Witness Him Now
Yesterday, when we got home from church, we found out that a young man that morning had gone into a small Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and shot and killed at least 26 people and injured many others. My heart is hurting for the people in this small town and for many others who identify with the people who died and with the people left behind. I live in the heart of the bible belt, so this tragedy hits me where I live. But, I don't think like most people think, and I don't react like most people react, so I want to blog. I want to share with you what is going on in my heart and in my mind. And even though I know that many of you will not understand what I am saying, I want to say it anyway.
First of all, I believe with everything that is within me that "all things work together for good to those who love God and who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) So I know that as tragic as this is, God is going to do something good for His people because of it. I also know that God always has good plans, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11), and I know that no plan of His will ever be thwarted, so somehow or another this gruesome incident is part of a bigger picture that God has to bring redemption to His people. He says, "Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?" (Amos 3:6) This disaster was part of His plan. (Revelations 14:13) also tells me, "Blessed are those who die in the LORD from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work: for their good deeds follow them!" Those who died are in a good place, a place of rest. But what about all of the rest of us? That is what I want to talk about.
None of us can change the circumstances of life. It is not in our power. Other people make choices that rock our world. It does not matter how smart we are or how strong we are or how prepared we are, things happen - things we cannot change. The thing we can change, however, is how we respond to the circumstances. That's what I want to talk about.
With everything that happens, God is trying to teach His people to trust Him. But we all have an enemy, a very real enemy. This enemy wants to kill us, steal from us, and destroy us. It is his goal. He hates us, and he will take the circumstances of life to bombard us with lies. He wants us to question God's goodness and God's purpose. He wants to torture us with guilt and fear and sorrow. He wants to trap us in a prison where there seems to be no escape. He wants to make "Trust" look impossible.
So when I look at this tragedy, I ask myself, "Where will the enemy attack?" And the answer is varied. For some, it will come in the form of hatred and rage. It will cause people to want to get revenge, to point the blame at someone else to ease their own conscience. For others, fear and terror will come. For others, extreme guilt - like it was their fault that this happened. For others, the attack will come in the form of a cry to take up arms - as if we are fighting an enemy who is flesh and blood. And then others will be attacked by extreme, crippling sorrow.
So how do we fight the forces that are against us, that are trying to kill us, steal from us, and destroy us? We turn to Jesus. We open our hearts wide to let Him come in and hold us and keep us. If there is anger or fear or guilt or sorrow in there, we let Him have it. We say, "God, I am so sorry for letting the enemy in. I am guilty of being angry and afraid. I am guilty of allowing guilt and sorrow in. Please take it away." And He will. Then ask Him to fill you with His peace. That doesn't even make sense - that we could experience peace in the midst of the storm, but we can. Now that doesn't mean that these things will not try to attack our heart again and again, but it does mean that there is a very real savior who whats to set us free.
Isaiah 61 gives us a glimpse into what our Jesus has come to do for His people. "He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."
I don't understand it all, but God says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4) God has come to heal and comfort His people. Vengeance is His, not ours. Our portion is peace and joy and praise, even in the middle of tragedy. We will be called "trees of righteousness" so that our LORD may be glorified. But I want to leave you with a word of warning. (Hosea 10:12-13) I said, "Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and shower righteousness upon you.. But you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of lies - trusting in military might, believing that great armies could make your nation safe. Now the terrors of war will rise among your people, and all your fortifications will fail."
God is calling His people to believe and to trust Him. If we choose to take matters into our own hands, trusting in our own strength and might, terror will be our portion. Terror is the spirit that is about to be loosed upon the whole planet. It will come to all of those who refuse to turn to the only One who is able to save us. Psalm 127:1 says, "Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep."
My dear friends, it is my prayer that you will find peace and joy and praise, even in the middle of all of the tragedies of this life. The only way this can happen is if our eyes are on Jesus and our heart is wide open to receive his mercy and grace. We have to let Him help us get through this. We cannot do it on our own.
The LORD came to me and said, "Don't pray like the pagans who think for their much babbling they will get what they want. I know what you need before you even ask, but pray this way...Our Father who art in Heaven HALLOWED BE THY NAME." Something washed over me at that point. Hallowed be thy Name. God, You are holy. May Your name be hallowed. Holy. You are holy. What does that mean? What do I know of holy? I don't. I don't know what that means, but God, more than anything, I want Your Name to be called holy. At that point the Spirit of God descended upon me and rested there for two days...just because my heart was crying out for His name to be hallowed.
Then this week in the time just before I woke up...you know, when I wasn't asleep, but I wasn't awake, the LORD came to me again. He took me to the times in history when He was not close to His people. Eli's sons took prostitutes at the Temple door, and nothing happened. They were later judged, but nothing happened right then. But then at another point in history, two other priests just took profane fire (irreverance) to the altar, and they were struck dead. Then in early church history, Ananias and Saphira lied to the Holy Spirit when they said that they brought all the money from the sale of their land to the LORD. God struck them dead right then and there. Then God revealed to me that we are entering a time when the LORD is coming near to His people. This is serious. Our God is a consuming fire, and He doesn't play around. He is a holy God, and He expects His children to all be holy.
