Wrestling with God

Wrestling is a sport that involves grappling with an opponent while trying to obtain a position of advantage using different methods or techniques. Surprisingly, it is a wrestling match that the Lord often uses to become our portal into faith. Jacob’s wrestling experience described in Genesis 32 can be used to shape our view of God and His blessings.  There are times when God only releases His blessings on us after a season of prolonged and sometimes painful wrestling with Him.

            In Genesis 32, Jacob is returning to His place of birth with his small tribe of wives and children after twenty years away and is mustering courage to reunite with Esau, the brother whose life he damaged through deceit and manipulation. Jacob is quite frightened because his estranged brother, Esau, is coming to meet him with four hundred men. Jacob doesn’t regard this as a welcome party! It appears to be quite an army, which terrifies him! So Jacob splits up His household into two camps and sends them all ahead of him, to try and avoid complete annihilation. Jacob, restless and unable to sleep, is left to spend the night alone — no doubt in desperate prayer. On this lonely night, he can’t hide behind his vast wealth, his many servants, or his large and complicated family… they’re all gone. He is alone in the dark in a desolate place…until he’s not. Until a nameless, stranger leaps out of nowhere, throws him to the ground and proceeds to wrestle Jacob until daybreak. At some point during this strange contest Jacob realizes that he is wrestling with God. Now that’s quite a revelation! Then amazingly, when God decides it’s time to end the match, he dislocates Jacob’s hip and demands to be released. Jacob, in significant pain, replies, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26). This response evidently pleases God, who pronounces this blessing on Jacob: “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob (deceiver), but Israel (struggles with God), for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28). That next morning Jacob then limps toward his tense reunion with Esau with a weakened body and a strengthened faith. Having wrestled with God, he knows his prayers regarding Esau will be answered. 

            This story may resonate with you as it does me. Have you ever found yourself alone in the dark in a desolate place?  How often, in that menacing darkness, have you done solitary battle with something you don’t recognize as God until much, much later? It is in relationship with God and in His all-encompassing presence that we fight the fights that bend, break, and remake us.  It is in God’s company that we face down our personal demons.  It is God alone who brings us to the ragged edges of our own strength so that finally, finally, we’ll surrender (a death of self), and allow ourselves to be transformed.  

            Take note of what God did when he wrestled Jacob. Jacob began the night dreading Esau’s arrival. He was full of fear and desperation. But he ended the night of struggle with God’s blessing and a renewed faith. All of our struggling with God in faith leads to rest, resting in Him that is. And isn’t it interesting that God did not simply speak to Jacob in a dream or vision as he had at other times and reiterate His promise with comforting words? This time God addressed Jacob’s fear by requiring him to wrestle all night. This probably felt to Jacob like a badly timed hassle when he just wanted comfort and assurance. However, later he realized just how comforting it was. Sometimes when we want God’s comfort, he sends it in unexpected and even unwanted packages. Surprisingly, God afflicted Jacob with an injury. This had the effect of making Jacob even more vulnerable to Esau, forcing Jacob’s faith to more fully rest on God and not himself. Evidently, from Jacob’s story, we learn that, if necessary, God will even cause us to limp to increase our faith.

Furthermore, wrestling with God changed Jacob’s identity. He was no longer to be known as one who received his blessing by deception. He was renamed Israel and received God’s blessing by prevailing with God by faith. This struggle turned out to be a profoundly gracious gift of restoration that God gave Jacob. Jacob’s tenacious faith pleased God and he rewarded Jacob’s request (Hebrews 11:6). When God calls us to wrestle with Him, there’s always more going on than we first understand and God always uses it to transform us for good. Jacob wasn’t the only person in Scripture to wrestle with God. David wrestled (1 Chronicles 13:11). Jesus wrestled (Matthew 26:39). These moments of personal struggle with God’s will are grounded in genuine relationship. That’s the kind of relationship God wants with us: one in which we learn (through experience) to trust his character, even when we struggle to understand and accept some of His choices. Wrestling with God is a matter of reaching out to Him as He is. It requires embracing his vastness and unpredictability. It may be kind of scary, but it’s the foundation for deep levels of trust in a faithful Father who is trustworthy even when we don’t understand.

            When God makes us wrestle Him for blessing, it is not because God is reluctant to bless us, even if that’s how it first feels. It is because he has more blessings for us in the wrestling than without it. Remember, God was the initiator and pursued Jacob for this match. Jacob was grappling in his own anxiety over Esau and his approaching army when God showed up. The wrestling drew Jacob out of his fearful preoccupation and forced him to focus on God. I doubt that Jacob wanted this forced focus or even believed he needed it at first. It wouldn’t surprise me if at the beginning Jacob had prayed as I might have, “God, would you get rid of this guy? This is the last thing I need right now.” But what he discovered was that the wrestling was a means of God’s grace, a channel for God’s blessing on Him. 

