The LORD’s name for me

“No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.” (Genesis 17:5)

“(15)Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. (16) And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.’” (Genesis 17:15-16)

“And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’” (Genesis 32:28)

“(17) Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (18) And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.’” (Matthew 16:17-18)

“Then Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him.” (Acts 13:9)

I was saved four years ago this autumn.  Very soon after I was saved by the blood of Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit laid something on my soul.  The problem was that I was a new Christian, I didn’t know much about the Holy Spirit, and I thought this ‘thing’ being laid onto my heart was just in my head.  I was told to change my name.  That I was such a completely different person, this change went down to the very roots of my being.  I am not the person I used to be.  I am nowhere near that person.  But I didn’t understand the fact I was a new creation.  I didn’t have the Biblical knowledge that God did this sort of thing; changed people’s names at key moments in their life.

You see I, Sarah, was a practicing pagan: a Druid.  I had a spell book, practiced rituals, and belonged to a grove.  I regularly communed with spirits.  I was also heavily into the BDSM community.  I was a submissive, a sexual slave.  Sarah is a masochist.  In my life I have had numerous sexual encounters with males and females, some younger and some much older, some married.  On top of all of that I persecuted Christians.  I mocked them, belittled them, and lashed out at them in so many horrific ways.  I told myself it made us ‘even’ since it was the Catholics who burned Druids, and tortured Shamans.  I think somewhere in my heart I was angry at Jesus for doing this, or supporting this, or thinking this was okay.  I assumed this is what Christians wanted.  And I was adamantly against reading the Bible to learn any differently.

Then I got cancer and I started to read the Bible thanks to the pushing of my fiancé Jeremy.  I read the book of John three times before I had surgery to remove the tumors.  I was terrified of the surgery.  My neck is the one place on my body where I am not supposed to have cut open.  I prayed a lot that day as I waited to be taken back.  Then, right before I went under, I heard the most amazing thing.  Three words were spoken to me that changed my entire life.  I heard Jesus say to me, “You are mine.”

When I woke up everything was different.

Everything had changed.  I actually couldn’t remember anything about my old religion.  I couldn’t tell you the names of the gods or goddesses.  I couldn’t remember if it was Winter Solstice or a Winter Equinox.  I couldn’t remember my spells.  I couldn’t remember the meaning behind any of my rituals.  My desire to go back to the fetish club was gone.  For the first time in my life I began to long for monogamy and hungered for marriage.  I found myself thirsting for the Word, and I began to read my Bible a lot.  I stopped persecuting Christians and instead publically proclaimed myself one.  I lost almost all of my friends.  My entire world turned upside down.  Nothing about me was the same.  From the inside out I felt different.  Everyone who was still around me began to pick up on the difference.  I no longer responded to things and situations as Sarah would have.

Back then, nearly four years ago, the Holy Spirit laid it on my heart to change my name.  I resisted Him.  I told myself it was just my imagination.  I knew that it would hurt my mom deeply if I changed my name.  I couldn’t even begin to fathom how to get people to start calling me a new name.  I convinced myself it was too much work for such a little thing.  For such a simple thing.  So every time the Holy Spirit continued to bring it up, I shoved it back down.  It was nonsense.  I told the Holy Spirit it wasn’t something that happened in the Bible.  So He took me to several verses, the ones above, to show me it was Biblical.  That when Jesus grabs a hold of someone for God they so completely change that they are a new person.  A new creation.  Who Sarah was died four years ago.  She was left under the water when I was baptized.  Someone new came out of that water.  Someone I am still learning and at times fighting for.

What has brought this to a head in these last few weeks is that I began attending a Redemption Group.  I signed up because I read the most wonderfully horrific book I have ever read in a long time, “Rid of My Disgrace” by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb.  If you have ever been raped, sexually assaulted, or abused this is a book I HIGHLY recommend reading.  It took me nearly three months to read it.  It was so hard, but in reading it I realized I have PTSD from being tormented and raped all those years ago.  Despite having seen a rape counselor I am not okay.  I realized he helped me merely to function again as a normal human being, but I wasn’t healed.  I was so broken inside and I had just come to accept the fact I would always be broken.  For six months of my life I was tortured in a hell I couldn’t escape.  Then I lost five years of my life because I was completely checked out of my life.  I haven’t grieved all of that.  All the gritty, horrific, terrifyingly painful memories.

And I have been fighting the Holy Spirit again.  He is walking me through this.  He is the reason I joined a Redemption Group.  On the first night He pressed in on me so tightly.  Despite what Jay did to me I am a new creation in Christ.  I am completely redeemed.  I can be whole through the cross.  The blood of Jesus covers even what happened to me.  My identity can no longer be there, nor can it be held captive any longer.  I struggle with this concept.  I struggle with fear.  I struggle with the weight the Holy Ghost, HG, has placed on my soul.

I am not who I was.  I haven’t been for four years.  For four years I have been a new creation.  I am a new woman, a fresh and good tree, one who bears the figged fruited desires of God.  HG has told me the name of this new creature, this new being, this godly woman.  And I am scared to call me by His name for me.  I still don’t want to hurt my mom.  I don’t want to offend her because I don’t think she will understand.  I know this is a fear of man issue.  I know Jesus gave me a name.  I know I need to start using it.  So I pray I have the strength.

