Up Against a Wall

The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of His people. Psalm 33:10

Walls keep enemies on the outside but they can also keep someone who wishes to be free on the inside. Walls are their prison.

The Word of God has a lot to say about keeping our boundary lines secure in order to stay spiritually safe. But scriptures also reveal that God builds a wall in order to thwart the freedom and success of a wayward child. Though that is comforting when we want our loved one to be protected, it is also difficult to watch the struggle. We understand what is wrong but they don’t understand what God is trying to tell them.

The person in captivity lives discouraged because God’s wall obstructs every attempt to move forward. None of their plans come together. What has worked for others just doesn’t work for them. They apply for jobs but never hear back. They save money to fund their dreams but unexpected expenses keep draining their resources. What seems to add up on paper never becomes a reality. Unexpected medical expenses and car repairs (and other flukes) eat into their profits. The result? They are confined inside the wall that Gob built.

And here’s where it affects us. We tell them, “You just need to pray about your future. Only God can fix all of this.” But God is not a cosmic genie – there to facilitate a prosperity that is all about them and not about Him. Telling them to pray and ask for what’s on their wish list doesn’t address the fact that they want everything but God. Until they desire Him and the life He wants for them, the walls won’t come down.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that they did pray, and God in His mercy gave them what they asked for. Would that inspire them to give their lives to Christ? I doubt it. Their new idol would glitter and the joy of success would further shield them from their true spiritual needs.

When we watch someone we love get hemmed in by God, is there anything we can do? Three things.

1.) Bathed with a lot of prayer, there needs to be a conversation with the one who is stuck. They need to know that God is thwarting their path out of love and mercy. He is waiting to bless them, first with Himself, then with spiritual success.

2.) We need to stop trying to help them succeed. We are getting in the way of what God is trying to do.

3.) Ask God to quickly bring them to a place of submission. Ask Him to open their heart to sense His wooing. We are called to fight the fight in prayer by restricting the enemy from deceiving them and releasing them to desire Christ.

Lord, they are in a battle and don’t even know it. I see it so I am putting on my armor to get engaged. I will be Your prophet and your intercessor. In Jesus’ name, Amen

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When Life Isn’t What I Dreamed It Would Be

“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Psalm 39:7

Last night, this quote from John Piper was sent to me. It struck me so deeply that I actually dreamt about it.

Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped it would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have. John Piper/Desiring God Ministries

Life is a series of losses to be grieved. On the other side, God waits to be embraced and that is the most difficult thing of all. Satan wants me to believe that I’m forced to embrace the One who withheld my dreams. The very idea of intimacy with God, in that case, is distasteful. Who wants to be a friend with the person who has hurt you the most!

I have to look at the broader picture and take myself off center stage. Every chosen man and woman in Christian history was favored, but then afflicted. The ones who triumphed and experienced some unforgettable mountaintops along the way did so by trusting in the character of God. In spite of suffering, they partnered with a God who loved them and called them.

While Piper’s quote is short, each part penetrates and challenges.

I weep deeply over my disappointments. Tears are not the end of my journey but they are a part of it. It takes courage to admit that my hope has been spent. Think of the times you may have commented to someone, ‘You must be broken hearted!’ Rarely does someone admit it. The hurt is minimized because down deep, we suspect we can’t survive coming to such a conclusion.  Instead, we give our pat answers. ‘It’s just a bump in the road.’ ‘I’m a little sad but I’ll get over it.’ For me to know true joy, I have to embrace the unvarnished truth. Otherwise, unspent grief spills out in depression and/or anger. Most spend their lives trying to numb out pain.

I grieve the losses. Nothing is as intimidating. I believe that if I start crying, the tears will have no end. It’s an illusion. While much of grieving is solitary, I remain in a small community to keep my perspective. I surround myself with those who will encourage grief and not condemn. They speak Jesus’ words over me and give me whatever time is needed to emerge from the ashes. This is one reason not to make shallow people your best friends. Continue reading “When Life Isn’t What I Dreamed It Would Be”

When Jesus Doesn’t Feel Like Enough

You let your mouth loose in evil And your tongue frames deceit. “You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son. “These things you have done and I kept silence.  Psalm 50:19-21

Nothing stirs up our flesh like family rivalry.  The personality and gifts of one child can be celebrated more than the uniqueness of another child.  Or, a mother favors one while the father favors another.  From birth, affections and privileges can be divided.  It would appear that harmony among children is often doomed from the start.