            So my friends, what is it you really need from God right now? What blessing do you want from Him and how badly do you want it? What I carry away from the story of Jacob’s wounding is the troubling, but solid truth, that blessing and bruising are not mutually exclusive in the realm of God.  We can limp and prevail at the same time.  I can’t dictate the terms of blessing.  I can’t say, “I want the blessing but not the limp.”  Sometimes, the blessing is the limp.  As dawn breaks, the stranger asks Jacob to disengage, and Jacob, tenacious as ever, says no: “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”  I love this line. I want to make it my life’s stance, because it assures me that sometimes, “winning” involves nothing more than not giving up.  Sometimes, the spiritual life is about little more than hanging on for dear life to a God who appears mysterious, bewildering, and a bit frightening.  Sometimes the whole of Christianity comes down to saying, “There’s so much I can’t wrap my head around, but I know there’s a blessing in this mess somewhere and I’m going to hang on until I find it.” God will meet you in your anguish, fear, and uncertainty. But He may not meet you in the way you expect or desire. Your greatest ally may show up looking at first like your adversary, inciting you to wrestle with him. If so, remember Jacob. There are multiple blessings in the wrestling. So when God calls you to wrestle with Him in prayer, it is an invitation to receive His blessing. Stay with Him and don’t give up.  He loves to bless that kind of tenacious faith and you will come out transformed. My friends, don’t let God go until He blesses you! Keep wrestling!

Bricks & Living Stones

A few days ago I was reading a description of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) during my morning prayer time. Following the Great Flood, Noah’s descendants, who all spoke the same language, began to build a tower as an act of rebellion against God. Genesis 11: 1-4 states:

“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortarThen they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’”

In Verse 3, “brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar” stood out to me and I kept hearing it over and over in my mind, so much so, that I wrote it in my journal and began to question why? At first thought do you think the Tower of Babel could be construed as a symbol of secular society?  I certainly do. By “secular society” I mean a world that sets itself in arrogant opposition to the will of God.  The verse above states that the Tower of Babel was constructed of bricks.  Bricks? Really? It seems too long ago for that? I started thinking about the characteristics of bricks and how they might apply to this God story.  First of all, they are unnatural and artificial.  You won’t find a brick occurring in nature. They are man-made. Secondly, they are identical and uniform.  It’s not easy to distinguish one brick from another.  Thirdly, they are functionally undifferentiated and interchangeable. A brick can serve equally well anywhere in a wall.  And finally, in a sense, they are all but worthless.  What if you do lose a brick, aren’t there hundreds more just like it? Think of the Israelites as slaves in Egypt. The death and loss of one slave was of no account to the Egyptians. After all, that one slave was simply replaced by another. What could be more unnatural and artificial than a society that rejects God?  In such a state, citizens are made to conform to uniform standards thus losing their individuality. Their work is reduced to interchangeable roles.  And, because they have lost all their uniqueness, they become utterly worthless.

In opposition to the Tower of Babel,  “If then any man is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and furthermore, 1 Peter 2:4-5 states “As you come to him (Christ), the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house (church as body of Christ) to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

 The Tower of Babel, was being built of bricks, a man-made construction, where rebellious people were attempting to reach the heavens to be like God, to “make a name for themselves”. Yet, Jesus made a new creation, the Church (the body of Christ), a temple built of living stones. Living stones have distinguishable characteristics:  First, living stones are not just natural, but supernatural. What could be more supernatural than a society in which Christ dwells? Secondly, they are utterly unique.  No two are exactly alike. In the eyes of Jesus, every human being is utterly unique and unrepeatable.  After all, what two human beings are exactly alike?  Thirdly, they are irreplaceable. A stone that occupies a particular place in a wall can fit nowhere else but in that unique space. In the Church, every person is irreplaceable, because each one of us has a mission no one else can fulfill. We have unique gifting and purposes that only God defines. And finally, living stones are extremely precious. “You are precious in my (God’s) sight and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4) To Christ every human being is precious, because every one of us is made in the image and likeness of God.  Each one of us, therefore, has infinite value.

            So my friends, which would you rather be… a brick in secular society or a living stone in the body of Christ, His church?  As a brick, we would ultimately lose our identity.  As a living stone, we can become all, through Christ, that we are meant to be.  C.S. Lewis puts it this way when referring to the plan of God’s people: “God sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of us.  When He talks of us losing ourselves, He means only abandoning the clamor of self-will; once we have done that, He really gives us back all our personality, and boasts…that when we are wholly His, we will be more ourselves than ever.  [Letter XIII]

            In a secular society, men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, are able to be exchanged with each other without making any difference or without being noticed. They are interchangeable. Only in such a society can same-sex marriage and multiple genders be even remotely considered as possibilities.  In God’s Church, men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, are irreplaceable. In fact marriage, as anything other than one man and one woman for life, is inconceivable.