Abba, Father … You are wonderful, mighty, and worthy of praise.  I can’t believe you wanted a wretch like me.  I am in humbled awe that You, Jesus, pursued me for 30 years.  You never gave up.  LORD you are so good.  You are so incredibly good to me.  Thank you for giving me this chance to be the woman You want me to be.  Thank You for taking out my heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh.  Holy Spirit, please, I beg you to be with me.  You have been after me for nearly four years now to do this.  I want to stop resisting you.  I want to fall into the freedom of Your strength, guidance, and control of my life.  You wove me together from the very start.  LORD You had a name for me from the beginning.  Please give me the wisdom to explain this change to those who question.  I need Your strength.  I will curl up in the comfort of your arms Heavenly Daddy.  I will be your daughter.

My name is Lael (Lay-el).  It means “Belongs to God.”

I pray that will always be true.  I hope to always strive to live up to this name You have given me.  In Jesus’ most holy, profound, and wonderful name I pray.  Amen.

Proud about being Humble

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.  Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5)

This verse has stuck with me these last few days.  It is like a splinter just beneath my skin.  I think it has become like a vulture in my mind because I don’t consider myself a very proud person.  I have seen, and I know, some very proud people and I tell myself I act nothing like this.  Which is where my problem with this piece of Scripture is coming from: I am comparing myself to others.  Am I proud in comparison to Jesus?  Oh yeah.  And yet I still have a very hard time writing that.  Not because I think I am anywhere near as humble as Jesus, but because I really want to say I am more humble than I am proud.

The ironic part of that sentence is that it is my pride that keeps me fighting this.  I am proud of being humble.  I like to pat myself on my back about it.  Granted I don’t do this out loud, nor do I post it on my Facebook account, but I will acknowledge these thoughts from deep in my heart.  Thoughts like these mean some of my humble acts really are selfish acts to feed my pride about being humble.  I should be performing all these acts to feed my relationship with Christ, and to shine His light … not to feed my own self-worth.  And I really just want to highlight this entire post so far, delete it, and move on.

But I know the Holy Spirit has kept this piece of Scripture in my head for a reason.  This is a sin I really need to work on.  It is a sin I hadn’t given a lot of thought to before.  I have only considered pride in more obvious, outgoing ways that glare in everyone’s face from other people.  I hadn’t ever taken a peek under the unseen rocks of my motivations and soul to seek out my own sinful pride.  I know I need to because of one very key word in that verse: opposes.  God opposes the proud.  I know He can see beneath my actions and under my skin.  He can see the pride in me that I haven’t been looking for … and He opposes me for it.  I really, really don’t like that.

I do not like to be considered God’s opponent.  I know I am no longer God’s enemy since I have washed myself in the blood of Christ.  I know when my heavenly Father now looks on me He sees me in Jesus.  It is those very reasons why that word “opposes” really bothers me.  For example, I love my fiancé and so I actively strive to not give him reasons to oppose me.  I do not want to be the enemy of the man I am going to marry.  Considering I love God so much more than I could ever love Jeremy I want to do things that make me His enemy even less; despite the fact I know that God has already forgiven me of all of these reasons through His Son Jesus.

So the first thing I have to do is state my sin: I am a proud person.  And I really, really hate saying that.  It fills me with shame.  I know we live in a culture and a world were ‘pride’ and ‘self-esteem’ are two of the most important things to achieve high scores in.  But Christ’s Kingdom has different rules, values, and ethics.  Jesus humbled Himself by becoming a man.  I have a hard time wrapping my head around that sometimes.  Jesus set aside all His divine power, His place on a throne in heaven where angels sang to Him, where He ate the most delicious food and drank the most divine wine, and came down to grow up as a man … with acne, aches, pains, ingrown toe nails, upset stomachs, hunger … and to hear the people He created shout “Crucify Him!”  And that is just one way Jesus humbled Himself.

And I really want to minimalize my pride.  I want to say it isn’t so bad, or even noticeable to anyone beyond me and my Creator.  At which point the Holy Spirit is kind enough to point out to me that even if my pride were as small of an issue as possible … it is still big enough to hammer the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet.  God is the one, in fact, who opposes my pride … not the rest of the world if they saw it.  And still I struggle against my pride of not being proud.  Feel free to laugh.

I need to repent and pray to the Holy Spirit.  I know only the Holy Spirit can give me the ability to strive toward the humility my Lord and Savior has.  Rather than fighting and resisting this conviction I need to lay it at the feet of Jesus, and beg Him to take away all the ways in which I am proud.  I know all other sins are birthed out of pride, so I really need to work on this issue in myself.  I know, now, that this issue isn’t a small one inside of me.  It is just one cleverly hidden behind and beneath other things.

So there you have it.  I don’t know if this has made any sense.  It feels like word vomit.  I feel like I am chasing my tail in a circle.  I really don’t like this part of myself, and I really don’t like sharing it with others.  But that too is my pride.  My pride is behind the things I do for others  at times … my pride is in keeping up appearances of being perfectly okay when I am suffering … my pride is in wanting to appear as a good Christian.  My pride motivates good actions.  My pride has me lie to make myself look good.  My pride seeks gratitude for the good things I am doing.  My pride keeps me withdrawn from my Kiwi longer than I should be when he hurts me or when we disagree.  My pride has kept a distance between myself and my Savior.  And I really don’t like any of this, or any of my pride.

