Because Satan lets me sleep

Why is it so hard to stay awake in church?

I can’t be the only one to think this. I can rule out boredom because even in the midst of a very intriguing sermon, I still find my eyes closing, my head nodding. I could say it’s because of the horrible back pain that makes it nearly impossible to sleep through the full night. That during the week, I can’t sleep as deeply because I’m at work, always having to be ready and aware of my client, so exhaustion just catches up with me when I’m sitting for an hour and a half in a warm room.

I could say that.

But really? There is a better answer, a truer answer, an answer that shines the light on the depth of the question.

It’s rather simple in its complexity.

Why do I fall asleep in church so easily? Because Satan lets me sleep.

What better way for Satan to disconnect me from learning more about God?
What better way for the Scripture’s truth not to sink into my mind?
What better way for me to not be a part of the Body of Christ’s worship?

Satan lets me sleep at the most horrible time because he doesn’t want me to learn about God. He doesn’t want me to bring God’s wisdom into both my mind and my heart. He doesn’t want me to remember what I learned, to pay attention and really dig into what I know.

Now, I’m not a demon alarmist. I do not think a demon is behind EVERY SINGLE one of my bad actions.

As I have said more than once: I can walk myself all the way into Hell by myself without the help of any demon, but walking to the gates of Heaven, I need the blood of Christ, the helping hand of the Holy Spirit, and an abundance of faith and grace to get to the Father’s side.

I don’t think that I need Satan tempting me at every turn or influencing me.

I am perfectly capable in all my broken sinful ways to cause problems all on my own. But, I do think that if there something directly hindering our ability to learn about God and the Gospels, Satan probably has his fingers in it.

He doesn’t want us to learn ways of keeping him out of our heads. He wants to continue to be the prince of lies in our conscience, and how do you do that? Extinguish the light that the truth brings.

Satan and his minions work overtime on Sundays, I’m sure.

Don’t you find it odd that Sunday is the day you sleep past your alarm?
Sunday is the day that is the ONLY day to get anything done?
Why waste two hours at church when you can be running errands or cleaning your house for the following week?
In a family situation, Sundays seem rift with tensions, parents yelling at each other for not getting something done. Children cranky because their sibling hit them, dogs getting lose, cats making messes. Parties seem to be held on Sunday and you have to travel.

THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING ON SUNDAY!

It’s a choice.

A choice to get up in the morning, a choice to put a smile on your face, a choice to pray instead of yell. A choice to stay awake during the sermon and not get annoyed with the children who are squirming in the pew in front of you.

We have the free will to allow Satan to control us and keep us from hearing the message or the free will to listen.

I’m choosing to do some more prayer before I go in to the service, and hopefully with more discipline I can stay awake this Sunday.

Just because Satan lets me sleep, doesn’t mean I have to.

Crooked Crowns

I am the daughter of the King,
 but I feel like the prodigal son who hasn’t come home.
I was gifted a crown and a throne,
but I cling to my dirty rags and sit in the garbage pit.
I was given power from the hands of the Most Divine,
 but I think my own power is better.
I was forgiven of all my sins, my dirty little secrets, my hurtful digs,
but I refuse to forgive others and cling to my bitter grudges.
I was encouraged to pray for more wisdom and faith so that I might mature,
but instead I use my Father as if he is a genie in a bottle for unneeded desires.
I was given the sword of the Spirit, sharpened with the Word of God,
 but instead I sharpen my tongue on those who are defenseless. 
I was told to go out to bring other lost children back to their Father,
but instead I hide behind my doors, behind my friends, in my comfort zone.
I was told to live sacrificially with a true selflessness,
but instead I count the pennies I give out, wondering if I absolutely have to give.
I was told to speak truth,
but instead I spread gossip and lies along my path.
I was told to love my neighbor no matter whom they might be,
but instead I hurry to the other side of the road and buy into false stereotypes.
I am called adopted child of the Most High God,
and I forget the grace that comes with that calling.
I was called to a life of mercy because I was forgiven,
and I forget to tell all of that gift that is just waiting for them.
I call myself Christian,
and I forget the duty that is placed upon that name.
I am a child who sits on a throne too big for me,
a crown that sits a little too crooked on my ego filled head,
I’m a forgiven sinner who clings a little too much to a hate filled world.
I feel as if I’m an impostor to the throne even through the adoption papers were signed with blood.
I still see the blood on my hands even though I was washed clean in the purist water imagined. 
I am a human in all the frailties of my soul.
Split in two, my heart wages war.
To seek the divine or live a falsehood.
The war wages and sometimes righteousness win, but too often the Devil has his due.
My crown is crooked, my feet don’t touch the ground.
I’m a child of God called to rule.
He has my soul, but the Devil has his poisonous claws within my flesh.
Sometimes I’m just a little girl playing in the Queen’s closet.
Forgive me when my scepter slips, help me hold it up.
Forgive me when I don’t represent my King in the best light,
because I’m still just a little girl needing to mature.
Here I sit on a throne too big, with a crooked crown,
still needing to learn on the lap of Most High King.
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Hard Won Victories