            So there you have it… Unnatural bricks versus supernatural stones? Secular society versus the Kingdom of God? Man-made bricks or living stones? Just think for a minute! Jesus was totally unique and definitely distinctive. There aren’t enough words to describe Him. He said and did things that no one before Him and no one after Him has ever said or done. He was completely different from all other religious leaders before or after Him.  He was born of a virgin, He turned water into wine, He healed the sick, He raised the dead, He walked on the water, He fed 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish, He stilled storms, He died on Calvary, He rose from the dead! He ascended to the right hand of God. Jesus was the greatest of all living Stones (1Peter 2:4). As the Psalm says, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” (Ps. 118:22) As believers we are the living stones, made alive in the Lord Jesus and through Him built up as a spiritual house. Today no longer do we need a temple of physical stones. We are the living temple, united in Christ Jesus!

Rooted in Grace

This month our church has been in the midst of fasting and praying for 21 days as we begin the New Year 2024. A fast is a way of expressing a greater need beyond ourselves, our need of God and greater intimacy with Him. There is so much more I could say on the subject, but essentially, it’s a surrender, a renewal, a relinquishing of self, and a pressing in to the very heart of God. During a fast there comes a moment when you have to come clean with God…A moment when you need to unveil your secrets, struggles, and sins… 

A moment when you need to fall full weight on the grace of God.

During my prayer time, I’ve asked the lord repeatedly what is an attribute of God that he would like to have me focus on and grow in this year? Matthew 11:28-29 says: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you will find rest for your soul”. I want so much to learn of Him. So, in response, I began to notice Him speaking to me each day of His bountiful “Grace.” Praise God for abundant grace! I have so many questions that I’m asking Him and little by little answers are unfolding.

Sunday at church our pastor spoke on the familiar story of David and Goliath. Even though it’s a well-known story, I’m always amazed by the layers of treasure-filled wisdom hidden in God’s holy word, layers upon layers. I’ve always thought of David as such a strong, mighty, powerful man of God. Yes, I know he sinned greatly with Bathsheba, it’s true. However, as believers why do we sometimes believe or act as though our sin disqualifies us or others from the grace of God? According to Romans 5:15:

 “If many died through one man’s trespass, how much more did God’s grace and the free gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many.” 

So, therefore, grace is that quality in God that produces free gifts for guilty sinners. 

And according to Romans 11:5-6, you can’t work to earn grace. It is free and undeserved. 

“At the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace.”

None of us would be saved if grace was not undeserved favor.

So back to David’s story…Over the years, I’ve grown to really appreciate David. I know that he has his clear failures, and yet he is such a compelling and genuinely good king and man. I think of him as the shepherd who became king and “the sweet psalmist of Israel”. 

(2 Samuel 23:1). I think of him as a young warrior, who fought, lions, bears and a 

9-foot 6-inch giant. And this young boy was even strong enough to draw Goliath’s massive sword from its sheath and cut through his giant neck to take off his head! That seems unfathomable! 

In 2 Samuel 17, we see David’s son Absalom rebel against his father, march on Jerusalem, and send David retreating. David’s loyal friend Hushai characterizes David to Absalom:

“You know that your father and his men are mighty men, and that they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war.” (2 Sam. 17:8) 

Not just his men, but David himself is mighty — and David in particular is expert in war.

In fact, the first time Scripture speaks of David, even before the Goliath account, he is introduced by one of Saul’s servants not only as “skillful in playing” but as “a man of valor, a man of war” and “a man of good presence.”

“Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.” (1 Samuel 16:18)

Eventually, in celebration of David’s many feats we read of women dancing in the streets, singing of the strength they see in David: “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands”. David grows up to be a fierce warrior and Saul sets David over the men of war. Then in order to win Saul’s daughter as his bride, David brings the king two hundred Philistine foreskins. Even later we hear of David leading thirty thousand warriors in battle and being victorious wherever he goes (2 Sam. 8:6). At the end of his life, the reason God gives as to why David will not be the one to build the temple is that he is “a man of war.” The Bible further describes him in 2 Samuel 22 He “can run against a troop,” and “leap over a wall” (verse 29).

He writes that God “equipped me with strength” (verse 32) and “made my feet like the feet of a deer” (verse 33). God “trained my hands for war,” he adds, making his arms strong enough to “bend a bow of bronze” (verse 34). To be sure, an amazing physical specimen, a fierce warrior, an all-around mighty man is king David!

Yet, as David celebrates God’s good provision of physical, prowess, David makes a striking claim in verse 35. To me this takes David’s manhood to a brand-new level, and surpasses the glory of slaying a giant in his youth. He says to God in 2 Sam..22:36, “Your gentleness made me great. Did you hear that? He’s telling God, “Your gentleness made me great.

