The New Dawn

Where have your convictions gone?

Laying dormant below the surface.

Waiting to arise but held in place.

Pushed to a place no one will find them.

They’ve been gone so long not even you may recognize them.

Move aside.

Let them break through.

Relinquish the self inflicted chains that bind them.

Embrace your true identity.

Take the first step back onto the path of life.

The One who breathed life into you before, can do it once more.

Awaken to the new dawn.

See the light pierce the deep darkness you’ve been wandering through.

Hear the One who spoke you into existence speak soft words of love once again.

You’ve been closed off from Him for so long.

But He’s never left your side.

Bring your worst and watch it melt away in the presence of His forgiveness.

“Welcome home my child,” He says, “Oh how I’ve missed you.”

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Don’t trade in the power

Good day everyone. Today I wanted to write a follow up to my last post. If you haven’t read it yet give it a click here and check it out. It’ll definitely help this content make more sense.

If you take note of all of the incredible things people did in the Bible, the inescapable connection you’d notice is that none of them did it on their own power. God brought the animals to Noah’s ark. God directed Moses in the exodus of Israel from Egypt. God led Joshua into the promised land to take possession of it. God empowered each of the Judges who rescued Israel. God’s Spirit filled the prophets enabling them to work wonders. God’s Spirit gave birth to the church and used them to spread a world wide revival. Wonders, miracles, changed lives, raised lives, parted waters, walls crumbling, nations preserved, and hearts set free. All of these things were only possible through God’s Spirit and the power that comes along with it.

Every power possessed by humanity is extremely limited, and often ill directed, unless envisioned and driven by the Spirit of God. But even well meaning followers of God have gotten sidetracked down through the ages. Really, it’s easy to do. Even the most ardent Christian can find themselves living self reliant and disconnected.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John‬ ‭15:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Few chapters in all of the Bible depict God’s design for our lives quite like John chapter fifteen. Jesus illustrates our relationship with Him like that of a grape vine. All branches receive their nutrients from the vine itself. Whenever the connection between a branch and its roots are severed it begins to die. As long as the connection stays strong however, that branch can flourish year after year. The same is true for any tree or plant. And Jesus used that imagery to show us how to live a full life.

If you want to know the key to living a powerful life, it’s right there in that chapter. It’s captured in one word…abide. To abide is the state of being in something. In this case, Jesus is referring to Himself. The powerful life is one lived in Jesus. In other words, it’s a life lived like Him, through Him, and for Him. Paul said it in a different way.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Jesus is our example, our source, and our life. Far too many of us trade in that life for empty customs and traditions. It doesn’t take a non-believer to live an impotent life absent of Spiritual zeal and power. So many try to find God through their own means and their own interpretations. Some put so much emphasis on laws and rituals yet pay no regard to the law of love behind them. Look at all the people who Jesus confronted during His time on Earth. They were often rigid, greedy, self righteous, nitpicking control freaks who were absent of love. They filled the coffers at the synagogue yet disregarded the needy on their way in. In Mathew 23 Jesus calls these types of people out for being hypocrites by tithing all sorts of things yet neglecting the ‘weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.‘ We should never seek the life of those living opposed to Jesus and that’s exactly what will happen when the letter of the law outweighs the love of the Law-giver in our hearts.

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John‬ ‭15:10-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There it is. Love others by laying down our lives. That level of love in our lives is a good indicator of just how well we’re connected to the Vine…to Jesus. Feeling disconnected lately? Me too. The good news is, unlike the branch of a grapevine, our connection to Jesus can be mended. His love can be reborn in our hearts. We just need to stop abiding in the wrong things.

I’ve got the Power

Anyone who was alive in the early 1990’s probably has the lyrics of the extremely catchy song by SNAP running through their minds after reading the title of this article. In fact, it was in my mind the entire time I wrote this post. It probably will be the rest of the day.