“For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.”- Romans 7:15 (HCSB)
I think there is a misconception in the church today that if we just pray hard enough over a difficulty/sin in our lives, God will just make it disappear. 
Take an alcoholic for instance. Say the man wants to change his life and finally let go of the bottle. Do we tell him to just pray? Or do we give him steps to change his life?
Throughout the Bible when God tells his followers to NOT do something, he provides something good to DO instead. When he takes something away, he provides that which is good to fill that void. It is supposed to keep us from sinking back into bad behavior.
Paul does a wonderful job of showing these examples, giving us basically an instruction manual that gives us steps to change our lives. For example, character change: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.–Ephesians 4:31-32 
Nature abhors a vacuum. Due to science class, we’ve heard this thought numerous times. Visualize the jungle. Man comes in and clears it out, readying it for farming. All trees, climbing plants, and grasses are gone. Only bare soil remains. Something holds up the planting, perhaps the man gets sick for a month. When he finally gets back to the place he cleared, already the soil has sprouted with grass, the fast growing vines are creeping out of the surrounding jungle, and even the roots of trees are showing where there once was just rich soil. The jungle is notorious for the speed in which it reclaims that which has been taken away from it. 
The body and the soul also abhors a vacuum. When we attempt to take something away from our lives, something has to take it’s place. We see this when a smoker attempts to stop. There’s a reason why many smokers start to gain weight after they quite, because where once they had a cigarette hanging from their mouth, now they are filling it with food. Trying to fill that empty space where the cigarette once was. Many smokers are now avid gum chewers because they need to keep their mouth busy.
The soul is the same. There’s the saying that everyone has a God shaped hole in their heart, that we are attempting to fill. Some of us fill it by sleeping around, others with trying to make money, still others with gathering things. We all try to fill that hole. Even some believers are still caught in that thought that we are still empty. Instead of recognizing that we have the Holy Spirit, we still feel empty and need to be filled. It is our inherent sin nature that refuses to allow the Spirit to take over our lives.
This is why I think we do great disservice to fellow believers who are struggling with certain changes in their lives when we tell them to just pray about it. God’ll give you the victory.
I do believe God can take away a sin when we just pray for him to help. I’ve met with a few people who say that they had a particularly tenacious sin that they couldn’t seem to shake. Upon just praying (admittedly hard and focused) they were able to step away from the sin and never have it bother them again. Others back  up the claim, saying that the sin changed their loved one’s character and after a retreat they came back totally different. So it is possible.
To the average believer though, it’s okay that we fall and struggle to get through some sins. It is natural. When someone says that ‘all you have to do is pray,’ it makes those of us who are continually fighting to get pass that sin feel maybe like we aren’t truly listening to God, or our faith is weak. 
THIS IS NOT THE CASE! We can be so wrapped up in God, so in love with him, and STILL struggle with sin. Don’t believe me? Go read King David’s story. That man was called a ‘man after God’s heart’ and he sinned continually and horribly. David broke the last six of the ten commandments in a grand way. The difference is that every time he sinned, he realized what he did and came back to God, humbled and broken. 
The thing I take away from this ‘hero’ of the Bible is that he was totally human and God loved him. He continually sinned, but God still loved him. David kept asking for forgiveness, and God always gave it. 
Why do we say God hates us when we slip? Why do we accuse God of not caring when we, ourselves, fall back into our old ways. God is still there, waiting for us to turn back to him. He knows that occasionally we will revert back to our old temptations, and he will use it to teach us his grace. 
Hard won victories have more power than easily given answers. I am more willing to listen to someone’s testimony of how they struggled and failed then finally succeeded, than someone who said that they just changed. The first person speaks more to where I am in life than the person who just easily changes.
Be careful the way you proclaim God and the power of prayer. Prayer is amazing, but it is not the magic genie. Prayer is your communication to God, and sometimes he takes you out of the quicksand of sin without you having to hold on to anything. Other times you must be the one to grab the rope and crawl out while God holds the rope steady. Neither is wrong and neither is the way every single person is going to meet God. 
Victory is yours. You just might have to sweat, bleed and cry a bit before you can truly proclaim it. And, perhaps your faith will be ever stronger because of it. You may also find that each time you find yourself slipping, you are able to stand up that much faster. 
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.–1 Corinthians 10:13

The messes of life

2014…It’s here.
I’ve been absent from this blog since October, though I’ve thought repeatedly that I need to get on to record my thoughts, just so I could make sense of what was happening. Obviously, I failed at that.
It’s not that life got too crazy, it’s not even that due to the new job that I started in November I was removed from a place where the internet works. It’s not that I got too involved with church and family. It’s really not a whole lot of anything.
The thoughts just refused to jell into words that anyone, much less myself, would want to read.
I think best when I’m writing. To have this wall (it’s not writer’s block just so you know) in between my fingers and the thoughts twirling in my head, basically made communication of any kind hard. I even saw it play out in verbal communications, like something held my tongue in place so that I wasn’t even wanting to speak that much.
It was as if I was in a bubble. Everything slightly muffled as it happened around me. Feeling disengaged and not knowing how to fix it.
November and December were kind of family trauma months.
November saw my dad in the ER for chest pains, he spent a night only to be discharged with a doctor’s shrug. There seemed to nothing wrong with him or his heart. The only thing that happened is that his much needed knee surgery was placed on hold. His surgeon wasn’t going to touch him due to the chest pains.
Then at Thanksgiving, my uncle informed the family that he was going to have to go in for brain surgery. He has a tumor growing on his frontal lobe. He was, so we wouldn’t have to ‘remember him during the holidays and ruin all the future ones,’ going to wait until the new year to plan the date of the surgery.
My other uncle who has been out of touch for over a year, mentioned some health issues he was having that were possibly serious but were right now lots of uncertainty.
December came and with it a new slew of health problems.
Mom’s hernia is becoming a little more pronounced.
Dad’s knee is getting worse.
I’m having to make some health decisions as I start looking for specialists myself.
Grandpa fell hard on the cement without realizing it.
Then the Saturday before Christmas, my uncle called because Grandma had fallen and was horribly bruised. She could barely walk. To say the least, Christmas was tense as the kids tried to get their parents to realize that they needed to call when something like that happened. Pride was hurt so feelings were bruised while words were hurtled.
Outside the family, I had others I was concerned about. Dear friends who life was forcing them to walk through some rough times. Friends who were losing their sight on the truths they knew. Friends getting into situations that they knew would eventually hurt them…
Then I went into my year check up on my ankle (all good) and found out that my doctor was now wheelchair bound due to a very rare spinal stroke. A young man who was just getting his own practice running and becoming more well known, hit by something that could keep him paralyzed for the rest of his life, or he could walk again.
The list of things that happened these last few months is long and varied and really in the grand scheme of things not exactly horrible. All have possibilities for growth taped in their seemingly dark wrappings.
Life is messy. It’s not always understood why some of us have to walk in certain valleys while others seem to be walking on the hills. Sometimes it feels like dominoes are falling and there is no way to stop the destruction that is happening. One after another all fall, toppling into each other, crashing into one standing so strong and bringing it down to the ground.
Sometimes you can’t help but wonder if you could just get a break. Just for a few days or months. Just so you can breathe. Remember why you laugh, why you pray, why you have faith. Other times, in your guilty shameful mind, you wonder, does God hate me?
This is why I enjoy the book of Job. Anything I feel? Nothing in comparison to the depth that Job felt it. Job endured it all and didn’t know why. He was shamed by his wife, lost his children, his home, his well being, his financial security, and then stood accused by men who knew nothing of the deeper plan.
Each person has their own Job story. I think that’s why the story is so important. We can walk with Job and see how he handled his valley, and hopefully we can learn something about our own.
The only problem that I run into is that…sadly, when I need answers, I decide to escape. My grasp on my Bible is weak, while I get lost in films and the written word. And that makes my valley so very dark.
I know my mind is doing this, I know my sin is getting in the way. So here I sit. Praying. Praying to pick up my Bible, praying to pray.
God’s walking with me, I just need help to take off my blinders so I can see him again.