David is saying physical manifestations are not what made him great. He is saying it was God’s gentleness that made David greatWhat does it mean that God’s gentleness made him great? We might understand this in two ways. One, God had been gentle with David. David had flaws, many failures and sins. God could have rejected him and cut him off from the throne at any point. Yet God was gentle with him; he was gracious with him. And what’s more, David recognized the fact. Ladies, I’m talking “Grace” of God. Gentleness is graciousness. Gentleness is “Grace.” David did not deserve it, but God was gentle with him. Actually, I think David is saying even more here. Not only had the omnipotent God been gentle with David, but God’s own gentleness with David had changed David. God’s own grace had come to take root in David’s heart and characterize his own life and leadership. I’m suggesting that when David grew in His relationship with God and came to the throne and wielded kingdom power, he did so with gentleness. He did so with “Grace.” In humility and gentleness, David chooses to let Saul go free, even though he could have seized the kingdom from Saul. Even after Saul’s death, David takes initiative to show kindness and gentleness to make provision for the house of Saul. In fact, there are many more instances where David demonstrated gentleness and grace.

The greatness of David is not that he slew the giant Goliath. 

The greatness of David is that as a man he slew the giants in his own warrior’s heart: arrogance and pride, selfishness, unrighteous anger, petty disputes, personal offenses, and luxuries. David was a great king, and the type of the Anointed One to come. He was a man who was not weak, but strong, brave, kind, patient, and gentle. David, having learned from God’s own gentleness with him, learned how and when to be gentle with others. Rooted in grace is greatness!

1.”For by grace our children and grandchildren have been saved through faith. And this is not their own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8–9

2.”But he said to our children, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9–10

3.”For sin will have no dominion over our children, since they are not under law but under grace.”Rom.6:14 

The Little Drummer Boy

At a small group gathering the other night, while my husband and his friend were accompanying with guitars, I looked around the room to see the many smiling faces as songs flowed from their lips filling the room with joy and peace.

 I love Christmas carols. There is something so beautiful and honoring in singing carols about Jesus in the Christmas season. After all, that’s what Christmas is really about, His birth, His life, and His sacrifice for our redemption. 

We sang many of my favorite carols, Silent night, Away in a Manger, and What Child is This? But we did not sing another piece that I like very much, The Little Drummer Boy. There are so many pa-rum-pa-pum-pums in the song, that it’s not immediately obvious what’s going on.  The story kind of goes like this…The little drummer boy narrates and the Magi invite him to come along with them to see baby Jesus: 

“Come, they [the magi] told me . . . a newborn King to see . . . our finest gifts to bring.” 

When they arrive, they gather around baby Jesus bearing their gifts. But the little drummer boy is very sad that he has no gift that is fit to give a king. Timidly, he says that he only has a drum, but asks if he could play it for the baby Jesus. Mary nods her approval, and the little drummer boy plays- Pa rum pa pum pum- and baby Jesus smiles at him while the little drummer played his best for Him.

How special it was that the little drummer boy, who had nothing to give, came to Jesus who was born in poverty, among animals in a stable…a humble child who meets His humble father Jesus. You might say Jesus met him where he was. Our father is like that, you know.

Aren’t we a little like the drummer boy when we first meet Jesus? 

When we first come to Him, we sense in His presence our frailty. We come to Him feeling inadequate, insecure, and poor in spirit. We have really nothing to give, but then again, nothing is necessary. As we surrender to Him, He simply frees us to be who He’s made us to be? He tells us that we are enough and to take our drum and play it, pa rum pa pum pum, so that others may come.

And so, in obedience, we play it for Him and we play our best for Him, declaring that we are small, that we are weak, that He doesn’t need us in the least, but that with all that we are, with every little speck of nothing we have, we are giving it to Him. 

Worshipers of Jesus (like the Magi) encourage their neighbors (like the drummer boy) to consider Jesus — to come and meet Him. And when the neighbors do come, if they will believe, a moment happens when they realize their frailty and comprehend His glory, and then they look deep within themselves:

“But I am broken. I am empty and poor. I’ve got nothing to bring a King. All I have is this drum.” 

Turning to them, Jesus gently responds, “Play it for me and for my glory”, and then with awakened hearts they gladly play their very best for Him…

Pa rum pa pum pum…


Comfortable with an enormous lead over his opponent, the prideful hare decided to
rest for a while. Figuring he had nothing to worry about, he relaxed peacefully by a
tree and soon drifted off to sleep. You know how the story goes. Eventually his slow
and steady contender, the tortoise, who didn’t seem to be a threat, overtook him and
won the race. In this well-known fable, the hare is the epitome of complacency.