Oh my goodness! We are living in a time of consequences, and we don't know anything of holy. We don't know anything of the Fear of the LORD, a fear that will show reverance to a God who does what He says He is going to do. We don't know because we have never been disciplined before, but my friends, the time is now. LORD, help us to be fast learners.
A few months ago the LORD revealed to my heart that He is at the head of the enemy army. Everything that happens comes from Him...good and bad. "My children do not despise the discipline of the LORD, for whom the LORD loves, He disciplines." "Take every hardship as discipline from God." "All things work together for good to them who love God and are called according to His purpose for we are being conformed into His image." Once the LORD revealed to my heart that everything that happens comes from Him, and it is good, my heart began to relax. I can trust the heart of my Father. Now that doesn't mean that the innocent will not suffer because it is written, "If the innocent suffer, how much more will you," but it means that the LORD is faithful to see His people through the storm, and in the process, we will begin to look and act like Him. So that takes me to Leviticus 26...consequences.
"If you follow My decrees and are careful to obey My commands, I will send you the seasonal rains. The land will then yield its crops, and the trees of the field will produce their fruit. Your threshing season will overlap with the grape harvest, and your grape harvest will overlap with the season of planting grain. You will eat your fill and live securely in your own land. I will give you peace in the land (heart), and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear. I will rid the land (heart) of wild animals and keep your enemies out of your land (heart). In fact, you will chase down your enemies and slaughter them with your swords (the Word of God). Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand! All your enemies will fall beneath your sword. I will look favorably upon you, making you fertile and multiplying your people. And I will fulfill My covenant with you. You will have such a surplus of crops that you will need to clear out the old grain to make room for the new harvest! I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk with your heads held high." Pretty good stuff, huh. If you obey Me, I will bless all you do and all you have, and I will multiply the work of your hands. Then look at Deuteronomy 28. Wow! OK, now we will get to the consequences of disobedience.
However, if you do not listen to Me or obey all these commands, and if you break My covenant by rejecting My decrees, treating My regulations with contempt, and refusing to obey My commands, I will punish you. I will bring sudden terrors upon you - wasting diseases and burning fevers that will cause your eyes to fail and your life to ebb away. you will plant your crops in vain because your enemies will eat them. I will turn against you, and you will be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you will rule over you, and you will run even when no one is chasing you! And if you still don't listen, I will send seven times worse. And if you still won't listen, I will send seven times worse. And if you still won't listen, I will send seven times worse until you are eating your children. It is written.
I believe with all my heart that if we do not turn our hearts back to God, we will begin to experience these consequences in our lives...some of us may already be there. Let me tell you what happened this week. I have a friend whom I love very much. I have watched God pour out blessing after blessing after blessing onto her life and the life of her children the last couple of years. Now her walk with God has not always been a straight, narrow path, but she is a fast learner, she is honest, and she has a repentent heart, so she is forever moving forward. Then this week her car broke down one day, and it cost her over $300. The next day she ended up at the doctor with a severe infection, and it cost her over $400. I looked at her, and I said, "Girl, allow the LORD to search your heart because I think you are disobedient in some area of your life." She said, "But I have peace in my heart." "You are being attacked in your finances and your health, something is going on." Come to find out, she had let something in her heart that she had been struggling with for a while. She did not turn the enemy back at the door, she opened her heart wide for the enemy to come in. Now she has to deal with that.
She now has a choice. Believe God, confess her sin, turn her eyes and her heart back to Him and be blessed, or follow after a lie. If she continues to follow the lie, God will continue to send consequences (seven times worse) because He does not want her to die. Isn't our God good! He loves us so, and He knows how weak we are, and He knows how easily we follow the lies, be He is not going to allow us to be deceived any longer. We are His children.
So, I know that you have lots of questions in your heart right now. What about this sickness or that financial trial or what about this family member. I just have to say: God is good. His plans are good. Open your heart wide to His Spirit to search your heart. Trust Him. Rejoice...again I say rejoice. In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. We are going to get to know our God in ways we never believed possible in the coming days. Rejoice in that. If we have never known Him as healer, we will meet the Healer. If we have never known Him as provider, we will meet the Provider. If we have never known the comforter, we will meet Him, too. Rejoice! Fix your eyes on Jesus. Guard your heart (turn your eyes toward God and believe what He says). Allow God into your heart to search you and to try all of your anxious thoughts. Let Him reveal the sin (lies we have believed) that is in there. Once sin is revealed, confess it and tell God you are sorry. He will put that sin under the blood and remember it no longer. Don't let guilt or condemnation come in...they are enemies, too. If God says you are clean, you are clean. Confess guilt and condemnation as sins. Let God into every chamber of your heart until peace enters. Then lastly, but most important...Give thanks. The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!
SEEK PEACE AND FIND IT
May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely;
and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless
at the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it.
2 Thessalonians 5:23-24
The scripture says, "May you prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers."