] did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (NLT). // Does this mean we don’t make godly decision? God forbid! We are encouraged to be wise and look out, specifically, for wolves in sheep clothing (people who say one thing but do another). But even in the Old Testament, before bringing an accusation against someone, you had to have at least 2 witnesses to the offense. (And if it was a crime punishable by death, the accuser was the one to throw the stones. Accusations were a very serious business). So, it does not mean we cannot make decisions, But it does mean we should not assume the heart/meaning of another. I think it can be safely said that these verses support keeping a lid on our accusations! Lord, help us as we try to keep our lips (and accusing thoughts) quiet.

Letting Go

I see you, Mom, running around making breakfast and packing lunches, throwing your hair into a messy bun and your legs into your leggings as you sigh when you see your reflection in the mirror. You remember when life was less hurried and …easier. When you had time for things like manicures and lunches with friends. When your kitchen was always clean and tidy. Now, your manicures are replaced with stubby, “sensible” nails and what is a clean kitchen, again? And here it comes: the feeling that you have failed. That you are “less than” for not “doing it all.” Can I tell you, friend, that is a lie from the enemy? You see, we were never meant to do it all – simultaneously. In the game of life with work and kids and husbands, something’s gotta give. It is a false assumption to believe otherwise. We feel guilty for not having as much time for friends or not keeping a spicnspan house, but we need to accept the fact that time – and our energy – are finite now. No one gave us a memo between “no kids” and “having kids” that things would change drastically & some things would HAVE to be let go. It is not a failure, it is REQUIRED. Gone are the days of endless time and energy, those things are now valuable and limited. You HAVE to make hard choices now (manicure or nap, spotless kitchen or help kids with homework). Now is the time for LETTING GO. You no longer have time for EVERYONE, so select 2 main friends. You can no longer be perfect, so be present. Here, sister, is your “guilt free” certificate! From now on, when you see the dishes piled up think “Wow! I made a better choice to get a nap.” Or when you start to feel guilty for not going out as much, think, “Wow! I spent time with those who really matter!” We have to change our personal dialogue to rid ourselves of the false guilt the enemy loves to send our way. Letting go. It’s now part of the game.

Unwanted Blessing

The Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness when they complained of hunger. “At least in Egypt we had meat and grapes,” they wailed, forgetting it was at the cost of enslavement. Hearing their cry, God sent something new, something different, something unexpected. “And God …. fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know…” (Deut. 8:3) Here we see that, despite the complaints, God harkened to their pleas and sent manna. But notice: it was not what they expected. The actual word “manna” literally means, “What is it?” In their distress, they cried for meat…but they got manna. They were sent an unwanted blessing. But isn’t that how it goes, sometimes? We cry out to God and He responds to our cries, but not the way we expected … or wanted. It is confusing and sometimes, admittedly, disappointing. We get a used car instead of a Corvette, love instead of passion or maybe roast instead of cake. Does this negate the blessing? No! But it is in these moments where we must trust God’s hand. Note, also, it says they were sent a blessing that neither they nor their parents or grandparents knew. God is like that. Sometimes we’ll be praying for one thing and God sends another. And if we aren’t careful, we won’t see it for what it is: a blessing. //We see later that manna was actually the “bread of the angels, (sent) in abundance” (Psalm 78:25). So, while the people are confused, God is sending them not only something to meet their needs, but something HEAVENLY. IN ABUNDANCE. How many times have we ignored God’s blessing because it wasn’t what WE wanted? Or expected? Or knew? In times like these, let’s pray that God opens our eyes to the provisions He sends – even if they aren’t what we expect – and praise Him for what we don’t understand. We must always trust His heart when we do not understand His hand.

Strange Signs

There’s a strange phenomenon people hardly notice as they walk through forests in the South: bent trees. As a child, we used to play on these trees, enjoying their low proximity. But recently I learned of their importance.

The trees were actually MADE this way, on purpose, by human hands. Native American hands, to be specific. They made the trees to point to important things (usually water or elk hunting grounds). So, as you are walking the bent tree marks the way to let you know something important is in THAT DIRECTION. Similarly, the Bible acts as our trees, pointing the way we should go, telling us of the important things that are to come. There are even “bent tree” phrases like “He who has an ear, let him hear” (meaning, “Listen up!”) to specifically highlight something of the utmost importance. But, like only finding the trees in the forest, you will only find these nuggets of wisdom in the Bible. We would be wise to study them so we, too, will know which way to go.

Choose your Hard

There’s a quote going around facebook called, “Choose your hard.” It goes something like, “Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard. Living on a budget is hard. Bankruptcy is hard. Choose your hard…” I like the concept because it’s true. No matter what you choose, it’s gonna be hard so choose your hard wisely. I was recently reading in 2 Samuel where God stopped a plague at the threshing floor ofAraunah the Jebusite. David decides to buy the land and sacrifice an offering to God of thankfulness. Araunah tells King David he will happily give him the land, but David says, “ No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God that which cost me nothing.” It made me think of the “choose your hard” mantra: sacrifice will cost you. Sin will cost you. But only one redeems you. Choose your cost. Sure, it seems hard to sacrifice things we want to do sometimes, but the cost of sin is far more hard and will take more from us than we ever thought or dreamed of. Both cost. Choose wisely.

A New Day

President Obama angered many when he said we were no longer a Christian nation, but his words served as a catalyst for thought: Are we still a Christian nation? The answer? Yes. But we are no longer the majority. For generations, we have been blessed to live in a country where the majority of people at least claimed the same religion as us, and we became blessed. But we also became complacent. We became used to the (false?) idea that those who followed our traditions also shared our faith. We believed our faith would always be accepted, if not revered. We were the majority.

Not anymore. There has been a culture shift, but no one gave Christians the memo. Almost overnight, sins went from “frowned upon” to “publicly celebrated.” Many Christians are walking around, confused and angry, and wanting things to stay the same. It is understandable when an environment changes without warning to have such a response, but we must do it in the right manner. So, how do we live if we are no longer the majority?

Let’s look back to the first century. Here, also, is a time where Christians were not the majority. They stood out. Everything they did differently was noticed and scrutinized. They had it worse, but they also had a platform. Simply by being different, they preached. Their lives alone either spoke of the glory and hope of God or showed confusion and depression. Whatever they did was magnified – simply because they were not the majority.

They also used the law to their advantage. The apostle Paul was both a Christian and Roman and had special protections as a Roman citizen. Many times, he was able to use the law to get out of a bind. He did not abstain from politics, but used it to his advantage to protect his ability to share the Gospel. Many people in the Bible lived in pagan times. It seems the holy people of old espoused the phrase, “We are in the world, but not of it.” Unlike us, they did not expect to be respected or even liked. They even expected persecution.

While it is right to, like Paul, use the law of the land to protect faith and freedoms, it is important to do it in a Christian way. Now, more than ever, we will be “seen” because of our differences. Traditionally, people are leery of “different.” It is imperative that, like the Christians of old, we wear the name of Christ honorably and lovingly. While we should use all the laws available to protect and defend our freedoms, we should not have the expectancy that the outcome will be as it has been. This is an adjustment time. While we may lose many of the niceties we have previously enjoyed, the negatives (being a minority) also come with blessings (being noticed). We should be prepared to let our lights shine like they never have, because they will be noticed as never before. It is a new day. Let’s shine as never before!

Power of Praying Friends

Raise your hands above your head and hold them there for 5 minutes. Now try 15. Difficult, isn’t it? Such is the predicament Moses found himself. In Exodus 17, the Israelites are in battle with the Amalekites. Moses ascends a mountain and when his hands raise the Staff, the Israelites win the battle, but when he lowers his Staff, they begin to lose. Luckily, Moses took Aaron and Hur with him. They provided him a rock to sit on and held the staff for him so his hands could merely hang, lessening the burden. In another time, Job’s friends offend God so much that God wouldn’t her their prayers, but God WOULD hear Job intercede for them and forgive them. Yet another time, we see King David’s servant refer to Bathsheba as “Uriah’s wife” (a term never used for women in ancient times). In each case we see the value of godly friends. Sometimes, our burden needs lightening. Other times, we need intercession. And every so often, we need a close comrade to remind us what is what! I can tell you from personal experience, it is sometimes the darkest times in our lives when we don’t have the strength to pray for ourselves. It is at these times we would do well to have Christian friends interceding for us, lightening our load before the Father. If you do not have close, godly friends ask the Lord to bring them to you. We all need accountability, intercession and help!