1) Complacency is Dangerous for Christians Because It Means You Are Not
Growing. The dictionary defines complacency as “a feeling of smug or uncritical
satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements; a feeling of being satisfied with how
things are and not wanting to try to make them better.” Complacency is often the root
of our failures, at work, in our relationships, and in our walk with Christ. When we
become complacent, it becomes about us alone, our needs, our desires.Complacency
is the perfect tool for the enemy to lure us into a false sense of entitlement. After listing
some of the qualities every Christian should have, Peter stated, “For if these qualities
are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the
knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8). In effect, if you are a Christian who
is complacent with your growth in God, you are in danger.

2) The Danger of Complacency can lead to a False Sense of Security.
Complacency tempts us to remember our past laurels while we should be looking
ahead to the next battle God wants us to win. So often we can experience the power
of God in our lives and then assume because he acted like that in the past, he will do
the same in the future. We may develop a false security and no longer seek God in
the present or the future. In Isaiah 32:9-11, “You who are so complacent, rise up and
listen to me; you who feel secure, hear what I have to say! In little more than a year
you who feel secure will tremble, tremble, you complacent ones…” God gave a strong
warning to those complacent and unaware of His sovereignty. In the midst of our
comfortable lives, we often forget who’s really in charge, the One who has all power in
His hands. Our hope must be in Him, not in the earthly things that make us feel safe.

3) Complacency can cause us to receive the Grace of God in Vain
The saying “use it or lose it” is described in Matthew 25:14-30. When a master returns
from a long journey and sees what his servants have done with the talents he left
them, he’s very unhappy with the servant who didn’t grow his gift. He’s so bothered by
his laziness that he takes away the gift and gives it to someone else who will use it
wisely. Sometimes busyness, fear, or procrastination will cause us to set aside gifts
God has given us, leaving them unused and undeveloped. This is a form of
complacency—when we become so comfortable with having a gift that we take it for
granted and do nothing with it. Whatever talents, gifts, or skills God has given us are
meant to be an investment into His kingdom. We get to express our gratitude by using
them to further His agenda on the earth.

4) Complacency Hinders the Christian’s Prayer Life
No matter who you are, no matter what God has done through you, no matter what
amazing ministry you have been a part of, you are only as powerful as your current
prayer life.
Jesus told them (the Pharisees), “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you
hypocrites in Scripture:
‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me is pointless, because their teachings are rules made by humans.’

“You abandon the commandments of God to follow human traditions.” He added, “You
have no trouble rejecting the commandments of God to keep your own traditions!”
It’s so easy to point fingers at the Pharisees. However, this could just as easily be any
one of us, our children included, that Jesus is chastising here. He is saying:
*When we are complacent, we “honor” Him with our lips, but our heart is far from Him.
*When we are complacent, our worship is pointless because it is self-serving.
*When we are complacent, we are running after our selfish desires; far away from
Him.We come to a point where it isn’t God’s word that guides our beliefs but the world.

“You abandon the commandments of God to follow human traditions.”
With that said, are we challenging our ways of thinking?
Are we holding up our traditions to the expectations of the Scriptures?
Are we willing to let God pull us out of our comfort zones?
Are we surrounded by people who tell us what we want to hear?
Are we avoiding individuals who force us to re-evaluate what we believe?
I find so much value in understanding other beliefs and being challenged, because it is
when they challenge me on my beliefs that I am strengthened in what I believe.

“Why do you believe in what you believe?”
It’s a simple question that we aren’t tasked with answering nearly enough — yet it is
the answer to that question that defines who we are. At times we come to a point
where it is much easier to be “satisfied with how things are, and not want to try to
make them better”. After all, it feels more comfortable that way.Yet, I find comfort in
the knowledge that Christ boldly challenged the people. Whether it was the
Pharisees or His disciples, He challenged them with absolute truth, to repent, to
run after God, and to be who they were created to be.

It has been said that spiritual drift (complacency) is a sign of our times and only
becomes worse as the days become uncertain and spiritual warfare increases. The
upheaval of the last days will tempt God’s people to take their eyes off of Jesus. The
book of Revelation gets its title from the opening phrase of the book, “the Revelation
of Jesus Christ,” with “revelation” literally meaning “unveiling.” The book, and hence
the last days, are intended to unveil Jesus to us. There has never been a better time
to focus on Jesus, to see Him clearly, to devote and lavish our time and attention on
Him, to see Him unveiled in all His glory. In these last days we have an
unprecedented opportunity to see Jesus in new, fresh, and glorious ways. Let’s not
drift away from staring at Him in wonder and in hope. We were not created to be
complacent. God desires us to passionately run after Him and to love Him with our
whole hearts. We were created to need Him and to be with Him.

There has never been a better time to be Jesus-centered, Bible-based, missions-
hearted, praise-propelled, faith-filled, Spirit-empowered, and heaven-bound.