Holy Spirit, please … I beg of you … help me weed out all these deep roots of pride.  Help give me the longing to be more like Jesus.  Fill me with a divine fervor to strive for my Father’s heavenly Kingdom rather than this earthly one.  Abba, Father …Divine Daddy … lease forgive your rebellious daughter for having dismissed, diminished, and denied this sin that crucified Your Son.  Jesus take out my heart of stone, and replace it with one of flesh that hungers only for Your bread of life.  I pray all of this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Abba, Father I am struggling

“(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  (4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NKJV)

“(2) Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (3) because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (4) Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”   (James 1:2-4 NIV)

“(2) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (3) for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  (4) And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1:2-4 ESV)

 

This is one of those life verses for me.  My life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses these last four years.  And I have only been a Christian for four years.  I didn’t become a Christian lightly or by chance.  It was by God’s design.  In God’s providence He prepped me right as I found out I had cancer.  The Holy Spirit gave me the will to read the Gospel of John three times before I had the surgery to have the cancerous tumors removed.  And then right before I went under Jesus spoke to me three very simple words, “You are mine.”

Those three words changed everything.  They rocked my world.  When I woke up everything was different.  I was a completely different person.  If I had the money I would have legally changed my name.  So many I was ‘lucky’ in the sense that I got saved while dealing with cancer.  I was never under the false impression that my life would be easy simply because I was a Christian.  Which is a really good thing because my life has been one really had challenge after another since Jesus reached down and claimed me for His team.

I have trials of many, various kinds.  And I put the three different versions of these verses up there because I think if you read the slightly different variations you get more out of them.  Or at least I do.  All of Scripture is God breathed, so I believe the various versions can really help paint an over all picture of what my Father is trying to say to me.  Especially when I am not feeling very patient, steadfast, or filled with perseverance.  I get there most days, but some days it is hard to reach that spot.  It is a daily walk, or hobble in my case.

My struggle right now is personal, and has nothing to do with my physical health.  It is a struggle I have been dealing with for a long time so I am actually pretty good at steadfastness and perseverance.  I waiver on the patience more than I ought to.  I try to change things even though I know I can’t.  All I can do is pray and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  The one aspect of this struggle that I have a very hard time grasping is counting it as a joy.

I don’t see it as a joy at all.  It is painful.  It causes my heart harm.  Some nights this struggles has me cry myself to sleep.  I don’t know how to look at it and see it as a blessing.  It just hurts.  And I know it likely won’t stop hurting any time soon.

I know my lack of patience is a sin.  I know I am supposed to wait upon the Lord.  And when I am waiting during my trials, while I am persevering, and holding steadfast I am to turn to Jesus because he is my strength.  I know I cannot do this on my own.  I am not even sure why I try.  Pride.  Pride is why I try if I am honest.  I think I can handle this on my own, that I can do this on my own, that I should be able to take care of things on my own.  Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  I am not sure why my pride comes out so strongly when I am struggling.  Humility, humbly seeking out Jesus should always be my first response.

I, of course, say it is.  But I don’t do much more than say a quick prayer to him while I am annoyed.  I don’t seek Jesus out in His word.  In my frustrations and fears I turn inward, wanting to figure everything out myself (my pride again) and I alienate everyone around me.  Rather than turning to those who love me for help, rather than seeking the aid of fellow Christians, and rather than seeking out godly counsel.  Besides, I am in too bad a mood to listen to it anyway.  I wouldn’t want to subject them to me (pride again) so it is better if I just keep to myself.  The devil is really good at telling me little lies to feed my frustrations and lead me further and further from the very person who can help me.  Jesus.

Humility is hard.  Telling someone you can’t do something, and that you need help is hard.  Swallowing my pride and going before a large group of people and asking for help is hard.  Getting angry, getting frustrated, getting annoyed, and withdrawing from the world is easy.  The devil always makes his path easier than God’s path.  That is why his traps are so easy to fall into.  God’s way takes thought, effort, consideration, love, devotion, care, and utter selflessness.  We have to die to ourselves which means giving up my pride.

Which is really a kinda funny, odd sorta thing to realize.  The biggest struggle I have with finding joy in Jesus is pride.  Pride is the biggest thing this world tries to sell me.  I would rather have Jesus.  The joy isn’t what is important, Jesus is.  And I need to realize that when I go down that easier path, when I pick pride, annoyance, frustration, and anger….I am telling Jesus that He isn’t worth it.  I am telling Jesus He isn’t the most important thing.  I am telling Jesus He is second place.  I am saying Jesus, even though you are God and have promised me only good things….I don’t trust you enough to handle this.  So I am going it on my own.  I don’t need you.