There are many ways to be powerful. A person could be physically strong, mentally fit, financially equipped, or politically connected. All of these things have their inherent benefits. But none of them represent the greatest power available to mankind. They can all be an incredible blessing, but who they are a blessing for is determined by how they are used.

When we think of strongmen, no doubt Samson has to come to mind. He was by far the strongest man mentioned throughout the story of the Bible. He defeated lions with his bare hands, took down hundreds of men by himself, and pulled down buildings. But all in all, his life was a major waste, and his strength for nothing but show, except for the times he was connected with God. In the book of Judges it talks about how the Spirit of the Lord came over Samson and gave him strength. The Spirit was the key and the purpose was endgame. Who cares if someone can bench 350 pounds. How are they using that to benefit others and serve the purposes of God? How is the Spirit guiding that ability? I think of professional athletes who have been endowed with great physical abilities. None of it matters unless they use it for something far great than getting a paycheck and putting on a show for people.

Another great example would be Daniel. He was taken captive at a young age but he rose to prominence and political prestige quickly. His ascent was only meaningful in the sense that he would use his influence as part of a greater story. Daniel prayed, a lot, in order to keep his focus on what really mattered. That was the only thing that saved his life and set his future and legacy. The same can be said about Joseph, who’s brothers sold him into captivity, but later became the second most powerful person in the world. What kept him on track was his connection with God and determination to stay within His designed course. It wasn’t political influence that made them powerful, it was their relationship with the LORD. It wasn’t a policy agenda that drove them, it was the heart of God that supplied their vision.

Most people will never be world class athletes, political influencers, or wealthy elites. But none of those things determine someone’s real power. Physical fitness fades, money can’t enter the grave, and no one remains in political office forever. Just as it was for Samson, Daniel, Joseph, and countless others, it’s the power of connection that makes someone truly powerful. We have to be in tuned with God’s plan for our lives and how that fits in to a much bigger story for humanity. We have to stay connected through prayer and meditation. Then, and only then, will we have access to the greatest power in the world, the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no other power on earth that can transform a life, a culture, and a people quite like this one.

Prior to entering the promised land, Joshua was coronated as the leader of Israel and given charge to conquer and take back a land that was filled and defiled by the worst of humanity. These people would have made Hitler look like a saint. But that’s besides the point. God’s greatest advice was this: be strong and courageous and know that I am with you. God went on to tell him that his success was directly linked to his connection with God Himself. Joshua was instructed to meditate on God’s words day and night. Joshua went on to become one of the greatest commanders in world history. Not because of his military acumen, but because of his faithfulness to his God.

We will only become truly powerful in life when power isn’t what we seek. What makes someone useful isn’t their skill set, it’s a humble disposition and a servant’s heart. The people who will make the real difference in life are those living in a bigger story, one that is not about them, but about the One who made them. God made us not as instruments for selfish gain, but as messengers of His love. A love so powerful that it cannot be stopped. But a love that is only possible through a deep connection with God Himself. That is the point of your life and mine.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. John‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭ESV

Nothing Trivial

As a parent, there is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t want my children to feel like they could come to me about. I’m not just thinking about all of the big things they will face in life. I also want them to be comfortable sharing the little things. There is nothing trivial about a parent-child relationship. The same can be said about our relationship with God.

The moment we start making things off limits to bring before the LORD, our closeness with Him begins to shrink. Why is it that kids don’t come to their parents about certain things? They either don’t trust them with the information, don’t think that their parents will care, or they want to hide it. The same is true to how we relate to Yahweh.