COMPLACENCY is the antithesis of who we were created to be.


The Samaritan woman’s life was a wreck. After five failed marriages, she continued
her same lifestyle, but stopped the formality of marriage. She came to the well when
the sun blazed so she could draw water alone and hide from the comments, the
whispers, and the condemning looks (John 4).

King David was a powerful man who abused his power by sleeping with another man’s
wife, Bathsheba. But soon he discovered she was pregnant. Out of fear of exposing his
wickedness, he tried to hide behind a cover-up that soon turned murderous (2 Sam. 11).
One woman suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years. All that time: she lived
unclean, uncomfortable, and uncomforted. She saw Jesus heal others and longed to
receive his touch. A large crowd followed Him wherever He went. So how could she
ask Him in front of everyone? Finally, she sought to hide in anonymity by just touching
the hem of His garment (Luke 8:43-48).

These are three biblical portraits of people who tried to hide their shame in the wrong
places. But the wonderful thing is that all three experienced God’s power to break
shame’s hold over them and set them free. Thankfully, this wonderful experience can
also be ours.

Most of us, at one time or another, have had to navigate the shadow of shame. It may
have been something we’ve done, or something that’s been done to us. Either way, it
acts like a dark cloak around our heart and soul haunting our thoughts, emotions, and
behaviors. Shame is a complicated emotion. It is a toxic product of guilt and has been
a part of our story since Adam and Eve painfully discovered the effects of sin in the
Garden. Their first instinct was to hide from each other and God (Genesis 3:7–11).
And no wonder. They stood guilty before God and were vulnerable to each other and
Satan in a whole new horrible way.

Even so, God uses our guilt to draw us to Him. This is Godly sorrow and it alerts us to
our need for forgiveness. However, guilt and shame are also used by our spiritual
enemy to shackle and disable us. The kind of shame we often experience is a potent
combination of failure and pride. We fail morally (sin), we fail due to our limitations
(weakness), and we fail because “creation is subject to futility” and oftentimes doesn’t
work right (Romans 8:20). We also fail to live up to other people’s expectations. And
because we are full of sinful pride, we are ashamed of our failures and weaknesses,
and will go to almost any length to hide them from others. Sadly, if untreated, shame
has the power to cast a shadow that can impact the whole trajectory of our lives.

To distinguish the difference:
Guilt is based on behavior = I did wrong.
While shame is based on a flawed identity = I am wrong.
Science tells us that shadows are made by blocking light. Light rays travel from a
source in straight lines. If an object gets in the way, it stops light rays from traveling
through it, which then creates a shadow. By design, sin produces guilt and if our
identity isn’t aligned to God’s grace, we take on the burden of shame, which casts a
shadow from the inside out.

The key to breaking the power of pride-fueled shame is the superior power of humility-
fueled faith in the work and promises of Christ. Shame pronounces us guilty and deficient. Jesus pronounces us guiltless, and promises that his grace will be sufficient for us in all our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9-10). The only remedy to our shame-shadowed lives is reorienting our identity to the cross. This is where shame and glory collide revealing the transformative power of forgiveness. Every time we receive this gift we allow Christ to shine through our shame and destroy its toxic effects. As we surrender our sin-filled ways unto Him, Jesus makes our shame a showcase of His grace. After all, “Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, scorning the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2.)

Please join me in praying the following scriptures over our children and grandchildren.
Ask God to reveal where shame casts the darkest shadows in their lives. May they, by
God’s grace, never allow shame to block the goodness of God and His great plans for
their lives:


The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25).

Here Jesus generously illustrates the urgency of preparedness for His coming: 

(Familiar, but please read carefully)

 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins (the church) who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom (Jesus). Five of them were foolish and five were wise.The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil (the Holy Spirit) with them. The wise ones, however, took flasks of oil along with their lamps. The bridegroom was delayed in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

The ten virgins of the parable were entrusted with a serious responsibility. They were to await the coming of the bridegroom (Jesus), expected at any moment, and provide light for the path of His coming. Five of the virgins took their assignment seriously. They did everything possible to be on guard: The wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. The other five virgins were foolish: They took no oil with them. They neglected the only means by which their lamps could do any good. What good is a lamp, which has no oil to burn to make light? They were supposed to shine with light. 

When we first receive Christ we are so excited and quick to shine His light, the light of His Spirit, to others. Yet, over time lack of intimacy with His Spirit causes some to despair in the hard times, becoming disillusioned and walking away. Or perhaps they choose to hold fast to their title, while living lives according to their own purposes. In the parable, these foolish virgins must have liked their position as lamp carriers. After all, I would think that they could have left, if they didn’t like their job. Yet they remained as ill-prepared lamp carriers. Was this about pride and position? Were they thinking, “I have a lamp. I have a lamp. I have a shiny lamp” — with no attention to its emptiness? Their foolishness was to think that mere religious ritual or form was sufficient. Their foolishness was to think that power for light can be borrowed or traded. For example today, one might say, “ Yes, I’m a Christian. No, I don’t study the Bible. I don’t have intimacy with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, that’s too strange, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t…” But the light only shines through the fire of the Spirit, through intimacy with the Holy Spirit. It can’t be bought or borrowed or ignited by religious ritual or form.