Preaching Judah’s and Tamar’s story

I was tossed back into my memory when a friend mentioned he was translating the story of Judah and Tamar from Hebrew to English for his class.
Genesis 38 is a hard narrative. Preaching it in a homiletic class as the only female among at least 10 males in undergrad? Yeah, even harder.
I had chosen this passage because it was something the men were shying way from, possibly because of how difficult it was to turn the story into something positive. How would you even make this story of this …caliber… into something that can glorify God?
I worked hard to try to figure out how to use that passage as a way to point to God.
I finally had gotten to a point where I felt comfortable with my message, then it was my time to preach to the class.
I choked. My professor could attest to the deer-in-the-headlights panic I had going on. It was so bad that my mouth was flapping but no noise was coming out. To add to the fear, he was taping the disaster. It was so bad he was about to get up and shut off the camera, when I finally started to talk.
I got through it, eventually.
I just had this fear that every thing I had studied, every thing I prayed about, and every thing I had written and practiced was wrong. Not only wrong, but horribly wrong. Because of the topic and the importance of what the story means to the greater narrative, I was terrified of getting it wrong. Sure, some of that terror was that I would be laughed at by these guys but I ultimately I was concerned about twisting the Scriptures.
How do you talk about the twisted story of a man having sex with a woman whom he believes to be a prostitute, but who is actually his daughter-in-law? How do you find the grace of God in such a passage?
His fingerprints are all over it. It took me awhile to get pass the ick factor, then anger at Judah, to eventually see how God worked in such pair of unrighteous people.

First of all, we must realize that Tamar actually went through a correct lawful plan. Culturally (and Biblically) to keep the inheritance in the family, when a brother’s wife is widowed without a son, another brother must marry and lie with her till she gets a son. A son was the only way Tamar (whose husband Er, was killed by God because he found him wicked), would be able to be cared for in her old age, as well as be able to stay on the family land, not to mention to keep Er’s name alive. She did not have money of her own nor did she have land. She would have been sent back to the care of her father because she had no son.
This is why God provided the widows the provision of a brother-in-law providing a son that would take the husband’s name, so that the land would still be in the family and the widow would be cared for (This became law in Moses’ time which is a few hundred years later after this story).
So, Judah at first, followed the rule of the land. He ordered his second son Onan to do his duty by the family and provide his sister-in-law with a son. But, wickedness seemed to have ran in Judah’s family. Onan’s deceit is detailed in rather non-conservative wording. Once more God struck down one of the brothers. Judah’s remaining son was still too young to do his duty, so Tamar was sent back to live with her father until such a time as Shelah was old enough to hopefully provide Tamar with security.
But, Judah was concerned that Shelah would be killed as well. So even though his son was old enough, Tamar was never called back to her rightful place. Judah who had recovered from his wife’s death, went traveling to check on his flock.
While he was away from home, Tamar decided to take matters into her own hands. Judah had failed her and his duty. She went up to where he was sheering his sheep and disguised herself as a prostitute. Tamar did not do it to be ‘loose’ or even to gain money.
Tamar did it to make sure Judah fulfilled his promise. Judah did it because of lust.
Judah did not question her about her identity nor attempt to look beyond her veil. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law unwittingly, but he still did it.
While he promised to pay her with a young goat, she asked for proof that he would bring the goat back. He gave her his seal, cord, and his staff. These are very distinguishable in what they look like, basically he was giving her his driver’s license, social security card, and his birth certificate as proof that he would come back and pay her. She got pregnant. Judah attempted to get his pledge back by sending a young goat with a friend, but she had disappeared.
Three months after Tamar got pregnant, Judah was told that his daughter-in-law as accused of prostitution. He ordered that she be brought before him and burned to death for her sins. As she was coming to Judah’s land again, she sent his seal, cord, and staff ahead of her, saying that she was pregnant by the man who they belonged to.
He was shamed and said that she was more righteous than he.
Judah never slept with Tamar again.
Tamar ended up giving birth to twin boys, Perez and Zerah.
Later in the genealogy of Christ we see that Perez became a grandfather of Jesus Christ.

What is so important about this story? Why is it important to know that not only is Tamar, Jesus’ grandmother, but to know about Perez’s and Zerah’s conception? Why must we muddle through this sordid tale? What is the purpose?
What I came up with is that ultimately, despite our human failing and brokenness, God’s plan will still come into fruition. He works inside us and through us despite ourselves. God needed a son from the Judah tribe for the genealogy of Christ. Out of the 12 tribes, only Judah’s is considered worthy of the title of king (King David comes from this tribe). Jesus Christ, while heavenly royalty needed to have the human realm’s lineage of royalty as well. He gained this aspect through Judah’s tribe.
So God used a woman accused of prostitution and a deceitful father-in-law to gain the necessary blood for his son to be born with. What was the purpose behind it all?
While I do not know God’s mind, to me it was a story of redemption and hope. As are most of the stories in the Bible.
We see Judah and Tamar at the worst moments in their life, and still God uses them.
We see children born out of an unsavory moment between two people, who ended up carrying on the Judah line to the birth of Christ.
God works in the broken human to get his will done.
Judah and Tamar- their story is hard to swallow. It makes us uncomfortable, but still it was important enough to have in the Scriptures. It is not the worst story by far, but it is still hard to deal with.
There is a purpose to it’s existence and we must enter into the story and wrestle with it to see the glory and grace God provided.
God’s mercy is everlasting and overflows even the seemingly horrifying moments in life. We just need to train our eyes to see it.
That is what walking with Judah and Tamar taught me.