“I don’t need you”

Those four words make my soul shutter, and I cry thinking about how my actions and deeds actually say that to Jesus.  I am horrified and shamed to think of how those four words stack up to the soul sweet, life altering three words Jesus spoke to me, “You are mine.”  And the thing is Jesus doesn’t need me.  Jesus wants me.  Jesus wants me and loves me.  Jesus pursues me even when I betray Him and give Him a gabillion reasons not to.  I am not just undeserving of Jesus, I am ill-deserving.  It is a miracle and a mystery why He would want me and love me.  I am just grateful God does.  And I am grateful that the Holy Spirit never gives up on me and is always by my side to pick me up again.

I know I will go to bed tonight wrecked and in tears over this struggle, repenting in my heart with the pure hope I will do better tomorrow.  I am also shamefully afraid that tomorrow I will do just as bad a job of it.  The one thing I am not afraid of, though, is losing Jesus’ love.  I do not fear the Holy Spirit turning His back on me no matter the countless times I have, and will, turn my back on Him.  I pray I will do a better job tomorrow.  I pray for joy in this trial, as well as the others in my life.  I know that Jesus fully understands what I am going through.  I know the Holy Spirit knows my mind and heart.  I know my Heavenly Father will answer my prayers, and only give me good things.  I know this in my heart to be true.  I just have to be patient.  I need to persevere.  I need to worship Him in steadfast love and adoration.

Abba Father, you know I am not perfect at this.  You know I never will be perfect this.  I will never give up trying.  Just as I know you will never give up on me, your daughter.  Thank you for being a dad on whose chest I can beat my fists in pain and frustrations.  Thank you for being a daddy in whose lap I can curl up and cry out my sorrows on Your chest.  Thank you Dad, for being somewhere safe for me to be myself, where I am enough….in all my flaws, brokenness, and imperfections …it is nothing but beauty and perfect for you.  Thank you for always being the one man in my life I can count on to be faithful, honest, and true.  To love me without conditions, restrictions, and comparisons.  Abba Father, I know you are Holy and Divine and Righteous.  The Creator of heaven and earth.  But tonight, right now, you are my heaven dad.  Just that, right now, for me.  So thank you daddy, for being here for me.  I love you when you are Mighty, and I love you when you are mine.  I love you when I am Yours.  Amen

Today before Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Good Friday.  Tomorrow is Passover, the day Jesus willingly, submitted Himself to being betrayed, beaten, tortured, and then crucified.  Jesus knew what tomorrow was.  He knew what it would bring.  He had set His face toward Jerusalem and toward the cross for months now.  Knowing what His tomorrow would look like I can’t imagine what His today felt like.  I have only one day to try and compare this to and it is nowhere near a comparison.  It is probably even shameful and wrong for me to call it a comparison, but it is the best I can do in trying to even remotely wrap my head around what Jesus went through today.

I had flown out to visit a friend of mine with the hopes of building on the friendship to become something more.  I went out there knowing something was wrong with our friendship, but that maybe some face to face time could bring about some truth and honest and we could get back on the right track.  The first few days went fine.  Then we had a really good night of dinner and conversation.  We connected mentally and there was some real honesty.  Some real vulnerability.  I felt we had taken a step in the right direction.  I was happy.

Then I found it the next day.  A gift from another girl.  And what I already knew to be true had finally be confirmed.  I knew I had been betrayed.  I knew he was going to admit to the betrayal when he got home and I confronted him on it.  But that was not for several hours.  So what could I do right now?  I did the one thing I am really good at doing when I am upset, I cleaned.  I cleaned from top to bottom.  His entire apartment I cleaned it.  I even made him a really nice dinner to eat for when he came home.  Then I sat down on the couch and watched the sun go down, and I waited.

I don’t know how long I waited. I know the house got dark.  When he got home, he ate.  I didn’t say anything to him at first.  He didn’t say anything either.  The apartment was very quiet.  I think the silence lasted an hour or so before I finally confronted him.  Needless to say the conversation didn’t go well.  I unpacked everything he ever gave me, and left them there on the floor of his apartment in the corner so he wouldn’t see them at first.  I wanted to hurt him as he had hurt me.  Then I left.  He drove me to the airport.  I was devastated.  I felt betrayed down to my very soul.  I wanted to be so angry, but the truth was I was so hurt.  It hurt so much that I did nothing but cry that entire night and many nights after.

Thankfully Jesus did not respond as I did.  I had only been a Christian for a handful of months, and that isn’t an excuse.  But I can look back on that situation and say I did not understand Jesus’ tomorrow, or even Jesus’ today….to treat my friend the way I did.  I behaved shamefully.  I behaved selfishly.  I did not behave lovingly at all.  And it may not look that way to a lot of people, and a lot of you might say I did the right thing or that he had he coming to him.  Thankfully Jesus doesn’t think nor behave like any of us.  The problem is I just gave you a snap shot of the story for a reason.  You don’t know everything that was going on in our relationship.

Even so I can’t think of the number of times I have betrayed Jesus.  I know I have denied Him countless time.  I have cheated on Him with other idols.  I have put stupid things before Him.  I have cussed Him out.  I have belittled His words and everything He has done for me.  The things I do to Jesus on a weekly, daily, monthly, yearly, repetitively basis makes what this man did to me seem like nothing.  And Jesus still went to the cross for me.  Jesus still took every lash from the scourge for me.  He took every blow from a balled fist for me.

Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him for thirty silver to have Him murdered.  He still washed Judas’ feet.  Jesus still had a meal with Judas.  He still spoke with Judas all day.  He was still a friend to Judas up until the very end.  Even after Judas betrayed Him, Jesus didn’t lash out at him.  My friend betrayed me to a much lesser degree, and I couldn’t even share a meal with him.  I didn’t even really have a conversation with him.  I convicted him.  I tore into him.  I got very self righteous and condemning.  But I didn’t reach out a hand.  I didn’t try to help him at all.  I didn’t listen to his struggles.  I didn’t even think to shine a light into the dark place he was because his darkness had caused me pain.  And I was wrong for that.  I did my friend a great injustice in that.  I wasn’t a friend that day.  I put myself first.

Jesus, thankfully, isn’t like me.  And I keep thinking that today.  He isn’t like me at all.  I wonder if today Jesus savored what little time He had left with Judas.  Today would be the last time Jesus would get to spend time with His friend.  Jesus would see all His other disciples again, both in this life and in heaven.  After today Judas would never again be a part of Jesus’ life.  They would never share a conversation.  They would never share a meal.  They would never laugh over a joke.  Knowing what I have learned of Jesus through my study of Scripture I am sure this made my Lord and Savior sad.  So I wonder if today Judas got a little extra time, a little extra attention.  Not because it would change anything, but because Jesus loved Judas.  Judas was His friend.  Even though it is hard for my mind to comprehend I think Jesus is going to miss Judas, despite everything.

And I think about that day for me, and I am humbled and ashamed.  Because I stood there on my high horse of self-righteousness spouting off about how I loved him and I wouldn’t betray him.  And there I was not loving him and betraying him at the same time.  And it has taken me a few years to realize that, to come to a place where I can look at that moment and see ….. wow….I really dropped the ball here.  I really was unloving.  He invited me out, knowing I would find out about this betrayal and this dark spot.  He trusted me to deal with it with him.  And I betrayed that trust.  I told him he wasn’t worth it.  That his betrayal, and my pain, were worth more to me than he was.  Than our friendship was.  And there I thought I was in the right.  I wasn’t.

Jesus gave me this awesome chance to really step into a role He Himself had.  He gave me a chance to learn a lesson He Himself had to learn.  Jesus gave me this amazing opportunity to grow in intimacy with Him, to know Him better by walking with Him down this path.  And I threw it back in my Lord faith. I said “Nope!  This is too hard!  This is too painful!  I ain’t goin there!!”  And I turned my back on what God said I had the strength to do, and I turned my back on my friend.  And I hurt the both of us so deeply.  My friend was in a dark place, and Jesus gave me an opportunity to shine His light into my friend’s life to help him find a way back to Christ…..and I completely failed.  I dropped the ball.  Because I was selfish.

And I know the world’s way of thinking what agree with me on this.  I know many people won’t agree with me on this.  But there is the world’s way of thinking….and then there is the Kingdom’s way of thinking that Jesus taught us.  I am to follow the example of Jesus, and that day I didn’t.  Kingdom ethics don’t put me first, they our neighbor first.  No matter what anyone says my actions didn’t shine the light of Christ into the situation nor into either of our lives.  Rather they continued to shroud us further in darkness.  And I owe my friend an apology.  So I am very, very sorry.

Strugging with being led

“(1) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  (2) And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.

(3) Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’

(4) But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by the very word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”’” (Matthew 4:1-4)

 

Then Jesus was led.  Led.  My Almighty Savior and Lord was led.  He followed someone else.  Jesus was subservient to another person’s will.  He was submissive in walking second in line rather than first in line.  And Jesus lost none of His strength, none of His dignity, Jesus didn’t become less valuable in doing so, and He certainly didn’t become any less God.  These four words are some of my favorite in the Bible because they justify me as a submissive woman and they challenge the world’s long held beliefs on what it means to be submissive.

These four words also challenge me by what follows them.  Jesus did not just submit to any Tom, Dick, or Harry.  Jesus Christ followed the will of the Holy Spirit.  If you are going to follow anyone, the Holy Spirit should be it.  And that is where I am challenged.  Before I became a Christian I was really good at following various Dominants, or Masters/Mistresses.  I was a fairly obedient submissive.  I know how to follow physical instruction well.  Go here, do this, come back.  I follow baking and cooking instructions perfectly too.  And I am actually really good at putting together furniture from the complicated instruction things you get from stores.  If you gave me directions, or a map, I can find my way anywhere.  I am pretty good at following.

But then I became a Christian and the one thing I was really good at was challenged.  The Holy Spirit led Jesus, and I am to be like Jesus, which means I need to be led by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is the Holy Spirit doesn’t come with a map, an instruction manual, or a Google webpage of ‘How To’s”.  Or at least not a reliable one made by a sane person.  Instead I have to get to know Him.  And that meant recognizing the fact that the Holy Spirit is indeed a Him.  Then I have to begin to recognize His voice among all the other noise going on in my head and heart.  I needed to cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit.  At this point I realized this would take time.  This made me realize that Jesus didn’t just come up from being baptized in the Jordan, introduce Himself to the Holy Spirit, and follow Him perfectly immediately.  Jesus had spent years, probably His entire life, getting to know the Holy Spirit intimately and personally so that when this day came He could follow the Spirit into the wilderness easily without getting lost.