Matthew 25:5, “As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.” “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8–9). Jesus told us in advance there would be a delay. During the delay all of the virgins slept, those prepared and not prepared. The wise virgins could sleep in peace because they were ready for the bridegroom. Notice two things: Jesus tells us ahead of time there is going to be a delay between the comings. He came once declaring the kingdom of God. And He’s coming again!

The second thing to notice is this: All ten slept, not just the foolish. The wise virgins slept, because they were prepared. Sleep signifies normal, ordinary life of doing what you are called to do and sleeping when you get tired. 

What do you want to be found doing when Jesus comes? Staring into the sky, saying, “Deliver me”? Or seated at a bedside, praying for a sick person? 

As for me, I want to be ministering to the lost. I want to be traveling the world ministering to women. I want to be on a pulpit, God willing, preaching the gospel.  Oh, that we might be found doing the works of righteousness when he comes and sleeping after a nice, hard day of well done work. That would be a wonderful way to meet him. 

Are we ready? Are our children and grandchildren ready? Or have we fallen asleep, like the foolish ones, snatched away by worldly distractions and in effect, carrying an empty lamp? “I go to church. I carry a Bible. I pray before meals. I try to keep the Ten Commandments.” While inside… nothing of intimacy by the Holy Spirit is aflame, not love for the bridegroom, nor love for our fellow man. May we be as the wise ones, in preparedness, continuously being filled with the oil of His Spirit, steeped in faith, hope, love, and charity, and eagerly awaiting that midnight cry, “‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’”(Matthew 25:6) And the “Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

And then that wondrous moment, “He is here. Go meet him. Let your lamps burn brightly with  joy, faith, hope, love, expectancy, praise, wonder, and marvel.”

Patient Endurance

Our enemy, Satan, recognizes our strengths and weaknesses and knows how to push us to our limits. But when we keep standing, keep believing, and keep fighting, the Bible says, “Blessed is the man who endures…when he has been approved, he will receive the crown” (Jas 1:12 NKJV). The word “approved” means victory that qualifies you for greater things. You say, “How long will this trial last?” Only God knows. Goliath defied the armies of Israel for forty days (See 1Sam.17:16). Satan hindered Daniel’s prayers for twenty-one days (See Dan. 10:13). Satan is relentless, so we must be too. When it comes to prayer, your persistence overcomes his (the enemy’s) resistance. 

“Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord…Patient endurance is what you need now…Then you will receive all that he has promised” (Heb. 10:35-36). As for me, in slow seasons I find I am the most vulnerable. I just don’t seem to have learned how to navigate the slow seasons well. Then again, David didn’t get into trouble with Bathsheba until he left the battlefield (See 2Sa 11:1). However, our enemy never steps away, therefore, we must keep fighting. Some of you have been fighting long and hard and in agony for friends and loved ones. Yet God is with you, strengthening you for the fight as only He can do. When we go through difficult seasons we may be calling out, “When will this be over, how long Lord, what will happen?” But faith doesn’t demand details and explanations; it just keeps moving forward, believing God for the right result, because He LOVES us and PROMISES He will never leave us. My friends, we must not flee the battlefield. Rise up!

“Patient endurance is what you need now.” Heb 10:36 NLT

Keep standing, keep believing, keep fighting. Endurance is what we need now!

Deceitful Questions

The most common attack of the enemy is through his questions. The enemy will do all he can to make you question: 1) What God has said and 2) Who he says you are(your identity). When he succeeds in making you ask his same questions, it always leads to deception and unbelief. On the contrary, when God is in the mix, and He leads you to start asking questions, He will always lead you to revelation and ultimately greater faith. You can readily tell what the enemy fears about your life by what he attacks. When the Israelites were nearing victory in the Promised Land, it was then that the enemy attacked with fear, deception and unbelief. Sadly, only Joshua and Caleb had courage to fight for the promises of God.  The others succumbed to fear and unbelief.  With some of my own family conflicts, I’ve come to realize that what the enemy fears about my family life, is the incredible power and strength that unity would bring to our family. Therefore, the enemy attacks and tries to bring division wherever he can. When I focus on my own fears and listen to the doubting questions of the enemy, it weakens my resolve to stand for God’s promises for my family.

In Genesis 3, the enemy deceived Eve with his first question. 

“Did God really say, You must never eat the fruit of any tree in the garden?”