Why I’m not God…

Since the creation of Man, we have thought that we could be better than God.
Throughout the Scriptures we find examples of prideful Man trying to push God off his throne.
* Eve listened to a lesser creature, because she wanted to be like God and Adam followed. (Genesis 3)
* Cain killed his brother because he was jealous, but he also thought that God was wrong. (Genesis 4)
* The Flood happened because Man reveled in their own evilness, we found sin to be much nicer than righteousness. (Genesis 7)
* Our multiple languages and dialects? Also, directly linked to the idea that we could be equal to God. We attempted to be in the space of God so that we could make a name for ourselves. (Genesis 11)
It continues on. Barely is there a story in the Bible that does not show the traces of the pride of humanity, kings were felled and nations were scattered or destroyed because of it.
Pride. We think we can be better than God.
Today, we are yet again attempting to take the place of God. We say Science is the only way! Everything can be proven, we need not trust a myth!
Why do we think this? Because, God gave us free will. He did not create creatures who followed him mindlessly, but rather because he loved us, gave us our own chance to trust him.
I am not God. Let’s admit it, if humans were gods, life would look a lot more like the Greek/Roman Pantheon stories. We would be waging wars over jealous looks and creating unwanted half divine children who create havoc upon the earth. We would be threatening destruction at every whispered cross word.
If I was God? Every time I got embarrassed people would go missing. Get angry? I’d probably shot flames from my eyes and there would only be ash were someone use to be.
Yeah, it’s a good thing I’m not God. I wouldn’t forgive, or look for the righteous among the sinners. I wouldn’t die for those that hate me, that’s for sure!
There are many reasons why I am not God. But, why would I want to be when we have such a loving one already?
We have a God that created us just for the pleasure of it.
We have a God who even in his anger, allowed humanity to survive.
We have a God who gave us what we wanted, even though it hurt us, then provided us with some warriors to save us from ourselves.
We have a God who died for us. Not only did he stop breathing for a time, but he suffered a horrendous death so that we could have the opportunity to be saved.
He gives salvation for free.
All I can say, is it’s good that I am not God.

The bite of a snake

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Today, I was watching Animal Planet and they were talking about the venom and bites that snakes have. While I had known that a snake can bite you after it’s head has been severed, I never knew that it could be up to hours afterward that it could still cause you death. While the toxicity may lessen after the snake dies, it still has the power to kill you.
So if you see a severed snake head laying on the ground, don’t pick it up!
This random thought has been going around in my mind since I heard it.
But, it reminded me of something else. The toxicity of sin.
We tend to think that once we did ‘something’ it’s done. It’s in the past and can’t harm us now. How wrong can we be!
I was struck by this when I was watching Push Girls (a show that follows four women who are paralyzed). One of the women who was attempting to get pregnant was worried that an abortion she had had in the past, might be causing some of the problems that she was facing now. Something that she had done years ago was affecting her now.
People who have misdemeanors in their past, those infractions still haunt them when they are looking for jobs and have to go through background checks. Sometimes they were stupid mistakes but they still follow them, no matter how much they have changed today.
Sin has this insidious power that quietly waits until you think it is over and forgotten, then it rears it’s head to bite you again.
Even seemingly little sins have the power to cause great harm later on. A whispered mocking word can come back to haunt you, a cheating kiss can ruin a strong relationship, an insensitive action can damage a friendship. Little sins have great venom.
Sometimes big sins can seem easier to deal with because they are out there and you have to work through it. You can see the damage quickly. They are like the big old pythons that you might see coming but still have the ability to crush you.
What we might consider insignificant sins can be much like the fast striking rattlesnakes, they give small signs of danger then sinks their dangerous fangs into our flesh. Some might take hours while others only minutes to bring us to death’s door.
A snake’s head can still bite and kill you hours after it has died.
What can my sins do to harm me years after I have committed them?
What about yours?

Galatians 6:6-7 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.