Siblings can spend their lives at odds.  The tension is never resolved.  Family inheritances only add to further alienate relationships.  Even in old age, the stuff of youth is rehearsed.  A bystander in their thirties marvels that brothers and sisters in their seventies are still arguing.  Not until they get much older will they understand that childhood offenses seem like yesterday.   A brother or sister can be despised all the way to their deathbed because of something that was done or said during their teen years.  Because our past replays vividly on the jumbo screen of our heart, the wounds stay fresh.

Love, respect, favor, and wealth?  How can life-long prejudices dissolve?  Someone new must arrive on the scene to offer something that is greater in value than what we lost.  Someone has ~ and His name is Jesus.  Healing for severely fractured families is possible but only as they come together to love and worship Jesus.  As each one’s appetite is transformed by beholding the beauty and glory of Christ, the stuff that comprised their arguments seems miniscule.  Every family member comes to realize that what they had been fighting over is a trinket compared to the gifts Jesus freely offers.  And, He is no respecter of persons.

Perhaps I have a life-long angst regarding other members of my family.  All I have to do is think about that person and my insides are churning.  Being loved by Jesus and becoming emotionally engaged with my spiritual birthright melts away resentment.  What I seek, I already have in Christ.  It may be hope deferred but it is real and it is mine.  If it doesn’t seem like enough to my heart, I must ask God to open my heart to incomparable gift of Him!  Is He not powerful enough to transform my affections?

Open my spiritual eyes to see the value of You and everything You long to give.  Help me re-orient my soul so that my hands are clutching You instead of things that perish. In Jesus name, Amen

Journal Question:  What memory from childhood still haunts you?  What is so unfair that the hurt it generates eats away at your flesh like a cancer?  What are you trying to extract from another family member that you could abandon today for what Jesus offers?  Today can be the day you turn a page in your history.  How badly do you want freedom?

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When God Makes Our Enemies Fear Us

For by You I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a wall.  Psalm 18:29

How does God protect us if we are His child? He nudges us to take a different route, buy a different house, even make a different friend. He’ll send angels to stand guard to keep us from harm. What’s little known is how God directly warns our enemies to stay away from us. He shuts the ‘mouth of the lions’ and puts a watch on their tongue. Certainly not all the time though. He didn’t even do this every single time for Jesus. Like Him, we will be hated and are called to carry a cross. But God has a destiny for each of us, a purpose for which we were born. He will take us safely through all He has ordained for us to do and protect us when His purposes are threatened.

Some examples ~ God came to Laban in his own Aramean tongue and told him what to say to Jacob. He came to the heathen King Abimelech to keep him from touching Sarah, Abraham’s wife. He also spoke to Balaam to prevent him from cursing the children of Israel.  God shut the mouths of Jesus enemies after one of his public sermons. Though they wanted to kill him, he walked right through the group and disappeared.

I can know that spiritual enemies are on God’s leash. No one will prevail over God’s child if it is outside of His will. He will intervene somehow even if it means speaking directly to our enemy. Have you ever encountered a dark person who seemed afraid of you? Perhaps you were confused about it. In these post-Christian days where society is rapidly deteriorating, we should be savvy enough to realize that this will become commonplace. The more oppressed the person, the more sparks will be generated when a child of God is in the same room.

A closing thought however. The safest child of God is an obedient one. I shouldn’t expect God’s protection if I’ve taken a self-willed detour. God made it clear from the beginning. ‘Obey me and you’ll be blessed. Disobey me and you’ll be led into captivity.’ God does protect but I can only count on God having my back if I am walking in Jesus’ footsteps.