“Did God really say?” was the first deception. Many people have fallen away as they begin to question the truth of God’s word. However, the Bible is the only book in existence where the author shows up when you read it. It’s alive and His words give life. Others have fallen away because they were confused by His word and don’t fully understand certain passages, so they reject the word and ultimately reject God.

I love Peter’s response to His lack of understanding in John 6:

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

 Many disciples left Jesus after that day because they couldn’t understand and they were frustrated by what he said. 

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

That’s it folks!  You have the words of eternal life! Even if we don’t completely understand the word, even if we don’t completely understand His time frame, His plans, and all the “whys” that can flow from our mouths, 

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

To repel the enemy’s attacks, we must abide in God’s word. Abide means to let the word become us. We are designed to hear from God. We are designed to perceive Him. 

In Luke 3 Jesus had just been baptized and God spoke from heaven saying: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” What an incredible moment! What an incredible word! Then Luke 4 states that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. In the wilderness, “The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

 Note this phrase… “If you are the Son of God.” The last thing God spoke to Jesus before he went in the wilderness was “this is my beloved son.” Satan is attempting to make Jesus question His identity and to react defensively.

 The devil can’t change “who” you are are but he can alter your confidence in who you are, which can lead you to doubt and unbelief. The devil wanted Jesus to prove that he was the Son of God by changing a stone to bread. But Jesus did not need to prove himself and certainly not to the devil! Sometimes when we set out to prove ourselves, it becomes more of a fleshy reaction, a defensive posture, because it’s born out of insecurity. The enemy is working hard to foul up people’s identity. 

As we can see, our culture has really been listening to the wrong questions and it’s taking a toll on the body of Christ especially on our young people. “Did God really say?”  “If you are a child of God?”. The enemy will do all he can to make us question these two key areas: 1) What God has said and 2) Who he says you are (your identity). 

Lord, we pray that You would unlock our hearts that we might be fully alive to our true identity in You. Give us clear revelation to see ourselves the way You see us. Help us to stand in Your truth against all enemy attacks and guard our hearts with all vigilance (Proverbs 4:23). Help us to identify the lies, and reveal to us any places where we are chained to the past in a negative way.  Teach us to hear Your voice and not believe the enemy’s destructive lies and questions about who we are. Thank You for our uniqueness and that we are made in Your image (Genesis 1:27).  Help us to choose to believe the truth about how You see us.  Help us to live a fruitful life and overflow with Your love to others. Give us greater authority in our prayer life. Thank You for the identity we have in You. Help us to live out this truth in our lives every day. 

In Jesus’ name, Amen

In The Middle

Today, “In The Middle” is a phrase I’ve been pondering in John 19:16. There’s so much in those 3 words: “Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus “in the middle”.

When Jesus was crucified on the cross, we know that there were two criminals that were crucified with Him. At the cross, Jesus was “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12), one at his right side and one at his left. We would not be amiss in reasoning that the one criminal might represent unbelieving humanity who chooses to reject Christ, while the other represents believing humanity who sees the necessity of repentance and extends His hand to Jesus.

Moreover, both criminals insulted Jesus (Matt 27:44). However, after a time, one of the criminals had a change of heart and repented: “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:41-43) Although both men were in Jesus’ presence, only one man, even though a criminal, chose to receive Jesus and the unconditional love and eternal life He offered him.. “In the Middle” was such a key position for Jesus and it is also for us, as His image-bearers.

In another story “…when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ “NEITHER,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord, I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’ The commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua obeyed” (Joshua 5:13-15).

“NEITHER?” “Did He say neither?” What a startling response? “No choosing of sides?”… just focusing on a Holy God, on Holy ground, submitting in prayer, and obedient to God’s direction.

Today we see so much division and infighting among both believers and unbelievers. There is so much pressure to take sides and cancel out those who don’t follow suit. Today, I was imagining Jesus hanging on the cross” In the Middle” and thinking about all He represents: truth, unconditional love, faithfulness, peace, intercession and more. By the grace of God, may we choose to stand “In the Middle” surrendered to Jesus, and as He did on that cross: forgive our enemies, love the unlovable, share the truth of His Word with others, and cry out for the lost and those who persecute us. Lord may we not breed hatred and division through gossip, judgment of others, condemnation and self-righteousness. Father, persecution has escalated and the Great Accuser is trying with all His might to divide, tear down and destroy the churches, the believers, our witness and our ministries. May we not be entangled in taking sides, but rather position ourselves “In the Middle” with Jesus. By no means is this a weakened, inactive position. If we believe that, then perhaps we do not understand the fullness of the power that resides within us. May the Holy Spirit strengthen us to take an active position “In the Middle “with Jesus. After all, the One “In the Middle” arose, and in that one single, power-filled moment, mankind was changed forever !

Blessings to you,