I know this is true because it says in various other places in Scripture that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit.  They knew one another that well.  Right now I don’t think the Holy Spirit would want to fill me.  I have too much stuff inside of me still that would completely offend Him.  Stuff I am working on with the Holy Spirit to clean up His living quarters inside of me.  So I can be filled and led.  But right now I am not there.  I feel the Holy Spirit’s urging me, or His guiding hand sometimes.  But it is never with the distinction of being led.  Or maybe I am just making up the distinction, but from the world I come from…when you submit to someone….there is a distinct difference between being guided by them….submitting to their urging…and being led.  Being led is like being blindfolded, hands tied behind your back, and completely trusting the other person to get you to the place you are going.  I can’t say I have that sort of trust yet with the Holy Spirit.  I still buck and ask too many questions, and demand to know too many answers.  And I know I don’t know the Holy Spirit well enough, yet, to perfectly hear His leading direction.

With those thoughts in mind I continue forward in my swimming in verse one to read where the Holy Spirit was leading Jesus to.  The Holy Spirit wasn’t taking Jesus to the nearest five star hotels.  The Holy Spirit wasn’t taking Jesus on the easiest and safest road.  The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness knowing Jesus had no tent, no food, no camping gear … nothing.  And what amazes me is that Jesus followed, knowing They were going out into the middle of nowhere with nothing on hand.  I know I wouldn’t have that kind of faith or trust.  I know that if the Holy Spirit began to lead me out into the mountains or the Cascades I would be like…..um no.  I would claim the Holy Spirit’s voice as me losing my mind.  I would turn my back and go home.

Jesus doesn’t do that.  He continues to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit into dangerous and unknown territory.  He knows the Holy Spirit well enough to trust Him.  Jesus doesn’t worry about His comfort, or His stomach, or His safety.  He trusts completely, wholly, and without reservation.  Jesus, instead, looks forward to this time to be alone with His Father.  He doesn’t worry about spending one day gorging on all His favorite foods before this fast.  He just follows the Holy Spirit, who leads Him into nowhere land, and says……Hey let’s fast and pray for 40 days and 40 nights.  And Jesus is okay with that.  He would rather spend time communing with His Father and with the Holy Spirit…..than eating, than sleeping in a bed, than hanging out and partying with His friends.  God is His priority.  In a way I can’t comprehend.  In a way I admire in awe, and with great humility.  Because this Man, this Jesus, would then come away from His time with God to be tortured, beaten, flogged beyond recognition, and then hung on a cross to bear the weight of my sin, the sin done against me, and all my shame.  And He followed God, and the Holy Spirit there, willingly…again.

Now I believe it is the book of James that says God does not tempt us to sin.  Only Satan, the world, and our flesh tempt us to sin.  But never God.  So I know and trust that completely.  Which makes the end of verse one hard for me to really grasp because the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Verse two tells me the tempting was not the only reason; there was communion with the Father as well, prayer, fasting, and by Jesus’ answers I am going to assume some Old Testament Scripture study occurred during those forty days and forty nights.  And I guess I struggle with this because I have this ‘world’ view that being a Child of God means God will lead me away from pain and suffering and only onto good paths away from bad things.

But if I were to read my Bible I would know differently.  Jesus tells me I will suffer if I follow Him.  Jesus warns me that if I follow the lead of the Holy Spirit I will be attacked by the devil, by people who hate Jesus and therefore hate will hate me, and that the storms will come.  Jesus actually prays for my protection in this world because the only way I will ever follow a safe path led by the Holy Spirit is outside of this world.  Apart from this world when I am in heaven.  And I want to rail against that, denying that claim saying no no no no no no…..my world will be perfectly safe, and a model of a little heaven with a house and a yard, and picture perfect.  The problem is when I do that I buy into the world, I invest into this world and this life and put it into the place of most importance….and I tell my Lord and my God and my Holy Spirit…..sorry you need to lower down on the list because I don’t agree with you.

In this little snippet of Scripture I am shown the right away.  What is wonderful about Jesus is that he doesn’t just tell me the way to do it, but He models this for me.  He doesn’t ask me to do anything He did not do in all His humanity rather than in His divinity.

After forty days and forty nights Jesus is hungry.  It seems like a no brainer statement, but I think a lot of us need to hear it.  I know I need to hear it.  Jesus is my Lord and Savior.  He rose from the dead.  He is my God.  So in my mind I tend to forget Jesus is also human.  He got hungry.  He needed to sleep.  He was fully human with all the weaknesses of our bodies.  I doubt not eating all those days was something easy for Him.  I am sure He had stomach cramps and pains.  I doubt He got cranky and testy like I would have, but it is a question I plan on asking Him.

So there Jesus was, unbelievably hungry, with the vague possibility of being cranky, and physically weak from lack of nourishment.  The Bible doesn’t tell us He was barely able to move, or that He was crawling, or unable to walk.  Jesus had His mind about Him.  He was standing with the devil on the pinnacle of the Temple.  I have seen people come out of a week long fast and they are almost like zombies.  They are completely drained.  Jesus, however, doesn’t seem to be like that at all and He fasted for forty days.  Which leaves me to believe there is some real truth to the words He speaks to the devil.  So real truth to that Scripture He quotes that I don’t always take advantage of.