If there is something that we aren’t bringing to God, I would like to suggest it’s perhaps it’s born out of some sort of mistrust, deception, or apathy. Maybe God could care less about whatever it is. Maybe I’m not proud of something therefore I’ll just avoid the whole prayer thing. Maybe the love of God really isn’t so big to forgive me of what I’ve just done. Maybe I can just handle this on my own. I’ll get God involved as a last measure if I can’t iron it out. Maybe God really won’t help me out here. Those are all lies that, no doubt, everyone reading this post has told themselves at one time or another. I’ve told myself every single one of them.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Psalms‬ ‭8:3-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God is infinite, and that can scare us. After all, how do you approach someone who is absolutely perfect in every way? Why would the creator of existence itself care one bit about my issues? Love, that’s how. A love far greater than any human is capable of demonstrating. It’s a perfect love, therefore it’s unfamiliar to us. We read about it. We were shown it through the life of Jesus. And yet, we doubt it. Even the most ardent believer battles with it at times. We have never been shown perfect love by another person, nor have we ever given perfect love ourselves. Therefore we translate our failures and the failures of others into our views of God. We retreat from Him time and time again because thats how we’ve related to those in our lives. We keep bits of ourselves back. We disclose what we want and work through everything else.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians‬ ‭4:4-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What will it take for you, for me, to become an open book before the LORD? Do yourself a favor first off and admit that you’re not. Every one of us are holding back somehow, in some way. He’s not too busy for us. He’s not above our needs and worries. His love is not limited. We can trust Him, far more than any of us do.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Faith of Women Series: Hannah

Wilhelm_Wachtel_-_Hannah_at_prayer

Back in April, I did a post on Hannah. It mostly highlighted her prayer in a dark time in her life. This post will be more on what motivated her to pray like she did. Hannah must have been an incredible woman.

Many things show Hannah’s faith. To begin, Hannah is that she was married to a man who broke biblical law and married two wives. What made it worse is that the other wife had children and she did not. She would have been subject to an open shame. Not only was her husband, Elkanah, living contrary to the Bible, she also had to endure infertility. As if polygamy wasn’t enough to endure. All along she maintained her faith in who God was despite the lack in her husband or that of her circumstances.

Hannah was the fourth woman mentioned in biblical history to suffer through infertility. Before Hannah, three other women endured the despair of not being able to conceive. Sarah was the first, followed by Rebekah and then Rachel. What makes Hannah stand apart, however, is that she accepted God’s promise with unwavering faith. The other three did not. Sarah laughed at the angel’s proclamation that God would give her a child. (Genesis 18:12 NIV) Rebekah questioned, “If all is well, why am I like this?” as her twins struggled in the womb. (Genesis 25:22 NKJV) Rachel gave the responsibility to her husband. (Genesis 30:1 NIV) But Hannah trusted God without any doubt. Her reverent fear of the Lord was just one of many of her godly qualities.

You can read her story in 1 Samuel chapter one. To summarize, her husband and her go up to Shiloh year after year to make sacrifices to the Lord. Each time she falls before the Lord in earnest heart-felt prayer. She longs for a child. At the annual sacrifice at the major shrine of Shiloh, Hannah’s predicament is intensified by her husband’s allocation of sacrificial portions, one to each of his wives and children: the value of the women is demonstrably enhanced by their child-bearing capacities. Though he gives a generous portion to Hannah, this gesture still emphasizes the fact that she has born no children and thus does not comfort her. When she weeps and does not eat, Elkanah tries to assuage her misery with a series of “Why” questions, concluding with “Am I not more to you than ten sons?” (1:8). If I were her my response would be, “I’m obviously not enough for you so how could you ask me that?” Obviously, she is of far greater restraint and faith than myself.

During this unfolding of events, Eli the priest comes to Hannah and blesses her (twice actually) and God answers her prayers and grants her a child. That child is none other than Samuel the prophet. In my opinion, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. But this isn’t about him. It’s about his mom. Many people would stop here. But Hannah’s faith drove her to fulfill her side of the prayer. She had promised to dedicate her child to the Lord for His service. And that’s exactly what she did. This mama took her baby boy and left him in the service of God, only to see him year after year when she would travel to Shiloh. That would take immeasurable amounts of faith. Out of her faithfulness, God ends up granting her five more children. FIVE! What a story. What a woman of God. Here is her prayer:

Then Hannah prayed and said:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
    in the Lord my horn[a] is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
    for I delight in your deliverance.