It’s humbling to think about all the times you restrained my enemies yet I accused you of being absent from my life. Again, I’m sorry. How I praise You for being a present and active Father. Amen

Satan Will Use God’s Word Against Me

Hold not your peace, oh God of my praise. Psalms 109:1

Has the Word of God ever tormented you? Conviction is one thing; torment is altogether different. God is not a tormentor and yet, when it’s the Word of God that appears to eat at my soul, it can do tricks on my spiritual view of God. He becomes a tease.

 I need to know that Satan is cunning. Paul warned me. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Cor. 11:3   The Word, rightly revealed, brings me closer to Jesus. My appetite for Him increases and I can’t help myself from drawing nearer. But Satan will quote scripture (as he did to Jesus) and weave truths together in a way that triggers my issues. How will I know that it’s him working against me rather than the Spirit of God convicting me? I will be led astray from my devotion to Christ. I will find myself backing up, growing shy, beginning to feel distrustful of God’s love for me. I’ll give you an example.

Up until my early forties, Satan did a number on me through hooking two spiritual truths together. 1. God loves me just the way I am – enough to come and die for me. And, 2.) God’s will for my life is that I grow to become more like His Son. Combine those and it’s deadly. How can God love me just like I am if He wants me to spend my whole life changing to become like Jesus? Feeling continually inadequate, I feared drawing close to Him. I could only trust His love if I felt I was acting Christlike. See the trap?

Where are you stuck in your relationship with Christ? Where are you shy of Him? Over what do you back up rather than move closer? Find the answer to those questions and I’ll guarantee that God’s Words have been used against you. The devil knows scripture better than any of us and is not above quoting it out of context. We could be paranoid and say that we’re helpless against such craftiness but we must remember that we have the Spirit of God inside to guide each of us into the way of truth. When I identify feelings of torment, I know to go hunting for the lies that caused it.

Lord, I don’t know who this devotional is for today. Reveal the mis-used scriptures and set the captives free. In Jesus name, Amen

No Place To Plant My Feet

You are the same, and your years have no end.  The children of your servants shall dwell secure.  Psalm 102:27-28

Everything having to do with the Earth is in transition.  The sun, needed to bring the flowers to full bloom, can also have scorching qualities, causing the blossoms to shrivel and die.  Everything I hold in my hands is tenuous unless it is of the kingdom and will last forever.  Is my trust in God?  Should my wealth fail, will I spiral down into hopelessness or will my faith in God sustain me?  If the favor of others fail, will I be unshakable in my identity?

If my pleasant pastures turn into a desert, will I have stored enough spiritual food to sustain me?  If God should close the door to my place of employment, the place I find so fulfilling, will I languish for purpose?

The only One who offers true stability is God.  He is the Rock upon which my feet stand securely.  He is the Anchor when the waves hit.  He is the Fortress when the arrows are aimed at me.  Though favor, wealth, and pleasant pastures are mine to enjoy from time to time, they are not the source of my well-being.  The challenge is this ~ Each one of them gives a sense of security, but it’s a false one.  Will I be astute enough to trust today’s scripture and not be fooled?  That requires more than just passive belief.  It must be active and hard-working.

While in times of prosperity, it’s easy to spout off a cliche.  “God is my security when bad things happen to me!”  Now, I may mean it but if I’m not storing up enough ‘food’ so that when I am tested, I can be nourished through the times of deprivation, how will I experience it?  I must know the One upon whom I plan to trust.  And, I must be accustomed to depending on God so that I can lean into my experience in the act of trusting.  Today:

  • There are areas where I can experience God as provider.  I lean into that.
  • There are areas where I can listen to God as a counselor.  I still myself to listen.
  • There are areas of darkness where I need to experience the light of His love.  I open myself to that.
  • There are areas of insecurity and fear where I can trust Him to face that which frightens me.  I welcome the challenge.

Life involves far more than just living what I am experiencing.  It requires being pro-active.  Digging into my faith and storing away riches for the future will be my only insurance against transitory times.

I enjoy the peace of today, Lord.  I thank you for it but I am not fooled.  Tomorrow, the winds may blow.  I make knowing you, even in peaceful times, my priority.  In Jesus name, Amen