First of all the devil challenges Jesus’ identity by saying ‘if’ He is the Son of God, as if Jesus might be unsure of who He is.  The thought seems ridiculous in the context of Jesus..but it is common place in the context of me.  I know I struggle sometimes with the identities the enemy wants to put on me to replace the identity Christ put on me.  I am in Christ.  I belong to Christ.  I am a Child of God.  I belong to Jesus.  I know this, but then little whispers in my ear bring up my past.  They tell me I am a sinner, I am a whore, I am a victim, I have been raped, I have led other people down into the pit with a smile on my face.  Sometimes I give in to those lies.  Sometimes I reach out to put on those identities again and cover up my true identity in Christ.  Jesus is the only identity that counts any more.  All the others have been washed away.

Jesus models how I should respond to this type of badgering.  This type of lie.  He doesn’t even acknowledge it.  It doesn’t affect Him.  Jesus is so secure in His knowledge of who He is He brushes the attempt away easily.  It doesn’t get to Him.  It doesn’t bother Him.  Which I think it is a very important point.  I know that when I respond to an identity being pinned on me it is because there is some small part of me that fears it is true, so I feel I have to defend my true identity.  The truth is I don’t need to defend my true identity.  My identity in Christ it the truth, and nothing can change the truth.  No matter what anyone says, Jesus has a hold of me and nothing will make Him let go.  I need to remember that.

Then Satan tries to get Jesus to perform on command like a dog trick or a pony.  Jesus will turn water into wine.  He will feed thousands upon thousands with a child’s lunchable.  If he wanted to, he could have done what the devil said.  He could have turned the rocks into magnificent feasts to eat.  Jesus doesn’t take orders from satan.  He doesn’t perform on command for His enemy.  He doesn’t need to justify Himself, or validate Himself, to anyone … much less a fallen angel who knows exactly who He is and what He is capable of.  And that is exactly what a lot of non-Christians want me to do.  They want me to perform on command for them so that they might believe or see Christ.  When they really have no interest of seeing Christ at all, they merely want to make me dance.  Jesus doesn’t perform on command for His enemies, for the Pharisees, to make them believers.  Neither should I.

The last part of this section is Jesus’ answer to Satan.  What I love about this is that Jesus answers a non-believers question with Scripture.  He quotes text from Deuteronomy.  Men don’t live on bread alone, they are sustained by the words of God.  And Jesus is proof of that.  Forty days he didn’t have food and he came out of that with His mind intact.  He wasn’t feeble.  He wasn’t falling over.  He wasn’t near death.  Jesus fed His soul, which in turn fed His body.  Which is something that goes against science.  I am, by no means, encouraging people to not eat.  I don’t even think people should go out and fast for forty days and nights without seriously talking to their doctors first.  They aren’t Jesus.  We aren’t filled with the Holy Spirit.  We don’t have that sort of relationship, but it has been done in the past by others.  So it is doable.  But it is just something for me to think about.  I eat three meals a day and what not to feed my body.  Am I reading enough Bible, or doing enough study in God’s word, to feed my soul?  Or is my soul starving?

Back to my original thought, I love that Jesus answers this question with Scripture.  I know a lot of people argue non-Christians with science and everything else.  They do combat on academic worlds and planes.  Jesus quotes Scripture.  The perfect book that God wrote is enough.  People may ridicule me for quoting Scripture to them, but at least I know that the source is good and Holy and right.  The point of teaching I get from this is that Jesus didn’t quote Scripture to Satan to convert him.  Jesus knew it was impossible.  He knew there is no forgiveness for Satan and his minions.  Jesus quoted Scripture because it is the truth.  So when I discuss religion with people and my only book source is the Bible….I am not trying to convert them or win the argument.  The only agenda I have in the conversation is sharing the light of Jesus into their life for whatever amount of time they will allow me.  What happens to those seeds afterward is up to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus spoke Scripture because it was true; and not simply because He wanted to be right.  I need to repent of wanting to be right, or to be understood.  I simply need to share what is true and let the Holy Spirit have His way.  Which goes back to that leading thing.

The Good Shepherd

“(7) Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. (8) All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. (9) I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  (10) The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

(11) I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (12) But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.  (13) The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

(14) I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. (15) As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  (16) And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (17) Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. (18) No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:7-18)

 

Today is Palm Sunday, a day I only half sort of got and understood growing up as a child.  I have been a Christian for about four years now and I really didn’t get the significance of it until this year.  Today is the day Jesus road into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.  This day was predicted hundreds of years before it happened.  It was predicted that it would occur on the very day it did occur which is why the people were waiting for the Messiah to show up.  And there Jesus of Nazareth was, on the back of a donkey.  Which is the exact way it was predicted He would enter.

It was a big deal.  The crowd was huge.  People were laying down palm branches for Jesus’ donkey to walk upon—which is where you get Palm Sunday from—as well as their cloaks.  And people only had one cloak.  So they put down their one and only cloak to get trampled on, caked and embedded with dirt and urine and animal waste.  This wasn’t a light gesture……but it would prove to be a heartless and thoughtless one in a few days.  But today throngs of people were gathering and singing out to the Lord, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  The King of Israle!”  The people were pumped and excited.  They had all just declared Jesus God, something He had been saying Himself for a while now.