“There is no one holy like the Lord;
    there is no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.

“Do not keep talking so proudly
    or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
    and by him deeds are weighed.

“The bows of the warriors are broken,
    but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
    but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
    but she who has had many sons pines away.

“The Lord brings death and makes alive;
    he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
    he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
    and has them inherit a throne of honor.

“For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
    on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
    but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

“It is not by strength that one prevails;
those who oppose the Lord will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
    the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to his king
    and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

1 Samuel 2:1-10 NIV

Faith of Women Series: The Servant Girl

Servantgirl

This is the fifth post in a series where I’ve been highlighting incredible women from the Bible who have been an inspiration to me and countless others. Today’s focus is unique because no one knows her name. Which goes to show us that our name is not important, but our faith is. While no one may remember you in a hundred years, your faith can carry on to affect generations to come.

 

 

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said.

2 Kings 5:1-4 NIV

This is basically all we know about the young girl, that she was taken captive in Syria and that she was a servant girl. Our last post looked at a young girl who became a Queen and used her position and influence to shape the future of Israel. Here is a young girl here also uses her position, not one of power but still one of influence.

I love what this girl does because what slave girl would care one bit about her owner? One who loves God, that’s who. Jesus tells us to love those who persecute us (Matthew 5) and this young girl demonstrates that in a real way. She actually sought the well-being of the ones who took her from her home and family. This is divine love, one that can only be inspired by true faith in the God of Israel.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.

Colossians 3:22 NIV

As believers in the Lord, we are NOT meant to be situational servants but frequently faithful. Everything we do is meant to glorify God in heaven regardless of where we are in life and no matter what is done to us. That is the lesson of faith that this young girl puts on display. People of faith don’t operate on the idea of reciprocity. We can be people who love even if we aren’t loved.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Colossians 3:17 NLT

Because of this young girl, Naaman was able to be healed from his leprosy by the Prophet Elisha and God was glorified. One act did so much. That was true for her, and that is also true for us.

The Song of the Redeemed

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans‬ ‭8:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Today, in America, is a day of celebrating many things. Among them are freedom, sacrifice, heroism, and the birth of a new nation. Today is Independence Day. In 1776, the British colonies in America declared their separation from their sovereign empire and created a union of 13 stares. The following eight years saw large scale warfare waged from Canada to Florida all along the eastern portion of the continent. During the course of the war nearly 25,000 Americans lost their lives. But that doesn’t account for the devastation that the war inflicted on the landscape and the lives of merchants and farmers alike. Lives were forever changed and so was the world.

For the last several years today has meant much more to me than the birth of a nation. It’s been an indispensable reminder of my own personal Independence Day. Few people bleed the red white and blue more than me, but there is something far greater to celebrate than the birth of a nation. Around 2000 years ago another war was waged and won for the cause of freedom. Jesus Christ single handily defeated sin and death with the fatal stroke He dealt upon the cross and by walking out of the grave three days later.

What Jesus achieved for humanity was nothing short of heroic. He is the greatest hero in world history. What Jesus achieved required the greatest sacrifice for love has no greater action than to lay down ones life for another. Jesus willingly surrendered His own life that the world may know freedom. What Jesus did was to create something new in everyone who believes in Him. For Christians, we have two birthdays. The day we were born and the day we were reborn by the Spirit.

If you are celebrating the independence of the United States of America today, take time to reflect on the most impactful Independence Day in human history. It’s a day that anyone can celebrate no matter what country they call home. If you haven’t experience freedom in Jesus, I want to invite you to take today to declare independence from condemnation, fear, doubt, and sin. Declare Jesus as your Lord and Savior and join in the song of the redeemed being sung all over the world.

Happy Independence Day!