Ne part of the story I had always heard, but hadn’t understood, until today was that the Pharisees were very upset.  They told Jesus to tell the people to stop saying these things.  Then Jesus told the Pharisees that even if the people were to stop the very rocks would declare it.  So in my mind I never understood why Jesus didn’t tell the people to shut up so the rocks would declare it.  How much more of a miracle would that be?  That would be awesome!  Creation itself would acknowledge God before man.  So I just always thought that God didn’t want to perform on command for the Pharisees another miracle they wouldn’t believe.  I didn’t get what Jesus was saying or showing.  It went right over my head until today when Pastor Phil spoke about it.

The rocks are the lesser miracle.  Creation, in all its glory, is always glorifying God and acknowledging Him as Lord and Christ.  The bigger miracle is when a sinner, fallen, enemy of God can turn away from himself and from Satan….repent….and look toward the Good Shepherd….and say You are Christ!  You are God!  You are my Savior, my Hope, and my Salvation!  My witness, my testimony, my voice crying out to Jesus as Savior is more of a miracle than a rock.  Because it wasn’t a rock that was crying out “CRUCIFY HIM!”  It was me.  The rocks already know who Christ is.  I am the one who stumbles and has troubles.  I am the one who had to be sought, bought, and saved.  I am the one in need of a Shepherd.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He did seek me out among the crags in the wilderness when I was lost, alone, hurt, and broken.  He picked me up and He is still carrying me home.  And He is carrying me with scarred hands, and walking on scarred feet.  And so when I read this passage today with the Our Daily Bread meditation I was struck by another thought.  Jesus knew He would die.  He spoke of it more than once.  He spoke of it here.   He said He would lay down His life for the sheep in His flock.  But He also said He was laying down His life for the sheep that weren’t yet in His flock…….but sheep that still belonged to Him.  Sheep like me.  Jesus said that no one would force Him to lay down His life, but that He would do it of His own accord.  He would lay it down because He wanted to, and then He would take it back up.  All because the Father commanded Him.  Jesus had the power and authority granted to Him by the Father; by my Heavenly Father.

So that means as I road in on that donkey, listening to the crowd He knew that in about 5 days He would be struggling to walk that street.  People who were throwing down palm branches and cloaks to cover the ground so the hooves of the donkey He road wouldn’t be dirty….soon would be spitting on His raw back as He left a trickled blood trail toward Calvary.  I can’t imagine what that donkey ride was like for Him.  I can’t imagine what it was like to witness the miracle of testimony of faith, knowing it was greater than rocks singing……..and knowing it was empty and meaningless.  I don’t know how Jesus smiled that day.  I don’t know how He hugged children, prayed for people.  I wonder if He shuddered, even just once, when He crossed over the spot where He would fall face first in the dirt with the cross across His shoulders….at the place where Simon would then have to carry it.

I don’t know how He did it.  On Palm Sunday Jesus was still the Good Shepherd looking for lost sheep.  On the last few days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday Jesus was still out there, calling out for His sheep.  We do know His voice.  He didn’t lie about that.  I have heard it; and trust me I wasn’t listening for it.  But I did know it when I heard it.  Jesus is still searching.  I was still found.  I am still being carried.  I can still touch scarred hands and kissed scarred feet.

And on Good Friday Jesus wasn’t dragged to the cross, or forced into the wolf’s den.  Jesus boldly walked up to the wolf.  Jesus followed the wolf home without fear or hesitation.  He approached the wolf without weapons, without defenses, and without armies.  Jesus sought out the wolf on his home territory, stood right in his face, and essentially said……give me your best shot.  Do your worst.  I dare you.  I can take it.

And the wolf was confused at first, put on a trial, waiting to see if Jesus would lash out.  Would Jesus bring down Holy fire from the heavens to wipe him out?  Would Christ fight back?  So the attack began, slowly at first.  But it built, and as it built it became more brutal.  Jesus took it.  He stood there.  He didn’t lash out.  He didn’t defend Himself.  He didn’t call down a heavenly host of angels.  He didn’t wipe the wolf from existence.  He let the wolf do his very worst unto Jesus’ death.  And the wolf danced away, believing he had won.  That the Messiah hadn’t been prepared for that kind of ‘worst’.

Three days later the stone was rolled away.  The tomb was empty.  And Jesus was alive.  And the wolf had to face the bitter truth that he wasn’t the one who took Jesus’ life…….Jesus was the one who gave it up.  And Jesus is the one who gave it back.  That the wolf’s most powerful tool…….that the wolf’s most destructive force…….death…..has no power what so ever over Christ.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost rule and reign over death as well.  So in bitter defeat the wolf slunk away.  Now he just lashes out more viciously……..trying to rip as many of us from God as he can.

You see Satan doesn’t care if you miss heaven by an inch….or by a mile.  Just as long as you miss out on being shepherded into the flock of Christ.  I had never thought of the wolf in that way before today.  There are a lot of first thoughts for me today.  But of all my thoughts I am very glad that the one to remain true and fast in my mind is that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd.  He knows my name, and I know His voice